Hurricane Harvey

Our hearts, minds, and prayers are with those in all locations who have suffered devastation during Hurricane Harvey.

If you haven’t already given, please consider giving to one of the following organizations:

INTERNATIONAL ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHARITIES – https://www.iocc.org

SALVATION ARMY – http://www.salvationarmyusa.org

THE RED CROSS – http://www.redcross.org/local/texas/central-and-south-texas

For more information on how to personally assist a neighbor in need, see my blog post on the book Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial

A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

Photo Credit: WRSanders

Just days ago, we had the first Total Eclipse of the sun to traverse the entire United States in 99 years.  For a few brief seconds, the light of the sun went almost out. The totality path was 70 miles wide, and traversed from Oregon to South Carolina.

So many factors are needed for a total eclipse to happen:

  • the Moon and the Sun must both be the same shape
  • they must be at exactly the right distance from each other
  • at that distance, the small disk of the Moon, must be of just the right size to block the entire disc of the Sun
  • the orbits of the Earth and the Moon must synchronize for the Moon to be at the right place at just the right time

All of these factors came together to perfectly block the disk of the sun, leaving only the corona visible.  What an amazing work of God!

As I looked at eclipse footage on the internet, I became intrigued by the corona.  The corona is visible because the disk of the moon, though it blocks our view of the sun itself, cannot block the light being emitted by the sun.

I remember believing as a child, that if the sun “went out”, everything – not just the Earth – would go pitch black dark and no one would see anything, anywhere in the universe.  Then I learned that the universe is not dependent on “our” star – the sun – for its light, that there are many other stars out there, of many different types, all emitting light in one form or another, to one degree or another.  Then I learned that electricity and magnetism, rather than being separate substances, were part and parcel of the same electromagnetic spectrum.  The deeper I delved into light, the more complicated it became, and the less I knew.

Yet in everything I learned, light was always connected with a source: the sun, basic elements of the universe, explosions, etc.   We “light” a barbecue grill.  We “light” a candle.  We “light” a lamp at home.  Or we flip a switch, and “light” comes from the electricity racing through the bulb filaments or neon gas.

However, the Book of Genesis begins:

In the beginning, God made heaven and the earth.  The earth was invisible and unfinished, and darkness was over the deep.  Then God said “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw the light; it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light “Day”, and the darkness He called “Night”; and there was evening and there was morning, one day.

Many people think these verses refer to the light of the sun and moon.  The problem: this was the first day of creation.  According to subsequent verses in Genesis, the sun, moon, and stars were not created until the fourth day.  So, of what did the light of day and night consist if there was no Sun, no Moon, no stars, no artificial lights of Man, no sources of light of any kind with which we are familiar?

Light is most often defined as an “electromagnetic spectrum” with seven divisions: Gamma Rays, X-rays, Ultraviolet, Visible, Infrared, Microwave and Radio/TV waves.  All of these have known sources. What would happen if all sources of light could be 100% removed from a photo of the universe – would there be left a light that just is, with no source?

The research continues…

Recommended Tool: FreedomFiler

This is the time of year to clean out old files and set up new ones.  Depending on how many files you have, this can be a time-consuming chore.    FreedomFiler can make it much easier!

This ingeniously set up physical filing system is organized so that files are nearly self-purging, allowing old papers to be cleaned out in a few minutes time on a monthly basis, instead of taking hours at the end of the year.

The system can be used for traditional categories (such as Budget, Insurance, etc.), as well as for vendor, customer, legal, finance, or subject/resource files. Kits also come with blank labels that you can custom print on your printer. And the pre-printed labels have other info besides just the file name.

You can even purchase a complete filing system, complete with pre-labeled folders (you pick the color) already in order in a filing bin!  Ready to use out of the box!

There are only two cons to this system, both of which are minor:

  • When setting up the system yourself, there is a bit of a learning curve to understand the set-up.
    • Tip: I found the photos included in the instruction manual to be as helpful as the written instructions.  Because of my experience with setting up the Freedom Filer files in my office, I was inspired to set up a similar system for my event handling files.
    • If you’re seriously averse to learning curves, or just don’t have time for the set-up, and are ordering a system for home use, order the pre-set up ready-made filing system. All the work except inserting your papers is done for you!
  • The included pre-printed labels have an adhesive that is pretty permanent. Consequently they tend to shred if removed.  I found this out the hard way after adhering the peel-and-stick label directly to the inside of a plastic file folder name holder, then realizing it was facing the wrong way.
    • Tip: If removability is an important priority for you, I recommend adhering the pre-printed label first to a removable adhesive label (Avery, or another brand) or to an old-fashioned paper insert that slides into the file name holder.  That way you have the color and great info of the FreedomFiler label AND removability.

That side, I’d like to add that once my system was set up and going I’ve had no need to remove any labels. It’s worked great!

