Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
I’m in the middle of writing my dissertation (literally—I’m right in the middle). It’s tough to manage, to be sure. But like a lot of my doctoral writing, I’m finding that the hardest part is getting started. I feel like everything must be perfect beforehand. My desk has to be perfectly clean and organized. My writing app has to be the most perfect one. My Zotero window has to be expertly placed. My Accordance window has to be perfect with the appropriate amount of tabs and all the texts in the right order. Obsessive compulsive, no?
When it comes down to actually writing, I sometimes get the feeling that every sentence needs to be perfect too, as if I cannot even begin writing a new chapter of the dissertation unless the perfect sequence of words spills out on the page. This is ridiculous, really.
This week I came across two authors that have written about this problem. I have no frame of reference for Anne Lamott’s work, but in a book about writing she makes a key point—that we should get over our intimidation of the blank page and give ourselves permission to write crappy first drafts:
“For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really sh—y first drafts. The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. [...] Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper.”
Writing a crappy first draft gives you something that you wouldn’t have had otherwise if you waited for all of the “perfect” set of circumstances, and that’s momentum. That’s what you need when you’re starting with nothing—like a blank page. Stephen King wrote that fear is at the root of most bad writing, or non-writing in this case. And he’s right. If I can get something down on paper—even if it’s horrible—then I have momentum to continue. And I shouldn’t fear it. After all, no one will see my first draft, and I’m much more capable of turning that horrible first draft into something presentable during the rewriting/editing process. Momentum is the key.
Author/entrepreneur Seth Godin makes this same point. He says,
“the only path to amazing runs directly through not-yet-amazing. But not-yet-amazing is a great place to start, because that’s where you are. For now. There’s a big difference between not settling and not starting.”
Blogger Jon Bell (@ienjoy) calls this the “McDonald’s Theory.” He writes,
“I use a trick with co-workers when we’re trying to decide where to eat for lunch and no one has any ideas. I recommend McDonald’s. An interesting thing happens. Everyone unanimously agrees that we can’t possibly go to McDonald’s, and better lunch suggestions emerge. Magic! It’s as if we’ve broken the ice with the worst possible idea, and now that the discussion has started, people suddenly get very creative. I call it the McDonald’s Theory: people are inspired to come up with good ideas to ward off bad ones.”
So there it is. Half of our problem as writers, pastors, theologians, etc. is that we’re afraid of failing, and then we apply it to our writing. We’re all afraid of failing at some point or another. But the path to successful writing (or a dissertation in my case) might go through McDonald’s. The bad needs to happen before the good. Having something on paper gives you something to work with and to allow your ideas to flow.
Jim Hamilton gave me some advice during my first PhD seminar that has been helpful these days. He used to say, “just write the first sentence.” When he said that, I instantly knew what he meant. Writers spend so much time just fiddling with words and desks and research and notes that they end up procrastinating their main task: writing. When Jim said, “just write something,” he means to just get something on the page and start moving with it. The blank page sucks. Half of the writing experience is rewriting anyway, so get the move on.
“The usual ‘strict’ understanding of a ‘grammatical-historical’ approach is too limited in its scope, since it studies a passage primarily from only two angles: (1) investigation of only the human author’s viewpoint through a study of the historical, linguistic, grammatical, genre contexts, etc., of a passage; (2) the divine author can theoretically be left out of consideration until the ‘grammatical-historical’ study is complete, since the meaning sought for is only that of the human author. For example, even an interpreter who does not believe in divine inspiration must study a prophet like Isaiah from the viewpoint that Isaiah himself believed that he was inspired in what he wrote, and, therefore, that intention must be projected onto the process of interpreting Isaiah. How much more should this be the case for the believing exegete? Accordingly, this is only one example showing that considering divine intention should be part of a grammatical-historical approach. Thus, grammatical-historical exegesis and typology are two aspects of the same thing: hearing God speak in Scripture.”
G. K. Beale, “The Use of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15: One More Time,” JETS 55, no. 4 (2012): 700, fn. 14.
The values which we most ignore, the recognition of which we most seldom find in writings on education, are those of Wisdom and Holiness, the values of the sage and the saint. . . . Our tendency has been to identify wisdom with knowledge, saintliness with natural goodness, to minimize not only the operation of grace but self-training, to divorce holiness from education. Education has come to mean education of the mind only; and an education which is only of the mind . . . can lead to scholarship, to efficiency, to worldly achievement and to power, but not to wisdom.
