Random Blog Clay Feet: 2009
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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Love

As usual I am a bit slow in posting personal events in my life on this blog. Sometimes I fail to even mention them many times. But of course pictures always give me a little more incentive to try to share some of the special times in our lives.

As might be expected, the Christmas holidays would be a time to have a higher chance of making some memories than other times. Many years those memories are often quite mixed, at least for me. When there are large groups getting together there is almost always the tension of widely varying personalities, old grudges, unresolved disputes and potential flare-ups hiding just beneath the surface. Most people are very aware of this potential and it has even become a good source for many holiday jokes now.

I am certainly not the traditional Christmas type of person as anyone in my family could assure you. For many years I have resented the whole onslaught of expectations and commercialism revolving around gift-giving. Many years ago I made it plain each year that I did not want to receive gifts because I don't want to be guilted into spending a lot of money buying 'guess' gifts for people I am clueless about. I am terrible at guessing what people want and often at this time of year I am very strapped for money anyway. Given all the variables and seeing the hard feelings that happen involving people and the gifts they do or do not receive, I have decided that staying out of the whole process completely is preferable to trying to find some compromise.

However, that does not mean that I don't value some things extremely highly. But the things that people could easily give me and that would cost them little to nothing in many cases are the kinds of things that do not fit into the typical mold of people's expectations. They are not things measured by the price tag attached to (or removed from) them but are measured by the long-term affect that they can have on the heart.

Someone has stated the the only real gift any of us can every actually give, the only actual, authentic gift that we even possess that is of real worth is our undivided attention to someone. When I heard that statement the first time it resonated so deeply inside of me that I knew it was profoundly true. But in the reality of how most people interact at Christmastime that is one of the rarest gifts ever given to anyone. But I cannot avoid the fact that this kind of gift – someone taking the time to just spend quality time with me, open up their heart and soul to me and allow me to open up to them – that is a gift I could never buy with any amount of money and they do not need to spend money on giving such a gift as that me, except of course unless it involves some travel.

Given all that context and background from my perspective, I literally felt honored and blessed to actually get some of that very gift this Christmas. Two of our daughters drove down separately to spend the weekend with us and we had only the four of us together. There were no tensions, no hidden agendas, no expectations for reciprocal gift exchanges – just time spent together hanging out, talking, eating (our family cannot do holidays without engaging in some very specific holiday cooking extravaganzas due to the British blood in their veins) and generally enjoying each others company.

We had all agreed ahead of time that we would not do the gift exchange thing so I felt reasonably comfortable in not buying anything for anyone. I know that labels me in many minds as a heretic, but so be it. My family finally accepts me this way without trying to lay a guilt trip on me, even subtly as often happened for many years some time ago. This has greatly eased tensions now I have to say. But our girls did bring along a bunch of stocking gifts for all of us for which they did not expect any return.

After we went through the small items of food etc. and it was obvious that my wife had received gifts that were not paralleled for me, they asked me if I felt bad they hadn't bought me anything. Again I assured them as clearly as I could that I have no trace of desire for that kind of gifts at Christmas. However, I do cherish and appreciate very much their presence and willingness to accept me, love me and just be here with us as the most valuable and important thing they could give.

We had some very earnest, heart to heart talks over this weekend more real and open than I can remember having with one of our girls. These talks were more transparent and had less resistance than any that I can remember having with her in the past. A few days after they returned home I was speaking with this daughter on the phone and shared with her that I believe this may have been the best Christmas I can ever remember enjoying in my life. That is a pretty radical claim to make, but from this vantage point I still feel that is true. That is not to say it could not improve a great deal. There is always much more room for more transparency, more heart synchronization, more love, more connecting. But what we experienced this year was so much more in the direction I have longed for all of my life that I don't think I can really express it in words effectively.

So to my two girls who I love dearly, one biological and one a gift from heaven when she was much older, I want to express my deepest gratitude for just giving me a few days of your love and your presence with me and your mother. You really cannot sense how much it has meant to me and how long these memories are going to stay in my heart as incentive for more such encounters. I pray for you and put you both, along with our son and our other estranged daughter, into the hands of God. I also pray that I can grow to be a much better father for you that I have failed to be in the past. I am taking lessons from the best Father but it is taking me a long time to learn how to do this. But He is also my children's Father and He knows just how to love them and guide them and protect them and draw them to His heart far more effectively than I have ever dreamed of being able to do.

Father, keep them firmly in Your hands and show them the real truth about Your love, Your faithfulness, Your fairness and how crazy You are about them. Let them see Your face and know for themselves that You really do care about every detail of their life and that You can fix every problem, heal every pain and unravel every problem if they will let You. Bless them Father and ravish them with Your love as only You know how to do.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sounds of Christmas

I know I am rather delinquent in keeping this blog updated. My quartet actually participated in a three-way quartet concert a number of weeks ago and I intended to post something about it but never took the time. It was quite an interesting experience for us but turned out much better than I expected given that the other two quartets had many more years experience that ours. Each quartet gave their own section of the concert and then all twelve men joined together in the last song as a grand finale. Everyone seemed to enjoy it all immensely. I thought that I had some pictures of that event but when I went back to look I could not find any.

Today our Barbershopper Chorus put on our annual Christmas concert in two different churches which is always a very stimulating experience for all. I noted to the men just before our first concert that it was exactly two years ago in that very church that I had first heard this chorus perform in a Christmas concert and afterwards asked how I might join them. I have been singing with them ever since and now encourage others to consider joining us in the fun.

Of course we all dressed up in our “monkey suits” as some call them to look dashing for Christmas. The shoes are miserable for everyone and especially for me since I have very flat feet. My feet go numb sometimes wearing them but they are certainly very shiny to look at. This year they had me sing in one of the quartet numbers which included both of our directors. Evidently I was the wildcard in this venture as the other three have sung this song many times before. The first time we actually all practiced it together was about a half hour before our first concert. But it worked out very well and I enjoyed the song very much. It was a melancholy type of song which fits my general personality some of the time. I believe that it was arranged by our director who is an excellent musician and a very fine Christian as well.

Standing for that long of a time and keeping myself intensely focused caused my upper back to become so tense that after each concert I could hardly stand up straight. And by the end of the last song of the evening my voice was starting to seriously give out. I don't believe I could have made it through one more song. But it was a very good experience and I only wished more of my friends would have come to listen.

The next two weeks our chorus is going to do some caroling in a couple towns around here. Then we are taking off a couple weeks to start up practicing again after the new year. This has been a good outlet for me to be involved in music and also to make friends with people in areas where I usually would not ever get to know.

Anyway, that's what is going on in my neck of the woods right now. The weather is supposed to turn very cold this week and we might even get a little snow. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas as some people might say.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Beyond Coincidences

Some answers to prayer and miracles are dramatic, jumping up to catch your attention in a spectacular way. Those are the ones that most people prefer and are exciting to talk about in testimonies and stories.

