Because life is a series of edits

Archive for February, 2007|Monthly archive page

Wildwood Wisdom (part 3)

In Thought on February 28, 2007 at 2:13 pm

Additional high school wisdom for the ages:

“As surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west,
assure yourself each day of the cross which you’ve taken up
and dedicate your heart and mind,
for it is to that cross upon which you were called.”

“A fire warms a person for a day,
but God’s love keeps him warm all the days of his life.”

“A wise woman begins her debate on time,
but a fool shirks her homework.”

“Cats excel at turning against you,
but dogs are always faithful friends.”

“A foolhardy child will ignore the advice of a friend,
and so will an idiot.”

Relax. I’ve got one more day’s worth.


Shaken AND Stirred

In Thought on February 27, 2007 at 7:14 pm

Learner took his first exam of the semester this morning, a 185-point monster over the book of Acts. The Smiling Assassin has struck, and Learner’s wondering how to stop the bleeding.

The sad part, he says, is he actually studied – 50 pages of notes, 250 pages of previously highlighted readings, a memorized outline of the 28 chapters of Acts – he studied it all.

The mistake he made was not doing the Greek translations, which, even though the Assassin said were going to be minimal on the exam, were not. (That, or he and the Assassin have two different ideas of what “minimal” means, which could very well be a possibility, as he is German.) Either way, says Learner, “Whups.”

He’s hoping for a big curve – a circle curve even, where the worst you do, the better you do – but that’s a little optimistic, especially for him. We’ll see. In the meantime, he’s gearing up for starting in on Galatians tomorrow and hoping for the best.

Wildwood Wisdom (part 2)

In Poetry, Pop Culture, Wildwood on February 27, 2007 at 2:00 am

More proverbial wisdom from my students:

"Like sunlight through a window is a man of wisdom's words:
a source of light where there is none."

"When you are in pain, go see your physician;
for the pain he inflicts upon you will replace your original agony."

"An only child is lonely,
but siblings create discord."

And here's one about a student whose place of residence is a mystery to the entire student body (his address is a P.O. box and he won't allow anyone to come over or follow him home):

"There is one whose roads are lost,
and the knowledge of house is hidden.
No one knows how to find his bed,
and he is content to drive alone.
Others may look and follow his car,
but we will never find his true address."

More to come.

Wildwood Wisdom (part 1)

In Poetry, Pop Culture, Wildwood on February 26, 2007 at 6:51 pm

I’m a week away from finishing up the book of Proverbs with my Wildwood high schoolers (we’re studying biblical wisdom literature). As part of today’s class (and with no warning and a ten-minute time limit), I asked the students to write their own proverbs. Most were really clever, and I thought I’d post some of their entries throughout the week (I’ve got a test tomorrow morning and two papers due Thursday, so blogging may be sparse this week). Here goes:

“Dogs are like children;
give them a cookie and they love you forever.”

“A wise man heats his car up before scraping ice off of it,
but a fool hastily hacks it off and cracks his windshield.”

“Like salt on a wound does too much gum ail the jaw,
but a big mouth will become useful.”

And here’s one on last night’s Oscar awards:

“My son, expecting others to make the right choices will surely lead to disappointment, but he who keeps their humanity in mind will not be caught off guard.”

More tomorrow.

Hanging with Oscar

In Thought on February 25, 2007 at 9:34 pm

Pretty laid back day/evening: church, resting, reading, grading, watching the Oscars. I haven’t seen even a tenth of the movies nominated, but I can be a sucker for Hollywood celebrity and glitz just like anyone else interested in pop culture. Of course, my favorite part is when someone goes too long in his/her acceptance speech and gets played off by the orchestra for the sake of time, but that’s just my OCD smirking.

No other real thoughts from me, but Megan has outdone herself with a little Oscar satire here.

The Sanctification Mug

In Thought on February 23, 2007 at 2:00 am


While I have a good eye (as well as an immense appreciation) for the visual arts, I have no such ability (developed to any degree, at least) within me. This realization became officially evident "back in the day" in my high school art class with Mrs. Dawson. I remember having some success with pottery (I loved working the wheel, but I never quite got the colors right) as well as string painting (my "Zebras Mating" is framed and still hangs above my Mom's washer and dryer at home, though I'm not sure I ever told her the title of the work).

