29 September 2008

Should I Flip a Coin?

How do you make big decisions? Flip a coin? Draw a straw? "My mother told me to pick the very best?" Should decisions come easy? If I had the answer I would not sit here confused and blogging and you would have to watch TV or read a real piece of writing instead of my dilemma. 

I graduated last May from Johnson Bible College with a BA in Youth Ministry and Preaching. I decided my senior year of school switch from a BS to a BA. In doing so I effectively signed four semesters of my life over to biblical Greek. Tough. I loved Greek. My favorite class. The class opened my eyes up to the world of biblical scholarship, a world of intriguing discussions and harsh, but good-natured criticism. At the end of my five year journey through college I had my diploma in hand, a part-time job as Youth Minister in a neighboring town, and hopes of graduate school after my wife finished her year of graduate work. 

In scientific research and experiment the researcher must control and implement variables. I feel I have found a variable in my life since graduation. I graduated in May, but I'm not sure what decision I will come to. Since the mission trip with the youth group I have grown much closer, and c0-directing VBS helped me learn more about the congregation. VBS also let them in on the fact that I have not matured since the 7th grade. My wife and I have become fast friends with this congregation and their children.

As September turns to October I realize that I have worked at the church for over a year. Does not seem like that much time has passed. This summer for the church brought new life to the congregation and has drawn me further into that life. Therein lies my dilemma. I have hopes of Master's degree and even a PhD, but I also hope to enjoy ministry before I consider teaching at a collegiate level. Knowing this, how do I choose? Hopes of more education and hopes of ministry. The Emmanuel School of Religion will provide me an incredible opportunity for a first-rate and affordable education within a two hour drive of Knoxville. At the same time the ministry at the church has picked up momentum and I am building a rapport with the students. The children at the church make every time I teach an awesome and fun experience.

How do I choose? How do I decide between working toward my future career and the career I'm building in the present?

I'm doing my best to stay objective, but some friends from K-town are too dear to me to not enter into my decision. I know that one day I will look back on this and see God's timing, but for now, I feel like I'm in the dark.

How do I make this decision? 

17 September 2008

Tales of Bravery and Anti-Freeze

Some time has passed since my last blog, so I thought I would let the world in on my life lived on the edge. (In case any of you were wondering, that sentence was a joke.) I have fought bravely on the front lines of life since then, and I have lost. I have sustained no major loss, but laziness has plagued my bones. No self-respecting adult should begin their morning at 11 AM, but lately I have. Two seasons of TV on DVD have found shelter in the caverns of my docile brain, and my house remains a wreck. When will motivation find me? 

So I sit in my favorite chair, writing about laziness on my new Macbook, surrounded by the clutter I have yet felt compelled to organize. In the meantime I have started a career at Starbucks and learned the arts of the coffee barista. I have faced the coffee dragons (as I like to call them), and I have survived the fiery blast that spews forth from their condescension. Sometimes bravery means not reflecting the attitude which the dragons breath down on you. I cannot say that I did not struggle with my attitude, but I remained sincere and helpful, and that will defeat most dragons as they normally receive swords in return for their actions. Bravery: not writing someone off when you have every right to do so.

I'll proceed on, as not to bore you. (I'll try at least.) Today I opened for the first time at the Bucks. 5AM. Ugh. I believe whole-heartedly that God did not intend man to rise before the sun, but I found myself staring down the road into the darkness with my headlights keeping me company. Stupid AM. I managed though, with the help of four espresso shots. Afterward, I took a well deserved nap. Incredible. If only Napping competitions existed, I would not do anything else. Mmmmmm - Sleep.

Nap behind me, I headed to West K-Town to pick up my wife from student teaching. Let me take a quick moment to tell you about the phenomenon that is my wife. Beauty. Humor. Heart. Charm. Love. One day she will achieve sainthood, until then I will remain her favorite sinner. The one guy who did not deserve her, but she still choose to share her heart and home. Blessed. 

Anyway, Gina students teaches and I pick her up on Wednesdays after school so she can attend church with me and we do not waste too much gasoline. On the way I noticed that the Taurus (whom I call Melvin) reached pretty high up on the temperature gauge. I do not like when Melvin reaches the toward the "H" that rests above that safe zone. Melvin never lost his cool, but he came close. When we reached church I looked under the hood, and sure enough the reservoir held no signs of coolant. So after reaching a fever pitch of stress (this activity involves me calling my dad and questioning him like a mechanic, calling a mechanic, surfing the web, and inspecting the engine) I decided filling the reservoir was my only option, and until something serious happened I possessed no reason for freaking out. God talks through my car.

I sometimes worry I will die of a heart attack because I can hardly handle my anxiety. I tell the students in my youth group to bring their worries to God, but I find myself unable to follow that advice. Still, again and again, God finds me driving to the mechanic praying for my car (sounds dumb, but I stress so much about my vehicles) and he provides. Too often I rely on myself, whether my car breaks down, or my bank account looks like a creek in the desert, or I forget why I am a minister. Too often when I cross those deserts, I look back and see God's working. When will I learn? 

Trust will lead to the fulfilled Christian life. Trust. Practicing this simple word will allow us to open up to the leading of the Invisible God, but trusting what you cannot see can feel like walking through the forest blindfolded. Even though trust is hard, trust moves us forward, especially with God. Though the disciples found themselves in great danger, more than once, they would not have seen the miracles if they did not trust the carpenter's son when he said, "Follow me." Trust. 

Trusting God can seem like starring under the hood of your car. You want to make a move, to fix what's wrong, but you cannot see where to start. To trust, just start.  I will learn to trust if you will.

