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Sweet and Sassy Fifteen

Today, my oldest daughter celebrates her birthday. Just a few years ago by my reckoning, she played with stuffed animals and Polly Pockets; now she is a young lady, plotting and scheming to get behind the wheel of my Honda.

Party Princess
Rachel turns 5. How the years have flown!

On this, her 15th birthday, I have meetings in the city, and cannot join in the festivities the way that I could if I worked from home today. Instead, I’ll take the time I spend commuting on the train and write a quick tribute to my beloved Rachel.

If you don’t know Rachel very well, you may not be aware that she is a person with a tremendous amount of drive and personal discipline, packed into her petite frame. In a quiet, unpretentious way, Rachel pursues her goals with single-minded passion and iron-jawed determination. Whether clawing her way to ‘A’ team status in swimming, or earning high grades on her Potter’s School English assignments, Rachel perseveres and works through obstacles to ensure that she meets her goals. She is conscientious and diligent and serves as an inspiring example to the entire family.

If you’re among those fortunate enough to number Rachel among your friends, then you know that she is fiercely loyal and protective of all those within her sphere. She is especially kind to those who are discouraged or neglected, and quick to befriend someone standing alone. Rachel exemplifies Christ’s compassionate love to those who need it most, and she brings honor to our family in the way that she conducts her relationships.

Sweet family
Some of my very favorite people in the whole world.

Even inside the walls of our home, she is characterized by kindness. Her sense of humor, care and consideration of others in the way she conducts herself within the family, help to ensure that everyone gets along. She uncomplainingly does her share of the housework and can usually be counted on to make a clever, sassy remark that gets everyone laughing. She is kind to her younger brothers, and does not complain about sharing a room with her 8-year-old sister. If Sarah or David are plagued by bad dreams in the night, or are sick with the flu, Rachel is often the one they go to for help and comfort, rather than parents.

Last summer, Rachel had the opportunity to attend WorldView Academy, which seemed to impact her love for Jesus significantly. She continues to grow in her faith and in maturity of her Christian walk. She takes personal responsibility for her relationship with her Lord, and brings her parents great joy by walking in the light. While many teenagers neglect their faith and spend their teen years ignoring or even running away from God, Rachel lives out her spiritual maturity and seeks to make the most of her high school years for the glory of her King. She tirelessly serves as a leader in AWANA, and helps out with the church nursery on a monthly basis.

In some surface ways, Rachel is a typical teenage girl: she loves funky clothes, can text nearly as fast as I can talk, and spends hours connecting with her friends, on Facebook. Below the surface, though, there is depth and wisdom and character far beyond her years. She has a serious, thoughtful temperament, and cares deeply about Justice and Righteousness. Rachel is like a deep river that runs unseen, beneath the ground, or like a priceless masterpiece hanging quietly in the corner of an antique store. She reminds me of the stories where a valuable lost sword, painstakingly forged in ancient times, is found in some simple setting, concealed in an unassuming, plain leather scabbard.

True Steel
Not my actual daughter.

Not that Rachel’s exterior is plain or simple – far from it! She is a very pretty girl, growing more beautiful every day. But the tempered, true steel of her character makes itself felt in everything she does, and is very pleasing to her parents and to her God.

Yesterday, I had occasion to rebuke Rachel for some snappish things she said to Daniel, and the poor way in which she responded to her mother’s correction. As she patiently received my rebuke, a tear of frustration and shame running down her cheek, I was reminded of how godly and teachable she is, even in moments of conflict. She really wants to be a Champion for God in the depths of her soul– she really wants to do what is right and to earn His commendation. Nobody likes being rebuked, and it is sometimes hard for Rachel to accept our flawed pronouncements. But we rarely have to correct Rachel about the same thing twice – in her quiet, determined way, she examines herself and corrects her faults, as prompted and assisted by the Holy Spirit.

I don’t know what God has planned for Rachel, or how He will use her to glorify His name, but I am confident that she will be, and already is, Mighty in the Land. I’m very proud to call her my beloved daughter.

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Much Ado About Nothing

Several days ago, I wrote a blog post, the first in nine months or so. It was strangely satisfying, in a way that one-line Facebook status posting is not.

One problem with Facebook is that other people get to comment nearly as much as you get to write. Since I have a bunch of clever friends, they all end up sounding more profound, erudite and intellectual than I, which is nowhere as ego-stroking as a monologue.

In contrast, since I tend to write very long blog posts, all but the fastest readers are lucky to finish it before they die of old age, let alone comment. So I end up getting to trot out my banal opinions, without having to compete in the marketplace of ideas. Besides, if someone does manage to read the whole article, and responds with a thoughtful, pertinent response, we can always ‘forget’ to approve their comment.

But I digress. Indeed, my digressions often have digressions of their own, which is something you rarely see in a Facebook status (although some have tried).

Yesterday, my oldest daughter discovered that we had posted a new article on our blog. She made a big show of being shocked into heart failure, and wiped her eyes in mock joy as she related her discovery of our newest post (the first since Valentines’ Day). In my eagerness for feedback, I probed further:

“Rachel — did you actually read it?”

“Well, no,” she admitted. “I just looked at the pictures.”

“There was only one picture,” I protested, ” … and it was a picture of someone else’s sandwich!”

That’s another good thing about blogging — with any luck, no one will actually read your post, and so you can get credit for communicating deep wisdom without anyone actually discovering that you are a blitherer (the verbal equivalent of a ditherer).

About now, if anyone is still reading, they’ve given up on erudite or profound, and they’re probably wondering if I plan to communicate anything in particular. If the title of this post didn’t clue you in, let me do so in plain English:

“Probably not.”

But now that I think of it, I do have a few thoughts. I un-digress.

This Fall, our pastor (assisted by various guest speakers) has been exploring what the Bible has to say about Heaven. It has been an interesting study, and my view of what Heaven will be like has been substantially fleshed out, to my considerable satisfaction. One of the things Christians are often fuzzy on, is what will happen to those who are still alive, when Jesus returns. There are various schools of thought; some think Christians are taken up into heaven before the Tribulation, others in the middle, even some think that Christians will stick around for the whole seven years of God’s judgment. Some think the whole Tribulation thing is allegorical.

Here’s what the Bible actually says, in 1 Thessalonians 4:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Whenever Jesus does return, and whenever He calls His people, it seems we will rise up into the air, at least to cloud-level.

Here in Washington, clouds won’t be hard to find.

Naturally, there is some concern about this. What if you’re inside a building when the archangel calls? What happens to people who are driving cars, or operating heavy machinery (like in a Nutella factory)? Is there a particular pose that is appropriate for being raptured? Is it undignified to flap your arms?

Burning questions, these.

Rapture practice
The kids and I decided to practice, just in case the Lord returns while we are alive.

There, I even put in a picture for Rachel.

One gracious commenter has asked if we intend to resume a more regular practice of blogging (perhaps to see if she needs to get a restraining order against us). The truth is, we don’t know. I’ve missed blogging, but it may be that Facebook status updates have killed blog-writing forever. Time will tell … as always, we are grateful for anyone who stops by our little blog.


P.S. Kathy has asked me to change the background to something more seasonal. But I figure, I’ve made it nine months — just a few more, and the tulips will be all the rage again.

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House Dressing

When I was in college, there was a sandwich shop that made the most amazing dressing for their sandwiches. It was so good that many people (especially poor college students) would skip all the messy meat and cheese, and stick with bread and dressing. They used to (and probably still do) sell the ends of bread (cut from round-ish loaves for sandwiches) in a bag, along with containers of house dressing. As I recall, for about $3.50 (this was some years ago) you had enough for two to share — maybe a half-pint of ‘House’ (as the dressing was called) and a loaf’s worth of bread ends. It wasn’t a meal, but it could stand in place of one without a lot of embarrassment and shuffling of feet.

Not my actual sandwich
Not my actual sandwich

When Kathy and I went back to the College of Knowledge for our 15-year reunion, the first thought I had, was that I would get a chance to taste that dressing again.

“It will be such fun, we’ll get to see some of our old friends, I can hardly wait!” Kathy exulted.

I smiled and kept quiet. Don’t get me wrong — I greatly enjoyed seeing all those old friends, but I was in it for the House Dressing.

I had tried, over the years, to replicate that taste, rumored to be top secret, only known to the owners of the sandwich shop, for this I used different kitchen appliances from sites as I’d even resorted to ‘Student House’ which is a mixture of mayo, mustard and ketchup, traditionally (and cheaply) made from the little condiment packets that fast food restaurants provide. It just wasn’t the same.

A few weeks ago, I got a hankering for that old taste again. As I was about to resign myself to a House-less fate (it is hard to justify airline tickets to the East Coast to buy a pint of House), I suddenly had a great idea: “What about that inter-web thingy? Maybe I should Goggle it or something?” I am, after all, a programmer by trade.

Five minutes later, I had the start of a recipe, and have since honed my craft. Here’s what I came up with:

House Dressing

  • 6-8 heaping tablespoons of light mayo
  • 2 flat tablespoons of mustard (I use Gulden’s, but I think any decent mustard would do)
  • 2 flat tablespoons of steak sauce (I used the Albertsons generic, but I think any worchestershire-based sauce would do)

Yields, um, about 10-12 tablespoons of delectable House-substitute. (Yep, I can add.)

