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

Steroids & Holy Spirit Empowerment 2

Recall my previous question:

What keeps someone from looking at the Holy Spirit the same way we look at steroids?

Well, I now feel like I’ve got something resembling an answer to the question. The worry was, if we look down at steroid users because they’re accomplishing things only with the help of another substance, why don’t we look down on believers that do great things with the help of another person (the Holy Spirit).

First, if we understand the fall as man losing the capacity to live life as he was meant to live, then we can say that through (and only through) the Holy Spirit we are able to live that life again. Sans the fall, we all would have been able to worship God purely and would have loved our neighbors as Christ loves us. But, when sin entered the picture, we lost that ability. As you may have noticed, this still does not answer the question. Why is it a good thing for us to get credit for something the Holy Spirit is doing? This leads nicely into a second thing we must not forget.

We have to remember that we live our life for God’s glory. Showing compassion to an enemy, assisting the needy, honoring your spouse, etc. are all things that bring glory to God. As I live as God would have me to live, he is further glorified. If I can’t live that life on my own, and need the Holy Spirit to help me, then it only further glorifies God. He not only wants us to live a certain way, he also helps us to live that way. (And not incidentally, that life also is the best life we could live here and now.)

One way we can see the difference between using steroids and being empowered with the Holy Spirit is to think about one’s motives. Why did Barry Bonds use steroids (or Roger Clemens if the Mitchell report is correct)? This is the land of conjecture, but I think it’d be safe to say that Bonds used because there was something he wanted for himself: more respect within the baseball community, more recognition outside of it, more money, or just plain more glory for himself.

On the other hand, why would someone want to be empowered by the Holy Spirit? Again, there could be many specific reasons, but the general reason is to bring glory to God (and if it’s not that, would the Holy Spirit actually empower the person for impure reasons?).

Finally, we see in Christ’s time on earth that he modeled this attitude. When Jesus healed someone and people were amazed, how did he respond? He didn’t say “Thank you, thank you, I’m such an awesome guy” but instead something like, “It was not me but the power of the father within me.” Each time he performed a miracle, he pointed the glory to God. If you continue on in the New Testament, you see the apostles doing the same.

Steroids & Holy Spirit Empowerment

It’s generally agreed that Barry Bonds used steroids. We may not have a courtroom conviction, but we also don’t have one of those for O.J.

Why do we (or at least people that think like me) think it is such a bad thing that Bonds used steroids to enhance his career? Almost everyone agrees that Bonds would’ve been in the hall of fame before he started hitting so many home-runs, so why does it matter if he enhanced those abilities? One reason is that it seems there is an unfair advantage between him and everyone else that didn’t use steroids. Bonds supplemented his hard work with things not (legally) available to others. A second reason is that we feel like it wasn’t Barry that performed these amazing feats, but the steroids within him. Bonds is getting credit for something he didn’t do. I think these two reasons are broad enough to capture most people’s feelings about the issue.

How the Holy Spirit relates to this

Recently a friend and I began to discuss the Assemblies of God (AG) and their position on Holy Spirit baptism. The AG teaches that not all Christians are baptized in the Holy Spirit (and all that are baptized have spoken in tongues). The AG does not teach that you have to be baptized to be saved, but that baptism is a subsequent act to salvation. This baptism brings an empowerment for Christian service. When you are baptized in the Holy Spirit you acquire a new power to serve God in ways you otherwise would not be able to (e.g. hear God’s voice better, witness more effectively, be more compassionate, etc.). My friend then asked a question that I’ve never heard asked before. He asked me,

What keeps someone from looking at the Holy Spirit the same way we look at steroids?

If we look down on steroid users for the reasons I stated above, then why don’t we look down on those that do great things because of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment? How is Holy Spirit empowerment different from steroid empowerment? If I am able to live a more compassionate life because of the Holy Spirit, then why is my compassionate life praiseworthy if it’s just the Holy Spirit acting within me?

I’ve thought about this for a couple of weeks now and will post my thoughts (however nebulous they may be) sometime Friday. While I continue to think about this, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue. Do you think the AG position is crazy? Do you think it’s right to look down on steroid users (like Bonds)? Do you think there are differences between the Holy Spirit and steroids? If so, what are they?

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.

