Sunday, August 1, 2010

New baby pictures!

I thought I'd try to avoid spamming readers with photos of James (who is, of course, the cutest baby in the world.)  Since that's too much work, though, I thought I'd take the easier way out.  Photos of James will be on my flickr site.  The set of photos for baby James is, currently, here.  My general flickr site is, of course, here.  So if you'd like to see cute baby pictures, go to Flickr and check 'em out.  Here's a teaser or two... :-)



That's his philosophical look, of course... :-)
We love him very much.  We think he might be starting to get a bit of a schedule down.  If so, that will be great news for his poor tired parents. :-p

~Benjamin

Friday, July 30, 2010

I've been getting less sleep these days...

I've been getting less sleep these days, and it's rather a new experience for me.  I've always been fine staying up late, but thereafter I generally need a good solid eight hours of sleep.  More than eight hours, if it's around finals time (using brain power, you see, necessitates more sleep...)

Unfortunately baby James, like all babies, isn't quite in sync with an adult schedule.  He's hungry when he's hungry and has no problems informing us of that fact even if it's dashedly early in the morning.  Or late at night.  Or if he just ate last hour, dirtied his diaper, and wants to eat again.  Or it's 3:30AM and he just slept for 30 minutes and is hungry again and...what in the world did we get ourselves into?

And yet, I'm not going to lie, I love him more than just about anything.  Seeing his smile, or seeing him hungry, or even seeing him cry just about melts my heart.  He's an amazingly happy baby who is nothing more or less than God's special gift to our family.  Elizabeth and myself are so grateful that God sent him to us instead of, say, to another family.  We don't deserve him in the same way we don't deserve our apartment, our lives, or anything else of consequence.  And yet, through and despite our sinfulness, God still blesses us.

I guess what I'm working around to saying is that the 2AM feedings, the snitches of sleep, and the constant mental fog aren't really that bad, all things considered.  I sure wasn't really expecting them, but I wouldn't trade them away if it meant spending one less second with our son.

I've been getting less sleep these days, but that's alright with me. :-)

~Benjamin

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Tale of Two Zorros...

I've long criticized Christian courtship books for their warm-fuzzy sentimentialism and their stunning silence on just how much hard work courtship actually is (to say nothing of marriage itself.)  There are exceptions, but frankly not as many as there should be. 

"But," cries the Reader, "surely you have deceived me!  Your title mentions Zorro (which is interesting,) and you have started off talking about Christian courtship books (which, if they be interesting at all, are decidedly less so than Zorro.)"  Fear not - I'm getting there, I'm getting there.

You see, one of the many things that courtship books fail to emphasize is, if marriage results, so too (likely) will children.  And as I am coming to discover, babies apparently need to nurse during the nighttime.  I can assure you that being awoken by a crying baby multiple times in the night every few hours is...perhaps less romantic than one might otherwise hope.  (Note: I wouldn't trade it for the world, but being a groggy zombie is definitely something the courtship books never mentioned...)

So, having tested my readers' patience enough, I'll offer the tie-in: during these last couple of nights Elizabeth and myself watched two separate Zorro movies while feeding James: The Mask of Zorro (Deluxe Edition), and The Legend of Zorro (Widescreen Special Edition).  The first film, by and large, was excellent; the second was not.

The Mask of Zorro stars Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones - talented thespians, all.  The plot was engaging, the action scenes explosive, and the dialogue earnestly-delivered.  It had a few hiccups (and really, Zorro, was it worth a PG-13 rating to have a wholly senseless "partially undressing Zeta-Jones during a swordfight" scene?  Really?)  Nonetheless, on-balance, it was a well-done movie and a good way to pass some time during the middle of the night.

The Legend of Zorro, as a sequel, left much to be desired.  And when I say it "left much to be desired," that is Midwestern understatement for "Good night, that movie was horrid".  To save my friends some trouble, I'll briefly describe the plot.  Just in case you are gung-ho against spoilers, you have been warned; read no further. 

