Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Good Samaritan Mafia

All we wanted was to do the right thing.

A couple of weeks ago we left our church parking lot after service. Another driver pulled out ahead of us from the community college parking lot across the street. It was dark, so I couldn't see the top of the car all that well, but it looked like there was something on the roof. When we both stopped at a stop sign a block away, Glory and I saw that there was a laptop case on top of the car.

I flashed my brights at the guy in an attempt to get him to stop so we could inform him that his vaulables were in danger. He sped off. At the next stop sign, I flashed my lights again and hocked my horn. He sped off again, this time going faster. He didn't want to stop for us. This went on for several blocks, with the driver going faster and faster, careening around corners, ignoring my honks and flashes, before he finally pulled into an apartment complex. He didn't park. He was looking to shake us off -- us, the crazy couple and five kids (our oldest's friend was with us, too) trying to corner him, shoot him, carjack his car, steal his textbooks, something!

We pulled up beside him. He was on the phone -- to 911, no doubt expecting his hurried and panicked words to the dispatcher would be the last he uttered before departing this earth.

Glory pulled down the window: "You left your laptop on your roof!" she told the shaking driver.

"W-w-what?!" he said, rolling his window down.

"We're not trying to stalk you," Glory said calmly while smiling. "You left your laptop on your roof."

He reached up and felt the bag. "Ohhh! Thank you!"

With that, we waved, pulled around the parking area and left, catching another wave from the relieved driver as we drove past.

We laughed as we headed for home, but I didn't know whether to be glad for the guy in that we saved his computer, or be mad at him for thinking the worst of people.

I guess that's what we get for being a part of the Good Samaritan Mafia.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Too much soda and really BIG bunnies

I brought along my five-year-old daughter for a meeting I had to attend in Seattle today. She had a good time being with her dad but she eventually got bored. There are only so many pages in a coloring book and only so many ways a little girl can draw a pony or a dinosaur before losing interest. Fortunately the meeting ended soon enough and down the highway we went to see my boss, who is in the hospital with leukemia.

My boss smiled when we walked in the room, and my little girl wasn't disturbed by seeing this sick but very brave man lying in the hospital bed. After the visit, we were walking to our van in the hospital parking garage when my girl asked a pointed question:

"Daddy, how did he get sick?"

"I don't know," I said, after searching for something to say. "I just don't know."

There was a pause before she spoke again, trying to attach some blame to his condition.

"Maybe he drank too much soda."

I couldn't help but laugh and laugh. If only it were that simple. Yeah, I guess there's evidence out there that soda will kill you if consumed in extremely large quantities, but... it made sense to her.

I'm not surprised by a child's perception of things. They attach meaning to things based on what they know. Perhaps she heard that sodas cause cancer in lab animals. I don't know.

Another statement of the obvious made me smile again a little while later.

We have a pet rabbit. My daughter went with me last month to a feed store to get a bale of straw for the rabbit's cage. So my daughter equates hay with rabbits. Makes sense.

On the way home, after I treated her to an ice cream cone, we were behind a large semi hauling hay, enough for a herd of cattle.

"Wow! Look at that!" she exclaimed.

After a pause she said, "I bet he has a pet rabbit, too!"

And why not?


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Being Thankful

The month after Christmas typically is a rough month for us, as I am sure it is for many people. The cash you had was swallowed up by not just presents but buying food for parties or other gatherings, helping out others, etc. So from then on and until the next pay day, it's real lean.

So I'm thankful for God's provisions for us and seeing us through. We finally got my monthly paycheck on Friday and I couldn't help but to be extremely grateful. We were down to very little. Glory was running out of options with what little we had. And for my wife, who is a brilliant cook who can make meals for us out of nothing, to say that she's running out of ideas, it must have been getting bad.

But obviously not as bad as others. There's always someone worse off.

Today I heard about a couple in L.A. who killed themselves and their children because they lost their jobs. In fact, I continue to hear about such stories with more frequency. How sad that is that one's self worth is based so much on one's job.

I have been on the other end of a layoff before, actually a couple of times. While that is not fun, and it is scary, I can say with all certainty that never once did I believe that life was over and not worth living. I know that God provides and that He would see us through.

Jesus said in Luke 12:15: "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." While He was speaking of greed, of course, the principal is the same. Paul wrote in Phillipians 4:12: "I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need."

What is that secret? It's knowing Christ and knowing that He gives us strength to get through the trials of life. But all this help isn't just to make life easier for us. It's so that God gets the glory.

So, remember who puts food on the table. And may you remember, when times really get tough, that God sees even that. He'll sustain you even in the darkest of times.

