Monday, September 26, 2005

Thanks for last week's discussion about Bible classes at church. Getting ready for the teacher's workshop, this is one of two books I've picked to read. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 24, 2005

My daughter's quite the soccer player. Not so aggressive, but savvy and quick. She's fun to watch. IMPORTANT ADDITION: She scored a goal at this game. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 23, 2005

Adult Classes at Church: Ideas? Suggestions?

I've agreed to lead a session on the topic of teaching adults in a church context. This will be on a Saturday at a teacher's workshop hosted by a Church of Christ here in Connecticut. I've got to check, but right now I'm assuming that I'll have an hour or less.

The event is about two months away, so I've got a little time to prepare. Naturally, I plan to read and reflect. But I also want to ask for your help.

I'd like your responses to one or more of the following questions. Feel free to add your own:

1. What was the best Bible class you were ever a part of, and what made it so good?

2. What is it about Bible classes at church that really should be changed or improved?

3. If you attended my workshop session, what would want or expect to come from it?

4. Can you offer some ideas for the format of the session?

5. Do you know of a book, internet resource, magazine article, etc. that I really should know about (and recommend or pass along to those who attend)?


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Which time period is longer? From Pearl Harbor Day until the end of World War II, or from September 11, 2001 until the present? For some reason, it seems like it should be the opposite.

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We got a little dog the other day. She was rescued soaking wet from a busy street in Hartford. She's been named Penelope. Middle name: Harriet. I know, this is more than a little ridiculous. But someone in the family (not me) made a passionate speech to effect that "You wouldn't want to be called something like 'Fluffy' would you?" I could only wonder to myself, "Who would call me 'Fluffy'?" But none of the others needed convincing. They too were ready for a dignified name for their dog. Welcome, Penelope. (She's very cute. Photos to follow. Whenever I can manage it).

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I'm getting together with my bandmates tonight. We need at least one practice as we ready to play at an annual Christian singles' event called "The October Thing." Our group has played several times as a three-piece, with me as the lone guitarist. But I like it a lot better now that Fred has made it a foursome. Fred plays terrific lead guitar, and that adds a lot. One thing I've noticed about playing in a band: when someone, anyone, is really playing well, everyone else tends to play better. I think this is true of churches and families and businesses, etc. It just shows up more-clearly in a band.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Today, I'm praying with Augustine:

Blessed are your saints, O Lord, who have traveled over the rough sea of this life, and have reached the harbor of eternal peace and joy. Watch over us who are still on the dangerous voyage. Our ship is frail, and the ocean is wide. But in your mercy you have set us on our course with your Son as our pilot, guiding us towards the everlasting shore of peace, the quiet haven of our hectic desire.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Pedro Martinez pitches against the Braves, Friday, September 16th, Shea Stadium. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Night to Remember

It was overcast and a little damp in Connecticut yesterday. Same thing in New York. So I had my doubts as I looked at the tickets for last night's game at Shea Stadium between the Mets and their great rivals, the Atlanta Braves.

"Who'll be pitching?," I wondered. With the Mets out of the hunt for the wildcard, maybe the names of two mediocre pitchers would help me decide against the risk of rain. But in a couple of clicks I knew, rain or shine, Ben and I would make it to that game. The likely starters? John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez.

I picked Ben up just as school was letting out. We made it to Queens by late afternoon, just in time to get a quick bite and get ourselves into the stadium.

As expected, both Smoltz and Martinez sat down most of the batters in short order (the game lasted barely 2 hours). But this was Pedro's night. Martinez completed eight shutout innings by striking out the side.

Then, with a pitch count over 100, Pedro returned to the mound for the top of the ninth. I could only imagine how his conversation had gone with Mets' manager Willie Randolph. Whatever was said, two thoughts prevailed: one, Martinez wanted to go the distance, especially in a shutout and, two, with a four-run lead, he should be given the chance.

In the ninth, a lead-off hit by the Braves' Rafael Furcal raised my fears. While trying to prove something, I thought, Pedro was running out of gas. The next batter, Marcus Giles also singled, sending Furcal to third. It was getting worse.

Next, with runners at the corners, the Braves' Chipper Jones came to the plate. Now, for folks who haven't followed the Mets through the years, Jones' appearance would seem daunting enough. But both the legend and the fact is that Chipper Jones stands out as the dasher of hope, many times the deciding difference in a victory over the Mets. This was high drama.

