Tag Archives: new challenges

Recent Reading

While I’ve been convalescing and taking care of my wife after our recent car accident, I’ve set off on a torrid pace in reading.  The following are some snippets from some of the texts that I’ve engaged with over the past week.  Below is my account of Sunday’s readings.

 The Epistle to the Hebrews (ESV Translation).  I wasn’t able to go to church so I decided to attempt to read large portions of Bible books during my time on the disabled list.  I do have regular Bible reading plan, but Hebrews is my favorite book. I derived much encouragement from this letter to a church of Jewish background that was tempted to return to Judaism while suffering severe persecution.  The writer is sympathetic to the plight of this church.  His love for this church and his pastoral encouragement comes through loud and clear, and doesn’t keep him from giving his readers a “talking-to” where needed.

Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray.  This book has stared at me for several years from my seat in the family room for several years.  I expected a hagiographic treatment of the leaders of the First Great Awakening in America.  Luminaries such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and Samuel Davies were men of God whose preaching was blessed by the Holy Spirit in the conversion of those outside of Christ and the strengthening of the Church from within.  After reading the first hundred pages, I’m encouraged to see that while Murray believes that the Great Awakening was a giant boon to American Christianity, there were unsalutary developments as well, and his view of the Revival is more nuanced than I expected.

Murray has challenged the view that I’ve about the Great Awakening for many years.  Protestant church historians are largely divided into two camps on whether the Great Awakening was a positive development for American Christianity.  On one end are historians such as D. G. Hart and Nathan Hatch, who believe that the Great Awakening was harmful to the development of the development of the American church because the revival preachers operated largely outside of the individual church.  Because the church and its catechetical role tended to be bypassed by the revival preachers, the effect was a Christianity in America that was fundamentally individualistic rather than churchly, and harmful to the growth and development of the Church.  The tother camp, championed by Iain Murray, believes that the First Great Awakening was beneficial to the American Church, while the confluence of events known as the Second Great Awakening fostered deviance from orthodox Christianity.

For the last fifteen years or so, I’ve largely held to the second view.  However, Murray presents a more nuanced view than I expected.  He makes a persuasive case that the reason that the preachers of the Great Awakening often bypassed the institutional Church was not because they held a low estimate of the Church, but that often the Church as an institution (organized gatherings under the rule of elders, pastors, buildings, etc.) was still in an organizational and developmental phase, and thus lacked the capacity for the churchly Christianity that is the norm of the Reformed churches.

I’ve only reached pate 100, but I’m glad that I took this book off the shelf and I’m really profiting from it.

Serving With Calvin by Terry L. Johnson.  Much of this book is a rehash of other writings of Johnson that has been expanded and put into a more polished form.  However, Dr. Johnson has been one of the most influential men in the way that I view the ministry of the gospel.  I’ve really profited from his theological vision and his encouragement to combine such vision with the daily and weekly tasks of gospel ministry.

 

 

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Getting Old

ReadingSunday afternoon, I received further confirmation that I am getting old. I’ve always been a fan of hard copy books, and appreciated them more than electronic readers. I did an about face on that yesterday. I picked Volume One of Richard Sibbes’ Collected Works off the shelf, intending to read “The Soul’s Conflict.” I start reading and notice that it appears that the type is in a 2 point font. Immediately I think, “can I get this on Kindle so that I can adjust the print?” So, its official. As much as I like the feel of a real book, the architecture of the page, the texture of the paper, being able to underline and take notes in the margins, I’m settling for simply being able to read. It is possible to annotate Kindle books with the note taking feature and copy and past the notes into Evernote, so note taking is still available. But the Kindle keyboard is difficult for me with the fine motor skill issues that I have. One more piece of evidence to indicate that, as my father-in-law used to say, “the warranty is running out.”

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Platonic Irony

I’m continuing to think about Plato’s Republic and how I’m coming to believe that there is a good deal of irony behind Plato’s “political prescription.”  Yesterday, I posted on communal marriage in the Republic and how it casts a shadow of a doubt on any rigid interpretation concerning whether Plato writing exclusively about what is best for the individual human soul, or the community.  This got me thinking about a couple of issues.

First, Plato may have viewed communal marriage as the lesser of two evils between not having a mate for live vs. the fierce jealousies and political rivalries that marriage was inevitably a part of in his day.  I can almost see him thinking out loud with his friends over a glass of wine, “what’s a little casual sex compared to the destruction that Oath of Tyndarus and the Trojan War brought about?”

However, I think that line of thought ultimately fails for a number of reasons:

 I don’t think Plato thought that people would be reading his works 2400 years into the future from when he wrote them.  In other words, he didn’t write the Republic to us or for us.

I’m more of an interested reader than an expert on this, but the more I think about it, the more inconceivable it is to completely remove the family from any kind of government, anywhere, anytime, in the centuries before Christ.  Again, I’m no expert on classical Greek social structures, but if they were anything like their Roman counterparts, the paterfamilias was the chief social unit.  These were essentially extended families led by a patriarch.  For the upper classes, these units were the building blocks of society and the units who kept society stable.  This resulted in each city-state having an oligarchy who maintained power and influence.

Essentially, the change that Athenian democracy made was that it expanded the oligarchy.  There was nothing like universal male suffrage extended to the citizens of Athens.  Plato’s “democracy” was nothing like the democracy that we know today.

Also, the proposed government of the Republic lacked the tools for social control that later revolutionary governments would have.  In the 400’s BC, there was no means of constant state surveillance such as what we find in George Orwell’s 1984.  And there is no thought of pacifying the proletariat with medication or meaningless activities like we find in Brave New World.  Apart from constant state surveillance, mass communication of propaganda, and the possibilities for social control that technology brings, it doesn’t seem that Plato’s Republic is feasible.

Finally, Plato leaves many essentials for human flourishing out of the Republic.  In place of faith, he proposes a religion subservient to the needs of the state.  He redefines marriage and family, which have traditionally been the social units of human flourishing.  Then, there is the whole question of being an individual within a community.  Both individuality and community are essential for the good life.  Yet, Plato subsumes each individual as merely a part of the community, while 21st century urban society tends to make individuality the ultimate priority to the exclusion of the flourishing of the community.

I think what Plato wants to do is to engage us in these questions rather than providing answers for us.  I’m not sure he really tells us what he thinks, but instead, intends to provoke us so that we will think about what is necessary for the good life.  If you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear from you!

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Vegetarian? Vegan? Macro?

I made my post Christmas pilgrimage to Barnes and Noble a couple of days ago.  It’s a “pilgrimage,” because I enjoy the blessing of having raised a family of avid readers.  So, there’s no shortage of books in our home, and no shortage of enthusiasm for visiting bookstores.  Indeed, aren’t bookstores the real reason for shopping?

The object of my quest was to find a book that was a combination of personal journal/explanation/how to concerning making the change to a vegetarian, vegan, or macrobiotic diet.  The thought of making this change has been rattling around in the back of my head for some time now, and I wanted to read more than Wikipedia had to say about this.  I’m not exactly as svelte as I was in my 20’s, and realized that most likely I’ll never get there again.  But I’ve talked to people who have done this, and they seem happy that they made the change.  Those whom I’ve talked to feel better, report health benefits, and seem to be able to eat all they want within the range of their food philosophy.

I wanted to find the story of someone who “waded in the shallow end” of this journey and didn’t try to do it all at once — someone who would make me think that this might possibly be achievable for someone who includes friends and loved ones in their eating habits.  I also felt like I needed to be “sold” on the why of doing this, and read the words of someone who enjoyed and benefitted from making such monumental changes.

