Because life is a series of edits

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Insecurities and the Seven Sons of Sceva

In Calling, Church, Family, Friends, Humanity, Musicians, Places & Spaces, Theologians, Thought, Travel, Vacation, Young Ones on June 27, 2014 at 12:43 am

“But the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?'” Acts 19:15

This verse (along with the passage from which it comes) has run through my head about a hundred times in the past week. Believe it or not, we’ve been on vacation, but my insecurities are no respecter of calendar dates, locations, or accommodations. I’m never surprised (though never ready) when feelings of unworthiness and personal contempt raise their ugly heads and say hello.

Without boring you with too many details (ask my wife: vacationing with me is about as exciting as watching paint dry), I started off our trip alone, flying to North Carolina to cover for Michael Card, who was teaching an intensive Bible seminar at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville. It’s unfortunate that many folks my age (43) and younger don’t have a knowledge of or appreciation for Mike’s music, writing, and teaching, but the older (50 and above) folks know a good thing when they find it; many of them follow Mike across the country for his concerts or Biblical Imagination conferences or even around the world (he had just gotten back from a tour in Ireland in May and takes a group to Israel every year in January).

Mike’s “fans” tend to have more gray hair, available time, and discretionary funds than most, all of which equate to big expectations when they’re shelling out $429 a pop at one of the premier conference centers in the country to hear arguably one of the best Bible teachers in the world. The topic for last week was the Gospel of John, for which Mike has just finished a new book and album (pre-order yours here). The good news was he was able to teach Monday-Thursday; the other news was, due to a mistaken double-booking, he was going to have to leave late Thursday night and needed a pinch-hitter to wrap up the week.

Overlooking the Smoky Mountains at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, NC.

As Mike and I have done conferences together off-and-on for 12 years now, he asked me if I would fill in for him. Without really considering the dynamics, I said I would. I flew out Wednesday night, sat in on three sessions on Thursday, and then Mike and I executed a brief baton pass toward the end of the Thursday evening meeting. It went well, but I still had two sessions by myself on Friday morning and 120 folks who, without intending to be evil, had to be asking the demon’s question with a twist:

“Jesus I know, and Michael Card I recognize, but who are you?”

Fast-forward to Sunday morning. After leaving The Cove Friday afternoon and flying to Denver that evening, I met up with Megan and our two youngest daughters and drove to the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park to pick up our two oldest daughters who had just finished RYM Camp with our City Presbyterian Pyretics group (major props to youth director Jarod Mason and intern Laura Parsons for coordinating and chaperoning). From there, we drove to Colorado Springs and up to Eagle Lake Camps, where Megan and I met and invested ten years (1992-2001) of our lives, and where I was to speak at staff chapel on Sunday morning. (As their two older sisters had three years previously, our two younger daughters were also set to attend camp this week.)

With Maddie, Millie, Katie, and Chloe on the deck of Lilly cabin at Eagle Lake northwest of Colorado Springs, CO.

As you might imagine, the crowd was much younger than at The Cove; instead of 120 senior citizens, I was looking down the barrel of 120 wild-eyed high school- and college-aged students who will spend the rest of the summer caring for over 2,700 kids from all over the country. The energy was overwhelming, as was my self-doubt. I had worked weeks in advance on my message, but now that I was onsite, I wondered if it would actually connect; most of these kids would have been in diapers (if they were even born) when I was at Eagle Lake in my twenties, and it’s never pretty when an older speaker attempts to play hipster (which I didn’t) to reach a younger audience.

While many of the staff had apparently heard of me (it’s not hard to be a camp celebrity just by virtue of having lasted ten years at one), I couldn’t help but imagine them saying to themselves:

“Jesus I know, and some counselor I heard a story or two about from twenty years ago I recognize, but who are you?”

Who are you? Luke records that the evil spirit asked the question not of Christian believers but of “itinerant Jewish exorcists” who “undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits” (Acts 19:13). In other words, these “seven sons of Sceva” (great ska band name!) were trying to coast on the coattails of Jesus and Paul, but the evil spirit would not be fooled. The result wasn’t pretty: “The man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (Acts 19:16).

The story is a reminder as well as a warning. Whether speaking to a weekend conference or camp audience or to our family and friends on a daily basis, are we doing so as followers of Christ or as Christian posers? Are we ministering out of the overflow of our relationship with Jesus, or are we name-dropping the Savior and his apologists in hopes that – somehow – His power will transfer anyway? As the passage records, there are few more dangerous sins than the sin of presumption.

The question of “Who are you?” is as pointed an accusation Satan and his agents of evil can throw at us, as there is no more powerful attack than one that attacks our person. But this is when we remind Satan (and ourselves) of who the Lord says we are. Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2:9-10 are helpful:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

In case you were wondering, the two sessions at The Cove went better than I hoped (there’s no more honest compliment than conferees confessing afterward that, yes, they had been disappointed you weren’t the original speaker, but they saw God’s hand in it and were glad and grateful after all). The talk at Eagle Lake seemed to hit home (there’s no more humbling thanks than when semi-awkward 19-year-olds try almost too hard to convince you that your message was exactly what they needed that morning). Whew.

The good news of the Gospel is that, while feelings of insecurities may be frequent and no fun, they can keep our poser potential in check if we confess them to Jesus so He can remind us who – and Whose! – we are. To do otherwise – to “fake it ’til we make it” despite our insecurities – will leave us naked, wounded, and in a vulnerable state that we will only want to hide from others and from God.

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The Lord Is Our Refuge

In Calling, Church, Education, Friends, Oklahoma City, Places & Spaces, Travel, Vacation, Young Ones on June 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Cross (low res)

(The following manuscript is of the message I gave at Eagle Lake Camps chapel on Sunday, June 22, 2014. It was an honor to speak at such a beloved place from my past.)

