Wednesday, December 28, 2005

My Life... busy changing

Christmas has come and gone and with it my family. They were down from Dec. 23 until yesterday - conviently matching up with the dates that I didn't post. We had a great time, lots of cooking & eating. We opened presents and visited Washington Crossing State Park It was fun and when they left yesterday, Bridgette sat in the living room and said "I miss your family".

Like Christmas and my family heading out, things are changing in a lot of ways in my life right now. We spent some time yesterday going through all of our baby stuff, from clothes to bedding to toys to "products". We have a lot, but at the same time realize how much more we still need. Babies are expensive propositions.

But in addition to this change, which seems to be preoccupying my mind more and more lately (as it should, being about 5 1/2 weeks away from the due date) there are changes occuring in my thinking theologically. I'm thinking more and more about missions and ecclesiology. I'm thinking about the witness of the Church to Christ, the unity Jesus prayed for in his followers to witness to the unity of Jesus and God the Father.

As I'm trying to write my paper for CH330 (Litrugical Year) about John Mason Neale and the Oxford Movement and their redirection of the Anglican Church back toward Rome, I can't help but connect it to my paper for TH330 (Reformed & Lutheran Confessions) which will be about their understanding of ecclesiology. But I also can't help but thinking of this missionally. Which goes to my sermon on New Years Day which will be on the Magi visiting Jesus and about what we do with Jesus & Christmas... after Christmas. It's not completely missional, because I'm going to be talking about responding in worship and changing direction...

Which makes this come full circle. Because my sermon, the clincher for me in the text of the Magi is that end, the part where they return home by a different route. They return but differently they don't allow Herod to co-opt the awe & worship that they have given to Jesus. In light of what they have seen, in light of what they have given, they change their plans to reflect that.

I believe that I have seen and learned some really good stuff this semester. I believe that I'm in the process of giving God myself - and hopefully my best. And I think that this is going to force me to change how I go about doing what I'm going to end up doing. I think this is going to do a lot more than inform my ministry, I think that I'm going to be thinking more theologically about "church" and "mission" and I'm looking forward to their continued convergence. As it happens, I know there will continue to be a lot of change in my life. And I think I'm going to get a lot more experience "changing" in a few short weeks...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

At the risk of losing friends & maybe more...

This is a mini stab in the dark. I'm kinda... well, like the picture, walking into a door with a blindfold on. But I've been wrestling lately with the question of the gospel. Maybe to some, that is in itself enough to question what I say next - "What do you mean 'what is the gospel'? Shouldn't you know? You're a Christian! You're in Seminary!"
Yeah, yeah, I know. You'd think that by now, that should be elementary. But that's what I'm beginning to wonder - is it?

Ok, quick case in point: The English word gospel is derived from the Greek word euangelion which means good news, and was usually the good news that a messenger brought to tell of victory in battle. So to use this word when talking about the message of Christ, to say that the message of Jesus is 'gospel' as a 1st Century Jew living in Jerusalem, is to say something very specific about what it is, right?

So, think for a moment to when you were first presented with "The Gospel". It may be easy for you, it may not, but I'm willing to guess that it was only partially presented as good news. That in some way or another there was also the other presentation - the presentation of hell, of the possibility of what might - no WOULD - happen to you if you 'rejected' the presentation of the gospel. Now, I'm not saying anything about hell, etc. Yes, Jesus did spend a lot of time talking about judgment, etc. Don't get me wrong...

But I'm in the middle of opening a few cans of worms here and I need somewhere to set them - to look at them, observe them. I need to think out loud a bit. Because I'm starting to question if maybe we might have gotten a little off track here and there with the gospel. I mean, Jesus' life, death & resurrection - they're key, they're pivotal, they're the gospel... but there's something in the translation - maybe something lost in the translation or something we added in our translation that I'm not sure about. Either way, there is translation involved in the presentation of the gospel, and as I wrestle with looking at that, it's caused me to wrestle with my preconceptions about the gospel.

I had a great conversation with my friend Jeff over at Thoughts as I Go and I commend to you another friend (and one-time boss) Lars Rood who's currently working on a DMin at Fuller Theological Seminary and wrestling with Christ and culture stuff. I don't pretend to speak for either of them, but their thoughts and much of my reading has been boucing around in my head a lot lately and I think it's especially significant at Christmas as we celebrate God coming to earth, becoming human and essentially beginning the process of the gospel.

But bear with me as I think out loud about this and feel free to comment - brand me a heretic - just do so nicely and in love...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


I read this today from Oswald Chambers:

What is extremely important is for the worker’s simple relationship with Jesus Christ to be strong and growing. His usefulness to God depends on that, and that alone.

And I must ask myself - am I growing? I've often heard a pastor from my youth, speaking a simple phrase "what you feed grows and what you starve dies" echoing through the years to me... and I've been feeling a little dead lately. Yes, this is Christmas time, yes, I'll be preaching in 2 weeks. Yes, I'm surrounded by pastors and theologians and fellow students seeking to be both. But I think I've been starving the wrong things...

I think, no, I know that my spiritual life, my "simple relationship with Jesus Christ" has become stagnant. It is neither strong nor growing. And I say this now because in doing so I cannot pretend it is only an idea. By saying it here I am marking it. I am admitting it and I am recognizing it - the first step is to admit you have a problem, right? (but I don't have time for 7 steps...)

My paper calls my name, but so does Jesus. And those other things that are constantly calling my name, that I have been feeding recently (ie - tv & internet - sports and sloth) need to get leaner - they need some starving...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Goodbye snow... goodbye break

Just like the snow that has all but left entirely - there are a few remnants here and there, but for the most part it is green and will continue as such through Christmas - my brief respite from "work" ended today as I hit the library at 9:30am. Funny enough, as I'm turning off the car (ok, I was listening to the radio still) a friend pulls up in his van, as we both get out, two more friends pull up in a car - 4 of us, little nerds going to the library on our first day of "Christmas vacation". We all had papers to research and write - so much for a vacation.

But, it seems from my presence over the last few weeks that I've also taken a vacation from this blog - and I don't want to. There are a ton of things I can and should be writing about, but haven't. So, I'm going to make sure that, like Frosty, I come back. I promise to post tomorrow on something good, assuming I can make a little head way on my paper...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sometimes... things get in the way

So, we're out buying our Christmas tree over the weekend, and I'm taking pictures of the event, especially of our friends' kids who look so cute all bundled up, holding saws and picking out trees. But Winston, the middle child, didn't want his picture taken. Here, I reached up over the top of a tree just to try and get his mug on film.

And really, that typifies my life in the past little while. I have some great ideas, some stuff I really want to do (like blog) and, something just gets in the way. I couldn't take a picture of Winston because the tree was in the way. I haven't been able to get all that I've wanted done because other chores have gotten in the way... and my own choices, I can't pretend that I'm some kind of victim here.

But, it's also a reflection spiritually. I realize that in the morning, when I used to force myself (at least 3-4 days out of 7) to read and reflect on Scripture, I've allowed "things" to get in the way. I've allowed myself to neglect this and I think I've paid a price. I believe my spiritual life has not been very well off lately, and it's because I've allowed things to get in the way. Had I really wanted to get that shot of Winston, I'm sure I could've made it happen. Had I really wanted to spend that time in prayer, with God, I could've made it happen. I need to be intentional about this, just as God was intentional about sending His Son to earth. It wasn't an accident, it didn't just happen. He planned it, He made it happen.

With 10 days left before Christmas, its high time I made time for the things that truly matter and not let anything get in the way...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I did a presentation yesterday on the Oxford Movement/Anglo-Catholic/Tractarian Movement in England during the mid 19th Century. Through some research, I found that my favourite Christmas carol: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (well, The First Noel is my OTHER favourite) was translated by John Mason Neale(1818-1866) who was part of the movement and mainly a hymn writer and translator (he also wrote Good King Wenceslas). Anyway, I think the hymn is awesome, so if you're not famliar with the original translation, then take a read... and would that God would indeed "bid our sad divisions cease"...

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.


Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.


O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.


O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.


O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.


O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.


O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.