Right, so Zorro and Mrs. Zorro were happily married at the end of the last movie.  Somehow, between the first and second movie, they have taken to quibbling.  Mrs. Zorro doesn't think Zorro is paying enough attention to her; he isn't spending enough time with his son and really, the world doesn't need that much saving, so why don't you stay home with meeeee?  (Her whiny-ness annoyed me greatly, in case you couldn't tell.)  Zorro, who has somehow become a jerk between movie the first and movie the second, decides not to deal with his marital problems and instead spends time with a foul-mouthed friar and gambling with "da boyz" in a hot tub.  Because divorce was so prevalent in 1850's California (particularly among educated Catholic landed nobility,) Zorro and Mrs. Zorro divorce.  Boo hiss.

Fear not, though, because Lil' Zorro Jr. is displaying signs of having superheroic powers too.  After all, he can stickfight with his teacher and swing on poles and stuff.  My, who would've possibly expected that?  Well, since Mrs. Zorro isn't around as much anymore, Lil' Zorro Jr. gets into trouble and thinks his Dad is lame.  After all, his Dad gets beat up by The Bad Guys, unlike Zorro, who is cool.  Of course, LZJ doesn't know that his Dad is, in fact, Zorro.  Now maybe I'm old fashioned, but if I put on a black half-face mask I'm pretty sure a 9-year old James would recognize it was me.  Still, one mustn't expect logic to play a role in movies (and if Clark Kent can go unrecognized by changing glasses, I suppose Zorro can do it by having a half-mask on.)

Anyway, back to the film.  The Bad Guys are two: Crossface Dude and Suave Spanish Nobleman.  Crossface is a big bully and wants the deed to some land (for reasons unclear to me, aside from the fact that he is a Bad Guy).  Zorro fails to protect Random Peasants from Crossface, and this failure causes Zorro to question his calling as a hero.  Apparently Zorro has never failed before to protect anyone ever, so I can understand this first failure provoking an existential crisis.  As it turns out, Suave is dating the former Mrs. Zorro, which only causes Zorro to question his calling even more.

But fear not - it turns out Mrs. Zorro is only dating Suave as an undercover agent at the behest of some Random Government Dudes (who have perhaps ten lines of dialogue between them before they are killed by Suave.)  Suave is evil and his evil bona fides are proved by his nefarious plan to make a Powerful Explosive.  Apparently this Powerful Explosive is made by taking plain soap, boiling it down, and concentrating it.  Because, you know, soap back then was harsh...and if you get it really concentrated, it'll be really harsh.  And it'll explode and stuff, I guess.

You can probably imagine where all this winds up: Zorro and Mrs. Zorro, working separately, discover the nefarious plan.  They realize that only by working together can the Bad Guys be stopped.  Somehow they recall that they like kissing, love each other, and stuff, so they get back together.  Lil' Zorro Jr. displays his new powers, finds out that his dad actually is Zorro, and the day is collectively saved.

I'm not going to lie - this movie was watched over three sessions ranging from 11PM to 5AM.  So perhaps I wasn't paying the most attention, and maybe it's just the greatest film ever.  But...frankly, that's not too likely.  It was horrid movie, and the only way I could purge my bile was to cathartically complain about it.  If someone really liked it, please speak up - otherwise I can safely say I'd love to watch the first movie again, but wouldn't fuss if I never saw the second movie ever again.

Sincerely,
~Benjamin

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Poem

As I blink in the morning's early light,
A heaven-sent miracle greets my sight.
I gaze sleepily into eyes so bright;
The precious bundle that kept me up all night

Innocent beauty; a face without a line.
Is this blessing truly mine?
New life with mine hereafter entwined,
Sent to remind me of The Divine.

And as the light keeps breaking,
My mind slowly but surely waking
A few moments I have for taking
Prayers of wonder to the King

~Elizabeth

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Our new son...

