Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reading: The Unlikely Disciple

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University
by Kevin Roose
Grand Central Publishing (March 26, 2009)

Kevin Roose is a sophomore at Brown and an intern for writer, A. J. Jacobs, when first introduced to Liberty University through students he meets at Thomas Road Baptist Church. His conversation with the group of students frustrates Roose because he realizes there is a cultural gulf between him and them.

He decides to enroll in Liberty for a semester in an effort to understand the culture and to write a book about the experience. Roose is 19 at the time. He secures his parent's and school's permission, completes an application to Liberty, and is accepted.

Roose writes that the "evangelical world, in my mind, was a cloistered, slightly frightening community whose values and customs I wasn't' supposed to understand. So I ignored it." Roose is slightly frightened but his family and friends seem terrified of the prospect.

Because of his experience in speaking with the Liberty students, Roose decides to impersonate an evangelical during his time at Liberty. He writes "Naturally, I wanted to be as honest as possible." So he crafts his background story in that spirit and even receives help from the one Christian he actually knows.

He does manage to blend in with the Liberty students he meets. He is surprised to find that they are not the homogeneous stereotypes he had thought. He also finds there are some things about Liberty that is even worse than he had expected.

He makes friends. He learns to compartmentalize his life and his studies. He surprises himself by how well he adapts. He keeps his secret and takes sufficiently good notes to write an interesting book.

Towards the end of his time he is even able to interview Dr. Jerry Falwell. The resulting article is acclaimed on campus and gains some exposure off. Dr. Falwell dies the day before Roose is set to leave Liberty and Roose delays his departure until after the funeral. His article then gains even greater attention.

Before the book is published Roose returns to Liberty and confesses his subterfuge to his friends. He is surprised by the gracious responses of forgiveness and friendship.

In the end Roose reflects on the experience. He admits to being permanently changed but unconverted. He writes that his semester at Liberty did not "bridge the God Divide" but he thinks the barrier is not insurmountable. He even writes about his youth although mostly in the context of writing a book.

Now what did I think about the book?

It is a good book. It is interesting. It is well written. The characters in the book are portrayed humanly and the situations are realistic. There is little sense of contrivance and there is the ring of truth.

There are several strands of unresolved tension. Will Kevin get caught? Will Kevin fall in love? Will Kevin be converted? Will Kevin pass his courses? Will Kevin lose his friends and family? Will Kevin betray his new friends?

It is the novelty I suppose that makes one start reading. It is the tension and realism and writing that keeps one reading.

So I recommend the book.

I have more things I want to write though and I am sure I will.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The General and the servant girl

I was reading the other day in 2 Kings 5. It is the most interesting story of a general named Naaman who was afflicted with leprosy. Eventually he goes to the prophet, Elisha, who by his own servant tells the general to immerse himself in the Jordan river and he will be cured.

Naaman really does not like this idea nor does he like talking to Elisha's servant instead of Elisha directly. So initially he stomps off refusing to do it. Well, his underlings persuade him to change his mind by telling him that he would do something complicated if he had been instructed to do so; therefore, why not do something simple.

I'm paraphrasing of course.

Naaman goes and dunks himself in the Jordan seven times and he is healed.

There's more, too.

Much later -- hundreds of years -- this story becomes very important in the life of Jesus, the Messiah. So it is an important story.

What really interests me is why Naaman wants to go to Elisha in the first place. That's because his wife has told him what her servant girl said. The servant girl is from Israel and was captured by Naaman's King on a previous raid.

Her name is not mentioned in the account. And she doesn't tell Naaman directly but only his wife, her mistress.

The story obviously is not about the servant girl but somehow I have become fixated on her. I keep thinking about her.

For one thing she must have been an exceptional woman because Naaman immediately took the advice upon hearing it. I wouldn't take advice from someone I didn't have a lot of respect for.

I wonder how she felt about being captured and removed from her home and family and life? I wonder if she was resentful or angry or depressed or all the emotions I can imagine myself feeling.

I wonder why she cared so much for Naaman? I wonder if it was because of his wife or the man himself or was it just something in the heart of this unnamed, young girl?

I wonder if she knew the Lord? And if she did I wonder if she felt herself called into His service? Was she at peace because she felt that calling even though she was a enslaved in a strange land?

I wonder if she was rewarded by the general when he returned home? I wonder how she felt when she found out he had been healed?

I wonder if she had any idea that her remark would play such an important part in world history? It was not a very significant statement really.

Makes me wonder about my own statements and my own life.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Survived The Endoscopies

Yesterday I had a colonoscopy and an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy.

Endoscopy means looking inside and that's exactly what happens. In my case it was the colon and my upper GI tract that my doc wanted to inspect.

Thanks to Wiki Commons for the image. I didn't take any photos myself. And honestly I did not observe this thing because I remember nothing after the nurse told me to roll over on my left side. Well, I remember saying "Is this okay?" but I do not remember the answer. So I guess it must have been okay.

They gave me Versed and Demerol I think. I was not taking notes though. I think they said the former would help me forget. I said "I didn't need much help forgetting stuff" which I thought was rather witty and humorous. But it must work pretty well.

The next thing I remember after turning on my left side is waking up in another room where I briefly noticed this nurse next to me. Then I had this irresistible need to shut my eyes which I satisfied. The next time I opened my eyes they stayed open and the nurse said I should get dressed while she went to get Judy. She drew this curtain around the bed and I got everything on apparently because I was dressed by the time Judy got there.

I thought it was funny about the clothes when I first arrived because the nurse that took me into this room told me I should leave on my socks and my undershirt. I don't know why that seemed funny to me but it did then and it does now. She also explained the hospital gown to me which also seemed funny as in "put the open side on your backside." I never laughed though.

Oh, yes, there was a toilet in the room and I was invited to use it and I did and there was discussion about what the result looked like. Reminded me of some conversations I've had before in the last few weeks.

Then we talked about horses and the nurse got a wheelchair and I sat in it and she pushed it out the door eventually. I saw our car and I said "I can walk over there" and that's what I did. Except the nurse grabbed hold of me and walked over there with me.

I do not remember the drive home at all. But we must have driven home because I do remember being at Judy's house for a few minutes. Then we drove over to the Banbury house but I don't remember that either.

Next I sat down in a recliner and I don't remember anything else until I awakened. I asked Judy if I had been asleep. She laughed.

Then I fixed myself something to eat: instant oatmeal, instant grits, and 2 of those itty bitty boxes of raisins. That made me feel a lot stronger. So next I found some leftover Thai vegetable fried rice from last week that I had thrown in the freezer (always thinking ahead!!). I put it in the microwave and a few minutes later I was eating it.

I checked the computer but had no energy to do much of anything about anything.

