Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The New Blogger Is Beating on Me

I went ahead and took the dive into the "full" New Blogger experience, which explains why the sidebar looks like an empty refrigerator and some page elements are strange or missing. Now I'm falling all over myself trying to play catch-up. Just so you know.

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Tim Keller on Church & Culture (Contextualization)

The students I'm subbing for in my History classroom are completely in-hand, which makes this a good morning for internet reading. I just scanned some Alvin Plantinga. Next up is Tim Keller. On the subjects of church planting, "missional" (gospel-incarnational) living and the relation of church and culture, Keller is unsurpassed. He's lucid, brings the Bible directly to bear on his topics, and is a master at accurately assessing society. I highly recommend Tim Keller's article on "Advancing the Gospel in the 21st Century." He deals with the question of how church should relate to surrounding culture, and I think he nails it. I especially like this paragraph.

There is no 'non-contextualized' Christianity. Jesus didn't come to earth as a generalized being--by becoming human he had to become a particular human. He was male, Jewish, working-class. If he was to be human he had to become a socially and culturally-situated person. So the minute we begin to minister we must 'incarnate', even as Jesus did. Actual Christian practices must have both a Biblical form or shape as well as a cultural form or shape. For example, the Bible clearly directs us to use music to praise God--but as soon as we choose a music to use, we enter a culture. As soon as we choose a language, as soon as we choose a vocabulary, as soon as we choose a particular level of emotional expressiveness and intensity, as soon as we choose even an illustration as an example for a sermon--we are moving toward the social context of some people and away from the social context of others.

That a church will reflect culture is inevitable. The question is, Which one? Keller goes on to talk about how to engage and serve our communities in meangingful ways. This article is worth printing out and reading slowly if you're one to think about these issues.

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Alvin Plantinga Reviews Richard Dawkins

What happens when one of the world's foremost living philosophers comments on a book that attempts to carry off a philosophical and theological treatise in searing, vitriolic language? Read Alvin Plantinga's review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and find out.

I've had a hard time taking Dawkins seriously, despite (or maybe because of) his high-brow, cage-rattling assertions that it takes guts to be an atheist and all theists are thick-headed wusses. Apparently Dawkins hasn't noticed that in the West, soft-core, "practical" atheism is par for the course. Plantinga does me the service of reading this book so I don't have to. [Full disclosure: Neglecting source documents is intellectually lazy when solid communicators are concerned, but Dawkins fully justifies a somewhat blase approach.] Excerpt from Plantinga:

Now despite the fact that this book is mainly philosophy, Dawkins is not a philosopher (he's a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class. This, combined with the arrogant, smarter-than-thou tone of the book, can be annoying.

I'm an Alvin Plantinga fan because he's both brilliant and very readable. Also, he knows when it's appropriate to take someone to the woodshed. This review is helpful.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Coffee Aesthetics 101

On the elevator ride down to the parking lot this morning, I was happy to notice that one of the two other passengers shared my appreciation for Coffee Aesthetics. She was holding a mug of steaming coffee, as was I. I gave her mug a subtle once-over--not bad. Not as flat-out gorgeous as my mug--a ceramic clay-brown glaze. But then, not many are. The important thing was that she, too, Understood.

Drinking delicious, bittersweet coffee out of a Styrofoam cup is a travesty. And using a thermos, while justifiable, fails to apprehend the full sensory experience that is available. For the real connoisseur, there is only one way. Great coffee is best sipped from a great mug--preferably one fired in a kiln with a couple different colors sworled together in a joyous embrace. As well, the mug's handle should be roomy, allowing for a full-fingered grip...

"Do you drink your coffee from mugs while you're driving?" asked the third passenger in the elevator. He was coffee-less but appreciative. "Isn't that hard? Or are you just that good?"

I'm just going down to the first floor," said the woman. The fact that she was wearing a terry cloth bath robe could have been considered a give-away.

