Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Testing Day

Today is the first day in which we administer the Writing Graduation Demonstration Exam. For me this is one of the biggest days of the year as it determines which students I will have for years to come and which will be let loose upon the teachers who have to worry so little about writing deficiencies. From what I've seen so far today, I am pleased. Though many fine students will be disappearing from my classroom at the end of the semester or the end of the year, I am thrilled to see many of them move on to higher level classes that will challenge them and mold them into breathing, thinking, meat-bags that may do something with their lives that may come back and benefit me.

On the other hand, I can also see among the pages the students that will be my new BFFs for the next two years or more--those that either can't write well (I don't have a problem with them) and those who won't try (the most frustrating human beings on the planet).

So overall, it's a bit of a bizarre day as I watch them test away. But on the plus side, I'm cranking out more graded papers today than I have in weeks. Testing instead of teaching has a few benefits.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Different Feeling to Responsibility

A week ago or so, I put a plan into motion to relieve the pastors of my church of their typical preaching duties. As I talked to my senior pastor, he thought of more ways to utilize me and the rest of the church elders. End result: Elders run communion this week, and elders search and assign speakers for November. I got an email from my pastor today stating that the speaking duty for communion was mine. As often as I speak in my church. This one feels quite different for a couple of reasons.

1. In the Seventh-day Adventist church, communion comes around every three months. It's an event of great significance that doesn't always inspire the awe and respect it should. For me to speak at this puts a new responsibility on my shoulders--to set the tone that exudes the reverence such a ceremony should have (a feat I'll have to repeat in a month when I conduct my brother's wedding ceremony).

2. Whenever I speak, it is on whatever I feel God has given me to say. This time, I'm given the topic--Communion--that leads to the ceremonial foot-washing--a part of the service whose significance has eluded me for years. Already, the Spirit has been giving me great things to say, so it's all very exciting. But again, a new responsibility.

3. Ten minutes. Because of washing feet, extra prayers, bread munching, and "wine" slurping, I'm suppose to keep my message to ten minutes. If anybody knows me, or has seen me speak, this limit is a joke, an impossibility.

Fortunately, God will work. I am beyond fortunate to have him use me for His glory.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monster Meditation: Psalm 15

1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart

3 and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,

4 who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,

5 who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
will never be shaken.

Along every Christian walk (or for any other religion I suppose), people want to know about the specifics. The "What must I do to be saved" mentality floats around the consciousnesses of millions. Strangely enough, though, most people don't speak it aloud. Aside from the rich, young ruler and a handful of other Biblical folk, you won't hear very many people plainly ask, "What do I have to do to be at peace with God?" Anymore, I think this sprouts from a fear of following a religion from fear instead of love. I think it sounds that way. If you do such and such a thing, you'll have eternal happiness. Choosing a religion sounds like too much of a self-centered choice.

But maybe that's why we get our instructions in these kind of vague terms. Psalm 15 is a decent sized list that doesn't offer any specifics. Despite this, I think the message is very clear. Really the self-centered issues comes up when you struggle with these ideas. Do we know what it means to walk blamelessly? Probably, if we think about it for a little while. What about not casting slurs on our fellow humans? I think that is quite plain. Despising that which is vile? If we take a moment to think of these things, we should be able to find a path that leads to God's throne.

Maybe we want something simpler. By breaking down these ideas to smaller bits, we find an instruction manual, something we can follow without thinking. With God, however, thinking is where He meets us. It's where He wants us to be. Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind, and body. The rest is just details.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekend Update


I hate being that guy that posts just to tell people how busy he is, so I won't come right out and say it...but wow.

The weekend seemed a bit wacky. Saturday was mostly good, but Sunday left my head spinning. I awoke and cleaned up a bit around the house. Left the house around 9:30 and graded for a couple of hours. This is pretty standard Sunday fare, but I was annoyed that after two full hours of grading that I have at least that much more to do. I don't think that it's because I've fallen behind (though I'm not taking the time right now to remedy the situation), but it's starting to settle in that my current class load requires a lot more time to grade...a lot more time.

I mowed the lawn for the first time since early July. Surprisingly it wasn't awful. I only took care of the front (the back is a whole other beast), and I expected my allergies to declare war on me all over again. Luckily though, I finished that fairly quickly and, thanks to my gorgeous wife's awesomeness in buying me new drugs, allergies never entered the picture.

We're trying to get things ready for the fetus. So my wife was way busier than I was (feeling guilty for even whining right now). But there was a good chunk of the day dedicated to clearing out the spare room as we prep it for Squishface when he arrives.

Church had an ice cream social on Sunday also. So I had to drive around town to pick up massive tubs of sweet, sugary goodness and then help serve it all up. And with a church board meeting tonight and another two events next weekend, church will continue to dominate our time.

Finally got to settle down, and we watched Last Crusade. Dang the movie is awesome--simply, purely awesome. More than anything, I realized this time through how groovy the stunt work is, and I missed the days when a film had elaborate action sequences that required dozens of people to tumble, yell, and fall. Then I missed the integrity that Spielberg and Lucas used to have.

