Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Too Hard

"For many students, college is a smorgasbord of easy courses chosen for their lack of academic rigor." -Jane S. Shaw

Oh how often I have taken the road of ease. Last May (2012) I took a detour from pastoring three churches to spend time in a scholarly setting (seminary) for a prescribed time (2.5 years). It had been several years since my last classwork had finished up, but one thing certainly had not changed. 

"Hey, tell me about Professor X," says the newbie to the experienced seminarian. "What's their style like? Is their class difficult? How much work is it? What are their requirements?"

Inevitably, the experienced seminarians will be sought out by the first-year students and the majority of the first-years will begin charting the course of least resistance. They avoid the professor who assigns the extra 50 pages of reading or the paper that is 15 pages and not 12. They do the minimum necessary to stay off of academic probation and receive their degree so they can go on to half-heartedly carried out ministries, stay under the radar and get paid.

I cannot speak with authority on all seminarians, all graduate students or even all undergraduate students. Certainly someone will read this and find offense in the suggestion that they aren't trying hard enough. For some, college courses of any kind are challenging regardless of whether they are taking them from the "easy" professors. Others will take issue with the thought that so many seek out the "easy" path to a degree.

My thesis is not that all students lack motivation or shrink from challenging courses. My thesis is not that some students don't struggle. My thesis is that more students need to grow up and look for more challenge in class because life is not lived in the easy lane. Furthermore, for those who are extremely gifted with minds built to study the abstract and struggle through tough issues, don't waste your mind by avoiding the tough thinking. You must exercise it for it to handle even greater topics. 

I would also suggest that no matter what you believe your mental capacity is, it can be still greater if you exercise it and push yourself outside of the realm of easy.

Read like crazy. Read everything. Look up words you don't understand. Read and re-read and read yet again as many times as it takes to catch a glimpse of what you are reading. Your mind can handle it. (Admittedly, I have wasted many years not reading and it was tough at first to start reading regularly.)

The attached article (where the quote above is taken from) advocates for colleges and universities to stop babying students and requiring more from them. I am all for that (though my actions do not always suggest that in my course selection). My last point is this: if your classes and professors and life itself isn't challenging you enough to learn, challenge yourself to learn.

Wall Street Journal article

Monday, August 20, 2012


it's a scary thing to grow up. oh, sure, we all talk a good game, but when it comes down to the reality of growing up we are all terrified. one day your snacking on graham crackers and chocolate milk in kindergarten and the next your walking across the stage receiving a college diploma in something you may or may not have a career path in. your days of chasing butterflies are supplanted by days chasing paychecks. joy in simple things is replaced with faking joy in complicated things.

my 4-year-old amazes me with his energy and enthusiasm with the simplest of things. offer almost any activity and he's all over it like you created the best new game in the world. he's not stupid...not by any means. he's not grown up...and i envy that. he's never had to worry about getting the bills paid on time or whether or not his cereal has BHT or whether women should or should not be ordained. he's not concerned with meat vs. vegetarian vs. vegan or riddled with a drug/alcohol addiction or fighting off an STD contracted from yet another bad choice. he hasn't struggled through algebra or english class, let his mind wander will sitting through a meaningless task at his dead-end job or lost his keys the morning of a big interview. he hasn't "experienced life" like i have. but i envy his life.

my son isn't scared to grow up yet. he announces proudly, to anyone who may ask, that he is four and on his next birthday he'll be five and then eight. (someone needs to teach my kid the correct sequence of numbers.) he asked me this week if he could get a skateboard when he turned eight and then go to the skate park. (i said yes, btw.) he eagerly anticipates each new morning. he's up ready to roll without an alarm clock clutching the day by the nape of its neck and refusing to let it go lest he miss out on every exciting thing it may offer.

i'm afraid of him growing up because i don't want him to lose the wonder i lost. i'm afraid of him growing up because he'll stop looking forward to turning 28, 38, 48. i'm afraid of him growing up and losing his death grip on each day demanding it shake loose some of the goodness God grants this world. i'm afraid of him growing up and becoming like his dad.

it's a scary thing to grow up. i talked a great game when i was younger. and though i am not "old" i have lost too much of the wonder of the world. i have lost too much trust and too much vigor. i don't want to grow up any more. i want the heart of my little boy.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A True Believer

Are you a believer?

Justin Bieber has his Beliebers. "Believers" have been known in some countries as groups fully committed to a cause, often one of anarchy and anti-government. The Monkeys crooned that seeing a woman's face made them believers. Christians have long identified themselves as believers. But what does this "belief" really mean? Where does it lead?

Seminary lends itself to plenty of opportunities for questioning belief and answer questions with more questions. After three blitzkrieg months of lectures, papers and readings a person could pull out whatever hair remained and move on to another career or school just for a break. So the greatest question before a seminarian must be, "Why are you here? Why are you in school for three years of graduate work? Why not something else? Why not a different school?"

Today our professor in Church History put it to our class this way: If you don't believe the Bible, and ultimately religion, has the power to change lives, then go to law school or business school to gain advantage in the areas where worldly power lies. If your religion and your religious education is your way of gaining advantage and power for yourself you are wasting your time at seminary. Power in the world is wielded through money, law and politics. If your goal is power, advantage and control, you are better suited for law school or business school. 

So, are you a believer? Am I a believer? Do we really believe the Bible has the power to change lives? Have we actually experienced a change through our search of the Scriptures and our religious education?

No, our religion cannot be grounded in experience. It must be grounded in something unchanging (i.e. the Word - Scripture/Jesus). But, interaction with the Word means simultaneous experience or action. Bonhoeffer writes, "In the gospels the very first step a man must take is an act which radically affects his whole existence." (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 65) A change must occur (immediately, according to Bonhoeffer) or the "interaction" is one-sided and pointless.

Now to stop avoiding the question...am I a believer in the Word, in His ability to change me, in His power to change others?

Some days I want to believe more than anything else. Other days I don't want to believe because of what I think it will mean for my life. There are days full of total surrender and commitment to God's plan, but there are days of personally dictating what God should and shouldn't plan. Yesterday I may have relished the change in me through the Word and today I resent it.

The Word declares itself an active change-agent. "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. 4:12) "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16,17)

Jesus, the Word of God in human form, is active. He is dividing the holy from the natural and preparing it for the righteous work on earth. He is looking into what we really are, reading our thoughts and intentions, determining our motives and correcting us, pouring a foundation in the immovable Word and teaching us to search for the everlasting Kingdom of God first of all.

I am not a Be-lieber (sorry, Rich). I am not an anarchist. And though my wife's face does stir up powerful emotion and feeing, it is only Christ Himself, the Living Word, that qualifies me as a believer today. And He must everyday.

Are you a believer?

Monday, July 23, 2012

The True Fan

Long ago I was a "true" baseball fan. The Chicago White Sox were my favorite team with Robin Ventura at third base, Ozzie Guillen at shortstop, Ray Durham at second base and Frank Thomas, my favorite player, at first base. Living in Kansas City meant I like a division rival. (In reality I liked the White Sox just to annoy my all-KC-fan friends.) I knew statistics and followed box scores. I dreamed of playing for the White Sox and even winning the World Series wearing the white and black pin stripe jerseys.

A fan is "a person who has compulsion toward" something in particular. (reference) Thesaurus.com shows similar words: buff, devotee, enthusiast, fanatic, freak, nut and junkie. This certainly described my love of baseball, and especially the White Sox, when I was 8-11 years old. As I grew older my loyalties morphed and I've become less fanatical for specific teams and more appreciative of the sport. In the mind of the "true fans" out there, I would most likely be seen as a turn-coat or lazy fan. Maybe I'm seen as a bandwagon fan.

Where does your devotion to Jesus rank on the Christian "fan-dom" scale? Much like my evolving baseball enthusiasm my devotion to Christianity and Jesus ebbs and flows. Admittedly my commitment waxes and wanes from day to day and moment to moment. There are times I can name the players on God's team with confidence and pride. Other times I couldn't care less. And though my wavering allegiances to baseball teams means little in the long run, I recognize the importance of choosing Christ's "team" and sticking with it.

It can be difficult to look around the bench (in church we call them pews) and wondering how we could possibly win a single game, let alone a championship. Our uniforms don't match or look like their from another era. Our signals are crossed and many players seem uncoordinated or uninterested in the action on the field. In short, we are screwed. But if watching sports comeback movies has taught me anything it's that the manager makes a huge difference.

Jesus Christ has a plan for this eclectic line-up of players in His dugout. He knows where each one fits. We cannot expect to win being fair-weather fans (or players). God's long-term quest for an eternal championship will be realized. Do not cast aside your confidence in your Manager. Keep showing up to the game, playing for the right team and waiting for Jesus Christ to bring in the greatest closer of all-time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I am enamored with Instagram. Truth be told it's not the app itself that captures my attention...pictures do.

I love looking at pictures. Funny faces, frozen faces, smiling faces, sad faces, weird faces, wild faces. Automobiles, barns, cats, dogs, ears, feet, groups, houses, igloos, jokes, kangaroos, laughter, monstrous mountains, nerdy nephews, orbiting orbs, pitchers, quacks, restrooms, saloons, toddlers, universes, valentines, washboards, exes, yokels, and the Zambezi zinger. All may be imprisoned forever.

The "magic" of photography first was recorded by Aristotle and Euclid in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. (Wikipedia makes everyone sound so stinking smart.) Societies the world over have wondered after the marvel of piece of history frozen in time. Photos are fascinating.

Pictures to me are the antithesis of a Christian's life. While pictures take hold of points in time and captures them for eternity, a Christian's life is fluid, moving, ever-changing. The enemy loves to present pictures of who we have been as evidence of why we cannot be something different. But the truth is we cannot allow points in our past define who we can/will be today. Sure, we deal with the consequences of the events recorded in the pictures of our past, but those effigies of history are forgotten by God at our request.

Thankfully our sinfulness is not (generally) plastered on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for the world's consumption. But even if it is, do not let the weight of the evidence seared in your memory cripple your walk with Jesus Christ. Your journey continues despite the pictures of the past.

Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Time to Start Over

Life seems to go through multiple resets. Graduations (Kindergarten, 8th grade, Junior High, Senior High, College, Graduate, Doctorate), marriage(s), birth(s), divorce(s), break-ups and make-ups all provide opportunities for a clean slate, per se. We lose jobs, change jobs, buy new cars, new houses, and new-to-you toys. We cannot take for granted to chances we have to reset our lives.

It's been several months since I last wrote an entry for this blog. It's been far longer than I anticipated or wished. But life changes and it is only now that, thankfully, I can "start over" in regard to Saturday Morning.

I thank God for His willingness to allow us a reset in life. He knows I've needed them before and I'll need them until He comes. Relish your resets.