Archive for September, 2009

Death of the Camry (UPDATED)

September 30th, 2009 12 comments
Beth laying flowers on the Camry's grave.  RIP

Beth laying flowers on the Camry's grave. RIP

Yesterday I made a post about how Beth and I have cut our costs and are living simply.  In what can only be described as cruel irony, that same day we got word back that our Camry’s engine was blown and would require $1,200+ to put a new one in.  [UPDATE: Because Cash for Clunkers intentionally ruined so many working engines, the cost has gone up substantially.  The cheapest engine we could find is $1,900 with a total cost of $2,300.  Equally disappointing is the fact that we would only get between $100-200 if we tried to scrap it] While we are certainly disappointed (read: pissed) it hasn’t been overly stressful because we have some options.  The problem is, no option clearly seems to make the most sense.

Last month my parents gave me an old Chevy S-10 they had not been using.  It has low miles (for a ’95) and is great for moving things around.  We can fit the whole family in it if we need to, but it is super tight.  Also, it is a stick shift, which Beth hates driving.

We also have my Saturn (which 2 weeks ago I was trying to sell and then informally abandoned that idea after the interior somehow became filled with junk after a road trip to Chicago).  This car is also a stick shift and is beat to crap.  It runs great (with 153K on it) but doesn’t have A/C and the interior is all torn up.  Again, the whole family can fit in there but no one is happy.

And then there is the Camry.  Camries are supposed to be good cars… what happened?  (In case you are wondering… Yes… Beth had made sure there was oil in it).  It also has 153K on it and the tranny has some quirks.  Oh… and the engine doesn’t work.  But, it was a great traveling car, got good gas mileage and the A/C worked.

So what do we do?  Here are the options we see:

  1. Scrap out the Camry and go with what we have – Let’s face it, we are extremely fortunately to have an extra car.  Beth can drive the Saturn and I can drive the truck and we pocket the few hundred dollars that the junk yard would give us.  By far the cheapest option, but Beth hates driving a stick and then we have no car good for traveling.
  2. Scrap out the Camry and buy something else – We could take what little money the Camry brings and perhaps sell the Saturn too and then buy Beth a new car.  We save the repair costs, but selling both cars will probably bring in less than $1,500 and then we have to find a reliable vehicle for a decent price.  Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.
  3. Bite the bullet and fix the Camry – We sink $1,200 into a car that is 11 years old and has a quirky tranny.  We could sell the Saturn to help pay these costs.  We like the Camry and it meets our needs, but I am hesitant to put this much money into a car that is so old.  At some point it costs more to upkeep a cheap car than to buy an expensive car.  If we do this and then the tranny goes, we are up the creek.

Any of these options would work and we don’t need a long term solution.  We are planning on getting rid of all of our vehicles in 2 years when we move to Swaziland.  All we need is something to get us up to that time without being a money pit.

So, we need your help. What would you do in this situation?  Is it worth fixing the Camry or should we count our blessings and move on?

Categories: Family, Random Tags: , , , , , ,

A Simplified Life

September 29th, 2009 5 comments
Family at Jackson's Orchard

Family at Jackson's Orchard

I was talking with someone the other day about my ability to work at Kaleidoscope without compensation.  She was very confused… how could Beth and I support ourselves if I was only working minimal hours a week at a low rate and us practically living on a teacher’s salary.  It was easy I told her… we live simply.  We drive old cars, don’t buy new clothes, have a modest house and save our money.  Unfortunately these simple exercises are entirely foreign to too many people.

In the last year our take home income has decreased by over 30% and we have a new member in the family.  At the same time, our savings have gone up and “happiness” has significantly increased.  In the last year, my primary job has gone from full time to part time to very part time to no time.  Instead of stressing about money, we have actually been able to give more and save more.  In fact, since Mikayla has been born, our monthly expenses have continued to drop.

What accounts for this?  Have we fired our butler?  Have we sold off hidden assets?  Have we joined a commune?

Not at all… we have just continued to re-evaluate our priorities and moved towards a simplified life.  Time with family is more important than extravagant vacations.  Food from the garden is better than eating out.  New clothes are not needed when you aren’t trying to impress people who do not even care about you in the first place.

Sure we don’t drive the nicest cars (when they run), and Lord knows we don’t have the slickest attire.  We aren’t on everyone’s “Who’s Who” list and we don’t get to experience the newest greatest things, BUT…

We are as happy as we have ever been, we stress less, and the time we spend with family and friends outweighs any possession or experience one could buy.  I regularly wake up excited about what the day holds and not worried about what I have to get done.  Those things are priceless.

There is no way I could go back to the rat-race of life.  In only people knew the peace and happiness that comes from a path of downward mobility….  There is a reason that Jesus told his followers to sell all they have to give to poor.  It is not so that the poor can be liberated, but so that the wealthy can.

The government and human rights

September 28th, 2009 No comments

In the past few months I have had several excellent conversations about the origin and inventory of human rights.  It seems most people agree with the idea that people are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” yet when it comes to specifics there is much disagreement.  For instance… does “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” refer to freedom or opportunity (put another way, are these things something all people should have, or have the option of having — the difference is substantial).

This discussion began when I compared universal education with universal health care and asked if both should be considered human rights.  My friend Aaron pushed back saying that rights exist individually apart from anyone granting them to you.  (Therefore if the government is the purveyor of universal health care, it cannot exist beyond them and thus cannot be a right). Desmond Tutu takes a different approach by saying human rights exist because we are created in the image of God.  Without too many specifics, he argues this means we should extend respect and care to all people.

As nice as it is to say that rights are inherent and/or God-given, it seems the facts of history do not support this.  Most would agree the freedom (from slavery) is a God-given right.  However, in the hundreds of years across which the Bible was written, this “right” was never extended or even articulated.  Heck, even our constitution, which is still a relatively recent document, did not consider this to be a right.

At the end of the day, societies are the ones who give rights, and this usually comes in the form of the government.  Put another way, rights can not be rights until they are extended by the authority of a group of people (government).  Freedom of speech, which is actually a relatively old idea, was first extended under Greek empire.  Before the powers that be articulated and defended that right, it did not exist.  Likewise, freedom from ownership was not a right to be extended until governments listened to the Abolitionists and began protecting people from slavery.

Rights may in fact come from God, but at the end of the day, it is up to governments (or other authoritative communities) to identify and codify these rights.  One thing is clear… Rights are not static, but are evolving.  In the last 250 years, Americans have come to generally agree on a slew of individual rights: right to bear arms, right to vote, right to practice religion, right to private property, right to a fair trial, etc.  While people may consider these to be God-given, they are all actually given by our constitution.

It is my belief that we as a society are moving towards a more civilized existence.  I am glad our constitution protects so many rights and I am also glad our nation has risen up to extend more rights (like voting and abolishing slavery).  I believe we have reached the point where we understand what things should not be done to people and are starting to understand what things should.  It is my guess that in 100 years, everyone will consider education, healthcare, clean drinking water, adequate food and shelter to be basic human rights that should be extended to all.  We should not fear the government extending these rights anymore than we should have feared the government banning slavery.  Change happens, and when it comes to governments extending rights, history has consistently shown this to be a good thing.

The title of “Pastor”

September 23rd, 2009 No comments

Technically I can put the letters “Rev.” in front of my name.  That is because the United Methodist Church recognizes me as a pastor.  Although I am not employed by a church, I am appointed as a local pastor to a church.  Practically this means I can marry and bury, consecrate communion and baptize.  Sometimes it also means people look at (to) me differently.  I am not sure how I feel about that.


Today I was in a meeting at church when one of the people there received the awful news that her mother had passed away.  She took a phone call in the hallway and instantly began sobbing.  Someone commented that it was unfortunate that all the other pastors were away meeting with the Bishop.

