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Earthquake

By Tim Butler | Posted at 5:04 AM

I was just awakened by an earthquake. 5.4, centered in West Salem, Ill, about 130 miles from here.

Update (10:42 CDT): They downgraded it to 5.2, but we just had a fairly large, estimated 4.5, aftershock. This is the first noticeable aftershock after a series of 1.5-2.5 magnitude shocks. What a morning… They are also forecasting severe storms today

The Burial of the Dead

By Tim Butler | Posted at 12:44 AM

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

—T.S. Eliot

Sometimes I think Eliot is right on this. Certainly I agree with Chaucer that April is a month of longing. I think it can be a cruel longing at times. Perhaps part of that is from my past, rather than anything intrinsic to the month. But, at any rate, I walked around the neighborhood surrounding Covenant for about thirty or forty minutes this morning taking in the spring weather. It was great. And yet, something was missing. A few years back, I walked around Lindenwood on April days much the same way, but then joined by a dear friend I have mentioned here before. The quiet seriousness of Lindenwood's gothic architecture amidst the linden trees, and we would just walk and talk — about nearly anything. This time was solo.

Thursday afternoons are my “Marriage and Family Counseling” class. It is a great class. There has been lots of practical advice on counseling, thought provoking ideas and I appreciate Dr. Zink's humor and anecdotes. It is also a hard class. Not in terms of workload, but rather emotional toll. It is interesting, while discussing problems with marriage, the class has actually had the opposite impact on me you might expect. I mostly find it highlights in my mind my status as single and makes me wonder if I should ever be otherwise. Not only do we hear problems, but we hear solutions to many of those problems. The class has made me more optimistic about the prospects of a healthy marriage, and yet…

I have to say sometimes I wonder what God's will is for me. Sometimes, I wish life were like a book with nicely titled chapters. Even if you could only preview the table of contents, you could get some idea of where things were going. I do not think I would really want that, but I have to say there are some chapters it would be nice to know were only a couple chapters ahead.

Some days, at least. April days, certainly. April is the cruelest month.

Deluged

By Tim Butler | Posted at 12:06 AM

This semester has really started out with a bang. I'll need to have three papers and a 25-minute sermon turned in within the next two weeks. So far I've already finished one book and am knee deep into a volume of Herman Bavinck. I'm hoping the semester slows down a bit sometime soon.

Too Often

By Tim Butler | Posted at 12:08 AM
“Too often I let time pass me by as I wrap myself up in projects.”

— Me, May 2006

After finding a good deal on a copy of iLife '08 on eBay that was still sealed in the box, I decided to jump into the newest version of Apple's digital hub. The main point of interest to me was iPhoto '08, with new features such as auto event division and easy thumbing through of thumbnails attached to each event that make it easier to manage the nearly 40,000 photos on my computer. So far, it is doing just that, and as I played with iPhoto '08 tonight I ran into a lot of favorite photos I might not have otherwise.

I saw pictures of friends I haven't seen in years, of family members now with the Lord and favorite places that I'd like to go see again. I also ran into a letter I had written and photographed so as to save a copy in case I was curious what I had written later. It was a letter to one of the aforementioned friends whose photo I had run into, one who was graduating from Lindenwood and moving out-of-state at the time I wrote the letter.

I read that letter for the first time since I had sealed the envelope it went into. That quote I included above stood out, and it is certainly one I don't keep in mind enough. My friend often took the time to yank me out of whatever I was going to work on and just enjoy the moment for a bit. Perhaps I should remember my own observations about myself more often. Time's winged chariot cruelly moves onward ever faster.

Snow Day

By Tim Butler | Posted at 12:31 AM

Well, disappointingly, my first day of Marriage and Family Counseling class was canceled today due to the snow. My morning classes, which had already met on Tuesday, continued on schedule, as did a required homiletics lecture with Dr. Chapell (although Dr. Chapell reduced his hour and forty five minute lecture down to twenty two minutes). Thanks to Dr. Chapell's speed, I could have slipped out at 1:00, but initially Marriage and Family Counseling was going to be shortened rather than canceled, so I ended up at Covenant until about 2:15. So I gained a couple of hours and avoided rush hour in the snow — thankfully — but still ended up out in the snow.

This all seems terribly unfair. Why? Because there may be a snow day tomorrow, and I don't have any classes schedule tomorrow anyway! It almost seems like I should sign up for some class, just so I could enjoy the snow all the more. ;) Of course, it's good it isn't on a day that I have a bunch of classes too — I really don't like missing classes…

Help me raise $100 (or more) for the Huckabee campaign by giving a Buck for Huck here. Right now we need just $74 to meet the asisaid challenge goal of $100 dollars for the best candidate for president. Won't you join me in supporting Governor Huckabee with a buck for Huck?

What's Done and What's Not

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:16 AM

Well, I doubt I am even going to come close to accomplishing everything I wanted to over Christmas break, but at least I'm starting to catch up with some of the major points. I've been working on some projects that needed to be done for church, cleaned up Open for Business a bit, merged some mailing lists I operate, spent time reading Shakespeare, enjoyed some “off time” playing games and taking pictures… in general, I have less regrets about what I've done over this six week period than I typically do as a vacation ends. I am regretful about a few things that have happened over break, alas, but not things I've gotten done.

I had hoped to write a quiz software program for a project I'll talk more about later, address the dusty Faithtree.com and catch up a bit more on reading, but, hey, one cannot get everything done, right?

