Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It’s That Time of Year Again…

Love 89’s 3-day Sharathon is in full swing, which is especially good for me. Why? Well, because my one responsibility is food quality control. (Technically this is a self-appointed responsibility, but it is a burden I willingly bear.) In other words, I officially test all the catered food that comes in. Nothing is left untouched—er, untasted. Even the Krystal burgers brought in this morning by Krystal Meyers herself were not above inspection. So far, all the food has been approved—even Krystal’s Krystals. (As a side note: try having a conversation about Krystal burgers with someone with Krystal Meyers standing a few feet away; she’ll keep looking over at you, wondering why you’re calling her while not looking at her.)

Here’s to two more days of fabulously free foraging.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wisdom for Today (or However Long it Takes)

Below are Charles Spurgeon’s thoughts for the day. Quite an encouragement to me, being the impatient person that I am.

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Let Trials Bless

Knowing that tribulation worketh patience. (Romans 5:3)

This is a promise in essence if not in form. We have need of patience, and here we see the way of getting it. It is only by enduring that we learn to endure, even as by swimming men learn to swim. You could not learn that art on dry land, nor learn patience without trouble. Is it not worth while to suffer tribulation for the sake of gaining that beautiful equanimity of mind which quietly acquiesces in all the will of God?

Yet our text sets forth a singular fact, which is not according to nature but is supernatural. Tribulation in and of itself worketh petulance, unbelief, and rebellion. It is only by the sacred alchemy of grace that it is made to work in us patience. We do not thresh the wheat to lay the dust: yet the Rail of tribulation does this upon God's floor. We do not toss a man about in order to give him rest, and yet so the Lord dealeth with His children. Truly this is not the manner of man but greatly redounds to the glory of our all-wise God.

Oh, for grace to let my trials bless me! Why should I wish to stay their gracious operation? Lord, I ask Thee to remove my affliction, but I beseech Thee ten times more to remove my impatience. Precious Lord Jesus, with Thy cross engrave the image of Thy patience on my heart.

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“Lord, I ask Thee to remove my affliction, but I beseech Thee ten times more to remove my impatience. Precious Lord Jesus, with Thy cross engrave the image of Thy patience on my heart.”

Yes! Let that be my prayer.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Vacation, Part 3

After a couple days at Rose and Dale’s house, we set out to visit my grandmother in Yakima. Dale was quite gracious in lending us his car for the round trip. (He and Rose were unable to accompany us.)

In between us and our destination was Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier is an active Cascade volcano encased in over 35 square miles of snow and glacial ice. As you can tell from these pictures, the mountain is a wonderful example of God’s creative splendor.

We drove up to Sunrise, the highest point in the park accessible by car. The road was precariously dangerous, with a steep drop to one side that threatened certain death should the car veer off the road even a slight bit. I had made the mistake of drinking a lot of water during the first leg of the journey, so by the time we began the windy trip up the mountain I had to use the facilities. Badly. Of course, there were no facilities—well, other than nature itself. We couldn’t really stop by the side of the road, though, because of the steep incline. (Besides, I didn’t want to be the guy on national news who fell to his death in a tragic bathroom accident.)

At long last, we made it to Sunrise. Danny and I were excited about hiking the mile-long trail that took us from Sunrise at 6,000 feet to Dedge Peak at 7,000 feet. We had hiked the trail once before and the view from the top is absolutely incredible.

There was one problem: my out-of-shape condition. I walk to the mailbox several times a week and that’s about all the exercise I get. My brother, on the other hand, can jog several miles with a fifty-pound bag of sand on his back. It wasn’t too long before I started breathing hard. I tried to mask the sound by breathing through my mouth (I didn’t want my brother to think I was a complete wimp). Pretty soon I didn’t care if the whole world heard me; I gasped for lungfuls of air like God was rationing it out. My legs couldn’t understand why the ground kept going up; they attempted to alert me by throbbing with atrophy-induced pain. Somehow, I made it to the top. Danny felt quite good; I wanted to drop to the rocky ground and die.

Two factors hindered us from viewing a crystal-clear panorama. One, we reached the top late in the day and the sun was on its downward arc behind the mountain, making it hard for us to see. And two, there was a forest fire in the park, which created a lot of smoke that obstructed our view of the mountain even more. But even with these factors, the view was still incredible. When I could breathe normally and appreciate my surroundings, I used my cell phone to call several friends and share the experience. (Yes, I had reception. Evidently, Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” dude had been there.) All the pain was well worth hiking Mount Rainier. (David Ash has said that I didn’t actually hike the mountain itself, only part of the mountain. I think that’s just a matter of semantics.)

When we were done visiting the mountain, we headed down the windy road toward Yakima. On the way out of the park, we were alarmed to find ourselves driving into the smoke from the forest fire. There were no other cars, and we began to wonder of the road had been closed due to danger from the fire and we somehow missed the warning. We made it through without dying, though, and continued on our journey.