I’m going to be speaking from Psalm 16 this morning, so while you’re finding your seats, you can begin turning there in your Bibles. While you’re doing that, let me introduce my family. Megan and I have four daughters: Maddie is 15, Chloe is 13, Katie is 12, and Millie is 10, and have lived in Oklahoma City, where I serve as Head of School of The Academy of Classical Christian Studies. Maddie and Chloe came to camp three years ago, and Katie and Millie will be joining you this week. As perhaps you’ve heard, Eagle Lake is a special place for us. Megan and I met here 21 years ago. I served as a Rez counselor, program director, musician, and Onsite Director from 1992-2001, while she served as a Kitchen staff, Rez counselor, Crew counselor, store manager, and nanny 9 of those 10 years.

If I remember this time of summer correctly, you’ve been here long enough to know what’s supposed to be going on, but that whole “fourth week/first week” thing is perhaps beginning to ring hollow. You’ve probably heard others – if not yourself – begin to grumble, and the idea of six more weeks is perhaps not quite as rosy as it was four weeks ago. There’s no place like camp to discover what we’re capable of – good, bad, and ugly – but there’s also no place like camp to learn to trust God with the good, bad, and ugly we discover.

This is what I want to talk with you about today. If you have any hope of lasting the rest of the summer – of God preserving you – it begins with taking refuge in Him. Look at Psalm 16:1-2: “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’” Taking our cue from David, what does taking refuge in God yield? I’d like to suggest four preservations:

Because the Lord is our refuge, we can trust him for godly company. Look at verses 3: “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” Now notice the comparison in verse 4: “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.”

Whether in college at the University of Missouri, when we were on staff with the Navs for 12 years here in the Springs, when we moved to St. Louis to begin seminary, or during the past three years of our lives in Oklahoma City, we’ve always been with good, godly people. But here’s our secret: we’re not the ones doing the surrounding; we just happen to enjoy the providence of God – in his refuge role – doing so.

Whether you recognize it happening or not, God is at work building at least one friendship (though I’ll be surprised if it’s only one) that will continue on with you ten, twenty, even dare I say fifty years as a result of your time at Eagle Lake. I say this out of experience, and I’m not even talking about the yahoos in the back.

We moved from St. Louis to Oklahoma City three years ago, and in doing so, have since reacquainted with Molly – one of my wife’s Rez Campers back in 1994, who with her husband sent their little girl and twin boys to the school I lead. One of my Grammar school principals, Alison, was one of my Program Coaches for two years in 1995 and 1996. We go to church with Brian and Matt, who were former counselors and now are both married to their wives and have a couple of kids. At church, we also get to see our pastor’s wife, Julie, who was a counselor in 1993, as well as a founding board member of our school. And speaking of board members, Jonathan, is about to come on our board, and he was a former camper! (This should give each and every one of you pause as to how you view that camper who keeps throwing rocks and won’t listen.)

These are just former staff and campers living in the same town. All of these friends came through Eagle Lake back in the day, walked with God through their twenties and thirties, and were established in Oklahoma long before we ever got there. The same has been true of every place we’ve lived, and so many places in between. This is what God does when he tells Peter in Matthew 16 that, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Because the Lord is our refuge, he is at work keeping us from the sorrows of those who run after another god and drink the ungodly offerings of blood and take their names. Because the Lord is our refuge, he is preparing excellent ones, in whom will be our delight, not just for when you return home or to school in August, but for the rest of your days and wherever you go as part of his universal church.

But that’s just the beginning. The second preservation is this: because the Lord is our refuge, we can trust him for contentment. Look at verses 5 and 6: “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

We need to understand something here: the language used is not of preference but allotment; that is, God – not us – is the one choosing our portion, giving us our lot to hold, drawing where our lines will fall, and the one from whom we inherit whatever inheritance he decides. We are not learning to be content with what we choose; we are learning to be content with what he chooses for us.

I know of no better place to learn a lifestyle of contentment than camp. Notice what I said there – not a lesson, but a lifestyle – of contentment. As our American culture sees generation after generation more and more infected with an entitlement epidemic, we see this illness come to camp in campers and sometimes (I hate to say it) in staff. The plain and reality is, if you’re only content when you’re comfortable, you’re not content but pacified.

I don’t remember what summer it was, but I do remember that one of our counselors that year – I’ll call her Maggie – had no interest in learning about contentment at Eagle Lake. It was about the third or fourth week when she came into my office every day crying, begging to go home. She’d been a little sick the week before, was more than a little homesick since she’d arrived, and when we tried to help her through it by assigning a co-counselor, giving her three afternoons off to rest, and just trying to listen to and love her, she would have none of it. Her heart was hardened and her eyes were angry. She had what I call the two-year-old syndrome: she wanted what she wanted and she wanted it now.

That Thursday evening, she followed me into my office, demanding that she be allowed to leave. I reached into my filing cabinet, pulled out her staff agreement, and told her that if she was going to go home, she was going to have to rip up her signed agreement then and there. As I pushed it across the table to her, I told her I hoped she would think about the worth of her name and what her signature on the agreement meant. Without batting an eye, she grabbed the paper, held it up in front of me, and dramatically ripped it into four pieces. Without saying a word, I took a phone book, placed it on the table, and told her to book her flight out the following morning.

A few years later, I received a letter from Maggie, in which she asked forgiveness for her discontent. By the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he had led her to repentance, embracing what was surely awkward and uncomfortable for her and trusting him – and me – to walk through it with her. It was an amazing privilege to forgive.

Because the Lord is our refuge, we can trust him for our contentment with our chosen portion – lot, cup, drawn lines, inheritance. I’m sure you’ve already recognized areas of frustration this summer – 3-minute showers, uncomfortable conditions, whiny campers, time that’s not your own – but God is sovereign and sovereignly at work in growing you by these means. These opportunities are providential for you to learn in whatever situation – whether brought low or abounding, facing plenty or hunger, in abundance or need – to be content. Confess your covetousness and expose your feelings of entitlement to one another. Admit when you’re acting like a two-year-old and put on your big boy or girl pants and grow up. And trust that you can do all these things through Christ who strengthens you as you pursue this contentment, which is the actual context of this most misquoted verse.

