Because life is a series of edits

Archive for June, 2007|Monthly archive page

Friday Linkage

In Family, Places & Spaces, Pop Culture, Thought on June 29, 2007 at 10:05 am

Running around today on a slew of errands: returning an overdue library book; trying to understand financial aid; doing some grading for Covenant’s Access program; getting an eye exam; etc. This afternoon, our two oldest have their final day at The Magic House camp they’ve been enjoying this week (complete with program finale, which we’re attending).

Afterward, we’ll drop all four off tonight for some babysitting by a team of short-term missionaries raising funds to go to Red Lake, MN, to work with Native Americans this summer, while Megan and I (finally, after six months) redeem a Christmas gift certificate for dinner at the Top of the Riverfront restaurant downtown.

That said, I’m not thinking too much today, so here are some links for the end of your week:

I’m going to be enlisting your help next week, dear readers, for a magazine piece I’ve been asked to write in July (details to come), so be sure to check back later with insight in tow.

Have a good weekend.

Rainy Thursday

In Pop Culture on June 28, 2007 at 12:56 pm

Spent a glorious Thursday morning working on church details: accumulating intern hours; planning the next two cycles of Adullam leader retreats for this fall and next spring; and giving thought to a redesign of Memorial’s website. I forget sometimes how much I love strategic and tactical planning. As the old Chinese proverb says, “He who aims at nothing hits it everytime.”

It’s been a week of such planning as I’ve started my teaching preparation for this fall’s New Testament and Ethics classes at Westminster. It’s so much more motivating for me to prepare to teach something than to just be tested on it, and the main difference between this week’s study and the past month’s of Christ & Salvation has been one of refreshment (not that I didn’t enjoy or won’t use what I learned in C&S for my New Testament class this fall, of course).

Other stuff I’ve been doing: having people over for dinner (last four nights); trying to exercise and watch what I eat (I’ve been slacking a bit); finishing up The Brothers K (good book – best when it sticks to baseball); and prepping for the summer study series Megan and I are hosting Sunday nights in July over the book of James (4:30-6:30 p.m.; eat at 5, so bring something).

What have you been up to lately?

PS: By the way, remember that moral quandry I faced last week while taking my Christ & Salvation final? Well, my grade got posted today and I came out with a B+ for the class, which means I must not have done quite as badly as I thought I had on the final. Whew.

Appleism

In Technology on June 27, 2007 at 2:05 pm

Windows guilt? Steve Jobs as messiah? David Kuo on Beliefnet writes about Appleism – “the religion that is Apple” – and if he’s serious, blows things just a little out of proportion:

“Apple isn’t a cult anymore, it has become a full blown religion with scores of millions of followers. The frenzy around the iPhone brings to mind the clamoring throngs that greeted Jesus at the height of his ministry. There are many, many different tests for what makes something a religion. They range from belief in a higher power to sacred rituals to moral codes to sacred places. In every instance Appleism passes the test.”

Check out how here. Anybody need to confess anything?

iWish

In Technology on June 26, 2007 at 7:32 am

iPhoneThis would be about the only thing that might convince me to carry a cell phone again. Watch the 20-minute guided tour and prepare to be amazed. Whoa.

I don’t want actual phone service – just an iPhone to hold. Anybody planning to get one of these when it comes out on Friday? Can I come over and play?

Dinner with New Seminary Folks

In Seminary on June 25, 2007 at 2:00 am

Dinner with New Seminary FolksWe had some new seminary folks over for dinner last night (clockwise, left to right): Rick, Ian, Billy, me, Kristin, Jake (holding little Max), and Wes.

Megan did her usual bang-up job in the hospitality department, and the girls (not pictured, but still close by at their own “little ladies” table) loved entertaining and giving tours of Half Pint House.

Me? I tried to summarize some of what I’ve learned in the past two years at Covenant without sounding too much like a know-it-all.

Yeah, I know.

