On Fixing Things

My son Matthew has an astounding ability to break toys. It’s what you do when you are a seven-year-old boy. I’ve started throwing these disabled items into a box that I’ve mentally labeled: “things I’m gonna fix when I get a round tuit.” Whether toys, tools or other trinkets, things get broken so easily. The world in general is broken and some things are hard to fix.

Before my fried Keith became a pastor, he was a copier repair man. While in training for the job he was shipped off to the Panasonic copier school. On the first day, various students asked the teacher how to fix a copier if it did this or that. The teacher ignored their questions and kept on teaching. Finally, he explained, “My job is to teach you how a copier works. If you understand that, then you will have the answers to all your questions.”

Several weeks ago, our oven stopped working. I was temped to rush off and get a new heating element from partsdirect.com but then thought that maybe what I needed was a new thermometer, so perhaps I should order both while I am at it. If I had, I would have wasted money ($70) and time (a few days for the parts and some time in installation). I would have been very frustrated because neither part would have fixed the stove. Instead, I watched a YouTube video that explained how my oven is supposed to work and which part does what. I compared that with the symptoms mine had and learned what I needed was a new control panel, which “only” costs $388. Time to get a new stove instead!

This “learning how the thing works before you try to fix it” principle has lots of applications. It’s what we had in mind when we wrote each of our books. In “Joy in a Foreign Land” we wanted people to know our story, but we also wanted to share how we survived. We do that by impacting truths about how a family is supposed to work. In “Faith in the Heartland,” Joan wanted to do more than write about fascinating experiences when our family lived on the road for five years in a “tin can.” What she really wanted to share are truths about walking by faith – things that might be helpful to anyone.

If you are part of a church, you no doubt know that churches can have problems. Ah, but how to fix them! Chances are that “increasing curb appeal” won’t turn around declining membership. “Better technology” probably won’t help increase love for one another or overcome division. Instead of jumping to someone’s idea of a “quick fix,” it is better to think through how God has designed a church to function. And that’s what I try to offer in my book, “Have We Lost Our Head?”

Whenever we find that something isn’t working well, before we try to fix it, let’s try to understand how it’s supposed to work – whether a toy, a tool, our family or our church. If made by man, look to the manual from the manufacturer, or watch a YouTube video put out there by an expert. If made by God, refer to his Word as the final schematic to understand his design.

Ron

Unprecedented Counting

In these novel days of coronavirus and stay-at-home orders, I find that I am counting much more than I used to. I count the daily rise in Covid-19 cases in our county. I am counting the hours spent in homeschooling Matthew every day. He counts in math class and counts the hours till he is finished with school. We count teddy bears in windows during our recess breaks. I count medications for the four people in our house on prescription medications. In doing so, I see when I need to make the next pharmacy run – one of few times we are allowed beyond our neighborhood. Every morning I count how many days we have been in this shelter-in place mode. This is day 18 for us! I count the number of families who daily walk past my window – normally we only see so many on holidays.  I am trying to count my calories to make sure they are not adding up too quickly during these slower paced days. I count how many more hours until Matthew will be ready to lay down to sleep – with no breaks, some days seem really long.  The thing I wish I was super busy counting is the abundance of on-line book sales from our recently published books. BUT…

This is when God reminds me that what He really wants me to count is my blessings. Despite this “bad bug” (Matthew term), we have so very much to be thankful for:

– Spring is here and the glorious days to be outside results in pretty sights of new life everywhere – like the turtle doves flocking on my front yard tree. They know nothing of social distancing.

– Easter is coming and we can still celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the grave even though we won’t be sitting on pews beside other believers or stuffing ourselves with ham with extended family.

– He is alive and is still offering salvation and eternal life to those who repent of their sin and acknowledge the need for His work in their lives.

– Food is still plentiful and I have a working oven (not true just prior to corona) and a roof over my head.

– I have an incredible family in my home – three generations who know how to keep each other laughing, stimulated, and full of life. We are not alone.

– The second coming of Christ is more real than ever as we experience the birth pangs leading to that event. Our world is unstable, but I am connected to the One who has overcome this world and that is a secure thing that I can count on.

So, the most productive thing I can do these days is to keep counting my blessings.

Joan

Quick to listen?

