Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Queen Latifa? Richard Geer?

Want to know who else I'd cast for the movie version of my novel, Informed Consent? Check out this the interview I did with Trish Perry, and while you're there, register to win a free copy of the book.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's okay to cry

My former student and great friend from Guadalajara, Octavio Esqueda, recently lost his father unexpectedly. He wrote this piece on grief which I particularly appreciate in light of the events in my family over the past seven months.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Infertility Numbers

My former teaching assistant and good friend Laura is in her second year of infertility treatment. Today she wrote an honest blog entry about the emotions and her faith. Check it out.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

God as Male?

I read this statement today in an otherwise excellent blog post discussing Pastor Mark Driscoll's "Macho Man" theology: "In the metaphorical landscape of the Bible, God is cast as the Male and believers (the church) are cast as the Female."

Now, while I agree with some of this statement, I have to say God is not cast exclusively as a male. In fact, God is a spirit. He does not have gender. We use "He" to refer to the fact that He's personal, and not a force. But let us be clear: saying "He" does not mean we're saying that God is male.

"You must be born again." John records that Jesus said these words to Nicodemus (John 3). We hear the phrase "born-again Christian" a lot. So let me ask...who is the birthing mother in this metaphor? By whom are believers born from above? Aren't we born of God? In the Book of 1 John, the apostle uses the phrase "born of God" no fewer than five times.

In Psalm 131:2 we find the analogy of a weaned child resting against its mother to speak of spiritual quiet and contentment.

And as part of three stories illustrating how God seeks the lost (the last of which is the Parable of the Prodigal Son), Jesus likens God to a woman who has lost a coin and rejoices greatly when she finds it (Luke 15:8).

To say Jesus is male is correct. To say God the Father or God the Spirit are male is heresy.

Also, God made male and female humans in His image. Together. Both men and women image God. I've had female students who thought males image God but women must marry to fully do so.

Let us not mince words on such ideas: They are wrong.

Monday, March 22, 2010

When Dallas Freezes Over

Friday brought a sunny seventy-degree day to Dallas. But by Saturday night we had sleet. And on Sunday morning my husband woke me with, “We have an inch of snow outside.”

“What? No way!” I exclaimed. I had greeted the forecast with total skepticism, and as it turned out, we ended up with more snow than the weatherman even predicted. Indeed, we’ve had record snow in Texas this winter, er, spring.

And it’s not just us, right? In January our extended family in Washington, D.C., sat snowbound in two feet of snow. Somebody in their part of the world even built a six-foot-tall igloo on Capitol Hill with a sign atop it that said, “Al Gore’s New Home.” Ni-i-ice.

As expected, several people talking about the Texas weather in the past 24 hours have taunted with, “Ha! It looks more like global cooling than global warming.” They claim the white stuff disproves the theory about the earth heating up.

Now, I don’t side with one group or the other in the global warming debate. My personal theory about global warming is that millions of women started having hot flashes when they all went off their meds after researchers found an estrogen-cancer link.

Still, something bugs me about the “snow disproves global warming” remark. Most climate scientists think crazy-making cold fronts like Dallas has had of late are actually consistent with a heating planet. These experts have warned from the beginning that we should expect many such intense weather events.

Now, they may be wrong. But the recent snows do not necessarily discredit the theory. And people who truly think the big snow storms do so demonstrate they haven’t read much on both sides of the issue.

That said, I am not of the Henny Penny school—that is, I do not think the sky is falling. But I do think the earth will someday be consumed in fervent heat. Is it such a stretch, then, to think human factors might play into that scenario? Aren’t some people powerful enough and nuts enough to torch the planet? I find it interesting that those who believe in “total depravity” are often the least likely to believe humans have seriously damaged the earth. And they may be right. But some are so anti-Gore, I suspect they wouldn't believe in global climate change even if hell froze over.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I just updated my Facebook status. It says this:

Temperature in Dallas right now: 34
Temperature in Juneau: 39

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hippo factoid

That hippo below is not yawning or seeking food. Hippos open their mouths wide like that as a show of dominance. It's the hippo way of showing off rattling weaponry. "What nice teeth you have."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Health care and abortion

One of my medical ethicist friends at UTSW Medical School sent me a link to this interesting Washington Post article that links universal healthcare and a lower abortion rate. Interesting to ponder...

