Friday, November 23, 2007

The Lord Watches Over the Sojourner

The odometer on my little truck is coming up on 172,777 miles. While a seemingly inconsequential milestone, it will mark 125,000 miles that I have traveled since the purchase of my 2001 Dodge Dakota 3 ½ years ago. Some quick arithmetic reveals that I am averaging 35,700 miles of travel per year.

My truck and I have been as far east as Riverhead, Long Island, NY; as far west as Beaver Falls, PA; as far north as Cheektowaga, NY; and as far south as Virginia Beach, VA.

I am having a difficult time choosing an average speed for my total time traveled calculations. Somewhere between 30 miles per hour and 60 mph, so for round number’s sake, I will assume that I have traveled an average speed of 45 miles an hour throughout the past 3 ½ years.

In light of the above, consider the below:

Hours Behind the Wheel: 2,777 hours, 40 minutes
Days Behind the Wheel: 115.7 days
Weeks Behind the Wheel: 16.5 weeks
Years Behind the Wheel: 0.32 years

All said, I have spent 9.1 % of the last 3 ½ years of my life behind the wheel of my truck!

How good is my Heavenly Father to have preserved me through all this! And yet how often do I neglect to meditate upon my dependency for God’s care in even ordinary aspects of life? My little truck has been free from any trouble worse than a persistently on-again-off-again “Check Engine” light, and yet how unfaithful I am to remember my Lord in thanksgiving for granting me a reliable vehicle.

My heart should be more often in tune with Psalm 121, which reads:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”

Saturday, October 06, 2007

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Photos from our vacation at Brigantine Beach on the Jersey Shore are now posted on my Facebook page. The first link below will take you to the main album, and the second link includes four photos that I took of Becca at midnight on the beach using a tripod, a Mag light, and some old-fashioned 30 second exposure. Enjoy.

Friday, September 21, 2007


My apologies in advance for the obvious title. You've come to expect more because I usually deliver more. Not today.

I finished reading Moby Dick this afternoon. I had started reading in January. Nine months and 725 pages later I can finally lay to rest the tale of the white whale. I am proud to be able to say that I have read the complete, unabridged version of the novel, but I may only have enough time to finish one other book before the end of the year.

Since AP Literature class with Mr. Collins (Hackettstown High, senior year), I have made it my policy as I read to underline words that I don't know, look up the definition, and write each in the bottom margin. A work like Farenheit 451 or Blue Like Jazz will net me a dozen vocabulary words, but a piece from a theologian, or worse, the Romantic Era, will slow page-turning without fail.

Below is the complete list of vocabulary words from my reading of Moby Dick -- 352 in all:

(pages 1 - 99) hypo, insular, lath, lee, decoction, portentous, grapnel, extant, wight, glazier, waiscot, dint, yeast, ever and anon, aggregate, welter, founder, tallow, direful, skrimshander, arrant, toper, obstreperous, plaguy, ider, fargo, nonplus, grego, wrapall, dreadnot, andirons, expostulation, stave, ablution, accost, sally, bombazine, scoria, proffer, candelabra, incredulous, doleful, brevet, verdure, maw, cenotaph, canticle, bale, obliquity, swarthy, main-truck, kelson, inexorable, phrenology, promintory, pyspepsia, unbidden, confabulate, tester, vitiate, nonce, punctilious, offing, hillock, spile, quohog, chamois, larboard, by dint of, repast, belie, ply, stultify, segacity, galliot, venerable, thews, parmacetty, transome, annuitant, chancery, anomalous, sanguinary, sepulchral, oblique, celerity, (100 - 199) pilau, crotchet, appellative, stove, confluent, prate, calabash, humbug, bugbear, costermonger, jocular, vernal, stave, palavere, demigod, apotheosis, carrion, plaudit, puissant, feret, pestiferous, conspicuous, palpable, quoggy, macassar, staid, pantemime, latent, evince, vicissitude, ignomonious, craven, cholera, camphorate, unvitiate, tacit, binnacle, cudgel, spermacetti, opine, ellucidate, baleen, misenthropic, appellative, tallow, aver, ferule, hone, rotund, subaltern, in terrorem, sultanism, husting, mizen, saline, pallid, abstenious, convivial, sedentary, buckler, credulous, scimitar, scabbard, progenitor, indolent, languor, cark, upbraiding, inscrutable, vortice, (200 - 299) tost, capstan, volition, quail, chalice, sidelong, pugilist, demigorgon, waggish, strand, chassee, ubiquitous, erudite, gainsay, sanguine, bruit, august, lacquer, cant, howdah, legerdemain, cordon, somnambulism, peremptory, corroborative, prefecture, aliment, ascendency, corporeal, evanescent, quiescent, sordid, perquisite, warp, samphire, swart, ebon, wallow, inculcating, enigmatical, adroit, tyro, aslant, dun, haply, bivouack, vacuity, perfidious, fuller, (300 - 399) erudition, abaft, peltry, serry, subaltern, cozen, billet, brook, conflagration, comport, poniard, brigandish, swart, visage, fetid, perfidious, bantam, maelstrom, archiepiscopacy, advert, antediluvian, veracious, hippogriff, fastidious, skrimshander, elucidate, argosy, conciliate, fastidious, unctuous, integument, rapacious, poniards, rood, punctilious, peradventure (five on one page!), interdicted, lotus, maw, peremptorily, scaramouch, laudanum (400 - 499), ligature, interregnum, calomel, jalap, gamboge, soldadoe, cooper, orlop, pannier, bandy, vacillation, volition, subtilise, portcullis, supine, galliot, busk, farthingale, unctuous, tierce, limpid, pelisse, sagacious, beadle, veneration, indomitable, paregoric, ponderosity, sordid, tutelary, confluent, flexion, nosegay, obsequious, proas, corsair, kentledge, gallied, dromedary, consternation, dalliance, bower, unctuous, lassitude, sated (500 - 599), rapacious, emolument, sinecure, fob, perquisite, cupidity, worsted, ambergris, diddle, aspersion, opine, poltroon, mollify, acerbity, appelation, coalesce, recondite, rapt, plethoric, misanthrope, profundity, mermetical, freshet, ablution, morass, talisman, scorbutic, erudite, verdant, tendril, woof, folio, hawser, antideluvian, emprise, lexicographer (five on one page!), chirography, placard, credulous, osseous, recondite, peremptorily, remunerate, cachalot, primogeniture, bruit, antidiluvian, anamalous, compendious, spavine (600 - 699), prate, puncheon, shook, demi-john, sinecure, lave, importunity, orison, corpusant, hooroosh, boon, epaulet, sagacious, incommodious, taffrail, gambol, argosy, pennon, poltroon (700 - 725), pertinacious, prescience, evanescence, hawser, heliotrope.

[Ed. note]: Please feel free to comment with the definitions of any of these words that you know from memory. Words like 'woof' and 'shook' obviously have other meanings as used by Herman Melville. Any repeats are incidental, and are not intended to bolster the list.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

On Choosing the Cover of One's Book

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is a proverb recited to remind those who would listen that the true character of a man or object cannot always be discerned by outward appearances.

One who would fail to listen might commit himself to wedding a girl because of her outward beauty, only to find her lacking in morals, sensibility, or faithfulness. One who would heed the advice may purchase a house despite its need of cosmetic touch-up because he has a vision for what the house could become.

The proverb lends itself to many situations, and is often applied in a suitable context. Its wisdom is understood by even a simple mind; the desired effect in its recital is typically achieved without additional commentary.

Men and women would almost universally accept the general wisdom of this proverb, yet I find that we are quick to decorate or polish our own metaphorical "book covers" and expect others to judge them as we would wish. Below are a few ways in which I find this most curiously expressed.

Care Where I Vacation Syndrome - I am no more certain today than I was the first time I saw an "OBX" bumper sticker of what is hoped to be gained by letting the world know where you vacation. Is it an attempt to communicate one's superior taste in vacation destinations? It certainly can't be done in hopes of expressing one's uniqueness--I could spot ten "OBX's" and at least 20 "LBI's" in a week if I was looking for them. If there were a place on earth where I loved to vacation more than any other, I would let as few people in on the secret as I could and then expend whatever loose change I had in my pocket to mail next summer's rental deposit--not to buy a bumper sticker.

