Because life is a series of edits

Archive for August, 2005|Monthly archive page

The Chronicles of Fall

In Seminary Tychicus on August 30, 2005 at 4:36 am

Two days away from starting classes for the fall, Learner spent a majority of yesterday registering and scheduling, getting all his ducks in a row, and pretending to be in complete control of life (if only in his head and on paper). It felt good, he says.

Taking 14 hours this semester, studying 20 and working 19 per week, preparing and teaching a Sunday School class for 10 weeks beginning this Sunday, and trying to be of some help to Mrs. Learner as she homeschools the kids while taking and studying for 5 hours of class herself, it’s going to be a full fall.

Last night, Learner had a breakthrough with the children at bedtime. Desperate for a change, he started reading The Chronicles of Narnia to them and they loved it, his oldest (who has been causing most of the trouble lately) especially. He read to them (all four, in their beds, in the same room) three chapters (about 45 pages/minutes worth), and they were, for the most part, enthralled, he says.

Personally, Learner says it was a much-needed moment of relief and joy of actually feeling like a father again, and he’s hoping to make this part of their routine in the new fall schedule.

The other major schedule adjustment this fall is Learner’s wake and sleep times. He’s always historically done better “early to bed, early to rise” (in college, he and his roommate used to go to sleep at 9 p.m., getting up at 6 a.m., which was somewhat underhead of at the undergraduate level). Thus, he’s making a point to shoot for sleep by 9:30 each night in order to rise at 5 a.m. each morning.

(Note: For some reason, he called about an hour ago (3:30 a.m.) to tell me all this, saying he was up because he had to “take out” a loud cricket that made it indoors. Afterward, he couldn’t get back to sleep, which was okay, he said, because he fell asleep by 9:45 p.m. after reading ahead for his beginning homiletics class and feels fine.)

“I got the cricket,” he says. “Congratulations,” I tell him.

Anyway, Learner says that if he gets to bed early, he thinks he can make it; if not, he has no idea how else to get done what he needs to and still maintain some semblance of time with the Lord (not to mention keep hold of his personal sanity as well).

“Now is not the time to be passive in planning. ‘Seize the day’ and all that crap,” he says.

In addition to the night’s cricket-killing exercise, he checked his email and got word he actually passed his beginning Greek class (no small thanks to the given extra credit), and is officially heading for Greek exegesis, which he registered for by faith yesterday.

He’s motivated (now/again). Help him, God. Be his motivation.

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New Day, New Week

In Seminary Tychicus on August 29, 2005 at 7:03 am

Let’s hope so. That’s what Learner’s been praying for, anyway.

Learner’s Inferno

In Seminary Tychicus on August 27, 2005 at 9:14 pm

Tonight has been a very terrible night, with one of the worst bedtimes ever in the home (“Not that there are ever many good ones,” Learner says). He’s discouraged, as is Mrs. Learner, and their children all went to bed in tears from a plethora of spankings, of which Learner hates being the dreaded provider.

“What’s the difference between children and terrorists?” he asks me.

“I don’t know,” I reply.

“You can negotiate with terrorists,” he answers, sullen.

The thing is, none of this should surprise him, especially after attending the aforementioned welcome reception hosted by the seminary. Somewhat surprisingly, the evening was more than tolerable (though ever a bit cheeseball – in general, professorial humor and timing tend to be one step above that of junior high boys, minus the crude references).

Learner saw many of his classmates – all cleaned up and clean-shaven (Albert took the prize for the best definition of “semi-formal,” coming in a suit with sandals and no socks) – and the desserts were exquisite. But the highlight of the evening (other than Mrs. Learner, who looked very pretty, Learner said) was a very powerful message from the seminary president that stuff like this evening would happen during their time at seminary. Learner and Mrs. Learner were both touched by the gentleness with which such bad news was given, as well as hopeful in somehow fulfilling the challenging call to not rely on anything other than grace for the chance of making it through.

But that’s easier said than done, especially when his four small children – Learner’s version of Luther’s “little heathen” – seem to be functioning as the devil’s own this evening. Learner says he feels like he just used up whatever last bit of grace he had tonight (not that there’s ever much there on a daily basis) and the Storeowner from whom to get more is closed indefinitely.

With fall classes (let alone another 7,000 bedtimes) not even commencing yet, he’s running out of hope that, without some serious voluntary behavior modification on the part of his little ones, his ever-lurking legalistic tendency will fight through his desperate attempts to beat it down and ruin his children, who will grow up remembering him as a father who was only angry, nothing more.

