Monday, December 22, 2014

The Wife of Bath

The best gifts are the most unexpected ones.

Today I had the joy of receiving a note from an old friend with whom I have been too long out of touch. She is an artist, residing in Bath, Pennsylvania. Upon finding her name in my dad's address book--unearthed in this month's portion of the continued sifting through his estate--I wrote her a few weeks ago.

What should appear with the note today but a gift of several bars of soap, made by the Wife of Bath--with a name whose pun works two ways. Here is the label from a soap called Instant Karma:
I cherish those things both artfully made at home and which bear a pleasing scent--perhaps learned from a few years of my own wife's work with homemade candles. I also enjoy references to medieval poetry which make me dig up again that ancient high school learning so long buried.

If one should desire for one's spouse a gift of handmade soap, composed lovingly with an artists' palette of scents and colors, then let me recommend a purveyor of such fine goods: Linda Kondikoff,

Just remember first to ask your spouse what she most desires.

Thanks, Linda, for the wonderful surprise!

~ emrys

Friday, December 12, 2014

Happily Ever Before?

Disney's newest classic, Frozen, has rocked the world of a whole new generation of Disney Princess fans. For those of us who have lived through several iterations of the "one day my prince will come" plot line, a major epicenter in the film was the moment when (spoiler alert!) Prince Hans of the Southern Isles abandons Princess Anna to the demise of her frozen heart. What? The prince and princess aren't going to ride off into the sunset together? No: As promising as Kristoff and Anna's relationship appears, the act of True Love that saves Elsa is her sister's self-sacrifice, not a chivalrous kiss.

What happened to that universal salve for loneliness and meaninglessness, Marriage?

This very question Stephanie Coontz explores in her book Marriage, a History: from Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage (Viking 2005).

In her exhaustive, scholarly tome, Coontz provides a breathtaking panorama of the institution of marriage through history. She begins with the fragmented anthropological tiles of ancient societies and slowly walks us down the aisle to twentieth-century marriage. On either side of the aisle sit the sweeping forces that contribute to our understanding of marriage: sociology, economics, law, and psychology. Coontz takes them all in, reflecting on the shifting effects each element of our Western society has on this bedrock covenant commitment.

As a "history," the book does not have a thesis per se. But one facet of the study seems to me to rise in greater relief, as I view the subject from my perspective in 2015. This aspect is described pithily in the subtitle: "How Love Conquered Marriage." Coontz asserts that in the 19th and 20th centuries the idea of marrying for the love of two individuals--the "love match"--radically and irrevocably altered the nature of marriage in our society. She emphasizes how re-centering marriage on the desires of two individuals has made the institution (if it can now be called that) both more satisfying and more fragile than it's ever been.

I appreciated Coontz's book for the rich detail engendered by her depth of research. But adding value to her work is her humble recognition of our biases and the concomitant surprise when faced with historical facts. We (especially we Disney viewers) assume that the Donna Reed version of marriage represents not only the ideal scenario but also a relationship reflective of the institution throughout Western history. Sure, they didn't always have electric toasters; but it was always the wife's job to stay in the home and wait for her husband to return from work, right?

As someone who officiates at weddings more than the average citizen, I am especially sensitive to the changing mores and family systems that affect--and effect--marriages. I am far from certain that a nostalgic insistence on the way things were (though they probably weren't) is the panacea for the fractured relationships that individualism produces. As in all relationships, nuptial or otherwise, I am convinced that commitment and self-sacrifice, no matter what the precise language or circumstances of the covenant, are the central features of success; who earns more money, who does the grocery shopping, and who spends more time with the kids matter less. As strange as it feels to me to quote a Jack Nicholson character in connection with marriage, his guise in As Good As It Gets says it well: Each spouse must feel of the other that "you make me want to be a better person."

So perhaps Frozen has touched this chord, too, with the zeitgeist-savvy writing by which Disney has made its trillions. It is not the descent of a privileged Prince Charming to the lowly station of a Damsel in Distress which melts the ice on a cursed world. Instead, the willingness of a sister to sacrifice her life exemplifies true love. So if marriage is going to last, even in our self-obsessed culture, it must help spouses commit to the discipline of sacrifice: What will I give up to bless my partner in our life together?

