Rite of Passage / It Will Fix Itself

A Rite of Passage

After five boys spanning a total of 13 years, there are multiple times through the same experiences as a parent – like the last kid in little league, going through graduations, etc. Of course, one of those recurrent parental experiences is teaching your kid to drive! As of yesterday, we are now completely finished with that process. The last boy passed his driver’s test.

I honestly thought this driving thing would come more naturally to the boys than it did, but it is a long process. And the ordeal is especially long in the state of Maryland, with varied requirements for the permit and classes, along with the great joy of many trips to the Motor Vehicle Administration. That is not a place known for customer skills, but I can tell you this – they are a dream compared to their counterparts in New Jersey.

The process is so long, difficult, and complicated, that it totally amazes me as to how ANY illegal aliens are able to get a driver’s license. It was hard enough to do while speaking English; I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for someone with a foreign language. Yet somehow, thousands of them manage to get it done. I understand there is quite an elaborate black market for such – there would have to be.

It Will Fix Itself

I had an experience today that reaffirms my view about mechanical things – if you ignore a problem long enough, it will fix itself.

My belt assembly was far more complicated than this one!

My garden tractor had the very long and complicated mower deck belt break last year. I found a replacement belt and did the repair – TRULY, the MOST advanced mechanical thing I’ve ever done in my life!!  It worked great – for a while. Then, one day after one of the boys used the tractor, the tension was weak and the blades turned poorly. I had to cut grass very slowly in order to keep the blades from choking. So ended the summer of 2011.

Now, with grass needing to be cut again, I got the tractor motor started after a great deal of fussing with it (again, something about which to have great mechanical pride!), but as with the end of last season, it worked poorly and I could tell the tension was weak.

But somehow, while cutting today, I began to realize the tension in the belt was back and the power was taking me through the grass like a hot knife through butter. I cannot explain it. But once again, rather than getting it fixed – given enough time, it fixed itself.

I Thought I Left This Behind In Texas!

Those of you who know me well at all know that I have generally very positive memories of Texas and our five years of life there. It is a place of many fond memories during a unique period of our lives (from 78-83).

There were, however, several things about Texas that I was pleased to leave behind: extreme heat, insects, and tornadoes.

Well….. after the summer of 2011, there is not a lot of temperature/comfort difference between living in Maryland and living in Texas. And bugs? Well, Texas still has the larger number of varieties – including those well-named, nasty biting little fire ants – but the stink bug thing is beyond any entomological experience in the Lone Star State.

So, tornadoes! Surely life in Maryland is safer than Texas in terms of escaping the most dangerous of storms! I remember a good old boy in Texas telling me that there only seemed to be more tornadoes there because the state was simply so big. Maybe he was correct, to some extent.

According to Weather.com, Maryland is (counting tornadoes per square miles of land mass) the 3rd most likely state to be hit by a tornado! Florida was #1, and of course (as we all know from the Wizard of Oz) Kansas was close behind … and then we in Maryland are #3!!  The remainder of the top 10 was, in order: Illinois, Mississippi, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana.

Maryland is the ninth smallest state in the nation, but it’s the fifth largest when it comes to population density. And it is our location between the ocean and the mountains that sets up conditions conducive for violent thunder storms.

Texas didn’t even make the list and didn’t even get mentioned as an “also-ran!”

With earthquakes now also, this is a dangerous place!  (Without even taking into account the actions of the Maryland State Legislature!)

Snakepath Road

While driving from Charlotte, NC to Appomattox, VA yesterday, I passed an interesting road name in Southern Virginia. It was intriguing to me, so I turned the car around and went back to explore it. The name of the street: Snakepath Road!

So what generated this name? Was it the migratory pathway followed by slithering serpents upon their annual journey from one disgusting mud hole to another? Or was it merely descriptive of an oft twisting road?  The street did turn and curve a good bit – though not excessively beyond many country neighborhood sorts of roads.

Well, about a mile down the road, Snakepath intersected with Dairy View. Isn’t that special?

But also along the way were the ruined remains of an old log house – quite a sight! When one sees such a building, you cannot but ponder the folks who built and lived in that structure at some point in the distant past.  My guess is that they likely died from some venomous toothy kiss from a reptile!

Team 500 – Charlotte, NC

Greetings everyone from Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m here with a group of about 30 pastor friends from our denominational fellowship – some of the finest people I’ve ever known. It is an awesome event.

Former Orioles broadcaster John Miller used to say that Maryland was “the land of pleasant living.”  Well, I’ve no complaint with that being true. But wow… this city here is amazing! All of the streets in the neighborhoods are lined with blossoming trees. It is an incredibly gorgeous city!  I’ve never seen a place quite like this other than Dallas – where you can drive mile after mile after mile of beautiful neighborhoods and homes! Our host pastor – Jimmy Kallum – swears that there are poor people and neighborhoods around here somewhere, but I ain’t seen them yet!

Pastor Jim Kallum of "The Church at Charlotte"

The purpose of our gathering is to talk about church ministry and share common challenges, experiences, successes, etc.  At the same time, I am both struck by how many similarities we have, and yet how many differences there are.