(thank you Cyber Hymnal

Friday, December 02, 2005

Our Baby

Check the photo album for the first ultrasound photo to be put up. More will come. It's freakn' amazing...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Don't Bother me... I'm Reading

Somehow, I managed to squander all my vacation time so that I come back having to spend nearly every waking moment reading. I'm reading some really good stuff though... and I'd love to tell you about it, but I just don't have the time.
So instead, I'll just tell you to read it yourself, and promise to comment on it later..

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Trimming Away...

I trimmed my cat Snickers' claws today. In the past, we've taken him to the vet or to Petsmart or something to get them done. That would entail $10-$15 dollars, getting him into his car-carrier, driving there, holding him down as some idiot (that's been most of my experience trimming at Petsmart) is worried he's going to bite them. Instead, saving the hassle, I did it myself with some nail clippers.

The last little while, we've gotten our friend Heidi to do it. She has a cat and was well versed in such things. I had tried once before on recommendation from a friend, while Snickers was still a kitten. I think I cut the quick, he yelped. I hadn't tried again until today - at least not with human nail clippers.

For the most part, it worked like a charm. He sat on the bed, I held a paw. I went slowly, he barely moved. He didn't meow. I was impressed. But getting to the last couple nails, he got ornery. I ended up just doing the front claws - and really only clipping a little off - as not to get too close to the quick and hurt him. At least I was somewhat successful.

But as I was trying to get him positioned and settled down to do his back claws (ultimately - unsuccessfully) I got to thinking, as I often do, about God working with us. It's funny, I often equate my relationship with my cat to God's relationship with me. It's not so much that I like to think of myself as God... but that I'm probably alot like my cat - stubborn, fiesty, independant... the list goes on. And God wants the best for me - but I don't see that.

Anyway, I was thinking that God has to trim us too. There are things that just grow on us, that get out of control, and unless God can trim them, eventually we'll end up hurting ourselves. We can say "that's natural" about our growths all we want, but in the end, they'll end up being harmful to us if God doesn't trim them, or cut them out entirely. But, like my cat, I don't understand when God says "stand still, don't squirm, take it easy, I'm doing this for your benefit" and all I do is squirm, meow and act like an idiot - which only makes the process more painful. But the process goes on no matter what, because like me and my cat, God knows what's best. But also, like me and my cat, sometimes God will only go so far, and allow us a little time, before He comes back and does the rest of the job. In the meantime, we can cause ourselves some pain, but we think we did the right thing by getting away.

We all have claws in our lives that need to be trimmed - or we'll end up hurting ourselves and others. Unless we allow God the free reign to trim our claws, when He does it (and God WILL do it) it's going to hurt quite a bit.

Happy Thanksgiving all and enjoy your turkey and trimmings...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Thanksgiving is almost upon us. It marks one of the biggest holidays on the American calendar. Quite possibly, the biggest. It depends on how you measure it. Back in Canada, celebrated in October, Thanksgiving is much smaller, not as significant. But here in the US it not only is a holiday unto itself it also begins the season of Advent - or if you prefer - the season of Shopping for Christmas Presents. Friday will be "Black Friday" which 75% of all citizens will be either shopping or working retail in the US - strange.

This begs the question in a way, about holidays... Are they representative of our culture, or do they point to something beyond it? I dunno. It's something we've been talking about in my class on the Liturgial Year.

I also am thinking about people... what do we reflect in what we do, how we celebrate, how we spend our money. I mean, as Christians, what are we representing, reflecting? Especially at this time, this time of Civic Celebration (its hard to pretend that it is more religious than civic - Thanksgiving & Christmas) What are we doing when we celebrate - what are we celebrating and what are we showing when we do so? Are we pointing toward our culture or something else? Is pointing to our culture, reflecting it - bad? Should we be marking something else - pointing to God at this time in contrast to what other people are doing?

This also begs another question. In our everyday life, what are we reflecting? Are you, am I reflecting Christ in what I do? Or am I simply reflecting my culture? Or worse yet, am I simply reflecting myself? Is that even reflecting anything? I know I SHOULD be reflecting Christ but am I, right now doing that? Or am I completely submersed in my culture that I no longer point towards anything - at least not in my whole life? I think this is a question I'm going to spend some time contemplating...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What Does it Cost?

I was in class today, talking about Justification. Our professor was describing a key moment in his life, an ‘Oh my goodness’ moment (I’m paraphrasing here – his language was much better). Anyway, he said that at that moment, he knew the gospel to be true and that he knew it would cost him everything. At those last words, I was struck. Is not the gospel that I believe, that I learn, that I preach… does it not cost me everything? Will it not cost me everything?

I heard those words as crystal clear as I have heard anything in my life. I know that the gospel should cost me something – no, everything. But I have not given everything up. I have not allowed the gospel to grasp me, for God to grasp me in such a way that every action, every thought is laid bare, captive to God’s design. I have not sold everything as it were, to purchase the plot of land that I found that great treasure on.

What then does this mean? It is troubling. And no comforting word will do, not at this time. It is not enough to hear the words “God loves you” it is not enough to hear “God is at work, even now, to bring about something special in your life” because at some point, as James points out “faith without works is dead” and one thing Jesus talks about is clear, participation in the Kingdom of God is active participation, there are no passive observers and there are no participants who have higher callings, other things to do – they don’t end up at the banquet feast for the bridegroom.

I think it is high time that I revisited Detrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. I think it is high time that I allowed the gospel, allowed God to cost me something. No, I believe it is high time that I allowed God to cost me everything…

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Seeing the Colours

I've had a ton of work on my plate over the past week or so. Nothing to complain about, just the situation I'm in. During that time, and some before it there were two things I noticed... three really, that I did not make time fore. The first was God. Looking at my little journal and seeing vast amounts of time between my last entry on Daniel (a book that should take me 10 days at most - stretching into a month) was pretty poignant. The second thing of course would be my wife. Annexing her to dinner and whatever other few moments of my day was not a good way to cultivate a good marriage relationship. And finally, I did not take the time to look around and see the colours.

When I say this, I'm not merely talking about the colour of leaves and what not that are changing here in the area. In many ways, its a metaphor for what's going on in every facet of life around me. People are changing, doing things, and I'm not taking the time to truly be present there. I need to do this.

Usually, when I get busy and stressed, I get a couple reactions. I don't necessarily get angry or short with people (although Bridgette may attest otherwise) but I do kinda collapse in on myself. The other thing that happens is I get tired a lot. But the more I reach out, the more I take time to look at people and things around me, the more I am energized and the more unselfish I become. I think the effects of stress become a real opportunity to participate in real sin - complete selfishness.

It kinda reminds me of C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce. In it, Napoleon keeps building houses further and further away from people, continually isolating himself (in hell? the reader presumes). He's angry, obsessed, and continually more and more selfish. I don't want to be like that, so I'm going to take some time to stop and look at the colours...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Preaching Class - First Sermon

So, today I preached for the first time in class. It was pretty interesting. We don't just get up there and preach. We have to write an exegesis paper that shows how we come up with our interpretation and making a claim based on the text. We have to provide an outline of the sermon as well as a manuscript. This is something I've NEVER done before. So, I thought I'd try something new. I preached right from the manuscript. I didn't EXACTLY read, but I pretty much did. I tried to be as engaging as possible, and I think I was.

