Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dear Professor

Last Friday, I was on campus to grade the ScanTrons for the multiple choice portion of my students’ final exams. Earlier in the semester, a professor had set out stacks of unwanted books, but I hadn’t had the time to look through the pile until that morning. Among old textbooks, I found John Warwick Montgomery’s History and Christianity which looks how historical methods are applied (or misapplied) to the New Testament record. The copy had been discarded from a local Christian college’s bookstore in 2000 (according to the stamp inside), and apparently made its way to my colleague’s office via a concerned student:
Dear Professor -----, Okay, bad start of this note. You said, and quite rightly, that most Christians, once you start examining their belief structure, you find them having a central belief system about as sturdy as pudding. This book examines and argues for Christianity from history, and is one of the many reasons I love history. My hope is that, as a historian, you will find the argumentation scholarly and of interest. I am not the type to follow anything or anyone blindly, and the case within I hope you do not find a waste of your time. As I will be up the road at ---------, and taking a course at --- in the fall, if you wish to speak with me, don’t be too slow to call or write.

The note was signed with the student’s name, phone number, and email address. It’s obvious from the tone that he was trying very hard to appear polite and formal and avoid sounding as uneducated and uninformed. As I scanned his note, I began to feel sorry for him. Why? I can imagine him vigorously scrawling on the inside cover with the sincere belief that his endorsement of a “scholarly” book would win instant approval. Although it’s impossible to tell whether or not the professor ever looked at Montgomery’s arguments, I strongly doubt it because of my knowledge of similar instances. It’s not necessarily a slight on the authors chosen, but a statement about reality. People – especially intellectuals and academics – listen to their social equals. A zealous student, poorly armed and in this case too insecure approach the target in person, isn’t going to impress even his Christian professors.

Do I think he should’ve left the professor alone? Of course not! Worse would be to entirely give up on the skeptical to outright hostile academics. But what I’d like to see is a better approach to witnessing, one that’s more likely to produce results. Maybe a series of office hour conversations that give both parties an opportunity to elaborate on their views, and specifically, the student an opportunity to earn the professor’s respect. Maybe an invitation to hear a speaker or witness a public debate featuring well-known and respected academics that the professor might be familiar with. But quietly gifting a book that the average professor doesn’t wish to take the time to read, even with an invitation for further discussion, doesn’t seem effective. Our goal as Christians isn’t to tallying up high number of tracts we distribute. We want to convert souls. And to do that, we need to meet people where they are.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Novel Homeschoolers: Rebecca Vaughn Is on Amazon.com

Like ancient Celtic history? Check out my sister’s new short stories – “The Politics of Benadel” and “The Finding of Cinuit” - (free to Amazon Prime members!). Back in 2002, Rebecca Vaughn began writing a fictitious account of Christian Britain’s third high king Ambrosius Aurelianus (called the “Pendragon”). This has slowly materialized into a six-book series beginning with Son of the Burning Rowen. Rebecca also has been working on its prequel, the forthcoming The Beast of Caer Baddan, about Owain Finddu, Prince of Glouia, and a number of shorter works that serve as appendices to the Pendragon’s story. “The Politics of Benadel” highlights the sort of political maneuvering female royals resort to in desperate situations. “The Finding of Cinuit” looks at the often shaky relationship the between the Celtic people and their Pictii (Novantae) neighbors. Please take a peek at my sister’s Author Facebook Page for more information and announcements.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Etsy Treasury: Hillbilly Chic

'Hillbilly Chic' by gbychan

I might be a native Californian, but I'm also more than a quarter hillbilly. The giveaway is going barefoot. This is my tribute to my Tennessean grandmother, a crafter in her own right.

Summer's Glow - Mas...

Rustic Weathered Pine C...

French Country Style Ba...

3 Legged Bluegrass Tray...

Making Soap original oi...

Banjo Lamp, Desk/Readin...

