Sunday, July 31

Another good sermon

Another good sermon today. And the timing of it was remarkably perfect for me. It was about stress. And I've been pretty stressed lately. The scripture was the story of the feeding of the 5000. Pastor Rick commented that for a lot of people, the story is about sharing. And how God can multiply the gifts that we have to offer. Like a big Methodist pot luck dinner.

And although I agree that is certainly a legitimate message to take from the story - I appreciated his take on it today. Jesus was tired. His cousin John the Baptizer had just been beheaded. The stress was overwhelming. Jesus wanted to get away to a quiet place. But the crowds followed. They still wanted to hear more of what he had to say - and to be healed physically and spiritually.

After he had preached until evening his disciples came to tell him that it was time to disperse the crowd so that they could go into town and find food for themselves. Jesus just said "you feed them". The disciples reacted in the same way that most of us would "what are you talking about? We don't have the resources for that!"

I've always related to the disciples. They were remarkably dense for folks who were in the presence of Jesus. He told them things in every way possible...stories and illustrations...parables about vineyards and farming and fish. They just didn't get it most of the time. I find that reassuring - because I realize that I just don't get it a lot of the time either. And the disciples were always freaking out! "There's a storm - do something!" "There's a possessed man - do something!" "The people are hungry!"

Well - that time...Jesus beat them to the punch. He said "You do something!" And they freaked out a little more! "All we have is this boy's lunch of loaves and fish..." And so Jesus calmly took control of the situation. He had all the people sit down - and he did something.

I try not to freak out when confronted with the challenges that life brings. And at work, I freak out less than I used to. Just like Jesus - my leader at work will sometimes say "you'll figure it out." I'll try in the future to calmly take control of the situation and sit down - and then do something.

It was a really good sermon. I'm hoping that it will be available online - but I have been informed that we have some small problem with the sound recording from today. Yet one more area that falls under my umbrella of responsibility. But instead of freaking out - I'll work with my team, regroup, troubleshoot...and then do something to fix the problem.

Just like Jesus did.

Friday, July 29

Synaptic Misfires post since Monday...that is some serious slacking off.

I will admit that it has been a busy week. We're two short at the office...well 1.5 anyway... And I had to edit the Spire. But it seems as though I should at least be able to do one of those 5 minute posts.

You see...I've been watching a certain blog during the past week. And although I know that the activities of a group of people in Brazil on a mission trip is FAR more interesting and important than my ramblings...I hope you guys aren't as disappointed when I go for days without a post. Because I am wishing that group would post a LOT more often than they have been able to.

Patience is a virtue.

I have other virtues.

Meanwhile back in Lynchburg... I'm trying to decide whether to wander off on a story, dream or political rant. As you know...I have no idea...

I'm too tired to whip up a good political rant. I think that the whole debt ceiling debate has become pretty sad. It is like watching 9 year old boys fighting on a playground. I have a real urge to go and bash Boehner and Obama's heads together.

I didn't get involved in many fights as a kid. I'm not really a fan of disruption. I'm uncomfortable with conflict - I joke that I would change the channel when the Bradys would start fighting. I don't think that I'm alone in feeling that way. Well...probably not to the point that television conflicts are bothersome. Hmmm....I'll be sure that my psychiatrist takes time to read my blog. I think that there is a wealth of topics for therapy sessions in here.

Oh, that's right...I don't see a psychiatrist.

Anyway - I think that a great many Americans are interested in our elected officials (I shall not call them leaders) finding compromise. We are tired of standing on the playground and listening to the two extremes yelling at each other. We would like to get back to our game of kickball or jacks.

Well...turns out there was a small rant in there after all.

I need to travel. Perhaps a long weekend in New York? I can't tell exactly why I feel the need to be someplace else...just know that I do. It takes some effort to carve out time away in my schedule...I find myself involved in so many things. It is rare to have a weekend without something planned.

Or perhaps it is just a good night's sleep that I need.

I'll be glad when things at work return to normal...whatever that is.

Hamster pretty darn beat.

Monday, July 25

Monday....can't trust that day...

I'm tempted to write something political - after all I've just listened to the President and the Speaker talk about the debt ceiling.

But I think that it would just decay into a bitter rant about the lack of statesmen in government. I don't think that anything I would have to say will make a damn bit of difference. And that in itself is depressing.

I feel remarkably disconnected right now. My phone is missing.

