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October 2005

October 31, 2005

Two years ago, on October 31, 2003, I sat myself down and had a good chat with me. Challies Dot Com was a poorly-designed, silly little site that primarily contained photographs of my family. I had recently added a blog to the site and was enjoying being a blogger but realized that I had become terribly lax. Like most bloggers I had begun with a flurry of posts but had soon tired of putting forth the effort and had posted less and less. I believe there were a couple of periods of weeks at a time where I did not post at all. I decided that I either had to do things right or give it up altogether. And so it was that I made a committment on October 31 that I would post every day for an entire year. Lo and behold, I did exactly that.

This time last year I wrote:

I do believe that is one of the very few goals I have ever attained - I tend to aim high and get bored easily. But writing has become a passion of mine and something I look forward to almost every day.

In the past year I have posted some 568 times. I would estimate the posts would comprise somewhere between 250,000 and 350,000 words. I could find out if I really cared to, but I guess it isn’t all that important. There have been several thousand comments made but at least 500 different people. I never would have guessed. The software running the site changed from Geeklog to Movabletype and in the summer I changed from Movabletype’s commenting system to a forum system to escape the spam bots.

The most memorable time of the past year was the release of The Passion of the Christ. I wrote some very early reviews of the film and for several weeks had a completely irrational amount of traffic through the site. I believe the most-read post of all, though, is my review of The Purpose Driven Life which continues to drive in quite a bit of traffic.

That was 2004. I renewed my committment and here we are exactly one year later. Once again I posted every day between November 1 and October 31. Today marks 730 days since I last decided not to post something. I must be obsessed.

2005 was an interesting year for this site. Some of more memorable moments to me are my newfound interest in the Emerging Church and the fallout from various articles and reviews written about that topic. There was the “Abanes-gate” series of interviews that caused quite a fuss. There was the Pyromarketing article that garnered a lot of interest. There were book reviews; lots of book reviews. And of course there was the live-blogging opportunity at the Desiring God Conference. All-in-all it was quite a year and I am humbled as I look back upon it.

In the past months a few people have taken the opportunity to lovingly chastise me for this apparent obsession with blogging. Some people seem to feel it is a type of arrogance that keeps me posting day-after-day. Others feel that I am enslaved to the site or to the people who read it. The truth is that neither of these is accurate. I continue to post every day because of my personality. I know that once I take a day off I will take another and another and soon I’ll be as big a slacker as guys like Jollyblogger, Adrian Warnock or Dan Edelen. And that would be tragic. I mock these bloggers in jest, of course, but the truth is that once I begin to let up I know that I will find it easier and easier to do so in the future. I could show you a long line of hobbies and collectibles that prove this little flaw in my personality to be true. Blogging is too important an aspect of my spiritual life for me to let it slide.

So I will press on. Blogging is one of the best things that has happened to my spiritual walk. Daily blogging has had an important impact in my life. It is a constant challenge to find something worth writing. Some days I surprise myself by writing something that is genuinely (in my biased opinion) good. Other days I fail miserably and produce something I immediately regret. But regardless of whether I love or hate it, daily blogging forces me to stay in the Word, to keep reading and to keep thinking. The times in the past year when I have gone through the valleys are the times I have had little to say. The times when I have experienced a time of blessing and growth is when I feel I have had the most to say. One could easily gauge my spiritual condition by the writing on my blog. It is challenging, then, to bare myself in this way. It is always interesting when I meet people who know so much about me when I know so little about them.

In case you are wondering, I am renewing my committment and intend to post (Lord willing) every day between now and October 31, 2006. So I thank you for continuing to drop by and for taking the time to encourage me when I’m down and calling me to account when I’m too high up. I look forward to seeing what the next year brings for this site!

October 31, 2005

Monday October 31, 2005

Community: There is lots happening the community blog. Ron Gleason writes about Postmodernism & the Modern Church, Doug writes about Responsibility Within Freedom and Carla covers Contents Under Pressure.

Web: Stand to Reason has unveiled a new web design. I give a thumbs up to the overall design, but a big, big thumbs down to the fixed height in the blog.

Reformation Day Jollyblogger contends that the vast majority of those from protestant traditions, who believe that salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ alone, have little, if any, appreciation for the Reformation.

Weird The Ford plant in Detroit has had to issue a warning about bathroom breaks. Apparently 48 minutes a shift just isn’t enough for some people. The union, of course, is furious.

