Dickens and Christmas

Have you heard about the movie: The Man Who Invented Christmas?

Chris Knight, chief film critic for the National Post, said, “The movie is based on Les Standiford’s long-winded historical non-fiction from 2008, The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits.” Knight also said of the movie, “By all rights, The Man Who Invented Christmas should be a humbug. Instead, it’s a humdinger.”

Charles John Huffam Dickens was a prolific writer. One article says he is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era, and that he created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters. Several of them are: Jack Dawkins, the pick-pocket in Oliver Twist; Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol; Mr. Pott, the editor in The Pickwick Papers; and David Copperfield in David Copperfield.

Dickens was a prolific writer. But did he invent Christmas? Humbug!

But some pagan activities did intermingle with the sacred celebration.

Another commentary is from Ronald Hutton, an historian at Bristol University in the UK. He said, “It’s a mistake to say that our modern Christmas tradition comes directly from pre-Christian paganism. However, you’d be equally wrong to believe that Christmas is a modern phenomenon. As Christians spread their religion into Europe in the first centuries A.D., they ran into people living by a variety of local and regional religious creeds.”

One report says: “A Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian, pagan traditions into the festivities along the way. Today, Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts.”  (history.com/topics/christmas)

Philip Shaw, who researches early Germanic languages and Old English at Leicester University in the UK, said, “Early Christians wanted to convert pagans to Christianity, but they were also fascinated by their [pagan] traditions.”

Stephen Nissenbaum, author of “The Battle for Christmas”; Vintage, 1997) made a good case for an old Christmas celebration when he said, “If you want to show that Jesus was a real human being, not just somebody who appeared like a hologram, then what better way to think of him being born in a normal, humble human way than to celebrate his birth?”

Christmas celebrations developed independently around the world for almost 2,000 years. And why not? Jesus’ birth was probably one of the two most important events in the history of the world!

And that’s why we celebrate Christmas – God became man in order to redeem us and restore our fellowship with Himself. And he came as a baby, born in a manger.

But as mentioned previously, many of the Christmas festivities became corrupted. Instead of candlelight services or worship services, rowdy and drunken revelries became common. Therefore, many protestants rejected paganized Christmas celebrations. Early Protestants wanted to honor Jesus Christ, our Savior – not have a festivity which obscured Christ. Denouncing sin and frivolity, they gave necessities for life as gifts; avoiding superficial parties, they shared sacred meals.

But as some Protestants squelched the pagan revelry surrounding Christmas, they also put down anything associated with Christmas celebrations. They threw out the baby with the bathwater. In this case, they threw out observing the birth of Jesus with the pagan celebrations.

Enter Charles Dickens.

Noting societal debauchery, prevalent poverty, and abusive child labor in the 1840s, Dickens vowed to do something about it – and writing was what he did best. In six weeks, he wrote A Christmas Carol. If you’ve read it, you know why it became an immediate best-seller.

Dickens wanted to insert joy and gladness into a life filled with drudgery, dreariness and death. Without ignoring the seriousness of life, he portrayed the Spirit of Christmas filled with miracles and laughter. He also reminded society of the importance of blessing others by caring for those around them.

Did Dickens invent Christmas? No. But he did encourage joy and human-kindness, and inspired a positive change in society.

Jesus, who is God (John 1:1-3), came to earth to restore man’s relationship with himself. But he came as a baby (Matthew 1, Luke 1) so, as he grew, he could personally experience mankind’s trials, hardships, and joys.

Jesus loves you and desires for you to know him as he is today – God and Savior.

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season.

What Should We Do?

When people slander you, what do you feel like doing? When someone hurls insults in your face and maligns your integrity, how should you respond? What does human nature demand?

Please hear this: when we respond in our fallen human nature, war breaks out!

I grew up in a family of 10 kids, and if you know anything about children, peace does not always freely reign. We could sing When Peace Like a River Attendeth my Way, Let There be Peace in the Valley, or Peace On Earth, Goodwill Toward Men all we wanted to, but when one of us was offensive, only Dad or Mom could break us up. That’s fallen human nature. Why are we that way?

