Sunday, February 29, 2004

Panthers in the Big Time!

Yesterday, my alma mater, Birmingham-Southern College, scored their first Conference Championship since becoming eligible for NCAA Division I. The BSC Men's Basketball Team won 67-55 over VMI, to claim 1st place in the Big South Conference regular season. We have to wait until March 14th to see if they get a bid for the NIT Tournament, but I cannot imagine the elation if they do.

Also, I can proudly say I helped tutor one of the stars of the team, Shema Mbyirukira, the 6'11" Junior Center whose family hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He often came in during my shift at the Writing Center...and it was fine while we were sitting at a table together, but when he stood up-- needless to say-- I was quite intimidated by his height.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The only good thing about being sick is that I have more time to read. Yesterday, when I wasn't sleeping (which was only a few hours) I was working my way through The Potter's Freedom and Sense and Sensibility. I'm actually about halfway through all three books on my "current reading" list.

There's nothing like spending a snowy/cold/rainy evening snuggled next to my husband underneath piles of blankets, on a comfy couch, across from a crackling fire-log, with a good book and lots of Kleenex handy. Of course, the decongestants made it hard to concentrate, but at least I've read Sense and Sensibility before. Even then, though, I still had to read sentences twice to understand them. I'm running out of decongestants, so hopefully I'll be better SOON!

Reading is fun

Alright, chalk up another finished book for '04. I'm not sure if I'll catch up with Allison, but a valiant effort will be made. I just finished Reforming Marriage by Doug Wilson, and I enjoyed it. It was actually given to us a few months back by some friends who got married in January. They really benefited from it during their pre-marital readings. Allison read and enjoyed it back then, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. Wilson makes some really convicting points, and it was a breath of fresh air. (We got a large quantity of Christian marriage books as wedding gifts, and they all say basically the same things.) I appreciated the book's emphasis on marriage modeled after Christ and His Church in the true sense, not the sentimental depiction that we usually see. The call to responsibility, headship - husbandry! - is sometimes overwhelming to contemplate, but thankfully, God is gracious.

The big question is, what's next on my list? I've got so much to choose from. C.S. Lewis always said to balance out reading new books with re-reading older ones. So, I think I'll be inspired by Jack and start my re-read of the Narnia books. In the right order. :)

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Our long nightmare is over

Finally got those comments working again.

That was a close one.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Happy Shrove Tuesday

Today is commonly known as "Fat Tuesday"-- the last chance for all the parties and rich foods before Lent. And, contrary to popular belief, Mardi Gras actually began in south Alabama. Mobile, to be precise. Revelry began there long before the parades through the French Quarter.

A lady I work with hails from that southern port, (in my home state, I might add) and brought back beads and masks, bread and crawfish, to help us celebrate. At lunch our bowls overflowed with gumbo and jumbalaya, rice and king cake. The break room burst forth in gold, purple and green.

So, it's become a pagan holiday. So what? It's FUN. No, I'm not planning on going to New Orleans this time of year anytime soon, but one thing I've learned from my year in the semi-corporate world is that celebrations-- of any kind-- are good! (Maybe it's just all the internet surfing. Meh.) Whatever the reason, we're taking back Fat Tuesday for the LORD, the Ruler over all the earth, of parades, Mardi Gras balls, and chocolate Moon Pies.
Usually, I don't appreciate e-mail lists. Today, though, we got one from Ray Rhodes, the guy we met at the booktable on Saturday. He has some great deals on some great books-- like Piper's book on The Passion and White's Debating Calvinism. He also has a Reformed itinerant preaching ministry. Neat.

It's worth taking a look at his website, although most of the book deals aren't listed there. I guess he only sends those out to his e-mail list. But I thought I'd post his info anyway, since he was really interested and excited to hear about our ministry with Apartment Life, and we were very glad to share.

Monday, February 23, 2004

This weekend, we attended a Bible Conference featuring James White. It was a last-minute addition to our schedule, since I found out about it last Tuesday. And, even though it was way out in the boonies, it was free - which is always the right price. :) Although we had some difficulties finding the church (Faith Community Church, a small Reformed SBC church in Woodstock, GA), we did make it in time to hear Dr. White's first session.

