Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stephen's First Basketball Game

Last night was free staff/faculty night at the WCU men's basketball game. The whole family went and we had a great time! Stephen enjoyed the buzzer, the cheerleaders, the buzzer, the game itself, the buzzer, the seats that fold up, and the buzzer. We left just after half time as we want Stephen in bed at a decent hour. We have a very nice facility here and it was far from uncomfortable. Games are cheap so we plan to go see some more.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Shameless Advertising

Ok, this is shameless advertising. Still, they're giving away a number of cool techie toys. Take a look.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Snow Flurries!

Here's one major advantage to living in western North Carolina. I'm looking out my office window at snow flurries! There's no way this will stick or do anything lasting, but it sure is pretty coming down.

On the other hand, the forecast says it's going to get down to 17 degrees F tonight. I don't remember if it even got below freezing while we were in Texas.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

First Things

We've been here in Cullowhee, NC for nearly two weeks now. The new job is going well - at least as well as a new job can go. I think I've already been useful, so that's good and important to me. The folks here at WCU have been VERY friendly and pleasant. I need a bookcase and a lockable file cabinet, but my office is nearly moved in. We've gone through most of those "First Things" such as new driver's licenses, e-mail account, etc.

I don't think I've ever really taken over a job from another specific person, so that's been new - to understand what my predecessor did and how I can at least fulfill those responsibilities. I am in an odd place - I'm not the computer tech, nor a professional education expert. I'm right in between those things in this job, with enough fluency in each to connect them as needed. I suppose that's what systems engineers do best! (apologies to Tigger)

Another first thing is that this is the first job I've had that didn't have a definite end point (unless you count bagging groceries). After a co-op, graduate assistantship, and a post-doc, it's strange to think I could actually settle in to this for some time.

I also have a PDA for the first time in my life. I've seen people ruled by their PDA and didn't like the sight. First thing I did was turn the sound off. Still, it's hard not to play with a cool new toy!

So, to all our friends - we are settling in well. We're very much looking forward to Thanksgiving visits with family here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Last Things

Well, we're here in North Carolina. Having just gone through it, I'm reflecting on the move, particularly the leaving Texas part. Kristy and I kept saying things in our last week in Texas like "this is the Last Time we'll _____." Fill in with worship at Westminster, eat at Freebirds, drive to campus, etc. It was a bit difficult to realize, even with the house and my office packed up that we were simply not going to be back in Bryan, TX for some time.

When we moved to Bryan, we knew my job was limited by the grant and would end at some point. It actually made me hesitatnt to put down roots and make friendships at first. But, it happened anyway - you just need those connections. We've loved our Aggie friends and miss them greatly - especially as we now have to start that process over.

One final thought. You know how in movies and TV shows that things happen instantaneously? For example, a conversation ends and the telephone immediately rings to bring on the next event. Driving east for two days in a UHaul truck made me think about all that "boring" time in between. Our family just had to spend all that time driving and it was really uneventful. Also, you just have to spend all that time unpacking boxes to get your house in order (we're getting there). It made me think about how much I desire instant gratification, and I suspect that comes from how much media I take in. Maybe our switch back to dial-up from DSL at home is a good thing.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Responsible Technology - Chapter 1(b)

(Maybe I can actually post more often someday) The next part of this first chapter of Responsible Technology lists four reasons why we must understand technology with our heart as well as our mind.

1) The pervasiveness and power of technology. Do we see how technology can shape cultural values? Consider the effects of the television on politics (sick of the ads yet?), child-rearing, and evangelism. Consider the implications of the technology known as the automobile. Such technology requires roads and bridges to be built and maintained, gas stations, maintenance and repair facilities (and expertise), structures at our dwelling (driveway, carport, garage, etc.), and law and government structures (taxes, enforcement, licensing) just to name a few. That doesn't even include manufacturing them.

2) The value-ladenness of technology. This concerns not just the use of technology, but the technology itself involves valuing. This is focused just as much (if not more so) on the designers and engineers as users. An engineer makes decisions and trade-offs when designing technology, e.g., valuing cheaper materials over durability.

