Sunday, April 13, 2014

Another Chapter is Ending

I grew up in this home.
When I was two years old, my family, then consisting of Dad, Mom, my brother Rick, and me moved from Indiana to Findlay, Ohio. We moved into a little three bedroom house on West Front Street. By the time I was ten years old, we had added four more siblings. I was the only one of the six kids who did not take my first steps in our first home in Findlay. Many years later, after I had graduated from college, my family moved to another house. And so ended one chapter in our lives.

That move happened half of my lifetime ago. Over the years, we have seen our old home change hands a couple times. It's current owner is City Mission, an organization that aids homeless people. I'm not certain exactly what their plans are for the lot, but it doesn't include maintaining an old house that has become quite run-down over the last few decades since we moved away. Sometime soon, probably this next week, the house on West Front Street will be torn down. 

This grate allowed warm air to rise to the upstairs bedrooms.
I brought this keepsake home.

Over the last few years, City Mission has graciously allowed various members of my family to go back inside the house. Mom, Dad, and I went there this past Friday for one last visit. We took lots of pictures...and salvaged a few items as keepsakes. There wasn't much to take with us, but I am glad we got the things we did.

Mom brought this keepsake home.
She had never noticed the eagle was
upside down.

And so...another chapter is coming to an end. As with everyone who ever lived, I am sure, our life in the house on West Front Street held a mixture of sadness, happiness, pain and pleasure. As I walked through the empty rooms for the last time, I did not reflect on the sadness and pain. Instead, I recalled the happy, silly, funny times we shared in that home.
  • Tickle fights where all six kids pinned Dad down on the living room floor to tickle him...until someone called "Everybody on ......!" and the person called was the next tickle-ee".
  • Watching the first moon walk on the little black and white TV
  • Six PJ-clad kids gathered on these stairs
    every Christmas morning for a photo.

    Coming downstairs in our PJ's on Christmas morning to see what was in our stockings.
  • Dad making pancakes for breakfast when Mom was in the hospital after giving birth to one of the youngest kids. He mistakenly put pancake syrup in the skillet. (I think he assumed pancakes were to be fried in vegetable oil rather than butter, and he picked up the wrong bottle. What a mess!)
  • Mom's pleasure over opening Dad's Christmas gift of a sewing machine cabinet...and the laughter over the silly gift Mom received of a Snuffleupagus stuffed animal. (Remember that character from Sesame Street?)
  • Watching Rick literally fall off his chair with laughter. I have no idea now what he was laughing about.
    Steve wasn't allowed in the house
    after the Swale Park episode
    until he had shed his smelly
    outer clothes outside.
  • Janet eating blueberry pie and finding the fruit stained her teeth blue.
  • Beth at age three or so eagerly offering her services to erase mistakes in the homework of her older siblings.
  • Steve coming home covered head to toe in stuff much stinkier than mud after taking a forbidden shortcut through Swale Park. (I didn't witness that event, but it is part of family legend.)
  • Doug trimming the eyebrows off of Mom's Snuffleupagus stuffed animal because Mom had commented jokingly that his eyebrows were too shaggy. (By the way, Mom still has Snuffy.)
As for many memories. I especially remember my reading corner where I would mentally disappear into a good book and be completely unaware of what was going on around me. I also remember Rick and I sitting on the swing set in the back yard making up travel adventures. In our imaginations, we traveled to so many places. Hmmm...I guess we started our world-traveling even then.

So, one chapter is ending. There are many more to come. I look forward to seeing what future chapters have in store.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Let's Get Technical

I note with a bit of dismay that it has been nearly two weeks since my last post. Way too long. As it is already nearly 11:30 at night, I am going to take the wimpy way out and dive back into my collection of "Rachel Stories" that I have shared in my newsletters over the years. I hope you'll excuse me. I'll be back later this week with something more recent...I promise.

This story was shared first in my newsletter dated July 23, 2008. Rachel was a couple months short of three years old at the time.


No, this isn't Rachel, as anyone who 
knows Rachel can tell.. 
No camera that day. 
The image was found here.
Something funny happened while Rachel and I were at a friend’s home for a meal.  We were eating pizza, and Rachel had gotten some pizza sauce on her fingers.  I caught her just as she was about to wipe her fingers on her shirt.  

“No Rachel.  Don’t wipe your fingers on your shirt,” I said, and then turned to look for a table napkin to clean her hands with.   

As I did this, my friends saw something I did not see.  Rachel looked at her hands, then at her shirt, and then over at me.  With a mischievous glint in her eye, she proceeded to wipe her fingers…on MY shirt.  (Needless to say, it was a bit hard not to laugh, even though we all knew we shouldn’t.)  

Let’s get technical, shall we?  Rachel technically obeyed me,  but side-stepped my intention. 

Don’t we do that sometimes, too, to one extent or another?  Perhaps we pay attention to the “DO NOT’s”, but still try to find ways around them to do everything but the thing that was forbidden.  That way, we feel that technically we are off the hook, even though deep in our heart, we know that the “everything but” falls short of God’s best for us.  