Judy, who had about as little sleep the night before as I did, said she needed a nap. I said I needed a nap, too. She was going to nap on the couch but I said I needed to be flat so I headed for the bed.

When I awakened it was like 5:30 or somthing and we had to go feed the horses. She said she hoped the nurse didn't find out because I wasn't supposed to do any "chores" today. Well, feeding our horses isn't very hard unless I have to carry feed sacks to the feed cans. I had already done that (again thinking ahead!!).

We visited Judy's mom a while and on the way home we stopped at a Sonic. At first I didn't think I wanted anything but then I thought a lemon berry real fruit slush would be really good so I got one.

That slush was really, really good. I have to get another one of those soon.

I think I took another nap maybe or maybe not. I watched Chuck on TV I remember. Then I went to bed and next morning came and I was awake again. I fixed myself some left over Starbucks and instant oatmeal and raisins. Then I started this blog entry.

I have to quit though because I have to get ready to go to the urologist at 9.

Thanks for all the good wishes everyone.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Welcome to

Does anyone besides me think that message is funny?

I mean the "proper preparation is the key to a successful colonoscopy" part of the message? It just strikes me funny. Cost wise this is certainly the least expensive part of the colonoscopy. I paid the Walgreens folks $35 for the jug which already had powder stuff in it. On the top were 5 flavor packets but you only use 1. The surgery center part is taking a good hunk of a $1,000. I haven't found out yet what the doctors are costing. I think the whole deal is going to bust a big hunk of $2,000.

My health insurance pays for it. Except for my coinsurance amount that is which is $250 or something. And then there is my deductible amount. I have spent ZERO so far this year. Anyone want to take bets on what my deductible is? Yep: $2 grand.

Interesting how that works. Not just on health insurance but all insurance that I buy. Except life insurance and I haven't used any of yet.

The jug is 4 liters it says. That's 135.26 ounces or 16.91 glasses of 8 ounces each. I decided to use 12 oz foam cups though. That's 11.27 of them. At 7:00 a.m. Sunday evening I began drinking two-thirds of the total. I rounded that to 8 cups.

That's a lot to drink. Took me about 2 hours. Then I had to drink 3 glasses of water. I managed 20 oz of water in another hour or so.

The result is pretty much what you might guess. I definitely did not want to drink anymore by the time I went to bed. It made me feel a little sick and "mentally off" -- kind of inebriated feeling almost.

At 3:10 a.m. Monday morning I proceeded to drink the rest -- a little more than 3 of my foam cups. I am definitely not wanting anymore of this stuff.

It is the same foam cup by the way. Is that recycling? Somehow I managed to distort the bottom of the cup.

In case anyone is interested in what this stuff does and can't guess given the scanty information provided thus far I will say only that a toilet is a good idea to have nearby when ingesting.

This will be (I haven't had it yet as I am writing this) my second colonoscopy. The last one was 3 years ago. The same doctor though. He's the one that said I should do this because he found a polyp last time which he removed.

People have asked me what the colonoscopy was like. I didn't think it was too bad actually. Honestly drinking this TriLyte® stuff is the worst part and it doesn't bother me that much. On the scale of disagreeable and disgusting things I've done this is way down the list. But that's just me.

As for the procedure itself about all I remember from last time is someone saying something about counting backwards. When I awoke I felt pretty good. I remember telling someone that I thought I could drive just fine.

Of course I always think I can drive just fine.

So if anyone is reading this before about 8 am central you know where I am and what I am doing.

I've decided to forego twitter and facebook. Unseemly. Have to draw the line somewhere.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I read an article the other day about vocabulary. The author argued that he tried to use "big words" in his lectures in order to help his students understand complex concepts and to be able to more successfully discuss the subject.

That caused a flurry of Internet debate of course about whether or not that was a good idea. It is not hard to imagine the two sides and their respective positions.

But it made me think about several different things.

Not too long ago I read passages from letters written home by American Civil War soldiers. I've also been reading (for a long while) Doris Kearns Goodwin's book about Abraham Lincoln. She includes quotes from the writings of people of that period. Then I have read some things that were written long ago by members of my family including my father and mother and grandparents.

What interests me in all of these is the rather greater vocabulary in use compared to what I generally read today.

There are older examples as well. For instance there are some really old pieces of Biblical writing that survive that discuss very complex concepts using advanced language.

There are four possibilities as I see it:
  1. Vocabulary usage has not declined and I am just wrong.
  2. Vocabulary usage has declined because human capacity has degenerated.
  3. Vocabulary usage has declined because education is ineffective.
  4. Vocabulary usage has declined because it is a matter of fashion.
That first possibility has a lot of merit I admit forthwith having become by this age well acquainted with my own self-delusional, intellectual failures.

Education is more intense now than it was when my parents were in school. I really do not believe the educational system is at fault. Or maybe there is just more to teach. That's true enough. But we have more time to learn. My dad had to try to read by a kerosene lamp for goodness sake.

Fashion definitely is a part of the issue I think. Telephone, radio, television, Internet, cell phones, email, and texting all discourage both complex concepts and advanced vocabulary. But it is hard for me to conclude that it is the only cause.

I think there actually may be some loss of capacity. It is nothing I could really prove scientifically but it just seems that way to me.

If I were to propose an evolutionary reason I guess I would say that it is because our species does not need to be as intelligent. If I were to propose a Christian reason it is that we are farther removed from the fall.

Just stuff I was thinking about.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Babies: Geese that is.

Geese. Just what we need (not)!

We have so many geese that
I figure if the recession gets so bad that
we are starving to death; then, we can
survive by eating these things. Except
I would have to hire someone to kill
them because I could never bring myself
to do it, starving or not.

They are pests but they are also rather
regal in how they walk around and ignore
people. And people pretty much stop their
cars when they cross the streets and honor
their nests and ooh and aah when the babies
are born. Even the weed eaters are restrained
from cutting down the grass around the nests.

I was driving to our office Friday morning on a
little homemade gravel road that runs behind
the Chick-Fil-A. The tree is the only one left
from the old garden and orchard that dates from
my childhood. I saw the babies there and stopped
to photograph them from my car.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I saw this mattress and box springs on the side of the road.

I felt the anger rise within me. In the little movie theater that exists in my mind I watched someone deliberately pull up in a pickup and throw off the unwanted bedding. Anger was becoming rage.

Then the movie changed and the pickup morphed into an old car with the mattress and box spring tied on top. There was a man and woman in the front and two children in the back and the car was filled with all sorts of stuff. It was a very poor family that was moving and the mattress and box springs tore loose in the wind as I watched and landed on the road. The man pulled off and hey all tried to get the load back on the car. They gave up in tears and desperation and harsh words and pushed the items over to the side of the road.

