Sunday, March 30, 2014

Be Imitators of God

My week to teach Life Group at church today; many people's week to be gone, either because of spring break, work, ministry, or family. We were a little smaller than normal. But that was okay, as the discussion was just as good.

The scripture for this week was Ephesians 5:1-20. However, as I prepared last night and this morning, I could see it was so chock full of truths and discussion topics that there was no way we would get through it. I decided, therefore, to plan on not going beyond verse 14 and to concentrate on verses 1-2.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
That word "therefore," which Paul loves to use to tie his topics together, invited a review of last week's lesson. I took around five minutes of that, summarizing what Paul said in the second half of Chapter 4, which was mainly a number of negative commands. Don't talk like the Gentiles. Don't act like the Gentiles. Don't have futile thoughts like the Gentiles. In place of that, as a positive command, we should be imitators of God. That one statement was sufficient to generate a whole class full of discussion.

How do you imitate God? What are His characteristics? How can we know them? Of course the answer is right in the same verse: Jesus. Jesus, as part of the triune Godhead, shows us what God is like. I threw out the first discussion topic on this: undeserved forgiveness. That's what God did. He forgave us when we didn't deserve it. How do we do that in this modern world, when we are bombarded with messages designed to make us think we are the most important thing in our lives. Forgiveness is not a very popular message these days. Revenge seems to be the preferred M.O.

In addition to forgiving, two other attributes of God that we discussed relative to imitating them are loving and judging. Jesus said the two most important commands are to love God and love our neighbor in the same way we love ourselves. We had a good discussion about these also. Loving is a topic we've covered many times before. Judging, less so. We are told not to judge, lest we be judged, and that we will be judged in the same measure with which we judge. And yet, God judges. If we are to imitate him, wouldn't judging something of someone be part of our portfolio? But how do we do that? This was a great discussion, taking up about half of our time. I don't know that we reached any conclusions, other than this judging can't be done in a right way without divine intervention helping us.

Next week my co-teacher can teach the rest of this section. Or, if he wants, he can probably bring out enough discussion on the next couple of verses to fill an hour.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lost an Idea

Occasionally I've mentioned on this blog, and on my other blog, that ideas for writing topics/books run through my head all the time. I'll be driving to work, and the sky will inspire a haiku. I'll be driving home in the evening and something that happened during the day will come to mind, and I'll realize I could make an article out of that, or a short story, or at least a chapter in The Gutter Chronicles. Or any of these types of ideas could come to me while on my noon or evening walks.

I don't own a mobile recording device. My cell phone is definitely not smart. So what I have to do, to capture those ideas for later development, is write them down as soon as I'm at a place to do so. When I'm driving, I don't pull a scrap of paper from my folder and scribble, as that wouldn't be safe, so I have to wait until I reach my destination. If I'm walking, and I suppose when I'm driving too, I'll try to repeat the idea over and over until I hopefully remember it by the time I reach pen and paper.

So I get there, I grab some piece of paper, and write the idea. Hopefully the paper I select isn't a random scrap, but a proper sheet that will go in a proper file and then be retrievable. Hopefully I'll actually take the paper and put it in a file somewhere. Hopefully some day I go back to that file, see the sheet, recognize what is on it, and remember what the idea was conveyed in however many words I used to record the idea for future action.

Alas, it doesn't always work that way. By the time I reach home, office, or other destination I forget that I had something to write down. Or I write down a few words in haste on an envelope that later goes in the recycling bag without a second look. Or the paper sits on a table somewhere, unfiled. Or I find the paper at some point and the words on the page seem like nonsense, and I don't recall why I wrote what I did. Or I typed the idea on the computer, and it's somewhere in some folder on some drive on some computer, never to be brought to mind again. Or maybe, just maybe, it is in a notebook or hanging file, but I never go to look for it again.

I struggle with this blog, and finding things to write. I considered giving it up, but just can't. The problem is a mix of finding time to write and ideas to write about. My other blog, about my writing life and writings, is a little easier. I finally decided that I'll write on this blog twice a week, and twice a week on the other. My schedule is this.

