The Blog Has Moved

March 7th, 2011

Dear faithful readers,

This blog has been disconnected, or is no longer in service. Please check the url and try again.

Or just go to http://ironicdisciple.com to see the brand spanking new blog (with all of three entries on it!). This address will no longer be updated (not a big change, I know).

-somebody

What Is Stephanie Talking About? Answered

June 15th, 2010

Stephanie: [to me] "You're like a honey-baked ham."

What is Stephanie talking about?

Well, I'll tell you. I gave her a hug, and she was trying to find a way to put into words how warm and soft I am. This just in: time to start exercising again.

I also would have accepted the following guesses:

"You're like a honey-baked ham: Everyone wants you at their Christmas party."

"You're like a honey-baked ham: All round and pointy in parts."

"You're like a honey-baked ham: Wait, no you're not."

What Is Stephanie Talking About?

June 12th, 2010

It's time to bring back an old standard on the blog. I have gotten away from anything like regular posts--and by 'regular' I mean 'just slightly more than semi-annual.' No matter!

Here's how you play "What Is Stephanie Talking About?": I give you a quote, verbatim, from Stephanie. This quote will be taken out of context to hilarious effect. Your job is to tell me what Stephanie is, in fact, talking about. Or just supply something funny. I will post again in a couple days to tell you the answer.

This edition is alternately titled "Complete This Culinary Simile."

Stephanie: [to me] "You're like a honey-baked ham."

What is Stephanie talking about?

A New Beginning

May 31st, 2010

We decided back in January that we would be moving from Pasadena back to the Midwest, and now we know where we're going! I have been hired as the Associate Pastor at Emmanuel Free Methodist Church in Alton, Il. The town is right across the river from St. Louis, about 30-40 minutes from Stephanie's brothers.

Four weeks from today Stephanie and Eden will fly out, and then on June 30 the truck leaves. Laura, Stephanie's sister-in-law, is coming out to help us move and will fly back to St. Louis with the girls. Rob, a long time friend, will fly out to help me drive the truck back.

As usual, the cats will be no help at all.

We are still in the process of getting everything set up--housing, insurance, and other little things. The truck rolls into Alton Friday, July 2, in the afternoon. I am reminded that when we moved to California we didn't know where we were going to be living until the second night into our trip--I think we were in Albuquerque when we found out. So the next phase is about to begin. See you soon, humidity!

Haiti's Story, Our Test

January 14th, 2010

After my post yesterday, a good friend emailed me to express some concern over the idea that the earthquake in Haiti and its aftermath was a test from God for American Christians. Her concern is that it causes us to imagine God as some cosmic teacher sending horrible things on innocent people just to make sure we respond correctly. And if we don't, then we fail and perhaps he gets to send more bad stuff. This is an excellent point.

I do not believe that this earthquake is really even about me. It presents a problem, an opportunity, and I will even say it presents a test. Tests show what the present state of things is, and this crisis will show something about the present state of the American church in general, and of my heart in particular. It is how I respond that says something about me, and since this disaster is one of those situations where it would be unjust to withhold aid, I am now necessarily bound up in the story.

But the story remains Haiti's. It is their country, their crisis, their hurt, and whatever my involvement in the story will be, I am surely the most minor of characters. Misunderstanding this is narcissistic and gives rise to the unsettling view of God that my friend was thinking of; namely, that God is so interested in whether or not I am personally righteous that he is willing to kill thousands of people just to find out. My spiritual growth is not that important to God. I am the one who feels threatened and anxious about the many times each day I fail, not him.

Now of course, Job's friends still come around every time someone suffers, like vultures gathered around a carcass. There is so much more to say about them, but that will double or triple this post. Another time, but soon I hope.

So this is first of all a tragic chapter in the story of Haiti, but not one beyond redemption and hope. We are not the ones who will bring that to them, but we can suffer with them in the meantime and wait for healing together. We can share some of their pain, if we are willing to share with them some of our comfort.

They do not suffer because I am tested, but I am tested because they suffer.

Am I Willing to Suffer?

