Saturday, December 31, 2005

And now, 2006

Originally uploaded by AlmaZ.

As the Year Comes to a Close...

... I want to wish all readers of :: What Next? :: a very Happy New Year.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should auld acquaintaince be forgot
And auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

And surely you'll be your pint stowp
And surely I'll be mine,
And we'll drink a richt guid willy waught
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run aboot the braes
And pu'd the gowans fine,
But we've wandered monie a wearie fit'
Since auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine
But seas a'tween us braid hae roared
Since auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

And here's a hand my trusty fere
And gie's a hand o' thine
And we'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

Monday, December 26, 2005

New Neighborhood Hangout

Finally, there is a coffee shop within walking distance of my parent's home in Salt Lake City!

Highland Perk is located at 1588 East Stratford Avenue, and sits amidst a tiny shopping area that's been around since before I was born. Shops have come and gone here, but I suspect that this one is a keeper. Barbara the barista provided me with excellent service. Highland Perk also features a nice selection of pastries and other drinks. Highly recommended! Phone: (801) 466-PERK.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, whose nativity we celebrate today.

Enjoy this photo of my father reading the funnies in today's Salt Lake Tribune. The hole is not the result of anything we did - the paper came that way. Christmas kudos to the Tribune for their excellent quality control.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Seen in the seminary parking lot. A fun image on multiple levels.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Here I am with my newly painted Christmas ornament for the school tree.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Take One Guinness And Call Me In The Morning

I need one of these right now. I'm in the midst of writing two big papers, and I also have to study for a comprehensive final for our World Religions class. Blogging has been sparse for weeks now, I know. Thanks to those of you who keep checking in. I appreciate your readership!
Originally uploaded by Paul Watson.

Monday, October 31, 2005


Today was the day, way back in 1517, that Martin Luther posted his "95 Theses" at the door of the church in Wittenburg. The Diet of Worms followed soon thereafter - another key inflection point in the history of Christian faith.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Gender Gaps

I haven't posted here for way too long. I'll dive back in with a tidbit from Ms. Christine Rosen, who has written an insightful article for the Taste page of the Wall Street Journal:
Interestingly, Mr. Murrow notes that, among the major Christian denominations, it is the mainline churches that suffer the largest gender gaps in church attendance. These churches, still pilloried by feminists for their patriarchal pretensions, have in fact become spiritual sorority houses. It is the more conservative denominations, such as the Southern Baptists, that have the most even ratios. In these more traditional churches, many of which do not have female clergy, parishioners hear less about cooperation and feel-good spirituality and more about spiritual rigor and the competition to win souls. Churches that embrace male leadership, including the Roman Catholic Church, remain the largest in the country, and the Mormon Church, which also does not have female clergy, is the fastest-growing.
Very interesting. I was recently advised by a seminary professor to be sure to have a vibrant ministry to the men of whatever congregation I might one day lead.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Today, for a variety of reasons, I was reminded that gratitude and glorification should be our primary dispositions toward God, as so concisely stated the Shorter Catechism:
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Hallelujah! Amen.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Jesus Seminar - A Critique

Mark D. Roberts, a Presbyterian (USA) Pastor in Irvine, CA, has created a great series entitled "Unmasking the Jesus Seminar." Some quottage:
Robert Funk managed to convince the mainstream media that he and his fellows were discovering once and for all what Jesus really said and did. For several years Funk was omnipresent in newspapers and on television programs, assuring us that Jesus never really said most of what is attributed to him in the gospels, and that he didn't rise from the dead, and that orthodox Christianity is completely wrong in almost everything it believes about Jesus. Funk explained all of this soberly, allowing the public to believe that the Jesus Seminar was a theologically-neutral effort of well-meaning scholars to discover the truth about Jesus. By perpetuating this image, quite in contrast to his more honest remarks in meetings of the Jesus Seminar, Funk was less than fully candid. But the secular media, predictably enough, swallowed Funk's bait, hook, line, and sinker. For years we saw stories about how the Jesus Seminar concluded that Jesus didn't say much of what is attributed to him in the gospels, and that He didn't actually rise from the dead. (Gasp! What a surprised conclusion!)
The permalink to the series can be found here. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 02, 2005


** This post is bumped to the top of the page **

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has established a response page on behalf of those who need relief as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Please give as you can. Thanks to all who have already given.

Glenn Reynolds is maintaining a long list of other aid organizations.

As usual, please be careful if you decide to give online. There are some unsavory folks out there who may try to scam good-hearted people with fraudulent donation scams.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Intense War Reporting from Iraq

Michael Yon has been all over the blogosphere lately with his amazing first-hand accounts of U.S. military operations in Iraq. I just read Yon's Gates of Fire entry, and it's astonishing. Also astonishing is the fact that you cannot read stuff like this in any newspaper that I'm aware of.

Hugh Hewitt interviewed Yon via satellite phone. Radioblogger has the transcript here.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Life Is Good


Yellows and blacks form the dusk
Silhouettes line my eye with visions
of dark and light.
I see them twice, and twice am seen by
the wandering eye bulbs of those
shadows following and leading me.