3) Conflicting opinions regarding technology. Some praise technology for bringing increased "progress." And yes, we do have better and faster communication and automation. We can do amazing things that could not possibly have been done without the technology (e.g., going to the moon). Some condemn technology for depersonalization (we can assign you a number for our records, and so we do) and destruction (not just nuclear weapons, but environmental damage)

4) The divergent nature of today's technology. The authors write some years ago, yet I think their claim still holds. The nature of modern technology has the potential to be oppressive & evil and can simultaneously be a very positive force. Example (from the book): a new strain of rice is developed that greatly increases production but requires harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides. How do we determine if this is good or bad?

I think that's enough food for thought at the moment. Consider those four reasons for being sure we understand, design, and use technology not just in an intellectual, logical way, but also morally with our hearts.

New Job

I think I've told our immediate family and friends, so here's the "Public" blog annoucement. I've recently accepted a new job at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC (about an hour west of Asheville). I'll be the Assistant to the Dean for Instructional Technology and Curriculum in the College of Education and Allied Professionals.

The job will in many ways require the same skills I'm using here at A&M - making sure technology is integrated into an educational system in a Good way. I'm really looking forward to it. Of course, like pretty much all other jobs I've taken, I'm starting to get the butterflies - can I really do this? will I actually be beneficial? But things always seemed to settle down after a time.

We're moving soon, but need someone to take over our lease after we're gone. So if you or someone you know in the Texas A&M area needs a 3 bedroom 2 bath duplex, let me know.

We'll definitely miss our friends here but we'll be very glad to get back closer to family.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Stephen the Categorizer

My son's vocabulary grows by the day. Don't you wish learning new words was still that much fun? He also tries hard to put new things in known categories. For example, this evening Kristy was reading There's a Wocket in My Pocket to him, and he was trying to classify the Dr. Seuss fantastical animals into things he knew (like "duck" and "dinosaur"). He was quite convinced he was right, too!

In case you're interested, my personal favorite is the nooth grush (on my toothbrush).

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Summer Reading (& Shameless Contest Entry)

Well, over at Brandywine Books there is a contest to win three books by Lars Walker. Basically, you have to blog on what you read over the summer. I've been wanting to read his books myself, so here's my entry. I'll just focus on a few of the more interesting books.

Redwall, Brian Jacques - I've heard of this series but had never read any of it. It's a fun book (as are the next two), with clear good guys and bad guys in a struggle for control of Redwall Abbey. One thing that stood out to me was the strong contrast between the harmonious community within the abbey and the bullying and fearful band of raiders that threaten them. Also, a surprising amount of death is there for a "kids" book.

The Chosen, Chaim Potok
- This was a very eye-opening book. If accurate (and I have no way of judging that), it was a look into a culture that I have basically no knowledge of or contact with. It may be slow in parts, but the story sucked me in quickly and kept me reading.

The Bible and the Future, Anthony Hoekema - This book has been very beneficial to me in preparing for my Sunday School class on Eschatology. One thing that impressed me the most was his attempt to stick VERY close to what the Biblical texts say about eschatological events. (I'm sure it helped that I'm amil.) Of particular help was his section on the Kingdom of God. I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Responsible Technology - Chapter 1(a)

As you may have noticed, many things in my life take precedence over blogging.

In Chapter 1 of Responsible Technology, the authors point out that technology is so omnipresent in our society that it often goes unnoticed & unquestioned. I work on a university campus, and it amazes me how many students walk around using cellphones and music players.

Bold Claim: To paraphrase the authors, the beliefs that infuse technology, processes that mark it, and outputs from it are not inevitable, neutral, or necessarily benign. Consider Colossians 3:17 - whether we design or use technology, we are called to do it for God and His glory.

Here's a personal anecdote to illustrate. When my wife and I got married, we started our marriage together in a nice little apartment. Within about 2 weeks of moving in, a salesman from the local cable company came by and asked if we would like to sign up for one of their packages. He was surprised when I declined and asked "why not?" I told him that we were newly married and felt the need to spend time interacting and building our relationship. We planned to read books out loud to each other for entertainment and didn't want TV to get in the way of that. While he looked at me like I was from Jupiter, he didn't press the issue further. In this instance, my wife and I chose older technology (books) over newer - and I believe our marriage has been better for it. We did not inevitably need cable, nor did I think it would have a neutral impact on our new marriage.