Overall, I enjoy his work. The Friday evening sessions dealt with Bible Translations, primarily focused on the KJV-Only crowd. White's The King James Only Controversy was the first of his books that I read (several years back), and I think he does a good job with the material. He's a pretty engaging speaker, and I thought his presentation was really good on this subject.

Saturday's sessions dealt with "The Justification of God." Unfortunately, we had to miss the morning sessions due to an Apartment Life breakfast, but we did get to hear the recordings. The first one was good. He began with an overview and brought up The Passion of the Christ, including some of the lesser known (at least in Evangelical circles) aspects of Mel's "uber-Catholicism." It wasn't anything new for me, but it did serve as a good segue into the historic differences in justification theology between Catholics and Protestants, and even among modern Protestants. We haven't finished listening to the recording of the 2nd morning session, but I imagine it continued to discuss the idea of imputation, etc.

We did make it up to the church for the Saturday afternoon sessions, after a stop at the Woodstock location of our beloved Slope's BBQ. We were early for the session, so we talked with the guy running the book table. The book tables at conferences like this are always a bizarre sight, at least for me. I'm just not used to seeing stacks of books by guys like White, John Piper, Doug Wilson, etc in one location - with not a single Purpose Driven Life in sight. It's bizarre, but in a good way. I also scored a copy of Early Christian Doctrine at the used book table. It has been on my wish list for awhile, so I'm pretty pumped.

Anyway, the first afternoon session dealt with "New Perspective-ism" (I'm not sure that's even a real word ... but he kept using it.) This is one area that I think White hasn't done a good job covering. I posted some over on the Andy Peterson Board, but basically, White (like so many others) has seemingly lumped all the NPP folks into a single pot, even though he did address the divergence in opinions and views among the people considered part of the "movement." He spoke specifically about Sanders and that arch-fiend N.T. Wright. Granted, I still have more reading to do on what Wright has actually said, but from the bits I've read, I continue to confirm my suspicions that his critics aren't addressing what he's actually said.

The final session was Q&A, and was compressed due to time constraints. Most of the questions dealt with Bible translations, difficulties, etc, but White did a good job answering them.

A Long Way Off

I'm so excited-- our pastor's wife and my fellow Sunday school teacher, Kitti Murray, published her first book! Yesterday, I actually got to see the first and, so far, only advance copy she has recieved. It is meant for Christian parents whose children have "strayed from the fold," and gives Scriptural hope for those hurting mothers and fathers. Most of the book came out of her personal experiences, so don't expect anything too theologically profound. I haven't read it all yet, and though I'm probably biased, the parts I have seen are very well-written. I look forward to recommending Kitti's book to one woman especially, a single mother we know who is struggling with this very issue.

Our Women's Sunday school class recently finished Ephesians and will soon begin a study of Hosea. For a transition (and since most of our students are college-age and spring break is coming up soon), we spent yesterday's lesson time at the Silver Skillet, an Atlanta landmark which I had not yet had the pleasure of encoutering. I must say, the grits alone were well worth the wait. It looked just like a diner from some famous-yet-not-so-well-remembered movie, and sure enough, it was (scroll down to the paragraph that begins "LEGEND"). The best part is that the Silver Skillet is right around the corner (less than three blocks) from our church. I think this calls for repeat business...

Speaking of food located nearby, we haven't been to Kool Korners in a while, and now I'm craving a nice, messy, toasted Cuban sandwich. It is not much more than a hole-in-the-wall, but it serves the best Cuban sandwiches outside Miami (or so I've heard), and is even closer to West Merritts than the Silver Skillet, although Kool Korners is not open on Sundays. Sad, but respectable.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Marketing Genius ???

So, over the last week, several people have asked me if I've seen the new Quizno's tv spots. I hadn't, but people kept mentioning the strange creatures featured in them (one friend referred to them as "mutated rats"). And everyone kept repeating this bizarre song that the Quiznos rats/monkeys/sockpuppets were singing. Well, I finally couldn't bear the curiousity any longer, so I checked out the website, and they have clips of the ads. Man. Talk about annoying. But it's genius, because I can't get the song out of my head ...

