10 December 2011

Before They Shut Me Down

I thought I should post a blog before blogger thinks I've abandoned my blog and deletes it!  I always think I'm going to blog more than I actually do, and I constantly think of topics I'd like to blog about.  Here's a few things on my mind lately:
  • We had a baby!  Lydia was born November 7th.  She is beautiful!  Heidi's labor was 1 hour and 55 minutes from water breaking until Lydia was out.  It's a good thing we live across the street from the hospital.  Heidi is an amazing woman; I don't know how women can do it.  Michael is doing very well as a big brother.  He is sweet and very gentle with her, and he often says, "I like Tiny Baby Sister" (her alternate name apparently).

  • After running the marathon in May, I have run about 5 times, which is not good.  I've pretty much undone all the weight loss I achieved for the marathon.  But hey, if I did it once, I can do it again, right?
  • I have been searching for a church in which to serve for over a year now, and I'm closer than ever to some real news.  Stay tuned.
That's all for now.

08 May 2011

It Ain't Always Chariots of Fire

Last Sunday did not end as I had planned. The marathon was supposed to end with me crossing the finish line in about 4 hours, 50 minutes, triumphant and feeling pretty good for just running a marathon. I mean, it couldn't be any worse than last time, right?

Let's start before the start. Keep in mind, I've been training in Iowa, where my warmest run was about 55 degrees and windy. At the start it was about 60 and raining, and when the rain stopped it remained quite humid. Mentally, I was ready. Physically, I thought I was ready. It didn't take long to learn otherwise.

About 5 miles in, I could tell my legs were more tired than they should be, but I pressed on, thinking they were just settling into a groove. I actually kept my 5 hour pace for the first half of the race, but my quadriceps on both legs began to cramp at mile 11. Two years ago, they waited until mile 15. I adjusted my running to include more frequent and longer walk breaks, determined to, at the least, beat my time from 2009. Sometimes the cramp would seize up and even stretching wouldn't undo it.

About mile 17, I really started feeling bad. I knew I was dehydrated, even though I drank Gatorade (and sometimes water, too) at every fluid station and I wore a Camelbak with 60 oz of water in it to drink between stations. I had a mild headache, I was very thirsty, but I felt full and didn't want to keep eating my gel blocks, even though I knew I needed them. Every time I stopped to walk, my quads would tighten up for a while and if I stopped to stretch my legs or lower back, I felt like I needed to sit down. But I refused to give up and I kept going.

At some point, I couldn't run more than 30 seconds before the cramps would come back, then I would walk for about 90 seconds and try again. This took me through miles 18-26. The final .1 I ran continuously on adrenaline alone, wanting to throw up, cry, and lay down as soon as I finished. But I stayed upright until I made it through the recovery area, chip removal, and food tables. Then I sat down on a concrete bench to wait for Heidi to meet me.

I knew immediately I was in trouble. My hearing started to disappear, my vision began to tunnelize, and I felt my head getting light. Heidi was still approaching as I told the people next to me, "I think I'm gonna pass out." Then it went black and I felt asleep, but woke up about thirty seconds later to a medical crew laying me down on the bench and getting my hyperventilating under control. Heidi said when I passed out, my arms went stiff and straight, my eyes rolled, and I groaned. That's why they think I may have had a very minor seizure. They loaded me onto a golf cart-type thingy and rushed me to the medical tent, where I almost passed out again and my blood pressure was 80/55. After laying on a cot and getting an IV and a bunch of tests, they advised me to go to the hospital, where we spent the next 4.5 hours getting fluids and rest.

What I learned:

- Listen to your body. Mine said stop. I didn't. My body had the last word.

- I am not made for marathons. Half marathons, yes. Full, no.

- It's a good idea to tell someone if you're gonna pass out.

- Hill training is essential. The hills here chewed up my legs, and we just don't have hills like that in Waterloo.

- Always take your ID and insurance card with you when running. I'm glad I did.

Okay, time to sleep.

In the medical tent getting ready to go to the hospital. I got the medal, though.

30 April 2011

On the Eve of my Second (and Probably Final) Marathon

Tomorrow I run Cincinnati's Flying Pig Marathon for the second time. I am a little more anxious/nervous than last time, probably because last time I had no idea of the destruction that awaited me. Perhaps a little recap would help:

May 2009: I ran the marathon at 235 lbs., on two hours of sleep, with a cold, and a day after helping a friend move into a second-story apartment. This added up to both legs cramping at mile 15 and me ending up walking half of the rest of the race. I finished, but not well: 47 minutes later than my goal, exhausted and in pain.

May 1, 2011: I will run the marathon at 204 lbs., on more than two hours of sleep (I'm hoping for at least 6), no cold (but a little sinus congestion), and not helping anyone move. I'm watered up, carbed up, and trying to remain calm.

I feel a connection to this race, and I'm leaning into my training and familiarity to take me through to the end better than last time. I'm wearing the shoelaces from the shoes in which I ran last time, and I'm also wearing the same two shirts I wore for my first (and still fastest) half marathon. As an additional reminder, I'm wearing a pace chart on my left wrist, underneath which is my mile times from 2009, so I'll know if I'm doing better mile by mile.

For me, this is a huge challenge, and I feel like I'm going into a title fight or something. I'm ready. Let's do this.

01 March 2011

Rob Bell, Emotion-Driven Theology, and Why It's Nothing New

If you're a Rob Bell fan (and frankly, what Christian aged 18-35 isn't?), then you are familiar with his Nooma videos and possibly some of his many can't-make-a-normal-looking-book books. You know that in the videos he teaches something using stories, walking down alleys, and a slightly trembling, urgent-sounding voice.