Haunting rose-lined cotton fills my
headlined blue lake sky.
-Composed 8/23/2000

Life Is Good
Originally uploaded by Fintan.

Back in the Saddle Again

I've been away from the blog since Grandma passed. I'm back now. More bloggy goodness is forthcoming.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

In Memoriam

Grandma passed into her eternal reward in the early hours of the morning.
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him." - Lamentations 3:19-24

I miss you already grandma. Go with God.

Friday, July 29, 2005

More Utah Beauty

Here's the view looking upstream from our picnic site.

A Beautiful Picnic

I'm back in Utah until tomorrow morning. Yesterday, the family went up into the Uinta Mountains to visit a historically favorite picnic spot just above Soapstone. As you can see, we had a wonderful time by the Provo River.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Seek Peaceful Moments

I'm in Salt Lake City to be with my family. We're tending for an ailing grandparent who has become weary with life. Amidst this struggle, my dad and I visited Sunnybrook, a beautiful 50 acre spread near tiny Woodland, Utah. Mom and dad bought a share in this land over 20 years ago. Pictured is the elegant upper pond that faces the high Uinta Mountains. Here we enjoyed a moment of peace. Here we were reminded of how important it is to spend time with the ones you love. For anyone reading this today, I encourage you, if possible, to call, write, and hug the important people in your life, while there is time to do so.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Day of the Final

Our summer Greek final begins in 30 minutes. Prayers are appreciated. Here is mine:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains;
from where shall come my help?
My help shall come from the Lord
who made heaven and earth.

May he never allow you to stumble!
Let him sleep not, your guard.
No, he sleeps not nor slumbers,
Israel's guard.

The Lord is your guard and your shade;
at your right side he stands.
By day the sun shall not smite you
nor the moon in the night.

The Lord will guard you from evil,
he will guard your soul.
The Lord will guard your going and coming
both now and forever.

[Psalm 121]

Sunday, July 10, 2005

On This Day in 1509...

John Calvin...John Calvin was born in Noyon, Picardie, France. He is, of course, most famous for his massive work Institutes of the Christian Religion, one of the foundational theological works of reformed Christianity, especially Presbyterianism. One of Calvin's essential tenants is the centrality of Scripture to Christian theology. From the Institutes:
Just as old or bleary-eyed men and those with weak vision, if you thrust before them a most beautiful volume, even if they recognize it to be some sort of writing, yet can scarcely construe two words, but with the aid of spectacles will begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering up the otherwise confused knowledge of God in our minds, having dispersed our dullness, clearly shows us the true God.1
For many Presbyterian seminarians, particularly those attending my seminary, Calvin's definition of faith is etched firmly in the brain. Faith is:
A firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.2
1 Institutes of the Christian Religion from the Library of Christian Classics edition (LCC 20 and LCC 21) edited by John T. McNeill and translated by Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 1.6.1.
2 Ibid. 3.2.7.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

On Christianity in Europe and the United States

Mark Steyn, interviewed by John Hawkins:
John Hawkins: In your opinion, why is it that Europe has become so much more secular than the United States, where Christianity is still strong?

Mark Steyn: The short answer is separation of church and state - and I use that phrase as it was intended to be used: The founders’ distaste for "establishment of religion" simply means that they didn't want President Washington also serving as head of the Church Of America and the Archbishop of Virginia sitting in the Unites States Senate - as to this day the Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church Of England and the Archbishop of York sits in the House Of Lords. Most European countries either had de jure state churches, like England, or de facto ones, like Catholic Italy. One consequence of that is the lack of portability of faith: in America, when the Episcopalians and Congregationalists go all post-Christian and relativist, people find another church; in Britain, when Christians give up on the Church of England, they tend to give up on religion altogether.
You can read the entire interview here.

UPDATE: John's first interview with Mr. Steyn can be found here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Congratulations Are in Order

Andrew BogutIt has been a big day for my alma mater, the University of Utah. Andrew Bogut was just selected first in the 2005 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. This means that, for the first time ever in the same year, both the number one NFL (Alex Smith) and NBA draft picks came from the same school.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Tired Brains, Tired Bodies

We're now halfway through intensive summer Greek. So far, so good, but the intensive pace works it's mojo on one's mind. At the end of every day, I'm pretty worn out with new verb paradigms, vocabulary, etc. Fortunately, our class led by an excellent professor. Because Greek follows intensive Hebrew, the professor knows that we've developed a keen sensitivity about our progress with the language. Accordingly, he spends a notable amount of time during our lectures putting our minds at ease.