I also tried something else different... and if you're interested in the sermon, here it is. This is just further proof that I'm a heretic. (By the way, feel free NOT to read it too)

TEXT: Matthew 3:1-12


YOU BROOD OF VIPERS! … Wow, what an opening. I can’t imagine that one would elicit much of an offering from that sermon. Those are such harsh words, so jarring to our ears. I’m sure that immediately upon hearing them, some people completely tune out. I’m equally sure that no upstanding homiletics preacher living today would encourage anyone to open their sermon in such a way. Yet in the gospel of Matthew those are some of the very first words that we hear from the mouth of John the Baptist. Here is this man, this prophet, this latter-day Elijah inducing hordes of people to come into the wilderness to be baptized. They come confessing their sins. They come presumably from Jerusalem, Judea and from all of the surrounding region in order to hear from this man, to be baptized by this man and in some special way to hopefully be changed.
So who is this man in the wilderness? Not a great paragon of the establishment, not a lofty political leader or a wealthy patron of the arts. He is not an eloquent poet or proponent of philosophy. It is instead a man wrapped in camels hair and a leather belt. One who eats locusts and wild honey. And his message… his message is “repent for the kingdom of heaven is near”. But what does this mean? So we listen in, we strain our ear to hear what this man with the enormous following will say… And what are his next words? What does the writer of the gospel of Matthew put on the lips of John? It is a proclamation of judgment! “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
In some ways, this tends to remind me of my last sermon to my home church while I interned prior to my senior year of college. It was couched in different terms, it began with my personal excitement of something new to come, but it could hardly be missed that throughout the entire sermon I was calling the congregation to the matt. I remember talking about it with friends and family afterward and how they chuckled at how unmistakably clear I was in the pulpit, how I had essentially let them have it…
Here in Matthew, that is exactly what John is doing to the Pharisees and Sadducees who came for baptism. He was pronouncing judgment on them, he was calling them to the matt. He called into question the heart of what they believed when he proclaimed that God could simply raise up stones to be children of Abraham. Even more, he was calling these religious leaders out to bear fruit, because if they did not, there would be a great judgment – fire would await them.
As we hear this proclamation here at Princeton, as we who are ‘religious leaders’ listen in on this message, I don’t know about you but I cannot help but feel a little twinge of guilt. It is hard for me to divorce myself from John’s message knowing that like the Pharisees and Sadducees that he protested against, I too have a certain amount of religious authority, I too feel a certain calling to lead, I too seek to one day teach and preach in the name of God. And in some ways, it is me, it is us that John points at when he proclaims this judgment. We who would seek to lead are together with the Pharisees and Sadducees in John’s sights when he proclaims this.
But what is more interesting than this verdict of judgment that John lays at the feet of the religious leaders, is what precedes it. Not the description of John’s dress or his diet, but the quotation that the author uses to introduce John. It is from Isaiah 40 what is understood by Biblical scholars to be second Isaiah. “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” To understand the full weight of this however, it is necessary to start at the beginning of this passage in Isaiah 40. To the first hearers of this gospel, probably Jewish Christians sometime around 70CE, they would most likely be aware of the context of this passage. It begins “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.” It goes on to say “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”(Isaiah 40:1-2)
This prophecy, originally given to a people in exile, seeks to offer grace and peace to a people who have suffered greatly. It is not meant as condemnation. It is not meant as judgment or warning against something to come. It is not a call to repentance, to deeper devotion or to the casting off of any particular practices but a message straight from God, a message of grace. It is comfort to a people impoverished in spirit. And it is this message that precedes the voice in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord, which the writer of Matthew’s gospel quotes to introduce John.
It is a message of comfort that precedes John’s introduction and description. It is a message of comfort that precedes John’s judgment of the religious leaders. There must be a message of comfort that we hear too. In Isaiah the message is comfort in the wake of suffering, comfort in the wake of a great trouble, a great penalty that has been paid. How many of us need to hear that same message today? How many of us need to be reminded that despite the dark days that we have been experiencing, the hand of God is extended to us even now not in punishment but in comfort, to wipe away all our tears? How many of us, suffering from secret pains of loneliness, depression and worry need to be reminded that our Lord wishes to speak tenderly to us? Tenderly as a mother comforts her child? Here the tenderness of God is seen and heard in the prophet Isaiah and it is the gospel of Matthew that also proclaims this tenderness, this call to comfort, if more subtly.
But the message of this passage of Matthew, as it is not entirely about judgment, it is equally not entirely about comfort. Yes, John’s description is preceded by a reference to Isaiah’s prophetic comforting of Israel, but this does not eliminate the fact that John does call out a very harsh and bitter word to these religious leaders. It is not here abrogated because of this allusion to comfort. Instead, John’s proclamation of judgment is instead informed by this allusion. Instead of being a simple call to repentance or warning of judgment, to the astute reader of Matthew there is a dialectical quality about this passage that speaks very profoundly to the human condition – the human condition then and the human condition today.
If you will permit me, I’d like to reread some of the passage from Matthew in a way that is infused with this passage from Isaiah. In so doing I would like you to feel the tension between the prophecy of judgment and the prophecy of comfort, the prophecy of wrath and the prophecy of peace, that of anger and of hope.

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God

Bear fruit worthy of repentance

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins

Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’: for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Every valley shall be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
The uneven ground shall become level,
And the rough places a plain

I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
And all people shall see it together
For the mouth of the LORD Has spoken

His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

Interestingly enough, both of these passages come to the same place but by different means. While Isaiah finds itself at the mouth of the LORD, God’s glory revealed, Matthew’s presentation of John’s message also drives us toward God in His impending judgment. Both of these – comfort and judgment are the twofold prong that propels us toward God – in Christ. Because in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is who John is ushering in.
Indeed, the kingdom of heaven is near.

Comfort … and Judgment.
In this tension, we find ourselves literally – in the gospel of Matthew – face to face with Jesus...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Back from the Brink

Yes, I've been away. I've been in North Carolina (Winston-Salem) this past weekend and before that I've been simply away in mind and focus. This weekend was not only busy for the travel but busy because I had a 3000 word Midterm to write (take home of course) and another 1500 word essay, plus a sermon manuscript which I will preach tomorrow. All of these things are due to be handed in today. Which meant our little jaunt down South was less relaxing for me than it should have been.

Anyway, I'm going to get back on the horse shortly and write about something substantive. In the meantime, this evening Bridgette and I begin our 4 week parenting/birthing class at the hospital and I'll be preaching tomorrow in class. Lots of fun stuff. Hopefully, I'll raise my nightly sleep average above 5 soon...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I've got a problem: I'm in love!

So, I'm on break right now, and I know I should be reading for school, I should be getting ahead with my reading and writing in preparation for a very busy week coming up, but I can't seem to get away from my new love. I'm totally enrapt. I seem to think so often of my love that I can't focus on much else. I want so much to learn about, see and visit my new love that it's making it very hard to focus.

Wait, I should define exactly what I'm talking about here. Some of you might be, I don't have a girlfriend. I'm not in love with another woman silly! I'm in love with the UK! I'm totally infautated with the idea of living in Great Britain, possibly studying there - maybe up in Scotland @ St. Mary's College the divinity school for St. Andrew's. I've been reading Susan Howatch's Scandalous Risks and it just cements for me that I want to be over there. I want to experience the ol' CofE, the suffocation of class structure, the exquisite stone buildings, centuries old cathedrals... I just want to be there. But right now, I'm stuck here. So... I end up spending hours looking at the possiblities of studying abroad. I've looked into the different programs St. Mary's College has to offer. I've looked a little at her faculty and the overseas students info. The only problem (besides the fact that I'm neglecting my studies here to do this) is that in 2 years, when I'm finally done here at PTS, I'll have a 15 mo. old baby, school debt (and/or credit card debt) that will still need paying off and normally it would be the time where I'd be looking to get ordained and settle in a church. But what about my love? What about England or Scotland? What about Europe? She calls my name!

Then of course, the thougth occurs to me - what about for a sabbatical? What about in 7 years or so? But could I wait that long? Would I still want to go? Would our family be in the right place then? Uggghhhh!!! Why can't my love and I just be together? Bridgette understands. Heck, she wants to go too! If only...

Photo courtesy of Ian Britton (c)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sobering Break...

It's Fall Reading Week here at Princeton Seminary, which means that it's time for me to get caught up or get ahead in my reading for the semester. There's need for both. But yesterday, Bridgette and I took the Seminary's yearly tour of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

Now, it would be quite normal, I'm sure, to sit here and wax eloquently about the deep and profound experience that it was, the fact that I'm still processing everything etc. But to be honest, I don't exactly feel that way. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not in ANY WAY trying to downplay the memorial, the trip or the holocaust at all. It's just that I'm surprised that I was not moved more. In some ways, I think it has to do with the fact that none of it was really new to me. I had been fascinated with the Second World War form an early age. I had read about Hitler in grade 7 (not fascinated with him in any sort of "wow he was cool" way at all) and in Canada, this was in many ways the most recent war when I grew up, so it was the one most studied and talked about. There was never an attempt to downplay the depth of depravity that the Nazi's had sunk to in the holocaust, if anything that was the one thing that was emphasized the most - we had to remember to make sure that something like that would never happen again.

