Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Epithet of Hananiah

I've been reading a lot in the Old Testament lately. I admit that some was for a class, but as I journaled the reading, two passages lingered. The first is Job 28:

28 "There is a mine for silver

and a place where gold is refined.

2 Iron is taken from the earth,

and copper is smelted from ore.

3 Man puts an end to the darkness;

he searches the farthest recesses

for ore in the blackest darkness.

4 Far from where people dwell he cuts a shaft,

in places forgotten by the foot of man;

far from men he dangles and sways.

5 The earth, from which food comes,

is transformed below as by fire;

6 sapphires come from its rocks,

and its dust contains nuggets of gold.

7 No bird of prey knows that hidden path,

no falcon's eye has seen it.

8 Proud beasts do not set foot on it,

and no lion prowls there.

9 Man's hand assaults the flinty rock

and lays bare the roots of the mountains.

10 He tunnels through the rock;

his eyes see all its treasures.

11 He searches the sources of the rivers

and brings hidden things to light.

12 "But where can wisdom be found?

Where does understanding dwell?

These words are stunning and beautiful. If I were a miner, I'd write them on my hat, perhaps on my tombstone. The passage ends with an assertion:
23 God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
24 for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
26 when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
27 then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
28 And he said to man,
'The fear of the Lord--that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.'"

That last verse is the ringer--it ties Job to the entirety of the Torah. Somewhere in evangelicalism, we have lost a bit of the fear of the Lord. Sure, we shun evil, but we miss out on the fear thing. We spend our effort explaining how we don't really have to fear Him, how he loves us and we just need to respect him. But that's not entirely true. I'm excited about Narnia coming out in theaters because it will give us a good way to talk about this--it's no coincidence that Lewis used a lion to represent Jesus, and there's more than the lion of Judah going on. Aslan is kind. Aslan is good. And yet, Aslan is fierce. He is not to be trifled with.
That's what I love about this other passage. I don't mean this in a morbid way (previous posts aside), but someday I hope that the epithet Nehemiah gives Hananiah will be true of me--even placed on my tombstone:
7 After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers and the singers and the Levites were appointed. 2 I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I was just writing on another blog about Elijah and the whole fed-by-ravens incident (1 Kings 17). I really wish God told us how long it took for the brook to dry up, because I think we miss some important things in the passage. It's easy to look from a distance and imagine Walden pond and a content and reflective Elijah sitting back, smoking his pipe as the sun set, awaiting the arrival of the ravens. I doubt it was like that. We have no picture of his life before, but I'm pretty sure things turned lonely and monotonous very quickly. And these weren't eagles dropping by with fresh rabbits. I'm not sure if ravens capture living animals, but if they do, I imagine they look more like rats than rabbits. Otherwise, I'm wondering what kinds of dead meat God would allow them to bring. Obedience costs us something.

The problem I face here in Dallas, is that I continually re-evaluate the price. It was easy to obey God when he first pushed us this direction. Two-and-a-half years in, it gets a little drought-like from time to time. We try not to talk about it on the blog, but sometimes the financial issues are completely defeating. We're not starving--we still eat out more than we should, but it's hard not to when Wendy is so tired. In essence, she lives life like a single mom so I can be in school. We often re-evaluate how quickly she should return to work, but that line of thought fails to address the reality of our schedules.

Sometimes I'm lazy and undisciplined. Sometimes I'm exhausted, but most nights I get about two hours with my family and then disappear to study or be undisciplined in an effort to try to study. I usually don't use the two hours as well as I would like. I'm certainly not the servant they all need right now. On Wednesdays, I drop the girls at school and don't get home until after bedtime. The next morning, I leave for class before they get up. That's about 36 hours without seeing them. Sundays are better because I come home during the afternoon. I know: whine, whine, whine--everybody's got it hard. We're really thankful for Fridays and Saturdays right now. I usually remain confident that we're in the right place, but Wendy told me tonight what the girls were getting for Christmas and I trembled in my resolve. Sometimes it's all I can do to stick out this plan.