Now, lest my siblings find this and read it, I want to affirm that we had a lot of fun and have a barrel of good memories. Our family memoir, Looking Through the Rearview Mirror, bears this out. But we did have war at times. You might enjoy reading about the adventures and misadventures of our family, and can order the book at: https://www.amazon.com/Looking-Through-Rearview-Mirror-Linzey-ebook/dp/B09JM3N5TD/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1634619105&sr=1-2

When emotions get riled up, words tend to fly out of the mouth that might not be true. But if there is any truth to the words, the angry person tends to blow it out of proportion. And this problem is not relegated to children. Adults from 18 to 100 are just as guilty.

So, how should we react when someone attempts to destroy our character? How should we respond when someone broadcasts his or her disdain for us?

The wrong answer is to fight back; to fight fire with fire. Bristling, getting huffy, and trying to set that person straight tends to prove the angry person’s accusations.

There are several versions of the right answer. But since I have a habit of giving simple answers, let me give you one right now although I’m not the author of it.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, “I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (KJV).

The Aramaic Bible in Plain English says it this way, “I say to you, love your enemies and bless the one who curses you, and do what is beautiful to the one who hates you, and pray over those who take you by force and persecute you.”

But eighteen of twenty-eight versions I read simply say something very close to, “I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you.”

Loving others simply means, be kind to them.

When I was twelve years old, one of my school-mates hollered, “Your family isn’t fit for a pack of wolves!” When I complained to Dad, he said, “If kids say things like that, just respond, You’re right. we can’t stoop that low.” A few days later when the junior high school thug hurled another similar epithet, I responded as Dad suggested. Amazingly, that was the end of the potential feud.

The old saying, it takes two to tango, can be applied to many situations. Recently, when a man who despises my worldview hurled hateful words at me in a public setting, I told him I considered him a friend. Was he friendly? Of course not, but his actions do not mandate my reaction. I purposely chose to respond in the manner that Jesus taught, and I pray for the man.

Getting angry raises our blood pressure and increases our cholesterol level, both of which are hard on the heart. Anger confuses us and immerses us in a moral quandary. Angry people don’t merely offend people they dislike, it puts a wedge between them and their friends.

An angry person develops a hollow feeling that cannot be filled. The person then has a compound-problem: he must amplify angry emotions and increase his outbursts to justify the feelings of hate. As the situation intensifies, a false reality develops which deepens the deception.

What should angry people do? If they enjoy being angry, they’ll continue as they are. But if they want peace in their lives, they’ll need to realize that the answer to the problem comes from Jesus and can be found in the Bible.

Jesus, the Prince of peace, wants to heal us of our self-inflicted problems, and as Philippians 4:7 says, Jesus gives us peace that cannot be adequately explained.

What else should we do? Follow Jesus’ example and forgive those who offend you. You’ll be happier and healthier if you do.

The Passion Play

In our daily Bible study, we were reading about the Israelites at Mount Sinai and the Ark of the Covenant, and we wanted to see if we would be allowed to tour the Holy Land site in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It was only a 2-hour trip, so we hit the road.

When we arrived, we were surprised to learn that the Passion Play was to be presented that evening, and our granddaughter had never seen the play. We quickly bought tickets for the play and for the buffet dinner merely 150 yards away. Touring the Holy Land site would wait for another visit. The meal was wonderful.

I may be mistaken, but I think most of you have read the account of the last weeks of Jesus’ life, His arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection in the New Testament. You might have seen a portrayal at church during Passover or Easter or seen a movie about it. But have you ever seen it live at Eureka Springs, or at Oberammergau, Germany? Seeing it like that enables the reality of the event to sink deep into our emotions and our mind.

The Passion Play in Eureka Springs started in 1968, but the production in Germany has been performed every year from 1634 to 1680, and one summer each decade since 1680, with the characters played by the inhabitants of the village of Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany. However, it was postponed in 2020 because of the pandemic, but will be presented in May of 2022.

The producers send scouts throughout the town and recruit those who look like they might fit one of the Biblical characters.

I don’t remember what decade in the 1900s this was, but as a scout was looking for someone to play the part of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, he saw a man who appeared to be down on his luck. He looked disheveled, scruffy, unkempt. The scout asked him if he would be willing to be Judas in the upcoming production.

