Friday, July 28, 2006

Teaching is Hard

I'm heading into class 5 and 6 of my class this week and I'm realizing I have to be more prepared than I really have time to be. I've spent at least 6 hours prepping for this week's upcoming classes and there's more to go. I realized I left half the readings at the office, so I'm going to have to go in early Monday to incorporate the ones for that class' lecture. Argh.

I determined that I give too much graded classwork (completely heightens the busy-work grading factor). So, this week I'm trying to lecture more through the readings. In other words, I'm actually going to teach rather than basically lead them to self-teach, which is mostly what this class is built to be. I had a few complaints about the study guides that came with the course and I feel stupid just sitting there grading busy-work while the class basically rewrites the chapters they read for homework that I then grade. I was bummed on Wednesday because I knew that's what the class was and I didn't have time to get anything else together. It's a work in progress and I hope this week is better.

I can't wait til we get to ethics to do the exercises and debates I'm planning. The classes are extra long (4.5 hours), but I'm going to order us food and we'll have extra time to do the special activities. The cool part is they will be able to work on the debates and deliver them in the same class night. Less homework makes the class happy.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lump in My Throat

As I get older I see that one of life's great challenges for us is to be affected and changed by circumstances and not overwhelmed by them. Those that walk through joy and tragedy unaffected and those who become stuck in the mud of those circumstances are in the same boat. They've missed the point. There is a time to cry and a time to rejoice. Sometimes those come close in succession. And other times wide apart. But we must feel, contemplate, learn, and grow. That is essential to knowing our mission and essential to knowing God. It seems to me that so many false philosophies, worldviews, and religions are built out of either being disaffected or bogged down by one's path in life.

I feel like I've lived the experiences of 20 people in the past 18 months. I haven't been given the time I want to contemplate those circumstances, but maybe that has prevented the mud problem. The things that have happened are also so close to my core that I couldn't have ignored them if I tried. God is pressing me toward a challenging life that's destined to know Him more. I'm truly being propelled toward Him and desparately separated from my own flesh. I don't think I could even hold on to who I was an hour ago if I tried. It's not that I feel out of control, but rather I feel like I'm being drawn to God by the strongest magnet you could ever imagine. I have to admit that this is more than a frightening experience in the sense of the sheer awesomeness of it all. Why is He gracing me with such an honor to know Him? That is so unfathomable. But deeper and deeper I go into His depths, racing through all the refining tragedy and joy I could ever imagine, recognizing it's a shaping force. I am not who I was an hour ago. He is reforming my mind. He is setting my feet upon a rock and lighting my path. He is calling me for a vision that's requiring such refining. The training must equal the weight of the task.

I'm glad I'm sitting down because in a moment I will be face-down.

Stealing from Drew Moser's Blog...Again...

Drew Moser really makes me want to read this book:

I just finished Ray Oldenburg's intriguing book, The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. It's a sociologist's look into the places that foster community. What makes them tick? How are they structured? Oldenburg calls these effective community gathering spots: "third places". They are informal, distinct locales that fosters community. Your home is your first place, and your work is your second place. Americans, by and large, have no third place, no informal gathering space to hang out, converse, and build relationships.

Some of the symptoms that reveal the need to establishing 'great good (third) places':

Our houses are no longer designed with the front porch as the focal point. We pull our car in our garage, enter the house from the garage, and never interact with our neighbors.

Even our coffee shops are more concerned with profitable efficiency. Hence, chains like Starbucks hiring speed/efficiency gurus to get your coffee order filled in under 3 minutes (or something like that)
Restaurants...even sit-down restaurants, adhere to the same goals. Get you in, get your food, and get out. It's interesting: on my most recent trip to Italy, we made a reservation for dinner at a local restaurant. The reservation reserved the table for us for the entire evening. . .

Statistically, American stress levels are extremely high, in proportion to our 'affluence'. We have no place to go, relax, and unwind with good company.
To put it another way...cultures that have 3rd places live on a healthy tripod of home, work, and 3rd place (cofee shop, pub, etc.) In America, we're walking through life on stilts (home and work), and we're burning out...

If we were to bring back the third place, consider the impact. In Oldenburg's words: "the stranger feels at home--nay, is at home..." (xxviii)

Being a pastor, Oldenburg's findings have profound insight on how we, as a faith community, design and create the spaces we occupy. Can't there be more to a worship space than pews and/or chairs, and a stage with a screen on the back wall? I hope so...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday in the City

Working on class stuff yesterday was a great decision because it afforded the opportunity to play today. A great AM yoga practice, brunch at Fire & Ice, a movie, and then church at Park St. Good times in Cambridge and Boston. I totally tired myself out, which is a good thing.

The best part of the day was church. I'd never been to one of the contemporary evening services at Park St Church and I really enjoyed it. We sang How Great is Out God and I remembered how amazing it is to sing that song with a lot of other people. I didn't realize how much I missed worshipping like that. I don't know if Park St is where God is going to place me for ministry, but I think it's where I'm going to be for the next season.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Rocket Fuel

A portion of this passage, translated in the Message, just about knocked me breathless last night.

