Monday, August 25, 2014

Honor Your Father and Mother

  Keeping the fifth commandment begins by devoting ourselves to the first one. It
begins by worshiping no other God than this God, the God who liberates from slavery. And it is in
doing so that we learn to honor our fathers and mothers and all those in authority. Itʼs then that we begin to understand the role they play and be grateful for it. Itʼs then that we begin to experience the
blessing of the promise made in the commandment. We experience a fuller life in the land that God
has given.   (

Mark Roeda, our pastor, has been preaching on the Ten Commandments.  This is the way his sermon ended today, August 24.

How do my children honor me?  Each one has honored me in the last week in his or her own way.

Jeff's family is traveling on the west coast for 17 days.  He has surprised me by texting several times. I have loved hearing his updates even if one was of a forest fire closing the entrance to Yosemite and today's is of hail in Salt Lake City.  Susan has posted photos on Facebook--Stanford, Berkley, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon; it is so good to enjoy their journey with them.

Laura has sent a few photos via text messaging of their vacation on the east coast--also two weeks--at a cottage in Ocean Grove.  I read her blog ( as often as she posts so that keeps me up with her family as well.

Dan posted some wonderful photos on Facebook of enjoying ice cream with Laura and her kids in Ocean Grove.  He and Raven must have taken a train or bus out there for the day. I am so glad when the siblings can get together even when we are so far away.

I wonder if they know how much those little contacts mean to their mother!  We have had longer contacts this summer as well and they were wonderful.  I have been able to spend at least five days with each one of them--either in their homes or here in South Bend or a cottage in Holland and the memories of those times bring me much joy.  They all make me feel very welcome in their homes; I need to find ways to be with them more.

We also need to honor Jim's mother who has been moved into a "memory care" unit in the last ten days.  We spent an hour with her on Thursday. Jim helped his sister move furniture around and fix up her room. I spoon fed her watermelon--the only thing she was willing to eat all day.  She didn't remember that we were there when asked the next day.

 How do we honor her?  We have a responsibility to her.  It is a time-consuming and tedious trip to travel to Kalamazoo to see her but it is one we must make for her sake, for Terri's sake as she has primary responsibility for Mom, and for the staff's sake--so they know her family cares.   And because, in this way, we worship God and honor him.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jim and Jubilees

Jim said he had finished his commentary on Jubilees today, having made it to chapter 50, verse 13.    This was an occasion for celebration!  This particular project has been ongoing since early 2010.  Jubilees has been a part of his life since he began his dissertation in 1974--40 years!

We went out to eat to celebrate.  I said it had to be Jim's choice so it was a Main Street restaurant--Cheddars.  It was amazingly busy on a Monday night--probably for good reason.  The prices are good and the food is just fine!

While waiting for our food, I thought it was appropriate to quiz Jim on his long journey with Jubilees and I took notes.  This occasion was worth a blog posting!

Jubilees is a retelling of the Genesis story and part of the Exodus story.  The author omits some things and elaborates on others.  I have read Jim's translation recently and it is interesting to read it next to Genesis and make the comparisons and wonder why the author made the choices he made.

When Jubilees was first studied and published in modern times, there were only a few Ethiopic manuscripts.   Now Jim is working with 15 Ethiopic manuscripts, one Latin manuscript, and 14 Hebrew manuscripts from Qumran along with bits of citations in Syriac and Greek.  It gets complicated!  He compared readings in the textual notes and he wrote a commentary on his translation comparing it to Biblical material  The entire project is not finished.  A graduate of Notre Dame's program, Brandon Bruning, is helping Jim with formatting the textual notes and Jim is grateful for his careful work.

There were ups and downs in the process.  The notes to chapter seven are in large manuscript print because Jim was working on that chapter during the awful summer of his failed retinal detachment surgeries.  Sarah Schreiber, a graduate assistant, helped him through that time.  This past year Jim had a year of leave so progress was much faster.  The last few weeks with another eye problem have slowed the work again.

Other scholars gave Jim their work over the years when they lost interest or felt they could not complete the work.  In 1981, two Dutch scholars gave him printouts of the Ethiopic manuscripts they had found from various European libraries and monasteries.  In 1990, Jim went to Paris and met a Polish scholar there, Josip Milik, who gave him his detailed notes.  That was an adventure in itself, meeting Milik who never wrote anyone but had all of Jim's letters to him on his desk, and meeting Milik's wife who blocked the door as Jim left making sure that Jim would credit her husband.

At times, Jim would wonder who would finish the project if he were unable to do so.  He might have had to pass on the work to others as others did to him. But he sees the end of it now and is even beginning to wonder what will be his next major project.  Of course, if more mamuscripts are found again, an update would be needed.  This is not impossible.  Modern photographic techniques may make it possible to give a better look at old manuscripts, in particular one in Latin now in Milan.  Another former student, Todd Hanneken, is working on this possiblility.

The book has been contracted with Fortress Press for years.   It will be a reference work--and not a best seller!  But the press must feel they will sell enough to make it worth their printing.  We have talked about the value of publishing on the web instead with easy access and easy updates.  But that is not to be this time.

Jim may retire from teaching at some point although he has no plans and is reluctant to discuss any.   But as long as he can see and think clearly, he can do his research.  So in that sense, he can hope never to retire completely.

