It’s gotten easier

Here begins the story of a former rule follower.

When my wife and I decided to get married (42 years ago now) one of the spin off issues, right out of the gate was our different spiritual backgrounds. Won’t bore you with all the details, only to say, I decided to defer to her in that department, because she was worth it.

On a practical level, I was just going through the motions.

I hadn’t really given it (the spiritual component of my life) too much thought.

Period.

Until I started to.

I started asking “why?” questions.

The more I read, the more questions. I was like a coon dog on a scent.

I finally had a list of 8 to 10 questions that I needed answers to.

I made an appointment to meet with the guy who was our pastor at the time. Took my questions, along with a few handouts I’d come across along the way. He was a sharp, younger man as I recall, he really listened. By the end of our meeting, I was convinced it was time to move on. The official answers I was given that day just did not add up nor satisfy my intellectual curiosity.

The good thing was, during all of those months and weeks leading up to that meeting, I had been processing out loud. Asking my wife what about this? What about that? So by accident, she too had begun to question some of the fundamental things she had been taught from her youth.

We decided it was time to make some tough choices that we knew might not set well with some of her extended family. But staying where we was not an option.

The fear of what other people think is a snare….it’s called “The fear of man” It is a tough place to live.

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10 years later, I found myself in familiar waters.

(This would have been in the early 1990’s.)

Wife was concerned, even back then, on some of the trends happening in education.

She had heard a program on the radio about home schooling, an interview with Dr Raymond and Dorothy Moore.

My first thought was, no way, no how. That’s just plain crazy talk.

Thing about marriage and parenting is, it’s a joint effort. and over the next while, she continued to read and get more information. She didn’t nag, didn’t talk too much about it, but my lack of support and encouragement, didn’t stop her from doing her own research. It finally came to a head (that whole issue of possibly home schooling our kids) With tears in her eyes, she shared her heart with me. At the end our meeting, we agreed we were not going to just jump because this was not some simple thing. We didn’t know anyone else locally at the time who was doing it. We agreed we would take the next year to learn about it, and then decide.

Looking back, that was one of the best decisions we made while the kids were in the home. Ended up doing it for 9 years. Involved the kids in the decision making process as they got older. I could write a blog post on that season of our life.

Actually I have… here.

Emotionally, those same people pleasing fears were in the air. They were in my head. Especially in the early 1990’s, there were a lot of people who thought we were nuts. We’d stepped off the deep end. We probably thought the earth was flat.

Didn’t matter.

The rule follower in me had already tasted the freedom of making decisions not based on what other people might think, but on what make sense to me intellectually after weighing the information. There are relatives to this day, who probably think we were nuts.

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Got time for one more?

COVID-19 and the plethora of spin off issues and questions.

I like that word plethora. Like how it rolls off my tongue.

I have to be honest.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, I have been intellectually lazy on this one.

Hasn’t meant I haven’t been dealing with stuff, just like the rest of you, because I have. It’s just I’ve not been motivated to learn. So I’ve been quiet.

The vitriol once you step foot in the public square, feels like someone has a wood chipper outside my door. Last thing I want to do is get anywhere close to that sucker.

Then I read something in one of the McGuffey readers I bought for fun last winter… It was an essay on the value of Time and Knowledge

“The…value of mental cultivation is another weighty motive for giving attention to reading. What is it that mainly distinguishes a man from a brute? Knowledge…

Knowledge is power. It is the philosopher’s stone, the true alchemy that turns everything it touches into gold…and opens to us the treasures of the universe…”

Knowledge.

Knowledge is power.

So I have started to peck away at the mass of information on the current virus, the history of viruses, prevention, treatment options, vaccinations, and get a working knowledge of it for myself. My baby sister is an RN, works in a local hospital. She has been a good starting place, and continues to let me ask her hard questions.

This feels familiar. Digging in. Reading, Thinking. Asking hard questions.

I will say this,

Once you step away from the wood chipper, there are some things that just do not add up.

