Friday, December 20, 2013

The Sexiest Conservative Christian College Out There

Have you caught a whiff of the Christian hipster mojo that is blowing out of New York City lately? With the arrival of dapper dan Dr. Gregory Thornbury, King's College has done a 180-degree turn from its dark and controversial days under the political all-star Dinesh D'Souza. 

President Thornbury is a Twitter using, bow-tie wearing, rock music loving academic, ruling over a seriously committed Christian geekdom. Check out his "Top 10 Albums of 2013" to get a flavor for this super cool cat- and to delve into some seriously good music. 

Thornbury is not a bland peacemaker, but a warrior in disguise- the best kind of cultural warrior there could possible be. With winsomeness and aplomb, Thornbury has brought the medicine in a big way to what has suddenly become the sexiest conservative Christian college out there. "Cosmic high fives" indeed!

Here's a taste of Thornbury's flavor:

Friday, December 6, 2013

Poem Published to Versify Blog

I have not shared any poetry on this blog for some time, though I have continued to write sporadically. In addition, editing of my first collection of poetry continues slowly. Stay tuned for a pitch on pre-ordering your own copy of this self-published book!

In the meantime, a poem of mine titled The Summer Without the Fence, was selected as a "Poem of the Month" by the staff at The York Daily Record and has been published to their blog Versify. Find the blog and my poem here. The poem and the brief interview will be published in the print edition of The York Daily Record in the next couple of weeks.

Another poem:

Why buy a Christmas tree
when we have trees to please for free
(wild and untamed though they are)
Growing here among the grazing cows?

And another:

The love in the law
Is a driving wedge
Knowing the heights
Knowing the depths

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Abstract to Realistic

You may have seen this viral video circulating which depicts Kyle Lambert drawing super-realistic "photographs" using a finger painting app on his ipad. Besides a great promo for Apple products and ProCreate, the video is yet another illustration of the amazing things humans can do with practice, patience, and the right tools. We live in a world now which relentlessly bombards us with amazing stuff other people have done and we haven't. It's hard to feel significant anymore! But I what I was most interested in, while watching this video, is how any number of stages in the creation of the artwork are equally arresting, skillful, and art-worthy. The video really tracks the subtle but significant changes between the abstract and real life. I can't say which I prefer. How about you?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Observing Advent

You may be looking for a way to observe Advent this year. "The Advent Project" at Biola University is a great resource to do just that. What I love most about this online advent calendar is the addition of artwork and music along with the scripture reading and devotional. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Jericho: Update and Great News

As many of you know, Jericho spent the last 3+ weeks throwing up anywhere between 1-6 times a day. On the worst days she lay on the couch or in her bed completely despondent and listless. Fortunately, her symptoms have seemed to cease as quickly as they began! Thanks so much for your prayers! They have been answered. Today was Jericho's 5th day without throwing up. She is once again full of laughter and eager to learn.
She will see a specialist in Philadelphia on Monday, but we are just grateful for this reprieve and hopeful that she will remain healthy and quickly gain back the weight (3+ lbs.) that she had lost.
UPDATE 9/10: Great visit to specialist at CHOP who fairly confidently diagnosed Jericho's condition as Gastroparesis likely brought on by a flu virus. Apparently what happens is the virus puts the digestive system into such shock that it slows down and nearly stops. The body doesn't process food very well and much of it comes back up as undigested food. This syncs with Jeicho's symptoms for sure. Any time she felt better enough to start eating more, she'd trigger more vomiting, even though small amounts of food were making it through. The best news? Jericho can go back to having cow milk- including cheese and "a-cream" (ice cream). She is thrilled!
Now she can get back to...

Reading to her brothers...
Rocking her new backpack...

Painting masterpieces...

Goofing off with packing filler...
We love you Jericho!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The 50th Anniversary of a Speech

Notice how Dr, King goes "off script" in the last third or quarter of his speech. The story, according to King's speech writer Clarence  B. Jones, is that King literally pushed his prepared notes aside. Prompted by the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson who shouted "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" King gave us the final and most memorable lines of this speech. Jones, at that moment, remembers saying to a member of the audience to his side, "These people out there, they don't know it, but they're about ready to go to church."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Friday, August 9, 2013

The August Bookshelf...

We've added a few new books to the "currently reading" bookshelf!
Note: This doesn't absolutely guarantee that we finished those from July, but implies that we've either 1) moved on, 2) been forced to return the book to the library after maxing out on renewals, 3) or the book is still on the bookshelf. While starting a book is always admirable, finishing books, especially non-fiction, is over-rated.

