Monday, September 27, 2010

God's artistic skills

While traveling to pick up a friend to take to work, I marveled again at the fall colors. I think Michigan can rival upstate N.Y, Vermont or N.Hampshire, and yes even PA in fall colors. I heard that one day before creation God was painting, and the archangel Michael stopped by to admire his work, only God wouldn't let him see his work in progress. Then one day God called all the heavenly host together and told about his bold new plan to create an earth and all the plants, animals and one man to inhabit that earth. As sort of an architects sketches before the project is started God brought out four covered murals that he had painted to give them an idea of what the 'seasons' on this earth would look like. The first one had a lot of trees with bright green leaves and new grasses growing ... then as the host was 'ouhing and ahhhhhh'ing' God unveiled the second painting. This was far more beautiful than even the first, for in this one the grasses were richer and thicker, like carpets crisscrossing the landscape, and the trees were much fuller and the colors deeper shades of green, with every hue of green included ... this one nearly took their breathe away. After some time of letting them just dwell on the second painting, with great drama God revealed the third painting, It was even superior to the second one, this one was His greatest - His masterpiece. The array of colors was so beautiful the heavenly host couldn't even comment, they just sat there, they had never seen such an other worldly display of colors ... this would be an ideal 'earthly' time in which to live, imagine dwelling in such splendor. Finally, God took away the cover on the fourth painting - this one shocked them as much as the third one had, for instead of the former divine palate of granduer there was only about two colors 'white and black' .. and some sprinklings of dull green or brown here and there, but not very much. There were different shades of white and black, often dismal gray's ..the trees had lost their leaves and in many places looked like what might be called, they couldn't imagine a word to fit until Michael suggested 'skeleton's; yet there was a strange peace even in the lack of color. What happened after that colorful masterpiece to cause you to paint the last one as you did? asked Michael. God replied, 'I guess I just needed some rest; I wanted to sit back and enjoy the beautiful autumn season.' Then I got to thinking what a great segue this sorta colorless season would make, bringing appreciation for the colors that just were[for you do know that those brilliant colors are only temporary] and with absence of all that color the final season would create anticipation for the new birth of spring. So I think these four pictures will complete the cycle of seasons I'm going to create. By the way Michael, what do you think of that cycle? which picture do you like best? do you think you'd like to spend some time down there? Michael, don't really wanting to answer the questions, and certainly not wanting to obligate himself in the future to such a puny planet, sorta smiled, shrugged his wings and disappeared.

Hard copy and old friend

I got this hair-brained idea [rather weird wording seeing I'm bald] to print the articles from my first year of blogging. Since I'm not a techie geek, and barely able to blog, there's an old nagging fear of losing everything to a worm or something; plus my mom and grandma don't use the internet and I would like them to read a little of what I've recorded. My first year wasn't that big, only from May to Dec. so I copied the articles and put them in a binder. One of these weeks I'll take it home with so that they can get an idea of what my blogging is all about. On a different note; while I was home last week visiting mom we went to her lawyers office to set up an appointment to get some of her financial matters updated. The name on the Law Firm included a name I recognized from back in my high school years when I helped coach 'Pee Wee League' baseball. Asking the receptionist if recognized a nickname we used to call the lawyer she replied he still was called by it; then she said he was in his office and might have time to see me ......... that turned out to be a great experience. After introducing myself, he didn't remember me, he remembered the head coach and remembered some high school helpers; That was over 45 years ago, and we still remembered the sponsor of the team and the team color yellow. He stood out to me because he was so energetic, and such a joy to be around; yet he always seemed to have trouble getting a good hit off of the t-ball stand. Yah, he remarked, I never was able to play baseball very well; eventually in high school he gave up on playing the sport and turned to law. After we had talked for a few minutes, I think we both had enjoyed the experience ... who would have guessed?!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No authentic Sukiyaki for Paris Hilton

The Japanese government denied entry to Paris Hilton, who had only days earlier pleaded guilty [again, while on probation] to using drugs. It seems famous people often have such a hard time of learning to change their ways, their stardom has convinced them that they are special. I applaud the Japanese people for their tough stand against allowing people to use their stardom as a liberty that is detrimental to the welfare of their people and country. A further proof that this poor girl still doesn't get it, is that it didn't bother her and she smiled and simply replied, 'I'm going back home, and I look forward to coming back to Japan in the future.' Her arrogance is a bad reflection on us, her countrymen, who do not use drugs for entertainment. And what makes her so sure the Japanese will ever welcome her; maybe all they like is her perfume and fashion?!

A 'bad' marsupial time!

Today while driving to an Amish grocery store to get some Amish made cheeses, which is 22 miles from where I live, I counted 6 dead possum's and 2 dead raccoons [no pastoral exaggeration here]. Not a very good ratio [considering the short distance], and considering the fact the average possum lives 2-4yrs, their life longevity was greatly reduced. Now both raccoons and possums tend to do their foraging at night, which greatly increases their possibly of vehicular encounters because its a lot harder for people to avoid things in road at night than at day. I can't remember the article, but I recall just the other day reading about how 'night time' is needed for our survival, and I thought, well in the case of marsupial's it can be a definite 'death hazard.' I did something crazy and stopped a number of the possum kills [made sure no cars in sight] and noted that most of the possums had been been run over with head shots; which I'm guessing meant they played 'possum'[stopped rather than continuing] and the drivers were not able to avoid them. A couple of other thoughts came to mind, 1]first it might be wise for us to remember that 'our strongest asset can be our weakest link.' 2] I'm reminded that apostle Paul told us 'he gloried in his weaknesses,' for sometimes our strengths can mislead us into depending upon ourselves unwisely; 3] also it reminds me that in order for a strength to stay a strength it too needs to be constantly improved. Playing dead may work most of the time for possums, just as our strengths may more times than not get us out of a tough situation, but for these possums their strength was fatal. I'm supposing that there might also be some communal and national applications here to.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Keeping the Sabbath

In a book that I have graciously been given by our communities Episcopalian priest Gretchen, 'Practicing Our Faith,' there is a delightful chapter by one of the books editors - Dorothy C.Bass - about keeping the Sabbath. She is very resourceful in pointing out the benefits of keeping the Sabbath not only for the Jewish faith but for all of society. As both the Pope and Queen Elizabeth of Britain have recently began to engage a conversation on the societal advantages of the Sabbath I thought I would comment on this subject, especially from the perspective gained from reading Ms.Bass's chapter. I can remember 'keeping the Sabbath.' Dad, coming from a strong Mennonite heritage thought it not proper to eat out or get gas on the Sabbath, at least in my earlier years of growing up. [I should note that in my latter high school years when dad saw the fellowship advantages in meeting a group of people for something to eat in a resturant after Sunday night service he changed some of his rigid Sabbath regulations, we even got two tv's in our home] It was always amazing to me, how on vacation we would have to get enough gas on Saturday to carry us through Sunday, but somehow we could still eat at resturants. Although come to think of it it probably didn't have as much to do with breaking his Sabbath rules as it did mom refused to stop at a roadside park and fix a meal she had had to prepare on Saturday night, anyway it was always difficult for my young mind to figure it out. I remember that dad was quite a sports fan, and even though we couldn't have a tv, on sunday afternoons he was at one of mom's brothers houses watching either the Detroit Tigers or the Cleveland Browns [having to always find a place to go and watch the games I think had a major influence in dad's finally getting us those tv's]. Of course that would give mom and opportunity to drop the in-law label and visit with her sisters and/or parents, and usually a number of us cousins, and neighborhood kids would play games. Remember those days, when we didn't have to be entertained by computer games or tv, we created our own games, full of imagination and adventure ... playing cowboys and indians, thankfully no one got massacred, burned at the stake or scapled; or cops and robbers, there were a few minor bicycle accidents in fleeing from the law, but no broken bones, and we loved to bring our plastic soldiers and tanks and have big battles on sand piles ... and also football and baseball games. There was a large woods not far from where we lived, and the hours we would spend back there, wadding through the ankle deep dangerous ponds full of mosquito's, and frops and turtles, hacking our way through, and ocassionally the snakes that would send us splashing to the other side. The trees we would climb to make sure there were adults following us. The Sabbath was a day of great fun, family and fellowship. The Friday night high school games were signals to the community that the weekend had started, and Saturday would be doing jobs around the house, shopping and family grill outs, then Sunday most people would put on their best clothes to go to church and worship. I suspect the number of authentic believers was far less than the number that attended but there was social value and, as Ms.Bass noted, social justice, in those Sabbath meetings. It was a time where political leaders, business owners, farmers, etc. came together. Tragically we're experiencing less and less of that nowdays. Its too bad that its taken social/religious prejudices to bring us to remember what once was, but if it brings us closer together socially, and religiously then I guess it was worth it.

