Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dad and numbering our days

Over the past few days, we've learned that Dad is battling an aggressive cancer that has moved pretty far along. We still don't know all of the details. The best guess seems to be melanoma recurring inside his body and metastasizing. They started radiation on his brain today (1st of 10 days). After that, it looks like immuno-therapy for the many tumors in his body.
The odd thing is that his only noticeable symptom was little bits of numbness over the past six weeks and slurred speech a week ago. The good news: no pain. The bad news: the numbness got them looking for the wrong things-- and with no pain, it got a lot further down the road.
We're praying for medicine and what looks like it'd be a miracle. Pray also for my mom and my sister (who are local and thus much more involved)-- that they would have strength for the day. Dad is a tough bird and otherwise has been in really good health. Pray for his continued good spirits and that we may sense the Lord's presence in a special way the next few weeks. Thanks in advance for your prayers.

A few reflections: 
1.) In day-to-day life, I perceive that I err on the Arminian side of things-- trying to take control of things, emphasizing my (hopefully, Spirit-led) free will, etc. In the larger moments of life, I perceive that I err on the Calvinistic side of things-- God's in control; I have little control...all good and well, except that it can move into passivity and fatalism. 

2.) The Lord reminds us through the Psalmist of the wisdom of "numbering our days". We don't know whether Dad has 30 or 3,000 left? Heck, none of us knows if we have 30 or 3,000. Martin Luther is said to have said that if today were his last day, he'd plant a tree. The point? Live every day like you have 3000 left and live every day as if it's your last. Make every day count. 

3.) In one of my small laments about what if Dad dies and we had little warning-- and why God would do that-- it struck me that God gets blamed however we exit. 
a.) If someone is killed suddenly, we're prone to complain that we didn't "get a chance to say goodbye." 
b.) If someone has a long, slow, painful death, we're prone to complain about the pain. 
c.) If Dad dies in 30 days after little pain, how on earth could I complain about that-- at least, next to the alternatives. 
d.) My two grandmothers died at about 90 years old and we had no complaints. Who does, in such circumstances? But we can't all live until 90 and then exit. This would create a number of perverse disincentives. So, what's left? The "system" we have today, within fallen Creation. The punchline: Again, number your days aright. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

letter to an old best friend (on the occasion of his 50th birthday): some biographical memories and reflections on friendship

August 20, 2015

Dear Jon,

Congratulations on reaching the big 5-0! I hope you have a great celebration with family and friends! (You may remember that I beat you to 50 by a few months. For me, it’s so far, so good!)

Ben was thoughtful enough to ask your old and current friends for some memories—and he had a good enough memory to add an old-timer like me to the list. Hopefully, you and yours will enjoy my little contribution...

Although the bulk of my memories of you go back to our days in Malone, there are a handful of others:
-I remember our little family visiting your family in Indy, including time with young Ben & Nathaniel and y’all wrestling with Jen’s cancer. Most of all, I remember Jen and Tonia taking Zach to visit your pediatrician for his “asthma-like condition”. This preceded a tough drive home to Jeffersonville—watching him labor to breathe as we hit heavy traffic south of Indy on I-265 (nothing new under the sun, huh?) and then drove through rural Indiana—two of the scariest hours of my life.

-I remember visiting you and Jen at Duke on my way back to Texas A&M in January 1987. The visit was fine—aside from you two absolutely kicking my arse in Clue. After heading south, I had to return to your apartment, with my stay extended by my clutch’s failure outside of Gibsonville—where a man named Leroy (yes, I still have the receipt; see: enclosed) did lengthy and expensive repairs. After a great Christmas break in No. VA, I was not at all excited about returning for my second semester of grad school, even a week late. But after Leroy and then a freak/providential snowstorm in Birmingham forcing me off the interstate and into an inner-city hotel, I was thrilled to get back to Aggieland.

-We exchanged quite a few letters back in the day, I’m sure. But I can only find one in my files from June 1981 (enclosed). During that time period, I remember your wrestling with leukemia. One weird, little memory: visiting you in the hospital, I twisted a balloon and popped it near you, causing you considerable pain/angst. And I have a distinct memory of crying when I first learned the news about the leukemia. (That’s the second time I remember crying; the first is when my cat Kiki died in Malone.) Remembering it today, tears return to my eyes, reliving some combination of that pain and the joy of your return to full health. I thank God that you’ve reached 50 years!

