Tag Archives: Car

The Massive Meatball Massacre of 2015

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow let’s go into this city, and spend a year there, trade, and make a profit.” Whereas you don’t know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? For you are a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. (James 4:13-14 WEB)

I like Christmas parties. They usually are festive, fun and have lots of tasty food available. When it comes to departmental work holiday celebrations it’s one of those chances to see a colleague’s family and enjoy some fellowship not related to a work project. The IT department often held an evening of celebration with food, fun and an expression of thanks from our supervisor. Many times, the gathering was in the supervisor’s home.

It’s an interesting prospect when spending time in your boss’s home. You get a glimpse of their private life. You learn something of the things they enjoy not related to the ministry. Looking at family pictures, on the wall or in frames, can be fun and at times the source of some interesting stories. Checking out their books gives insights into their penchant for fiction or nonfiction and in the case of ministry their favorite theologians and preachers. Then there is the quick perusal of the music library, assuming they still have CDs or records and haven’t gone entirely digital, these things tell you a lot about your hosts and what decade impacted them the most.

2005_11_Thanksgiving_136A few years ago, we attended the IT Department Christmas Party at our boss’s home. It was a wonderful time. We laughed, we ate, we were entertained by one another. The children present provided an additional layer of fun and excitement as we chatted or played with available toys. Our boss read his annual poem about each one of the department and their unique skills expressed in a unique and humorous way. When the evening was winding down Beth and I packed the car.

We brought meatballs to the party in a crock pot. This made things easy to heat up for the evening. There weren’t many left in the pot by the time we departed. I carefully placed the cock pot in the trunk surrounded by a few items. It was almost empty so the center of gravity was low on the device. Things looked good, we were bundled in our winter coats and headed out of the neighborhood.

Pulling out onto the main road can sometimes be tricky. There is a lot of traffic even at night in December. After waiting and appropriate amount of time for the stream of cars to whisk by I saw my chance and pulled across the road turning left toward home. Perhaps I accelerated a little faster than I anticipated. As we completed the arc to enter the lane we heard a tell-tale thump from the rear of the car. Oh no! At the first chance, I pulled into a side road on the right and stopped the car.

Cautiously I moved to the back of the car and opened the trunk lid. I couldn’t see a thing. Of course not! It was dark outside and there’s no light in the trunk. I pulled out my cell phone and clicked on the flashlight. That’s when I saw the carnage. There were meatballs everywhere covered in the requisite red sauce. The remnants of unconsumed sauce were oozing out of the pot across the trunk. Some meatballs were intact, having rolled clear of the pot, while others apparently were trapped with other trunk objects and smashed or sliced into meatball oblivion. It was not a pretty site. I up righted the pot and corralled the wayward contents as best I could back to its still hot embrace. It would be a long time, with lots of cleaning, before the trunk would be restored to a non-Italian food condition.

As Christians, we sometimes put things away carefully hoping they’ll make the trip through the rest of our life. But then there’s an unexpected turn in life and things start rattling around and making a mess. We corral the pieces we can reach in a futile attempt to put them back where we had them. They never seem to fit back in their original packing.

I’m glad God doesn’t have this problem. He knows where everything fits and how to keep it in place in our life. If I can remember he’s the one in control, then I can put all the pieces in his hand. Once he has packed them where they belong, they stay put. I think that is a better way.

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Furlough is Family Fun – 63

Trust the LORD and live right!

The land will be yours, and you will be safe. (Psalms 37:3 CEV)

During our first furlough we lived in one home for many months. I traveled regularly to meet with churches and share the ministry. Once in a while the family came along for the weekend. Later furloughs were different. Our second furlough was more realistic and a hint of coming furloughs.

With one or two exceptions we spent our second furlough on the road. Most of our stops were for two or three days. A couple times it was four or five. After a few miles our four children, in one car, let us know that they were bored. They wanted to do something fun and exciting.

We desired to be good parents, relieve our children’s boredom, and maintain our own sanity, Beth and I decided it would be good to stop regularly and have some fun. Games such as license plate alphabet didn’t last long. The close quarters of the car called for more drastic measures.

