Thursday, September 30, 2004
Giving In
In finally did it. I give up. Like every other red-blooded American male I see no need for professional medical care until Death is knocking on the door. It's been well over a week of this hacking cough, and maybe that's a rapping on the door. So, I've got an appointment tomorrow at 10:15 at the Jessamine County Health Center. Wish me luck.

It's been long enough now to start wearing on me emotionally. I can't remember ever being this sick before. I'm needing more sleep, which is cutting into studying time, and I'm falling just enough behind to feel the initial pangs of panic.

Softball was a welcome reprieve this evening. We won, though I didn't participate much offensively. I scored a run, but didn't pop the ball out of the infield in three tries. I did make a sweet pick-and-throw at third, but the next inning botched two in a row. I juggled the first one fourteen different ways before making an off-balance throw too late. Next pitch, same grounder I charge, tip the ball and go tumbling head over heels in the dirt. Runners score. At least I got dirty.

I wrapped up the post about my encounter Friday evening. You can now either scroll down to it or just click the link. Be forewarned, it is 1000+ words.

And Kyle has recapped his version of the events as they occurred at the Celtic Festival from Saturday.

posted by Peter at 1:45 AM
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Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Ichiro! just collected his 252nd hit. Just 5 more to the record with less than a week of the season left. I'm listening to my first M's game in over a week. Of course, they're losing.

Remind next time no intramural basketball (pair of 20 minute halves, no subs, no timeouts) when in a condition that has absorbed half a bottle of Robitussin over the last three days. The cough is still there, though less. I swear, once I'm over it, I'll have the tightest abs I've ever had. But right now, after basketball, I feel like crap.

That coupled with a general feeling of malaise and non-motivation means the summary/outline of Matthew will have to wait till tomorrow. I did title each of the chapters, so I can say that I accomplished something.

I was challenged to a tennis date. Okay, "date" isn't the right word. Neither is "challenged", either. More like I jokingly offered to be target practice, and the young lady called my bluff. This can all be explained by events that transpired on Friday. I started writing about it, but couldn't finish the post. It needs polishing. It could be good. It could be corny. I want it to be good. Really good.

Saturday was spent with the VBCC gang in Cincy for the Celtic Festival. Debi's got all the lowdown over at her site, as well many photos, including my baptism by Irish whiskey (shh, don't tell the seminary).

And while my dorm is far from "home" exactly, nobody says it ain't photogenic.

posted by Peter at 1:20 AM
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Saturday, September 25, 2004
First Encounter
"What the hell am I thinking?"

This is the thought that grips my brain as I ramble down the dorm steps. It's about 8:30. I've been working since about noon, and it's time for a break. I have my keys in one hand and a Pedro the Lion bootleg in the other. I have this habit of carrying my keys in my right hand. I just seem to forget I do have pockets for them. The question does not register at all to my feet that have set their course posthaste for the administration building. Of course, my feet never were much for thinking.

Last week I learned that the Nicholasville bowling alley isn't the greatest spot for holding group conversations. One-on-one conversations, however, work just nicely in the eclectic cacophany of booty music and clattering bowling pins. Thusly, I also learned that she started her job this evening at the switchboard in the administration office. I knew from a brief previous exchange that she was a fan of Pedro the Lion.

Surely, she would appreciate the bootleg CD, no? Surely, she could use some company at the end of her shift, no? I mean, who calls the Asbury 800-number at 9 pm on a Friday? And that administration building is a pretty spooky place at night when there's not a soul to be seen. The lobby is populated by blank-faced, staring busts and portraits on the wall that may as well have been stolen from a Scooby Doo haunted house. Then there's the mural on the wall with the Mark Twain looking guy shooting thunder bolts from his fingertips all Harry Potter style. Bottom line, it's not exactly the place I'd want to be spending my Friday night.

Still, this is not a person I know extremely well. We had exchanged a couple hellos in passing. The bowling alley exchange had been the first since a brief conversation during orientation. I am not usually this forward. Just what am I doing?

The atmosphere between mixed company is an odd beast at the seminary, to say the least. There was something unnatural about the interaction between guys and gals at my Christian undergrad school. I daresay it was unhealthy. The campus emanated this obsession with being coupled up and married. One could not cross the school grounds without knowing that was married or quickly moving in that direction. The attitude seemed to be that this would be the last place one would ever be around Christian singles. Ever. The outbreak of weddings immediately following graduation each May was ridiculous.

To be honest, I expected this same warped attitude of Christian singles at the seminary, and I was not looking forward to it. But it is different here. Still weird, but different. Still unhealthy. Immediately upon arriving on campus there are comments flying left and right about gals being desperate and guys being on the prowl. Everybody's looking for a spouse. This is great just great. These are not rumors, either. You can pick these people in crowd. It is kind of funny sometimes. Mostly not, though. More sad. One would think that the future Methodist leaders of the world have a better grapple on how to deal with their brothers and sisters in Christ and move on from the Junior High Dance Syndrome.

