Monday, May 5, 2014

For our next entry on this little blogging adventure I will re-post something I sent out before Thanksgiving last Fall.

On this Wednesday before our Thanksgiving Holiday, I am thankful for aches and pains which remind me how great it is to be mostly strong and healthy and give me compassion for those who truly suffer.

I am thankful to be able to pay taxes, for each time I do I am reminded that I have earnings and assets and the ability to pay.

I am thankful for high prices and bills to pay which help me know I actually can pay my own way in this world, unlike so many who cannot meet even their real and basic needs.

I am thankful for cold weather, especially when I stand around a warming fire with a great cup of coffee and know that I will be toasty warm and cozy tonight and every night, rather than cold and hungry.

I am grateful for the chaos and confusion of life and love and home and family, for because of these things I know what real peace is.

I am grateful for being overweight rather than hungry.

I'm grateful for sadness which helps me see the bright and moments as so much better.

I'm grateful for tears which make laughter seem sweeter and enable smiles to be even brighter.

I am thankful for losses which make memories more precious.

I am thankful for grief which reminds me how wonderful it is to love and be loved.

I'm grateful for education which humbles me and reminds me how little I really know.

I'm grateful for trips abroad which help me realize how really, really blessed we are in this country.

I am thrilled with work which leaves me tired and sore and helps me rest well and awake feeling refreshed.

I am thankful for all those who said "No" to me.  Because of them I am doing it myself.

I am thankful for all the difficult people in my life for they have shown me exactly who I do not want to be.

I am thankful for all the poor choices I have made because they have led me to where I am, and I cannot think of a better place to be.

Maybe most of all, I am thankful for grace, which looks beyond my faults and sees my possibilities, which frees me from myself, my mistakes, and my shame; which raises me up to help me see.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

How does the Bible influence us today?

Recently I spent some time on the golf course with someone I deeply respect and love.  The golf course was rather quiet that morning, and as so often happens our conversation turned towards spiritual things.  On the sixth tee we stopped and chatted for awhile, not really resolving anything but promising to go deeper later.  The next morning these questions arrived in my email Inbox:

My first question is how do you think the Bible came to be.? What part do you think
 God played and how did he play that part?
How do you think we can best use the Bible today?

I spent a little time thinking and followed up with this reply:
      Let me give you a "short" answer to your questions.  The Bible "came to be" in several distinct parts.  What we know as the Old Testament was largely in place by the time of Jesus.  It was developed through long years, at least hundreds, of discussions among rabbis, and its development continues even today.  Generally speaking there are three parts, Torah (Law), what we know as Pentateuch or Genesis through Deuteronomy; Prophets (major and minor); and other writings (mostly history).  Mainstream Jews never understood even their own scripture the way today's fundamentalists (Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc.) do.  Early Jews saw their own scriptures as guidelines for reasonable men to discuss and implement, not strictly as lists of what to and not to do.

      My understanding of how the New Testament came to be is well described in "Zealot" by Azlan.  The early church, over its first 400+ years of development created the scriptures to meet its own needs.  So, for the first 400 or so years of Christianity there was no widely accepted Bible.  There were only widely circulated writings from various leaders in the early church -- Gospels, letters, other writings.  Early councils of the Catholic and Orthodox churches (Trent??  I can't remember)  sorted through the most widely circulated writings and determined which they thought were best suited for use in the liturgy of the early church.  They based their findings on many things including politics of the day, but stated that they looked for a connection to eyewitnesses to the events described, a general agreement with the accepted ideas about the church, and the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

      When the Roman Catholic church became a world power, the Bible ceased to play a major role in Christianity for 1200 years or so.  Only with the Protestant Reformation did the Bible again assume a strategic role in Christianity.  Even then it was not extremely well known or well circulated until a couple of things developed -- first, the ability to print it in a cost-effective way, and second, a public well educated enough to at least read it if not understand it.  When did those two things happen?  In the US my guess is late 19th century, sometime after the Civil War -- give or take 50 years.