The man looked at the scout, eyes opened wide, then filled with tears as he began to cry. The scout immediately apologized, thinking he had offended or insulted the citizen, but the shabbily-dressed man motioned for him to wait a minute. Regaining his composure, the man said, “Ten years ago I was a well-to-do businessman in town and a valued member of our church. I was highly respected throughout our community. Ten years ago, I played the part of Jesus.” He began sobbing again as he ambled around the corner and out of sight. What happened to him? Did pride overtake him after playing the part of Jesus? Probably.

I’ve never been to Oberammergau, but I have seen the production five times in Eureka Springs. It’s amazing that I, a spectator, a student of the Bible, can be emotionally and spiritually impacted by watching this highly-professional Bible production, but one who played the most important part of the play in Oberammergau, that of Jesus Christ, lost his sense of reality, lost his job, lost his family, and seemingly lost his identity.

Many of us today are also hurting in some area of our life. Some of us are angry at God because He won’t play by our rules. Some of us have become arrogant and use scripture against the One who inspired the writing of Scripture. Some of us hurl insults at God and at His people, thinking that we are hurting them.

Please understand that you are hurting only yourself and those close to you. You can never hurt God; He’s above that. The hurt, the suffering, the torture, the excruciating anguish Jesus experienced was associated with bearing our sin while being beaten half to death, then mercilessly crucified. All for us. Why? Because He loves us. Jesus loves you!

Jesus came to give us peace and life. He came to help us establish our identity and help us identify with God.

I don’t know if the man in Oberammergau ever played the part of Judas, but I hope he eventually restored his relationship with Jesus.

Please understand, God doesn’t play by our rules. The Creator of the universe has His own rules, and He came to give us eternal life.

The Meandering River of Life

The Büyük Menderes River is the longest river in Turkey that twists and turns in a tortuous path as it rushes to the Aegean Sea. The name Menderes is a derivation of Maiandros which is transliterated into English as Meander, and that name has become prominent in our culture.

A good illustration of meandering is when my dog and I walked the three-quarter mile dirt road to our mailbox when we lived in the mountains of northern New Mexico. For every 50 feet I walked, Tyke ran to-and-fro about 200 feet. Another illustration is the Ohio River which flows from Pittsburg, PA to Cairo, IL. The Ohio is 981 miles long, but Cairo is only 549 miles from Pittsburg by helicopter. The meandering nearly doubles the distance.

Due to natural causes such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, and hurricanes, river paths change at times. Dad was raised in McAllen, Texas which isn’t far from Brownsville. Years ago, Dad said, “Brownsville is usually in the United States. But during flood stage, the Rio Grande changes course, flows north of Brownsville, and puts the town in Mexico.”

Of course, Dad was joking about Brownsville being in Mexico, but the Rio Grande did change course at times before the flood-control dams were built.

Not only has the Mississippi River changed course, but it also flowed backwards several times. The first time that we know about was after an earthquake in 1812, and the reverse flow generated a tsunami which wiped out a pirate’s den on a river island. When it resumed its southern flow, it cut a new channel and a portion of its course had changed. The second time was in 2005 when it reversed its flow for several hours during Hurricane Katrina. The third time was in 2012 when Hurricane Isaac forced the southern end of the river to flow backwards for 24 hours. You probably read about the mess it caused up and down the river.

As Carol and I were driving from Bloomington, IN to Worthington, IN last month, I turned onto a road that wasn’t on the map. It was headed in a northerly direction, and I knew I would get to my destination. The road meandered every-which-way like a stream trying to find its way to the ocean. Nevertheless, it was relaxing until we reached a T in the road with no indication as to which way we should go. Frustration was about to raise its ugly head, but a man in an old rusty car stopped and asked where we wanted to go. We told him, he told us to turn right, and peace reigned again. The road took us to Worthington, and we joined up with our son and his family.

Then while assisting our son in building his home, I came into contact with poison ivy. That changed my life for a month.

Events throughout life generate corporate change as well. Businesses closed and people lost employment because of our reaction to the recent pandemic. War affects political and financial decisions. I officiated at the funeral of a dear friend in Kentucky recently. Direction in life changed dramatically for that family.

Life is like a meandering river. Change is ever-present. Confusion is prevalent. Emotions are visible and anger often flares.