There is much more to Chapter 1, so stay tuned!

(Post script: a few years ago, I broke down and bought an antenna.)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Lord of Technology

I've been thinking about technology over the past several months (more like year) in terms of how the Christian faith impacts and interacts with it. Two articles in the PCA's magazine caught my eye: Technology and Worship and Technology and the Church. I especially recommend the second, and perhaps I will write some thoughts on it in the future.

At present though, I've throught about this as a Christian engineer. Is engineering independent of my faith? I mean, concrete crushes under a certain amount of pressure, whether you're a Christian or athiest. Looking at my work, is Work Action Analysis a morally neutral systems modeling tool?

My rudimentary thoughts on this have been profoundly impacted by one book I read a while back:

Responsible Technology, edited by Stephen Monsma (Yes, I'm an Amazon Associate)

I'll (hopefully) be writing about the first few chapters of this book and how it has shaped my thinking. Honestly, this book has changed my thinking more than any other I have read in several years. It is written by six authors and edited by one of them. They examine the issue from a Reformed perspective, and are very influenced by the thinking of Abraham Kuyper (of whom I am relatively ignorant).

First, a few notes from the preface. The authors claim that while technology is a crucial part of our lives, Christians pay little attention to it. For my part, I think we Christians look at it either as a neutral tool or in terms of the bad things it can bring into our lives (bad movies, the Internet, etc.). The authors' also claim that "doing technology" is not a neutral activity - rather it involves assigning values to different aspects of technology and is therefore moral. My conclusion is that engineering is therefore an essentially moral activity. Having finished the book, I agree with their claim. The authors also claim
"that technology, as one form of human cultural activity, must be done under the Lordship of Jesus Christ" (p. ix)

That is a bold claim, and I believe they back it up in the rest of the book. Come back in a few days and hopefully I will post more.

Father and Son

Yesterday I was thinking about how much I enjoy being a dad. I then realized I was thinking about this while changing a poopy diaper. Stephen is amazing. He grows so fast and is a sponge for new words and concepts.

He likes to imitate some of the things I do.

And enjoys reading

So here's to being a dad - the pay isn't good but it's more fun than you can stand.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A New Elder on Elding

We just got back from a great vacation visiting family in South Carolina. We miss them all terribly. A fun time was had by all - especially Stephen. He warmed up to everyone immediately.

From comments:
I was wondering how the office of Elder is going in your home Church?

Ask and ye shall receive!

Being a ruling elder has made me realize just how many people in our church I don't know. I'm really terrible with names to start with, so it usually takes me seeing someone in a small group several times and then being coached by my wife to remember their name. I hope our church's new pictorial directory (coming soon) will help me at least put names to faces.

Another thing about being an elder - the session meets and discusses things in the church about once a month. Before I was an elder, I harbored a desire to be "in the know" on what's going on. You know, the things going on behind the scenes like shepherding issues. Let me say this as an elder - you seriously do NOT want to be "in" on these things. Now that I know details, they break my heart. Have I been involved in this aspect of elding much? No, but please realize, these issues are about sin and the terrible consequences. I feel the weight of this office of shepherding heavily. My delight at being in the "inner ring" of the Session was quickly replaced with sorrow .

May I suggest C. S. Lewis's essay related to the "Inner Ring" and his novel That Hideous Strength for good insight on this weakness.

Now, thankfully this is a rare issue at session meetings. Much more time is taken discussing more mundane (though important) business of the church and in prayer.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Elder Training: Part IV

Time to finish up this very drawn out series. Skipping over the various things we read for training, the last step before election to the office was the examination by the session. I'll admit it was a more detailed and difficult examination that I had assumed it would be. We candidates came in and sat in a row facing the elders (firing-squad style). The pastor and other elders asked many questions about the three areas in which we were trained.

Really, I'm impressed that our session took this so seriously. Yes, we were all friends in the room, but the purity of the Church is important enough to not spare us candidates a stringent test. Praise God!

I do have to share two funnies. First, one of our candidates planned to not get the hard questions by sitting in the middle of us - turned out he got just about all the hard ones. Second, someone asked me what are the five "solas" of the reformation. Thankfully, the first RUF shirt I owned had them on the back, so I was able to rattle them off. I was told later that there were some in the room that didn't even get what he asked or what I said in response.

Anyway, we were approved to stand for election by the congregation, were all elected, then a few weeks later were ordained and/or installed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Rewind your DVDs!

Remember to rewind your DVD before you return it to Blockbuster or Netflix (our current favorite). To save wear and tear on your DVD player you can buy a DVD Rewinder

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

PCA Logo Contest (of sorts)

Barlow Farms is having a contest to design a logo for the PCA. Go to his blog for the procedure. I have no skill in this regard - I designed an RUF t-shirt once, but I won't claim it was that great. However, I would love to see some visual identity for our denomination.

Considering the wide variety of churches and cultures in our denomination, this is a challenging task. Even more so, since there are apparently no budgeted funds for the denomination to accomplish this.

I read an interesting book (by two Catholics) a while back about symbols that have been used in the church. I hope the new logo wouldn't ignore the Church's rich history in this area (though avoiding the worst parts). The fish, the cross (in all the various forms), Chi-Rho, and Alpha-Omega are just some I would mention. Having been a member of the ARP I admit I admire their denomination's logo.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Microsoft Word Tips

Go see these Ten Things Every Microsoft Word User Should Know. This lays things out quite clearly.

Seriously, use styles - it will save you massive amounts of time formatting your documents. Once you start using styles, you'll wonder why you didn't use them sooner and why everyone doesn't use them.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Elder Training: Part III

The third major phase of elder training was on the Book of Church Order or BCO. The BCO is basically the official set of procedures for the PCA. There are three major sections on Form of Government, Discipline, and Worship. All are quite interesting to study - but then I'm a bit of a Hobbit in enjoying detailed procedures and ceremonies for things.

The section on Form of Government lays out how a church is formed, qualifications and duties of officers (and how to ordain them), the jurisdiction of the courts of the church (the local Session, the Presbytery, and the General Assembly), and items on pastoral candidates. Much of this is on how things should work and who has responsibility for what. I often wondered about many "church terms" like "licensed to preach" and "particularized church" and the difference in ordination and installation. All that is in here.

The part on Discipline is more sad and occasionally scary to read. But then, these procedures do not happen all that frequently. According to Matthew 18, trials at the level of the Session should only be used as the last resort, when the other methods of going to someone individually or with a small number have failed to bring repentance. I'm glad we have procedures in place for such things, and I'm glad they are very rarely needed as God's spirit works to bring repentance at much earlier stages.

The third part is on Worship. Much of this is suggested - only the parts on the Sacrements and Membership Vows are required. Still, there is much good guidance here on worship, particularly on preparing ourselves for it. I don't see the PCA instituting a standard worship procedure across all churches, partly due to the wide diversity we already have. I've seen this diversity myself in the few PCA churches I have been in. Still, there is much in common. If memory seves, they all sing hymns and/or psalms, all had corporate confession of sin, all had intercessory prayer for the people, all had a sermon, and all had a benediction.

While a bit dry in some places, I recommend my fellow members of the PCA to read our BCO to better understand how we operate.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Start Them Early

You can't start too early catechising your children. We (mostly Kristy) (ok, almost entirely Kristy) have been working on the first question of the Children's Catechism with Stephen.

See what he's learned

Friday, June 23, 2006

got friends?

According to FoxNews, a recent study showed that Americans have fewer close friends than they did 20 years ago. While the sample size is miniscule (so it's hard to judge the validity) this is an interesting result. Are we becoming a more isolated group of people?

My wife is my best friend (or rather second best), and I also have a few others that I feel free to confide in. And while my relationships with many in the Church are only at the surface, there are some with whom I do feel real friendship.