James Allan Keil was born on July 9.  I'm more exhausted now than I've ever been in my life.  I'm also happier than I've ever been - spending time with James and Elizabeth is just about the best thing ever.  Cheryl Nelson (Elizabeth's mom) is out here visiting, and I just snapped a few quick pictures. 

If you want to see the first set of baby pictures, they can be found on my Flickr site here.

More pictures will come soon.  Also, once I've got some sleep, I've got a few philosophical blog posts drafted out in my head that need to come out too.  All in its proper time... :-)

~Benjamin

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Eager Expectations

We recently celebrated of our first anniversary and are now increasingly excited at the approach of the baby's due date. These events have brought some reflections upon the nature of "eager expectations" to my mind. I mean the breathless wonderful waiting for a thing to happen; something you have longed after and hoped for and now is finally soon to be. Since within the last year and a half of my life I have gone from being single to married and an expectant mother, the events of becoming married and a mother have been my "eager expectations".

I remember as the date of our wedding drew closer how the longing and delight to be with my (then) fiancee became greater and greater. I knew when I should be united with him, but the fact that I wasn't yet weighed upon me so that whenever we were apart I did not feel "whole" -as though some piece of me was missing. The day of our wedding could not come soon enough.

Now, I am increasingly longing for our baby to be born. Not only because I am increasingly uncomfortable, but because I want to meet the little person -to know who it is, not just that it is. Unlike waiting for my wedding, I have no idea when this little person shall appear. It could be tomorrow, or it could be another week and a half.

These "eager expectations" remind me of how Scripture encourages us to long and wait for Christ. Like a bride waiting for her bridegroom and feeling so pointedly his absence, so are we to fervently desire to be with Christ and notice His absence. For not until we are with Him in paradise we will truly feel "unified" with Him and as a "whole" self. Similar to waiting for a baby, we do not know when He will come -day or night. A bride (usually, hopefully!) "knows" her bridegroom. She can recognize him and trusts him when he says he will show up at their wedding. Even so with Christ; we do trust that He will come back even as He said He would (John 14). At the same time, like with a unborn child, we do not know exactly what He shall be like when we actually get to see him.

Of course the comparison can only go so far before becoming absurd. Still, I remember wondering during my engagement if the weight of longing had any other purpose(s) than to sometimes be a little trying. Yet again, God shows how He uses events in our lives for a purpose.
I hope this encourages you during those times when we must wait (often seemingly unnecessarily) for a good thing. Not only do we look forward with excitement to the blessing of special events, but our times of "waiting" also bring blessings -the blessing of eagerly expecting the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

"And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again,
and receive you unto myself; that where I am,
there ye may be also."
John 14:3

Please, South, Don't Rise Again...

I've found myself in deep thought recently over any number of topics, but one of the more frequently reoccurring ones concerns Facebook.  Through (relatively speaking) little fault of my own, I've recently become Facebook "friends" with some ardent Southerners.  I'll leave for another post the meaninglessness of such friendships and concentrate more on the topic at hand - that is, strong-minded Southern sympathizers.

Their basic paradigm (that America is in deep trouble and requires drastic remedies) is, no doubt, correct.  That said, there are better and worse ways to go about fixing said problem.  Arguably, revolting against the American government would be one of the worst possible ways to go.  And of course, any hardcore Southerner has got to be aware that the South is not, in fact, really going to revolt again.  So as much as I like a degree of rhetoric (some might say "hot air") in my speeches, theirs has an even greater-than-usual amount.

What bothers me most, I think, is a general attitude commonly displayed by most (but not all) such Southern sympathizers: that revolt is, in the main, something to be praised.  Such an attitude, particularly coming from the strong Christians that such individuals tend to be, is bepuzzling to your author.  The idea that revolts and revolutions could ever be justified in a Christian scheme is, as far as ideas go, a relatively recent one.  Indeed, 1 Peter 2 is rather explicit on the degree to which laws are to be followed and the honor which is to be given to kings.  And I've never yet seen a king who has been rightly honored by the revolutionaries.

