Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Of Cabbages and Kids

A married couple comes to a local potluck dinner. They bring a lovely cassarole of roast vegetables. In the course of conversation it comes up that the vegetables are from this couple's garden. They grow much of their food on the land behind their house. They also keep some livestock in their barn and a few chickens, from which they get a significant part of their meat and all their eggs. The reason, they say, is simply that they like to know where their food comes from, what is in it, and most of all, they simply believe that home grown food tastes better.

Most people would find this admirable. They might not want to do it themselves, preferring to run down to the local grocery store. Even so, they admire the industry and appreciation of good things that motivates this young couple to self-sufficiency.

On the other hand, another married couple comes to the same potluck dinner. They have several children. In the course of conversation it comes up that the children are taught their school subjects at home. The reason, they say, is that they like to know what their children are learning, to have a more direct hand in shaping their character, and they just like having children around.

For some reason, it is common for the second couple to receive many subtly raised eyebrows in their direction, and questions posed in tones carefully veiled to hide the skepticism lying behind the questions. It seems that most everyone understands why growing ones own food is a good and noble thing, even when it's all available at the store for just a little money. Nevertheless, to undertake the teaching of one's own children just seems like such a crazy thing to do when there are trained professionals right around the corner, who are already paid to do it for us. It's all just so much time, and so much work, and frankly, just a little strange.

What strikes me as strange is the double standard.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Adorned Like Lions

Clement of Alexandria is my new friend. I, of course, have always known that I have been gifted by God with a glorious coat, a pelt, yeah even a MANE! It is a symbol and sign of my marvelous manly power. Not everyone believes this, but Clement gets it.

But for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, to arrange his hair at the looking-glass, to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them, how womanly! And, in truth, unless you saw them naked, you would suppose them to be women. For although not allowed to wear gold, yet out of effeminate desire they enwreath their latches and fringes with leaves of gold; or, getting certain spherical figures of the same metal made, they fasten them to their ankles, and hang them from their necks. This is a device of enervated men, who are dragged to the women’s apartments, amphibious and lecherous beasts. For this is a meretricious and impious form of snare. For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with shaggy breasts,—a sign this of strength and rule. So also cocks, which fight in defence of the hens, he has decked with combs, as it were helmets; and so high a value does God set on these locks, that He orders them to make their appearance on men simultaneously with discretion, and delighted with a venerable look, has honoured gravity of countenance with grey hairs. But wisdom, and discriminating judgments that are hoary with wisdom, attain maturity with time, and by the vigour of long experience give strength to old age, producing grey hairs, the admirable flower of venerable wisdom, conciliating confidence. This, then, the mark of the man, the beard, by which he is seen to be a man, is older than Eve, and is the token of the superior nature. In this God deemed it right that he should excel, and dispersed hair over man’s whole body. Whatever smoothness and softness was in him He abstracted from his side when He formed the woman Eve, physically receptive, his partner in parentage, his help in household management, while he (for he had parted with all smoothness) remained a man, and shows himself man. And to him has been assigned action, as to her suffering; for what is shaggy is drier and warmer than what is smooth. Wherefore males have both more hair and more heat than females, animals that are entire than the emasculated, perfect than imperfect. It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness. But the embellishment of smoothing (for I am warned by the Word), if it is to attract men, is the act of an effeminate person,—if to attract women, is the act of an adulterer; and both must be driven as far as possible from our society. “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered,” says the Lord; those on the chin, too, are numbered, and those on the whole body. There must be therefore no plucking out, contrary to God’s appointment, which has counted them in according to His will. “Know ye not yourselves,” says the apostle, “that Christ Jesus is in you?” Whom, had we known as dwelling in us, I know not how we could have dared to dishonour. But the using of pitch to pluck out hair (I shrink from even mentioning the shamelessness connected with this process), and in the act of bending back and bending down, the violence done to nature’s modesty by stepping out and bending backwards in shameful postures, yet the doers not ashamed of themselves, but conducting themselves without shame in the midst of the youth, and in the gymnasium, where the prowess of man is tried; the following of this unnatural practice, is it not the extreme of licentiousness? For those who engage in such practices in public will scarcely behave with modesty to any at home. Their want of shame in public attests their unbridled licentiousness in private. For he who in the light of day denies his manhood, will prove himself manifestly a woman by night. “There shall not be,” said the Word by Moses, “a harlot of the daughters of Israel; there shall not be a fornicator of the sons of Israel.”