The Path to 9/11

My apologies for not posting about this earlier. I really should have.

A five-hour ABC movie entitled The Path to 9/11 recently aired over two nights of commercial-free broadcasting. It’s a docudrama based on the 9/11 Commission Report, as well as a few other sources. It begins with the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and ends with the events of September 11th. The movie details the numerous failures of both the Clinton and Bush administrations in the investigation of the growing terrorist threats against the United States.

The film is outstanding. Kudos to everyone involved on the project, both behind and in front of the camera. John Cameron’s score is especially effective—what little there is of it. (Most of the music in the movie is source music and not original score.) The main theme hauntingly and powerfully accents the film’s final act. As I have said elsewhere, I think this is the best film music theme for 9/11 yet.

If you missed the movie, you can view it online! (You may need to download some software to play the movie file, but it’s well worth it.) All you need to do is watch the opening credits to realize the artistic excellence of the movie. This show deserves Emmy nominations all across the board. Highly recommended!

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Vacation, Part 2

My sister’s house is the flipping bomb. Let me explain.

We arrived late at night, so we couldn’t see much of the scenery. The next morning, I was the first to wake up and wander into the living room, which has a couple large windows looking out at Hood Canal. The vista that met my eyes almost took my breath away. The house is right on the beach, overlooking the mile-and-a-half-wide canal and the mountain ranges on the other side. The other three sides of the house are nestled in the woods. Yes, the house is on a beach in the middle of a forest—a little snapshot of Heaven itself. (You can view a live-cam shot of the canal here.)

One day, Dale (my brother in law—although not the Dale in the website above) took Danny and me out in his little motor boat to go crabbing. We baited and set the traps and took an extended tour of the canal, stopping short of the restricted waters that surround the nearby naval base. (Although Dale tells us the military is very friendly—they’ll come out and visit you if you ignore the warning signs.) We caught, killed, and cooked some absolutely delicious crab. In fact, all the food we ate at the house was extraordinary. A neighbor brought over some of his smoked salmon, which is the best fish I have ever eaten in my entire life. He’s actually a professional caterer. I mean, this dude can COOK!

My sister also took us on a hike through their land (which comprises some seven acres of unspoiled West Coast Wonderland). There’s even room for a potential additional house (with another awesome view—this time from a cliff overlooking the canal).

Of course, the house is especially special because it’s where my sister lives. Rose is a dentist who was recently interviewed for a cover article in Catalyst, a dentistry magazine. Her husband (Dale, of course) is awesome as well, as are their two daughters. My nieces are avid soccer players and we got the chance to attend a couple of their games as well.

We also got to visit another sister in Tacoma—Marlene (who is a Dental Hygienist and worked with Rose for a while). It was great being able to see them and hang out with the newest addition to their family, Russell Stuart. (Here’s a funny thing. Rose has red hair, although none of her children have red hair. Marlene does not have red hair, and all three of her children have red hair. Yes. Genes are funny things.) They are currently working on completely renovating a house a few blocks away from where they live. Much of the house has been gutted and the new insides are beginning to take shape.

Scott and Marlene had a cookout the evening we arrived at their house, so we got to see even more family as well. We had a fantastic time—short though it was.

As a side note: at the end of our vacation, Scott was the one who drove us to the airport at 4:30 in the morning before he went to work. He has quite the servant’s heart. (Yes, Rose and Marlene married quite well.)

The next installment of the Vacation Chronicles involves a mountain, a fire, and a lot of pain. Stay tuned…

Mural in Smoking Area

I’m sorry, but this is funny.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sensational Southern Sweetness

As y’all know, I ain’t no Southerner. I was a (forced) transplant. One thing I’ve had trouble understanding is how the words “sweet” and “tea” can go in the same sentence. When I think of tea, I imagine Oriental music and herbal aromas, not Rocky Top and mounds of sugar.

[Insert David Crowder’s I Saw the Light]

Well, I have had a “beverage epiphany.” Mcalister’s Deli catered a meal at work a couple days ago. Among other things, they provided a hefty amount of sweet tea. With one sip, I became addicted. This drink is gloriously delectable. In fact, there are several containers of tea still in the fridge in the break room…and I’m drinking the stuff by the gallon.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go visit John (or, as he is often called, The John).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Vacation, Part 1

My recent vacation was so outstanding that I must share the experience. So, here we go…

The trip became memorable even before we took to the skies. My brother, mother, and I made it through security and to our gate with a couple hours to spare. (My philosophy is simple: if you’re not early, you’re late.) Mom decided to go on a walk through the airport and ended up gaining a reputation with the security folks. She absentmindedly passed back through the security checkpoint and realized her mistake a few seconds too late. Having crossed the checkpoint by only a few feet, she asked the nearest guard if it was necessary for her to go through the entire security procedure again. Well, it was. As she went through the process a second time, one of the guards said, “Ah, Mrs. Stewart, coming through again I see.” Thankfully, she got back to our gate before the plane left.

