Praise God for His work at Penn on Friday night!

Posted by tom | Sep 27, 2008

Your prayers and the prayers of many others were heard Friday night as God spoke through me as a little Christ in one of the most humbling experiences of my life. In some ways I still don't have the words to describe The Last Lecture taken a step further except to say that the Spirit opened some powerful reflections as 30 or so students from around the world wanted more discussion and more time to explore the meaning of life and death.


Join our family in prayer -- add Etown College

Posted by tom | Sep 25, 2008

In addition to the prayer requests given in Join our family in prayer, include Elizabethtown College

Background:  This morning at Conewago Coffee,* a first year student at Elizabethtown College asked if she could briefly chat with myself and a friend.  Why?  Because she had overheard part of our conversation regarding The Last Lecture taken a step further and realized that fellow believers were in room. 


The Last Lecture taken a step further

Posted by tom | Sep 23, 2008

This Friday, I'm presenting on The Last Lecture taken a step further as part of an International Student Discussion Forum at Penn, sponsored by InterVarsity's International Student Ministry and Graduate Student Fellowship.  Below's the abstract.  As you may remember, I've shared some thoughts in various places including most recently at:

If you have a few minutes and some well constructed thoughts, I'd love to have some wider input on the topic.  Note:  I've been asked not only to speak for 30-45 minutes, but also to create a handout for 30 minutes of discussion by small groups with young academics spanning a wide range of religious and ethnic backgrounds (so good discussion questions are also welcome).

Randy Pausch, who recently died, inspired many in his “Last Lecture”, given at Carnegie Mellon U. He overcame brick walls to reach his childhood dreams. But do we have possibilities in life even beyond our own dreams? Our speaker, who knew Randy, will challenge us to consider dreams for our souls even when we face brick walls.

Thank-you.  Your prayers and input (by post, email, or in person) are greatly appreciated.

Prayer Request: PSU Harrisburg

Posted by tom | Sep 18, 2008
Pray for the Spirit's direction as I meet for lunch with an undergrad, a grad student, and some faculty from Penn State Harrisburg to discuss following Christ on their campus.

News Flash: First Beam For Large Hadron Collider

Posted by tom | Sep 11, 2008

So has the First Beam For Large Hadron Collider been big news in your circles? The quick shout out on the Emerging Scholars blog (Large Hadron Collider!) got me thinking about how much my universe has changed since not regularly being on the Carnegie Mellon University campus. But maybe some of the good old days will return at tonight's Central PA Forum for Religion and Science dinner and their upcoming events ... the first coming in just a few days:

Peter Enns on Genesis and Evangelicals
Tuesday, 16 September 2008, at 7:00 pm.
Location: Hostetter Chapel Sanctuary, Messiah College, Grantham, PA. Directions and a campus map are here

If you're in the Elizabethtown area and have interest in an upcoming lecture ... or others posted at Central PA Forum for Religion and Science, let me know. Maybe we can carpool and/or set-up a time to chat about the presentation.

Prayer request: Penn State Harrisburg's C. S. Lewis Seminar in session

Posted by tom | Sep 2, 2008

Today, the C. S. Lewis Seminar begins it's noontime gatherings for Penn State Harrisburg faculty and staff. The group will pick up last year's discussion of Lewis' The Screwtape Letters (we ended in Chapter 6), seeking to separate fact from fiction regarding the Christian faith. Pray for last year's crew to return eager for conversation and for newcomers to become part of the mix. 

The best thing about Sarah Palin

Posted by tom | Aug 30, 2008

All I could say was Wow! when I turned on the radio to hear Sarah Palin's vice-presidential acceptance speech (and I thought the choice was going to be Lieberman). Check out Andy Crouch's post The best thing about Sarah Palin | Culture Making, it's excellent!

The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate has all sorts of interesting political implications, which are being diced and parsed as I write. But I’m more interested in the long-term cultural ...

InterVarsity's Mid-Atlantic Regional staff conference

Posted by tom | Aug 13, 2008

We're in the midst of our staff conference, which runs August 12-15.  Pray for a deep, refreshing time of spiritual renewal as our team digs into John 14-16, reconnects with one-another, and prepares for the fall mission.  Pray for clarity in our fall schedules, details regarding our Graduate student winter retreat (e.g., date, location, topic), which I will once again be directing. For me in specific, pray for connections with undergraduate field staff in order to coordinate campus visits with faculty and for feedback on the InterVarsity Press conference kit which I've worked on as part of InterVarsity's Staff Advisory Team for InterVarsity Press.


