Because life is a series of edits

Archive for July, 2006|Monthly archive page

Playing Dress Up

In Humanity, Thought on July 31, 2006 at 2:00 am

Megan and the girls get back into town today after their long weekend hiatus on the farm (I went up with them last Wednesday and came back to St. Louis on Saturday). In talking to them on the phone this morning, it sounds like much physical healing has taken place, and all (for the most part) are back to normal (or as "normal" as ones who share my genes can be).

Over the weekend, I've fumigated the apartment, cleaned the bathrooms, washed all the bed linens, vacuumed the carpets, and Lysol-ed the whole place in hopes of getting rid of whatever bug might have invaded our space. Tune in in a week to see if my efforts were successful.

In picking up the girls' room (all four of them share the master bedroom – it's tight, but they love it), I thought to myself that it must be interesting being a girl. Not that I would know personally, of course, but as I do happen to live with five females, I have more of an idea than some (I like to think of myself as the minority in the sorority).

The reason I say that being a girl must be interesting is I am almost daily reminded of how pervasive our American culture gets between me and my daughters’ perspective of my love for them. For instance, each of my daughters loves to play “dress up,” but it’s amazing how they’ve believed the cultural lie that what they wear makes them beautiful.

Whether with a princess costume (which I’m trying to ban in our apartment) or a dab of lipstick that they find in the bathroom, I don’t know how many times they’ve walked up to me, shown off what they were wearing, and said, “Daddy, don’t I look beautiful?”

I tell them, of course, that, indeed, they are beautiful, but it’s not because of the dress they’re wearing or the color of their lips; they’re beautiful because they’re mine, and they’ll always be beautiful because they’re mine.

And then a funny thing happens: they remember that they’re mine and they feel a little bit silly that they’ve gone through all the work of playing dress up so Daddy will think they’re beautiful, when Daddy already thinks they’re beautiful. They smile, they laugh, and then they give me a big hug, not because they’ve succeeded in convincing me that they’re beautiful, but because I’ve succeeded in convincing them that they are.

My daughters – like my wife, like me, and like the rest of us – all deal to some degree with the struggle of feeling pressure from our culture and what it says about who we are – that we are not beautiful until someone else says we are beautiful; that we are not perfect until someone else says we are perfect; that we are not worthy until someone else says we are worthy.

As a result, we play “dress up,” trying to become something we already are, trying to give off the appearance we’re something we’re not, and trying to do something else – just one more thing – in order to be worthy in God’s eyes, as well as the world’s. I do it, too…just not with princess costumes and lipstick.

Cosmic, Part Deux

In Pop Culture on July 30, 2006 at 9:05 pm

Not exactly sure who this guy is (though I think he goes to Covenant) or what kind of “God-may-be-speaking-to-me-now-so-here-I-am-Lord” theology he’s advancing in this post, but he’s fun(ny) to read nonetheless. And I thought only baseball could be this cosmic…

No Additional Postage Necessary

In Thought on July 30, 2006 at 2:37 pm

For most of the weekend, Learner says he has been thinking about whether or not he’s praying enough (or as enough as he wants in order to feel that he has) for Mrs. Learner and their children.

Walking into church this morning, he picked up a bulletin with the normally-enclosed prayer postcard randomly addressed to a member of the fellowship. Opening the bulletin, Learner looked at the name and address on the card. It was his and Mrs. Learner’s.

Message received, he says. No additional postage necessary.

The Sanity of Baseball

In Sports on July 29, 2006 at 2:00 am

I almost cried at the beauty of this post at Baseball Analysts. Maybe it was the vintage 1962 picture or the almost cosmic convergence of all things baseball, but the sense that the world seemed a lot more sane then than now was almost too much to handle this morning. Call me a freak (or more accurately, an idealist), but this sense of sanity is what I love about baseball.

Sick (and Tired)

In Pop Culture on July 28, 2006 at 2:00 am

Pardon my lack of blogging these past few days. On Wednesday night, we came to the farm in hopes that time away and some country air might heal up the girls from their sickness. We're currently going on day #9 of a pretty impacting virus, and it's past the point of driving Megan and me to the brink. I hate it when my kids are sick.

As I always do, I brought along far more books than I'll end up actually reading. And, despite my desire to get out and enjoy the farm (which is beautiful this time of year, with corn seven-feet tall as far as the eye can see), attending to the girls and avoiding the heat will most likely win out, the result being that I stay inside more than I would like. Oh well.

