Friday, December 10, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Here's something Keller said about preaching:
Monday, May 3, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
PS: In case you missed it, several months ago I reviewed Gladwell's first book, The Tipping Point, at the same place:
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Sunday, February 28, 2010
The following is an updated essay that I posted on here a while ago. It's seen several parts rewritten and edited, and it's been through trial by fire in a workshop with Dr. Simons. Hopefully that means it's better.
Last summer, mid-June to be precise, I spent several days camping at Carpentaria Beach. Away from friends, internet, and responsibilities, I realized as soon as the great blue sea came into sight: there's something special about the beach.
I do not mean any one specific beach or area of coastland, mind you. The beach. It is the beginning and end of a thousand voyages, the subject of countless songs and legends, the ideal romantic getaway, full of beauty, power, danger, and mystery. Men have bled and died for even a few feet of this razor strip. One could hardly find a better place to spend time alone, yet even in human solitude the wildlife abounds in a flurry of activity. Where would we be, where would our lives be, I wonder, without that crucial meeting point of the sea and land, the bridge between the two great worlds, a springboard from reality to fantasy?
As I hiked along the bluffs of Carpentaria I came across a tree. Now this tree had no tangibly outstanding features; I couldn’t even name what kind of tree it was. No leaves graced its gnarled bows as it stretched its few tired gray limbs towards the sky. It looked scarred and beaten. Surely it had endured all manner of winds, rain, lightning strikes, and flames. A certain intangible aura of emotion emanated from its rough bark. I wondered at the things it had seen—the gradual smoothing of the rocks below, the migration of whales and seals, the construction of the oil rigs which now dotted the horizon, perhaps the occasional couple or troubled soul who sought the privacy of the shore below. Standing alone for a hundred yards in every direction, it stood like a lone sentinel watching over the rocks and sand. Only one green branch that sagged to the ground sustained this sage of the coast. It did nothing to detract from the rickety crown adorned only by the nest of a lone black bird.
When I took art classes in high school, I would have spent weeks capturing a tree like this with my pastels. If I ever wrote a book involving the sea, I would find no shame in gracing the cover with an image of this tree. There could be a treasure, or some secret message, the key to a life-changing discovery, hidden under it for all I knew. In any half-decent story about this tree, there sure would have been. Should I grow up to be a filmmaker or writer, I may return to that tree to shoot a closing scene or seek inspiration. A fitting deed, I think—something to immortalize this unsung wonder of nature. Surely its story is one worth remembering.
I continued on along the bluffs. From the layered rock seeped a strange oily substance. I don’t know whether it came naturally from the depths of the earth or if the operations of the rigs offshore left it as a by-product, but I chose to believe the former. Looking down at my sandaled feet, I took care to avoid stepping in it. All the sand grains and dirt on my feet usually bother me to no end, but at the beach it never matters. Eventually I descended the small rocky face down to the sloping sand below where a series of tide pools lay sprawled before me. My eyes quickly begin probing the shallows. I found nothing of interest as I skirted the pools, eventually wandering across the uneven rocks and toward the open sea where the last boulder jutted out of the water. The wind rustled my shaggy hair while the waves growled in their persistent raging against the land. I paused and inhaled deeply, recalling the words of the Psalmist: “For He founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.”
Much has passed since all of that happened. Were it not for my own note-taking shortly after the trip I probably would have forgotten about that tree by now. Soon the bustle and distractions of summer sunk over me, in turn giving way to autumn’s new semester of books, faces, and computer screens. A few sentimental days of Christmas break flash by like several frames from a film. Days blend into one monotonous memory. The wind comes and goes, the skies rain, the sun shines, and still I find myself fighting the reality of the matter. In the real world there is no buried treasure or happily-ever-after love story. In the end it is no more than a tree. One of thousands—perhaps millions—of its kind, and an insignificant one at that.
Over the years, the beach has come to mean different things to me. As I return year after year, with different people and different circumstances, each perspective seems to sing a few new bars of creation’s invisible song. First it was the simple joys of the waves and sand. The big, cold waters always threatened to knock me off my feet. I would run out to the ocean and scamper back to the high ground over and over again as the swells came in after me. I could dig in the sand all day, a poor medium but one in infinite supply, and never grow disheartened or bored.
Later on, the waves became little more than afterthoughts as the local wildlife captured my supreme interest. I recall a brief trip out to sea on a sizable sailing boat where a net was let down to drag up all kinds of ocean dwelling life forms. I marveled at the flat fish with two eyes on the same side of their head, the morphing starfish, and the great stingrays. I was only too glad to handle the creatures, especially the pancake sized rays (harmless, I suppose) that fit into my child's hands. On a different trip, I spent hours crawling over a human-deposited rock outcropping in search of crabs. It posed quite the challenge. The green-brown crabs, no bigger than my palm, skittered across the rocks and managed to wedge themselves into crags so thin that even my fearless, prying fingers could not squeeze them out. I eventually learned how to catch these little beasts, until one time a particularly desperate crab sent me running back to my family, screaming at the top of my lungs, a severed pincer clamped on my finger.
Next came boogie boarding and ultimate Frisbee. Back then, boogie boarding required big-time skill—nearly surfing-caliber skill—that I fancied myself to naturally possess. Suddenly, the waves were paramount. Long minutes passed in freezing waist-deep swells before anything worth riding emerged from far offshore. If you finally caught a big one, relish it, ride it, take it all the way to the sand. Let the wave do the work. Good job, now go do it again. Even ultimate—a miserable sport to play given the wind and noticeable slope of the beach—can function on the coast. Come to think of it, I can’t imagine a better place to toss a Frisbee around.
Today, I still enjoy being teased by the waves, searching for crabs, and throwing Frisbees, but the wonder has grown much greater. Slowly but surely, all the hidden melodies of the beach are beginning to meld together. The endlessly crashing waves—blue-gray under the often cloudy sky—echo softly up the dunes. The giant stained rocks stand defiant against the elements. The thick sand extends to my right and left for miles. The infinite horizon in the distance forever embraces the deep sea. They say the world is shrinking, with jet planes and internet cell-phones, and I supposed in some ways it is. But when I stand out on the wave-swept sands and stare out to sea, I feel small. Maybe, just maybe, the coast has always been the same, and we, with our instant-access world, merely fancy ourselves to be growing.
That tree was small, yet huge, all at the same time. I suspect that most hikers pass it up without a second thought, but for the artist, it shakes the imagination. I've never been able to stop any of those waves: waves which contain an entirely new world of creatures underneath them, waves that refused to submit to my sand barricades. Even on my best day throwing the Frisbee, the wind still holds the final say over the disk’s flight. Who am I, a mere sapling of life, to speak to that old, wrinkled tree?
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Don't worry. Stuff is happening. I'm still working on things and thinking about things, it just hasn't translated into much to write about at the moment.
Monday, January 25, 2010
The fishers quailed before the gale
They called to Christ, a humble wail
"Lord save us, ere the lightning strikes
Or waves come drown us, see the might
This pounding, dark, unholy storm
Will swallow us before the morn."
So Christ looked up, with sleepy eyes
And tender care for their poor lives
He stood, as God, with pulsing veins
And called the wind, the sea, the rains:
"Now hear me, all you elements
Be silenced, flee from me, repent.
In future wrath you'll have your time
For now an age of peace is mine."
The bruised disciples, safe but stunned
Could hardly speak, "Who is this One
Who never worries, come what may
Who speaks, and winds and sea obey?"
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
You can find the review here: http://www.redfenceproject.com/blog2/textpattern/article/382/book-the-tipping-point-by-malcolm-gladwell
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Behold the Christ, the Man, alone!
Limbs drip with weakness, footsteps fall
On rock and hill and bramble wild
Two sandals pasted gray with dust
For forty days He has endured
The devil's e'er persistent thrusts
While looking ever heavenward
Indeed, Belial, presses on
And entertains a desperate want
To cause a stain in Jesus' life
Now at the peak of hunger pains
The serpent coils, about to strike
For he has yet temptations three
Prepared in hell's dark furnace flames
To fell the Son of Man today
At first he plays the sycophant
And sees the pain of hungriness:
"If you are God who made the hills,
And turns the planets by Your hand,
Then take these stones I hold for you
And turn them into loaves of bread.
Loaves fresh and warm with sate the hurt
With sustenance that you deserve."
But Jesus turned, and looking down
Did cast the rocks upon the sand,
And brought to bear a sharper blade:
The perfect, mighty, written Word.
"Man shall not live on bread alone.
What need have I to use these stones?"
The stymied devil stumbled back
Yet battled on with new assaults
He grabbed the hand of Christ and flew
Into the sky o'er all the world
A flash in time of precious lands--
Great kingdoms, armies, broken souls.
"I'll give these nations all to You
At nothing but a simple price:
Just bow to me, proclaim my name
Relieve them from imprisonment."
How dastardly the Devil's plan!
All other men would fall, no doubt.
For how could Jesus pass up this:
A chance to miss the future cross
And reign without the blood and strife?
Perhaps His life He would preserve,
But what salvation could he craft
For Adam's seed on judgment day?
Again, He seeks the ancient Word
"You shall worship the Lord your God,
And He alone deserves the praise.
Now hear Me Satan, hear Me now:
I'll please My Father constantly.
My kingdom comes by other means."
And so the pair fell back to earth
A starving King; the lord of flies
The devil's wits remained intact
As he prepared the final shaft
To blackened God's own holy Son.
The jewel city, named by peace
Could be the scene of Christ's disgrace.
Clutching Him, he winged away
And set the Lord upon a spire,
The temple's pinnacle, alone,
Above the lowly cobblestone.
"If you're the Christ," the devil called
"Then jump, and see what God will do.
He said Himself that 'He'd command
His angels on behalf of you'
And 'On their hands they'll bear you up
In case your foot should strike a rock.'"
While in his mind old Satan thought,
"He must bend to my will at last
When challenged by this holy psalm."
Then Jesus spoke, with heart incensed,
"You tempter, you would dare to speak,
Perverting My own holy Words.
Be gone, I say, for Moses wrote:
'You shall not test the Lord your God.'
And even now I do refuse
To heed on poisoned word from You!
In weakened flesh My Spirit still
Will ever stand, and truth prevail!"
As this temptation passed away
The devil took to flight at last
Across the darkened evening sky
To bide his time in twisted thought
Until another chance should come.