Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Multi-Step Change

Last Sunday I wrote about the Life Group lesson I taught, and how an itinerant preacher, Apollos, was helped by laymen Aquila and Priscilla. In that post I mentioned that I was only writing about half of the lesson I taught, and that in a future post I'd write about the rest of the lesson. That future is here.

Paul mostly avoided the city of Ephesus in his second missionary journey. He stopped there, it being a major metropolis of the time, and a trans-shipment port. He left Aquila and Priscilla there, took a little time to go up to the synagogue and reason with the Jews, then continued on his way back to Antioch in Syria, from whence he had departed a few years before.

Later he set out again, on his third missionary journey. His overland route took him to Ephesus. This time the first place we see him go to isn't the synagogue, but rather the church. He comes upon a group of about twelve Christians, and learns that they haven't been told the full story about Jesus. In fact, they only know about the baptism of John the Baptist. They don't appear to have heard that people were baptized into Jesus' name (not John's name), and that there was a further baptism, that of the Holy Spirit, which was available to the believers.

As I taught this last week, right on the heels of Aquila and Priscilla explaining all of this to Apollos—in Ephesus—it sounded comical to be reading it again in the same chapter of scripture. Some in the class snickered at it. I used this to say, "If Aquila and Priscilla were doing their job at spreading the gospel, and discipling new believers, how could the church possibly not understand this?" My thought was to be provocative. The way Aquila and Priscilla accompanied Paul to Ephesus, then remained there as he journeyed on, seemed to me to be an intent for them to be lay evangelists, and to plant the church in Ephesus. Maybe they were setting up tent-making franchises at the same time. But Paul seems to have put them in charge of spreading the gospel in Ephesus. They helped Apollos there. What went wrong with the rest of the church under their leadership?

The class was smart, however, and quickly said that the church at that time consisted of home churches, not a centrally organized body. This congregation of twelve men may not even have been touched by Aquila and Priscilla. They may have started from outreach by a congregation started by someone who were under Aquila's and Priscilla's teaching, and were thus three times removed from the lay evangelists. The full teaching hadn't reached them yet.

Fortunately, Paul arrived at the right time, when he could correct the not-quite-correct behavior and beliefs. Good news for these twelve men, for the church in Ephesus, and for us who now read the story.

We are through with this story. Today my co-teacher taught from Acts 26. Next week we start a new, all-church study, titled "Jesus is Lord", from a book by that name. I'm looking forward to it, and to having one more week off from teaching!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Rain Today

Weather forecasters say we're supposed to get rain today. Although, the heavy storms that, last night at bed time, stretched from Wichita to Oklahoma City and beyond, seem to have dissipated by this morning's radar. Right now it looks like a weak system that may or may not make it here with rain.

Sure enough, I just checked he forecast, and the chance of rain has been reduced since last night. Maybe we'll get some, maybe we won't. If we do, it's likely to be a lot less than at first predicted. At least, that's the way things look at 7:42 a.m. at my desk in my office in Bentonville, Arkansas.

This post will be a bunch of miscellaneous thoughts, the things running through my mind at the moment. I'm thinking of making a stock trade today, a one week option play on U.S. Steel. I ran the numbers a little while ago, and it looks good. Of course, I'll need to see how the market opens and what happens with the price before I place the order. Last night I read some in the Battle of Shiloh battle reports. Read one from a subordinate general on the Union side, but it was hard to follow what he meant without a battlefield map in front of me. Last night Lynda and I also listened to a stock trading webinar, a live one. It was good, but will take some more study before we can implement anything from it. So for now I'll keep going with what's working fairly well for me.

Yesterday was a busy day at work. I was asked to help out on two projects, which consumed most of the hours in the day. One was where a resident next to a large project which I served as contract city engineer on in Centerton has sent a letter with a bunch of questions on the drainage report. I checked the report, done by the company who now serves as regular contract city engineer (so they couldn't check their own work). I spent some hours looking back at the report, comparing it to the resident's questions, and formulating responses. This will take more time today. I'm enjoying it; it's a reminder of the type of work that once consumed half my work hours.