Here is the video and below it is the text of what he has to say after telling a story about a work of art which features Ghandi.

LOVE WINS. from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And if that’s the case, how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe or what you say or what you do or who you know or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be initiated or take a class or converted or being born again? How does one become one of these few?

Then there is the question behind the questions. The real question [is], “What is God like?”, because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message, the center of the gospel of Jesus, is that God is going to send you to hell unless you believe in Jesus. And so what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But would kind of God is that, that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news?

This is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith. They see it as an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies and they say, why would I ever want to be a part of that? See what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like. What you discover in the Bible is so surprising, unexpected, beautiful, that whatever we have been told and been taught, the good news is actually better than that, better than we could ever imagine.

The good news is that love wins.

If you're a theology nerd, then you know that this has many Calvinists all huffy and lathered up, claiming that Bell is probably a universalist, and, therefore, unorthodox at best and heretical at worst. He could be an annihilationist, which still leaves an empty hell but upholds that some will eternally be separated from God. I don't think he's gonna be simply an soteriological optimist (a la Clark Pinnock and his A Wideness in God's Mercy, which teaches near universalism through the death of Christ). I think he will be a full-blown universalist, albeit a Christian one (all are saved through Christ) and not a normative religious pluralist (all are saved through their own religion, no matter how unbiblical it may be).

Either way, it's nothing new. Yes, that's right: in this instance, Rob Bell is not original. I'm sure he'll say things in the book that his fans will consider real zingers, and no doubt there will be an emotional appeal to his arguments. But the underlying arguments will not be original. Clark Pinnock argued for a generous, optimistic soteriology before Rob Bell was even born, and liberal theologians have been denying the reality of hell for over a century.

Additionally, though Bell and others who deny the orthodox, historical teaching on hell undoubtedly feel that their understanding is the true biblical one, the reality is that to arrive at such a conclusion requires some impressive hermeneutical sleight-of-hand (in the form of redefining the word for "eternity" and "eternal," reading annihilationism into the text, and using the varied biblical images for hell to conclude that they cannot all be true literally [fire and "blackest darkness" cannot both be literally true at the same time]) and an emphasis on emotional, philosophical questions (such as those Bell asks above) over a better question like, "what does the Bible actually teach on this subject?"

I may actually buy this book for its argumentative value. I know some friends of mine are going to wave this around triumphantly as they eulogize hell once and for all. But I say, not so fast and not so original.

09 February 2011

Before You Throw Away Your Hymns

I don't like all hymns. Let's just get that out there right now. Some are lame and had to be lame even by the standards of the day in which they were written. Most, however, were written out of tremendous challenges and suffering, real life situations that made/make them so relevant to life. Here's one example, "Near to the Heart of God," written over 100 years ago (taken from 101 More Hymn Stories):

"Near to the Heart of God was written and composed by Cleland B. McAfee, in 1901, while he was pastoring the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago, Illinois. He received one day that diphtheria had just claimed the lives of his two beloved nieces, and while in his saddened, shocked state, he wrote this hymn as a comfort for his own soul as well as for the other members of his family. He first sang it with choking voice just outside the darkened, quarantined house of his brother, Howard, the day of the double funeral. The following Sunday, McAfee's choir repeated it as a communion hymn at his own church service. Another brother, Lapsley, was so impressed with the simple buy comforting message of the hymn that he carried it back to his pastorate, the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California. From that time to the present, it has continued to be a source of great encouragement to believers everywhere."

A lot of Christians today don't like hymns simply because they are old. Because they are old, they have an old sound, don't work well with clapping and jumping (at least if you don't play them to an upbeat tempo). More sophisticated critics would argue that such "old music" isn't relevant to today's seekers because "if they don't like the music, they're probably not going to come back, even if the message is good. It has to connect to the 21st-century people you're trying to reach."

What I think lies behind such thinking is a false choice: either play hymns or be relevant. Can't there be a third option: play hymns (in an exciting, modern way) and help people understand the "old" lyrics? Sharing the stories behind the hymns, explaining archaic lyrics, and providing the biblical context that inspired many hymns is not a waste of time or too much work to be worth it. We need modern songs, but not at the cost of excommunicating something because it's old. Progress is not to abandon the old, but to help people worship better and more from the heart. Helping people understand the enduring quality of hymns IS progressive; ditching them just because they are old is chronological snobbery and lazy.

07 February 2011

Volkswagen Commercial: The Force

Favorite Super Bowl Commercial

02 February 2011

Slow motion high FPS compilation

Don't care for the music, but this is some fun stuff. I'd hate to be the dude getting kicked in the face (or the guy getting slapped)!

31 January 2011

Reading, Have Read, Will Read

Reading: Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups (Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas); Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion (Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck)- a thorough yet light-hearted response to the growing number of church-is-lame-so-quit-going-and-be-Christians-apart-from-institutional-Christianity; Sticky Church (Larry Osborne); God of the Possible (Gregory Boyd) - Boyd's popular level introduction to open theism.

Have Read: The Christian Atheist (Craig Groeschel); The Ten Dumbest Things Christians Do (Mark Attebury) - currently using this as our small group study; Everyman's Battle (Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker) - my second time through it, full of good reminders.

Will Read/Want to Read: Most Moved Mover: a Theology of God's Openness (Clark Pinnock) - it will be my second time through this book; the first was a little rushed as I read it while doing research for a paper; Appealing to Scripture in Moral Debate: Five Hermeneutical Rules (Charles Cosgrove); The Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry: A Troubleshooting Guide for Church Leaders (Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson).