Because life is a series of edits

Archive for January, 2007|Monthly archive page

Original Sin

In Books, Humanity, Writers on January 30, 2007 at 2:00 am

Good quote today concerning original sin from the book, Beyond Identity, by Dick Keyes:

"The original sin is refusal to be and live as a creature and instead to pretend at knowing better than God himself, to set oneself up as the ultimate judge…The original sin is not always expressed in conscious animosity toward God. More often it is a polite relegation of God to irrelevance."

Polite relegation of God to irrelevance. Yep, that about sums it up for me.

Sabbath

In Church, Family on January 27, 2007 at 2:00 am

One goal I forgot to list in my goals for the new year was to enjoy a greater faithfulness to the idea of sabbath, both individually and as a family. With this in mind, we've made some changes to our weekend, and it's been good.

Actually, it's been a little surprising how good it's been. One of the reasons, I think, is that we've adapted the time frame of our sabbath to run from 5 p.m.(ish) on Saturday until 5 p.m.(ish) on Sunday rather than just all day/evening on Sunday. This is a lot more realistic for us as we're usually ready for a break by Saturday night, as well as ready to gear back up for the week on Sunday evening.

In the past, we would get up (groggily, usually because Megan and I started a movie too late the night before), go to church, come home and have lunch, put kids down for naps (and maybe sneak a little one ourselves), and then jump back into whatever we felt we needed to do while ABC babysat the girls by way of America's Funniest Videos and Extreme Home Makeover. There were no real differences in our focus or routine, and Sunday felt like any other day.

What's different now is that when 5 p.m. comes around on Saturday night, we turn off all electronic media (laptops, television, music), eat dinner, give the girls baths (we did that before, too), and then play some kind of game together before an early bedtime. With no digital toys available, Megan and I instead find ourselves in bed with a good book, usually falling asleep by 9:30 or so.

In the morning, we put on music that signals to the girls the purpose of our morning (the worship of God), and help everyone get ready for church. Our routine is roughly the same here (get ready, go to church, lunch, naps), but the difference (at least for me) is that I'm not wishing to rush through anything so I can "get back to work" as soon as possible.

Sunday morning and afternoon are then more focused on God and people (being with them in their home or in ours), time with Megan and the girls (the family that naps together stays together), or fiction reading (which is an important counter to all the non-fiction stuff I have to read), as taking away "permission" to work makes it a non-issue for me.

By the time 5 p.m. rolls around, everyone's ready to get back into our regular routine, so we have dinner together, pick up the house, and let the ladies watch their shows. After our sabbath break, Megan and I tend to be a lot more motivated to get some work done as we've held off for 24 hours, and we're a little more rested than usual as well, as our energy level supports the level of our desire to get some things done.

One thing I'm still trying to incorporate throughout all this is more of a family focus on God, whether that comes through some Bible reading together, praying as a family, singing a few hymns, or something else. It's not that the girls don't enjoy doing these things, but I always feel unprepared for the task as I may not have thought too much about it and don't want to subject my family to my "off the top" attempts at teaching them. I need to work on this, both in preparing something a little more formal, as well as in not being so idealistic when I haven't; in this case, the attempt is as important as the exegesis.

Almost a month into our new sabbath routine, we're enjoying it. Obviously, now that classes have started in earnest and time is a little tighter, we'll see how our new habits are effected, but I'm guessing we'll actually find that we need this sabbath rest more rather than less.

So Many Classes, So Little Brain

In Seminary on January 26, 2007 at 2:00 am

The good news is classes started yesterday and it's going to be a great semester. My classes:

  • Acts & Paul
  • Reformation & Modern Church History
  • Intro to Counseling
  • Developing Lay Leaders in the Church

The other news is 137 assignments stand between me and the end of the semester, with what looks to be the most reading and writing I've ever had in a term.

Classes I'm assisting/grading for this semester:

  • Apologetics & Outreach
  • Understanding Contemporary Culture
  • Pastoral Theology

It's good to be back…I think.