That bothered me.  Not because they were gone, or because I was viewed differently than the “employed” pastors.  It bothered me because I realize there is nothing special a pastor could do in that situation.  What this person needed was a shoulder to cry on, and someone to pray with her, and people to support her.  It doesn’t take someone with a fancy white collar or special letters in front of their name to do that.

A friend of mine passed on a thought to me the other day.  He was talking about the formation of the Quaker church and the way it was received.  At one point the Quakers, who function largely under the guidance of the congregation members, are asked why they are trying to get rid of the clergy.  Their response was this: “We are not trying to get rid of the clergy, we are trying to get rid of the laity.”

Wow… that is big stuff.  It is not that pastors are unimportant, it is that everyone is important… and called… and empowered.

I left the full-time ministry nearly 2 years ago.  One of the main reasons I left was because I was not comfortable with being paid to “pastor.”  I felt weird taking people’s tithe money in exchange for services that all Christians were called to do (i.e. visit the sick, help the poor, study and proclaim the word, etc.)  It wasn’t just that I felt I should be doing these things without pay, it was that I realized I was in a very real way preventing others from doing what they needed to be doing.  It is easy to pass things off to a pastor when you don’t feel comfortable with doing them (after all, it can be awkward to talk about Jesus, or counsel a person who is dying, or pray with a grieving spouse).  Plus… isn’t that what we pay pastors to do… might as well get your money’s worth.

Now I realize that some pastors have extensive training that the average parishioner does not have.  I think we need people who are well trained to teach the scriptures, and I think we need people with special talents and skills to provide loving counseling.  But at the same time, when people look to pastors instead of to themselves to be the hands and feet of God then we are in trouble.  Anytime a person pulls back from ministry because they feel they can’t do it because they are not a pastor, we are all the lesser.

Pastors have no special line to God, their prayers are no more effective and their crap still stinks.  You should avoid at all costs a pastor who tells you otherwise.  If you knew the problems I deal with and the doubts I still have, you would not look up to me with special eyes just because of a title (and I would guess this is true of most pastors).

What was great to see today was that in the end, no one disqualified themselves from ministering to this woman because they lacked the title.  No one called for a pastor in the same way you call for a doctor when someone is having a seizure.  No one hesitated in offering their care because there was not a staff pastor on site.

That my friends is how the Body of Christ is supposed to work.  That is what things look like when we all realized we are called to be a redemptive force in the world.   And that is what happens when people realize that just because pastors can sign a wedding certificate and bless the bread, we are all called and empowered to be agents of restoration and redemption.

Categories: Faith Tags: , , ,

The Fuzzy Math of Penal Substitution

September 21st, 2009 15 comments

One of the hallmarks of evangelical theology is the concept of penal substitution.  Basically this is a form of substitutionary atonement theory which states Jesus died on the cross in place of sinners in order to satisfy the penalty of their sin.  In other words, the death of Christ is substituted for the punishment sinners should receive (which is generally understood to be “death” and separation from God.)  Christ takes our punishment so we can be forgiven.  When you hear a pastor say “Christ died for my/your sins” what you are hearing is an articulation of substitutionary atonement.

Crucifixion, D. Velázque, 17th c.

Crucifixion, D. Velázque, 17th c.

This idea of atonement has origins going back to the early church fathers, but its formal outline is generally attributed to the 11th century monk Anselm of Canterbury who preferred to talk of “satisfaction” rather than of “substitution”  (Christ’s death was a satisfactory sacrifice for our sins rather than a substitution for the penalties of our sins).  It was further developed and brought to wide spread acceptance by John Calvin and the reformers.  It should be noted that while penal substitution is certainly favored by evangelical (especially reformed) Christians/churches/theologians, it is not the only theory of atonement. Two of the other major atonement theories are: Moral influence (Christ’s death show perfect obedience and love), and Ransom / Christus Victor (Christ was the ransom for humanity’s debt to Satan.)   Other theories often combine / tweak concepts found in these approaches.

