Prairie View

Monday, July 28, 2014

Recreational Building Commercial

For anyone interested in researching fabric-covered buildings, here is a page from a site I selected randomly when I did a search for fabric-covered buildings as Paul Smucker from Oregon suggested.

This site belongs to a seller of such buildings, and the page I've linked to features recreational uses for such buildings.  Rightly or wrongly, I get the impression that this company may be one of the higher-end manufacturers of this product.  The company is located in Iowa.  Here is a list of what is promised when fabric-covered buildings are used as recreational facilities:

  • Fabric covers that absorb noise
  • Natural light to reduce energy costs, making them the ideal choice for indoor sports facilities
  • Optional straight sidewalls to accommodate overhead and exit doors
  • Ideal for sports buildings such as an indoor tennis facility
  • Flexibility to support fire suppression systems, sprinklers, ventilation, HVAC, lights, viewing platforms, sports nets, and more
  • A 20-year steel and fabric warranty, the best in the industry
  • HL13 fabric with HYDRA-LOC™ technology, the most durable fabric cover available on the market
  • Best of all, because Accu-Steel indoor sports facilities can be installed quickly and easily, you can start using your new indoor sport structures sooner.

  •  I also learned that the cover is manufactured in such a way that each bay can be separated from the next.  In my mind, this opens up the possibility of replacing the canvas cover in a few places with a clear cover that would allow for more solar heat gain in the winter months when that is an advantage.

    Navigating within the site reveals a lot more about fabric-covered buildings.

    For example, on the Benefits of Fabric Covered Buildings:

    Thanks to innovative design, our fabric covered buildings offer superior cost control, energy savings, and natural temperature regulation over traditional metal buildings and pole barns.

    Our powerful but lightweight fabric covered buildings go wherever you need them to, making them the ideal choice for a variety of industries. And while our structures are incredibly strong and durable, they are much easier to install than traditional pole barns or metal buildings.

    Adjustable clear-span space, length, and width allow you to control and customize your building for endless possibilities. Our fabric covered buildings also come in a variety of colors, styles, and shapes with special features such as lights, conveyors, fans, sprinklers, and anchors.

    Our fabric covered buildings require less maintenance than metal buildings or pole barns, and depending on your location, you could be entitled to tax advantages.

    I have no reason to recommend the particular brand of buildings featured in the above site.  I do have the growing sense that this building style has much to recommend it, and am in favor of others with more commercial and construction background than I have to examine the possibilities closely.

    Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Wedding Wrapup 7/27/2014

    Christopher and Rachel got married yesterday with just the right combination of many lovely things about a wedding.  Let me count the ways:  Good singing, warm hospitality, a radiant bride and beaming groom, good friends and relatives in attendance, a worshipful service with a minimum of theatrics, an interesting sermon, my brother Ronald's first performance of a wedding ceremony--his son's,  simplicity in decorations, lots of willing helpers, good food, a comfortable venue, great stories and good wishes at open mike.

    Hiromi and I had a wonderful few days of right combinations too.  A nice hotel where we could be alone, and great fellowship with many friends and relatives when we were part of the weekend festivities.

    Several conversations particularly sank deeply into my hungry soul and helped restore and fortify it.


    Three new families are set to take up residence in the Labette County, Kansas area within the next year.  Two families plan to move in from Kalona, Iowa and one family plans to come from the Thomas, OK area.  Since I was there last to visit, the Javan Zimmerman family has moved in, and David and Beverly Smith have returned after an absence of several years.  They had gone to take care of David's parents in West Virginia.


    Parts of Labette County are more reminiscent of the Ozarks than the plains of central and western Kansas.  I saw only one irrigated field in the area, but most of the corn and soybean crops looked very good.

    In that area, travel on unpaved roads on dry days raises choking clouds of white limestone-rock dust, unlike the dirt-dust we have on dry unpaved roads in this area.


    Several names from Little House on the Prairie are familiar local names in the SE corner of Kansas.  The town of Independence and the Virdigris River are both in the area.  A replica of the little house is a tourist attraction, near where the Ingalls family once lived.  The exact location is unknown.  


