Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday Devotional: ‘One God’

I was first introduced to Greek mythology at the age of seven, and – sorry, Calvert School – I found it depressing. I still do. Take one look at the ancient Grecian pantheon, and it’s not surprising that faith in mere men (i.e., philosophers and politicians) effectively displaced a more primitive faith in capricious gods and goddesses. Greek myths might make successful entertainment, but I suspect, as a religious foundation, it would’ve made people desperate. What better illustration is there than the story of the Trojan War? Deities are bitter (Eris), cowardly (Zeus), and vain and revengeful (Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera). It’s impossible to please all of them at the same time. People are fated to die as a result.

When Jesus declared “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24), He was addressing selfish desire. However, I think that the verse easily could apply to those who might have tried to appease multiple deities at once. There’s no hope seeking protection from a host of jealous gods and goddesses, each demanding undivided loyalty. As Christians, our God is unique, so we can focus on what pleases Him and concern ourselves with only His judgment. As difficult as that might be sometimes, we don’t have to constantly watch out for His competition.

This post’s topic is based on the Wednesday Devotional Theme covered tonight at Alhambra Church of Christ.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Yes, My Mommy’s on YouTube

Most of my readers are aware that my mother, Karen of the previously mentioned Karen’s Devotions, was a homeschooling parent. Fewer know that before, during, and after that, she also has been a Math lecturer at a local state university. Her specialty lies in fractal geometry, and one of her longtime hobbies has been the Japanese paper-folding art of origami. Last Saturday, at a teaching conference, she presented on “The Hyperbolic Paraboloid: Exploring the Mystery,” serving her audience popcorn and Pringles to illustrate real-world saddle shapes. Her supplemental video “Origami Hyperbolic Paraboloid” shows how the viewer can create the rarely discussed 3-D truncated version. Take a look!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Egg and I: An Adventure in Homemade Beauty Products

Steve A. Johnson, 2010
When it comes to beauty products, I’m the kind of woman who sticks with the bottled stuff. Shopping for obscure ingredients and following complicated recipes are great when it comes to cooking in the kitchen, but time consuming when I need a simple morning regimen in the bathroom. I might look at a recipe one in a while, but you’d never see me actually try it. Until now. Guess there’s a first time for everything.

Last week I read “Quick, Whisked Beauty” from the new online magazine Daring: The Art of Being a Woman. One ingredient. Three easy steps. So today I decided to give it a try. I whipped up a large egg – which ended up being too much – and spread it over my face. Despite having used a dozens of store-bought facial masks that looked and smelled pretty bad, lathering myself in raw egg did make me a bit uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the color.

After two minutes, I could feel the egg drying and tightening my face. Unlike store products though, I never “felt” it working. (Probably because of the lack of harsh chemicals.) The egg set the full ten minutes, and then I carefully removed the residue with a warm wet washcloth. I’ve heard a few scrambled egg horror stories associated with egg hair rinses that I didn’t care to experience first-hand with my hairline and eyebrows, but I emerged unscathed.

Now I have to ask, was it worth it? The egg hasn’t seemed to brighten my dull complexion, as was advertised, but it does seem to have had a tightening effect similar to other masks I’ve used. One thing that bothered me was the egg leftover. It’s easy to ration out amounts of bottled beauty products because they’re made to last a few months minimum. I’d feel rather uncomfortable saving raw egg in the fridge to use the rest of this week. So in the end, I’d say: Thanks, Daring. This was a worthwhile experiment, but I don’t foresee it becoming a part of my beauty routine any time soon.

Second Monday Random Stuff I

AHAlife: Bespoke Paper Dolls - For those of us who've always wanted to look like a paper doll, we can now make our paper dolls look like us!

Israel Museum: The Digital Dead Sea Scrolls - After many decades of controversy over these ancient documents' delayed publication, they're now easily accessible online!

glyphobet: Mathematician’s Dice - Losing a game? Stump your nerdy friends by rolling the imaginary unit (i)!

Sandal & Stiletto: Tea Party Girl - Pearlie Girlie's successor line includes a notecard design for the anglophile.

