Because life is a series of edits

Archive for January, 2008|Monthly archive page

Possible Snow Day Linkage

In Pop Culture on January 31, 2008 at 10:58 am

I’ve got a wife, four children, and at least 100 students praying for a snow day tomorrow. Even though I’m giving a test, I suppose I’d stay home if the forecast panned out (supposedly 5-8 inches by Friday morning). Possible snow day linkage for you:

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My Concession Speech

In Politics on January 30, 2008 at 12:56 pm

On the heels of Florida (and as John Edwards and Rudy Guillani are in the process of doing), I’ve decided to end my candidacy for President of the United States of America.

Unlike my opponents’, mine was a campaign almost exclusively of substance rather than style, of message rather than media circuses (or “circi,” as they should be called). I’m proud to say I dealt with the issues put before me in as honest and straightforward way as I could. Even in conceding defeat, I believe this does and should mean something.

Granted, if I had to do it again, I would consider spending some money to actually get the word out about what I said, as well as have held a press conference (or at least written a press release), but all that’s in the past now; I’m moving forward.

I trust that you, my faithful following, can move forward as well. Though I’ve been asked (at least by my wife) who I would endorse in the wake of my candidacy withdrawal, I feel it’s too early to extend my support just yet. I need time to process all that’s gone on this past year, to reconnect with my family, and to figure out who I’m for in the Super Bowl. Once those needs are met, I might have something for you.

As I close, let me just say thank you to those who believed the impossible – that is, that someone with no experience, no money, and no political affiliation could make a difference in this race. Thank you to those who dared to believe that our democratic process could work, that the grassroots of middle America could produce change, and that the privilege of serving in the public realm could be a privilege rather than a perk.

I heard you, friends – all six of you – and I believe that we as a nation have been the better for it. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Debate of the Union

In Politics on January 28, 2008 at 10:41 pm

Well, we watched President Bush give his final State of the Union address tonight. I would agree with those pundits who called his speech “realistic” – not a lot of new stuff or language to complicate things, which is probably why he sounded confident this evening.

It’s obvious Mr. Bush is staking any and all historical evaluation of his presidency on the outcome of things in Iraq, but it’s going to take years for clarity to come in that situation. In the meantime, get ready for a slow and steady lameduck fade in the face of a still wide-open presidential election as the current Debate of the Union continues.

In general, I experienced much of the same cynicism induced by last year’s speech (maybe a little more when W. was signing autographs for members of Congress). I would like, however, to present a very special award for the lamest Democratic response in American history to Kathleen Sebelius, governor of Kansas. If our military efforts in Iraq fail, perhaps she could bore the terrorists to death.

Thoughts?

On Reading, Thinking, Learning

In Books, Church, Education, Seminary, Theologians, Westminster on January 26, 2008 at 12:32 pm

The best part about education is the worst part about education: the more you learn, the more you realize how much there is to learn. And then comes the worst realization of all: there’s no way or time to learn it all. And that stinks.

I experience this sensation everytime I walk into a library or bookstore and remind myself again that, if I manage to average reading 60 books a year and even live to be 100, I’ll only have read 6,000 books in my lifetime (and that’s counting younger years of my life when I didn’t read 60 books a year, so it would be less). This thought makes me very sad.

All that said, of late I’ve been reading a few books on some challenging topics, namely Islam and evolution; the title of the former is Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t by Robert Spencer, and the latter is The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I’m still working through them, intrigued by the arguments, perspectives, and applications of each.

In addition, I read The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal, a memoir of a Jewish concentration camp prisoner asked by a dying Nazi soldier for forgiveness. The last half of the book is a compendium of short essay responses from 53 “distinguished” men and women (theologians, political leaders, writers, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, Holocaust surivovrs, and victims of attempted genocide) and their opinions on what Wisenthal should have done (he did nothing). Interesting to think through.

This weekend, I need to begin immersing myself in the world of Ancient and Medieval Church History, as I’m taking my first Access class through Covenant. I’m supposed to work through thirty-six recorded lectures by Dr. David Calhoun and volume 1 of Justo L. Gonzalez‘s book, The Story of Christianity, no later than May 15th. There are also quizzes, tests, and a project. Even then, I’ll just be scratching the surface of all that went on from the time of the early church until the Reformation. Nuts.

I’m taking two other classes at Covenant this spring (Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry Across Culture), but those are each a weekend class, so they shouldn’t be too bad. This is good, as I still need to help my own students make sense of all the letters of the New Testament and the last four of the Ten Commandments (like there’s any way to cover any of those to the depth I want to in the course of a semester).

