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February 2008 Blog Archives

Thursday, February 21

3:05 AM This will be my final blog entry for a while. I leave to go abroad today and will perforce be incommunicado. I enjoy blogging immensely. It is a most congenial task. But there is a time to blog and a time to refrain from blogging. I shall miss you, my friends. God speed in all your goings and comings, and if the Lord wills I shall talk to you again when I return.

3:01 AM If I ask myself what I desire more than anything else on earth, it is this: to feel that I am nothing, know nothing, can do nothing apart from my Savior – and to know, in addition, the joy that the angels must feel when they see a sinner come to repentance. How ashamed I am of my sense of contempt for prideful, smug, self-centered, comfort-prone Christians when I am the chief of sinners in this regard. Books, lectures, sermons – these are nothing when compared to the salvation of the lost. Any sacrifice is worth achieving it. I am just beginning to understand the value of suffering – its power to free and purge. I am learning how to go the way of the cross, as the Jim Elliotts before me have done. Only let the cross conquer! – let it issue in a kenosis, an emptying that assumes the form of a lowly servant, that repudiates a life of ease and self-aggrandizement, that proves that the Christian faith is genuine. And by “the faith” I do not mean modern success-driven evangelicalism, which is our unofficial civic “religion,” nor do I mean the new statist exegesis of Scripture that appeals to the Old Testament political arrangements as normative for the modern state. Christianity is not about running the world. It is about the out-working of God’s power in one’s life. It is about reflecting the love of Christ by sacrificing self for the blessing of others. A Christian is a Christ-ian! Oh, Father, let me be a Christian!

Wednesday, February 20

6:09 PM My (Un)Master of Divinity.”

6:06 PM Don’t forget tonight’s lunar eclipse.

5:59 PM Now here’s a New Testament church!

5:55 PM Somalia, the world’s forgotten tragedy.

5:48 PM Career opportunities: Christian Ministries, Evangelism and Discipleship, Pastoral Ministries, and Biblical Studies.

5:45 PM Why child labor laws are a bad idea.

5:35 PM Update from Addis: Things have taken a new twist. Becky and Aberesh met with the doctor yesterday and he reports that the baby is not growing as he should, that he is not getting adequate nutrition through the placenta, and that a C-section is inevitable. Becky adds, “C-section will be scheduled for either next Tuesday morning, or next Thursday morning. I’ve explained all the reasons why it is good for both Aberesh & the baby to have the section, and also this has been explained to Tilahun. Both seem at peace with it.” The excitement never ends, but God is sovereign and He has His purposes in it all.

Tuesday, February 19

5:35 AM It is still dark outside and the bright moonlight has long since disappeared. There is a hush over the world, and only a light in my own library. I am off to campus again. I find teaching a fascinating pursuit and enjoy my work. I do believe, as I have always believed, that knowledge puffs up the mind and kills the soul. Only truth changes lives, as Jesus said. I thus feel  ill at ease, self-conscious, insincere, and inauthentic whenever I simply disseminate information. Would to God that I did a better job of helping students see the truth and not just talk about it!

I have worked very hard these past few days, but I return to Wake Forest conscious that I have become stronger and healthier because of the physical labor I've done. My limbs are perhaps less supple than they were a year ago, but I have put on no weight and have increased in vigor. I have no desire to become an achthos aroures (Homer, Iliad, 18.104) -- a "burden on the earth," or a burden to anyone or anything else for that matter. I can only thank Heaven for all the blessings that have been showered down upon me.

Meanwhile I am really perplexed as to what to do with my book on the Anabaptists. My editors like it, but the marketing divines do not. They would be interested if I were to expand it and make it into a seminary textbook in ecclesiology for church history courses. I'm not sure that I have the strength of will, the os, to pull or push myself into that stream. It is some relief to reflect that every book I have written has been published (and none by vanity imprints) even when it might have been rejected by the first house I submitted it to. Incidentally, I have decided what I shall write next. I see a good book in the subject, which will give me scope to say a lot of things I want to say related to the present day and its troubles. I am simply repelled by the gross materialism of the age. As we discussed in our Sunday School class this weekend, on the passage where Jesus sends out the 70, our Lord may have been able to send out more missionaries if only His would-be followers did not have such an excessive allegiance to family/comfort/worldly prestige. "Let the dead bury their dead!" I agree so deeply with Malcolm Muggeridge: 

I may, I suppose, regard myself or pass for being a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets – that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue – that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions – that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time – that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you – and I beg you to believe me – multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing – less than nothing, a positive impediment – measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who are what they are.

But meantime I'm going to finish the work on the dissenters. Then I will have to read the proofs for Perspectives on the Ending of Mark and the third edition of Learn to Read New Testament Greek. All this juxtaposed with four lengthy mission trips this year. Quelle vie!

Monday, February 18

4:02 PM This lovely email came recently:

We love getting the email updates on the church in Ethiopia. We are praying for Aberesh and the missionaries there. We pray for the whole church there every day.

Then Becky had this in her email today:

We’ve gotten lots of letters about Aberesh. Really, we’re just sitting here waiting, and waiting & waiting. Now the jokes are starting….”the baby will be born when he’s a year old!” “The baby and the teff are coming at the same time!.”

We see the doctor tomorrow afternoon, so might know more then. The baby’s very low! The heart beat is strong. Her BP is holding good. She’s slow in movement, but otherwise in excellent health. But no contractions of any kind! We’ve got plastic on the bed in case her water breaks, we’ve got cars lined up, we’ve got everything arranged…now we’re just waiting.

Isn't that wonderful? What a life -- first the kingdom of God, and thereby having all the other things added!

3:29 PM Guess what we saw while driving to Matt and Liz's today? Bison. A whole herd of them, too. Being raised right there on Hwy 15, north of Clarkesville. Makes sense, too. This area used to teem with buffalo (hence the nearby towns of "Buffalo Junction" and "Buffalo Springs"). Matthew asked us for a delivery of manure. He's prepping his garden for planting next month. We were happy to oblige.

The boys' reward for their labors was standing victoriously atop the piled fertilizer for a very brief moment (mama put both feet down when they asked to play in it).  

Then it was Micah's turn, assisted by uncle Nathan. And to think that just a few months ago I could hold him in one hand and he was as light as a feather.

As you can see, the weather was lovely. In another month it will be at its best, with blue transparent days that make everything wholly unreal and ethereal and quite fabulously beautiful. Here in the south we are still having perfect moments of summer in February. As always, Liz cooked up a feast, this time featuring venison with parsley potatoes and fresh greens. We missed Mama B -- and prayed for her!

6:55 AM Well, 6 weeks down, 3 to go. It is wonderful to see how our Lord is working in Addis. And many thanks for your thoughts, prayers, and kind emails. Meanwhile I have composed one of the Hundred Best English Limericks, which runs as follows:

There once was a man in Virginia, Whose wife did enjoy Abyssinia. He missed her so much, He refused to eat lunch, Until he could once again see her.

