Friday, July 28, 2006

Weekend Plans

Our annual Block Party Brunch is this Sunday and I can’t wait!

We are hosting it in our backyard from 10AM to 2PM and we have a head count of about 65 right now. I will be making omelets and belgian waffles most of that time.

We will do some last minute yard and garden clean up tonight and Saturday afternoon. Saturday evening we will set up all the tables and the cook stations.

Everyone in the neighborhood brings something to eat. There will be fruit, donuts, quiches, bagels, salads, OJ and coffee.

We have a wonderful group of neighbors. There is a real sense of community among us. If one person needs help - the others always pitch in.

There is a degree of dependency among our neighbors. I know that if I am in trouble or need help that they have and will come to my aid. And visa versa. If one of them needs my help I will drop what I am doing and go to assist them.

That dependency is born from the fact that I have attended dozens of birthday parties, christenings, first communions, weddings, wakes and funerals with my neighbors.

I’ve had them in my home and I have been in their homes for all sorts of occasions. I have married some of their children and buried some of their parents.

Our mutual dependency and trust has only increased the more we've been together.

Christine and I have been tempted to sell and find a smaller house or townhouse - however we keep coming back to the fact that the relationships we've built with our neighbors are more valuable than a new home with a new kitchen full of new appliances.

I am convinced that community, trust and relationship, are important characteristics for a life well lived.

Friday, July 21, 2006

I Am Going Green

We have been car shopping and have driven at least 6 different models and I keep feeling responsible for the environment.

I have a 1999 Chevy Tahoe that drinks like a thirsty camel when we pull into a gas station. I ride the bus to work each day so I have not had to fill it up more than 4 or 5 times the entire year – unless we were driving to Vermont.

But my issues are two: 1. The amount of petroleum I use each time I fill it up and our national dependence on foreign oil. 2. How much carbon dioxide I spew into the atmosphere each time I drive.

Hybrids emit less pollution. Each gallon of gasoline not burned prevents the emission of 19 pounds of carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming.

So I am going green…We are still in the negotiation phase for a Highlander Hybrid

Hybrid systems come in different flavors, but most power their engines with a mix of gasoline and electrical power.

This mix of power sources solved the battery-recharging issues that prevented widespread acceptance of purely-electric vehicles in the 1990s. The electrical power is stored in batteries that are charged partly by the gas motor but also, ingeniously, by the energy released when you apply the brakes on your car.

Different amounts of electrical power are used at different speeds. At higher speeds, for example, the electric motor is just chipping in, while at lower speeds the electric motor takes over completely. A dashboard display tells you how much power is coming from each source as you go faster and slower, which savvy drivers use to see which speeds get you the best fuel efficiency.

I guess I am tired of talking about what we ought to be doing for our country and the environment and I am putting my money where my mouth is.

If you want to learn more about hybrids - click the link above.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The brother of a friend...

We are no longer isolated from a world of pain.

A few months back I wrote about ‘Sammy’s Grill’ a diner that I visit nearly every morning. Sammy has been behind the counter making pancakes, hash, grilled cheese and home-made soups since he returned from Vietnam in 1967.

Sammy is from Lebanon. He is a Maronite. Maronites are Arabic-speaking Christians. He came to the US in 1963 and by the early 1970’s most of Sammy’s family had come over with him.

He still has a brother in Lebanon. His brother works at the Beirut Airport and lives close by. Sammy is very concerned for the safety of his brother. Please keep him in your prayers.


Buying a car… I hate the process. I never feel like I am in control – no matter what kind of deal I think I have negotiated I always feel as if I was led there by a very tricky sales person.

You try and compare apples to apples and they make the process so ridiculously difficult. There is the dealer invoice price, the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, and the True Market Value.

If you are working with multiple dealers then you almost need a spread sheet to track everything. The blessing is that I keep my cars awhile only because I despise the buying process so much.


Less than eight weeks till camp!

This will be the first time that Sandy will not be going along with us. It will be a different experience without her. She loved camp and would lay on the deck for hours at a time observing the activity (ducks) on the pond.

Going to Vermont is one of the highlights of my year. I could wax forever on the beauty of this special place. There is something about the spot that evokes peace. When I am there I am completely at peace.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What am I reading right now…

I always have a book going.

This started off as a vacation read…I just finished “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian” by Marina Lewycka. The quirky title caught my eye. After all it does have “Tractor” in the title! But the story is wonderful and funny and it should be a movie someday. It read a bit like a screen play.

I am in the middle of “HEAT” by Bill Buford. It’s all about how Bill goes to work for free Mario Batali in his restaurant Babbo in order to learn. It presents Batali in a whole different light than his FOOD Network persona.

I loved “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson. (Roddy, you have to read this one!) John Ames is a 77 year old preacher in failing health, with a much younger wife and six-year-old son; as a preacher in the small Iowa town where he spent his entire life, he recounts his life in a letter for his son to read some day. Powerful work of fiction.

I am getting ready to start “Pilgrim Heart” by Darryl Tippens.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I have started this four times in the last five days.

Last Thursday due to a series of unfortunate events I had to put our dog, Sandy, to sleep. She was a dear friend with much affection in her heart. One of our friends described her as a “noble dog.” I wrote about Sandy in this blog back in March of this year. Thus the reason I have not felt very motivated to write.

Life is hard, but thanks be to God for all of his many blessings.

You know what I am talking about, right? You know how life can come at you in a way that is completely unexpected and you suddenly find yourself in a situation that you could have hardly imagined days or weeks before?

It can grip you. Twist me. Mess with our heads. Lead our hearts away from forgiveness.

Read what my friend Dale Pauls recently wrote about forgiveness…

“Must a person be penitent before being forgiven? Perhaps. Sometimes. But maybe the more urgent question is: How can they repent unless someone forgives them? What is more likely to lead you to penitence? Isn’t it someone spontaneously and freely offering you forgiveness at great cost to them? What changes you?

So I listen to myself when I will not forgive. I have been wronged, sinned against. Months pass, maybe years. I am still angry. My voice rises in pitch and trembles. My stomach catches in my throat. My pulse races. I trip over my words. My soul darkens. And the wrong looms up, swells in size, and comes to fill my whole horizon. I am holding it so close to my eyes that it’s all I can see. And the person who did this to me was just this fragile, frightened, flawed person just like me. And I let it fill my universe. Poor blinded me. I am a person who not only needs forgiveness, but I am a person who needs to learn to forgive.”

Life is hard. But God is good.

Dale ministers with the Stamford Church of Christ. He and I ministered in Connecticut together. The Stamford website is a treasure trove of good reading.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Making a Difference

There are all kinds of explanations for why people get hurt - but no good reasons.

Sometimes watching the evening news with all the terror, hurting, disease and pain is a challenge. It's not something you can watch while you are eating dinner.

I have said it before and will say it again...Life is not fair. Very seldom are things done in the world the way we would do them. Which is why we pray "...thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

But if we lose hope that we can make a difference then we never will make a difference. There are lots of things in this world that we have no control over. We cannot control who will live or die tomorrow in Afghanistan. We cannot control who will get a transplant and who will not. We cannot control who cancer will strike next.

Do not focus on what you cannot control. Put your focus elsewhere.

We can control, to some degree, our immediate world. We can determine what kind of person we will be today and tomorrow. What decisions can we make that will positively affect our home, workplace and community?

We all can make a difference to the people around us and the people who depend upon us.

In January the folks from Transitional Housing came to my garden club and asked for some assistance in building a serenity garden for the women there. These are women who have come off the streets, or just out of jail or come from abusive relationships. It’s about five miles from my house.

Last Thursday evening I had the privilege of being there for the dedication of the garden. It’s a quiet, green spot of peace in a bustling city for people who need a place to rest.

I cannot help every homeless person – but I can help those within my reach.

Larry James has inspired me to do more... you should be getting a daily dose of Larry... click on the "Making a Difference" link above.