Monday, December 14, 2009
But I am left wondering what the author intended me to take from the story...I warn other people about asking themselves this question all the time, but I have asked myself anyway. It appears that the author wishes to enshrine asceticism above all else. I liked the main character (Martin Arrowsmith), because I could see some of myself in him, but I became very frustrated with him at several points in the story, especially at the end.
He is a bright and scientific young man from a small Midwest town who graduates medical school, goes briefly into small-town private practice, public health official for a time, and a more high paying private practice job before landing a medical research job with a large research firm. There is a fair amount of content in the book associated with Martin's former medical school mentor, Max Gottlieb, who is somewhat of an ascetic and purist. Halfway through the book, while working for the institute, Martin discovers a "phage" that destroys bacteria and he travels to a Caribbean island to fight an outbreak of plague.
Martin's wife Leora is a very likeable character - she is honest and has no pretensions and loves him through all of his quirks. She dies of the plague on the island, and he loses his anchor for a time. He remarries a very wealthy woman, but later leaves her and his young son to devote the rest of his life to pure scientific research.
I struggled a bit with the ending - this is where I see the author enshrining Martin's ascetic ideal, and I don't understand it. But overall, a good book.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Luke 2:11-12OK, so Mary (my queen) is wearing eyeglasses and baby Jesus (my little princess) is a little girl, but you get the idea! This was fun and chaotic to take this picture last night for family night. I really like the little angel on the right!
Monday, November 9, 2009
Feel free to stop by and see what an amateur writer has in his head. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I'm only getting about half as many words per day as the goal. We'll see if I catch up. Regardless, I am learning a lot about how to spill your brains out on paper. I welcome your comments - maybe you can give me ideas as the novel develops. I have a rough outline in my head, and I try to write a chapter each night. I'm a few nights behind...
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
More will have to be written on the topic, but this will have to suffice for now.
Much rejoicing is at hand in the kingdom. As to whether she will be more like Joan of Arc than a dainty princess, I think the answer is pretty obvious...she has five older brothers to teach her!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
There is something deeply wholesome about working the earth and bringing forth a harvest. It can be a lot of work. Our garden this year is a weedy mess due to the huge quantities of time that the King has spent away from home and the fact that the Queen is ready to deliver royal child #6 in a few weeks...but in spite of that, we have been regularly harvesting lots of wonderful garden products and enjoying them in the kitchen.
Monday, August 10, 2009
A hilarious and far too accurate parody on the value of a typical university education today. Of course, there are exceptions...but university education generally ceased to be a place where you learn to think a long time ago - now it's just a place where you receive training for a career.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
What do we do to counter the craziness that we experience when life gets so busy? I don't yet have all of the answers, but I'll be blogging about it here as I figure some out...and I hope to hear from others about what they do to cope.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Against the flesh, the traitor within, a warrior uses discipline. We have a two-dimensional version of this now, which we call a “quiet time.” But most men have a hard time sustaining any sort of devotional life because it has no vital connection to recovering and protecting their strength; it feels about as important as flossing. But if you saw your life as a great battle and you knew you needed time with God for your very survival, you would do it. Maybe not perfectly—nobody ever does and that’s not the point anyway—but you would have a reason to seek him. We give a halfhearted attempt at the spiritual disciplines when the only reason we have is that we “ought” to. But we’ll find a way to make it work when we are convinced we’re history if we don’t.
Time with God each day is not about academic study or getting through a certain amount of Scripture or any of that. It’s about connecting with God. We’ve got to keep those lines of communication open, so use whatever helps. Sometimes I’ll listen to music; other times I’ll read Scripture or a passage from a book; often I will journal; maybe I’ll go for a run; then there are days when all I need is silence and solitude and the rising sun. The point is simply to do whatever brings me back to my heart and the heart of God.
The discipline, by the way, is never the point. The whole point of a “devotional life” is connecting with God. This is our primary antidote to the counterfeits the world holds out to us.
Monday, May 11, 2009
The most dangerous man on earth is the man who has reckoned with his own death. All men die; few men ever really live. Sure, you can create a safe life for yourself...and end your days in a rest home babbling on about some forgotten misfortune. I’d rather go down swinging. Besides, the less we are trying to "save ourselves," the more effective a warrior we will be. Listen to G. K. Chesterton on courage:
Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. The paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.
