Friday, May 29, 2015

The importance of church history

We start a new book today. I'd love to give a full review of it, but I don't have the time to write one up just now. But let me illustrate the need for this book—by the way it is called Why Church History Matters—with a short story.

About ten years ago now, a friend and I were discussing a matter of theology. I illustrated my point by bringing up the early church and their practices. He snorted and replied, "Those clowns! We can't trust them!" Now, I would expect that from a run of the mill evangelical, after all, they've been trained to ignore anything older than the Reformation. But this person was seminary trained! If that's the attitude we get from seminary-trained individuals, it's no wonder the average evangelical discounts church history!

This book was written to counter that attitude. And it is well done. In the words of Augustine (an early church father, by the way!), "Tolle! Lege!" Pick it up! Read it! You'll be glad you did. But at the very least, follow along with the excerpts here for the next several weeks.

By the way, thanks to IVP for the book! For the record, I don't give books good reviews just because they are given to me. I've been known to pan many books, even when they are free. And I've given good reviews to many, many books that I've had to purchase! OK, enough! Here's today's snippet. Enjoy!

We live in an era when church administration, counseling and technology dominate a pastor’s time. Topics such as theology and tradition dwell near the bottom of the priority list at best, or are viewed with suspicion at worst. Church leaders, driven by perceived needs, and genuinely hoping to deepen their congregants’ experience of the Christian life, have nonetheless inadvertently tended to steer church attention and activities away from the doctrines and teachings that are foundational to Christian experience through the centuries. This can leave us feeling shallow and unfulfilled. The problem is this: when we ignore centuries of God-loving Christians and the rich well of resources that they have passed on to us, sometimes even ignoring Scripture in the process, our perceived needs are often little more than mirrors of our fallen culture.—Why Church History Matters, pages 14-15
<idle musing>
And there you go. Without a solid foundation in church history (and theology, its handmaiden), we are doomed to a shallow faith.
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 28, 2015

So heavenly minded...

The more I’ve learned to properly enjoy earthly things, the more I long for heaven. Because I love this life, eternity in God’s presence has gone from a distant hope to tangible reality, like something right in front of me but just out of reach.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What about pain?

As I see it, complacent Christianity tries to avoid pain at all costs. Then it tries to numb whatever pain gets through even if the anesthetic of choice causes more damage in the long run. On the other hand, obsessive Christianity glamorizes suffering and even seeks it in order to gain a sense of spiritual superiority. Being radically normal means that you accept suffering and allow God to use it for your ultimate joy. I hate pain. I hate it so much that I don’t want any of it to go to waste. I want to see God wring the most possible good out of all suffering, even if it’s as trivial as a stubbed toe.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Over the weekend I built a new bed so that I could put up a hoop house. In Indiana, I would put two beds inside a hoop house, but here I've been experimenting with putting three. I'm planning on putting the cover on it this week and planting tomatoes and peppers inside it. Last year I grew tomatoes without protection and got about 1/2 bushel out of 12–15 plants. Not a good return!

The year before that, I put them in a hoop house in September and got enough for 50+ pint of tomato sauce (with thanks to Joel for making it for me!). So, I figured this year I'll just protect them from the beginning. I'll need to vent it well during the day, but shut it up at night. We'll see how it works.

About 6 weeks ago I planted peas, radishes, and spinach in cold frames. The peas are too tall now to put the cover on the frame, so I hope it doesn't freeze anymore. We've been eating radishes for about a week now, and the spinach is, well it's lagging. Not sure why, but spinach doesn't seem to like my soil. It did well last fall when I planted it in a bed that was mainly compost, so it has to be the soil...

The real bright spot is the Romaine, though. I planted it in the basement in February and then transplanted it into cold frames in mid-April. It is wonderful. Tender, not bitter, succulent. Ahhh. That's what lettuce should be. Here's a picture for you to drool over. I've got 2 frames of it: 34 heads, 3 rows of 6 in each frame (2 heads died).

So why do it?

I believe legalism is so popular because it’s much easier than carefully evaluating what’s earthly and what’s worldly. Not better or more fun, but easier. By simply following a list someone gives you, you can feel safe and secure. Likewise, worldliness is pretty easy—just plow thoughtlessly into everything the world (in the bad sense) has to offer. It’s also a lot of fun…at least until you start suffering the consequences. It’s also easier to mock legalistic Christians than to pursue righteousness.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

Monday, May 25, 2015

So what is legalism?

Wholeheartedly pursing obedience isn’t legalism—it’s happy holiness. We fall off the cliff of legalism when we think our status with God depends on how well we obey. We can also fall off when we live our lives by a list of rules that exceed those in the Bible and expect others to do the same.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What's for breakfast? Greek word order! Yum!

Over on B-Greek, Stephen Carlson informs us of a new dissertation—On verb initial clauses in Classical Greek! Delicious! Here's an excerpt from page 1:
Ancient Greek is a ‘free word order’ language, or more precisely a discourse- configurational language (Hale 1983, Kiss 1994): that is, a language in which the order of words in a sentence is determined – at least in the case of clause-level constituents, though to some extent in lower ones too – not by their syntactic roles but by the pragmatic functions that they play in the discourse context.
Doesn't that make you want to read all 148 pages? But I don't have time right now, so it will get filed away until fall...