Sunday: this blog, a topic about Christianity
Tuesday: other blog, writing related
Thursday: this blog, a general topic
Friday: other blog, writing related

So far I haven't quite reached that ideal. Yesterday was my day for writing this post, but I didn't make it. I spent my evening reconciling my budget spreadsheet with my health savings account expenses for the last two years, something I didn't realize I'd been missing. When that was done (it only took a half hour), I spent an hour building the table of contents for my soon to be published non-fiction, public domain republishing book, as well as cleaning up the file to eliminate e-book unfriendly items. That's almost done, I'm happy to report. A little time tonight, maybe not more than 30 minutes, and it will be publishing ready. At noon I should have worked on the blog, but we had a training class then that I attended. Yesterday morning before work I should have worked on it, but I paid a bill and did some reading and research. The time left me, and I never wrote the post.

But one reason I didn't write it was because I had lost my idea. Sometime, about a week ago, I wrote out what I'd be writing my blog posts on for the next two weeks, barring new ideas that would pop up. It was a good list, and it including something I would write for yesterday's post. Alas, I can't find the paper. Did I stick it in the folder I carry back and forth from home to work? I can't find it in there. Did I write it on a pad at work, or at home? Was it a pad, or was it a sheet peeled off a pad? Was it on an 8.5x11 sheet, folded over? That's what I think, but I could be wrong.

Wherever I wrote it, it's gone. Oh, someday it will turn up. Maybe the idea I wrote will be useful for a future blog post. But today you get this: Idea Lost. Miscellaneous ramblings about how I had nothing to post on schedule yesterday, so I'm posting nothing a day late today. By next Thursday I'll undoubtedly find the paper, or another idea will have sprung up. In the meantime, the workday beckons. I'll had to do my other blog on the noon hour. Oh, wait, we have an employee appreciation cookout then.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Put off...put on: Ephesians 4:17-32

How interesting that today's Life Group lesson should be about Ephesians 4:17-32. We continue our in-depth look at this wonderful epistle by Paul. Interesting because of how the subject matter dovetails with my current research into a literary figure of the 19th Century. The passage that particularly caught my eye was:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
The apostle's metaphor is subtle but clear. The image is of changing clothes. He says put off, whereas today we would say take off, and put on. The intent is, I believe, unmistakable. Clothing ourselves is an activity that everyone does, and we all can understand. It's also something deliberate. The cleansing from sin that comes at the moment of salvation is a supernatural thing, brought about from God's mercy through Jesus' sacrifice, at the moment we request it. That request is made evident by a stated sorrow for our sins and intention to turn from them and towards God. We can't gain our own salvation without God, as Paul has clearly said earlier in Ephesians.

But now he seems to be saying that this putting off of the old man and putting on the new is something we control. It is a deliberate action on our part. Paul goes into more specifics. Put off falsehood is the first. Yes, that seems right, that truthfulness is something within our control. We don't need a divine intervention to make that happen. Every day, in every conversation, we decide 1) to not lie, and 2) to tell the truth. We take off a garment, perhaps a hat, an old faded falling apart one, and put on a new one, fresh from the store.

That's not to say that it's easy, or that we don't need to ask for help, both human and divine. We do, especially if falsehood (or any of the other things that Paul writes about after that) has been a habit for a long time. In that case our own strength will fail us, over and over again. We need human help through stronger Christian friends and accountability partners. We need the extra strength that God gives when only we ask. With these, changing our spiritual clothes should be possible, and the new garments, once put on, will never fade, soil, or wear out, if only we continue to wear them.

Now, concerning the other factor about this. I've reported here, and at my other blog, that I'm researching the writings of Thomas Carlyle. He was a British writer who lived from 1795-1881, writing some amazing works of non-fiction. He wrote literary criticism as well as cultural and political pieces, though he really wasn't primarily a political thinker/philosopher, though that was certainly part of his portfolio. He was one of the biggest literary names in Victorian England.

One of Carlyle's most creative works was an odd book titled Sartor Resartus. That would be translated The Tailor Retailored. It was a the life and opinions of a fictional German tailor/philosopher, and it centered around the philosophy of clothes. Now, I've tried reading this work, and have never yet gone all the way through it. The language is strange, and I find I need maximum powers of concentration to read it with any understanding. Ralph Waldo Emerson praised the ideas in it, while lamenting that the vehicle (i.e. the writing style and oddness of diction) would put people off and limit his readership, but that it would eventually find a large readership. This is exactly what happened. Even today, people read and analyze Sartor Resartus as an important, break-out work.

