Sunday, March 18, 2018

Paul in Rome

Our brief look at the account of the Acts of the Apostles as penned by Luke has brought us to the final few paragraphs in chapter twenty-eight.  Here we find that Paul has finally been transported from the site of the shipwreck on Malta to Rome where he continues to be held prisoner awaiting his hearing before Caesar.  Yet he is permitted to live in a private residence under the oversight of a Roman guard.

Shortly after his arrival in Rome Paul invites the members of the Jewish community in the city to confer with him in his home.  Many having heard of the religious sect Paul represents, likely as much through curiosity as anything else, show up to hear what Paul has to say.  It is worth noting that many of these Jews were no doubt devout followers of the Law and having heard of "Christianity" did not deem it to be a new religion, but labelled it a "sect" which is to say that though it may present new thought it did not deny the Law. The upshot of these meetings with Paul were much like a modern day presentation of the Gospel in that some accepted the teachings and became followers of Christ and many did not.

It is interesting to note that here ends Luke's account without reference or explanation as to what happened to Paul after the two-year detention in Rome.  And why, I asked myself, is that the case.  I think at least two factors should be considered. First, The Acts is not about Paul!  It is true that Paul is a principal character throughout the book, but the Acts is about Jesus Christ and the dissemination of the Gospel throughout the Gentile world.  Second, I believe that the end of Paul's detention probably was also the end of Luke's connection to Paul's life and Luke wrote only about events of which he had first-hand knowledge.  I could be wrong on the second point, but I think not on the first.

The pastoral epistles of Paul along with contemporary non-scriptural literature give us some information regarding Paul's ministries beyond his first captivity in Rome and perhaps his ultimate demise.  But that lies beyond the scope of this lesson and would require in-depth study to ferret out the desired information.

Point to ponder:  I stated above that the Book of Acts is about Jesus Christ and the spreading of the Gospel.  Is it not the case that the entire canon of Scripture from Genesis through the Prophets, the Gospels, the letters of Paul, and finally The Revelation is about Jesus Christ and the Good News of Salvation?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Conversations With Random People --23

Monday following the encounter in the general store I stopped at the accountant's office to pick up my completed tax returns.  Yikes.

The lady who went over the details with me was a former student, junior high math, 1969-1971.

A block up the street to visit the post office where I needed to post a letter, thus standing behind the guy who was at the counter.  He turned and greeted me.

"Just yesterday a friend was admiring my chess board and your name came up in the conversation."

"Really?  Do you still play chess?"

"Well, I have some really nice chess sets."

"Likewise," I remarked.  "But I fear my game is pretty much gone."

"I know when I used to play against you that the best I could hope for was to drag it out as long as I could, because I knew what was coming in the end."

"The end?"

"Yeah.  Did you make the other guys play a game before you paddled them, or was I special?"

"Oh, you were special, no doubt."  Dorothy, the postal clerk, is grinning at this point.  "The question is, Did it do you any good?"

The people lined up behind us were clearly being entertained.

"You were the first teacher I ever heard swear."

"Say what?  When did you ever hear me swear?"

"On the bus lot at dismissal.  I threw an egg at a girl, hit her, too.  You were looking around to see who did it and I stepped up and said, I threw the egg.  You said, Mr. T, Monday morning first thing, my office.  Your ass is grass and I'm the lawnmower."

"I might have said that, I assented.  "So what happened on Monday?"

"Well, you went pretty easy on me, because the girl's mother had called and told you that her daughter had it coming!"

As we turned to walk out of the building he said, "I wouldn't have that job these days."

"Nor would I.  When I was principal I thought I had the best job in the world.  Still think so, but I wouldn't last an hour nowadays."

Farewells, nice talking with you, good to see you, and so on.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Conversations With Random People --22

Encountered a pleasant old gentleman in the middle of the aisle at our local general store.  "Nice cane," he said.  "My dad made one much like that.  Did you make yours?"

"It's a grapevine," I replied.  "Didn't have to do much but cut it and sand it."

"Dad was a section hand on the railroad forty-two years.  I worked with him several years."

(One never knows where these random encounters are going to lead.)

"I had an uncle who was a section foreman on the Santa Fe for 39 years."