Eldredge, Wild at Heart , p.169
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Limited Government and Private Property Rights…
I’ve had recent experiences in both of these arenas that deserve to be discussed.
Private Property Rights
We bought an investment property a little more than two years ago. It is a home that was converted many years ago to a duplex. However, the homeowner at the time did the conversion under the radar, so the local municipality will not consider it a legal duplex. Furthermore, they are unwilling to change the zoning from single family dwelling to multifamily dwelling, in spite of the fact that it is surrounded by multiplexes. In our efforts to make change, we dealt with a number of very friendly people at the city that were, frankly, also very clueless. So, we decided to sell the property. From the time that we went under contract with a buyer, two months have elapsed. We are in the middle of signing final closing paperwork, and it has been an absolute motley crue of regulation and intervention clear through the sale process. The buyer is getting an FHA loan, so the federal government is involved with the FHA requirements. The buyer is also seeking redevelopment money from the city, and so the city is using the opportunity to make the property comply with zoning rules. The loan companies have inserted their requirements, as have the title companies. All real estate transactions are also regulated by the state. In the end, if I ask the question “is this really my private property?” I have to conclude that it is, in fact, not. If I had freedom to do what I wanted on the property, so long as it did not infringe on my neighbors’ rights and well-being, and if I had freedom to buy and sell property without constant intervention and regulation at every step of the process, then it would be private property. But I conclude that we have had our private property rights stripped from us and really are all just tenants of the state. After all, if I own the property free and clear, I will still forfeit it to the state if I fail to pay property tax. I’m just a renter after all.
I build large pipelines for a living. In a nutshell – LOTS of permits. I work for a regulated company – we are regulated by FERC and DOT. The federal regulators force other stakeholders (BLM, USFS, FWS, states, counties, property owners, etc) to work through a process known as NEPA to “streamline” the building of a new pipeline or related facility. We (the pipeline company) also have the right of federal pre-emption if a stakeholder is not participating appropriately in the NEPA process or otherwise puts roadblocks in our way. Now, I’m a champion of private property rights (in spite of my cynicism in the previous paragraph) and do not like to be involved in using eminent domain on projects; in fact, we do not exercise that authority very often. However, if a government agency, state, county, or municipality fails to meet their obligation to the process, I feel no sympathy toward their cause. I recently experienced a county throwing their weight around and doing whatever they could to get additional money from my company and bolster their budgets. We chose not to federally pre-empt simply due to a tight timeframe, and the county knew this would be the case. So, when a small county in the mountain states behaves in this fashion, I tend to feel pretty cynical. I had held out hope that things were different in the small towns, cities, counties. But the truth is, the small governments generally behave just like the big ones, and sometimes they seem even more corrupt.
So, when will the pendulum of freedom start to swing in the other direction?
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Another great daily email from Ransomed Heart:
What have we come to accept as “discipleship”? A friend of mine recently handed me a program from a large and successful church somewhere in the
Midwest. It’s a rather exemplary model of what the idea has fallen to. Their plan for discipleship involves, first, becoming a member of this particular church. Then they encourage you to take a course on doctrine. Be “faithful” in attending the Sunday morning service and a small group fellowship. Complete a special course on Christian growth. Live a life that demonstrates clear evidence of spiritual growth. Complete a class on evangelism. Consistently look for opportunities to evangelize. Complete a course on finances, one on marriage, and another on parenting (provided that you are married or a parent). Complete a leadership training course, a hermeneutics course, a course on spiritual gifts, and another on biblical counseling. Participate in missions. Carry a significant local church ministry “load.”
You’re probably surprised that I would question this sort of program; most churches are trying to get their folks to complete something like this, one way or another. No doubt a great deal of helpful information is passed on. My goodness, you could earn an MBA with less effort. But let me ask you: A program like this— does it teach a person how to apply principles, or how to walk with God? They are not the same thing.
(Waking the Dead , 95–96)
Monday, April 20, 2009
Then from on high—somewhere in the distance there’s a voice that calls—remember who you are. If you lose yourself—your courage soon will follow.