So, understanding that I have yet to read it, this comes from reading a few critiques of it, with writing easier to understand than the book itself. The gist of it is that clothes both hide and reveal. They cover our nakedness, but reveal the body at the same time, and further reveal something about the person wearing the clothes. In the case of Paul's metaphor of putting off the old man and putting on the new, the clothes reveal something about us. The clothes of hard hearts, insensitivity, futile thinking, darkened understanding reveal that life practices that are opposed to the clothes of righteousness. The clothes reveal. Yet at the same times the clothes conceal. The clothes of righteousness and holiness can be donned by one who knows neither of those, who walks in the old ways yet puts on clothes that look like a new self.

Paul talks always in the pair of suits of clothing. Putting off the old isn't enough. You must also put on the new. So it's not enough to put off falsehood. You must also speak truthfully. Paul also gives a reason for this: we are all members of one body. You must no longer steal; you must work with your hands. Why? In order to share with those in need.

I enjoy Paul's metaphors. As much as I struggle with developing metaphors for my own writing, I need to study this. And obviously not just for the metaphor, but also for the building up of the new man I became almost forty years ago.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Correspondence: You Can't Recreate An Era

As I've mentioned here in the past, I love reading letters! Especially letters from many, many years ago, the letters of famous persons. But not only famous people. The letters of those who aren't so famous hold my interest as well. I don't know what it is, but this look at "unfiltered" history keeps me engrossed. I realize letters are not completely unfiltered history, as the letter writer may indeed have altered the historical record as they wrote. But it's much closer, in the aggregate, to unfiltered history than anything else we have.

I have a fairly large collection of published letters, some read, some not read. I have them in print books acquired used through the years. I have many downloads of PDFs of books of letters, through the miracles of and Google books. I even have some of our own letters that we sent home from when we lived overseas, and letters from the home front during World War 2. I also have access to various collections of letters available for reading on-line. The Library of Congress has a huge Thomas Jefferson collection of letters, and the Carlyle Letters On-line is providing me lots of good information in my current research. Sometimes they are collections of letters—that is, the out-going letters of a person. Sometimes they are collections of correspondence—that is, the letters that passed two ways between individuals. That's how the Carlyle-Emerson correspondence is, all the extant letters of both men to each other.

Through my reading of letters, I have come to the point where I long to have a correspondent, or even several, with whom I can discuss life, liberty, and the pursuit of many things, such as happiness, health, literature, genealogy, etc. I have a few people I've corresponded with who fit that description. But maintaining the flow of correspondence is difficult when other means of communication are so readily available. When you've talked with someone on the phone, it seems silly to then write a lengthy epistle to discuss things with them. When you drove 200 or 600 miles to spend a long weekend with someone, correspondence over the next week seems somewhat pointless.

In recent days I've had occasion to "post" a couple of letters to people via e-mail. One was a business letter to a professor concerning my Carlyle research. That chain of letters has grown to four in number, all related to Carlyle and the professor's project and my project. But they are short, especially the last one. And they are business related, not creative. Of course, that's okay by me. I enjoy reading the business letters. Heck, most of the letters I've written in my life have been business letters for my employer. If anyone ever wanted to gather my letters and publish them, they would have more from Black & Veatch, KEO, and CEI than they would personal letters.

Wishing I had correspondents isn't a bad thing, but I need to keep in mind that, even with correspondents, I will not be able to carry it on in a way that people did in the past. The world and technology has changed too much. People don't communicate as they used to, and, some kind of apocalypse excepted, probably never will again. I can seek correspondents, but will need to learn to be satisfied with something different, and undoubtedly diminished, from what they had in the past.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ephesians on a Snowy Sunday

I'm in The Dungeon, as I usually am on a Sunday afternoon, preparing to write. Outside the window I see near blizzard conditions. Rain began yesterday evening, and was supposed to change over to snow around noon. But we left the sanctuary after worship service to head to Life Group, about 10:40, and the changeover was already happening. So far it's barely sticking to the roads, but it surely will by morning, when we should see the temperature around 20 degrees.

Consequently, I'm here an hour earlier than normal on a Sunday due to the storm. I let Life Group out a little early, and I'm not going for my normal Sunday walk in these conditions. So here I am, ready to set my words down for my few readers.