Like a Gun Turned on the World

In Technology on June 24, 2007 at 2:00 am

In case you missed it, PowerPoint just turned twenty years old. Despite (or perhaps because of) its commercial success, I've never been a fan. In a nutshell, here's why:

"Perhaps the most scathing criticism comes from the Yale graphics guru Edward Tufte, who says the software 'elevates format over content, betraying an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch.'"

Granted, any technology can be used for good or ill, but I would suggest PowerPoint has become one of the greatest dangers to good graphic design and overall accuracy in presentations the world over. Twenty years or not, friends don't let friends play with PowerPoint.

Cheaters Never Prosper (But I So Wanted to Try)

In Humanity, Seminary on June 22, 2007 at 2:00 am

Believe it or not, I can count on one hand the times I've cheated to get an advantage over someone else. I remember letting my eyes range free a couple times in elementary school to look at someone else's paper on a test. I also recall feeling badly after one exam I took during my freshman year in college when I accidentally saw (but then purposely used) one answer to a tough multiple-choice question on the paper belonging to the person in front of me.

In sports, apart from occasionally "faking" the taking of a charge in basketball ("acting" might be a better phrase – I never went down unless I got hit), in baseball I never scuffed up a pitch, threw a spitball, or pine-tarred a bat too high. For the most part, I was a pretty good kid whose mostly average test scores and physical abilities gave him little reason to try ridiculously harder than he should to achieve/maintain some sort of academic or athletic perfection – I had neither.

Well, this pretty good, mostly average kid about met his match (and almost gave in) to an incredibly strong temptation to cheat on his Christ & Salvation final exam today. By God's grace, I didn't, but I was dumbfounded as to how very much I wanted to. It was scary.

While I can't really go into detail as to the content of the test, suffice it to say the reason I wanted to cheat was because I felt I owed it to myself because I had studied – not as much as some guys, but plenty for me. So, when I was asked to define a particular past Christological heresy, build a case against it from the Scriptures, present a proper doctrinal understanding, and then make application for a modern-day congregation, I couldn't believe that, after all the studying I did, I could not for the life of me remember the heresy's definition.

And that was bad, since correctly answering the question required correctly defining the term. And not correctly defining the term was going to cost me at least 20% of my exam grade.

Only having three hours to take the exam (and needing every precious minute when it was said and done), I skipped the question and finished the rest of the test, doing okay on most of it (though there was one other section about which I had no clue or time, so I let it go).

But then, with just fifteen minutes to go, I came back to the first question, stared at it, and racked my brain trying to remember the definition I so desperately needed. And that's when the temptation got really bad. My mind fell into a trance of sorts, and all I could think about was how to get the answer without getting caught.

I knew I couldn't pull a book out of my bag as my classmates would notice; however, as I was sitting in the back row and typing the exam on a laptop (like most of the others in my class), I could easily have pulled up my notes right there on the screen or even jumped to Wikipedia for a basic answer to get me going in the right direction. No one would have ever noticed.

After about five minutes of mental gymnastics trying to figure out both how and if I was going to do any of this, I read the last part of the exam at the bottom of the last page. It said:

"Write and sign your own honor statement."

Since I still couldn't remember the definition I needed to the first question, I went ahead and wrote out an honor statement, attaching a digital file of my signature at the bottom. It read:

"As much as I wanted to on the first two sections, I did not cheat by looking anything up on the Internet or in my computer files (except for my digital signature below) while taking any of this exam. By God’s grace, I was/am honest."

It was when I saw my name come up that I snapped out of my cheater trance. I came up with what I thought was the definition I needed (though in checking my notes afterward, it wasn't right, so don't think this story is going to end with a pretty little bow on top), typed a few bullet points out with proof texts, cobbled together a quick paragraph to try to explain a better doctrinal position, and then blitzed a sentence or two of application.

And I'm sure I got it wrong, but that's okay. It's better to miss the definition of a heresy than miss the definition of who God, by his grace, has redeemed you to be. Thank you, Jesus.