"And I really am that good," I offered helpfully. For a moment, enthusiasm welled up, and I was on the verge of explaining Coffee Aesthetics to the inquirer. But then, we were almost on the ground level. "Actually," I said, "the key is to drink half your coffee before you start driving." I didn't explain that the other half was then intended to be enjoyed leisurely on the drive to school. Or how you can do finger exercises to develop the dexterity needed to shift gears while holding a mug.

As Socrates always tried to explain when he discussed coffee with his pupils: The most important truths have to be internalized gradually, absorbed. You ask a question, I answer, then give my own query. We dialogue--the subject deserves it. Understanding comes in time. As with, say, Greek or Barthian theology, you can't rush an education in Coffee Aesthetics. I, of course, will do what I can to help you on your way.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

The Gospel: Better News Than You Know

God is infinitely great. He made the universe and all the stars with a flick of his wrist. Therefore let's recognize his power with a round of extra-energetic clapping.

And, since he saved us from eternal death in a fiery hell, let's each put an extra dollar in the offering today. Thank you, Jesus! Oh, thank you. It's because of you that we're alive to meet today and enjoy these tasty low-fat lattes. The gospel? Of course it's good news. That's why I wear this "Jesus is my homeboy" T-shirt. The "unsearchable richness of Christ?" [Ephesians 3:8] That sounds overly complicated and intellectual, maybe kind of mystical--or, worse yet,
Emergent. Let's stick to what we know. And now for another chorus of "Awesome God!" (We have CDs in back so you can also worship at home.)


A truncated version of the gospel sees Jesus as a door only: a door that leads to a stationary Christian existence where the business of spirituality is to discover what else Jesus can do for me. The real gospel, on the other hand, is a room you enter "that you may become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). And as even a grade-school Physics education can tell you, tapping an infinite divine nature is an eternal pastime.

But wait! I thought the gospel had already served its purpose. It was cool at first. Jesus died on the cross - check. I assimilated that info and the door to heaven swung open. I walked through and took a seat in the waiting room... Now you're telling me the picture I've had in my head has been wrong all along. Great, this will probably mean some extra Sunday morning education classes. Because I think you're telling me that the gospel opened on something more like Narnia, less like a lounge. Do you just make this stuff up or what?

I think you're telling me that the original movie is still playing. The old characters are still walking around this world-set. Sin, that ugly old sadist, still alive? Me--now on Christ's side--still part of the plot? (Well, I assumed I would be there, of course.) Jesus by my side, interrogating me, humbling me, training me, changing me, sending me on these missions to infiltrate the darkness...

It's like the whole original cast is back. And now the walls of this waiting room are melting like the Matrix. It was never a waiting room at all.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Find That Blogger Hack

I've been dragging my feet about getting this blog totally converted to the New Blogger platform, mostly because it means I'll have to rebuild my template from the ground up and add all my hacks and modifications back in. This is the kind of task that requires the kind of wherewithal that most people don't possess unless they've just received a big raise or KU has just won the NCAA championship. Definitely not the kind of thing you can look in the eye on Monday morning.

However, it's just possible that I've found the tool that will help me get my template re-hacked, re-customized, and up and running. What is this miracle tool? None other than the Blogger Hack Search Engine, powered by Google. Ramani explains the rationale behind this project here. And here is the Hack Search Engine itself. This is just beautiful. No more shuffling through bookmarked pages and irrelevant search results, looking for "that one hack" that caught my eye two months ago.

I'm passing this on to my readers as a public service. Go take a look, and by all means, post the Blogger Hack Search Engine to your account for later use. This is a tool you won't want to lose. All right, tech update complete.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Go Jayhawks, Baby (Weekend Photo)

Aidan is being spoiled by his frequent Weekend Photo appearances, but it looks like the trend will continue for a little while longer. On his last clandestine trip to downtown Westport, Aidan came back with this over-sized KU T-shirt. He put it on and started parading around the apartment, and we couldn't help but forgive him for stealing the credit card (again). The kid has such darned good taste.

