Because life is a series of edits

Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

I’ve Moved

In Internet on December 30, 2008 at 4:03 pm

As of 2009, Second Drafts has a new home, so come over and play (just be sure to wear clothes you can get a little messy). See you in the new neighborhood.

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Welcome to the New and Improved Second Drafts

In Internet on December 30, 2008 at 10:32 am

CraigChange your bookmarks/links and don’t forget to subscribe anew in your Bloglines or Google Reader: Second Drafts has officially migrated from WordPress to Typepad.

But it’s not just Second Drafts that has a new home; Megan’s blog, Half Pint House, also has a new address, so click over to check out her new site (updating your bookmarks, links, and subscriptions as you go).

While our dual blog launch won’t make the list of top stories of 2008, it’s news around here. Some improvements include:
  • A slightly wider screen canvas with a better-matched color palette, clearer navigation, and a larger body copy font
  • An emphasis on the writing – current posts, as well as other things I’ve written
  • A Speaking page featuring MP3s of three messages I’ve given
  • A more personal blogroll with links to friends of mine who blog
  • A Current Reads list highlighting the books in which my nose is currently stuck
  • A Tip Jar for you to leave a $2 (or more) PayPal tip for writing you find especially brilliant (rest assured, it’s a small jar)

As always, I’m happy to provide Fresh Linkage to sites I find interesting, as well as hear from and interact with you if/when you leave a comment. Coming soon, I may add some dedicated sections for media reviews or more theological writing, as well as solicit some advertising on the blog to pay the bills (if anyone’s interested in details, email me).

Of course, if you have suggestions or requests, feel free to make them known, as I welcome your feedback (good, bad, or otherwise). In the meantime, I plan to continue blogging 2-3 times a week and appreciate your continued interest. Spread the word, let me know what you think, and accept my thanks for being such a faithful group of readers who encourage me more than you know.

Ten-Year-Old in the House

In Family, Young Ones on December 29, 2008 at 10:28 am

M9

I don’t feel nearly old enough to have a ten-year-old in the house, but since I’ve got one as of today, I’m very grateful she’s this one.

Happy birthday, Sweet Pea. I love you more than I sometimes show and you know.

Live from the Interim

In Pop Culture on December 28, 2008 at 8:44 am

The time between Christmas and New Year's has always been a favorite of mine, as there's usually less reason to leave the house than normal days (I'm a homebody by nature; my problem is I'm just not left home alone that much – psychiatrist's orders).

The past couple days have been a hodgepodge of doing stuff I've either had to or have been meaning to do for some time. Here are the contents of each category:

Had to

  • Reload/update software on a new hard drive for my four-year-old iBook G4 after the old hard drive crashed (thankfully, I had everything backed up, which wasn't the case when Megan's crashed a couple of months ago)
  • Replace iGTD with the soon-to-be-released Things (I like it a lot better)
  • Renew $60 worth of URL domains for sites I hold for various and sundry purposes (not all of which are particularly clear at this moment in time)
  • Finish assembling my study from our move six months ago (it's about time)
  • Get used to being the owner of three cats (my gift to my four very happy girls; meet Ricky, Lucy, and Ethel)
  • Work the bookstore (2009 marks John Calvin's 500th birthday, so we're gearing up; inventory this week)
  • Restore our family filing system to some semblance of order (I hate the pressure of keeping track – physically or digitally – of legally binding documents for at least seven years)

Been meaning to

  • Redesign our blogs (look for the re-launch around New Year's; big improvements)
  • Finish Confessions by Augustine (I like the book a lot, but I'd rather read it when it's quiet, which isn't often around here)
  • Read The Shack by William Young (yes, I gave in because so many people asked me what I thought; film at eleven)
  • Catch up on Lost (season four is so much better than season three); also enjoying the second season of Dexter
  • Write some thank you notes (much to be thankful for; it's also good for my attitude/heart)

More as I have it. I'm too busy enjoying the time off right now.

ThirtySomewhere

In Thought on December 26, 2008 at 10:44 pm

When TwentySomeone was published in 2003, the question everyone kept asking Doug and me was, “So, are you going to write ThirtySomeone?” As we didn’t really know and couldn’t come up with a better answer to give, we sometimes said “maybe,” but more often said, “no.” We wondered if we could write a book that accurately applied to the thirties as we thought (and have since heard) TwentySomeone did.