But you don't have to wait! You can download it right now:


Friday, May 22, 2015


God could provide for every need, feed every person, meet every church budget, and fully support every missionary without our cooperation. Instead he chooses to meet all of these needs through us. This isn’t efficient, but it gives us the honor and joy of partnering with him. The downside is that our failure to embrace this honor means that people go hungry, churches shut down, and the gospel goes unpreached.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Destitution and absolute poverty are evidence of a world broken by sin. God never intended people to live with their basic needs unmet. But once our basic needs are taken care of, contentment is possible. In fact, if you aren’t content with that, you never will be. Let me repeat that—if you’re not content with what you currently have, you’ll never be content. You’ll always want just a little more. A small raise, a newer car, a bigger wardrobe. Nothing will be enough without contentment. Contentment brings freedom and joy, but greed and ingratitude bring slavery and misery.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
I was just reading in the Psalms this morning and read this familiar verse:

But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content. Psalm 131:2 NIV
</idle musing>

Learning: easy and fun!

It is because children learn continuously and effortlessly that adults generally fail to give them credit for the amount of learning that they do. It is a common adult belief that learning is a difficult and even painful activity, that it involves grappling with something that you don’t understand, and therefore necessarily leaves marks of effort and strain. But in fact, the sight of a child struggling to learn is a clear sign that learning is not taking place, that the child is confronted by something incomprehensible. When learning does occur, it is inconspicious.—Understanding Reading, page 202

<idle musing>
I agree. When I was teaching High School Latin, a sure sign they weren't getting it was when they looked like they were trying too hard.

That's the end of that book, by the way. Not sure what I'll excerpt from next. Maybe I'll just stick to one book/post in a day for a while. The cabins are starting to pick up as Memorial Day approaches and I'm editing a couple of books and working part-time for Eisenbrauns. That doesn't leave a whole lot of time for reading for leisure—and then typing in the excerpts for your dining and listening pleasure. But, we'll see. I've got some great books that are begging for me to read them...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Money isn't the issue; greed is

The problem isn’t with having money but with wanting to get rich, loving money, being eager for it, and getting it any way you can. Proverbs is filled with similar warnings, including the prayer “give me neither poverty nor riches.” Even warning people against being “eager for money” is too radical for many of us. It seems so anti-American.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

How do they learn?

Children learn by relating their understanding of the new to what they know already, modifying or elaborating their prior knowledge. Learning is continuous and completely natural, and it is not necessary to propose separate “processes” of motivation and reinforcement to sustain and consolidate learning (nor should it be necessary for teachers to regard incentives and rewards as separate concerns that can be grafted onto reading instruction). Children may not always find it easy or even necessary to learn what we try to teach them, but they find the state of not learning anything intolerable.—Understanding Reading, page 194

So what do I call it?

Most of you (all two of you?) have probably seen the announcement from last Friday. If not, here it is:

As the announcement says, I'm working for Eisenbrauns once again—part-time. We are still on the North Shore of Lake Superior and have no intentions of moving. But, it raises a dilemma. What do I now call this blog? One person suggested I rename it Idle musings of a former former bookseller. Clever! But potentially confusing. I thought maybe something like Idle musings of a once-again bookseller. What do you think? Put your ideas in the comments.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Get away with it—or get away from it?

We need to stop thinking of sin as something we get away with and start seeing it as something we’re saved from. We never get away with sin. We may be forgiven and restored, but sin always damages us and the ones we love.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
Indeed. Baxter Kruger talks about the rewiring of the brain that the Holy Spirit accomplishes. That's what we need, the renewing of the mind; the discarding of old habits that no longer have the power to bind us—unless we let them!

Our cry shouldn't be "Set us free, Lord!" so much as "Thank you for setting us free! Now rewire us so that we may live in that freedom!"
</idle musing>

Not so much can, as will

One of the great tragedies of contemporary education is not so much that many students leave school unable to read and to write, but that many graduate with an antipathy to reading and writing, despite the abilities they might have.—Understanding Reading, page 191

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! Kids are born with a natural curiosity—and it takes twelve years of school to destroy it! Maybe if we didn't try so hard to kill the curiosity, but instead cultivated it, we might have more adults who enjoy reading? Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, May 18, 2015

Eat those lima beans!

It seems to me that complacent Christians don’t believe that all of God’s rules are meant to bring earthly joy, which means they don’t believe that God genuinely wants our best. Our actions usually prove what we really believe. If we believed that obedience brings joy, we wouldn’t need to be told to do the right thing. Instead, we see obedience as the spiritual equivalent of eating our lima beans. (I detest lima beans.)

Obsessive Christians don’t really believe that obedience brings earthly joy either, so they obey God out of joyless obligation. Obsessive Christians keep shoving the lima beans down their throats because they’re supposed to. They believe they have to suffer now in order to be happy in heaven.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
Me too! I hate lima beans, so his description is exactly correct...whyare you doing what you are doing? And, do you really believe that God is good?

If we are honest with ourselves—ok, if I am honest with myself—the answer is "sometimes." Sometimes I really believe God is good. Other times, well, I'm not so sure—not that I would admit that at the time! But my actions show what I really believe!

Lord, have mercy! Transform me (us?) into a people who truly believe you are good.
</idle musing>

Want to be smarter? Read more!

Experience always results in learning. Experience in reading leads to more knowledge about reading itself. Not surprisingly, students who read a lot tend to read better (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985). They don’t need to read better in order to read a lot, but the more they read, the more they learn about reading. The same researchers reported that students who read more also tended to have larger vocabularies, better comprehension, and generally did better on a range of academic subjects. In other words, reading makes people smarter.—Understanding Reading, page 190

Friday, May 15, 2015

When will we ever learn?

