Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dirty Little Secret

I've never had much use for a plunger. I don't mean to brag or anything, but I've just had a smooth ride in the area of toilet upkeep for most of my adult life. Until yesterday, when something went terribly awry in the plumbing in apartment #4. Tragically, there was no plunger on the premises.

All day, I was faced with a terrible dilemma: go to the store to buy a plunger (but what if someone saw me?!), or borrow the neighbor's. After much deliberation, the first option seemed the least humiliating.

So, with much trepidation, I wheeled my cart into Vons tonight, determined to buy the embarrassing item. I tackled the non-toilet related items on my list first. Then, I hesitantly turned down the dreaded toilet aisle. I quickly scanned the aisle to ensure I wasn't being watched, and then hurriedly shoved the plunger bowl and its detached handle into my cart.

But wait. Something was terribly wrong. In dismay, I looked down at my little savior. It was bright blue. Bright blue! Who makes bright blue plungers?! What happened to the nice, subtle rust color I grew up with? This thing might as well have had a flashing neon sign announcing my dirty little secret back at home to fellow shoppers.

With a sigh, I arranged my other grocery items carefully around the plunger to form a shield, and snuck stealthily toward the cash register. When the coast was clear, I made a run for the most deserted check out stand and quickly pushed my plunger toward the cashier, anxious for her to immediately put it in a nice, large paper bag. No such luck. Instead, my jolly bagger took the detached plunger handle, tossed it up in the air, and began screwing it in to the plunger bowl. "I want to make sure you have all the parts to your plunger," he bellowed.

Mortified, I felt my face grow hot. I quickly paid, refusing to make eye contact with the suddenly attentive and, I'm sure, disgusted shoppers around me. I parked my cart outside, gathered up my bags of groceries and my unbagged, out-in-the-open, recently assembled plunger, and hopped into my car. I heaved a sigh of relief. I had survived the excursion. My dignity is, after all, still in tact. And so is my toilet.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Today's Cherry Laffy Taffy Jokes

"When is the best time to go to the dentist?"

"At tooth-hurty!"

"Why can't a bank keep a secret?"

"Because there are too many tellers."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

For a Rainy Day

The top 15 books that should occupy your nightstand sometime this year:
1.  Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
2.  Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
3.  A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
4.  Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, D.A. Carson
5. Hope Has Its Reasons, Rebecca Manley Pippert
6. The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will, Dr. William Lane Craig
7. The Last Battle (read the other 6 first:), C.S. Lewis
8. Harry Potter (any of them!)
9. Letters to Children, C.S. Lewis
10. Mission Possible, Marilyn Laszlo
11. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
12. Desiring God, John Piper
13. Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
14. Little Women, Louissa May Alcott
15. Rene Descartes: Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings

If you're looking for a quicker read, check out C.S. Lewis' essay, The Weight of Glory.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's it going to be? Love? Or anger?

Today on the Frank Pastore show, I heard a tape recording of Bill Ayers' unapologetic claim that his repeated bombings of government buildings in the 60's and 70's were not acts of terror. Ayers' rationale? He wasn't attacking people, just buildings. Surprisingly, this guy is a professor at the University of Chicago. Apparently logic is not his strong suit.

Understandably, Frank Pastore was stunned, and expressed his frustration with the fact that Ayers is living and teaching in the USA today, unpunished and making excuses for his terrorism.

Like Frank, my blood began to boil when I thought about the injustice of Ayer's anti-war efforts. But I really got heated when a lady (Rachelle) called into the radio show to criticize Pastore's anger and condemn his "judgement" of Bill Ayers. Rachelle admonished Frank, "Leave Ayer's actions in the past, get rid of your anger, and love him. That's what we're called to do."

He tried to respond, but she promptly hung up on him.

I think Rachelle's understanding of Christianity is pale and watered down. The faultiness of her reasoning lies in a false antithesis: Christians must either choose love or anger. She was convinced it's not possible to simultaneously feel or act on both, much less feel anger as a result of love.

I wonder, what does she do with the biblical picture of God's outrage when he sees injustice and perversion in the world he loves so much? Does she think God would feel such anger if he didn't love the world? Anger and love often go hand in hand.

Aren't Christians supposed to care about the things God cares about? Don't we have a responsibility to be salt and light, not just by the things we say, but by the things we do?! If we float along in passivity, it's going to be tough for us to answer our Christian call to social action. Our outrage at social injustice and our love for people should provoke us to social action.

