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Weekly Gratitude #2

Is it a new week?  I don't know.  But I am feeling grateful today and felt like making it known to the world.

Greer's brother and sister-in-law have been so encouraging over the past few weeks, and the other day Erin reminded me that the best antidote for anxiety is thankfulness.  So as I sit here with many pages left to write and rapidly waning time in which to write them, it's worth it to take a minute to say this important thing:

I am thankful today that I got to come to grad school in the first place.  I've written two papers and taken one final so far, and while I sacrificed a lot of sleep and quality of life for them, they all showed me how much I have learned in the past few months.  My exegesis paper about Hagar and Ishmael and cramming for my Old Testament final were particularly draining, but as soon as I put my pencil down after the exam, it hit me that I have learned a ton in that class about how many different ways people have read the Bible.  I will neve…

A Bigger Screen

As I sit here and write, write, write, I keep wishing my computer had a bigger screen.  I keep having to shuffle windows around and scroll up and down my documents and I am getting frustrated.

As I was reading my Derrida article, it actually made me laugh out loud - getting a "bigger screen" is exactly what deconstruction tries to do.  This is from an article I am using called "Derrida and Nihilism" by Hugh Rayment-Pickard from a book called Deconstructing Radical Orthodoxy:


"Derrida is not a 'sceptic' in the modern sense of someone who on principle denies the possibility of positive knowledge: a chronic doubter.  Derrida points out that the ancient Greek word skepsis was a metaphor of sight and that scepticism can be understood otherwise as an attempt to broaden and intensify our vision by allowing more to be seen, more to happen, than would be the case in a dogmatic mode of thought...Derrida argues that the problem with the metaphysical idea of truth…

My Apartment

I have had some requests in the past few weeks to post some photos of my apartment.  As I was going through them, I had a lot of fun looking at the way this place has evolved since I first moved here this summer.  
My mom and I flew out here in the spring to nail down my living situation.  I was mostly using Craigslist, and some of the places were so shady.  
Thank God we made this trip (mom, that was all your doing).  We saw some terrifying places that had looked fine online.  Yikes.  
When I was out here by myself for admitted student day, I stayed at a little bed and breakfast in town.  I told the wonderful owner of the B&B that I had decided to come, and she told me that her daughter worked for a leasing agent and handed me her number.  
I forgot about it until I got here, but since I always travel with the same bag I still had the number on me.  So after a really depressing day with Craigslist appointment I gave this lady a call and made an appointment for the next day. 
Car…

Weekly Gratitude

Shout out to you, Lauren Morton-Farmer!  Lauren has a wonderful blog on which she writes, among many good things, a weekly gratitude post.  I hope you don't mind, Lauren, but I am stealing the idea and want to do the same.  I think it's the best answer to any kind of stress or sadness; it's probably the virtue that is farthest from my grasp right now.  
Right now I am grateful for my friends at Yale.  I admit, there have been some lonely times here this semester  Especially lately - the sun goes down so early these days, and I find myself in my apartment alone nearly all the time it seems.  Today was a little anxiety-ridden as I calculated how many hours remain until all my papers are due and my finals must be taken (note to grad students: don't do this).  
Tonight was the Advent Party at the Divinity School.  There was a big Advent service in the chapel and then a party to follow.  Marquand chapel looked beautiful all decked out in Christmas lights and purple Advent c…

Theology By Accident

This Aquinas and Derrida paper is hard.  And today I found out that it is my TF's dissertation topic.  Great.  So I am taking on something that is challenging and ambitious for me, and the one grading my paper has been working on this topic for the past 4 years of his PhD in religious philosophy.  The probability of me saying something interesting and new to my reader just drastically decreased.  Oh well.

However: I had a little chat with Denys Turner after class today.  I am taking a reading course with him next semester where we are just going to read poetry and talk about it in theological terms, which is of course a dream come true for me.  He wanted to sit down with me to hear what it is that I want out of life so he can set up our reading list accordingly.

As a response, I told him about a conversation I recently had with my friend Junius who recently finished his PhD in theology here at Yale and is now teaching here (application for a tenure-track position is pending).  He…

The Best of All Possible Worlds

There are two reasons I start writing tons of blog posts during finals:
1) It's a way to procrastinate yet still feel I am doing something edifying
2) I am being forced to boil-down all of my ideas for my papers and exams, and all of the sudden great mysteries become succinct bloggable topics in my mind.  And I can't pass up the opportunity to record them before they disappear into Christmas sloth.  
That said, I am about to write a blog post about the single most intimidating and mystifying idea that has ever crossed my mind or anyone else's in the history of sentient beings:  the problem of evil.  So no, obviously I haven't boiled this one down to a "succinct bloggable topic," but I did have an idea in class now that stopped me in my tracks, so I want to record it. 
Our final class period for my Aquinas course was as follows:  We were presented with the question, "Is this the best of all possible worlds?" and the class was divided in two teams, ne…

Sorry, Burckhardt

It's approaching midnight and I still have 390 pages to read for tomorrow morning (my last Renaissance class of the semester, woo!), but I must take a moment to publicly disagree with Jacob Burckhardt one last time:

"The true discoverer, however, is not the man who first chances to stumble upon anything, but the man who finds what he has sought."