However, when I tried my hand at candle-making, Mrs. Dawson gave me the moniker "Lava Man," as I had heated up the wax so hot that it melted my milk carton molds. Mrs. Dawson also often used to tell me to cut off my ear and send it to her (a la Van Gogh) when I turned in my attempts at oil and watercolor paintings, which I think was her kind but honest way of saying "thanks, but don't quit your day job."

I recently flashed back to my high school art days when one of the parents at Wildwood had an idea for the upcoming annual silent auction fundraiser. She requested that all interested teachers go to The Painted Zebra, buy a ceramic mug and some studio time, and create some kind of work of art to be included in a custom coffee mug set.

Great idea, but a frightening one, too. Couldn't I just write an essay or poem instead?

Despite my insecurity, I accepted the commission and made it my goal to figure out how to paint a mug that one of my students wouldn't be embarrassed to pull out in college when they needed/wanted some coffee. Intuitively, I knew I couldn't write anything on it – my handwriting would inevitably go crooked and look hokie; I also knew I couldn't "wow" anybody with my amazing use of color and perspective – remember, I still have both ears.

So what to do? I spent twenty minutes staring at the rough, white ceramic mug, trying to discern "what it wanted to be" (which is a line I've heard artist-types use, even though I think it's a bit silly). And then I had an idea.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

With this passage in mind, I picked up my brush, poured some black paint, and covered the outside of the mug (this was the easy part). Then I poured some yellow and covered the flat bottom of the inside the mug, then radiated yellow "beams" out and up the sides of the cup. I also added some red stripes descending down the sides as a reminder of Christ's blood in the process. So far, so good (in other words, I hadn't totally screwed it up beyond repair just yet).

Finally, I mixed several different colors and filled in the white space between the radiating beams, swirling it a bit and trying not to overdo the overlap. Done with that, I went back over the beams again with the yellow, put on one more coat of black on the exterior, and voila: The Sanctification Mug – respectable enough for college use, and interesting enough to start a dorm room conversation about the theology of Christian sanctification once someone bottoms out on "transient" caffeine and sees the "eternal" colors emerging from within. Or something.

Somewhere there's a Christian bookstore trinket distributor just dying to market these…

In Memoriam

In Family, Pop Culture on February 22, 2007 at 5:36 pm


I said goodbye to some good friends this week – my “old school” canvas Nike tennis shoes. Even in looking at this picture, I wonder if I made the right decision; sure, the sides were blowing out and the insides were scrunching up something awful, but it’s not like it was their fault.

It’s mine. And I feel awful for it.

I remember buying these shoes. I lived in Colorado then, had but one small child, and was looking for something to go against the flow of the over-inflated, all-leather, multi-color astronaut shoes most stores were selling and that so many were wearing.

And then I saw them – the simplicity, the canvas, the statement they made by just being who they were. It was then and there – in the midst of those god-forsaken shoe shrines to all things bright and inflatable – that I knew: if I were a shoe, I would be one of these.

But, alas, they are no more. And if they are indeed now gone, truly they have taken at least a part of me with them; already I miss them and their classic “old schoolness” that I loved so much.

Goodbye, dear friends. You have served me well. May your soles find rest in God alone.


Ordained to What?

In Thought on February 22, 2007 at 2:54 pm

Learner is studying in the student center, semi-eavesdropping on a conversation between two visiting pastors and a graduating student about his upcoming graduation and ordination in May. The conversation goes something like this:

Student: What do I REALLY need to know for ordination exams?

Visiting pastor #1: Know where you stand on the New Perspective on Paul, Federal Vision, and paedobaptism.

Student: Anything else?

Visiting pastor #2: Don’t choose to sit in the middle chair.

Maybe it’s because he doesn’t know (or passionately care all that much right now) where he stands on any of the above, but Learner assumes there’s a consideration of the student’s knowledge of Jesus as well.

But that’s probably just over a coffeebreak or something.

In Memoriam

In Thought on February 22, 2007 at 2:00 am


I said goodbye to some good friends this week – my "old school" canvas Nike tennis shoes. Even in looking at this picture, I wonder if I made the right decision; sure, the sides were blowing out and the insides were scrunching up something awful, but it's not like it was their fault.

It's mine. And I feel awful for it.

I remember buying these shoes. I lived in Colorado then, had but one small child, and was looking for something to go against the flow of the over-inflated, all-leather, multi-color astronaut shoes most stores were selling and that so many were wearing.