For anyone who wants to rethink the purpose and power of marriage, or to better understand the strange times in which we live, I recommend Marriage, a History.

~ emrys

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wanting Another Future

Somehow I got invited to a community forum for Rural Broome Counts, an effort to research and address the human service needs of the rural portion of our county (Broome County, NY). One of the presenters at this forum was Frank Evangelisti, who brought us a summation of the 2013 Broom County Comprehensive Plan: Building Our Future. After his brief presentation, he half-jokingly offered copies of the full plan and report, a 300-page spiral-bound tome with graphs, data, narrative, and an extensive vision for Broome County's future progress. After the forum, I got myself a copy.

Broome County has about 200,000 residents, living in situations as diverse as dense inner-city apartment buildings and 150-year-old farmhouses without a neighbor in sight. I was fascinated to read through all the data, distillations, and declarations made in the "comprehensive plan" for such a population.

More than the hard data, the vision-casting that goes on in the document makes me think. For instance, how does leadership make a community "vibrant"? This term came up specifically in the dream of the comprehensive plan. Color? Art? Smiles on faces? People walking with energy, rather than huddled and plodding against the driving wind?

Being outside the leadership of Broome County--and therefore suffering the separation of abstraction--I found myself reflecting on what a "comprehensive plan" would look like for the community of which I am a leader: the Church. Every item in the Broome County plan called for some change, some additional investment of energy, and probably some money. How does a community get people to want to do such things?

How does the Church get people to want to enact a vision for her future?

~ emrys

Friday, November 07, 2014

Both Ends of the Spectrum

The stark contrasts within my children sometimes amaze me. It's as if, at the age of 5 1/2, there is a policy of full inclusion, unconscious of paradoxes that we will see later in life.

Here is my daughter, gleefully sloshing in the autumn creek water, one of her favorite activities outside:
And here is that same young lady, poised and ready for the beginning of Sunday morning worship:
I'm not sure who taught her to cross her legs like that--I suspect that, yet again, she's imitating Kerri. Of course, one thing is constant: PinkAndPurple.

What a grand mixture we are, from the very beginning!

~ emrys

Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Way of the Cross

There is little to be said about the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, not because his work is not worthy of note but because his work and story speak best for themselves. So it is that after reading Letters and Papers from Prison (Eberhard Bethge, ed., 1967), I recommend it to you for its earthiness, sublimity, and challenge, which only diminish in description.

Nonetheless I must note three quotations, which speak to the theology arising out of Bonhoeffer's experience. He writes, "Our being Christians today will be limited to two things: prayer and righteous action among men [sic]" (p161). Bonhoeffer's thinking, in these letters, has little use for religiosity and ceremony.

"God lets himself [sic] be pushed out of this world and onto the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. Matthew 8.17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering" (188). Here is a clear strain of Lutheranism, to be sure, but also a radical sort of faith that on which even Paul in his letter to the Corinthians only begins to touch. Bonhoeffer has no patience for the deus ex machina, the God who extracts by miracle, brand of Christianity.

Thus: "It is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith . . . . By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes, and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings but those of God in the world--watching with Christ in Gethsemane" (193). Bonhoeffer's testimony against religious escapism gains great credibility from his own choices: to plot against the Third Reich; to serve as chaplain to inmates and guards while incarcerated; and to go peacefully to his execution on 9 April 1945.

Would that we could all take up the cross, when that path calls us, in such a manner as he. And would that we who follow Jesus could live each day as if we are preparing to do so.

~ emrys

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dismantling a Dream

Since visiting Disney World when I was a teenager, I have loved treehouses. The Swiss Family Robinson part of the park sold me on the wonders of living in tight, handmade quarters high up off the ground. I have dreamed for many years of one day having the chance to make one of my own. In 2006 we purchased (or began a handy arrangement with a bank to live on) 3.25 acres of forest with a house on it. 

In 2007 I began building my treehouse. Soon I had Phase 1 finished and had moved on to Phase 2. Soon after the floorboards started going down on Phase 2, My Lovely daughter was born; and everything non-parental in my life slowed down. Including treehouse construction.