The movie changed again and the car morphed into a truck and the mattress and box springs fell off the back while I was watching. The driver was oblivious and continued on his way. A following pickup stopped and the man driving got out and pushed the objects to the side of the road.

The rage had subsided and the movies had stopped and the screen was dark.

I realized I had no idea what happened that caused that mattress and box springs to be there on the side of that road.

Facts are facts but context makes all the difference.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Last Words -- King David's -- Mine

In my Bible reading the other day I came near the end of 2 Samuel at Chapter 23. It begins "These are David's last words" followed by them of course.

My mind fell off the mountain of Biblical thought I was climbing. (I only climb rather small ones now.) It (my mind) began to think about what my last words would be if I were called upon to write them down. It sounds like my mind has a mind of its own doesn't it, entirely separate from my will? Sometimes I think it does, too, because I try to corral it and it just seems unmanageable at times.

That might have been an instance just now.

If my mind weren't connected to my mouth these episodes might be less stressful.

I think it is not the very last words of David but more likely the last written words. Probably it is like when several of us have stopped blogging and written our final posts on those blogs. Except they didn't exactly have blogging back then in David's time. And it was final before death. And he knew it. I am pretty sure I would stop blogging at least a few days in advance of my final breath.

That made me wonder about that time when I know that my life is concluding here on Earth. If I do know which is certainly not assured.

What would I say?

Partly it depends upon how long before my demise. And partly how I feel.

Of course unlike David I am not a king.

But I am the first son of my family. We do have a family business that will hopefully continue beyond my death. If I knew I were nearing death I think I would like to pass along a few things to my brother and my son especially about the family business. I would want my daughter and her husband and my grandchildren to know these things as well but I would be especially concerned about my son and brother because the mantle of leadership would fall more heavily on their shoulders.

That's what King David's "last words" seem like to me, too. His family business was being king. So I think as much as anything this is a little note for Solomon who would be King after David.

I think the actual message starts at verse 2. And I think that part is where David declares that he was called by God into his position. He makes the point that it was not just his calling but his family's calling. That's an important part.

Because of God's calling there are benefits to the family. But there are responsibilities, too.

I want my family to know that very same thing and to remember it and to honor and revere God.

Verse 3 also stakes out the high standard of righteous conduct and living and worship that David desires for his descendants. And that begins with reverence. I would encourage that, too.

Verse 4 is a reminder that God is the great provider. We need that reminder every day.

Verse 5 attests to the utter dependence we have on God for our salvation and our lives. David's family is certainly a good negative example in a lot of ways. But it is good to remember that we are all sinners. Some of us are bigger sinners than others but not by so much really. If we're getting through it will not be by our own efforts. If all my own children and grandchildren learn just that single fact I would be delighted.

Verse 6-7 is a warning to watch the relationships you make. That's a good one. It is really easy to fall in with bad companions especially for leaders who have lonely jobs just by nature of the position.

Then the rest of David's last words has to do with his mighty men. These were his trusted comrades, his loyal to the bone friends. These were people that could be depended upon. Leaders have to have those they trust and those who prove trustworthy. David names a few and tells why they are so trusted by him. I know some people like that and I think that's advice I could pass along as well.

That's how I see it at least.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Does Anyone Care About Doing A Good Job?

I casually told someone I was going to be waiting on an installation of a TV service the other day. They said "I hope it goes well." Then we both laughed and admitted that we neither one thought there was much chance of that happening.

It's terrible to expect problems with everything.

But that's the way it is now I think. I do not think it always was this way.

Part of the problem is that so much of what we do now is so complex while the tools we have to apply are so fast. For instance my iPhone tries to figure out what I am trying to type as I do it and substitutes words that I sometimes did not intend. Or the spelling checker for this blog entry for that matter does something similar. Both things happen fast, too!

Beyond that though I just get the feeling sometimes that people don't care much about the quality of the work they produce.

Probably more of my "old fogey" syndrome.

*The AT&T guy came and did a really good job as far as I can tell. I was pleasantly surprised. But that surprise shows that my expectations were so low.*

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


For TV service in our new home we had a variety of choices: Free over the air, Cox cable, Dish Satellite, and DirecTV Satellite. I have experience with all of these except U-Verse.

For Internet service we could choose Cox or AT&T.

For telephone service our choices were AT&T or Cox or nothing. Thought seriously about nothing, too. We have cell phones and the phone we have at Judy's is almost never answered even if it rings.

My experience with Cox has not been particularly good over the years. I have found the organization to be extremely bureaucratic and insensitive to customer concerns about as much as possible. My last experience was at the farm when I called them and asked them to come out and move a cable that was almost certain to be accidentally cut. This was during the Chick-Fil-A site work. Cox's response was that they couldn't come until the cable was cut. So when the cable was cut I called back and a guy came out. But he said "We can't fix it. You should have called us before the cable was cut." That experience makes me reluctant to use Cox. Plus I had quite a few interruptions with Cox service over the years and really could not recommend them for service.

We have DirecTV at our little house on the prairie. It works quite well except that it goes out when we have storms. We do have storms quite often. I thought it might be better to have something that was more resilient to storms.

My mother-in-law has DISH. It also goes out with storms. They say it isn't supposed to do that but it does. Actually I have had really good service from DISH.

Then I read about AT&T's U-Verse and decided to give it a try when it became available in our neighborhood.

I signed up about 2 weeks ago. Since then I've received 4 emails and a couple of phone calls. The appointment was for 8 to 10 on Monday morning. At 8 AM the installer called me and said he was working at the neighborhood box and would be there in 40 minutes. At 8:40 he arrived at my door.

He finished at just a few minutes past noon.

As nearly as I can tell everything he did is working great.

Kudos to AT&T - good product, good service.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I don't know what happened to all my handkerchiefs. I was down to only two and they were rather well used. So I turned to my trusty mercantile choice, Amazon of course, and found some in about 15 seconds.

Amazon just has them for sale but they come from Jos. A. Bank.

Still I had them "in hand" within a couple of days. The UPS fellow brought them in a considerably larger than needed box.

I use handkerchiefs and always have nearly as long as I can remember. I have a hard time leaving the house without a handkerchief stuck in my pocket.

I like to have a clean one but when you only have two you have to compromise on that issue. But now that I have a "baker's dozen" (that's what the package read -- I haven't counted them) I can be assured of a clean one daily.

Just to clarify there is no great need for a clean one for oneself. But if one carries handkerchiefs one finds shall we say opportunities to offer them to women and children. I have on rare occasion offered mine to another man but there is an unseemliness to it that I can't quite specify.

Over time I have noticed that I was more and more the rarity in having a handkerchief to offer. But really I had never thought much about it.

