Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

9 out of 10

Nine out of 10 readers of this blog are of Mensa intelligence.  Since you are now reading this blog, you want to believe this statistic, and are willing to accept it.  Of course, I made it up out of my own fertile imagination.  It is possible that I have taken a scientific survey.  I tested 10 of my friends and found 9 of them to be so intelligent.  But, alas, I didn't even do that.  I just flat out lied.  We all know that old hack, figures don't lie, but liars can figure.

If I told you that 9 out of 10 statistics are drawn out of thin air, you might be willing to accept that because of your own experience with alleged and suspicious published statistics.  But that would simply be praying on your unfortunate anecdotal evidence.  But anecdotal is no more scientific than my fertile imagination or polemical guesswork.

I remember reading that coliform bacterium can travel through 12 sheets of toilet paper in 4 seconds.  I suspect that this is one of those phony statistics, but it's graphic image has improved my sanitary habits by a large degree.

I guess it all goes back to the truism that we tend to believe what we want to believe.  Isn't there any source of statistics that we can trust?

Even scientific statistics are subject to our skeptical scrutiny.  We were told of the danger of eating butter with all the fat content.  Now they are saying that margarine is worse for us than the butter.  We learned that artificial sweeteners are a must because of the dangers of too much sugar.  Then a study came out to show us that artificial sweeteners create formaldehyde on the brain.  We get the idea that these scientific studies draw conclusions most complimentary to the interests that are funding the study.

We seem to do best by listening to someone who really knows, and taking it on his authority.  It's good to have a PhD chemist or engineer as a friend.  He may have read both studies and can explain how there is partial truth in each camp.  He may be able to read between the lines of esoteric phraseology and tell you what the study report really means.  It's nice to hear from someone who really knows.

When you find yourself stuck in the middle of a mine field, it would be a good thing to know who drew up the map you decide to use.

And, of course, that brings me to our Lord, Jesus Christ.  He didn't have an engineering degree, but He knows.  And He is the one who said, "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but by me."  He also said, "Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in Him who sent me has eternal life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death into life." (John 5:24)

You ask me, "What are his credentials?  Why should we believe him?"  That's a fair question.  The short answer is: because he came out of the grave to prove it.  Jesus predicted His death by crucifixion and his resurrection 3 days later.  Then those who were eye witnesses gave us their dossiers.  You find them in the first four books of the New Testament.  Don't scoff until you read them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Let's hear it for cloth diapers!

Progress always leaves a wake of nostalgia.  This post is a ripple in that wake.  Undoubtedly paper diapers are a wonderful invention, I applaud the advantages of this bit of progress.  But there is a whimper of nostalgia I need to raise for the old cloth diapers, lest they be completely forgotten by a culture that fails to appreciate it's history.

Some kind person (or church group) gave us a month's subscription to a diaper service.  Now the invention of paper diapers has destroyed an entire industry.  The delivery driver would pick up our bag of nasty diapers, and leave us with a neat stack of folded, sanitized fresh diapers.  This replaced a disgusting chore that we soon intimately experienced because we couldn't afford to continue the subscription.  Now just think of the several small business entrepreneurs who have been frustrated or bankrupted in the crisis of change.  No self respecting Republican can be proud of that record.

Cloth diapers were soft and cuddly for baby's chubby little buns.  We learned to fold them in effective triangles that covered the vital areas with maximum comfort to junior.  We learned to pin them with one hand in the diaper between the cloth and baby's skin for obvious reasons.  An experienced mom (or dad) could quickly change these diapers without sticking herself (or himself).  Part of that experience was to construe the contour of the installed diaper so as to keep it from falling from these little hips.  Such costume malfunctions were embarrassing at least, and sometimes disastrous.

Oh yes, diaper pins are now antiques I suppose.  I can't remember the last one I saw.  These were safety pins with plastic heads that were about 2 inches long.  Sometimes the heavy cloth resisted easy piercing, so we learned the trick of dragging the pin through our hair to apply just enough grease to run the pin through the diaper most smoothly.  I'll bet there are few, if any, reading this blog who remember that little trick.

