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August 2010 Archives

August 3, 2010

Driver's License--Skeel

Our seventeen year old son just got his driver’s license and made his first substantial solo trip today—a twenty-five minute drive to meet up with friends. It occurred to me how much easier it is be a parent now, and how much harder, than when I first started driving (the day I turned sixteen, as was the norm in my era). Thanks to cell phones, we can check up at almost any time—say, after he’s driven about a quarter of a mile. But thanks to cell phones, we can never completely relax, because there’s always the option to give the kids a quick call.

I think our son’s biggest thrill is knowing he can now go to Wawa whenever he wants. (For those of you who don’t live in the Northeast, it’s like a 7-Eleven—a convenience store often attached to a gas station). For some reason, everyone in his peer group thinks that a sandwich from Wawa is a rare delicacy. I’ve been in a lot of Wawas in my time, and the only explanation I can think of is that they must have started drugging the air, or perhaps the sandwiches.

August 18, 2010

Emerging Adulthood--Skeel

Next weekend's New York Times Magazine has a fascinating cover story on emerging adulthood, a term coined by the psychology professor Jeffrey Arnett to describe the stage of life between adolescence and adulthood.  It's already posted here.  Jeff is a dear friend dating back many years to a time when we both were still emerging adults, each doing graduate work at the University of Virginia.  It's a wonderful term and a wonderful but frightening time of life.  Reaching emerging adults seems to me one of the most difficult challenges for the church in our time, since their cultural experience so often seems at odds with the values reflected in the church, in ways both good and bad.

August 24, 2010

Evangelizing on the Job--Skeel

In the same issue of the New York Times Magazine with the story about Jeff Arnett and emerging adulthood this Sunday, there was a remarkably offensive (for me at least) column by the “The Ethicist” Randy Cohen.  A reader had gotten an EKG done by a technician who’d said, among other things, “Only divine creation could have created such an organ” (the heart), and asked whether he or she should report this to the technician’s boss.

Cohen’s ultimate advice seemed reasonable to me: yes, the reader may (he said, should) report the conversation, but the boss’s response hopefully would not be more severe than “reminding the technician to be alert to the patient’s feelings.” But he stuck in several tasteless jibes at Christianity—a reference to “the biblical injunction to put to death those who work on the Sabbath” and a concluding jab about heart disease: “surely that, too, is God’s handiwork, or does he only get credit for the design successes?”  I wasn’t sure whether Cohen is ignorant about religion—and got his talking points from the new atheism books—or simply trying to be provocative, and doing so with precisely the kind of offensive manner he warns against with his advice.
I also found myself thinking about what the technician should do.  If she felt called to evangelize overtly as she performed her job, she might risk losing her job.  In my view that would be the price of her faith (as with Peter and the apostles in Acts 5, when they say that have no choice but to speak of Christ, even if compelled not to), rather than a reason to sue. But I suspect most of us would conclude that it’s appropriate to be discreet about when and how we share our faith, which may mean being a bit more subtle in the EKG room and saving the boldness for elsewhere.

August 25, 2010

Cancer Update--Stuntz

I’ve fallen into the bad habit of posting only when I get some cancer news. It’s a hard habit to break, as I’ve got little energy these days for writing, and am trying to spend it finishing a book. Still, I’d like to break it. Soon.

But for now, some cancer news: Last Thursday I had films taken; this past Monday I heard the results. The bottom line isn’t good. All the cancer they knew about has grown. The stuff has also spread: there are now two tumors in/on my liver, and a host of small ones floating on both sides of my abdomen. Clouds and silver linings travel together, and this is no exception: because these nasty things have been growing and spreading while I’ve been on chemo, they’re stopping the chemo for awhile—a month at least, maybe a bit more. That part of the package feels very good indeed. After the break, I’ll start a new chemo regimen—the last one the docs will try before clinical trials, which I’m not inclined to do. In general, the news is mostly bad but partly good. That’s the way cancer news usually works: circumstances could always be better—but, almost always, they could also be worse.
This latest news brings to mind a common phrase: people in my circumstances often say they’re living “on borrowed time.” (Whenever I hear that, I wonder: how do they intend to pay it back?) I’ve never quite understood the metaphor. My time is more gift than debt. Two-and-a-half years ago, I was told my life expectancy was two years. I’m already past my expiration date, with more time—several months at the least—to come. Viewed that way, I’m in astonishingly good shape: teaching this fall, finishing my book, enjoying time with my family. I have little cause for complaint, and much cause for gratitude. So it seems from my world. Even in the wake of bad news.