T. S. Eliot, The Idea of a Christian Society and Other Writings (London: Faber and Faber, 1982), 142.
I’m excited to see the publication of the Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament, which is completely online and available to all. The first issue can be found here: http://jesot.org/issues/1-1-2012/
John Hobbins, who is on the editorial board, gives his assessment on his blog this morning, and his comments are intriguing. I would encourage anyone interested to check it out: Introducing JESOT
I read through Doug Stuart’s review of the new Exodus commentary by Victor Hamilton (Baker, 2011), which is illuminating to say the least. I hope to review this work through another journal, and I will give due attention to Stuart’s comments. In a gist, Stuart says that about 1/3 of Hamilton’s novel ideas are worth their salt. The rest are rubbish.
I like getting glimpses of the personal lives of respected scholars like D.A. Carson. This is a humorous illustration he uses for describing the spiritually immature Christians in 1 Cor 3:1-4, from “The Cross and Christian Ministry“:
When my daughter was born, my wife found herself unable to nurse our infant. That gave me the privilege of sharing the midnight feedings. Tiffany was a dream: I could zap the formula in the microwave, change her, feed her the whole eight ounces, and tuck her back into her crib—all in under twenty minutes. Then our son came along. Midnight feedings with him were horrendous. Although he had an enormous appetite, he sucked and drank with only three speeds: slow, dead-slow, and stop. Worse, he had to be burped every ounce or so—a painfully slow process—or he would display his remarkable gift for projectile vomiting. Without any warning, he could upchuck what he had taken in and send it fiteen feet across the room. If there were an Olympic event in projectile vomiting, he would have taken one of the medals. I never got him back into his crib in under an hour; an hour and a half was more common.
Here is how he applies the illustration:
At least he had an excuse. He was young, and his digestive system was obviously not as well-developed as his sister’s at the same age. Best of all, he quickly outgrew this stage. But there are Christians who are international-class projectile vomiters, spiritual speaking, after years and years of life. They simply cannot digest what Paul calls “solid food.” You must give them milk, for they are not ready for anything more. And if you try to give them anything other than milk, they upchuck and make a mess of everyone and everything around them. At some point the number of years they have been Christians leads you to expect something like mature behavior from them, but they prove disappointing. They are infants still and display their wretched immaturity even in the way that they complain if you give them more than milk. Not for them solid knowledge of Scripture; not for them mature theological reflection; not for them growing and perceptive Christian thought. They want nothing more than another round of choruses and a “simple message”—something that won’t challenge them to think, to examine their lives, to make choices, and to grow in their knowledge and adoration of the living God (pg. 72).
Simple Terminal commands are the easiest way to customize your desktop experience on a Mac. Every now and then I’ll look for new commands because I like to play around with the OS on my laptop and experiment with different looks or controls. A user over at Github recently posted the 65 best terminal commands in OSX Lion. I’ve already implemented a few: https://github.com/mathiasbynens/dotfiles/blob/master/.osx
Yesterday I received Crossway’s new ESV/BHS diglot Old Testament. It’s bigger and bulkier than I had hoped, and the pages are super thin so that I can see right through them to the text on the other side. But even so, I’m happy to have a diglot with the ESV text, which I prefer and which is the version that our pastor uses. Here are a few pics:
If you’re interested in other diglots of the OT I would suggest the JPS Tanak, the NKJV/Hebrew, or KJV/Hebrew, all published by the American Bible Society. I don’t know of others. I also have the NA27/NET Bible for the NT.
Robert Robinson’s hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” is frequently sung in churches around the world each Sunday. This Sunday I again share the privilege of leading congregation worship with this hymn. What most Christians don’t know is that the version in their hymnals is abbreviated. My friend, Andrew Case, pointed me to the original 5-verse hymn in 2008, and I’ve been using it ever since. The lyrics are even more profound in the original, and the hymn just makes more sense. I’m posting this version below for good reference, which you can find on Wikipedia. In my opinion, the best recorded version I have ever heard of this song is by Andrew Case, which you can download at his website here. I enjoyed collaborating with Andrew on this recording, and you can hear me playing the piano in the background.
1. Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
2. Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
3. Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.
4. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
5. O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothèd then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.
One thing I really enjoy is getting a chance to peek into the offices and libraries of famous writers, historians, and politicians. So I had a lot of fun reading this post from the Art of Manliness site (a great blog, if you’ve never been there), which highlights (with photos) fourteen offices of famous men in history: 14 Famous Man Caves
It’s a lot of fun if you like history and libraries! Jefferson’s study is the only one that I’ve visited:
I’d much rather visit Teddy Roosevelt’s trophy room!