Thorpeshire Tutoring information

What we offer:

One-on-one Tutoring, small group tutoring, and group workshops

 

What we cover:

Middle School, High School, and College level Math and Science, and ACT/SAT prep

 

Why we’re qualified:

5 years of middle school math and science experience, 9 years high school math and science experience, multiple years of college math and science experience, online experience, and tutoring center experience.

Bachelor’s Degree: Secondary Science Education

Master’s Degree: School Administration

State Certified in all of the following: Physical Science, Chemistry, Anatomy/Physiology, Biology, Earth Science, Algebra, Geometry

 

What it costs:

Middle School subjects: $20/hr

High School subjects: $30/hr

College subjects and ACT prep: $35/hr

 

Contact information: james.thorpe.mog@gmail.com, (918)576-9679, Facebook: Thorpeshire Tutoring

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December, 2014: I can’t believe it’s not weather

I couldn’t believe it was actually happening.

I hung up the phone to begin watering the trees, I heard a soft pinging all over the leaves. It was ice. Tiny ice pellets, denser than snow, but too small to be hail, fell on the ground. And I began to water the trees…during an icing. I had to shake my head; what amazing timing and what a sense of humor our Lord has. :)

During the last 10 days or so, when temperatures have stayed below freezing most of the day and all of the night, our pond has frozen rather thoroughly. The surface ice was so thick, we walked on most of it for several days. We chipped out a chunk more than 2 inches thick. It was (literally) hard…to believe.

My children pulled each other on snow discs across the pond. When they looked at what they could see under the ice, they found two turtles and the largest frog I’ve ever seen in the wild. All of them were moving, so I guess we’ll see (and hear) them in a few months when things thaw out.

Since we didn’t have any real snow on the ground Sunday night, we improvised indoors with some cloth and rubbery artificial snowballs. We threw them around for part of the Sunday night class for 5th and 6th graders my wife and I help to teach. It was fun. They were lighter than real snow, and didn’t hurt a bit, but they were harder to aim, so we missed. A lot. I had never seen any substance like them. I couldn’t believe you could make artificial snowballs that were similar to the real thing.

Our kids couldn’t believe the new chore packs system we began implementing this week. Each child has a lanyard with a plastic case, in which are slipped the cards for all their chores for that day. They can’t go do their own thing until all chores are completed for that time of day, and we have the master list for reference. So far, so good. Although there are few bugs. Our bed won’t get made until next week, and one of our kids doesn’t have to vacuum as much as the others, but that’s okay, right? Honey?

Our newest addition, Livie, has become fascinated with faces. She wants to touch them, but it’s kind of iffy whether she will gently caress, or claw madly, or shove a finger in whatever opening she can find. She’s cute, but a little dangerous if you aren’t prepared. She can’t believe her new friend…in every mirror she sees. They have the best time. :)

I had a hard time believing that my children could beat me at geography, although to be fair, they had played this particular game more than I had. My son bested me at South American countries, but I took North America in straight sets. We’ll have to have a rematch, maybe in Europe. Neither of us will win Asia or Africa; there’s just too many countries without distinctive shapes to keep track of them all correctly. It should be fun. It’s kind of rewarding to see your children passing you up, going beyond you, and succeeding more than you did. I hope it is for you.

I know you just won’t believe this, but I entered…a beard-growing contest! Yep, I know my whiskers just barely show up…after a day, and that my smooth face stays smooth for almost a few hours before you can feel the fuzz returning, but what the hey, I thought. Let’s have some fun with it. I have yet to hear what the prize is for winning, so I’m not paying the entry fee until I hear that the prize is worth it. This is one area where I absolutely refuse to lose money by winning. I guess I hold the same position in other areas, too…

I have such a fun job. I was assigned to turn some old pumpkins into compost, and a hatchet was suggested as an appropriate tool. Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Just call me Slashing Pumpkins, Jack-o-lantern the Ripper, or Jack the Pumpkin Shredding King, cause I had the best time destroying those gourds. They were frozen, too. I know that’s just not believable, especially in January, but take my word for it. The scavengers would have to be pretty desperate to eat these things.

Later, when temperatures warmed up to 60+ degrees, and I was outside, I caught myself wondering if I should put on suncreen…in January! I laughed out loud at that thought. But this is Oklahoma, where you always take what you need if the temperature goes way up, way down, or rains, because it just might before you get home again. Our weather is very independently minded. Or just plain rebellious; we’re not sure exactly how to describe it.

We accept it, though, just as it is. I suppose most people in most places are the same about their weather. We know we can’t change it, we know it will be better than someone else’s for part of the year, and we know all locations on this planet have weather challenges. It strikes me that this is a good reminder of our life in Christ while on this earth.

We know every Christ follower has trouble, wherever they live, whatever their situation. We know life with Christ brings amazing blessings and memorable difficulties. We know we can’t change Him, but knowing we must change according to Him. Eventually, we accept Him as He is, knowing He has accepted us as we are. We go into each day aware that circumstances and attitudes can swing high or low suddenly, and that we must make preparations for both. So it seems that living in Oklahoma’s weather can help prepare me for a life with Christ. I wonder what your home is doing for your life? God designed it to do something good, I bet. Send your Oklahoma brethren word of your adventures by leaving a comment, and see how easily we believe your impossible stories. Hey, we believe that Oklahoma weather is predictable, right?

And then we butchered a turkey. Really. See you next post.

Posted in A-frame in a flood plain: homesteading in unusual circumstances | 1 Comment

Y7DAZ?

Why choose to believe that a Supreme Omnipotent Supernatural Being would create the entire physical universe out of His own mind, from nothing, with no help, and make no mistakes, in seven 24-hour days?