A Time to Create

My daughter is on spring break this week. I guess technically so am I--from taking and teaching classes, at least. So starting on Friday night my younger sister and I started a marathon craft night that spilled over into a craft weekend followed by a Monday morning craft time with my daughter. I had one primary goal: to deplete the supply of fabrics in my overstuffed scrap box so I could actually shut the lid on it. (I have this huge box of cotton scraps accumulated starting clear back in high school.)

So I made tops for three quilts and seven or eight lined gift bags. But then I had to buy batting for the quilts and fabric for the bottoms and ribbon for the bags. And a better cutter. And a lot of thread. And guess what? Fifty bucks later, after adding the leftover batting and fabric to the box, I now cannot shut it at all.

Yet while I utterly failed to accomplish that goal, I also created some fun stuff that I could measure. I don't mean literally, though I can do that, too. I mean I can see the tangible result. In most of what I do--parenting and teaching--I see zero short-term result. So while I need to make more room in the closet, I do have the satisfaction of knowing I started and finished something I can actually see.

I like how Genesis says the Lord took an entire day to review His new creation. I think He enjoyed seeing what He'd done. And there's something about humans creating that reveals, though we are dustlings, we were made in the image of God.

Friday, March 12, 2010


This is set-your-clock-forward weekend. Sunday night includes one less hour of sleep than usual.

Women's History Month

On the first day of my PhD Women and Revolutions class some years back, a woman with a master’s in theology gave her “take” on the biblical story of Adam and Eve: she saw it as having a pro-woman message. Another student suggested that such a reading of the biblical text, though laudable, might be a recent invention by modern feminists. Her response revealed a common misconception—that in past centuries the biblical text has been used only to keep women down.

So I searched primary documents to answer the question, “At what point did people begin to believe that the Bible and pro-woman perspectives were compatible?” I stopped looking when I reached the time prior to the printing press, simply because we have few writings of any kind before this time. Especially from women. But A.D. 1400 seemed early enough to me. And in light of March being Women’s History Month, allow me to introduce you to my favorite character from that time—Christine de Pizan (c. 1365-c. 1430).

The Italian-born Christine de Pizan figures prominently in the debate about women’s nature. Having moved to Paris at age three when her father became astrologer and physician in Charles V’s court, she received an education against the counsel of her mother. De Pizan’s father personally saw to it that his daughter had access to the royal library. And drawing on the literary skills she developed, she went on to become the first known female freelance writer to support her family. Widowed at age twenty-five with no inheritance, she (ironically) had to support her mother as well as with her three children.

And one of her pet projects was challenging misogynous views. Drawing on multiple sources, including Boccaccio’s Concerning Famous Women (c. 1360), De Pizan combined elements from mythology, Roman history, and the Bible to make her case for women. And her positive view of the Bible is evident throughout her book, The City of Ladies. In this book, written in the same philosophical tradition as Augustine’s City of God, she cites examples of biblical women, carefully selecting those who challenge her culture’s misogynistic ideals.

Her list included such greats as Queen Esther, who involved herself in a political struggle to save her people; the prophet, Deborah, who judged Israel and led the men in battle; the virgin Mary’s cousin, the prophet Elizabeth, who foretold of the child in Mary’s womb before Mary even announced her pregnancy; and the queen of Sheba, who traveled for miles to gain an education from wise King Solomon.

Yet de Pizan used more than the stories of women’s triumphs to argue her case. Referring to Genesis 1:26–27, she also wrote this: “There Adam slept, and God formed the body of woman from one of his ribs, signifying that she should stand at his side as a companion and never lie at his feet like a slave, and also that he should love her as his own flesh… She was created in the image of God. How can any mouth dare to slander the vessel which bears such a noble imprint?”

How indeed?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nearly the Death of Me

I just finished reading my first-ever William Faulkner novel, As I Lay Dying (1930). Faulkner apparently wrote it in six weeks while working at a power plant. Must be nice, eh? Slow is not necessarily better—sometimes "fast" works, as lit people consistently rank this, his fifth novel, among the best of the twentieth century.

Faulkner took the title from Homer's Odyssey, where Agamemnon says to Odysseus: "As I lay dying, the woman with the dog's eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades." And to be honest, while reading it, I felt like I’d descended into Gehenna.