But then there are the more subdued versions that are a little harder to sell as being spectacular, at least initially. But I wonder if upon reflection a little farther along that they may be seen to be at least as significant if not more in the story line of our lives.

I think that I had some of the latter kinds over the last couple of days and am waiting to see how the “rest of the story” plays out in each of these situations.

Two of these cases involved a deeply estranged relationship between myself and someone else. Both of these have been sources of deep emotional pain to me over the past couple years and have been a subject of prayer. I have been insistent on putting these relationships into God's hands and leaving them there for Him to work behind the scenes as only He is able to do while at the same time keeping close tabs on my own heart to be sure I am not harboring resentment toward these individuals. Whenever I feel some of it inside I try to flush it out into the open and choose again to consciously forgive them.

In the last two days both of these situations have come into focus in my life and with both I have had surprising encounters that I was not expecting or even trying to orchestrate. Neither of these relationships are to the place where I could safely claim that they are fully reconciled, but at the same time I have been encouraged by the small things that have taken place to diffuse some of the tension that has existed for too long. In both instances I have been able to speak with someone on a friendly level and in one relationship we even spent several hours sharing openly almost like old times again – and this after several years of complete incommunicado.

A couple of other things have also transpired in just the last 24 hours that have also affected other sensitive areas of my life. One of them involved tapping into some intense leftover emotions and triggers from my relationship with my own Dad in previous years, and another involved a potential change in my form of livelihood. The later is much, much more tentative and I am certainly weighing a number of factors and options to look for more clear guidance from God's providence. But the issue involving my intense and surprising arousal of old emotions from my Dad was much more interesting.

As I sat in church this morning during class time I was almost blindsided by some comments from another person in the class whom I had never met or known before. But the subject matter, the spirit and amazingly even the tone of voice and vocal pronunciation of certain syllables were so very close to what my Dad would have done just a few years ago while he was still alive that I was almost stunned. Needless to say it was not a pleasant experience because the memories aroused involved some of my Dad's most controversial weaknesses that caused many people who knew him much pain. In his later years he had become so involved with some critical religious organizations that perverted his perceptions that his life became filled to overflowing with bitterness and faultfinding.

I can distinctly remember the last time I ever attended church together with my Dad – in the very same church that I now regularly attend. He acted so confrontational and abrasive during that time that I was humiliated and embarrassed beyond anything I had ever experienced in my life. I had some of my family with me that day and I was seriously wishing that I could just slink down and crawl to the back of the church underneath the pews and escape out the door hoping no one would notice. I also vowed emphatically that I would never, ever find myself sitting in a church with my Dad again for as long as I lived.

I think I may have actually attended church again with him later on, but it was never in that particular church and it was some time after very painful and traumatic events took place that literally banned him from ever entering that church again. Some time later my parents began attending another church some miles away and were much subdued in their interactions with the people there. But it was also not long after that that he started having strokes which landed him in a nursing home finally where he was never able to attend church again anyway.

Not long after entering the nursing home God arranged a series of events in my life so as to bring about a very dramatic reconciliation between us as well as a genuine conversion of my Dad's heart. It was a spectacular miracle to say the least because of the sheer impossibility of the whole event, but I had been daring God for some time to do just that and He did do it, but not without making sure that I was involved in the process as part of my own healing journey.

I suppose that is a lot of background information to create the context for what happened today. But for many years my Dad's virulent attitudes and actions involving strident views he had about certain religious topics were a constant source of friction and triggering between us nearly every time we talked together. Whenever I visited home for a few days I was certain to feel triggered by the worship periods that were required each morning with him. The internal triggers were linked not only with the things that he wanted to emphasize but very much by the tone of his voice, the word inflections and the hidden messages conveyed that only I knew about because I had known him for so long. Other people were sometimes baffled by how many triggers I could receive just listening to my Dad read something or talk about something because they did not have the inside repertoire of links to the many subtle things my Dad inferred whenever he spoke about certain subjects.

What amazed me and elicited these same emotions this morning was the fact that this complete stranger was so closely aligned with the same beliefs and attitudes and spirit that had so hijacked my Dad's attention the last few years of his life, and listening to this man was like being in the presence of my Dad all over again. It was so similar that I could almost predict what this man was going to talk about next – and I was right. His logic and arguments were the very same ones that my Dad had always used and when I heard the same tone of voice and word articulations I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Needless to say I had some rather strong emotions stirred up that I had to deal with right away.

When I decided to make a comment in class to counteract the poisonous sentiments being spread by this person I knew that I might become the target of his anger if he was not willing to take what I said to heart. I was not mistaken in the least as he suddenly turned and fired off another predictable quotation at me meant to stop me in my tracks. But instead of withering away I decided to answer him with what I have come to about this passage after years of reflecting on that particular statement. This caught him by surprise and he was about to launch into an all-out assault on me when the teacher immediately shut down the conversation to bring the class to an end and stop the damage before it got any worse.

I was quite relieved at this because I really have no stomach for getting into a pointless, fruitless argument with a person who is not in touch with his own heart and is so infected by a root of bitterness. I am all too familiar with these roots and the fruits that they always produce and I know that trying to reason with such a person only adds fuel to their fire instead of bringing anything closer to resolution. The real problem is not a lack of correct information or proper interpretation of some passage as they suppose but lies in the condition of a person's spirit. What must take place is a change of heart and attitude, not corrected information or the argument of a better formula.

After the church service had finished I was a little surprised but encouraged when this same man came up and apologized for getting upset with me in class. I cannot judge his motives, though I still think I can read him almost like a book because he seems so similar to my Dad. But later on I took opportunity to have a long talk with the class teacher where I was blessed to have much more insight into the other side of the story and some of the dynamics taking place in that church. I was blessed to see how God was working more than could be seen on the surface and I also spent some time sharing with several people who gathered, my own experience and the story of my Dad and his conversion experience before he died.

Immediately after leaving there we went to meet our girls at another small church that was coming to a close and getting ready to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner together. As our girls related to us the incredible stories that were shared in the group before we arrived I was wishing that we had been there for the whole service so we could have heard these stories ourselves. A number of things also happened during our time in this place that I believe were significant but again I do not know how it all fits together until more developments mature. But it was unavoidable to see that God's hand was in a lot of things that were going on through all of this.

I cannot say why all of this happened today and over the last couple days, but it seems that they were for some specific purposes, many of which I may never know for some time. But the range of emotions that were experienced or resurrected today were certainly unexpected and had a variety of effects on me this weekend. I don't know what it all means, but I do have a sense that I might understand it more as time goes by.

