Friday, August 26, 2005
Why don't Bibles come with warning labels?
I'm trying to catch up on reading from past classes here before the new semester starts.

This is from Recovering Theological Hermeneutics by Jens Zimmermann:
Perhaps Spener's most serious challenge to the Christian reader is his insistence that those who do not plan to implement scriptural teaching should not even bother to open the text. The demand of the text is always for one to enter into its world, adjust one's own view to the text, and then apply the textual insight to everyday living. The reader's progressive understanding of the text is thus inseparably tied to practical application. According to Spener, God will not grant new insights to those who do not practice what they already know to be true. Those who do not implement their knowledge are not serious about sanctification, says Spener. They want merely to tickle the old Adam; they pray and search the scriptures all they want, but God will grant insight and growth only to serious readers. Those who obediently practice God's will are also those who will soon see the fruits of their application and will thus be encouraged to approach the text again with increased trust and eagerness (122).

posted by Peter at 10:06 PM
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Thursday, August 25, 2005
To the Mr. or Ms. Anonymous who placed the $100 bill in my mailbox today, thank you very much and may God richly bless you as well.

posted by Peter at 11:00 PM
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The Invader
More wisdom from Mr. Quaker:
Religion is not our concern; it is God's concern. The sooner we stop thing we are the energetic operators of religion and discover that God is at work, as the Aggressor, the Invader, the Initiator, so much the sooner do we discover that our task is to call men to be still and know, listen, hearken in quiet invitation to the subtle promptings of the Divine. Our task is to encourage others first to let go, to cease striving, to give over this fevered effort of the self-sufficient religionist trying to please an external deity. Count on God knocking on the doors of time. God is the Seeker, and not we alone (72).

posted by Peter at 1:48 AM
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Today, as part of our training, we chatted with JD, the campus chaplain. As a get-to-know-you question, JD asked what song we might include on the soundtrack of our lives. This was easy.

Several months ago, Sarah, my sister, implored me to put together a CD of my life soundtrack. I made two. So I've tried to trim it down to one, but it just ain't getting there. I've cut it down to 20 essential songs to my life story. And for this excersice it doesn't have to fit within 80 minutes.

1. "Nature Boy" by Nat King Cole
The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

2. "Like I Was" by The Prayer Chain
Still I'm standing here like I was before.

3. "Zero" by Smashing Pumpkins
Intoxicated with the madness, I'm in love with my sadness.

4. "Magazine" by Pedro the Lion
Oh, look you earned your wings. Are you an angel or a vulture?

5. "And" by Waterdeep
I start looking for just one connecting force, someone to assure that we didn't lose the war today, that the battle's General is still riding on his horse.

6. "Still Fighting It" by Ben Folds
And you're so much like me... I'm sorry

7. "Pitseleh" by Elliott Smith
The first time I saw you I knew it would never last / I'm not half what I wish I was / I'm so angry / I don't think it will ever pass.

8. "Nothingman" by Pearl Jam
She once believed in every story he had to tell / One day she stiffened, took the other side / Empty stares from each corner of a shared prison cell / One just escapes, one's left inside the well.

9. "Nothing Better" by Postal Service
I've made charts and graphs that should finally make it clear / I've prepared a lecture on why I have to leave.

10. "Smoke" by Ben Folds Five
Leaf by leaf, page by page / Throw this book away / All the sadness, all the rage / Throw this book away

11. "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley
But remember when I moved in you / And the holy dove was moving, too / And every breath we drew was Hallelujah.

12. "Hold Me Jesus" by Rich Mullins
I'd rather fight you for something I don't really want / Than to take what you give that I need.

13. "Secret of the Easy Yoke" by Pedro the Lion
Could someone please tell me the story of sinners ransomed from the fall?

14. "Harder to Believe Than Not To" by Steve Taylor
You know by now why the chosen are few / It's harder to believe than not to.

15. "The Fleecing" by Pedro the Lion
I could buy you a drink / I could tell you all about it / I could tell you why I doubt it, and why I still believe.

16. "Transatlanticism" by Death Cab for Cutie
I need you so much closer.

17. "Theologians" by Wilco
Theologians don't know nothing about my soul.

18. "The Luckiest" by Ben Folds
Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls brought me here.

19. "Nice Dream" by Radiohead
They love me like I was their brother / They protect me, listen to me.

