CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the category “PA”

Looking for Adventure…

…go, Steppenwolf, go!   http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o

So my Suzuki GS1100L and I have seen a lot of adventures together.  I purchased a Rifle Fairing for it, had it installed, and had the bike and fairing painted to match.  It was beautiful!  Until one spring, maybe ten years ago or so.

I have an old High School buddy that works on motorcycles in Cochranton, PA  (Professional Cycle, http://www.procycle1.com/Procycle1/Home.html.  Ask for Dell).  For quite a while I took my bikes to him to service, inspect, fix, whatever.  So on this particular day, I had gotten up early and rode down to get the 1100 inspected.  We live outside of Erie, PA, so it was always kind of a commitment to get there.  After he was done I got going, and entered Interstate 79 at Meadville to get home.  Beth and I had friends that were getting married that day, so I really cranked the throttle.  The 1100 has always had a surplus of power, and within about a nanosecond I was travelling at 90 mph (yeah, I know.  First, stupid.  Second, way above the speed limit.  Third, I’m a cop and know better.  Response?  One, I think I’m smarter now than then.  Two, I don’t drive like that now.  Three, blah, blah, blah.  Fourth, the statute of limitations is way past, so nyah! And fifth, do not try this yourselves, it’s dumb beyond belief!).

About a mile or so north of Meadville on I-79 is a curve to the right, with a “mound” separating the northbound and southbound lanes.  Just north of that is an overhead bridge.  It was just before that spot that I decided that my left mirror really needed adjusted.  As I adjusted the mirror, I drifted left to the edge of the road.  I looked up, and I was in the loose part, just entering the curve (at 90 mph).I wasn’t experienced at that point to get myself out of it, and went off the road into the median, which at that location was kind of a grass ditch between the big mound and the northbound lane.  I did a fair job of holding on, and started slowing down.  Needless to say, the word “calm” was not part of my vocabulary at this point.  Panic, terror (literal terror), oh, yeah.  But not calm.

The rear tire kicked out on me, and I did a low side spill.  Motorcycle on its side, and I on my back did a 90 mph slide down the median.  I remember my head hitting a rock and I flipped over, hitting my face shield on the motorcycle and bouncing over again onto my back until we both stopped.  I got up and looked back, only to see pieces of fairing and motorcycle as far as I could see.  Not my happiest moment.  I called Dell to come and pick up my bike, and called Beth to come and get me.  Needless to say, we didn’t get to the wedding that day (sorry, Steve and Karey).

Dell fixed the bike, and I got it home.  However, it was a couple of years before I got the guts to get back on it, and then only after taking the PA motorcycle safety course (http://www.pamsp.com/).   This is actually a great course, and I would recommend it to every rider, no matter how experienced.

I never did get another Rifle Fairing.  My brother-in-law gave me his old windshield, and I have used it for several years.  It’s cheesy, but I appreciated it.  Like I said, I hate riding without a windshield.  Here’s the bike as it looks today:

LOVED this bike!

I continued to ride the 1100 for several years, but she just continued to deteriorate.  I continued to ride, last year I figured out that I was saving five dollars a day riding it to work versus driving my Chevy Silverado.   I was a bit embarrassed to ride her last year and this year; she just was not the beautiful lady she had been.  It culminated last year when I took it to Crolli, Inc. to get some work done (Crolli’s location: http://mapq.st/IFdPJr).  After the work was done, I’m standing beside the 1100, just looking at it, looking at the other bikes around it, and thinking about how it kind of looks a bit worn.  Some guy was also there to pick up his bike, I guess, and looking down at my bike, the love of my life, says, “Now that’s a beater!”  Well!  The nerve!  Except that he’s right.  I just said, “Yep, she get’s me where I’m going, and she’s paid for.”  He did a major back pedal, but it still kind of stung.  But what could I say?  The poor thing is really pounded.  *sigh*

This year, I was just “window shopping” online, and looking at bikes.  Not seriously shopping, just looking.  I got to the point that I figured that if I ever got another two-wheeler, it would likely be a Yamaha V-Star.  Understand, I have always hated Harleys mostly on principle.  So for a long time, V-stars were kind of out, as they had (I thought) a Harley look to them.  But this year I changed my mind.  I think that instead of a “Harley look-alike” they’re more of a “retro” look, back to the motorcycles of the ’30’s and ’40’s, and I kind of got to like the look.

But like I said, I was just window shopping.  Until Beth told me that she thought I should get a new bike.  What?  “Look, Beth, I appreciate that, but really, I don’t think we can afford it.”  “No, I’ve looked at the numbers, and I think we can.”  Wow!  Well so much for “just window shopping!”  At that point it became a serious hunt.

I narrowed it down to two.  Both were V-Stars, both 1300 cc’s, both local, both 2008 models.  One was privately owned and kind of stripped down with very low mileage and a bit cheaper.  The other was a bit pricier with slightly higher mileage, around 12,000 miles, but dressed out.  The second one was being sold by Precision Bike Works in Erie (http://www.precisionbike.com/), and was the Tourer model, dressed out with windshield, engine guard, and backrest.  I took a couple of hours on a Friday afternoon and looked at both of them.  Beth, to my surprise, also took time off work, and went with me.

We stopped at Precision Bike Works first and talked to Rich. The Tourer was beautiful and dressed up just as I would like.  I couldn’t ride it as it was buried in the back by several other bikes, but she was a beaut!

The privately owned ‘Star was just as beautiful, and I got to take her out for a short spin.  BOY was that a sweet ride!  A bit less expensive, only around 1,400 miles, it was pristine!

