Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Second to Last Sermon

Today was a monumental day . . . sort of.  I preached a sermon today in my Advanced Homiletics class, and I realized it's the second to last sermon I will preach in my seminary career.  It feels good.  I also felt good while I was preaching, which is unusual for me.  I got a number of compliments on the sermon and on my delivery.  One guy in the class actually said I was a 'natural.'  He wasn't marveling at my abilities or anything, but it was a much appreciated compliment.  The whole thing seemed odd at first, but I realized that I was comfortable preaching today because I'm not going to be a preacher.  The pressure is off, as they say.

But should that make a difference?  If my nerve problems were a result of a desire to perform, to be better than the other guys who were preaching, then it's certainly a good thing.  The scary idea is that maybe I'm not taking the task seriously.  Whether I'm going to be a pastor or not, the Word of God is still the Word of God.  It's still worth a serious treatment.

My usual posture is to assume the worst about myself.  I would naturally assume I'm not taking the Word seriously enough.  Against all odds, however, I am confident that my lack of nerves came from a lack of pretense.  I didn't want to cast the illusion that I'm going to be the next great preacher (not that anyone thought that).

I'm going to preach once more this semester, and I hope that I can have a similar experience.  But even if I don't, the Holy Spirit is powerful, and He determines the effect of the Word preached.  That, I think, is the key to preaching.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Agony of Defeat

Those of you who follow Marshall sports will know that this weekend's high hopes were dashed.  Marshall played a miserable game, WVU got some offense going, and that was that.  27-3, WVU.

That is all.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Big Game Day

I am a football fan.  I haven't watched as many games since I've been in St. Louis since we don't have cable, but I've picked up the pace this year.  One reason I haven't watched as much football is that I'm more of a college fan and they don't show quite as many college games as the did back in West Virginia.  This year, though, I've had to find a way to get it done.  I need football, dangit!

I especially need football this weekend because my beloved Marshall is playing WVU.  "The Friend of Coal Bowl" it's called, and it has been dominated by WVU.  Of course, WVU has had some excellent teams in the last few years, but this year has been down for them.  I don't know if it's the departure of Rich Rodriguez or something else entirely, but WVU has gone 1-2 thus far.  Marshall, on the other hand is 3-1.  Maybe WVU has played tougher teams, but they haven't been impressive in their losses.  This means that maybe, just maybe, this weekend might be Marshall's first ever victory against WVU!  It will be a tough game, but it can be done.

"But," you say, "surely they aren't showing Marshall vs. WVU on network TV in St. Louis!  After all, Josh, you don't have cable!"

You're right on both counts.  However, God created ESPN360 for just such an occasion.  At 2:30 Central I will be watching the state of West Virginia's two 1-A programs go toe to toe.  And if things play out just right, the green and white will come out on top.

Bring on the Herd!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What's Your Palin Name?

I just saw this at Sam Smith's blog.  Follow this link to find out what your name would be if you were Sarah Palin's child.  This is what my name would be:

Recoil Zoo Palin


Monday, September 22, 2008

Birthday Haul!!

I'm tellin' ya, folks.  For all my whinging about my 30th birthday, it turned out to be pretty cool.  As I wrote previously, I was pulled up from the doldrums by my wife and sons, but my birthday weekend continued on a good note afterward.  Saturday morning my parents showed up and we had a nice little celebration.  The boys all had presents and I got $100 tucked into a two pack of Red Bull.  Very nice.  Not only that, but my in-laws sent me $30, as did Mary Ann's aunt Barbara.  So what does a guy like me get with $160?  Books, my friends.  All books.  I shall now list what I got in my haul.

The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake- Some of you are probably familiar with this tragic story.  Pancake was a West Virginia native.  He grew up in Milton, in fact, which was very close to where I grew up.  I've been to Milton on numerous occasions.  He was widely acclaimed and looked to be on the road to literary stardom, but in 1979 he apparently committed suicide.  Some believe the gunshot wound was accidental, but it was officially ruled a suicide.  After his death, Kurt Vonnegut wrote this in a letter to John Casey:  "I give you my word of honor that he is merely the best writer, the most sincere writer I've ever read. What I suspect is that it hurt too much, was no fun at all to be that good. You and I will never know."  I'm looking forward to digging into his stories.

Town Smokes:  Stories by Pinckney Benedict-Benedict is another West Virginia-born author.  I've read a couple of his stories in All-Story and Image and I came away quite impressed.  I'm looking forward to Town Smokes a lot.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra-I picked this up because 1) you can get the classics cheap at Borders and 2) it's on the list of novels in The Well-Educated Mind.  Most people consider it the first novel ever written.

The Final Solution:  A Story of Detection by Michael Chabon-I have become an bona fide Chabon fan.  I've read Wonder Boys, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and The Yiddish Policeman's Union, and all three were quite good.  I'm trying to work through the rest of his stuff now.

