Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Snodgrass

You may think, by the title of this post, that suddenly I've been whacked by the "green" stick and I'm having an unfortunate problem with a nasty species of crabgrass in my new garden....

Not.

I'm taking two classes this semester with a New Testament professor named Klyne Snodgrass. He's got the name that commands instant respect as a professor, to be sure. And I'm taking my Greek exegesis class, as well as a class on the parables of Jesus, with him. Today was the first day I met him, and had ever seen him in person.

I arrived in seminary in the middle of last school year, and Dr. Snodgrass was on "sabbatical" teaching at none other than Duke Divinity School. So while I was around, he was not. But I heard a lot about him from many people.

In short, the guy is an icon. In the field of New Testament studies, Klyne is big. His books are littered all over the seminary foyer. He is widely known as a very demanding academic professor, but one of the most gentle, pastoral professors you will ever find. I'd never met the guy, and I was already very intrigued, and to be honest, a little intimidated.

Not because I was afraid he'd rip me to shreds.... I was intimidated because his reputation both as a Biblical intellectual and as a gentle academic shepherd of students far precedes him. And it is an honorable reputation, by what people have told me. And that's hard to find. And it also far surpasses the type of legacy I can reasonably ever expect to attain myself. So he will definitely put me in my place without even trying.

Most at the seminary don't really appreciate what they are getting with Klyne initially. Klyne generally teaches New Testament 1, which is generally taken by seminary students in their first semester of their first year. And, of course, this class is taught (generally) at 8am on Monday mornings, so this is the first experience of many students at North Park. And, apparently, the class is a doozy.

So, all of these factors combined, you may hear another professor saying to a new student that he or she was baptized into the seminary by "Klyne the Baptist" yesterday. They were.

Since I came in the middle of the year, I took NT2 in the spring, but opted not to take NT1 this semester because I knew of the workload. I was already taking Greek Exegesis with Klyne, and I thought, "I don't want to take a heavy Bible class at the same time as Exegesis, especially a Bible class with Klyne. That's a ton of work."

But eventually I decided to drop a preaching class for a number of reasons, and I saw this Wednesday night class being taught by none other than Dr. Snodgrass himself.... on the parables of Jesus. He had spent years working on a huge book on the parables, and that book was going to be the text for the course.

Then, someone told me that Klyne had been dropping hints to peers and students that he'd be retiring soon, maybe in two years. And I realized that my time to soak up everything from this man was short.

And I reflected... which always leads to more work for me....

In my life, I've been to hell and back. I'm stronger for it. I'm standing as though my armor is galvanized in the finest metal because God is on my side and I've learned so much, and I'm in the best shape of my life in just about every way. I've handled the crazy workload much better than I expected. I trust my instincts and knowledge and my ability to discern in difficult situations. With all of that, I've found that I have precious few mentors and people I personally look up to in my life. I've gotten to be a bit of a snob, I guess.

But I realized that this guy would definitely make me feel small. And that's not a bad thing. I knew I would revere him and that he'd make a huge difference in my life and faith. He's Klyne Snodgrass, for pete's sake! Klyne even has an entry on Wikipedia. Go ahead and go onto Wikipedia and search for him. He's got a page.

If you try to search for me on Wikipedia, you'd probably get a big sarcastic yellow face popping up, sticking its tongue out at you and blowing very hard. And you may feel a hint of computer saliva darting into your eye, and you'll wipe your eyes and once you can see clearly again, you'll realized that you tried to search Joe Misek on Wikipedia.

So I dropped that preaching class, and registered for the Parables class. And what I tried to avoid initially (taking two Klyne classes, taking a Bible class and Exegesis at the same time) is exactly where I find myself.

I met Klyne Snodgrass at 9:30am this morning, and he's everything that folks made him out to be. I'm gearing up for a crazy workload this semester, but I'll be sitting under a scholar that will doubtlessly change my life for the better.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Classes

I would say that, in many ways, this past summer was the best of my life. I had periods of intense focus and workload. I had periods of rest and relaxation... which look a lot like laziness when you see me in non-action. Regardless, I had fun. I took two summer intensives which yielded nine academic credits. Add that to the 14 that I took in my first semester in seminary, and I'm coming along nicely, with good grades.

The intense period was a six week class studying two semesters' worth of Biblical Greek. It was crazy, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone with a history of heart failure, women who may be pregnant, anyone under the age of 23, anyone over the age of 49, or anyone with a shred of dignity and common sense. However, I survived the aptly nicknamed "suicide Greek" and passed it comfortably, en route to Greek Exegesis in the fall. More on exegesis later.

For the first time in probably 16 years, I played in some kind of a competive sport. Now, first of all, it was softball. It was not the baseball or football of my childhood dreams. If my childhood dreams were coming to fruition at this time, I'd be playing major league baseball or NFL football, but since my dreams that come true always have a nutty twist, I'd be on the disabled list as a veteran third basemen or middle linebacker of a team way out of playoff contention with a severed pinky toe stemming from an unfortunate incident involving a garden hose, a laborador retriever, and a revolving door that leads into a hotel lobby. I dunno either.

Anyway, it also was a church softball league. My seminary is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church, and about 15 other covenant churches or organizations field a team and we played about a dozen games, plus playoffs. It can be fairly competitive, depending on the team you play. Some teams were skilled and they argued a lot with the umpires. Other teams were still trying to figure out which end of the bat you hold it from. We also had the obligation to umpire several other teams' games, and I got to umpire the plate about four times. It was kind of interesting when I would make a call and one of the players would bark at me. I generally barked back, then the player would realize that I was the bigger dog and he would remain silent the rest of the game... and I would praise God for providing me with a nice gym to work out at.

But the softball was fun because it was a chance for me to get to know people, challenge myself athletically, showcase my sub-superhuman strength, and hit the ball semi-impressive distances. It was a nice distraction from my Greek class, and it was generally enjoyable. I'll do it again next summer, Lord willing.

And I met many interesting people, and strengthen some friendships that were just slowly starting to form at the end of the spring semester. Summer in the city can be a lot of fun, and I was thoroughly disappointed that this 6-week, summer intensive, two semesters' worth of Biblical Greek crammed into four hours a day, five days a week, resulting in the knowledge of 80% of the Koine Greek language was not the cakewalk I was hoping it to be. Maybe I should have written out that last sentence before class started, and my expectations of summer fun would have been a bit more realistic. Regardless, I had limited time to forge new relationships and settle into on-campus seminary life.

And now, fall classes begin for everyone in about ten and a half hours. My schedule is kind of slick, although it by no means will be simple. I am taking the following:

Christian Heritage; T, Th 8-9:20am
Greek Exegesis; T, Th 9:30-10:50am
Parables of Jesus; W 6:30-9:30pm
Christian Theology... online

So that leaves me with lots of out of class work, but in class, I have no Monday classes, no Friday or weekend obligations, no class until the evening on Wednesdays, and I'm done with classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays by 11am. And I just moved on-campus, so I'm a short walk away from the seminary building. I'll probably be in the library or the gym, or about 50 miles northwest of of the seminary (I'll explain that in another post) most of the rest of the time. But at least I'm running life at my own pace, and I only have myself to blame if I start to slip.

And so, the next phase of my life, which now is running on a semester schedule apparently, begins. I'll miss summer, but I think I'll file this one in a very favorable section of my memories.

My divorce

Relax. It's not what you think.

I've ended my relationship with the Chicago Cubs, as of about a month ago. I've had it with this 9 trillion dollar sorry excuse of a team playing manure-like baseball befitting of a ragtag minor league team. To call the payroll of this team albatross would be too kind and, frankly, not a sufficiently-extreme metaphor.

We have thrown enough money at Carlos Zambrano to fund the research of a cure for his brain damage. And he underperformed, threw a fit, went to the bullpen, threw another fit, went on the disabled list due to craziness, and then decided to pitch effectively after the season was long lost. This hothead is certifiable, overweight, undisciplined in the offseason, chaotic during the season, and prefer to HIT!!!

We have thrown enough money at Alphonso Soriano to feed EVERYONE ON EARTH plentifully. And yet this guy is nowhere near the megastar he was signed to be. He has at least two annual injuries early in every season, the early season slump that is justified by the fact that he's still "working the kinks out" (which most pros do during spring training), then he gets hot long after the season is lost and his stats are nicely padded to produce a respectable, yet underachieving, season of numbers.

We have thrown enough money at Kosuke Fukodome to buy him the Japanese baseball team he clearly wishes to be playing for. And yet, after multiple seasons with this team, he still hasn't settled into a good fit in the batting order or even a role on this team. His contributions early in each season, and late, which have tended to be good, have been dwarfed by the lack of contribution when it really has been needed for the Cubs... in the middle 80% of the season.

We have thrown enough money at Ryan Dempster to fund the production of a time machine back to his first season as the Cubs starter. Yet we've been categorically fooled into thinking that he is an ace-in-waiting and a dependable second or third starter on a championship team.

I appreciate Marlon Byrd as the one having the most successful season. First of all, I can't believe I just wrote that. But we the people of Chicago need more than a breakout season from Marlon Byrd. We need the offensive line to get fixed, for the defense to get healthy, for Jay Cutler to stop throwing the ball at the wrong jerseys.........

Oh, Lord, my blog posts of venting and frustration are all starting to blend together. Get me outta here!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I love this......


Thank you to Failblog.org and whoever sent this in to that site. Whoever this spunky kid is, made me smile.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jesse Jackson, shut up!

According to the statistics of my esteemed blog with an estimated readership of 2.4 on average (an alltime low I believe), this would be my 200th post since starting it a few years ago. And I'm going to waste this landmark post on the likes of Jesse Jackson.

Of course, Jackson had to chime in on the LeBron James hoopla, because there was James, a black man polarizing all of America in his self-indulgent glory, and Jackson feels entitled to feed off of the carcass of the spotlight as well. And the story goes like this: James does his well-publicized thing... Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert releases a scathing, jilted-lover style letter addressing the "betrayal"... Jackson says that Gilbert is acting like a slave owner upset that the runaway slave (James) got away.

Bull-(insert your own creative noun)!!!!

Only Jesse Jackson could think that he speaks on behalf of an entire race of people. Only Jesse Jackson can turn just about any issue into an issue of race. Only Jesse Jackson can equate LeBron James and his hundreds of millions of dollars with a slave.

This was not about race, and anyone with half a brain watching the proceedings knows it. This is about basketball. This is about business. This is about a richer-than-earth man with a clever agent orchestrating an impressive heist amidst the boundaries of free agency. This is about said richer-than-earth man firmly applying a bounty upon his own head by making a spectacle and mockery of it publicly, shamelessly, and with his tongue sticking out... when no one, it seems, really wronged him.

For Jackson to even speak, let alone interject race into the issue, shows how shallow he is, how drunk he gets on the spotlight, and how hypnotized he is by the issue he platforms upon. He sees a white owner and a black employee (yes, technically LeBron is an employee, albeit a rich one with incredible free market freedom), and all he sees is injustice, with absolutely no regard to circumstance.

I have yet to hear Jesse Jackson offer a critical thought in his lifetime. And simply because I'm criticizing him, he would call me a racist. No, call me an idiot-ist. I fully accept the realities and injustices of race in this country, but not every last issue is about race, not every last comment is fueled by race, and not every last decision is predicated upon race. Jackson, by his own wild urgency to address race relations, actually sets his cause back too far to measure.

I can rant all day about the stupidity here, but I'm done. I have a class to attend, and a life to live, and wasting more time on Jesse Jackson is exactly that: a waste. So Jesse Jackson, shut up!!!!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

LeJudas

I'm not one to normally chime in on a news story that absolutely EVERYONE is clamoring about, but I wanted to cement a few things in cyberspace about LeBron James. I almost made this an "open letter to LeBron" post, figuring that there was a chance that he would actually read it, being that he is probably the most self-indulgent man alive such that he would even google himself and spend the rest of his summer vacation reading everything written about him. But, he may also send his entourage after me for not bowing down to the "King".

So even I had to find a bar last night to watch the "Deception", errr, I mean, the "Decision". I actually wanted to see how far he (and his cohorts at ESPN) would take this display of spotlight-hungry arrogance. It was nauseating, to say the least.

LeBron is well within his right to orchestrate an all-star team in one city to make championship-winning easy. His agents actually did a pretty slick job. But calling the press conference, scripting this "interview", and showing up every other major market in the country that didn't win his services is self-indulgence at its worst. LeBron isn't about team, organization, humility, or sharing the spotlight... he is about LeBron, and he sees winning only as a means to serving himself. He wants transcendant legacy, immortality, fame that surpasses any entertainer.

LeBron now has a bounty on his head, particularly in Cleveland. Without the press conference, I'm okay. But this was a massive "screw you" to a city that has served him well for his ENTIRE LIFE.

For all of you who don't take a Biblical view on pride and self-centeredness, here's the message: if you think LeBron has earned the right to play the game of life by grabbing all he can, leaving a trail of other people's blood behind him, and to PUBLICLY show them all up, fine. Good luck living that way. But then everyone else burned by his childishness also has the right to throw their weight around and try to burn him, too.

