Deuteronomy 30:19-20

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

To the Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse is an interesting novel that uses a different type of writing technique. You may not be familiar with stream of consciousness writing, so let me give you a quick definition. Basically, Woolf's idea was that at various moments in life, our senses trigger memories. For instance, when we hear a song or smell a specific scent our minds travel back in time to the moment where we first heard that song or smelt that scent. And in the middle of the current events of our lives, our minds are travelling back to other things that have happened. In essence, that is the way in which this novel is written.

The point of view in the novel is traded around quite frequently, and at first it is hard for the reader to know who's mind they are in. The point of view changes so drastically at times, that it is easy to miss the transition. But once you get the hang of this technique, those transitions become easier. My problem is that by the time I got the hang of it, the novel sped up, and there were not as many of those transitions left.

So what is the basic story? Well the novel is divided into 3 main sections. In section 1 (The Window) 126 pages are devoted to one afternoon/night in the life of the Ramsay's and their friends. And the entire story revolves around one dinner party and the question as to whether the children will be able to travel to the lighthouse the next day. But because of this technique known as stream of consciousness, we do not only see the characters in the midst of this one afternoon. Their backgrounds are also looked into, and readers learn where some of the characters came from, what has happened to them in their lives, and what they believe about life in general.

As section 2 begins (Time Passes), this technique continues. But after just one short chapter (less than a page), time passes... 10 years. In less than 20 pages, Woolf transports readers 10 years into the future. This section mainly focuses on the house in which the first section took place, and the characters themselves are rarely mentioned. But when a character is brought back up, it is usually a significant event from the character's life.

Finally, section 3 (The Lighthouse) continues with a few of the characters, as some make their way back to this specific house near the lighthouse. And the novel is wrapped up nicely, fulfilling the dreams of some characters and shattering the dreams of others (or at least not allowing them to come to fruition as they would have wished). These last 60-70 pages are just one afternoon as well, and the character's thoughts play another key role in the novel's closing pages.

I do not particularly care for this style of writing, although it was neat to see how it works. The story itself was fairly interesting, but it is not one that I would want to re-read. Furthermore, I do not think that I would want to go back and read other novels that use this same technique. But it is a crafty way of writing, and I am sure that it was well received when Woolf first published the novel. Some of you may enjoy this type of writing style, but personally, I do not think that I would recommend it.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gordon's Streak of Bad Luck

Since breaking the streak a few weeks ago, Jeff Gordon has had two weeks full of bad luck on the racetrack. First there was Phoenix. Now this is another one of those tracks that Jeff has not typically done well at. But over the last few years, he has improved, gaining a victory there two years, his first and only win at Phoenix. It was that race that tied with him with Dale Earnhardt on the all time wins list. He has since added to that total. But this year, Phoenix was not good. The track transitions from day to night, making the race be split into three different "segments." Gordon's car was decent at the beginning of the race, but he had to make some changes as the race progressed. Right when it seemed as if improvements had been made, he had an incident on the track. Denny Hamlin rubbed against the side of his car, messing up the left front finder. This sent Gordon to the back, and then in the midst of repairing the car, a lug nut was dropped, causing Gordon to receive a penalty. So the race did not end well. But he still maintained the points lead at the end of the race.

So Talledega was next on the schedule, and it seemed to be a great opportunity for Gordon to add another win and stretch out his points lead. But due to an early incident, Gordon finished in the back of the pack. Through some shuffling around in the field, partly Matt Kenseth's fault, partly other drivers' fault, Jeff was caught up in the first big wreck of the race. And in the process, he lost the points lead to Kurt Busch, now 5 points behind in the standings.

But the big news coming out of this week's race is the crash on the last lap. And here is my take on the controversy. Keselowski drafted with Edwards to become the top two cars, nothing wrong with that; it put them in the lead. Keselowski tried to make a move at the end of the race to win; nothing wrong there. Edwards blocked him, starting the wreck. Again, Edwards is not really at fault either because that is just the way restricter plate racing works. What Edwards did not realize was that Keselowski already had the position. And Edwards even admitted to that. But he did not expect the crash that would occur as a result, sending him into the fence. But the new car did its job. If you watch a replay slowly, the car goes up in the air at the start of the wreck and is coming back down before Newman hits him. If Newman had not been that close, the car would have landed and only slammed into the wall instead of the fence. The fact that Newman was so close when the wreck happened, made the situation seem so much worse.