The Piano Man

Wednesday night I arrived home on my weekly visit with my mom. To those of you who don't know about her, her recent memory is slipping away, and so I am helping her to get her house in order so that it will take less stress off of her worrying about what she doesn't remember. My mother has always been a stickler for her affairs, and it is wonderful to see the relief she is experiencing, although at times hectic. Wednesday might as I was getting my things arranged my mother was playing on the piano - now mom is an accomplished pianist to say the least. She played for eons in the church and was congratulated by all who heard her .... however, I noticed that she was missing notes here and there, not many but a few. This was completely out of character for her, so when I got settled I went into the piano room and spoke with her about how surprised I was at the missed notes. 'Son' she said, 'I can't read the notes like I used to, and I don't practice like I used to ... right then something in my mind clicked. Ever had one of those moments. As we continued talking about music, a definite love of hers, as she talked about the accordian, harp she had played and the guitar she had started to learn until my father grew annoyed with the practice and sold it one day when she was at work .. dad could be like that. Matter of fact my mother had just gotten to the place where she could play the harp and my sister would accompany her on the piano, came home one day and she and sister went to the basement to play and dad had also sold the harp! Back to that 'click' - I have wanted for more years than I can remember to again start playing the piano, I barely remember the elementary moves and so I asked mom for a couple of beginners books so I could practice...she couldn't believe I wanted to start playing again, but I do. So I took a couple books home, and to my good wifes amazement I set down at our piano and began to practice. Bragging time: I can now play [with both hands] an really easy Negro spiritual. The title of it is
'One More River', I practiced it until I can almost do it my memory, here are the words: 'Noah once he built an ark, there's one more river to cross. He patched it up with hickory bark, there's one more river to cross. There's one more river, and that river is Jordan, there's just one more river, there's one more river to cross.'
I am truly enjoying this part of a new journey in my latter phase of life, and hopefully one day, Lord willing, I can sit down and play from the hymnal and chorus books ............ and maybe even do a duet with the good wife. In telling all of this to grandma[97yrs old.] she told me of how a couple of mom's brothers played duets and even a couple of recitals until the call from the neighbor boys to come and play won the day ... now, she said both sons have told her they wish she would have not allowed them to stop, but there's only so much frustration a parent can handle, she said, and I was getting tired competing with their friends!!
Then about 3:30AM this morning I couldn't sleep, so I woke up and read a chapter from a book I'll talk about in another post, [Practicing Our Faith; chapter on Testimony] and the author talked about how the African American slaves would sing their miseries and hopes and faith in songs ... it was a great chapter as he related their sings to the songs of Miriam, after the Israelites had been delivered from Pharaohs army ... and it added a specialness to the spiritual I am learning to play.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fun in the Sun

The 'good wife' and I just returned from Alabama on vacation with our oldest daughter, son in law, and family. It was a good trip. This time we decided to go by airplane, and made it there in only 4 hours as compared to 14. The time saved going down and coming back gave us an extra day to visit. Though I personally like to drive, the time saved certainly is also much easier on my legs. My frustration with flying is not being in the air, but getting on the flight, it just seems like so much hassle. We truly enjoyed being with family, going to my grandson's football game, and gram got to go to a high school choir class, taught by our daughter. On Labor Day we played at the beach in Pensacola, and didn't see or smell any oil; however I did fail to apply enough tan lotion and came away with almost 3rd degree burns on my chest and over abundant tummy. While on vacation I did finish 'People of the Book,' which I enjoyed very much. This is one of the better books that I have read lately that was more than enjoyable. [Of course, I'm partial to historical fiction!] The author tells us that the stains and particles in the old book all had stories to tell of the book's journey down through the ages. I find myself gazing at my grandpa/grandma's old wedding certificate [hanging on my study wall] and wondering now 'how did that one tear happen?' 'who was the one who rescued the certificate and placed a piece of tape, that is so faded on it? 'why did I find it in my one aunt's attic, about to be thrown away after she died, had I not taken? There is, what looks like a water stain across the whole bottom of it that has obliterated the design, how and when did that happen since signatures still appear there? So many questions, so few answers, all because of the influence of the book. One of the authors reaccuring themes is how diverse cultures influence and enrich each other rather than tear each other apart as we're seeing taking place between fundamental protestant religious nuts and radical Muslim clerics. I even thought about the immigration problem with Mexico and wonder why that can't be peaceably solved, America truly is a 'melting pot' and when we give up on that concept we become isolationists and deprive ourselves of the riches of diverse roots. The totally unexpected ending was a delight[1]. After finishing the above named book my son-in-law gave me a book to read. It was called "Haven" and was the historical story of how Pres.Roosevelt in WWII gave permission for 1000 people to escape Hitler's Europe. Although the story eventually .........has a positive ending, I believe it ranks right up with the Japanese concentration camps stories we had in WWII right here in the U.S. Although I am glad that this exodus took place, there could have been so many more that might have been saved. The author provides a section at the end of the book, where years later she tracks down those who came over on that secret passage with wounded AMerican soldiers. There are also some pictures in the middle of the book. I certainly enjoyed both books[2]. BEing out of reading material the day before we left my son-in-law took me to a little book/coffee store where I ended up purchasing another book, 'My Grandfather's Blessings.' I am not very far along in that book, but it is a good read so far.
[1]PEOPLE OF THE BOOK. Geraldine Brooks. 2008, New York, New York. Viking Penguin
Books. ISBN:9780143115007
[2] HAVEN. Ruth Gruber. 1983, 1984, 2000 New York, New York, Three Rivers Press,
ISBN: 081293301X

Friday, September 3, 2010

Chicago Gang Members say Police Harassing Them

As I read this article I didn't know what to do - cry, laugh or what? - as I heard different gang leaders complaining because the threat that the law was coming down on them. In one place a gang leader says, 'gangs are not the cause of the violence, you keep saying gang violence. It's drug-related. It's not gang related.' Now I'm confused, is he saying gangs exist because of drugs, so if we can wipe out drugs gangs will clean up their act, and if this is the case then wouldn't it be to the advantage of gangs to actively be working to eliminate drugs? I guess I have always, mistakenly evidently, labored under the concept that gangs controlled, made money from, and committed murders because of their greed and want to control the drug trade .... well, I've been wrong before. Now does prostitution, conterfieting, gambling, dog/cocks fights and illegal contrabanding fall under the same category?? For a more objective perspective of this article than my opinion you can read it at:,1892495.html.

Three Story Day: A grandson, nephew and uncle.

After arriving home late yesterday afternoon, from visiting w/my mom in my home state, the good wife told me the following story about one of our grandsons. Our middle daughter professionally cleans houses, and one of the ladies who she was scheduled to clean house for called and told her that her husband wasn't feeling well and would be home that day, and that they would like my daughter to bring her young son so he could play with their puppy [I guess that puppy was too energetic for them], so my daughter took her son with her and he played with the puppy. Matter of fact my grandson wore the puppy out. With nothing to do my daughter asked the husband if there was anything they needed done. 'WEll, he replied, my wife and I have been missing our cat for the last couple days and it has really bothered her, I'll give your son $10 if he can find that cat?' WEll, it took my grandson less than 1/2 hour to return to the house with lost cat cradled in his arms ... 'wow, where did you find him the man asked, in your barn in the backyard,' replied my grandson. That was far too easy for $10 replied my daughter, let him do something else also. WEll, I have a bushel of peaches that need to have their cores removed, replied the man, however for a whole bushel I will need to give him at least $2. So he took my grandson to the back porch and showed him how to decore peaches. It wasn't long when my daughter saw my grandson back in the house just sitting there. 'Have you finished taking the core out of that bushel of peaches already, that was fast?' 'No, he replied, I decided I didn't need the $2 that much. This story has all kinds of applications, especially in our world of the fast buck, and how much energy and time one has spend to earn money.

While visiting with my mom and grandma yesterday we were rejoicing in the much needed rainstorms that had serenaded our sleep and brought a new green hue to their yards, and undoubtedly given growth to the crops that will feed us in the year ahead. Grandma [as she always seems to be doing lately, she's 97yrs. old] told us a story about my nephew that not even my mom had ever heard. Its seems that my nephew didn't like to wear raincoats to school, and when my sister heard it was going to rain she tell him he'd have to wear his raincoat. Now his young fertile mind recalled that in past adult conversations he had heard Great-Grandma B say that her rheumatism was a better indicator of rain than the tv weathermen. So when his mom told him he would need to wear a raincoat to school, he would call Grandma and ask her if her rheumatism was acting up - and if Grandma replied, 'not at all' he would report back to his mom that there was no need for a raincoat because Grandma felt fine! And of course to go ahead and demand he wear a raincoat would have, at least to him, meant that his mother didn't believe his great grandma. So for far more times than not it was off to school without a raincoat ... and far more times Grandma was more right than the weather forecasters. Grandma even got to laughing as she told the story, and of course we did to; a window to our past has been opened, and as though Grandmas just telling the story had a magic component to it, the sun was coming out in all its radiance, as though to say, 'she's right you know!!
There's a cloud of mystery in this story.

One of the things I had accomplished in my visit home was that I inherited a number of old documents [some wills, a death certificate, a couple of birth certificates and a wedding certificate, not bad for one days work]. I was reading through them and came to the Will of one of my uncles. This was an uncle that was a minister, yet
it was also an open family secret that he loved, far too much, the sweetness of the vine, and was predisposed unfavorably often towards the fairer sex. He could be cantankerous to say the least. I really didn't know him that much although I still use his 'portable communion set' from time to time. He had mixed relationships with his family members to say the least. My father, one of the few people his paranoia trusted, and a brother were his executioners[haw, now that's a misspelling, but probably one with more accuracy from time to time than we know about], I mean executors. Now in his Will he left my father, another brother[not the co-executor] and a sister, and four nephews $100 apiece. Now bear in mind that my uncle had quite an inheritance from his wife who died earlier, so a $100 is not much of a gift for him to give. However, to his other brothers [including the one who was co-executor] and his sisters he left them $10 each. For my mother, who really took care of his finances, although he thought it was my father, he left nothing .... and I don't think he thought Dad would be sharing the $100 with her, or Dad's gift might have been less. My mother was always kind to my uncle, even though for some unknown reason he didn't reciprocate with the same kindnesses. When I thought about it the two brothers and one sister he gave the larger gifts too were younger, and the rest, three brothers and three sister, who inherited the smaller gifts were all older; I don't know if there's a link or not? But I do know this, a few years earlier my grandpa had died and a terrible fight broke out among the siblings, this in a supposedly Christian family, and perhaps that might have had something to do with my uncle's Will. I will probably never know, but I won't quite searching.