Just before 5:00 p.m. a man came to me with a question on a site lighting specification. I suggested to him how to handle the situation. He was back in my office a little after 5:00, still struggling with how much he needed to change the specification, which wasn't meeting the needs of the project. I pulled that guide spec up on my computer, and together we edited it, taking ten minutes to do so. He left with a nearly completed spec and his project in a position where he could send it out before the end of the day.

One negative of the day was how my knee is hurting. I don't remember if I posted it or not. About five or six weeks ago I quit taking my rheumatoid arthritis medicine because of how I became nauseous and frequently threw up in the days following when I took my weekly pills. The nausea stopped, but as the medicine worked its way out of my body the pain in my right knee came back. This isn't actually rheumatoid there; rather joint deterioration. A knee replacement awaits me somewhere in the future. But so long as the medicine was controlling the pain, the surgery was a long way off. After quitting the medicine the knee got progressively worse, until last week I could barely walk. I went to see my rheumatologist—actually his nurse—last Wednesday and was shown how to give myself the medicine by injection. I took a dose. Friday I puked twice.

So maybe the medicine does that to me even if I don't put it directly into my stomach. I've been taking up to six Aleve a day, which seems to have done nothing for the pain. I took my second injection on Wednesday. So far I've been okay. Had some nauseous feeling last night, but it passed fairly quickly as I walked it off around the house. Right now I'm feeling slightly nauseous. I'll have to get up and walk around the building here in a moment. In anticipation of this, I've been eating less over the last few days, trying to empty my stomach. The reason this medicine is causing that is because one of my diabetes meds, Byetta, delays the emptying of the stomach as a means of controlling blood sugar. So my stomach stays fuller than it should. Then when the methotrexate hits it, boom: vomit.

So, I'm still in the experimental stage with the injections. If I get through today without vomiting, I'll feel good about it. The pain in my knee may be marginally less. Or maybe that's wishful thinking, feeling what I'm hoping for. But for sure the reduced eating has helped in the weight loss department. Today I weighed-in at a 22 year low. I had kind of stalled at weight loss. Now I'm losing again. My blood sugar has been well under control. If I can just get my knee working properly, all will be right with the world once again. The strange thing, none of my joints that are bothered by rheumatoid have started hurting. So it's all very strange indeed.

Well, enough ramblings for one day, a day late from when I was supposed to post. Too busy yesterday, no gumption.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Not Changed Enough

Yesterday was my regular day for posting here. Given that I missed posting Thursday (being out of town and without a convenient computer), it was important that I post yesterday. I had the time. my only definite plan for other writing was to type a chapter, already written in manuscript, in Documenting America, Civil War Edition. I finished that before 3:00 p.m., giving me two to three hours of my normal Sunday time in The Dungeon to write and publish a post. Yet I didn't do so. Why?

Instead I decided to do more work on DA-CWE. I located source documents, copied them, and placed them in the book file. I made minor corrective edits on them, not the substantive, extracting edits I'll have to do. I discovered one document is not available on-line, so I'll have to type it. All of this is good work, work that needs to be done if I'm ever going to finish the book, but yesterday wasn't an essential day to do that, especially since I had an important blog post to write.

My problem wasn't knowing what to write. I'd considered writing a post about recent health issues, but rejected that for a post about our Life Group lesson yesterday. This was my week to teach. My co-teacher and I continue our summer ad hoc series on lived changed by the Resurrection. We have this week and next week left in that, then we move into a more structured curriculum, an all-church study. Last week Marion taught from Paul's time in Athens as described in Acts 17. The next chapter is about his time in Corinth. I decided to skip this and go instead to a series of events centering on Ephesus.

I titled the lesson "Changed by the Resurrection, but Not Changed Enough". I based this on things described in Acts chapters 18 and 19. To fully describe this would take much too long a post, so I'll just cover the first story, beginning with the back story.

