Bindings: Reflections on faith, life, and good booksTweet
Posted 11/26/14 at 1:02 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books
The world was never the same after Johannes Gutenberg rolled off the first printed books in
Europe in the 1450s.
Cheap books, pamphlets, and tracts spread ideas that torched whole societies. Religious reforms followed in their path but also wars and revolutions. Religious persecution reached new heights.
Sometimes lunatics raised large followings.
The power brokers, the political and religious leaders, no longer controlled ideas. More people
learned to read. Ordinary folks read the Bible in their own tongue, not in the Latin of the elite.
Cherished beliefs crumbled. Power struggles ripped apart kingdoms across Europe, creating
hordes of refugees.
Yet, when greater stability took hold by the 1700’s, religious tolerance had increased. Though
established religions lost influence, many faith-based religious groups gained. They led
movements to block the slave trade, set up educational programs for the less well off, and send
missionaries to serve native peoples harmed by Europe’s desire for conquest and wealth. FULL POST
Posted 11/23/14 at 11:29 PM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books
When I was a boy growing up in northeast Alabama, folks treated the passing of a loved one much differently from how we do these days. By the time I came along visitation with the family, for the most part, had moved to funeral homes. Prior to this many people took their loved one’s body back home where they received guests for at least a couple of nights. I’m not sure why, but someone usually sat up all night with the dearly departed. I am sure why friends, neighbors, and church members brought in food for the family – lots of good homemade food. The funeral service was then held at a church or simply at the graveside.
A few years later we moved everything to funeral homes. Funeral home owners built chapels and some families elected to hold memorials or funeral services there. In those early years (at least on Sand Mountain) most of the practices that had been performed in homes simply moved to funeral homes. That included sitting up all night, two nights of visitation, and bringing in food. Some funeral homes had a dining room, and some even had a kitchen, where friends brought in food for the family members. A couple of brothers in my hometown, whom I’ll refer to as the Bryant brothers, frequented the town’s funeral home. You might have thought these ole country boys were related to everybody that died. They did not necessarily attend the funeral services but they regularly ate in the back room with the bereaved. You see, the Bryant brothers had never married. They didn’t have anyone at home to cook for them. Evidently, they couldn’t cook for themselves or if they could they didn’t care much for their own cooking. Some people called the brothers “Buzzard Baptist.” They explained that they were Baptist and they circled the funeral home waiting for someone to die. I’m not sure why the funeral home owner allowed the Bryant brothers to eat with all those families but to my knowledge he never discouraged them from such. Our town was small so everybody knew the brothers and expected their presence. Most folks didn’t seem to mind. FULL POST
Posted 11/20/14 at 1:19 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books
I remember the day my mom got liposuction. I was ten, and I’d walked into her closet. Her naked thighs, stomach, and breasts were covered in small bloodied gauze bandages. She walked stiffly and winced as she stretched her arm into the shirt she was holding.
I asked, aghast, what happened to her. She told me not to worry about it.
When her wounds healed, and her skin displayed small divet-like holes, I placed my finger against one and asked, again, what happened. She explained the process in a hurry and, annoyed, told me to stop fingering the divets.
My mother, I found out later, is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of women are caught up in an ideal that doesn’t exist. We don’t say “thin,” because now it’s more socially acceptable to say “healthy.” Women in my family are no exception. It is, frankly, a generational thing.
Let’s start with the matriarch. My grandmother never speaks well of her body. If she does, it’s coated in sarcasm. Every visit, she reminds me that I’ll look just like her and makes a rolling motion with her hands from ground to chest to imitate saggy breasts. Disturbing? Yes. FULL POST
Posted 11/19/14 at 2:01 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books
The definition of a strong lady appears in newspapers, academia, and social media. Marching in lockstep you hear the same phrases repeated over and over. It’s shouted by some of the angriest ladies I have ever encountered. Not sure much of anything would make these ladies happy. They tell us we should demand respect, our rights and whatever we deem necessary for our existence. These ladies don’t encourage and inspire me they just make me weary.
It’s not those ladies I find strong. In fact if I wanted to have a girls night out, they aren’t the ones I’d invite. If I could, along with some of my best girlfriends, it would be two ladies who currently reside in heaven; my great grandmother, Ethel Bunger and my husband’s grandmother, Minnie Brock. Now those were some strong ladies.
Watching how they lived provided me with the best definition of what that looked like. Possessing every component needed; they exemplified on a daily basis without angst or effort what earned respect from those they encountered. FULL POST
Posted 11/16/14 at 10:46 PM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books
In the thick of traffic, I hugged a bumper. A sticker read, “Nature is my church.”
Various reactions stormed my brain. Stuff like, “There goes another disillusioned tree hugger . . . That person had a bad experience with a local church . . . She’s confused about God’s design as expressed in the New Testament.”
Mostly, I felt sorry for her. Grieved that somewhere along the way, Satan had successfully deceived her about the true nature of Christ’s Church. And that perhaps His followers had not represented His Body well.
The beauty. The unity. The peace, humility, gentleness, and patience. The hope of His calling. The expression of His gifts in love to those within and those without.
And my heart broke. For how many times had my actions/words given the wrong impression of the Church? Perhaps at some point in my journey I’d left a sour taste in someone’s mouth and s/he’d turned aside to seek God elsewhere. FULL POST
Posted 11/12/14 at 1:30 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books
Let me tell you a story. A man from Eastern Europe arrives in America, and lives with his poor cousin. His cousin, a poor taxi company owner, has struggled to make his life in America. The man has come seeking revenge against a man who killed his friends during the war, and along his warpath discovers something about love, the futility of the American Dream for the modern immigrant, and the inescapable nature of crime.