The differences relate to the broad varieties of communities and cultures we all come from. There are guys here from Southern California – places where it is almost impossible to hire church staff due to the extremely high cost of living. And as well, there are pastors in attendance from Iowa and areas where corn in king. Obviously, there are differences between these locales.

The similarities are the needs of people everywhere and the overall challenges of an increasingly post-Christian culture. An encouraging word is that we at TSF are doing so many of the same things that have been fruitful ministries in other locations. We just need to remain faithful, as it is God who gives the increase.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Kurt Trucksess of our EFC in Spirit Lake, Iowa - my techno-pastor buddy

Snake Update

Those who have read my blog over the years (not just this one, but the former blog hosted on the old church web page) know that I have a strong disaffection for snakes. So, in the spirit of “laughing past the graveyard,” I have a regular posting from time to time about these vile creatures. There is generally no shortage of bizarre snake stories in the news.

With this particular blog that is now hosted by WordPress, I am able to look at a category of statistics that tell me how many people each day read the blog, what pages they read, etc.  It also tells me how people found the blog using search engine terms.

By far, the #1 search term that captures people out there to click on thewordofrandy.com is “ball python.”  You may recall that I previously wrote a post about one of these things.

Ugh! Now, I think that is weird!  I would have thought something like, “the wisdom of Randy Buchman” would have been first … or “incredible pastoral insights upon life and culture” … something like that!  Nope!  Rather it is “ball python snakes!”

My Landscaper Son

Those who are local and more tuned into the Buchman family comings and goings know about my son Benjamin and his business called Maryland Regional Landscaping. Today and tomorrow are annual days that he sets up a display at the Hagerstown Flower and Garden Show – held at the Community College field house. Literally thousands of people attend this event, and it is an opportunity for Ben to initiate conversations with potential clients for landscaping or hardscape designs.

Ben really is very creative. And as many of you know, he did graduate from the University of Maryland’s Institute for Applied Agriculture – majoring in landscape design. I have had several of the nursery supply types of people in town tell me that he is a unique blend of botanical knowledge of the plant material with an unusual eye for the artistic side of it … that many are one or the other, but not both. He does nice work, without doubt. People tell me that all of the time; but of course, actually making a profit in a business that is so intensive with trucks and equipment and insurance and all else (in Maryland!) is the challenge.

I’ve begun a sort of web page for his business as a way of helping him out – to give him a web presence and to post some pictures, etc. It is still new, but I’d invite you to look at it if you can:  http://www.benbuchman.com

And if you know of anyone needing a landscaper … well … give the boy a call!

It is interesting to look back over the past 30 years (Nathan will be 30 on 4/24) and think about the boys’ earlier lives and now the careers they are following:

Nathan – who has franchised now a total of 12 stores of the company he began called Potomac Bead Company – When he was a little boy, he was always wanting to sell things to people … like extra tomatoes from our garden. He would set up a table at the end of the driveway, and before long they were gone!

Benjamin – was always digging in the dirt and planting things … and was the one most interested in gardens and how things grew.

Aaron – now a structural engineer – As a little boy, he was the one who would take whatever materials were around the garage and back yard and put them together in the elaborate construction of a fort.

I’m still not sure about the final two! Jesse was always the super-competitive one (yelling at the other kids in tee-ball for not paying attention and getting the other team out!) … and now he has been asked by the Dan Bongino for Senate campaign to write for them! So, politics?

Caleb??  He might be an actor! He can imitate ANYONE!

The Frustration of Life Cycles

At the height of the hippie generation, I remember sitting in a high school class with a history teacher who was a World War 2 army veteran tank commander. Mr. Wilson had a crew cut, was still a chiseled figure, and oozed “duty, honor, country!” The several flower-child hippie students in the class were a total mystery to him. I recall him saying one day that life is full of cycles; and he then directed his remarks at the wire-rimmed, droopy-eyed, anti-war students who expressed their rebellion by sitting together at the rear of the class, “Someday, your kids are going to be pro-military, flag-waving Americans with short hair who look and think like me – just to annoy you!”  My guess is that this probably happened.

There are cycles to life, to values, to tastes, fashions and all manner of things. For example, the short hairstyles and clothing choices of my boys’ generation – wearing long shorts and black socks for example – would have gotten them beaten up at my high school as some sort of ….. well ….. I won’t use the word online. The heavy, thick plastic glasses that are common today were a thing of the 50s and 60s, were replaced by a series of wire-framed styles, and now are back again – thicker and larger than ever.

Things cycle in church ministry as well. In my 30 years of doing this, I’ve seen the adult Sunday morning education component switch back and forth at least 5-6 times between a.) topic-driven electives for whomever is interested, and b.) age- and life stage-related Adult Bible Fellowship groups. The pendulum keeps swinging.

