Friday, September 15, 2006

Fund-Development Trip and Upcoming Attractions

I'm leaving Sunday for a 9 day fund-development trip through AR, OK, and TX. I'll be speaking at 2 dessert/coffee socials and meeting people one-on-one to discuss partnership in InterVarsity's ministry at Vanderbilt.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in hearing about InterVarsity's Graduate and Faculty Ministry who lives anywhere along my route, send me an email ( and let me know. I'm hoping to raise approx. 20-25% more of my support on this trip.

Please pray for safety in travel and God's favor in supplying our needs, and keep Monique in prayer as well--she's defending her Ph.D. dissertation proposal Sep 28!

The tentative schedule (right now):
Sun, Sep. 17--Leave Nashville and arrive in Vilonia, AR
Mon, Sep. 18--Dessert/Coffee Social w/ Presentation at home of Rhonda Harris
Tues, Sep. 19--Travel to Siloam Springs, AR, and meet with individuals (and possibly a group in a coffee shop)
Wed. Sep. 20--Travel to Stillwater, OK
Thurs, Sep 21--Dessert/Coffee Social w/ Presentation at the home of Jeff Cathey (hosted by Community Free Church, Stillwater, OK)
Fri, Sep 22--Meet with individuals in Stillwater and Oklahoma City
Sat, Sep 23--Travel to Tomball, TX
Sun, Sep 24-Tues, Sep 26--Meet with individuals in Tomball/Huntsville area
Tues, Sep 26--Travel to Nashville
Wed, Sep 27--Fly to Philadelphia to be with Monique for her dissertation proposal defense

I'll start posting several things on the blog after I get back from my trip.
1) A full report (w/ pictures) of the trip
2) More details on our regular ministries at Vanderbilt
3) Profiles of students and leaders in the Graduate Christian Fellowship
4) And the rest of the stuff I have been updates, book summaries, and comments.

Please keep us in mind the next few weeks.

God bless,

Monday, September 11, 2006

Minigolfing is fun!

This weekend saw our first social event for the year: minigolfing. We had about 10 people show up, and despite the little bit of rain, we had a great time. (I think I shot the best game of my life!)

One of the Four Commitments of InterVarsity's Graduate and Faculty Ministries is community. Our Grad Christian Fellowship social events help provide a welcoming environment for graduate students who need a time away from the grind of their studies. We hope these events help them reconnect with themselves, with each other, and with God.

Next month, we are taking a day retreat with study, worship, food, and games. Please pray that God uses this offering of ours to His glory and to the encouragement and edification of His people.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Public Displays of Devotion

This is an interesting post on Touchstone's Mere Comments blog about a Jewish man who was escorted off a plane for praying. If you read the article to which the blog connects, you'll see that there was more to the situation than just religious bias, but the fact that a religious person's prayers made others "uncomfortable" enough to complain to the flight attendants is an interesting sign of our times.

Isn't it interesting that "uncomfortable" is the word used, not "offended"? It sounds like a similar discomfort to the one I feel when I see a couple making out in a movie theater or park, or see a mother breast-feeding (without covering) in public. Making out and breast-feeding are beautiful things (in the proper contexts), but the culture in which I have been raised says that those are "private" things that shouldn't be trotted out before "public" eyes. The classic retort to the couple is "get a room," and I imagine that the same would be said for the mother. "Get a room" equals "find a private space to do that private thing." I wonder if that same "get a room" was being thought for the Jewish man praying.

If that's the case, then there is something deeper against which religious people must struggle in order to enter the genuine tolerance I discussed in my last post. The feeling that comes when people transgress "public" spaces with "private" actions goes far beyond religion and into the deepest part of our society. The questions society has to ask itself are these: "What is private? What is public? And, what overlap can we allow in the middle?"

And I will pray, no matter what society does, that Christians will always have the courage to pray in public for the world in Jesus' name, even if they get escorted off airplanes in the process.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"Tolerance" in the Classical Sense

[Under the tag "Comment" I will, well, comment on things I've found interesting. I hope you'll find it interesting, too]

Since Monique and I live about ten miles away from campus, I get to drive back and forth on the busy Nashville roads. Since a lot of that time is spent sitting and waiting for lights to change, I've started downloading podcasts to keep me occupied and thinking. One of these podcasts is the weekly National Public Media offering: "Speaking of Faith".

I find SOF so interesting because its host, Krista Tippett, seems to be an honestly struggling agnostic/spiritualist/secularist. Obviously educated, she embodies the ideas and culture of today's academy towards religion: that is, she genuinely believes that religion is good and helpful and able to articulate truth that science cannot. For that reason, I'll call her a "positive pluralist." That definition is over against what we might call "negative pluralists" of the previous several generations in academia, or more commonly, "atheists."

So, the title link is to an interview Tippett did this week with Eboo Patel, Muslim founder of the Chicago Interfaith Youth Core. What I found so interesting, and worthy of sharing, was that Patel embodied the definition of tolerance that I have heard American evangelicals espousing since "tolerance" became a liberal buzzword (that meant embracing all religions/ideas/lifestyles as equally true or valid). Instead, I and other evangelicals believe that tolerance really means being able to work with people who you really disagree with without losing one's disagreement.

Patel's organization is about bringing teens from different faith traditions together, getting them involved in service projects (such as tutoring or construction work), and then bringing them together to reflect on how their religious traditions effect their service. So, a Muslim might say that the Koran asks Muslims to give alms as part of their religious obligation, while a Christian would point to the example of Christ, the early church, and justification by faith (and so not by works or social standing). In so doing, the teenagers are forced to reflect on their faith in a way that they wouldn't have had the same thing been brought up in youth group.

As a Christian who does not believe that tolerance means embracing all ideas as equally true but instead believes that tolerance means being able to work with people who you really disagree with, I find the space created by Patel's organization (at least as portrayed on SOF) fascinating. Could it be that what we have argued against the liberals for so long has finally been embodied by a Muslim? Interestingly enough, Patel credits the pro-life cooperation of Evangelical Christians with Roman Catholics as an important inspiration for his work. He says at one point in the interview, "I love Evangelical Christians."

So, if you have an hour to kill, listen to the interview online or download it to your desktop or IPod. I'll be interested to hear what other evangelicals have to say on the topic.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ministry Schedule

I had my first meeting with the student volunteer leaders yesterday: Chris, Roger, Mary, and Kami. Over lunch we talked about the new semester and decided on the large-group events through December.

September: Minigolf and Ice Cream
October: Day Spiritual Renewal Retreat and Games
November: Movie Viewing and Discussion Group
December: Christmas Party

I am happy with this arrangement. In the past there were weekly large-group events, but they had shrunk considerably in the past due to graduate students' demanding schedules and other considerations. This year we are reserving large-group events for once per month, hosting 2 (possibly 3) small groups, and 2 lunch-time groups (Tuesday is Food For Thought, a discussion group. Thursday is just an opportunity for Grad Christian Fellowship (GCF) people to eat lunch together). There is plenty to choose from, and I hope that it will be a wide enough offering that people can pick what suits their needs and schedules.

Let me know if you have any other ideas for our monthly large-group gatherings!