I'll have more to write later, but right now I need to play nurse. If you pray, do so for us.

Depending on My Theology

In Poetry on July 26, 2006 at 2:00 am

Depending on my theology
You are either sovereign or You're biased
You are good or You're absent
You allow or You’re dead

Depending on my theology
You observe or You’re deaf
You know or You’re behind
You cause or You’re retired

Depending on my theology
You were or You weren’t
You are or You aren’t
You are to come
or You have already left the building

Depending on my theology
my theology may not be
the best thing to depend on

Podcasts, Take 2

In Technology, Thought on July 24, 2006 at 2:00 am

Over the weekend (which was an interesting one as three of our four girls had high fevers and pink eye), I spent some time figuring out podcasts. After bumbling through the mechanics, I listened to several 7-20 minute podcasts on a range of topics, including three on string theory, one on Piltdown man, one on a contest for the best euphemisms for "stupid," and a humorous (and ever-irreverent) interview with author Kurt Vonnegut. I listened to most of these while picking up and doing/folding laundry last night, and then actually tried going to sleep to the inteview (which I did…that is, until our youngest walked in with a 101-degree temperature).

As a medium, I really like the podcast format of very focused, very in-depth content that is downloadable, portable, and (best of all) free. I'm amazed at the amount of variety and quality available at sites like NPR and PBS, let alone all the stuff at iTunes (which I tried working through, but had much better luck finding topics at NPR and PBS, particularly on their Religion, NOVA, NOW, and Religion and Ethics pages.). Slate seems to produce some enjoyable stuff from a socio-political/cultural perspective as well.

I'm in the process of listening to the recommendations given (thanks Ed and Clay), as well as trying to figure out vodcasting, as it would seem some of the PBS stuff would lend itself well to that. For whatever reason, though, I can't get the video stuff to work, but it's probably not that big a deal as the attraction for me is being able to listen to interesting things while doing other things (who has time to sit and watch a show about the universe on a one-inch-wide screen?).

Which brings me to the point of this post: While I think podcasts are really cool, my challenge is figuring out when/how to listen to them without taking time away from my studies, my family, and the quiet I so desperately crave. So much of what I do – reading, writing, studying, relating, etc. – does not allow me the freedom of being able to do something else in my head at the same time (at least not well), so how do I incorporate podcasts into my often-already-occupied mind?

I welcome any suggestions, proposals, and more various and sundry podcast recommendations.

For Perspective’s Sake

In Places & Spaces on July 22, 2006 at 2:00 am

I suppose I should comment a bit on the status of things here in St. Louis after the storms that came through earlier this week, but I'm afraid there's not much to report, at least for us. Apart from a few downed limbs and leaves (and a stoplight out here and there), we've not been too impacted by the storms. It seems most of the damage was to the north, south, and east, but here on the west side, we never lost power or walked out to find a tree on our minivan.

This, of course, doesn't mean that others haven't felt the effects. Listening to the radio yesterday, I was amazed at some of the stories people were calling in to tell – of live power lines flopping around in their backyards; of vehicles narrowly exited before being crushed by trees; of not having power for 3-5 days with no end in sight. Though probably somewhat embellished for radio, these were real stories, all. One thought I had while listening was just how helpless most of us (and I include myself) would be if there were really a major long-term disaster or war of some kind. Obviously, Katrina is an example of this; so was 9/11 to a degree.

Back in the spring, I read Stephen King's novel, The Stand, about a deadly virus that wipes out 99% of the country's population (and therefore its infrastructure), and it freaked me out a bit. What would we do if something like that really happened? I think about that book every time I get on I-64/40 on Sunday morning to go to church and the lanes are almost empty (okay, so I've got issues thinking about that every Sunday morning on our way to church).

We are so "soft" as a nation (particularly in our major cities) when it comes to doing without that to which we've become so accustomed. We forget people didn't have air conditioning fifty years ago and somehow survived; we forget going without power for days on end wasn't that big a deal a hundred years ago. For perspective, 80% of the world's population still lives this way, but we tend to forget about/deny that reality as well.

I'm not intending to make light of the situation in St. Louis now (nor am I trying to say that we as a people were somehow better in the past). But the recent storm damage and inconvenience should make us stop to think about just what is is we've come to expect from life, especially when considering what's going on in the Middle East, where people have no air conditioning, no power, and an enemy aggressively trying to kill you.