Fast forward to the spring of 2014, when my construction-savvy brother came visiting. He noticed that the growth of the treehouse-hosting trees was pushing the boards off their anchor bolts. Slowly but surely, my treehouse was becoming a disaster waiting to happen.

So over the last three months, my treehouse has come down. Rather than let it turn into a decrepit shambles hanging in the distant trees, I decided to give it a proper end.

Here is the roof, torn off the rafters and sent drifting to the ground:
 Phase 1 without a roof (note that the condemnable wooden ladder has been replaced by a safe aluminum one):
 The only proper end for wood that's been hanging out dutifully in a tree for seven years is sublimation in a funeral pyre:
 Phase 1 with rafters and half of the railing gone:
 Where my foot went through the deck, proving another facet of my brother's concern:
 View from below Phase 1, after the decking was removed:
 The first night of returning the elements to whence they came:
And My Lovely assistant, who is ever ready to help on such solemn occasions:

Phase 1 with only two whole boards left. I cut the main joists, because of what you'll see in the next image:
Seven years of growth consumed more of the shafts of the lag screws, pushing the (rotting) wood outwards. An attempt to unscrew the lags met with significant resistance. Of course! A hard wood like maple would certainly grip the screws ever tighter over time. I decided to leave them in, and mark the tree for anyone who might show up with a chainsaw.
All the while, autumn was falling. So my Two Wee Helpers took frequent breaks to enjoy the crackling shower of lofted leaves:

Phase 1 with only screwed-on chunks left:
Phase 2: the next target for demolition:
 An example of where the rotted board had torn off its anchors, leaving one joist precariously perched:
Only the three joists left on Phase 2:

It turns out the lag screws did come out of the soft hemlock:
The free-floating triangular support that held up one half of Phase 2, on its way to the ground:
Emboldened by my success on the hemlocks, I made another attempt to get the screws out of the maple tree. With some persistence and lots of grunting, I did finally get the screws loose, dismantling even the last scabs of wood from Phase 1.

Lastly, the maple tree that hosted Phase 1, stripped naked but for a few holes and the green paint with which I had marked it:

Adieu, fair Treehouse! Though it lacks a structure of which to brag, this little stand of trees will hold for me memories of brilliant plans, time with teenagers, and adventures with my Two Wee Ones. It was worth it.

~ emrys

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tyler Family Jewels

I didn't know it until about two years ago, while unpacking more of the articles left to me by my dad's death, but he had his own silver ware as a child:

 Note the "T" on the handle of the utensils (which are, by the way, baby-sized):
 Dad was not technically a "Second," since his father's name was George Horsley Tyler and Dad's was just George Tyler. But the shorthand in the Tyler family was always George I, George II, and George III (for my half-brother, George Moreland):
 The silver cup had an assortment of exotic animals etched in it:
Neither of my kids ever wanted to eat out of it . . . I'm not sure what's going to happen to it. Maybe I'll have it melted down for something.

~ emrys

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Freedom's Apostle

"These are the times that try men's souls . . ." These words of Thomas Paine's helped stir a generation of English subjects to throw off the mantle of royal rule and vie for independence. Though many of us, myself included, have filled in Thomas Paine's name on a high school history test or two, I had never read about Thomas Paine's life as a whole.

In Tom Paine: Freedom's Apostle (1957), Leo Gurko presents an accessible and engaging portrait of Thomas Paine. Gurko's expertise is literature, and this story, without footnotes or references, reads much less like academic history and more like a novella. While I am certain that some ambiguities about the reported events receive a glossing, and that some quite specific details have been inferred, Gurko's work cuts a genuine and compelling figure of the sometimes paradoxical life and career of Thomas Paine.

As with most other historical works I have read, Freedom's Apostle makes me realize how simple my understanding of history remains. To cite one example: Thomas Paine's fluid movement between England, America, and France during his lifetime betrays my mental caricature of three nations and cultures so discrete that never twain shall meet but over the tips of swords. Thomas Paine could be a primary agitator and champion of the American Revolution, yet a decade later be a resident of London, England, and five years later be considered a beloved citizen of France.

