Monday, July 27, 2009

Steady by Jerks

Nothing much happening here.

I must force myself to finish my Latin textbook for 5-6th graders. So close.

Evan spent most of the day with me. I was not terribly good company because I have a sore throat.

Just for my own amusement, I applied for a job in another state yesterday. Can you tell I'm bored?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Sampler

It is a beautiful Sunday morning in southern Minnesota. The birds are singing, the squirrels are chittering, my wife and daughter are laughing. We are getting ready for church, but nobody's really rushing, since the service doesn't start until 9:30.

Our senior pastor resigned after 11 years in that position. Of course that brings immediate changes. To compound these changes, our director of worship also turned in his resignation because a church up on the Minnesota/Dakota border offered him a position leading to worship pastor. So I guess the status quo will be the status ante.

My dad came over for a while yesterday morning. While he was here, he either repaired or contributed to the repair of my small lawn tractor, a roto-tiller, a bicycle, and something else that I cannot recall right now.

We did some aggressive cleaning and organizing yesterday, somewhat to get ready for our Ole Reunion Party next Saturday as well as our houseguest Everett. The irony of this is that Everett wouldn't really be disturbed if our house looked like a war zone. We are looking forward to a nice weekend.

Tara keeps interrupting my blogging to have me feed children. So far I have fed Tater some waffles (he likes waffles) and I plan to nourish Toby in just a moment.

My back has been a source of annoyance again. It feels fine during the day, but I can't sleep a full night lying down. The muscles in the middle become very upset for some reason, causing me to wake up in pain and try to find a comfortable position. I intend to try yet another new strategy tonight.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Patience Is a Virtue

Work has been sparse -- thinner than any summer in recent memory. I'm not really complaining, but it does make one change his approach to doing business -- somewhat.

For starters, I'm bidding lower. I hate that. We've had so many not-quite-full days that I feel like it's better to get some jobs even if we're not making a ton on each job.

So my bid this morning was at the home of a government schools teacher in her 50's. I washed her windows and helped her redo a bathroom light fixture that she wanted to grace with a different look. I had another bid later in the day, but people aren't saying yes as quickly as they had been the last 2-3 years.

Lord, we need another house to do. A nice big contract. Thank you for all you have done and all you will continue to do for us. Through Jesus we pray, Amen!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Grandpa Plays Ball

The weather has recovered somewhat during the past 20 or so hours and climbed into the respectable 70s today. Since we had nothing better to do, Grandpa came over this afternoon. After he got here, I heard him tell Evan, "Let's go take a few swings." So they headed out to the back yard.

Now my father, whom I did not really know until he was in his late 40's, was both quick and athletic. He coached basketball in his earlier years and played any number of sports well. He has continued to participate here and there all through his 70's. But for the last few years, every time I watch him play, I become fearful that it will be the last time.

The last time that I will see my dad throw a ball.
The last time that his glove will scrape the ground.
The last time he will yell something like, "Ah, you put the ol' dark one by him!"
The last time the crack will echo from his bat.

He pitched for a while until it became evident to him that he just wasn't finding the zone, so he handed that off to me and headed for the outfield. Evan was hitting well, and the balls were spraying all over our expansive back yard. Fortunately Toby was out there too, but Grandpa is too independent, too energetic to stand and let Toby run for them. Grandpa got most of them himself.

I remember his run, the quick acceleration of short, wiry legs well into his 50s. Just the barest whisper of that is left, enough to make me remember as he hustled for the ball. It wasn't running, wasn't really even jogging. But it wasn't walking, either.

Grandpa rolled most of the balls to the pitcher's mound to save what is left of his arm. He threw one, and again I saw the beautiful and heartbreaking echo of what had been.

After it was over, we sat in the Adirondack chairs near the fire pit and chatted. It was a precious time for me, with almost all of the people closest to me actually closest to me.

We love you, Dad.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Having Read all of Harry Potter...

Yes, sports fans, I actually finished something. For those that know me, this is probably half "well, sure" and half amusing. I struggle with having 22 projects going at once, and things of secondary or tertiary importance often get abandoned. For example, this summer I pulled out Schaeffer's A Christian Manifesto and decided to pick up where my bookmark was. The bookmark turned out to be a business card for a loan officer who masterminded the loan for my first house, PURCHASED IN 1997. This sort of thing happens to me way too often.

So I am really proud to say that I have read all seven of the Harry Potter books!! I am not to the point of coherent reaction yet, only to say that they are extremely gripping fiction and provided something of an emotional roller coaster during the last few weeks. Also, I was amazed at how well-written fiction and high quality characters yank you into their world. They become so real that you find yourself at loose ends when you're finished with their story.