Father, I simply accept all of this from You and trust that You are doing things to bring about more reconciliation on a number of fronts that need to be healed. I ask that You continue to change my heart and my attitudes that get in the way and to also work in every way possible on others who are still resisting Your love or Your convictions in their hearts. I praise You for what I have been able to perceive today along with all that I can't see that You are doing behind the scenes. I trust Your heart and Your plans and Your ways. Bind our hearts together as we all learn to trust You more completely. I give myself, my plans, my will, my life to be used as a testimony for Your goodness and faithfulness.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Today is our 32nd wedding anniversary. As I just wrote that it suddenly occurred to me that my Dad was married twice and both times he was married 32 years. Both marriages ended in the death of his wife, the second one on the day of their anniversary. But my wife just assured me that she has no plans of dying just because that happened to both of my mothers.

Because we were married on Thanksgiving weekend (to accommodate everyone else's travel plans coming to the wedding and because it was more likely to get them to come then instead of around Christmas), each year we are reminded to be thankful for our marriage in more ways than just our anniversary. And every so often, like this year, our anniversary and Thanksgiving day line up on the same day.

This year we are enjoying the privilege of spending this holiday with two of our daughters, one biologically and one by spiritual adoption. I just spent several hours this morning having the most open spiritual conversation with one of them that I have ever been able to have in our whole life. As you can imagine my heart hardly knows how to act after this blessing. I am thrilled to see her opening up to God, learning to listen to His voice to her personally and practicing how to relate properly to the messages she is now sensing from His Spirit.

We have had at times a very rocky relationship with each other over the years. Her biological parents had many of the same hangups that my parents had and that I also had in raising my own children. So the tension that has marked many of our interchanges is not unfamiliar to me but has been a source of great pain at times. I have longed to be able to share my heart with her and get her to understand that I really care for her heart. But most of the time we end up knocking heads instead of meshing gears.

My desire for my relationship with all of my children has been to be able to relate to them at a deeper level as an adult – like a best friend. I am very jealous of people who can honestly say that their parents are their best friends. I wish that was the case between my children and I, but in honesty I have to say that is not the case. I also have to accept most of the blame for this situation because I failed to love them and honor them and inspire them like a good parent should have done. I now realize that this happened because my own picture of God along with the modeling I received from my own upbringing was poor preparation for the job of parenting. I tended to resort to the methods and emotions that were used on me but that proved so damaging in my life. So it is no surprise that the relationship I have to a great degree is not much different than the tension I felt most of my life with my own Dad.

But God is much greater than all of our mistakes and faults. I have been seeking to know His heart for a number of years now as well as asking Him to repair the deep damage my modeling and treatment has had on my biological children. God has sent several other children into our life at various times with different effects and results along the way, but our family is still in process and learning how to relate to each other better as God leads us.

One of these children ended up dying a few years ago at a young age. This was very painful for us especially because it happened while we were estranged from her. Another adopted daughter is still estranged from us and I continue to pray for reconciliation and healing in this relationship. Nothing is impossible with God and only He can bring about the healing and restore the trust and confidence needed to have a positive relationship again. But the daughter with which we are staying right now is really listening and seeking God's heart in spite of all the baggage she received from her parents that was similar to what I experienced. In spite of her background and misconceptions about what God is like she is responding to His drawing love and is allowing Him to love her more and more. This is a source of great joy for me as I sense that she is moving into a stage of her experience where we can communicate about things that before she could not relate to me about without much discomfort.

I know that all of these relationships are very much in process. I know that there will be misunderstandings, hurt feelings, assumptions and all sorts of other bumps in the road ahead with all of my children. But my heart's desire above all is for each of them to somehow begin to see the real truth about God, about His inescapable love for them, His untainted feelings of affection for them that they failed to experience from me. I not only wish that for my children but for my wife and for me as well, to sense the unconditional love of our Father.

This is a day to remember a life of shared love, shared hardships, shared pain, shared experiences, shared memories that have united our hearts and minds for over 32 years together. It is a shared journey of seeking to discover how to relate to the God of our parents who often misrepresented Him to us while raising us as their children. It has been a life of many emotions as we at times felt that God was not listening or caring about us based on our desperate circumstances. But through it all we still have to say that God was and is faithful and that if there has been a problem believing that that it has always been in our perceptions and not because of His lack of abilities.

Our marriage has not been the high profile romance as portrayed by Hollywood and that is idealized in the movies. Our relationship has been a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. But one thing that has stabilized us through all of these years is the ironclad decision that we have always maintained and that I can remember my parents instilling deep into my thinking, the decision that divorce was never going to be an option for us no matter what happened. I cannot say that I have had too many reasons for even wanting to think in that direction, but the very fact that it simply was never an option that we would even allow into our thinking has led us to be serious about facing our differences and problems instead of running away from them.

I know that I am not the ideal husband. Many times when I see other people who are enjoying obvious marital bliss or when a husband is openly selfless and sweet to his wife that I at times feel very guilty and delinquent. I have way too many faults and have far too much selfishness to be the blessing to my wife that she deserves. This may not sound like the ideal anniversary tribute, but I feel that honesty is something that is remedial and important for my heart. I know I am learning and growing but that I have a great long way to go to be the loving, caring husband that God wants my wife to have.

But in 32 years of give and take and standoffs and reconciliations, through it all we have grown closer to each other at levels beneath what we can consciously perceive. I am so thankful that my wife has a heart to know God as I too want to experience. And though her journey to find God at a deeper level is usually very different than the way I do it, I am learning to respect her private journey and to encourage her uniqueness and expressions and struggles as she learns to respect mine.

I am not one easily given to flowery language and romantic expressions. Everyone who knows me much at all can tell you that. I am more of a pragmatist and what I think is a realist. But for me, to be real and face things like they really are is the first step toward being better able to then move toward a deeper relationship that is genuinely connected and has affections that are based on more than surface beauty or performance. We are learning, albeit very slowly at times, to know each others heart while also seeking to know the heart of our Creator and Father. I wish that romance was something I was better at, but I am the product of my past. And while the future does not have to equal the past, what I am in the present has always been all that I have to work with at the moment.

God led our lives together in very complex situations in both of our lives. We still wonder what some of the reasons were behind how God has led us over the years, but of course we will never know until He can explain it all better in heaven. But for now we are learning that God's heart can be trusted even when we may fail each other. God is love, and if God is not in the marriage it is impossible to know true love between a man and a woman. There may be emotions and excitement, but real love can only be found from the heart of the only One who is love.

Today we mark the milestone of 32 years of experimenting together, of learning how to love in the context of marriage. Have we learned anything yet? I believe we have. But I will be the first to say that there is far more to learn than what we have already grasped. And I pray for God to keep opening and softening my own heart so that I can be a better father and husband to the hearts of both my wife and all of my children so they can more clearly see what love should really look and act like in real life.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Triple Dipper Day

Yesterday I had what I called a triple-dipper – a day spent with some of my favorite people.