Paul comes to Corinth, without Timothy and Silas, who he has sent back to check on the believers in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2), and reasons with the Jews in the synagogue. He sought out Aquila, a Jew from Pontus who had just come from Rome. From Pontus to Rome to Corinth. This Jew gets around. Paul sought him and his wife Priscilla out because they were tentmakers, as Paul was. It appears Paul needed funds, and since he knew the tent-making trade, he went to a fellow Jewish tentmaker for work.

In the next scene in the lesson, after a year and a half in Corinth, Paul sails for home, taking Aquila and Priscilla with him. They stop at Ephesus, where Aquila and Priscilla stay while Paul sails on, after reasoning with the Jews in the synagogue and promising to come back. So now, for Aquila (and maybe Priscilla), it's Pontus to Rome to Corinth to Ephesus. Maybe he was setting up tent-making franchises among the Jews of the Diaspora! The most important part of the story, however, is how they are able to help Apollos. A second, precursor part of the story isn't even mentioned.

Apollos appears to have been an itinerant preacher, or maybe a supply pastor. He's a Jew from Alexandria, a learned man, trained in the Jewish scriptures, and an effective speaker. He's also a believer in Jesus Christ, and that's Who he preaches. But, he lacks something. He baptizes new converts into John's baptism, not Jesus' baptism or the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Aquila and Priscilla see this lack, reach out to him, and explain "the way of God more adequately" This turned Apollos' ministry around. Already educated, knowledgeable in Christian ways, now he has the full picture. He goes to Achaia (where Corinth is), armed with letters of recommendation to the old companions of Aquila and Priscilla. That's a great story, even if that's all there is to it.

But there's something Acts doesn't tell us. In Acts 18:2, Aquila is a Jew in Corinth from Pontus via Rome. Paul's coming to Corinth was the first Christian influence in Corinth, so far as we know. In that verse Aquila is not described as a Jewish believer, but simply as a Jew. It appears he is not a Christian, and may not even have heard the Christian message. At the end of Paul's eighteen month stay in Corinth, he is not explicitly described as a believer, but apparently he was, for he and his wife are able to explain Christianity more adequately to the preacher.

It's at this point that I wish we had a fuller story in the Bible, that being the conversion of Aquila and Priscilla. I can see Paul, at work in the tent-making shop. If he sang and prayed in the Philippian jail at midnight, while wounded and in chains, what might he do at work at his trade, while making money? Aquila and Priscilla must have heard plenty, and seen Paul's life. They must have been converted and discipled during this time. They thought they were hiring a worker. Instead they were opening the way for themselves to gain eternal life. I would love to have the story of their conversion.

So here, in this story, we hear of laymen helping a clergyman "up his game." All are working together for expanding the kingdom of God. I like that.

Stay tuned for the rest of this story, in a future post, not too far in the future.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

So Many Choices for Writing Today

Yesterday, as I was going about yard work and dog-sitting and writing, I looked ahead to what I would write today, and kind of settled on a health issue rather than my normal Sunday Christianity post. I'm in the midst of a health experiment, having stopped my rheumatoid arthritis medicine, and am feeling ill effects from that.

But today at church was such a wonderful day, both in worship service and in Life Group, I should probably write about them. Our pastor preached from Luke 14, about the cost of being a Christian, comparing this to the normal mode of evangelism that stresses how salvation is free. It is free; but costs come afterwards. Good stuff.

Or, I should probably write about our Life Group. This was Marion's week to teach, and he did so from Acts 17, about the Apostle Paul's time in Athens. This got us into a number of good discussions, which ended up, somehow, on works of charity, and how best to accomplish them in a way that we knew would do some good. The Samaritan's Feet event from last Wednesday had much discussion. Paul's changing methods to fit the situation he found himself in also took our discussion time.

Then, I thought about saying a little about my writing. My other blog is about my writing life, but, in case I have readers here who don't read there, from time to time I say something about my writing here. If I wrote about that, I'd say my latest novel, Headshots, will be available for pre-order at Amazon in a couple of days, and available for purchase as an e-book in a week to ten days.