I am currently reading 'People of the Book,' which I would place in the genre of Anne Frank's Diary, The Cellist of Sarajevo, Sarah's Key and The Book Thief.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An Altar in the World ..... a review

I am a fan of Barbara Brown Taylor, I appreciate her 'inclusiveness' in her writings. That is to say she is unapologetic in expressing her opinion but at the same time invites you to read her from different perspectives without judgment. Sometimes it take me till the end of the book to really get the theme. First I purchased the book because Barbara wrote it, then I figured it would be a book in which the twelve different chapter stood on their own - and was not disappointed, they do; and in standing on their own this meant I could read them at a slower pace, at my own leisure. The title, 'An Altar In The World' and the subtitle, 'A Geography of Faith' indicated a world view of faith, nothing could be further from the truth, to me the author was talking about a 'personal altar' that included all the areas[geography] of my faith. Let's take a moment to review the concept of 'altar.' The altar is normally thought of in terms of surrender, in gospel terms, at the altar I surrender myself, my agenda, my future to the greater will of God. Second, at the altar there is personal consultation with God and I receive great blessing there, and third at the altar my eternal future is again renewed. All of these often come together in Barbara's chapters as submission results in blessing and blessing
renews not only my future but hope to those who I share with. A couple of my favorite chapters was #10 The Practice of Feeling Pain. Now I find that as I get older pain is becoming a closer partner, and I shrink more from its presence; the macho, when I was younger and in the Army, that I used to call upon as a shield rarely makes its appearance in this latter years. The author has appropriately subtitled this chapter, 'breakthrough.' She writes, 'If you have ever made a graph of your life ...then you are likely to note that the spikes in your pain bear some relationship to the leaps in your growth.'[p.157] She is right, not in the sense of 'no pain no gain' but in the sense of the Apostle Peter telling us that suffering is for our own benefit, i.e. spiritual growth. The whole chapter challenged my mindset about pain. I would like to close these thoughts on this chapter with another quote from it, [p.173] 'For those willing to stay awake, pain remains a reliable altar in the world, a place to discover that a life can be as full of meaning as it is of hurt. The two have never canceled out each other and I doubt they ever will, at least not until each of us - or all of us together - find the way through. Chapter #12 was on the pronouncing blessings. Barbara notes, [p.209] '..the world needs us to bless because there is a shortage of people willing to kneel wherever they are and recognize holiness holding its life-giving hand above our heads.' The author is quick to note that giving a blessing is not bestowing holiness, rather a blessing is a result of holiness. I'm often tempted to grumble when asked at family dinners, reunions, etc. to pray [and even at church socials]; can't anyone else pray I've silently mumbled to myself. AFter reading this chapter, which I'm sure I will do many more times, I'm coming to realize 'to ask the blessing is to be blessed oneself,' to pronounce the blessing may be the only time someone will receive one, to pronounce the blessing is to give thanks for what God has done, or is doing in my life. An honest effort is going to be made to realize that being asked to pronounce the blessing is not a chore, but a blessed opportunity .... that pronouncing a blessing is not something routine, or because of some perceived special relationship with our Creator, but a joy that can only come through a blessing. I don't know if any of this makes sense to anyone else, but it is having a profound effect on my faith. This is a book I will continue to reread - to mark up - to question and research .......... thanks Barbara for drawing my attention to my 'altar' and how it becomes the focal point, how it draws all the areas of my life to one central blessing place.
AN ALTAR TO THE WORLD: A Geography of Faith. Taylor, Barbara Brown. 2009
HarperCollins Publishers. New York, New York. ISBN: 9780061370472

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I named a friendly office field mouse Rodger. Rodger was exceptionally plump for a field mouse, and I suspect he had been in the church quite some previous to his taking up quarters in my office. Field mice are usually quite shy and rarely make appearances if it can be helped, but Rodger was different. Normally I don't wear shoes while working in my office, and Rodger became so bold as to run just past my toes as he played his games and searched for bits of food. I cautioned him a couple times about running so close to my feet, I was afraid that he might mistake one of my toes for a piece of food, and then I would really be outa-sorts. But there was something about Rodger's character that was just plain rebellious. Of course it didn't help that my Office Manager found the whole incident rather humorous, for I'm sure Rodger heard her laughter and that just egged him on. There was no doubt that not only because of his size, but his arrogant attitude he was not a friend or relative of Stuart Little, though he certainly could have profited from Stuart's reluctance to impose himself on anyone. Finally, after failure to acknowledge repeated warning, I went to the hardware store and bought a couple of shelters for Rodger to stay in, I even provided some easily attainable peanut butter for him. Well it took less than an hour for Rodger to make himself at home in the quarters ... I don't know if he was able to taste any of the peanut butter or not, but its his fault,I tried to work out a deal with him. My Office Mgr. was quite concerned that I didn't seem to share any remorse at Rodgers demise, and I must admit I was a bit hardcore, but Rodger chose his pathway in life, just like we all do. I am cheered by the fact that Rodger was not a parent and left no little ones behind; and evidently not too close to any relatives since none of them have bothered to show any concern and scope out the office to see where Rodger is. Maybe compromise in life isn't such a bad thing if it will help you to keep breathing?!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

31st Annual Dozynki 2010 Harvest Festival.

Wow, what a great time the 'good wife' and I had last night in the Big City Western MIchigan [Grand Rapids.] After a wonderful meal, that featured some of the best desserts I've ever had we went downtown to the above title Polish festival. It was fun as we listened to foot-stomping, music from accordions, drums and violins. I didn't know you could dance the polka so fast; we sat there watching amazed, I mean those who chose to dance never stopped bouncing up and down. WE even watched a very very old couple and I didn't know at their age a human still had so much energy. Finally the good wife and I came to the conclusion if you didn't have some ancestry of Polish blood you just couldn't do the polka right! Then to our amazement they brought out this young boy [7 or 8 yrs old] who had just played in Vegas. He was a blond cute little kid, and had a custom-sized accordion - and could he play, and he even sang a couple of songs, one in English one in Polish. You've seen those little statutes with the bobbing heads in car dashes - he could make his head bob with the best of them, I thought it was going to fall right off his shoulders! They had to make him stand on a big trunk so that everyone could see/hear him. He gave the regular accordion player a run for his money. There were Polish food tents all around the big stage!! It was great, I only wished I could go back sometime this weekend [which I can't because our town has its own Annual Fall Festival]and sample all the different foods. I did note from the leaflet we got that a lot of the food,
dumplings, sauerkraut, potatoes and cabbage might be similiar to German foods. On the agenda there were 'homemade polish cooking demonstrations, a huge beer tent, pride of Poland displays, Polish pottery and assorted historical vendors and two during the weekend there was a Polish Guest Lecturer who would tell the unknown story of Polish forces in WWII from the Battle of Britain to the capture of Berlin. Along with all the happenings there were also Children's Activities in Polish Arts/Crafts. The highlight of all this was the Polish Heritage Society Citizen of the Year Award Ceremony on Sunday. There were three MAJOR food tents: 1]That Polish Girl Catering which features dishes like Homemade Golumbki, Homemade Dill Pickle Soup and Homemade Kapusta; 2] 'Busia Poza' Sak, which featured Golabki 'Belke' Dinner, Polish Kaminski Kabob and Pierogi's; 3] 'Little Warsaw' featuring many of the above named dishes plus Fresh made Kielbasa Potato Pancakes and HOmemade Authentic Nalesniki. I'm getting hungry just writing about these things. Though I am not Polish, I am definitely of German ancestory and was really excited to be able to see this; plus I enjoy cultural events. I think in the United States nowdays we celebrate to rarely the blessings of our individual cultures that make our country so rich .......its not divisive but enriching. Well I've got to close and get downtown to our own redneck Southwestern Michigan Fall Festival to gouge myself with all the goodies, taffee and kettle cooked popcorn, etc. etc. that looks like a cholesterol parade to my stomach. Gotta love it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pretty interesting family day

Since I have started going home to see Mom on thursdays, one of her sisters and her husband have started going home to see Grandma. So today for lunch we call sat at Grandma's house and ate. It was a lot of fun, as we talked and enjoyed each other's company and remarked about what a coincidence this 'family tradition' was becoming. It vaguely reminded me of my childhood when I lived just a couple of houses down the street from Grandpa and Grandma's and across the street from an aunt and uncle - those where the days!! The days when you could weekly see your grandparents and relatives, until sometimes you wished you couldn't; little did I know then that days would come when I would anticipate the joy of visiting relatives again. Grandma is 97 now, and so every visit is a treasure as she struggles physically but is mentally as sharp as a whip ......... its really neat to hear her tell stories of yesterday!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Let Me Drive, Please Daddy????

I just ran across an article that Indiana lawmakers have come across a study that shows that teenagers who have taken driver education classes are more likely than those who haven't taken classes to have accidents. Um!!!! They think it might have to do with an outdated program, or that kids are getting licenses earlier, and thus spending more time on the road ....................... my bet is they are wrong on every count!
Check with some of the rural southern states [my oldest daughter and family live in one of them, AL] and their kids are driving tractors, and other vehicles with four wheels and an engine that reaches passing speeds shortly after turning 7yrs old. My bet is that those kids - who are trained by parents and taught that the primary reason for driving is not pleasure - would come out far ahead in having less accidents?!

Under a different name

This morning while I was on an errand for the church, I was listening on my MP3 a message about how Jesus changed Peter's name. I think I have this right, Peter's original Aramaic name, for about 33years, was Cephas which meant rock. Now Jesus changes it ... I mean that's rather dramatic - for 61yrs I've been named Timothy,[which is of Greek origin] to suddenly have my name changed would hard to handle ... Jesus gives Cephas a greek name Peter, but it also means a rock; so although the name changes the meaning stays the same. Peter can now boast that he has two names, one in Aramaic and one in Greek and they both mean the same. Since my name Timothy did not enter into English use until after the Protestant Reformation, I'd probably have to settle for the Hebrew version of my name Timeo, I've been called a lot worse, and not exactly in the context of the original meaning. Anyway in doing a little research in this 'name changing' venue I happened across an article 'Combat brigades in Iraq under a different name. Sure enough our Government would have us to believe that all combat troops have left Iraq..not true, there are still seven brigades left, they've just been renamed 'Advise and Assist Brigades! According to the Army Times, where I read this article, there are still just under 50,000 left; so call them by whatever name you wish they are still there for the same purpose, performing the same task. BAck to the Bible, when Jesus renamed Peter he was not speaking of Peter's present faith as being strong, but that after Jesus resurrection Peter's faith would become solid. Jesus changed Peter's name to bring new life, new emphasis to Peter's role in the faith, the government changed the name to deceive us.
I wonder if the 'Advise and Assist Brigades' will continue to serve long after the agreement with the Iraq government about all combat troops being pulled out by Dec.2011? - if the past is any indicator, they will still be there! And in the mean time we certainly have time to rename them again ... and stay a little longer!