If the study is accurate, I wonder if the results are different across religious beliefs. Certainly loneliness is a problem the Church is designed to solve. It's supposed to be a community of believers - a diverse group of people working for common purposes. But then, what am I doing to befriend those on the fringes?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Quality Engineering

I just saw these numbers. At the hospitals ranked in the top 5% in the country patients have:
27% lower chance of mortality and
14% lower risk of complications.

Makes you think about the quality of the institution you go see.

Source: Hospital Quality and Clinical Excellence Study by HealthGrades

Monday, June 19, 2006

Early Joys of Eldership

I've been an elder for just over a week and have already seen some of the joys of the office. My favorite elder task so far is to hear the testimonies of those who come to us for baptism and membership. Just the few I've heard so far have impressed on me the various ways the Holy Spirit works in peoples' lives to bring them to the Gospel. I think the best place in a hospital is the maternity ward - and it is certainly analogous to this task for the Session. To be there and see the new birth - what a joy! But then, as a father, I also know you have to take the new babies home and spend sleepless nights (and days) caring for them. The analogy extends to this aspect of our work as well.

I also served communion for the first time on Sunday. Until now, I sat in the pews watching the elders at the front take the elements and pass them through the congregation. I was always impressed by them somehow - and was proud when my father served. Now, I'm the one up front - leading and serving. It felt very intimate to be up there on the front row with the other officers, with Wade just a few feet away giving us the invitation and Good News. This was certainly a joy, as I need the Lord's Supper as much as anyone else there. However, once we were given the elements to distribute, I confess I was far more concerned about "messing up" than worshipping. (So what BAD THING would really happen if I passed the plate to the wrong row?) At least I didn't drop them.

Elder Training: In Memorium

Bob Jones

Friday, June 16, 2006

Elder Training: Part II

Not surprisingly, the great bulk of our training was on theology. Now, understand that I was raised in the church, have gone to Sunday School and worship nearly every Sunday of my life, went through RUF all four undergraduate years (small and large groups), have taught Sunday School, read the whole Bible a few times, and read theological books on my own. So, theology shouldn't be a problem, right?


Even with God's gracious preparation, I can hear Yoda say "Much to learn you still have." As for the training, we basically walked through the Westminster Confession of Faith mostly in order, discussing the parts and especially how we in the PCA differ from other branches of Christianity. We also discussed some controversies and where the PCA gives latitude on some issues. Sometimes I'll read a book or be in a study and think "I know this, but it's good to be reminded." More often during officer training I thought "Whoa, that's a tough question, and I need to be able to answer it." Sadly, it takes the structure of a class like this to get me to slow down, reflect, and examine how much I really understand.

At any rate, our group had a good struggle and learned much from each others' insights.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Career Change?

For the better part of the last decade I desired to be a university professor. Since early in grad school, my career related decisions have been made to point me in that direction. However, the professor job search for this hiring season didn't result in such a job (I can try again next year before funding runs out for my current position). Also, I will interview soon for a position that is not in the ivory tower of academe. It's certainly not a bad job and may be a good fit for me (there are many good reasons to take it if it is offered), but it's not where my heart has been set for some years.

I've thought much about this and have wondered if God grants me this job, why would He take away my dream? Why would He let me seek after this desire for years and pursue it in every career choice only to suddenly send me on a different road?

And so I complained in my heart against the God who created me and sustains me, who gave me my wife and son, who gave me the great job I have now, who gives me good health, who had me born into a family that loves me, who has put me in churches and with Christian friends that have helped me grow, who strengthened me to get through a PhD, who gave me my breakfast this morning, who loves me enough to sacrifice His own Son in my place, and who is my sovereign king and lord.

Praise God that He convicted me quickly to stuff the complaining and submit to His gracious providence. Praise God that He is good and that His love endures forever. Have troubles today? Think about who God is.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Elder Training: Part I

To describe the training I went through, I'll start at the very beginning (a very good place to start!): the calling and qualifications.