Since it was close to dinnertime, Beth and I went to the Tap House in Erie (http://www.upick6.com/).  We sat down, got an appetizer and I got a beer.  We talked over the two bikes, compared them, pluses and minuses.  I described the less expensive one, and how it had low miles, and I could build it up over time with a windshield, backrest, and so on.  Beth said, “You’re not getting that one.  You’re getting the Tourer.”  Now, I don’t normally take orders well, but when she said that, I immediately (after picking my jaw off the floor) called Precision Bike works and told Rich I was buying it, while simultaneously calling for the check and paying the bill.  I didn’t even finish my beer!  We paid up and were on the way back to put money down on the bike in record time.

The next day we went back and paid off the rest, did all the paperwork, and I got to ride it home.  I cannot tell you how jazzed I am with this machine!  Here she is:

Screaming Thunder

Nah, just kidding, here’s  the real deal!

And what a sweet machine to ride!  Comfortable, strong, classy, and beautiful!  Beth and I got a ride on it before the weather got freezing cold again, and she loves it as much as I do.  I think I can see a long future with this bike!  And for safety’s sake I took it to Crolli and had him install a headlight modulator, a brake light modulator, a 132 dB airhorn, and new rubber on the back.  I figured out that this year I’m saving a ten-dollar bill every day that I ride it to work.  So, look out highway, here I come!  Looking for adventure

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Cleaning out the Garage

Ahh, Spring!  For young men, that means love.  To Sun Worshippers it means warm air, hot sun.  To Seasonal Affect Disorder sufferers, it means happiness after a long, dreary winter.  Me?  It means I Gotta Clean Out the Garage.

Objectively, Beth and I have been crazy busy for about five years (or longer), and our “stuff” has piled up to dangerous proportions.  When the A&E television show “Hoarders” contacted us last month to do not just an episode but an entire season starring us, we figured it was time to change our lifestyle.

It has been some time since we have de-cluttered, and after my Mother died last fall, we had to store her stuff along with ours.  We no longer have a usable front porch, and our unattached garage was barely available for a car.  And that doesn’t count the stuff we have in a storage unit a mile or so away.

Although we are far from professionals, we have done yard sales in the past.  It’s been kind of fun, although we have discovered an entirely new category of disagreements.  And that is the “How Much Do We Ask For This” category.

We did a yard sale several years ago, and  we put out an old lawn mower.  I cleaned it up and made it look all pretty.  Beth wanted to put a price of twenty-five bucks on it.  I said forty.  What?  No.  Yes.  No.  Yes.  NO.  YES!!!  We finally put the $40.00 price tag on it, and Beth was convinced we would never sell it.  I told the first guy that looked at it that it was blowing oil, and he didn’t care.  Not only did we sell in the first hour, we could have sold it about a dozen times throughout the course of the day!

I think it was the same yard sale that we put out a record player/FM stereo combo unit that the record player was non-functional.  I put a price of $5.00 on it, and a sign that the record player didn’t work.  Sold!

So a few months ago, recognizing that we needed to, uh, downsize, we decided to do a yard sale.  And to start the process we settled on this past Saturday to start.  We developed a strategy:  Garage first.  Front porch second.  Storage unit last.  Store all the stuff in the garage if possible, but utilize the front porch if necessary.  Good plan, very workable.

So bright and early we got started (ok, actually we sat around and looked at the walls trying to wake up for a while).  The first step was to create space.  I had an old cabinet in the garage that I used to store all my cans of half-used oil, carb cleaner, Sta-bil, and so on.  I assembled a set of shelves that Beth had purchased, and we got it against the wall.  We then pulled the drawers out of the cabinet o move it out of the way.  I downloaded what remained in the cabinet, until there was only one item left way in the back.  As I reached for it, I thought something moved.  It was kind of dark clear in the back, so I looked closer.  And a mouse ran full-tilt toward me, jumped off the edge of the shelf, and took off for safer locales.  I won’t say I was startled, but I might have yelled a little.  Just to alert Beth, of course.  Ahem.

Anyhow, we were thereby alerted that we had mice.  As we sorted, we found a nest or two, and actually found a couple trying to hide.  They were kind of cute little critters, just a couple of inches long, gray and furry.  Beth actually just stood and watched them for a couple of minutes, doing the feminine “Awww” thing.  I suggested that she not try to pet them, and got a nasty look for the comment.  Here I am, trying to offer a helpful hint, and I am totally unappreciated for it.  I guess it’s my lot in life.

As we were sorting, Beth was holding a box of something, and she was sorting through it.  I never saw anything like this, I saw a mouse jump out of the box, run up the front of her sweatshirt, and launch off of her shoulder like it was aiming for outer space.  It was actually pretty cool, but when I told Beth, she shuddered.  Hmm.  Maybe after that episode I should have taken the hint that Beth was not excited at the prospect of physical contact with a mouse.  However, although I know how to spell “obtuse,”  I clearly have not embraced the idea that it’s a really, really bad thing.

Later on, she was concentrating on something, and I guess I had no idea she was as focused as she was.  When I did this, I swear I thought she would just turn around and say something kind of snide about my intelligence.  You know, the usual stuff.  But that’s not exactly what transpired.  I came up behind her, and “walked” my fingers up her arm, like you do with “Eensy Weensy Spider” with little kids.  And as I did this, I said, “Mouse!”  Honest, I thought she’d know I was there.  But no, she had no idea.  She shrieked and jumped about a foot in the air.  I couldn’t help laughing, although I sure tried.  And the look I got!  One would think that I would be used to the “wife look” by now, but my blood still froze.  It probably didn’t help that I couldn’t stop giggling.  I tried to give her a hug and apologize (while still giggling), but I was let to understand that if I touched her I would suffer physical injury of a nature that would severely affect my ability to walk normally.  This time I heeded the warning signs, and escaped with my body intact.  It was strangely chilly in the garage for a while, though.

Well, we got ‘er done.  Garage is cleaned out, old cabinet gone, and stuff stacked and sorted.  We have a “keep” section, and a “sell” section.  Today, I take a day off and we’ll get the front porch done, and hopefully the storage unit done, or at least started.  The attic and basement are last, and then we get to clean stuff.  And then put prices on everything.  Now that will be fun.

MOUSE!!!

Head out on the Highway

…sing it, Steppenwolf!   http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o

I know, I know.  It has been established that I am not a “biker.”  I just like the song, ok?

The “bike of my life,” the one that I loved more than all others (at least to this point), was a Suzuki GS 1100L.  Although I refer to it in the past tense, I am still  the owner of title; it’s just that I now have a new bike.

I bought the 1100 about 20 years ago, and she was a beauty.  Great lines, classy, and strong!  Shaft drive, and a speedometer that went to 120 mph. I will confess that it took some time for me to figure out the difference between a chain drive and a shaft drive.  For example, one doesn’t slam the accelerator from a dead stop into a right turn.  The bike will just torque sideways and slide down the street while the rider just kind of watches the blacktop grind bits of metal away.  But I soon learned how to ride the 1100, and I just loved it.  Beth, although a bit of a reluctant motorcycle owner at the beginning, learned to enjoy riding with me, and we did a lot of stuff together.

That probably started when I got the Honda 750 (see my post, “Get your Motor Running”).  Once I got a bit more confident on the bike, Beth got on the back and we learned to ride together.  Mostly we did day trips, short rides, that kind of thing.  That continued with the Suzuki 750.  We would ride to small group on Sunday night perhaps, or pick an afternoon when the kids were elsewhere and go for a bit of a ride.  The problem was that although the 750’s were strong enough to take us both, they were just about at their limit.  With the two of us on, they didn’t have a lot left to really jump when I asked them to.  But, we were young, and it was just great to ride together.

I had learned through the earlier years of riding that I really like a windshield.  I can ride without one, and I love to ride, but I much prefer having a bit of plexiglas in front of me.  I like that bit of a break from the wind, and having it catching most of the bugs that decide to splat on something.  And I would rather they went splat on the windshield than on my face shield, my sunglasses, or my teeth.  Although, even with a windshield they can still manage to find their creepy little way to your face.

Since owning my own bike, I have always ridden with a full face helmet.  Yep, I have heard the arguments regarding full-face vs. three-quarters helmets.  For the proponents of a three-quarters helmet, it usually amounts to something like, “If you’re in a crash with a full-face helmet, it could break your neck if you land on the chin.”  My reply?  If you are in a motorcycle accident with a three-quarters helmet and land on your chin, chances are you’re gonna be DOA (Dead On Arrival) anyhow, and your chin, jaw and half of your face will still be back with the pieces of motorcycle on the road.  At least if I break my neck with a full-face helmet, I’ll look good in the casket.  A touch morbid perhaps, but that ain’t nothin’ compared to the stuff I have seen and heard with thirty years of police work behind me.  And I would rather look good than be chinless…

Anyhow, back to the bugs.  I’m riding along one day on one of the 750’s, can’t remember which one.  In one heartbeat, I clearly saw this wasp come at the windshield, ride the air current over the top of if, and flow right into my helmet.  My face shield was up, and up to that point I was enjoying the fresh air flowing through the helmet.

And it had to be a wasp.  I hate them all!  Bees, wasps, hornets, doesn’t matter.  I call them stingy-things, and I!  Hate!!  Them!!!  The bottom line is that I have loathed stingy-things since I was a young teen.  My theory is that anything with a needle in its butt is an unnatural object, and it needs to die.

That’s a story for another day, but…ah, why not.  Growing up, my family lived a few miles outside of Meadville, PA, in a rural area.  Pop was pretty good with fixing things, but not such a good teacher.  Ergo, I was the I-need-a-wrench-fetch-it kid, the “hold the light right there;  no, stop moving!” kid, the “hold this tight while I whack it with a hammer” kid.  If it sounds like I’m griping, I’m not.  My Pop was the best in the world, and I would give anything in the world to be one of those things for him again.

So on this one day, he was making fence posts out of 4×4’s, and he did this by sharpening one end of the 4×4 with a double-bitted ax we had.  My job?  Hold the 4×4 against the side of the garage so it doesn’t shift while he whacked away with the ax.  It was a beautiful summer day, and I was a young teen, bored out of my mind.  I had gotten to where I was pretty good at being invisible when Pop had a project, but I guess I wasn’t quick enough this time.  Anyhow, here I am holding this stupid 4×4 while Pop was whittling away with the stupid ax.  I’m looking around for something interesting, and I saw a wasp nest hanging under the eaves of the garage, probably about three-quarters of the way down the garage.  I remember seeing this one wasp drop out of it and start flying.  It was pretty cool, it just dropped, and then picked up the pace.  It made a slow, lazy loop, coming right toward me.  And then the little #$*&!! landed on my left eyelid and hammered me three times, bam, bam, bam!!  I started howling, and holding my eye.  Man did that hurt!  Three pops from a wasp right on my eyelid.  Dad went nuts, trying to peel my hands off my eye and yelling to find out what had happened.  I later found out that he thought he had hit me with this double-bitted ax, but at the time, I had no idea this was in his mind.  When he found out that he had not hit me with the ax, and that I was “only” stung, he called me all kind of names.  Yeah, Dad, I might be dumb, here I am holding this stupid fence post, but Pop, I am not a son of a bitch, and when Mom hears what you called her you’re gonna be in big trouble, mister!