Then again, that might be too much perspective for some of us to handle.

Ambiguity and the Pastoral Call

In Thought on July 21, 2006 at 11:11 am

Learner just finished another book on the topic of pastoring: William H. Willimon’s Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry, a book he says he sees himself re-reading almost annually if indeed he found himself following a call into the pastorate. This may be one of the more important, applicable books he reads in seminary.

Willimon, former professor and dean of students at Duke, speaks from both education and experience about a variety of topics related to the call to pastor – images/expectations of a twenty-first century pastor; the pastor as priest, interpreter of Scripture, preacher, counselor, teacher, evangelist, prophet, and leader; and (perhaps the most helpful section for Learner), the character and constancy of a pastor for effectiveness over the long haul. Willimon writes:

“Because of the ill-defined nature of the pastoral ministry, the work demands a high level of internal control…in conscientious persons this encourages a heightened sense of responsibility and can lead to an oppressive situation if the person is not only conscientious but also perfectionistic as well as unrealistic.” (317)

Willimon goes on to write, quoting a colleague who was a pastoral counselor for 15 years:

“The essential personality requisite for happiness in the pastoral ministry was a ‘high tolerance for ambiguity.’” (324)

Conscientious (but not perfectionistic) ambiguity? Why, Learner wonders, would he want to subject himself to such insane demands? And why would God possibly call someone like him – an INTJ who loves closure almost as much as life itself – into the pastorate?

Actually, he’s come a long way in his dealings with things ambiguous. Getting married and learning to live with someone who is not as consumed by these feelings helps; so does having children. In the past year, prescribed drugs have taken the edge off the perfectionism some, as has prayer and getting more to a point of recognizing that God really is the only one of us in control. It hasn’t been the smoothest or most pleasant of transitions, but it has been a transition – a change – and that’s important…and good.

While he supposes it’s always a temptation, he doesn’t see himself struggling with being faithful to the work of the call – both his history and sense of responsibility work against laziness in that case. He says he does feel, however, that the tendency toward overworking and perfectionism might be his greater temptation, as well as the urge “to have an answer” and “figure out” God and what he may be doing in ambiguous situations in his life and in the lives of others.

By God’s grace, the key, Learner says, to dealing with any of this seems three-fold: 1) Recognize (repeatedly) his own limits in what he can and can’t do; 2) Learn and experience more in prayer how to trust God for what he can and can’t solve; and 3) Surround himself with others who will help him do numbers one and two faithfully and joyfully, a call almost as intimidating as the pastoral one.

Ouch

In Musicians on July 20, 2006 at 9:18 pm

b6_1_bjpg.jpgPardon the obvious narcissism, but this one hurts a bit.

Evidently, a copy of my 1995 album is for sale on eBay.

Only $9.99. Here’s another for $29.98, which is more like it.

If enough – say 10 or so – comment sympathetically for the sake of my bruised ego at this commodification, I’ll post some tracks you can enjoy/mock here. I can be bought in more ways than one…

Thursday Links

In Books, Sports on July 20, 2006 at 2:00 am

I've got four of the last six reviews that are posted up at Writers Read. It must be a slow reading summer for the other writers (or maybe they're actually getting some writing done, which if so, I'm jealous). Anyway, if you're looking for a next book to read, check it out.

Speaking of writing, Megan has written 93 articles this month and is aiming for a total of 150 by the end of July for a website that both of us wonder if it's even going to exist. The woman is a machine (though a cuddly one at that), researching and writing five articles a day for weeks.

I've been working a lot this week on two major projects: the leadership development initiative (I need to find a new descriptor – "leadership development" is so overused) for Memorial; and lesson plans for teaching Old Testament to high schoolers this fall at Wildwood Christian School. Both have been a lot of fun and a lot of work, but this is "the jazz" for me.

I'm still looking for any of your recommended informative podcasts to subscribe to, so offer your recommendations here. I'll try anything once, as long as it comes with a seal of approval.

Finally, here's a new baseball site I came across today called The Baseball Analysts that makes me wonder if these guys might need a second hobby. And I thought I loved baseball…

Podcasts

In Technology on July 19, 2006 at 3:22 pm

Can any of you blogosphere friends leave a comment (with brief descriptions and links) as to your favorite podcasts? Topic does not matter. I’d like to step into this brave new (for me) world without wasting half a day trying to figure out what’s worth listening to. Many thanks.

