Friday, March 13, 2015

a giant has fallen

I first knew him as "The Mad Scanner," but I was sorely mistaken. A fellow Wheaton student told me about a stern man who spent hour after hour scanning documents in the basement of the library. I had seen a man who fit that description scanning on the 2nd floor. We wondered if the mysterious man was digitizing documents illegally to sell them online. After all, who could read all that material? The librarian asked us to let him know if we ever saw the "Mad Scanner" again, since he was clearly abusing library privileges. One day there he was, scanning like mad. I went downstairs to report the suspicious activity. The librarian went straight upstairs to check it out. My heart pounded. I waited. Soon he returned, puzzled. "The only person I saw at the scanner was Harry Hoffner."

My jaw dropped. I felt the blood rush to my face. Harry Hoffner, the renowned Hittitologist? "Are you telling me that man scanning on the second floor is Harry Hoffner?" There I had sat at my desk, scarcely 20 feet from the copy machine where Dr. Hoffner collected sources for his research and writing. Could it be that I had even cited him in my papers without realizing he was standing at his post right around the corner? How embarrassing! This was no Mad Scanner. He was a professor emeritus, a giant among peers.


Fast-forward a few months. Dr. Block asked me to help publicize a lecture on campus. The esteemed Dr. Harry Hoffner would be giving a talk on David's kingship in light of Hittite monarchs. I hung posters, arranged for electronic announcements on TV screens across campus, and showed up early to the lecture to make sure Dr. Hoffner and his wife had everything they needed. That's when I first shook hands with both of them.

Now that I knew what he looked like, I saw him often in the library. I began to say hello. Because of the lecture, he now recognized me, too. Dr. Hoffner was the consummate researcher. Several times a week he combed the shelves for sources to undergird his research. He was, I found out, producing a commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel for the Lexham Bible Commentary series online. No wonder he needed so many books. He became a fixture in the Wheaton College library (which was closer to his home than the University of Chicago library).


Dr. Harry Hoffner and Dr. Daniel Block (October 2012),
with Dr. Alan Millard,, my Doktorgro├čvater, to the right
One of my duties as Dr. Block's TA that year was to make sure Dr. Hoffner (a long-time friend) had the books he needed for his research. It was simple. He emailed me, I requested books and put them on hold for him when they arrived. It only took a few minutes, but Dr. Hoffner was very grateful. I discovered that it was a handy thing indeed to have an expert "in the house." Was there a Hittite equivalent to the Hebrew segullah? Can you think of any Hittite treaties where the king promises to protect the oppressed? Do you have a digital copy of such-and-such article you've written, which is not available online?

His knowledge of Hittite language and culture was so encyclopedic that you could catch him in the library stacks and ask him a question and he could quickly scan through everything in his mental "files" and give an accurate answer. He was also kind and conscientious enough to double check his personal library when he arrived home and email the results. He came through for me just last month when I needed an article he wrote for a conference paper I was writing (and quick!). Harry Hoffner to the rescue!

Dr. Block tells me that he once heard Dr. Hoffner give advice to young scholars at a conference, saying, "Be good at what you do, and be good." Dr. Hoffner certainly was both. He was a master in his field as well as a model of virtue.

It wasn't all work. In December I sent Dr. Hoffner a link to this hilarious parody just for fun because it reminded me of him more than anyone else I know (you really must watch it). And he wrote me to see if we were watching the Oregon Ducks play. He told me of his current projects, an article honoring a deceased French Hittitologist, a dissertation examination for a student at Trinity, a paper for a colloquium. He also continued to serve as Senior Editor for the Chicago Hittite Dictionary project — a project he began in the 70's.

Harry A Hoffner
November 27, 1934—March 10, 2015
Photo: Carmen Imes
I don't think he realized it, but Dr. Hoffner's kind words encouraged me through some of the most difficult days of my time at Wheaton. He had hoped to see me graduate, and it would have meant so much to have him there. But alas, it was not to be. His earthly life came to an abrupt end earlier this week, shocking us all. In one of his last emails to me, dated December 30, 2014, Dr. Hoffner said, "I don't think I will ever cease doing research in some way in Hittitology and in the Bible." He was right. He was engaged in several projects right up until the end, not only researching and writing on the Hittites, but teaching an adult Sunday school class for the College Church choir on the book of Acts. Now Dr. Hoffner has joined the "great cloud of witnesses," where he will cheer me on to the finish (Heb 12:1).

Dr. Hoffner, I'll miss you. I'm so glad our journeys intersected in this life. Save me a spot in the heavenly choir!

Monday, March 9, 2015

visit the holy land for free!

I've spent part of the day weeding in my back yard, cooking dinner, and hanging out with my kids. I spent the rest of my day exploring Jerusalem. No kidding.

