A week in the life

I decided tonight, for no particular reason at all, that I’m going to carry my camera around with me this week and take pictures as I see fit. I don’t know why, or what I’ll take pictures of, or if I’ll even remember to bring my camera with me tomorrow. But hopefully this will be something a little different…something not quite as heavy and just a lot of fun to look at. I know I’m looking forward to it, and just to wet your appetite, here’s the first pic of the week (nomally there will be more than one):


Yankey

Josh Yankey: the roommate math-ing it up

Separation of church and state

I’m sorry that I’ve been so politcally minded lately… but then again this is my website, and I’ll write about whatever I feel like :)

I read somewhere that a case in Pennsylvania is coming before the courts which would allow teachers to teach the theory of “intelligent design” for the origin of the Universe. It seems as though people are finally starting to realize the absurdity and absolute illogicality of the big bang theory, Darwin’s claim to fame. Of course, critics of the bill just pass it off as Creationism in camouflage, and the proponents of the bill say it’s just a more accurate scientific theory of what happened. The whole debate goes back to 1987, when the Supreme Court ruled that the teaching of Creationism is violation of the separation of church and state. So apparently since Atheism isn’t a religious viewpoint, the Big Bang theory must be the only account we can teach in school.

I’m so sick of the American way. Our lawmakers and leaders claim to be giving ‘freedom and justice for all’ or whatever crap they proclaim, and end up giving more of a ‘freedom for the sissy crybabies who are too stupid to know better’ feel to our country. If we decided to teach Creation in public schools, then all sorts of rights movements would come out of the woodworks crying foul play, and eventually win their viewpoint and narrow us back to evolution again. Who loses in this case? Everyone. So we decide that since we don’t like a particular theory or belief, it’s better to just not think about it; and proceed to culture generation after generation of ignorant morons who have no ability to formulate understanding because they’ve never been forced to think for themselves. Unfortunately, this is not limited to public schools. Private schools do it just as much, only there things are approached from the other end of the spectrum.

I guess what it boils down to is being tired of people who become adamant in beliefs they have no way of justifying or proving. ‘I’ve always been told this, so I’ll just believe it even though I don’t know why.’ It’s true of almost all Christians as well–they believe things without having any sort of rhyme or reason to believe them. In the end, our ‘magnificent’ country continues to get lazier, fatter, and more ignorant than ever before. Smart countries like Japan, Korea, and the Netherlands pull ahead of us and leave us in the dirt (and for a lot less tax money than us). And I blame it all on a founding principle which has been misinterpreted since pretty much the time it was written. Well, that, and the fact that Americans are lazy.

Sorry to waste your time, but I felt like ranting and raving for a few minutes.

Chaplain

I was humbled today to be elected as male chaplain this year for Chorale. And while I am excited about the opportunity to serve the group in this capacity, I must admit it scares me a bit, too. I don’t know if it’s the fear of giving worthless devotions, or the fear that I can never speak my thoughts the way I can write them, or the fear that there are glaring blemishes in my walk that make me feel unworthy of being in such a position. All three of them are definite issues I am worried about, and I know all I can do is rely on God and draw from his strength…cliche, I know, but still true.

One of the things you may see frequently posted on Sunday and Tuesday nights will be my devotion as I am preparing it. I feel more confident if I write out things first before I just get up and talk about them, so hopefully I will get into a routine of writing my thoughts down, so they will be more organized and insightful the next afternoon in front of the risers. I know, some of you who read might actually see the devotion before I give it, but I’ll try and find some clever way to keep that from happening (or you could just not read it until later).

So here goes…
Genesis 12:6-9 says:

“Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. ”

One of the things we fail to see in our cultural context today is what it meant to actually build and altar in the Patriarchal time. To us, we think of the altar as the place we go to kneel and pray, or maybe the table in the front where we put the big Bible, or the communion, or the offering plates. In our minds, the altar is a piece of furniture which already exists and rests in the sanctuary of the church. And there’s nothing wrong with that, for God instructed the Israelites to build a permanent altar that was a part of the tabernacle courtyard, and traveled with them wherever they went.

But before God established the sanctuary for his people, building an altar was a physical commitment that required the majority of a day, if not more. For Abram to build an altar to the Lord meant that he first searched out an appropriate location for the altar. Once he found one, he then set out to find stones large enough to be used in building the altar. Of course once he found one, he would pick it up, lug it all the way back to the hill which the altar was at, and set it in place. This went on for hours, while the stones slowly accumulated until Abram had built the entire thing.

While he most likely worshiped the Lord after the altar was built, the majority of his worship actually came in the work he was doing! Hauling stones is no easy chore, and by the end of a day it can be rather tiring and even painful. So Abram was not spending all day preparing for worship, but actually spending the entire day in worship. Abram’s hard work and his physical sacrifice was the offering he presented to the Lord.

There will be days in this room when you, quite honestly, will not want to be here. You may be sick, or tired, or preoccupied, or just have a bad attitude about the whole thing. I know, I went through a long spell last year where I was frustrated with Chorale every day. But it’s important to remember that while we’re in here on the risers, this is our worship. Each hour we spend in rehearsal is another stone on our altar. When we sing in a church, people will see that performance and tell us how wonderful it was, and how it ministered to them, and how they saw us worshiping while we were singing, and that is the goal we’re striving for as a choir. But as an individual, or worship happens every day, right there on the risers. So when this may not be the place you most want to be, just remember that we’re building our altar, in worship of the almighty God.

There was a time…

Today in Theology we rather briefly discussed Arianism, which is a belief dating back to the 3rd century AD, when Arius began to preach a message that Jesus is not eternal, but rather that he was created by the Father at a certain point in time. They get this from at least one passage (I know they used scripture, but I can’t find which parts) mentioning something of the Son being conceived, or brought into existence sometime after God… thus making him not eternal. Arianism had a slogan of sorts: “there was a time when the Son did not exist.” Obviously I don’t agree with this, and historically neither has the church, as the notion died for a thousand years before it ever surfaced again within the church. But when I first heard the slogan, I originally heard, “there was a time when the sun did not exist.” Which is pretty easy to do, being that the two words are homophones, and sound exactly the same.

In case you don’t know yet, you should know that God’s creation amazes me, and especially his creation outside of our diminutive planet. The Universe is an incredible, wonderous thing, and often God reveals himself to me through it. When I originally misheard the Arianist motto, God revealed to me just a small portion of exactly how large he is. Because while the actual saying isn’t true, the misheard one certainly is. God existed before the Sun. God existed before the Universe. God existed before there was time.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t even fathom what it means to exist outside of the Universe. I mean, to humanity that is the bubble within which everything exists. To be honest, I know that when I think of God, I almost always think of Him inside the Universe. We get caught up thinking he’s got the whole world in his hands, and we forget he’s got the whole Universe there, too. But how can there be anything outside when there is no outside? What is it like outside of creation? Is it just a big, black nothingness where God exists, and watches the Universe like a chess game on the table? If not, then does God exist within some other creation? And if that is the case, then must we assume there is an even higher power? I don’t even know where to begin with those thoughts!

Or, say we forget the physical and think in terms of time! How is it possible to exist outside of time? My life has a finite beginning, and will come to a finite (although quasi-finite is a better term) end. I do not have the ability to change my movement down the timeline of existence. I can only look backwards and walk forwards. I am limited by the clockwise ticking of the second hand, and I can only perceive existence in such a manner. Yet for me to comprehend God, I would have to be able to see creation as a storybook. There was existence before I picked up the storybook. Once I picked up the book and created the beginning of time, then I am free to roam about it as I so choose. To the characters, the story still happens in a sequential order–page two still comes after page one–but existing outside of the story, I am free to flip to the back and read the ending before the timeline actually gets there.

I can’t grasp that!

The funny thing is that by learning more, I feel like I understand even less. Yesterday I was (unknowlingly) content to view God as contained within his own creation, and now I am forced to view him only outside of these human boundaries. Yes, of course I knew academically that God existed outside of these two limits, and I would have told you that if you asked. But there is a difference between knowing He does, and knowing he does.