Missions Day at Roxbury Holiness Camp Meeting

Posted by tom | Aug 6, 2008

A few years ago InterVarsity held a Graduate and Faculty Ministry Winter Retreat at Roxbury Camp, Roxbury, PA.  Today, I return with some members of Elizabethtown and Manheim Brethren in Christ congregations for Roxbury Holiness Camp Meeting's Missions Day.  I'm looking forward to meeting a number of missionaries, hearing their stories, and being encouraged regarding in pressing on with the Gospel mission. 

Historical Note:  Roxbury Holiness Camp Meeting is an annual gathering birthed in 1935 when revival meetings were held in an old dance hall.  The Camp Meeting birthed Roxbury Camp.

Update: Retreat and Appointments

Posted by tom | Jul 9, 2008

Dwight and I had a very profitable site visit for the Mid-Atlantic Grad Winter Retreat. In particular, we appear to have found a cheaper location which covers the basics while providing more regional flavor and the flexibility to better partner with our International Student Ministry colleagues. Praise God!


Prayer for Messiah Village Visit

Posted by tom | Jul 8, 2008
Pray for Wednesday's visit to Messiah Village and the surrounding area during which I'll make a number of connections with retirees and pastors of local congregations.  In particular pray for budding opportunities for partnership in the Gospel.

Pray for Mid-Atlantic Grad Winter Retreat Site Visits

Posted by tom | Jul 7, 2008
Prayer request for Tuesday:  Pray for safe travel, keen insight, and good questions as I evaluate several possible 09 Grad Winter Retreat Sites with my supervisor.  Pray for the family as I'm out of the house early in the morning and not available to help with a various tasks which have become habit over the past several weeks.

Prayer for 2008-2009 Planning

Posted by tom | Jun 16, 2008

Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to give significant time to prayerful consideration of next steps for faculty ministry in central PA.  In particular, pray for discernment for how this work will tie into the Emerging Scholars Network, Following Christ 08, local events (e.g., conferencing, fund development, partnerships with local congregations, speakers), Pittsburgh commitments, and InterVarsity's Mid-Atlantic Ministry as a whole (i.e., connecting across the spectrum of undergrad, grad, and faculty on a variety of campuses). 

Note:  InterVarsity's Mid-Atlantic Regional Staff Conference will occur the 2nd week in August.  This gathering provides a strategic opportunity for focused prayer, intense Scripture study, deepening friendship with brothers-and-sisters-in-Christ, short/long-term planning, and training.  Pray for God to impress upon me with whom I should be connecting and sharing in this context. 

Melinda Mae’s Missiology

Posted by tom | May 25, 2008

Please take a few minutes to read over, reflect upon, and email a friend the link to Melinda Mae’s Missiology.  To tease you here's the conclusion which found deep resonance: 

We would never profess to be solely responsible for building the Kingdom, though honest introspection may reveal more of Melinda Mae’s Missiology in us than we thought. What we need is a Christo-centric missiology, along with a bit of Adam Smit’s conviction which pushes us toward Jesus’ carism and his thorough addressing of people’s needs; a bit of Melinda Mae’s resolve, where we live as if we could eat the whole whale in eighty-nine years; and a bit of Romero’s sobering perspective that rightly sees God as the master builder. Perhaps then this movement will lead to serious renewal for the Church as well as for the world who observes it happening.

May it be so in my way of life as a follower of Christ part of the people of God called engaged in pioneering Faculty Ministry with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship ... my current focus being Central PA and Pittsburgh.  AND how about the Emerging Scholars Network as a monstrous whale to be eaten by a tiny group of friends ;-)  BTW, we now have 2,965 members!

God's Provision: There and back again

Posted by tom | May 14, 2008

I ended up making a 1-day trip to donate the 95 Windstar and recieve the '95 Subaru Legacy.

AND it appears that the minivan, with a little work, will fit the needs of a family in 'da Burgh. Praise God! The joy expressed by the car ministry staff in enabling our family to be as effective as possible in the mission of reaching the campus with the Gospel reminded me of the awesome responsibility of the task at hand, the privilege to be about pioneering new areas in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's Graduate and Faculty Ministry, and that the people of God never minister alone.