The third preservation is this: because the Lord is our refuge, we can trust him for delight in his constant presence. Look at verses 7-8: “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”

At our school back in Oklahoma City, we spend a tremendous amount of time pushing back on a modern culture fooled into thinking that education is all about information transfer. When I talk with parents, teachers, and especially with students, I’m always asking the question posed by James K.A. Smith in his book, Desiring the Kingdom: “What if education isn’t first and foremost about what we know, but about what we love?”

At our school, we don’t want kids to just learn the Law; we want them to learn to love the Law because, as Calvin reminds us, the Law reflects like a mirror the perfection of God; it restrains like a bit in a horse’s mouth evil; and it illuminates like a lamp that which pleases God. But where are kids going to learn to love the Lord and his Law? My friend Andrew Kern of The Circe Institute suggests that, “We become what we behold.” This is why the psalmist can speak in verse 7 about the counsel and instruction he’s received. As verse 8 reads, he has set the Lord before him; he is at his right hand and he is not shaken because what he beholds is not shaken.

This whole “becoming what we behold” idea should sound familiar. What is the goal of Eagle Lake Camp? “The goal of Eagle Lake Camp is to inspire Christ-centered love and commitment, through counselor relationships, in the midst of exciting outdoor experiences.” The worst thing you can do with kids this summer is reduce Jesus to an intellectual idea to be merely accepted, catalogued, or easily referenced. Paul says it beautifully and simply in 1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Trust in this – and rejoice! – that somehow – by God’s unbelievable goodness – campers might become what they behold in you because you – together – are becoming what you behold in Christ.

The fourth and final preservation I want to remind us of today is this: because the Lord is our refuge, we can trust him for hope of everlasting joy and the path of direction. Look at verses 9-11: “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

When I consider the story God has written for this place from before the creation of the world, I am blown away. And, when I consider the few pages of that story that happened to include Megan and me, my heart is overcome with thankfulness to the Lord. I think of all God has done here and the thousands upon thousands of challenges He has overcome to ensure the 57th summer of Eagle Lake Camps happens, and my whole being rejoices. Personally, when I consider all that the Lord did in me in my time here, my flesh dwells secure, for He did not abandon my wretched and pathetic soul, nor let me see corruption, but made known to me a path of life by way of His presence and His people.

The Lord showed me here that I had an anger problem…because I had a control problem…because I had a people-pleasing problem…because I had a pride problem. The Lord loved me enough to place me in a beautiful place surrounded with good people through which He taught me the importance of Luke 16:10, “That he who is faithful with very little will be faithful with much.” He taught me to be teachable – to recognize correction from my leaders, my peers, and (gulp) my campers – not as punishment but as discipline for my good, for He disciplines those He loves. Hebrews 12:11 – the first verse I ever memorized – reminds us that, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” These promises have rung true in my life, not because I was always true to them, but because the Lord – our promise-making, covenant-keeping God – always was.

Which is why I can be confident in reminding you of four promises in Psalm 16:

  1. Because the Lord is our refuge, we can trust him for godly company.
  2. Because the Lord is our refuge, we can trust him for contentment.
  3. Because the Lord is our refuge, we can trust him for delight in his constant presence.
  4. Because the Lord is our refuge, we can trust him for hope of everlasting joy.

Let us glory in God’s preservation, reminding each other and ourselves that He is our Refuge, that He is our Lord, and indeed, we have no good thing apart from Him.

Sticky Note Processing

In Calling, Church, Education, Places, Theologians, Travel on May 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Minnesota

After finishing up another Biblical Imagination Conference (our largest to date – 150 wonderful people!), I'm sitting in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, enjoying the Upper Midwest accents and waiting for my flight back to OKC. After a full travel day on Friday and the conference that evening and all day Saturday, I got to sleep in at bit this morning in my hotel room (which rarely happens at home), so I'm feeling fairly rested and reflective as I enjoy the free wi-fi.

I've been a part of these conferences for two-and-a-half years now, developing the program and serving as emcee/educator for the first year-and-a-half through the gospel of Luke, and now finishing up in another two weeks the past year with our final Mark conference. Matthew starts up in September and will run for a year-and-a-half, and then we'll finish out with John for almost two years. When it's all said and done, it will be a total of six years that I've been involved with this initiative.

Stickies 2

One of the things I try to facilitate during the conferences is a warm, funny (often "punny"), and vulnerable atmosphere that lends itself to folks being comfortable enough to listen without defense and contribute without suspense. A great way I've found (or more accurately, stolen from my friends Bill, Bruce, and John) that lends itself to meeting this goal is "sticky note processing" – asking conferees to write down a thought on a sticky note in response to a question, discuss it with each other, and then post it on the wall for all to read. Everyone can then check the stickies out over the breaks, and I read a few at the beginning of the next session and comment so folks know we're taking them seriously.

Yesterday afternoon, after a session on the "unmiraculous miracles" Jesus did in the New Testament and now does in our daily lives, I asked attendees to complete the sentence, "Lord, give me the eyes to see your miracle in/concerning…" The responses were both heart-breaking and, if you're involved with people to any degree, sadly all too familiar:

Lord, give me the eyes to see your miracle in/concerning…

…bringing faith to unsaved friends and family.

…my prodigal sister disowning our family.

…giving our children the daily knowledge and experience to grow up healthy and happy and desiring to know You more.

…my joy.

…contention in the church body.

…the lost in our state, country, and the world.

…my daughter being critical of everything that her husband says or does.

…the lives of my grandchildren.

…healing my relationship with my ex-wife to be able to communicate over family matters.

…the healing of our son-in-law's body and finding a job for him.

…Your vantage point always in every moment.

…my 3-year-old adoptive daughter and her progress and ability to talk.

…our daughter and son-in-law's marriage and how they treat and talk to each other.

…our children's lives.

…the two years of pain and suffering and death of my mother because I don't understand it.

…my job search and where you want me.

…our daughters.

…giving me the courage, wisdom, and opportunity to teach my young grandchildren about You.

