Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Thanks, Friends!

Many thanks to all of you who offered words of comfort, love, and encouragement after the death of my father. There are many things to be thankful for in this situation, but above all, that our Father in Heaven has made it possible to have eternal life through His Son, and that Daddy had that Life. We'll see him again.

On a lighter note, I had planned to write something different today, but something I read inspired this post. Go figure!

A Narrow Escape

It was an incredibly beautiful day, especially for the middle of August. The morning air was almost chilly, and our hero considered it a great blessing, although, as a superhero, extreme temperatures did not bother him. Sweating, sunburn, goosebumps, shivering: all were parts of his cover identity and necessary to preserve his image as a mere human. Fortunately his amazing memory meant that he never forgot to play along, putting on sunscreen and dressing appropriately to avoid raising potentially embarrassing questions.

He dressed for church with his usual care, and enjoyed a wonderful service. Everyone was happy to see him. No one suspected his secret. And, to be fair, it must be noted that he was not particularly in the spotlight today (except for the eHarmony reference in the sermon). No, the emphasis was on the band and their upcoming performance at the Lenawee County Fair. Our hero was certainly looking forward to that, and to his great-nephew’s birthday party.

After church, he called his girlfriend, who was to join him for the afternoon’s events. Apparently she was going to be late; “circumstances” had conspired against her. This was not a surprise to our hero, who knew that his girl was disorganized, but magnanimously put up with her anyway. In fact, in his wisdom, he typically planned extra time whenever he invited her to arrive somewhere. “Someday,” he mused, “she might surprise me and be exactly on time, or even early. Someday . . . nah!” But he took pity on her, knowing her limitations as a mere mortal, and eventually she arrived.

Of course they were late to the birthday party, but it was still a very enjoyable time to spend with friends and family. The hospitality was delightful, the birthday boy was happy, and the weather was still unseasonably pleasant, although the sunshine was becoming very strong. Our hero, relaxed and happy, amused himself by taking photos of the guests using his multi-purpose superhero communicator. His companion gained temporary possession of the device and attempted to manipulate it for her own nefarious goals, but our hero thwarted her by snatching the communicator from her helpless grasp. “She’s no match for me,” he thought, little realizing that even mere mortals can exhibit astonishing strength and ingenuity when they band together with a common purpose.

So the unsuspecting Pudgeman left the party and went to the fair with his girlfriend, anticipating a pleasant evening. Things did not go quite according to his well-planned schedule, but after admiring some exhibits, visiting with friends and family, praying over the band, and having a snack, our hero found himself seated in front of the band shell, surrounded by members of the church community. What a wonderful evening! What a safe and happy environment! The Pudgeman was in his element, ready to praise God and fellowship with his friends. Surely now he could let down his superhero guard a little and act like an ordinary human.

Then it happened: our hero unsuspectingly allowed a friend to look at his communication device. Immediately his girlfriend yelled, “Give it to Jamie! Pass it up to Jamie!” Around the Pudgeman, evidence of a conspiracy arose. Friends and relatives passed the communicator quickly out of his reach and into the hands of his nephew. Our hero’s girlfriend abandoned him and dashed to the front row of seats, where Jamie showed her how to delete undesirable photos from the communicator.

What was the Pudgeman to do? Such perfidy was utterly astounding to him. Regaining his communicator immediately would have been simple enough, were he to use his superpowers, but then his cover would be blown and his secret identity revealed. Better to continue the charade and act like a mere mortal man who had been outmaneuvered, surprised, whose will had been thwarted. Better to pout and look seriously annoyed. It would fool everyone, wouldn’t it? Yes, anything was better than revealing to Jamie and Rachel, nay, the entire audience, that the sleek-looking communicator was actually a Reciprocating Anodized Zirthonium Resonator with an explosive capacity far superior to anything developed on earth. If only our hero’s girlfriend didn’t enter the detonation sequence by mistake! What buttons was she pressing? The Pudgeman couldn’t see (without using his superpowers) from where he was seated . . .

