Derek Johnson Muses

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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Study on John 16:12-22, The Trinity and the Holy Spirit’s Job

All Scriptures English Standard Version (ESV)

This morning, I had the privilege of leading a Bible study at St. John in Seward on John 16:12-22, the reading of the day for the fifth Sunday after Easter on the sending of the Holy Spirit and “a little while, and you will see me no longer.” (v.16). The Heritage Room study is a very talkative group, which allows for a very open discussion and easy day if you are the leader. Here’s some notes from that study and thanks to everyone who was there who contributed.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (v. 12) Jesus has told his disciples that one of them will betray him and now has lead them to the garden and has warned them that the world will hate them (15:18), all before his crucifixion. Jesus has laid on them many tough teachings on how the church will be after He is gone and their minds must have been swimming.

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (v. 14-16) We see the interplay in between the members of the Trinity. In mysterious fashion, Jesus will have to leave His disciples after His great victory over death for the Spirit to come. But the Spirit will not lead people according to their whims or directives, but “will not speak on his own authority.”

Our God is modeling within himself what relationships are to be, as each person of the Godhead serves according to the will of all three. Jesus said in John 5:19  “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” Proper relationships are all based upon service and how we serve our neighbor.

This is a mystery: how does an almighty God not only exist as three persons, but be one. If God would have wanted us to know how this could be, he would have told us, but, as Jesus said to His disciples, they already had enough to bear. This goes against the grain of American culture, where storing up things is encouraged and we can access a wealth of information on the internet. How can we not understand how the persons of the Trinity submit to each other? And yet, in this regard, it is a blessing not to know.

As the Lutheran Study Bible notes (literally), the Spirit is “guiding” the church “in truth”, that is the truth that is already revealed in the Scriptures and through the Apostles. This is not meant to be a directive to deduce new revelations from God, as some would assert. In a speech dissected on Issues, Etc. earlier this year, openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Church in the USA used “the Spirit…will guide you into all the truth” as the reason believers should disregard all the passages against homosexuality. Basically, whatever anyone asserts comes from the Holy Spirit is valid truth, even when it’s contrary to other parts of Scripture. This is why clear passages interpret unclear passages.

‘…A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.’ So some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What is this that he says to us, “A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me”’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father”?’ (v. 16-17) In retrospect, we know that Jesus was talking about his death and reappearance after his Resurrection, but these words must have come to them as a play on words. (In verse 29, the disciples will thank Jesus for saying plainly that he is going to the Father.) If a husband telling his wife that he will take out the trash “in a little while”, the wife may wonder when a little while is. So the disciples wonder here.

Why You Should “Watch” Your TV

Recently, I read a book on my Kindle called Primetime Propaganda by Ben Shapiro. It opened my eyes to the agendas of a lot of shows I liked. Turns out, the Hollywood left could be as extremist, intolerant, and cold-minded as they accuse the Tea Party of being, and probably more so.

I watch TV, and even if you are really conservative, you probably do too. TV has this addictive quality that I taste whenever I eat fast food: you just can’t get enough of it, and you can take the trashiness of it as you swallow (or watch) your favorites. Consuming liberal television does your mind what consuming fast food does to your waste-line.

Vanguardism is the buzzword in Hollywood. Those who inhabit the golden shores of Malibu and the sweeping lawns of Sunset Boulevard are of an almost uniform political bent-virtually all vote Democrat, fervently support gay marriage, see abortion as a sacrosanct human right, approve of higher taxes, despise religion, think guns are to blame for crime, maintain that businesspeople are corrupt and union organizers are saints, feel that conservatives are racists, sexists, and homophobes, and sneer at the rural right-wingers in ‘flyover country.’ Almost all voted for Barack Obama. Almost all hated George W. Bush.”

And we all let them into our living rooms, with subtle coded messages on our flat-screens. My conservative friends and Christian brethren, Hollywood hate us. Thanks be to God.

Shapiro also makes the point that Hollywood constantly derides big business when they are just that. And Hollywood fights for the same tax breaks that every other big business fights for and gets.

