Sunday, November 30, 2008

Days of Thankfulness

I have barely visited the blog since last Tuesday. On that day our daughter, son-in-law, and grand baby arrived from Oklahoma City for a several days visit. I left work early to come home and help with final clean-up and prep. Then on Wednesday morning, about 7:30 AM, our son and his roommate arrived, having driven all night from Chicago. With my mother-in-law still with us, recovering from our shoulder injury, we had a full house and a great time. The blog didn't seem so important; neither did writing.

We had a good Thanksgiving day, and the days on either side of it were great as well. The kids went off to visit friends during the day on Friday; otherwise they were at home. Good meals on all days. We cut back a little on how much we prepared for Thanksgiving dinner, yet there seemed to be plenty. We still have turkey, mashed potatoes, and some other things left, even with putting up four lunches for me. We put puzzles together and watched videos and just talked.

And of course played with Ephraim. This was grandson's first time to be at our house. He and his mother are still here. We talked her into staying through today so that some of the people at church could see him (and Sara too). Everything was a delight this long weekend.

Yet, we were saddened by the tragedy in Mumbai, where terrorists decided to try to wreak havoc in that city; and by the Wal-Mart employee who was trampled to death in a mad rush at the beginning of Black Friday. I do not understand the mentality that has given rise to this most base of all Thanksgiving traditions. People have told me of the adrenalin rush they receive when they rush into the store to find the bargains they want, but I just can't see it, and will have no part of it.

Today I try to get back to the routine of writing. I'm still not ready to re-enter the world of publishing, so still won't seek that; but writing I will continue. I should be back before the end of the day with the results of meeting my November goals.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Troubles in ministry

Sunday mornings, as we are getting ready for church, Lynda and I usually have the television tuned to the Hour Of Power broadcast. This is the ministry begun by Robert H. Schuller, an outgrowth of his church in Garden Grove, California. It has been on the air continuously for 38 years. We have watched it sporadically through the years, and somewhat regularly since 2002.

I am no fan of Schuller. Back in the 1970s our pastor gave each church board member a copy of Schuller's Your Church Has Real Possibilities. I found this to have much good in it, but I was uncomfortable with the overall message, which was a watered-down gospel. Still, for a few minutes on a busy Sunday morning, the program gives good music and interesting interviews. Usually I am ready by the time the sermon comes on and am in another part of the house reviewing Life Group class materials.

In January 2006, the elder Schuller semi-retired, and his son, Robert A. Schuller, was installed as senior pastor of the church and thus speaker for the television ministry. Lynda and I liked his sermons and overall demeanor considerably better than the old man--at least I know I did. He seemed more a pastor, less a showman. Overall, though, it seemed little had changed under the son. Possibility thinking was still the order of the day, with a little gospel sprinkled here and there.

Recently we have noticed the son was not on the program. We thought little of it, figuring he was off on a Sabbatical or a mission trip. This last Sunday, however, when we heard they were going to have a series of guest speakers from now on (didn't hear if this was to be permanent or for a set duration), we wondered what was going on. Easy research revealed that on October 25th Robert A. was removed from the television ministry by the ministry board. Of course, that means he can't speak in church, since the TV feed comes from the church services. How can a man be senior pastor of a church if the board keeps him out of the pulpit? Press releases indicate the board did this because Robert H and Robert A don't have the same vision for the church--or mission as Robert H calls it--and that this lack of shared vision would be bad for the ministry. Additional research reveals that the elder Schuller did not like the son using scripture in his sermons. Too much scripture, not enough psychology, I guess.

Various message boards are abuzz about this, though it seems to have garnered little attention from the nation at large. Few people seem to be supporting the removal of the younger man, as they thought the relatively minor changes he was making were the right way to go. Some on the message boards have been particularly critical of Robert H for not seeing the need to fully retire, not seeing the need to change with the times, not realizing that the vision he had for the ministry when it began may not be the correct vision for it now. They are castigating him for his lukewarm preaching (I won't even call it 'gospel').

This makes me think about trouble in ministry. While I prefer a robust sermon that gives the gospel to a sinful, hurting world, I also realize that the Sunday morning sermon is not synonymous with the church. Much more goes on, or should be going on, apart from the sermon to reach the lost with the gospel and disciple converts. Should the message be a little bit "feel-good", and should this cause a few more people to attend services and put themselves in the place where other ministries of the church can reach and feed their souls, is that the worst thing in the world? I think not. Don't get me wrong. I'm not supporting either Schuller's type of preaching. I'm just saying that from the preaching alone we don't receive a full picture of the ministry of the church.