Arguments, Truth, and the Church

At some point we all need to learn how to evaluate that which we believe and ascertain whether or not our beliefs are worth holding. In talking with a friend a while back, we decided that many within the Church have a general distrust of reflection and critical evaluation and so never examine their own beliefs. This is quite an unfortunate phenomenon and has especially troubled me the last few months. More recently, I’ve come to believe that one of the major causes for this sad state of affairs is fear. Many people are afraid that they are wrong and that the positions they hold will be exposed as fallacious. Exacerbating the problem is the place of importance these positions typically hold. However, all is not lost. This fear of being wrong (or of argumentation in general) can be removed once people begin to understand that it is a good thing to discover the ways in falsehood has crept into our belief system.First, we need to have a better understanding of what an argument is. When I talk of arguments or argumentation, I most certainly don’t mean the screaming and yelling matches that you had with your siblings (hopefully just when you were younger!). What I do mean is the methodical laying out and examination of one’s positions. This alone can resolve tensions between two apparently different positions. If you tell me, “God is omnipotent and so can create square circles” and I say “God is omnipotent and yet cannot create square circles” you are likely to accuse me of not really believing in God’s omnipotence. But, once I present my argument in a more structured way, you will likely see why I affirm God’s omnipotence and yet deny his ability to create square circles.Now that we’ve seen what I’m not referring to, we can talk about some tips for considering other people’s arguments. First, it is imperative that you listen to the person state his position and remain open to the idea that you are wrong and not him. This humility is likely to create an environment where you are actually trying to understand his position and not just look for a way to squeeze in your thoughts about why he is wrong. Second, learn how to state the other position in a way that is acceptable to the other person. This forces you to ‘get’ their position. Once I understood why someone would be a Calvinist, I stopped thinking they’re just crazy. If you can only restate the position in a ridiculous or question-begging way, then you’re not actually dealing with that position but instead a caricature of something someone holds dear. I think these are simple practices that we should always try to keep in mind no matter who we are dealing with, but I think they are mandatory when discussing issues within the Church. Christ prayed for his Church to be one, and today we are far from that. As we obtain truth about God and his relationship with us, we will see denominational differences begin to fade.You’ve no doubt noticed a lot of talk about ‘truth’. At this point you might even ask why should we bother with this outdated notion of truth. Why not just keep on marching along in what we already know? Well, because if we deny that there is truth that we can obtain, it seems we also deny that we have the ability to know God and about him. John Polkinghorne has said, “If God is the god of truth, then the more truth we have, the greater understanding we have; the more we are learning about God.” Understanding that knowing truth is knowing God will do wonders to alleviate the fear of being wrong. Why is that? Because being ‘right’ is just simply overrated. Once you know that you’re right (or think you know), you no longer need to learn any more about your own positions or about those of others. If you are humble enough to recognize that you might be wrong, then you’ll continue to seek the deeper understanding that ultimately results in a deeper knowledge of God.Not only should we be open to the idea of being wrong, if we come to learn that we indeed are wrong, we should rejoice. False beliefs ultimately lead us astray from the God of truth, and so we should be glad when we are able to remove them from our lives. So, if in reading this you find that I’m mistaken about certain things, great! Please, take the time to point out my errors to me so I may seek to remove them and find that which may appropriately take their place. Blessings.

Can I Ever Know?

 I seek but do not find that which plagues my mind

Night after night, book after book, I’ve searched it all and have nowhere to look

Most simply say, “close your eyes and walk by faith”,

but my mind won’t stop racing

my mind won’t stop racing

 

Can I ever know? Or is my search pointless?

Can I ever know? Are my efforts fruitless?

Is it a waste of time? I long for answers so hard to find.

My soul is weary, my soul is weary

 

Though it can cause tremendous pain, the ability to choose is a beautiful thing

His knowledge and our freedom combine? That understanding so hard to define

Most simply say, “close your eyes and walk by faith”,

but my heart won’t stop bleeding

my heart won’t stop bleeding

 

Can I ever know? Or is this search in vain?

Can I ever know? Will he stop the pain?

