Friday, September 28, 2007

Use Your Allusion #5: Newspeak

If you haven't read George Orwell's 1984, it's a fascinating book. Of course, it didn't happen exactly as he predicted it would, writing in 1949.

It is a story about ultimate government control of everything in a person's life. One of the ways that government maintained control was by getting people to use "newspeak". This was a reduced, simplified version of English designed to simplify and ultimately cripple people's minds.

Instead of saying something is "good", "great", or "fantastic", you would have only the adjective "good". Something could be "good" or "doubleplusgood".

So when you refer to something as "newspeak", you're saying that someone is feeding you bad, oversimplified information with bad pretenses.

On a personal note, I often lament how dumbed down our language is actually becoming. I'm convinced hip hop music must have something to do with it, but pop culture at large is certainly a culprit.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Monday, Carolina and I closed on a house, and we are in the process of moving/shopping/painting/etc. We've spent enough at Lowe's to feed a small army. I think it's going to be a good home for us. I've determined not to slack off on my job or my grad school, so it looks like it's my blogging that will have to be cut back for a few weeks. It's going to be a crazy few days ahead! Keep us in your prayers!

As soon as my life starts resembling a routine again, I'll start posting more routinely. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

My Beautiful Hometown

There's a gentleman here at Old Hickory that I go to church with who is an excellent photographer. Actually, there are a couple of them! But this man, named Richard, is retired and manages to take quite a few photographs. He often has his camera with him, and is always looking for new shots to snap. He's been a good friend to me since I got to Old Hickory. He always volunteers when we need help around the office. He's always piddling with something interesting, and always has something to talk about. He's a very gentle soul.

He sent me several pictures of downtown Nashville that he took last week. This one is my favorite. It was such a nice day outside that he made zero adjustments to the really was this nice. He makes a few bookmarks using his pictures that he sells on the side. He really has a gift for taking pictures. I may well end up framing this one. I remember how good it felt as we were making the drive over to Nashville from Arkansas with all our remaining stuff in our cars. Seeing this beautiful skyline gave me a warm feeling. It's good to be home.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Use Your Allusion #4: Cleaning the Augean Stables

The fifth labor of Hercules was to cleanse the stables of King Augeas. Augeas of Elis had an immense heard of oxen whose stables had not been cleaned in thirty years. To complicate the matter, his fields were so large that many other animals were brought to live and graze in them.

Hercules was challenged to completely clean the stables in only one day. He accomplished this by tearing a hole in one side of the stables, then in the other side. He diverted the waters of the Alpheus River through the stable to clean out all the mess left by the many large oxen.

When someone has to clean up a giant mess, it can be referred to as "cleaning the Augean stables". This is sometimes used to describe the work of a new government trying to come in and clean up the work of a preceding corrupt government.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

From our trip to Memphis

The other weekend, Carolina and I drove over to Memphis to see some friends and family. Actually, for a 1 night ordeal, we did an incredible amount of visiting. We began by seeing my grandparents in Henderson, TN. It had been a long time since Carolina had been there especially. We ate at a favorite local restaurant near Freed called Bell's. I had an amazing double cheeseburger! The next morning we ate with them, and saw our friends Luke and Erica, whom we hadn't seen in quite a while. They did visit one day a month ago, but Carolina was in Mexico. It was good to see them and their handsome young son Mayz. We then went on to Memphis.

I started having feelings of deja vu. "Hey, Robert and Angela have a grocery store like this near their apartment! Hey! They also have a Lenny's!" I finally realized that we had driven a back road way to Memphis, which led us directly to our friends' apartment. So instead of waiting until later, we stopped sooner to see them for a while.

Then, we drove down to the very edge of the Tennessee/Mississippi line in Memphis, where our friends Poncho and Vyaney live by a beautiful golf course. They just had their first child: a wonderful son (Alfonso--same as his dad), and we wanted to make this trip especially to see them. We're very happy for them.