So should Keselowski, Edwards, or Newman be blamed? In my opinion, no! It was just racing. Keselowski made a move for the win. Edwards tried to block so that he could win. Newman was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The fact is that this is Talledega. These things happen on occasion. But no one should freak out. No car has flown into the fence like that since the 1980's when a wreck very similar to this happened at Talledega. This is a rare instant. But the fact is that it happened and fans were injured. That is why it has received so much attention. I pray that those fans heal from their injuries. But in the end, to me, it was just racing.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

8. The Pastoral Epistles - 1 Timothy 4:6-16

1 Timothy 4:6-16

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Continuing in chapter 4, Paul works off of his previous topic about the danger of false teachings. This is a common theme throughout all of 1 Timothy; we have seen this come up many times as we have worked our way through the letter. And here once again, Paul refers back to this previous topic. This time, he urges Timothy to resist these fables and myths and to focus on the true, good doctrine. Since Timothy is leading a congregation, helping guide them along in their walk with Christ, he cannot be caught up in false teachings. For if he does, his congregation will be led in the wrong direction. So Timothy, and all ministers for that matter, must learn to stay in the Word so that they can guard against false teachings.

How can we know what a "false" teaching is if we do not stay in God's Word, where we will find the truth. It is hard to know what is wrong if you do not already know what is good. So Paul tells Timothy to train in his spiritual life as he would in his physical life. Through remaining in God's Word we can know of the hope that we have, salvation. Now verse 10 can sound a little confusing. When it says that Christ is the Savior of all people, many read this verse universalistic, saying that all men will be saved. But Scripture is clear that not all shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So what does this verse mean? One commentator suggests that it refers to the fact that Christ died for all men, all those who will be saved. Obviously, some will choose not to accept His gift. But the fact still remains that Christ died for all men, however, only a few will be saved, that narrow road.

Paul then exhorts Timothy to command and teach this truth. By preaching the truth, he can warn his congregation of the false teachings, and they can be on guard against such false doctrines. But being a minister is not easy, for the minister is the leader of the people. So Paul gives Timothy a few practical suggestions on how to live out his Christian life. He should be an example in his speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. Furthermore, he must be sure to remain in the Word, reading, preaching, and teaching the Scriptures for himself and for all who will listen. Paul then alludes to the fact that such a life is hard. A minister is constantly watched, as he is the example to many. It would be easy to want to give up at times, but Paul encourages Timothy to persevere, not to neglect the gift that God has given Him. God appoints such people for a reason, and He also provides for them as they are obedient to His calling.

Paul closes this chapter by encouraging Timothy to continue to watch out. It will be easy to mess up, want to quit, slack off, or just take a break. But he must continue to persevere in the faith. I think that one idea Paul might have had here would be accountability. One way to keep a close watch is to have someone else watching you, someone you can trust, who will confront you when needed. Ministers are not above everyone else. They still sin and mess up. But they must be careful to not let sin control their lives, turning back to God in repentance. They must live a life that can be a model for other believers to follow. Surely, he who aspires to the office of overseer, desire a noble task (3:1).


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Word Within the Word Conference

Not much has been going on here at Union other than school. We are coming down to the final weeks of the semester, and there is lots to do homework wise. But this weekend, I was able to take a small break from the homework load as I attended our annual Ryan Center Conference here on campus. Our Ryan Center (which is a Christian Studies library run by Dr. Van Neste) hosts a conference each year, I think this is the third one. This year it was the Word within the Word Conference. Dr. D. A. Carson came to campus last night and today to talk about the New Testament's use of the Old Testament, which is also a commentary that he put together.

The New Testament is filled with direct quotations and allusions to Old Testament passages. And many times we skip over these connections and miss out on the truth that is behind them. Also, many of our churches today have become so focused on the New Testament that we neglect to look at the Old Testament, which is still part of the Bible. So why is it that we ignore it, especially if the New Testament depends on it? Just something to think about.

Dr. Carson looked at three specific passages out of the book of Hebrews to help illustrate this point. We looked at Hebrews 1:5, Hebrews 3-4, and Hebrews 7. Respectively, these passages deal with the term "son," the idea of "rest," and Christ as our Priest King. I cannot go into all the detail that Dr. Carson went into at the conference, but I can give you a few quick thoughts on these passages.

By looking at 2 Samuel 7:14, Psalm 2, Psalm 95, and Psalm 110, we can derive the meaning of some of the words, topics, and issues that the original authors meant. For instance, "son" was sometimes a family turn and sometimes a vocation. The idea of "rest" referred to God's rest at Creation and was also used to describe the Israelites' arrival in the Promised Land. Saul was not allowed to be a Priest and King at the same time under the Levitcal Law, but David was informed and prophesied that there was a Priest King to come. When these Old Testament passages are studied in their original context and then connected to the New Testament, we can see how the New Testament writers interpreted these passages. We can follow the logic through the Old Testament and into the New Testament.

There is a lot of technical terms and issues I could go into about these passages, but instead of explaining some of that I want to skip ahead to an application, something I picked up on this weekend. As I said earlier, I feel like we neglect the Old Testament today. We do not give it justice in our studies. We skip over the "hard" sections because we do not understand the text and do not want to understand the text. But just by looking at these examples this weekend, I have been reminded of the unity of Scripture. It is all tied and weaved together by God. He has made it flow, and when we sit down and really study, we can begin to see some of these connections in the text. This weekend was an encouragement for me to really learn to study the Bible more and more, searching the Word for God's truth. We can learn something new each time we open the Word and study. We do not need to take it lightly and just "do our devotion" for the day. There is a lot to be found in Scripture if we will just look and study.

