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She’s 15

So, the Miley Cyrus photographs have stirred up quite the storm. As well they should. Depending on which version of events you believe, the photo showing Cyrus with mussed hair and lipstick and a strategically-draped bedsheet (leaving her back exposed) is either an “artsy” idea gone wrong or a deliberate attempt by Vanity Fair and/or Cyrus to broaden her appeal. And this comes just after a couple of Internet photos of Cyrus flashing her bra and midriff were circulated. Suddenly, the wholesome teen whose concerts literally sell out in minutes, who brings home millions of dollars and whose alter ego, Hannah Montana, is the star of a Disney series, is displaying a whole new side. And now the parents of her legions of fans, most of whom are pre-adolescent girls, have some explaining to do.


For her part, Cyrus says she’s embarrassed, that the photos were supposed to be artsy but didn’t turn out that way, that she “couldn’t say no” to the photographer, the famed Annie Liebovitz. Disney says Vanity Fair manipulated her. Liebovitz says it was a “beautiful and natural portrait.” No one is saying, “Yep, we deliberately sexed up a young girl.” But that’s exactly what happened. Of course they’re trying to sell magazines. Of course they’re going to do whatever they can get away with. I can (almost, but not quite) buy the argument that Cyrus got suckered into it. The real blame lies with her parents, who were on the set of the photo shoot all day. They knew exactly what was going on. They should have stopped it, and they didn’t. (Update: Her parents are saying the photo was taken after they left. The point still stands — they should have known what was going on.)


But, is it really all that surprising in today’s culture? Are we really shocked to see a half-naked 15-year old? Maybe with this particular girl, we are. She’s been portrayed as clean, wholesome fun, a role model for anyone to look up to. And it’s possible she has been good for girls (I’m not exactly her target audience, so I’m a little short on details). But to suggest this maneuver is anything other than a calculated attempt to move to the next level is naive at best. There is no way this photo carries anything other than a sexual connotation. (Anyone who says differently has only been desensitized by the onslaught of immodest images in today’s culture.) Britney Spears did the same thing in her late teens. So did Lindsay Lohan. Play to whatever demographic will bring in the big bucks. As these showbiz girls mature, their audience changes from pre-teen girls to teenage (and older) boys. Sex sells. So let’s start using it younger and younger.


The sad part is their strategy will work. Sure, the Cyrus camp is backpedaling now that the photo is out there and they realize that 8-year olds will be asking their mommies why Hannah Montana doesn’t have any clothes on. But the magazine will sell out (Vanity Fair’s website already crashed the other day from everyone trying to see the photos) and over the next couple of years Cyrus’ concerts will become more and more provocative until she drops Hannah Montana altogether and poses on the cover of Maxim. (Of course she won’t do Playboy. That would be pornography.)


I don’t have any young girls, but if I did, we wouldn’t be clamoring for Hannah Montana tickets. Not anymore. Today’s 8-year olds will soon be 13-year olds who can’t wait until they’re 16. This is not who I would want them looking up to. Naked should not be normal.


The whole thing brings to mind Romans 1: “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their (young) bodies among themselves … they worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator.”


That’s what we’ve done in America. We’re worshipping the creature. There’s only one way to change things, and it’s not through a wholesome teenybopper role model who will no doubt disappoint us. It’s through Jesus Christ. He can reach through all this muck and mire and transform our hearts so that we worship the Creator rather than the created. Pictures will fade. Christ won’t.


That’s a visual we can embrace.



Today is the birthday of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. This is, if not my favorite, near the very top of the list of books that I love. Fantastic story of growing up, racism, courage and standing up for what is right in the deep South. If you haven’t read it (and many schools teach it now, so chances are you’ve at least read the Cliffs Notes), you must do so. Immediately. Go get it right now. Seriously. Here’s a little about the author, from today’s Writer’s Almanac:

To support herself while writing, she worked for several years as a reservation clerk at British Overseas Airline Corporation and at Eastern Air Lines. In December of 1956, some of her New York friends gave her a year’s salary along with a note: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.” She decided to devote herself to writing and moved into an apartment with only cold water and improvised furniture. 

Lee wrote very slowly, extensively revising for two and a half years on the manuscript of To Kill a Mockingbird (which she had called at different times “Go Set a Watchman” and “Atticus”). She called herself “more a rewriter than writer,” and on a winter night in 1958, she was so frustrated with the progress of her novel and its many drafts that she threw the manuscripts out the window of her New York apartment into the deep snow below. She called her editor to tell him, and he convinced her to go outside and collect the papers.

