“It’s a long way from here, Dad.” The son sighed and gazed across the expanse of meadow stretching to the horizon.

“And once you leave there’ll be no trips home.” The father turned to face his son. “Not even for holidays or a brief vacation.”

The father drew his son into a tight embrace, so close that the two figures appeared to melt into one for a brief moment.
“Dad, I’ll let you know how I’m doing.”
“You can always reach me here, though I realize that you won’t be able to send word right after you arrive. It’ll take a while for you to settle in. But I’ll be thinking about you every moment. I’ve made arrangements for a place for you to stay. You’ll be living with good friends of mine, people I trust.”
“You think I’ll be able to fit in? These people are so different from anyone I know here at home.”
The father laid a steady hand on his son’s shoulder. “You’ll always be a foreigner there. No matter how well you learn to speak the language, no matter how perfect your accent, you’ll always be different, and, face it, people there fear differences.”
“They have such strange customs. If your clothes look expensive, people lead you to the best seat at the table. But if you talk differently or if you have callouses on your hands, everyone imagines you just arrived from the back country.”
“Get used to it, my son. The people you will be staying with don’t wear silk. They speak with an accent so thick that even a hotel maid could tell where they come from. And soon your hands will have a callous or two just like theirs. Your host is a carpenter. An honest man, a loving man who works with wood. He’s not much for conversation, but like me, he has a passion for creating things.”
“In that case, I’m certain I’ll like him. And his wife?”
“You’ll love her. She knows when to talk and when to listen. I hear from her often. That’s why she’ll be the one to keep me up to date on how things are going those first weeks and months while you are getting settled.”
“All my life you’ve been near me. I’m going to feel so alone.”
“You don’t think I’ll feel lonely too? Listen to me, Son. Soon you’ll be making new friends there. They’ll love you and learn to trust you even when other people turn their backs. You’ll be telling your friends about me, and before you know it, they will be my friends too.”
“You are sure all this is necessary, aren’t you, Dad? You are certain it is worth the effort?”
“Believe me, if there were any other way—if I could make this trip myself, for example—I’d do it in a flash. But I’ve thought about this for a long time, and there is no other way. It’s not like this is the best of several options. There simply is no other solution.”
“I understand. Is it okay if I say goodbye to people here? I won’t see them for a long time. I’m going to miss everyone so much.”
“Of course. While you’re gone, I’ll keep folks here up to date on all your progress.”
“Thanks.” The son paused and looked back. “Dad . . . I love you!”
“And I, you. Forever.”

This is a story about how I got an 8-point buck with a single 4000-caliber shot.

The shot was actually my new VW beetle. In October, 1966, I was teaching in Houghton, NY, but wanted to attend a missionary conference at my home church in Ithaca, NY. As I was driving east on Route US-13 at dusk, an 8-point buck jumped into my headlights and put its head down as if to defend itself. I hit it squarely on, snapping its neck as its rack caught a fender.

I pulled over to assess the damage. Fortunately, a state trooper was following me. He stopped, with the news that he saw everything, and had already radioed the game warden. Twenty minutes later, the deer was tagged and ready to go. In New York – unlike Pennsylvania in those days – a deer killed by a car belonged to the owner of the car. To transport it, I stuffed it in the back seat. No worry about blood, since its skin wasn’t broken. The body didn’t quite fit, so I wedged its head down between the front and back seats.

As I drove down Main Street in Ithaca, I noticed people staring at me. Then I noticed out of the corner of my eye the head of my buck peeking over my shoulder. At first I was scared that it had not really died, but then I realized that its neck had just untwisted from the awkward angle I had forced it into. Knowing that, I smiled and enjoyed having a buck as my passenger.

When I arrived at the church, I put the deer on Pastor Bill Blackwood’s porch, and wrote a note to tell him it was there, and to ask him – an experienced hunter – to dress the deer for me. I slipped behind him as he sat in the front pew of a darkened sanctuary watching missionary slides. I handed him my note. He didn’t believe me.

When the church service was over, he did dress the deer in time to save the meat. I gave him the rack, heart, and liver in appreciation. My family was poor in those days, so we were glad to have venison to eat for the winter. I gave a quarter to my father, a quarter to my aunt, a quarter to an uncle, and kept a quarter for myself.

