Archive for February, 2010

A Good Father

Friday, February 26th, 2010

One of the interesting aspects of modern American drama is the absence of good fathers, or, for that matter any powerful male figures. David Blankenhorn, Jr., Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem, describes a good father:

It would never occur to him–or to his children or to his wife–to make distinctions between “biological” and “social” fathering. For him, these two identities are tightly fused. Nor would it ever occur to him to suspect that the “male income” is more important for children than the “male image.” For him the two fit together. Consequently, he seldom ponders issues such as child support, visitation, paternity identification, fathers’ rights, better divorce, joint custody, dating, or blended families. His priorities lie elsewhere . . . (p. 201)

Self-reflection and Existential Possibilities

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Our culture deifies self-reflection and existential possibilities. Without the Christian standing and saying, “Why?” we will lose the sense of irony. There will be no individual essence to which we remain true or committed. As the boundaries of definition give way, so does the assumption of self-identity. “Who am I?” is a teeming world of provisional possibilities. A question other generations dared not ask. A question that is asked all the time now. Who will answer that question for this generation . . . (Kenneth J. Gergen, The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life).

The Cry of Modern Humankind

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The great religious writer Unamuno creates a character, Augusto Perez, in his book Mist, who, through omniscient narration, turns to his maker (e.g., Unamuno) and cries: “Am I to die as a creature of fiction?” Such is the cry of modern humankind. The Christian author and Harvard Professor Robert Coles laments that we “we have the right to think of ourselves, so rich in today’s America, as in jeopardy sub specie aeternitatis, no matter the size and diversification of his stock portfolio.” It seems, at times that we are lost. “The sense of being lost, displaced, and homeless is pervasive in contemporary culture,” Walter Brueggemann writes. “The yearning to belong somewhere, to have a home, to be in a safe place, is a deep and moving pursuit.” This world does not provide what the characters in these plays need. No, not it really doesn’t. My class advisor in Harvard Divinity School, Dr. Forrest Church, now pastor in a Unitarian Church in New York City, writes, “In our faith God is not a given, God is a question . . . God is defined by us. Our views are shaped and changed by our experiences. We create a faith in which we can live and struggle to live up to it . . . compared to love a distant God has no allure.” Indeed. This thought has gotten us into quite a mess.

Drama of the Christian Faith

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

The British evangelical Dorothy Sayers writes:

The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man–and the dogma is the drama. [The central doctrine of Christianity is a tale of] the time when God was the under-dog and got beaten, when he submitted to the conditions he had laid down and became a man like the men He had made, and the men He had made broke Him and killed Him. Nobody is compelled to believe a single word of this remarkable story. But the divine Dramatist has set out to convince us.

How true Dorothy Sayers’ words are! I am preparing for my sermon this weekend, Romans 4, and I am struck again at how rich the “drama” surrounding our faith! We say in a negative way, “Don’t make so much drama!” But we can never eclipse the drama we read in the Gospel.

But we try. Television has become the command center of our new epistemology. It promotes shallow thinking and has pretty well killed reading and rhetoric. The clearest way to see through a culture is to see how it speaks to itself. The television has dramatically and irreversibly shifted the content and meaning of public discourse. Truth is not and can never be show business. (Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death). Americans want show business. This is one danger of our fascile Christian culture (Dawn, Dumbing Down).

My Story – Part 4

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

For the next couple of days, I want to share my story, my view, and how I can make decisions with commitment.

Yesterday I talked about my surfing experience and how connected you feel with the ocean when riding a wave.

One Sunday after a catching a few waves in the morning I wearily washed ashore to find a group of enthusiastic revellers singing right on the beach. It was very small church that met every Sunday on the beach with an uncomplicated worship agenda led by a guitar. No sound system, no microphone, just voices on a sandy slip looking out across the ocean. The environment was saturated with a genuine love for the wellbeing of others and their community. It didn’t take long for me to become apart of this family.

The pastor announced there was a “he said/she said” meeting at the church. I arrogantly smirked and rolled my eyes at the idea of hearing another typical cheesy rendition on the evils of dating and glorification of courting. But, my Maui family was going therefore so should I.

After an hour or so of hearing exactly what I expected, the pastor’s wife threw a misdirecting bolder at my lofty ideas of what love and marriage mean. She suggested splitting off the men from the ladies allowing her to speak directly to the men and the pastor to speak directly to the ladies. The honest story she told was of how she met her husband.

When she was a young adult she asked the Lord for a sign, that her future husband would greet her with a white rose. As the story goes, the night he was going to ask her, every florist was sold of off all roses except white ones, he searched for hours wanting to give her red roses. But, for the sake of being punctual, he settled angrily for white ones… the rest is the tale that brings them here tonight talking to me, as man and wife.

I didn’t know what to make of this. Believe it and I feel foolish. Blow it off as coincidence, and I feel like I’m limiting God. Embrace it and I feel sacrilegious perhaps even blasphemous. But, she was persistent in us to prayerfully seek God for a sign. I flippantly wrote down my sign and thought no more of it. I was not one to test God. I was not one to believe in the hocus-pocus-slain-in-the-spirit gibberish. I went on my way.

Peter Stobaugh
phone: (814) 659-6501

My Story – Part 3

Friday, February 19th, 2010

For the next couple of days, I want to share my story, my view, and how I can make decisions with commitment.

Yesterday I talked about my first job: working in a coffee shop. I then talked about how much I loved surfing.

Surfing was not about me, I am only an average surfer: it was about the ocean. The vastness of the ocean exposed my insignificance in the literal sense of the world, but there was also an intimate connection. Even as a diminutive speck I felt connected each time a wave rolled by and picked me up.