Yes! As those who know me will tell you, I am not smooth, nor am I soft. And apparently I am more righteous for all that. You can read the entire text of Clement's rant from his book The Instructor. This passage comes from Book III chapter III.

Thanks to Ron Jung who drew my attention to this via Bayly Blog

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Name Correction

Thanks to a kind commentor named Jim, my less than rudimentary latin has been corrected. It seems that Neco Draconis means I kill of the dragons. I assume that means that I was using the genitive case when I ought to have been using...perhaps the ablative? It's been so long I'm not even really sure.

At any rate, in a few weeks, I will be changing the name of my blog to NECO DRACONES, which is the correct form. I wanted to give all three of my faithful readers the chance to make note so that when you attempt to find me, you will know to try the new spelling.

Again, my humble and heartfelt thanks to Jim. I need to make more friends who know proper latin.

Half Baked on the Suncook

Three weeks ago we still had several feet of snow, but it was melting. The rivers were running high and fast, and it looked like it was going to last for a while. The email came along from my friend Rick. The message was simple and direct:

Awaken explorers of the northeast: How about April 26th … for a trip down the Suncook from Pittsfield to Webster Park in Epsom.

Not owning a canoe myself, it took me a bit of networking, but pretty soon I had secured a watercraft and set aside the time on my calendar. I was really looking forward to it. When the water is running high the Suncook river has some very nice stretches of whitewater. These are places where most of the year the river picks its way through piles of rocks, but with the spring snowmelt (or several days of heavy rain) the water flows strongly over top with lots of lovely haystacks, hydraulics, and ledge drops to play in. I was looking forward to resurrecting some of my old whitewater skills, and adding some new ones.

Who knew we would have three weeks of almost record breaking warm and dry weather? Especially after the winter from which we have just emerged? The snow melted fast. So fast, in fact, that when Rick did a little scouting on Friday he found that the water levels had dropped so much that we couldn’t do the run we had planned. It would have meant carrying the canoes over the rocks for some pretty significant stretches. But, the time had been set aside on the calendar, the boats had been cleaned up and prepped, the gear hauled out of storage, and most of all, the river was still there. We simply shifted the focus of our trip. We moved our route north, putting in at Center Barnstead and taking out in Pittsfield. It was no longer about whitewater, but instead, it was about a couple of guys hanging out on the river on a beautiful spring day. We were OK with that.

So we met about 10:30 at Rick’s house. It was Rick, Ken (a neighbor whom I already knew), Dave (who I had met on a 4 day trip St. Croix River in Maine two years ago), and Don (a new acquaintance from town). Between us were 2 canoes and 3 kayaks. I switched at the last minute, and opted for a 14 foot flatwater kayak. I am well accustomed to the canoe. I generally prefer it as a very utilitarian craft that is very flexible in use. I prefer a river canoe with no keel so that it is more maneuverable in tight spaces and shallow water. Even so, I thought this might be a good opportunity to get some kayak experience, so when the kayak was offered, I took advantage of it.

After some time spent managing the logistics of boat hauling and car shuttling we finally found ourselves on the river just before noon. The day was bright and warm with a fulsome blue sky and a light breeze backing around from the east, an indicator of some less clement weather heading for us the next day. We took our time working our way down the river. We would occasionally clump together to converse, then when the thread of conversation grew thin, the group would break apart. There were side forays into inlets and much conversation about various landmarks and terrain. The river meanders (as rivers tend to do in hilly New Hampshire) right through our hometown, but for most of us, this was the first time we had seen these places from the riverine viewpoint. For most of our route we shadowed the old railbed for the old Blueberry Express, the informal name for the Suncook Valley Railroad, that ran from Hooksett to Center Barnstead between 1869 and 1952.

We passed by one particularly fascinating lakefront property, full of all manner of water toys including a zip line over the river, and a floating motorized picnic table. Obviously these people know how to really enjoy a river, not just look at it.

Upon reaching the Valley Dam, just east of the Barnstead Parade (so called as it is the parade ground where militia would drill during the days of the revolution) we carried the boats around. It was here that my choice of kayak would come to haunt me. Although Don had given me some basic instruction on the proper method of entering and exiting a kayak, I had only paid minimal attention. I had been distracted by some sunning turtles, and so reached the put-in after the others had already gotten out an walked across to scout the river below the dam. I’m used to a canoe, where all that is required to exit the craft is a little care, but no acrobatics. With a kayak, it is not so much that you ride in it, as that you wear it. Remembering that Don suggested that the method involves sitting up on the top of the shell, and then stepping off, that is what I started doing. Apparently his entire lecture on using the paddle for stablilization was completely lost on me.