Learner wonders if there really is grace for his anger; for many reasons, there shouldn’t be, he says. And if that were the case, he wishes God would just get it over with and smite him now, so at least his wife and children wouldn’t have to deal with his frustration again.

“At least they could collect the insurance,” he mutters.

As I said, tonight has been a very terrible night…

Fancy, Dancy

In Seminary Tychicus on August 26, 2005 at 3:12 pm

Learner is between semesters (summer and fall), and gearing up for classes to start next week. Activities this coming weekend include a semi-formal program/dessert with the seminary president tonight, time spent with a few new neighbors, a last binge of fiction reading, and church on Sunday.

Next week holds registration for fall classes, a lot of work for Learner’s part-time job (more on that soon), message preparation for the Sunday School class Learner is teaching this fall, a Greek vocab review, and still more fiction reading. Thursday, it all begins.

Learner says he’s not sure about this evening’s “fancy, dancy reception,” as he calls it. He just doesn’t do that well with crowds of colleagues in ties pretending to be polished and proper when all summer long they’ve been sweating out Greek in T-shirts and shorts.

While I’ve not been invited, Learner promises a full report afterward; thus, I will as well. Hope the dessert’s good at least.

Truth and Preciousness

In Seminary Tychicus on August 22, 2005 at 12:51 pm

Said to Learner by his 3 1/2 year-old today, just before naptime:

“Daddy, you’re a piece of work.”

All the therapy in the world could not begin to compare in truth and preciousness. “Therapists don’t hug and kiss you, either,” Learner said.

Mr. and Mrs. Oreo

In Seminary Tychicus on August 21, 2005 at 2:12 pm

In the midst of hustling and bustling to get four small children ready for Sunday School and church this Sabbath morning, Learner and Mrs. Learner each made independent clothing choices that, after getting everyone strapped in the minivan, they discovered were identical: Learner had on a white shirt, tie, and black pants; Mrs. Learner had on a sleeveless white sweater and a black skirt. As there was no time to change (they were already ten minutes late), they left for church.

“Mr. and Mrs. Oreo.” “Ward and June.” “The new Mormon couple.” These were just a few of their self-conscious labels (“somewhat embarrassed” was another). Graciously, no one at church said anything or seemed to notice, and I played dumb and kept quiet.

But it was pretty funny.

Counter-Cultured

In Seminary Tychicus on August 20, 2005 at 8:56 pm

The Renaissance Man called last night to see if Learner wanted to meet him this morning at the local art museum for some research/appreciation of a current exhibit featuring the Hudson River School artists. (In addition to finishing up his last semester at seminary, TRM is a teacher at a classical school, and is planning to bring his students to the exhibit at the beginning of September.)

Having his Greek final behind him (“it went well enough,” he reported, in case you were wondering) and always one for culture (“despite growing up without much of any,” he mumbled), Learner said he would go, inviting me to come along as a chaperone.

We met TRM at 11:30, paid for the exhibit, and began walking through, looking at the paintings. Thomas Cole, Frederic Church – these men and others, TRM explained, lived and painted between wars (Revolutionary and Civil), when America was still being explored, but also beginning to be settled (think Lewis & Clark exploring the West and Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman waxing eloquent about nature, solitude, etc.).

Artistically, just about every painting was filled with amazing light and atmosphere (“a precursor of Thomas Kinkade,” Learner pointed out, though he did so with some disdain for his work – something about his paintings being “like velvet Elvises in 50 years,” whatever those are). And yet, the origin of the light (the sun) was never fully present in the works. The glow was obvious; the source, however, was not in full view, a metaphor, TRM postulated, for the Romantic period’s perspective that nature was supreme and truth existed, though not necessarily tied to one source.

It was an enjoyable hour, one in which Learner said he was glad to serve as a guinea pig for TRM’s field trip in a few weeks, as well as expand his own art education, which (like just about every other topic of study at his high school) was barely presented. This ever-increasing awareness of how poor a high school education he received has, in the past few years, become one of Learner’s biggest discouragements, as he feels behind the powercurve of what everyone in his or her mid-thirties should know about culture and the world.

Trying to be helpful, I reminded him that he at least knew a little about Thomas Kinkade and velvet Elvises.

“My point,” he said.

Oh.

