Because life is a series of edits

Archive for November, 2006|Monthly archive page

Oh, the Weather Outside Is Frightful…

In Places & Spaces on November 30, 2006 at 2:00 am

The first major storm of the winter looks to be making its way through St. Louis today and tonight, with freezing rain and potentially 4-10 inches of snow on top by tomorrow. Personally, I'll take all of it and then some, as the recent rash of spring-like 70-degree temperatures is screwing up my work ethic. I just work better when it's miserable.

Maybe it's because we don't have to go anywhere anytime soon, but there's something cool about the majority of a big city simply having to shut down because of weather. If nothing else, it just reminds us (okay, it reminds me) that we're only in control of earthly things to a point. My guess is that most of us could use this kind of reminder more than we actually get it.

Megan Turns 33

In Pop Culture on November 26, 2006 at 2:00 am


Megan's thirty-third birthday is today, and it comes after a doozy of a Thanksgiving "break," as our youngest has been in the hospital here in Pittsfield, IL, since Thanksgiving night with pneumonia. We're hoping to bring her home (to Grandma and Grandpa's, that is) this afternoon/evening, and maybe even make it back to St. Louis on Monday, but at this point we're not holding our breath.

But that's not the point of this post.

I took this picture of Megan a couple of months ago when we were here for the Griggsville Apple Festival. While you can't tell it from the picture, she's sitting in the middle of the chaos of our Apple Jacks float amongst our four little ones as well as my sisters' kiddos (two each for a total of four), and this shot represents as well as any the quiet and gentle spirit within her (not to mention her fierce commitment to her family and what we sometimes require).

Most people have no idea how absolutely lost and lonely I would be in this life without Megan. I cannot imagine going through so much of what we have (especially in the past year-and-a-half and our move to St. Louis) with anyone else – she has been more supportive, more flexible, more committed, more loving, and more gracious than I ever deserve. Truly, I married well.

One of Megan's closest friends in Colorado once told me that the thing she respected most about Megan was that she had never, ever heard Megan criticize me in public. After almost ten years (as of next month) of marriage, this is a remarkable accomplishment to me, as well as a tribute to her impeccable character and relentless love.

She is a great wife and mother who also happens to be a talented writer, a gifted seamstress, a skilled cook, a warm lover, and a consummate companion without whom I would be the worse for wear. She is the Eve to my Adam; the Scully to my Mulder. And today she adds another year of wisdom to her well-lived life and teaches me every day about faith, hope, and love.

Happy birthday, Crazy. I love you.

To the Nth Degree?

In Thought on November 22, 2006 at 12:46 pm

The Thanksgiving Break is upon us, and none too soon. It seems just a few posts ago I was writing about Learner’s Fall Break at the end of October. I guess that’s what happens when one only posts one other time in the month of November. Time flies when you’re not blogging.

As they all seem to be, this particular break is an important one as Learner has several decisions to make:

1) Do they as a family continue trying to raise support (which has dropped significantly in the past three months) in order to remain in seminary full-time? If not, does Learner get a full-time job and continue classes at a much slower pace? And because only full-time students are allowed to live on campus, where do they then live?

2) Does Learner continue to pursue the M.Div degree (3 1/2-4 years) or does he settle for the M.A.T.S. (Arts and Theological Studies), finishing up (most likely) by the end of next summer? The difference in degrees is huge (or at least seems so) in terms of post-seminary opportunties, but so is the cost involved in time, money, and Hebrew.

3) Regarding Hebrew, does Learner make a last-ditch effort to try to salvage the rest of the semester and miraculously pull it out in the end (and it would take a miracle), taking a chance on pulling a decent grade on the final and with much grace from his professor? Or, does he let it go and try again either in the spring or the summer?

Obviously, all of these questions are intricately related: if the M.Div is no longer an option, Hebrew doesn’t need to be either (which is part – but not all – of Learner’s current lack of motivation to study it). And, if the M.A.T.S. ends up being the way out, being full-time (and thus trying to raise support) doesn’t seem quite as necessary either.