Posted by Picasa

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I Am a Substitute Teacher but I Am Not a Commodity

I walk through the "teachers' lounge," which is more like a "teachers' really long closet with some tables and a coffee machine." The coffee machine is inexplicably nice. It uses swiss K-cups and creates hot cups of coffee to the tune of "Ethiopian," "Chocolate Macadamia Nut" and "Columbian" - for just 25 cents. Someone in upper management clearly had their priorities straight: Drab room, uncomfortable furniture, first-class coffee machine. Push-button joe has never been better.

Against the wall, I recognize a "fellow" sub cozied up with a couple of Real Teachers. However, he is betraying his calling as a substitute through shameless obsequiousness. At the moment, he is regaling the Real Teachers with a story of a dog-sitting assignment gone awry: "I was watching this guy's Boxer, a huge dog, who was real pleasant until I took him home. Then he got mean instantly. The neighbor was standing there with me, and the dog jumped up and bit off his nose..."

I am listening in because one of the Real Teachers is Coach Jim Hinrich, father of former Jayhawk great and current Bull's superstar Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich, sr., responds with a couple of appreciative grunts. He is, in fact, culpable for this story because he was just explaining that he'd be flying out to Chicago later today to watch Kirk's dogs. Two of 'em. You guessed it: Boxers. At the moment, Hinrich is probably thinking, I was just mentioning a weekend visit to see my son. Is this story over yet? Darn.

I leave the ladder-climbing sub to his power play and head back to my class room, Macadamia Nut coffee in hand. I am not a commodity. I'm in this profession for the students and the cash and the weird stories. But at least my sometimes-shameless colleagues contribute a few of the the latter. Out.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Has the World Changed?

I'm pretty sure that weather conversation gets a bad rap. We're told that we bring up the rain or the recent heat wave because we need a shelf to put our small talk on. But referring to a universally observable phenomenon has deeper claims to our sympathy than that.

And the weather is not merely an interesting event about which to comment or speculate--like, say, the stock market or bracketology. It's an experience that subsumes us, picks us up and sweeps us along. We don't just notice the rain--we're dampened. We don't just observe the rising temperature--our spirits rise with it.

We feel as if the world, in some mysterious way, has changed for the better or worse, along with the skies. And at heart, the metamorphosis of this earth is something that concerns each of us deeply. We're waiting for the last great change, when the sky will melt away in an instant to reveal a better world. Creation is eager to arrive and maybe we sense it. Each small feint toward the last day has us looking at the sky, checking our watches, clearing our throats.

Is this the day the world changes for good?

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why Do Men Hate Church?

It's a question with a lot of cultural truth behind it, and radio host Rodney Olsen is trying to pin down a few answers. This is something I've thought about, and you probably have too - unless you decorate with fake flowers, prefer green tea over coffee, and have no desire to actually accomplish something for Jesus. Go weigh in.

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The Best Story, the True Myth

Every story that has inner beauty,
That strikes a note and holds it
In our hearts and minds,
Is an echo of the one Story—
Wild and frightening and wonderful.
More wild than armies clashing
On a muddy field,
More frightening than night falling
On a silent forest,
More wonderful than sky rescue
On an eagle’s wings.
This is the story we live in.

But we’re pulled away
By this so-called “reality”
Where accidents occur on the freeway
And loans default and people die
While no one watches.
We turn from the True Myth
To the Truly Mundane.

Every day you choose
Your place of residence,
A cold, bare apartment
Where light trickles away
And you awake alone
Or a bright country
Where astonishment waits,
Where you are loved
And known by name.

Every day you choose
The gospel or yourself.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

C.S. Lewis & Evangelism

Dr. Mark DeVine has an excellent post up regarding C.S. Lewis' approach to sharing the Christian gospel:

No former student reports hearing a single evangelistic proselytizing word from C.S. Lewis during a tutoring session. J.I. Packer once had the privilege of attending a Lewis lecture. “There was no clue that the man might be a Christian” Packer reports...

[Lyle] Dorsett, during decades of worldwide travel and lecturing on Lewis always asked his audiences to raise their hands if Lewis was instrumental in bringing them to faith and/or nurturing them in the faith. It never fails. Many hands go up...

