Topics: Personal Background

Posts that touch on events in my childhood or in the past

Admission Essay

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

If anyone is interested, this is my admission essay I wrote for acceptance into seminary for my Masters of Arts and Religion degree. I ended up being accepted. Hope you enjoy it!

I began my walk as a Christian later then my childhood friends growing up. Most of them had dedicated their lives to the Lord when they were between 3-5 years old; something that to this day I am suspicious of. At the time, I remember thinking that such spiritual experiences would be impossible for a very young child – for it takes a serious amount of understanding to fathom the complexity of hearing God’s invitation. For me, the time when I encountered God was much later.

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Eight things about me…

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

I was tagged by John Remy to post eight things about myself that my readers probably wouldn’t know. Unfortunately, I live a pretty boring life, so these probably won’t be too exciting.

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The “Lone Ranger” Spiritual Life – is it possible?

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

One essential element of living a thriving spiritual life is being part of a spiritual community. Being an independent-thinking kind of guy, I can’t say I really like this reality. When I was young, I was just part of a good community (which was composed of people from many, many churches) and didn’t think about things. When left home and went out on my own at college, I continued to go on autopilot – I attended a church regularly. Only when things went sour, after I had left college and started attending a bad church near where I worked, did I start to question the need for one. Can a person get along without a community of other spiritual people? Can a person live a thriving spiritual life by himself/herself?

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Intellectuals are all talk

Monday, April 9th, 2007

To paraphrase Bill Cosby in “Bill Cosby as Himself”:

“Intellectuals are people who study and read books about what other people do naturally”

I usually lose 2-3 hours a night (after I hit the sack at midnight) thinking deeply about something.  Here’s what keeps me up at night about being kept up at night: What’s the difference between the non-intellectual and the intellectual? Well, one person can defend what they believe better, but what good does that do the world? It seems that if deep thinking has any use, it must lead to action. If all I do all day is think but never act on my thinking, what difference have I made than the person that just does good naturally? If I pound my head over the sovereignty of God vs. the free will of men, but a Calvinist friend is out helping the poor in a soup kitchen, in the end, who is the better person? The one who acts, not the one who simply thinks or talks. Christ says much the same thing when speaking to the religious leaders of the day.

The one thing about people who are legalistic (have a billion rules about what is wrong to do) is that for all their excessive, non-biblical moral rules, they ALWAYS have license – areas of their lives that are grossly amoral. In other words, they are compensating. Christ made this apparent to the religious leaders – they where hellfire sure to tithe down to the leaf of every herb in their personal gardens, but failed miserably to live up to the much more important things – practicing justice, mercy, and faithfulness. “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

About a year ago, I decided that I am prime pickings to be a Pharisee. Its not a matter of attitude, it’s what you become by default if you love learning and studying spiritual things. I now have three whole shelves dedicated to Bible commentaries and philosophical books. Every new book I buy and place on those shelves is another nail in the coffin of who I am becoming if I am not careful. Even the Apostle Paul warns about this before he talks about Love in the famous love chapter quoted in most Christian weddings – Knowledge puffs up. So here’s the damning equation: Love of learning leads inevitably to pride which leads to inevitably to a self-centered life.

Here is what I am prone to do: I sit at my desk or chair with a great book, and my wife works downstairs with the chores of cooking and cleaning and looking after our now two children. I am reading a book on how to be more like God. For God sake, the stupidity! A more godly thing to do would be to go down to her and help her with the dishes and cooking the meal and watching the kids. I just did it again today. I played a video game where I am the hero out to save the world, (which is a great boon to my heart) but in real life, I sit at my computer for hours while my wife who has to nurse our new baby and cook dinner for our hungry daughter. I’m too busy pretending to be brave and helpful to a fantasy world to help even my wife a little in the real one.

