Sunday, December 31, 2006

Top Ten Memories of 2006

It's a New Year, and I guess that is a good thing. For the past few years one of my personal highlights of the new year is being able to look back at the previous one and compile this little list of my favorite memories from the year. Since this is a top ten list, it is organized in descending order, for dramatic effect of course!

10. Fall Retreat
I had a good year at Epworth, and I think the fact that this list will contain many church related memories shows that. Anyway, the Fall Retreat was good for multiple reasons. I designed my own curriculum on Spiritual Warfare that in my biased opinion is really, really good (the adult chaperons who came told me the same). More importantly, it seemed that the concepts really connected with some of the youth. On top of that, I got to play paintball and the retreat concluded with an extremely incredible snipe hunt.

9. Stripping in Church
One of the biggest accomplishments I feel I made this year was establishing a youth-focused service once a quarter at Epworth, and this particular test service really helped. I gave a sermon that required me to take off my clothes (as I took off layers of who I am). It is obvious that this message really connected as both the illustration and the content is STILL talked about in the church.

8. Jr. High Trip
I had a really busy summer this year. Part of this summer involved taking the Jr. High to Arkansas for an experience at Heifer Ranch. The experience of the world village which involved living in a grass hut and experiencing poverty first hand might have been to much for some of the Jr. Highers, but it defiantly made an impact on them . . . and me.

7. White Water Rafting
This was a really good youth group trip. I along with a group of teenagers and adult chaperons got to eat lunch atop John's Rock. Swim in a waterfall, go down an overflowing sliding rock, participate in a worship service on the side of a mountain, and of course go White Water Rafting for the first time. It is also on this trip that I discovered I really, really like Queen (listening to them for 6 hours straight will do that!)

6. Melissa's Wedding
I will be honest, the weddings are always beautiful and it is always great to see people I know happy, but my favorite part of going to weddings is spending time with other people who have come to the weddings. I got to do that at two weddings this year: Carrie and Dustin's and Melissa and Ben's (and my sister got married!) However, at Mel's wedding I got to catch up with a lot of old friends and I greatly enjoyed that.

5. Battlefront 2 Day
For the first 8 months of the year, at least once a week my brother and I would get our gaming on. Galaxies were conquered, Invaders were repelled, and monkeys were slaughtered. It was epic. However, he had to go and move to Denver. Knowing this was coming we put aside an entire day to play Star Wars Battlefront II (our favorite game). We played all maps all modes (this was somewhere over 90 individual matches). It took close to 8 hours to complete, and we topped it off with a White Castle Crave Case. Yep, good times.

4. Getting Published
It has always been a dream of mine to be published for real. It so happened that in a course of like two weeks I did this twice as the website playedtodeath and the magazine Group bought articles from me. Throughout the year I wrote several video game reviews for Played to Death (though that seems to have dried up now), and in 2007 I have serious aspirations to get published in Group again.

3. Kentucky Get-a-way
Abigail and I did not take a proper vacation this year. However, over Fall break we did getaway to a little cabin along a lake in Kentucky outside of Louisville. It was fun and romantic. The fact we got to go to a Historical Arms Museum the next day only made it more perfect.

2. Seminary
There is not a specific seminary memory, but more of a composite. I have really enjoyed seminary. Despite how much I drag my feet in studying, reading, and writing I really do enjoy it and I am well suited for academia. More importantly, for the first time since graduating college I can now say that I have friends that I regularly interact with, which is something I have desired for a couple of years now. It is a little odd though that they are all 10+ years older than me.

1. Cayman Island Mission Trip
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The youth group mission trip to the Cayman Islands is the single biggest endeavor that I have ever been in charge of. The actual trip itself was good, productive, and memorable. The biggest highlight for me is not the work we accomplished, the fun we had, or the good evening small group. The highlight for me is that the trip would have failed if Abigail was not there. I handled the big picture stuff, she made sure it flowed. We made a heck of a team!