The night before I decided at the last minute to take a family that is becoming close to us up to Chicago all day yesterday to attend some meetings by one of their, and my, favorite speakers, Herb Montgomery. This young man is one of the most exciting preachers that I know of when it comes to presenting a clarified picture of what God is really like. His teachings have greatly helped me to sort out many confusing issues revolving around why Jesus died on the cross and why bad things happen to good people. He is not afraid to tackle the most challenging and emotionally charged issues in religion and I admire him for this.

Because we have never met him in person even though we have listened to many hours of his sermons, I was quite interested in taking this opportunity to see him live and maybe get a chance to interact with him a little myself if possible. I had actually contacted him several months ago about assisting him with some of my audio editing skills and helping get some of his series recordings ready for public use. But over the past few months I have become very discouraged over even communicating with him as he has been so busy. I had about come to the point where I decided that possibly he was trying to avoid me and did not want to come right out and tell me that. So I decided that if I couldn't make meaningful connection with him this time in person that I would just drop my efforts to hook up with him and let the whole idea die.

Our friends, a family of five, have become very interested in the things that Herb teaches after I began sharing his talks with them some time ago. They somehow felt that the things he talked about and the way he presented them were so sensible and compelling that they wanted to learn more. They even went to his website and downloaded more of his series to listen to. So when they learned that he was going to be this close to us they were very excited to take the opportunity to meet him in person. However, since they were having car problems they had decided to give up on the idea until I called them Friday evening and offered to take them in our car.

As a result we all had to get up around 4 AM which for them in particular was not an easy thing to pull off. But we got all loaded not long after 6 AM and got on the road with eager anticipation. When I had called for directions the night before I learned that in the afternoon there was going to be a Michael Card concert. This popular Christian musician is one of our favorite singers and my wife was very upset that she was not able to go along. Since she has been sick the past few days she decided that it would not be wise to try to make this trip and risk getting other people sick. However, she was very jealous and upset that she would be missing out on one of her favorite Christian artists and reminded me of that each time we talked on the phone.

But since the concert required tickets I assumed at this late date that it might be impossible to get any tickets for us. We choose not to generally buy or sell things on God's Sabbath according to His instructions so I assumed that short of a miracle we would either have to miss out on the concert and wait around outside for the last evening meeting with Herb or just come home early after the morning meeting.

It took us around 2 ½ hours to arrive at the church where the meetings were to take place and we got there about 9 AM. I decided to hang out upstairs where the sound and video techies hang out because that is where I feel most comfortable. They were kind to show me their software and the equipment they have which I found very interesting and informative. The balcony area where all this is located was also a very good vantage point to view everything going on in the church, much better than anywhere on the main floor.

After participating in Sabbath School for both the adults and the children, we very much enjoyed the compelling message by Herb for the church service. He was close to wrapping up a 10-day series called Life Unlimited which is all about how to find real fulfillment and satisfaction in every area of life – mental, financial, emotional, spiritual, physical and social. It is an excellent series that he has developed and is presenting it repeatedly all over the world at this point. It is also keeping him so busy that he is coming close to burnout it seems. Fortunately he is done for this year after this one closes and can spend some much needed time with his children and wife for a period of time before flying off to do more seminars.

We had a delicious fellowship dinner together with a large number of people after church. I felt I was so hungry after not having hardly anything for breakfast that I almost overestimated how much I could eat and uncharacteristically got two platefuls of food. That was enough to keep me for the rest of the day but in the evening the church secretary brought in more food for us to eat which was very kind of her.

I decided to go and talk with the man in charge of the tickets for the afternoon concert to see if I had any options. He told me that we could still get tickets and that I could just pay him later. I told him that I had not come prepared with that much money and he allowed me to just send him a check after I got home to take care of the cost. This was really exciting for us as we could then enjoy the full day listening to both Herb and Michael Card all on the same day. Michael had played a couple songs before Herb spoke in the morning and we knew that the concert was going to be very inspiring because of his personal style and laid-back personality along with his excellent musical abilities.

I chose to view the afternoon concert from up in the balcony sitting with the sound man and his wife. I tried to get a couple pictures from there but it was a challenge to get a good shot without a flash that could reach that far or a stronger lens. But the music was superb and it really blessed our hearts.

That evening we stayed for the evening presentations by Herb and were even more blessed and inspired. My friends really soaked up the amazing insights that Herb shared directly from the Bible which are so different than anything other speakers ever talk about. During the intermission and a bit after the last meeting I was finally able to spend a few minutes speaking with Herb about various things and we agreed that we wanted to stay in touch much more. I feel a real resonance with the spirit that Herb has and would like to get to know him much better if possible. I hope that this can work out for both of us.

We had a long drive home and got in around midnight with a car full of very tired children and adults. But all of us were so blessed and my tiredness seemed different than usual. I was surprised that I did not get very sleepy even after being up for so long and driving so far. It just seemed that my body and mind had been so energized by the wonderful mix of friends and favorite people and the presence of God that I may have been feeling a little of what Jesus was talking about when His disciples couldn't figure out why He lost interest in eating after sharing the wonderful good news about God with the woman at the well.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Back From the (near) Dead

I can hardly believe it. But it is still working yet today. After months of great frustration and seriously considering throwing in the towel and buying a new one to replace one that has not been used very much at all, I finally got my printer to begin working properly.

For months I have had a problem with my printer just fading out of black (instead of fading to black like in video production). When it would print, which was never predictable, it might just as suddenly quite printing in a very few minutes. On top of that I also began to have problems with it spreading great pools of ink around the corners and along the edges of the sheets of paper. It seemed that my nice new multifunction printer was not such a great investment after all.

About a year or two ago I had installed a continuous-feed ink supply to this printer. At first it seemed to work quite nicely. But then I had problems keeping the hoses attached firmly out of the way in the routing. When they came loose the print carriage would jam inside and make awful noises which made one believe that the whole printer might be self-destructing. I tried several methods of attaching the hose inside the printer after the original double-sided tape from the supplier failed and finally ended up sawing a hole in the plastic to allow the plastic retainer tab to sit flat up under the top of the inside.

That seemed to solve that problem but then I started having this more serious issue of ink fading out completely more and more often. I tried everything I could think of. I raised the print bottles higher, I cleaned the heads repeatedly, I readjusted the routing of the hoses – nothing seemed to have much effect.

I called the people I bought the ink system from and the lady told me the ink bottles absolutely had to be on the same plane as the printer or they would not work right. I figured out that was what was causing the flooding over the paper but it did nothing to get it printing like it was supposed to. I did hook up a hose to the internal dumping system however and routed the output of the head cleaning process to drain into an external bottle instead of dumping into the bottom of the printer like the default factory setup did.

I decided to try again yesterday to see if I could do anything to make it start working again. I filled up the black ink reservoir. I put the printer through repeated head cleaning cycles but with no effect. I even tried putting some ink directly down into the carriage to see if maybe it had dried up somewhere along the way. As I was doing all of this my cat jumped up on the desk and demanded attention. As I tried to pick him up and move him out of the way he swatted the whole set of ink containers off the desk with his tail and they hung down beside the desk by the hoses connecting them to the printer. I dropped the cat on the floor and grabbed the hose to fish up the bottles which all had their vent caps open. There were various colors of ink splattered all over the sides of the printer, the desk, the wall and dripping onto the carpet underneath. What a mess! Of course that cat was totally unconcerned.

I finally decided to call the supplier again and see if I could talk with the man there who always seemed much more knowledgeable about their systems. He seems to have invented most of their processes and is very familiar inside and out with these printers and usually has much better insights for solving difficult problems if I can actually talk to him directly.

Fortunately he was the one who answered the phone yesterday and I explained to him my problem. I was nearly at the point of getting rid of this printer altogether and buying another one but I really didn't like that idea and don't have the money now besides. I had been so frustrated for so long and just felt impressed to call him today which may have been a suggestion from higher Wisdom anyway.

When he heard my description of the problem he told me to prime the cartridges. He said that it sounded like they were starved and needed to get ink flowing from the bottles again. He told me just how to get it primed and so I hung up and proceeded to try it. On the second attempt I began to notice that while trying to suck ink out from the bottom of the cartridge with a syringe it seemed that even with a great amount of vacuum placed on the outlet there was almost no ink coming out.

I thought that was a bit strange since there shouldn't be anything preventing the ink to flow from an open bottle full of ink to the top of the cartridges where the hose entered. As I thought about it more I examined a pinch point where the hose entered the printer from the side. The lid sits down very snugly at that point and the hose always looked very restricted there. But I simply could see no other way of getting the hose to where it had to go inside the printer. I had installed it exactly per instructions that came with the system, but as I looked very closely I realized that this very well might be the very problem that has plagued me all this time.

I took time to massage the hose to try to unrestrict it as much as possible and then decided to take a pocket knife and cut a relief cavity into the side of the printer cover to let the hose have some free room to squeeze through. Since I have no plans to return the printer to the manufacturer I can do whatever I need to do to it to make it work right no matter how hacked up it might look.

After putting some slack in the hose and getting a good notch cut into the printer cover, I put everything back together and tried to prime the cartridge again. This time the ink flowed very freely and I knew I might have solved the problem. I tried another print job and this time it printed fully and completely without any problems whatsoever.

At that point I decided to catch up on a whole bunch of print jobs that I had been needing to do for the past week or two. As each page came out perfectly I could hardly believe my eyes. After all the ideas and crazy notions that I had tried to solve this problem, the real issue all along had likely been this one little pinch point. And to think that I was ready to throw away the whole expensive printer when the only problem was just to give the hose a little relief in the right spot.

I have been thinking about that a lot lately. How many times have I been so sure that I knew what was causing some problem, maybe in someone else's life even, only to spend a lot of time judging, second-guessing or criticizing what was not the real issue at all. Then later I might find out what the real problem was, and maybe the real issue was far more simple or less offensive than the things I was so tempted to accuse, at least in my own mind.

I could hear God pressing home the warning in this experience with my printer. Don't throw out valuable things and especially people and relationships just because you are so sure you know how worthless they are. You simply don't have the wisdom needed to know what is really going on. You must learn to listen to outside insights, to defer to those who do have more experience and seek to see things from heaven's perspective and not be so ready to give up easily. When the real truth comes out you might be very glad that you did not give up too soon.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Post Op

Well, I did it. Or more accurately I should say they did it. They stuffed my sausages back in and sewed and glued me back shut on both sides all without letting me watch them at work. Well, that's just as well I suppose. I have a weak stomach when it comes to getting stung or getting cut open and they would not have liked that in their nice clean operating room.

I went in this morning at 6:45 and by 8:45 I assume they were hard at it. My surgeon is a very gentle and king man who is fairly new to this hospital. He moved here from a small town in the middle of nowhere but from the same state and I overheard him telling someone that he grew up in North Dakota. Most people I have met from North Dakota are really nice people. I am very impressed with the job that he has done on me. It not only looks very neat but if I sit just right I actually do not feel any pain at all. Of course, that is likely at least in part to the nice Vicodin they gave me about 6 hours ago as well as the possible anesthesia left over in my system.

I left the hospital around 3 PM but didn't get home until about 6:30. It's really hard to push the pedals and keep your concentration while your brain is feeling so good. I'M KIDDING, really! Of course I didn't try that, though I felt good enough that I might have been able to do it. It is true that I did pull that stunt many years ago driving from this same town back to this same house when I was 18 and on strong pain medication. It was such a terrifying experience that it cured me of ever considering trying that again. My subconscious driving skills were completely absent and I had to utilize all of my left brain memory and focus only my conscious brain to carry out every little detail of driving. I was so exhausted from expending that much nervous energy that by the time I was almost finished driving through downtown I had to get myself into a parking space without hitting any cars and collapsed in the seat until I recovered enough to finish driving home through the countryside where there was less traffic. That was a couple days after having all four wisdom teeth extracted under sedation, some of which were impacted. Not a good idea at all.

This time I am married a wonderful wife who took off work today to chauffeur me around while I enjoyed the ride. She even slowed down carefully the closer we got to home on these back country roads to avoid the many dips and bumps from making themselves known in my gut. She's a wonderful lady and we have been happily married for 32 years this November. We stopped by a coffee shop on the way home to look at some things on the Internet using their high speed connection that I can't get at home. After awhile I suddenly started feeling nausea and we had to leave and get on home.

I do have to say that the discomfort level is maybe five times less than what I expected. I don't know if I overestimated what would happen or if I had an exceptionally excellent doctor or if the pain pills work really well (they don't make me feel strange like some medications). But if it gets only better from here I will be very happy with how this is turning out – much better than the extended discomfort from the deep leg cut I inflicted on myself a few years ago with my circular saw.

Well, I am starting to feel a bit silly just talking about myself so much here. But that is how my day has unfolded so far. Hopefully I can maybe get back to working again in the next couple of weeks. Of course I am going to have to learn to be cautious about how much I lift for some time. I asked the doctor on my first visit about this surgery and wondered if I would be able to lift three times what I normally could before. He assured me that hernia repair surgery does not impart supernatural strength to a person, it only restores your body back close to what you could do before. Oh well, I tried.

I just talked with my daughter and told her how good I felt today. She warned me that tomorrow might be quite different possibly. I hope not, but I guess I will find out soon enough.

Thanks to all of you who have called to check up on me. It is times like this that one can sense a little better the people who feel bonds of friendship a little above the average. I only pray that I can become more that way myself toward others who are passing through their own times of suffering or even joy.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What Is Music?