It is a fascinating thing – the difference it makes when the center of gravity of a small watercraft is shifted upward just a few inches.

If someone had been there to see it, I’m sure that they would have enjoyed it. By the time I did manage to make it to shore, my right arm was soaked to above the elbow, and both feet. My right leg was dampened well up may thigh. It was good for a laugh and I did chuckle heartily. Even so, it was a lovely warm day, I was wearing synthetics that I knew would dry quickly, and there as no harm done. A few minutes additional instruction, this time including a demonstration rather than just a lecture, turned the whole event into a valuable lesson.

We spent a few minutes playing around in the riffles below the dam. Dave demonstrated his poling technique, using his 11 foot pole to maneuver his canoe up and around the rocks and rapids. I found this powerfully inspiring. The sight of a man STANDING up in a canoe, calmly and purposefully making his way through the water is rousing to the spirit. It was just so manly that I had to admire the skill, and I purposed there and then that I will make just such a pole and some down here to practice myself. Poling is a skill that few own these days, but it just so reeks of that certain Maine Guide coolness that I would love to obtain it, if not master it.

The section below the dam contained a few more riffles and rocks, but nothing major. We continued along without major incident until about a half mile from our take out location.

Coming around a bend we heard the distinct sound of voices and the clanking of metal on metal –someone was having a party and horseshoes were involved. As we got closer, we were spotted by the group. It was a sizeable group, maybe 20 people, in a backyard high up on a bank above the river. As soon as they spotted us, the cry went up. “Hey Heidi! Canoers! Invite them in!” Then a woman’s voice, “Hey, come on up. We’ve got hard cider! And Beer. And food! Come on up. You are welcome to join us!”

It didn’t take us too very long to decide that we should take these nice people up on their invitation. I managed to extract myself from the kayak, this time without mishap, and we clambered up the steep river bank to be met at the top by Karl, who was distinctive for two reasons. First, he has a magnificent moustache, bordering on mutton chops. Second, he held in his hands a wine bottle that was full of home made hard apple cider.

By way of background, you should know that I am extraordinarily fond of cider. I really enjoy a well crafted beer, but I love cider. It is available bottled, but you have to look for it. One of my favorite brewpubs, The Great Dane, in Madison WI offers a very fine dry cider. They have exceptional beer, but I will often pass up the brew for the cider and be glad I did. I have been considering fermenting my own cider for a few years, but haven’t made the leap yet.

It seems that the owners of the house are friends with the owner of a local orchard. Last fall, someone paid the orchard to store a 50 gallon barrel of fermenting cider. The cider has been ready for some time, but the owner of the barrel failed to claim it. What do you do with 50 gallons of hard cider? Why, find someone to drink it, of course! Hence the party and warm hospitality for happy voyageurs. The cider had been decanted into various vessels including a number of used wine bottles and plastic jugs that were sitting in iced tubs. Heidi, the hostess, would walk around with a pitcher to fill the cups while others ate and talked or played horeshoes, or called surprised boaters in with their siren song.

Did I mention that I have a particular fondness for cider? It didn’t take me long to take charge of a wine bottle full. It was quite good, not very sweet, but without the tartness of some bottled ciders – especially those made with granny smith apples. It was a lovely clear honey gold color and went down smooth and easy. This was where my second adventure of the day began to take shape.

Cider does indeed go down easy. This particular cider, being essentially home brewed, did not have a controlled alcohol content. And, I had not stopped to think, before partaking of a generous portion, that I had not eaten since 10:00 that morning. It was now some 5 hours later, and I was hungry and thirsty. Before I noticed, I had drained most of that bottle myself in a space of about 15 minutes.

The food was just coming out at that point. I was enjoying myself immensely simply because the whole chain of events was so wonderfully improbable. A few minutes after draining the last of the bottle, however, I turned my head to look over at the horseshoe players, and noticed a funny thing. When I turned my head, the earth also turned, but in the other direction. This rather unusual sensation took my attention immediately. Then I noticed that any sudden movement created a subtle but very noticeable effect upon my equilibrium. I suddenly realized, with a chuckle, and a little bit of embarrassment, that I was drunk.