Wow. And to think I have the nerve to think I’m something special. Without God, I am nothing.

The WU

If you’re looking for a response to my last post, don’t expect it in the very near future. I raised a lot of issues I am still deep in thought about, and Nate raised some more to make me think even longer. So I will eventually clarify my feelings on the issue, but not tonight. However I do have something pressing on my mind I want to share with whomever is reading, which unfortunately is probably not the people these particular thoughts should be read by.

I’m now starting out my fourth year at the WU. I’ve been here for three full years now, and if you consider the fact I was loosely tied with the college for 5 years before that, I’ve been around the campus a long time. I remember things like Bill hall, the campus before there were townhouses, and even a few roads that no longer exist in the bubble. But since I wasn’t a student until 2002, I’ll only base my feelings on the last three years, and how much things have changed since then.

In 2002 when I came to school, there was just over 2000 students in the traditional program. My freshman class of 600-some was the biggest ever, and we were starting to run out of room in the dorms. The atmosphere on campus was decidedly spiritual, and without question the #1 reason people came to IWU was for the spiritual atmosphere, which then was ranked best in the country by Campus Life. As a freshman I was pretty oblivious to the junk that goes on, such as drinking and sex and all those things you pay twice as much to not have at your school. But even though I know now that those kind of things happened, I still feel as though the vast majority of people here were serious about their spiritual walk, and came to find a place where they could–I can’t believe I’m using this phrase–integrate faith and learning.

Last year I had the chance to work chapels, which included a lot of hours spent up in the balcony at the sound booth running sound for chapels. Of course, it’s no secret that the balcony is the place to be if you don’t want to actually participate in chapel, and I saw my share of computer users, homework doers, music listeners, and even nap takers. Now in my Junior year, we were up to almost 2500 students, and there was a noticeable change in the atmosphere. There were finally enough students here that didn’t care about God that the ratio had been thrown off enough to change the overall atmosphere.

Now the word is we’re around 2700 students for this current year, and I feel worse than ever before. I can not only see, but I can actually feel the apathy that is coursing through the student body. I watched in amazement as 2700 students failed to worship in chapel on Wednesday because it was less than perfect. I’ve now counted four consecutive chapels where at least one cell phone rang during the message, or even during prayer. I am watching as more and more students use iPods during chapel, laptops abound, and groups have separate conversations with no regard for what is happening around them. And the worst part of it all is that not a lot of people really seem to care.

I don’t like to use my website as a place to blast leaders and tell them they’ve made bad decisions. I prefer instead to pose hard questions and instigate deep thought, first for myself and then for you. But I want to voice my opinion on this one. The decision to grow IWU beyond its capacity is the worst decision that could have been made for this school. First of all, our continued growth has only led to ridiculously high student to faculty ratios, which has served to make our academics even less reputable (as if it had any repute to begin with). Secondly, the campus has now lost any sort of that “well, you at least recognize faces” value it used to have, that is to say it’s lost the majority of it’s community feeling. So by growing just that much, the atmosphere of the campus has completely changed, and that was just from 1700 to 2700. Imagine what it will be like should we reach 3700. 4700. 5700. Sure, that will put us on the map as far as prominent Christian schools are concerned, but by that point who really cares? We already are experiencing the ‘mega church’ phenomenon; how much more will the WU experience it in future?

And besides all those things, what about the fact that a lot of people are drawn to the size of the student population as it is (was)? I loved my Freshman year, because it was just big enough to feel big, and still small enough to be small. Now it feels simply ‘too big,’ and if I was going to pick one word to describe how it feels now, that word would be “crowded.” But a campus has only a four year memory, and the days of ‘feels big but still small’ will soon be forgotten, as will the days when, on any given day, you could actually feel God moving through the student body.

It seems to me that a bunch of old rich people and disconneted pastors got together and decided on your standard American value of “bigger is better,” and then filled growth plans with grandiose visions of fame. Maybe the pastors were vicariously living out their mega church dream. Maybe the rich people saw it in terms of dollars and cents. I dunno. All I know is I am firmly rooted in my belief that it was the wrong decision.