Maybe because we were on the cusp of our thirties at the time (we were both 32 when TwentySomeone came out), we had convinced ourselves that surely the thirties must veer off into too many different directions to really be able to speak broadly about them.

So we held off. We toyed with a few other projects. We lived life. Sensing the need for new voices of input and more education to pursue a calling of teaching and writing, I (Craig) made a significant life transition, moving my family from our home at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs to a seminary apartment in St. Louis.

Though Doug didn’t geographically move his tribe from Norman, OK, his roles and responsibilities as an R.U.F. campus pastor continued to evolve and expand, so much so that the ministry he was leading looked very different from when he started, and he had to figure out where he fit into all that.

Our families were growing, our marriages were challenging (mostly because of us and our issues), and we struggled with the idea of making sense of any of it, let alone trying to write a book about it and position ourselves as “experts” of some kind. The timing didn’t seem right and, well, it wasn’t.

But it wasn’t just the timing that was complicated; it was also the subject matter. In our first book, we said the key ques- tion of our twenties was “Who Am I?”; hence the title, TwentySomeone. We wrote about our need to focus on discovering who we are (and not so much worrying about what we do) so as to grow up and into our true identity as children of God.

But life is very different now than it was then. We aren’t in our twenties anymore; in fact, we’ve just entered our forties. What is the key question of our thirties, and what title could we come up with to really capture any of that?

ThirtySomeone just wouldn’t work, not because who we are doesn’t matter now (it does), but for the reason that answering the question has (or should have) implications. We’re still concerned with who we are (and increasingly more so with the matter of Whose we are), but we believe the question of our thirties is Where Is My Place?; hence the (tentative) title, ThirtySomewhere: Pursuing Your Place in a Decade of Expectations.

Here’s the tentative chapter list:

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1 The Question of Our Thirties
Chapter 2 Welcome to No Man’s Land
Chapter 3 Expectations: Understanding the Real Gap Theory
Chapter 4 Limitations: Embracing Our Humanity
Chapter 5 Baggage: Checking (and Dealing with) Ours
Chapter 6 Intimacy: Continuing the Quest
Chapter 7 Contentment: Resolving to Be Resolved
Chapter 8 Commitments: Making (and Keeping) Them
Chapter 9 Life Structures: Helping the Concrete Harden
Chapter 10 Ambiguity: Losing Balance and Going with the Flow
Chapter 11 Ministry: Stewarding Ourselves for the Sake of Others
Chapter 12 Place: Finding (and Making Ours) One of Grace

Epilogue
The Forties: A Look Ahead
Appendix A Taking the “Crisis” Out of “Mid-Life Crisis”
Appendix B 100 Things to Do in Your Thirties
Appendix C Good Books to Read in Your Thirties

Got any feedback for us? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.

Speaking

In Thought on December 26, 2008 at 1:09 pm
Bow Tie Craig SmirkingThough I lead, teach, and work full-time, I do accept the occasional weekend or summer speaking engagement as time and opportunity allow. I enjoy speaking to a variety of crowds on many different topics.

As it’s always nice to know what a potential speaker sounds like, below are a few examples. I can also provide references if needed (and not all will be from my mother). Price is very negotiable.

  • The Giving of Self (21:28)
    Glen Eyrie Conference Center, Colorado Springs, CO
    This was the closing message I offered to a community of artists gathered for one of the Scribbling in the Sand creativity conferences I did with Michael Card. Mike had to leave early, so I finished out the weekend for him.
  • TwentySomeone (29:48)
    Radio Interview

    This was one of the longer radio interviews I gave during the promotion of TwentySomeone and as concise a summary I can give in the time allotted.

If you are interested in having me speak at your event, please contact me.

About Craig

In Thought on December 26, 2008 at 10:35 am

Bow Tie CraigI am a husband, father, author, and educator who resides in Oklahoma City, OK. Growing up on a farm in west central Illinois, I attended the University of Missouri in Columbia as a journalism major, but ended up with a bachelor’s degree in geography so as to graduate in four years and pursue ministry with The Navigators.