      So, only in the last 150-200 years or so has the Bible played a major, perhaps even dominant, role in Christianity.  Even now, the Bible really plays the major role only in evangelical Christianity.  Evangelical Christians are still a small percentage of the worldwide church.  And fundamentalist-leaning evangelicals may be a minority of evangelicals.

      What happened before the last 150-200 years?  Most people couldn't read, so they relied on the educated clergy both Protestant and Catholic to tell them what to believe about God and how to live their lives in relation to God.  Even in the Great Awakenings of the US and Europe, the vast majority of people were illiterate and forced to rely on clergy.  In the last 150 or so years things have drastically changed.  People are more educated, but probably still not theologically trained well enough to begin to understand the Bible.  My advanced degrees are in Theology and I am well aware how deficient my  history, culture, and literature education is when it comes to being able to thoroughly understand the Bible.

      In answering "How the Bible came to be" I'm also answering "how we can best use the Bible in our lives today" and "what part God played in that." 

      Today I use the Bible as a way of understanding how some people from hundreds (thousands) of years ago understood God, and how their ideas about God grew and evolved.  It is a guide rather than a pronouncement.  I take it all very seriously, but relatively little of it literally.  How was God involved in its creation?  God was involved in the lives of those people who for generations told these stories orally, then later wrote them down, then later collected them, edited them, and eventually printed and distributed these collections of stories, sermons, chronologies, songs, prayers, and struggles.  How was God involved?  Though those responsible for the creation and popularization of the Bible may have been quite spiritual and mystical, chances are good they're more like me and you.  How was God involved in their lives?  Probably the same as he is involved in your life and mine -- helping us muddle through some very real struggles and loving us all the while, helping us hope for the best for ourselves by doing our best for others.

     Let me tell you about my friend Paul.  He works for Cokesbury, or whatever the Methodist Publishing house is called these days.  He is an editor.  He spent five years working on a contemporary English version of the Bible that is extremely well done.  How do I know Paul?  Well, he makes bamboo fly rods as a hobby, plays golf, and lives a normal life.  We have fished together and told each other horror stories about our churches.  He's probably not all that different from one of those early council members who first determined which writings of the OT and today's new testament are canonical.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A friend came across this old Payne 102 in really bad shape.  Some folks offered him ridiculously low prices for it. I offered a fair price and he readily accepted.  There was only a single tip, with no bag or tube.  Here are a few before and after pictures showing what can be done with a rod nearly destroyed.

The original stripper guide was tied at the end of the cotton twine pictured above.

After stripping away all the old varnish these black spots were quite prominent.  With a little care and some serious time, I made some improvements.  Each one of those spots was bleached with oxalic acid on a Q-tip.  If I remember correctly, most of them were bleached 11-13 times.

See below for the way the rod looks today, including the extra tip I made for it.

The second tip was made a little lighter, and signed "H. Boyd" so that when I am no longer around there will be no doubt this tip is a replacement.

The original Spanish Cedar reel seat filler was salvaged by gently stripping the old finish with alcohol.  Some stains were then bleached away.  Seven coats of varnish were hand rubbed in, even under the uplocking hood of the seat.

The brown thread is original Belding Corticelli #5115, finished with shellac to help it keep its color.  The yellow thread is called "Parakeet" if I remember correctly.  Five light coats of shellac were applied, then the wraps were coated three times with McCloskey's Man O War spar varnish.  The entire rod then received three good coats of the Man O War.