Interesting Greek trivia for today: Unlike English, there are over 27 ways of forming the definite article (e.g. "the") in Greek. The word chosen must agree in case, number, and gender with the noun/adjective/participle it modifies. Herewith is a table of definite articles, minus the vocative case (which we haven't yet learned), yielding 24:

The Definite ArticlesRemember: This is just the definite article. We've been reviewing and incorporating multiple noun declensions and verb forms as well. Whew!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

SCOTUS Eliminates Private Property Rights

The big news of the day is the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Kelo v. New London [PDF here]. This decision, which allows a city government to take, say, your grandmother's home for the purposes of building an IKEA, is an outrage to anyone who supports the basic concept of private property. Make no mistake, this ruling will have big implications in the forthcoming fight to fill the next vacancy on the Court.

From Justice O'Conner's dissent, joined by Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Rehnquist:
Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded—i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public—in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings “for public use” is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property—and thereby effectively to delete the words “for public use” from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
A good friend sent me an e-mail about the decision, which I post here because it places this ludicrous decision in historical context:
Although this might be a stretch (and is definitely an unqualified opinion), I think that this is the worst decision the court has made in the past 60 years. It is a further example of the real dichotomy of this nation (urban vs less urban rather than blue vs red) when a group of city dwelling Judges can determine that municipalities have a constitutional authority to both define the parameters of the city's welfare and nearly unlimited domain to accomplish those needs. To think that we "loosed ourselves" from Aristocratic and Monarchial claims on our property to one day decide that the city, generally administered in this country by our least able and least educated politicians, could take peoples land to further economic development. It is absurd. I am really quite shocked and to see the voices that line up in support of the powerful and influential in this matter. Liberals of all people. Further proof that they love and believe in only one thing, the power of government. How many low-income homeowners are going to be kicked out of their property for a new mall or riverside condominiums? How many renters in the center of town are going to be thrown out on their ear because the landlord can now be forced to sell-out their property for the city's "interest." It is appalling.
I agree.

UPDATE: Michele Malkin has the pundit rundown.

MORE: Professor Bainbridge weighs in here.

YET MORE: Are churches next?
If the purported intention of such property condemnation and seizure is increasing tax revenue, as Justice Stevens clearly believed it was, then there is no kind of building more vulnerable than a house of worship, for the simple reason that cities do not collect property taxes from houses of worship, nor any other kind of tax.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Subject: Gitmo

James Lileks has the smackdown. Here's a taste:
Q: What forms of torture do they use in Gitmo?

A: The interrogators make a point of handling the Quran with gloves, to indicate they accept the prisoners' definition of infidels as "unclean." But the guards occasionally suggest that the gloves are not only washed with the general laundry that might include the socks of Jews, but that sometimes the anti-static cling sheets are deliberately left out.
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I am "It" - The Musical Baton

My buddy Don Nunn recently (well, a couple of weeks ago) "tagged" me with the Musical Baton. Here we go:

Total volume of music files on my computer: 20.57 GB, with few if any duplicates. I've only ripped about 1/2 of my music collection thus far.

The last CD I bought was: French Romantic Organ Favorites: A Souvenir Collection by the world renowned organist Angela Kraft Cross. Ms. Cross recently gave a recital on our seminary chapel organ, and I was pleased to purchase this CD directly from her. She is in the midst of a worldwide tour, and at the time of the recital her next stop was scheduled to be the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, France.

Favorite song from the album (er, CD)? Probably the Toccata by Louis Vierne.

Song playing right now: I Play Chicken with The Train by Cowboy Troy (featuring Big and Rich).

Five songs I listen to a lot (or that mean a lot to me): Listed in no particular order.
Handing off to Sara.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

All Greek All the Time

We're at a great cafe called Pacha studying Greek aorist and future passive indicative verbs on a beautiful Saturday in Austin. All of the verb types and conjugations are coming at up at a fast and furious pace.

A Great Commencement Speech

Steve Jobs gave the 2005 commencement address at Stanford. His speech has made the rounds on several blogs and after reading the speech myself, I also wanted to share a link.

Here's a taste:
Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.
Good stuff. But I think the thing that stood out most for me was Jobs's remarks on the reality of death, and how reflecting on death can liberate you from all the things in life that are unimportant. Reading this speech reminded me of a similar lesson I received many years ago when I was initiated into the Order of DeMolay, a fraternal group for young men. During the ceremony, initiates receive instruction on a variety of moral principles from the various officers and members of the Chapter. One of those principles always stood out for me in the years that followed: That it was wise to look first to the end of the journey, rather than focus on the beginning.

I applaud Steve Jobs for his address, and I hope you will enjoy reading it.

Friday, June 10, 2005

I Always Wanted to Know Who Did This Job

Here is a fun story about the man who writes the fortunes.

This article reminds me of an amusing fortune a very good friend of mine once received:
"You are easily confused and discouraged."
[Hat tip: The Corner]

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Greek Has Begun

You can see that we're already deep into our flash cards and exercises. I'm pleased to report that we're off to a good start.

Best quote from a fellow classmate, thus far: "I am already declension."

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Beautiful Day

We spent Friday relaxing in The City. Part of day was devoted to the sights and fragrant smells at the famous Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

San Francisco

We made it safe and sound! Today we're having lunch with some friends at the Zuni Cafe. Pictures and stuff are forthcoming later on.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

On Travel

I'm traveling to San Francisco today, and will report in once we have arrived.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

What is Faith Like?

