"But music was his life, it was not his livelihood,and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good. And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul. He did not know how well he sang; it just made him whole." - Harry Chapin - chorus of "Mr. Tanner."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Well I'll swanee . . .

Pardon my use of the old phrase my paternal grandparents would say out loud when they were surprised by something . . . 

But, you see, when I left my chiropractors office this morning . . .  I was surprised.

For the first time in about 7 years, since my big mountain bike wipeout at Cameron Park in Waco (where I really screwed up my right knee) . . . I am not wearing an orthopedic heel lift in my right shoe.

Dr. Ratliff, my chiropractor,  gave me a knee adjustment today . . . and when he had me stand up . . . I was standing on my bare feet . . . and my hips were level.

Which means . . . no need for my heel lift.   I don't think I have stood this straight in a long time, and my right leg isn't bowed out like it has been the past two years!

Well I'll swanee!

We recheck things on Friday, which will include an x-ray.   Hoping this is all finally coming to a good conclusion.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Ken's Daily Devotion Blog

Ken Diehm is blogging as part of his Lenten daily devotional readings.

To view Ken's blog, go here.

Well worth the time . . . Ken is a very wise and discerning individual. It is an honor to work in ministry with him, and I am proud he is my friend.

I can't get it out of my head . . .

Not sure what happened . . . or is happening . . . just know I am going to be dealing with this as my personal Lenten journey this year.

I just can't seem to get this "simplifying life" thing out of my head.

Been reading some home and office organizational stuff on www.realsimple.com.

I have also been taking some careful stock on all the "stuff" I own but do not use.

That list is still growing, and is much, much too long.

Don't know yet what event, thought, person, thing, action has been the catalyst for my feeling the need to address simplifying life.  Several things actually have worked together to guide me down this path.

Perhaps this also comes out of my desire to do something different during Lent this year.

I do know one thing . . . that for some reason, the thought of simplifying life has something to do with the idea of ridding one's life of clutter.   I think Lent is the same sort of thing  . . . a specific period before Easter when we focus on removing those things in our lives that keep us from the full relationship with Christ which God desires for each of us.

I went to the Dallas RV show this past Saturday.   Walked through some neat campers.  Years ago, before I started working on Sundays, my family did a lot of camping, especially on the weekends.   I enjoyed camping . . . still do.

At the RV show, we came across some campers designed for year-round living.   

Amazing . . .

I began to wonder . . . if I sold my house . . . and we moved into a camper  (a "Walden" sort of thing) . . . it would mean that I would have to pair down my possessions to a bare minimum . . . because a camper will only hold so much supplies and equipment.   We are talking about the "essentials" here.  

I mean, a couple pair of bluejeans and dress slacks, and 4-5 shirts would just about fill the closet up.   There is room for  TV, but it would have to be small.   The entire camper would have to become multi-functional . . . or at least I would have to start thinking that way . . . seeing how a space could be multi-functional.

So, the issue now becomes not "what clutter do I throw away?", but rather "what essentials do I keep?"  

Or rather . . . what are the things I really need to survive, and be happy, and be at peace with myself and my neighbor?

Now this entire issue of simplifying life becomes a much more difficult to do.

Amazing . . .

Perhaps it is not all about removing the clutter of life to find what is most important . . . but instead our knowing what is important despite the clutter . . . and holding fast to it.

Do I know what is important in my own life?  Well sure I do . . . at least I hope I do . . . I ought to know what is important . . . I mean, doesn't my life witness to what I hold as being important?

Ouch!  Let's don't go there.  Point taken and accepted!

Perhaps the clutter in our lives . . . in my life . . .  is nothing more than an extra weight I have to carry, for some reason, by my own choice . . . which witnesses that I may not have as much faith in my "important stuff" as I thought.

Yep, definitely time for a long hike out at the lake.   This is going to require an extra bit of focused "pondering" about some things . . .

And, I tend to hear God's voice better when I am hiking.  And I would like His advice in all of this.

This is going to take a while . . . and I need still to get the advice of other people I know have travelled this path some already.

This is going to be a journey . . . and that, for me, is what Lent is all about.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I can't seem to get this out of my mind . . .

Simplifying life!

Yep . . . just like the song "Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goal Posts of Life" . . . (which after hearing it for the first time  . . .  it takes months to forget it)   I seem to be focusing on a plan to simplify life.