In general, I liked J.K. Rowling's end to the series and most of her ideas (not necessarily her stated ones in interview, which anti-Harry Potter people keep sending me) but her thematic ideas, taught through the books. I wonder if she's even aware of everything she' advocating. Good stuff, for the most part.

Summer rushes by minus one of its most defining elements: heat! We northerners are stunned by the lack of heat, humidity, rain, and sunshine all at the same time. The last few days our temperatures at a time of year characterized by 85 and oppressive have barely climbed out of the 50's! The children and I now have fires in the evening just to keep warm.

In our spare time, the boys are learning how to hit a softball this summer. Evan's a natural... hardly ever misses a pitch, and pitches well enough for me to hit. Aidan and Toby are quite a bit younger, so it's taking them some time get the skills together. One of the most amusing things has been Aidan shagging balls in the outfield (deeper part of our back yard). I play ball with them just like a coach would... plenty of balls with me, and the next ball is pitched before the first one is fielded. So Aidan runs around the outfield, picking up ball after ball and sometimes carrying 4-5 at a time back to the pitcher's mound and then dumping them unceremoniously in the plastic crate that holds our softball equipment. It's just comical how he does it.

Grandpa is also regaining his strength after a nasty hospital visit around the 3-4th of July. The boys and I are hopeful that he will be able to play ball again when he feels better.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Still Reading Harry Potter -- Spoiler Warning!!

I have now finished book five of the Harry Potter series, much to the joy and amusement of my wife and son, who have completed all the reading... finished all seven.

Through all five books, I have been searching for symbolism, theme, and any other "TIER TWO" information that J. K. Rowling may be attempting to incorporate. There is some, and it begins to take shape towards the end of Book IV.

At the end of that book, Harry returned from the last tri-wizard tournament challenge via a portkey clinging to the arm of a dead classmate whose death he alone (from the school community) had witnessed. That set up an intriguing crisis of belief in his fellow students: Did Harry witness this murder by Lord Voldemort, or did Harry commit the murder himself?

In his last address to the students that academic year, Dumbledore made it perfectly clear that he believed Harry's tale. He raised the alarm that Voldemort had returned and warned the students that one of Voldy's favorite tactics was to divide people who were not worshippers of the Dark Lord. Of course, the Minister of Magic does not want to acknowledge Voldemort's return. He instead devises some conspiracy theory about Dumbledore wanting to take over as Minister of Magic.

In Book V, we are introduced to the Order of the Phoenix, a group whose purpose, directed by Dumbledore, is to prevent the return and empowerment of the Dark Lord. Now, I don't know yet, but the sub-groups of people in the book are eerily similar to people in society. Consider:

Muggles -- people completely unaware of the spiritual dimension of life. Non-Christians in the sense of philosophical naturalists. They are uncomfortable if the magic bumps into them, and seek to distance themselves as quickly as possible.

Death Eaters -- people who get the essence of spiritual reality but who have chosen evil knowingly. They serve the Dark Lord.

Ministry of Magic folk -- appear to me as similar to Christians who close their eyes when confronted with the reality of spiritual warfare. They want things to be "just like they always have been" and would rather have what is easy than what is right. They value position over mission.

Order of the Phoenix -- appear to me as a perfect parallel to what the Christian life should really look like. The people in the order are loyal to each other even when it's not enjoyable because they have a mission that they know is crucial to the future of the wizarding world. It may take great sacrifice to work for the Order, but they know it would be greater sacrifice in the end "to not to".

Dumbledore -- I thought for several books that Dumbledore represented God, but I am moving away from that position at the end of five. The evidence in the earlier books is compelling, though: the long white hair and beard (God is pictured often and inaccurately that way); the name Albus (white); his tendency to arrive just before the moment of disaster and rescue those within his school, the others' tendency to seek his wisdom and yet want to hide from him when they were ashamed of their own choices, his almost omniscient awareness of affairs of their world...

I have abandoned this position in light of events late in Book Five. Dumbledore shows fear and then laments some of his decisions in a protracted discussion with a very volatile Harry. While he maintains his calm and gracious demeanor, it is obvious that he blames himself for Sirius' death and his handling of Harry's prophecy. I learned something, too, from his point about youth and age. Youth, he said, cannot feel what it is like to be aged (since they have not experienced it), but age should remember what it is to be young. Dumbledore blamed himself for forgetting and acting only from the perspective of the elderly. I get it. I've forgotten already in so many ways...

I also admire Rowling's ability to produce angst. Harry's behavior at the end of five does not surprise me, except that her ability to capture disillusionment is so fine. When the heaviness of Harry's situation fully soaks in to him, he is no longer interested in trifles, but he also cannot for the most part enjoy simple joys that others might experience. This whole experience has a rather Frodo-esque feeling about it. The heaviness is almost unbearable.