It surprised us to find that our plane from Nashville to Denver wasn’t very large—somewhere around thirty seats. Small planes aren’t as comfortable as large ones: the ride is typically bumpier, the seats are smaller, the noise is noisier, and there are no in-flight meals or movies. However, there were two consolations. One, terrorists probably weren’t going to bother with a dinky plane like ours. And two, we had the most entertaining flight attendant in the entire world. He was basically a stand-up comedian masquerading as an airline employee. Here are some of his comments during the flight (yes, I took notes the entire time, so some of what you read below is verbatim):

  • The bathroom is in the back, although it’s broken so I hope you used the one in the airport.
  • Today’s in-flight movie is The Invisible Man. I will also be serving a Peter Pan lunch. If you can imagine it, then imagine eating it.
  • If you want more light, push the white button above your seat—not the orange one. That’s the ejector button.
  • I’ll be coming through with the cart soon [to pass out snacks] and I have not received my cart license yet. So if you want to keep your extremities, please keep them out of the aisle. That is a disclaimer.
  • If you need anything else, just let me know. I’ll be doing origami, but only by request. I’m serious.
  • This is my first day.
  • [After we landed] Be careful when opening the overhead compartments because shift happens.

Yes, we were off to a good start.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Go West, Young Man

So many words could describe my trip to the West Coast. Stupendous. Amazing. Thrilling. Chronological. In short, my vacation was AWESOME! I’ll be posting about my experiences next week, dividing my trip up into different sections/posts. I carry pictures and video from the trip with me on my trusty cell phone, so ask me to show them to you.

As stated before, I haven’t visited my sisters and grandmother in Washington State in almost a decade, and I forgot how much I absolutely LOVE the West Coast. Real mountains. Real forests. Real oceans. I’m convinced that when God created North America He began on the West, and as He moved farther East He started running out of ideas. (That’s just my opinion, but it’s true.)

One thing I’d like you guys to pray about. One of my sisters has been trying to get me to move out there for quite some time. Until my trip, I hadn’t really considered that an option. Now, I have to say it’s officially on the docket as a possibility. In fact, if Sovereign Grace had a church near the Hood Canal, I would be sorely tempted to call the move a no brainer. You’d understand better if you saw pictures/video of where my sister lives.

If I did move, it wouldn’t be right away—no sooner than six months, at least. Such a decision would need to come only after much study, prayer, and receiving a lot of counsel. In the meantime, I am also struggling with discontentment. In fact, the whole issue might not really be whether or not I should move; it could very well just be me needing to be content with my current circumstances. Whatever the case, any and all prayers would be much appreciated.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Laborious Weekend

Okay, not really. I’m finally getting the chance to fly to Washington State after about a decade of absence. I was born there, much of my family is still there, my father’s ashes are scattered on Mount Rainier (which I will be visiting/hiking). It’s going to be great! See you guys next week.

Friday, September 01, 2006

What Makes a “Christian” Video Game?

I’m becoming more and more familiar with the Biblical doctrine of vocation, especially since I started reading the Lutheran blog Cranach. In the words of Gene Edward Veith:
Luther’s doctrine of vocation says that God gives each of us different gifts, interests and capabilities. He also gives each of us an external calling to a particular avenue of service. We are to use all that in love and service to our neighbor and service to God…. In addition, the doctrine of vocation tells me that I don’t have to be a pastor or missionary or always doing church activities to be effective as a Christian. I’m called to live out my Christian faith in my calling in the secular world.
The doctrine of vocation helps us see the danger of creating a Christian subculture. For example, what makes a video game “Christian”? Blog poster Pastor Matt has this to say:
Where does the doctrine of vocation fall in all of this? I say a first person shooter about a US (or any nation's soldier for that matter) marine fighting for his nation is Christian enough. This is also true for the sports game - where you pretend to live out the vocation of an athlete and entertainer. Thinking that a “Christian” video game means fighting evil spirits with “swords of the spirit” encourages a false dichotomy between spirituality and “real” life. Being Christian is being a baker, a bus driver, and a father. Games that allow me to escape to another vocation are as Christian as it needs to get!
Dr. Veith wrote a recent post about using Labor Day to celebrate the Doctrine of Vocation. I think it’s a good idea.

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

NOTE: This article’s title has been adapted from the original (and less interesting) title of Vocation – A Doctrine Worth “Laboring” For.

Christian Hedonist Upgrade

John Piper’s website, DesiringGod, has been revamped. Now, all his sermons are available in audio format for free—yes, all of them. On the main page, there’s also a Resource Highlights section, which includes audio files of “Today’s Radio Broadcast” and “This Week’s Question.”

On a related note, a couple spots have opened up on Joy 62’s programming, and I’ve asked if John Piper’s radio show could be one of the replacement programs. We are in negotiations to see if that is a possibility. Would it not be awesome to have Piper on a Knoxville radio station every stinking day?! Nevertheless, please pray for the Lord’s will to be done in this matter.