To know Christ is to want Him known. Clearly, Lewis’ selective silences did not hinder his outstripping of many a Bible thumbing collar-and-back-into-a-corner style evangelist in terms of effectiveness.

The apparent dichotomy in Lewis' life raises some fascinating questions. I highly encourage you to go read the post and think about the issues raised re: the gospel.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Christian Spirituality Is--

[An Attempt to Further Explain the Spirituality Behind this Blog]

Christian Spirituality is 2000 years old, and classic, but it dresses for the 21st century.

Christian Spirituality is driven by biblical truth and narrative in pursuit of the Jesus revealed in the gospels.

Christian Spirituality aims for the fusion of intuition and rationality, of heart and mind, of felt needs and nonnegotiable theology.

Christian Spirituality likes all kinds of people and enjoys good conversations, but knows that silence and solitude with Jesus fuel the inner life.

Christian Spirituality likes Jesus even more than “love” and “peace,” the alleged benefits of following him, and would like to point out that without Jesus there is no real Free Love and no true Peace Corps.

Christian Spirituality is primarily an off-line pursuit, although it’s more of a lifestyle than a pursuit.

Christian Spirituality is sensitive to cultural currents but indifferent to political pressure.

Christian Spirituality demands high fidelity where God’s revelation is blunt, but is OK with some noise in areas of doctrinal vagueness (where the Bible is liberal, so should we be).

Christian Spirituality, unlike Oprah Spirituality, has edges, makes distinctions, and is willing to fight.

Christian Spirituality knows that life on earth is hard, and obeying God is often complicated, but that’s no reason not to throw a party.

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Aidan & Lindsay (Weekend Photo)

I took this picture in our old apartment, a week or so before we moved. It's pretty clear who thinks he is calling the shots. Of course, his mother and I have ideas of our own. The fact that Aidan now has his own room (containment!) represents a strategic step forward in our plan for son-subordination. True, it's not world-domination or anything, but these days we're all about achievable goals...

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Being God’s Little Child

Lindsay is a cuddler, Aidan is not, and I am bipartisan. But things have been shaken up recently. The flu rushed through our family like rush hour in Albuquerque, leaving us hot, exhausted, and congested—and Aidan started wanting hugs.

He’ll sit in my arms, put his arms around my neck, and lean against my shoulder wearily. He wants to fall asleep on my lap. Suddenly, Mr. Hardnosed Baby is starving for physical affection. Amazing what a little debilitating illness can do to one’s character.

Do I detect a spiritual parallel here? I certainly do. Sometimes it takes a stroke of “bad luck” to bring us crawling over to tug on God’s ankle. Life has to level us before we act like the children we are.

We think these setbacks are tragic, and perhaps they are. But God’s feelings must be mixed, as he mourns our pain, but smiles at our sudden realization that maybe we need him after all.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

The Foundation for Spiritual Healing

Maintaining the illusion that you are a fundamentally well-balanced and relationally sound individual requires one of two things: 1) A rigorous commitment to isolation with the occasionally well-managed public appearance "when you are ready." 2) Or a presenting self that hovers at a safe level, "chipper," "interested," and kiddie-pool shallow. Politicians are not the only ones who need to air brush their images.

But isn't this precisely the kind of soft-core duplicity that Christ calls us to walk away from? None of us are really OK--and that itself is OK, for now, if we recognize it.

This was the first point that Jesus came to make. You won't ever be whole until you admit that you've been fractured. After that, your chances for healthiness get progressively better.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

How to Make Great Coffee

The Grinder, the Machine, and Everything Else You Ever Wanted to Know about the Liquid Grace of God

Everyone is sick here. Not in the sense that we're all kinds of weird (although that could be argued) but in the sense that we're feverish, achy, and congested. Aidan has even stopped his usual practice of doing pull-ups on the top rail of his crib. Morale is suffering, and at times like this, it seems best to turn to familiar, comforting things.

