Monthly Archives: December 2012

Onething (Part I)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe annoying, plastic event wristband cuts at my sensitive skin whenever I type, but it also means that the guys and I have arrived safely to the IHOP Onething conference in Kansas City.  I had heard a lot about Onething, and, out to make sure that my international friends don’t get to see more of my country than I do, we all came together.

Last night, I weaved in and out of aisles of books, taken by authors more than the titles themselves.  While I hadn’t read much of what was on sale, I was able to piece together what I knew of different writers to pick out the books’ common themes.  I think it is funny what some people deem most important, and also made note of the differences between the book table here and what I know to be on display at Urbana.

I feel a bit more a observer than a student of the conference.  Maybe it’s the product of having planned enough events like this (obviously much smaller, but similar nonetheless), an initial distrust from having been well-intentionally played too many times, or simply the product of an increasingly inquisitive mind that asks more questions than finds answers these days.

I’m really hoping it is the later.

It wasn’t so much a critique as it was an analysis, but during the evening teaching last night, I kept thinking about the expository method.  It certainly wasn’t anything different, content or style wise, than what I have heard a thousand times, but my mind dissected every word, transition, and development.  The lens of thesis research isn’t exactly detachable, so even though this trip was suppose to be just because I wanted to come, I found myself applying all the reading I’ve been doing on contextualization and teaching how-tos.

It’s like this.  A couple of weeks ago, I spent the better part of 15 hours working through what I thought was a complex, multi-part paradox.  I wasn’t even trying to solve it.  I was just trying to organize bits of incompatible knowledge and identify the area of disconnect.  At the end of that very long day and 15 pages or so of scratch writing, I had before me about 200 words.  The next morning, I cut those 200 words down to a single, simple sentence.

Whoa.

So when I read a good book, or in this case, listen to sermon, analysis swirls.  Out of an interest in the content, I think about the words, cutting and summarizing and seeking to understand the core of the message communicated.  Seems like that’s all I’ve done today.


Travel, Researching Rhythms & Rhetoric

Driving begets lazy packing.

Between Spain, school, and summer jobs, I have moved every four months (a total of five times) in the last two and a half years.  Life in two checked bags and a backpack is rough, but I’ve learned how to manage.  The prospect of coming home for Christmas in a car was an unusual privilege, which I monopolized by bringing an entire bag full of shoes and half the contents of my carrel.

The trip was 755 miles, 13 hours, and was only interrupted by a twenty minute stop for gas and food.  I avoided calling my parents before the trip in a thinly veiled attempt to avoid my father’s criticism.  While I appreciated driving through Akron and Youngstown without any traffic and tried to convince him that it made travel safer, he was sure that I was putting my life in danger by driving alone in the middle of the night.  I’m sure that there is some wisdom in his concern, but either way, I made it home without any trouble at 2am on Sunday night.

The recent change of scenery has played a major role in my mental switch from writing back to researching.  The accomplishment of having actually finished (mind you, not just start, but finished) four books in the last three days, is refreshing.  These books, being much less theoretical than much of what I’ve been spending my time on lately, have given me an informational/factual framework to apply the theoretical texts.

This application has resulted an an ever-growing frustration with writers who never seem to bridge theory and reality in their own works.

Women’s roles in the church is a sticky topic.  I get that.  Defined convictions and careful study have informed my strong opinions.  Furthermore, when asked or the time seems appropriate, I will happily share my thoughts and likely do so with obvious passion.  But there is a rhetorical flair to it that acknowledges the topic’s sensitivities and the role of utopian ideals in implementation practices and the processes of change.

What I find most offensive is not the writers who disagree with me.  Writers who make the same case as me, but disavow the healthy, reconciliatory potential of their viewpoint by failing to constructively articulate their position are the most offensive.

Acknowledging that we don’t all agree does not mean that all answers are right or that we should treat them as such.  However, one’s own limited knowledge, wisdom, and experience combined with the relative importance of a given issue within the context of a mission matters.  This ought to shape our rhetoric.

Embody conviction with humility.  Then, say what you mean, define your terms, and don’t apologize.


