Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Moving saga: the curse

I mentioned the great blessing of having a loving church family help us move. I dare not sound the least bit ungrateful, because we are not. But the down side is the great curse of moving, which you all know is the boxes. They were all conveniently sized for moving--not too large nor too small. As long as we didn't pack our coin collection in one, we were considerate of those who carried them. Now those conveniently uniform boxes have become sinister anonymous boxes. Here's one with our important papers in it! This one has a plumber's helper and some old wiring. Why did we save all that? Somewhere in this house (or in a box in the garage) is our good telephone home base. I remember wrapping it in green stretch wrap in order to keep the phone unit with the base and wiring, but in the confusion of moving day I set it down and while my back was turned someone threw it into one of these anonymous boxes.

It's not easy to take the Christmas present attitude when finding the toilet paper or Metamucil. But there is a spot of joy in the experience nevertheless. I notice that Barbara's jewelry cabinet was carefully wrapped with a blanket and that green stretch wrap. Well done, but the blanket was one of the Uhaul rented blankets which have some tattletale revelation of purloining printed all over it.

There is an extra pain in downsizing. When one spends 26 years filling 2000 square feet of house with personal treasures (and junk), it is amazing how little of it fits in a 1300 square foot house. When our friends asked "Where shall I put this?" It was too easy to tell them to stack those boxes under the gazebo. We had done some preparation for the predicted rain, so this mountain of boxes is draped with plastic drop cloths. Perhaps, failing to come through with a fire, it will instead be a flood that will help us reduce our plentiful stock.

Somewhere along the line I hurt my back. It feels like the time I had broken ribs. When I slowly move in careful motion, it only hurts a little. But when I move suddenly, or twist certain muscles, I get the electric jab that tends to open my eyes very wide. So how am I going to lift these boxes and sift through them? No, Barbara, I'm not making this up, it really hurts!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Diet: week 12

Ugh! Only one and a half pounds this week. But at least I am still headed in the right direction. I have now lost 44.6 pounds in 12 weeks. I visualize a garbage bag full of 45 pounds of disgusting lard, and feel quite relieved to be rid of that stuff. The more I think of it, I am determining never to gain it back. I realize that this is the new--and greater--challenge that I face, but God is with me.

I realized last night at class, that I have a couple of choices. One choice is to continue another 8 additional weeks with the augmented diet. Another choice is to begin one meal a day in another five weeks. I can also choose to stay on the strict liquid diet for all 20 weeks. Since I have fallen so short of my original goal, and since my rate of loss has diminished so radically, I think I ought to do the full 20 weeks of liquid. Perhaps a little more exercise will increase the loss. But spare me the 8 bonus weeks! I am healthy enough. I will never have a body builder physique, so who am I kidding?

After losing all that lard I can still see my giant pillow just above my waistline. What's this all about? Did I lose it from everywhere except my gut? There is more than just a little frustration going on here. My friends (who haven't seen me for several weeks) never say a thing about how I look. They never know I lost a pound, let alone 44 of them. If they don't bring up the subject, I know I never will. If I tell them about my weight loss, then they are required by social protocol to say something nice. I do not want to solicit polite, obligatory compliments.

Moving Saga, the blessing

As we sit in our cluttered new surroundings and stare with stunned eyes into space, we are grateful for two wonderful blessings. First, God blessed us with a wonderful crew of two men with a truck that we hired from "Movers for less" who came last Friday. They were strong, efficient, careful and pleasant. We could not have asked for a better job. There is no fault or shortcoming I can think of in regard to their work. They looked as though they were working by the piece, when in fact they were on the clock. And when they thought they were finished, we asked them to exchange the position of two heavy pieces. They did it cheerfully and without additional charges. It was truly a providential blessing.

Secondly, our volunteer labor of friends from Faith Presbyterian and Branch of Hope churches were a testimony of love in action. We saw a demonstration of the old adage, "Many hands make light the work." I thought I was ahead of the crowd when I rented the Uhaul and headed for the house at 8 a.m., but when I arrived there were men swarming all over our property. They already had a pickup in the driveway and it was half full. It seems that every other guy had brought a pickup, and most of them had a hand truck or dolly to help. Men and boys milling back and forth with all our sacred treasures, and much of our junk. They were loading and driving off in short order, as was I with a loaded Uhaul 17 footer. They did all the work and left an empty house behind. My great puzzle is that if they did all the work, why am I so sore and worn out today?

What a blessing it is to have a loving church family! But we were blessed with two loving church families. We can never thank that crew enough, but we here and now publicly thank God for giving us these friends--no, brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Diet: week 11

What? Only 2 1/2 pounds! I want more. When I launch out on an industrial strength diet, I want industrial strength results!

