Saturday, February 28, 2009

That's All Folks!

Myriad Shades of Gray has moved to...

There will be no further posts to this location. Please reset your bookmarks and RSS feeds or resubscriobe ny email at the new site.

Thanks to all who have read this blog. Please be so kind as to continue with me at Wordpress.

Blessings... Dennis A. gray

Friday, February 27, 2009

I'm Moving...

Hey everyone,

Just a quick note to let you know that starting Sunday, March 1st, 2009 I am moving 'Myriad Shades of Gray' to Wordpress.  The same title but with a different look and a little more content. I'm afraid those of you who are subscribers will have to re-subscribe, but it is just as simple as before so I hope you will stay with me.

The reason for the move is simple enough; Wordpress offers a few more options and I am looking to do a little more with the blog.  Java and Jesus will stay here at Blogger for the time being but will likely move sometime later this spring or summer.

After today all new posts will be at the new 'Myriad Shades of Gray' the address for which is..

So please drop by soon and comment on the new look and additional pages.

Thanks for your support everyone.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

A last Minute Invite...

So, what are you doing on Sunday morning?

If you're going to be in the Guelph area then I'd like to invite you to drop around toWestminister-St. Paul's Presbyterian Church. The regular Sunday service starts at 10:30am.

If you do you'll get a chance to hear yours truly give a little presentation called "At the Marriage Feast with Mordecai ."  What is it? I'll let the church bulletin explain...

"The presentation Dennis will do, offers a midrash (a Jewish story amplifying a biblical text) on the text of John 2: 1-11 (the wedding feast at Cana, where Jesus performs his first miracle – turning water into wine).  The story is told from the perspective of a participant at the marriage feast, specifically one, Mordecai, uncle of the groom.  This original presentation, researched, written and recounted by Dennis Gray, fills in much of the cultural detail around Jewish marriage that John’s first readers would, of course, have known, but which most readers of John’s gospel today do not."

I'm not a big fan of blowing my own horn, but hey, one needs to get the word out somehow. Besides, I'd like to get the chance to meet some of you and that's only going to happen if you know where I'll be. So please, drop on by and introduce yourself.
Here's a map showing where to find WSP.

Until next time...  see you in church.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Give It a Second...

Came across this video today at The Long Now Foundation.  It is a great commentary of increasing impatience with technology.

I'll be the first to admit I have an obsession with technology.  There is little that gives me more satisfaction than finding the right technology to simplify a task.  But as Louis CK points out, I think my fascination is born out of the fact that I remember when we had the dial phones. I remember my aunt who was on a party line and I had to wait until the neighbour was finished before I could make my call. I remember going to Malton Airport in Toronto for an afternoon to do nothing other than watch the planes come and go, amazed that something that big and heavy could actually fly.

Yeah. I know. I'm showing my age. But that's okay. I've waited a long time to be this old and experienced and I'm going to relish every minute of it. So have a little patience, it wasn't all that long ago the cell phone in your hand was the stuff of science fiction.

Till next time... give it a second!

Friday, February 20, 2009

My Left Foot - the Saga Continues...

For those of you who are interested, the progress on my left foot is going well. I am now walking freely in the AirCast® (Das Boot), only using the cane for uneven or slippery terrain (winter is not a great season for crutches).

I have also been given permission to start putting a little weight on the foot when I'm not wearing Das Boot. This means I need to use my crutches so that the bulk of my weight is shifted off my left foot. We are still working on range of motion development - strength building will come later.

The best part about this is that I can now start thinking about the bicycle again. I've been doing 20 minute, resistance free sessions on the exercise bike during my physio sessions (wearing Das Boot). Today, Laurie (my physio-therapist) asked me if I have an exercise bike at home I could use.

I don't, but rather than getting one I have decided to pick up a trainer to use with my Trek 7100. For those who don't know, a trainer lifts the back wheel a few inches off the ground so that you can 'train' on the bike indoors during the winter. With variable resistance settings it should do the job quite nicely. I'm thinking of a magnetic trainer, tire drive, with or without the remote cable; probably a Blackburn® or a Cycleops®. (Blackburn pictured at right)

Here's the pitch, always looking to save a dollar or two, and being a firm believer in reuse/recycle, I'm wondering if there's anyone out there (in the Guelph, Ontario area) that has a trainer in the garage or the basement that you'd be willing to sell for a fair price?

Yes, I know all about Craiglist and eBay, but not everyone posts to sites such as these, and it would be nice to see if I can deal with someone I know. So I'm putting out the feelers to see what comes back. So if you have such a beast kicking around (or know someone who does) and you or they are more likely to go cycling with Barack Obama than use the trainer any time soon, please give me a shout in the comments section and we'll talk.

Until next time.... Keep on pedalin'

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why Did 1234567890 Day Matter?

As the title of this post implies some of you have been asking, "Who cares if the Unix Epoch Clock reaches 1234567890? It doesn't really affect anything." And to be fair, that's true, it doesn't. But, it does provide an opportunity to gain a little numerical perspective.

Like most of you I've been listening to all the numbers being bandied about regarding the stimulus/bailout/please-keep-our-collective-asses-out-of-the-fire package. It always strikes me odd the way people talk about $300 billion or $750 billion and most of us really have little concept about just how much money that is. We know it' s a immensely huge amount of money, but can any of us in the everyday world relate to these kind of numbers.

Well, consider this: Let's say that back on January 1st, 1970 you and a few buds were asked to count out the $350 billion the government was planning to give the auto industry. So the lot of you started counting, working in shifts 24 hours a day seven days a week, every day of the year including leap year, counting at a rate of 1 dollar per second non-stop.

That means that yesterday at 6:31:30pm EST you would have only counted $1.2 billion dollars!! that just 0.34% of the entire $350,000,000,000. It will be 4:30 am EST on May18th, 2033 before you finish counting the second billion! With that in mind try to imagine for a second what a trillion dollars looks like because that's what some are suggesting the stimulus package will be in total when all is said and done. (BTW - You'll finish counting a trillion somewhere around the year 33670. yeah, that's right - 5 digits!)

I have often thought that when we stopped doing accounting by hand, with the endless hours of spreadsheet tabulations and the tickida-tickida-tickida of the adding machines ringing in our ears, and let the computers do it for us in the blink of an eye, we lost our sense of perspective on just how much we were spending. The quick flash of numbers on a screen does not compare to miles of paper tape rolling out of a desktop calculator to make us turn to the powers that be and cry, "Oh my GOD! Are you insane?" There's just something about doing things manually that helps keep the universe in perspective.

Until next time ... hopefully sometime before 1266207752...


Image Credit: Life Magazine

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Feb 13th !

Well boys and girls, it's Friday, February 13th and we all know what that means don't we?

No! Not the Triskaidekaphobia thing. By no means. No, today is the day that Epoch time hits a major milestone - let the partying commence! Geeks the world over will observe this moment in geek friendly pubs and taverns I assure you.