Upon graduation from Mizzou in 1993, I moved to Colorado Springs, where I served as program director for Eagle Lake Camp and Glen Eyrie Conference Center, the camp and conference ministries of The Navigators. In addition to camp and retreat work, I also wrote and recorded 60 original songs, traveled to and taught in the African country of Uganda, met and married Megan, and became the father of four daughters.

In 2003, having worked with over 800 college students and 15,000 junior high and high school students, I co-authored and published TwentySomeone: Finding Yourself in a Decade of Transition, a practical theology book for people entering, experiencing, and exiting their twenties (parents of twenty-somethings tend to be readers as well). I’ve also published articles in Christianity Today, Discipleship Journal, and ByFaith.

After 12 years with The Navigators, in 2005 I moved my family to St. Louis, where I earned a Masters of Theological Studies and a Masters in Educational Ministries at Covenant Theological Seminary. During my time at Covenant, I served as teaching assistant to professor Jerram Barrs at the seminary’s Francis Schaeffer Institute.

In 2010, I self-published my second book, Learning Education: Essays and Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching, informed by my seminary education and my experience teaching New Testament and Biblical Ethics full-time at Westminster Christian Academy.

I am currently Head of School of The Academy of Classical Christian Studies in Oklahoma City, where my family is involved in helping plant a downtown church, City Pres. This is my blog about all of the above.

Remember Not to Forget: Songs (1993-2000)

In Thought on December 26, 2008 at 10:31 am

Remember Not to Forget
In 1993, I recorded my first album of original music for Eagle Lake Camp, the youth camp of The Navigators in Colorado Springs. During the next seven years (1993-2000), I had the privilege of recording five albums of music – three solo projects and two with the band I started called Red Letter Edition. Those were good days.

I’ve thought for some time about putting together a “greatest hits” collection of songs that I felt were my “best” from a song-writing perspective. These are the ones I still occasionally listen to and enjoy most years later, and now I’m making them available here.

Below are the links to the songs (75 minutes of music; 85 MB in disk space). Enjoy.

From Up Here on the Mountain (1993)

From Living in the Wonder Years (1994)

From Into the Promiseland (1995)

From From Where You Are (1998)

From Where the Fence Is Down (2000)

TwentySomeone

In Thought on December 26, 2008 at 10:30 am

TwentySomeone Specs
6X9 paperback, 220 pages, $10 each (+$3 shipping for first book; +$1 for additional copies in same order) ORDER

Release Date
December 16, 2003 (WaterBrook Press)

Summary
“The decade of your twenties is full of important, stressful, maddening questions: What will I do? Who will I love? Where will I live? But maybe there’s a bigger question: Who am I?

The fact is, the period of time between your teens and thirties will shape a lot of your character, your calling, and your view of the world. Instead of asking, ‘What will I do?’ twentysomeones need to ask ‘Who am I?’—the real question of the twenties.

Full of personal experience and practical wisdom, TwentySomeone helps you make the most of your twenties while giving you the skills to handle common life experiences like singlehood, first jobs, getting married, having kids, and buying stuff. This is a guidebook that will help you discover who God is calling you to be.”

Table of Contents

Introduction
Chapter 1 – The Question of Our Twenties: Who am I?
Chapter 2 – God Has a Wonderful (and Strange and Confusing) Plan for Your Life
Chapter 3 – Humility: Overcoming the Tyranny of Self
Chapter 4 – Integrity: Living Out Who We Are
Chapter 5 – Teachability: Learning to Learn from Anyone
Chapter 6 – Faithfulness: The Crucible of the Twenties
Chapter 7 – Money: Resisting the American Dream
Chapter 8 – Time: Using (Not Just Having) the Time of Your Life
Chapter 9 – Love: The Significance of “Significant Other”
Chapter 10 – Kids: We’d Like to Thank the Little People
Chapter 11 – Community: Living Life with All Kinds of Folks
Chapter 12 – Legacy: Rethinking Accomplishment and Success
Appendices

Endorsements
Here are some folks we talked into saying nice things about us and the book:

“With personal transparency and spiritual insight Craig Dunham and Doug Serven offer wonderful insights that yield great opportunities for Gospel transformation.” Bryan Chapell, president of Covenant Theological Seminary

