Monday, May 22, 2017

"Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful." - Ann Landers

I miss Stamina. I don't know when she moved out but, she's clearly gone and I'm afraid she's not coming back.

I couldn't find my keys this morning, and mentioned that to Pam. A couple of minutes later I told her I found them "in my church jeans." And that my mother would consider that term an oxymoron. Pam suggested it would bring tears to her eyes.

I worked on the Asante Memorial Birthing Center (the addition to the goat barn) until 4 p.m. By then it was 83 degrees and I was wasted. But I have the cedar siding 80% done and the rest won't take long. Then the roof.
Shouldn't we have some kind of ribbon cutting ceremony? Invite dignitaries, the press, major donors?

The rules say you can't give yourself a nickname. That's something others have to do for/to you and you don't even get any input.
I'm pretty sure a corollary is that you can't call yourself brother. Someone else can, but signing your name (or Facebook posts) "brother so-and-so" is just weird.

A couple of weeks ago I swore off my morning news routine. I was my custom to watch MSNBC and/or FOX from 5 a.m. until 7 a.m. I'd leave the TV off until then and just enjoy the quiet, but then it was time to catch up on the news and views. At 7 a.m. Pam's usually up and she prefers the...softer approach of the Today Show on NBC.

But I got tired of the circus that is Washington D.C. since January. Now I leave the TV off until 7:00 and have discovered I don't miss it at all. If there's a news item worth my time I can get it off one of the news sites I surf.

Sometimes I turn the TV on, but to one of the Dish music stations, usually the classical symphonic station.
Yeah, this new routine is better. Coffee, reading (or listening to the rest of The Count of Monte Cristo), and just sitting.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

I'm still hungry

A second post today. Warning: this one's a bit of a rant.

First the good news: after 4 or 5 days of work (it's been so long I don't remember) the new leaf springs are installed. What a headache! I had grief at almost every step, had to get additional parts from a local spring shop, and used some less than authorized techniques. (Think: 2 lb. sledge.) But the springs are IN, and tomorrow I'll back Sally out of the garage, take her for a drive, and see if she sits better.

It's been a bit stressful around here lately. Nothing near the scale of valued friends fighting cancer or struggling with spouses battling mental illness, but burdens nonetheless. The press of tasks, travel, time and financial management, and stubborn colds are making life feel heavy. So I was looking forward to church even more than usual, anticipating meaningful worship and the spiritual nutrition that comes from the Word of God delivered clearly and with a call to response. I really wanted, yea, needed the refreshment that comes from a good Sunday morning service that includes true worship and the proclamation of God's Word.

Didn't happen.

Here are the lyrics of the first verse of one of the songs we sang: (others were more of the same)
It's falling from the clouds,
A strange and lovely sound,
I hear it in the thunder and the rain.
It's ringing in the skies,
Like cannons in the night,
The music of the universe plays.
Do you have any idea what that's about?? Or what any one line means? What does a cannon in the night sound like? Is it different from a cannon at noon? Has the author ever even heard a any time of day?
OK, you might be thinking, "This is a lead in to the chorus where it makes sense." You'd be wrong.
Singing You are holy, great and mighty,
The moon and the stars declare who you are.
I'm so unworthy and still you love me,
Forever my heart will sing of how great you are.
That I can make sense of, but cannot see any connection between the verse and the chorus. Subsequent verses were equally nonsensical. I suspect the lyricist set out to write something poetic, full of stirring metaphors, with no commitment to having any of those metaphors make sense. As long as they sound impressive go with it!

Paul said, "I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding" (1 Cor. 14:15).
The metric of contemporary worship music seems to be the degree to which it stirs the emotions, never mind any coherent (or biblical) thought.
Try this: Google the word worship, then click images.
I rest my case.

Note: the song's second verse is as shallow as the first, which is not to say it wasn't deeply moving to many of those attending and singing this morning. The other six songs were of the same ilk.

After the music came the message. I wondered how that would go when I learned we had a guest preacher. Brett can be depended upon to preach an expository sermon (with rare exceptions) that is, always biblical. Thus saith the Lord, and here's how we should respond to it.

No need for the Bible this morning. This middle age Arab man originally from Saudi Arabia has a ministry to Muslims that apparently takes him to various places around the world. He talked to us about barriers to effective ministry and how they can be overcome. He quoted several passages during his sermon to support his point(s) which I looked up as he spoke as a means of staying awake. But those were references in passing, which doesn't make it a biblical sermon. He used the Bible, he didn't preach from it. He preached from his experiences and opinions.

Thus saith the Lord? Not so much, (Not at all.) I was hungry for God's Word going in and hungry coming out.

It probably shouldn't bother me this much. I've certainly been to plenty of other services that disappointed. But I needed a good meal this morning to an unusual degree. And a wasted worship service especially irritates this old pastor.

[BTW, the guy said no one should ever retire from ministry, and to do so was a denial of God's call.)

An unrelated observation from this morning's worship service: Eugene's first 80 degree day shows us that too many young women haven't learned the lesson of modesty taught throughout Scripture. If you're constantly tugging at your hem because you're concerned about coverage maybe the solution is less tugging and more fabric. Same thing above the waist.

"Money can't buy love, but it can improve your bargaining position." - Christopher Marlowe

When I had my handyman business in Phx years ago I did work for a guy from Malibu whose mother died. Her Sun City house needed a lot of work before it could be marketed and he hired me to do most of it. But he was there a lot too, driving over from CA and doing the leg work and some of the hands on tasks. He had modest skills and his help sped up the process. The work involved a complete kitchen remodel that took it down to the walls with new flooring, cabinets, fixtures, and lighting. The bedrooms got new carpet, paint, and in some cases trim.

I don't remember his name, but the guy was enjoyable company besides being helpful with some tasks that were more easily done with four hands. We got to be friends over the month or so I was there working. Early on I learned he was openly gay and had a partner he'd been with for years. Both of them were successful in their respective fields and lived very comfortably in that pricey community. He drove a Mercedes SLK, a 2-seater hardtop convertible, a car with a roof that ingeniously folds and stows in the trunk. Big bucks car and a real head turner.

He told me he got all kinds of attention from hot women who hit on him because of his car. They assumed he had a lot of money (he did) and would make a great catch. We laughed at the irony of that given that he was gay. I suggested it made sense for him to give me the car since I wasn't gay, but he didn't seem to think that was as good an idea as I did.

All of that comes to mind because of that quote up there.

About two days into the project he asked me what I did before I "retired" to Sun City and became a handyman. "Oh, you don't want to know. It's going to be awkward." He insisted it would be OK, and I made him promise not to jump to any conclusions about me or our friendship, he did, and I told him I'd been a pastor for the better part of 32 years. He was true to his word and we got along well even after that.

Why do people die when they do? "Under the sun" (to borrow Solomon's phrase) it's because the cancer finally invades key systems, or the heart fails, or the crash isn't survivable. But David tells us God has numbered our days and determines the exact manner and timing of our death. Why does it happen on a Thursday afternoon at age _____ instead of some other time? Is there any discerning the reason?

We know that some people die because of God's judgment. Biblical examples include the Jews who died in the wilderness, King Saul, and some within the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 11:30). I sure hope the timing of my death isn't tied to that cause!

Another potential reason for the specific time of death might be that God's assigned tasks have been completed. Cf Elijah who got a chariot instead of an SLK, an acceptable alternative. To quote Mary, "I am the Lord's servant" (Lk 1:38), and as stewards all, we have work to do for our Master. When that work is completed he will graciously grant us relief from the weight and burdens of this life and grant us the rest he has promised (Heb. 4:9-10).

Methinks the timing of a person's death may also be tied to the purposes God will accomplish through it. Here I think of my sister's death (and that of her husband) in a plane crash. That event and the memorial services that followed were factors in the decision of many to enter full time ministry. (I count myself in that number, something I relayed in a post a few months ago.) Would those decisions have been made without their deaths? Certainly could have been! But did God choose to use their sudden and unexpected deaths as his sovereignly chosen means? I suspect so.

Post-millennialism, an eschatological scheme which I can't make fit with the Bible's clear teaching, says Christ will return and set up his kingdom when we've done a sufficiently good job of preparing the world for his return. We do that by effective evangelizing the world (cf. the late Bill Bright and Campus Crusade, and their use of this as motivation). Until we've cleaned things up to a level only God knows he cannot return.
OK, that nonsense aside, is it possible that God determines that, in some cases, there's more refining work to be done in someone's life before they're "ready" for the glories of the next life? Has he ordained a particular level of spiritual maturity for a believer, and until that level is reached our inheritance is on hold? I dunno, but it's an interesting thought. If it's got merit I want to stay focused and make progress. I want what's waiting for me!

