About My Posts on Writing

My posting on the blog is lagging. The reason for this is that I’ve generally posted on the blog about theological and cultural-theological issues, while at the moment I am reading a lot of fiction and don’t have the time to summarize everything I read. I am working full-time now as a pastor but I am also in a writing workshop and reading a bunch of good short stories and things about writing. I am not particularly interested in getting in conversations on the blog about writing, so I have not been posting most of it.

With that said, I have said from the beginning that the purpose of this blog is mostly selfish. I write things here to store them so that I can use them in the future (mostly in sermons, but not always). So, I’ve decided to start making some posts on the books on writing I’ve been reading so that I’ll have the stuff for easy future-reference. You’d be surprised how much this kind of stuff shows up in my preaching as illustrations and the like.

My point in raising this is simple – I am not making statements about writing that I want to debate, nor do I consider myself a great writer. I am a preacher who also writes and is trying to learn about writing. Pretty much everything good I take away from books on writing has some sort of application to preaching. I save them and share them because I find them useful. I just want to share that to say where I’m coming from since these posts are going to start popping up regularly for the next few weeks.

Still Here

I just wanted to post a quick note to say that I haven’t forgotten about the blog. I am in the midst of ordination trials, plus my normal job, plus beginning my work at the church that has called me to be their new pastor (which will start full-time after Christmas). My reading has slacked off big time as I’ve been focusing mainly on prepping for ordination exams and studying for sermons, Sunday school lessons, and Wednesday night Bible studies every week. I’m looking forward to getting back to a more vigorous reading schedule soon…very soon.

I do have an interesting reading story though. Blog readers may or may not know that I’m a big fan of minimalist fiction. A few months ago I grabbed a Barry Hannah book for a quarter at the Goodwill. I’m a fan of Barry Hannah and quoted him regularly during my series on Ecclesiastes this year. Anyway, the book was laying with a stack of other books I bought at the same time. So I picked the book up to read randomly last night and not only did I discover that it was signed,  even more it was personalized to someone who was apparently a minister. Hannah wished him success in the ministry. The book is in mint condition and still had an advertisement in it for the particular event at which he signed the book. It was in May of 1985.

To think that someone gave it to the Goodwill. That has the makings of a story in itself.

I had someone offer to give their late husband’s library once. I said, “You better check with your children first, that’s some serious stuff.” She said, “The books are still sitting in his study and they never use them.” ‘But still,” I said, “Even if they don’t use them, they may have some major sentimental value.” “Nah,” she said. “They won’t care.”

Books are so personal. I imagine that the man who had this book signed left it behind at some point. And whoever he left it behind to didn’t value it in the same way. Those who are closest to us elude us. Tell your family why you like the books you like. I tell my children that every book I’ve ever bought has a story behind why I bought it and a story about my experience reading it. Sometimes we’ll go through my library and I’ll tell stories about such. I let my kids do the same to me. Try it some time.

Back at It

This past Saturday I finally had the letters M.Div attached to my name. It took me ten years to get there. I even went back to college in the meantime and started a new career. It’s been a busy 10 months since I resumed my studies and most of my reading has consisted of academic-theological stuff and most of my writing has consisted of exegesis and research papers.

If you want to keep up with my preaching, most of my sermons are being posted HERE. I’m presently working through the book of Ecclesiastes. If you dig through my recent sermons, you’ll probably hear me quote Lucy Grealy several times.

I’m going to get back to blogging through books. I’ve missed it. I’m starting off the summer with two books that are very different from one another:

  1. Autobiography of a Face,by Lucy Grealy. Lucy Grealy suffered from a rare form of cancer (in her jaw) from the age of 9. This led to a life of addiction that ended with a drug overdose at age 39. The book describes how her face, and the trauma of cancer, came to define her existence.
  2. A Vindication of the Moral Law, by Anthony Burges. Burges was a Seventeenth Century Puritan minister and member of the Westminster Assembly (which produced the Westminster Confession of Faith, Catechisms, etc.). This book is considered a classic in scholarly Reformed circles that deal with the relationship of law to gospel.

Checking In and Blog Records

The blog has remained relatively silent recently. Yes, I’m aware of this. I am finishing up my last semester at seminary, working, preaching, etc. I’m also working on my writing craft at the moment. I’m planning to submit some short stories for publication eventually, but not until after I graduate in May.

As the blog has been semi-dormant, the traffic on the site has actually increased substantially. In the past two weeks, the blog has seen three days at near-record levels of traffic (one of those days tying the highest traffic ever, the others coming within five hits of the record). The average traffic on non-record setting days has been up a good bit as well. January and March were the biggest months traffic-wise in the history of the blog. It’s always seemed like a pattern that the less I write, the more traffic the blog gets.

Anyway, I have quite a bit of stuff sitting in the queue that will need some work before I can post it. We’ll get there eventually, d.v.

Who Wants to Help Me Rename My Blog?

Change is coming. Who wants to help me rename my blog?

Yes, I’m nearing completion of seminary and it’s time to make the blog a tad more professional looking and easier to share. Which means I need a domain name.

I’m leaning toward having the word ‘cross’ in it, since that’s my last name. I also don’t want to use my full name. The problem is that names like crosswords, crosswind, across, and the like are mostly taken when it comes to .com addresses.

Any of you blog wiz kids out there have any ideas for domain names and/or advice going forward? Should I go for a non .com address?

Blog Update (Summer 2015)

Marshall McLuhan once said, “I have been slowly accumulating a private arsenal with every intention of using it.” Such is this blog for me. It is the accumulation of reading notes and ideas gleaned from such. McLuhan also said, “I don’t agree with everything I say.” That might apply as well.

With that said, I have been slowly decreasing the amount of content pumped into the blog as I have transitioned to a new phase in my life. This is actually good news (at least for me personally). Since February, I have transitioned in my professional work to the field of instructional technology and instructional design. This has been a big change that has required me to drastically adjust my schedule. Also, still preach at a variety of (PCA) churches nearly every Sunday. I haven’t had a Sunday off from the pulpit since March; that’s a good thing as well. This Lord’s Day, for instance, I preached at two different churches at 9 and 11am. That’s something that occurs regularly.

But, even beyond all this, and this is the point, I am resuming my graduate studies this Fall. We’ve been praying for this for the past five years and have finally found ourselves in a position for it to happen. My employer is supportive, and that helps. I’m really excited. This is the answer to numerous prayers – fasting days and sleepless nights.

For those of you unfamiliar with the process of seeking a Master of Divinity, it can be an arduous task to say the least. The degree I began seeking nearly 10 years ago, the M.Div at my particular seminary, is a 106 hour Master’s Degree along with requirements of learning the entire Westminster Shorter Catechism, gaining field experience, and passing a comprehensive Bible exam. The grading scale requires you to gain a 97% in a class to have a 4.0. I managed to finish 92 hours, pass my catechism exams, and complete my field education requirements before circumstances lead to a break in my studies.

Finally, I find myself in the position of resuming my studies and I’m extremely excited for the Fall. With that said, new content on this blog is going to continue to slow down. I will still make posts, but they will be far less frequent for the time being – at least until I get comfortable with my busier schedule. I’ve been able to balance my family and church life along with school and work pretty well for the past decade; pray for me that I’ll be able to continue to do so for the next year as I finish up the remainder of my M.Div program. I hope to begin seeking ordination after that; that’s been the goal all along, but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve sensed God’s call to the ministry of the Word since I was twenty years old, as a brand new convert, and while I’ve had God’s people regularly affirming that call on my life, it’s been a long period of testing and patience. I remain patient, but am ready to put this big step behind me.

In the past month I’ve read Tim Keller’s new book on preaching and a couple of random biographies, along with some Neil Postman. I’ve also been enjoying the late Dr. Knox Chamblin’s series of lectures on C.S. Lewis (I had the pleasure of being a student of Knox Chamblin before he passed; in fact, he is the man who turned me on to C.S. Lewis to begin with). I recommend them very highly. In the midst of all that, I’ve found very little time to write about what I’ve read and listened to. I think that’s going to continue to be the case for a while. You can probably look for me to post about once a week for the indefinite future (perhaps there will be a few spurts here and there). I’ll still respond to comments and all of my old content will remain available.

I basically just wanted to give those of you who actually read my blog regularly a heads up. Let me know going forward if there’s anything in particular that I can help you with as far as discussion; and, as always, let me know if you read something you really like and think I should read it as well. As one of my other professors used to say – pray for your brother.

Blog Changes

FYI: I have changed my header categories a bit, primarily based around the amount of traffic different subjects attract. The new sections are Book Recommendations and Theology, Law & Gospel. I added a Technology & Culture section a while back. The Book Recommendations page has been in the works for close to a year and I still haven’t finished it. I thought this would come in handy when folks ask me about books that I would recommend. I include categories ranging from theology to children’s books.

These pages are works in progress and I will be adding links to them as I get the chance.

Blog Update (April 2015)

So, I’m basically writing this to explain the fact that my posting will be sporadic for a while. (I never know whether I need to explain things like this). If you don’t see a post for a week, it doesn’t mean that I’m going away.

My feng shui has recently been messed with by a change in jobs and extra preaching opportunities. These are good things, but my routine is in shards. I have had a set daily routine for about five years. I didn’t even let a return to college mess up that routine. My wife says I’m like a robot. But now, with my new job, I’ve had to make some changes. I am working more hours and getting up earlier in the morning. In the past I was able to stay up way later than I should have in order to read, study, and write while my children were asleep. Nevermore.

I still have time to blog, but my new-year-goal of reading a novel a week is challenging and has forced me to cut down on the amount of nonfiction I am reading. Hence, less to blog about.

I’m a month into the new schedule and I still haven’t really settled into it. It’s going to take some time. It may be two weeks or it may be two months, but during that time I will probably only post once or twice a week and it will mainly concern the fiction I’m reading. I’m always willing to have discussions in the comments, whether or not they relate to the post (within reason).

That is all. Anybody want to recommend a book? Preferably modern, and less than 300 pages would be a plus.

Of course, this means I’ll suddenly get inspired and start posting every day.

52 Novels in 2015?

I took a lot of psychology classes in college: cognitive psychology, abnormal psychology, behavioral psychology, psychology of learning, etc. Which class it was escapes me, but somewhere along the way, the teacher began the first class with a famous quote, I think from Heraclitus, about change being the only constant. Like the words of an old country song, Time Marches On: “the only thing that stays the same is, everything changes. Everything changes.”

I was immediately disgruntled about the quote. I protested. If everything changes, then there is no constant. It is a self-contradictory statement. But that would be me assuming that psychology classes would be logical (of all things!). And such is the problem with hyperbole in general. The problem with hyperbole is that it is so hyperbolic. But I digress.

Now I come full circle with Heraclitus. My only New Year’s Resolution is not to have any New Year’s Resolutions. Every blog I read has them. They’re making them; they’re telling us how to make them; telling us how lofty our goals should be; telling us not to be overly ambitious; telling us not to set the bar too high and not to set the bar too low. They’re discussing how many resolutions we should have. They’re sharing every Bible reading plan under the sun. I’ve done the same myself in years past.

Yet I a nagging desire to set goals for a new year tugs at my soul. My bent towards introspection peers deep down and asks me questions. Where are you? Where have you been? What do you need?

I read mostly philosophy, social commentary, and theology last year (though I read a good bit of fiction with my kids, and some on my own). This year, I feel the need for more fiction. A lot more fiction. Even some modern fiction, which is an area in which I have read next to nothing. I am Jack’s languishing imagination. (See below).

I need to read a novel a week for the entire year. That’s the ticket.

Maybe I need to see a shrink for thinking I will have the time or wherewithal to do so. But we do have a decent library in town.

I try to remember that the climax of the Epistle of James is “Above all, my brothers, do not swear an oath…” (James 5:12). ‘Above all,’ he says. Faith without works is dead. Be a doer of the Word, not just a hearer. But above and beyond that, most importantly, do not swear an oath! He is stressing the fact that we are frail creatures who often do not have the power, either morally or physically, to live up to our word. Therefore I make no promise, but will set a goal that I will attempt to meet should the Lord allow me to do so in his providence. Rash vows (nod to Chesterton) can be beautiful things, but they can also be acts of sinful pride.

I will still be reading theological and cultural works as well. I will still have my nose in the commentaries and Puritans. But, starting this week, I will be reporting on my progress as I strive to read 52 novels (or at least 52 decent-sized works of fiction) in the space of a year. Up first…

Fight Club.

I am Jack’s rash vow.