The closer you examine it the more superb you will see that it is. Today I am sketching out a little talk on 1 Corinthians for my Wednesday class -- God destroys the wisdom of the wise, He turns the wisdom of the world into nonsense, He chooses the foolish, the weak, the "nothings" of this world to put the wise, the powerful, the "somebodies" to shame, the wisdom we speak is revealed to us only by the Spirit, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything because only God makes things grow, we are merely "servants of Christ" and "managers entrusted with God's mysteries," who says you are better than other people -- what do you have that wasn't given to you? -- etc. Otherwise, today being a holiday, the life of action, as well as the life of thought, will come to a temporary standstill.

Sunday, February 17

4:39 PM I had been thinking about the rain that is coming this afternoon and was wondering how the animals were doing, so I asked Nathan if he wanted to go for a walk through the farm. He consented, and we just got back. The northern acreage is a jolly place -- a large area with fine crags and rolling hills covered in dense forest. The grape vines can grow to enormous lengths, as Tarzan here demonstrates.

This summer and fall our creek bed had dried up completely because of the severe drought, but now, as you can see, water is again flowing. I think there is no more pastoral scene on a farm than animals watering.

Edelweiss is one of Becky's favorite goats (Becky has in fact named them all), a jeune fille that loves to nibble on anything including your jeans.

By the way, I've often spoken of the Hidden Valley, which we recently finished fencing in, and so I have provided below a nice panorama. It would be a great place for a ride on horseback, don't you think?

I see that along with the rains our beaver colony has returned, in full force. This means war on the scale of a major Elizabethan melodrama. Need I crystallize my nebulousness? Beaver dams are a no-no on our farm, a lesson one would have thought our furry friends had learned by now.

Beavers are persistent if also a bit dumb. By instinct they have begun to "fell" this tree and eat its bark even though Nathan cut it down a couple of years ago. Too funny!

I know nothing more beautiful than this place, with its extravagantly shaped hillocks, its great valleys running in among the hills, its islands of hay, and its glimpses of the blue heaven above. These evenings are so wonderfully peaceful. One does feel tremendously, when one is in this beautiful part of Virginia, that one is a part of a larger history going back to the war of 1861 and even before. I don't think man is justified in worshiping nature, but to occupy one tiny piece of the whole, and to be responsible for its maintenance, is a pleasant thing indeed.

2:10 PM I trust all goes well with you and your family this fine day. Me? I just got off the phone with Becky! There can be little doubt that the baby is on its way. In fact, everyone is trying to rush the little guy along! Wouldn't it be something if they had to induce labor? Otherwise, not much news here. We sang at the nursing facility again this morning (yes, that is a gut bucket), and Nathan gave quite a good talk on Romans 8. Someone just stopped by to pick up 100 bales. These pix are for Becky: a little taste of home.

8:09 AM Last week I received an email from an evangelical academic. The signature included his full name, degrees earned (there were several!), official titles (I counted 3), websites with which he is associated, and about 3 lines of contact information. The signature was vastly longer than the content of the email. Contrast that with a letter I once received from the United Kingdom that concluded, simply, "F. F. Bruce."

And Paul asked the church at Corinth, "Where is the scholar?" (1 Cor. 1:20).

7:54 AM The book of Philippians changed my life. My study of it, published in Novum Testamentum, showed me what Paul lived for, and what the Christian is to live for. It is our privilege to stand together in one spirit and contend as one man for the faith of the Gospel (1:27-30). Paul's language pictures an athletic team in which every team member has a job to do -- a joint effort, not an individual one. It is a life of selflessness, of giving rather than getting. And it is costly. Kingdom service involves sacrifice. In the words of Corrie ten Boom, "I learned to hold everything with a loose grip because it hurt when God had to pull my fingers away." Salvation involves more than accepting Christ as Lord and Savior but must include a commitment to becoming servants in the world. The church of the New Testament does not merely "do missions" or "send" missionaries. It is missions. If we are to be the church we must go to all nations. Please do not learn this lesson as late in life as I did.

7:13 AM I just read 1 Corinthians in one sitting. I had to chuckle when I read 4:12: "We wear ourselves out doing physical labor" (which is exactly what the Greek means). Five years ago I didn't know what labor was -- or mashed thumbs, or wood splinters, or raw blisters, or aching muscles, or cuts and scrapes. Now I barely notice such things. What does seem strange is driving in traffic or facing the crowds in Wal-Mart. The problem is that I am sedentary just long enough to prevent calluses from forming. But everything's on the up-grade!

Saturday, February 16

4:40 PM It is a lovely day and the sky sparkles outside my window. I look out to the pond, and thence to the pines and the fields and barns beyond them. I find the view of the farm austere and simple, exactly as I would want it. I miss Becky so! I am as lonely as a mouse in the Cologne Cathedral. At the same time I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to think that she will be with Aberesh when the baby is born. It is horrid to have to be here while she is there but I can and do pray for her constantly. It is all a wonderfully moving thing to me, and I am entranced by it all.

As always our work today was tiring yet rewarding. What odd people we must seem! We have become the salvagers in the community and today was no exception.

Nate was the taker-downerer. I was the de-nailer. Imagine, all this lumber, free for the taking!

It will be used in Nathan's renovation project. If the "good life" is successful activity in good surroundings, then I suppose we enjoy it the fullest. The only thing I truly miss is a good horse, but it is quite useless and dangerous for me to think of riding again. In fact he is a foolish man who thinks only in terms of his own desires. Anyhow, thank God for the farm, for our work, for the Gospel, for Becky, and for the anticipation of grand news from Ethiopia. I enjoy serving the Master and feel that under His care all will be well.

8:12 AM For breakfast this morning we enjoyed fried eggs, pork sausage, toast, and strawberry jam. Not one item was store bought. I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to such a lavish treat, including our hens who worked very hard to produce those brightly colored yokes.

Off to work.

6:35 AM I have been reading more Bonhoeffer, who always has something interesting to say and a certain literary juiciness in his way of saying it. What books might he have written had he not opposed the insanity of the Third Reich? His Life Together is simply unsurpassed as a commentary on the Body Life found in Acts. In that regard, I have been meditating this morning on Acts 2:42, where we see that the earliest Christian congregation was (1) a learning church ("the apostles' doctrine"), (2) a sharing church ("fellowship"), (3) a Christ-centered church ("the breaking of the THE bread"), and (4) a praying church ("the prayers"). There can be no doubt that number 3 is alien to us today. But a weekly observance of the Lord's Supper would, I think, go a long way toward correcting our anthropocentric meetings. The table was central to these believers -- not a preacher or a pulpit (Acts 20:7). It is a sign of a really healthy church that it can subordinate its own prominence for the sake of Christ. And what better way to honor the Savior and to express our mutual fellowship than to partake of a common meal during which the Lord's Supper is observed? Are we too much wedded to our "worship services" and our "preaching" (the word should be "teaching") to follow apostolic example? I will probable bore you with such questions for quite a long time.