Now Taking Recommendations

In Musicians on June 19, 2007 at 10:03 pm

I’ve got a $10 iTunes gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket and am now taking recommendations for one album (no partials) of ten songs worthy of such redemption.

Post your recommended album title, artist, and demo link (as well as a sentence or two why this album and not another) here between now and Friday. Winner gets my musical gratitude.

Daddy’s Daughters

In Family, Holidays on June 17, 2007 at 9:05 pm

IMG_2921.JPGAs most of you know, I’m the father of four girls. They are the most interesting, different, engaging little people I know, and I love being their daddy. When people ask me if I’m ever sad that we don’t have any boys, I tell them that, honestly, I don’t even think about it. And I don’t.

This is when I usually get “the warning” – the one that, supposedly, girls are easier now when they’re younger because they mature faster, but will inevitably become much bigger handfuls in their teenage years when hormones kick in.

Overwhelming handfuls, they say, comparable only to the biblical plagues of God.

I don’t buy it, but not because I’m blind to my daughters’ potential to sin (hardly – they get it from me); rather, Megan and I have determined not to fall down fearful at the feet of some self-fulfilling prophecy about having dreadfully-moody teenaged daughters in the house (especially when we’ll have four of them all at once). This, it seems, is not walking by faith.

Don’t get me wrong: the girls have their moody moments (even now), but most of them are because of me as much as aimed at me. In many ways, they are their father’s daughters when it comes to why and how they sin (not to mention their mother’s, as her biggest problem and source of sin – without question – is usually me). But they love God, and just as he is redeeming the lives of their parents, their parents believe he will do the same for theirs. I may be their daddy, but he’s the Daddy, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Not sure where I’m going with any of this, other than to say that after having four little girls bring you breakfast in bed (cinnamon toast, bowl of Grape Nuts, glass of milk, and handpicked flowers), spend a solid hour on their own picking up their rooms in your honor, and hug and kiss you all day long, there’s nothing better than having daughters.

Ask me again in ten years when we have four teenagers in the house and, by God’s grace, I’m praying and believing I’ll feel the same way.

Just Wondering

In Internet on June 16, 2007 at 10:17 am

I’ve only had two comments in the past week and was just wondering if I said something wrong? Am I not writing about anything that concerns you? Someone turn off the Internet?

You’re usually more “talkative” than you’ve been of late. What’s up?

Musical Comfort Food

In Musicians, Poetry on June 15, 2007 at 11:13 pm

On the heels of a paper on predestination and a long week of way too much theological reading (yes, there is such a thing), I put on an old CD late this afternoon and remembered how much I miss the melody and meaning of one Rich Mullins. Mullins wrote musical comfort food, and it’s hard to believe he’ll have been gone ten years this September. Here’s “Hard to Get”:

You who live in heaven
Hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth
Who are afraid of being left by those we love
And who get hardened in the hurt

Do you remember when You lived down here where we all scrape
To find the faith to ask for daily bread
Did You forget about us after You had flown away
Well I memorized every word You said
Still I’m so scared, I’m holding my breath
While You’re up there just playing hard to get

You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin
We have a love that’s not as patient as Yours was
Still we do love now and then

Did You ever know loneliness
Did You ever know need
Do You remember just how long a night can get?
When You were barely holding on
And Your friends fall asleep
And don’t see the blood that’s running in Your sweat
Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While You’re up there just playing hard to get?

And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know that it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained
And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most
And after I have figured this somehow
What I really need to know

Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can’t see what’s ahead
And we cannot get free from what we’ve left behind

I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret
I can’t see how You’re leading me unless You’ve led me here
Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led
And so You’ve been here all along I guess
It’s just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get

Thanks, Rich. Miss you.