But, I don't think it will influence my sandwich purchases in the near future.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Today, in English class, the students and I discussed household chores. Out of all the verbs we studied today, "dust" seemed to be the most difficult. "Sweep," "mop," and "iron" were accepted just fine, but Hernando, especially, did not understand the concept of "dust." Apparently, he'd never dusted before! I just told him that it meant Marta, his wife, was such a buena esposa that he never needed to know how. She keeps the place very clean, it seems!

Consequently, upon arriving home I noticed that I need to refresh my experience with the concept of "dusting" as well. :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

So, we watched Diane Sawyer interview Mel Gibson last night, regarding The Passion. I generally dislike interviewers like Sawyer. Actually, I pretty much dislike news shows, especially when they cover topics related to religion. It gives them a chance to trot out loonies,er "scholars" like J.D. Crossan, and there is the ever-present tone of condescension towards people who actually believe in "that Jesus stuff." Anyway, I thought Mel handled her questions pretty well, although his constant twitching was a bit unnerving. Actually, it was pretty surreal watching Lethal Weapon talk about his faith in Christ. Cognitive dissonance, anyone? But I was impressed by his lament over the self-destructive tendencies of his earlier life and the overall state of spiritual and emotional bankruptcy that accompanied his being at the pinnacle of worldly success.

Then again, he almost negated all that with his statements to the effect that "You don't have to be a Christian to get into the kingdom of heaven, but it sure helps." Of course, I wasn't expecting anything less, so it wasn't too much of a shock. ;)

But one of the most intriguing aspects of the special had nothing to do with Mel or his movie. Towards the end, there was a blurb about an upcoming (after Easter) special on St. Paul. I'm not sure what to think, since they didn't give any indication what angle they were going to take. Obviously, I'm bracing for the usual "Paul-really-invented-Christianity" line. But maybe they'll actually line up some decent pro-Christian scholars for a change. Like N.T. Wright. :)

Oh, and apparently, ABC has a movie about Judas. "The Real Story." What's up with that, anyway? Ever since I can remember, I've always come across people who are intent on painting Judas as a tragic figure. Like, he was falsely accused, or he was really helping Jesus out, or something like that. Where does this come from, anyway?

Monday, February 16, 2004

We've been to a lot of concerts.

Most recently, we drove to New City Cafe in Knoxville, TN, this past Saturday night to see Andrew Peterson and Eric Peters, who opened. Ben Shive, who tours with Andy, added his talents as well. A most memorable Valentine's Day, especially since all the artists' wives were able to come, and Jamie even sang with Andy on a song or two, which is a rare treat these days.

After the show, Kenny (the owner of New City) asked us how many times we'd seen Andy in concert, or if we've just lost count. We've definitely lost count. I think Gaines tried once and got somewhere up in the thirties, but even that was a few years ago. And that was just his list. I can't imagine how many it would be if we tried to count ALL the concerts we've attended.

Anyway, Kenny's question was timely, because I had been pondering earlier that night just why we go to see these folks again and again and again. Musicians like Andrew and Eric, and Randall Goodgame, and Mark Williams, among others. Sure, it's fun. Sure, it's entertaining. Sure, we want to support them. But I think it's also more than that.

Saturday night, when Andy sang a brand new song (title unknown at this point) about how his boys keep him young-- about finding dinosaur bones in the flower bed and walking through the magic wood and grabbing hold of the Lion's mane-- I knew that was it for me. It was so beautiful I didn't know whether to cry or laugh. I know I was smiling through so much of the song my face hurt.

The moment you connect to a song in such a powerful way, it's like sharing in a little piece of Home. I think of the first time I heard Eric's "These Three Remain," or Andrew's original Christmas musical, Behold the Lamb. It's not just music, though. All art can elicit glimpses of the glory of Christ.

