Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: The Year That Was

A few reflections on this past year.

Favorite Class: 
Am I allowed to to pick a class where I was a TA instead of a student? (Why yes, yes I am allowed to, since I pick the categories.) Okay then: Heat Transfer. 

Longest time spent studying for a single test: 
Time spent working on a take-home exam isn't exactly studying per se. But I hope to never come close to matching the 35 hours I spent on my convection mid-term. (Addendum: how could I forget? I took three oral exams! I doubt I hit 35 hours of study per exam, but I didn't keep track.)

Number of nightmares about final exams: 
I really don't remember.

One thing I won't miss: 
Trying to find time to study for oral exams while being a student, an RA, and a TA.

One thing I will miss: 
TK in the house. But he goes from a house with eight dudes to a house with one woman. Marriage. Who can blame him?

Miles on my car: 
1300. No joke. Stopped at a gas station 5 times this past year.

Strangest Thing That Happened to Me: 
Corneal erosion in the left eye. Sounds like the eye is disintegrating. Thankfully, it's not (and it's treatable).

Best memories from an event:
Last year I said, "It's a stretch to call a 10-day trip an event." Okay, then. This year I'll pick a 4-week "event": Monica's visit to Minneapolis this past summer.

Best memories from life in general:
I'll be honest: we have some really hilarious conversations around here. And some really deep ones.

Title of a Book I Would Write:
How to Eat for Less Than $5/day. Problem: the content isn't even enough to make a pamphlet: shop at Aldi; cook at home.

Book that impacted me the most (after the Bible):
Charity and Its Fruits, by Jonathan Edwards; Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, by Paul Tripp.

Song that impacted me the most:
How Firm a Foundation

Doctrine that impacted me the most:
And [Jesus] said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Mt. 22:37-39, ESV)

That is the point of all those spiritual disciplines.

A whole year later...
What's much different from last year is that not much is different from a year ago.

Share a few reflections of your own in the comments section.

Past Years

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summery Summary

Working at the U

Practicing Hospitality

Visiting with my sister Monica

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wherein Blogging Resembles Life

Long ago, I resolved that a certain two-word announcement would never be written on any blog of mine [think: first person singular pronoun contracted with a linking verb + indication of having returned from an absence].

Of course, the most obvious key to keeping said resolution was simply to post regularly. But having failed in this respect, I shall still refuse to tap out those two words which but admit to the reading world search engines that the blog is dying: yes, the blogger still remembers his password; no, he has nothing meaningful to say.

End melodrama. Begin introspection.

I won't pretend that blogging is one of the more important disciplines of life (though I do find it a helpful one). Nonetheless, thinking about the relatively unimportant "neglect of blog" problem led to parallel thoughts about greater issues of life.

Neglect is rarely born out of total forgetfulness. If anything, total forgetfulness is just one of the products of neglect.

I never totally forgot about blogging. Every week or so I would think of sitting down to write, my thoughts morphing from "It's been a little while... maybe today" to "It's been a while... maybe tomorrow" to "It's been a long while... one of these weeks." Yet as more time passed since I last posted, forgetfulness increased. As the typing of thoughts moved further from my actions, it also moved further from my mind.

Moreover, one might think that motivation to write would increase with time. But nonot writing is easiest once one has begun the habit of not writing. And the more I grow in this new habit of not writing, the more it seems that I need a bigger, better, more impressive reason to actually decide again to write.

Writing: I just never got around to it. And so thoughts of getting around to it became more infrequent. And then, when thoughts did come around, they were crushed by the mounting criteria for a worthwhile return post.

What else in my life do I treat like a blog?

The desk I have had intended to organize? (Is it really worth it if I might not be able to keep it up permanently?)

The friend I meant to stay in contact with and have been meaning to call since... how long? (But after such a long silence, don't I need a particular reason to suddenly make a phone call?)

The plan for regular Scripture memorization that I've wanted to set? (But it's so much easier to be consistent with the current no-plan while I continue my search for the perfect plan.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


too beautiful to be a mere tool
too useful to be a mere toy
too constructive to be a mere weapon
too dangerous to be a mere support
too enjoyable to be a mere chore
too consequential to be a mere game
too free to be mere science
too structured to be mere art
too relevant to be mere past
too lasting to be mere present
too ancient to be mere future

too easy to use,
yet too hard to learn
too easy to ruin,
yet too hard to destroy
too easy to speak,
yet too hard to utter

Invented by God at creation: "Let there be"
Twisted by Satan at the fall: "Did God actually say?"
Declared by Christ at redemption: "It is finished"
Remembered by all who await the consummation: "I am coming soon"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

March 6

This weekend, Saturday has been my day of rest. (Going to church on Saturday night still feels strange.) But Sunday is already slipping away. After talking with the guys over an extended breakfast time and spending time in the Word, cooking, laundry, and chores have brought me to mid-afternoon.

For the fifteenth time this weekend, I go over the status of upcoming deadlines...
Quiz to take first thing Monday morning: material not yet reviewed. 
Presentation to give on Tuesday: slides not yet planned. 
Homework to submit on Wednesday: solutions not yet begun.
Homework to turn in Monday afternoon: complete (but care to guess why nothing else has been started?)