Just ask Paul.


Friday, January 23, 2009

There's money to be found if only you look down.

Times are tough, I will admit. People are losing their jobs. They can't keep up with their house payments. The bills are piling up. It's a bad scene out there for many right now.

It's been a little tight for us, too, but thankfully we are doing OK. I remain convinced that we will be all right, mainly because God takes care of His kids. And we are His kids.

But there are things we need to do on our end, too: work hard, save, and help those worse off than we.

There may come a time when the whole family will have to find work to make the household function. I dread the idea of my kids having to get a paper route or something and then have to fork over their hard-earned dollars to have to keep meat on the table. That is my job. But if that is what needs to happen, then fine. Such sacrifices will knit our family together even more tightly. My grandparents had to endure hardships and they prevailed. Should our economy get worse and a depression befall our generation, may we show the same fortitude to withstand it and come out better on the other side.

But for all this spectre of depression, rice and bean dinners and barely scraping by, I am encouraged with the knowledge that there is money to be had, and it's under all our noses. As I tell my youngest daughter: "There's money to be found, if only you look down."

It's true.

Next time you're out walking downtown or even along your street, look down. Guaranteed, after a while you will find at least a penny. Perhaps you'll get lucky and find something more. Yesterday when I was on my scooter at a stop light, I spied a quarter and a penny on the side of the road. I pulled over and picked them up. Earlier in the day I found a penny. Today I found a penny in a parking lot. Go through the drive-thru and you will find at least 10 cents in the lane by the window. At the grocery store you will find a nickel by the pay phone. Money is to be found everywhere! I average a penny a day, at least. That's $3.65 a year.

You may scoff, "Big deal." It is a big deal. $3.65 will buy at least a jug of milk or a gallon of gas when you need it the most.

There was a time when people would get real excited at finding money on the street. It doesn't seem so these days. In fact, people throw their money away, even in these tough times. I think that's silly. I am sure there's millions out there to be found because people either are just careless or don't think a penny, nickel, dime or quarter amounts to much. Find them and we're talking dollars!

When it's getting late into the month and there are a few days until payday and you've run out of cash, and you've also run out of milk or diapers, and you see your kids' faces and you want their little smiles to remain smiles, AND you know that if you don't do something, life could be bad, you remember that you've been tossing found money into a jar. You then can thank God and rest easy in knowing that everything is going to be OK.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009


We watched yesterday's inauguration of President Barack Obama. We sang when Aretha Franklin sang, we prayed when Pastor Rick Warren prayed, and we prayed more when the oath of office was administered. After all things ceremonial were done we went about our day unmoved and unchanged. Just resolved as always to do what we know God has set before us to do.

Bill went to view President Obama's agenda. While we have our personal concerns over certain aspects of his policies, nothing gave us cause for significant alarm. It is not because of what President Barack Obama and his administration may or may not do but because of Who God is and forever will be.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

1 Chronicles 28:20
David also said to Solomon his son, "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.

Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 56:3-4
When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:13
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

1 Corinthians 16:13
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Hebrews 13:5-6
For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Skin Game

A Skin Game, according to an online definition, is a dirty game that is characterized by ruthlessness.

Alfred Hitchcock movies have been an entertainment staple since before Bill and I married. We consummated our love for this outstanding director, producer, and occasional cameo actor over Vertigo, with James Stewart and Kim Novak to lead the way. From that day forward we have indulged our penchant for suspense, intrigue, and mystery via stories such as Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, and many others.

As we selected The Skin Game, then, we expected something far different that what we were dished up. Much like anticipating the taste of a well crafted wine but experiencing something very peculiar, The Skin Game unfolded with quaint scenery of English countrysides and accompanying orchestration. Bill and I snuggled under a woven blanket and I rested my head on his shoulder. As the movie continued I found myself tense and disconcerted and Bill was sitting up straighter, too. By the movie's end, we were both quiet, very still, and solemn.

Something about all of the characters made it impossible to despise any of them, outright, but there wasn't a single one who showed ample virtue to stand out enough above any others. All were selfish, proud, and deceitful, hurting whomever they needed to get what they wanted. In the end there were no winners, none with any redeeming changes. All was lost.

Clearly, we saw the law of sowing and reaping, albeit played out dramatically. But it left both of us to, firstly, decide to take a break from Hitchcock's theatrical fare, then to discuss who at the end was closer to salvation. It causes me to consider as well, how do any of us get close enough to see the light of Truth, the hear the voice of Love, to feel the hand of Grace. Without God's Holy Spirit to bring us to His mercy there is no hope of forgiveness and we are all trapped in our own Skin Game.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

My Very Crummy No Good Bad Day

Bill tapped the power button off on our CD alarm as we tried to steal a few more minutes of sleep. It wasn’t to be as Ulie unlatched the barn door (it’s really very much a barn door) that leads into our room and said, “I want out…Daddy, I’m doo-doo. Daddy, I’m doo-doo, Daddy…”

“Okay, Ulie, I’ll change your diaper.” Bill sleepily replied.

I always feel just a moderate quantity of guilt when Bill has to get up before I do and cares for the boys as I lay in bed earnestly trying to get up but not moving a muscle. He’s the money-maker so I should be busily preparing breakfast long in advance of him getting into the shower. I don’t and he’s patient and forgiving enough to never let me know if this bothers him.

So, this morning I decided to handle the boys, both of whom needed diaper changes in the most urgent and desperate way. I retrieved Aulay’s diaper and Ulie’s underpants and noticed that the bucket of wipes was perilously light…I’ll have to make more, later. So, somehow, I managed to clean both bottoms with three wipes between them, not much different than cleaning an oil barge spill with a few cotton balls, actually.

“Honey, don’t forget to call the city to have them pick up our trash,” Bill reminded me, before the “See ya, Honey *kiss* I love you,” ritual.

Our trash bin was beyond overflowing and we’ve had to pile nearly two weeks worth of garbage sacks on top and beside it on the street. I always feel like it’s going to get knocked over or torn apart by birds, cats, or opossums so it makes me nervous seeing it outside for very long.

It was a dire situation, then, when Bill left our driveway and I couldn’t locate our cordless phone. We have a phone on our printer/fax machine, but it ties me down and I hate not being able to continue a phone call while stopping Aulay from splashing his hand in the toilet or grabbing Ulie away from the glass pitcher that cracked when our refrigerator froze the water into ice. I pushed the “find hs (find handset)” button which beeped once, like normal, but bleeped after a short delay, not normal. I enlisted the girls to help me find it but to no avail. I called Bill to ask if he’d help me find it by calling us repeatedly. After about 5 repeated tries of having the wall set ring, not hearing the handset at all, the girls and I scrambling from room to room trying to hear it, and Aulay holding his hands over his ears and yelling, “I go- i !” (toddlerese for I GOT IT), I finally found the handset with the toys in the family room with an obviously dead battery. So I would have to make the call from the office after all that.

Somehow the kids were fed breakfast and released from the table and high chair to play in the family room. At least that’s where I expected them to be, where all their new toys from Christmas beckoned like neon Vegas lights. My wishful thinking was abruptly halted when I saw an Alfred Hitchcock DVD in his little hand. The TV combo was moved into our bedroom, yesterday, so I knew there had been an intrusion. After latching the barn door shut, again, I headed upstairs to check on Elizabeth and saw her with her schoolbooks and assignment sheets in disarray. I already struggle to understand her system but, today, I wasn’t interested in getting it. Seeing the gross disorganization of what should be the girls’ private retreat was the blinking red light as the arms folded down to block the path across the rails of the accelerating locomotive.

“I’ve had it!” I heard my voice cry out like a blaring train whistle.

My inner drill sergeant had awoken and it was time for Mommy Boot Camp.

Elizabeth was given strict instructions to organize her schoolwork while Murron was told that her Barbies wouldn’t see the light of day until her clothes were put where they belonged. Even the boys with their deer-in-headlights countenances were commanded to clean their room which had stuffed toys strewn about, bedding rumpled in various corners, and clothes out of drawers. Ulie and Aulay meekly began to put things away. I left them to their work after remarking how good a job they were doing.

That’s when I was inspired to create movie tickets that the kids could earn by keeping their rooms clean, the toys put away, and by helping with laundry and dishes. I reasoned that it wouldn’t take me very long and the kids seemed occupied with their tasks. After finishing the simple document I clicked the print button. Nothing happened. After repeated tries, still nothing happened…I restarted the computer, I pushed the buttons on the printer, I turned the computer off, I turned off the power strip, I attempted everything I could imagine short of flipping all the switches in our breaker box on and off. Bill called to ask how things were going and, when I told him of the printing dilemma, he suggested that I jiggle the wires a little. Too simple, perhaps, but I was bereft of anything more original so, crawling under the computer table, I did just that.

It worked.

I’d be feeling almost totally satisfied, right now, if my sock wasn’t so wet because of stepping on the soggy washcloth the kids left on the bathroom floor.