And then I saw them – the simplicity, the canvas, the statement they made by just being who they were. It was then and there – in the midst of those god-forsaken shoe shrines to all things bright and inflatable – that I knew: if I were a shoe, I would be one of these.

But, alas, they are no more. And if they are indeed now gone, truly they have taken at least a part of me with them; already I miss them and their classic "old schoolness" that I loved so much.

Goodbye, dear friends. You have served me well. May your soles find rest in God alone.


Something to Think About for Lent

In Church, Theologians on February 21, 2007 at 12:12 pm

Lent is upon us, and, rather than spend the rest of my day (and this post) trying to figure out what one thing I should give up for the next 40 days, I thought I’d focus a bit on why to consider giving up anything at all.

John Calvin taught that original sin “seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God’s wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls ‘works of the flesh’ (Galatians 5:19).” What he was saying was, if depravity is in us at all, it is all in us throughout:

“The mind of man has been so completely estranged from God’s righteousness that it conceives, desires, and undertakes, only that which is impious, perverted, foul, impure, and infamous. The heart is so steeped in the poison of sin, that it can breathe out nothing but a loathsome stench.”

But just as the depravity of original sin is all in us, “If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it (salvation) is ‘of him’ (1 Cor. 1:30):

  • gifts of the Spirit in his anointing
  • strength in his dominion
  • purity in his conception
  • gentleness in his birth
  • empathy in his humanity
  • redemption in his passion
  • acquittal in his condemnation
  • remission of curse in his cross
  • satisfaction in his sacrifice
  • purification in his blood
  • reconciliation in his descent
  • mortification of the flesh in his tomb
  • newness of life and immortality in his resurrection
  • inheritance of the kingdom in his entrance into heaven
  • protection, security, and supply in his kingdom
  • and peace in his judgment

“In short,” wrote Calvin,” since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain and from no other…” Calvin’s solution to our sin and depravity was not merely a physical restraining of sin (though there is need and grace for that), but a spiritual transfusion through blood and faith – that is, Christ’s for ours.

In other words (and to apply Calvin’s thought to the meaning of today), giving something up for Lent can be good, but giving in to Christ is the goal – certainly of Lent, even more so of life.

Suddenly, the idea of foregoing salt, chocolate, or Coke Zero for the next 40 days just got really, really trite…or really, really meaningful. I can’t decide which.

My Favorite Five-Year-Old

In Family on February 20, 2007 at 11:35 am

It’s been a week since my last post and I owe you some content and not just campaign promises (already that’s getting old). However, to buy some more time, maybe this picture of my recently-turned-five-year-old and me on our shared birthday a few weeks ago will suffice.


She is as sweet in real life as in the picture. Now if I can convince her to stay five forever…

Hitting the Digital Trail

In Politics on February 13, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Since my formal announcement on Sunday, it’s been an exciting few days of campaigning: I’ve had six comments, over 200 page views, and Mitt Romney has since become yet another official contender for the Presidency. There’s no doubt this is going to be a fast-paced race.

That said (and despite my eager-but-not-even-hired-yet campaign manager’s statement in the previous post’s comments), I’d like to take a few minutes to personally address Nick’s questions pertaining to his (and I assume, every other twenty- and thirty-something’s) most pertinent issues. Nick writes:

  1. Gas prices are bad, but what are you going to do about coffee prices (over $3 for a 12 oz. mocha!!) and movie ticket prices?
    As I don’t drink coffee myself, I can only encourage my constituency to make milk their morning beverage of choice, as for the same price as that $3 12 oz. mocha, you can get an entire GALLON of milk (and maybe a donut to go with it). As for the high movie ticket prices, I would direct you to enjoy the benefits of your public library.
  2. Who was better: James T. Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard?
    While Picard’s a prettier Admiral, there’s no replacement for Kirk’s sheer instincts in space. I like to think of myself as a good cross between the two.
  3. Will you support legislation to require MTV to start playing music videos again?
    Absolutely, but only videos made and played between the years 1981-1991, as this avoids the soon-to-be-on-the-scene grunge, boy band, and pop tart video eras.
  4. Will you do something about “illusionist & stunt performer” David Blaine?
    It’s obvious Blaine’s exhibitions stem from a need for attention and a curiosity as to the degree of mind-numbing exploits the public will endure. Ten years of hard labor should solve both problems.
  5. Boxers or briefs?
    There are pros and cons to either, which is why I wear both (often at the same time).