Maybe it's because of the disproportion of guys to gals, or of the married guys to the "seekers." Or that the ladies that are here are educated, career-minded, independent gals, while some of the guys are nursing unfulfilled expectations from their college days. Or maybe that pretty much everybody attracted to a seminary struggles with some degree of anti-socialabiltiy as their own personal El Guapo.

Anyway, everybody knows Creepy Seminary Guy. He's more a type than a specific individual. He's the guy who walks up to a crowd of mixed company and zeroes in on one lady and ignores everyone else in the group. I am serious, it happens. I was at a church function with another guy. This girl I had seen on campus, who I had thought was kind of cute, comes over to talk to us, and the first thing out of her mouth is how you have got to be wary of those weird seminary guys. What are you supposed to say to that? "Uh, yeah, we try to stay away from them, too."

So this is my stigma I am up against. Not just Pedro's own personal demons, but now there is Creepy Seminary Guy. Those are the hurdles to leap just to initiate even a friendship with the opposite sex. I can count on one hand the times I have chatted with this young lady, on maybe three fingers, in the last month. I am tracking her down at her job, cornering her where she cannot run away. I am Creepy Seminary Guy. Why am I doing this?

I cannot really tell if that is her at the desk. The hallway is too dark. It throws me off my planned witty entrance. She recognizes me first and smiles. It is not a suprised smile. But not like she expects me, either. Just very natural. As if my being there in an empty building on a Friday night should not be out of the ordinary.

We talk until her shift is up at 10. Never an awkward moment. She is in the counseling program. She went to Greeville College where she studied counseling. She is an only child. Her step-dad is a Methodist minister. She goes to the Wilmore Free Methodist Church. She digs indie music. She's in Kingdom, Church and World (but not my section). She's playing intramural tennis, and she's a bit apphrehensive about that as not enough ladies signed up, so she is paired against guys. I offer to play her sometime if it would help her self-esteem.

Smooth, I know.

I walked with her back to her dorm. I did not ask. It just seemed like a natural progression of the conversation. She seemed to genuinely enjoy the company.

I did not feel like Creepy Seminary Guy at all. Because I am not.

Rather, I walked back to my room buzzing with that feeling of not having gone wrong yet.

posted by Peter at 2:22 AM
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Friday, September 24, 2004
Point of View
Photoblogging is back in action. Here's a night shot of Johnny Dub.

Many thanks to Dave.

posted by Peter at 3:07 PM
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I can't breathe. I can't hear. I can't talk. I've protracted at least a gallon of mucous from my face today, and that's a conservative estimate. Yes, Mom, I went to Wal-Mart and picked up some Robitussin.

And speaking of Wal-Mart, lying in the parking lot at my feet was this wrinkled movie poster. I took it as a sign, and it's now hanging on my dorm wall.

posted by Peter at 2:10 AM
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How big
From The Story We Find Ourselves In by Brian McLaren:
How can we imagine a God whose power, love, whimsy, and wisdom imagined, calibrated, and created a universe like ours...? How can we comprehend such a God? After all, as you well know, we humans are little more than hairless primates, a small twig on a small branch of the tree of life, hunks of living meat with three-pound brains suspended on bone and packaged in skin, born naked and crying and afraid and often dying much the same, and in between, self-impressed beyond all reason, only on occasion slightly awake to our smallness and frailty and dignity and wonder" (24).

How's that for some perspective?

posted by Peter at 2:05 AM
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Thursday, September 23, 2004
Is this heaven?
Heaven is a baseball game that never ends.

Intramural softball rocks. Went 2-for-6 with a pair o' singles, scored a run. Forgot how to slide into the third the first time on base, overran the bag and was tagged out. Doh! Made some dazzling grabs at short, then moved to right and embarrassed myself soundly. I was set and the pop fly just sailed a foot past my glove. I blame the wet grass and my traction-less shoes. Seriously.

Ever try to read an entire book of the Bible in one sitting? I'm supposed to read Matthew as many times as I can before Tuesday. Sheesh. I'll be lucky to do it twice. I got to chapter 25 in an hour before I had to take off for the ballgame.

I led my small group today in Kingdom, Church & World. This week's topic was OT narrative. Lucky me. This is right up my alley.

One of the biblical passages we looked at was Hebrews 11, and I'd forgotten how much I love that bit. By faith... by faith... by faith... we get this litany of Sunday School action figures, and then the author pulls this on us: "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:39-40).

Hold on there, tiger. These guys haven't gotten yet what they'd hoped for. The story ain't over yet. Their story isn't over yet. All stories have a beginning, middle and end, and this is a story that it isn't yet finished. What Abel, Abraham, Isaac and Moses started is not yet complete. This Christian life we've embarked on is not hundred-yard dash. It's not a marathon. It's a relay race, and the baton passed from Noah to Joseph to Rahab has passed though the ages and now finds itself in our hands. We now find ourselves in the midst of this grand, epic story. The story of faith is now ours. And all these heroes of the faith cheer us on as they await the reward they were promised, waiting to see our part, waiting the watch those who will come after us. Their story is now our story.

By faith, Peter went to seminary and... Story's not over. Go on, give it a try: By faith [your name here]... Finish the sentence. I dare you.

