Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Tip

See my milestones blog for explanation.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Here's News: Gambling Doesn't Pay

TIME's article on Atlantic City and its struggle to revitalize its failing "gaming industry" (read: "state-sponsored exploitation") is interesting.

Like this tidbit, for instance:

"... its population plunged from 66,000 in the 1930s to fewer than 40,000 today, about 25% of whom live in poverty. For long stretches, residents of the fourth biggest tourist destination in the U.S. have lacked access to basic staples like a supermarket and a movie theater."

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Baseball gods against Texas

Texas couldn't seem to catch a break in game 2 of the World Series tonight. Especially in the 8th inning.

As we headed into the bottom of the 8th, I said to Andrew, "They're down 2, but they could easily make that up in the 9th. They scored a few runs in the 9th last night."

Then the Giants scored 7 runs in the bottom of the 8th. I don't know how many pitchers Texas went through in that half inning, but they sure had troubles. They could not catch a break. And of course, they put up little resistance in their last at bat.

Andrew predicts the Giants will sweep the Rangers or at least beat them 4 games to 1. I'm more optimistic the Rangers will do well in Texas over the next 3 games. My prediction is Texas will win 2 of the next 3, and the Giants will clinch the series in game 6 back in San Francisco.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

18 Runs in Game 1

World Series time. Yeah!

What a game!

Unless you like pitching duels. Although this game technically had quite a few. A total of 12 pitchers saw action on the mound tonight. And most of the action they saw involved the ball zipping past them in the opposite direction.

Giants won 11-7. I'm rooting for the Rangers, I think.

The Problem with Purgatory

John Calvin sums up the essence of the doctrine of purgatory:

"For what means this purgatory of theirs but that satisfaction for sins is paid by the souls of the dead after their death?"

Then he sums up the primary problem with purgatory:

"But if it is perfectly clear ... that the blood of Christ is the sole satisfaction for the sins of believers, the sole expiation, the sole purgation, what remains but to say that purgatory is simply a dreadful blasphemy against Christ?"

--Institutes of the Christian Religion (3.5.6)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Importance of "the Final Serial Comma"

Was Merle Haggard married to Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall or not? See this brief blog which explains.

Monday, October 25, 2010

FOUNDING BROTHERS Paints a Full Picture

Founding Brothers, by Joseph J. Ellis, tells the story of the Revolutionary generation in America in a curious way. Six chapters each focus on one episode in the late 1700s or early 1800s, and from each episode, the narrative of each chapter fans out to the political climate of the time and the prevailing--and often opposing--opinions of the day.

“The Duel” tells the story of the conflict between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr that ended in Hamilton’s surprising demise (July 11, 1804). “The Dinner” relates the story, as well as the background, of the impromptu dinner (June 20, 1790) Madison and Hamilton had at Jefferson’s home where a deal was struck: Hamilton would throw his influence behind the national capitol being located along the Potomac, and Madison would throw his weight behind Hamilton’s plan for the national government to assume all states’ debts.

“The Silence” explains the diametric opinions and reasons behind the mutual assent to leave the hot potato of slavery alone for at least 20 years. “The Farewell” dissects and gives background to Washington’s notice in the American newspapers shortly before the election of 1796 that he would not run for a third term.

“The Collaborators” focuses primarily on the presidency of John Adams (1797-1801) and the debacle that it proved to be because of some of Adams’s own policies, because of his vice president’s (Jefferson) betrayal, and because of Hamilton’s own radical designs within Adams’s own party (though Adams claimed to be independent of his Federalist brethren). Finally, “The Friendship” tells the story of the friendship of Adams and Jefferson that was rekindled in both men’s retirement by means of a written correspondence (1812-1826), a correspondence that reveals much of their differing understandings of the American Revolution’s meaning.

In what follows, I am striving for brevity.

Things I learned on this, my second time through the book:

--The men of the Revolutionary generation, men like Madison, Hamilton, Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams, did not have a road map as to how to go about revolution and the subsequent establishment of a republican form of government. They were often making it up as they went along. Many of them did, however, sense that what they were doing was significant and would be enduring.

--In the establishing of the new government, I think I have underestimated Madison and overestimated Jefferson (though this is not to say that Jefferson didn’t have a significant contribution).

