San Diego Trip: Part 1

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Flying into San Diego today I snapped a few pictures of the aircraft carriers and other vessels in port. But even the impressive views from the plane didn’t get me ready for San Diego. I’m mesmerized so far.

About fourteen years ago my family saddled up the car just after I got my drivers’ license to head to San Diego from a little town North of Austin, Texas. My first drive post passing the test, and I drove over several days to California. We wen through San Diego, but we really didn’t get a chance to explore. My dad has an unfortunate habit of trying to cram too much into one trip and missing out on some cool opportunities in the process.

I inherited this little foible.

When ever I travel I try to cram everything in that I can, but cramming doesn’t make what you’re doing more fun or really give you a chance to connect to any particular spot.

It’s my initial impression, but as we stood out on Point Loma looking out over the city, it felt as if you could spend a life time in San Diego and not see everything or go to everything. The mountains behind the city looked like a big sandbox to play in, the running trails by the coast and bay, and seeing all the restaurants all of these things just seemed to crash in like a wave.
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I like this place already.

Give me a few more days and I may just be in love.
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Litographs: One of my Favorite Ideas

Over the last couple of years my wife and I have collected a few Litograph posters. What are they? Well they are the words of a book shaped into a picture that represents the book in question.

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In this one they took the words “Through the Looking Glass” (Alice in Wonderland) and made it into the image of Alice falling. Now in this image you can’t see the words as they are, but on the proper site with the link above you can take a look at the zoom pictures and see just how intricate the work is. When you get the poster you could read the book from the image.

We have a couple of Jane Austin books, “The Heart of Darkness” by Conrad, and Newton’s “Optics”.

They don’t just sell posters but also totes. Courtney really wanted one of those and ended up getting “Emma” by Jane Austin. Not our favorite of Jane’s books, but the image was a little more interesting than the one for Persuasion.

Now some of the images don’t contain the whole volume, but the idea still amazes me. I still enjoy looking up at Newton’s “Optics” and Conrad’s work, and I still hope to have an opportunity to add to my collection. The depictions of the New Testament and the Torah are absolutely beautiful with words made to look like parts of a stained glass window.

Too Excited to Sleep: SBLAAR Con 2014 San Diego

The Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion meet in San Diego in their combined Annual Meeting over the next few days, and I’m headed out to join them. It’s my first time to go to this particular meeting, and so my excitement isn’t exactly in check.

In fact, I might have woken up about 3:30 am and not been able to go back to sleep.

Why am I excited? Because this in my mind is like a sci-fi convention for religion scholars…. Well actually there are several sessions/lectures being offered that mix the two, but that actually riles up the blood even more. Who doesn’t want to talk about intersteller evolutions of mormonism in Orson Scott Cardd’s Ender’s Game and Battle Start Galactica? Or Anthropological conceptions from Joss Whedon’s Avengers?

But that has in spired me to re-think the Annual Meeting title to Convention, and if you add in the SBL and AAR acronyms, you end up with SBLAAR Con.

Sadly, I’ll only get to the sci-fi discussions if I have time. I’m genuinely interested in so many sessions there is no real way I can make it to all of them. But with the location in San Diego, there isn’t much of a downside except for the business of getting to as many sessions as possible.

The Jesuits: A Book Review of John W. O’Malley S.J.’s New Book

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The Jesuits have influenced history in more ways than one, and with the current Pope occupying a high profile position in what is becoming an incredibly popular way, I wanted to study up on the Jesuits.

My interest in them began actually with the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius, but that was to supplementing my work with Wesley’s Rules. Ignatius, Bonaventure, Thomas A Kempis, Benedict, and a few others all were pretty fascinating in the way they understood Spiritual Disciplines, and while their direct links to Wesley might be tenuous, Wesley took many similar ideas from the traditions around him and put them together to form the societies.

Wesley created a sort of lay version of the monastic vision.

Which is brilliant in so many ways, and not entirely unique except for it’s eventual scale and scope. Spener, Law, and many other priests and pastors of the reformation worked to create the same thing, but Wesley is unique if not in the tenor of his work in the ability to create these societies.

But in the process of this work, I wanted to study up more on the Jesuits which I have discovered were a step ahead of Wesley.

In fact they predated him by nearly 200 years starting in the early 1500s and quickly becoming the largest mission oriented organization in the world. They took away some of the restrictions of other monastic groups, and while taking a vow of poverty and maintaining some sense of unity as a sub set of the larger Roman Catholic Church, they tended to live outside the rigorous disciplines and time scales normally associated with mendicant orders.

The mixed history of the Jesuits being told by O’Malley represents mostly positive feeling towards the Society of Jesus. This is a rose colored account of the Jesuits make no mistake, but it still offers us some picture of the great and the infamous attributes of the society. But oddly even those come with unexpected positives.

The Society set up farms owned by the communities in Brazil and other parts of South America.

They set up Schools all over the world and charged no tuition!