…my wayward daughter.

…my youngest daughter as she truly is, not as her illness makes her.

…the effects of a Christian friend on a unbeliever.

…bringing my brother and his wife into relationship with You.

…my child.

…our church, its growth and vibrancy, and how it can touch our community.

…how to stop the persecution of Christians.

…in our finances and living situation.

…my faith in Your plans and times for the future.

…my personnel problems at work, my family conflicts, and my own depression.

…my prayers to open the eyes of close family members.

…our son watching our daughter-in-law crack under the pressure of living overseas in such an oppressive culture that devalues life.

…our budget despite the loss of income.

…our son's death.

…my son in med school who seems so far away from his Christian upbringing.

…Your work through my work.

…the loss of a visa and job in east Asia.

…my husband's careful and loving provision for me – always a model of how You love us.

…the starving people in the world.

…restoration, healing, and wholeness for my children who grew up in lots of chaos and crud, that they would be able to forgive me for their past pain.

…my 21-year-old son, who is very introverted and not motivated to move forward in life.

…returning our pastor to our church.

…the broken relationships with my youngest son and my two daughter-in-laws; I stay away to avoid troubles, even at the expense of not seeing my only granddaughter.

…my oldest son, who struggles with You, his faith, and himself.

It can be overwhelming reading all these, but when shared in the temporary community of the conference, it's amazing how God enables people to find and hold each other up in the midst of the hurt. My prayer is people can do the same in their local church communities, but it isn't easy when all of us wrestle with our own versions of the list above and have to relate longer-term than across a short weekend.

Still, by God's grace, perhaps folks can get a taste at the conference of what's possible at home and pursue this potential within a local expression of the Body of Christ. It's a lonely and lamentable existence otherwise. All it takes are a few sticky notes to figure that out.

Something of the Marvelous

In Family, Nature, Places, Travel, Vacation, Young Ones on March 21, 2013 at 9:14 am

"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous."
Aristotle

Few things take my mind off the past and the future like camping does. I've just returned from spending two days and two nights living almost
exclusively in the present, and it was so good I didn't want to come
back.

I'm late to the joys of camping. Some of this is not my fault (I only remember one camping trip my family took when I was a kid and it was eight miles from my house); most of it, however, is (I lived 12 years in Colorado Springs, worked at a camp for 10 of those, and never even owned a sleeping bag, for crying out loud).

Come to think of it, I still don't even own a sleeping bag. I really am (and always have been) a camping lightweight.

Lightweight or not, when I hit my late-30s and felt the need to do something unique, experiential, and (let's be honest) cheap with Megan and our growing girls, camping suddenly became a legitimate option. Megan found a great family tent on Freecycle, we borrowed some gear, and presto – we were campers.

Our girls – all four of them – absolutely love it. This blessing is not lost on me, as it would stink if even just one were only slightly amused or (worse) completely repulsed by the idea of hiking, eating, and sleeping outside. In addition, while I wouldn't say it's her favorite thing as she longs for a Winnebago, Megan's usually good for at least a couple days and nights without a shower, so I've got that going for me.

This most recent trip (our first over a Spring Break) was different for a variety of reasons, most notably the addition of a set of young foster boys (4 and 3) to the mix. While overall a positive experience for everyone (especially the boys), let's just say there's another reason I didn't start camping until after our girls were five and older – taking two little kids camping overnight was a boatload of work for all of us.

We decided to go to the Wichita Mountains
Wildlife Refuge
– 60,000 acres of southern plains set aside to preserve buffalo, longhorn, and elk – about 90 minutes southwest of Oklahoma City.

Cacti

We didn't see any elk, but we saw enough buffalo and longhorn to say we did.

Tatanka 2

Longhorn

We got to the Refuge on Monday late afternoon and promptly set up camp. The girls know our routine and helped the boys find a place within it.

Campsite

Tent Building

Old Blue

After getting set up and taking a walk down to the lake, we cooked some hoboes…

Hoboes & Chairs

Hobo

…then built a fire and roasted some s'mores (the boys' first).

Campfire

Laugh by Light

It was a cold evening (mid-40s) in the tent…

Tent Girls

…but everyone made it up for a breakfast of eggs and bacon.

Bacon

That first morning, we took the boys on a nice little adventure up Little Baldy, which was about a twenty minute hike from our campsite. As it was the first activity of the day, the little guys managed, but the girls ended up carrying them some on the way back.

Little Baldy

Backpacks

We hung out at the campsite some and then grilled some hotdogs for lunch.

Hot Dogs

After lunch, Megan offered to lie down with the boys in the tent so the girls and I could jump in the van to drive six miles to the Sunset trailhead to hike Elk Mountain. This was a longer hike (about four miles roundtrip) and a little more of a challenge, but the ladies love them some hiking, so it was fun.

Hikers

On Top of Elk Mountain

After being gone for a couple hours, we came back to camp and the boys just waking up. We hung out for an hour or so in camp before loading up for a trip to the visitor's center and a drive up to the peak of Mount Scott.

Visitor Center

Mount Scott

Directions

We then headed into Medicine Park to experience a little southwest Oklahoma culture and Ann's Country Kitchen. Good food, lots of local color.

Ann's

Restaurant

After picking up some ice and water, we drove back to the Refuge, built another fire, and had another round of s'mores. We were all pretty wiped and called it a night around ten, though the girls could have stayed up longer playing cards by lantern light.

Lantern Laughs

The next morning, we had a muffin breakfast, broke down camp, packed up (it's amazing how much stuff we brought for a two-night camping trip – again, we're lightweights), and made the drive back to OKC. We got the van unloaded, started some laundry, ate lunch, and then the boys took a four-and-a-half hour nap while I took the girls to see The Hobbit at the dollar theater – a nice end to three days of fun.

On the Road Again

In Family, Friends, Places, Travel, Vacation on July 6, 2012 at 8:54 pm

IMG_0480

Not sure if a roadtrip through these five states – the five in which we've easily spent the majority of our lives* – counts as a true and exotic "vacation," but it will have to do. We're looking forward to seeing some familiar roads, places, and faces these next two weeks.