--If there was one indispensable man of the revolution, it was Washington. The second man of the revolution, who would have been considered so by the Revolutionary generation, was Benjamin Franklin.

--Abigail Adams is also a primary subject of Founding Brothers because of the influential role she played throughout John Adams’s life, especially during his presidency. She functioned as his one-person cabinet.

--A lot of these “founding brothers” did not get along with one another. Of course, Hamilton and Burr is the famous example. But consider also that Adams and Jefferson for a time, during their respective presidencies, had nothing good to say about the each other, and nothing to say to each other. Adams and Benjamin Franklin despised one another; Franklin thought Adams too tedious, and Adams thought Franklin an intellectual lightweight and a frivolous flirt. Adams loathed Hamilton (of his own party!) more than anyone else. After a letter of Jefferson’s was published that criticized Washington’s 2nd-term foreign policy and intimated that his intellectual prowess might be waning, all letters from Mount Vernon to Monticello ceased. And finally, Madison, Jefferson’s protégé, had little regard for Adams.

--All these men battled hubris. Because of this, and because of the aforementioned personal animosities that went in several directions, it seems even more incredible that these men pulled off a revolution, a constitutional convention, and a new form of government as successfully as they did. Then again, maybe it was because of these things that they were so successful.

Thoughts on the author’s style:

--I like Ellis’s approach, using episodes to paint the picture of the revolutionary era. One gets the impression that the picture thus painted is a very full one.

-- But this episodic approach at moments becomes a bit tedious. An episode is narrated, then explained, then the prevailing influences that led to the event are detailed, and the effects of the episode are explained, and then … layer upon layer is added. At moments it feels like a particular chapter has become an inverted pyramid, one episode bearing too much weight, and in an unsteady manner.

--Put another way, Ellis’s style feels like--to borrow from the trade of a pastor--historical exegesis. His conclusions are solid because they are based on a careful and systematic investigation of the data before him. But, like the preacher who preaches an entire series from one verse, at moments it wearies the audience. At those moments I got the same feeling listening to Ellis’s book--I listened to it this time around--as I have on occasion when I read a Jonathan Edwards sermon. (But keep in mind, I really like Edwards’ preaching, and I really like Ellis’s writing.)

Bottom line: I love this book. The fact that I re-read it indicates that. It’s a full education on the Revolutionary generation, and in an engaging manner.

My rating (out of 5): 4½

©2000 Albert A. Knopf. 248 pages.

First line: No event in American history which was so improbable at the time has seemed so inevitable in retrospect as the American Revolution.

Last line: Whatever the version, he was wrong for the moment but right for the ages.

My favorite story in this book is its concluding one. Before Adams and Jefferson reconciled, Adams’s friend Benjamin Rush, who was working on both ends of the rift to repair it, writing letters to both Adams and Jefferson, reported a dream of his to Adams. In the dream, Adams sent a short note to Jefferson, “congratulating him on his recent retirement from public life.” Jefferson responded graciously, and a healing and rich correspondence ensued for some years until the two “sunk into the grave nearly at the same time, full of years and rich in the gratitude and praises of their country … and to their numerous merits and honors posterity has added that they were rival friends” (220).

It was an amazing dream given its fulfillment. Adams did send a brief letter to Jefferson three years later (1812), a reconciling correspondence did ensue, and they died within six hours of each other in 1826. One evening, Jefferson lapsed into a coma and died the following day around noon. At almost the same time Jefferson died, Adams collapsed in his favorite reading chair, awakened for a moment around 5:30 p.m. to say, “Thomas Jefferson survives,” and died. And to cap it off, the day they both died was July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of Independence Day.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Philippians 1:3

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, (ESV)

One of God’s greatest gifts to us is others. Even as an introvert--one who’s batteries are recharged away from people as opposed to being recharged by people--I am grateful to the Lord for the people whom he has placed in my life. Some have been close to me for years, some for a season only, and even some for a mere moment.