But stop. Let’s not react negatively. Change is guaranteed almost every day, so how do we establish and maintain a steady course?

The captain and helmsman of the ship must know the river. Sam Clemens, known as Mark Twain, studied the Mississippi and knew every turn. Some captains hired cheap help and lost their vessels to rocks, hidden logs, and erratic shorelines, but Mark Twain kept his boats in safe water.

As we sail the meandering river of life, we need help in keeping our “ships” in safe water. We dare not trust our lives to myths, fables, imaginations, and humanistic religions. We need a solid anchor with a reliable chain that keep us secure during the storms of life.

That anchor is Jesus Christ, and the double-chain consists of the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 14:26, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” So read what Jesus said in the Bible.

Jesus our guide in the meandering river of life. You can trust Him.

What Did God Say?

God said, “Let us make man in our image.” And when I say “God,” I mean Jehovah, YHWH, the Creator, the Supreme God in the Bible. So, if we’re made in His image, what does God look like? Has anyone seen Him?

Not lately, but Abraham might have, Moses saw God’s afterglow, and Adam conversed with God daily – for a while.

Scripture tells us: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God is a spiritual being, and we are spiritual beings who live inside human bodies. Mankind was the high point of God’s creative work here on earth. God created us as an entirely new species, quite different from animals. And to emphasize this distinction, God placed man over the animals. In Genesis 1:28 God told Adam, “Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Animals can’t do that.

How else are we different from critters? Evolutionist Julian Huxley noted that “only humans possess true language, conceptual thought, art, humor, science and religion.” And I add, only humans can record and direct the course of history. Humans can express themselves analytically and it is obvious that only humans have the ability to communicate through complex, multi-lingual skills. All this sets mankind apart from the animal kingdom.

And, quite interestingly, only humans have the ability to deny the existence of God.

Marriage is another example of how we’re made in the image of God. Adam and Eve’s union was much more significant than two beings openly mating in the jungle. Marriage was specifically one man with one woman. Marriage is a compassionate, loving, fruitful, social, and spiritual union.

As humans who are made in the image of God, we reflect many attributes of our heavenly Father. These spiritual and moral attributes allow us to commune and fellowship with people as well as with God. Attributes like love, mercy, and justice are only three examples of Godly qualities available to mankind. God created us to enjoy relationship with each other, but specifically, He made us to enjoy relationship with Him. God wants us to interact with Him and to be in fellowship with Him. This is not the nature of animals.

Some people say mankind is no greater than the animal kingdom and is why man should limit his population growth while protecting the animal species. I suppose they haven’t noticed several animal traits that civilized humanity does not endorse.

Such as: Some animals eat their own kind, but we do not condone cannibalism. Some animals kill and eat their offspring, but we don’t condone infanticide or eating our babies. (Correction: misguided and disobedient humans do commit infanticide in the form of abortion.) Animals don’t care for the elderly, but because of Godly compassion, humans do care for the elderly. Animals do not have the skills and ability to change their society, but man has created great civilizations and been to the moon and back. Animals have continued their lives without change for the past recorded 6,000 years. Chickens live as they have throughout history. Their change in living quarters is because of man.

When you hear or read some scientists say that 98% of our genes are shared with some animals, don’t get excited about it. They also say we share about 50% of our genes with bananas, so what might that mean? I think those statistics are meaningless.

Only humans can experience faith in God. However, it appears that some people were not happy with that arrangement and have created their own imaginary deities. Humans have the ability to choose to worship God or themselves; to acknowledge Almighty God as sovereign or claim another personage (human, spirit, tree, rock) as either a sovereign or co-existent deity. Humans gather for the purpose of worshiping a deity corporately. Animals cannot do any of this.

But of all earthly creations, only man can worship and trust our Creator and enter into a relationship with Him.  

God is a communicator Who cares for us and guides those who listen to Him. He made us to help others. He defeated sin and death through the death and resurrection of Jesus so that we can be with Him and enjoy our relationship with Him forever.

What did God say? Let us make man in our image.” And He did. But God gave us the authority to decide how we will use the attributes He gave us. How are you using them?

Protected by a Spider

Okay, I know that title above sounds a little goofy, but I want you to think about something. What does it take to protect us?

Since there are thousands of dangers in the world, let’s get to the spider and branch out from there.

Now, to put it succinctly – or bluntly, if you prefer – a busy spider protected the future King David when he was hiding from the current King Saul. I read a story some time ago in Hebrew literature, and I’ll write it here to the best of my memory.

When King David was a boy, he enjoyed walking through the fields while taking care of his father’s sheep and enjoying nature. He was thrilled to see how each creature gave something to the world. Several examples are, hens lay eggs, bees make honey, goats produce milk, and sheep give us wool. But he couldn’t figure out a good purpose for the lowly spider.  

“What’s the purpose of the spider?” David wondered. He didn’t even find a good use for the web, although he must have forgotten about it catching bugs. As an answer to the question, God seemed to impress on him that everything in creation had its purpose, and that one day he would understand that the spider also had a purpose.

Years went by and David became a hero who saved his people from the enemy by killing giant Goliath. King Saul was envious of him, feared for his throne, and decided to kill David.

David ran for his life and hid in the hills but Saul, with a portion of his army, was hunting for him. One day hearing that Saul was closing in on him, David hid in a nearby cave. Saul’s spies told him that David was in this area and figured they would kill him within an hour or so.

David was now in mortal danger and cried out to God, “Who will help me?”

Unknown to David, as soon as he entered the cave, a spider quickly spun a beautiful, well-developed circular web across the cave’s entrance. Saul’s men reached the cave where they were sure David was hiding and were about to enter it. But when they saw the intricate web, they said, “If David were here, he’d have torn the web to pieces. He must be hiding somewhere else. Let’s go!”

That’s how David realized that the spider, like all other creatures, can be useful, and he immediately thanked God for creating spiders.

What did it take to save David’s life? A spider.

That makes me stop and wonder how many times diversions, incidents, delays, etc., have saved me from danger.

Returning home from Maryland last month, I made a wrong turn somewhere in Pennsylvania which delayed me for about thirty minutes. No big deal. We normally give ourselves extra time because we don’t enjoy being in a hurry. But when we got back to the right highway, there was quite a slow-down. We eventually saw the tow trucks hauling off two mangled cars.

Would we have been in that wreck if we hadn’t taken the wrong turn? I’ll never know, but checking the timing of my wrong turn, that error could have saved our lives.

A spider protected David. A wrong turn might have protected us. What else protects us?

Some years ago, we were attending a local church that we enjoyed. I was a deacon, Carol and I sang in the choir, a couple of our kids were in the orchestra. But one day the idea came to me that we were supposed to leave that church.

I prayed about it, and the Lord impressed me with, “It’s time to go.”

I didn’t understand why, but I had long-since stopped questioning God. So we talked with the pastor and developed a gentle way of stepping out without raising too many eyebrows.

Within a short time, a major problem broke out in the church and reputations were hurt. But because we had already stepped away, we were not affected in any negative way. We were protected by “the still, small voice” we read about in 1 Kings 19:11-13.

Spider. Wrong turn. Still small voice. God protects us in many ways. All that’s required of us is to obey the Lord. John 10:27 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Don’t allow delays and problems to ruin your day. Those delays might prevent a bigger problems.

Death Valley

When we reached California to visit our son and his family, Ron asked, “How was the trip?”

“It was a tough trip. I went through the valley of death just to see you.”

“Really, Dad? So you, a 74-year-old Californian, finally visited Death Valley National Park. Was it worth the time?”

“For a Californian, definitely, YES. But I think for a US Citizen, the answer is still, Yes.”

After Carol and I drove through Bryce and Zion National Parks on May 10 and 11, our next visit was to Death Valley.

There are three basic routes to visit the Valley: the Fast Route, Scenic Route, and the Explorer Route. Any of the three are worth the time spent, although I think the Scenic Route is the most rewarding.

Situated in the northern Mojave Desert, Death Valley is an intriguing part of our Country. Here’s an interesting travel trivia tid-bit. The highest point in the Continental United States (that excludes Alaska and Hawaii) is Mount Whitney. The lowest point in the US is Bad Water. Are you ready? These two geological points are only 88 miles apart. Mount Whitney reaches 14,494 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, and Bad Water is in Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level.