Why does this sort of problem develop? Why are there problems among God's servants? We should expect this type of individual to be able to work together easier than people in the secular world. However, it seems no better nor worse in than in secular employment. Strong-willed individuals grate on each other; weak-willed persons fail to take the lead. Ministries suffer, and the gospel is not advanced.

I'm not quite sure why I'm posting this, except to express sadness, for the specific problem, and for how it is symptomatic of a much wider problem.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Broken Society

Several things have hit me lately that demonstrate just how broken our society is. I’m not thinking about politics, and whether or not it’s better that a Democrat or Republican won the presidency earlier this month. I’m not thinking about the economy and the Panic of 2008, although clearly if a depression hits us we will potentially see much more brokenness than we do now.

No, I’m thinking of the brokenness of individual lives.

Two events are giving rise to this. On November 7, in Oklahoma City, Jeremy Moore was murdered by gunshot. I can’t remember if I met Jeremy or not. He was our son-in-law’s roommate for some of his college time, and was in his and our daughter’s wedding party. So I know I saw Jeremy, but may never have met him. Why was he murdered? The circumstances were he was delivering pizza as a second job, trying to support his girlfriend and their nine-day old child, having just bought a house and about to make their first payment. He took a delivery to a certain apartment complex. The apartment turned out to be empty, and someone(s) was waiting in the shadows and gunned him down. Police don’t know the reason; possibly robbery, though everyone knows (or should know) delivery men carry almost no money; possibly gang related—not that Jeremy was in a gang, but that he was the random target of someone who had to kill someone as a gang initiation; possibly simple depravity, someone out for kicks. My son-in-law blogged about it a couple of times here.

The other event was learning yesterday that a young couple in our church in Bentonville are getting a divorce. This couple was one that got the “cart before the horse” in terms of intimacy, but yet had married, had two children, and had become fairly regular attenders at church, even linking in with a life group, and having loving, supportive parents from at least one side. I know the pressure on young couples is great these days, and the chances of failure of any marriage is around 50 percent, but this was one couple which, despite a start with questionable circumstances, I really thought was going to make it.

One young widow and fatherless child due to a tragedy; two children in a broken home due to whatever the circumstances were, but also a tragedy. This is emblematic of the brokenness of our American society. I have heard, but have not verified, that statistics show children are least at risk when they grow up with a mother and a father in a loving home, not even necessarily a Christian home. This gives me pause to wonder: what is the church doing, and what am I doing, to interrupt this brokenness? Maybe my concern about politics—who gets elected, what policies they represent, how they will protect American sovereignty—is misplaced. As would be the church’s. Maybe I should just be thinking about what I and my church can do to help prevent tragedies such as these two.

Something to think about.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Forty-Five years ago yesterday: Kennedy Assassination

I meant to write this yesterday, but a day full of activity in advance of Thanksgiving, and all the company we will have, gave me no time at the computer.

John F Kennedy was assassinated 45 years ago yesterday, November 22, 1963. I was in 6th grade at the time, in Mrs. Fisk's class in dear old Dutemple Elementary School. The first word that we heard was that the president had been shot. This came from a snotty girl in the class, and how she heard it I don't know--obviously from some adults, probably the teacher. A few minutes later she came over to say the governor of Texas had shot the president. Before school was out at 3 PM Eastern Time, we had the correct news. I don't remember a whole lot about my reaction. I was not very politically aware as a 6th grader, as neither of my parents were all that politically active or interested.

Put me in the camp of skeptics as far as the official version of the events goes: the Warren Commission conclusion that the president was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone. Sorry, but I don't buy it. I have read way too much about the evidence and actions of the various players, and believe that Kennedy was killed by some sort of conspiracy. The police work was so shoddy, and the forensics so botched--from the autopsy to the ballistics to the interrogations--that there is no way Oswald ever would have been convicted had he lived to face a trial. The doubt of his guilt is way beyond reasonable.