(Gavin Greenaway and Trevor Horn, Sound the Bugle)
You are going to need your whole heart in all its glory for this Story you’ve fallen into. So, who did God mean when he meant you? We at least know this: we know that we are not what we were meant to be. Most of us spend our energy trying to hide that fact, through all the veils we put on and the false selves we create. Far better to spend our energy trying to recover the image of God and unveil it for his glory. One means that will help us is any story that helps us see with the eyes of the heart.
To live with an unmasked, unveiled glory that reflects the glory of the Lord? That’s worth fighting for.
The disciples of Jesus were all characters. Take James and John, for instance, “the sons of Zebedee.” You might remember them as the ones who cornered Jesus to angle for the choice seats at his right and left hands in the kingdom. Or the time they wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a village that wouldn’t offer Jesus a place for the night. Their buddies called them idiots; Jesus called them the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). He saw who they really were. It’s their mythic name, their true identity. They looked like fishermen out of work; they were actually the Sons of Thunder.
(Waking the Dead, 82–83)
Monday, April 13, 2009
In the past couple of months, the animal enforcement folks from my city have ticketed otherwise law-abiding neighbors of mine for having the audacity to raise hens in their own yards. The tickets are essentially a warning - they give a time limit in which to comply or they will forcibly remove them. I'm not kidding.
My Queen took up the call and began to talk to elected officials. This led us to city hall for a council meeting in which a few people were allowed to share their opinions on why it shouldn't be a concern to the city if folks have back-yard hens.
Anyway, how does Social Leadership fit into this picture? Prior to the city council meeting, my Queen and I sent out information to lots of friends and acquaintances, handed out stuff to neighbors, etc, and only a handful of them bothered to write to their councilmembers or show up at the meeting. There are a lot of explanations for this lack of incentive among us, but none of them really excuse us from taking a stand when things are wrong around us.
It's not about chickens - it's about standing up for what is right. It's about standing in support of other people who are sticking out their necks for what is right. Let's have a cheer for Social Leadership!
And in case you were wondering, none of the elected officials in the meeting believe we can take care of ourselves. They're in for a pretty big shock.
Give me a shout out for changing the world!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
We decided to homeschool the kids early on - so it was natural when we moved into our current neighborhood that we would gravitate toward Diann Jeppson, and that we would become introduced to Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd). Diann has lived the principles of TJEd first hand in her home, and is a great mentor and source of information regarding this teaching method.
"A Thomas Jefferson Education" was written by Oliver DeMille, and its methodology has revolutionized the educational process in our home. My queen and I both apply the principles in our own studies, and are learning how to apply the principles in the learning process of our princes.
I began a graduate degree program in 2006 at GWU, under the direct tutelage of Oliver DeMille. I expect that the degree will take several more years, but the journey is fantastic. Oliver and the other mentors have very keen intellects, and the classes and other opportunites to interface and network are amazing.
Oliver DeMille, his wife Rachel, and Diann Jeppson recently authored a companion to the original book. It is equally valuable and informative.
All of these books can be ordered directly from TJEdMarketplace.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
I have read numerous books that have helped me open my mind to the historical realities of a given situation - now I get to add this one to the list.
Interestingly enough, the Lakota recently took the old treaties from over a century ago to Washington DC and basically told representatives there that they were withdrawing from the terms of the treaty...thereby essentially saying that they and their lands were no longer part of the United States. I don't think the case is resolved yet...
I used the example of Crazy Horse in my class at the TJEd forum this weekend - I feel like his life represents the life of a complete man, and most of what he represented should be emulated by anybody striving to be a good, honorable, complete man.
This book is WAY more interesting than most histories you will read - it feels like you're sitting by the fire listening to the tribal elder say "Hiyu wo, takoja, wica wawoptetusni wan tawoecun ociciyakin ktelo – Come, grandson, I want to tell you of the deeds of a hero."
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Somewhere in my other literary wanderings a pair of weeks ago, I found reference to "The Legend of Bagger Vance," so I checked it out from the library. I finished it today.
