Because life is a series of edits

Archive for May, 2007|Monthly archive page

Cair Paravel

In Young Ones on May 31, 2007 at 2:00 am

If you haven't yet, check out the pics and write-up on Megan's blog about Cair Paravel, the imitation palatial spread I built for the girls. Three days of my life – in wood and pictures.

Russ

In Church, Holidays, Places & Spaces on May 29, 2007 at 8:22 am

Memorial Day with Russ

So, immediately after my pathetic post yesterday, we got our collective rear in gear and made it to the Memorial Day service at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. It was hot last year, but the weather was overcast for much of the morning this year, so that was nice.

Probably the highlight of the morning, though, was getting to see our friend, Russ Sloan (pictured with the girls and me above). Russ, 80, is part of our Memorial Church family and was in the Marines in World War II. He met his wife (who is buried at Jefferson Barracks as she was in the Army) at a Good Friday service at our church, which Russ has been a member of since before the war.

When we first came to Memorial, Russ was serving as a deacon (at 78). He’s been a really big fan of our family, and a personal encouragement to me in the different classes I’ve taught for Christian Education hour before church (he always joins my classes, even sitting in on the TwentySomeone series I did the first fall we were in St. Louis).

Russ has a great sense of humor (once, when I wore a suit to church to read Scripture for the service, he told me I looked like I was dressed for my own funeral), and Megan and I always enjoy seeing him around. Getting to take a picture with him in his military duds was fun for all of us (not that you can tell from the girls’ faces in the picture – the sun had come out in the middle of the service and they were feeling the mugginess).

Anyway, while the service was good, seeing and knowing Russ in the midst of it made it all the more meaningful yesterday, as it helped add some real humanity to the equation of freedom.

Memorial Day Paralysis

In Holidays on May 28, 2007 at 8:32 am

Well, it’s Memorial Day, and I’m dealing with a fair amount of guilt due to the fact that we have yet to make solid plans to 1) honor our nation’s fallen or 2) celebrate the beginning of summer.

All weekend long I’ve read or heard how Americans are using Memorial Day less as a memorial and more as a day (off), but I don’t seem to be doing either and feel a failure on both accounts.

I’m a victim (or is it a perpetrator?) of Memorial Day Paralysis who is desperately in need of either a ceremony or a grill.

New Home for Half Pint House

In Family, Holidays, Internet on May 25, 2007 at 8:27 am

Half-Pint-House

Since a majority of you read my blog as well as Megan’s (though not necessarily in that order), you should know we’re in the process of migrating Half Pint House from here to here.

Unfortunately, this means adjusting the URL (now http://halfpinthouse.wordpress.com – update your bookmarks and blogroll links accordingly), but she was just having too much trouble with the former host to make it worth the hassle.

In other news, I’ve spent the past day-and-a-half alternating between two less-than-desirable tasks: grading papers and (re)building a wooden playhouse for the girls that Megan found the lumber for on FreeCycle. I’ll post a picture of “Cair Paravel” when it’s finished, but suffice it to say, it won’t be pretty (the only thing I can do with a tool is lose it).

We’re staying put for Memorial Day weekend, during which I hope to make a Memorial Day service with the girls, as well as watch Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers. I’ve got a good amount of reading to get started for my summer class (Christ & Salvation) at Covenant (begins on Tuesday), and I’m working on finishing up our final newsletter for our supporters.

Tonight and tomorrow, I’ll attend Wildwood’s baccalaureate and graduation ceremonies (I get to walk in in a teacher’s black robe – yes!), probably mow the yard, go to church, read some fiction, and maybe try to catch a Cardinals game if it’s on. Oh, and somewhere in there, I’m sure there’ll be a small child in the house who will need a nap buddy.

I’m hoping to provide a little more real content in the coming week, but for now I’m enjoying a little break before summer officially starts. If I don’t write between now and then, have a good Memorial Day weekend.

Shameless Self-Promotion

In Books on May 21, 2007 at 12:51 pm

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As it’s that time of year (i.e. graduation), don’t forget to bless that graduate (high school, college, or grad school) with his or her very own copy of TwentySomeone: Finding Yourself in a Decade of Transition. Amazon’s got ’em for just $11.24 (with used and new copies available from $2.96 – a crime!), and you can have yours overnight with one-day shipping.