Last week, Dustin thoughtfully scanned my razor-sharp treatment of the query, "Why is Coffee a Sin Against God?" Then he responded in a rather Socratic manner:

If coffee is a sin, then call me the king of all sinners!!!! Ariel, being the coffee connoisseur that you are, I have a question for you. I am in the market for an affordable, reliable coffee grinder. I have been told that "burr grinders" are the best, but don't know which model to buy. I was curious to see if you might have a suggestion. Also, I would be interested to know how you go about brewing your best pot of coffee. Do you use paper filters? A typical coffee maker? etc, etc, etc. Maybe this might be a good post for the near, near future :)

I promised to give these questions my full attention, and now, suffering from a slowed-down and stuffy view of life, it is to these vital, caffeinated issues we now turn. Read carefully. The truth I am about to divulge can and probably will change your life.

Buying a coffee bean grinder
Back in the day, Lindsay was shocked and mildly outraged, when I insisted on using some of our wedding money to purchase a Krups coffee bean grinder. Of course, this was over five years ago, and Lindsay didn't yet comprehend, firstly, the role that coffee plays in a happy, well-balanced husband. Secondly, she didn't understand that it is imperative that every real coffee lover grind his own beans. Thirdly, she didn't know that Krups is a brand that can be depended upon for efficient and durable design. Today, I'm still using the same Krups grinder I bought during those first, formative days of our honeymoon. Looking for a recommendation? Check this Krups burr grinder with a sleek metallic finish.

Making great coffee
I have experimented pretty widely on this front. I've used a French European Press machine, as well as a stove-top espresso maker, and while I like the novelty of these (and other) more involved approaches, I've found that using a quality coffee maker has been my best bet for consistently good coffee with lots of the antioxidants that people rave about. I use a paper filter, clean, cold water, and a Cuisinart coffee maker which has solid features (heat setting, timer function, 12-cup capacity for guests) that I frequently use. Oh yeah, and a great chrome finish. (Have I mentioned I like metallic coffee accessories?) Add quality beans and you won't be disappointed.

Storing Coffee Beans
I may as well say something about the ongoing, passionate debate about the best way to store your coffee beans. (What, you're not aware of this controversy? Where have you been?) Various factions will argue that beans should be stored a) in the freezer, b) in the fridge, or, c) in "natural air," e.g. the cupboard. So who's right?

First off, the freezer is out. Don't do it - because you'll end up paralyzing the good coffee oils that give the brew its full flavor and aroma. Beyond that absolute law, I'm pretty middle of the road. If I have a providentially large supply of coffee beans (as sometimes happens around my birthday and Christmas) I'll put the mother lode in the fridge and put the "immediate use" beans in an airtight jar on the counter. Mild refrigeration can't hurt beans you're not going to use immediately. But taking beans right out of the cool air and grinding them will result in some flavor loss. For best results, your coffee beans should be at room temperature - but not stale from long, unprotected storage. If you can devise an elaborate, personalized storage system to get this done, more power to you.

Final Coffee Notes
Hard to know what else to say in a coffee post of limited scope. Since espresso/cappuccino makers are very closely related to coffee makers, I'll give Krups some more backup: My bro Johnny got us a Krups cappuccino maker for our wedding that only lately has shown some signs of wear. As you might expect, I'm eying another Krups model...yeah, one with a nice chrome exterior. We'll see.

Parting advice? Once you've started brewing consistently good coffee, started sharing it with friends and talking about it, you may find yourself reexamining your drinking habits. Specifically: Doesn't my coffee deserve a better home than this chipped Martha Stewart mug? Drinking quality joe out of ugly, cracked mugs or (shudder) Styrofoam becomes virtually unthinkable. Do yourself a favor and acquire a few sturdy ceramic mugs, ideally ones that look like they came from the set of the Lord of the Rings movies. At this point, you've earned it. Your mugs will testify to the fact that coffee is a serious and beautiful element in life, one you do not take lightly.