I'm really not a golfer - I golfed a few dozen times in high school, and can count on my fingers how many times I've been out since then. I get amused at how metaphorical some of my golfing friends will wax at times...but this book takes the cake.
The subtitle is "Golf and the Game of Life." This book is similar to "The Celestine Prophecy" in that it is a handbook of cosmic post-modernism clothed in a novel. It is well-written. The story is set in 1931 near Savannah; a three-man golf championship consisting of two well known national champs and a local unknown. Bagger Vance is the caddy of the local unknown. He is also a mystic.
I realize that life is about more than just these experiences that we have from day to day. God is seeking to mold us and move us to a higher plane of thinking. I don't think that it requires these eastern mystical methods to achieve, however. Plus, cosmic post-modern proponents tend to go out of their way to marginalize conservative views on morality. Achieving the higher plane is morality, in their worldview.
Monday, February 23, 2009
When men share sincere friendship, it takes on a different look and feel than the romantic relationship between a woman and a man. This book is about Ambrose's personal experiences with his father, brothers, and friends, and then his historical perspectives on the subject as it applies to several famous people from history - Lewis & Clark, Eisenhower and his brother, Patton and Eisenhower, Crazy Horse and He Dog, Custer and his brothers. Nixon and...Nixon had no close friends.
It's an easy read, and it reinforces things you've probably always felt.
What do you do when you are trying to sell an older home, but the windows in the bedrooms don't meet minimum egress requirements? You see, the buyer wants to get an FHA-backed loan, but FHA has a list of "stuff" that you have to do before they will insure the loan.
On a newer (post-1978) home, the requirement is a minimum of 5.7 sq. ft. of egress area - that would be the size of the opening when the window is fully open. They cut a little bit of slack on the older homes - the one I am selling was built in 1940 - so you only have to have 5.0 sq. ft.
An inspector came by the house and noted that the opening (the ENTIRE opening, not just the sliding part of the window) was big enough, but only just barely, so I had three options:
1 - install a new full-opening window that fit the hole
2 - make a bigger hole and install a bigger window
3 - remove the existing window and re-install it on a hinge so that it it full-opening
Guess which option I chose? Isn't regulation great?
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I taught a similar workshop two years ago at the forum, and the topic was well received. I feel mission-driven to share this idea. Men need to accept their manhood. They need to live up to God's expectations of them, which basically means they need to submit their hearts to Him.
The workshop description is as follows:
Men have a critical role to play in the education of their children. In order to function properly in our role, we must first become convicted in our hearts that there is nobody else better suited to pass on the principles of true manhood than we are. Come join us as we discuss what constitutes the heart of a man, and how we are especially well-suited to engage in our children’s educational process. Learn how we can overcome our “wounds” and break free from incorrect societal expectations of men as we immerse ourselves in the classics and model important manly traits for our children, family, and others. Join us in the Renaissance of true manhood!
Monday, February 16, 2009
To place the photo in proper context, let me give you a bit more of the story:
I arrived at the mountain a day prior to my comrades. Feeling adventurous, I decided that an extra night at high elevation by myself sounded great. I donned all of my gear and climbed to 9,000 ft., where I made camp in the open under a sky of amazingly brilliant stars. It was windy and cold, but I read myself to sleep with "Mythology."
What better place to read about the legendary Olympians and Norse Gods than high on a mountain? These stories that pass down from generation to generation and remain inseparably a part of our own culture - it is easy to see where they come from when you are in the setting that I found myself that night. It was awesome.
The next morning I awoke early and pushed on to 10,000 ft, where I left my heavy pack at a quonset style shelter owned by the Park Service. I descended to meet my companions and help them push on to the shelter. After they arrived, we retired early, and due to extreme winds, we sought refuge in the shelter. So, with the wind howling in the background, I made them listen to more of "Mythology."
We awoke the next morning early and made an unsuccessful attempt at the summit - it turns out early October is a bad time because the glaciers have melted a great deal and the crevasses are difficult to navigate. We stared into the open jaws of several huge crevasses and were reminded of our insignificance.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
That left me with the other four boys, with a food drive to participate in and a wedding to attend - and my job was to be the English to Spanish interpreter at the wedding.
