Friday, September 21, 2007

A New Day

I guess the recent demise of my blogdom can largely be accounted for by three factors: 1) I've had nothing to write, 2) I have been forced to write immense amounts in other genres (like the every-pleasant genre of "research paper"), and 3) I have been too busy with other, less-web-based interactions, like actually hanging out with people. Nevertheless, some of my dear friends in OK have convinced me not to give up on this blogging thing, so here I am back and better than ever. As Mark Twain would say, "Reports of my [blog's] death have been greatly exaggerated."

I think I've figured out one way for me to continue this blog thing without devoting an egregious amount of time. Inspiration comes in unexpected places. Every morning I awake with a song in my head, usually a different song, from what I can tell. I have no idea how the song gets there: It frequently is a song I haven't heard in months or even years. Nonetheless, there it is lodged firmly, sometimes intractably, in my mind. Let the chronicle begin:

Thursday (9/20)--Cold Day in July, by the Dixie Chicks (yeah, I have no idea)
Friday (9/21)--Elevation, by U2 (great way to start a day)

I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mr. Norris

I've spent the better part of the past year attempting to invent my own hilarious Chuck Norris joke. I've always felt a special solidarity with Chuck. He grew up in a small town in south-western Oklahoma; I grew up in a small town in south-western Oklahoma. He's a guy who looks pretty wimpy but could beat up Mr. T; I'm a guy who looks pretty wimpy and would like for people to think I could beat up Mr. T. In case you don't know, there are literally hundreds of hilarious Chuck Norris jokes out there. Here are a few examples:

-When Chuck Norris jumps into a swimming pool, he doesn't get wet: The water gets Chuck.

-Chuck Norris is so fast he can run all the way around the world and punch himself in the back of the head.

-When the Boogeyman goes to bed at night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.

-Most kids wear Superman pj's to bed: Superman wears Chuck Norris pj's.

-Did you know Chuck Norris' tears can hear cancer? Too bad he never cries.

If you don't think those are stinkin' funny, then you just don't know what funny is. So anyway, I've been trying for while now to break into this world and bless the world with a Chuck Norris joke all my own. So far my efforts have been abyssmally unsuccessful. Up till today, my best effort was: "When Chuck Norris claps at the opera, everyone bows." I know, I know--pretty lame. But today while discussing Chuck Norris jokes with some of my grad school friends, another one came to me. It's not great, but perhaps it's a shade better than my last attempt. Ahem: "Chuck Norris doesn't take finals: He destroys them." Cheesy. Predictable perhaps. But it has just enough tongue-in-cheek to it that, if aided by a combination of two semesters' worth of sleep deprivation and the strange euphoria that comes with Finals Week, it might, just might, make a person laugh. So there's a little glimpse into my world this week. Peace out!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Blog is Dead

Well, I have nothing to write, and neither do most of my friends, it seems (with Blakewell ever the singular, ever the stalwart, exception). So I've modified--ever so slightly--a little story from a guy I know. I'm basically just amusing myself here, but maybe you'll enjoy this as well...

Have you not heard of that madman who, with lit lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the nearest Starbucks, and cried incessantly, "I seek Blog! I seek Blog!" Those who did not believe in Blog were sitting around just then, drinking their mochas, provoked to great laughter. "Why, did he get lost?" said one. "Did he lose his way like a child? " said another. "Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? Or emigrated?" Thus they yelled and laughed. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his glances.

"Whither is Blog?!" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? With whose sponge have we blotted out the sky? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying Blog? Do we not smell anything yet of Blog’s decomposition? Blogs too decompose. Blog is dead. Blog remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves? What was most cutting-edge and self-indulgent of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our pencil-pushing hands. Who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must not we ourselves become Blogs simply to seem worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever will be born after us—for the sake of this deed he will be part of a higher history than all history hithertoo."

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground; it broke and went out. "I come too early," he said then; "my time has not come yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering—it has not yet reached the ears of man. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves."

Maybe my prediction will be more accurate than Friedrich's.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Am I strong enough? Am I smart enough?

On Wednesday nights, our church is regularly blessed with a large influx of underprivileged kids from our surrounding neighborhood. Last week, as I was sitting at a table with some of these kids, one of them mentioned how she was now attending RAC, which is apparently some sort of local remedial school. Neither I nor my fellow "adults" (2 college students) knew about RAC at that time, though, so I asked the girl what it was. To my question another girl (4th grader?) responded incredulously: "You don't know what RAC is?! Do you know ANYTHING?"

I of course laughed my head off. On the one hand, graduate school has done an admirable job of showing me just how little I know. On the other hand, having a 4th grader insinuate that I am devoid of any worthwhile knowledge is just funny. I guess in her world theology, Greek, and history just aren't especially apropos. But I went ahead and told her I do know a thing or two anyway. After all, I can drive, ride a bike, throw a ball, run and jump, tie my shoes, play some instruments, read, skip while chewing bubble gum... The list goes on: I'm quite impressive, I'll have you know.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A (Valentine's) Day in the Life

As a means of giving you unconscionable voyeurs (jk) better access to the inner-most depths of my being, I will attempt to paint for you the contours of my Valentine's Day, and by that, I mean today. Please note: This is more of an impressionistic painting than a chronological narrative of my day. Please read accordingly.