6:21 AM A big Saturday shout out and thank you to Dave, Jeff, and Jonathan from my New Testament class for sending me the URL to this forum in New Orleans. I see that David Parker from Birmingham will also be there, along with Ehrman and Wallace. I hope someone will live blog the event.

6:12 AM Please join me in welcoming Encouraging Faith to the blogmos.

Friday, February 15

7:06 PM On Saturday and Sunday, March 15-16, the AAR/SBL regional meeting will take place at the Marriott Hotel at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. The program looks excellent. Papers include ones on Mark 16:8, the structure and content of Matthew, and Dale Allison's plenary address on the history of interpretation. My curiosity has gotten the better of me, and I have decided to attend. I anticipate also spending time with my in-laws (photo) near Dallas and going to the Queen of Sheba for Ethiopian food on Monday, in honor of Becky, of course. I'm sure the conference will have its share of poorly written papers, as do all conferences. Of course, the negative is always easier to point out than the positive. Any fool can see motes in other peoples' eyes, even if his own are full of beams. Actually, the great merit of these conferences, as everyone knows, is the networking that takes place and the relationships that are established or deepened. Not to mention the publishers' booths.

Tonight I shall enjoy reading two new books, Understanding China and Understanding Contemporary China, both about a country I find fascinating.

5:46 PM We spent the day in South Boston replacing a rotted porch deck. Here's the before photo:

And here's the after:

My job? Well, since I'm in my "prime," that became my job.

Nate's the "head" man, so he got to do all the nailing (he hit the "heads," get it?).

Can't forget our nightly routine. "What took you so long???" they ask.

Gotta cook supper now. Let's see, shall I make Chinese, or shall I make Chinese?  

5:31 PM Great excitement! Becky writes to say that Aberesh's baby could come any day now. Her husband Tilahun will be in the capital for a weekend visit. They haven't seen each other in over 5 weeks. Wouldn't it be something if the Lord should allow Aberesh to give birth while her husband is with her?

8:21 AM Today weah goin oot to hep a friend wit his roof tales. I will "assist" Nathan of course. Let me explain what I mean by assist. Think of Nathan as a kite and me as the tail. A kite tail is designed to hold the kite steady in the air. Unfortunately, in many cases it also drags it down to the earth. Thankfully, the kite is a very patient man.

7:50 AM As we plod through the semester I am making available to my New Testament students several of my published essays -- copies free for the taking. Makes me keenly aware of how long I've been at this business of exegesis. I wish I knew as much about my craft today as I did when I was 25 years old. The more one learns about exegesis the more unbelievably difficult it becomes. Little meanings peek out from the most unusual places. Or perhaps there is a piece missing from the jigsaw puzzle and it is the piece that fascinates you the most. So many scholars have spent so much time trying to interpret John or Paul or Peter and still we seem to know so little. The worst thing is thinking one sees what is in the text while one is actually seeing a self-reflection. Like Procrustes, we supply the missing jigsaw piece even when one isn't missing. It's like this photo Nathan showed me last night of a chimney the owners "adjusted" so that it emerged from the center of their house.

I don't know of any exegete or expositor who hasn't done a similar thing in his lifetime. At least it keeps one from being bored, and (hopefully) from being puffed up with pride.

7:30 AM Last night we enjoyed watching a portion of the movie "The Great Escape" -- that Hollywood fantasy that purports to tell the story of the 76 airmen who crawled through a filthy tunnel in Poland in 1944 to escape from their German captors. (I like Steve McQueen and James Garner, but no Americans participated in the escape.) I see that one of them, Jimmy James, has died at the age of 92. James' story, Moonless Night, is a rare glimpse into the life of an inveterate escape artist. I long sought a copy of the book and finally found it one day, much to my great delight, in a used bookstore in Piccadilly Circus in London. My only regret is that I never sought out the author during that trip to ask for his autograph. If you don't have the book, you can read about his incredible escape at this BBC site.

Thursday, February 14

5:51 PM Not a peep about Aberesh and her baby. What a good book this saga would make. My word, how it must feel to live in a land where men and women are still pathetically helpless before the curse of Eve! I would do anything in my power to see that he was born healthy to a healthy mother.

It is getting dark, which means my work day is almost over and it's time to start cooking supper.

1:48 PM It is inconvenient that the English language possesses no straightforward way of expressing the idea of the Greek middle voice. The closest example I can think of is, "I can't come to the phone right now. I'm shaving." Of course, no one would ask, "Who are you shaving?" But would the same thing work for "I'm thinking" or "I'm angry" -- i.e., situations in which the verbal idea turns back upon itself or in which two parties are involved and if one were removed no action would be possible? I still think the whole subject of "deponency" in the Greek verb system begs for a doctoral dissertation. It is a long time since I came to these opinions, and I think they were much influenced by the writings of Neva Miller. Some day a student will take up this subject with vigor.

Speaking of doctoral students, my number just increased by two, who will start in the fall. I am impressed with every one of them. So susceptible to new ideas, so much interested in things, so suspicious yet respectful of the old. It is wonderful. I wish you could meet them.

12:21 PM Have been reading Hoehner on Ephesians. His exposition is so lucid that I get interested and want to go on reading. Of course, I pounce with delight on his conclusions regarding authorship and destination. I don't want to sound flippant, but Harold has a rare touch, like a good ol' farm boy, someone from whom you feel you can glean the wisdom of experience. It took him an entire career to write this commentary but the product was well worth the wait. I feel I know the mind of Paul and thus the mind of our Lord a little bit better as a result of reading it. I have yet to agree to write a commentary, though publishers have asked me several times to do so. I do not have the patience for the task and I would have nothing new to say. A few bright flowers planted here and there would be the best I could do.

10:19 AM Today I am deep cleaning the house, interspersing my time with reading various and sundry books. The outdoors is like a magnet, however. I post these pix for Becky in Addis. Enjoy, darling.

8:40 AM The weather today is fantastically beautiful, though there are signs of more rain over the weekend -- much to everyone's relief, especially someone who raises horse hay for a living. How a farmer can ever complain about the weather, I can't imagine. As if we had anything to do with it! We are making progress on our new hay field with petite vitesse that appears to be getting petiter all the time. A bulldozer/track loader would do wonders and, in fact, Nathan has purchased one from a farmer near Southern Pines, NC. (You should have seen him driving that monster on Monday.) We are now arranging for a low boy to carry it to the farm.