Dressed weight of the deer:  124 pounds. Cost to repair the Volkswagon:  $124. (That’s $1 per pound for the meat.) Appreciation for Rev. B.:  Priceless.

Translator Lee Bramlett was confident that God had left His mark on the Hdi culture somewhere, but though he searched, he could not find it. Where was the footprint of God in the history or daily life of these Cameroonian people? What clue had He planted to let the Hdi know Who He was and how He wanted to relate to them?

Then one night in a dream, God prompted Lee to look again at the Hdi word for love. Lee and his wife, Tammi, had learned that verbs in Hdi consistently end in one of three vowels. For almost every verb, they could find forms ending in i, a, and u. But when it came to the word for love, they could only find i and a. Why no u?

Lee asked the Hdi translation committee, which included the most influential leaders in the community, “Could you ‘dvi’ your wife?” “Yes,” they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved but the love was gone.

“Could you ‘dva’ your wife?” “Yes,” they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.

“Could you ‘dvu’ your wife?” Everyone laughed. “Of course not! If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say ‘dvu.’ It just doesn’t exist.”

Lee sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16John 3:16
English: World English Bible - WEB

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

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, and then he asked, “Could God ‘dvu’ people?”

There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men. Finally they responded. “Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected His great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

One simple vowel and the meaning was changed from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you, based on Who I am. I love you because of Me and NOT because of you.”

God had encoded the story of His unconditional love right into their language. For centuries, the little word was there—unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable. When the word was finally spoken, it called into question their entire belief system. If God was like that, and not a mean and scary spirit, did they need the spirits of the ancestors to intercede for them? Did they need sorcery to relate to the spirits? Many decided the answer was no, and the number of Christ-followers quickly grew from a few hundred to several thousand.

The New Testament in Hdi is ready to be printed now, and 29,000 speakers will soon be able to feel the impact of passages like Ephesians 5:25Ephesians 5:25
English: World English Bible - WEB

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it;

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: “Husbands, ‘dvu’ your wives, just as Christ ‘dvu’-d the church…” I invite you to pray for them as they absorb and seek to model the amazing, unconditional love they have received.

A. Gene & Emily’s Advent letter is here (PDF format).

B. Emily’s Advent essay, “Zecharias tells a story,” is here.

C. Here are some photos and videos from our kids and grandkids.

You can listen to Josiah on the drums here.

Elliott and Anderson visited us one weekend this summer, then Elliott and Josiah on another weekend. Here are Elliott & Anderson in our neighbor’s pool. At our house here they are playing with bubbles.

In September, we visited a fall festival. Here are videos of Josiah jumping and Anderson, Prisca, & Elliott sliding.

In October, Emily and I traveled to Massachusetts to celebrate Dad Parke’s 95th birthday. Here are Eleanor & John Parke and with their kids.

In November we visited Tim, Elizabeth, & Simeon in Texas. Here are some memories of those days: Simeon [1] with Emily and [2] with Gene and [3] amazed that Grampa can play the harmonica and [4] experimenting with Bendaroos and
[5] with Gene & Emily dressed for church.

In December, we went on a “Santa train excursion” with Prisca and her family. Here are Anthony & Prisca & Elliott and Josiah & Emily & Anderson.1

Meanwhile, back in Texas, Simeon is enjoying [6] vacuuming with Periquito Azul watching 2, and [7] Tim, Elizabeth, and Simeon at the nursery school Christmas party.3

  1. Anderson says, “I know Santa are fake.”
  2. Nursery students take home a stuffed animal and then talk about their experiences with it. “Periquito Azul” means “blue parakeet.” For Josiah a few years ago, it was a frog.
  3. Photos 1 through 7 courtesy of Tim & Elizabeth Chase.

Headlines

Headlines

by Emily Parke Chase, Advent 2008


A muted shawl caressing a new mother’s head

covers hair mussed by hours of

fright

A faded kaffiyeh wrapping a father’s damp brow

a rope knotted once and then tied

tight

A woven yarmulkah clinging to a shepherd lad’s head

a boy kneeling now before a heavenly

sight

A regal turban pinned with a golden brooch

its diamond sparkling in the candle’s

light

A swaddling cloth wrapping a babe head to toe

the source of all joy on this holy

night.