  • I thank God for Howard Matson, whose office I left fuming, but whose counsel led me to some needed changes.
  • I thank the Lord for Gary Aupperle, Wes Gerig, Roger Ringenberg, Ron Scharfe, and others, who led me to fall in love with the Bible.
  • I thank the Lord for Mike Bullmore who led me to appreciate good literature.
  • I am grateful for Mary Alice Fetter, Joann Weddle, Lois Mannix, and Mary Ellen Jacobs, who patiently taught me the things of God in Sunday School, even at times when I paid little attention.
  • I thank God for Forest Weddle, my dad, Jerry Cramer, Denny Leinbach, Todd Habegger, and Pat Ryan, the senior pastors under whose ministry I have sat.
  • I am grateful for Joyce Tarr and Glenna Hirschy, as well as Mary Alice Fetter and Joann Weddle, who have bolstered my faith with their confidence in God even in the midst of their suffering.
  • God has given me a great gift in my brother; to me his life is an apologetic of the existence and power of God.
  • The Lord has not only given me a good mother, but one who has taught me more than most how to pray.
  • In my dad, the Lord has given me an example of bold witness as well as an example of “Christ’s love constrains us” (2 Cor 5:14).
  • The Ryans and the Dillers have taught me by their example what generosity is.
  • The Lindstroms were a pair of Barnabases to us in IL.
  • I thank the Lord for the friendship and encouragement of Ted Wilson, who introduced me to a few nuts and bolts of ministry.
  • I am grateful for Mr. Broderick, who yelled at me for throwing stones in his yard.
I could very easily go on. I have left out some very obvious ones in order to hunt the halls of memory for some of the more obscure ones.

What about you? Whom do you thank God for?

Monday, October 11, 2010

At the Zoo

At the zoo today a man was wearing pink Crocs. Looked like a perfectly normal dad in every other respect: shorts a little too high above the knee, ball cap, T-shirt, shades, popcorn to munch, a normal looking wife, two normal looking kids, and … pink Crocs. The guy's long, thin, sun-starved legs and large feet highlighted his unique choice in footwear. What a shame.

My paper sported pink comics today. The NFL players donned pink armbands, and some wore pink cleats. Wal-Mart devoted end cap space to pink items, like envelopes, for instance. Friends on Facebook put all their correspondence in a pink hue. All for breast cancer awareness. I’m all for breast cancer research in the hope of finding a cure, but the pink thing is going too far in my book. Especially a guy wearing pink Crocs.

When I told my son about it later, he pointed out that maybe the guy's choice of pink Crocs had nothing to do with breast cancer awareness. So I guess at this point, I hope it was a breast cancer awareness thing.


At the zoo today the orangutans were unusually active. That is to say, their eyes were open, and they were moving. The signage indicated these large orange animals nurture their young longer than any other animal (human beings excepted), some 13 years. (How’d you like to turn your kids out on their 13th birthday? Wouldn’t work well, though, since, if other parents are correct, puberty actually makes people dumber for 5 to 15 years.)

The zoo also provided a receptacle for donations to aid distressed Indonesian orangutans, distressed being defined as “orphaned” and “homeless.” The zoo provides many of these kinds of receptacles, apparently aware that after we have paid half a mortgage payment to enter the zoo, plopped down a car payment to rent a wagon, and bought water bottles for the same amount we pay the city each month for their water, our wallets still weight us down with useless cash. Isn’t there somewhere we can lighten our load? “Why yes!” says the zoo. “Help poor suffering animals around the world.” “Wonderful!” we exclaim.

Now maybe I’m just ignorant (undoubtedly), but a homeless orangutan? In Indonesia? How does that happen? One just stumbles into Jakarta one day, sleeps on park benches at night, does acrobats on the streets during the day for pocket change and then blows it on Bintang Beer? And his story is he can’t return to the jungle—excuse me—rain forest, because he lost his job, and his tree was foreclosed on?
How is an orangutan homeless? If he stumbles out of the jungle, throw him back into it. How much does that cost? If he keeps coming out, then disorient him (no pun intended); get him drunk on Bintang, blindfold him, spin him around several times, and take him back into the jungle. He'll get the blindfold off once he's sobered up.