Why do we choose to sin? Because at the time, we believe we’ll be happier doing what’s wrong. That, of course, is a lie. It’s not just any lie—it’s a repackaging of the first recorded lie. The same lie is repeated down through the ages, telling us that sin is more fun than righteousness.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
Indeed. That, in a nutshell, is the theology of life. We sin because we believe the lie that it's more fun to thumb our noses at God...
</idle musing>

We're all beginners

A distinction is often drawn between fluent reading and beginning reading to contrast the virtuosos manner in which experienced readers are supposed to read with the stumbling, less proficient behavior of learners. But the distinction isn’t valid. It’s usually possible to find something than any beginning reader can read easily, even if only one word. And it’s always possible to find something an experienced reader can’t read without difficulty. The advantage of an experienced reader over a neophyte lies in familiarity with a range of different kinds of text, not in the possession of skills that facilitate every kind of reading.—Understanding Reading, page 188

Change his mind for him

More often than not, our petitionary prayers are aimed at changing God or getting God to modify or hurry up fulfilling what we presume to be his plans for the world (which, if we are honest with ourselves, are often closely identified with our own hopes for ourselves and those we identify with, especially in times of war and national crises).—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 163

<idle musing>
That's the final post from this book. I encourage you to grab a copy and read it. My excerpts haven't done it justice. And it should be available in a few weeks, I see that the publication date is June 1. Mind you, I'm not getting paid to promote this. I don't even get a physical copy of the book! (Not that I want one, the PDF is better for my purposes.)
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Continually adjusting

Maybe balance isn’t the best word. It implies finding a fixed point between two extremes. Have you ever tried to balance on top of a post? You don’t keep your balance by staying perfectly still. You stay balanced by making countless little adjustments to counter wind, muscle fatigue, and friends who are trying to push you off. Likewise, the balance between earthly and spiritual joy is anything but static. Most of the time, earthly joys capture our attention and we need to lean into spiritual things in order to keep balanced. But the minute we start to feel confident in our spiritual disciplines, self-righteousness and legalism begin to pull us the other way, so we need to embrace earthly joys more.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
Many decades ago now, I heard a sermon about the yoke that Jesus talks about in Matthew 11:30. He said it might be easy, but it's real. And the thing about yokes is that you have to continually adjust to them. You pull too hard in one direction and it rubs and you get a blister. You slow down, and the cart pushes you and about chops your head off. Anyway, you get the idea—it's a continual adjustment. Life isn't static, why should we expect our spiritual life to be static!
</idle musing>

Reading aloud, again...

In reading aloud, for our own purposes or to other people, an extra step is required. First we have to understand what we are reading, then we have to say what we understand. We don’t transform the uninterpreted words (or their component letters) into sound; we put sound to the words that we have interpreted. We do this in exactly the same way that we identify the dog that we see jumping the fence. We don’t say “There’s a dog,” and then understand that it is a dog that we have seen. We recognize a dog, and then say the word that we have for animals that we recognize as dogs.—Understanding Reading, page 173

So how would you translate it, then?

So what did Jesus intend his disciples to be asking for or saying when they recited the prayer he gave them? To answer this, I resort to paraphrase:
We recognize that you alone are sovereign, and we pledge our loyalty to you even if this becomes costly for us.
(May your name be hallowed)
Protect us from dishonoring you through disobedience to your ways; enable us to remain true υἱοὶ θεοῦ [sons/children of God] even at the cost of our lives.
(May your kingdom come/May your Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us)
Shape us and maintain us as your people. Enable us to do your will.
(Do give/go on giving us our ἐπιούσιον bread)
Do not allow us to become like the wilderness generation, who grew dissatisfied with your ways and doubted your will to protect them and bring them to their destiny.
(Forgive us our sins [or debts] as we have forgiven those who have sinned against especially to out enemies)
We are intent to show the mercy you require υἱοὶ θεοῦ to show to those who have wronged us; and you may reject us if we do not.
(And do not lead us into πειρασμός)
And do not allow us to do what the wilderness generation did at Meribah and Massah and put you to the test, especially by denying that the way of the peacemaker, the εἰρηνηποιός, is truly your way of achieving your goals for the word.—The Disciples’ Prayer, pages 162–63

Thought for a Thursday

If you get upset, offended, and go off and sulk, and nurse your grievance, you will die.—T. Austin Sparks

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Keep the goal in mind

Yes, stuff distracts us. The more we acquire, the more we are distracted from the things we already have and from more important things, including the message of hope and joy from our Savior. Holiday fanfare can be distracting, so it’s no surprise that obsessive Christians idealize a gift-free Christmas spent serving at a homeless shelter. There’s a place for that (I’ve spent a couple of Christmases serving at homeless shelters), but joyful celebrations have their place as well.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

How do you learn to read?

Let me summarize every thing I have just said: Children learn to read by reading.—Understanding Reading, page 169

<idle musing>
That seems redundant, doesn't it? But it's true nonetheless. How do you learn a language? By using it! How do you learn anything, really? By doing it.

So, in the immortal words of Augustine, "Tolle! Lege!" Pick it up and read it!
</idle musing>

What was the sin of Massah?