It was my week to teach our adult Life Group today, which was good since my co-teacher went out of town for a funeral. We continue to study Ephesians, and this week was chapter 4, verses 1-16. These are, or should be, very familiar to all mature Christians. The apostle Paul changes focus at this point. The first three chapters contain doctrine, description of salvation, and prayer. Now he changes to practical advice about living the Christian life. In verse 4:1-3 he gives a number of suggestions (commands, actually) about what the Ephesians should do with their lives. In verses 4-6 he talks about the unity that should exist among Christians. In verses 7-13 he talks about the role of ministers in the church. In verses 14-16 he's on to the results of effective ministry.

One interesting item about the book of Ephesians is the relative absence of problems in the church. Paul doesn't address specific problems at all, as he does with the Corinthians and Galatians. Some believe this is because Paul wrote this as a circular letter, to be sent to several churches, or at least passed from church to church. If it really was meant for a number of churches, how do you address specific problems? Or, it could have been that the Ephesian church was relatively free of problems, as close to a model church as you can have. That's certainly possible.

However, in these verses in Chapter 4 I see the makings of some problems. Consider this:
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (4:14-15)
What can Paul mean by "then we will no longer be infants (i.e. infant Christians as opposed to mature Christians) but that right then, the Ephesian church members were infants? He says "we", including himself in that. This may indicate that Paul is not addressing an actual problem, but rather trying to head off problems he know can develop, before they do develop.

Our class discussion included that there should be infant Christians in every church that's doing what it's supposed to do: sharing the gospel with the lost. So this message should be needed in every church, regardless of how mature the average member of the congregation is. That was a good point class members made.

Paul also said,
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
This, it seems to me, is also an attempt to ward off a problem. In the earlier chapters we learned that the Ephesian church contained Jews and Gentiles, and that this was the big mystery of God, that Jew and Gentile could worship and fellowship together because of the working of Christ. Yet, Paul seemed aware that the natural enmity between Jew and Gentile could break out at any time. They would always have to work at not letting this happen, instead letting the Spirit keep them in a bond of peace together.

The snow as abated a little, as has the wind. It's still coming down steadily, just not as hard as it was before. Time for me to wrap this up and get on to other writing. May God further bless this day of rest for you, and give you his peace.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Figuring Out Dropbox

Lately I’ve been experimenting with Drobox. I’ve used this Internet-based tool before, but sparingly. The graphics designer who did the covers for Doctor Luke’s Assistant and the print cover for Documenting America saved them to Dropbox, because of their size. I recovered them from there, did whatever I had to do with them, but didn’t explore Dropbox much. When I needed those covers either completed or tweaked, the next designers I gave them to got the files via Dropbox.

So as I understand it, Dropbox is a service wherein you can store files on someone’s server, somewhere in the world, and access the files at any time from any computer. It also becomes a place to store files you want backed up. A poor man’s backup, if you will. The service is free, up to some number of mb or gb. For a fee I’m sure you can get a whole lot more storage space.

I’m concerned about this thing, this cloud thing, if that’s the right word for it. If I store my files at Dropbox, where are they? They are on a hard drive, only God knows where, with my name on a small piece of it. So long at the Internet is available, I can access them. If the Internet is not available, they are as good as lost, whereas if they are on a hard drive at your location, you can access them so long as you have electricity and a working computer. But, lack of Internet is temporary. They say that in the future the Internet will be so much more ubiquitous than it is even now that lack of Internet will be almost unheard of. Maybe 10 to 15 years down the road.

But I like things to be where I’m at. Paper books and files are nice. A hand-held e-reader is nice. I’m concerned when things are out of my sight. However, I have a current need regarding my writing, and decided to see how Dropbox might help me.

My current work-in-progress is a non-fiction, public domain book titled Thomas Carlyle’s Edinburgh Encyclopedia Articles. For the first time all twenty-one articles will be gathered into one volume. Plus I have a short introduction and some footnotes added. I’m at the point where I’m doing some incredibly picky stuff to the text, to get it closer to perfect, and will soon shift to formatting for print book and e-book. I’m working on it at the office and at home. My normal procedure is to save it to whatever computer I’m working at, with the day’s date attached to the file name, and e-mail it to myself. Then I can access it via e-mail at the other computer. Except sometimes I forget to do the e-mail. I get to the other computer and realize I don’t have the latest tweaks to build on, and I lose whatever time I was going to spend on it.