To Kill a Mockingbird came out in 1960 and was immediately a popular and critical success. Lee won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.

Lee later said, “I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.”

To Kill a Mockingbird was the only major work she ever wrote.

Thursday Links

Links worth noting (otherwise, why would I post them, right?):

–You get bonus points if you can explain this drawing. Prints are available here (you’ll find the explanation if you follow the link).


–Boeing is building a new commercial jet liner known as the Dreamliner. Check out these nifty photos — the thing is massive. Parts of it come from all over the world, and it’s put together in the largest building in the world (by volume) in Everett, Washington. Another piece of info: “… all the tools that go out on a shift come back in. In the plant every single tool is accounted for, since a torque wrench left in a wing could mean disaster.” It must occasionally get tense working on a project where people’s lives can depend on how careful you are.

–Looking for an ultra-thin wallet? Mission accomplished. (I’m all about thin wallets. Who wants to sit on a honkin’ bulge?)

–The stupidest business decisions in history (M&M’s missed out). Nice.

Right place, right time. Best delivery the USPS has ever made. (And great illustration of God’s sovereignty.)

–Ryan Seacrest is smarter (and richer) than you think he is.

–This a couple of months old, but still applicable. Look past the inspiring talk (and yeah, he’s a good speaker) and here’s what you find.

–Are you a procrastinator? Here’s what your life looks like, in flowchart form.

–Some college students are fighting the sexual culture on campuses with chastity clubs.

–What are you doing on the computer? Go read a book.

–But not until you watch this video. Careful, you might break into song. It’s kinda catchy.

Elevator Music?


The longest smoke break of Nicholas White’s life began at around eleven o’clock on a Friday night in October, 1999 …
(His) magazine’s offices were on the forty-third floor of the McGraw-Hill Building, an unadorned tower added to Rockefeller Center in 1972. When White finished his cigarette, he returned to the lobby and, waved along by a janitor buffing the terrazzo floors, got into Car No. 30 and pressed the button marked 43. The car accelerated. It was an express elevator, with no stops below the thirty-ninth floor, and the building was deserted. But after a moment White felt a jolt. The lights went out and immediately flashed on again. And then the elevator stopped.

Intrigued? Read the article, in the current issue of The New Yorker. It’s all about elevators — their purpose, their design, their necessity for vertical life. One nugget: the “close door” button doesn’t really do anything. It’s just psychological. Fascinating stuff that you never really think about.

The author, Nick Paumgarten, weaves Nicholas White’s story throughout the article. He ended up being trapped for 41 hours because he had the misfortune to begin his ordeal at the beginning of the weekend. A time-lapse video from the security camera — set to classical piano music — shows him pacing, climbing, opening the doors, laying down. Check out the other elevator cars shown on the other portions of the screen — there are maintenance guys working on them, but no one saw White, who had three cigarettes, no watch, no food and no water:

The McGraw-Hill building houses our other office in New York — that’s exactly where we go for our Commission meetings on the 50th floor (office is on the 46th floor). Maybe I’ve even been in Car 30.

Hopefully they’ve washed it out in the last nine years . . .

The “More Later” Post

Scroll down and read the “Think About It” post and comments before you read this post. It’ll give you some context.

I listened the other day to a sermon by Alistair Begg called “Christian Lifestyles” on the first few verses of Hebrews 13: “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison as though in prison with them.”

He spoke mostly about what a church should be like, about how the unity and love we should have work itself out. Outstanding stuff to hear, even for those who have been a part of a good church their entire lives. We’re not all going to like each other all the time, but we have a commitment to love one another because we are “brothers” — literally, “from the same womb” — and we’ve made up our mind to do so.

He talked a lot about racial and social integration in churches, and how we need to do a better job of that (and thus the point of the previous post). Here’s part of what he said:

The only place you that can find all this racial (and) social integration is in sporting events by and large. Or — in the church of Jesus Christ. Unless there is an energizing force from outside of a man or a woman that diminishes our external preoccupations with socioeconomic class, with race, color and all of those things, unless that power comes from outside of an individual to engender in its unifying principle a reality that is unknown elsewhere, then it’s a chronicle of despair. Because men and women are essentially sinful. Men and women are essentially selfish. We as individuals go with our own kind, do our own thing, hang with our own group. Who can change that? Only Jesus.