Obedience costs us something, but I wonder how long that stream lasted.... I fear that ours will be dry for years and I wish I knew when the ravens were coming.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Today, I told over 3000 people how to interpret the Bible, how to raise children and how to honor parents. In preparation, I prayed, sought wisdom and studied, but in the end, the words were mine alone and I am responsible for them. Sometimes that frightens me.

I know that I worship a beautiful and merciful God, but it humbles me to think of the incredible responsibility it is to step into that pulpit. We teach people to study the Bible on their own and we trust that the Spirit leads each one, but the pastor still shepherds and guides an entire flock and it should sometimes cause him to lose sleep....

I'll post the message once the file's ready, but the slides are on the right (Andy, take a peek).

Update: the sermon's up and it's in mp3 now. You can get the real audio stream from here. Sorry, no podcast!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A Well-Spent Sunday

I knew today would be different from the moment we got to Tom Thumb. We were already running late for church and no one was fighting about it. 30 minutes later we drove past Bent Tree, doomed to enter the service almost a full half-hour late. Since there are four of us who nudge our way to a seat "excuse me" style, we considered that a bit too late, and we went on to Starbucks where I saw at least four other Bent Tree folks. I bought three kid's size hot chocolates and had a wonderful talk with a breast cancer survivor that opened to a discussion about faith, and then my family went to my office to down the cocoa.

At the office, my daughters had a great time playing with the remote control flatulence machine (I can't bring myself to say "fart") and the Whoopie Cushion that had been left in my chair. Then Maddie spilled it all over herself and Mom rushed her to the van for a clean shirt (Wendy has those kinds of things in the van) and on to class and for Deersnake's debut lesson. For lunch, we decided to grab some sandwiches and some store-bought cokes and head to the Arbor Creek park for a picnic. It sounded wonderful.

I grew up in the country and I'm pretty accustomed to bees, but I've never had so much trouble with honey bees. I don't like to kill honey bees, but some bees bother you in ways that are sure to get a child stung, like flying near an armpit, so I began to strike. After I killed 13, we decided to eat our cookies while walking on the trail. I'm pretty sure that a couple were following me. Perhaps I had picked up a pheromone or something--Madison thinks I might be made of sugar. Bee 16 stung me while I squeezed him thoroughly (it was getting intense), and upon killing bee number 17 (honest, we were counting), we got in the car. Then Megan shook her Sprite to drink the bubbles and spewed it all over her pants! We taught her how to close the lid when that happens.

Back at the office, we changed a wet pair of undies (from the Sprite) and Mackenzie fell in the toilet, which put a damper on her otherwise nearly-complete potty training. And something embarrassing happened to Wendy that I promised not to write down. Then we passed time until Wendy's meeting (which is why we stayed in Carrollton all day), had a sing-a-long with Seth, watched Mike's Hootenanny video and things got quiet for awhile. After the meeting, the girls came over to my class until they were bored and Mackenzie had a poo-poo accident because the earlier trauma had kept her from using the bathroom.

We got home about seven and rushed to eat the incorrect order we picked up at Long John Silvers so Megan and I could finish the Cherokee Indian house we were making for her class tomorrow. As we ate, we narrated the events of the day and began to see the necessity of writing this down. Once in the garage, Megan and I realized we didn't have time for her to change clothes--if she went back inside Mom would make her get ready for bed and we'd lose the moment. So, Meg shucked her extra clothing and put on my apron and we mudded the roof of her Cherokee mud and wattle house. Then the kids went to bed and Wendy and I talked through Gray's Anatomy without worrying about Greek this week.