Men's retreat

What a great time we had this previous weekend at our annual men's retreat! We fished, a couple men swam and we sat around the campfire trying to one-up each other's stories. Then on Sunday morning, after breakfast, we had a Men's devotional on the story of Ananias & Saul [Acts 9]. We were very successful in getting to know each other even better, which was a wonderful antidote to some very poor fishing results. One of our men was adamant about fishing from a boat - the only problem, the boats at the campsite had no anchors so one could stay still in one spot, the lake was really a big pond [4.9 acres] and so the incoming spring water always kept the water moving. Speaking of moving in the water, at last year's men's retreat I swamped a canoe with two other men, lost my glasses - some carp is probably wearing them now, completely ruined my cell phone, and lost what little pride I had left. My 'good wife' was quite adamant about my making sure if I went out in a boat to take the new accessories off my person ... well I went out in a row-boat, how could I swamp a row-boat, no need to leave anything behind - who knows I might need to call 911. My friend [who was brave enough to go with me] and I were bringing the row boat back to shore, the bow was barely on shore and my friend putting our life jackets back on the shore rack when I stood up in the back of the boat[still in the water] and yeppers over I went .... however I was able to only get 2/3 of my body wet, my cellphone was on the side that didn't get wet and so was my wallet, my glasses were never in danger I can not only swamp a canoe, I can do it in a row boat also. My good buddy was most gracious and even offered to accept some of the blame, but I wouldn't hear of his stealing some of my growing reputation with boating skills. We certainly didn't fast that weekend as not only are most of us that go on retreat fairly good cooks, but several of our wife's [misled by thinking we couldn't make it on our own] made a couple cakes, and many different salads ... and we are doing nothing that would persuade them in the future to have less pity on us. A great time by all!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Men's Retreat!!

Well I'm almost ready ........... for our 3rd Annual Fall Men's Retreat. I know its not fall yet, but its close enough. We really have a wonderful time just paling around and getting to know each other. No big heavy schedule, the meals have been divided up, and those who are not cooking will clean up! Probably the biggest obstacle we will have this year at the new site we are going to be will be, yep, you guess'd it, those blasted mosquitoes! We'll have more than enough to eat, and on Saturday night we'll have a Bible charades game in which the group will be divided into 3 units and each will re-enact a story out of the Bible that deals with men. Then on Sunday AM we'll gather by the fire, and sing and share, then we'll have a lesson. This year we're on a campgrounds where we're sleeping in small bunk cabins, so no one has to bring a tent, although tents are fun, but when you get my age its a lot easier climbing into the bottom bunk that sleeping on cot. I'm sure I'll forget something, I always do.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This is a 'boaring' week

The 'boars' are running wild this week, all over the place. In the New Zealand town of Ruakaka a man was badly bruised when an engraged wild board knocked him to the ground, then we get the news out of Germany that wild boars are taking up lodging in cities such as Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt. Another report out of Iraq says that wild boars are being culled in Baghdad's Zoo to stop the virus among the zoo population. Now these must be pretty strong porkies if the virus they have can be spread to other animals they never come in contact with. Then we are told that 'boars' in Germany are becoming more radioactive from Chernobyl fallout that started in 1986. The boars indeed are having a rough week, no one seems to care about them, and they're getting the blame for everything ... they are fast becoming 'pigs without a country!' The exception to these unlucky fellows around the world are our southern boars which seem to be flourishing, but then who really cares?!

Vacations, vacations.........

While I'm in a grumbling mood let me comment on what seems to be an 'issue' in today's political climate ..... President Obama's vacations! I don't begrudge the President vacation time, if I have an issue with it, its about being sensitive to where those vacations take place. Now let it be known I rarely agree with the President on any matter, however I can only imagine the necessity for time away in such a high powered job. Perhaps the opposite is true, and former presidents should have taken more time away? It has been rightly noted that the President's vacations have been for only a few days at a time .... and I believe only 20 this year. That's not even 3 full weeks, good gracious most people have that many. The problem I believe is in 'where' he goes; does he not realize the high profile position he is in, and how just a little sensitivity to where he vacations can accrue or decrease political capital. I am a minister, so my vacations are carefully planned out so it doesn't seem like there is one 'big' time when I'm gone, or a bunch of 'little' times close together. I'm well aware that what people perceive is often wrong, but its utterly foolish of me to present a picture that can be easily misinterpreted; and the places where we go are not over the top to where the majority of our people might spend their vacations. After the President's term of office is over [which if something doesn't dramatically change, looks like it could be sooner than later] he, and his family, will have all the time and probably resoures in the world to go where they wish ... still largely our tax dollars, i.e. security, etc. Which leads me to only one brief comment about his wife's recent trip to Spain, 'what was he thinking?' Michele is not the president, he is, the trip was his ultimate responsibility ... just like I don't blame Eve, Adam could have insisted she never eat the fruit!?!. Have a great day, I'm in a writing mood, I may be back today.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is Anybody Else....

...getting a little tired of this Muslim center debate. Come on let's be real, if the Mayor of N.Y.C. or the President had truly wanted this mosque not to be built, strings would have pulled and the project cancelled; this endless, useless debate is a mockery not only of constitutional rights but religious freedom. I am a Christian and will always believe there is only one way to God - through Jesus Christ; however that does not keep me from believing that others have the right to practice their religion; regardless of the fact that in many of their countries I am not free to practice mine.
I have a God that is big enough to take care of things, even when man[and the gov.] is wrong. I also believe that the immigration policy of the United States is not right, what are we afraid of?

Don't have much..... write about today. Yesterday I took mom to get an EEG test and she was pretty cooperative. MOst of the time I really appreciate the cooperation she gives, but in some ways its makes it a little harder; Mom has gotten along pretty good by herself since pa passed away in Nov.1987. But with both dad and my sister gone, mom is really dreading the day her mom [Grama - 97yrs old] dies. Though she has a younger sister and brother in law only about 25 minutes away, and a young brother and sister in law just down the road a piece, she still thinks she'll be alone. In the ten years we've lived only two hours away, she's come to our house less than half a dozen times; though we certainly have tried to get her to come visit or go on short trips with us. Mom has never been one to visit and stay at people's homes overnight. I think her family is cursed with the mantra 'well, we don't want to be a bother.' I just can't figure it out ... when my dad was alive he would come visit us and stay for a week or two, although after his heart surgeries he stopped going anywhere for too long and never overnight. He always wanted to be within calling distance of his cardiologist.
Oh, well, being a good son means I'll keep traveling south every week its possible. I really would like my grandkids to get to know mom better, and her get to know them. It could be too that since mom is talking about getting these tests done, and she knows her short-term memory is getting worse she doesn't want to chance going to far by herself. If necessary I would go get her and take to some family events if she wanted to - but she wont'. I think a big fear is that if something were to happen to Grandma and she wasn't there, she'd be to blame being the oldest sibling.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Some more random thoughts.

Journal, I found out this afternoon that my mom, growing more and more conscience of her deteriorating short memory loss, has agreed to begin having some testing take place. This is a very positive thing, considering about 6 mos. ago she was quite irrate when the whole idea was presented, so I thank God she is cooperating with it, and I thank Him for her sister, brother-in-law and 97yr old mom who are supporting her. I'll make the trip home tonight and then go to the hospital with her and see her home. On the hand, I've never had to begin helping to assist a parent in their living and so I hope that I am up to the challenge, though its one I never wanted or dreamed of. It makes me think of the time that my kids may be called upon to wait on me, I pray that time never comes, I much prefer for them to have memories of me than have to care for me. I've had a good 61 yr. run ... lived in Hawaii, visited five different countries on 8 work & witness trips [returned to two countries twice.]; and had fantastic visits to many places with the 'good wife.' All my grandkids know me well, and probably have some memories they will laugh about for generations to come. I would dread thinking that all that joy and blessing would be tainted with mental disability. I have been the most fortunate of men, an incomparable lovely wife, excellent kids/in-laws and the worlds greatest grandkids.
Well we'll see what tomorrow holds; at least I know who holds tomorrow.
If anyone has any suggestions on supporting parents, I am certainly open to it because I know that in helping my mom I'm also raising my own awareness levels. THANKS.

Sometimes the truth comes out in unexpected ways, even to its authors. I'm talking about President Obama's comment: 'the Muslim call to prayer is one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.' Regardless of the context in which he was speaking, prayer is certainly the prettiest sound at any time of the day or night. Prayer speaks about belief in; prayer speaks about reliance on; prayer speaks about hope because of; prayer speaks about communication with .............. of course the context in which I speak is prayer with Christ!!

A little yellow/red choo choo

Sunday morning after breakfast and a quick dip in the lake we decided to go into town and get some ice cream ... what we really did stop at this little tourist area, with its little minature golf course [how's that for redundany!]. They also had a little red/yellow choo choo train, and so one couldn't think of playing minature golf with out first riding the train. So the two oldest grandkids rode the train as we laughed and waved goodbye, and took many pictures as they rounded the little track. Sure is a lot of little going around here. Well we finally got to the golf course and what an experience that was, the only two really getting serious about the game was gram and mom. Mom[not gram] ended up with a couple of holes-in-one and a few birdies! We drove down the road just a 'little' ways and had some Bareman ice cream, then back to the cottage to do a final cleaning.