 Quoting Sinclair Ferguson: “Whenever we find ourselves attaching importance to possessions, background, schooling or accent as the basis of fellowship, then we are out of step with the example of Christ and such wrongful attitudes need to be dealt with at the foot of the cross.”

Churches are riddled with all of this stuff (wrong attitudes). We are so infected with it that we don’t even know how infected with it we actually are. (That’s) not to condemn us, but to say, let’s step up …

When we make up our minds to love each other, all of this other stuff falls into place. It is volitional, it is an energized commitment. Until we make radical commitments to this notion, we will be sidelined, as soon as we do this, they will be beating down the doors to get in here …

It’s not community based on lowest-common demoninator, it’s community based on the fact that we all come from the same womb.

 We are Christians because of that “energizing force” from outside ourselves. It’s nothing we summoned up from the depths of our soul; it’s only God’s grace regenerating us and giving us the faith to believe. And that levels the playing field, no matter how wildly different the other externals are. We need to believe that and figure out how to genuinely live it in a diverse world. Begg goes on to talk in the rest of the message about ministering to strangers and prisoners. Good stuff.

Alistair Begg speaks daily on the Truth for Life radio broadcast. You can subscribe to the podcast or you can buy his entire series on Hebrews (which this message came from).


So that was definitely an earthquake. House shaking and rattling and all that. Really weird to feel something moving that normally stays quite still. It was a 5.2 magnitude, centered in Illinois about 40 miles northwest of Evansville. Interesting info and maps about the quake from the U.S. Geological Service here. This is a quake intensity map from that site, and hey, you can even see Owensboro on the map:

quake map

And is this a coincidence? From today’s Writer’s Almanac:

On this day in 1906, an earthquake struck San Francisco. It was one of the worst natural disasters in American history. At the time, San Francisco had a population of about 450,000 people and was the busiest port on the Pacific coast of the United States. Business had been booming, and new office buildings, factories, mansions, and hotels had been constructed all over the city.

The earthquake began near dawn, at 5:12 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, and lasted for a little over a minute. Scientists later determined that the San Andreas Fault had moved about 23 feet. The quake measured 8.3 on the Richter scale, and it was felt from southern Oregon to south of Los Angeles and as far east as central Nevada. The epicenter was near San Francisco.

A San Francisco journalist named James Hopper said, “The earthquake started … with a direct violence that left one breathless. … There was something personal about the attack; it seemed to have a certain vicious intent. My building quivered with a vertical and rotary motion and there was a sound as of a snarl.… My head on the pillow, I watched my stretched and stiffened body … springing up and down and from side to side like a pancake in the tossing griddle of an experienced French chef.”

A policeman said, “[The streets] began to dance and rear and roll in waves like a rough sea in a squall, [then] sank in places and vomited up car tracks and the tunnels that carried the cable. These lifted themselves out of the pavement, and bent and snapped.”

The world-famous tenor Enrico Caruso had performed at San Francisco’s Grand Opera House the night before, and he woke up in his bed as the Palace Hotel was falling down around him. He stumbled out into the street, and because he was terrified that that shock might have ruined his voice, he began singing.

There was a loud sound of an explosion as the city gas plant blew up. Wooden structures caught fire from overturned stoves and immediately began to burn. The fire department went out to fight the fires, only to find that the city had lost all of its running water. Firemen attempted to stop the spread of fire by dynamiting whole city blocks, but despite their efforts the fire raged for three days and most of the city burned to the ground.

More than 500 city blocks and more than 28,000 buildings were in ruins. Some 250,000 people were left homeless. Nearly 3,000 people died. Americans mourned the loss of San Francisco, one of the country’s greatest cities. The journalist Will Irwin wrote in The New York Sun, “The old San Francisco is dead. The gayest, lightest-hearted, most pleasure-loving city of this continent, and in many ways the most interesting and romantic, is a horde of huddled refugees living among ruins. … San Francisco is the city that was.”

But people immediately began rebuilding the city. In three years, about 20,000 new buildings went up. 

Glad our quake was not that bad. And I’m glad we can take refuge in the one who controls even the earthquakes:

 Psalm 60:2 — “You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open;
    repair its breaches, for it totters.”

Joel 3:16 — “The LORD roars from Zion,
   and utters his voice from Jerusalem,
    and the heavens and the earth quake.
But the LORD is a refuge to his people,
   a stronghold to the people of Israel.”