Now, consider the person who spends years in the darkness we call Alzheimers, unaware of their surroundings. If that person is a believer and their eternal destiny secure, why does God allow that? They can't increase in spiritual maturity and devotion. So is it that their presence is a ministry, the means by which someone else increases in maturity?
Or the person who fights a years-long battle with cancer? Their refining or mine?

Just stuff I think about. No answers, just questions that cause me to think through relevant biblical passages. And that's always worthwhile, eh?

The above was written at Starbucks during our weekly Sunday morning snag of their high speed wifi. We're now just home from church and Pam is fixing lunch. After that I'll go work on the Mustang and try to get the spring install done. Maybe by supper I will have calmed down enough to NOT write the post screaming in my head.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"He who angers you, conquers you." - Elizabeth Kenney

It's 7:20 a.m. and I've been up for...a long time. I need to go out and feed the goats, but my brain is in full ADD mode so I'm going to throw down some misc. nonsense first. I'll add to this pap as the day proceeds and time allows.

As I listen to The Count of Monte Cristo (I'm almost done) I've decided I like the names Haidee (high-DEE) and Mercedes.
And the word nabob.

If I had it to do over again I'd do some pastor things differently, including sermons. I'd preach on stuff people really wonder about, and that I think the Bible speaks to, if only indirectly. At the risk of excessive self-disclosure:
 - Are we culpable for our dreams? Do they have any relationship to our waking selves, are they indicative of our true moral character, fears, ambitions, etc.? Was Freud right? Or are they just random and meaningless synapses?
- When we choose what music to listen to should the composer's/performer's life have any bearing on that choice. Assuming the lyrics are neutral enough, does listening to Elton John, or Michael Jackson, or (heaven forbid) Cher carry any burden of responsibility vis a' vis my commitment to biblical standards in life? Am I in any way endorsing their self proclaimed positions on basic moral issues? And if so, does the passage of time make any difference? Because some well known and widely respected classical musicians lived lives of total debauchery. Same goes for authors and visual artists.
- Where's the line between wanting more/better and greed? Does being content with my circumstances mean I can't wish for better ______? Is fixing up MoHo OK, or does it represent discontent with what God has given us? Where's that line?

OK, the goats are going to revolt if I don't get out there and give them their morning ration of grain and alfalfa.

As threatened, I'm back. Two hours later the goats are fed, I'm shaved & showered, and MoHo is passably clean. I've vacuumed and mopped, and in naive optimism put the wood stove up for the summer. That means a final emptying of ashes, wiping down the exterior, and vacuuming up all the wood sluff that accumulates around it. The fan we have behind it to move hot air is now cleaned and moved to the bedroom for cooling. Because vintage (a much nicer term than stupid old) single wides don't have 8' ceilings, never mind the requisite wiring, ceiling fans aren't an option. So without AC I built a fold up/down base as high on the wall as possible that the fan sits on. We discovered last summer that it does a decent job of cooling us on hot summer nights.

Yeah, I'm assuming we're done with the need for heat and will soon want cooling.

Pam gets home late this afternoon and then leaves next Friday for a week in Michigan. Her mom (94) is moving from her condo to a ... I'm not sure what to call it. She'll have her own small apartment, eat her meals in the dining room, and can get additional help and care as her needs develop. Pam's going back to help her younger brother, who lives there, go through the condo and deal with a huge amount of stuff my MIL has accumulated over the years. Very little can go to her new residence. None of it will come back here (we've agreed that makes no sense), not enough will go into the trash, and the decisions on it all are their worry. This SIL is going to seriously miss his wife, but is grateful to be 2,300 miles away during this process.

The sixth commandment, "Honor your father and mother," is too often misread as "obey your father and mother." That error leads to reasonable questions like, "When am I no longer responsible to obey?" and, "What if their orders are bogus?" The Hebrew word means something like, "give weight to" with no connotation of obey. It says we're to treat our parents as important people, give them the honor and respect their significance warrants. And that has nothing to do with age or status, the parent's or the son/daughter.

Our culture increasingly devalues the old while glorifying youth, which makes honoring parents something that requires intentionality. Add to that the disrespect of their parents that too many young children are allowed to display.

