January 2005 Archives

In our Liturgy and Suffering course, we are going through Postmodernist thinkers as Jim Farwell, our professor, is setting up a way of approaching suffering, and theodicy in general, so that we do not deal with it superficially or just stuff the topic intoÂ… what? (and other stuff).

As Dr. Farwell spoke in class today, I thought of the differences between the "pop-postmodernist" ideas floating around and the stuff presented by postmodern thinkers such as Derrida and Lyotard (among others).

The "Emergent" conversation going on presently among some Christians is quickly dividing into two basic camps. Those who see themselves in the honest postmodern camp and who characterize themselves as having a "conversation" are of one camp, and in the other camp are those streaming toward the newest fad and who want to replicate the successes of some Emergent churches, they are striving to build a "movement." This latter group is building structures that seem diametrically opposed to the openness of honest postmoderns (or something like that).

"Emergent" is a conversation, not a movement. The success of Emergent, it seems to me and if it truly is what the "conversation" camp is making it out to be, then cannot be an attempt to place it into Modernist structures or within the trajectory of such other movements as the "Seeker" church movement, etc. An honest Emergent, it would seem, does not see the conversation developing onward and into the next big thing, the next movement, the NEXT work of God, but of considering that other which is outside the framework of Modernism - seeking to converse about that which has not yet been considered. I think, anyway.

There is, of course, yet anther way.

Here is more on SpongeBob Squarepants and the UCC.

Problems with Cohen

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'Ex-gay' therapist cited for ethics breeches
Tom Musbach, PlanetOut Network
Wednesday, January 26, 2005 / 06:19 PM

Richard Cohen, an influential figure in the "ex-gay" movement, has been permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association (ACA) because of ethics violations, according to an ACA document...

Read the rest

Here is a very good opinion piece by Mel White concerning Fundamentalists (from a variety of religions) who blame the Tsunami in part on homosexuals.

We have been warned: A closer look at extremists who blame LGBT people for disasters
by the Rev. Dr. Mel White, executive director, Soulforce
December 16, 2004

After the catastrophic tsunamis struck on Dec. 26, most religious leaders of every faith rushed to their pulpits and urged their members to support the victims of this natural tragedy with prayers, food, clothing, medicine and money...

Read it here

From In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen. The noted professor who taught at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard moved to be the priest of a mentally and physically handicapped residential ministry.


"These broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of my relevant self - the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things - and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments.

I am telling you all this because I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God's love...

Jesus' first temptation was to be relevant: to turn stones into bread... (p.30)

Beneath all the great accomplishments of our time there is a deep current of despair. While efficiency and control are the great aspirations of our society, the loneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of millions of people in our success-oriented world.

And the cry that arises from behind all of this decadence is clearly: 'Is there anybody who really cares? Is there anybody who wants to stay home for me? Is there anybody who wants to be with me when I am not in control, when I feel like crying? Is there anybody who can hold me and give me a sense of belonging? Feeling irrelevant is a much more general experience than we might think when we look at our seemingly self-confident society.

It is here that the need for a new Christian leadership becomes clear. The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the light of Jesus there. (p.33-35)

Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1989).

SpongeBob and the UCC

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I'm sure many have heard of this recent incident. James Dobson and Focus on the Family are claiming that SpongeBob Squarepants and other cartoon characters are being used to promote the gay-agenda. Now, the United Church of Christ has issued a press release unequivocally stating that SpongBob is absolutely welcome in their churches. Check out the press release and picture!

I have watched a whole lot of SpongeBob Squarepants episodes with my nephew. I love 'em!

To love with no agenda

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In the New York Times Magazine there appeared a story on the new forms of Christian community popping up all over the place. This is a quote from Jay Bakker, who is part of Revolution Mnistries. (Jay is the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, from the PTL Club. Remember them?)


''We're just trying to love people with no agenda,'' he told the group. ''That's hard, to be a Christian and have no agenda, and it's hard for people to think of a Christian with no agenda.''

Link to article.