I remember riding many miles with my parents. We usually had a destination in mind as well as planned stops along the way. I tried to do the same with our family. It seemed very efficient for an engineering mindset like mine as well as my father. However, I do recall as a young man seeing a sign for some special location and wanting to stop. But, since it wasn’t on the schedule and slowed us down we didn’t stop.

Now it was my children in the car. What would I do when they read the signs and wanted to stop? Beth and I discussed it briefly and decided we would beat them to the punch. When we saw a sign to some supposedly interesting place we would investigate. Even historical markers were on the list of possible reasons to stop for at least few minutes.

We visited Beth’s parents in Florida where the children learned about fishing. Grandpa prepared a fishing pole for each of the children and taught them how to catch, clean and eat the fish. They even learned to watch my hat float away when it was blown into the waterway.

Beth was reading the Laura Ingles Wilder series about the Little House on the Prairie. One of the churches we visited put us up in a log cabin beside a small lake just outside of town. The children thought we were living out part of the story.

Since there was only a small zoo on Guam, and I like zoos, we visited many zoos across the country. My favorite would be the Saint Louis Zoo. While visiting the San Antonio Zoo Beth discovered we had monitor lizards on the island of Guam. She didn’t believe me when she saw the sign although I told her we saw them on the island. After finding out they had lizards as big as herself, that ate small mammals, she wasn’t sure she wanted to return.

Not everything we experienced or every place we stayed was wonderful. There were some hard times with poor housing, illness, and car problems. But overall there was much more to be thankful for than to worry about.

God works in our lives to provide the rest and refreshment we need to serve Him fully. Sometimes we don’t see the benefits, sometimes we sail by the historical markers, sometimes we miss the joys along the way because we’re too busy trying to get to that next place of service.

God has taught me to slow down on furlough and look around. He created a marvelous world full of faithful servants for which we are eternally thankful.

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Seeking the Stars

Praise him, sun and moon! Praise him, all you shining stars! (Psalms 148:3 WEB)

As a little child I often sat in the backyard and stared at the stars. One year my father provided a telescope so we could look closely at the constellations and the man in the moon. The immense magnitude of the stars stirred my soul. I was fascinated. I read science fiction novels and watched movies like “The Forbidden Planet.” These all served to increase my desire to know more about the heavens and what was out there.

Dad was famous in Atlanta because of man’s desire to know more about the stars. The Russians launched Sputnik to the amazement of the world. Dad carefully aligned his Ham Radio gear and captured the short signal as the satellite passed over Georgia. Because of his recording, a story and photo appeared in the Atlanta newspaper.

I was excited to watch Alan Shepherd, John Glenn and a long list of others blast off to circle the globe and explore the edges of space. It’s still exciting today! My fascination with these men, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) continued to grow.

I remember I stayed up late to watch the first men land on the moon and hear the memorable words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I wanted to be an astronaut and explore the galaxy. Unfortunately, I was soon too tall to fit within the confines of the earlier space capsules. But still my interest and study of space travel continued.

I collected pictures of astronauts, detailed drawings and specifications for the capsules and the future plans for the space program. I wrote to astronauts and collected signatures and personal information. One-day God provided me an opportunity to meet one of these men of space history.

I was working as an engineer in a little radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio. I worked the late shift since I was still in High School at the time. Due to the location of the station the doors were locked in the evening and visitors were carefully announced.

As I sat, drinking my cola, listening to the programs and making my log entries I was startled when the back door buzzed. I sauntered through the equipment room to the frosted door and noticed a medium height man outlined by the street lamp in the parking lot.

I stepped close to the door and questioned, “Who is it?”

“John Glenn,” he replied and waited.

I thought for a couple seconds, didn’t remember anything on my list of events for the evening and unceremoniously replied, “Yeah right!” I paused for dramatic effect then continued, “So, who are you really and what do you want?”

The man on the other side of the door cleared his throat and replied, “I am John Glenn here to record a political commercial.”

“Sorry, but I’m not buying this buddy,” I replied with a bit of sarcasm in my voice.

“Why don’t you call someone and find out?” replied the visitor from the outside of the door.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” I answered. I turned and walked back to my desk in the transmitter hall. I looked up the manager’s phone number. I dialed and waited for an answer.”

“Hello?”

“Hello, this is Bob from the station. There’s some jerk outside claiming to be John Glenn. What do you want me to do? Call the police?”