Until the other day when my son and daughter and a friend were visiting and I mentioned I had just received my new handkerchiefs. The three of them thought that was so quaint that I would buy and carry handkerchiefs. I said "what do you do when you need a handkerchief?" And I won't say what they did because I thought it was disgusting.

There is apparently a generational change in the wearing and use of handkerchiefs that had previously escaped my attention.

I noticed the other day that George Will had written a piece (Will Jeans Undermine Our Social Order) about the pervasiveness of the American blue jean. I would recommend to him a similar piece about the disuse of the lowly handkerchief but I am one of the ones who wears jeans daily and I am certain that would disqualify me in his eyes.

But I like my hankies even though they apparently make me an old fogey. And I am doing my part to preserve our social order to make up for wearing jeans.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I was called by God.

I've told that to many people over the years since it happened.

Usually I am asked what I was called to do. Or sometimes someone will ask why I am not obeying my calling. I understand the sentiment, too, because they mean why am I not a pastor or a missionary or something similarly vocational.

When it happened I thought only of vocational ministry. But the Lord made it abundantly clear that vocational ministry was not what He had in mind. He told me outright in fact. But it was a desire that lingered within me for a very long while. Just before I came to live with mom and dad I had applied to attend a seminary with the idea of pursuing a chaplain job. The seminary rejected my application. At the time it made me feel pretty rejected.

I am not proud of my obstinacy. But I think it does indicate how much we associate God's calling with vocational ministry.

Sometimes people ask about the circumstance of my calling. It was a dream. I think it was anyway. I am pretty sure I was asleep. I was like a tiny baby cradled in huge arms. I was being comforted. There was to be suffering in my future. But the comforting I was receiving would be sufficient for my perseverance.

"But where in that dream were you called?"

I don't know but that was when and how it happened.

"So you think you were called in a dream about comfort and you don't know what you were called to do?"

When I write it out that way it does sound pretty crazy.

I know what I was called to do. I was called to serve.

The circumstances of my life thus far have provided ample opportunities for me to serve the Lord in all sorts of ways. Those are the ones I know. There are probably many I do not know. There may have been times when I served and did not know it. There were definitely many times I should have done something and did not.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men
Col 3:23 NIV.
One might say that verse applies to all believers. I do not disagree either. My calling is only special to me.

I don't claim for myself anything special.

I could be the poster child for "being saved by grace" because there was surely nothing about me that deserved anything.

I have no super powers for certain. But I have found that I have been prepared for whatever I've needed to do when I needed to do it.

God's grace is sufficient.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Facebook and Twitter have been in the news a lot recently along with other Internet social networking sites.

The Thursday news was all about the "tea parties" where all sorts of like minded people gathered together to protest federal spending. I was watching CSI on Thursday evening and the plot involved this gathering of Star Trek fans.

Thursday morning I had occasion to wait in a couple of businesses. While I was waiting I observed the people who worked at the places and they interacted with each other and us customers.

At lunch on Thursday an old friend and I visited about a place we used to work and how much we appreciated our co-workers and how much fun we had working there.

So all of that started me thinking about community and what it means to be a part of one.

For one thing I thought that location and proximity are two things that have drastically changed about defining community. Not that there ever was a truly agreed definition in the first place. But used to we talked about how it was a group of people at a particular place. The Internet redefines place to something beyond geography although just what is hard to say.

Another thing that occurred to me was how some ideas or purposes become more important than others for a community. For instance the "tea parties" had people from all different kinds of backgrounds but they united around one particular idea. Facebook is kind of like that, too. Relationships trump other stuff there it seems to me.

I've seen that before many times. One time a group of us got together in a very informal way to raise money to honor a beloved teacher by funding a scholarship in her name. We were all opposites in so many ways but we united because we truly loved and respected that teacher.

There's a little group of us that read each other blogs and post entries and so on. We've become a community.

The more I think about it the more uncertain I am exactly what truly constitutes community.

But I have learned that it is really important.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Making Sense of The Bible

The Bible makes sense to me now but that was not always the case.

That statement requires some explanation. Because it did make some sense to me even when I was a very young child but still old enough to read for myself. That is the sense that I understood most of the words I read and even understood some of the stories.

But I did not have any kind of large view of the entirety of The Bible. It seemed disjointed to me with very little continuity of thought and characters. While some of the stories were compelling, many were also terrible and downright discouraging. The teaching itself in Sunday school added to the sense of discontinuity because I never understood the context if it was even presented. The sermons I heard mostly consisted of a reading of a verse of Scripture from the Old Testament and then a verse from the New Testament followed by a speech that to me seemed disconnected from either of the passages.

The God of the Old Testament seemed angry and often petty and rather human like to me. The Jesus of the New Testament was attractive in a way but seemed to be talking about a world that was so ideal as to be impossible. And the Gospels as far as I could tell dwelt on one thing whereas the letters told an entirely different story.

Large parts of the Bible were boring to me as well. It was certainly not something I enjoyed reading for sure.

Now, though, I love to read the Bible. I find a wonderful sense of continuity from front to back. I find all sorts of new nuggets here and there on my reading journeys. That's how it seems to me when I read the Bible now: a journey or, better, an exploration of new and unknown places. Like the Starship "Enterprise" boldly going where I haven't been before.

So what changed?

In my own journey of faith there was a time when I was searching for answers about suffering. I was led to the Book of Job which I obsessively read for about a month. One day as I was nearing the end of the book once again I was reading Job 42:5-6:
"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes."

In an instant I realized that I was like Job. I had heard about God but I did not know Him. I had not seen Him. And in that same instant as though I had been sitting in a pitch black room and someone turned on the lights I could suddenly see this entirely different reality.

It was obvious that it was not a new reality but had been there all along. It was just different to me in that I had not ever experienced it before. I call it the Kingdom of God.

Experiencing that new reality made everything different not the least of which was me. Not the outside me but the inside me. My core was changed. My personality and my body all were the same but my spirit was different and there was something new as well.

I had this voracious hunger for God's Word then. It was like being famished except I needed the Scripture and not food. And I began reading as fast as I could. I began with John. I do not know why but that's where I started. I devoured it and wanted more and more. I believed what I was reading was true. That was a huge change because before I did not. It began to make more sense but there was plenty that I still did not understand.

I began to read a lot of other books about Theology and religion. Along the way I stumbled upon a religious philosophy called "Dispensationalism." It is a rather complete Theological system of itself that I found to be fascinating and helpful.

The most helpful thing for me was the idea that God deals with humankind in dispensations or administrations and that the rules of governance from one administration to another do not overlap. An example is the garden of Eden where Adam and Eve lived. There was one rule that God gave and it was quite simple. But that administration ended with man's failure to obey God and removal from the garden. Today God deals with man in an entirely different way.