Thanks, Nick, for your questions, and I hope I’ve given you a few good reasons to vote for me. If anyone else would like me to codify my platform with regard to your issues of interest, leave a comment and I’ll be glad to answer it.

(Note: Despite what my overzealous campaign manager communicated, we’ve scrapped the idea of the whole Dunham2008 website-thingy and are handling all correspondence through the blog – it’s just more personal that way.)

I’m In

In Politics on February 11, 2007 at 7:30 pm

Now that Illinois freshman senator Barack Obama is “officially” running as of his announcement this weekend, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that, as of today, eight Democrats and ten Republicans have already thrown their hat in the ring for President in 2008. But, despite the ever-growing number of candidates coming out of the woodwork, I’m not sure (at least at this stage of the game) there’s one person I would wholeheartedly vote for who could actually win.

That said (and after a brief but candid conversation with Megan over dinner tonight), I would like to officially announce that I am running as a candidate for President in 2008. No exploratory committee, no party affiliation, no funding – just this blog and a deadline (if I can pass Hebrew by the end of the year, I should be able to finish seminary by December 2008 in time for the formal swearing in in January of 2009).

Anybody want to run my campaign?


In Internet, Pop Culture on February 9, 2007 at 2:00 am

I haven't done a post of interesting links, podcasts, and other various and sundry items for a while, so here goes (warning: don't click these links if you don't want to think):

  • I heard this NOW story on Housing First's Pathways to Housing project, an initiative that basically gives homeless people free furnished apartments as a way to help them, regardless of whether their behavior with drugs, alcohol, or work habits change. While I was skeptical (and still am to a degree – something about Paul's words in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat"), I was challenged by the spirit of the effort.
  • Over the past several months, I've really enjoyed the true and thoughtful podcasted stories on This American Life. Though I only understand about every other word host and producer Ira Glass says (how did this guy get a job in radio with such quirky, slurry speech?), most of the actual storytelling is done by others. Great weekly themes make for a very enjoyable hour of listening.
  • My friend Trevor over at Atoms and Ideas is always proposing some new idea that could change the world. This post, on the call to love both city and country, is one of his best.
  • We've got a few new pics up at Flickr (you'll need special access to see the family if you don't have it already), including a book-cover collage of Megan similar to the one I did of myself below. It turned out okay.
  • Finally, I've just posted our February update for all to read. It's short, sweet, and to the point (like all good updates should be), so enjoy.

Have a good weekend, everybody.

Counseling Class Humor

In Thought on February 8, 2007 at 7:37 pm

From Learner’s Intro to Counseling class this evening:

“Neurotics build castles in the air.
Psychotics live in them.
Psychiatrists collect the rent.”

Nothing funnier than depression humor, says Learner.

The Comfort of the Cold

In Places & Spaces on February 8, 2007 at 2:00 am

Like most of the country this past week, it's been cold here in St. Louis. But while I'm no polar bear, I haven't minded the barely-above-zero temperatures. Granted, we live in a house with a brand new furnace and have running hot water that makes a shower the highlight of the morning. But this is what I remember winter in February in the Midwest feeling like, and the familiarity is nice.

It's nice because it hasn't been this cold for this long in a while. Maybe global warming is the real deal or maybe the earth is just being the earth; I don't know. Regardless, it's been 15-20 years since I can recall a really frigid winter, and the constant low temperatures have triggered a weather-induced personal nostalgia I've been enjoying these past few days. Some memories:

  • Sitting in the back of a farrowing stall in a drafty barn with my dad, "catching" new-born pigs as they were born and making sure they got under the heat lamps to survive the bitter north wind trying to get at them.
  • Sledding with my two younger sisters down the big hill across the road from our house (back then, we used to get actual snow with the extreme cold). On one run, I went down headfirst at a pretty good speed, but then came face-to-face (literally) with a big ledge of solid ice jutting up from the snow when the runners on my sled stuck (the blood was amazing).
  • Building a fairly elaborate snowfort in the five-foot-high snowdrifts along the banks of our gravel road (which no one was traveling on because of the ice), I spent hours in my igloo bunker, outlasting my sisters who eventually went inside where it was warm, leaving me as king of my domain.
  • Coming to St. Louis for my first and only then-Cardinals football game against the Washington Redskins at old Busch Stadium. I couldn't feel my feet for hours after the game, as open concrete stadiums don't exactly generate or hold heat very well.
  • Later, when I was in college and in Marching Mizzou, I remember playing a half-time show at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and being so unbelievably miserable holding a brass trombone in the midst of 10-degree weather with sleet coming down. While I had on about eight layers of clothes (so much so that I looked the Michelin Man and could barely move), we weren't allowed to wear any kind of coat or poncho on top of our polyester uniforms for the sake of aesthetics (as if polyester has aesthetics). This was easily the coldest I've ever been.