I think it must be at the office. And it would be completely ridiculous to drive to the office to find it. I should be able to be apart from my Crackberry for 11 or 12 hours without going insane. Should be able. May have to take a sleeping pill tonight though.

How crazy is that? Once upon a time, I could be away from a communication device. As a kid I could run amok through the woods for hours at a time...I knew when it was time to go home because people would start yelling for their kids to come in for dinner. I particularly remember one neighbor calling her boys Melvin and Jeffry. Melvin comes out kind of shrill when you holler it. Or at least when she did. I don't believe I could ever date someone named Melvin now.

I will survive without my phone. I just keep thinking that somebody might need me. Or I might get a text from the team in Brazil. Or a call from the security company telling me that the alarm is going off at work. Or I might miss a comment on a blog post.

This is pathetic. I must remember that although I am the center of MY universe...I am not the center of THE universe. People continue to breathe in and out without my command and control. Perhaps I should be glad that my phone is missing.


I'll let you know tomorrow whether I gave up and drove to the office...but I'll try my best to resist. Breaking habits is hard to do.

Friday, July 22

Safe Arrival

I wrote on this blog not long ago about witnessing the beginnings of an incredible team of young adults. Read that post - or to briefly recap: there is a group of 6 young men and women in Brazil for the next two weeks.

They will be doing some outreach work in Curitiba the first week and during the second week they will be meeting some of the young adults active in the United Methodist Church in Brasilia. Brainstorming with enthusiastic, energetic, passionate and God-inspired Christians from two countries. I am breathless with anticipation. This endeavor has limitless possibilities. I can't wait to hear about the experiences.

Oh - that reminds me. They have a blog. So far it is just telling the followers that they are in Brazil. But they are going to try to post as much as technology allows.

Right now I'm very grateful that the travel part is done. I hear that one of the team lost a fingernail - but I believe that has been the only casualty so far.

And I'm also very excited because I will get to drive Suzie while
he's gone. I promise...he said that would be fine...


I'll stop lying.

But I'm still stealing the truck.

Tuesday, July 19

Reflections on Jellystone

After a couple nights' sleep I can safely reflect on the past weekend. I look forward to it every year (well...for three years...) and at a couple points during the weekend - I wonder why.

I like the place that we camp (Jellystone near Natural Bridge). It has a lot of activities for the kids - game room, lake (Pond!!), splash park, 2 water slides and a pool. They also have these two big pillow things that the kids jump on. Mostly the point just seems to be to bounce smaller kids onto the sharp looking little rocks that surround the giant boobs. It is an odd activity.

The best thing is that our campsites for the past two years have been right on the James River itself. It is a short stretch of shallow rapids that are fun to lay in and skim along like a skipping rock. I got to sit there with my niece and nephew for a little bit. Braeden loved watching my hands and arms creating waves. And when his Dad was safely downstream to catch - he loved being swept down and passed back up to "do it again"!

After that we went to the calm lake ( is a pond...) and I got to be the Water Monster chasing Taylor around the slide. Braeden's favorite activity was being thrown 5-6 feet through the air. Okay...since I was was more like 3 feet. But he could have sworn that he flew halfway across the pond. I had a great time.

Left camping for awhile on Saturday to go to a wedding back in Lynchburg. It was strange to be back in civilization. I felt kind of disconnected to what was going on in the REAL world. I adjusted. And then when I returned to camp - it felt strange to have to reconnect with the people who had been there all day. I felt like an intruder. But then I adjusted.


- Bacon and pancakes cooked over the fire on Sunday morning. That was the best bacon I ever had in my whole life.

- Cooking pancakes with my brother. Nothing about cooking over an open fire goes smoothly - but we made an outstanding team.

- Sitting on the "porch" of the White House Annex (my brother-in-law Kenny White's cozy popup camper) and hearing stories

- Moments of meditation during the Saturday night and Sunday morning devotions. We were a group of about 50 adults and children...but remarkably...when asked...all were quiet and tuned into the sounds of nature. The river. The crickets and cicadas. The peeping frogs. The crackle of the fire. It was a God moment. And it was worthy of stopping for.

You know what?

After listing the highlights...I can't remember what I was going to complain about.

I can't wait for next year.

Thursday, July 14

The 5 Minute Post

So - the test I have given myself for this evening is: can I create a blog post in 5 minutes?

The answer WILL be yes.