What is Epoch time you ask? Well it's actually a fairly simple thing primarily of interest only to Unix geeks. Back in the day when computing was young it was decided that some kind of universal time code was required to help keep all the world's computing systems in sync. And so the word went forth and Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) was created. At midnight January 1st, 1970 the UTC clock was started and it has been ticking away ever since., one second at a time ignoring all the variances of human time (such as leap seconds) tracking the passage of universal time.

Well today, over 1.2 billion seconds later, at about 6:30pm EST, the Epoch clock will read "1234567890" and Unix geeks will solemnly observe the moment. It is, I admit, only one second among billions, but hey - any excuse for a party right?

If you'd like to observe the moment yourself you can find a countdown clock (count up?) HERE.

And if your in the neighbourhood, here's a short list of available celebrations - Enjoy!

Image credit: Epoch Time clock available from

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Warning: Blogging can be Habit Forming!

It has been just over a month since I started blogging again and I have made a discovery. Blogging (for me anyway) is like potato chips - I can't write just one!

Here's the deal. Back in November I purchased a new study Bible - the ESV Study Bible (English Standard Version) published by Crossway. I've used a number of different study Bibles over the years and this is one of the nicest I've seen. The translation is a literal translation but with more than the usual attention given to sentence structure and syntax making it more readable than say, the NASB (New American Standard Bible). The extras are top notch, the contributors the best in their fields, and the artwork is amazing. You can check it out at the link above.

During my recent recovery period, I started reading the book of Matthew in the ESV and it wasn't long before I started thinking about the work I left unfinished at my blog 'Java and Jesus'. I found that I wanted to finish the work, and so, after some prayer and contemplation, I have decided I shall.

And so starting today I shall once again be posting to on a regular basis. How regular, I'm not sure, but I will pick up where I left off with little fanfare and a lot of trepidation. If you enjoyed what I posted before, or are intrigued by what you've read here, I invite you to join me. If you know of anyone who used to read J&J then please pass this along and let them know it has started up again.

That's it for now... see you over there, and here as well.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Then as I End the Refrain...

When I was a child my mother did her level best to instill me with a love of literature, especially drama and poetry. In my teenage years I rebelled of course, but the fact remains that as I grew older the power of her influence made itself known. Her efforts bore more fruit than she might ever have imagined.

One of my favorite performances, introduced to me by my mother, is Jose Ferrer in the title role of the 1950 movie 'Cyrano de Bergerac.' Based on a play is about the romantic trials of a French swordsman, poet and attendee of the Royal Court, the story line will form the basis for Steve Martin's movie Roxanne. (Trivia note: Jose Ferrer was the father of
Miguel Ferrer who, among other things, played Dr. Garret Macy in 'Crossing Jordan'.)

In order that the rest of this post might have some context, here is a clip of my favorite scene from the movie...

The other day the poem composed by Cyrano during the duel came to my memory as I sat before my computer bemoaning my current situation (see former posts - tags 'surgery', 'Achilles tendon') I found myself inspired to attempt a small parody of my own. And so I present for your consideration Dear Reader a humble offering which I entitle...

The Musings of a Gimp after Watching Cyrano De Bergerac
By Dennis Gray

Lightly I walked ‘cross the boards that day
To fasten my work to the backstage wall
Not seeing the black hole that lay in my way
That soon would become the site of my fall.

A snap of a tendon, the slap of my heel,
A shriek of pain and a retching moan.
A shock from my head to my toes I feel,
Then comes a brand new refrain - I’m stuck home!

My foot in a cast, my heart in a sling
I hobble, I stumble, I shuffle, I crawl.
Each day becomes a laborious thing
As each second is marked by the clock on the wall.

A visitor comes! Oh Callooh! Oh Callay!
We talk for a while of the places they roam.
A movie we watch and then - on their way,
And once more the soulful refrain - I’m stuck home!

Outside of my window the traffic flows past
While inside the boredom I try to forestall;
I blog and I email, play hits from the past,
Get beaten in Scrabble by words like ‘quetzal.’

They take me physio - they bend and they stretch
On a modern day rack made of vinyl and chrome.
They say I’m a ‘picture’ - I feel more like a sketch,
Again comes the endless refrain - I’m stuck home!

Dear Friend, think of me, sojourning through trouble
As I ponder a name for this four-wall syndrome
And perhaps you might bring me a large double-double
For yet I still sing the refrain - I’m stuck home!

With apologies to Edmond Rostand, until next time...


Friday, January 30, 2009

At last... Some freedom

Good news from my physiotherapist today. I can start to put weight on my left foot!

Now of course this doesn't mean I can go around running marathons or anything, but I can move from one room to the next with only the one crutch or my cane. Which makes me much more mobile. Struggling to keep my balance on one foot and the like while I was on the 'no weight at all' restriction was a real challenge some times. Now I can use the left foot (still in the storm trooper boot of course) to balance myself out, so I can stand for a while and do things. And as long as the single crutch or the cane is taking most of the weight (75%) I can walk a few steps. For long distances I need both crutches.

Of course with this also comes a new set of exercises. I'm starting on the stretching exercises now to keep the scar tissue on my tendon from hardening and restricting my range of motion. There is some discomfort after the exercises which is why I have to stay off my feet for a while after I've done them, but it will, as they say, be worth it. I'm beginning to feel more optimistic about being able to participate in the Ride to Conquer Cancer in June.

It also means I'll be able to get out a bit more, though for the most part I'm still looking at taking cabs most places. Problem is... it's winter. If it was anytime in late spring to early fall, I'd just hobble my way on crutches to the bus stop and off I'd go. But snow, ice and crutches aren't a terrific mix. I'm concerned about making it to the bus stop safely. So until the snow clears, or they allow full weight bearing on the foot I need to pick my rides carefully.

Speaking of which, I really want to thank those of you who have been helping me through this. The rides, the visits etc. have all been just great. I have a new appreciation for the simple joy of just being able to talk with someone over coffee for a while. Thank you so much.

Well, I guess that's it for now. I'm off to Guelph Little Theatre tonight to watch "The Curious Savage." Apparently it's a pretty good show. Nice sound effects.

Until next time... Shalom.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Samson in the 24th 1/2 Century?

This just in...

Variety reports that Warner Bros. is planning a futuristic retelling of the story of Samson & Delilah. The full article can be read here.

I have mentioned before that I enjoy looking at the gospel and the stories of the Bible from different perspectives because it causes you to take a fresh look at things you might be taking for granted. So in some regards this project intrigues me. It has a strong director, Francis Lawrence (I am Legend), and a good writer, Scott Silver (8 Mile, X-Men:Origins), so as a movie it likely won't be a complete disaster. The question is; how well will the original point of the story come across? Or if you like; how much will the sub-plots created to support the Sci-Fi environment get in the way?

Biblical movies, or movies inspired by Biblical stories are usually a mixed blessing. As I said, while they can provide a fresh vision of the story allowing us to rethink some of our preconceived notions, they can also, and this happens a lot, get so caught up in the subplots design to make a "better story" out of it that the real purpose of the tale is lost in translation.

Cecil B. DeMille's
'Ten Commandments' is a good example. So much time is spent on the love triangle story involving Moses (Charlton Heston) and the Egyptian princess Nefretiri (Anne Baxter) and Rameses (Yul Brynner) that the 40 years wandering in the desert is reduced to a single line of dialog in the last moments of the film. Despite this drawback however, I must give DeMille his due. He doesn't mess with the basic Biblical story, he either had to much respect for the Scriptures to do that or he knew he'd have the combined wrath of Christian and Jewish clergy to deal with if he did. He did however, love to embellish the story with as much extra material as he could get away with; after all, nothing sells a movie like a good love triangle.

He did the same thing seven years earlier when he made 'Samson and Delilah' starring Victor Mature and Hedy Lemarr. It's done in true DeMille style, great costumes, lavish sets, lots of special effects, and excellent casting. Though to be fair Mature was not his first choice, but Burt Lancaster and Steve Reeves both turned the part down. Even so, it still stands today as the most watched cinematic treatment of the story.

Over all Demille did a great job of telling the stories of the Bible in ways that captured peoples imaginations and, more often than not, respected the integrity of the Biblical narrative. And I think that is why they s
ucceeded as well as they did. Yes, all star casts and lots of pomp and slendor helped, but respect for the story itself I think is the most important aspect of his approach. When you look at his additions to the narrative most of them are completely in keeping with the times and do not contradict the biblical narrative. Just because the Bible doesn't mention a romantic connect for Moses in Egypt doesn't mean he was celebate, it just means it didn't affect the story God wanted in the scriptures.

There is one other movie version of the story from the book of Judges that I know about but haven't seen as of yet. Part of a late 1990s Bible Movie Collection produced in Germany (which also contains films about Moses, Abraham and Jeremiah) it starred Eric Thall and Elizabeth Hurley as Samson and Delilah (respectively - wouldn't want any confusion. lol). From the reviews I've read it appears to do a more than reasonable job of presenting the Biblical story with culturally accurate additions to fill out the three hours of film. I'm told it takes a few shortcuts on the special effects, but I guess they didn't have DeMille's budget. It sounds like one I'd like to see and add to my collection. On a purely movie fan note, another reason I want to see this film is it also contains performances by Dennis Hopper and Diana Rigg.

A sci-fi version of the Samson story could indeed provide some insights, especially if Lawrence and Silver protect the integrity of the Biblical narrative. And this doesn't mean that Samson has to spout dialog straight from the book of Judges, I'll be happy if he acknowledges the source of his power is God, or at least a higher power outside of himself. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, if any of you know of other worthwhile examples of how to do a biblical movie right I'd love to hear about it. Drop me a line in the comments section. Likewise ,if you know of a classic example of just how bad it can get drop me a line in the comments about that as well.

Until next time... Shalom.

And pass the popcorn.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How far we have come... or have we?

Among the many shades of gray that make up my reality we find my role as technical director for Kortright Presbyterian Church in Guelph. This role requires that I try to keep abreast of what's what in the world of technology, such as Audio and Video systems, Computer developments, and of course, the Internet.

In regard to the third item on that list one question that pops up from time to time is, "Just how big is the Internet anyway?" I'm sure if you haven't actually had this discussion with anyone, you have probably wondered about it at least once in your life. So here then, presented for your perusal, are the latest figures from Pingdom, an Internet uptime monitoring firm in Sweden that is very good at keeping track of this sort of thing. The blog article can be found here, but the following are some of the highlights.

1.3 billion – The number of email users worldwide.
210 billion – The number of emails sent per day in 2008.
70% – The percentage of emails that are spam.

186,727,854 – The number of websites on the Internet in December 2008.
31.5 million – The number of websites added during 2008.

Domain names
77.5 million – .COM domain names at the end of 2008.
11.8 million – .NET domain names at the end of 2008.
7.2 million – .ORG domain names at the end of 2008.
174 million – The number of domain names across all top-level domains.

Internet users
1,463,632,361 – The number of Internet users worldwide.
248,241,969 – Internet users in North America.

133 million – The number of blogs on the Internet (as tracked by Technorati).
900,000 – The number of new blog posts in a day.

19.2 billion – Photos hosted by Facebook, Flickr, and Photobucket. (my note: This actually represents a small percentage of the images available when you consider these three only account for 3 out of 174 million web domains.)

12.7 billion – The number of online videos watched by American Internet users in a month.
34% – The increase in viewing of online video in USA compared to 2007.

Malicious software
1 million – The number of computer viruses in April 2008.
468% – The increase in malicious code compared to 2007.

With an estimated world population of 6,706,993,152 (according to the CIA) the above figure means roughly 22% of Humanity is connected to the World Wide Web which is 16% larger than a year ago, 1 in 5 of us don't write letters much anymore, North America has only 17% of the Internet population, and yours truly constitutes a mere 0.000002% of the Blogosphere. How's that for a little perspective?

But while these numbers remind me just how small a part of the whole I am, they also remind me of just how quickly our world is shrinking. (I'm going to do a little 'old guy' shtick here so be warned and bear with me.)

You see when I was a kid, long distance phone calls from England were still a really big thing. The whole family would gather round and wait almost breathlessly for our turn to say 'Hi' to Grandma and Grandpa. I'd get a letter from my penpal in Australia about every other month. When I did get a letter from him the information was already at least two weeks old. The encyclopedia set my parents bought me for high school cost over $1000 dollars and was somewhat out of date by the time I finished.

Now, well you know how it is; through Skype I call a number of people all over the world every day and gripe if the sound quality isn't up to my 128bit 44.1kHz standard, Facebook's status line tells me what my friends in Malawi were doing as little as 30 seconds ago, and about $50/year gives me access to the entire reference edition of Encyclopedia Britannica which is constantly updated month to month.

So, what's my point? Well, the scriptures tell us that God separated the people at the tower of Babel because as one unified force they were getting ideas too big for them to handle. They began to think there was nothing they couldn't do and were losing perspective as to where they fit into the grand scheme of things. They began to think of themselves as gods. So God confused their language making it harder for them to communicate and therefore harder for them to collaborate on the insanely big stuff, like skyscrapers.

Today technology is reversing what happened at Babel. Every year we grow closer to being a true world-wide community. Every year scientists, engineers and guys tinkering around in the garage (yes that still happens) build on each other's work to create ever increasingly spectacular feats of technology, some of which has us once again infringing on God's domain.

In his book 'Unceasing Worship' Harold Best points out that we are all worshiping all the time. It is the nature of our being to worship. The key point is who do we worship at this moment, the Creator or the creature. As I watch technology continue to progress I can fully appreciate the temptation to self-worship. We have accomplished a great deal in the lifetime of the human race, and it does indeed seem that there are no limits as to what we might accomplish in the future. But I would ask us all, my self included, to remember that for all our creativity we are only building on what God has done before us.

