Easter Weekend In Brief

Saturday was an unseasonably warm day, with the highs reaching into the 80’s. There was nary a cloud in the sky for most of the day and a light, pleasant breeze served to keep things from getting too stifling. All in all, it was the kind of a day that one relishes spending out-of-doors, occupying oneself with whatever busy work constitutes reason enough to be outside.
I spent most of it in a mall.
Franklin Mills Mall, to be specific, a hive of wretched scum and villainy whose equal you are unlikely to find elsewhere in the ‘verse, to paraphrase Sir Alec Guiness. I find that, whenever my faith in humanity has begun to wax, whenever my cynicism fades, whenever I begin to see the best in everyone, I need only visit my local mall in order to bring my Candy Land visions of universal Human Kindness to a halt. T-shirts with narcissistic or outright offensive slogans abound, Loud Public Cell Phone Talkers clog the main mall arteries operating under the mistaken assumption that everyone else will find their conversations as interesting as they do, and lazy parents allow their apparently legally-blind children barely out of strollers to push said strollers about, certain to slam into some poor unsuspecting soul or to tip, spilling its now-wailing contents onto the oh-so-clean mall floors. But I digress.
We went to the mall in search of a few last-minute Easter accoutrements and, battle-scarred and weary we emerged nearly three hours later.
Sunday, “we” arose (and by “we”, I mean “I”) at 5:30am in order to muster the forces in order to make it to my parents’ church by 8am for the traditional Easter Morning breakfast. I am pleased to report that we managed to make it to the church by 8:05, a scant 5 minutes “late”, only to find that the Sunrise Service had not yet completed and we could have safely been an additional 15 minutes late or so.
The breakfast was followed by a Brief Stewart (the Youngers) Nap in my father’s office, as such an early awakening had taken a toll on father, mother and child. We napped until the service (held at 11am, as per proper Presbyterian protocol) and then found our way to the back of the sanctuary so as to be able to escape with relative ease should Will begin acting up. We made it through the service with little incident (except for my son overpowering his diaper and managing to wet not only his pantleg but mine as well) and, at around 11:50, I made my way to the front of the sanctuary to participate in the yearly rendition of The Hallelujah Chorus put on by the church’s choir and those from the congregation willing to lend their voices. I was able to score a prime spot this year next to a bass who could 1) carry a tune and 2) carry this specific tune, which allowed me to skip my routine of jumping randomly between the tenor and bass lines of the Chorus and stick to the bass alone.
We headed back to my parents’ house after the service for Easter lunch/dinner and a family wedding shower for my brother and his fiance. Turkey and ham were eaten, cake and coffee were consumed, tales exchanged, advice given and goodbyes said. We Younger Stewarts rolled in late Sunday evening and hit the sheets, dead tired.

Happy Easter

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Exciting News

Excellent news. Aron and Heather welcomed “Spud” into the world today at around 12:30PM EST. He weighed 9 lbs. 2 oz. and measured a hale 22″ long. Name withheld due to Double Secret Probation – I’d imagine Aron will post it to his blog when the time is right. Keep on the lookout for pictures as soon as Aron gets access to a web connection. Mom, dad and baby are all doing just fine.

Congratulations, Andrew And Liz

The Martins - Liz, Ben and AndrewCongratulations are in order for our old Lehigh friends, Andrew and Liz Martin. Monday night, they were blessed by the arrival of Benjamin Thomas at a hearty 8 lbs. 7 oz. and 20.75″. Click over to their Blogspot blog for more photos of young Ben. I know we’re looking forward to meeting him.
Congrats, again.