A serendipity development was the discovery that cloth diapers make wonderful dust cloths.  They were also wonderful clean up rags for spilled milk and other liquids.  After all isn't that what they were manufactured to do?

In cold climates one can determine that diapers on the clothesline were dry when they freely flapped in the breeze.  Before this they would swing stiffly back and forth like a board in the frosty air.

Of course when junior did his thing in these diapers it would drip on the floor.  You would get wet, your furniture would get wet or your company (who insisted on holding baby) would get wet.  And, of course, this was not just water.  We then invented plastic pants to cover diapers, with elastic waist and leg openings to hold the urine inside.  This gave way to concentrated ammonia and diaper rash which hit us in epidemic proportions.

And so it became necessary to invent paper diapers.  Well, I'm sure this was progress, but it still leaves a little wake of nostalgia ripples.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Big eight oh!

Okay, last year I ragged on why my 79th birthday was a big nothing.  It was no round number.  No one aspires to be 79.  It's never recognized as a remarkable milestone.

But now I'm 80.  That number is round.  It's a milestone: "You have reached 80."

Poo!

As I thought about this blog my mind could not stop thinking of Moses.  When he reached 80 God was just now ready to use him to deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt.  One big difference "His vigor was not abated" (Deuteronomy 34:7).

Our forebears left us with some quaint expressions.  For example, when one is an old duck, the Presbytery calls him one of the "fathers" of the church.  That doesn't mean that he has begotten a whole congregation.  It means he has become one of the elite wise men of the body.  Now that scares the liver out of me.  The idea that any of these sharp, intelligent young men now in our Presbytery might look to me for wisdom is absolutely terrifying.  Wisdom is not a matter of chronology.  The longer experience I've had only means that I have learned how many blunders can be made in one lifetime.

There are things I can get away with now that I couldn't as a younger man.  I can be crotchety, and people take it in stride.  "Oh don't mind that insult.  The man is 80 years old."

I can opt out of activity because it is nap time.  "I can't possibly go to that committee meeting.  I have a previous engagement."

When someone else is driving, he tends to drop me off at the destination and then find a parking place.  When I'm looking for a parking place I find a blue wheel chair symbol near the front door.  We have a handicap license.

Would you believe that the Presbytery actually sang "Happy Birthday" to me during the recent meeting? I groaned inside and thought we have more important business than this.  But as they started to sing, I realized how much better any song sounds when this group of 40 plus men belt it out.

On the actual day (Oct 21) I was dumbfounded to see my dearest friend in this world (other than my sweet wife) who came 3,000 miles just to be with me on this occasion.

Okay, now the celebration is over (hey, I still have a free meal at Hoff's Hut to redeem!) I can get back to shuffling along to the tune of the loving kindness of my Father in heaven.  Now that is sweet.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Old Cars

I told you about my first car.  It was a "Crosley".  They also make home appliances and stuff like that.  The car they made was quite like a shipping box with a sewing machine engine.  We had many adventures in this tinny machine, but I have reported these in old blogs.

I learned to drive on my dad's '39 Mercury.  It was a black 4 door sedan.  In those days we had windows you rolled down with a hand crank.  In fact that was how you could turn on the air conditioning.  It was crude, but effective.  There were obvious disadvantages noticed when driving past a stock yard or through a dust storm.  But we were young and rugged in those days.

May Company was closed on Sundays back then, and that made for a great student driver venue in the parking lot.  One day I froze with my foot on the accelerator instead of the brake.  My dad grabbed the wheel and thus we avoided wiping out a stop sign (yes they had several of these strategically placed around the parking lot).  Following that traumatic crisis, dad thought we had spent enough time for the day.  In spite of all this grief, dad was a skillful and patient teacher, and I eventually passed my exam and received a "Junior Driver's License" when I was just 14.