So, back to the wasp in my helmet.  Imagine that which you hold in an unreasonable fear.  Now imagine that it’s happening right now.  And that you’re moving on a two-wheeled machine at about, uh, the speed limit, and you can’t do anything about the situation.  Since this is my story, I’ll tell you what I did.  I pulled over to the side of the road, slowing down just as quickly as I safely could, and pulled off the road.  When I stopped the bike, I put it in neutral, put the kick stand down, and got off the bike.  So far so good.  I can still feel the wasp inside my helmet, and have been able to feel it this entire time.  It’s little stingy-thing feet are crawling on my face, and it feels like it’s searching patiently, looking for my eyelid (do they go to wasp school for this?  What the hey!).   I then had to get my gloves off (come on, come on).  Next, I undid my chin strap (this is taking forever).  The wasp was on the right side of my face, around my ear, on my cheek, just crawling around.  Apparently the impact made it’s little stingy-thing mind go blank for a minute, because it hasn’t been able to find my eyelid yet.  I pushed the helmet as far as I could to the right, and then slowly, slowly I lifted my helmet up.  Did I mention that this seemed like about twenty minutes to this point?  I finally got the helmet up far enough that the wasp found the opening, and without ever stinging me even once, it just flew away.  Then I did St. Vitus’ Dance all over the highway.  I ripped my helmet the rest of the way off, and if a football coach had seen how far I flung it, I would have probably been immediately recruited for the pros.  Hollering, dancing all over, waiving my arms around, it seemed like the thing to do at the time, but looking back, I’m kind of glad no one had video cameras then.

Man I hate stingy-things!!!

Cross Reflections

The last couple of weeks have been such that, pretty much every day, I wanted to pull the covers over my head and hope the world just goes away.  I figuratively just curled up in a corner and waited for life to stop kicking me.  *Sigh*  The old saying goes, “Momma told me there’d be days like this, she just didn’t tell me there’d be this many in a row…”  I didn’t even really check in on the blog for a while. Woof, what a couple of weeks!

Bad couple of weeks not withstanding, Easter presents a good time of year for reflection.  And this is what I have done for about the past week.

It started with me reading Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest” April 6th entry.  I quote it here:

Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree. — 1 Peter 2:24

The Cross of Jesus is the revelation of God’s judgment on sin. Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God. He made Redemption the basis of human life, that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God.

The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The whole meaning of the Incarnation is the Cross. Beware of separating God manifest in the flesh from the Son becoming sin. The Incarnation was for the purpose of Redemption. God became incarnate for the purpose of putting away sin; not for the purpose of Self-realization. The Cross is the centre of Time and of Eternity, the answer to the enigmas of both.

The Cross is not the cross of a man but the Cross of God, and the Cross of God can never be realized in human experience. The Cross is the exhibition of the nature of God, the gateway whereby any individual of the human race can enter into union with God. When we get to the Cross, we do not go through it; we abide in the life to which the Cross is the gateway.

The centre of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened – but the crash is on the heart of God.

I had never before entertained the notion that Christ on the Cross was not just a dreadful experience that should horrify.  It is God’s “superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken.”  I have always looked at the cross in sorrow, which I think is appropriate, since I understand that it is my sin which necessitated Jesus’ sacrifice.  However, I never viewed it as the triumph that it is.  Sin and death crushed forever in one action!  I have for a long while prayed from time to time something like, “Father, I am so sorry that Jesus had to suffer for my actions, my sins, but thank you so much that He did.”  And again, I think that appropriate.  But I never before considered what a thunderous victory this was!  This was the cosmic equivalent of the climactic moments of the biggest event one can think of: one that I should be jumping in the air with my fists pumping screaming, “YEAH!!!!!” at the top of my lungs.  My team wins the Super Bowl (or the Steelers lose)?  That’s nothing.  You should see me hopping around the room, screaming with pure, unadulterated joy, whooping and dancing around with a savage ecstasy.  A Super Bowl?  That’s nothing compared to what Christ accomplished in one day on Calvary.  I should forever be celebrating at the top of my lungs at the victory accomplished by Jesus.  And that is an unbelievably cool thought to me.

At our church’s Good Friday service, our pastor, Bob Klecan, quoted Dwight L. Moody as saying, “Someday you will read in the papers that Moody is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now…”  Now that’s a very cool thought!  Again, I have for years believed in the afterlife, but I’m not sure I thought of it as it actually is.  At that final heartbeat when I leave this existence, at the split second that I “die,” at that exact moment I will be who I was meant to be from the beginning of time.  My entire life thus far has been in the shadow world.  It is only as I step into eternity that I will, for the first time, see reality.

We also at the same service reflected on the Cross of Christ, and what it meant to each of us; what did it mean to me on a  personal level, what did I see as the most significant gift that I received from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (at least that is my interpretation of Pastor Bob’s challenge).  We then had the opportunity to write down out thoughts and leave them at the foot of the cross.  I, however, wrote down my thoughts but did not leave them there.  I thought they would fit well into this post and brought them home.  Addressing my thoughts to God I wrote: “Thank you for giving me the ability, the possibility of living above my human-ness.  I can live outside of myself, through the grace of God.  I can be more than I could otherwise be.  I don’t have to live focused on my needs, but can live focused on God.”  And it is only through my dependence on God and his work in my life that I have any hope at all of living a life that is different from hedonism.  Apart from God’s love, I doubt that one person in a million (I’m being generous here)  can truly change their life to be a life that is sacrificial, others oriented, “good.”  I know that I have not come close to arriving at my goal, but I am so far from where I was.  My goal is to be like Christ.  And boy, does God have a lot of work to do…

I know that many would say to me that it’s good that I have this belief in God, since I need it.  However, they would likely say that they have no such need and/or doubt that God exists.  I would answer that by saying that this is not driven by a need of mine.  I could honestly live a self-focused life quite nicely, thank you very much.  I could live for pleasure now, and expect the oblivion of death when that time comes.  But I choose to not live that life.  I choose to believe the promises of God as presented in the Bible, giving myself freely to Him, and to seek to live a life based solely on the completed work of Jesus.  I live in gratitude to Him for accomplishing what I could not: my reconciliation to God, and a life that can change.  What a Gift!  What potential for my life here and now, and not just a potential for gain at the end of this life!  With all of this that God has done, how can I not be grateful?