I mean, look at how everything works now; nothing goes right the first time. There’s the law of entropy, after all, and mathematical formulas to support it. Death and destruction are the rule, the end of all things, no matter how well they are begun.

And what’s with seven days? Couldn’t an all-powerful God make everything instantly? Why take more time than necessary? Doesn’t the gradual growth and change concept of Evolution make more sense?

And then there’s all the fossils, the Ice Age, the radioactive dating, the expansion rate of the Universe, and all those scientists and writers that are so sure they’ve got proof for the continually improved understanding of the Universe’s ability to change itself; how could it all be so wrong? How could so many be so mistaken about something so important?

I attended both public and private schools; I have read the Bible; I have read and listened to Christians and Non-Believers espouse their various theories; I was trained as a science teacher; I have evaluated many science textbooks regarding the Origins of the Universe, and…I believe the seven 24-hour day notion of Biblical Creation. Why? Lemme ‘splain.

First, it must be reckoned that one may become a Christian (or anything else) and remain so, possibly to the end of his days, and only engage superficially in the debate regarding the Origin of the Universe. I am not the judge of men’s eternities, and will not insist that others agree with my position, nor that they must even agree with any part of it. Also, I do not wish to present a stumbling block to those new to the faith or the debate, or placed in delicate situations, who are not ready to take an obvious and public stand for or against the well-established opinions and worldviews of those who ought to know most. If that is confusing, just know that my position here is solely my own. This is the story of how I arrived. Take it or leave it.  Now that we have agreed to listen to a story, and not a sermon, I will get on.

My first reason for believing the 7/24 Theory of Origins is that my Father believed it, and still does. My Mother loves to ask questions, and seems willing to set the issue aside when it becomes a point of contention, and I have also tried to adopt this attitude. However, when my Father believes something, it is difficult to find weaknesses in his reasons. He is highly educated, but more than that, he is a voracious learner. He reads constantly, and reads difficult things that most of us would give up after a paragraph. This includes science research, philosophy, and the philosophies of scientists on the cutting edge of Origins theory. He teaches Philosophy of Science at a Christian university, and began the Philosophy major there, so he’s good at thinking, analyzing, and understanding. He is always learning something new, and he shows the observational skills of a veteran scientist. Yes, he holds some opinions irrationally, like we all do. I have a different favorite baseball player, but both his and mine are arguably among the best in the game. Disagreeing with him about the Origins of the Universe is not the same kind of debate.

Secondly, having read the Bible most of my life, and lived with parents, family, and friends who also believe it, and having seen God at work in my life in harmony with His word, I cannot honestly deny that God’s word is true. I have lived it. Now, as to the Non-Christians reading this, if you want extra-religious reasons for my belief, skip the next few paragraphs. For the Christians who have chosen a longer time period than the 7/24 idea, keep reading.

Setting aside the language debate about the first chapter of Genesis, look in the new testament at Romans 5. If death only came with the sin of Man, then there must have been a great many creatures living on the planet in the 13+ billion years it took to evolve. Indeed, the number would be astronomical; remember, no disease, no predators, no decomposers…think on that. These balancing forces, the tools of natural selection, only come into play after Adam and Eve break God’s one rule. And we can count the years since then. It’s fewer than 10,000, according to Scripture. That means that the term “survival” doesn’t even become relevant until 6,000 years ago, so all the impersonal forces that promote one kind of characteristic instead of another, all the pressures of evolution, never even existed until after the Fall.

It follows that the wide variety of creatures alive today must have been alive then, so there would be a staggering amount of creatures living in the centuries before the flood, including all the in-between species as macroevolution went on. And Adam would have named them. People would have seen them. Why is their very limited story represented only by a few fossils? This, to me, seems less tenable a position, as it relies on unsupported conjecture almost exclusively.

My third reason is that a 7-day week is non-negotiable in the practical sense. Theory may attack theory in the world of ideas, but real life has a way of settling disputes with results. The French tried to use a 10-day week; the results were disastrous. Animals couldn’t handle it, let alone people. The only reason found anywhere for a 7-day week is found in the Bible’s Creation account: God rested on the seventh day after creating for the previous six, and wants us to do the same. Apparently, we are designed to need rest, to live within limits, to work best by not working constantly. History, Psychology, Medicine, and (ironically) many governments are agreed in their support of this notion of the 7-day week, whatever their beliefs about God may be.

My fourth reason came to me as I listened to the debate in school, church, on the radio, and among family and friends. I kept seeing the same perspective in those who affirmed the God of the Bible, but not the 7/24 theory: they wanted God’s word to fit with science and not have any conflicts. Now, God’s word warns us that such a thing is not practical nor possible, but we humans usually try to avoid conflict if we can. If we see that conflict is inevitable, we tend to empty the clip in preemptive strikes against our opponents, hoping by intimidation to avoid the pain and embarrassment of losing ground in an argument. We cannot stand to be “in the wrong”, or to be shown to be a fool by someone cleverer. Our pride will not stand for it.

But pride is anti-God, and the more I listened to the Christians who tried to make the Bible fit Scientific Theory, the more I disagreed with their reasons, and with their goal. To make the Bible “fit”, that is, to alter our understanding of it to satisfy the requirement of another authority, is to submit God’s authority to that of someone else, and purely for avoidance of suffering. This is worse than heresy; this is idolatry and rebellion that God hates worse than witchcraft. Remember, it was God who said that.