Actually, I'm screwing up the story, dad's preparation was for my real driver's license.  The Junior model was for my doodle bug motor scooter two years before this.  Well that's another story.

The 39 Merc had four on the floor, you know, a long handled gear shift poking up from the floor board with a shiny black round handle on top.  I had to learn the "H" pattern for selecting the gears, and there was the clutch with which to reckon.  Fewer and fewer cars come with a clutch these days, and that is an experience too many modern drivers have missed.

The clutch disengaged spinning gears beneath the floor board and thus enabled me to shove the stick into position for first gear.  This being the gear with the highest disparity of spinning ratio between the gear coming from the engine and gear sending torque to the wheels.  When the clutch was pressed, and gears at rest, engaging the gears was a smooth operation.  If one forgot to depress the clutch and yet attempted to engage the gears, a hideous grinding racket would emerge from the gear box.  "Hey, why don't you grind me a pound!" was a frequent sarcastic quip that has now disappeared from our vocabulary.

The front seat was like a wide, padded bench.  Sorta like the back seat in most cars today.  Of course we hadn't thought of seat belts yet, and that made for some cool dating.  We were never distracted by some cell phone or other electronic device.  But there was a considerable distraction from driving with one hand on the steering wheel and the other arm around my girl friend who was cuddling up next to me.  Only race cars, or very expensive sports cars, had bucket seats.  And dating teenagers really didn't want that kind of seating arrangement.  Couples learned team driving with the girl shifting the gears while the guy drove with one hand (often on a knicker nob mounted on the steering wheel to enable strong turns by easily spinning the wheel).

And there actually were some things you could do for maintenance that are out of the question today.  That's because modern cars are half computer and half car.  So in the old days most of us learned to be amateur auto mechanics simply by necessity.  I remember replacing second gear in my old Rambler American.  I was clearly in over my head, and when I had to replace second gear again the next month, we decided to save money and buy a new car.

But changing the oil and cleaning the carburetor and replacing the points were all things one could do to tune up his own car.  They don't even have points any more.

One summer we packed up the whole tribe and headed out to visit the grandparents.  Barbara's parents lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, and mine were in Los Angeles.  When we got to the border of Nebraska, a frightening, rhythmic knock developed in the engine.  But that station wagon was an eight cylinder auto, and it still maintained highway speed without over heating.  So we kept going another 40 or so miles to the Piper house.  One of dad Piper's parishioners had recently retired from the maintenance yard for a major utility company.  I paid him a mere $20 to look over my shoulder while I opened the engine.  It was a simple case of a broken valve lifter.  He even knew where to buy the part at dirt cheap prices.  When we closed the engine again and it purred, I said, "Doesn't it make you feel good to know you fixed it?"  I was feeling quite elated, I know.  But after 25 years on the job he was ready to retire so he said, "No."

I began thinking how the internal combustion engine is similar to the human body.  We can have a lot of things wrong with us and still be able to operate.  And even though the soul is cut off from God and spiritually dead, a man can appreciate life and be thankful.  He just doesn't know who to thank.  But when he realizes that his life is messy and he will be judged by the Creator for every irresponsibility, he needs to cry out to someone to help him get repaired by the original Manufacturer.  That's when I need to be there to point him to Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Some like it hot

I never appreciated the common metaphorical reference to a beautiful young woman as "hot".  She may be outrageous.  She may be flirtatious.  She may be very attractive.  But "hot" is not my choice of epithet with which to label feminine eye candy.  I'd rather use "cool" or "sweet".

And when it comes to climate, I also shun the hot.  I guess that's why we ended up back here in Southern California.

My daughter and her husband, however, like it hot.  It was a carefully planned move that took them to Havasu City, Arizona.  Why someone would deliberately choose to live there is beyond my comprehension.

"But it's a dry heat." Jim keeps telling me.  And my response is always: "Yeah, and so is my oven."

Barbara warned them that we would not be visiting any time during the blast-furnace summer.  But love for great grandchildren (who have subsequently moved there with their mother) has compelled us to relent.

"We'll come if you turn down the thermostat below 80 degrees, but we can't stay more than a few days."  Barbara finally agreed.

Isn't it amazing how such little people can mean so very much to one's life?  We need to get a hug from these tiny humans every now and again.  So we packed and drove 300 miles just to see them (yes, and their mom and grand parents too).  Let's see now, where is my bathing suit.  I know we will spend some time in their swimming pool.  I'd better take two swim suits.

It is very difficult for me to admit this, but the dry heat is quite a bit easier to bear than 90 degrees with humid air around here.  I hope we didn't break the bank on their electric bill, but the AC made it just possible for us to enjoy our stay.  And the pool was not a disappointment.  After dinner the second night, we ventured into the pool after dark.  The thermometer read 100 degrees.  The water (still warm from the sun) felt so good that we stayed and chatted for an hour or so.  But the strangest sensation occurred when I stepped out of the pool.  I actually got chilled in the 100 degree air when I climbed out of the pool.  It was uncanny.  I thought I was going to be sick or some of my organs would shut down.  I mean it was eerie.  I toweled off and headed straight for the bedroom where I climbed under the covers and laid still until my aged body adjusted.  There is something spooky about hot places.

Forty years ago, when we moved to Modesto, I asked the daughter of the former pastor what the city was like.  She gave me a one syllable answer: "Hot!"  She was so right.  Every year there seemed to be at least one week in which the temperature topped the century mark every day.  I don't care where you live, I call that hot.  In Havasu, however, it's hot like that for the entire summer.

Trying to be friendly in my new city, I struck up a conversation with the lady who lived next door to the church.  She was complaining about how humid it was.  My image was more like a dry dusty desert.  I asked where she lived before coming to Modesto, and she said, "Mojave".  Okay, now she made sense.  Irrigation canals laced the region around Modesto, and she felt it in the air.  Being new to the area, I just thought it was hot.  That was just one lesson among many that things are perceived differently by different people, depending on their life experience.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Children learning to walk

No, actually they are not my children, but I have a claim on their lives.  As a retired minister I can understand the apostle John's feelings when he wrote, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." (III John 4)  John is not talking about genetic relationships.  During his long ministry in Ephesus, John had to see children, raised in the church and latching on to Jesus Christ with the same faith their parents exercised years ahead of them.

Perhaps he had in mind those who as adults first came to know our Savior under his ministry.  Trials had confused many and injured the faith that many had confessed.  In the early days of the church it was illegal to be a Christian.  Some had moved away and John had lost track of them.  John himself had been sent to exile on the island of Patmos.  And what goes through the mind of a pastor who has learned to love his people so?  He wonders how it is with their souls.

What a joy, then, when someone brings a good report about one of these "children" of the apostle.  His circumstances were transformed by the news that one of his children was still walking with the Lord.  He is walking in the truth.  In spite of the bombardment of propaganda about the divinity of Caesar (not to mention the threat against those who denied it) John heard that his children were walking in the truth.  This is what brought greater joy to the heart of this aged apostle than anything else.

That is the joy I recently experienced, seeing dear ones to whom I had the awesome privilege of ministering the gospel in years past.  This young lady who has now finished two years of college was a precocious two year old when I first loved her.  She shows every evidence that she sincerely loves Jesus, and is doing her best to walk with Him in her daily life.  She has done short-term missionary service and she chooses godly Christian friends.  She still delights her parents without a hint of rebellion.

Her adorable sister used to dance across the floor more often than walk.  I knew her, and spoke to her even before she was born.  She is making the same good friends and walking the same path with the same Lord Jesus.  The brothers seem to be headed the right direction also.  It brings me great joy to hear and see these things.

Her inseparable friend is another case in point.  Geography finally did separate these two, but in kindred spirits they have maintained their mutually edifying friendship.  This second girl's mother is another whom I would like to claim as one of my children in the Lord.  Though I did not bring her to initial faith in Christ, I had the privilege of encouraging her through some hard places, and the evidence of her love for Jesus has never been more obvious in any one's life.  It makes her one of the most beautiful women I have ever known.  She and her daughter are walking in the truth, and I find it an emotional and spiritual high to see them again, knowing they love the same Savior.

Of course I am pleased to hear that these friends are well.  It is a joy to know they are happy.  But you need to know that I have no greater joy than to hear that these "children" are walking in the truth.  They love Jesus, and I anticipate hearing even greater things from them and abut them.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Resurrection epistemology

How is it that you know you are not just a butterfly having a dream?

How do you know the sun will come up tomorrow?

How do you know you are going to heaven?

The answer to these--and so many more questions--is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days after His crucifixion.

You might say that you are going to heaven because Christ died for your sins.  This is not a wrong answer, but it is not complete.  Jesus died for your sins--and rose again the third day!

Thousands of criminals were executed by Roman crucifixion over the years of the empire.  Enthusiastic friends of any one of them might make the same claim.  "Hey, Simeon said he would die for my sins, and I believe him."  What's to prove him wrong...or right?  He may have died right enough, but what evidence is there that Simeon's death, or Christ's death, had any significance for you?

The only One who can forgive sins is God.  And the only One who can raise the dead is also God.  Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection. (Rom. 1:4)  "Christ died for our sins, and he was buried and he was raised again on the third day, according to the Scriptures." (I Cor. 15:3, 4)

Without the resurrection of Christ, we would be left to blind faith--the kind of faith unbelievers smirkingly think we Christians exercise.  Faith is not just wanting something to be true.  Christian faith is based on evidence that we consider trustworthy.  That's the way human beings think.  Christian faith is not blind faith.  It is faith in facts.  Not much different than faith that the sun will rise tomorrow that is based on facts about our universe and about earth's rotation.

But Christian facts include those that are revealed in the Bible.  Unbelievers are denied access to all this data by choice.  They think it is no loss, because they suppose the Bible is made up of fairy tales and other stuff that requires blind faith.

Christians believe the Bible because Jesus said it was true.  He said the Scriptures cannot be broken.  He said in that book we have eternal life.  And He also said that the Scriptures speak of Him.  The thing is, Jesus predicted His death by crucifixion and His resurrection three days later.  He taught it over and over again.  Then these same disciples whom He taught were caught by surprise and were discouraged and confused by His death.  Moreover they were shocked out of their proverbial socks to see and touch the risen Christ.  When the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians in about 55 AD, he mentioned an occasion on which more than 500 people saw the resurrected Christ at the same time.  This was but 20 some years after the event, but no one came forth to challenge that claim.  The tomb was empty.  The body was nowhere to be found by His enemies.

There are many who began to read the Bible just to discount the Christian faith who had their head (and heart) turned by the power of the Holy Spirit as they read the Scriptures.  Please don't mock until you have read it for yourself.  Honesty will then require you to at least admit that the accounts of Jesus' death and resurrection were written by sober men who themselves believed the resurrection to be fact.

Of course we know that it is impossible for dead people to come alive again.  Brain tissue begins to deteriorate within minutes, and the rest is not far behind.  Every Christian also knows this.  The only possible exception to this scientific fact must be accomplished by God, who created human flesh in the first place.  It had to be impossible in order for God to make His point.  Christ is risen, and therefore He is right.  No one else in the history of the world can make that claim.  It's not that we Christians are light minded dolts who swallow every story told them.  The difference between being a Christian and not being one, is not a matter of intelligence.  It comes down to a different source of data with which to make informed decisions.

If you're not a Christian, and you are reading this (of course you are), my plea is simply that you would read through the Gospel of John, and see if God is speaking to you in these words.