Sometime during my time in RUF at Clemson, I started feeling called to be a ruling elder. I can't really explain it much better than with words like desire, pull, and conviction. It's much like when I just knew I had to marry Kristy - I was compelled. This is a spiritual office, and God calls us men to it as He chooses. For those considering a church office, this is surely necessary, and I'm sorry I cannot describe it more eloquently.

At any rate, once I had some sense of this call, I would occasionally look at I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 which describe the qualifications for the office. I confess I spent most of my time pridefully considering I Timothy 3:1. I also confess I used to look on these qualifications as not that hard to achieve. Husband of one wife? Check. Not a drunkard? Check. Not a recent convert? Check.

But when you seriously read this, not with a mind to bring the standards down to meet you, but to see them as God's high standards for the office - well, I got a lump in my throat. Self-controlled? Above reproach? Manage his own household well? Holy? Disciplined? I'm certainly not each of those things all the time (all the time? ha!). But then, as our pastor said, if you think you fully meet all those qualifications, you're not ready to be an elder.

At any rate, training basically started by considering calling and qualifications.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


This morning I was ordained as a ruling elder in WPC.

Again, wow.

If you haven't seen it before, it's a very simple ceremony. During the worship service, the elect officers were called up to the front. (I was in my choir robe - it's long enough for me, but I tend to trip over it for that same reason!) Wade gave us a charge; basically, we have not "arrived" spiritually, we must work all the more to conform our lives to the pattern of Jesus, we must study God's Word even more deeply, and be dilligent in our work. We then responded to the questions for ordination and installation (all affirmative). The five of us being ordained (3 elders and 2 deacons) then kneeled and the current elders laid their hands on us and prayed over us. (yup, tripped over my robe when getting up) The elders all then shook our hands and - that's it.

I'm struck by how simple this is. Or perhaps a better word is plain. But then, that is true of the events the Bible prescribes for the life of the Church: sprinking/pouring water, eating bread, drinking wine, singing together, listening to God's Word, prayer, and the laying on of hands. Things that the simplest among us can participate in and learn from, and that the deepest thinkers will always find a mystery.

And so it begins. We have a Session meeting at 5:15 today.

Family Picture

This one is recent. We used it for a Mother's Day card. Stephen seems to grow a few inches each week, he's so big.

Friday, June 09, 2006


After several months of training, I recently stood for election to the office of ruling elder at our church - Westminster PC. I was elected by the congregation and will be ordained this coming Sunday.


I've been praying about this for many years, but here it has finally come to fruition. God has also ordained that I would not get an academic job this year (as I had hoped), and so we will stay here in Bryan for another year. This actually gives me more time to learn about "eldering" with folks I know, so this is good.

The training process was interesting and I learned a great deal, so I'll be writing more on that and some of the books I read in the coming days.

One thing that struck me as odd is that I actually feel different. That's only happened a few times in my life at major transitions, such as high school to college, marriage, the birth of Stephen, and a book or two I've read. I didn't even get that sense with my PhD (though a story in itself). So much of life is gradual change (hopefully growth), but going from non-ordained to ordained officer in the only organization that is eternal...I suppose the Holy Spirit has very much impressed this on me.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

For all Feather-Bed Warriors

I've been reading Spurgeon's Morning devotions from his Morning and Evening book. This line from March 12 - AM caught my attention:

Wouldst thou be a feather-bed warrior, instead of bearing the rough fight of love?

Ouch. My first thought was that I prefer to love those that are easy to love, such as my wife and son. But, you know, they can be very hard to love sometimes (I certainly can be hard to love too). Love can be, no, IS a "rough fight," not only in my heart but to actually follow through in my words and deeds.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

So what did happen to Queen Susan?

I've read a little fan fiction in the past. I discovered it was largely REALLY bad and haven't bothered since.

Until I saw this:

A story of happened to Queen Susan after
The Last Battle

Perhaps not the best writing, but actually a satisfying ending for Susan.

Thanks to Tulipgirl

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Amazon Sillyness

So what do you make of this book listing on Amazon?

1) A REALLY old but seminal work
2) A good deal on an antique book
3) Human error
4) Computer error
5) Amazon not paying attention to lower selling stuff