OF Grit and Bone 8/7/2021

Phone rang about 5:40 AM a week ago Friday.

When the phone rings @ 5:40 AM, that’s normally not good.

It wasn’t.

Our neighbor to the west was calling. I could hear panic in her voice.

Doug, can you help me?

D. (her sister) had fallen again.

D lives alone. She is in her 80’s. Sharp as a tack mentally, but her body is falling apart.

This was the 2nd time in a week, I’d gotten a call to ask if I could help with D. A week ago, I built her a couple of ramps so she could maneuver her walker into the bathroom, and a second larger ramp to get out of the house:

Before

After

D is wrestling with the same issue some of you and all of us eventually get to wrestle with if we live long enough. Physically no longer able to live alone yet unwilling to relocate to some type of care facility.

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On a completely different note. I had another successful “walk away bee split” this week. That makes three for three.

What a rush to pop open the hive and see new brood! (Brood are eggs that have been capped)

Capped brood (photo by others)
I was telling my son about the inner workings of a honeybee hive, and how they instinctively sense when there is no queen.

It has not lost it’s magic…. the gentle manipulation and management of honeybees.

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On Wednesday, I made a trip to the University of Iowa hospitals to see a retina specialist. (I had cataract laser surgery and tri-focal implants late February and early March.) Left eye has not been right ever since.

It turns out I have a large blob of normal age related protein that has somehow “folded in on itself” and is floating in the jelly portion of my eye, right in the line of sight. (It moves back and forth, and blocks 1/4 to 1/3 of my vision. There are three options…

#1 Do nothing, it “will probably eventually settle.”

#2 Attempt to blow it to smithereens with a laser.”

#3, “Make some small incisions and scrape all of the jelly out of your eye and replace it with some made made solution.”

Options # 2 and 3 both carry with them a fair amount of risk, and are not guaranteed.

Compared to my friend “D” whose ramp I built a week ago. my quality of life is right @ the top of the scale. Funny how that works. It’s all about perspective.

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Last night our family got together to celebrate my parents 65th wedding anniversary.

65 years!

It seems almost surreal.

We had a house guest live with us back in 2013. Liberal young woman from the East coast. She could not get over how many long term relationships there were in the people she met in our area. We were talking about the 5 serious relationships she’d had up until then, was single again, and wondered if she’d ever find someone else.

Before we left the party last night I attacked by one of my grandchildren: She snuggled and hugged me profusely. It was the highlight of my night. ūüôā

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Thanks for staying in touch. Always enjoy bantering with each and every one of you!

ps We also had a serendipitous visit from a fellow blogger last week. She was traveling from Colorado to Pennsylvania. She spent two nights our B and B suite. It was good to catch up.

You probably already know this, but if @ any time you that I regularly banter with are in our neck of the woods, don’t hesitate to reach out. I get that some of you prefer to keep your identity obscure. I get it. If on the other hand you’re like me, and love to meet your fellow bloggers, we’ll leave the light on.

That sweet spot of Contentment

Contentment.

Ranks right up there with peace of mind. (They are not the same).

Both are life skills that (in my mind) are underrated.

Both can be cultivated.

Underrated: Not rated or valued highly enough. When something great doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves.

Last weekend, a good friend at church said to me. “You are not normal.”

That I already knew.

He meant it as a compliment. ūüôā

I asked him to clarify what he meant, because I wasn’t 100% sure.

He said he can see it in my attitude about “stuff” and money.

I’m not driven. Doesn’t mean I don’t love putting in a hard days work, Didn’t mean I was lazy. Didn’t mean I don’t see the value in saving money for the future, because I do..

Give you an example. Saw this picture last week about vehicles. It captures my attitude about my work truck that I picked up from my dad:

My work truck is simply a tool. A tool for me to do my job. As long as it’s mechanically sound, it doesn’t have to be pretty.