I don't know that I want to get into my theory today. I may never post or publish it, save in papers in my file folders. I do want to mention one interesting family anecdote related to this. My late father-in-law, Wayne B. Cheney, was a paper gatherer, and an amateur photographer of some ability. He took many photos of local sports events in Fowler, Kansas before he moved to Amarillo in his latter days. In 1963 he was living in Longview, Texas (he was divorced from my mother-in-law), and had a lot of interests, had lots of contacts with people. He lived a quiet life, but not an isolated life.

I mentioned he was a paper-gatherer. It fell to Lynda and me to go through those papers after he died, along with all the photographs. One 8x10 glossy photo was among the many in the boxes. It was of JFK and various people. I don't have it in front of me, so I will summarize what Wayne wrote on it: In November 1968 [sic], when I lived in Longview, a friend asked me to take her to Houston for [I can't remember the reason]. While there, president Kennedy was there, and I was able to get close enough to snap this picture. Obviously he got the year wrong, for Kennedy died in November 1963. But could this be true? It would have been like Wayne to have given someone a ride from Longview to Houston; he would have had his camera with him; raised in a Kansas Democrat farm family he would have wanted to see Kennedy. I don't know any other time during his presidency that Kennedy was in Houston. So, assuming Wayne was writing the truth, that he actually took that photo (I still have to look for a negative among his papers/photos), this picture would have been shot Nov 21, 1963 during that fateful trip. What is amazing is how close he was able to get to the president.

I may hunt that photo up and enter the exact caption he wrote on it, but I don't think I'll post it, just in case Wayne really didn't take it. He never mentioned it to me before he died.

Just an interesting anecdote. Then again, maybe I've got a semi-valuable gem in that box.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Monday night, after a second evening of stimulating reading and thinking, I fell asleep easily, but awoke about 03:15 and could not fall asleep again. I rose and read a number of chapters in Exodus, prayed, and journalled. I returned to bed about 5:15, but did not fall asleep and got up before the appointed time. I had no particular thoughts my mind was fixed on, just the jumble of the previous few days.

Last night was not quite a carbon copy, but was close. I had the same sort of evening after returning home late from church and eating a quick supper. This time I had stimulating writing to do (well, after unstimulatingly going through some accumulated junk mail), and this took me till 23:30. Went to bed and fell asleep easily, but was up about 04:15, and slept little after that: dozing, turning, throwing covers off, pulling them up. A colleague called at 05:33, saying he would not need that ride to work after all. That sealed the deal on sleep. I stayed in bed until the appointed time, then was up and at 'em and on the way to work. Again, no particular thoughts dominated in prohibiting sleep.

What was this stimulating reading and writing I did, you ask, that may have caused this? Well, over the weekend I completed my review of my son-in-law's old term paper, "Athanasius' Relational Epistemology: a search for adequate language to express the mysteries of incarnation and atonement". I'd been working on this for over three years--not something I had to do, but something I wanted to do--but always had trouble understanding the paper. I finally found a method of writing the review, and finished it Sunday evening, subject to minor editing over the next two days.

You would think my mind would then have been tired simply from reading the title over and over. But no, at 22:00 on Sunday evening, I wanted something to stimulate my mind. The current book on my reading list would not do the trick, I didn't think, so I went to the section of the living room bookshelf which contains the ancients, and pulled out my 1914 printing of Critical and Historical Essays by T.B. Macaulay. I don't know if I've blogged on Macaulay before, but he is one of my favorite authors. I find his Victorian style difficult, and like others I question his scholarship, but, darn it, I just like him. His essays always get me to thinking.

This night I chose a 34 page essay titled "Ranke's History of the Popes." An odd thing for a Protestant reader to choose, perhaps, but choose it I did. I read about twenty pages Sunday evening, finishing it Monday evening. In it I found all the usual techniques Macaulay uses to tease his readers without significantly informing them; giving them evidence of his knowledge without analysis. This is probably excessive criticism, but hey, if Macaulay is going to take my sleep away, he deserves it!

Actually, I don't know that it was Macaulay by himself. Sunday we had a great church service and sermon and Life Group class, and I left both with things to think about. In Life Group we continue to go through the life of Moses, using one of Chuck Swindoll's books. Reading in Exodus and Numbers provided new insights, and I wanted to reread a group of chapters in each of them. Monday over-night was the Exodus group. I should have gotten up last night and done the Numbers group. So possibly is was the combo of church and Macaulay that kept me awake.