So these have been the things upon which I have reflected the past week or so.  Huh!  I guess it wasn’t such a bad week after all…

Looking for the next updraft.

The past couple of weeks have been interesting.  As part of my job at Edinboro University, I attended a three-day class on Wednesday, March 14 through Friday, March 16.  The class itself was fine, it was a FEMA sponsored certification for All-Hazards planning.  The stressful part of that was sitting at a table with the University President to my left, the Provost to my right, the VP for Student Affairs two people down from that, and the VP for Finance (my boss) across the table.  I felt like the proverbial long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  All of the mentioned individuals are great to work with and for, but even so, that situation is simply not the most relaxing of environments.  In addition, that left me with a two-day work week to get stuff done at my office.  Fortunately, I could keep relatively caught up on my email, even if I wasn’t in my office.

Friday evening, Beth and I looked at a couple of motorcycles to replace my 1982 Suzuki GS 1100L (more on that in a later post).

Saturday the 17th was interesting.  That morning, we picked up the new(er) motorcycle, and I rode it home.  It was a beautiful day, but I was more than a little tired from the previously mentioned class, so I took the rest of the day to relax and catch up on some rest.  That evening Beth and I went to our friends’ home (thanks, Matt and Teri) for some fantastic home-brew on St. Patrick’s Day.  I could do that again, let me tell you.  I wish we could have stayed longer, but had obligations at church the next morning.  We were the “party poopers” and left really early (I’m not entirely sure that was a completely bad thing, having been to M & Ts’ parties in the past. Kidding, Matt!!).

Sunday morning was church at First Baptist Church in North East, PA, and then we had to hustle over to the Polish Falcons Club in Erie for our monthly Blue Dolphins Skin Divers meeting.  This was our annual club “bowling challenge” (I’m a miserable bowler) meeting, but fortunately we had the business portion of the meeting first.  I’m the VP of the club, and I think it’s kind of important for me to be there as often as humanly possible.  I couldn’t stay for the fun part (although Beth did), because I had a six-hour drive to Lancaster, PA.

Pennsylvania’s state Universities are linked by an organization, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).  Each University has its own Police Department, with a Chief of Police leading each PD.  The PASSHE chiefs have periodic meetings, in which we discuss matters that may affect us all.  The meetings are always productive and necessary to explore issues deeper than is possible by phone or email.  This particular meeting was a two-day affair starting Monday, March 19 and concluding on Tuesday, March 20.  I then drove the six hours home after the Tuesday meeting.

Brief re-cap: FEMA class Thursday through Friday, Mar. 14-16.  Pick up motorcycle and St. Patty’s Day party Saturday, March 17.  Church, Blue Dolphin meeting, and six-hour drive Sunday, March 18.  Chiefs’ meeting Monday and Tuesday, March 19 and 20, and a six-hour drive home Tuesday afternoon/evening.

Wednesday the 21st through Friday the 23rd were fun, in that I got to ride my new bike to work and home, thanks to the beautiful weather and unseasonable temperatures we have experienced.  Friday evening I was beat, but jazzed about the new bike, so Beth and I took a one-hour ride.

This past weekend was great, very restful and relaxed.  Friday and Saturday nights were the first great nights sleep I have had in a couple of weeks.

So I have been tired for at least the past week and a half.  Each event was fine in and of itself.  I enjoyed each thing that came along, but added together, I just wore down.

I suppose being so worn down had a large part of the spiritual malaise I have felt for a while.  I have struggled for some time to feel like I was keeping my head above water spiritually.  The description that I have used in the past is that it feels like I am running in the surf.  I have to work twice as hard to get anywhere, but it’s a struggle to even stay upright.  Other than the lack of rest, I’m not sure of the dynamics of this difficulty, but it has been disheartening.

But I am grateful for God’s periodic boosts through this time.  There have been multiple moments where I have found a verse in the Bible that lifts me, perhaps a verse that I would skim right over at any other time.  Maybe a line in our pastor’s message on a given Sunday.  A line in a song on the radio (WCTL in the Erie area or on-line), or a comment from Beth or a friend.

These haven’t been “boosts” like one would see pushing the space shuttle into the stratosphere.  I actually had that kind of booster during our recent fast.

Have you ever watched a bird, maybe a hawk or an eagle soaring high in the sky on a summer day?  It seems so effortless, but the truth is that they need constant adjustments to stay “up.”  Glider pilots (and even captains of sailboats) must constantly monitor the winds.  Because winds shift.  If they have a breeze from the north-west, they cannot depend on that as a constant.  It might shift to a wind from the south-west, and they must adjust sail accordingly.  That bird or glider must constantly ride a new updraft, otherwise they will have a very short flight.

And this is what I have received over the past few weeks.  Not a massive booster that slams me back into my seat, breathless as I am thrust ever faster on my journey.  But instead, a gentle updraft, keeping me afloat as I pray to maintain my soaring above the earth.