Here is something interesting to consider in relation to scriptural interpretation adapting scripture over time. It comes from the HB/HD Listserv.

I wonder if a quote from Ephesians 6:2-3, from the readings at Morning
Prayer today, might have considerable significance concerning
biblical interpretation. It appears to me that Paul himself had adapted a
scriptural passage to fit his contemporary world.

"Honor your father and mother"-this is the first commandment with a
promise: "so that it may be well with you and you may live long
on the earth." (Eph. 6:2-3)

The last word in that quote is the same in NRSV, REB and KJV (translating
the Greek word "ge"), however the Exodus 20:12 quote
reads:

"Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the
land that the LORD your God is giving you."

I have to believe that Paul knew that the original commandment referred to
the "Promised Land" - Canaan. However, Paul was a part
of the Jewish Diaspora, a native of Tarsus, which was far from Canaan.

Paul took a specific quote from scripture and deliberately expanded it to
fit his contemporary world. I believe he did this to
affirm a wider view of God's love than the original text intended. I
believe that he was right. I believe that his expanded quote
fits perfectly with Jesus' habit of saying, "You have heard..., but I
say..." I believe that we are expected to, and have biblical
mandates to, expand our understanding of biblical truths to fit our
expanding knowledge of the creation and our expanding experience
of the unlimited love of God for all.

Bill Fleener, Sr.
Priest of the Diocese of Western Michigan, retired

White stuff

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It is snowing. Lots of snow. The city can be very beautiful when it snows - slow, quite, peacefull. This is more of storm, and it is quite cold.

There is a beautiful song playing on the website of The Church of the Apostles in Daphne.

The performers are Eastmountainsouth.

If it takes a whole life I won't break I won't bend
It'll all be worth it worth it in the end
'Cause I can only tell you what I know
That I need you in my life
And when the stars have all burned out
You'll still be burning so bright
Cast me gently into morning for the night has been unkind

- Sarah McLachlan, Answer, Afterglow

Okay, here is another interesting piece. On the American Public Media radio program "Speaking of Faith," there was a resent episode entitled "Gay Marriage: Broken or Blessed? Two Evangelical Views." Richard Mouw (President of Fuller Theological Seminary) and Virginia Mollenkott (author of "Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?") give their perspectives.

It is well done. If only we could deal with this whole issue in the manner that these two do, we would be far better off. Listen to the episode is you can.

Size matters?

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Growing up in Pentecostalism, I remember talk of the "faithful remnant" God always preserved even during the most apostate times. Of course, we liked to think we were part of the faithful remnant that God was preserving. Why? Because we loved God and desired to do His will, which meant that of course we were right and part of the remnant. Looking back, I see how the criteria for judgment were our earnestness and desire - very subjective indeed. I thought I got past all that when I came to Anglicanism. I thought wrong.

Some on the more conservative Episcopalians keep proclaiming evidence of the Episcopal Church's error by posting drops in attendence or membership. Since when does size make right or good? Growth is certainly desirable and CAN be an indication of right and good. If we use this criteria, however, we have to admit that the Mormons, the Pentecostals, and the like are the MORE right and good than we are, conservative or liberal. Therefore, if numbers as indicators of who is doing the right thing and whose theology is more correct are this important, we need to become Mormons or Pentecostals.

The above quote comes from an this essay I came aross today by The Rev. Dr. Philip Turner entitled, "ECUSA'S GOD A Descriptive Comment on the 'Working Theology' of the Episcopal Church U.S.A."

I think he says some things that we all need to consider. Turner suggests that a primary problem in the Episcopal Church is not so much moral, but theological.

http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.org/articles/ECUSA_God.htm

Classes begin again in a week. Over the past few weeks I have taken some time, in the midst of finishing a paper on Christology, to be engaged in the debates that our Church is going through right now. I do not presume or pretend that I have anything useful or important to say, but engaging in the debate certainly helps me clarify my own understanding and sharpen my ability to verbalize what I actually believe in the midst of challenge. This is taking place primarily through Kendall Harmon's website: titusonenine.