20. "Picture of Jesus" by Ben Harper
I long to be a picture of Jesus.

posted by Peter at 12:58 AM
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Holy Obedience
From A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly:
Once having the vision, the second step to holy obedience is this: Begin where you are. Obey now. Use what little obedience you are capable of, even if it be like a grain of mustard seed. Begin where you are. Live this present moment, this present hour as you now sit in your seats, in utter, utter submission and openness toward Him. Listen outwardly to these words, but within, behind the scenes, in the deeper levels of your lives where you are all alone with God the Loving Eternal One, keep up a silent prayer, "Open thou my life. Guide my thoughts where I dare not let them go. But Thou darest. Thy will be done." Walk on the streets and chat with your friends. But every moment behind the scenes be in prayer, offering yourselves in continuous obedience. I find this internal continuous prayer life absolutely essential. It can be carried on day and night, in the thick of business, in home and school. Such prayer of submission can be so simple. It is well to use a single sentence, repeated over and overa nd over again, such as this: "Be Thou my will. Be Thou my will," or "I open all before Thee. I open all before Thee," or "See earth through heaven. See earth through heaven." This hidden prayer life can pass, in time, beyond words and phrases into mere ejacultions, "My God, my God, my Holy One, my Love," or into the adoration of the Upanishad, "O Wonderful, O Wonderful, O Wonderful." Words may cease and one stands and walks and sits and lies in wordless attitudes of adoration and submission and rejoicing and exultation and glory (33).

posted by Peter at 12:39 AM
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Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Week in Review
A quick recap of all the where's and what's of the last week:

Today began a week of Resident Advisor training here on campus in Wilmore. I'm one of eight RA's for single housing this year. We spent the morning on a low-elements ropes course in some group-building exercises. The teamwork stuff is working out quite well so far. In the afternoon we the spent some time brainstorming some thematic directions for our floors. Ben (with whom I share duties in this house) and I then spent some time sharing ideas we've been mulling over the summer.

I seem to be full of good ideas. We settled on a verse, Revelation 21:5 - "Behold, I make all things new." That's a favorite of mine. I get giddy thinking about how God makes stuff - all stuff, the past, relationships, thoughts and attitudes, the inside stuff, all stuff - new. I also tossed out ideas of praying the hours daily together as a house and also developing a community blog focusing on the 10 vows of a Vineyard monastery. It could become a community journal of our spiritual formation over the upcoming year. I look forward to articulating more of the details and making my pitch to the rest of the guys.

Met with the professor for my independent study of New Testament interpretation for the second time. Had some good conversation about what interpreting the Bible looks like specifically in community.

Last week Jackie and I drove to Tulsa. On the way, we stopped in St. Louis and spent an evening with Jessi, a former roommate of Jackie's. Jessi showed us the town, including The Loop, where while standing at the intersection waiting for the light to change, a gentleman drove by in his Jeep and extended his middle finger in our general direction. We found this to be a rather rude expression of St. Louis hospitality until we realized that Jessi was wearing her Chicago Cubs Mark Prior jersey, and wouldn't you know it, the Cubs had just beat the St. Louis Cardinals.

She took us to Vintage Vinyl, where feeling the moral imperative to support the local indie record shop I purchased the Flaming Lips' Fight Test EP. Remember to support your local indie record shop, kids. I successfully convinced Jackie to talk me out of purchasing a Jay Farrar album, but then myself convinced Jessi she needed it for her collection. We later visited the City Museum, which is a bit of a misnomer. It's not much of a museum. It's more like a McDonalds Playland on steroids. Or something out of a Tim Burton movie.

We spent about two days in Norman, OK and helped my sister Sarah movie into her new house. Time with Sarah and Jason and Kelly in Norman means only one thing: Board games.

On Tuesday we drove back to Tulsa, where Jackie got to spend extensive time with the parents, meet the grandparents and see the grand sites of Native America, including the Center of the Universe, the praying hands and the golden driller. Great fun was had by all.

Wednesday evening I met with the Staff-Parish Relations Committee of First United Methodist in Tulsa. This was the first hoop to jump through for ordination candidacy. After the interview, which included such burning questions as "Why do you want credentials?" I was approved and thus will be recommended to the charge conference that meets in November.

And I found out the day before leaving for Tulsa that I was not chosen for the "cool and neat" church job. Which is fine by me. I've a couple resumes out now for jobs on campus.