This is initially a compelling statement.  It instantly conjured images of the careful man, the mindful man, the intentional man; the man who doesn't just let things happen, the man who takes initiative, the man who knows well the motives for his quests.

But Aquinas says we spend our entire lives trying to figure out what it is that we really want, so I posit that nobody knows that he has found what he has sought except in a retrodiction.  I would say instead that the true discoverer is the man who takes the time to see that what he has stumbled upon by chance is in fact exactly what he sought.

To me that is the Christia…

Whan Maistrie Comth

“Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon, Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon.” - Chaucer, The Franklin's Tale


Paper writing season got off to a pretty slow and dreary start for me this year.  I was facing such an enormous number of pages (I have to write 90 pages in order to hit the minimum length requirement on my four term papers this semester) that it was simply too daunting to begin, and an exegesis on the expulsion of Hagar and the birth of Ishmael gave me a lot of trouble.  This joint religion-and-literature degree has me crossing disciplines a lot, which has been more trouble than I anticipated.  With my background in English, I had no idea how to speak or write as a biblical scholar, a theologian, or how to assume the historicist's voice I need in my Renaissance Italy course.  It's somewhat remarkable to see how these different disciplines can deal with the same texts, the same historical events, sometimes even the same manuscripts, and yet use e…

Home for Christmas

Ah, that old familiar finals season pastime - trolling the internet for a million things you want to do over Christmas break.  
These are at the top of the list - I love them. 

(bakerella.com/gingerbread-heads)

Vegan Lentil Soup in the Slow Cooker

When my brother visited me a few weeks ago, he enthusiastically bought me a new slow cooker.  I'd never used one before, but it has quickly become my favorite toy.  Throw a bunch of things into it in the morning, turn it on, and return to an apartment in which something has actually prepared dinner for you while you were writing your exegesis paper in the library.

This was the new experiment recipe for today, and it turned out so well!

Whole-Food Plant-Based Lentil-Carrot-Parsnip Slow-Cooker Soup
2.5 cups dry lentils 8 cups water Two "Not-Beef" vegan bouillon cubes 1 onion, diced 1 tsp olive oil 5 cloves garlic, minced 3 big carrots, cubed 2 parsnips, cubed 2 tsp thyme 3 bay leaves salt and pepper
1.  I put one cup of water and the two bouillon cubes in a frying pan and smashed up the bouillon with a rubber spatula until it was completely dissolved.  The vegan ones can take a long time to dissolve, and I've found the heat and spatula-smashing is the most efficient wa…

The Burning Focus

Over the past few weeks, Greer and I have been preparing to make this Advent season a sort of mini-Lent.  We both observed the Lenten season intensely this year, and Easter morning was consequently one of the most meaningful days of my whole history with God.  There are things about celebrating Christmas that are distinctly different from Easter, of course: at Easter we focus on Christ's death and anticipate his resurrection; at Christmas we focus on God's human life and anticipate His death (and subsequent resurrection, of course).

I should note that I am particularly excited to celebrate Jesus this Christmas.  I love my class about the Hebrew Scriptures, but the amount of required reading from the Old Testament uses up my scripture-reading energy and I have thus failed to even crack open the New Testament since classes began.  Last week in my Aquinas class we read Thomas' close reading of the part of the Gospel of John that recounts people's first encounters with th…

The Advent Color - Repost

I wrote this post last December right at the beginning of Advent season (see the original post here on my old blog).  I reread it last night as a part of the preparation for Christmas that I am now beginning, and thought it was worth revisiting:


I heard a wonderful sermon this morning. Title: "On Hiding." At the moment of the First Tragedy, when man first disobeyed God, man hid.

In his temptation speech, the serpent promises that eating the forbidden fruit will make man like God. God knew all about good and evil; if we, too, knew about it, we would be just like Him. But evil always, always lies.

Adam and Eve immediately felt shame. Pastor Thompson said this morning that shame is what we feel when we're made painfully aware of the vast disparity between our idealized self and our actual self. The chasm between the two is so wide. Adam and Eve had been promised they would be like God Himself; I cannot imagine their horror when they realized how little like God they were. They…

Whole Food Vegan Sweet Potato Breakfast Cookies

I found the recipe for these here and made a few modifications.  These are completely delicious, filling and utterly healthy, and have a nice Thanksgiving-at-breakfast feel.


Ingredients:



2/3 cup sweet potato puree (I roasted two small sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, removed the skin, and smashed with a fork)

2 tbsp ground flax seed 1/4 cup almond milk 1/4 cup canola or safflower oil 1/4 cup pure maple syrup 1 tsp vanilla extract


1/2 cup spelt flour

1 cup whole-wheat flour 1/4 tsp ground ginger

He Is Not Passive

I haven't really found my spiritual home in New Haven yet.  There hasn't been a church or a group that meets me on my home turf and provides the sort of spiritual comfort I've known well before.  I have ample excellent influences that are stretching and growing my knowledge of and ways of believing in God, but there's something a little cold about that when the other part is missing.  I live alone, and I've just started to have my first few moments of loneliness in my apartment.  Especially when I wake up from a nap and I know nobody ever knew I was sleeping, or that I was now awake.  
I am asking a lot of questions about the things I've learned in my religious education - both the conclusions I've drawn by myself, the thoughts I've developed with friends, the ideas I accepted at Pepperdine, and the maxims I've learned in church.  This is where it's important to distinguish questioning from doubting.  I am not doubting - I am not trying to choo…

Blessed Are They

“Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one's heart, its pleasures, and its pains, to a dear friend.

Tell him your troubles, that he may comfort you; tell him your joys, that he may sober them; tell him your longings, that he may purify them; tell him your dislikes, that he may help you coquer them; talk to him of your temptations, that he may shield you from them; show him the wounds of your heart, that he may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others.

If you thus pour out your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subject of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back, neither do they seek f…

Christ, My Hermeneutic

The grad school workload has officially arrived.  I am meeting with every one of my professors this week about topics for my final papers and am in the thick of midterms.  It's a ton of work and sometimes I get pretty stressed out, but I haven't yet lost sight of my love for all of this learning.  Aquinas, the Italian Renaissance, Chaucer, and a scholarly look at the Hebrew Scriptures - I will always be glad to have this knowledge in my head.  
We had a great Chaucer class last week.  We read The Franklin's Tale (one of the Canterbury Tales you may have had to read in your freshman English survey course).  In this story, a married couple perfectly exemplifies courtly love by making a pact of mutuality and equality in their marriage - each simultaneously the master and servant to their spouse.  Then the husband goes away to be a knight and conquer things, and the wife is heartbroken by his absence.  She paces along the cliffs by their house and stares at the black rocks on …

I Must Go to Yale. They Have Harold Bloom.

Here are two depressing little short films about graduate studies in the humanities.  One must keep one's sense of humor. 



Whole-Food Plant-Based Chocolate-Chip Pillows

I'm still in a food mood over here.  
Tonight I had a chocolate-chip cookie craving, so I looked in the cupboard to see what I could come up with.  I eyeballed everything and made it up as I went along, so I didn't know how they would turn out. To my delight, from the oven emerged these extremely light, puffy little chocolate-chip pillows.  They were very lightweight, fluffy, and satisfying (thanks to the whole grain flour and no white sugar).
Here's the recipe (measurements approximate):
In a mixing bowl, combine: 2/3 cup 100% whole wheat flour1/2 tsp baking powder1/2 tsp baking soda1/4 tsp sea salt Separately, mix together: One flax "egg" (1 tbsp flaxmeal combined with 4 tbsp water.  Let sit a few minutes before adding to mixture.)3 tbsp 100% pure maple syrup3 tsp earth balance1 tbsp olive oil1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk1/2 tsp vanilla extract Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing only until combined (the flax egg and whole wheat flour are really easy to…

Vegan Pumpkin Recipes

Ten excellent ideas to warm up this chilly fall day.  I bought some sugar pumpkins from a roadside stand the other day which I planned to use as decorations, but this post is giving me other ideas:

Ten Vegan Pumpkin Recipes

A Rather Yale Evening

Last evening, I took a stroll after my Chaucer class to wind up in the Temple Bar at Mory's to do some reading.  I settled into a cozy booth, wrote a letter to Greer (yesterday was his first day of basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia), and opened up Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier.

I love the book.  It is full of humor and sage advice, and describes the way one can make use of courtly social graces to persuade others toward virtue.  It's a discussion of the artful and delicate ways one can navigate the corrupt waters of power and influence, and it describes the ideal Courtier in a way that makes me long for more people like this to enter our political sphere.

As I read, the Whiffenpoofs, that famous Yale a cappella group, started singing in the adjacent dining room.  I sat and listened for some time before packing up to head to the library.

It was cold and lightly raining outside, and the air felt brisk and wonderful.  I walked through the wet evening and m…