It would be just as wrong for me to expect Adam and Eve to know anything about God's dealing with man today as it would be for me to refrain from eating the fruit of a certain tree.

This rather simple concept of time and context literally changed the way I read and studied Scripture. That's when I began to glimpse the beautiful and complex continuity of thought that ran throughout the Scripture. I was amazed when I began to unravel it.

I don't want to give the idea that I have arrived at some magic place where I now know and understand everything. Quite the contrary is true in fact. The more I learn and know the more I find I do not understand.

Except for one thing which continually comes into focus more clearly all the time. That's the love of God. It is as though I first glimpsed it through a telescope while I was far away from the source. Over time I have moved ever closer to the source and that love of God that I first so faintly glimpsed is now burning ever brighter and hotter and more intense than ever I could have imagined. And yet it remains a ways off.

That's the story about how the Bible began to make sense to me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Last week I took my mother-in-law to her CPA's office to deliver her tax information so the CPA could prepare her return. On Monday I was sent to collect the return.

Took me about 30 minutes to get there because the Interstate is under construction for widening. I thought to myself that fit in with the rest of my morning. Because I had already enjoyed emotions of disappointment and frustration.

I arrived at the office and introduced myself. The receptionist remembered me. "You're the son-in-law right?" she said as she left her station to find our preparer. And when he arrived we warmly greeted each other with hearty handshake and "good to see you" salutations.

There was a "but" though. Apparently there is a law or a rule or whatever courtesy of the United States government that prohibits handing over someone's tax information without their express, written permission.

He was extremely apologetic. When he said he was sorry I replied "I am getting used to wasted trips" in my best self-pitying whine.

Continuing to feel sorry for myself and allowing the increasing frustration to build into anger I climbed back into my car and proceeded to tell the Lord all about how awful I had been treated.

I guess I thought He might like to know. I am sure if I were pushed I would admit on one hand to wanting some fire from heaven to obliterate the entire nest of accountants. On the other hand I suppose I was hoping for a little sympathy.

But the Lord said to me "Is it really possible to inconvenience a servant?" No, it was not an audible voice. That thought just popped in my mind all of a sudden. That's the way it happens for me a lot of times.

I laughed at myself then. My anger evaporated. My frustration changed to peace. My self-pity turned to playful mirth. I actually laughed out loud in the car.

I love the question.

The answer is pretty obvious I think. As long as the servant is about his master's business then the master might be inconvenienced but not the servant.

Who is my master?

The Lord Jesus is my master.

Before He purchased my freedom I was enslaved to a cruel master. But the Lord Jesus bought my freedom at a great price to Himself. He set me free. He did not make me do anything. Yet there is nothing I want more than to serve Him and to love Him and obey Him.

It is unappealing to be a servant in our culture. Servants generally are thrown in with the poor and the meek and the washers of feet.

Servants rejoice in their Masters and not in themselves.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter - 2009 - He Is Risen

My first text message on Easter Sunday was from my beloved wife. "He is risen!" I read. Then I replied "He is risen indeed!" Next I sent "He is risen!" text messages to my children and they both replied just as I had done earlier.

I wondered how many times that occurred that morning and then how many times that same greeting or something similar had been repeated for the last 2000 years.

It was not always something I believed and for much of life I would not have said either phrase. I wouldn't say it even to just make someone else happy. After all I was a man of integrity or so I wanted to believe about myself.

As a child I never really understood Easter. Rabbits do not lay eggs period and certainly not chocalate, candy ones. Neither do little yellow chicks.

I do not remember "peeps" either. I heard someone the other day on TV say that they had never heard of "peeps" and I figured that person and I must be in same age range.

And then there was the issue of painted, boiled eggs along with all the other candy stuff having something to do with religion and the resurrection of Jesus. It made no sense to me.

I do remember hunting Easter eggs though. I recall my mother hiding them in our tiny house and then my brother and I racing to locate them. Later I remember doing the very same thing for my children and watching with glee as they attempted to put them in their own baskets. I remember dressing up in my best finery -- often new -- for church and then gathering with other family for a meal and all to brief visit and play with cousines and aunts and uncles. The finery usually didn't fare so well from the playing.

I was 33 the year that the resurrection of Jesus finally became real to me.

When finally I understood what happened and what it meant I remember sitting in a chair in the patio room of my home and weeping uncontrollably. It was the astonishing beauty of the manifest love of God that made me weep. It was not the suffering beforehand although I finally understood a litte of that. Neither was it the joy of the resurrection itself although I did glimpse that faintly then.

It was the love of God that became real to me that day.

He is risen indeed!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thoughts on King Saul - Part 3

Another couple of things and I'll let this subject go.

Saul was the King and he was chosen by God. But he and his administration was not Godly by any stretch of the imagination. It is certainly not the only time in Scripture where we learn something similar.

But it is worth reminding ourselves that all power does come from God and is used by God for His purposes even when it is not Godly.

It is also worth remembering that just because God's called us that doesn't mean everything we do is right or even pleasing.

David's response to Saul's attempts to kill him is also instructive.

David recognized Saul as King and was appropriately respectful and subservient. At the same time he defended himself against the King. Saul tried to kill his opposition but was never able. David, the very opposition, could have killed Saul several times but did not.

I think it would be interesting to think about this in the context of civil disobedience.

Also interesting to note that David was chosen as Saul's replacement but it did not happen immediately and it was a really hard go for David for a while.

Ok. I'm done with it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009



Notice the baby is taking a nap!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thoughts on King Saul - Part 2

I don't know how many times I've read 1 Samuel but several. No matter how many times I read the Bible I find new things. Now some of that is just me because I can read most any book and forget it pretty quickly. Hopefully some of it is spiritual growth or I like to think so anyway.

The first thing that Saul did that displeased God was not waiting on Samuel to offer the sacrifice prior to battle. The account relates Saul's reason for doing it. His soldiers were abandoning him the longer they had to wait. So Saul decided he should go ahead himself and get things moving before everyone deserted him. He didn't have that many soldiers in the first place and he was facing a much larger force. I write all that just to indicate that I can understand his thinking.

At first I thought that Saul offering the sacrifice didn't seem like as big a deal to me as it apparently did to God. That really puzzled me and I have to think about things that puzzle me.

I think the thing is that if you really know that God is on your side then you do not require an army greater than one. In other words God plus one is about the same as God plus a thousand or God plus a million or even God plus a quadrillion.

So I've concluded that Saul did not really see God for Who He is because Saul thought he needed a human army and as big as he could get.

That view of God has to come from the inside -- the heart we usually say. It's one thing to have thoughts and theories about God. It is entirely another thing to "know" God emotionally, viscerally.