January 13th, 2010

"But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." - 1 Corinthians 12.24-26

The situation in Haiti gives the Christian church in America a test. Do we suffer, seeing the Haitians suffer? Paul's point is not that our "thoughts and prayers" are to be with those who suffer, but that unity through Christ means their suffering involntarily becomes our own. It should take no reminder. After all, if I injure my hand, my reflexes automatically cause me to draw it to my body and cradle it closely. I may shout or cry in pain. My knees may even buckle a bit. If these steps did not happen automatically, if they took deliberation and calculation, I would immediately think that there was some kind of disorder in my body.

Haiti is a test to see if Christ's body has become leperous, unfeeling, even dead.

It occurs to me that this test will reveal where we have drawn the boundary lines marking who should and should not receive our concern. (What a wonderful position to be in, to sit back and choose who is worthy enough to have me as their benefactor!) If we are one body with no divisions--no parts cut off from the rest--then we will display that equal concern Paul speaks of. If that immediate, involuntary concern is not emerging corporately and individually, then it means we have been cut off from our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Jesus said that what we do to the least of these, we do to him. In that case, being cut off from the least of these seems more ominous. If we are cut off from each other, only one remains attached to the head. Who do you think it will be?

Jesus also said, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7.12). Jesus is speaking in this passage specifically about what we ask for and expect to receive from God, saying in effect that our treatment of others ought to be guided by how we desire God to respond to us when we ask from him. Do I believe in the power of generosity? If I believe that God is generous, I will have no problem being generous. Or, put another way, my generosity declares what I believe about God. If cannot be generous, it is because I do not believe that God has been generous with me. Misers serve a miserly god, and are formed into his image.

This same principle is at work in forgiveness. By participating in forgiveness, I express my faith in the power of forgiveness, as Jesus says, "If you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Matthew 6.14). By withholding forgiveness, I declare that I do not believe in its power, and no one who disbelieves in the power of forgiveness has or will taste it.

So back to the question at hand, "Am I Willing to Suffer?" Stephanie just came home and asked if I am ready to adopt a child from Haiti. She told me yesterday she wanted to do something, and while I don't know that adoption is the path to go, I also don't know that it is not. I am thankful to have someone in my life who is showing me what that involuntary, sympathetic reflex of grace and generosity looks like in Christ's body.

I know this: We are not innocent when we allow our institutions to do our sinning for us, and we are not virtuous when we let them do our good works in our name. Am I willing? Am I able? Do I suffer? Do I share the hurt? Do I bear the cost?

O Lord, heal these leperous limbs, lest they be cut off and cast away from you!

Time to Go

January 2nd, 2010

"Exciting things are afoot in the Hough House. Stephanie and I are expecting... to move to California." I remember being up in front of CCF that last Senior Night in 2002. Wow, it is hard to believe that we have been in Pasadena for seven and a half years! As Stephanie and I have thought, prayed, and discussed together and with others close to us, we think it's time to make another move. So we are expecting... to move back home!

The plan is to finish out the year at Maranatha and move back to the Midwest this coming July.

Now, we don't yet know where exactly we are going. I don't have a job, and we have not won the lottery. I am hoping to work in a local church, and am beginning to send my resume along as I find opportunities, especially around St. Louis and Nashville. We have decided to move forward, though, and see if perhaps things will work out. The backup plan is to move to St. Louis and find some kind of work so that we can at least be in the area building relationships and discerning where God wants us.

So prayers are good, as are leads on jobs (of any type, actually). We'll also be dusting off the list of things to do in California before we leave, so we will also take submissions for that.

My time at Maranatha has been formative, and I am sad to be leaving behind the wonderful teammates I have been blessed with. I think we'll be able to find someone amazing for the position, though, and soon enough everyone will be wondering why a change wasn't made sooner!

I would say we are cautiously optimistic, except I don't know that I can ever really be described as 'cautious.' I guess we are excited, but remain realistic in the face of what this decision could potentially cost us. But for now the plan is to roll out of Pasadena almost exactly eight years after coming here. Save the date!