Let’s not do that.  No need to get technical with our Father.  He has the best plans for us, and if we follow the spirit of what He tells us to do, we can stay in touch with His plan.

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sometimes, We All Do Stupid Things

I will forewarn you...there is nothing particularly spiritual in this post...unless, of course, something works itself in before the end.

Image found here
From time to time, we all have done or said things that are embarrassing, silly, or downright dumb. At least I certainly have.

Like when Rachel and I were getting ready to leave for school when we still lived in Bali. Our normal routine was for me to unlock the doors while Rachel fed the fish. One particular morning, in my hurry, I started to say, "Rachel, I'll feed the door and you open the fish." OK, that was a stupid thing to say.

Then there are the embarrassing things I have done. Like the time my motor scooter got away from me and dragged me to the ground. You can read about that story in my earlier post entitled "Scraped Elbows and Bruised Ego: Minor Motorcycle Mishap Makes Me Mortified".

Yesterday, I was at my parents' house eating a rather delicious taco soup. I happened to catch sight of an uncancelled check in the napkin holder (serviette holder, for my Australian friends). I recognized the design as being one of mine, so I pulled it out to see what it was for. I looked it over and started to laugh. This is what I saw.
Add caption

So, that's something stupid I wrote. No great harm done. No bank would have cashed that check anyway, but it did give us a good laugh. 

Does anyone else have one of those "I can't believe I just did that!" moments? Would you share it in a comment below, and we can all laugh together. After all...

A cheerful heart is good medicine... 
Proverbs 17:22a

See, something spiritual worked its way in after all.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Catch For Us The Voles...

One day last week, I went out into the back yard to do some work that had been long-delayed by week after week of snow. After a long wait, and several comparatively warm days, much of the snow had melted. 

It was wonderful to see the grass again. Well, it was wonderful until I noticed a maze of tracks etched into the grass. The tracks were about as wide as the circumference of a broom handle, and they meandered all over the lawn. In some places, they resembled a map of the rivers feeding into the Nile Delta.

Find image here
I had never seen anything like this before. Of course, I went to m trusty search engine and googled the problem. I think I typed in something like "lawn damage post snow". Immediately, I saw a couple pictures that looked remarkably like my back yard.

Image found here
Those criss-crossing runways are caused by voles, little rodents that resemble field mice. Unlike moles, voles do most of their damage above ground. 

I guess these critters are always around, especially if you live near open fields. However, when the winter is especially long with extended periods of snow cover, voles have an especially good time enjoying the freedom to forage under the snow without fear of being seen from above by birds of prey. 

Of course, this also means that I had no idea that a major "vole fest" was taking place in my back yard. It wasn't until the snow melted that I could see the results of their "partying".

King Solomon wrote in his Song of Songs this plea:
Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards...
Song of Solomon 2:15a
Usually, since the Song of Songs deals with the love between a man and a woman, we take this to be a warning to watch out for the little things in a relationship that cause destruction. It is a warning to deal with those little things before they cause serious damage.

Image found here
I think this warning is a good one for any relationship, not just within marriage. Whether we are talking about foxes in the vineyards, or voles having a party under the snowdrifts, little things can cause much damage if left to themselves.

In the same way, petty grievances, selfishness, pride, and unforgiveness can wreak havoc in our relationships. We might call these "relational voles".

Weeks on end with snow covering the lawn hide vole damage. Similarly, time and busy-ness cover up the destroyers of relationships.

So what's the solution to relational vole damage? Allow God to shine His light on the things that cover up the problem. Just as the sun melts the snow, the SON can melt through the complacency that allows us to ignore the problem. 

Once He has done this, we can clearly see what is causing the damage, and He will help us deal with it.

From what I understand, it is nearly impossible to get rid of the voles of the animal kingdom. Fortunately, our God can enable us to deal much more effectively with "relational voles". 

We don't have to settle for "relational vole damage" in our lives. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

You Brought Us Out

This past Sunday, my pastor introduced a new song to our church. I wanted to
share this song with you because I think it has such a great message.

The words of the song relate to God's people being led out of slavery in
Egypt. They traveled a long, long way from the place of captivity, spent
years wandering in the wilderness, and finally were brought in to the
Promised Land.

I tried to embed the You Tube video, but couldn't figure out how to do it. You can (I hope) click here to go to the video. (You'll have to wait about 15 seconds for a commercial before the video starts. Sorry.)

Here are the words to the chorus. 

Oh Lord you brought us from a mighty long way, 
a mighty long stay in the wilderness. 
Oh Lord You brought us through the thick and thin, 
through the fire and wind to a better place. 
You brought us out, 
to bring us in.

The people of Israel are not the only ones who need freedom. Many of us have been brought out of our own places of captivity. Many others are still in that "distant land" and need to be brought out. Others are in the middle of the journey - figuratively speaking, they are still wandering in the wilderness.

In reality, we all are still on the journey to the ultimate "better place". Yet we can still, in some fashion, know and live in the "better place" right now. This song reflects the joy of those who have been brought in to the place that Jesus has for us.