That would be eliminated if I would just save it to Dropbox, in addition to the computer I’m working on. Then, so long as I have the Internet, I should be able to access it from anywhere. Right? That’s the theory. And so far it worked. Yesterday I worked on it a little at work, saved it to my office computer, saved it to Dropbox (for the first time), and then worked on it at home in the evening. I repeated the saving process. Today I did some additions to the Introduction and proofreading that resulted in a few changes. I saved it to my computer here, changing yesterday’s date to today’s, then saved it to Dropbox with that new file name. I don’t know if circumstances will allow me to work on it at home tonight. But if they do, I will have the latest file there to pull-up and work on. If I remember to save it to Dropbox, tomorrow I’ll have the latest file here at work.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll come to like this. It should maximize my writing time, but most importantly eliminate downtime. And that’s a good thing. And it will assure that the most recent copy is always backed-up to the Internet. And that’s another good thing. I’ll keep using it for a while, see how I like it. So far, so good.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Finally, the Lesson

What a week this has been. Not wow, what a great week, or drat, what an awful week. Let's say a weird week. Busy in some sense, leisurely in others, stressful in all.

Last Saturday, the 1st, we moved my mother-in-law, Esther Barnes, from her own retirement apartment to an "independent" living apartment at the Concordia retirement center here in Bella Vista. The physical move went well; the emotional move not so much. Her son is in from Santa Fe, staying with her and doing much of the work. My wife hasn't been particularly well the last several weeks, so there was limited things she could do. I was away the week before the move, and had my week back in the office afterward, so there was limited stuff I could do. Plus we had the rogue March sleet/snow storm in the midst of this. Consequently, everything went slower than expected and it was just yesterday, Saturday March 8, that we finished all at the apartment and could officially declare the move "over". Of course, our garage is filled with boxes and unneeded furniture, waiting to be sorted and sold or discarded. What a mess.

Part of the problem was the mix of strong and weak personalities. Lynda's brother is a strong personality. He keeps telling his mother what to do rather than asking what she wants to do. That's fine for some things. Esther is beyond the point in her life where she wants to make a lot of decisions. But some things, such as "Do you want this table or the other? You only have room for one at the new place" should be decided by her, not dictated by someone. If she doesn't want to make the decision, so be it.

Consequently, emotions have been running high this week. The three strong-willed parties have been at each other's throats at times. Each of us has taken time out, the others have said nothing, and we all went back to the work until it was done. Of course, it's not done until Esther feels fully comfortable in her new place and until our garage is usable again for its intended purpose. That, I imagine, will take weeks.

But tomorrow, all will at least in part return to normal. We will be back in church tomorrow morning. We missed last week due to the frozen-stuff storm. Lynda missed the two weeks before that, sick the second and away the first. So it's been four weeks since we've been there together, and two since I've been there. Actually, that week was a special week for our Upwards Basketball program, so we didn't have Life Groups. It's been three weeks since we were met as a Life Group.

I miss it. It is a highlight of my week. Most of the time on Sunday I post something about church and Life Group, as I did last Sunday during the storm. I gain inspiration from the worship service, the fellowship with friends, and the study of scripture or related items. The study we're in, in Ephesians, has been quite worthwhile and uplifting. I've missed it the last two weeks, and missed the people in the class.

This week I haven't re-read the scripture or made any notes for teaching. It's not my week to teach, so I've kind of slacked off. Last night I should have taken some time to do so, but there was writing to do, books to read and DVDs to watch. On Sunday morning I review the scripture, skimmed the Matthew Henry commentary, and did some preparations. I'm actually writing this before class, for scheduled posting, so, while I'm not scheduled to teach, I don't know whether my veterinarian co-teacher will be called away on an animal emergency and I'll have to teach. That will be okay if I do. If a group of mature Christians can't pull out a passage of scripture and discuss it for an hour, with a competent group leader, then something is wrong with them. So, even if I have to teach this, with limited, immediate study, I think I'll be okay.

Any way, a return to Life Group and worship tomorrow will be a good ending for a stressful eight days. God is good.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

I figure one out of three of those, healthy-wealthy-wise, will be pretty good. Wise I hope for, and keep working toward by accumulating knowledge and trying to rightly apply it. Wealthy seems to be escaping me, though through frugality I'm working on that as well.

