Friday, August 22, 2008

Visit with Donna and Kimberly

Today was a day that started entirely too early. I think it was somewhere around 3:00 a.m. when Aidan came in and said, "Dad, I can't sleep."
So I said, "What's wrong, Aidan?"
And he said, "There's a light shining in my window that looks like a shark's tooth. It makes me feel scared."

So I went to his room, and sure enough, a light from the yard did look like a shark's tooth. I closed his curtains and that was that.

Meet the teacher went from 9-11 this morning. If you care, this is my 14th "meet the teacher" event. A striking but strange moment came when an older couple introduced their daughter Heather who is starting 9th grade this fall and looks strikingly like...her older sister Christina who graduated about six years ago. Of course I had taught her too.

I told the family that when the first school grandchild (that is, child of one of our graduates show up in my class, the tears will be rolling down my face and not a one of the children will understand. But I will know why I'm crying, and that's good enough.

One of our faculty took all of us out to Hunan Garden for lunch today. Yummy. Thanks, Nola!

I spent the afternoon working at one client's home and then stopped to visit my dad on the way to our farm. His back had been bothering him a great deal this week, but he is better today and anticipating increased health for the weekend. He told me that he had a conversation with a 100-year-old man in the parking lot of Aldi's this morning. The man gave him a dollar and my father gave the centenarian a gospel tract.

Our whole family planned to drive up to Northfield tonight to visit two of my college friends, Kim and Donna. However, when I got home today, Tara said that Aidan's fever was higher and that Toby and Avery were still sleeping. Then Toby woke up and wanted to go along, so Evan, Toby, and I headed to Northfield. We met Kim and Donna in the Hoyme parking lot and the proceeded to walk the campus and show the boys things from our college years.

We also had supper at Subway and caught up with each other's lives. The thing that struck me most is how different our lives have become. Kimberly is just returning from mission work in Southeast Asia. Donna is headed to Ireland to work on a master's in education. I have been where I am, building the same thing, since the summer I left St. Olaf. Divergent paths, definitely, but all worship to the same God.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Plumb Nuts

For several months now the water pressure in our kitchen has been way less than desirable. When Tara turns on the faucet, it gives a little more than a trickle and a little less than a stream. She has been pretty patient with this situation, but I realized it was untenable, so I came up with a plan.

You need to know that the faucet and lines immediately attached to it are basically brand new, installed sometime either late last year or early this year. So I was not suspicious of them but rather of the old galvanized pipe that runs 16'9" from under the kitchen back toward the water heater. Since the water pressure from things connected earlier than this part had been all right, I figured the problem must be there. Solution? Remove old galvanized, install new galvanized, turn water back on. Of course.

So Wednesday night Scam and I ripped out the old pipe and hauled it outside. Evan participated in this part of the adventure also. Using Scam's handy gadget flashlight, we shone a beam through the pipe and concluded that, while dirty, there was nothing obstructing the galvanized. I had expected corrosive limestone or whatever and only a tiny pin-hole through which to squeeze the water. This was massively inaccurate.

We rinsed out the pipe using the pump near our well and then continued to check inside lines by blowing air through them. Nothing wrong was discovered anywhere, so we hooked the supply lines up again and ran the water. Beautiful water pressure spewed from the kitchen faucet until I happened to jiggle to vegetable sprayer. Immediately the pressure returned to its former anemic five psi. Scam and I looked at each other in amazement. Why had this happened???

We disassembled most of the faucet assembly, discovered nothing of consequence, rebuilt it, and tested again. We don't know anything definitive, but the water pressure is much improved and has been all day. Total investment: 65 cents, about 3 hours, and a good friend. I am blessed.

I was watching a movie earlier this evening and contemplating the milestones of a person's life. After the movie was over, I sat down at my keyboard and played a few old hymns that have components that speak of death or eternity: Amazing Grace; Nearer, My God, To Thee; that sort of thing. And then it struck me with some force: contemporary worship, or at least that which I've been exposed to, doesn't really like to deal with the milestones or passages in life. Yes, there are contemporary songs for weddings, but what about for baby dedications? Baptisms? Commissionings? Funerals?

I'll bet they exist, but I'll also bet they're rare because the whole CCM industry lacks the ability to see itself as part of a several thousand year long tradition. Instead, it sees itself (just guessing) as probably breaking with tradition and breathing a fresh wind or something over the Church. This is too bad because when we lose a sense of our heritage, we lose courage and certainty.