It's weird how just a little over 3 years ago, I was engaged to Carolina, but was living in an apartment with Poncho in Searcy. I had just begun preaching at Rose Bud. He was a good roommate. He has a great sense of humor, and is always in a good mood. It's weird to think that not quite four years later, we would both be married, both living in different cities, and he now has a son. Life moves awfully quick.

Friday, September 14, 2007


For some reason, rap seems to be the music of choice in describing Searcy, Arkansas. The lyrics in this video aren't as funny as Kodak and D'Lee, but I still find it entertaining.

When you can walk to work, sometimes your cat follows you to the office.

Carolina and I came over to the office tonight. Having my Great-Grandmother's funeral this week has caused me to get severely behind on both work and grad school stuff. I'm going to be really pushing it to get both sermons done tomorrow.

Though she doesn't do it all the time, Nacho has always enjoyed following us when we go on walks. When we had Dora, we always walked as a family of four; two humans, a dog, and a cat. Tonight she followed us over to the office, and after closing off all the doors besides my personal office room, we let her join us in here. As you can tell, she made herself right at home. I continue to be fascinated by my cat.

Use Your Allusion #3: Hubris

Hubris is a term for excessive pride and arrogance. Traditionally, this is the sort of insolence which leads a person to violate the moral code of the gods, and even to challenge them directly. Capaneus
is a classical example of hubris. He was supposedly an enormous, strong man with great wealth and power. In some literature, there's a story that he temporarily saved himself from death by clinging to a protruding rock on a cliff during a raging storm. Still hanging high over the waters, he proceeded to taunt Zeus with his skill and fortune. Upon the moment of his boasting, the rock suddenly broke off, and he fell to his death.

Proverbs 16:18 - "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Martin Luther on the Importance of Sexuality

I'm in Dr. Richard Oster's class on the Corinthian letters this semester. Frankly, trying to balance it with everything else I have going on has been rough. Even so, I'm learning all kinds of new things. He has an excellent commentary on I Corinthians that we're reading for the class.

This week, we've been studying I Corinthians 7, which has a lot of instructions about sexuality, marriage, divorce, and some about slavery. He included a quote from Martin Luther that I found rather fascinating. Sexuality in our culture is way overemphasized in some regards, but is under emphasized in others. It carries with it a bit of taboo, and it is often portrayed as a puerile sort of thing. Guys are portrayed as thinking about nothing besides sex, and it's fairly expected that people will do little to restrain their passions. Hence, in condemning the bad behavior it is easy for Christians to take it a step further and condemn sexuality itself.

I knew of a preacher near Rose Bud who actually got fired several years ago because he used the word "sex" in the pulpit! Paul places a high level of importance on married couples being united in this way, and he even seems to present one's libido as a perfectly viable reason for choosing to marry (though that is certainly not the central point of marriage). You won't find anything in Paul's writing that suggests one having sexual desires is to be equated with spiritual immaturity.

Even if you don't agree with Luther's conclusions--I personally don't, I think he understood how seriously Paul viewed the role of sexuality in the life of a Christian:
One spouse may rob and withdraw himself or herself from the other and refuse to grant the conjugal due or to associate with the other. One may find a woman so stubborn and thick-headed that it means nothing to her though her husband fall into unchasteness ten times. Then it is time for the man to say: If you are not willing, another woman is; if the wife is not willing, bring on the maid. But this only after the husband has told his wife once or twice, warned her, and let it be known to other people that her stubborn refusal may be publicly known and rebuked before the congregation. If she still does not want to comply, then dismiss her; let an Esther be given you and allow Vashti to go, as did King Ahasuerus (Esther 2:17).

(Quoted from Ewald M. Plass, ed., What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for Active Christians (St. Louis: Concordia, 1991), paragraph 2811)
Had you ever thought about bringing up what is happening (or not happening) in the bedroom before the congregation for church discipline? Yikes! It seems that he is viewing sexual deprivation on the same level that most Christians commonly view adultery.

Thoughts anyone?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mary "Ma" Jones 1917-2007

This morning I woke up at about 5am, and absolutely could not stop tossing and turning, which is extremely atypical for me. Something felt very wrong. I got up and shuffled about the house a bit, used the bathroom, and tried going back to bed, but it didn't do any good. I didn't manage to get back to sleep until about 7am. I got up, and went over to vote. After I got back, I saw that my phone had messages. I had an urgent one from my dad from about 6am. I hadn't heard when they called.