Daddy’s Voice

Daddy’s Voice

by Emily Parke Chase, Advent 2011

“Story, Abba. Story!” Dark eyes looked up and pleaded for attention.

“You mean the story of the chicken that trapped Mama in the shed?”

“No, Abba!”

“You mean the story of how Abba fell in the mud last week on his way to synagogue?”

“No!” The little boy’s face shook fiercely from side to side.

“You want to hear your story? Again?” The man nodded his grey head and motioned for his young son to crawl up on his lap. “Of course, this story took place a long time ago. It began before you were even born.”

John wiggled in anticipation. Every fiber of his 3-year-old body seemed to vibrate.

“The week began in a very ordinary way. I was on duty at the…”

“TEM-PULL!” The boy shouted and bounced his head until the long black curls flew. His arms traced a vague path in the air that resembled the shape of a large building.

“Right! I was at the Temple, just as I had been many other times in my life. But that week was not to be ordinary, my son, not at all. Lots of priests served that week, of course, but only one would enter the sanctuary and light the incense. I took part in the lottery and as an old man, I never imagined that I might receive that honor, but that day?”

“Abba picked!” Small fists flew up and churned the air like a gladiator claiming his prize.

The boy’s father smiled and nodded. “Yes, I was picked. I bathed myself carefully and carried the incense past the sacrificial altar and entered into the holy place. And there, in the dim shadows of the room, I saw something move in front of me.”

“ANGEL!” John jumped off his father’s lap and leaped around the room. His arms waved up and down as if he himself were one of the golden cherubim flying down from heaven.

“Suddenly the whole room was full of bright light and, yes, an angel stood in front of me. He told me that Mama was going to have a …”

The boy danced over to his father’s knee and pointed to himself. “BABY! Baby John!”

Zecharias held his tired arms out and waited until his son calmed down and crawled into his lap a second time. “Now you must listen carefully, son, because something hard happened next. I confess that I didn’t believe the angel. I was old! Mama was old! How could we have a baby?”

John hid his eyes in the soft folds of his father’s tunic.

“The angel told me that because I did not believe I would not be able to speak at all.” Zecharias disentangled his son’s face from his robe and paused until he had the boy’s full attention. “And then, just as the angel said, I couldn’t talk any more!” He pretended to mouth words and gesture to the right and left.

John held his breath as he waited for the familiar words that would come next.

“A long time went by. A long long time. Mama’s tummy got bigger and bigger and BIGGER!” The father looked down at his young son. “Who was inside?”

“JOHN!”

“And when you were born, could Abba talk again?”

“NO!” John held up the fingers of his two hands in front of Zecharias’ face.

The old man gently pinched the littlest finger to represent the first day. He frowned, pointed to his mouth and shook his head. Then he pinched the boy’s second finger to represent the second day and shook his head once more. Then the third. He looked at his son and raised his eyebrows in question. John shook his head.

Slowly the father touched each finger in succession until he came to the eighth one. Once again he paused and waited for his son to speak.

The boy placed one small chubby hand on each side of his father’s face, leaned back and laughed before shouting, “Abba TALK!”

“That’s right! On the eighth day Abba could talk. And now we know that the Lord is able to do…”

“ANYTHING!”

“You are right! He can give an old man a special son named John. He can take away a voice and give it back again. God can do anything!”

Zecharias set the boy down on the floor, twisted him in the direction of the kitchen and sent him off to find his mother. The old man didn’t rise immediately. He looked down at his own gnarled fingers and whispered to himself, “Can You still do anything, O Lord? Can you keep me alive long enough to teach this son to hear Your voice?”

1. Here is Emily’s and my Advent 2010 letter.

2. Here are pictures and videos of the family:

Tim, Elizabeth, and Simeon

Simeon first with Emily (Aug. 2009) in Texas right after he was born, and second visiting his great-grandparents (Oct. 2010)

Prisca, Anthony, Josiah, Anderson, and Elliott

Josiah, Prisca, Anderson, Elliott at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park (23 Aug. 2010).

Anderson and Emily at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park (23 Aug 2010).

Elliott and Gene (27 Feb. 2010)

John and Kelly

Kelly hangs a sudoku quilt that Jan Parke made for Kelly & John’s dining room.

