Worth Reading - 2/12

1. Life is rarely what we think it ought to be. Sometimes that can lead us to hold on to bitterness, even bitterness against God. We can know that God is good and affirm that, but still hold onto a pocket of sinful rebellion in our hearts because we, in our sinfulness, believe we deserve better. Uncovering those pockets of rebellion is raw and difficult, and we can read about it on the blog of one adoptive mother.

When we brought our kids home five years ago, we were not expecting a fairy tale, but we were not expecting our lives to be shattered in a thousand different ways by the brokenness in ourselves and in our kids and in the foster system. And every single day as we've traveled through this mess, I've been terribly disappointed with the reality of our life.
And I have grown to believe that God has not been good to us.
Oh so mercifully, He showed me this weekend what wicked idol worship I have been participating in by nurturing disappointment and trusting in my paltry efforts to overcome what He has done, as if He has done wrong. He showed me that He is good. He taught me that if nothing else, our adoption is going to be used to wrench sin out of my heart and make me more like my King. He wants me to know that I am not to be defined by the circumstances of my home, however broken and ugly they may be. He is calling me to face what is ahead without acting like He messed up. Whatever the situation, He is there and He is good and to believe anything else is to believe a lie.

2. What is the difference between being known by our neighbors and being known by the government? This was a theme in Agatha Christie's novels with her famous detective, Miss Marple, and some of that history is explored in an intriguing article in The New Atlantis.

This is what happens when the social structures — family, community, church — that were once key to the establishment of identity fade into insignificance, supplanted by the power of the modern nation-state. Miss Marple may seem to speak on behalf of those older, humbler sources of meaning, but in fact she quite coldbloodedly acknowledges their disappearance. “But it’s not like that any more.... And people just come — and all you know about them is what they say of themselves.” The task of the amateur detective is to bring “what they say of themselves” into line with what the state says of them; that is all. Because there is no alternative.
Thus the significance of the setting of A Murder Is Announced: not in Miss Marple’s native village of St. Mary Mead, but in a place where she knows only one family, a family almost wholly disconnected from the mystery that must be solved. In her first appearance in the book, she comments to some policemen, “Really, I have no gifts — no gifts at all — except perhaps a certain knowledge of human nature.” Not local knowledge, not intimate acquaintance with a specific community in all its particularity, but knowledge of “human nature.” And human nature is a very abstract and generalized thing to know. I can’t help being reminded of the titular character of Auden’s short poem “Epitaph on a Tyrant”: “He knew human folly like the back of his hand, / And was greatly interested in armies and fleets.” Miss Marple in her own way sees exactly like a state — and for the state.

3. The Gaffigans put together a video of what real valentines from married couples would be like:

4. What is a University? If that question is posed, most will think of a brick and mortar location or an entity that markets degrees. That was not the original concept of a University, which fact is recalled and discussed at First Things. In reality, the question should be: "Who is a University?"

Unlike a factory, farm, or typical white-collar business, the work of a university is not in any kind of production—of discoveries, degrees, or books and articles. That a university typically does produce these things is incidental to its true work, which is the pursuit and attainment of truth, goodness, and beauty through intellectual exchange and the expressive power of art. It is in the life and labor of faculty and students that these things are pursued and attained. This life is a useless life: if adherence to it sometimes leads us to wealth or power, that is only because wealth and power sometimes come to those who are good and know the truth. But still this life is valuable not because of this eventuality, but because truth, beauty, and goodness themselves are valuable—we desire these things simply for what they are, not because of what they do for us, or we with them.
If this is what a university is, then it makes some sense to say that the faculty and students are it, are not just those who work at and attend it. Unlike a business in which employees exist to make profits for bosses and shareholders, and customers contribute money or goods in exchange for what they produce, in a university the administration is there to facilitate the communal activity of the faculty and students. Faculty and students can fail in their roles, but these failures and successes are determined in relation to the measures of beauty, goodness, and truth, not the profit motive or the duty of loyalty to any higher-ups. Thus donors and trustees do not “own” the university, nor do administrators “run” it, any more than the blessing of King, Pope, Prince, or Prelate was the measure of the communal activity of the scholastic guilds in medieval Paris or Bologna.

5. According to The Art of Manliness, one of the keys to building wealth is moving from a paycheck mentality to a net worth mentality. In this article, the author lays out the problems with confusing income and wealth and how to think more holistically about it. Worth a read.

Do you feel like you’re not getting ahead with your finances? That no matter how hard you work or how much extra money you earn, you’re still in the same place as you were a year or even five years ago? It may be that you have the wrong mindset about your finances.
The authors of The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing (a book inspired by the sage investing principles of Jack Bogle) describe two mentalities when it comes to personal finance: the paycheck mentality and the net worth mentality. A person with a paycheck mentality just focuses on increasing their income in order to increase their wealth. A person with a net worth mentality also seeks to boost their income, but builds their wealth through saving and investing as well.

Pretty straightforward, right? The second path seems like the obvious tack to take. And yet many people are stuck in a paycheck mentality.

6. My latest post at the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics is a very brief synopsis of how Alexander Solzhenitsyn commended people in the U.S. to live  in light of the growing spiritual impoverishment. The answer was not to seek a naked public square.

We should also live faithfully and in a distinctly Christian manner because of the hope given to use through our Christian beliefs.
The Apostle Peter urges his readers to be zealous for what is good, to honor Christ in their hearts, and to be prepared to give a respectful defense of the hope drawn from knowing God through Christ. (1 Pt. 3:13-16)
In a world seeking to suppress the notion of a spiritual basis for morality, gospel-powered daily living has the potential to change society and also change the hearts of the people around us.

7. I love videos about how to make stuff. I also like spoofs that are well done. In this short video, the CBC (funded by the Canadian tax dollars!) puts their creativity to work to create this humorous video about artisanal firewood. Enjoy: