#Septemblog Day 24: Not enough hours.

I’m frustrated as I type this and the hour turns over to midnight. I’ve worked hard to get things done this week but it seems like there’s just not enough time.

If I am to maintain a restful Lord’s Day without work demands creeping in, tomorrow will need to be one of those home-run days where I have the strength and capacity to get all the things done that were not finished this week. A handful of focused hours of work logged. A raised-bed garden constructed. A Sunday School lesson completed and outlined. Focused and present time with my wife and daughters. Maybe banging out a blog post or two in the spaces between.

I would need about 12 extra hours to check those items off my list, and the strength of multiple Daves to match the extra time. I have neither.

I am finite, friends. And it stinks. It really, really does. Because something is getting bumped when the time and energy runs out. Too often over the last year, it has been my family. It won’t be my family this weekend.

My eyes are tired. I’m squinting at the blurry screen in front of me. I’m tapping out tonight.

May your Saturday be filled with energy and few necessary tasks, dear readers. May God bless your with an undemanding day, or else grace you with the strength of body and will to best a demanding one.

#Septemblog Day 23: Nostalgia Goggles.

Folks of a certain age (specifically, around mine) sometimes talk about how kids programming and cartoons currently on offer have gotten…weird. (That’s not even to address the disconcerting level of social programming and progressive messaging that is rife in current pop culture and has definitely worked its way into content for even the youngest of viewers–I’m looking at you, Blues Clues.)

I’ve just noticed in the last 5-10 years that cartoons are more frenetic, nonsensical, and terribly written than I remember them being in as a child. Compared to what’s popular now, something like the original Ducktales or Animaniacs is positively Shakespearean.

If you’re like me and you have shaken your head and muttered a “kids these days” sometime at the state of current animated television, I’d like to take you back to another era, where the animation was stilted and weird, the music was synthesizer-driven, and the storylines were completely bonkers: the mid-to-late 80’s, when one of the most pervasive animation production companies on television was a fever-dream known as DIC/Saban.

In case you need some reminding, here’s a compilation. It’s an amazing 7 hours long, but you can grab the progress bar and just scroll through randomly to bask in the weirdness of kids TV from 35 years ago:

(I don’t remember all of these, but I may have hummed along with half-forgotten theme music more than once.)

Let’s just say, my Gen X and Xennial brethren, we have no right to make judgments on what the kids are watching these days, at least in terms of story or visual style.

#Septemblog Day 22: Plundering Grandpa’s Treasury.

As I mentioned yesterday, I started reading Warfield’s Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. I have to handle it a bit carefully because it’s a second edition, published in 1948, and the binding seems to be somewhat brittle. Point of fact, the book is one of several treasures I plundered years ago.

I’ve talked about my paternal grandfather before. This December will mark 4 years since he went on to be with Jesus. The last time I saw him was about 6 years ago when my wife and I took a road-trip up to Michigan. I mentioned it here, but to my great regret, I never took any pictures with my grandfather at that time. Instead, I brought home something else that I treasure as much as a photo.

My grandfather was a reader, a teacher, and an ordained Baptist minister. (I come by it honestly.) He and my grandmother had a small table between their two recliners in their living room, and it was always heaped to overflowing with reading material–books, magazines, junk mail, with their heavily-read Bibles always on top. My grandmother’s bookshelves are jam-packed with Christian fiction, but my grandfather’s loves were theology and history.

The last day I saw him, he was in the later stages of Parkinson’s. His vision was limited, his speech was slightly slurred, and he had trouble getting around. During that visit, he said more than a few times, “Go into the study and take my books.” He was insistent that I claim what I wanted from his bookshelves, saying that he didn’t really need them anymore. I felt a bit awkward, and I tried not to take too much; in retrospect, I should have been bolder. (“You have not because you ask not.”)

