Archive / November, 2014

Weigh Suffering

How much does suffering weigh? A simple Google search (the weight of suffering) yields millions of hits. Some links show various books about suffering in the world, others relate to losing girth and poundage, while others focus on suffering as a path to deeper trust or (in some cases) nirvana. The contexts are sociological and philosophical (addressing questions of wealth and income inequality on one end and governmental overreach and inconsistency on the other), physical (addressing the need for a healthy body), and spiritual (entering into the sufferings of another for the purpose of transcendency).

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

Job’s suffering doesn’t line up easily with any of those foci, but the weight of his suffering is immense and Job chapter 6 provides all the miserable details in Job’s initial response to his friend Eliphaz. (My post from last Sunday summarizes how Eliphaz explained Job’s trials.) Continue Reading →

Joy In The Journey

With the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday behind us, many people turn their attention to Christmas shopping and the numerous tasks at hand which can no longer be postponed. For me, my attentions don’t immediately gravitate to shopping and presents (though that will come). At this time of year (more than at any other time of year) my thoughts turn to family.

It’s difficult for me to imagine the challenge of doing Christmas when there are empty chairs at the table. That’s when I remind myself military families experience this challenge all the time. One of my favorite songs of the season is linked in the YouTube above. One thing that sets this song apart from standard Christmas music is the touching way in which greetings of military families are interspersed with the song itself.

Family (at least for me) is woven into the fabric of the holidays. When the first Christmas song gets played (usually by me), my thoughts turn to my mother and siblings, my mother-in-law, her son (my Beloved) and all the sibling in-laws, each of my precious children (all now grown) as well as my wealth of adorable grandchildren. Of course, each connection becomes more dear with each passing year. Continue Reading →

A Full Life and Long

When I first heard of P.D. James (many long years ago), I initially thought she was a he. I mean, how many women prefer to be known by their initials rather than their actual names? When I heard yesterday that Baroness James had died at the age of 94, I can’t deny I thought with regret about how her most illustrious character and protagonist of fourteen James novels, Adam Dalgliesh, would fare. Yes, James did (more or less) retire Dalgliesh when the last mystery novel (The Private Patient) in which he was featured debuted in 2008. But for readers of the fourteen books, his persona is so familiar, so real! (Did I mention he’s a poet?)

Photo by Sage Goodwin http://www.cherwell.org/culture/interviews/2013/10/19/profile-pd-james

Photo by Sage Goodwin
http://www.cherwell.org/culture/interviews/2013/10/19/profile-pd-james

When I began to be more serious about my writing in adulthood, several others in the writing world – who knew about publishing – told me mystery-writing was an easier avenue for achieving publication success. I read some mystery/detective whodunnits and a ton of Ellery Queen before I acknowledged these weren’t my cup of tea.

In something of a surprise, I stumbled across P.D. James who (I discovered) had begun writing detective stories as a self-taught “apprenticeship” she hoped would assist her development into a “serious” novelist. My aspirations mirrored hers. Before I’d read one book through, I was hooked. Her cautionary comment became a watchword for me:  “a detective story is very easy to write badly but difficult to write well.Continue Reading →

Happy Thanksgiving!

To each and every reader of this blog, I offer you my heartiest greeting for a special time of joy and Thanksgiving celebration today! Whatever your concerns, I pray God will provide His abundant grace to meet your needs. May His peace enfold you with the knowledge you’re loved. May God continue to lavish His blessings on you now and in the coming year as well.HappyThanksgiving2014

With Grateful Thanks

Throughout time, people have celebrated times of thanksgiving, occasions during which they paused to consider the blessings of a year, a decade, a lifetime … as well as the lives of others who’ve blessed them. When Abraham Lincoln declared an official time of Thanksgiving, it was 1863  war was still raging. But he took time out to issue a special proclamation.cornucopia

The date was October 3, 1863. In his proclamation, President Lincoln noted the year had been “filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” He failed to mention the bloody battlefields at places like Perryville (KY) or Vicksburg (MS) or Gettysburg (PA). I doubt he had simply forgotten them or forgotten the carnage he knew had occurred on those battlefields. He chose rather to focus on the bounties he knew Americans treasured and enjoyed. Continue Reading →

Immolation Play

Nothing left.” That’s how St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar described the situation after a night of looting and burning and misconduct in Ferguson MO. He gets more specific when he explains between Solway Avenue (on the south) and Chambers Road (north), all along West Florissant Avenue, the destruction is so substantial, there is virtually nothing left.

Walking distance from Chambers to Solway is slightly more than a mile. Imagine, if you will, walking that distance down a four-lane wide main city artery where the businesses and buildings on either side have been reduced to piles of rubble and ash.NorthlandShoppingCtr

Once upon a time, I worked in the Northland Shopping Center (pictured above) at the southernmost point of this destruction. This particular shopping center was opened in 1955 when suburban St. Louis shoppers shed their interest in shopping downtown and shifted to regional shopping malls. During the period of time when I worked at this mall, I drove (from my home further west) into the area along I-270 and exited south at West Florissant Avenue (where there were also reports of looting at the Toys R Us). I followed West Florissant south for three miles to the above parking lot. Continue Reading →

Prep Work? Done!