Okay, now for a little sanity on the subject. When, other than this diet, have I been able to lose 2 1/2 pounds in one week? I can't remember if it ever happened. So I should quit venting like a spoiled child and be content with my progress. Besides, I lost more than anyone else in my group, except for Richard. He lost 4 pounds, but his heart is under strain and consequently he is only supposed to lose 3 a week. He has the added frustration of medical problems that limit him in both directions. He must lose weight, but he must not lose it too rapidly. So shame on me for venting about my meager complaint.

We have had packing day (see blog post below), and now anticipate moving days this Friday and Saturday. In the midst of this stress and turmoil I am supposed to maintain my regimen. It's not that difficult, but it takes concentration. I'm sure we will live through it--and find it rather exciting! It would be ironic if the stress of dieting and moving brought on my fatal heart attack. Wouldn't that be funny? Okay, "funny" strange, not "funny" ha, ha.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tales from the saga, "Moving"

It was the best of times, was the worst of times. Oh, sorry, that one's been used. Well, it was a wonderful day and it was a calamitous day. I refer to packing day for the Kellers, last Saturday.

As they did when we needed the yard cleaned up, the people of the church came to help us--in droves! We were quite overwhelmed. Dal Brandon, the organizing deacon, came early and warned us, "I've brought 100 boxes and we will put 2 people in every room and tell them to pack everything they see. If you want anything kept safe, you had better get it now." And that is exactly what happened. Except there were several things we didn't have the foresight (or time) to reserve. In fact there were a few things from my bathroom that I had reserved in a plastic canister (like my preparation H suppositories, and my electric razor charger) designated for such. But alas I returned from another responsibility to discover that the canister had been packed. And that was the way the day was spent.

We have never felt more loved and cared for, and at the same time we felt invaded and overwhelmed. It is a wonderful experience to belong to a church family that is so loving. Not just one or two people, but so many of them pitch in to help people in need. Yes, we were in need. We could never have been ready to move without this great help. When we rose from our sleep Sunday morning, we discovered that even the toilet paper had been packed. Help! I'm sure the Lord will understand if we buy this on the Sabbath. But we did discover one roll that had escaped the notice of these super-efficient packers.

We found enough decent clothing to wear to church, except for my shoes. My shoe rack had been picked bare, and I had only ancient scruffy shoes. And today I was supposed to preach at Brethren Manor in the afternoon! Just before we left for church, I discovered a pair of my newest shoes by my lounge chair in the family room that had mercifully been spared from the packing blitz.

Dal asked me in church if they had disrupted our family. I replied, "Yes! But it was worth the trade off." Now we are ready to move. We will do our best to live until Friday with the minuscule provisions we have scrounged from the tornadic remains of "Packing Day" at the Kellers.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Night To Remember

No, I'm not thinking of a romantic movie.

Many years ago we were camping in our pup tent with an air mattress, and we woke up sleeping on the ground. Aside from a little stiffness we were able to laugh about it. That was then, this is now.

Through a sort of comedy of errors we had the opportunity to sleep overnight at our new home before we actually move in. Since it is now our daughter's house, and since they just moved their furniture to their new home in Havasu, and since our house had to be tented for termites in the last minute, we slept at the new address. The night before Donna and Jim slept on the guest air mattress and left with the truck at some insane hour of the morning. So we thought we might sleep on the same "bed" last night. Now there was a little complication. It seems that the dog chewed on the hose from the air compressor, and the mattress proved to be a little leaky. I thoughtfully tried to prepare the mattress for a good night's sleep. I fired up the compressor and poked the nozzle into the intake valve. I laid there wondering when I would begin to notice the stiffening of the mattress. I surmised that the air was leaking from someplace at approximately the same rate it was entering the mattress.

I pulled out the nozzle just to check that it was working. It was. But air was escaping with an alarming gush from the hose as well. I re-inserted the nozzle, pumped a little more, and pulled out the nozzle once again. Only this time the larger black opening, in the center of which was the smaller opening with which I had been occupied, popped out, and now the air gushed out. Just at that perverse moment my wife enters the room and innocently asks, "Is it working?" I barked, "Why did you have to ask that just now?" There was quite enough irritation in my voice to tell her to leave immediately. I needed to apologize later, when I regained my sanity. But now she is coming back into the room with her cell phone in her hand. My loving daughter is on the line. "Are you enjoying your new home?" she sweetly asked. "NOT YET!" was my rude answer.

With a partially inflated mattress we went to bed. My considerably reduced, yet noticeably rotund form flopped into bed next to my sweet wife. Well, it was like a game: when I hit the mattress her side immediately elevated rather rapidly, and I was hopelessly trapped in the great indentation I had formed. I quickly weighed the merits of sleeping where I lie, over against the merits of sleeping on the floor. Since I had brought my body pillow for the occasion, I chose the latter. When I finally extricated my hulking form from this elastic hole, I flopped on my pile of pillows on the floor. Besides the times I needed to struggle to my feet and into the bathroom to relieve myself, I also awakened twice shivering from the cold draft along the floor.