And the sixty-ish African-American pastor in my small group says to me, "Son, that'll preach."

posted by Peter at 1:29 AM
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Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Late night rambling
And I wake up yesterday and my throat feels like I swallowed a lit match. As if I really needed an excuse to not got running at 6 am. So I kill the alarm and roll over. And I wake up again at 10. This is not a good thing as Monday is a full work day and I accomplished a whole 5 pages of reading over the weekend with 150 more to go and a 2-4 page paper due today on it. This whole "I'm back in school" thing just hasn't quite kicked in yet, I guess. Go figure, man. And there was a run to Wal-Mart to acquire some Chloraseptic, stuff that looks like Cherry Kool-Aid but numbs your throat for about 5 seconds before wearing completely off.

I give a shot to working outside. God, it's a gorgeous day. There's this tree I can see from my bedroom window across the street on the college campus. (My room faces N. Lexington Ave., the main drag of Wilmore, and right across the avenue is Asbury College, in no way affilliated with the seminary.) So I sit at the foot of the tree. Within five minutes, I'm covered in crawling ants. It's so bright outside I can't hardly see the screen of my laptop. And the wireless connection keeps tricking out. So much for working outside. This doesn't last long at all, and then I head to the library. After dinner, I just sat on my bed and threw open the windows (I've got them facing west and north, the only room in the dorm with two windows). The illusion of outdoors is almost there.

Anyway, the paper got written this morning, but I'm stuck in "behind mode." I've got 4 chapters to read still for my 8 am class tomorrow and it's already 2:15. That and I still can't shake the feeling of ants crawling all over me, still a day later.

My Star Wars DVD arrived today and I hate George Lucas. You know the scene at the end of Return of the Jedi where the ghosts of the three Jedis say hi to Luke? Well, Hayden Christiansen has been superimposed over the old Anakin from the original film. I'm not even Sebastian Shaw and I'm pissed. I would think there's got to be some sort of SAG regulations about that, but then Shaw's dead and George Lucas gets to do whatever he damn pleases because he's God Almight George Lucas, right?

Tonight was VBCC night, and it rocked as usual. We meditated on the opening verses of 1 John 3. What struck me especially was the exclamation point at the end of that first verse. I can't think of any other place in Scripture where that punctuation is utilized. Of course, Greek doesn't have exclamation points, but without looking it up (please pardon my slothfulness at 2:20 am), I recall the language to be quite strong indeed. How mind-blowingly awesome is it that God calls us his kids. His kids. Not prayer partners. Not co-pilots. Not employees or slaves. Not bosses or masters. Not ministers or priests.

What old man John wants his church and us to know is that God wants us to be his kids. We're family. Kids are messy, obtrusive, obstinate, fussy, boisterous, selfish, lacking in perspective, sincere, painfully honest, adorably cute (especially when they're somebody elses kids), bold, sincere, imaginative, inquisitive, involved, active, resilient, captivated by the moment.

God wants me to be his kid. Yes, that is what I am.

posted by Peter at 2:07 AM
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Quiz me
So RA sends every guy in the dorm two internet quiz thingys.

First love languages:

Touch - 11

Time - 9

Words - 5

Service - 4

Gifts - 1

Nothing I didn't already know there. And if any of you guys even attempt to give me an unexpected kiss, I will dropkick you ass. Any of you ladies, feel free to smooch away.

And then spiritual gifts:

19 - Teaching
18 - Apostle, Knowledge
17 - Faith, Shepherd
16 - Helps, Missionary
15 - Administration, Service, Voluntary Poverty
14 - Giving, Hospitality, Leadership
13 - Wisdom
12 - Exhortation
11 - Discerning of Spirits, Evangelism, Tongues
10 - Prophecy
9 - Intercession, Mercy
5 - Healing
4 - Ekballism
3 - Miracles
0 - Interpretation of Tongues

Again, most of that I knew. The "Apostle" thing is new. I entirely blame Mark Driscoll for that, though. And a four-year degree from Oral Roberts University and I score a zippo on the tongues deal. I should be ashamed of myself. Okay, not really.

posted by Peter at 1:38 AM
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We are the music makers
"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did."
--T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

This I did. Then I grew up.

That was a stupid idea.

posted by Peter at 1:34 AM
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Monday, September 20, 2004
Dogville, the Seeker and more mega
Do you like your movies extra artsy, the kind that leave you ruminating and chewing on scenes and lines days after you saw it? The kind of movies that really make you think about your life--that just make you feel something, but what you just can't put your finger on?

Check out Dogville. It's directed by Lars von Trier and stars Nicole Kidman. Talk about minimalist cinema. Okay, first of all the story is about a woman who seeks refuge from gangsters in the rural mountain village of Dogville. She has two weeks to prove her herself to the skeptical townfolk, but eventually things go horribly awry. The catch to watching this is, imagine you took a film camera and shot your local community theater's production of Our Town. The entire three-hour movie is shot on a stage with no set, save a few sparse props and the town landmarks labeled with chalk, i.e., "Tom's House" and "Elm St." All this does some wacky stuff to your perception of what everything is about. This is a movie about people and their interaction with each other. For one thing, the lack of any walls gives a constant reminder of the fish-bowl feeling of transparency in a small town.

