Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas and such...

Merry Christmas, y'all. We're in NorCal enjoying the holidays with our families. Hope you're getting an opportunity to spend time with people you love and celebrate Christmas. Also, Hanukkah begins this evening. Light a candle and remember God's preservation of His people and the re-dedication of the Temple after the Abomination of Desolation. His preservation of His people then should give us hope for our preservation and deliverance in the future, too.

Happy holiday.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Week from Sheol...

Rarely have I had a week such as this. Usually my week and I work together in order to accomplish a maximum amount while still retaining my sanity. However, working alongside your week in such a manner can prove hazardous. Weeks, as they are still largely untamed beasts, can behave unpredictably. Occasionally, if you don’t conduct yourself with the utmost care, a week may even turn on you and attack. Such is the story of this week.

This week had been set aside for the final week of school. Nothing too threatening, just lots to do. This negotiation had been clearly laid out months ago. However, last Saturday morning as I sat studying at the kitchen table so that I could get ahead of the week, suddenly my eyes enlarged to roughly the size of grapefruits. The deadline to pay tuition for next semester was yesterday. Stream of unrepeatable words. I quickly logged on to the website of the school that I attend, which shall remain nameless and for the sake of storytelling convention I will call DTS*. The website has a handy online tuition payment option for situations such as these. Or not quite.

The handy online tuition payment option quickly became a less-than-handy online payment-refusal non-option. Apparently once the deadline passes, they further punish the poor soul who only could have forgotten to pay tuition due to the ridiculous amount of work expected at the end of the semester by taking away the online payment option. Inconvenient. I wondered how much trouble this would cause as I had heard that if one failed to pay tuition on time, the school would drop your classes. Owing to the fact that I’ve pretty much scheduled all of my schooling down to most restroom breaks for the next year-and-a-half (and not a minute more, thank you) this was problematic. So, I quickly went to my spring class schedule online. Ahh, good my classes are still there. I’ll work this out first thing on Monday morning when the business office opens again.

Just for the security of my increasingly tortured soul, I continued to check the website all weekend. All weekend, there my classes sat. Breathing easier. Monday morning I called DTS* and spoke to a delightful lady in the financial office who managed to pull off the difficult task of sounding completely gracious as she informed me that she would, indeed, be ripping out my soul by dropping my classes. I asked if there was any way to pay for them now, because according to the website they still hadn’t been dropped. She said, “No.” Then she added the incredibly helpful, “Those are the rules.” As if I needed to be reminded of the rules. Gracias por nada. I decided that this would not do, and that as soon as I was back on campus on Tuesday I would straighten this thing out.

Tuesday morning, 8:30am in the financial office went as follows:

Lady: “Good morning. Can I help you?”
Me: “Yes, I need to pay for my classes for spring.”
Lady: “Oh, I’m sorry you can’t. It’s past the deadline and your classes will be dropped.”
Me: “I’d heard that, but my classes still haven’t been dropped so I’d like to pay for them.”
Lady: “Sorry, you can’t pay for your classes. It’s past the deadline and we’re going to drop your classes.”
Me: “I understand that, but my classes haven’t been dropped yet, so how about I pay right now and save you the trouble?”
Lady: “Sorry, you can’t pay right now. It’s past the deadline. Your classes will be dropped.”
Me: “But they haven’t been dropped. How about I pay and then you don’t drop them?”
Lady: “Well, you can’t pay because it’s past the deadline and so we will be dropping your classes.”
Me: “Are you telling me that nobody will take my $3,000?”
Lady: “Yes, because it’s past the deadline.”

After this fun with circular reasoning, I was rather upset. I was told I could re-register on Thursday. Fast forward to Thursday morning, 8:00am at the registrar’s office:

Lady: “Good morning. May I help you?”
Me: “Yes, I need to re-register for my classes.”
Lady: “Okay.” Expecting her to turn to the fancy piece of machinery on her left referred to in the common parlance as a computer, I was surprised when she pushed a stack of papers toward me. “You need to fill out one of these.” These being a carbon-copy sheet of paper that amounts to a DTS* course wish list. Carbon-copy. Like in 1983.
Me: (as I am slowly recovering from the time-warp sickness) “Okay. So I just list my classes here?”
Lady: “Yes, and then we’ll put them in sometime this week.”
Me: “Sometime this week? Okay, but, one of the courses that I was ‘in’ and now am not ‘in,’ although as of this morning my schedule on the website still showed me ‘in,’ this course now has a waiting list for me to get back ‘in’ even though technically I’m still ‘in.’ If I can’t get back ‘in,’ I need to take another course. How will I know if I’m ‘in?’”
Lady: “You can just keep checking the website and see if it’s listed under your schedule.”
Me: “Like it is right now?”
Lady: “Yes, but we’ll be dropping those classes because it’s past the deadline.”

I filled out the carbon-copy form, tucked my Rubik’s cube back into the pocket of my parachute pants, popped my Duran Duran cassette tape into my yellow Sony Walkman and left. On the way out I worried that I hadn’t used a Dixon-Ticonderoga #2 pencil to fill out the form but figured it should be okay. When I got to library after this little interaction I checked my e-mail and, what do you know, as of that morning my classes had been dropped. Efficient.

By Thursday evening, the classes I had written on the carbon-copy paper had been magically transferred to my schedule on the website. Even the one with the waitlist, upon which I am #4 of 4. Great. So, I went to my night class contented.

I got home last night and thought, Now that I’m registered for classes, I should check my student account bill. So, I hopped on the handy website and checked my bill only to find that my $1,000 scholarship was now gone. I imagined someone in the business office snickering with glee as they thought about all the carbon-copy paper they could buy with an extra $1,000. I did this right before bed. Due to the fact that I sleepwalk when I’m stressed, I spent plenty of time on my feet in the middle of the night.

All of this took place in my final week of school. As you can imagine, it’s been interesting. Where it all stands today: I’ve gotten back into most of my classes (waitlist one the notable exception), and I spoke to someone today who assured me that once I’m officially registered for 12 units, which would qualify me as a “full-time student,” my scholarship money will reappear.

Through this experience, I have learned that missing a deadline is far more hassle than any paper I could be asked to write, that some things in life just don’t make sense and that anytime you decide to write about an institution in which you are currently enrolled (at least according to the shifty website) and publish these writings in a location that anyone with internet access can see, it is always best to be safe and refer to that institution in tricky terms. Here’s to you, DTS*.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Something once in a lifetime...

I wrote this part this morning, at about 8:30am:

Yesterday all the correct weather factors came together at the same time. About mid-morning, white stuff started falling from the sky. Being from the Central Valley of California, I had heard about this elusive phenomenon but rarely experienced it. The snow fell lightly throughout the afternoon, and it got really cold outside. This meant icy roads and dangerous driving conditions (which already exist anywhere Texas drivers congregate, anyway). So, this California boy was about to switch from rare experience to “that’s never happened to me before.” Here it is:

Today school is closed. Because of snow.

Just re-read that. If you live where I grew up you understand how significant this is. This doesn’t happen. School occasionally gets closed on account of an earthquake or mudslide or something, but snow? Nuh-uh.

Now I’m sitting in my pajamas, drinking coffee with hazelnut creamer and reveling in a day off at quite possibly the most critical possible juncture in the semester. Seriously, I couldn’t have chosen a better day not to have school even if I was the one in charge of snowflake distribution. Yet another reason to thank God for being so amazing.

So, I’m off to get a load of homework done and enjoy this free day.

I wrote this part around 4:30pm, as a bit of a summary:

So, of course, I planned to do disgusting amounts of homework today. That was the plan. As I sat in IHOP with some friends, I thought about the plan. Then I shoveled more eggs into my mouth and tried to put the plan out of my mind.

After IHOP I did, in fact, attend to the plan. Got a little homework done, but then I decided that it was time to do something even less appealing than the plan. It’s not that I hate taking showers (no matter what Greta says), but on days when I have nothing to do and nowhere to be, there’s something somewhat magical about just sitting around in my own filth. But, I caved and decided to take a shower. Let me reiterate that it is cold outside. This means that the pipes are cold. This means that everybody takes really hot showers in the dorm building. And most of them do so before 2:00pm. That means that when Benji decides to climb into the shower, the water is going to be cold. Real cold.

Have you ever been so cold in the shower that you use the blow dryer to warm up afterwards? Me neither. Till today. Remember, this whole snow day thing is new to me.

So, here’s the summary: It snowed, school got cancelled, I developed a plan, I ignored the plan and went to IHOP, I got some homework done, I took a shower and nearly froze, I got warm, got some homework done and even got some hot chocolate out of the deal.