John and Prisca at Prisca’s house.

John turns 26, May 2010, at his cousin Heather’s house.

John juggling at Messiah College homecoming just for fun (24 Oct. 2010). John is facing the camera as the juggling video begins.

3. Here are some of Gene’s thoughts while flat on his back in January full-time and most of February through April.

I learned a lot of great spiritual lessons. Too independent, I learned to be dependent on my angel Emily who nursed me. Praying mostly by talking, I learned to practice listening prayer. I had no idea how I would respond to God in the middle of severe pain, but it turned out that I was able to see God as faithful. In the Book of Job, Job’s wife gives him bad advice: “Curse God and die.” I passed the “Job’s wife test.” A workaholic, I accepted the fact that I am loved without performance, and so I allowed a friend to lead the Christian ministry that I direct, which helped him to flourish in leadership. As a control freak, I would have found that hard to do unless it was a necessity. In short, the spiritual benefits of my ordeal far outweighed the physical benefit (losing 35 pounds, but only gaining 15 of them back).

How can I know anything? I can’t do better than to outline the ways mentioned by the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (or more precisely the Anglican quadrilateral, if one wants to get attribution right).

The four ways to “know” something are: experience, tradition, reason, and revelation. Experience includes experiment, but of course if someone else did the experiment, and we believe them, then we are relying on tradition, not on experiment. By traditon, you see, I don’t mean just church traditions. I mean books that people have written and lessons that teachers including our parents have taught us.

For example, I know that the mass of an electron is 9 x 10^28 grams not by experiment but by tradition. Most scientists know that by tradition. Very few have done the experiment. I did the experiment when I was at MIT and I got a 1000% error. So I certainly don’t know it by experiment!

On this account, almost everything I know is by tradition. On this account, everything I know is filtered through my experience. I experience revelation from God (about which more in Part 3 of this blog entry); I experience traditions.

As far as I can tell, these methods of knowing are not reducible to fewer. The logical positivists (the so-called Vienna School) originally wanted everything to be just experimentation. That’s what “positivist” means. But then they realized that they couldn’t put two thoughts together without reason, so they changed their name from “positivists” to “logical positivists.” (I’m imputing a conscious choice to an historical evolution.) Logical positivism is the reigning philosophy of science today. The aim of logical positivism is to do away with metaphysics. That turns out to be impossible, as people as diverse as G. K. Chesterton and Bertrand Russell have argued.

In 1908, responding to a distinctly American flavor of anti-metaphysics called Pragmatism, Chesterton said, “Pragmatism is a matter of human needs, and one of the first of human needs is to be something more than a pragmatist.”1 In 1909, Bertrand Russell in responding to Pragmatism said that if we do away with metaphysics, only guns can arbitrate truth.2

When I was at MIT, I also took a few courses in philosophy. I started a course in logical positivism using A. J. Ayer’s book, The Problem of Knowledge, as text. When we had to write a paper on the topic, “Can I be mistaken when I believe that I am in pain?” I knew that I was in pain for taking the course. I dropped it. Logical positivism would like to take the observer out of consideration. This is as silly as the other extreme–solipism–in which there is no objective reality apart from the observer.

I view the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as a skewed parallelogram.

On the horizontal axis the four methods of knowing range from experience, the most subjective, to revelation, the most objective.3 On the vertical axis they range from experiment and reason–the most scientific–to tradition and revelation–the most metaphysical.4

In two future blog entries I plan to address each means of knowing separately, showing in particular that the Bible supports each means of knowing, and showing that each without the others can mislead us. In particular, revelation alone can mislead us. This will address a valid question that my friend Paul Tucker raised in an email today: Isn’t revelation the most subjective means of knowing of all, given that different religions have contradictory claims about what has been revealed?

As usual, I won’t know what I think about these things until I write about them and discuss them with my friends.

  1. In Orthodoxy, as quoted by Louis Menand in The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, p. 362.
  2. ibidem p. 374
  3. By “objective,” I don’t mean “true.”
  4. I am retaining the labels on the axes as developed for two invited lectures: for President’s Scholar Lecture Series at Messiah College in Spring 1997, and a related talk for New Covenant Fellowship Church in Spring 2008. In those talks I was specifically thinking about Christians making decisions about what to believe about sex outside of heterosexual marriage. I had the theological specifically in mind.