Too little time. Better get to school and at least spend a few hours reviewing for that quiz. Then: house meeting in the evening. Too little time. Focus. Confess Anxiety. Trust God. Focus...

But something else has been on my mind this weekend. Going to church on Saturday evening, I remembered fifty-two weeks earlier... 

At the end of a weekend that included catching my first flight, missing my first connection, experiencing my first big research institution recruiting pitch, and coming to the conclusion that the U of M could be a good fit, I was back at my hotel room getting ready to go looking for a potential new home church for the first time. Only, I wasn't looking for where to visit. I knew where that would be. I would just be looking to find the building.

I grabbed my Google Maps printout of downtown Minneapolis, slipped my shoes on and charged through the hotel lobby. With twenty minutes until the start of the service that was over two miles away, I was already running late. Literally. Too cheap for a taxi, I had decided to go on foot.

Forty minutes later, after concluding that the most direct routes for vehicles were not necessarily the most direct routes for pedestrians (not without footpaths, anyway), detouring up muddy hillsides in dress shoes, straining my eyes to find street signs to try to pinpoint my location, and hoping I hadn't been misinformed about the relative safety of wandering downtown Minneapolis near dusk, I was becoming more aware of (and less amused by) how unlikely of a location this neighborhood seemed for a church. 

Online directions are usually helpful. But when wrong, they are spectacularly wrong. I wondered if I'd get around the next corner and find a parking lot or an old warehouse. A time check reminded me that I was already twenty minutes late. But wait, a church! Actually here, with people inside! I hurried up to the door: Please Use Main Entrance. 

How anti-climactic. But the main entrance was just around the corner. I slipped in and finally found some seating up in the balcony...

The evening, to my thinking, had already provided me with a good story. But an hour later, at the conclusion of the service, I met the guy in the pew in which I "happened to" sit. I might be slow with to recognize such things, yet I can only use the words "happened to" so many times before I'm forced to recognize the providence of God. 

Because I "happened to" decide against a taxi, I "happened to" be late and "happened to" head up to the balcony for a seat, which I "happened to" find next to a guy who "happened to" not be in too much of a hurry afterwards, who "happened to" be able to give the perspective of someone who was relatively new to the church, who "happened to" be willing to offer me a ride back to the hotel (confession: I was really hoping for that one), who "happened to" offer me his phone number in case I wanted to contact someone in the cities, which "happened to" make him my contact for the house that I "happened to" end up living in, with guys who "happened to" to be willing to accept a stranger from Ohio as a roommate to fill what "happened to" be their last open slot.

March 6, 2010. At the end of the evening, I was back in my hotel room, asking God to open doors.

March 6, 2011. At the end of the evening, I open the door of my office and grab my coat. Time to call it a night.

It had been a full day, just not over yet: 8pm. I didn't realize that God already was opening doors, and for more than just funding...

It's been a full day, just not over yet: 8pm. Back home, I open the door and head up the stairs. 

Tyler picked me up from school on his way back from the Sunday night service. We talk as we head up the stairs. Cody jumps out. Nothing unexpected: he's ready for the game of steal-a-word before the scheduled house meeting.

Steve's upstairs as well, strumming on his guitar. Suddenly he starts a more familiar tune and other guys from downstairs and from small group appear. It turns out that since my family couldn't celebrate my birthday with me, they sent my roommates money for pizza and ice cream.

Sometimes, a year changes a lot. Celebrating my birthday with me are all guys whom I hadn't even met a year ago.

Sometimes, a year doesn't change enough. My thoughts are so often consumed by today's work and tomorrow's deadline.

Sometimes, I don't realize that I am stressed out by the very thing that was once a hoped-for answer to prayer, as though I expect praying to result in gifts without responsibilities.

Sometimes, it takes a wistful look at last year's questions to bring a smile in the midst of today's. I have so much to be grateful for.

Monday, February 28, 2011


A common question: what do you read?
A rare question: what do you re-read?

I read books that I expect to be good.
I re-read books that I know to be excellent.

I read new books to be introduced to new thoughts.
I re-read books to remember the old thoughts.

I've heard it said that you can tell a lot about a man by what he reads.
I would simply add that you can tell even more about him by what he re-reads.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Becoming Classically Literate

Once upon a time, I read a lot of classic literature. At least, I read a lot of excerptswhatever was required of me for high school English. Once an assignment, reading classic literature is now a rare opportunity.

It's difficult to find time to read fiction during school semesters, and the outdoors beckon during summer. Thus, over the last few years, I've done most of my fiction reading over Christmas break. This year's novel of choice: Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo.

Theory: when taking time to read a classic, there is no reason to settle for an abridged translation (even if it saves five hundred pages). Observation: twelve hundred and forty pages are not realistic reading over Christmas break. Result: six weeks later, I may have just completed the longest book I'll ever read.

I would hate to spoil an expertly woven tale, so I'll say no more, except to leave you with a final quote:

"You must needs have wished to die, to know how good it is to live."