It just has my mind spinning all sorts of places about community, acceptance, human nature, sin, grace and Incarnation. It's no accident that the name of the woman who interrupts this quaint town is Grace. Just don't stretch the allegory too far.

If watching people talk for three hours without a change of scenery just isn't your cup of tea, and you prefer stuff gettin' blowed up real good, you can disregard all of the above.


This morning I visited Quest Community Church. Unfortunately, I was about 15 minutes late. I always seem to miss the turn when I'm visiting a new church. If there was music, I missed it. When I walked in a young woman was sharing her story/testimony. There were some video clips, a solo musical number, and then the message. They're doing a series on "Burning Questions" and today's was "Can I really know God's will for my life?" It was good stuff. The guy sitting next to me was quite friendly, and he introduced me to a number of people. But it turned a bit awkward when he walked off and left me there with these strangers. He was quite excited about the church and the fact that there are so many new Christians there.

My one reservation the whole morning was the whole seeker sensitive culture of the place. Maybe I'm just a naive idealist but I think the "seeker sensitive" philisophy of church is a bunch of rubbish. I think this for a couple of reasons.

First of all, by designing programs that target specific niches of the spiritually mature, there is the inherent danger of developing a spiritual caste system within the church. The spiritually immature go to this service on this day, and the spiritually elite go to that service on that day. The idea seems to be that the church does some weird things in a service that need to be stripped out so that the uninitiated won't be all uncomfortable and, God forbid, offended.

On the contrary, what in heaven's name does the Church need to apologize for? I'm offended by a milquetoast church that bends over backwards to pander to the lowest common denominator, that foregoes it's true identity just to fit in with the "cool kids." It's the church that never graduated junior high school. Why do we feel possessed by the need to become something that we're not? As Paul says, "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone" (Romans 1:16 NIV).

Secondly, it is clear from Scripture--namely Luke chapter 15--that there is only one seeker. And that's God. No man seeks God without first being sought. We're not a church of God chasers, but a church chased after by God himself. How did we get it so backwards? It changes things drastically when we consider the unchurched-seekers-whatever-you-call-them (how about brothers and sisters in Christ who just don't know it yet?) as those chosen by God to be in the service instead of fresh bait that will bolt the second they have to endure a hymn or some piece of meaningful liturgy or sumthin' like that.

I've been in church for twenty years and I still find the Jesus of the Gospels offensive. There's no way around it. How do you sugar-coat "Take up your cross and follow me"? I believe that if the Church simply preaches the Gospel of forgiveness of sin and teaches the Scriptures, then people will flock. It is the Spirit that speaks in the hearts of the people, not the videos, the trendy music or the headache-inducing lights, and the Spirit knows the hearts of each person and speaks to them where they are.

By seeking a "seeker sensitive" community then the church is seeking a community drawn to an entertainment production, and the minute the church becomes an entertainment production that's the minute it needs to get blown to bits by the Spirit of God.

I just returned from a free concert by a popular praise and worship leader. I know I'm cranky, and it's probably just because I don't expose myself to it, but I can't distinguish between any of these modern worship leaders. They all sound the same to me. Is this really the best in musicianship and song-craftsmanship we can call "worship"?

Maybe my jaw dropped when I stepped into the host church, I think. Three escaltors lifted patrons to the moon. Maybe Babel. I don't know. A quick and dirty estimate and I figure the auditorium sits 7000, conservatively. This place dwarfs Southland. A hexagonal scoreboard looking-thingy hung from the ceiling, video screens on each side. Three more screens plastered the back wall of the semi-circle room. I asked if the place doubled as an ice hockey arena during the week. Big letters, "WORSHIP CENTER" welcome those who enter the room. All I know is that if I'm ever given the opportunity, I'd put those letters above the doors that lead out of the church building.

Call me a party-pooping literalist but a song whose only refrain is "we're gonna dance in the river" gets my nomination for Dumbest. Song. Ever.

There, I said it. Revoke my Heaven membership card if you will. I just had to get that off my chest.

posted by Peter at 1:19 AM
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Saturday, September 18, 2004
Today was spent working. Yeah, working. Roommate says, "You going to be using that thing a lot, huh?" Um, yeah.

Say, I forgot to mention yesterday that I had my first piano lesson. Just on a whim. I don't really know how it got in my head. Everybody plays guitar. Heck, I do. Sort of. I just want to be able to take the stuff I listen to and sit down on a pinaner and pluck it out. So the private lessons bring me up to a lucky 13 hours on the semester. I figure you can never have too many creative outlets. Teacher gives me a short booklet of about 7 simple songs to work out some of the 10-year-old rust and also work on hymn #127. I forget which one it is right off the top of my head, but I insisted on learning how to learn improvisational stuff.

This evening I and a couple other guys on the floor met up with a group of folks at Applebees who are youth volunteers and staff at Southland Christian Church. It was my fourth contact with Southland this week. John, Grace and I visited both their Sunday morning and evening services. Just let me say they put the "mega" in megachurch. Driving past their premises, I've heard those who refer to it as "Six Flags Over Jesus" and "Ft. God." After going out to see Hero last week, I wanted to tag it "Our Land."

