Thursday, December 29, 2005

Maintenance and Mission Revisited

I’ve posted about this a little before, but it’s on my mind again so we’ll revisit an old subject:
It is an identity shaping choice that must be grappled with by every church and every Christian. Will you focus on maintenance or mission? Will you doggedly fight change and innovation in order to maintain your forms, or will you boldly innovate and change in order to pursue your mission? I received some feedback to the original piece I wrote on this which implied that this was a false choice and that there was a way to pursue both or find a middle ground. I disagree and submit that even when both are supposedly pursued, one is the slave of the other. Slight innovations are “permitted” as long as they don’t radically affect forms or, alternately, loose ties may be maintained to traditions while innovation is “pursued” to accomplish the mission.
I think it becomes a question of what God is actually trying to do and how He works. Does God desire for the things He created to be static and unchanging or does He desire for them to be dynamic and “going somewhere”? In one scenario, God creates a static, perfect world that is supposed to stay the same. We mess that up, so He sets up the church which is to stay the same in the midst of a ruined world. On the other hand, what if God created a “good”, dynamic world that is “loaded with potential”…that was supposed to develop and go somewhere? What if, even though it went off course, God didn’t give up on it? What if God established the church as something that was “good” and loaded with potential? What if it was meant to be dynamic and going somewhere?
I continue to land on “Mission” as opposed to “Maintenance” as the defining characteristic of the church and I continue to assert that these choices are “opposed” to each other. Do you know what you call a living organism when it stops changing? Dead.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Knock-Off Christian Junk For Sale

I was Christmas shopping yesterday and saw this for sale at the local Christian Bookstore. After I finally stopped laughing I snapped a pic of it to share with you. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Influence of Creation and Eschatology on Worldview and Mission: Part 7 (Conclusion)

A New Kind of Restoration Movement
     I would like to propose a new kind of “Restoration Movement”.  I believe that we must learn to see “worldview development” as one of the primary aims of the church.  This is crucial for children’s and youth ministries. However, because of the dearth of attention it has been given in some churches and the Escapist turn it has taken in others, communities of faith would be wise to place substantial emphasis on worldview formation in general for everyone.  We must teach the people of God to once again locate themselves within the Story.  Until we understand who we are, where we are, what the problem is, and identify the solution, the church will never function as God intends and dreams for it to.  Is it possible that the Escapist worldview that is so dominant in North America has actually been producing “disciples” who end up more self-centered rather than less?  What if the church learned to see itself inside God’s Story, partnering with Him to turn the world right-side-up?  We look forward to the Day when the Messiah returns and the dream that we’ve been pouring our lives into comes to fruition.  We press forward into God’s future of peace, harmony and Shalom.  We believe that God never gave up on the Creation He loves, and we can’t wait to see what He’s going to do with it.  We believe that those who have gone on before will be back to see it with us.  We believe that the God who created the cosmos has the power to make all things new.

  1. Bell, Rob…Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005

  2. Campolo, Tony and McLaren, Brian D…Adventures In Missing The Point.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2003

  3. Grenz, Stanley J…Theology For The Community of God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000

  4. Moltmann, Jurgen…In The End—The Beginning. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004

  5. Warren, Rick…The Purpose Driven Life.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002

  6. Wittmer, Michael E…Heaven is a Place on Earth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004

  7. Wright, N.T….Creation and New Creation in the New Testament. Vancouver: Regent Audio, 2003

  8. ________...Paul for Everyone: Romans Part 1.  Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004

  9. ________...Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters.  Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004

  10. _________...The New Testament and the People of God.  Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992

  11. _________...”Farewell to the Rapture,” Bible Review, August 2001

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Influence of Creation and Eschatology on Worldview and Mission: Part 6

Ignoring The Problem
     There exists a third option that many Christians and churches opt for.  They ignore the issues all together.  They simply use the creation narratives to disprove evolution.  They roll their eyes at any discussion of eschatology and utter a dismissive statement such as “As long as I’m on Jesus’ side at the end, I don’t really care about the details.”  While there is a grain of truth hidden in the statement, it is quite a dangerous conclusion to reach.  As we have seen thus far, one’s view of Creation and Eschatology fundamentally shape one’s worldview.  Simply ignoring creational and eschatological questions creates a vague and directionless worldview.  They have no clear sense of who they are.  They aren’t really sure of the importance of where they are. They know that sin is a problem and would rather go to heaven than hell.  They know that Jesus death is somehow the solution to this problem.  In the same way as the Escapist worldview, this perspective quickly becomes individualistic.  But, additionally it is vague and directionless.  It carries with it a nebulous sense that there are things in this world that should be attended to by God’s people, but offers no clear answers as to what, how, or why.  It constructs a reality where the people of God have no real sense of the beginning of the story that they live in, and even less of where it is going.  The consequence is that they have great difficulty finding anc performing their role.

