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Project 100 – Day 3 – Birch Logs

Birch logs for sale!

Birch logs for sale!

About a week ago, we noticed our water pressure had dropped considerably. I called the City water folks, and they came out to look at it.

“Ah, I see your problem,” the water guy told me. “This tree here has a big root under the water pipe, and it has pushed up and broken your water meter.”

After he managed to get a new meter in place, he warned me that it would break too. “These birch trees love water,” he chuckled as he drove away.

We decided to aggressively prune the tree in preparation for possibly removing it altogether. I was all set to throw away the ‘waste’, until some suggested it has value in the home decoration market. So we’re offering it for sale — who knows if anyone will buy it?

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Car Repairs — Project 100, Day 2

This Spring, David purchased a used cars for grads. It was such a great deal for David — a running car for a very cheap price, we got it from Autozin a used car agency. It’s going to be the first time we aren’t going to hire a vehicle from SVH to go out. First he was worried there might be some hidden repair issues as he read about repair work car owners need to deal with when they buy a car. Whether your auto glass damage is on your front or rear windshield, or even a side window, you can rely on autoglass tec for all types of car glass services. Surprisingly, it all turned out to be fine. It has been a huge blessing to him, commuting to his job/school/cross-country practice. Unfortunately, one of David’s brothers borrowed the car, and rear-ended another vehicle (first rain in a long time, roads slick). The damage was considerable, and we don’t carry collision on David’s car. The U.S. Flag Code doesn’t contain any provisions about washing the American flag. meaning you can safely wash a flag without violating this federal law.

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Although sometimes repairing your car is very expensive, so there’s another option, getting a buy here pay here near me that can help you choose the best vehicle for you that suits your life.

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Happily, David’s friend and youth leader is knowledgeable about cars and helped him replace the hood by going to a place where they could find parts for classic cars. David replaced the headlights himself! The car is nearly fixed. Hooray for David!

Dave the brave, car mechanic extraordinaire.

Dave the brave, car mechanic extraordinaire.

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‘Til Death Do Us Part

Last Sunday, our oldest daughter Rachel and her fiance Tim were married, in the sight of some 350 witnesses, and in the smiling presence of the Lord.

The beautiful couple!

The beautiful couple!

It was a beautiful, glorious and fun wedding, abounding in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Rachel and TJP (have to keep all the Tim’s straight) were gorgeous and handsome (you can figure out which was which) and their joy (and that of their friends and family) could be palpably felt throughout the ceremony and reception.

Typically, every wedding has at least some minor disaster, but if there were setbacks, they were easily conquered. The enjoyment of the guests was only rivaled by the smiles on the faces of the wedding party, as each vied with the other to be the most gracious. Our own Pastor Jim conducted the service, and Kelsie (Josh’s beloved wife), Ray (father of the groom), Lizzie and Tarah (sisters of the groom) all sang, with James (the son I never had, but always wanted) accompanying on the piano. Benaiah (sweetest grandson ever) was the ceremonial ring bearer, and Deborah and Anna (two of Tim’s cousins) stole the show as flower girls in their own miniature wedding gowns.

It is perhaps not surprising that Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding reception, and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb is the name given for our eternal celebration, when we at last can live with God, enjoying His presence forever. If there is one thing that God approves, it is the permanent joining of a godly man and a godly woman in Holy Matrimony.

"I do!"

“I do!”

We had intended to have the wedding at our own church, but the renovation project of our sanctuary didn’t finish on time. So we cast about and found a nearby church that was willing to let us use their building. We sort of expected for them to be difficult to work with, since we weren’t members at their church, but instead they bent over backwards for us, helping us to coordinate the wedding, letting us have early access to the gym, and providing volunteer servers to help with our reception. Truly, it is good to be part of the family of God.

It is a difficult thing to give a daughter in marriage. Rachel is hardworking and frugal, so the expenses were less than I expected, and several relatives and friends helped considerably with the costs. No, the difficulty comes in handing over the care and protection of your little girl to another man. Even though I have known TJP for much of his childhood and young adulthood, there is still a terrifying moment when one stands on the precipice and looks over, wondering if this man (about to marry your daughter) will cherish her enough to make her happy.

And away they go.

And away they go.

At the end of the day, I had a few moments to reflect on the whirlwind sequence of events, and I remembered that the same God, who has walked Rachel down the aisle of her life, continues to walk with her as a grown woman and a wife. Although my stumbling role in her life has diminished considerably, God will continue to work in and through both Rachel and Tim, and will present them to Himself as radiant offerings of praise. I think I can live with that.