Having finished reading the Ranke essay Monday night, it was much on my mind Tuesday and Wednesday. I knew I wanted to write a review of it, mainly for my own amusement, and Tuesday night wrote some thoughts in my journal that could form the basis of a review. Last night after supper I began that process. Finding the couch and re-use paper, with the 1914 volume in hand, I wrote out four pages of analysis of Macaulay's Ranke essay. The writing flowed easily as I re-read the beginning six or so pages of the essay. By 23:30 I had slightly more than four pages of manuscript, words I felt did justice to the material, though of course requiring editing and perhaps fleshing out. I suspect my entire review will be seven or eight manuscript pages, so I definitely left the work undone. Perhaps this undone-ness was what kept me awake in the wee hours, though you would think that more likely to have prevented me from falling asleep in the first place.

Or maybe it's just a side effect of the steroids the doc has me on for my elbow injury, which occurred when I stepped in a muskrat hole back in late September. Either way, I'm now working on 15 hours sleep in the last 72, on a day when I must keep my mind sharp for the work I have to do in the office. I don't think I will be working on my Macaulay review tonight.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Bit of College Foolishness Continued

November 17th marks three special days for me, which few people remember.

First (actually last in chronological order of occurrence), CEI Engineering Associates, Inc. moved into our new building on Nov 17, 2000. I remember the circumstances. It was a Friday. The recount battle was raging in Florida. The movers came in the morning to load up our already packed boxes. My stuff was loaded first in our department, and I think our department was the first loaded on that truck. While loading continued for the 5 mile trip across town, the department went to lunch, then to the new building to wait. I spent much time in the car, listening to radio reports of what was going on in Florida, coming into the building every hour or so to see if my stuff had arrived. It didn't arrive until Saturday morning; yet I was all set up and ready to go by Monday morning. No one at CEI marked the day but me, I reckon. I mentioned it to the Chairman and co-founder, and he didn't remember that was the date we moved in.

Second (actually first in chronological order of occurrence), it's Sadie Hawkins Day! That magical day created by Li'l Abner comic strip writer Al Capp, where the girls ask the boys out. Now that Al Capp is dead and Li'l Abner forgotten, no one probably ever celebrates it anymore, save for the odd school that has a Sadie Hawkins Day dance where the girls ask the boys out, with no one knowing where the tradition came from. This actually was of no consequence in my life, for the schools I went to never had Sadie Hawkins Day dances, and even if they had no girl would have asked me out. I was a considerably late bloomer with the ladies.

Third (actually second in chronological order of, not occurrence necessarily, but personal recognition), it is National Boise Idaho Potato Day! I have no idea of the origin of this 'holiday', or if it ever really existed at one time, or if it did exist if it was celebrated on November 17th. But a friend of mine from college and I celebrated it, somewhat as a gag I suppose. I remember a day close to November 17, 1973, when Gary and I went for a ramshackle* in the recently harvested potato fields west of the University of Rhode Island campus in Kingston. We gleaned a few small potatoes from the field, then continued west into the country before turning north. We passed and inspected a small, ancient cemetery, overgrown with weeds and brush, the graves dating from the 1700s. We continued north and hiked up a hill that was visible from campus and which we always wanted to climb; part of the 'coal seams' oriented generally north to south (and slightly to the west) across that part of the state, Gary said, though you couldn't prove it by me. The hill was completely wooded, and we had no vantage point to see anything. I think Gary climbed one of the trees to try to see better. We worked our way back to campus, I don't remember by what route, or what time we got there, or if I had to work at the Burger Chef that night or not.

Just a bunch of college silliness, continued into our 50s. Gary and I exchanged e-mail felicitations this morning, remembering not really the day but the era, college days in the early 70s, for me on a planet long ago in a galaxy far, far away, though remembered as if it were yesterday. I post this mainly so that should anyone type "National Boise Idaho Potato Day" in a search engine, at least this post will pop up.

*Author's note: The dictionaries available to me don't show the definition, but I'm pretty sure we used the word "ramshackle" to refer to a long, country walk with a loose aim as to destination and route. Perhaps my ramshackle mind is mis-remembering.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Book Review: "The Day Christ Died"

Yesterday I completed the next book on my reading list, The Day Christ Died by Jim Bishop, 1977, Harper & Row (ISBN 0-06-060786-6). This is a paperback version of the original 1957 book by Bishop, with some updates to reflect archaeological finds and changes in scholarship in the twenty years after the original publication. Includes a new Introduction by Dr. Paul L. Maier, about whom I've blogged recently.