Even for the most erudite among us, faith is a hard thing to describe. Barbara Brown Taylor, however, gives her readers a great view into the nature of faith in her classic book "The Preaching Life." Faith is an oscillating thing, and the fact is that most of us believe
... Valiantly on some days and pitifully on others, with faith enough to move mountains on some occasions and not enough to get out of bed on others. Since we believe in what we cannot know for sure, our belief tends to have a certain lightness of being, an openness to ambiguity and a willingness to not to be sure about everything. Our belief is less like certainty than like trust or hope. We are betting our lives on something we cannot prove, and it is hard to be smug about that. Most of the time the best we can do is live "as if" it were all true and when we do, it all becomes truer somehow.
Barbara Brown Taylor is rector of Grace-Calvery Church in Clarkesville, Georgia. For those who are interested, you can obtain her excellent book here.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Food Everywhere

It seems that whenever we get time off from our studies, caloric intakes go way up. Tonight, we're visiting the famed 'County Line' barbecue restaurant - famous for their enormous beef ribs. They need to be seen to be believed. Yes, we are enjoying the break!

Thursday, May 19, 2005


This is a picture of me turning in my last paper of the semester. I am DONE. Next, summer Greek.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

One Step Closer

Just finished up my final exam for Systematic Theology II. One major paper to rewrite, and I'm finished for the semester!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. [Hebrews 12:1 NIV]
:: Plugging away ::

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Pentecost Sunday

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.Today we commemorate the arrival of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’ [Acts 2:1-13 NRSV]
The "filled with new wine" bit always amuses me. The story goes on:
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” [Acts 2:14-21]
Peace to you today, the birthday of the Church.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Preaching for the Second Time

Joseph and His CoatLast Tuesday, I presented my second-ever sermon to a small group of fellow-students who are in my preaching section. The text, Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 is from the set of lectionary readings for August 7, 2005. Genesis 37 is the famous story of Joseph and his "coat with long sleeves" (which is traditionally translated "the coat of many colors").

A copy of the sermon manuscript can be found here.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Laura Bush Assumes Control...

Laura Takes Over...of the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, DC. I enjoy the Bush family primarily because they are so good at self-deprecating humor. This is, well, an extreme example, and it is totally hilarious. Even if you cannot stand President Bush, if you still have a sense of humor, you will enjoy this video. Several of the jokes are really outrageous. My heart actually went out to Cedric the Entertainer, who had to follow the First Lady's wonderful performance.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Monkish Reality TV in the UK

Five men, ranging from an atheist in the pornography trade to a former Protestant paramilitary, have found their lives unexpectedly transformed in the latest incarnation of reality television - the monastery.

More Oh Brother! than Big Brother, the five underwent a spiritual makeover by spending 40 days and 40 nights living with Roman Catholic monks in Worth Abbey, West Sussex.


The participants, none of whom was a Roman Catholic, shared meals with the monks, worked in the grounds and joined in the daily office, from early morning Matins to Compline. They were also obliged to follow the monks' rules of silence, obedience and humility.
The Abbot of the monastery is said to be"delighted" with the results.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Now THIS is Very Cool

A revolutionary technique reveals long lost Greek and Roman texts:
Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.
The Oxyrhynchus Papyri were discovered in an ancient junkyard, thus comfirming the old aphorism about one person's trash. Some of the newly deciphered texts will be published within the next few days.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Modernity and the Church

On the eve of the next Catholic conclave of cardinals, George Will writes:
The challenge confronting the church can be expressed in one word: modernity. The church preaches that freedom is life lived in conformity to God's will as manifested in revelation and interpreted by the church. Modernity teaches that freedom is the sovereignty of the individual's will – personal volition that is spontaneous, unconditioned, inviolable and self-legitimizing.
So what does this mean here in America?
In America, a market-driven society, there is a religion market in which the most successful competitors for congregations are churches with clear doctrinal and strict moral positions. For these churches, the "crisis of Christianity" is congestion in their parking lots.
Interesting. Will's observations about Europe's forthcoming population decline are also worth noting.

[Hat tip: Real Clear Politics]

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Sunday Dog Blog

Heaven goes by favour. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.

- Mark Twain

Do you want me to say "cheese"?
Originally uploaded by Look at my photos.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Preaching for the First Time

Last Tuesday, I preached my first ever sermon to a small group of classmates in my "Introduction to Preaching" section. The scripture upon which the sermon was based was Matthew 16:13-20:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
In the sermon, I focus on the primacy and immediacy of the question "Who do you say that I am," and the implications of the question for us.

The Waters of Caesarea PhilippiPreaching, my friends, is a daunting experience. When you approach the pulpit for the first time, time starts to crawl by. Despite all of my preparations and rehearsals, the sense of nervousness I felt was intense. And even though it all went well, I had a stomachache after I had finished. Hopefully the physical impact of preaching will become something I get used to over time.