Photo Copyright: Israel Antiquities Authority and
the Urban Simulation Team at UCLA
Did you know you can walk the streets of Jerusalem and pan around major archaeological sites right from the comfort of your own home?

At SBL in November I attended a session where various professors shared ways they are using technology to help their classrooms come alive. It was a fascinating session—with video games, classroom games, virtual tours, and maps on Google Earth. Today I tried some of the websites to see which ones will work best for my class on the Gospels at Multnomah. Bingo.

Here are a few of my favorites:

A virtual ascent from the pool of Siloam to the Temple in Jesus' day, with music. This is the route priests would have taken during the Feast of Tabernacles, carrying water from the lower pool to pour out upon the altar. See John 7 and 8.

Several short videos highlighting this same route through the City of David (the oldest part of Jerusalem) to the Temple.

Stunning, 360-degree interactive photos of dozens of key biblical sites. The professor who was showing us this resource (his favorite) at SBL was delighted to discover that the creator of this website was in the audience!

Brief 3-D animated videos of many holy sites in and around Jerusalem, high resolution photos, and interactive virtual tours of several of the most important, like the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. You can choose narrated or self-guided tours.

If you've been to Israel before, these sites allow you to relive your experiences. If not, you can get a taste of the world of the Bible. It will help the text come alive like never before. Try it and see!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

fractions before breakfast

Easton stood there in my bathroom, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and shivering in the morning cold. "Mom, I had a question for you yesterday, but I didn't get a chance to ask you yet."

"Ok, what is it?" My interest was piqued. This must be important if he was still thinking about it before he was fully awake!

"What's a fraction?"

I couldn't hide my smile. Where does one find a child like this? Christmas morning he bounded down the stairs, workbook in hand, announcing that he was going to do some math before breakfast. In under a minute I explained how to add double-digit numbers with carrying. He had it down cold. This morning it was fractions. I told him that if he got ready for school quickly, we'd have time to get out a fractions game I had tucked away in the closet. He was jazzed and got ready at lightning speed.

Again, it took under a minute to explain what fractions represented and how to read them. He was off like a rocket, categorizing fraction cards and even learning how to reduce fractions.

Last night in bed he was completely absorbed in a career exploration guide from Portland General Electric, discovering which kinds of jobs in the energy sector would be just right for him. Did I mention he's 6?

While it may only take a fraction of a minute to teach him something, he has my WHOLE heart wrapped around his pinky finger. No question about that.

Friday, February 20, 2015

now is the time for no

I'm coming up on the one-year anniversary of some of the hardest news I've ever received: my dissertation was inadequate. After 3 years of pouring my heart and soul into graduate school, giving it everything I had, this was really disappointing. For a year now I've been processing that news and trying to find my footing so that I can attack the project again and win this time. It's hard to do that when you're exhausted. And even harder when the little voice inside says you don't have what it takes.

Add to the mix a two-week trip to Israel, a cross-country move with a family of five, settling in to a new community, and beginning to teach adjunct for the first time . . . and it will make sense why my blog has lain fallow lately. All five of us have had challenges adjusting to life in Oregon (and frankly, recovering from Wheaton). And while the external pressures on our schedule are less than what we faced in Wheaton, we find ourselves more stretched and more exhausted than we've ever been. Day after day the hours erode while the to-do swells and grows more impossible.

That's why I found this post over at The Well so encouraging this morning. Like me, Kindra has discovered that she's not superwoman. She can't do it all. And like me, she's learning to be okay with that. (Ironically, two of my own post at The Well came up as "related articles." I guess that makes sense.)

In this twilight zone where we live -- not yet finished with what we started in Wheaton but trying to put down roots in a new community -- I have spread myself too thin. I have said "yes" to lots of good, small things, things I believe are worth doing, which have crowded my calendar until I have nothing left to give to the one thing I need to do -- finish the dissertation.

My good friend Anna Moseley Gissing is giving up "yes" for Lent. She writes,

"Saying 'no' requires trust. Saying no to more commitments, more responsibilities, and more busyness means trusting that other opportunities will come at other times. There is a time for everything, and now is the time for no. Now is the time to remember that God made me with limits, and these limits remind me that I’m the creature, not the Creator. God knows my desires, my passions, and my anxiety.
Saying no creates space for God here and now. When I clear out some space in my mind and my life, I am more present to God and to those around me. And the commitments I have already made get the better part of me.
For the record, I'm glad I said yes to teaching at Multnomah University this semester. It's taken every ounce of my energy, but I have loved every minute. Still, I don't have what it takes to finish the dissertation when I'm spread this thin. My dissertation needs the better part of me. And that makes this the time for "no."

Friday, January 30, 2015

looking back, taking stock

Plans for my 20th high school class reunion are underway. Gulp. Could it be??

I remember going to my Mom's 20th reunion from Denver Christian High School. I was, um, the age of our oldest daughter now (13 or 14), which I guess makes sense. We met at a park. I was old enough to appreciate the very interesting social dynamics which are peculiar to reunions. Posturing. Bragging. Catching up. The litany of questions -- where did you go to school? how long have you been married? are your kids running around here somewhere? where do you work? Mom says it went better than her 10th. Still, while some of her classmates were genuine and warm, a few seemed stiff, intent on maintaining the boundaries of old cliques. Perhaps it was really shyness. Who knows?

And now it's my turn.
How does one summarize 20 years of life in a few minutes for an old classmate?
Is it possible to cultivate conversations that invite genuine sharing rather than one-upping?
What exactly is gained by reconnecting with dozens of people half a lifetime and half a continent away? -- people whose lives are as busy as mine and who do not have time to "keep in touch!"?

And if that's true, then how can I explain the thrill it gives me just to think about going?!

I understand that some people hate reunions. I get that. There is something inherently weird about them. But I guess I have reunion written in my genes.

Of our graduating class of 63 students, over half of us had been together since preschool, and many of us had the same teachers our parents had had before us. We built memories to last a lifetime. Want me to prove it? Ask my kids what I did in third grade, trying to be funny, that got me sent to the principal's office. Ask them which boy I tackled during recess in 5th grade playing pom-pom polo-way in the snow (I'll make sure he remembers). Ask them about my rocky middle school years, when I scarcely went a day without getting into a fight with my best friend. Ask them what I wore to school the first day of high school that prompted people in the hall to stop and salute me or say the pledge of allegiance (what was I thinking???). Ask them whose ice cream I ate on stage during our high school production of 'The Matchmaker.' Ask them about the time when my friends and I tried to get a detention my senior year for the first time by climbing out a classroom window onto the roof during lunch (it didn't work). Ask them how close I was to being Valedictorian, and who beat me. Ask them about my high school Bible teacher, Mr. N., whose inspiration propelled me into biblical studies. These are the stories that shaped my childhood. They shaped me. 

Is that why Facebook made me cry today? Seeing old friends. Seeing their children. Seeing their faith. Seeing who they've become. Scrolling through years of losses and gains and just plain living, I realized something. I love these people.

I had hoped to have finished my doctorate before the reunion. But why? So that I wouldn't have to say that I'm still in school some 20 years later? Each of us is on a journey. The important thing is not so much what we have achieved, but what kind of people we've become along the way. My earnest prayer is that I am more like Jesus today than I was when I walked across the platform 20 years ago. If that's the case, then it will be a happy reunion, indeed.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"all grown up"

This was a big week at our house. And I mean BIG.

I taught a FULL week of classes at Multnomah University and Western Seminary, subbing 14 hours for one of my mentors while he was out of the country and beginning my own class on the Gospels and Acts. I taught Exodus, Leviticus, New Testament Biblical Theology, Hermeneutics (for Heb-Rev), Bible Study Methods, and Gospels.

One of the best parts of teaching this week was sharing the experience with Eliana (age 13). In November, I paid her a dollar to read through my syllabus and look for typos. She thought the class sounded so cool that she wanted to sit in on it, too. Since she's doing high school online through a public charter school, she has a flexible enough schedule for that to work. I'm delighted to have her rubbing shoulders with such a great group of students and experiencing the campus that was so formative for me and Danny.

One morning I came down to breakfast dressed for teaching. Eliana did a double-take and said, "Mom, you look all grown up today!" Um . . . as opposed to . . . yesterday? (when she said I looked very "professional") This is the same daughter who told me recently that I really need to look into getting a refund for the wrinkle cream I'm using. Gotta love having a teenager in the house!

As if having a high schooler was not enough to make me feel old, our "baby" had his last day of first grade yesterday. Easton's teachers and principal decided that he should move up to second grade. Effective immediately. Which means that this fall I'll have a 3rd grader, a 5th grader, and a 10th grader. In three years we'll be sending our oldest off to college and in 10 we'll be empty nesting. Where has the time gone? Before you know they'll all be grown up!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Best Gifts of 2014

Photo: Carmen Imes
In honor of the traditional day on which the gifts of the magi are remembered, I'm thinking about gifts I received in 2014. Some of the most precious ended up as popular blog posts, too. A painting, a pottery bowl, great books to read, friends who point me to Jesus, an adventure in Israel, and a year's worth of family memories. There were many other gifts, too, that I didn't blog about, but these are worth celebrating!

The Gift of Art . . .

       April 19 - A Pottery Bowl
       Sept 23 - A Painting

The Gift of Great Books . . .

      April 8 - Called to Be Saints
      April 22 - The Sweet Side of Suffering

The Gift of Friendship . . .

       Dec 15 - A Chat With Jesus

The Gift of Shared Adventure . . .

       May 18 - A Trip to Israel

The Gift of Children . . .

       Jan 8 - Days to Treasure
       Apr 13 - Things to Laugh About