On Being "Old School"

In Thought on July 19, 2006 at 11:36 am

Learner’s making progress working through the reading list for his upcoming Pastoral Theology class in August. He just finished Derek Prime and Alistair Begg’s On Being a Pastor, a somewhat dated (1989) but generally helpful book on the firsthand practicalities of the role, office, and attitude of pastor. While the writing is a bit stiff (not to mention predictable in its repetitive chapter presentations of principle, supporting points, dual perspectives, and summary), Learner appreciated their hearts to share honestly about their pastoral journeys.

The chapters he found most interesting were those on the topics he finds myself most interested in: life and character; study; pastoral care; the responsibility to lead, etc. However, in the midst of these topics (in the preaching chapter – another he enjoyed), Derek Prime’s thought on training for ministry was particularly striking to him:

“One reason I would discourage a young man from training for the ministry straight from school or university is that he probably does not have that experience of life that will be so important in relating his ministry of God’s Word to men and women’s real life situations.” (128)

Learner says he resonates with Prime’s recommendation, both intellectually as well as experientially. Coming to seminary twelve years after college and after some wonderful hands-on ministry experience in a diverse set of people situations, he feels much more prepared and able to contextualize the deep teaching and theology he’s now getting. While not true in every case, he does sense an advantage in being one of the “older” guys here, as the seasoning of having been in the trenches with people is very preparatory, much more so than can be taught in a classroom.

At the same time, a few disadvantages of his semi-late seminary start come to mind: lacking a well-developed ecclesiology; missing out on some earlier formal education to help categorize aspects of his theology (his friend/mentor, Paul, says that 90% of education is simply naming things, with which Learner says he agrees); and probably missing the window of pursuing doctoral work after seminary (which seems to be less and less a desire/option with each month, at least from a chronological, stage-of-life perspective).

Still, he says he’s grateful for the time invested before seminary, during which he spent less time wrestling with the answers of life and instead took some time to recognizing life’s questions. You can read about them in books, he says, but until you walk through the process of helping someone come up with and begin to wrestle with them, you’re just a theoretician and consultant, not a pastor (a role Learner is becoming more and more interested in long-term).

The Perfect Person to Play God?

In Thought on July 19, 2006 at 11:20 am

The website, Contact Music, posted this little story quoting a British tabloid that movie star Samuel L. Jackson will “voice God” in a new audio recording of the Bible. Apparently Jackson has already finished recording a CD set of the New Testament (to be released in September ’06), and a box set of the Old Testament is due out in ’07. What was interesting to me was this comment from a source working on the project: “Scores of other black actors, musicians, and athletes will also figure, but Samuel was deemed to be the perfect person to play God.”

Now I know the source was probably speaking purely in audio production terms, but it got me thinking as to why one might think of Samuel L. as “the perfect person to play God?” Granted, Sam’s got a distinct voice and is usually liked in most of what he does (though I could have done without his stiff performance in Star Wars 1-3), but doesn’t the quote seem to imply Sam brings something more than just vocal ability to the role? In other words, why didn’t the source say, “Samuel was deemed to have the perfect voice to play God?”

It seems to me a good illustration of how much we’ve reduced God to being on our same anthropological level. Our view of God (or is it our view of ourselves?) is really messed up, so much so that we often confuse the two. But why? Though Psalm 8 does record God making man “a little lower than the heavenly beings,” our idea should be that this gap is at least as significant as the one between you and an ant, if not much, much greater.

Theologically speaking, our presuming to be equal partners with God resonates with our American egalitarian tendencies, seemingly elevating our role and importance in the universe and putting us on more of a level playing field with the God who created it. This, we reason, is good for both parties, as it conceivably helps our spiritual self-esteem while painting God as more approachable and personal than perhaps otherwise thought.

Anthropologically speaking, this view of equality appeals to humanity’s need to feel wanted, not to mention our American values of charting our own course and being able to make up for previous mistakes (i.e. the Fall) by working our way back to some position of influence. But biblically and traditionally speaking, our culture holds a higher view of man and a lower view of God than it can or should, at least when compared to the past 5,000 years of Christian orthodoxy and teaching on our human nature.