That leaves health. That's not totally within our control. Genes and environment have something to say about it. But more and more I'm learning that much of it is within my control, through eating, exercise, and daily regimen. I feel that this year I'm healthier than I've been for many, many years, at least a decade.

Last Tuesday, the day I left for Nashville and the annual conference of the IECA, I weighed in at 231 pounds, in jeans. This is the lowest I've been in years. In 2001, while trying to lose weight before out daughter's wedding, I got down briefly, for one day, to 230 before going back up to around 242 at the time of the wedding. Before that I have to go back to 1992 when, in contest with another man in the office, I got down to 222 before ballooning up again. I peaked at 304 in 2004, tried to get down and did, to about 259, but then went back up again to 304 in March 2006. At that point I said Enough, and began a program of trying to live healthier.

I started being more faithful at exercise, and more careful about what I ate. Slowly, over several years, the weight started coming off and I felt better. I purposely wanted the weight loss to be slow, to hopefully be more permanent. Also over these several years some rules for weight loss and better health came into focus for me. I'm sure I reported them to this blog before, but to make this an all inclusive post I'll repeat them. These did not come to me all at once, but over several years.

1. Eat a little better
2. Exercise a little more
3. Drink a little more water
4. Eat a little less
5. Get a little more sleep
6. Exercise a little better
7. Solve my "free food" problem.

Simple rules, but effective for me. I started my better health quest with eating a little better and getting a little more exercise, mainly walking. And it seemed to work. In 2006 I lost 20 pounds, kept it off in 2007, lost 10 more in 2008, etc. I had some challenges along the way. My pre-diabetes came into full Type 2 diabetes. I started taking medicines for it, some of which work against weight loss. I contracted ehrlichiosis, not once but twice, the second time causing a severe flare-up in my rheumatoid arthritis. This included an especially painful right knee, which my rheumatologist said will someday need to be replaced. I had a mild case of pneumonia once, the flu once, and more than my normal number of colds. I had a few ups and downs on weight, but mostly down, like stocks in a bear market.

January 2013 found me up a little in weight from twelve months before, my blood sugar again rising, and having a general lack of energy. I decided that was it, I was going to go back to my rules and re-apply them. It seemed to me that each one could be applied in any situation. If my weight loss stalled, I could eat a little better and a little less. I could exercise a little more and a little better (meaning, exercises that stressed the body more). It worked, and slowly through the year I went down from about 265 to 242 (I think; my weight log is at work, I'm typing this at home).

In November 2013, at a corporate leadership retreat, we had a couple of exercise ladies come in and put us through a set of exercises and talk with us about healthy lifestyles. They had us doing lunges, thrusts, and planks. I liked the lunges and planks, not so much the thrusts, and have incorporated those two into my regimen. Not a whole lot, but some. It seems to be working. I'm feellng better.

Also, my blood sugars have been excellent of late, which I think is a combination of eating better, exercising more and better, and a change in medications in January 2013. I'm now taking Byetta, which, as I understand it, delays the emptying of the stomach, which is supposed to equalize blood sugars. It is also conducive to weight loss, unlike other diabetes medicines. My sugars in 2014 have been mostly between 130 and 90, and for the last month have averaged around 104. In March so far they are 111-91-107. Even while I was out last week during the convention, with somewhat overeating, my sugars weren't bad.

So, I won't say I'm healthy at this stage, but I'm healthier than I was. I feel younger than I did eight years ago. I'm motivated to keep going. Next week or the week after I hope to weigh-in below 230 for the first time in 22 years. When I see the doctor in April I hope to be given six months before needing to come back to see him. That will be a moment of triumph if that happens. I need to get to 219 before I will be considered overweight rather than obese. That will be the next goal. The doctor set 200 as the upper end of my ideal weight goal, but I think 180 is a better goal for me, and what I'm working towards.

So, I'm now waiting for the weather to break a little more so that I can do more outside work. I saw up deadfall and fell dead trees and saw them up, all with a manual bowsaw. It's mainly for exercise, though we take some to Oklahoma City on some trips for the kids to burn. I'll get back on my 3.7 mile walks soon, and see how they affect me. And I'll walk a little more consistently on noon hours. All while eating a little better and a little less. Next time I report, hopefully I'll be reporting to you from south of 230.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rooted and Grounded

Here I am, back after an absence of two weeks, ready to resume a more consistent regimen of writing and posting. The biggest thing that worked against me the last two weeks was my employment. Last week I was in Nashville, TN, attending the conference of the IECA and presenting a paper there. The week before that had preparation for the conference. Other writing tasks had entered into that, as I had a book out on inter-library loan—research for a future book, which I'll write about on my other blog—and that took up a lot of evenings.