Martinez, clearly recognizing the stakes, threw a mix of pitches that culminated with a fastball in the low 90s. Jones struck out looking.

Just as I was sighing relief, I remembered that the next batter was the other Jones of the Braves: Andruw . . . with one of the best batting percentages in the National League . . . who's hit 50 homeruns so far this year. Pedro's solution? Again, a brilliant array of pitches that concluded with a 77 mph curveball that puzzled the power hitter. Andruw went down with a half swing. The word "magnificent" was invented for just such a performance. But it wasn't over.

Things got tense moments later when Adam LaRoche--whose three previous plate appearances accounted for 3 of Pedro's 10 strikeouts on the night--walked to load the bases. But with his 122nd pitch of the game, Martinez managed to get Jeff Francouer to fly out to left. Just like that, it was over.

We had watched as Pedro Martinez racked up his 17th career shutout, surpassed 200 strikeouts on the season, and moved into 14th place among all-time strikeout leaders. And it didn't rain a drop.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

J. I. Packer

"We do not start our Christian lives by working out our faith for ourselves; it is mediated to us by Chrisitan tradition, in the form of sermons, books and established patterns of church life and fellowship. We read our Bibles in the light of what we have learned from these sources; we approach Scripture with minds already formed by the mass of accepted opinions and view points with which we have come into contact, in both the Church and the world. . . . It is easy to be unaware that it has happened; it is hard even to begin to realize how profoundly tradition in this sense has molded us. But we are forbidden to become enslaved to human tradition, . . . We may never assume the complete rightness of our own established ways of thought and practice and excuse ourselves the duty of testing and reforming them by Scripture." Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 12, 2005

View of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges from the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Photo courtesy of Christopher Evans. Story in previous post. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Memories from September 11, 2001

As we were learning the terrible truth on the morning of September 11, 2001, there was one person I especially wanted to see: my daughter Chloe. She wanted to see me too.

When she came in from school later that afternoon, our sad eyes met. We stayed in that mutual gaze for a long time, both of us knowing exactly what the other was thinking.

Living less than a hundred miles from Manhattan, day trips into "the City" are easy to do and always promise an adventure. Earlier in June of that year, Chloe and I had spent one such day together, just the two of us.

On the train ride down that morning, she told me she was really interested in a visit to Ellis Island. She'd been reading about immigrants who came through there. She wanted to know what they once saw, to imagine how they must have felt. Some of them were Bellizzis.

I thumbed through my guide to New York and realized that we weren't going to be able to make it out to Ellis Island that day. I had scheduled a short appointment with a professor at New York University, hoping to set up a plan to read Classical Hebrew there maybe one day a week. It would be expensive, I thought. But on my day off I could enjoy two loves of my life; New York and Old Hebrew. Besides, going through a terrible divorce, I was pretty desperate for something that would help me to feel happy again. No Ellis Island that day, I told Chloe.

I knew she was disappointed. So I promised her that once we'd gotten my meeting out of the way, she could call the shots. I'd be willing to spring for almost any adventure. But it would have to be in Manhattan.

She hadn't imagined an alternative, and wanted to know what I thought would be a fun Plan B. So I started to ask . . .

The Museum of Natural History? Um. No.

(joking) The American Numismatic Society? Lots and lots of ancient coins! Nobody wants to go there except you, Dad.

I bet my teacher, Dr. Oster, would go with me. Then call him.

A few bookstores? (getting irritated) Dad!

Okay, sorry. I know! How 'bout the World Trade Center? What can you do there?

I'm not sure, exactly. (looking it up in the guide) But we could go to the top. Says here that they have places to eat. There's a glassed-in observation deck, and you can take an escalator up to the roof.

(looking at the pictures and starting to smile) Okay. Let's do that.

After the train stop and our walk through Grand Central, we took the subway headed south. Having made it to lower Manhattan, we meandered around in Washington Square Park talking. Then it was over to my appointment, which was over soon enough.

As we stepped out of the office building, I wanted to be sure we'd have enough time that afternoon. So I decided to spend the extra money for a cab instead of the subway. Within a few minutes, the driver was dropping us off so close to the buildings that we couldn't see their tops from inside the car.

