Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Porch Is Closed

UPDATE - My New Blog: lifeaftertheporch
The End.

My final post to this blog.

I began posting to this blog on Monday, July 9, 2007. This is my 417th post according to Blogger.

According to Sitemeter there have been more than 31,000 visitor sessions. That's rather amazing in itself.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the day that I traveled from my apartment in Dallas to spend the weekend with my Mom and Dad in 1998 and then to take them to the doctor on the following Monday. Looking back that was the closing of one chapter of my life and the opening of another. Then I could never have imagined myself as a caregiver for a few minutes let alone nearly a decade.

I did, some months back, begin writing a book about those 9 years, now turned 10. It does not seem very important to me now and I do not know if I will write more.

The last few months of caregiving were difficult for me. The time since my Dad's death has been difficult. Blogging helped.

I am grateful to all I've met and who have befriended me here in one way or another. My best wishes to all my friends and my most earnest prayers that the Lord sustain and keep you.

My heartfelt prayers for those of you still in the midst of your own caregiving. It is a difficult task as we all have learned. You all have my greatest admiration and appreciation and thanks.

When I started the blog I needed a title and I chose to use the porch.

The porch was where we gathered as a family to celebrate holidays. It was where I found my parents when I came to visit after I left home when I was 20. It was where we watched the hamburgers and the sausage cook on the gas grill. It was where we sat to eat them. It was where we made ice cream on the 4th of July and then watched fireflies and fireworks out the windows.

It was where the three of us sat and visited and watched the world out the windows when I came to live there in 1998. It was the first place Mom wanted to sit when it was warm enough and when she could walk again in 1999.

It was where Dad and I sat for hours at a time after Mom died. We grieved there together. He, in his recliner, and I, in the old springy lawn chair, would sit there together. I would read the paper and in the early days he would read to me sometimes. We both would comment about the headlines and we always read the obituaries. Sometimes we knew some of those people who died. Sometimes we just read their stories in the paper and somehow that made them more real.

We would listen to music on the old CD player that barely worked. Sometimes we listened to the classical station and sometimes we played a CD over and over.

Judy brought us a bunch of People magazines once and we read them all cover to cover.

We watched crews of people build bridges and widen the streets and build the car wash and the tire store and the Tractor Supply.

We watched the old pond and the trees and the creek disappear. We watched the traffic increase. On Saturdays at noon we listened to the siren that always sounded.

It was where Judy and I sat alone together when we first met in person.

It was where I sat alone early on Saturday mornings and sometimes late at night and often on Sunday afternoons.

Every winter about this time it began to be cold on the porch. There was an old radiator out there but it hadn't worked in years. Besides it wasn't the same during the winter months. So it was better to just shut the doors and open them again during the spring.

This time its different though. The porch will not be opened next spring because there will not be a porch there to open.

So this porch, the old porch at Dad's and Mom's house, is now closed.

Adieu and all my love.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Renew Your Mind

Reading Pastor Stan's book made me think about the Biblical admonitions to renew my mind. Among others this verse is well known:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 (NASB)
Immediately I found myself drawn to the latter part of the verse. I need to be able to "prove what the will of God is" it says and it seems to indicate that this is the purpose of renewing or renovating my mind.

It is that which transforms me as opposed to being conformed to the culture in which I live and work and play.

Now I find this exceptionally interesting. A lot of people, believers and not, seem to think that God's will is pretty obvious and quite easily understood. If you wait around long enough they will tell you so, too. Often they seem to think I am the one that is on the out while they are the in the know.

But this verse to me at least seems to indicate that is not the case. And this is written not to unbelievers but believers.

It reminds me of a time when I was in graduate school taking this philosophy course. The course was something to do with critical thinking but I no longer remember exactly what it was called.

I got into quite an animated discussion with the professor about the merit of modern physics and the inadequacy of the old. He pointed out to me that the Romans and Greeks had built some structures that were still standing today and their physics held that there were 5 elements: earth, air, water, fire, and ether. I had to admit that their bridges and aqueducts were proving to be considerably superior to ours.

He also argued quite forcefully that the history of science demonstrated that the great advances occurred when someone departed from the accepted thinking of the time rather than staying with the norm. They questioned everything while not abandoning anything.

That's what my professor was trying to get me to understand.

Critical thinking is all about fighting to release oneself from his or her own biases for the most part. Or at least recognizing we have a bias about something and then trying to take it into account while searching for a conclusion.