Poli Sigh

In Politics on January 24, 2007 at 2:00 am

Currently watching the State of the Union Address. Sigh.

If anybody wants to know why so very little seems to get done in Washington, it may be because our government leaders – Republicans and Democrats alike – are too busy posing for national television as bi-partisan politicians who like each other (when they really aren't and don't).

A few quotes come to mind this evening:

"The reason there are so few female politicians is that it is too much trouble to put makeup on two faces." Maureen Murphy

"In America you can go on the air and kid the politicians, and the politicians can go on the air and kid the people." Groucho Marx
I don't mean to sound too cynical here, but are you fooled by the bi-partisan rhetoric and hand-clapping? Anybody else have any real hopes as to what has or is going to change?

Me either.

The Big Read

In Books, Humanity, Places & Spaces, Writers on January 22, 2007 at 10:30 am

Our little book club at Memorial is taking part in The Big Read, a national effort modeled on successful “city read” programs designed to encourage literary reading by helping communities come together to read and discuss a single book. The selected book is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

Lectures, readings, art exhibitions, theater productions, book discussion groups, and film festivals are occurring in a variety of locations throughout St. Louis, all featuring themes and questions that Fahrenheit 451 raises about the power of books and reading.

There are several informal discussions of the book going on on Washington University‘s campus in February, and two discussions will be held at Kemper Art Museum on Sunday Feb. 11 and 18 at 2:00 p.m., followed by a docent led tour of the museum’s new exhibition called Reality Bites: Making Avant-Garde Art in Post Wall Germany.

Our fearless leader, Heidi Kolk, has given us a month to read the book, culminating with a discussion on Sunday evening, February 18th (all are welcome – if you’d like to join us, drop me an email for details). Megan and I are hoping to take part in at least one of the community-sponsored events as well.

To possibly whet your appetite, below is a review I wrote of Fahrenheit 451 when I first read it a couple of years ago. The review is hardly in-depth, but it might give you an idea of the basic story and serve as an encouragement to pick up and read a good book.

With all the publicity generated by Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11, I thought it might be a good idea to read Ray Bradbury’s original book of similar title. Fahrenheit 451 represents the temperature at which paper burns, which is fitting considering Bradbury’s book is about censorship, and I enjoyed the futuristic story (which takes place now, fifty years later from when he originally wrote it) as it bears great and realistic resemblance to our ever-interesting (and complicated) world today.

The story follows one Guy Montag, a “fireman” whose job it is not to put out fires, but to start them in homes whose owners are reportedly hiding books. All seems well and fine to Guy (who has been burning books for ten years) until he has a conversation with Clarisse, a 17-year-old girl who questions him about his present occupation.

This gets Guy asking questions in his head, and at his next fire, he secretly salvages some books as part of his consideration of Clarisse’s inquiries. He then meets a former professor (with no books, there is not much to teach; hence the “former” qualifier) and he relates to Guy that just because books are banned doesn’t mean their content is lost and may one day be reclaimed.

Seeing the literary light, Guy has a drastic change of heart and, in the course of 24 hours, plots to single-handedly rage against the censorship machine, risking his job, relationships, and life to evoke such revolution. The rest of the book details his crusade, his ideas and motives that accompany it, and resolves in a satisfying and hopeful manner as he joins forces with other “book people” to one day create a new beginning from the ashes of censorship.

A bit vague and hodge-podge at the start, Bradbury’s writing style smoothes out to tell a good story at a good pace. While his characters are semi-developed at best, Bradbury’s main idea and overarching themes branching out from it are most interesting, especially when read in the light of the current political climate and clash of government mistrust and freedom of speech.

Comparable to George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 is probably the most believable of these three “doomed future” stories as it does not come across so “futuristic” as it does “future-is-now” in terms of plot and perspective.

Of all three books, Fahrenheit 451 seems most organic in its storytelling, and this perhaps is what makes it more frightening to think that a few generations of bad decisions could very well cast us into a cauldron of censorship, a concept so foreign to us right now that it makes it all the more scary to think about and believe.