By far the best thing of the weekend, though, and it totally made up for this whole whine-fest happened Saturday night. My wife has been trying to get me to feel the fetus kick for weeks. On Saturday night, while watching Return of the Jedi, I finally did. It's a weird experience. If you didn't know there was a kid swimming around in there, you'd never notice. But it was really cool to be able to feel something alive in there. I think he was just so excited that my wife was finally catching up on her Star Wars that he couldn't stay still and wanted to affirm what was happening.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Monster Meditation: Psalm 12

On Friday, I didn't get on the internet at all. I'd like to say that this was because I found wonderful things to do instead that benefited the human race, but no such luck. It really bothered me, because Psalm 12 has such a gem that I want to explore further. So, you get it today.

1 Help, LORD, for the godly are no more;
the faithful have vanished from among men.

2 Everyone lies to his neighbor;
their flattering lips speak with deception.

3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips
and every boastful tongue

4 that says, "We will triumph with our tongues;
we own our lips—who is our master?"

5 "Because of the oppression of the weak
and the groaning of the needy,
I will now arise," says the LORD.
"I will protect them from those who malign them."

6 And the words of the LORD are flawless,
like silver refined in a furnace of clay,
purified seven times.

7 O LORD, you will keep us safe
and protect us from such people forever.

8 The wicked freely strut about
when what is vile is honored among men.

I can't begin to calculate how many times I've heard a "We're going to hell in a hand basket" type of phrase after watching the nightly news. The idea of this world (or at least country) going to pot has surrounded me as I grew up in the church. It's inevitable, after all, that this world will eventually end--or change entirely (kind of a "The good man who was your father ceased to exist" kind of thing). But while we sit in our pews and gripe about the condition of the planet and those that inhabit it, I don't think I've ever heard an explanation.

Verse 8. People in many churches talk about Satan's hold on our lives when they discuss the wretched life quality of our world. But David points out here that everything that oppresses the good people of Earth stems from other people. Because people have the choice to serve God or Satan, the blame, though still tracking back to Satan, lies with those that tolerate--no, accept and adore--horrible things.

To me, the sad thing is truly that so many people know this to be true. Turn on the TV or radio and you can witness the blame game. While the streets and airwaves are crowded with slander, people don't stop to think that they are part of the problem. Really, where people should direct themselves is toward a place where they won't play the same game as those they have come to despise. As Christ did not play by the rules of those that killed Him, so should the righteous not play by the rules of the wicked that surround them and lead the planet down the ever-darkening road.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Monster Meditation: Psalm 10 (and a bit on 11)

1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.

3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.

4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

5 His ways are always prosperous;
he is haughty and your laws are far from him;
he sneers at all his enemies.

6 He says to himself, "Nothing will shake me;
I'll always be happy and never have trouble."

7 His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.

8 He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent,
watching in secret for his victims.

9 He lies in wait like a lion in cover;
he lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.

10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.

11 He says to himself, "God has forgotten;
he covers his face and never sees."

12 Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.

13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
"He won't call me to account"?

14 But you, O God, do see trouble and grief;
you consider it to take it in hand.
The victim commits himself to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.

15 Break the arm of the wicked and evil man;
call him to account for his wickedness
that would not be found out.

16 The LORD is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.

17 You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,

18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.

Over the last several years, I seem to have been becoming a humanitarian. I think it has to do with being a teacher and seeing how poorly a lot of people have it. Or maybe it was when I taught Pop Culture Studies specifically and focused on the cultural side of issues that we've been dealing with for decades if not centuries. Regardless, I love how this psalm deals with the issue.

If I have any critical complaint with the Psalms, it's that David (and the others, but he does it a lot) pulls a mood 180 so often. I realize that when looking to God's face, your problems become smaller (if they don't just disappear), but still. I like to see things as they happen--slowing down the moment. Psalm 10 slows it down and I don't get the feel the writer comes out of his or her spiritual funk for no reason. Instead, I feel that the writer is proclaiming a call to God to work in favor of the oppressed.

This thrills me. I think mostly because I have so many times heard the comment, "How can bad things happen to good people?" I think the question is bogus anyhow, but even if it weren't, this Psalm addresses that so well. In the first eleven verses the write is obviously distraught over how much is going on without any evident intervention from on high. But once verse twelve hits, God is brought into the equation--a God that hears, that cares, that won't let things carry on as they are. This is one of those things that seems to rely on "the patience of the saints."

Psalm 11 continues in this idea with David writing about how ridiculous it is to cower from the powers that may oppress the people of God. Verse seven makes me smile. Justice, it seems, is what everybody looks for in this world. Almost anything is acceptable, so long as justice is involved. However, whereas many would argue over what justice is and when it is right, God looks on to the poor and beaten down, those that have been looking to Him for help, but have been caught in circumstances that will not free them, and He prepares for their freedom, their salvation.

1 In the LORD I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
"Flee like a bird to your mountain.

2 For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.

3 When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?"

4 The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD is on his heavenly throne.
He observes the sons of men;
his eyes examine them.

5 The LORD examines the righteous,
but the wicked and those who love violence
his soul hates.

6 On the wicked he will rain
fiery coals and burning sulfur;
a scorching wind will be their lot.

7 For the LORD is righteous,
he loves justice;
upright men will see his face.