I have to confess that I've done this somewhat in my own life. I left the church of my heritage in disgust around the age of 18. All the systems, connections, and ways that I knew became part of my past in just a few weeks' time. I embraced the general category "evangelicalism" and began a new part of the journey. The problem, of course, is that I just sort of appeared out of nowhere, similar to the churches that I was attending. The contemporary church has no real heritage, except in terms of what it reacted against. Being somewhat anti-historical and anti-intellectual, it also doesn't have a good sense of its own history, however brief.

I mentioned my religious heritage, which did a pretty good job of teaching Bible and its own particular view of doctrine, but was absolutely scandalously hollow when it came to church history and development. I bet I would have loved to know the story of God's people from a young age, but it wasn't given. I think we children believed that Jesus ascended, the apostles wrote the NT, almost nothing happened for 1500 years, WHAM! the Catholic Church was massively corrupt (wait a minute--where'd the Catholic Church come from?? I guess we didn't ask) and God raised up Martin Luther who battled back the forces of evil and re-established the pure Lutheran light of God's Word. After Dr. Luther died, nothing else important happened, either. Really. I'm not kidding. I was the kind of kid who paid excellent attention in class, being interested as I am in ideas, history, and spirituality. I'm sure I would have caught it if they'd said something.

So I applaud some friends of ours whose 5th grade daughter is starting church history as part of their home school curriculum this year. What a gift she's receiving that she may or may not appreciate at her age..!

I'm going to cut off this long and laborious blog because it's time to work on my Christian Worldview Seminar. I'm speaking in Dodge Center at the end of September for a church mini-retreat. Lord willing, I'll give 'em something good.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stinking Oil Primer

I paint a lot. I paint for money, for recreation, for preservation of my property, for family, and for charity kinds of situations. I have been doing so pretty consistently for the last several years. So you'd think I'd know enough to put the lid firmly on a can of primer.

We were coming back from a second day at Auntie Alice and Uncle Roy's house. I had Evan and Aidan with me in the van with a load of wood in the trailer behind us. Evan reached behind his seat to get a swig of water from the blue water jug. A minute or two later he asked, "What's that smell? I think it's paint."

Well, I sniffed too and then looked behind his seat. In his efforts to get liquid, he had knocked over a mostly full can of oil primer. Generally this is not a problem if one happens to pound the lid firmly back on the oil primer. But if one is rounding up young children and talking to one's aunt while packing the van, it is possible that this detail will be overlooked.

So we had a pond of oil primer under and behind the passenger front seat. I pulled over immediately, assessed the situation, and determined that... we had nothing with us that would be useful in cleaning up more than a quart of oozing primer. I started the van again and we did the next 20 miles while getting high from the fumes of said oil primer. Zinsser makes a very nice oil primer, good quality, and I have the dead brain cells to prove it.

I spent at least a half hour cleaning up oil primer after we arrived at home. Yes, I realize it was no big deal. The van is 15 years old and ought to die sometime soon. Yes, I was able to get most of the primer back into the can, salvageable for use. Maybe the most valuable part of the experience was not getting angry at Evan for dumping it over. I realized almost immediately that a can of paint/primer will generally stay closed (even if unceremoniously dumped) unless the operator has not closed it properly.

BTW, oil primer is very useful for getting latex paint to adhere to old, weathered wood or other less-than-ideal surfaces. I am a big fan of oil primer even though it is more difficult to use than latex. I use latex also in less demanding situations.

My fault again. Most of the messes in our life lately have been traceable back to me. Sigh.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reflections on Our Summer

Hello, everyone. Sorry I've been gone. We (our computer, this is) contracted a nasty virus that sent pop-ups violently careening about the screen. They were particularly nasty and ill-mannered pop-ups that wouldn't go away no matter what you did.

But we (our computer, that is) are well now and ready to blog.

This week marks my last week of summer vacation. I am deeply thankful for all the magnficent blessings that God has given me during these months. We have had abundant work, helpful co-laborers, cooperative children, and plenty of time spent together as a family. Though I am assuredly not the world's most exciting daddy, I nonetheless am here and involved in the lives of my children.

All of my college student laborers went back to college, and then business picked back up again. Sigh.