So I guess the REAL question is - can I create a GOOD post in 5 minutes?

Oh no...brain freeze...topic, topic, topic....

4 minutes to go.

Going to see Harry Potter 7.2 in the morning. I'm very excited. Although I must say that I am somewhat apprehensive of the crowd/chaos. I understand that as of Wednesday afternoon - the midnight showing was sold out in 14 theaters.

That is a lot of people. I am very hopeful that the nifty Regal Cinema will have the logistics all planned and it will go smoothly. I hate that moment when you walk into the theater and try to find seats. It takes me back to junior high when we started being able to sit wherever we wanted for lunch. And for quite awhile I was terrified that I would walk up to a group of people and they would all say "this seat is saved". And I would be standing there and people would be staring - and I would just be holding that tray.

For a few days I even sat with my cousin Nancy.

Though she was never totally thrilled with the idea. I was okay to hang out with in the summer - but since I was almost 2 years younger (though only a grade behind...) and a complete nerd (thus being a grade ahead)...I wasn't really that welcome.

But kudos to her for letting me hang out a bit.

Less than a minute.

I have to go watch Harry Potter 7.1 - so my time is up.

Hamster chafed.

Wednesday, July 13

A Memory of Camping (and breaking the law)

It is time for another post. This weekend I'll be camping - which means I probably won't get a chance to post. Or maybe I will...but lets just say that it will decrease the possibility.

I enjoy camping. Especially in the Spring and Fall when the evenings are crisp and cool. I like sitting around a campfire. Toasting marshmallows and enjoying a coffee or a coffee milk. Kahlua and Cream (in my case, milk...). I like staring into the fire and daydreaming.

I like to catch sticks on fire until the end is a hot coal...

...then blow out the flame and write my name in the air.

That just made me flash back to a night on the Great Drive Across Canada chapter of my life. Not like a literal flashback (though I still say that I was promised flashbacks and I feel gypped) but a warm memory.

If you know the Jenkins brothers (or of them...) then you might know how they travel. They have driven across the states and Canada more than once. They taught me how to slow down and realize that the journey is part of experience.

As a kid we traveled a bit. You may recall that my parents were part of the National Campers and Hikers Association. So we camped quite a bit when I was growing up. And of course there were family vacations to the beach (and once to Disney World by van...another long batch of stories). In all those trips I was the typical kid: when will we get there? The trip was an obstacle to overcome before we got to wherever we were GOING!

So it was a strange experience when I started traveling with the Jenkins boys. We stopped for gas after a couple hours on the road in Ontario. May have only been an hour...Dan was on the motorcycle, so we were limited to how far we could go before stopping.

After getting gas - I assumed we would be back on the road. But instead...Dan laid on a picnic table to rest. John got out his guitar. I sat at the picnic table kind of confused. After about 45 minutes or an hour...we got back on the road.

After another hour - we stopped at a rest area/overlook of a river. They got out the cooler and made sandwiches. John played the guitar. Dan lay on the ground. Then we walked to the river and sat around for another hour.

When it got dark - we would look for a place to park to sleep. It may have been the very first night when we "camped" at a closed provincial park (like a state park...but Canadian). I was certain that we were going to be arrested and fined because we drove in through the out gate and parked in a clearly closed place. And then when they decided to spend the night AND cook AND light a fire on the lake's beach!! Holy crap! What are you people? Crazy?

But somehow, I managed to relax. Mostly. And when darkness settled in with the deep velvet that only Canadian wilderness can give you...and we were relaxing on a private beach...and John was playing the guitar...and Dan was giving us an incredible light show with logs from the fire...

And the stars shone above like glittering diamonds in the densest black curtain.

That is one of the best nights of my life.

And strangely - I had forgotten it for a long time.

That trip was full of incredible experiences.

Man...I sure do miss those guys. They taught me to slow down and enjoy the ride. It took us 9 days to cross from Ontario to British Columbia. In 8 nights, we slept twice in motel rooms. We paid for a campsite one night in Manitoba, I think. Otherwise, we found places to be. Never had a bit of trouble.

I need to remember how to slow down again.

Perhaps just the recollection of it will help.

And maybe sometime this weekend -

I will watch the light show in the fire and think of my friends.

And the night sky somewhere in a cold spot in Ontario.