One of the most revealing parts of the book is how Hollywood has come up with every storyline about how gays are discriminated against. The writers take a story about they discriminate against conservatives, and make the conservatives the ones who discriminate.

“…the television industry is going to have to admit that it has a problem: it’s ideologically xenophobic. Most conservatives in Hollywood don’t work today…because liberals employ a mirror form of McCarthyism on a large scale…Outspoken conservatives are less likely to get jobs, as many of the liberal television folks I interviewed openly admitted…”

“They wouldn’t dare do to the same to blacks or gays who suggest discrimination in Hollywood, even though the evidence of such discrimination is far scantier. There is institutional bias against right-wingers in Tinsletown…”

In light of this, this part of the left shouldn’t be called liberal. Liberals are people who defend everyone’s right to speech and perspective and bringing in lots of opinion.  What this really shows is how insecure the people who make television are. If you have to slander and call your opponent nasty names and try to defeat them by saying they are a hateful person, it says that if their opinion is allowed to even be spoken, you can’t believe your own.

Reflecting on Shapiro’s book, I think a lot about how Christianity gets portrayed on TV, under the liberal protestant that subjects God to any force of mankind. Consider how Christian father Herschel is portrayed on The Walking Dead: when he comes on the show, he is portrayed as strong, faith-motivated person who uses his faith to stand up to Rick. But after the crisis of (Spoiler Alert) his zombified wife and son being gunned down, Herschel abandoned the effectiveness of his faith. He still reads scriptures with his daughters, but he stays out of the big decisions on the show.

And by the way, his daughter Maggie is a sexually promiscuous vixen who hops into bed with Glenn pretty quickly. Like Angela on The Office, TV seems to be telling the conservative Christians they can separate their faith and sexuality. This much worse than telling Christians that their faith isn’t valid. It’s telling them that faith can be secondary to liberal social views. It’s having a semblance of Jesus to justify your behavior.

Thankfully, there hasn’t been a TV show that I’ve really liked that’s come on in the last couple of years, but that’s probably because I’m burnt out on TV. I feel in love with the medium back in college, when Lost came on the air in the fall of my senior year and was Jurassic Park on the small screen. I loved Lost (through season 5), 24, How I Met Your MotherPrison Break, and shows I can’t even remember. In a lot of ways, those shows inspired me to be a writer. But I binged on those shows until I was fat as a hog.

I still watch TV, but I don’t expect it to fill me. I realize I need real food too.

Trailways to Dubuque

This spring, I wanted to visit my friend Tom in Dubuque and didn’t want to drive. I know that by the end of this summer, I will be so tired of driving I will want to throw up, and these miles would count toward that. Other than driving, there’s only one way of transportation to get to Dubuque, and that’s Trailways bus.

Taking the bus was better than taking the train. It was indirect-an extra hour or two was added because of the stops we had to make, some of which were miles off the highway in campus-town Ames and downtown Waterloo. In the end, I got to read a lot and watched a couple of movies I wouldn’t have ordinarily gotten to see: 2008’s Journery to the Center of the Earth, 2010’s The Karate Kid, a Veggie Tales‘ episode called “Lord of the Beans” (forgot how funny Bob the Tomato is), and Cinderella Man (too bad it bombed-it was good), a movie I had wanted to see when it was in theaters eight years ago, but didn’t because too many other good movies came out that summer. Glad I never rented it.

Trailways does a good job, but they are helped by the fact that not many people take the bus to begin with. There’s still the smell of recycled air you get on planes, but I read a lot of the books I brought, and thanks to the wifi on the bus between Des Moines and Dubuque, I got to watch some college football highlights from last year that I wanted to see. Even if I know what’s going to happen, it’s still feels like a crisp fall afternoon or a Christmas destination game when I watch those highlights.