Big decisions. In the midst of all this, of course, is the element of calling. What is it that God wants? Learner’s best attempt at answering that question falls along these lines:

1) SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT OF PEOPLE – Share people’s struggles about the Christian faith and help them reflect on beliefs, concerns, doubts regarding Christian understanding of spiritual dimensions of life.

2) TEACHING RESPONSIBILITY – Accept an active teaching role, interpreting and teaching the Scriptures, theological concepts, history of church/current events.

3) ADMINISTRATIVE LEADERSHIP – Accept administrative responsibilities in climate of delegated tasks and shared leadership; others encouraged to use skills.

4) PROCLAMATION OF THE WORD – The word of God is communicated with urgency and conviction, bringing it to bear on the changing needs of individuals, the community, and the world.

5) DISCIPLESHIP TRAINING – Emphasis on training people in basics of spiritual growth to be disciplemakers.

6) ENCOURAGING MINISTRY OF THE LAITY – Creative ideas/directions developed; many with appropriate skills stimulated to become involved in service.

That said, Thanksgiving comes at a good time for Learner and company. They’ll get some time on the farm, be with family, and hopefully Learner and the Lord can go for a long walk (or even a couple of them) as he tries to discern what God is saying.

If you pray, do so. And, if you have any thoughts you’d like Learner to consider, email them to me and I’ll see that he gets them.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Missing Time

In Pop Culture on November 21, 2006 at 9:13 pm

I swear I am being abducted by aliens at least on a daily basis. How do I know this? I am periodically (and perpetually) missing time (usually about seven minutes a shot) in my day.

For those not aware of such abduction lore (yet another reason to watch The X-Files on DVD), the conspiracy goes that when aliens abduct humans, the humans’ watches record that time has passed, though they have absolutely no memory of it.

The ways this phenomenon manifests itself in my world are multiple:

  • getting my four children from our apartment into the van – missing time
  • checking just one blog or news site – missing time
  • walking across campus (usually a two-minute walk) – missing time
  • trying to decide which of my assignments/projects to tackle next – missing time

This “missing time” thing is annoying. Maybe Thanksgiving will stop the abductions.

I want to believe.

World Without Tears

In Thought on November 15, 2006 at 2:00 am

Along with the rain, Lucinda Williams's "World Without Tears" sums it up today:

If we lived in a world without tears
How would bruises find
The face to lie upon
How would scars find skin
To etch themselves into
How would broken find the bones

If we lived in a world without tears
How would heartbeats
Know when to stop
How would blood know
Which body to flow outside of
How would bullets find the guns

If we lived in a world without tears
How would misery know
Which back door to walk through
How would trouble know
Which mind to live inside of
How would sorrow find a home

If we lived in a world without tears
How would bruises find
The face to lie upon
How would scars find skin
To etch themselves into
How would broken find the bones

If we lived in a world without tears
How would bruises find
The face to lie upon
How would scars find skin
To etch themselves into
How would broken find the bones

How would broken find the bones
How would broken find the bones

Good, sad song. We need the tears to identify our brokenness and hurt. This doesn't mean, of course, we really want the tears, but (thankfully) we don't get to vote – we just have them.

And I guess that's a good thing. Sigh.

Paging Reality

In Pop Culture, Thought on November 13, 2006 at 6:57 pm

Overheard tonight at my two oldest daughters’ rehearsal for the St. Louis Children’s Choir:

A mother (on cell to husband): “Rather than come home to change, I think it would just be quicker to pick some clothes up at the mall.”

Same planet, different world.

Paging Reality

In Pop Culture, Thought on November 13, 2006 at 2:00 am

Overheard tonight at my two oldest daughters' rehearsal for the St. Louis Children's Choir:

A mother (on cell to husband): "Rather than come home to change, I think it would just be quicker to pick some clothes up at the mall."

Same planet, different world.


In Thought on November 10, 2006 at 10:31 pm

Latest in Learner’s category of “what post-seminary will one day be like”: reading books without highlighter in hand.