But beyond my religious understanding, I felt that those who chose to hold both Scripture and Science as true, even if they were diametrically opposed, were being dishonest to one or the other, and wanted to avoid conflict by denying the conflict. They were decided out of fear, not true belief, and I could understand their reluctance to take on one side or the other; a great many on both sides have used personal attacks, false logic, clever slogans, and plain lies to try to undermine the other. But the excuses did not hide the debate from me. I decided to choose the side that seemed then, and still seems, to be the least fearful.

Lastly, I enjoy the idea of a God who rose from the dead, worked miracles, and created out of nothing, all in contrast to the operating rules of the physical universe He created and maintains. I guess I’m a bit of a rogue, but it bothers me to agree with someone or with an idea just because it’s presented well; I have to believe in it, or I won’t keep it. I want a God who is bigger than science, bigger than Man’s interpretations, and bigger than the world He made; big enough for His fingerprints to be visible. Maybe that’s the issue; maybe His fingerprints are so big, they are hard to accept, hard to submit to, and hard to follow.

As a 7/24 Creationist and a chap considered somewhat intelligent and moderately well-educated, I sometimes cause a stir when I express this position. That cannot be helped. I must say what I think true, and hold what I believe, even when inconvenient, even if I must let go my pride. I must also be patient with those who oppose me, affirming the truth when they say it, and my own weaknesses when they are evident. We cannot find the truth by being dishonest.

The truth is what it is, whether we agree with it or oppose it. We can only understand anything else if we start with the truth. That is why the Origins of the Universe debate has been so important to me. My decision has affected the rest of my life. It describes the God in whom I believe and His power. It defines the limits of Science in my life, and my role within Science. And my experience in the debate, as I searched for reasons and answers, has helped me understand people with all our fears, needs, and beliefs. What’s important in your life? What do you need to understand and decide? There’s a reason why it’s important to you. Go find the truth. We all need it.

 

 

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Beware unGodly Soapiness

I do not watch soap operas. I deliberately avoid serial media or literature that perpetuate irresolution. I love resolution; seeing all the loose ends tied up brings me great satisfaction and relief, plus it’s also an opportunity to admire the author’s foresight, resourceful creativity, and discipline. Resolution itself is inherently and uniquely Godly. The unrequited, the unresolved, and the unfinished are means for God, but ends of the Devil. Satan loves to torture us with the promise of satisfaction, only to disappoint and frustrate us with one more thing we don’t have. What happens when we apply this to television, movies, and literature? Lemme ‘splain.

My favorite TV shows are the episodic ones, the ones with predictable sequences, happy endings, enjoyable interaction between characters, and good winning over evil. Most action shows from the ’80s followed this pattern, but not the cartoons. Transformers and GIJoe never, ever showed a bad guy getting beaten or overcome , and never showed the good guys making any progress in their quest to overcome the bad guys. The best they could ever do was mitigate the effects of the latest plan to take over the world, and reset things for next time. They were never proactive, never resolved, and never really had a goal to work toward, and it drove me nuts.

Contrast this with CHiPs, Magnum PI, Dukes of Hazzard, and the A-Team, where there were certain predictable sequences and music, laughs based on character personalities, satisfying endings where good overcame evil, and only the occasional, limited sketch of a running subplot that had to remain unresolved for a time. The conflict resolved each episode, and everyone said “Ahhhh…” And we kept watching it, didn’t we?

Soap operas take an entirely different approach. Nothing is ever resolved in a soap opera; someone dies, or gets pregnant, or turns up suddenly, or something in order to continually stimulate the emotional drama and maintain interest. They are treadmills of emotional connection, bereft of any semblance of the mundane, normal, predictable elements of life that give us time to process the craziness, plan for the future, and reach decisions. As such, the viewer is constantly off-balance in their ability to process the story(?), and is kept from realizing how unrealistic the whole concept is. This makes the viewer very easy to keep hooked because they believe that something new and unexpected will be the source of satisfaction, rather than looking for the resolution of something already known. This is not the way God does things.

God keeps bringing us back to the same old things over and over again. WE  keep trying to add something new, unexpected, and fresh to a story that already has the best Writer in the universe. We don’t trust Him to give us a good ending, or even a way to get through today, so we look everywhere else for something only He can give: satisfaction. The Rolling Stones, in a rare moment of clarity, crystallized this in their famous line: “I can’t get no…sa-tis-fac-tion…” This is the strategy of Satan in a nutshell, and the point God wants us to grasp about this life. It’s not about giving up on satisfaction just because we have longings; it’s about finding it in the only place it can actually be found – in Christ.

Consider the new style of TV shows, in which no two episodes are remotely similar, the story is more running sub-plot than predictable sequences, and you never quite get to feel that things are completely resolved. Romantic tension is maintained at ridiculous lengths you would never see in real life; old enemies are resurrected, made undiscernable and invincible; origins and relatives are always kept at arm’s length; and personal demons are hinted at, but never completely dealt with. The soapiness is starting to get to me, folks.

So what to do? First, keep in mind that this world was not made to satisfy us completely, but it was made to remind us that satisfaction can be found through Christ, and all He requires from us. Second, a “good” story, one that lines up with the reality God created and maintains, will reflect His character – good winning over evil, resolution of conflict, and a limited, workable scope of information within which good decisions can be made with confidence. Not all characters will make good decisions, but the audience will be able to discern what the good decisions ought to be.

Yes, life is ugly and we all suffer from the cumulative, corporate effects of sin, but not all heroes are flawed, not all noble thoughts are marred by self-interest, and not all questions remain unanswered indefinitely. After all, God intends to fulfill all prophecy, administer consequences for all actions, develop all human character, and complete the good work He has begun in each of us, as well as in all of us together. He has already done much of this, and is doing more as we speak. And He has very definite goals toward which He intends us all to grow, day by day.