The experience of riding on a wave has been unequalled by most everything I have experienced since. With each anticipatory paddle into the abyss that is the Pacific Ocean my heart beat faster and faster. The water pulled into a solid liquid wall threatening to crush me with one mistake. And then the moment strikes when everything freezes as I reach the peak of the wave and begin to rush down its face. If I could, I would spend my life in this moment.

Every wave has a certain level of predictability. As they come rolling in from the horizon I learned to spot the large waves in their set. From the way a wave breaks I could predict where the next was to peak. Discerning these nuances were vital in order for me to catch a wave instead of being tossed into the melee of a crashing wave like a sock in a washer, which happened all too often.

In the danger and expanse of my universe, I learned my place. I learned to be humble. Upon my surfboard, a floating speck on the ocean, I began to listen. Unspoken questions of my heart gained a voice and a few answers came. Perhaps the biggest wave of my 17 year-old life, I thought, was what my life was going to look like. I felt like in the ocean of life I had picked my wave and was paddling to catch it. What would I make of this wave? How would I ride it?

A surfer can’t control everything he rides; he can only control how he rides it. Dropping down the face he can carve to the right or left, cut back on the peak or simply take the wave as it comes… the options are limited by only the wave itself.   I viewed my life upon an uncontrollable wave. Picking me up to sweep me into a rush.

Peter Stobaugh
phone: (814) 659-6501

My Story – Part 2

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

For the next couple of days, I want to share my story, my view, and how I can make decisions with commitment.

Yesterday I talked about my last year in home school high school that I spent at a Bible College in Maui, Hawaii.

My first job was at a small beachfront coffee shop. The owner was full of largesse, or stupidity, because he hired me to manage the store without him present.

The first day of managing this café by myself was a disaster. The day started with opening the doors for business at 5 am to get the locals their coffee. With two alarms set, I still managed the to sleep to 6:15 am, ensuring a failing grade for the start of the day.

As I biked down the street in a mental tornado of worries I knew my greatest fear was not of my boss, but rather the barbarians lined up at the door waiting to drink the black life drug called caffeine. Without this potion they were inept to being able to enter back into respectable society. I greeted them before they had their coffee, somehow, managed to navigate through the morning without .

It was a fearsome task distributing coffee every morning, however, every morning was followed by the afternoon. This promised surfing, diving, snorkeling, anything to take me to the ocean…and my favorite sport—surfing.

I love to paddle out on my long-board to a remote surf break to come to rest and watch the waves gather on the horizon. My thoughts always seemed to be clearest on the ocean. It held a power to manifest the splendor of God through his physical creation. Nothing was metaphorical about this moment. It was real, it was dangerous, it was awesome. But it also promised unprecedented adventure for the surfer who could overlook the little, insignificant waves, and wait for the best wave, the awesome wave, the once in a lifetime wave. Which always left me breathless.

Peter Stobaugh
phone: (814) 659-6501

My Story

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

A few weeks ago I shared some insights about a couple of my friends and their views of the world especially in the context of love. For the next couple of days, I want to share my story, my view, and how I can make decisions with commitment.

The easiest question to ask me is “how do you know you love Heather?” Through movies and greeting cards I know my prompted response is “I just know” or an even increasingly popular response is “I don’t know, but I don’t care”.

Here is my effort to break out of that mold and give you more than a prophetic modified food starch shaped heart that says, “be mine”, can.

My story, with Heather, begins without Heather when I was 17 years old. Entering Bible College, I launched out on my own, washing onto the shores of Maui, Hawaii. This little postage stamp of paradise was teeming with sunburned tourists, Post-modernism, and a diverse array of incredible adventures—in short supply in Hollsoppple, PA.

Moving out of my house at only 17 really was easier for me than I thought it would be. As my family counselor pastor dad is fond of saying, I had already experienced a sort of “differentiation” or breaking away. And, besides, he gloated, my mom and he had prepared me just for this day.

Not to imply that I did not enjoy my life under my parents’ house, rather I was confident enough in my independence to move 2,000 miles away without fear of being lost. But I should have been less confident. Looking back, this was not from heroic spirit but probably more of ignorance to responsibilities. Paying first and last months rent and balancing two jobs taught me some maturity and common sense.

Peter Stobaugh
phone: (814) 659-6501

Student Essays – Part 6

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Occasionally I feature special essays that my students write.

My students were asked to create imaginery diary entries for Anne Frank (if she had survived).

March 6, 2005
Dear Kitty,
This is Jane, daughter of the woman who has written to you for so many years. I just wanted to write that my beloved mother died yesterday in her sleep. About ten years ago, mom asked me to write to you when she died. I never have kept a diary and am not really sure how to, but I am trying my best for mom. Although you are only an old journal, mom talked about you as if you were her best friend. I just wanted to tell you, even though you are not alive, how much you meant to my mother and how you sustained her through some very tough points in her life. For this, I thank you.

Student Essays – Part 5

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Occasionally I feature special essays that my students write.

My students were asked to create imaginery diary entries for Anne Frank (if she had survived).

October 20, 2001
Dear Kitty,
That fateful day in September has caused me to think. Once I married and began having children, I slowly stopped writing and speaking across America. Now, I want to be able to thank the people who helped free me. I have spoken to John, who is a World War II veteran, about joining the American Legion that he belongs to. I understand that it is for American war veterans, but I feel like this would be a better chance for me to thank them for all they have done, instead of just speaking to them once. John has talked to them and they have decided to make a special exception with me. My first meeting was yesterday, and it was wonderful. When I was introduced formally to all of them, they stood up and began to clap. It was both an honoring and humbling experience. The World War II veterans were especially interested when I explained what life for me was like during the war. I told them about our reactions when the radio announced that the invasion had began. They laughed. I believe that I belonging to the American Legion will be a benefit for both the veterans and myself.