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A Theory of Habits

Last night I put my shoes where they belong in my side of our walk-in closet. As I changed for bed,I placed my jacket on a clothes hanger and hung it in the closet and I put my dirty clothes in the dirty clothes hamper. This is good for me.

Good because I've had this bad habit of shoes left in the living room by the couch, dirty clothes ending up in a pile on the floor, and, basically, I make our closet look like "insert-coastal-city-here" after a class five hurricane. I'm sure this bloomed for me in college, and has continued to come off and on for years now. But, slowly and surely, I'm breaking that bad habit. I'm going on a week of successfully putting stuff where it belongs.

So last night it occurred to me that I hadn't only gotten out of a bad habit, but had replaced that 'bad' habit with a 'good' habit. And maybe that's the way people are with any habit. You don't just drop one, but you actually replace one habit with some other habit. You don't just "stop jogging" but you "start playing more video games". You don't just "stop coming home on time" but you "start working later". You're replacing time and actions with time invested in other actions. "You don't just lay something down without picking something else up." AND "You don't just pick something up without laying something else down."

If it works this way, maybe there's something to be said for how people try to alter behaviors (like not having a messy closet). Maybe there's a way to harness this point of view in correcting some of my other personal faults. Also, I know some people use 'habits' as a way of encouraging spiritual disciplines, and this may be a way to motivate people to engage in those types of habits.

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Awkward Life Experience No.326

I realize it's a doctor's office and everybody having a baby goes in there, but there's something odd about walking into an OB-GYN alone as a guy.

We had the full anatomy for the baby yesterday, and I got to the dr's office a few minutes before Shannon did, so I had the awkward life experience of strolling into the OB-GYN alone. (Reminds me of Richard, as a high school boy, going to buy tampons all by himself - but that's a whole other story!)

The appointment went just fine, and they said Shannon is well and the baby looked like it's supposed to so far. For now, we've decided to wait to find out if it's a boy or girl until the delivery. I can't quite tell if it's savoring one of life's sweet surprises or some deeply rooted seed of procrastination.

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So what's the gospel?

About a month ago I was listening to an old podcast from Nick and Josh . It was a conversation they had with Doug Pagitt, of Solomon's Porch and emergent fame. During the interview, Pagitt is rambling on about world views and missional living and then made a comment that clicked something for me.

When someone talks about "the gospel", what is that? What is it that we're talking about? What is the good news of the gospel?

Often, especially in American evangelicalism, the gospel is simply "Jesus died for people's sins." (And, I'll confess, I think he did, and I'm real happy 'cause I'm a pretty big screw up at life sometimes.) What Pagitt said in the podcast, while talking about the old testament sacrificial system, was that it's often presented such that "sin is this cost that is charged up against us and the whole gospel is the payment of that sin." Essentially, sin is the central point of the good news of the gospel, that sin is paid for and now people are free (what Dallas Willard talks about as the gospel of 'sin management'). Pagitt goes on to suggest that perhaps the gospel isn't merely about the forgiveness of sins, but rather of our lives being integrated into the life of God, that God is always active and inviting humanity into 'full life' (perhaps one would call it 'eternal life'). He suggests that sin is, then, the disintegrative force, that which separates us from God.

Let me try putting this concisely: Is the message of 'the gospel' that "people sin, and jesus died for those sins, so we need to believe and get saved" or that "the kingdom of god (god's rule and reign, in creation, in individuals, in societies) is available and we're invited to live into that." i don't have all my thoughts ironed out, and i just tried to condense something that still fuzzy to me into a short little sentence.

So, I'm just raising some questions about salvation and the gospel...
Is sin the point? Is sin the crux of the gospel? Is the point of christianity that some perfection of the person takes place (that sin is paid for)? Is it the promise of after-life for those who believe? What did Jesus' message that 'the kingdom of God has come near' mean, really? Is Jesus' sacrificial death the atonement for sin that makes our 'integration' with God possible? Is the one a means to an end, and the other the eventual outcome of that event? Jesus certainly offered people forgiveness for sins, but he neither seemed solely concerned for sins nor had he died for those sins at that time. (And while I'm railing a little bit, I'll also point out that not once did he pray with someone 'the sinners prayer' - I'm just making an observation, there.)

I'm going to spend some time camping out on this whole idea. In the meantime, I'd welcome any thoughts or direction (or correction) folks have to offer.

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I'm going to be a dad!

Here's a bit of news that's overdue...

I'm proud to announce that Shannon and I are expecting a baby Burnham!

We've known for a while now, and have shared our news with family and many of our friends. There are some folks I don't have regular contact with except through this site, so there are some who haven't heard yet (sorry for the delay). We are getting into the second trimester (you can see I'm learning all kinds of technical terms, like "trimester"). We're due in June and are getting ready for BabyBurnham to arrive; figuring out how we want to fix the room, thinking through names, prepping ourselves for handling NGS [that would be "new-grandmother-syndrome"], etc.

We're super excited! I guess you could say we've got some of the same anxieties other first time parents go through. (Are we ready for this? Do we have everything taken care of? Can I live on that little sleep?)

I'll give everybody a little input into our adventures into parenthood: We have the option of finding out the gender of the child before it's delivered. We go to the doctor again next week, and we can find out then if it's a boy or girl or we can wait. We've gone back and forth on our thoughts, and see pros and cons either way. So, would you wait for the delivery to hear, "It's a ...!" or find out now, for whatever advantages that gives in getting ready for baby to be here?

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Back in the Saddle Again...

You can just imagine the Aerosmith lyrics screaming in the background as I slowly and brazenly stride through the door announcing my return. It's 2007. It's a new year. It's a new swing at connecting with this wide world around me through the miraculous technology that is blogging.

I've been stewing and brewing, cooking up some thoughts and news to share. I've got a few ideas on just how I can keep pace with posting and letting it all out. It may come in bursts for a few days, may come once a week, but it will come. No apologies for delays, but it will come along.

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