We had a family mini-vacation to the Cities yesterday and today. We left on Wednesday mid-day and checked into a Country Inn and Suites somewhere east of St. Paul. It was a perfectly accommodating hotel with a pool and an attached restaurant. Around suppertime Ben and Emily met us and we drove to Hudson, WI for dinner together at a restaurant called Barker's. I enjoyed the food but everything else was a trial. The atmosphere was the type in which you can't hear your waitress, your children, your neighbor, or your food ("Don't eat me! Please don't eat me! I said DON'T EA-). Also we had to wait quite a time for a table and for a refreshment. We went swimming back at the hotel with no drownings and nothing else too frightening.

After continental breakfast at the Green Mill (I always LOVE continental breakfast... for an extremely skinny guy I really eat, and I with great enthusiasm almost all the time) we headed west to the Science Museum. Now, I will admit that the Science Museum contains many interesting things, but I am a big fan of productivity (almost none here) quiet (absolutely none here) and predictability (definitely none here). The kids were great and generally quite interested but the whole experience, including the much-hyped Star Wars exhibit, holds very little meaning or fascination for me. I am not a Star Wars fan and don't really perceive the delight that they seem to bring to others.

I also noted that the Science Museum faithfully teaches evolution every chance it gets. Placards throughout proclaim this creature or that fossil "60 million years old" and so forth. They also make speculations about species that survived and species that didn't and why that is so ("front teeth must have been useful to primates because..." or "perhaps the glyptodont became extinct because 3 million years ago was a period of rapid climatic change and it just couldn't keep up").

I would love to see some documentation... but of course there isn't any. Zilch. The claims about the ancient past are made with the gross audacity of, say, a Latin teacher lecturing on neurosurgery. It is a tragedy of epidemic proportions because thousands of children a day tour the place and read these profession, confident-sounding placards that quietly foster the assumption that the universe is purely materialistic.

As long as I'm ranting, let me further say that I'd love someone to admit that evolution is the necessary creation story for a particular worldview known as philosophical naturalism (a close cousin to secular humanism). Every thinking person's worldview includes some take-off of Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration.

Try it for philosophical naturalism:

CREATION-- Stuff evolved. We evolved.

FALL -- Extinction. Climate change. Nature vs. Man (maybe-- I'm fuzzy on this one)

REDEMPTION -- Science! Scientists! Freedom from truth claims of religion!

RESTORATION -- Overcoming the things that cause physical death/mental and emotional problems. Just a few years ago some scientist published on the idea of living forever... physically.

Now try the same four categories for Christianity and see what bold, rich, and accurate claims you get for each category. When I say accurate, I mean accurate to the experience you have of the world around you.

Well, I'm done for tonight. In-service on Monday, would you believe. Another year is starting again, and I'm here for it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Elderly Relatives Save Our Tails Again

I believe it is a commonly understood truism that each generation is indebted to the one before it. After all that is only common sense. The previous generation changed our diapers, made our dinner, nursed our owies, and (however imperfectly) taught us about Jesus. And for several in my family, they keep on doing it.

It seems that 75 is the new 60. That's my conclusion after today. On Sunday we decided with Alice and Roy (my aunt and uncle -- see last post) that I would come up on Tuesday to make wood for the winter (if Jay and Emily can't get the house sold it will be a good plan for us to have some wood on hand...). I already have a decent woodpile going, but not enough to heat our home for a typical Minnesota winter.

So Evan and I left around 9:00 this morning, bearing chainsaw, trailer with spiffy new wood sides, and the remains of a conflict he and I had created just prior to leaving. We spent the drive to Goodhue figuring out our conflict, which was pretty well resolved by the time we pulled into their driveway.

Now I thought we were going to say "good morning", chat for a minute, and then Evan and I would go back to where the dead trees were standing and log them out ourselves. Not at all. Roy, 78, offered me his "battle plan" a little after we arrived. He would fire up the tractor and after I would fell a tree, we would hook a chain around it and drag it over to the brush pile. Then I would limb the small branches, allowing Evan and Auntie Alice to pitch those straight onto the brush pile.

Well, that's pretty much what we did. I never anticipated that two septagenarians would put in basically a full day's work cutting and hauling wood. To be fair, let me say that Roy spent most of his time on the seat of the tractor, but he still did a great job with the tractor and got down a few times to toss something into the loader or work with the tow chain.

One of the highlights for Evan was getting to ride the front-end loader way up in the air in order to hook a chain around a dead branch still hanging on the tree. Roy hoisted him way up there and then shut off the bucket 10 or 12 feet above the ground. Of course, Evan being Evan loved the experience and successfully got the chain wrapped around the log.