The purple highlights at the winding check and ferrules are more brilliant than they appear in these photos.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Missive 2012

Writing the missive almost feels like a burden this year. I wonder if I have anything worth saying in light of all that's going on and my disgust at how some are reacting. I remember one of my seminary professors telling the story of a courageous preacher who stood in the pulpit one Sunday and announced "God has nothing to say to you today." But I'm not so courageous, nor so convinced I know what God is, or is not, saying. Sharing light-hearted Christmas cheer only a few days after the horrors at Newtown Connecticut would feel selfish, as though denying the horror of what happened and the many inane responses in light of such tragic evil. Our hearts ache with those parents and families who are suffering so deeply and so senselessly right now. In the story of Christmas, God invaded the world in the person of a little child. God has not left us to ourselves. That God seeks to influence humanity is the heart of the Christmas story. It is the story of light coming into darkness, God showing us the way, driving the darkness away. The Christmas story reminds us that evil will not prevail, but be overcome by the good. With the hymn writer, I want to cry out, "Come, Lord Jesus. Come." We have sought to prepare our hearts for your coming throughout this Advent season. We eagerly await your arrival in our hearts and in our world. Come.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

While considering the 2011 Christmas missive for the past few weeks, three little words have been tumbling through my mind. "Do something different... something different... do something different." Two phrases have been tumbling around along with those words: Attributed to Einstein: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Attributed to Zig Ziglar: "If you do what you have always done you will get what you have always gotten." Neither attribution is really clear.

I'd like my one chance to impact some of you this year to be radically different. Rather than console you with words of warmth and peace, I'd like to issue a challenge to you and yours this year. That challenge, stated simply, is "Make things different."

What does that mean?

Be cheerful rather than just talking about good cheer.

Be peacemakers instead of offering a glancing acquiescence towards the prince of peace.

Actually be good when you hear the words "goodwill towards men."

Warm someone who is cold rather than roasting chestnuts over an open fire.

Feed someone who is hungry in addition to feasting with your family.

Forgive someone who doesn't deserve it.

Be honest even when it costs you personally.

Swallow your pride and make yourself vulnerable. Let someone else help you.

Love someone with all your heart who can never return your love.

Be different. Do something different. Make things different around you. Christians believe that God did something radically different in the coming of the Christ. With the babe of Bethlehem God declared that he would no longer relate to humanity through laws and prophets, priests and sacrifices, but would relate to them as one person to another, that His reign is here and now, and that no matter what we do to Him, He is still going to love us. That's different. That's Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Keeping Christmas

Keeping Christmas
Henry Van Dyke

It is a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men agree to stop work and make merry together, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds a man to set his own little watch, now and then, by the great clock of humanity. . .

"But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.

"Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellow men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to know that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness -- are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

"Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open -- are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

"Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world -- stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death -- and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.

"And if you keep it for a day, why not always? But you can never keep it alone."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Early holidays, 2010

When you see a turtle on a sign post, what does that tell you? When you see a turtle on a sign post, what does that tell you? Don’t respond yet.... I’ll share the answer in a few minutes.

I’m glad Thanksgiving Day is on the calendar. I could give you several reasons and most are loaded with calories. You know what I’m talking about, turkey and cornbread dressing, smothered in giblet gravy, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, green beans and lima beans, and ambrosia and corn casserole and green bean casserole and broccoli casserole, and of course, sweet potato pie, pecan pie and coconut pie. I'm at my brother's home today and can guarantee you we'll have the best crawfish etoufee in Kansas City!

But there is another reason I am glad we have a holiday called Thanksgiving. We need to be reminded of the value of gratitude and the importance of expressing appreciation. Evidently the Psalmist felt the same way when he penned the words, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord” Psalm 92. Why? I think it is good for God and us. Let me explain.

It is a good thing for God that we give thanks. I think our expressions of gratitude feed His spirit. Ever thought of that? I know how I feel when my wife or daughter, or someone else I care about expresses gratitude towards me. It nourishes and strengthens my spirit. I think the same is true for God. Yes, I think it is good for God that we give thanks. Very good.

Second, giving thanks is good for us. It promotes a positive attitude that compels us to count our blessings, which is something we can easily fail to do. And when we do, I think our ingratitude hurts God deeply.