At any stage of life we're called to consider our parents weighty, important, worthy of honor. That's why Pam's going back to spend a week helping her mom. It's a given. Do I want her gone for a week right after having been gone? Nope. But it's the right thing.

At 8 p.m. we're back from the Portland airport. Almost five hours round trip. Before leaving I got 40 1x6x6' cedar fence boards that will serve as siding on the barn extension. I'll start installing those tomorrow and get the roofing Monday. Based on her appearance there's no way Sundae is making it to July 11. I'm not sure she's going to make it to June 20, but I want the barn ready well before that point.

The Marion berry vines are loaded with buds so I think we'll have a good crop. The rhubarb plants aren't looking so good, but it's their second year so I may be too optimistic, or it's too early in the season for significant growth. It's going to be in the 70's and 80's for the next week with lots of sun and no rain so that may kick all the garden goods into high gear. But it also means I need to finish getting the irrigation well up and running so everything gets watered as necessary.

I've got too much to do.

Friday, May 19, 2017

"A suburban mother's role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car forever after." - Peter De Vries

Children who have to be first grow up to be drivers.

My brain woke up at 1:30 and insisted my body join it in restlessness. By 3:30 I was hungry and mistakenly thought a banana would delay breakfast to a reasonable hour, but by 4:30 I'd given up on that plan. Thus, I was ready for lunch at 9 a.m.

One of today's tasks was hoof trimming. I made a stand out of lumber and PVC because I'm too cheap to buy one ($$$$) and don't have welding skills. It worked OK, but Itzhak could move his head too much; I need to find a way to make the leather strap (wide belt from Goodwill) tighter on his head & neck.
I got his hooves trimmed but we were both pretty traumatized afterward. I'd planned to do the other two goats but I'll do them tomorrow. Eventually this will become no big deal, but carving on a goat's hoof with blood just below the surface is a bit nerve wracking.

The leaf spring install is NOT going well. Today's one hour task that would complete the process has turned into a nightmare. I'll spare you the details, but the U-bolts they sent aren't close enough together at their ends, the locator pin doesn't seem to locate in its hole, and I don't know if the car's rear end will fall off if I drive it like this.

Pam gets home tomorrow. I pick her up in Portland at 4:00 or so, depending on arrival time and luggage delivery. Then the 2+ hour drive home.
Not soon enough.

The ring came in yesterday's mail. I think I said it was latex but I'm told it's silicone. Either way it feels weird now, but I'll get used to it, eh? And I won't worry about ripping my finger off.
(I have old man hands, but they're honest hands that work on cars and muck out goat barns.)

Now I'm wondering if I should have ordered blue, or green, or... Black seems so ordinary.
I guess at $20 I can get another for when I'm feeling stylish.

We don't have cell coverage at home so we leave our phones on "airport mode" so we get notification of email and can use FB messenger function. When we leave home we take it off airplane as soon as we're at the bottom of the hill. Sometimes we discover we have voice mail messages, as I did this afternoon when I drove into town to get the bad U-bolts bent at a spring shop.
It was a message from a colleague thanking me for an article I wrote a few months ago about the power of prayer. His son-in-law has been diagnosed with leukemia and the prognosis isn't good. He's at the U of W now undergoing experimental treatments.
Getting that message was the best part of my day. Somebody with a very full plate and dealing with plenty of stress took the time to call me to say thank you. That was gracious of him. And it reminded me how easy it is to say thank you or pay a compliment that can be the bright spot in someone's day (or week).
As a pastor I was guilty of talking about what believers shouldn't say and not talking enough about what we should say. Focusing on the negative instead of the positive. I'm pretty sure I did that as a parent, too.
I try now to pay more compliments, say thank you consistently, and say things that make people feel good. Not gratuitously or  falsely; people can tell when it's fake and that's worse than not saying anything at all.
"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt" (Col. 4:6) has a positive side, a prescription, as well as a negative, a prohibition.

I called him back and got the church answering machine. Thanked him for his voice mail and said that if it was OK I'd pray for his SIL.
I'm pretty sure he won't object.