God never promised that this life would be an easy one.  He only promises that He will be with us always, constantly, a “wind beneath my wings.”  And as I learn to continuously surrender myself, He helps me find the next updraft that He has provided, keeping me afloat, soaring.  Every day, every moment, Lord, Your will be done, not mine.  Kill my will, Father, it’s out to kill me.  Fill me, Lord with You.  All You.  Nothing but You.

Music plays a large part of my life, and I have loved music since I was a child.  I sing, listen to CD’s, radio, and I am constantly uplifted.  This song touches me every time I listen to it.  May God’s Blessings be upon us all.

Enjoy:  http://youtu.be/SGniRk_GcLs

Ok, not so fast.

-Look, the pun was unintentional this time, ok?-

This post is intended to look at the physical effects of our week-long fast.  My next post will be about my spiritual thoughts on the fast.

I guess I was a bit premature with the kidney pain.  Sunday before church I was feeling them pretty keenly.  I often allow myself to dehydrate a bit on Sunday mornings so I don’t have really uncomfortable urges during church.  I guess this time it wasn’t such a good idea.  I drank extra water  just before the service started, and during the service I intermittently drank a juice cocktail from a thermos we often take with us.  (This thermos is great, by the way.  The ones we got are for cold only, and have a locking lid so it will not spill, and it keeps liquids cold for hours, even in brutal heat.)  By afternoon, they were manageable and I thought I was ok.  However, by bedtime, my kidneys were really ramping up the pain, even though I had three glasses of water just before bedtime.   I finally got up and migrated to the living room and crashed on the sofa.  I didn’t get much sleep Sunday night, but it did give me cause to pray a lot.  Not just for the pain, in case that was implied.  I did pray for outside concerns, so I guess the time wasn’t really wasted.

Monday night was pretty much the same.  The pain wasn’t as intense, but really uncomfortable, so I got up earlier than I had on Sunday and went to the spare room.  I think Beth and I both slept better than the night before, as I wasn’t tossing and turning for a few hours before I decided to sleep elsewhere.  I woke up a couple of hours before it was time to get up, and the pain was lessened, so I was able to crawl back into bed with my wife for a couple of hours.

Unfortunately, I am prone to kidney stones.  Normally I drink a ton of water, in fact I figured it out one time, and on an average day I drink close to one hundred ounces of water.  So I’m not unaccustomed to kidney pain, and I do what I can to minimize the probability.  I guess I goofed up a little with the fast.  Saturday and Sunday we added fruit and vegetable juices to the water which constituted our entire diet on Friday.  I drank a ton of tomato juice and fruit juices, but I think in retrospect I substituted them for the water that I normally drink.  I probably figured that liquid is liquid, so I skimped on the water.  Small tactical error, there, and I paid a bit of a penalty for it.  Last night was not so bad, so hopefully we’re on the downhill side of that particular issue.

The hunger has been interesting.  Not unmanageable, but consistently present.  Believe me, that tomato juice on Saturday was like heaven.  I totally loved the juices we had on Saturday and Sunday after only water the day before.  And then came Sunday evening.

The “fasting days” go from 6:00 PM on one day to 6:00 PM the next day.  Sunday evening at 6:00 PM we had our first solid food since Thursday.  Now that was heaven.  Understand, I am not a veggie kind of guy, but after three days of nothing at all, Sunday dinner was a feast!  Beth fixed lentil soup (no bacon, but I got over it) and a veggie tray.  Homemade hummus and peanut butter with crackers and apples finished off the meal.  Heaven!  Monday night Beth sautéed some mushrooms and onions, fixed home fries in olive oil and herbs, and some sort of bean salad.  Man!  I tore into that like a starving dog on a t-bone steak.  Not being a veggie kind of guy, the irony of the situation hit me about  half-way through the meal.  I looked at Beth and said, “What is happening to me???  I’m scared!!”  But I gotta tell you, that moment didn’t stop me for long.  Last night was ratatouille.  What a great meal!  In fact, during supper we talked, and I remarked that I wouldn’t mind “meatless meals” a couple of times a week.  This is a bit disconcerting to an unrepentant and avowed carnivore, so I’m in uncharted territory here.

Coffee I miss.  I love the flavor, the smell, I love everything about a good cup of joe.  But even with that I noticed that I don’t mind not having that first cup of steaming goodness when I roll out of bed.  I need to evaluate that as well.  Cut back and drink less?  Mix a higher percentage of decaf?  Just not sure what to do here.

I also miss my beer and cigars.  I don’t slug down a ton of brews at a time, but with certain meals and evenings, a cold one is very nice.  And the cigars!  I only have one now and then, but the past few days have been mostly desire.

But, once again, the fast has included these things, and all in all I have been very pleased with this fast.  As I expected, the first few days were difficult, but relatively smooth sailing after that initial time period.  We have today and tomorrow, with tomorrow evening being the breaking of the fast.  I have to admit, I am really, really looking forward to tasting the “good stuff” again.  But until then, I am devoting this time to God, and praying.  A lot.

The next post will look at the spiritual thoughts and lessons throughout this week.

So far, just a mixed bag.

(For those interested, First Baptist Church in North East, PA has put up a blog regarding this week-long fast.  Although they used a somewhat, ahem, inferior blog site, they can be found at: http://breakthroughfbcne.blogspot.com/2012/03/preparing-for-change.html).  It’s a great devotional to use while fasting, and has encouraging thoughts to go along with the day’s post.