We may indeed be in partnership with God – and it may have been at his initiation and invitation – but we are not equal with him, as we stand in debt to his perfection and holiness because of our sin and need for redemption. While God freely provided such redemption in the saving work of Christ, this redemption does not restore us to a level equal with God, but rather only to that of our initial humanity in Adam, who, even as a “perfect” partner with God, was still quite subject to him in the Garden.

That said, I imagine Samuel L. Jackson playing God will sound good (I just wish the word “sucka” was in the Old Testament, because no one says it like Samuel L.)…just as Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of God was amusing in Bruce Almighty…just as Alanis Morissette’s silent (and more feminine) interpretation of God was “interesting” in Dogma.

But let’s not confuse a person with the Person. Nobody’s that good of an actor.

Dern, It’s Hot

In Places & Spaces, Thought on July 17, 2006 at 1:23 pm

We’re supposed to be in the upper-90’s to low-hundreds most of the week here in St. Louis, and I confess there’s little I want to do other than stay inside somewhere and chill. Feeling my sluggish tendencies this morning, I made myself go with Megan to our YMCA to do something physical for an hour, but that’s about it (and even that was in air-conditioning).

I’ve been paying attention to the temperature and its effects a little more this summer, partly because I’m “feeling it” more than I used to (no longer living in Colorado Springs at 6,200-ft. makes the humidity that much stickier), and partly because the high temperatures have been in the news with Al Gore and company and their global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, which I haven’t seen (but want to).

Another of the reasons I’ve been thinking about the weather lately is this story from a few weeks ago on research postulating that one of the “drivers of the obesity tsunami” in America as “air conditioning, which establishes a comfortable temperature zone. In temperatures above this zone, people eat less. The rise in number of air-conditioned homes in the United States virtually mirrors the increase in the US obesity rate.”

Experientially, I would certainly affirm the theory – I don’t eat nearly as much when I’m hot, and I’ve wondered if maybe we ought to turn off the AC and turn on the fans for the sake of my waistline. My African friends in Uganda (where it’s warm/hot year-round) only eat twice a day (and less when they do) because of the heat, and they are all quite thin and trim.

What do you think? Anything to this idea? If so, does it motivate you to do anything different in your lifestyle, or are you content as long as you’re cool this summer?

The Irrelevance of Relevance

In Books, Humanity, Writers on July 14, 2006 at 10:02 am

I’d always heard about (and wanted to read for some time) Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, a book about Nouwen’s life and ministry working with the mentally handicapped after being a priest, as well as a professor at Harvard.

Why the move? Nouwen writes:

“After twenty-five years of priesthood, I found myself praying poorly, living somewhat isolated from other people, and very much preoccupied with burning issues…I woke up one day with the realization that I was living in a very dark place and that the term ‘burnout’ was a convenient psychological translation for a spiritual death…Everyone was saying that I was doing really well, but something inside was telling me that my success was putting my own soul in danger.” (20)

So, he moved to L’Arche, a faith-based community founded by Jean Vanier in France in 1964 “to bring together people, some with developmental disabilities and some without, who choose to share their lives by living together.” Nouwen describes the transition as “from the best and brightest, wanting to rule the world, to men and women who had few or no words and were considered, at best, marginal to the needs of our society.” (22)

In the book, Nouwen struggles with his own sense and desire for relevance:

“Not being able to use any of the skills that had proved so practical in the past was a real source of anxiety. I was suddenly faced with my naked self, open for affirmations and rejections, hugs and punches, smiles and tears, all dependent simply on how I was perceived at the moment. In a way, it seemed as though I was starting my life all over again. Relationships, connections, reputations could no longer be counted on.” (28)

In a one-year-past kind of way, I resonate with Nouwen’s experience, remembering back to our first summer here at Covenant and being, for the most part, unknown to so many. Gone were the twelve years of ministry and memories with The Navigators; in their place were fears of what others might think of me (or perhaps more honestly, fears of whether people would even think of me at all). I went through this crisis of anonymity for most of the summer, reliving it with every new introduction. It was awful and yet needed, as I realized how so much of who I was could (still) be wrapped up in other people’s perspectives of who I was. It was junior high all over again, and I had made the mistake of believing I had graduated.