Late Night Project

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:58 AM

Well, at 12:20 a.m. this morning, myself, along with a fellow techie at church, were able to finish deploying two new wireless routers and reconfiguring some others so that all of the church building is covered by at least a weak wireless signal. I wish we would have finished a bit earlier in the evening, but it feels good to have the church blanketed in Wi-Fi after talking about such an endeavor for years. Now, we need a good authentication server. Anyone have experience with RADIUS? Any recommendations?

Nice...

By Tim Butler | Posted at 12:07 AM

I was blessed to spend the evening with two of my colleagues from seminary and their wives. It was just a nice time of food and fellowship. It was a reminder of one of the joys of seminary outside of classes: the other people there. How delightful.

Dreams Amidst the Fire

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:38 AM

January 11, 1998 is a day of infamy for me, so normally I find myself somewhat reflective on this anniversary. Today I find myself doubly so after a strange dream last night. I don't usually remember my dreams, but this one stuck out as the setting was a strange blend of the Lindenwood and Covenant campuses on the first day of class for the Spring term at Covenant. Some of my favorite Lindenwood professors were running about getting to the classes they were teaching, and some of my friends were standing in lines registering for classes and doing other errands.

I was set on heading to my Covenant mailbox to see if I had gotten any of last semester's papers back and ran into a particularly notable friend, L. In real life, unfortunately, I unwittingly managed to drive a wedge in my friendship with L, and have not talked to this friend since right after the end of last semester, though I attempted to do what little I could to rectify things once in a letter. At any rate, in my dream all of this had taken place, but it turned out the letter had had the hoped for consequence and my friend had forgiven me, much to the Dream-Me's surprise. We had a very nice, normal conversation as we walked to check our respective mailboxes. It was all very delightful, but I woke up in the midst of it and quickly realized none of that had really happened.

This haunts me, because I am a fixer. Something broken is a challenge to me that I feel obligated to find a fix for. In this case I realized the wisest course of action may not have been to even send the letter, but having done that already, it is certainly wisest to say nothing more. Being powerless to fix something, though, always leaves me pondering the potential ways I can fix it — a trait I got from my grandpa. And that leads me to why this day is infamous to me.

On Sunday, January 11, 1998, my family was getting ready for church at 7:10 or so in the morning when my uncle called. He lived with my grandparents at the time. We had just been over to their house the night before for a sort of “final party of the Christmas season” before all of the decorations and such came down; it would be the last really normal time I'd ever spend with them. My uncle was panicked on the phone. Their house was on fire and they had narrowly escaped it. As it would turn out, a small crimp in the aluminum wiring of the house had ignited a fire in the attic which had smoldered until it finally swept down into the garage and then the main part of the house. Most things on the main floor of the house were destroyed, and my grandparents would not have survived had my uncle not awoken — the ceiling in their bedroom collapsed, likely just moments after they escaped.

As my family drove from St. Charles over across I-70 to Maryland Heights, our hearts sunk. Their was a gigantic black plume of smoke in the air, and we knew where it was coming from. We arrived while the fire was still in full swing, cruelly eating away at the always previously joyful house. My grandparents were antique dealers and the fire had taken quite well to their treasures. But we never would have guessed what else it took. My grandmother would eventually die of dementia in 2005, but really showed no sign of its onset until that Sunday. The fire was too much for her and she started on a rapid slide into the clouds of Alzheimer's.

My grandpa, as it would turn out, had a terminal cancer that was probably already in full swing, and which caused confusion as well, and while we did not know the cause, this too was apparent immediately after the fire. But it was made worse, I believe, because my grandpa was a fixer — he had infinite patience when something required it and the determination to match — nothing was beyond fixing if he put his mind to it. But my grandma was. He could do nothing to pull her back out of the fog she entered so suddenly. He denied anything was the matter with her to us when we tried to probe in concern, but after he died, we found contact information for the Alzheimer's Association amidst his things. It seems despite his own bout of irrationality he was very aware of what was the matter with my grandma, but refused to admit it to anyone else to protect her. Until his own disease made it impossible for him to do so, he poured all of himself into the project of keeping her afloat. From an outside perspective of years gone by, it is really something beautiful to behold his determination driven by love, but in the immediate ashes of the fire, all I saw was that my grandparents, who had been an absolutely huge part of my life had survived but been all but taken from me anyway.

I wish on no one the horror of digging through the rubble of a fire, doubly so in January. The smell of the fire sticks to you for long after you leave the site with a scent that is surely straight out of the Inferno. I can still conjure up the smell just thinking about it. If the smell is not enough of a reminder, the ash is nearly permanent on anything it lands on. The pain of seeing the house in ruins is, at least temporarily, overcome by the far worse prospect of sorting through those ruins. It lingers.

And so it was, really, for my grandparents. They did not live so much as linger after that day. They were two of the most amazing people I have ever known, and two I could do little better in choosing those to emulate. Those two amazing, loving, wonderful, unique people in a cloud of smoke were snatched away.

January 11, ten years ago. Time's winged chariot moves so quickly.

So Much to Write About

By Tim Butler | Posted at 12:49 AM

I have so much to write about, but today just went zooming by. I have some ideas other than politics tomorrow, more reflective type stuff, and then I'll talk about my candidate endorsement sometime soon. Sorry for the delay. Tune in tomorrow! :)

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