I was humbled to receive poor student evaluations of my spring semester teaching. Unlike those form Christmas letters that whitewash the previous year, I want to face up to the criticism.

Those of you who are not teachers (and not pastors, who teach too) may skim.

I finally screwed up enough courage to read my student evaluations for my History of Math course despite my fear at the outcome. Parker Palmer in his book Courage to Teach is the first person to voice my fears as a teacher, giving me permission to voice mine. In short, I screwed up. My spring evaluations were absolutely the worst I have ever received in all my decades of teaching at any school anywhere.

I quickly rationalized the outcome. First, because of a back injury, I was in pain teaching from a seat and laptop, not able to be spontaneous. In fact the only praise I got was that I was very organized. How thankful I was to have prepared a major chunk of my work the previous summer, and not left it to January when as it turned out I was in bed 22 hours per day. Second, because I had never taught History of Math before, I was teaching material that I was learning as I was teaching it.

I thought, “Gimme another chance!”

Contrast that with the hands-down best evaluations that I have ever received, pinning the evaluation meter against the upper end in every category. I taught Math Modeling exactly like the late Dr. Jeff Hartzler did. How did I do Modeling differently from History?

In Modeling, I used teams, I allowed students to choose the material they studied and the pace at which they proceeded, and I was highly interactive in the classroom. In History, all that I did was to lecture. In History I tried to allow students to read in advance so as to use the class to discuss the parts that interested them. But they specifically asked me not to do that; they wanted lecture. I soon concluded that they didn’t know how to ask for what they really wanted, and although I knew what they needed, I wasn’t equipped to do that while in pain.

This video explains what they need. They need application to their world, their preparing materials for others’ use, not just being sponges absorbing my “pearls of wisdom.” I might have had them create podcasts as my colleagues Anita Voelker, and Dave Richeson have done, or lessons for a math classroom (half of my 12 students were Math with Education majors). Richeson at Dickinson had a radio program on Dickinson College’s radio station, so he broadcast his students’ podcasts on the air. This gave students the added incentive to do their very best, knowing that their work would be public. Then he put them on iTunes for an even wider public.

“But,” you hasten to comfort me, “didn’t you win the Robert and Marilyn Smith Teacher of the Year award in 2002? Doesn’t that count for something?” Yes, it does. But the students who voted me in were very highly self-motivated. I’d like to be able to teach well those who aren’t as highly self-motivated. After all, the highly self-motivated almost don’t need me.

I’ve been humbled by praise for my teaching. Now I’m humbled by constructive criticism.

Good spiritual lesson: humility.

Teaching History of Math this past semester gave me an excuse to read carefully two Dover Publications books that I have owned since high school, but only skimmed then. Imagine my delight to discover that if you are given a theorem that is hard to prove beforehand, you can prove that is transcendental in just a couple of lines. The hard theorem gives many other corollaries too, corollaries that I’ve known in my gut but never had a handle on how to prove.

Here are the details, from p. 76 of Felix Klein’s book Famous Problems of Elementary Geometry. You can read it on-line at Google Books.

Theorem (Lindemann): Over the complex field, in the equation not all of the
and can be algebraic, assuming that at least one

Corollary 1:
is transcendental.

Proof:
and 1 is trivially algebraic, so is transcendental, so then also is

Corollary 2: In the equation if x is algebraic and then y is transcendental. If x is a non-zero rational multiple of then y is algebraic.

Proof: Note first that by a power series argument, for example, Therefore, If x is algebraic then, Lindemann’s theorem applied to (*) shows that
is transcendental. If x is a rational multiple of then x is transcendental in a simple proof by contradiction from Corollary 1, hence y cannot be transcendental, again by Lindemann’s theorem.

Similarly, we can show that in only one of x or y can be algebraic (excluding the y = 0 case, as Lindemann’s theorem does, because ). Similarly for all of the rest of the trig functions and inverse trig function, which can also be expressed as rational functions of exponentials.

And finally, what is the heart of the proof of Lindemann’s theorem in the first place? It rests on the fact that as a power series has factorials in denominators, making any attempt to make it satisfy an algebraic equation a failure.

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