Letter to My Mom

In Family on November 10, 2006 at 2:00 am

My mother, Charlotte, is on a Walk to Emmaus this weekend, "a spiritual renewal program intended to strengthen the local church through the development of Christian disciples and leaders." The program is a ministry of the United Methodist Church (I grew up Methodist). At the end of the retreat, each person receives letters from family and friends to encourage and affirm them in their walk with God. Here's what I wrote to Mom:

Dear Char,

I suppose the trick in writing a letter like this one is to somehow communicate meaning without making it sound like a memorial. Forgive me if I end up doing the latter instead of the former – in our culture (and perhaps a little in our family), we rarely take the time to sit down and write out our thoughts about another we admire unless they’ve passed.

But you haven’t (passed, that is), so a memorial is not needed; thus, I’ll go with meaning. Sounds like a gameshow, doesn’t it? “I’ll take ‘Meaning’ for $200, Alex.” But I digress.

As I think of you, Char, the theme that runs through my thoughts is that you have always been a person of hope. This hope goes beyond your sayings I remember from my youth:

  • “Tomorrow’s another day.”
  • “Everything will work out in the end.”
  • And, everyone’s sure-to-get-an-eyeroll favorite: “This, too, shall pass.”

These weren’t just phrases to you; this was really (strangely) your outlook. You really did believe that, indeed, tomorrow was another day; that, in fact, everything would work out for the best; and, sure enough, most things did tend to pass (though some of us can only say that looking back, I suppose, and only when we’re asked to write letters about it).

I know it was hard being the lone optimist in the family, but somehow you never seemed all that affected by the oft-moody spirits of those of us born with more Dunham than Richardson in their blood (which, of course, isn’t all that bad; just “pretty good”). And, while I’m almost certain that I still don’t fully understand your perspective and all that goes into it most of the time, I have grown to appreciate it as I’ve grown older, as Megan is very much like you in this way, which is one of the reasons I’m sure I married her.

Growing up six miles outside of Griggsville, IL (population amazingly still 1,200), I think your hopeful spirit always kept me open to the possibilities – of writing and the proper use of English; of music and the power of song; of sports and the importance of teamwork; of trying different things and being “well-rounded” in life. The hope needed to give myself to these and other possibilities was often yours before it was mine; thank you for sharing.

Metaphorically speaking, your hope always seemed to set the stage for whatever energy I brought to the theater. Had the lights of your hope not been on when I arrived, I doubt I’d have seen the value of working on the production – regardless of what it was or could be – and instead given myself to a much smaller vision of life. I just couldn’t see that far yet.

More than that, though, I experience your hope by what you do as much as by what you say. To this day, I marvel at how you are able to make so many people feel so at home whenever they’re around you. Whether grown-ups or grandchildren, those who relate to you want to because they sense your hope for them – for their joys and their concerns; for their pasts and their futures; for their plans and their persons. Your ease is evident in your manner, as your hope for others stems from your love for them.

This is a very God-like quality, one for which entire theologies have been written in an attempt to explain, understand, and apply to our human frailties. For our purposes here, I think it’s safe to say that we can narrow it down to the words of Jesus in John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that
whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Do you see the progression of God’s love for us driving his hope for us? Without love, God would only be our taskmaster, as his hope for our Christ-likeness would have little grace for our insufficient efforts; in the wrong order (i.e. hope to love), God would only be our critic, as his hope for our Christ-likeness would become a condition for his love.

Thankfully, God’s love precedes his hope for us, and his hope for us is empowered by his love. Likewise, your love has always seemed to precede and empower your hope for us, and this is a testimony to God’s common grace to you as one of his creation, and your receiving of his specific grace to you in Christ as one of his followers.

This may seem a bit "too seminary" and unneeded as an explanation, but for most of us (seminary students especially), grasping and understanding this truth is what often stands between us and hope. I know you have your days, but I’m not sure you understand how often you don’t have them, either! You have always been sure and steady, because I think you have always known and never doubted the love of God; indeed your “hope springs eternal” (as I recall another one of your sayings being).

All that to say, Char, thank you for giving me both the seed of your love and the hope that has bloomed from it. For some reason, my tendency always seems to be putting the latter before the former (or sometimes not remembering the former at all), but that’s one of the many things God is at work on and doing in my life; it’s not that I ever lacked for an example, though, either from him (in Jesus) or from you (as Mom).