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut-I'm a big Kurt Vonnegut fan, but I hadn't gotten to this book yet.  It's considered one of his best, so it's probably about time.

Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold-I bought this one on the recommendation of a friend, so it better be good.  I'm looking at you, Rob Taylor.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain-I read this book years ago, but I just didn't like it.  I'm not sure why, but I think I've matured as a reader since then.  It's time for me to give Huck another shot.

How Fiction Works by James Wood-The New Yorker critic has written about his understanding of the nature of fiction.  I've enjoyed reading his work in the past, so when I heard this book was coming out I knew I was going to buy it.  So I did.

That's all I've gotten so far.  I still have a about $45 left, so I'll probably end up getting the Reader's Hebrew Bible off of Amazon.  I should have some left over still, but I'm not sure what I'll get.  I'll keep you posted.  In the mean time, look at my book pile in awe.

Friday, September 19, 2008

At 30

Last night, on the eve of my 30th birthday, I watched a dozen people try to squeeze through holes in moveable walls.  It's a game show.  They call it Hole in the Wall.  It's based on a Japanese game show called Brain Wall.  I'd seen clips of Brain Wall before--on Conan O'Brien I think--and I was hopeful.  It was silly, and there's just something inherently hilarious about Japanese game shows.  Unfortunately, as Brain Wall traversed the Pacific it was captured by FOX executives and injected with the irradiated blood of Jerry Springer.  Of the twelve contestants I saw, three were extraordinarily effeminate waiters, three were "little people," and three were female bodybuilders.  The bodybuilders were voiced by Harvey Fierstein.  All wore tight, metallic silver jumpsuits.

Then at midnight I turned 30.  I must say I started my birthday in a bit of a 'mood.'  I thought about the hour I spent watching body-builders wriggle through yellow styrofoam, and it felt like a microcosm of my life.  Seriously.  I had hurled an hour into oblivion.  It was dead.  I sacrificed it in the name of distraction.  I sacrifice a lot in the name of distraction.

When I awoke this morning, I didn't feel any better.  All I could think about is what I haven't done.  I haven't been able to provide a stable living for my family.  I'm unpublished.  I don't even have a complete short story I can be proud of.  I end sentences with prepositions.  So I moped.  I moped while I drank coffee.  I moped through my oatmeal.  I moped as I went to class.  Class was good, but I got my mope back on the way home. 

I entered the apartment building and then . . . MAGIC.  Mary Ann had gotten the boys to make birthday cards for me.  Leo had made some scribbles on one side of the card and signed the other.  Mary Ann had traced Finn's hand on one card, and the last card, Max's card, had a picture of me driving a giant 'drill tank.'  Max had drawn it himself.  He had also written me a happy birthday message.  Mope melted away as I was reminded of my family's love for me.

Ladies and gentlemen, when I come through the door of my apartment my three boys run to meet me.  They run and shout, "DADDY!"  Even Finn, who just turned one.  My wife worked hard to make my birthday good today.  I am thrilled to have the family I have.

I may not be a published author, and I may not have as much money as I think we need, but I won't surrender to self-pity.  I'm know I'll keep distracting myself.  There may be, heaven forbid,  another 300 lb., silver jump-suited waiter in my future.  But the love that lives in this apartment will remind me that I have am not a failure.  At 30, I am a man blessed by God.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ending the Bender

Mary Ann and I have been bingeing on Heroes for the last few weeks.  As fans of the show realize, the third season of Heroes begins this Monday, so we needed to play catch-up.  Let me explain:  I'm a contrary sort of guy.  If a TV show gets popular I do my best to avoid it.  There's something satisfying in the look of bewilderment on a Lost fan's face when I tell them I don't watch the show.  The same goes for 24, though I'm not sure that one has as big a following as it once did.  Up until a couple of weeks ago Heroes fell into the same category.  Fortunately for Milo Ventimiglia, I recently regained an interest in comic books, which lead to a softening of the heart when it comes to shows involving super heroes.  We were picking up some $.99 movies at Blockbuster, so I grabbed season one, disc one.  We got hooked.

Two weeks have passed, and it's all over.  We have seen seasons one and two, often watching two or three episodes in a night.  Most of the time we would start at 10:00 PM and continue until about 1 AM.  This hasn't been great for our ability to think clearly during working hours which, I'm certain, has contributed to my anemic post-count in September.  I can't seem to write anything good these days.

This will seem a bit over the top, but I feel a bit like I've gone on a bender and am just now sobering up.  My head is clearing up, and soon I'll be able to write . . . for my classes.  That's frustrating.  I haven't kept up with my reading very well this semester.   It's been hard because I am heading in a different direction now.  It's not that I don't want to learn the stuff being taught--it's the Bible after all--but I need to be writing so I can have something good ready for an MFA program.  And I need to prepare for the GRE.  But hey, at least I remember what I need to do now.  That's the first step in recovery.