I've seen shopping malls that could fit in that building. Asbury's seminary campus could fit in their parking lot alone. It's just overwhelmingly humungous. On the one hand, it struck me awfully like a rock concert. On the other, the leadership impressed me with his sincerity, and there are oodles of opportunities to serve. I was wrestling with the whole "mega" issue when the guest speaker read out of Acts 2, about the community of the early church. And then my eyes wandered a couple of verses earlier, and it hit me: the church of Jerusalem was a megachurch. They started with a community of 3000. That's no rural country parish, nor intimate house church. That's a load of people. How do you organize and serve a group like that?

There's nothing inherently evil with being a big church. Whether large or small, what matters is that the gospel is preached and Christ is lifted high. What matters was that in two services I witnessed five baby Christians get baptized, and that was exciting and inspiring. And something must be said about the experience of worship music amongst 1000 strangers, all the Body of Christ.

Last night, Ben and Jason and I checked out their ministry to post-college folks. While I didn't find the teaching all that meaty, and couldn't shake the feeling of a youth group that didn't grow up, it was refreshing to meet other non-Asbury Christians.

posted by Peter at 1:56 AM
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Two kinds
There are two kinds of people in the world:

Those who like Star Wars and those who like Star Trek.

I preordered my copy of the classic Star Wars trilogy on DVD this week.

posted by Peter at 1:53 AM
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Thursday, September 16, 2004
Greatest day of my life... almost
I thought yesterday was going to be the greatest day of my life. The laptop finally arrived. Just try to imagine my giddy ecstasy. I dare you. I had class from 8 to 11. And there's a notice in my mailbox. Strangely, however, the box turns out to be much smaller than expected. I take it back to my room. It's the mouse, WiFi finder and antivirus software. I find this all largely irrelevant without a machine. So, I go to lunch. Try again at the post office. And there she is. Big, brown box with blue "DWLL" letters across it. I race her back to my room. Shred open the box. Configure Windows and race to the library to get the wireless configured. They tell me it will take 24 hours. "24 HOURS?!!" What, are you performing open heart surgery? Gotta wait for the yeast to rise or something? Thus, I leave her at the counter, feeling what I'm certain all mothers feel just after they've given birth and the doctor whisks the kid away. If you're an experienced mother and reading this, please don't piss on my analogy. I know what I felt.

And now here I am next day. No more towers in the library (sorry no pic, Tim). It's 11:30. I'm in my room. Waiting on files to copy over from the old machine. Listening to the M's and the Angels. I should really get to bed as I get back to Ad Fontes work tomorrow.


So I'm working through Nick Hornby's How to Be Good. I know, I know... like I've got time for leisure reading. But I started it before school started and I'm determined to finish it, if only a chapter at a time. I dig Hornby's stuff (About a Boy, High Fidelity) and in particular his character portraits. That said, this has been tough reading. Not in the way that reading primary source documents of early Church history is difficult to wade through, but difficult in the sense that it strikes a personal chord that makes me fidget uncomfortably. In a nutshell, the story is told from the perspective of a midde-aged woman who hates her life, hates her marriage, asks her husband for a divorce until some new-agey spiritual conversion transforms him, which sends her reeling. It's those first chapters as she articulates her emotional crisis that Hornby's portraiture echoes the themes of my own current standing:
You see, what I really want, and what I'm getting with Stephen [Katie's young stud, one-night fling], is the opportunity to rebuild myself from scratch. David's [her bitter husband] picture of me is complete now, and I'm pretty sure neither of us likes it much; I want to rip the page out and start again on a fresh sheet, just like I used to do when I was a kid and had messed a drawing up. It doesn't even matter who the fresh sheet is, really, so it's beside the point whether I like Stephen, or whether he knows what to do with me in bed, or anything like that. I just want his rapt attention when I tell him that my favorite book is Middlemarch, and I just want that feeling, the feeling I get with him, of having not gone wrong yet.

Please, don't misunderstand: there're no one-night flings going on. It's that starting all over on a fresh sheet of paper that I feel like I'm staring down. It's the feeling of having not gone wrong yet that strikes a painful chord. Can that happen at all?

Chapel is every Tuesday and Thursday at 11. I'm trying to make it a priority as I'm quite enjoying it thus far. But today was God poking and prodding in places I'd just as soon he'd leave alone. Dr. Seamands was preaching, and as he's responsible for such titles as Wounds that Heal, I had an inkling of where this might go. Turns out, according to Isaiah 53, that Christ's suffering takes away not only all my sin, but also my my grief and sorrow:
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:3, NIV).

And in my head I'm replaying the climactic scene from Good Will Hunting between Will and Sean, only this is me and Jesus, the portfolio of my divorce spread out on the desk.

"It's not your fault."
"I know."
"It's not your fault."
Choking, "I know."
"It's not your fault."
Defensively, "I know."
"Really, it's not your fault."
"Don't fuck with me. Don't you fuck with me Jesus. Not you. Please, not you."
"It's not your fault."
And I lose it, huddled over in the pew, weeping. Seamands goes on to say that it's the wounds of Christ that heal our wounds at the cross, that the place of our greatest brokenness becomes the source of our greatest sense of spiritual authority. I really don't know what to do with this right now.