I used to work with a young man on a regular basis who was just getting into construction. At this time, he had 4 or 5 years experience under his belt. I had 35 years. He came to work one morning with an almost new truck. Parked next to my 15 year old Tundra. He told me to watch out, make sure I didn’t scratch anything, not to accidentally bump against it with my tool belt when I got something out of it.

Who would you rather hire to remodel your home?

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Wealth is a tricky thing to keep the right attitude about.

It’s all about balance.

It’s like riding a bike. You can tip over any time.

I can be strapped and worry about money all the time, or rich and worry about it all the time. Afraid I won’t be able to pay my bills or afraid I’m going to loose what I have. Another big contentment stealer is chasing after the mirage of, if I just had____________ then I’ll be happy.

Is it even possible to be content when it comes to wealth and materialism?

Back in 2014, I came across the book Debt Proof Living by Mary Hunt.

(Notice I don’t have a link to that book, you’re smart enough to track it down if you’re interested.) I don’t do this (blogging) for the money.

I do it because I enjoy it. Period.

Hunt’s book completely transformed my attitudes about money.

(I’ve written about this before, so if you’re a long time reader you may remember).

We were ten’s of thousands of dollars in the hole at that point. Financial stress was always in the back ground of my mind. It felt (to use a word picture) like I was piloting a 747 and we were literally 20 feet above the surface of the ocean. The plane was still in the air, and it was moving, BUT the waves were lapping @ my wings.

Hunt wrote about that season in her life, and she was a lot deeper in the hole than we were. Her words gave me hope. More than that, she touched on issues of contentment and how to find that sweet spot of contentment.

That was in the spring of 2014, and I’ve never looked back.

Hunt’s book gave me a game plan.

I made a chart, pinned it on the wall in front of my desk. I drew a picture of an airliner skimming the water…then slowly gaining altitude and speed as different debts were paid, and money was saved for emergencies. Just making that chart gave me hope, even though initially nothing had changed in the short term. We’ve stayed on that trajectory ever since.

Early on, we looked at every detail of our lives, trying to figure out where we could cut. (Health care, heating system in the house, all of the normal things you look, even had the house appraised because we thought we might need to move)

Everything was on the table.

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Enough

It’s not just about money.

It can just as easily apply to how many bee hives are “enough.” (I’ve wrestled with that)

How many laying hens, or number of apple trees to manage or hobby expenses, or (fill in the blank), how much is enough? You know as well as I do, whenever a person focuses on an area of life, it’s real easy for that area to take on a life of it’s own.

Love to hear your thoughts.

DM

You never know

When I got my monthly statement from XYZ lumberyard in February I questioned the balance due. It said I had a credit almost $2,000.00, when I thought, I owed them about $1900.00. I usually have a pretty good idea on who I owe what to, so when I look in the check book, I know now much is really mine. ūüôā

I called and talked to book keeper, just to make sure.

She reassured me, that yes, I had overpaid, everything was correct.

Christmas in February. ūüôā

“Would you mind sending me a check for $1000.00 of that, and keep the rest for credit?”

Couple of days later, I had the refund check.

We were framing walls in a basement, later that week and my phone rang. Didn’t recognize the number so I let it go to voice mail. Turned out it was the secretary at the lumberyard. She was calling me on her personal cell phone. Asked me to call her @ the store, she sounded a little stressed.

I called right back, and she started to apologize . Turned out I was correct. She had accidentally, double credited my account. I did not have a surplus.

She was sick.

I need to mention also, that she had only been working there maybe 4 months.

I said to her “It’s OK. Stuff happens. It was a good thing I hadn’t spent any of it yet.”

So, what is my balance then?” I asked…

You actually owe $54.19.”

When I sat down to pay bills a few days, later, when I wrote the check to XYZ lumberyard, I put a little ūüôā (Smiley face) on the memo area.

Next time I was in to that store, the secretary thanked me again for my response to the whole thing and appreciated the memo.

The next time after that, when I stopped into the lumberyard, the secretary asked me about my last name, “Was I any relation, to so and so?”