You see, it's not about skyscrapers - it's about how we think of ourselves, and our place in God's creation. We have learned to do marvelous things with resources such as iron, oil and silicone; but we still have to go looking for them because we have not learned to make them. Only God can do that. We can clone a sheep named Dolly and engineer a tougher tomato by introducing animal genes to its DNA; but we still can't create life out of lifelessness. Only God can do that. We can communicate ideas, and pack a million calculations into ever more infinitesimal periods of time; but we can't stop time from rolling on or reverse it's direction. Only God can do that.

And dispite all the advances in technology we have made, in one thing we have not advanced hardly at all. What has not changed is our propensity to use our creativity to find ever more inventive ways of hurting, oppressing, and killing each other. Despite our best efforts to the contrary greed, pride and ego remain the most prevalent motivations for our advancing technologies. We find we cannot escape the nature of our fallen existence as we continue to exert our superiority over the planet and each other. We cannot wash away the stain of what humanity has done with its creations over the millennia. We do not have within us the capacity to make right the burden of sin that we have created by how we treat each other and our planet.

Only God can do that.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Air and Simple Gifts

One of my favourite parts of the Inauguration was this performance of "Air and Simple Gifts", John Williams' new "arrangement" for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration, featuring Itzhak Perlman (violin), Yo Yo Ma (cello), Gabriela Montero (piano) and Anthony McGill (clarinet). What strikes me most about the piece is the incorporation of "Lord of the Dance" one of my favorite Celtic Christian melodies. I cannot help but wonder if it is a deliberate connection to Obama's professed faith, or did Williams simply like the Celtic melody. Here's the video from YouTube. I love how much Yo Yo Ma is obviously enjoying the experience.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the piece "Lord of the Dance" was quite popular in contemporary Christian circles in the late sixties/early seventies. It was written by Sydney B. Carter, a freelance British writer and broadcaster. He wrote the lyrics which tell the basic story of the life of Jesus using dance as a metaphor for the gospel message. The lyrics were original written by Carter, but the melody is a variation on a 19th century Shaker tune that Carter adapted for the hymn. He has three other contemporary hymns to his credit.I've always liked the piece because of its use of metaphor in representing the Gospel.

Hearing the primary message of Jesus' ministry presented in other ways has always appealed to me because it causes one to look at the gospel in other ways, helping to broaden and deepen our appreciation of its universal appeal.

Another wonderful example of this is Calvin Miller's 'Singer Trilogy.' in the three volumes Miller presents the story of Jesus as an epic poem telling the story of the Troubadour, who has been called to sing the ancient Star Song, and pays the ultimate price for doing so. The three volumes in the trilogy are 'The Singer' which presents the story of the gospels, 'The Song' a representation of the Book of Acts, and 'The Finale' which explores the imagery of the book of Revelation. I highly recommend it to anyone, but especially to those who appreciate epic poetry and stories.

I present for your consideration as you listen to "Air and Simple Gifts" a second o third time, the lyrics to "Lord of the Dance"

I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem I had my birth.

Refrain Dance, then, wherever you may be; I am the Lord of the Dance, said he. And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be, And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.

I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,
But they would not dance and they would not follow me;
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John;
They came to me and the dance went on.

I danced on the sabbath when I cured the lame,
The holy people said it was a shame;
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high;
And they left me there on a cross to die.

I danced on a Friday and the sky turned black;
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back;
They buried my body and they thought I’d gone,
But I am the dance and I still go on.

They cut me down and I leapt up high,
I am the life that’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.


Progress is Being Made.

For those of you who may be interested, I had my first physiotherapy session today. My therapist. Laurie, says things are looking pretty good. She's pleased with my range of motion and says I have a little more strength in my ankle than most people who go through what I've been through. Not a lot, but more than average by her experience. This I credit to the good Lord and all of you who have been praying for me out there.

We talked about my goal of participating in the Ride to Conquer Cancer in June and I would have to describe her response as 'cautiously optimistic.' She definitely feels that cycling will once again be a part of my life, it's just a matter of how soon. I have a regimen of range of motion exercises to do and I see her again on Monday. More time with my foot out of the boot - this is a good thing.

One of the more difficult exercises involves tracing out the letters of the alphabet in the air with my big toe. I was surprised at how much difficulty I have doing this. It's like I can remember how to form simple letters. I found myself having to really concentrate to get the shapes right. I'm wondering if being right-handed translated to writing with my feet as well. So I tried the same exercise with my right foot and found it a dozen times easier. Still trying to decide if it's a left-brain/right-brain thing, or is it all in my head. lol

Speaking of the Ride, word is out that registration for the 2009 Ride to Conquer cancer is closed. last year 2850 cyclist participated in The Ride, and I'm sure it will be even larger this year. That 2850 qualified for the largest cycling fundraiser in Canadian history. I'm really looking forward to riding with Team Kortright this year. It will be a great weekend for all of us.

So please continue to pray for me and all the members of the team; Brian Watson, Graham Watson, Noah Bartozzi and David Rippon, that all of our physical and fund raising challenges will be met. Thanks Everyone

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Torah is Life

One of the blogs I enjoy following is that of Dr. Claude Mariottini, Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary. He provides a well educated commentary on a wide range of subjects. This morning he drew my attention to this video and so I present it to you.

It was interesting to me to hear people discussing Torah the same way Christians talk about the New Testament. What struck me about it is that when they talk about Torah they are referring to the first five books of the Bible - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy - what Christian scholars call the Pentateuch. For many Christians however, the Old Testament is considered dry and uninspiring, and so they focus mostly on the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. And yet here we have people discussing Leviticus in the same manner we talk about say, the gospel of John. I would suggest there are two things (at least) that we can learn from this observation.

First, the fact that two culturally diverse peoples can gain the same wisdom and learning from both the Old and New Testaments speaks to the universality of God. He is indeed the same yesterday, today and forever. He does not change and those who seek Him will find Him, no matter where they look. Or rather, if I may be so bold, those who seek Him will be found by Him, for He seeks us more fervently than we seek Him.

Second, we need to make sure we don't neglect the Old Testament in our study of scripture. Many Christians do read the Old Testament, but as a background to the New Testament not necessarily as a guide to living in itself. This is often because there are many who perceive the teachings of Jesus as a replacement for the Old Testament. But this was never the case. Jesus said himself that he had not come to replace the law but to fulfill it. (Matt. 5:17)

So how then can we do this? I have a suggestion. Much Jewish study of the scriptures takes place in conjunction with the Talmud. The Talmud is not a different scripture as many non-Jews assume, rather it is a collection of commentaries that have been made by various rabbis of note down through the centuries. And so it is customary to read the Torah with the aid of these commentaries. Not unlike what Christians do in their Bible studies.