They charge no tuition! If only we could build schools that are absolutely renowned for their quality of education and accept people from all walks of life. Nobles and paupers could both come and receive an education. So much of the enlightenment philosophers owe their education to Jesuit schools, and the Jesuits continued the conversations with those philosophers even after they started to denounce the Jesuits.

A Jesuit took over the burning of all the documents of the Maya and the Aztecs, which is abominable to say the least. But before they were burned that same Jesuit took such detailed records that are still used in researching the Central American works. Several Jesuit groups kept records of native languages across the globe, and the Society merged existing cultures with Christianity in an effort to preserve the former within the context of the later.

It’s quite a paradigm, and they caught endless flack for it and ended up for various political reasons disbanded for their culturally inclusive practices. It was quite a row. But importantly, the Jesuits offered a completely different way of treating indigenous peoples than the practices of Europeans during the colonial period.

When they came back from being disbanded they kept on doing things in their own unique way, and if the current Pope is any indication, their first member elevated to the papacy is keeping up with that tradition.

I read this to give myself a quick rundown on the history of the Jesuits, and it did it’s work. It was well written and concise, and it served to whet my appetite to hear more from and about the Jesuits.

If that’s what you are looking for – pick it up.

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Justice: Sitting Shiva

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Job sits there covered in sores and in the midst of grief, and his friends sit silently with him for seven days. They spoil it all shortly by opening their mouths, but seven days is a long time. The problem is they want to work out the justice of the situation which is never resolved.

Ok, so there are a variety of opinions on this last point, but that’s not what I want to talk about. Oddly enough when suffering is going on we want to talk about justice and I get it, but when we can’t really wrap our head around the justice or injustice of suffering from perspective, limited logic, or a failure to fully trust God we have to do something.

I recommend silence.

Every pastor that stays a pastor long enough gets to sit in at a hospital where there isn’t much to say about what’s going on and how much conversation stays on what’s going on there isn’t always helpful. But I’m not a good clinical pastoral guide, I’ve never been a chaplain. There are pastors and chaplains that could speak with great authority on how to behave.

My own instincts and experiences tell me that sitting quietly makes sense, listening makes sense, and waiting to jump to answers makes sense.

When you sit down with a family waiting to go through surgery, what can you say. You know what can happen, and so do they. Just like Jobs friends – he could die, he could live, he is suffering, and it could continue or stop. It’s not beyond our ability to look into the “veiled” mists of the future.

We know, and we want to say either we can trust God.

But by that we mean that we genuinely trust God regardless of the out come, or that we believe that God will work the situation in the way that we find most pleasing. Even if the former is true, it doesn’t make it easier.

The pastoral thing to say is that we don’t have an eternal perspective. We can’t see things from the view of eternity, if we could I’m sure we’d understand the problem of pain, the theological issues of suffering, and the justice of God. Aren’t you sure?

Yeah, I’m sure that when you sit in the hospital with a friend you can solve all their problems with a sound theological argument, a good understanding of sin and brokenness, and a good smile. No that wont do at all. However, I find a good deal of wisdom in C.S. Lewis’ work on this very problem of pain: “when pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”

Maybe it’s in those silent moments of mere presence God can just drop that tincture in. Maybe that’s what sitting shiva – spending silent time with your friends as they suffer or accepting the presence of your friends when you’re hurting.

Garden of the Gods: Toddler on the Rocks

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Nothing beats meandering around the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs on a perfect pre-winter morning. Except maybe following around an excited toddler!

With my new nephew born, we took the whole family up to Colorado Springs to meet him. Momma (my sister) and baby (my nephew) weren’t up to much in the mornings. This left us with some time to go hang out at Garden of the Gods. It wasn’t quite cold, we had stumbled on what will probably prove to be the last pleasant weekend of the year – it was just under 60 degrees when we were playing around.

Our oldest is 2 years and 8 months and loves exploring. She took off running all over the park with us walking at a good clip to keep up. Who can blame her? There were rocks that sparkle and all different shapes of twigs and branches.

There were huge boulders for her to climb (and daddy to step up), and climb she did! Not over much that was too tall, but daddy helped her climb the taller ones and caught her when she slipped.

When she came to a group of step stool sized stones, she told us to stand up on each of the rocks and then rotated us as we played along.

I’ve always wanted my little girl to grow up loving hiking and the out doors, and the Garden of the Gods, while decidedly tame, is a great spot to enjoy a day in the sun with a toddler.

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Snow Day

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Enjoying a snow day with the family.

The girls were a little under the weather and stayed home but for those who made it out we had a nice service. After that all our afternoon activities got cancelled. We’d done all the house work yesterday so we wouldn’t have to work today, and so we were left with a clean house and plenty of time to just relax. It’s the first time we’ve relaxed as a family for an entire afternoon in over a month.

So we have been soaking up the down time in a clean house. It’s been pretty wonderful.

Monday is coming, but until then enjoy the snow if you have it, and if you’re out then travel safely!
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