Thursday, August 31, 2006

Lost in New Jersey

I've decided that New Jersey may have some of the worst signage in the country. I was warned about the "jug handles" method of making left turns. But I wasn't warned about how poorly marked all the roads are. Fortunately I spent some time studying my map and was ready for this on the road. I wasn't ready for this at the airport when I couldn't find the rental car counters. I asked two different workers at the airport and eventually learned that I had to take the air tran to get to the rental car place.

Overall this has been a good trip, except that we got here today instead of last night. Weather in Raleigh was a problem for us and our flight got cancelled. It was nice to have one more night in bed with Amanda instead of sleeping here.

Our training has been pretty simple. We'll probably be done by lunchtime, but our flight isn't until after 8:00 PM. Hopefully we can get an earlier flight. If not, hopefully we can spend some time in NYC. At least it's better than hanging out in the Newark Airport.

I guess my attitude toward NYC is softening a bit. I suppose it will only take a few encounters with some New Yorkers for me to change my mind, but so far just about everyone has been very pleasant. However, I did notice a strange thing about the civility here in that it doesn't seem very genuine or deep. For example, the woman who met us by the front desk smiled and welcomed us, but she never told us her name. Very strange to me.

So now the question is -- seafood tonight or NYC? It all depends on whether we can get that earlier flight. If not, we'll do The City tonight. If so, seafood at the beach. Got to maximize road trips...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Eye of the Whirlwind

I mentioned this in my last post, but now things are starting to feel somewhat overwhelming. I can't believe that I'll be in New Jersey at this time tomorrow, Lord willing. The more I look ahead to this trip the less excited I am. The good news is that I think the training class is only from 9 - 4, so I might not have to be up quite as crazy early as usual.

Part of me dreads going with a female coworker. I'm not really that concerned, but I don't intend to be buddy-buddy with her either. It's just not a good idea, as far as I'm concerned.

It felt good to be more or less in the routine today. Lily was her usual difficult self at dinnertime, so she didn't get any treats tonight. I took her out shopping and gave her frequent reminders of why she didn't get any treats and why she didn't get to ride in a car shopping cart at all either. Hopefully it will sink in eventually.

Amanda and I are just exhausted today. I hope that it gets better as we readjust to Eastern Time.

Forgive how this post was all over the place. I feel like I've been remiss in not posting more lately. Hopefully I can post after my trip to the Garden State.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Back from the Land of Beef

I can't believe that I haven't updated my blog in over a week. But I hope you will forgive me when you learn that I spent the last 5 days in Kansas City visiting my dad and stepmom. It was a great visit and we had many laughs. We also enjoyed many great meals together. The best thing was that they got to get much of the Lily experience. Dealing with Lily is not for the faint of heart, but she still impressed them with her great vocabulary. It's a little spooky to see how well she communicates for a not-quite 3 year old.

Still, the visit was not all about beef and frozen custard. I got to spend some great time with my dad. He and I have not been very close over the years, but it's getting much better. Although neither one of us is very expressive, there is a real sense of a bond of love there.

It's also incredible to think about how tough things used to be with Susan. She and I didn't get along so well 16 or 17 years ago (wow!) But things are much better now. I don't walk on eggshells around her anymore. And we can joke around and laugh about things. For example, she is rather compulsive when it comes to ironing clothes. She irons bedsheets, for example. She also irons my dad's underwear. So when she talked about the days of her sons' youth and how she washed cloth diapers every other day for 2 years, I had to ask if she ironed them too. She seemed to get a kick out of it.

I know that there are things about our lives that they disapprove of. They would prefer that we care more about maintaining our house, for example. I'd like to see them more passionate about Jesus (as I'd like to see everyone more passionate about Him) But none of these things got in the way of a good visit there.