The 'big' PLatte

What a GREAT weekend at the Lake home of my son's senior pastor/wife! It was on the Big Platte Lake in Honor Michigan .......... and right in the middle of the Sleepy Bear Dunes National Park! One has an almost impossible task of trying to find vocabulary to describe it ... so I won't, I'll leave it to your imagination; let me add this though, norther Michigan is one of the most beautiful places around. Their lake home has lake-front property, and what a joy it was to sit out on the deck at night under a moon/star lighted canopy, feel the soft cooling breeze and listen to the small waves kissing the shoreline. Even with sleepy grandkids almost falling asleep on your laps it was hard to get up and go inside. The early morning light radiated across the lake and you wanted to get breakfast over with and hit the water; and how those grandkids loved the water. Gram & Gramps even went out on kayaks! The lake is rather shallow and mostly placid except for when a motor boat or jet sky go by, an so kayaking is quite easy. I remembered swamping the canoe I rode in with two other men at last year's men's retreat and so in the beginning I was a bit tenuous; but hey if Gram could do it, so could I ... and so my son and I spent some time out on the lake. Later all of us went for a spectacular car ride in the National Park on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive - it was bordered on one side by the sand dunes and on the other by thick vegetative pine forests ....... beautiful. Then late that afternoon, after some swimming time we went to a sand dune beach on lake Michigan. It was crowded with people on its sandy shores, you could also look out and see the high coastal hills of Michigan. As we began the trek to the beach there was a sign there that said 'beware of Michigan cougars!.' I didn't have the heart to tell the grandkids the sign looked pretty old, plus with all the people around cougars would be in hiding, for they thought it was pretty cool to possibly have dangerous cougars stalked them, and gramps is the last one to deny the tooth fairy, Santa Claus the Easter rabbit or the phantom cougar!! We did go for lunch one day in a quaint little town called Glen Harbor after the scenic drive ............ and we each got an Ice Cream Cone! The good wife said she would like to go back there some day and spend a little time shopping - of course 'little' is relative. One the way home all of us stopped at Crystal Mountain Resort, where some good memories in the past have been made and a gram and mom took the two older grandkids down a new 250ft Alpine Slide on little tobaggon sleds, then we ate lunch and departed seperate ways home. It was indeed a good weekend! Maybe as remembrances come back to mind I'll write a little more about it ............this I do know, gram and I sure would like to inherit a lake front cottage up north!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Land Between

Last night I finished the book, 'The Land Between.' It is a good book that talks about those times when we feel we're in the desert, the land between the slavery of the past and promise of the future. Pastor Jeff does a great job in pointing out the advantages that Israel never acknowledged that prepared them for the Promised Land. Jeff had mentioned how God had used those 40 years in the wilderness to prepare the children, and I remembered asking those that went to the Summit, how would God have prepared the children in such a short time if they had obeyed, and remember the quizzical looks that said, 'are you crazy for asking such a question?' .... never did get even a guess. I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if Jeff's speech at the Summit hadn't covered nearly 75% of the book; nonetheless its a good read. The book originated from a series of sermons. And its always fun to read a book from someone who lives close by. ENOY.
THE LAND BETWEEN:FINDING GOD IN DIFFICULT TRANSITIONS. by Jeff Manion, Pastor at Ada, Michigan. Zondervan Publishers, Grand Rapids, Mi. 2010 ISBN;9780310329985

AFter lunch today, the 'good wife' and I will be traveling a few hours north to spend the rest of the weekend, 'the whole weekend - Sunday included, at a cottage on the lake with our son, daughter[in-law] and grandkids!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lepers and other Outcasts

A couple of articles ago [In the Sanctuary of Outcasts] I spoke about an author who was a convicted criminal and sent to a Leper Sanitarium to serve out his sentence. One of the things that most impressed me was his reflection on worshiping with those afflicted with this disease, with church being a place where healing was available. What made it such a powerful impact on my life was that a couple of weeks ago two men from the community, who are mentally challenged, and known to steal and puts things in a garage sale, plus have pedophile actions towards kids, have started coming to our church. A good number of people attending already knew about them, and when I had meetings with our church board and youth department leadership I was concerned with how they would react. Would we just simply tell these men they were not welcome in our congregation - that would certainly place us at odds with Christ..what would be our response. I remember in the first church in which I was the pastor facing the newly emerging issue of AIDS .. what would we do if someone with AIDS started attending our church [and a couple people in the early stages of it did], and so policy was put into place if such a thing happened. And I believe that we are adequately addressing our situation now; perhaps I will even go so far to say our present situation is causing us to look at how things should have always been done to protect our children and youth. I'm beginning to understand better each week Matthew 10:16 'Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.' Sadly I find myself also repenting more often because its so much easier to be like a snake than a dove!


I've finished the new book by Rev. Bill Hybels that I got at the Global Leadership Summit last week. I enjoyed Bill's book that speaks about being spiritually sensitive and hearing the still soft whisper of God, about blocking out the ambient noise of the world and even of our own thoughts, and then having the faith, the courage to respond to that voice. Bill goes through the number of times in his life when the 'whisper' of God has changed his life, the direction of his life, and his faith; he has been honest enough to admit the times when God's voice went unrecognized or simply disregarded. There is a section in the book where he relates stories that others emailed him about hearing God's 'whisper' in their lives. Overall it was a good book, I was most impressed with the powerful first chapter about the young boy Samuel in his first hearing God's 'whisper' in his life as he began to serve in the temple. Somehow, or at least of me, the tempo and passion of that first chapter wasn't quite kept through the rest of the book, but I deeply appreciate Hybel's writing it. It was an adventure of faith for him. I hope that you'll take the time to read it, but as you're reading it, listen for the still soft 'whisper' .... it just might interrupt your reading?!
THE POWER OF A WHISPER: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond. Bill Hybels.
Zondervan Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI. 2010 ENJOY

The next book I'm staring to read is 'The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult TRansitions.' by Rev. Jeff Manion, Ada, MI. Zondervan Publishers. 2010 Jeff's seminar at the Global LEadership Summit came from his book; its describes the place where I have been for the last three years [and still am] in my spiritual journey, so its especially meaningful to me.

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

This was indeed an extremely interesting book. Neil, the author and convicted 'kitting' criminal, is sentenced to 18 months at the Fed Pen in Carville, Louisiana. What he finds out when he reports to the facility is that it is also the last leper sanitarium in the United States ... the convicts and lepers are not supposed to intermingle but that rule is barely enforced; those afflicted with leprosy see the convicts as trespassers in their home. Determined to make the best of his time, the author fastidiously keeps a journal of his time, of the stories told to him, and his relationships. The relationships that most impact his life are those of the lepers, although his cell mate and couple of convicts do leave an imprint on his life. As the book progresses so does the transformation that changes his life as he recognizes that life is not about the material things we possess so much as the enduring quality of our relationships. Of course, most of those who formerly knew him, at one point even his wife, begin to desert him, he clings to his relationship with his two kids and his parents, knowing that once he is released former friends and business mates are lost forever but that he can forge new relationships built on a firm foundation. Eventually the government plans to turn the whole facility into a prison, but adverse things begin to happen and reality makes the government backtrack on its plans, and the sanitarium is saved as the home of the lepers. Finally the time comes when Neil is about to be released .... here I would like to quote from the book to give you an idea of how much those with leprosy influenced his life, especially Ella. "Most of all I wanted to remember Ella. Every detail. The way she cranked the antique handles, the way she twisted in her chair at the dance. The way she turned her disease, the most shameful known to man, into something sacred. I wanted to remember how she held her coffee mug, the way she got excited on bingo night, her smile when she said something unexpected, the joy she found in the smallest encounters, the way her skin smelled like flowers. The way she rested her hand on top of mine when I felt most alone. I wanted to remember her every word. I wanted to remember her especially whenever I was confronted with my past, in hopes that I could face it with a fraction of her dignity. I would take Ella's advice and find a church. Not just any church. A place like the church at Carville. Where the parishoners were broken and chipped and cracked. A place to go when I needed help. A place to ask forgiveness. A sacred place where people were not consumed with image or money. I didn't know if a church like this existed, but if it did I would go .. and I would pray. Not the kind of prayers I used to say for miracles or money or advancement. I would ask for something more simple. I would pray for recollection - pray that I would never forget." I would love to write about Ella, but I won't - you'll have to read the book ... but she could easily have become the focus of this book, just as she was the focal point of the author's transformation; I would love to write about the priest and how worshiping with lepers began to give the author a spiritual awareness he had never had the time for before Carville, but I won't, you'll have to read the book. This is a short book of a few hundred pages, but there are many helpful insights and interviews in the back.
A major lesson of the book, is that no matter how dreary our lives may become there is always a reason to stop and smell a rose.
IN THE SANCTUARY OF OUTCASTS. by Neil White[His first book] HarperCollins Publishers,
New York, NY, 2009 ENJOY!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lepers and Convicts

I am in the midst of reading a first novel by a new author. Picked up the book at BArnes & Noble last night as my wife was shopping. I don't usually comment on a book until I've finished reading it, but I just have to share a story in it; I'll be finished with it in a day or two, depending on how much reading time I get. The title of the book is 'In the Sanctuary of Outcasts' by Neil White. It is about a Federal Institution that housed both Lepers and Fed Convicts in Carville, Louisiana. The author mentions that Dr. Paul Brand, a reknown doctor in treating Leprosy in India and the innovator of how to restore feelings in their hands and feet, was once a doctor in residence at CArville, and he became known to everyone there as 'Saint Paul' because of his compassion and commitment. Having read Dr.Brands inspirational book, 'The Forever Feast' and the book he co-authored w/Philip Yancy, 'Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,' I was deeply touched to find out that he had made such an impact on this last leper sanctuary in America. The author makes no pretense to this being a book about religion, nor does he mention Dr.Brands religion outside the statement Brand was a missionary to India, yet this amazing story was more than worth the price of the book. This story will always stick in my mind, not only because of Dr.Brands influence but because of how God works, through mysterious and secretive ways to bring his message and healing in places we're not even aware of.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Doug the Gatekeeper!