On Predestination

In Theologians on June 14, 2007 at 7:52 am

(I’m not sure if anyone’s interested enough to want more than this here, so I’ll just post my strengths/weaknesses lists for Arminianism and Calvinism, as well as my paper’s introduction comparing the books I read on each and we can go from there. If there’s interest, I may post more; if not, no big deal.)

Assignment
Read Why I Am Not a Calvinist and Why I Am Not an Arminian and write a 5-7 page paper evaluating the two books’ respective cases for predestination. At the top of the first page, produce two enumerated lists, giving the strengths and weaknesses of the two positions. Then, in the space that remains, discuss the 2 or 3 main strengths and weaknesses of each position.

Arminianism (as represented in Why I Am Not a Calvinist – WINC)
Strengths

  1. Argues more from philosophy and rationalism*
  2. Appeals to Western values of choice and equality
  3. Champions human freedom by emphasizing our response and responsibility

Weaknesses

  1. Argues more from philosophy and rationalism*
  2. Human choice trumps God’s sovereignty
  3. Diminishes view of the Fall and sin

Calvinism (as represented in Why I Am Not an Arminian – WINA)
Strengths

  1. Argues more from Scripture and mystery+
  2. Appeals to Western values of security and privilege
  3. Champions God’s sovereignty by emphasizing his love and will

Weaknesses

  1. Argues more from Scripture and mystery+
  2. Excuse for little evangelism initiative
  3. Given to fatalism in its extremes

*+ Cases in which Arminianism/Calvinism’s strength is a weakness

Same But Different: Arminianism and Calvinism

In reading and studying InterVarsity Press’s two companion books, Why I Am Not a Calvinist and Why I Am Not an Arminian, and their respective handlings of the doctrine of predestination, what first struck me was my need to clarify what the issues were and weren’t concerning the issue of “God’s predetermination of persons to a specific end.”1

For whatever reason, my initial assumption that Arminianism began in a different theological place than Calvinism with regard to God’s sovereignty and prevenient grace was misinformed. On the contrary, according to Arminian authors Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell, “Arminians and Calvinists alike readily agree that the Bible is the supreme authority for our theology, that God is sovereign, that he is perfectly loving and that human beings are free and responsible for their actions. To the casual observer, it may appear that there is little if any real difference between the two positions” (WINC, 216).

Calvinist authors Robert Peterson and Michael Williams agree: “The Arminian Christian believes that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh to save sinners and that the saving work of Christ comes to the sinner by way of the grace of God received through faith. Whatever issues relevant to salvation we disagree upon, let us agree on this: the Calvinist and the Arminian are brothers in Christ.” (WINA, 13).

However, as both books contend, the belief in and reality of God’s sovereignty does not work itself out the same way in both theological systems. “Agreement at the level of broad claims about sovereignty, love, and freedom,” write Walls and Dongell, “masks profound disagreements about how these matters are understood in detail” (WINC, 216). And, say Peterson and Williams, “Calvinism and Arminianism do disagree regarding significant issues having to do with salvation, issues that we believe Calvinism rightly addresses and Arminianism does not” (WINA, 13).

Suffice it to say (and all four authors do), both theological parties affirm the other as spiritually seafaring by way of God’s same sovereign wind; however, these ships do so by different courses, depending on their particular turns of the rudder of predestination.

1 S.R. Spencer, “Predestination” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 950.

Ramen from Heaven

In Calling, Family on June 13, 2007 at 9:43 am

After a busy day of class and study yesterday, I met with Dick Schamp, one of the elders at Memorial, before attending our church’s session meeting later that evening. It had been a few weeks since Dick and I had gotten together, and the plan was to meet at 5 p.m. for an hour at the church, where he then had dinner with the elders at 6 and the meeting at 7 (which I planned to attend as a member of the congregation).

As usual, I had brought a book with me, and planned to sit and read from 6-7; however, as I had been a little rushed getting out the door, I had only eaten a PBJ/banana sandwich for dinner and didn’t have time to pack anything else. I just figured I’d sit through the meeting semi-hungry (it’s not like I’m wasting away).