Happiness Is…

In Pop Culture on January 20, 2007 at 2:00 am

…when your 8-year-old, given the task of coordinating the cleaning of the two rooms belonging to her and her sisters, requests as a soundtrack, "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles (later covered by The Presidents of the United States of America for The Wedding Singer).

Training them up in the way they should go (at least when it comes to 80's music classics)…

24 and Convergence

In Church, Humanity, Thought, TV on January 16, 2007 at 10:33 am

The four-hour premier of Fox’s 24 these past two nights was quite a start to the sixth season of the show, ending with last night’s detonation of a nuclear bomb (the first of supposedly five across the nation) in Los Angeles. Megan and I became fans of the show by way of a DVD “catch up” of seasons 1 and 2 just before season 3 came out, and we’ve been looking forward to this new sixth season with great anticipation. (Oh, and I secretly have a “man-crush” on Jack Bauer, played with tragic brilliance by Kiefer Sutherland.)

I won’t go into all the minute-by-minute details of the last two nights (you can get them all – literally – here), but I will say I’m struck by both the uncomfortable reality of its vivid portrayal of terrorism, as well as its powerful illustration of Islamic discipleship in the world today.

Sure, Hollywood takes a few liberties (terrorists never looked so handsome, in a GQ kind of way), but a peek at the commitment and community of a guy who’s getting ready to blow up a bus or a bomb along with himself in the name of Allah is, well, gripping. While we in America may call such an act cowardly in terms of traditional warfare (and it is), we can’t deny the extent to which these followers are willing to live out their convictions either. It’s the difference in a plate of ham and eggs: the chicken was involved; the pig was committed.

In my Old Testament Prophets class this past weekend, Dr. Richard Pratt asked if anybody knew of the existence of a Covenant Seminary martyr list? There were a few smirks and uncomfortable glances, but somehow that was one document that hadn’t shown up in the promotional materials.

Dr. Pratt was dead serious about the question, however, going on to make the point that, in a world in which more Christians are being martyred for their faith than at any other time in history (first century included), how is it that very few of us in the PCA or the larger American evangelical church know any one who has been martyred for his or her faith?

Fewer smirks; more uncomfortable glances. Come on, Pratt…just teach the Bible.

Oh.

Tertullian wrote that “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” And, while I suppose it’s a morbid convergence of my January-term class schedule and my recent television habits, you don’t have to be Jack Bauer to figure out the connection between the persecution of the Kingdom and the accompanying growth of it, both historically as well as present day.

Which kingdom am I really committed to build? God’s? America’s? Mine? Perhaps more telling: how far am I willing – really willing – to go to build it? How far have I gone so far? How willing is Megan? Our family? This, I suppose, is the hard one for me. When I was single, I really did have more of the martyr mentality than I do now. Obviously, being a husband and father changes you, but, as Dr. Pratt challenged us, our grandfathers went to fight in World War II because of their love for our parents, not in spite of it.

Dr. Pratt’s point: “They died for who they loved. Don’t tell me your kids growing up – knowing you died for who you loved (Christ) – won’t shape them more than being home to play catch.”

Whoa.

It’s not that God is asking us to take up arms against Muslims (or anyone else); his is not the call to a 21-century version of The Crusades (one of the worst human ideas in the name of the Church, bar none). But we are called to give our lives for the sake of the One who gave his life for us – not to blow people up, but to risk reaching those who would us.

In many regards, Jack Bauer’s job is easier than mine: he can kill anyone who attacks him and his citizenship; I’m to love my attacker and give my life for mine.

Talk about your differing war strategies…

MLK

In Politics, Thought on January 15, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Here’s a link (complete with audio, video, and transcription) to one of the greatest speeches ever given in American history. I post and ponder it today to remind myself of how far we have to go in seeing Martin Luther King’s dream (and one of God’s, for that matter) realized.