Another thing is that Saul apparently thought God did not keep His word. It does not take much Scripture reading to realize that God takes His Word very seriously.

What Saul did was extremely disrespectful to God.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

People Look At You Differently When You Are With Someone Old

Wednesday was the DISH installation day.

My mother-in-law wanted me to be there since she is hearing impaired and this is a little technological and the installers are usually about 60 or 70 years her junior.

She had a hearing aid but the dog ate it -- well -- maybe just chewed it up. But she said it didn't work all that well anyway and she really did not "need" another.

Since I was already there she needed to visit the grocery store by the way. And she needed some more dog food so a Petsmart trip might be in order as well. I had to return to the office or a few minutes so I told her I'd do the Petsmart then.

I'm a fast shopper at Petsmart. I really didn't need to go to the office but Best Buy where I had to get something fixed. I thought my Best Buy trip would be more dropping off but they fixed it while I waited. I am more imressed with Best Buy the more I use them. What I used them for will be the subject of another blog entry.

Then I went to Petsmart in the same center. That center is across Interstate 35 from the farm and my office. Did you ever notice how Interstates are a lot like the rivers of old?

It took me about 10 minutes in Petsmart to get about $90 worth of dog food. That's about a month for my mother-in-law's dogs.

But that happened after the DISH fellow's visit. He showed up at noon after they called my mother-in-law's number. She called me. I guess the part of the instruction about DISH calling me didn't quite work out.

He looked to be about the age of one of my older grandchildren. He set his orange work cones arond his van. Kind of funny to me to see the cones sitting there in the driveway of the farm. He told me right away that he couldn't climb on roofs. I protected him from the dogs in the yard and the one in the house and showed him the tv that required a receiver.

I wondered how many circa 1900 farm houses he had installed DISH in.

He did a good job. I found out he was a little afraid of wasps, too.

He reminded me of me about 40 years ago. While he was perched precariously on the ladder with both hands full trying to do something or other he received a cell phone call from his wife. I suspected it when he ended the conversation with "I love you" and he later confirmed it. He had an iPhone and his work issued phone.

He got all the programming done and tried to make the DISH remote turn the tv on and off. Couldn't do that but he did manage to make one of the others work that way.

"We" learned his name and signed the contract and he left. I left, too, with a promise to return shortly for our grocery safari. Which I returned for in about 90 minutes.

It reminded me of caregiving for my parents at first. Helping her in the car and getting the seatbelt around and locking it the first time. Then parking close as I could to the store so she wouldn't have to walk as far. She walks pretty good except slowly.

That's when I first noticed how people look at you when you're with someone of her vintage.

Not everyone does but many all the same. They give you this kind of "I know what your'e doing is like" look that somehow conveys the thought with no verbalization at all. Some people spoke kindly to my companion. You know in that kind of talk that we reserve for the elderly. It must be the equivalent of baby talk for seniors I guess. But my motherinlaw didn't hear any of that for the most part.

I thought to myself every time it happened that in just a few more years they'll be treating me this way. And I thought I should try to remember it for later when it happens. Then that makes me think of things I remember telling myself to remember as a kid. Except I remember telling myself but not what it was.

She's used to shopping with her daughter. Daughters are more leaders than son-in-laws are apparently. I waited for her to lead and I'd push the basket following. She kept waiting for me to lead and she'd follow. Except I had no idea what she wanted and that makes it hard to buy stuff in a grocery store.

She's particular about stuff. She wanted some pimentoes and I found some that were sliced. But she wanted diced. We couldn't find any. She wanted corn meal in a cylinder shaped box. We couldn't find that either. There were other things like that.

She's also curious about things and needs to touch stuff besides look at it. I wondered if she had always been that way or if this was new. I wondered if I would do this, too.

At the checkout she used cash -- to the penny. She had trouble making out the difference between quarters and nickels and handed me her billfold with the change purse part open. The youthful cashier waited patienly while the line behind us lengthened.

"Oh, can we also go to the hardware store? And I would like to buy a few things at Braum's, too." And we could and we did.

And everywhere people for the most part were kind and considerate and gave me the knowing look.

People look at you differentlyw hen you ware with an old person.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thoughts on King Saul - Part 1

My Bible reading has been in 1 Samuel recently.

The people of the nation of Israel want to be like the other nations and have a monarchy form of government. God tells them that's a bad idea and even provides reasons why. They ignore God's advice. So He chooses Saul to be the king.

Really I think this is so revealing about both God and man.

Why do we have this desire to be like everyone else?

Also, on the human side I find it amazing that we treat God's advice with such arrogant disdain. I guess it isn't just God's advice either. We all joke about how our parents get smarter the older we get.

On the God side it is amazing to me that He is so respectful of us. And that's especially true given the disdain we exhibit. If it were me in the same place I would be inclined to slap people upside the head.

Next I find it interesting that sometimes God gives us what we want even when what we want is not a very good idea.

I think that's an extreme case of "be careful what you ask for because you might get it."

I know doggone well that I've prayed for things that I didn't get and later figured out I owed God a great big thank you. And, yes, there are some answers I've received that I was so happy to get that turned out to be undesirable.

I admit that I find the story of Saul to be puzzling but I think I am beginning to grasp a few things.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Conversation with DISH Network

My 89 year old mother-in-law asked me to call DISH for her to order another receiver because she is hearing impaired. She gave me her last paid statement. Like the dutiful son-in-law that I am I, of course, complied.

I have to say that DISH has one of the best automated voice recognition systems I've used.

DISH auto-attendant: (computer blah blah) What do you want? You can say just about anything like (some examples).

ME: Add receiver (loudly)

DISH auto-attendant: You want to add a receiver?

ME: YES (loudly)

DISH auto-attendant: Please say or enter the phone number associated with your account or your account number.
The computer "knew" I was not calling from a phone number in the DISH database. Pretty cool.
ME: (said the account number - slowly and loudly)

DISH auto-attendant: Just a moment while I contact a representative for you.

DISH human #1: My name is -- and my operator number is -- and I will be glad to help you. May I have your name?

ME: My name is -- and I am calling for my mother-in-law at her request because she is hearing impaired.

DISH human #1: May I speak to your mother-in-law?

ME: No, I am calling from my office. Is that a problem?

DISH human #1: I think I can help you.
Then everything went really well until I had to give credit card information. I said the number and the expiration date.
DISH human #1: What is the name on the card?

ME: I stated my name.

DISH human #1: That's not the name on the account.

ME: No, that's my credit card.

DISH human #1: I have to have a credit card with the name of the account holder.

ME: I don't have that.

DISH human #1: I will have to transfer you to a customer service specialist.

ME: Ok.

DISH human #2: This is -- and I am a specialist and I will be happy to help you.