7:49 AM The time we shared in New Testament class yesterday was splendid as we explored the book of Galatians as thoroughly as one can do in a 3-hour time limit. It must be a bore to be a student of anything other than the Bible. The miseries experienced by the Galatians were all the more odious because they were so gratuitous. These dear saints didn't have to succumb to the false -- though alluring -- teaching of the Circumcision Party. The real trouble of course is that there is no single "key" that unlocks the door to successful Christian living apart from faith in Jesus Christ (or the faith of Jesus Christ). It is doubtless presumptuously silly to attempt to transcend that by putting rituals in its/His place. I should dearly like to say that I have never succumbed to that temptation, but I am just as subject to the anomalies of Christian living as anyone. We are all "senseless" (3:1), I suppose, to imagine that we can make progress in holiness on a basis other than the completed work of the cross.

7:31 AM Glad to be back on the farm again, which I find wonderfully soothing and restful. When I go on a walk the world seems gay and bright. The animals are full of the joy of life and beset with incurable optimism. For a long time I have at intervals been debating this conundrum: If one has two vocations that he enjoys equally, can it be said that he has found God's "calling" (not "callings")? Even more vexing is to love what you do to such a degree that you become inured to the possibility of expanding your horizons. It is a great thing to have such questions, since as long as life is puzzling one knows he has not gotten to the bottom of it. Lately my own preoccupation has been with my classes, and I should like to say again that I am very grateful to God for the many kindnesses I received at the hands of my students this week, including those who invited me to dine with them on Tuesday night. The really great event of the last few days was the ferocious wind storm that knocked out power at the farm on Sunday and Monday. I have never seen anything like it since we moved to Old Dominion. Thankfully no large trees are fallen nor is there much debris to clean up. I admit that God's sovereign power was much on mind during the storm. To me, as to Goethe, America is a fantastic, romantic land of freedom, wide-open spaces, calm and chaos, sunshine and snowfall.

I snapped this at 6:45 this morning:

6:03 AM Kim chi is the most delectable dish the Koreans serve, I think, along with bulgogi, kaejigogi, and, of course, kaegogi. Now the Koreans are sending their famous cabbage dish into outer space. I do hope the space station has a good air filtering system on board.

Wednesday, February 13

6:03 PM The bludgeoning darkness has beaten down the sun and with it the earlier rain showers. Right now I am sitting at my computer but my spirit wanders disobediently to a faraway place, back to a lyrical, unforgettable world in which the love of my life is pouring out her soul upon the altar of service and love. I try to write more chapters in my book, but everything goes slowly. My mind seems encased in mud and furnished with boots of lead. I deplore wasting my energies on fluff. "Wait patiently for the Lord" is a promise I am falling back upon frequently.

Saturday, February 9

1:45 PM Very glad to see that Ron Paul made out so well yesterday at LU even with his non-interventionist views on foreign policy. I am afraid that I disagree passionately with those who say that America is especially suited to solving mankind's woes or to supervising its conduct. It is because of this conviction that I opposed the invasion of Iraq and oppose the invasion of Iran.

As for the future of the Ron Paul campaign? Go here.

1:23 PM As I read Alan Knox's entries, one thing is clear to me. What is wrong with modern evangelicalism is our man-centered traditions. For all our technical brilliance we have not learned to think biblically. Our age is intoxicated with status. We are drowning in knowledge and starving for truth. The wisdom that is needed is not to be found in our expensive textbooks or state-of-the-art classrooms or Power Point presentations. We "experience God," but the pre-packaged experience ultimately disappoints because it is based on the word of man and not the simple Word of God. We bring our Sunday School quarterlies to church but not our Bibles. Christ is merchandized in our "Christian" bookstores as He was in the days of the "Christ-vendors" of the Didache. Greatness in our churches is measured by our inflated membership statistics and our polished pulpiteers. It is scarcely possible for the humble, Spirit-filled Christian to have a word in our meetings ("You who are spiritual" -- Gal. 6:1). He has no rhetorical skill, no panache, and thus no voice. Etc..

Some day a modern Thucydides will treat the theme as it deserves.

1:04 PM In Britain, "upstairs" is the first floor. In America it is the second. From what floor, then, did Eutychus fall (Acts 20:9 mentions the "third floor")? Believe it or not, biblical scholars actually debate the issue!

12:33 PM I am sometimes asked what I think my most important work is. If humble, every-member ministry and a passionate love for the lost of all races is implemented in our churches I should consider my support of it my most important work. If not, Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek will not be able to enlighten anyone.

12:29 PM Alan Knox is blogging from the House Church Workshop this weekend.

12:17 PM I am tremendously indebted to my teaching assistant, Mr. Caxton Mburu of Kenya, for driving out to the farm this morning to repair my computer hard drive, which crashed after an unexpected power outage yesterday. Without his help I might still be unable to check emails from here and abroad. I did not, of course, expect him to work for gratis and have paid him, per his request, in fresh goat meat.

Note: Caxton says my hard drive is unstable, and he will be installing a new one for me next weekend. We are backing up everything today. I hope to blog regularly between now and then, but if not, you will know why.

Friday, February 8

8:22 AM Ron Paul is the convocation speaker at Liberty University today.

8:20 AM I had a college professor who always seemed to have time for people. He was adept at handling his schedule without an appointments secretary. A published author, he still managed adequate amounts of time with his students. His office door was always open. I sensed that he really wanted to talk with me when I visited him. In my mind he was providing others with a Christ-like pattern that was worthy of emulation. I imagine that Jesus was familiar with the same sort of intrusions and demands we face on a daily basis. But He never seemed in a hurry. He had time for people. Becky is faced with constant demands for her attention. But she chooses to view each "interruption" as joy-filled opportunities to serve the Lord rather than as beasts of burden. It has nothing to do with seeking the limelight. You will never know the details of her multitudinous meetings as I do. What is her secret? Not a planned program. Just a simple sensitivity for God to work in her life. She says yes to the burden that God puts in her heart and no to everything else.

Oh Father, make me like my college professor, like my wife, and like my humble Savior!

7:12 AM All is well -- in fact, very well! I woke up with blisters and muscle aches -- such is farm life in Virginia! It will be wonderful to work outdoors again. I'm afraid the lure of open country has found an easy victim in me. We will do not less than 7 hours of work today under a cloudless sky. That does not include writing. And write I must, as I am obligated to contribute my quota of unimaginative extravagances to the world of books. I am also working up a series of lectures on the book of Philippians that I shall give in a foreign country this month. My work has piled up so voluminously since I began the semester that I've got practically no time for blogging. Emails keep me steadily occupied, as do household chores. Thus far I'm keeping my spirit and body intact, and if I can continue to do so for 5 more weeks until Becky returns all will be well!  

Thursday, February 7

9:01 PM I am belatedly reading, while listening to Gustav Holst’s The Planets, my colleague Michael Travers’ Encountering God in the Psalms. He is obviously writing on a topic he knows a good deal about. He seems to have dealt with the subject matter much more thoroughly than anyone. I’m awfully glad for another reminder that both the content and the form of Scripture are important. Poets have always fascinated me and provoked a certain envy. What a great poet the psalmist David was – quite apart from the things he said. Je l’ai trouvé plein de beautés et de vérités – ou plutôt de beautés-vérités. Il n’y a pas d’equivalence absolute! As for The Planets, I recall when Nathan performed the magnificent "Jupiter" on the trumpet in the school band in California. What a happy memory. 

6:01 PM The accounts I've read of Super Tuesday have a strange similarity to those which Homer gives of Hades -- a place of diminished life, or uncertainty, and of acute despair. One wonders what is to happen when taxation and warfare have destroyed the existing fabric of society -- quite apart, of course, from any other, more catastrophic mode of destruction that the future may still hold. I see no hope except in a reversal of existing trends and a deliberate return to a more decentralized form of government as envisioned by the Founders. But the possibility of such a reversal taking place today seems infinitely small. When men and women are faced with Spinoza's choice between human bondage and human freedom, they choose bondage every time, because it seems more amusing and to promise an easier life. The rest remain perfectly ignorant, and seem content to be so.

5:49 PM I hope all goes well with you and your family. We are all in tip top shape here. Today we busied ourselves with various odds and ends. The Handy Man was called out to fix some rain gutters at a nearby home.

Et moi? I am the Handy Man's handy man, whom he entrusts with all of his highly skilled jobs, such as digging this ditch. 

His next job was repairing the front porch railing.  

Here he is getting the old barn ready for demolishing. We've already salvaged the rusty tin from the roof.  

We finished the porch of this outbuilding today. Tomorrow (d. v.) we shall install railings and complete the tin siding on the back.  

The work is rather tedious -- like most work, alas! -- but we enjoy it. I think it would be true to say that the best part is the teamwork. Right now we are starved. The menu for tonight? Spaghetti, garlic bread, and tossed salad, capped off with the world's best ice cream. Becky sends her love to all, as do I.

2:04 PM Is physical exercise theological?

9:34 AM The weather today is delicious, and every moment of life is a pleasure. Rosewood Farm has changed considerably since we first bought it and built Bradford Hall.

I think we may have added 5 or 6 outbuildings since this aerial photo was taken, as well as the perimeter fencing. Now it's time to complete the interior fence lines and remodel the old farm house. The fertilizer (natural horse manure) is doing wonders for our fields, which had been over-farmed in years past. The weekly rain we are receiving is also helping greatly. I never tire of thinking how we can improve this aspect or modify that feature of the farm. If the Lord Jesus doesn't return soon, this little piece of God's green earth will outlast me. It's nice knowing that it will perhaps be a little more useful for the kingdom because I chose to lend it my unskilled talents.

Gotta stop now. Becky has just sent me a 6-page email!

9:13 AM Nathan saw the picture of goat and feline and said, "I can beat that." I think he succeeded:

8:54 AM The disastrous nature of the tornados in Tennessee served as an opportunity yesterday for my New Testament class to express their brotherly love in a tangible way. The offering we collected for Union University totaled 257.75. Thank God no lives were lost.

8:42 AM Newsflash! I just spoke with Becky in Addis (the connection was superb), who reports that Aberesh's baby is likely to come within a week's time, that a normal delivery is expected, and that in two or three weeks Aberesh, baby boy, and Becky will be able to go to Dilla to meet up with A's husband Tilahun. What an unexpected and greatly-hoped-for piece of news! If present plans hold, Becky shall be able to visit the churches in Burji and Alaba on the final leg of her trip. She is hoping to be present at the dedication of a new meeting hall in one of our churches in Alaba, scheduled for March 1. Wouldn't that be wonderful if she could be present?

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming....  

7:51 AM Today my goal is to help Nathan with a couple of construction projects and write at least one more chapter in my impossible book. Anabaptism is a fascinating but difficult subject, and almost everything that an author may write about it can be disputed or give offense. As I sought to point out in class yesterday, clericalism is a fatal illness, and must be exposed as such if our churches are ever to recover every-member ministry. Just as importantly, however, every one of us who belongs to Christ's church must rediscover what it means to function as part of His Body. Ministry belongs to the laos, the laity, the whole people of God. For me the church can never be a holy place where holy men do holy things based on holy orders. The profession of clergyman has never held an allure for me, and less so today having gained an appreciation for the sixteenth century Anabaptists. They taught, correctly in my view, that the Reformers could not see far enough to let the church die as an institution and thus they perpetuated the clergy system to maintain the establishment. I have no desire to maintain that status quo. Efforts to involve "laypeople" will be fruitless until we deal directly with our overdependence on professionals.

Note: At the request of the deacon board, Farmer Nathan has been teaching our Wednesday night Bible studies at church because of the ill health of our pastor. He is simply walking us through the book of 1 Corinthians. I am so proud of him.

7:30 AM Just finished my morning prayers. Today my mind keeps racing to the two most important events of my private life. The first is my marriage, in September of 1976, to the woman whose incomparable worth has made her friendship the greatest source to me of both worldly happiness and of improvement. For 31 years this blessing has been mine. I could never describe, even in the faintest manner, what this relationship means to me. The second event is the launch of my teaching ministry, also in September of 1976, for I told Becky that I did not want to begin my work in the classroom without her by my side. Personally, I consider myself the big gainer in all of this. Becky has had to sacrifice a great deal to accompany me through the vicissitudes of my career as an educator. Through it all my wife has brought me to appreciate her feminine qualities. She is a whole person with profound theological insight and significance -- a far cry from the stereotypical definition of femininity that emphasizes subservience and intellectual vacuity. Even though I am head of our household, and she is my willing helpmate, we fully share our common tasks as Christians in a world crying out for love and service. There is no work on earth like the (team) work of the Gospel (Phil. 2:22)!

Liebchen, even though you are very far away, you are always here in my heart and thoughts, and I am always there with you, working alongside you as in the past, though this one time in spirit and not in body. Ich liebe Dich.

Wednesday, February 6

10:07 PM Over dinner this evening we discussed taking a train sometime this year to visit Nathan's grandparents in Dallas. We would likely have to book a sleeper car, which would be a first for Nathan, who has always been a huge rail buff. I ventured to relate to him that it was just over a year ago when I last rode in a sleeping wagon, on an overnight trek from Bucharest to Budapest. I was entranced. My tiny compartment (photo) was exactly what I needed after a grueling week of lectures in Romania. I slept peacefully as the train rumbled through the Carpathians.