I think this is one really good reason why my (and everyone else's) mind needs renewal. Like it or not, admit it or not, I have ideas that I just accept. These originate with my culture or my family or even my friends and acquaintances. I accept them because, for the most part, I don't even think about them.

Just Sunday I was reading something and discovered that information I have believed to be true for nearly my entire life has actually been proved wrong. I was shocked. Not because the thing was overturned but because it was one of those little tidbits of fact sitting in the untouchable part of my brain.

So I think one of the most important things about renewing the mind is getting rid of the biases.

It sounds so trivial that we should rid ourselves of our biases but it has to be one of the most difficult things to do I have ever attempted.

Another thing that strikes me in this verse is that the will of God is both knowable and provable. Many people do not believe that and in fact believe exactly the contrary.

Yet another interesting thing to me about this verse is the three characteristics of God's will that are mentioned: good, acceptable, and perfect.

I had not thought about this part of this verse before. Often times the good is difficult to discern. We think a particular choice is good at some time but later, sometimes years later, we find out that it would have proven not so good or even bad for any number of reasons not apparent at the time.

The "acceptable" part gives us a lot of latitude in making decisions. I believe that is true, too. I think in many cases there are various choices that can be made and all are acceptable. Sometimes I think I make too big a deal out of certain decisions.

Then there is perfect which in this sense I think means being complete and lacking nothing. That's a little different I think than being flawless.

Anyway these are just more thoughts I have had about renewing my mind.

Two more days until the porch closes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I've Been Reading Again 4

ReThink Your Life: A Unique Diet to Renew Your Mind (Total Quality Life)
by Stan Toler

Pastor Stan was my parents' pastor for many years. He was also ordained first in the same denomination that ordained my maternal grandfather. That denomination eventually merged into the Nazarene church.

Pastor Stan brought me, my brother, and my son an autographed copy of his latest book the other day and I finished it just a few days ago.

It is an intriguing idea for a book - putting your mind on a diet.

He breaks it down into 4 stages: detox, realignment, reinforcement, and perseverance. Except for the last stage each one is designed to take a week and at the end of the section is a list of things to help one apply that particular chapter.

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
by Alice Schroeder
A fascinating book about a fascinating man. I really knew almost nothing about Mr. Buffett and was quite surprised.
Bones: An Alex Delaware Novel
by Jonathan Kellerman
This is a really excellent book. I was as pleased with this effort as I was with the very first Alex Delaware novel I ever read way back when.
I have several other titles underway as usual but since I haven't finished them I decided to omit them from this post.

3 more posts to the end.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I was asked to deliver the invocation at a City of Moore Chamber of Commerce event last Friday evening.

When we moved to Moore in 1951 it was a very small town. I don't really know how many people lived there. I think I remember being told there were about 1,100 people in 1951. In 1960 the population must have been around 6,000 because there was a slogan that was something like "6,000 in 60" I think. Now the population is more than 50,000 and Oklahoma City surrounds the place with many thousands more.

At any rate I told the president of the chamber that there were about as many people at the event as lived in Moore when my family moved there. That was an exaggeration on my part but not really all that much.

I think there were maybe 300 or more people there but I didn't count them so I could easily be off. Whatever it was though it was the largest group of people I've stood before in a long while.

When we arrived at the door there was a registration table and we signed in and received a numbered card and that number was what we used for the silent auction and the live auction.

I didn't really understand about the auctions. This was a fund raising event for the chamber. They use the funds for all sorts of good causes although I suppose that is open to plenty of disagreement as are most things today.

One project the chamber helped with was a Veterans' Memorial which is a beautiful place and much appreciated by nearly everyone. Anyway there are always more uses for money than there is money and this annual event is how the money is raised.

The president, Mr. Hunter, who in real life is also president of the Moore Norman Technology Center, recognized my name courtesy of my name tag not far from the registration table. He said he was really glad to meet me because he had to introduce me and having now seen me in person made that job much easier. Not to mention the fact that it also meant I was there and introducible.

We used to call the Technology Center the Vo-Tech but sometime back it changed to more accurately reflect what it actually is. There are two campuses now. The original is still located between Moore and Norman but the new one is out west of Moore and not so very far from our homes (both old and new).

The silent auction items were placed on tables and there was a sign up sheet by each one. At the top of the sheet was the retail value of the item and then below that were lines where you wrote in your number and your bid. Judy bid on a Guess purse and a Christmas pie plate with matching spatula. I really did not find anything I wanted or needed.

Then in this large hall all the tables were set up. Various companies had sponsored the tables which all had room for 8 people. There were many tables. I didn't understand at first how to find ours but Judy finally pointed out the sponsor names on the centerpieces.

The salads and desserts were already there. The main course was served buffet style in another area. The food was good.

After most everyone had finished eating Mr. Hunter went to the platform where the fellow was playing the guitar for our enjoyment. He had already collected me and I climbed on the platform with him. The guitar player stopped and Mr. Hunter took the microphone and began the festivities. It did not take him long to introduce me.

I don't remember exactly what I prayed. I didn't write anything down either before or afterwards.

I think it was about like this:

Our Father, we pause briefly to acknowledge and honor you as the creator and sustainer of life. We are amazed at your magnificent generosity and thankful for all your gifts. We ask your guidance and sustenance. I pray all this in Jesus' name.
No one booed or threw stuff at me at least.

I wasn't nervous beforehand but I surely was after.

We sat at a table with my son and daughter-in-law, my daughter and son-in-law, and my brother and sister-in-law. It was a lot of fun seeing them and visiting. We live so close and yet we seem to be unable to get together very often.

I always dread going to these kinds of events. For one thing the number of people is difficult for me. I am truly introverted and the more people at a gathering the more drained of energy I feel as the time passes. Judy is the opposite. She is energized by being around people. But not me. By the end I am barely able to walk to the car.

The other thing that is hard for me is recognizing people. For whatever reason or reasons I have a hard time distinguishing and recognizing faces and then remembering who that person is. I am fine when people are in the right context - like at their office or home. But just a casual meeting at a restaurant or something where I don't expect to find them causes me a lot of trouble. So it is confusing for me and difficult and sometimes embarrassing.

But I always have a good time all the same. And that was true this time as well.

In this case it was a wonderful privilege to be so blessed to be invited to pray at this event. I do not know exactly why I was asked. I wasn't sure I should or could or even wanted to at first. My life for the past decade and longer has certainly been far from public.

Many years ago I had on several occasions stood before large crowds. I wouldn't say it was so frequent that I was accustomed to it but it was enough that I had some confidence about myself. I certainly never intentionally want to embarrass myself or others but it sometimes happens.

Plus I didn't think I was very qualified really. One thing caregiving did for me was give me plenty of opportunity to pray but that was private. It also was rather humbling. Then I suspected that out of the many dozens or hundreds of people eligible to offer a prayer that they could surely find someone better suited.

But I prayed about it and thought about it and asked Judy what she thought. So I finally decided to do it.

Offering a prayer in front of family or friends is different because there aren't so many there and they are friendly (usually). Church is bigger but also friendly. But offering a prayer before a public gathering is a little tricky I think. There are lots of people for one thing and they are not all friendly or at least you don't know for sure.

I did not want to offend those who do not worship at all and I am certain there were some there like that. Neither did I want to offend those who worship someone else and I know there were some like that. And I've been a believer long enough to know that it is easy to offend those who have a different idea about prayer even if they agree with you.

On the other hand I needed to be sincere and true to myself. So I decided to not prepare anything and just trust that the Lord would give me something. So it was pretty much the same thing I do when asked to pray at a family gathering. I was a little surprised at how short it was but having served as an audience member at such things I think brevity is always a plus.

We left before the live auction was finished. It was pretty lively and there were some real bargains, too.

I had to pay for our silent auction things and we approached the counter where this was occurring. I am still unaccustomed to people putting a Mr. in front of my name. Apparently I have reached the age now were Mr. is an appropriate title as well as being qualified for certain senior citizen discounts.

But that is another story entirely.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

View From the Porch

This is the new Chick-Fil-A as seen from the porch.

When I first came to live with mom and dad in 1998 we could sit on this porch and look out these same windows and see a pond with trees surrounding it and extending both directions as far as we could see.

When I was a child there was this huge Cottonwood tree about where the Chick-Fil-A is being built. Then the creek area was thick with trees and there were some old bridges and it was a great place for a little boy to play.

There is not much left on the porch now. Just a few chairs and a table that we used to use for family gatherings. Eventually I will find a place to use these things but we will be storing them until then.

Across the street east is a car wash that can be seen through the window. On the corner is a tire place. Dad and Mom and I watched them build both those buildings. We thought it was quite exciting at the time.

Dad and Mom never could understand why people would pay to have their cars washed. And they thought the car wash wasted a lot of water and made a lot of noise. But I met the fellow that owns it and mostly the water is recycled.

The porch used to be such a friendly and welcoming place but now it seems lonely and sad.

This isn't a view from the porch. I was standing in the living room and looking down towards the entry. A bunch of furniture that is going to be given away is stored there in a big jumble.