But what do I care? I’ll be gone in 8 months. Besides, I’m too young to possibly know what could be best for the school. Better leave that up to rich donors who’ve earned a spot on the board by virtue of their capacious bank accounts and commiserable awareness of the WU. That sounds like a good idea to me.

“Made in Hell”

Many of you don’t even attend IWU, and therefore the only link you have to our thrice-a-week chapels is what you read or hear about it from those of us who do attend. And on top of that, those of us who are students are split between two different chapels, meaning that while worship and the message are brought by the same people and sought to be as identical as possible, there are always differences between what students hear and experience in chapels for any given day. Of course, being that I have been working tech staff for every chapel since last September (I missed one day because of Chorale, but 178 out of 180 isn’t bad), I have the opporunity to see and hear everything that goes on in Chapel.

If I can sum up Dr. Lennox’s message, it would be something to the effect of ‘trials are bad, but don’t worry… someday we’ll be in Heaven and they’ll all be gone.’ Now, I want to give him as much credit as possible, because he is far wiser and more educated than I; I am sure the goal of his message was to start the semester off with something that would spread hope among us students, who either are feeling or know we soon will feel the pressures of college life. But in the first chapel, he made one specific statement which stuck in my mind. He stated that all of the trials that we are going through are, of course, of evil origin (be it Satan, or the curse) and are, and I quote: “stamped with a sticker that says ‘Made in Hell.'”

If you ask your brethren in Christ, almost all of them would say they believe we go through trials in order to build our faith and our character. It’s very Biblical (James 1) that God allows trials to befall us in order that we may become more complete in Him. And I can’t disagree with the statement that some trials are evil in origin, and we see this in Job 1. But look at verse six, “angles came to present themselves to the LORD, and Satan also came with them.” God proceeds to ask Satan for an account for what he has been doing, and then throws out Job’s name. God actually began the process of Job’s trials. And yes, it was Satan that went about destroying Job’s life as he knew it, but the initiation of the process was God’s. It’s scripture.

One of the things I’ve been challenged with recently is this idea that trials and tribulations are not to make our lives difficult, but rather are God’s ways of stretching us and growing us into the person he wants us to be. Yes, the Word does say he gives us a way out of these times, but the challenge to me is that God’s will for me is not to seek the way out, but rather to persevere and grow through the hard times, for perseverence leads to character, and character leads to hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

Do I want to have hard times? Not really. But then again, in a way our struggles through the hard times is what defines us as a person, what defines us as a culture, and what defines us as humanity. Think about it–I can say I’m an expert in chemistry, but until my expertise is tested, there is no proof I really am. Testing of some sort is the basic structure of our entire academic process. In the same way, a friendship is not really proven until it has endured strains and hardships. And even love cannot be taken for granted. A person’s love must stand the trials it is subjected to, and only then will it truly be valid in the eyes of the loved.

I am sorry if this was just me spitting words onto my website. Lately I’ve been trying hard to read and reread my writings, trying to eliminate spelling and grammar errors, and checking to make sure I have made my point in a clear fashion. But this is pure, unedited rough draft. Just my thoughts, on paper. Sort of.

Pics from the vault (Part 2)

I got out my old desktop today, and after a little magic managed to get it to a point where it would function well enough to move all my old files off it. I didn’t care for most of them, but there was about 2GB of pictures I desperately wanted from it, and sure enough, I finally got them all off. So in light of yesterday’s pics, which I handily labeled ‘part 1,’ here are some more random pics, part deux. If you watch carefully, you can see me get fat as college goes on :)


Class Picture

Lakeview H.S. class of 2002 (Altos de Chavon, Dominican Republic)


Brookhaven seniors

Ben, me, Ryan, and Aeron… the youth group seniors.


Rupert Jee

Yep, Rupert Jee and I are good friends. (NYC)


Colts vs. Broncos

Colts vs. Broncos, 2003 Playoffs. What an incredible game.


Walter Scott's Home

Walter Scott’s home in Scotland.


