Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Diet countdown

One week from tonight I go to my first class. There we will be given beginning instructions and our "food" supplies. Then for the next 13 weeks or so it is liquid diet for me. I wish I had begun the diet the night I signed up for it. I could be a couple of weeks into it by now, and all my friends and relatives who are hearing about this would see that I have plunged through the hard part--the first week. But as reality dictates, groups are scheduled at monthly intervals and so I wait and think about it for a couple weeks before I ever get started.

I'm not changing my mind. But I do feel extra pressure. Maybe that's a good thing. When my mood gets gnarly and I'm growling about every little thing because my distended stomach has become a lonely cavern, I need to know that I have relatives standing on the sidelines, cheering me on. What kind of fans might this great cloud of witnesses be?

When the Dodgers folded in the playoffs, I was disappointed, but something inside me said, "I knew they would blow it." Well, are my "fans" thinking something similar? This is a radical diet. Surely it may be very tempting to sneak a Sourdough Jack some afternoon. But there will be no question about it. I have either kept my diet or I haven't. There are no "portions" to measure. There are no point exchanges to calculate. I have my food and you have yours, and never the twain shall meet.

But that challenge is the very thing that makes me optimistic about this diet. I know I will feel better and be healthier if I do it. I hope to lose about 80 pounds. When I mount the stairs, that will be an 80 pound backpack I don't have to carry. There must be 100 miles of capillaries that I will no longer be pumping blood through, and that has to be easier on my heart. From the day I begin, they take me off my diabetes medicine. I hope to never go back, but that remains to be seen. My lungs which lost more of their capacity when I was down with pneumonia may find more room with that kind of loss of internal fat.

There are plenty of outstanding reasons for me to do this. But what of my fans on the sideline? What if I only lose 40 pounds? We I (and/or they) assess that to be a failure? The pressure is heavy indeed. Maybe I will have a stroke before I ever begin, and all my fretting will be irrelevant.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not just cheeseburgers

I suppose everyone had a favorite hamburger joint when we were kids. Mine was on Slauson Ave. near 6th Ave. in Los Angeles. It was called "Lil Abner's". We discovered it because it was convenient. At the time I lived on 7th Ave. near 54th Street and I could easily walk to Lil Abner's. Many of the kids from Manual Arts High School dined there occasionally--at least those who lived in my end of town. I don't have any idea when Lou opened his business, but it must have been about 1950 when I discovered him. This is before the Colonel fried his first chicken or Ray Croc (McDonald) sold his first cheap burger.

It was a shack no larger than 20 by 20 with outside stools only. Lou Rubino, the proprietor, was the ironic Lil Abner. He weighed 400 pounds if he weighed an ounce. He was the nicest guy you would ever want to meet, and he was fastidious about the food he served. He had his own secret recipe for chili. He did not serve a cheeseburger with thin slices of cheese nor did he use some sort of "cheese food" for economy. His cheeseburgers included a generous slice of real cheddar. He told me that he watched while the butcher ground his beef to make sure he didn't include any extra fat. He served a tamale with chili and cheese smothered in chopped onions that was to die for.

After graduation my job as an apprentice pressman for Moore Business Forms brought me by Lil Abner's on my way home from work. When I worked swing shift I frequently enjoyed a burger or a tamale and a chat with Lou for my midnight snack. We exchanged Christmas cards long after I moved, after I got married and after I finished seminary and was ordained. Lou Rubino was one of those feel good memories from my high school days. Don't you have a memory like that?

Monday, November 16, 2009


They asked me to teach Sunday School, Adult class. I consented to teach a series on the book of I John, but my books are all packed and in storage, awaiting our move. So I ordered two new commentaries and decided to make new notes from scratch. I suppose it's good for me to work through the book anew. Fresh study helps my soul.

It's a book about assurance (among other things), and who doesn't need help with assurance? Every now and then I get feeling that I must be a reprobate, because I am so closely acquainted with my ugly sins. I need God to tell me that He loves me anyway and everything is alright. But the book doesn't say that! It does not give me the warm fuzzies I was hoping to get.