Lincoln at Peoria, Lewis E. Lehrman
While not exactly a page-turner, Lehrman provides fascinating summary of Lincoln's political life and development leading up to what he calls one of the most important and less appreciated speeches of Lincoln's life. I haven't gotten to the actual speech,  it has been slow going, but the ways in which debate over the Kansas-Nebraska Act broke up the Whig Party for good while severely straining the Democratic Party is interesting.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandburg
I picked up this book from the library for the same reason that my boss at work did: to join in on what seems to be an important conversation. This aspect of reading, the national conversation kind of reading, is something I overlooked in the past.
There's a second reason I wanted to read at least parts of this book: I've increasingly felt a lack of confidence and aggressiveness in my job and career. From what I had heard of Sandberg's book, her admonition to "lean in," seemed to be exactly what I needed (and it has been helpful). My wife would actually say that I allow people to "walk all over me."
Although I haven't reached the literal end of the book, Sandberg seems to be advocating exactly what Tim Keller describes in his book Counterfeit Gods (on the July Bookshelf). Exchanging typical female idolatries for typical male ones doesn't bring freedom and fulfillment, just more heartache. Yes, chauvinistic males and unfair work-place prejudices still persist. It's worth continuing to fight for a more fair, just, and loving world- credit Sandberg for being a passionate and genuine voice in that regard. Just don't expect that it is ever going to really fulfill you as a women or a man.
Laura has also been reading the book, and it has been enjoyable sharing our thoughts. She has a love-hate relationship with Sandberg's ideas (and the woman herself?) In general, she feels like Sandberg denigrates women for not adapting more male-centric ideals, which seem to be in Sandberg's eyes inherently better. Also, she feels that by placing so much emphasis on the way women are shaped by society Sandberg robs women of agency. She enjoyed the content in "Don't Leave Before You Leave" (Chapter 7) and felt that it was very important for women to hear. Since she left her teaching job to work full time at home caring for our 2 1/2 year old and infant twins, she knows first hand the importance of leaving on a good footing. With hard work and zest that defied her pregnancy with the twins, she created more opportunities for herself in leaving, not less.


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig
It's hard to know what to say at this point. After hearing about this cult-classic over and over, I decided it was time to read it myself. It is certainly unlike most of anything I've read before, but so far, I'm under-whelmed. My expectations were high, and were then elevated by Pirsig's own immodesty (or honesty?) in the introduction. He writes: "I suppose every writer dreams of the kinds of success Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance  has had...rave reviews, millions of copies sold in twenty-seven languages, a description in the press as 'the most widely read philosophy book, ever.'...Now the dreams are a reality and I don't have to worry about that anymore."
Of course every writer dreams of success! But your not supposed to really mention it, or at least not without a disclaimer and a thank you to your mother-in-law. All that Pirsig can muster up in this case is admission of two "failures" that are really somewhat tongue-in-cheek. That being said, I'm still holding out to be blown away by the second half of the book. If so highly praised, there must be something exceptional, right?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


While excavating bushes and the steps to a defunct side entrance to our house I found a number of old things. The first is a can of "A-Treat, Frosty Cream [Soda?]" The middle Pepsi bottle was found under a bush, but the other two were buried in the fill dirt under the concrete porch I removed. So far my best estimate is that this porch was built in the 70s. Rutter Bros, now branded as simply Rutter's, is a local dairy now expanded as a gas and convenience store.

At 50 cents, I couldn't resist this classic version of Battleship identical to the one we played as kids. Here you can see my winning strategy. I "hid" the ever elusive two-shot boat perpendicular and abutting the aircraft carrier leaving the smallest footprint once the game got down to the last ships.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guess who? The distinctive look of twins...

Can you guess who in each picture? Some of the helpful clues for the parents have come and gone (Moses used to have the most hair, for example), while others have remained. At their last weight check, they were within 1 oz. of each other. However, Moses still rocks out in the "dome" category with 2 extra inches in circumference over Shadrach! He's also 1 inch longer.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The July Bookshelf

We've been reading a bunch around here this summer...

Interview with David Driskell for Recent Work exhibit at York College Art Gallery

"It was common to say, 'No, black people can't do this,' and yet it was happening. It was like a quiet stream flowing, which ended up providing the same kind of fresh water in the ocean that makes the ocean so special. Other rivers come in: all of it being a very important part of replenishing what is there in the sea."

Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller

"We learn that through all of life there runs a ground note of cosmic disappointment... No matter what we put our hopes in, in the morning, it is always Leah, never Rachel."