When I saw how the chairs were just scattered about up and down the stairs it made me think of chaos. It hurt my feelings but no more than the rest of the demolition.

Mostly this furniture is just worn out. Some of it was so bad we just put in the big dumpster. Most of it is going to one charity or another that can use it. Some will be stored and reused someday.

We found someone who wanted the old freezer and took it. That thing is well over 30 years old.

We found people who needed the kitchen appliances except the microwave. We'll find a home for it eventually. Most of that equipment is not very old.

Some of the stone remained when I took this photo. People have been stopping and asking if we would sell the stone.

It is stored securely. Probably it is unlikely that someone would have gone to the trouble to steal it but we all agreed that it would hurt us if it happened so we're putting it behind locked doors and a security system.

My brother told me that this stone is no longer quarried.

Friday, November 14, 2008

In Memory of Stef's Nonna

In Memory of Stef's Nonna,

Angela Razzano Capasso

and in appreciation of
Stef's loyalty, love, and care

and Stef's blog

where she taught me about The Lion King.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Through A Glass Darkly

That's the well known phrase associated with 1 Corinthians 13:12 in the King James Version:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
But I've been reading The Message which has the same verse:
We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
Surely I have no problem with the traditional interpretation of the verse which is that we don't see reality very clearly yet but one day we will.

But I was interested in the context and have been thinking about it for several days. The thing that strikes me is that the word translated glass is more properly mirror. Most everyone agrees with that apparently and many of the modern versions actually use mirror such as the NIV.

The entire 1 Cor 13 passage has to do with the surpassing excellence of love far exceeding any other spiritual gift including tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith, charity, and even martyrdom.

Then there is a list of actions that love does not and another list that love does.

I like the idea of looking in a mirror which means, I think, looking at my own life in its entirety.

Who else does one see in a mirror after all but one's own reflection?

It is not clear to me exactly who I am or what I really think or sometimes even my most basic core values. I think I know but often when tested I surprise myself. Sometimes I surprise myself favorably and more often not.

That's all just to say that I really do not know myself very clearly at all about an entire spectrum of things and especially spiritual ones.

I've spent some time and money trying to find out some of that stuff about myself with psychologists. Others I know have spent a lot more time and money. There are a few people I know who should have.

At one time I thought this verse meant that at some future time I would know other people as well as I know myself. But I see that's entirely wrong. I am glad it is wrong actually because I wondered if I would really want someone else to know me that well or if I would want to know someone else that well.

One day in some future I am going to know myself as well as God knows me now.

And He knows me completely.

That's new insight for me. Cool.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

First Library

This photo was in McAllister's Deli in Moore. I saw it the other day when I was in there getting a sandwich. So I took this image with my phone. It is behind glass. That's why you can see the reflections of people in the glass on top of the photo. I am one of those figures.

Our first library was a bookmobile that came around about once a month I think. I happen to know that bookmobile began coming around our little town in 1958. I know that because I just read that this year (2008) is the 50th anniversary of our library system.

I remember that bookmobile pretty clearly and how much I enjoyed my mother taking me and my brother there. We had books before the bookmobile but beats me where we got them.

This little building though was our first library building. It isn't much of a building is it? I bet a little community couldn't do something like that now. There would be too many regulations against it

Among other things the caption reports that our first librarian was Mrs. Mildred Moore. I remember her quite clearly, too. I thought since her name was Moore and since the town was Moore that she must own the town and all the books. I was really grateful that she was letting me read some of her books, too.

I think later on this little building became a barber shop owned by a man whose son was in my grade at school. He had been a butcher but because of polio had to find something less strenuous. Or maybe I have it backwards and it was a barber shop first. I guess being a barber is less strenuous than being a butcher but barbers do a lot of standing.

Anyway this was my first library.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pouring the Concrete Driveway

Under our contract with Chick-Fil-A we are obligated to provide a shared driveway between the site and the old house. So Friday the 7th the crew framed the perimeter and laid the steel reinforcing bar and then began pouring about 400 cubic yards of concrete really early on Saturday morning.

Really early as in 5:00 a.m. early. Which is not actually that early for me. Since it was our driveway my son and I agreed to meet at the Starbucks and then go over and watch the pour.

I arrived early since I live closer and I get up early. So I was nearly alone in Starbucks. It reminded me of when I was taking care of dad and would spend the night with my wife on Fridays and then get up early on Saturday morning to return home. Usually I would drive to Starbucks and write in a journal or read or something for a couple of hours before returning.

At first I would go to the Starbucks in Norman and then when ours opened I began going to it. There is something very nice about being there early in the morning when it is dark and not many others are around.

Finally my son arrived and we went over to watch the pour. We got the general contractor's superintendent a cup of Starbucks, too. I am not exactly certain what I was watching for but it did seem to be the right thing to do. Once the superintendent asked me if everything was going okay to suit me. I told him it seemed so to me. I thought to myself if he was really asking me then we were both in a lot of trouble. But I think he was just being nice to me given my status as owner.

The crew that poured and finished the concrete was pretty large. There were 2 men whose main job seemed to be pulling this long 2x4 screed across the wet, newly poured concrete. And behind those 2 men there were 3 others who had these long handled trowel looking tools that they used to pull and push the concrete into or away from the screed. Then there was another man who controlled the tube from this huge concrete pumping machine that actually delivered the wet concrete. There were at least two other men who were working on the hand formed curbs and then there was at least one other man who had several jobs. One job was to fill these buckets with water and then place them around the pour and on occasion he would sling water onto the surface of the concrete using a coke can or some such thing. Another job was using this really long handled trowel to smooth out the concrete from the perimeter.

There were three or four other men who began using these motorized finishing machines after the concrete had set for a while. The finishing machines look kind of like really big fans except that the blade part is facing downward against the concrete. The operators glide them across the concrete kind of like a big floor sander. Ever so often they have to stop and change the blades out.

In between the pouring and the finishing stages there was another stage where some of the crew used these brooms with long handles to broom down the concrete from the perimeter.

I think there were at least 12 men on the concrete pouring crew.

The concrete pump is a huge truck mounted machine that has a hopper on the rear and a large pump and pip system. The pipe is attached to a huge boom that can be raised very high and then extended a very long distance horizontally. It is quite something to behold in operation actually.

The driver of the truck gets out of the cab and uses this remote control box unit that he carries with him from a harness around his neck. It is kind of like a game controller for a video game except that he is controlling the boom and the pump with it.

Another very important part of this is the concrete provider. It just so happened that the particular company has a plant across the street from where I now live. I had never met the foreman but he was there and so I introduced myself. I think he was a little surprised actually.

There was 396 yards of concrete poured as I recall. That's 44 of those really big concrete trucks. That's a lot. But the other day when they poured the parking lot for the Chick-Fil-A it took about twice that. They did that job in one day, too; but, they began at 3:00 a.m. that day and had an even larger crew.

There are some electric wires that feed the house and our office trailer that went across the area where we were pouring concrete. So the concrete pump had to be moved around on the east side of the house to finish up. It was wet and the truck was big and heavy and was stuck for a while in the first location. Finally the others on the job were able to do enough work on the land behind the truck to get him our.

The concrete pump and all the concrete trucks really tore up the yard of the old house. I was standing there watching all of it. There was really nothing that could have been done differently but still it did hurt my feelings in a way that there was so much violence occurring to the old place.

But that's the way it has to be.

The Chick-Fil-A wants to open the first week in February. I think I do not want the old house to be there when that occurs.

It is silly the reason I guess. But I don't want so many strangers gawking at the remains as they come in and out of the driveway. It seems like too much of an invasion of privacy or something like that. Kind of like people gawking at a carcass or vultures attacking the remains of an animal that has died.

So I am going to try to get everything removed beforehand.

I had not thought about this at all. I probably should have planned it better.

Most everything was done by about 1 pm and I ran some errands and then returned later to shut the gate and check on everything.

I was exhausted later in the day. Maybe it was because of the fact that I was on my feet the entire time. Maybe it was the emotional aspect. Maybe both. It was cold there, too, and I became chilled somehow. It took me forever to get warm again.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Resurgence Greek Project

I found a really great web site called The Resurgence Greek Project.

The URL is

Zack Hubert is the author and web master of the site. He's another Physics guy apparently. It seems we are everywhere.

This site represents an amazing amount of work but it is wonderfully useful and helpful if you have any interest in Biblical Greek.

I studied Biblical Greek once along with a few other courses at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, OK. I took off from work and attended classes and then worked a lot to manage the homework. I had to stop though before the end of my second semester. It was quite a good experience for me and I learned a great deal about the Bible but also about myself.

This is a really useful site and I strong recommend it for anyone interested in reading the New Testament in Biblical Greek.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

CNN's 3D simulacrum


CNN called it a hologram but it is not a true hologram.

The reporter was in Chicago and surrounded by 35 cameras. But the CNN viewer saw what appeared to be a live person standing in the studio with Wolf Blitzer.

