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What's Done and What's Not

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:16 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 Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:58 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 Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:07 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 Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:38 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 Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:49 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! :)

The Flip Side of Memory

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:30 AM

Remembering spring '05 is a mixed blessing over these past spring like days. On the one hand, it was one of the most pleasant springs ever, on the other hand, it leaves me missing those things that were then and likely will never be again.

I need to write about that somehow, perhaps as I did related events in my “Nameless” series from the previous fall. In some ways, the spring portion of the 2005 semester seems to be the time to beat for me — everything seemed so perfect. But, that is a story for another day.

ON ANOTHER NOTE, I'm not quite sure what to say about tonight's primary. I'm happy to see Clinton winning over Obama, but I'd rather have seen Paul, Huckabee or Romney triumph over McCain. Still, I'll take any of those four over Giuliani, so all is not lost.

Reminds Me of Spring

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:20 AM

It has been around seventy degrees the last two days, which makes me (unsurprisingly) think of spring. Particularly, it makes me think of spring 2005, perhaps the finest spring in recent memory for me. The weather and memories made me feel light and joyful, perhaps especially when combined with the fact that I finished my TA grading duties for the fall semester exams on Saturday evening.

Now a spring thunderstorm has set in. Pleasant little moments…

An Elegy to the Year Now Passing

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 2:55 AM

A single porch light glows across the night scene from my back window. The wind is blowing gently, but persuasively. A certain sadness seems entwined in this, and yet the warm glow of the Christmas lights that twinkle about me inside pulls me from waxing on too much about the cold I only see, and am not left to survive in this night. Such is 2007 as it bids us farewell.

Back when I was primarily a technology writer, my end of the year articles typically were highly optimistic treatises talking up the glories of the segment of the industry I wrote about. There are always plenty of good events that happen in a year for an industry, and everyone likes a feel good story to sum up a year. And yet one year not too long ago, the whole idea seemed too shallow as my father lay in a hospital bed with various heart problems and my grandmother was slowly being ravaged by the cruel foe that is Alzheimer's. So I dropped the traditional article; and let it slide by as if it never happened. It has not from my pen since.

Read my full column at OFB

Yearning for Eden

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:49 AM

Bittersweet is such a truthful word. This week was a reminder in several ways of bittersweetness. A reminder of saying too much and saying too little. Of words misunderstood. Of memories of friends no longer heard from, and loved ones who passed away. It seems like there are a lot of memories of loss that surround the few weeks on either side of Christmas, and even those separated further from the date are all the more fresh at this time.

I think one of the best things I got out of Covenant Theology this fall was a point Dr. Collins drove home numerous times over the course of the semester. I'm familiar enough with the details of the Garden of Eden, but I don't think I ever internalized them — understood them — until this fall. He made it clear that at least part of the object of the story is to show us what we yearn for, what we were made for, what should be. What was. I guess I moved over the text too fast in the past.

Our future hope in Christ is not a hope for a new creation, so much as it is a hope for a restoration. The pain that exists is a yearning for something very specific. We are yearning for Eden. We groan for Eden. In Eden hope for restoration would not be necessary, because nothing would be broken, disconnected, alienated, dissolved, regretted.

Perhaps it is appropriate in preparation for celebrating our Savior's birth that past pain comes to the surface and even new pain springs forth. We yearn for Eden. He that restores us, came so that our yearnings would not be for naught.

For now, though, I yearn for Eden.

Remember Me?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 10:23 PM

So, I only posted once during the whole month of November. Wow. I'm not sure I've been that light on posting since I really got going on this blog five or so years ago. This semester has been really hard for blogging. Part of it is workload — I've found the amount of work relatively intense with some deadline looming just ahead even more so than last semester (or during my time at Lindenwood). But, I think the hardest part of all has been the fact that I've been in class almost constantly since January. With Summer Greek in Exegesis, there was little time for a break and that left me tired going into this semester. If one goes into a semester tired, well, that doesn't bode well for feeling energetic at the end.

And so it is. I'm more ready for a break then I have ever been before. I really love being at Covenant, and love my classes. But I need a break really badly. I find I can't focus my energy into big bursts of productivity like I normally might at the end of the semester, so it is more of a struggle than usual to get done. Fortunately, I am on the home stretch.

What's done:
  • Prep and Del (1st semester of homiletics) “late term exam.” This was a comprehensive exam given two weeks ago. There isn't a final, so this was essentially the final exam.
  • Pastoral and General Epistles exegesis paper. A 10 1/2 page paper on Hebrews 6:4-12 entitled “A Thorn in the Side of Perseverance?”
  • My Covenant Theology hermeneutics paper, which was essentially like an exegesis paper minus the interaction with the original language. I did mine on Genesis 50:15-26 and its interactions with the problem of evil.
  • The final Pastoral and General Epistles content exam, on the Book of Revelation and Michaels's IVP commentary on Revelation.
What's Left:
  • Presbyterian History Project: I'm writing a play that should be approximately two hours in performance length on the interactions between David Cardinal Beaton and Protestant Reformer George Wishart. I still have several scenes to go and a number of revisions on existing scenes.
  • Pastoral and General Epistles Exegetical Notebook, which has a collection of Greek passages to translate. I've finished a preliminary translation of 11 of the 14 passages, but I still need to add more exegetical questions and usage notes.
  • Covenant Theology Oral Examination.
  • Prep and Del Group Sermon Project. My group of six members will turn in a complete manuscript, but will not present it.

All of that will be in by December 14, if not earlier. Here's hoping I survive! :-)

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