Christian Philosophy of Education

October 22nd, 2009

I am including here a paper I recently wrote on my Christian Philosophy of Education for moving forward in my certification at the school where I teach. I was reluctant, since the paper was not my choice, but I did end up enjoying the time I spent thinking about human nature and education. I wrote it fairly quickly, there are plenty of unsubstantiated claims, and I have not included the footnotes (so there are some quotes without citations).

Feel free to comment, critique, offer guidance, suggestions, etc.

Education is a matter of discovering what is ultimately real and learning to live in relation to it in a way that produces a life marked by meaning, freedom, and even happiness. Education presupposes truth, even in the most relativistic contexts, because teachers are concerned with correspondence between thought and reality. But from a Christian perspective, truth is not just a label applied to the successful representation of reality in thought, but comes to personify that eternal reality itself. And that personification is neither metaphorical nor abstract, but is found in the person of Jesus Christ, as he says in John 14.6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Full story »

How Africa Changed Me

September 15th, 2009

The truth is I haven’t known what to say about Africa. I wanted to change. Or I wanted to be able to claim a life-changing experience for myself. Or I wanted to be able to attach the credibility of going to Africa to the program of change I had decided beforehand would happen. I wanted to be stretched to the limit, challenged, and humbled. And I wanted to suffer enough that I could feel good about the experience.

Well, that all sort of happened and sort of didn’t. Most of the experiences were less shocking than I wanted them to be. I saw incredible poverty, but it felt strangely familiar. I saw people in need, but felt like I recognized them. I was stretched, but in mostly unsurprising ways. I knew that I was adaptable, but this was disappointing.

I have heard that there is a banality to evil—that even the most atrocious crimes against humanity are often carried out with a kind of bureaucratic efficiency lacking any real emotion. Great evil can be divided into manageable and measurable tasks, parceled out to agents so appointed, and conducted with the kind of detachment befitting a professional. Great evil can’t be accomplished all at once, but is the cumulative effect over time of putting in your hours while wondering whether you should take the family to the mountains for the weekend.

And perhaps there is a banality to good as well—that great good also cannot be accomplished all at once, but only in the mundane and ceaseless activity of following Christ. That it too can be divided into manageable and measurable tasks, parceled out to agents so appointed, and conducted with the kind of detachment befitting a professional. Great good can’t be accomplished all at once, but is the cumulative effect over time of putting in your hours while wondering what heaven will be like.

But maybe it’s not a choice between the banality of good on the one hand, and a great, world-moving good work on the other. Maybe good is accomplished over time as the aggregate of a thousand choices on a thousand days strung together by a persevering love. And maybe this love itself is not put in motion by one great thrust of will, but is rather animated by the one breath that I have right now… and right now… and right now.

Mother Theresa said that we cannot do great things, but only small things with great love, a diminutive thought from the diminutive saint. The problem is that I cannot seem to work up great love for each small thing, over and over, ad infinitum. In fact, I can hardly work up love even in proportion to the smallness of the task.

One of the things that strikes me the most about my Africa experience is that my self-directed desire turned into a self-exposing indictment, not just of how I went on the mission trip, but also of how I even look at the small tasks that face me each day.

Jesus said that there is no love greater than giving up your life for a friend. Then he called me friend and asked me to show him this greatest love, not in a once and for all display of heroic martyrdom, but in a thousand self-denying acts of service on a thousand days strung together by this greatest love.

There is much more to say about the experience in Africa, of course. But as with all discipleship, renunciation is a proper beginning.

Thomas Merton on the Dark Night of the Soul

September 6th, 2009

“During the ‘dark night’ of the feelings and senses, anxiety is felt in prayer, often acutely. This is necessary, because this spiritual night marks the transfer of the full, free control of our inner life into the hands of a superior power. And this too means that the time of darkness is, in reality, a time of hazard and of difficult options. We begin to go out of ourselves: that is to say, we are drawn out from behind our habitual and conscious defenses. These defenses are also limitations, which we must abandon if we are to grow. But at the same time they are, in their own way, a protection against the unconscious forces that are too great for us to face naked and without protection.