This is a good book. Anyone who hasn't read it and has the chance to will benefit from it. Bishop did several of these type books (e.g. The Day Lincoln Died, The Day Christ Was Born). His style was to take the twenty-four hour day on which the event happened and cover it hour by hour. In the case of Christ's death, he begins at sundown on Thursday, since the Jewish day ran from sundown to sundown. We first see Peter and John making preparations for the Passover meal, and Jesus and the rest of the Twelve en route to Jerusalem from Bethany.

Bishop then takes us hour by hour. His research fills in many details, such as the probable menu of the Passover meal, the sequence of events within the meal--not just those in the Biblical records, but other things that must have been going on based on the typical Passover meal. He then takes us meticulously though the Biblical account: going to Gethsemane, the arrest, the interview before Annas, the trial before Caiaphas, the trial before the full Sanhedrin, the trial before Pilate, the pre-crucifixion torture, the time on the cross, and the burial.

Bishop fills out the account in many ways. He includes description of Jerusalem, describing the routes taken by various people. He tells us what the Passover celebration was like. He describes something of the background of the high priests. Three overviews from outside the day itself take up a good portion of the book: background of the Jewish world, background of Jesus (from the Bible), and background of the Roman world. These help us to think about why certain things happened as they did that day.

Some of the good points:
- We learn what some people were doing that is not described in the Bible. For example, exactly what did Judas Iscariot do after Jesus said to him, "What you do, do quickly"? Bishop surmises that it was John son of Zebedee who left in the night hours after watching the Jewish rulers convict Jesus, and went to Bethany to bring Mary to her son's side in time for his death. ["John remained to find out what the supreme council would do. When the word came that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy, and that the judgment had been that he should die, John waited long enough to look once more upon the face of the man who loved him. The young apostle was close to tears as Jesus was led down into the courtyard, because the bound man was bruised and dirty, with spit running down his face, and his legs quivered with weakness and fatigue. Then John left. He needed wings on his young feet because there was much to do. He had to spread the tragic news among those who believed in Jesus and, sadly, he had also to run to Bethany to tell the news to the Mother of Jesus."]
- Caiaphas' activities are well described. We see him in all of his evil machinations, and get a sense of some of his motivation.
- We see many Passover pilgrims. Not individuals, but masses of people, and learn what they were doing, how they thronged to Jerusalem and to the temple with sacrifices.
- The rivalry between Pontius Pilate and the high priests is spelled out. Some of the statements that Pilate and the high priests made make a lot more sense with Bishop's annotations.

A couple of things were not to my liking:
- The book takes a Roman Catholic view of the events. For instance, Bishop insists that when the Bible talks about the "brothers of Jesus", this word means relative--cousin--and that Jesus was an only child and that Mary was "ever-virgin". In fact, the copyright page indicates the book received a nihil obstat and a Imrimatur by a cardinal, indicating the book is free of doctrinal error.
- I'm not sure that Bishop fully represents all that Pilate did to try to free Jesus. When I put my harmony of the gospels together, I was surprised at how the different statements about Pilate's actions in the four gospels seemed to be different actions on Pilate's part. Possibly some day I'll blog about that. Of course, perhaps no one else in the world would agree with me on that.

All in all, it is a good book. Well worth the read. I may hang on to this one rather than sell it in a garage sale.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Little Osage Creek

My main work for over a month has been the flood study for the headwaters of Little Osage Creek in Centerton, Arkansas. I'm way behind on the project, and am soon to be over budget (in part because the project included a flood study of the headwaters of McKisic Creek as well; yet the budget is 80 percent consumed). I let this project sit almost a year, then got a promise from another department in the company to piggy-back it on one of their projects along the West Branch of Little Osage Creek. Somehow they didn't do it, saying they never claimed they were intending to. So I had to take it back into my work load, dust off my "tools", and get the job done.

As of today, I am really, really close. I have completed a complicated computer model for calculating the flood flows. This model includes 18 detention ponds, some 21 subbasins, and a number of stream runs (called "reaches" in the vernacular). I have run this model for the 100-year storm, and had believable and predicted results. Next, in a separate program, I merged the existing FEMA stream geometry model with the CEI stream geometry model (the one my project was supposed to piggy-back on), filled in the 600 foot gap between them, corrected a considerable number of errors in both, added missing culverts, added needed cross-sections that were left out of the FEMA model and due to which the model never should have been approved, and finally, today, ran a successful stream geometry model together with the flood flows from the other model. I have an answer!