Stir and enjoy, usually on the end of a piece of bread, cracker or pretzel. It is a great way to get people to eat bread that is slightly stale — indeed, when you have a tub of House, you wander around looking for bread of any kind. If it is too spicy for your taste, add more mayo, too bland, add more steak sauce & mustard in small amounts.

Considering that light mayo is only about 35 calories per tablespoon, the whole recipe is in the neighborhood of 300 calories, although that doesn’t count the loaves of bread you’ll consume.

I’m sure House purists in Williamsburg would sneer at my poor substitute, but, hey, they can afford to sneer. They can buy the real thing. For those of us in exile, it’s the next best thing.


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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Pied

It is always a challenge for Kathy and me to live out our faith in front of our children. While others might be fooled by a veneer of spirituality, our children see us at our least pious moments. This year, in an attempt to model the virtues of ministry and service, we volunteered to work as leaders in our church’s AWANA program. As it happened, Joshua and Daniel were already serving in AWANA, and Rachel had done so in years past. David and Sarah are participants in the program. We’ve been looking for opportunities to minister together as a family – this seemed tailor-made to lend our support and endorse it by our presence.

Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed
Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed … but maybe some of ‘em aren’t fully Approved, yet?

We’re about half-way through the year, and it has not been easy. While many kids enter into the program whole-heartedly, some are interested only in the games, and endure ‘Verse Time’ and ‘Council Time’ with ill-concealed boredom. And yet, there are moments of tenderness and glory when the gospel message connects with the hearts of the children, some of whose lives are being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Impending doom
Being an AWANA leader can be pretty challenging.

During ‘Verse Time’ the kids are supposed to recite verses that they’ve memorized during the week, progressing through numbered sections in their workbooks. It is hard for the kids (and, if they’re anything like us, their parents) to remember to work on their books during the week, and so ‘Verse Time’ is sometimes less productive than we would like. In an attempt to motivate the kids, our fearless AWANA commander offered the kids a deal:

“If you finish a book (8 ‘Discoveries’, or chapters of 7 sections each),” he told them, “you will get an opportunity to throw a whipped-cream pie in the face of one of the leaders.”

Preparing the Pie
Thank goodness there were only two cans of whipped cream available.

This deal was received with glee on the part of the kids, but I wasn’t worried. While several of the boys in my group are making good progress in their workbooks, I’ve been subtly suggesting to the boys in my group that Tom, my co-leader, would make a better target for a pie. “After all,” I reminded them, “he sometimes wears a beard, which would be much harder to clean after a good pie-ing.”

Little did I know, that one of my ‘friends’ at our church was hatching a plot against me, using his own children as instruments of evil.

Many people think that this man (we’ll call him Jekyll, after Robert Louis Stevenson’s story) is godly, upright, and worthy of honor. After all, he serves as an elder in our church, leads a small group Bible study, and also holds the position of Treasurer. His children are sweet and well-behaved (or so I always thought), and his wife is a kind and gentle saint. He often teaches classes and serves communion, and is one of the few men in our church who wears a tie.

Two faces of a man
Not my actual ‘friend’.

Of course, I’ve had the advantage of seeing him operate behind closed doors. A person with my unique insight could suggest that he is a tight-fisted skinflint; a man who snatches cookies out of the mouths of widows and orphans, a man who must be opposed on nearly every major policy decision of the church. In many ways, he might be better likened to the brutal Mr. Hyde.

Striking like a rattlesnake
I barely had time to close my eyes …

I felt a tingling of impending doom, when little Zachary was asked, “Who do you choose as your target, for a pie in the face?”

“I want Mr. Tim,” the six-year-old boldly asserted.

I was stunned. Zachary isn’t even in my group (I am a leader for older boys). I had assumed that he would pick one of his own leaders, or, perhaps the AWANA commander himself. What could possibly motivate him to seek me out for this vicious attack?

The truth was soon revealed: “My Dad will pay him $5 to get you with a pie,” his sister (Angie) confided, hopping up and down in glee.

I remembered a recent debate among the church elders, in which Dr. Jekyll was narrowly defeated. He wanted to install parking meters in the church’s lot, and to drive around in a little cart between services, ticketing those who overstayed their time.

“Those people are wasting valuable parking spaces, chatting it up in the lobby! We’ve got to move ‘em in and move ‘em out!” he shouted, pounding his fist on the table, veins popping out on his flushed face.

Personally, I rather think he wanted to see the sad faces of the children as he towed their parents’ cars away. As I often do, I opposed him in this vile scheme, and now I discovered I was not immune from the consequences of that action.

Meter Man
Dr. Jekyll had put a lot of work into the Powerpoint presentation for the elder board … obviously not a man to thwart lightly.

