Thursday, April 19, 2012

"We're Full of Wrong Ideas," Said Glen

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Romans 8:7

Joy asked Glen, "What is the hardest part of teaching?"

"That's easy,” he said. "Clearing the land so you can plant."

He paused for the words to sink in. It was a trick of his to start with a general statement and let a question arise in the hearer's mind. Then he would come back with a clarifying statement. Gary brought this to his attention once and he did not deny it.

"It's a Biblical idea,” he said. "Introduce an idea with a question or a general statement. Then go over the details as you proceed. Lots of people make the mistake of trying to study the Bible in little bits and pieces, and then they try to put the pieces together. We need to go for the big picture first. That's what God does."

Gary asked him for an example.

"If a man die, shall he live again? Job. 14:14.

"There is so much in that simple question," he said with feeling. "It states that we do die--a revolutionary idea to mankind. Everybody knows we don't die. Heck, the devil told Eve, 'Ye shall not surely die' in Genesis 3:4. That's what people believe.

"No trouble for people to believe the devil! They were born and raised to believe the devil." But Job asks, 'Shall he live again?' Job knows we die. But he goes on to tell how he will wait for God to make him live again. Job talks about resurrection. That's the way we get eternal life. But I'm way off what you asked me about."

Glen had come into the Oak Street Bible shop in a rather somber mood. Not sad, but almost discouraged, which was highly unusual for him.

Sue had not said a word. She gazed at Glen with concern in her eyes. When Glen was down, she was down too.

Gary was serious as he looked at Glen. "This teaching business is not getting you down is it, Glen?"

Glen answered cheerfully. "Teaching? Oh, no. never! I hope to be teaching until I die. No, it's not teaching, but the process of clearing the land, like I said."

He saw Sue's worried Gaze and sought to dismiss any concern of hers. "Maybe I'm making too much of it. It's just that before you can even hope to teach, you have to root out the foolish ideas we all have. That's the number one problem, or task of every teacher.

"You know, when the Ohio Territory was being settled, before planting could begin, they had to clear away a lot of trees. One of the great forests of the world was there. It was said a squirrel could cross that whole forest hopping from branch and never come to the ground until he got to the Mississippi River."

"I'll bet he would be one tired squirrel," said Sue, playfully.

"Like, sometimes I'm one tired teacher,” said Glen, smiling at her. "But clear the land they did. Today, some of that land is going back into forest. My father's homestead is still there, but the fields he once planted are filled with trees again. Guess bad ideas are like that too. They will grow back up if you don't keep clearing them out.

"That really is a poor comparison,” he admitted. "Trees are wonderful. Maybe I should have said weeds."

Joy could lock horns with Glen on occasion, but today she was worried about "the old warrior", as she often called him. She leaned out from her stool and looked at Glen's face. "So, is there any specific thing that has you down?" she asked. "Some dumb thing someone said or something?"

"Oh, no, Joy. I wish it were something specific. I could address that. It's what I do. But there is a steady undercurrent of fleshly thinking in the way we all think. It gets in the way of God's truth. You can't get the truth in until you get the lies out. That's the problem! It's not ignorance. That's easy to take care of. It's things in our minds, our human nature, and what we have all been told, that are not true. They're like burrs, easy to pick up, but hard to get out."

Glen was going into one of his famous "raves". He was not angry, just revving his engine--his mind. For all of us who knew him, this was a good sign. As long as he was thinking, we knew he would be okay. He had a way of pulling the oddest ideas out of his mind, his "attic", he called it, and putting these things to use as illustrations.

"We're full of dumb ideas and images,” he went on. "Like Davy Crockett's coonskin hat!"

Joy was startled by this. What could he be talking about?

Glen went on. "Davy would never wear such a hat. He wore a felt hat, like they all did in those days. If he ever showed up in such a hat they would figure he'd been out in the sun too long. Fess Parker could get away with it, he had the macho to carry it off. But believe me, Davy wore a felt hat, like all the frontiersmen did. Imagine what a coonskin hat would be like in the rain, all soggy and wet, like a big sponge on your head."