I still have some tweaking to do. The results (i.e. the flood elevation, which drives the spread of the flood waters) are not as favorable as I would like, so I have to look some more at it and see if anything in the merged geometry is too conservative. If so, I might be able to reduce both. If not, the City will just have to live with the calculated flood elevation and spread.

When I started the study I had some goals in mind as to how to improve the situation on the existing flood maps, which contained obvious errors along with some things that drastically changed from the previous flood map, but which may or may not have been errors. One of the obvious errors will be gone on the new map; the other looks like it will remain. That's not a final answer, but it's most likely.

Why am I writing this? Today there has been an emotional release with the success of these models. I still have much to do on the project, including model tweaks, calculating flows for other storms, writing a technical report, making a presentation before an unhappy city council, putting an electronic and print submittal together for FEMA, and then working through the (probable) six month FEMA approval process. But with the successful model having all missing links plugged, no obvious errors, and believable results, the release is at hand.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A New Equilibrium

This weekend was filled with chores and rest. Saturday morning I raked leaves, used the leaf blower on the rock yard and got all them out of there, on to a tarp and hauled off to the woods on adjacent, vacant lots (in hopes some of them won't blow back when the wind is right). This somewhat wiped me out, but I went to the eye doctor in the nearest Supercenter to have my right eye looked at. It became bloodshot earlier in the week, not hurting a bit, but giving everyone who had to look at it fits. Since this is the third time this year I had such an occurrence, Lynda thought I should go, and so went.

The doc said there was no injury and no apparent reason for the eye to go bloodshot, except possibly a blood disease. He said to bring it up with my primary care physician, then come back and see him for my regular eye exam, which is over-due. I'm scheduled to see my regular doctor next week.

While I was at Wal-Mart, I took a lawn mower tire in for repair. Sitting in the auto area waiting room, I had an allergic reaction to something: right eye watering; sneezing; right nostril draining freely. This really wiped me out. The rest of the day about all I could do was accompany my wife to town and shop and do a chore or two.

Sunday was a true day of rest. After church and life groups, I had a leisurely afternoon. I typed quite a few pages of my harmony of the gospels, napped, caught up on writing blogs, read in The Day Christ Died, planned four life group lessons in the Life On A Yo Yo series, and worked on my written review of my son-in-law's paper on Athanasius. All of this with minimal movement, and little exertion. The allergy reaction was pretty much gone by Monday morning.

Not one minute worrying about being published. Not one minute working on a query letter, proposal, poem, text for a book or article or newspaper column--none of these. And I didn't feel bad about it. In fact I felt good about what I managed to get done. I suppose the Yo Yo series could eventually become a small group study guide, so there's some writing work there, but very little.

Why don't I feel badly about this, about a whole weekend gone by with nothing done about my writing "career"? I'll have to wait and see what another week or two brings before I can answer that.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The People Have Spoken

The election on November 4 was a clear signal, I believe, from the American people. They don't like the job the Bush administration has done, and John McCain was not seen as a better alternative. Hence Barak H. Obama is our president-elect. I hope he has a successful presidency, and that my fears of an 8-year economic slowdown/recession/depression about to take place as a follow-up to the Panic of 2008 (which I believe will happen regardless of who had been elected president) will not happen.

I notice the Democratic gains in the Senate were about in line with expectation, while the gains in the house were a bit below expectation. Still, the gains were clear. That is surprising given Congress' low approval rating as determined by pollsters, but is further evidence of backlash against Bush.

While some non-professional pundits are saying this is the end of the Republican party, I think that death certificate is pre-mature.

The main negative I have heard in the last two days is that potential Republican hopefuls for 2012 are already making plans to head to Iowa. How sad we must be in a perpetual election cycle.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Meeting Dr. Paul Maier

This last Saturday the Lutheran church closest to us hosted a seminar featuring Professor Dr. Paul L. Maier. Dr. Maier is professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University. He is the author of a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction. The one of his I read was Flames Of Rome, a documentary historical fiction about the early church era following events in the book of Acts. Well, I think it covered more than just that time, but Maier's purpose was to give some perspective to the years following Acts.

