Category Archives: daily goings on

Lancelot Mended

lclotAs I write a paper about Lancelot this evening, I’m brought to tears by the way he dealt with his poor decisions as a young knight and how he tried to reconcile with Guenever, Arthur, and God. After hearing of the death of Arthur, Lancelot takes on the habit and lives in strict asceticism for a period as a monk and then, actually, graduates to being priest able to order mass. He is held in very high esteem by his brother monks. His influence is such that eight former knights also become monks with Lancelot. Despite Lancelot’s concern that he isn’t worthy before the eyes of men and God due to his past, others find him to truly be a devout and honorable man of integrity and station.

The truth of the matter, and as Lancelot realizes, is that because of his irresponsible actions, both Guenever and Arthur “were both laid full low.” At Guenever’s funeral, Lancelot’s moment of reflection is an especially moving and touching scene. Lancelot is completely overwhelmed by the emotions and paradoxes of the situation. He is not so much grieving for the loss of Guenever as much as he is grieving the loss of his companionship with both Guenever and his beloved King Arthur. He regrets deeply that his “orgule [arrogance] and pride” ultimately led to the demise of Guenever and Arthur, individuals “that were peerless that ever was living of Christian people.” Lancelot is truly brought to a lowest of lows at the funeral of Guenever, and yet, this is what makes him a man who is able to be used by God. The truth is that God is not able to use the influence of Lancelot until Lancelot is brought low by his own admissions of guilt, insolence, and relationship-wrecking.

It isn’t the man Lancelot that remains but, rather, it’s his influence that remains. After Guenever’s funeral, Lancelot is distraught, eats little, becomes sick, and dies six weeks later. During Lancelot’s time of remorse prior to his death, no one is able to make Lancelot feel better.

A special hermit shares some kind words with Lancelot during Lancelot’s period of regret. The words are profound, beautiful, and so true. The hermit says to Lancelot, “…ye shall be well mended by the grace of God to-morn.” These powerful words resonate in this story and sums up the whole of the life of Lancelot.

Of course, Lancelot dies in his sleep that night but the Bishop hermit, on the night that Lancelot passes, has a dream that makes the Bishop laugh out loud in happiness from his sleep. When asked why the laughter, the Bishop tells of a wonderful and beautiful dream scene where “mo angels than ever I saw men in one day” were surrounding Lancelot as Lancelot triumphantly enters heaven.

Later in the night when the monks visit Lancelot in his cell, Lancelot has expired but with a rapturous smile on his face. The story of the redemption of Lancelot is beautiful in that it is about the sad but victorious demise of a noble but broken man. The truth is that Lancelot – as the hermit had promised – was mended by God’s grace next morning when Lancelot woke up in heaven.

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Lessons Update

gotarWe went in for our first guitar lessons on Mon. I was nervous and anxious. I wondered what could be accomplished in a 30 min session but, as it turned out, the instructor was with me for about 45 min and with Niki for about 45 min. The thing is, there isn’t anyone after us on Mon afternoons until around 3pm so I guess we get full run of the teacher if he wants to take the time. Anyway, I was first up.

A pleasant and very talented instructor. Excellent credentials, very knowledgeable, a professor at a local university, and a life-long musician and music teacher. We chatted a few minutes then got down to business. He pulled out my chording notebook and started writing out the layout of a guitar neck, note and sound relationships, and comparisons to a piano keyboard. With me, he even discussed some mathematical relationships that apply to all music schemes and how important Pythagoras was to music. Who knew?

Anyway, for homework this week I have to practice playing several octaves of the C scale up and down up and down up and down on the first three frets. Also, I have about ten chords I have to perfect. And I also – this is cool – have to come up with a list of ten of my favorite blues and/or jazz songs that we will begin working on together over the next few weeks. (I picked jazz and the blues as my preferred music.)

Niki went in and within a few minutes I heard Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes emanating from the training room. So cool! Anyway, she had a good time, too, and is also home now doing a bunch of homework and practicing (and recovering from getting four teeth pulled). Like me, she has to come up with a list of her top ten songs that she will begin working on over the next few weeks, too.

All in all, a very interesting, fascinating, and satisfying day. There is, of course, much to learn (and unlearn!) and I don’t know what the future holds for all of this but it is something I’ve wanted to pursue for a long time. Niki and I have been practicing together and having a good time (and a few laughs) making odd but slightly recognizable guitar sounds.

It’s another worthy adventure.

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Hell Depths

danteinfernoI had never read Inferno until several days ago. Since reading it, I have been thinking about it quite a bit. I have been comparing some of Dante’s writings to some of the beliefs about hell that I grew up with in my faith community. I find it interesting to think and wonder about just how much Inferno has likely and further influenced (for better or worse) my ideas, beliefs, and mental images of hell beyond that of what I might have only drawn from Scripture.

Obviously, Dante vividly sees, feels, and smells – with his own senses – the result of sin after it has separated man from God. In Canto 1, Virgil tells Dante that Dante will see “ancient suffering spirits” (Alighieri 33). In Canto 33, Dante feels the cool from the frozen ice and wind (519). At the end of Canto 10, Dante speaks of a smell and “stench that was displeasing” as the travelers descended (161). Dante is physically and outwardly repulsed by some of what he sees, feels, and smells.

But Dante changes inside, too. When Dante begins his descent, he seems to slightly judge the people that he sees. He does so vocally with fair regularity, it appears. It’s almost as if he, while concerned and interested, seems almost smug in his standing versus the standing of those he is seeing. The deeper the travelers go, however, Dante seems to talk less. Seeing Satan tear away and devour liars, traitors, and cheaters in the depths of hell and as described in the last Cantos, maybe Dante senses that sins of intentional deceit are even worse than sins of killing. Perhaps Dante begins to understand the enormity of sin’s result and, too, maybe Dante is truly beginning to fully empathize with the sinners who are stranded in eternal torment.

After this journey and what Dante sees, he is led to the changes that come along inside of him – maybe this is how faith and belief works sometimes. Whereas Dante begins his descent as a confused and desperately selfish man, he finally climbs out of the cavern into sunlight as a man of selfless potential and understanding.

Alighieri, Dante. Inferno – The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. Ed. Robert M. Durling and Ronald L. Martinez. Trans. Robert M. Durling. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.

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Been Awhile

Catoctin-Mountain-Orchard-24It has been awhile since I’ve posted. A nice break albeit a busy one while I was away. I’ve been up to a few things – some enjoyable and challenging and some less so. It is how things go, right?

– Started another session of school two weeks ago. New Testament Interpretation and Western Literature.
– Took a trip to the beautiful northwest in Washington to see Zak, Kathy, and the kids. Very special. Especially the air mattress when the kids hadn’t pounded out the air! They’ll be leaving for Korea in several weeks – hard to believe!
– Attended a few movies with some special friends. Our whispering during the movies actually is more interesting and entertaining than the movies themselves.
– Went fruit shopping for peaches, berries, and some comb honey at Catoctin Mountain near Thurmont, MD.
– Some Mongolian rice bowls with a friend – always tasty.
– Reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Very interesting and entertaining.
– Reread The Giver (on the flight back from Seattle) and then went to see the movie. I recommend both in that they are different. They won’t take your breath away but they are interesting and entertaining.
– Lost a kind patient – she isn’t suffering anymore. I’m glad about that. Picked up a new patient, though. I will meet him this week. He has just been put on the hospice list.
– I literally whacked my left toe on a ferry in Washington while up there. I’ve been limping ever since. My toe was as purple as a plum! Anyway, it’s much better now but I thought I had really messed it up. Wow, it hurt!
– I attempted to schedule another silent retreat at Holy Cross Abbey for a few of us but they are booked through the rest of the year. I was really wanting to get up there and cleanse a bit. Maybe in the spring.
– Here’s one – I have a nice acoustic guitar now and have been playing for a week or so. Lots is coming back from many years ago but I think I will sign up for some lessons, too. My fingers really hurt, though.
– God and I still spend a lot of time discussing – stuff! Not sure what he is up to with me. Kind of confused, frankly.

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Sailor Redux

nautiulusI told you about a new friend who was, many years ago, a sailor on the Nautilus. We have met for the past few weeks – he in his porch chair armed with cigar and me heading out after visiting patients in the care facility where he resides. He now greets me by name and is happy to talk for a few minutes.

He has encouraged me to spend some time looking at the USS Nautilus Alumni Association website. This is an interesting website put together by ex-Nautilus sailors who stay in touch and tell their stories. If you visit the website, there is lots of interesting information along with a list of former crew members. Much to my satisfaction, I looked through the list of former crew members and found my friend’s name and rate. I took a screen shot of the page and printed it out. Looking around some more on the website, I found a July 2014 Newsletter – it seems the organization puts together an information bulletin on an irregular basis. This newsletter had just been published, though, so it was interesting. Anyway, I printed it out, too.

This past Fri, I went to where I visit patients and did what I do and was leaving but couldn’t find my friend. Oh no! After looking around a little longer, I finally went to the front desk and asked if they would please pass my packet of information on to my friend. I was disappointed that I had not found him – I was excited to give him what I had found on his old boat.