Regarding our fast, Beth and I each noticed Friday (Day One: water only) that our own breath was pretty bad.  I suspect it is related to the fast, and I’m thinking that by not chewing food, we are not cleansing our mouths of the bacteria that likes to live there, but that’s just a guess.  It reminded me of some information I had heard of Gandhi.  Gandhi, as most people know, was instrumental in the independence of India from England.  What I heard was that due to his walking everywhere, he had massive calluses on his feet, and that due to his fasting so often, he was inclined to poor health.  Further, his religion wasn’t strictly Hindu, but there was a bit of mysticism thrown in there as well.  And the part that reminded me of this story is that he suffered from chronic bad breath.  The story concluded with the thought that Gandhi was a super-callused, fragile mystic, plagued with halitosis.  (Anyone not catching that right away, see the note at the end of this post.)

So far this has been interesting.  Speaking first about the physical issues, I find that the hunger hasn’t been as all-consuming as I had feared.  Yeah, I’m hungry, but that’s ok.  What I had been concerned about was the caffeine withdrawal.  God is good, no terrible headaches this time.  Bit of a headache Friday and Saturday, but manageable.  Same with the kidneys.  I remember my kidneys aching badly for four days the first year, and maybe the second year as well.  So far this year, not so bad.  Still achy a bit, but not crushing me.

Mentally, it has been a bit frustrating.  I have felt a bit “fuzzy,” not really as sharp as I would like.  I notice a difference with my thought processes, I feel like I’m lagging about a half of a second behind stuff going on around me.  I know there are those that would ask me what the difference is from usual, and that they believe this to be the norm for me.  I would dispute that.  I think they’re just jealous. 🙂

Spiritually, I must confess its been a mixed bag.  I have remembered to pray when I felt the hunger, so I have prayed often.  That’s a good thing.  And mostly, it’s been positive, thanking God for His goodness, praising Him for who he is, thanking Him for being able to fast for Him.  Friends and family have been getting prayed for, too.  The down side is that I have been a bit cranky from time to time.  I’m pretty sure it’s due to low blood sugar, which I have a tendency toward anyhow.  It’s weird.  in times past, I will come home, or be around the house, and apparently acting crabby.  Beth will ask when I last had something to something, and I will crank out an answer, usually something like, “I don’t know, leave me alone.  I’m not hungry.”  To which she replies not with words, but gets of a bit of cheese or something from the fridge, and stuffs it in my mouth.  The effects usually don’t take long to notice, I can usually feel it in a couple of minutes.  It feels like there’s pressure behind my eyes, and as the food begins digestion, it feels like the pressure is letting up.  I feel lighter somehow.  And less crabby.  Which pleases Beth no end.

So I have been snapping a bit more than I like the past few days.  God has been good in that as well, I have recognized crankiness faster than usual, and have prayed about that also, letting go sooner than is often the case.

The fast hasn’t really disrupted my routine too badly, either.  I spent Friday and Saturday doing my normal routine.  Friday was a regular day at work, doing “boss” stuff, keeping up with paperwork and email.  The smell of coffee and others having lunch was a bit disconcerting, but nothing I couldn’t deal with.  Around noon, my two Lieutenants went for lunch.  They invited me along for Chinese, and I had to decline.  Angela asked if I were dieting, and I told her, “kinda,” to which she looked puzzled and asked how one “kind of” diets.  I then told her I was fasting.  She got that, and turned to leave.  Eric, however, laughed himself silly.  He gets it, too, but has a sense of humor that is a bit, uh, tilted?  (And yes, this is the pot calling the kettle black)  Like most guys, if he finds something a bit different, he’ll “bust chops” about it forever.  He knows my faith, though, and I don’t think this’ll be that kind of topic.  Even if it is, no biggie.  He makes me laugh, so I don’t anticipate this being any different.

So Beth and I are adjusting, and using this time to praise God and pray.  I want to do this for the correct reasons, and not just because I love a challenge.  I love God more, and even though this has been a bit difficult, I am grateful for the opportunity to devote the time to He who gives all good things.

Now as I promised earlier, if you didn’t catch the reference at the beginning of this post, watch this: http://youtu.be/WSX9ms04mhA.  Ok, if you just insert the words, “Super-callused fragile mystic plagued with halitosis.”  Yep, I love it.  And as punners around the world know,other peoples’ groans are but music to my ears…

Thank you, Father.

I think it was probably clear that God did a great work in me during our recent week-long mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Unbelievable, awesome, needed, wonderful. But then we come back to the “real world,” with all its distractions, troubles, irritations, frustrations, and on and on.

The past couple of weeks have been good, but not necessarily easy.  I have been reconnected to God in a way that I haven’t been in years.  But the tendency, I think, is to fall into accustomed patterns, familiar habits.  Kind if like slipping into a comfortable pair of boots that you’ve worn forever.  But sometimes, even though they’re comfie, they are useless, practically speaking. They are no longer waterproof, and maybe not even eater resistant. They have holes in them, no tread, and can only be held together with duct tape.

We had planned this trip last fall, but my mother began her final adventure here on earth, and Beth and I had to postpone this trip.  At the time we were a bit frustrated.  We needed that time for major decompression, just to regain some strength to continue.

But isn’t God’s timing amazing?

We came down to Black Bear Cabins Thursday evening and will be leaving tomorrow, Sunday morning. Although I gave a good attempt, I cannot tell you how much we were looking forward to it. The solitude, quiet, woods, winter, everything. In that, we were not disappointed. The cool thing is that it has been more than we expected.

Yesterday was a day of introspection for me. Beth notices and remarked that I was “reflective.” Good word. I had a song running through my head all day. It was Kari Job’s “We Are.

Kari Jobe sings “We Are:” http://youtu.be/f0vKeICJBMI

I’m not sure why, but it just kept playing over and over in my mind. And it was great to reflect upon.