I said my wife has done a lot in our community and church and work – its very true. Here’s the funny thing – she really beats herself up for not being spiritual and regularly thinks she’s a terrible Christian and looks to me as being the ideal. I just want to cry when she says that. I’m more to be pitied than to be looked up to. After 7 years of marriage, if she doesn’t see it that way (the hypocracy) then she probably will soon. I’m trying to shape up before she looses more respect for me 🙂 Thankfully, I have a very gracious wife. I’m more critical of myself than she is.

Intellectuals are like legalists, they overcompensate for something they lack elsewhere. Legalists lack morality in some secret or subconscious area of their lives, Intellectuals lack action.

When I talk about action, I’m not talking about gigantic crusades to change our nation or culture. I’m talking about what matters – loving your wife, looking after your elderly neighbor, spending time with your children who are here today and gone tomorrow. I’m talking about unimportant things like doing the dishes, telling your wife you love her, taking out the garbage, cleaning up the house, helping her make dinner. What is the spotlight for except to inspire the best of us to do the smaller things that are the most important, that keep our families alive, that in turn keep our communities alive, that in turn keep our society alive?

I am probably being harsh on intellectuals (meaning I am being really harsh on myself). Maybe I’m the only self-centered intellectual around. But hey, if we love thinking so much and reading about stuff, how about we think about this: stop thinking and start doing. After you’re done doing something, you’ll suddenly have more to think about than you ever dreamed. I accidentally did something once, and can say it was wonderful from personal experience. 🙂

The meaning of the fairy tale

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

I wanted to add some notes about my final dream / short story fairy tale I spoke about in my last post. I read it and realized that nobody would be able to understand how it defined my life.

The grandmother represents the Christian church I grew up in similar to how C.S. Lewis describes the allegorical character of Mother Kirk in his book Pilgrim’s Regress. This was a complete coincidence (or was it??) – I read Pilgrim’s Regress years later. The church told the stories (the Bible) about God (the princess), but only managed to put within me the desire. They were simply the messenger, and the stories were only stories, testimonies of something or someone beautiful and real.

Even after I came to believe in God, it was hard figuring out what to do with Him amidst the pulls of the world and culture around me. I was drawn to all the different kinds of pursuits a young, shy, and intellectual guy could find to do. I dove headfirst into the arts – drawing and painting, and literature: SF, the classics, and then spiritual books – mostly C.S Lewis and crowd (the Inklings), the sciences (astronomy and physics), and creative writing. Each new area I encountered, I would engorge myself on it. For instance, when I first got into fantasy and SF – I would read 2-3 200+ page books a week.

Each pursuit had something exciting about it, some mysterious quality that attracted me to it. But the closer I got to it, the more its mystery and exciting qualities seemed to wane. Eventually they would all settle into the role of comfortable pastimes rather than passionate pursuits. So I would jump and engorge myself on the next thing.

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Foundations of my belief (part 2)

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

John over at MindonFire.com helped me remember that not only reading, but also writing, has had a huge impact on what I believe. I thought I would actually write about this experience, and how it shaped me. I have written a collection of short stories that blend the spaces of SF and fantasy. It is in the strange marriage of these two genres, where the worlds of magic and theoretical science come together, that my imagination has always been most stirred.  To me, the two are one and the same thing, only in different contexts.
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Foundations of my belief

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

I have a funny background.

I was brought up Christian, but it is not the kind of Christianity that most people think of when they think “Christian.” I grew up in rural Pennsylvania among Amish and Mennonite folks who were very moral, and who to some degree removed themselves from the larger society to seek God more closely as their own community. Our whole region was very religious. I grew up in Evangelical Free Churches mostly. My church was usually someone’s house, a school, a room in the local town hall, etc. We were always a small group that just loved each other. Our “official” beliefs where usually just that we believed in Jesus, and that the Bible was true. That’s it. No strict dogma. No concept of membership – if you came and kept coming, you were a part of the group. It was all about relationships – we just loved each other. Often times these little churches would break up because our part-time pastor got another job in a different city, or that people just gradually drifted away. It was always sad when this happened – I remember the adults crying about it. Such great people. I have the fondest memories of this part of my life.

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