I have to say, I greatly enjoyed 2006. If 2007 is anywhere near as good as 2006 then I am truly blessed.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Thus Falls the Witch King

The Witch King, of course being our computer. Using some extra money we had, we decided to buy a new computer. The one that was built for us as a wedding present (named the Witch King by Stephen) has served us well. However, the hard drive was getting extremely close to full and after exploding, a serious virus attack, and being used daily for for three and a half years, the computer had become extremly quirky and a tad untrustworthy. It will be going into retirement now, I am not sure what it will be doing yet (it might get used as a youth group computer since the size is right and it has an S-video output), but it was a good computer.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

One Semester done!

Yesterday I turned in my last final paper, so for better or worse I am officially done with one semester of seminary. Overall, I really enjoyed this semester. I sigh when I begin reading and I put papers off to the last second, but I really do enjoy being a student. It was really cool that this semester there was a group of people that I had every class with. Every Tuesday and most Thursday we would eat lunch together and discuss the various topics that were being brought up in our classes, and I really enjoy those types of conversations. CTS has a reputation of being a theologically libera school. From the student body standpoint, I do not think that is the case. If Conservative/Liberal is a spectrum then I think the student body is really close to fitting in a bell curve, and if anything it would be skewed slightly to the right. However, from a falculty standpoint this reputation is well earned. While my theology professor respected all opinions equally, it should be noted that the shortest readings for the class were on what would be considered conservative theological viewpoints. From comments made on SPAM papers it is obvious that professor has serious issue with anyone claiming knowing a relatable God, even if it is a recountance of personal experience (seriously, how can you discount my experience just becuse it is not your own?) Finally, My NT professor made it clear up front where on the spectrum he fell. I learned a good deal this semster. However, in many instances I had to choose to go with what I have learned or what I believe. This is most evident in the NT class. I found literary, historical, and social criticism fascinating. However, if these forms of analysis are carried out to their complete conclusion then the Bible can not be the inspired word of God. My own personal experience is that the Bible is indeed the inspired word of God, so I had to choose which I was going to go with. As I was confronted and digesting different viewpoints I found that my own beliefs grew stronger, sometimes in spite of what I was being taught.
Overall, it was a good semster. I should be getting grades back soon, and hopefully I did ok.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Getting Jaded about Christimas

Seriously jaded. It has been a long time coming but it really seems to becoming to a head this year. This weekend while I was messing with putting multi-colored lights on a piece of plastic made to resemble an evergreen, I found myself asking what is the point of this? What does any of this have to do with Christmas? How does putting Darth Vader ornaments on a tree on the incarnation of Christ? How does decorating our house in snowmen give glory to the King that Christmas is suppose to celebrate?
I am also tired of Christmas music. Every time I get in the car with my wife, we have to listen to Christmas music. If I hear one more rendition of Jingle Bells, I'm seriously done. Have you ever noticed that the majority of Christmas music has nothing to do with the reason why Christmas exist in the first place? I have officially decided that the only Christmas music I truly like is the kind that appears in hymnals. (there are a few excpetions such as Little Drummer Boy, but I think you get the point).
I have nothing against the idea of exchanging gifts at Christmas. It creates a great family experiene, and giving and reciving gifts out of love is a great way to celebrate the best Gift of Love people have ever been given: Jesus. However, I hat the comercialism of it all. I know everyone complains about the Christmas comercials, but I am tired of seeing the stupid coke bears, I am tired of every comercial break having Santa Claus hawking some other consumer good.

Speaking of Santa Claus, I really found myself agreeing with this blog post twice removed. I got it from Ruke, who got it from someone else.

Anti-Santa Sentiments, or Bah! Humbug

So the boy and I were talking about Santa yesterday.

I may have mentioned this before, but I'll remind you in case you've forgotten: I HATE SANTA.