“The decade of the twenties is one of major transition for most young adults. Unfortunately, many drift aimlessly through these critical years because they know neither the questions to ask nor the answers they need. Craig Dunham and Doug Serven have done a masterful job anticipating the questions young adults should be asking and helping them find the right answers. Every twentysomeone should profit from this book.” Jerry Bridges, author of The Pursuit of Holiness and staff member of The Navigators

“In TwentySomeone, Craig Dunham and Doug Serven generously share their journeys through their own twenties decade in a fresh, thoughtful, and practical style that builds a bridge between key questions in the young adult years and the experience of Christian faith. This book will serve as a mentor for many.” Sharon Daloz Parks, author of Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith

“It’s a great book…very much right on! I was inspired.” Louie Giglio, founder of Choice Resources, parent ministry for the Passion Conferences

“Dunham and Serven have graduated from their 20s, but the joys and challenges of being 20-somethings are still fresh in their minds. In TwentySomeone, the college friends help readers find stability and purpose in what they dub ‘a decade of transition’…All readers – whether they’re 21-year-old single college students or 29-year-old married parents – will relate in some way.” Christy Simon, CBA Marketplace

“As a Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) campus minister, I am often asked, ‘What book do students heading to college need to read?’ For nine years I have had no answer. Now that book has been written. TwentySomeone…gives young adults the wisdom they need.” Ricky Jones, Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) campus minister

“Principled yet practical, this is the book I give twenty-somethings.” Jay Cline, Campus Crusade for Christ campus minister

“Craig Dunham and Doug Serven tackle this strategic decade, which begins in college and for many, stretches into career, marriage, and even kids before it is all over. I highly recommend this book not only for young people in their twenties, but also for those who work with them (and are sometimes still working through some of these same issues).” Evan Hunter, Ivy Jungle Network

“Recommended for those in their twenties, Dunham and Serven point out that it would have been cumbersome to name this book Eighteen to Thirty-eight Someone. However, it well might have been. Teenagers and adults, no matter what age, will find this book fun, interesting, and useful.” Donna Eggett, Christian Book Previews.com

All I Want for Christmas…

In Holidays on December 25, 2008 at 10:59 am

…is nothing I really need.

May Jesus be your reason for the season.

Booklist 2008

In Books on December 21, 2008 at 2:00 am

After hitting 60 books last year, my goal this year was 6 per month, for a total of 72. Unfortunately, unless I develop speed-reading capabilities between now and 2009, I'm going to finish at half that with a disappointing 37 for 2008. Nuts.

The year for me has seemed an "off" one in terms of reading. Granted, a lot of the books listed were thicker theologically than the average couple-hundred-page novel that makes for a quick read, but I definitely read less (and less broadly) this year than in previous years and I'm mad about it.

Nevetheless, as we're out of town the next several days, here's my annual list in all its weeniness for you to mock (you know who you are). As usual, I’ve ranked each of the books on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) and added a comment of explanation.
Feel free to leave book recommendations or links to your own list in the comments – I always appreciate them. Enjoy.

January (3)

  • Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor – Episcopal priest(ess) walks away from the church in search of a more spiritual life; bleh (2)
  • The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal – story of a Jewish concentration camp survivor who struggles to forgive his tormentor; heart-wrenching (8)
  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok – another beautiful story of redemption from the man who wrote the Asher Lev stories (some of my favorites) (9)

February (3)

  • The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine – well-written study of the world of wealth, suburban bliss, and teenage boredom; welcome to my classroom (9)
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King – I read this when I was a kid, but you're never too old (or weird) for the master of throwaway horror novels (5)
  • The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism edited by Gregg Strawbridge – helped push us over the edge (after three years) in embracing the covenantal doctrine of child baptism (8)

March (2)

  • Children Matter by Scottie May, et. al. – helpful book on a variety of philosophies with regard to children's ministry; academic but readable (7)
  • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls – I remember liking this novel well enough, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was about (7)

April (1)

  • The Reason for God by Timothy Keller – Keller channels C.S. Lewis in writing a most important apologetic for our times; read this (10)

May (5)

  • The Story of Christianity (vol. 1) by Justo L. Gonzalez – I love church history, and no one writes it more succinctly than Justo Gonzalez (8)
  • Buffalo for the Broken Heart by Dan O’Brien – set in South Dakota, one man's memoir of restoring the Great Plains with buffalo; almost as good as being there (which I was this past June) (7)
  • Survey of the New Testament by Paul Benware – basic survey with a hint of dispensationalism; not my favorite by a long stretch (5)
  • The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman – the second in Pullman's series (I read the first last December); the writing is good but the story spirals (6)
  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins – apologetic for evolution by what seems a very angry (and hurt) man; good to know the arguments, but still not convinced by them (7)

June (2)

  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown – incredibly sad history of the injustices done to the Indians at the hands of the U.S. government; painful to think about (8)
  • Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C.S. Lewis – short book of letters on the topic of prayer; the only thing better than reading Lewis' books is reading his letters (7)

July (4)

  • The Holy Spirit by Sinclair B. Ferguson – one of the better treatises I've read on the person and work of the Holy Spirit; solid (8)
  • The Man Called Cash by Steve Turner – enjoyed this "official" bio more than other Cash bios; such an interesting and conflicted man (7)
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – read this out loud to the girls; even to the 10-and-under female mind, Tolkien is the daddy (as am I for reading him) (9)
  • The Church by Edmund P. Clowney – a good treatment of the church in the same series as the aforementioned Holy Spirit book; a reminder of how much we've lost since Acts 2 (7)

August (5)

  • The Lord’s Supper by Robert Letham – basic little book on the sacrament of Communion (7)
  • City of Glass by Douglas Coupland – Coupland's take on his hometown of Vancouver (one of my favorites); all travel books should be written like this (9)
  • The Bible and the Future by Anthony Hoekema – St. Anthony does it again with his very solid Reformed writing on the end times (8)
  • Hell on Trial by Robert Peterson – in case you were wondering, Hell is a real place; Peterson demonstrates what, why, and how (7)
  • Two Views of Hell by Edward William Fudge and Robert Peterson – not sure how many books we  need on the topic, but if you weren't convinced the first time, this might help (7)

September (3)

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn – coincidentally, I was reading this when Solzhenitsyn passed; One Day is one day from the pen of a master (10)
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris – unlike millions of others who apparently do, I don't think Sedaris is all that funny; seems too contrived (5)
  • A History of the Bible Lands in the Interbiblical Period by Robert L. Cate – a primer on the intertestamental period; good for what it is, but that's about it (6)

October (1)

  • Come Back, Barbara by C. John Miller and Barbara Miller Juliani – one of the worst-written books I've read in a long time; sympathetic to the story, but that's about it (4)

November (4)

  • The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller – Keller's study on Luke 15 in non-fiction format; a good book for believer and non-believer alike (8)
  • A Biblical History of Israel by Iain Provan, V. Philips Long, and Tremper Longman III – an academic look at the Old Testament and its authorial controversies; dense but helpful (7)
  • God’s Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology by Elmer A. Martens – Martens puts forth a helpful and Reformed paradigm for systematizing the OT; accessible (9)
  • Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel – I'm usually not much for parenting books, but this one worked okay for me (7)

December (4)

  • Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns – an intriguing book on inerrancy for which Enns was fired from Westminster Theological; his intentions were good, but his methodology got him in trouble (7)
  • The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry – another beautifully-written story from Berry's fictional Port William township; hardship, heartache, and yes, another tearful ending (mine) (10)
  • Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff – social technologies and their effects on business and consumers; if you're online at all, this book documents much of what you already know, but the authors' systematic is helpful (6)
  • The Shack by William P. Young – a man gets answers from God in the wilderness; the writing was better than I expected, but the theology could be problematic if you don't know your Bible (4)

Death by Crustifiction

In Pop Culture, Westminster on December 17, 2008 at 9:40 pm

Grading New Testament exams tonight, I came to the page where I ask students to outline the gospel of Matthew. I had no idea that, in chapter 28, Jesus was “crustified.”

(My nine-year-old’s words: “Sounds like something they do at Subway.”)

Every Party Needs a Pooper (and I’m Volunteering)

In Places, Pop Culture on December 15, 2008 at 6:44 am

The western half of the 64/40 reconstruction opens this morning (work on the eastern half begins today). Maybe I’m just bitter all the forecasted ice and snow is nowhere to be found and I have to go to school for “review day,” but yesterday’s closed-highway party easily makes the “things I’ll never understand” list in 2008. And I quote:

“The novelty of walking, riding or say getting one’s picture taken on an empty interstate seemed to be the most common reason to attend Sunday’s shindig. Sharon Brahan of Rock Hill took a stroll from McKnight Road down to Brentwood for breakfast this morning because, ‘How often do you get to do something like this?'”