October 30, 2005

Twelve Extraordinary WomenTwelve Ordinary Men, John MacArthur’s book on the apostles, was a surprise hit. After the book stayed on the bestseller lists for over a year, Thomas Nelson suggested publishing a second volume, this one dealing with some of the best-known women of the Bible. MacArthur accepted the challenge and drew up a long list of possible subjects. “I admit that I chose the twelve women featured here by a completely unscientific process: I weighed their relative importance in biblical history alongside the amount of material I had already developed on each of them as I have taught through various passages of Scripture. Then I chose the twelve women who were most familiar to me.” Twelve Extraordinary Women is not exactly a sequel to MacArthur’s Twelve Ordinary Men, yet it bears many similarities. Like its predecessor (and unlike the majority of MacArthur’s books), Twelve Extraordinary Women is not primarily expository. Instead, it is a series of brief character studies.

October 29, 2005

The long-awaited new design is now live. While I am sure to hear a lot of complaints about removing the old design, I feel that this design will serve us all better. Here are a few of the new features unique to this design:

Comment Equality - There is now equality between the comments in the Sideblog, Community blog and main blog. It is no longer a case of “All comments are equal but some comments are more equal than others.” All of this is to say that the comment listing now includes comments from all three parts of the blog which saves me from having three seperate lists. It will simplify the ongoing discussions.

King for a Week - This is a new area where I hope to feature a different blog each week. The last several headlines from that blog will appear on my site for a week. Consider it a tribute to blogs I feel are worthy of being read.

Store - It is not actually a store, but links to a few different ways people can support this site.

Portfolio - Because I receive so many questions from readers of this site about my web design work I have decided to add some portfolio items directly to the site. This area is still under development.

Trackback page - There is now a dedicated page that will list the last 20 or so trackbacks that have been sent to this site.

Expanded, annotated blogroll - Having been berated countless times for my pathetic blogroll, I have finally expanded and even annotated it.

Email subscription - I have added an email subscription feature whereby anyone can sign up to receive daily digest emails of the articles posted to the site. Check the toolbox area for more information.

Paginated category and date-based archives - This is a small touch but one that makes browsing categories and archives easier. Rather than having all items appear on one page, the items are now broken into pages of ten results per page.

Year at a glance - This feature allows a person to quickly find any entries posted on a particular date. I’m guessing that I will use this feature more than anyone else.

Bells and whistles - I added various other bells and whistles. Among them are smooth scrolling (scroll down to the bottom of a page and click “back to top” to see it in action) and various visual clues to which links you have visited, which will take you to a location outside of my site, etc.

The site was created to take advantage of certain features that are only available in Firefox. Thus the site does look moderately better in Firefox than in Internet Explorer. I trust that with the release of Internet Explorer 7 next year the gap will close to some extent.

I am both eager and worried as I anticipate your reaction to this new design. Fire away!

October 29, 2005

1:59 PM - I am currently upgrading the site. Please bear with me as I make these changes. I will update as I make progress here…

3:57 PM - We’re getting there. Another hour or so and I should have most of this done. So far commenters appear to be 1 Pro and 1 Con.

October 28, 2005

First off I would like to warn everyone that the site may be a little unpredictable over the weekend. I am hoping to upgrade to a whole new design. This design is such a radical departure from the current one that it will take a massive amount of work to make the change. So bear with me through the inevitable missing graphics, broken links and so on. I trust it will all be back to normal by Sunday.

Have you seen this Pumpkin-based computer? I suppose this is what happens when college students are not given enough homework.

I read this morning about a particularly humiliating time Ingrid Schlueter experienced in a church not too long ago. “Last Thanksgiving, my husband and I visited a church we had never attended before for a Thanksgiving worship service the night before Thanksgiving Day. After singing the traditional hymns of thanks and hearing some Scripture, the young pastor ascended the pulpit and looked out with eyes glaring with intensity at the congregation. Knowing this was a conservative church with many of the faculty from a nearby conservative college, I looked forward to being challenged from God’s Word. The title of his sermon was, “Taste and See that the Lord is Good”. His opening words were: “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am. Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox?… “

The pastor went on make a point “that unlike green eggs and ham, the Lord doesn’t turn off anyone’s appetite.” You can read more here.