First things first . . . what does it mean to simplify life?

Well . . . I think I am going to have to keep asking myself this question over and over . . . because I have a feeling that the answer is going to change.

Right now . . . simplifying life, to me, is about intentionally removing as much clutter from my life as possible, in order to find / reconnect with the things that are important to me, which have been covered up by the clutter.

And my home study . . . is more cluttered than my garage!

I know one thing for sure . . . I sure have / keep a lot of junk.  I think the biggest help to me may be my going to Lowe's to purchase a new box of trash bags.   There is just a lot of useless stuff that needs to be thrown away.

Then, there is the stuff I am going to have to look at, and ask the question, "What is my reason for keeping this?"

I think the effort to simplify life has to be very intentional . . . just like how we strive to develop our faith.   There has to be a plan.

I saw an "How to Become More Organized" Show on TV the other day, when I was being "inactive" in order to give my back a rest.   The "star" of the show recommended getting boxes labeled with the following: 

Box #1 - Stuff I use
Box #2 - Stuff I haven't used in a year
Box #3 - Trash

Stuff I use . . . gets a place in the study.

Stuff I haven't used . . . that's the stuff I have to look at and ask "What is my reason for keeping this?"

Trash . . . is trash . . . and there is going to be a lot of it.

Hope I don't ending up throwing away something that is really important in the grand scheme of things.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Wesley Study Bible

Earlier this week, my new Wesley Study Bible arrived.

It is in the NRSV translation, with study notes from over 60 pastors from the Wesleyan tradition.

It is on sale at Cokesbury for less than $30 through the end of February.  

Although this Bible with not replace my ESV Study Bible as my primary bible for in depth study and scripture teaching, it will be a good reference for comparison study.

Trying a half-day . . .

I promised a church family that I would be with them before a surgery this morning in Dallas. So I ventured out very early this morning . . . and afterward, went to the church office to catch up on emails and phone calls.

Pain is still and issue . . . but just moderately so now. One interesting thing about back pain, it will take you mind off the arthritis you have in your knees. At least it has for me.

I think I see a light at the end of the tunnel . . . just going to be a very slow trip.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2nd full day on inactivity . . .

Well, I think I am noticing a little difference in my back.  Sitting in the hard white plastic folding chair in my home study seems to be the most comfortable place in the house to sit.

Laying down on the bed with an ice pack three times a day . . . and I have officially boycotted television.   Take that Alec Baldwin!!!

Nothing new to read here at the house, so I have been reading the most recent Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's and Guitar Center catalogs / flyers I have received in the mail.

Not a good thing to do . . . making plans to spend money you-do-not-have on stuff you-do-not-need.

Taking one trip out today to take my wife to lunch.  

Funny . . . when you are alone in the house, and the dog and cat are asleep . . . you begin to hear things you are not normally aware of.   

-The sound of ice machine making ice in my fridge.

- The sound of the thermostat "clicking" before the air comes on.

-The sound of the trash truck starting and stopping - starting and stopping . . . as the trash in the neighborhood is picked up.

-The sound of the toilet bowl filling back up with water.

-The sound of a 747 taking off from DFW, just a short distance from my home.  

Seems, because of my "inactivity," I have become more attuned to the house I live in.

As a result . . . I find that I am truly appreciative to be one of the few UMC pastors who are able, through their church, to own their home instead of living in a church-owned parsonage.   

I admit that I am the type of person who does not like to be alone that often.   But in the past couple of days . . . I have become to feel more comfortable being alone in my house.

Or rather . . . I have become to feel more comfortable in my home.

I haven't been able to say that in a long time.

God's grace still amazes me  . . . ><>

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

M.A.S.H. was on 4 different channels today at the same time . . .

I'm serious.
 
For those who do not know . . . I have had a back problem for the past 3 weeks.  Turns out I have an inflamed nerve in my back.   My doctor has advised me to stay home for 2-3 days, and to be as inactive as possible.

By 10 AM, I had finished my latest Colin Fletcher book, and I do not have any new books here at the house.  So . . . after checking facebook, etc., I was lying on the couch and watching the old boob toob.

At 11 AM, as I was checking channels, I noticed that M.A.S.H. was on at the same time on 4 different Dish Network channels.   And they were all different shows!   