(*We've never lived in Kansas, but when you've driven across it as many times as we have, it's felt like it.)

Summer 2012: A Preview

In Family, Holidays, Travel, Vacation on June 18, 2012 at 10:23 am

I'm a little behind with my annual "here's what we're planning for summer" post. Truth be told, I'm a little out of practice as well, as last summer's plan was pretty easy: move.

DSC_0002

As the picture above documents, Megan and I already took a trip to New York state for a Biblical Imagination Conference (we also saw Niagara Falls). In addition, I led a day-and-a-half New Staff Induction and Megan coordinated our annual Resale for Veritas, and this past weekend I took part in our annual Veritas Board of Directors Retreat. Good times.

What does the rest of June and summer hold in terms of trips and events? Here you go:

June
20-23 Assoc. of Classical & Christian Schools' Repairing the Ruins Conference (Dallas)
We're taking 46 faculty, staff, and parents to Big D to learn more together about classical Christian education. Megan's attending the conference, and the girls will rule the hotel pool. We're also planning to take in a Rangers game on Saturday before heading home.

27-29 Family trip with the Servens (Ozark, MO)
Between the two families (four adults, eight active kids), it took us almost two months to figure out a three-day window of time that we could all make a getaway work. We're glad to have this one on the calendar.

July
6-21 Family vacation (Tulsa, St. Louis, New Salem, Colorado Springs)
This is the big trip of the summer – both sets of grandparents, friends in St. Louis and Colorado Springs, a Cardinals game, a Rockies game, a week of camp at Eagle Lake for the girls, and hopefully some down time for Megan and me at Glen Eyrie and around town. If history is any indication, there are sure to be some Griswoldian stories from this one, so check back in August.

August
Just about all of the following has to do with school starting, so I'll spare you the details (though I'm very excited about our new two-day parent orientations for both campuses).
2-3 New Staff Orientation/Latin Student Workshops
6-7 Staff Orientation
10-11 WISE Parent Orientation (North Campus)
13-14 Staff Orientation
17-18 WISE Parent Orientation (Central Campus)
22/23 First days of School (North/Central)

Honestly (at least from a scheduling perspective), the summer seems almost over before it's begun. Still, we'll make the most of it, supplementing the trips with plenty of book reading and book writing, backyard pool time, trips to the dollar theater, and some cook-outs with friends. There's also lots of work to be done with both Veritas and City Pres, so we'll hardly be bored.

Glad for the breaks, glad for the work from which I need to take them.

Have Biblical Imagination, Will Travel

In Calling, Church, Friends, Musicians, Places, Theologians, Travel on May 18, 2012 at 6:28 am

Off again this weekend, this time to Willowick, OH. Here's a new video with Mike filmed at March's Biblical Imagination conference in Normal, IL, for a peek at what this is all about.

Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’

In Calling, Family, Places, Travel, Young Ones on March 19, 2011 at 10:02 am

Oklahoma We couldn't find any cowboy hats, and our surrey with the fringe on top is actually a Pontiac Montana mini-van, but we're heading down to that ultimate of popular Spring Break destinations: warm and sunny Oklahoma City.

All kidding aside, we're looking forward to the time and the chance to spend a few days in our soon-to-be new hometown. The trip will be equal parts business and pleasure as we'll be house-hunting and I'll also be spending a day at Veritas to meet with the staff.

It will be good to be together; the girls are excited about spending some time with Megan's parents and even Peaches is making the trip to meet her Golden Retriever canine aunt, Ladybelle.

Here's to a safe trip, a good time, and a clearer picture of the next stage of life where the wind comes sweepin' down the plains.

We Interrupt Our Normally Non-Scheduled Weekend…

In Arts, Books, Calling, Church, Education, Family, Friends, Musicians, Nature, Places, Places & Spaces, Theologians, Thought, Travel, Young Ones on September 17, 2010 at 12:13 am

Here are some groovy events – several of which I'd love to see a familiar face at if you're in the area – that I'll be part of in the next six weeks. (If you or anyone you know has questions about the conferences, click the links or let me know and I'll fill in details.)

SEPTEMBER


Applefestival 17-18: Griggsville Apple Festival (Uptown Square, Griggsville, IL)
I've written about this cultural tour de force before, but words and pictures just cannot do justice to my hometown's annual fall celebration; you just have to be there. That said, I'm once again looking forward to more time on the farm (now in harvest mode) since our Labor Day visit two weekends ago, as well as to seeing some former high school classmates from back in the day (when you graduated in a class of 30, it doesn't take much to have a yearly class reunion each September).

Camping 24-26: Annual Fall Family Camping Trip (Babler State Park, Wildwood, MO)
We always schedule this trip the weekend following Parent/Teacher conferences (after talking with parents for six hours straight and the struggles many of them are having in connecting with their students, I'm usually newly motivated to spend time with my own kids). New activity this year: the family bike ride, as all six of us are bike-mobile (now we just have to figure out how to get all six bikes there).

OCTOBER

Tour2010logo 1-2: Tour de Cape (Downtown Pavilion, Cape Girardeau, MO)
Speaking of bikes, I've been pseudo-training (about 30 miles/week) to take my first "century ride" this weekend with a couple of co-workers (both of whom are much better bikers than I am). I've never before ridden 100 miles in a day, so we'll see how much Advil it takes to do it when it's all said and done.

Biblical Imagination 8-10: Biblical Imagination Conference with Michael Card (Fredericksburg, VA)
I wrote about this not too long ago, and it seems a little strange that we're less than a month out already. I'm pretty stoked to hang out on the east coast with Mike and company. This is the first conference of what I hope are many to come, so if you're too far from D.C. this time around, hang in there: odds are we'll be coming to you soon.