Having such a wide range of topics to write on, and being unable to decide, I guess I won't write much more than what I already have. It's a good Sunday. I hope all my readers are well.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

So Far Away

A couple of days ago I heard the Carol King song "So Far Away" on the radio. It had been a while since I'd heard it—not years, but a while. This radio station does a nice mix of old and new. It's not exactly easy listening. They call themselves "variety radio". They play the types of songs that are easy on the ears, not head banger stuff. No Janis Joplin. Limited Jim Croce. Lots of Katie Melua, Colbie Callet (their slow, ballad like stuff). Good listening.

King's song brought back memories, but it also got me to thinking. "So Far Away" is in terms of distance, but I got to thinking about it in terms of time. The past is so far away, yet I live in the past. That's one of the consequences of studying genealogy and history. If' I'm not reading Revolutionary War documents I'm looking at old censuses. If I'm not reading about the great migration I'm looking at old family photos. The present usually gets in the way of the past.

Last night, when I was supposed to be writing, trying to get back to it after a couple of days of distractions, I made the mistake of clicking on a Facebook link for a doo-wop song I didn't know. It was a good song. Then, off to the side on that YouTube page were scores of links to other songs of the era. I clicked and I clicked and I clicked. What great music, what a good time.

Distractions of the last two days were all about the past, digging into unknown things, trying to figure out how they tie to the present. I don't know if they do. Or rather, I should say they do, but I don't know exactly how. It may be tightly tied or a little bit loosely tied, but tied somehow it is. Perhaps I'll be able to write more about it in a few weeks.

I just listened to "He's a Rebel", which caused me to think and dream about being a rebel, something I most definitely never was. I suppose though, if I try hard enough, I can make a claim that I was a rebel in that I wasn't a rebel when all the guys around me were rebels. If I stretch a little.

So what is this post about? Nostalgia, I guess. I long for the past. Hopefully someday I'll find it.

Happy VJ Day everyone.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Getting in a Groove

Today I taught Life Group for the fifth straight week. I realize that, for those who teach an adult class every week, this would be situation normal. However, since our class is designed around me and my co-teacher teaching every-other week, this was a long stretch. Last night as I prepared, I found myself somewhat at a loss as to how to present the lesson, a lesson which I had to make up from scratch.

Following our "lives changed by the resurrection" theme, I went on to the next chapter of acts, Chapter 16. The life changed in this chapter was Lydia, the Greek woman from Thyatira who was in Philippi, dealing in purple cloth, and found by Paul at a Jewish place of prayer. She seems to have been easily convinced by his message. The second life changed was the Philippian jailer, who had a middle of the night conversion after a series of providential events.

As I was teaching, I felt that the lesson ran longer than it should, longer than I had prepared for. We ended a bit early, but we had also started early. While I enjoy teaching, I'll be glad for the break next week, even if it is just for one week.

One thing I didn't make as part of my lesson, which I thought of as I was at my computer on a Sunday afternoon, engaged in book writing, was that Paul seemed to be in a groove, even this early in his second missionary journey. He went to Philippi and, not finding a synagogue, as he would in other cities on that journey, he went to the place of prayer. He was already in his "by all means save some" mode. Lydia he led to Jesus by preaching, the jailer by singing with follow-up preaching. In between he healed the slave girl of the fortune-telling spirit that possessed her. His groove was that he was always at work for God, missing no opportunity to minister for Him.

I have not been in a groove lately. In fact, it's been just the opposite. I have been discombobulated from a schedule standpoint. Babysitting grandchildren for almost a week was good, but not good for establishing/maintaining a groove. My blog posts have been irregular. My writing has been according to the path of least resistance (i.e. whatever seemed at any given time to be the easiest to write). I've made excuses based on activities of others relative to what I need to do. I haven't done research into peripheral activities, such as learning G.I.M.P. or finding a new theme for my writing blog or researching a new computer and camera.