So, as I travelled through the museum, in some ways it was like returning to things that were familiar with me. I definitely got a new look at them, there were new images, tangible artifacts that were amazing... but in some ways, it was still a museum to the past. As much as I tried to put myself in that place, there remained a certain level of detachment. I couldn't escape the fact that this horrific event happened apart from me, not just geographically, but in time - it happened a full generation before I was born. But maybe, that's simply the way it must be. Maybe, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe, for those of us that cannot remember the event as a lived experience, it is simply enough to remember that for millions upon millions - it was. And unless we are vigilant, it can again be a horrific event for millions more...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

This is why I'm in School...

At 9am this morning, after dropping Bridgette off at work, my friend Andrew and I went to our precept of "16th Century Lutheran and Reformed Confessions" taught by the above pictured Dr. Bruce McCormack. Usually our precept consists of us asking questions, which he writes on the whiteboard and subsequently answers with interjections from us. It's enormously useful and informative. Today however, he spend the first 40 minutes going over the 16th Century Lutheran, 19th Century Lutheran and finally the (or his) current Reformed view of Kenoticism - Jesus' emptying Himself in the incarnation. It was BRILLIANT.

Now, that was great, but the truth is, that's not exactly why I'm in school. After that, we spent 10 minutes going over a few questions. What happened AFTERWARDS is why I'm here. Four of us stayed after class and we spent 40 minutes (making 3 of us late for our next class) chatting, talking, making this stuff practical, etc. Getting THAT from a professor is why I'm in school. To hear stories from a professor that shed light onto the material and onto what we do outside of the classroom... as he's sitting on the table crosslegged... priceless!

Yes, I'm here to read. Yes, I'm here to write. Yes, I'm here to learn. And in those 40 minutes, I learned SO much. THAT is why I'm in School...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

So Many Thoughts, so little time

I have so much reading to do and so little time to do it. I've been struck by so much lately and have had just no opportunity to share it... no outlet for it. I mean, I'm writing... but not what I really want to say.

Suffice to say I will be putting some thoughts on Barth & Atonement shortly - from Church Dogmatics. In the meantime, I'll be reading Bosch's Transforming Mission and writing a paper for Monday. Hopefully, I can get through 180 pages in 8 hours...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

My Family is a TRIP... literally

So, if there's ever been a question as to why I'm so loud and obnoxious, one need only look to the family of my birth. They're in town for the weekend, and it's funny 'cause everywhere I go with them, be it the flag football field, the mall, BabiesRus, Dinner... somehow I become the quiet one. I don't know if it's that I've changed a lot since moving out, getting married and stuff, or it's that I've always been a little more like that. I tend to think that I've adapted more to my surroundings, which aren't quite as loud and chaotic as they used to be.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to have my family in town visiting this weekend. They made the trip from Cambridge, Ontario which should take 8-9 hours (it took them 12+ but there's no need to talk about that). It's fun to have them here, have them experience a little bit of our lives and what we do - see our apartment and stuff.

But it is different. It's funny because every time I see them it's like I feel a little less theirs and a little more Bridgette's. They're my family... but at the same time, we're carving out our own little family. It's a wierd experience. It feels like a further stage of individuation or something. Being 27 years old, married for 5 years and expecting our first child in February, I'd think that I should have figured out that whole individuation by now. But I guess I still have some growing up to do. Funny how it takes your family to show you that...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Oh my goodness - I felt the baby!

I've been a little busy lately. There's been tons of stuff from class that I've wanted to write on. But I haven't found the time yet. Before I do though, I've just GOT to talk about this.

No photo could aptly convey what happened the other night. Bridgette had gone to get ready to turn in for the night and was lying on the bed. She asked me to come in for a second while I was doing something (for the life of me, I can't remember what). When I'd finished up I and walked into the bedroom I said something to the effect of "Why, do you want me to feel the baby?" and she said "Yeah".

Now, you've got to understand something. I've been a little jealous for the past month because Bridgette has been able to feel the baby moving around but nothing can be felt on the outside. Our doctor of course said something like 6-8 weeks is when I'd be able to - after she did. So, when Bridgette told me to come check out her belly, I was surprised and excited.

I proceeded to put my hands on her belly, just below the belly-button, just as hers were. For a second, I felt nothing. Then she hicupped - or so I thought.

"Was that you?"

"No" she replied

"Oh my goodness!" I said... but that wasn't all. What followed was amazing. I've felt babies before (My mom had my sister when I was 13, my brother when I was 16) but this was early! I felt a distinct push from a hand or foot or head, like twice on my hand. Not just some general pressure, but something very specific.

Now some guys don't care too much about things like this. I would call these men IDIOTS. From the very beginning, I've been extremely excited about this pregancy. I've been to every doctor's visit, every ultrasound (3 so far). When we first saw the babies heartbeat - that was awesome. When we first HEARD the babie's hearbeat, that was incredible. When we saw the 20 week ultrasound, the baby moving around, being able to count the fingers and toes, seeing bones... whoa.

But when I first FELT the baby... words can't describe.

I think this relates pretty well to Spiritual things too. So often, we get a promise. We're promised salvation. We're promised blessing. We're promised whatever. But nothing comes. We sit around, hearing others talk of their blessings, talk of their triumphs, talk of their freedom... and all we do is wait. Maybe some well-meaning people come up to us and reassure us, they tell us that ours is on the way too. They remind us of God's faithfulness. They remind us of Scripture, of those that have gone before us, their struggles and triumphs and how God did what God promised for them as well.

But somehow, it's not the same. Until...

Until, it happens for us. Until that remarkable day when God DOES rend the heavens and come down. Until that marvelous day in OUR lives when that needed provision, that long-awaited freedom, that overflowing joy washes over us and we cry Hallelujah!

There's a long wait in the meantime so often. But when we are touched, it is so amazing, words fail to convey, pictures cannot do justice, silence is far too loud...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Getting my Groove On

What I usually find is the most difficult part of starting something new is getting into some kind of rhythm. Now, as you can see from the picture... "I've got rhythm, I've got music..." but the problem is matching MY rhythm to what's going on around me. Case in point would be this new semester. I'm not going to sit here complaining about my situation (14 credit hours, 10hr internship, 8-12 hr/wk job, plus being married) because I know there are TONS of people out there doing so much more, and having it so much worse (Gulf Coast - case in point).

But that's because I'm not talking about the amount of stuff I'm doing. In College I held down a full course load, part-time job, ran track, was a Resident Adviser and my senior year was planning a wedding (and taking Biblical Greek) - so what I'm saying is that I'm used to doing a lot. The problem is getting into the rhythm and flow of doing what you're doing so that everything gets done and that nothing gets pushed to the side that is important.

In fact, I think this semseter more than any other time in my life is going to force me into being proactive. My class schedule is EXTREMELY frontloaded. I have but 1 hour of class on Thursday and Friday each (meaning I have 11 hours Mon-Wed). This means that I have to make sure I'm spending time Thursday and Friday being proactive about reading for the following week. For me, this is not a skill I have yet to acquire.

Now, as a Christian in particular, I think this is an extremely necessary perspective that we all need to get behind in some way or another. The truth is, our existence seems very frontloaded. It matters for the future, so much what we do now. The consequences of the future, of our eternal future, matter in the right here and now. We can't live our lives thinking that "some day" we'll do this or that, "some day" we'll start really living for God. We have to do it now, because frankly, "some day" will never happen...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My Wife is Amazing!

This is just a quick example of how my wife ROCKS! This is a cake she baked and decorated herself. She's always been a good baker (probably part of the reason I've gained like 20lbs since we've been married) but until 3 weeks ago she's never really delved into the "decorating" part. Not that they haven't been pretty... but it's not the same.