Another tension that continues to fascinate me, especially in the current generation of "polarized politics," is the contrast between liberal Deists, such as Paine and Jefferson, and orthodox Federalists. The government--and, more importantly, culture--of the United States was forged between the anvil of firebrand conservatives and the hammer of rationalist liberals. I am slowly forming the hypothesis that those who believe America's birth came from harmonious thinking and unified effort prefer not to examine the foundation of their beliefs.

As for Paine himself, Gurko challenges me to see him not just as a brilliant author, but also as a manic loner, with an addiction to explosive cultural crises, a passion for Reason and a gift for eloquence. On such enigmas of the human spirit does the wheel of history turn.

To those who relish vivid and fast-moving accounts which nonetheless illuminate the complexities of history, I recommend Tom Paine: Freedom's Apostle.

~ emrys

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dirty Work, Dirty Play

We're rearranging our garden for next year, which means dismantling seven of the raised beds and planting grass seed. Yesterday morning, Gwendolyn asked if we could work in the garden after breakfast. Micah piped up with his approval of the idea. So out we went. They love wheelbarrow work, because it means both moving dirt and riding to and fro in the empty barrow.

We've razed two beds and seeded them for next year:
We found a toad, petted it, held it, and followed it around in the grass for a while:
The dirt from the garden beds is going to fill in the earthen ramp on the north side of the back porch:
Micah spent a good half hour playing by himself inside the barrow:
His big sister spent that time discovering textures in the moist earth:
Both really like shovel work: cutting, lifting, and dumping:
Here is Minute 14 of the first 30-minute period this week when they occupied with same space without making each other angry:
What a blessing to work and play in the dirt with my children!

~ emrys

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Remember When . . .

. . . you could fit inside a vacuum cleaner? Remember when you wanted to?

Digging out my mobile phone pictures, I found these two of Micah, at 1.5 years, loving the steam cleaner. It's in repose, getting its resevoir refilled. While an adult makes the trip from living room to kitchen faucet, Micah seizes the moment to climb into his race car and take off.

And for the times when the race car is not going fast enough, the geniuses at Hoover even added a crop with which to whip your vehicle to greater speeds:


~ emrys

Paper or Plastic?

It's not just for grocery stores anymore.

We spent the last week in Thornbury, Ontario, a gorgeous little resort town just out of reach on the south coast of the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. Since we were in Canada, I had the opportunity to see the changes in Canadian monetary currency since I left in 1999.

It has the look, the feel, and probably a majority of characteristics of plastic--especially the transparent strip on one end of each bill. I do not know how old were the bills I held in the coffee shop yesterday; but if they were anything other than a few months old, they held up much better than any paper money would.

And I wouldn't be surprised if every bill now has a dohicky inside it that allows GPS tracking anywhere in the world. There will soon be no such thing as private debts.

~ emrys

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

For The Record

After three years of compiling, editing, supplementary writing, more editing, formatting, more editing, and uploading, it's finally complete: the compilation of our blog posts (plus hosts of extra photos) from 2006-2008.

If you're one of the few family or friends who could imagine dropping $60 for a copy, it's found at:

I'm going to take a breather before I get working on another one of these.

~ emrys

Sunday, August 03, 2014


How many times does a family have to repeat an activity before it can be called a "ritual"? How many years must contain the same activity, in the same season, before it can be called a "tradition"?

For our household, blueberry picking has become a tradition.When Stone Hill Blueberry Farm opens up in July, we schedule a day to pluck several buckets of the little blue lovelies. Picking our own fruit continues to be one of the few activities which, for all four of us, can be productive, healthy, energetic, and fun all at the same time.

For scale, here's the haul, drying on the kitchen counter, with my two-year-old son looking on with excitement:
Jam and jelly, here we come!

~ emrys

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Meet Christian Ethics

In preparation for my seminar on the connection between atonement and ethics, I perused Stephen Long's Christian Ethics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford UP, 2010). It is one of the many "Very Short Introductions" offered by the OUP on topics ranging from Advertising to Fractals to Neoliberalism to Writing and Script. The pocket-sized book boasts only 135 pages, including notes and index; its clear brevity is a literary achievement in itself.