Yesterday I had a question come into my mind that I couldn't answer.

What is music?

I mean, what really defines whether something is music or just noise. I am not looking for the passionate responses of conservatives who are eager to share their prejudices against music they don't like. What I am curious about is very literally what makes the difference between simply talking or other forms of sounds and what is generally recognized by most humans as being music.

Why does extending pitches using words (or without words) make music so different than simply speaking? And obviously there seems to be the need to string these various pitches one after another in various lengths of time with some rhythmic organization to make it more recognizable as being music.

And beyond that, why does music has such enormous impact on our psyche and our feelings at times whereas simply speaking seldom is able to deliver nearly such impact?

I couldn't answer these questions yesterday for whatever reasons. So I simply left it hanging and then frankly forget that it had ever crossed my mind until this morning. Then something that happened last night at chorus practice came back into my attention and I heard God maybe say to me, “That is the real definition of music.”

During our weekly practice period of the Barbershop chorus and just after the break time last night, our director, Tom wanted to share with us a video clip of a quartet he sang with during a contest some time back. He and his son were privileged to sing with two champion musicians making up a quartet where they sang two songs in contest that made a very deep impression on him. Both Tom and his son Tim work together in directing our chorus. This man has a deep passion for people and is very effective at making people feel good about themselves and affirming them. His spontaneous comments and affirmations seem to just come from nowhere at times and creates bonds in people's minds and hearts that keep them wanting to come back week after week, year after year.

Music is a very important part of life for both of these men, and even though his son is adopted they share a deep love for Barbershop music and great respect for each other. Tim is currently in training to be a fully accredited judge for contests following in the footsteps of his father who has been a judge for many years. They have very different personalities and styles of directing, but they both have great skill and passion both for the music and for encouraging men to be inspired to be better than the average.

The video clip that Tom wanted to share with us last night was of a song this quartet sang called “Singing with Dad”. Before he showed it to us he explained that during this presentation he felt intense emotions like he had never experienced in his life before. They became so caught up in the music together with the two champion singers on either side of them that they didn't even think about the choreography needed to express the song correctly, they just poured themselves into the music and let whatever gestures happen that felt natural in the process. Interestingly, as we watched the replay it appeared that their gestures matched very well with those of the other two men who sang with them.

As all of the local chorus watched this video with great interest, especially given the context of the introduction comments from our director, I began to see some of why he said that he had never felt this much excitement in his whole life – which is saying a great deal for him. For the words of the song conveyed quite dramatically the emotions of a person who had come to deeply appreciate a common passion for quartet music that he shared with the passion of his own father who had sung for years in a quartet before him. The song talked about the joy and satisfaction of singing in the same quartet with his own dad – which had great added emphasis because in fact, what the song was describing so accurately was actually taking place in real time as this father-son team lived out just what they were singing about.

Watching the video was compelling and deeply moving for me and maybe for others there. I sensed various levels of recognition and emotional connection among the men watching the video, and the spontaneous applause after the second song was finished spoke of more than just polite praise for a good rendition. The emotion in the room by that time had become significantly noticeable and could not easily be put into words effectively.

This morning as that memory came back to me I seemed to hear God say,

Remember that question you had yesterday about music? Well, here is at least part of the answer. Music is the means whereby passion is wrapped about words that gives the potential to bring them to life, to take them into a whole different dimension of existence. Music is the means whereby words can take on enormous power to express far more effectively what the heart is feeling but the head simply cannot convey effectively through simply words or any other means.

Thank-you. That answer rings so true, especially for people who's lives are wired a little more for music beyond the average person. I have always felt that music could allow me to convey things that was impossible to do in any other way. And I also intuitively knew that music could have the potential to also bond me to other people in ways that simply cannot happen otherwise. Likewise, music also has the ability to convey the presence of emotions and bonds already in place that words simply cannot come close to conveying. And on top of that, when words and music are properly synchronized and are congruent with each other, the amazing power of music actually amplifies and intensifies those emotions and bonds – as clearly seen in that video we watched last night.

As I watched the father and son standing close to each other and pouring themselves into the music that talked about a deep connection between a son and a dad sharing the same passion for music, it was unmistakable that they meant every word they were singing and more. And it could also be seen that the emotional connection between them was actually intensifying through that public expression of this emotion that they were describing. Their feelings were being synchronized, their words were congruent with all the other forms of expression surrounding those words and the effect was far more powerful than simply trying to speak and describe what their hearts wanted to convey or even to sing about something they were not personally experiencing.

This potentially speaks volumes to me. I have struggled all of my life to both listen to my own heart and to find ways to allow it effective expression. My communication skills for allowing my heart access to the outside have been severely damaged as many people's have been, so it is no surprise that I feel a great deal of frustration when people don't understand me or misinterpret my motives or confuse what I am trying to say. Sometimes we long for other people to just be able to read our mind, but we know that we have to find other ways of connecting with other hearts.

Maybe this is telling me that the passion for music that filled much of my life when I was a teenager has been largely suppressed and is now unused along with my heart's ability to connect with others very effectively. Maybe the passion that God implanted in the heart can only find more efficient expression when it is allowed to be released in the context of music that is congruent with the inner passions. I am not trying to address the issues of good music verses bad music here. Clearly there are different forms and effects of music. But at its core I can see more clearly again that music itself has the amazing capacity to transfer or even induce ideas, thoughts and feelings from one heart into others that simply cannot occur by any other means.

So I continue to chip away at the barriers and fears and obstacles that keep my own heart caged in and also prevent me from connecting more directly with the passion that flows from the heart of the One who created music to begin with. I have heard that heaven is filled with music. And if the above insights are true, then I can see why that would have to be the case. I have seen some people who are so afraid of the enormous power of music to affect our souls that they run from it instead of learning to understand it or how to relate to it effectively.

I know that I miss very much the times when I participated in musical groups that seemed to have some level of closer integration through the music and praise that we presented together. And I look forward to times in the future when I may be able to experience similar experiences that are even richer and deeper and more purely defined so that my own heart will be able to find freer expression and be able to connect with other hearts and the heart of God as it is designed to do.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Meatgrinders

Well, it is now official.

I am scheduled to submit myself to the meat processors to have my sausages worked on.

I have never done this kind of thing before and it seems a bit strange for a lifetime vegetarian like me to be messing around with sausages.

O.K. So most people put different labels on this. But really, what's in a label? So it sounds more civilized to call it a hospital instead of a meat processing plant. Don't they all deal with the same stuff?

I am supposed to go in the first of October so they can rearrange my innards that have apparently gotten too far disarranged and in the wrong places. I discovered about a week ago that I have a hernia and though I have heard rumors that there possibly might be some outside chance of curing it through some other means, I have decided this time to surrender to the medical system and our society's expectations about how to deal with such things and let them slice me open and have at it.