There is an interesting article at:

The article has an embedded Youtube video. I did not see this live when it happened but the Youtube video is amazing to me. I think this is an immensely interesting development. The Youtube video is embedded below for your viewing pleasure in case you want to omit reading the article:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hardened Heart

The other day I was visiting with my daughter about our respective Bible studies. She's been working in the Old Testament while I've been in the New. She had been reading about King Saul. She asked about the time that God sent an evil spirit to trouble Saul in 1 Samuel 16:14.

My understanding of this is that this "evil spirit" is likely a mood rather than an either an angel or a demon. Regardless the effect is that Saul becomes tormented and depressed. Later he finds relief in David's music.

That led to a discussion of those events where it is translated that God hardens hearts. So I've been thinking about it.

I have not done any kind of systematic study but there are several persons whose hearts are hardened: Pharaoh, the Egyptians, Sihon, Canaanites et al, Nebuchadnezzar, Israel in general, and a few others probably.

In quite a number of places it talks about God hardening hearts. I wondered how I would harden someone's heart if I wanted to do so. That made me think of "brainwashing" techniques I learned about from various sources. Brainwashing was a big thing back in the early 1950's which is when I first recall hearing about it. It was big because some of our Korean War veterans had been brainwashed and there was this big controversy about whether it was truly possible.

But then I realized that brainwashing wasn't really the correct issue because brainwashing is all about tearing down someone's self and replacing it. Just to harden someone's heart you don't really need to destroy the ego.

I think hardening a heart means to make someone emotionally insensitive to some influence. For instance when someone ignores the suffering of another we might say that person has a hard heart. On the other hand when someone sees another person suffering and stops to help then we say that person has a soft heart.

I think it is not the same as when we "steel" ourselves to do something difficult or unpleasant. For instance if you are going to do something that hurts someone else but you have to do it for the person's overall well being. I had to do that a lot with my dad. One time I had to forcibly take him to a hospital to get his diabetes under control. Other times I had to perform a blood stick and then give an injection of insulin. It is really hard at first to give someone else an injection. You have that with children and pets, too. You have to make decisions for them that can hurt them for a little while but in the larger context is beneficial.

Or you have to do things that are hard like put down an animal or serve in the Army or protect your family or testify against someone that might kill you or any number of things.

But I think that is hardening the will rather than the heart. Because the emotional struggle still exists. It is just that you go ahead and do it anyway. Hardening the heart to me means that the emotional struggle no longer exists.

I realized that I knew pretty much how to harden the heart of people I knew well. Not everyone is the same when it comes to heart hardening. I know one person whose heart would become harder and harder if I poured on constant criticism. I know another who would be more or less untouched by criticism but would become hardened if I withheld praise. I'm pretty sure physical pain would probably harden some and maybe isolation and deprivation might work on others. Then there are undoubtedly drugs that could be helpful.

That led me to think more about Mr. Pharaoh some more.

Here's a guy that is in control of everyone and everything in his entire world when we meet him. It is hard for me to even imagine that kind of control and power. We are so accustomed to democracy that monarchies are hard for us to imagine I think. Anyway back to Egypt and here comes along some guy who is even lower than a slave and demands that Mr. Pharaoh give up a bunch of his property (slaves that is).

It would pretty much be like some homeless guy walking up to the King of Saudi Arabia and telling him he had to give up about half of his oil. Or walking up to me and telling me I had to give him most of my parents' land.

In Mr. Pharaoh's case then things happen that he absolutely cannot control nor can he even explain.

In other words in Mr. Pharaoh's case I think the best way to harden his heart is to attack his sense of control and ego.

He is certainly not alone. We all have our own egos and our own little kingdoms whether we admit it or not.

In school I remember overhearing teachers talk about some kids having teachable spirits. What was unsaid was that there were others who did not.

That's when I realized that you could do something that was perfectly good and reasonable that would also harden someone's heart.

I see it with the horses quite a bit. We have this one horse that the harder you try to get her to do something the harder she resists. We aren't doing anything bad to her and, in fact, we are trying to do something good for her. But she doesn't know that. She just knows we are trying to make her do something and she resits with all her might.

I am really amazed and humbled by both of my children and their amazing growth in studying and living the truth of Scripture. It is such a pleasure for me to listen to them talk about the Scriptures and have then tell me what they are learning and hear the excitement in their voices when some new insight comes alive.

I love discussions that continue to stimulate my mind and spirit long after the conversation has ended.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Closing The Porch

I've been thinking about when to stop posting to this blog.

I've decided.

Ten years ago this month I drove up to Oklahoma City from my apartment in the Dallas area. It was the Friday before Thanksgiving. That was Friday, November 20, 1998.

My mother was experiencing some swelling in her legs. She had an appointment on the following Monday to have an echocardiogram which is pretty much an ultrasound of the heart. Her primary doctor did not consider the swelling to be particularly serious. Probably it was another UTI and he had already prescribed and she had already begun taking an antibiotic. So the echocardiogram was cautionary.

So besides Thanksgiving I was returning home to take my parents to that appointment because my dad had asked me to do so. I always enjoyed coming home and staying with my parents after I was alone again. I think I enjoyed the visits more than they did but I think they liked me staying with them, too. And Thanksgiving was a family celebration I particularly enjoyed and appreciated.

Thanksgiving had always been a big family gathering ever since I could remember. When I was a kid it was my cousins and their parents coming to the farm. Where did we put everyone? I have no idea because the houses were so small. It must have been inconvenient but if it was I do not remember that.

I was not very concerned about my mother's condition. I was mindful of her age of course but she did not seem 85 to me really. I was a little puzzled that my dad had asked me to drive them to the appointment. I thought that was out of character for him but he was 81 himself after all and the place we were going was objectively confusing then and still is actually.

I was working on a big project at the time and it was inconvenient for me to lose the time. On the other hand it was Thanksgiving week anyway and there was going to be lost time regardless.

Surely I did not anticipate the drastic change my life journey was about to make. I am willing to bet that right now I have no more clue about the next phase of my present life than I did then.

The old house is far along now in being cleaned out and the demolition is well along. The porch is the last thing we will clean out and then close for the last time. That will be very soon now.

So my last post will be the 20th of November.

It is a Thursday this year.

Two weeks from today this porch will close for the last time.

Seven years ago today my mother died. I miss her still.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Reminds Us Of Minnie Pearl

Except that the price tag does not read $1.98 for sure.

And it is a halter. And he's a horse.

He is funny sometimes.

Maybe it should not remind me as much of Minnie as it does come to think of it.

It has been 12 years since Minnie Pearl's death but I am pretty certain most everyone that reads my blog knows who she is.

Minnie Pearl was her stage name of course. Her real name was Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon according to the Wiki article about her.

She was known for wearing this big old hat with the price tag still left on it and the price tag had $1.98 printed on it.

I like Minnie Pearl.

I'm voting today just in case anyone wonders but that will be quite a bit later in the day from the time this post is published.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I've been thinking about disappointment lately. Not because I've been disappointed about anything in particular but just that the idea of it has interested me. Partly I suppose because of my Bible reading and partly because of the election that will occur tomorrow.

Everyone I suppose has been disappointed at some time or another. It occurs when things do not work out the way we expect. I've thought about whether it is really expect or hope. I'm going with expect because hope has a certain tentativeness. So I think the root of disappointment is expectation.

We get some future thing in our mind that we so want to happen that we move levels from wish to expect. I think that is interesting in its own right.

If the thing that we now expect to happen does indeed happen then we are at least satisfied. Some would say we are elated but I think that may be a mite strong. Because why would you be elated if you really expected it to happen in the first place? I think satisfied is more the right word.

Now the Presidential election has a great deal of uncertainty for both sides so while both sides may claim that they expect to win I think there is likely enough doubt that it doesn't quite make the expectation level. Regardless though there are going to be a lot of elated people and a lot of disappointed people - about 1/2 and 1/2.

But I've been thinking more about my personal, private disappointments really rather than my more public ones.

The only way I can see to avoid disappointment is to have no expectations.

I've decided that is not a good way to live.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

In Memory of Mary A O'Brien, Betsy's Mom

In Memory of Mary A. (Stauber) O’Brien, Betsy's Mom.

Betsy was one of my earliest blog friends.

Before I started blogging I had been following a couple of Alzheimer's forums. I read a lot and posted a little. But the forums became too upsetting for me. It seemed there were always petty, or not so petty as the case might be, arguments. There were some members who seemed to go out of their way to incite controversy and inflict pain and hurt and foment discontent. There were others with one agenda or another - political or social or religious. I already had too much on my plate for all that drama. The forums became a hindrance more than a help.

So I turned to blogging because I had read about others blogging and I began following some of the blogs myself. And Betsy's blog was one of those. She started blogging way back in September, 2006. So her blog was one of he first I read.