For me, the challenge of relevance has everything to do with the fact that I think I can and should be relevant to the world. This, I suppose, drives my quest to read, to think, to write, to learn. These are all good things in and of themselves, but they become drudgery when I feel I don’t do them enough – read enough, think enough, write enough, learn enough. This “enough” factor should be a diagnostic for me that I’m moving from a healthy to an unhealthy perspective of myself and who God has created and redeemed me to be, namely his child.

As Nouwen chronicles his experience with those at L’Arche, it’s obvious how impacted he was by the acceptance of those in the community and also how little his relevance to them or others counted. Perhaps this is what handicapped people can teach us – that we who are consumed by the quest for relevance are the ones who are sadly but truly handicapped:

“The Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love.” (30)

I’m grateful for men like Nouwen who have gone before me in the process and had the courage to share their experience with others. The book is a short one (a booklet, really – only 107 small pages), and a helpful, reflective read that might help see the irrelevance of relevance.

Friday Round-Up

In Thought on July 14, 2006 at 9:14 am

Just a short post as to pseudo-monumental events of the past week:

Learner continues to improve his score on the third version of the seminary’s mandatory Bible content exam, this time missing the pass mark by only two points (103 out of 150 – the required pass mark is 105). He has one last chance next month to pass the exam before having to sign up for the year-long course, so he’s hopeful (though he feels like he missed his best chance so far, as this version of the exam seemed the easiest of the three).

After Hebrew on Monday night, Learner participated in his friend Rob‘s sometimes-monthly poker tournament. Such an appearance is not all that significant, save for the fact that Learner actually drank an entire bottle of beer (his first in its entirety, ever). This, despite playing lousy poker for 4-5 hands, seemed to redeem the evening (albeit, in a junior high kind of way, Learner said), and he has encouraged Rob to keep the empty bottle on a shelf with a plaque underneath to commemorate the accomplishment.

It’s the little things that motivate him these days, he says.

Bellying Up to the Genius Bar

In Technology on July 12, 2006 at 8:39 am

When we first moved to St. Louis, we were excited about all the city had to offer (see St. Louis links on the sidebar). But, when we found out we were only 12 minutes away from an Apple Store, we were downright giddy (and you’ve not seen giddy until you’ve seen me giddy).

Last night, Megan‘s iBook was acting a little sick (felt warm to the touch, start-up cough, etc.). This never happens (it’s a Mac, remember?), but as I also had a question about the battery life on my iBook, we thought it best to take them in to see the Genius on-call at the Genius Bar.

I was not disappointed. Chris was super-personable and more than qualified to run some tests and diagnose the problem with Megan’s Mac. In the process, I enjoyed asking a few questions and getting to know him a bit, hearing about his wife and their three-year-old daughter, Eva, and learning how he came to work for Apple. We had a good time.

So what was the problem with the Mac? Humorously, it basically amounts to my wife being a digital junkie who has more songs in her iTunes and more pictures in her iPhoto than a 12-inch iBook can be expected to hold. (She says she can quit anytime, but she’s on a 48-hour “download watch” nonetheless.) As for my battery, Chris suggested simply recalibrating it by running it all the way down and then charging it all the way back up and all should be fine.

I love working with people who know what they’re doing. Hats off to Apple for making such great products and to Chris for being so incredibly qualified to keep them running well.

(Funny aside: As I was waiting outside the Apple Store for my 8 p.m. appointment, I pulled out my iBook to email Megan that I was about to talk to someone about her computer. It never occurred to me – until afterward – that she couldn’t have checked the email I sent her as I had her computer with me. Maybe I’m the one who needs checked out/kept under surveillance.)

The Joys of Book Writing

In Technology, Writing on July 11, 2006 at 11:46 am

Spent the morning at Kaldi’s Coffeehouse outlining/writing on a new book project, and I have to confess how good it all felt to be working on something longer than a one-page reflection for class or a blog entry for the Internet. The best news is that I think some of what I came up with is even worth keeping (there’s nothing worse than spending a morning working on something you know you’re going to trash later), so that’s nice.

For the past several months, I’ve been following Susan Wise Bauer‘s progress on the four-volume historical she’s writing for W.W. Norton called Story of the Ancient World. Susan’s last blog post made mention that the delivery date for the final volume of the project is September of 2012. Oh, and in between volumes, she’s working on her dissertation.

