Monday, August 21, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think

Note: If you've become used to just checking this out once a week, I've been using the blog as a study break, so feel free to tune in throughout the week. Thanks. On to this week's "Ten Things...)

1) I think this week is going to be a killer. Spent the whole weekend reading in order to be prepared for the next couple of weeks. Now two papers are due and another from an earlier class needs to be finished. A full class schedule, and plenty of reading/writing that needs to take place before the next class starts in September. Just insane. Since this program started in July I've read books or articles by 47 different authors. That's a lot of info to process. Your prayers are appreciated.

2) Did take time out on Friday evening to have a nice anniversary dinner with Aimee. 16 years we've been married... you can imagine the size of her crown in heaven. It was our first evening out sans any children since before Eli was born (14 months), so to Wendy Connell who watched all three boys (including our high need but highly lovable Elijah), much, much thanks.

3) To be perfectly honest, it doesn't seem like its been 16 years since we tied the knot. Time has passed so quickly, and seems to be picking up speed the closer I get to the finish line. My body cries out that 16 years has gone past every day, but in my mind it seems like yesterday I was painting our trailer in anticipation of our moving in after the honeymoon. The memory is so fresh I can still smell the paint. And, to tell you the truth, I don't know if this (time seemingly flying by) is a good or bad thing. I guess its good in the sense that life hasn't been something to be endured, but on the other hand, I've got a nagging feeling that I've spent too much time just "doing" and "going" and not "engaging" or "experiencing". I just think there should be more memories like our weekend together in Toronto. I wonder if I've missed too much...

4) This Beeson Pastor process has been personally, very challenging. When I first left for seminary I was so young and stupid that when the reality of who God is, and who I was, was presented, I was unprepared for the wave of doubt and uncertainty that experience presented. This time, though, the deconstruction of self and professional practice has been all too real, and often, painful. I've been unpacking 15 years of experiences, and while there is a lot of joy there, nobody likes re-living moments in time that weren't all that enjoyable to begin with.

And, on a deeper level, trying to figure out what is at the root of why I serve, or what I'm trying to accomplish as I preach, and generally questioning my motivation in all things (to whose glory is this life for?) is a tough thing to assess and acknowledge. It's one thing to do it in a setting where you are engaged in a lot of different activities. It's another to look deep within when you actually have time, and are expected, to take a good, long look. I'd much rather just read and master some topic of interest like you do in a PhD. The reality of this experience is that you've got to master all your internal dynamics before you can you make any application in the field. This, to date, has been a very mixed bag, but I can feel something very powerful coming as far as profit out of this experience.

5) This whole situation with Maurice Clarett and Israeli gangsters would have made a great novel. To know now that Maurice was out that night, possibly to kill somebody cause his daughter had been threatened is just mindblowing. How many people have woken up one day and realized that they placed their future in the hands of the wrong people? How many of those went out and bought a bullet-proof vest? Tragic.

How long into this coming TV season does the "ripped from the headlines" episode show up on "Law and Order"? 2 episodes? 4? 10?

6) Today in class we spent a great deal of time de-constructing the art of preaching. Let's just say there are whole lot more things you ought not to do in a pulpit, than you ought. The stuff we're focusing in on today has to do with things like hand-gestures, use of humor, guides for self-disclosure... more form than function. After years of watching myself on video, I guess what I've learned is that it's good to have some awareness of how you look and how to say things, but above and beyond all things, you'd better treat scripture with all the respect you can muster. It has more to say than you can imagine, and if you don't approach it in an attitude of humility and hunger, you could easily miss it's message. You can be the funniest guy in the world, but if you missed the message, then you missed the boat.

7) Among the many books completed in the last couple of weeks, I came across this gem from Bishop William Willimon's "Pastor". Willimon assails the medical profession for changing its focus over the course of the latter 20th Century from "care" to "cure" which Willimon asserts is not only at the root of this country's health care crisis, but is having ambient effects on the local church. His theory is that by emphasizing "cure" modern medicine is helping feed the mythologies that "aging is an enemy", life can be lived "pain free", and the possibility of living forever exists. With this in mind, people are willing to do or spend whatever it takes to get well, and ready to take it out on the professionals set with the task if failure ensues. Willimon is worried that the ideas of avoiding pain, suffering, and death any cost is creating expectations in all walks of life... especially the church.

For example, the suffering and self-sacrifice are concepts are deeply connected to the concept of practicing Christian faith. As a result, pastors can unconsciously begin to preach sermons that are all about pain avoidance, when, in fact, personal suffering and pain might actually be what's necessary to personal or corporate transformation. What's more, church staffing could begin to be bent toward hiring folks to "fix people" (cure) in the form of counseling, when in fact biblically the church community is called to mutually serve one another (care), and thus "lose yourself to find yourself". Thus the movement to emphasis on professional cure, from community care in a form that would turn out to be unhealthy for everyone.

And you thought I was just skimming those books....

8) Max's teacher called last Friday night at 9:30 just to let us know how much she appreciated having him in class. Apparently a little boy in class (whose parents are here at Asbury, but not in the Beeson program) who has moved a good many times in his life, was taking his anger out on other students, and in particular, Max. Instead of retaliating, Max attempted instead to befriend the boy and introduce him to others in the class, which (at least temporarily) diffused the anger. One of the few times that a phone call from a teacher at 9:30pm makes life sweeter, instead of more challenging. Way to go Max!!!

9) Aimee is very, very busy down here, and for the most part, is loving every moment of it. A group of women are meeting in our home to pray over their children every morning at 8pm (the setting for an embarrassing moment immortalized in a blog post last week). She meets every Tuesday night with the other spouses from the group for discussion, prayer, and study. She's organizing a new bible study on-campus. She's still teaching music classes for the West Central Learning Academy (she has 24 students, at last count). She's mothering three boys: one in school, one that's ready for pre-school but is as yet is not enrolled, and one who is fun and demanding as he learns to climb, run, and speak. She's also got to put up with me. Despite that last thing, I think she's really coming alive and enjoying herself immensely.

10) Uh, here's a link to a story about a Hitler-themed restaurant in Mumbai, India: Talk about a bad idea. Why not just call your place "The Spoiled Milk Cafe", "The Angry Half-Rotted Carcass" or "The Table of Hate"? Unbelievable.

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