Overall, I’d say this was an ideal way to spend a snow day. Compared to the none that I’ve had before, of course. Hope you enjoyed your snow day, too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The return of randomness...

So, it's been a while since my last post. Reasons: School, holidays (turkey hangover makes it really tough to string together coherent sentences), internet failure for a couple days. So, there you have it. But, I'm here again with all kinds of random stuff to share.

I sat in traffic this morning for an incredibly long amount of time. I left my house at 6am for my usual 45 minute drive to school. I arrived at school at 9:40am. The math tells me that something wasn't right. Apparently there was a fuel spill on the freeway, as I found out later.

During the traffic stop (not even a jam, as much as a stop), I looked over and noticed a guy smoking. Wierd thing is I was jealous. Not because I want to form an addiction to nicotine, but because at least he had something to do while he waited. Although, in hindsight, smoking while waiting for HazMat to clear a fuel spill probably isn't the best way to spend time.

During the stop, I popped in the new David Crowder Band CD. Good stuff. A touch strange in places, but great music that runs the gamut. I kind of dig the eclectic mixture of sounds, and throw in the undeniable fact that David Crowder looks exactly like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, and what's not to love?

One of the worst parts about being stuck in a traffic stop is that rarely do you know ahead of time that such a stop is coming. Most people would like to know ahead of time so that they could call people and let them know they're going to be late, etc. I would have liked to know so that I wouldn't have drinken both travel mugs of coffee. Let's just say, I was really glad to get to DTS for a number of reasons. (That number being 1.)

My sister-in-law came to visit us for Thanksgiving. We had so much fun. We helped her shop for a digital camera that is her Christmas gift from her parents. As we looked around Costco, I found myself wanting a new digital camera, too. Now, granted, ours isn't the best, but it's not like I have to duck my head under a black hood or anything. Greed is funny like that.

Over the Thanksgiving break, dedicated student that I am, I read the new Harry Potter book. I had waited patiently for a time when I could put off doing my homework and not feel too badly about it, because, after all, I've got two weeks off! Let me just say that this latest book made me so anxious to read the next one that I'm seriously frustrated about waiting. How can she do this to me? Write, woman, write!

On a similar note: We recently undertook the mighty endeavor of watching the show Alias. We had never watched so much as one episode before, so we were starting from the very beginning (which is a very fine place to start). We got hooked, quickly. We finished 4 seasons worth of Alias in a little under 2 months. That's a lot of calling Blockbuster/Hollywood Video and asking if the disk that was already somewhere in the mail from Netflix was in stock on their shelves because, who can wait? Now, we're finished. Problem: Season 5 is currently on TV. Not on DVD. This means we have to wait. (Again, not my favorite thing.) And there was a HUGE cliffhanger at the end of season 4. I think the entertainment industry is conspiring against me.

Speaking of the entertainment industry: Go see Rent. Today if you can. If not today, then tomorrow. (But then, there really is no day but today.) You may not like all of the characters and their actions, but the message is pretty compelling. Really live today, embrace community, and be real. Funny these messages aren't coming from the church.

That's all for now. Except for:

Word of the day: commodious, adj, comfortably or conveniently spacious, roomy

Try it on your friends like this:
You: "Wow, those pants seem commodious."
Them: "What?! I just washed them?! Are you serious?! Do you think that girl at the bank noticed?"
or
You: "Your living room is so commodious!"
Them: "Uh, the commode is down the hall if you have needs."

Monday, November 21, 2005

New blog...

In a recent post I added a bunch of links and introduced each new friend that had been invited to the storytime rug. At the end I mentioned that there was another blog that I was really excited about adding but had been told it wasn't "ready." Apparently, it's ready now.

Ladies and gentlemen, internet junkies of all ages, allow me to introduce...my wife.

Her blog is pretty much just like mine except for the fact that hers features well-written posts on stuff that really matters while mine typically majors in drivel. Also, she can be trusted to tell stories about us from a completely different perspective...one that's correct. One other small difference is that she is chock full of ideas, meaning her blog should remain relatively fresh and updated. I on the other hand usually stare blankly until inspiration hits me and I begin typing another almost-new post about the Yankees. Other than those things, though, they're pretty much identical.

So, cruise on over. You can use the new link at the top of the links section, or you can just click here. I really don't care how you get there. Just get there.

Soon.

Like now.

Seriously, there's nothing left here to read.

Why are you lingering?

You're starting to creep me out.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Behavioral issues...

Recently, I subbed in a class for children with significant behavioral issues. These children do not function well in a traditional classroom.

I worked with possibly the most patient woman I’ve ever seen in action (besides my wife, of course, who is sainted simply for putting up with me). This lady sat and took verbal abuse from these children who were not shy about calling her names. She sat and took professional abuse as these children openly messed around while she attempted to teach them. She read and did nothing but try to help them while they acted as if they couldn’t care less. But, she pressed on and never once raised her voice. She was stern when necessary, constantly reminding them that their choices would dictate her response, but she never yelled or appeared angry. In the middle of the day, I had a thought.

This must be a little glimpse at what it’s like for God to watch the church sometimes. He waits patiently as we openly disobey, abuse His name through our lifestyles and don’t listen to the things that are intended to do us good. He reminds us that our choices have consequences, as we laugh and make jokes about grace. Simply put, the church has significant behavioral issues.

I was terribly convicted in that classroom. I thought that the teacher showed way more patience than necessary, staying calm during times when I would have blown up. Then I thought how glad I am that God does the same as her. He stays patient with us when He would be more than justified to respond in anger.

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament lately and have been impressed with God’s patience, mercy and grace. His people were disobedient and He chose not to destroy them. He is the same way with the church. When we are disobedient, He extends grace and mercy. I know that I give Him plenty of opportunity to extend such grace and mercy and am thankful every day that I serve a patient God.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Making the grade...

The following story is true. The dialogue has been reconstructed from the best of my recollection. Welcome to my world.

I had finally given in to the inevitability of my fate and extracted my Greek homework from its Timbuk2 cocoon, when the door handle sounded.

She's home.

"Hi, Gretters."

"Hi." She said it with her turned-up nose and raspy voice, almost a hiss, that usually means I've done something kinda wrong (not really wrong which merits far different non-verbals).

Couldn't be my fault, I've just been here doing my homework.

"What's up? How was class?"

"I'm so frustrated!"

This can't be good, and yet it's kinda funny.

"Why are you frustrated?"

"I got a B on my paper. An 89. Seriously, how could that not just be a 90?"

"Honey, there's nothing wrong with a B."

"I wanted an A."

"I know, but it's not like you've got nothing else going on in life."

She turned the tables. "Wouldn't you be frustrated if you got a B?"

"Probably."

Her eyes sparkled. "What about the paper lying on the desk? You got a B on that. Doesn't that bother you?"

She'd seen that? I generally hide all evidences of my shame in the file cabinet lest anyone see behind the curtain.

"Actually, yeah, it does. But, I don't have a full-time job. There's no reason for me to be getting a B on anything."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. You shouldn't be getting Bs."

I love being married to a smart, funny woman.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Ruminations on art...

I've now been to the Dallas Museum of Art twice in the last week. I know that sounds real Vanderbiltian of me, but it was free both times. Well within my price range. On Tuesday, I went for my Creative Writing class (more on that below). Last night, I went with my Christian View of Art Class. Both were great trips. Each was unique. On Tuesday, I found a couple of pieces that I appreciated. For whatever reason, I liked them. On Thursday night, I walked around mostly with my professor and heard what I'd missed on Tuesday. Good stuff. If you live in the 'Plex and haven't been to the DMA, you need to go. It's fun, free on the first Tuesday of the month and every Thursday after 5pm, and features some great art. By people you've heard of. But whose work you've never seen. Until now.

Speaking of art, I just finished reading Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, by Hans Rookmaaker. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Rookmaaker traces the development of art in its historic contexts and shows how what we seen in modern art is really a logical consequence of modernism and the Enlightenment. Great argument. Being a Christ-follower, he also discusses what Christians' responses should be to art. Surprisingly, I don't think he'd like what he sees at Mardel.

I mentioned my creative writing trip to the DMA. We had to pick a piece of art and write about it, and make sure that we could bring a postcard or something that had the image to class. I selected a very tall European painting of a man, dressed in red and holding a battle axe. In the absence of any postcard, I selected a different image, but one that had still struck me. I wrote about Peaceable Kingdom, (above) painted by Edward Hicks. Apparently, Hicks was fascinated by this theme and produced some form of this painting over 100 times. My piece on this piece follows:

Peace came to Pennsylvania; predator rested with prey. With olive branch in hand, the child led nature’s cease-fire. William Penn, treaties and co-existence. Isaiah foresaw it all. With contented sighs the animals jostled, frolicked, nudged, played. Breathing in the honey air, who would want to leave? But this peace could not last. Man works like that. Peace came to Pennsylvania. Did you miss it?