Now I'm home for two nights and am flying out to Newark, NJ on Wednesday night for some training. Then I get home well past my bedtime on Friday. I'm looking forward to some rest at some point. I keep thinking that, but it never seems to happen...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Boiling Bacteria

Amanda and I have been homeowners for about 2 1/2 years now. We finally experienced something new this weekend. Our town detected E. Coli in the water at some house on Friday. We're supposed to boil all our water for at least 3 minutes before it touches our lips. Based on what I read, I'm not too concerned about our water and have actually drank several glasses of it over the weekend. I'm pretty sure I'd feel the effects of it if I had the little bugs in my belly.

But what's weird is how irrational this whole thing has made us. I boiled a pot of water to use when cleaning Lily's milk cups. Amanda drank bottled water today, but she brushed her teeth with regular water. I had a salad for lunch with leftovers from a salad we made on Friday, but I wasn't going to wash any veggies to make more salad. So are we afraid of the bacteria or aren't we?

I think about how we live this way in so many areas of our lives. As we learned in church today, we're all hypocrites. There are things that we feel like we should obey, but we just don't. Why not? When we get down to it, we decide that it's not really that important. Frankly, that's the only explanation that makes sense, right?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Doing Things Right

Today got off to an interesting start. The phone rang at around midnight and, since I'm on call, I was sure that it was the Command Center calling me instead of paging me. Or I thought maybe they paged me, but I messed something up and didn't hear it as I've done that before. But as I made my way downstairs I saw an unexpected number. I called it back and got a tired-sounding female voice asking me if I was calling from Amanda's house. Amanda has a pregnant friend from church who was not due until September, but Amanda volunteered to help out in case of labor while her husband was away. Turns out she needed the help, so Amanda drove over there around midnight to sit with her daughter while she went to the hospital.

I slept in until 6:00 this morning and discovered that Amanda had to spend the night at her friend's house. Turns out that she was in real labor and got admitted. All this time her husband was in Pinehurst taking care of his elderly mom and her broken foot. Amanda's sister Tiffany was supposed to come over today anyway, so I called her and asked her to come over a little earlier (OK, much earlier) so she could watch Lily. Once she got here I took our car with the carseat over to Amanda so she could take the little girl to the hospital to see mommy and her little brother. Fortunately, this woman's sister showed up to help out so Amanda was freed from this burden after doing one taxi trip to the hospital.

It felt good to help out with this. It didn't even occur to me to get upset about any of it, which I consider to be encouraging. Now we're going to have Bill and Tiffany over for dinner tonight and I look forward to searing some beef on the grill and quaffing a few Great Lakes Beers with Bill.

Meanwhile, I got a really nice surprise in the mail today. Setting Captives Free sent me a check for $500. I don't serve for money. I don't expect it. But I certainly do appreciate it. Now I'll have to talk to Amanda about what we should do with it.

I also received our rebate check for our dishwasher installation. It's nice to get that quickly too.

I guess what inspired this post is that things just feel sort of right today. I even got some work done, though not tons. It just feels good to be a part of helping someone out. And I do consider it a blessing that the Bank gives me a little flexibility to help out with this kind of thing. Overall, life seems good right now.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Class News

My professor emailed me to let me know that I got a 100% on my final exam. I guess I'm not so impressed with my score because I know that he graded pretty easy. It makes me feel better about my papers as well as the reading questions that I submitted.

I'm excited to turn in my paper today and look forward to getting started on my next one. It should be interesting to do real research. The first one was a good way to get my feet wet, but my bibliography only has one book in it. Now we'll see how I do when I have to do real research.

Practical Tips

I just read this excellent post over on Mark Driscoll's blog. I highly recommend it.


I just read this today in my daily reading:

Exodus 32:

1When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, "Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." 2So Aaron said to them, "Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." 3So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden[a] calf. And they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" 5When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD." 6And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

Later on we see:

21And Moses said to Aaron, "What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?" 22And Aaron said, "Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23For they said to me, 'Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' 24So I said to them, 'Let any who have gold take it off.' So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf."

