Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's Paper Time

As much as it pains me, I'm going to have to decrease the amount of blogging I do for the next few weeks. I've got three papers:

1. I am writing about a proper interpretation of Genesis 6, what it means for God to "repent" or "relent". Did God know it would all go wrong, or does he deny himself foreknowledge? That sort of thing. It's a theological paper instead of an exegetical paper. That's due April 10th.

2. I have one for Christian ethics where I am going to tackle the subject of environmentalism. It's not a subject that I'm especially interested in, but it seems that you can't brush your teeth without someone screaming at you to "Go green!" as you do it. I'm going to try and decide what a Christian's responsibility is to his/her environment. This will end up being a sermon a few months down the road at OH.

3. I have to do a book review for my Providence & Suffering class. I think I'm going to use C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. It's due near the end of April.

I may do some posting between now and then, but not with much frequency. I wish you all the best, and I'll look forward to posting more regularly once the grad school storm dies down.

-Mark <><

Monday, March 24, 2008

My First Nascar Race

Carolina and I went with our youth group to the Pepsi 300 on Saturday at the Nashville Super Speedway. It was my first experience at something like this, and I thought I would record a few of my musings about the experience.
  1. Having been able to see it in person, I understand a lot more about how it works. I never had known about the way they would pick the initial order of the cars, as it seemed to me that this would play a major role in who could win. The qualifying is where each car is allowed to go around the track several times and they count the car's two fastest laps. They then order the cars by which one made the two fastest qualifying laps.
  2. It is extremely loud. Had I not had ear plugs, I would be deaf today.
  3. Most hardcore fans have these nifty radios which allow you to hear the conversations between lookout people on the roofs, pit crews, and the drivers. One of the families who came from our church had one. This was a really cool thing I thought, which enhanced the experience.
  4. The cars move much faster in person than they appear to on television. It struck me how fast they were going when I knew that the track was about a mile long, yet they were circling it in very short amounts of time.
  5. Pit crews are incredibly fast. In a matter of seconds, they can change out tires and refill the tank with gas.
  6. Nascar is very fan-friendly. You are allowed to bring a cooler (within a certain size range) and bring all your own snacks. It is not as expensive as going to some other kinds of events and sports, and being able to avoid the cost of concessions is a huge plus. I paid $30 per ticket, which included the entire day's events (from 10am-4:30pm) and also a hot dog and coke from the concession stand. Also, they didn't charge anything for parking. The bleachers had backs on them, so they were reasonably comfortable. Cameras are also allowed.
  7. This is the only race I've seen, but it seems to me like Nascar has less highs and lows like basketball. There is pretty much constant movement, but the cars are all moving at similar speeds and it's very hard for one to pass another. So it's high-action in terms of there not being much down time, but low action in terms of cars constantly passing each other. There were a couple of times where one car's engine blew out, and another car ended up spinning and going into the grass. But one car was in the lead something like 123 of the first 167 laps (until his spin out). And he wasn't barely in the was by nearly 1/2 a lap. The couple who are big Nascar fans told me it was one of the more boring races they've seen. I still enjoyed it, but there was not as much passing and swerving as I would have hoped for.
Overall, I liked it. It was "Family Day" so we were sitting in a non-alcohol section, and there were probably more people than usual who didn't know much about Nascar. Everything I knew about Nascar before this, I learned from Ricky Bobby. Even though there was a terrible wind chill, I loved that we were able to sit up high with a great view. This track is near Lebanon, TN, with few things around it, and on a warmer day, I would love being able to sit there, relax, and enjoy the experience.

I think I'll probably organize another trip for the youth group to go again next year. Below is a picture of the winner: #29 whose name is Wimmer, I think. It was his first win in 5 years. The youtube video is a clip I took as the race was starting. It was pretty exciting whenever they would get the green flag and take off.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I've Got Rhythm #3

Here is my third video installment of my attempts at learning Pete Huttlinger's "I've Got Rhythm" arrangement. It's the most difficult piece I've ever learned. The chords are complex and they change at a ruthless pace. At the same time, it's really rewarding to set goals and to see yourself make progress towards them. My ultimate goal is to be able to perform this somewhere. Again, I'm not trying to show it perfected yet, because there is still one last section of the song I haven't learned, but I think you can see a large difference between this post and my previous posts. I have 3 papers due during April, so it may be the Summer before I can dedicate much more time to learning the next section and smoothing it all out, but I've gotten enough of it down now where I'm confident I can complete it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Map of Passion Week

I found this really interesting. Someone has plotted out the estimated locations on Google Maps of the major events associated with the end of Jesus' life.

Click Here and it will take you to the "tour".

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Light of the Street and Dark of the House

Earlier this afternoon, Carolina came to the office to have lunch with me. Lately, we’ve been making sandwiches. I like that fancy deli turkey and cheese. So we got out the bread, meat, cheese, pickles, mayo, and the other stuff we would need and made some sandwiches there on the desk in the main office.

When we were done eating, I started working on cleaning up after us. I always finish eating a lot sooner than Carolina does, so this is a normal part of my routine. I put away the stuff that needs to be refrigerated, and threw away the used napkins. Then I got some Windex to clean off the glass surface on top of the desk. As I carefully cleaned up the crumbs and got the streaks off of the glass, Carolina looked at me and kind of shook her head and grinned, then said, “Farol de la calle, y oscuridad de la casa.”

Of course, I had to learn what that meant. “Farol de la calle, y oscuridad de la casa.” What it literally means is, “The light of the street, and the dark of the house.” What it means when you say that to someone is, “You’re a very helpful person when you’re out and about, but at home, you don’t do anything.”

While I might or might not agree with her assessment of how helpful I am around the house, I thought that concept might be worth passing on. “The light of the street, and the dark of the house.”

We all know Matthew 5:14-16, “14You are the light of the world. A city set upon a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

I think many of us have a tendency to be people pleasers. We want people to be happy with our work. We want them to like us. We want them to think highly of us. But as much as we might let our lights shine at the office, or at our school, or at the ballgame, do we turn off our lamps when we walk through the door at home?

Does your light shine as brightly in the way you make time for your family as it does for the other people in your life? Do you let your responsibilities get out of balance? Not that many of the things we do aren’t good things, but do we keep the balance that we should?

It's Nacho Cat: Painting

Nacho likes to be involved in whatever we're doing. As I feared for my life, balanced on this high ladder, she gracefully leaped onto the rail beside me to watch as I placed tape for painting.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Vaccination Fail

This is one of the funniest pictures I've ever seen.

Found it here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It's Nacho Cat: I can haz pepperoni?

Nacho is quite the beggar when it comes to food. She will meow your ears off when we're eating anything involving tuna or shrimp, but she always wants to sniff of what you're eating.

Carolina has spoiled her, because every time we eat, she cuts up a little piece of the meat, and puts it on a napkin for Nacho.

She doesn't actually like pepperoni or pizza, but it's very important to her to get to sniff it. This was back in Searcy, as I was trying to lift up the plate so she would leave my food alone. That works well until she gets up on her back paws and uses her front ones to pull your plate back down to nose level.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Future You

The other day, Carolina and I discovered lots of old church directories filed away in the office. The earliest one with pictures we found was from 1972, and the most recent one we came across was from 2000. Different pictures strike you in different ways. There were several that made us laugh until we cried. Some people have changed so much, it's hard to believe! We also loved finding out just how many people are related to other people here. There are so many brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles that I had no idea about.

I especially got a kick out of some of my youth group kids as little boys and girls in their sailor suits and lacy dresses. I will have to say my personal favorite was one of the dads of my youth group who was sporting an incredible mullet in the early 90's. I'm fighting hard to resist the temptation to scan those puppies and get them up on Facebook, but I think I would be biting off more than I can chew. The pictures on this post are some I found on the internet from someone's reunion where they did before and after shots of people. Everyone grows up and gets older!

The other day at church, a man handed me a paper with this little essay on it that I think is worth reading and reflecting on; especially if you are a young person.

The Future You

The person you are to become is always watching the person you are right now. The image you have of yourself tomorrow depends on the actions you watch yourself take today. The confidence with which you live next month will be based on the integrity of your actions this week.

You can always hide and conceal things from just about anyone, but the person you are to become is always watching. That person's opinion of you will play a major role in your life.

Will you be proud tomorrow of what you did today? Will your future self find strength in your present actions and attitudes? Will you learn from your mistakes and from your successes? The you of tomorrow is watching, waiting, hoping and depending upon the you of today.

Live each moment like someone is watching because that someone can make you or break you. Live so that the person you become in the future can look back with gratitude and admiration at the person you are right now.

Trials, temptations, disappointments - all these are helps instead of hindrances if one uses them rightly. They not only test the fiber of a character, but strengthen it. Every conquered temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Speaking Effectively: Visuals

I don't know exactly where I'm going to go with this, but I have in mind to make a few posts around the idea of teaching and preaching effectively. Because preaching is where I'm most oriented, this will undoubtedly take a homiletical slant, but I want to share some ideas about what has worked well for me, and I hope hoping to get some input from you about what has worked for you.

I titled my blog "Perpetual Timothy", because I'm thoroughly convinced of my own need to continue to grow and mature. I didn't decide to become a minister because I had achieved perfection. It was a step of faith that God could use someone as flawed as I am, and it's been a true blessing and a privilege. I can't imagine myself doing anything else. But I want to give God my best, and perhaps as I reflect on some of these things, you can help me make my best a little better.


A challenge about anyone who is a communicator is that even though we might learn and think a certain way, we have to teach people who learn and think in a variety of ways. I think the addition of Powerpoint in many churches (if it's used well) has been a great step in evolving preaching to a format that has more appeal to visual and even hands-on learners.

The last time I preached, I had a nice case of serendipity. I was trying to make a point about the people in the Bible; that they are real people with real struggles, real flaws, and real solutions. Their flaws should be a source of encouragement for us, because God's ability to use us depends more on our willingness than on our merited righteousness. Often, though, we treat them as if they are mere cartoon characters. In fact, don't we often refer to people in the Bible as "characters"?

I decided to make this point by showing a series of familiar cartoon characters on the screen (Disney, comic characters, Hanna-Barbara, etc.), then by showing some cartoon renditions of biblical characters, and having the people "name the character" in their head. (Though you really have no idea what Moses looked like, how do you know that cartoon is him?) I was thankful that most people seemed to get my point, but what shocked me was how well the children responded to this. They were positively on the edge of their seats, and I could hear their little voices telling all the character names to their parents as I would flip through them. It was energizing. I can't use the same approach all the time, but it's got me thinking about how I can appeal to more people through my visuals.

My friend Dale Jenkins has made some good points to me about how important it is to use Powerpoint as a visual form of communication more than a textual form. I know he isn't the first to make this observation, but it's a good one. I've sat through sermons before where the preacher could have just as easily stopped talking, because the entire sermon was written out in the slides.

Though if I'm making a major point, I prefer to spell it out, and I generally will put scriptures on the screen, I've tried to adapt the approach that when I'm using illustrations--especially stories--I have as few words on the screen as possible. I choose pictures that I display sequentially as I tell the story. So far, it has seemed to work much better than if I list out segments of the story in text form. I'm not sure how far I can go with experimentation in this sort of thing, but I've continued to think about how to use more pictures and less words in my slides.


If you make presentations, especially ones intended to be persuasive, what advice can you offer about using visuals? What is your approach for incorporating images?

If you are regularly in the pew or the audience, what visuals have stuck in your mind? If you could tell your preacher (especially if it's me) some things to do to improve his sermons from a visual standpoint, what would you suggest?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Body Chemistry: Rusty Guitars and Magneto Boy

It's amazing to me how everyone is unique. Everyone has their own DNA and their own characteristics. On the down side, some people have bizarre problems that develop from their uniqueness. This can be manifested in allergies or reactions. But sometimes it's more a matter of how things react to people.

Here are two examples:

1. The rusty guitar player. When I worked at Donelson Music Center in high school, there was a particular guy who used to come in to shop for guitars. Everyone likes to pick them up and fiddle around with them. (Some people like to plug in and play really loud, really bad versions of "Walk This Way" for 3 hours straight that make me start to hate guitars, but that's another story...)

This guy had some kind of really weird body chemistry. We noticed it because some of our guitars started suddenly appearing with really rusty strings on them. I took personal responsibility for keeping the guitars in good shape, so this disturbed me. Many of the ones rusting I had recently restrung. We started noticing the common factor was that whatever guitar this guy played, by the next days the strings were completely green and rusted. We felt really bad about it, because he was a cool guy, but the next time he came in, we had to ask him to stop touching our instruments.

2. Magneto boy. I don't know if this is as much of a body chemistry thing, but somehow, this kid messes up every computer he touches unless the teacher uses something to ground the static coming from his body. Who knows where he is picking it up, or if it is somehow coming from himself. He's messed up about 12 computers and an X-Box. Now if only he could focus that energy to control metal... :-)

Engadget had this post about the kid, and I found it really interesting.