I really hope that while I am coming out of anesthesia that I don't reveal too many deep dark secrets that the nurses refuse to let me know about later. If I do I at least hope that I could hear about them myself so I could know what they are too. Other than that, I am supposed to be back home within 6-8 hours of when I arrive very early in the morning. My how times have changed. They don't even give you long extended periods of pampering in the hospital like they used to do.

So if any of you are so inclined (not sure there are any “you's” that might even read this), you can take this opportunity to indulge my weakened condition to feel terribly sorry for me and heap upon me all sorts of gifts, attentions and affections that I probably would never receive otherwise.

Well, I can try, can't I?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Of Roofs and Thumbs

I have been in the roofing activity for the past couple weeks. Two of us shingled an 8/12 pitch roof in two days finishing up by flashlight one night without using any cleats or ropes. Then around that job we have been working on a large equipment shed roof at an grain elevator repairing a lot of rotten wood and preparing it for a new steel roof. Last week my helper fell through a rotten place in the roof but providentially did not go all the way down where he would have been seriously hurt. He caught himself by his elbows on the purloins and was able to hang on until he could get maneuvered around to get his feet onto some supporting rafters and climb out.

Last Friday we almost finished placing all the steel panels on the roof and now just need to screw them all down. However it has started raining and I don't know when we can finish it. We will see how much rain or dry weather we have when tomorrow comes around.

Thursday morning as I was getting ready to leave for work I was trying to let one of our tomcats into the house as we do each morning so we can let our other cats out during the day. When I opened the front screen door our other tomcat was standing just inside and they both found themselves facing each other quite unexpectedly. Instinctively I reached down to pick up the outside cat to get him away from getting into a fight but instead I received a very deep bite into my thumb which started bleeding profusely.

I finished getting the cats where they belonged and then ran water over my thumb for awhile while it hurt more and more. I put a little cream and a bandage on it and went to work. By noon my thumb had swollen up like a balloon and was starting to hurt in my hand and arm. One of the men I work for much of the time became very concerned and arranged for me to get a prescription from a doctor for an antibiotic that I picked up that evening on the way home.

My thumb continued to tighten up and immobilize over the next day or so. Yesterday it was so stiff that it felt like a wooden attachment connected to my hand that just sent pain through the lower muscles connected to it whenever I moved it too much. Most of the time it doesn't hurt very much except when I bump it on something which then sets off all kinds of alarms and bells and whistles.

Last night I put Tea Tree Oil on it which I wish I had thought about right after it happened. A friend of mine reminded me of this at church and I believe it could accomplish more good than most of the other things we have tried like charcoal and clay. It is still quite swollen and useless at this point and I am discovering the need to do all sorts of things differently without the use of a thumb. Buttoning shirts becomes a little more interesting and even holding a spoon is sometimes a challenge. Trying to write with a pen takes some concentration and I have to slow down a bit.

I am grateful that it is not much worse than it is. I am even very blessed that it has caused me so little actual pain considering the amount of infection involved. I thought about taking a picture of it and posting it with this but then thought better. Most people are not that interested in being grossed out with that kind of image.

Yesterday after church we showed a video about the discovery of the real Mt. Sinai for those who wanted to stay and watch it. I find this video very fascinating and compelling and wonder why so may so-called experts are averse to even considering the overwhelming evidence presented here. It seems to me to be a clear case of deep professional prejudice and fear of what others might think overriding obvious evidence both Biblically and scientifically of truth disproving the current beliefs about Mt. Sinai.

After that we stayed around and talked for several hours about spiritual issues which I always find refreshing with those willing to think and dialog openly. I am praying for our church members to become more hungry to know God and to seek Him on a personal basis instead of being satisfied with just going through religious routines each week. I want to see more and more people get serious about having a personal, vital relationship with God on an individual basis that will result in bonding with others who are doing likewise. I believe this is God's plan for His people and I want to be a part of it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Making Sweet Memories

For the sake of the one or two who are interested in what is going on in our lives here, I am posting a few pictures from our last weekend. I didn't get very many pictures and didn't take any when we went to the lake for a little while after we finished this job. But we had a good time with four families getting together and processing between 55 and 60 dozen ears of sweet corn for freezing. We ended up with almost 120 quart bags of corn to freeze and still had over a couple dozen left in the shucks for any of us to use in the coming days at home.

The people we bought the corn from were very nice and not only threw in one to three extra ears per dozen but also gave me several bags extra just because we bought so much. I thought that was very generous of them especially since they also rounded the price down several dollars as well.

As you can see we had a good time together that day. Late in the afternoon some of us hurried off to the lake so that one of my friends here could try out some skiing. He had not tried to ski since he was a young boy around nine or ten years old so I wanted him to have a chance before the weather turns less warm soon.

He did very well and got up on the second try after the support pole on the back of the boat broke on the first try. He skied very well for never having done it before and took two trips around the lake for a good time before we had to get the boat out of the water for a quickly approaching storm hit. We hope to get a chance to do it at least one more time before the summer is too far gone if we can get our schedules to match up and the weather to line up at the same time.

This is the second year that we have frozen this sweet corn. We just finished up all the corn we froze last year and it has been very good. This year we decided to do a little more than last time but also wanted to get other people involved this time partly for the fun and to get the work done quicker. Of course certain people also had to indulge in a number of “corny” remarks throughout the day which kept some in stitches and others rolling their eyes. But hopefully everyone will look back on this as a good memory to repeat again sometime in the future.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Cleaning the Garage

Last weekend I launched into a project that I have been procrastinating for a number of years – cleaning the garage. Now that may not sound so profound to most people, but then they haven't seen the ghosts or know the history lurking in my garage. This is a very complicated place filled with relics of old memories from many years and leftover tools of various trades I have been involved in for a very long time. It also contains much of my Dad's leftover tools and items that I have never dealt with since his passing.

A number of problems have inhibited me from tackling this project for a long time. It began when we first moved here in a big hurry a number of years ago. My step-mother was killed in a car accident suddenly while my Dad was in a nursing home and I rushed down here from Michigan with my sister to deal with the situation. A week later we were forced to move here very quickly and since the house was already full of my parent's things much of our stuff ended up filling the garage rather tightly as well as some of the bedrooms.

Over the years we have whittled down much of the pressure and reduced the height of the stacks of boxes and furniture stored there, but I have never really taken the time to sort through everything thoroughly. Part of the reason for this was that I have always felt a mental block against doing this. I simply couldn't get myself to make so many decisions about things from every area of my life since childhood. The clutter was quite representative of the way I felt inside emotionally and I felt stuck for many years.

But events over the past few months have brought me to a major crisis and turning point internally and seem to have had the unexpected effect of breaking loose the log-jam emotionally preventing me from tackling this enormous undertaking.

