Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Curious? I Am.

Curious_Cub

I am and have always been curious.  Curiosity fuels investigation and discovery.  This morning I was reading from my latest non-fiction book, which begins with brief history of how theologians discerned the age of the earth and continues with a brief history of geology and earth scientists and how they came to discover fossil composition and the earth’s structure.

The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth

These scientific discoveries burgeoned in the 1600’s.  But there was a curious lack of scientific exploration and discovery prior to that time.  By anyone’s calculation, thousands of years passed before someone discovered stratigraphy and the principles of original horizontality and superposition.  Stratigraphy is the study of the layers of earth’s sediment, while the other two principals explain that sediment is deposited in horizontal planes and the layers at the top are younger than the bottom layers.  There, you’ve learned some geography.  But all of that seems self-evident in the 21st century. 

Here’s my millennial question:  why did it take soAll_Gizah_Pyramids long?  The Egyptian pyramids were built around 2600 BC.  The library at Alexandria was a center for scholarship beginning in 300 BC until it was destroyed, possibly around 48 BC.  When the Egyptian architects excavated the blocks for the pyramids was no one curious about stratification?  When the scholars gathered in the Alexandrian library, did no one debate fossil finds?  Were they simply not curious?

I can imagine many reasons why an individual would not delve into scientific inquiry.  Their job might be so demanding that it leaves room for little else.  An ancient mother might be completely occupied by home management and child card.  A man might be put on the line hauling stones for those pyramids.  But, what about the scholars who designed the pyramids or the scholars who frequented the library?  Was no one willing to investigate natural science? 

Granted, some discoveries could only occur after the invention of the microscope.  But one scientist learned much by dissecting animals in the 1600’s.  Were there no sharp knives prior to that time?  How then did someone slice an onion or a tomato?

I am curious.

Can anyone satisfy my curiosity?

Bear By Bobtomasso (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pyramids By Ricardo Liberato (All Gizah Pyramids) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 25, 2013

More Filling than Food!

Lakhovsky_Conversation

Good words satisfy like a fine meal;

yes, good conversations are sure to satisfy.

Proverbs 18:20 (The Voice)

Last Saturday I enjoyed a meal with good friends.  The meal was delicious, appetizing, filling, and met all the requirements of a fine meal.  However, it ended that evening and was quickly digested.

The conversation before, during, and after that fine meal lingered on into the week.  My husband, who had missed the dinner, heard snatches of it whenever we were together.  One person mentioned a seminar she had attended; it prompted me to locate and begin reading a geology book I had purchased months ago, but delayed opening.

The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth

Other words that passed between us spurred memories, prayers, and laughter at the time which have remained to enjoy this day.     

Conversation is its own meal.  As Full_meala poor appetizer, one friend told us that there wasn’t much happening in his life.  The entrĂ©e covered many topics and the dessert brought sweet morsels from my earlier non-disclosing friend:  his new website, job leads, and head hunters. 

How do you have a conversation that satisfies like a meal?  Take your time.  Listen.  Digest.

Have you had a satisfying conversation recently?  Or one that has stayed in you head for far longer than a meal?

Meal By Nandinissaha (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, February 14, 2013

3 Practical Steps to Combat Despair

My friends are still out of work.  Cancer pervades our Ht15_Charles_Stanley_Reinhart_a_'forlorn'_Gradgrind,_ultimately_humanised_by_despairlives.  The government is in turmoil.  Stocks have not regained their former heights.  Home prices are still low.  Interest rates are very low.  No investment is certain. No job is secure.  What are we to do?
Stay calm; there is no need to be afraid of a sudden disaster or to worry when calamity strikes the wicked, for the Eternal is always there to protect you.  He will safeguard your each and every step. (Pv. 3:25-26, The Voice Bible.)
The juxtaposition of the commands in Proverbs gives us a clear outline of what to do when we don’t know what to do.  It’s not so easy to merely remain calm; we need something to do, some course of action.   And that is exactly what the next few verses give us: a game plan.  Steps to take to keep the peace.
Do not withhold what is good from those who deserve it; if it is within your power to give it, do it.  Do not send your neighbor away, saying, “Get back with me tomorrow, I can give it to you then,” when what he needs is already in your hand. (Pv. 3:27-28, The Voice Bible.)
What do you have available that will do good for someone else?  Freely give it to them.  It may be a book, a ladder, a lawnmower, but whatever it is don’t be afraid to loan it to your neighbor.
Make no plans that could result in injury to your neighbor; after all, he should be more secure because he lives near you.  Avoid fighting with anyone without good reason, especially when no one has hurt you; you have nothing to fight about.  (Pv. 3:29-30, The Voice Bible.)
Do you feel more secure because of your neighbors?  Then make them feel more secure because you are there for them.  Watch out for their children and their pets.  Drive cautiously.  Let them know if your house is in peril from termites, water or ice.  Then they can check their own houses.  What would make you feel more secure?  Do that same thing for your neighbor.
Do you fight?512px-Water_Buffalo_fight  No, you probably don’t raise your fists to fight with your neighbor but do you butt heads?  Do you disagree to the point of antagonistic standoff?  Do you stop speaking, try to avoid them?  If they haven’t hurt you, you have nothing to fight about.  So keep the peace.
Proverbs early on gives us these three steps to take to stay calm in times of turmoil:
  1. Trust in the Eternal
  2. Do good to your neighbor
  3. Cause no injury to your neighbor
I have noted some ways to help our neighbors?  Can you think of others?