Today's Cost:
1 missed worship service
1 trip to Tom Thumb to make a kindergarten class special (reimbursed!)
3 small hot chocolates that make little girls smile at Dad ($3)
1 inspiring conversation with a breast cancer survivor
1 dirty shirt
5 students who hung out during our missed service
1 chance for Deersnake to teach for the pure joy of teaching the Bible
1 hastily eaten lunch from Baker Bros (too much $; back to McAllister's)
3 large drinks from a quick mart ($3.50)
17 dead honey bees (really, I don't lie about bees)
1 well deserved bee sting
1 botched picnic
1 sing-a-long
1 funny video that they didn't get but made them feel like big kids
1 lesson on carbonation
1 game of air hockey with a poker chip
2 pairs of small underwear
1 potty setback
3 girls who like Whoopie Cushions: 1 lady who doesn't
1 wrong order from LJS that tasted the same anyway ($17.50)
1 Cherokee dwelling replica completed in an apron.
1 long and relaxing talk with Wendy
1 letter for our new friend Maria

Total: one of the best days of my life.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Rolling with Stones

Wendy just got back from the doctor and it looks like she's got a lot more fun to look forward to with her kidneys. There are multiple small "stones" present and more tests ahead to determine a course (either to halt their growth or to attack them). So, one x-ray down and now one to come every six months (and a deductible to meet in the meantime). You can read about our first kidney stone experience here.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Okay, I'm always embarassed to admit that I actually write poetry--I fear it damages my manly image... Anyway, I wrote this the other night, in reference to Robbie Oyler in particular, but to suicide in general. Don't worry, I'm not suicidal, just melancholy lately. Richard Cory is a character from 1890-1897 created by Edwin Arlington Robinson. You can read his poem here.

Richard Cory was my friend
and all of us in love with him
were smitten on the third week's end:
he flew away like dust in wind.

Eyes that spoke of peace denied
and emptiness where hope should hide
and grace alone could not abide
the many, many nights he died.

Curse the year and curse the day
of birth and snakes and Adam's way
and all who look behind and say,
"What if?" "Why me?" or, "Let us pray."

Tears were made to bless the eye;
prayer was made to bless the sky.
Weep and sing and laugh and cry--
it's appointed unto man to die.

Despair's the price of Eden's pride
or if a sovereign Will presides,
pain's as deep as blame is wide,
reminiscing suicide....

(c) Steve Pruitt 2005
12:58 am

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Loss and Lingering

I apologize to those of you who don't want to be reminded of June 18, 2005, but it's been five months and I find that I am still struggling with my own thoughts and feelings. Robbie Oyler's death marked the third student I am aware of: James Norwood in 2002, Patrick Owen right before Robbie. For the past several days, I've been listening to Lifehouse's "Come Back Down" over and over in the car. I will forever associate it with Rob. In my own efforts to process and support Robbie's many friends and their own struggles, I fear that I have yet to really talk about it. I've yet to reconnect with the Sarwins or read the letters or visit the park in order to satisfy my own morbid need to tie off the loose ends.

Many of you were at the funeral and experienced that remarkable moment of both weeping and worship as Todd led us in singing "We Fall Down." It will remain a signature moment in my life--a sincere expression of hope, joy, pain and misery all in one instant. We have all wondered about the experience of sorrow once we enter the eternal Kingdom and I think we glimpsed the possibliity that joy and mourning can co-exist.

Some of you know my past and know my own struggle with depression, or at least the version I have shared with you. Others of you know the experience personally and you know the permanent changes that enter your life once you have ever opened the door to suicide. You know its lingering persistence and the frequent reminder that it exists and you know the resolve you have found to ignore it. Such is life, but it's been five months and I find it difficult to push aside and Robbie remains an ever-present memory.

Robbie took on significance in my life that was almost symbolic. Surely, he was one of my first students, but he never went away. Robbie's trips to college were always followed with time where we could reconnect and an ongoing knowedge of what his life was like. I can trace his story simply through the pictures I collected with him since he was in 6th or 7th grade. We were together in Atlanta, Colorado, Kentucky, Peru and Puerto Rico. I watched him grow in ways that I have never gotten to see--the journey of many years that I now experience only as a father--and I grew up right alongside him. In many ways, he shaped me.