Peace came to Palestine; the predator had his prey. With nails in hand, the child led judgment’s cease-fire. Pilate, beatings, agonizing existence. Isaiah foresaw it all. With horrified shrieks the women doubted, questioned, sobbed, prayed. Screaming in the blackened air, “Father, why did you leave?” But this death would not last. God works like that. Peace came to Palestine. Did you miss it?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

New links...

I've updated my links list with some new blogs that I've grown to enjoy. Most of these people are affiliated with my creative writing class in some way. That means that that list on the right is like the on-ramp to the creative superhighway you've been hearing so much about. (Okay, so maybe you haven't heard, but if not, then it's your fault for running with the wrong crowds.)

First is my creative writing professor's. I've referenced her work many times and thought to myself, "Self, why not just put her blog in the link list? That's a splendid idea, self. Wait, we can't both be self, that's confusing! Well, I was self first, so you can just leave!" I can't remember much else after that but now I've got a crazy headache and a hankerin' for some pintos and rice.

Next comes Toph. In creative writing, his work is always fun to read and pretty novel stuff. Not like an actual novel, because we're limited to one page. Although I'm sure he could write a novel. I'm sure he could do just about anything if he'd only apply himself. (How many times did he hear that from teachers growing up? Wait, that was me.)

Leani is an excellent writer from South Africa and always has a fresh perspective on America, Texas, Dallas. Can you believe that not everything we do here is normal? I know, that may take a while to soak in.

Jacob is just flat out funny. He makes our entire class laugh out loud numerous times each day. Which is really great because I know a guy in the Hebrew class that meets next door. Apparently, while they're slaving away trying to read and reproduce chicken scratch, we're howling like a bunch of banshees. Kind of fun knowing we're frustrating the scholars.

Then comes Jacob (see above, if you haven't, but if you haven't ask yourself what kind of a person doesn't read a blog in order) and Ben (which is not me because my name is Benji, and we're different people). Their blog is good times, too. Not good x 2, which is different and stunningly difficult to solve.

So, there they are. There is another blog that I'm anxiously awaiting adding to the links list, but have been informed "it's not ready." When it is, expect fun times.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The lesson I learned today...

Let me tell you how God is good.

I worked in a 4th grade class today. After spending the weekend writing my paper (which I finished in a succinct 33 pages, thank you), I had much to do at school yesterday to catch up in Greek and last night to catch up with my online lectures. Then, of course, Game 3 went extra innings and even though I didn’t see the whole thing, I still hit the pillow well after midnight. Frankly, when all was said and done, I was whipped. I had zero desire to work in a 4th grade class.

I really don’t enjoy teaching elementary school. I prefer high school and middle school. They function, they cope. Elementary school kids cling and need. Not my idea of good times after the past couple of days. I wanted ease. High school = ease. I even prayed that God would get me an easy high school job. I’m not above admitting my selfish prayers. But no such job came. I kept checking the website, calling the sub lady at the district, nothing. No high school. 4th grade it is. I changed my prayer and asked God to make me a good sub in this less than ideal situation.

The morning got off to a rocky start. I got up early, but still left the house in a rush. The guy in front of me at Starbucks took a long time to examine his coffee beans, then paid via credit card. Nothing rapid about this man. It didn’t help when I realized that I’d left my substitute ID at home and had to ask Greta to bring it to me.

When I got to school, I was a little frazzled, but here’s where things got better. The real teacher was there for a minute before she left for her meeting, and assured me she had a good class. She then told me that it should be an easy day; small class (only 19), well-behaved kids, art for 45 minutes first thing in the morning, a visit from the counselor for 45 minutes later in the morning, half-hour lunch, half-hour at the library after lunch, a 40 minute video followed by a half-hour recess to close the day. Simply, the ease I was looking for. Humbling.

I had painted “ease” into a corner. I asked God for exactly what I thought would bring me ease. He showed me that He’s greater than my plans. Even when He chooses to bless me, which He doesn’t have to do, He can bring me what I ask for in ways I can’t imagine. He reasserts His sovereignty in little and big ways. God is good to me even when I’m difficult, demanding and needy. In other words, when I’m acting like the elementary school student.

I’m so thankful that He didn’t beg out of my day.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

How I spent my Saturday...

So, I thought I'd give y'all a little glimpse at how I spent my Saturday.

I had a little something called an argument paper that needed my attention. Those are the resources I used. I spent roughly 7 hours on it. Still not done. Ugh. At least I've got until Tuesday at midnight.

Right now, though, the World Series is on, and I'm watching. Books put away, crtl-s for the paper until tomorrow, baseball on the telly box. Things are good. Besides that, I've missed the Series. They didn't have it last year, right? I don't recall seeing one.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Random seminary thoughts...

Today, while walking toward the library, I saw a black dog running free on campus. Just cruising along checking out the plants and the people, he seemed rather content. Here in seminary, contentment may not be in short supply, but it's dwindling like Sly Stallone's believability in Rocky VI. I smiled as I watched the dog, not knowing how soon my smile would erupt into something louder. The dog meandered this way, then that way, until he found some bushes. Then, he squatted and delivered. Yeah, what can brown do for you? I started laughing so hard. Something about seeing an animal so completely free of pretension that he was willing to drop a load in the bushes at THE Dallas Theological Seminary that produced sheer laughter and a little envy. Not envy for what you're thinking, potty head. Envy because I never feel that free and comfortable in my own skin on campus. Envy because I constantly obsess over what I wear, how I look, sound and smell that I bother myself. Leave it to an animal to teach me something about contentment. Speaking of the animals...

I've been reading Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for my creative writing class. If you've never read her, you should. You'll either find that you love her, or that it's a great exercise in following through on what you've started no matter the cost. In PaTC, she won the Pulitzer for basically talking about nature for 200+ pages. Now, I'm not a particularly huge fan of "nature," per se, owing primarily to my aversion to sleeping in the dirt, but this book is interesting. If I can grant Dillard nothing else, I at least have to grant that she seems to know how to see in ways that I can't, or just choose not to. She spends pages relating the sheer morbid experience of mating praying mantises. She talks in depth about microscopic organisms that few others would bother more than a paragraph on. And it's all because she sees. She sees beauty and intricacy and value in unlikely places. She's got me wishing I could see.

My creative writing professor broke her collarbone in a freak accident on Tuesday night. You can read all about it on her blog. Please pray for her.

On Tuesday, my Old Testament History prof showed us a bunch of relics and such from Israel. Some of the stuff was dated to be about 3,000 years old. Yeah, from 1,000 bc. Pretty crazy. He had pottery, a couple small idols, a spear shaft and stuff like that. And then he passed around a bag with bones in it. Human bones. Like from some Israelite's hand. How incredibly creepy will it be when the resurrection comes and that dude needs that again?

That's all for now. I'm supposed to be writing a paper. A laptop with wireless internet just seems like it should be put to more fun uses than that.

Word of the day: revenant, n, "one who returns after death or a long absence"
Like the one-handed Israelite.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sports-heavy randomness...

I know I haven't posted anything in a while, so here goes. Another installation of the randomness rolling through my brain. It will be a little sports-heavy, but, Nicole and Greta, please keep reading.

I can't rationally discuss the Yankees. I tend to dissolve into an incoherent mess. I do know that they have major needs to address in the offseason, and no matter what the guy with the THICK New York accent wants you to think, trading A-Rod is not one of them. Without him, the Yanks don't make the playoffs. Let's not forget that. Related...it's rather frustrating to see three former Yankees starters mowing through folks in the postseason. Andy Pettite, Roger Clemens and Jose Contreras all look good. Would we like to have any of the three at the moment? Uh, yeah.

Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi is coming back to play just months after suffering a stroke. Yeah, a stroke! He's in his early 30's and in great shape and had some inexplicable stroke. Crazy. Originally he was going to sit out the entire season, but apparently doctors have cleared him. So, here's why this matters: It's clear that the starring role in the Tedy Bruschi Story ESPN movie will go to Mario Lopez. He's already played Greg Louganis and the immortal A.C. Slater. But, who gets cast around him? Ashton Kutcher as Tom Brady? The Unabomber as Bill Belichick? This is when the voyeurs need to rise up and comment. (I know you are out there, too. You just come for a peek, but never let anyone know you were here.) Now is the time for my sporting friends to band together, rise up and complete the casting call.

Albert Pujols is ridiculous. Even if you're an Astros fan, you had to feel that last night's monster-bomb was inevitable in that situation. What wasn't inevitable, however, was the 1,000 feet that ball would travel and the ensuing hole it punched in the ozone layer.

I HATE USC. You all just need to know that. (I realize hate is a strong word, but I only used it because I can't think of one stronger.) Their win in South Bend on Saturday was sickening. Mostly because they looked super-beatable, the Irish looked like they were just supposed to win, I was already jumping up and down thinking they had, and then Matt Leinart spun like a top, holding the ball in space and nobody stopped him, knocked the ball loose or punched him in the throat. Mostly because of that.

Non-sports nugget: I love registering for new classes. I get to do so today, and it's one of the highlights of the semester for me. For some reason, I dig the idea that I'm in control for a while. The only downside is that every time I register for the next semester, without fail I'm ready for the current one to end. Problem. But worry not for me. I will carry on.

Word of the day: flaneur, n, one who strolls about aimlessly, a lounger, a loafer
Just say this word for a while. Fun for the whole tongue! The fact that it has legitimate conversational value is simply gravy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Numbing the ache...

We just returned from a wonderful weekend in Southern California. We spent the time eating, talking with friends, and just enjoying “home.” And as great as it was to be there, I feel like crap today. Not your typical post-vacation tired feeling (although there’s plenty of that going around, too), but something deeper and more powerful.

California is wonderful (no matter what the Texans say), but all is not right. I’m not talking government, politics, wildfires or value systems, I’m talking life. Even though I can’t possibly imagine a more beautiful and wonderful place than California, like every other temporary paradise, sometimes it stinks like hell.

This world cannot possibly be home for those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers. I think God wants me to constantly remember this fact. I can almost hear the Spirit whisper in my ear, “Don’t get too comfortable, because this isn’t it.” Peter called us “aliens and strangers in this world” and I’ve never felt that more tangibly than now.

Switchfoot says “I don’t belong here/It feels like I don’t belong here.” We don’t, in fact, belong here. We were created for something greater and more beautiful than this sin-stained and broken world. Every glimpse of anything beautiful is an undeserved reminder of the amazing grace of God.

Celebrate the moments where unexpected and undeserved beauty breaks through the clouds of this ugly and barren world. Thank God for grace and that He has prepared a place for us where He will finally wipe every tear from our eye. That, my friends, is what I hope for.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

3 reasons I love October...

1. Baseball's playoffs are, by far, the best in professional sports. Football only plays once a week, basketball takes 3 months and hockey, honestly, who cares? But baseball is a nightly event for three weeks in October. Great pitching matchups (like tonight, Clemens vs. Smoltz), big drama, fun storylines (like will defending champs Boston be swept by Chicago, will the upstarts in Houston win on pitching), baseball provides it all. Having the Yankees in the playoffs obviously helps (more on them later).

2. The weather is getting more reasonable all the time. Although in Texas, to get to reasonable there must be a 30 degree drop overnight with a chance of thunderstorms, but hey, at least it's not 98 anymore (at least until next week).

3. My Dad's birthday, on the 14th. (Had to include that one if I was going to retain any future hope of gifts on my birthday)

As promised...

The Yanks give me fits, but I'm excited about where they're at right now. Tied 1-1 with the Rally Monkeys of Northern Hemisphere, West Coast Of America, Southern California, Orange County, Los Angeles, But Not Really Cause We're Actually In Anaheim, going back to the Bronx with Unit on the hill. I'm liking it. Now, if the bats could wake up a little, especially near the top of the order, and if Ruben Sierra can continue to hold down his crucial spot at left bench, I like the looks of things. Also, I'm glad they're going back to the Bronx because, hopefully, this means the end of games that start at 9pm and end the next morning. (Should be an interesting night class tonight, thank God for caffeine.)

Word of the Day:
soporific, adj, "causing sleep, tending to cause sleep"

Although this word sounds like a measurement you'd use to determine the worthiness of a roll for Rudy's bar-be-cue, its real appeal lies in the fact that you could probably get away with using it on someone who bored you because they'll think you used some version of "terrific." Por ejemplo;

"So, Ted, what'd you think of my presentation to the board on how cutting back on the use of staples and using more paper clips would save the company money?"
"Well, Mike, I thought it was simply soporific."
"Gee, thanks!"
"Don't mention it."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Having trouble with my vision...

As many of you know, I am currently attending Dallas Theological Seminary, which I love most of the time. However, there are definitely times when I struggle feeling like the proverbial square peg. Allow me to explain.

Within our degree plan, we have ministry tracks, which are like mini-majors. For example, while getting a Master's in Theology degree, one could be on a Pastoral Ministries track, or a World Missions track or something of the like. I am on a Media Arts in Ministry track, which is very different than any of the others. It is different because it is broad. Now this broadness is both a good and a bad thing. It's good because it allows for us creative types to have some freedom and not be shoved into any box. It's bad because it allows for us creative types to have some freedom and not be shoved into any box. At times I think I would welcome a box.

It seems to me that most of the people walking around campus have their plans figured out. They know what they want to do, and when and where they want to do it. Although James warned against such presumption, it is also kind of a nice security. I, on the other hand, am like Linus without my blanket. I have no such plan.

The other day a dear friend of mine asked what I wanted to do when I left seminary. I refrained from saying, "Sit down with a beer," because I'm sure he was thinking long-term. I had to confess that I don't know. The problem is that I want to do too much. I want to impact our culture with Truth in so many different ways that most days they all just runtogetherinablur. So, I gave him a bunch of the ideas running through my head. Funny, he seemed fascinated and excited by what typiclly leaves me frustrated. His reaction was therapeutic for me.

The truth is, I don't have to have it all mapped out for me, although that would be nice. I do, however, have the responsibility to be faithful where God has brought me and be a good steward of the gifts He's seen fit to entrust into my care. So what if I don't know if I'll be a pastor, a teacher, a writer, or a whatever. (Even in writing that list, I see that it's not really as long as I tend to think.) God knows, and I guess that's good for me, for today.

He knows His plans. He knew when Joseph was in prison. He knew when Moses was in the desert. He knew when Job was in pain. He knew when Esther was in the king's harem. He knew when Israel was in exile. He knew when Judas was one of the 12. He knew when His Son sweated drops of blood and begged for the cup to be taken from Him. So, since I am surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, I guess I can comfortably conclude that He knows now, while Benji is in seminary.

Word of the Day:
encomium, n, high or glowing praise
Think how much fun you can have with a word that sounds like the name of an antacid, but actually means praise instead. "The lobster bisque was so great, I didn't have enough encomium to last through the meal."

P.S. Yes, Virginia, the Yankees did win the AL East yesterday. No, there was never any doubt on my part.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Playing the "judgment card"...

I’ve been troubled by some of my brethren lately. It seems as though anytime a natural disaster strikes, many evangelicals are quick to play the “God’s judgment” card. This is a very disturbing trend. Before I go into why, allow me a disclaimer.

I believe in God’s judgment, both ultimate and temporal. I believe that God is well within His rights to judge anyone, anything and at any time, by any means He deems suitable. And, frankly, I don’t know if the recent hurricanes are messengers of His judgment. It’s completely possible that they are, but it’s at least as possible that they are not. I don’t know. And there’s the rub.

I get the sense that many believe that they do, in fact, know. They confidently stand behind an all-too-large pulpit, holding their all-too-large Bible, and proclaim in their all-too-loud voice, that God is indeed judging ___________________ (insert name of city, person or group here) through ___________________________ (insert name of natural disaster, disease or unforeseen circumstance here). But, how do they know that? I would venture to guess that they don’t, but, due to their place behind that pulpit, feel like they can’t just say “I don’t know.” So, they play the “God’s judgment” card, use some Bible references (probably out of context) and call it a day. But, the Bible can be tricky. I’ve read some, too.

Noah had to be told by God what was going to happen to the earth, not just so that Noah would survive, but also because God wanted it to be clear. When God wanted Jonah to go to Ninevah and preach against it, God had to tell Jonah what was going on. In Deuteronomy, God gave the Israelites descriptions of what would happen if they were disobedient to Torah, because, apparently, He didn’t trust their interpretive framework. We see in Luke 9:52-56 that Jesus rebukes the disciples for their misunderstanding of judgment. Again, in John 9:1-7, the disciples tried to play the “God's judgment" card and Jesus showed them how little they understood about the topic. There’s a theme here.

It’s God’s prerogative to let people know when He is judging mankind. And if He doesn't do so, I think any claims that we know what He's up to, and why, are tenuous, at best. Just like the Israelites, I don’t think we adequately possess the ability to interpret the movings and thoughts of an eternal, all-powerful God. And I think that’s the difference. Without an eternal, all-powerful perspective, how could we know what God is doing exactly, not to mention why He’s doing it? “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8) “Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed Him as His counselor?” (Isaiah 40:13)

I have a second problem with this line of thinking. It seems very much to fit into a particular, earthly, sinful, fallen agenda and viewpoint. We consult our own wisdom to ascertain why God has done what He’s done, and inevitably come up with answers that highlight the sin of others. Interestingly enough, we rarely, if ever, come up with answers that point to our own sin. Rarely are we left asking the next logical question, “If that’s judgment on them, then why haven’t I been through the same thing for the wickedness in me?”

I think it's because we like to categorize people’s sins. Sin “x” is worthy of judgment, while sin “y” isn’t. And when we’re finished with our little math experiment, we feel somewhat better about ourselves. Such a line of thinking shows not only a lack of familiarity with God’s mind, but a complete misunderstanding of His holiness.

Granted, all is not right in the world. I read that in Genesis 3. But, can we just be more honest? Let’s say “I don’t know why, but I do know that God is still good.” His love endures forever, we’ve been told. And yet, just when people need that message most, we seem to inevitably revert to judgment. Let’s give hope in the midst of a screwed-up world. Let’s preach grace, mercy, truth, beauty and love. Let’s be a people that point to a greater reality than this one that constantly lets us down. Perhaps through us, this hurting and broken world will see God. Not an angry, scowling deity waiting to make human life miserable, but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who so loves the world.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Reflections on David...

I had to submit a paper today in my Old Testament History II class. I chose to write on David's charge to Solomon in 1 Kings 2:2-10. David spoke these words as Solomon's reign as the King of Israel was just about to begin. Interesting thing, this charge. Interesting man, this David.

First, David spends a considerable amount of time talking about how imperative it is for Solomon to keep his ways pure and live according to the Law. David references the promise Yahweh made to him in 2 Samuel 7:11-17 and seems to tell Solomon that the fulfillment of this prophecy is contingent upon his obedience to the Law. Good guy, right? Super concerned about the Law and walking in Yahweh's ways? One would think so if the story stopped here. But, it keeps going.

After expounding on the virtues of the Law and the need for Solomon to keep it, David then mandates the murders of two adversaries. Granted, he also calls for further mercy extended to the family of a former ally, but does that really wash away the other commands? In very strong language, David tells his son, "do not let these old men die in peace, but in blood" (Benji's paraphrase). Kind of wrecks the picture, right? Not for me, and I'll tell you why.

I like my Biblical figures like this. I don't mean bloodthirsty, Mafia-like dictators. I mean human. Give me some humans in all their gritty, unfinished and messed-up reality. David, even on his deathbed, was imperfect. And let's not forget Moses, Gideon, Samson, Abraham, Peter, and a whole host of others. These are dudes I can roll with.

David was called "a man after God's own heart." Yup, this David. In fact, Saul was rejected as King of Israel before him, because God wasn't pleased with him and He put David on the throne instead. Seriously. God chose David, the "soak them in blood" murderer-adulterer to be the leader of His people. And then called him a man after His own heart.

I'm encouraged by this. I see hope in David's story. If he could be so well regarded and spoken of so highly by the Almighty, maybe there's hope for me in all my stumbling attempts to follow in the ways of Christ. And even if it remains ugly and fallen until my last moments, at least I know I'm in good company.

Just a quick note...

If any of you out there in cyber land happen to be reading this (which seems increasingly unlikely), please pray for my parents. They are driving out here to spend some time with us, right as the next regulary scheduled hurricane is on its way. They are coming from north, so shouldn't hit much weather while they're driving, but who knows the impact of Rita on the Metroplex?

Thanks, and I'll be back soon with some reflections on peeps in the Bible.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Random thoughts...

First of all I'd like to say that I knew and predicted that UCLA would beat Oklahoma on Saturday. Something about my Bruins this year that has me cautiously excited.

The Yanks look good right now, despite their loss in Toronto today. The division isn't out of the question, especially since they end the year with 3 against the Sux. Again, cautiously excited...as much as you can be about a team that "technically" wouldn't make the playoffs if the season ended today.

Thirdly, fantasy football is genius. Right now I'm watching a game between a team I really can't stand (the Raiders) and one I am pretty apathetic about (the Chiefs). But, see, the thing is, my fantasy week rides on players in this game. So I'm watching attentively, cringing every time Priest Holmes touches the ball and making faces any time Kery Collins throws to someone other than Randy Moss.

We went and listened to Don Miller today. Dude is good. His message was so simple and yet profound. I guess that's what makes him a great writer and communicator. I seriously recommend hearing him or reading anything he's written.

Lastly, I've mentioned to some of you that I'm currently taking a creative writing class (which I hesitate to mention because it will inevitably change the way you read this blog..."That's not very creative"..."I could have written that"..."What a waste of seemingly infinite Internet space" and so on). I've decided that, on occasion, I'll post one of my "works" here so that y'all can see what I actually do in seminary. Also, because there are dedicated readers in California who wonder (Hi, Mom and Shannon!).

Here's a piece I wrote based on the painting American Gothic. You know, the one with the farmer and his wife. (It might be helpful for you to look at it for a while first)

We lived our American dream. We labored and sweated for years on end. See the home we built from the ground up? Simple, yet beautiful. A family sprung up, like crops we waited on each winter. They brought us joy and wonder. Now they’ve gone to build their own dreams and we sit alone again in a house that’s too large. The upper floor lies undisturbed, abandoned really.

We created a fa├žade, like wax fruit placed on a table to appeal only to the eye. But our faces won’t hide the truth; happiness evades us. We stand here as a monument to pointlessness.

This dream has not been sweet, but repetitive and demanding. It might seem as though we’ve “arrived,” but, if so, then why can’t I put down my tools?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Contemplating poverty...

Today I took a sub job that was simply described as "librarian." I thought this would be a rather simple assignment, involving lots of sitting, watching students pick out books and possibly explaining the Dewey decimal system when necessary. However, it turns out that in my half day, I hosted four different classes in the library, two without their teachers. For three of the groups, I read a story, talked about the theme of the story, and then helped them check out books. I found that children almost never know who wrote the books they want. "Mr. B.? Do you know where the Hank the Cowdog books are?" "Um, do you know who wrote it?" "No." "Then, no." "What about Captain Underpants, the Magic Treehouse or Junie B. Jones books?" "No."

The book I read to them was about a family that lived in an airport due to their poverty. Funny thing is, this children's book, coupled with a discussion I had with someone recently, really made me think about poverty. I get the impression that the political party with whom I have "registered" doesn't care much about the poor. This concerns me because this same political party also tends to trumpet itself as being on "God's side." This further concerns me because God tends to be on the side of the poor and the needy. It was, after all, the Almighty (speaking through James, the half-brother of Jesus) who said, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress." (James 1:27) Also, through the Apostle Paul, "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." (Galatians 2:9-10) Even in the Old Testament Law, "Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien." (Leviticus 19:10) It actually seems that God is quite concerned with the poor and needy and commands His people to be concerned as well.

This may be a very pertinent issue in the wake of Katrina. I believe that we are about to see the effects of poverty (and the even more dangerous effects of acting like it's no big deal) in very vivid detail. Louisiana may not recover for years. And the sad thing is that I don't think that the government will be the ones to do anything about it. No, even with all the drives, fundraisers and collections that have been organized and will continue to be so, I believe that this responsibility to take care of those who find themselves suddenly poor will fall to the people of God, the body of Christ. After all, we serve a God who cares for the poor, and are called to reflect His character. "'He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?' declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 22:16)

It is our role, our divine responsibility to stamp out poverty, Katrina-related, local and global. What should we be doing? What would make us the aroma of Christ in this world? Whatever, it is, let me drop one piece of advice: Be careful what you read in children's books. They may make you think.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Good to be back...

So, life is somewhat crazy right now. Both of the occupants of our little apartment are now officially grad students. And what does that mean? Why, 5 hour study sessions on the weekends, of course. Seminary is actually quite good. I really enjoy my classes, and the work load isn't too great yet, but this year I'm balancing work as well, and it's tougher than I anticipated. Tougher is a good thing, though. I need some "tougher" in my often-too-comfortable life. Luckily for me, I have Greek, and, all signs there seem to point to "tougher."

The Yankees continue to baffle me. They are currently leading in the Wild Card race, which would put them in the playoffs if the season ended today. (Although, if the season ended today, there might be a serious investigation as to what happened to the final three weeks.) So, I should feel good about the Yanks right now, right? Um, not exactly. I'm not scared in any way, as I firmly believe they will make the playoffs, I'm just exasperated that they aren't leading the division. They're good enough to do so, so why isn't it happening? Should I just be happy they are where they are?

The NFL starts tonight, at least according to the league. As far as I'm concerned, the NFL doesn't start until baseball season is over (or, as it's more commonly known, after the Yankees win the World Series). I like the NFL, don't get me wrong. It's just that I like it for that void between the World Series and baseball's winter meetings. It's convenient on Thanksgiving, too.

One of my professors is a star. She's a published author and I'm loving her class immensely. Her blog is really interesting and thought provoking. aspire2.blogspot.com Check it out if you have time and are willing to be challenged in your thinking. Not to be read lightly, but rather with strong coffee in hand.

One of my wife's favorite authors, Donald Miller, is coming to the area next weekend. We're going to go hear him speak on Sunday morning. That should be great. He wrote Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What and Through Painted Deserts. When my wife says she likes an author, I pay attention. She's finished over 40 books since January. Her goal to read 50 books this year is going to be met easily. There's something about being married to a well-read woman that is incredibly exciting and frightening at the same time. She's always been smarter than me, that I'm used to. It's just that she can also quote and reference half of the library, and frankly, I'm overmatched.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A vicious affliction...

Yesterday was the first day of my second year of seminary. God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be done in 3 years. So, with more than 40 units under my belt at this point, you’d think I was used to the way things went. But yesterday was a little different.

See, for the first time in my seminary education, I had the experience that most people associate with first year, first day. I’d heard it was a malady so vicious that it even breaks down the third floor library-dwellers, the ones whose eyes can’t decide if they should be reading right to left or left to right, who gesture during every conversation as though it was their senior sermon, who quote Calvin and Luther when asked about high-speed internet. I had the most dreaded of seminary experiences. I had syllabus shock. Looking at the syllabi I collected yesterday, with Greek being the most vile offender, I was convinced it wasn't possible. This is the very definition of syllabus shock.

It’s a very formidable opponent, one that some can never overcome. (We hear rumors of students “transferring,” a process somewhat like being deported, as I understand it.) It leaves you convinced that “these people [professors] have lost their minds,” “there isn’t enough time in the week,” “I guess I’ll have to give up showering and sleeping.” You become certain that every professor congregated for the faculty summit before the year began and the theme was “The Destruction of the Student: Developing a Plan.”

So, I got in the car after Greek yesterday, firmly convinced that I was destined to fail seminary, becoming one of the cautionary stories that first-year students hear at orientation. “This place isn’t for everyone. You’ve got to be ready to make sacrifices, and if you’re not, well, let me tell you a story…”

Funny thing, though. By the time I got home, and talked to my wife a bit (typically the best medicine), things didn’t look so bad anymore. I began to realize that I had gotten through a year already, and had begun to think I’d done it on my own. But, in truth, there’s no way I’d done it on my own. God’s grace was sufficient for last year, and it will be again for this year. I began to realize that through my eyes and on my own strength, yeah, those syllabi are outrageous, but I can’t look at them with my own eyes and wouldn’t dare rely on my own strength. His power is made perfect in my weakness, which is good because I’ve got plenty of weakness. I’ve decided that I will make it through this semester, and the next three, but only if I rely on His strength and power. As soon as I start relying on my own strength, the author of the cautionary tale can pick up his pen.

So, things look better today. I’m still not excited about Greek, but it’s not going to be my undoing, and that’s good enough to get me through today. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some homework. And, yes, I have already showered.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Things you hear when substitute teaching...

This week I substitute taught at 7 different schools in 5 days. Substitute teaching is rather entertaining, really. All kinds of crazy stuff happens when a stranger is in charge of the classroom. For example:

Here in Texas, each morning the students start off saying the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the Pledge to the Texas flag. Seriously. There is a Pledge to the Texas flag. I'm not making this up. How could I? These people are a bit crazy.

One of the best parts of substitute teaching is the inevitable, "How old are you?" guessing game. When you're in your late 20's and still get stopped by high school teachers asking where your hall pass is (really happened this week), this game takes on a whole new dimension. In one class, one student insisted that I was 18, while another said, "No, stupid, he's in his late 30's." Sigh.

One of the best sub jobs to get is anything that says High School "PE/Health" because that probably means that the teacher is a coach. See, here in Texas, coaches are people of some significance and their schedules reflect that. For example, on Monday I subbed for a coach whose first block class was athletics (more commonly known as morning football practice). That was nice because he was there for that block and I got to read in the teacher's lounge. His second and third block classes were what is known as "Academic Support" but you and I might call "study hall." That involved sitting at a table, taking role and more reading. Then in fourth block, he had a free "planning" period, or a "Benji gets to go home early" period. You can see why this schedule is so desireable. I hear stories of bloodshed while potential subs fought over such jobs.

The other day I was in a high school physics class and a student asked if he could go to the restroom. According to policy, I asked where his agenda was, so I could initial it. He brought it to me, and I wrote my initials, "BB." Upon looking at my initials, this young scholar said, "That's pimpin'!" As I reflected on his comment, I tried to imagine either of the two letters I had just written strolling through urban sprawl wearing platform boots, gold chains and polyester pants. Suffice it to say that I had trouble conjuring the image. Now, two letter P's, that's a different story.

For my last sub story...I was in a freshman English class the other day. I was giving a 10 minute quiz, and told the students to be silent. As you can imagine, there was some significant struggle with this. After reiterating the need for silence, and writing down the offenders names like I was asked to do by the regular teacher, it got quiet for a moment. Until...One student said, "Hey, it's really quiet in here. Could you put on some music or something?" With a rather incredulous look on my face I said, "No." He said, "Well, then will you whistle or something?" Seriously. I was asked to whistle because it was too quiet during a quiz. Dude's on his way to a premium coach's schedule.

Unrelated: My wife's crazy funny. She just makes me laugh all the time. This is pertinent because she's back in my life after a crazy time of RLT. I love spending time with her. She's just so much fun! My favorite is when she acts angry, even though she's not, and then says the most ridiculous things in her angry voice. This is actually happening right now and the intermittent laughter is really affecting my ability to type. Even four years in, we goof around like dating teenagers. Good times. The best part of my week for sure.

Word of the day: trammel, n, "something impeding activity, progress or freedom" Try substituting this word for the more mundane "block." As in, "Man, I've got writer's trammel," "Could you pass me the sun trammel?" "That running back throws a heck of a trammel," or "There's a giant squirrel carcass trammeling the road ahead."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Back to work...

Sorry the blog hasn't been updated lately; I've been hard at work as the best substitute teacher in North Texas. I'll update over the weekend though with stories and such.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Books and baseball...

A couple of months ago I started creating an inventory list of all of the books we own. Although this may sound completely anal, there was a really good reason for starting this project: I had purchased a book for school that I already owned but didn't realize it. Not fun to waste money when you're in seminary. This project got me thinking: Is there really a better gift than a good book? Seriously, most of these books that I'm cataloguing were gifts, and they've served me well. So, next time you're stuck for a gift for someone, head to Recycled Books. Too much good stuff not to have something you can use.

Another thing I noticed: If you want to publish a theology book, you’d better be pretty comfortable going by your initials.

Who knew that the Colorado installation of Shawn Chacon was like pre-spider-bite Peter Parker? All of a sudden, he puts on that Yankee uniform and turns into Nolan Ryan. We'll take it, thank you. And if anyone knows where that spider that bit him crawled to, there's a line of guys waiting to be bitten. Guys named Brown, Pavano, Wright, Embree...

The effects of seminary: I've got a break in my class schedule, and won't start until the 30th. So, what did I do? I checked out books at the library to fill the time! Really. And I plan to actually read them. My high school English teachers would be shocked.

The Yanks won today. The Royals won't. The Royals have lost 19 straight games. That's a lot. In fact, the record for most consecutive losses is 21, and they are putting that mark in some serious jeopardy. Not only are they playing the A's, who are winning a lot right now, but the Royals winning is exactly what the Yankees need to happen, so of course it won't.

I watched the Yankees-White Sox game today, some of the Little League World Series, and am currently watching the Rangers-Devil Rays. Some would say I have an addiction, but that's just not true. I can quit anytime I want, as long as it's between November and March.

An amazing baseball-related development: apparently there is a grassroots effort to bring back the San Francisco Giants mascot, the Crazy Crab. (Clink on the link that says "Scott on Sports and More" if you want to read more about this.) This got me thinking. How difficult would it be to start a grassroots campaign to send the Rangers' "Captain" mascot to the glue factory?

There was really no point to this post, which, if you're still reading you already figured out. So, congratulations. You've just invested irreplacable minutes of your life in the inconsequential minutia that rolls through my mind on a typical Saturday. (I actually opened the dictionary and looked up how to spell minutia, and then, in the height of irony, I had to log back in because I noticed I'd still spelled it wrong. Gotta love that Stan State education.)

Word of the day: dastard, n. coward, a person who acts treacherously. Call a friend that next time you're tempted to say "You're such a chicken." Not only will you sound more refined, but watching their head snap around because they think you just cursed at them is like double the fun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Gospel of Yankee...


The picture is of the kingdom of heaven. Perhaps not what you'd been led to believe, but trust me, that's what it looks like.

Today a friend of mine called and made a confession. He said that over the course of the last year or so he'd realized that he's something of a Yankee fan. Not his primary allegiance, admittedly, but after his team of choice, it was the Bronx Bombers. This is something I wish for all people. That one day every person would wake to realize the beauty of loving the Yankees, and feel foolish for taking so long to see the truth. This is one of my missions in life, to bring the Gospel of Yankee to the masses.

Not sure what my seminary professors would think of that. Very sure I'll probably never get a job at a church in Boston after this post (not sure that I'd want one). Although, with God's sense of humor, it could be that the only church that wants me is in Beantown. Hmm...the cost of discipleship, I guess.

Still flying solo during RLT. Not too bad, though, I've had plenty to occupy my days this time around. I've been slogging my way through some course work I had to finish up for a class that I took a couple of weeks ago. I really enjoyed the class, Sanctification and Ecclesiology. The post-class reading has been much less engaging than the lectures, though.

One of the best parts about RLT, besides the free dinners the first weekend, is that you never know when the windows are going to be darkened and a crazy-fun game of flashlight tag is going to break out in the old Clarkville. Good times. During flashlight tag I always feel like some sort of spy or something, then I feel dumb for feeling that, then I feel like I don't care that I feel dumb, because I'm a spy and that's just the way it is, and if I can't accept that about myself then maybe I shouldn't be friends with me!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

From chaos to quiet...

On the left is my wife, the real star of the show, with my older sister in San Luis Obispo, CA.

So, my brother's gone now. My parents ate the Hotwire money because he needed to get home to Cali. I took him to the airport this morning, dropped him off around 5:15. In the course of his 5 days in Denton, he figured out the next two years of his life. He accepted an offer to Arizona State University. No money at the front end, but he has been assured some will be freed up by the time that the second semester, and baseball season, rolls around. It was great to have him here. I love spending time with my family.

My wife's gone now, too. Training her staff started today and lasts until next Sunday (21st). She's got plenty to do in the next 8 days; she'll be spending pretty much all day, every day with her staff until training ends and students move in. Last year, this was the worst part of the year for me. I really don't like being by myself, so it was tough to have her gone all day and to not know anyone else. This year should be better; I feel like I'm part of the family here in the hall. Her staff is great, which is a reflection of great leadership.

My wife is the best. She keeps me motivated, keeps me doing the things I need to do (like working out), keeps me thinking deeper than I would on my own. I do love my family, and my wife is the gem. When she's gone and working a crazy schedule like this one, I'm always reminded of just how irreplaceable she is in my life. Nothing else makes me as happy, as whole. It's good to be part of "us."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Swept up in the whirlwind...


Since I posted last...

My brother's team lost their Monday morning game in Wichita, and they were done. That's fine, he felt ready to be home in Cali for a while. Oh, wait a minute on that. Apparently a Hotwire round-trip is more permanent than Polident. So, his flight that was scheduled to leave Wichita on the afternoon of Monday, the 15th, still leaves on the afternoon of Monday the 15th, no matter what. So, after a sterling 7 days in Wichita, (in which he pitched all of 1 inning, allowed no hits, no walks, and struck out 2) his options pretty much were spend a week in Wichita, waiting, or...

We got home to Denton about dinner time on Monday night. Since then, it's been nothing but a flurry of cell phone activity. He's trying to switch schools for the fall, so that he can play baseball at a NCAA Division I school instead of the NAIA school he signed with last fall. Pretty crazy, when baseball coaches from literally all over the country call your cell phone out of the blue. The clincher is the money (isn't it always?). He'd be giving up a pretty nice scholarship if he left the NAIA school, so the money has to be right from anyone else. So, far, the money's not right, but the offers seem to be getting a little better. Thing is that playing D-I ball is a great opportunity, and would set him up well when he starts coaching, which is his ultimate goal.

Yesterday, I took him to a school in the area where he walked in and introduced himself, laid his credentials out on the line and got a little tour of their facility, a phone number to call and made an impression. Must have, because he got a call from a coach last night with some questions. Today, he's throwing for another area school, who has already said that they're prepared to make a financial offer (rumor is they need pitching bad), but not the best place to be school and people-wise. So, we'll see how all that goes. Interesting thing is that most of these schools start classes in the next 2 or 3 weeks, so the time frame is tight, to say the least.

The short version? I've been swept up into the whirlwind of college sports recruiting, become the sounding board for ideas and suggestions, become the driver, become the voice of reason (I hope). We're just praying for clarity, patience, peace and doors that open REALLY wide.

Oh, yeah, I've still got papers to write and books to read in the next 8 days. Fun.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Wichita update...


This is a picture of the mandatory post-game kneel in which coaches impart timeless wisdom after tough losses. I mean truly timeless stuff like, "Well, we came up a little short today, boys." Or, "This is a tough loss to swallow." Perhaps the empathetic, "This hurts me, too." Rarely have I experienced a post-game kneel which included something along the lines of, "Well, boys, to be honest, this is all my fault. I left Jenkins in there too long because I was scared to make a move that would make me look bad. How's that for irony? On top of that, in the second inning, I held up a runner at third even though the ball was rolling around the base of the outfield wall because for a moment I started thinking about where to get some bar-be-cue after the game and when I came to and realized I had no idea what was happening, I figured the smart thing to do was to play it safe. So, uh, sorry 'bout that."

Well, it's now day three of the Wichita experience and there are three things I know for sure. First, I'm getting old. The last two nights I've stayed up until 11:30 and midnight, respectively, having been at baseball games. This morning I'm so tired it's ridiculous. I've even had three cups of coffee (if the stuff they offer in lower-end hotel rooms can really bear that title), and I still feel like I should take a nap. Secondly, as much as I love baseball (I think it's pretty evident), going to games that end around midnight, watching a team on which you only really know one person, and that one person doesn't even play, is kind of a let down. I enjoyed watching the game full of non-descript college players, but it just wasn't a seminal experience. Thirdly, some people should never be allowed in public.

Yesterday, I heard a fan loudly berate the scoreboard operator in what, I'm sure, he thought was good fun. But to the rest of us he sounded like an overbearing idiot who just needed to go home. I also heard a father behind me constantly riding his 7ish year old daughter, saying, "Just sit still and watch the game." It was relatively evident that she had no intention of watching the game, but she gave it a good try. Any time anything happened that drew an audience response, she asked, very sweetly, "Daddy, what happened?" To which his typical response was something along the lines of, "Just be quiet. Stop talking and watch the game." Soon the whole family was in on it, saying things like, "I'd give her a hundred dollars if she'd shut up for just 20 minutes." Pretty rough. I was so irritated by the apparent lack of compassion that I had to say something, About the sixth inning, I turned around and said, "Sir, maybe if you just gave her some attention, kindly answered her questions and didn't respond to her request for an ice cream by telling her that you weren't buying anything else that night at the very same moment that you finished paying the beer man, she would sit still." It was a moment of rare boldness and straightforwardness that I really wished had come all the way out of my mouth instead of getting stuck on pause in my brain, which is what actually happened. Or perhaps it's better that way.

My brother's team lost last night. They play this morning at 10:30, and with another loss, they're eliminated. They play the aforementioned Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks and face a pitcher from Taiwan who held my brother's summer team in Alaska hitless through 8 innings. So, it should be interesting.

More to come, perhaps from at home in Denton.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Things you hear in Wichita...

Here at the NBC World Series, I've heard all kinds of interesting tidbits and such that I'd love to pass along. Here are some highlights...

From generally oversized coaches who seem to have their positions due to some sort of nepotism:
Meaningless blabber. Stuff like: "Okay, now big spot here." Like the batter needs to be reminded of that. Or, another favorite comes when the count is 3 balls and 2 strikes on the hitter: "C'mon now, base hit or ball four." Since the only other option left to that batter is to make an out, that would seem to go without saying.

From the rather rotund man whose belly made it seem as though Jeff Gordon was driving a limo across his NASCAR shirt:
"Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? Not me, I've only seen it on TV. It was built a long time ago." One of my favorites! This guy was good for a couple of quotes about Arizona; how he'd never been there, but seen it on TV (repeated at least twice), how he loved westerns, how Tombstone was set in Arizona, how Tombstone was about gun fighters who fought with guns. Good stuff.

From the mother who is far too interested in a free t-shirt to pay attention to trivialities like family harmony:
"Hey, quit complaining! Just go back to sleep and share the pillow with your sister!" As part of the tournament, they're doing a contest-type thing called "Baseball Around the Clock." As the title denotes, there is, literally, baseball all day and night. These people in the contest are trying to attend 17 straight games over the course of 56 hours. During each game a cuckoo-clock sound plays over the PA system, and the participants have something like 5 or 10 minutes to check in. Rumor has it that there's a t-shirt waiting for those who stay the course. 3 crazy things about this: first, at any given time, during any given game, there are people sprawled out sleeping throughout the stadium. On the bleachers, on blankets on the ground, wherever they can catch some shut eye and be within range of the cuckoo sound. Secondly, I'm thinking that if these people spent some of those 56 hours working instead of trapped at a minor-league baseball stadium, they could buy their own t-shirt. Thirdly, 56 hours of ballpark food. 'Nough said.

From the public adress announcer laboring on a hot Sunday morning in the Bible Belt:
"Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. In just a few minutes the nondenominational church service will begin in the Budweiser Pavilion." Good times! The best part was crowd reaction, which ranged from, "Did he say church service was in the Budweiser Pavilion?" to "That's my kind of church!" While I admire their attempts to provide a legitimate worship-going experience for the Sunday morning contingent, it does raise some interesting questions about how they celebrate communion. Somehow, beer nuts and Bud Light don't seem to parallel the body and the blood.

I'm having a blast here. The games are being played at the Royals' AA minor-league team's field. My brother and I went to a game this morning. The game was scheduled to start at 8am, but when we arrived, we found out that the 3am game (literally, around the clock) hadn't started until 5:30am, so everything had been delayed. We watched the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks, Alaska, 49th State of the Union, Land of the Midnight Sun soundly defeat the Las Vegas Desert Devils. (Okay, so their name is really only the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks, but even that is a bit much.) My brother's team, the Havasu Heat, plays tonight at "7:30." We'll see about that.

That's all for now. He's taking a nap and I should be reading. Pictures from tonight's game should be here soon. Maybe post-game tonight or first thing tomorrow.

P.S. It's hot here.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Aloha, from Wichita! This morning I left Denton and was in Wichita, KS in time to have lunch with my brother. We live in a very beautiful country, folks! Oklahoma, much to the chagrin of her rather uppity neighbors to the south among whom I live, is very beautiful. The hills and plains dotted with red dirt riverbeds are worth seeing. I just had to smile as I arrived in Kansas and could see, I'm pretty sure, to at least Minnesota from the state line. The purpose of this blog entry, however, is something else.

There is something seriously therapeutic about driving across 3 states in one morning. Yesterday morning I finished one of the best classes I've had in school and was feeling really good about life in general. Then, while driving home, I talked to my older sister and got some really troubling news about some common friends of ours. I was so distressed. In fact, I was completely angry, sad and mystified all at once.

I got home and wanted to pray for these friends but was just so frustrated that every time I started, I wasn't even sure what to say. All I know is that, for one of the very few times in my life, I was mourning with those who mourn, and it sucks. I didn't feel better afterwards, which, I suppose, is the point. I'm sure they don't feel so great right now either. To really feel the pain when someone is hurting is a biblical command, I know, but not one I'm particularly good at. I tend to gloss over pain, mine and others', and put on a false, heroic front. I was convicted in my soul this week at school, when my professor was talking about "mourn with those who mourn," and said, "When a part of the body hurts and we don't feel it, it's called leprosy, and it's really bad." I thought then, "I don't know that I really mourn with those who mourn." I can't really say that now, and I'm glad. As much as yesterday afternoon sucked, I have a faint and foggy idea of what my sin must put Christ through and I hate that I do that to Him.

So, I'll continue to try to stumble my way through something resembling prayer for my friends and hope that God is honored by it. Above all, though, I want to continue to feel for them, to feel deeply what they're going through. I want to be grieved in my spirit, and to remember the feeling for a very long time to come.

On a much happier note, I'm in Wichita for the weekend to watch the National Baseball Congress World Series. My brother is here playing for the Havasu (AZ) Heat. I hadn't seen him since Christmas, and any stretch of time that provides for 2 tattoos is too long not to have seen one another. Should be great to hang out with him, watch plenty of college-level baseball and be away on a bit of a retreat. I'll try to update each day with Wichita stories and hopefully some pictures, too.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Craving community...

This last week I battled some serious blahs. I just didn't feel "right." Not sick, mind you, just not "right." Kind of down and sad. I wasn't sure why, per se, until Sunday night. While deep in conversation at Taco Bell (like you could have any other kind over a Soft Taco Supreme), my wife just nailed it. "Are you lonely?" Hmm, hadn't honestly thought of that, but, yeah, that sounds about right. I told her that I missed California, missed my seminary friends, missed my family, etc, etc. "I just think I'm craving community," I said.

Funny thing, community. I know there are people who can get drained by being around others for too long, I'm just not one of those people. I love being with other people. Having conversations that matter, being encouraged by them, empathizing with them, all of it is good, in my book.

God said that it wasn't good for the man to be alone. Funny thing is that most church folks I know would say that having a personal, intimate, one-on-one relationship with God is the height of spirituality. Apparently God disagreed. When the man had that in the garden, God said he was alone and it wasn't good. I feel that. I really hate being alone. I need others. Without other people around me I become a less-desirable version of myself. Others kick my butt when I need it (often), pick me up when I'm down (sometimes), and generally encourage me to be better than I am (always need that).

And you know who's best at this? My wife. She just knows. Doesn't take long for her to diagnose, either. Just knows. I like it that way. Saves me the trouble of putting up a false, heroic front. She knows I need her and she likes to be needed. I see a bit of what God had in mind when He said it wasn't good for the man to be alone. I see it everyday and I love it. So, since she's gone for the evening, this is an appropriate post for the blog. Tonight, this is my community. You'll have to forgive me tomorrow night, however, when I completely ignore this community and turn my attention back to her.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The dangers of blogging...

Thoughts I'm thinking:

I hate that I'm so forgetful. Sometimes it seems as though there is some serious short-circuit in my grey matter. For example...

Yesterday I was so excited to sleep in, start this blog, etc. Having a leisurely Saturday morning and all. Until. Until my wife got out of bed and asked where the cinnamon rolls were. What cinnamon rolls, you ask? Funny enough, so did I. She somewhat frustratedly said, "The cinnamon rolls you promised you were going to make for breakfast." Seems that I had, indeed, promised to make cinnamon rolls. I had promised this just the night before. However, by the time that Saturday morning arrived, no recollection. She might as well have asked me how to write a geometry proof, it was gone. Forgotten...

Why do I do this? It bothers me, bothers others. How do I go about remembering? Short of wallpapering my home with Post-It notes, I'm at a loss. The really ironic thing is that I rarely forget stuff like what time the Yankees are playing and such. Hmm...what does this say about me?

Books I'm reading:

I recently finished "Seeing God" by Gerald McDermott and found it very fascinating. I don't usually underline much, but this book looks like it got into a serious highlighter duel. He discusses, based on Jonathan Edwards' "Religious Affections" true and false signs of faith. These ar not intended to be used on others, like some sort of religious radar, but rather on the individual. Great stuff and well worth the read for anyone sorting through the proliferation of "religiosity" in the world and wondering about the state of their own faith.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Saturday morning....

Thoughts I'm thinking:

I love Saturdays in general. There's the regularly scheduled sleeping in, the mid-morning coffee, and perusing ESPN.com for the Yankees score (which I usually know before I go to bed on Friday anyway). But this Saturday is a little different...

We are less than 48 hours from the Major League Baseball trading deadline. This is exciting stuff. After Sunday at midnight, teams can't trade without going through a rather complex process. So, there's this real flurry of activity most years. One of the reasons this is so exciting is that it keeps things fresh and new.

I kind of wish that life had a trading deadline. You know, when things seem to get bogged down and repetitious, there would be one day on the calendar where mass change would come in a flurry. Think about the fun that would be...you go to bed on Friday reflecting upon your life as a data entry clerk in Topeka and find out on Saturday morning that you've been traded and now are a flight attendant stationed in Miami. That'd be cool, no?

Books I'm reading:

I just finished reading "Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church" by Philip Yancey, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very affirming to see all the different people from many different faith traditions that had influenced Yancey's faith. It also served as a very strong reminder to continually separate Jesus from the church. I am, more often than not, a poor representative of Him, but that should always reflect poorly on me, not Him.