Penal substitution is based on a few premises.

  • God requires punishment for our sins to be forgiven.  (If you go with Anselm’s satisfaction concept, you would say God requires sacrifice for our sins to be forgiven).
  • The death of Christ covers the punishment / sacrifice for all sinners.

It is with this second point that things get tricky.  First, we must ask, “who is covered by this.”  Those in the reformed camp will say it is only for the elect — that is, those whom God has predestined to be saved.  Those in the free will camp will say it available for all, but only effective for those who trust in Jesus.  Finally, those in the universalist camp will say all people are covered regardless of status.   When we begin to ask who is covered by the sacrificial act of the cross, we begin to get into the fuzzy math of substitutionary atonement theory.

This leads me to a question I have pondered for years and have yet to hear a satisfactory answer:

How can the death of one person be the acceptable substitute for the sins of all humanity?

Let’s walk through the court room imagery upon which this theory is based.  So I die and stand before my creator.  God says to me, “It looks like you have sinned and thus you must be punished.”  At that point Jesus comes in and says, “I don’t want him to be punished, since I have lived a sinless life, let me stand in his place.”  Jesus is then led to the cross and crucified.

Okay, that works out great, until the next sinner comes before the throne of judgment.  Presumably Jesus is allowed to stand in my place because he lived a sin free life and is the only person in the history of the world who does not deserve punishment / judgment for sin.  His life for mine – its a fair trade.  But now that Jesus’ perfect life has been traded for my life, what is left to be traded (substituted)?

The problems don’t stop there.  If we are truly talking about the substitution of a penalty, we must examine the trade closer.   In the way this theory is generally taught, we avoid damnation (judgment) because Christ voluntarily died on the cross.  But, we must admit this is not a fair trade.  Christ experienced physical death that lasted 3 days.  Sinners on the other hand would experience eternal damnation (in addition to physical death) if it was not for the work of Christ.  Again… this does not seem to be a fair trade.

So at the end of the day, the equation looks like this:

3 Days of physical death by sinless man = eternal damnation for countless people and their lifetimes of sin

I am sorry, but that math just doesn’t work out.

The books are obviously being cooked in some way.  I have heard people claim that this equation still works because it was not just a man who died, but it was God himself.  That seems logical, but then at the end of the day we still run into problems.  How can it be a trade if God in fact did not die and did not experience damnation.  The need for judgment still has not been satisfied.  And, if we assume that this equation meets God’s standards so God can still be just, we must ask why it had to happen at all.  If God can determine what meets the standards of a fair trade, it can be assumed that he could also waive the need for a penalty.

Now lets get back to another question: who is covered by this act?  Even if somehow the math works out, and the death of one god-man can cover infinite sinful lives, then why wouldn’t this lead to universal salvation?  Why must people individually accept this sacrifice?  If it has the power to cover the sins of all, then why would it not be extended to all, especially if we believe God desires none to perish. (There are certainly some people who think that God does in fact desire some to perish, but that is an entirely different conversation into the nature of a loving God.)

The problem is not alleviated if you take Anselm’s view of satisfaction over substitution.  It does answer a few more questions because the Old Testament does teach of a sacrafice that covers an entire group of people (i.e. on the Day of Atonement)  but at the end of the day you run into the same problems concerning who is covered by this act (along with some new problems: Does God allow for, and indeed propagate, human sacrifice?).

I will be the first to admit, these are not easy questions and I do not profess to have the answers.  The things we are dealing with here are of the utmost theological importance.  We are talking about the very nature of Christ, his mission, and its effect on our relationship with God.  When we talk about atonement, we are talking about how God interacts with and responds to humanity and vice versa.  This is no minor matter.

But at the same time, I fear we have all to often assumed the only orthodox understanding of atonement is that of penal substitution without first examining the workings of such a theory.  Its not that I reject this approach, its that I don’t understand it.  This post is a sincere effort to work through my questions and I invite all my friends who take this approach to help me understand it.