Last Thursday & Friday I was privileged to attend my 2nd Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit in Detroit [satellite site] with my son. It would be an understatement to say that I enjoyed, and was enriched, by this conference. I was attending with my son and a few others from his church. Thursday morning we got lost on our way to the conference and ended up being 20 minutes late; after we turned into the parking lot an usher, Doug, told us where to park the van. After we parked the van and almost in the church before we encountered Doug again; now being this late there's hardly anyone around and Doug mentioned that being late it might have been nice for the driver[my son] to have dropped us off at the door. Doug's remarks were fodder for a comical conversation between the group as we chided my son on his actions. After we had gone to lunch we were returning for the afternoon session, and again we were late ... and who should we see entering the parking lot ....Doug the Gatekeeper! Doug had some further observations to make, regarding the fact that again my son had refused to be courteous to the rest of us and drop us at the door.
The next morning [Friday] we didn't see Doug as we entered the parking lot - but Doug saw us! My son and the other guys thought we had entered the church without being seen by Doug, however the young lady and myself did encounter Doug, to which he mentioned that he had noted my son once again hadn't dropped us at the door. She and I had a good laugh over it, and when we were returning to our van to go to lunch mentioned to the rest of the group our encounter with Doug, and had a good laugh.I felt somewhat sympathetic towards Doug, because despite his attempts not once in those two days did we get dropped at the door. On Friday, near the close of the summit it is customary to have all the volunteers come and stand around the front so that we can recognize them and show our appreciation ............ well, we were sitting on the front row, and guess who stood right near us in the volunteers line - yeppers, DOUG THE GATEKEEPER!. What a paradox we must have seemed to him, the notoriously late ones sitting on the front row??! Inspite of all the fun we had at Doug's expense, his remembering us did remind us, that no matter how far off course we stray, no matter how late we may be God is always looking out for us! ... oh by the way, Doug, I pray God's richest on you and those you love.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

'A Reliable Wife'

This is a psychological thriller. It begins with an ad in the paper for a reliable wife, to which Catherine responds that she is a simple, honest woman. Catherine is anything but simple, and honest ... matter of fact nearly all the characters in this
story are anything but simple and honest. All through the story we wrestle with characters who are searching for love while believing that they are neither worthy of it nor capable of receiving it. As the two main characters each struggle with their own psychological complications their close proximity begins to ignite the light of love in both their lives. Sex is often seen as the most powerful force in this novel, but that is a red herring, for the most powerful force in this story is how a growing love fosters forgiveness and grace; and how the rejection of that forgiveness and grace destroys one's life. There were are illustrations of how the quality of our life is often stunted because of our unwillingness to allow love to change us; how our unwillingness to accept forgiveness from others makes our lives even more bitter. As the story weaves its tangled web it invites us to not only step inside the story, but examine how our lives are often filled with bitterness and disappointment and how we respond to those times. As we come to the end of the story I am shocked by the change that has come into each character's life through their relationships; relationships entered into for selfish reasons that now have become open to selfless sharing. ENJOY.
A RELIABLE WIFE. Goolrick, Robert, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 2009 ISBN: 9781565129771

Gone, gone, gone!

I have previous to today's visit to the podiatrist been the notorious owner of a couple of the worlds 'most fungused' big toe nails. The doc told me I had some alternatives to care for the situation; 1] just trim the nails back - nope, tried that a year ago and it didn't work, 2] Take pills for three months, only a 75% guarantee they would work, plus the outside possibility you could get liver/kidney complications -nope, I wasn't going there, 3] just remove the toe nails, never to return again. Now this last option I could live with. For years the 'good wife' has instigated my grandkids to look at 'gramps toe's' ... then they would shrek in horror; now I've got the upper hand - wait until I show them my big toes without a toe nail, that should raise some interesting questions. I was in and out of the doctor's office, including the removal of the nails, in less than an hour - and it didn't hurt! I know there will be some illustrations I can take from this experience in the future. Those definitely were two 'ugly' toes, and embarrassing whenever I would go to the beach with the grandkids or be tussling around the house.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Memories are Powerful!

This past Friday night, the 'good wife' and I went to a Michigan Ski Resort for a Pops was a fulfilling experience. The Grand Rapids Symphony hosted the 'Spectrums' as they performed an evening of 'MOtown's Greatest Hits.' For those of us who are getting older, the tunes of the 60-70's hold many memories, especially for those of us who associate events with the popular songs of the times. Its the second year that we've gone ..... with literally thousands stretched out across the slopes, some sitting on blankets, others in chairs, many brought their dinners, and most of us at least had our drinks and snacks. All through the night there were two platforms for those who wanted to dance during the music. I thought since each song brought back a memory I would list the songs: 1] by the Temptations - 'Get Ready,' 'The Way You Do The Things You Do,' 'Ain't Too Proud to Beg,' 'I Can't Get Next To You,' 'I'm Gonna Make You Love Me,' 'My Girl,' and their first big seller 'Just My Imagination.' 2] by the Miracles - "OOh Baby, Baby,' 3]Delfonics - 'La La ... Means I Love YOu, 4]The Drifters - 'Under the Boardwalk,' 'Up On The Roof,' 5]James Brown - 'It's A Man's World,' 6]The Spinners - 'Rubberband Man,' 7]The Four Tops - 'Reach Out, I'll Be There,' 'I Can't Help Myself' 8]The O'Jays - 'Backstabbers,' 9] Stevie Wonder - 'Uptight,' and there was also a Medley of songs by Four Tops!

Then this past Saturday, we attended the funeral of the sister of a friend of my wife's; this was both a sweet/sour event for her - she got to see one of her best friends she rarely sees, but it was also because of the death of a relative. Following the reception [it was in the Big City East] we were able to go and spend a couple hours being with our Son and his family before we had to cross the state and return home.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I thought so!

My cousin, Darius[not his real name], confirmed a story that's been floating in the wind for years. A story that I've only heard whispers of, but he confirmed it. My oldest aunt, the oldest sibling in my father's family was evidently born out of wedlock. Now this may not appear to be such a big thing to us today, but in 1907, believe me, this is not something you talk about. As I was preparing to take some family info to the reunion, I happened to noticed again my grandpa and grandma were married in 1910. Now, this first-child was my cousin Darius's Grandma, and he mentioned that his mom had briefly told him about it; but he still didn't know the particulars, and probably since both Gramps and Gram are gone, and all the original siblings we'll might never know them ... its one of those stories you store on a shelf, you don't throw it away, and maybe some day you'll accidentally come across the details. It's also a big story because both Gramps and Gram were rather strict Amish-Mennonites [and they were second cousins, more than you wanted to know, right] .......... so 1] was my aunt born from someone that Gramps never married; 2]could it be that her birth mom died or moved away before Gramps had a chance to marry her, [maybe her family was determined she wouldn't marry Gramps; 3] could this be the child that Gramps and Gram just never told anyone they had had? So many questions. The interesting thing is that it never became a big family issue; and even more interesting is the fact that evidently none of her siblings EVER made it an issue. How could such a potentially explosive issue survive underground through the life journeys of such a large family; and believe me there have been a couple big divisive explosions in the family - and this story remain secretive. I don't know if it's how the story remained so secretive, or its details .... but I'm not giving up on it ... there's another hidden story just waiting to discovered! And by the way my cousin Darius is just as anxious as I am to make that discovery.

A Midwife's Tale

I really thoroughly enjoyed the book, and could hardly put it down. Of course there being a fragile, tenuous genealogical line didn't hurt. The diary is about an early Maine midwife Martha Ballard, who is the forerunner of her niece Clara Barton [Red Cross]fame. It is great how historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich weaves a true story from the tidbits of her diary. Martha's diary opens a world that most of us would never see
or come to know about. Not only is she a wife, a mother and a midwife, but she also keeps a garden, runs a family business and becomes appreciated and respected for her steadfastness of servanthood in a world and time full of chaos and rebellion. Her willingness to sacrifice is almost legendary and certainly stands as a reminder to how close family/friends/neighbors used to be, something not many of us know much about. Her being close-mouthed in her journal, when wronged by others, was a disciple of faith, not only in her God but in her believe in the goodness of her fellow-man/woman.
Later on in her closing years she opens up a little more, but still maintains a discreetness that is embarrassing to most in our culture. She is one of few privileged women in that early age to be invited to view autopsies, and her home grown medical knowledge often surpasses the textbook wisdom of doctors. On that note it interesting to note how closely midwife's and doctors worked, certainly closer than the usual doctor-nurse relationships today. As I read this story so much about her faith and servanthood held her steady through many many trials. This is an eye-opening book for anyone interested in the history of the formation of our nation ........... both in what was gained, and what has been lost. I can not say how impressed I was with the author who wove together such a spell binding story from so many sources ... its was as though Martha's diary was the treasured find that pieced them all together! If ever there was a pioneer person who knew without a doubt what God's purpose for them in life was ... Martha knew! It is not only a history story, or a story for the ages, its a story for today, for my kids, for my grandkids. I am definitely going to be getting the Documentary DVD!
A MIDWIFE'S TALE: The Life of Martha BAllard, based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
Vintage Books, Random House. New York. 1990 ISBN;9780679733768

Monday, July 12, 2010

Just a Highlight!

This past weekend I went to a Family Reunion of cousins. I say cousins because the 'original' brothers and sisters have passed one. It was a wonderful time for me as I sat with older cousins who told stories that I either was young to remember, or had not appeared on the scene yet. It was great; they also told a couple of stories that I could vaguely associate with, stories I had repeated but when pressed by my family couldn't really verify .......... but now I can. And the 'new' stories that I have can now tell about - it was just one fun time. Email addresses were passed around and the desire to have more frequent family reunions was expressed. I'm going to start journaling some of those stories so that I don't lose them, my memory is much to unreliable to depend on!!. My mother, one of two remaining 'in-laws' in my father's generation had a wonderful time, and there was an aora of respect around her since she was one of the two remains matriarchs - that was cool.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Both are 80 now!

Over this last holiday [the 4th] we celebrated the good wife's mother's 80th birthday..and the week before celebrated my mom's 80th birthday! I can not thank God enough for all that he has been to my family this last weekend. The kids from Syracuse, New York and Alabama and Michigan all arrived in central Illinois safe and sound, and safely have returned home; I don't know how many miles that would total up to but I know that safe travel for that many people that many miles is only by the grace and shelter of God ............ and now one harmed anyone! The reunion was a fun time, and the cousins absolutely hated to part, a couple of them shedding quite a few tears over the seperation. Though I'm certainly not fond of the great distances we share, maybe the times we are able to come together are all that much more special! At the big '80th' celebration on July 3rd I joined in the softball game [without mitts incidentally] of seniors vs. youngsters. That was certainly not one of the more intelligent things I've done the last great number of years ... it's Wednesday and I'm still recovering! But I did make one really 'nice' catch at first base on a pop fly; I went down on my knees and cupped my hands so there was no way I would miss it, and got a couple of cheers from my team with some hisses from the youngsters .... oh, the seniors did end up winning by hitting a home run in the bottom of the last inning [3rd or 4th]. It was so hot, we couldn't play any longer, plus unknown to the youngsters our legs were giving out! But its neat to go around bragging at this age that you beat teenagers; I'm almost certain that was my last sporting hurrah!!

I've mentioned before about my niece's daughter who just graduated from high school, we went to the graduation a couple weeks ago; and how the hometown they live in has no jobs, and their situation has weighted heavy on my mind. Well, my middle daughter and her family, from New York, invited her to come and live with them ... now this is really a shake-up ... no one figured she'd go, least of all my mother, who wasn't really for the idea, but she went ... and now we're praying that perhaps for once in her life, she'll really get to feel like she belongs in a family every day ... I applaud my daughter for this brave step, which no one else in the family [self included] was willing to take!

