Show Grace

Eight years ago today I was in a boating accident at Lake Meade, NV that led to the death of a friend and coworker, Derrick Diltz. We were at the lake as part of a church staff retreat and Derrick and I were heading out in our Pastor’s boat to meet up with some other staff members that launched from another part of the lake. We were to rendezvous with them and have some much needed fellowship. However, soon after launching one of the infamous Lake Meade wind storms blew in and submerged our boat. After floating near the boat for some time we saw another boat come by and Derrick tried to swim for it to get their attention – that was the last time I saw him alive.

There are some things about that event that I’ve forgotten, but there are some things I never will. What I’ll always remember is how the Diltz family, Derrick included, treated me during this trying time. Neither Derrick nor I were wearing life jackets when the boat submerged but the first thing he did once we were in the water was to swim over and retrieve one for me, only then did he set out to find his own. In that moment of crisis his first thought was of me. The next morning I was rescued from a small island that the boat finally drifted into and was taken to a hospital in Las Vegas. It was there that I found out that Derrick had drowned. From that moment on all I felt was guilt and dread.

I felt guilty because I was the one driving when the boat went under, surely I could’ve done something (should’ve done something!) different to prevent all this. I was dreading the moment that I faced his parents and sister (they were on staff with us and at the retreat too). What could I ever say to them? How could I even face them at all? That night was the worst of my life. I knew I would see his family the next day but had no idea what to say to them, or what they would say to me.

The next day, at one of those tacky Las Vegas buffets, I sat at the table pushing food around my plate when I felt someone come up from behind me. It was Jeff and Bev, Derrick’s parents. Before I could say anything at all Jeff asked, “Are you okay?”

What! Am I okay? You just lost your son and the first thing you do is ask about me?

It’s now very clear why Derrick just naturally got me a life jacket first. He was raised in a family that, as part of their daily lives, makes it a point to think of others before themselves. The love they showed to me from that very first moment is something I’ll never forget and it’s something that I think back to on a very regular basis.

When I got married I remember feeling guilty that I survived and Derrick didn’t. I remember thinking that it was so unfair that the Diltz’s wouldn’t get to see their son and brother take a bride. But then I remember their loving words and realize this isn’t what Derrick, nor they, would want me to do. Every July when Tina Marie and I watch our wedding video and I see Jeff Diltz introducing the wedding party at our reception, I thank God for that family. They not only wanted us to celebrate our day, but helped us do just that.

It’s now eight years later and I’m about to celebrate my graduation from the PhD program at OU. I can’t help but wonder what celebrations the Diltz family has missed out on because of that accident. As feelings of guilt, again, started to creep in I logged in to Facebook and saw a post by Jeff about Firehouse Kidz – a full time children’s ministry that was inspired by Derrick’s love for children’s ministry. It reminds me, again, of that first big hug Bev gave me in Las Vegas and her telling me how happy she is that I’m okay.

I am so thankful for the grace they showed me, especially when everyone would have understood if they reacted differently. I firmly believe that is what has allowed me to not focus on feelings of guilt and regret, but instead to focus on how I can contribute to honoring Derrick in my own ministry. I encourage you to ask God to enable you to show grace to those that you may not want too. I’m confident that if you do, God will use that situation in ways you never imagined. He has, at least, in this one.

Please take a moment to visit www.firehousekidz.com and see some of the awesome work the Diltz family is doing and consider making a donation to their ministry.

Blessings,
Paul

Waiting For My Son

When I wake up each morning I immediately wonder how my wife is doing and if she’s gone into labor. I furiously look around for any noticeable signs of such a wonderful event. Then, when I learn all is well, my heart-rate begins its slow return to normalcy. When I get into bed each night I lie there wondering if I’ll make it till morning without being woken up with those words I’ve been dying to hear, “I”m going into labor.” While mulling over this soon-coming joyous moment I reach over and place my hand on her stomach so I can feel him squirm and kick from inside the womb “one last time.” As I slowly doze off I can only imagine how great it will be when those squirms and kicks are performed before my very eyes.

For almost a week now that is how I have started and finished my day. What do I do in between beginning and end?

I prepare.

Once I hear the magic words from my wife there are things I won’t have time to do, so they must be done now. Each day I have a checklist of things I run through to make sure we are as prepared as we can be.

Is the driveway clear of snow so we can easily get the car out of the garage? Am I clean shaven so I don’t look like a ruffian when I see my son for the first time? Do the dogs have plenty of food in their containers for whoever ends up feeding them while we’re at the hospital? Are the relevant gadgets – cell phones, iPods, cameras, video cameras – fully charged and packed? Do my parents have all the information they need to get to the hospital and/or house? Is there cash in my wallet to pay for parking at the hospital?