God loves moral cleanliness, and soap has many great uses, but the philosophy behind soap operas and the recent trends in serial media are inherently un-God-ly. Don’t get hooked on what isn’t good for you. Those stories of the enemy always get ugly, don’t they? There are consequences for feeding on the enemy’s food; you’ll get ugly, too. And no soap can wash that ugliness away. That kind of damage can only be removed with the blood of the Lamb. That’ll wash you cleaner than anything. And it’s only the beginning of the story, The Story, the one that resolves everything. Everything. I can hardly wait.

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Forced Away

May the Force leave me the heck alone.

When my wife wanted to watch a movie in the early days of our marriage, she knew better than to ask me for a suggestion. “Star Wars” was a likely first response. She got tired of that, especially since she wasn’t a sci-fi fan in the first place. She hated it less than Star Trek, but I was such a nut about it then that she soon lost any fascination she might have had otherwise.

Now we have come full circle. I am officially tired of Star Wars. There; I said it.

Actually, I still like the original trilogy…mostly. There was a lot to like; I mean, you’ve got a classic coming-of-age story with Luke and his mentor, Obi-Wan…which later includes deception, disillusionment, and maturity (?) and the oft-used “I am your father!” plot twist that no one saw coming. I enjoyed Chewbacca’s frustration with a world not built for his size, and C-3PO’s British humor and timidity to go with R2-D2′s spunky resourcefulness. Han Solo and Leia’s sassy romance was subtle, intense, and relatable in all its stages. The Rebels vs the Empire context, and saving the universe (twice) by blowing up a massive space station, and all the cool, exotic worlds to fight in, including the indigenous creatures and weather, are all the marks of the best stories in any medium. The non-Force characters (good guys) were ennobled when they got caught up in something bigger than themselves. Han learns faithfulness, Lando sticks his neck out, and…um, well, the others are pretty static, I guess. Except Luke. He’s a problem-child.

See, he breaks all the rules of the Jedi code, and gets away with it. Spoiled, impetuous punk. Just like his father…who also broke all the rules, and almost got away with it, then didn’t, then broke more rules, then, finally, destroys the Emperor/Darth Sidious, and…gets redeemed on his deathbed.

Everyone who’s supposed to be a good guy involved with the Force either becomes cruel and twisted from the Dark Side, or becomes stupid and impatient from the Good Side. Think about this: what Jedi ever became more patient, tolerant, and good-humored with age? Obi-Wan? Nope. His relationship with Anakin shows increasing impatience, frustration, and distance. Yoda? Don’t even get me started. The older he got, the worse he became at teaching anyone anything. He became the classic grumpy old man. He knew all the answers, would only do things his own way, and had very few encouraging words for anyone. Anyone else? Nah, they all died from a surprise attack by the forces they were leading against an uprising. Never mind that they have been the guardians of the universe for centuries; never mind that they have done battle with all kinds of evil. No, they just can’t seem to anticipate a political maneuver by Palpatine, or his double identity as a Sith Lord, despite his many apprentices and their disruptive terrorism. None of the Jedi can figure this out, and none of them see the game Palpatine plays with them until it’s too late. (sigh)

Notice, too, how Luke benefits from his Force skills until his time with Yoda. In the attack on the death star, on Hoth in the creature’s cave, and in his practice on the Millenium Falcon, he becomes more patient, more controlled, and more effective from his use of the Force. But after visiting Yoda on Degobah, he becomes cruel in Jabba’s palace, impatient in Cloud City, and confused on the death star as he battles the Emperor. He gets worse, not better, from his experiences…much like his father.

Part of the problem, of course, is that George Lucas had to write his prequels with a specific set of circumstances in mind for the end. But in making the characters fit the story, instead of the other way around, he has made the good Jedi short-sighted, impatient, and bitter as they age. Not a good selling point for the Padawan program, if you ask me. And the Sith become unbeatable, undiscernable, and irresistible until a sudden, unforeseen streak of sentiment at just the right moment causes the poster-child of Sithness to snap and give it all up.

Call me crazy, but I much prefer the rest of those movies: the space battles, the planets, the political issues in the Imperial Navy, the mechanical problems of the Millenium Falcon and the droids, the rescue of the princess (twice), the problem of frozen Han, Luke’s many injuries, and the noble courage of the Rebels. That’s fun to watch. The Force? I can’t figure it out, I can’t believe in it, and I can’t see that it’s even consistent in its own story.

And then come the prequels. Let’s examine the Jedi. Qui-Gon has to be made clumsy to be killed by Darth Maul; Obi-Wan has to be made impatient and frustrated with Anakin; and all the others have to be killed off by surprise because they’re stupid. Again, not a selling point for the Padawan program. And then the writers of all the stories between the prequels have to resurrect Darth Maul…(sigh) My suspension of disbelief has been permanently damaged. To bring back an ugly villain after the hero killed him most decisively is to admit that the story is no longer the goal; making a quick buck is the obvious goal here. I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt for the prequels, but this is too much.

Now my children are memorizing the names of characters from the years between episodes 3 and 4…which don’t need any stories, thanks. And then, there’s all the Legos…

Lego has shown us just how to be the most successful merchandising firm ever. Period. They are the best at what they do. The problem is that, like Star Wars story-lines, they are becoming so ubiquitous in so many story lines as to become annoying, to be avoided rather than sought after. This is dangerous territory; they should learn from the failures of Luke and Anakin. Don’t go messing with a good thing; learn what makes it good, and learn a little balance. Isn’t that what Yoda was always promoting? “ConcenTRAAAAATE!!”