Long's work produces a useful balance between the theological foundations of Christian ethics and the practical issues to which such ethics applies. It does so without slipping into obscure theological or philosophical rabbit-trails. It also deftly handles the separate parts of the compound term "Christian ethics" so as to clarify the field in view. Long's writing is lucid, engaging, at times humorous (though in 135 pages there is precious little space to be spared for wit), and as complete as a "very short" introduction can be. The book spans the spectra of denominations and epochs from the early Church to the postmodern period, marking the full height and breadth of traditions.

For someone who seeks to begin a library of perspectives on Christian ethics (or even ethics in general), Long's book is the perfect place to start. In (very) short, this tiny tome is quite good.

~ emrys

The Fullness of Calvin

Following the recommendation of a wise friend, I dug into Bruce Gordon's 2009 biography: Calvin. Though dense with the fullness of academic rigor, Gordon's exploration of the life of the Genevan reformer moved with enough speed and direction to keep my interest. (Gordon even managed to slip in periodic references to the works of Tolkien, betraying either a personal hobby or perhaps a bet made with a student.)

Much more faithful to chronology than Selderhuis' text, Gordon avoided the danger of a wooden timeline by astute attention to the rich complexity of Calvin, his actions, and his circumstances. Calvin successfully connects essential components of the reformer's doctrines (like election, predestination, and the Lord's Supper) to the history and relationships in the sixteenth-century Church without digressing too far into historical theology.

Like Selderhuis, Gordon presents an honest balance between both the clear achievements and personal imperfections of the man John Calvin. He uses not only Calvin's own writings but also both the works of his contemporaries and other historians' efforts to shed a wide light on Geneva's prime churchman. The breadth of research for Calvin predestined the book to be a long read. But I found it well worth the patience it requires of the student who wants to appreciate the intricacies of the Protestant Reformation.

Much of the last quarter of the book showed me something I had not attended before: the significant impact Calvin desired to have--and to great extent did have--on the Protestant movement in France. Though Calvin's own writings can be interpreted equivocally regarding his desire for personal involvement in France, the evidence that Gordon brings forth reveals Calvin's prominent place in a great gospel tide surging from the Bernese and Genevan highlands to breadth of his homeland. Would that all we Christians could be so devoted both to Christ's kingdom in our own communities and also to its spread further into the world.

~ emrys

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Can We Have Too Much Atonement?

The next book in my research is A Community Called Atonement by Scot McKnight (2007). The title and the blurb online enticed me with the promise that the text would bring together matters of atonement and ethics in Christian theology--the precise topic of my seminar at the end of this month.

A Community Called Atonement attempts to build an understanding of atonement that moves beyond the simplicity of penal substitution which has gripped the thinking and preaching of much of the last fifty years of Evangelical Christianity. Using the metaphor of a bag of golf clubs, McKnight builds an argument that in order to play the full game of atonement, one must have more than just a driver or a putter. One's atonement theory must include more than a narrow forensic view of Jesus' death on the cross. It must include Christus victor, recapitulation, and part of the exemplar theories of atonement. In this, McKnight approaches the view called "Kaleidoscopic" in Joel Green's part of Atonement: Four Views (see earlier post).

What is even more tantalizing is McKnight's attempt to bring ethics into atonement. He argues that an atonement theory is incomplete unless it includes "missional praxis" in the form of fellowship, justice, mission, scripture, baptism, eucharist, and prayer. In what increasingly seemed to be a reaction to decades of "four spiritual laws" theology, McKnight's book brought every theological, ecclesial, and ethical facet of the Christian life into the "golf bag" of atonement. It seemed to me, by the end of a work that functioned more like a systemic theology than topical study, McKnight's atonement could be identified with just about any piece of Christian theology. Fellowship exists in the Church "for atonement"; "Scripture plays an atoning role in the life of the church"; and "the Lord's Supper is a praxis of atonement."