As I eat I'm watching the ASU Sun Devils play North Carolina in softball. ASU is putting a beat-down on the Tar Heels and those women are positively giddy, obviously having a great time. The opponents, not so much.
It's easier to be happy when things are going well.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Problems are not the problem. Coping is the problem." - Virginia Satir

Pam called this morning, which was nice. I told her I wish the kids lived here. I don't want to live there (she doesn't either), but I wish I could have more contact than is possible with 1,200 miles between us and such limited internet capabilities out here in the woods.

I've never been a parent of adult kids before so I don't know if this is the norm, but I suspect they don't realize how much they're loved. I tell them they are, but I feel much better when I can show it. Michelle had car battery problems my last morning there and I was able to take care of that for her with a simple trip to Auto Zone and a swap. Steve & Michelle were too effusive in their thanks, not realizing how good it felt for me to do something for them. Too few opportunities for that when we live in different states.

It was nice to have normal internet speeds while staying at their house. I forget how slow ours is until I'm somewhere with cable wifi and watch pages load so quickly. Then I come home and..................

Coming home also means a lot of work to do. Besides the repairs to the goat barn I mentioned last night and the completion of the addition, my walk of the place yesterday afternoon showed me how many other tasks are on the list because of my absence. It rained a lot while we were gone and everything GREW, including the weeds and the pasture grass around the fruit trees. Spraying and trimming. Lots of trimming. Enough that I may invest in a gas trimmer to replace the cheapest of all options I bought at Lowe's thinking that would be adequate. Nope.

For years my custom has been to watch the news first thing in the morning. I've put myself on a pretty strict no-news diet. Trump is such a horse's hind end and the press is having such a (justified, IMO) field day with his incompetence (or worse) that it's just too depressing. I think, "Wake me up when the bloodshed is over, the dead bodies collected and disposed of, and some kind of normalcy restored." Life will go on, I just hope it happens soon.

Last night President Trump told cadets at the Coast Guard Academy that he's been treated worse and more unfairly than any politician in history.
Julius Caesar might disagree.

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Installing new rear leaf springs is progressing, but very slowly. I spent four hours this afternoon getting them bolted in place at the front and rear of the leaf. We're talking four hours to install six bolts. Tomorrow I'll install the U-bolts that attach the spring to the axle - two per side - and then drop it down to check my work. I measured the height with the old springs on so I'm curious to see what difference this makes.
Vintage Mustangs are known for sagging rear springs, but I think everyone's rear end drops by the time they're 61 years old.

The goat barn is mucked and clean, they have a new feeder made out of PVC pipe, the extension's rafters are braced and ready for sheeting, the weeds are sprayed with RoundUp, and the leaf springs are *almost* installed.

Coffee, cookies, and bed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Who goes to hell? None but such as deserve it. Who goes to heaven? Not but such as deserve hell.

It's now about 7 p.m. I pulled into our driveway about 10:30 a.m. 19.5 hours after leaving the kids' place in AZ. I had more trouble with driving fatigue than previous trips and stopped four times for a nap instead of my typical three. I got home in 90 minutes less than usual because I only stopped to eat once, a quick stop at a McD's for b'fast. Pam had packed me a sandwich that I ate as I drove, along with baby carrots (awwww), chips, and cookies. I also consumed unholy amounts of Diet Coke. I've mostly slept for the last nine hours, with breaks to unpack, take care of the chickens and goats, and so some misc. tasks in MoHo.
Mostly, I'm addled. And my head is pounding, a combination of continuing nasal congestion and way too much caffeine.

I saw no accidents driving down or on the return trip. That's a first.

One of the two traps I set had a mouse and the other one didn't spring so I'm hoping I got the one trespasser.

The goats ripped the feeder, apart. It's made out of wire fencing, and they messed it up by standing on it. I don't allow that when I'm home, but the H.S. kid who takes care of the animals when we're gone doesn't know to prohibit it. That wire can't hold up to 120+ pounds of goat, so tomorrow I'll rebuild a feeder out of PVC pipe and have no horizontal pieces for them to stand on.

I did not, could not vote for President Trump. I had reservations about his position on critical issues, but mostly I could get past his character problems. I've seen nothing to allay those fears and now wonder if he'll survive to the end of his term before some act of self-destruction. He seems well on his way to that end.
It sucks to be a Republican in Congress right now. They control both houses and the executive office and are still hobbled
Be careful what yo wish for.

My brain is fried, or drugged, or something that has rendered it inoperative.
I'll try this again tomorrow.