I’ve decided to separate myself and my family from the Star Wars culture. It reminds me of the Death Star’s tractor beam, the Sarlac pit, and the Dark Side itself. So I’m punching in coordinates for a new rendezvous point with the faithful, and kicking in the hyperdrive. I’m blowing this thing so we can go home. And I will make it past the first marker, thank you. See you there.

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November, 2014: Like a Piece of Craft

Some things just take a lot of killin’.

I’m referring to squirrels first. I’ve been a hired gun at my third job as outdoor handyman; the pesky varmints get into the potted plants on the front porch and, well, plant nuts. They’re cheeky devils, gracefully bounding across your path when they know you’re not armed, and raining loud nut-bombs on your car or path as you go by. I like to remind them when they miss. At least they aren’t as bad here as the ones at public parks, or even worse: the ORU squirrels, who go into every man’s world to get as much food as they can carry off. Don’t let the cuteness fool you – their god is their belly.

So my employers have armed me with an air-rifle and pellets. And my aim seems pretty good. I know I have hit a critter more than once – I’ve seen them jump into the air suddenly with all limbs sticking out – but it takes 3-4 shots to get them to run away, and I’ve yet to see one die. (sigh) My employer told me not to feel bad; apparently, their bodies are so muscular that it takes a really good head shot or a really large, fast shot to the body to take them out. He also told me that one is supposed to have a small-game license to hunt squirrels and rabbits, even on one’s own property. That’s another thing that takes a lot of killing: bad laws.

Another hard-to-kill woodland creature is the opossum, affectionately known as the Large Rat. They aren’t smart enough to leave when attacked, and they aren’t really very fast, either, so they get into altercations more frequently…with cars, mostly. They don’t last long on the road, but when I discover them on my property at night, eating my cat’s food (which the cat does not seem to mind), I’m not armed with a katana blade or my .45; I’m doing good to find a stick handy. (sigh) Sticks just don’t get it done; opossums need something bigger, or they need to run faster, or something.

Guess what else refuses to die? My Grandma’s hope and courage. How do I know? She just got married…for the 4th time. Divorced, widowed, and widowed, for those who are interested. She’s 83, I think; her new husband is 85, and he’s stable physically, financially, and spiritually. For the first time in decades, her husband will take care of her. It will be a change for her, but a good one. All of her descendants (2 children, 7 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren) and extended family are joyful and delighted at the new stage in her life. We know she is delighted, too.

The wedding was inspiring, the sermon bold, the reception a taste of heaven, and I don’t just mean the food. The food was delicious, but the company was better. I got to see all my siblings and all my cousins and all my aunts and uncles on my Dad’s side for the first time in years, and I finally learned all the names of my cousins’ children. And most of us are followers of Christ. And we all get along. And we all laugh. A lot. That reception could never have been long enough for me. But heaven will hold no such regrets. And the food will be even better.

One thing that’s doesn’t last long in Oklahoma is the weather. The temperature tries to make us think it’s staying cold for the whole winter, but this is Oklahoma – it was 70 degrees yesterday, Nov 29th. It snowed two weeks ago. We’re not worried about snow drifts here; it always melts off, unlike the Northeast, where hundreds of flights were cancelled the day before Thanksgiving due to bad weather. I think God had a lot of conversations that day. He doesn’t go away easily, either, and we are very thankful.

We’re also very thankful for our new van, given to us by my aunt and uncle…just because they wanted to bless someone. Yay! We got a van for nothing that has fewer miles and a newer production date than our other van. Plus it plays cassettes, baby! I’ve got a collection from the 80′s and 90′s that still haven’t died, and now I get to enjoy them on the way to my three jobs each day. I am very thankful. 

For several nights, I watched a skunk poke around our yard, grateful for the distance between us. Our neighbor watched, too, with his spotlight from his house. We watched the skunk go under his barn. Next night, I heard shots, and the next day, my neighbor informed me he had dispatched the critter, but that it had taken several shots over several days to finish it off. Wow. I didn’t have skunks pegged as tough, but I guess this one was. Then our neighbors offered us several hundred Christmas lights they didn’t need, and we were thankful again…until after we put them up on our deck stairs to the front door, when we smelled a gift from the skunk. Ah, well, at least we can see our way to the door at night instead of stumbling in the dark. Try drawing a spiritual analogy here that includes the bad smell; this should be fun.

My title for this post refers to my wife’s determined attempts to use words other than “crap” when she gets frustrated. “Crab” is hard to remember, so “craft” has become our favorite substitute, as in: “a piece of craft”, or my wife’s preferred expression “Craftola!” My title combines this unique phrase with the inexplicable endurance of little hand-made pieces of…well, craft. These doo-dads made by children who aren’t old enough to use power tools are too meaningful to throw away when you are cleaning, but don’t really have a home or convenient display area, so…they keep getting moved around, sort of like the orange construction barrels in Tulsa – they go from street to street because there’s no room to store them elsewhere, according to my Dad’s theory.

So these pieces of craft endure from season to season, homeless and destitute, in need of a larger house, or a grandparent, or a someone with care to spare…much like broken souls, now that I think of it. Wouldn’t it make a difference to a lost someone to get into a place of beauty, feel the love and wisdom of someone older, and share time with someone who has care to spare? (This is what the Church is for.)

All of us need the care of each other; all of us should set aside some care to spare for someone else. The Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. He took a lot of killing, and then, after allowing Himself to be killed, He came back to life to be the source of unending life for everyone. Even though our best efforts are just pieces of craft to Him, He doesn’t see us that way. He has unending care to spare, even for you, even for me. He will turn our “craft” into something beautiful to help others find their way to Him…and it will smell a lot better than our lights.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Light for the Crazies

My favorite time of the year is coming up.