Which brings me back to my original thought: the more I learn, the more I want to learn, and the more frustrating I become that I can’t learn it all, even in a hundred lifetimes. My hope for Heaven is that we don’t get to just download everything we don’t know in one fell swoop; I’d rather have to learn it, as at least then I’ll have plenty of time to do so.

Does Vegas Have a Line on This?

In Marriage, Politics on January 24, 2008 at 10:06 am

I can’t decide if Bill Clinton is trying to save the nation or his marriage by working so hard to get Hillary elected. Anybody got odds on them lasting if she loses?

The Database Curiosity Project

In Education, Westminster on January 23, 2008 at 9:50 am

I wrote up a fairly cool little assignment for my Ethics classes this morning and thought I’d share it with you. I’m calling it the “Database Curiosity Project” and it goes like this:

Using the resources available to you through our library, search in these two databases (do not use the others, as they will not be as helpful to you for this particular project):

  • SIRS (Social Issues Resource Series)
  • InfoTrac (Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center)

Enter the topic(s) of your choice and along the lines of what most interests you from what we have been or will be studying in our Sixth Commandment unit. Don’t be afraid to use a combination of terms in your search if you know exactly what you’re wanting to read about. Some terms that you might start with (but are not limited to) may be:

  • Capital punishment
  • Death penalty
  • Self-defense
  • Islam
  • Jihad
  • Suicide
  • Euthanasia
  • Abortion
  • Partial-birth abortion

Look for the most recent articles (that is, search by date rather than relevance) among the titles that interest you most. Your goal is to find opposing viewpoints that will help you understand all sides of the issue, regardless of whether you agree or disagree.

With ten minutes left to go in the class, pick one article most intriguing to you and, using the email function within the database (do not use your own email), include a short paragraph highlighting what you learned from it and email it to me.

Some motivating quotes for the project (Wirt’s quote communicates urgency; Wilson’s quote describes me to a T; Wright’s quote is an example of my preferred kind of humor):

“Seize the moment of excited curiosity on any subject to solve your doubts; for if you let it pass, the desire may never return, and you may remain in ignorance.” William Wirt (1772-1834), former U.S. Attorney General

“Only the curious will learn and only the resolute overcome the obstacles to learning. The quest quotient has always excited me more than the intelligence quotient.” Eugene S. Wilson (1900-1981), former Dean of Admissions, Amherst College

“Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect.” Steven Wright (1955- ), comedian

Fun and games.

Dreaming of the Mountaintop

In Holidays on January 21, 2008 at 10:46 am

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

It’s cold on this MLK Day (feels like 9 degrees, according to KMOX). We got back last night from a good trip to Memphis to see our friends, the Eubanks, and I’m trying to get some writing done today, as well as grade and plan for the rest of the school week.

This morning, I read/watched Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speeches, the latter of which King gave the day before he was assassinated in Memphis 40 years ago this March (a fact not lost on me as we drove through town yesterday).

I wish we would have had more time to visit the National Civil Rights Museum there in Memphis, but we didn’t (or at least we thought we didn’t). I kick myself this morning that I didn’t deviate if for only an hour from my desire to get back to St. Louis to make the stop; it feels like we really missed an opportunity with the girls on that one.

Anyway, check out my friend (and “friendly neighborhood historian”), Bill Petro, and his History of Martin Luther King, Jr. post for a succinct summary of this courageous American, and do take a moment to reflect on how to be part of racial reconcilliation and color-blind justice in our country – we are still in desperate need of both.

The New Main & Main?

In Places & Spaces, Thought, Westminster on January 17, 2008 at 7:39 am

In yesterday’s Post-Dispatch, “we” (that is, Westminster) made the paper in an article highlighting the school’s plans for upcoming expansion and relocation in 2010. Despite an email from our development director voicing his enthusiasm for the piece (as well as Megan‘s assurance that it seemed okay to her), something about the article struck a weird chord in me.

I think my discomfort was largely due to the quote about the location being “at what school leaders are calling the crossroads of the region.” I don’t think of I-270/40 as such a crossroads (if that’s the case, Covenant is literally at Ground Zero), but even if it were geographically, I certainly question the statement culturally – the idea of a “new school at the corner of Main and Main” seems ridiculous when the intersection referenced is made up of interstates, not streets. Culture doesn’t happen when people are whizzing by at 70 m.p.h.; that’s called “commuting.”

At first, the writer isn’t clear which “school leaders” made the aforementioned comment, but if you read down to the middle of the piece, the quote seems to be attributed to the leaders of the Christian Brothers College high school ten years ago, not to Westminster leaders today. Does that make it any better? I don’t know, but for what it’s worth, I’ve not read or heard this idea in any WCA literature or briefings to date, and I’m glad for it.

