Category Archives: Observations

06.24.2022 – I Never Knew That

It happens most often when you are driving a rental car.  You pull into the gas station and suddenly you remember that you don’t know which side the fuel filler door is on.  If you guess left, it’s probably on the right and if you guess right, it’s probably on the left.  And then there’s the issue of whether there’s an inside-the-car latch to open the fuel door.  Back to left side or right side.  A quick Google search suggests a lot of heated debate over the issue.  What issue do we not debate heatedly these days?  My preference is left simply because that is what I am used to.  Creature of habit and all that.

The other day a friend and I were in a car that neither or us owned and we needed to fill the tank.  I was driving and said something about wondering on which side of the car the fuel filler door might be.  My friend leaned over, looked at the dash, and said, “Right.”

“How did you know that?” I asked.

“See that little arrow pointing right,” he said.

Sure enough, the car we were driving had a little right-pointing arrow next to the gas pump icon on the dashboard.  And sure enough, my car has a little arrow pointing left.  You can see a photo from my car in the header.  I have been driving the car for 13 years and never noticed, and if I had noticed, I would not have known.

There’s no law that says the fuel filler door has to be on the left side or the right side of the car, and there is no law saying there has to be a little arrow next to the gas pump icon on your dashboard to tell you which side of the pump to approach when you are driving a rental car.

Somebody had a really good idea when they started to put those little arrows on our dashboards.  But I never knew.  Not only do we Americans argue about everything, we love being victims.  I guess I should say someone should have told me.  Clearly someone is at fault for me not knowing, and it can’t be me.

I will settle for “I never knew that.”  Come to think of it, there are lots of things I never knew and still don’t know.

Life itself is probably better when we acknowledge there are lots of things we never knew – or maybe got wrong the first time through.  Certainly, the Bible speaks more clearly, more sweetly (and sometimes more bitterly) when we are willing to say, “I never knew that.”

Recently I have been preaching a little more often as I am helping a not-too-far-away EPC church that is between pastors.

“No repeat sermons for me,” I say smugly.

More preaching, and no repeat sermons, means more sermon preparation, and my smug self has been reminded again how much I never knew.  A little exegetical insight or a commentator’s good point, and I find myself saying, “I never knew that.”

Next time I am feeling a little too smug to say, “I never knew that,” I should take a look at the little left-pointing arrow next to the gas pump icon on my car’s dashboard.  I never knew that.  I am thankful for a friend who taught me something new.

06.17.2022 – Maybe It’s Just a Coincidence

Rule 39: There is no such thing as a coincidence. — Leroy Jethro Gibbs, NCIS

I have enjoyed my share of NCIS episodes.  Week after week I’ve seen Gibbs and his intrepid team solve the most perplexing crimes.  Who am I, then, to argue with Gibbs?  But I am pretty sure there is such a thing as a coincidence and that we’d do well to quit trying to find the connections between all the things that happen to us and around us.

Late last year Becky and I received a “Save the Date” card from an engaged couple.  We’ve saved the date because even though it has been several years since we’ve seen the groom’s parents and longer still since we’ve been around the groom, the parents are dear friends, and we have nothing but happy memories of the groom when he was growing up in the church where I was pastor. Plus, the bride, who the groom met in college, is from a small town in western Ohio only a couple of hours away. Not a long drive at all.  We’re saving the date.

Earlier this year I became chair of a committee in our Presbytery and have begun working with my colleagues on the committee.  It is a great group of pastors and elders, and I like them all very much.  Just last week I drove a couple of hours to a small town in western Ohio to meet with a pastor who is a key member of the committee and whose friendship I am enjoying. Continue reading

06.10.2022 – Reefer Madness

Change is a strange thing. As much as we may accept the inevitability of change – for better or for worse, the shape of change often surprises us.

This Observations, then, is about change, despite the click-bait headline I gave it.

Legalization of marijuana continues its slow march through the states. Ten years after Colorado became the first state to legalize the recreational use and sale of cannabis, eighteen other states and Washington D.C. have joined the mile high state decriminalizing the use and sale of limited amounts of marijuana. There is no reason to believe that the number of states allowing legal sale and use of cannabis products won’t continue to grow.

Change. It is rarely as good as its proponents hope and often not as harmful as its opponents suggest. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study on the effects of the decriminalization of marijuana use and, in its scholarly article sort of way, suggests the change has a low side in addition to its high side: This study’s findings suggest that possible increases in the risk for cannabis use disorder among adolescent users and increases in frequent use and cannabis use disorder among adults after legalization of recreational marijuana use may raise public health concerns and warrant ongoing study. Continue reading

06.03.2022 – On Giving Up Childish Ways

Becky and I are back from Missouri where we spent a week or so with our grandchildren while our son and his wife were off on a trip celebrating their anniversary.  It was a good, if exhausting time for us, but we are mostly so glad we can help in such a way.

Micah, the second youngest of our grandchildren, will turn three years old in August and is a happy, talkative, and joy-contagious toddler. Micah loves books and loves having an adult read to him. I often took the reading assignment, especially as Becky became the favorite of the 16-month old who was a little apprehensive about his parents being suddenly gone.  Becky and Gabriel became great friends.

By far, Micah’s favorite read-aloud book was a complete collection of Curious George stories, “Monkey George,” as he calls him.  If any of you have trouble sleeping at night, might I recommend the complete collection of Monkey George stories.  Read them aloud and you will be in deep slumber in no time at all.

In addition to Monkey George, we had repeated reads of Ferdinand the Bull and the Story of the Little Gingerbread Boy.  And once in awhile one of the cardboard books that are more Gabriel’s speed than Micah’s. Continue reading

05.18.2022 – Appreciating What We Have

For the past several months, Becky and I have been working with an Afghan refugee family as they settle into life in the United States.  We count all the work as joy.

Last night our friend Azizullah, husband and father in the family, sent a WhatsApp message with the photo you see above – a photo of a school in Taliban-dominated Afghanistan.  Far from home, with a heart that breaks for what is happening in Afghanistan, and adjusting to life in our strange new world, he wrote, “We must appreciate what we have.”

Yes.

This morning Becky and I leave for Missouri where we will spend a week and a few days with our family there.  Grandparent time!  We can hardly wait.  Along the way, we will undoubtedly grumble about the mid-four-dollar-a-gallon (or more) cost of gasoline. But we get to see family!  Azizullah’s words, “we must appreciate what we have,” should still our grumbling.

All for now. More Observations when we return home.