 

When the holidays are over

When the music, lights, and decorations get put away again

When all the rich food is finally gone, and all we want is vegetables and water

When all the gifts aren’t new or wrapped anymore, and we have to find a place to store them

When the fall sports are over, the winter sports don’t matter yet, and the spring sports have yet to begin

When we’ve all but forgotten warm, sunny, smiley weather

When our New Year’s resolutions lie in shattered ruins

When all our friends and family are gone to their homes, and we are alone

When we’re too fat, too tired, and too sick to face ourselves

When the bills and taxes are due, the cars need repairs, and the house leaks

When we are reminded that our messy, real relationships don’t measure up to the unrealistic, scripted fantasies fed to us by the media

When the animals are asleep, the leaves have fallen, and the beauty of nature is hidden away

When bad habits taunt us with hopelessness and regrets

When we are tired of trying, ready to let go, and considering the advantages of giving up

When the sun is covered in clouds, the temperature stays too low all day and all night, the wind bites, and water from the sky brings death and not life

When all the superficiality of life dies away to leave a stark, raw reality

This is where He searches for us. He finds us, wading through the garbage and chains of our existence to give us some of His. The Light shines in our darkness, and we can’t begin to grasp it. We would be crazy to hope for light. He would be crazy to give it to people like us…so He does. His still, small voice, great in power and in mercy, reaches warmly toward our frozen hearts…and we begin to live; we begin to move; we begin to have an identity, and a hope.

I am drawn to the light in this dead, dark stillness. I know I’m crazy to look for it here, but I can focus better here without all that other stuff shouting at me. In the light, I can see Him better, and I can see myself a little better, too. I begin to understand how He sees me, about what’s actually crazy in my life. I am able to share a little light, a little hope with those other crazies I can reach in the dark.

He’s crazy, too, you know…about me, about all of us. He brings His light, His warm love, His power and truth to loonies like me who get the insane notion to come here on purpose…He shines for us just because we’re here to be found. He sends his light just because there are crazy people who hope that He will, who look for light in this light-less place, who know He must be here if He is anywhere. And He is here.

He is more real than the dark, the bills, the pain, or the loneliness.

He is more valuable than the gifts, or the possessions, or the power.

He is more sustaining than the food, the vitamins, the drugs, or the exercise.

He is more nourishing than the music, the air, or the view.

He is more beautiful than what we can see, or hear, or write.

He is more enduring than the winter, the noise, our promises, or our memories.

He is more secure than the shelter, the insurance, the loopholes, or the stash.

He is more true than the gurus, the experts, the experience, or the training.

He is more entrancing than the new app, new game, new gossip, or new show.

He is more adventurous than the business, the battle, the relationship, or life itself.

He is more peaceful than the vacation, the sleep, the headphones, or the therapy.

He is more faithful than the friends, family, spouse, the children, or even the sunrise.

He is more our Lord than the bad habits, the schedules, the rat race, or the fix.

He is more joy than all the holidays, successes, pleasures, people, and all of nature put together.

He is Light. The Light who shines for us when we can’t even remember light. He is Light for the crazies, the lost, the broken. He is light because He knows broken isn’t our final destiny. He shines for us because He knows lost isn’t where we were made to live. He came to us because He knows that crazy is what it takes to go looking for Him. As long as we try to be normal, we spend our lives searching for all that He is, and never find it without finding Him first. Actually, He finds us…

He is the Light for the crazies. Has He found you like He found me? Maybe you should look for Him in the only place a crazy person would look for light in your life. I bet that, in the middle of broken, lost, dark, dead nothingness, where no one else would be if they had any sense, there’s a light shining for you, too. He’s going to go crazy when He finds you.

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Oct 2014: Prosthetic Tribal Nuttiness

I know a mouse with a wooden leg…name unknown.

I know, because, in personal combat in the dark of the basement, I wrested him out of his hidey-hole, bested him, and dispatched him forthwith. I had a hatchet handy for the purpose. I have since dispatched two others with slower reflexes, so I didn’t need my hatchet. My low-tech traps did the work. I have had great success with the simple, low-tech mouse traps. The ultra-new plastic ones never seem to catch anything. Maybe we just have country mice. Ya think?

One mouse died of a gun-shot wound after my son dispatched him with his BB rifle. Our useless cat sat in our basement, ignoring the mouse, also sitting in the middle of our basement, who was looking at us, obviously puzzled as to why we didn’t think he should be there. He wouldn’t listen to reason, so we used force. He was months behind on his rent, and never cleaned up after himself.

My children are using pillow cases as head-dresses, and can’t make up their minds about which American Indian tribe they want to be chiefs of. They are pronouncing tribes I’m not familiar with…and seem to be pronouncing them correctly, even my 5-yr old. I wasn’t this educated when I was a kid.

Of course, these are the same boys who took their gardening toys, dug up some weeds, and transplanted them to new places in our yard. I’m really proud of them…I think. I also think they should have more of a role in the real gardening we will be doing in the spring. Child Labor is a wonderful thing, for them and their parents.

These same boys also spent hours today cutting through brush and saplings to make a trail through the woods behind our house. This gives me more ideas about projects for spring. They aren’t strong enough to use axes, so they used machetes to chop down a tree as thick as my leg. Wow. I wasn’t this good with tools when I was a kid.