But here is one that I did not see coming back around the corner behind me – an appreciation for the ambiance of the worship space. Younger generations have a renewed appreciation for the environment of the worship experience that engages all the senses. The contemporary-oriented groundbreakers of my generation must have been practical to a fault! We were not necessarily against a nice fixed-seat auditorium with artistic wall treatments, warm color schemes, and the best of lighting packages. But, we did not generally value this as a best use of Kingdom resources. When building TSF in the mid 90s, not only did we not have the finances to build a worship edifice, we chose not to … feeling that the space for meeting mattered little – the real ministry was people, relationships, communication of truth. Who cared what the room looked like? Even a warehouse would work! We’d use the savings for missions. And whatever space we built HAD TO, by our values systems, serve many multiple purposes for all ages and types of ministries. It was seen as a family room, not a living room. But times and preferences change – the pendulum swings, and this swing caught me in the back of the head!

Life does have cycles … but probably you need to be old to feel them as a frustration. And that makes sense, because when you are young, everything is still new. Hearing that anything you are now experiencing is but a repeat of the past is likely not much more than an observation you will weigh about whether to believe it or not – that maybe it is just the whining of an old generation – of people seeking to hang on to something they feel slipping from their grasp.

Solomon said, “Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’?  It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.”



Low Esteem for Self-Esteem

I have several times recently read or heard stories of the failure of self-esteem ideology to grant people the fulfillment it was initiated to provide. Though none of this research is from a Christian perspective, it certainly squares totally with the teachings of Christ.

The first item to catch my attention was a Wall Street Journal article about “Gray Divorce” – the phenomenon of people over age 50 leaving marriages in record numbers. The divorce rate for people over 50 has doubled in the past two decades … at the same time that rates for the general population are actually slightly falling.

Why is this? The reasons vary, but a part of almost every explanation is some version of a self-fulfillment story. Baby Boomers of the “Me Generation” entered marriage with a different viewpoint from generations before. Not strongly endorsing the long-term values of fulfilling roles of spouse and parent, this generation entered with some high expectations for how the marriage would fulfill personal dreams and aspirations. And now, facing maybe 25-35 years more of life with someone they’ve found to be a personal disappointment, they are bailing out to go make it happen while it still can happen.

A second item that caught my ear was on a radio talk show – where the host was interviewing two secular researchers who found that those people who are religious are indeed far more often happy than those who do not have this life component. The researchers were very clear in saying that the religious people had a different world view – one more focused away from self and rather upon the helping of others and serving God, faith, etc.  For the secular folks, the writers came right out and blamed decades of self-esteem educational ideologies. The fact is that those folks who focus upon their own personal-centric universe are not fulfilled and hence carry a higher load of sadness and disappointment.

This should not surprise the biblically literate person, as we are able to know what Christ taught about the human condition – that life is not about us and our fulfillment, but about knowing Him and finding our pleasure in His service. Fulfillment is not a product; it is a by-product of something much bigger. Jesus said, For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

A Wise Guy Chicken!

I believe I have a totally defiant chicken.

Surely they know I’m watching them and counting how many eggs they lay per day. We have 20 hens … so, I expect at least 17 or 18 eggs per day. There is not much room for slacking off!  I think we’ve only hit 20 a day on three occasions. So that tells me that everyone is capable, but that some days, somebody is holding out and being lazy.

And one of these chickens must have a sense of humor also, saying, “So, he wants to see an egg every day … OK, I’ll give him one that he can count on his official list ……”


UPDATE – this is a week later than everything posted above …

So, while feeding the chickens one day this week, I had a little talk with them (they didn’t say much back). I spoke to them about the importance of “continuance of effort” … that really, they only had one job per day to perform, though I was thankful for any stinkbugs that they ingested. And, I just casually threw out there the question about what type of soup them liked … and mentioned that chicken noodle was hard to beat for most folks.

Well, I think it had a positive effect, as can be seen from the picture below …




What is a Chrisism?  It is a Chris Wiles dry wit hilarious utterance made in passing – often going by so fast it is not heard by most people.  He is full of great one-liner comparisons and descriptions if you listen closely.

Today I thought I’d write them down while they went by. Truly the exposition of Scripture at TSF was among the best I’ve heard here, and Chris was pushing on the time and did not have as many as some other days, but:

–          “… as that great theologian Bruce Springsteen said, ‘Everybody’s got a hungry heart.’”

–          when talking about the early part of Jesus’ earthly ministry, “At this point Jesus is starting to get noticed and to gain some Twitter followers.”

–          while illustrating how people use Jesus for small needs rather than worship him as God … “It is like going to the doctor with a headache and he points out that you have a harpoon between your third and fourth ribs.”

–          “Maybe you are here today because your spouse drug you here, or literally drugged you here by putting some Tylenol PM in your coffee and donut.”

An oldie from the past, my all-time favorite Chrisism … while talking about the “Casket Store” in Dallas, where people can literally shop for their final bed, Chris said, “Imagine being a salesman there and talking to a customer and saying, ‘So, what have I got to do to get you into one of these today?’”

I have to put these on my blog, because my blog is a fun blog – some of the time. Chris’ blog – www.thornscompose.com – is more serious and academic and deep and all that stuff.  But you really should look at it, especially now – as he is blogging along with the current sermon series.

Today’s exposition of the Scriptures was just great, and really put you into the two passages in Luke that we featured this morning.