Yep, it would have been a great story if he had remained loyal to his city. Or if he had taken on a team like Chicago or New York that had solid pieces and climbed to the top with them. But his pride has invited a declaration of war, and so every other team has the right, according to this disgusting game of life that most people in America play, to put the smackdown on him.

"Me-first" has served NO ONE well, particularly when you look in terms of both this life and the life hereafter. I doubt the Cleveland Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert is a theologian, but he said something interesting in the aftermath: "Some people think they should go to heaven but not have to die to get there." Then he made a statement about karma, so that's where my intrigue ends. But he is right, sort of.

We are all fallen, imperfect creatures. The culture of entitlement in America is sickening. Too many believe they are entitled to a good job, nice house, easy life, and to do stupid things for a quick thrill or for personal glory without consequences. And we wonder why, deep, deep down, so many people are miserable. They are slaves to money, fame, booze, sex, popularity, drugs...

Entitlement leads to slavery. No one living under the auspices of that culture of entitlement is truly free. You are a slave. A slave to yourself. LeBron is a slave to his addiction to personal glory. And just think, one motorcycle accident, one mix-up, whatever, and his ability to play ball is gone. And off into obscurity he goes. Then what? Who is LeBron James then?

I'm sickened by the display, but I'm at least comforted in knowing that I am living for something more eternal, free of the self-addiction that is leading LeBron around like a hungry puppy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Escape from the desert...

This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

1 John 3:19-20

I think that everyone can identify with the phrase, “whenever our hearts condemn us” if I simple rephrase it into more commonly used expressions (or laments) today. How often have we said of ourselves, or hear someone say to us, “I don’t feel saved/forgiven/joyful/free/close to God/happy/etc.?” I have heard this so often in recent months, mostly from those who worship Christ as their Savior, those who have grown up in the church, even those who are pursuing ministry vocationally! All of the wind is out of the sail, all motivation is lost, God seems silent or far away… I know the feeling. Biblically, the expression that articulates this problem is in this passage: your heart is condemning you.

I love it when I see shreds of multiple disciplines in Bible passages. John, in this part of his letter, is doing some pastoral care, some theology, and some psychology, all in a tight space. And as we expand out from this tight space, and see the context, and consult the full counsel of the scriptures, we find a pathway, albeit a long and arduous one, out of this misery.

When I have felt this way, I have called it a “desert experience.” Spiritually, I feel like I’m off in the middle of nowhere, confused, with no direction. I don’t sense the Holy Spirit’s leading and, frankly, I’m upset and don’t particularly want to sense it. I think that these particular seasons of life are when many people choose to slip into corners of darkness, finding sparks of life or distractions from wrong sources. It is a vicious cycle, especially for those who call Christ Savior: we seek a spark, attain a “high”, then a corresponding “low”, guilt and shame and frustration sets in, we seek that spark again to make us feel better… the heart is condemning us.

How do we break out of this cycle? John says the most immediate help is in resting in the truth that God is greater than our hearts, and that He knows all things (v.20). We must take refuge in an OBJECTIVE truth… and yes, we must do this in a world that angrily tells us that truth is only subjective, only up to you, but “your truth” does not apply to anyone else. We need the absolute, and it will be the only kind of truth that works. Think about the crisis that we are in during these moments! When our FEELINGS are not providing us comfort, when our hearts are condemning us, won’t “subjective truths” that are only based on our private mental meanderings get a few holes poked in them? God is absolutely God, Jesus is absolutely the Christ, and we must take hold of it when our hearts condemn us.

If we expand our focus and look at verses 16-23, John lays it out. We must love our neighbors, even laying our lives down for our brothers and sisters (v. 16). In other words, treat love as a verb. So get off the couch! We must do things and get the heck out of the abstract abyss of our minds when we are in crisis mode. We must live it “in actions and in truth” (v. 18) and by this radical approach to life, “we set our hearts at rest in His presence,” (v.19).

This is not some boring call to be a monk living in a cave, with all apologies to the ascetic monks out there. This is about laying your life down for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of your neighbor. Spill your testimony to someone. Give comfort and encouragement to someone who is hurting in your life. Serve at a youth retreat. Go on a mission trip, pray over someone for healing, go into the world’s war zones… do SOMETHING to live into a bigger, God-sized story for your life!!!

There is something supernatural about sharing and living your faith that boosts your joy. And living “dangerously” for the cause of Christ requires God’s divine aide to accomplish the call… and I have this suspicious feeling that you will not feel so distant from God anymore when you watch Him performing miracles in your midst. You are not going to feel like doing it. That’s the nature of the condemnation. Do it anyway and God will breath faith into your soul as you step forward.

The feeling of having a “condemned heart” is common to all of us, but we have to get up and act to set our hearts at rest. Rather than drifting further into darkness, lean on the truth, and rely on those truths as you implore God to move in your midst.

New musical obsession

I am pretty shamelessly a chest-thumping dude. I like my music, and many different styles. But when I'm strutting into the gym to do war with piles of iron, I need loud, heavy, intense rock music. I need my adrenaline pumping. For me, the problem is, so much of that rock music has a message that is about drugs, girls, anger, or being on drugs because of angry girls. So I've recently discovered some bands like 12 Stones and Skillet that scratch that itch, but have a distinctly real message, spoken by musicians that worship Christ but aren't afraid to express the battles being waged within the soul. So I have come across the band Red, and they are dark and heavy. But, wow, here are the lyrics of a ballad from their first CD.

-------------------------
Pieces by Red

I'm here again. A thousand miles away from you. A broken mess. Just scattered pieces of who I am. I tried so hard. Thought I could do this on my own. I lost so much along way.

Then I see your face. I know I'm finally yours. I find everything, I thought I lost before. You call my name. I come to you in pieces... so you can make me whole.

I've come undone. But you make sense of who I am. Like puzzle pieces in your hand.
-------------------------

Tells the story of my life, that's for sure. Thank you, Red.



And, of course, for the blues-rockin', gospel funky soul jam band freak in me... none other than Robert Randolph and the Family Band put out a very rootsy CD last week, and my current favorite song on earth has this chorus:

"Even though I've turned my back, I still belong... I still belong to Jesus!"

Yep, it's called I Still Belong to Jesus, by Robert Randolph.

Brain Damage Zambrano

Carlos Zambrano, please report to the principal's office... NOW... no arguments.

Ship him back to the moon. Waste no time.

If there's one thing that is rising on my list of pet peeves faster than a rocket, it is a clubhouse cancer. That "list", by the way, is getting to be large enough to be classified as a book... no, an encyclopedia of some kind. Anyway, a clubhouse cancer is a team member of anything (a sports team or even a team member within the job force) that simply disrupts the functioning of the entire team with their poisonous, immature, me-first and me-only attitudes and tendencies.

No matter how effective the cancer is, the cancer is almost never worth it to keep around. The Cubs must launch Carlos Zambrano. I don't care what the cost is. Not only has he underperformed and made a mockery of his albatross contract, he is driving the rest of the team insane. His latest escapade on Saturday is it. He must be catapulted to a far off land in the name of damage control AND in the name of the betterment of the team.

If you run a business and have a clubhouse cancer tanking morale, launch him or her. Target that person, tell that person DIRECTLY that the antics are not acceptable and job loss is close, then flip him or her at the next flair-up.

Big Z has only been Stupid Z for too long, and his entire team is looser and better now that he is on suspension. I, the proud Cubs fan that cannot show his face around a White Sox or Cardinals fan because of the humiliation brought on not only by the disparity in the won-loss columns but also by these displays of petulance and immaturity, demand a turnaround now, and the underperforming clubhouse cancer must go first.

Sorry Carlos. Hope you live into all that talent and potential one day. It cannot be with the Cubs. Launch him.

Hello blogosphere, part 2

Okay, so it's been about 3 months. Sorry to all -3.45 readers out there (yes, I'm in negative number territory now). Hopefully, I'll be able to boost it with some more regular postings. It's going to take quite a balance to post regularly once again. So throughout April and into May, I endured a crazy period of schoolwork. After that, I endured a crazy period of recuperation and, frankly, laziness.

So, here I am, signing onto my blog for the first time since part 1 of "Hello blogosphere". And the prospects of further insightful, spiritual, and/or sarcastic posts that have come to make "Through the eyes of a typical guy" all that it is (and all that it isn't) seem bleak. I begin a summer intensive class in a week, and it is two semesters of Greek packed into four hours a day, five days a week, for about five weeks. Even the faculty at the seminary call this "suicide Greek". My hope is that my days will be contain no fluff. This means sleep, class, work out, study, job/grad school softball, and contribute to the well-being of others through blogs or coffee dates. Repeat. No goofing around.

We'll see how this goes.....