Harney Peak

The guys on Harney Peak in SD. This one’s on my wall, I love it.

Pics from the vault (Part 1)

Jon Billings was expressing his disappointment at Yellowstone NP, so I thought I would demonstrate how great Wyoming can be when you go to the right part of it. Check it out:


Teton Range

Our first look at the Tetons

Teton Range

South Teton, Middle Teton, and Grand Teton

Teton Range

We had the friendly woodchuck take this one.

In other news, joshmorton.com had a great month even though it was forsaken all summer. I logged almost 5,000 hits from August 11 to the 31st (August 11 is when I switched over to my new hosting company, so I have no records prior to that). At that pace, I would have broken my record from April! Thanks for reading!

Life, the Universe, and Fantasy Football

the Universe: If you’re a fan of Douglas Adams, you recognized my spoof on the title of the third book in his “trilogy,” the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. While Adams grew up Christian, he eventually managed to somehow ‘reason’ himself out of it, apparently figuring that agnosticism is the only true belief. While I don’t agree with his faulty belief system, I do claim his famed saga to be my favorite collection of fictional literature, and in fact I’m looking right now at the complete collection which is proudly sitting on my bookshelf, right next to one of my HTML reference books. If you’ve never read the Hitchhiker’s Guide, I would highly recommend that you do. The basic storyline is a human traveling through space with his alien friend, recounting the adventures they have together after Arthur is pulled off the planet just seconds before it is destroyed to make room for an interstellar highway being built. What makes the book so great is not necessarily the story itself, but the satirical, refreshingly witty way in which Adams tells it. And while I can’t imagine a non sci-fi fan reading all five of the books, I do think it’s worth at least reading the first one, just to experience the genius that is the writing style of Douglas Adams.

Life: I am inching closer to making my first major purchase or two in the world of backpacking. Thos of you who have been following my adventures, even before I was writing about them, know that backpacking and its various related activities (kayaking, hiking, camping) have become one of my all-time favorite things to do. What I’ve been looking for recently is some basic equipment, for two reasons. First of all, I want to have the equipment to take extended trips into the wilderness, because I’ve found few things as physically, emotionally, and spiritually refreshing as extended periods of time out in God’s magnificent creation; and secondly, spending several hundred dollars to get into a hobby will just eat away at me if I don’t actually put the equipment to use. The three big items are a tent, a pack, and a sleeping bag. I already have an acceptable sleeping bag–certainly not the best, but it does the job–so that leaves me to find a pack to fit my needs, and a tent to shelter me.
The biggest problem I’m finding right now are the two different theories on how to properly backpack. One is the ultralight philosophy, where guys saw their toothbrush in half to save the extra dead weight. Their slogan is ‘light is right,’ and they like to push their beliefs on everyone else. The other guys tend to carry full-length toothbrushes, and generally carry a load ten to twenty pounds heavier than ultralighters. While they sacrifice the ease of lightweight travel, they also enjoy a few things the ultra guys leave behind, like toothpaste, and still having teeth (there is also a third group of luxury hikers, but anyone who carries chairs or cellphones or computers with them is no backpacker, but merely a poor RV enthusiast). Now I have nothing against trying to save weight, and I don’t even mind going a week without a shower or toilets or those types of things. But I refuse to sacrifice my teeth to save 6 ounces on the trail. So it appears I’m leaning towards the second theory, which probably means a more expensive pack and a lot of scorn from the ulralighters I know. Whatever my end decision is, at least I have the confidence of knowing I’ve spent hours and hours comparison shopping and review reading, and I have yet to be disappointed in any large purchases I’ve made when I’ve spent the time to do the proper research on the item. Still yet to be determined is the location of the next trip, which will be no later than mid-October, and hopefully sooner.

Fantasy Football. If you still don’t know what fantasy football is, accept this quick explanation as a hearty slap on the wrist. Fantasy football is a game where a group of people all get together and build teams of NFL players. These players form a starting roster, which scores points based on stats of that player during a given week. So, for example, if Peyton Manning throws three TDs, he’s just scored 18 points. Each week, teams go head to head, and whichever team scores the most points wins the game that week. From there on, it works pretty much like you would expect it to. We keep records of wins and losses, and the best teams make it to the playoffs, where eventually we crown a champion.
Now, the actual game has no semblance of physical prowess whatsoever, but is instead a mental game, challenging the knowledge of one man against another, and rewarding he whose football instincts (and luck) are greater than his opponent. Fantasy football is a way to insult, gloat, brag, and generally demoralize your opponents, but all to serve a greater purpose of male comraderie. In the end, fantasy football is a means of bringing friends together through a common medium to enjoy each other’s friendship, and we experienced that Sunday in a new and incredibly fun way.
Aaron Shepherd (again, link on the right –> ) explains our night very thoroughly, but I just wanted to comment on how much fun it was being with some of my favorite people, chillaxin in the Shepherd basement, doing something completely ridiculous and utterly amusing. For the first time, we had our draft in person, giving free reign of our opinions of players, pacing back and forth together, and tossing back the Mountain Dew. Yes, playing fantasy football is a lot of fun, but it’s the friendship that makes it worth playing. I really do love those guys, and look forward to a year full of rivalry, taunting, and sheer humiliation… just hopefully not of my team :)

The problem with being a writer

As I hope I’ve made clear recently through my writings, I like to write. If you don’t know by now, it’s a goal of mine to be able to call myself a writer and actually feel like I’ve earned the title. While there are many options open to me as to what career to pursue after college, only three of them consistently make the list, and getting paid to write is one of them (the others two are to be a pilot, or to… okay, there’s really only two I like all of the time).

The problem with being a writer is that you actually have to write things. Now, for many in the profession, that seems to be no problem at all. I can point to countless writers who are more faithful and more prolific at their writing than I. It seems like they never have the shortage of words that I experience so often. Honestly, I think the problem lies more in the fact that I don’t like to write unless I feel that 1) I have something worth listening to, and 2) I can write about that thing in a fresh and creative way. The last thing I want is to write things that feel like form letters.

So when I decide to write something, I usually start the process one to two hours ahead of when I actually login to my website and start typing. First of all, I start my standard evening routine of checking my email, and then heading straight here. I check for any new comments that may be there, and then look at what I last wrote and when it was written. Eventually there comes a day, much like today, where I decide it’s been too long between posts, and I must write again or ultimately lose the readership I so desparately want. So now that I’ve decided it’s time to write again, I leave my website and follow my links to all the other blogs I read, and keep up with what other people are busy saying. Then I usually get distracted by something, and do it for the next couple hours.

Okay, so two hours have gone by and we’re back to my undistracted self. It’s past midnight, I would rather be sleeping, and yet my desk light is on and I feel my website beginning to stare darts at me. There’s this little guy, and he starts whispering into my ear about how I’m not actually a writer and how terribly long it’s been since there have been any meaningful serifs or sans-serifs gracing my front page. So naturally I begin to write to disprove the little guy, working harder and harder to be creative and unique. Yes, I want to have my own “style” and have people say things like, “I like the way he writes,” or, “He’s got a unique style,” but then again, I don’t.

So I end up writing things that have absolutely no meaning whatsoever, such as the previous few paragraphs, or the thing about lemon water, or whatever. Hopefully I’ll one day start writing things that are insightful, or meaningful, or maybe I’ll get lucky and actually write something that makes you ask questions you’ve never asked before. Not that I can impart any sort of revelation of my own, but I do feel like God is always revealing himself if I’m looking for him, and I hope that I am focused enough on him day by day to actually grow in my knowledge of him. God gave mankind a wonderful thing called a mind, and with it we have the ability to think and ask questions and search for truth, and normally when I write it’s nothing more than all of those things coming out in words–I’m just trying to share my thoughts and feelings with you.

I have hundreds of topics and ideas and thoughts to write about, but I can’t seem to get a single darn thing out; this latest article a case in point. Once again, I have another relatively useless article on my hands. But I will also say that God made us to enjoy humour and entertainment, and I hope at the very least I’ve captured a little of both. Maybe not. But hey, at least the little guy is happy again.