Jubilees has been a part of my life too for forty years but I am sorry that I was not as interested in it as I could have been.  That has been an advantage of my own retirement--to have time and energy to try to understand better what Jim has been doing all those hours and days and months and years pouring over ancient manuscripts.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Week at the Big Lake (and Jim's eyes)

We always called it the Big Lake to distinguish it from the many little lakes in southwestern Michigan.  I have fond memories of times as a child and teenager on Lake Michigan at Ottawa Beach, Tunnel Park, Port Sheldon, and Grand Haven--all within a 45 minute drive from our home.

Last week we rented a cottage just a mile north of Tunnel Park.  The tunnel, built in 1930, is still there, but the park has been improved with steps to a dune overlooking the beach.  It was a joy to share this place full of memories with my son and his girlfriend last weekend.

Adding to the nostalgia was a visit later in the week from two couples who were our friends through high school years.  Jim worked in the muck fields of Jenison for several summers trimming celery with Don and Andy.  Those are bonds that few can share!  We laughed about old times but also enjoyed hearing about their families and lives today.  I am happy to say that I would have recognized each one of them anywhere even after so many years!

It was a lovely, relaxed week in many ways.  The hard part of the week was the concern about the viral infection in Jim's "good eye"--the other one has very limited vision because of the failed detached retina surgeries three summers ago.  I drove him home to see the doctor on Monday and we continued with a regimen of ten drops daily of four different meds.  Jim played nine holes of golf twice instead of his usual  18 holes daily while on vacation.   I spotted the ball for him the second time and felt very useful.  He needed my eyes.  (He would like me to say that he did par this hole in spite of the bad lie behind the tree!)

For me, I had Jim's good company more than usual while on vacation.  But it made me sad to see him struggle with limited vision.

 His doctor,  dressed in shorts,  saw Jim this morning, Saturday morning, in an empty office.  I think that is a sign of the doctor's concern and also his compassion.  Progress has been made but there is more to be done to restore vision.  Prayers are welcome and appreciated!

Thursday, August 7, 2014


I wrote a draft on this topic before and never posted it.  I hesitated to post about the lives of Jim's mother and my step-mother, both of whom are experiencing the dementia of old age--very old age--ages 94 and 99 respectively.  

A friend recommended "The Madonna of Leningrad" because of my interest in art and because dementia plays a role in our lives right now.  I couldn't read past the first few pages.  It was too real and painful.  The woman could not remember if she had breakfast or whose wedding they were about to attend or what her favorite dress was.  She did remember packing up the artwork in the Hermitage in preparation for the German invasion 50 years earlier.

Within the next two weeks,  Jim's mom will be moved into Crystal Woods, the center for dementia care, at her assisted living place.  We fear she will be angry but she needs more assistance.   It is so sad to see a woman who who traveled the world after Jim's dad died be so limited.  We hope and pray she will be happier when she has more care and more structure to her life.

What is the alternative to the dementia that seems to come to so many after the age of 90? (and mostly women who outlive their spouses)

Last week I read an entertaining and informative afterword by Carolyn Heilbrun to a book of Lord Peter Wimsey stories.  I wondered if Heilbrun was also known as Amanda Cross, an author of mystery novels.  My memory was right.  Heilbrun, a feminist professor at Columbia, wrote several novels set in academic settings that did not present academia favorably to say the least.

Apparently Heilbrun had written that she would commit suicide at age 70.  She made it for seven more years before she took sleeping pills and put a bag over her head, left a brief note, and died.  She was in good health and had just walked with a friend in Central Park although she did say that she was sad.  How could she have done that to her husband and her adult children?  But she did not want to grow old and feeble and under the care of others so she ended it all while she was still strong.   (There's that word "still" again.)

That's not a good alternative.  I know that would not be putting my life in God's control--as I try to pray often.  But the story haunts me.

Several months ago James Schaap wrote a very moving account of an elderly couple on The12 blog and ended with the thought that he "wanted to wish them nothing less than a loving whirlwind and a beautiful fiery chariot home." 

What a beautiful picture that would be!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

More Car Talk

"Another sign that you're growing up" was a phrase our older son remembers from his childhood.  Apparently we used it often.  Several years ago, I probably used it again when Jeff drove, Susan navigated and the three kids and I sat in the back of the minivan and we all headed into New York City to the Natural History Museum.  I was thrilled to have others driving and navigating especially crossing the bridge into the Big Apple.

Last week, we took it a step further.  Jim has a viral infection in his "good" eye--the only one that he can use for driving and reading.  We spent a hot afternoon with friends enjoying a Cubs game, but looking into the sun almost blinded Jim.  His eyes were so dilated that he could barely see for the one mile walk to a meeting place with Dan and Raven who had just gotten in at Midway.   After a great supper in a very darkened pub beneath street level, Jim's eyes were better but he was quite willing to have Dan drive home.  Dan drove and Raven navigated and Jim and I both sat in the back seat.  We really felt like the "old folks" but were grateful to have a driver who could see well.

As much as I would rather not drive, I was the "designated driver" today bringing Jim to the eye doctor at St. Joseph Medical Center and back again--about 90 miles each way from our lovely rental cottage on Lake Michigan.  Jim didn't like it and I didn't like it, but it was a good idea.  We both hope and pray that all the meds will have their effect and Jim will be back in the driver's seat soon.