I think this may be the greatest cop-out in history. And yet God was gracious enough to establish the priesthood through Aaron.

I also am reminded of how much I can be like Aaron. It's so much easier to deny responsibility for something even though it is clear that we are the ones to blame. Our society fosters this too. For example, the Florida teacher who had sex with one of her students is blaming her bipolar disorder instead of accepting responsibility for it. Psychology in general tries to help us see what thing in our past shapes us so that we don't have to take responsibility for our actions. Does that mean I can start holding up liquor stores because my mom was drunk a lot when I was growing up?

As I consider this whole issue I realize just how difficult it is to accept responsibility for what I do. We all mess up from time to time. And I love the promise in James where we're told that "He gives more grace". I just know that I need plenty from those around me as well.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Problem of Pain

We had a good discussion in my apologetics course last night. We've spent the better part of the week discussing the problem of pain. After all, the atheist says, how can a good God and evil coexist? Wouldn't the world be better without pain?

My professor posed this scenario for us to ask the atheist:

Suppose you had a child, but every time that child did something wrong you rewarded him with more. Yes, you were disobedient, so I'm going to raise your allowance. You did something wrong, so I'm going to give you more freedom and less responsibility. What kind of person would you end up with?

Someone shouted, "A Kennedy!"

I'm still chuckling about that as I write this.

Missing the Pain

Last night was the end of new material for my apologetics class. As I pulled into the driveway yesterday I felt a twinge of sadness over this. Even though it is extremely grueling to have class every night, I will miss it. I've grown quite fond of my class, my professor, and my classmates. It's almost like a small group. Our discussion has helped me see what makes some of the men and women tick. The biggest thing is that I will miss the energy that comes from being in a room full of people who love Christ passionately and want to share that love with the world in an effective way.

I really do appreciate our professor. He is taking tonight to do a review and then tomorrow will just be the final exam. This means that we have two very short nights in a row. And, frankly, Tuesday was a short night too as I only ended up with three pages of notes.

A part of me wonders if there should be more. But I realize that I am now much better equipped to deal with some of the objections and criticisms raised by unbelievers. And what's really cool was to hear a story last night from Chris, the country guy. He's got a very affable personality and part of that is his country twang. He spent about 4 hours on Tuesday evening talking with someone at a restaurant about God. And this person is an astrophysicist or aeronautical engineer. In other words, this is the target for things like the kalam cosmological argument (more on that later).

The funniest bit was Chris saying that the man called him "educated". And in his distinctively country way he replied, "Well, no one's ever accused me of that before". He was ready for this conversation because of this class. God is certainly good. And funny too!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Classy Characters

I feel like I have a pretty good sense for my class after seven lectures. I thought it might be fun to write about some of the characters in it.

I already wrote about the guy who feels like he has something to add to every discussion. To be fair, he often does say something useful. But after a while it gets kind of old.

Way in the back we have a guy who is a couple of years younger than me. He is working on his pastoral ministry degree and is ready to start preaching. He asks some great, penetrating questions. For example, he had a hard time understanding how apologetics is pre-evangelism. His struggle was that he couldn't see how you can draw a line between the two. He made a good point and it's a question of semantics.

We have another guy that I call the preacher. He actually is a preacher, and, from what I've heard, is likely an excellent one. What's interesting about the preacher is that he always wants to share something out of the Bible for everything we discuss. This is naturally a good thing.

But the overall tone of the class is what confuses me. Our professor is outstanding. He does a good job of keeping the discussions reined in. We spent some time this week discussing the problem of evil. As our professor brings up common atheistic questions the class keeps offering unsolicited answers. The professor keeps smiling and saying, "Yes, we'll get to that".

Maybe I misunderstand the point. My take is that I don't have the answers and don't want to pretend that I do. The sooner I get the answers from him the better, as far as I'm concerned.

I also realize that I sometimes cannot resist the temptation to offer my own little bits here and there. I try to ask what I hope are good questions that aren't just for me. I don't want to be a blowhard either.

