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A Message From John McCain

These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to [Barack Obama] tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face…I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited. Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

Read the full text of the speech here.

In case any of the four people people who still read my blog after me not writing anything for a month have not yet voted on this election day, I offer the following (Rob – I hope you find these somewhat less nauseating than the McKnight links – but don’t expect any dramatic new insights ;-))

Why Christians should vote for John McCain.

Why Christians should vote for Barack Obama

(HT again to Jesus Creed) As I head to bed here in Europe, a few hours before the polls close in the States, one thing I hope is that however this election turns out, the concept that all Christians “should” vote for one particular candidate is a notion that will die. Now go vote.

Our Next President

In case you haven’t come across it yet, Jesus Creed is probably the best Christian blog I read regularly. Scot McKnight recently wrote a couple posts about John McCain and Barack Obama that are about as reasonable, balanced and level-headed as anything I’ve read in this political season. Check out his very thought-provoking introductory note too. A couple random thoughts:

1. The next president of the United States will be a Christian. I am glad of that; I believe that a president who is sincerely seeking to serve and obey Jesus will govern more justly as a result. But while I hope that the president will faithfully act as an agent of the Kingdom of God, I think it’s good to remember that the job we are electing him for is to lead the kingdom of Caesar.

2. Not only will the next president be a Christian, I think it might not be possible to be elected President of the U.S. today unless one professes to be Christian. Can you imagine one of the candidates going into the Saddleback forum and telling Rick Warren, “I think the Christian faith brings much good to our society and am grateful that so many Christians call the U.S. home, but I am not a Christian myself because personally I don’t believe the stories of Jesus are true.” If he stood by that remark, I think his polls would plummet. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

The Greatest Word Ever

Much to my chagrin, we’ve had a preponderance of UHT milk in our house lately. For the uninitiated, UHT stands for Ultra High Temperature, which is what you need to subject milk to in order to give it a nearly indefinite shelf life at room temperature. My chagrin is largely due to the fact that UHT brings back unpleasant memories of being at sea. But with three members of our household eligible for WIC, we get more free milk than we can consume each month. Perhaps more precisely, we get more milk than we have room to store in the refrigerator. Hence the UHT stockpiling.

Anyway, the other day I found myself reading the carton during breakfast (don’t scoff – you know you’ve done it!) and made an interesting discovery. The words are all printed in three languages, which is certainly not interesting in itself. Almost everything you buy in Europe is printed in at least two; what was interesting was the languages used. The UHT brand sold at the commissary, Arla, comes from Denmark, so naturally one of the languages was Danish. The second was of course English, the linguistic common currency of Europe. Can you guess the third? German? Nope. French? Nope. Dutch? Spanish? Italian? No, no, and no. Nor Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish or Portuguese. The third language printed on all the UHT milk in our U.S. army commissary is of course…

Gaellic. Yep, apparently they store a lot of milk out there in rural Ireland. Or they don’t have electricity. Or they just love that kinda odd aftertaste that makes me feel like I’m back in the wardroom of the USS Mount Hood enjoying some delicious oven-baked breaded meat patty on a ceramic plate. Anyway, I’ve had little exposure to Gaellic outside of chillin’ out to some Enya, and I have to say, that is one strange looking language. So my new favorite word for the week is (make sure your browser is on full screen): assigiiaaqqissqarsimasuuvoq. That’s right, a double U and a double Q in one word. You need at least four sets of scrabble tiles (and two boards) to play that baby.

I’m pretty sure it means homogonenized.

I was asked yesterday if I was done with this blog. The question was predicated by the title of my last post, which I guess I didn’t explain well. Each page in a Navy flight log book ends with a diagonal line through all the blank lines with the words “No Further Entries This Page” (or NFETP) written across it. I was simply reflecting on my final NFETP from August 1998. No, Logomanikos is still alive. I do plan to start writing some more meaningful posts again sometime – soon I hope. Anyway, the question was another reminder of how easy it is to miscommunicate online, and that one should think twice before throwing something on the world wide web for anyone in the world to read if they are so inclined. And with that completely artificial segue…

Two weeks ago, we had a bit of excitement at work when our chapel secretary passed out. We thought it was a heart attack and called 911 (actually 112 here in Europe). He was OK, but left in an ambulance and was taken to the hospital for some tests. (Turned out to be an ulcer.) Then last week, I was lifting weights in the base gym with a couple high school guys when one of them smashed his finger pretty bad – fingertip swelled up, he bled everywhere. I walked him the 200 or so meters over to the fire station to get it looked at, and then waited with him until his dad picked him up. Two unrelated incidents, neither directly involving me, and neither ultimately that serious (though the first was a little scary at the time).