She's wanted to for awhile, so finally she signed up for a Cake Decorating class through Michael's and on her 4th class and only the 3rd cake she decorated she came out with this... WOW!

Check out our Photo Album to the right for the other cakes. What makes this even more amazing in my opinion... she's 5 months pregnant and still working fulltime! How does she do it? She's freakn' amazing, that's how. How I ever got her is beyond me...

Monday, September 26, 2005

Thoughts on Theology today...

So, I should note that the above title is a small "t", not a bit "T". These thoughts have nothing to do with the magazine Theology Today which just happens to be published by Princeton Seminary... which you may have never heard of anyway. No, these thoughts stem from my TH222 class (intro to theology 2 - essentially), where today Dr. George Hunsinger lectured (the course is team taught, first half Hunsinger, second half Dr. Ellen Charry ). Anyway, we're talking about Jesus, and what the ancient theologians believed of him (fully divine & fully human, but some being a little more or less on either end) here are a few notes I took:

There are 2 mindsets in contemplating Jesus' deity/humanity
1. says I need to explain this - and really, you can't fully
2. says there remains a certain amount of mystery
Jesus is fully human
Jesus is fully divine
I cannot fully fathom this
But I believe it is true
At the end of the day, I CAN'T explain this, it's a mystery to me
BUT I believe it anyway

We like to talk about Jesus as unique...
that's fine, but not just a unique person
Jesus was unique in KIND
There has never been one like Jesus
There will never be another like Jesus
This is one of the reasons that explaining Jesus is impossible for us

On top of this, Hunsinger goes on a rampage today against Paul Tillich (1886-1965) a theologian that a certain professor that taught TH221 last semester (and nearly EVERYONE in TH222 took TH221 last year) was a disciple of. Disciple may not be strong enough... but I digress.

Anyway, Hunsinger goes off on him, talking about Tillich's view of Christ as "Middle Christology" how he doesn't really affirm Jesus deity, how he essentially sees Jesus as this example who bore the Spirit of God, and we too can essentially do the same thing... to hear him go after Tillich for these things... It was awesome! To hear essentially that Jesus was indeed God, was and is worthy of our worship... it just makes me feel like what I'm doing here is not wasting my time. A friend of mine... pardon his french, explained Hunsinger's comments thus (I'm paraphrasing). "you were F***ed with last year folks, but I'm here to set the record straight for you." Yeah - Hunsinger to save the day!

I came to Princeton to learn... but I want to learn from people who believe not only that what they're teaching matters, I want to learn from people who believe in Jesus. I've taken a couple classes where that committment seemed questionable (from my vantage point... but I never actually asked them, so I won't pretend to really know) But it's very refreshing to hear from an impassioned professor talk about Jesus. I know, I know, that's not what you'd expect to hear at seminary either...

Friday, September 23, 2005

At Peace... wrestling and resting

I often look at our cat, Snickers, and see him sleeping, so peacefully, so completely at rest. I'm jealous. Well, not too much, but maybe a little. That kind of peace so often alludes us, or at least me.

So yesterday (I think it was yesterday) I was praying, reading, singing and I had one of those brief moments where I felt God's... well, kinda like a peaceful hug. Now, I'm not one of those that believes a relationship with God is built on feelings... alone, no one can live like that. But I am one that believes are feelings are God-created and therefore can be good and necessary in our relationship. But feelings, just like intellect, is tricky. Here and there, I NEED a little feeling, I need to believe God is parting the heavens just to land a drop of water on my head to freshen my spirit. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I believe I'm the center of the universe... I dunno. I love the song Prove Me Wrong by Caedmon's Call which talks about doubt:

Sometimes I fear, maybe I'm not chosen
You've hardened my heart like Pharaoh
That would explain why life is so hard for me...

Cast out my doubts, please prove me wrong
'Cause these demons can be so headstrong
Make my walls fall please prove me wrong...

Don't let my doubts prove true
Draw me close and hold me near to you
Keep me still until the day you...

I think what is most important about these experiences though, is that they need to be held onto and remembered, I mean hence the song, right? And that takes our intellect. They work hand in hand. It's like Israel's circle in the Old Testament. God did something amazing and one generation saw it first hand. They became changed people (most of them) they were awed by God, they were devoted to God and they tried to teach it to their kids... but their kids didn't EXPERIENCE it for themselves, so they weren't changed in the same way, they weren't devoted in the same way... and eventually the teachings became stale. So once again, God would rend the heavens, do something amazing, save Israel, and the cycle would continue. I think the same thing has happend post-Jesus too. And I think in a micro way, the same thing happens in our lives. Our task, is to continue to think, talk, and re-experience those things in new ways, having faith that God will CONTINUE to do new things in our lives - but always for God's glory and God's purposes - for us to bless others. Because ultimately, it's not about us, it's about God. And that is what I need to constantly remind myself of. And in addition that, as Jesus taught us, it's even more about others than ourselves.

So, to be at peace, to be truly resting, I think I need to be truly serving...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Am I Reformed?

So, I signed on for this class "Reformed and Lutheran Confessional Theology in the Sixteenth Century" - because my friend Raymond (center in the pic) pretty much went into ecstasy every time he talked about the course (after only 1 day) and because at the time, there were only 13 people in the class. I thought, what better way to get a class with one of Princeton's finest Prof's!

Well after 2 hours today, and just having finished the readings The Theology of the Reformed Confessions (Barth) in particular, I'm having questions again. A little background/reminder might help here. Although my great-grandfather was an Anglican Minister and my grandfather a native of Scotland (and therefore Presbyterian) my mom growing up between the 2 churches, I was raised in the Free Methodist Church. I went to a Free Methodist College. I attended some Pentecostal churches here and there with friends (and for nearly 2 years in college) but I never really had any connection to those great mainline denominations of North America. When Bridgette & I married, we moved to L.A. and ended up hooking up at a Presbyterian Church (USA) and after a couple years became members and that's where I'm currently seeking ordination through.

So, my history in the Presbyterian Church is short, and "Reformed" theology about the same. But of course, "Reformed" is this huge buzzword throughout the PCUSA, and even after 4 years in a church, I really had no clue what it meant. So now, after 1+ year at Princeton - a supposed Presbyterian seminary, I'm only now beginning to tip the edge of the iceberg that is "Reformed" theology. And as much as I thought I'd come to grips with those elements of the theology that I wasn't sure about... the more that I learn, the more that I find myself needing to continue the wrestling.

My greatest comfort when signing on with the PCUSA was the idea that "God alone is Lord of the conscience" which really could mean that you can't be held to much theologically, right? I would never want to take it that far, but it's like having your big brother in the ring with you, just waiting in your corner in case you get into trouble. But as I'm beginning to look at the Confessions that were instrumental in the thread of "Reformed" theology, I'm reminded that it's not that easy. Barth in the book that I mentioned, pretty much calls out all of us Westerners (especially North American) who have ditched these Confessions and made our own, pretending as if they hadn't existed and that they are not seminal in our understanding of God, the Scriptures, Faith, etc. I don't want to be ahistorical in my faith. But I also want to be honest and authentic with what I proclaim and what I confess.

In the picture above, besides Raymond is another friend Wes, who did grow up Presbyterian. Raymond did not, but you'd never know it for all he knows about the denomination (he could've taught our summer Polity class). And it's standing beside guys like this that I have to continually reevaluate myself. They are good men, believers, honestly seeking to proclaim Christ and affirming of their Reformed roots, whereas I, still a novice in these roots, tread lightly, trying to ascertain whether I belong. If it only required a beard, I think I'd be ok...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Day 1 of "Get Fit or Die"... in the books

So, I had this great plan. Since I've got a part-time job that requires me to be about 2 miles from campus roughly between the hours of 3-6pm M-F, and Bridgette can't be without the car every night of the week (she gets off work at 5pm and works @ GAP 6-10pm Mon & Wed... FOR NOW!) I thought - hey, I'll buy a bike. That way I can get to the job & back home without any hassles.

Now, buying the bike was somewhat of a story in and of itself. Not exactly the bike, but after buying the bike our car battery went... long story but suffice to say it was the WEIRDEST car battery story I have ever experienced and it took nearly 4 hours of my Saturday afternoon.