“If we set out into this darkness, we have to meet these inexorable forces. We will have to face fears and doubts. We will have to call into question the whole structure of our spiritual life. We will have to make a new evaluation of our motives for belief, for love, for self-commitment to the invisible God. And at this moment, precisely, all spiritual light is darkened, all values lose their shape and reality, and we remain, so to speak, suspended in the void.

“The most crucial aspect of this experience is precisely the temptation to doubt God himself. We must not minimize the fact that this is a genuine risk. For here we are advancing beyond the stage where God made himself accessible to our mind in simple and primitive images. We are entering the night in which he is present without any image, invisible, inscrutable, and beyond any satisfactory mental representation.

“At such a time as this, one who is not seriously grounded in genuine theological faith may lose everything he ever had. His prayer may become an obscure and hateful struggle to preserve the images and trappings which covered his own interior emptiness. Either he will have to face the truth of his emptiness or else he will beat a retreat into the realm of images and analogies which no longer serve for a mature spiritual life. He may not be able to face the terrible experience of being apparently without faith in order to really grow in faith. For it is this testing, this fire of purgation, that burns out the human and accidental elements of faith in order to liberate the deep spiritual power in the center of our being. This gift of God is, of itself, unattainable, but is given to us moment by moment, beyond our comprehension, by his inscrutable mercy.”

-- Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer, pp. 77-78

Agnus Dei

April 10th, 2009

Here is a video I put together for a Chapel at the school where I work.

[youtube]Gbg0EyCyBRw[/youtube]

Bailout, or Where Does My Help Come From?

November 29th, 2008

"They encourage one another with the words, 'Be strong!' The craftsmen rush to make new idols. The carver hurries the goldsmith, and the molder helps at the anvil. 'Good,' they say. 'It's coming along fine.' Carefully they join the parts together, then fasten the thing in place so it won't fall over."

-Isaiah 41.6-7

Black Friday

November 28th, 2008

There are reports of three deaths related to Black Friday shopping--one in which a man was stampeded at a Wal-Mart, and two in a shooting incident at a Toys-R-Us.

The man stampeded was given CPR on-site and then transported to a local hospital where the official determination could be made. The store decided to close for a few hours--A FEW HOURS! The customers who had trampled the man to death and the many others who stepped over his body or around rescue workers as they tried in vain to save him COMPLAINED that they could not complete their holiday shopping immediately and would have to wait less than a day to make their purchases.

I read this blog post just about a week ago. It has a link to a Wal-Mart stampede video from a few years back.

The writer of the Sojourners blog wonders if his antipathy toward Black Friday might not be a kind of upper class privilege, especially after someone told him it was. But who exactly is dignified by this kind of chaos?

The media reports all have the same bland, thoughtless musings about what could have been done to prevent the tragedy--more security, maybe Wal-Mart is to blame for selling things so cheaply, whatever. But maybe the problem is our own greed, and the many ways in which that greed is played upon, encouraged, and rewarded. Maybe what needs to be discounted is the fundamental way in which we value things in American society.

One thing is certain: Fear has gripped our nation. These are not the signs of a confident society, but of one the world has new cause to ridicule and revile--and they are beginning to accept the invitation.

Stupid Chiefs, Again

November 9th, 2008

We finally get to see a Chiefs game in its entirety, and they lose because they can't figure out the best way to convert points after touchdowns.

And, as an update to the last couple of posts, Obama won the election. Just thought you'd like to know.

Can I Vote for McCain?

November 2nd, 2008

Here's a quick look at my hesitations when I consider voting for McCain:

1. Sarah Palin.

2. He has talked about increasing support for pregnant women considering abortions, which absolutely has to be a part of any strategy to decrease the number of abortions in America. In fact, the late Jerry Falwell even recognized that, as his organization changed direction years ago in trying to give more support to young women. As Christians if we don't do this, I fear we are as guilty as the Pharisees of "putting heavy burdens on the people, but you yourselves don't lift a finger to help them." McCain has indicated support for helping women, but I don't think he actually has a plan at all. Sure, an Obama presidency could mean the end of fighting to end abortion through legal action, and to be honest that worries me a little. But shouldn't legal action be at best a secondary strategy for Christians?