Like the phrase Tolkien used to describe that great pivotal moment in storytelling, the climax--he called it the "eucatastrophe." The Cross, of course, was THE Eucatastrophe of all of history. And I think when we hear such a moment in a song or see it in a portrait or read it in a book, it connects us to that moment, but also to the future glory of the New Heavens and the New Earth. Further up and further in, the Kingdom cries out to us.

And so when I go to a concert, I think somewhere in the back of my heart I'm searching for a eucatastrophic moment-- a song, or a chorus, or even a story that points to the Eternal unseen.

That is the reason why we'll drive three hours (or thirty) to see one show. It's why we keep coming back, a million times or more, to hear songs we know by heart and songs we only know in dreams. It's why we keep listening.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Reshelving Duties

Yesterday evening I finished Christian Mythmakers. It was an interesting foray into the idea of mythopoeia, and how certain authors build upon the foundations of previous fantasies to develop their own worlds and stories. It featured critical synopses of works by John Bunyan, George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Madeline L'Engle, among others. If you've ever read any of these authors or just want to know a little bit more about them, I'd suggest checking it out. Be careful, though, because it might make you want to add twenty-something more books to your reading list. I know I sure have a lot of catching up to do! I'm starting with a book I got for Christmas: Lewis' Till We Have Faces. It's hailed by most as his masterpiece. I've been wanting to read this book for years, but never made time until now.

I also removed The Purpose Driven Life from my list. I never made it past day 14, and I haven't picked it up in weeks, so I felt it was time to go. (Just so you know, we did not purchase it ourselves-- it was a gift from a ministry we're involved with, and was supposed to be a reading assignment. But they haven't mentioned anything more about it lately, so I'm retiring it to the
"secret reading" bookshelf--the one that no one sees.) Thank goodness.

The Third Watch (or is it Fourth?)

I'm pulling a "Gaines" tonight (or, more accurately, this morning). Usually I fall asleep long before he does, which often means that unless I make him go to sleep, he reverts back to his college insomnia habits and plays computer games until 3 a.m. Now, however, the roles are reversed. Earlier, at Bible Study, I had caffeine, which always wreaks havoc with my sleep schedule if I drink it after 5 p.m. Also, since we stayed late afterwards --until almost midnight-- to play Settlers of Catan, I'm still totally wired.

For the lack of anything better to do (counting sheep just isn't that appealing), I thought I'd share a Valentine's memory from --goodness, has it really been that long? -- three years ago. I would've linked to it or something, but since I didn't have a blog back then, I'll just have to recreate it for you.

The night was Wednesday, February 14, 2001, and I was working my usual six to eight evening shift at the BSC Writing Center. (English tutors take no breaks for pansy holidays!) At that time, the Writing Center was located in the basement of Phillips Science -- no windows, no carpeting-- just me, some abandoned student paintings (that same fish one you can see on the link), a few tables and chairs, two computers, and my art homework. The whole place reeked of isolation. Unless some lonely bio-chem major decided he really had nothing better to do than workshop his research paper on Valentine's Day-- which I found highly unlikely considering I knew all the bio-chem majors and they all had dates-- I had the place to myself. So I put my headphones on, fully engrossed in one of Gaines' concert bootleg concoctions, and proceeded to work on my design project.

About thirty minutes in, there was a knock on the door. No one knocks on the door of the writing center-- they usually just walk right in. The oddity factor increased when I noticed that the door was standing wide open. I thought it might be security coming by to check up on me (they were such nice folks-- security changed my tire or jump started my car at least 6 times while I was at school), so I just yelled "Come on in." Nothing happened, so I continued with my sketch. Another knock. I proceeded to investigate this strange occurence. I looked into the hallway, and what to my wondering eyes should appear-- but Gaines, with a bouquet of roses-- and beer. (Well, okay, not beer. But it rhymed. And it's 2 a.m., so you should expect this from me.)

Anyway, this whole incident was extremely confounding because 1) Gaines was supposed to be in Atlanta, which, in case you weren't aware, is at least a two hour drive from Birmingham, and 2) we had already planned to celebrate Valentine's the next night with a trip to see Beauty and the Beast.