Further questions, comments? Put 'em to me. Undoubtedly, after I've had a cup or two, I will answer.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Character Formation: Living Toward Who You Are

Walking through life
One thing I’ve been noticing recently is that the stakes are high in this developmental game we play. We are becoming who we are—and will be. These things we are saying and doing are setting in. These patterns of thought are taking hold.

We have a tendency to look at the other guy and say, “He’s unusual. Have you noticed her weird habit of…?” And we fail to notice that we are becoming just such a person, one with self-inflicted blind spots, unenviable traits, which if we could see them fully grown a decade from now, we would wince at—but seeing now, we merely wink at. The “Yeah, buts” of today become the “Are you kidding mes?” of tomorrow. Rough edges become ingrown weaknesses.

We are becoming people who may be found crippled by those around us, never knowing it. Don’t miss this fact: Who you are being now, more or less, is who you will be. Be careful of who you are cavalierly becoming. Once cast, your personality will harden. This game is for keeps. Sanctification is your only hope. Let Christ change you now.

There is no going back, at least not humanly. Character marches inexorably on while you are picking and choosing:
Should I show up today? Do I really want to talk to her? What’s to prevent me from indulging, just this once? You think you’re just experimenting with expedience. In reality, yourself is quietly taking shape.

We all think that one day the clouds that complicate our lives will clear, we’ll walk out on the stage, free from stupid, mitigating circumstances, and everyone will see us "for who we really are." Guess what? You’re on the stage now. You are who you live like.

Pray for Christ to intervene and struggle to be vulnerable to his Spirit-work. Be open and obedient. People don’t change much, and if Christ doesn’t change you today, when will he ever? Take stock of where your default living is leading you.

Your life is on a trajectory, although you don’t see it yet. Pray that you will, that you will see it in time. If you never see it, that will be the tragedy. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” Each morning we wake up and must decide what kind of immortals we want to be.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Aidan Gets Theology Books (Weekend Photo)

Of course, I returned from this week's Desiring God conference with about 20 pounds of new books deftly concealed in my duffle bag. (Good thing I left that extra pair of socks at home.)

Acquiring a stack of low cost, high quality books at the conference has become a yearly tradition. But
this time, there was a new wrinkle in the usual plan. During my last trip to the bookstore, after the last session, it struck me: I'm buying for an additional theologian now!

It was an exciting moment of realization.

When I returned home, I happily unpacked my books and Aidan began exploring his new tomes. He was excited. Kid digs theology.

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Screwtape Letters Becomes Movie

When martin Martin Luther isn't lambasting semi-Pelagians or eating lunch with a large tankard of beer at his elbow, he is keeping his ear to the ground for the latest movie news. Therefore, it's no surprise that Herr Luther broke the news (to me, anyway) that C.S. Lewis's masterpiece, The Screwtape Letters, will be coming to the big screen. Luther comments:

Yes: First it was The Chronicles of Narnia. Now The Screwtape Letters—C.S. Lewis' often-imitated but never equalled epistolary masterpiece—is coming to a theater near you at some point in the not-too-distant future, God willing...

I am happy to know that Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis' stepson, will be one of the producers of the film, and hopefully will keep the production true to the vision of the finest Christian apologist of the twentieth century (even though not a Lutheran!).
This sounds...intriguing, if not altogether promising. As you probably know, The Screwtape Letters are just what they sound like: a series of letters...written by a couple of witty-but-evil demons as they try to dominate a human soul. (OK, maybe you couldn't have guessed the latter part from the title.)

Needless to say, this is a case where
reading the book first is really imperative. Hollywood will have to make-do considerably in order to translate Lewis's fiendishly brilliant letters into "a movie" as we typically think of one. Devilish fisticuffs, anyone?

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Evading the Flu Bug

You can imagine how I felt when I woke up this morning to find an incredibly ugly and cantankerous flu bug looking down at me. I assessed the situation instantly: escape would be difficult, requiring Jack Bauerish powers of improvisation, but maybe, just maybe, possible.