I’m grateful to be part of Westminster and, God willing, I look forward to being part of the move in 2010. That said, I-270/40 and the suburbs are not where I look for culture; rather, my hope is that I and the other teachers here can bring some with us when WCA moves further into suburbia in 18 months.

Michigan, Smichigan

In Arts, Musicians, Pop Culture, Technology, Thought on January 16, 2008 at 2:00 am

Yes, I know the Republicans just had their third winner in three primaries and I should probably have thoughts, but I'm a little politicked out. These links seem more interesting:

Introducing

In Friends, Internet, Westminster, Wildwood, Writers on January 13, 2008 at 6:59 pm

As an unofficial ambassador for the blogosphere, let me introduce you to three new blogs (and the people behind them) worth your reading time in the future:

  • My Life in Sweat Pants – a good friend from my old Navigator days, Leura is a freelance editor and terrific writer (and I say that not just because she chooses to use proper grammar and punctuation on her blog) who writes, “After 14 years at the same job, I’m now a 30-something mom of four kids who suddenly finds herself unemployed and wondering what’s next.” Warm and thoughtful writing.
  • The Golden Dragon – if you’re into the fantasy genre at all, you’ll want to check out what friend and co-worker (we teach together at Westminster), L.B. Graham, is doing online. Soon to finish up his five-book Binding of the Blade fantasy series, L.B. talks about his future publishing plans, as well as shares some personal reflections on writing, faith, and life. Insightful and well-written.
  • Christocentric – friend and former co-worker (we taught together at Wildwood), Matt Heckel, has just written his first of what promises to be many posts of intellectually and philosophically-challenging topics. Matt has his PhD in Reformation Studies from Concordia, so he’s always good for a Luther story as well. Glad to see him blogging, and looking forward to post number two.

Anyway, if you would, pay these folks a visit and tell them Craig sent you. And, of course, if you’re not subscribing to Second Drafts, let me encourage you to do so through Bloglines – it will save you tons of time, and might just change your life.*

(*results vary, depending on degree of blogaholism; check with your doctor for details)

Of Murder, Offerings & Dogma

In Calling, Education, Westminster on January 12, 2008 at 12:46 pm

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been slow with original material. I think this is due to an experience earlier this week in my Biblical Ethics class that has caused me to pause ever since with regard to creating content. Let me explain.

We began walking through the sixth commandment (“You shall not murder”), and it seemed good to me to start talking about murder by studying the first murder, that of Cain killing Abel (Genesis 4:1-16). Though my students were still groggy from their holiday break, they engaged with the story enough to find it interesting, particularly God accepting Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s. Why did God choose one over the other?

Well, actually, I explained, God didn’t choose one over the other; He accepted Abel’s and (in grace) gave Cain the opportunity to do what was right and his would be accepted, too:

“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)

Cain, of course, did not receive these words (in grace or otherwise), summoned Abel to go with him to the field, and killed him – the world’s first pre-meditated murder.

Even after the crime, I explained, God still showed grace to Cain by protecting him and caring for him – now a murderer. My students were fascinated (they’d never been taught that the God of the Old Testament was in the business of so much grace), but they still wanted to know the difference between the sacrifices.

What are the possibilities for understanding God’s different responses to Cain and Abel? I hadn’t had time to do an in-depth study beforehand, but here were the three options I came up with on the fly:

  • The first has to do with the fact that “Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions” (Genesis 4:3); in other words, Cain brought something while Abel brought his best
  • The second is the attitude with which each brought their sacrifices (though from the text, that’s incredibly difficult to nail down apart from God’s response to both)
  • The third is that Abel brought a blood sacrifice, whereas Cain’s was only a grain offering and wouldn’t have been appropriate for an atonement offering (it seems to me God’s sacrificial system for atonement was initiated when God killed an animal to clothe Adam and Eve and make atonement for their sin in the Garden)

While I alluded to all of these possibilities as seeming valid, I spoke too dogmatically about the atonement option, so much so that by the end of my third section of students, I found myself dismissing the others more than I meant to. At the end of the day, not feeling right about all I had taught, I came home that evening and spent 45 minutes flipping through the pages of some of my study books (I don’t have all of them at school).

What did I find? All three of my perspectives were indeed in the ballpark of possibility, but the atonement option (that is, the one I landed on) is the weakest of the three as viable. Why? Because in the Hebrew, the word used for “offering” is almost always used in reference to a thank offering, not a blood offering; thus, the first option (and even the second) makes more biblical and grammatical sense than the third.

Nuts.

I hate feeling like a loose cannon with the Bible (this is part of why I sensed the need to come to seminary later in life), and I should have studied more than I did on the front end of teaching this passage than on the back end. Lesson learned (or re-learned).