And my lovely daughter rearranged the kitchen to make a dance-floor so we could all boogey to Jars of Clay’s “Flood”, a family favorite, after evening chores. We jammed, danced, played air guitar and air drums, and one of my sons played a book. A really big, loud, hard-backed book. I wasn’t this confident or creative or…something… when I was a kid.

I can’t wait to see what their kids will do. I can’t wait to tell my wife and my parents, and see the expressions on their faces. I wish I could see your faces, too.

I wish you could have seen my face when I blundered around the corner of our deck into a view of 5, count ‘em, five deer in our backyard. I wasn’t expecting them, so I made noise as I came to a stunned halt, and that scared them off before I could get the rest of the family out to see them. But several of them have seen other groups of deer near our house at other times without me, so I guess it was my turn to be blessed by the God of Beauty and Wonder.

Our ducks and chickens are setting records again for eggs laid in consecutive days. I think our two-day record is 23. We send eggs to family, to friends, to church, and our neighbors from time to time. Our neighbors just love our eggs; they’re such happy, enthusiastic people, and seem to enjoy life so much, now that they have each other. We are thankful for such nice neighbors…and their chainsaws.

See, we need good, working chainsaws because we have so many trees. The scary halloween ride down the road may use chainsaws for emotional effect, but we use them for real. Blades are serious business in our neighborhood. You never know when your mailbox might need rescuing. Ours did recently.

A bradford pear tree lost several limbs on top of the neighborhood mailbox row, squishing and knocking off several boxes. By the time I got there, a chainsaw was already in use, and the rest of us began hauling the pieces to our burn pile because it was the closest one. Yessir, nothing like chainsaws, floral destruction, and fire to bring neighbors together. Yeah, don’t bother with the scary halloween stuff; we live in the country. We ARE the scary people with chainsaws!

You want to impress us at halloween? Come as a broken air-conditioner, or a flooded basement, or higher property taxes, and then we’ll shake a little. Maybe. If you can get past the mice.

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August, 2014: No Way! Way.

It finally happened.

No, we didn’t have a volcano in Oklahoma. We seem to have nearly every other kind of natural disaster here, but not those; at least, not yet.

No, all the teachers haven’t walked out and demanded a living wage, the removal of the state dept. of Ed, and the elimination of state testing and special ed regs…but what if they did?

No, we didn’t have a flood in July nor frost in early September…although we tried really, really hard.

We saw a deer…in our yard! One morning, a doe (I think) went bounding into the woods at the border of the clearing behind our house. We’ve been waiting three years (since moving in) for such a sighting. Of course, now we hope for even more such sightings. We just enjoy watching animals in their natural habitat, especially in the peace of the early morning. The quiet and stillness are part of the joy.

Something else I never thought I’d see: we live-trapped my In-laws’ cat…I thought. I was going for a ‘coon that was sneaking into my In-laws’ garage to eat their cat’s food, but their cat got into my trap first. I guess I shouldn’t have baited it with cat food. Sheesh. So I let the cat out and rebaited it; we’ll see if the cat goes back. (snort) I imagine the ‘coons and opossums slapping their knees in the hollow of some tree as they laugh at the cat. I would be, if I were a fuzzy, cuddly woodland creature. And it turns out it wasn’t even my In-laws’ cat, just a look-alike from the neighborhood.

All those Disney films that show the beautiful heroine singing to these creatures, petting them, and then getting into trouble that the woodland creatures help her out of…They ought to make a cartoon about the beautiful milkmaid daughter of a woodsman who makes his living from the woods, and has to defend his helpless, stupid animals from the onslaught of clever, ferocious fuzzy woodland creatures. I would watch that; I would cheer for every pelt, too.

And I cut my hand on an egg.

Okay, it wasn’t cooked, and it wasn’t even the egg part, per se. It was part of an egg shell that was supposed to be crushed and left on the ground for our fowl to eat and strengthen their eggs, but somehow it got left on a log in the yard. And I saw it. And I was feeling swaggery…so I punched it, Bruce Lee style. It hurt, but I was gonna rub it off until I saw…OH NO! I’M BLEEDING! THE EGG VICIOUSLY ATTACKED ME! I bet none of you have an egg wound to brag about, do you? Didn’t think so. All part of being in the country and being man enough to face down…the remains of…a fragile, hollow…never mind.

And I went to a teachers’ conference, the Advanced Placement (class) Institute at Tulsa University…and I liked it! I laughed and had more fun than I’ve had at any teacher training, workshop, conference, or seminar ever. We didn’t learn ABOUT science; we DID science. I think it may have changed the way I see science teaching, and I’m glad. I wonder how I’ll get to use it…

…since I’m currently employed by TCC as an adjunct instructor in Algebra. I’m still in the running for several other adjunct positions in the area, and I hope at least one of them fits my other job schedules. For the first time in 14 years, I’m not coaching this fall, this winter, or this spring. Ha! I’m kind of enjoying it, too. I still rant when I watch professional sports, but not with stories about my current set of players. It’s a more relaxed rant…I think.

Our church, Tulsa Christian Fellowship, has a Parenting Class on Sunday afternoons, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to discuss parenting in a structured, focused way with other parents in various stages of their children’s growth. It’s nice to know you’re not alone and that there are effective ideas within your grasp. Shazam! God wants us to learn! We can learn! Yeah! Go learning! Let’s grow! One, two, threeeee…GROW! (massive cheering)

Okay, maybe I haven’t let go of coaching completely. Perhaps I should use my motivational talents on the raccoon who got himself into our deck trunk to eat the cat’s food right out of the bag. We heard thumping, and saw him run away once, but the next time, I looked in the trunk, and there was the ‘coon, looking all sheepish. I quickly sat on the lid, but in further discussions with my wife, we couldn’t figure out a way to dispatch the animal without destroying the trunk. We let him out and put a concrete block on top to discourage him. I hope he enjoyed the food; the cat doesn’t seem to.