“Oh, oh,” the station manager replied, “didn’t I leave you a note?”

“Note, what note?”

“John Glenn is coming to record political spots for his senatorial campaign. Record the spots and leave the recordings on my desk,” instructed the manager.

“OK,” I replied and hung up the phone.

Sheepishly I returned to the back door, ushered in Mr. Glenn and profusely apologized for treating him in such an impolite manner. We chatted about his work in the space program, a highlight for me, and I recorded his comments for political commercials. He went on to serve as Senator for Ohio several terms.

That was my first direct interaction with the space program. My collection of photos, signatures and special documents have long since disappeared but my interested continued even to the mission field.

On Guam NASA maintained a tracking station near the southern end of the island. One day I drove over, with some friends, for a short tour of the small facility.

One Thanksgiving we hosted a gentleman who worked with the shuttle program. Guam served as a backup landing site for the space shuttle in case there was an emergency. The shuttle didn’t divert to Guam but I learned a number of fascinating facts concerning their backup plans.

As thorough as backup plans might be they are never one hundred per cent. It was during our furlough from 1985 to 1986, while we were living in O’Fallon, Missouri I was once more reminded of the space program. We had just returned from a speaking trip to Kentucky where our speedometer cable broke.

I purchase the appropriate parts and spent the afternoon working under the car to install the new cable. This was necessary to make the cruise control would work. Cruise control is a vital necessity with the number of miles we travel during furlough.

Several hours later, two trips to the car part store and some choice words to the designer of the car I finally had a cable positioned for testing. I climbed into the car, started it up, cranked the air conditioning to frostbite and drove down the road. When I saw the speedometer begin to function I turned on the radio.

As I listened to some music my sing-along was interrupted by major news. The space shuttle Challenger had just exploded during takeoff. I couldn’t believe it! This had to be some sort of a joke. I remembered years before the news of the Apollo crew burned to death in the capsule. My heart went out to the families of the crew and all those involved in the details of the shuttle mission.

This was a national tragedy I never forgot. I drove home, turned on the television and watched the video of the event while listening to the ground crew try to assess the damage. None survived, it was a stark reality obvious in the film but denied in the heart.

As I worked to bring the heavenly news of the Gospel to the world I was reminded of man’s fragile, unexpected life. How many people, around the world, die unexpectedly without understanding the Gospel message and choosing to turn to God through Christ?

Another shuttle disaster occurred a few months before I wrote this. Again my heart went out to the crew, their families and all involved in the program. God gave us minds to overcome many of the limitations of our earthly life, including reaching out into space and to the moon.

Still, it’s here on the earth God chose to send his son to provide us a way of salvation. I want to seek God’s face in everything I do. Like many, I can find myself looking off to some unknown world diverting my vision from the one who saved my soul. I am excited as mankind grows, learns, discovers new things God created and reaches to the stars.

I pray I may be used of God to help others reach to the heavens through the savior on the Cross. We need a heavenly vision, with Christ as our focus, to reach the world with the good news of salvation.

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Car Trouble – Doubled

But the salvation of the righteous is from Yahweh. He is their stronghold in the time of trouble. Yahweh helps them, and rescues them. He rescues them from the wicked, and saves them, Because they have taken refuge in him. (Psalms 37:39 40 WEB)

During a one year furlough we drove many miles in our 12 year old Ford. It was a great car. It was big, comfortable, had cruise control, and included what I called “frost bite” air conditioning. This was really great in the summer months. But even with a good car things go wrong. This furlough was no exception to the rule.

In the fall I traveled without Beth and the children so Ellice could attend school. One of my trips was to the Mississippi delta town of Memphis. We had a few contacts through a former TWR missionary. One couple graciously offered me a bed in their home for a few days while I worked through the church yellow pages in attempts to meet pastors and increase our support.

One day in the middle of Memphis the car motor stopped. A couple little coughs, a little spurting and then dead. Great, I’m in a city I don’t know, staying with people I just met, and my car dies. With no other option I found a pay phone and called my host.

He had a heart with a desire to serve the Lord whenever possible. He listened to my plight and said he would be down as soon as possible. I called a tow truck and the car was hauled to a shop somewhere in the city for repairs. My friend took me back to the house and offered to bring me down for the car the next day when it would be ready.

The middle of the afternoon the following day we rode in his restored Chevy (very nice) to pick up my car. I was never sure where the shop was located. When I entered the shop it was ready and I proceeded to pay the bill.

With our home on Guam using a bank established in Hawaii and now living temporarily in Missouri things got a little tedious. The owner of the shop processed my credit card with a phone call for authorization. After a couple minutes he informed me there was a problem with the card. I asked him to try again. He did. The authorization center still insisted I needed to talk with my bank. This wasn’t likely since my bank was on a small island thousands of miles away.

My friend saw I was a bit upset. He offered to pay the bill to get the car back on the road and I could send him the money later. Praise the Lord! Here was a man I only met a couple days before willing to pay my bill and trusting me to drive back to Missouri and send him a check. The Lord surely provides in unexpected ways. I returned home and mailed a check to my friend to clear up the debt I owed.

Things went well for the next couple of months. But, sometimes small unexpected items can cause large problems. The second failure occurred on a busy day driving along the interstate through the hectic and confusing traffic of Saint Louis.

The whole family was returning from a Sunday morning meeting in a small town across the border in Illinois. The service went well and we were looking forward to a relaxing afternoon. Fortunately the traffic wasn’t too heavy as we pointed our Ford toward home.

In the middle of the intertwining of interchanges and roads I was out in the left lane to pass a slow driver. Suddenly, instantly, the motor stopped. No sputter, no hesitation, no signs, just completely dead. Praise the Lord we had just crested a small rise in the highway.

Using gravity and our initial inertia I navigated the car across the four lanes between faster cars to the shoulder and rolled to a stop. Two small children, a pregnant wife and a dead car. What would we do now?

This was before the ubiquitous cellular phone and there were no emergency phones within sight. I exited the car, opened the hood, and gazed at what was obviously an automobile engine. At least that’s what the mechanics call it. Lots of tubes, wires, and mechanical looking gadgets which had names I didn’t know.

With a look of understanding I climbed back into the car and authoritatively informed Beth, “It’s dead.” Beth is a perceptive person and knew I didn’t have a clue what was happening. Her graciousness abounded as she nodded, accepted my evaluation and then ask what was next.

I didn’t know. As I contemplated walking to the next exit a car pulled up behind us and stopped. An unknown lady with a car phone offered assistance. We knew none of the shops or mechanics so I called a friend at the church who was a machinist and car mechanic. If he didn’t know how to fix the car he would know the best man for the job.

The lady who provided the phone call also provided a ride home for Beth and the children as I waited for Mr. Mechanic (our friend) to send a tow truck. When the truck arrived the driver introduced himself as Mr. Mechanic’s friend and we headed toward home. I was dropped off at the house and the car continued to be towed to Mr. Mechanic’s home in the country.

The next day we were taken to Mr. Mechanic’s home for a nice evening meal and to take a look at the car. At first he didn’t show signs of interest in helping fix the car. When I explained we were more than willing to pay for repairs his attitude changed.

We later discovered other missionaries came to the church and expected all their needs, repairs, and work to be provided free of charge. Explaining this was not the case for us, because we know he needs to earn a living and we have a fund to help with such repairs, he was glad to do the work. All he asked was to be reimbursed for the parts he might need. We shook hands in agreement and then walked to the garage to inspect the car.

It took only a few minutes for him to determined the fuel pump was not pumping fuel. The problem wasn’t the pump but the cam (whatever that is) that activated the pump. Removing the front of the engine he was surprised to discover the bolts were very loose. As he went deeper he found the cam swinging freely inside the cover.

Things started to make sense. When the car was repaired in Memphis, which included opening this portion of the engine, they didn’t properly torque the bolts causing the cam to come loose, the fuel pump to stop pumping and me to be stranded on the side of the highway.

Praise the Lord for faithful and willing servants such as Mr. Mechanic to discover the problem quickly, tighten the bolts and watch us drive home after a great country dinner.

While I learned something about cars and mechanics I am sure Mr. Mechanic learned something that evening as well. Not all servants of the Lord expect everything for free. The laborer, both missionary and mechanic, is worthy of his wages. It’s a two way street!

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