ME: Great. (Explained the whole deal again)

DISH human #2: We have to have a credit card with the number of the account holder.

ME: I don't have that. Are you saying we can't do this?

DISH human #2: May I speak to the account holder?

ME: No, I am at my office. Besides she is hard of hearing and that's why she asked me to call for her. If she could hear better she could have done this herself.

DISH human #2: Do you have her power-of-attorney?

ME: No (thinking to myself - this reminds me of caregiving for my parents) (wondering to myself what proof they would want if I did have POA)

I finally hung up with no resolution to the issue.

I made a special trip back out to my mother-in-law's home this morning and called DISH again from her telephone.

DISH's system knew her information from the phone number. The only problem was that their system did not understand my mother-in-law's touch pad entries but voice worked great. It was likely because her telephone is about 30 years old or so.

I went though the entire deal again though and finally ended up with a person. And all of these people apparently were in the United States or at least spoke the best Americanese that I've ever heard from customer service people.

I had already prepared my mother-in-law and she had given me her credit card and was sitting next to me at the table.

So finally the operator asked to speak to her and I put her on the phone.

M-I-L: (after listening a while) I'm sorry I just cannot hear you.
M-I-L: (after another pause) Can you say that again more loudly?
M-I-L: (another pause): (said her name)
M-I-L: (another pause): I'm sorry I can't understand you.
M-I-L: (another pause): Yes.
M-I-L: (another pause): You want to speak my son-in-law?

Then she handed the phone back to me. I have no idea what was asked of course.

Next I provided her credit card information and scheduled the service for tomorrow between the hours of 12 and 5. And, no, they can't call me.

No explanation why they can't call me. I wonder if the service people don't have cell phones?

So everyone knows what I will be doing tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Role Models

Yesterday I posted about two professors that became my role models. It was not because we agreed with each other. Rather it was because we did not and how they treated me. One of these men died a few years ago. He and his wife were close friends of my parents for many years. The other man is still teaching.

The thing that struck me while I was writing the previous post was that these two men were my formal teachers but I remember very little of what they taught in a formal setting. But I do remember how they treated me over our disagreements.

That thinking opened up a course through the convolutions of my memories -- warped as it may be -- dealing with other people who have influenced my life.

Our neighbors were good friends and really fine people. That's what I knew first and for a long time it was all I knew. But sometime I learned that they were Catholic. That did not mean much to me then. But for a long time I thought that all Catholics must be pretty good people based on the fact that my neighbors were such fine folk.

There was a man whose business was to pick up scrap metal at the company that employed my dad. Every year at Christmas time this man's wife made peanut brittle and he delivered it himself to my dad's office. Dad brought some of it home every year and we all eagerly anticipated the gift. Well it turned out that man and his wife were Jewish. That did not mean much to me then. But I thought all Jewish people must be good folk because of that one couple.

Of course these are all anecdotal and only from a young child's viewpoint.

As an adult though I've had similar experiences including the two professors. Staying with the religious theme there was my experience with a fellow who coached my son in soccer. He and his family were Mormons. That one man and his family made me think quite highly of Mormons.

These experiences are kind of like first impressions in a way I guess. One thing about first impressions is you only get one chance. I know there are many of those chances that I have blown.

I think it is true that each one of us is modeling something for someone whether we know it or not.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Differences, Respect, and Role Models

Recently I stumbled across another Internet shoving match. One person noticed something that appeared on another person's blog and posted something negative about it with a link back. The link back let the 2nd person know so he read what had been written. Then he (the 2nd person) posted about that.

Then readers of each blog divided into supporters of each respective author and began a war by blog comment. Members of each group defended their own favorite blog author.

These things happen all the time both in real life and on the Internet. It might be argued that the Internet makes things worse for several reasons including the fact that it is hard to properly communicate nuance by posting alone. And there is a certain anonymity in Internet communication that perhaps causes people to be a lit more uninhibited. But really I am not sure there is that much difference having been involved in both kinds myself.

A few years ago I became friends with this fellow and we met once a week to pray with each other. We chose a church about half-way between our jobs and met during lunch hour in the chapel. The pastor gave us permission. I remember he told us that he had never had anyone ask him something like that. He called us "men of prayer" which at the time seemed a little strange to me since I was barely keeping my head above the waves of the spiritual ocean.

Over several months my friend and I became very good friends and shared many things with each other. We were in the same age range but he had been a believer much longer than had I.

One day we were discussing some Christian doctrine. I do not recall now what it was but it was relatively obscure and certainly not fundamental. I held a different opinion than my friend but I refused to change my mind. It was an issue that people held different positions about.

Finally he grew exasperated with me and told me he no longer wanted to pray with me and in fact was not even certain I was a believer.

And we never did again pray together or even see each other. I tried a few times to contact him only to be rejected. So I let it go. That's been a long time ago and I still feel badly about it.

Another time I was in a group study and I held a position that was different than the one held by the rest of the group. My position was quite common but just not in that particular group. But the group members became increasingly upset that I would not conform to their way of thinking. So the meetings became painful for me because there was always this pressure for me to change. So I quit going.

A few years after I became a believer in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior I was very interested in learning about Systematic Theology and Bible languages and Bible history and so on. So I enrolled in courses at a local religious college that offered such subjects for study.

The college was of a completely different theological perspective than what I had come to believe. So there were plenty of opportunities for conflict.

But at that college there were two professors in particular that I came to regard and respect so highly that I still to this day value their contributions to my life and education.

That was regardless of the vast theological differences between us. It was entirely about the way they treated me and listened to me and made me feel valued and that my opinions were important and worthwhile even if not theirs.

I learned several things from these two men.

One was that I did not really understand their positions on the subjects about which we disagreed. I started out thinking I understood. But after much time spent in dialogue and discussion I found out that what I had thought they believed was much too shallow. The opposite was true as well in that what they thought I (and my side) believed was not really what we believed. We each only saw shadows of the others' thoughts. That was a tremendous revelation to me.

Another thing I learned was that I didn't understand what I believed myself nearly as well as I thought I did. Moreover, I found out I was not very good at explaining it to someone else.

And yet another thing I learned was that it took some time for all of us to get to the point where we actually listened to each other with a view of understanding what the other guy believed. When we first started out we were really only interested in presenting our own side and winning points. That made it really hard to actually listen. But finally we broke through all the nonsense and then we actually made headway.

I also learned that there is a big difference between some with a little knowledge and someone that has really studied a subject. I think we live in a time when people seem to think that any opinion is as good as any other regardless the disparity in study. Each of my professors had about 20 years of study against my novice efforts. I was at that "understood enough to be dangerous" level.

I think you have to first start out respecting the other person and that includes whatever ideas he or she might hold. It is not natural to do that for me or most of us humans probably. We like to start out thinking that those who are like me are the "good guys" and by definition those with other ideas must be "bad guys." That's not respect.