Now, I have never really been drunk. Once about 20 years ago I had a small chain of margaritas that left me feeling very happy and talkative, but I don’t recall any effects on my balance. In general, I am pretty careful about my drinking. I enjoy the cup, but take care not to over indulge as a matter of principle. Now, realizing that I had done a rather foolish thing, I immediately tucked into the food. Chips, salsa, cheese, pretzels, venison kabobs (hoorah!), beans and franks. I hoped that food might slow down the absorption rate, but it really was too late at that point. The stuff had already reached my brain and done its work. The whole thing was pretty funny, and between mouthfuls of good food, I had to chuckle to myself.

At one point, Rick asked my why I was chuckling, so I explained my predicament. He gave me that special look that can only come from a friend – half rolled eyes, half amused grin, and half “you-big-dope” appraisal. He forbade me to get back into the kayak. I averred as how I was fine to make the half mile paddle down to the take out. He expressed firm and unyielding disagreement. “If you roll over and you are like this….no. You are walking.”

We sat around eating and talking for a while longer and then bid our hosts good bye. They offered some more cider to take with – they had 50 gallons to get rid of. I gratefully accepted another bottle, which I stowed in my pack and carried with me while I walked (somewhat unsteadily) the half mile or so down to the boat launch, chuckling all the way at my naivete and unguarded stupidity. Even so, I did not chide myself overmuch. The day was beautiful. The hospitality well meant. The friends were good and understanding, and while I was a little foolish, I did not go so far as to get downright obnoxious (at least, I don't THINK I was). In fact, on the ride home, I apologized, and my comrades were gracious enough to not tell me what an ass I was. Several expressed that they were glad I had “enjoyed” myself. They were probably lying, but it was kind of them to lie that way. Either way, we all had a good laugh over it. And best of all, I have fond memories of a most excellent day, new friends, and another bottle of the most lovely apple cider stored in my refrigerator waiting for another, more temperate, day.

I was not allowed to drive home – a decision I had made shortly after the earth began moving on it’s own accord. I walked through the door, and my lovely bride greeted me with the customary “How did it go?” I responded with what might possibly be the last thing she ever expected from my mouth. “Good…I’m a little drunk actually.”

All in all…I’d say it was a pretty good day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Amateurs in Education

I’ve been trying to write a post about the recent flaps in California and New Hampshire about home schooling. I only want to write a few paragraphs, but as I move into the third of fourth paragraph of a draft, I realize that this could get really long and involved. So, let me try to present this in the form of a few pity aphorisms.

The State has a vested interest in insuring the education of children.
The ultimate responsibility for a child’s education lies with the parents.
This is still true even when the child is being educated by the state.
If the state wishes to involve itself in education, the role of the state is not to assume responsibility for education, but to act as a resource for parent.
If the parents wish to contract with the state to use their educational services, the parents still bear the obligation for the quality and content of their child's education.
Home schooling is necessary - at some level - even for children who attend publicly funded schools.
Home schooling is unavoidable. Children learn from their home, regardless.

The state has a responsibility to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.
Home Schooling is not child abuse.
Home Schooling does not cause child abuse.
Eliminating or controlling home schools does not prevent child abuse.
States already have laws to detect and deal with abusive situations as such. Passing laws restricting home schools to prevent child abuse is beside the point. Enforcement of current laws is of greater value.

Not all parents are good home educators.
Not all teachers in public schools are good teachers.
Teacher Unions seem to want to claim that education is too important to be left to amateurs.
I might assert that it is too important to be left to detached professionals with no real personal stake in the outcome.
If only “credentialed professionals” are to be allowed to teach, then they must be held responsible for results. If the kids aren’t learning, those responsible must be fired.
Teacher’s unions cannot have it both ways.

Education is above all a spiritual endeavor. Education is the shaping and formation of a person.
Education is only secondarily about economics and information and careers.
Preparation for careers is training, not education. It is necessary, and is PART of education, but is different in kind.
The end goal of education is NOT a productive taxpaying citizen.
The end goal of education is a wise person.