What, in Jesus’ eyes, might the community of believers whom he has called to be “sons of God” actually do that would be the functional equivalent of Israel’s sin at Massah? The answer to this question seems clear enough given all that I have said about Jesus’ understanding of what being faithful “sons” entails. The community would be rejecting the call from Jesus that it should regard as “of God,” and therefore be bound by, the principle of nonretaliation and especially the constraint to love the enemy. For, as we have seen, a posture of nonretaliation and the willingness to love the enemy are together the epitome and the essence of the way that the community of Jesus’ disciples has been charged to show itself faithful to the God it acknowledges as Father. This is what Jesus declares the disciples must commit themselves to if they are to be acknowledged by God as “sons.” This is the way of God that “this generation,” the antitype of the community Jesus tries to form, refuses to accept as the path God has ordained for those of Israel to follow.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 159

<idle musing>
Strong words, aren't they? And ones that the church, at least in the U.S., needs to hear. We are called to be ministers of reconciliation. And we spew hate all too easily. Lord, forgive us! And keep us from putting you to the test!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The difference is...

Because we share a lot of common ground, the Christian life may not look all that different on the surface from the world’s ideals. It makes sense to them. From the outside, we look like good neighbors and ideal employees. But when our non-Christian family, friends, and coworkers scratch below the surface, they discover that we’re driven by wholehearted devotion to God and empowered by the Holy Spirit.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
At least, it should be...
</idle musing>


There is a general tendency to subvocalize when reading becomes difficult, when we can predict less.—Understanding Reading, page 167

<idle musing>
I hadn't really thought about it before, but it is true. Now that I think about it, I remember sitting in a graduate seminar and the professor was referring to a German reference work. He didn't just subvocalize it, he muttered it as he was trying to figure out exactly what they were saying—mind you, this was about a text in an ancient language that we were all struggling with, so it wasn't the German that was tripping him up, it was the ancient language :)
</idle musing>

Deliver us from Massah

To sum up: In one section of his passionately rendered, and lamentably unfinished, New Testament Theology titled “What did Jesus expect?” Joachim Jeremias summed up all of his studies of the original meaning of the petition καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν with the words: “The petition for protection from [entering into] πειρασμός is the desperate cry of faith on trial: preserve us from apostasy, keep us from going wrong.” The evidence I have examined in the preceding pages indicates that in this conclusion Jeremias is absolutely right. It is protection from “going wrong” that is the intended object of the “temptation” request. But what we must also conclude, in the light of the evidence I have adduced above, that the nature of the “going wrong” envisaged in the petition is that of the particular sin Israel engaged in at Massah, the grumbling and the disobedience that was tantamount to “putting God to the test.” Therefore, I submit that the original meaning of the “temptation” request is understood only when we see that καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν was intended to be taken as a cry in which the community of believers asks to be protected by God not from experiencing πειρασμός, but from subjecting God to it.—The Disciples’ Prayer, pages 158–59

Monday, May 11, 2015

Crazy spring weather

Well, the temperature is dropping. It was 45ºF at midnight and 41ºF at 8:00 AM. Now it's 37ºF! And the wind has been blowing like crazy.

Oops. Wrong. That stuff falling from the sky is white! Yep. Snow! And they are predicting more today and tomorrow. Welcome to spring on the North Shore : )

Not too much has changed except the names

God told the Israelites to be different as a means to an end—his plan was to bless the entire world through them. If they were not forced to be different from the Gentiles culturally, they would cease to be different from them morally. By the time Jesus came, the Jews had gotten so good at being culturally separate that they forgot about their original mission. The means had become confused with the end.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
Yep. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Only now, substitute Christian for Jew. And add the word "safe" to your description of life. The "safe" radio station. The "safe" mission trip. The "safe" alternative. Make our country "safe" for Christianity.

Tell that to Peter as he hung upside down on a cross. Or to Paul as he gets his head hacked off. Or to the millions of Christians today who are in real danger of being put to death or imprisoned because of their Christian faith.

I certainly don't want persecution—nobody should!—but if that's what it takes to have a vibrant faith, then let's kick "safe" to the curb.
</idle musing>

More on reading aloud

According to Huey (1908), instruction at the beginning of the 20th century placed oral reading long after silent. Currently the trend is the reverse. Huey was critical of any emphasis on reading aloud, which he considered much more difficult and unnatural than reading silently (p. 359). He considered “reading aloud” the opposite of “reading for thought.”—Understanding Reading, page 166

<idle musing>
Another nail in the coffin of "the ancients couldn't read silently." Personally, I find it difficult to remember what I'm reading when I read it aloud. I have to read it silently first, then aloud. Sometimes, I'll be reading something aloud to Debbie and then stop in midsentence; it drives her nuts—and it would drive me nuts, too, if somebody did it to me!
</idle musing>

Word order, summary

It was shown that preposing for focus in BH relates to an activated but not necessarily presupposed proposition. Despite the fact that BH focused clauses are often rendered with a cleft sentence in English, the English constructions most equivalent to BH focusing are focusing by accent marking and preposing (in the casual register), both of which relate to activated propositions. The presupposition/activation distinction clarifies several important points regarding BH preposing for focus, including the fact that yes-no questions and commands, which often do not involve presupposition, may be focused. The distinction also helps to explain how additive focusing by preposing differs from focusing by גם, an adverb that can relate to a presupposed but non-activated proposition. It also explains why some focus-of-negation clauses cannot be appropriately translated with an English negative cleft sentence: because clefts relate to presupposed information, a cleft is an appropriate translation for focus-of- negation only when the relevant activated proposition happens to be presupposed as well.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 168

<idle musing>
Well, that's the final post from the book. I hope you enjoyed the ride enough to read it for yourself. Andrew tells me that they are about to issue a paperback version with corrections, so if you are like me and prefer a hardback, you'd better act fast!

I'm not sure what I'll be excerpting from next—although I'm currently excerpting from three other books, so maybe with the increase in my schedule during the summer, I'll just let it stay at three. The last few books I read weren't very amenable to excerpting.
</idle musing>

Stay away!