Here are links to the specific posts of Kendall's that I have make comments:

Don Browning reviews Bradford Wilcoxç—´ Good Christian men: How faith shapes fathers


INTEGRITY RESPONDS TO COMMUNIQUノ FROM HOUSE OF BISHOPS MEETING


The Anglican Decision


I know I need to shorten what I write. I suspect that will come in time when I am not so much attempting to just get stuff out of my mind and onto "paper."

ignite

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ignite sounds like a very interesting idea. What is it? From its website: "Ignite is the Short Film Festival which brings out Big Truths through Short Films." Australia is its home.

It seems that there is no specific theological bent that has to be adhered to, just as long as one stays within the theme and relies upon a biblical passage for inspiration. I suspect that if something like this were held in the U.S. and if sponsored by Religious Right organizations, all films would have to pass by censors for "right belief" and theological "purity."

It would be terrible if one of the shorts came out against the war in Iraq, or supported claims of global warming, socialism, the poor, or God forbid the equal treatment under the law of gay people. I知 being cynical, of course, but I do wonder whether a film festival like this could be presented in the U.S. as purely a celebration of film and art using themes drawn from the Bible, or whether there would have to be a conservative social or an evangelistic agenda behind them all.

Peter Cullen, the rector of my field placement parish, gave a sermon today. I cannot do it justice, but he talked about when he was a teenager and his mother always suggested that he go to the school dances so that maybe he might meet a wonderful girl and live happily ever after. This led him to always think that some day, maybe, sometime in the future that would all happen. He still thinks that way - in the future, maybe, someday, sometime, he will find that something that is supposed to make his life complete. Of course, it was a situation experienced way back when as a kid that set his disposition towards always thinking that in the future... in the future what is supposed to be will be, rather than seeing that right now...

He talked of how this has carried over into his spiritual life. Sometime in the future is when he is supposed to experience all this stuff of God. He waits, looks for that thing to approach him from somewhere ahead of him and say, "He I am." He realizes, now, that it is likely to come from behind.

This infects us all, I believe. But, just maybe, maybe right now that which is supposed to be has sneaked up on us from behind and tapped us on the shoulder and said, "I'm here." We don't expect such things from behind, but maybe when we always strain to look ahead to realize life we continually miss it, because it is coming up behind us.

It really got me thinking, especially as one who always expected things to "work out right" sometime in the future when God would heal, or fix, or make things the way they are supposed to be. Things have rarely worked out as I expected them to. My expectations are too low and too limited.

I have always been future oriented - I always expect things to be "right" in the future - faith is things hoped for, yet not seen, right? Maybe, just maybe, God has been tapping me on the shoulder from behind saying, "Here I am." Maybe, just maybe, I have not been able to feel the tap or see the reality of God, of God's truth, of God's grace and mercy, of His fulfillment. Maybe the reality of life, real life, has been beside me all along. Maybe I need to simply stop always looking forward to expectations that should be realized right now, from behind. Isn't that just like God, to do things in a way that is unexpected so that we can realize far more than we could ever hope for or conceive of in our very limited forward looking.

Just stop. Just stop. Keep still for but a moment, and maybe I will see and know. Maybe if I can just stand still I will realize what has been with me all along. Be still, and know that I am God. Tap, tap, tap. "I am here." Wait just a moment, please. A still small voice that is too easy to miss when I am in such a rush - a blur, a flash... what?, did I hear something?

We live in a hyperactive world moving somewhere at full force. All engines go. Just do it. What if true life, reality, is to stop and allow the rush of this world to go on without me, to be a blur, unfocused, moving towards who knows what, and I just stand still. Ah, I can hear it. Can I hear it? Peace. Joy. Freedom. Finally, maybe finally, from behind, I am enabled to love the Lord my God with my whole heart and finally, unexpectedly because it isn't approaching from ahead of me, I can love my neighbor as myself. Maybe, finally, I can experience that life hoped for but yet unrealized because I致e been wrongly looking forward. Be still. Stop. Turn my head. There it is.