Just FYI: I only recommend tools I’ve used and believe in.  FreedomFiler is one of those, having used it both at home and in the office. I like it so much that I’ve become an affiliate. That means when you purchase through the first link above I will earn a small commission that helps to keep this site going.  Thank you! 

 

Coming Alongside Those in Need

Book Front Cover image. Title: ALONGSIDE by Sarah Beckman

Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in Their Time of Trial

Know of a family in crisis,trial, or grief and want to help but don’t know how? Check out Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial (www.alongsidebook.com), by Sarah Beckman. I’ve been involved with helping family, friends, and neighbors in crisis off and on through the years and highly recommend this book. It has everything I learned the hard way and wish I’d known earlier:

  • Do I go, or not go?
  • I want to take a meal: what kind, and how?
  • The family has said no more meals, what can I do instead?
  • Are there ways I can help that don’t require me to interact with the family?
  • Whom do I contact for the family’s status?

and much more!

Sarah Beckman’s done an outstanding job on the book, sharing from her own and others’ experiences! if you’d like to read her story, check out her Facebook site (“Sarah Beckman, Author and Speaker”), and look for her on Instagram or Twitter (@sarahbeckman14). Also check out this Alongside video on YouTube.

Order the book before February 14th and receive Sarah’s Alongside Early Order Bonus package. Check out the book link above to find out how to receive the package.

A version of this review first appeared on my Facebook page

The Importance of Second Fiddles

Yesterday I had the privilege of eating dinner with 40 teens from five Congregation of Holy Cross high schools in Texas, Louisiana, and California.  All had spent several hours Friday, in the Texas heat, doing service projects at various host organizations. While all the kids seemed touched by their experiences, one group especially stays in my mind.

That group assisted groundskeepers at St. Edward’s University in mulching many of the beautiful trees that shade the hilltop campus.  One teen was impressed with how many of the other staff on campus knew and greeted the groundskeepers with friendship and affection.  He realized he’d never paid much attention to those who keep the grounds at his homePhoto of pink Alstromeria flowers high school.  He realized you don’t have to be a faculty member or school administrator to live forth the Holy Cross values, and make a difference in the world.  He spoke of how he’ll always see his own high school campus differently after this, realizing how many people silently and faithfully go about their daily business of taking care of living things, trimming grass, picking up trash, or doing other jobs, all so those on campus can have a beautiful place to study and grow.

Sometimes folks like the SEU groundskeepers are considered to be “second fiddles”, named after violinists in an orchestra who aren’t in the “First Violin” position (the one who often rises from his or her chair at the audience end of the row to shake hands with the conductor).  Second Fiddles are less visible, often sitting own the row behind the First Violinist, sometimes blending into the background to the point of near invisibility, sometimes being considered less necessary to the music since there may be more than one violinist in the Second Fiddle row, and perhaps the absence of one would not make a difference to the music.

But think of all those Second Fiddles and what would happen to the world if they all suddenly disappeared:  the green living things on campuses might start dying for lack of water-preserving mulch, trash would pile up, offices would have no staff.  And St. Brother Andre Bessette, a door-keeper in Montreal, might never have become known to the world.

I realize not everyone in the positions I’ve mentioned likes the term “second fiddles”, and that’s as it should be.  No insult is intended.  But take a moment to stop and think about those in your daily life who aren’t the First Violinist, yet contribute to beautiful music for all. Stop and ask God to bless them.  And the next time you see one of them, give them a smile and a greeting and say a few words of appreciation.   You’ll be glad you did.

 

“Read the Bible As Much As Possible”

Quote

James Latimer's photo.

“The main thing is to read the Bible as much as possible. When the mind does not understand, the heart will feel; and if neither the mind understands nor the heart feels, read it over again, because by reading it you are sowing God’s words in your soul. And there they will not perish, but will gradually and imperceptibly pass into the nature of your soul; and there will happen to you what the Saviour said about the man who ‘casts seed on the ground, and sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, while the man does not know it’ (Mark 4:26-27).  The main thing is: sow, and it is God who causes and allows what is sown to grow.”— St Justin Popovic

Practicing What I Preach: Making Forgiveness a Habit

“Every Moment is a Chance to Practice” – Charlie Gilkey, ProductiveFlourishing.com

Recently I read a post with the above title, from Charlie Gilkey’s Productive Flourishing website.  Charlie is the provider of some of my favorite weekly project planners, all aimed at creative types whose lives are project (not appointment) centered.  While Charlie was speaking of other things, his title reminded me of a principle I learned decades ago:  I must choose every moment to practice in seemingly small ways, what I may someday have to do in a much larger way.

What do I mean?

  • To run a marathon I’ve never run, I must run smaller distances on a regular basis before running 26 miles.
  • To have a good annual dental report, I must brush my teeth every day.
  • To read the Bible daily, I have to choose to say no to distractions, often one after the other, some provided by my own brain.