Needless to say, I was overcome. I think I just stood there, stupidly, for about a minute or so before I noticed my roommate, Angelika, standing beside him. I think she asked if I was going to hug him or something. I still stood there stupidly. (We'd only been dating for two and a half months. Did she think I was that forward?) ;-) Apparently, the little weasel (by that, I am lovingly referring to Gaines) had been planning the surprise for weeks and had obtained help from three of my friends to find out my schedule.

Gaines graciously hung out with me until the end of my Writing Center session (Can you believe they paid me good money to do homework and spend time with my boyfriend on Valentine's?). He also stayed for InterVaristy large group that night, which didn't end until about midnight his time, and then drove back to Atlanta because he had a meeting the next morning. To further the insanity (which we attempted quite often while we were dating) Gaines made the return trip to Birmingham the very next day so that we could go to dinner and the show together. (Of course, by now, after the miles we've travelled to see each other, we could both probably just drive I-20 with our eyes closed, but at the time, it really meant the world to me. Two hours was still a long way.)

It was the best Valentine's ever. Well, at least, the best Valentine's up until that point in my life. I probably cried.

And now, thankfully, I'm going to end this foray into sappiness and spare you from reading any more heartwarming sentimental drivel, except to say that this... The "little" things, the small gestures of spontaneity, like that night, are just one of the innumerable reasons why I am so extremely blessed to have Gaines as my husband.

Now, if only I can fall asleep next to him...oh, wait, I can! (Or at least I can try!)

Good night! ;-)

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

About time

I finally added another Finished Book to my list. It provides a nice contrast to the Bruce W. book (no jokes, please -- it was a gift!). Mathison's book on the Lord's Supper was very good -- well-written and compelling. I'm definitely reshaping my ideas on the sacrament, and I hope to encourage a deeper emphasis at our local assembly. I'm just not sure how easy it will be to convince a bunch of Baptists to partake weekly - and with wine. ;) Step by step, I guess.

I'm still feeling under the weather, but at least I'm back at work today. The worst part about being home sick yesterday was that the Mormons paid a housecall, yet I was in no shape to talk with them. Bummer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Second Commandment issues aside, I've appreciated what Mel Gibson has done in producing The Passion of the Christ. However, I think the sheer amount of hype surrounding the film by evangelical Christians may serve to turn me off from the project for a while.

Last night, I heard the film's release touted by fellow Christians as "the greatest evangelistic event of the century," at which "movie theaters all over the country will be turned into houses of prayer." It is being hailed as a sign of urgency for believers, signalling "a movement of God that the church is not ready for," and, according to these folks, (who also praised the 60 Minutes interview with Tim LaHaye) it portends the impending Rapture-- so you'd better take all the heathens you know to see this film because it is going to change their life! (Because God, um, needs us-- and this film-- to do His work for Him. Yeah.)

The cross section of Christians I was with last night may not be the most accurate sampling. The group included extreme charismatics and health and wealth followers, those who attend large non-denominational "fellowships," members of an SBC mega-church, members of small Independent Baptist churches, a former Presbyterian turned Church of God, born-again AME folks, and well, me -- an odd mixed breed of liturgical, Calvinistic, covenental Baptist. I'm pretty sure that puts me in the minority.

I must admit, I'm extremely optimistic about God's plans for the world (those darn postmillenialist leanings), and in fact, am probably much more optimistic than they are, considering. However, I'm not so caught up in the frenzy to think that something must happen RIGHT NOW. Sin has jaded me. Someone said last night they thought Passion would spark another "Great Awakening." Perhaps. It is hard to imagine, though, that with the absence of Scirptural preaching in many of our churches that one film could fuel the call to repentance that is sorely needed, especially here in America.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Bleh ...

In case anyone was confused or undecided on the issue, I will briefly state that being sick A) stinks and 2) is not fun.

End transmission.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Springboarding off the previous post, I was reflecting today on how incredibly myopic the prevailing views on eschatology can be. In the aforementioned Bible Study, the "signs of the time" were discussed. I tried to raise the question of why we always assume that our "declining Western Civilization" is the standard for determining how fast the world is going down the tubes. When I've noted how rapidly Christianity was spreading in other parts of the world, the prevailing attitude seems to have been "So? Those people don't count." Obviously, this wasn't stated in so many words, but someone incredulously asked "So are you saying that this means that China is going to become a Christian nation?"