Alas, I found no such book!  I didn’t look at the books that were mostly scientific information– I’m just not going to read that.  The science seems pretty sound from what I’ve read — at least it’s more on the side of a plant based diet than what I’m eating now.   However, it just cannot be that there has never been anyone in the history of mankind who considered attempting this change one meal at a time.  I’m astonished that there is no one in the history of the planet who contemplated taking baby steps toward this.  The books I found were either straight-out cookbooks that assumed that I was sold on their particular philosophy, or “how-to” books.  Of the two varieties, the how-to books started out with advice such as “take everything out of your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, and throw it in the garbage.”  No consideration whatsoever that person who may attempt to follow such advice may be married to a spouse who would advise reasonable, prudent steps toward a better diet, or more like exclaim, “you’re throwing hundreds of dollars of food into the garbage!”  No advice given on how to win over a skeptical spouse whose wisdom has been nothing short of life-saving.

So, my quest was halted in frustration.  However, I’m sure that there is at least one person in the history of the planet who has been in the circumstances described earlier who has written a book about their experience that’s worth reading.

I’d love to hear from you!  If you have researched transitioning to vegetarian, vegan, or macro and found a helpful book that is makes it sound fun encouraging, and achievable, let me know!

 

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Do What You Can With the Body You Have!

I posted yesterday on how I’m in doubt about plans for future ultra events.  However, there’s another take on this subject, or for that matter, any other physical challenge.  This attitude is, “do what you can with the body you have!”

Now, this attitude is not original with me.  I read this somewhere, and I can’t remember where.  But it makes sense.  Rather than trying to diet, slim down, and get into “better condition,” whatever that may mean, do what you can now.  And push yourself to do more.

The idea here is that physical perfection is probably beyond most of us,  So we use this mythical ideal to hold us back, rather than enjoy what we can.  So, do what you can with the body you have !  And enjoy yourself!

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Ultra Running and Future Plans

I’ve put December 31 as the day to decide on which ultras to enter for 2015.  I wish it were so easy.  But in reality, I’ll decide later than that.

I really enjoy the sport.  I see each event as a day away from the cares of normal life.  Each event is a new adventure.  The course, the other participants, the travel, the atmosphere, battling fatigue, and pushing myself to new limits all make for an epic challenge.  However, I’m taking some medications that have the unpleasant side effect of weight gain.  So, I’m almost at my peak in terms of weight.  What this does is that it presents the spectacle of a 230 lb. man trying to run 30-plus miles.  Plus, the downside of each event is what it takes away mentally, physically, and emotionally for days to come.  I’m not sure I have those reserves to draw on.

While nearly every day I look at ultrasignup, I’m postponing any decision making until I get healthier and I can train consistently.

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New Challenges

I’m taking on some new challenges this year and wanted to invite your thoughts on them:

Energy Management:  One of the difficulties I’ve had in the past is recruiting too much adrenaline and energy for routine tasks.  I am working to become more aware of myself in order that I might manage this better.  Deep breathing exercises, relaxation, and being mindful of energy flow as I attempt to take on new tasks is something that I’m working on right now.  While I tend to have an abundance of physical energy, I get depleted fairly quickly in terms of emotional energy.  Finding ways to recharge will be key to increasing productivity.

Getting Up Early:  This is perhaps the best way to seize the day and to put your stamp on it.  This is the action that enables you to take control, to assert that you will not be a bystander or a victim but that you will be an active moral agent, taking charge, making decisions, and carrying out actions.  In the past, I have been a fairly early riser.  Now, I’m taking it to a new level with working to get up by 5:30 5-6 days a week.  I decided on 5:30 because on Mondays and Wednesdays, I need to be up by 5:30 to be ready to teach.  It seemed wise to carry this to the other three days, instead of having an irregular sleep cycle.  This has also necessitated getting to be earlier, which I don’t mind.  I find that I’m not very useful past around 9:30 or 10:00 anyway so this has not been a problem.  If my older children are in town and I have the opportunity to hang out with them, I’ll make an exception.  But it seems best now to go with a deliberate plan.

Weight Loss:  I have started using the My Fitness Pal app, which allows you to record your food and counts your calories.  It’s amazing what recording your food intake will do to reduce it.

Finding My Voice:  I have read somewhere that you need to write at least 300 words a day on a regular basis to find your voice.  I’m taking up this challenge as well.

How about you?  What challenges are you taking up that you would like to share?  Feel free to post a comment!

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