Is it a waste of time? I long for answers so hard to find

My soul is weary, my soul is weary

 

The final answers I may not discover, but light from dark I can discern

His truth is there to know, when I give of myself and begin to learn

I must respond and say, “use your mind and search for truth”,

And I know he’ll guide me

I know he’ll guide me

A Scholar’s Prayer

Lord and Savior, true and kind, be the master of my mind;Bless and guide and strengthen still all my powersof thought and will. While I ply the scholar’s task,Jesus be near; I ask; Help the memory,clear the brain, knowledge still to seek and gain. Bishop of Durham H.G.C. Moule

Narcissistic tendencies

For some reason I lay in bed last night thinking about the title of this blog. “MY life, MY thoughts, MY work”. It appears I’m pretty wrapped up in myself. If you just looked to see the title and noticed it doesn’t say that, well you’re too late. I changed it. Sure, the new title conveys the same message, but it doesn’t sound so self-centered.You know what else I was thinking about in bed last night? Curling. Yes that’s right, curling–the game that most Americans didn’t know existed until tuning in the Winter Olympics some late night. Have I ever participated in this game? No. Have I ever watched an actual match? No. Have I seen anything over and above clips on an Olympics recap show? No. So what exactly was I thinking about last night? Well, here’s where the narcissistic tendency comes back into play. I was laying in bed thinking about how I would approach each delivery of the stone and how my approach would probably be superior to other approaches. I figured the key to doing well in this game I’ve never played would be to have sweeping brooms with 3 different levels of ‘grip’. The person furthest from the stone would have the broom with the most bite and then the next player would have one intermediate in bite, and the person closes would have a broom that leaves the ice the smoothest. It’s kind of like sanding something. Start with the lowest grit (most bite) and then move up in grit (and down in bite). What’s so surprising to me is that I don’t even know if you can do that. To tell the truth, I don’t even know if you have 3 sweepers or not. For some reason I thought I had the key to the game. Why did I think that’s the best way to go? I have no idea but I have a feeling it’s because I thought of it.What can I do about these narcissistic tendencies? I’m not sure, but if past experience is any indication, I’m sure I’ll think of the correct thing to do pretty quickly.

Just a few updates & some thoughts

We are officially getting a dog! We’re going to call him Aquinas (it’s been Orlando which is just a little soft for me) and he’s currently 8 months old. If everything goes as planned he’ll come home with us next weekend. Oh yeah, in case you’re wondering, he’s a Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Another exciting thing is that this week I had my advisory conference.

This is a meeting with what will likely be my dissertation committee (there could be one two members that get changed out, but that’s not very common) about my future courses and the scheduling of my general exam. It looks like this Spring I’ll take the last exam of my educational career. If that goes well and I pass the exam, I’ll be considered ABD (All But Dissertation). From there I’ll have 2 to 3 years of funding to write my dissertation and teach one class per semester. It’s still kind of weird to think that I’m this close to finishing the program. Wow.

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Have you ever wondered what happened to common, run-of-the-mill decency towards one another? I’m shocked at people that just don’t give a damn about anyone else. Think about it… Go to the grocery store parking lot and there are stray carts left all over the place, 20 ft from the cart return. How long do you think it’d take to walk that cart over? 20 seconds? 30? Drive through a construction zone and everyone thinks they have to drive in the soon-to-be-closed lane all the way until the cones force them over. Don’t they understand that if everyone just merged over as they had time that everyone would get through it faster? No, of course not because they’re to concerned that those 5 other people are going to get through the zone faster. When was the last time you’ve gone out to eat dinner and didn’t see someone (at your table or otherwise) interrupt a dinner to answer a phone call?Just an ounce of common decency would drastically change any of these situations. I’m almost certain that the cause of the lack of decency is an increase in self-centeredness. In this culture it’s terribly easy for us all to become more and more self-absorbed and forget that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Throughout the next couple of days, ask yourself how you may have allowed the me-centered culture to change your attitude toward others in a negative way.
Grace and peace,

The Blessings of Friends

I was reminded this weekend about how nice it is to have great friends. Not only did Tina Marie and I have a great time with them at the movies, but we also had a great time Sunday night watching the Super Bowl at the house of a friend from high school. It was nice to just hang out and catch up a little bit. The time we spent with them reminded me of other friends that I have throughout the States that I miss dearly. For anyone reading this that is still in college, take advantage of the times you have to build a solid community that you can maintain once you leave school. It wasn’t until after I graduated from SAGU that I realized the difference between graduating from college and graduating from high school. When you finish high school, you still think there is a chance you’ll see your friends back home again. Most of the time that is an illusion, but there’s still hope. When you finish college, most of your friends move to different parts of the country or the world. What’s great though is that I was lucky to develop solid relationships with most of them and still are close. I hope you do can do the same. Lord, I pray that those reading this will continue to understand the value of having a community that will be there to encourage, strengthen, and challenge them in their life’s journey as a follower of your way. Be with them and lead them to new relationships or just help them to renew old relationships that haven’t been appropriately attended to. Thank you. Amen.