05 September 2008


The Starbucks that my wife (and now I) work at has a montlhy newsletter, and one month I read the featured book and the manager asked me to write a review of the book, and I oblidged.

a Book Review
I had no plans of becoming involved. I had only come to Starbucks to enjoy some coffee and maybe read the paper, but instead I found something else. I asked my wife (Gina – an employee of the Seymour, TN store) if I could read the books on the shelves and just put them back. She told me to hold on a minute and withdrew to the back of the store, and emerged seconds later with a different book. The book, hardback and blue with a picture of dog on the cover, was the “partner copy” of the next book Starbucks would carry. So I returned to the corner with the comfy chairs, sipped my bold with a shot of espresso, and began to read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I became involved.

The narrator and chief character in the book is Enzo, a dog. Enzo feels his time to become a man has come. He saw a show on TV about how Mongolians believe good dogs become men in the next life, so they bury them at the top of a hill to enjoy the wild before they enter their human body. Enzo loves TV and his favorite channel is the SPEED Channel as his master, Denny, races semiprofessionally, and has done so ever since Enzo has known him.

Garth Stein has created an immediately lovable character. Enzo represents an extraordinary level of contemplation for a dog, which he attributes to his education watching TV while Denny and his family work and go to school. Choosing to convey this story through the perspective of the dog expresses superb writing on Stein’s part, which allows the reader to experience a very human story from a very unhuman perspective. Stein begins the story on the eve of the dog’s death, and the reader joins Enzo as he takes a look back over his life. He remembers the farm where he spent some of his childhood; he remembers the passion and sacrifice it took for his master Denny to succeed professionally; he remembers the pain the whole family felt at the devastating loss of Denny’s wife Eve; he remembers the court drama between Denny and Eve’s parents over the custody of Denny’s daughter Zoe; Enzo has seen a lot. In the end Enzo has valiantly helped the Swift family through their trials and longs to see Denny become the champion he is, and all of this with Zoe at his side.

Garth Stein has fashioned a beautiful story that will break your heart and lift your spirit, and he does all of this through Enzo’s eyes. He brilliantly intertwines racing principles with the story and then applies them to the story, the chief of which says, “That which you manifest is before you.” If you read much, or if you don’t read much, you must read this book. It will make you laugh out loud as Enzo gives reasons why humans evolved from dogs and not monkeys, and it will make you cry as the family experiences the terrible loss of a wife and mother. Again, whether or not you read, you should read this book. I give it two paws way up.

03 September 2008

Politics or Circus Ring?

Lately I have listened to talk radio more than usual. It has proved good entertainment since the Democratic National Convention and now the Republican National Convention. If they only passed out free popcorn!
First came the drama with the onslaught of Clintons at the DNC, but they proved (quite surprisingly for me) that they remain dedicated to the party. Endorsing Obama at each of their speeches put them into a better light. Obama's speech, however, proved charismatic but with out much more detail than usual.
The big drama came as McCain announced his VP choice: Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska. McCain immediately took the women's issue and put it in the hands of the Republicans, making this voting year historic. No matter which way an individual votes, they vote for a minority ticket. Pretty cool if you think about it.
I must admit, McCain's VP pick impressed me. I love listening to talk radio as this situation plays out. The Democrats screech and wail about Palin not having enough experience for a VP slot, and in perfect political form the Republicans cry out and scream that Obama does not have enough experience for a Presidential slot. What fun! The best part lies in the fact that the hosts actually do screech and scream on the radio.
The issue that bothers me concerns Palin's family. Palin and her husband have 5 children, the youngest (if I'm not mistaken) has Down Syndrome. Many questioned whether Palin could perform as VP and raise this child considering the challenges he will face. Next came word that Palin's 17 year old daughter is pregnant. Suddenly her daughter has become the same media fodder as Brittany and Paris. I find all of this drama over Palin's family unfair and unreasonable.
As American people and families, we should be encouraged by this family's success in politics and continuing dedication to each other. If Palin chooses to pursue success in politics and raise her children then I respect that, her family is not America's business. Obama himself even said that the subject should remain off limits.
I do not understand why her daughter's pregnancy remains such a common subject on TV. Maybe there exist some who would say if Palin cannot control her family, she cannot fulfill her role as VP. Who knows? I'm not sure why media coverage surrounds this poor young woman, but I want information that furthers the election, not coverage of Palin's daughter who has been humiliated enough having her mistakes paraded in front of the whole nation.
I often feel that voters cast votes based on the wrong subjects or on who dresses the best or has the most charisma, and I do not feel this problem is entirely the voters' fault. The media has done nothing to help inform America's voters, but rather turned our political system into a circus (the media did have help from the government though). Before Presidential candidates were chosen, I knew nothing of John McCain except he was old and the Vietnamese tortured him during the war. The only information on the news at night concerned Barak and Hillary. Only until now has the Republican party put itself in the spotlight, and it seemed they had to force their way in.
I urge you to make a decision based on your own research. Listen to the debates, listen to their speeches from the respective conventions, and read about each candidate. I strongly feel that the media in America no longer presents clear, unbiased information if they do decide to talk about something of value.
Well, I think I will stop the rant here. I will save my other political pet peeves for later. I just hope that before November we can rely on someone in the media to provide real information. Until then I will just continue to listen to the democrat and republican hosts on 100.3 FM WNOX, Knoxville's Big Talker. This station provides a good balance of both sides, you just have to sort their opinions out yourself, and they have a good selection of intelligent and entertaining local hosts. So until November rolls around, I'll be here, waiting for the sky to fall, pigs to fly, and the circus to leave.