Looking at the World Trade Center was sort of like looking at the Grand Canyon. You wondered, "Is it bigger or smaller than it seems?" You also wondered, "How was this ever made?" There on the street, most everything was gray, the sunlight blocked by the shadows of the towers. Even the bright signs had a bit of a pall.

Once inside, it wasn't long before we bought our tickets to take the less-than-a-minute elevator ride to the 107th floor. From that point up, most of the WTC's south tower was the obseravation deck and a level or two with restarants and exhibits. We walked around the perimeter of the deck, looking in all directions, reading the signs that told us what we were seeing. Soon we were on the escalator, riding up to the roof.

It was incredible. I remember looking up the length of Manhattan and seeing well past the north end of the island, all the way to those towns in New York that lay beyond the Bronx, and east into Connecticut. To the west was New Jersey. I wondered about the number of miles we could see.

The wind was strong and blustery, a constant sound in the ears, like standing at the edge of the ocean. I remember thinking, "It must be like this all the time up here. Wonder what it's like on a windy day." For a second my imagination turned horrific and I thought about what it would it would be like if an unexpected gust were to take my feet out from under me and send me flying from the top.

Between the office appointment and the cab, we had looked around in a tourist shop and I'd bought one of those disposible cameras. Now I was ready to use it. I especially wanted to get a picture of the two of us facing south, with the Empire State Building and all of those lesser skyscrapers behind us. I asked a young woman if she wouldn't mind. She snapped the photo and smiled as she handed the camera back to me.

The roof wasn't where you wanted to linger. Within few minutes, Chloe and I were having lunch at the pizza place on one of those top floors. I guess I'll never forget one of the songs that played in the background that day. It was Billy Joel's "Lullabye."

Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabyes go on and on
They never die
That's how you
And I
Will be . . .

Of course, it made me think of me and Chloe.

I don't recall much about the rest of the day. There was a late afternoon shower, and we bought an umbrella at a little shop on Broadway. I still have that umbrella.

Within a day or two after we'd gotten back, though, I started wondering where that camera was. We looked, but didn't find it. The week following September 11th, we looked a lot more, but it never turned up.

Since then, when I'm not wishing we had that photo, I sometimes think to myself, "Maybe it's just as well."

Either way, I have these memories. Now and then, I hear that song. It always makes me cry.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

This 'n That

It was neat to see that Impact/Houston Church of Christ made the front page of today's Wall Street Journal, complete with one of those WSJ-type portraits of Charlie Middlebrook. Page A10 includes a photo of the offices at Impact.

I'm impressed at how well those folks are handling the challenges associated with responding to the needs of hurting people. It reminds me of 3 John 6, where the writer encourages Gaius to take care of missionaries "in a manner worthy of God." Apparently, that phrase well describes the ways of Impact.

Lord, please give them strength and success!
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Ever since the President weighed in on the question of teaching intelligent-design theory along with Darwinism in our public schools (he said we should), the New York Times has been on a veritable rampage.

As one would guess, in the Times the dominant theory is considered fact, while the challenger is characterized as void of any scientific backing, "intellegent design" being nothing more than code language for "God." No surprise here.

What gets to me is the tired notion, repeated ad nauseum in the letters section, that science and theology really treat different subjects and should, therefore, be kept separate. For example, one self-described "retired minister" writes:

"Scientists and theologians both make significant contributions to human knowledge. But getting them mixed up creates confusion of the worst possible kind.

"Let scientists do science and theologians theology. And let them stay out of each other's hair!"

Compare such drivel to something Wolfhart Pannenberg wrote 42 years ago:

"A theology that remains conscious of the intellectual obligation that goes along with the use of the word 'God' will try in every possible way to relate all truth, and therefore not least of all the knowledge of the extra-theological sciences, to the God of the Bible, and to attain a new understanding of everything by viewing it in the light of this God. That task might seem presumptuous, but it is the non-transferable burden laid upon any responsible speech about God.

" . . . it seems misleading to me to suppose that theology would be closer to its own 'essential content' when it falls back upon a separate province of divine revelations and becomes one science alongside others, . . . Such a concept of theology might have its advantages for the peaceful coexistence of theology with the other faculties of the university. But the universality connected with the idea of God thereby falls into oblivion, and a betrayal of the first commandment threatens to occur in theological thought at this point, concealed by sweet-sounding assurances about theology concentrating on its distinctive tasks."

Aay-MEN, brother!