Ender's World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender's Game, ed. Orson Scott Card

This collection of essays provides excellent literary criticism as I prepare to de-brief the 6th grade summer read in the fall. I particularly enjoy that the essays are accessible even to a non-English major. Literary criticism seems to have largely relegated itself to obscurity in its post-modern revisionism. Although I was an avid reader and excellent student of literature in high school, I struggled mightily in the few English classes I took in college. I was just lost.
Well, my students are currently reading Ender's Game and discussing it on a class Wiki. The buzz for the Hollywood treatment being release in November starring Asa Butterfield is growing. Class field trip?

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

While trading in crass middle and high school humor, there is something fresh and appealing about the first half of this book. Laura and I both enjoyed it. Maybe part of its appeal is that is presents a modern, non-sentimental look at life on a reservation. The second half of the book, however, falls flat and feels a bit more memoir than novel. Alexie seems to lean too heavily on a few memories in order to bring the book to some sort of satisfying close. The funny dark humor that carries the first half fades.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond

Just starting, but: What about religion? Hasn't that mattered in the "fate of human societies"? Let alone divine providence, just the power of ideas...

Friday, July 12, 2013

No Mess Shrub Cutting or Removal

Have you ever launched into a massively overgrown bush with shears only to discover that after twenty minutes of ecstasy you've created an hour or more of back-breaking clean up? Is your city or township persnickety about bush pickup requiring bundles using twine only, with branches of no more than X diameter and Y length? OOO! Me! Me! Pick Me!

Oddly, this isn't my first post on overgrown shrubs. Clearly we bought a house whose landscaping was far beyond its expiration date, hastened by negligence and\or neglect. I've had plenty of opportunity to devise new techniques for making life with large shrubs more enjoyable. In this post I will share a method I've discovered for effectively cutting back or completely removing a bush in about half the time it would otherwise take.

STEP 1- Start with a bush that needs a haircut in a bad way...
This bush, while screening our porch from the street nicely, will be unnecessary once the fence is finished, and boy is it ugly!

STEP 2- Tie a small loop to the end of twine.

Twine, cheap and plentiful
STEP 3- Divide the bush into "chunks," bundling each tightly before cutting anything on the bush. Go on to the next picture to see how to do this.

After wrapping the twine around a portion of the bush, thread the end of the twine through the loop you created. The lasso you now have will help you tighten down the portion of the bush you've looped. CAUTION: Especially if you have twine like that shown, don't rely on the strength of the twine to condense the branches of the bush into a tight bundle. Use your hands and arms and bear hug the branches while tightening the twine. 

STEP 4- You've already done the hard work. Now comes the fun!

Cut or trim the bush at the desired height. If your city requires brush to be a certain length, keep that in mind. In this case, my city asks for 4' bundles maximum, and that was about the height of the bush WHICH I WANTED GONE. I didn't bother with shears and went straight for the chainsaw.

STEP 5- Move your bundles to the curb!

Inevitably a few stray branches have to be tucked into a bundle or a bundle needs to be tightened or needs additional wraps of twine. But for the most part, your work is done.


Monday, June 24, 2013

The Power of a Word

Have you ever considered the power of a single word? Just one adjective, verb choice, or adverb can significantly shape the message and tone of a text. The consequences are significant, particularly in the area of journalistic reporting, where a news source presents itself as factual account of an event.
For example, on Monday June 24, 2013, Reuters published a brief article reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to hear a challenge to a Massachusetts law restricting what protesters outside abortion clinics can do. Notice how I have tried in the previous sentence to state what the law actually does, regardless of its intention. Overall the article is a fine summary, but notice the first sentence:
"The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider a challenge to a Massachusetts law that ensures access for patients at clinics that offer abortions."
Notice the word "ensures" and then consider the assumptions suggested by the word. It assumes that patients were being denied access and suggests that the law was written with the intention of correcting this. It also assumes that the law is effective. The table is tilted from the outset of the article.
The courts have upheld buffer zones around clinics on the basis of free access and safety. However, the courts have also insisted on "content neutral" statutes that do not favor any one viewpoint or kind of speech. The plaintiffs in this case argue that the Mass. law prohibits anti-abortion speech while giving clinic volunteers and employees full first amendment rights. If they can prove that the statue is not "content neutral," the Supreme Court may rule in their favor. However, if the state can prove that there is indeed an issue of "access" that needs to be addressed and that the statue is "content neutral," they may be successful in defending the law.
While I don't believe that clinic protests are the most fruitful activity in bringing about greater human rights for the unborn, I do think protecting free speech is important. If a fetus is a human life, and you sincerely believe this, it's not so strange that you might feel compelled to plead and argue with women who are about to end that life. And shouldn't you be free to do this? Hopefully love will be the rule of your actions, and if so, love will compell you to speak up but in a respectful and kind way that seeks to do good and not harm. There are other ways of doing good too: by addressing the social context of un-wanted pregancies (poverty, education, broken families, poor healthcare, violence against women, and more) you can seek the good of others.
I tend to think that the courts have gone as far as they are willing in the area of "buffer zones" and will see this law as an unnecessary widening of precedent with potential freedom of speech implications. My prediction is that the Supreme Court will strike down the Massachusetts law in a 6-3 vote.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fifteen weeks and counting!

