". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Regular Guy? (From the Archives) - 1 Timothy 3

Facebook reminded me that I wrote and posted this article three years ago today. My opinion hasn't changed. I give thanks for all the pastors I have known, including my current ones, who understand and take to heart Paul's charge to the overseer.  

I have been pondering this for a while. In my life I have known quite a few men "of the cloth" (pastors, priests, preachers, etc.). With many of them I have observed a certain quality that I find it difficult to put my finger on.  I have seen it in both priests (I used to be Roman Catholic) and Lutheran pastors as well as ministers from other denominations. For lack of a better word, they are "pastoral." There is something that is just a little different about them, something that sets them apart from the rest of us. Again, it is hard to define and describe, but some of the qualities that come to mind are thoughtfulness, quietness, dignity, caring, kindness, peacefulness, gentleness, serenity, self-control and calm. In short, they are Christ-like. I am probably going to get raked over the coals for saying this, but I also appreciate pastors/priests who in their own demonstration of propriety and decorum make  "regular" people want to behave better than they otherwise might. In the same way that I as a parent try not to let my children see me sin (even though I do sin) because I don't want my sin to lead them astray, I appreciate pastors who set a good example with regard to their use of language and their choices in entertainment, dress, behavior, etc. I think men who are charged with standing in for Christ in the worship service often carry some of that aura of holiness into their everyday lives, and I think that is a good thing.

At the same time, I understand that pastors are sinners like the rest of us. Believe me, I understand. But it seems that there are some pastors who, in their effort to warn us about the worthlessness of our own good deeds, go out of their way to put the baser aspects of their humanity on display. Similarly, there are some lay people who go out of their way to encourage pastors in this anti-pietism crusade. This doesn't make sense to me. Does not Paul himself call the overseer to a higher standard of behavior than those he oversees?

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable,able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

I take the statements that the overseer should be "respectable" and "well thought of by outsiders" to be a call for him to adhere to a high enough standard of speech and behavior that he will not confuse, offend, or lead astray one of his sheep or miss the opportunity to minister to someone in need. In my opinion, then, a pastor should not use foul language. He should not tell dirty jokes or use racial slurs. He should use good manners and exhibit modesty in his behavior and moderation in his lifestyle. He should be humble and act like a gentleman, not drawing excessive attention to himself. These are all things I try to do in my own life so as to set a good example for my children; I think my pastor, and pastors in general, should make the same effort for us their sheep. I realize that pastors fail as we all do. But we will all fail less often if we make the effort to begin with.

One final thought. I find it puzzling that sometimes the same people who promote the "Pastors are sinners like the rest of us so don't expect them to behave any better or differently" mantra are the very same people who will blindly follow a pastor simply because he is the pastor and he cannot possibly be at fault. This seems to me a disconnect. If the pastor is a sinner like the next guy, isn't it possible that he has actually somewhere along the way made a mistake or committed a sin? And if so, shouldn't he have that sin pointed out so that he can be brought to repentance and forgiveness like anyone else? And isn't doing so actually a good and positive thing for him (and his sheep) if it leads to a recognition of sin and a change in behavior going forward?

I guess what I am trying to say is that while I realize the man in the clerical suit is a sinful human being, I also look to him as a father figure and teacher, one who has been called to high and holy purpose, and as a result I hope and expect of him certain attributes and behaviors that I don't necessarily expect of the person sitting next to me in the pew. I also hope and expect that when he sins, which he surely does, he does not hide behind his office but readily acknowledges his failings and in so doing models the humility with which we should each approach the cross of our crucified Christ.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


This is my brother. His name is Jerry. He died yesterday at the age of 66.

Quick background: my father was a widower with four children. My mother was divorced with six. They married when Jerry, my father's youngest, was 14. I was born when he was 15. I don't have memories of living in the same house with him, but I do have memories of spending time with him. He loved to go fishing and would take me with him sometimes. I would hand him worms to bait the hook. When he got married he would let me come to the apartment complex where he and his wife lived and stay the night and swim in his pool. When I got a little older I babysat his daughter, my niece, sometimes.

I have several vivid memories of Jerry helping me when I was little. Once when I was swimming in his pool I panicked in the deep water. Before I even started to go under, he was there, pulling me out. Another time something started biting me inside my pants leg. Jerry was the first to hear my screams and come and help me get the pants off so as not to get more stings from the scorpion that had apparently crawled inside.

I remember Jerry's smile and his hearty laugh. He was mischievous and playful and loved to play horseshoes.

Like my dad, Jerry was a smoker and drinker. He contracted lung cancer a few years ago and underwent treatment and surgery that stemmed the cancer's progress. Last month his daughter let me know that he was going to see the doctor due to a return of symptoms. Last week he went in for a biopsy but a few days later had to be admitted to the hospital due to fluid on his bad lung. In rapid succession he was put on a ventilator and went into sepsis before dying yesterday.

My family is a patchwork. I am the only "ours" of a "his, mine and ours" family. To some extent my dad's children seemed more like aunts and uncles to me than siblings. On my mom's "side" the youngest was 7 when I was born, so I spent a good chunk of my childhood living like an only child. Once I grew up, got married and moved to another state, and my dad died, it became harder to maintain a connection with all the pieces of my family, and there have been long stretches where we haven't kept in close contact. I haven't been a very good thread to try to hold this family quilt together.

My brother Jerry is the second of my siblings to die. My father's oldest son died three years ago. I wish I had called Jerry when I first got word that he was not feeling well. I thought there was more time. There wasn't.