I hope you have had a wonderful weekend on your Walk to Emmaus and that your time finishes well and with a meaningful sense of how much you are loved – not only by God but also by us, your family. Thank you for never giving up hope that the love you seem to understand and live out so well would be the same love we would know and hope in, too.

I love you and am grateful to be your son,


PS: Megan and the girls send their love and hope you and Dad get a new dog by Thanksgiving.

November Update from the Dunhams

In Internet on November 9, 2006 at 2:00 am

I just posted our November update for friends, family, and supporters. We try to keep things brief, but for some thoughts on Thanksgiving (as well as our November calendar), do check it out. And, as always, be sure to check out our latest pictures at Flickr.

We hope to have our annual year-end appeal out and in (physical) mailboxes by the end of the month, so if you'd like to receive our letter and consider making a special end-of-year gift of support to our ministry, let me know. We'd really appreciate your consideration. Thanks.

Humorous, Ludicrous

In Theologians on November 9, 2006 at 2:00 am

I'm usually not one for quizzes and the like, but this one seemed interesting enough. While I don't know all that much about Anselm (yet), Calvin and Edwards are heroes, so it was nice to see them in the top three. I would have liked to have seen Augustine and Marty Luther round out the top five, but it's not like I really compare to any of them to begin with, so no big deal.

Anyway, it's only a quiz, right? God doesn't give quizzes; he's more into tests. For posterity:

"You scored as John Calvin. Much of what is now called Calvinism had more to do with his followers than Calvin himself, and so you may or may not be committed to TULIP, though God's sovereignty is all important."

John Calvin




Jonathan Edwards


Jorgen Moltmann




Charles Finney


Friedrich Schleiermacher


Karl Barth


Martin Luther


Paul Tillich



Which theologian are you?
created with

I Voted

In Thought on November 7, 2006 at 2:00 am

Just got back from my local polling place early this morning and, while it seemed somewhat chaotic with plenty of people whining about standing in line for (gasp) a whole twenty minutes while others cast their votes, it was good.

Some observations:

  • There weren't a lot of people from my age demographic voting; in fact, I was easily the youngest one there (with the next youngest person probably in their mid-to-late forties). This shouldn't be that surprising (ritzy Creve Coeur isn't exactly THE hang-out township for thirty-somethings like myself, and those who are married with kids have their hands full in the morning with little ones), but I felt lonely.
  • I got to use a digital voting machine for the first time, and it was pretty cool. Every time I cast a vote for something, there was a paper print-out (kind of like the ones on the gas pumps) on the side of it that recorded my vote, so I'm guessing that was back-up so my selections wouldn't be lost in the People's Republic of Cyberspace. All in all, it took about three minutes and I was finished.
  • In case anybody cares, I voted against Amendment 2, which is cleverly worded but deceitfully wrong. Missourians, if you still haven't made up your minds on this one, check out this helpful post from Jon Barlow. It's important.
  • Sadly, I had to ask for my own "I Voted" sticker, which kind of felt like being a five-year-old who wanted everyone to notice that he did something. Indeed, there were some (stickers, not five-year-olds), but it's too bad I had to justify my inquiry by saying, "I just want to help encourage people to vote." The lady looked at me a little strangely, handed me a still-taped-up roll of the stickers, and went back to her work. In my zeal, I could have ripped off a thousand or so and walked out with my my body covered, but I didn't; I just took one, applied it to my sweatshirt, and left.

All that to say, 40 minutes later (which includes travel), I voted today. If you haven't yet or are wondering if you will, let me encourage you to do so, as it's a simple but significant way to remind yourself that you are a citizen of this country whose freedom was not free (though the "I Voted" stickers are – you might just have to ask for one on your way out).

Grace (the Amazing Kind)

In Church on November 5, 2006 at 11:03 pm

I feel somewhat compelled to offer a few thoughts on the goings-on involving Ted Haggard in Colorado Springs. Having lived in the Springs for twelve years and knowing quite a few folks involved at New Life Church, it’s a bit surreal to see the impact of the indiscretion(s) from here in St. Louis, as well as throughout the world (BBC News had it on their homepage all day). Everybody loves a scandal, I suppose.