Well as I've said earlier, God just keeps throwing surprises in our path. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, on the way home we stopped in Fort Wayne, IND. and I got to have lunch at my 'mostest, favoooooorite chicken place' Chick-fil-A! I got a meal while the good wife shopped at the outdoor mall, and then later when she went to Chick-fil-A tried to get another meal out of her, ... well, she wasn't falling for that, .. but I did get an ice cream cone! Like a child, spilt the first one on the floor, the lady piled the ice cream to high, and they gracious gave me a much smaller second one.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mom's 80th ... Grams 97

Yesterday we had a surprise 80th birthday party for my mom! It was my good wife's idea and carry through that made it happen. It completely surprised my mom, and when we called her again today, she said that her sister/and husband who couldn't be at the celebration yesterday were throwing a small party for her today at Gram's house. Now Gam is 97, an though she is getting physically more and more challenged she still lives by herself at home. My oldest granddaughter from Alabama is with us this week and we are having fun; mostly she loves calling her mom to report on what 'stupid' things Gramps is doing [and I'm certainly not disappointing her]... I told her she'd have to stop that or I was sending her back home early, but with Gram's making faces and snickering in the background I don't think she feels threatened! ha!

This coming friday morning we'll be traveling to the good wife's hometown in Ilinois to spend time celebrating her mother's 80th birthday party .... must be something about being 80? All three of our kids [along with 12 of the 13 grandkids] will be gathering there, so it's also going to be our family reunion. This means the kids from Alabama and Upper New York will be joining the kids from Big City East, Michigan. It will be the first time in a couple years all the grand kids have been together ... watch out Illinois!! I'm huddling with the old people for protection.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some reflections....

It has been interesting to read about Gen. McChrystal the last few days; and as is always the case we'll never know the complete story until its immediate significance is long over. Some of the articles have been by reporters, who obviously have their reason for writing about it and others who had or do serve in the military. There does seem to be some irony in the fact that McChrystal was hired by the President, then released by him, despite the fact the General was not insubordinate in following the President's orders. I believe firmly in civilian leadership, but I also recognize the pitfalls when our civilian and military leaders fail to communicate and place the well-being of our country as top priority. I do agree with George Will in that this little fiasco comes nowhere close to the seriousness of McArthur & Truman, and to try to make is so weakens both civilian and military leadership. I am amazed at the foolishness of a 4-star general in popping off his mouth, and even more so at allowing his staff to publicly do so .... what was he thinking? Even as a specialist 4 in the Army, though there were times when I disagreed with my Captain, I never voiced that disapproval, either to his face or in any channel where it would get back to him; it wasn't just about military honor, it was about a personal code of obedience. I believe that the General lost sight of priorities, somehow someone on his staff, or in the military media, convinced him that spouting off the public media was a wise thing to do. Most military leaders shun the public media like the plague, and wisely so. On the other hand I'm not so sure the President handled it correctly; firing someone does not always signal a strength of character, often times it takes more guts to carry on. Severe reprimands can have positive consequences, and second chances can result in greater achievements. Time will tell us whether firing the General was a wise move, or one that should have been more properly handled ..... guess I could follow the President's lead and require that all the spiritual leaders in my church must never voice any opposing views to the ones I have? yah, right. ONe more note then I'll close because probably some of you are convinced I'm way off base, somewhere between the bases, or on this issue should never have entered the park. Since when can you have 'true debate' without 'division?' That's a good one, wish I'd thought of that, for in my intellectual meanderings I always though 'debate' was a result of differing, or divisive thoughts ... and then when a decision has been reached, it doesn't mean everyone agrees, but it does mean that there is unity of action; and as far as I know the General was following the President's orders. Sometimes it's almost an unbearable burden wanting to be seen as loved by everyone!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Council of Lobsters??!

This past week I read two books, 'The Secret Life of Lobsters' and 'The Council of Dads.' The first book I read about lobsters was not normally a book I would chose to spend time reading, but the remarks about it really made me curious. It was indeed a book about lobsters and their unique mating habits, but who cares except those who may profit and be able to catch more of them. The book was almost like a science textbook about lobsters and their migratory and mating habits. If promoting the lifestyles of lobsters in the context of romance was to sell books, I guess I played right into the scheme, though I guess one must admit those who were studying the lobsters definitely had strong feelings for them. There was some information about the lobster-catchers, and a running dialogue about the conflict between scientists and the fishermen. Yet, at least for me, the book did not even come close to living up to its title; well, perhaps it did only in the sense that so much about the lobsters lifestyle is still a mystery .. I guess that's where the word 'secret' fit in. If however, you are more inclined towards a scientific view then I think you would find this book an excellent catch. I guess I just prefer to eat them rather than fall in love with one.

'The Council of Dads' was indeed a unique book. I have read Bruce Feiler's books 'Walking the Bible' and 'Abraham' and enjoyed both of them very much, so I looked forward to reading this one. Its title 'The Council of Dads' captured my attention. It seems that Bruce was diagnosed with a tumor in one of his legs that he had injured as a young child. Anticipating the worst - that he might never get to see his twin girls grow up - he got this unique idea to find some men he knew well who would be willing after his death to tutor his girls on who their dad really was. I'll not spoil the book for you except to say that his wife plays a leading role in shaping that idea into an intimate working relationship - a relationship that continues today, even though Bruce has survived. The chapters on how each man fit into the plan are great, and led me to believe it probably is a good idea for any parent who still has very young kids at home. Even should a father decide that putting the whole plan into motion is not needed the ideas that are presented can still be fruitful; and what an emotional insurance policy. I wish that as a young father, with three young children, I had had a book like this. In premarital counseling I'm always advising young parents-to-be to make a will once their are married, for their future kids sake .... but this, planning to have others, who we're close to, educate and equip our children in case we're taken from them goes beyond the pale! [pun intended]

THE SECRET LIFE OF LOBSTERS, by Trevor Corson, Harper Perennial pub., 2004 ISBN:Ah, forget it
THE COUNCIL OF DADS, by Bruce Feiler, Harper Collins pub., 2010 ISBN:9780061778766 ENJOY

Friday, June 18, 2010

Birthday, every day.

Yesterday my good wife totally surprised me. For the first time that I can remember she took the day off and celebrated my birthday with me. It began with opening a beautiful card from her as I started shaving .... then she took me to breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Next we headed towards the big-city East, and it became clear to me, we were headed for my Son/Daughter-In-Laws[I only use d-i-l as a term of identification, she's really every bit as much my daughter, just w/o the growing up years!]. After arriving there and having a light lunch, during which time the good wife went to eat lunch with our granddaughter in first grade, my son announced that he, his oldest son[3yrs old] and I were going to see tigers at the zoo. To show you how dense I can be, I never caught the clue, then when we drove past the zoo, he said there were other places that had tigers too, dah!
We ended up at the parking lot for Ford Field, and so the son, my grandson and I got to see a Tiger's game, the Tigers easily were man [probably should say animal]-handling the nationals 8-3! I bought a hat - at the Stadium; and yes I know I paid more - but for this to be a complete memory, the hat HAD to be purchased there! My son also bought my grandson a jr. tiger's hat. Then we picked up sandwiches on the way home, and had dinner with the whole family. WOW! Now that's how to celebrate a birthday. Then when I got home, my daughter[and family] from down real close to the gulf called and sang happy birthday to me ... sometimes the blessings just keep coming, and I had a birthday card waiting in the mail from my mother-in-law!!
What day!

I mentioned the parking lot to Fords' Field which is for the Lions; but is also available for parking for Tiger's Baseball. We got to take a shortcut through the Lions Indoor Stadium which is beautiful!! I hope to get to go to a game there sometime. The Lion's football Ford Field is right next to the Tiger's Coamerica Baseball Park [right across the street to be exact!]. My son also told me that there is an effort to get a Pistons Basketball Stadium next to these two. And the Red Wings Hockey Stadium is down the road not too far.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

40years hiding in plain view!

The Associated Press has come out with a story about a man, sentenced to life in prison, got out on parole, and just walked away. A grandson, who became interested in the story of this killer, which he hadn't ever heard about, hired a private investigator and began searching himself also. The killer was found living a good citizen life and making a contribution to society. But this is where some interesting discussion enters:
a. should this man be sent back to prison, who for 40yrs has shown he is
a contributing citizen? or should that not make a difference?
b. the convicted killers' almost comical attitude to being captured again
leads one to question the motive of his conduct ... true remorse or just
convinced he's got it made?
c. the value in knowing family history ... and how the killers recapture is
allowing a family begin to put closure on the case?
this is a very interesting article .... I think I'll read it a few more times and perhaps later have some more comments?! I also plan on using this article in defense of my love for family genealogy. AP,Tuesday, Jun 15, 5:55am ET, by Matt Gouras, AP writer. YOu can find it quickly by going to com and looking for 'wedding chapel fugitive.

Andersonville Camp

Some things we find out in our family history give us a desire to visit places that not only bring back good memories, but almost sacred memories, as we journey through the darkness of the struggles that they faced. The more I study family history the more 'connections' I find. Let me illustrate one I just found, and probably will find a few more involved in this same event. Most of us have long been somewhat familiar with the Civil War's most notorious prison camp at Andersonville, GA. So here are the 'ancient connections' I've found. On my father's side there is an ancestor who married a widow whose former husband died at Andersonville camp [and this ancestor was with Gen.Sherman on his famous march to the Sea, so does this make his wife both a war widow, then a war bride?]. On my mother's father's side an ancestor married a woman whose brother survived 14months at Andersonville, that has to be some kind of record; then on my mother's mothers side an ancestors wife's uncle died at Andersonville. I've got documented proof for almost all of this info, and find that as I find more relatives who experienced this horror, I want to visit this place. Morbid, no not at all, perhaps there's a sense that my presence there will add some acknowledgement to the price they paid, I don't know, I just want to go there.