Yikes. Now that got me thinking about the most humiliating moments I’ve experienced in church. After a bit of thought I dredged up one particularly painful memory. It was the year we lived in Scotland and my parents decided that we would go to church on Christmas morning. We were unable to go to our usual church since it was far across town and we did not have a car (and busses were not running) so we went to a local Presbyterian church. Now when I think about Presbyterianism I think of somber, dignified services following the regulative principle. But in this case the pastor eschewed all of that and led us in a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday,” directed, of course, to Jesus. It was bitterly painful. I am quite sure that no one in the Challies family could bring themselves to participate.

And so I wonder, what are your most painfully humiliating church memories?

October 28, 2005

There are a few events or occasions in every generation where time seems to stop. Those old enough to remember J.F.K’s assassination tend to not only remember the news reports, but remember where they were and who they were with when they heard about his death. Many people still remember how they felt when they heard that the space shuttle Challenger was destroyed just seconds after lift-off, or more recently, when they began to hear news reports about planes plowing into the World Trade Center in New York City. Another tragedy that stopped a nation, and really an entire continent, was the shootings in Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.

As with all tragedies, there arose out of Columbine stories of untold grief along with stories of great hope and rejoicing. Untold Stories on Columbine places the spotlight on just one of the young people who lost her life that day. Rachel Joy Scott was only seventeen years old but had placed her faith in God and sought to be a light in the darkness of the halls at her high school. From all accounts she was a fun, happy and vivacious young woman who was bold in sharing her faith. The DVD is a video recording of a speech her father, Darrell Scott, gave at a Baptist church in Tennessee. It also contains footage from Rachel’s funeral which was broadcast worldwide on CNN.

Apparently only a couple of weeks before the shootings Rachel, true to her convictions, had witnessed to the two gunmen. Her father recounts what has become a popular but unsubstantiated account of the events surrounding her death. Rachel had already been shot twice while standing outside the school building. One of the gunmen, seeing that she was wounded, grabbed her hair and pulled her head towards him, asking “Do you still believe in God?” When she replied, “You know I do,” he immediately shot her through the temple. This same affirmation of faith was attributed to Cassie Bernall (and was later disproven, despite books and songs in her honor) and to Valeen Schnurr who survived. It is entirely possible that the gunmen asked this question of multiple people. We will never know with any certainty whether Rachel’s final words were a statement of her faith, but what we do know is that she was a remarkable young woman who left a legacy that has since inspired thousands or even tens of thousands of young people.

The untold stories of Columbine are not the stories of Rachel or Cassie, but of those who were stirred to follow their example in finding meaning and refuge in Christ. While many stories that arose in the aftermath of that day have long since been proven false, what no one can disprove or take away is the faith of those young women and many of the other students. We cannot know how many lives were touched and how many hearts stirred to hear of young believers who lost their lives - maybe as martyrs and maybe not - leaving behind a legacy of faith.

Darrell Scott is a natural speaker and his presentation is powerful and stirring. He shares stories from his daughter’s past and relates many of her premonitions that her life was not going to last long. Equally powerful are the testimonies of Rachel’s friends and family as they pour out their hearts at her funeral. The grief, still so new and fresh, is palpable. I had two concerns with the presentation. First, it seemed that he must have already given the speech hundreds of times, for it seemed to be done with little spark or emotion. Secondly, discerning viewers may find themselves squirming at times, as Scott is a Pentecostal and holds back nothing, even in front of his Baptist audience. Knowing his audience he attempts to explain his beliefs on visions, dreams and direct revelation from God, but in the end I agree with a friend he mentions in his speech who always encourages him to “show me in the Word!”

This is an interesting DVD and well worth the 80-minute investment. Whether or not Rachel Scott died with a confession of her faith upon her lips, we know from her life and from the legacy she left behind that she believed deeply in the Lord and was called home from that bloodstained field to her Savior’s side. Her life and death were both a powerful testimony to the grace of God.

October 28, 2005

Friday October 28, 2005

Halloween: Apparently when it comes to pumpkins, White is the new orange.

Du Jour: Laura touches on something I’ve been thinking about lately. “I’m coming to realize that surely, reading/skimming the amount of information that reaches my brain on an average day does me far more harm than good.”

Politics: This just in. It isn’t only nice guys who finish last. No, it seems the ugly ones are right there with them. I guess you have to be handsome and mean to make it in politics. But I think we already knew that.

Technology: Here is one more reason to stick with PC over Macintosh computers. Need a job? Don’t use a Mac