As there have been several helpful posts already written (this one from pastor Mark Driscoll, this one from theologian Ben Witherington, and this one from Megan are three I’d recommend), I’ll try not to be redundant. But the thought that keeps going through my head is that grace will prevail. In many ways, I would argue, it already has.

Reading Haggard’s statement, I can imagine his shame, but I can also imagine his relief that he is no longer hiding his sin. Numbers 32 illustrates the principle that “your sin will find you out.” Granted, in Haggard’s case, his sin is more out in the open than any of us will (hopefully) ever experience, but as with all sin, its power over us is in its hiddenness and not in its disclosure. This is why James encourages us to “confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16). Sin can’t survive in the light; it only thrives in the dark.

It is the grace of God that brought/allowed this to be brought to the light – even at the expense of God’s own name, even at the expense of His church. While His name and church will suffer as a result, it will not suffer to the point of death. Jesus already did that – for Haggard, for Jones, for you, for me. Thus, God is not up in Heaven wringing His hands as to what people think of Him because of any of this. The horn has not sounded; the game is not over.

Actually, if you’re keeping score, grace has already won. In fact, my guess is that Haggard is probably beginning to experience a taste of that victory for the first in a very, very long time as a result of all this. Jesus said in Luke 7:47 that “he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Haggard apparently has had much to be forgiven of (who of us hasn’t?), but he has also experienced much love in the form of forgiveness for his sin. I’m confident he’ll respond accordingly.

By the quick decision of his overseers (which I applaud), there’s apparently no question that Haggard’s sin has biblically disqualified himself from pastoral ministry. There’s also no question the media will try to crucify him, especially in light of the upcoming election and his Religious Right (Wrong) ties to a very unpopular Republican President and GOP.

But this is not the end of the world for Haggard. If anything, this is just another illustration of a fellow human’s serious need for forgiveness, and Jesus’ sufficient grace to grant it. It’s amazing how the two have always seemed to line up over and over again throughout time. But then I suppose that’s what we who try to live by it know it as – amazing, that is.

One Night Under the Star

In Thought on November 3, 2006 at 4:40 pm

I wanted to post a link to the just-launched website for the One Night Under the Star Christmas Banquet I’m co-chairing on behalf of the seminary’s Student Council.

If you’re a Covenant student reading this, let me say that you’re not going to want to miss this jump back in time into one of the coolest periods of twentieth-century Americana. And, if you’re not a Covenant student, see what you’re going to miss?

Have a good weekend, everyone.


Continuous Partial Attention

In Humanity, Thought on November 2, 2006 at 2:00 am

My friend, Will, passed along an article by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman called "The Taxi Driver," a piece that chronicled a cab ride he recently took in Paris.

Apparently, from the time the cab driver picked him up to the time he dropped him off, the cabbie was talking on his cell phone non-stop. The irony is that Friedman realized he wasn't perhaps as bothered as he should have been; after all, he himself was trying to finish an article on his laptop while listening to his iPod to drown out the cabbie. He writes:

"I relate all this because it illustrates something I’ve been feeling more and more lately — that technology is dividing us as much as uniting us. Yes, technology can make the far feel near. But it can also make the near feel very far. For all I know, my driver was talking to his parents in Africa. How wonderful! But that meant the two of us wouldn’t talk at all. And we were sitting two feet from each other.

When I shared this story with Linda Stone, the technologist who once labeled the disease of the Internet age 'continuous partial attention' — two people doing six things, devoting only partial attention to each one — she remarked: 'We’re so accessible, we’re inaccessible. We can’t find the off switch on our devices or on ourselves…We want to wear an iPod as much to listen to our own playlists as to block out the rest of the world and protect ourselves from all that noise. We are everywhere — except where we actually are physically.'"
I've written on the topic of technology and how it affects our humanity before here, and am teaching on it as well this Sunday at Memorial. I'd appreciate any thoughts and/or links you have as I pull some new content together for it. Your own stories are appreciated as well.

And how about that phrase "continuous partial attention"? That's beautiful…and accurate.