Care Where I Shop Syndrome - What self-respecting person willingly pays money to advertise for clothing companies? Why anyone buys and wears hoodies with nothing but "GAP" across the front, or tee's with "Old Navy" and an American flag across the chest is far beyond me. It's stupid. I don't care where you shop. Really, I don't. How much you spend on clothes is between you and your wallet. Why do you want so desperately for everyone to know where you bought your shirt? The more telling question may be, Do you care that much about where other people shop that you project those same thoughts on to everyone else? I don't know who to blame with this, because each of the major retail stores is just as guilty as the next. The "Abercrombie's" and "Banana Republic's" bother me most because they're the priciest, but dumb "Old Navy" print tee's are nearly as bothersome.

Care What Sports I Have My Kid Signed Up For - This is perhaps the most puzzling to me. Do you, Mrs. Mom or Mr. Dad, really love soccer (or basketball or hockey or cheer team or wrestling, etc. for that matter)? Is the best way for you to pay homage to your kids' current favorite game to fix a static cling the shape of a soccer ball to the window of your Yukon? Or do you just do it because they passed them out with the jerseys and you don't want to be perceived as unsupportive of your kids? Team-personalized stickers for middle-school teams reek of elitist families bragging that they have enough money for Johnny and Susie to make (read: afford) the traveling team. The generic hockey pucks or megaphones just ring hollow. I have less of a problem with it if you're doing it because Johnny or Susie really loves his or her sport, but if Johnny or Susie doesn't realize how much you're already doing to be supportive of their sporting exploits, maybe you should make them aware and re-command control of the leash. And if you're afraid that being the only van at practice without "team spirit" will scar John or Sue, then maybe you should grow a spine and find something better than "O" magazine to read while you wait for the end of practice.

Care What Charity I Support - See my 09/24/05 post titled "Show Your Support" for more on this topic. It's not that I expect unbelievers to heed Jesus' command to "not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing," but it does appall me to see how external people are with their "good deeds."

I don't have enough to say about Care How Pimped My Vehicle Is Syndrome or Care How Good My Kid's Grades Are Syndrome to devote an entire paragraph to each, but each category's members fall under my same general sense of disgust and disapproval.

Not that you should care.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

2006 - Books In Review

Below, a list of the books I have finished in the year past, with short commentary and/or a favourite quote.

Animal Farm - George Orwell – Orwell is brilliant. Animal Farm understatedly and accurately portrays the sinful nature of Man carried out to its realistic extents. The narrative is perfectly simple, the accounts never exaggerated or sensationalized. The characters are allowed to stand as who they are and how they would simply respond in joy, greed, sadness, or lust.
"Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Frankenstein - Mary Shelly – A masterful reminder of all that I love about the Romantics: ecstasy in the triumph of a dream realized, anguish of a defeat, joy, and bliss. There is such wonder in exploring the depths of the human soul--lofty language, a heightened sense of emotions, grandeur in narrative and description—all things that make Romantics Isle a place that is great to visit, but not conducive to a sojourn of any great length.
“Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.”

Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller – I don’t think I would ever confuse Donald Miller with a great theologian or philosopher, but I don’t think he is or is trying to be. Most of the frustrations I had with the book (beside the band name dropping) were when I was holding the book to the level of a Mere Christianity or an Institutes of the Christian Religion. Blue Like Jazz is more of an open, think-out-loud, ask-unanswerable-questions kind of exploratory. The themes I saw drawn out were his search for God in all aspects of life, struggling to nurture a love and faith for the everyday. There were many of his confessions or open-ended questions that were convicting or spurred my own consideration. There was also some of his advice that I think should quickly find its way to the wayside. I liked the book—a lot at times--but would not give it a whole-hearted recommendation.
“I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music. Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.”

Wild At Heart - John Eldredge – I love the idea he explores and most of the conclusions he draws. So much of the bleak depiction of modern man struck me deeply, and conversely, much of the description of who man was created to be resonated with my Romantic soul. This book has made me a better Cadet counselor, a better role model, and makes me long even more so for my own male offspring. Much of Eldredge’s A-to-B thinking is good, but gets into trouble when he tries to boldly go from B to D. There is Scripture referenced throughout the book, but often the “proof texts” seem to be stretches. He reads like a counselor, which he is. There is great wisdom to be gained from experiences, but concluding something is true because you’ve seen it play out a dozen times cannot and should not be held to be as true as the Word of God.
“Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man. The masculine heart needs a place where nothing is prefabricated, modular, nonfat, zip lock, franchised, on-line, microwavable. Where there are no deadlines, cell phones, or committee meetings. Where there is room for the soul. Where, finally, the geography around us corresponds to the geography of our heart.”

Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller – A tragedy of dreams never realized. Of the favored son never fulfilling the inflated potential imposed upon him by his father, and the forgotten son who may have actually achieved those dreams if only he had received more than crumbs of recognition. And above all, the dreamer of all dreamers, Willy Loman, who, at the end of his life, craves more than anything the assurance that he is, in fact, leaving a legacy. Yet in the end, he finds he has built nothing lasting after a life chasing the clouds. Rich characters, deep heartache, beautiful tragedy.
“Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people? Do you know? when he died—and by the way he died the death of a salesman—hundreds of salesmen and buyers were at his funeral.”

Fighting the Good Fight - D.G. Hart and John Muether – One of two books I was required to read in our church’s Leadership Training class, the other being Lest We Forget, immediately below. Much of what I read in Fighting the Good Fight was new to me, and I have an immeasurably greater sense of pride and gratitude with regard to the men whom the Lord has blessed throughout the history of the Church. Never before has the purity of the church been as precious to me, and therefore the fracturing of the visible church has never been as heartbreaking.
“This book is not intended to silence other perspectives but to contribute to a healthy discussion of the OPC’s identity and mission. We hope it will persuade the unpersuaded, confirm the already committed, and prompt those who disagree to voice disagreement. Above all, we hope that this book will challenge the church to think hard about its identity. For we believe that a church without an identity will lose its reason for existence.”

Lest We Forget - Robert Churchill - Fighting the Good Fight was much more the broad, historical account, while Lest We Forget is an autobiographical memoir of an early OPC minister in Washington state. What Fighting the Good Fight stated in broad, history book language, Lest We Forget delivered with a touch of genuine sadness and experiential intimacy.
“How then, you may ask, could such strong churches welcome into their teaching ministry [such liberal material] into their teaching courses? Couldn’t the church leaders recognize such un-Reformed and unscriptural instruction? The answer is not a simple one, but this at least can be said: fundamentalism in its non-Calvinistic form came into the Presbyterian Church to fill a vacuum. The vacuum existed because the church was no longer teaching the Confession of Faith and catechisms in any adequate or vital way. ‘Easy-gesis' (easy exegesis) of Scripture was often substituted for more scholarly exegesis and this allowed portions of Scripture, often taken out of context, to be forced into a human scheme of prophecy.”

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson – As many times as I may page through Treasure Island in the rest of my life, no reading will ever compare to the first I was ever privileged to experience--that of my father reading the story to my brother and sister and I in the summer of 1992. I was ten and it was the summer of my father’s sabbatical, when, among other destinations, we spent two weeks at a cabin on a lake in Ontario. Read by the light of the fireplace like a colonial family two centuries before, my father’s dramatic—and oftentimes frightening—unfolding of this fantastic voyage stoked my boyish heart and imagination as wild as the sea itself.
“So things passed until, the day after the funeral, and about three o’clock of a bitter, foggy, frosty afternoon, I was standing at the door for a moment, full of sad thoughts about my father, when I saw some one drawing slowly near along the road. He was plainly blind, for he tapped before him with a stick, and wore a great green shade over his eyes and nose; and he was hunched, as if with age or weakness, and wore a huge old tattered sea cloak with a hood, that made him appear positively deformed. I never saw in my life a more dreadful looking figure.”

Being the Body - Charles Colson – At my suggestion, the Washington Small Group began a study of the Church, using Colson’s book as a guide. I originally intended the group to read and study the book together, but for better or for worse, we eventually strayed from using the book at all. Colson identifies and thoroughly characterizes many of the social and cultural battles the church faces, both within and without. The Lord has used Chuck Colson more than anyone else in my life to help me understand the importance of looking at issues on the level of their underlying worldview, and for that I am grateful. The book served as a great topical outline for discussion each meeting, but I didn’t find Colson’s work able to stand alone sufficiently enough to make it the only source for our study.
“Are not these days of the early twenty-first century a season of urgency, shattered complacency, hellish loss…and unprecedented opportunity? If freedom is at war with fear, if catastrophe can turn from death to resurrection, if hope can triumph over despair…if there was ever a time for the church to be the church, it is now.”