Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Funeral thoughts

Some days have more than their share of sadness.

My friend Jim passed away Saturday morning (for the story of his illness, see "Dying Lessons," below.) I went to his funeral today.

This morning, I got on my computer and checked my email while preparing to go to Jim's funeral. One of my best friends from Texas--the little brother I never had--sent me an email letting me know that his sister was murdered by a roommate a couple of weeks ago.

Actually, his email consisted of a web link to an Arizona newspaper carrying the coverage of her funeral. He was the one who gave the eulogy, and was quoted extensively in the piece. I was shocked to read of her death--she was only 20.

So ten minutes of poking through that particular paper's website produced the news: she had recently moved into the Phoenix area. A high school friend moved to the same area a few weeks later, and she let him stay with her and another female roommate for a few days while he got his feet on the ground. At some point in mid-July, he had a psychotic episode, hearing voices, etc., and stabbed her to death.

So: I wrote him as encouraging an email as I could manage, left him a voicemail, and went to the funeral.

After the funeral, one of my acquaintances from church and work went home and got the news that his mother died this morning.

And when I was working out this afternoon, my trainer--who ALSO goes to our church here in Grayson--told me that his aunt had passed away this past weekend.

Some days just have more than their share of sadness. Some days, I wish I'd never left the house.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

GO FIGURE! (The drama continues . . .)

Alright, so we're having all this drama with our vehicles. We've settled on a plan. We're going to get the engine replaced in the Escort, which should cost around $700. And a friend has a 1997 Chevy Lumina (not a sexy car, but it runs) that he's had for sale for several months, he wants $700 for it.

Simple, right?

My friend was going to bring the car to my office last night and let me drive it for a day or two before I paid him for it. He ended up having to go to the doctor yesterday, so he didn't bring it by. He told me over the phone: "Don't worry, I'll bring it over tomorrow."

Then he arrived at his office this morning and someone who had looked at the Lumina a few weeks ago had left a check for $700 on his desk. So the vehicle is sold--TO SOMEONE ELSE. Not me.

If you look at it long enough, you'd think that God has some pretty specific ideas about what he wants us to be driving and NOT driving. Don't ask me why.

Now, mind you: I didn't WANT the Lumina. Like I said, it's a very plain, "old man" (no offense intended to you Lumina owners out there) kind of car. But it fit our budget, would have been good on gas, etc. And now we are in the position of STILL needing a second vehicle, STILL waiting on the mechanic to do the work on the Escort, etc.

Anybody got a good used car they'll sell cheap?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Two Reviews of My Monograph

My monograph, Leadership Succession in the World of the Pauline Circle, has been reviewed in two forums (that I know of) over the past several months.

Ron Clark has written a good, detailed review in RBL. He says some very kind things about the book, and recommends it for both biblical studies and ministry classes.

And Charles Talbert, my Doktorvater, informed me last week that a new review is out in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 68 (2006), 554-555. The CBQ review was written by a personal hero of mine, Robert Kysar. I've been reading Kysar's work for years now, and it was a great thrill to have my work reviewed so positively by him.

(After I read Kysar's review, my wife said I walked around for about an hour "grinning like an idiot" [her words, and she didn't mean them unkindly.])

Dying lessons

Shortly after my family and I moved to Grayson, J., one of the elders at the church we attend (First Church of Christ, an instrumental [as opposed to a capella] Christian Church/Church of Christ) was involved in a motorcycle accident.

While the doctors were treating J for the injuries he sustained in the accident, they discovered something serious: cancer. (I think it's stomach cancer, but I'm not certain.) The disease was advanced enough that they began to treat it aggressively, and to no avail. Trips to the great Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, etc., followed--again, to no avail.

Some time that next spring (Spring 2004), J's condition became serious enough that everyone thought he was going to die soon. But instead, he rallied, became stronger. And for the last two years, he has been vigorous and active. Even as his body was losing its fight to cancer, it was clear to anyone with eyes to see that J wasn't being defeated.

Now J is (apparently) at death's door. My understanding is that he hasn't eaten in more than a week, and he's only been awake and lucid for a few minutes every day--and that the last of those lucid periods was several days ago.

It's been amazing to watch J as he has lived with his death sentence. I don't know him terribly well, but I've been in Bible studies with him, talked with him between services and at special church events over the past couple of years, etc.

What I've observed is a man who knows what is in store for him, the good and the bad, and is at peace with ALL of it. Someone who knew that there was incredible pain and misery in his future, and--while not looking forward to that misery with eager anticipation--faced it with courage, hope, and good humor, because he knew that it would be only temporary.

Someone who felt like the death sentence he'd received gave him the license to love people with fewer reservations. Someone who no longer had to think twice about speaking his mind--and yet who was usually gentle and loving in the way he spoke it.

Someone who, as he was dealing with the worst things life could throw at him, was able to serve better and more faithfully than most of us who deal with far less.

Death can make us into heroes, or it can make us into cowards. Because of his faith, J let it make him into a hero. I am humbled by his example.

Stop Me Before I Own an Internal Combustion Engine Again!

You know the story about the Boston Strangler, who wrote a note to the police: "Stop me before I kill again"? Well, I feel like that: "Stop me before I touch an internal combustion engine again."

As of Saturday: this summer, I have replaced EVERYTHING I own that uses a gasoline engine.

OK, so we're surviving all the vehicular drama, right? We've replaced the dear, departed SUV. A very generous friend has loaned me his Chrysler Sebring convertible. (I DIG convertibles, you know? The wind rushing through what's left of my hair, etc. I have a sunburn on my forehead and scalp from driving the thing all weekend.) And we should be purchasing a second vehicle of our own this week, which means I'll be kissing the convertible goodbye.

So guess what happened Friday? My lawn mower blew up.

I've owned the same Snapper mower since 1994. It was a REALLY nice mower when I got it, list price of over $500. The last couple of years, we've had it in the shop a few times: the drive system breaking, gunk in the fuel system, etc. We've probably spent $250 on repairs over the last couple of years, which is about what a similar mower would cost from Sears or Home Depot.

So I've been planning on replacing it before next spring. I just hoped I could get another summer out of it, you know?

Friday, it started ok. It ran ok for a minute or two, and then a knocking sound (metal banging on metal) started coming out of the engine. Trust me, that's not a good thing.

I knew the minute that the knocking started that something bad had happened inside the mower. And I knew I wasn't going to put it in the shop again. So I just let it run, kept right on mowing.

To the eternal credit of Briggs & Stratton (who make the engines for Snapper), the mower ran for almost an hour with the knocking before it finally died. And when it DID die, it died a spectacular grand opera death: the side of the crankcase broke open, spraying oil EVERYWHERE.

From what I can see without tearing the whole thing apart, the piston rod has broken through the side of the crankcase. I don't know what happens to cause that: maybe the bearing broke at the bottom of the rod, causing the piston on the downstroke to crash through the side of the crankcase?


Anyway. Now, everything I own that uses a gasoline engine has been replaced in the course of a single month.