The clamor for more photos, or photos at all, has been heard. In fact, it was heard many weeks ago but a creaky computer, unreliable internet, and bad luck has conspired to prevent a posting until now. I think I started a draft of this post at least 4 times only to be thwarted. We have overcome! Presenting, Shadrach and Moses:

Shadrach with an early and easy smile!
Though "typically" more serious, Moses is quick with a smile too!

Though certainly a dynamic duo, the twins have yet to really recognize each other. They seem to know the other is there but they literally will not look at each other. How do we tell them apart? Well, they are different. Moses has a square-ish head while Shadrach's head is rounder. Moses is also averaging 10 ounces or so heavier since birth. The Dr. that delivered them suggested this may be because Moses was below Shadrach and his body reacted to the added stress by more vigorous growth. Interesting. Like wine grapes, improved by the struggle of hot, dry weather?
 Lot's of friends have asked how Jericho has handled it all. She is much better now than ever, and is actually becoming an amazing big sister, quick to help by re-inserting binkies, throwing out diapers, and holding the twins. It started off ROUGH however. Jealousy is a mighty powerful thing in a two year old.

 The worst part of being a big sister is being deprived of Momma when the twins are nursing. Now that Shadrach and Moses prefer to be nursed separately, this can be a full 45 minutes of jealousy! The flip side of solo-nursing is that Laura has a free hand to read a book or play home-videos for Jericho (her favorite thing to watch).

Jericho is getting better at playing with the twins and is quick with her affection now!

Parenting is tough! What Laura most needs is sleep (it's getting better now that the twins sleep 4-6 hours at night) and what Papa needs most is patience when he has nothing to really give them when they're really really hungry!

Letter to a Student of U.S. Foreign Policy

Dear Eric,

You took on a difficult topic and I commend you for that. Your argument- that the will of the people should be the moderating and mediating factor in the delicate balance of idealism and realism in foreign policy- is a good one. Since the ideals of a nation are to a certain degree subject to interpretation from one administration to the next, what better beacon of consistency is there than the will of the people? Likewise, isn't national interest best defined by the nation itself?

However, your thesis is also fraught with difficulties of its own. How do you measure the will of the people? How do you account for mass hysteria? There have been, sadly, times in our history where bowing to public opinion has been little more than stooping to the lowest common denominator of prejudice and fear. I still think the discussion of Kantian Ethics undermines, rather than strengthens, your argument...Few if any politicians are likely to re-hash university debates over Kant when deciding how to vote, and the American public is much more likely to be influenced by Hollywood or the Parish priest in their thinking on ethics. An essential American characteristic is a belief in moral absolutes, even if not particularly absolutely.

The liberal backlash against Bush wasn’t just a matter of his wars going poorly, but a repudiation of his old-school American worldview and his audacity (interestingly, that’s Obama’s word) to put it into practice. When his wars did go poorly (though I think the Vietnam comparison, while gaining some traction in the darkest hour of Iraqi Freedom, is one that already doesn’t hold water in the history books), the average American has been more than willing to go along with the anti-Bush sentiment. The average American's understanding of current and recent U.S. foreign policy doesn't extend much beyond the talking points. 

Don’t be just the average American. The Bush legacy in foreign policy is a complicated one, and one largely unrepudiated by any politician as of yet, including President Obama. Has Guantanamo been closed? The drone program restrained or ended? The “war on terror” brought to a close? A new era of diplomacy and bilateral action ushered in? A new political atmosphere of bipartisan cooperation established in Washington?

Actually, I may be wrong about this. Perhaps the only ones who have really parted with Bush in anything more than rhetoric is Rand Paul and the Libertarians. But then they are such terrible realists, they may be guilty of the most dangerous idealism of all.