How long, O Lord? Why is this so hard for us?

January Update/Open House

In Family, Places & Spaces on January 15, 2007 at 2:00 am

For what it's worth, I just posted our January update for our friends and supporters.

Also, we're having an informal open house this Saturday, January 20th, from 1-4 p.m. If you're within 8 hours of St. Louis, you're invited (of course, those outside of 8 hours are invited, but let's be realistic). Email me for the address (yes, it's paranoid, but the recent kidnapping in Kirkwood JUST 10 MINUTES AWAY makes me hesitant to post it for all to see).

Hope you can come – it'd especially be fun to meet some of you St. Louis blog-types. I promise: no fingerprinting or body cavity searches (though we may have the FBI database up on DSL).

On Teachers and Teaching

In Seminary, Theologians, Wildwood on January 13, 2007 at 9:29 am

My kind of weekend: intensive January term class on prophecy with visiting prof, Dr. Richard Pratt of Third Millennium Ministries (check out the website – way cool vision); teaching tomorrow morning at Memorial on leadership (specifically how being a good follower is key to being a good leader); and digging into Proverbs to prep for class with my high schoolers.

Combine all this with a nice, dreary drizzle forecasted for most of the weekend, and it might as well be heaven (minus, of course, the still-obvious presence of sin, not to mention the periodic on/off flickering lights due to ice on the power lines). But I digress…

Dr. Pratt is a pretty amazing teacher who makes good use of audio/visual media without overdoing it. It’s obvious he also know his stuff on the prophets, and I was encouraged by both his scholarship and his biblical commitments trumping his solid Reformed perspectives.

Don’t get me wrong: for my two cents, Reformed theology is and always has been far and away the superior systematic in so many ways, but every man-made system has its limits, and Dr. Pratt is not only unafraid to say so, but seems bent on teaching it as part of his pedagogy.

Perhaps the other encouragement for me last night was how helpful and affirming his review of Old Testament history was, especially having just taught so much of it last semester at Wildwood. There are few things worse than realizing after the fact that something you taught someone else was actually wrong (or perhaps even worse – not quite right); thus, going into the class, I was somewhat prepared to have to revise some of my notes afterward, not so much for having wrong data, but for botching the interpretation of it in some way.

Thankfully (at least so far), my study and teaching seem to be lining up with Dr. Pratt’s take on things. Granted, there were a couple of important aspects that I did not emphasize as much as I perhaps should have, but there also was no real heresy I was guilty of either. For that, I was and am very thankful.

Of course, I was only in class three hours last night. We’ll see how my notes stand up after seven hours today.

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1

Freaks me out every time I read it…

Almost But Not Quite

In Church, Politics on January 11, 2007 at 10:27 am

I just read that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela called Jesus “the greatest socialist in history.”

Hmmm.

Not sure who said it (it’s not original with me), but the difference between socialism and Christianity is socialism says, “What’s yours is mine,” whereas Christianity says, “What’s mine is yours.”

Same four words; two very different orders and outcomes.

On Second Thought…

In Pop Culture on January 11, 2007 at 2:00 am

I sat down to blog tonight, but for some reason had a difficult time picking a topic and investing the energy. Thus, I won't subject you to a "second draft" that's really only a first one.

Hope you feel loved.

The Way of Wisdom

In Wildwood on January 9, 2007 at 2:00 am

Today I started my second semester teaching at Wildwood. The topic? Biblical wisdom literature (Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, with some Psalms thrown in for good measure). I'm pumped.

Two texts (among others) I'll be using to prep for this class are The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job & Ecclesiastes by Derek Kidner and Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East by Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin. Here are the details from the syllabus:

Objectives
The intent of Wildwood’s Bible class is to be a stand-alone study and support apologetic for Wildwood’s Humanities class (which this year is studying Antiquity), to look at how the Old Testament treats the common matters of life specifically in the Wisdom books. Our purpose is to reflect on what the wise life is, how it looked to the ancient Israelites, and how it looks (or should look) today.