I’m not sure how pithy those were, but I think they sum up the core of my recent thinking.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Movie Movie

I love movies. I especially love going to the movies. I like the bigger screen and the way too loud sound and the dark room. I can’t fold clothes or work on the laptop or anything else but watch the movie. It is bliss. I get to do it maybe a few times a year, if I am lucky. Such is the fate of the father of small children, especially when there are no in-laws around to baby-sit.
But I still love movies, and watching the DVD will suffice. It’s the story thing really. I love the stories.
This weekend I have had a most unusual opportunity. I viewed 6 films this weekend. They were not deep. They were not artsy. They were not poigniant portrayals of the human condition. They were, however, pretty rollicking good tales. I chose them for that quality primarily.
And, as far as tales go, I am (I think I have said this before) a sucker for the heroic. So these were heavy on the lone hero going it alone against heavy odds. A few words about each.

The curious thing about this film is that the director used some kind of technique that created a sort of animation veneer over the live action. It took a little getting used to, especially in the scenes where expressions and faces and emotional reactions mattered. Fortunately, these weren’t all that important anyway. Also, I’m not English major, so that fact that it took major liberties with the original epic bothered me not one whit. I have long since accepted that a movie is not the book, even if they share the same name, characters and other accidental commonalities.
I will say that the opening battle with Grendel is terrifying. I am not one to be overly impressed or bothered by screen violence, but my jaw hung slack with amazement as I gazed horrified at the monster wreaking his havoc. Yet I loved it, because Grendel should be horrible. In the end, Beowulf betrays himself and those he loves, and the redeems his betrayal by brave deeds. Glad I saw it. Now I shall go back and read it for the third time.

The Kingdom
The FBI goes to Saudi Arabia to catch a bomber. Much hijinks ensue.
OK, that’s not fair. It’s a pretty serious picture, in the sense of solemn. It captured the one essential truth that I think many people (like 2 of our potential presidents) may not seem to realize – they really do want to kill us all. No quarter asked and none given.
Some truly outstanding scenes involving automatic weapons, rocket propelled grenades, and the old-fashioned hand thrown kind. I found myself shouting at the screen.

Live Free or Die Hard
Bruce Willis resurrects his John Mclain character. Hard not to love this guy. The fluffiest of the bunch, but still fun. My wife and I watched this one together, and we both found ourselves mocking some of the gunplay and fistfights. How many bullets are there in one clip? Am I the only one that counts them and ask out loud where they are getting their ammo? Still, fun if enjoy practicing your willing suspension of disbelief. Definitely enjoyed the abundance of tough guy one liners.

I am Legend
I remember Charlton Heston in Omega Man. For some reason some images from that movie are burned into my brain, so I really wanted to see this one. Pretty cool. I really enjoy watching Will Smith. He is just a lot of fun on screen.
Another post-apocalyptic fantasy. The “dark-seekers” were a bit overdone, but the setup and exploration of the “what-if” scenario is pretty intriguing. Smith’s character is not only a scientist and a soldier, but damn clever with his hands – I gotta give him that. To construct the kind of hideout he has put together is pretty impressive. Oh…and it’s a bit of a plot problem with some woman shows up for no other apparent reason than to advance the plot. Still…I enjoyed it.

Facing the Giants.
Watched this one with the kids. All I will say it that it is surprisingly inspiring, and it spoke strongly to me in my current situation. The acting is generally wooden, but again, if you look past that, it’s a good old fashioned David and Goliath story. That’s always worth watching if it’s even half way well done.

Mr. Magorian’s Wonder Emporium.
Ok, I actually slept through most of this one. Nothing blowing up. No guns or knives or people fighting to the death. But that Natalie Portman sure is purty.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

That's Bad! No..That's Good!

Old Sai was a farmer, old and well respected in the village for his wisdom, and his ability to prosper. Recently he acquired, at great expense, a fine draft horse to use in his fields. He had not had the mare very long when it ran away. His neighbors gather to and his neighbors console him in his bad luck. Sai, however, simply says, "What makes you so sure it isn't a blessing?" His neighbors think he must be getting a bit senile.
Then, a few days later, the horse returns with a stallion by its side. This time the neighbors gather to celebrate and congratulate him on his good fortune. Sai simply says, "What makes you so sure that it isn't disaster?" The neighbors look at him quizzically, as if he simply can’t make up his mind.
Several days later, Sai’s only son is riding the horse into town and he gets bucked off and breaks his hip. Again the neighbors gather to console him and again Sai simply says, "What makes you so sure that it isn't a blessing?" 3 months later a large force of raiding nomads come across the border. The army comes to the village and presses every able-bodied man into service. In the ensuing battle, the Chinese army loses 9 out of 10 men. Nevertheless, because the son was still recovering from his broken hip he was not called to war, and so the father and son survived to care for each other.

