Archive - Aug 2017


August 31st

Seminary Thoughts: What is acceptable?

This morning, I try to settle into a new pattern of being an online seminary student, a husband, father, and working full time. I read the online Morning Prayer that is shared by my classmates at CDSP as I start to connect with my community.

The opening verse is one of my favorites,

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my
redeemer. Psalm 19:14

It makes me think of a post I saw on Facebook yesterday,

just lost a friend over a post ,
unreal , doesn't anyone have thick skin ?

My Facebook friend has a coarse racism and misogynist streak in his posts, and I wondered if he lost the friend, not because lost friend had too thin a skin, but because my Facebook friend had too coarse a mouth. It felt to me like this Facebook friend was blaming the victim. All his other friends jumped in and called the lost friend all kinds of vile things. I decided that this was not a place to engage right now.

Another Facebook friend posted,

Apologies for the rant, but we just walked around our campground and witnessed a dad ripping into his wife and son. Yelling, swearing, pure short fuse anger issues. I don't know what happened earlier today, but I promise the most recent offense was incredibly mild, and dad's response was inappropriate. His wife was embarrassed that we heard, but nothing (at least in this scenario) was any ounce her fault. I was stuck explaining to my kid, again, how it's not right to treat ANYONE like that.

What is the role of media, whether it be social media or news media, in establishing social norms? How have our norms about acceptable speech shifted as a result of digital media?

For News and Religion class, I’ve been reading Readings on Religion as News, edited by Judith M. Buddenbaum and Debra L. Mason. The introduction talks about religion and journalism this way (page xvii)

from the Puritans to the Promise Keepers, religious people have left their mark on American culture and the continue to do so. And the press has been there, at every step along the way, spreading religious inspired beliefs and behaviors throughout the country and policing the boundary between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” forms of religiosity.

I think about the coverage in the news media of Houston, Hurricane Harvey, and Lakewood Church. I think of social media and how we share stories in acceptable or unacceptable ways.

In Women’s Bible Commentary by Carol Newsome, et al., there is a section on how we interpret the Bible and how interpretations shape us and shape other interpretations: (Page 34 of the Google Book version)

Regardless of the original intent of such passages, the history of their interpretation has included some very hurtful readings

The news media and social media can help us navigate the boundary between the “acceptable” and the “unacceptable”. It can also repeat hurtful interpretations and call us to challenge current understandings of what is acceptable in the Lord sight.

August 30th

Starting Seminary

I have now spoken with my academic adviser and registered for two classes in the Fall Term at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Classes officially start next Tuesday, but I’m trying to get a little bit of a head start by getting things set up and starting my readings early.

One class is Introduction to Old Testament, which is taught by my advisor and required for Masters of Divinity students. I’m currently in the Certificate of Theological Studies program, so it isn’t required, but I might become an M.Div or Master of Theological Studies student at some point.

I took Biblical Hebrew back in my undergraduate days as well as a few Old Testament classes, but that was years ago, and I’ve forgotten much of my Hebrew and I’m especially interested in looking at the Old Testament from perspectives other than the Old White European Male perspective that is so dominant.

The second class I’ve signed up for is News and Religion, offered by the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum. I am taking it via Starr King which is another theological school in the Graduate Theological Union. I’m very interested in how journalism and religion have influenced one another in America.

I expect I’ll be writing a bit for both courses and hope my writing will improve. Some of my writing will be only for the classes, but some of it, I hope to share publicly, either here, or on other sites.

I also received an email about the Virtual Daily Office at CDSP. I switch around the daily offices I use and recently have been using a Celtic daily office. Currently, I plan on saying the Virtual Daily Office at CDSP as I become more active in their online community.

I also expect that I’ll be spending a lot of time reading. I’m trying to get a jump start on my readings, but I expect most of my free time will be spent reading and writing for seminary and I’ll probably be doing less other reading and writing, at least for the next few months.

Prayers for my studies and my journey are greatly appreciated.

August 29th


Last week, we were on vacation in Tennessee to watch the total eclipse of the sun. During that time, I had very limited internet connectivity and a lot of time when writing just wasn’t possible, so I set aside my Daily Examen blog posts. I had thought about writing up one giant post, a sort of vacation examen, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, I’m trying to dig out of everything that needs to be done.

Next week, classes start. I am getting my accounts set up in various learning management systems, student information systems, and so on. I am trying to get all the emails sorted out with permissions to take this course or that. I am reading syllabi and thinking out what my schedule will be for the next four months. This includes thinking about what I will be posting online, and where I will be posting it.

