Duckie Always Has It Worse

So if you think you are having a bad stretch of life, let me tell you about our family friend “Duckie.” This is the favorite stuffed animal toy of both of my grandchildren. Yes, there should be a special place in heaven for all favorite stuffed toys of preschoolers.IMG_0154[1]

So here we are in Arizona for a “vacation” week. So far, of our travelling group of 10 people, the only one to not be more than just a bit sick is the mother of my daughter-in-law … who is a cancer patient on regular chemo treatments. Whatever the rest of us had, chemo destroyed apparently.

The most ill of us all have been the grandkids. And poor Duckie – he has been barfed upon, tossed twice into the toilet, had soup and food spilled all over him, and been stepped upon and thrown across the room. He is also regularly carried from place to place by people holding onto his beak! Along the way he has as well made several trips to the “hospital” by being sent through the laundry to clean up the last disaster.

Yep, it’s a Buchman vacation. So typical. I’ve even blogged about it in the past. We have had a couple of nice vacations over the years. The reason those stand out in my mind is because we have more commonly had TOTAL DISASTERS for vacation trips. You know how (I would think) the common experience for people on vacation is to wish it could continue and they don’t have to go home? Well, most of our vacations have been the sort that you are counting the days until you can get home again.

What makes them bad? Well, a couple of times it has been vehicle failures. A few times the accommodations were, well, less than what the pictures portrayed.  Many times it has been horrendous weather conditions like a solid week of heavy rain while camping somewhere (people in a canoe literally paddling through the campground). Sometimes it has been, like this trip, sickness that makes for … well … unhappy campers.

One of those experiences actually happened about 22 years ago in the area where we now live – about 3-4 years before we moved to Western Maryland (of course, not knowing we would ever do something like that). I remember we stayed at a large hotel alongside 81 in Martinsburg for an evening. Several of the kids (we had four at the time) were not feeling well – especially Jesse who was just a baby. The room looked like a war zone when we departed. We went to Antietam that day, hoping none of the rest would get it that bad. I remember parking in the area on the south side of the cornfield, and in the time it took for me to turn off the car and walk around to un-belt someone, two of them had thrown up! We just cleaned it up and drove for home.

So, it all makes for memories, right? Well, there are all sorts of memories. I think my vacation memories could use some shock therapy. But no matter how bad it gets, Duckie has it worse!

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Multiple Generation Stuffed Animals

As much as I am not very sentimental at all, I do have many introspective moments of every day that reflect upon the passing of time and the changes of places and people near to me. Probably much of this is due to my oft bizarre, unusual, and non-reconciled childhood.

The major theme I rehearse at church is one of generations – encouraging the vibrant relationship of multiple generations together and strategizing how to be successful in turning over generations TOGETHER.

But I don’t escape that theme at home. Seeing the family grow and expand (or try to expand … we’ve got some new people around this year!) is essentially the same theme of turning over generations. Every parent hopes the essential elements of faith and values systems are being transferred, and I find my mind constantly evaluating that.

I’m writing these contemplations on Christmas morning, sitting here with three generations of the family around me. It is not actually that early. I suppose most families have had the kids up early to see what Santa has brought. But we’re talking here about Buchmans. Unlike my father who never in his life slept past 6:30 or 7:00, these generations of Buchmans don’t do morning. We’re good with evening … but morning?… not so much. Along with this is the boys’ tradition of staying up late on Christmas Eve and playing a particular video game together for long hours.  And along with that even more, my grandson Hudson doesn’t sleep well, and everyone is a bit shattered from his tears all night.

But I had to laugh at how we are multi-generational, right down to the stuffed toys. As I write this, Bella is sleeping on the sofa next to me, hugging Ici (pronounced ee-see). This was her daddy’s favorite animal when he was a child close to 30 years ago now; it went everywhere with him, the name being his butchered version of our dog’s name back then. When Allie forgot to bring the kids’ stuffed toys along for the overnight here, Diana dug out the tattered old canine, and I see he ended up with Bella. So, even the toys around here are multi-generational.

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Psalm 145:3-4 … Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.

 

How Big is the Number 315,000,000?

Thoughts on Mass Killings, Immigration, Sheep, and Bead Stores (I can string those things together!)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s population clock, the number of resident people in our country is right now just shy of 315 million. One person is born every eight seconds, though one dies every 12 seconds. Add an international migrant coming every 46 seconds, and the net gain is four people every minute of the day.

So, my question is: How big is the number 315,000,000?  Let me give you a bite-sized way of getting a grip on that number by the use of an illustration I’ve thought of in recent years.

Those of you who know our family well know that we own a beads jewelry craft store business in Mechanicsburg, PA that my wife manages. It is part of the franchise of such stores begun by our son and his wife – Potomac Bead Company – with locations in 12 different places in several states and Scotland.DSC_0074_01

Most years, I only ever see our store once – on New Year’s Day – the day when business people everywhere take inventory. Yep – inventory in a bead store! Instead of choosing to sell something like cars or refrigerators, my family sells little things – millions of them to be exact.

When you walk into our store, you are overwhelmed with a sea of colors flooding your eyes. I have always enjoyed the exclamations that come out of the mouths of people who walk in for the first time! The colors come from strands of thousands upon thousands, nay, millions of beads of all colors, materials, shapes, and sizes. The choices are so vast that it sometimes leaves folks with a paralysis of analysis as to what to choose to make something beautiful.

Most of the product is sold in strands of, say, 25-75 beads of the same material strung and hung on the wall. But there are tubes with hundreds of tiny little beads called “seed beads” that are also available. Pretty much anything you can put a hole through and hang on your person is available.

One year recently while doing New Year’s inventory, I did some math by estimation of how many beads were in the store – counting everything … strands, tubes, etc. – and I believe a good round number is about 6 million.

Now consider this:  It would take 52 stores the size of ours to represent the number of people that there are in the USA. Now imagine this:  Picture those 52 stores all on the same city block. Let it be known that in that mix of beads, every so often, one of them was going to be totally toxic to a wearer. How would you find which one it is … or which ones out of the millions were potentially harmful?

That is what it is like trying to figure out who is going to be the next killer in a school or mall.

I don’t see a solution that is an assured fix. It is a problem about 30 times worse than dealing with illegal immigrants. Saying that guns should be eliminated is about 30x more difficult than saying that all illegals should just be deported. Right … just do it. Actually, I probably exaggerated. It is only about 20x more difficult given the estimated number of guns in the country.  But you get the picture.

If we take the problem back to its most central core, the issue is one of sin and evil that exists in the world. We are all terminally affected by it physically. And through faith in the work of Christ, we are spiritually saved for eternity. Yet in this world we are hampered by its continuous presence and expressions, affecting us all in varied degrees, and affecting some in such extensive amount as to yield catastrophic consequences in their lives and the lives of others.

The spiritual issue is one of separation – especially from God and the perfect relationship we were meant to have with Him. That separation, that loneliness, that sense of loss and isolation … is felt more particularly by some people over others. We know that the world abounds with people who, while still having no eternal fix for their separation from God, have rather successfully compensated for it by filling their lives with all manner of temporary fixes and pleasures.

Yet there is another smaller population who never gets a fix of any sort … not spiritually, and not even temporarily here in this world. Due to one of a variety of reasons – many related to mental illness, which is a very real and pervasive problem – they do not fit in. Their daily lives are hour-to-hour reminders that they are isolated from what appears at least to them to be a normal life of relational happiness.

As a coach in a public high school, I see some of these people every day. For some reason, they don’t fit – be it physical defects of size or appearance, social awkwardness and insecurities, the gaping wounds of family dysfunction, or the effects of mental illness or some debilitating condition – they walk through the halls alone and in a sort of daze. This school experience is not fun; it is a daily hell on earth. Some days mocked; many days ignored; all days miserable.

So, for that one bead out of 315 million who has had enough of the pain of life; and when the combination of evil, pain, and mental illness combines into a stew of anger and frustration that overflows, what becomes a prime target for that outrage?  A school fits well at the top of a short list of such … as would a mall, certain work places, or other public places of gatherings of people – such as even a church.

So how to fix or prevent this? Well, only God can (and will) ultimately fix the basic root cause. Until then, removing guns from society or eliminating the tools or places of the expression of this anger appears wrongly directed in my view. It seems to me the need is to help people – seeking to reach to those who are most disenfranchised. Now, this argument could immediately be used to argue for more funding to promote mental health and social welfare programs … and yes, I’m one of those conservative Republican types who is a skeptic about fixing things by merely throwing more money at it. I recognize these programs have a cost, and I honor those who give their lives fully to work in such difficult fields of endeavor as mental health and social services.