I plundered the shelves of the finest jewels I could spot: complete sets of Matthew Henry’s commentaries and Spurgeon’s Treasury of David; various volumes from Spurgeon, MacArthur, Sproul; reprints of Whitfield’s journals and Ann Judson’s autobiography; and various Bible commentaries and study helps. Three full boxes of treasures from Grandpa’s storehouse went into the back of the van. And to this day, I use something from Grandpa at least once a week as part of my teaching and personal study. Whenever I do, I think of him with gratitude. These books are his legacy passed down to me and to my children after me.

When Grandpa died, my uncles had bookmarks created to hand out at the funeral, with his obituary on the back–a perfect tribute to the blessed booklover. I wasn’t able to attend, but my dad brought me back one, and now it holds my place in Warfield’s volume. Every time I open it, I see Grandpa, and I am reminded of his faithfulness and generosity to me.

#Septemblog Day 21: Mental Deadlifts.

It’s been more than 5 years since I’ve taken a seminary class. I never stopped reading theological books, but my reading has been decidedly lighter than what was required of me in those masters-level classes.

Last night, I started reading B. B. Warfield’s monumental volume The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, complete with a 68-page (!!!) introduction by Cornelius Van Til.

I was not ready for this.

I made it about 30 pages into Van Til’s introduction (in just over an hour), and my brain was exhausted, folks. I was encountering sentences like, “Post-Kantian rationality is, broadly speaking, correlative to non-rational factuality.” There were discussions of non-rational appeals to authority and considerations of a “kernel of thingness in every concrete fact that utterly escapes all possibility of expression.”

I essentially walked into the theological philosophy (or philosophical theology) gym and loaded up the bar for a PR on Day 1 with no warm-up. It took me a while just to get through the first few pages. After about an hour, I finally felt like I was able to pick up what Van Til was putting down (either that, or he got past the rhetorical throat-clearing and started saying something easier to grasp).

I’m excited to keep digging in, because it’s time I started challenging myself mentally again. The times we live in demand clear eyes and sharp minds, and it does no good for me, my family, or my church if I’m a mentally-flabby pastor. (Or a physically-flabby one, for that matter, but we’ll talk about that later.) Thus, it behooves me to start doing some heavy lifting in my study.

Onward!

#Septemblog Day 20: Night Sky.

I started watching a new limited-run series on Amazon with my wife called Night Sky, and the premise is intriguing: an elderly couple (played by JK Simmons and Sissy Spacek) faces the challenges of their declining years while at the same time harboring a mysterious secret: they have discovered a bunker under their property that contains a possibly-alien (or at least technologically super-advanced) device that transports them to a capsule/view-deck on the surface of an alien world. [None of that is a spoiler, since you get that from the blurb on the video site and the little bit of preview they show you.]

It’s a fascinating premise because I don’t really know what to anticipate. There are so many directions this type of set-up can go, and I’m delighted to be along for the ride.

I’ve only watched the first episode, so no spoilers in the comments, please, and use your own judgment/discernment if you want to check it out. The IMDB Parents Guide indicates there’s no sexual content in the show, which is usually my deal-breaker, though it does have strong/profane language throughout.

There are a couple of particular elements about this first episode that have me hooked:

  • The story begins with the big sci-fi element already established. Rather than walking you through the “protagonist discovers mysterious object” motions, the story starts with this as a given. The couple is already aware of and familiar with the device and take it in stride. That was a refreshing change to the typical way this story would be told.
  • The sci-fi plot, at least in the first episode, is almost incidental–not that it’s not important, but the real drama is about the two leads who are grappling with the reality of physical deterioration and mental decline. It’s like a character drama cosplaying as a science fiction story.
  • It’s not about young people. Look, I’m only in my early 40’s (no matter how curmudgeonly my writing may seem), but I’m more interested these days in stories about men and women who have lived life and faced challenges–especially stories about marriages that go the distance. The whole world of media revolves around the young and fresh-faced, but it’s all become so boring to me. Give me stories about husbands and wives who stand up to all manner of obstacles and stand together (or struggle to survive). Give me stories about men and women who grapple with the big questions of life and the weight of time passing rather than the fleeting distractions of youth.