The Valley is also the hottest spot in the Western Hemisphere. When we visited it on May 12, 2021, the temperature was 110 degrees F. A year earlier on August 16, the temp reached 130 F. The highest air temperature ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere was in Death Valley on July 10, 1913. It was 134 degrees F. But there’s more. The hottest surface temperature ever recorded on earth was in Death Valley on July 15, 1972. That was 201 degrees F, and some folks fried eggs on the ground. I hope they didn’t eat them.

The Valley is called a “graben” which is a block of land between two mountain ranges that has dropped, probably due to earthquakes. Over 5,000 years ago, the Valley held a 100-mile-long lake which was about 600 feet deep.

Have you ever heard of climate change? Long before industries developed and before we contaminated the atmosphere, several thousand years before the Pilgrims came to America, climate change was already well-developed, and Death Valley Lake, along with thousands of others, dried up.

The area turned to desert and most of the water evaporated which left an abundance of crystalized material; the primary one was borax. Borax was mined heavily from 1883-1907. Have you ever heard of Boraxo, or 20 Mule-Team Borax? It came from Death Valley, and the Pacific Coast Borax Company sponsored radio and television shows called Death Valley Days. The radio program ran from 1930-1945, and the television show ran from 1952-1975. Ronald Reagan was the narrator of the television show from 1964-1965.

Several geological faults intersect in the Valley, and the Amargosa River runs into it but disappears in the sand. And, if you’re wondering, it snowed once in January of 1922.

The Valley is home to the Native American Timbisha tribe, formerly called Panamint Shoshone. They called the area “tumpisa” which means “rock paint” because red ochre paint is made from the clay found there.

On February 11, 1933, President Herbert Hoover declared the area as Death Valley National Monument, but in 1994 it was renamed Death Valley National Park. Located in California and Nevada, it’s the largest national park in the 48 states, and has almost 1,000 miles of roads in it. Dress with loose-fitting clothing and take plenty of water with you during your visit.

But why is it called Death Valley?

In the 1849 California Gold Rush, about 300,000 adventurers went to find their fame and fortune. A group of 13 were just a few who entered the Valley but didn’t understand the dry heat of the deep desert and didn’t take enough water. They were found dead, and people called it a valley of death.

Do you know that millions of people around the world today are searching through an emotional and spiritual valley of death for fame, self-worth, or mere acceptance, while others are seeking wealth, power, and prestige? That craving will never be satisfied outside a relationship with Jesus Christ. Fulfillment in this life, and joy throughout eternity is found only in Jesus.

Visit Death Valley but live for Christ. The treasure you seek can be discovered by reading the treasure-map, the Bible.

Revisiting Noah’s Ark

A couple of years ago, I mentioned that we went to see Noah’s Ark. This one really isn’t Noah’s because he’s not here, and he didn’t build it. But according to the dimensions listed in the Bible, this structure is a life-sized model. Is it the exact same shape? We don’t know because no one alive has seen the original ark. Many people doubt whether the flood was world-wide, but their doubt does not disprove what the Bible says.

At the turnoff from I-75 onto State Road 36 in Williamstown, go east for about a mile, and the ark is behind several small hills. When it first comes into view, it doesn’t look so large, but there is still another mile to go. When the shuttlebus drops us off, the ark looks large, but not huge. But we’re still an eighth of a mile away.

As we walk up to it, the enormity of the structure is striking!

How big is this boat? Genesis chapter 6 gives the dimensions in cubits: 300 long, 50 wide, and 30 high. The length of the cubit has varied with time and people, and historically has been between 18-22 inches. The Builders of this model used a nominal 20-inch cubit.

The ark in Williamstown is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. The internal volume is equivalent to the volume of 570 modern railway boxcars.

For size comparisons, a football field is 360 feet long from the back of one end zone to the back of the other, so both the original ark and the model in Williamstown are too long to fit inside the football stadium. The size of the ark is truly impressive!

Can this boat in Kentucky float? No. It wasn’t built to float, but to illustrate what Noah, his boys, and probably many hired hands built. I believe it took Noah and company about 100 years to build the original because of what God told Noah in Genesis 6:3. “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh [meaning, evil]; his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” I believe those words informed Noah that the flood would take place 120 years after that discussion.