This truth also applies in our Christian spiritual lives: Those of us who are Christians often say “I have surrendered my will to Jesus Christ.”  But if we live our daily lives choosing our own will, demanding our own way in everything, how will we suddenly be obedient to Jesus’ will when He requires it?  On a daily basis we have practiced doing our own will and demanding our own way until it has become a habit.  When the crunch time comes, will we not be much more likely to do our own will, than to do His will?

Jesus has indeed given us a command, to forgive others (“If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew chapter 6 verse 14), therefore we must, on a daily basis – sometimes on a minute by minute basis – extend forgiveness to those who offend us, including but not limited to:  the drivers that cut in front of us on the road, family members, or the co-worker down the hall.  Even a seemingly small situation requiring us to forgive is not some lightweight, sweet and easy thing, but often a difficult act of the will, out of obedience to Jesus, that goes completely contrary to what our will wants to do.  I often fail in the battle to obey and forgive.  When I do, by the grace of God I get up, dust myself off, and try again, in the hope that someday my forgiveness muscle will be strong and ready for action, and I will finally have trained my will to do Christ’s will, not my own.  When I’m whining and having a pity party over the “injustice” done to me by someone who infringed what I considered to be one of my rights, I remind myself that Jesus set the bar high when, after having every human right violated, and being tortured and hung on a cross, He said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

A Few Good Men

UPDATE: Good News! The military has reversed its position and allowed SFC Martland to remain in the military. Thank you for your prayers and actions on behalf of SFC Martland.

Those who watch films may remember the movie of two US Marines courtmartialed for the death of a fellow Marine.  One of the two accused soldiers could not understand why they were discharged for “conduct unbecoming” when they were following orders.  His companion finally realized and explained to him that they should have stood up, against orders, for those weaker than themselves.

Four years ago, Sgt. First Class Martland did exactly that, he stood up for a young Afghani boy tied to a post and repeatedly sodomized by an Afghani policeman. Now Sgt. Martland may be drummed out of the military for doing the right thing.

Please watch this video and sign the petition to expess your support for Sgt. First Class Martland.

http://aclj.org/human-rights/legislator-veteran-gives-powerful-call-to-arms-for-war-hero-being-ejected-from-the-army-

Favorite Tools: “Old Gray” and “RedTop”

A friend of mine sent me a link today to a NY Times article on the “satisfying sound” of staplers, which brought back childhood memories. When I was growing up I enjoyed helping my father with his business paperwork.  He traveled for his job and every weekend would come home with papers to be organized and filed, verbal notes recorded on Dictaphone belts to be transcribed, and paper clips down in the bottom of his lawyer’s style wide-mouthed leather briefcase.

The loose paper-clips never seemed to bother him, but they did me.  Most of them had come off sets of papers and every week Dad would have to put the sets back together.  That’s where the stapler came in: he would get a set of papers together and hand it to me and I would staple them using his old gray stapler, which I still have.   I’m not sure why Dad didn’t just carry the stapler with him on the road, but I suspect Old Gray was just too heavy.  It is an “Ace Cadet Liftop Model No. 302” (sometimes listed as “half-size”) made in the USA by the Ace Fastener Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, possibly back in the 1940s or 50s. I’m not sure how much the 302 weighs, but for a half-size model it’s pretty hefty: I’ve often used it as a paper weight in gusty wind situations and as a book-opening weight when doing research reading.

At the time of my use of it with Dad’s papers Old Gray had a mind of its own and frequently jammed.  Looking back, I suspect the problem was with the staples.  By the time I inherited Old Gray, staple strips had improved and I’ve rarely had a problem with Old Gray jamming so long as I stick to Swingline half-strip staples.  I’m glad to report that as a consequence it’s still in use many decades after it’s creation.  Considering how often it’s not only stapled papers but also things to apartment walls, box closures, and other surfaces, the fact that it still works smoothly is pretty amazing.

Somewhere along the way Dad bought a new stapler and I have it as well.  It’s a red-topped Bates “88P Hand-Grip Stapler” stamped “A 572” in the inside top of the staples compartment.  These apparently were produced in the 1960s. The stapler is great to use as it was made to fit the human hand when held, but was an annoyance for many years as it spins when set down horizontally and has a tendency to fall over sideways. It can also be set down on it’s nose, like some of today’s models, but tends to fall over from that position as well if the desk so much as vibrates slightly.  Dad never really had a good place to store it on his desk, though the stapler has a hole to hang on a nail or peg.  Never having a nail or peg or my desk either, I finally discovered the stapler’s open space between the staples compartment and the anvil base slides nicely over the edge of a medium-sized pencil cup, with the top of the stapler hanging on the outside for easy grabbing.  The cup has to have enough contents to counter-balance the weight of the stapler, of course, but after overcoming that minor difficulty the red stapler has been happily hanging off my pencil cup for many years now and is in constant use when I print drafts of my writing.

I wouldn’t trade either of these staplers for a newer one.  I’ve used plenty of those at offices over the years and have yet to find one that makes me want to run out and buy it to replace these two.  Old Gray and RedTop have been adopted into their “forever family.”

What’s your favorite tool story?