I did not change my mind. They did not change their minds. But we definitely had more appreciation of the others' viewpoint. And in my case I actually finally understood why they believed as they did.

Today I hold pretty much the same viewpoint that I held back then.

But when I meet someone who has differences with me those two men are my role models.

I don't always measure up to the standard they set but I look back over my life and see that I've moved a lot further their way.

I have to more to write on the Role Model subject tomorrow.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

For Our Horses

We have one horse actually that has to eat grass hay in small square bales. He has COPD.

Those small, square bales are hard to get by the way. The big round bales have mold and dust and stuff. So the vet says we should feed the small ones if possible.

So I hunted on the Internet for square hay bale feeder and found this place:

I sent this image to a friend of mine and his reply was "That looks pretty good lol. If I was a horse. I would use it." Made me LOL.

Well, I guess it is too early to know yet if the horse is going to like the thing.

The purpose is to keep the hay off the ground and to not waste anymore than necessary. That's our purpose. The horse may not see it exactly the same way.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Good Alzheimer's Article

The following article was in my local paper on Thursday. I thought it was very good and worth sharing. I did not receive permission to post it so if the paper or the author or someone complains about it I will remove it. The headline is linked to the original article. Also I omitted an image but otherwise is pretty much copied in its entirety.

Helping Oklahoma City Alzheimer’s patient uncovers worries for the future
‘Drawing on Memories’ art class hits close to home
By Carrie Coppernoll
Published: April 2, 2009

I knew her name.

"That’s my mother’s name,” I said.

We sat shoulder to shoulder, facing the paints and brushes, in the dining room of an Alzheimer’s ward. About a dozen patients and this woman with wispy gray hair came for a Drawing on Memories art class sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association.

I volunteered along with the nursing home staff to help the patients paint Mardi Gras masks. The masks will be sold at the Masque in Black & White gala, a fundraising dinner for the Alzheimer’s Association.

The woman looked at me with gray eyes and a weak smile and asked if I would paint for her. Of course, I told her. She introduced herself again. I figured she forgot my name and was too embarrassed to ask. I introduced myself again.

Sharing our lives

She chose the colors — pink and blue — and she told me where to paint. She painted a bit herself, but she was too tired to do it all alone. She kept introducing herself, and we kept having the same conversation. We talked about our families and our jobs.

Every time she introduced herself, we started our friendship again, and every conversation was a draft I could edit. As we painted, I discovered she wanted to talk about her daughters but not her husband. She liked remembering her childhood but not the lonely room at the nursing home. She asked me to be her roommate. She asked me to come back to visit. I agreed because it made her happy and I knew she would forget.

She introduced herself over and over. And every time I would say, "That’s my mother’s name.”

That’s my mother’s name.

My mother’s name.

Will this be my mother?

My grandmother lost her battle to Alzheimer’s when I was in middle school. The disease still haunts our family. We analyze forgetfulness, wondering whether it’s normal or a sign of something sinister. Each of us secretly worries we too will be swallowed up by the vast emptiness of the disease.

I left the table and cried.

I came back and she introduced herself again. "That’s my mother’s name,” I said. She smiled.

When I volunteered to help at the Alzheimer’s unit, I knew I would see my grandmother’s face among the women here. I didn’t imagine I’d see my mother. Or myself.

Contact Carrie --Email:

Thursday, April 2, 2009


It was kind of a relief to leave Judges and read Ruth.

Judges has a few bright spots but overall it makes me sad. People are so mean to each other and mostly the leaders are shining examples of what not to do.

Ruth comes along set in the same time period. It is this well-known story of a young woman named Ruth who is loyal both to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and and to their God. The women both suffer terrible loss and are nearly at the point of starving. Then a man, Boaz, also faithful to God steps in to help and he and Ruth end up as lovers in a happy ending.

Most of the time people talk about Ruth's loyalty to and love for her mother-in-law, Naomi. Certainly I admired that part this time around myself. It is such a prominent part of the story and so beautiful and emotionally uplifting that it overshadows the tragedies and pain and deprivation.

But this time around I was struck by a couple of new things.

One thing is how hard Naomi's life has been. First she and her husband and sons leave their home because of famine and travel to Moab. There her husband dies and her sons marry and then they die. That's when she decides to go home.

When she gets home the town's people come out and say "Is this our Naomi?" She says don't call me that but call me "bitter" because God has been hard on me. Naomi means delight or pleasure or something along those lines.

Names and their meanings are important in Ruth and further emphasize the key points the narrative makes.

I thought to myself that if some of my Christian friends and acquaintances heard her say that she'd get in trouble with them pretty quickly. They'd jump right in and tell her that God doesn't cause any bad stuff and she'd better straighten up her act and not say that.

But really the more I think about it the more I think this is part of Naomi's resolute faith in God. Naomi is faithful herself. Even after what has happened to her she clings to her God even in the midst of another crisis. It is easy to think of her as being bitter after learning her history and then reading what she says about her name.

But I think it might just be that she recognizes the bitter circumstances of her life rather than being bitter. Because to me she does not seem personally bitter really. Either way though it is certainly understandable if she felt some bitterness especially so soon after her son's deaths.

Like most of us her life had not been all bad. It is easy for me to construct in my mind a happy family life in Moab. The book is short but covers quite a bit of time. Certainly she had the love of Ruth in her life. Who would not want to experience such self-sacrificing dedication and love? I wondered to myself if that single aspect was enough to keep her going at this point in her life.

A lot of us, maybe most, maybe all of us will eventually experience sadness and grief and loss to the point of wondering if we can really make it.

Another thing I thought about was how our circumstances just force us into certain courses of action. If there had been no famine then Naomi might have not left Israel. And if she hadn't gone to Moab she wouldn't have met Ruth. And if her sons and husbands had lived there might not have been a Boaz. And if there had been no Boaz then there would have been no Jesus.

I can look at my own life and see how things worked out like that for me. Yes there were painful things but those very things ended up being good things because without that past I would not have this present.

This present is the foundation of the future. That is true for everyone of course but if the future is in the Hands of God there is a certain peace that comes from knowing that and thinking back on how the past became the present.

I think there is so much more to Ruth that I could stay a while and ponder it more and think about the names and the people and the times. I think I could spend a little time alongside Ruth as she works so hard picking up the barley grains in the field. Or maybe spend a bit more time with Boaz in the gates of the town. But my schedule makes me leave it too soon.

Still it has been wonderful to linger there in the story a bit and learn more of these people.

It was equally pleasant the last time I read it and I suspect it will be again if I am blessed with another opportunity.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Several friends celebrate birthdays today!
I wish you the very best.