3. McCain's strategy to show himself a maverick doesn't really do much for me. We are just about to get out from under a "bring 'em on" Texas gunslinger who had no problem going against the collective wisdom of our allies. Do we really need someone who is proud of how many times he has stuck it to his friends? That may not be entirely fair--after all, it's not like I would vote for someone incapable of independent thought. But still.

Okay, that's a lot quicker than what I did for Obama, but we're getting down to the wire here, people. Side note: I am really not liking the way people are disparaging us undecided voters, saying that we foolish or just don't care. Also, Ben Affleck as Keith Olberman was hilarious last night on SNL. Finally, stupid Chiefs.

Can I Trust Obama?

November 2nd, 2008

My guess is that you have already answered that question as you begin reading this, which means that you are probably reading to find either support for your view or weaknesses in my post to highlight if I disagree. That's just the way it goes.

My question, though, is not rhetorical. I really do want to know if I can trust Obama, and right now that is the main reason why I am undecided.

There are many reasons why I have been asked by conservatives not to trust Obama, from his middle name to his supposed plot to turn the entire nation Islamic. But I want to list three actual reasons why I am asking the question:

1. Obama verbally committed to public financing for the general election, then went on to privately fund his campaign with a record-demolishing donation level. I think there is virtue in being able to change your strategy when the situation changes, but I also think Obama has effectively killed the public financing route in Presidential politics. Maybe it's not the best policy anyway, but his reversal still bugs me.

2. Obama built his campaign around the idea of change, yet he has asked for millions in earmarks. Now I know it may seem like I am just a McCain supporter masquerading as an undecided voter, but I have to tell you that I think McCain lost on this issue when he let Obama reframe it in the debates. Obama pointed out repeatedly that earmarks don't even amount to one half of one percent of the federal budget. But the significance of the earmark issue for his campaign is not so much the fiscal impact as it is the question of whether or not he really opposes politics as usual.

[SNL just came on with McCain and Tina Fey selling stuff on QVC--knives that cut the pork out. Nice timing. Funny thing, though, I almost didn't get the joke.]

3. Obama has clearly stated that he believes marriage is defined as between a man and a woman, but I learned just in the last couple of days that he is opposed to Proposition 8, the ballot item here in California that would amend the State Constitution to define marriage that way. The way he justifies that is a bit difficult to follow, and could easily be characterized as non-action increasing proportional to religious conviction. In the interest of full disclosure, I am leaning toward voting for Prop 8, but I wonder what compelling state interest there is in the matter. I also really hate pretty much all the ads on both sides of the issue.

So there you have it. I have a few worries with Obama that have not gone away. I'd like to hear how people have dealt with these specific issues. I don't really need to hear how McCain is a worse choice--I could easily have made a substantive list of worries for him as well. I do think that part of my worry surrounds Obama's stated commitment to reducing the number of abortions. I think that about covers the necessary disclosures.

Pumpkin Patch Kid

October 21st, 2008

Yes, we took the obligatory pumpkin patch pictures with Eden over the weekend. And yes, she was in a costume--an elephant, to be precise. Hope you like the pictures!

Who Invented Jesus Christ?

October 1st, 2008

About a week ago a good friend of mine posted his view on the teachings of Jesus. (I encourage you to go read his post, along with some of the comments, especially the dialogue between Danny and Doug.) Here’s my summary of his main claims:

Jesus of Nazareth was nothing more than your everyday apocalyptic rabbi. He was eventually believed to be the Messiah and Son of God after a lot of embellishment and revisionist history. This theological development can be seen in how the Gospels present Jesus’ teachings and resurrection—the later the Gospel was written, the more Jesus became Christ. That’s not quite the way Danny presents it, but I think it’s a fair summary.

Concerning the resurrection, it is true that John’s account includes many more details than Mark’s. The oldest ending we have for Mark has no post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. John has several, including one very famous and detailed account. So was all of that invented between the time Mark and John wrote?