It can be a bit wearisome to go through this list each and every day, but it’s a wearisome chore that is done with great joy. What makes this waiting for my son unique is that I’m always preparing for something that could come in a moment’s notice (perhaps even before I finish writing this) or could come in a week’s time. There are ‘big days’ in our lives that are exciting and require a lot of preparation. In high school there is the SAT (or for my fellow Oklahomans – the ACT) at university it seems there is always a mid-term or final exam to prepare for, and there is perhaps the biggest day of one’s life  his or her wedding. But for each of these big moments in life there is a specific day on which you know the event will happen.

I’ve been struggling to think of an event that is similar in that you are always preparing for it even though you don’t know when it’s coming. Last night I finally found a comparison. An event that I should’ve thought of a long time ago but didn’t. (Perhaps this lapse shows that I haven’t been preparing for it as diligently as I should.) In the same way I’ve been preparing for the arrival of my son, I should be preparing for the arrival of the Son.

My joyous thoughts of my soon-coming son should be based upon the foundation of the soon-coming King. In fact, my son’s very life is dependent upon God’s gracious gift to my wife and me. So what should I be doing from morning to dawn?

Prepare.

Have I been seeking a more developed relationship with God? Have I sought to know him through studying his word? Am I continually trying to live the life that he intended for me to live? Is the life of Christ exemplified in my daily actions? In how I treat my wife? In how I treat my co-workers? Do I seek to glorify God in all my actions? Is he the center of my academic pursuits? Do my goals and dreams reflect God’s desire that all would come to him and have everlasting life?

I am sure that over the next many years I will learn many things about God through my son. I am truly happy that these lessons are beginning even now.

The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Matthew 25: 1-13

Grading papers

Last week I received this semester’s first stack of papers to grade. I’ve set a goal of grading two papers a day. At that pace I’ll be finished by the time we resume class after Reading Week and I won’t want to kill myself for trying to grade so many at once.

So far, I’m pleased with the quality of papers. They are for my Philosophy of Religion class, so it’s a subject I care about quite a lot. At this point in their educational journey I’m not expecting them to be all that original in what they have to say, but do expect them to say it well. What really makes me happy is to see someone carefully present an argument and then nicely evaluate it. It might be their own argument or that of someone else. But either way a good philosophy paper needs an argument and it needs a good examination of it. Most have done this, some have not. 

One thing that has been encouraging is that I’m starting to notice just how much I’ve learned over the years. It’s easy to be so caught up in what you’re doing in school that you don’t actually realize you’re learning quite a bit. For example, I had one student cite an author as advocating a certain position but because I’m familiar with the book, I knew he only said that in the introduction to his book while explaining various other views. It wasn’t until chapter 3 that he advocated a more nuanced, but similar, position.

This whole process makes me think back to my time as a 3rd or 4th year student and the types of papers I turned in to my professors. I get the feeling that some of my students are turning in work that is better than the work I turned in at that stage. That is exciting.

This post was a bit random (with a lot of rambling), but hey it’s what I was thinking about and I couldn’t fit it into 140 characters for Twitter. By the way, this is my first blog post with the tag ‘school’ indicating not my own education but to my educating others. Wow.

It’s been a while

Well, school hit and I stopped posting. What’s new in the blog-o-sphere? If you peruse just a few blogs, I’m sure you’ll see the same story being told all across the web. Actually, there are two reasons for my delayed postings. The first I’ve already mentioned. Teaching three classes, settling in a new country, and trying to finish a dissertation tends to take up your time.

The other reason is Facebook. Simply put, it’s far easier to post a link to an article with a few summary thoughts than it is to craft a post for this blog. When something gets me really angry or really happy, I can just update my status and shout it to the world. Again, far easier than writing a blog post.

But, I do feel there is value in setting some time aside to thoughtfully present some idea. Many times it’s an idea that I’d like to run by other people and some times it’s an idea that I feel very strongly about. In either case, posting the idea on a blog can be very helpful. In sum, my posting will probably never become as frequent as it once was, but I think it will pick up.

Perhaps even later today I’ll explain how how the Canadian “coalition” parties are guilty of the composition fallacy.

Best to you,

A new beginning

Well, the new academic year starts tomorrow for Tyndale University College and I actually feel ready for it. I thought I’d be a bit more nervous about starting my first full-time teaching job, but right now I feel good. That may change as the day goes by tomorrow, but at least I won’t lose sleep over it tonight. I’ve had the chance to meet a handful of students (most philosophy majors) and look forward to meeting a whole lot more tomorrow. One of the reasons I wanted to become a professor and teach at a school like Tyndale is that I had several professors that were very instrumental in helping me become who I am today. Starting tomorrow, I have an opportunity to play a similar role.