How often indeed? But regardless of the answer, who cares?

“‘I wanted to be able to show a picture to my grandchildren of us,’ said Debbie Bunten, who came out with a friend from her house in Chesterfield. ‘I don’t have them (grandchildren) yet, but years from now when they’re on the highway and it’s packed with cars, they’ll think it’s crazy.'”

No, actually, ma’am, they’ll think you’re crazy for making a big deal of it.

“Crazy is what Joe Wiss’ kids called him for wanting to walk the interstate. The 73-year-old retired trucker enthusiastically hauled his wife and friends from the Dogtown neighborhood to join him for a constitutional. ‘This is the first and the only time we’ll get to do this,’ Wiss said.”

Let’s hope so. Odds are if you tried it now that it’s a functioning highway again, you would likely be killed.

“‘It seems weird just standing here in the middle of the highway talking,’ said Wiss’ buddy Rick Brine, a retired construction worker.”

Sir, that’s because it is.

Forgive my party-pooper attitude, St. Louis, but it’s been a long year of alternate routes. If you’re out and about on 64/40 this morning, I hope you’re in an automobile. If not, I’ll be the one thinking sarcastic thoughts in your general direction as I drive by.

Man, I needed a snow day today.

We Were So Young

In Thought on December 14, 2008 at 2:00 am

Engagement

Other than the lenses of my glasses being roughly the size of grapefruit, Megan and I took a decent engagement picture back in the day (pardon the ugly streaks – I was still trying to figure out the scanner technology that had just come out).

This pic is from October of 1996 (I had popped the question at the end of March), and two months later we were married on this very date, December 14th. Twelve years since, I'm glad I switched out the glasses, but not the bride.

Love and issues, Crazy. Happy anniversary.

Chicago Politics

In Politics on December 12, 2008 at 2:00 am

Pot, meet Kettle. Let's talk about your blackness.

Breather for Now

In Calling, Education, Westminster on December 10, 2008 at 2:00 am

I pulled the first all-nighter of my seminary career last night, writing 20 one-page reflections and cramming for the final exam for my Old Testament History class. I went to bed from 8:30 to 11 p.m. last night, got up and worked until 5:30 this morning, dozed for half an hour before getting up and teaching the day at school. I then came home and slept for an hour before dinner, studied, took the exam online, and am just now feeling as if I'm on the final approach toward finishing the semester. All that remains is reading two books for my Ancient Near East class and writing two ten-page papers by Tuesday, and I'm done. Piece of (a semi-large) cake.

Believe it or not, I felt pretty good today despite my sleep deprivation, but I was a little sheepish confessing to my students that Mr. Dunham did the very thing he encourages them not to do (procrastinate) and is paying the price. Somehow, with finals week next week, they were less than sympathetic, but thankfully Megan was, keeping a steady flow of coffee going last night and covering my bookstore shifts yesterday and today so I could knock everything out (thanks, Sweetie).

As of tomorrow I'll have both my final exams written for my students and will then need to dive headfirst into a pool of project papers and original parables before next week or I'll be up a creek trying to grade 103 exams on top of all that. At least the papers will all be different, so that will make them more interesting than usual.

In other news, I got official word today that all I need to graduate in May is Christian Ethics, a three-hour course taught by Anthony Bradley. Unfortunately, the course is not offered next semester, so I've already talked with Anthony about doing an independent study with him to meet the requirement. While I really would like to take the class normally, I'm excited by the idea of wrapping up my seminary career (or at least the theological studies part of it) with this kind of learning experience (I'll also be taking a three-hour course called Teaching and Learning, which counts toward the educational ministries degree I'll continue working on past May).

So, there's your educational update for the end of the semester. For any of you of the praying persuasion, pray I can finish well both with my studies and my students, and that I'd actually learn something in the process as well. Oh, and feel free to share any finals week horror stories from this or yesteryear if it will help your therapeutic process. The doctor is in (and it won't even cost you a nickel to comment).

