This is my 500th Post. It Will Change Your Life. (i promise)

This blog’s first-ever post was on December 6, 2004. As of today, seven-and-a-half years later, on May 1st, 2012, I have posted 500 posts. Out of the 86,400 visitors this site has had over those years, 1/3 of them have happened in this year alone, so I’m looking forward to this site’s continued maturation and growth. And it’s all because of you! Thank you all for reading, commenting, challenging, and encouraging me throughout the years. Here’s to 500 more!

Bonus life-changing video:

a little blog update… (on “Paul breaks” and guilt-burdens)

I have a really good friend, David, who loves me a lot. I’ve often considered him my “best friend” (as awkward as that strangely feels for me to say–as a guy). I’ve known him since I was in college in Richmond, Virginia. We would spend hours upon hours at our favorite Richmond coffee-shop talking theology, life, and books. We’ve been through a lot together (we even tried to keep a fledgling online magazine running for a time).

But through the course of our friendship, every once and a while, he’s had to take what he calls “Paul breaks”. These are periods ranging from a couple of weeks to a couple of months where I won’t see him or talk to him. They usually follow a season of intense hanging out where we saw each other for many hours for many days in a row.

I’m an intense guy. He’s a laid-back guy. And so, after a time like this, he’s needed a break from me.

But this wasn’t because he didn’t love me or didn’t care about our friendship, it was precisely because he loved me and wanted our friendship to continue.

And so it has been with this blog.

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The Practice of His Presence

Well it’s that time again. Anyone that has followed this blog for a while knows that I go through “blog angst” from time to time and now and again. I get into a “funk” and question the direction and content of my blog-writing. By now the script for my whining and pining is well-formed and well-documented, but it always seems to end up at the same place: I need to make this blog more personal; it’s not the right venue for in-depth theological engagement; I need not be scared of putting myself in this thing (as I’ve written before).

And this angst could not come at a stranger time for me to try and talk about my personal spirituality rather than using the theological stuff to keep myself at a distance.

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I Am A Fearful Man (and i need to get over it) {pt3}

[Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series]

Finally, this is done. This is the last post in a three-part series that’s been walking through my development as a thinker and feeler in this world. The first part, at its core, was about the culture and world around me as I grew up that helped cultivate the arrogance I still war against inside me. The second part was about the things that have humbled me and showed me my finitude. So where does that leave me now; and why does it warrant this little series?

The confluence of all of these forces (of arrogance and humbling) has made a very interesting creature out of me as of late. A recent trip back home to visit my parents found me getting into several vehement fights with them over (of all things) politics. It’s not even that I disagree with them very much! It was mainly a frustration over just how unwavering and (I felt) naively arrogant their commitment to these ideas were. In short, I was getting mad that they seemed to allow no room for disagreement or for them to be wrong. A couple of times my Dad asked me, well what do you think? And I realized I had no answer. All I knew was that no one could know so surely what was right. Why? Because God had showed me in the past several years that I couldn’t. And if I (of all people) couldn’t know with certainty, then surely no one else out there could, right? (P.S.- that was sarcasm) It all culminated in a moment where my dad pretty much said that my writing had been steadily losing it’s quality ever since the “pinnacle of my writing”: a post I wrote called “On Holy Week, Suicidal Ideations, & My Heart“.

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White-Knucklin’ It (a blog filler post)

Personal goal for next week: write like nobody’s business.

I hate that it’s been almost two weeks since my last “real post”.  I’m sorry.  I need to be okay with using this blog actually as a blog and not a magazine where I’m the sole writer.  I want to engage you all more.  As has been my unattained desire for the past year, I want to do shorter posts, more audience engagement.  I know my track record sucks, but I really do have other platforms more appropriate for my larger writings, and I’m so infinitely frustrated at myself for how I treat this blog, that perhaps, maybe this time, I just might be able to make blogging a bit more of a regular habit that you all will want to read and actually comment on.  We’ll see.

Sorry for yet another filler post.  Starting Monday, I’m hoping to blog your faces off.  Until then…

weekend update

I wanted to write a quick note to anyone that’s been confused about the lack of writing on all of my sites.

For one reason or another, I’ve decided to do more research on the Slavery, Bible, and Atheism series.  Here’s why: It’s a six part series and so far each part has required two separate posts.  I am mostly done with the second post of Part 2, and for the whole series so far, I have almost 20 pages of content written.  With the stuff I want to say, and the content I wish to cover, I’ve realized that by the end of the series, if I stay on pace, I could have anywhere between 60 and 75 pages worth of material written.  And this doesn’t even include the pages worth of comments I’ve written on comments on Facebook and here on the blog.  So far, all I’ve written has been very “bloggy” in style and language; in other words — completely unworthy of even considering trying to see published.  It’s been very polemical and directly addresses other people and conversations not directly involved in this blog.