What is this story? It’s not from a movie; it’s not some new book. It’s the plot of a video game. That game is Grand Theft Auto IV. Though surrounded in controversy, the game’s story is one which rivals that of a novel. Despite the controversies, video games can’t be ignored anymore. In 2013, the video game industry made almost $15.5 billion. Why is this medium so popular? I argue that it is an emerging art form that, while usually primarily only for entertainment, is more and more becoming an artistic medium. FULL POST
Posted 11/9/14 at 11:58 PM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books
In P.D. James’ novel, The Children of Men, couples are no longer able to conceive children. The novel introduces us to a society that lost the ability to produce offspring after the current generation of young adults. A wistful, lonely, alienated people remain in this childless world.
Though it is doubtful we will ever reach the circumstances portrayed in this book, some developed nations (Japan and Italy, for example) are seriously concerned about enough children not only to support the elderly but also to supply the citizens necessary for a vibrant society.
Parenthood is the unsupported career. Though an emotionally involved parent is in a sense always attached to a child, the most physically taxing part of the career is over with by the time the child is five or six. By the time the child reaches ten or so, the parents have shaped most of his or her character.
Back when families had five or ten or more children, parents spent the majority of their lives at the job of parenthood (while also working on farms or in small businesses.). Nowadays, birth control allows most adults to have children only if they’ve chosen to—at least, if they recognize the responsibility procreation requires. FULL POST
Posted 11/7/14 at 12:01 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books
The funeral service for my brother last January was in the Southern tradition: service in the church a few days after his death, followed by another in the cemetery before burial. The one I attended recently for a church member here was technically not a funeral. In the Pacific Northwest manner, it was a memorial service weeks after his death. People were asked to share their experiences about the one whose passing we remembered. Both services were emotionally satisfying.
End of life occasions remind us of our responsibility for a time on earth that is, in the scope of things, terribly short and precious. We recognize an end point, a conclusion toward which to work.
By chance, my husband and I meet regularly with a group of friends, and the next meeting was scheduled the afternoon after the memorial service. Our topic: we each brought ideas for our own obituary and end of life wishes. FULL POST
Posted 11/5/14 at 12:09 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books
“Welcome back rapists,” read one sign.
“Rape happens here,” declared another.
“We won’t be silenced.”
“Red tape won’t cover up rape.”
“Dean Valentini, why are you letting my rapist stay on campus?”
These are some of the signs held by Columbia University students in protest of the institution’s handling of sexual assault cases. As reported by Columbia University’s student newspaper, The Spectator, the rally was held in support of Columbia and Barnard rape survivors, specifically Columbia senior Emma Sulkowicz, an art student whose senior thesis project tells the story of her own rape on Columbia’s campus. Sulkowicz’s project makes her the latest in a long line of young artists to use art as a means of responding to sexual assault.
Sulkowicz was one of three women who accused the same student of rape. All three cases were reported and all three cases were dismissed. The rapist remains at Columbia to this day. Sulkowicz’s project, titled “Carry That Weight,” requires her to carry a twin-sized mattress around Columbia’s campus every day. It symbolizes the emotional weight she holds and the physical rape itself, which occurred on a dorm mattress identical to the one that she carries. FULL POST
Posted 11/3/14 at 1:20 AM | Bindings: Reflections on Faith, Life, and Good Books
At the ripe old age of six I lit out to conquer the world through first grade. I was so highly advanced in my grasp of early academics that I skipped kindergarten and started directly in the first grade. I honestly don’t think the fact that my school did not have a kindergarten class had anything to do with this but it might have. In my first year of school I learned letters, numbers, and how to do business.
At that young age I knew exactly what I wanted in life - ice cream bars. You know, the kind with vanilla ice cream encased in a hard shell of chocolate and placed on a wooden stick. The problem was those bars cost a nickel and I normally did not have one. The solution to my problem was Bert Crowell. I figured Bert must be rich because every day he came to school with his lunch money and an extra nickel.
My Mama sent me to school every morning with a quarter for lunch but no nickel for ice cream. Every time I asked she said, “You don’t need all that sweet stuff.” She feared I might lose my quarter so she put it in a handkerchief and tied it in a knot. Every morning when I untied that handkerchief I hoped to find an extra nickel. I never did. Mama got up every morning and made me a hot breakfast before I left for school. She usually made biscuits - from scratch. She wrapped up one of those biscuits in foil and sent it with me for recess. She usually put bacon, ham, or sausage inside. I was so embarrassed. While my fellow first graders snacked on store bought gourmet items I had to eat my old cold biscuit. One day I noticed Bert drooling as he stared at my biscuit. He asked, “Is that ham in that biscuit?” I realized that a whole new world of entrepreneurialism verged on opening up. I asked, “Would you like a bite?” He nodded with anxious consent. I said, “Well you can’t have one but you can have the whole thing for the low price of one nickel.” Ole Bert reached in his pocket and pulled out a nickel that looked as big to me as a number two wash tub. He didn’t even have that thing in a handkerchief. It just ran loose in his pocket. He put that coin in my hand, I put a ham biscuit in his hand, and I headed out for the school’s store. I was happy, Bert was happy, and mama never knew. Our transactions lasted for the rest of first grade. I tried to raise my price periodically but Bert never had more than that one nickel. I seem to remember that Jerry Don Craig offered me six cents a time or two but Bert had been such a loyal customer that I couldn’t bring myself to mistreat him! Besides that Jerry Don and Bert were cousins and I didn’t want to cause family problems. FULL POST