But the most important part of this trip was getting to see my best friend, who I have racked up a lot of long phone calls and good times together. He really is my brother, and it’s great to catch-up and laugh together again. He’s got a great life; this past weekend, I met his significant other (finally!) and saw his friends, all of whom are awesome and great Christian persons who encourage me.

Saturday, I volunteered with Tom at the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, clearing away leaves from rose beds and putting the leaves back on once the plants had been fertilized. It was great exercise, and we got to met a man who had grown up in Michigan just west of where our grower is and went to college in the Upper Peninsula, an area that has always fascinated me. It’s amazing how Michiganders, Wisconsinites, and Minnesotans live in 40-inches of snow per year and face snow storms in May just shrug it off.

Railroad on the Mississippi in the Mines of Spain near Dubuque

Railroad on the Mississippi in the Mines of Spain near Dubuque

Sunday, we went out to the Mines of Spain State Rec Park just south of town, to hike and enjoy the sun. The Mines of Spain are exactly what a great park should be: open prairie to walk, hills and cliffs to climb, and a majestic body of water. The birds were out, singing their spring songs and displaying their colors. Like I saw in Kansas, the countryside hasn’t been overrun with green summer growth. But that will change son.

And the best part of the visit? Tom telling me that he’s moving back to Seward for the summer and that he wants to stay with me while he detassells! It’s going to be an awesome summer!

Good. Working on it.

So let me say this first: I believe in the Lutheran teachings about good works, that they flow from the heart of faith only, and that we can’t consciously do good works. I believe that, I really do. But I still have a question.

When I started going to St. John, I wasn’t really involved in anything. I had a lot of time on my hands, so I began helping with the tape ministry, welcomers, and serving on worship committee for the sole reason that I was bored and wanted something to do around church. I didn’t really care about the people who were getting the tapes or I was helping into church. Okay, that is not really true. Technically, I do care about people who are shut-in and in the nursing home. I’d have to be a pretty cold guy not too.

But those good works, like a number of my good works were done simply because they were right in front of me and I just didn’t want to be the bad guy. I wanted to be the bad who once in a while did something not as terrible. Does that make my good works a little less good? Well, any way I answer that question, I’ll end up saying that my good works came from me.

That’s really part of the practical problem with the Lutheran doctrine on good works. Said doctrine states that good works flow from faith, that they are the work of the Holy Spirit, and that even if we try, our good works are just filthy rags. Even when we are thinking we do a good work, it becomes soiled because we are always sinking in our sinful motivation. Perhaps my good works out of apathy reflect this to a degree. My problem with this doctrine is, how do you go out after hearing it and do anything for God, if you know that what you do will ultimately just get soiled by your sin? It’s like the problem with inception Arthur points out to Saito in Christopher Nolan ‘s movie: if you tell someone not to think about elephants, they’ll just think about elephants. If you tell a Christian that good works only flow from faith and have nothing to do with himself, won’t the Christian automatically just do good works because he was told that good works don’t come from himself?

I’m not sure how to answer that, other than to say there’s no good or perfect way to live in this fallen, sorrowful world. Trust whatever certainty you have to Christ, and seek His forgiveness and image. The sheep in the parable didn’t know their good works, so I don’t worry if I can’t know mine.

Road Notes: Peacocks and Delivery to North Kansas

Yesterday was the first work trip since September, as I came out of hibernation and on to the asphalt. I went down to Kansas to take thirteen bags of corn seed to a customer who lived thirty miles north of Topeka by the town of Valley Falls, Kansas. It was a little more than three hours from Seward one way, the perfect day trip. I woke up at 5:30 and rolled out of the warehouse by 7:20. Everything was marvelous, until I hit rush hour traffic on Highway 2 in Lincoln and had to sit through two red lights at 14th Street.

After I got through Lincoln, it was more or less smooth sailing. I had taken the route to Topeka several times as we have a dealer in Sabetha, Kansas, although the last time I remember was back in 2010. I’ve done a lot of the photography along the way, particularly in Auburn, Nebraska but there was still plenty of spaces I hadn’t been. This time of year, a rainy early April, is a good time for finding contrasting colors, as the green grass has started to grow around the brown grass.

New beginnings...

New beginnings…

The road construction crews have also come out for the season. I ran into one as I arrived at the Kansas border on Highway 75. It facilitated a ten minute wait and a ten mile stretch of driving on de-surfaced road at forty-five miles per hour, an unpleasant stretch if you drive a hand-me down pickup with 200,000+ miles and a load. I took Highway 73 through Falls City on my way home and was also able to stop in Syracuse and return a Tupperware to one of my guest artists from February.

The farm that I delivered the seed to was on the west side of tree sanctuary. Four pet peacocks roamed the yard (?), along with a large black-and-white speckled dog the size of a St. Bernard. Surprisingly, they didn’t seem to bother each other. The buyer was absent, so I unloaded the bags and left quickly. The dog didn’t bark much, but I was still nervous, based on past experiences.

Just one of the farm animals...

Just one of the farm animals…

On the way back, I stopped for lunch in Horton (not Holton, a few miles down the road-so confusing) at a burger-and-ice-cream drive-in and had a taco burger. Kansas and the other wasteland states (Nebraska, Wyoming, etc.) seems to have a high number of these little drive-in places, like Sonic but more basic. I always admire whoever it is who chooses to run a business like this in off-the-map America, because they do not make a lot of money considering the time they have to put in.

On the way back, I got tired, but I managed to make it back on a single energy drink (Starbucks Refesher-doesn’t leave me feeling dehydrated).  I listened to several Issues, Etc. 24 podcasts, on the work of Christ, sin, and justification, but still have most of that program left for the summer miles ahead. Finding the perfect tracks for these trips is important, because when I remember them later on, I remember what I was listening to at the time. Like when I drove this route three years ago listening to a call from Mike in Indy on the Jim Rome Show.

It sprinkled at a couple points, but it never really rained, a relief. The long, multi-day trips in my cab are still a few months ahead of me, but I was glad for yesterday. I got to take a route that was familiar, but that I wouldn’t take very often once summer starts, and some unique shots. Best of all, it kept me working.

Batman to Tomb Raider: a New Lara Croft

I recently have been reading Tales from Development Hell by David Hughes, who recounts the struggles of some recent high profile films that got made and some that didn’t, even after ten years of  false starts and rewriting. One that particularly interests me is the miserable Lara Croft series. There seemed to be two opinions from the people who worked on making the two films in the early 2000’s: one, there was something more to the adventuress than most video game characters, and two, no one has any idea on how to make it a good film. But here’s my shot.

Most video games don’t translate we’ll as films. Sometimes, you do get a Resident Evil franchise, which has its cult fans but makes no impact beyond the younger, tone-deaf crowd. But Croft is a character that is familiar, even if she’s an Indiana Jones rip-off. The modern cinema is riff with familiar but remodeled characters. You just have to follow the right model.

If it were me, I’d look at Lara the way Christopher Nolan looked at Batman, or the way the 1960’s were re-imagined through Don Draper. The ideal woman to play Croft would be someone with a mix of skills, toughness, intelligence, and woundedness. Instead of Megan Fox, I would write with Maggie Gyllenhaal in mind. And I wouldn’t make her someone who had to be a mean girl, but who just happened to be so.

For the story, I would start with a small flashback with Lara as a 12 year-old girl with her father and/or mother, right upon recovery of an artifact. Then a villain comes in and steals the artifact and kills Lara’s parent(s), leaving her with a fragment of the artifact, like a “penny”. Then, after flashing forward to an introductory action sequence, I’d show her in England, teaching children.

In the mid-point of the film, I’d insert a male lead who has been betrayed by the villain, and who Lara is forced to trust, but doesn’t trust. The plot would be about finding artifact which the “penny” would fit into, opening the door to another world, and thus, Lara finding out what her parent(s) died for. And strongly consider an ending akin to Casino Royale, with (spoiler alert) Lara’s love interest dying to save her towards the end of the film.