But there was no detonation. The rumor quickly arose that our hero was very angry indeed. His subterfuge had been successful! The Pudgeman’s girlfriend returned the phone to him, after deleting three photos. At first he continued to pout, but the overwhelming relief of a near-disaster averted by his quick thinking (and totally without resorting to superpowers!) promptly swept away all his negative emotions. He allowed the evening to proceed without interruption, thankful to the bottom of his heart that no damage had been done, and resolved henceforth to be much more careful with his multi-purpose communicator.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Daddy Doesn't Need This Anymore

Loyal Myron Bearss was raised in Shelby, Michigan. He was from a family of five children who, he said, would not have dreamed of squabbling in the car during a drive of any length! Perhaps that was why he was fond of long car (and later, bus) trips. His four daughters didn’t dare squabble much; besides, we were too busy looking out the windows or playing games or reading. Long before the Gameboy, we were never bored in the car. From Pike’s Peak to Stone Mountain to Pensacola to Washington, D.C., we had some wonderful experiences.

Loyal’s passion was teaching. He spent his life as a teacher and administrator, while advancing the cause of phonics education. My oldest sister was the guinea pig for his early phonics experiments. We all learned to read very early and became voracious readers. Years ago, Loyal moved from Jackson, Mississippi, to the small town of Yazoo City and worked at a tiny private school. He spent countless hours working in small groups and one-on-one with struggling readers. At eighty-four years of age, he continued to do what he loved to do: teach.

Yesterday (although it still seems like “earlier today;” I can’t sleep yet) Loyal had a head-on collision with a cattle truck near Vicksburg, Mississippi, and was thrown from his car and killed. (Seatbelts were optional when we were small.) The authorities have said that he was driving on the wrong side of the road and had apparently been weaving around before the accident. The other driver was not hurt, apparently, but a passenger in the truck was taken to the hospital.

My oldest sister had been trying to call Daddy on his cell phone around the time of the accident to set up a lunch date for Saturday. Today my sons and I were to have flown to Memphis, and Saturday we planned to spend time with him. But he doesn’t need the gifts I purchased for him. We’ll have to wait to spend time with him. The cell phone made a noise my sister had never heard before.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What a lovely breeze!

The groceries were almost put away, and the dishes were almost all in the dishwasher, but several things remained to be done in the kitchen. The breeze from the window rustled a plastic bag (half-full of sweet potatoes) on the counter.

After a few moments, it became apparent that the bag wasn’t moving to the breeze . . . or to the air from the ceiling fan. It was simply making too much noise. But it couldn’t be the dog or the cats . . . oh dear! A long and slender shape was agitating the bag, apparently trying to find a comfortable place to hide. A glance to the left at the open hatch on top of the aquarium confirmed it: Tina the garter snake had escaped and taken refuge in the sweet-potato bag.

Now, although the snake is the responsibility of the younger son, of course the whole situation is Mom’s fault for allowing the creature in the house in the first place. Once any living thing gets into your house, there is a chance that it will show up in some undesirable location. In the same way, if we allow something into our lives that doesn’t belong there, sooner or later it may show up where we least expect (or desire!) it. “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 KJV

She Maketh Conversation, but He Planneth a Meeting

And it came to pass on the next day, Saturday the fourth day of February, that the woman prepared for the banquet, and clothed herself in fine raiment, and her firstborn son also clothed himself in fine raiment. And the woman spake unto the soldier before departing for the banquet, and he desired her to call him when she returned. And the woman and her son departed for the banquet, and it was snowing very heavily. And at the banquet, the students and staff amused themselves thoroughly, and made many photographs; moreover the woman asked scriptural questions of the learned man.

Now it came to pass when the banquet was finished, that all departed, and the woman and her son departed also. And it snowed heavily, and there was much snow already on the ground, so that it was very difficult to travel. And the woman and her son arrived safely at their dwelling, and they were very thankful. Furthermore the woman called the soldier as he had requested, and spake with him, and was pleased that he seemed concerned about her safety. Moreover the woman gave the scriptural answers from the learned man, and there was much discussion. And the two spake on the morrow also, and on the following day, Monday the sixth of February, after the woman returned to her dwelling from school.

Now it came to pass that Doug also spake by email to the woman who dwelt not far away from him, and the two had much in common. And both of them worshipped the Lord Jesus, and valued family and friends, and loved sports and music; moreover the woman’s photograph shewed that she was comely and fair to look upon. Doug therefore desired to meet the woman, and on Monday the sixth day of February, he sent unto her a message desiring her to meet with him. And the woman was surprised, for little time had passed since the two first began to speak by email, but she replied, and agreed to meet with him, and a meeting was arranged for Thursday, the ninth day of February. And Doug continued to speak with other women by email, and more matches were sent unto him by his computer, but he looked forward to meeting the woman with whom he had much in common. And the woman’s name was Sue.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Plot Thickens

And it came to pass upon the next day, the first day of February, that the woman spake with the soldier again and learned more of him. And he spake of his parents with love, and he had respect unto them, and this pleased her, and she liked well to hear of his boyhood and upbringing. And he spake also of his life in the military, and his time in far-off lands, and she liked well to hear of that. And the soldier was interested in history, and knew much, and the two of them discussed politics also, and the woman learned much, for he knew more than she. And when the soldier asked for the woman’s telephone number, she gave it, and they spake thus on the following evening also.