I was leaving and out of the corner of my eye – there he was! Just coming out of the facility. I turned my car around and drove up to him on the porch. I greeted him and told him I had left some boat information at the front desk. His response was classic and it made my day. He thanked me and began weeping. He touched my arm in my car window and told me how thankful he was that I had thought of him. He said he was going in right then to get the newsletter and crew list.

Well, ok! Good for him. I hope he had a good read the rest of the day. How nice.

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Gender Inclusive

Include-Diversity-In-Your-LifeI’m thankful to be apart of a church that has now full integrated females into our worship assemblies. It has taken over a decade of work, prayer, discussion, courage, and the hearing out of many opinions. But in the end, the veracity of Scripture and the will of God has overcome, I believe.

There has been a price, for sure. We have lost families – good, upstanding, and long-time members. They couldn’t see the changes and, while not having a Scriptural basis, felt the changes went too far and were too different. Of course, that’s their prerogative but it has hurt bad. I have lost long-time and dear friends. Has the price been too high?

But I have never seen nor experienced the freedom of worshiping in assembly as now where we all – men, women, boys, and girls – can participate fully and completely. There isn’t any pride. There isn’t any glowering or posturing. There isn’t any “lording it over.” Rather, I hear prayers and songs and words that are heartfelt, sincere, meaningful, and honest – from both males and females.

What I find especially gratifying and comforting is I now no longer have to come up with some kind of Scriptural gymnastic floor show to explain why a female can’t serve an offering plate or make an announcement or lead a prayer. There is now consistency in my theology when it comes to who and why someone can participate in assembly.

This all began for me in the mid-nineties. We had a “children’s church” and an issue arose where the three-year old boys were allowed to stand and pass a collection tray among the pre-school group. But not the three-year old girls. No one – and I mean no one – had a sound, wise, reasoned, Scriptural basis for the action. I was never the same after getting through that kerfuffle.

There is much more to be done to create an humbly inclusive assembly. But we are blessed to be where we are and I am thankful that the patience, understanding, and determination of a few hearty souls has finally led us to where I believe New Testament Christianity would have us be. I’m honored that we are trusted by God to be where we are. I only hope and pray now that we can do this with graciousness and sensitivity.

And I am especially happy for our young boys and girls – they will never be under the dark cloud of exclusion with only silly, complicated, and stretched explanatory ideas and excuses that supposedly come from Scripture but, actually, are from the minds of people from decades and centuries past who had definite gender exclusion agendas. We are free at last!

We may be considered fringe for awhile, and some will question our motives and the dedication we have to our denominational legacy but already, we are experiencing a new type of visitor. Even this past week, two ladies visited and, with smiles and affirmation, told me they most certainly would be back.

The time has arrived and it’s pretty amazing that God has allowed us and trusts us to be on something of a cutting edge. It’s almost too much to comprehend – the trust he has in us. I only hope we can fulfill and uphold the trust he has granted us in this new and forward-thinking endeavor.

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Ferrier Village

You want to help out? From the North Stafford Church of Christ:

We have big dreams. And with some prayer, a bit of work, some donations, and your help, we can do it!

Our hope and desire is to fund the construction of a new house at Ferrier Village in Haiti. It will be called House #8 – we already have the address! This house will become home to five more orphan kids at Ferrier Village who have either been rescued from trafficking or are at risk of being trafficked.

We can do it – we only need $12,000! But we need your help.

1. Be with us at our Garage Sale on Sat, Aug 23. Come to search around for some good deals, bring your own stuff to sell and then donate your proceeds, enjoy some cool, summer drinks at our lemonade stand, and much more. We hope to see you.

2. You can donate online. Please put, at the bottom of the donation page in the Notes section, the following:

North Stafford Church of Christ

3. You can send a check to:

Help One Now
P.O. Box 26716
Raleigh, NC 27611

Please write the following on your check’s memo line:

Ferrier Village #8
North Stafford Church of Christ

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Bigger Stories

nautilus2I smelled the cigar smoke first. In looking around, I saw him sitting in a rocker. He was wearing a red and green plaid shirt, some green Dickies, and had black corduroy house shoes on his feet without any socks. As I walked over to him, I saw four cellophane-wrapped cigars in his shirt pocket.

“They don’t like me smoking these out back so I have to come here. Would you like one?” I shook my head. He took another puff.

On top of his head was a ball cap emblazoned with USS Nautilus SSN-571. Fastened to the well-worn submarine ball cap patch was a set of silver submarine dolphins, an NRA (National Rifle Association) pin, and a MARS  (Military Auxiliary Radio System) pin. I had to have a conversation with this man.