That was an excellent book, and I've always wanted to read more of his. Another of his that we had was A Skeleton In God's Closet, a novel. Our son has it, and I don't know if we'll ever get it back. Maier has written some academic books as well, such as an abridgement/translation of the works of Josephus, and a modern translation of the church history written by Eusebius. We bought that one on Saturday, as well as Maier's sequel novel More Than A Skeleton. These are pretty far down the reading pile right now, but I'll eventually get to them.

Maier's seminar topic was Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Working only from an outline that he gave to the class, Maier gave us 4 1/2 hours of informed, animated, interesting lecture. My is he a good speaker! I realize he has probably given this lecture before, and knows it quite well, but still the presentation was just incredible.

Most of us have studied some of the Reformation in school, and our Protestant churches may say a little bit each year on Reformation Sunday. But detailed information is generally lacking in most of our education and experience. I read a biography about Luther, from our public library, about ten years ago, but it didn't stick with me very well. Consequently, some of what Maier said was familiar, but most of it was like new material. I think I understand what Luther went through, just how much danger he was in, and how much he truly accomplished.

As a side note, the lecture included some thoughts of how the printing press helped to fuel the rapid dispersal of information. This kind of confirms thoughts behind a book I've been planning to write. Unfortunately, it's way, way down the writing list, which is tossed aside right now while life gives no time for writing. Oh, well, retirement is now only 8 years, 1 month, and 26 days away, assuming our elected officials don't screw it all up in the meantime.

If you have a chance to hear Dr. Maier lecture, don't pass it up. Consider reading his books. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Monday, November 3, 2008

November Goals

This being Thanksgiving month, beginning with my busiest week at work for several months, my goals will be modest.

1. Blog 10 to 12 times.

2. Finish planning "Life On A Yo Yo", and begin writing as needed, with a target to present to our life group beginning in January 2009.

3. Beginning planning two other life group series. One will be "From Slavery To Nationhood", which looks at the Israelites during the exodous and the years of wandering. The other is the one I thought of last week, which needs some more work before I make it public.

4. Evaluate the life group lesson series I thought of based on a story in the Apocrypha.

5. Since I found more writing things that need to be filed, and since I ran out of file folders and couldn't file all of those I found, finish filing writing stuff.

6. Work some on one other writing project.

7. Continue typing the harmony of the gospels that I wrote some years ago.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

October Report

Time to see how I did against my goals.

1. Attend 1 meeting of my critique group. It will meet three times this month, but I'm not sure I want to devote six hours (or ten hours including driving) to this activity this month. Did this; attended the first meeting of the month.

2. Complete my submission log. I came close a couple of months ago. An hour should suffice for this. Did this, including for the rejection I received mid-month, 14 months after I submitted the poem.

3. Contact the editor who has had The Screwtape Letters study guide, mailed three months ago today. Did this; the editor came back with a rejection (duly recorded), and we had a nice, brief e-mail exchange.

4. Continue to cull through the many writing-help items I have printed from Internet sites. Read or scan as appropriate, and discard anything not absolutely essential. I actually finished this, I think. I have freed up five notebooks at home and three at work, which formerly held printed material I felt would be helpful in a writing career. Some of these I had never read, and I read them all as I discarded them. Okay, a few of them, which I'd read before, I only skimmed. I am now down to one notebook at home that contains the essential advice for submittals. That's all I'm keeping.

5. Add a few (say three or four) posts to the poetry workshop I started at the Absolute Write poetry discussion forum. I added some to this; not sure if as many as three or four; probably only one or two.

6. Gather all my writing, all the scraps and sheets that contain things as small as haiku or as long as chapters, into one place and file them as appropriate. I'm not really too far from having this done. I think three hours might be enough. This is somewhat far along, but not quite done. I think I have everything together that was at the house. Some of that is not quite properly filed, but is AT the place where it needs to be for filing. I ran out of file folders, and haven't bought more yet.

7. Plod along, as time, energy, and motivation allow, on three writing projects: the Elijah and Elisha Bible study; In Front Of Fifty Thousand Screaming People (maybe write one more chapter); and the Documenting America column. Although I'm not planning to market it at this time, I don't want to abandon it totally. I didn't do much on these; in fact, I might not have done anything on these three writing projects, except maybe write a page or two on the E&E study. I worked on other projects (only a little), and captured some thoughts for potential future projects.

8. Post 10 to 12 times to this blog. Thirteen posts, so this was a success.