That would have to assume that each of the Evangelists included everything they knew to be true about the resurrection (i.e., we have all the data about what each writer believed within their Gospels). But consider that only Matthew and Luke include the ascension. Does that mean that Mark had never heard of it, then Matthew and Luke invented it, and then John edited it out because he didn’t believe it? The inclusions and exclusions of the Evangelists were decisions they made as writers of theological narratives. They weren’t interested in writing almanacs, so they did not include every bit of data they believed.

We can know this is true because of what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15.3-7 about the death, burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. Paul’s letter predates Mark’s Gospel and provides some of the most unbelievable details of Jesus’ resurrection, including that he appeared to over 500 of his disciples at one time. So Mark would have had that information available to him (he did travel with Paul for a while, after all). So at the time of Mark’s writing, Jesus was already believed to be the resurrected Son of God.

Well, perhaps Paul is the one who invented Jesus Christ, and not John. Actually, Paul’s account is not his own invention, but the inclusion of a creedal statement that was already widely believed before he wrote his letter. Paul is “passing on what he received,” a phrase that for Jews referred especially to the faithful handing down of sacred traditions.

So if Paul didn’t invent the account of the resurrection or the post resurrection appearances, where did this creedal formula come from? Let’s take a look at the timeline, which goes backward from John’s Gospel until the death of Jesus (the numbers are dates by year in the first century):

95: John writes his Gospel, claims to be an eyewitness.
85: Luke writes his Gospel, claims to have verified with available eyewitnesses.
80: Matthew writes his Gospel, traditionally believed to be an eyewitness.
70: Mark writes his Gospel, traditionally believed to reflect Peter’s eyewitness account.
55: Paul writes to the Corinthians, “What I received I also passed on to you,” followed by what most critics (including the Jesus Seminar) believe to be a preformed creedal formula. The statement is intended to show unity with the other Apostles’ teaching (see especially verse 11), not Paul’s invention.
50-51: Paul preaches to the Corinthians, delivers to them what he had already received.
49-50: Paul meets privately with the leaders of the church in Jerusalem fourteen years after his first meeting to “set before them the gospel that I preach… for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain” (Galatians 2.2).
35-36: Three years after his conversion, Paul goes to Jerusalem to meet with Peter and James.
32-33: Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Jesus Seminar believes formula predates Paul’s conversion.
30: Death and resurrection of Jesus. James D. G. Dunn (Christian NT scholar) believes creedal statement was formed by fall of 30 AD.

The dating of Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15, which provides details of the resurrection long before the writing of the Gospels, may not be “established fact.” But when the Jesus Seminar dates it before Paul was even a Christian, we can safely say scholarly consensus is that Paul did not invent it.

The force of this is to shrink the time within which legendary accretion must have taken place, and to remove at least one pillar in Danny’s argument that between Mark and John Jesus went from apocalyptic rabbi to resurrected Son of God. In reality, the confessional content of the Christian faith seems consistent throughout the first century, including the last 30 years. The most fantastic details of Jesus’ resurrection were already widely believed somewhere between six months to three years after the supposed event—that’s more than 35 years before Mark wrote his Gospel.

What about Paul’s statement in Galatians 1.12 that he got the gospel directly from Jesus, and was not taught it by any person? Does that mean he wrote the gospel and is responsible for inventing Jesus Christ?

Paul’s concern in Galatians to establish as historical fact his direct contact with Christ in receiving the gospel has more to do with establishing his legitimacy as an Apostle, as in 1 Corinthians 15. He intends to show independent corroboration of the gospel, an effort any naturalist could applaud, while also showing his complete unity with the other Apostles’ preaching. This is why he emphasizes both his direct experience of Christ as well as his preaching of the same gospel message.

Not only that, he places the preaching of the one true gospel above his own legitimacy as an Apostle. In Galatians 1.8-9 he curses anyone—including himself—who preaches a different gospel than what he delivered to them. And in 1 Corinthians 15.11 he says hearing and believing the one true gospel is more important than who preaches it. But what is clear is that Paul believed that he was preaching the same gospel, and he used the well-known formula to show his unity with the other Apostles, even though he first received the message from Christ himself.