It sounds beautiful and poetic to make every aspect of Christianity a part of God's mysterious work we call atonement. As many authors have shown, describing atonement as a mechanism or event out of which the rest of Christianity flows presents difficulties of logic, metaphor, and language. But McKnight's approach to avoiding the classic difficulties by expanding the definition of atonement results only in a neologism for atonement that contains too much stuff to be meaningful. There's no use in talking about atonement if atonement can refer to anything at all.

Yes, atonement should be the font of the Christian life. God's reconciling us to the divine is central to the good news of Jesus Christ. I agree that if justice, fellowship, mission, and all the marks of the Church do not flow from us, then we probably have not grasped atonement. But saying that many things result from atonement is not the same as saying that atonement includes those many things in itself.

The only place where McKnight offers useful precision is in his attempt to describe the "bag" that carries all his "atonement clubs." He chooses a modification of the recapitulation theory, calling it "identification for incorporation." God taking on flesh in Christ ("identification") leads to our being "in Christ" through faith ("incorporation"). I would have appreciated more expansion of this new term. Without that expansion, I am left to suspect that it does not differ much from the recapitulation theories of Irenaeus and Athanasius, to which McKnight enthusiastically directs our attention.

Despite its limited usefulness in describing a precise theory of atonement, A Community Called Atonement reminds us, with erudite zeal, that atonement is not a legal fiction for the comfort of the individual believer. Atonement, rightly understood, opens the door to transformation of the individual, the Church, and society into the image of God. May it be so for us!

~ emrys

Dad's Long Drive

When my brother and I were young, in the early 1980s, we took a few family vacations to Chincoteague, Virginia. There we would inhabit a little cottage for a few days, go crabbing off the community pier, and find all the trouble for which two young boys search.

As a surgeon, Dad was often on call, which meant that at any time of day or night he could be called in to the Emergency Room or the Operating Room for a case. But even physicians get to take real, honest-to-goodness vacations, by getting one of their colleagues to cover on-call duty while they're gone. During our trips to Chincoteague Dad was covered by his fellow physicians.

On one occasion, however, even having coverage did not allow Dad to escape the duties of medicine. While we were in Virginia, one of his patients fell into a state in which emergency surgery was necessary. This patient refused the procedure if Dad wasn't the one doing the operation. So the hospital got hold of Dad, three states away, and he made the drive back to Bethlehem. As he told the story later, Dad drove 80 mph the whole way home, hoping and praying for a police car to pull him over so that he could get an escort. (Dad never intentionally drove over the speed limit, which at the time was 55 mph.) Of course, on that trip home, not an officer was to be found on the highway between Chincoteague and Bethlehem.

Those were the days when Dad was driving the brown Datsun station wagon (remember station wagons?), the boxy precursor to the boxy Nissan models. I remember kids at school calling them "rice-grinders," as a derogatory epithet. But that year the little Datsun made it back and forth to Chincoteague twice without a hitch (or an escort), and lasted several years more, to boot.

~ emrys

Friday, July 04, 2014

Atonement: How You Look At It

In preparation for a seminar course I'm teaching at the end of this month, I recently read The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views, edited by James Beilby and Paul Eddy (2006). This piece of IVP Academic's Spectrum Multiview series performs a wonderful service to readers seeking insight into multiple facets of atonement theory: It publishes four authors' perspectives on atonement, along with responses from the remaining three authors to each author's position. The book as a whole, then, constitutes a conversation between points of view.

I appreciated that the four views on atonement (penal substitution, Christus victor, healing, and kaleidoscopic) came from contemporary scholars describing their personal positions rather than offering historical surveys of atonement theories. The latter have their place (my hat is off to John Thompson, among others, who helped me to understand the significance of past generations' theologies), but I find arguments written for the present decade more engaging and more helpful in my search for clarity.

Atonement is one of the Gordian knots of Christian theology. The spectrum of imagery and logic used in the scriptures to elucidate how God and humanity are reconciled does not lend the topic to simple explanation. For a faith that seeks understanding, the atonement is an awfully elusive goose to chase.

