Part 3: A Puzzle Solved!

*Warning, while some parts of the following blog are completely true, others might be considered farcical. Please read at your own risk!

Last December, while exploring off the tourist path, in Lalibela, an ancient complex of underground churches in northern Ethiopia, I came across a deep chasm in the side of a mountain. I managed to find a way down into the crack, and followed it as it wound through the earth. Suddenly, around a corner, I came face to face with a group of people. With no chance of an unnoticed retreat, I made a flash decision to advance and attempt to befriend the strangely-appareled natives. This approach paid off, and they invited me to have tea and chat with them, before pressing a small, wrinkled piece of paper into my hand. I thanked them and made good my escape, up the chasm.

Once safely away, secreted in an abandoned tunnel in another part of the complex, I paused and took a moment to examine the paper. To my surprise, it appeared to be an ancient map! "Hmm," I pondered, "those people must have been archaeologists, (that would explain the funny hats) and perhaps they discovered this paper, but needed to hide it from their unscrupulous overseers (the ones who secretly snapped the shot posted above!)" I knew that there was a well-known legend that the Ark of the Covenant was hidden somewhere in Ethiopia. I had to keep that paper safe!

Fortunately, I managed to hide the scrap of paper in my belongings well enough to elude said searchers' scrutiny, and escaped with the map. Unfortunately, with all the commotion of the next few days, I completely forgot where I had hidden the map! "Oh well," I mused, "perhaps it was all for the best."

I moved on to other things, and it wasn't until recently that the map came back into prominence. The other day, as I was sorting through some of my memorabilia from Ethiopia, I happened upon an unused tube of toothpaste. While applying some of the contents to my toothbrush, I suddenly remembered where I'd hidden the map! I'd stuffed it into an empty jar of Marmite, knowing that no self-respecting thief would attempt to steal Marmite!

I dug it out, and wonder upon wonders, it WAS a map. But as I studied its contours closely, in conjunction with perusing Google Maps, I couldn't find any similarities between the map and the Ethiopian landscape. Finally, giving it up for a lost cause, I sat back in my chair and began eating a peach, hoping somehow to assuage my lack of progress.

Perhaps due to an fugacious anomaly in the Earth's gravitational field, my peach suddenly tumbled out of my hand, bounced off my keyboard, and landed on the scrap of paper. This caused the Google Maps viewing window to oscillate wildly before coming to rest with the Northeastern portion of the United States in focus. I quickly cleaned up the mess on the keyboard and threw the crazy peach away. I would have thought nothing more of the matter, except that while cleaning off the the map, I noticed that some hitherto invisible words were scrawled on the paper. "T..yer Ho... near Was..acc...ond in S.....ancas... The peach juice must have been the catalyst to bring out the invisible ink!

I puzzled over this cryptic phrase for a while longer, and again, ran headlong into complete failure. I looked back to my computer screen and happened to see that the browser window was directly over a little place called Washaccum Pond, near South Lancaster, Massachusetts. "Weird name," I thought.

Thinking nothing of it, I proceeded to read the news on my iGoogle page, which included a story from the Adventist News Network (an RSS feed I follow) about a commemoration of some historic building, the Thayer House, also in Massachusetts. The article mentioned something about how Norman Wendth, the president of Atlantic Union College was trying to trace the descendents of the Thayer family. "We've gotten as far as the MacDonald family, before losing the trail," he was quoted as saying. "Please contact me if you have any more information about this. There's a possibility that their descendants might have some claim to the Thayer Mansion, and we're willing to arrange a settlement to ensure that this historic building stays in the hands of the College." "That's interesting, my grandmother was a MacDonald before she got married," I pondered, before continuing my browsing.

A few weeks later, I received an official-looking envelope in the mail, with a surprising offer. Apparently the physics teacher at AUC had been in contact with Dr. Kuhlman, a physics professor at Southern who I've worked for in the past. He, remembering that I lived "somewhere up there," had recommended my name to help teach the physics labs at AUC during the summer!

I already have a job for the summer (Camp Cherokee), so I wrote him an email explaining that I couldn't accept the position. Undeterred, he replied with an eloquent argument for me to come work with him--culminating, in a mad flight of fancy, with the ridiculous notion that I might just find the love of my life while at Atlantic Union College. "Poppycock," I exclaimed. "This guy's even more eccentric than Dr. Kuhlman! Besides, I'd be teaching physics, not chemistry!"