Mr. Church

Monday, June 17, 2013

Anthem for Today

"Helplessness Blues"
by Fleet Foxes

I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me

But I don't, I don't know what that will be
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see

What's my name, what's my station, oh, just tell me what I should do
I don't need to be kind to the armies of night that would do such injustice to you
Or bow down and be grateful and say "sure, take all that you see"
To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls and determine my future for me

And I don't, I don't know who to believe
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see

If I know only one thing, it's that everything that I see
Of the world outside is so inconceivable often I barely can speak
Yeah I'm tongue-tied and dizzy and I can't keep it to myself
What good is it to sing helplessness blues, why should I wait for anyone else?

And I know, I know you will keep me on the shelf
I'll come back to you someday soon myself

If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm raw
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
And you would wait tables and soon run the store

Gold hair in the sunlight, my light in the dawn
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore
Someday I'll be like the man on the screen

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Josh Garrels- Be Inspired!

At the closing ceremonies for the middle school yesterday the 8th graders played a piece called "Clave" on xylophones. The sound evokes an aura of innocence fitting for a ceremony that initiates the students into a new stage of being grown up. In this Mason Jar/Josh Garrels production, the xylophones add movement and depth to a beautiful song.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

History Buffs: Help me ID this unknown object...

Can you identify this object? It was found in York, PA while digging new garden space in my backyard. It looks like some sort of ammunition, but I could be totally wrong. The neighborhood was built on farm land, developed in the 1910's.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Jericho Grows Up Fast

The past few months have been pretty momentous for Jericho. In January, she turned two. In February, she became a big sister. In April she learned to use the potty. And in May, she gave away her pacifiers. While there have been tears, she's proud of her accomplishments.
And so are we.
To celebrate, we went to Sweet Frog Premium Yogurt to get an appetizer before dinner!
In other news... both boys are pushing ten pounds, rolling over, and smiling. Here's Shadrach, who loves the bears that hang on the baby swing.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

NRA Comments Channel John Calhoun

After leading discussion with my 8th graders of John Calhoun's address
to the Senate in 1837 opposing the rise of abolitionism, I am struck by
parallels between his comments and the comments of incoming NRA President
James Porter.

Porter recently argued that, "This is not about gun rights." He argued that instead the NRA was fighting a "cultural war". See a ABC News article on the speech here. It seems fairly evident, even without invoking the most extreme stereotypes, that the NRA gains much of its support from a significant minority group genuinely concerned with what they perceive as a threat to their way of life.

Similarly, Calhoun argued that abolition was pursued by some "with a systematic design" and a "general crusade against us and our institutions." In 1837, Calhoun called it a "deadly war" but could hardly have imagined a civil war so deadly as that which broke out 23 years later. The death he so feared, was a way of life. His speech can be found here.

Understanding the link between the 'refuse to give an inch' attitude of the NRA and the perception of a cultural war, is essential in explaining how gun rights advocates are gloating after defeating the recent mild and middle of the road gun-control legislation in the Senate. The NRA's message of cultural resistance has been highly effective. Rather than get caught up in fruitless quibbling about the specifics of "common sense" gun control, the NRA has deftly allowed the 2nd Amendment to speak for itself, while invoking a powerful argument of cultural crisis that translates into whatever it is their base is feeling anxious about at the moment. Its "not about guns" (or slavery), but a "crusade against us and our institutions."

Perhaps it is more accurate to say that Porter and the NRA are not just channeling Calhoun, they are taking a play out of his playbook.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Birth Announcement: The Story Behind the Names

View our Prezi created to tell the story of Shadrach and Moses...

Get the Story Here!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Jericho's Room Finished! (almost)

...and just in time for the homecoming of Shadrach and Moses (projected sometime between Friday and Sunday!)

The final phase of renovation in Jericho's room was focused on the floors. The excessive amounts of adhesive, water damage, delay in ordered wood and the complications of custom planing and "routing" the red oak all caused this to be a mammoth project. As with most projects I post on this blog, I owe their completion to a half dozen people who gave their time and talents.

The room as a kitchen...


Water damage!

Removing damaged wood

 Construction Zone
Thanks to: Steve for the assistance in fabricating the custom plank flooring
(5/16 thick and 1 1/2 wide!)
Patched in and sanded!
(Thanks to: Ben for carpentry, Father and Simeon for stripping, Susan and Brian for sanding)

Two coats of Cabot stain (pecan) and three coats of Varathane Oil-Based Semi-gloss
Thanks to: Warren and Pop Pop

We bought this bed along with two dressers more than a year ago in anticipation of this day!

What's left? Moulding. The original shoe molding has been sanded and awaits staining and sealing. We couldn't wait any longer to move furniture!