Granted, the man can write. He mastered the stream-of-consciousness technique. And I imagine he may have inspired people like Barbara Kingsolver to try to the multiple-narrator approach. He wrote each chapter in the first-person point of view, using multiple characters—with each given his or her own “chapter.” (I put that word within quotes, because the book’s shortest chapter had five words in it.) The technique works.

So why do I feel like I’m brushing off underworld dust? Here’s the plot: A dirt-poor Southern woman dies, and her toothless husband has promised to take her body to far-away Jefferson for burial with her kin. But the bridges have washed out thanks to flooding. So we spend nine days transporting that coffin by cart. Now…if Lazarus “stinketh” by the third day, imagineth the fun Faulkner had grossing out readers in the additional six. He had buzzards and everything.

Robert Penn Warren said of Faulkner’s novels, “For range of effect, philosophical weight, originality of style, humor, and tragic intensity, [they’re] without equal in our time and country.” True that. Still…I’m ready for the fresh air of something less macabre. Like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Vindicating Hagar

Every other Tuesday I post on the Tapestry site. Today's post: Vindicating Hagar. I think Sarah's Egyptian slave gets a bad rap. Check out my take on that story.

Friday, March 05, 2010

God Can Still Use Us All

A few years ago I made a list I keep adding to and editing. It reminds me that God can always use me, despite my imperfections.

Noah got drunk.
Abraham lied about his wife.
Jacob was a swindler.
Moses stuttered.
He also had an anger problem.
Hosea married a prostitute.
David had an affair.
Solomon had a bunch of wives.
The woman at the well had a bunch of husbands.
Naomi was a widow.
Sarah was too old.
David was too young.
Miriam was a gossip.
Jonah ran away from God.
Thomas doubted.
Jeremiah got depressed.
Elijah got burnt out.
Martha was too busy.
Timothy had stomach problems.
John Mark was rejected by the apostle Paul.
Moses was a murderer.
So was David.
So was Paul.
Peter was afraid of death.
Lazarus was dead.
So was Jesus.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

On the Ground in Haiti

A friend of mine from college is a Haitian national who has established a great humanitarian outreach in Haiti. On his wife's blog, she provides an update about the relief efforts. Don't miss it.

A Little Bit of Culture

We interrupt our book–review highlights to bring a little culture of the culinary variety.

Last October during our first night in Israel, the Israel Board of Tourism and El Al Airlines took our team out to an Israeli hot spot in Old Jaffa called Dr. Shakshuka—the Israeli version of Dr. Juevos Rancheros. The restaurant has been described as “a collision between a flea market and an outdoor eatery.” The décor: braziers (not to be confused with brassières) hanging from the ceiling, and an open kitchen where you can watch the main event.

What’s that, you ask? Well, at Dr. Shakshuka they serve—what else?—shakshuka (pronounced shock-SHU-kah). It’s one of those go-to dishes made when you want a hot breakfast, but the cupboards border on bare. Except here it's the go-to dish for dinner. All you need are some tomatoes, hot sauce, and eggs (though you can add peppers, potatoes, onions and/or sausage, too). You cook it up and eat it right out of a frying pan.

The main event at Dr. Shakshuka is watching the cook. He’s like a cross between a juggler and a pizza thrower. Once he has his shakshuka skillets lined up in front of a series of flames, he does his magic. If you ever go to Jaffa, make sure to check out the shakshuka place when the egg doctor is "in."

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Preventing Child Deaths

Every year about 9 million children die before they can celebrate their fifth birthday. Two-thirds of those deaths stem from preventable causes that have relatively low-cost solutions:

Pneumonia - warm clothes, good nutrition, ventilation
Diarrhea - Clean water, sanitation
Malaria - Insecticide-treated bed nets
Measles - $1 vaccine
Neonatal complications - Breastfeeding, immunizations, skilled birth attendants

And most of the child-deaths happen in Africa:
SubSaharan Africa - 4.5 million
South Asia - 3 million
East Asia/South Pacific - 800,000
Latin America and Caribbean - 300,000
Elsewhere - 200,000

During humanitarian emergencies (Chile, Haiti, Darfur, Congo), children are the first to suffer. Be sure to help however you can by giving to your favorite charitable organization.