However, the real lesson for me was learning just how dangerous repetition can be for those of us who teach or preach (or campaign) on a regular basis. The more we hear ourselves saying something – getting better at saying it as we go – the more we run the risk of convincing ourselves how right we are in saying it, regardless of our dogma and its degree of truth.

Teaching is hard; re-teaching is humbling. I did both this week, and am glad for the grace and chance to have been able to do so.

Realization

In Pop Culture on January 10, 2008 at 2:00 am

If I lived at Whole Foods, I would weigh 600 pounds…by summer.

Man, that place is amazing.

The King Turns 73

In Musicians, Politics on January 8, 2008 at 10:02 am

Me: “Happy birthday, Elvis.”

Elvis: “Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.”

Back to the Hallowed Halls

In Education, Westminster on January 7, 2008 at 2:00 am

Back in the classroom this week at Westminster. First order of business: review final exams and deal with any grade fall-out from first semester. I haven't received any scathing emails or phone calls all break, so that's a good sign. Second order of business: cover (survey is more accurate) the book of Acts in time for a test on February 1st; from there, it's the rest of the New Testament (including Revelation) by middle of May.

On the Ethics side of things, we'll be working through the second five Commandments. Fortunately (not really), our fallen world continues to provide great case studies for murder, adultery, theft, false witness, and covetousness, so I'm not worried about lack of material.

Iowa

In Politics on January 4, 2008 at 10:25 am

A few thoughts on the thoughts of others concerning the goings-on in Iowa:

Dick Morris gets my vote for worst overstatement of the evening:

“Obama – by winning in a totally white state [actually 92%] – shows that racism is gone as a factor in American politics.”

Peggy Noonan is somewhat accurate (but also mean):

“Hillary Clinton, the inevitable, the avatar of the machine, lost. It’s huge. Even though people have been talking about this possibility for six weeks now, it’s still huge. She had the money, she had the organization, the party’s stars, she had Elvis behind her, and the Clinton name in a base that loved Bill. And she lost. There are always a lot of reasons for a loss, but the Ur reason in this case, the thing it all comes down to? There’s something about her that makes you look, watch, think, look again, weigh and say: No. She started out way ahead, met everyone, and lost.”

David Brooks perhaps comes closest to summing up my perspective:

“Obama’s made Hillary Clinton, with her wonkish, pragmatic approach to politics, seem uninspired. He’s made John Edwards, with his angry cries that ‘corporate greed is killing your children’s future,’ seem old-fashioned. Edwards’s political career is probably over. Obama is changing the tone of American liberalism, and maybe American politics, too.”

“The race will move on to New Hampshire. Mitt Romney is now grievously wounded. Romney represents what’s left of Republicanism 1.0. Huckabee and McCain represent half-formed iterations of Republicanism 2.0. My guess is Republicans will now swing behind McCain in order to stop Mike. Huckabee probably won’t be the nominee, but starting last night in Iowa, an evangelical began the Republican Reformation.”

The biggest surprise of the night for me was Fred Thompson (he of the “Sure, I’ll run” campaign) coming in third. Not sure where he nor Rudy Guiliani (who’s hanging out in Florida) will end up in New Hampshire next week, but at least it will make for an interesting (if arbitrary) angle to follow.

I’m guessing this is the beginning of the end for Ron Paul. RP, we hardly knew ye.

I don’t know if I fully grasp the Iowa caucus idea, but I think I like it, especially for the fact that it takes place in the Midwest. It’s nice for the nation to forget the coasts every now and then, forcing politicians to grovel and squirm at having to sit down in a local diner to rub shoulders and talk with small town folk about real life rather than rhetoric.

Thoughts from your point of view on the political spectrum?

It’s Time

In Books on January 2, 2008 at 12:24 pm

I hesitate saying this publicly, but feel that I must if for no other reason than for the corporate accountability: this is the year I begin bookwriting again.

The goal? Craft and circulate a proposal by February; sign a contract by May; write and turn in a first draft by August; submit a finished manuscript by the end of the year. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Now to find a publisher who thinks so as well.

While I have half a dozen semi-developed ideas, the priority is ThirtySomewhere (click the link for details). I was 27 when I started TwentySomeone; I’m a month shy of 37 starting ThirtySomewhere. I like the symmetry, and I need the challenge. Most importantly, Doug‘s on board, and we feel like we (finally) have a few things to say about this decade of life.

I confess I’m afraid – of not starting; of not starting well; of writing crap; of writing something great. But this is the year – I really believe that, and am planning accordingly.

So, that’s the latest – just thought you’d like to know.