It was strange I thought at the time that reading about another person's experience with Alzheimer's could make me feel better about mine. And it was stranger still that writing about my experiences could also make me feel better. But I surely needed something to help me feel better at the time because it was a hard patch I was going through at the time.

And so it was a year ago today that I read on Betsy's blog that her mother had died in her sleep the previous night. I knew Betsy's mom was declining because I had been reading the blog entries every day much as I do yet. But her mother's death just caught me by surprise. I really did not expect it for some reason.

Somehow a group of us bloggers and Alzheimer's forum members had formed a little community. So all of us tried to support the others as much as we could. Just as you get to know people in real life and then what happens to them kind of also happens to you, well that's what happened to us. You share in the pain and the relief and all the other emotions that accompany such things. Doesn't seem to matter at all that we've never met face to face.

So today on this first anniversary of Mary O'Brien's death I am remembering her and I am remembering my very special friend, Betsy.

I owe her much for posting her blog entries when I needed to read them.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Beginning of the End

Friday, October 31, 2008.

Mark began the job of removing the Arkansas Ledge Stone from the house. I took this picture when he removed the first piece.

We are salvaging the stone so each piece has to be removed and stacked on a pallet.

Later on I hope to incorporate this stone into other walls in other projects.

I did not intend this to happen so abruptly or even so quickly. I thought I had more time. But the driveway for the Chick-Fil-A comes so near the house on this side that it has forced my hand to early action.

I guess this is the beginning of the end for the old house. I am sadder at heart about it than I anticipated. Fortunately I did not stay there after I took this picture.

I remember so clearly when dad contracted with a family to do the stone work. Their name is Nail and members of the family still are in the home building and development business in this area. Back in 1963 they drove over into Arkansas and picked out the stone for our house and loaded it on trucks and drove them back over here. And then they carefully laid out the stone on the ground first. This is natural stone and the mason is as much or more artist than craftsman. When the design suits him he turns around and places the stone in the same pattern onto the wall.

On Thursday Dad's and Mom's pastor dropped by to visit a few minutes. He officiated at both ceremonies for us and we consider him a dear family friend.

He told about when he came to Oklahoma City and Dad and Mom were among the very first people he met. That was in the mid 1980's and we were having a recession in Oklahoma then. Penn Square Bank had failed and the oil boom had burst and housing market had collapsed. Jobs were scarce and those of us in various businesses were doing everything we could to survive. It was a really bad time here in Oklahoma.

The church that mom and dad attended had a lot of debt from a new building that was completed just before the downturn. At the time the church's income was about 1/3 short of its expenses and part of the problem was 13% interest rates.

Pastor Stan told about a meeting he had with my dad and other men from the congregation. During the course of the meeting he promised that he would keep the church out of debt once the current one was retired. The men felt so strongly about this that one of them wrote that promise on a napkin and made a place for each to sign it and passed it around. Then they prayed and asked the Lord for a solution.

The next day Pastor Stan received a phone call from a man who lived in the area. He did not know Pastor Stan but was good friends with a fellow from Nashville who was also good friends with Pastor Stan. A lunch was arranged and they would meet at a local car dealership not far from the church. The owner of the car dealership was there and accompanied the men to lunch.

He asked how things were going at the church. Pastor Stan told us that he did not really know why he answered that question as he did except that he has always been an optimist. Regardless he answered that things were going well if he could just do something about the bank.

The car dealer asked him which bank and Pastor Stan told him and the lunch ended and everyone went on about their business. Later Pastor Stan received a phone call from the President of the bank who asked him to come down for a meeting. Turned out that car dealer was the chairman of the board of that bank.

Anyway my dad and the other men at that first meeting and Pastor Stan came up with a plan to retire the church's debt and reduce the cost. The little group of men raised a total of $250,000 to pay on the note and then they led an effort in the congregation to put additional CD's on deposit with the same bank. In return the bank dropped the interest rate from 13% of 8% and arranged for better payment terms.

I don't know how much of that $250,000 my dad put up or any of the other men for that matter. But I do remember the time and I know for a fact that how ever much any of them put up it was a real sacrifice and more like a leap of faith than a stretch. Because things were bad for all of them and especially us at the time.

I had never heard parts of that story before. I knew some of it but not all of it. It is exactly the kind of thing my dad would have done as well as the other men on that committee.

I believe what happened there was a direct answer by God of that prayer those men all prayed that day when they all signed that napkin.

It was good for me to hear that story. I needed to hear it. The Lord knew I needed to hear it and sent a messenger at just the right time. That helps me move forward and gives me the strength to tear down the house and do all these other things that have to be done now.

God is Good.