Summer Greek Final Tonight

In Seminary Tychicus on August 18, 2005 at 9:10 am

Two-and-a-half months ago (“It feels like two-and-a-half years,” Learner says), Greek class began. Tonight, with a two-and-a-half hour final, Greek ends (until – hopefully – exegesis in the fall).

Learner says he hopes “two-and-a-half” isn’t a recurring theme when it comes to actual points earned. He needs a few more than that.

Power Outage (in More Ways Than One)

In Seminary Tychicus on August 15, 2005 at 5:24 pm


A massive storm came through on Saturday, robbing the campus (and a good portion of the city) of electricity for several days. After waiting it out for 24 hours, Learner and his family went to church on Sunday morning hopeful, but then gave up afterward and drove north 100 miles to Learner’s family’s farm for a convenient overnight complete with plenty of space, refrigeration, and air conditioning.

I agreed to stay on campus to let him know when the power came back on, which it did at about 8 p.m. last night. As I didn’t want to disturb his retreat at the farm (one of his favorite places in the whole world), I waited and called him mid-morning today with the news. He said he wasn’t all that glad for the power’s return, as that meant he had to go to Greek class tonight, leaving the farm to do so after only a 12-hour respite. Nevertheless, they made the trip and got back this afternoon about 3 p.m., upon which Mrs. Learner threw out a majority of their spoiled food and went shopping.

When I had called him earlier this morning, Learner thanked me for sticking around to let him know about the power’s return. He also mentioned he thought I was a better man than he, as I chose to endure a little inconvenience while he took his family and ran from it. I assured him that he was simply doing what was best for all involved, to which he agreed, but then mentioned it was a good thing they never went to Africa as they were planning (Learner had even made an initial scouting trip) – they never would have survived.

I assured him he was overreacting and was simply weary from the hassle of the weekend, not to mention thinking about his last week of summer semester and his Greek final on Thursday. He agreed, but then was quick to say that he was also tired of the campus serving as a metaphor for his current condition.

“And what condition is that?” I asked.

“One that’s out of power,” he said, just before he hung up.

Now that the power has come back on around campus, I’m hoping it will do the same in Learner as well. The guy could use a jump.

Sure Looks Like a Squirrel to Him

In Seminary Tychicus on August 12, 2005 at 12:07 pm

Last night, as Learner and his classmates made it to the fifth and final chapter of their 1 John translations, Learner said he had the thought that studying anything academically legitimizes it, regardless of whether it deserves to be legitimized or not. And that idea was interesting to him, so much so that he spent most of the rest of class thinking about it instead of his Greek.

It’s not that Learner thinks the Bible is illegitimate; far from it. From what he knows of the world’s religions (which, granted, is hardly exhaustive), the Scriptures seem the most curious and compelling story told. And “curious” and “compelling” are two of Learner’s favorite adjectives – whether describing religion or anything else – and count for a lot in his mind with regard to authenticity.

But Learner says he wonders why other books can seem almost as curious and compelling, or at least have been so to millions of people of other religions throughout history? For instance, he wonders, what does a class with a professor teaching the Koran – outlining and diagramming it, devoting weeks and months and eventually years to it as Learner is and will do – actually look like? Would it feel similar to what he’s doing now? He guesses it probably would.

Walking through the seminary’s library, Learner is repeatedly reminded of just how much has been thought and written about the Bible. Would the Koran (or any other “holy” book) hold together as well and as easily as the Bible seems to (for it really does, he thinks)? Truly? Objectively? If so, what does that mean? What if not? Would the feeling of literary justification be the same? Greater? Less?

Is the Bible still around as the world’s bestseller because it’s truly inspired, or because the study of it through the ages has merely kept it on people’s shelves over time as historic, interesting literature? Have centuries of study and spin (for the two inevitably go together to some degree) had anything to do with why it’s still around?

Or maybe it really is true that God preserves and protects His Word, which would, of course, be “the right answer,” kind of like “Jesus” is the answer to most questions asked in Learner’s children’s Sunday School classes (“I know the answer’s ‘Jesus,’ but it sure looks like a squirrel to me,” as the joke humorously goes).

In thinking through some of this, Learner says that the Bible is strangely becoming both more and less important in his mind. And that dual transition, he says, is weird not only to consider, but also to explain, as it seems both healthy and dangerous at the same time.

Playgroup With an Agenda

In Seminary Tychicus on August 11, 2005 at 9:28 am

As this morning is Mrs. Learner’s last Ancient and Medieval Church History class, Learner is taking their children over to Albert‘s house off-campus so their kids can hopefully entertain each other while the two fathers cram for their big Greek vocabulary quiz this evening.