It really was a great weekend, but now it is time to get back to studying and finish out this semester.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Wise Blood

Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood is one of her only two novels. Because of an illness, she was unable to publish anymore novels. But she has left us with many short stories and two great novels. O'Connor was Catholic, and her religious beliefs do make their way into her works, especially in Wise Blood.
This is an interesting story. A man who is "haunted" or "convicted" (however you want to say it) by his grandfather preacher travels to a new city to start a new life after the war. Hazel comes to the city and immediately sees a preacher working a crowd on the streets. This man is Asa Hawks, who is blind. He is with his daughter, Sabbath handing out tracts and taking up a collection. This strikes Hazel the wrong way (reminding him of his grandfather), and he rips up the tract he receives. He proceeds to follow the two people with the help of Enoch Emery and confronts Hawks. He then starts his own church, the Church of Christ Without Christ. He is seeking a "new" kind of Jesus, apart from the Fall, Judgment, and Redemption. He does not believe in sin, or so he says. He is tired of the fakeness of the Church, and he even confronts Asa on his life. Later in the story, another preacher comes along to help Hazel with his endeavors, but when he begins to try to make money off of the deal, Hazel breaks away from him as well, still searching. Another intersting storyline is that of Enoch Emery. He is a humorous character, and I found his scenes to be some of the funniest but also the strangest. His interactions with Hazel are of importance in the novel as he is one of the characters that Hazel has the most contact with.
The story really does follow the spiritual journey of Hazel Motes. And I really cannot say much more without giving some of the major plot points away. Christian themes and imagery are scattered throughout the novel, and one thing I picked up on was the fakeness of Christians. We say we believe one thing and live another way. And people like Hazel notice this, and it bothers them. That is one reason why Hazel's journey begins.
I would definitely recommend this novel but with a disclaimer. There is a lot of cursing in the novel. This may bother some readers, so I want to let you know that up front. But the message in the novel is very good, and if you can get past some of the language, I think you will enjoy the novel. It is humorous, has memorable characters, has well developed themes, and is a fairly easy read. I had to read it because of school, but it is definitely a novel for any casual reader.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Boneman's Daughters

Boneman's Daughters is a thriller that will stay with you even after you finish this one. I have heard that said about many books in the past. Supposedly, they are supposed to be so creepy or disturbing that it will haunt you the days after you finish. Now many books have stuck with me because of theme, symbolism, characters, or plot twists. But never has one stuck with me based on the story itself. So I heard that Boneman's Daughters would do this. And I began wondering if this would finally be the book that disturbed me greatly.
It was.
Now like all of Ted Dekker's books, there is a major underlying Christian element to this book. It is not quite as overt as some of his books have been in the past. But through a casual reading of this novel, you will see the point that Dekker is trying to make. This is a major plus for the book, because this is what I expect when I enter into one of his novels. But I also expect a major plot twist, which this novel also provides. And one of my favorite parts of Dekker books are the characters. They are so memorable. He creates characters that you will not soon forget, and once again I saw great character development and some very memorable characters. So now I have to decide... is this my favorite Ted Dekker book? For years, Thr3e has been my favorite, and I wonder if I have finally found a book to top it.
I might have.
I have not yet decided. But the twist in this one is pretty good. And the story itself is amazing! So what is the story? Ryan Evans serves in Iraq. His vehicle is attacked. Ryan wakes up as a hostage underground. He witnesses a cruel form of punishment. Ryan will do anything to save his daughter. Then there is BoneMan. He has killed 7 girls previously by breaking their bones without breaking their skin. BoneMan lets his victims bleed to death internally. He is looking for a daughter. BoneMan takes his "daughters" from their fathers to have one for himself. He cannot find the perfect daughter. BoneMan takes Bethany, Ryan's daughter. Ryan will do anything to save his daughter. He goes after BoneMan, attempting to stop him. Ryan is suspected as being BoneMan by the FBI. He must prove that he is a desperate father and not the killer. BoneMan has his daughter.
That is the basic storyline. There is so much more that I could mention, but I cannot give this story away. This is a father/daughter story. That is one of the main themes of the novel. You are going to like this one. If I could recommend any Dekker novel to you, this is the one that I would recommend. Partly because it is not connected to any other novel. Mostly because it is that good. So go buy Boneman's Daughters. But be careful, this one will stay with you after you finish the last page. It has stuck with me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

7. The Pastoral Epistles - 1 Timothy 4:1-5

1 Timothy 4:1-5

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

I know that it has been a while since you have seen one of these posts, and I am sorry that it has taken so long. But as I had said before, the GO Trip got in the way of me continuing with this series of posts, and that is not a bad thing. But now, my focus is back on the Pastoral Epistles, so I will be getting back on track, trying to keep this part of the blog updated.

The first thing that catches my eye in this verse is the term "latter times." What does Paul mean when he refers to this time period? We hear so much talk about this topic today, in fact my home pastor has just started a sermon series looking into Revelation. Some take it in the right direction, while others tend to drift off into an obsession with what will happen in the end, losing focus of what we are called to do now. But back to Paul, did he believe that he was living in these times. I believe so; the disciples had thought that they would see Jesus' return. In fact, people have thought that they were living in the latter times since Jesus ascended into Heaven. And truthfully, we are living in these times, because that is when it actually began.

Now none of us know when the end will come, and that is not the purpose of this post. But Paul gives us another characteristic about the end. People will be departing from the faith. Again, we can find evidence of this from the time of Paul to today. Judas was the first to betray Jesus, and then Demas and several others are mentioned in 2 Timothy as ones who had departed from the faith. And history has many, many more recorded from the time of Paul to the present day. You probably know some people who have drifted as well.

But not only will people drift from the faith, they will also preach false doctrines. We will look more at this as we enter into 2 Timothy, but Paul states here that these teachers will contradict Jesus' commands. Paul lists a few examples in these verses that may not mean much to us, and truthfully it would be alright not to marry or refrain from these foods. But the point in this passage is not focused on those two examples. Instead, Paul focuses in on the fact that these teachers contradict the truth, the truth that had already been taught.

This is only a start of what is to come. As I said, I will try to continue with these posts as I continue to study through the book of 1 Timothy and beyond.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

While I'm Waiting Review

John Waller's newest CD came out just a little over a week ago, and it is a great album! I feel like he did a great job on his sophomore album, which is typically one of the hardest albums for new artists. But what I especially like about this album is his use of Scripture within the songs. Almost every song on this CD has some part of Scripture almost directly quoted within the song. Let me give you a few examples:

"Faith Is Living"
It's the evidence of things I cannot see. And faith, it's the confidence that you are holding me... I want to be a man like Abraham. He went to a foreign land 'cause You said go. He trusted You by faith. Of a tiny mustard seed to move mountains we can speak.

"While I'm Waiting"
While I'm waiting I will not faint, I'll be running the race, even while I wait.

"Cling to the Call" - Peter
I was walking on water just a week ago. Not even a care in the world just a day ago. Not sure what happened but all of a sudden, I saw the crashing waves all around me. And once again I had to choose to put my eyes back on You... I could stand without wavering just an hour ago. I could not deny you even a moment ago. Not sure what happened but three times denied You. And once again I've got to choose to put my eyes back on You.

"House of God"
A description of what the Church is or what it should be.

"Priestly Blessing"
Lord bless us and keep us, make your face to shine upon us. Raise your countenance on us and give us peace.

"Dead Man Walking"
I am crucified with Christ. No longer I live. Now the life I live is only in Him. I am seated with Christ. I'm not coming back. All my life, I've never been so alive, I am crucified.

"Perfect Peace" is Isaiah 26:3 put to music.

These songs have such powerful meanings, and I would encourage you to at least read the full lyrics to all of these songs. This does not seem like some CD that an artist put out just to make money. You can feel the passion and meaning behind these songs. It is grounded in Scripture, and for me, that is what makes these songs! John Waller did a great job with this album, and I would encourage you to go out and get it.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Moonstone

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins is considered by many to be the first great detective novel, and if you are a fan of detective novels, then this is a must read! The Moonstone helped start a genre of literature that has since exploded into many novels across many generations, radio mystery events, and a variety of television shows that have been running for years as well. But it is amazing to think that it started back in 1871 when Wilkie Collins first introduced England to the famous diamond known as the Moonstone.

In The Moonstone, reality and reason meet mystery and superstition as a member of a prestigious family heirs this precious diamond to a niece. But where did the diamond come from? It originated in India, and through a course of unsettling circumstances, Hernecastle gained possession of the diamond and sent it to Rachel Verinder. But on the night of birthday party, when she received the diamond, the diamond mysteriously went missing. And as a result, no one in the house is beyond suspicion.

Even England's finest, such as Sergeant Cuff, cannot locate the diamond or determine who is responsible for its disappearance. Through a series of dead ends, readers will immediately begin pointing fingers at various people, but they will undoubtedly find themselves casting suspicion on the wrong characters at some point in the novel. The detective work then stems to science, as a scientist gets brought into the investigation, and he carries the case further than Sergeant Cuff, eventually leading to the revelation of who took the diamond and where the diamond can be found. But even in the novel's closing pages, the mystery still arises. What will happen to the Moonstone next? Not even the closing pages can tell.
This is a very interestingly written novel. It is told from the perspective of several characters. Franklin Blake, one of the novels main characters wants to record the experiences of his family's dealings with the Moonstone. He begins with a letter from Hernecastle, introducing the diamond itself. And then he transitions into a series of narratives, written by various characters that readers meet over the course of the story. For instance, the majority of the story is told from the perspective of Gabriel Betteredge, an elderly gentlemen who works for the Verinder family. Through these different narratives, readers gain different perspectives from the events that span 1 year. And ultimately, these narratives lead readers to the 2 major revelations of the narrative: who took the diamond and where they can find the diamond.
I personally enjoyed the structure of the novel. It made the novel a more interesting read. Plus, the language is easy as well, providing a fast read. If you enjoy a good mystery, then The Moonstone must be on your reading list. It is full of action, supicision, suspense, and surprise. It being the first great detective novel, any mystery reader should make it a priority to read.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Resurrection Sunday

Resurrection - what should be central to Easter.