So the historical picture looks like this: Jesus dies around 30 AD and his disciples believe he is raised from the dead. Within three years of that event a creed has been formed to guide orthodox Christian belief about what the gospel is, including accounts of five separate post-resurrection appearances. Shortly thereafter, Paul converts dramatically after claiming that Jesus appeared to him. In two separate meetings in Jerusalem, Paul meets with Peter, James, and John and they all determine together that Paul is preaching the truth about the resurrection.

Paul becomes a missionary and preaches this message to the Gentiles, sending letters to the Gentile churches later to ensure their spiritual growth. As the eyewitness generation begins to pass, Mark and others take the written and eyewitness accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and compose theological narratives that are true to what is already considered to be orthodox belief. Before he dies, John writes his Gospel, which includes some of the most mature reflections on the resurrection experience.

I’ll touch on Danny’s other point about the development of Jesus’ teaching within the Gospels a bit later. How clear was his message? Is there unity across the Gospels about his message, or do we have embellishment and revisionist history? How much disagreement was there on Jesus’ core message? Was Jesus wrong? I hope to get to these questions within the week.

Homecoming

September 28th, 2008

"I'll be home for Christmas...."

We'll be flying in and out of St. Louis on December 21 and January 1. Somewhere in the middle there we'll head over to Kansas City, and there will likely be a stop in Jefferson City as well, I am told. We're excited to come back for a bit, although we're still trying to figure out who's going to watch Eden while we're gone.

Speaking of, here are a couple of pictures from today:

Answer: Two

September 14th, 2008

Question: Last night, how many times did Eden fart so loud that it woke us all up from a dead sleep?

I love this girl!

That Dad

August 13th, 2008

A couple of nights ago Eden was a bit fussy, where "fussy" stands for "screaming like we were murdering her slowly until the neighbors were ready to gather a lynch mob and break into our apartment to stop the atrocity, torches and clubs in hand," and "a bit" stands for "reaching the level of general public alarm not seen since the days when Los Angeles went black for fear of Japanese long range balloon bombs." I think you know exactly what I mean.

So we swaddled her up tight ("...baby's first straight jacket...") and took turns trying to calm her, which typically consists of striking the right balance between volume and spit in the otherwise rude but nevertheless effective "shush." Eventually she did calm, and we were mostly asleep. At some point I woke up and had the hardest time trying to figure out if I was at that moment holding Eden. I had nearly determined that I was, in fact, holding my pillow when all at once I thought I traced the contours of a little foot enveloped in soft blankets. I honestly could not figure out what was going on.

So I asked Stephanie, "Where is she?" Not getting a straight answer, I became more emphatic, "Is she even in here?"

I would rate Stephanie's overall response somewhere closer to amused than informative. In fact, before I rejoined the living the following morning, I think Stephanie's mom and sister-in-law both had sufficient command of the story to be able to repeat my questions to me as punchlines rather than statements of fatherly concern.

So I thought of posting the story here a day or two ago for the world's enjoyment. But then I realized that I was becoming what I did not want to become. Actually, I realized it earlier than that, when Stephanie and I went to a wedding last Saturday. And yes, everyone there marveled at how quickly we were out in public after having a baby. Their surprise at times bordered on criminal disgust at our emerging negligence in being parents, parting with our precious newborn so soon. Why, if I were not indomitably at home in even the most hostile social situations, I would have felt like going to the wedding was not a sign of fraternal commitment to our friends, but of parental ineptitude in setting priorities. Which is to say, as the ceremonial bliss heightened, I wondered if I were not actually a complete failure already.

Even before that dark experience (it was a night wedding, after all), there was the brighter moment of getting parenting advice from a passing stranger who, by all accounts, had just finished very badly in the seventeenth annual Diana Ross Look Alike Contest, although in all fairness she may have only had Diana's police mugshots available to her, in which case I am sure she was counseled to accept her honorable mention trophy under protest. It was a brighter moment, as astute readers have already concluded, simply because it was daytime, and certainly not because the brilliance of my parenting instincts were being written about with such superlative praise that critics would be forced to conclude that the real story must be buried somewhere far beneath the crust of legendary accretion.