    Ronald and Brenda have made some significant changes to their " little house" since I saw it last.  They have enlarged the kitchen to encompass the area formerly occupied by a patio, and removed the walls between the kitchen, dining room (which was the old kitchen), and living room.  New cabinets (or at least an entirely new configuration) and a new pantry make it an efficient space.  Also, a large porch has been added to the front of the house, and the former garage downstairs has been converted into a mud room and canning and food storage area.  A downstairs sitting area got a complete makeover with some structural reinforcements and new coverings on all surfaces.  All this happened without any awkward exterior lines on the house or patched together appearances.


    Hiromi had both good and bad news on a problem with the fan in his Eclipse.  The good news was that no new parts were needed to fix the problem.  The bad news was that a mouse had taken a page from the book on gerbil exercise and built a nest inside the "squirrel cage" fan.  Steve, at Fairview carried out an eviction, and the fan works fine again.


    Verda and Nathan and Virgil, the children of Sam and Brenda, were "home" for the wedding.  It was Verda's first trip home after the family's move to California.  Nathan had been back last summer.

    Virgil came from Pennsylvania for the event.

    Luke taught the Sunday School class for everyone together today--not the usual practice, but an effort to deal with the much-larger-than-usual crowd.  He did an excellent job.


    The youngest boy grandchild, Wyatt is seven months old.  He hoists himself into a standing position at will, along furniture, and can perform a neat sit-up if someone stabilizes his feet while he's lying down.  He and Carson have both gotten their hair snipped for the first time recently.


    A tragic accident involving a locally-owned trash truck resulted in the death of one person, and injuries for a few others.  Five vehicles were involved when the truck suddenly came upon vehicles stopped on the road.  The man from the KC area who died was struck when he was outside his vehicle to gather up traffic cones that had been in place during a road construction project in that spot.  Apparently no warning signs about road construction remained at the time of the accident.  Perhaps they had just been gathered up ahead of the last few traffic cones.

    I'm praying for JMY, who drove the truck, and for those injured and their families.  I also pray for individuals in the company whose vehicles have been involved in several serious accidents in the past year.


    We have another week of cool weather coming right up, according to weather forecasts.  This seems almost too good to be true, but I'm willing to cast aside my doubts and embrace it.

    Tuesday, July 22, 2014

    Their Thoughts and Yours on Building Programs

    Yesterday my oldest son posted a link on Facebook to an article about the ethics of spending money for construction of church buildings.  My nephew commented, saying he thought I should post the link on my blog "in regards to the school/community gym."  He specifically identified with the "Judas" section of the article.  While I have heard others express themselves on this matter, I have not specifically done so.  I note also that these articles were written directly only about church buildings.

    My son posted three additional links today on the same or similar subjects, and I read through them all without having a clear sense for what to make of the matter.  Normally I don't elaborate on such matters until I've done enough processing to have reached some conclusions.  This time I'd like to try something different.  I'd love to hear what others have to say before I weigh in--or maybe I'll let others have the last word.  I'll number the links and perhaps say just a little bit about the content of the article.  When you comment, please tell us, by number, which articles you have read in their entirety (that is, which articles at the numbered links), so that we can understand more of what you may have invested in learning about the topic.

    If you have a comment on the topic in general, without having read the articles linked here, those are welcome too, of course.

    Before you read the articles, I will point out that none of them, to my knowledge comes from a writer from the Anabaptist tradition.  I think our own tradition does speak to these matters helpfully in ways that not all of these writers do.  Maybe you can help identify those ways.

    1.  Here's the original link.  At the very beginning of the article is a link to a previous email conversation between the author and a missionary in Kenya.  The content seems a bit scattered to me, so I'll simply quote the takeaways my son gleaned:

    * It's potentially good to (wisely) spend money in "gospel goals": expansion of the Kingdom and service to others. 
    * Extravagant offerings to God's glory can be good [the next link references this premise].
    * The quotes "But the question does need to be asked, 'are we building a monument to ourselves at the detriment of loving the outcast and the poor?'" and "Again, when we start building monuments to ourselves in the name of Jesus, we have a problem."
    * "Building *with inappropriate goals* [such as excessive preoccupation with personal comfort] is one among many ways to use money inappropriately."