That night, for my daily Facebook status update, I wrote “Steve hopes to end his streak of consecutive weeks interacting with base paramedics at TWO.” I thought it was a good status update: interesting, clever, mysterious – always gotta try to hook some comments, right? Of course no one one asked about it, and life moved on. The next morning, as I arrived at work, the garrison chaplain says: “Hey, your name came up this morning. Something about paramedics at two in the morning?”

What? I was completely puzzled at first; it took a minute or two to connect the dots and figure out what had happened. I realized a colleague with whom I’m friends on Facebook mentioned my status comment in the weekly staff conference call, in the process misinterpreting the word “TWO”, not to mention my ill-expressed tongue-in-cheek intentions. Well, no harm no foul I guess, but it’s pretty interesting how differently information is relayed in this digital world.

So, anyone else have any good stories about crazy untended consequences resulting from communication via the Internet?

Ten years ago today I flew a helicopter for the last time. I logged 2.8 hours (1.4 hours each as pilot and co-pilot, as was customary practice) giving me a total of 873.2 hours in just over four years as a naval aviator. It was a functional check flight (FCF), required to OK the aircraft to full-mission status after corrective or routine preventive maintenance. I guess we “upped” the bird because I distinctly remember coming in pretty hot (intentionally) for my final landing at NAS North Island and doing an aggressive sideflare over the landing pad. It was pretty sweet! Maybe even bittersweet. I knew when I showed up that day that I had decided to resign my flight status. No one else knew, including my HAC, Kyle Taylor. For the rest of the crew it was another day at the office. For me it was a little surreal. I remember being acutely aware with each action that it would be my last ever…engine start, takeoff, taxi, checklist, log entry, radio call, etc. When I walked away that day, it felt a little anticlimactic. I had a gnawing ache in my stomach knowing that the next day I would announce my plans to my fellow detachment pilots, my det officer-in-charge and later our commanding officer. I had no doubts then and I have had no doubts since that it was the right decision for me, but until it was all behind me, it was stressful. For the next year or so, I felt pretty self-conscious every time I was in uniform. When anyone in the Navy sees those gold wings, invariably their first question is “So, what do you fly?” And the answer, “Well, I used to fly…” often began a conversation I felt awkward having. But eventually, I grew used to that part of my story.

The decision to resign from flying initiated perhaps the biggest change of life direction I’ve experienced so far. That moment has been on my mind recently; partly due to the anniversary, partly my recent high school reunion, and partly I think the fact that I’m facing another change in direction in the near future. This one (from youth ministry to seminary) might not be quite as radical a change in trajectory as that one was, but momentous nonetheless. High school, college, navy assignments, MCYM…I felt restless to move on after each chapter of my adult life. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever find something I’m content doing for more than four or five years in a row. I think I hope so. But maybe God’s just given me a sojourner’s heart that will keep us on the move as longs as we’re able. We’ll see. It’s been a pretty great flight so far.

Last week at the end of our trip to the U.S., Shannon and I had the opportunity to visit Princeton Theological Seminary. Many readers of my blog are already well aware that I’ve been talking about applying to this school for some time, but for those who did not – here’s me going public with our future plans. After our visit, both of us felt sure that PTS is where we want to be for the next three (plus?) years. As this school may very well have a huge impact on the course of my life from here on out (if I’m accepted!), I figured a brief introductory post would be in order.

Princeton Theological Seminary, the oldest Presbyterian seminary in the U.S., is located in New Jersey, about an hour north of Philadelphia in the same town as Princeton University. However, it is and always has been a completely separate institution. Though I (and other folks) will commonly refer to the seminary simply as “Princeton,” it is probably not the Princeton you are thinking of. It’s a common misperception (or at least one recently held by me), that PTS split off from the University at some pont in the past. Not so. Their relationship is only geographical.

When I’ve mentioned Princeton, several friends have asked, sometimes with uneasy concern, “Isn’t it pretty liberal?” (Or as my good friend Kerry said, tongue-not-quite-in-cheek, “You know they don’t believe believe anything there, right?”) Well, first of all, I don’t know. I have liberal friends and aquaintances who seem to think of PTS as conservative. It is a PC(USA) seminary, which is generally a liberal denomination. So if there was some hypothetically objective liberal-conservative theological center point, I suppose Princeton would be to the “left” of it. But second of all, I don’t care. I’m really weary of the liberal-conservative dichotomy. I don’t find thinking that way helpful to faithfully following Jesus. And inasmuch as I feel more and more discouraged when I hear conservative people say the word “liberal” as if it was synonymous with “evil”, I’m inclined to welcome some “liberal” influence in my life.

What I do know is that the PTS grads I’ve personally known (three of them, from three different decades) are thoughtful, intelligent, joyful, fair-minded people who are passionate about following Jesus. (And if matters to you, all theologically conservative too!) Yeah, that’s a pretty small sample set, but Princeton seems to be a place where we would be surrounded by people who are commited to Christ and committed to academic scholarship. I’m excited about that. There’s more I can say about why PTS for us, but that will have to wait for another post.