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A New Church Home . . .

liberti south philly coverepiphany fellowshipAs of a couple of weeks ago, I am an in-covenant member at Liberti Church: South Philly. One of the reasons I am writing this is to inform those at Epiphany that don’t know this yet. I thought a good number of people knew, but I’m getting more and more texts and messages from people that obviously don’t know this. Sorry for not communicating this to more people.

As many people know, ever since I first got to Philadelphia, I was an avid member of Epiphany Fellowship. In fact, it was a message by Eric Mason delivered at the Village Church in Dallas, Texas that sealed my decision to come to Philly in the first place. When every other seminarian was spending their first few months at school in that awkward period of looking for a church home, I already had mine. The apartment-hunting visits I had made prior to moving let me visit Epiphany months before I actually moved here and I was made to feel the warmth and hospitality of a community that lived in line with the amazing teaching they receive in and out of Sunday mornings.

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Creation/Evolution articles at R&R

Hey, at the behest of a good friend (you know who you are), I am putting up the links to the two articles I recently wrote on my magazine site, Reform & Revive.  I am currently reading a book called Perspective on an Evolving Creation, edited by Keith Miller.  It’s pretty phenomenal, and I’ve started blogging through the book.  I’m putting up articles concerning the better essays that could be the most helpful to everyone out there.  So, without further ado, here are those links:

Article #1: I’m Coming Out (Intro to an Evolving Creation)

Article #2: “An Evolving Creation: Oxymoron or Fruitful Insight?” by Keith Miller

Enjoy, and debate away!

Slow Blog Week

I’m doing a lot of moving around the city and country this week, not to mention I have a really good friend from Richmond visiting all this week (and longer perhaps), so I’m not going to be as frequent with the blog this week (if at all). Sorry I’m a little late in getting this out. But, good things are in store in the weeks ahead: I want to get back to my Bible Study blogs, I have an article I’m working on for By Whose Authority?, and I have some posts in the works for this site that are a little more substantive than I’ve been posting recently. Also, I’ll be moving some of the Creation/Evolution discussion from Reform & Revive over to this site.  So, check back next week and I’ll be back in full swing.

Hopefully.  Bur in the meantime . . .

A Few of My Favorite Things (intro to My Fav Mondays)

First off – yes, I know it’s Tuesday.

With that out of the way: now that the epic Beauty series is done, what on earth am I going to do with my blogging time? Well, I want to bring in some structure. If you look to the sidebar on the right, and scroll down a little bit (not yet!) you will see a section containing my favorite “Reads”, “Listens”, and “Watches”. I really want to start promoting those things. So, I hereby introduce:

My Fav Mondays

Every Monday, I will take another podcast, website, TV Show, Musical artist, or book and write about it. I’ve been wanting to support and plug these things for a while now, and this blog is a perfect platform on which to do that. It’s something that may be actually helpful to you, the reader, and these are topics I am naturally passionate about. It’s a win-win. So, starting next Monday, I will begin what I hope becomes a popular ritual for us all. What will I review first? Who knows? Heck, I don’t even know. Until then . . .

You may now view the sidebar.

Facebook Friends, sorry for the inconvenience

screen-captureMost of my friends on Facebook probably think I just write a lot of Facebook notes.  This isn’t actually the case.  As many know, I have a personal blog, “the long way home“, that I write everything on.  Facebook has a great little feature where it will import the RSS feed from this blog into Facebook as a note.  So, long story short, I write a post on the blog, it shows up in Facebook as a note.  I never actually touch the Notes feature.  But there’s a problem with this.

When the feature first came out, there was a prominent “View Original Post” button attached to the facebook note.  Clicking this would take you to the blog itself.  Alas, as time has gone by, this button has grown smaller and more obscure (you can find it now on the very bottom of this Note next to the “Like” and “Comment” links.  This has caused fewer and fewer people to go to the actual site, because they can just stay on Facebook and read.  This causes many problems on my end.  So, after today, I will no longer be importing my blog posts to Facebook.  Read on if you care to know why.

First, formatting.  I format all my posts based on how they look on the blog, not on Facebook.  This means that embedded images, videos, and audio either get all jacked up, appear merely as links, or don’t show up at all.

Second, there are many resources and links that I provide on the blog in the sidebar and in the various pages.  Of course, these do not import to Facebook, meaning that there’s a whole dimension of engaging with the content that’s lost to the casual Facebook reader.

Third, it’s tough maintaining two separate audiences.  I get far more people leaving comments on the Facebook version of posts, and these comments only stay within our little particular corner of the Facebook community.  Having these same discussions on the blog let the rest of the world engage and broaden the conversation.  Also, there have been several occasions where blog visitors have left similar comments as people did on Facebook, so I’ve had practically the same conversation running in two separate places at once.