This is one of those stories that all 4 Gospels records. Whether you go to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, you are going to find a very similar story centering around Mary Magdalene (especially) and other disciples that went to Jesus' tomb on Sunday morning to find that He was not there. Needless to say, many of these people were shocked. John records that Mary Magdalene ran to Peter saying that someone had taken Jesus' body. But then Jesus appeared to her and told her who He was and that He had risen from the dead just as He said He would. She then runs to the other disciples to let them know of this great miracle. But just as they thought it was all over when Jesus died, doubting (and pretty much not understanding) that He would come back from the dead, many doubted after the Resurrection as well.

It took Jesus speaking directly with Mary Magdalene for her to believe that He had done what He said that He would do. It took Thomas reaching out and touching Jesus' hands and seeing his side for him to believe that it was really Jesus standing before Him. It took Peter actually seeing Jesus, even though He had seen an empty tomb, to fully understand what had happened.

And many times, I find that we criticize these people for doubting. We see that they had spent 3 years with Jesus, and yet at the climax of His life, they doubt. They do not fully grasp the meaning of the resurrection. Now, of course they should not have doubted. They should have understood what had happened since Jesus had been preaching to them for 3 years about it. But who are we to criticize them? How long did it take some of us to accept His free gift of salvation? Do we always trust in God and believe that He will do what He says that He will do? Many times we worry in this life, which in turn is not trusting in God. We doubt that He will care for us, even though He tells us that He watches over us many times in His Word.

Yes, it was wrong of Mary, Peter, and Thomas to doubt Jesus' resurrection. But we must not be so quick to judge them when we find ourselves worrying in life, doubting God's power. In the middle of an economic crisis, hard family circumstances, severe weather, and other problems that arise, it is easy to worry and wonder how we are ever going to make it through those hard times. But by worrying, we limit God's power in our lives, doubting that He can take care of us. I am not saying that our finances will sky rocket or that the storms will always pass over or that family situations will be perfect. But by fully trusting God, He will take care of those situations in the way that He sees fit. And no matter how He handles it, He will take care of us. It is our job to trust Him, believing that He will do what He says He will do.

So when you think about it, our life is much like the disciples on Resurrection Sunday. We have a risen Savior who is providing for us today. But many times we go to the empty tombs of our life and do not see Jesus inside. We wonder if He is even there with us anymore, and we begin to doubt that He is watching over us. Let us not forget that the empty tomb means that He is alive and well looking out for us daily. Christ truly is risen!


Saturday, April 11, 2009

1 Year of Posting

1 Year ago I began this blog to keep friends updated and post my thoughts on a variety of topics. And over this past year, I feel like that is what I have been able to do. The blog initially allowed me to keep you updated on Union as we recovered from the tornado. And throughout the summer, I was able to let you know how work was going and brag a little bit on the kids that I taught. More recently, I have consistently kept you updated on my Mission Trip to Hays, Kansas.

But it has not just been about me. The real reason for the blog was to give me a chance to review books that I have read. I have written about many books over the last year, not all of which I read in the last year. I hope that you have been able to find something that interested you, and if you wonder what type of books I have read, just check out the Book Reviews section of this blog. A new review is coming in the next few days on The Moonstone.

This blog was active during the primaries and the election. I gave my thoughts on the candidates, where they stood on certain issues, and the election itself. Then as President Obama took office, I even commented on the inauguration. There have been hurricanes, severe weather, and snow storms that I written about as well. These can all be seen under the personal thoughts category, like this blog post.

I then began reviewing music, commenting on songs that I have heard on the radio or through iTunes that touched me in some way. Lyrics can be powerful, and the Music section of this blog seems to be the most popular section. Out of all 200+ blog posts that I have written over the last year, the "One Life to Love" post has received the most comments. Hopefully I will be able to continue this section of the blog as well, and since I have been listening to John Waller's newest CD recently, I should have some new songs to talk about.

Because I have given several sermons over the last year, I have been able to share those with you on here as well. And through different devotions, school papers, and memory verses with the kids last summer, I have had plenty of passages to write on. There should be more to come on that as well, including more from the Pastoral Epistles, something from the Gospel of John, and maybe some ideas from Proverbs.

And the world of sports keeps most Americans busy each week. I should continue to post about sports over the coming months, but since NASCAR is the only sport in season right now that I watch, those may not come as often.