TwentySomeone 15-17: TwentySomeone/ThirtySomewhere Conference (Memphis, TN)
My good buddy, Mitchell Moore, is a pastor at Second Presbyterian in Memphis, and he's asked me to come down to speak at a retreat for peeps in their 20s and 30s. Revisiting the material (as well as working on some new for the next book) has been really fun, and I'm still "smokin' what I'm sellin'" (figuratively speaking, of course) in terms of making the most of these decades. Megan and the girls are coming with me, and we'll sight-see around Memphis on Saturday afternoon.

Relevant 22-24: Megan at The Relevant Conference (Harrisburg, PA)
The good news: I'll be home (and probably won't leave the house if I can help it); the other news: Megan won't be. As she did in Colorado in July, my wife will be taking in another blogging conference – this one of a more devotional than technical nature – in Pennsylvania. I'm interested to see what comes out of her time there, as well as to what degree the two conferences overlap and supplement each other.

That's all for now. We now return you to our normally non-scheduled weekend…

Summer Seminar Washington: A Summary

In Education, Nature, Places, Science, Travel, Westminster on July 26, 2010 at 7:51 am

As you know if you've been following along, I just recently returned from my third Summer Seminar, this time to the Pacific Northwest. One of the students' assignments was to journal their thoughts regarding the intricacies in nature that we saw on the trip. Not wanting to miss the opportunity myself, I pulled out my own journal and wrote a bit. Here (with a few pictures the students took) is what I wrote:

Summer Seminar is blowing me away right now as we process the intricacy of all that we're seeing. I confess I'm at a point where, as I consider our experience at the Hoh Rain Forest with what we saw earlier today at Ruby Beach's low tidal pools, I'm struggling a bit with my faith that God really created it all, is sovereign over it all, is aware and at work in it all. The complexity of the way the different systems complement and interact with each other is just so mind-boggling; likewise, the beauty is amazing as there is form and function, aesthetic and efficiency, and I marvel at the creation – process and product – wondering how God can be the Lord of it all?

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Strangely, the experience causes one of two responses in me: the first is the realization that, once again, I have made God too small and in my own image; the second is the recognition that I can become numb to creation and wonder if, maybe, it really is the rarest function of random chance and evolution, for it all seems so big (too big) for anyone (even God) to have created and set in motion and rule over. This is just the Pacific Northwest! What about the rest of the U.S.? The world? The universe?

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The Christian worldview, both theologically as well as ecologically, does not work with a small, ethnocentric god created in my own image. I forget (again) how much work it is to keep from limiting my understanding of the person of God, but am reminded (again) by His creation of plenty of reasons that help me doubt my doubts.

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I do not believe the world's existence to be luck or chance. God has taken credit for His work of creation, and I am wrong to limit His person in the face of the reality of the intricacies I see in the world. My limited understanding of all He has made does not negate the truth that these ecosystems and their connections (which are difficult to fully comprehend) were and are under God's sovereign reign.

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My mind, as well as my heart, can only grasp so much. The main question
I've been asking myself on the trip is what does it all mean?
What do I and these kids (as well as the world and its inhabitants)
take away from all of this creation that might change and bring
contribution to God's world? How do we translate our awe at God's
intricacies into actions on behalf of them?

Re-reading my entry and seeing the pics brings to mind the beginning of Psalm 14:

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

Lord, forgive me for my doubts…and keep me from being so foolish before You.

Twilight It Isn’t

In Books, Education, Nature, Places, Science, Travel, Westminster on July 9, 2010 at 5:36 am

Twilight-eclipse-2

I'm flying to Portland today in preparation for Westminster's Summer Seminar in Washington, which starts tomorrow and runs for the next ten days. We've got 22 soon-to-be-seniors and 7 staff (none of whom are pictured above) going on the trip. Here's a tentative (read: weather-permitting) itinerary:

July 10, Saturday
Rendezvous with students/staff in Portland, OR
Lunch
Transport to Forks, WA (yes, I know this is where the Twilight "saga" is set, but no, that's not why we're going there)

July 11 or 12, Sunday or Monday
Forks logging and mill tours
Hoh Rain Forest hike
or
Hurricane Ridge
and Crescent Lake

July 13, Tuesday
Tidal pool study at Ruby Beach
Transport to Mossyrock

July 14 and 15, Wednesday and Thursday
Mt. Rainier
or
Mt. St. Helens

Transport to Deschutes River state park

July 16, Friday
Hike Mt. Hood (Copper spur: 7.8 miles)

July 17 and 18, Saturday and Sunday
Raft Deschutes River

July 19, Monday
Holiday Inn Express, Portland, OR

July 20, Tuesday
Depart

Core classes include:

  • Is This the Way It’s Supposed to Be?
    This core will introduce the tension of needing a vital raw material, yet wrestling with the consequences of acquiring that resource.
  • The Biology of the Old Growth vs. the Modern Lumber Industry
    This core will explore the idea of an old growth forest juxtaposed with a replanted forest: Can we simply replant and expect to sustain the old growth ecosystem?
  • The Way It Should Be: Systems That Function
    This core will explore ecosystems functioning as they were intended to and seek to understand that species work towards the benefits of the entire system due to a “biological Invisible Hand”.
  • The Cedar as Central: The “Buffalo” of the Pacific Northwest
    This core will explore the Native American view of the old growth cedar as central to their survival and how the same cedars are central to the survival of Forks, WA. Students will understand the centrality of the cedar to an old growth ecosystem and its species. A comparison will be drawn to the buffalo on the Great Plains. What are the differences between the White and Native American views of these natural resources?
  • Sustainability
    This core will explore author Lynn White’s claim that a Christian worldview with its notion of dominion is ultimately responsible for the ecological crisis. Students will also interact with Francis Schaeffer’s "Pollution and the Death of Man" as a counterpoint to White’s ideas and will seek to explore a proper Christian view of dominion with an emphasis on sustainability.
  • Mt. St. Helens: A Theological View of Restoration
    This core will explore the gradual, natural restoration of Mt. St. Helens and the parallel idea of God’s restoration of Creation from a Reformed eschatological position.
  • The Economics and Politics of Logging: What Will It Cost You?
    This core will explore the costs of proper dominion. Considering that the whole Old Growth debate is driven by the economics and politics of rationing a scarce resource, students will be introduced to the notion that proper dominion will be costly to their generation.