Now that the laptop's here, hopefully these blogs o' mine will get caught back up to speed now. Couldn't transfer the photo software, though, so I'll still have to figure out what to do with that.

posted by Peter at 11:18 PM
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Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Revolving doors
Gotta new roommate.

I would really get a kick out of telling you that two of my swift ninja moves sent Snoring Roommate running away, crying home to his mommy. But that would be a big, fat lie. Didn't happen. What did happen, though, was that dibs on the Presidential Suite upstairs fell to him, and I don't think he thought twice. Big ole room all to hisself.

And I slept so soundly Sunday night.

What this means, however, is that a new fella arrived this afternoon. Have only seen him in passing so far, but as long as he doesn't interrupt my sleeping patterns, I think I'll be just fine.

Oh, and Dell sends me this email the other day saying my system has been shipped. The tracking info via says it's supposed to arrive today. I check my post office box no fewer than 5 times today, in part because I have an elusive appointment with the library computer staff to have the wireless card configured to their network today.

But no dice. Now says it comes tomorrow. The little leprachauns shoveling the coal that runs this interweb thingy are mocking me.

Update on the work front is, well, none. After the incident last week of dragging my HP tower and monitor down to the library last week, the conclusion was that the library's network blocks FTP sites, as most public connections do (so I'm told). The three-week vacation hasn't been so bad. It's the three weeks without getting paid that I find mostly inconvenient.

I've slightly more to say, but it will all have to wait. It's 11 o'clock, and while it's not like some self-imposed curfew, it is the hour at which the library says I can't stay any longer.

So, I'll cross my fingers that the notebook arrives tomorrow and I can return to my usually scheduled self-delusion of control.

posted by Peter at 10:42 PM
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Monday, September 13, 2004
From Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard (1977)...
The higher Christian churches--where, if anywhere, I belong--come at God with an unwarranted air of professionalism, with authority and pomp, as though they knew what they were doing, as though people in themselves were an appropriate set of creatures to have dealings with God. I often think of the set pieces of liturgy as certain words which people have successfully addressed to God without their getting killed. In the high churches they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a strand of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it any minute. This is the beginning of wisdom.

posted by Peter at 10:49 PM
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Thursday, September 09, 2004
It's all about
Not a bad day, if I may say so myself.

I slept through the night despite the nightmarish apneic choking sounds coming from six feet away. Yep, that's my name on the front page of Fox Sports New England (at least for today, near the bottom of the "Utopia" column. Thanks, Ed). Received an email that I qualified for a scholarship of 2 grand a year, renewable each year. Took the Bible Competency Exam cold turkey and passed with a 90/100 (needed 80 to pass). Roommate took off for the weekend.

Still no work though. I lugged both my tower and monitor down to the library to download and install the software and now I'm getting some infuriating error about FTP access. Were it not for the previous mentioned events, I'd probably be ready to through something. Yeah, so I'm sitting here in a library study carrol with my computer all set up. So, I thought I'd blog while I was here. I'm finally caught up with the events of the past week, so all this is coming stream-of-conscious rather than the scribbling in the notebook and getting backed up putting it online. Not quite sure where this whole blog thing is going to go.

The whole point here is two-fold: 1) to articulate this whole seminary experience, and 2) to keep in touch with my millions of fans around the globe... my friends and family, too. So, this is for me, to figure out just why this 25-year-old divorcee is now sitting in a seminary library study carrol and for you, to stare at me through the fishbowl. It may take some time to hit some kind of stride in terms of schedule, tone, voice and all those nifty writer techniques, as well as how I want to handle the anonymity of those characters who should probably be left anonymous.

I just feel the need to journal my seminary experience. I want to be honest and true with it. I still need to wrestle with all of this "spiritual calling" stuff, and work this faith out with all the fear and trembling I can muster. I want to make it less diary-esque, less devotion-esque and more and more just my life and all that that entails. Little o' this, little o' that. This may turn a bit into a reading journal for me to react with the truck load of books I'm reading and will read. So, we'll see where this goes. I'll keep the baseball to a minimum, as I've already got the outlet for that, but everything else is fair game.

If you've not caught them yet, I've got a photoblog, P.O.V., over at My Expressions. I'm having a blast with that, but updating will have to wait until next week when the laptop comes. Then there's the blog on the Seattle Mariners I've been plugging away at for the last 18 months. Check it, yo. And that's my shameless promotion.

And don't forget that you will not be billed for comments left on the site.

posted by Peter at 8:51 PM
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Wednesday, September 08, 2004
BC 157
Dude snores. Seriously. Roommate sounds like a drooling wildebeast. Now, I've never actually heard the grunting of a drooling wildebeast, but I am wholly convinced that it would sould exactly like Roommate when the lights are down. Two nights now of fitful sleep. This is not cool. Word on the the single room is it goes to the student with the most credit hours. Definitely not cool.