Old Fashioned Washtub V...

Treasury tool supported by the dog house

Wednesday Devotional: ‘One Hope’

Johnson's Dictionary (1828 Edition, Google Books)
“Hope” is such a positive, uplifting sort of word, and its linguistic roots and ties suggest that it was invented that way. It’s regularly understood as having a positive spiritual meaning, so much so that it’s sometimes difficult to detach it from its spiritual usage in everyday conversation. Christian can share a common hope for a better future, for salvation, for the destruction of earthly enemies, for the return of Christ, for whatever. What I wasn’t aware of was that the Greek word often translated as “hope” (ἐλπίς) also has a possible negative definition that doesn’t match our choice of English word. According to Thayer and Smith’s “The New Testament Greek Lexicon,” ἐλπίς can convey not only an anticipation or expectation of something desired and pleasurable (the usual interpretation), but also of something evil or fearful.

Although I trust that Bible translators have taken great pains to use our “hope” when the text strongly suggests something positive, I do wonder how an underlying negative sense might alter our understanding of a particular text. For example, in Ephesians 4:1-6 the Apostle Paul stresses the unity of believers who share a common “body,” “Spirit,” and “hope” (ἐλπίδι in 4:4). Although this typically might be interpreted as the first century Church expecting Christ’s return and the resurrection of the dead, maybe it also could be the expectation of God’s fierce judgment and the eternal punishment for sin if we don’t comply with His demands. In other words, we’re not just united by our “hopes,” but also by our fears. Rather odd to think about.

This post’s topic is based on the Wednesday Devotional Theme covered tonight at Alhambra Church of Christ.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

We’re Engaged!

Our Family BBQ Engagement Photo
Actually, I’ve been engaged to marry Gabriel “Cowboy” Estrada, preacher with the Alhambra Church of Christ, for awhile now. We bought the ring on Tuesday, April 17, but we waited until our Saturday, May 5 family BBQ to make a formal announcement. Now I’m in the process of planning an October wedding and redecorating my fiancé’s house, and the semester still isn’t over!

1907 Howard Cabinet Grand
My first action as a newly engaged woman was to purchase a piano, since it’ll be a bit of a drive to my parents’ house. My brother-in-law, Rebecca’s husband, helped me find a 1907 Howard Cabinet Grand in fantastic condition. He’s already set to work repairing and retuning it.

Wedding Present No. 1
Of course, a number of family and friends heard about our engagement beforehand. After Gabriel and I participated in Newland Street Church of Christ’s annual “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” on April 21, our “crafty” hostess started working on my first bridal present: a “bow holder” shaped like a doll that’s to be used as a rehearsal bouquet.

Wedding Present No. 2
And last Friday, my mom (Karen) surprised me with a second present – measuring cups and spoons – after hearing me recount my near cooking disaster trying to follow Whole Food’s Peruvian-Style Roasted Chicken with Sweet Onions recipe. I’m usually not a cautious person in the kitchen, which is why I didn’t notice months ago that Gabriel didn’t own a set. However, that day, I didn’t feel like experimenting with cumin and paprika. Luckily for both of us, the chicken turned out great.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Second Monday Random Stuff II

AHAlife: Temperature Controlled Baby Blanket - 37° has found another use for the stuff NASA spacesuits are made of.

Zooniverse: Moonzoo - Explore the Surface of the Moon - Whether eerie or beautiful, the man on the moon needs to have every blemished recorded for posterity, and you can help out.

A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Jonson - For those of us who can't stand homeschoolers who quote from Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary.

Slavery Footprint: How Many Slaves Are Working for You? - This is a lot more disturbing that calculating a “carbon footprint.” Too bad they chickened out on the sex trafficking issue by not including the pay-for-sex question in the final score.

Zooniverse: Ancient Lives - Study the Lives of Ancient Greeks - Think transcription is easy? Help scholars work on the Oxyrhynchus collection.