Help a semi-unemployed guy (for now, at least) feed his family. Spread the word, leave a review (preferably if you’ve read it and liked it), and buy a book or two. Makes for a practical gift that can double later as a dust-collector, coaster, or addition to someone’s favorites list.

A Good Kind of Tired

In Humanity, Seminary on May 17, 2007 at 2:23 pm

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There are few things in life more anti-climactic than finishing your last final exam of the semester. I don’t care if it’s high school, college, or seminary, when you’re done, you’re…done. That’s it. No brass band; no immediate feedback; no on-the-spot acknowledgment that, by golly (and by the grace of God), you actually completed the hundreds of assignments you were assigned four months ago (maybe even learning something in the process). Congratulations!

You’re just…done. And, I am…done. Or, to be more proper, “finished” (carrots are “done”).

My finals schedule really wasn’t that bad this spring (in addition to a big paper last week, I only had two – one a 10-page takehome and the other a wretched online exam, which I hate), but it certainly seemed more complicated due to everything else going on as the semester wound down. Writing messages and papers, applying and interviewing for jobs, teaching students, working with folks at church – it’s all been one big whirl that I’m not sure I fully recognized while in the midst of it. I’m still not sure I do even now.

And yet it’s been good, things have gotten done, my wife and kids still know and love me, and, though I’m tired, it is, as my father (pictured above after a full weekend of corn planting at the farm) would say, a “good kind of tired” – that kind of tired you feel when what you’ve done is all you can do and, looking back, there really isn’t anything else you would have done all that differently except go through it again because that’s the only way any of it would have gotten finished.

I won’t speak for you, but I’m a closure junkie; unfortunately, I don’t experience the sensation often enough. So little of what I work on ever seems to make it to or past a point of no return – there’s always something else to learn or write more about before I finish; always a room or a garage or a yard that needs help (and will soon again); always some issue or idea or person that needs more attention than I sometimes think I can muster up.

When was the last time I was just done with something? Like this spring semester? What was the last thing I walked away really feeling “a good kind of tired” because I couldn’t go back?

Mine is the curse that comes with the blessing of living in our digital world – nothing’s ever “finished” until it goes to analog; only then – when you can’t mess with it anymore – are you truly “done”. Perhaps like you, I’m a slave to the “undo” function on my computer, and often find myself longing for such a command in real life. But keeping life in digital form for editing purposes may not be the best, when going to analog and being done is not such a bad thing.

Two years of seminary down; who knows how many to go (more on this in a future post).

I’m tired, but it’s a good kind of tired.

I’m Not Convinced Either

In Pop Culture, Young Ones on May 15, 2007 at 11:44 am

This morning, I had an interview for a temp job at a law firm downtown. My friend, Emily, has worked there and recommended me to them, so they actually called me, which was nice.

When I came downstairs for breakfast wearing a suit and tie, my three-year-old looked at me strangely over her cereal and asked, “Daddy, why are you wearing that costume?”

Guess she’s not convinced I’m the attorney gofer I was dressed up to be. On the backside of the interview, I’m not convinced either (at least not for more than two months of summer).

It’s the Little Things

In Pop Culture on May 14, 2007 at 2:00 am

Happiness is finally getting your mower back from the shop and taking the morning off from studying to mow your yard – twice. There are no words for my joy when things just work.

Top Ten Signs You Know It’s Finals Week

In Pop Culture, Seminary on May 11, 2007 at 7:57 am

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10. After 30-minute search, you finally find your four children playing in unmowed backyard.

9. Final paper you just turned in has “clever” title of Paul, Stoicism & “Body” Language in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

8. Normally introverted wife (who has no finals) suddenly turns into social queen.

7. Phone messages from your friend Mitchell start with, “Hi, this is Mitchell, the guy you used to be friends with.”

6. Idea of reading anything without a highlighter makes you almost giddy.

5. Rather than require you to check out books, librarians just wave you through.

4. Despite a normal lack of giftedness in basic aspects of “home handiness,” you feel a strange desire to finish out the basement all by yourself.