My great grandmother died at 5:30 this morning. After finding that out, it makes me wonder again exactly what all dimensions are involved in our connections to one another in this world. Perhaps it was coincidence that I was tossing and turning while she was dying, and perhaps it wasn't. I'll never be able to prove one way or the other. Come to think of it, I'm going to add that to my list of questions for God. Is our connection to the people we love more than just emotions and occasional physical contact? Is there some deeper connection?

But that's not really my concern right now. I lost Ma today. I lost Pappa, her husband, back in July of 1991. That was my first experience with death, and sometimes I still get teary eyed thinking about how badly that hurt. In fact, a few months ago my emotions resurfaced in a way that caught me off guard, and I wept for nearly half an hour. Love for family runs deep. When I was born, 1 of my great great grandparents was living, 6 of my great-grandparents were living, and all of my grandparents. I still have all of my grandparents, but Ma was the last of my greats. Considering that I'm 27, I feel rather fortunate to have known so many of my ancestors when many people never even meet their grandparents.

Ma was always gushing forth praise and encouragement. Just a few weeks ago, Carolina and I had stopped by to see her at the nursing home where she's been staying, and she told me how proud she is of me, and how if Papa were still around, he would be proud of me, too. I'm proud to have been her grandson. One of my best memories of her was when I was about 5 years old and I had a little football from an Antioch High School football game at her house. She was in her late 60's/early 70's and she grabbed my football, took off running and challenged me to catch her. Until fairly recently, she was still in very good physical condition.

She was always meticulous about her yard and her home. Probably a little too much. Our joke was always that she kept even her toilet seats so clean you could eat off of them if you had wanted to. She always kept orange cream Popsicles and various hard candy around her house. She had a weakness for candy. She had turned 90 a few weeks ago, and I think she had 1 tooth left. There's plenty I'll miss about her.

So now, I am reminded again of how much my faith means to me. She was a Christian. The only hope I have of seeing her again is in believing what I'm taught in Scripture that one day she'll receive a renewed body without the frailties of old age. I'll see her again. I'll see Papa again. Who knows how many years I have to go until then? Perhaps all the time I have to wait in between will make our meeting that much sweeter.

I wish I hadn't lived so far away for the last 7 years. At the same time, she was proud of what I've been doing with my life, and I know that more than anything, she wants me to be a Christian and to encourage others to do the same.

So for now: Ma, I love you. I will miss you. I'll try to learn from your example how important it is to place a high priority on loving other people, and sharing my blessings with those around me. When I take communion this Sunday, I'll remember that one day, we'll all gather at the great feast of the Lord, and we'll be at peace. You wanted to go home, and God has given you rest.

(And to borrow your favorite salutation, from every birthday/Christmas/graduation/wedding card you ever gave me:)
"All my love",

Friday, September 07, 2007

Use Your Allusion #2: Deus Ex Machina

Deus ex machina literally means "The god from the machine". In ancient Greek drama, this was a term used for a mechanical device which would lower a god onto the stage to intervene and provide a solution to the conflict at hand. Currently, this term is still used of works of literature and drama. The modern usage of deus ex machina is to refer to any rescuing agency introduced by a writer to bring about a desired conclusion, usually without much regard to logic, character, or the situation.

Some examples would be commonly found in James Bond movies, where 007 always seems to have exactly the right device to solve whatever situation he is in. This was also something I dislike about the Superman movies. No matter what he gets attacked by, he just happens to have the power to undo whatever his attacker is using against him. (Bullet to the eyeball? No problem!) I'm sure there are better examples than these two, but hopefully you get the idea.

Next time you see a solution to a problem in a story that really seems to come out of nowhere to save the day in an implausible way, you can call it a deus ex machina.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Balancing Evangelism and Spiritual Growth with Teens

Teenagers are at a very bizarre stage in life. On the one hand you can talk to them about mature concepts, to which they can make intelligent--even brilliant--responses. Then 15 minutes later, they're wrestling on the floor, destroying furniture, throwing food at each other, or laughing hysterically at fart noises.