At work, I am digging out from being on vacation during a very busy period. In the larger scheme of things, there is the flooding in Houston. There is political discord in our country. There are tensions globally.

I try to focus, and get back into my daily schedule, feeling that on so many levels, I am standing at a threshold.

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August 24th

Make America Great Again, the Top Hog BBQ way

When we came to Tennessee to watch the total solar eclipse, which was a wonderful event., we had decided to stay in Tennessee for a few extra days, hoping to soak up a little bit of the local culture. Yet it seemed like every restaurant recommendation we found was to some polished place in a mall somewhere, a mall that could have been anywhere in America.

On Wednesday, we headed towards a state park to see some of Tennessee’s great waterfalls. We drove through Franklin, where a statue of “Chip”, a confederate soldier was surrounded by green ribbons and private property flags. We didn’t know the details but guessed it had to do with the struggle over what we choose to honor and remember about our history.

As I prepare for seminary, I’ve been reading Radical Welcome by the Rev. Stephanie Spellers and been wondering how we welcome those who want to hang on to statues of Confederate soldiers and how we welcome those who want such statues removed. I’ve been wondering what sort of southern culture people are seeking to defend and what it really takes to make America great again.

In the evening, we headed out to dinner. A course that I’ve signed up for this fall is “Religion and News Media” at the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum. There was a video conference orientation session that I needed to join. I had some difficulties joining in and ended up participating from the backseat of the car as we drove to dinner.

How can we have meaningful and respectful dialog about religion in America? This is one of the topics we will be struggling with and talked a little bit about on the video conference.

My wife and daughter headed into the restaurant while I finished the end of the call. I had not seen the roads my wife took to get to the restaurant, but this was not in a mall. Walking into the restaurant, it was clear that Top Hog BBQ was different. On the walls were old advertisements for nickel bottles of Mountain Due, pictures of Barney Fife and the cast of The Wizard of Oz. There were big wooden tables, and no small plastic sign saying, “Please wait to be seated”. I looked around and saw my wife and daughter sitting at a table sipping fruit tea.

I’m not a big fan of sweet tea, so I thought I would skip the fruit tea, but when I looked at the other choices which were mostly soft drinks, I decided to give the fruit tea a try. It was great.

This was the experience we had been searching for. From the first sip of the fruit tea, to the last bite of BBQ, it was clear that this place is the real deal. Good solid tasty food. My wife loved the spicy turnip greens and my daughter who went with a simple cheeseburger declared it the best she had had in ages.

As we finished up, we got into talking with Patty, who owns the place. We talked about the eclipse, our families, our interests, and good food. It seemed that she personified the sort of southern culture that we need to be preserving and what it really takes to make America great again: attention to quality and detail, the kindness and friendliness.

So, if you’re serious about preserving southern culture and making America great again, I have one recommendation: Eat at Top Hog BBQ. I you can't make it to Gallatin, find someplace like Top Hog BBQ. Go in, have a great meal, talk with the staff and the other customers. Appreciate good food and good company and spread the word.

August 21st

Eclipse Reflections

Today, there were lots of discussions on social media about the eclipse. One religious friend posted that he didn’t see what the big deal about the eclipse was. I responded, “I like anything that gets people to stop and look at God's creation differently and to share with one another a sense of awe”

Another friend posted about lost productivity. I responded,

“My wife and I took vacation to watch the eclipse. The productivity would have been lost whether we were watching the eclipse or doing something else.

Yet thinking about the beauty of the eclipse, it seems like we need to ask, is productivity really the ultimate aim of our lives?”

Friends that saw totality have been posting about how wonderful and magical it was. It was my fourth total eclipse and I look forward to many more. Two years from now in Argentina? Seven years from now in the United States again? We’ll see which ones we manage to make it to.

On one friends reflections, I commented:

“We had a wonderful impromptu eclipse party down in Castalian Springs. People from Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Russia, and I'm not sure where all else, sharing stories, eclipse glasses, peaks through telescopes, Prosecco, ad contact information to stay in touch.

It has been a wonderful day, and I too, love that so many of us from various different backgrounds could stop, even briefly, to enjoy one another and some of the beauty of creation.”

So my hope remains. However you think about creation, the creator, the source of beauty, the source of kindness, the source of love, I hope that you managed to stop and appreciate a little of the beauty of the created world, and share some joy and love from that experience to those around you.