What Mark presents as the occasion for Jesus to utter this command to Peter, James, and John that they should pray to be protected against becoming the agents of πειρασμός [peirasmos (testing/trying/tempting)] is his realization that they are on the verge of putting God to the test. In Mark’s presentation, then, the “testing” against which Jesus commands Peter, James, and John to pray can be nothing other than the testing of God and his faithfulness. The objective of the petition in Mark 14:38 is help in refraining from putting God to the test. I argue that this is also the objective of the parallel request in the Disciples’ Prayer.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 155

Thought for a windy, rainy Monday

In you, LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness. 
        Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me. 
  Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me. 
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge. 
  Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, LORD, my faithful God. Psalm 31:1–5 TNIV

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Open for business

It's the beginning of another season here on the North Shore—not that it gets very busy before about mid-June, but it's a good way to ease into the madness of July—September. Of course, we've been busy for almost a month now, getting the cabins ready.

This year there was a whole lot less to do than the previous two years. The first year saw us painting the inside of all the cabins, replacing the walls in two bathrooms and one kitchen, laying new tile/vinyl flooring in two cabins, and doing other general fix-ups. That year, we started work in March and although we opened the second weekend in May, we weren't really ready for another two weeks.

Last year, we replaced (and I mean subfloor and all) the floors in two bathrooms and one motel room. The moisture from the crawlspace had rotted out the motel floor over the years. To prevent that from happening again I put a layer of 8 mil plastic down. It definitely helps. This year, when I went into the crawlspace to check the status of the subfloor, it was much drier. The two bathrooms had rotted out from tub overflows over the course of 60 years.

This year was a cake walk in comparison. I expected to replace two bathroom floors which I had noticed were getting soft last fall. So, a little over three weeks ago, I got out the tools of destruction and went to work.

The first floor was those small ceramic tiles laid over 1/4 inch plywood. It came up easily, if not neatly. (I always wear a mask when doing this stuff!) It revealed a hardwood floor that was about 1/3 rotted. Because this cabin has a poured cement floor in the crawlspace, I didn't expect to have to replace the subfloor, but the rotted hardwood would have to come out. It was a messy and slow process—dust and grime everywhere. But it did come out and revealed a subfloor that was sound except right around the toilet flange. I laid down 3/4 inch plywood, and then a sheet of 1/4 inch over that to lay the tile on. The 1/4 inch sheet took a bit of doing, as the bathroom is small and didn't allow much manipulation of the sheet, but it went in with only a bit of paint touchup required on the walls. Once the tiles were laid, it looked great.

The other bathroom was the one I was worried about. It was the other half of the motel unit and I was afraid the whole subfloor was rotted out. I pulled up the 1/4 inch plywood that the tiles were on with a good bit of fear and trepidation. It revealed a subfloor that had been replaced in the not too distant past. The problem had been that no floor leveler had been applied and the 1/4 inch plywood on top of it hadn't been screwed/nailed to the subfloor adequately. There were places where the floor dipped over 1/2 inch, which is why it felt soggy. No need to replace it, just put lots of floor leveler on it, let it dry, and then put down new 1/4 inch and tiles. Needless to say, I was relieved. As long as I was replacing the tile in the bathroom, I also replaced it in the adjoining alcove and closet. It looks much cleaner and cheerier now.

My final project was to replace a deep cast iron kitchen sink with a new stainless steel sink. I was a bit nervous about this, as I wasn't sure how the sink was being held to the counter. One never knows what might be holding a sink in! I estimated it would take a few hours, but in the end, whoever had put the sink in had counted mostly on the weight of the sink to hold it in place. There was only a (thick) layer of caulk on the counter with the sink laid on top. No bolts, construction cement, or other creative things. I was able to cut through the caulk relatively easily, but the weight of the sink did pose a problem getting it out. It must have weighed 50 pounds. I ended up lying on the floor and pushing with my feet to break it free.

I figured getting the new sink in would be a cinch. Wrong! I hadn't reckoned with the bracing that they had put under the countertop to hold up the sink. Of course, the new sink was bigger than the old one, so I had to make the hole larger—by cutting part of the bracing. Not a fun job. And did I mention the sawdust? And the back of the sink had to be closer to the wall than my saw could get. I ended up cutting the back by angle cuts 1/4 inch apart and a bit of creative sawing that they don't recommend, but at least I didn't break the blade : )

So, we're open for business. Feel free to come and stay at the prettiest little town on the North Shore of Lake Superior! You can see the cabins (and make reservations) here.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

A potentially valuable piece of information

I've been meaning to post this for about a month now...

A pint might be a pound the world around, but it just ain't so. The other day we were getting ready to make a tincture of licorice root and ginger root (it makes a great cough suppressant). We needed to know how many ounces of licorice root to buy to make a cup.

I searched high and low on the Internet. No hits! What?! Nobody else needs to know how many ounces of licorice root in a cup? So this is my small donation to the knowledge of the world: 4 ounces (a quarter of a pound) of chopped licorice root is equal to one cup.

So now you know! In the end we were able to get it at the co-op, so we didn't need to order it. But somebody else might find this information useful.

By the way, our recipe (which we got from our daughter, Renée) is 1 cup chopped licorice root, 1 cup grated ginger root in a quart jar. Fill to the top with vodka. Set it in a dark place and shake it once a day. We usually let it steep about 8–10 weeks, but I've seen a lot of people say it is ready after 3–4 weeks. Strain and store in a dark place. 1–2 teaspoons is sufficient for about 8 hours.