3. Despite a basic degree of common sense, you don’t seem to mind that the basement you would be finishing out is in the house that you rent from your landlord.

2. Two words: “ontological” and “supralapsarian”.

1. Constantly neglecting your studies by justifying your “need” to blog.

For those with finals (or for those who still remember), add your own entry in the comments.

Wildwood Friends

In Wildwood on May 9, 2007 at 4:31 pm

wildwood-students.jpg

Here’s a picture I took of my students today after our last (sniff, sniff) day of Bible class.

And here’s a picture of how I confusingly tried to help them solve all the problems of the world (or at least the ones they identified on Monday), using Psalm 1 as a hermeneutic:

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Yep. That’s what they said, too. Maybe it’s a good thing today was the last day of class after all.

Fuller Disclosure Equals Fuller Discourse

In Internet on May 8, 2007 at 10:54 am

I have no business writing this post this week (the last of the semester) in light of what’s due the next few days, but recent comments would seem to merit an effort. My thoughts here run along the lines of owning one’s influence, whether in the blogosphere, or just in life in general.

One of my professors is Dr. Michael Williams, a high school drop-out turned Marine turned Harvard Divinity School graduate (it’s a long story). One of the things I most appreciate about Dr. Williams is his emphasis on granting full disclosure in the midst of discourse – verbal or written, theological or personal – so there is no question as to where each party is coming from in the course of a discussion or debate. I couldn’t agree more with this principle.

One application for me personally is that I never fill out an evaluation (whether it be about a hotel, restaurant, or person) without signing my name and providing my contact information for future reference, even if the option for anonymity is given. Even if the feedback is not particularly positive, it’s important that my name is on it as having said so. Why? Because doing otherwise wouldn’t be owning my influence; it would just be target practice.

Whether in real life or (especially) on a blog, mean anonymity is the enemy of meaningful interaction. Why? Because anonymity tends to keep us from owning the influence of what we say to one another, which violates the whole concept of what a blog (or at least this one) is and should be used for. It also usually dulls our senses in recognizing that there is an actual human person behind the screen name trying to take in what we are saying. This isn’t an issue of blogger etiquette; this is an issue of human respect.

Despite the potential for increasing the world’s connectivity/relational quotient, it’s easy to hide behind technology and not take responsibility for who we are and how we relate to others using it. This is why cyber-community will never replace the Church; dealing with people in a Matthew 18 kind of way requires both parties to own their influence and relate personally, not anonymously. It also sets as the goal of conflict resolution real heart-felt reconciliation, not sterile debate for the sake of sterile debate.

Anonymity is only good when giving; it is not helpful when criticizing. Fuller disclosure (say, who we are and what drives our passion for what we’re trying to say) equals fuller discourse for the rest of us who might actually take time to read and contribute to the conversation.

I don’t moderate comments on Second Drafts, but I won’t allow a redundancy of cowardice, either. If anyone has something to say, you’re welcome to say it here, but give us the courtesy of knowing you a bit and where you’re coming from on an issue (or at least offering real answers if/when we have questions), particularly if you’re making statements that are more passionate opinions than documented facts.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Wise Beyond Their Years

In Wildwood on May 8, 2007 at 2:00 am

I've got one more class with my Wildwood students on Wednesday. One more class. Granted, they have their oral final exam next Wednesday (five groups of three students for 30 minutes per group), but that will probably be more fun for me than for them.

In addition to their friendship this year, one of the things that has meant a lot to me has been the way the students have grown in and sought to apply what they've learned. For instance, here are the questions they came up with for discussion in our grand finale on Wednesday:

  • How do we live in a world of foolishness as wise men/women?
  • How do we formulate a balanced response to expected but difficult events in life?
  • How do we apply wisdom to our interaction with various forms of media (television, video games, movies, music)?
  • How do we fulfill a commitment of love in a commitment-less world?
  • How do we think critically rather than cynically/judgmentally?
  • How do we discern between what is seemingly right (public school sex education, condom distribution) with what’s biblically right?
  • How do we address the issues that are no longer considered “issues” (i.e. divorce)?
  • How do we apply wisdom to our political attitudes?
  • Is morality a means to or an outcome of change?
  • In what ways does character affect our ability/credibility to lead others?
  • What gave Solomon the right to call wisdom "vanity" in Ecclesiastes 1-2?