The flu bug, which looked more like a deformed Veggie Tales character with a massively swollen and misshapen body, cast a triumphant glance toward Lindsay. My heart sank. It was too late to save my wife from this creature, but perhaps I could save myself..?

I ran from the room, evading the flu bug with my superior foot speed. But for how long? Only time will tell.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Not-So-Random Book from My Shelf

Or: Literary Lucky-Dipping--with Precision

I arrived back from Minneapolis yesterday to discover that it was colder here in Kansas City, that Lindsay and Aidan were sick with the flu, and that crafty Ched of Says Simpleton had tagged me for a round of literary lucky dipping. Good thing that one of these circumstances was, well, a good thing. I accept Ched's invitation to chicanery with a vengeance.

Here is how you partake in a round of Literary Lucky-Dipping:

1) Skillfully grab the book closest to you.
Done. My skill in such tasks is unparalleled, unless you count my skill in shooting the fall-away J or brewing the perfect cup of coffee.

2) Quickly open to page 123, go down to the fourth sentence.
Fete accompli.

3) Post the text of the following three sentences.
If I must (not having read this part of the book yet):

And thence, I confess, it does follow that if our thinking is ever true, then the metaphors by which we think must have been good metaphors. It does follow that...if there is not, in fact, a kind of psycho-physical parallelism (or more) in the universe then all our thinking is nonsensical. The life of the imagination is lower than the life of the spirit, but the former still retains the shape of the latter, the reality it reflects.

4) Name the author and book title.
This is from the brilliant pseudo-biography of C.S. Lewis, Branches to Heaven, by James T. Como. (No Freudian revelations here, and I'm kind of disappointed.) The above quotation is from, who else, Lewis himself. If you want to know more about C.S. Lewis, or think you have him "figured out," by all means read this book. It's exceptional.

My literary lucky dip is complete, and we have learned something, haven't we? I like C.S. Lewis, and, perhaps, metaphors. This is a startling bit of self-revelation.

5) Tag an indefinite number of people to do the same (so, it could be '0').
I shall tag the following:
John B.

As always, participation is voluntary, but Aidan may have some harsh words for you if you pass up on a chance to enjoy his favorite pastime, literary lucky ripping dipping. I'm limiting myself to six tagees for time's sake, but if anyone else wants to take on this Lit challenge (and who wouldn't?), link up in the comments.

What will your books reveal about you?

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

McDonald's Coffee Slaps Starbucks

I can hardly believe this. But if it's true, the days of paying $1.61 for a "venti" (small) coffee at Starbucks may be over.

"We compared the rivals with Starbucks, all in basic black -- no flavors, milk, or sugar -- and you know what? McDonald's beat the rest,'' Consumer Reports said in its March issue.

Are you serious?!? If I can do so without injuring my dignity too deeply, I may have to argue for a McDonald's stop on the way to Minneapolis.

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Desiring God Conference Coming Up

Tomorrow morning I'll be leaving for Minneapolis, MN to attend the Desiring God Pastors' Conference. This event seems to take place at a strategic time each year. I've been able to attend twice in the past, and God likes to use these times to refresh me and send me home with my batteries charged. The speakers, the theology, the conversations, and the bookstore are excellent. So I'll be gone until Wednesday, looking for spiritual inspiration and renewal. Not that this counts as an "emergency" or anything.

Me: I'll be out of town on Tuesday, and I was wondering if I'd be able to make up the quiz I'll miss.
One of my professors [with narrowed eyes]: Well, why will you be gone?
Me: I'm going to the Desiring God Pastors' Conference that John Piper hosts.
My professor: Well, this isn't an emergency. No one in the family has died or anything.
Me: That's true. It's just been on the calendar for awhile.
My professor: I only let students make up quizzes in the event of an emergency.
Me: Mmm.

Life is full of irony. But if attending this pastors' conference means I have to take it on the chin from my seminary prof, I say bring it. I'm trusting that the next several days will pay dividends. Back in a few.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Aidan As We Remember Him (Weekend Photo)

Aidan Asleep
As we remember him. Not as he is - attacking the DSL cord, shredding the Sports page, restyling our hair, climbing the step stool, bouncing up and down and talking ridiculous smack.

