I have a new e-book out. It has a long, curious background that is an unintended illustration of one of the book’s major points. You’re socially isolated at home just now with nothing else to do, so grab another cup of coffee and I’ll tell you the tale.
When he came on staff at our church several years ago as associate to the rector, Fr. Reid fired up a number of Bible classes that met during the week. One of these met Wednesday mornings for a couple of hours and drew many of the retired ladies and men of the parish. Fr. Reid would set out major study series and goals, like entire books of the Bible, that he would unfold for a year or more, advancing a few verses each week.
Each summer, when he took his month-long break, he would recruit someone to keep things going while he was away. In the summer of 2013 he drafted me for that task for the Wednesday morning group. I thought we had quite different styles of presentation. I thought it brave of him to turn to me (though I don’t know how many had turned him down before my name came up!). I figured my four weeks teaching would either completely evaporate attendance or guarantee a warm greeting from the survivors when he returned (“We’re so glad you’re finally back!”).
That year the focus was on the Book of Acts. I was assigned chapters 8 and 9 for the month of June. I was delighted to discover these were the chapters where Deacon Philip steps on stage in Luke’s narrative. As a still-green deacon myself, I hoped I could do him proud (Philip, I mean, though I knew Fr. Reid would also be watching to see how I’d done).
At the time, Melanie had been serving the role of unofficial secretary for the class, taking notes and sending email summaries to all on the attendance role each week. She announced she would also “take time off” while the lowly substitute filled in. But she still did an audio recording on her tiny recorder of each of my presentations (in case any evidence needed to be reviewed later, I guess). I didn’t hear any more about it, and survived the month.
Fast forward: the next year a stroke retired me to an early practice of social distancing at home. I retained enough control in one hand that I could move a computer mouse and surf the internet for hour after hour. But my computer also seemed to be staring at an approaching wall.
I was running Windows XP. Microsoft had already announced they were done patching and supporting it. They wanted everyone to move on to new and improved versions of their OS (I had written about this transition on my blog while still working out of my church office). I was going to have to face the changes in a newly crippled state myself, with software upgrade expenses now more difficult to meet on our reduced income.
My thoughts grudgingly turned to the idea of abandoning Windows altogether and going to the wonderful free computer system I’d been hearing about for years: Linux. If I was going to have to learn a new set of computer habits anyway, why not finally bite the bullet?
I began searching out articles on the internet and You Tube video demonstrations. An elephant in the room was that a change from Windows to Linux would also require me to abandon nearly every software program that I was familiar with and loved to use for writing, printing, photography, video, and audio recording and editing. It was a nice surprise to find out that every Windows program I used had a Linux alternative available. For free. (The practice is known as “open source.” Creators invite everybody to freely use and improve software programs, as long as all changes are shared just as openly and freely with new users. It’s as if somebody decided to give Matthew 10:8 a try.) (Linux is also less vulnerable to the malware infections that plague Windows. Another plus.)
Yes, a learning curve is involved with changing to Linux. Like with any change. But you can’t beat the price. I thought I would take it slow for a year and make sure I had answers to all my questions before taking the leap. I hoped my old Windows computer wouldn’t choke and die on me before I was ready. Then one day, I had a peaceful sense in my heart. It seemed to me the Lord was saying, “Go ahead.”
[By the way, I know this blog started out being about my new book and I haven’t forgotten. We’ll get there.]
Without going into further details on this thread, I’ll just say I moved to a new computer, running Linux. (Mint’s Tara 19.0 edition for those who want to know. Linux developers regularly polish and improve their software without wrecking the china setting arrangement on the dining room table each time. I have easily moved up four steps to Tricia 19.3 as of last Christmas. Another upgrade will come sometime this summer.)
After a year holding my breath (this can’t be this good can it?) I decided even Melanie could handle the change. She only needed to get acquainted with a new word processing program (Libre Office does everything Word does — free). Her email is all conducted online and everything on the internet looks and acts the same no matter if you are driving Windows, Mac, Linux, or your smart phone. I told her that, for her, it would be like painting the back door of our house a different color. Inside the house she’d find everything pretty much where she left it. The refrigerator still in the kitchen, the clothes in the closet, etc. I loaded Linux on her laptop last fall, one year after I had switched. So far no problems at all. Not a techie herself, she’s happy with it.
Here’s why I wandered all down this trail with you today. As part of the switch over for Melanie, I carefully copied all her picture, book, and letter files so they could be loaded back into the Linux OS. While doing that I came across the old, forgotten audio recordings she had made of me filling in with that Bible class back in 2013.
I listened to the (fairly poor) audio files again, a student myself now, having long forgotten what the Lord gave me to say that summer, back when I had a working voice. And I thought I could hear another voice saying, “Write it down.” (I considered posting them online but the audio tracks are not clear enough to release on their own.)
As I transcribed the notes additional insights filled my mind. The resulting book thus expands on my class outline. And as I have been working on the manuscript I have noticed the ironic metaphor the book represents of its subject and theme. I am happy to finish another book and make it available. But it is an unintended consequence unforeseen by me at the time I faced that long ago class. It is not a result I saw coming until a few weeks ago. It’s almost as if God has a purpose when He lets us be chased out to Samaria, or prompts us to start walking a lonely road to Gaza, or tells us to seek out and pray for a dangerous, blinded murderer. Indeed one plants, another waters, but some five o’clock latecomer will get to take in the harvest after the rest have sweated all day long only to see this newcomer receive full payment for his hour’s labor. The Master of the field seems satisfied to accept any tangled and indirect path as long as it leads home at last.
It is a lesson that saturated the story of the first season and first harvest of the young church. It is a principle to keep in view as the Lord opens opportunity to share our witness of Him today.
[Click the image for a link to the e-book.]