Thank-you to each and everyone who has stood with us in prayer, encouragement, and financial support.  Your concern for us to have the best resources possible is a great blessing.  We rejoice in advance for God's provision through His people as we approach the birth of a little one and fiscal year end in June.

Pray: Penn Follow-up to Sire's visit

Posted by tom | Apr 17, 2008

Tonight, at the U. of Pennsylvania there will be a follow-up gathering to Jim Sire's visit.  Pray for strong participation and good conversation as they take Sire's material an additional step by using If God is There, Why Doesn’t He Show Himself? -- a short piece by Rick James, author of InterVarsity Press' (IVP) Jesus Without Religion: What Did He Say? What Did He Do? What's the Point?   Note: You might consider picking up a copy of Jesus Without Religion to share w/friends and family interested in knowing more about Jesus, it's widely used on campus with undergrads. Below is the end of the preface, taken from the IVP website, which also has Chapter 1 for your consideration:

As this is religious subject matter, I feel I should give a disclaimer up front. I write with considerable bluntness, and generally, if it pops into my mind, it appears on paper. I, of course, could edit myself, but for the most part I choose not to because I’d like this book to be as accessible and down-to-earth as possible, as such subject matter rarely is. But I do want to say that it is neither my desire nor my goal to be irreverent, only relatable. And don’t mistake my manner of communication for either apathy or agnosticism — I assure you I’m neither. Rather through context, commentary and considerable bluntness, my desire is to strip away the veneers of both religiosity and skepticism (which has its own creeds) and get down to the bare wood, looking to arrive at not some austere set of facts but the unvarnished Jesus of the Gospels and history -- Jesus without religion.


Sire's Whirlwind Campus Tour

Posted by tom | Apr 7, 2008

Much good news to share regarding Jim Sire's Signals of Transcendence central PA tour.  May the saints rejoice in answered prayer and to God be all the glory! 


Signals of Transcendence

Posted by tom | Mar 31, 2008

Jim Sire begins his Signals of Transcendence central PA tour tomorrow/Tuesday at noon when he speaks with the C.S. Lewis Seminar at Penn State - Harrisburg.  In the evening, he'll take part in a dessert emphasizing the value of InterVarsity's Graduate & Faculty Ministry.  Later in the week Jim will speak at F&M, Penn, and Dickinson.  He'll wrap up his visit by leading a Learning to Pray Through the Psalms Prayer Retreat. 

Pray for Jim's safe travel, strong health, and clarity in presentation.  Pray for participants to remember the opportunity, to engage in thought/conversation, and to continue wrestling with his material (as it reflects coming face-to-face w/the Logos).  Pray for me to drive safely, grant Jim space to rest, and to manage the details with forethought.

Prayer: Recovering from the flu

Posted by tom | Mar 24, 2008

On Thursday night/Friday, I [Tom] started evidencing the symptoms of the flu which has worked its way through our children. Maybe I turned the corner when I slept almost all this afternoon [while Eden took a 3 hour nap (wow!) and the rest of the girls gardened].  The loss of most of Friday and today means that I've not finalized every detail regarding Jim Sire's April 1-5 visit. But I confess that I can't make it all work just right and that's not a helpful perspective to let into the planning process. As such, please join me in prayer as I once again offer my health and next week's ministry to God care/oversight.

With regard to this week, pray for me to have the strength to participate in the Screwtape Letters conversation at PSU-Harrisburg tomorrow. Last week, I received a deep impression that our conversations will lead to a lot of 'practical,' daily spiritual life concerns mixed with larger, framing questions. Personally, I've been reminded of the importance of praying for the Lord's direction in order to triumph over the devil's distractions in my own life.  Praying for resurrection power.

Pray for my continued healing and Theresa's protection from illness!

My Dear Wormwood

Posted by tom | Mar 18, 2008

Pray for the C.S. Lewis Seminar at PSU-Harrisburg which will begin conversation of The Screwtape Letters today. Pray for the consideration of Lewis' classic to bring to our attention the wickedness of our own hearts, the illusion of the liberating power of evil, and the call to godliness as we move from Lent to the celebration of Christ's Death/Resurrection, Christ's Ascension, Pentecost, the mission of the People of God, and the New Heavens/New Earth.

