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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Belle

            About 12 ½ years ago, my wife wanted an English mastiff puppy.  As, at that time, I was able to work and had sufficient money to fulfill that wish, we bought one from a breeder in another state.  She was 12 weeks old, and was named Bell.  About 5 weeks later, over the period of a couple of days, she lost most of her hearing.  Over time, we realized that she could hear a loud party a couple of miles away, as we lived in the country, and there was someone a couple of miles away who occasionally threw loud parties, but for most everyday communication, she learned hand signals.  We also learned that, as we attempted to get her attention, we were making hand signals.  As is common for mastiffs, she rarely barked, and usually because she saw other dogs around her barking.  She was never aggressive, but by size alone, brought about a healthy wariness among strangers to happened into our area.
            Over the years, just as with people, she became more sedentary, just due to age.  I believe that the average age for this breed is nine years, so she had a long life, but last Saturday evening, she lost the ability to stand up for herself.  Therefore, on Monday, I (because, in my family, such things always fall to me) took her to the vet to put her to sleep.  I found out that she over these last months since her last visit to the vet had lost weight down to 100 pounds (she was through much of her life about 130).  As I am not in excellent physical condition myself, I was able to get her to the vet via putting her on a padded two-wheel cart, as one would normally use to move boxes around, and a Tommy Lift on my son’s truck.  That she just laid on that two-wheeled cart was an indication of her condition.  Fortunately for both her and me, the vet was only about a mile away.
            It was a reminder to me of why I attempt to do this blog.  A few years ago, the movie called “Bucket List” came out.  I’ve not seen it, but one doesn’t need to, to understand the point.  There are certain things one wishes to do, everyday life can easily get in the way, and one doesn’t have the strength to do them at the last minute.  Personally, I really don’t care to go to exotic places or do exotic things.  I’ve been to both coasts here in the U.S., I’ve lived in the North (Michigan) and in the South (Florida), and have lived the last 7 ½ years in a place that I never had any desire to even visit (south east Virginia).  What is important to me is to live for Jesus, that I might affect, in some positive way, one person, and then another.  I know that I am not an excellent “people person”, as much as I might wish to be.  I’m more a person for quiet thinking, when I can, which isn’t every day, anymore.  Physical limitations, at least for me, have focused me upon what is important.  When growing up, I heard what, to me, was the syrupy sentimental rhyme, “Only one life/Will soon be past/Only what’s done/ For Christ will last.”  I flat well know it was oftentimes used in a way that was unintentionally disingenuous, to fit into a Christendom society, which was more what this society was when I was growing up, but it has a stronger ring of truth when one gets older.
            Still, the thinking part of the brain doesn’t age.  When my funeral comes, would somebody please play “Breakfast in Hell” by the Newsboys, just for shock value to any unbelievers that show up?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A week of attending self-storage auctions

            It’s 2:30 am on Sunday morning, and I can’t sleep, in part because of pains here and there.  For some odd reason, my mind drifts to a person I went to school with named Ray.  Arguably, he was the best athlete in my high school class.  In sports, at the varsity level, he was assigned uniform number 10 in all the sports he participated in.  In my town, many, at that time, would have realized that piece of trivia with regard to football and basketball, which many came to watch, and few would have realized in track (I don’t remember any other schools who had numbers on track uniforms) and baseball.

            The last time I saw Ray was my freshman year in college.  The school I was at played his.  His team won 64-0.  He was a fourth string defensive back, wearing 42.  I, who had played tackle in high school, was an injured kicker, and had a little number on my back.  Ray looked odd with a 42 on his shirt.  Since I had a different number nearly every year in anything I played, I have no clue whether I looked particularly odd with a 13.  From hearsay, I believe that he graduated and wound up working in Silicon Valley. I, as I have said previously, have done many things, with no particular order or success since graduating.

            This week, I did something which, for me, at this point in my life is a minor success.  Every day this week, I went to self-storage unit auctions.  Because of the three reality shows on tv, and the economy, the crowds at these have gotten larger and larger, which means the prices paid have been going up.  On Thursday, while waiting for one to start, one man was showing another a picture of himself with Dave, who appears as a bidder in one of those programs, and whose catch phrase is calling out a bid with the phrase “Yup.”  According to the man with the picture, he saw Dave at a flea market in San Diego selling baseball caps emblazoned “Yup”.  That might not have been memorable to me except that, where I live, self-storage auctions aren’t much like the programs on tv.  First, almost always, there isn’t animosity between the various bidders, as in the programs.  Secondly, in this area, the auctioneer isn’t trying to sound like the traditional auctioneer, with the constant chatter to hype up the audience.  At many places I go, the auctioneer works every day for the self storage company, and tries to make the bidding as clear as possible.  In fact, the day before the story above, I was at a place, and there was a man wearing a cap that said “OK”, and at a certain point in the bidding, the auctioneer was saying, “30”, and this man responds, “OK”. The auctioneer says, “OK, what?”  He says, “30.”  The auctioneer says, “I already have 30.”  The man gets it—here, you call out the price of the next bid, which is clearer to everyone than grunts, sounds, and hand signals.

