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...