    2.  This link leads to information about a Presbyterian church in Nashville with Gothic-cathedral style architecture.  I'll quote from the article to give you a sense of the thrust of this piece:

    "I think some churches- and CPC Nashville seems to be one of them- should build beautiful gothic cathedrals if they can.
    You see, God gifts us creatively and artistically. He gives some people the means and the gifts to express art to the glory of God in ways few others can.
    In music. In stained glass. In architecture. In construction. In design and in the resulting worship and liturgy.
    Some churches need to release those gifts into the culture, so that a city can see a gothic cathedral and experience worship sacramentally (aha!) in the glory of a physical worship center and all that can happen there. Some churches. Not all."

    I'll point out that the writer is actually making the above statement as a caveat to his basic belief--that most churches should not use their money this way.  The sentiment expressed in the quote is not a historical Anabaptist sentiment.

    3.  This article is the most extensive of all, and contains some very good advice.  The title is "Before You Build"  and was written by a man who has "more than 20 years of involvement in the design and construction of church buildings."  I'll list the subtitles here to give you an idea of what is addressed:  The People, The Program, The Process and Project, Do's and Don'ts of Church Facility Planning, and Do the Math.  Here's a good section from the introduction:

    "Here are a few sample questions a church should ask to determine if it is ready to move forward into a building program. Test yourself: If you answer yes to any of these, it is a possible reason not to build or at least a reason to delay building for a while.
    1. Do you expect a new facility to grow the membership of your church?
    2. Do you expect a new building to cause your congregation to give more generously?
    3. Do you expect a new building to cause your congregation to be involved more in ministry?
    4. Do you expect a new building to make a "statement" in your community?
    5. Do you need a building to allow your whole church to meet at one time?
    6. Do you have a large debt on your current facility?
    7. Do you need to increase membership to pay for the increased debt of a new facility?"
     4.  Here is the final link.  Here also I will rely on a short quote to give the sense of the author's concern.  "It seems to me that leaders can go in two different wrong directions with their church building in a society like ours—they can think too trendy or they can think too permanent."  My son identified the "thinking permanent" section as being highly relevant to our situation because of how it limits future flexibility.

    Some Anabaptist values I see with possible applications to building efforts are these (although they are not exhaustive and are not limited to Anabaptists):

    1.  A strong sense of the need for good stewardship of financial resources.

    2.  Compassion for the poor.

    3.  Avoidance of ostentation.

    4.  Utilitarian values (rather than overtly artistic, for example).

    5.  Awareness that life on earth is temporary, and our real home is in heaven.  "The Pilgrim Concept" is shorthand for this value.

    6.  A burden for the lost.

    Note that I am not necessarily making claims in relation to the validity of all of these values--only identifying them here.

    Your thoughts?

    Sunday, July 20, 2014

    Sunday Wrapup--7/20/2014

    Hiromi is in the kitchen cooking up a batch of senbei, a slightly sweet peanuty dough fried like firm  mini-pancakes.  He says they're a snack, and he's been coveting them for several weeks.  He found a recipe online.  This is why he came home from shopping with items like salted peanuts, a nut chopper and biscuit mix over the past week or so.  He also added butter, eggs, milk, and brown sugar, but no additional leavening.   Senbei is actually a generic name for dry snacks of many kinds. They're good--not too sweet and not too salty.

    Ovens are not standard equipment in a traditional Japanese kitchen, so the stove top is often used to cook foods similar to what we might prepare in an oven.


    Watermelon is one of the very best ways to enjoy popcorn, or is it the other way around?  I had them together this evening.


    I was late to church on Wednesday evening and missed the opening show, but someone told me about it afterward.  Shane led the singing, and had left Tristan waiting on the church bench till his duties were done.  Either Tristan didn't quite get the message about what he was to do, or he was overwhelmed with the desire to be with his dad, so he quietly got up from his place near the back and walked up the center aisle to his dad.  Shane tried to have him sit with one of the girls at the front--Christy maybe, since she helps at the house regularly--but it didn't work.  So Tristan just stood quietly beside his dad while he finished his song leading.