            On Wednesday, I got two extremely small units.  By Friday, as I have problems standing for long periods of time, I felt worn out, and thinking about having to be at flea markets for the next two days, and having gotten little out of all the “work” I’d done all week (by now, just standing up for long periods is work).  Thinking about what I did at football practice in high school is not just a far off memory, but is downright impossible now.  Anyway, as it is Friday, there have been four previous days for others to spend their money, and I had seen some units sell for prices that just made me shake my head.  Figuratively, of course—to do so literally might cause a headache.  The second unit they opened in this old, downtown warehouse with wooden units all with bedroom doors on them, had what looked like a dusty pile of junk, all wrapped in those convenience store bags, and a case of aerosol Kilz.  Today, many to most persons keep some of their items in Sterlite boxes, so everything in convenience store bags implies this person was too poor to even own plastic boxes.  I won it at $80, in part because I knew the case of Kilz would cover the majority of that cost.

            I couldn’t get the elevator to work in this place, so everything had to be carried down a flight of steps.  As I started to pick things up, you start to learn about the person.  This person was a man, and either wasn’t married, or hadn’t been in a long time, because none of the things appeared to be things a woman would have.  Also, encouragingly, since it was a man, there were no loose child support collection papers (a common thing I wind up with), IEP’s, bill collection papers, or porn.  I find pieces of house fix-up items, such that this man attempted to get by doing unlicensed handyman work, like light electrical, plumbing, and a tad of painting (the only paint item I got was the Kilz).  I found items that appeared to suggest that he did security guard work, and had studied a little criminal justice and karate. I found a couple of Bibles (although almost everyone has a few of those) and a couple of radios, which, when I got home to test, were set to the Christian station I tend to listen to most often.

            As I went further into the pile, I find a portable generator, and a mini-refrigerator.  I cannot help but think the price would have been significantly higher if those items had been visible.  This man was African-American, so there were some black culture books in the mix, and some assorted law books, all dating back to the mid-1980’s.  Unusually, I found extremely little clothing, and what I did get was really stained, like it was work clothing.  I got a few items of Redskins items (I’m not a fan of that team, but I live in the area which is part of their fan base, so those items would sell quickly).  I got no CD’s for the first time in recent memory.  I got three large boxes of recorded blank vhs tapes, a few Betas (I’d forgotten Beta tapes existed) and a Beta recorder and two of the earliest cell phones, the ones that were in a shoulder pack, cost $2000 at a time when calls on them were $4 a minute.  These might have minor collectable value, they’re so old.

            In some ways, I detest the phrase, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” as it implies that we can slip into any kind of sin, depravity, and/or garbage at any moment, and I just don’t believe that.  When I got saved, there were things that I didn’t know existed, but if I did, I wouldn’t have had any desire or inkling of touching.  I also recognize that there seems to be in every person one area in which we must desire to cling to God and desire His help and guidance with.  In a secular, physical living way, though, I can relate to a degree to this unknown man.  Maybe because of the dating of the items involved, this man may have passed away, and no one knew about this unit.  I don’t know, he was unusually good about not storing old paperwork that needed to be destroyed (or, on the other hand, he wasn’t good about storing old records that should be, just in case). 

            Yesterday, I went to the flea market.  My son, whose money I was spending, helped because I physically couldn’t have spread out all this stuff and helped all the customers.  Economically, I did something right this week.  Today, where I am, it will rain and be windy.  Within an hour’s drive to the north, it will snow.  I won’t be out there, today.  As I get older, I hopefully am learning to accept small victories without the feeling that I still could have done better, if only because I know my body is telling me that isn’t possible.

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            If I haven’t written it before, I intend to write a group of writings on First Thessalonians, but I don’t wish to begin posting until I get to the end, in case I must adjust the beginning for some reason.

             

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On 1 Corinthians 14:34

            I believe one of the blessed facets of a simple church meeting, in a portion in which the group studies a passage of scripture, is that the discussion goes in the direction of where any of the participants have a question about the passage, and cannot avoid aspects of a passage that any one person might find “inconvenient”, to borrow Al Gore’s phrase.

