"No one ever asks to leave hell."

I've made it no secret around here that I question the common understanding of Hell being a literal, consuming fire that torments a conscious soul day and night without end. I do believe in Hell, and a "fire" of Hell, but I've found it curious that many believers accept a metaphorical representation of Heaven (e.g. streets of gold) as represented in Scripture, but reject a similar metaphorical representation of Hell.

In The Reason For God Tim Keller summarizes my current thinking on Hell:

In short, hell is simply one's freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into infinity. We see this process "writ small" in addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and pornography. First, there is a disintegration, because as time goes on you need more and more of the addictive substance to get an equal kick, which leads to less and less satisfaction. Second, there is an isolation, as increasingly you blame others and circumstances in order to justify your behavior. . . . When you lose all humility you are out of touch with reality. No one ever asks to leave hell. The very idea of heaven seems to them a sham.

The idea of Hell being something of a choice for the damned fits hand-in-glove with the idea represented by C. S. Lewis who said that the damned souls are in some sense successful rebels to the end, and, as Lewis' character George MacDonald says in The Great Divorce, "There are two types of people in the world. Those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'"

I believe Dallas Willard presents a similar picture of Hell in Renovation of the Heart.

I'll end with another Keller quotation from the aforementioned book:

All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want, including freedom from himself. What could be more fair than that?

This Could Be It

We'll likely make an offer on this place on Monday.


Where I'm At

I've pondered a lot of heavy theological stuff the past couple of years (and especially the past year), and I'm going to give a brief rundown on what I'm thinking right now:

God -- Triune
JESUS -- Supreme
Holy Spirit -- Not a toy
Grace -- HUGE (and even huger than we can fathom)
Mercy -- Yes!
Sin -- Real
Baptism -- For believers, but cool with paedo
Calvinism -- I'm in
Universalism -- I wish
Hell -- Real. Bad. And in the palm of God's hand
The Bible -- Infallible
The deuterocanonical books -- Curious
The Apostolic Fathers -- Every Christian should own a copy
Church History -- My love

With regard to Church History, it's become my favorite subject to read about. I imagine when I die there will be a line in Heaven about 100 miles long filled with people waiting to talk to St. John. I think I'll wait until that line goes down a bit and talk to his disciple, Polycarp, in the meantime. :-)

I Need A Book

I haven't had time to read squat lately, and I'm getting semi-frustrated with it all. To be fair I've gotten through a good chunk of Robert Jordan's Lord of Chaos, but my usual fare has just been collecting dust.

I started reading Tim Keller's The Reason For God in roughly late January or early February, and I'm just over halfway through -- a pathetic pace. I'll concede that Keller's book is one that makes you think quite a bit, and I found myself rereading large portions of it just to digest it a bit more.

I haven't even had much time to watch the boob tube, though I think Brandi and I will carve out 45 minutes to watch Lost tonight (or perhaps 24 since we recorded it the other day).

In other matters, life's pretty good right now, except for the fact that we're under a good deal of stress since we're expecting baby number four in June and we've got to move before then. Yikes.


We're shopping for a home loan right now. One guy we talked to on Friday approved us for a certain amount, but our real estate agent said we should try another source as well.

If you think about it, please pray for us. All of this stuff needs to happen within 8 to 10 weeks. It's going to be a challenge.


For various reasons Brandi and I are in our early 30s and we have never looked into buying a house. That all changed today. Within a few short hours we had decided to look for a house to buy and I had called a loan officer to see what we would be eligible for. Thankfully he said our credit "looks good," and we were given the ok for a loan. I was a little nervous about that since we never buy anything on credit anymore, and we haven't for years.

I'll obviously post updates here. Our baby girl is due in late June, so we hope to have this house situation taken care of by June 1 at the latest.

It's funny how your whole perspective can change within a few short hours.

A Smoke Offering

Thanks to my sis, Boo, for proving me with a Cuban cigar that she brought over from a tobacconist in England.

I don't smoke cigars often -- I hang primarily with my trusty pipes -- and I knew that if I hesitated to smoke that Cuban it'd likely dry out in my not-so-well-maintained humidor. Therefore, I just spent the past hour smoking it on my porch while I simultaneously read and listened to U2's No Line On The Horizon.

Thanks for the treat, Boo.