    Four of our minister's wives were Beachys who grew up in other states.  That is, their maiden name (surname) was Beachy.  Bertha grew up in Pennsylvania, Rosanna in Ohio, Susanna in Indiana, and Mom in Iowa.    I'm sure they're all related (which means I'm related to them all), but I haven't figured it all out.   They're not dangerously closely related, which is a good thing, since my son and Susanna's daughter got married to each other.


    On Friday of this week, Hiromi and I will have been married for 33 years.  We plan to spend a little extra time making the trip to Labette County for my nephew Christopher Miller and Rachel Yoder's wedding on Saturday, incorporating our own celebration into the events.   It's the only trip on our agenda for this summer.

    Before then I will need most of three days for meetings in connection with curriculum committee work or  training for using the writing curriculum at the center of the new language arts part of the grade school curriculum.

    Helping Dorcas can and freeze peaches, canning another batch of sweet pickles for me, making sauerkraut and putting pesto sauce in the freezer are also on my agenda for this week.


    We got the auditorium ballot report today.  It contained this information:

    "53% marked that they were in favor of building a new auditorium
    47% marked that they were in favor of no additional building now"

    Along with about a page's worth of other good commentary, this sentence also appeared:  "This vote gives us no clear mandate, but a challenge to continue our consensus building efforts."


    We toured Nathan's garden and their family's orchard this past Monday.  One tree on which hung beautiful almost-ripe peaches showed the good result of their herculean efforts last spring to save the blossoms from getting frozen during a cold snap.  They strung "plugged-in" Christmas lights among the branches and then covered the tree with something--sheets or plastic?--and the blossoms were saved.

    Nathan served us corn on the cob and Asian eggplant, pared and thinly sliced, then dipped into beaten egg and a mixture of flour and cornmeal, and fried.   They were crisp and chip-like, and very good.  We also had peach tea, made with the usual kind of iced tea, and pureed peaches from their trees.  The requirement that all snacks be garden snacks has had wonderful, creative results so far.  

    The others went deer spotting afterward.  I came home to see Hiromi before the day was over.

    The only time I ever went deer spotting was with my co-teachers when we visited Esther King's home community in Belleville, PA when I was in my lower twenties.  Jess Spicher took us.    I didn't know you could do this in Kansas.  They planned to ride on the back of a truck, unlike us, who all crammed into the cab of a truck--in double layers, as I recall.

    I made the obligatory noises the other night about the need for safety, which Rhoda (Nathan's mom), reinforced privately by talking about their family's experience when her brother Titus dived into water in a farm pond and suffered a spinal cord injury that paralyzed him for  life.  We both recognized that what strikes close home sticks in a person's mind forever.  Otherwise, safety concerns are pretty easy for young people to dismiss.  Rhoda assured me that the deer spotting was unlikely to get too wild since Sara, the game big sister, was going along.

    I thought about the conversation today in church when we heard about the death of Perry Judy's great-nephew in Arkansas--a 14-year-old boy who died when he bounced out of a pickup bed because of the driver swerving to avoid hitting a large dog in the road.  He was on his way home from swimming.  No one in that community will ever look at riding on the back of a truck the same way, unless I  miss my guess.


    I haven't heard yet about the results of the efforts to gather information on my grandparents at the Beachy reunion in Iowa yesterday.  Carolyn, who married into the family, was preparing to facilitate the recording of some memories from the people who attended.


    One of the largely undocumented customs that are so very common in distinctive communities is the seating patterns during church services.  In our church, children who have reached the age of twelve are considered sufficiently mature to sit away from their parents with others of their age and gender on the first row at the front.

    When I was growing up, the age when this happened was quite a lot more fluid, as I recall.  I think I sat up front when I was younger than 12.

    Lately, I've noticed that some of the girls older than twelve are choosing occasionally to sit with their mother rather than up front.  One mother told me today that she allows it when there's enough room, but says that it won't happen when it's too full in the back.  That seems reasonable to me.


    The Kansas Youth Chorus is embarking on their tour on Saturday of this week.  They will cross the border into Mexico.  Paul and Martha and Isaac and Susie Peters plan to accompany them.