Above all, teens are impressionable. I'm convinced that campus ministries are some of the most important things happening for the future of Christianity. If people aren't reached while they're young, they'll probably be too busy and consumed with their lives later to think about following Christ. This all leads to a dilemma for me.

I see how vital it is that our teens be reaching out to their friends who are lost. We need to train our kids early to be missions-minded, believing that without Christ there is no hope for anyone. There are many lost teens whose parents might allow them to come and participate in church activities, providing us with an opportunity to share the gospel with them and hopefully to convert them. But there is a problem.

Monday we had our teen olympics at church, which were a lot of fun. We did all sorts of relays and games, and eventually drank a lot of Gatorade. But there was a boy riding his skateboard around, looking at us, though pretending not to be looking at us. I thought, "We need to be reaching out, even if he is slightly younger than the youth group aged kids." So I went over and told him to join us. I patted myself on the back for being evangelistically-minded, and hoped I'd just earned an extra star in my crown. The kid participated well and seemed to have fun. But the more comfortable he got, the more uncomfortable he started making everyone else. He started telling us lots of random things about his family, his hobbies, school stuff, etc. We managed to be friendly and to placate him.

Then we went inside for a meal, and some of the older teens made their way back outside to play some football. In the absence of the adult chaperones, this little guy proceeded to start using some very unsavory expressions and attitudes. One teen told me that when this boy started using foul language, an older teen of ours told him to quit, after which he started using more. Someone said, "Did he just drop the F-bomb?" To quote Corn Bread's response (a nicknamed teen of ours): "He didn't just drop the F-bomb; he threw it down." At that point, one of our older ones told him he'd have to leave if he was going to act that way, so he did.

When you invite in people from the world, you get people from the world. People who don't share our values, our teaching, or our personal accountability to God. This young guy is a very mild example of what can be found in the lives of those who don't know God. As someone responsible for guarding my teens' souls, I want to keep bad influences away from them. On the other hand, the worst thing I could do would be to teach them to avoid all people in the world because they have sin in their lives. If that were the case, the Church could never grow. Rabbit-hole Christians accomplish very little in helping to spread the Gospel.

I'm struggling with how to balance giving our teens the nourishment which they need for proper spiritual growth with the practical training they need to be missions-minded. When is a child ready to start reaching others with the gospel? What if I start pushing them to bring all their friends and we get so many problem kids that our youth group is unable to properly function? If I spend more time dealing with discipline than in teaching them, the whole thing becomes self-defeating. Yes, mission trips with focussed activities (door knocking) are good for them to do, but they need to be reaching out to the people they deal with in normal settings, too. They have so much to learn, and I don't want their growth stunted by a competing voice of darkness, but if they don't learn to rescue people from darkness, what good will they be? Not to mention, they're all in different stages of growth. Some can't handle what others can.

This is a tension I've been feeling lately, and I'm not quite sure what the solution is. I know for sure they need to be learning at home and not just from me. If the parents aren't setting the pace for their Christian development, I'll be much less effective. I guess it's all in God's hands. He's managed to keep his church alive and thriving for 20 centuries now despite similar--and even worse--problems. He can keep it going through these things as well. I would just like to know sometimes that I'm helping in the way that I ought to.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Dr. Burks and ATE

For any of you Hardingites--especially those of you who were in Alpha Tau Epsilon like me--this is solid gold. I hate that I wasn't there in person for this. I've been actually shocked by how much I've been missing my social club. I have been around those guys for 8 years now. Friends came and graduated. I graduated and then became a club sponsor. My orange and black roots run pretty deep at this point. From a distance, I send my best regards to ATE...keep it going fellas!

That is Keith Hruska's (sp?) night stick that Dr. Burks is holding. Most of the guys in the club at this point have never even heard of Keith. I wonder whatever happened to that guy. He was a police officer. I don't know where he is now. I have so many good memories with these guys.