Basically it says, "If you want to be sure you are a Christian, live a holy life." Hey! That's just my problem. I don't live a holy life. What Jesus did for me on the cross is not a license to sin, but an incentive to holiness instead. John says that we know that we know Him because we keep his commandments.

It appears that the primary commandment in John's mind is the command to love one another. My recollection (and a decent concordance) shows me that this dovetails with everything else the Bible teaches. Romans 13:8 says, "he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law." Several other scriptures say much the same (Galatians 5:14; James 2:8 and Mark 12:31). And sure enough, John gets around to telling us that we know we have passed from death into life because we love the brethren (3:14). Actually that's a little more comforting. I really do love the brethren. I need to love in deed and truth, not in word and feelings only.

One of the thoughtful class members asked me if 3:9 meant that God breaks addictions. Of course I had to say "yes", but I kept chewing on that thought. Is it possible for Christians to get strung out on coke or heroin? It is a sinful choice to even try drugs like that, but we all know that Christians do sin. Of course it is a tragic reality. Then there are those who become Christians while addicted. So the question is: does Jesus break those addictions? I know nothing of the drug experience, personally, but the Bible demands that I answer affirmatively. Who wants to say that God can break the power of sin in our lives, but that there are some addictions that are too hard for Him to break? The thought is monstrous. To ask that question is to answer it.

Now what about other addictions? Gambling, stealing, fornication all claim to be addictions. The medical model for sin is easier to bear. There is no more call for repentance, and there is no more guilt and revulsion. He's not really a womanizer; the poor fellow has an addiction to sex. And then what about my dear Christian brothers and sisters who tell me that the 12 step program of AA was necessary for them to quit drinking? In fact Christian fellowship in the church is not sufficient to keep them from falling off the wagon. They "need" to attend meetings of AA one or more times a week. Is that the deliverance Christ provides? I don't know enough to answer that question. But I do know that the power of the cross is enough to break the addiction to alcohol. That is either true or it is time to tear up my Bible and throw it away.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lose this pillow

It's on my mind so I may as well talk about it. Kaiser has this industrial strength weight loss program, called "Optifast". I suppose that is derived from the word "optimum" and therefore means optimum fast. According to the scientific data I need something in excess of 2200 calories a day to maintain my status as "inordinately corpulent". On Optifast I will be ingesting 800 calories a day. The prognosis is an enormous loss of weight (which in my case consists largely of a pillow where my lap should be).

Also to be expected is a bit of a grouchy disposition. I have vowed not to growl at my wife, so I hope it's okay if I sound off to you, my few readers.

This is a group project, resembling Weight Watchers in that respect. So I have to begin when the class begins, and that date is Nov 30. Three of my medications will be discontinued at that time. It sounds a little scary, but I am looking forward to this. I am hoping to make it a permanent release from diabetic medications.

According to the testimonies I heard on the DVD during our orientation session, we can expect to lose 10 pounds or more the very first week. That should offset my grouchy attitude. Halfway through the DVD the machine stalled out and we never saw the last half of the DVD. I hope that is not a prophetic warning. Some fatties have lost 150 pounds or more.

I was asked at what weight was I last comfortable. I told her that I had never been asked that question before. While I was scrambling for a good answer, she re-phrased the question: "What is your goal?" I told her that I wanted to be under 200. So she wrote down 190-199. The day we married I weighed 155, but I don't even want to go down that far. At this point in my life I do not think that would be healthy.

I will have 4 shakes a day and one soup. I hope I like the flavor of the shake. Everyone says the soup is very good. When we travel I will simply need my shaker and the powder packs. Of course the shakes come in chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, and I hate chocolate. Torani makes calorie-free flavor syrups that gives me the options I need for variety in my diet. No, the flavors do not include chili or enchilada.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ride Alongs (continued)

Black and whites that are patrolling on any given shift might be "crime" cars or they may be "traffic" cars. Of course there are emergencies that call all cars together to handle a crisis. But other than that rare occasion, there is a world of difference between a crime car and a traffic car.

As the name implies a traffic car is to concentrate it efforts on enforcement of traffic laws. These deputies seem to have a different world view than others. A rolling stop is treated like a major crime. And yes, they do hide in alleys and behind obstructions to catch you speeding or running through a boulevard stop. I've been there with the deputy. He taught me to stare at the spoked wheels, and if I was not able to see the spokes when the car made a stop, it was considered a rolling stop, and he nailed the driver. She adopted a coy demeanor and under-played flirting in hopes of avoiding the ticket. When the deputy returned to the car to check her registration, he told me how he reacted so poorly to this tactic that he was sure to nail her for something. In this particular case he could have written two violations because the children were jumping around in the back seat, and they had been doing that even before we pulled them over. Obviously they were not in seat belts. She ended up thanking the deputy for not writing up both violations so that she could erase the demerits with her insurance carrier by attending traffic school. Evidently if there are two violations even traffic school cannot keep her rates from rising.

In all fairness, however, when you see a cop "hiding" behind a billboard or someplace else like that, it is even more likely that he is a crime car catching up on his paper work. These poor deputies are required to write up every call to which they respond, and after two or three of them it is absolutely necessary to catch up on this record-keeping. They are good at finding the most remote places for this privacy. I was treated to lunch (hamburger) which we consumed in the abandoned parking lot of an industrial complex. The local greasy spoon seemed glad to give the deputy the burgers because they are glad to have police presence. It makes for cheap insurance.

Once when I was riding in a crime car and we were waiting at a red light, some brainless driver whooshed right by us and through the red light. My driver swore some disgusting obscenity and caught and ticketed this idiot. I think the swearing was due to the fact that this was not a traffic car and had it not been for the flagrancy of the violation the deputy would not have been required to clutter his evening with this offense.

Somehow all the fun of ride alongs dissipated after the death of one of our guys. Bruce Bryan was youth minister in our local Calvary Chapel, and he regularly did ride alongs with the deputies. He was especially interested in ministering to gang members and other troubled teens. They were called to a local restaurant where a known gang member was creating a little havoc. They talked this gang banger into letting them take him home, even though it was a bit out of the district. When they reached their destination the deputy opened the door for the boy who suddenly grabbed the deputy's service pistol and shot him in the face. When Bruce saw what was happening he bolted and ran. The perp shot him too, and after he hit the ground the kid shot him in the back of the head. He tossed the pistol and went into the house to watch TV. The deputy survived (though he lost his eye), but the minister did not. Because he sought troubled kids Bruce was used to wearing a vest during ride alongs, but the first bullet caught his shoulder beyond the vest. The kid who did this was given a long prison sentence, and Bruce's funeral was a record breaker. Chaplains from law enforcement agencies came from Sacramento to San Diego.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ride Alongs

Before a person can ride along with a deputy Sheriff, he must sign away his life. That is to say, the document contains a wide disclaimer that eliminates my family from profiting in a lawsuit over my demise when it occurs during a ride along. I have survived long enough to tell you that there is more than one reason for that disclaimer. The odds that I might be taken out by a criminal are very slim. It's the wild driving of the deputy that put my life in jeopardy.

I want to tell you up front that the Sheriff deputies are easily the worst drivers I have ever endured. Clergy Volunteers usually rode along for only half a shift, and that was enough white knuckling for the evening. One of the deputies told me he wanted to be a Sheriff deputy so he could shoot a gun and drive fast. I'm not at all sure he was kidding. Sometimes the deputy with whom I rode treated me like part of a team. Other times I was made to feel like I was in the way--a mister butinski. Sometimes I rode in a "crime car" and other times I was in a "traffic car". Those two are different worlds.

Only when the call determines may a car use siren and flashing lights. But the deputies drove as though they were always on code 3. This makes for some harrowing experiences. I was sure we were going to be in a wreck, and the anticipated impact would have been at my side door. Thanks to the good brakes of a citizen, left swearing behind us, we were spared the accident.

One of the deputies taught me how to unlock the shotgun, "just in case". I remember tiptoeing behind him as we surveyed the halls of a local business. With his piece drawn, we were looking for a burglar in action. Nothing came of it, but the code we had received indicated burglary in progress.

More than once I was disdained as a potential hazard and certain to be useless during my tour of half the deputy's shift. I'm sure that clergy more clever than I were able to share the gospel with more deputies than I did. We had a captain at the local precinct who was a Christian, and he wanted us to be there. We were intended to be a liaison between the uniform and the general public, and sometimes it worked well.

Once on a code 3 call we arrived after the rescue team treated and transported a little girl who had swallowed something toxic from under the kitchen sink. But when grandma saw that I was a minister she grabbed hold of me and wept. We sat in the living room and I talked her down from her fear and panic. The deputy had another call, but he saw I was doing some good for this lady so he left me there to answer the next call, promising to pick me up after that. I knew the minister who baptized this woman and that enhanced my rapport with her. The deputy is never supposed to leave his ride along, but it worked this time.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sheriff duties

I'm registered with the local Sheriff precinct as a Clergy Volunteer. They have my photo and fingerprints, so I'd better think again about any crime I might have contemplated.

I have been called upon for special duty in a suicide case to sit with the parents while the investigators dealt with the young man's body in the other room. He was an overweight loner who seemed to have just found his nitch in a computer science major at UCLA. But apparently he came home the night before, but a plastic bag over his head and ended it all. They were Roman Catholic people, and they gave me a courteous hearing as I explained the gospel of grace, and how suicide is not the unpardonable sin. I hope they saw the difference between sovereign grace in the Bible and what their superstitions had taught them. But at this time of crisis in a person's life it is hard to know what they might remember. This too is in the Lord's hands.

They called me to counsel with the mother of a 4 yr old girl who died from a fall off the cliff at Point Fermin Park. The mother was certain that the father of the child threw her over the side to keep from paying support for the child. Interestingly enough that case is in the local paper now, and the second hung jury has just reported. It seems they cannot agree on the degree of responsibility with which to charge the dad.

Then there was the time I was called to help keep two families separated in the waiting room of the ER at the local hospital. The boy of one family had been shot in the head and was dying. The other family's boy did the shooting. But he had been shot by responding deputies, and was cuffed to the bed in the same ER. It was a potential for serious conflict, as you might imagine. It turned out that the victim's family were black Muslims, and I told them I was a Christian minister, and asked if I could pray for them. They kindly gave me permission and I prayed for them to find comfort in the gospel. It is important to try to comfort and yet not compromise the gospel. No one seemed to be angry so I don't know how to grade my performance of duty.

Next blog post will tell about my ride along experiences. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tidying up

We are actually going to move. Not far. Only to Lakewood. Yes we already have a home "bought" in Lakewood. It is the home of my daughter and her husband. Since they have purchased a home in Lake Havasu, AZ, they are trying to hurry us into selling our home so we can complete the deal, and move into their home. The hold up has been with 25 years of treasures/trash that have accumulated knee high around us.

Unfortunately Barbara and I are both pack rat types, and we just can't bring ourselves to toss that book or give away that appliance that we haven't used for 10 years. Barbara would be happy to give away her iron (I know she hasn't used it in the past 10 years and more!). She just sold her Singer featherweight machine to our friend Beth who is an avid quilt manufacturer (see her blog: "love, laugh, quilt" where I understand she features a photo of the machine). No sacrifice there, since she bought it the year we were married and has used it maybe three times to repair clothing.

Enter Donna and Jim, lovingly attempting to help us move our treasures/trash to the new premises. It's like pulling eye teeth to gain our consent to throw anything away. The 10 or 15 pounds of disgusting candy left without debate. But everything else seems to maintain some redeeming features to argue in favor of holding onto it. I had never heard of a "Morgan" dollar before. Barbara swears it is a treasure given her by her grandmother. So I checked out the Internet, and sure enough EBay is selling them for something in excess of $17. Some different dates are selling in the hundreds of dollars. They are named for George T. Morgan, the chief engraver of the US Mint at that time.

Then there are special notes and cards that must be packed in the "Barnabas box". These are special encouragements for a favor done or a sermon that was especially appreciated. We need to keep them together for those times when we feel useless or forgotten. Here's a hand made get well card done in crayon by one of my little friends. How precious is the love of a child!

Okay, here are Donna and Jim again to pack a few more boxes. Bless them for their patience and hard work.