Deconstructing and Reconstructing a Worldview
     The interesting thing about the Escapist worldview is that, despite it’s popularity in North American Christianity, it’s origins seem more deeply rooted in Greek philosophy and even Gnosticism than early Christianity or even Judaism. Michael Wittmer explains, “Although the early church fought valiantly to defeat Gnosticism, it never did entirely overcome it’s deep attraction to Greek philosophy, particularly that of Plato.  Plato held to a spirit-body dualism that was strikingly similar to Gnosticism.  Like the Gnostics, he believed that our eternal souls formerly inhabited an ethereal heavenly world.  At birth, these souls entered our bodies, where they remain trapped inside these physical prisons until death releases and returns them to their celestial home.  Consequently, Plato taught his students to value the eternal, spiritual world and distain this temporal, material existence.  He said that the goal of life is for our souls to rise above our bodies and contemplate the spiritual world from which they came.”  As is evidenced by countless sources, this stands in stark contrast to the Jewish and hence early Christian understanding.  The Jews did not believe in an afterlife in the same sense that the surrounding Pagans did.  They believed that God had made promises to Israel and that when those promises came to fruition, the people of God who had died before their fulfillment would be physically raised in order to enjoy them.  As Wright says in The New Testament and the People of God, “As such, ‘resurrection’ was not simply a pious hope about new life for dead people.  It carries with it all that was associated with the return from exile itself:  forgiveness of sins, the reestablishment of Israel as the true humanity of the covenant god, and the renewal of all creation.  Indeed, resurrection and the renewal of all creation go hand in hand.  If the space-time world were to disappear, resurrection would not make sense.”  There is every reason to believe that the early Christians held to a modified form of this basic belief, particularly in light of the fact that in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul offers Jesus resurrection as a “firstfruits” of ours. Paul uses Jesus resurrection as an argument in favor of ours (and vice-versa) presumable to argue against the Gnostic heresy.  Further, Romans 8:18-25 indicates that Creation itself has the same promise as the children of God and eagerly anticipates the time when both we and Creation will be freed from the curse.  As Wright points out in his commentary on Romans, “From this point we can see with astonishing clarity, the whole plan of salvation for all of God’s Creation.”  Revelation 21 pictures God as coming down from heaven to make his dwelling with men and declaring, “I am making all things new.”  In a book he co-authored with Tony Campolo called Adventures in Missing the Point, Brian McLaren comments, “If our theologies focus only on the eternal and the individual (i.e. getting my soul into heaven) so that we avoid God’s concern for the historic and the global (i.e. God’s will being done on earth as well as it is in heaven), then the more people we win to our theologies, the fewer people will care about God’s world here and now.”  Even as we look at these passages from scripture, I am aware that those with an Escapist worldview feel that they have plenty of scripture that they can point to for their position.  Indeed, they feel it is based primarily on scripture.  In an article for Biblical Review, Wright articulates the problem:  “Paul’s misunderstood metaphors present a challenge for us: How can we reuse biblical imagery, including Paul’s, so as to clarify the truth, not distort it?  And how can we do so, as he did, in such a way as to subvert the political imagery of the dominant and dehumanizing empires of the world?  We might begin by asking,  What view of the world is sustained, even legitimized by the Left Behind ideology? How might it be confronted and subverted by genuinely biblical thinking?  For a start, is not the Left Behind mentality in thrall to a dualistic view of reality that allows people to pollute God’s world on the grounds that it’s all going to be destroyed soon?  Wouldn’t this be overturned if we recaptured Paul’s wholistic vision of God’s whole creation?”
(To Be Continued)

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Influence of Creation and Eschatology on Worldview and Mission: Part 5

     As you can see, our worldview is radically affected by our creational and eschatological perspectives.  Even though we live in the same world and are working from the same source material, we end up with two fundamentally different narratives.  The world is indeed a different place depending on which lenses it is viewed through.  Worldviews, as the term itself suggests, have far reaching implications that permeate every aspect of life and faith.  We will take a brief look at those areas that are most pertinent to our current discussion.