So, my master plan for Mondays involves this:
7:30am bike to campus (4 miles my friend Raymond take my school bag on the shuttle)
8:00am Hebrew Reading class
9:00am Work-out with 2 friends @ seminary gym
10:40am Theology 2 class
11:40am Church History - Time & Liturgical Year class
12:30pm Lunch
1:30pm Missional Theology with Darrel Guder (3 hr class)
4:40pm bike to job
6:00pm bike to campus field & intramural football practice
7:00pm bike back to campus, switch bag & back home

So... riding uphill to class in the morning takes more out of you than you'd think. Losing your keys makes you late for stuff. Loosening your brakes too much makes it hard to stop. And riding home in the dark, sans light, on a footpath with overhanging branches & joggers wearing BLACK... well, it's just asking for trouble.

But the day is done and tonight I have to read... a LOT. I'm very much looking forward to this Missional Theology class and another class which I've picked up & starts tomorrow (Reformed & Lutheran Confessions of the 16thC - McCormick) could be interesting. There's only 16 students (oh how I've longed for something like that) and it's a subject I know little to nothing about from a professor who is supposed to be one of the best @ Princeton. I can't go wrong, right?

Except for the fact I just found out I have a paper due Thursday on stuff I haven't begun to read yet... ah, Edumacation, gotta love it...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Where do I need to go?

So, I'm reading Oswald Chambers for today over at My Utmost for His Highest the daily devotionals, and his last line is this:

The greatest spiritual crisis comes when a person has to move a little farther on in his faith than the beliefs he has already accepted.

So, I'm thinking to myself: "this is dangerous." In fact, this could be the most dangerous theological statement ever penned. I mean, that's worse than simply saying "we haven't got it figured out yet." It's like, you're never going to be comfortable. You're NEVER going to have it figured out.

Sometimes here at Princeton, I feel like I'm experiencing crises in this vein. I'm often thinking to myself "maybe I was wrong about this" or "maybe I need to rethink this, mabye God IS doing a new thing that I have to get on board with." I'll tell you, sometimes its scary because we're all part of little cliques (I'm not primarily speaking of Princeton, but religiously in general) and we need to believe certain things or we can't be accepted there. It's hard to be able to "move on" or to "grow" and it's sometimes unnerving to think that if you start to accept x,y,z or reject a,b,c then you'll no longer be accepted by those you had always felt akin to.

But I have to remember that when I read this, I have to sift through it, I have to read this statement both with ears to hear and with a critical eye. I have to be wise to hear not only the words of this man, but also the words of the Spirit. And having THOSE ears to hear, having THOSE eyes to see, knowing when is the time to "move on" and "grow" and when is the time to "stand firm", well those are the critical junctures, the true moments of crises. And discovering them, disciphering them, and growing in and through them, that's why I'm at seminary...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"Back to life... back to reality"

So, today I returned to school. Bright and early I hitched a ride in the 15 passenger van I thought I'd left behind in Youth Ministry ('cause BOTH shuttles are in the shop) and headed into the 8am preaching plenary session. What a way to begin my 2nd year.

I'll tell you one thing, there's nothing better to dispel the optimism of a new year like receiving syllabi, being assigned precepts and realizing that your perfect plan for a stress-free semester is nowhere in sight. I mean, these classes look interesting. I'm definitely excited about the material (not to mention the material in at least 2 other classes I just couldn't fit into my schedule) but it's like being in line for a roller coaster. You stand there for an hour, just inching along, looking so much forward to the ride. You observe the screams, you chart the huge drops, the spins, the turns and you can't wait for your turn. Then, when you finally get in, the lap bar secure, and you begin the ascent of that first monstrous climb and you ask yourself "what have I gotten myself into?!"

I kinda feel like that. With 14 ACADEMIC credits (which doesn't count field ed) translating into 5 actual courses (which includes a 2 credit preaching class that's more like 4-5 credits worth of work) plus a field ed placement that is 30 minutes away and will require at least 1 late night/week (and up to 15 hours), plus a job at 10-15 hours per week (that pays awesome and will allow me to do some reading - really can't complain) and of course a wife who is pregnant and requiring just a little more assistance around the house as things move along... well, it's going to be a busy semester.

So, that's where I'm at. But I'm realizing, I'm not sure I want to keep this blog ENTIRELY about me. So, at the expense of becoming preaching and pretentious, I may start blogging about stuff that I'm reading/thinking about from classes as well this next semester. Since this is my blog, it doesn't really matter what anyone else things about it... but in case anyone cares, feel free to e-mail: and tell him what you think. I'm sure he'll be VERY interested.

As for the photo above, yes, those are the front doors of Stuart Hall, the building where most of the classes are held (3 of my 5 this semester). And yes, that's a real sign in the foreground, at the corner of the administrative building. And yes, if you know Princeton at all, the whole photo is pretty freakn' ironic...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Few Quick thoughts...

So it's been awhile since I last posted. Indeed. Which means virtually nothing because I doubt anyone was checking this on anything more than a cursory, weekly visit. And those were only the friends I had asked to comment on stuff. Anyway, so my last real post was the wilderness post, so my next post includes the picture of a vineyard, yeah, they're tied together.

Interesting note, a certain friend text messaged me the other day, just after I'd gotten back from the Adirondacks Labour Day weekend. His message? "No Wilderness". Now, I'm not exactly sure what that meant. But at the time, I was goofing around, doing nothing in particular. And I was reminded to go read my bible, spend some time with the God who on Monday night, as I drifted off to sleep I kept saying over and over that I miss.

So anyway, I'm systematically going through the Bible right now (have been for YEARS) reading a chapter, finding a verse that stands out and writing it and a few notes down in a journal. I figure if nothing else, by the time I'm done (if I can actually find the half dozen binders, and figure out where I actually began) I should have some good sermon material, or something to start my own devotional book or something. Anyway, I'm in your favourite prophet and mine: Ezekiel. I haven't got to my personal favourite section, where he's measuring the temple (four cubits of this, 100 cubits to here, this gate of rubies, etc.) But where am I? Ezekiel 37.

No, I didn't realize that. I had no clue that was the next passage. But I got a little emotional (really, just a little). I mean, here I am talking about wilderness, etc. and I end up reading the story of the Valley of Dry Bones. What was also pretty cool was during the Hebrew reading thing (called the Hebraithon) we read this over in hebrew with Dr. Lapsley who until then, I'd never seen or known her other than the name. Anyway, she made the text come alive in a way that I'd never seen, bringing so much energy. I couldn't help but remember that as I'm reading it, and also get the feeling that God was talking to me too, promising me that God's Spirit could breath on me too, that I wouldn't have to be dry forever.

Well, today I'm reading Ezekiel 39 (yes, didn't read much in a week, I know) and these particular verses jumped out at me:

"Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD." - Ez. 39:28-29.

And in even before I had cracked the Bible open, I had thought to myself as I sat on the couch, "this is a good place, God is good". I don't know how exactly to describe it, but I felt like God was actually smiling on me, reminding me that I was loved. I felt like God was reminding me that He won't leave me, that I won't be abandoned. Like the valleys, the barren terrain, that after being cultivated and watered turns into valuable soil, that God would not leave me. I mean, I haven't been the most proactive person about seeking God out all the time. Which is part of why I've felt bad, that instead of love, God was disappointed in me. And maybe that's true, but I felt today, I was reminded that no matter what, God loves me.

Sometimes I'm not sure what I'm motivated by, encouragement or condemnation, the carrot or the whip. But today I was definitely encouraged by God, and on the eve of a new semester, it's exactly what I needed.

I'll get to posting pictures (some awesome ones) of the Labour Day weekend, and info about the fall (books I'll be reading, etc.) in a couple days. This semester will be busy, but good. I'm looking forward to starting up again. I'm encouraged about what God will do with me this year...

Friday, September 02, 2005

It's Over - I'm outta here!

OT4S, aka, Summer Hell, aka, Summer Hebrew @ PTS, is officially over. About 1 hr ago, I handed in my final - which I may have even passed. I KNOW I got at least %40, which would be enough to pass the course. Now, I'm off to a cabin in the Adirondacks with 15 friends for the Labour Day weekend. Oh boy...

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I can't even Imagine

Those are houses, under 6, 8, 10 feet of water. Inside them are millions of dollars worth of possessions from electronics to jewlery, clothing to personal memorabilia. All damaged, most lost. And then there are the hundreds if not thousands of people dead, some under the water, many more to come from disease. In the midst of this, there is grief, fear and looting for those that have 'survived' this horrific event.

I sit here, in relative comfort with electricity, running water, a refrigirator filled with food and beverages, a myriad of things to do with myself and I cannot even comprehend the magnitude of losing everything, of being displaced for days, weeks and maybe even months. It's easy to say it would never happen to me, 'cause I just wouldn't choose to live in a place like that (fill in the blank - flood plane, tornado area, hurricane area, etc.) But that means nothing, because millions of people right now in the Gulf Coast are dealing with this themselves. For them, it is real. It is not television news, not internet reports. This is their life, whatever they can make of it. This is their 9/11, only this time, no terrorists are to blame. There is no enemy to go after, no war to wage, only devestation to deal with and to somehow overcome. And yes, it will happen, I'm sure.

I think right now, it would do us (and I mean ALL of us, being us here and "us" in New Orleans and everywhere else affected) to pray. And also to prayerfully consider how we could help. I bet if every church in America donated this Sunday's offering to relief efforts, every church in America would still open it's doors the following Sunday, still be there at Christmas, Easter and still have enough money to run all its fun events. But since I doubt that every church will hear God's call to do that, I entreat you to prayerfully consider what you will do with your money this week. I know Red Cross is accepting donations, and you can call 1-800-HELP-NOW and donate by phone.

Also, something else that I can't even imagine has happened in Baghdad. Where 1000 or more people have died because of a bomb SCARE!! Yes, the above picture is just one example of what people ended up doing when a stampede ensued during a rally - they jumped into the Tigris River. Somed drowned, some died on impact, others were trampled to death by the weight of the crowd. But can you imagine... dying because of a bomb SCARE! Not a real bomb. Now, not to disrespect anyone or anything, but here we have a death toll in the neighbourhood of 1/7 of what happened on 9/11 in NYC... but here it's just a scare, it's just a fear, it's not even a real danger, just panic. That's amazing. That's NOT the world that we live in here in the West, it's just not.

Think of it this way, it's like if when the Pistons & Pacers first game after the brawl in Auburn Hills, when there was the bomb scare... it's like instead of the game only being delayed 90 minutes, it's like all 19 thousand people rushed the doors, and 1000 died on the way out, hundreds injured. It's like that. But that kinda stuff just doesn't happen here. I mean, until just recently (post-Oklahoma City, post-9/11) bomb threats were nothing. Growing up I'd hear about bomb threats in rival high schools, and usually they were just called in by disgruntled students who wanted to get out of class for the afternoon. No one was scared, but you evacuated the building in an orderly manner, whatever. You see, OUR world (and again, I mean us people in the West) just don't live in a world marked by that kind of fear. We just don't. We see stuff happen on the news, we see stuff happening to others, and we get teary eyed, we get sad, but we move on, 'cause our daily lives don't involve the kind of stuff like that on a regular basis. We're so far removed, so BLESSED that we can't even imagine what it's like to live life in constant fear of that kind of stuff.

Well, I just know one thing, it's time we started truly giving back to those that do not share in our blessings. It is time we stopped believing it our God-given right to be blessed, and started believing it our God-given TASK to bless others, both near AND far...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

In the Wilderness

So things have been pretty dry for awhile, spiritually speaking. It's funny 'cause it seems to mirror my health in other areas of my life, if not my health then at least my general feelings. I seem to be running really, running from nearly everything. I'm running from my Hebrew class (not learning what I should) and running FROM spending time with God instead of running TO spend time with God. The most obvious example of this is in my prayer life, which is nearly non-existant. I mean, I thank God before I eat, and Bridgette & I pray each night before we go to sleep (especially for our little unborn child)... but most of the rest of my prayers aren't happening. And I feel like I either can't come to God or that when I do, it's not real anyway, no, not that God's not real, but the experience, what I'm bringing to it isn't real.

So, I go check out my friend over at thoughts as I go and he writes this nice little ditty in Matthew 4, Jesus' wilderness experience, and he's relating it to Israel's 40 years vs. Jesus' 40 days and he says: "Moses' disobedience and the grumbling of the hungry, thirsty, and tired Israelites kept them in the desert 40 years. Jesus was done in 40 days."

Now, this isn't really the point of his comments, but it strikes me in this way: Is it that we spend time in the wilderness to accomplish a certain task, or to learn a certain thing, and then when we have done so, we will exit the wildnerness? I mean, maybe that's just elementary to people, maybe it's something that I already knew, but I'm not sure.

You see, it makes so much sense with what I'm going through right now. Here I am, 2 years away from royally screwing up faithful believers lives by being installed as a pastor in their church (I can't wait until Pastoral Search Committees find this blog...) and I'm experiencing a huge time in the wilderness... and if there's one thing I can almost guarantee that I need to learn during this time, it's this: 1) I need to be disciplined. and 2) I need to draw near to God. (Ok, so I can't keep to just 1 thing)

Anyway, I'm TRYING to be more disciplined, I'm TRYING to finish what I start and be there from beginning to end, not fizzle out, etc. But, I'm not trying hard enough, and I'm trying on my own strength, not on God's. It seems that the more I try, the less I rely on God. Instead of spending more time with God, I'm spending more time worrying about the things that I should be doing but am not, and lest time resting in God.

I guess when I think about the wilderness experiences of the Israelites and of Jesus... they DIDN'T get out by doing something of their own, they got out by being obedient, by fighting through something on God's strength. Israel learned to trust in God, Jesus overcame temptation through his knowledge of God's Word. So, it's not that I need to DO anything to get out, but I need to BECOME more reliant on God. I need to press in to God, amp up my time with Him, and trust Him. I think the key now is not to just leave this as some blog entry, but to go...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Forget this...

With 1 week left of summer hebrew, and only 1/3 of the vocab learned (to my calculation) I've decided to drop the whole thing and become A TRUCKER!

That's right folks, from here on out, I'll be posting from a big rig, traveling across the country, bringing all kinds of goods to the nice people in this big land. Keep a look out for me while you're traveling down the interstate/thruway/parkway/highway/tollway or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods, maybe you'll see me.


It turns out that Bridgette won't let me become a trucker after all. She says I need to finish what I started, that I need to go to school, that I need to get a real job so that she doesn't have to work 2 jobs when the baby comes... darn it. I guess that means I should go to sleep, so I can spend some time tomorrow learning my Hebrew vocab, so that when I take this Final on Friday, even if I don't pass it, I might be able to garner enough points to pass the course... I only need 70% overall, and only like 45% on the final... shoot, if I keep talking like this, I may not pick up my vocab cards all week! I'm so ready to hit the road...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

So I walk into the chapel...

This morning, I'm really feeling like I need to take some time out, and spend it with God. I've put in so much time blogging and e-mailing lately with people I disagree with theologically, people that I do believe are trying to follow God, but people that I also believe to be somewhat ignorant of Christian history, and very ethnocentric. And it's been killing me. Not just killing me what they're saying, not being open-minded and labeling other people who I ALSO believe are trying to follow Jesus, they just happen to be doing some different things... and by different, I don't mean THAT different.

But anyway, I go into our chapel, I take some time to pray, and I reach for a Bible, to read some... but they're only hymnals, and by "they're" I mean the 3 different books in the pews. Disappointed, I put them back, but reach down a few minutes later, why not, right? I mean, not the Bible, but still some good stuff, God can still speak through...

And I come to this one hymn, and I read it through, and I go, YES! This is what I needed to be reminded of, and this is what I need to write on, to share, if nothing else, here goes:

Stewart Cross, George Henry Day

verse 3

Holy Spirit, rushing, burning
Wind and Flame of Pentecost
Fire our hearts afresh with yearning
To regain what we have lost
May your love unite our action
Never more to speak alone
God, in us abolish faction
God, through us Your love make known

This is my prayer, for me, for us. May we be united through the Holy Spirit...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Over the last 24 hours I've been through a lot of emotions, and have centered on one: brokeness.