AHAlife: Shiro and Kuro White Charcoal Soaps - Sort of Coal reintroduces a popular Japanese beauty product to Western consumers.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Thoughts on Psalms

Schøyen Collection MS 3029 (c. 2600 BC, Wikipedia)
My topic didn’t originate from any of my readings of Psalms. It actually came from a recent rereading of Samuel Noah Kramer’s The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. (Or perhaps I should say my first real reading of it since I just scanned the book a little for something interesting for a ninth-grade History report.) Discussing the ancient culture’s history around the 25th century B.C., Kramer (p. 51) says,

Lugalannemundu [king of Adab]…is “king of the four quarters (of the universe),” a ruler “who made all the foreign lands pay steady tribute to him, who brought peace to (literally, ‘made lie in the pastures’) the peoples of all the lands, who built the temples of all the great gods, who restored Sumer (to its former glory), who exercised kingship over the entire world.”

Immediately what came to mind was Psalm 23:1-3 (ESV):

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

The second line (v. 2a) is generally understood to infer peace under the guise of a metaphor that continues through the entire stanza, if not the whole poem. However, Kramer’s statement makes me wonder if there’s more to the text. The Sumerians wrote in a cuneiform script that was both logographic (based on words) and syllabic (based on syllables). I began to wonder if Kramer meant that some sort of symbol, originally used to convey the idea of “being made to lie in pastures,” later became a sign for writing the word “peace.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a copy of the Lugal-Anne-Mundu inscription online, and the Sumerian lexicons I found didn’t reveal any relationships between words that may mean “peace” and the concept of “being made to lie in pastures.” Sumerian is not an amateur-friendly language, so I’ve hit a dead end for now when it comes to deciphering the text.

The reason why I’m curious about it is because there has been a long-standing controversy over what sort of influence – if any – did the Sumerian civilization have over the Hebrew one. Abram (Abraham) is spoken as having come from Ur Kaśdim, “Ur of the Chaldeans” (Genesis 11:27-32, 15:7; cf. Nehemiah 9:7). However, the passages are commonly assumed to be referring to the earlier city-state of Sumer. The other Sumerian-Hebrew relationships suspected are even weaker. Despite unsuccessful attempts by scholars to connect the Phoenician alphabet, which was used and adapted by many Semitic peoples like the Hebrews, with the Sumerian cuneiform, adopted by the Semitic Akkadians, some Christians argue direct descent. In addition, some promote the “Wiseman hypothesis,” identifying the use of the Hebrew word toledoth (e.g., “account,” “generations,” “histories”) in the early chapters of Genesis as evidence of a borrowing of the Sumerian and Mesopotamian (Babylonian) descriptive ending called the “colophon.” They argue this despite its apparent use as a title rather than closure in the Bible.

Because of all of this shaky evidence, at this point, I remain unconvinced that Sumerian had any profound influence on Genesis. However, I’ll admit that Kramer’s statement has me wondering about what King David was actually trying to tell us in Psalm 23. I guess that over-studied chapter does have something new to offer.

5 Reasons Why I Should Never Be Dictator-For-Life

“Darnley Portrait” (c. 1575, Wikipedia)
#5. I would censor everything. Queen Elizabeth I would look like a champion of the free press compared to me.

#4. I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face when it came to establishing a personality cult. The public needs to feel spiritually at peace with my tyrannical rule, venerating me as a saint and paying homage to my likeness. Characters like Stalin and Castro just eat this stuff up. Me? I’d laugh myself to death. Without a thriving cult, my position in power is doomed to fail.

#3. I would institute the death penalty for various “verbal crimes against single women.” You know what they are.

#2. I’m too much of a pacifist, and I’m not into promoting military culture and winning over the hearts and minds of my soldiers. Needless to say, it would be difficult to build and maintain an empire, let alone prevent a military coup.

#1. I don’t have the time to be either a benevolent dictator or a malevolent dictator. This is my inner-microeconomic theorist speaking. Micromanaging the world sounds exhausting. Call me lazy, but I prefer surfing the internet all day.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hit and Miss: Review of 'October Baby'

Now is the time for Spring Break party movies, and October Baby (IMDB), released March 23, 2012, has made a number of Christians’ must-see lists. The coming-of-age feature film follows Hannah Lawson (Rachel Hendrix), a 19-year-old whose life is turned upside down when she discovers that that she’s adopted. Only there’s a twist to this typical story: Hannah was also the product of a botched clinical abortion. With the help of her best-friend Jason (Jason Burkey) and others, she searches for her birth mother and answers to life’s biggest questions.