I have seldom enjoyed a train ride as much I did that one. It was a far cry from the overnight journey Becky and I once made from Cairo to Luxor along the Nile. I fear that that experience was all too forgettable. It was like the petrified stories that are sometimes told about rail travel in India. The difference is that a journey by railroad in India (like the one I took from Mavelikara to Mumbai) teems with beggars. I remember how four scarecrows approached me, dressed in rags, with filthy nails and tangled hair, begging for food. At the conclusion of that trip I felt due for a triple dose of hemlock, so distressing it was for me to see such poverty up close and personal like that. Nothing before or since can compare with it. I need hardly say that an Amtrak ride from Raleigh to Dallas will be nothing of the kind.

7:36 PM Currently I'm up to my eyeballs in emails. If you sent me one today I will do my level best to answer it this evening, but it may have to wait until tomorrow morning. Thank you for your patience. Meanwhile, you animal lovers will enjoy this:

6:51 PM I am back from campus safe and sound, if a little worse for wear. I do hope my students enjoyed our classes as much as I did. There can, I think, be little doubt that the teaching profession is one of the most rewarding and yet challenging in life. I recall reading Elton Trueblood’s classic The Idea of a College 31 years ago when I had just entered the classroom (on the teacher’s side of the desk), but at the time I didn’t anticipate so prompt and profitable a reaction. It is always slightly irritating to find that what the philosophers say is perfectly true, but there it is. One is up against the brute facts of experience that can no more be challenged than the laws of gravitation. This is the glory of God – finding one’s way and one's calling in life – in my case, teaching – and attempting to fulfill it in God’s strength and to His glory, and yet always feeling at least a partial sense of failure no matter how well you think you have done. If you haven’t read The Idea of a College, it is really very well worth reading. I’ve asked some of my own doctoral students to look at it.

Meanwhile, tomorrow it is back to work here at Rosewood. I anticipate helping Nathan begin the renovation of his farm house shortly. I find carpentry and construction very difficult work. But like so many other kinds of incapacities, it is as much a matter of the will as it is of a native lack of ability. I’m generally klutzy because for some reason I want to be – because it suits me to be ignorant. A painful admission – but ultimately a consoling one, since it reveals the possibility of change. Already I am swinging a hammer more skillfully than I did 4 years ago. The difficulty grows less, I find, as one persists.

Again, I praise God for a wonderful two days on campus, made even more memorable by the graciousness of the good folk that inhabit the seminary, including the student who sent me home with a chicken pot pie for Nathan and me to enjoy, and my secretary who spoiled me with Kona coffee after lunch. I did have to laugh, however, when a student of mine asked me in the hallway what I thought about how "Hawaii" did this year. I made a royal fool of myself when I could identify neither the team nor the sport. I had to admit, in addition, that I had no idea who had won Sunday's Super Bowl. And you thought your Greek professor was eccentric.

Tuesday, February 5

6:19 AM The situation in Addis is at a vital crossroads. I will keep you posted with regard to Aberesh's condition as soon as I receive word from Becky. The next two weeks are critical. For the next two days my own strength and effort will be devoted to linguistics and exegesis, of whose importance I become more and more profoundly convinced. We live in language like fish in water. But unless we learn how words work, and unless we learn how to disabuse ourselves of the fallacies of a previous generation of biblical scholars, we must inevitably continue to behave inanely as we are doing now and have done in the past. If I had the knowledge I would do something about it, but since I don't the best I can do is to attempt a kind of adumbration and prolegomenon to the desired systematization -- to wit, my books on grammar and linguistics. I'm afraid I must leave it to my students to develop empirically what I have only described philosophically. I hope and even anticipate, insofar as one can hope and anticipate anything, that the next generation of Bible scholars will emerge from the shadow of dubiety created by my generation.

6:10 AM Have you read Attridge on Hebrews yet? If not, I think you should -- in spite of the fact that the author is maddeningly obtuse and his book much too long. For he does seem to have said things about Hebrews that are of the highest importance. And incidentally he seems to have read everything. I am scribbling notes in my Greek New Testament as I go along. What fun!

6:01 AM It is cold and rainy this morning, but pleasant nonetheless. Today is Super Tuesday, when the vox populi speaks, thus affirming the endless statist demagogy for the whole world to see. One finds on these occasions all the worst aspects of democracy -- the refusal of some to use their intelligence, because they need the consolation of faith in government, and the cynical ambition of others, who don't believe in anything but are anxious to hold on to political power. And everywhere is a complete indifference to truth. One must, I suppose, accept it and make the best of the messy and unpalatable situation. I wish I could see a remedy to the horrors of humanism. The great merit of the Ron Paul campaign is that it aims at the root cause of our national ill health, not at the symptoms. Only when the fontes have been satisfactorily dealt with will there be any hope for political and economic reform. Meanwhile, I wish one could see much hope even in the event of the best possible outcome of the war -- that the future will be anything but a descending spiral -- and all the more so as anti-foreign sentiment is growing increasingly stronger in America as the war continues.

Monday, February 4

6:06 PM Alas, it has been one busy day, and I'm tempted to repeat the old mantra, "I've never worked so hard in my life!" except that nobody would believe me. You will find farm work both exhausting and invigorating at the same time. The script for today's drama was carefully followed by all the actors. First, we finished the last wire gate. Then we topped off the cedars. Next we spread the horse-made fertilizer. Finally we cut down a huge ash and sawed it up into firewood. I have just unloaded the wood in my shed, and the rice is now boiling. I am profoundly optimistic that our new hay field will yield a good crop, though it may take a season or two for it to get up to speed. Farm labor is like my writing: hard work that never gets finished. I feel that, if I had the necessary technical resources, I would make a home movie about our great adventures. It would be a weary business, though, and there would be little of the beautiful, dramatic, or sublime in it. Homesteading is just plain joyful drudgery, day in and day out. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

A few pix of today's circus, in case you're interested, beginning with the new fence line:

Topping off the posts. How do you like the gate Nathan made?  

Liz and the boys surprised us with lunch, after which we promptly put Caleb and Isaac to work. I have never met boys who worked harder!  

Of course, somebody had to drive. I have never been happier -- except when on horseback.  

Liz snapped this one of herself and Micah especially for Mama B:  

Liz has us completely spoiled. Today she brought us this delicacy all the way from the islands. It will not last very long in our household.

9:40 AM Just scarfed down the most delicious home-made pork sausage I've ever eaten. The temp today is going up to 67, with rain expected late afternoon. Our goal? Install one last gate in the new fencing, top off the cedar posts, spread the manure, and continue clearing the new hay field. Never a dull moment.

8:30 AM An email from Becky just arrived! "Aberesh is doing well," she reports. "The baby has dropped, which means it's likely that delivery will come within 2 weeks.... Aberesh walks very slowly now, as if the baby is really in the way, and her abdomen is really pooched out. She keeps saying that this baby is really hers and mine."

Thank you for praying!