If you are new to the blog, a lot has happened over the last year, as you can see. But there is also a lot to come. The world is always changing. There are new things to think about and write about. Sports seasons will continue to play out each year, new music and books will continue to be released, and I will continue to write about things that God is teaching me. There is so much more that I have done through the blog already, and I hope that there is much more to come. So keep coming back to see what is new, I will do my best to keep it updated. Before we know it another year will be gone.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Commons and Pharmacy

Well it has been a while since I gave you an update from campus. But not that much has been going on considering that we just got back from Spring Break not that long ago. The biggest news of the last few weeks is that the Lady's Basketball team won the National Championship while we were on break! That is their 3rd national championship in the last 5 years, and their 1st since I have been in college.

The other big thing that is going on around here is the continual construction on our new Commons building. The foundation looks as if it has been laid, but we have yet to see the walls go up. Their deadline is the end of the year, and the projection is that we will be able to be in it sometime during the Fall semester. It is huge! And there are lots of rumors going around as to what exactly will be inside. Needless to say, students are looking forward to having another commons on campus. It is hard to have the whole student body using only 1 commons when we used to have 3. But this new one will make up for all of that when it is built. And its completion will complete the construction from the tornado. It is the last building that needs to be finished.

The latest construction news concerns the new pharmacy building. There is now a sign beside Jennings Hall that shows the new building. They are supposed to break ground on the new building later this month, and they are expecting it to be completed during the summer of 2010, opening Fall 2010. The pharmacy program just began this past year, and now they are going to have a building in about a year. It is an exciting time for that program.

As the Spring 2009 semester begins to draw to a close, we will all be heading to fill out our schedules for the fall semester really soon. After Easter, decisions will be made for the new school year, my last school year at Union. We still have 5 more weeks of classes, plus a week of finals to go, but the spring semester will be over before we know it.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Jeff Gordon Wins Again

47 races ago, Jeff Gordon sat in Victory Lane in Charlotte. It was October of 2007, and I was sitting in my dorm room anxiously watching the race. He was in the heat of the Chase at that time, running up against his teammate, Jimmie Johnson for the championship. They battled it out for the next few weeks, and Johnson won the championship. It was heartbreaking, but after a solid, record breaking season in 2007, I never expected the next win to come 47 races later. To put this in perspective for those of you who know me, I was sitting in my old dorm room, pre-tornado.
So I never thought that 2008 would be a winless season for Gordon. I expected him to go out and win again easily. I expected him to make another run for the championship. He did make the Chase, but that was about it. Then, at the end of the season, he began running well again. The team began making some gains, and they figured some things out about the new car. I knew then that the 2009 season would be different. I knew that Gordon would eventually find his way back to Victory Lane.
But 2009 has started out better than I expected. Gordon has been the points leader for most of the season. Out of 7 races, he has led at least 1 lap in all 7. He has finished in the top ten 6 times and in the top five 5 times. And now he has 1 win on top of all that while he still protects the points lead. The season is looking good for him, and he is ready to make yet another run at the championship this year. Will 2009 be the year that the "Drive for Five" is complete?
About this win, Gordon has never been good at Texas. He has never one there, and Texas was only 1 of 2 tracks that he was winless at, the other being Homestead. In fact, he has only finished 43rd a handful of times, and 2 of those have come from Texas, one being last spring. When the race started he took the lead in the first lap and led for a while. But then I watched him slowly go backwards. I feared that this was just going to be another Texas race for Gordon. The team made some changes, and they made an over correction on the car. I thought that it might be over. But as the race progressed, they began to get the car in line. And in the closing laps, Gordon was back up front. For the first time ever at Texas, I felt like Jeff actually had a chance to win. And then he pulled it off!
In one race, Gordon broke a 47 race losing streak, but just as amazing, he broke his winless record at Texas. It took him 17 attempts, but he finally posted a win in Texas. So is Gordon back? My answer is yes. He has been good these past few years, and 2007 looked to be a promising season. But this 2009 season is looking even better. In fact, it reminds me of the late '90s when Gordon dominated. So maybe, just maybe, this will be the season that Gordon gets that 5th championship.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Kansas Report - Prayer Requests

To wrap up this trip, I thought I would end it with some prayer requests from the week. First off, the picture above is our team, "the Tennessee Team," at the country swing dance party.
Please pray for:
  • 11 students that we met that we know are going on summer mission trips this summer. They are preparing for them even now, and I pray that they will let God use them in mighty ways this summer. Pray for their safety as they travel, and pray that God will touch many lives through their willingness to serve Him during their summer break.
  • There are several students that we met during the week that confessed that they did not know Christ. Please pray for their salvation. Pray that they will continue to attend events hosted by Christian Challenge so that they may hear the Gospel, and pray that the Christian Challenge students can find these students and have opportunities to show them Christ.
  • In particular, there are 2 students that I met that are eating lunch with a Christian Challenge student this week. Please pray for good conversation and the opportunity to discuss the Gospel.
  • Pray for the leaders of Christian Challenge as they continue to lead the group. They sacrifice a lot for those students, and they are truly a blessing.
  • Pray for Fort Hays State University. There were lots of things that we heard about that take place on campus that we were surprised to hear. And as we prayer walked the campus, we did feel a spiritual darkness present. Please pray that Christian Challenge can help lift that darkness and that the lives of the students will be radically changed for Christ.