The first thing I felt I needed to do was to fix the garage door header. Whoever built the garage originally had undersized the header and it had sagged dangerously over the years. When I replaced the shingles on the roof a few years ago before Dad died, I jacked up the header to its proper height and installed a temporary post in the center of the doorway until I could deal with the problem correctly. I had already purchased a ten inch wide steel plate the full length of the header to fasten to its face but I had never taken the time to install it. Now I finally got the initiative to do it.

Part of my initiative came from the fact that I had something else very pressing that I needed to do that I really did not want to face. Ironically it is those situations that have sometimes given me the most motivation to do other things I have been putting off for years. It seems that one unpleasant job can suddenly become very appealing to me when something even more unpleasant becomes urgent. While I am stalling against dealing with the most unpleasant job I suddenly become very motivated to accomplish all sorts of other unpleasant tasks that I could not bring myself to do before.

So I extracted the steel plate from the floor of the garage from under the clutter and began to drill holes for the bolts to hold it tight to the header. Then I cleaned and painted it to keep it from further rusting and took the garage door supports loose so I could insert it behind them. A friend generously came over to help me lift it into place and we were able to secure it enough to allow me to finish it without him. After I released the supporting post in the center it still sagged around ½ to ¾ inch even with 50 strong lag bolts holding it in place. But that is just going to have to be good enough.

With the door opening now cleared I felt one less obstruction to really getting serious about cleaning the garage properly and facing all my ghosts from the past lurking in there. Since I was between jobs right then I also didn't have the distraction of needing to spend time away and could focus all my energies and attention making the difficult decisions required to deal with all the things I would uncover. For two days straight I sorted and cleaned and tossed and agonized and moved things around. At that point I had filled 8-9 large construction garbage bags full of items to throw away and still have much more to go. Many things had simply deteriorated over the years or had been damaged by mice and rust.

All through this time I could feel my emotions going through some similar and parallel sorting processes. I feel like internally I am also sorting through many things from my own past and being forced to toss out some things I have clung to for years as being very important in my life. That too is a very difficult and painful process that does not happen easily or very quickly. But I know God is in charge of that process and is likely even using this external occupation to facilitate part of that internal cleaning operation.

In my sorting and cleaning and tossing I was keen to find some things that have been missing ever since we moved here. One of them is some journals that I was writing from my first days studying the Bible inductively, but unfortunately they still have not appeared. Another was a large number of CD's that contained music that I realized was missing a few months ago that I wanted to share with my quartet. That was discovered in the furtherest drawer in a desk in the far corner of the garage including a good number of much valued cassette tapes from many years ago.

In that discovery I also came across a recording of the very last time the Praise Team I sang with years ago ever sang together. We had gotten together for one last program all the way up in Canada and presented a whole service in a church pastored by the former leader of our team. As I sat down and listened to the songs that I had not sung in many years I couldn't help but begin to feel very emotional and nostalgic. I have deeply missed the opportunities to worship God collectively with others through praise music ever since that last day we were together and this recording only reminded me of this deep emptiness inside as I once again sang along with the team and thought about those times of joy long ago.

I have still not finished this project. I have quite a ways to go and I hope to make more progress this week as I don't have any work lined up right now. I think that God intends for me to deal with this issue because it really is connected to things that need to be resolved internally as well. It has certainly stirred up many old memories as I have gone through old boxes and drawers. We even came across my wife's wedding dress which we have not seen for quite some time.

There is much more going on in my life that I cannot talk about publicly right now but that is creating a great deal of opportunity for me to trust in God very intently and consistently. Yesterday I found myself slipping into some old emotional habit patterns that alarmed me. They are not easy to shake off and I had to pay extra special attention to my own spirit for quite awhile to keep me from launching off in the wrong direction and possibly loosing some divine protection inadvertently.

So pray for my project, both internally and externally, that I can become free and open and more usable for greater things than just storage. I hope to have the garage actually usable to put a car in there this winter for the first time since my parents used it for that years ago. I also hope to have my own heart cleaned up enough soon so that God can park His possessions in there and have free access to do more with it besides just house-cleaning.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Life

I realize that I have not posted much on this site lately. That is because I have diversified my output to 4 different blogs according to content. This one is more for just life which at times is not necessarily either real interesting or too interesting to put on the web. Anyway, I took a few shots of our plants that some call resurrection plants. I probably did the same thing last year and I know I posted a few pictures of these when they came up the first time around this last spring. It seems to me like they are coming up the second time earlier than usual but maybe I'm wrong. I would like to get some picture of the many hummingbirds that crowd around our feeders just outside our bay window but that is a much greater challenge photographically. This last picture is one of the very first of these plants to bloom. Each time they come up like this is gives me a little shot of encouragement, even though in my opinion the flowers are not all that glamorous. The first ones to bloom were close to the house while all the others all over the yard are playing catch-up.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Music and Work

Just a little note here to post a little of what has gone on in my life recently. Last Sunday we took our boat out and had some fun on the lake with some friends. The week before we did the same thing with some other friends and ended up having to be towed in by the lake police after the boat refused to start again and the wind blew us to the shore.

After that frustrating experience which has been plaguing me for several years (the boat starting to stall out and run rough after about an hour), I installed an electric fuel pump replacing the mechanical one that we suspected might be overheating the fuel. This time we only experienced a few minutes of rough running and then it seemed to clear up. I still don't know for sure what is going on but this was a big improvement over previous escapades.

I have been painting and replacing some of the floors in a church member's house the past few weeks and took a few pictures to document what it looks like. The floors are so much nicer than the old ones and I took the liberty to paint the doors a little more interesting than they usually get painted.

Last week our quartet sang at our church as the very first time we have sung in public. Astonishingly the visiting pastor showed up wearing an identical outfit including the exact same pattern and color tie that we were all wearing. Tonight we sang in another much larger church and tomorrow morning we will sing again in both Sunday morning services where one of our quartet members attends. We are also scheduled to sing later this summer at a home-owners association meeting and also at a church picnic program.

So far we have only learned three songs during the last 2-3 months but are getting better at reading music and picking up new songs more quickly. We have a large resource of music from which to choose including quite a number that I used in my previous quartet about 20 years ago. We hope to learn enough songs soon so that we might be able to put on a whole program at some point.

Our church appointed me to be director of music along with director of audio-visual services this coming year so things are getting even busier. I am encouraged at some of the changes people are willing to do in our services and we are experimenting with things never done in this church before as far as I know.

I also took a picture of the new sound room that I recently built in the back of the church. It is such a help in getting the mess out of the main part of the church and getting everything centralized in one place for a person to operate without being in the way and so conspicuous as it was before. We are now set up to record directly to CD's which has also allowed us to provide copies immediately after the service to those who want them.

I am still planning to install a fold-up shelf for a laptop for projecting images in the front of the church which will be added just under the window.