The best thing I can say about this first episode of Night Sky is that it makes me want to write fiction again, in a way I haven’t felt in a while. In a personal season where my creativity is very low, feeling that strong drive to tell stories is quite surprising and very welcome.

#Septemblog Day 19: Trying not to break the chain.

Today was a weird day. I had to take off work and watch the kiddos so my wife could go train her replacement at her (now former) job. And later, I’ll log in and do all the work I missed today, so that I’m not extra backed up tomorrow. Which seems to defeat the purpose of taking a “day off” when really it’s just a “shifted schedule day.” But that’s life.

Daughter#3 has got molars coming in. My two older kiddos are just tempestuous. It’s been a fun day.

But I’m trying to post every day and not “break the chain.” So here’s a post.

I’ll try to be more clever tomorrow.

#Septemblog Day 17: Super Good Feeling.

I don’t know if I’ve told this story before, but I was listening to the debut album of the Christian rock band Bleach, and it reminded me of one of my more embarrassing memories. So, story time!

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This was in the fall of my sophomore or junior year of college. My friend Mike was a youth intern at his church, and they were getting ready to have a youth group lock-in at the church. Mike had recruited some of us to volunteer for the event, and he and some of the guys were going to play worship music and a few Christian rock songs–ya know, typical 90’s youth-group shenanigans. They were in the dorm a few days prior, practicing down the hall, and I wandered over to check out what was going on.

One of the songs on their list was Bleach’s track, “Super Good Feeling.” Mike was playing lead guitar and singing, and in my (arrogant) opinion, I didn’t think he sounded that great. So I said, “Hey man, I’m an okay singer–how about for this one I can sing lead vocals so you can just play guitar?” For some reason, he agreed, and we practiced it a few times with me reading off of his lyrics sheet. I came away from that afternoon feeling pretty good about myself. I was ready for my moment to shine.

The day of the lock-in arrived. We got set up at the church, and I assured him that I was ready to go. Not too long after the pizza had been scarfed and the band had warmed up, the moment came, and I stepped behind the microphone, looking out at a few dozen high schoolers waiting for the rock to commence.

I forgot every single word of the first verse.

I mumbled through the chorus. I stammered and then just gave up during the second verse. Mike and the others gamely tried to carry the vocals through the second chorus and bridge, but it was a disaster.

I stood behind that microphone for the longest 3 and a half minutes of my collegiate life.

As soon as the song was over, I walked to the back of the room, red-faced and fighting back tears. I immediately felt like an arrogant fool. What was I thinking? Proverbs 16:18 flashed in my mind: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” It was as if God decided that I just needed to go ahead and tank this one for my own good.

Later on, after his devotional talk, Mike asked for volunteers to come up and share “testimonies.” I made my way back up to the microphone and basically did my best to turn the whole incident into an object lesson about pride and seeking our own glory instead of God’s. One kid even came up later and thanked me for saying something. So, in the end, some shred of good came out of it, I guess?

But to this day, the band Bleach brings to mind that ridiculous moment in my life.

Maybe another takeaway, looking back, is this: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

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By the way, here’s the lyrically complex and spiritually deep track in question:

#Septemblog Day 16: A Refreshing Approach.

I have to admit: I have enjoyed observing almost in real-time the red-pilling of Russell Brand (an actor most widely known for pretty raunchy Hollywood comedies). Unlike many of his counterparts in entertainment, over the last 2+ years, Brand has been asking questions, questioning narratives, and digging up more information about the goings-on of the world.

[Full disclaimer: Brand can be very profane, crude, and inappropriate in his comedy and content. So his material isn’t for everyone, and I don’t recommend it generally. Use your judgment, follow your Spirit-informed conscience, and do not take this as an endorsement.]