As for Malone, a whole slew of memories (aside from Simeb)…
-playing baseball and some of its derivatives, esp. with Leo and Chris Benware: in “the field” next to our house; “off the roof” (or whatever creative name we gave it); and reaching over the fence (of the Benware’s porch) to make a home-run-saving catch

-street hockey with Chris Kimberly (?); biking up the “big hill” to your house; were you my partner in crime when I propelled a beechnut with a tennis racket into the side of a car—and then ate Rocky Road ice cream awaiting my semi-probable doom?

-Superstar Baseball (I still have it and all of our box scores!), “League” (I kept a few sheets of this), and the “spinner” baseball game you liked (what was that called?); remember the trips to/from Plattsburgh in the back of the (wood-paneled?) station wagon?

-your parents’ hospitality; your little sis Tina was pretty cool; and holding you down so my sister could kiss you

-Captain and Tennille, right? Shaun Cassidy? BTO? Were there others? Egad! (Oh, you didn’t want people to know about that part of your life? Well, send the hush money sooner next time!)

I guess we met through your Dad’s church; I don’t remember for sure. We’ve traveled different paths since then—and we haven’t seen each other in years. All I know is that you were a dear and crucial friend for me in those Malone years. I was a freak (two years ahead of everybody else in the 7th grade), a newcomer in an insular little town, and a few months from some friendly encounters with Scott Regis.

In his second (excellent) book, Spiritual Friendship, Wesley Hill observes that "Friendship is the freest, the least constrained, the least fixed and determined, of all loves...friendship is entirely voluntary, uncoerced, and unencumbered by any sense of duty or debt." He then quotes C.S. Lewis who said that friendship is "the least instinctive, organic, biological, gregarious and necessary" of the loves.

Friendship may be the least necessary, but it is still of inestimable value. I ended up with a handful of buddies in Malone, but you were my one “friend”. I’ve often told people that “all you need in life” is a few good friends—or even one. And as I share that thought, I always think back to you and our friendship in Malone—when I needed it the most.

I am eternally grateful for your willingness to extend the free hand of friendship to me. May you and yours increasingly experience and exhibit God’s grace…AFA, eric

Jesus and the fear of God

Peter Leithart in Touchstone​: 

On Paul's "Jesus is the beginning of all things", incl. wisdom (Col 1:18) and Solomon's "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Pr 1:7a)...

"If Jesus is the beginning of wisdom, he embodies the fear of the Lord...This Christological perspective fills out our understanding of the fear of God. Jesus does not cower before his Father. Instead, he obeys the Father, and fears disobedience. Jesus never retreats before men. As the embodied fear of God, he is fearless in proclaiming and enacting the kingdom of His Father. To fear God, to pursue the way of wisdom, is to follow Jesus."

love and property

S.M. Hutchens in Touchstone​: 

"Men too often take the treating-women-as-property accusation lying down. Of course men and women wish to regard each other as their property-- that is where the attachment begins. I don't see society rejecting love songs or little candy hearts in which the man invites the woman to "be mine". These slip under the radar of all but the nastiest and most vigilant feminists because they are so natural and lovely that ridding ourselves of them would appear so obviously perverse to normal people.

Real women...can see how men treat property they prize...Their hope is not that their man will not treat them as property, but that they will always be prized...Property or loved one? It is not a case of one or the other."

Friday, September 4, 2015

a Labor Secretary who doesn't understand Labor economics (or is a demagogic tool)

An interview with Labor Secretary Thomas Perez...

What a mess! Is he clueless about Econ101 or pandering to partisans? 

-He admits that economic growth and the labor market are sub-standard, even after seven years of "recovery". Thanks to Bush, and esp. Obama and Congress for their repeated kicks in the shorts to the economy and to marginal people.  

-He doesn't mention the THOUSANDS of dollars that he and the Dems love taking away through FICA taxes from the woman trying to raise her family. Hey pal, quit taking so much money from the working poor. Or if you need to do it, please turn in your "I love the poor" button. 

-He says we need tighter labor markets, but then says he wants to increase the minimum wage. Huh? Sounds like a good test question on my first E340 exam. 

-He cites wages instead of compensation. (Thankfully, he mixes a pie metaphor into his recipe for sophistry.)