And thinking about it, why not? In the first century, was it even remotely feasible that the persecuted minority of Christians would eventually bring Rome to its knees - before the cross - within a few centuries? Pagan Rome was just as bad, if not worse, than modern America, Communist China, etc. Is God no longer able to subdue His enemies? Thankfully, I believe He's just as powerful as He's always been, and will continue to put His enemies underneath His feet.

Last Days Madness

Last night, we found ourselves discussing the often misused phrase "the Second Coming" before (in opposition to things we'd heard on the radio that day), during (we're up to Luke 12) and after (the rehash during the car ride home) our weekly Couples' Bible Study.

Lately, the Olivet Discourse is popping up everywhere: in my morning readings of Matthew in The One Year Bible, as I run across radio programs on "the rapture," and now, in our couples' study, as we move closer to Luke 17. So this morning, as I read Matthew 24, I pulled out Sproul's The Last Days According to Jesus as a refresher. I'm extremenly thankful for people who pointed to that (among other books) as a good resource for stemming the tide of rampant pre-trib, pre-mil, rapture craziness. If only our friends would read it and be encouraged as well.

Along these lines, I just wanted to mention that on this topic, at least, Wright is definately right. Hopefully, as our study in Luke progresses, we can discuss "biblical as to clarify truth, not distort it."

Which reminds me-- we were listening to Johnny Mac in the car on the way to praise band practice Wenesday night, and he was describing the proper method of Biblical interpretation-- historical context, grammar, proper literary form, etc. The funny thing is, he's a dispensationalist! He's also pre-trib, pre-mil, the whole nine yards. Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate much of MacArthur's teaching, I just wish he would apply his sound Biblical interpretation methods to eschatology. (If only everyone would!)

Well, I can't say I've seen more states than Gaines...

but I have visited more countries!

(I know it doesn't look like much now, but hopefully one day both of our maps will have a lot more red...)

create your own visited country map

Thursday, February 05, 2004

So, I stole it ...

from Richard Okimoto's blog, but it is kind of neat.

Don't let the map fool you -- I haven't been to Alaska ... yet.

create your own visited country map
or write about it on the open travel guide

My U.S. travel has been a bit better, percent-wise:

create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

I would have liked to have seen Montana ...

New Perspective on Paul?

So, this whole "New Perspective on Paul" is growing more and more controversial, although it doesn't seem to have appeared on the radar of mainstream Christendom. (I think it could be that the Rick Warrens of the world are diverting the attention elsewhere.) Anyway, I can't claim to have spent much time researching the issues, but it seems like a ton of the "die-hard Reformed" types are sharpening knives for anyone connected with the NPP. This is unfortunate, because this "movement" isn't really a movement at all. It is far from monolithic, other than the common idea that the Reformers and some descendants may have misunderstood the Jewish culture in which Christianity arose. One of the prominent names associated with the NPP is N.T. Wright, scholar, author and the current Anglican Bishop of Durham. I've read some of his historical writings (The New Testament and the People of God) and have a few more on the shelf, awaiting a kind reader to rescue them. Overall, I've found Wright to be very articulate and full of good insight. But, to hear some of his critics speak, you'd think he was actually an arch-fiend bent on overturning all the theological contributions of the Reformation. I haven't read enough to make an informed opinion, but my Spidey senses are telling me that these critics are either misrepresenting or just plain misunderstanding Wright.

Enter Douglas Wilson. He and his compatriates are accused of perpetrating the same "heresies" that Wright and other NPP folk are purveying. There has apparently been a good deal of harsh language and accusations, so the latest (online, at least) issue of Credenda Agenda addresses the topic exactly. Very good points from a good communicator.

A Pauline Take on the New Perspective
It's been too long ...

I now present, the gift of laughter.

Lark News February edition is available!

Man, that's good stuff.