As time permits, I'll post more background regarding Lewis and some reflections based on the conversation.  I'm particularly interested in how participants articulate the tension between good-evil, the concrete reality-allegorical nature of the writing, and comparisons to other representations of devils in our cultural history.  

Moving from the Preface(s) onto Chapter 1 (nothing like reading your old margin notes and making new ones), if you have thoughts of your own regarding The Screwtape Letters and the chapters which I comment upon, please post.  

PS. I must confess that I am quite drawn to the critical manner in which Lewis harnesses the image of bureaucrats in our Managerial/Admin Age
PPS. When paging through a copy of Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary (passed along to me by a friend), I can see Lewis' concern with regard to how such writing can become obsessive. Of course Bitter Bierce's work is more expressive of his satirical perspective/writing . . .

April 1 Dessert & April 5 Prayer Retreat w/Jim Sire

Posted by tom | Feb 21, 2008

Please join us in prayer as we begin preparations for Jim Sire's visit to Central PA. Dr. Sire is the former senior editor at InterVarsity Press. In addition to his time with faculty and students on a number of campuses in our area, we have arranged two opportunities for the wider Christian community to hear and interact with our guest lecturer.  Please mark your calendar, more details coming shortly.

On Tuesday, April 1, 7pm, we will host a dessert at Acorn Farms where Dr. Sire will share the importance of InterVarsity's Graduate & Faculty Ministry in influencing the people, ideas, and structures of higher education. Note: Also included in the evening will be a local faculty member who will give testimony to the value of InterVarsity's Graduate & Faculty Ministry in the field

Second, on Saturday, April 5, Dr. Sire will lead a prayer retreat based upon his recent book Learning to Pray Through the PsalmsElizabethtown Brethren-in-Christ's Jim Gambini will lead the retreat's worship time.  Note: the retreat will be held from 9am-1pm at Donegal Presbyterian Church, Mount Joy, PA.

God thing!

Posted by tom | Jan 27, 2008

A brief update regarding the Mid-Atlantic Graduate student retreat which I directed this weekend, before I take a much need rest (particularly considering I picked up bacterial conjunctivitis again). The retreat was a God thing in a way that I may never have experienced before. Pictures and stories will go up shortly, but here are participant responses to What I enjoyed 'most' about our time together.



Prayer for Mid-Atlantic Grad Winter Retreat

Posted by tom | Jan 25, 2008

Dear Brothers-and-Sisters in Christ,

In a few minutes I'll finish packing and head to Camp WoMeTo, Jarrettsville, MD for the Mid-Atlantic Graduate Student Winter Retreat. As conference director I've had a number of last minute details and conversations which have taken my attention for the past several days, in the midst of a number of other projects. Pray for my safe travel, strength for various situations which will arise, and preparation for leading a Sunday morning reflection upon Psalm 120-122 based upon material from Eugene Peterson's A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Some items to remember in prayer over the course of the next several days:


God Provides for His work in His Time

Posted by tom | Jan 21, 2008

A few days ago, when I was in a funk regarding pioneering work among faculty and pressing on with our Mid-Atlantic Graduate Student Retreat, I received an email from InterVarsity's donor services confirming another new donor. Praise God for His calling of His people to support His work!

I emailed back regarding the importance of the new support which we've been receiving in Central PA as we pioneer faculty ministry. My colleague at donor services responded:


On eloquence

Posted by tom | Jan 19, 2008

The other day, a faculty member shared how seldom he found reading outside of the classroom, i.e., when it wasn't for a grade.  How does InterVarsity address the countercultural nature of mentoring/apprenticing students into a life of practical reading and contemplation of the divine?  I confess it's hard, except among a small group of students. 

In my own work, prayer, encouragement, and drawing together small learning communities around particular topics (i.e., discussion/conversation groups) have been valuable.  I'm not quite as strong a critique of the One Book reading clubs as John Wilson in his recent Books and Culture article On Eloquence.  This fall I participated in One Community, One Book program which read/discussed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night.  Several years ago, the whole CMU Grad Fellowship read Deitrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together, watched Hanging on a Twisted Cross, and had a presentation by a Lutheran pastor which drew attention to the importance of Bonhoeffer's writing/actions/death. 

But Wilson's recommendation of Denis Donoghue's On Eloquence looks particularly good and I commend it those with such concerns. A quote from the book/article is given below.

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