I have two classes on Wednesdays: Vocation of Ministry at 8 am and Kingdom, Church and World at 2:30. This are both classes that only meet once a week, which means they last 2 hours and 45 minutes. That's brutal. And did I mention they meet in the very same classroom. So I'm in once room for 6 hours out of the day on Wednesdays. And when the second one was over, I was having a very strong sense of deja vu. They're both very similar classes. They're both the core theology/ministry classes that everybody at Asbury has to take. Vocation of Ministry seems to me to focus on the personal call of, well, the vocation of ministry. The professor's extremely soft spoken, enough so that with late students straggling in and amidst shuffling papers, he's barely audible. There's about 70 students in the class, and he called roll and had everyone introduce themselves. Somehow the theme of college football preferences came up, so I felt obliged to brag that my brother won the Heisman. "Really?!" Great reaction. I hadn't planned on bringing up the divorced card, but someone just ahead of me had, so I figured we divorcees needed to stick together. First time I've brought that up in the twenty-some-odd "story times" from the last week. It was liberating in a way. We get split up into small groups and it looks like there's going to be lots of group work in this one.

Kingdom, Church and World felt strikingly similar. But I think this one's more looking at the big, general narrative of the Bible and looking at how our own stories fit into the kingdom story. More small groups, and these feel really forced. The prof even brings up the word "intimacy," and I'm thinking these are 838th perfect strangers I've met in the last week. Now don't get me wrong: I'm all about small groups. But I'm also all about natural, authentic relationships. This is just weird.

posted by Peter at 8:35 PM
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Back to school
Isaiah 61:10
"I delight greatly in YHWH; my soul rejoices greatly in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation" (NIV).

Delight greatly. Rejoice greatly. There's something about the activity of God that triggers an extraordinary emotional response. I just need to remember that it's okay to feel, that it's okay to rejoice and delight greatly in God.

So this is the first day of class. I've got inductive Bible study of Matthew at 2:30, and it's a typical first day--syllabus, schedule and opening remarks. The professor is exceedingly friendly, approachable and available. He knows his stuff, with big seminary words that I guess is what I'm paying for, but a dry lecture on the theory of inductive bible study methodology. I make a note that the difference between bible study theory and bible study is akin to the difference between talking about sex and acting out the event. One is infinitely more preferable than the other.

Followed up right after this is Church History I at 4 o'clock. This professor is a direct contrast. He's dynamic, engaging, or maybe it's just my infatuation with the subject matter. He's got a tinge of a New England accent, and I'm later told he's from New York. And while this course includes four sizable books that need to be read, there will be no papers and just three tests that will be entirely multiple choice. I'm going to like this class.

Later in the evening I made my next church stop at Vine and Branches, a group I've found online and through Alan's weblog. Now, maybe I'm just really open-minded and naive, but finding a "house church" online didn't strike me as weird at all. At least, not until I drove up and knocked on the door and the realization finally hit me that these people are total and complete strangers. I had told a couple of guys on the floor what I was doing. They gave me this look. I said if I wasn't back by 11 or 12 to call the cops and let them know I was kidnapped by a cult.

Alan gets a bit of a kick out this when I open up a bit later. No, there was no Kool-Aid, no funny robes. Just apples and caramel, coffee, fresh bread, fellowship, Nicene Creed, some discussion of Thomas Merton and communion. This is church to me, and I'll be back.

I got to thinking later about the lack of music. I mean, I'm used to groups that have some time of worship, and by worship I mean guitar and singing. There wasn't any of this, and I found that refreshing. I think, at least for me personally, music becomes something of a formula. Praise and worship. Discussion. Prayer. And it's just that, a rote formula. But there's so much more to worship than another chorus of "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever." Our most simple and honest expression of gratitude to God is the only thing I can find that satisfies my communion with God. And sometimes a simple prayer, Creed and wine and bread is worship greater.

Relationships as "sacramental" (a comment Alan made) is the morsel I'm taking home with me to tuck away for later.

posted by Peter at 10:13 AM
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Monday, September 06, 2004
Three-day weekend
Psalm 146:8
"...YHWH lifts up those who are bowed down..."

God pays attention to those in the posture of humility--those who know without a shadow of a doubt that God is God and they are not, to those who have been beaten down, broken, bruised and are bowed by the very treacherous circumstances of life. And if God the Father upholds the cause of the opporessed, gives food to the hungry, sets prisoners free, gives sight to the blind, lifts those who are bowed down, watches over the alien and sustains the widow and fatherless--if God does all of those things, how much more should I who seek to mimic him through the grace of his Son Jesus and the power of his Spirit?

Mark 13:33, 35, 37
"Be on guard! Be alert!... Therefore keep watch... What I say to you, I say to everyone! Watch!"

The cry to pay attention comes urgently. It's my theme again: Watch. Pay attention. Be alert. Be aware. Articulate. Expect. Lose nothing. Watch every detail. Let nothing pass you by.

Computer's been ordered. Again. Should ship the 14th (so I'm told) and be here 3-5 business days after that. Yeah for library internet access. Argh.