Driving the main points in the script would be character, choices, and the question of who Lara would be in real life.  I don’t know if this approach would yield a great movie, but it would minimize the risk of an embarrassing failure. If a serious movie fails, no one cares. When an action comedy fail, it can look horrid. Just look at The Killers; Ashton Kutcher had to go back to TV after that. Or consider the first Batman franchise. Probably wont happen but I can dream.

Lady Croft, I presume?

Suzanne Venker on Title IX: Time to Revise?

Sometime when I was watching ESPN in the last year, I saw a commercial where girls where playing sports together outside, and then, one by one, began leaving the field, their uniforms changing into beautiful dresses and formal business suits. At the end of the commercial, there was a brief message trying to convince young women to stay in athletics. Implication: if you have to convince girls to stay in athletics, you’ve got too many programs.

Title IX, while it was necessary at the time it was implemented to make sure athletic departments offered women’s sports, has since over-proliferated a women’s programs when the cost of all sports has exploded. Suzanne Venker, a conservative author and speaker, has written about the affects of Title IX in her book The Flip Side of Feminism.

“Enrollment in academic courses is now approaching 60 percent women to 40 percent men…athletic teams must enforce this same ratio. This rule is absurd because it’s a fact of human nature that men are more interested than women in participating in competitive sports….”

Also skewing this ratio men who want to work in trades like plumbing, mechanics, or construction, are more likely to go to a two year college and never set foot in a D-1 school. Venker continues:

“When the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 2010 recommended colleges use a survey to determine student interest in athletics as the ‘best method available’ for complying with the law without requiring arbitrary gender quotas, the Obama administration-predictably-rejected that helpful suggestion, sticking to the proportionality rule…Demanding equal participation in college sports is absurd-and it’s wholly unfair to men.”

In addition to using a student interest survey, sampling participation in high school and junior high could be a fair way to determine which programs a college has to offer.

Due to radical feminism, Title IX is that it is Teflon when it comes to the rising cost of college athletics. Every now and then, a”serious journalist” will gasp over million-dollar football budgets…without mentioning the fact that there’s a federal law mandating universities carry programs that are destined to loose money. This is why you can’t a reasonable conversation about paying college football players because a chunk of every dollar every scholarship football player brings the university automatically gets cut off and sent to support another athletic program at the university, even though the money is better spent on the track teams rather than a linebacker’s weekend binge.

Let’s consider how the culture has changed since Title IX: major college sports aren’t just a ten-hour a week, extra-curricular activities. They are full-time jobs that involve regular travel (and longer travel because of conference realignment), plus off-season workouts, on top of being a student. When Title IX was implemented in the early 1970’s, woman’s college sports were underfunded or non-existent. Now the market has been over-saturated.

Cutting back on woman’s programs could actually help the competitive balance in woman’s sports. Consider how woman’s college basketball has been largely dominated by two programs, UConn and Tennessee, over the last several decades. Consider UConn’s long winning streak a couple of years ago: women’s college basketball is often the top women’s sport on campus,and takes little money to compete in, because they share a facility with the men. How can UConn carry on such a streak in this earth-is-flat, even-resources world? Cutting back the number of woman’s teams can help the school focus its resources.

Granted, Title IX can’t be scrapped completely, and indeed, there is a very fair component to it: making sure woman’s programs have funds. Many unions in this country began when workers were vastly underpaid, overworked (think sixty hour work weeks), and sent into unsafe working conditions. While their overall value is debatable now, worker’s unions are still needed to ensure safe working environments (as is necessary in a mining or construction business). Title IX is needed to ensure woman’s sports can have the resources they need to provide a positive experience to their participants. And with the advent of conference networks, all non-revenue sports aren’t going to lose the money they did ten years ago.

But still, society’s evolve. Given how much it takes to field a competitive team, let’s not saddle athletic departments with teams that the girls don’t want anyway. There’s no shame in admitting that boys want to play sports more than girls.