Okay, here is another piece by Father Harding from his weblog. I have to say, he has a way with words and identifying issues. I wonder if anything has really changed in ten years? I do think so, except that younger people seem to have a higher view of the priesthood.

The Power and Dignity of the Priesthood

This was published in an edition of the Sewanee Theological Review devoted to ministry. It touches on the discussion on this site about the priesthood. A Talk given at the Annual Meeting of The Society for the Increase of the Ministry at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, November I, 1995, By the Rev. Leander S. Harding, Ph.D.

Copyright ゥ 1994

Much has been written about the perception of a crisis in the priesthood. The Cornerstone Project was developed by the Episcopal Church Foundation in order to help strengthen ordained leadership at a time when clergy are reporting themselves to be discouraged, confused and highly stressed. One of the most recent findings of the Cornerstone Project is that the parish priests in the project had difficulty articulating a theology of priesthood. The staff found that the priests in the project could discuss theological readings with competence but that when they spoke about their parish ministries they did not tend to speak in theological categories. I was one of a group of clergy, theologians and Cornerstone staff who attended a conference at the College of Preachers in June of 1995 to attempt to understand the meaning of this finding and to suggest a course of action. The thoughts that I am going to share with you tonight represent my contribution to that discussion.

There are those in the Episcopal Church who have strong predisposition towards the clergy being only functionaries. It is an extream anti-clericalism that denies, in my humble opinion, what Holy Orders are meant to be within the universal, apostolic, and catholic Church.

The Rev. Dr. Leander S. Harding, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Stamford, CT, recently commented on this in his weblog.

Here is an excerpt:

"The beauty of the ordination rites is about the only thing we have to save Holy Orders from becoming a mundane job. It might seem to some that the cleric as employee would be a relief from a church in which too much is made of clergy and too little of the ministry of the people. Making ordinations and services of installation more mundane, more matter-of-fact will have the consequence of also making the ministry of laity more mundane and less awesome. The trend of the last 25 years of secularizing our understanding of the clergy role has done little to make the people of God more holy or more empowered in their baptismal ministry and it has done much to reinforce the very clericalism( the priest does the ministry, the people receive and evaluate it) that is so deplored."

Read it all on his weblog, or click below.

This piece puts into words my very thoughts on this whole subject. Click below to read the entire article, which first appeared in the National Episcopal Clergy Association newletter, by Father Harding.

A Word to the Church

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A Word to the Church
From the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church
Salt Lake City

Thursday, January 13, 2005
[Episcopal News Service]

To the faithful in Christ Jesus, greetings in the season of Epiphany. We rejoice together with you that God has “caused a new light to shine in our hearts” revealing God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord. The sufferings of our brothers and sisters in the aftermath of tsunamis in South Asia and flooding and mud slides in California and here in Utah where we are meeting, make us long all the more for this new light revealed to us in Christ. We are mindful as well of the suffering around the world caused by global poverty, HIV/AIDS, malaria, other diseases, and war. In this suffering world we are called to “serve and signify God’s mission to the world, that mission whereby God brings to men and women, to human societies and to the whole world, real signs and foretastes of that healing love which will one day put all things to rights” (Windsor Report, paragraph 3).

We decided at our September meeting in 2004 to set aside this time so we might together begin to receive the Windsor Report with humility. We have met for a day and a half in Salt Lake City. We welcome with gratitude the work of the Lambeth Commission on Communion. We realize this is a long-term effort which will most likely extend beyond our March meeting. In the meantime, we aim to practice the more intentional consultative processes called for by the Windsor Report. We also anticipate the Executive Council of our church joining in this consultation.

Arthur Schopenhauer

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Just for the heck of it, I decided to find out more about Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher who lived from 1788-1860.

"He is known for having espoused a sort of philosophical pessimism that saw life as being essentially evil and futile, but saw hope in aesthetics, sympathy for others and ascetic living." (wikipedia.org)

Here is another quote:

We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people.
Arthur Schopenhauer

Well, what about Michael Polanyi and his theories of tacit knowledge?

