Sunday, April 14, 2013

Some Things I Learned from my Dad

Well, are you holding up under the strain?

If you spent much time around my Dad, you probably heard that question, or one of the variants like:
  • Are you still percolating on all cylinders
  • Are you still moving under your own power?
Dad loved to laugh and joke around.  When I was a teenager I wired a cable from our stereo console to my desk so that I could listen to my music on headphones.  One of Dad’s favorite tricks was to sneak over and nudge up the volume on the console a little at a time.  It was like a frog in a pan of water on a stove—when would I finally notice that things are amiss?

From my Dad I learned that humor is a great equalizer, and a great way to put people at ease.

Dad did a lot of different things in his life:
  • Helped manage the creameries he and my grandfather owned
  • Sold mutual funds
  • Ran a ranch
  • Fixed farm equipment 
  • Started churches
  • Along with my Mom raised 5 kids 
  • Helped start a college
  • Developed land
  • Built a golf course
  • Sold real estate
When he started something new he didn't fret.  He read whatever he could gather on the subject, consulted with a lot of people, and got started.

From him I learned the best way to understand new things and finish big projects was to just jump in.

I was put to work on the ranch when I was 12.  This involved getting up at 6am to move irrigation pipe (you can imagine how much I enjoyed that), picking up thousands of hay bales, chasing cattle, and another one of my favorites—fixing fences.  It always seemed like the fences that needed repair were halfway up the side of a mountain, and we would have to carry all the required supplies on our backs.  One time we arrived at the repair site, dropped the heavy roll of barbed wire, and watched it roll 2000 feet down the mountain—hitting trees and bushes as it went.

Dad paid me $100 per month.  We worked long hours, six days a week—I figured that I was making less than 50 cents per hour.   When we worked we didn't walk from task to task—we were expected to run.  And when we ran out of assigned tasks, we learned to look around for what needed doing.

From my Dad I learned how to work hard.

When I was 15 I wanted to do some tractor work around a reservoir we were building.  My Dad thought about it and said no—the task had some risks and he wasn't comfortable with me doing it.   I was mad—but later I realized he was right.  Some risks are just not worth taking.

In the 50s and 60s we had a steady stream of missionaries and foreign pastors visiting at our house.  Some were Black; others were Asian, Hispanic, Italian and even Jewish.  In spite of the visitors differences from us my Dad treated them with the utmost respect.

As I was growing up I realized that my Dad and I were pretty different.  He was an extrovert—I’m an introvert.  He liked magazines, I liked books, new cars vs. used cars, sales vs. R&D.  But in spite of our differences he didn't try to change who I was.

I learned from my Dad that regardless of skin color, culture, or personality that it’s possible, actually required that we love and respect those that are different from us.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Death in the garden..

And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2: 9 ESV)

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  (Genesis 2: 16-17 ESV)

At face value this is a deadly experiment—can these newly created beings obey instructions?   If not, Adam and the woman will eliminate themselves—providing a clean slate for another try.  

The experimental subjects were conscious, facile with language, aware and able to appreciate each other.  They were able to work and maintain their environment. Did they understand death?  One must assume so.  It would hardly be fair for God to tell them they would surely [unknown concept]  if they ate of the fruit.

In other ways the pair was limited.  They didn’t have knowledge of good and evil.  They saw each other without seeing.   Adam at least, appeared to view the other as a pleasing extension of himself rather than a distinct individual (he didn't name Eve until after the fall). 

In truth God had not created a literal: if eat fruit—then drop dead experiment.  So what was He up to? 

Perhaps He wanted beings that were willing to risk death in order to pursue knowledge.  An exercise of free will, with a possible ultimate penalty.   This is a step that God could not command, but He could create the situation.  In a risk free garden this could not happen.  In a garden with forbidden fruit it required disobeying God’s command.

With this reading of the text we face the abyss. Does God sometimes command us to inaction, when He really wants action?  

Clearly God's command does not always express His intent.   When God wanted to test Abraham He commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering on a mountain.  God's command was death, but His intent was a test followed by a blessing.    Even Jesus, in another garden, questioned God on what was really necessary.    Who can claim to know the mind of God?  

The woman and Adam decided to not accept their limited existence. They were willing to risk death to gain knowledge.  

In the aftermath there was cursing, dust, enmity, pain, servility, hard work, and death.  But there was also vision, God-like knowledge, the joy of children, destiny, desire, relationship, and freedom. 

I think they made the right choice.