Thanks for your prayers as we went to Kansas during spring break. There was so much more that happened while we were there, but I feel as if I have hit the highlights for you this past week. This has been our trip! God was amazing, and He showed up in miraculous ways all week long! I am thankful to have gotten to know the Christian Challenge students at FHSU, and I pray that they continue to serve Christ.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Kansas Report - Days 8-9

So after the party we had a debriefing session with Challenge, and we got to bed late that night. But we still had to get up early on Saturday so that we could come home. I left my house at 6:30 that morning, and we arrived at the last house at about 6:45 to pick up the girls. When we got there, some of the Challenge students had arrived to send us off and give us some breakfast. So we ate with them and they prayed over us before we left. They gave us a Tupperware bowl full of breakfast food and junk food.

So we hit the road about 7:00 in just an inch of snow. We knew that the snow storm that had come through was ahead of us, and we thought we would be able to make it home, even if it was late. So we continued. But the snow only got worse, and the further we went, the harder it was to travel. The interstate was covered in snow and ice. A few times I thought we were ready to run off the road or tip over. Needless to say, our leader who was driving was a little nervous and worried. We began looking for exits, but they were either blocked or there was nothing on the exit, so there was no point in stopping.

We finally found a rest stop, and we pulled over. It was a good thing since we all had to go to the restroom. We then realized that the snow was up to our knees. We got back in the van and sat, waiting to see what we should do next. Our leader realized that the exit was blocked with one truck run off the road and another one struggling to get back on the road. Plus we had a nice pile of snow in front of the van that we could not drive around. We could only go through it. But that was impossible. Some of the girls remembered the Tupperware bowl, and us three guys rotated "shoveling" snow with that and a clipboard that a trucker gave us to use.

The process was slow, and we only moved a few inches each time we tried to move. But with the help of the truckers, we began to make progress. But then, after we pushed the van a little, we got stuck in the pile, not able to go forward or backward. Finally, the truckers said that we needed to push the van. So we got everyone out of the van, and with a few truckers, we all pushed the van through the snow and were finally free! But the truck blocking the exit was still stuck in front of us. So we continued to wait. We were at the rest area for 2 hours, and that truck had already been working on getting out for 3.5 hours. He finally got out, and so did we.

The problem now was deciding where to stay. Should we find a hotel? We knew the next city was 30 miles away. We had to go through the ice if we were going to find a place to stay. Carin, back in Hays, knew of a Christian convention center in Salina that might be able to keep us for the night. Thankfully, they did. So after 5.5 hours, we had gone 100 miles! But we were just grateful to have a place to stay. We spent the rest of the day in Salina. The guys built a fort, and it was awesome! We wanted to make a Fort Hays, since the one we had seen was disappointing. Then we went back inside with the girls and played games the rest of the night.

We got up at 7 the next morning and left by 7:45. We knew that we had to leave later because of the snowstorm ahead of us. So we waited for the sun to come out so that it could melt the snow ahead of us. We started out slow, just to be careful. But we soon realized that the roads were clear, and we gradually made our way across Kansas, seeing snow still piled up everywhere! We were on the road all day Sunday, but once again we were able to keep ourselves occupied with movies, games, and even homework. But we did make it home at 8:30 that night.

God was with us on our way back home. If the students had not given us that bowl, how would we have shoveled the snow? It would have been much harder! If we had not heard about the center in Salina, where would we have stayed and gotten that good of food? We would have been separated in hotel rooms. And if God had not melted the snow on the way home, how much longer would it have taken us to get back? We will never know. What a great experience coming home. Once again, God protected us through a storm, and we have lived to tell about it. This was a memorable trip that I will not soon forget.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Kansas Report - Day 7

The last day in Hays was technically our "free day." We had heard that there was a fort in Hays, hence the name Fort Hays State University. And we had been told that this fort was behind the university. So we had thought about touring it on Friday morning, when we had our free time. But when we woke up to 1 inch of snow that morning, we decided that this was probably not going to be a good idea. Instead we went to the local museum in Hays, sponsored by the university, and got to see all kinds of Dinosaurs and dinosaur bones. There was also this exhibit called "Fish-within-a-Fish," which was the bones of a fish who had eaten a fish. So we spent a lot of time at the museum that morning and then decided to at least drive by the fort. But there was no fort, or at least not what we had imagined. We were looking for a wooden structure but only found a few remaining buildings on the land.

That afternoon we went back to Carin's house to eat with her. We stopped by Subway and bought lunch and then went to have a debrief meeting with Carin. She had been sick most of the week, unable to talk. So we had not had as much time as we had wanted with her. So we heard how she had come to Hays and how Christian Challenge began. She then asked us questions about the week, and we were able to wrap things up nicely for the week.

After leaving her house, we all went to our hosts' houses to get ready for the Paidui Country Party. So we put on all of our country gear and got ready for the dance. Once again, we had a great turnout. Several students showed up, including many international students. We learned how to line dance to a few songs and had a great time. Many of us even had opportunities to share the Gospel with some of the international students. Two students that I was able to share with seemed interested and confused. One had been to Tuesday night Challenge before, and the other guy promised to go. I have since found out that they both showed back up this past week and that one of the Challenge students is meeting with them next week to talk. I pray that God will continue to draw them to Himself.

Once the party was over, we all went back to the girls' house to meet with the leadership team one last time. They wanted a debriefing session, much like what we had done with Carin earlier in the day. So we were able to share what we had learned during the week. It was a great time of encouragement for both teams. So that night ended our time in Hays. We said all of our good-byes and then headed back to our host homes for our last night. Then, on Saturday morning we got up to leave, fearing that there may be more snow. But thankfully it was still about an inch in Hays. But that is another long story, and you will have to wait until tomorrow to hear about our ride back home.


Kansas Report - Days 5-6

Wednesday began with us all going to class. I know, go to class while you are on Spring Break? That doesn't make much sense to most people. But it was an amazing experience! As Union students, most of us have never been in a secular classroom. So we were able to experience teaching from a new perspective, see how students and professors interact, see how and what professors say and teach in class, and see what the students believed.

I went to a class called Diversity, which is a class where the students discuss different topics about life. The day that we were there was a discussion about the differences in men and women, so we split the class up like that. We discussed topics such as relationships, marriage, and children. It was interesting to see their views as opposed to what we believe. Some of them were selfish, not wanting to meet their spouse until their dreams had been accomplished (school and work). And then, they wanted to put off children to spend time with their spouse. As a team, we later discussed whether this is how Christian's should view children. Should we put it off or should we be fruitful as Scripture commands, for children are the perfect opportunities for parents to create disciples. That is God's gift to parents. It was interesting to see how our views compared or differed.

After class, we all ate with the Challenge students and continued to build relationships with them and other students that we had met during the week. We had a little team time that afternoon, where we discussed what we learned and experienced in class. Then we got ready for bingo night. We had bought many prizes for the night and the turnout was great! The Challenge students told us that the numbers were more than they normally had at their events. It was a great chance to meet new students, and one of our team members talked to girl from Hays for 4 hours! We are still praying that she will come to know Christ.

Thursday was another great day, but we started a little later. After 5 days of nonstop action, we needed a breather. So we slept in a little late that morning and started on into the morning with breakfast and a team meeting. Then we headed back to campus to prayer walk the campus and pray for the different areas. We split into 4 groups and set out. It is amazing that we never ran into one another. We all knew where we wanted to go, and what we wanted to pray for. I feel like that campus was showered in prayers that morning, and I pray that God will continue to work there, especially through Christian Challenge.

We did some more prayer walking that afternoon as well as letting the students know about the International "Paidui" Party on Friday. After spending some more time on campus, we had another team meeting and then headed to the gym. It was dodgeball and basketball night! Once again, God showed up and sent students to the games that had not been coming to Challenge events. So not only were we able to get to know some of them, but so were the Challenge students. Again, we pray that they will continue to go to these events and have time to talk to the students at Hays.

So that was Wednesday and Thursday of last week. But there is still so much to come. Friday was a great day, especially at the Paidui Party that night. And then we had our own Kansas surprise on Saturday that you won't believe.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kansas Report - Day 4

Tuesday of the trip began with Tim, Landon, and I finishing up our work at the church, painting the foyer. We got most of the second coat done that morning, that is until we ran out of paint. When we had finished painting, we went back to Carin's to prepare for the day on campus. It was our first full day working directly with Christian Challenge on campus, and it also began the first of our four events for the week.

So from 11-2 we divided into 3 groups and worked around the campus. Each hour we rotated between eating lunch and getting to know students, prayer walking the campus and handing out flyers for the week's events, and working the table where we gave away free candy and informed people of the week's events. We were so thankful to see good turnouts throughout the week as a result of the flyers, posters, and especially the one-on-one conversations that we had with some of the students.

After working on campus, we had a little bit of free time in the afternoon, so we rested and prepared for the service that night. For supper, we ate with the Christian Challenge leadership team. It was their weekly meeting to work on upcoming events and pray as a team. We heard updates from them, and they got a chance to ask us more questions as well. Then we paired up with some of the students so that we could go to class with them on Wednesday. After the meeting they had their weekly service, Challenge. Tim was able to share his testimony and some Scripture with the students, and then as a team, we had prepared a skit for the night. Finally, a lady from another country spoke about her work on the mission field. She encouraged us to preach the Gospel and spoke of the importance of being intentional and obedient to that call. After the service, we hung around with many of the students and were able to have many more good conversations. Then it was time for bed after another long day.

Well I am getting tired, and a lot happened on Wednesday so I think I will cut off here for tonight. But there is still more to come. The week is not even half way over yet.