I have been looking through old pictures to try to find a picture of me and Jerry together. I haven't found one yet. I will keep looking.

Jerry wasn't a churchgoer but I take comfort in the knowledge that he was baptized into Jesus Christ when he was a child. I pray he was able to cling to that faith at the last. I love you, Jerry. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Monday, August 31, 2015

News to Me

I have a new article at The Federalist today, my second expressing reservations about Donald Trump's presidential run. In the mind of one commenter, that can only mean that I am a member of the Republican establishment out to get Trump. So I started wondering, what exactly does it mean to be a part of the Republican establishment? Well, according to  this article, it means I must be one of the following:

1) A "top GOP lawmaker"

2) A "retired GOP bigshot"

3) A member of the media based in Washington, D.C. or New York City 

4) A "deep pocket" contributor

5) A foreign policy hawk

Hmmm. Since I'm not a lawmaker, I'm not retired, I don't live in D.C. or NYC, and I don't write on foreign policy, that must mean I'm #4: a deep pocket contributor. Now if only someone would tell my pocket! :-)

*Photo credit Steven Depolo

Friday, August 28, 2015

Go Read Another Harper Lee Novel

I finished reading Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman last night. I know some people have reservations about reading it. There is speculation about whether its publication was her will or that of unscrupulous people out to profit from her work, and there is concern about the effect the book will have on the reputation of Lee's masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the book. I would urge reading it on its own merits, for what it has to offer apart from To Kill a Mockingbird. For it certainly has much to recommend it. It was unexpectedly funny. But more important, it is a vividly drawn portrait of a character, Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, who is just as compelling as a grown woman as she was as a young girl. And the theme of initiation, of the realization that the world and its inhabitants are a lot more complicated than they seemed when we were children, is universal. If you as a devotee of To Kill a Mockingbird are worried that your image of Atticus is going to be compromised by reading this book, you are in good company because that is exactly the crisis facing Scout as she visits her hometown in Go Set a Watchman. It is something that we all go through as we become adults and realize our parents are--surprise!--mere human beings. My advice: take Scout's hand, walk alongside her, and see where the journey leads. I think you'll be glad you did.

And if you aren't, I apologize in advance. :-)

Monday, August 24, 2015

For the Insult File

This one could come in handy.

"You are fascinated with yourself. You will say anything that occurs to you, but what I can't understand are the things that occur to you. I should like to take your head apart, put a fact in it, and watch it go its way through the runnels of your brain until it comes out of your mouth."

From Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Image: US cover of Go Set a Watchman. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Friday, August 21, 2015

It's That Time of Year

What time? Back to school time! Here's our plan for sixth grade.

Bible study - Confirmation class at church and Treasury of Daily Prayer at home.

Language Arts - Language Lessons for the Secondary Child, Volume 1 (a Charlotte Mason approach from Sandi Queen)

Handwriting (yes, we still do it in our school) - 44 U. S. Presidents, Zaner-Bloser - Learning about the presidents while continuing to develop cursive writing. We probably won't get all the way to the end, and that's okay. :-)

History - Story of the World, Book 4 (Modern Age)

Vocabulary/Foreign Language - Roots of English, Memoria Press - Latin and Greek roots

Math - Teaching Textbooks 6

Science - I have not purchased a science curriculum this year and don't plan to. Instead we are going to draw on books already on the shelf, including some science biographies and encyclopedias and the creation-based It Couldn't Just Happen. The one new book I did order is this fun looking one about the periodic table. 

Art - I am not artistic so as a homeschool parent have always struggled with this. When my adult children were younger we addressed the need with outside classes. That has not really happened with Evan. But I do want him to have some hands-on art, so rather than try to find (and pay for) a class that will work with our schedule, I am going to teach him myself this year (don't laugh). Again, we have plenty of resources already on the shelf, including Let's Meet Famous Artists, 20 Art Lessons, The Big Yellow Drawing Book, Drawing with Children, and several books in the 1-2-3 Draw seriesI'll probably pull some lessons from all of them. Hey, I said not to laugh.

Applied music - Seismic change here this year. Evan will transition from piano lessons with Mom to piano lessons with Dad. Gulp. Things are getting serious! The fact of the matter is that Mom is not as demanding as Dad (surprise, surprise). Mom does make a pretty good practice coach, though, and that will continue. Organ lessons, which began with Dad this year, will also continue. And of course, choir. Always choir.

Music listening - Another neglected area (sigh). We are going to do some listening to both folk music (I Hear America Singing and Reader's Digest Children's Songbook) and classical music (Meet the Great Composers and Lives of the Musicians). I think I will also draw on the excellent list my friend Susan developed not too long ago.

Physical education - Swimming class once per week at the local swim school, and youth bowling league on Saturday mornings at the local bowling alley. Since I work most Saturday mornings, Dad will be overseeing the latter, starting tomorrow. Evan can't wait.

Coding - Evan loves video games. I mean, he really loves video games. He has also shown some interest in coding and game design. Last year we tried Khan Academy's programming course but ran into some frustrations that led to waning interest. But I would like to encourage what seems to be Evan's natural aptitude in this area. So we are going to try a CD-based course called KidCoder that was developed by some fellow homeschoolers. Here's a review from another blogger.

Last but not least, of course, will be assorted readalouds throughout the year. We'll figure those out as we go, but one will definitely be a biography of Martin Luther during the month of October. :-)