Roy and Alice mentioned that they use the front-end loader to pick apples. Alice gets in the bucket and Roy raises it up the side of the tree and then waits while she gathers all apples within reach. I looked at them in disbelief, but they both agreed that that's how they did it last year. She would have been 74 at the time.

A sweet moment for me was watching them drive together down the grassy lane between two valleys of scrubby trees. Alice was standing on the running board of the tractor, and Roy was driving. Shafts of sunlight illuminated their silvery hair as they rode away from us. It gave me a glimpse of how they've worked together for the last 55 years, the rewards of a life well-lived.

We left with a full trailer of wood and arrived home to find that Grandpa, Alice's big brother, had been out to our farm today and fixed the mowing deck on one of my tractors and figured out what was wrong with a spring on the other.

The 75-and-over crowd did it again. They never cease to amaze me, and I will miss them "somethin' fierce" when Jesus finally calls them home.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Always Knew I Was Born in the Wrong Era


As a 1930s husband, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!

This was definitely a fun test to take -- you should try it!

We went to my Uncle Roy's 78th birthday party this evening. My boys absolutely love their farm up near Goodhue, and since we are out in the country now, it's only 25 miles to their place. I love watching the generations grow up -- I got to see Auntie Alice help raise my generation, then her son Howard's kids, then her daughter Connie's kids, and now my kids and the next generation of her great-grandchildren. If ever a woman had an impact on her family, it would have to be Alice. She turned 75 in July and was out playing horse with Evan and Aidan tonight.

I rise up and call her blessed.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Painting Contractor Performs Heroic Deed

They say only children are the heroes of their own lives (when they're not busy beating themselves up about the current failure or imperfection). See what you think of this one.

I was working for a doctor a few days ago, doing some touch-up painting and other work to his Pill Hill property, and I had to go back to Hirshfield's to have a color adjusted. So I was standing by the paint counter waiting for Pat to complete my order when a portly young man carrying two packs of cigarettes burst in and sort of shouted breathlessly,

"There's an old jeep parked on the grass next to the building, like a VW thing and it's got a dog tied to it!"

I said, "Yeah, I saw it when I drove in. Pretty cool car, huh?" (It was a real Jeep from maybe the 60s or 70s, one-of-a-kind.)

Then he got to the point. "It's on fire!! I think it's gonna blow pretty soon!"

I looked at him to see if he was a reliable witness, and he seemed pretty stressed and pretty earnest, so I hurried to the front and observed the Jeep. A trail of smoke was rising from the back seat. Another young guy had convinced the dog to step out of the Jeep while his stocky companion was inside Hirshfield's.

"Lift up the seat cushion," I ordered. They taller guy lifted it up, and we observed some seat springs, a car battery, and a small flame burning on the floor of the Jeep.

I hustled back inside and asked the Hirshfield's desk lady, "Where's the nearest water source?" She tried to figure out what was going on and finally got it. Of course the water was all the way in the back of this long, narrow story, so we bustled to the back (I was already carrying a large styrofoam cup that I'd snatched from the burning Jeep) and I filled the cup with water and rushed back to the front and then outside.

I poured my water over the flames and pretty much extinguished them. The Hirshfield's lady (being 55ish) followed a little later with a quart-sized paint can, also full of water. She dumped hers on the remaining hot areas, effectively bringing the fire to an end.

During this whole episode, the dog, a huge German Shepherd/Husky looking thing, sat calmly next to the Jeep. No barking, no anxiety, this was one calm dog. We petted him a little after the job was done.

Then Hirshfield Lady went next door to AT&T and asked them to find the owner of the burning Jeep and dog. A few minutes later two 20-something blond girls dressed in retro- early 70s flower-child dresses and sandals - were standing by the Jeep. I went out there and asked, "Is this your Jeep?"

They said, "It's our dad's." So I told them what had happened, and they were very thankful, not only for the Jeep, but especially for their dog.

Then Dad came out. He was a burned-out looking hippie with a long gray pony tail who matched the girls perfectly; obviously he had passed on his worldview with stunning success.

He immediately realized what had happened: the dog sitting on the back seat had brought the battery into contact with the metal springs, causing a short and heating the springs. The heat had caused the cushion to begin to smolder. The old hippie-dad was very thankful, too.

Usually things like that don't happen when I'm getting paint.