Man. And I’m just happy to get a rough draft of a possible table of contents on paper…

I posted another review at Writers Read this morning: To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller. Don’t be too impressed by my prolific posting: the same review appeared a few months ago at Common Grounds Online. Yes, I’m recycling a few reviews, but it’s okay by all parties involved (it’s amazing how nobody cares when there’s no money involved). Click over and check it out.

5:30 p.m.
One last “joy” to share today: Ed just introduced me to Scrivener for the Mac, a very cool (and free) writing software program that lines up well with how I tend to think about project organization, research, and writing. Best of all, says Ed, it comes with a thorough and useable tutorial that walks you through its feature-set as you learn to use it. After playing with it a little this afternoon, he’s right: it’s cake to learn. This could be the end-of-the-world-as-I-know-it of perpetually opening/closing documents in Microsoft Word when writing. Glory, hallelujah.

Dear Giving Friends

In Thought on July 10, 2006 at 12:25 pm

It’s a new day.

To illustrate, here’s an email Learner just sent out to those friends and family who have financially supported him and Mrs. Learner through their first year of seminary. (Whether or not it was really necessary to email his supporters he says he’ll never know, but he did say it eased his conscience a bit in sending it, so he’s glad he did.)

Anyway, the letter:

Dear Giving Friends,

Gather ’round for the story of a boy still learning about his own limitations. It’s hardly tragic (actually, it’s more comedic if you think about it, though it didn’t seem so a few days ago). Regardless, it goes something like this:

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Learner. After a successful academic first year at semninary, Learner enrolled in Hebrew class for the summer. Having conquered (okay, “survived”) Greek, how hard could Hebrew be, really?

Well, he just found out. After going strong through the first three weeks, Learner somehow failed the first exam (as well as the three subsequent quizzes afterward). As a result of this unfortunate turn of events, the boy’s fairy tale of breezing through Hebrew this summer is, well, still a fairy tale (though, as in the best fairy tales), not all is lost. There is hope.

Thankfully, the seminary was most gracious in allowing Learner to audit the class the rest of the summer and reenroll in the fall – all at no extra charge. Gone is the weeping and gnashing of teeth of last week (thought not the vocab cards, as the plan is to stay up with the rest of the class on those through the summer). Who says there are no more happy endings?

Okay, story time’s over. And now a word to our sponsors…

While it’s disappointing (and embarrassing), Mrs. Learner and I felt it important to let you, our donors, know of this little development/hitch-in-our-git-a-long this summer. Despite honest effort, a good professor, and a fair understanding of what was going on in class, I’ve had a rough time regurgitating on paper what I’ve been learning. As a result, I’ve had to switch my class status to “audit,” continuing to attend class and study this summer and retake it for credit in the fall.

If you know me well at all, you know this has been a little hard for me to swallow, largely because of an overblown sense of self-sufficiency and a history that, by God’s grace, has tended to be more filled with success than failure. But I’m learning that I have limits, and Hebrew has helped in making the case. The irony, of course, is that two weeks before having to pull out of the class, I taught a two-week Sunday School series called “Learning About Limits.” While the series went well and was helpful to many, it seems I still have a few more things to learn personally about coming to grips with my own limitations. And that’s humbling.

One good thing that’s come out of this is that I think I’ve figured out one of my spiritual gifts is definitely not tongues. I had my suspicions with Greek, but I’d say Hebrew has confirmed this for me. And that’s good to know – a positive thing.

Rest assured, there’s still plenty God is doing that we’re giving ourselves to here. In fact, my Pastoral Theology class (a 12-day intensive) starts three weeks from today, for which I have to finish reading five books (writing reflection papers on each), and begin writing a ten-page paper on “whatever aspect of your understanding, personality or character you consider might be most problematic for a diligent and faithful ministry.”

Hmmm. It would seem my experience with Hebrew might make for a good opening illustration of what I think I’ll be writing on, namely, the idealism of my own self-sufficiency and dependence instead of on the gospel and person of Jesus.

In John 3:30, John the Baptist says, “He must become greater, I must become less.” If you pray, pray that this truth would continue to become more and more a reality in my life. I’m guessing that this – and not whether I can parse a Hebrew verb – is really what this lesson and experience with Hebrew this summer is about.

Sorry to take up your time with this long email, but we felt it important to write and send because of your commitment to and involvement with us and our ministry here. We now return you to your regularly scheduled life.

Shalom,

Learner (for Mrs. Learner)

Hebrew tonight (sans quiz). Learner’s actually looking forward to it.