These are the times

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"All truth passes through 3 stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; Third, it is accepted as self-evident." - Arthur Schopenhauer

I believe we are now in the "violently opposed" period of the universal Church's change in belief of Truth concerning homosexual people and their inclusion in the Church and God's purview, let alone in the full life of society.

Today is the final day of the brief but very important meeting of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops in Salt Lake City. The bishops are meeting to deal with the Windsor Report issued last October by the Lambeth Commission on Communion. The Anglican Communion, and elements of the Episcopal Church, are up-in-arms after the 2003 General Convention's consenting to the ordination of the first openly-gay bishop (Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire) and its acknowledgement that the blessing of same-sex unions is taking place within Episcopal Church congregations. For most who oppose the above actions, they also oppose the ordination of gay clergy (deacons, priests, and bishops), period.

Me in Latin

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I have to submit information for graduate, already! The GTS diploma is amazaing and spectacular - all still roll-printed by hand and in Latin from nearly 200 year old plates.

So, we can have our first and middle names printed in English or Latin. What the heck, why not Latin!

Rovertum Leonem Griffith, Jr.

Robert: is an English name meaning "bright fame." From Old German meaning "bright famous one."

Leon: Greek form of Leo (Latin) meaning "lion."

Griffith: is the Anglicanized form of the Welsh name "GRUFFYDD." From Old Welsh "Grippiud." The second element of the name derives from Welsh iud "lord, prince" but the first element is unknown. Gruffydd ap (son of) Llywelyn was a Welsh ruler who fought against England in the 11th century but was eventually defeated.

So, I am really Bright Famous Lion Prince, Jr. Or, something like that.

That's kind-a fun. I cannot believe nearly three years have passed.

Finished

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It is finished! All done with the final set with an hour to spare. The last set, the ethics question, however, was a total wash! I finally had to say that I had no clue, and I just wrote what I thought. The person proctoring our exams asked me, "Where is your bibliography?" I had to say, "I didn't use anything but my own thoughts." I am probably in big trouble.

Frankly, all I care about is that I'm finished! Now, to find a job.

GOE - Sets 3 & 4

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I am brain dead! Our third and fourth sets are now over.

Each "set" relates to one of the seven canonical areas the Episcopal Church expects its priests to be familiar with. Each set consists of one or a series of questions to be answered in essay form. For half-day questions (6 in all) we have 3-1/2 hours to answer the question and are restricted to three single-spaced typed pages. For the single full-day question, we are given 7 hours and six single-spaced typed pages.

The seven canonical areas are:
+ The Holy Scriptures
+ Church History, including the Ecumenical Movement
+ Christian Theology, including Missionary Theology and Missiology
+ Christian Ethics and Moral Theology
+ Studies in Contemporary Society, including Racial and Minority Groups
+ Liturgics and Church Music
+ Theory and practice of Ministry

Tomorrow, Wednesday, is a day off. We resume the GOE's on Thursday, which is the full-day set on the topic of Theology. Only two more days!!!

I was a bit concerned about the second set (question) we had to deal with yesterday. We were allowed no reference materials whatsoever - nothing, just our grey-matter. I think I did well, but we shall see.

Two sets today, the first coming up in two hours. We have a tradition at GTS where the juniors make breakfast for the seniors during the GOE's. They did a great job yesterday, and I'm about to have another round.

I'm reading through Romans right now, and I keep coming back to the Law, as in the Levitical Code. I simply see nowhere in the Christian testament where we are called to observe the Levitical Code. We are not under the Law! Jews, yes, Christians, no. Read Paul's letter to the Galatians!

So many conservatives strongly desire that we adhere to set rules, as the Law prescribes, but as Christians we have only two: 1) Love God with our entire being; 2) Love our neighbors as ourselves. That's it! In those two is the summation of the Law and the Prophets, but we are no longer bound by the Code. This is why, I think, many conservative Anglicans want to return to strict adherence to the 39 Articles.