A.T. Hollingsworth tells about an incident that occurred in Washington, D.C. upon his return from teaching in Saudi Arabia for eighteen months. As he came through customs, everyone was pleasant, with little pushing and no one cutting in line. It was a nice experience and certainly different from other countries he had visited.
As he was riding in a cab downtown, the driver started telling him how bad things had been during his time out of the country. Mr. Hollingsworth interrupted his tirade and pointed out all the nice things he saw, the polite people, the clean countryside, the beautiful green trees, the cultural advantages and the precious freedoms. He could not say enough about how great America was, especially after having been away for so long.
When he arrived at the hotel, he asked how much he owed the driver. He turned and said to Mr. Hollingsworth, “You have already paid your fare by reminding me what a wonderful country this is. The ride’s on me.”
Even when you are not in a mood to count your blessings, thank God anyway.

Gratitude also promotes a spirit of unselfishness. I’ve never forgotten the story about the little boy who was admiring a beautiful sports car. When the owner arrived at the car, he told the boy that his brother had given it to him as a present. The boy looked at him and shocked him when he said, “One day, I wish I could be a brother like that!” That was not how he expected this boy to respond. You know what he expected him to say, “I wish I could have a car like this or a brother like yours.” What would you have said?

Yes, I am glad Thanksgiving Day is on the calendar. While I’ll do my share of eating a lot of rich food, I’ll also take some time to thank God and others for their contributions to my life. I’ve had a lot of help down through the years and suspect you have, too.

There’s one more reason I’m glad Thanksgiving Day is on the calendar. Thanksgiving is a perfect introduction to Christmas and the Advent Season.

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn't been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. He had no decorations, no tree, no lights. It was just another day to him. He didn't hate Christmas, just couldn't find a reason to celebrate. There were no children in his life. His wife had gone.
He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through. Instead of throwing the man out, George,"Old George" as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the space heater and warm up.
“Thank you, but I don't mean to intrude,” said the stranger. “I see you're busy. I'll just go” “Not without something hot in your belly,” George turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger. “It ain't much, but it's hot and tasty. Stew. Made it myself. When you're finished, there's coffee and it's fresh.”
Just at that moment he heard the “ding” of the driveway bell. “Excuse me, be right back,” George said. There in the driveway was an old 53 Chevy. Steam was rolling out of the front. The driver was panicked. “Mister can you help me!” said the driver with a deep Spanish accent.
“My wife is with child and my car is broken.” George opened the hood. It was bad. The block looked cracked from the cold; the car was dead. “You ain't going anywhere in this thing,” George said as he turned away. “But mister. Please help....”
The door of the office closed behind George as he went in. George went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around the building and opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting. “Here, you can borrow my truck,” he said. “She ain't the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good.” George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night. George turned and walked back inside the office. “Glad I loaned em the truck. Their tires were shot too. That 'ol truck has brand new tires........” George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone. The thermos was on the desk, empty with a used coffee cup beside it.
“Well, at least he got something in his belly,” George thought.

George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start. It cranked slowly, but it started. He pulled it into the garage where the truck had been. He thought he would tinker with it for something to do. Christmas Eve meant no customers. He discovered the block hadn't cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator. “Well, I can fix this,” he said to himself. So he put a new one on. “Those tires ain't gonna get 'em through the winter either.” He took the snow treads off of his wife's old Lincoln. They were like new and he wasn't going to drive the car.

As he was working he heard a shot being fired. He ran outside and beside a
police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, “Help me.” George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic. He knew the wound needed attention. “Pressure to stop the bleeding,” he thought. The laundry company had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels. He used those and duct tape to bind the wound. “Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin',” he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease.
“Something for pain,” George thought. All he had was the pills he used for his back. “These ought to work.” He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills. “You hang in there. I'm going to get you an ambulance,” George said, but the phone was dead. “Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that there talk box out in your police car.”
He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two way radio. He went back in to find the policeman sitting up. “Thanks,” said the officer. “You could have left me there. The guy that shot me is still in the area.”
George sat down beside him. “I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain't gonna leave you.” George pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding. “Looks worse than what it is. Bullet passed right through 'ya. Good thing it missed the important stuff though. I think with time your gonna be right as rain.”
George got up and poured a cup of coffee. “How do you take it?” he asked. “None for me,” said the officer. “Oh, yer gonna drink this. Best in the city.” Then George added: “Too bad I ain't got no donuts.”
The officer laughed and winced at the same time. The front door of the office flew open. In burst a young man with a gun. “Give me all your cash! Do it now!” the young man yelled. His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like this before.
“That's the guy that shot me!” exclaimed the officer.
“Son, why are you doing this?” asked George. “You need to put the cannon away. Somebody else might get hurt.”