Once the semester gets rolling, I probably won’t have a lot of time to post. But I have a feeling that the upcoming presidential election will force me to squeeze in a post every once in awhile.

Talk to you then.

10 Years Later

This time ten years ago (almost to the day) I was packing my things to move from Oklahoma to Texas so I could begin my educational career at Southwestern Assemblies of God University. I would have never guessed then that ten years later I would be packing my things again to move from Oklahoma to Canada so I could begin my professional career.

I have been reflecting on the type of person I have become in the last ten years and am glad that I have become the person I now am. I think leaving my family and most of my friends was a good thing for me. I still remember lying in my bed at Southwestern that first October wondering how everyone back at Crossfire (my church’s youth group) was doing at the annual Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards) festival. I remember missing Mother’s & Father’s Day for the first time and not being able to get over the fact that dad’s barbeque chicken and mom’s potato salad was being enjoyed by everyone in the family but me. It was difficult to leave them, but it was good.

I am grateful for the family, friends, and pastors that I had up through high school. Without your guidance, I would have never been able to leave Oklahoma in the first place. I am thankful that as I went through many changes these last ten years that you have been patient with me. To some, I have become a completely different person. To others, you have witnessed these changes gradually and so they are less striking.

While I can never put into words how grateful I am for those that helped me the first eighteen years of my life, I want to take a few minutes to reflect on those that helped me that last ten. I have changed a lot in the last ten years and most of those changes have come through the influence of new friends and new family that has come into my life.

I thought it might be an interesting exercise to list out some of the changes that have taken place since I first moved from Mustang. What I know is interesting is that the group of people that have influenced me the most over the last ten years would disagree about almost every one of the changes listed below! Some of these are trivial, some quite important, and some are somewhere in between. In no particular order…

  • I now think that developing the life of a mind is required to grow spiritually.
  • I am in the process of becoming one with a beautiful woman.
  • I am now more of an OU fan than an OSU fan (though I still pull for the Pokes when they’re not playing OU).
  • I am much more hesitant about saying non-Christians will spend eternity in Hell.
  • I no longer worry too much about cursing on occasion (but do think that cursing often demonstrates a lack of vocabulary and creativity).
  • I now wish American churches were less patriotic on Sunday mornings.
  • I no longer listen to rap.
  • When the radio is on it is probably tuned to a talk radio station, but when I do listen to music, it is most likely classical or jazz.
  • I recognize that Catholics are Christians.
  • I know what eschatology, soteriology, modal realism, epistemology, and “Gettier problem” mean.
  • I went from loving everything Republican, to hating everything Republican, to agreeing with many things Republican, but for different reasons.
  • I think altar calls are more often designed to make the pastor feel good than for the those walking down to the altar.
  • I no longer think consuming alcohol is a sin and thoroughly enjoy fine scotch (or at least as fine a scotch one can buy on a graduate student budget).
  • I used to find no problem with Christians serving in war, then thought it was completely unacceptable, and am now thoroughly undecided because both sides can make a very good case.
  • I began to avoid Wal-Mart because it put the “mom & pop” stores out of business.
  • I now realize that Wal-Mart probably does more good for society than it does bad, but still avoid the place because it is too often overcrowded and staffed by incompetent employees (low prices comes at a cost).
  • I no longer think attending church three times a week is a requisite for being truly devoted to Christ.
  • I think seeker sensitive churches are silly.
  • I think we should be concerned about the environment because it is pretty to look at and not because it is intrinsically valuable.
  • I no longer think homosexuals are the scourge of society, but still think the New Testament calls all homosexual acts sin.
  • I think a decent case can be made for the legalization of marijuana (and no, I don’t smoke it).
  • I no longer think certain events have to happen on earth before Christ can return.
  • I think many, if not most, of the good things in life are not fun.

One of the changes that took place over the last ten years that I am most happy about is that for each position I take above, I can give a good argument supporting that position. We all go through life with beliefs about the world around us. Some of those beliefs are true and some are false. We need to be able to give good arguments for our beliefs, and those that we can’t adequately support, we should seriously consider abandoning.

When I left for university, I was not able to adequately examine my beliefs. I could not give an argument (and when I could, it was not very good) for just about any of the things I believed. God has allowed me to become acquainted with certain people that poked and prodded at me until I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew. They helped me examine the case for and against different positions and taught me to be humble throughout. They taught me that rigorously examining our beliefs is an essential element to growing spiritually. I am who I am now because I have always had people willing to give of themselves to help me grow.