    Kansas has a very conservative governor, Sam Brownback.  His fiscal policies are "tea party" all the way, including eliminating income taxes, with the hope that this will stimulate economic growth to the point that revenue from other taxes will fund all necessary government programs.  So far, it doesn't seem to be working, and state revenue is disappearing.  In what may be an unprecedented move, a large block of Republican legislators are supporting his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, in the upcoming election.

    Brownback deserves kudos for his leadership in addressing the problem of the depleted Ogallala Aquifer that underlies much of Kansas and parts of five other states in this area.  Extensive pumping for field irrigation has caused the water level in the underground freshwater sea to drop precipitously in some areas.  The problem is exacerbated by a lingering drought in areas southwest of here.  While he was a US congressman, Brownback convened a group of people to study the problem and make recommendations.  No meaningful followup occurred until now.  Brownback is organizing many listening events and is soliciting the input of farmers and many others whose well-being and fortunes depend on an adequate water supply.

    The miles of corn in Western Kansas fields could not grow without irrigation.  Growing of that crop has an economic trickle-down in many forms.  Having the water disappear would be devastating to an economy built on corn--a crop unsuited for growing here under natural conditions.

    The Hutchinson News is publishing a series of articles on the Ogalalla Aquifer.  What I've seen so far is very good work.


    The death of nearly 300 travelers who had the bad fortune to be in a plane flying over Ukraine when the plane was shot out of the sky by a war-head rocket is another news item that promises to stick around for a while in international news.  As Shane observed early on, "Things are about to get very awkward for Putin."  Evidence strongly points to Russian involvement in the attack.


    Going to the dentist is one of my least favorite things to do.  I'm always vastly relieved when I have no cavities and I need not return for another six months.  This week I also had the good news that some of my deeper gum pockets had improved this time.  It's hard to believe that simply paying more attention to careful flossing could have made that difference, but I'll take it . . .


    I don't want to get  my eyes checked, but I might have to.  I literally couldn't read the words of the song book today when I was sharing it with my neighbor.

    Sunday, July 13, 2014

    Sunday Wrapup--7/13/2014

    I think  a Polar Vortex in July is a wonderful thing to look forward to.  Three days of highs in the 70's are predicted for this week.  I hope to take advantage of this cooler weather to plant some fall crops in the garden.


    There's a new baby at Cedar Crest:  Dominic Roman Miller, born to Marvin and Jackie. He is their first child.  The baby's middle name is the same as that of his grandfather.


    Who knew that the conflict in Israel and Gaza could affect what Hiromi and I did today?  Hiromi had arranged ahead of time to do a Skype call today with the teacher of an internet class he just finished on the Jewish roots of the New Testament.  The teacher lives in Israel, near Tel Aviv.

    When Hiromi made contact today, his teacher told him he can't talk after all today because he hears bombing noises all around.   That sounds like a good enough reason to cancel a non-urgent phone conversation.

    Instead we went to the prayer meeting at church for the building project we're contemplating.

    Many lethal warheads have been launched between Israel and Gaza over the past days.  Thanks to American military technology, most of those headed toward Israel have been intercepted and rendered harmless.  Not so for the ones flying in the opposite direction.  Gaza has had many casualties and much destruction of property.  I'm not sure what triggered this recent escalation of conflicts between them.


    Most of the Marvin Mast family has returned from their wanderings over the Middle East and Asia.  I missed Hans, but saw the rest in church today.


    Next weekend is the Beachy reunion in Iowa for the descendants of  my grandparents.  I don't expect that I will be there, but I've been doing some agitating in hopes that someone will make the effort to gather and compile information about Ananias and Ella Mae, our common ancestors.  Cousin Don gets the credit for poking me several times to see if something like this could happen.

    My sister Linda has uncovered a stash of letters from my grandma.  We're amazed at how well she wrote and how insightful she was.  I never "knew" this side of her.  I knew her as calm and sweet and knowledgeable about many things in the natural world, about health, gardening, and living simply all around, but not as being particularly articulate.  But she was--about the benefits of raising children on the farm, about not wishing to grow old in a nursing home, etc.