"Oh.  Where was that?"

"Colorado.  Where did you work?"

"Here, on the north-south line.  Things sure have changed; everything used to be done by hand, even filling signal lamps with kerosene.  There was a cold job in the wintertime!  Say, didn't you used to be a teacher?"

"Surely was."

"Yeah, my kids went to school to you."


" Tammy O and Scott O.  Everyone called him Porky.  Still do.  He was born on Groundhog Day, so his grandpa called him Porky and it stuck."

"I always wondered how he got that nickname," I said.

Followed the questions about how his kids were doing now, did he have grandchildren (6, and 4 greats) and so on.  Fun way to spend a few minutes on a snowy morning.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Paul on Malta

You have completed the reading assignment in Acts 27 and have experienced the thrill of riding out a storm, culminating in shipwreck.

All souls on board escaping safely from the ship, we read on into chapter 28 that the crew, the passengers, and the prisoners, of whom Paul was one, find themselves on the island of Malta.  The inhabitants, heathens, were kind to these people, built a fire to warm them and dry them out.  Paul, ever industrious, participated in the gathering of firewood to build up the fire, as it was a great crowd of wet and shivering people.

Now as Paul extended his load of fuel over the fire it seems the viper within his bundle of sticks was stirred into life, probably resented being tossed into the fire, latched onto Paul's hand.  The natives figured that one out real quickly as the snake was highly poisonous and few survived its venom.  "Aha! This man must be a murderer and the goddess of justice has decreed his death in the sea, but having escaped that, she now establishes that he is to die by serpent!"

But he shook the snake off, did not swell, and did not die.  Amazement!  Paul must be a god!  So they took him to their leader, one Publius by name, which boss man's father lay ill.  Paul laid hands on him, prayed over him, and he was healed.  So then all those on the island who were ill made their way to Paul, and they were likewise healed.

So after three months the travelers took passage on a ship to Rome.

Note a few things.

1)  God may use bad things to good ends.  (The shipwreck, the snakebite)
2)  Paul's prayer and laying on of hands resulted in healing of Publius's father.  Over the next three months many others who were ill were also healed.  It is not clear to me how much of this healing was miraculous and how much may have been the result of Dr. Luke's performance as a medical missionary.   God's healing power is often delivered through human hands.  In any event, it was in the will of God and no doubt led to dissemination of the Gospel of Jesus and the conversion of many.
3)  Surely God has a plan in seeing Paul to Rome.

Continue your reading in Acts 28.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Eat Mor Kalekin, Revisited

I was entertaining myself last evening by reading over some posts from the past.  I find that my outlook has not changed since I wrote this little item three years ago.  Nor has the outlook of big business-- unless it has gotten even greedier.

According to our Saturday newspaper, a man in Vermont received a letter from Chik-fil-A demanding that he “cease and desist” from using the slogan “Eat more kale.”  Motivated to protect his rights, the man patented the phrase and defied the company.  Enter the lawyers. The ruling has come down, and mirabile dictu, the man prevailed.  He may make all the T-shirts and bumper stickers with the slogan he wishes.  Oh, well.  As the C-f-A spokeslady said, “Cows eat kale, too.”  Which seems to me to be a non sequitur, but what do I know?

Why strange?  Because it is virtually unheard of for an individual to go up against a big corporation and win his case.  I, many decades after the fact, hold a resentment toward a certain purveyor of fast food, think happy meal, and Ronald.  A block north of my father’s residence in a small town not far from here, there was a restaurant called “Mac’s.”  Yes, they specialized in hamburgers and fries and such.  Comes the Oak Brook megachain to town, building one of its eyesores about three blocks to the west of Mac’s, and jumping with all its feet and force on Mac’s, hauling them into court, claiming that Mac’s was operating in violation of the corporation’s ownership of the world, so to speak.  The ugly monstrosity won, and Mac’s has been out of business ever since.

Which is not where I was headed when I started the kale story, but my mind is easily distracted in my old age.