            The last time my church met, the scripture for study was First Corinthians 14:26-35.  This passage has the problematical sentence appearing in verse 34 about women keeping silent.  Now, this is not just problematical because it runs contrary to equalitarian attitudes in modern western culture, but because the idea of men and women being equal before God appears at times in the Old Testament, but consistently in the New Covenant. The most obvious places are Judges 5 (Deborah as judge/leader of Israel), Joel 2 (prophecy of the New Covenant, where God would pour His Spirit on men and women), Acts 2 (where, after the Spirit comes upon the believers, Peter publicly quotes Joel 2),  1 Corinthians 11 (where Paul speaks about women prophesying, which makes no sense if women were not to speak, as 14:34 appears to say), Romans 16 (where the leaders Paul greets are roughly balanced between men and women), John 4 (where Jesus speaks to the immoral woman in contradiction of human rabbinical tradition of not speaking to any women or teaching them), etc.

            Now, I had been familiar of the writing of Gordon Fee, where he points out that 14:33b-35, in all ancient texts found in the geographical area of the Orthodox Church according to the Catholic/Orthodox split of 1034 A.D. have that phrase appearing after verse 40, and that it doesn’t flow with the rest of the passage in either position, which, according to him, implies (although at this time it cannot be proven one way or another) that both positions were due to an early leader having written a note referring to 1 Tim. 1:12 on two different scrolls, one of which was later carried east, and then another scribe mis-inserting the phrase into the text.  I also know that some of my fellow believers who will not feel comfortable reading complex theological works will not feel comfortable with that explanation.

            Anyway, one of the brothers at church found a reference from a professor from Georgetown College, Joe Lunceford (http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/leta.shtml), who suggests that the reason for the phrase is that Paul would be quoting a question someone in Corinth wrote down to have Paul answer, but that the Greek had no equivalent to our modern quotation marks.  I had never heard that explanation before.  I might also say that if Fee is right, the person at Georgetown is wrong, and vice versa.  If one reads the link above, the professor dismisses Fee’s explanation in one phrase, and makes his suggestion without any real detail (in the work where Fee gives his explanation, the explanation is 12 pages long, as is necessary to defend a point which, at first glance, seems counter to our general cursory understanding of scripture).    

The obvious problem is a status quo culture which has used this scripture, not balanced with all the other scriptures which indicate God having a contrary attitude to the implied idea of this sentence not connected with the other areas of the Word, which have abused the chauvinistic status quo of most cultures, which are part of a fallen world. 

This comment could use significantly more research behind it than I have done here, but I have been under the weather lately, which has made it more difficult for me to think deeply lately.  For instance, I know I have the Fee reference somewhere (actually, I have a photocopy of the 12 pages in some box or binder somewhere).  I remember that it comes from a commentary Fee edited on First Corinthians which is about 800 pages long (he couldn’t have written more than one such work). One of these days I will update this.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Notes on a Super Bowl Sunday

            As a note, I have not written much lately, in part, due to having been mildly ill for the past 3½  weeks.

Today is the great American secular holiday, Super Bowl Sunday.  According to CNN this morning, the average U.S. person spends $64, which adds up to as much as the total GNP of Montenegro.  That’s an interesting comparison of apples and oranges.

            I am a football fan.  Having grown up in Michigan, and spent 11 years of my life in north Florida, I am a fan of the Lions and Jaguars.  As I see no benefit to them of either the Giants or New England winning, I somehow don’t really care who wins, and the teams appear to me to be quite even.  I am sure this evening I will watch it.

            This morning on tv, I saw a discussion this morning about Mitt Romney’s “I don’t care about the very poor” comment.  As I am among the very poor, it gives me one more reason to dislike him as a potential leader.  I fully well believe he is the most competent businessman in the field, but I am amazed at many of our top “leaders” in their inability to avoid the improper comment.  Of course, I am also not particularly impressed on his point of view on 2nd century South American history, but I also know that that is a point now politically incorrect to bring up.  I imagine over the next few months, on various Christian television programs, a review of why we disagree with Morman theology will just “happen” to be brought up.  Of course, on the other hand, many “great” leaders have been sufficiently driven persons as to be less than optimally likable.  As this blog is on subject concerning following Jesus in an organic manner, hopefully, that statement is sufficiently ambivalent to be considered unclear.

             During the last week, I had the opportunity to speak with a person looking for an organic church in this area.  A brother stated that most churches have reasons to be, to use his term, incognito.  I believe this helps keep the focus on honoring Jesus, as opposed to leaders, styles, and programs.

            I anticipate writing some, in the extremely near future, on researching and studying the book of First Thessalonians.  I have noticed, among institutional churches and leaders, a tendency to quote chapters 3 and 4 far more frequently than chapter 5, which, obviously, has two sentences in it that highly speak about keeping the church a simple, by the Spirit, informal grouping.  More later.