Gospel, Politics, Cars

 Together for the Gospel

  • Look at these photos from the conference. There’s someone we know in one of them. Find him.
  • If you want to download the messages, go here. Looks like some great stuff.

Barack Obama

  • Anybody know what in the world he’s talking about?:

“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them…And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not,” he said. “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” he also said. 

And again in the Democratic debate last night in Philadephia. He didn’t apologize. Nope. He said he “mangled” it and then proceeded to say it again:

 When people feel like Washington’s not listening to them, when they’re promised year after year, decade after decade that their economic situation’s going to change, and it doesn’t, then politically, they end up focusing on those things that are constant, like religion. They end up feeling this is a place where I can find some refuge. This is something that I can count on. They end up being much more concerned about votes around things like guns, where traditions have been passed on from generation to generation.

Well that explains it. We focus on religion because of a tough economy. Thanks for that. This is classic liberalism for you. They — the elite — know better than us regular folks in flyover country how the world works. They just have to explain it to us so we can understand.

Really Fast Car Getting Some Air On a Narrow Country Road

  • This is spectacular:

 The aftermath:

It comes from the 2007 Jim Clark Manx Race, where Barry Johnson, the driver/pilot of the car in the video, hit the crest of a hill doing somewhere around 135 miles an hour. Johnson broke three vertebrae in his back on the landing, bent the works in the under carriage, started an oil fire resulting from the damage to the car, and traveled sixty feet through the air. He also gave good quote afterwards:

On a lighter note; when i was in A+E the doctor came in and asked what had happened. I explained it went like this; I was doing 220KPH down the road, he said what type of road, i said single track back road.Then i took off on a jump and flew 60 metres and landed heavily… He said “your in the wrong hospital mate the mental hospital is 5 miles up the road.”

(HT: The Sporting Blog)

T4G Music

What are they singing at Together for the Gospel this week, you ask? Well, I’m glad you thought to ask. Here’s the lineup of songs, led by Bob Kauflin at the piano:

’08 Music


A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
It Is Well
How Firm A Foundation

O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
O The Deep Deep Love
All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name


Come Thou Fount
How Deep The Father’s Love
How Sweet And Aweful Is The Place
My Hope Is Built
Jesus Paid It All

I Will Glory In My Redeemer
Arise My Soul Arise (No Vs. 2)

Come Ye Sinners
The Power Of The Cross
My Song Is Love Unknown


There Is A Fountain
Before The Throne Of God Above
In Christ Alone
When I Survey/The Gospel Song
O The Deep Deep Love
Crown Him With Many Crowns

Heavy emphasis on hymns, with a few newer classics sprinkled in. More than 5,000 men (and a few women) singing their hearts out. I bet that sounds pretty good.

A Star is Born

There’s a lot not to like about American Idol. It’s hyped incessantly, it’s over-commercialized, it takes a little too much delight in tearing people down and it promotes levels of well, idolatry, that aren’t God-honoring. But look past all that (it helps to record it and then watch it later — you can zip through all the junk and watch the singing and the judges’ comments) and you’ll find the reason we watch: you can see people’s lives change.

David is the latest example. Cook, not Archuletta, that is. The guy was incredible tonight. Watching and listening, there was no doubt — the song would be a hit if he released it today. He’s got a ton of talent and he seems relatively humble. But here’s the thing: as the judges praised him tonight, and rightly so, you could see the realization hit him that he is living his dream. He’s been playing rinky-dink bars for years and now he’s on the biggest stage imaginable. All he wants to do is make music and he’ s not only doing it, he’s blowing the doors off the place. He actually had tears in his eyes after the judges spoke. He looked humbled, awed, thankful. His life won’t ever be the same. Don’t be surprised if he wins the whole thing, and even if he doesn’t, he’s going to sell albums. Lots of them.

It’s along the same lines as Paul Potts, the British cell-phone salesman with the chipped tooth who sang with the voice of an opera legend on a talent show. The audience couldn’t believe it. Neither could he. In those few moments, his life track took a dramatic turn. And we got to see it.

I have no idea of the spiritual state of either of these guys. They’re probably not Christians. But whether they acknowledge Him or not, it’s a remarkable thing to have a front row seat to watch their God-given talents explode into full flower.

Think About It

Name the two places (or events) in American society where people of every race, color and socioeconomic status can feel completely at home together. Now think about why those places work like that. More later.