So if you see a really fat, slow, satisfied raccoon crossing the road, you have my permission to shake your fist at him and harangue him relentlessly for his gross gluttony. Tell him he’s an embarrassment to the trunk designer…or possibly the homeowner. Tell him the next natural disaster will be exploding woodland creatures. Hey, it’s Oklahoma. It might happen.

 

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July 2014: Moltin’ waffles

I must do that again.

The best, most delicious waffles I ever had were consumed this morning at breakfast. What made them so good? Two things: first, I made them with one part butter and two parts coconut oil, which made them crisp a little better when I arranged them in the oven. The other key ingredient was the topping – buttermilk syrup, made by my daughter, Em, which is just hard to beat, especially on a fresh, crispy waffle all hot and fluffy on the inside when you’re hungry…which all of you are, now, aren’t you? Yes, it’s my fault; no, I’m not sorry. Come for a visit and we’ll make waffles.

It’s that time of year again: the humidity is almost as distracting as the cicadas’ chorus, the grass is trying to break the growth record of bamboo shoots, and bug spray and sunscreen sales go up and up. Which means that our ducks aren’t laying eggs as usual; they’re putting all the protein they can find into new feathers for the summer and fall. We wade through a carpet of multi-colored feathers daily as we go to feed them, herd them, water them, and look for the one egg they may have laid. Thankfully, our chickens take no such break. They seem bent on laying one egg each, come rain or shine, coons or opossums, whether we take the eggs or not. So…we take them, eat them, and give them away to friends when we have more than we need. Which is most of the year, except during molting season, which is now. (sigh) It means I get to enjoy eggs less frequently, but it doesn’t bother our kids. They seem to relish a break from the routine of eggs for breakfast every day, and enjoy eating something else. We’ve eaten eggs every way imaginable: fried, over easy, hard-boiled, poached, egg salad, deviled eggs, quiches, parboiled egg fries, and eggshell meringue pie salad on toast. Ever tried egg smoothies?

My wife actually found a way to enjoy drinking eggs – in our coffee. Yep,  you read that right. Egg-and-butter coffee is our new favorite morning treat. We blend the eggs and butter with sugar and salt, and then blend in the coffee with an immersion blender, and voila!, which is french for “Look! A viola!” I don’t know the french phrase for “Wow! What good coffee!”

I also don’t know the french phrase for “Dadgum raccoons! Stay off my deck!”, but I bet it’s very entertaining to hear. I wonder if the french raccoons wash their food twice and check the label. The french ‘coons can’t be as dumb as our local ones. Last week, I caught one in a live trap after it kept invading our deck, eating our cat’s food, and leaving round piles of smelly excrement to show its gratitude. This week, I caught another one doing the same thing. They die in our pond and are buried in our clay soil, so maybe the other coons aren’t getting the message. Perhaps, if I eliminate enough of them, the local woodland creatures union will send a negotiator…

Of course, I’d prefer that no one came to represent the varmints. Bunch of freeloaders! I caught one in our chicken’s barn, aka the “Quack Shack”, last night, eating the feed from their feeder. Didn’t bother the birds, thankfully, and didn’t go for the eggs, also thankfully, but can’t go out and get his own food from woods that are full of other critters that need to be eaten. Sheesh. And I had to kill some mole-crickets in our basement. By that time, I really felt like it. I don’t go tearing into their houses to spread disease and disorder. Maybe I should send a negotiator…

Speaking of negotiating, it’s that other time of year again, time for all education field employees to…scramble desperately for full-time employment, make a mad dash for their resumes, and take a good look at the list of benefits in other fields, only to realize that ten weeks vacation every summer isn’t on the list. School administrators, however, have other headaches. Their problems involve rearranging the list of candidates and list of open positions about every other minute because of all the employees suddenly leaving for other positions, suddenly retiring, suddenly starring in movies, etc. This causes a chain-reaction in every school where other teachers are looking for work. When one person leaves, someone comes in from somewhere else, which then goes through the cycle, and gets someone from somewhere else, and then that school…you get the picture. And all the other administrators are trying to make sure the budget won’t break, the school won’t fall down, and the parents won’t move away.

Somehow, it all gets sorted out, the madness settles, August passes, and equilibrium comes once again to school districts everywhere. In many cases, this event is nothing short of miraculous.

Miraculous is also the description of what happens every summer in Vacation Bible School at Tulsa Christian Fellowship. It’s my seventh year to be involved, and I never cease to be amazed at all that God does through us in the lives of the neighborhood children…and in our lives, too: hearts soften, attitudes change, whole families come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And we all find each other to be on the same side, no matter how many changes we have to make. The snacks are usually my wife’s charge, and they’re pretty creative, although they have never done waffles or egg-and-butter coffee…yet. Can you imagine 75 elementary kids sucking down egg-and-butter coffee in the morning, and then going to various highly decorated classrooms to learn about Jesus’ love? Yeah, maybe not the best plan. I’m not sure the teachers would be able to talk fast enough to keep the attention of those kids. Remember the MicroMachine Man?

Caught sight of a mouse leaving our basement last night. Why can’t they just call ahead? I’d have a nice, comfy trap all ready for them. They could sleep as long as they wanted…and so could I. Tune in next time for more adventures in the varmint hotel under seige with great food…known as Thorpeshire, the A-frame in a flood plain. See you then.

 

 

 

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