Thought for a Saturday

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
    Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 
  and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
    But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
  I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Friday, May 08, 2015

A worthy pursuit

If he loves and values you enough to send his Son to die for you, to pull you out of the pit of your sin, do you think he will be satisfied leaving you at the edge of that pit? He has much greater aspirations for you than merely keeping you out of hell. Pursue greatness. Pursue your calling and don’t worry whether others think it’s spiritual enough—God’s opinion is the only one that really matters.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

Meaning and words

We must get used to the notion that meaning is not dependent on specific words. This crucial point is elaborated many times in this book. When we retain a meaningful sequence of words in memory—either short-term or long-term—we are not primarily remembering the string the words at all but rather the meaning that we attribute to them.—Understanding Reading, page 105

<idle musing>
Indeed. How many times can you clearly remember a concept but can't recall the words? They seem to be right there on the tip of your tongue, but you can't pull them up to speak them. Yet you still understand the concept completely. Or you relay an idea with your own words, even though you wish you could recall the words the author used. That's what he's talking about here.
</idle musing>

Topic vs focus again

The topicalized clause, at least in the Genesis corpus, always occurs in the context of a second segment to which it is related. In contrast, the focused clause can occur as an isolated clause, relating to information activated by the extratextual situation. Topicalization does not mark a constituent as focus. Although in a subset of oppositional topicalized clauses, it is possible to view the final constituent as a focus from a pragmatic perspective, this constituent is not syntactically marked in any way.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 165–66

Keep watch!

Now, as Mark indicates elsewhere, being willing to “stay awake” and “watch” is, among other things, to refuse to succumb to any doubt that God will provide, especially when it seems otherwise. To “fall asleep” and to be unwilling to “watch” is equivalent to denying that God is faithful and that his ways are adequate to his purposes.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 154

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Greatness? Nope!

Our problem with greatness isn’t that we aren’t capable of it, but that we have a distorted view of it. The church unwittingly perpetuates this distortion by focusing more on celebrities than on everyday folks. Greatness isn’t measured by the amount of money we give, the number of people we serve, or the books we write. Your greatness is measured by how completely you fulfill God’s mission for you.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
In other words, we've bought into the American Dream. Bigger is better. Never mind that Jesus said the greatest will be the least. Or that the first shall be last. Or that we must deny ourselves. We know better! After all, we're living in the twenty-first century in "the greatest country in the world!"

The words of Amos come to mind

"You only have I known
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your iniquities. Amos 3:2 NRSV
Mind you, I don't think the U.S. is a specially chosen nation, but most do so the quotation is appropriate.
</idle musing>

Study advice

There are a number of paradoxes about the role of memory in reading. The more we try to memorize, the less we are likely to recall. The more we try to memorize, the less we are likely to comprehend, which not only makes recall more difficult—it makes recall pointless. Who wants to remember nonsense? On the other hand, the more we comprehend, the more memory will take care of itself.—Understanding Reading, page 96

<idle musing>
I never was big on memorizing things (except vocabulary in languages!). Of course, that's why I always did poorly on fill-in-the-blank tests. But, I always aced essay, multiple choice, and T/F exams. I strove to understand what I was reading, but not necessarily the exact wording of it...

Now, what does all this say about the way we should be teaching?
</idle musing>

Um, can you say that again—in English this time

Although the preposed constituent in a focused clause is commonly referred to as the focus of the clause, this is not entirely accurate. Because preposing is normally performed on entire clause-level constituents, material that belongs to the activated proposition is often preposed along with the focus. This phenomenon is particularly common when the preposed item is a prepositional phrase. In these cases, it is usually the noun phrase governed by the preposition that is the focus.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 122

More on testing

The third consideration is that a call from Jesus for his disciples to pray for protection from “putting God to the test” is exactly what we should expect from Jesus, who knew that at the center of his own trials as Son to maintain his faithfulness to God was an inclination to put God to the test. It is what we should expect if he was trying to shape his disciples to denounce, as he did, the wickedness and faithlessness of “this generation”; what we should expect if he wished them, as he himself did, to avoid showing themselves as in any way inclined to refuse to trust in God’s providential care for them, or to express doubt that God’s particular ways for them as his υἱοί [children] were sufficient for achieving God’s ends. As we have already seen, this is the biblical understanding of “putting God to the test.” In fact, it would be surprising if we did not find Jesus issuing so biblical a call for the disciples to petition God for help in avoiding putting God to the test.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 151

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Why are you doing it?

The difference between being obsessive and being radically normal has nothing to do with the magnitude of your sacrifice or how strange it sounds to others. If your sacrifice is based on guilt, obligation, or legalism, you’re being obsessive. However, if you do something because it’s your joy to obey God in that way, you’re being radically normal.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
At last! A voice of sanity! I'm liking where this book is going. It reminds me in many ways of Watchman Nee's Normal Christian Life. Nee contended that the normal Christian life was to be victorious and sin-free. Not what most would call "normal!" This author is doing the same—and he's right!
</idle musing>

Want to be right more often? Then be prepared to be wrong

Signal detection theory, however, shows that the cost of increasing the proportion of correct responses will be an increase in the number of errors. In other words, the more often you want to be right, the more often you must tolerate being wrong.—Understanding Reading, page 66

Praise God for short-term memory

The essence of the comprehension process is described by Kintsch (1998: 93) as follows: “We comprehend a text, understand something, by building a mental model. To do so we must form connections between things that were previously disparate: the ideas expressed in the text and relevant prior knowledge.” A reader builds a mental representation of the text in the form of a network of propositions derived from the text and stores it in long-term memory. As the reader proceeds through a text, a proposition is constructed corresponding to each sentence and stored in short-term working memory. After the sentence processing is completed, the proposition representing the sentence is copied to long-term memory and linked to the textual representation already stored there. Furthermore, additional propositions, drawn from the reader’s knowledge and experience, are added to the representation and linked to the sentence representation. These propositions include, for example, bridging inferences regarding referring expressions in the text, inferences about causal connections between sentences in the text, and elaborative inferences that fill in details unspecified in the text (Kintsch 1998: 188–99).