Documentaries on Netflix

September 21st, 2009 No comments

A while back Beth and I subscribed to Netflix.  I originally signed up because I wanted to be able to watch a documentary recommended to me by a friend.  After going through the trial period, Beth realized it was an excellent resource for getting TV series (she is currently watching season 4 of Gilmore Girls) so she can keep herself entertained during late night feedings.  Since we became members, I have fell in love with the online streaming.  Netflix has a great selection of documentaries you can watch instantly from your computer.  This has been a great for me as I often watch these while feeding Mikayla or cleaning the house.


I just went through my viewing history to review the documentaries I have watched in the past few months.  You will notice a clear trend towards science / tech related films.  I have many social justice type films in my que waiting to be watched, but I find I prefer shows about the history and future of science.

I have included a brief description and rating for each documentary I have watched in the past few months:

  • Sick Around the World – Frontline program on the health care systems of various developed countries.  While obviously in universal health care, the host speaks to several critics and explores many of the difficulties of such a system. (7/10)
  • The Medicated Child – Frontline program on the increase of medication in children for various mood disorders.  It is eye-opening see the levels of medication some children are on to “be normal” and worrying when you realize how little research there is into many of these medicines. (8/10)
  • Car of the Future – Nova program on alternative automobile technologies with the hosts of Car Talk.  I love automotive technology and “green design” but what seals the deal for me is having Tom and Ray along for their witty insights.(9/10)
  • Beavers – Imax movie on… you guessed it… beavers.  Helped pass the time while cooking dinner one night, but not very insightful or captivating. (6/10)
  • The Manhattan Project – short Modern Marvels documentary on the making of the atomic bomb.  I have done quite a bit of reading on the subject and this was a great survey of the process.  (7/10)
  • Rat Attack – Nova program on the 48 year cycle of bamboo fruit and the subsequent rat explosion in south central Asia. The lead scientist on this program was a bit of a goof ball, but the coorolation between rat populations and the food supply was fascinating. (8/10)
  • The Spy Factory – Nova Program on the NSA and their role in responding to the September 11th attacks.  The title is a bit misleading, this documentary really had nothing to do with spies and everything to do with how the NSA has used technology to track terrorists (and citizens).  (8/10)
  • Blue Planet – Multi-part documentary on oceans and ocean life. I have only watched a few parts off and on, but the footage is incredible and the story lines are excellent. (9/10)
  • The Natural History of the Chicken – Documentary on the roll chickens play in American life. Watched this with Dad when he was here.  Entertaining, but a bit scattered in scope. (7/10)
  • King Corn – Documentary on American’s reliance on corn and the dangers of it. I became interested in this after watching the director on The Daily Show.  I haven’t finished it yet, but have enjoyed what I have seen. (7/10)
  • The Great Robot Race – Nova program on the quest to produce fully automated off road vehicles and the competition surrounding it.  I love shows on emerging technology and this program did a great job of covering the science / tech while providing a captivating story line.  (9/10)
  • Man on Wire – A documentary on one man’s covert attempt to tight rope walk between the twin towers. First heard about this documentary from Patrick Schreiner.  I was not familiar with the story so it was fun to watch it unfold.  The interviewees were so excited to tell their story that it really pulled you in. (8/10)
  • Extreme Ice – Nova Program on the changing landscape of the polar ice caps.  Originally watched this on TV when it aired on KET, but rewatched it later.  Interesting to see the physical changes of such desolate places.  To make it even better, one of the helicopters shown in the film is one of the first helicopter I ever rappelled out of: N193EH.  (8/10)
  • Born into Brothels – Documentary from a photographer on her time with children of prostitutes.  The message of the film is strong enough to get you through the slow sections. (8/10)
  • Helvetica – Documentary on the history of modern type design and the place the ubiquitous font Helvetica.  I first became aware of Helvetica through a friend of mine Jon Merklin.  The documentary is actually quite fast moving and interesting despite the seemingly mundane topic.  I even wrote a blog post about it earlier: Evolution of type design and the quest for Christian truth (9/10)
  • Stealth Technology – Modern Marvels program on the history and development of stealth technology. Yet another technology type documentary that is entertaining and enlightening. (8/10)
  • Nobelity – A series of interviews with Nobel laureates about the future of the world and challenges we face.  I watched this at the recomendation of a friend.  A bit slow moving, but the final interview with Desmond Tutu makes it worth watching the whole thing. (8/10)

America on a collision course

September 20th, 2009 5 comments

Who would ever have guessed that we would be looking back at the presidential campaign of 2008 as a time of relative tranquillity and good fellowship?

Bob Greene made the above observation in his article Commentary: America on a collision course on  Greene examines and laments the current political tension that is miring our country.  It is an article well worth reading.

Categories: Politics Tags: , , ,

Favorite Thoreau Quotes

September 19th, 2009 No comments
Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau is a personal hero of mine because he authentically lived his life and was willing to call into question the status quo.    His writing span a wide swath of topics from nature to civil disobedience to truth.  He is considered a transcendentalist and was significant in influencing people like Ghandi, JFK, MLK, Tolstoy, Hemingway, George Bernard Shaw and Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Thoreau:

If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.

A man is rich in proportion tothe number of things which he can afford to let alone.

Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.

Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.

I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is in prison.

Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them.

As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.

Being is the great explainer.

Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Faith keeps many doubts in her pay. If I could not doubt, I should not believe.

It is never too late to give up our prejudices.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation

Walden Pond

Walden Pond

New Baby Check List

September 15th, 2009 8 comments

Mikayla is now 4 months old and Beth and I have learned a lot.  I remember just a few months ago walking through Target with the price gun to do our baby registry and getting frustrated because I had no clue what we needed.  (This could be my version of hell.  I hate feeling like I don’t know what is going on and I really hate shopping.  To make it worse we weren’t even shopping — at least with shopping you get to get open up something new and read the instruction manual).

Nursery prior to Mikayla's arrival

Nursery prior to Mikayla's arrival

Now that we have a feel for what it is like to raise a new baby, I feel like I can make a list of the things you really need (at least the things we did).  We certainly don’t have things figured out, but if we had to start over, these are things I would make sure we have.

Dealing with poop

  • 15-25 cloth diapers.  We chose fuzzi bunz.  I have written an entire post on our cloth diaper decision.
  • Enough NB/1 disposal diapers to get through the cord falling off and for emergencies — we also used them at night the first month or so, but later learned that was unnecessary.
  • 2-3 wet bags
  • 5 gallon wet/dry pail
  • Diaper detergent (see this post for more insights)
  • Changing pad (we put this on an old dresser and skipped the formal changing table)
  • Diaper bag
  • Travel changing pad (we slip a few disposable diapers and our wipes in this for simplicity)
  • Wipes


  • 6-8 4 oz bottles (we used these initially and now use them for storage)
  • 6-8 8 oz bottles (we use Dr. Brown’s for all our bottles – they are compatible with Medela pumps and seem to work.  See here.)
  • Beth’s stuff (obviously I don’t use this stuff)
    • Medela breast pump
    • Nursing wrap
    • Lansinol nipple cream
    • Breast shells (not shields) – we never used these b/c we could not find them in time, but I think they would have really helped the first 2 weeks)
    • nursing pads
    • 3-4 nursing bras
  • Bottle warmer
  • Bottle drying rack
  • Bottle brush
  • Milk storage bags


  • Bouncy chair
  • Some sort of stand-up exerciser
  • Wrap / chest carrier / sling
  • play mat
  • Swing (this has not been used as much as we thought it would, but when we use it, it was golden and irreplaceable)
  • A few tactile toys