    My grandfather was scholarly and methodical, but surprisingly adventuresome in many ways.  Contour plowing, raising turkeys commercially (outdoors, with range shelters for protection), and traveling overseas were some of the things he did that others eventually copied.   My grandparents were born 1890-ish and lived all their married life in the Kalona, Iowa area.


    Jana N. and her sister Melody are traveling in Ireland right now, expecting to meet up with their brother Wendell and his wife eventually.  Wendell is directing and touring there with the Oasis Chorale.  It sounds like a wonderful way for the doctor from El Salvador to relax before returning to the rigors of her job/ministry.


    We're all set for the beginning of September in the "election of church offices" department.  The names of those elected were read off today.


    My dad showed me several paragraphs today from an article in an Anabaptist publication that I was unfamiliar with--Anabaptist Journal?  It contained the script of a letter of appreciation written to the newly elected Adolph Hitler, whose election the German Mennonites had enthusiastically supported.  He was the conservative candidate.  Hitler responded by thanking them for their support.

    From this perspective those Mennonites' actions seem preposterous.  What could they have been thinking?  The sobering question, of course, is whether politically active American Mennonites today will one day look like this.


    The aunt of two of my in-laws, Judy and Marvin, died today.  Gatherings on the Miller side of Judy and Marvin's families have seen a steep spike in the mirth department when tales of Aunt Ruth's escapades were recounted.  She looked staid enough, but such hilarious drama--all in the course of a day's work . . . I'm sure there is much sadness at this parting, but I can't quite imagine that her funeral will be devoid of humor--if it only surfaces inside people's heads, where the memories reside.

    One of stories I recall left me with this image:  She kindly took a drink or something to the person who was speaking at the front of the church.  On her way up the steps to the platform, she tripped and fell forward, with most of her prostrate self mercifully hidden behind the low wall at the front--except for her feet--clad in high heels, and sticking out behind her in view of the audience.  (Feel free to correct or enlarge on this story if you remember it better than I do.)  It's a testimony to her ability to laugh at herself that she enjoyed the telling of the story as much as anyone.

    Some of her descendants live in Cambodia.  Marvin and Lois' family visited them a few weeks ago.


    I learned tonight by a very circuitous route from my first cousin in Bangladesh, who posted on Facebook, that Germany won the World Cup (soccer).  As you can tell, I have not been holding my breath in anticipation of the big announcement.


    Gary and Rosanna are en route to visit their family and ours in BD.  They plan to be gone for several weeks.


    K61 is getting a new topcoat.  I'm sure there's a more accurate term than that, but you get the idea . . .


    Crystal K. planted some very colorful flowers around the NW corner of the church building at Center, and they look lovely.  Two shrubs on the north side of the building had bird nests.  I looked into one and saw babies.  The other was too high in the Vibrunum bush to look into.  One was a Brown Thrasher nest, and I didn't see the adults at the other nest.  The pink Rose of Sharon is in full bloom at the southwest corner.


    The unexplained dizziness that Hiromi has been experiencing may finally have an explanation.  Apparently crystals occasionally form in the fluid of the inner ear, and when they  knock about inside there, a dizzy sensation results.  He's to do a succession of exercises that look pretty funny--flinging his head this way and that way, holding still in between, tilting his head to one side, etc.  The whole idea is to get those crystals moved out.  What the "moving out" mechanism involves is a mystery to both of us, but I hope it works.


    This is Firefly season, and Supermoon season--both of which light up the summer nights most charmingly.

    Friday, July 11, 2014

    Early Education and Second-Guessing

    Here is an article on the benefits of delayed entry into formal school settings.  It's written to a British audience and recommends that formal schooling for children begin at about age seven instead of age four as is the current practice in England.  What it says about the benefits of play-based learning before then caught my eye.  The author of the article is David Whitehead, a Cambridge researcher from the Faculty of Education.

    The author was part of a group that compiled research from the fields of anthropology, psychology, neuroscience and education to reach the conclusion Whitehead wrote about.  Research in the field of neuroscience has revealed that play-based learning increases the growth of synapses in the frontal cortex of the brain, the area "responsible for all the uniquely human higher mental functions."  (Increased synapse growth means brain growth.)