The speech therapist at Schreiber gave me the results of her evaluation. “This must be a mistake,” I thought. “Instead of a percentile of .2, it must be a 2 or a 20.” But it wasn’t. In Matthew’s receptive language, in a group of 100 children his age, 99.8 kids are better at hearing and understanding.

On the other hand, he is much better at expressive language. He can tell us what he is thinking or letting us know what he wants to know. Usually those statement begin with “I want…” or “What’s next…” or “What’s for dinner?” In fact, he is so good at this, that we hear these expressions constantly and endlessly.

All the above helps me understand why I can get frustrated so often in a day. I almost always need to say things more than once. And if I hear one more “I want…” I think I’m going to go crazy. Or, if I must tell him one more time that, “I don’t know what’s for dinner. Mom is the one makes dinner…” that too could be enough to send me to the funny farm.

This receptive language deficit also helps explain why my role as teacher is so challenging for me. Here is the essence of it: With a lack of receptive language, it is very difficult to learn. And, if a student doesn’t understand the question, chances are good that he won’t give the correct answer.

A couple takeaways to all this:

1. If I am to survive teaching my child anything new, I must slow it down and make sure he hears and understand what I’m telling him. By the way, the effort is worth it. If he gets it, he really gets it! When that happens it really does seem that he is super smart – in the words of Matthew, “I’m a genius!”

2. The truth is that I myself am much better at expressive language than I am at receptive language. It isn’t just Matthew. I too am more naturally skilled at telling you how I feel than I am at hearing how you are doing. I’m much better at telling you what I’d like you to do than I am at hearing what you want me to do. I need to figure out how to overcome or compensate for this weakness.

Maybe most of us are this way – better at expressing than receiving – perhaps the reason James said, “EVERYONE should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” (1:21) I think I’d better read that a few more times. Perhaps then it will start to sink in.

Thanks for taking time to “listen” to my expressions of things I’m learning here in the “homeland.”

Ron

Love is costly

Since I recently upgraded my house with replacement windows, I expected to see yet another 15% savings in my electric statement. Instead, I was shocked to see my highest bill ever! 60% higher than last year during the same month (with an identical average temperature).

Surely it was a mistake. Perhaps the power company misread the meter? They hadn’t. What possible other explanation could there be. Had I not changed the air filters recently? Had we been that lax in making sure the door to the unheated garage was kept shut?

Then I noticed it – the thermostat! It had been changed to the emergency heat setting – the most inefficient mode. Of course. Another set of buttons being pushed when my eyes were not fixed upon him.

A few weeks earlier I had the expense of replacing the TV. While exploring percussive sounds made upon common household items, it was discovered that a 39” LED HD screen is no match for a drumstick.

Then, a few weeks later Joan found her phone was switched to mobile data. Yes, we are the kind of frugal people who limit (or at least try) to 100 mb apart from connection to a hot spot. And then there was the special snowman (ballerina in this case) globe with music box that was shattered. How many times did I say, “It’s a decoration, not a toy to be played with?”

But most costly is lack of sleep. 5:00 AM is tolerable, but typical early hours like that plus being awakened several times a night? Seems too much to pay sometimes.

I’ve noticed love is costly. The other day “Our Daily Bread” reminded me that I need God-sized love, the kind of love that doesn’t expect to be repaid. The suggested prayer: “Jesus, pour love into me so I may pour it out to others – even to those who can’t repay.”

Whatever expectation of reward I might have as a parent, there are times when I wonder if I’ll be repaid enough. But then, this past Sunday I participated in communion and was reminded of the costliest, God-sized love. He loved, knowing he would never fully be repaid.

Our First Blog Post

Stepping out in faith

After years of writing and editing, we have three books in print. It has been 18 years since we took all our savings and invested in a book. It felt like a giant step of faith for us. We were often fearful we would have a basement filled with books. Thankfully, in a few years we had sold or given away most of them. In return, we were blessed with kind words about the book and many testimonies of how God used Joy in a Foreign Land.

Well, here we are again, taking another step of faith. In our second book we encourage others to move out in faith, so it makes sense that God would have us do the same – again. Our basement holds more than twice as many books as last time. We’re hoping it doesn’t stay that way for long. Mostly, we are hoping to hear that our books are helpful.

Thank you for your prayers for this venture of faith.