My rant here is to direct the consideration of any reading it to a personal involvement where you are with those you know who fit into varied disenfranchised profiles. If you don’t know anyone like that, you must really be isolated. I certainly see them in school and have had them on my teams … but I can tell you that they are around churches too. They are everywhere. And though my job does indeed, yes, lend toward my responsibilities being involved with bolstering, encouraging, and discipling hurting people, I choose beyond it to have a handful of folks with whom I’m frequently engaged – people who are not especially lovely in their current composition, but who need human connection and encouragement.

Within the context of the church family, this is our primary duty of ministry. And just beyond the walls of our church, reaching lost people becomes the primary strategy. And down to the level of our individual lives, it is the expression of Christ within us: the Christ-like way of doing as he did, illustrated by the parable of the shepherd with the lost sheep … illustrated as well by the hosts of occasions where Christ saw the hurting individual when the disciples saw only the masses of the crowds.

There is a silent fulfillment of life in this undertaking. I will tell you though that at times, when you bring a sick puppy into your life, it bites you. But Christ came and died for us when we were sick dogs biting him (see Romans 5:8).

We can’t fix 315 million; nobody can, and no law is able to do so. But we can be an agent by God’s grace to help fix a handful of people around us.

Light in the Darkness

Yesterday was my first real trip since early August outside Washington County in a vehicle other than a school bus full of teenagers. Diana and I took Caleb for a visit to Salisbury University to see the college and meet the coach there. And on the way home, we stopped at the University of Maryland in College Park where Jesse is a current student.

We often think of the secular university campus as a bastion of leftist ideology – replete with an anti-Christian hedonism that mocks Christ and the Cross. Indeed, the stuff of this material world is on full display, as is the celebration of the multi-cultural gumbo of all ideas and values being equal ideas and values.

But even without searching it out, the students who are the children of the Kingdom of Light may be found taking their stand for truth and righteousness – competing well in the modern agora of ideas. And in this, I marvel at how they shine like lights in the darkness.

At Salisbury, the coach had his Bible on his office desk – as he did when I first met him 13 years ago when Nathan visited. On the campus tour (as on every campus tour at the dozens of schools I’ve endured such over the past 13 years), they took us into the “average college dorm room.” There a young African-American man talked about dorm life; and as he did, I looked over his shoulder on the shelf behind him where he had several Young Life pamphlets, and a Bible on the top level (he told me he is serving as a YL leader at a local high school). University students often write announcements and messages in chalk on sidewalks – and as we entered a particular building, written on the pavement was this: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,” 1 Timothy 2:15. The campus ministry group was meeting in that building on this evening – with signs advertising the gathering.

At the University of Maryland, we stopped to not just see Jesse, but to pick up his audio equipment from an evening show where his academic fraternity was hosting a benefit program for a student with cancer. Jesse was supplying and running the sound technology for the event. It was a variety talent show, and it was a bit … well … “raw” at times. The dances were creative but a bit suggestive at certain junctures, the comedy routines a bit rough with the language, etc. But one girl sang a song a cappella – introducing it as a part of her celebration, not of “the holidays,” but of Christmas and the coming of Jesus. The song was a ballad as sung from the lips of Mary – pondering the holiness within her by carrying and bearing the divine son. Her song indeed stuck out like a bright light in a dark sky.

The Scriptures are full of passages where we are admonished to live in this way. The Beatitudes encourage us to let our light shine before men … and in Ephesians 5:8 Paul says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”  And in this Christmas season we celebrate the coming of Christ who is oft spoken of as the light that has penetrated the darkness.

So I have not feared sending my boys into these places – yes, locations abounding with the fruitless deeds of darkness, yet places as well where a strong faith can be forged upon the anvil of friends and associates who together recognize their common faith and the obligation to live – even on the secular campus – as citizens of an Eternal Kingdom. I have become of the opinion that there is far more to fear from certain “Christian institutions” who boast a genuine religious past that is but marginally clung to today, and whose fruit I’ve too often seen as infusing skepticism toward the eventual end of the loss of faith by too many of our youth who have attended such vacuous white-washed sepulchers filled with dead men’s bones.

Memories of Elections Past

I was thinking today of what are my primary memories of election days in the past and of the emotions connected to them. I’m surprised at what most stands out to me year by year, and by how some of the oldest memories are the most vivid.