I guess what I'm saying is that the last time it was this cold for this long, the world made a little more sense than it does now, if for no other reason than winter was winter and it was supposed to be cold. Now folks are so freaked out by the fact that winter is cold again because over the years it hasn't been, and it just feels wrong (or at least not quite right).

It's February, folks – it's supposed to be cold. Dress warm and live it up, as there's not a lot in our postmodern world today that's supposed to be anything anymore.

Just Call Me Wendell Berry

In Pop Culture, Thought on February 7, 2007 at 2:00 am

Yes, it would curtail people's personal freedoms and take us back to the dark ages when people actually had to talk to one another, but for no other reason than basic human courtesy, I don't think this is all that bad of an idea.

Who's with me?

Collage O’ Craig

In Books, Pop Culture on February 5, 2007 at 8:06 am


You are what you read. With that in mind, here’s a thousand books of me – now 36 as of today. It’s also my third child’s fifth birthday, who is still the best present I could ever get.

Created (rather easily) using our Library Thing account (thanks to Megan for keeping our book collection current) and MacOSaix (with some help from this post on how to do it).

1984 Never Sounded So Good

In Musicians on February 4, 2007 at 8:31 pm

I could care less about the game (and the commercials have been lame so far), but Prince‘s Super Bowl halftime performance was un-stinking-believable. Was “Purple Rain” as a closer not totally redeeming of the bad weather in Miami? I don’t mean to ooze, but oh my…

A Church for Everyone…Except for Me

In Calling, Church, Places & Spaces on February 3, 2007 at 11:37 am

As many of you know, I’m beginning the part-time/full-time job search for when we leave support in May. My tension here is trying to find a job that pays enough for our one-income family to live on (that is, eat and pay rent), while not having to work an excessive amount of hours in order to somehow stay full-time in seminary.

While I’ve not been at it too long (I don’t need a job until June), the prospects have been less than encouraging, both in terms of pay and opportunity. Honestly, I just don’t know how people live on minimum wage (or a little above), but I guess I’m on my way to finding out soon enough.

So, for kicks (and just to test the waters a bit), I applied for the role of “student ministries director” at a church (which will remain unnamed) here in town. While not my preference for reasons of possibly having to leave Memorial or to stop teaching at Wildwood (neither of which I want to do, and have communicated as much with my pastor and headmaster so they’re aware of my intentions), I figured it didn’t hurt to inquire.

What was the position? Overseeing the junior high, high school, and college ministries (approximately 200 students), something I’ve had ten years of similar experience doing at Eagle Lake, and written about (at least with regard to twenty-somethings) in TwentySomeone. While I tried not to think too arrogantly about it, I thought I might be a good candidate.

Earlier this week, I received a letter from the senior pastor of the church in response to the inquiry email/resume I sent him. At the top of the stationery was the church’s slogan: “…a church for everyone!” Here’s what it said:

“Thank you for taking the time to inquire about our Student Ministries Pastor position. It is obvious after considering your resume that you are passionate about making a difference in others’ lives. That is exciting!

It does seem, however, after carefully reviewing what appear to be your strengths, gifts, and ministry history, and evaluating these areas in light of what we’re seeking for this position, that we would not be a right ‘fit’ for each other. Thank you, though, for taking the time to prayerfully consider our staff position.”

Of course, this was the pastor’s prerogative and I’m sure he had his reasons (though I doubt very much they had to do with my “strengths, gifts, and ministry history” – I’m guessing denominational concerns were more the reason, and that’s fine). However, I did have to laugh at the irony of getting a rejection letter with the slogan “…a church for everyone!” at the top. It may be “a church for everyone,” but it’s apparently not for me.

Random ministry lesson #4,329: Give thought to the myriad of purposes the church stationery will serve before settling on some slogan too cheesy, happy, and shiny. (Actually – stationery or other – don’t settle on a cheesy, happy, shiny slogan at all.)