Moreover, consider the David & Saul story (culminating in 1 Sam. 24).  Here we have an example of a thoroughgoingly wicked King, and yet time and again David refused to kill him.  Further, David refused to even allow others to kill Saul (repeatedly referred to him as "the Lord's anointed".)  Such a theme runs not only through the old covenant but the new as well: Consider St. Paul's words in Rom. 13:

  "1Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but from God; the powers that be are ordained by God.

 2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and those who resist shall receive for themselves damnation.
  
 3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same,
  
 4for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."
 In short, then, the "revolutionary spirit" all-to-frequently displayed by ardent Southern sympathizers is, to my mind, wrong.  It may be well and good to wish that some things were otherwise than they are, but that does not give license for them to be brought about using illicit means.  And revolution, on prima facie Biblical evidence, is immoral.  In fact, given that revolution against God is what brought sin into the world in the first place, I find myself more and more uncomfortable when Southerners wish that the South might yet rise again.  Please no - revolution didn't work out so well in the Garden of Eden, and its track record since leaves much to be desired too.

Yours Sincerely,
Benjamin

Monday, June 28, 2010

Digging Deeper

We chose to call our blog "striking root" not only because Chesterton is one of our favorite authors, but also because this phrase aptly describes key aspects of our family's beliefs.

"Striking root" brings to my mind the picture of tree roots maturing over time and sinking their tentacles deeper into the earth. Steadily, but persistently, they expand downward and outward to provide the rest of the tree with a good foundation of nutrients and protection.

Our family desires to mimic growing tree roots in several ways.
Firstly, and most importantly, in faith. The roots of our faith become strong (by God's grace) through longing after Christ Himself (Psalm 42:1), for His Church (Galatians 6:10), for His Truth (James 1:5; 2 Peter 1:5-8) and in living "godly and righteously in this present world" (Titus 2:12).
Secondly, in knowledge. To seek after Truth and understanding not only in theology but in the rest of our education as well. We both come from a liberal arts background and have great appreciation for knowledge in a wide range of topics/sciences.
Thirdly, in community. Rather contradictory to most of the current culture, we want to have lasting relationships. Relationships that do not end in misunderstandings and bitterness; relationships with people we agree and disagree with; relationships that realize we are all growing and learning and sometimes we need more patience and understanding than at other times, opportunities of edification and fun regardless of whether we see you every Sunday or as you are passing through. Beginning with each other and our family, to our friends, church folks, and the people God brings into our life, we desire to be a blessing on others' lives (essentially, the watering of each others' roots). Someday, we also hope to find a particular place in God's creation to settle down.

We hope, that as our roots seek to grow and mature through posts on this blog, your roots will also be watered.

"Between us, by the peace of God, such truth can now be told;
Yea there is strength in striking root, and good in growing old.
We have found the common things at last and marriage and a creed,
And I may safely write it now, and you may safely read."

~G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday

~Elizabeth

A new blog for a new-ish family... :-)

We've been married for over a year, and our first child will be born within the next couple of weeks.  These are exciting times, and it's about time for us to leave our mark (however small) on the internet as well.

So, we propose this blog.  It will be updated occasionally (as time and interest permits).  It promises its readers nothing more than our own thoughts, musings, and ponderings.  Should these be of interest to you, we will gladly take comments so that, ideally, this will be a place of edification for many, not just the (relatively) few in our family.  Speaking of which, cute baby pictures will be forthcoming when God brings our baby into the world (well, God and, in a more immediate sense, my wonderful wife). :-)

Here, then, we find ourselves.  Christians (for our two-soon-to-be-three parts) and others muddling our way through this world.  Whatever is true, we want to believe it.  Trouble is, these days it's harder to figure out what is, in fact, true.  Fear not, though - muddling towards truth doesn't have to be itself unedifying, and we'll get there one way or another.  For any who should care to join, we'd love to have you along with us.

Sincerely,
Benjamin :)