As the reader moves on to the next sentence, the central information contained in the previous sentence is retained in short-term memory in order to aid in comprehending the next sentence. All of the propositions in the text representation directly linked to the information in short-term memory, including inferred information, are in long-term working memory and can be quickly and easily converted to activated information. In short, when reading a sentence, the gist of the previous sentence is activated and information inferred from or directly linked to the previous sentence is accessible.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, pages 95–96 (emphasis original)

Lead us not into temptation? or Don't let us test you?

It follows that if πειρασμός here means “the testing of God,” then given all that the idea of “the testing of God” connotes, the request in which the term appears must mean something like “prevent us, Father, from putting you to the test by doubting your ways and renouncing all that you have deemed fit for us to follow.”

There are four reasons for regarding this as a correct interpretation of the text. The first is the often overlooked consideration that in the biblical tradition, seeking God’s help to avoid engaging in πειρασμός against him is both a perfectly acceptable thing to pray for and something that God would be willing to grant. ... Indeed, it seems no small coincidence that we find the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews urging (albeit implicitly) just such a prayer on his readers when, as a result of their experiencing a crisis, they began to lose their confidence in the ways God had given them to live out their Christian confession (see Heb. 3:7-9)—The Disciples’ Prayer, pages 150–51

Monday, May 04, 2015

Just one thing

The only thing standing between you and a life of wholehearted obedience isn’t your job, place of birth, income, or knowledge of the Bible. It’s your willingness to fall into Jesus’s arms and lean completely on his grace. Repent of self-sufficiency—it was never about you or what you brought to the table anyway. It has always been about what God can do through people just like you and me.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
Yep. Several (many?) years ago I was reading through Finney's Lectures on the Revival of Religion. One of his lectures talked about this very thing. He emphasized that you can do any (ethically permissible) job to the glory of God. You didn't have to be a "super saint;" all you had to do was change the motive. Stop doing it for yourself and start doing it for God.

Too simple, right? But he was correct. It doesn't take more energy to do something for God. It just requires a change of emphasis. And a willingness to die to self. And that is probably the real issue, isn't it?
</idle musing>

This is the opposite of what I thought

Absence of uncertainty is not a condition that we tolerate for very long; we find it boring. There is no “experience” to it. We seek uncertainty, provided we can keep it under control and clear of confusion. We comprehend when we can “make sense” of experience.—Understanding Reading, page 60

<idle musing>
Interesting, isn't it? I was always told that we want certainty—that uncertainty was intolerable to us; we want to be in control. But, when I stop to think about it, he's correct. Mind the caveat, though, "provided we can keep it under control and clear of confusion."

Now, transpose that to children. We don't need to motivate them to learn. They want to learn. We just need to keep from destroying that desire—not an easy task in the classroom, is it? I am extremely thankful that I read many of the required texts in high school before I took the classes. I would never have liked the books if that were my first exposure to them! Isn't that a sad commentary?
</idle musing>

Short-term memory and antecedents

The relevant aspect of Kintsch’s theory for present purposes is the concept of working memory, which includes short-term memory as well as a section of long-term memory. Long-term memory, storing knowledge, beliefs, and experience, is a network of propositions, a large and intricately interconnected structure. Short-term working memory, in contrast, is an extremely small buffer containing up to four or perhaps seven “chunks” of information—about the amount of information contained in a single sentence (Kintsch 1998: 217, 411). Strictly speaking, the only information that is activated is the proposition currently in short-term working memory. This is not the only memory available to the reader, however. The reader also has near-instant access to all of the propositions in long-term memory that are directly linked to the proposition in the short-term memory. These easily retrievable propositions constitute the long-term working memory. Propositions in long-term working memory can be easily activated and placed in short-term memory and are known as accessible propositions.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 95

<idle musing>
Not to play the devil's advocate—I really do agree with what she's saying here—but what about the Greek tendency to let the antecedents of pronouns be pages away? When I first started reading Greek (30+ years ago now!), that was the thing that tripped me up more than anything else. The antecedent could be way back when and we were supposed to catch it?

I got used to it, and it actually bled into my English writing. I would repeatedly get comments on my papers saying, "Antecedent unclear." Yep. It was. Blame it on the Greek : ) Even now, I have to watch carefully or I allow antecedents to wallow in unclarity...
</idle musing>


As Mary Rose D’Angelo has shown, the primary function of the address “Father” is to affirm three things: that it is the God of Israel alone, and not another singular claimant to the title, who deserves to be called and acknowledged as “Father”; that the disciples are intent to pledge their filial loyalty to the God of Israel and to serve him as he decrees faithful υἱοὶ θεοῦ [children of God] should; and that the God of Israel is recognized both as their refuge, when “sonship” becomes costly, and as the one who can prevent them from falling into apostasy.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 133

Thought for the day

But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭37‬ CEB)

Saturday, May 02, 2015

What happened to that promised early NT papyrus?