Chik-fil-A does not open on Sunday, a choice they made and of which I approve.  They say, in effect, it allows a day in which their employees may worship or spend time with family.  Christian values, don’t you see?  But on the other hand, suing someone who will not bend to their will is perfectly fine.  It’s the American way, don’t you know?  It probably is just me, but the juxtaposition of these positions seems incongruous.  Yes, that’s it.  It is just me.

Today's verse:   And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.  --Luke 11:46 (RSV)

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Ice Queen

I graduated UT mid-term.  I am a substitute teacher with daily hopes that a full-time position will 
open for me.  I work almost exclusively at Jay Bird Middle School.  That is not the school's real name, and I did not choose it in honor of any avian creature, if you know what I mean.

Jay Bird is one of three middle schools that feed our local institution of secondary learning, Napoleon North High School.  Napoleon, Texas (don't look for it on the map, for I made that up, too) is in the middle of the state if anyplace is and whatever that means.  Suffice it to say that any place in Texas is at least five hundred miles from some other place in Texas.

Jay Bird has a full-time teaching staff of 51.  The teacher attendance rate averages 96%.  A bit of simple arithmetic will show you why, since I have become the principal's favorite sub, I work virtually full time at half the salary of a beginning teacher.  But I digress.  This is to be a story, not a diatribe.  Student attendance is worse, averaging 91%.  The Board of Education has tried various measures up to and including suspensions and expulsions for absenteeism, thereby giving the little birds exactly what they wanted.  The current policy simply encourages each teacher to do his best with each child with the goal being to send him on to high school at the end of his eighth grade year.

There exists the story of a high school star basketball player who has attended fewer than 30 days of school in the past six years, but that is no doubt apocryphal  and not to be believed.  Besides that is not the story I am telling here.

I am an eighth grade math teacher this week, a class I rather enjoy inasmuch as the teacher is top-notch and her plans are always up to snuff, and I don't have to wing it as I do with some.  Wednesday second lunch I am "on duty" in the courtyard, keeping an eye on the kids as they eat their sandwiches or ramen noodles, or whatever the day's offering might be.  Third lunch is my lunch time, but I usually stay in the courtyard sitting at a table off to the side, munching my salad and reading my latest penny dreadful.

Miranda, who is in my seventh period class, sits alone at the table to the left.  Her long dark hair hangs somewhat across her face and she has a rather vacant look about her.  Sophie sits at the next table beyond, also by herself.  Sophie's blonde hair is coiffed in the very latest style and so lacquered that it wouldn't move in a cat 3 hurricane.  Her artfully torn and shredded jeans no doubt cost the equivalent of three of my days' pay.  Her platform shoes are ridiculous beyond description.   I hear a long slurp as Sophie  sucks the last of her drink from the bottom of the paper cup.  This is followed by two quick make-sure slurps, then she rises from the bench and saunters toward Miranda.  She pauses briefly behind the girl, turns her cup and deliberately pours the ice over Miranda's head.  Then she strolls on

Miranda sits at table, ice chips sparkling in her hair, cascading down her shoulders, and smiles.  That's all.  She just smiles-- doesn't even brush the stuff off her hair or clothes.

Thursday, third lunch, same setting, same actors.  Same skit played out.  After Sophie was back in the building, I walked over to Miranda and sat across from her.  "Miranda, tell me.  Why is it that you simply sit there quietly when Sophie pours ice over you?" 

"Oh, that's easy.  Sophie's chauffeur drops her off and picks her up every day.  She don't have any friends, sits alone at lunch.  It's sad.  But her little joke gives her a couple minutes of pleasure, I'm happy for her."

"But why don't you join her and talk to her?"

"Oh, she wouldn't want to talk to someone like me.  And besides, it would spoil her fun."

As the kids were passing between classes after sixth period, Sophie walked by my door.  "One second, Sophie."  She stopped.  "Sophie, why do you baptize Miranda with your ice chips every day?"

Sophie snorted.  "Silly cow," she said.  "The lump just sits there smiling, never says a word.  Maybe if she'd get up and smack me or something I'd quit, but in the meantime, it amuses me!"

"Did you ever try to talk to her, maybe sit at table with her?"

"Seriously?  Are you kidding me?  No one, I mean no one, in this dump talks to me."

"I'm talking to you."

Sophie spun on her platforms and disappeared down the hall.

Friday, third lunch period.  Patio seating, same principals.

Sophie slurped her drink from the bottom of the cup and stood.  She walked slowly behind Miranda, but she did not dump the ice on her head.  She continued toward me and I saw Miranda stand and step behind the bench.  She started toward me, too.  Just as Sophie disappeared from my peripheral vision, I felt the ice chips pouring through my hair and down my back!  Miranda caught up with Sophie, they linked arms and hooted with laughter as they hastened to the entryway.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

On Stormy Seas

In chapter 27 of the Acts of the Apostles we read this account.  Paul and other prisoners were being transported to Rome on a ship from Alexandria.

The wind being unfavorable allowed for but little progress for many days.  Finally they came upon a place called The Fair Havens, near the city Lasea.

There they spent much time, to the point that sailing was dangerous, the season nearing winter.

Paul told those in charge, "Don't do it.  There will be loss of goods and the ship and perhaps our very lives."  They believed their own counsel more than they heeded Paul (I mean, he was a preacher, after all) so they set sail.  Encountering a soft South wind they supposed that they were in good shape; but then they encounter Euroclydon!  Euroclydon, or in today's parlance, Gregalia, is a severe and nasty nor'easter with which the Mediterranean is often afflicted in the wintertime. 

They struck sail, cast out the tackling to lighten ship and saw neither sun nor stars in many days.  All hope was lost.

Yet after while, Paul stood up and said, "I told you so!  You should have listened to me in the first place.  But now I am telling you, Cheer up!  There will be no loss of life, but only the ship.  How do I know?  An angel of the God whom I serve stood by me and told me to have no fear, for I must stand before Caesar, and none of us will perish!  But we will be cast upon a certain island.   And I believe my God!"

So beginning with the twenty-seventh verse, we are regaled with the exciting account of the shipwreck and the preservation of all 276 people on board.


1.  Not all fair havens are safe havens.
2.  We are to be cheerful, for God is faithful.
3.  Hope is the anchor of the soul.  (Matthew Henry)

Friday, March 2, 2018

Telephony, or Tell A Phony

The telephone was conceived as a convenience.  We pay considerable money for telephone service.  It is, therefore, our telephone line, our number.  It is a pain in the neck.

Just when I start to give people the benefit of the doubt, someone somehow removes the doubt.  People are jerks.  Well, a lot of them, apparently.  I really want to think that people are good, and kind, and caring, and respectful of others.  Not so much anymore.

Telephone abuse.  Let me preface this by saying, yes, all our phone lines are listed on the "do not call" registry.  So what? The same type people who will hack your computer will abuse your telephone.  Some weeks the only calls received in my home are unsolicited solicitors, and most of them are disembodied voices.  "Hi, I'm Elizabeth," and so on.  Try talking to Elizabeth.  Also, guess who is paying for my telephone service.  Oh, wait.  I already told you.

Then we have the pharmacy.  Wakes me up at 9:01 a.m. to tell me my prescription is ready at. . . And so on.  I know I ordered the meds; I know when I plan to pick it up.  Leave me alone!

And the medical profession generally.  "We are calling to remind you that you have an appointment with. . ."  Calendar.  They cannot imagine that I keep a calendar?  What is the matter with people?  Also, after the appointment, "Do you have a few minutes to answer some questions regarding your recent visit to ____ Medical Facility?"  No.  I wasted enough time in the waiting room when I was there.

Then there are the calls we initiate.  Disembodied voice:  "If you are a current customer. . . press 1; if you. . ." and so on and so on.  "If you want to hear this menu again. . ."  Yikes!  Then press five to talk to a customer service representative.  "All our associates are currently busy with other customers.  We value you. . . please hold. . ."  (Elevator music; bad elevator music)

Well, you have been there.  Too often if your life is like ours; but then perhaps things are better where you live.  If you are on another planet.

Okay, good night.  I must get to bed, try to get some rest because "they" are coming to arrest me in the morning.  That's what I was told.  "You have four violations on your recent tax return and if you don't call this number today, you WILL be arrested in the morning!"  (I said, "Bring it on!"  But of course I was talking to the disembodied voice.)