1960 – I was only five years old. I remember going to the polls with my parents and remember them saying that they did not see any Nixon signs. As I put out our Republican signs today at my assigned location – Williamsport High School – an activity that seems rather worthless to me, I do recall this memory and that people at least hope to see their guy’s sign nearby. My parents were historic Democrats – FDR types – though they became Republican in later years as the Democrat Party increasingly walked away from their historic values. However, my parents also were of a mindset common at that time that they could not vote for a Catholic.

1964 – My parents were not much for Goldwater – he creeped them out! Our voting location in NJ was at a firehouse just up the road and next to the school. The women’s auxiliary put on a fundraising dinner that my parents enjoyed, as it was the whole community coming together for the meal as well as to vote. I remember enjoying this much and being there with school friends.

1968 – This is actually one of my clearest Election Day memories, and some of you who know of my relative distaste for the sport of soccer will be so surprised. I was playing a soccer game on this day against a rival school. And this may take some imagination, but I was actually a very good front-line player and scorer. It was a close game. I had missed several shots and even hit the supports twice. With about 15 seconds left in a scoreless overtime I hit a shot off the crossbeam and it ricocheted back to another forward who easily put it in the goal. The midfield celebration was one who gave me the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat all in one moment. A backfield guy jumped on the pile and as his hand swung around it smacked the side of my head and broke my glasses. (This is before contacts – and I broke glasses in sports about once a month – to the frustration and anger of my parents.) So my memory is of eating dinner at the firehouse with busted glasses and angry parents about that … but happy that Nixon won. They really liked Nixon.

1972 – As a high school senior, I was totally involved in preparation for the state cross country meet – amazing how some things don’t change over the years. It was a runaway win for Nixon over McGovern, and was not actually that interesting

1976 – As a college senior, I was working the graveyard shift on building security. I was doing my rounds of the building every hour all night and watching the returns on the dorm’s foyer TV in the moments in between. We all mostly believed that Carter was more of an informed Christian than he turned out to be. What a disappointment!

1980 – Now married and living in Dallas and attending seminary, it was my first time to vote away from home. It was the big Reagan Revolution year, and Diana and I waited in long, long lines to vote in a high school in Garland, Texas. By the time we got home, it was all over and being announced, and was rather anti-climatic.

1984 – This was a total Reagan wipeout of Mondale, and I have few memories of it. I was now living back in NJ (and voting at the new firehouse in the same township) and more involved in making a first ministry work and dealing with two little children and a newly built home.

1988 – This begins the first of a series of Republican candidates that I deemed to be certainly better than Democrat alternatives, but not whom I’d particularly prefer. I don’t have that many memories of the Election Day itself … just that it seemed at the time that the Democrats were totally lost and devoid of ideas and viable candidates.

1992 – This was my final NJ election before moving to MD. It was my first memory of having a sad and sickening feeling about the results. I remember Rush Limbaugh putting the best spin on it the next day – declaring himself as the biggest winner, in that he now had four years of show material.

1996 – ah… make that eight years of show material. Now I was in MD. I remember spending a lot of the daytime hours eating lunch in the car and driving somewhere listening to the radio, and hoping against hope that somehow Dole could pull it out. Nope … not an inspiring guy.

2000 – Now I not only have five boys, but one of them had voted for the first time and was experiencing the election as a wee minority conservative at his collegiate stronghold of liberalism. The whole thing was thrown up in the air as the focus shifted to Florida and a discussion of “hanging chads.”

2004 – My primary memory of this election is my anger at Bush for being such a dreadful debater and a fellow who seemed capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory whenever he talked.

2008 – Totally sick and sad feelings like never before! How could the electorate possibly be this ignorant and gullible? I determined that night that I had to become involved somehow. I began to hang around with the Republican Club and the Republican Central Committee people – not even at the time knowing the distinction between them. A year later I was on the Committee to fill an unexpired term and two years later I was elected to the Committee, and then selected by the Committee to be the WCRCC chairman for 2011. And then there was a silly controversy, and I got to talk to the state prosecutor, etc., etc…. and it has been an interesting trip!

2012 – What would I write in this space if I had chosen to do this a day later? It is scary to consider. I don’t like over-dramatization of anything, but to those who say it is silly to call this “the most critical election of our lifetime” … OK … name what other election was more significant.  … Silence.

Another Dog

I am almost terribly ashamed! Almost. But it helps to live in the country and far enough away from any neighbors that we can’t really be seen by them nor from the road. And my landscaper son continues to plant trees. This is good.