Rachelle, love is not unmoved by social injustice. Love does the hard thing. It discerns injustice, is angered by injustice, and then stands up to it.

Today I had a deep longing to ride on Aslan's back.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Math Mania: More Adventures in Room 341

Today my students' world expanded.  They were introduced to the math marvel we call, "Flip Over Math."  This educational phenomenon allows students to practice their addition and multiplication facts, and then flip over their worksheets to check their answers.  What will Educators come up with next?!

When I first announced the addition of these new worksheets to our daily math activities, my students were fairly unfazed.  I wish, though, that you could have heard the collective intake of breath when my students learned they could flip over the worksheet to check their answers.  I've never seen a group of students mob a table faster than my students did when I set down the Flip Over Math.  

All morning, the kids were in a perpetual state of bliss, blazing through flip over after flip over. It gives me a little thrill to watch my students stand in awe of life's simplest pleasures.  I hope they rub off on me.  And they had better hold onto their hats tomorrow, because I'm busting out the math bingo.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fall is here! (Today at least)

Fall has been teasing us the last few weeks.  Her shadow has danced past me on a few crisp mornings, but she's oh-so-elusive.  Today, however, I think she decided to stay for a bit out in Fontana. The air was clear and had a bite to it, and the crunchy leaves began to pile up outside my classroom windows.  The real tip off though, was when I glanced over my shoulder to see one of my students huddled up against the overhead projector, warming his tiny hands in its glowing little light. 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Apologetics: to Keep or not to Keep?

Apologia: defense or justification of a belief or idea

Christian apologetics often get a bad rap.  I know of a man who thinks Christians should avoid using apologetics altogether.  He has seen too many Christians use apologetics like a baseball bat.  These Believers have bashed unassuming bystanders over the head with the justification of their Christian beliefs. 

I understand this guy's discomfort with apologetics.  It's disturbing to see something good perverted.  But let's not throw apologetics out the window just yet.  Apologetics may be important, and even necessary for helping people to understand Christianity.  

I think the comparison of apologetics to a baseball bat can be sort of helpful for the Christians who are trying to decide if they should avoid using apologetics.  (A quick caveat: don't take the comparison too far!).

Baseball bats were created to enable baseball players to excel in and enjoy the sport of baseball.  Thanks to the baseball bat, millions of fans around the world get their share of cracker jacks, raucous crowds, and loud organ music every spring, summer and fall.  

Sadly, sometimes baseball bats are used to commit heinous hate crimes.  It's sickening to think about how something that was intended for good can so easily become a tool of destruction.  However, the fact that a tool can be used for destruction doesn't mean that its use should be forever avoided.  What would happen we banned the use of bats as a result of their misuse?  We would lose a constructive, edifying and enjoyable sport.

If Christians threw away apologetics, I think we would lose a valuable and constructive tool for pointing people to our Redeemer.  I know many people who are hesitant to commit to Christ because they are looking for ways to reconcile their ideas about the world with their ideas about God.  Some of these people might be able to hurdle their intellectual obstacles if a thoughtful Christian were willing to provide good justification for Christian beliefs.  

I recently began a study of the book of Acts that has further reinforced my conviction that apologetics are an important part of Christian ministry.  

In Acts chapter 1, Jesus commissioned his disciples to become his witnesses and the builders of his church.  He also promised to give them the Holy Spirit, guaranteed his return, and then ascended to heaven.  But before Jesus commissioned, promised, and ascended,  he gave his disciples "convincing proofs" or an apologetic that he was alive (apparently seeing his risen body wasn't enough for them;)!

Before the disciples began their earthly ministry, it was essential that Jesus gave them reasons to trust that he was who he said he was and would fulfill his promises.  Jesus' proofs gave the disciples reason to believe that he would empower them to be his witnesses (because he was the Son of God!), and would one day return (because he was a promise-keeper!).  It was Jesus' apologetic for his resurrection that initiated the disciples' ministry, which led to the growth of the church!  It's incredible to think about the far-reaching effects of Jesus' apologetics.

I'm still learning how to use apologetics effectively and wisely, but I think the key to successful persuasion is found in Acts chapter 1.  We must rely on the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit as we engage in his ministry.  Ultimately, it's God who makes our faith winsome and attractive to people in our sphere of influence!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween: Fall Fete, 2008

"My favorite color is light tan. My favorite animal is puppies. I like serving the Lord, hiking, play volleyball..."