It is late now, and I am sure I will forget someone, but I would like to mention some of the individuals I met after moving away from Mustang that have played a large role in my life. So, to Jeff Magruder, Paul Alexander, Andrew White, Adam Fithen, the Wells family, the Dennis family, the Slover family, my Talbot professors, Dale and Jonalyn Fincher, Adam Stowell, the Tanyag & Tano families, Josh Seachris, Rusty Jones, and of course, my wife Tina Marie, I say thank you for picking up where those before you left off. If, in this new chapter of life, Tina Marie and I can find people half as loving and thoughtful as you, we will be blessed.

My Dissertation Prospectus

This morning I had the pleasure to send off the final copy of my dissertation prospectus to my advisory committee. It took me much longer to write than I thought it would, but considering there were some major changes in the dissertation’s aim, that isn’t too unexpected. 

For now, the title of dissertation is “A Rational Problem of Evil: The Coherence of Christian Doctrine and the Free Will Defense.” If you’d like to read a bit more about the project, I’ve posted a copy of the prospectus on the “Research” page of this blog.

Oral History at the University of North Texas

UNT Library

This is a picture I took with my cell phone at the University of North Texas library. I couldn’t help but notice the irony in the fact that their Oral History section has no books.

Emotional Immaturity?

As I type this OU’s defense just gave up another touchdown to Texas Tech. OU finally had the opportunity to control their own destiny when it comes to being national champions again, but in their first game with this new found status they blow it. Sure they could come back and win the game, but that is highly unlikely. What does that mean? Well, it means we’ve blown it again.

After much yelling at the t.v. I’ve calmed down and am beginning to accept the fact that there’s zero chance for us to win it all this year. Turning off the t.v. and turning on some classical music has done much to lower my blood pressure and bring me back to something of a clear mind. But now, there’s something bigger that is beginning to bother me. Why is it that I have so little control over my emotions when it comes to things of no lasting value?

Sure another National Champions sign would look good at Gaylord Memorial Stadium, but does that really matter when we think about it? Florida won the national championship game last year and no one really cares anymore. That was last year. I think any rational person would recognize the little importance of winning games, and I like to think I’m a rational person, yet I still get entirely too carried away in following my favorite sports teams.

This horrific loss at Tech (like all OU losses) causes me to ask all sorts of question about my own spiritual and emotional life. The first one that often comes up I’ve already alluded to above. Why do my emotions run out of control when my team loses a game? If I was still 16 or 17 I could just chalk it up to my young age, but at 27 that’s no excuse. I’m beginning to think that though I’ve grown older, I haven’t grown in maturity. When I think of the man I’d like to become, I never envision him reacting this way to a football game. Are there deeper issues lying under the surface that I need to deal with?

A second question that has begun to haunt me is closely related to the first. Why is it that I don’t get this upset at the sin in my own life or its effects in other people’s lives? No matter how angry I get, I can’t do anything to make OU football or Dallas Maverick basketball any better. I want to, believe me I want to scream at Stoops to JUST GIVE MURRAY THE BALL, but of course I can’t. What if instead of being so angry at our losing a game what if I were angry at the things that anger God? Perhaps I could make use of that energy and do something about it. Perhaps my anger would drive me to pray more, study harder, and engage God with all that I am, all the time. Perhaps it would lead me to do something about those being exploited and oppressed. Perhaps it would motivate me to put to use the gifts and abilities that God gave me.

But instead, I just throw the remote at the couch and yell.

God, please forgive me and give me the strength to look deep within myself and begin to search for the answers to these very questions. Amen.

A brief update

Okay, so it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted last…oops. Things have been really crazy for me and the wife, but in a good way. In may we spent one weekend in Chicago, one in Springfield, MO, one in San Francisco and one in Sacramento. Wow! I’m now teaching an intro to philosophy class at OU and it’s going to kick my butt. It meets Monday through Friday, so I have to prepare lectures every night! I hope to get a few days of lectures prepared in advance, and then can get back to blogging. Here are some neat pics from our trips.

From Travel

The pic above was taking at a really neat coffee shop on Michigan Ave in Chicago. I tried to convince the owner that he should open one up in Norman, but I’m not sure if he bought the idea.

From Travel

This is, in my opinion, the best used bookstore ever. Green Apple Books has an amazing selection of books, and they are very organized. Within their philosophy section, they had all sorts of sub-sections. It was great, I got to just jump right past all that continental stuff! Click the ‘travel’ link underneath either picture to go to my album with lots more pics from our trip.