Tuesday, June 26, 2007

New vistas

During the winter, I started riding our stationary bike during daily morning phone calls from my daughter in Denver as she commuted to work. The distraction of the phone call kept me from being distracted by other things and wandering off after a few rotations of the pedals.

Now it’s summer and phone calls from Denver come much less frequently. And riding a bicycle inside is less attractive when the mornings are so nice outside. We have several bikes sitting around, left over from the days when our household population was greater, however, only one of them has been kept functional. I started taking a morning ride on it.

I’ve been riding in a bowl. Every morning I turn right at the end of the driveway onto our gravel road. Down a little hill, up a bigger hill, down the other side on a gentle slope to where it tees onto a paved county road. Then I turn left and start to tackle a long uphill slope. I can’t make it to the top. I go as far as I can up the north rim of my bowl and then turn around. At that point I don’t have to touch the pedals for maybe a third of a mile until I reach the base of the steepest hill on my route. I can’t make it up that hill. I go as far as I can up the south rim of my bowl and then turn around and coast down the hill and start the arduous process of repaying all of the energy I saved while coasting the other direction. It’s not at all a steep slope back to our gravel road, just long and mostly uphill. Once back on the gravel, everything comes easily and I’m soon back home, albeit with legs of rubber in my current state of unfitness. The whole process takes between 10 and 15 minutes.

Over the weekend, my husband looked into getting another bike on the road so we could both ride. First he tried the big one. It needed new tires that would cost almost as much as a replacement for the bike. He donated it to the bike repair shop and turned to one of the smaller ones. One tire wouldn’t hold air. Last night, he pulled out another bike and got it going. That’s the one I took this morning.

It’s nice. Big tires. 21 speeds! (Up from 15.) Smooth shifts. I like it. (Thanks, Sondra.) I still didn’t make it to the top of the north rim of my bowl but I topped the south rim. I stood on the top of the steep hill looking at the uncharted territory ahead. Now what happens? Dare I venture outside my familiar little bowl?

Not this morning. I’ve been around long enough to figure out that adding another downhill segment to my outbound route means adding another uphill segment to my return route. (I’m sure there’s some profound lesson to ponder in that, but not today.) There are certainly new possibilities now, however. Civilization lies over that south rim – church, town, the library. Who knows where future outings might take me!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

First draft

I am a habitual reader of the Christian scriptures. I start nearly every day with four short passages from the Bible and have done so for quite a few years. I was also a “Bible quizzer” as a teen, spending an entire year studying and memorizing passages from either one long book or a couple of shorter books from the New Testament.

In the world of theology, I am part of the Wesleyan/Arminian camp as opposed to being a Calvinist. Among other things, that affects my view of scripture. We believe that scripture is “given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation”.* This is not the view that says God dictated every word nor that every word concerning every subject is factually true in a scientific way. It is a confidence that everything we need to know in order to form a relationship with God can be discovered in the Christian scriptures. They were written by ordinary people as the story of how God has revealed himself to mankind. Those who wrote were not aware that they were writing the Bible.

Those who believe that the Bible was dictated by God and is inerrant in all things, that those who wrote were simply scribes recording exactly what God told them to say, see scripture as miraculously given. Although I don’t hold to that view, I am still amazed by the process by which the Bible has come to us: Someone had to write the words; someone had to see value in those words and preserve them; people had to carefully copy the words and distribute them widely enough that not all the copies were destroyed by fire or flood or other disasters; someone had to gather them up and decide which ones were worthy of being called scripture and which ones were not. I know that the writings of the Greek philosophers were preserved from the same time period, that it didn’t take divine inspiration for ancient literature to survive, but I am still impressed by what has come to us, not only the richness of the collection we have, but the coherency that runs through it.

The other thing that impresses me is the quality of the writing. I not only read, I also do some writing. And I am a compulsive editor of my own words. Even now as I type, I keep going back to tweak a word here and one there, strike an entire sentence or even a paragraph. If I were writing with pen and ink, there would be strikeouts all over the page. And for what? A blog entry! How many will even read it?

I think of the apostle Paul writing letters to churches he can’t visit because he is imprisoned. Perhaps he is dictating to a scribe. He is concerned about the churches and has some points to make. Does he start with an outline? Does he realize that people will be outlining what he is about to dictate for hundreds and thousands of years? Does he know that they will build entire sermons and even doctrine around his choice of Greek words? How much thought did he put into those word choices? Is this where inspiration comes in?

I have written difficult letters. Sometimes, for the most difficult, I have typed out what I wanted to say, edited it, let it simmer for a while, gone back to it and done more editing and then transcribed it onto paper so that it would have the personal touch of being handwritten rather than coming off my computer printer. Did Paul do any editing at all? Were there scratch-outs on his paper? Did he have an edited version copied onto fresh parchment before sending it out? Or are we looking at first drafts in the New Testament?

Even with a good word processor and plenty of opportunity for revision, I can’t imagine writing something that would stand up to the type of scrutiny the Bible gets. And on scrolls of parchment?

I have read that some parts of the New Testament are written in less elegant Greek than others, that one task of the translator is to decide whether to reflect the coarseness of the Greek manuscripts in the translation. Still, there in not a book among the 27 that doesn’t have an inspirational message.

I guess I just need more inspiration. Or more editing.

*from Article IV from the statements of faith, Church of the Nazarene Manual.