10.30.2020 – To insource or to outsource. That is the question.

Some of you, well one of you, asked about the new lawn.  I mentioned it and the lessons it was teaching me a few weeks ago.  So, how’s the new lawn? It seems to be coming along.  Nice and green. Thicker in some spots than in others, but it’s coming along.  Cooler weather and the soon to be winter means I won’t be doing much with the new lawn for a while.  But when spring comes, I have some decisions to make.  Will I tend to it myself? Maybe I should; after all, the first job given to our first father was working and keeping the garden (Genesis 2:15).  Or will I outsource the mowing and the trimming?  I mean, assuming the end to a pandemic, we’d like to travel and I’m not sure neighbor kids mow lawns when you’re away anymore. Plus, lawn care was included in our HOA fees in Pennsylvania so we’d have to buy a new mower and trimmer.  And, yeah, I’m not getting any younger.

To outsource or insource, that is the question. Continue reading

10.23.2020 – Man on the Lam: Jesus Saves Suckers

It’s been a month now, and I’m not in jail.  You can hear the message by clicking on the video link above (really, it’s worth a listen), or I can tell you what it said:

Attention! This call is from the legal department of the Social Security Administration. Your Social Security number has been suspended, and we have filed a case under your name. So, before this matter goes to federal claims courthouse for you to get arrested, kindly press 1, because FBI also involved in your case.  So, I repeat, press 1 to know about your legal case.

I did not press 1, but I find myself checking the rearview mirror for unmarked Crown Victorias following too closely or men in black with earpieces and talking into their wrists. Maybe the federal claims courthouse has a backlog of cases or is processing the cases of those who pressed 1.  In any event, I remain a free person.

The call came from the Solomon Islands, phone number 677-75.  Maybe I should have wondered why the legal department of the Social Security Administration calls from the Solomon Islands.  I Googled “federal claims courthouse,” and the closest I could find is the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., but there is nothing on their website about suspended Social Security numbers.

I don’t want to let my guard down, but the call may have been spam.  I might not have avoided jail by pressing 1. Continue reading

10.16.2020 – When the Nays Have It

I have moderated my fair share of meetings, session meetings and presbytery meetings in church polity speak.  There’s something satisfying about coming to the end of debate, hopefully friendly conversation, and to the vote.  “All those in favor say, ‘Aye.’” Then, “Opposed, ‘Nay.’”  Usually, not always, I would pronounce, “The ayes have it. Motion carries.”  It’s how we do things, and it mostly works.

It seems, though, that we are more and more living in a world where the nays have it, and it isn’t working well.

There’s a good chance that no matter which presidential candidate garners the most votes, popular or electoral, on November 3, the nays will have it.  Pew Research has probed our voters’ minds and we seem to be more against than for.  Should former Vice President Biden win the election, a vote against President Trump will have propelled him to the White House, and, barring an unexpected landslide, should President Trump be re-elected, his margin of victory will come from those voting against Joe Biden.

It looks like the nays are going to have it. Continue reading

10.09.2020 Wheat and Tares Together Sown

Planting the lawn was the last big project at the new house, though we have a thousand little projects yet to complete. The seed was sown, actually sprayed, last week.  Now we’re babysitting what we hope will be a lush carpet of green by next spring.  They say not too much and not too little water.  Gentle autumn rains have fallen two days since the seed was sown, and we join the just and the unjust in giving thanks.  Now the forecast is for dry and warmer weather. The seeds will like the warmth, but the drier weather means hauling hoses and sprinklers around the yard for the better part of the day.

But mostly we wait. Every time I go outside, I peer intently at the well-groomed and properly moist soil hoping to see the first blades of grass. We should see the early shoots any day now.  The hydroseed people have already warned us, though; some of those verdant sprouts will not be the grass we are waiting to welcome but the weeds we dread.  Okay, it’s the wrong time of year, but did you know that a single dandelion plant is capable of producing 15,000 dandelion seeds?  Not to worry, they tell us, we’ll take care of the weeds in due time.  In the meantime, the weeds will grow, and we’re not to pull them, in any other way molest them, or allow ourselves to become overly anxious.  Let them be. Continue reading

10.02.2020 – Vinte Anos Atrás – Graça a Deus

October 1, 2000, was a Sunday.  Four of us from Park Presbyterian Church in Beaver, PA, had arrived in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Saturday after a long flight from JFK and a delay in Sao Paulo. A bit tired, we had been up in Favela da Ventosa at the soup kitchen in old church building. Now it was Sunday. Sunday, October 1, 2000, was the Lord’s Day, and on our North American church calendar, World Communion Sunday.  Only later would I find out that few churches outside of North America know anything about World Communion Sunday.  But from my very North American perspective it seemed like the perfect day to worship with Igreja Presbiteriana no Jardim América, to dedicate their barely completed new sanctuary, and to gather around the Lord’s Table.  World Communion Sunday or not, it turned out to be a great day to worship.

Years earlier, my seminary classmate and first Brazilian friend, Robson Gomes, had issued a standing invitation for Becky and me and our kids to come visit them in Brazil after graduation. “Yeah, right,” had been my thought at the time, but now I was in Brazil with Robson and Juliane and their daughters. In Brazil ready to preach a sermon – in English – assist with a baptism, help at the Lord’s Supper.  Ready to worship with the people of IPJA. Ready for a mission partnership. Continue reading