That's all for tonight.

posted by Peter at 1:10 AM
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Monday, August 22, 2005
I promise, I'm introverted
I just took a Myers-Briggs test. Says I'm an ESTJ.

This is a direct contradiction of a test I took six months that said I was an INFJ.

Now I know that pigeon-holing a personality into one of sixteen slots is a bit superficial. These two profiles are pretty different, though. But I'm willing to accept that I may be schizophrenic.

So for those of you that know me, I'd like a little feedback. Which one do you think best reflects me?

posted by Peter at 11:23 PM
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Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Quotable: Medicine of Immortality

Kyle Potter:
Sit with the Scriptures. Receive the medicine of immortality. If we could see physically what the Body of Christ does in us "spiritually," we might wonder if we should wear radiation suits.

posted by Peter at 10:22 AM
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Ink & Blood
I read about textual criticism. Can't say I'm a fan. I just sometimes it's losing the forest for the trees. In it I see the very worst of deconstruction for its own sake. It's too easy to lose, amongst all the debate over what exact words should be in the Bible, how exactly the words that are there transform us into the image of Jesus. Granted, I see the validity of the discipline. It's the card to pull on The Inerrancy Question. (Which document fragment are we deciding is without error?) I am thankful my faith is in the saving work of Jesus Christ and not in either a hierarchal institution or a book. And on that note...

I went to Ink & Blood. (Thank you for the ticket, Debi). It is a museum exhibit chronicling the story of the Bible from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the English Bible. Being the Bible geek that I am, I ate every bit up. There were 3000-year-old cuneiform tablets, Dead Sea Scroll fragments, medieval Hebrew scrolls, a mock-up Guttenburg press--just tones of stuff. A highlight for me was an illuminated (that means its in color with lots of picutes) Book of Hours dated 1415. I also find myself fascinated with the stories of John Wyclif and William Tyndale. The two provided the first translations of the Bible into English under the most clandestine circumstances. Tyndale was burned at the stake before he could complete the entire Bible. Interestingly, Tyndale chose to translate the Greek ekklesia as "congregation", rather than "church" as the later Geneva Bible and nearly all subsequent English translations would. He passionately believed that the church was defined by any assembly of believers together and not any building or structure. The exhibit is in Lexington until August 28. If you're local, you really need to see it. A full list of the artifacts on display can be found here.

I played a rousing game of capture the flag. In the end, I was huffing and wheezing like an old man. Two hours later my legs are still throbbing. I hope I can move them in the morning.

posted by Peter at 12:50 AM
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Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Will sell shirts for bandwidth

USS Mariner has gone CafePress.

Buy yourself t-shirt. If you don't, you know what you'll be getting for Christmas from me.

posted by Peter at 2:21 AM
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Good news
Tonight I ate Thai food with Cap'n Sacrament. When the good captain isn't wearing his colorful tights and Eucharistic cape, he is also known as Kyle. I walk into the restaurant and there he is with a plate of spring rolls and he's sporting a t-shirt that reads "I'm Blogging This..."

Good drunken noodles. Good conversation about life 'n' stuff.

Kyle got to be Alan's guinea pig over at Conversatio Fide, as he is the first Vine & Branches community interview there.

"Jesus transforms us together in relationship," he says. Remember that. That's good stuff.

I'm switching gears from Romans to New Testament Interpretation. I've spent much too much time this evening toying with some Photoshop and HTML, so here's a little tidbit that I've learned.

The Greek word euangellion, from which get our words "evangelism" and "evangelical", etc., at the time of the biblical writers carried a blatant political connotation absent from our current cultural context. Today we seem to have Christian-ized this word that gets translated "good news" or "gospel." Who has ever heard the word "gospel" in a secular context? It has not always been so.

This from "The Relevance of Greco-Roman Literature and Culture to New Testament Study" by Loveday C. A. Alexander (as found in Hearing the New Testament):
In the public propaganda of the empire, "good news" was associated with the emperor's birthday, adopted by decree as the basis of the civic calendar for all the cities of Asia in a decree from 9 BCE: "The birth date of our God signalled the beginning of Good News for the world because of him."* Far from expressing a craven subservience to the Empire, it may be argued, Luke's careful choice of language here is part of a political strategy that identifies Jesus as "the Superstar of superstars," in direct competition with the saviors and benefactors proclaimed by imperial propaganda (124).

