Abby & Daddy Piano Duet

At 2:14 minutes in, watch her start conducting… (and dancing, and singing)

Posted in Abby, Music, Video | 1 Comment

Just a Quick Warm-Up Post

i-has-frozenSo my break from the blog was a little longer than my break from classes. But I’m still here, and several blog-able ideas have been percolating in my mind, with no other constructive outlet. Rather than jump in right away, however, here are a few shorter “updates.”

Weather:  As I write this, it’s snowing outside, and has been for most of the day.  We were lucky to spend a nice, warm Christmas season in sunny El Paso, Tx and a few days in Phoenix, AZ.  But that’s over now, and it’s back to freezing, freezing, cold.  Grady is having the time of his life, though, and has already built a miniature snowman, and covered the sidewalk with snow angels.  The other day when I was walking to class, bundled in multiple layers, gloves, hat, even thermal underwear — and still feeling like I might die of hypothermia at any minute — a girl jogged casually past me wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  Sigh.  Guess I’m just a weather-wimp.  Oh well, three more months to go. Then four more years…

Classes:  I’m about halfway through the January term, which, although occuring in the spring of calendar year 2009 is academically considered part of the fall 2008 semester (hey, I don’t make the rules, thank God).  I’m taking one class, which meets three days a week in the mornings: The Theological Legacy of the Dionysian Forgery, with Professor Paul Rorem (who was also my church history professor last semester).  The reading is pretty dense — the kind where you have to read every sentence three or four times before it begins to make sense, and then when you think you’ve grasped it, you suddenly realize you haven’t.  Still, the subject matter is interesting, and both influences/touches on everything from medieval scholasticism and angelology to neo-platonism,  gothic architecture, intellectual property, and even post-modern deconstructionism.  More on Pseudo-Dionysius later.

abbysuitcaseAbby:  She’s not only walking, but almost running everywhere now, and has developed quite a vocabulary over the Christmas holidays.  She yells “Da-Da!” when I walk through the door at the end of the day, and then raises her arms in the air, saying “Wee-wee!” which means she wants me to pick her up and fly her through the air like an airplane (her favorite).  She also *finally* has been letting me read to her, and will even bring me a book to read, her favorites being Go Dogs, Go!; Goodnight Gorilla; and Sandra Boynton’s Moo, Baa, La, La, La.  She dances when you play music, and loves to play peekaboo (which she says “pickabee”). In case there was ever any doubt, she’s definitlely aspiring to be a girly-girl, and will walk around the house with a purse on her arm, trying to steal her mom’s makeup.  She has a particular fondness for jewelery, watches, and cell-phones.  She also says hello, bye-bye, baby, mamma,  bubba, book, no, hat, nose, clock, tick-tock, Grandad, and meow (which she pronounces miamee).

Facebook:  A few weeks ago, I found one of my old friends from elementary school in Belgium on facebook — that led to another and another, until we’ve almost got enough for a 5th grade class reunion.  I’ve reconnected with some great childhood friends, and had to brush up on my long dormant French in the process.  Thank God for Google translator and Babel Fish to pick up the slack.

brewingjeffjoeBrewing:  While my brothers were in town last week, we brewed our first batch of “Locke Bros Beer” all together — they’ve been brewing for almost a year, and  started earlier this fall.  This was my fourth batch total, and it looks to be a Strong Belgian-style Golden Ale.  We haven’t named it yet, though.   I’m almost out of the Christmas Beer I brewed in December, called IncarnationAle.  It got plenty of good reviews, though, except for a few people who were surprised when the cranberry came out of the bottle along with the beer!  Thanks to Philip Lotspeich, Drew Ludwig, and Loren Crow, who each (independently) suggested the same name.

Search for a Church:  As an inquirer on the “ordination track” I’m under care of my home church and presbytery, which means that we’ll remain members of Faithbridge Presbyterian Church in Frisco, Tx during my entire time at seminary.  Still, we’ve been looking for a place to worship on Sunday mornings, and it hasn’t been easy.  Most of the Presbyterian churches we’ve visited in this part of the country are very “high church” traditional, and almost identical in architecture, aesthetics, liturgy and demographics.  Plus, they all seemed to have everything all worked out.  Coming from a new church development, we weren’t used to that.  Some didn’t seem too welcoming, and some didn’t have much in the way of nursery/Sunday school for Abby and Grady.  But I think we finally found a place we really like:  Middlesex Presbyterian Church, in Middlesex, NJ.  It’s about a 45 minute drive north of us, and the one service starts at 9:30am, but the church is very warm, friendly, multicultural, and there are a LOT of four year-old boys for Grady to play with.  The pastor’s name also happens to be Neal — Neal Presa, and I’ve had a chance to get to know him a little via facebook, lunch, and a few other conversations — that’s important to me.  More importantly, we felt like MPC is a place we can help and contribute, and a place that isn’t afraid to be creative and even a little “wheels off” as my pastor/mentor/friend, Philip Lotspeich, likes to say.