Sue giggled at the thought of a big wet fur hat.

Glen was not through. "A friend of mine wanted to shoot the Chain of Rocks dam on the Mississippi. Not the canal, the dam! It can be done, but it's tricky. He wanted to modify his canoe so it would right itself if it capsized.

"He did some research on British lifeboats. He found out that many years ago, the average life of an English packet or passenger boat was six months! They would make as many trips as they could, carrying people and goods, then they would run aground or break up on the rocks. A lot of lives were lost.

"People on the land would see people in the water and couldn't help them. Rowing boats, manned lifeboats, would be launched from shore and often they, too, would capsize and their crews would die too.

"Well, the British Admiralty offered a big cash reward to any inventor who could design a really safe rescue boat. It had to withstand being submerged upside down, then rise to the surface, right itself, and drain all the water out--be self-bailing! People said it couldn't be done.

"But a naval architect did it. He designed a boat with airtight compartments in each end. The airtight compartments made the boat rise when submerged. These ends were built up higher than the rest of the boat. If the boat were upside down it would roll off these elevated compartments. To complete the roll to the upright position, the boats were to have weighted keels to turn the boat right side up."

Gary had been following all this with keen interest, but he had a question. "But how could the boat bail itself out?"

Glen smiled with satisfaction at the question. He loved to tell about this wonderful life-saving invention. "The deck of the boat was built up higher than the waterline of the boat. There were drain tubes in the bottom of the boat. The seawater drained out of these tubes like water leaving a bathtub.

"Later, ball valves were added, so when a heavily loaded boat surged, no water would come back up. They gave these boats a thorough test, loading them with stone ballast and hauling them under with tackle and releasing them. The design worked just as was expected. My friend says they are still in use today. The architect's reward was sufficient to buy a nice farm.

"My friend used the watertight compartments and the heavy keel on his canoe. He made the keel detachable for after he went through the rock dam. He tested it in a friend's swimming pool. It surfaced and righted itself, but he didn't make it self-bailing. ‘You don't need that on the river,’ he said. 'Just so you stay afloat, it's okay.’

"Well, after his successful try out, he told his family about his canoe that was unsinkable. Do you know what they said to him?"

Gary had a gleam in his eye as he spoke. "Unsinkable? That's what they said about the Titanic!”

"Exactly!" Said Glen. "You can count on it, every time! No matter what invention there is, what advancement in knowledge or learning there is, someone will spout off with an old motto to show you that you are wrong. People do not think. They refuse to think. They are like a candy machine. Pull the lever and out comes your candy bar. It's automatic."

After this tirade, Glen walked to the table with the coffee urn and sat down. He was quiet again, probably thinking of how hopeless it seemed to try to break through the human barriers to learning.

Joy turned on her stool to speak to him. "Are you kind of disgusted with people sometimes?” she asked.

"No, not at all, Joy," he said. "I had the same problem. We all do. I had to unlearn so much when I was a young man, I thought I would never learn what is true." he poured himself a small cup of coffee and sat in silence.

Sue stepped quickly to her large purse hanging from the coat rack, and took out a plastic bag of cookies. She walked to Glen's chair.

"Speaking of treats!" she said brightly. Then she made a motion pretending that she was putting a coin in a vending machine. "Ka-ching!" She sounded it out. "Here's something for you!"

Glen took the bag she held out to him, then opened it.
The aroma of anise cookies came out. He pulled out one that was a snowman.

"Thank you so much, Sue. Boy, these really take me back! We used to have them in the old days, at Christmas time. I almost forgot how much I like them."

Sue was happy to hear these words of appreciation. "Are you going to be all right?" she said.

"How could I not be, when you are so nice to me?” He dunked the head of the snowman into his coffee cup.

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