Why? Several reasons, mostly to do with where I believe the modern Santa originated, and what I believe he represents. Santa, the fat red-suited housebreaker, is a commercial creation. He exists to sell products, most of which we don't want, don't need, and can't afford. There's some talk of him being a creation of the Coca-Cola franchise, and while I'm not completely convinced he's the evil brainchild of just one company, there's no doubt in my mind that his existence is driven by corporate profit.

This is aside from my feelings about Christmas as a religious feast day. I recognise that cultures and religions overlap: and Christmas is a valid cultural celebration as well as a religious festival. I don't have issues with non-Christians celebrating Christmas: I think, at its core, it's a celebration of family, close and extended. You could argue that from a religious perspective as well, I think.

So. Santa. A commercial entity, whose sole existence centres around the "I want" of expensive gift giving.

Now that there's a child in the offing, all sorts of childish things that I'd moved on from are suddenly topics of conversation again. Christmas this year won't matter, obviously: baby is still in utero. Christmas next year is also not much of an issue: baby will be about 6 months old. The one after that, we might be answering questions about the fat dude in red. The one after that, definitely. So how are we going to respond?

I love my anti-Santa husband. I found, talking about it yesterday, that he feels much the same way I do. We're going to tell the truth. We'll explain who Santa is, what he's reputed to do - and that he's make believe.

I fully expect there will be people out there who tell us we're terrible, horrible parents for "destroying the magic of Christmas" or some other crapola. But I don't really care what other people think as a rule: particularly not where Santa is concerned. I look at it this way:
  • Why teach a kid something you have to re-teach them later? We plan to talk to our kids like people - no "moo-cows" or "sheepy-baas": "cows" and "sheep" are fine by us. That's what they are, after all: and why teach them a word they just have to re-learn later? Following that logic, why tell a kid something's real when you're going to have to explain later that it isn't?
  • I tend to think that kids have more reason to trust you if you don't tell them lies to begin with. Maybe your disappointment about the tooth-fairy hasn't left you indelibly scarred: but I bet you remember the way you felt when you realised your parents had been full of it all along. Disappointing, huh?
  • I'd rather tell my kids that "Mum and Dad got you presents because we love you", than have them think they fell out of the sky attached to a jolly cat-burgler.
  • And of course... if Santa represents a whole lot of values that I don't agree with, I've got no reason to want to instill those values directly or indirectly into my kids. If I want them to believe that Christmas is a time to celebrate with your family, to spend time together, and it's not about money: then why teach them about a person whose raison d'etre is to promote commercialism?
There are plenty of kids all over the world whose Christmas doesn't involve Santa. I've yet to see any pressing evidence that there's a Santa-shaped hole in their lives. I don't plan on being an arsehole about it all, either: if my kids want to play make-believe games about Santa, that's fine by me. They want a photo with Santa in the shopping centre? If we're passing by, then sure, why not? If they already know that Santa is make-believe, they'll be less disappointed when they see it's a different dude in costume each time (and will understand why Santa doesn't remember what they asked for yesterday). They want to write letters to Santa? Knock yourself out. I'm sure it will tickle them anyway.

I'm aware that Santa has tenuous connections to the European Sinterklaas. I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that Sinterklaas is a personage otherwise known as St Nicholas: whose feast day is December 6, not December 25. The historical St Nick and the legendary Sinterklaas were less concerned with enticing people to buy things, as with exchanging candies or homemade gifts - each accompanied by a poem. Sinterklaas is about cookies, not PlayStations. Our Western Santa has only the barest resemblance to Sinterklaas - he's a relatively modern construct, appearing only within the last century.

Of course plenty of parents like the Santa thing. If you had great memories of Santa as a kid, then you might want to share that with yours. But Santa was never a big deal in our house: and as an adult, I loathe the idea.

This house is, and remains, a SANTA-FREE ZONE. I think there's plenty of magic in the world without having to spin tales at Christmas.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Not quite an Internet celeberity

Click here to get your own player.

But I average between 15-25 unique people a week listening to these podcasts!