When Dick and I met at five, we talked for a half hour or so inside, and then decided to go for a quick walk outside. As he’s been in process with us about our transition from support to my teaching position this fall at Westminster Academy, he asked how things were going with the summer job hunt.

Enthusiastically, I was able to tell him that we haven’t really had to worry about it this month, as we had a surplus in our support from May that would cover most of June. This was a good thing, I explained, as the class had turned out to be a full-time job in itself (17 two-and-a-half-hour lectures, 8 books, 4 quizzes, 1 paper, and a final exam – all in three-and-a-half weeks).

When Dick asked me about July, I told him I wasn’t sure, but that so far we had $600 already in for that month. In light of all the prep work I needed to do to be ready for August (i.e. read six more books and learn an entire curriculum for two sections of New Testament Survey and three sections of Ethics), I told him that Megan and I had decided to gut it out until I officially came on payroll in August. He asked how Megan felt about that, and I told him she seemed fine with it, especially on the heels of seeing God provide the new job a month or so back.

Just then, as we were walking (picking up little pieces of trash along the church property as we went), we came upon a solitary, unopened package of Ramen noodles lying smack in the middle of the empty sidewalk. Dick, who knew I hadn’t planned to eat, just started laughing as I, smiling as well, reached down for the package of noodles. “Ramen from Heaven,” he said. We both just stood there, shaking our heads. I had dinner after all.

I don’t know of a better story to illustrate what the past few months – as well as the past fourteen years – have been for us while raising support. God has provided through strange and (often) funny means. We try not to read into it or make ridiculous demands as a result, but we certainly have no reason to doubt him; he has been faithful to us in many ways.

As you may recall, May was officially our last month to raise support; however, many still gave for June, and that has been a providential blessing in light of how summer has played out thus far. If you gave in either month, thank you. You have helped us finish well by your generosity.

While we have no expectation for anyone to continue to give, if you feel led to help us make it through July with one last gift, we won’t turn it away as we consider all that God is asking us to do in preparation for the next stage of our ministry. Our account is still open at Memorial (and will be until the end of July), so if you feel led, you can make out a check to Memorial Presbyterian Church (put our name in the memo line) and mail it to:

Memorial Presbyterian Church
201 South Skinker
St. Louis, MO 63105

Just wanted to pass this story on today.I hope it encourages you in your own faith journey to look to the Lord, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), not to mention a Ramen noodle factory somewhere in the vicinity of Skinker Boulevard in St. Louis, Missouri.

(Note: We’ve posted our summer update here. Check it out for most of our summer doings.)

Why I Am Not a Blogger

In Books, Seminary on June 12, 2007 at 1:29 pm

Up to my eyeballs in books this week, in particular two from InterVarsity Press called Why I Am Not a Calvinist and Why I Am Not an Arminian. I read the first one yesterday and am reading the second one today. Tomorrow, I’ll write a 5-7 page “paperette” (due first thing Thursday) comparing the two and their respective handlings of the doctrine of predestination.

I’ve not been sleeping well this week, and wonder if it has to do with the debate going on in my head. If anything seems compelling, I’ll post it here (but don’t hold your breath).

On Paris Hilton

In Thought on June 9, 2007 at 4:27 pm

I just finished watching this music video for a song titled “Paris Hilton,” a really catchy tune that arguably expresses a majority of America’s sentiment with regard to the girl “famous for being famous” (click here for said sentiment on T-shirts and other such gear). Clever.

And yet, in saying that, I wonder: What does it feel like to be completely loathed by an entire nation? Now don’t hear what I’m not saying: I’m no fan or defender of the hotel heiress; in fact, when I heard she was going back to jail to finish out her reduced sentence after being released from her initial three-day attempt, I was more than a little glad.