Prior to entering the ark, we watched a video of the construction of the ark. It was quite a feat and was done without any government financial assistance. That means, no tax money was involved.

I wish I could show you some of the 545 photos Carol and I took. The builders of this model indicated how the thousands of animals might have been housed or caged. Noah might not have had full-grown elephants, hippos, giraffes, etc., but perhaps young ones. However, it was God who brought the animals to the ark, not Noah, so the age and size of the critters didn’t matter. God somehow tamed all the animals that He brought to the ark, and, as you might guess, the heavier animals were on the bottom of the three decks.

It’s also amazing how food might have been stored for a year for all the animals and for up to two years for the eight human passengers. With our current understanding of how much animals and people eat, and of how many kinds of animals there probably were back then, it’s easy to figure how much food would have been required. And there was still plenty of extra room.

Animal excrement removal must have been a chore!

I enjoyed the way they imagined living quarters for the four families, and the names they supplied for the four wives were relevant to the times. Much geologic, social, and cultural history is shown by several videos, and by many charts and graphs throughout the ark. Cultural history prior to the world-wide flood, therefore, the reason for the world-wide judgment, was highlighted.

In planning for this ark, the people did their research and identified many animals that have become extinct in the past 4,500 years, many of which would have been on the ark. That enhances the educational aspect of the visit to the ark. In fact, we saw four public school buses bringing students to the ark for an educational field trip.

If you ever have an opportunity to go east, go to Williamstown, Kentucky and visit the ark. It’s only 40 miles south of Cincinnati, Ohio.

It rained while we were there, but we were safe in the ark.

Down Memory Lane (pt.2)

For a couple of years, my brother, Paul, and I’ve been talking about preserving family memories. Our parents and parents-in-law are gone, two of our siblings are gone, and we don’t know what the future holds. Every time someone leaves this life, an encyclopedia of information evaporates into thin air.

How many times have you heard, or even said, “I didn’t really know him”? How many times have you thought, “How would he respond in this situation?” Or, “I know we grew up together, but what happened that gave her a different outlook on life than I have?”

It was time to start documenting Linzey family memories!

To begin, two major factors had to be considered.

1) Because everyone is so busy, the process must be simple. And

2) Because writing is seen as a chore, the process must be enjoyable.

The brainstorming session began.

Proverbs 17:22 informs us that a cheerful disposition (“a merry heart”) is good medicine to the body, but discouragement causes our health to deteriorate (“dries up the bones”).

We could let each sibling take turns choosing a topic to write about, but people’s minds sometimes go blank. Several of our siblings asked, “How do we choose a topic?” So Paul chose the Rememory Card® system. (Look up “Rememory Cards” on the web.) Nevertheless, with or without cards, here is the simple process Paul wrote.

  1. Decide how many months you would like the project to continue.
  2. Each week, take turns selecting a writing prompt and those joining the fun will write a memory on that topic. Write from a half to 2 pages per memory. Paul and I decided on one memory per week, but you can choose your own time cycle. We realized that if we waited too long, we’d lose the enjoyment and the momentum.
  3. Write whatever you want. Nobody will censor your language or stories.
  4. There is no pressure or mandate to write about every topic selected. If you don’t want to write about something, skip it.
  5. You may write about anyone in the family. Your stories don’t have to be only about yourself, however, you should be considerate of others’ feelings when writing about your family.
  6. You can draw from your whole history. Consider your whole childhood as well as your adult interaction with the family.
  7. This is a memoir project. Memory is not always accurate. In fact, it’s been demonstrated that nobody remembers perfectly. Also, we tend to interpret as we remember. We subconsciously fill in the blanks, expand, and erase some aspects of our experiences. So, we don’t challenge anyone’s memory. Memory is specific to the individual.
  8. Every family has both good and bad, painful and pleasant, positive and negative, funny and serious memories. Try to get your stories to reflect a balance and a blend of these dynamics.
  9. Not everybody will remember what you remember, so it might be a good idea to identify the year, the location, and the writer’s name after each person’s story.
  10. It’s OK if your stories focus on yourself, but, if possible, find a way to bring at least one other family member into the anecdote.
  11. This endeavor can create priceless documentation of your family history that your grandkids and great grandkids might never know otherwise.
  12. Simply take turns choosing a topic, gather the stories, and have someone compile them. If the family agrees, you may find a publishing company (expensive traditional or affordable self-publishing company) to format it and turn it into a family treasure.
  13. Keep in mind that this memory project is for your own benefit as well as for the rest of the family. And if you get brave, as my family might, you can have it published for the general public.

Our family started in January and will complete it in October. With six of us writing, we’ll have well-over 400 pages to edit and format into a family treasure.

There are ten kids in our family, with fifteen years between the oldest and youngest. Knowing that fact alone, you may understand why there’s a lot about each other that we don’t know – even coming out of the same family, same church, and same basic culture.

The fact is, we are all different and we all interpret life differently. But all six of us thoroughly enjoyed it, and, as a side benefit, this project has drawn us all closer than we’ve ever been before.

Down Memory Lane (pt.1)

In the summer of 2013, Carol and I were in Southern California when I learned that one of my cousin’s sons had died. Attending the graveside funeral, two other cousins and I began talking about family memories. The statement that caught my attention was, “When a person dies, all his or her memories are sealed in the coffin, never to be recovered – unless they were documented.”

Unless they were documented kept ringing through the corridors of my mind.

Documented how? When? In what circumstances?

We all know that nothing happens unless it is planned. Even accidents are planned out of ignorance by those who refuse to take safety precautions.

My cousins and I began talking about generating a family writing project, and the outcome could be a book of family memories. It could generate family cohesiveness. (We needed it!) We especially wanted to get memories from our surviving parents written down prior to their departure from this life. The farther back we can go, the stronger our family foundation will be. Our grandparents were already gone and our fathers (who were brothers) were gone. But our mothers were still here, and perhaps we could get the writing ball rolling. They could fill in memories of their husbands – our fathers.

Well, that didn’t happen. The only memories from our parents that we were able to compile was from their private writings in letters and diaries. And that wasn’t much.

When one of the cousins asked why we need to get memories written and what difference it would make, all I could say was, “For you, it wouldn’t make much difference because you are not interested in your past. And it infers that you aren’t interested in teaching your kids about their past. But enquiring minds want to know.” He openly agreed that it doesn’t matter to him, but that didn’t hurt our relationship. We still enjoy great camaraderie.

But I’ll answer that question for you folks.

Family history is important. Among other things, it helps to establish personal identity, self-esteem, and helps us understand the direction we’ve chosen to travel in life. Several examples follow.

Both of my parents were musicians, they came from a line of musicians, and my nine siblings and I are musicians. Dad was a chaplain, Mom’s side of the family includes a line of ministers of the Gospel, and nine of us siblings have been in or are in Christian ministry.

Dad was not only humorous, but quite pragmatic. What about the ten of us? All of us are pragmatists, and all but one has a well-developed sense of humor. Yes, we laugh a lot sometimes in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Let me add here, no matter how funny the story might be, try NOT to laugh at a funeral. It is the wrong place and the wrong time.

Everyone has quirks, traits, or habits that are peculiar to them. Why do we have them? Where did we get them? Does it matter?

It does matter for several reasons.

If we are being harassed or pestered about a personality trait, we might want to change. Understanding our past can assist us in making the change. But understanding our past can also strengthen our backbone if we don’t want to change. We just might like who we are!

I’ve been told often, “You’re just like your dad!” At first, I didn’t know how to take that hit. But when I stopped to analyze the situation, I was happy. I like my dad! So I was happy to be “just like him.”

One time I introduced Dad to some of my colleagues in New Mexico. After a few minutes of interaction, one of my friends said, “Chaplain Linzey, you’re just like your son.” Dad and I looked at each other, looked back at my friend, and broke out laughing. When the one who made the comment realized what he just said, he broke out into a big laugh, too.

Proverbs 17:22 informs us that a cheerful disposition (“a merry heart”) is good medicine to the body, but discouragement causes our health to deteriorate (“dries up the bones”).

So, what does that have to do with writing family memories?

Thanks for getting me back on track.

I have nine siblings. Two are in heaven, and two don’t have time to write. But six of us decided to get this family memory project going. I’ll tell you more next week.

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