That's about to change. Trips and entertaining company are at an end, I believe. I'm about at a place where I can make good progress on all the things that I must do. This weekend I found a way to spend an odd moment to prepare for research into a future non-fiction book I plan to do. I made major progress on some much needed yard work, on paperwork, on housework. I'm caught up on budgeting, if not on filing. My attitude is good, my health is good, my weight loss is about to enter into another stage. I should soon be in a groove.

In fact, I think I'm already in the groove, based on measured progress this weekend. I need to accomplish another week of this type of progress, at which time I should be able to report back here: I am, indeed, in a groove.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Feeling Unsettled

I woke up in the night to loud cracks of thunder, a dry line from the sound of it. By the time I was up at 6:00 a.m. the rain had started, and it continues now, as I type this in my personal time before the workday starts. My office doesn't have a window, but from the sounds it must be a fairly heavy rain coming down. Rain usually perks me up, but today I feel...unsettled.

Yes, that's the only way I can describe it: unsettled. It seems like many things are underway, but nothing is finished. I could list them all, but that would probably bore you. Last week, of course, was a partial vacation from the office, as we babysat our three grandchildren, ages 6, 3, and 1. That was a joyous time, though it interrupted most things I have to do. I actually got a little writing done, when I rose early and worked either at the computer or manuscript.

I think I just need to finish something. I'm going to find a couple of small tasks and get them done. That's what I'm going to do. I'll leave this post for the moment, publish it, and come back and edit later to report how it's going.

Well, it's now Friday morning, in my pre-work hour at the office. I feel a little less unsettled than I did yesterday. At the office I completed a recommendation for a former colleague, for her registration with the national accreditation board. That only took 15 minutes. The safety meeting I had to attend and then the patched-together vendor lunch & learn went much better than I expected: good attendance, good presentation, lots of interest. The afternoon saw a few people come through my office needing help or advice on difficult project situations, which I handled. And near the end of the day one of the VPs came in to discuss a ticklish training situation. It was all good.

In the afternoon I got back on my technical paper on erosion control. It's due today, August 8, even though it's not to be presented until next February. I had outlined the paper previously, and done the research needed, but sitting down to write it had eluded me. Yesterday I managed to do that, even with the many interruptions. By end of the day I had over 900 words (on the way to somewhere around 3,000, I think). Can I finish it today and turn it in? Probably not. I'll e-mail the coordinator and ask for a few days grace, and try to get it in by Monday or Tuesday.

I also got closure on a couple of things at home in the evening. When Lynda left the laptop for her iPad, I grabbed it, pulled up Excel, and did the checkbook addition. I also checked on-line and entered a couple of late debits. Then I headed to The Dungeon. I typed what I had written on chapter 5 of Documenting America: Civil War Edition, and added to it, finishing the chapter. That now gives me chapters 1-6 completed (subject to editing, of course). That's roughly 1/5th of the book. In only a month or so. I'm pleased with that progress. I also, later in the evening, did some reading for research into chapter 7. Chapter 8 is also started.

But the other thing I did, which feels really, really good to have finished, was to do the year-to-date accounting for out stock trading business. I mainly wanted to get it started and make some progress on it. But as I worked on it, going from our brokerage statements, it all went fairly quickly. I came to having only June and July left to do, but was tired. However, we made almost no trades in those months, so it was mainly a couple of dividends and interest to record. So I got it done. Almost surprisingly, we are profitable. I thought we were, but we're farther ahead than I expected. That's before accounting for expenses. I still have some of that to enter in the spreadsheet. But that puts me way ahead of where I've been on this accounting in any year since we've been stock trading.

So all in all, I feel better about things today. I still have many balls up in the air, juggling too many things. This weekend will be a time to make some other major progress. I'll get back to Headshots, and begin to consider edits from my beta readers. I don't have many comments yet, but I have enough to get going. I also hope to finish sawing one batch of logs from the tree trimming. I do this manually, sawing them into fireplace length, which I'll take to Oklahoma City for the kids to burn and enjoy. It would be nice to also complete the next to chapters for DA-CWE, but that's not a goal.

Maybe by Monday the unsettled feeling will have left me completely, and I'll be able to report, "Several small missions accomplished."