My daddy dropped out of school before completing the eighth grade. This would have been sometime in the mid to late 1930s. In his teens, he (along with his brothers, two older and one younger) was anxious to go and do and be. Remaining in school was an impediment to the lure of pleasures that beckoned beyond the school yard.

StrickerNormanERK

Norman with 3 eldest children, about 1952

I know he regretted having made this choice. Ten (or so) years later, he’d learned quite a few lessons about life outside the school yard. He’d served in the European theater during World War II (including being part of the D-Day Invasion), he’d gotten married on his return to the States, and his family was expanding. (In the above picture, taken about 1952 there were three children. Three more would follow.) All of a sudden, driving a furniture store delivery truck seemed like a crude way to earn a decent living.

Even though he lacked formal education, my daddy continued to educate himself. During the period when the above picture was taken, he had enrolled in Brookes Bible Institute in St. Louis. I remember many nights when he sat at the kitchen table or in a living room chair, surrounded by books and resource materials as he applied himself to being the very best student he could be … day job, family responsibilities and age notwithstanding. He was determined not to let a decision he’d made in his teens wreck the course of his life. Continue Reading →

Comfort the Afflicted

Close friends can be like physicians. It’s okay if they’re present when you feel your worst and it’s okay if they’re present to help you mend. They see you at your best, but because they’re friends, they’re also permitted to see you when you’re disheveled and even teetering at what seems death’s door. Job’s friends appeared at the beginning of his journey into suffering, they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights  without speaking a word  and then they listened to him vent bitterly about his horrible situation. In essence, this is The Book of Job.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

The simple picture above seems so expressive (to me) of the situation in which Job finds himself. Job’s friends are anxiously looking at Job, whose wife is also staring, waiting for her husband (in his present misery) to curse God and die. Hands outstretched, Job’s eyes are turned heavenward as he appeals to the God of the Universe. What’s going on, God?

Job has lived a life of integrity, and there’s an indication implicit in the above image that Job’s friends have always looked to him for answers to their perplexities. He’s been their go-to guy whenever they’ve needed advice or help. They’re looking to him now … but he doesn’t have any answers, at least not acceptable answers. He seems completely stymied by his circumstances! They’re asking him, What’s going on, Job? Continue Reading →

GroupThink On Campus

At Oxford, no less! The story this week shows how discourse on college campuses has become utterly homogenized. It began when the Oxford Students For Life (OSFL) announced they planned to sponsor a traditional debate on the affirmative motion:  “This House Believes Britain’s Abortion Culture Hurts Us All.” Two individuals were scheduled to deliver their responses to this motion. Arguing in favor of the motion, historian Timothy Stanley is an author and blogger who writes for the UK Telegraph. Disputing the motion, Brendan O’Neill is a columnist and blogger who writes for the UK Spectator and edits Sp!ked, an online magazine.oxford debateThe debate was scheduled for Tuesday night, November 18th. When the chosen venue at Christ Church (the Blue Boar Lecture Theatre) withdrew its permission for the event and another venue could not be booked, the event was cancelled. If you want to read more about the controversy, these are some helpful links:  summary at BuzzFeed, the Oxford Students For Life website, a report detailing the “College Censors” vote to withdraw their permission, commentary by O’Neill after the event was cancelled, another summary from vox.com, and finally, links to the statements with which Stanley and O’Neill planned to present as their debate opened … if they hadn’t been banned from the public square.

I also want to include the blow-by-blow commentary of Executive Director of Right to Life Peter D. Williams, who carefully dismantles (with numerous additional links) the claims of those whose efforts successfully quashed this exercise of free speech. Continue Reading →

Expect Nothing!

My printer/copy machine is just about the most reliable piece of machinery I have. The timer on my stove lets me down. It’s on the other side of the house from my office, so when the buzzer sounds while I’m in my office, I often fail to hear … and it stops buzzing after about 30 seconds. Same for my clothes dryer in the laundry room. I can plan to hang up shirts at the end of the drying cycle, but if I don’t hear the buzzer, all my well-intentioned plans are for naught. Likewise, no matter how closely I watch it, the toaster burns my toast. The cuckoo clock randomly stops, even when the weights are at the top.copy-reportBut the printer/copier doesn’t disappoint. With its multiple sensors and various settings, I can count on this machine to send me an automatic status report email (see picture above) whenever it’s running low on supplies. At first, it will warn me to order the particular item it requires, and then it continues to print as needed. (I suppose if I didn’t replace the cartridge in question, it would eventually stop printing, but I’ve never tested that.)

Many’s the time, I’ve wished my stove timer and my dryer buzzer were as reliable. I’ve considered a bluetooth or wireless device might do that job well, but have yet to find one. I’ve actually taken to using my cell phone timer in lieu of the other timers and found it keeps me from burning dinner, etc. but there’s still a breakdown in process because it’s so easy to set my phone down in one room and absentmindedly migrate to another room without it. Continue Reading →

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