Well, to make a long story longer, the next day, Dad informed the family that he had accepted a position at AUC, as Comptroller, and that we were going to be moving there sometime this summer. "Hmm," I mused, "this AUC stuff is starting to get a little over the top! I wonder what I'll find when we get there... "

??? _

Excelsior! :)


Joel's Necessity Network... Part 1

I would like to thank Barry for the thought-provoking entry on his blog and my mother for an insightful conversation on the same topic, which sparked the following cogitations. Oh, and, as I just noticed, Barry recently posted a blog on a similar subject, but with a slightly different perspective. You should read it as well ☺

Joel’s Necessity Network: An Unnecessary—But Hopefully Useful—Theory

Feeling that it could be constructive to establish some sort of a framework from which to discuss the concepts of necessary and unnecessary, I have come up with the following theory to determine what is really necessary, and along the way:
  1. the purpose of life, and
  2. what is required for fulfilling that purpose.
This, hopefully, will then enable a more informed and productive discussion regarding necessary/unnecessary items.

Before I begin in earnest, I want to get one thing out of the way: the answer to the very basic question, “necessary for what?” Necessary for fulfillment, happiness, and peace while alive on Earth, and eternal life, post-Earth.

Okay, first I posit that there is just one fundamental necessity. There are subsequent and dependent necessities, but everything is based on this cornerstone. Necessary #1 is a saving, love relationship with Jesus Christ. This might seem obvious, or simplistic, but I believe it is all that is truly necessary in life.

As long as one has this necessity, even lack of access to such essentials as food, water, shelter, or anything else is not a serious problem in the grand scheme of things. You can still be assured of fulfillment in this life (however short it is) and in the Hereafter. Consider the thief on the cross; he didn’t have any of the so-called essentials, but he did gain fulfillment and entrance into eternity by way of this simple key.

But before you accuse me of advocating a sadhu-type existence; there is a second, dependent, but no less important, point. Once one has entered into a saving, love relationship with Jesus, and assuming that the prospect of continued life is relatively positive, then something else becomes necessary. Accepting Jesus as your Savior means accepting His commission. Necessary #2 is to bring others into a saving, love relationship with Jesus. If God grants us an extended existence on Earth, our “transcendent purpose” becomes to be fishers of men. That’s it. That is our purpose in life!

These first two Necessaries correspond exactly with the two commandments Jesus classified as being of utmost importance when questioned by the truth-seeking scribe. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mt. 12:30-31) If we truly loved our neighbor, wouldn’t our utmost wish for them be to see them in Heaven?

When you have those two necessities, then a third becomes applicable. Necessary #3 is wisely managing the resources God has given us to fulfill our commission in Necessary #2. These resources include such things as time, money and other assets, talents and abilities, health (physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional), heritage, education, and relationships. This is where everything else comes into the picture. These are things God has given to each of us, for the purpose of bringing other people into the Kingdom. They are not merely for our enjoyment (although that is an undeniable aspect); they are tools, provided to be used for a specific task.

This concept is illustrated in the parable of the talents, in Matthew 25. The master gave his servants resources to invest for the purpose of earning a good return. Likewise, our Master has entrusted us with His possessions—His wealth, His creativity, even His life—to gain a bountiful harvest.

-Parenthetical Remark: Granted, this parable, and much of my argument only emphasize one aspect of God’s relationship with us and there are many other facets, which are ignored to our detriment! Christ calls us His children, His people, His body, even His bride! These elements are equally true and equally worthy of emphasis, I’m just working on the puzzle from a purely practical, business-minded perspective, because that’s my strength.

Perhaps a diagram would be helpful at this point.

As you can see, each successive level is built upon the ones below it, and is hence untenable by itself.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Unpacking Necessary #3 will have to be the subject of another blog.


Puzzle: Part 2

Okay, so the answer of the first puzzle has been discovered. The picture is indeed of a tree in South Lancaster, MA, on the campus of Atlantic Union College.

The second part of the puzzle is a little more straight-forward: why did I post a picture of AUC when I'm registered for classes at SAU?