As a Papa, I do want to remark on a few things that made me very proud:

  • I was deeply impressed with Tim’s groomsmen. As the Japanese proverb says, “When the character of a man is not clear, look at his friends.” They were obviously solid, godly men, and they represented phases of his adult life beyond what I had observed. Knowing that Tim’s integrity and character were consistent over the past ten years really made me less worried about giving him my daughter’s hand.
  • I was so proud of how Rachel and Tim conducted themselves toward their guests. Some brides are so intent on being the focus of the event, that they treat their guests as second class citizens, but Rachel and Tim took every opportunity to give glory to God by making our friends and family the focus of their own efforts. They took nearly all their pictures in advance, so the guests didn’t have to wait before the reception. They released the ceremony attendees by rows (while sitting) so they didn’t have to stand in line to pay their respects. Even during the reception, Tim and Rachel played a fun shoe game that focused on the entertainment of the guests, rather than a self-serving activity.
  • If the shoe fits...

    If the shoe fits…

  • After the reception, Tim and Rachel snuck back to our house and spent a little more time with their groomsmen and bridesmaids, giving our family a final chance to say goodbye. It really helped me to have peace about them driving off into the sunset, as a married couple.
  • One of the best parts of the weekend (and indeed, two of the best days of my life) was listening to the toasts at the rehearsal luncheon. Several of my children spoke (along with most of the groomsmen and many of the bridesmaids) and each of them had memorable and profound things to say about how God has worked in Rachel and Tim’s lives. Then the next day, Joshua, Karis and Jenny each touched our hearts again with their speeches at the reception. As the Apostle John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

But how can we let our little girl go? How can my little Gingersnap be all grown-up, swooped thousands of miles away, starting her own life with TJP? Who will serve as our “riot leader”, watch Mega Mind with David, and giggle with Sarah late into the night? Who will talk fashion with Daniel and push him in making good choices, or provide Kathy with a shopping buddy and a steady supply of coffee beans? Rachel has often been the hub of activity and relationship in our home, and her bright love and ready laughter will be sorely missed.

My little girl...all grown up.

My little girl…all grown up.

Now they are in Florida, where TJP will soon graduate from his Air Force training; then on to Barksdale Air Force Base, near Shreveport, Louisiana. Having Rachel home for the summer was pure gold, but now we’ll have to scheme and plan for time with the newlyweds, as they establish their new identity as a family of their own.

A toast to the bride and groom!

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With Liberty and Justice for All

On Saturday I attended the annual ‘Massing of the Colors’ at a high school downtown. I estimate as many as 150 military units and social organizations were represented; in most cases each had a U.S. Flag and a flag or banner identifying their group. The I Corps Army Band played a medley of patriotic-themed songs, and a Major General gave a short address about two military heroes.

We attended in support of the Refuge, the retreat center founded and operated by my parents – they were competing for a participation award (which they won). Each organization that could rally at least 50 supporters was eligible to win a prize of $500 – we apparently had enough supporters, and my folks received the check on behalf of The Refuge.

David and Cooper are the flag-bearers in the very center of this photo.

David and Cooper are the flag-bearers in the very center of this photo.

I must admit, I wasn’t very eager to go. The program was more than 2 hours in duration, and the school was a good half-hour from my home – surely I had better things to do on a Saturday afternoon? I was teaching Sunday School the next morning – this cut into my preparation time considerably.

But a friend of our family and a long-time Refuge supporter had asked my son David to carry a flag, and it was very possible that I would be needed to make up the required count of 50 supporters, so I decided there was no easy way to get out of it. It is hard to say ‘No’ to a retired Colonel who has invested so much of his own time into the Refuge, and has been so kind to our family over the years.

When we arrived, I was surprised and a little impressed at how many flags were there. It seems nearly every military unit in the 7th Division was represented, and there were dozens of community groups, including Boy Scout and Cub Scout groups, Chambers of Commerce, and Veterans organizations in attendance as well. So I took my seat behind my parents and settled in to endure the ceremony.

While I was sitting there, I began to reflect on patriotism, and my emotional and intellectual response to the flag and the songs being played by the band. Patriotism is a tricky subject is our post-modern society, and it is further complicated by the fact that, as a Christian, my true citizenship is not tied to a particular earthly nation. Is my allegiance to Christ compatible with being a Patriot? If I was a German or Brazilian or Syrian man, would it be appropriate for me to be a Patriot?

About halfway through the ceremony, a young soldier sang a rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance. Since we recite the Pledge as part of our weekly AWANA ceremony, it is something that rolls through my head more often than most adults. I’m not sure if public schools still recite the pledge – perhaps not in this left-leaning State where I live now, because of the ‘Under God’ component that seems so abhorrent to liberals.

One phrase that was particularly stressed in the song was the final refrain of the Pledge: “… with Liberty and Justice for All.” I found myself considering the uniqueness of my nation as originally founded. Say what you like about the Founding Fathers, the majority of them were Christians, and those that weren’t, were well-steeped in Biblical knowledge. Baked into our national DNA is a firm belief that the Government is subject to God and may not trespass within the borders of religious freedom.

Liberty is a strange word. It means release from jail for the prisoner, equality for a racial minority, and freedom of expression for others. It is a basic sense that, within reason, and with consideration of the rights of others, I ought to be left to pursue my own happiness without undue interference.

And yet of the two words, I think ‘Justice’ is the more critical of the two words. Without Justice, Liberty only exists for the powerful and influential — yet Justice limits individual Liberty by its very nature.

But what is Justice? Is there a universal standard that people can agree to? Without some transcendent standard (like the Word of God), Justice descends from its lofty place, to the sordid will of the majority at a given time. If the majority is in favor of slavery for people of a certain race, then that is Justice. If the majority votes to murder the unborn or the elderly or the sick, that becomes Justice.

In recent years, corruption and hypocrisy seem rampant in political and financial circles. As political correctness continues to push God out of the public sphere, is Justice just a matter of taking a vote and letting the majority enact whatever tyranny it desires? What happens to the ‘for all’ part of the Pledge?

As I drove home, I was sobered by the thought that the Liberty and Justice I often take for granted, is under assault from all sides. How long, I wondered, will we continue to enjoy Liberty, when the foundation of Justice is eroded and destroyed by those who say there is no God?


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Valentine Tree

There is no question that my favorite season of the year is Christmas time. Summer is delightful (especially here in the Pacific Northwest, where summer is never too hot) and I do enjoy Thanksgiving as much as the next guy (unless the next guy is Joshua, who REALLY loves Thanksgiving). I always enjoy my birthday, although the last few have been a bit lonely, with Kathy out of town.

But there is something really unique about the anticipation, the wonder; the nearly-universal joy that is Christmas. Sure, people get stressed about the season – buying too much and trying to meet everyone else’s expectations, but even so, there is something quite special about focusing on the Advent of the Savior of the World, and seeking to show love as much as possible to others.

Round up the usual Christmas suspects!

Round up the usual Christmas suspects!

When I was a little boy, my Dad used to tell a story about a Christmas gathering he had attended (or maybe only imagined) in which a bratty child feverishly unwrapped a generous pile of presents on Christmas morning. When there was nothing left under the tree, the boy looked around angrily. “Is that ALL?” he whined. (My Dad can imitate a really impressive whine.)

This boy was held up as the pinnacle of the height of ingratitude – we all knew that we didn’t want to be identified with that child in any way. I can only hope he never existed, and was only a product of my Dad’s inventive mind.

And yet.

Truth be told, there is a part of all of us that is just the tiniest bit disappointed when Christmas is ‘over’. When the last presents have been opened, and the visiting relatives have gone home, and the leftovers have become passe’ – when all is said and done, there is a sense of a bit of a let-down.

January is a cold and rainy month in Western Washington – usually too cold and damp for comfort and too warm for snow. The contrast between the warmth and color and joy of the Christmas season is rather stark, and I find myself unwilling to venture out into the relative ‘cold’ of the New Year.

So I don’t. I keep listening to Christmas Carols and I refuse to even consider taking down the Christmas tree. I leave the lights on the outside of my house burning each night, taking a defiant (and I dare say, heroic) stand against the turning of the seasons. “What does January have to offer, that I should take down the lights?” I ask anyone who questions my unflagging Christmas Spirit.

But my wife likes variety, and is a bit more forward-looking than I am. Even though our tree is fake, she begins to pine (pun intended) for change, and to reclaim the space lost when the Christmas decorations descend upon the house. Even my children (who ought to be on my side) begin to raise an eyebrow when they hear me relentlessly playing Christmas music on my computer.

This year, my wife was very crafty. She slowly (and rather sneakily) put away the decorations, bit by bit, until only the tree and the outside lights remained as a bastion against the tide of progress. Waiting until I was out of town for a Men’s Retreat, she whisked away the tree and the outside lights. When I came home, it was a ‘fait accompli’, with only the ‘extra’ tree in our bedroom still remaining.

My Valentine Tree keeps the season alive, even at the end of February.

My Valentine Tree keeps the season alive, even at the end of February.

Even that tree was subjected to a transformation, of sorts.

“It’s a Valentine’s Tree,” she told me, smugly.

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