On one of those forays into the lavatory I stumbled on my return over a pillow. Instinctively I put out my hand to brace myself on the "bed", but alas it only appeared to be a bed. I had forgotten, momentarily, that it was a balloon disguised as a bed. There was no substance to break my fall. I went to the floor. Then I noticed that Barbara, upon returning to bed, tried to flop on the "bed" and I heard the "thump" as her back hit the floor.

The whole affair was so ludicrous that we giggled instead of cursing. No, no, it was not because of advanced sanctification. It was more because of sleepless silliness.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Diet: week 10

This week was good. I lost 4.6 pounds. I may be too narrowly focused, but that little slip of paper with the printout of my weight is my great incentive to plod ahead with this ridiculous diet. Now my total loss is a little more than 40 pounds.

The week I gained two pounds, therefore, threw me into such a tizzy that I was deeply disturbed. I realize that there are so many other factors that ought to modify my state of mind, but for now I want to stay focused on my loss of weight. Here I am with this program that all but guarantees that I will lose something every week, so that I want to be sure to make the most of it while it lasts. I know that when I finish and go back to real food, there will be another kind of battle to wage. Reading ahead in my material I see that when we come to transition (one meal of my preparing and three shakes) I must expect to stay even or gain a little as my body adjusts.

Okay, then what about after that? Well I have to eat a healthy diet for the remainder of my life. Now that's not a death sentence. I'm thinking that I do not want to eat lite this and low calorie that all the time. I would rather eat mayonnaise half as often (rather than eat lite mayo which has no flavor). Have you ever tasted low fat cheese? Gag! I would rather limit my toasted cheese sandwiches to one a month than have one a week with that disgusting paste. On the other hand non fat cottage cheese tastes just great. I need to learn so much.

I already know what I want early in my new eating career. I want to have a spinach salad with chopped apple, a little feta cheese, tomato and maybe a few raisins with my newly invented no calorie dressing. I discovered a dressing of one part rice vinegar and one part sugarless mango syrup that makes a real lip smacking dressing. I think I need to collect decent (i.e. tasty) recipes that are also healthy. If they do not taste good I don't want them. There must be a lot of ways to fix vegetables that taste better than just the unimaginative boil and serve method. Since I am omnivorous, I merely need to find the tasty recipes and leave the others to Weight Watchers or someone else.

Now we face the crises of my wife's impending surgeries and the chaos of moving. This is more than a little challenging for a guy who is on this industrial strength diet at the same time. God give me peace!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

John 3:16

As Barbara played the last bar of "God so Loved the World" Pastor Dan Overduin placed the communion tray back on the table and invited us to partake together. It is an uncanny phenomenon how she manages to play meditative music for the Lord's Supper, and time it so that it takes up exactly the amount of time it takes the elders to distribute the elements. My heart was blessed this Lord's Day by every part of the worship service. God was in it! Pastor Dan masterfully and faithfully preached Christ from Daniel 6. The cute junior choir sang quite well with the adult choir, reminding us of God's promise to be with us in trials from the text of Isaiah 43. Barbara's music reminded us all that "Jesus Paid It All" as we contemplated the bread. And when she played Stainer's composition of "God So Loved the World" as we looked to the cup which is the new covenant in the blood of Jesus, my eyes brimmed with tears as I thought of how our Savior loves the souls of people.

I couldn't help thinking back to my first church in Neptune, New Jersey, in the early 1960s. We were invited to take part in the 3 hour Good Friday service at the OPC in Westfield, N.J. I preached on the saying from the cross, "Son behold your mother." And our little Good Shepherd Chapel group had formed a choir just for the event. Each segment had a different preacher and a presentation of special music. We had fully rehearsed all right, but we were not a journeyman choir by any means. On this one day, however, we all sang well above our normal abilities, and the anthem blessed many a heart--including my own! Well I experienced a flashback this morning.

I don't need clever, joke-telling, gimmicky preaching. In fact that stuff leaves me cold. I need to see Jesus when I hear the Bible preached, and I usually do when my pastor mounts the pulpit. Today I saw my Jesus all through the service, and I am still praising God for it. What a blessed sabbath!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Reformed Gnosticism

I have been teaching the letter of I John in adult Sunday school class. I am about finished with this project, and it has been a blessing to me. I find that John makes two very large and profound pronouncements about the basic nature of God. In the first chapter he declares that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. In the 4th chapter he declares that God is love.

He teaches us that anyone who is born of God and has fellowship with Him must of necessity have been touched by the nature of this God. Like something of a dear friend's character will "rub off" on you, so too, when God is that friend it will show in what kind of person you have become.

Since this epistle is basically one of assurance (5:13), he sets forth as measures of assurance these two tests: 1) Do we keep His commandments? 2) Do we love the brothers? John actually expects his readers to find the assurance of faith in these tests.

Gnosticism, at least in the person of Cerinthus, was seen as a danger by John, who evidently exposes his errors by insisting that true believers confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. And he delights in using the format, "This is how we know..." in opposition to the idea of secret knowledge from which gnosticism derives its name ("gnosis" being the Greek word for "knowledge").

There is a lot of good stuff in this little letter for which I am grateful. But as I was pondering the idea of the Gnostics that salvation was found not in what is believed or what is accomplished, but rather in secret knowledge, an unsettling thought popped up in my mind. Gnostics prided themselves in what they knew that others did not. Hmmmm. Does that idea sound familiar?

My denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, has a reputation for being a bit more theologically informed than most. I hope that is true. I am pleased with that. Maybe I am a little proud of that fact, and therein lies the danger. Are we proud that we know about predestination? We know something about the different insights of the terms which speak of atonement (redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, sacrifice). We can show why the New Testament requires the baptism of infant children of believers, even though there is no specific command to do so. We know why the covenant of grace brings Israel and the church together into one body. We understand why we don't have or need the supernatural gifts today. Stuff like this means we have knowledge that many other Christians do not yet know. Then along comes a hyper-Calvinist every now and again who argues that Arminians are not really Christians.

Do you see where this is going? The argument seems to be saying that unless a person possess complete understanding of the doctrines of sovereign grace, he cannot be saved. It is then implied that salvation is based on what we KNOW rather than on faith alone. We never say that, but it is not far beneath the surface. Do you see a danger here? Or am I blowing smoke?

Diet:week 9

I am truly ambivalent about my progress tonight. I weighed in with a 4 pound loss. If I consider that for most weeks I have been averaging 5 pounds, that sounds quite satisfactory. But last week was a reversal of progress with a 2 pound gain. So on the large scale I have only made 2 pounds of progress in the last two weeks. Up until now two weeks meant 10 pounds of progress in weight loss. So I am glad that I have lost 4 pounds, but I am dissatisfied with my total progress slow down.

My optimistic self says, "Hey, you've lost 36 pounds since you started. Now where else would you make that kind of progress?" As Richard, my classmate, mused: he lost 65 pounds and according to a commercial for lap band he saved himself $50,000 and invasive surgery.

My pessimistic self says, "O bother! If I continue at this rate of 2 pounds gain, then 4 pounds loss, I will only drop 10 more pounds when I finish." This would fall considerably short of my goal (which was 87 pounds). This pillow that sticks out in front of me may be shrinking, but it is quite obviously still with me. My primary care physician was not much comfort when she told me that would be the last place I would lose the fat.

Thank you for allowing me to vent my grousing and whining. I hope you will find some of my other posts a bit more to your liking.

More diet thoughts

I haven't gone to weigh in yet. My class meets tonight and I will step on the official scale at that time. But I'm telling you something, if I haven't lost any weight this week I may become clinically depressed!

Yesterday, for example, we had a fellowship lunch after church. Everyone brought their favorite dishes. There were sausages, meat balls, spaghetti with mushrooms and cream sauce. Great looking salads, fruit, casseroles, bread and desserts made the table groan. They also made my taste buds groan. I sat there sipping my strawberry shake, smelling that wonderful food that I saw everyone else devouring. I even invented a dish using up two packages of old chicken thighs we found in the old chest freezer we cleaned out. I put enchilada sauce with sour cream and diced Anaheim chilies together with a ton of cheddar cheese and baked it with the chicken meat. I licked my finger and it was good! My wife couldn't stop raving about it. We brought it to the fellowship lunch and let everyone else eat it. Before I make you weep in sympathy, you need to know I don't mind this scenario (I have repeated it several times by now) as long as I lose weight! When I step on that official scale I want to see dramatic, measurable losses. That is my incentive reward. My sights are narrowed, my resolve is ironclad--as long as it works!

The week before this one I attended at least three occasions where I was tortured with a milieu of gastronomic ecstasy while I stuck to my chemistry shakes. There was the 30th anniversary banquet of Westminster Seminary, and there was the appreciation dinner presented by the Vietnamese Resurrection Chapel in Westminster. Also we were at a great restaurant with the family, celebrating our grandson-in-law's birthday. Everyone ordered luscious goodies while I ordered a bowl of hot water in which to stir my powdered soup.

After GAINING two pounds last week I need to see some shrinking numbers tonight. Okay enough whining for now. I'm sure that I will write about it after I return from class tonight.