In an earlier war, 'The Revolutionary War' I found another 'family connection.' This connection came in the Battle of Kings Mountain. This was a battle in which the revolutionary forces defeated Loyalist troops and stopped Gen.Cornwallis from invading the Southern Colonies; matter of fact most historians believe this to be a major turning point in the war. It was mostly a battle between 'Patriot' troops that were against British 'Loyalist' troops that supported the King. Some historians believe that the only true British person in the conflict was the commander for the Loyalist side. The connection is that 1]on my father's father's side an ancestor fought on the side of the 'over-mountain men' and was even captured in a further skirmish, but escaped to continue fighting with Gen.Greene; 2] on my mother's fathers side an ancestor, who was probably the only doctor in the 'REvolutionary troops in this battle, although its still questionable how 'trained' he was - he is talked about as a surgeon, served also with those same 'over-mountain'men. Makes me want to visit King Mountain, NC. I guess I'm getting quite a list of places to tour - well, maybe one day.

Monday, June 14, 2010


This is an interesting little book. It tells the story of a mysterious old gentleman who always seems to show up just at the right time as people are about to give up hope.
On one ever sees him coming, or leaving for that matter; and he's always carrying a small suitcase. So no personal information about 'Jones' [he does not like to be called 'Mr. Jones.] is ever known, and then one day his suitcase is spotted sitting in a parking lot, but no 'Jones.' This sets off quite a chain of concern, and people who have touched/changed by his life/wisdom began to gather where the suitcase has been taken. The people began to share their story in how 'ole Jones' helped them, as they began to fear the worst that might have happened to him. There is a 'red herring' thrown out by the author, if you're reading carefully enough to catch it! In the end they find a note in the suitcase that offers................
Andrews, Andy. The Noticer. Thomas Nelson Publisher, 2009. ISBN: 9780785229216
There are some other books written by this Inspirational Author: 'The Traveler's Gift,' 'The Lost Choice,' and 'Island of Saints.'

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Grandpa, the medicine doctor!

Yesterday I blogged about my tough old gggrandpa who got his finger seriously bit and hacked it off. In a small book, 'Images of America: Unicoi & Limestone Cove' there is a picture of Civil War vet grandpa Daniel. I was wondering about his qualifications for being a doctor and here what I found. 'He used medical knowledge he learned while working with Civil War physicians to treat his grateful neighbors in Limestone Cove. In the last year of his life, 1919, 'Dr. Schultz,' as his patients called him was still delivering babies! I guess if you can just hack off a finger, you can still be delivering the neighbors babies at 76.

Monday, June 7, 2010

God visited graduation; and where did that finger go?

Yesterday the good wife and I went to my niece's daughter's graduation in a small town in my home state of Ohio. It's was held in one of those new school buildings that includes everything from kindergarten through high school. It is only two years old and this was the first Senior class to graduate in it. I must admit I was fairly proud of the whole event. As hundreds met to celebrate the graduation of 54 students someone unexpected decided to drop by - God! A couple of honor students, in brief addresses thanked God for his help in their achieving this accomplishment; and a local pastor, representing all the town's churches, gave an inspirational, yet direct challenge to all the graduates, then a student dismissed the assembly in prayer. I guess it will be only a matter of time before some parent discovers their sensitivites have been bruised, or their rights maliciously infringed upon, or their graduate permanently scared, maybe not?!

There was a special time during which at least 2/3 of the graduates received scholarships, a number of them receiving from $28,000 to $51,000 individually. Over $250,000 was handed out. Then when all the recipents had been applauded, pictures taken and everyone seated, the principal, after there was a complete silence called one garduate to come forward, then the principal announced that this graduates scholarships would come in the form of boots, uniforms, kp duty and obstacle courses. The next leg of his life's journey was not college but boot camp - and then the people in the auditorium, as though they had been told what to do before hand, stood to their feet, no one was left setting, and with thunderous applause thanked that young graduate for volunteering for military service .... and I thought 'only in America, even in times of divisive views of the military could such celebration take place! I walked out of that auditorium a proud American and even prouder great Uncle.

No visit home is ever complete without stopping by and seeing Gram - she's 97, and physically struggling, but just as loving and mentally alert as ever. I can't remember Gram ever saying a bad word about anyone, and everyone in the family loves her. I mentioned that in some recent family research I had come across a great great grandpa I was never aware of - and right then her face began to glow. "Oh, yes, I very much aware of daddy's[my late grandpa, her husband]grandpa Dan. When we were first married he used to tell me many stories about him, for daddy spent a lot time with his grandparents. Now gggrandpa was a 'self-taught' doctor [some genealogical records have referred to him as a doctor; so I don't know exactly how that title fits]. But evidently my grandpa used to help him pack quinine in newspaper and gggrandpa Dan would take it on his house calls. Two searches have defined gggrandpa Dan as a pillar of the community; maybe being a pillar people trusted you to practice medicine on them??? Quinine in the early 1900's was not restricted as it is today, and it was widely used as a pain killer and relieved one from most fevers. Well, one day gggrandpa Dan had dropped something in the leaves and reaching his hand down to try and find it he got a vicious bite - he told my grandpa to run in the house, get into his medical bag and bring back as much quinine as he could find - which he did - the most of which gggrandpa consumed, after assessing the bit on his finger, he got a short handled axe, [told my grandpa to go in the house and get a wet towel, and to wait at the door and when he called him to come running bringing the wet towel ... grandpa Dan then laid his finger on the tree stump and with one decisive blow eliminated the finger, called my grandpa who brought him the towel, which grandpa Dan rubbed the remaining quinine on then wrapped up his finger stub. Now that's a tough old bird!! I doubt that we could apply any part of Jesus sermon on the mount about hacking off parts that offend you and cause you to sin, but in my rapidly declining years of pastoral ministry left I might find an application. Grandpa Dan had served in the U.S. Army for two years during the Civil War, in the 2nd TN Volunteer Cavalry from 1863-1865, so maybe after all the suffering he had seen hacking off a contaminated finger wasn't such a feat - maybe not for him, but it would be for me!

Friday, June 4, 2010

No Ending

Last month[May] I read and wrote about a book called 'Gilead.' Yesterday I finished the sequel to that called 'Home.' My title for that book is Home: A Story with no ending!' Ever since I read the 'Tiger or the Princess' in school I've enjoyed stories that let you make up your own ending, but not this one. Everyone likes an ending to a movie, and usually a good ending, sometimes even a bad ending is better than no ending. I don't know if the author was creating a setting for a sequel or not, but she certainly didn't bring closure. Then again maybe closure to the author meant passing on the mantle from one generation to the next one; for she left a bundle of loose strings. The author had a warm way of keeping us wanting to hear more about the other side of the story from Gilead, and she also kept us subtly updated on moderninity as it invaded Gilead. I was so excited to see whether or not Jack found his soul, how would the 'old Reverend' breath his last breathe, would Gloria end up staying at home, what would Teddy do; yet not one of those threads was tied up. But the last two pages, in a somewhat mysterious way, through a small child named after the Rev. Boughton, brought them at least to a meeting place; perhaps the 'meeting place' is closure? All throughout both of these books the spiritual wisdom 'oozes' from its pages. I will definitely have to go back and read both of them again, maybe the next time in a setting where I can read them together. I found myself so wrapped up in the hope that Jack was finally putting his life together, when just at the wrong moment, as has always been the case, he decides again to leave. Maybe there's a spiritual lesson for us there in that when we sense we are being spiritually challenged we too try to find a way of escape.
HOME, Robinson, Marilynne. New York, NY. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Publishers 2008

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Frontier Journey

What fun ............ the grandkids, from the big city east, were here for the holidays. I don't know that gram and I became any younger but their energy certainly made us feel that way.

On another note, a cousin of mine, that lives in Seattle WA. sent me a journal from her ancestors. It was a journal about their journey from North Carolina to Kentucky and Ohio. It was also a great revelation about the Religious Awakening in America in the 18th century; most of the journey took place from 1750-1800. I really enjoyed the look into the frontier days of America. I thought I would share a few examples of how religion was viewed in that era. One of her ancestors was a 'strict Calvinist' and talked about how the Baptist were persecuted. Anglicanism was a strong force in those days, along with Methodist circuit riders; both are very briefly noted, so I'm anticipating that the persecution mentioned is about prejudices and how those prejudices played out on a social/economic scale at that time. Yet he is faithful to the Baptist tradition and in one place where they lived he gathered up about 5 other baptists and they had a 'house church.' House churches in that day were more common than one would believe. There is a section where Grandfather hears about a stirring among the Presbyterians, here it is:
In the summer of 1799 there was a great excitment of religion among the Presbyterians. Some twenty miles off, they held camp meetings in Burbon Co. Father felt anxious to go and see and hear for himself, as reports said they were very strangely exercised. Some would jerk, some would bark, somefall as though they had been shot. So, father went and stayed three daysand tried to find out the cause of that new exercise in religion. Some said it was the work of the Devil; others said it was all delusion. But Father said when he came back from Canebridge meeting that he saw and heard many things that he could not account for, but some of them looked happy,while they were dancing or walking back and forth, or jerking and barking. This exercise soon came to the Presbyterian church at Walnut Hill - fourmiles off. Father took MOther and me to Elder Crawfords' church to hear and see for ourselves this new exercise. As soon as they began to sing, their exercise began. Some shook they heads, while others jerked all over and would bark as they would jerk their heads down. Some would jump up on their feet and shoult and sing until their strength was gone and then they would fall as though they were dead, and lie for two or three hours, only breathing. We went home. Father said he could not think it was a delusion but that there must be some good done there, for he felt some of the influence on his mind and that the singing was ringing in his ears yet.
Wow! Later in the journal, revival that year is also recorded in the Baptist church; and one day about 30 people, in the dead of winter go to Hickman creek, where men break the four inch frozen ice, and clear it away from the shore, and the preacher stands in that water baptizing the people ........ on the shore the snow is was about four to five inches deep. And 'strange as it will seem to some that not one that was baptized took cold. Later we find Garrard back in Kentucky, after he moved back from Ohio preaching in three churches. Two young preachers, 'very strong Calvinists' began to minister under the older mans mentoring. However, here I'm wondering if something from that earlier Presbyterian campmeeting had changed him, we find these two young preachers beginning to be critical of him, here's the notes:
'under father's preaching, they found fault with Father as he would sing and shake hands with all at the close of the service, they called him an Armenian. Again, I loved this journal because it gives us a window into that era and some of the religious effects it had on the frontier.