Now it came to pass on the third of February (which was a Friday), that the woman talked with the man much longer than usual, for on the following morning she needed not to arise early. And the two discussed the scriptures, and argued, because on this subject she knew more than he. And while they spake, she searched the scriptures for answers to his questions, but some answers she found not. And she determined to ask a learned man on the morrow, for in the evening was a banquet, and the learned man would attend.

And it came to pass that as the woman was busy in the evenings talking with the retired soldier, and exchanging an occasional message on the internet, Doug labored hard to communicate with all the women who responded to his messages. For he had sent unto each one of them a first set of questions, as was the custom upon e harmony, and they replied unto him, and sent him questions. And from their replies he learned something about them, and next sent must-haves and can’t-stands, as was the custom upon e harmony. And he learned yet more about the women, and he received more matches upon his computer, and sent messages also unto them. Now a few of the women fell by the way side, and ceased to communicate with him, but most continued. And on the third day of February, Doug sent a message to a woman who lived in a city not far away from him. And the woman answered him promptly, and the two exchanged must-haves and can’t-stands, and sent each other more questions, and answered them, as was the custom upon e harmony. And on the fourth day of February, the two of them were in open communication and sending email messages freely unto one another.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Don't Vote: Help with Homework

And it came to pass that the woman met Doug for lunch and made the grave error of reviewing the numerical baseball information that she had learned. Now when she was with Doug, the woman from time to time received much baseball information, but it often washed over her as the waves rolling in to shore, and only an occasional treasure of knowledge remained on the beach (metaphorically speaking). And the woman had struggled mightily to remember the jersey numbers of the Babe, Al Kaline, the Pudge, Mantle, and Sparky Anderson (who presented a much greater challenge, for he had two numbers, one which was retired by the Reds in 2005, and one which he had with the Tigers). And when Doug heard what she knew, he said, “Now give I unto thee a homework assignment: discover, if thou canst, what were my two favorite numbers to wear; the one which I wore in high school, and the other which I wore for the Tecumseh Church of Christ. Thou canst not find this information online, so thou must do research, but I will tell thee that both are double-digit numbers.” And the woman’s heart quailed within her when she heard it, and she determined to go upon her blog, and beg for assistance. Therefore doth she now humbly beseech thee, gentle reader: if thou knowest aught of Doug’s jersey numbers, reveal it unto her in the comments.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sign Here

You've probably seen many of these church signs before; do you have any more good ones to share?

"Exposure to the Son may prevent burning."
"The best vitamin for a Christian is B1."
"Under same management for over 2000 years."
"Soul food served here."
"Tithe if you love Jesus! Anyone can honk!"
"Beat the Christmas rush, come to church this Sunday!"
"Don't wait for the hearse to take you to church."
"Don't give up. Moses was once a basket case."
"Wal-Mart isn't the only saving place!"
"Prevent truth decay. Brush up on your Bible."
"It's hard to stumble when you're down on your knees."
"What part of 'THOU SHALT NOT' don't you understand?"
"A clear conscience makes a soft pillow."
"Never give the devil a ride. He will always want to drive."
"Can't sleep? Try counting your blessings."
"Forbidden fruit creates many jams."
"Christians, keep the faith -- but not from others!"
"Satan subtracts and divides. God adds and multiplies."
"If you don't want to reap the fruits of sin, stay out of the devil's orchard."
"To belittle is to be little."
"Don't let the littleness in others bring out the littleness in you."
"God answers knee mail."
"Life has many choices. Eternity has two. What's yours?"
"Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due."
"The wages of sin is death. Repent before payday."
"Try Jesus. If you don't like Him, the devil will always take you back."
"Our church is 'prayer-conditioned'."

Vote If You Feel Like It . . . Metaphorically Speaking

Now it came to pass that the woman went upon Doug’s blog, and found that he wrote of baseball stadiums. And the woman remembered the first baseball game she had ever seen, when Doug had taken her to Comerica Park not many weeks before, and had taught her many things about baseball from his great wisdom and understanding. Therefore the woman commented on Doug’s blog, and reminded him of it. And Doug asked her a simple question, and she answered it, and he asked her another question, which she also answered. Then the woman left off blogging for a time, but Doug asked her yet another question, which she saw not. And Doug telephoned unto the woman, and they spoke, and he asked her if she knew the answer to his last question, which was, “What is Al Kaline’s number?” And the woman knew not the answer, and had not time to search for it on the internet while conversing with Doug, therefore she admitted that she knew it not. And when Doug heard that she knew it not, he answered and said,
(a) “Thou wast with me all day Saturday, while I wore my Al Kaline jersey, and dost thou not remember his number? Didst thou pay no attention to me at all?”
(b) “If thou knowest not the number of my favorite baseball player, then thou lovest me not at all.”
(c) “How canst thou remember the year of the designated hitter rule, and not remember Al Kaline’s number?”
(d) Write thine own answer, what thou thinkest that Doug hath said.

Enter the Villain

And it came to pass that on the thirty-first day of January, the woman said to herself, “Now have I called twice unto the soldier, and he hath not answered his telephone, although he hath earnestly desired to speak with me. I cannot give him my number, therefore shall I call yet one more time, and if he answer not, then are we not meant to speak with one another.” And the woman arose, and dialed the number, and lo! the soldier answered.

Now the woman was surprised, for she expected him not to answer, and knew not at first what to say. And when the soldier knew who it was that spake with him, he began immediately to tease and provoke her for having left him messages with no telephone number. And the woman laughed, and was immediately at ease, and the two of them conversed for more than an hour. And the soldier’s voice was pleasing unto the woman, and he asked no rude questions, and his conversation was interesting, and his southern accent was charming. Therefore when the man desired to speak with her again upon the morrow, she agreed, and a time was set for the conversation.

And the woman called her sisters, and said, “Now have I spoken with someone whose voice is pleasing and whose conversation is interesting, and he asketh no rude questions; moreover he hath a very attractive accent.” And her sisters were pleased, and said, “Amuse thyself, but be cautious.” And the woman looked forward to the morrow.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Who's in the details?

It has been said that “the devil is in the details.” When I troubled to think about this statement, I believed it meant that we may not be able to keep track of little nit-picky details in our lives, and that these details may cause us to mess up and stumble. Now if such a statement is true, it probably applies to disorganized people, therefore it doubtless applies to me. However, if even a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without the Father knowing, and even the hairs of our heads are all numbered (the gray ones along with the dark! :), then God is in complete control of all the details.

Yesterday, my younger son needed to be at a party at 10:00 a.m. Twenty minutes or so before we were to leave, he reminded me that we needed a present, because the party was a birthday party. “What?” I cried. “A birthday party? Let me see that invitation!” Of course I had not even glanced at the cover when we received it, only at the inside where the date and time were to be found. Let’s see, Excuse # 14 should apply here: We received the invitation during the last week of school, and things were just too hectic.

Excuses notwithstanding, we now have a problem. Hopefully Toys R Us will be able to help us solve this problem, and we have just time to get there and back and still make it to the party. It may be important to be exactly on time, because the brave birthday mother is taking the boys to the beach.

After driving to the store and keeping the speed limit most of the time, we discover, to our chagrin, that Toys R Us cannot help us: it does not open until 10:00 a.m. Now we have a choice: we can go to the party right now, presentless, and I can pick up a gift card and bring it when I collect my son, or we can go somewhere else, get a present, and be late. We agree to go to Meijer and find a present, for we are certainly not going to present ourselves, presentless, at the party.

Could not some of the uncertainty have been removed from this situation very easily by the power of the cell phone, now that I have one? Ah, but with any phone, one still needs the number to be called, and when I dashed out, I left the invitation at home.

We agree that at Meijer, my son will choose the present while I choose the card. I turn him loose in the toy aisles, after we verify their location (the store is under construction). I go in search of a birthday card and quickly find the perfect Sponge Bob specimen, grab an essential item or two, and return to look for the present-hunter. We encounter each other in the toy aisles, and he begins to tell me of his success, when suddenly someone says, “Hey!”

Two construction workers have passed us, and one has spoken to me. It turns out to be someone I knew at my old church and have not seen for seven years or so. We have a (necessarily brief) chat, and he gives me his card so that I can renew contact with his wife. Coincidence? I don’t think so. But we are now very late.

We choose a promising checkout aisle, which for some reason moves much more slowly than usual. Then it stops moving altogether. The computer has locked up, and we must move to a neighboring aisle. We are going to be very late indeed. Suddenly I remember: what about wrapping paper or a gift bag? We must either get it here or go home for it. Since the line is delayed, can my son go and find what we need and return in time? He can and he does, although he is miffed at me for not describing the location of the gift bags with more precision.

Finally we can make our way to the car. While I drive, my son signs the card and picks the price tags off the gifts. We arrange Meijer bags over them in lieu of colorful tissue paper. Now if I can just remember the street where I should turn . . . .

We turn too soon and realize our mistake. It is nearly 10:30, and we have no idea what we will find as we turn on the right street and approach the house. Can it be? Yes, there is an SUV in front of the house and a couple of boys are running around. Have they truly not yet left?

The birthday boy’s mother explains to me what has happened. They left for the beach at 10:00, but someone forgot something, and they had to return. Now my son (and another boy who also arrived late) can go with them. In addition, explains the mother, their phone has not been working properly . . . .

So Who’s in the details?

Thou desirest to know WHAT?

Now it was the twenty-second day of January when the woman spake with that man whose voice she liked not, and afterward she wrote no more unto him. And two men of her age had been writing unto her, and desired her to call. And one lived in the same place as the man with whom she had just spoken, and was in the same type of business, and was tall and dark-haired. And the other lived much further away, and was a retired soldier, and was short, slender, and blond. Now the woman had always preferred the appearance of dark men rather than blond, and tall rather than short, and robust rather than slender. Nevertheless she said to herself, “Now doest thou not well to judge by appearance; thou hast always said that appearance mattereth little, and that the inner person is of greatest importance. Moreover, thou hast recently discovered that a tall, handsome man who writeth well is completely unacceptable unto thee because of his voice; thou canst not therefore judge anything by appearance or by writing ability. For these two men write not much, but the short one especially hath a sense of humor that hath intrigued thee. Therefore on the weekend thou shalt call.”

And the weekend came, and the woman did procrastinate, and called not on Friday. And Saturday came, and the woman avoided the telephone, and did not call. And Sunday came, and it was evening, and the woman gathered her courage, and dialed the soldier’s number. And lo! the man answered not, yet did his voice mail answer, and the woman knew not what to do, for she dared not give her telephone number. And the woman left a message saying that she had called but could not leave her number. And the woman was disappointed because it seemed that she had gathered her courage for naught. And the day was Sunday, the twenty-ninth of January.

And in the evening of the next day, the woman said to herself, “Now shalt thou call again, for the soldier desired most earnestly to speak with thee, and it may be that he hath noted the time that thou hast called, and this evening he shall await thy call.” And the woman called unto him a second time, and again reached his voice mail, and left the same message. And the woman said, “Now that thou hast gathered thy courage, thou shalt call the other man.” And the woman did so, and called the tall, dark man, and he answered.

Now the man and the woman spake for a time, and he asked her many questions, and she asked him a few questions. And it came to pass that the man asked a very rude and personal question, so that the woman could hardly believe her ears. And the woman thought, “Now if it be so, that the thing this man considereth most important about a woman is her body, then I wish to speak with him no longer.” And the woman said naught of this to the man, but after the conversation she wrote no more to him and was very glad that he had neither her number nor her email. And the woman said to herself, “Yet hast thou learned something else important: One brief conversation may be all that is necessary for a jerk to reveal himself.”

And the woman told it unto all three of her sisters, and the first and third sisters were appalled, and said so, but the second sister demanded, “And why hast thou not immediately asked him the corresponding question for a man? How would he have liked that, I wonder?” And the woman knew that she would never even think of asking such a thing, but she appreciated the sympathy, and was glad that she could speak of these things with her sisters.

Enter the Hero

And it came to pass that on the thirtieth day of January, in the south of Michigan, a man named Doug attained the age of twoscore and three. And he said to himself, “I have desired to be no more alone, and have entered my profile upon e harmony, therefore shall I arise, and activate the profile, and see if there are Christian women in the land of Michigan who may wish to date me.” And Doug went upon e harmony, and began his membership, but his computer brought no matches unto him that day. And it came to pass upon the next day, which was the last day of January, that Doug's computer brought no matches unto him, and his countenance was sad. Yet on the following day, which was the first day of February, Doug went upon e harmony, and found that he had more than a score of matches, therefore read he about these women, and sent messages unto 18 of them.