Four Views offers a piercing analysis of four perspectives on the atonement. All four authors take the scriptures as the authoritative starting point; all four end up at different (though not entirely exclusive) positions. I received great illumination from the substitution, Christus victor, and kaleidoscopic perspectives; all three helped to enrich my own ruminations on the atonement. The healing view did not seem to me a cogent argument on par with the other three. I left that part of the discussion wondering why the editors did not choose a more classic view (such as recapitulation or exemplar). Of the other three however, each had very strong points for itself and could offer important criticisms of the others, which interaction helped me to learn what questions one must ask of an atonement theory to see if it is worth its salt.

It is rare that I read a scholarly piece in which the author has occasion to address another author directly. So I took some amusement from watching the rules of etiquette play out on the page. In his response to the other authors (all were male), each author offered a paragraph or two of affirmations about his colleague's work, then proceeded to poke a series of potentially lethal holes in his argument. There must be a scholarly Geneva Convention for how to criticize another scholar's writing.

Taken as a whole: an enlightening and helpful read. I recommend it to anyone interested in diving into the mystery of how Christ reconciles us to God.

~ emrys

Friday, June 13, 2014

Finally . . . That Last Little Thing

Since the day we bought the house, Sara has been complaining about the carpet in the upstairs bathroom. "Why do people put carpets in bathrooms? Don't they know it's just going to get wet?" Having two small children who love to splash during bath time brought the question continually to the forefront of our minds. And we have wondered, since the first time water splashed out of our shower, whether water was soaking into the carpet and corrupting the sheeting beneath our feet.

In September of last year we bit the bullet and decided to change the upstairs bath: new paint on the walls and linoleum on the floor. Here's a glimpse of its original state, complete with Little Splasher #2 and the foreshadowing cordless drill on the left:
 Note the dirty cream walls:
At 14 months, Micah is ready to take on the 14V DeWalt:
As you can see, no expense was spared in the original construction--not quite wall-to-wall carpeting:
 We are big fans of having main colors and accent colors in our rooms. Instead of uniform dirty cream, we went for a light blue main and bright blue accent color. (By the way, I can't recommend strongly enough the yellow pour spout that attaches to the rim of the paint can: saves paint, mess, and is reusable!):
Of course, all home improvement projects are family projects. Here is my lovely partner in decorating:
 Much of this project was done while Monkey See was off at school, which left Monkey Do to help. He's very serious about his role in the painting process:
This renovation happened as Hurricane Dos was entering his Serious Climbing Phase. So he got up on the toilet and reached for some tool on the changing table. I thought this was a good photo op, and grabbed the camera for a couple of shots:
And I was in mid-shutter-click when the changing pad slid and Micah lost his balance. This was my view right before reaching out to catch him:
He was fine.
When the painting was finished, the carpet awaited removal and replacement. Here's the scene with all the trim removed:
To our surprise, twenty-four years of shower spillage had not rotted out the sheeting.
It turns out that the easiest way to cut linoleum flooring for your bathroom is to use the recently removed carpet as a pattern, laid out in the living room. No measuring necessary! It is a testament to the size of our bathrooms that marking and cutting the linoleum flooring had to be done in two phases; the whole cutout of the bathroom floor would not fit in our living room:
When it came time to install the trim, Handyman Deux was ready to swing 22 ounces of nail-driving power. All right: his spirit was ready, but the flesh was a little too young.
So he set himself instead to understanding the tool at rest:
And with new color, new floor, and trim almost completely replaced, we have a new bathroom:

I said that the trim was almost completely replaced. The job was almost done in November of last year. This is June of this year. Even though we plowed through the big parts of this project in good stead, I didn't make time to cut, sand, and seal the one piece of trim that I had to totally replace. (And I needed to replace the leaky sweat valve on the toilet.) I had the wood; I had the tools; I had the polycrylic. I just didn't make the three hours in my schedule to get it done. That's how it often is with my projects: They are not completely finished because of some Last Little Thing that gets put off, as if its small size makes it unworthy of attention before all the Big Things of this world.

Well, two weeks ago I finally got That Last Little Thing done: replacing the sweat valve and trim behind the toilet:
Now the bathroom is done!

~ emrys