Yep”

“Well, so is my dad. She is my dad’s first cousin.”

30 seconds later, we realized her dad and my dad were first cousins.

My grandpa was one of 12 children, and while I knew some of the extended relatives, there are dozens, (my generation) I have no idea about.

My grandpa (Opa‘s) family. He’s in the back row, far left.

My hunch is, the way I responded (or didn’t respond, in this case) to the new secretary @ XYZ lumberyard with the book keeping error, put me on her radar, which in turn opened up a door…

Of Grit and Bone 6/6/2021

Regarding the title, read this first.

Several short stories from the past week.

The centenarian

My wife has a friend Betty who is 106.

One hundred and six!

We stopped to see Betty yesterday for a few minutes. One of her sons and his family were in town, they wanted to see us while they were in town. Betty has spent most of the last year (due to COVID restrictions) sitting alone in her room at a care facility.

This was the first time I’ve seen her in well over a year. She was reminiscing about her days as a teacher. She loved being a teacher. Then she remembered her principal, Sister Lucia. “She was a good principal. Had the biggest laugh. I loved to hear Sister Lucia laugh.”

(Wouldn’t that be a legacy to be remembered by your laughter?)

It made me think.

As Betty was attempting to figure out who was in the room, (there were 6 of us), when she got to me, boy did she light up.

Made me feel like a local hero.

You see, my wife has been the eyes and ears for Betty’s family for the past year. All of Betty’s children live several hours away, all in their 70’s and 80’s. With her loss of hearing and sight, even phone calls have been a challenge. So in order to have something to talk about with Betty, my wife and I often make a list things she can talk to Betty about. (Honey bees, apple trees, harvest tables, baby chickens, wild flowers, starting tomato seeds, etc)

So many of the things they’ve talked about this past year, have involved me in one way or the other.

So there I was, in her room, in the flesh.

I could tell she was trying to find the right words to describe me to her family…“This is the guy who builds tables out of reclaimed barn wood then ships them all over the United States! He has so many interests! He is such an interesting person!

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Roofing

Son and I started another house roof this week. 2600 square feet. Two existing layers that need to come off. 100 square foot of shingle weighs 240 pounds. Doing the math, we will handle close to 4 ton of shingles between the two of us, the next couple of days. Temperatures are in the upper 80’s. Perfect hay bailing weather.

This may sound like one of those “When I grew up, we walked to school, up hill both ways stories”

But I’m going to tell it anyway.

Growing up on a farm in the 1970’s, the weather (hot or cold) was not the big deal it’s made out to be today.

When it was time to make hay, we just did it.

Yes, we listened to the forecast, and might hold off mowing hay if there was rain predicted, but other than that, I had no idea of how hot it was.

“Heat index”… Never heard of it.

These days when the temperatures are in the upper 80’s and 90’s, mentally, I just shift gears.

It’s hay baling weather.

Drink lots of water, wear a hat, If you start to feel woozy/ take a break. Savor the breeze, savor the cloud cover. Just don’t talk to me about how hot it is.

You think this is hot? You ought to be in the haymow.

Nothing more exhilarating than sliding down the hay elevator after stacking a couple of hundred bales of hay.

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Had to put her down

I’ll keep the next story short.

Needs to be told.

We have about 20 chickens. Couple of them I’m especially fond of.

It’s their personalities. The ones that come up to me to say “Hi” when I get home from work. Or they’ll let me pick them up and sit on my lap.

Docile.

And in one case, it was because she was the low chicken on the pecking order. Everybody else bullied her.

Last week I had to put the my favorite chicken down. Wife noticed some blood on her back side. She had been acting a little “off” the past week. Couple of nights when I went to lock them up, she was not in the roost. I had to go find her. That is not normal.

Sure enough, when I went to check her, her back side looked infected. Way beyond the point, of taking her to the vet. I hate watching anything suffer. So I did what any good farmer would do. I put her down. Carried her gently over to an area that I’ve used before to butcher chickens put her in cone and did what I had to do.

This all transpired in just a few minutes. (From the time my wife mentioned seeing blood, to me finding the chicken, then deciding what I needed to do. It was not an act (for me) that I did lightly. But it was the right thing to do.

Then I buried her.

Here’s the thing. We live in such a sanitized culture.

Sometimes life is messy.

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Speaking of messy

Son and family are camping this weekend.

We stopped by their campsite last night for an hour.

At one point, I noticed the15 month old , sitting on the ground, playing on top old campfire spot.

I watched as he sprinkled fine grey ash over his legs.

Did my heart good.

His parents didn’t just rush in and stop him..

His mom said, “Why is he doing that????

I said “I think it is instinctive. Lots of animals do that.

Horses love to roll around in the dust…and chickens too. Ever see a chicken give itself a dust bath?

My take

I’ve been wanting to write something simple¬† on the topics of woke, revisionist history, tearing down statues,¬† how our country is being overrun¬† by a bunch of ______________, (fill in the blank.)

Came across this picture yesterday:

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I did not take physics in high school.¬† Doesn’t mean I don’t have a working knowledge of gravity.¬† ūüėČ

I sensed for a while now,  another  law of physics (metaphorically) at work in my life, and only this morning was I able to identify it.

Newton’s 3rd law : For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Ever since I first read about the Laura Ingals Wilder debacle¬† by the library association, I’ve felt it.¬† An energy¬† bouncing around in my head trying to find expression.

And as my country continues head long on a  mindless rush to throw itself over the cliff,  I find myself moving in the opposite direction.

I saw a clip of a newsman¬† go on a rant, supposedly while on the air, about the Laura Ingals Wilder award.¬† He said what I was thinking, laced with a lot profanities. ¬† As I tried to re- track that clip down, it turned out he’s a comedian from the UK, so it was a spoof.¬† I was tempted to include it here. Most of you are savoy enough with the computer, if you’re curious, you could find it.

Is there a place for profanity?¬† I think on rare occasion there is.¬† I can give you at least 3 examples from the Bible, two where God himself uses a type of profanity to emphasize his anger.¬† First time I came across it, I thought, what the heck?! Didn’t know that was in there!¬† so yea, there is a place for anger, and I think several of the things that are making me angry, should.

 

DM

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Profanity as Wikipedia defines it:¬† Socially offensive language, crude…. It can show a debasement of someone or something, or be considered as an expression of strong feeling towards something

The Door Opens #7

36 years ago, come this July, we picked up, lock, stock and barrel, and headed East,   Gilgal Bible Chapel agreed to let us stay in one of their apartments while I returned to school.

I have been reliving that season in our lives the past several posts. This is the 7th installment.

I knew my dad would struggle with our decision, although he and my mom have never meddled in any of our decisions,¬† (and still don’t).

I wanted to break it to him easy and give him another perspective.

When we got back from our week on the east coast spying out the land, He asked, “Well, what did you decide?”

I’d given it some thought (what to tell¬† him) so I said, “We’ve decided¬† to move to Africa as missionaries.”

Dead silence.

I let the words hang in the air for about 15 seconds, then,¬† “Just kidding.¬† All the details have come together so we are moving to New Jersey for a year.”

(That was SO out of character for me, as his compliant first born).¬† ūüôā

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Shifting gears….

To my regular readers,   Thank you for being so gracious and reading along the last several posts!

I don’t plan¬† to relieve the whole 5 years we lived on the East Coast with you here.¬† Just knowing¬† several of you have been following along has encouraged me to take the time to get this stuff down in print.

I do plan to write one or two more installments  on a few life lessons that were drummed into me while living and working in New Jersey.

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Any of the following interest you?¬† (If I threw in a few short stories.)¬† Just trying to get a feel if any of these would be interesting to anyone but me. ūüôā

 

Addressing issues rather than ignoring them. (house meetings)

Transparency. (Living life w/o a mask)

People pleasing and boundaries.

Balance or (living with margin) for the long haul.