The young man was confused. “Shut up old man, or I'll shoot you, too. Now give me the cash!”
The cop was reaching for his gun. “Put that thing away,” George said to the cop. “We got one too many in here now.” He turned his attention to the young man. “Son, it's Christmas Eve. If you
need the money, well then, here. It ain't much but it's all I got. Now put that pee shooter away.”
George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time. The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry. “I'm not very good at this am I? All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son,” he went on. “I've lost my job. My rent is due. My car got repossessed last week...”
George handed the gun to the cop. “Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then. The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through the best we can.”
He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop. “Sometimes we do stupid things.”
George handed the young man a cup of coffee. “Being stupid is one of the things that makes us human. Comin' in here with a gun ain't the answer. Now sit there and get warm and we'll sort this thing out.”

The young man had stopped crying. He looked over to the cop. “Sorry I shot you. It just went off. I'm sorry officer.”
“Shut up and drink your coffee.” the cop said.

George could hear the sounds of sirens outside. A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door, guns drawn. “Chuck! You okay?” one of the cops asked the wounded officer.
“Not bad for a guy who took a bullet. How did you find me?”
“GPS locator in the car. Best thing since sliced bread.
Who did this?” the other cop asked as he approached the young man.
Chuck answered him, “I don't know. The guy ran off into the dark. Just dropped his gun and ran.”

George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other. “That guy works here,” the wounded cop continued.
“Yep,” George said. “Just hired him this morning. Boy lost his job.”
The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher.
The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, “Why?”

Chuck just said, “Merry Christmas, boy. And you too, George, and thanks for everything.”
“Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought to solve some of your problems.” George went into the back room and came out with a box. He pulled out a ring box. “Here you go. Something for the little woman. I don't think Martha would mind. She said it would come in handy some day.”
The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw. “I can't take this,” said the young man. “It means something to you.” “And now it means something to you,” replied George. “I got my memories. That's all I need.”

George reached into the box again. A toy airplane, a racing car and a little metal truck appeared next. They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell. “Here's something for that little man of yours.” The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier.
“And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with? You keep that, too. Count it as part of your first week's pay.” George said. “Now git home to your family.”
The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. “I'll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good.” “Nope. I'm closed Christmas day,” George said. “See ya the day after.”

George turned around to find that the stranger had returned. “Where'd you come from? I thought you left?” “I have been here. I have always been here,” said the stranger. “You say you don't celebrate Christmas. Why?” “Well, after my wife passed away I just couldn't see what all the bother was. Puttin' up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree. Bakin' cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn't the same by myself and besides I was getting a little chubby.”

The stranger put his hand on George's shoulder. “But you do celebrate the holiday, George. You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry. The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor. The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists. The young man who tried to rob you will become a rich man and share his wealth with many people. That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man.”

George was taken aback by all this stranger had said. “And how do you know all this?” asked the old man.

“Trust me, George. I have the inside track on this sort of thing. And when your days are done you will be with Martha again.” The stranger moved toward the door. “If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now. I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned. You see, George, it's My birthday. Merry Christmas.”

“When you see a turtle on a post, what does that tell you? Well, when you see a turtle on a sign post, you know he did not get there by himself.” Neither did we get where we are by ourselves. We have much to be grateful for.

Thanksgiving blesses God. Thanksgiving blesses others. Thanksgiving blesses us. And it takes us straight into contemplating and celebrating God’s coming to us, at Christmas.