Discussion will cover how to view wisdom, how to study wisdom, how to approach the ancient wisdom books (comparing bits and pieces from the surrounding cultures), and will address a variety of subjects including money, marriage, work, power and rulership, speech, sex and sexuality, rearing children, commerce, self-discipline, drink, eating, use of wealth, anger, disappointment…basically all the stuff that touches ordinary life.

Spring Semester
1M, 1/8: Old Testament Exam Review/Wisdom Literature Syllabus Review
1W, 1/10: Wisdom in the Ancient World
Have read: Challenge of Application/Practice of Application (handouts)

Proverbs: The Way of Wisdom
2M, 1/15: Proverbs 1-2
2W, 1/17: Application Paper Due/Proverbs 3-4

3M, 1/22: Proverbs 5-7
3W, 1/24: Quiz/Proverbs 8-9

4M, 1/29: No class/assignments – Shakespeare in a Week
4W, 1/31: No class/assignments – Shakespeare in a Week

Proverbs: The Sayings of Solomon
5M, 2/5: Proverbs 10:1-11
5W, 2/7: Proverbs 12:1-15:29

6M, 2/12: Proverbs 15:30-18
6W, 2/14: Proverbs 19-22:16

Proverbs: The Sayings of the Wise
7M, 2/19: Quiz/Proverbs 22:17-23
7W, 2/21: Proverbs 24

Proverbs: More Sayings of Solomon
8M, 2/26: Proverbs 25-26
8W, 2/28: Proverbs 27-29

Proverbs: Sayings of Agur and Lemuel
9M, 3/5: Proverbs 30-31
9W, 3/7: Application Paper Due/Review

10M, 3/12: Midterm
Job: The Narrative
10W, 3/14: Job 1-3

Job: The Speeches
11M, 3/19: Job 4-21
11W: 3/21: Application Paper Due/Job 22-31

12M, 3/26: No class – Spring Break
12W, 3/28: No class – Spring Break

Job: The Voices of Reason
13M, 4/2: Job 32-37
13W, 4/4: Job 38-42

Ecclesiastes: A Life Worth Living?
14M, 4/9: Quiz/Ecclesiastes 1-2
14W, 4/11: Ecclesiastes 3-6

Ecclesiastes: A Life Worthy of God
15M, 4/16: Ecclesiastes 7-9
15W, 4/18: Ecclesiastes 10-12

Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes: Compared, Contrasted, Integrated
16M, 4/23: Quiz/TBA
16W, 4/25: Application Paper Due/TBA

17M, 4/30: 40-Hour Presentations
17W, 5/2: 40-Hour Presentations

Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes: Today
18M, 5/7: Wisdom and the Modern World
18W: 5/9: Key Sentence Paper Due/Review

19M, 5/14: No class
19W: 5/16: No class – Final

The New Homestead

In Family, Places & Spaces on January 5, 2007 at 2:08 pm

the-homestead.jpg

Our new “palatial imitation” house (dinner with the Dunhams to the first person, couple, or family to correctly name the 80’s movie, exact year, character, and actor who used the quote).

When Sub-Culture Attracts

In Thought, TV on January 5, 2007 at 2:00 am

One of the many perks of moving into our new place is picking up an extra channel or two on the old tube. As we don't have cable, we're heavily reliant on our rabbit ears, which (now that we're above ground instead of in our basement apartment) pick up the following stations:

  • NBC
  • HSN
  • PBS
  • CW
  • ABC
  • TBN

We don't get CBS, but that's not as big a deal as not getting FOX, at least for the premiere of 24 in ten days, as well as the baseball play-offs later in the year. I suppose the nice thing about our limitation is that one quick flip through the channels is usually all it takes to decide there's probably a book somewhere in the house worth reading.

Tonight, however, as I was doing my customary 30-second flip before heading for my reading chair, I happened upon a preview for TBN's new show called GIFTED, a blatant American Idol rip-off featuring overly-giddy, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"-quoting teenagers and twenty-somethings anxious for their big break in the Christian music biz.