The presentation was videotaped. Upon review, one thing I've learned is this: If you are trying to emphasize a point with a gesture of some kind, you need to make a BIG gesture. If you don't, it looks as if you hardly moved at all.

A copy of the sermon manuscript can be found here.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Sunday Dog Blog

Guarding the fort.

"I would rather see the portrait of a dog that I know, than all the allegorical paintings they can show me in the world."
- Samuel Johnson

Originally uploaded by Buttercup Meadow.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Heart Aches

Terri's struggle for life has ended this morning.
December 3, 1963 - March 31, 2005
From National Review Online:
But while the public may have agreed with the removal of Schiavo's feeding and hydration tube, apparently there are limits to the public's willingness to tolerate euthanasia — and apparently its defenders recognized these limits. So we saw euphemism after euphemism deployed to cloud the issues.
From President Bush:
Today millions of Americans are saddened by the death of Terri Schaivo. Laura and I extend our condolences to Terri Schaivo's families. I appreciate the example of grace and dignity they have displayed at a difficult time. I urge all those who honor Terri Schaivo to continue to work to build a culture of life, where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others. The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in the favor of life....
From Mark Steyn:
One consequence of abortion is that, in designating new life as a matter of ‘choice’, it created a culture where it’s now routine to make judgments about which lives are worth it and which aren’t. Down’s Syndrome? Abort. Cleft palate? Abort. Chinese girl? Abort. It’s foolish to think you can raise entire populations — not to mention generations of doctors — to make self-interested judgments about who lives and who doesn’t and expect them to remain confined to three trimesters. The ‘right to choose’ is now being extended beyond the womb: the step from convenience euthanasia to compulsory euthanasia is a short one.
It is interesting and sad to see how the so-called "mainline" denominations have painstakingly avoided making any pronouncements about the value of human life in light of what has happened to Terri Schiavo. I visited a few mainline websites and entered the search term "Schiavo." Here's what I discovered:
  • Presbyterian Church (USA): Exactly one hit, a link to a newsletter which cites Terri Schaivo's case as a reason to establish a "living will."
  • United Methodist Church: Several hits, most citing a statement by Jim Winkler, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, saying the Schiavo case highlights "the difficult issues related to quality of life and our own participation in life with life decisions."
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: One hit to a "Bible study/discussion" weekly which asks the question "Do you think it is a sin to let her die? Or to keep her alive? Discuss your response."
  • Episcopal Church: One hit, "While the Episcopal Church’s General Convention has not specifically addressed the situation of Terri Schiavo ... several resolutions have been passed regarding end-of-life issues."
  • United Church of Christ: Five hits, mostly dealing with the importance of having a "living will."
  • Reformed Church in America: No hits.
That's enough for now. Let's pray for Terri's family and for all of those who face the daunting task of preserving human life.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

He Is Risen!

The tomb of Christ is but the bed
He rested on three days.
Easter morn He rose again,
The flower of our spring.
On Him, arisen from the dead,
Must we, though flesh decays,
Bestow our faith that when we die
Our souls, like His, shall not long lie
Forsaken in our tomb.
Christ shall, with deep affection, when
He sees our soul's affliction, then
Redeem us with His pain.
In His eternal suffering
Shall we find grace enough to bring
The seed of faith to bloom.
- Nicholas Gordon

He Is Risen!
Originally uploaded by eye2eye.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Why so Eager? Why so Anxious?

Peggy Noonan is a must-read today:
Why are they so committed to this woman's death?

They seem to have fallen half in love with death.

What does Terri Schiavo's life symbolize to them? What does the idea that she might continue to live suggest to them?

Why does this prospect so unnerve them? Again, if you think Terri Schiavo is a precious human gift of God, your passion is explicable. The passion of the pull-the-tube people is not.

I do not understand their certainty. I don't "know" that any degree of progress or healing is possible for Terri Schiavo; I only hope they are. We can't know, but we can "err on the side of life." How do the pro-death forces "know" there is no possibility of progress, healing, miracles? They seem to think they know. They seem to love the phrases they bandy about: "vegetative state," "brain dead," "liquefied cortex."

I do not understand why people who want to save the whales (so do I) find campaigns to save humans so much less arresting. I do not understand their lack of passion. But the save-the-whales people are somehow rarely the Stop stop-abortion-please people.

The PETA people, who say they are committed to ending cruelty to animals, seem disinterested in the fact of late-term abortion, which is a cruel procedure performed on a human.

I do not understand why the don't-drill-in-Alaska-and-destroy-its-prime-beauty people do not join forces with the don't-end-a-life-that-holds-within-it-beauty people.

I do not understand why those who want a freeze on all death penalty cases in order to review each of them in light of DNA testing--an act of justice and compassion toward those who have been found guilty of crimes in a court of law--are uninterested in giving every last chance and every last test to a woman whom no one has ever accused of anything.