Anybody recognize these questions from when you were 15-18? Me neither.

One more class together. We're for sure taking a picture. I'm going to miss them.

On Josh Hancock

In Places & Spaces, Sports on May 5, 2007 at 10:22 am

At the risk of perhaps stepping on a few St. Louis toes, I wanted to contribute a few thoughts to the ongoing discussion surrounding the death of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock last weekend. I would have done this earlier, but time did not allow. I also wanted to wait for the police report before throwing something out here not substantiated by the official investigation. On the backside of that investigation and report, my perspective has not changed.

Living in St. Louis, I’ve been amazed by the outpouring of sentiment from what is called (annoyingly so, in my opinion) “Cardinal Nation”. People have created makeshift memorials and left flowers outside of Busch Stadium; you would think everyone actually knew the guy and just had him over for dinner during the last homestand or something. Though I appreciate the show of sympathy/empathy for Hancock, his family, and the Cardinals organization, the depth of it seems questionable to me, and mostly a function of Hancock being semi-famous.

While I respect the Cardinals as being one of the better organizations in baseball, I have been intrigued by how much of a hero they seem to have made Hancock. Granted, he was on the team and part of the Cardinals “family” (one of the most overused and misdefined terms of the past week), but would the Cardinals have done half as much of the public memorializing that they have if Hancock had actually killed someone driving drunk a week ago? Would a victim’s family have stood for that? Would the public? Are you kidding me?

Listening to the first half of the press conference on the radio yesterday, I was once again reminded how hypocritical the media (as well as our country) is when it comes to issues of morality. Immediately following the Cardinals’ opening statement, multiple reporters in the room began asking about the team’s alcohol policy for the clubhouse and on the plane. The implication of the questions was clear: the Cardinals (having once been owned by Anheuser-Busch and still playing in Busch Stadium) must have contributed to Hancock’s death in some way, and surely you’re going to do something about that to protect “young” ballplayers like the 29-year-old Hancock (who also happened to be an adult). Since when does the media care about morality, legislated or otherwise?

Though the Cardinals did not allude then to any need to make changes in their current policy (Hancock, after all, was drinking at Shannon’s, not at Busch), in this morning’s Post-Dispatch, I read that the team caved to the pressure with a “CYA” move, pulling alcohol from the team’s clubhouse (though not from the visitor’s clubhouse), as well as choosing not to serve alcohol on return plane trips since players would be driving home from the airport. Are they going to stop handing out marijuana in the clubhouse and on the plane as well? Oh, wait a minute – Hancock (again, a 29-year-old adult) somehow got that all by himself.

I realize I may sound somewhat cynical, but I have yet to hear anybody raise these questions in the midst of the swirl of emotions surrounding Hancock’s death. I don’t mean any disrespect to Hancock or his family and I’m sorry he died, doing so with so little personal resolution in his areas of addiction. I’m sorry for the Cardinals and the hurt their personnel have experienced in the midst of what is (so far) their worst start as a team since 1990. I’m sorry for the fans – particularly the young ones, who are again having to understand that, as glorious a game as baseball is, those who play it can be not so much.

But most of all, I’m sorry we live in a fallen world that still believes the lie that morality covers a multitude of sins. Last I checked, that was still love’s job.

May Update

In Family on May 1, 2007 at 4:45 pm

Megan and I are currently floating somewhere on the River Denial, just off the banks of the Island of Responsibility. As of today, it’s May, and (as is probably true in your part of the world), May is a month of many beginnings (weddings, events, the summer) and endings (semesters coming to a close, graduations, the spring). In other words, it’s a busy time.

In the midst of this, I’m reminded of what I taught my high schoolers a few weeks ago from Ecclesiastes 3. In it, Solomon says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Our challenge, I told them, is to walk with God through these seasons, choosing to make his priorities ours.

That said, and in the midst of everything else, we wanted to be sure to ask for prayer to this end as the semester winds down. We also wanted to communicate how God has answered your prayers for us (click here for the detailed – and exciting – update). It’s pretty cool.

Thanks to those of you who prayed…and thanks to the God who answers.