Actually, I was really glad. Perhaps, I thought, we might have a respite from the media’s ongoing preoccupation with her. Perhaps this will provide a much-needed lesson in humility for her and her “parents” (or at least those adults who claim biological responsibility for bringing her into the world – as a mentor of mine once said, “There are no illegitimate children, just illegitimate parents”). Perhaps our justice system can’t be bought quite as easily by the rich as it first seemed to have been (though the jury’s still out for me on that one in general).

But in watching the video, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, and considering my own thoughts concerning some of this, I was surprised by how much we – how much I – seem to hate Paris Hilton. And that can’t be right or good, regardless of how easy it is to do.

In the song, “Origin of the Species,” Bono puts it well when he sings:

“Some things you shouldn’t get too good at
like smiling, crying, and celebrity”

While I’ll let Paris make application as to the “smiling, crying, and celebrity” parts, I would add “hating” to the list of what I need to not get too good at, especially when it’s aimed at someone I can seriously rationalize as “deserving” it. Sure, she deserves justice (not to mention more than a few swift kicks to her designer pants as to what life’s about), but she doesn’t deserve my hate.

And, if I can preach a bit, she doesn’t deserve anybody else’s, either.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s Me

In Health on June 6, 2007 at 9:07 am

As of today, I’ve lost ten pounds (10.8 to be exact) since April, weighing in at 199. My goal is to lose another ten by August 1 and a final ten by Christmas – thirty pounds total, putting me at a svelte 180. (For a preview of what that will look like, here’s a picture from ten years ago of me with friend Tim Withers; as it seems to have then, I’m hoping that weighing 180 will also make me look like I’m ten years old again).

Craig in 1998

Before coming to St. Louis, I was about ten pounds overweight (190) for my six-foot frame, but easily maintained it by walking all over Glen Eyrie and Eagle Lake (especially in the summers). I never formally exercised, ate whatever I wanted, and that was that (though it probably didn’t help my triglycerides level, as I have since found out).

Since moving to seminary, however, two years of lifting little more than books (not to mention having a 36-year-old metabolism that seems to be increasingly slowing down) took its toll, and I had gotten up to 210+ pounds. I looked and felt like Meatloaf (the singer, not the entree, though I’m sure a case could have been made for the latter).

I also think this is why I had a case of the gout (or something that felt an awful lot like it) back at the end of March, as my body was dealing with my extra weight and wanted to let me know it wasn’t exactly happy about it. Looking back, I would say that was my official wake-up call.

While I exercised a little to lose the first ten pounds, most of the weight loss has come by vicariously experiencing Weight Watchers through Megan (who has lost just over 15 pounds and counting, and looks great). Though never fast enough for my limited patience (what is?), I’ve been pleased with the results so far. More on this in future posts, I’m sure.

London Logo

In Sports on June 4, 2007 at 4:23 pm

london-2012.jpgThe new logo for the London 2012 Olympics has just been released, complete with hubbub over the fact that it is “hideous,” too youthful in appearance, and a waste of Olympic money (as if this were the only such example).

Having designed logos before (and not having seen the other designs that were considered), my guess is that maybe they could have come up with something a little more…oh, I don’t know…legible? What are your thoughts?

Summer Reading List

In Books on June 1, 2007 at 12:56 pm

I normally don’t plan out my summer reading more than a book or two ahead, but this summer is going to be an exception. One reason for my new modus operandi is the Christ & Salvation class I’m taking at Covenant for four weeks (as of the end of this week, we’re a quarter through already); the other is the preparation for the two classes (New Testament and Ethics) I’ll be teaching at Westminster this fall. Here’s the list, broken up by month:

June

July

August

  • New Testament by God

While I usually try to read more fiction during the summer, most of what I’ll be picking up will be of the non-fiction variety, though I hope to work through at least one novel a month. I’m currently reading The Human Factor by Graham Greene at bedtime, and it’s way more enjoyable than reviewing Hebrew flashcards at night like last summer, that’s for sure.

What are you planning to read this summer? What would you recommend and why?