  • Crib
  • pack and play
  • 2 swaddling blanket / wrap (kidopotamus makes an awesome one we used for the first 2 months)
  • 2 sleep sacks
  • gowns (don’t even try to use footed pajamas the first few months)
  • a few stocking caps
  • monitor
  • every pacifier imaginable to find out which the baby prefers and then at least 4 of the “winner”
  • Bedding set (no need for a fancy one)


  • you will need some of these, but you will find it has less to do with practicality and more with “cuteness” and personal taste.  My only recommendation is to avoid anything that requires more than 2 steps to get to poop-production-plant.  I personally gravitate towards the onsies.
  • Dressers / cabinets / drawers / etc.

Bathing / Medicine

  • Bath tub (I was opposed to getting one of these because I thought it was unnecessary, but it has proven very useful).
  • Children’s Tylenol
  • gas drops
  • baby wash
  • baby shampoo
  • wash cloths
  • snot sucker (We also use an aerosol saline to help make this more effective)
  • Baby towel
  • hair brush
  • temperature checker
  • rectal thermometer
  • nail clippers (we used nail files the first month)


  • Stroller
  • Car seat (we have a nice travel system where the seat has a base and fits on the stroller)

I am sure I have left a few things off, but I certainly wish I had this list going into the whole process.  Of course Beth could add things, especially as they relate to pregnancy and post-natal care.  I also have listed the things I am sure we will need when Mikayla “goes mobile” such as outlet plugs, cabinet locks and hallway gates, but I figure this is a good start.

Mikayla and me at 4 months at Jackson's Orchard.

Mikayla and me at 4 months at Jackson's Orchard. She has reason to be concerned.

Transition of Life

September 9th, 2009 1 comment
Grandpa and Grandma with their 3 great-grandchildren: Mikayla, Luke and Chase

Grandpa and Grandma with their 3 great-grandchildren: Mikayla, Luke and Chase

Today has been an odd day for me.  Despite the fact it has been quite mundane, it has been emotionally draining.  My grandfather was just moved to hospice and the doctors think we are talking days instead of weeks or months.  Grandpa was diagnosed with leukemia 17 years ago and has gone through many other life threatening illnesses, yet has always been a fighter.  Even though we have been called up to make our “last visits” several times, this time really seems different.  At the same time, my father is in town and has been immensely enjoying his time with Mikayla (he was planning on going to backpacking, but given the recent news has decided to divert to Chicago).

Dad and I had a pretty lazy day today.  We cooked some soup for a friend who just had a baby and we watched a few documentaries.  We actually spent most of the day just sitting around talking about memories and entertaining the most alert and cheerful 4 month old in the world.

It is this juxtaposition of new life and possible death that has me a bit melancholy and pensive.  I am spending time with my dad as he thinks about the possible loss of his.  He is spending time being energized by the life of his grand-daughter while I am contemplating the loss of my own grand-father.  We talked expectantly about what Mikayla’s life will hold for her as we reflect on the meaning and significance of grandpa’s life.  Every song on the radio seems to have the power to call up painful realities, or hopeful possibilities.

I could wax on about the frailty of life and the interconnectedness of all people. I could go into detail about my love for my daughter and my love for my grandfather and how each stage of life refines and expands that love.  I could focus on one and ignore the other.  But, instead, I am content to reflect on the words of Solomon:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather themm

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This passage is often used when we are looking for reassurance in a single circumstance: why is there death, why is there pain, why is there sorrow.  We want to know that even the worst circumstances have a purpose.  For me, that is not the most significant or reassuring truth in this passage.  Instead of letting us know that there is room for even the painful things in the grand scheme of life, this passage lets us know that all things happen as part of a larger system that is always on-going.  There is always death, but there is also always life.  There is always pain, but there is also always hope.  There is always sorrow, but there is also always celebration.

For me, today has been the realization of that very truth.

Categories: Faith, Family, Thoughts Tags: , , , ,