Today, the song in my head is Sidewalk Prophets‘ “You Love me Anyway.”

Sidewalk Prophets, “You Love me Anyway:” http://youtu.be/f0vKeICJBMI

The emphasis here is on “How You love me.” And that is sweet water, pure music, balm to the soul.

God used the D.R. as a foundation to bring me back closer to Him; a huge rocket engine to gain liftoff. This weekend has been a booster to keep me from falling back to earth, to keep my trajectory toward the heavens.

I am refreshed. I am renewed. And I am in love with my King.

Oh, I cannot wait!

Last year, Beth and I “discovered” Black Bear Cabins in Cook Forest.  On our first trip there I was somewhat filled with concern and consternation.  When I think of a cabin in the “big woods,” I think of moss on the roof, musty on the inside, perhaps a bit, uh, “unkempt.” Nasty fireplace, bugs, and maybe rodents.  I’d rather sleep in a tent.

However, what a great surprise!  The cabins are clean, heated, small kitchen, and in great condition.  Our weekend was really relaxed.  Quiet, beautiful setting in the woods, we loved it.  We determined to not let that be the last time there.

So, through the spring and part of summer, we decided to make another reservation in the fall.  We did, and we were really looking forward to the trip.  My mother became ill just about the time we were to go, and we had to postpone the trip.  The management was kind enough to allow us to just pick another weekend.

And that’s this weekend!!  Oh, man, the anticipation.  No phones, no computer, just Beth and me, reading, relaxing, maybe watching a movie, but mostly just hanging out.  We packed a couple of books, some magazines, and a couple games.  And of course, I cannot leave my most excellend cigars behind, either.  I wouldn’t rule out a walk in the woods, either.

Just a bit more about Black Bear Cabins.  They’re located just outside Cooksville, PA, near Cook Forest State Park.  They’re open all year, and reservations can be made with a phone call.  They are now associated with Gateway Lodge Bed and Breakfast, and reservations are made through Gateway Lodge.  Although I cannot personally vouch for Gateway Lodge, Their setting is also gorgeous, clean, and a fantastic setting.

 As much as I love scuba, I am looking forward to a weekend of “enforced sloth,” with maybe a walk or two included.  This is gonna be great!

Check out Black Bear Cabins at: http://blackbearcabins.com/ (disclaimer:  I borrowed the above photos from their website).  Check ’em out.  I highly recommend this spot! 

You know, as I read this over, it sounds like a paid endorsement.  I wish!  I am raving about Black Bear because I love it that much.  And we will be there soon.  Just not soon enough!

I am just not used to this (part two).

Sunday morning, I woke up mostly refreshed and ready to go.  Surprisingly, my cold was still present, but only a fraction of what it had been.  I have never had that dramatic a turnaround inside of a few hours before in my life!

We got ready and went to church.  Beth had already told our worship team leader I probably wouldn’t sing, but I felt fine.  I’m a tenor, and often tell people that “real men sing real high.”  I wasn’t confident in my ability to hit the high notes, but one of our singers gave me a few Fisherman’s Friend cough drops.  Between the miraculous health turnaround, and the cough drops, I sang better and “purer” than I have in a while.  Very cool!

Pastor Bob gave his message, dealing mostly with fasting as presented in the New Testimant.  Our Elders have called for a church-wide fast, starting on March 1, and continuing for a week.  I will post on that topic another time.

The message was timely and well done (no shocker there),  and I was called forward to give the presentation.  The report went very well, and I could feel God’s presence.  At the end, I was grateful for God’s blessing, and was told by a number of people that it was well done.

What surprised me was how I felt most of the rest of Sunday.  I have been in theater productions, singing, band, and other “performance” type things most of my life.  And normally afterwards I’m jazzed, elated, high as a kite.  Not this time.  I couldn’t really place it, but if anything I felt like I was unworthy.  I was uncomfortable with the kind words spoken to me after the talk.

T.H. White wrote a book, The Once and Future King, consisting of three stories of King Arthur and his knights.  I am relating the following from memory, but I have not read the book in several years.  Almost every legend of King Arthur contains an affair between Lancelot and Guinevere.  In White’s version, they are in anguish over their affair, as they both love Arthur, but seem compelled to continue the affair.

In the second “book,” a knight falls ill, and it is determined that the only thing that will save him is the touch of a knight that is “pure.”  Lancelot is considered to be the “purest of the pure,” but refuses to touch the sick knight, due to his affair with Guinevere.  The other knights try, but nothing works, and the ill knight is dying.  Lancelot, dreading the moment, steps forward to touch the knight.  He knows that when he does, the truth will out.  But he has no choice; he touches the knight.  And the knight is healed.  The kingdom rejoices, the knights celebrate, but Lancelot, kneeling on the ground, weeps with a broken heart.  He knows the truth, and God, in His graciousness, worked through Lancelot in spite of Lancelot’s deficiencies.

That’s how I felt yesterday.  Totally unworthy, and levelled by God’s grace.  Rather than being elated, I was troubled.  Unworthy.  Low.  Amazed that God can speak through someone like me.  “Oh, wreched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24.  I am just not used to God usingme!

I wasn’t exactly depressed, but I was other than happy.  And I was that way most of the day.

But it occurred to me that I couldn’t stay that way, and Beth encouraged me to not get stuck in that place.  I think that’s the trick.  I think it’s good that I reacted as I did, but if I stayed there it would turn into a blackness that would just drag me back where I was before.  That is the last thing I want at this point in my life.  So, praise God!  If I did well, if I did poorly, God loves me no less and no more, and wants relationship with me.  That is beyond cool.

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