There are passionate groups of women in America who decry spousal abuse, give beaten wives shelter, insist that a woman is not a husband's chattel. This is good work. Why are they not taking part in the fight for Terri Schiavo? Again, what explains their lack of passion on this? If Mrs. Schiavo dies, it will be because her husband, and only her husband, insists she wanted to, or would want to, or said she wanted to in a hypothetical conversation long ago. A thin reed on which to base the killing of a human being.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On Terri Schiavo and Congress

Mark Levin writing at The Corner:
The right to live, or more specifically, the right not to be killed, is a fundamental right. And it's a right recognized in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence. So ingrained in our society is the notion of life, that the 8th Amendment prohibits "cruel and usual punishment" (even short of death) and the 14th Amendment prohibits states from depriving any person of life without due process of law. This has nothing to do with federalism, unless you ignore the 8th and 14th Amendments. (Unlike the Left, that contorts the 14th Amendment, I'm recognizing its literal meaning.)

What really offends the Left is Congress asserting its constitutional power over a court, and not in service to the liberal agenda. Article III specifically empowers Congress to determine the jurisdiction of the federal courts, which is all it did today. It authorized a federal court to determine whether Terri Schiavo's due process rights and the right not be subject to cruel and unusual punishment were properly protected by a state court. In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decided on its own that abortion was a federal question, not to be left to the states, without any constitutional basis whatsoever. It preempted every state court and legislature (and Congress, for that matter). And the Left celebrates this decision.

As for why Congress is acting here, as opposed to any other case with overlapping issues, I suppose that question could be asked whenever Congress acts. The Schiavo case has risen to national attention. So, Congress is responding. That's how representative government works. The week after the Titanic sank, Congress held its first hearings to change U.S. maritime laws.

We must not allow the Left to define the terms of this debate. It is willing to make almost any argument to protect the supremacy of the courts. And even though Congress here is instructing the federal courts to review the case, the Left objects to any congressional exercise of constitutional authority over the judiciary. As Rep. Jim Moran (Dem, VA) said yesterday, "The judiciary has spoken."
"The right not to be killed." But not if your name is Terri Schiavo.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Lebanon Panorama

Here is a sweet link to a panoramic photo of recent democratic protests in Lebanon. Note that Quicktime is required to view the photo.

[Hat tip: Instapundit]

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Super Volcano

Oh great:
The eruption of a super volcano "sooner or later" will chill the planet and threaten human civilization, British scientists warned Tuesday.
[Hat tip: The Corner]

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Gnawing Away

Possibly one of the cutest puppies in the history of the world.

I saw this on Flickr and just had to share it with y'all.

Originally uploaded by dani333.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The "Much-Probed Cadaver" aka Liberalism

John Leo, writing for US News and World Report:
Modern liberalism, says Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel, has emptied the national narrative of its civic resources, putting religion outside the public square and creating a value-neutral "procedural republic." ... The failure to perceive the importance of community has seriously wounded liberalism and undermined its core principles. So has the strong tendency to convert moral and social questions issues of individual rights, usually constructed and then massaged by judges to place them beyond the reach of majorities and the normal democratic process.

Bitter. Liberals have been slow to grasp the mainstream reaction to the no-values culture, chalking it up to Karl Rove, sinister fundamentalists, racism, or the stupidity of the American voter. Since November 2, the withering contempt of liberals for ordinary Americans has been astonishing. Voting for Bush gave "quite average Americans a chance to feel superior," said Andrew Hacker, a prominent liberal professor at Queens College. We are seeing the bitterness of elites who wish to lead, confronted by multitudes who do not wish to follow. Liberals might one day conclude that while most Americans value autonomy, they do not want a procedural republic in which patriotism, religion, socialization, and traditional values are politically declared out of bounds. Many Americans notice that liberalism nowadays lacks a vocabulary of right and wrong, declines to discuss virtue except in snickering terms, and seems increasingly hostile to prevailing moral sentiments.
Leo is on the mark, but I think the problem is more serious than suggested, because many Christian denominations also avoid the "vocabulary of right and wrong," giving only lip-service to the real transforming power of true repentance.

[Article link]

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Nande charges into the sun

"All knowledge, the totality of all questions and answers, is contained in the dog."
Franz Kafka
Investigations of the Dog

If there is a place for dogs in heaven, might it be something like the beach in this photo?
Nande charges into the sun
Nande charges into the sun
Originally uploaded by Johnny Huh.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Intelligent Design: Science v. Intellectual Jihad

I'll be clear from the outset: I'm not someone who takes the words of Genesis as the literal and historical account of creation. I am someone, however, who accepts as truth the news professed in Genesis - that God created everything. There is a world of difference, for those with ears to hear.

Early in my academic career at the University of Utah, I was a chemistry major. I consider the scientific method to be the cornerstone of scientific progress in the so-called post-modern age. Submission of important academic work to critical peer review is an essential element of the process. What is important, both theologically and scientifically, is that we are consistent in our approach to the truth, and, when challenged, we respond using the tools we have inherited and the process that everyone has agreed to.

But what happens if the ivory tower gatekeepers decide that individuals of a particular religious and/or political persuasion should not even have access to the system, particularly if they are publishing peer-reviewed papers that challenge pervading theories regarding, say, evolution? What are we to make of something like this (via
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Zoology Department, Jonathan Coddington, called Mr. Sternberg's supervisor. According to Mr. Sternberg's OSC complaint: "First, he asked whether Sternberg was a religious fundamentalist. She told him no. Coddington then asked if Sternberg was affiliated with or belonged to any religious organization....He then asked where Sternberg stood politically; ...he asked, 'Is he a right-winger? What is his political affiliation?'" The supervisor (who did not return my phone messages) recounted the conversation to Mr. Sternberg, who also quotes her observing: "There are Christians here, but they keep their heads down."
Dr. Richard M. v. Sternberg is "a research associate at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington." He holds not one, but two Ph.D.s in biology. His career is in jeopardy because he edited the scientific journal (Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington) that published a paper by one Dr. Stephen Meyer, who believes that currently accepted evolutionary theory cannot explain certain phenomena in the fossil record.

That a theory might not explain everything is familiar issue to those who know anything about Einstein's theory of relativity. Einstein's work is great at the explaining motion of larger bodies, but breaks down at the atomic/sub-atomic level, where scientists have to rely on the probabilistic formulae of quantum mechanics. Currently, the two theories cannot be reconciled with each other, even though they both accurately describe fundamental physical properties. In a similar fashion, Dr. Meyer's paper lays the groundwork for a similar scenario within the field of biology. Perhaps something other than Darwinian evolution can help us explain things that "pure" evolutionary theory cannot? Meyer proposes a form of design theory as a possible explanation. Many believe that such questions are pure bunk for the start, but others, as Dr. Sternberg notes on his home page:
[F]ound the paper "informative," "stimulating," "thought-provoking," (real quotes I've heard from colleagues about the paper), including some who are in agreement with some of Meyer's ideas.
I'm not an expert in biology, relativity, or quantum mechanics, but I do know this: Dr. Meyer's conclusions might be complete crap, but they are nonetheless peer-reviewed crap. Therefore, criticism of his science should be presented in a forum at least as public as the one he chose, using the same process to which Meyer submitted. Instead, we learn in the Wall Street Journal that a back-alley jihad of sorts is being conducted against the individual who approved the publication of this scientific work.

The McCarthyite impulse so often attributed to "right-wingers" has seemingly become the key tool of the scientific, secular left ("Have you now, or have you ever been, a professing Christian?" "Have you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Republican Party?") in order to repress ideas that run counter to the prevailing academic doctrines. I consider this yet another symptom of today's brand of "academic freedom."

David Klinghoffer's Wall Street Journal article "The Branding of a Heretic" can be read here.

Mr. Meyer's paper is also available online.

[For a wonderful synopsis of relativity, quantum mechanics, and some of the efforts currently underway to unify the two with string theory, see Brian Greene's excellent book The Elegant Universe.]

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

"An ATTACK Submarine?"

For whatever reason, I missed the annoucement that the Navy was going to commission its newest attack submarine, the USS Jimmy Carter. Yes, this is hilarious news. Today's Day by Day cartoon (one of my daily reads, in addition to Dilbert) captures my own reaction, and that of millions of others, perfectly:
Jonah Goldberg is receiving loads of e-mails like this one.

Friday, February 11, 2005

"When War Must Be The Answer"

Policy Review recently published a provocative essay by James V. Schall S.J., professor of government at Georgetown University:
It is not a virtue to praise justice as if it need not be actually enforced or defended. The greatest crimes usually are grounded in a utopianism that is blind to living men, that does not see how to limit and control disruptive forces that continually arise in human life. Though I argue mainly about military force, the same argument includes police power. These are not substitutes for the virtue of justice, but this difficult virtue relies also on the existence and proper use of force for its existence. Contrary to much rhetoric, we do not live in a world in which diplomacy, dialogue, diversity, and law, however valuable, have replaced force. We can hopefully reach an adequate public order, but the failure to understand that law and dialogue need the presence of reasoned force ends up creating not more peace but less.
War is a tragic enterprise, but like Mr. Schall, I cannot believe that it can somehow be made "unnecessary" by simply relying on the good wishes and mercy of our professed enemies. As long as human enmity endures, good women and men will be put into the position of defending themselves from ideologies, like Islamofacism, that seek their destruction. To do otherwise, blinded by the utopianism of which Schall speaks, is not only unjust by also unloving to those who are our neighbors.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Back in the Saddle Again

As you can tell, I've been away for awhile because of the demands of learning Biblical Hebrew. The final for that class was last Monday (it was a tough exam), and I've taken a week long break to rest and recover. Spring classes began yesterday. It's nice to be back in the swing of things. We will continue our study of Systematic Theology this semester, and will begin using our Hebrew knowledge to interpret Hebrew scripture. We will also undertake what for many of us is our first dip into the river of preaching. Finally, we're begin our historical study of the New Testament. Exciting stuff!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Hebrew Midterm Complete

Here a picture of my recently-graded midterm. The scibbles you see continue on for five verses. The two hours I spent on this test seemed to pass in 10 minutes. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Let's just say that grace abounds.