No, I'm ok. My marriage is great. Our expectant child, by all our knowledge, is safe in Bridgette's belly. But it seems to me that in many ways, the state of our faith, the state of Christianity... well it's hurting me.

Now, I'm not a pessimistic type, and in general, I'm not scared about the future. I believe God is Lord of the future, it'll be ok. But I've been perusing through blogland, reading a number of Christian blogs and posts which seem to me to be so hurtful and devisive, that I cannot stomach them. A couple of times, I have replied or e-mailed the persons, hoping to open their eyes to what they are denying. In some cases, they are denying elements of historical Christianity without even realizing it. Some people claim certain things "pagan" or "new age" but are ignorant that these same things were practiced for hundreds of years by many faithful Christians.

Some people seem to forget that Jesus came 2000 years ago, that there is 2000 years of God working through the Church, before we ever got to today. Faithful Christians throughout those ages sought to know God and Jesus, often witout the aid of the Bible in their native tongue, and yet today so many of us protestants claim that the Bible is our very own personal answer key, easy to understand, simple enough that a child could come to the right truth simply by reading it, like a cookbook. We almost worship the Bible and forget about the Holy Spirit!

But that's not exactly what I'm broken about. I'm frustrated by the fact that we are known more for our exclusion, our backbiting, fingerpointing, hurtful and devisiveness than for our love and our unity. Is that what we were called to? Is that what Jesus died for? I think not! I think we sell ourselves short everytime we try and paint other Christians as evil.

I wrote in an e-mail recently, reminding someone of Jesus words to His disciples concerning stuff like this. They asked him, essentially if they should weed out the false prophets who were preaching in His name. Jesus said no, if they are not preaching AGAINST me, then they're FOR me. Even more, he claimed that by uprooting these weeds, you would end up hurting the wheat that God would eventually harvest. Instead, they were told to wait for the day of judgment, where God (who alone can judge rightly) would discern the true from the false.

See, it's not up to us. We are not called to judge our fellow fallen friends. We are called to live in love and community, seeking God as best we can. But so often, we instead try to point out everyone else's sin, explaining why they're so wrong, and therefore, why we're so right. But that's not our job!!!

Also as an aside, I NEVER want this blog or any other I ever write to be a hotbed of angry dissenting and complaining about people or whatever. It's so easy to do that on the internet. Those blogs are EVERYWHERE. And Christian blogs like that are EXTREMELY prevalent. But we can do better than that.

I am broken, I want us to love one another, I want us to leave the judging up to God. Please, help me to walk humbly before my God, to do justice and love mercy... and above all else, to love... because love covers a multitude of sins, and without love, I am nothing but a crashing cymbal...

Monday, August 22, 2005

So nice to get away!

So, Bridgette and I went away for the weekend. We celebrated our 5th Anniversary (the last before our first baby arrives) at a Bed & Breakfast in Westbrook, CT called Angel's Watch Bed & Breakfast which was awesome. The food was delicious and in very large portions. We had a two person soaking tub in our room, which allowed us to enjoy a nice, relaxing time each evening. It was so nice to get away from everything at home, especially Hebrew. Even though I took a bunch of vocab cards, I actually FORGOT about them, never even opening them until we arrived at home.

Not only did we have great accomodations, we enjoyed a couple lovely dinners at Cafe Routier on the actual night of our anniversary and Alforno Trattoria where we ate Saturday night. We also enjoyed tremendously our visit to Chamard Wineries where we were able to do a little wine tasting (well, I was able) and tour this quaint little winery. The wines available for tasting were very enjoyable... and beyond that, I would just sound silly if I tried to explain them. I am no wine expert. But we bought a couple bottles... so who knows!

Two things though, were very thought provoking on our little trip. The first, is a comment that Bridgette said while we were leaving on Sunday, and the second is something I'll talk about later, having to do with our little jaunt to Yale. Anyway, as we were driving away, Bridgette questioned whether we had been faithful witnesses or not. Now, normally (I say normally, but truth be told, I'm not sure I qualify as someone who knows what "normal" is in regard to B&B's) it seems that you may not have a lot of interaction with other guests, when you're staying somewhere. But here & Angel's Loft, they served breakfast PROMPTLY at 9:30am (which meant we never slept in) and encouraged us to introduce one another and really talk around the table. We did so, but never got too far. I mean, we didn't talk too much about ourselves beyond where we'd been, and our expectant child. We talked briefly about me attending seminary and answered the question "what are you planning to do after" with -"fulltime pastoral ministry." But, nothing really of the stuff that says - "what we live for is Jesus, and you need to know about Him."

Now some people might say, good, one less pushy preacher is awesome, but I'm not sure. It's something that I always struggle with. What is the line between being pushy and being timid? I want to be authentic, but I don't want to hide anything. I don't want to be a salesman, but I don't want to hold back on something that I believe is more precious than anything in this world.

And I must say, this website is that way too. I didn't put this out as some kind of proselytizing place, nor do I expect that there are enough people reading it for it to be effective. But I want to be honest. It's a fine line. I want to be forthright, but not obnoxious (of course, I probably couldn't help from being obnoxious no matter what I do). Suffice to say, I struggle daily with the question of how to spend my time and talents in a way that reflect eternal significance. I don't believe it to be something I'll probably ever feel like I've mastered, but I do hope that I'll be able to grow and listen for that quiet prompting... problem is, I think right now I do a very good job of shushing it up...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Uh... should I be worried?

So, I'd been over at Rhett Smith's blog and he talked about doing these pseudo psychology tests that match your personality to a classic movie or a famous leader. So, I finally thought, why not? He and some others had got some surprising results (but not all that surprising... or so I thought). So, I do the movie one first, and here's the way it pegs me:

If you know me... well, this may not be THAT far off, but I think there are definitely aspects that are way out. But that wasn't the worst part. I do the famous leader's section, and it comes up with this:

Are you kidding me? I mean, he's a tyrrant who's killed tons of people for money and power. He's a genocidal maniac! How do you get that from questions like: "I like acclaim" ??? I'm a little disappointed that they would include this guy without any questions regarding anything like that. I can guarantee that I don't want to be "the toughest guy on the block." El pidro? Maybe. Saddam? No way.

Well, maybe I should rethink my calling. a megalomaniac-mobster/rogue-tyrant is not somebody who should be preaching in a pulpit and offering counseling to hurting people...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The future...

So why exactly are we so enamored with the future? I mean, there are countless movies and books (yes, books still exist) that tell us what it will be like in 2040 or whatever. But at the same time, everyone seems to be concerned with their "next big thing" or the next election, or "next year's team". There is something in humans that search out the future.

I have been particularly looking into the future these past few days, thinking about what life will be like with a child (see pictures of pregnant Bridgette on the Coleman Photos link or this one). But on top of that, I've also been contemplating life beyond school (yes, I've only been here 1 year and I'm already thinking of getting out), life with a summer off (hopefully taking care of our baby fulltime, whoa!) and even once fall semester starts and instead of learning Hebrew vocabulary, I'll be holed up in the library, or my couch, reading stuff that I actually WANT to read. (My complete school reading list will eventually find its way onto this blog, rest assured - so that the 3 people that frequent this site can read along with me!).

But anyway, I find myself in general, being caught up, not in the moment, but in the moment to come. This is often a mechanism I use to procrastinate, and push off those things I should be doing. But at the same time, I feel that looking ahead helps you when you get there. What I do need to be careful of (in addition to procrastinating) is not being aware of the moment I'm in, not giving full attention to those who are in the moment with me, and to the God that is not ONLY in the future, but right here in this moment as well. My friend at Thoughts as I go has a great blog about this very topic here, so check it out.

Now, I must get back to the present, which still consists of Hebrew vocabulary. Of course, within a few short weeks, that will mostly be in the past, and the future, will be a present moment that I'll definitely need to take care of...