Here's my suggestion then. Read the Torah, Genesis through Deuteronomy, using the teachings of Jesus, the gospels, as a commentary. That is, as you read the Old Testament, cross reference the teachings of Jesus as they pertain to each passage of scripture. Most good study Bibles will provide the cross references for you. As you read ask yourself these questions: How does Jesus' teaching shape your reading of the Old Testament passage? How does the Torah passage retain it's meaning in the light of Jesus' teaching?

It's not that profound an idea, I'll admit, but this video caused me to wonder - we are quick to read the Bible with the aid of a modern teacher's commentary, but how many of us have read it following the commentary of the greatest teacher of all time?

Until next time...


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Where's the rest of my Armour?

Went in for my first clinic visit since the surgery today. Doc says he's pleased with my progress, gave me a physio-therapy requisition to process and then outfitted me with an Imperial Stormtrooper boot.

At least that's what I think it looks like. Definitely has a Star Wars/Robocop hi-tech geeky vibe to it; which I find much more acceptable than the fiberglass splint and elastic bandage assembly I hobbled out with on the day of my surgery. A front line Stormtrooper rig is white, and Darth Vader's armour is black, so I figure this gray model must fit in between in the command structure somewhere, perhaps admiral. Rugged construction, foam lining, inflatable air bladders for a form fit, and a stylish shade of gray (most apropos); coolness factor has increased substantially.

However; as with most things, there is a price to pay. Conservatively, I estimate this puppy weighs about three times what the original 'half-cast' did. It's also somewhat warmer and harder to maneuver in. Definitely not looking forward to sleeping in this thing but, I will adapt.

Back on the plus side, it does come off for showers and changing clothes etc. so it isn't all bad. One thing that does get me is the price - $170 CDN. Not that I don't think it's worth it, but I've always been mystified about the lack of recycling in the health care field.

Some things are obvious, don't want people re-using needles etc. That's a complete no-brainer. But why do I have to take full possession of this boot. Now I realize the foam lining will absorb a fair amount of sweat, so by all means ditch it. But could we not return the boot when done with it, replace the lining, subject the boot to some form of sterilization and give it to the next person in need?

Then instead of charging me the full $170, charge me for liner, add $25 to rent the boot proper for the duration of my therapy, and then return and process it for the next patient. We reduce the number of boots sitting in closets somewhere, with the rental fee create an additional income stream for the hospital for as long as the boot is serviceable, and when multiplied by the number of people who likely need these things province wide, substantially assist our burgeoning health care costs.

As I stated earlier, there are some things in a hospital that should never be reused under any circumstances. But it seems to me that there are a number of areas where proper reuse management could substantially improve the cash flow in our health care system. Frankly, I don't care if my crutches have been used by twenty other people before me, as long as they are still structurally stable and clean. Why does it appear that these options aren't being considered?

Or at the very least give me a chance to buy the rest of the armour.

Till next time...


Monday, January 12, 2009

New Orientation Video from RtCC

Many of you know that I rode in the Ride to Conquer Cancer last year. Well I'd like you to know that I'm riding this year as well. This year I'm proud to be the captain of Team Kortright, a group of friends from my home church that have chosen to ride with me in support of a great cause.

For details on the ride you can visit The RtCC Home Page.
To support me in the effort go to my RtCC Page.

In the meantime please check out this orientation video, featuring a familiar face.

Thanks Everyone!


Presidential Legacy

Okay, this Barack Obama thing is really starting to get a little weird. Check it out..

What does it mean when other countries are getting as excited about the election of an American president as America does? And what does it say for George Bush's legacy as president when so many around the world are excited about his replacement? How does a person look back on his life or career and walk away knowing no one is sorry to see him go. It reminds me of another world leader I read about once.

And the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the anger of the Philistines and of the Arabians who are near the Ethiopians. And they came up against Judah and invaded it and carried away all the possessions they found that belonged to the king's house, and also his sons and his wives, so that no son was left to him except Jehoahaz, his youngest son. And after all this the Lord struck him in his bowels with an incurable disease. In the course of time, at the end of two years, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great agony. His people made no fire in his honor, like the fires made for his fathers. He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he departed with no one's regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings. 2 Chronicles 21:16-20 ESV

Jehoram, son of King Jehoshaphat of Judah, was 32 years old when he became King of Judah, and he reigned for 8 years (about 851-843 BC). Jehoram was an evil king. After becoming king, he killed all of his brothers, and many other leaders of Israel and renewed pagan worship in Judah. He constructed idol shrines in Judah, and compelled his people to worship them. Then Elijah the prophet wrote him a letter describing Jehoram's sins and explaining the punishment that would befall him. He didn't listen.

As was often the case when Israel or Judah ignored God long enough, the Lord stirred up the Philistines and Arabs to attack Jehoram. They did a thorough job carrying away everything of value in the king's palace, including his sons and his wives. Only his youngest son, Jehoahaz, (Ahaziah), escaped. Shortly after that Jehoram was struck down with the incurable bowel disease. He was dead in two years, and was buried in Jerusalem, but not in the royal cemetary.

Now Israel and Judah both had a lot of bad kings, but Jehoram is the only one about which the Bible says no one cared that he died. It makes one wonder how bad a leader has to be to garnet so little compassion upon his demise.

Now I'm not saying ol' George W. is as bad as Jehoram. But I do find myself curious about what is going through his mind right now. To be fair, I don't think he set out to be a bad president. I don't think he is the evil war monger he's often painted to be. I'm sure he did what he thought was the right thing and whether any of it was right or not I'll leave for history and God to judge; it's not my place and I can't imagine what I would do in his place. (It's why i have no political ambitions.)

But I will continue to pray for him, as I will pray for his successor, because it cannot be easy to leave a career, knowing you've done the best you thought you could and also knowing what seems like the entire world thinks you screwed up. I'm sure there is a great deal of pain and soul searching in his future. And I do genuinely hope he is able to come to terms with what he discovers about himself. But it will not be easy, and for that reason he has my compassion.

A lot of paranoid people think the world hates them; soon to be former President Bush has no need to be paranoid, the world does.

Until next time...


Sunday, January 11, 2009

On a Leg and a Chair.

Well, it's been two days and I think I'm starting to adapt. Most of yesterday I struggled to get from the chair to the bathroom to the dining room table where my computer is set up on crutches. I hated it!

Oh it was tolerable enough with Roberta around to get things for me, but she will be gone 12 hours a day starting Monday, so I needed to think of something else. So I tried using a roling office chair my friend Rachel gave me, and it seems to be doing the job. I get around for the most part and my bad foot never gets any weight put on it as per doctors orders. It is still a drag though.

Fortunately, a pleasant distraction arrived to help take my mind off things - my good friend David. David lives in Goderich and had a day or so off work and knowing of my situation decided to come down and pay me a visit. He stopped in just before supper last night and we had a great time eating, talking and watching on old sci-fi movie on DVD.