7:29 AM William Anderson, whose work I quoted on Saturday, actually mis-cited Rick Warren in his LRC essay and has therefore issued this correction. Warren wrote to him as follows:

Actually, I completely disagree with Jim Wallis’s big government approach to poverty. The answer is not aid, but trade, not subsidies but freer markets, not wealth redistribution but wealth creation. not the government but local congregations. Saddleback’s P.E.A.C.E. plan is the exact opposite of outdated and ineffective liberal social government programs that have failed.

We believe the answer is the Church, not bigger government.

Amen, though he could have also noted "conservative" social government programs that have failed.

7:25 AM Of the 3,000 or so languages in the world, my Greek students have decided to learn one of the finest. It is a great language not because of its complex morphology but because God in His infinite wisdom chose it as the vehicle whereby He would inscripturate the New Testament. This business of learning Koine Greek involves at least a mastery of the indicative mood, a topic that we will complete this week, much to the great relief of all. The complexities of Greek grammar are such that the authorities themselves often stumble. I think it patently absurd, for example, to call the sigma tense marker anything other than what it actually is -- the future time morpheme. It amuses me that linguistic terms are so often greeted with cries of despair and alarm by Greek teachers. Few acts are more salutatory than looking at the language of the New Testament and seeing how beautifully and wonderfully it is made, down to the smallest morpheme and phoneme even. It must be said, however, that in the end I do not really care how the student arrives at a reading knowledge of Greek. The goal is a facility in the language, not in memorizing jargon. Still, I must ask a question: Since Greek grammar is so complex and confusing to the beginning student, is there any good reason why we should not make the learning process as simple as possible? Forgive me for being so outspoken, but I cannot help it if I am such an unalloyed fan of logic in language.

7:14 AM Quote du jour:

It all goes to show that these “debates” are media productions that have little to do with an actual examination of differences between the candidates. In effect, the media are trying to pick the candidates and narrow down the race. While few people, relatively speaking, actually watch the debates on the cable channels, the exchanges which are manufactured by the nature of the questions that are addressed to certain candidates get picked up by many other media outlets, leading to a public perception that the “frontrunners” being quoted are the only “serious” ones left in the race.  

Sunday, February 3

5:46 PM Been working on my book of essays, "My Big Fat Greek New Testament," which is based mostly on my previously published articles. I am cutting out feeling-hurting passages and uninteresting things that are repeated, while keeping the best version of the same thought. Sometimes I am finding it necessary to keep repetitions because of the subtle variations introduced by them in response to different issues. There is a tremendous number of topics to choose from, including the need for hard work among believers, including church leaders -- a topic that has been on Alan Knox's mind lately as well, I see. It is a perennial problem. All too often the world sees the "pastorate" as useless and its office-bearers as lazy moochers -- a discredit to the Christian faith. The great benefit of being bi-vocational, of course, is that no one can accuse you of trying to cash in on Christianity or of being (in the infamous words of the Didache) a "Christ-monger" or "Christ-vendor":

If the one who comes is simply passing by, help him as much as you can. But he should not stay with you more than two or three days, if need be. But if he wants to remain with you, and has a trade, let him work and eat. But if he does not have a trade, use your understanding to realize in advance that no idle Christian is to live with you. But if he does not want to behave like this, he is a Christmonger. Avoid such people (Did. 12:2-5).

The question seems important to me both philosophically and theologically -- the more so as the success cult appears to be one of the expanding religions of the epoch. Where did we get this unhealthy and completely unbiblical idea that says one cannot and must not work more than 40 hours a week or 8 hours a day? The dignity of honest toil! What has become of it? The rabbis in Jesus' day had a good saying: "He who does not teach his son a trade teaches him to steal." Rabbis took no pay for their teaching, though I imagine they received gifts and love offerings. I am struck, when reading the Pauline letters and especially Paul's speech in Acts 20, how far we have departed from a biblical work ethic. Ease is more popular at the moment. But are we as a society better off for it? And how about our churches?

Back to writing.

3:02 PM A lazy afternoon. The fajitas we enjoyed so greatly this past week at the Mexican cantina compelled me to try my hand at it today. I did my best: Spanish rice, refried beans, tortillas, chips and salsa, and beef/green pepper/onion/tomato fajitas. No home run, but I may have gotten to second base.

I have done my dead-level best to keep Nathan "warm and well fed," but I don't feel impelled to spend hours in the kitchen -- unless it involves Chinese stir fry. Better not mention this to anybody, but I revealed my secret ingredient to a close friend the other day, who can be trusted (I hope) not to pass it on. Becky's absence is, of course, a blessing in disguise, as we shall both be less inclined to take her cooking for granted in the future. In the meantime, fear not: no one is starving on the farm.

Now it's time for a good long nap....

7:54 AM Greek students! Sunestauromai has an interesting list of Greek tools. The most important one, of course, is a Greek New Testament, which, as you know, you will need to purchase this semester. Without it we may well remain perfectly ignorant of the original text. And not only ignorant -- actually misinformed.

7:35 AM Quote du jour:

Slowly but surely the Spirit of God is graciously shaping this cold heart of mine to see my computer as a gospel computer, my home as a gospel home, my marriage as a gospel marriage, my job as a gospel job, my Bible as a gospel Bible. In the hands of the Holy Spirit these things become nothing more (and nothing less) than gospel tools, and I a gospel human.

7:22 AM Busy as usual this morning, pecking away at my writing. I wish it were as easy to write a book as it is to read it. The great danger now is the writer's habit of using long, pretentious words lumped together in formless sentences. The fundamental problem is retaining one's own individuality while saying things that have been said before so often. It is perfectly obvious to me that any attempt to write hurriedly is doomed to failure. The best books are those that have depth, that knock a lot of complacency out of the world, and that prick a great many pleasant bubbles. Not that my own tomes will ever accomplish this. Still, it is worth trying.

Saturday, February 2

8:48 PM I spent the afternoon helping Nathan pound nails, drive screws, saw lumber, and erect a deck and stairs, all in about 5 hours. I cooked Chinese stir fry for supper, and right now I am sitting here doing absolutely nothing and enjoying it immensely. I think it is wise to live day by day, grateful for each evening when it arrives without misfortune, accumulating a store of happiness on which to feed during the darkness and the cold. It was a lovely day today, and the air sparkled with springtime, even though it is February. I shall spend the rest of the evening thinking of Becky, reading a book, and contemplating on the beauty and pleasure that surrounds me.

12:43 PM Little news here. I'm balancing the checking accounts while Nathan is wheeling and dealing to sell some ancient flooring to a restorationist. J’espère que le projet se réalisera. Later on we have flooring to install ourselves plus a shed roof to build at a farm not too distant from ours. Our ailing calf is mending nicely, the goats are as avaricious as always, and the cattle are off vanishing into the woods for lunch. The weather is a warm 54 degrees. I have just had several emails that I need to answer. I do have a 24-hour rule, though I don't imagine an email of mine goes unanswered for more than a few hours.

11:58 AM I wish I were here.