    Research of another kind showed that by age 11, no difference existed between the reading ability of children who learned to read sooner rather than later (age 5 or 7).  The difference that was documented was that the early readers enjoyed reading less than the late learners of reading.  The early readers also showed less comprehension of what they read.

    As I read the article I hoped it was as clear as it needed to be that the problem with early reading is not reading, per se.  It is early formal education that limits play opportunities.  The first commenter articulated the same sentiments in this comment:
    When you home educate you realise that formal learning and learning through play are irrelevant terms. Children learn continuously in a multitude of ways, sometimes as a result of games they play and sometimes with direct relavence to their everyday lives. Formal learning is done to control children in a classroom setting and has nothing to do with what is best for the child.

    The findings in the above article fit nicely with one piece of Peter Gray's work that was the subject of several earlier posts.


    On a very different topic, several times recently when I have tried to say something about problems I see with Bill Gothard's "Chain of Command" teaching, I have been dissatisfied with how it sounded.  Saying it right is easier in writing than saying it verbally, but in both cases, I've been second-guessing what I've conveyed.

    I wish now I had been able to think to say something like this:  The chain of command idea has elements that I see also in Scripture in teachings about leading and following or submitting.  When uncoupled, however, from an emphasis on obedience to God and accountability in every link of the chain, the teaching has potential for serious abuse.

    The most obvious potential for abuse is the one that occurred within Gothard's organization:  People with power took unfair advantage of those under them.  In Gothard's case the problems included sexual abuse or promiscuity.

    Another potential for abuse is more subtle:  Underlings do not resist when they should.  To their great regret, some of those young people who were abused by Gothard now see that their "submission" was wholly inappropriate.  At the time, though, they thought that if they resisted Gothard, they would be stepping out from under the protective umbrella which the chain of command provided. Other young people who resisted him were, in fact, often disciplined or sent away in disgrace.  The cost of resisting was high.

    I believe that Gothard's teaching on "Chain of Command" strayed in some ways from the clear teaching of Scripture, but in the way he applied it in his personal life, he strayed much farther from Scripture.  In scenarios that are now widely known,  he kept his thumb firmly on those under him, but refused to answer to those over him.  In the early 80's, when his board learned of his wrong behavior and relieved him of his position in the organization, he simply reorganized under a new board who reinstated him.  

    I appreciate that Scripture gives us a framework and structure for healthy, God-honoring relationships, and I believe following the directives in Scripture is important.  I'm still learning what that means for me personally.  I'm pretty sure, however, of several of the omitted truths in Bill Gothard's Chain of Command teachings:  Leaders must be held accountable by someone, and followers must do what is right, regardless of what their leaders do.  "I was just following orders" didn't exonerate those at the Nuremberg trials, and it doesn't exonerate twenty-first-century Christians.


    Monday, July 07, 2014

    Blogging Limits

    This post contains details about blogs and blogging in general and this one in particular.  To introduce the subject it might be helpful to understand what a blog is.  Blog is an abbreviated term for "web log."  Logs are simply records.  They may be used by truckers, gardeners, food preservers, sports enthusiasts, those who keep a diary, and by those who journal.  A web log can be any of the above types, if it's posted on the internet. To summarize:  A blog is an internet record.  On this blog, it's a record of my thoughts, and sometimes of events around me.

    To make the following laborious information a little more comprehensible, I'm using side-headings.

    Blog Audience--Legitimate or Illegitimate?

    I heard recently from someone that he didn't respond to something that concerned him on a blog "because it wasn't written to me."  I wondered if that person understood the blogging communication platform.  I see it as being at least as correct to say, about anyone's public blog, that "it was written to me as much as to anyone else" as to say "it wasn't written to me."  They are, of course, both true in a sense, and a private decision to act or not act is the deciding factor--not whether or not one is a legitimate audience member.  There are no illegitimate audience members.

    Blog Audience--Limited or Unlimited?

    A blog audience can be both a very limited audience and a completely unlimited audience.  It is limited in two ways:  1)  Only those who learn about the blog's existence will ever access the content  2)  Only those who make a choice to read it will do so.

