Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Carrots and Cats

Our dog liked carrots and cats. She ate the one and played with the other. When we lived in Modesto, one of the men in the church advised us, "Plant food!" The soil was rich and yet sandy. The result was that we had lush gardens that were easy to til. We had frequent salads of home grown leaf lettuce. One year we planted butter lettuce, and it was wonderful. Jonathan claimed his salad had an aphid, but I had washed the lettuce well, so I told him it must be some spices. He won the argument by pointing out that this particular bit of "spice" was walking (as he dramatically mimicked the motion with his arms). One year I noticed that the kids were pulling up carrots and only eating a few bites and then leaving them in the yard. After demanding that they stop leaving half eaten carrots around the yard, I caught the culprit in action. It was Talitha! She turned her head sideways to the ground, grasping a carrot and then pulled it right out of the ground. She loved to chew carrots.

Talitha also loved to get a cat head in her mouth. This was not for eating, but Phil had taught her to play the game. He gave her the order, "Talitha, go get that cat." And off she would go after the cat. With its head in her mouth she would shake her head a couple of times, but not so hard as to harm the cat. Meanwhile the cat would grab Talitha's beard and kick with her hind feet. It was quite a tussle to observe, and yet neither animal sustained any injuries from all this. It was quite a different story when Phil would take her for a walk. When he saw a neighborhood cat he could not resist the temptation. He would give the familiar order, "Get that cat!" The problem was that even though Phil knew the game and Talitha knew the game, the cat definitely did not know the game. Usually that cat would end up in a tree. The most unusual feature to this routine was what happened when the cat died. Somehow we went through many a cat during Talitha's 16 years.

We deprived Talitha of the joys of motherhood, surgically.  But motherhood is not to be easily denied by many a female.  We discovered that Talitha would mope around the house without a cat to play with. Even though the family was quite satisfied with this dog for a pet, she pined for progeny to nurture. We needed to get a cat for her to mother and to amuse her.  As soon as we adopted a new cat, Talitha was her bouncy, happy self again. And the new cat had to learn the game quickly.  Since Talitha had been spayed she never had a litter. But she would curl up and sleep with her pet cat. She even enjoyed the cat nursing on her unused teats.

I mentioned in an earlier log that Talitha decided that she was my dog. She would never let me forget that. In Modesto our home was several blocks from the church where I had my study. But when Talitha discovered one of the kids left the gate ajar off she would go. She had to round the corner, run two blocks to the alley, go down the alley several hundred feet and come to the door of my study. More than once I answered the phone to find it was Barbara, asking if Talitha was there. I was unaware of it, so I put down the phone and went to the door, and there she was with her enthusiastic pant, asking to come in.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Talitha was not a dog--at least not just a dog. She was a member of the family. Since I was raised with cats, I wanted a cat, but my wife's experience was dogs. So when it came to a pet for the children we couldn't agree. I guess I got tired of gerbils and hamsters and goldfish, so when Barbara proposed we adopt a poodle she caught me at a weak moment. She said the bulletin board at the supermarket advertised pups of a pedigreed poodle. Since they were offered free, we were very skeptical, and discovered that even though mom was a poodle, the dad was a "traveling man" as the vet put it. Anyway she brought home this little bundle of curly black fur that was so wriggly at both ends that it was difficult to discern head from tail. Of course the kids loved her immediately, and learned to kiss the appropriate end. Barbara and I agreed that it would be her dog, and life continued.

We wanted to give her a name from the Bible, but we didn't want her to have too common a name. "Talitha" is the Aramaic word that is given us in the gospels as what Jesus said to Jairus' daughter. It is translated "little girl". So Talitha was our little girl--the bitch. (I just thought it would be fun to say that word legitimately.)

Well I guess Talitha had ideas of her own about relationships. When she entered a room, she came straight to me. When family members took turns barking orders at her, she invariably obeyed me best. It became evident in due time that by her own choice she was my dog. It was her own fault that we had a theme song between us. I did sing it to her several times. "You made me love you. I didn't wanna do it. I didn't wanna do it."

Talitha grew up with our kids. We had her in the family for 16 years. Yes, there are many tales (tails?) about Talitha, but I'll make you wait for more.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Taking Bribes

It all began so innocently.  We were with the group from our church at an Angels' baseball game when we were approached by this fast talking young man who wanted to show us how we could get a trip to Catalina Island with an overnight stay.  We've been there before, but we both thought we might like to do that again.  So we listened.

We had not only been to Catalina before, but we had been hustled with bribes to sit through a sales pitch for a time share resort before also.  As he piled on the bribes to strengthen our incentive, he listed two tickets to Knotts, two more tickets to later Angels games, a $25 coupon for a meal at the resort, which turned out to be the Lawrence Welk resort in Temecula.

The deja vu syndrome was still at work.  Back in '04 we had been there and done that at the Welk Resort too.  But this pile of desirable incentives (bribes) seemed to strike us just right.  Then when he threw in two extra tickets to Knotts, Barbara was hooked.  She did all the arranging, but if I had objected I'm sure she would have put on the brakes, but I didn't.  Before we could say "Play ball!" we were signed up for an appointment.  If you have never done this, you need to know that they take a $40 deposit just to make sure you show up for the pitch.

We also arranged with the Welk Resort to have overnight accommodations at half price.  We put in our time for the sales pitch.  We managed to say "No" once again, and enjoyed our resort room and half priced dinners at the elegant restaurant.  Barbara has a hard time bypassing prime rib, and I enjoyed a new culinary delight of stuffed chicken breast with asparagus, capers and brie with a sauce that was the most delicious I've ever had on a chicken breast.  No, we didn't order any wine--mostly because we both take some prescriptions that warn us not to drink alcoholic drinks.  Oh, the hardships of getting old and decrepit!

Now we need to redeem our coupons for these other trips (Angel game, Knotts Berry Farm and Catalina) before they expire.  I'm ashamed to admit that I have let incentives (bribes) expire before.  I ought to quit this blog post so I can take care of that right now.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Boardwalk Chapel

The Rev. Leslie Dunn had a vision of reaching out to vacationers in Wildwood, NJ by erecting a chapel building right on the boardwalk.  Somehow he persuaded the Presbytery of New Jersey to purchase a parcel along the boardwalk many years ago, when it was only remotely related to the amusement locations.  Today businesses, sandwich shops and tourist trap shops line the boardwalk on either side of the chapel.

Activities attract crowds every night.  It may be a young violinist or a special choir or a gospel magician or other entertainer to catch the interest of passers by.  Christian supporters come and sit in the chapel to encourage others to linger also.  A good musician will stop a large crowd around the open doorways of the chapel.  Then when the speaker of the evening takes the stage to talk about God, they usually scatter like roaches when the light goes on.  At least that was my experience.

As a poverty level preacher with four kids, it was difficult to plan fun vacations for my family unless it was tent camping (which we did a lot).  This was a free week at the beach, and my kids loved it.  There was a large house associated with the chapel that was available for the preacher of the week and his family.  My only responsibility was to speak each night.  I tried to create two or three short zingers for each night.  For this kind of preaching it was important to get their attention in my first sentence.  Perhaps some of the methods we used there ought to be employed in church--at least once in a while.

The four listeners laws for public speaking were very much on my mind in those days.  The four laws? Oh yeah, they were: 1) Ho hum, 2) Why bring that up?, 3) For instance?, and 4) So what?

When I jumped on stage to preach, I had to imagine my audience as stifling yawns and thinking, "Boy am I bored.  And this guy is going to make it worse."  That was "Ho hum".  You can guess the contents of the other three, I'm sure.

Well one night I jumped on stage and asked for a show of hands of people who believed they were perfect.  People who had never sinned.  From there I was going to teach that our perfect God requires perfection in order to get to heaven, and from there I would offer them the Savior that God prescribes.  Clever?  Well, I thought so.  Only one rather aggressive man came down the aisle toward me with his hand raised, saying, "I am.  I'm perfect."  I really didn't know what I was going to do with him by the time he got to the stage, but my friend, Leonard Chanoux, the director of the chapel, intercepted this guy and ushered him aside for a chat.  I learned later that the same guy had been disruptive with other speakers at the chapel.  I was glad for a savvy director.

It was a good experience for any preacher to learn a little humility.  Why don't they flock to hear my interesting message?  Why don't more of them linger to hear where my clever introduction will lead?  Why didn't dozens of people get saved when I preached my heart out?

During the day the chapel was open for discussion.  A seminary student lingered near the door with interesting literature on display, and several people stopped to argue, listen or browse.  One of the more outrageous lingerers stopped to tell the seminary student who god really was.  Several off-the-wall assertions were laid on the discussion table before he ran out of gas.  The student just patiently listened. I was within ear shot, and felt like jumping into a roaring argument with this dude.  When he finished, the seminarian simply said, "That's all very interesting.  Where did you get those ideas?  Here's what the Bible says."  And he proceeded, expecting social courtesy to require the young man to listen to the truth.  That day I learned that I needed to argue less and listen more if I was going to be an effective witness.