Sometimes sanity requires a glance back to the last (brief) nap.

Have I mentioned that this kid is crazy?

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Read N.T. Wright NOW, Says Gheorghita

My privileged status as "extra special student" at MBTS gives me inside access to all my favorite professors. (Not really.) I frequently hang with the profs when they come to me asking my advice on the latest cultural trends and how to relate the the younger generation. (Don't believe me.) Of course, after letting them pay for my coffee, I ask a few questions of my own. (Pure falsehood.) Check this sweet sound byte I got from Dr. Radu Gheorghita when we recently grabbed lattes. (Lies! Lies!)

Actually, I'm doing some writing on the side for The Midwesterner, the school mag (which currently has no online presence) and I asked Dr. Gheorghita's permission to blog some slices of our interview which didn't make the final cut. I particularly was impressed with what he had to say about his "favorite books and authors." Enjoy:

My favorite author at this time is N.T. Wright, a New Testament scholar and theologian, the current Anglican Bishop of Durham. He is the theologian that comes closest to what I consider to be a phenomenon in the area of New Testament studies. A biblical theologian par excellence, with the rigor of a master in the research of primary sources, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Christian Church and beliefs, and possessing equally an incredible power of synthesis of the essences of the Christian faith and a profound discernment of the complex reality in which we live, Bishop Wright will certainly be considered one of the most important theologians of his time.

His contribution to our understanding of Jesus, Paul and the message of NT in general, will be remembered as one of the key segments in the history of NT interpretation and theology. I had the chance to hear him read several of his papers and I was fascinated not only by his charisma but also by his ability to rephrase in the most relevant and shocking terms the message of the New Testament for today.

In everything that he had written so far, whether in scholarly monographs or popular titles, from the historical person of Jesus to the authority of the Scriptures, he gives the reader the chance to stand before a fresh restatement of true Christian beliefs. I have learned from him again and again that the message of Jesus and of the apostles has an incredibly penetrating and restorative force in confronting both the individual and humanity.

Even more, it was very humbling to conclude that whenever I don’t seem to make people interested in the message of the New Testament, the culprit is not the message itself, but rather my inability as a messenger to rise to the true value of the message. So when I lecture on Romans, and my students find it hard to not fall asleep, the fault is not with them or with the message. It is with me.

Frankly, these paragraphs could stand alone as an editorial or book review. But then, phenomenal commentary from Dr. Gheorghita is all in a day's work. The upshot: In view of Gheorghita's straight-up brilliance and self-effacing humility, which I very much appreciate, this recommendation is virtually irresistible. Time to grab some N.T. Wright.

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Free Music Today

This post will have a limited shelf life - about 11 hours left as I type, to be exact. I've recently discovered MyFreeMusicFriday. com, a site which does pretty much what you would expect it to: serve up free tracks from up and coming artists who are Christians. Every Friday.

The current tracks are from Sara Groves, Jake Smith and Shaun Groves (no relation to Sara). You can grab the MP3 files instantly (nice for easy absorption into your iPod). So what are you waiting for?

Consolation prize: If you arrive at this post too late to grab the above tracks, don't break down into uncontrolled weeping. Simply go over to the site and sign up for the weekly email so you won't lose out next time. Don't get sad, get even.

This public service announcement comes courtesy of this blog's big heart. BitterSweetLife loves its readers and thinks everyone should discover good, new music.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Your Love Poetry Stinks

Written any good love poetry lately?

Anthony Esolen of Touchstone Mag (a recent, and very rewarding discovery) has his doubts. I do too. You think what you wrote was good, just because your special someone bought it? HA! To think that you had the nerve to call that mushy smack "love poetry!" Read this and weep.

Assuming that you are not a shade, and enjoy what we call "popular culture" in the 21st century, you probably don't have what it takes. All the more reason to cram Shakespeare. Who knows, with Feb. 14 coming up, you could get lucky. ;)

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Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife