Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

Our house is an old house. It has its charms and its problems. It has a cement cistern rendering a quarter of the basement useless, but it also has a full size laundry chute that you can access from the first or the second floor. We believe the house was built in the 1930's judging by the date of the newspapers that were used to help caulk around the original tub. The house has all original woodwork and it includes some small built in amenities that were common in that time period. One of those built ins is an all wooden ironing board that folds down out of the wall in our kitchen.

In an effort to help Kim get out of the house for work, I have long ironed her uniforms for work. We have a routine that is fairly worked out. I iron her uniform, make her a sandwich, and send her out the door. Due to the fact that it takes less time for me to get ready to go somewhere like church, I usually do the ironing of the clothes for those occasions also. All this to say that I probably iron articles of clothing about four times a week.

For the first ten years of living in our house, we kept the iron in a small pantry in the kitchen near the fold-down ironing board. After it had cooled down and when it wasn't in use, it had a home on one of the shelves in the pantry. Convenient and close to its accessory, it was a good system. About 5 years ago our iron broke and we got a new one. We ran into a slight problem with the new one. It had a slightly higher base which meant it was too tall to fit on the shelves in the pantry. The iron needed a new home. So for the last five years our iron has sat on top of the refrigerator.

In doing the math on this I come up with about 4 times of ironing a week, times 52 weeks, times 5 years, equals 1,040 opportunities to pull down the ironing board and reach for the iron. Out of the approximately 1,000 opportunities in the last 5 years, do you know how many times I walk into the pantry to grab the iron? Almost every single time. The iron hasn't lived in the pantry for 5 years! It wasn't in the pantry last week and it wasn't there when I reached for it yesterday. Yet this simple fact does not stop me from looking somewhat like an idiot as I reach almost daily for what isn't there. But it is not the last 5 years that conditioned me to act in this way, it was the 10 years prior to this that built in me a habit and a pattern that I may never break.

This past week I had one of those "aha" moments. I found myself willfully sinning again. The same sins I had committed many times before. The same situation and the same circumstances brought my same response. See, like reaching for the iron that isn't there, I find myself habitually sinning in the same way. My wicked heart has set a pattern of rebellion that has conditioned itself to respond to the same circumstances by committing the same sins. In all the years of my struggle with my sin I often look to stop the sinning, yet I need to break the habits of my life that lead to that sin in order to find release and freedom through His grace. In my repentance before God this last week, it was almost as if He said, "Why do you keep reaching for that iron of sin? Stop walking in the same direction every time due to habits that only lead to sin." My senseless reaching for what isn't in the pantry is just like my reaching for what I think I want in the moment, but what I know is just as empty as the spot on the shelf where the iron used to live.

"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gentlemen, Start Your . . .

I thought I would share a few pictures from a couple of weeks ago. Every year our kids participate in AWANA and part of that participation involves making pine derby cars to race in the annual Grand Prix race. They can't race until they are in third grade, so this was Hannah's first year. Caleb and Alex have both raced before. There are awards handed out for three different categories, speed, design (what looks most like a real car), and for creativity (doing the best you can with a block of wood). Well, I am not one for the speed category, but design and creativity suit me fairly well. Click the picture to enlarge them if you want a closer look.

This first picture is of Alex's and Caleb's cars from last year. Caleb's car is a 1960 Mercury sedan. I know nothing about cars, but if you give me a picture I can carve it. Alex's car is the solar system. In the center is an orange super ball that we cut in half. Underneath the car we mounted a led light. When you turned on the light, the sun would shine. Caleb got first place in design and Alex got first place in creativity.

This is Hannah's first car. All she knew was that she wanted the car that Nancy Drew drove in the new Nancy Drew movie. Some quick Google work turned up that is was a 1960 Nash Metropolitan convertible. She took home a third place prize in design.

This is Caleb's car from this year. He came up with the idea of a car that was thin enough to race either upside down or right side up. As he and I discussed the idea, we talked about having a theme to the car that had two different views or different looks. He decided on the cross of Christ and His resurrection. This side is the cross and it says, "He who knew no sin became sin for us . . ."

This is the other side of Caleb's car. It says, "He's risen" on the bottom and on the top it says, ". . . that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."

Monday, April 14, 2008

My First Meme

I first saw this on Tina's blog and thought, "I should do that." However, life got hectic and I didn't get to it. Today I have a few extra minutes so I thought I would play along. If you are so inclined, Kerry did one also.

I've never done a meme before, but I've seen them. Normally there is a tagging process which to me is a lot like the awful stamp club things my kids would get sucked into when they were younger, but I digress. I didn't get tagged and I won't be tagging anyone at the end. Mostly because I don't know five other bloggers who haven't already done it and I don't think that tagging bloggers I don't know would necessarily be nice. I will answer the questions to the best of my ability though quite honestly my memory is somewhat fuzzy on portions of my personal life. So here goes. . .

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, each player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Five things on my to do list today:
1. Pull school for the kids for the week.
2. Make breakfast for a friend from Florida who is dropping in with some of his friends.
3. Order a sheet of Formica for friends, order drawers for the current project in the shop, possibly order various hardware for same said project.
4. Get back to building the project. The main portion is built though it needs to be stood up and have the main mechanicals installed. Then I can start on the rest of the cabinetry around the main unit. It is very clearly the most unique piece I have ever built, a bed that retracts via remote control into wall cabinetry. Think James Bond.
5. Make supper, clean the kitchen, quote out two other potential customers on their projects, put together worship packages for the upcoming Bible conference at our church. That's more than five, sorry.

Snacks I enjoy (and allow myself to have):
Hmmmm. This one is a little tougher. I don't know that I really have one thing that I really crave or eat on a regular basis. Wait! It just came to me. Coffee. It is like my comfort food. I can drink it all the time. In fact, I probably drink way too much. Other than that the only other thing that is a real downfall for me when it is around is chocolate. Especially dark chocolate. A piece of dark chocolate in the mouth followed by a drink of hot coffee is divine. You let the heat of the coffee melt the chocolate and it is the perfect mixing of flavors.

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
I have no real answer on this one. Having more money is a thought that rarely crosses my mind. Not because we already have a lot, because we don't. But we try and keep an eternal perspective and personal wealth doesn't come into the equation for us. I would like to think that if I became independently wealthy that my life would stay fairly the same. I am a simple person and I don't need a lot of stuff to make me happy. However, if I became a billionaire, I would give it in various ways to further the kingdom of Christ. On a personal level, there are a few places around the world that I would really love to travel to, but they are so out of reach I have never given serious thought to them.

Three of my bad habits:
1. Being too dogmatic on my own opinions.
2. Procrastination. Enough said.
3. Whenever I dish ice cream, when all has been dished, just prior to putting it away, I have to eat one small bite of ice cream from the container off of the ice cream scoop. This is probably more of an idiosyncrasy than a habit, but it is a little bizarre. I've tried to not do it, but it just feels weird if I don't. It is always the last thing I do and no, I have never worked anywhere that served ice cream.

Five places I have lived:
This one is easy, because I have only lived in three places.
In order.
1. Waupun, WI
2. Watertown, WI
3. Clyman, WI

Five jobs I've had in no particular order:
1. Newspaper boy for 4 years. I did every route in the town at one time or another.
2. Pizza delivery. You quickly learned to get on the good side of the guy who makes the pizza's to get the pick of who you will be delivering to. We had some regular customers who were very good tippers and we had one regular customer who always answered the door in only his underwear. Underwear guy always got the new guy to deliver his pizza.
3. I drove forklift and cleaned in a machine shop for a summer. From the first day to the last, all of the guys on the floor called me, Elmer. They said I looked like an Elmer and they never asked or cared what my real name was.
4. Inventory manager for a tool equipment retail store.
5. Worked in a production furniture shop and became one of their floor leaders. That allowed me the opportunity to learn all of the different jobs in the shop. I also trained the new employees and was allowed to work on the very custom jobs that the shop would get from time to time. All great experience that helped when I opened my own business.

What was I doing ten years ago?
I changed the order of the questions because this one is the hardest for me to answer. Ten years ago was 1998. I would change jobs that year, but overall it was a year of personal crisis. I was in the last year of a two year period of running from God. I had fallen into a pattern of sin that I really enjoyed, but I never counted the cost. The more I ran from God the further I ran to sin and in doing so I was destroying my marriage, my family, and myself. After a while, I felt so incredibly guilty that I sank into a deep suicidal depression. I alone knew the reason why. I continued to run from God and even had some very serious agnostic thoughts. I couldn't understand how if there was a God, why He would let me wake up every day in such personal misery. My wicked heart told me that the only answer to free me from my pattern of guilt and pain was to no longer live. Yet through all of that, God was pursuing me. I did not run to Him and I did not come willingly. He drew me kicking, screaming, and fighting for what I thought was my "freedom". In spite of me, He offered grace and when He grabbed me I could no longer say no. "Once His enemy, now seated at His table." He not only gave me back my life, He gave me life in Him. He restored a marriage and a family and continues to give grace. I cannot think of that period of my life without thinking of Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—
I cannot think but that I should have run any storehouse of mercy completely empty. But God, who is rich in mercy called and drew me. Sovereign Grace Music in their song "Always Forgiven" puts it so well.
All You have shown me is grace, love, and mercy,
Now and forever I am Your child.
Freely You pour out Your loving kindness,
Father of grace You welcome me in.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Life Update

A couple of quick notes to update my three faithful readers.

This past Saturday my father had a stroke. He and mom were in Texas selling at an antique show. It was a fairly serious stroke, but he is making some rapid progress already. I have spent a better part of my week on the phone trying to arrange post-hospital rehab care for him up here in Wisconsin. Once he is physically able to fly via commercial airline, I will fly down and bring him back. I am anticipating that he will be discharged from the hospital in Texas early next week.

Other than that life continues on. Alex has started baseball practice. He is doing a select baseball team this summer. What a change one year can bring. No longer can we go to the local store and get him youth baseball gear. He has moved into adult sizes. He is 5' 8" tall and is wearing a size 12 shoe. Still skinny as a rail though.

Caleb is in a holding pattern for sports. His baseball season doesn't start for another month yet. However, he is going to Atlanta next week with his cousins to watch them participate in the national high school robotics competition. Two of my nephews are on the team and this is right up Caleb's alley. He is already packed and wants me to download a bunch of new songs on his mp3 player for the trip.

Hannah has started spring soccer. I am coaching her in that again. She really enjoys it and it is a good opportunity for her to exercise and socialize. She is hoping to finally score a goal this year. She keeps getting better so hopefully.

Kim's health is definitely getting better. There are still a lot of ups and downs, but overall her pain is less and her endurance is stronger.

Lastly, I have joined Facebook. Honestly, I did it because Sovereign Grace Music is offering a free download of their newest unreleased album "Come Weary Saints" from their Facebook page. I'm not sure what other benefits Facebook hold for me, but we will see.