‘Twas A Busy Weekend, Part The First: Philadelphia WordPress Meetup/Blogger Bash

This past weekend was an absolutely packed one, moreso than a usual weekend in the Stewart household. My wife, son and I arose relatively early on Saturday morning, assembled ourselves and headed over to Aron and Heather’s house. Heather is in her 9th month of pregnancy with “Spud”, as the next-gen has been nicknamed, and, as seems to be the case in such situations, there are many, many baby-related projects that remain in an un/half-finished state. Thus, we volunteered our services to help Aron and Heather get a bit caught up on said projects.
We arrived and first helped clean out their Prius and install the infant travel system in the backseat. Then, it was time for me to head off to the March Philadelphia WordPress Meetup. I practically had to twist Aron’s arm to come along and we were released by the collective wivery to attend, should we fulfill some simple obligations: 1) stay for an hour or less and 2) return with a meal from Vietnam. We heartily assented and headed off for our destination, the Ten Stone Bar & Restaurant.
Aron and I arrived with a few minutes left in the “official” WordPress meetup and sat down with Bobby, Andrea, Owen and his wife Berta. After brief introductions, we settled down into some easy conversation and were soon joined by the Philadelphia Bloggers Meetup crew (full list of attendees over on Philly Future). The most interesting part of the PBM, at least in my opinion, was the arrival of Democratic candidate for Senate Alan Sandals and his campaign manager. Sandals is running as the “real” Democrat in the primary in May and hopes to knock Bob Casey down a peg or two. Apparently Sandal’s campaign manager is hip to the blogosphere and clued him in to the potential offered by a blogger meetup, so they decided to drop in, shake some hands, ask some questions and solicit some opinions. He asked if anyone blogged (extensively) about politics and several sheepish/accusatory fingers immediately pointed in my direction. With a bashful grin, I acknowledged their classification and proceeded to ask Alan a few questions. It was an interesting experience to meet a candidate so diametrically opposed to my voting issues and get a chance to sit down and chat with him about politics and the issues facing younger professionals in PA (jobs, DMCA, etc.), although Mr. Sandals definitively failed the Hank Hill Weak Handshake Test.
Our time up, Aron and I said our goodbyes and headed out, wended our way from South Street up to China Town, circled the block a few times in search of a parking spot, ducked into Vietnam and grabbed four #30’s (with chicken) and then headed back to Jersey and the wives (and kids, born and unborn, I might add). The Vietnamese food was enjoyed by all and then we resumed work – Aron and myself in taking out assorted baby furniture-related trash, moving furniture about and finishing the final coat of poly on the rocking chair Aron had been working to stain and finish, the wives on straightening up and getting “Spud’s” room in order.
Quite a full load for a Saturday.

Snakes, Stones And The Efficacy Of Paedobaptism

Brad recently pointed out a post on Skippy’s Stack discussing paedobaptism (the baptism of children) which spawned a few comments from Skippy’s readers. Much was said about personal preference and opinion, but there was little Scriptural reference employed in order to back those preferences up. I thought it might be worth delving a bit into what Christian baptism is as defined in the Bible, what it is not and what difference that ultimately makes.
This entire debate would be easily solved if the Bible took a clear stance on the issue of the baptism of children; unfortunately, no unequivocal statements on the subject can be found in the Bible and those which we can find are often open to differing theological interpretations (see Welty’s [a Baptist] A Critical Evaluation of Paedobaptism and Horne’s [a Reformed Presbyterian] response for a good outline of the two primary Protestant schools of thought on the issue).
The baptism we most often associate with the term is one performed by human hands using water, reminscent of the baptism practiced by John (Mark 1:6-8). There is no curative, restorative or salvationary aspect to this baptism; rather, it is intended as an outward symbol of an inward change and commitment. Baptism, as practiced by the modern Church is often compared with the circumcision practiced by the Israelites. There is no salvation accomplished through baptism, just as there is no salvation accomplished through circumcision; rather, they serve as symbols or marks, showing that person to be under a Covenant. As Paul points out in Romans 4:9-16:

9Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
13It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

The entirety of the book of Romans is well worth a careful reading, as Paul quite clearly and systematically lays out the case for salvation by faith and no other means.
However, the fact that we are saved by a baptism in the Spirit and not one of water does not remove the impetus for a baptism by human hands – far from it! In fact, we are commanded by none other that Jesus himself to:

go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit[.]

(Matthew 28:19)
While our true baptism in the Spirit occurs supernaturally after our acceptance of Christ (Acts 1:5,8, Joel 2:28-29), it is incumbent upon us to seek the salvation and earthly baptism of those around us. Therefore, I do not think there is any reason to look down upon infant baptism, nor should we look down upon multiple baptisms, as long as we remember that baptism by water in and of itself does not accomplish salvation, otherwise Jesus was a liar and died for nothing. If salvation can be accomplished by human hands (I submit that it cannot), then, as Paul points out, faith is worthless and a lost cause. One cannot be saved by human intervention, be it intervention on your own part or on the part of a pastor, priest or parent. Baptising children is unimportant in an ultimate sense – as long as the children grow up to accept Christ, there is no difference. To pretend otherwise is to distort the Gospel and to ignore stated Biblical truths.
And so, as Christians, I believe that we should all be mindful of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:13 as we discuss baptism:

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Ultimately, the power of baptism is in its symbolism – we are all inducted into a single Church body. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and should rejoice for each one of us that is shown, through the sacrament and symbolism of baptism, to be a part of that body. Any disputes that arise over this issue and cause conflict and strife should be held up to the truth of Scripture and then dropped if they are found to be ultimately unimportant.
At least that’s my take on it.

I Am No Longer 18 And Other Observations Prompted By Superbowl Sunday

In honor of the Superbowl, I was invited to play flag football yesterday afternoon by a few of the guys at my church. I answered with a hearty “Yes!” and grabbed my old football cleats, a pair of sturdy pants and a dumpy long-sleeved t-shirtand headed out to the field where the grand battle was to be joined.
We ended up with a turnout of twelve 20- and 30-something guys and split into two teams of six. The battle was joined, flags were snatched, tackles were made in lieu of flag grabs, passes were picked off and a good time was had by all. Two hours and a lot of (extremely clean, this being a pseudo-church-related affair) smack talk later, we called it quits. I retreated to my car after congratulating the other guys on a game well-played and wended my way home, only to discover upon disembarking that my entire muscular and skeletal structures had apparently been planning a mass revolt and chose that opportune moment to spring it upon me. My body emphasized the following point: no longer can I nonchalantly stroll onto a field, run about in a manner befitting a young man in peak physical condition and escape vast and vile repercussions to my general health and well-being. I feebly hobbled into the house and collected wife, son and diaper bag and headed off to my parents’ house to watch The Game.
My father is a life-long Steelers’ fan, having grown up in western Pennsylvania, so he was extremely excited at the chance to see the Stillers back in the Superbowl. He’s also a bit excitable, especially when watching football and has been known to shout and jump around during particularly exciting and/or atrocious plays, a habit which I have at least partially inherited. We quickly learned that this proclivity combined with my son’s young age and the ease with which he is startled results in tears and general unhappiness on the part of Will. There were four or five instances where my father, unable to contain his joy, leapt to his feet, let loose with a whoop which almost immediately caused Will’s lower lip to shoot out, his eyes to fill with tears and wails of fear and incomprehension to ring forth from his little lungs. I am chagrined to say that, in at least two of the instances, causing my son to cry was a collaborative effort between myself and my father, each of us unable to contain our “football hollers”.
We enjoyed the game quite a bit and, perhaps since “our” team won, were a bit perplexed at the naysaying that appeared in the press on Monday. I say “our” because, I must admit that, although I was rooting for the Steelers, I am at heart a Vikings fan and have to own up to the fact that, in Week 15 of the regular season, I was rooting for the Vikings to beat the Steelers and thus make it to the playoffs, so my rooting for the Steelers, my traditional AFC “home team”, felt a bit tainted. In any event, we enjoyed the game thoroughly and really enjoyed spending time with my family. Plus, I count any time we can leave my parents’ house and avoid breaking something a net win. *grin*
Hooray for the Stillers!

Add Two More Sites To The Fray

I’d like you all to join me in welcoming two new bloggers and two new blogs to the Literal Barrage/Zamoose.org family.
First off is Expect the Extraordinary, penned by Vinny and Ann. EtE is shaping up to be a great amateur restaurant, wine and spirits review site. Head over there to catch a few of their reviews.
Next up is Vinny’s solo effort, Journal of Brewing. Vinny has recently taken up homebrewing of beer and (I can personally attest to this) is turning out some great homemade beers. He’s cataloging his experiences and writing ’em down for all to see.
Hmmm, anyone else hungry right now? Sure could go for an Emoatmeal Stout, myself…

Tag, I’m It

Zoinks, I’ve been tagged by Ryan, my Philly-area compatriot (sorry I haven’t been to a Meetup recently. Next one, I promise…). Yeah, I know it’s the blogging equivalent of a non-anonymous chain letter, but hey, it’s fun.
As such, my Fours follow:
Four jobs I’ve had

  • UNIX Systems administrator
  • Java/C coder
  • Sporting goods megastore employee
  • Paperboy

Four films I can watch over and over

  • The Incredibles
  • Disney’s Robin Hood
  • Army of Darkness
  • Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Four places I’ve lived

  • Elkins Park, PA
  • Princeton Junction, NJ
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Chicago, IL

Four (current) TV shows I enjoy

  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Lost
  • Jeopardy!
  • Robot Chicken

Four foods I like

  • Wienerschnitzel
  • Panera’s low-fat chicken noodle soup in a sourdough bread bowl
  • The Aspen Inn’s lemon pepper chicken
  • Abner’s pulled pork sandwiches

Four places I’ve vacationed

  • Disneyland
  • St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
  • Columbia, SC
  • Bemus Point, NY

Four websites I visit daily

Four things I’d like to do before I die

  • Run for elected office
  • Take a Dodge Viper for a spin
  • Attend a Super Bowl
  • Buy a lake house

Four people I’m tagging