We’ve had a bit of an “Oh that’s bad….No that’s good!” the last couple of weeks. Let me try to outline it for you.

My wife got into a car accident.
Oh that’s bad.
No, that’s good. Nobody was hurt.
Oh. That’s good.
Well, not really. The insurance company declared the car a total loss.
Oh. That’s bad.
No, actually that’s good. They gave me a pretty good settlement for it, and we got a much newer car that I won’t have to make payments on for at least a year.

Or there’s this one…

It snowed a LOT this year.
That’s good.
Well, not so good. The snow and ice really built up on our roof.
Oh, that’s bad.
Not too bad. Fortunately we have a very steep pitch on our roof.
Oh, that’s good.
Actually, not so much. It all came crashing down a few weeks ago and crushed our back deck.
Ohhh. That’s pretty bad.
It looks like it’s going to be good. The insurance is going to buy us a new deck to replace the old one. We’ve been wanting to replace it for a few years, but didn’t have the money. Now we can.

Those are true stories. Makes me wonder about all the other stuff that’s going on. Who can really tell in the middle of any given event what the ultimate outcome or purpose will be?

This theme is pervasive throughout Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Remember this speech by Sam as he contemplate what he has learned about adventures.

We shouldn’t be here at all [Sam says to Frodo], if we’d known more about it
before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way the brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually -- their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on -- and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same -- like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?"

Then there is that wonderful exchange at the end where Gandalf puts everything into perspective.

"What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature [Frodo declares] when he had a chance!"
"Pity? [Gandalf replies] It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that [Bilbo] took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity."
"I am sorry" said Frodo. "But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum."
"You have not seen him," Gandalf broke in.
"No, and I don’t want to," said Frodo. ". . . Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death."
"Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, or good or Ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many -- yours not least."

What part do I have to play? What drama is being played out in the minutiae and broad strokes of my life? I am not quick to deal out death in judgement, but I am often quick to deal out judgement on the circumstances of my life. There is more to my life than cars and decks. There is business, a marriage, a church, and all manner of accounts. A wife, children, friends, colleagues, clients and patrons. These and many other parts fit together but all of it is always changing. Some of it is easy, and some is not so easy. Pleasant and unpleasant – it’s all mixed together, but I can’t really always tell what is GOOD at the moment. Sometimes not even some time later.

Is this an element of faith -- to wait on events without judging them? To trust somehow that it's all OK, even when it seems strange to think that?

If I recall correctly, my Buddhist friends say that life is suffering and that suffering arises from desire or attachment. When one comes to understand that the meaning of an event can change in a moment, is this a step toward enlightenment? We must be careful about attaching ourselves to strongly to the meaning of any event, for it’s ultimate meaning may be inscrutable. We may simply be wrong.

On the other hand, the Apostle Paul encourages us the be content in whatever state we find ourselves in. Crushed deck? Be content. Smashed car? Be content. Ilness? Surgery? Poverty? Be content.

Not an easy place to cultivate, but I think we are learning. It’s a strange road with an unclear map and many curves around which we cannot see. What is around the next bend? Is it good? We shall see.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Providence and Prescriptions


I don’t have time to go into a tremendous amount of detail, but suffice it to say that The LORD has shown His mighty arm and His compassionate heart this week.

I wrote earlier about our concerns regarding affording medication for my wife’s condition. After a significant amount of effort and legwork, we have been told that the maker of the drug has offered to supply the drug for the next year, as part of their assistance program. We must max out our prescription insurance cap, and then the manufacturer’s assistance program will take over. This news was much hoped for, but not expected. We certainly did not expect to hear about it this quickly. God is kind to us.

It is great news, but we are not out of the woods yet. We must find out whether the drug will actually have the desired effect, without the undesired effects. Please pray that this new medication will do the trick, and that we will be patient as we watch and wait. Thank you for all the prayers you have already sent. Your prayers and encouragement are as much a sign of God's grace to us as His provision.

As with many people, this is one of many issues we are wrestling with, but it is certainly the most urgent. We are greatly encouraged that God’s providence will upholds us in all our trials. We give Him thanks always.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Short History of the Church of England

I'm not sure what's up with the makeup on this guy, Eddie Izzard, but this is a pretty darn funny bit -- and not without it's bit to truth. Be warned of a touch of the rough language, if that sort of thing bothers you. Oh, yeah, and the whole irreverent thing too.

I ported this over from a post at Boars Head Tavern.