In fact, much of the Moral Code will be lived out by default by simply living into the above two; the Law will be written on our Gentile hearts, so to speak. That is different than saying we are bound to obey the Ceremonial Law, the Moral Law, or the what is it called???. This means ambiguity. Some people simply cannot abide in ambiguity.

The other problem faced by those who say we are still bound by portions of the Levitical Code is the cafeteria-style manner in which they pick-and-chose which specific laws to demand obedience to and which ones to discard. Many say Christians are still bound by the Moral Law, which Jesus brought with him into the New Covenant. But, even if that is the case, which I do not believe it is for Christians, most conservatives will still pick-and-chose which of the specific moral laws to demand adherence to and which ones to ignore. And they do ignore many of them. It is too convenient, and too easy.

I'm not a liberal, but I'm becoming more convinced that I am not a conservative, either. A "moderate," perhaps, but I really think all the labels are breaking down. And of course, those who cannot abide in ambiguity or change or uncertainty will not be able to accept anything breaking down.

GOE, Set 1

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Okay, the first question of this year's General Ordination Exams is now over. Liturgy and Church Music is the second set for this afternoon. No reference books or materials are allowed, which should be interesting! Six more sets to go, and four more days.

change

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This will be six months of radical change in my life. GOE's are next week, and after that one more paper to end the last fall semester of my seminary experience. My future is wide open; I have experienced the provision of God too many times in my life to be fearful of a future that is completely unknown.

I was looking through my Amazon.com wishlist this morning after searching through the Alban Institute's website for a recent study I heard about concerning the strategic position of Anglo-Catholic (not the reactionary sort) churches and church growth. I saw the books in my wishlist, and listened to some music from the CDç—´ I hope to buy when I can once again listen to music (too busy for that now), especially the band Sigur-Ros from Iceland. I added some books, and here is the rub. The books I looked through (a couple recommended by the Alban Institute) were topically completely different in many aspects from the books I would have chosen one, two, or three years ago. Change in my position, in my location, and in my invocation are all coming quickly.

I think I am returning to by experiential past as I more into what truly interests me with regards to future vocation. During lunch recently, our table was engaged in the normal conversation. ThD student Ron mentioned that one of the other students present was (or is to be) a liturgist. We went around the table and Ron voiced his opinion on what each of us would be. He referred to me as the 兎vangelist.� That was quite surprising. Maybe, in some form, maybe. I think of myself, once again, as a 電iscipler.� A teacher - one who calls people into a realization, and then to deepen the relationship that results from the realization. Perhaps, in the calling, is the evangelism.

The future is wide open, and despite what I said above it is a bit disconcerting. I don't quite know how to navigate through a search for a position in this kind of work or this kind of church. I realized this morning that the method of spiritual-formation I am experienced with and good at, frankly, rests in Discipleship. Not so much the individualistic spiritual-formation methods that are popular today (nothing wrong with them at all!), but in the small-group structure of discipleship. Within the context of a trusted small group of people, discipleship takes on a very different dynamic. Jesus models it, or rather Jesus presents us with a model. Evangelicals are very effective in the use of small group discipleship, but lacking in a holistic sense of Christian spirituality.

So anyway, we can listen to the sounds of Sigur-Ros while... who knows what???

NY in NY

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A New Year in New York has now set in. Happy New Year!

I went out with Ashton to a party of a friend of his - I was out until 2:30 am and didn't get to bed until 3:30 am. I woke up at 6:30 am. This is not going to be a good day. While being a morning person has a lot of advantages, and I like it, times like this suggest that my internal body clock is no friend of mine.

We had a great time, and I don't necessarily regret it, but it was a lack of judgment on my part. I simply have too much studying to do to be trying to function on three hours of sleep. Bret's apartment is amazing and his friends are a lot of fun to be around.

If ever there was a time to be in Times Square for the changing of the year, last night was it. The temperature was in the 50's - an absolutely beautiful night. Some guys who were in the square showed up at the party around 1:00 am. The crowds were large and they were shoulder-to-shoulder as they struggled down 8th Ave.

I am so tired. In six months, my life will be so completely different. I have no idea what to expect!

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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