So here I am, on a Sunday morning, ready to post. It's a time when I would normally be in church, soon to finish the first service and go into life groups in the second hour, for fellowship and study. It's my week to teach. But I'm not there because of the storm we're having. I can't say a storm is raging outside The Dungeon windows, because the white stuff is barely coming down. But earlier we had sleet and/or ice. Yesterday the church decided to cancel life groups and just go with one service at 10:45 a.m. Anymore I really minimize driving in bad weather or bad roads, so I decided we wouldn't go in today if in fact the forecast storm occurred. Lynda didn't object, so here we are.

I arose at 8 this morning, took my blood sugar (it was good, a subject for a future post) and shot. I heated coffee from last night and settled in my reading chair. I decided to read Ephesians 3:14-21, which was the lesson for today. Then I read Ephesians from the beginning up through and including this passage. Since, knowing the storm was coming and we most certainly wouldn't be venturing out, I hadn't actually prepared a lesson, I decided to at least read in one of the commentary's on it. I chose Adam Clarke's commentary, two pages of 8 point font on this passage. Actually, I don't read in Clarke's actual commentary; I read Ralph Earle's abridgement of the commentary. One day perhaps I'll write about this.

From Clarke I picked up several things about the passage that I hadn't noticed on my own. This is Paul's prayer for the Ephesians: "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family  in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may...." Clarke pointed out that this prayer isn't so much an intercession as it is a prayer of dedication. Paul prays lofty things, the types of things you might pray when dedicating a church building. Clarke drew parallels between this prayer and that of King Solomon when he dedicated the temple.

Another thing Clarke mentioned, which I can't believe I missed on my own, is the double metaphor Paul uses: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love...." The King James version, which Clarke used, has "rooted and grounded in love." He says this double metaphor comes from agriculture and architecture. Rooted clearly refers to plants. The roots push down into the soil and hold the plant in place. This is a subject oft heard at the conference I attended last week, Environmental Connection 14, the annual conference of the International Erosion Control Association. Much has been said in recent years about the importance of vegetation in preventing erosion. Since my mind was on this subject already, I'm especially surprised the fact that this was an apt metaphor escaped me. Perhaps it was because I've read and thought about this passage so much over the years that I wasn't drilling down to the nuts and bolts of it. I was skimming, in a way.

Clarke says the grounded metaphor has to do with a building. A building is fixed to the ground, oriented, provided first with a foundation, then rises into a superstructure. Clearly the translators of the NIV thought established was a better word here than grounded. This destroys the building metaphor, but strengths the plant metaphor. A plant that is rooted is established. It is firm in its location, immovable, holding together the soil around it, interrupting the raindrops falling all around it, preventing them from impacting on the soil and dislodging individual soil particles. The roots prevent those raindrops from washing away soil particles from the root zone. Paul prays that the Ephesian believers might be like the plants: affecting their environment, holding things together, preventing that place from eroding. It is a great metaphor.

Clarke also pointed out a curious phrasing of Paul's: "And I pray that you...may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge...." How can you know what surpasses knowledge? How can you know the unknowable? So what is Paul saying here? Perhaps that it is beyond human knowledge, but perhaps it is only known with special insight granted by God. Or maybe, as Clarke suggests, the know in this case has to do with acknowledgement. We know we can't really understand the love of God, and we acknowledge that and grasp what we can of it. This is something I will have to ponder more fully. It will be a good discussion point in life group.

Paul ends his prayer, before moving on to a section about living the Christian life in an unChristian world, with a doxology. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us, to him be flory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." A great ending to a great prayer. I shall have to read this again and again. And, I still have to read Matthew Henry's commentary on it. Though next week won't be mine to teach, I'll still be prepared at the substitute, and who knows what more I'll learn from the preparation.

Since I began writing this the storm has changed. Then it was light sleet, barely visible. Now it has changed over to snow, the light and fluffy kind, but heavier, clearly visible, drifting slightly from north to south in what appears to be a gentle wind. The temperature is around 15 degrees F. I don't know that I'll go out for my usual snow walk. But I know that this is fun to look at.