Little Zachary soon revealed the influence of his father’s character, as I reluctantly filled the pie-pan with whipped cream.

“More whipped cream,” he told me, stone-faced, eyes glittering in unholy anticipation.

My pleas for mercy were ruthlessly ignored as he pressed the pie firmly into my face. Just as his father would twist a knife in my back, Zachary rotated the pie with his wrist to ensure that the cream would go up my nose and into my eyes. After what seemed like hours, he finally released the pie pan so I could gasp for breath.

A sacrificial victim
Maybe I should have taken out my contact lenses … ?

In many ways, this simply underscores the need for an AWANA program in our church. We must always be vigilant against the influence of the world. Venality and corruption among the children of leaders is of particular concern.

Proud of his deed
Little Zachary (aka “The Tim Slayer”) doesn’t even look sorry …

I fired off an e-mail to my so-called ‘friend’, the next day.

“So, when is the next time you’ll be teaching Sunday School for second, third, seventh, eighth or tenth-graders?” I asked him, innocently.

Coincidentally, those are the ages of my children, who have already expressed their willingness to be bribed, some of them offering two-for-one specials.

Revenge, as they say, is a dessert best served cold.


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Recently I had the opportunity to celebrate my forty-fourth birthday, which seemed appropriate, since I am, in fact, forty-four. As is my custom whenever it falls on a weekday, I took the day off from work.

The day I turned seventeen, I was working at the local Holiday Inn as a bell-boy, where I had served for more than two years. Mostly, I performed the duties of a front desk clerk, but the crafty management paid me $3.25/hour as a bell-boy since I was so young (and looked even younger). At about 9:00 in the evening of my birthday, I found myself dissatisfied with the prospect of working on such a momentous day, and I resolved, forthwith, to resign. Half an hour later, I was unemployed, with more than $2000 in savings and my evenings suddenly free. Four months later, I was penniless, and forced to seek work as a fishmonger’s assistant. But that is another story.

No longer a Holiday Inn
My actual former workplace, no longer a Holiday Inn.

Since then, whenever I enjoy my job, I’m careful to take my birthday off, for fear that history may repeat itself. It would be a shame if I impulsively decided to quit, as a result of being forced to work on my birthday. And so, I found myself home on a Thursday, with the whole day stretching before me, full of promise and opportunity.

In July, we took up geocaching as a hobby, and continue to derive much enjoyment from this pastime. As a family, we’ve located more than 50 caches, and find ourselves ranging further and further afield for new challenges. On my birthday, while Kathy drove Joshua to his JNROTC class, I mobilized the rest of the kids to pack lunches. We piled into the van and got an early (11 am) start, once they returned.

Opening a Cache
The kids enjoy taking (and leaving) trinkets in some of the larger caches.

I loaded a chain of geocache coordinates into our GPS receiver, each 10-20 minutes apart, with the furthest about 90 minutes from our home, among the foothills of Mount Rainier. Bypassing the first one (there was no easy place to stop on the highway as we hurtled past), we came to the vicinity of the second cache, which we eventually located. It was concealed in a narrow crevice between an electrical utility box and the pole to which it was attached.

“Careful, kids, that’s 220 volts,” I cautioned, standing well back.

Geocaching is not a particularly dangerous sport, but it does take you into some strange places. Joshua found the cache (a micro, about the size of a dry-erase marker) and noted the additional hazard of a bee’s nest, just above the cache.

He didn't even get stung
No bees were harmed in the filming of this adventure.

After signing the log, I graciously allowed Joshua to replace it (usually a much-sought-after privilege), but for some reason he was less-than-excited:

“Thanks, Dad,” he sourly grumbled. “How great that I get to be the one stung by high-voltage bees.”

There’s just no pleasing some people.

Ye Olde Railroad Bridge
Sarah found this particularly-difficult cache hidden among the trestles of the bridge.

Eventually we found seven caches and discovered many scenic locales, including:

  • a geocache container disguised as an electrical transformer
  • an elaborate porta-potty enclosure
  • a railroad bridge with a bunch of dead salmon
  • a deep river gorge, spanned by a one-lane bridge
  • a monument for miners, killed in a series of mine disasters
  • an abandoned stone building, nearly overrun by forest growth

Porta-Potty Enclosure
Sarah and Rachel didn’t seem to appreciate the odor or lack of toilet paper.

A very high bridge
This bridge shook especially hard when a logging truck passed by …

It was a delightful day; warm, sunny, and almost cloudless. I spent it just the way I wanted, with the people I love best, laughing and exploring and enjoying each other. With a birthday like that, I can hardly wait to turn 45!

David and Kathy
David sure does love his Mama.

A romantic moment
Kathy and I have been married for 17.5 years, now, happier every year.

– Tim

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