My Hebrew Midterm
Originally uploaded by whatnext.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Pastor Dies in Pulpit

This story has been making the rounds all day long (via MyWay):
OVIEDO, Fla. (AP) - A Presbyterian minister collapsed and died in mid-sentence of a sermon after saying "And when I go to heaven ...," his colleague said Monday.

The Rev. Jack Arnold, 69, was nearing the end of his sermon Sunday at Covenant Presbyterian Church in this Orlando suburb when he grabbed the podium before falling to the floor, said the Rev. Michael S. Beates, associate pastor at Covenant Presbyterian.

Before collapsing, Arnold quoted the 18th century Bible scholar, John Wesley, who said, "Until my work on this earth is done, I am immortal. But when my work for Christ is done ... I go to be with Jesus," Beates said in a telephone interview.

Several members of the congregation with medical backgrounds tried to revive the minister and paramedics were called, but Arnold appeared to die instantly, Beates said.

Arnold had been the senior minister at the church until the late 1990s when he began traveling to Africa and the Middle East to teach pastors. The cause of death was believed to be cardiac arrest. He had bypass surgery five years earlier.

Beates also recounted Arnold's death in an e-mail he sent to members of the Central Florida Presbytery.

"We were stunned," Beates said. "It was traumatic, but how wonderful it was he died in his own church among the people he loved the most."

Sunday, January 09, 2005

א = Aleph, ב = Bet...

Week one of introductory biblical Hebrew concluded last Friday. We covered seven grammar lessons during the week - an almost unreal pace to be sure. Nonetheless, I find that I'm already able to read bits of Hebrew text. It's hard to discribe the exciting feeling you have when you see a world like:


and realize that you've just read the word "God" or "gods" (this common word, which has a masculine plural ending, can be interpreted as either singular or plural, depending on the context).

Now that we know the basics about the definite article, prepositions, conjunctions, noun roots, masculine/feminine/singualar/plural noun patterns, and adjectives, it's quickly becoming apparent that a deep vocabulary will be the key to reading and translating texts at speeds greater than glacial. I've already memorized 22 of the most common verbs, and this week I have to know 43 of the most common nouns. One of my more adventuresome collegues has already memorized about 250 words. My goal this week is to go well beyond the assigned vocabulary and try to catch up with my friend.

Dreaming California

I accidentally discovered this awesome photo of the California coastline ealier today. I continue to be amazed at the professional-level quality of many Flickr contributors.
dreaming california
Originally uploaded by Landsails.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Good News from Iraq

Arthur Chrenkoff continues compiling and publishing the good news from Iraq. Installment 18 is hot of the virtual-presses.

The New Year Begins

And it begins with Hebrew during the January term, so this will be a very busy month. We covered the Hebrew alphabet today. Studying will continue until the Sugar Bowl later this evening.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Utah Beats Up Pitt 35-7 to Become Fiesta Bowl Champs

Congratulations to now-former coach Urban Meyer and the entire Ute Squad! In honor of the victory, I'm posting the lyrics to that wonderfully urbane fight song, "Utah Man":
I am a Utah man, sir and I live across the green.

Our gang it is the jolliest that you have ever seen.

Our coeds are the fairest and each one's a shining star.

Our yell, you hear it ringing through the mountains near and far.


Who am I, sir, a Utah man am I:

A Utah man, sir, and will be till I die: Ki! Ki!

We're up to snuff: we never bluff.

We're game for any fuss.

No other gang of college men dare meet us in the muss.

So fill your lungs and sing it out shout it to the sky.

We'll fight for dear old crimson for a Utah man am I.


And when we prom the avenue, all lined up in a row.

And arm in arm and step in time as down the street we go.

No matter if a freshman green, or in a senior's gown,

The people all admit we are the warmest gang in town.


We may not live forever on this jolly good old sphere,

But while we do we'll live a life of merriment and cheer.

And when our college days are o'er and night is drawing nigh,

With parting breath we'll sing that song:

A Utah Man am I!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year!

Chris at the Assignment DeskI'm celebrating the New Year with my sister at her place of employment, one of the three statewide local TV stations here in Utah. Both of our parents are out of town for the Fiesta Bowl, along with my sister's husband (who had to go to the game for work), so we're on our own as the countdown to 2005 continues.

The 10 p.m. news show has just ended, and the station will now cover the next two hours of the city's "First Night" celebration at Gallivan Center Plaza.

Wherever you are this night, I wish you all the best for a happy and successful 2005. Also, check out Mark D. Roberts's piece on celebration in the midst of suffering. Let's remember our neighbors in East Africa and Southeast Asia as we bring in the New Year.

UPDATE: You can help the victims of the tsumani by making a donation here.