For the last few years, we've been hearing about a forthcoming publication (from Brill about a first century fragment from Mark.

The problem is that no one has seen it. Everything seems to revolve around a video of Josh McDowell explaining how he extracted the papyrus fragments from a mummy mask.

Well, on April 30, PARSE, a web site that is part of the Christianity Today family, published an interview with McDowell. In it he mentions early manuscripts, finding two fragments from Matthew in a codex. He refers to them as being from around AD 300. Apparently they were in the binding of the codex (that's inferred by me based on the wording; he doesn't say where in the codex).

But, this is interesting, he makes no mention of anything older. What happened to the supposed first century Mark fragment? He's talking about the early manuscripts and the importance of early manuscripts for the fidelity of the New Testament. But why no mention of the Mark fragment? The context would have been perfect for it. In the following paragraph he says:

In fact, a top Greek scholar of biblical artifacts recently said that in all these manuscripts that are being discovered today, you could now intellectually say that we possess the exact wording of Jesus in the New Testament, though we don’t know exactly what that is yet. With current technology, maybe in five to six years, we could possibly reconstruct a New Testament of the original wording stated by Jesus. I never dreamed this could happen in my lifetime.
Leaving aside the hyperbole of that statement for now, this would have been the perfect spot to mention early Mark! Why didn't he? Has it disappeared? Did it turn out to be something else? Enquiring minds want to know...

Just an
</idle musing> on a Saturday morning as I procrastinate finishing repairs on the cabins...

Tommy Wasserman tells me that the Brill book is about the Green Collection and doesn't include the Mark fragment. He also informed me that the fragments that McDowell is talking about are Coptic, not Greek! (see here)

And, this is encouraging, Tommy really does believe that the fragment exists, but he doesn't believe it is first century. I hope it gets published!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Role models?

God called the prophets to do some pretty weird things because that’s what their situations called for. Their stories continue to encourage and inspire us, but they don’t necessarily provide point-by-point direction on how to live in our contemporary situations. When we focus on only a few figures with unique missions in extreme times, we miss just how much the Bible has to say to the majority of believers who are trying to live normal lives in ordinary circumstances.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
Right on! Try imitating Ezekiel...tie yourself down and cook stuff on dung! Or how about Isaiah, running around in a loin cloth for a few years. I don't think so!
</idle musing>

Unconscious assumptions

Genre schemes help both readers and writers. Their characteristic forms help readers by giving them a basis for predicting what a text will be like, that a novel will be constructed in a particular way, that a scientific article will follow a certain format, that a letter will observe typical conventions. Readers become so accustomed to the genre schemes of the texts with which they are familiar that they assume they are natural, inevitable, and universal. A text that is produced differently in a different culture may be regarded as odd.—Understanding Reading, page 46

<idle musing>
Indeed! That's part of our problem in reading the Bible. We assume, subconsciously, that the genres with which we are familiar are the same as the ancient ones. This is most pronounced in the Old Testament, but also in relevant to the New Testament. Their genre schemata are different from ours, and only by carefully reading what is written—and not what we think is written—can we uncover what they are trying to say.

From a strictly secular point, this is difficult. But, as a Christian, I believe that the Holy Spirit is able to give us insight. Sometimes it's a flash of inspiration, but usually it is the result of prayerful, careful reading. I've found that the lexicon makes a good devotional : )
</idle musing>

Focus and topic

Although both focusing and topicalization provide an instruction regarding the interpretation of the clause in its context, the two types differ regarding the context involved. Focusing signals a relation between the clause and the context of the addressee’s attention state, whereas topicalization signals a relation between the clause and the linguistic context that accompanies it. As such, topicalization functions in a manner similar to discourse connectives that signal a pragmatic relation between two sentences or text segments.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 90

<idle musing>
I don't know about you, but I find topic and focus to be a very confusing mess. I waded through Lambrecht, hoping for clarification and came out even more confused! I've been reading various linguistics introductions and dissertations. They all stumble around when they discuss "aboutness." Do a quick Internet search on linguistics and "aboutness" and tell me in a coherent paragraph what in the world it means!

That being said, I think I am beginning to see, even if dimly and through a fog, what in the world they are talking about. Maybe someday I'll be able to explain it so that someone else can understand it. But not yet...
</idle musing>

Following the leader

The parable begins with a king acting in a way quite uncharacteristic of any agrarian ruler. He forgives a debt of unimaginable proportions. But why? First, the king presides over subjects who are crippled by debt and who, therefore, in their inability to pay tribute and taxes frustrate his ability to rule. Second, the king needed his servant for the efficient administration of his kingdom. To throw the servant in jail would bung up the works, so to speak, since the servant was not easily replaceable. So, as J. Duncan M. Derrett has noted, “The release was for the good of the kingdom.” It was but the first in a series of actions whose purpose was to “lighten the burdens of the provinces” and “oil all the wheels” for the well-being of the entire kingdom. The great act of debt forgiveness was meant to initiate further acts of forgiveness of debt. The king has made it a point of honor, and he expects the servant to understand. He has broken the cycle of ruthless exploitation and extraction, and what the patron has done, the client must do. But the servant fails to imitate his master and instead engages in what William Herzog II has called the tactics of a typical powerful bureaucrat. In doing so, he makes the king look like a fool, or worse, like a weak and gullible ruler without power over the behavior of his subjects. In other words, in not acting as his master has done, the servant disgraces his patron and brings his name into disrepute and thus backs the king into a corner. Shades of not hallowing the ruler’s name!—The Disciples’ Prayer, pages 131–32