Saturday, July 9

Education and Procrastination

I feel the need to post. But I don't yet have a topic. That's the same way I wrote a lot of my term papers. The Friday before it was due on Monday - I would come up with a topic and then drink coffee and stress until Monday morning. Well - Sunday afternoon...I still had to get Mom to go to her office and type it for me.

My poor Mom.

Her kids' procrastination caused her more than one long night (weekend, month...) of stress. Totally unfair. Umm...sorry?

My sister is a Mom to a procrastinating student. Does it help to know that eventually my nephew will write in his blog that he was sorry? Probably not. procrastination is not really a topic you should have to suffer...that should be with a paid therapist. To hear me whine should at least get you some $$.

I'm going to the movies tomorrow. (random thought)

All right...I can see that a worthy topic is escaping me.

Time to spin the Google Wheel of Destiny. I shall now go to Google and will type in the first phrase on the 10th page of the book on the shelf in front of me. Let's see what we get:

well...ain't THAT a kick in the teeth. Page 10 is blank!

Perhaps we shall give the universe another chance...the other book in front of me, page 27, go.

The phrase under a picture of an owl is: Some people say that life is all about acquiring knowledge. (it continues...If that's true, then why do smart people always dress so badly? ass owl)

To Google!

Interesting. The page you go to if you hit "I'm Feeling Lucky" is this. Knowledge in Islam and how to seek it. I wonder what the universe is trying to tell me?

After reading a bit of this page - I can agree with the general premise: Education is a key part of developing the human mind. A couple of phrases stood out to me: Education is the knowledge of putting one's potentials to maximum use. One can safely say that a human being is not in the proper sense till he/she is educated. and Without education, man is as though in a closed room and with education he finds himself in a room with all its windows open towards the outside world.

Knowledge is good. Knowledge is power.

I have often wondered where I personally would be if I even occasionally put my potentials to maximum use. Instead of waiting until Friday to write a term paper...

Food for thought.

Wednesday, July 6

Random thoughts and grammar questions...

Yesterday's post got a lot of hits. And the feedback was pretty positive. It is reassuring to know that the readers of The Beaten Hamster (if you keep clicking that link you'll just keep coming back to the same a demented Groundhog Day) understood where I'm coming from.

But I want anybody who is tuning back in today to see what I have to say next to know...I rarely beat the same hamster two days in a row. It may be that I'll have something else to say about Casey Anthony or trials in general - it may not. I'm pretty unpredictable that way.

What can you predict about reading the Beaten Hamster?

- I'll post about 4 times a week. When I try to do 7 then I get all crazy guilty if I miss one...then it leads to lame postings.

- I will wander off topic at the drop of a hat. Which reminds me...does anybody still sell hats the have sizes like 6 3/4? Or are all hats just small, medium and large?

- Does anybody still learn how to diagram sentences? I was really good at that. But I wonder what some of my sentences would look like in a diagram...

- I write pretty much stream-of-consciousness (although I always have to use spell check to get the word "consciousness" correct. {just misspelled it twice - in two different ways. [and also misspelled "misspelled"]}) Yeah - somebody send THAT to an English teacher. I think the diagram would be Escher-like.

- Heck, the rest you can figure out if you keep coming by. But don't feel like you have to swing by every day...I'm rarely so topical that you can't catch up once a week.

And no, I don't really beat hamsters. That's just sick.

But there is a cat and several squirrels that are begging for it...

Tuesday, July 5

On Juries and Judgement

I know that the blogosphere will be rampant tonight with posts about today's verdict in the Casey Anthony trial. And indeed, I am disappointed by the verdict.

But I am sorry that so many folks out here in internet-land are violently lambasting the jury. I hope that everyone who is so sure they would have done differently has sat on a jury (preferably a death penalty case).

I was not part of a death penalty jury - but I did sit on a jury once. It was a situation that tore at my heart. The person sat accused of physically abusing a person of diminished mental capacity. Allegedly she and another person tied the person behind a lawn tractor and dragged her. It was horrible to imagine.

Our job as the jury was to determine the fate of the accused - based upon the evidence presented at trial.

It is a surreal experience. A courtroom is very similar to a church sanctuary. The audience/congregation in their pews - the wise judge/pastor trying to keep everyone focused on justice - and each side trying to present their version of truth...knowing that the real truth lies under all the spin.

I guess in that rough analogy, the jury is the choir. Sitting and trying to view the whole scene impartially - walking a thin line of detachment (to view facts) and passion (to feel for the victim). But knowing that in the end, they are going to have to play a pivotal role in the decision. One person of 12.