Ferrying Across Lake Michigan on the SS Badger

On a July day in 2010, I had just finished checking fields at the Mantey’s before noon and had driven into Bay City to check online communication and decide on my next move. From my table at Brewtopia (one of the best coffeehouses ever), I examined the schedule for the SS Badger, a car ferry that I could take across Lake Michigan to the next fields I had to see in Wisconsin. It was expensive, but it would save time, city driving, and some gas (key when you drive an F-150). I booked the passage that was scheduled to leave Luddington at 8 and arrive in Manitowoc five hours later.

Rural Road on the Way

Rural Road on the Way

A delightful drive across central Michigan yielded some nice free photos and a stop in great bookstore, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find an open post office I needed. I had been to Luddington the previous year when my sister and I had taken a joyriding trip up the western Michigan coast. I got dinner at Subway and, since my truck was so close to empty, I filed it up after looping through gas stations, a decision I would come to regret.

So I rolled into a shipyard where the cars were lining up to be loaded into the Badger. I parked my car, and checked in, a remarkably easy process. We weren’t allowed to drive our vehicles on the boat nor would we be allowed access to our vehicles once they were loaded up. Upon hearing that, I jammed as much unnecessary stuff as I could into my bag before I got in line with my ticket to board, making sure I got in front of the seven Amish families who I knew would take forever.

Lighthouse with Well-Wishers

Lighthouse with Well-Wishers

Boarding a boat was universally the same as boarding a plane, only it took longer to get a ship out of port. After we passed the harbor gates, I wandered from one end of the boat to the other, photographing the sunset and taking in the beauty of dimming light on the water. Being on the boat was just like one would imagine it would have been around the turn of the previous century, the black trim, the crew, the stillness of the water. The Badger itself has been in service since the 1950’s, when it ferried railway cars across Lake Michigan before rails were built through Chicago and Gary, Indiana. Even the tracks that were used to load the cars into the ferry remain on the ship.

The five hours grew long, but there was plenty to do on board. I took my photos, watched the news down below decks (a Bernie Madoff special happened to be on), watched part of a movie, and went through the ship’s museum. In the dining room, there was a satellite map of Lake Michigan, with the Badger’s position on it. The ship was traveling at a speed of 18 MPH, or slower than a speed limit on a typical city street. It is eighty miles across Lake Michigan from Michigan to Wisconsin, and even though I was saving a lot of time (and city driving), I was still just chugging along.

Sunset against the boat

Sunset against the boat

We arrived in Manitowoc at what felt like 1 A.M. A smaller boat guided us into the landing, and huge boat awkwardly backed up to a dock that was so small, I could not see how we were going to dock on it. The water seemed to buoy us in, and they hooked us in short order. Surprisingly, there was a huge crowd waiting to make the 2:30 passage back to Michigan. I made my way down as the cars were being driven out by the employees, and thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long until my truck was pulled into one of the five diagonal stalls. When I started to back up, an employee came yelling frantically at me to pull forward instead. It was a mistake of my instincts-besides, the space to go forward was small and it was dark. Blindly, I drove up, and the turn was shorter than I expected.

The first gas station I came to had gas priced twenty cents lower than what it was when I filled up in Michigan. I could have saved at least ten bucks on a tank.

I did have the sense to pick my hotel back when I was in Bay City. Per the recommendation of the Badgers’ website, I selected the Super 8, and called ahead. I thought I would get a late-night, 20% discount, of course not realizing that they get late night passengers all the time. Two bikers guys from the ferry were checking in right after I did, and I watched Sports Center for half an hour before falling asleep.

After six hours of sleep and an hour of breakfast, I returned the road, driving past extra green woodland farms I’d passed in college that frequent the Wisconsin coast. I joined the rush hour traffic to Appleton, and curved back down on to Highway 10, toward Coloma, the site of my first field of the day. (This was my first drive through Omro a town I would come to frequent two years later.) From there, it was on to a new field west of Eau Claire, although I had to stop in Tomah to take a nap. I was exhausted at the end of that day, but it was completely worth it for the time I saved.

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