You may have seen the recent story passed around social media about the NIH “quietly adding” ivermectin to its treatment list for the #ForeverPlague. (Fact check: False–read the actual page.) I tried to address it when I saw it crop up in my social feeds, but the signal boost among my various tribal associations on the bird site was immediate, so my protestations were drowned out.

Turns out, Brand himself stepped into it as well on this account. But unlike his counterparts in the mainstream press, Russell Brand is able to acknowledge a mistake in reporting, and he clearly corrected himself publicly in the video below (which I just watched and should be free of any concerning language, unless I missed one).

As I’ve written about before and tweeted about exhaustively since then, we need to be better about how we share information as a whole, gang: when it comes to stories online, we need to make double-sure that we check sources, verify details, and fairly portray circumstances–and if we claim to follow the One Who Is Truth, let’s be triple-and-quadruple sure that we are truth-tellers ourselves, in person and online.

So, good on ya, Russell Brand. This is a refreshing approach to media reporting.

Nicely done.

#Septemblog Day 15: 19 Years.

I’ve been doing the same job for 19 years, as of today.

When I was in college, I studied English and had a vague notion that I’d like to write novels for a living (which is funny, since I wasn’t really writing much beyond sappy lovelorn poetry at the time). When some well-meaning soul suggested shifting my major to English Education, I scoffed at the thought, because that would mean fewer English classes and more education theory classes, and what’s the fun in that? (Note: I mistakenly thought going college was about the joy of learning. I don’t really believe that anymore.)

I made it halfway through my senior year before realizing in a panic that I would actually need gainful employment if I wanted to eat beyond May. After graduation, I moved back in with my parents and reached out to my small private Christian high school to ask if they had any openings. They brought me on as an English teacher, assigned me 6 class periods (2 electives), with the intention of earning “emergency certification” at the same time I taught my first year.

I had no idea what I was doing. Having just finished college, I tried to replicate what I had experienced in high school and college and idealistically ramped up the challenge for my students in order to prepare them for university the way I felt I was prepared. But I had no clue what that looked like from a pedagogical standpoint. All I had were my subjective experiences to draw upon and none of that pesky theory training that would have otherwise gotten in the way of my Fiction Genres and Literary Criticism classes.

My lack of understanding of how to be a teacher, combined with my over-eagerness to prove myself to my superiors, led to a lot of frustration on the part of both myself and my students. I loved being in the classroom, I loved the act of teaching, but I just couldn’t keep up with the daily grind of grading papers and tests, so I quickly got backlogged and overwhelmed. (This is the set-up for the a punchline later.)

I honestly don’t know what the school administrators were thinking when they hired me, other than “Dave was part of our first graduating class, so that would be quite a PR story!” and “We can pay him next to nothing!” (Side note: Be cautious of any Christian organization that refers to its clients as “customers” but justifies its low wages in terms of “being a ministry.” Just my experience, YMMV.) After a semester of floundering and some minor conflicts with administration, I was given an exit ramp, which I took.

I was out of full-time work for 9 months. Still living at home. Delivering pizzas and working as a temp at an air-compressor parts and maintenance company (while knowing literally nothing about air compressors, air compressor parts, or air compressor maintenance). Finally, after a long job hunt, I found an editorial job at a research hospital that listed its highest preferred qualification as having an English degree–no experience listed. It’s like it was tailor-made for me.

And now, almost 2 decades have passed. I probably should have moved up into management by now–blame my own lack of direction and motivation flaring up at exactly the wrong times, blame my tendency toward overwhelm and missed deadlines when I’m stressed–but I’m doing the exact same job I’ve been doing since the early part of George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

What job exactly? I’m editing and proofreading documents for grammar, clarity, and readability, making sure they follow all appropriate regulations and guidelines.

In other words, I’m grading papers all day, every day.

I don’t believe in karma, because I’m a Christian. But I do believe in God’s sense of humor.

Jokes aside, I’m thankful. It’s a rare thing to stick with an organization this long, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. God is kind.