Think of it as “playgroup with an agenda,” he says.

Morning Time

In Seminary Tychicus on August 6, 2005 at 12:12 pm

Learner made an early run to Krispy Kreme with The Renaissance Man this morning. I was a little groggy, but tagged along anyway. The time seemed to do Learner some good, both due to TRM’s being a willing listener to Learner’s processing, as well as that this was the first morning in two months Learner has been up before 6 a.m.

Just before dawn has always been Learner’s favorite time of day, he says, as it seems only he and God are awake and when the good Lord seems most available to talk. That is, until Learner’s three-year-old gets up at 7 a.m. and gleefully announces, “It’s morning time!”

The morning, then, is over.

The Need for Resolution

In Seminary Tychicus on August 5, 2005 at 12:20 pm

The seminary campus – having been torn up most of the summer in the name of architectural progress – is probably at its worst right now. The place looks like an upper middle class war zone, with students cutting across grass (a pet peeve of Learner’s) as the normal sidewalks are all torn up and other optional paved paths are a whole ten seconds out of the way to use. Yesterday, a dump truck hit a power pole and electricity for just about the entire campus – including the student apartments – was out most of the day.

The property’s condition makes for an accurate metaphor of Learner’s frame of mind right now. With just ten days to go before the summer semester is over, he’s very much a wreck emotionally, worn down by ten solid weeks of Greek and two overlapping weeks of spending mornings with his four children in what has seemed an ever-shrinking apartment. He just feels unresolved, much like the wretched state of the campus he sees everyday.

Resolution – that state of being in which conflict yields to contentment – is becoming more and more a commodity Learner wonders if he’ll ever know or have. Worse, he says, he has lost hope that anyone else in the world is experiencing true resolution as well. For once, he’d like to meet somebody who truly has it all together…and isn’t afraid to say so and live accordingly.

Learner says he remembers from an early age putting people – whether baseball players or ministers – on pedestals and admiring them, as this gave him a feeling of security and hope for his future that he might one day be like them. After all, that’s what can happen when you grow up and get good at something.

Unfortunately, he has grown up to understand the sad reality that, indeed, no one can ever be perfect, and alas, no one is. This fact makes looking to someone as an example all the more difficult, he says, as so much of his current depression stems from the fact that everyone he meets and gets to know has as many issues as he does.

This, Learner says, is part of the problem with the current publishing and music industries (as well as the whole blogging phenomenon): it used to be that only “great” people wrote books and recorded music; now anybody (including him) can do it, and that just doesn’t seem right when you look back across history and consider the great works of literature and song. (I assured him it was the same to some degree during my day, but I’m not sure he believes me.)

This is what I’ve heard Learner say. I hardly agree with all of it, but I do know it’s affecting him and his family. He said that today at lunch, his three-year-old offered a blessing for the food, and then prayed that “Daddy wouldn’t be too mad at us. Amen.”

He didn’t show it outwardly, but Learner said his heart broke inside.

Amen indeed.

Narcissistic Navel-Gazing?

In Seminary Tychicus on August 4, 2005 at 2:40 pm

It’s frightening (to Learner) and exciting (to me), but it appears that we might have some actual readers, as evidenced by a few recent emails I’ve received from Carl, Wayne, and Rebecca.

Like the world needs more narcissistic navel-gazing blogs, Learner says. I remind him that I’m the one writing about him and his seminary endeavors, so technically, it can’t be considered narcissism. It’s more like reporting, with somewhat of a personal bias and unbelievably unlimited access.

He says I’m splitting literary hairs and can’t believe that anyone would waste their time reading my observations of his life. I remind him that if he doesn’t want me writing about his life, then he shouldn’t talk to me about it as much as he does.

The conversations we have, after all, are literally non-stop.

Q&A?

In Seminary Tychicus on August 3, 2005 at 1:14 pm

Recently, while reading the seminary’s quarterly (read: fundraising) magazine, Learner appreciated the transcription of the seminary president’s report from the denominational convention in June.

Called to give his annual address, the seminary president stated that if the evaluation came down to a growing enrollment, a balanced budget, and a good reputation, his report would be short and encouraging. But he went on to pose a different question for evaluation: Is what the seminary is doing making a difference?

Learner said he liked the question…and wondered about the answer.