There's a woman in the class who is an ENT doctor. When she speaks it's usually worth hearing. I sat next to hear last night and noticed that she would work on the reading questions due Friday whenever the discussion started to go down rabbit trails. I guess that's the advantage of using a laptop.

The important thing is that everyone in that room seems to have a genuine heart for Jesus. I think we're all going to get on each other's nerves from time to time. As always, I've got to work on extending that grace...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Feeling Frenetic

I have this sense of not resting at all. I feel like I constantly sit here in front of my computer. I'm either working on schoolwork, work work, or ministry work. My breaks involve meals where I sit and read other stuff (though I didn't read anything at dinner tonight), work on my 2 Peter memorization (finish tomorrow, Lord willing), or practice my rendition of Malaguena on my classical guitar.

I now see why Jesus made rest such a high priority. He didn't do a lot of it, but we do know:

Mark 1:35 ESV
(35) And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

I'm good at that rising up very early in the morning while it was still dark part. And I'm good at giving God 10 minutes in prayer. But I feel like I need more. I guess part of why I'm writing this is to ask for prayers for endurance from those who read this and are of the praying type.

As for now, I'm going to bed. Maybe tomorrow I can write about the interesting challenges of writing a paper that is only supposed to be 6-10 pages, is double-spaced in 12 point font with 1 inch margins, and covers a treatment of 5 apologetic methodologies as well as my opinion about one of them. I'm using some big words and concise sentences!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Feeling Small

My apologetics class is going well. I've chatted up the professor a couple of times. He seems sincere and extremely knowledgable. I really appreciate his passion for this very important topic. I feel excited to go and start having discussions with unbelievers, which I think is part of the point of the class.

Being in the room with all these godly men and women with so much knowledge really humbles me. I don't feel like I know the Bible well enough. When I was asked to pray at the start of class yesterday I don't feel like I'm eloquent enough. As I enroll in my fall classes I wonder how I'm going to write a 12-14 page paper on some topic for my Systematic Theology course. I wonder how I'm going to know Greek well enough for a test.

I think a couple of things are happening. One is that this is going from being a hobby to something that I am spending $450/class to get tested on. This means that I have more reason to take it seriously. Of course, we should want to know more about God's Word just for the sake of knowing it. But this adds an extra element to it.

Another thing is that I think I am getting that smaller fish in a big pond feeling I got when I went to Ohio State. This is a good thing for me, I think. I remember thinking I was pretty smart when I left high school. Then I started meeting some of the men and women in my major and realized that, although I'm fairly bright, I'm not nearly as bright as many.

This is one of those side benefits of higher education that I think God knows is going to happen, but I didn't sign up for. I'm trying to keep looking at this in a good light :)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Graduate Pedantics

This whole graduate school business is kind of interesting. I very much enjoy my professor. He clearly has a heart of equipping us to reach out to the lost. It's vitally important that we be ready to have a reason for the hope that we have within us.

The class, however, is also very interesting. There is a guy in there that is what I think I could easily become. We had a discussion Tuesday night about the noetic effects of sin. In other words, just how much does sin affect the unbeliever? Almost rhetorically the professor asked if an unbeliever can do something "good". This guy actually argued about that. In his mind, nothing can be good unless it is done for the purpose of glorifying God. Therefore, to him, only believers can do something good.

I understand where he's coming from, but I think he's being pedantic. We asked about Mother Teresa. He said that he read some stuff that makes him think that she was saved and, therefore, capable of doing something good. While we were on the subject of India I asked about Ghandi. He told us that Ghandi did nothing good. After class I asked him about our nation's constitution. Is there anything good about that?

It's so easy to get on a roll like that. I think I've done it before and I'll likely do it again. I just know that I don't want to be "that guy" that you have in graduate school who takes the discussion off into his own personal tangents. The good news is that we're all supposed to be Christ-followers and therefore capable of extending grace. I know that I need to do that.