Students are to have read The Final Forest: The Battle for the Last Great Trees of the Pacific Northwest by William Dietrich and written an introductory three-page response essay before the trip. They'll then submit five revised journal entries, culminating in a five-page essay due at the end of the month. I'm responsible for the reflecting/writing/grading aspect of the trip, as well as for publishing a book compilation of the students' best writing and pictures.

All in all, it should be fun. If I see Edward or Bella, I'll say hello for you…

Summer 2010 Preview, Etc.

In Books, Calling, Education, Family, Humanity, Internet, Musicians, Places, Places & Spaces, Theologians, Thought, Travel, TV, Vacation, Web/Tech, Westminster, Writers on May 23, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Sitting here on a Sunday night listening to some Lucinda Williams and doing a little writing. It's been a while since I've done a summary post of sorts, so since Megan and the girls are out of town and we're collectively an entire season behind to really make the LOST finale worth watching, here are a few things I've been thinking about and/or looking forward to:

School: This week is finals week, so I'll be spending most of my time grading. The good news is, unlike the past three years when I was evaluating projects and papers, I'm going into finals week with nothing other than finals to grade, so that should make for a little less consuming week in general.

In other school news, I've signed on for another year at Westminster, but my role is changing a bit as I'll be leaving the world of freshmen New Testament behind for fourth section of sophomore Ethics and one section of senior Worldviews next year. I'm glad for the transition all around.

One last note on the school front (this time the homeschool front), we're going to be entering a new stage of education here at home. This fall, our two oldest girls will be full-time students at Central Christian School in Clayton, while Megan continues leading the Classical Conversations group and homeschools our younger two (here are details from Megan's perspective).

Summer: In addition to writing (more on that below), my primary goal in June is to hang out with the little ladies, read some books, and get a few projects done around here. In addition, I'll help coach our Westminster summer baseball team for a week in June, as well as get trained on some new school information software, as I've been asked to be a mentor teacher to the rest of the staff this fall.

July ups the ante considerably in terms of travel, as we're planning a family trip to Colorado Springs, as the girls are now old enough (somehow) to attend The Navigators' camping programs (Eagle Lake and Eagle's Nest) we helped lead back in the day. I'll try to see as many folks as I can in a few days' time before I jump on a plane from Denver to Portland for my third year as part of Westminster's Summer Seminar. This time, I'll be investing ten days with 25 soon-to-be seniors in Washington state instead of South Dakota, after which I'll fly back to Colorado and then we'll all drive back to Missouri.

August sees staff reporting as earlier as the week of August 9th, but I'll have a few publishing projects to edit and design from the Washington trip, as well as a fair amount of prep work to finalize for my new
Worldviews class. Orientation starts the 12th and the first day of class is the 16th.

Studying: Despite baseball high-jacking my time and energy, I've been reading in a couple areas of interest this spring, not the least of which has been the study of the end times, or eschatology. N.T. Wright's book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, has been helpful, as has revisiting my notes from seminary (particularly Dr. Dan Doriani's notes from his Epistles and Revelation class). Of the three years I've taught Revelation to my freshmen New Testament classes, I feel like I've done the best job this year.

I'm also finishing up a couple books on education, namely John Dewey and the Decline of American Education by Henry T. Edmondson III, Curriculum 21 edited by Heidi Hayes-Jacobs, and The Secret of TSL by William Ouchi. It seems I've been reading these for a while (and I have), but there's been some good content that's come as a result.

Looking ahead, I have some Worldviews reading to do this summer, including (Re)Thinking Worldview by J. Mark Bertrand; The Compact Guide to World Religions edited by Dean C. Halverson (ed.); The Journey by Peter Kreeft; Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey; and The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire. Should be fun.

Writing: Now that my second book, Learning Education: Essays & Ideas from My First Three Years of Teaching, is finished, I'm turning back to finishing the ThirtySomewhere manuscript this summer. I'm still looking for a formal publisher to get behind it, but now that I've experimented with the self-publishing gig a bit (and am still experimenting), I may go with what I've got at some point this fall and see what happens. We'll see.

I plan to continue blogging here, though I really wonder how much people are interested in anything longer than 140 Twitter characters these days. Speaking of which, I've enjoyed Twitter enough to keep using it, but there again I just have no way of really knowing how far the medium's actual reach is so as to invest more time in it. Oh well.

Guess that's it for now. There's more, but this is long enough. I'll try to post a few more thoughts later on this week (nothing brings out literary creativity like the desire to avoid grading). Have a good one.

‘Tis the Season…

In Books, Education, Family, Holidays, Movies, Places & Spaces, Pop Culture, Seminary, Thought, Travel, Vacation, Westminster on December 6, 2009 at 10:46 pm

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…when Megan bakes cookies and leaves them around for me to pretend to ignore. It's also when we put up a tree and clutter it (and the house) with all things Christmas holiday. Ah, the sights, sounds, smells, and stuff of the season.