Implications for Salvation
     The Escapist worldview sees salvation in terms of being saved from both “the world” and from eternal punishment in Hell.  Salvation is seen as an individual enterprise.  Individuals follow a prescribed “plan of salvation” so that they may be granted the salvation of their souls (spiritual essences) from everlasting torment in the afterlife. Escapists also see salvation as granting them entrance into Heaven, the spiritual realm of God.  In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren speaks out of this mentality when he says, “While life on earth offers many choices, eternity offers only two: heaven or hell.  Your relationship to God on earth will determine your relationship to him in eternity.  If you learn to love and trust God’s Son Jesus, you will be invited to spend the rest of eternity with him.  On the other hand, if you reject his love, forgiveness and salvation, you will spend eternity apart from God forever.”  While Warren goes on in his book to plead with followers of Jesus to live lives of service, his point here is clear.  Salvation is about individuals securing their place in the afterlife.
     In contrast, the Restorationist worldview sees salvation in more holistic terms.  Far from merely securing the eternal destiny of one’s own spiritual essence, Restorationists see themselves as partnering with God in the “restoration of all things”.   They certainly believe in an afterlife in which the children of God are resurrected and live in harmony in renewed creation.  They believe their individual place in the afterlife to be only a part of God’s salvific plan, and certainly not an end unto itself.  As Stan Grenz eloquently states in Theology for the Community of God, “We are alienated from God, of course.  But our estrangement also taints our relationships with one another, with ourselves, and with creation.  Consequently, the divine program leads not only toward establishing individual peace with God in isolation; it extends as well to the healing of all relationships—to ourselves, one another, and to nature.”   In short, Restorationist believe that God enacted a plan for the saving of everything from effects of sin.  When we enter into relationship/covenant with God, we not only become recipients of salvation, we also become salvific agents.  

Implications for Church: Identity and Mission
     Since the Escapist worldview sees salvation in primarily individualistic terms, “church” is seen as a collection of individuals who hold to the same beliefs and practices.  The primary focus of the praxis of Escapist churches is the main worship gathering.  Their buildings and their gatherings are seen as a haven from the outside world that they desire to escape.  Their programs tend to focus on the piety of the individual and their separation from the world.  The emphasis is on attaining and, in some cases, maintaining individual salvation.  The mission of Escapist churches does extend beyond personal individual salvation to the evangelism of others, but seemingly only as a secondary concern.  Escapist churches and Christians focus almost exclusively on the afterlife.  Their focus on service in this world is seen only as a means of responding to personal salvation or as a means of gaining and retaining rewards in the afterlife.  Rick Warren further illustrates this view in The Purpose Driven Life, “Life is a temporary assignment…earth is only a temporary residence, so don’t get too attached…This is not your permanent home or final destination.  You are just passing through, just visiting earth.”  In regards to service, he continues ”At that point all our excuses for self-centeredness will sound hollow: ‘I was too busy’ or ‘I had my own goals’ or ‘I was too preoccupied with working, having fun, or preparing for retirement.’  To all excuses God will respond, ‘Sorry, wrong answer.  I created, saved and called you and commanded you to live a life of service.  What part did you not understand?’  The Bible warns unbelievers, ‘He will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves,’ but for the Christian it will mean a loss of eternal rewards.”  
     Churches with a Restorationist worldview (in the sense that we are using it here) see themselves as God’s agents in the world.  They see themselves as “citizens” of the Kingdom of Heaven, but not in the sense that the phrase is interpreted by Escapists.  In his commentary on the Prison Letters, N.T. Wright explains: “’We are citizens of heaven’ Paul declares in [Phil 3] verse 20.  At once many modern Christians misunderstand what he means.  We naturally suppose he means ‘and so we’re waiting until we can go and live in heaven where we belong.’  But that’s not what he says and it’s certainly not what he means.  If someone in Philippi said, ‘We are citizens of Rome,’ they certainly wouldn’t mean ‘so we’re looking forward to going to live there’.  Being a colony works the other way round.  The last thing emperors wanted was a whole lot of colonists coming back to Rome.  The capitol was already overcrowded and underemployed.  No: the task of the Roman citizen in a place like Philippi was to bring Roman culture and rule to northern Greece, to expand Roman influence there.”  This is how Restorationists view their identity and mission in the world.  They are a community that exists as an outpost of the Kingdom of God.  Together they live out Shalom in the midst of disharmony.  Their lives are instances of the Kingdom of God breaking into the kingdom of the world.  They are the covenant people of God who are blessed by God to be a blessing to the world.  They evangelize, not primarily to secure the eternal fate of ‘spiritual essences”, but to invite others to exchange their own reality for God’s and to invite them to partner with God in the realization of His dream.  They are not under the impression that this can be accomplished by human effort alone and are awaiting a day when the Son of God will return and the dream they have been pouring their lives into will become reality.
(To Be Continued)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Influence of Creation and Eschatology on Worldview and Mission: Part 4

     In his book, Heaven Is A Place On Earth, Michael Wittmer states that ‘worldview’ is “a translation of the German word Weltanshauung, [and] has been variously described  as ‘perceptual frameworks,’ ‘ways of seeing,’ ‘the set of presuppositions…which we hold…about the basic make-up of the world,’ and ‘the conceptual framework  of ones basic belief about things.’”  Wittmer continues by pointing out that “The common theme running through these definitions suggests that a worldview is a framework of fundamental concepts or beliefs about the world.”  “In short,” says Wittmer, “a worldview comprises the lens through which we see the world.”   Everyone has a worldview, whether they are cognizant of it or not.  Everyone has a set of presuppositions that determine how they interpret the world around them.  N.T. Wright argues that worldviews are “profoundly theological,” and offers the following questions as a means of determining the worldview of an individual or group:

  1. Who are we?

  2. Where are we?

  3. What is wrong?

  4. What is the solution?

We will now attempt to answer the above worldview questions within the framework of each of the stories we have outlined thus far. From this point on, we will refer to the first perspective as the “Escapist” view, and the second perspective as the “Restorationist” view.

An Escapist Worldview
1.  Who are we?
We are immortal souls (spiritual essences) encased in immoral bodies.  We were created in the image of God, but that image has been so damaged that it can never be recovered in this life.  We are the Covenant people of God who believe the right things and uphold God’s moral code.

2.  Where are we?
We live in a fatally damaged world.  When our world was created by God, it was “perfect,” but very early on in our story we made a decision that damaged it.  It is now either spiraling into oblivion or simply existing until God destroys it.  It can still, at times, be quite beautiful, and that beauty reminds us of our Creator.  However, our world is irredeemably damaged and will be burned up on the last day. This world is fundamentally not our home and we exist here as “aliens” and “foreigners”.

3.  What is wrong?
Human beings made an incredibly destructive choice near the beginning of the story (Gen 3), and ruined the perfection they were charged with maintaining.  Our souls are immortal, but are separated from God because of individual sin.  Destruction is inescapably coming to everything physical, and our (individual) “immortal souls” are bound for eternal punishment.

4.  What is the solution?
God became a man and died vicariously for our sins.  We must simply believe and obey to save our individual immortal soul from eternal punishment.  Ideally, these “saved” individuals will share the basic propositions one must believe and the “plan of salvation” with others so that their “souls” will be “saved” as well.

A Restorationist Worldview

1.  Who are we?
We are the people of God, created in His Image. That image is distorted by the Fall, but is still there.   We are the Covenant people of God, who are blessed in order that we might be a blessing.  Our understanding of ourselves in holistic and cannot be broken down into “parts”.

2.  Where are we?
We live in God’s world which he created and loves.  God loves Creation simply because it exists.  We believe that this world was created “good”(in the dynamic and “loaded with potential” sense), and not perfect (in the “complete” and “static” sense).  We believe that God created us and this world to live in harmony with each other and with Him.

3.  What is wrong?
Human beings make an extremely destructive choice very early on in the narrative.  That choice has far reaching consequences and knocks the entire Creation project off course.  The Shalom or harmony that is supposed to exist between God, people, and creation is shattered.  The world is not what God dreams for it to be and all Creation seems bent on moving in the opposite direction.

4.  What is the solution?
God does not give up on his dream for Creation.  He enacts a plan to bring about the “restoration of all things”.  This plan involves covenanting with a community of people to operate as agents of Shalom in the midst of a broken world.  God becomes a human being (Jesus) whose life, death, and resurrection open the door for a renewed creation of Shalom between a) God and human beings; b) Human beings and other human beings; and c) Human beings and Creation.  God calls a group of people to live in His reality now in the midst of a broken world.  He calls us to partner with Him to make it more and more so.  He promises that one day Jesus will return and that Heaven and Earth will be renewed.  He insists that we will be resurrected and glorified so that we may enjoy the fulfillment of His promise and his dream for all Creation.
(To Be Continued)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Influence of Creation and Eschatology on Worldview and Mission: Part 3

The basic trajectory of the narrative is radically altered depending on which perspective you are operating from.
In light of the first perspective, the story proceeds with things getting worse and worse. God loves the people (or at least their essence), but sees the creation project as incorrigible. By implication, all matter becomes evil while only “spiritual” things are good (because, after all, they are the things that are going to last). God, who is unwilling to let the spiritual essence or “souls” of people perish without a fight, enacts a plan. He enters into a covenant with a man named Abram and his descendants. Within their arrangement, God gives them a moral and ethical code to live by in addition to a set of basic propositions to believe. In return, God promises that they will be his people and that He has a plan for reconciling their “souls” to Himself. Eventually, God becomes a human being named Jesus who takes the destruction/punishment due us on Himself by dying a sinner’s death (though he was without sin). In this view, the overriding sentiment about Jesus is that He “lived to die”. Aside from “not sinning”, everything else Jesus did and taught during his life is either viewed as proof of who he was or simply nice but almost irrelevant. After His crucifixion, Jesus rises from the dead thereby defeating “death” itself and ensuring the souls of those who believe and obey a place in Heaven after they die. In his book, In The End—The Beginning, Jurgan Moltmann sums up this trajectory as follows: “The traditional doctrine about the Last Judgment…also talks about a restoration, but it refers only to all human beings, the purpose being that all of them, beginning with Adam and Eve, can receive their just verdict. Afterward, only heaven and earth are left. The earth will be superfluous and is to be burnt. This notion of judgment is exceedingly hostile to creation.”
Alternately, the second perspective paints a very different picture. The story proceeds with a God who is quite unwilling to give up on his dream for the world. He enacts a plan, not just to save the spiritual essence of individuals, but to pursue the “restoration of all things”. God enters into a covenant with a man named Abram and his descendants. They are to be the people of God, whom God will bless so that they might be a blessing to the world around them. Eventually, God becomes a human being named Jesus who lives out God’s dream of Shalom and teaches others to do the same. He dies a sinner’s death (though he was without sin) to free us from disharmony with God, each other, and creation (which is the definition of “sin”). On the third day after His crucifixion, He rises from the dead and his body is glorified. In this action, He frees people from death, gives them a preview of their own resurrection, and apparently opens the door for everything to be not only restored to its original condition, but for the project to go where God originally intended. Moltman concludes “The raising of Christ from the dead was not, either, a ‘return’ of the life he had lived; it was a transformation of his life on earth into eternal life. And it is in this light that we ought to imagine the design of the restoration of all things: its purpose is the transformation of this world into the future world of the eternal creation. The restoration of all things is to initiate the rebirth of the cosmos to its enduring form.”

(To Be Continued)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Influence of Creation and Eschatology on Worldview and Mission: Part 2

We will not discuss the “literal-six-days” issue here which, in my view, seems irrelevant to the subject at hand. The creation narratives in Genesis 1 & 2 simply were not written to answer such a question in scientific terms, nor does the writing style lend itself to such an answer. The questions they are written to answer are both broader and grander in scope. Within Christianity, there are generally two views of creation. Admittedly, for the sake of our discussion, I am going to be speaking in very broad generalities. Indeed, few would say that my characterizations fit them exactly, but most will admit that one characterizes them more closely than the other.
On the one hand, some view creation to be fatally damaged or ruined. Their story begins with God’s pristine creation. God creates a world (or at least a garden in a world) that is perfect and apparently static. People are placed in this world and charged with maintaining the perfection that God originally created. This point is crucial to understanding this perspective: The role of humans was understood in terms of maintenance. Creation is a finished product that is to be maintained. However, in this view, people make a choice that sends all of creation into an irredeemable tailspin. Satan’s trick works and the whole project is thrown irrevocably off course.
On the other hand, there are those who view creation as damaged, but “good”. Their story begins (based on the same texts) with God creating a world that is “good” and as Rob Bell says, “loaded with potential”. Creation is dynamic, not static or as N.T. Wright puts it, “creation is a project, not a finished product.” God puts people in the middle of this dynamic creation and charges them with the responsibility to govern it in His image. As before, people make a choice that fundamentally damages creation, sending the whole project off course. This is the point where we reach the major difference in these two perspectives. It can perhaps best be summed up with the following question: Does God give up on his dream for the world? Whereas the first view answers in the affirmative, the second view responds with a resounding “No.”
(To Be Continued)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Influence of Creation and Eschatology on Worldview and Mission: Part 1

Our story begins in Genesis 1 and 2. God existed for an eternity before that point, but the story of us and our interaction with the Creator originates at the beginning of the Bible. The Bible then provides, in various genres and from a variety of authors, a developing narrative in which God’s interaction with human beings and creation over time is revealed. Interestingly, the “end” or consummation of the story is also revealed in scripture while the part of the story we live in remains unwritten in any tangible form. This puts us in a fascinating predicament which N. T. Wright in The New Testament and the People of God likens to a Shakespearean play for which we are missing the fifth act. Wright explains,
“The first four acts provide, let us suppose, such a remarkable wealth of characterizations, such a crescendo of excitement within the plot, that it is generally agreed that the play should be staged. Nevertheless it is felt inappropriate to actually write a fifth act once and for all: it would freeze the play in one form, and commit Shakespeare as it were to being prospectively responsible for a work not in fact his own. Better, it might be felt, to give key parts to highly trained, sensitive and experienced Shakespearian actors who would immerse themselves in the first four acts, and in the language and culture of Shakespeare and his time, and who would then be told to work out a fifth act for themselves.”
To modify and expand on Wright’s analogy; what if there were several radically different supposed final scenes floating around which were all proported to be written by Shakespeare? What if, in addition to that, there were several radically different interpretations of the first scene? What if some of the actors, though competent, experienced, and trained, felt that the ending was rather unimportant as long as it ended and they got to go home? Would any or all of these things substantially affect the direction and shape the performance? Would it be possible for there to be several performances of essentially the same play in which the “improvised scene” bore little or no resemblance to one another?
It is my contention that this is exactly the state of affairs we find ourselves in. Within the Christian community there are various and divergent views on Creation. These are not merely surface issues such as the “literal 6 days” controversy. They are deep rooted questions about the nature of creation and God’s attitude toward and plans for what He created. Additionally, there are widely divergent views on the appropriate or intended ending or consummation of the story of God and his creation. Looking at the eschatological discourse on the popular level, one might be led to the conclusion that the most important debate is whether or not a supposed “rapture” occurs before or after a “tribulation” (if it occurs at all), and specifics about the “millennial reign of Christ”. As with the interrelated questions regarding creation, I believe that most of the questions being discussed at the popular level regarding eschatology simply miss the point entirely. I suggest that one’s concept of creation fundamentally shapes one’s eschatology. I further assert that one’s eschatology determines one’s worldview and mission.
(To Be Continued)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

My Girls

I miss my girls. Two weeks ago I was at the Youth Specialties Conference in Nashville while Dana and Emma went to Dana's Parents' house. We came home and my parents came to visit for a week for Thanksgiving. It was a great visit, but very busy. After Church on Sunday I went back to Nashville for a Grad School class (New Testament Theology with Dr. Mark Black M-F 8-5). I am staying with my friend Phil and his wonderful family who are taking great care of me. This has all been great stuff, but I just haven't had much time to spend with my family. Emma called me tonight (I think her Mom helped her). She had an actual conversation with me. I think she's gotten smarter since I left on Sunday. I really miss them, I miss my girls. I can't wait to see them.