Black and White illustration by Charles Stanley Reinhart [Public domain because the copyright has expired], via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo By Ben & Katherine Sinclair (Water-Buffalo fight) via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, February 8, 2013

In Peace Will I Lie Down and Sleep

This year I am reading through The Voice Bible.  It is a St_moré_cavecontemporary translation with literary elements added in italics.  Today I read Psalm 11 as I had never read it before.  We live in a cataclysmic time.  But, there is One who is not subject to cataclysm. Psalm 11 illustrates that beautifully.  (I have changed the line spacing for emphasis):

 

I am already in the soft embrace of the Eternal, so why do you beckon me to leave saying,

“Fly like a bird to the mountains.  Look! the wicked approach with bows bent, sneaking around in the shadows, setting their arrows against their bowstrings to pierce everyone whose heart is pure.  If the foundations are crumbling, is there hope for the righteous?”

But the Eternal has not moved; He remains in His holy temple.  He sits squarely on His heavenly throne.  He observes the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, examining us within and without, exploring every fiber of our beings.

The Eternal searches the hearts of those who are good, but he despises all those who can’t get enough of perversion and violence.  If you are evil, He will rain hot lava over your head, will fill your cup with burning wind and liquid fire to scorch your insides.

The Eternal is right in all His ways; He cherishes all that is upright.

Those who do what is right in His eyes will see His face.

 

So, live well today and sleep tonight in peace.

Shalom!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What’s Your Fallback?

When Moses failed to return in a timely manner, hisYou’ll_have_Something_to_Fall_Back_on_After_the_War followers decided to fall back to the way they knew, to a way that worked for them, or at least to a way that did not leave them searching.  Isn’t that what we do?  Isn’t falling back to a position that works the best way? 

The easiest fallback position in literature is literalism.  I see this frequently in Bible reading.  There is safety in literalism.  After all, if you want to know what to do, simply read the words.  Right? Instead of thinking through a problem, take the words literally even if it hurts.  How many people have cut off their right hands?  Ok, let’s make it simpler.  How many people limit their giving to 10%?  How many people read “day” or any multiple of days and treat them like 24 hour segments? (and this in an epoch that did not measure time in hours.)

The danger of literalism is that, like the Israelites who made a literal god to follow, we too create something with no truth.  We waste our time fashioning our own golden calf which has no power, no energy, no value past our own materials and labor.

Truth requires labor, but labor of a different sort.  You must exert effort in waiting for that moment of truth and pursuing it with all your heart and mind until you capture it.  You must persevere even though no hope of success is in sight.  You must guard yourself from falling back into literalism.  And finally, you must exercise grace to accept your own and others’ errors while searching for what is truly true.

Note:  some things are meant to be literal.  It is part of the work of reading accurately to discern what is literal, what is metaphor, and what is indicative of a certain style of literature and must be read according to that style’s guidelines.   The Bible is a book of stylized narrative history, poetry, prophesy, letters, and apocalyptic literature and each type must be read according to its own internal rules.
 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

And So It Continues . . .

Here is the 1st paragraph of my second novel.  If you Ignaz_Günther_Elias_BNMhadn’t read the first, would you feel comfortable with knowing where the protagonist (Eli) was heading.  Does this paragraph give you sufficient background to continue?

 

I never thought the life of a prophet of Yahweh would be any less than a minor degree of earth-shattering glory. Oh, I knew how hard it was for Moses, but after the hardship came the success: the plagues, the parting of the sea, and thousands of dead Egyptians. Was something like that about to happen to me? At the moment, I didn’t feel anything like a prophet. I was leaving the prophet’s school which had been sequestered in a cave, or should I say five caves in the Carmel Mountains. I was seated among supplies in the dark covered bed of a quarry wagon while my Aramean friend, Talib and my other friend, Jon talked over the din of the horses hooves and the clatter of the wagon wheels. Only a year ago I hadn’t known either of them. Only a year ago I had only one friend, Ben, the friend of my youth. Who’d have thought that my best friend was an Aramean when Arameans had murdered my parents? Who’d have thought that Yahweh would ever choose an Aramean as his prophet? Yet, Talib was the one who had found me through a dream, a dream that must have come from Yahweh.