Amazing.

For the day, I watched 4 more episodes of M.A.S.H. (my all time most favorite TV show), 3 episodes of Andy Griffith (I know a lot of people my age who wished they were Opie Taylor), and three different Biography shows (Bob Crane, James Coburn and Howie Mandell).  

Couldn't find a decent fishing show.

I hope I can stay focused on reading and writing tomorrow.  Cause' I don't want to turn on the TV again for a while.

My brain ain't going to be no mushy-mush!   Take that Alec Baldwin!

Lone Star Celebrations . . .

My wife and a good friend have started a new part-time business as wedding and special events consultants.  They each have 20+ years with budget planning and special event coordination.

Click here for more info.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The ever continuing saga of a sore back ...

I officiated at a funeral service today at a nearby funeral chapel.  A lovely service, and I was asked to bring my guitar as sing as well as officiate.  

I am always glad to do that.

Afterward . . . I decided since I had a little less than half-a-day off left, I would run out to Cabela's and look around in their fishing department, and get some more steps on my pedometer.

I had been at Cabela's about half-an-hour, just walking around looking at stuff here and there . . . anyone who shops aimlessly without a battle plan knows how it is . . . when I  found a clearance rack of fishing stuff.  

Now, here I need to explain Cabela's definition of "clearance."  It means 10% off, maybe 20%.   Anyway, I saw something on the very bottom of the display rack that I thought I might be interested in "looking at" more closely . . . and when I reached down to pick it up . . . I felt a "twinge" in my lower left back.

I muttered a "chosen" cuss word that, when I thought about it later, didn't really match the situation . . . and then slowly began to straightened up from my bent over position. 

Wouldn't you know it  . . . but one of the fishing department employees walked over to me, and I just knew he was going to tell me that he knew their prices were high, but not high enough to be cussed at . . . but instead he put his hand on my shoulder . . . . and very kindly asked if I was OK. 
 
I guess it was "that" obvious I was in a bit of discomfort.   

I thanked him for his concern . . . and began to slowly make my way toward the front of the store, then across the bridge, and walked out to where I had parked . . . way out at the end of the parking lot . . . because I had earlier, and as a grand noble gesture . . . parked a football fields length from the front door of the store . . . because I "wanted" to walk a bit and get some exercise.

It didn't seem so far to walk from my car to the store.  However, it seemed like forever to walk from the store to my car.

Made it home . . . changed clothes and put on bluejeans (which always make me feel better, at least emotionally) . . . and sat down in my recliner with an ice pack.  

I have another appointment with the chiropractor on Monday.   

Not that I am in agony or anything . . . but it is certainly annoying . . . as I had just about finally straightened up, and wasn't leaning to the right anymore, at least not so that you would notice and say . . . "Hey Rick, why are you bent over at the waste sideways like that?"

I guess this all just takes time.  Seems I have plenty of that.

Oh, and by the way . . . I didn't spend any money at all at Cabela's.  I am proud of myself!  But if fishing and guitar stuff keeps going up in price, I am going to have to quit one of my two hobbies . . . or  simplify them both.   But then if my back doesn't get much better soon, I won't be doing much of either one.

God grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Current discussions on theology . . .

I am engaged, as usual, with my friend Floyd, and with several other friends who have not given me permission to use their names, in conversations about things theological.

I often find these discussions fresh, and almost always a challenge.

One of my friends I am discussing a topic with currently, wrote that he compared our friendship with that of the Star Trek characters, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy.

My friend now begins his emails with "Hello Dr. McCoy" or "Hello Bones!" Bones was the name Captain Kirk called Dr. McCoy . . . a term of enderment I hope.

He also signs his emails now with "Mr. Spock."

I guess that is not as bad as relationship being compared to that of Lucy and Charlie Brown!

I'm guessing I would be Charlie Brown.

Good grief!

From what I remember about the first Star Trek series . . . Dr. McCoy was often frustrated with Mr. Spock's devaluing of human nature, especially human emotion. Dr. McCoy's response . . . "It's what makes us human!" (my paraphrase). To which Mr. Spock replied . . . "Pity."

Since my main focus in ministry for many years has been pastoral care, I have worked hard, and studied a lot about human nature, with my study of late being guided by a local professional licensed counselor.

My curiousity about human nature is probably why I am so drawn to the stories in the Bible which speak of how humans have, and have not, responded to God.

Human nature is an amazing thing. And the primary guide for human nature throughout history has been, in my opinion . . . experience and the reactions to experience. More on this in a moment.

In several of the conversations I am having with friends right now . . . the thrust of the conversation is how we balance human nature and experience with scripture, reason and tradition. In our United Methodist tradition . . . we have what is called the "Wesley Quadrilateral" which I best explain as a series filters or lenses we each see all of life, especially matters of faith and theology.

These filters are Scripture, Experience, Tradition and Reason.

In other words . . . Scripture, Experience, Tradition and Reason are the filters which catch the "stuff" that would take us off track in life . . . the stuff we don't need to mess with or that is really a waste of time in the grand scheme of things . . . the stuff that could influence us to act and live in a way that would be harmful to ourselves and to others.

The key for me . . . is to strive to keep the four things in a balance . . . for when I do otherwise, I find myself taking shortcuts, and only using the one filter I have come to appreciate most.

It is not as easy as it sounds . . . becasue what I have come to understand about human nature and different personalities . . . is that there will usually be one "filter" we will prefer to use. And I caution others, and most especially myself, when we do this. The Quadrilateral is a "recipe" in my understanding. And Scripture, Experience, Tradition and Reason are ingredients in the recipe of equal parts.

I am in agreement with our church doctrine that scripture is the "primary" or first filter to be used, and I think the order in which Experience, Tradition and Reason are used is important as well.

To change the recipe, to add the ingredients in the incorrect order . . . is to possibly taint the recipe . . . at least that is what I fear sometimes happens as a result. It has happened to me.

Scripture is the first, primary ingredient. Yet, I know that right now, in my life, I could easily make experience the most important of the four . . . for me personally. Yet, I know that to only use the filter of experience alone, without the balance of the others bring when they are used together, will leave me with a skewed perspective . . . especially what I come to believe about God.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Godlen Lab needs a home ...

My youngest daughter and her husband are moving from Crowley to Allen, TX. Due to pet policies, they will not be able to take their female Golden Lab with them.

"Leah" has spent most of her life inside, and is very good with people she knows. Strangers get her excited, until she gets use to them. She is a good dog, who needs a good home.

If you are "local" to the DFW area, give me a call. I will put you in touch with my kids.

Chiropractor visit #2 . . .

My back has been feeling better, but not so better as to cancel my appointment yesterday. So I went in.

More adjustment with the "gun" (the "Impluse iQ Adjusting Instrument"). Then I received some electrical stimulation and ice pack therapy while I was sitting in a very comfortable recliner.

When the treatment was over . . . I asked for 15 more minutes on the ice pack . . . a little quiet time if you will . . . which Dr. Ratliff and his staff were more than happy to allow me to do.

Guess I fell asleep. I opened my eyes, and Dr. Ratliff was smiling at me . . .

I sure hope I didn't snore!

Left feeling better. My back is straighter, but there is still some pain when I stand up from a sitting position. Still using the ice pack three times a day . . . and I feel that is helping.

Set another appointment for Monday morning . . . just in case.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chiropractor visit #1 . . .

It went pretty well.

Went to see Dr. Ratliff in Grapevine.  I did not know that some chiropractors these days do not manipulate by physically pushing down on your spine, but now use instead what amounts to a mini electronically controlled jack hammer the size of a large syringe.  

Very interesting.

And, very tolerable . . . no neck jerking . . . no crunching.

Dr. Ratliff was very thorough, and said after one more treatment on Wednesday, that I will be as right as rain.

I just love the guy.  

A very professional and compassionate office.  

And, although my back is still sore . . . I left Dr. Ratliff's office walking straighter and more erect.  

One piece of advice he gave me . . . was to throw away the heating pad . . . and to use ice.  The rationale being that when the bones in the spine are out of alignment . . . they are actually sprained.  The inflammation I thought was muscular inflammation, was in fact a sprain in the joint of the spine.   

And what do you do for a sprain . . . you put ice on it.

So, I rigged up a zip-lock bag with two pounds of frozen peanuts.  

Ahhhhhhh . . . 

God's grace still amazes me.