Lastly, and most importantly, tracking who reads what on the site.  This is not about needing the praise that comes with knowing people have read something of yours.  Anyone that has a site knows that knowing where the traffic comes from and what it’s reading is so important to knowing in what direction you should take the site.  I really have no idea how many people actually read what I write and this is frustrating.  I may go for weeks or years putting a lot of thought and energy into a particular series of writings, not knowing that nobody is actually reading them.  That’s a lot of wasted time that could be spent writing about things that will actually help people.  Also, I have a couple of sites I write for, and it would be great to know how much traffic each one gets so I can post appropriate writings in the appropriate places.  With more people visiting and linking to my actual site instead of just Facebook notes, this will also increase my exposure on search engines thereby driving more people to the site and to possible helpful resources.

Those are all the reasons I have decided to stop importing my posts to Facebook (after this post).  I will still put up a note each time I write, but it will only have a brief summary of the content and a link to the blog.

We’ll see how this goes.  If the number of people actually reading things on the site doesn’t jump up significantly, or if people make a big stink over it on Facebook, I may put it back, but in the meantime, I just want to see how this goes.  Links to the posts will still appear via the Facebook App “Networked Blogs” as well.

Sorry, if this isn’t as convenient.  Feel free to leave me your input.

The Big News II (I’m not leaving Philly, it seems)

I, Paul Burkhart, now have a real job.

Like, a real real one.

Yesterday, I was accepted for a position at a program called Project Transition as a “Psychiatric Rehabilitation Counselor” (assuming that my background checks clear, of course. Until then, I can’t actually say I’m “hired” per se, I’m still a “candidate”). In short, this is my dream job. I will have a case load of about 5 individuals recovering from various mental disorders who I will pour into their lives trying to help them reintegrate into society. I will teach classes to everyone in the program on various parts of living life healthily. I will be doing assessments and creating treatment plans for my case load. The people I will work with seem amazing. Benefits kick in after only a month. It’s really good pay (at least for an entry level job). I will even have my own office space (and desk!).

The philosophy of the organization is right in line with mine: that people are not defined by their disease. They are fundamentally healthy individuals struggling with a disorder, rather than the view that would treat them as primarily disordered individuals struggling for health. It was so exciting sitting there as they told me everything about the organization. That reminds me, the interview itself was strange too. It was one of those weird circumstances that seems to surreal and – for lack of a better word – supernatural. In the entire interview I didn’t say more than a couple of sentences. They didn’t really ask me many questions. It was more like “hey, this is who we are. Wanna join us?”. It was so strange. I have the weakest resume one could imagine. I have waiting tables at Applebee’s and tutoring elementary school students on there and that’s it. Hardly the resume to get someone a professional counseling job. But nevertheless, I walked in, and the founder of the organization had made one of his monthly visits to this particular site just to interview me. When I got there, everyone already knew my name and who I was. When the founder had to leave the interview early and leave me with the site coordinators, he had the secretary send down paperwork to hire me, even before the interview was actually over! (Running the risk of sounding overly charismatic or Osteen-ish) I felt like I was walking in “supernatural favor”. Or something like that.

So what does all this mean? Well firstly, even though I loved and adored my time in Richmond the past few weeks and really wanted to move back there, it seems that God has intended for me to have longer-term plans for Philly. This job really is something I’m going to want to stay at for awhile. The people I will be around, the experiences I’ll get, and the real-word education I’ll receive (all while still taking WTS counseling classes) will be invaluable to me. So I’m here to stay, it seems. This would probably have been a problem a couple months ago, but recently Philadelphia has opened up to me (specifically South Philly) and I have met so many people I really want to live life deeply with for a while longer before moving on (not to mention my biggest bromances are here and here. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you, you, and you).

So here’s to God for blessing me far more than I could ever imagine. I pray this drives me further to Him and doesn’t make me feel like I don’t need him now. Because I do. I’ve definitely been seeing that greatly the past few weeks, and this has been the first little ray of light to burst out from the haze I’ve been in.

Philly, here I stay.

My First Sermon Ever

For my first homiletics class at Westminster, called “Gospel Communication,” we were all put in different groups, each dealing with a certain type of text.  Everyone was to write up a sermon on their text and one person from each group actually preached their sermon to the class.

Well, I preached my first real sermon ever this past Thursday.  It was recorded, so I’ve decided to share it along with the manuscript.  It’s on “The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” in Matthew 18 and deals with forgiveness.  It’s about 30 minutes long.  Personally, being my own worst critic, I see many flaws in it (the structure was somewhat muddled, I talked too fast, and I somewhat went against the traditional interpretation of the text), but overall I was pretty happy with it.  It seemed like the class was as well.

If you don’t have 30 minutes to spare, just listen to the last 8 minutes or so.  I think that’s the point I hit my most significant “flow.”

Two more personal notes: first, I know I haven’t blogging much recently.  Things have been nuts and Seminary’s been kicking the trash out of me.  As the semester gets closer and closer to finishing, you’ll see more posts again.  Secondly, I have no idea how the pictures below will look on facebook.  They will either not show up, be really big, or be fine.  I don’t know, so I apologize for any formatting issues.

Here’s the audio and manuscript:


Click for Audio: Faithful Forgiveness.mp3

Faithful Forgiveness.pdf

Click for Manuscript: Faithful Forgiveness.pdf