Now, do you feel caught-up or do you want more background before we delve into the story?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Waiting until . . .

I’ve been reading Exodus (the book in the Bible, notFranz_Roubaud_Warten_auf_den_Zug_1882 the novel).  Here’s what happened. (I’m skipping a lot to make this shorter.) God came down and gave His decree to all the people.  The listened and said, “All that you have commanded, we will do.”

Then God spoke alone with Moses telling him to bring Aaron, and his sons, and the tribal leaders—70 in all.  They came partway up the mountain.  God met them there and they ate together.  Then God invited Moses alone to join him on the mountain top.  Moses told Aaron, his sons, and the tribal leaders to wait until he returned.

How long did they wait?  Let’s back up.  What did they think when Moses was invited, but not them?  Were they put out?  Did they wonder what they had done wrong or what Moses had done right? 

Then, during the wait, did they think about all of their responsibilities back in camp.  Did they wonder how their wives and sons were faring?  Did they worry about their livestock?

As time passed, did they wonder about Moses?  Did some of them believe that he must have died?  Did they return to the camp?  What did they eat on the mountainside?  What did they drink?  How did they take care of their bodily functions? 

Did the people left below bring them food and drink?  Did they bring them news? 

And how long did it take them to stop waiting for Moses to return.  The Bible says 40 days and nights, but that phrase is a cultural term which means a long time.  If I told you something would happen in 40 days, it wouldn’t seem very long, would it?  But, what if you didn’t know when the event you greatly desired would happen?  Wouldn’t the time seem long until the event actually happened?

When my mom was given her cancer diagnosis and told she would die, no one would give us a date (and rightly so.)  At one point a nurse said a couple of weeks, but when that passed with no change, it looked like her suffering would go on forever.

After she died and I computed the time, it was only about 4 months, or maybe 40 days after the nurse made her 2 week prognosis.  In hindsight that seems like very little time.  But, when I was in the middle of it with no end in sight it seemed very long.

Put yourself in the place of the 70 waiting people.  If you were one of them and the time was going on and on and on with no sight of Moses’ return, wouldn’t you leave a representative few and tell the remainder to go back to camp and take care of business? 

A good thinking, reading, and writing exercise would be to consider what went on among the 70 on that hillside.

Friday, February 1, 2013

There’s Just Something About the South

I realized this morning that many of the writers IPearl_River_backwater_in_Mississippi (1) count among my favorites are from the south—writers like Flannery O’Connor from Georgia, Michael Morris from Alabama, William Faulkner from Mississippi, and Charles Martin from Florida.  Why is that? 

Even in southern Ohio I feel it.  It’s that laid back way of life.  If something doesn’t get done today, it’ll get done tomorrow or sometime.  There’s no need to rush.  There’s always time to stop and chat.  Doors are made to be opened.  Sofas and tables are placed for conversation.  It is the moment that matters and every moment has meaning.

That’s what puts southern writers in a class with Jane Austen and the best authors of a bygone era.  They take time to lead us into their world, to settle us in, and to make us their friends.  They force us to take time to consider the theme and substance of their words.  They allow us to sit by their fire as they tell us stories that make us think.

So, if you haven’t read these authors make it your New Year’s pledge to do so.  Here are four recommendations for each.

  • Flannery O’Connor’s short stories are where she shined, but if you want to delve further, the collected works don’t cost much more and her correspondence is worth as much as her short stories.
  • Michael Morris:  it’s a toss-up between Slow Way Home and Man in the Blue Moon.  I thoroughly enjoyed both, but might give the edge to Slow Way Home.
  • Jane Austen:  Pride and Prejudice is the most popular, so that’s a good place to start.
  • William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is as good as it gets. 
  • Finally, Charles Martin.  I saved him for last because of the way I found him.  I don’t normally frequent the library because I am rarely near one.  One day, I was close by, had extra time, and decided to look for a novel to read—not a schlock novel with the obligatory sex scene halfway through--something good.  I pulled first one book then another off the shelf until I found The Dead Don’t Dance (and its sequel Maggie).  I took it home to read and could not put it down.  Filled with compelling characters, humor, pathos, and excellent writing, it is a modern classic. 

This ends my ode to southern writers.  There are many more excellent writers from the south that I haven’t mentioned.  Which regional authors that draw you in? 

 

 

Picture By Charlie Brenner from Jackson Mississippi, USA (Pearl River backwater  Uploaded by Allstarecho) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons