Monday, September 19, 2016

Dallas Sunset

Dallas [ish] Sunset
I turned the blinds in the bedroom for more light. Was looking for something after a long day. Sunset flooded in. 
The further I get from my formative years the more I treasure them. This sunset reminds me of Dallas. These days Dallas is for me where IBM runs a computer we use, where my brother-in-law and his wife live, where several friends are. But it's no longer home. 
Dallas sunsets when I was in high school were warm. Climaticly, sure, but I mean figuratively. They heralded closure for the day without diminishing hope for tomorrow. 
I opened the blinds even further to let this particular sunset bathe the far wall. it felt good to take advantage of this end-of-day show God has provided, to drink in every ray of it. 
On the dresser, we have pictures of the kids when they were very young. The light shown on a photo of my son. My daughter's picture is there too. 
And then it angles down (or up, depending on your stance) and the sun drops below the horizon, looping around for another day. It's only 7:30! I was supposed to cut the grass. Shucks. 
click FF on the remote, time goes by
That was a week ago already. I left this in "Drafts". (Gotta quit doing that!) 
Certain recent news from Dallas reminds me to take advantage of these cycles. Each sunet in this life is followed by a sunrise, and that means a do-over. If the day was good, take note and rejoice. If it wasn't so good, just start over. God has given you an allotment of these do-overs. Use them well. 
I finally got the grass cut. 
-- R; <><

Sunday, September 4, 2016

one small step for a man

one small step for a man

Sometimes one small misstep can cascade into profound angst. Sometimes the day starts out great and then you literally wish you could turn back time and change one little thing.

By the way, Neil Armstrong famously said "for a man", but there was static on the transmission so we don’t remember it that way. Other than that, a lot of things went right on that day, including some software most people know nothing about. It's the small things that go right that get so little notice.

But for me, God why?
Why do these missteps continue to get center stage?
Dear Lord, please help. We're on this foreign soil on a mission. Please bring us home soon.

-- R: <><

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Extemporaneous Eulogy

Extemporaneous Eulogy

I started this journal entry October 18 while driving back from the funeral. Had to put it aside, and then got swamped. (mostly work stuff)

We said goodbye to Mom that Saturday (the 17th). It was expected, but sudden. Mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's maybe four years ago. The illness proceeded slowly, but then seemed to speed up this past April or May. At the end, her heart gave out. That's what made it sudden.

Hospice advised Dad to solicit prepared comments from friends and family, and he did. There were a dozen brief letters and all were read with tears, some by those who wrote them. (Those who were able to attend.) My sister and I were last up. I didn't write my comments word-for-word, but did have notes. So I called it an "extemporaneous eulogy". 

From my notes and from memory:

I woke up that morning thinking about things parents give their children which the children cannot repay. On balance, there are things children give their parents which the parents cannot repay.

I in working up what I would say, the following points came to mind:
  + closure
  + resurrection
  + reward
  + legacy


She's done. She can now not fail.
Hebrews ch 11 has the Faith Hall of Fame. Then in 12:1 it admonishes us to, "run with endurance the race that is set before us".

Mom loved the Lord more than anyone I know. And she loved us without reservation. I spoke with her briefly Tuesday night just before she passed. She was having a rough evening and all she could muster was "love ya, love ya, love ya". I replied with the same "love ya, love ya, love ya".
Those were our last words in this life.


I Thesalonians 4:16 says, "the dead in Christ shall rise first".
At the service, I told Dad, there before the group, "When the trumpet sounds, if you're still here, she'll get to go first.".


Someone had said Mom "made her world small". I'd say it was more that she chose her focus. She put her energy into knowing the Lord plain and simple.

Consider Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus. All three were close friends of Jesus. At one time, there was a gathering at their house; Martha was handling preparations but Mary was just sitting there listening to Jesus. She was just hangin out. Martha complained,"Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.". But Jesus said, "Martha, Martha,you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:42)

So ... Mom chose the better part, hangin out with Jesus, and it won't be taken from her.
Well done.


The best we do in life is leave a legacy.

I spoke with Barbara Hantel (cousin) the night before the funeral. Mom's passing hit Barbara particularly hard. She told me, "You know, she wasn't always a goodie two-shoes.", and then shared a glimpse from their childhood. Barbara would be at Helene's house and Helene would say, "Come on, let's go see Grammy.", and then
proceed to work the latch using a broom handle.
Mischief like that makes a treasured memory.

Her impact on my own life is profound and eternal. She and Dad came to Christ in their 30s. Naturally, they wanted my sister and me to have the same saving faith. One thing to that end was a weekly Bible club held at the home of Larry and Carol Graham. Being the pre-teen with attitude that I was, I didn't want to go. One Friday I was giving Mom a hard time about it.

"You don't have to accept Jesus Christ,
but you will understand. Now get in the car!"

I went, heard, believed, and was saved and changed. I can't in any way pay that back nor even return the favor. I can, however, pay it forward by getting the Gospel to my friends and family, even when they don't want to hear it. In other words "not shrink from declaring". (Acts 20:20)

Trying to finish this, the emotions return.
As I type, it's just past midnight, so it's already December 1st.
Where does time go?

looking back

It's interesting to see God's hand in all this.

My boss offered to take me from contract to permanent. That went into effect the week before Mom's passing. That meant that I was not dinged for the time off.

The kids had no classes on Thursday or Friday the week of the funeral, the exact two days we needed.

I had gone to Chicago to train new recruits at a business partner and stopped overnight in South Bend. Saw Mom. (And Dad, of course.) She was "with it" that day and knew me and introduced me, "This is our son.".

We had some good time with Mom and Dad this past summer. At first I was angry (at the disease). She was usually all there, but more frequently disconnecting (always brief). But I resolved to treasure what time we had.

The four of us went to South Bend, partly to help prep the house for sale. Marilyn stayed an extra 10 days and helped with arranging care. Then she drove them to Grove City while Scott and Diane moved furniture into the new apartment.

Aunt Carolyn (sister) visited them in September. I got to see her and also spend the night at Mom's and Dad's apartment.

There were countless other things, most I don't even know. We are blessed.

Then came October. We gathered again in South Bend. At the end of the day, I hugged Dad. He said, "Today was a good day."
We are blessed: sad, but thankful.

Other than the funeral, I did not yet publicly say goodbye. So that's the purpose of this post. Mom consistently ended a visit with, "Here, there, or in the air!". Since she's done with the "here" venue, I'll quote what I heard from a 1970s Christian comedy troupe, "See ya there, or in the air!". 

-- R; <><

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Real Meaning of Hate

The Real Meaning of Hate

Today is June 26, 2015. The news is all abuzz about a SCOTUS decision. Many of my friends (that are verbalizing an opinion) are sad. Others (of my friends, and the rest of the world) are elated.

I'm a very emotional person. When I was younger, I threw fits, not knowing what to do with the feelings. As an adult, it's not easy to control the responses, but that's what it means to be an adult. Today I really wanted to break something. But I didn't.

I don't have many friends who are homosexual, but I really care about those who are. They probably don't know that I care. They probably don't know that their lifestyle causes me pain. I do not hate them.


Angry? Yes. Hell yes. I felt like throwing something.
Hate? Sure, of the actions, which *do* have an impact on me. (Though they deny it.) But not of the individuals. I've made wrong choices too. I'm a sinner too. I don't hate them.

I'm a very unstructured person, but I have come to value structure. I used to say, of programming, that it should be "like breathing": The best coding decisions should be intuitively obvious. The best programs should arise from the software development culture. I butted heads with a Project Management person who became a mentor. Eventually I realized that not all right decisions are obvious, not all right choices are intuitive, and my PM friend simply wanted to document "the right way". Then later generations of programmers could come along and get it right ... or not, as they chose to read ... or not.


We thrive on it.
It has structure.
We don't always like the constraints.

It's the magical 21st Century. Where are the flying cars? We were supposed to have flying cars! Well ... at least we have self-driving cars.

It's the "progressive" 21st Century. You can do whatever you want. Translation: You can do whatever you feel like doing. And damn those who tell you not to.

It's a lie.
Freedom does not mean you can do whatever you feel like. We're so proud of freedom in the US of A but we've forgotten what it means. We've forgotten what it cost. We've abandoned the culture that spawned it, so over time more and more bits are lost. We lost a lot of freedom today because we discarded a "constraint".


Why would two men (or two women) want to marry?
They're erotically attracted and want to indulge? They already had that.
They want a monogamous relationship? They already had that.
They want a shared household? They already had that.

I found out one thing they want: health benefits. Learned this from a friend whose cousin is a (married) lesbian. The condition of health coverage in this country is miserable. Oh ... wait ... SCOTUS upheld another ACA pillar this week, so that's all good now. But seriously (backing down from the sarcasm) discussing insurance is beyond a simple blog post.

What do they want?
Maybe they want to force the baker to bake them a wedding cake.


I don't hate them. I hate that they hijacked the word "gay".

Wish I had more gay friends.
But wait, I also wish I had more alcoholic friends, more crippled friends, more impoverished friends. I wish I had more friends, gay or straight. But I don't wish for my friends to stay in harmful conditions.

Everything we do has impact on others. Everything.
Lifestyle choices of friends, family, neighbors have an effect. That was true yesterday and it will be true tomorrow. Doesn't mean I'm banging down anyone's door to make sure they behave. But things were less corrosive when alternative lifestyles weren't thrown in my face.

I just wish my friends who are homosexual didn't hate me so much.

-- R; <><

Sunday, April 5, 2015

He is Risen

He is Risen

He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed.

And *this* year, 2015, Easter Sunday falls immediately after Passover. Cool! Love it when that happens.
And Passover consistently falls on the 15th of the month Nisan on the *Hebrew* calendar.

And that's the point: Passover, the curse passing over the redeemed just like the Tenth Plague passed over the Israelites. We are freed from bondage to sin as the Israelites were freed from bondage in Egypt.

Some say that Resurrection Day should always be recognized by the Hebrew calendar rather than by the Greek and Roman calculations more common in Western countries. I agree, if only so that the reality of the Resurrection not be misunderstood.

In my church, we perform water baptism as a public profession of faith. (We're talking immersion, dunking.) To reiterate the meaning, the pastor recites, "Buried with Christ in baptism." [when the dunkee goes down] "Raised with Christ to walk in newness of life." [when they come up]

He is Risen! Amen!

-- R; <><

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Face the Music

Face the Music

Well, actually, just don't skip the music. 

I arrived to church late (not for the first time). No big deal, I thought; I'll just miss the singing, some/most/all. 

This time I had worship foremost in mind. It dawned on me that I was missing the main part of the service. By de-emphasizing the singing I was losing a major part of what I came for that day.

Thankfully, we then sang "Blessed Be The Tie That Binds" after communion, and then "Come and Behold Him" after that. 

I our culture, we've reduced the gathering of Believers to a brief concert combined with a motivational message and some public announcements. That's not how it's supposed to go.

To be sure, the original meeting involved music and message, but also real fellowship and corporate worship. But it wasn't passive. It was involved and connected. This is what we need.

Face it: that music is important. Don't skip it. Engage.

-- R; <><

Monday, September 1, 2014

Attitude is Everything ... NOT

Attitude is Everything ... NOT

I grew up hearing the proverb "attitude is everything". Set your mind toward something and you can make it happen. Keep a cooperative posture and others will be more amenable to you. Even today, I really believe this.

But I got kind of slammed, starting roughly a decade ago. It's not enough to be a nice guy. You gotta make things happen. You can't simply set your mind toward your goal, you have to take steps. You can't simply be agreeable, you have to help with the heavy lifting.

What's wrong with my original thinking? I fell into a habit of feeling bad over failure and expecting that to let me off the hook. To my shock, I encountered greater numbers of people who really don't care how remorseful you are that you let them down: the fact remains ... and their pain is retained. I had an assumption that when turning your focus toward the objective, things would follow automatically, and that's not how it happens. (That's part of it, just not the whole story.)

Be Warmed and Be Filled
God warned us about the emptiness of nice words. In James, it's written, "If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that"?.(ch 2 vv 15, 16) Might as well say, "Don't worry. Be happy!". 

Things don't happen automatically. This is obvious to some readers, and maybe you say "well, duh!!". (There's benefit in how "we" think, so don't write us off. Your turn will come.) People with my personality type don't consistently recognize: steps must be taken. (And some things do happen with little to no effort, but that's for another day and a different journal entry.) 

Reality Bites

To all of this, add the fact of storms and catastrophes. Stuff happens. Wishers like me (and workers like you) get jolted when the rains come down and the floods come up. Even when you're actively taking those steps, it could be three forward and two backward ... or worse. But keep moving. 

Another gem from James: "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (latter half of 2:18) So keep working, trust God, and by all means pray. But don't flounder behind a facade of friendly phrases. Do something! 

Make it So

There are no guarantees. Whether you're the doer or the dreamer, the result could be crap. And if you're like me, part of the pain is that you could get chewed out ... even if you had the right attitude. 

-- R; <><