    A blog audience is unlimited in the sense that no one can be blocked from reading it or responding to it unless the blogger makes a choice to block certain people from reading it or responding to it, or unless the blogger makes it inaccessible to search engines.  Targeting a particular audience through a blog is not really possible in any guaranteed-to-be-effective way because of the blogger's default inability or unwillingness to deny access or to guarantee it.

    Blogs and Comments--Public or Private?

    My blog is public, which means that no one is blocked from reading it.

    No one is blocked from commenting,  so I'm roughly categorizing comments as public too, but currently only moderated comments can be posted.  This means simply that I see the comments before others see them, and I can decide whether or not I want them posted.  I recall only once (years ago?) ever failing to post a comment that was submitted for the blog--except for spam--which is the only reason I bother with the moderation of comments at all.  I'm not interested in promoting the business of someone in S. Car. who does custom work with a telehandler--just because I mentioned on my blog a job Shane once did with a telehandler, and someone from that business found the blog post.  The "comment" was obviously a business-grabbing ploy--and that was actually one of the least objectionable comments I've ever gotten along that line.  That's the kind of spam I don't publish.

    Comment-Moderating Prerogative

    I claim advice from Dorcas Smucker (who is a widely-read Mennonite blogger) in having deleted that one comment.  She told me six years ago when I first began blogging "You're the queen of your blog."  She said it in the context of not allowing a conversation to take place on your blog if the content is unacceptable to you.  I recount my personal record so that you know that I will almost always publish your comment even if I don't agree with you.  The comment I did not publish seemed to me to go on too long about a matter that had already been thoroughly discussed on the blog.  Multiple earlier comments from that person had been published on the same subject.

    Identifying Blog Readers

    I have only a limited knowledge of who reads the blog.  People who comment relevantly on a single post have obviously read that post, and if they sign their name, I might know who they are.  (I greatly prefer signed comments to unsigned ones, and am especially averse to publishing unsigned comments, although I have so far not discriminated between signed and unsigned ones.)  A few more than a handful of people "follow" this blog, which means that they are notified every time a new post is published.  I can see only what they have chosen to reveal of their identity.  In most cases, it's a first name.  I don't know most of the people who follow the blog, but I appreciate their interest.  I know that some of the followers are men, but I'm guessing that most of my regular "non-follower" readers are either young people or women.

    Another way of vaguely identifying people who visit the blog is through Statcounter, a tracking program that tallies the number of visits to the blog, the internet service provider they have, and the city/state address of the provider.  The statistics can be broken down in various ways geographically--by state and country, most easily.

    Statcounter has a "recently came from" feature, which lets me see where people are finding links to the blog, if so, or whether they already know my blog address and type it into the search engine whenever they visit.  The latter list is longer by far.

    Statcounter also  has a "keyword search" feature.  From this feature, I learned, for example, that when people visit the blog from parts of the world where I don't know anyone (people from 94 different countries have been here), it's most often because they've followed a link on a website that describes how to make amazaki, a Japanese drink that I wrote about once when Hiromi made it.  The person who posted a link to  that specific post on my blog on their website had apparently found my post through a search engine.  Now, if I see that "amazaki" was typed into the search engine, I know that either they found my blog directly that way, or they found it via the website that linked to my blog.  This is not usually a long list.

    More Statistics

    Statcounter also tells me that I have posted well over 1,000 times on this website.  I have so far never assigned any posts to a certain category, as some bloggers do.  In this way they create a Table of Contents of sorts.  I have no Table of Contents, but the blog is searchable.  I use the search function sometimes to see if I already wrote about something--when I can't remember if I did so.

    I note that when someone has read only a very few of those 1,000 + posts and then assumes that they know how I am or what I think, they are drawing those conclusions from a very limited sampling, especially if they don't interact with me personally elsewhere.  If they find "targets" in the content, they may be making unwarranted assumptions about the medium or my use of it--a tendency that would be reduced with a fairer sampling, as I see it.

    Bloggers run the risk of having others draw conclusions or assign blame based on selective sampling.  It is this dynamic that I find the most difficult to deal with personally.  I realize, however, that it comes with the territory of allowing public access to my thoughts put into words--with no ability to control any of the results.  In this matter, blogging as a communication medium has definite limits.