No wonder Herod, and later the Emperor himself, got his panties in a twist over this Jesus and the "good news" proclaimed by his followers.

*from the Priene inscription, lines 40-41.

posted by Peter at 12:47 AM
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Saturday, August 06, 2005
Identity crisis
I was thumbing through "Self-Reliance" earlier today, looking for some inspiration for a different kind of post. This essay by Emerson never fails to grip me. I'd say it's one of the most influential pieces of literature I've ever read.

Here's what jumped out to me...
Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivatation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance brace and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses or Dante, but different from all these. Not possibly will the soul, all rich, all eloquent, with thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if you can hear what these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the same pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart, and thou shalt reproduce the Forewold again.

The context in which I'd like to apply this is the community of faith. I believe this great uniqueness is true not only for the individual but for the bodies of Christ. Every community of faith exists in a unique context, composed of unique individuals, and their design and how they fit together can not be duplicated.

"Why can't our church be like that church?" Because your community is not that community. What makes a community great is not its programming, its glitz and glamor or trendy relevance, but rather its submission to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit within its people.

Attempting to copy the strategies of another church or faith community into my own is not much different from transplanting my foot to where my liver should be. It doesn't work that way. What might prove extremely effective on your community may very well flop in mine. Every spiritual context is unique. Context is key. And no two contexts are identical. For me to covet an copy my neighbor's community is, as Emerson says, "of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession." It would not be me. It would not be my community.

This is why it is crucial, I believe, for communities of faith to write their own music, create their own liturgy, speak in their own voice. The Body of Christ has no space for copycats. In Acts 4:20, the apostle Peter as quoted saying to the Sanhedrin before whom he is on trial, "We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." And so it is with us who have experienced the amazing grace of Jesus. It is my experience and the experience of my community. To adopt the words or programs of a community in California or England or anywhere separates me from my own. I cannot grasp the lusting after the "success" of the megachurch down the street, whether it be Willow Creek, Saddleback or Southland, or even communities whose models I highly admire like Mars Hill, Norman Community and Vineyard Central, when the very same God moves and breathes and lives in my own community.

We each have our own story to tell. We each have our own story to add to the great drama that is the kindgom of God unfolding.

Every community of faith is a unique.

posted by Peter at 1:09 AM
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In the news
The professor from my June class was recently profiled in the Lexington Herald...
Keith Morrison, Dateline's correspondent, says the Lexington scholar is on the national media's short list of religious experts.

"Dr. Witherington is very well-known in these circles, and if you're doing a story about the New Testament and the life of Jesus, he's the man to talk to," Morrison said.

Found out today I got an "A-" in the Romans class. Not too shabby, I say.

posted by Peter at 1:02 AM
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Friday, August 05, 2005
Back but unsettled
Back from vacation. Spent about 5 days in New York. Two in Boston. Saw some old friends. Saw some new friends. Several late night conversations were had. Many digital pictures were taken. I saw 3 baseball games in 3 stadiums in 6 days. And somehow stumbled into Cooperstown, NY on the very day and hour of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. But just wait till I tell you how I scored the owner's seats in Fenway Park for nuthin'.

In the meantime, I wanted to share another bit about Paul that I was reading about. This is from Witherington's The Paul Quest:
Notice how we tend to misread a text like Philippians 2:12-13. Modern Western individualists have tended to see this as an exhortation to individuals to get on with earnest moral striving--but this overlooks the fact that Paul's you here is plural. Paul is saying, "Together, as a community, work out your [plural] salvation with fear and trembling." The community, not the closet, is the place where salvation is worked out, expressed, manifested in deeds of piety and charity (277).

It just makes me wonder what exactly this looks like -- this working out our salvation together in community.

At the moment, I'm feeling really unsettled. I have no job. I'm supposed to be taking an independent study course on New Testament interpretation this month, but the dates I meet with the professor are still up in the air. Partly because I'm trying to coordinate with the Methodist conference in Oklahoma to take care of some committee approval meetings for ordination. That's been a month in the works and still no details. So I'm taking things here a day at a time. It's to the point that I'm now planning the trip to Tulsa next week regardless of how the meetings get scheduled.

Had my first job interview in almost two years. I think it went well.

posted by Peter at 12:51 AM
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