Texas has been a season of difficulty and struggle and loneliness for me personally. His death was almost too much for us. Wendy and I had gone out for our anniversary to an Art Cafe in Plano with a gift certificate we won. It was the kind of place Robbie would have liked but would have made fun of--I am often surprised by how frequently I weigh my surroundings by what Rob would have thought. Tim called during dinner and we began the journey that his sickness has forced many of us to undertake. In numbness, we went on to the theater to see Batman Begins. Wendy needed to talk about it, but I needed a dark place to sit without speaking, a place to cry. Robbie would have liked that movie.

Pieces came together later. I understand why he didn't tell me he was in Dallas, but I still grieve the serendipitous conversation we had just a few months prior. I was testing new messaging software and Robbie was cleaning up a computer when we stumbled onto each other online. We talked a long time--I wish I had thought to save the transcript. He talked about coming to Dallas, getting a new start. He talked about the struggle he was having since the breakup, but I truly had no idea the real scope his depression had reached.

I wish so deeply I had known him these past two years, but I looked at a stranger in those recent pictures at the funeral. And yet, there was something so familiar. I remember those empty eyes and that vacant stare from my own life and I continue to mourn the loss of hope he was experiencing and the comfort he found in despair. God led me out of that place. Robbie didn't come out. It's so easy to trace a path of regret and wishes and to weigh our role in his life, but I know better. Depression is a bitter friend. It blinds you and deafens you and dulls you and sometimes it wins.

So, five months later, I'm continuing to unpack the emotion of that event and the place Robbie held inside me. Sometimes I feel that I have no claim for that kind of sorrow--Robbie had closer friends and stronger ties, but I cannot help what he had come to mean for me. Now I move forward, plagued by that sense of failure and loss, searching to find my own heart again. If the other events of our life in Texas were not so trying, I would say that we bask in the opportunities of seminary, but that's simply not true. It's been hard and I needed to get that all onto paper, or whatever this is. Superchick says it really well in "Beauty from Pain:"
I know it won't be today, but someday I'll hope again.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Day Without Expectations

Today, we ate lunch at a deli in Plano before making the trek home. The deli had allowed a very large group to reserve several tables and 3-4 families were forced to eat outside. We ended up with the only umbrella (I requested it since I saw it earlier) and it was pretty nice, but two of the other families weren't very happy and they let it be known. From the way they were dressed and the fact that one circled up to pray, it was obvious they had just come from church, so their complaints really stood out. Mind you, it wasn't the complaints that were awkward, it was the way they were made and the tone that was used--these were people who expected to be treated better than that and they spoke with condescension.

Perhaps a complaint was in order--it was unusual to reserve so many tables for such a small deli, but that's irrelevant to my point: what expectations cause problems for us as believers? What are we allowed to expect out of life?

I remember a staff prayer time back in August where Becky asked us to pray for her dental surgery and mentioned that she didn't have any expectations on the outcome of her procedure. That really struck me and I've been rolling it around in my head ever since. As an American, I expect to be treated a certain way. As a white man, I expect to be treated a certain way. As a working man, I expect to be treated a certain way. Those expectations are the source of much disappointment and anger in my life and I'm afraid that most of them are nestled down in some kind of pride and sin. Somewhere deep down, I think I deserve to be treated a certain way and I am angered when it doesn't happen. I wonder how much of it is just sin, straight out? As a believer, what expectations should I really have? Doesn't my Bible teach me that every good and perfect gift comes form the Father? Doesn't it teach me to be content? Doesn't it teach me to rejoice in hardship?

One thing it never teaches me is to expect things from people. It never teaches me to assume that I will be treated as special or noteworthy or even worthy. I think that realization is part of what makes the light of the gospel so bright--we shouldn't have expectations on life, it's been cursed. So, when God steps into the scene and offers to adopt me, it's a big deal. Really, what would it be like to live a day without expectations (ok, you need to expect bridges to hold you and stuff, but not expect others to meet your needs or standards)?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mourning in Waco

Jonathan tipped me to this link on his blog. It's an interview with Kyle Lake, the pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco who died this weekend. For those who don't know, University Baptist is where Dave Crowder worships--it's a church with a heart for our generation and it has lost its shepherd. Pray for them and their dependence on the other Shepherd as they seek to find their way.