But I digress. Lots going on this week. Here's a rundown:

  • The two-year hostage situation of St. Louis' main east/west artery has ended, as I-64/40 is open again. If all goes according to plan, I should be able to cut 10 minutes off my once-25-minute commute to/from school and seminary, which is exciting. All in all, the process wasn't that bad, but I wouldn't want to do it again anytime soon.
  • I'm finishing up the fourth and fifth commandments with my Ethics students, as well as the book of Matthew with my New Testament kids this week. Finals are next week, so I've got a few tests to write and more than a few papers and assignments to grade. Glad to be two weeks away from Christmas break.
  • This week is a big one in terms of finishing my seminary studies for the semester. I have an hour-long group project presentation on Monday, a paper due on Wednesday, and two finals to take by Sunday and then I'm down to my final semester at Covenant (and probably forever, unless some university wants to give me a full-ride to work on a Ph.D.). It will feel really good to finally be finished, both in a week and in five months.
  • Megan and I are turning in our collective resignation letter to Nick at the Covenant bookstore, with our last day being December 30th (Nick's actually known about it for months, so it's not that big a deal). It was a good year-and-a-half at my first real retail experience, but I've got to make room to coach JV baseball in the spring, so something had to go.
  • I'm planning to post my 2009 booklist in another week, so check back soon if you're still looking for readable gift ideas. I was initially disappointed in my list this year, but at second glance it's not that bad (though I definitely didn't read as much fiction as I have in the past). Look for it in another few days.
  • Speaking of books as gifts, TwentySomeone wraps as well at Christmas as at graduation time (just wanted to let you know in case you're still looking for a present for a hard-to-buy-for twentysomething in your life).
  • And speaking of Christmas, in addition to the obligatory family
    roadtrips/celebrations, we're planning to paint another room (dining)
    over the holidays and get some time hanging out here at home. We're also looking forward to seeing the movie Up in the Air with George Clooney, as parts were filmed in St. Louis (and some of those parts right here in our little Maplewood community).

Guess that's about it. If you're
in town or passing through over the holidays, come on by – being the introverts that we
are, we might not answer the door, but you'll enjoy the trip.

Mid-Week Memo

In Books, Musicians, Pop Culture, Technology, Travel, Writers, Young Ones on October 14, 2009 at 10:20 am

It's been a while since I've done a random links post, so since it's mid-week and I'm always looking for an excuse not to grade something, here are a few items that might strike someone's fancy:

  • It's tough being married to a celebrity, as more and more people know me as "Megan's husband." This will probably continue for at least another month since I'm married to one of the six official members of the St. Louis Mom Squad. The cool part is the role comes with new wheels (temporarily, that is – click link for details).
  • As it was a slow day in the bookstore yesterday, I read the first 75 pages of Donald Miller's new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The first couple of chapters have some great quotables about understanding life as story, and the following chapters provide humorous illustration of the ideas. I liked it.
  • My wife and daughters are pretty excited that Owl City is coming to The Pageant in January. Megan is contemplating getting tickets for all of us to go as a family, which I'm presuming would probably be different from their normal crowd.
  • I've always wanted my own op-ed column in a newspaper; this opportunity with the Washington Post may be my big break (of course, it requires me writing something for consideration – any suggestions?).
  • In case you hadn't heard, I reluctantly started using Twitter a few weeks ago. While I'm still evaluating its real value (some general stats), I have enjoyed following/stalking a few people here and there (search for "SecondDrafts" to see whom, as well as to follow me if you like).

That's it for now. I need to finish well the day so as to get ready for the black tie/red carpet vehicle pick-up tonight with the Mrs. and Misses. Honestly, I don't mind being "the husband," but the paparazzi can be annoying.

Life on Other Planets: Some Thoughts

In Church, Humanity, Movies, Nature, Places, Science, Theologians, Travel on August 7, 2009 at 8:43 am

A friend of mine and I sat through the movie Knowing the other night. While one of the worst movies I've watched in a while (incoherent plot, numerology silliness, Nicolas Cage once again playing Nicolas Cage), the film did serve one purpose: it got us talking about the idea of life on other planets.

Despite my X-Files affections, I tend to doubt that we have neighbors in the universe: other populated worlds aren't mentioned in the Bible, and most scientists say the odds against are just too huge otherwise. Maybe I'm your typical egocentric human, but when astronomer Carl Sagan said that if life didn't exist elsewhere in the universe it would be "an awful waste of space," I guess I feel kind of special.

At the same time, I recognize that just because the Bible doesn't record the existence of life on other planets doesn't mean there isn't. Remember: the Bible is a historical-redemptive narrative, not an all-encompassing science book. And speaking of science, there are plenty of scientists who do not share my doubts, running huge scientific initiatives and spending a boatload of money in hopes of making some kind of contact with other beings.

Despite my doubts, and certainly different from the typical evangelical Christian line, the argument for other life in the universe does seem plausible, if for no other reason than the very nature of God as Creator. But here's the question I think it all comes down to: The Scriptures attest to our fallen nature as created beings, but is that to mean all that is on the Earth or all that is in the entire universe?

The question is important because, while we have the account of God redeeming Earth through Christ, if there are indeed other beings in the universe and the universe is indeed fallen, then was there a plan of salvation for other planets as well? C.S. Lewis believed so, namely that when the Bible talks of "creation," it is in reference to the Earth and not necessarily the universe. From this perspective, the idea of other created beings without need of redemption is possible; we just don't have a record of it.

Thinking about all this is particularly interesting in light of mankind's desire to explore space. Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking says that the only way humanity can survive is to figure out how to leave the planet; hence, the importance of the U.S. space program. This, of course, begs the question: If the Earth is the only fallen part of God's creation, what does our going out into a non-fallen universe mean? Does it matter? And what would it be like to meet other creation who are intact in their creation perfection?

This is what I understand Lewis' Space Trilogy
to be about: man
leaves Earth
(called the Silent Planet, as it was cut off from the rest of the
universe because of its evil), to colonize elsewhere in the universe
(Perelandra) among beings not in need of redemption. These innocents, though not fallen
themselves, are nevertheless affected by humans and Earth's evil
before it is all finally resolved in the Siege of Deep Heaven against
the Bent One of Earth. In other words, sinful Earthlings contaminated another part of space which, until their arrival, had not been so. Thankfully, however, good overcame evil.

I've always thought of and understood the Fall applying to all of God's universal creation; thus, I differ with Lewis' premise that creation perfection is alive and well outside the surly bonds of Earth. Having said that, however, if God so chose to redeem other inhabitants of his universal creation, I'm assuming he has both prerogative and means to accomplish his will. In my finite, self-centered self, it's just easier to think about me and Earth, especially since God gave us a record of all he has done for redemption here (not to mention that I have no plans or desire for leaving).

Still thinking on this, but I'll stop for now. Anyone have a more formed/informed thought?