8:50 AM The escape from personal responsibility is a problem not only on the right but also (and perhaps even more so) on the left, as William Anderson notes in his review of Jim Wallis's latest book, The Great Awakening. I never feel comfortable with all this God-talk applied to social evils, simply because the Bible itself provides no systematic justification for involving government in welfare:

The Bible teaches that the church is to fulfill Paul’s injunction to “do good to all men” by helping non-Christians in need—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, healing the sick. No believer is exempt from this responsibility (see Luke 3:11; 1 John 3:17; James 1:27). On the other hand, no Scripture supports an active government role in alleviating poverty or the use of coercive measures. Even Paul refused to command believers to help their less fortunate brothers, stating: “Each man should give what he has determined in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

I realize that it is impolitic today to criticize the sacred cow of the “Great Society” and the “Welfare State.” Merely to question the legitimacy of welfare is to commit blasphemy against the state. Nevertheless, I believe it is time for Christians to reject the gods of statism and socialism, including the misnamed “welfare” system. Government welfare is nothing more than poverty insurance. The welfare system has created endless incentives for teenage pregnancy and family breakups. And the state’s remedy has become worse than the ailment.

I share Mr. Anderson's gloom about the superficial undulations emanating from well-meaning Christians who seek to expand the role of our gluttonous federal government. It's nice to think that Uncle Sam can solve what ails us, I suppose.

7:44 AM The latest addition to our home page is called The Power of Personal Observation.

Friday, February 1

8:32 PM Tonight I watched, for the millionth time, my favorite movie scene bar none, which features Cary Grant fleeing from an attack crop duster. I am a mere amateur when it comes to cinematography, but the scene seems to me to be quite good, unique even. Hitchcock shot it without music of any kind, getting the necessary close-ups and inserts and changes of distance by camera movements and movements of the actors. The results are remarkable. The kind of movie that is being made today, with its incessant activity (by both actors and cameras) and its cacophonous musical background, is not vast enough to absorb ideas with ease. Our attention spans today have become much too short for that. I imagine another reason I like the scene so much is the Greyhound bus it begins with -- a reminder of the two summers I traveled from Hawaii to the mainland to spend my days and nights bussing from coast to coast on those unforgettable double-deckers. I know I am dating myself: I was 12 and 16 when I made those trips throughout some 40 states.

4:37 PM It is excellent that the counterattack is underway. Obviously the Republican "front runners" are very vulnerable. I think Ron Paul must bring up the economy every day. The war will come in later. I am probably a superbly bad political prophet, but I am growing optimistic about Paul's chances. At the same time, the country seems doomed to suffer under spend-and-tax "conservatives" until the day of judgment. I pray I am wrong. My own belief is that nothing short of national bankruptcy will stop our extravagance. The fact that our schools teach children that the state owes them everything doesn't help one bit.

2:53 PM The dogs have been pleading for a walk all day long. Since the sun has decided to poke its head out of the clouds momentarily, I decided to accommodate them. As you can see, it's been raining cats and "dogs." Here are the water "poodles" to prove it:

I figure every inch of rain we get in the winter translates into an inch of hay growth in the springtime.

Back to folding the clothes....  

2:15 PM I have just gotten off the phone with Becky Lynn in Addis Ababa. We are 8 hours behind her. This evening she entertained guests in her compound, serving chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and vegetables. Her guests had requested "faranji" food (foreigner food), and she complied. It was a big hit. She reports that the chicken actually had a little bit of meat on it. And Aberesh? Doing great!

Becky's is a most laborious, niggling kind of work right now -- and it can be very exhausting, not only monitoring Aberesh's condition but also loving on our many Ethiopian children who are visiting her on a regular basis. All I can say is that she is doing a completely fantastic job.

Honey, I cannot thank God enough for you. You are the yin to my yang, the glove to my hand, the wind beneath my wings, my hero, and the Woman of the Year as far as I'm concerned. Thank you for your love, not only for me but for the world. I am so proud of you it hurts.

12:41 PM These past 3 weeks I've had the good fortune to listen to about 20 sermons from an evangelical church in Germany, mostly to keep my ear attuned to the language. The sermons themselves are so familiar that no one seems to notice how stereotypical they are, least of all the preacher. I have heard this so often it makes no more impression on me than a recitation of the multiplication table. I think: Do I preach this poorly?

12:32 PM Need hay? Go here.

12:23 PM We awoke today to a settling, continuous rain. Much needed, much appreciated. I have therefore devoted the day to chores. I have feather-dusted, vacuumed all floors and carpets, cleaned the bathroom counters and toilets, washed two loads of clothes, and deep-cleaned the kitchen sink. As everyone knows, I suffer from 4 or 5 malaises, one of them being a tendency toward domestic slackness. But I do hope to manage to keep the house tidied up until the queen bee returns to her hive, at which time I have a feeling she will ask me to help her correct the evils grossly inflicted upon her home during her extended absence.

10:49 AM Have I been blinded by idealism when it comes to my views about the bride? Some seem to think so, and I do not doubt the accuracy of the charge. Paper perfect churches can be just as disastrous as churches wearing the grey of compromise. But I cannot escape the portrait of the church that I find on the pages of the New Testament. Can you? The glowing description in Acts 2:41-47, for example, is not meant to be a picture of the "ideal" church -- lovely to contemplate but impossible to realize. The believers in Jerusalem were not being super-saints; they were enjoying normal spiritual health. Why should we consider every-member ministry and a non-professionalized and non-clericalized ministry as something unusual, occasional, and irregular? In our New Testament class this semester we shall be asking this question over and over again. I for one am looking forward to the opportunity of renewing an acquaintance begun so long ago when I first read the book of Acts and the Pauline letters for myself. It will be a pleasure to sit at the feet of Peter, Paul, John, etc. again.

What is our opening class assignment? Simply to read Paul's first extant letter (1 Thessalonians) in one sitting (which is how the original recipients read it) and then list the problems Paul faced and how he dealt with them. I am doing this assignment myself this weekend, and I shall be very curious to see how my students treat the subject on Wednesday next. The result, I hope, will be a marked improvement in our spiritual digestion, which is the usual outcome when our diet is the text itself and not what someone else has pre-digested for us. For instance, I don't think I've think ever read anything about Christian leadership so profoundly admirable as 1 Thess. 5:12-13. Talk about undercutting all undercuttings -- the life and work of a spiritual leader described participially for all to see, no holds barred. Just that one phrase "who labor among you" is enough to lead to a lively and long-lasting discussion, I'm sure. It is a really prodigious statement. I get tired when I try to imagine just how hard Paul worked with his own calloused hands to provide for himself and those with him and thus to set an example for others. Sloth, I am afraid, plays far too large a role in my own otherwise active life.

Many other passages come to mind -- not least 1 Thess. 5:14. The point is this: if we throw our nets wide this semester, I think we will catch a lot.


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