New Year’s Resolution:  In short, I don’t have one yet.  Last year’s was the first I ever kept throughout the whole year, and it was an enjoyable experience I think I’ll keep observing last year’s resolution (to only buy clothes at second-hand stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army), just not as dogmatically.  But still, I was hoping to come up with something new.  Something that, while making a difference in my life, also helps to make a small difference in the larger world.  I’m giving myself until the end of January to come up with something, so any realistic (taking me into account) suggestions are welcome.

Blog Posts Coming Up Next: (I have to say this publically to hold myself accountable):

  • Twittering and mobile-internet:  Disruptive or Enhancing?
  • Princeton Theological Seminary:  A School for Wizards
  • Mission Trail:  A New (and old) Kind of Border Fence
Posted in Abby, Beer, Blogging, Church, Classes, goals, Life | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

All I want for Christmas…

Posted in Random | 7 Comments

Epilogue: PhD Students at Princeton Seminary

Needless to say, last week was an interesting week.

Admittedly, calling people assholes is not the best way to start a conversation, but for better or worse, I did have a lot of conversations last week: With PhD students, with fellow MDiv students, with former students, faculty members, staff members, bloggers, anonymous emailers and letter writers, and also with the Dean of Students.

Many brought up the fact that, while there was some truth to what I said, it was the manner in which it was said that generated most of the controversy. This sentiment is not lost or wasted on me. Blogging is a balancing act. It is confessional: striving to capture the authentic emotions of the moment (even frustrated angry ones). It is marketing: striving to say something interesting enough for people to actually read it. But unlike a diary or a newspaper, it is also conversational: striving to draw people into the conversation in a way that shows respect for all. Obviously, I’m still working on that last part.

I can also acknowledge that the post in question was a rather truncated viewpoint on what is certainly a complicated issue–communities and relationships are always about more than gimmicky labels, limited experiences, and painting with broad strokes. Certainly, moving beyond those things is a step in the right direction. So I wanted to offer this additional insight in light of my experiences resulting from last week’s blog post.

I wrote a blog post about PhD Students at Princeton Theological Seminary. I said some pretty disparaging things about PhD Students at Princeton Theological Seminary. I got a lot of different responses, but here are the ones that stand out most in my mind:

  1. A PhD student who sat next to me on the shuttle this week, and listened patiently.
  2. Another PhD student who calmly offered affirmation and thoughtful insight from the other side.
  3. Another PhD student, who made it a point to let me know he had been praying for me.
  4. Another PhD student, who picked me up and took me on an errand run while coaching and preparing me for all possible angles & outcomes in my meeting with the dean.
  5. And finally a PhD student who sent an email to the dean saying “If he goes down, I want to go down with him.”

If those are the kind of things PhD students at Princeton Theological Seminary will do to go out of their way for a first-year MDiv student, then the only word that comes to my mind is “Grace.”

For what it’s worth, that word applies to my meeting with the dean as well. I spent all Friday morning reading the student handbook, noting (to my dismay) all the ways in which I might legitimately be chastised, penalized, or censored. My undergraduate years, and my all-too-frequent conversations with another dean of students accustomed me to one-way conversations that ended in penance for me. Instead, the dean explained the tense emotions of the community in light of another recent incident (that I had known about, but not considered when writing my post), explained that the Seminary had no interest in micro-managing or censoring student blogs, but asked me very nicely if I might consider toning things down as they work toward reconciliation among the community.  I am entirely willing to get on board and work toward that goal.

Are there still assholes at Princeton Theological Seminary? To be sure, and some days I’m one of them. But perhaps where assholes abound, grace abounds even more. This asshole, for one, is grateful for that.