Breaking without Recovery


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Despite the affect of finals and furious thesis writing to my general health, the common, end-of-semester exhausted wave of immobility is yet to fall.  The last paper was completed with great expectation, but the familiarity of the end-of-semester load and realization that it isn’t actually done (thesis work and job searching this beautiful break) keeps that “what will I do with my life for the next month” feeling at bay.

Sometimes I just sit and think and write and think and draw and think some more, and now that colloquium is over, I can pretty much do this all I want.  My mind combs through books and conversations, ordering them and categorizing their arguments.  There are days where I will spend the whole day just trying to fill in the diagrams that I draw in my carrel, which are often a mix of color-coordinated arrows connecting loosely associated terms attached to a timeline.

These long days have a funny connection to graduation.  All this thesis work should be pulling me away from my job applications, career research, and networking opportunities, and who knows; maybe they are.  But it has been my evenings over these crazy old books (and sometimes the really old handwritten notes I find inside of them) that all those post-graduate life questions start to make the most sense.

I got the impression that second semester senior year was suppose to be frightening and disorderly.  After all, I am officially homeless in five months.  But instead, it is just very, very exciting.  My mind bubbles over with ideas and half formed sentences, but my heart races with the possibilities of where those ideas could take me.


Permanent Residency

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe circulation doesn’t really carry to Olin’s attic very well.  My carrel smells a bit like stale corn chips and feet.

At last count, there were 83 books sitting on my little desk, illuminated by the meager light beneath the shelf.  It’s the kind of light that goes off if I sit and read without moving for too long.  The over-priced amazon white board sits to my left, its reflective surface making the light go just a little bit further and flashing my latest chapter diagram back at me.

I’ve discovered that if I angle myself exactly corner-to-corner, it is possible to fully extend my legs and take a nap on the floor, which is something of a discovery in a room so small that you can’t really open the door without hitting the chair.  On the plus side, at least the chair is comfortable.  Duly sun-faded and possibly as old as the CSS itself, but comfortable nonetheless.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe completion of chapter one marks a significant accomplish and one that I fully intend to revel in until I get Prof. Elphick’s comments back.  The research for chapter two is scheduled, the readings for chapter three started, and the logic for chapter four partially solved, meaning that despite long hours (pushing 8 hours in this chair today), I remain on track.

It’s a good thing I like what I do, otherwise this tiny, little office space might be just enough to drive me crazy.


A Reverberating Thought

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“This is hard,” which is undoubtedly the point.

My chapter one thesis document is 17 pages.  Unfortunately, only 5 of those 17 pages are real text.  The rest is half sentences and scratch paragraphs that don’t fit in anywhere.  The perfect framework and outline in my head and somewhere deep in the trenches of an exponentially expanding Evernote notebook spirals out of my fingertips and onto MS Word without rhythm.  All the while, the date on my Macbook dashboard and unfilled Word pages shout back at me.  It’s like having the hiccups in the library–uncomfortable and loud.

I catch a shallow breath every time I think about the interviews I have not yet setup, the books I still have to find (let alone READ), and the emails people still haven’t responded to.  Other theses writers lock themselves away and just walk out 15 pages in hand.  Not clean, thoroughly unedited, but 15 pages nonetheless.  I can’t do that, at least not yet.

Now, to an extent, this good, at least in theory.  Instead of burying myself in the proper ordering of facts and theories and spitting them out, I’m laying-out the basics of my own argument, explaining how all those conglomerated facts will contribute to the point I’m trying to make.  Right now– I’m defining all those commonly used words that everyone uses differently (evangelicalism anybody?) and placing them in the context of my argument.

“How are you?” has become a question synonymous with “How much did you write today?”  That’s probably isn’t what my friends mean, but it’s all I hear.

All that said, the gnawing stomach-ache of stress is offset by writing-euphoria, the joy that comes with each new paragraph, and a deep passion for what I’m studying that sometimes makes me so excited, I can’t even focus.  So I know that what I’m doing is good.  It’s just going to take many long nights to get there.

I know I’ve stepped away from blogging this semester, but what can I say.  My thesis is knocking all the words right out of me.