It turned out alright. The boys came along and helped out with the food drive. Some older boys in the neighborhood took #2 and #3 under their wings and I drove along behind them so they could unload the bags of food somewhere. We collected a bunch - and then it got delivered to the foodbank.
The wedding was good, too. The guy performing the wedding spoke no Spanish, but he gave me the rough text of what he was going to say so that I could prepare myself. I just left my #2 in charge of the younger boys for an hour. The wedding was for my cousin - he married a girl from Peru who speaks no English. Weddings are cheesy - but I certainly wouldn't be where I am without one...
After the ceremony, I came back home and grabbed the four princes and took them back for food at the reception.
Monday, February 9, 2009
In a nutshell, economic markets collapse, followed by meltdown of law and order and a period of brigandry and chaos. The main characters were prepared for such an event, and are holed up in a retreat with enough supplies to weather the storm.
Relative order begins to return, and people begin to pull together, at least on a regional scale. But then big daddy government steps in with their own idea of how to restore order. Folks band together on a regional scale and sort of declare independence - then have to defend it with their blood when the federal troops come in.
For most of the people I know, this is a must-read. There are a few of you who will think I'm a nut for even cracking the cover, but you'll come around eventually :)
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Anyway, I'd like to say that I've got it all figured out on how to teach these guys and raise them up to be great men, real kings and valiant warriors in the battle for men's souls.
But I don't. It's really hard and quite overwhelming at times. I'm figuring it out as I go.
Take tonight for example. All the boys were in bed - the three youngest asleep. The two oldest (ten and eight) sleep in a downstairs bedroom, and they often get to sleep later than their siblings. They also are often at each other's throats...as was the case tonight. And my ventilation ducts act as a nice intercom. So I knelt down at my vent and tried to speak words of peace to them, but I could hear it escalating down there. It turned to sobs and moans, so I went on down and tried to calm things in person.
But one son was ignoring my words while the other was continuing to sob and so I finally yelled something like "ENOUGH!" Of course, this had the desired effect, but I always feel bad for losing my cool. I gave a lecture about getting along and trying to find ways to serve each other rather than constantly competing with each other, and I asked their forgiveness for losing my temper.
Now the sobbing son was calm and the other son was starting to look like he was going to cry. So I asked him why, and he told me that I had used a swear-word while we were in Hawaii - the "H" word, he said. Apparently my request for forgiveness had caused him to remember my past transgression. So I asked him to forgive me for using a bad word, and I told him that I'm not perfect and I'm always trying, and asked him to be patient with me.
I think the night ended well - it's quiet down there now. But I don't always think deeply enough about what I say and do, and don't always remember that I'm their number one example, for better or worse. I might not think something is a big deal, but their young minds and hearts might take offense. And since the idea of a millstone hanged around my neck while I sink into the sea sounds un-appealing, I think I'm going to try a bit harder.
Lest I give the wrong impression, the vacation was fabulous. There was occasional friction between siblings (which occasionally rubbed off on parents) but that was overshadowed by good memories. We had a blast and went all over the island. I find it amazing to sit back and watch my boys discover things about the world or about themselves. Sometimes I get to coach them along in that process, but there is no doubt in my mind that most of it is driven by their natural curiosity and their great souls.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
They've been pilfering the household treasures, as you can see from the photos obtained by my security cameras, and even have the gall to make silly faces at the cameras.
The disguises can't fool me, however. I'll be home tonight, and I'll track them down and tickle them silly.
Friday, January 16, 2009
I temporarily interrupted my non-fiction reading - I just finished reading a very unusual book, and an unlikely one for me to read. It is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It's a novel, and it is laid out as a series of letters and notes between a bunch of people, with a writer named Juliet Ashton as the central character. It's a beautiful story of post-war recovery in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands. As it begins, it is a little hard to find the flow and the story, but you find yourself sucked into the correspondence and come to know the characters. I really liked it. Yes, I have to admit, among all my manly reading I've also read and enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, etc, etc.
While I'm on the topic, I feel like I have to admit, and proudly, that Jane Eyre actually is responsible for the union of me and my Queen. We were dating, and we read it aloud together, and she decided that a man who would read that book with her was worth hanging on to. The rest is blissful history!