I suppose that's one advantage of what's going on right now. If things were the way they normally are I wouldn't have been home to visit with David; instead I likely would have been out and about doing something somewhere. This situation has certainly caused me to slow down. As I mentioned earlier, I had been looking for a way to do just that, to find more time to write, to read, and to get a few other things done. It makes me wonder if I was so busy, so obsessed with all the tasks I needed to perform that this was the only way God could get my attention. That seems rather extreme, but then Israel wasn't far different.

Time and again in the Bible we find Israel ignoring God to the point where the only way He can bring them up short enough to listen for a while is to have some other nation drop in and conquer them. Then of course, they spend more time wailing and complaining then listening, but eventually they clue in, get their act together, and pay attention. Then God puts the other nation in its place and Israel is fine for another generation until they decide they know better than God and follow the same destructive pattern of behaviour.

There's no denying that I do have a hard time slowing down and focusing, even though prayer and meditation are part of my routine. But is it reasonable to imagine that God would allow such an injury to take place just to get my attention, or am I just reading something into the situation trying to find some meaning that will make it less agonizing?

I mean, if this accident is entirely the result of my own stupidity, then I have nobody to blame but myself. But, if it is the maneuverings of divine providence, then it's not entirely my fault. God did this to get my attention, in fact, in some bizarre way it is an answer to prayer and I am completely off the hook for not looking where I was going and falling down that stupid hole. Wouldn't that make this a good thing?

Truth is, I've had a few people tell me that is exactly what is happening and I should regard this situation as a gift from God, sent by Him in answer to my needs. Frankly, I don't buy it.

You see, while it's true that God is all about forgiveness, the scripture makes it clear he' also about taking responsibility for our own actions. He didn't let Moses off the hook; his rebellion kept Him from entering the promised land. He didn't cut David any slack; his disobedience cost him a son and kept him from fulfilling His dream to build the temple. Moses, David and many others all eventually learned from their experiences and were blessed by God in what they did; but forgiveness was never a blank cheque. They all had to live with the consequences of their actions.

That's why some non-Chrsitians have a hard time with the idea of forgiveness. They see it as some kind of cosmic 'get-out-of-jail-free' card and to them it's just wrong that people who do bad things don't have to pay the price. Unfortunately some Christians look at it that way too and that does a disservice to God and His message.

Forgiveness does not mean you don't have to face the consequences of your actions, it means you want have to pay the price for what you did beyond those consequences. There is a commoon feeling among people in general that if what you have done is bad enough you should have to pay for it over and over and over again. That there is no amount of suffering that will balance the books for what you have done. They want the sinner to suffer not just once, but always, and for the rest of their lives, because that's the only way they can see justice being done. Because to them justice means balancing the books, and eye for an eye.

But God's Justice is a little different. God's justice recognizes that in the sum of all things it is impossible to balance the books. We will never, no matter how hard we try, manage to achieve justice because even an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth doesn't make things right. It just makes us feel better because revenge is sweet and since it's sweet it is the most incidous form of comfort food. Because revenge makes us think we have justice because the books appear to have been balanced, but in reality we've just been given a candy that makes us feel better because we got someting out of it.

That's why God's justice is different, because it's about paying the immediete unavoidable consequences of what we do, without making us the victims of revenge. Forgiveness wipes the slate clean, so that instead of falling prey to revenge, we can like Daivd, learn from our mistakes and go on to be a blessing to others.

Because we also need to realize that the victims of revenge are not just those who commit the sin, but those who seek revenge are also it's victims. Because like comfort food revenge does not deal with the problem, it just make us feel better and distracts us from the problem, so it never gets dealt with properly. You see, forgiveness is the remedy not just for the sinner, but for those who have been sinned against as well. It purges us of the pain we feel that causes us to never be satisfied. That pain is why justice never seems enoough and revenge appears as the only answer. For both sides forgiveness is the only solution.

By now I'm sure some of you are thinking, "Dennis, how did we get from you falling down a hole having more time to write, to pondering the varities of justice and revenge? Man isn't that a bit of a stretch?"

Well, yes, I suppose it is. But that's what happens when you give a guy time to think and to ponder. And yet it's not that big a stretch either because the nature of justice and forgiveness is at the root of how God works. It would not be just for God to inflict pain solely for the purpose of teaching me a few things. Israel's perils were a direct result of their choosing to violate a covenant that they made with God at Mount Sinaih, the attacks by other nations were never random.

So my current situation is not God's doing. I don't believe that for a second. However, just as with Israel, God is not above using my stupidity to His advantage. I didn't see the hole, now I'm here; and so is God, and while He forgices my stupidity he's not above taking advantage of the situation. I'm sureHe has a few things he wants to draw to my attention while He has it. The question is will I quit complaining about the inconveniences of my current situation long enough to listen to what He has to say?

I pray that I do. Until next time...


Friday, January 09, 2009

Home again, Home again... But no Jigs yet.

Well, after a few hours sleep in Day Surgery I'm back home once more. The disconcerting thing is I went in feeling fairly well, pain free and able to move around under my own power. Not after the surgery designed to repair my torn Achilles heel. I am feeling less than chipper, experiencing significant discomfort, some pain, and I'm about as mobile as a three-legged Galapagos tortoise. Ah well, what's the old saying, "Short term pain for long term gain."

I want to thank all of you who took a moment to think of me and pray for me today. As I lay on the gurney in the hallway waiting to go into the operating room, I could feel the anxiety building. Then I reminded myself that there were people in the world who were deliberately and purposefully thinking of me right at that moment. I will admit that the comfort to be found in that thought surprised me.

There's a quote that I have used many time over the years to try to help me keep my ego in check.

"Most people would worry less about what people think of them if they could just realize how seldom they do."

I don't know who said it but this sentence has kept me from obsessing on people's opinions more than a few times. As a teenager I spent a lot of time worrying what my peers thought of me and tried to "fit in" by doing things that would improve those opinions. For a time my insecurity was largely fueled by the idea that people didn't like me at all and spent a lot of time telling other people how much I sucked. The turn around came when I finally came to grips with the reality that people didn't think about me as much as I feared.

Then the opposing obsession took hold, "What do you mean people DON'T THINK ABOUT ME? Am I that insignificant that I'm not WORTH thinking about?" This quickly led to a new personal philosophy that stayed with me through-out most of my twenties.."I don't care what people think about me as long as they do!" My self-esteem now centered around a fear of indifference - to me. It's amazing how many different ways peer pressure can manifest itself - real or imagined.

With maturity I like to think I've struck a balance between the two. My self -esteem is now founded more in my identity in Christ than anything else. Well, most of the time anyway.There are a few individuals whose opinions I use as kind of a benchmark. Other than that I am content to simply be who I am and let the world try and cope with my opinion of it. What people think and whether they are thinking of me at all are of significantly less importance than they once were.

What happened today however, was something all together different. For a few hours it mattered to me a great deal that people were, in fact, thinking of me - and deliberately so. After they wheeled me away from Roberta's company into the inner labyrinth of the surgery area, I felt suddenly very alone. They took me to the hallway outside the assigned operating room and left me there to gaze out the window. The anxiety rose, and fear started to set in.

Then I remembered what my good friend Brian Watson had said, "We'll take time at 1 o'clock to stop and pray for you." In that moment I also remembered the dozen or so others who had committed to do the same thing. I did some quick tallying and estimated that while I was lying there at least 34 people were out there, somewhere, thinking about me and my situation and lifting my name up to God in prayer.

Suddenly, the fear subsided. The anxiety, while still there, no longer took my breath away; the shaking in my hands was reduced to a barely noticeable tremor. I was comforted and encouraged by the knowledge that there were people out there who cared enough about me, who loved me enough to stop what they were doing and lift me up in prayer. I found myself praying for each one of them.

I know, it's what prayer is all about. It's why we are commanded in the scriptures to pray for one another. But I, like you gentle reader, are human, and the challenges we face can often overwhelm us and we find ourselves in need of a palpable reminder. Today the Spirit reminded me of that fact in just such a tangible way.

So thank you Brian, et al. Your prayers were heard, and I was greatly blessed.

May God bless each of you for your faithfulness.


Little Pieces of Toast

Okay, so this is it. This morning at 11 am (EST) I sign in to 'day surgery' at Guelph General Hospital, then at 1pm they wheel me in and start cutting. If all goes well I'll be home in time for supper.

I had the pre-op appointment yesterday and it was full of assurances that everything was going to work out just fine, my doctor is extremely good at what he does, and I'm healthy enough there should be no difficulties. And, oh yes... due to budget cuts I can't have a piece of toast anymore when I wake up - layoffs to follow.

That's right! There was much apologizing for the fact that there would be no toast. Apparently, since a surgery patient can't eat for 12 hours beforehand, it was their custom to feed them some juice and toast when they woke up to settle the grumbling stomach. When budget cuts came along the toast was the first to go. Now I just get the juice and a biscuit.

I guess everyone has 'stuff' with which they struggle; seemingly small stuff to you and I maybe, but it holds meaning for the people involved because it's indicative of changes they'd rather not see. There are certainly a lot bigger problems in our health care system than supplying toast for day surgery patients, but those who work there see it as 'just one more thing' that takes the joy out of their existence because it reminds them of what might follow - layoffs or whatever other darkness looms on the horizon.

We all have little pieces of toast in our lives. Things that on the surface seem small and insignificant, but we are tempted to fall on our swords to protect them because of what they represent. We cry out against the powers that be, "Come on already! I know it's tough and we need to make changes, but can't we at least keep the toast?"

If we can keep the toast, if we can manage one small victory as the darkness encroaches, then maybe we will survive this after all. Maybe it will serve as one small glimmer of light to give us some comfort.

So as I head into the hospital today, as much as I completely dread the experience (I haven't been under the knife since I was 17), I find myself thinking about the nurse in pre-op who felt the need to apologize for the lack of toast. I know she's feeling a pain of her own and needs prayer and support as much as I do.

So please, gentle reader, if you are inclined to pray for me this day as I endure my ordeal, for which I am truly grateful, then please remember the toast, and also pray for those at the hospital who face an uncertain future. And when you speak to the Father, offer a word for anyone you know who is struggling to hang on to one small comfort in life, that it might help them see their way through the temporary darkness and into a brighter tomorrow.

Until I return from surgery... Shalom

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different...

I suppose the time has come to write about my current situation, if for no other reason than a multitude of individuals who have said to me in the last few days, "I expect much blogging while you are laid up the next few weeks."

I think that was one of the things that made me take an hiatus from blogging - the sense of having to meet expectations. I started it because I just wanted to get things down for myself, but soon I was writing for everyone but me. But that is of course the dilemma every creative thinker faces, is it not? Do I write, paint, play, sing, sculpt, or whatever else it is I consider my raison d'etre for my own satisfaction, or do I do it for those whose opinions I hold in even higher regard - my audience, though I may be loath to admit it. I suspect, like most things in my experience, the truth lies somewhere in between, consisting of x parts one and truth - x parts the other.

But to return to the subject at hand: on Friday morning (Jan 9/08) I shall report to Guelph General Hospital's Day Surgery ward to undergo a procedure to repair the Achilles tendon on my left foot. It seems I have a knack for putting my foot in it (as my wife Roberta will confirm) and this time what I put my foot in was a hole in the floor backstage at Guelph Little Theatre. The details of exactly how it happened are largely unimportant. Let it suffice to say,"Black floor + black hole x large differential bifocals = Ouch!" If you have no idea what the bifocals have to do with it, ask someone who wears them.

And so I find myself faced with the prospect of surgery, followed by several weeks in a cast, then more time in a walking cast, and who knows how many sessions of excruciating physio-therapy. Oooh! - what fun! But then I suppose it could always be worse. There will be time to think, to write, to sort, to meditate, to vegetate, and of course, to blog.

I strongly suspect that this may well be one of those, be careful what you pray for scenarios. As the New Year unfolded I found myself offhandedly praying for more time to engage in all of the above - especially the writing. Then this happens. Powerful stuff prayer. Use at own risk!

So there you have it, the back story to where these ramblings will be coming from for the next little while. If you would like to support me in some way during my period of recovery then I ask you to click your way over to the Guelph Little Theatre website and book a few tickets for "The Curious Savage". It is the delightful little comedy I was working on the preparation for when this happened. Yes I know, it's a shameless plug; but if it sells out in a stampede of sympathetic consumerism it shall serve to bolster my self-esteem as I will have 'taken one for the team.'

What is "The Curious Savage"? It is the story of three siblings, five friends, two attendants, and a woman and her bear; all drawn together by means of foolish expectations and not so foolish dreams. Yes, it is a rather cryptic description I know, but then, where's your curiosity?

Until next time then, I covet your prayers, your well-wishes, and your contributions to the box office.


Friday, January 02, 2009

Exploratory Storytelling - Joseph's Story

This past Sunday (Dec 28, 2008) I presented a monologue to my home church that examined the nativity from the perspective of Joseph. If you haven't heard it you can visit my home church's website or listen to it using the player below.

After the service, as expected, a number of people challenged me on the premise of my presentation. For a few hundred years now western Christianity has had this idea that Joseph was a young man and that Mary was his first wife. The image has been presented for so long that it is hard for us to consider other possibilities. As one woman in the congregation put it, "You're a heretic aren't you?"

But such has not always been the case, and indeed even today there are branches of Christianity that find the idea of an older, more mature Joseph quite acceptable. These ideas largely stem from what are known as the apocryphal writings, a number of documents which for one reason or another were not included in the Bible. The most common reason for their exclusion was "that many things are found in them corrupt and against the true faith handed down by the elders..." Origen .

That there are questionable contents in these books is without question (pun intended) but does that mean that everything in them is in error? The gospels are so devoid of information about Joseph that if we are to be completely honest, anything that we imagine regarding the man is, in truth, speculation. So I would ask you, gentle reader, to speculate with me and consider that, at least in part, there may be some validity to some of these ideas about the surrogate father of Jesus Christ.

Joseph - A biography...

Basically the story of Joseph as presented by the apocrypha goes something like this.

Joseph's first wife was a woman called Melcha or Escha or Salome, depending on which apocryphal book you read. They lived forty-nine years together and had six children, two daughters and four sons, the youngest of whom was James, Jesus' brother. A year after his wife's death, the priests announce throughout Judea that they wished to find a good man of the tribe of Judah to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age. Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up with the other candidates and by the manifestation of a miracle (this varies) God selected Joseph, and two years later the Annunciation took place.

Now, let me repeat, these accounts have no definitive authority whatsoever; however, over the years they have acquired some popularity, even inspiring many artists in their depictions of the events. This is especially true of the Coptic Church who were among the first to venerate Joseph. Coptic commentators point out that there are some good reasons to believe that Joseph was an older man, (though many will admit that the age of ninety is likely an attempt to associate him with Abraham and Moses).

Consider this: a younger man would likely have gone ballistic when he heard that his betrothed was pregnant and knew full well it wasn't his doing. An older man might have been more disposed to protecting the reputation of her family as the Bible suggests. There's also an argument to be made that an older man would be more likely to accept the spiritual reality of the dream rather than just excuse it as being influenced by Mary's story. In a similar light, an older man is more likely to be able to restrain himself from relations with Mary while awaiting the birth of the child, though admittedly fear of harming the Holy Child makes for powerful motivation even for an amorous young Jew.

Now might suggest that this was created to re-enforce the idea that Joseph was the "protector of virgins", and I have to agree it looks that way. However, I find it interesting to note that the stories can be traced to the late 2nd/early 3rd century, while the veneration of Joseph only traces back to the 4th century. Is it possible the story inspired the elevation of Joseph to sainthood?

Now, none of this is conclusive but then our speculation doesn't stop there. My monologue also contained another interesting idea.

Dual Genealogies Explained

Another dimension to this is that many of the same authors, including one Julius Africanus, also expounded an interesting explanation for the fact that the lineage of Jesus (by his father Joseph of course) is different in the Gospel of Luke from the one presented in the Gospel of Matthew. In the book of Matthew Joseph's father is listed as being a man named Jacob, whereas Luke says Joseph's father was Heli.

Julius did some 3rd century Google-ing (that is actual back and forth footwork) and determined that Jacob and Heli were, in fact, half-brothers; their mother having remarried after the death of her first husband. This led Julius to some interesting speculation. Yes, I know, more speculation, but most explanations of the two genealogies are no more than that. The question is, is one man's speculation more feasible than another's?

Julius looked at the fact the two men were brothers and was reminded of the Levitate requirement that if a man were to die without a male heir, then his brother should marry his widow to sire an heir for the deceased husband. (Deut. 25:5-6) What if that were the case with Jacob and Heli? Africanus suggests that Heli dies without an heir, so his widow, who is identified as a woman named Eisha, marries her husband's half brother Jacob. By Jacob, Eisha gives birth to a boy named Joseph, who would grow up to marry Mary. Biologically the boy is the son of Jacob, but because of the Levitate edict, that the brother sires an heir "for his brother", the child would be legally considered to be the son of Heli!

Since Matthew is one of the disciples, and we know that Mary, the mother of Jesus, spends at least some time with the company that followed the Lord; it is not unreasonable to suggest that Matthew would know about the circumstances of Joseph's birth and the connection to Jacob. So Matthew records Jesus' blood lineage.

Luke, on the other hand, is a companion of Paul's, but is apparently not around prior to the crucifixion. For his account it would not be unreasonable to suggest he relied on the official records and therefore counted Heli as being the earthly grandfather of Jesus, so his account is the legal lineage.

Since this scenario is entirely plausible, it means that both genealogies could well be valid lines of succession, through Joseph, for the man known as Jesus of Nazareth.

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion)

Personally, I like this explanation. So apparently did early scholars such as Aristotle, who rejected all other ideas once he heard this one. As speculations go, it has cultural validity, is based on sound Biblical concepts, and is in many respects more plausible than the idea that Luke's lineage is somehow that of Mary. But again, it is all speculation; baring a major archaeological discovery, we will never truly know the truth this side of the next life.

But even having said that, such speculation is not without value. It is important that we, from time to time, consider the validity of our assumptions. Many old ideas have been rejected not because of any valid argument, but just because they are old ideas. In some cases personal grudges and/ or bigotry are involved. In like manner, many new ideas are also rejected for no reason other than they are new.

And so, gentle reader, I present to you some food for thought. Not to be taken as gospel, or even as a great likelihood, but simply to be considered as grist for the mill in our continuing effort to understand the reality that is the story of our Lord Jesus.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Starting Over.. over New Years

It's been a long time since I have posted here. I'm not sure exactly why I stopped posting, but I imagine it had a lot to do with the desire to do so fading into the background. So be it. My father often said there was no sense doing something if the joy has gone out of it for you.

But I have been thinking lately that I might start blogging again, but I think I'll stick with just the one blog. I suspect part of my problem was trying to keep up with keeping three blogs going and doing all the other things I enjoy as well. Something had to give, or everything would suffer.

So I've decided just to post to this blog and this blog alone. I'll likely copy it to my Multiply site. It will encompass a lot of the things I blogged about before only this time all in one blog. Sometimes it will be about the Bible and faith, sometimes about church history, sometimes about theatre or cycling all the various things that go into making me who I am. In short it will live up to it's name - Myriad Shades of Gray... Dennis Gray.

I hope you don't mind coming along for the ride...

So where to begin? How about a video? Some of you may not recognize or know of Penn Fraser Jillette, if not you can read about him here.

Jillette poses a question in this piece that really stuck with me when I heard it.

"How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much to you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?"

I have often heard a variety of preachers encourage me to spend more of my time witnessing to others about Jesus. I have been told I should do it out of compassion for the deluded, because God has commanded it, because I won't get any heavenly brownie points called crowns if I don't, and of course I have been told I should do it out of love for the lost.

And while all of them have had varying degrees of effectiveness for varying lengths of time; none have struck me as this strait-forward, in-your-face question from a non-believer. I don't usually make New Years resolutions, but I'm downloading this video and watching it over and over until the point sinks in.

If you haven't done so, take the time to watch the video. Share it with your friends, both Christian and non-Christian. And while I do pray that all of you will have a safe, happy and blessed by God abundantly New Year; I also hope that this question stays foremost in your consciousness for each of the next 365 days.