Bitterly cold, gusting winds, half-hearted, playless snow,
and miles to go.
A text to sister2, later call to Mom, facebook greet my sister oldest, and (conveniently late) birthday card to sister young.

Facile essay finished, nothing school-wise left to do, friendly emails waiting. Still, I them do eschew.

Camped in warm and bookish co-coon, pondering life and means and ends.
Questions big and small enough, finding me and friendly nudging move.
Shall I wrestle homeless homeward? Give my life like Theresa great?
Or departing fortress-library, flip my collar and buy a smoothie?

But plans tonight, still hard scheming: Bible class with college kids.
Bring cards and candy for out-dolement. Small bit of warmth in bitter cold.
But then, I wonder, what be doing? after church-song is done.
If still emails I eschewing, perhaps a film, a book (no sun).

Future waiting, not foreboding, playfully usual, near, and tame.
Nearest plans are not emerging while sit, compose this blog most lame.

So I'll leave and find my windward, buying this and that, and thus:
Thereby making, winning, quaking one more day--today--well done.

Well, that's all I have to say about that. All in all, not a bad day. Not a bad day at all. I don't know the precise rhythms and motions when joy and contentment meet and dance. Who leads, who follows, how long they wait. But I hope this message finds you somewhere on that floor. And however you define it, I hope this Valentine's Day has been a joy and a success. And in that order too. (smiley face here) God bless!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Gittin' mysulf a' ay-jukayshun

I'm long overdue for a post. So if anyone's still reading (this means you, Dad), I apologize. A two month sabbatical should mean I have lots to say, yet I feel remarkably blogless. It's not a general weariness with life or anything: I simply don't know what to tell you. But I'll give it a go anyway.

As you know, I am a graduate student, and one pursuing a seminary-style degree, no less. Things are going well, I must say, but I have observed a few dangers along the way, so let me share those with you as well as a few ideas on how to avoid the pitfalls.

1. Pride. Knowledge leads to pride. Period. Not that it's a strict inevitability-- locked in with mathematical precision--but a nearly irresistible slide nonetheless. Unfortunately, biblical, spiritual, and pastoral knowledge are not exempt from this vice. In fact, in some ways the study of "religious" things makes one even more susceptible, because it threatens to make a person feel superior not only intellectually, but spiritually as well. Fortunately, that's not the final word. We have quite a good safeguard against both pride generally and religious pride in particular: To spend more time practicing Christianity than talking about it.

2. Criticism. Key to our training as scholars is analytical thinking. There are plenty of facts to be accosted, no doubt, but in the world of academia, facts mean nothing apart from analysis. So analyze we must, and analyze we do. Everything. Other people, cultures, value systems, ideologies, churches. Again we find a unique danger for us seminarians: Because our "expertise" lies in the realm of things religious, we're especially prone to criticize many things that are or are nearly sacred, including Scripture or even Deity. If there is a safeguard in this direction, I haven't yet discovered it, though I suspect it lies somewhere in the direction of not allowing oneself to become too divorced from normal life--nature, non-academics, church, and spiritual disciplines.

Those are, for me, the two major pitfalls of seminary, and really education in general. The list is far from exhausted, but lest I be guilty of thinking myself too apt a guide (pride) or of focusing too much on things wicked and dubious (over-analysis), I think I shall end the list there. Perhaps some day I can tell you of the joys and good of a seminary education. Perhaps some day I can tell you in person. Till then, blessings.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Good question, Joy

My friend Joy posed an interesting question on her blog: What about mixed motives? You're doing something good and you have some good motives, but you also have bad motives, which may even cut in and take charge of the good--what do you do?

Here's my attempt to "keep the conversation going" (i.e. to answer):

What you're talking about is tricky business, to be sure. I've come to think "mixed motives" (depending on how we define that phrase) are an inevitable part of life, especially Christian life. There's just no getting around it: We need others, especially the Other Himself. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, no one can claim to love God disinterestedly. We desperately need Him, and to deny it and come to Him saying, "I don't need you--I love you only because I choose to, disinterestedly" is nothing short of madness. This same God whom we desperately need is the One who has constructed the universe such that good actions, in the immediate, often receive good reactions and are, in the end, rewarded in grand and unimaginable fashion. So what I'm saying is that the whole universe seems to slide in such a way that good action are rewarded with good reactions--which naturally predisposes us to have mixed motives. All of this, in short, is what makes me think mixed motives are generally inevitable and generally okay.
Still, though, we must never let our guard down entirely. There are of course wrong motives for doing right things, and sometimes those motives can be so wrong, they entirely blot out any good native to the original act. For example, it is okay to enjoy the praise one naturally gets from maintaining so brilliant, articulate, and crisply-written a blog as, say, this one, but it is shameful and inexcusable vanity to blog ONLY for the purpose of making people think you are really smart, philosophical, or deep. (For more on egocentric blogging, check out the site of my dear friend, Gabriel Peterson. [jk, buddy, jk])
All joking aside, the danger is indeed quite real. Thus the guarding against alterior motives is a never-ending task. We must ever be wary.

How do we battle against mixed motives? Spiritual disciplines...

All right, the semester is long, and my sleep cycles are disruptive. You folks have a good night. Peace!