What a lazy three-day weekend. Most of it spent with the Sheltons watching movies and football. Today we spent the afternoon at the Legends game. Home team won 6-1 as their starter Matt Albers went 7 innings, struck out 11 and allowed only a hit. Applebee's Stadium is gorgeous for the Sally League, but you pay for it--$7 for all seats save the left field bleachers, which are $4 with absolute no shade whatsoever. Somehow each and every minor league game I've attended this season (and this makes three) has been Dollar Hot Dog Day. The promotion just seems to follow me, I guess. Large advertisement under the bleachers reads "You Matter to God," sponsored by Southland Christian Church. With any luck, I'll get the info on their Thursday night young adult thing and check it out with John and Grace.

Sunday, the three of us visited Great Commission Fellowship in Wilmore as recommended by Craig. Sunday school left much to be desired, but I loved the missions emphasis. The bulletin listed upwards of 10 missionaries (including the Garrisons) that they support, and I'm under the impression they've all been cultivated through the church. The flag-waving dancers put John off, though. I think it has promise, but it is presently without a senior pastor or worship leader.

I hate church shopping. I just can't stand walking into church with my BS alert on high, my skepticism running like crazy, judging every last detail like I was scoring some critique: "I give the worship a 6, the preacher a 3, but the people were friendly and there was free coffee." It disturbs me to no end being a church critic. I can't wait to find "home."

Roommates. Ugh. This was not what I was expecting. He finally moved in today, and I managed to offend this gruff and grizzled, 43-year-old, ex-Marine, father of 3, pastor of 5 churches right off the bat as I had unwittingly claimed as my own and moved into the desk that was actually his that he had left from last semester. "You got a lot of stuff. Don't know what you're going to do with it all. Most guys don't bring this much," he says. Perhaps I really should break the news that this really is home for me. I don't have some sort of weekend retreat. Much rearranging ensued and I was given a passive-aggressive laundry list of reasons why he would rather have a room to himself (space, snoring, study habits, age difference, etc.). He informs me there's s isngle room right upstairs, but they won't give it to him as he's a commuter. I should be interested, he says. RA tells me it's in limbo and he can get back to me tomorrow. God answers prayers like these, right?

posted by Peter at 9:50 AM
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Saturday, September 04, 2004
Computer fiasco
This is a season of great anticipation. A vast unknown unfurled before me. And I will only see, taste and experience what I choose to. How do I prepare the way for the Lord? The only way I know how is to make him space, to carve out time in my day now for prayer and reading and reflection, to set a place for him, to fix my eyes upon Jesus and wait expectantly. Expectantly.

The computer fiasco is out of control. Dell canceled my laptop order, and the "customer care" agent can't tell me why. So I need to start that ordering process all over again. In the meantime, I could purchase a wireless card for my present PC, but the library can't schedule me to configure my computer for at least a week, and I need to start work on Tuesday. They recommend I use dial-up out of my room while I wait, but I learned this morning that there's an $80 setup fee and then a $30/month charge for local service, plus they also require you pick a long-distance carrier, and probably it would not be activated for at least a week. I don't need any of that crap. So I've got two days to come up with Plan C. And my most convenient access to the internet is closed until Tuesday.

Three days of orientation is finally finished and was approximately two and a half too many. All I needed was my classes and an understanding of my surroundings. But I'm in 4 classes (12 hours) Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, giving me a four-day weekend. At $330 for books, that roughly $30/credit hour. There's probably community college courses I could take for that much.

posted by Peter at 9:37 AM
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Friday, September 03, 2004
Genesis week
I'm really loving the interpretation of Psalm 51 found in The Message:
Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean,
Scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life.
Tune me into foot-tapping songs
Set these once broken bones to dancing.
Don't look too close for blemishes,
Give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me.
Shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don't throw me out with the trash,
Or fail to breathe holiness in me.

I really feel that the past week has been the beginning of a "Genesis week". Rebirth. Renewal. Sometimes I'm actually able to forget that past life of the last five years.

posted by Peter at 9:33 AM
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Thursday, September 02, 2004
You rang?
The word of the day is "calling." What is my "calling"? Am I "called" to be here (here, as in seminary)? I'm feeling more secure with the latter question than the former.

But I think my big problem comes with the terminology. The concept of God's "calling" and the idea of "I'm where God wants me to be" set me ill at ease. I sense in them means of shirking personal responsibility and initiation. They can easily become thin-veneered excuses of taking an easy way out or sitting still where it's comfortable. I get it all tangled in the "God's will" problem, I suppose. I can't believe in a predetermined plan because that discounts God's gift of free will. I have to believe that God presents us with choices at every juncture. Yet this is nothing like a multiple-choice test with only one right answer, and all the other options "missing God's will." Life is not a choose-your-own-adventure novel where only one set of circumstances leads to the happy and clean conclusion. I'd prefer to see it that life's a mess whatever choices you make along the way.

If I am to believe that God is a benevolent Father than I have to believe in a God who endows me with a great variety of potential, who does not limit me one way or another, who establishes parameters and leaves me to decide, who not only respects but celebrates my own will and desires with those options.

God provides choice.

posted by Peter at 9:26 AM
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