Job and demotic

Word of the day from the vocabulary app I have been enjoying is demotic: of or for the common people.  A demotic saying or expression is casual, colloquial, and used by the masses.  It comes from the Greek word demotikos.

I’ve always enjoyed reading the story of Job from the Bible.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I started reading Wandering in the Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering by Eleonore Stump.  It is a deeply profound book, but also quite long (about 500 pages).  Her chapter on the biblical character of Job is brilliant.

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For the purposes of this post, I will assume you have some basic knowledge about the story of Job.  A common reading of the book of Job supposes that the book will give us help with the problem of suffering.  Part of this common reading is to understand that God allows an innocent person to suffer terribly.  In the midst of that suffering, Job acknowledges God’s power but complains about God’s apparent lack of goodness.  When God shows up, he only talks about his power and fails to address Job’s charge.

I am going to share some interesting insights/observations from Stump in her chapter about Job:

  • In the story we see God as a person, in personal and parental relationships with the people he created, sharing what he has created with them and making them glad by doing so.
  • In God’s speech to Job, he talks to the sea as if it were an exuberant child of his.  God brings the sea into conformity to his will by talking to the sea and explaining what it can and cannot do.  God speaks the same way about other created inanimate things.
  • God’s speech to Job makes clear his great care for the animals and his connection to them.  The animals are portrayed as responding to God’s attention by interacting with him.
  • In the divine speeches, there is a suggestion that God operates on the principle that applies to good parents – that, other things being equal, the outweighing benefit that justifies a parent in allowing some suffering to an innocent child of hers has to benefit the child primarily.  The suffering of an innocent will only be because an outweighing good can be produced for that person that is otherwise unavailable to him.
  • Job’s personal complaint includes a charge of betrayal of trust.  A face-to-face encounter can make all the difference – the sight of God’s face is an explanation of Job’s suffering.  Stump promises to take up this topic later in the book.
  • The divine speeches challenge Job and yet God rebukes Job’s friends and defends Job and his questioning of God.  How can this incongruity be resolved?  Maybe something about Job’s giving voice to the accusations is good even if the accusations of God are not true.
  • God is conveying to Job God’s love for him.  Job’s face-to-face experience with God goes “past” goodness to love.
  • “So, until prosperity and goodness are pulled apart, it may not be a determinate matter whether Job loves the good for its own sake, or whether what he loves is mingled good and wealth.” (p.207)
  • After Job’s suffering, he takes his stand with God.  His love of God is only for God’s sake, not for the sake of wealth or other desirable effects.  Job becomes the sort of person whose story a culture strives to hand on, to help shape the ideals of the next generation.  Under extremely difficult circumstances, Job maintained uncorrupted moral uprightness and personal commitment to God and he became a much better person.

These few insights from this chapter on the study of the Biblical character of Job, do not do Stump’s chapter on him justice.  If you haven’t read the book of Job from the Bible, I encourage you to check it out.

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Vocab is Fun!!

Vocab is Fun!  And, Here’s Proof.

I think expanding my vocabulary is fun.  It’s very cool when I encounter (and understand) a word I have recently learned.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been spending some time each day using the Vocab.com app.  I have been telling others about this cool app, but so far I only have one confirmed “convert” who is also enjoying it.

Here’s a sampling of some words I have been learning today:

  • Malapropos – I understand the word, “apropos” but I had never encountered this word. It helps to know another language (Spanish, in my case) because mal means “bad” in Spanish so I was able to guess that this word means inappropriate.  The definition specifically says that this adjective is used to describe something that is awkwardly unsuitable for the situation or setting at hand.
  • Untoward – Actually, this word also describes something inappropriate (or offensive).
  • Funambulist – Someone who walks on a tightrope.

funambulist

  • Physiognomy – The appearance of someone’s face.
  • Vertiginous – To be dizzy and woozy (a disorienting feeling).  This is what I would experience if I was a funambulist!
  • Numismatist – a coin collector

Coins

  • Preen – primp and pay careful attention to how you dress or puff yourself up or self-congratulate yourself
  • Codswallop – nonsense or silliness, ridiculous
  • Pellucid – easy to understand, clear/transparent
  • Palliate – make something less bad/relieve symptoms or consequences of something

Warning: if you try to incorporate too many new words into your vocabulary, you will probably irritate one or more of the members of your family!

Madeline and Prestidigitation

I just finished Madeline Albright’s book, Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st Century Memoir.  I enjoyed the book and she is such an impressive person.

In the last two chapters of her book, she discusses President Trump and our current political environment.  She says that no other president has so “thoroughly combined a boorish personality with an incapacity to accept criticism, an utter disregard for the responsibilities of his office, and a tendency to make stuff up worth of both Guinness’s book and Ripley’s.”  What a roast!  I cannot say I disagree.

She discusses Trump’s instinct to go on the offensive while at the same time claiming to be under attack.  She thinks that the philosopher Eric Hoffer’s insight from sixty years ago applies to Trump.  He wrote, “rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”  She is worried that there is danger of him causing grave damage to the foundations of our democracy.

In terms of foreign policy, Trump has a obvious yearning to be praised as a world leader, yet as a result of his arrogance he is a source of dismay to U.S. allies and widely mocked.  Trump thinks of foreign policy less in strategic terms and more about style.  Mere unpredictability is just a character trait but not a policy.  Typically, the center of a nation’s foreign policy is embodied by a set of clear goals.  But, besides a desire to sell weapons and reduce trade deficits, it is unclear what the Trump administration wants to achieve or what it stands for.  Trump seems to identify, bond (and even envy) most with despots with bad records on human rights.  The president also likes to ignore or criticize the global system of international problem solving and law.  He ignores allies and thinks acting unilaterally is the best road to success.

In order to effectively manage world affairs, preparation and organization are required (and these are sorely lacking in Trump’s administration).  Now policies are often decided by presidential whim and influenced by what Trump saw on television instead of by careful analysis.  Trump has an attitude against career military and civilian professionals.  He has a deep need to blame others as well.  All this has weakened our country in the face of enemies and undermines the trust of U.S. citizens in their own institutions.  This amounts to what Albright calls, “a textbook example of how not to lead.”

On a lighter note, vocabulary word of the day is prestidigitation.  This means magic tricks performed as entertainment.

I am about halfway through the book, 1984 and Philosophy: Is Resistance Futile?.  In it, professional philosophers write articles to analyze different elements of the book.  It’s a good, but somewhat depressing read.

Hell and Other Destinations

I recently started reading Madeline Albright’s memoir, Hell and Other Destinations, about her experiences since stepping down as the Secretary of State.  She is an amazing woman and it is fascinating to read about her life.  Here’s a sample paragraph from a chapter I just finished,

“The problem, of course, is that we are all so busy using time-saving devices that we don’t have time for anything else.  We may understand what it means to answer the call of conscience, but instead of acting on that understanding, we tend to wait – until we are out of school, until we can afford a down payment on a house, until we can pay for our children’s education, until we can free up time in retirement, until we can take that vacation we have always dreamed about.  We keep waiting until we run out of ‘untils.’  Then it is too late.”

I would highly recommend this book.

Madeleine-K-Albright

 

Here is a fun vocabulary word that I learned today on my vocab.com app that made me think of my wife: pulchritudinous (person of breathtaking beauty).

 

Will it Stick?, the book of Job and word of the day

I continue to enjoy reading through the book, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry l. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel.  Here are some quotes from chapters 5 and 6:

  • “Good judgment is a skill one must acquire, becoming an astute observer of one’s own thinking and performance.  We start at a disadvantage for several reasons.  One is that when we’re incompetent, we tend to overestimate our competence and see little reason to change.” (p.104)
  • “Our understanding of the world is shaped by a hunger for narrative that rises out of our discomfort with ambiguity and arbitrary events.  When surprising things happen, we search for an explanation.” (p.109)
  • “even your most cherished memories may not represent events in the exact way they occurred.  Memory can be distorted in many ways.  People interpret a story in light of their world knowledge, imposing order where none had been present so as to make a more logical story.” (p.112)
  • “Fluency illusions result from our tendency to mistake fluency with a text or mastery of its content.” (p. 116)
  • “Our memories are also subject to social influence and tend to align with the memories of the people around us.” (p.116)
  • “Humans are predisposed to assume that others share their beliefs, a process called the false consensus effect.” (p. 117)
  • “Confidence in a memory is not a reliable indication of its accuracy.” (p.117)
  • “The person who knows best what a student is struggling with in assimilating new concepts is not the professor, it’s another student.” (p. 120)
  • “…incompetent people overestimate their own competence and, failing to sense a mismatch between their performance and what is desirable, see no need to try to improve.” (p. 121)
  • “Most important is to make frequent using of testing and retrieval practice to verify what you really do know versus what you think you know.”  Space your testing, vary your practice, keep the long view.” (p. 125)
  • “Instructors should give corrective feedback and learners should seek it.” (p. 126)
  • “What you tell yourself about your ability plays a part in shaping the ways you learn and perform – how hard you apply yourself, for example, or your tolerance for risk-taking and your willingness to persevere in the face of difficulty.” (p.140)

Some takeaways from chapter 6:

  1. Be the one in charge (of your own learning).
  2. Embrace the notion of successful intelligence: don’t roost in a pigeonhole of your preferred learning style but take command of your resources and tap all of your “intelligences” to master the knowledge or skill you want to possess.
  3. Adopt active learning strategies, like retrieval practice, spacing, and interleaving.
  4. Distill the underlying principles: break your idea or desired competency down into its component parts.

 

I am reading a great book by philosopher, Eleonore Stump, called, Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering.  The current chapter I am reading explores the story of the book of Job in the Bible.  It’s hard to distill what Ms. Stump is trying to bring out of the story of Job, but I will try to do that later once I finish the chapter.  The book of Job is so interesting.

Job

(Good intro to the book of Job: The Bible Project: Book of Job)  

Word of the day.  As I mentioned in my last post, I am loving the new vocab app that I found and work on it each day.  It has a perfect balance of testing and bringing back words enough so that you learn them.  Favorite word from today’s lesson is mendicant: given to begging (adj.); a beggar (n.).

Begging

Birthday, Vocab app and Make it Stick

I turned 50 in January and we had a big party at our house with over 50 friends.  We had a great time.  One of my goals for 2020 was to read more books with friends so I laid out piles of books I wanted to read in 2020 by our bookshelves and asked any friends who were interested to put their name on one of the sign up sheets I made next to a book they would be willing to read with me.  Twelve of my friends signed up and so I bought each of them whatever book they signed up for, and I have been reading the books along with them and meeting to discuss the books and texting about the ideas in the books as well.  I’ve really enjoyed this.  There are so many books that I have read in the past that I wanted to talk to someone about.  This also pushes me to review what I am reading in preparation for discussion so I learn the material better.

For anyone who enjoys growing their vocabulary, I recently found an app called, “Vocab.com”.  It’s the best vocabulary building tool I have ever seen.  It’s fun to do and I now spend at least 5 minutes per day with it.  Give it a try!

learning

Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

My friend from work gave me this book for Christmas, and I asked a group of co-workers to read it with me.  It’s very good so far and here are some of the things I have learned about learning from the first four chapters:

  • Learning is most durable and deep when it’s effortful.
  • Massed practice of a skill and rereading text are among the least productive study strategies, even though they are among the most common.
  • Retrieval is more difficult when you space out practice at a task, but this is conducive to longer lasting learning and varied application of it in future settings – the gains from this are slower and require more effort, but it results in long term gains.
  • The more you can explain about how what you are learning relates to your prior knowledge, the better your grasp of the learning will be.
  • Learning is stronger when it is made concrete and matters to you personally.
  • Repetition alone does not lead to good long-term memory.
  • Mastering a text or lecture is NOT the same as mastering the underlying ideas.
  • Testing is important for long term retention and self-testing can be very effective along with the testing from an instructor.
  • The more cognitive work is required for retrieval, the greater will be your retention of the subject/skill/ideas.
  • Repeated practice of the same thing only leads to short term memory – practice is much more effective if it is spaced out, mixed with other learning.
  • There’s hardly any limit to our learning if we can relate it to what we already know.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to solve a problem facilitates deep processing of the answer when it is supplied and leads to longer term retention.  Teachers should allow students to struggle with solving problems.  When errors are committed and there is corrective feedback, students learn better.  Plus, those who are taught that learning is a struggle will be more willing and able to take on tough challenges in the future.
  • Thinking that intellectual ability is fixed from birth is a fallacy and those who believe it tend to avoid challenges.  Those who believe that their intellectual abilities lie largely within their control, will take on difficult challenges.  Failure will be viewed as a sign of effort and progress in learning.

 

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I end with a quote from the great Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things that you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places that you will go.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pharisees

Image result for pharisee picture

I was recently inspired to pick up and read the book, Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith by Larry Osborne.

I just finished the book, and it was great.  I couldn’t put it down.

In seeking to live a life pleasing to God and follow well after Jesus, I want to be sure that I avoid the trap of judgement, condemnation, comparison and an attitude of spiritual arrogance that has been so painful for me to witness in others (and in my own heart, at times).  I want to focus on being Jesus’ loving representative to everyone I come in contact with and let God sort out the rest.  Here are some excerpts from the book:

“It’s about accidental Pharisees – people like you and me who, despite the best intentions and a desire to honor God, unwittingly end up pursuing an overzealous model of faith that sabotages the work of the Lord we think we’re serving.” (p.17)

“You’ve probably know a jerk for Jesus, someone who thought they were advancing the cause of the kingdom when in reality they were simply embarrassing the King.” (p.18)

“If you allow your frustration to turn into disgust and disdain for people you’ve left behind, you’ll end up on a dangerous detour.  Instead of becoming more like Jesus, you’ll become more like his archenemies, the Pharisees of old, looking down on others, confident in your own righteousness.” (p. 20)

“Sometimes I wonder if in our quest to purify the church, we’ve become more like Pharisees than like Jesus.  Accidental Pharisees perhaps.  But Pharisees nonetheless.” (p.37)

“Spiritual comparisons are particularly silly.  We don’t always know the full story.  All we see is the outside.  There’s no way to see the heart.  This means that a lot of our conclusions about people are flat-out wrong.” (p.44)

“Spiritual arrogance is not a back-of-the-line sin: it’s a front-of-the-line sin.  So much so that sometimes I think of it as an occupational hazard of zealous faith, serious discipleship, and biblical scholarship.”  (p.46)

“But as valuable as biblical knowledge is, I think it should come with a warning label.  The fact is, the more we know, the more we’re tempted to look down on people who don’t know what we know.”  (p.59)

“But there is something worse than settling for mediocrity.  It’s exclusivity.  It’s the temptation to up the ante and to raise the bar of discipleship so high that it disqualifies all but the most committed, and thus thins the herd that Jesus came to expand.”  (p. 69)

“The truth is that Jesus didn’t come to raise the bar.  He didn’t come to weed out the losers.  He came to turn losers, laggards, and enemies into full-on sons and daughters of God.”  (p.84)

“We have no right to judge people whom God accepts.  We have no right to look with contempt upon people whom God loves.”  (p. 101)

“Second, we seldom speak directly to those in need of correction.  I find it interesting that the apostle Paul never wrote any letters that criticized other churches.”  (p.132)

“We’re stuck with each other.  We have to learn to get along.  We’re united by Jesus, not by choice.  And nothing is going to change that.  Our biblical unity is rooted solely in our relationship with Jesus.  It’s not dependent on shared religious practices, patterns, or preferences.  It’s not contingent on agreeing on every point of theology.”  (p.140)

“But uniformity is not what Jesus died for.  He didn’t come to break down the dividing walls that separated Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, women and men so that we could coalesce around a boring, blended, homogeneous middle.  Quite the contrary.  He came to save us in our differences, not from them.”  (p.140)

“We become accidental Pharisees when we lay down boundary markers that are narrower than the ones laid down by Jesus and then treat people who line up on the wrong side of our markers as if they were spiritual impostors or enemies of the Lord.”  (p.142)

“I am saying that our definitions of what it means to be a genuine Christ follower must include room for the weak and the struggling, the frightened and the failing, in order to remain aligned with Jesus rather than with the Pharisees of old.”  (p.195)

Sons

Since I wasn’t going to finish one of the longer books that I am reading to make #40 by yesterday, I picked up a small book we had on our bookshelf called Sons: Life’s Greatest Pride, Worry and Joy by Bonnie Louise Kuchler.  The book has pictures and some great quotes about sons.  Some of my favorite quotes are (starting with my ultimate favorite first):

  • “If someone were to ask me what has been my biggest accomplishment in life, I would lift my head high and speak from my heart with a parent’s pride as I said the words ‘my son’.”  Andrea Adaire Fischer
  • “Son, I love you.  That’s never at stake.  Never, never, never at stake.” Kirk Cameron, American actor and producer
  • “Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion.  You must set yourself on fire.”  Arnald Henry Glasaw (1905-1998) American businessman and humanist
  • “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American poet and essayist
  • “The greatest conflicts are not between two people but between one person and himself.” Garth Brooks, American singer and songwriter
  • “I have a son, who is my heart.” Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet and author

I am so proud of my three sons.  Being their dad has been the greatest responsibility, joy and honor of my life.  I have so much fun with them.  They remind me of a few things in life:

  • Don’t take myself too seriously.  Laugh a lot.  It is fun to make others laugh.
  • God is so good and generous.
  • Treasure each moment, each experience.
  • God wants to use my sons and my experiences with them to teach me, to help me grow up in Christ.
  • God’s love is extravagant.  I love my sons so much, and I would do anything for them.  That deep love I have for them is a glimpse of God’s love for me.  Blows my mind.

Everybody Always

I recently finished reading Bob Goff’s book, Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People.  What a great book!  The book is composed of stories with lessons about what it looks like to love other like Jesus does.

I have been reminded recently how I want to be focused on walking closely with Jesus and trying to be Jesus to everyone I come in contact with.  I do not have to live in fear with a “bunker” us vs. them mentality or make sure I have a checklist handy to make sure others believe exactly as I do.  My job as a disciple of Jesus is to allow Jesus to make me more like Him and also to love others with His great love.  I can verbally share with others about Jesus, but only God can do the transforming work needed in people’s hearts.  I want to be patient, kind, graceful with others.  The love of Jesus is not careful and without risk.  It is extravagant and sometimes even dangerous.  God has used other people in my life to show me His love, which has changed me.  I can hardly believe that God wants to use me (in spite of my own imperfections) to be His ambassador of life-changing love to others.  I do not want to be found waiting in the bleachers, but I want to get busy with this adventure.

Here are some quotes from this book which I was impacted by:

  • “He wants our hearts, not our help.” (p. 72)
  • “It’s not about us anymore; it’s about Him. (p. 73)
  • “People who are turning into love don’t need all the spin, because they aren’t looking for applause or validation from others any longer.  They’ve experienced giving away God’s love as its own reward.  They also don’t need to write ‘Jesus’ as the return address of every loving thing they’ve done.” (p. 73)
  • “People who are becoming love talk a lot more about what God’s doing than what they’re doing because they’ve stopped keeping score.” (p. 74)
  • “We don’t need to send the archers to the tower to protect baby Jesus every time someone hits a wrong note.  Read the book of Revelation.  He’s out of the crib.  Should we have a firm grip on doctrine and know what the Bible speaks to the world?  You bet.  Keep this in mind, though: loving people the way Jesus did is always great theology.” (p. 83)
  • “Playing it safe doesn’t move us forward or help us grow; it just finds us where we are and leaves us in the same condition it found us in.  God wants something different for us.  His goal is never that we’ll come back the same.  He’s hoping we’ll return more dependent on Him.  I’m not saying everything needs to be risky in our lives, but we’d be well served if a few more things were riskier in our faith.  Loving people we don’t understand or agree with is just the kind of beautiful, counterintuitive, risky stuff people who are becoming love do.” (p. 87)
  • “We don’t decide who in line is in and who’s out, and we don’t need to waste any more time engaging in the kinds of arguments some people get sucked into.” (p. 113)
  • “I’ve met a lot of people who say they’re waiting for God to give them a “plan” for their lives.  They talk about this “plan” like it’s a treasure map God has folded up in His back pocket.  Only pirates have those.  People who want a reason to delay often wait for plans.  People who are becoming love don’t.” (p. 145)
  • “But here’s what’s changing in me: I don’t want what’s fair anymore.  I want to be like Jesus.  It’s a distinction worth making.” (p.150)
  • “It’s taken some time, but I’m starting to act like my purpose is to love God and to love the people around me the way Jesus loved the people around Him.  As much as I’d like to make it more complicated and have more steps so I can find some cover for my inaction, it’s really that simple.” (p. 165)
  • “Loving people the way Jesus did means being constantly misunderstood.  People who are  becoming love don’t care.  They will do whatever it takes to reach whoever is hurting.” (p. 216)
  • “Don’t just love the people who are easy to love; go love the difficult ones.  If you do this, Jesus said you’d move forward on your journey toward being more like Him.  Equally important, as you practice loving everybody, always, what will happen along the way is you’ll no longer be who you used to be.  God will turn you into love.” (p.219)

 

 

 

Vocab

I love it when I am reading a book and there are lots of words that I do not know. As I am reading, I look up the definitions of those words. It’s an indication to me that I am reading a book by a smart author who I can learn from. I’m currently reading The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right by Max Boot. It’s a very good book, but very disturbing in terms of our current political situation in the U.S.  There is much to comment on in terms of the content of this book, but instead now I’m going to share the words I looked up this weekend as I was reading it.  A good number of the words I have seen before, but if I am not confident of what the word means I look it up.  Here they are:

Vocabulary Ninja

disquisition – (noun) a long or elaborate essay or discussion on a particular subject

acerbic – (adjective) (especially of a comment or style of speaking) sharp and forthright

fete – (verb) honor or entertain (someone) lavishly

vituperate – (verb) blame or insult (someone) in strong or violent language

tyro – (noun) a beginner or novice

aspersion – (noun) an attack on the reputation or integrity of someone or something

calumny – (noun) the making of false and defamatory statements in order to damage someone’s reputation; slander

chortle – (verb) laugh in a breathy, gleeful way; chuckle

apoplectic – (adjective) overcome with anger; extremely indignant

tocsin – (noun) an alarm bell or signal

histrionic – (adjective) overly theatrical or melodramatic in character or style

cant – (noun) hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature

screed – (noun) a long speech or piece of writing, typically one regarded as tedious

cognoscenti – (noun) people who are considered to be especially well informed about a particular subject

bunkum – (noun) nonsense

frisson – (noun) a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill

insouciance – (noun) casual lack of concern; indifference

oleaginous – (adjective) exaggeratedly and distastefully complimentary; obsequious

trope – (noun) a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression

conflate – (verb) combine (two or more texts, ideas, etc.) into one

supine – (adjective) failing to act or protest as a result of moral weakness or indolence

autarky – (noun) economic independence or self-sufficiency

 

By the way, studies have shown that people with bigger vocabularies are more successful in life.  Here’s a link to a short article that explains this:  Vocabulary.