Yesterday evening, I finally had an opportunity to see October Baby in one of the six Orange County theaters currently screening it. There were probably only a dozen people in the audience, and primarily adults over forty. As others who have seen the film promised, I cried. The script was inspired based on a true story, that of saline abortion survivor Gianna Jessen (who sings “Ocean Floor”), and also incorporated the story of Shari Rigby (who plays Hannah’s birth mother). In other words, it’s heart-wrenching.

In the grand scheme of things, October Baby has much in common with Soul Surfer, another Christian coming-of-age movie that released a year ago. Both center around a female lead. Both juggle veteran and unknown actors. Both struggle to lighten an emotionally-charged plot. However, I found the editing and cinematography for October Baby noticeably weak and often distracting. In addition, the scripted failed with half-hearted attempts at humor relief. The American Idol joke told by former contestant Chris Sligh (who plays B-Mac) fell flat, as did most lines uttered by the underdeveloped supporting cast of college buddies. The script may not have had holes, but there were a lot of scratches that left me confused. Why would parents and medical professionals be so harsh with someone who they believe is suicidal? Why would a college student who obviously needs a state ID or driver’s license never see her birth certificate?

In addition, the brothers Erwin (co-writer Jon and Andrew, who share director and producer duties) followed in tradition of the brothers Kendrick, Vision Forum, and too many other Christian filmmakers: Married couples are portrayed as cold and unaffectionate. Father-daughter relationships are given priority over mother-daughter ones. John Schneider (The Dukes of Hazzard, Smallville, etc.) is convincing as the controlling father who doesn’t quite understand that he’s making the situation worse by his actions. However, there the script missed a number of opportunities to bring Hannah’s adopted mother (Jennifer Price) into the story, which would have made everything more realistic.

Another awkward relationship was that between Hannah and Jason. I got the impression that Rachel Hendrix and Jason Burkey worked well together despite being sabotaged by an unconvincing script and poor editing. Like Soul Surfer, everything a girl says to a guy comes out catty rather than friendly or flirtatious. The Erwin brothers clearly promote parental authority over adult children and that carries over to the topic of dating. However, it was nice not to see this turned into another courtship movie.

The really depressing part was traditional love triangle: Hunky guy ignores longtime friend for a hot blond. Girlfriend becomes jealous of best friend. Guy dumps girlfriend for being “unreasonable” and runs to the best friend’s arms. We’re supposed to side with the best friend because, well, she’s the star. Like most other movies that fall back on this stereotypical scenario, the hunky guy just looks like a selfish jerk in handling both relationships.

One thing that initially surprised me about the movie was the role the Roman Catholic Church plays in this obviously Baptist movie. Rather than her own pastor, a priest (who never crosses himself or bows towards the alter) helps Hannah learn how to forgive and move on with her life. However, it might be expected. The pro-life movement thrives on Catholics’ passion and commitment to saving unborn babies. By making October Baby more ecumenical, the filmmakers open it up to a wider audience that, although fractured in many ways, is united about one thing: spreading the message to end clinical abortion.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Upcoming: WHOLE Women’s Conference

Yesterday, I was excited to learn that Dirty Girls Ministries is finally holding a conference. Started in 2009, DGM is one of two Christian organizations formed to help women suffering from pornography addition (the other being Jessica Harris’ Beggar’s Daughter). Founder Crystal Renaud wrote a devotional/self-help book, Dirty Girls Come Clean, and started an online community to provide counseling and accountability partnerships for women struggling with this sexual sin. A conference was clearly the next step to take.

The WHOLE Women’s Conference, co-hosted by the Westside Family Church, will be held in Lenexa, KS on August 24-25, 2012. The keynote speaker will be author and Women of Faith speaker Lisa Harper. Topics include abortion, porn addition, conflict and intimacy in marriage, human trafficking, homosexuality, and sexual abuse. Crystal Renaud will also be leading an optional breakfast devotional, and Nuance Boutique will be putting on a teen fashion show.

This conference sounds like a great opportunity for both believing and unbelieving women to learn about how God can turn their lives around for the better. I hope that it encourages more Christians to confront these very real but often ignored issues and work together to find new solutions and renewed life.