A word of challenge, though.
God brought us out...
To bring us in...
In Exodus, God brought His people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land so that they
could be a reflection of His glory among all the nations around them.

God has a purpose in bringing you and me out of our own "far places". He didn't do it just so we could sit back in our easy chairs sipping sweet tea for the rest of our lives. Nor did He bring us out so that we could spend the rest of our days feverishly working ourselves to death in a frantic effort to please Him. 

He brought us out ... 
He brought us in...
so we could reflect His heart, 
His love, 
His glory. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

You Can't Sink This Sub!

It has been six months since I have been back in the United States. I've submitted employment applications to many different places. I had a decent amount of work at Hobby Lobby during the Christmas season. Of course, once the Christmas season was over, my work hours dropped off sharply because...well...not as many people shop at Hobby Lobby when Christmas decorating is not a major activity.

New Work 
After several weeks with very little income, God opened up the opportunity for employment as a substitute teacher in several school systems in the area. 

This looks like a fun book. You can find it here
My first day of subbing fell on Valentine's Day. I subbed for a tenth grade social studies teacher, and I have to admit that greeted the students with a bit of nervousness. After all, it has been something like twenty-seven years since I have been in a high school classroom in the United States. Numerous people talk about "kids these days". You know what I mean. The saying "sink the sub" has been around for quite some time, and I wondered how hard the students would try to "sink" me.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the tenth graders to be generally very respectful and a pleasure to work with. Of course, the teacher had left lesson plans that were very easy to follow. The classes practically ran themselves, so I had it easy, but it was a very good re-entry experience into the classroom.

Since that first day, I have had work almost every day. I thought it might take awhile before I started getting jobs, but it seems that I will not have trouble getting as much work as I can handle. In fact, my schedule is full through the first two weeks of March.

As for tomorrow and Friday, I will be back at the high school teaching Social Studies again, but for a different teacher this time. I am looking forward to it this time. God is providing the work, and I am trusting Him that this class, like the other one, will not be out to "sink the sub". If they are into "sub-sinking", though, I trust that Gd will make me "unsinkable".

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Big Melt-Off

image found here
Today is February 20th. Snow is piled high outside after weeks of some of the coldest, snowiest weather this area of Ohio has seen in decades. Actually, the snow is not as high now as it was just last week. We have had somewhat warmer temperatures the last few days, and some of the while stuff has melted. The fact that a temperature of thirty-something degrees can be thought of as "warmer" says something about how bitterly cold we have been here.

We have had so many snow days this winter that the President's Day holiday was cancelled in order to make up at least one of them. Unfortunately, that very night, we got another snow storm. What happened? You guessed it. School was cancelled on Tuesday.

I am not writing merely to seek people to commiserate with me about the weather, though. As I drove to work this morning, I got to thinking about what many areas that have been hit by record-breaking snowfalls and freezing temperatures are going to face as things start to warm up. Then, I started comparing this whole situation to life. May I share a few thoughts with you? Yes? OK, let's go.

Image found here
Frozen Ground
After weeks of frigid temperatures, the ground under the piles of snow is frozen hard. It will thaw far more slowly than the snow piled on top of it. Consequently, the ground won't be able to adequately absorb the water from the melting snow. The result? Flooding, of course. We all look forward to warmer weather, but face it. That warmer weather will bring with it certain challenges that we don't have to face as long as the snow stays piled high and deep in sub-zero temperatures. 

Frozen Hearts
In the same way, some of us walk around with frozen hearts. Things have happened to us us that have really hurt. Defensively, we allow our hearts to become hardened so we can't be hurt again. More and more "stuff" piles up on top of the frozen ground of our hearts. We don't like it. We wish for spring. We long for new life. We grasp at a glimmer of hope that God can bring His warmth into our frozen hearts. Yet there is something risky about allowing that warmth to touch us. Let's suppose that we go ahead and take that risk.

Image found here
Melt-Off Mess
As the warmth of God's love touches the "stuff" that has piled up over the years on our frozen hearts, we start to get some run-off. Thoughts and feelings that we have piled away start to pour out. Often, this gets a bit messy. Even as the residents of the flood plain of Findlay, Ohio, will inevitably have to do some clean-up after the coming flood, we also have some clean-up to do in our hearts. This is most definitely not a fun process.
Image found here
"Post-Flood" Clean-up
As daunting as the task of "post-flood" clean-up of our hearts can be, we have one advantage that homeowners living in the flood plain do not have. Our Heavenly Father is not like insurance companies that try to pay out as little at they can manage to get away with on each claim. We don't need to worry about whether or not He will provide the needed resources to restore our hearts and lives. 

There is no need to fear what the warmth of God might reveal. Allow the piled up snow to melt away. Allow God's warmth to thaw our frozen hearts. Our Heavenly Father will work right alongside us in the "post-flood" clean-up of our lives. He won't leave us with warped doors and mildewed walls in the home of our heart. He will make all things new. 
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  2 Corinthians 5:17

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