In addition to the official site above, there's a MySpace version, but the gist is the same:

"16,000 contestants. 8 finalists. 3 judges. 1 winner. GIFTED. On February 2nd in prime-time television, the first season of Gifted will be televised to over 49 million households on TBN (95 million total U.S. reach) This 2-hour show hosted by Brian Littrell (Backstreet Boys) will showcase 8 finalists singing some of the most well-known songs in Christian Music in styles ranging from Praise & Worship, Gospel, and CCM with the winner receiving a recording contract with EMI Christian Music Group.

The winner of GIFTED will also receive management by the Wright Entertainment Group and day-to-day support from Wright Gener8Xion Entertainment. The winner will have the opportunity to make an immediate impact with an invitation to open for Brian Littrell on the road. Additionally, a $10,000 donation will be made to the church where the winner originally auditioned."
The judges for this extravaganza are EMI publishing president, Eddie DeGarmo; pastor and artist, Andrae Crouch; and former lead singer of Stryper, Michael Sweet, who, judging from the preview, is probably going to play the truth-telling role of Simon Cowell, letting kids know in no uncertain terms (but in the name of Jesus, of course) that they really can't sing.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before something like this came about (actually, the Christian sub-culture was a bit slow following American Idol's immense success – the mimicry normally takes about two years). Regardless, this is just one more reason for people not to take the things of God seriously (if you need more than one reason, be sure to check out the remainder of TBN's programming schedule).

And I’m Off Like a Herd of Turtles…

In Books, Pop Culture, Seminary on January 4, 2007 at 2:00 am

Been up to my eyeballs in paper grading and the last of our moving experience (my least favorite part: hanging stuff). We're loving the new place and really making the most of the new space, planning to host an open house before the spring semester starts later this month. If you're in town, consider yourself invited (details to come).

Saw The Nativity Story the other night with Megan and the girls and thoroughly enjoyed it (though it got a little modern/Hallmark-ish at the end, especially in the cheeseball "Silent Night" soundtrack arrangement and the Nativity "pose" at the end). The appearance of Gabriel to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds was underwhelming (manifesting a convincing angel is no easy task), but I loved how they portrayed Joseph and fleshed out his character and circumstance – a nice visual to the "resolved to divorce her quietly" struggle in Matthew.

In terms of book reading, I'm halfway through The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester, as well as The Shangri-La Diet by Seth Roberts. I'm planning to read Derek Kidner's short commentary on the Wisdom literature (Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes) so I can finalize the syllabus for the Bible class I teach at Wildwood, which starts Monday. I'm really looking forward to studying this with my students, and plan on doing most of our work in class together so as to teach the "how" as well as the "what" of studying Bible discourse.

Not too many extra plans for 2007, other than:

  • lose 20-25 pounds (and a few belt sizes)
  • spend (read: "waste") less time on the Internet
  • pray more (always)
  • write more (and not just on the blog)
  • read 65-70 books
  • exercise more (yeah, yeah)

Sometime in 2007, I need to (finally, and for a third time) pass Hebrew (yep, I failed it again, though with a C this time). Oh, and I'd like – no I NEED – to find a job by May (that's not a resolution but a requirement) for when we leave support in six months. By the way, thanks to the couple of you who responded to our appeal last month – that meant – and means – a lot to us. Personal thank you note on the way…

Now that we're in a house in a neighborhood, I'd like to re-learn how to relate to people who live on my same street, rubbing intellectual and emotional elbows with folks who come from a different perspective than mine, and learning from them as I learn to love them in the process. That would be hugely encouraging to me.

There's more (as always), but it would be too much. We'll see how this much goes and take it from there. Any resolutions/plans out there you'd like to share?

Happy New Year

In Pop Culture on January 1, 2007 at 2:00 am

In case I'm not awake at midnight (and I won't be), Happy New Year.

More in 2007…