Words to Live/Write By

In Poetry, Writers on December 8, 2008 at 2:00 am

"If you would not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten
Either write things worth reading
Or do things worth the writing"
Benjamin Franklin

The Color of Heaven

In Church, Family, Places, Thought on December 6, 2008 at 8:53 am

We had quite an international experience Friday night. Our friends, the Venkatesans, are from India and invited a few families over for dinner to celebrate Arun’s birthday (he’s a doctor here in St. Louis). In addition to the Venkatesans and us, there was another American family, another family from India, and a family from Pakistan who joined us for the festivities.

I was asked to pray for the meal, which I did, and then we ate. Despite my having the world’s blandest taste buds, the authentic Indian cuisine was amazing as Reena toned down the spices a bit in honor of her American guests. The kids (15 in all) were all over the place playing together, and we adults laughed and laughed at the stories Arun (pronounced “ah-roon”) and Reena told us about their families, their childhoods, and their time in America.

The thought that kept running through my mind during the evening was just how wonderful living in a culturally diverse eternity is going to be. No language barriers, no racial profiling/stereotyping, no bad blood between nations – just people of all colors whose defining commonality and sole identity is that they love and are loved by God:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3:28-29

Of course, we are to work toward this kind of manifold eternal existence in our temporal one, but it can be difficult because of the challenges mentioned above. Still, what can help in the pursuit of what seems impossible here and now is the vision of what one day will surely come to pass:

“A great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7:9-10

In case you’ve never thought about it, Heaven is going to be a very non-white place with lots of Indian (among other) food. How do I know? I tasted it last night.

The Holidays

In Friends, Holidays on December 4, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Seeing as how we’re now officially into the season known “the holidays,” I thought I’d put up a couple of polls inquiring as to my readership’s Christmas tendencies. The first two are below (with comments available to elaborate on your responses).
 

 

On Raising Kids Gracefully, part 2

In Books, Family, Young Ones on December 1, 2008 at 7:24 am

As I have four young daughters – each of whom I dread possibly dealing with the rebellion struggles Jack Miller did with his – I chose to read his book, Come Back, Barbara. The book is not particularly well-written, but in terms of new insight, Miller’s reflection on his relationship in Barbara’s youth sums it up for me:

“There was a particular serious flaw that I now see, though I did not see it when she was an adolescent. It was a sin of omission more than of commission. In brief, my friendship with Barbara was inadequately cultivated when she entered the junior-high years. I did not work to touch her inner life…and I was blind to my failure.” (14)

I don’t feel blind to my failure; I feel blinded by it. My focus with my girls too often revolves around training them by way of the negative than the positive, by making sure they know what’s wrong and what’s right rather than what’s good, beautiful, and true. Granted, there’s a place for such instruction, but it too often serves as my default mode, perhaps “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5).

The question, then, becomes how to infuse power into my parenting pedagogy? Miller’s mental struggles with the matter mirror my own, especially in the area of prayer:

“What goes on in the minds of battered parents when it comes time to pray? Often a sense of defeat takes over the spirit, a cloud that can descend even when the parents have forgiven the young person and have real love in their hearts. The problem is that parents often have a fixed negative image of the child. He or she is seen as unchangeable, an image that may be powerfully reinforced by the recollection of the adolescent’s many failings: repeated acts of rebellion, words of rebellion, and looks of rebellion.” (96)

How do I keep from locking in a negative perspective of my girls that, between the accumulation of their sin along with mine in response to it, may possibly stand in the way of being able to pray so as to, by God’s grace, somehow change both of us and maintain hope? Miller’s answer to this question (and the application I take from his book) is this:

“Christ wants to reach the young person, to find that lost child, for he loves that wandering spirit. But the Spirit’s convicting work will be severely hindered by a parent’s unconscious rejection. The parent can have all sorts of bad memories festering in the mind and, as a result, close the eyes to the rebel’s need for love no matter what he or she is doing. Parents, therefore, must cultivate their relationships with their own heavenly Father, because only from him can parents learn to forgive, bless, and love.” (119)

The key to helping my daughters is to focus on my own life with God at least as much as on my girls’. It sounds both selfish and too simple to be right, but Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 (with one little adaptation) convince me otherwise: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother child’s eye.”