I introduced myself and he gave me his name. Like any good sailor, I told him the boats that I had served on and he, in turn, told me the names of the two diesel and one nuclear-powered boats he had served on. The nuclear boat was the Nautilus. And then, like any good amateur radio “ham” operator, I told him my call sign. He smiled. He told me his call sign.

And we then talked for about an hour. He put away another cigar and I wondered if this is what I was destined to end up like in a few years.

“Yep. She was a noisy f____ boat [Nautilus]. She hummed like bees, the sonar people told us. But the port of Murmansk was even noisier so we were able to get in, sit there for quite a few hours, and get out undetected.” He pointed his cigar at me. “I can tell you about this because we signed a non-disclosure form that was only good for thirty years. It’s been way more than thirty years.” He chuckled.

“We knew we were going somewhere sneaky when ten radiomen – we called them spooks – would come aboard in New London and set up behind a curtain in the radio room. They wouldn’t tell us a damn thing about what they were listening to when we were out. They just told us to get them there.” He shook his head. “They never seemed very friendly.”

“What? You were one? Oh s____, I’ve never met a spook in real life! Well, I don’t know anything about the equipment you had but it always seemed pretty important. I don’t think I could have ever done it. Too much secrecy.”

“He [Zak, my son] was on the Los Angeles, huh? Those were some powerful boats, from what I heard. He must’ve gone to some f____ sneaky places, too.” “Yes, I’m sure he did.” “Well, I bet he has some stories. You should be proud.” I nodded.

“I left the Navy and joined up as an electronics technician with the FAA in Anchorage. We spent many happy years up there. I retired from the FAA. But I lost her in 2001. That changed everything.” He shook his head and paused. “I still miss her so much.”

“I spent some time looking around after I lost her. Problem is, the young ones seemed hard to please and wanted to talk all the time and the old ones were set in their ways and didn’t want to talk at all. So, I gave up. I decided to live alone. But I still miss her.”

“Next time you come, we can talk some more. I’ll bet our sea stories will be even better.” He laughed out loud and took another puff. “Okay,” I said. “And thanks. Really.”

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Kiva Loans

kivaloansFor many years, Regina and I enjoyed making micro-loans through Kiva. We would do them for ourselves and, sometimes, in behalf of someone else. One year, I made a bunch of little loans in behalf of the kids in my high school class. I didn’t get much feedback other than, “Hope the goats are healthy” or “Where is Kyrgyzstan?” (One has to really be amazed at late adolescence and its sometimes slightly obtuse take on life.) At least the gift loans were a little more creative than some iTunes gift cards – but I never did it again. The response was definitely underwhelming.

Anyway, I still keep some loans going. I set up two more a few days ago in that several of my previous loans had been paid back by the recipients.

I enjoy probing around the Kiva site. There’s lots of information, statistics, and stories about loan recipients. Years ago, I did a bunch of research on micro loans – it was kind of a thing for many organizations and churches to set up micro loans and microfinancing. Unfortunately, a number of organizations were less than prepared to handle the work and management of micro loans and failed – gone was the loan money. But Kiva seems to have always been stable and continues to provide a safe way to donate small loans to people all over the world.

I like to make loans to people who are trying to start or keep their businesses running – maybe they need a loan for a computer, a vehicle, or some livestock. I also like to make loans to people in very small, otherwise insignificant countries well off the beaten path. The majority of my loans have gone to individuals deep within Asia though a few have gone to Africa and South America.

For example, here are a few loans I’ve made for some start-up businesses:

– Monica in Kenya is purchasing some pigs to raise, slaughter, and sell
– Ruzanna in Armenia is purchasing a computer to help in her little school
– Maria Elena in Peru is purchasing some food processing machines for her food preparation shop
– Mavlon in Tajikistan is purchasing a small van in order to travel to customers who need plumbing
– Ilyos in Tajikistan is purchasing a few head of cattle to raise, slaughter, and sell

Kiva allows a person making loans to check up on the status of a loan at any time on the Kiva website. Like with any loan, the individual who needs some cash has to present a proposal to their respective organizations around the world who accept micro loan proposals; if approved, the request is sent to Kiva for promulgation, and the individual is contractually expected to pay back the loan in the amount of time originally agreed – with a minuscule bit of interest. The default for loans with Kiva is very low.

Anyway, it is something we’ve been doing for many years, it is interesting, and it’s done with the hope that the few dollars that are sent can make a big difference in the lives of people who have so little.

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