This Ought To Be Interesting

I received this email today:

Mr. Guel,
Milkweed Editions is interested in sending you a review copy of
J.C.Hallman's debut collection of fiction, "The Hospital for Bad Poets."
Will you provide a mailing address so that we can send you one?
Thank you!
Milkweed Editions

I like J.C. Hallman. I like him a lot. He's got a real gift for storytelling, so I'm looking forward to receiving my review copy of his work. I'll plan on posting a review over at Thinklings. Stay tuned.

P.S. Here's an interview I did with Hallman back in 2007.

ISTP And Other Thoughts

Brandi and I had a couple of good friends over on Saturday night for homemade pizza and a movie. We skipped the movie and ended up doing online personality tests and talking about the results.

This particular friend is usually excited to smoke a pipe when he's around me. He's one of the few true pipe converts I've ever had. It's always fun to fill a pipe bowl with tobacco, light it, and then have a lengthy conversation about JESUS, movies, books, or whatever else might come up.

Back to the personality tests, apparently I'm an Introverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving (ISTP) type guy: I have certain tools like to work with; I don't thrive in large social circles; I prefer staying home most times; I know a little bit about troubleshooting computer problems (very basic ones); and I like to crack one-liner jokes. I guess that's all true to some extent; the ISTP profile seems to fit well in a lot of ways.

The beauty of living in a small city is most people live within 5 to 20 minutes of you. Some of our friends who live "way out" in the suburbs actually live 25 to 30 minutes away, but most really live within 10 minutes of us. This particular friend lives about three minutes from us, so I swung by his house on Saturday and dropped off some pipe tobacco. We sat and talked for a minute on his porch saying something like it's nice to be around people who you feel free to be yourself around. That's something I value more and more these days, and it's rare to be with a person -- or group of people -- with whom you feel safe enough around to drop all pretenses.

That is all I have to say.

Osaka Sun On The Horizon

Tomorrow is a holiday of sorts. At least it'll feel that way since U2's new album No Line on the Horizon releases tomorrow. I'll have to turn my iPod away from Coldplay for the time being. I've been absolutely addicted to Coldplay's Viva La Vida, especially the track, "Lovers in Japan." Here's my favorite line from that track:

Tonight maybe we're gonna run
Dreaming of the Osaka sun
Ohh ohh...
Dreaming of when the morning comes

Something about that really resonates with me. I honestly have no idea what it is, it's something. The song is amazing.

Random Thoughts On My Kids

Nathan -- He's nine-years-old right now, and he's typically full of joy. We figured out a few years ago that he has Asperger Syndrome, though he's never been formally diagnosed and we have no plans right now to get a diagnosis. Two or three years ago my fear would have been that at this point in his life he'd have no interest in his siblings, and he'd always prefer to be alone somewhere engaging in some funky behavior (like shaking his hands or repeating obscure movie lines). The truth is he's made great strides. For the most part he loves to play with his siblings and a lot of the worst case scenario type behaviors have not come to fruition. I'm often a bit saddened by the fact that we're not able to devote more attention to his needs, but I'm happy with the boy that he's become. (I'd be happy anyway, regardless of how he turned out.)

Daniel -- He's turning eight on Thursday! He's all giddy to go to a Mexican restaurant for his birthday so we're taking him to the best Mexican joint in Waco: Ninfa's. (The same Ninfa's that originated in our former home town, Houston.) He's excited about it. I think he's already sent out invitation emails to a few people. (Yes, I hooked him up with a Gmail account a while back, and he checks it frequently.) Daniel is our huggy boy. He loves to get close, crawl on my back, and do anything that involves hanging on me and/or Brandi. He's got a bit of a speech delay, so he still pronounces words in his own funny little way and he's always saying funny things. (For example yesterday he said, "I'm trying to ride my skateboard but I need a seatbelt for my feet." The funny thing is he was totally serious.)

Abigal -- She's beautiful. She's only five-years-old but I can already tell that I'm going to have to beat those sweaty, stinky boys away from her presence once she becomes a young lady. That's no problem. In fact, she doesn't know this but we're not going to allow her to get married until she's 30-years-old, so I don't have to worry about anything for another 25-years. She's creative, caring, and she's already excited to be a mother one day. She's also a bit on the tougher side; I guess having two rowdy older brothers helps out in that department.

Baby -- She's inside of Brandi right now, and she'll be making her debut around June 25th. I can't really tell what sort of personality she has, but she sure was kicking like crazy yesterday. We don't know what we're going to name her, but our top two candidate names right now are Hannah and Evangeline. Of course, we could bail on those names ...

That's it!