We spent the entire day listening to both sides. I think that we all took it very seriously. When the jury had to leave the courtroom - we spoke very little. Just stuff like jobs and hobbies. After all, we were there to do a job...not make friends. I was elected foreman, mostly because nobody else wanted to do it. (that's how I became treasurer of the Latin club and secretary of most every other geek club)

When the time came for us to deliberate - we made sure that every person in that room was heard. And we shared a lot of ideas. It was not an easy decision to make. Because, in our hearts - we knew that SOMETHING had happened. And we knew that SOMEONE knew what happened to who. But the state simply didn't prove its case. In fact, it shot itself in the foot a couple of times.

We had to acquit.

I wept the whole way home. And for about an hour after that. And even though that has been years ago...that emotion is still raw...I'm holding back tears as I type.

So - don't tell me that there aren't members of that jury in Florida who aren't hurting right now for that little girl. That simply isn't possible. And unless we have walked that mile in their shoes - we can't know what we would have done.

This isn't the movies. Sometimes there isn't closure.

Sometimes justice has to wait for the real judge.

Friday, July 1

Some Riva Howse History

My brother asked me for a history of The Riva Howse for the website. Yeah - we've got a website. It's a work in progress.

If you are not familiar with The Riva Howse - basically it is a cabin by the James River that my family owns. Ok, Mom and Dad own - and share with the rest of us. We, in turn - share it with our friends.

It is a place of respite. We don't have jet skis and motorboats...we've got canoes. We don't have TV, and the radio is sketchy sometimes too. We love it very much.

So - how did this magical oasis come into our lives?

I found it (or perhaps, it found me?). During one of those periods in my life when I found myself discontented with my work situation (there have been 3...look at my job history - figure out which 3 were my least favorite)...I had to psyche myself up to go into work. So I would drive the stretch of River Road in Madison Heights that passes alongside the James River. Some mornings there would be fog lifting from the river - and driving in the cool shadow of the bluff and ridge - well, it would be enough to make me say "I can do another day".

One morning as I passed by this little house on the river side, I noticed a BIG sign nailed to it "Absolute Auction" (where Gordon and Denise painted the lovely scene). The date was pretty memorable for me: March 6. My mom & I's birthday. If memory serves right, that was late January. I saw it several more times before the beginning of March. And it turned out that Dad had seen it too...on a bike ride. We decided it would at least be fun to go to the auction and see what it went for. I have a pretty serious affinity for auctions anyway.

So we went. And we poked around with the rest of the crowd. It was a drizzly morning...I'm sure it was mid-week, too. And so Mom, Dad and I put our heads together and came up with a figure. And I was elected to be our bidder. And so the auction began...

I was familiar with the auctioneers - Carlton Wingfield and his son Steve (who I knew from church...nice fellow. Rest in peace friend.). I had already spoken with Steve and decided to open the bidding at 5K. The next 10 minutes were intense. Bidding on anything at an auction can get your adrenaline pumping - but try it with real estate...that's where the rubber hits the road.

There were 4 or 5 bidders at the beginning - but around 15K, it was down to just me and one other guy. He was a very emotional bidder - you could see the steam coming off his head. I (though shaking mentally) was cool as a cucumber. Steve and I had connected so that I could bid with the slightest shift of my eyebrow, nod of my head. So...the other guy couldn't even tell who he was up against.

Mom and Dad were on the opposite side of the circle from me - and I kept trying to get some sort of sign from them that they were still comfortable with the figure we had come up with. Nothin'. Dad was just standing there like he was watching me bid on a plow or something. Mom, she was just smiling away...

Finally - he hit his top limit...and we owned .137 acres of heaven. 549 River Road. The Riva Howse. Transferred to us on 4/21/99 from Michael K Thaxton (who had paid $6,000 for it 4/27/98). Searchable public fascinating. It was built in 1969 and is noted as being "flood plain adjacent". Um...yeah...

In 1985 when the James River left its banks in the famed Flood of 85 (such a creative name...) the Riva Howse was below water. Only the chimney cap stuck out. A man who worked for Lynchburg City owned it them - he showed me a picture of it. I wish I had asked for a copy of that.

So - there is a bit of the history of the Riva Howse. Now my brother has his info...and I have a blog post. Two birds with one stone.