We were walking through the park in the cool of the day (Random Reaching Biblical Allusion Man makes his return...). I had Eden in a Baby Bjorn (think more baby carrier, less stork dress) as we walked along with Steph's mom. Diana interrupted her rendition of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" for the sweet, understated expression of concern: "Your baby is burning!" ... Yeah ... So before she could follow that up with, "And you're going to burn too for what you're doing to her!" we ran away with tears in our eyes.

So by the time I got to the wedding, I was a good bit wiser. I was not afraid of public ridicule once I remembered that I had come to the wedding armed, though perhaps not in the manner I would have wished to be. I came with pictures and video of Eden loaded up my iPod for the world to see (it would have been disruptive to have Eden at the ceremony, and besides, when she's asleep in the back seat who can wake her?). For most inquisitors, the ploy worked. Those baby pictures sure make people pee all over themselves. But about halfway through the reception the jig was up. I reached triumphantly into my pocket to pull out the iPod in a move of sheer social brilliance and before my finger could brush the magic wheel... "Oh, you're that dad now."

That's the point where you're supposed to fold your cards and push away from the table as gracefully as possible, or with gentle resignation tip your king onto his side, or push the button for floor two and make your best attempt at a facial gesture that says, "Why does it smell so bad in here?" If it had been a military wedding, I surely would have been the French commander invited to fall upon his own sword.

So when we got to the pillow incident, you can see the rationale for my hesitation at posting the story. That's not because I am afraid people will think I am a bad father--as far as I can tell, the jury came back while I was getting warmed up for my opening statement. Rather, it's because profuse public affection for your new child is so annoyingly predictable that it borders on mundane. Quite frankly, no one is as interested in your child as you are. No one gives a crap how good your kid can crap, and even if someone did, a swift technical report would be much preferable to a novella as full of crap as the poor kid's diaper. No one wants to read it, no one needs to know it, and no one thinks Jesus Christ, Jr., has been born to you.

And yet....

And yet when I hold her as she sleeps I find myself convinced that peace is not a meaningless term, but a deep, perhaps even eternal calm that we could know if only we stopped splashing around long enough to let it settle in. And yet when she smiles the day is over for me and nothing more needs to be accomplished, even if it is just a gas bubble that could have as easily surfaced as a shriek--it makes no difference to me. And yet I celebrate every poop, pee, burp, fart, cry, and sneeze as achievements to be applauded because they are signs that a life I cannot guarantee yet surges up within her from the deepest well. And yet on the eve of returning to work at a time when my influence on an organization has never been higher, I hold on to a pillow story and put off sleep to keep the morning from sneaking up on me all at once.

And yet I am that dad.

In the Movies!

August 8th, 2008

Here's Eden's first short film. More will follow, I am sure.

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Thanks to Danny for help in getting me trained to upload videos.

A Couple More Pictures

August 2nd, 2008

Day two of being parents is here, and so far we're doing well. As you can see below, Eden has quite a bit of hair. Maybe I can teach her how to twirl it properly some day.

Yesterday I was going out to bring some friends in from the waiting room and stopped by to look at Eden while she was in the nursery. There was another baby there, and his family was crowded around the window. Eden was the biggest baby born here yesterday, and the grandma looked at her called her "gorda nina," which can literally be translated "fat girl." (Actually, gorda is a term of endearment for little babies.) They didn't know I was standing there until I said, "Yeah, she's a big girl, but we sure like her." [Awkward pause.] We then had a nice short conversation and I went on to get my friends. One of the younger ladies in the party gave me a tentative congratulations as I left, and then I heard them whispering as I went down the hallway. It was pretty funny.

Okay, now what you really came here for: Pictures!

Welcome Eden Adelei!

August 1st, 2008

Born 8.1.2008
5:28pm
8 pounds 13 ounces
22 1/4 inches

Baby and mom are doing great! 15 hours of labor, 35 minutes of pushing, 1 knot in the umbilical cord, 0 complications. Praise God!

And now for the first picture!

And another!

Still Growing!

July 26th, 2008

Here's a picture of Steph from yesterday evening. Her shirt says, "I can grow people."

Monday is supposed to be the day.... We'll let you know!