At the zoo today Callie and I rode the Sky Safari, a ride that takes you up over the African portion of the zoo so you can see the animals down below. Only the animals aren’t down below, and they won’t be unless they somehow manage to escape the pens far to the north of the ride. Now I know why they don’t take you over the lions, hyenas, pelicans, and zebras; they want to protect the animals from stupid humans dropping stuff that could hurt them in one way or another.
Another reason: what if a person fell out of the ride into one of the animal pens? They don’t want their lions choking on bad food.
Another (lesser) reason that may have surfaced briefly in a Sky Safari planning meeting: it wouldn’t look good if one of the animals hurt someone who fell into one of the pens.

So Callie and I rode the Sky Safari. We observed the mowed grass beneath us, the trees, Parks Automotive to our south, where we get the van repaired, Wells Street to our east. And to the north? A couple pelicans and the back end of a hyena … we think.

Philippians 1:2

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)

"Grace to you."

Donald Grey Barnhouse writes, "Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace."

John Owen talks about the Father’s special gift to us, his primary way of relating to us, as fatherly love. The Spirit’s special gift to us is comfort, which takes many forms, and the Son’s special gift to us is grace. J. I. Packer explains Owen, writing that the Son’s “special gift to us is grace--communicated free favour, and all the spiritual benefits which flow from it. All grace is found in him, and is received by receiving him.”

Owen himself writes:

“There is no man whatever that hath any want in reference unto the things of God, but Christ will be unto him that which he wants…. Is he dead? Christ is life. Is he weak? Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Hath he the sense of guilt upon him? Christ is complete righteousness…. Many poor creatures are sensible of their wants, but know not where their remedy lies. Indeed, whether it be life or light, power or joy, all is wrapped up in him.”

We sing to the Lord Jesus, “you are my all in all.” Surely Christ is my sufficiency. Surely I can never go wrong in clinging to him, and I risk much when I don’t.

(Barnhouse quotation from Charles R. Swindoll, The Grace Awakening 8. Packer quotation and Owen quotation both from J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life 205.)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Philippians 1:1

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: (ESV)

The Greek word translated "servants" in the ESV is douloi, meaning "slaves."

Slaves of Christ Jesus. His slaves. Some people think that the Bible doesn’t do enough to speak out against slavery. Some people think that the Bible sanctions slavery. In one sense it absolutely promotes slavery, the slavery of men and women to Jesus Christ.

Happy are those who are slaves to Christ. Blessed are the slaves of Christ. There is no one else more happy or blessed than those who obey Jesus Christ fully.

Were it truly inscribed on my tombstone the simple statement, “He was a slave of Christ Jesus,” the passerby could know at least two things: that Christ’s Spirit had thoroughly claimed me, and that I had achieved true happiness, a whatever-my-earthly-circumstances joy.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Phones; Squirrels

At a restaurant recently, I observed what I think was a mom and teenage son enter a booth, and then each proceeded to review their phones without ever speaking to one another! I never saw them speak to one another. I presume at some point they may have done so while they were eating, but I was gone by then. It's amazing how phones are actually curbing communication these days. (Perhaps, though, they were texting one another.)


I was part of a synchronized tree-climbing stunt today. On my walk to work, as I passed a tree, a squirrel quickly ascended it. The same happened at the 2nd and 3rd trees I passed. Quite impressive. Especially for squirrels, creation's idiots.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Motivational Speech: "Here's Your Chance to Be Killed"

At the Battle of Fort Donelson in 1862, things were not going as well for the Union army as Gen. U. S. Grant had hoped in taking the Confederate fort.

At one point he told 55-year-old Gen. C. F. Smith, “General Smith, all has failed on our right—you must take Fort Donelson.”

Smith replied, “I will do it.”

As he led his volunteers to the fort he saw some of his men hesitating. He swung around and said

“Damn you, gentlemen, I see skulkers. I’ll have none here. Come on, you volunteers, come on. This is your chance. You volunteered to be killed for love of your country and now you can be. You are only damned volunteers. I am only a soldier and I don’t want to be killed, but you came to be killed and now you can be.”

He then led them up the wooded slope straight for the Confederate trenches. Men said he was the first man in the works. One of his soldiers wrote that “by his presence and heroic conduct he led the green men to do things that no other man could have done.”

(Source: Bruce Catton, Grant Moves South 169-170)