Mentoring.  (A lot like what goes into good parenting)

 

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Take care and have a good week! DM

 

 

 

 

Now What? #5

Picking up where we left off…

We pull into the parking lot of CCEF:

It had been an emotionally exhausting day.

We’d left home early that morning.¬† Flew into Philadelphia, Been accosted by some crazy guy in the terminal. ¬† Drove through the heart of the city (pre-gps/smart phone),¬† and now, finally sat in the parking lot of the school….

As I recall,¬† it was almost closing time. We talked to the receptionist and said Jeff ? knew we might be stopping.¬† He had been the supervising teacher I’d interacted with through the correspondence classes.¬† As we talk with Jeff, when he learned we were planning to find a hotel room, he invites us to follow him home, we were welcome spend the night @ his place.

We accepted.

Next morning we were back @ CCEF talking with Earl Cook. ¬† His area of expertise was children’s counseling. ¬† I can still remember sitting in his office.¬† Earl¬† had a deep voice,¬† and infectious sense of humor.

Earl leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head and asked me to tell him our story.

“What had brought us there?”

I recounted everything I’ve told you over the past few posts, including writing the letters I’d sent ahead to the dozen or so pastors who lived in the area, putting out feelers for a job, etc. ¬† None of those inquiries had generated any leads, which brought us up to the present.

Sitting in his office, trying to figure out what to do next.

Earl looked at us and said,“I have a thought.”¬† There’s a church located in Northern New Jersey, about 2 and 1/2 hours north of here that regularly sends several of their staff for classes.¬† It isn’t¬† your typical church.”¬† (I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that, but would find out soon enough).

He continued, “You and your wife strike me as a couple of free spirit types. You’d fit right in with them.¬† If you want, I would be glad to make a couple of phone calls. If they say OK, you could¬† run up for the day, and spend the night… What do we have to loose?¬† You have a week..”¬† ūüėČ

Few minutes later, we were on the road again.  Heading north to West Milford New Jersey.

When we pulled onto the property of Gilgal Bible Chapel,¬† there were kids running everywhere.¬† Here’s a picture of me just after we pulled into the church parking lot:

Notice the map ūüôā

We were given a tour of the grounds….

Yes, it was a local church.  In addition, they  had apartments for missionaries on furlough.   Were currently housing  a couple of  families from Viet Nam.  They also  ran a large day camp for kids in the summer.

 

View of the gymnasium when you first pull onto the property.

There was a¬† mechanics shop, man made lake…10 acres of “Water shed” property. (Water from this area, would eventually winds up in large reservoirs for Newark I was told.

Here’s a picture of the main house:

The smell of pine trees, was in the air.  We were to find out later, black bear also lived in the area,  not exactly how I envisioned New Jersey when I was sitting back in Iowa.

It was beautiful!

We had been given permission to spend the night in one of the guest rooms, and as it turned out, the next day was the 4th of July. Someone (I can’t remember who any more)¬† suggested if we wanted, we were welcome to come to a church picnic.

The 4th of July, 1985 we went to  the home of Gay and Pat Brandeal.  Pat was a general contractor, and Gay a teacher.  There were  25 to 30 people at the picnic.

I remember visiting with Dorothy, Dorothy Gunther…¬† As she and I sat in our¬† lawn chairs, she asked about us.¬† I told her we were on a mini vacation, thinking about moving East to attend CCEF, if the details could be worked out.

She looked at me, “Well, my son Mark has a construction business.¬† If you do decide to move, you could work for him.¬† I know he would hire you…”

That night after the¬† picnic, wife and I were sitting in the guest room.¬† I¬† picked up a bible and reread the account of what happened after the nation of Israel had wandered around in the Wilderness for 40 years. (Remember in my last post, 10 of the 12 spies had said, they didn’t think they should go¬† into the land that the God of Abraham had said he wanted to take them into.¬† They were afraid.

They spent the next 40 years wandering in circles until all the adults of that generation had died off.

All except for the two who had been willing to go in…Joshua and Caleb

So now, 40 years later, the nation of Israel crosses the Jordan River and enters “the Promised Land.”

(You can read it yourself in the book of Joshua chapter 4).

Joshua chapter 4 verse19 “On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20¬†And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21

As I read the account, the name Gilgal jumped off the page.

At this point, I remember feeling overwhelmed with emotion.  The name Gilgal had never registered  before that day.

There I was sitting¬† in the guest room of a church called Gilgal Bible Chapel , with a possible job offer…

to be continued…

 

Why (Second in a mini series)

The Winter of 1984, construction slowed down as it often would, so I enrolled in a correspondence class¬† on¬† marriage and family¬† counseling through CCEF.¬† (This was way before on line classes. ūüôā )

We were renting a house just behind the County Care Facility at the time.  (see picture below).

The County Home as it was called locally, housed the young, the old,  the physically and mentally disabled, those struggling with alcohol addiction, etc.  It was a safety net for people who might otherwise have no where else to turn.

Our two girls, both toddlers at the time, would go with their mom over to the kitchen window of the care facility  and visit  the cooks.   The kitchen was in the basement, and Sandy, or  Lori, (the cooks)  would hand them a cookie through the window.

County home

We lived in that little house 3 and 1/2 years. Got to know many of the residents on a first name basis.¬† Hap Steiner, Don Kibermeyer, Freddie, Melvin,¬† Jerry…and Dan.

Dan was just a couple of years older than myself.¬† At the time I had no idea why someone like him would be living at the County home.¬†¬†¬† He wasn’t retarded, nor physically disabled.

Dan and I got together every Monday night after I got home from work for two years.  He and I would sit at our kitchen table while I mostly listened to him.  I secretly had this hunch that if we talked through some of his life issues long enough, he could be set free from whatever in the world it was that had him living here in this care facility, and then he could go on to enjoy a normal life.

That day never came.

I do know Dan consumed  an awful lot of my Nestles Quick chocolate milk as we sat at the table.

Then there was a second person in our life at the time who was also a mystery. Her name was Jodi.¬† She was in her late 20’s.¬† Walked with a slight limp, slightly overweight.¬† I think maybe she had a mild case of Cerebral Palsy¬† She lived just a couple of miles from our place with her mother.¬† She too struggled with an assortment of mental and physical issues and at certain times would lapse into this sing-songy voice when talking.¬†¬† Her struggles (it seemed to me) were more in the realm of negative thought patterns.¬†¬† I had a hunch maybe she’d been bullied as a young girl.¬†¬†¬† Jodi would stop by randomly for a visit, and sometimes we’d go to her moms.

There is one more piece of this story I need to tell you, otherwise I’m going to keep tippy-toeing around it, and it will drive me bonkers.

I am not a religious person.

Never was.

If that is your thing and it helps you navigate life, more power to you. No disrespect intended when I say that.

But I was experiencing a spiritual stirring in my life that wasn’t always in play.

Shortly before we were to be married, we were required to attend a pre-marriage workshop through the local church my wife attended.  Workshops on everything from communication skills, insurance,  money management, etc.

There was one guy that got my attention that afternoon.¬† He did not look like a “church guy”¬† He looked more like a college football coach or a construction worker.¬†¬†¬† He looked at this auditorium full of young couples in love and said he was going to give it to us straight.

He said,¬†¬† “If you want your marriage to have a chance in this day and age, when one out of two end in divorce, then Jesus Christ, needs to be in the center of your relationship, the cement in your marriage.”

I had not idea what that meant practically speaking but as someone who was pouring a lot of cement at the time, that word picture really resonated with me . It left me wanting to know more.  The best way I can put it, is a  year and 1/2 later,  the lights came on spiritually.

The more I grew spiritually, the more I wanted to know…

What would it take to help someone like a Jodi or Dan, both of whom seemed obviously stuck?

I finished my first class through the mail and wanted more.

To be continued….