Galatians 5:16-26:

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. [so true freedom is the absence of selfish motives] These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day.[selfishness is governed by feelings rather than truth] Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence? [freedom is calm whereas law promotes compulsion to selfishness]

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time [selfishness]: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.[whoa, our entire culture has been described by this passage]

This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom. [the freedom God provides us to choose or reject Him can be used to dwell in selfish pursuits that flesh out into the behaviors described in earlier verses; God's making it clear that behaving selfishly is a choice to reject Him]

But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. [this is why we measure salvation by fruit of lives] We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. [we find holiness in the everyday] We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. [wisdom comes from freedom in Christ]

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.[this is an active process that takes work] That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse.[besides, comparison is rooted in selfishness] We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.


What I see is this: since our default humanity is selfish (that, in essence, is the sin that Eve committed), we want what we think will make us happy, even at the expense of others (or, in the long run, ourselves). But Christ came and erased that equation. He made it possible for us to live in freedom. He made the final blood sacrifice for us so that we don't have to make them anymore. That focus and need is satisfied. He has paved the way for freedom, but our old selves love structure, rules, and self-promotion. So we act out of the old system and everything goes awry. It's putting leaded fuel into an unleaded engine. The engine will eventually stop working after continuing along feebly for a little while. That's Satan's tool--the woe is me game. That is what divides rather than unites. That's what bogs us down in mud rather than letting us run free.

I'm ready for the rocket fuel.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It's 9pm and 89 degrees

I have to say I'm completely bored and unmotivated, despite the fact that I should be prepping for my class tomorrow night. Could be due to the fact that it's 10 million degrees in here and I enjoyed a nice re-creation of a drink from Pat O'Brien's. No wonder why people in the tropics party and don't do anything else...

Monday, July 17, 2006

A Case of the Mondays

I am bowled over by how hard today was. I woke up too late to have time for devotions. I was running from the moment my feet left my bed, with demands on me left and right. My contacts were bothering me so much that I came home at lunchtime to get my glasses. On the drive home to get the glasses I got rear-ended. There was no significant damage (praise God!), but it was an inconvenience. I sped back to work because I was late for a meeting (that went on without me and could have skipped altogether). I was literally crying out to God on the drive back to work. Today was so far out of my hands. I don't recall the last time I was so desperate for His peace.

I know I'm under attack. The enemy knows what was released in me last week. I can only say that he hates freedom from lies, bondage, and hurt. He especially hates when that freedom leads to a greater understanding of God. God is powerful beyond comprehension, and the knowledge of Him is catastrophic to the forces of darkness. Let me rest in the fray, covered by the protection of Christ. He is my rear guard and His Word is my covering.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Date

I just got home from my first date with Peter. We met through eHarmony and he's the first guy I've met in person. The date was pretty good--good meal, good conversation (though far too focused on me)....but, I don't feel that spark. He's a really nice guy, but I wasn't hanging on his every word. I talked to my mom and she recommended a second date if he asks for it. She's my mom and that sounds like good advice. Apparently Dad didn't knock my mom's socks off at first either.

I'll keep you all posted.

Hope in Redemption

Prayers for myself--
prayers I didn't even
know how to pray

With words that are
so sweet
That have no words

A place of ending is
a place of beginning



I don't even know
where one begins
and one ends


God in this place--
this beautiful place

Heart that's mended

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Collision

I don't think I can possibly condense the last 4 days in a blog post. I don't even know if I can wrap words around them. But over and over, I've seen the redemption story played out for myself and people I love. It's amazing to step back and glimpse (only for a moment) a sliver of what God sees of creation. That fleeting moment, a small fraction, was enough to dumbfound me.

God is a God of completion
He desires redemption
That redemption comes in ways we often don't expect
God wants good things for us
God ordains seasons in our lives

The fact that God has come to Earth and desires to be known by marginal beings such as ourselves blows me away. The fact that He has intimate knowledge of the details of our lives, knows what we need, and actually cares, is astonishing. The way He works our sin, poor choices, and indecision for His glory puts me on my face.

What a holy God!
What a victorious warrior!
What a redeemer!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Dad Update

Hi everyone! Sorry I haven't given you an update on my dad yet, but I am now in Florida (for about 2 seconds) before continuing on my way.

At any rate, he's doing much better. Turns out that there were multiple blockages in all 3 arteries, which is odd since he doesn't have high cholesterol or blood pressure. So, the doctors placed a stint in one artery and did angioplasty on another. He was in the hospital overnight for observation and was released Saturday afternoon.

Thanks again for your continued prayers over his condition. I really do appreciate your caring for my family!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Prayer Request

Due to arterial blockage discovered by doctors today, my father is having an angiogram tomorrow at 9am ET. During this procedure the doctors hope to insert a stint into 1 or more arteries. If this is not successful, they will do bypass surgery. Please remember my dad in your prayers!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Love Affair (Not the Regular Kind)

The last 2 weekends have cemented in my mind how much I love this city. Last weekend involved a drive through several neighborhoods and this weekend was time spent enjoying all that it has to offer. Where else can I enjoy tasting chowder from 15 restaurants, sitting in a park, and watching a clipper ship come to dock--all in one afternoon. And on the 4th we've got the best fireworks in the country, complete with Aerosmith and the Boston Pops. Perfection.