You have heard me say and write that I love my dog. I do!  Joules the Jack Russell is way cool! At the end of the day, I like anything that runs fast! No rabbits will ever again infest our property.

A friend of mine who shall go nameless (unless I change my mind in a couple of sentences), who lives in Williamsport on a main street and serves currently on my church board, also owned a Jack Russell. I remember one time some years ago when I was at the Sunoco station at Exit 2 in Williamsport, he walked by with the dog on a leash. Feeling a bit insecure it seemed, he said to me, “You know it takes a real man with lots of personal confidence to be seen walking a little Jack Russell.”  I’ve never felt that way about my JRT – she is so cool and so awesome!

However, I can understand how that feeling could be true of being seen with certain breeds and types of canines … and that is where I’m feeling a bit … ah … insecure. It appears we have a second dog in the house. And like the first one (brought to us unannounced by my daughter-in-law), it has also sort of dropped into our lives. It is a stray dog that we have been unsuccessful in all efforts to find its previous owner.

But here is the problem – in terms of machismo … she is a tiny, fluffy, foofie, little bundle of fur. Weighing about five pounds, she makes Joules looks like a Great Dane standing next to her. It is the kind of dog some rich old woman of high estate would have – that would dress up the dog in frilly coats with pink and yellow bows, etc.

I guess the dog is some sort of Pomeranian, maybe even a mix with a Chihuahua or something like that? Her tail sticks straight in the air and with an overflowing abundance of long hair, it looks like a palm tree over her back. She is quite well-behaved, and fortunately is not really a yappy little thing like so many other runt types of breeds.

So, I guess she’ll end up going places with me at times like Joules does … that is, if I can work up my confidence to be seen publically with such a fur-ball.

The thing still does not have a name. Any ideas?  Foofie and cutesy names not allowed!

The Rotary Club Dictionary Project

By most any standard, I’m a pretty lousy Rotarian – having my irons in too many fires to ever see this service club make it to the front burner of my life. I’m the Rotary Club equivalent of the church person who attends once a month and expects a fine sermon from the senior pastor and an entertaining worship service!

But a Rotary Club project that I am fond of and always participate with is the Dictionary Project – where we give the 1400 students in Washington County Schools a dictionary of their own to possess and use. We break into teams and cover the schools with a little presentation.

The past several years I have really enjoyed going to Conococheague Elementary School on the National Pike west of Hagerstown. This year I was with Curt Dudda and Rev. Kevin Munroe of Zion Reformed.

I am impressed every year at every place I have gone at how attentive the children are and how well-organized and orderly are the classes. The kids really are simply a lot of fun to meet! I do the part of the program on “how to use your new dictionary.”

Salubrious Salsa

After a couple of “speed rounds” of finding common words, I talk about the primary usage of a dictionary to give us word definitions – describing as well that some words have various meanings. Since my favorite word “salubrious” is not in this elementary dictionary, the word I use to illustrate definitions is “salsa” (which as I’m sure you all know is more than just a spicy dip or sauce!). The last several years there has been a child in the class who also knew it to mean a style of dance or music. And then I always surprise one of my partners by asking him to demonstrate the dance!

Is it -ant or -ent?

I have never been a great speller, and I feel that one of the great advances in civilization not far removed from Gutenberg is the computer spell check. Yet there are times when I still use a dictionary to figure out how to spell something. Somewhere in my attention deficit disorder-afflicted educational career, I completely missed whatever spelling rules govern –ent and –ant endings. So, I put the words “pendant” and “pendent” on the board and asked the kids to choose which was correct. It was an even split of hands raised. So … to the dictionaries! I was praying that a girl would find it first … and one did, because I had a pink soccer ball pendant/pendent from my family’s Potomac Bead Company ownership to hang around her neck! She was mighty pleased indeed!!  Oh… which is correct?… you don’t know? LOOK IT UP!

The bookmarks!

Corrected by a 3rd Grader

A final moment was to also give each student a bookmark courtesy of Hagerstown Community College – which said on it “see you at HCC in 2022.”  And I mentioned as they were being distributed that the college slogan is “stay near, go far.”  But one of the little girls corrected me and said, “No it is ‘stay CLOSE, go far!’”  She is correct!  And, what does that illustrate?  (… beyond my ignorance? … and beyond that a good slogan goes a long way?)  It is an illustration of how a dictionary may be used to find synonyms (and I just had to look up how to spell that word!)!

The little girl on the left is wearing her pendant she won!