Posted in Blogging, Community, Reflection, Seminary | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

PhD Students at Princeton Theological Seminary

This has all the makings of one of those posts that I’ll regret later on, but nevertheless…

I’ve been an M.Div student at Princeton Seminary for five months now, and while that’s hardly enough time to make a definitive study of the people and culture here, some impressions are certainly forming in my mind.  First among them is a rather stark, mostly unspoken, dichotomy between master’s level students and PhD students.  I’ll make the early disclaimer that by no means have I met all the PhD students at the seminary.  But I think by now I’ve met enough of them to see a pattern: They all seem to fall into one of three broad categories:

  1. Assholes – You don’t even have to ask them if they’re PhD students.  You know.  And even if you did ask, it’s doubtful they would deign to respond.  When they do speak to you, it’s either because they are correcting you, or because they’re being paid to speak to you as Preceptors (Teaching Assistants).  They know just about everything there is to know, unless in the presence of an actual professor, in which case they suddenly become the most delightful, congenial people in the room.  The idea that an MDiv student might know anything worthwhile is preposterous — nevermind that as a “second career” student, I’m actually older than many of them, and have often had several more years of experience in both church and academic settings.  They are condescending both in and out of class. Fortunately, the genuine assholes are not nearly as numerous as the next category…
  2. Wannabe Assholes – These are PhD students who, perhaps through insecurity, indecision, or apathy (I’m not sure which, possibly all of the above) don’t fit into categories 1 or 3.  Maybe they’re trying to be more humane assholes. They are the ones who will strike up a friendly conversation with you as long as no one else is around, but then ignore you when in the presence of others. They may not correct you in person, but from a distance, you can overhear their opinions of MDiv students easily enough. They don’t *tell* you that your opinion/knowledge/experience is insignificant, but they still think it (and usually do a poor job of disguising their thoughts).  In my limited experience, this is the largest category of PhD students at Princeton Seminary.
  3. Human Beings – Although I can count this variety on the fingers both of my hands, they are the few PhD students who make my experience here interesting and worthwhile.  They treat other students as peers, genuinely listen to and consider their thoughts, and go out of their way to make new MDiv students feel welcome and part of community life.  One in particular actually reached out to me and my family several months before we arrived on campus, and has continued to offer thoughtful and kind guidance in both academic and community matters.  They do not flaunt their intelligence at the expense of others, and are just as accessible in and out of the classroom.  They are a credit to their institution, and I only wish they were the rule, not the exception.

I have had all of the above as both acquaintances and Preceptors.  If you’re reading this as a PhD student at Princeton Seminary, and you happen to ask me which category you fall in, I’ll probably tell you “category 3.”  But there’s a 33% chance I’m lying to save face for both of us.  Actually, if you bother to ask me at all, you couldn’t really be in category 1, because you wouldn’t waste time reading the blog of a mere MDiv student (unless for the purpose of admonishing me about this blog post, or correcting my flawed and ingorant perspective). Instead of asking me, I’d suggest asking yourself how you *really* percieve the students you teach and interact with in community, and if your actions reflect your perceptions.

I’m resisting the temptation to draw conclusions about Doctoral work as a whole, but it does seem to me that perhaps the “PhD” as the pinnacle of academic achievement in our culture is likely to reflect its shortcomings — the cutthroat competition, the jockeying for position and influence, the arrogance (I know a few things about arrogance) and narrow-minded suspicion required to stake out a small patch of intellectual territory and rabidly defend it against all intruders (read “my precioussss…”) — these are all characteristics conducive to climbing the ivory tower, but they are not conducive to genuine education, learning, or sharing of knowledge for the benefit of others.  Even more so at a seminary.

Anyhow, I’ve got three years to change my mind on all of this, and I suspect that the PhD students in closest proximity will be the most influential in whatever final conclusions I come to.  Prove me wrong, Princeton.  Prove me wrong.

Posted in College, Education, Rants, Seminary | Tagged , , , , , | 25 Comments

Abby’s First Steps!

Posted in Abby, Education, Fatherhood, Video | Tagged , | 1 Comment

RSS and Website Woes

I’ve been having serious website issues in the past two weeks, and I noticed my feed subscriptions via feedburner dropped by about 30%.  While I could be cynical and attribute it to my last post about John McCain, I suspect it actually has more to do with what looks like a broken rss feed.

So if you subscribe to this in a feedreader, or if you get it via email — could you do me a really huge favor and drop me a quick email/comment/tweet/message to let me know that the feed is still coming through? I promise this isn’t a desperate gimmick to get coveted blog feedback (although it does sound like something I’d do, huh?).  I just want to know if the interweb tubes are still flowing.

Oh, one more thing.  To speed things up with my hosting service, I had to enable caching for my blog — anyone know how to do a complete, cache-clearing reload/refresh of a page in Firefox?  I can’t seem to get it to work, and I’ve tried CTRL+R, as well as the refresh button.

Posted in Blogging, Technology, Web 2.0 | Tagged , , | 5 Comments