Six Years On

Sixth “Accidentiversary.” Not one of those much ballyhooed multiple-of-five years. While solemn, neither somber nor maudlin. Have been inspired and encouraged by valiant victors whose worlds have been rocked by trials far more severe, but who nonetheless press on and do the next thing. In their particular “captivities,” they rebuff despair, endeavor with herculean effort, and prosper, even if gradually — infusing those spaces they occupy in time with great dignity. Chapeau to that worthy group. Grateful for God’s mercy in granting a year of reprieve from medical issues, being able to continue working and to drive (thaaaaat’s right — keep to the sidewalk), seeing every day of the Tour de Frronze, and innumerable other provisions and blessings. For countless agents of mercy who, at varied moments, times and periods, in WIN_20150111_144252 (2)close and from afar, briefly and over the long haul, rehabilitatively, therapeutically, materially and relationally, have encouraged and helped me and my family. At the top of this list I place the lovely and heroic Alice Heidel, my eight children, my two sons and one daughter in law, my three grandsons, my sisters, Dianne Irving and Sue Heidel, Queen Granny Cakes, and my Uncle Sonny and Aunt Chris. All others are in a tie for first, and down stream newcomers will be next year. Life like this is still, if counter-intuitively, rich and worth living because of these trials, these provisions and blessings, and because of you all. I am and remain profoundly thankful.

Passing This Along — True Grit

The following is a wonderful tale of generations and how powerfully they can shape one another. Its author is my family’s creative writing scion, Mrs. Abbott. Set in the Sandhills of Nebraska, it reminds me not just a little of what I have learned through the years about my mom’s upbringing with her brother, Dallas (my Uncle “Sonny”), on a 500 acre northwest Missouri farm during, then out of, the Depression, then through WWII, my mom’s escape post WWII to Paris Island, SC, and then to the big cities after marrying, and Uncle Sonny’s farm living — made there the hard way. I hope you’ll enjoy True Grit. Having proof read many papers written for Mrs. Abbott’s rigorous but profitable senior high composition course, in which six of eight of my offspring enrolled (and which all 6 passed), I am honored to share it with you.


La Duchesse de la Cul de Sac Trent

“She grew up in an old house on 1 acre of decommissioned, parceled-out farmland. On her family’s lot were a vegetable garden, a swingset, and a sandbox where Mira and her brothers mapped out and modeled tiny golden domains.  Playmobil figures were their pawns, plastic shovels their tools of conquest. . . . ”  

I think you’ll enjoy this story, written by my daughter, about a character I call La Duchesse de la Cul de Sac Trent.

Career Mobility

Friday marked my final day as a Merrill employee. Monday, I, along with 1200+ former Merrill-ites, will join the ranks of DTI Global. Mixed emotions. The Merrill years were rich, professionally speaking, and Merrill was far beyond accommodating, following a certain nasty little bicycle accident. DTI is a proven winner, formerly a tenacious competitor, and now my mates and I look forward to a profitable crossTo Ride Away pollination of skills, knowledge, talent and expertise. On what should have been a day focused on tasks related to this career transition, however, my lovely and heroic wife, Alice, and I took a wee road trip.

We traveled to the Norristown, PA branch of Ride-Away, where we picked up our 2010 Braun-Chrysler hybrid Town & Country minivan. For the past six years, I’ve been able to get around in our T&C thanks to its handy ramp and a system that locks my wheel chair safely in place. I would ride shotgun, and someone else drove, usually my lovely and heroic wife, Alice. Three weeks ago, the T&C was taken away to undergo a few significant enhancements. A few cleverly placed, handy hand-controls, super easy power steering, and a six-way articulatBarreling driver’s seat would allow me to climb behind the wheel and drive the T&C myself. The purpose of our trip to PA was for Ride-Away’s technicians to make precise adjustments to these and a few other mechanisms, so that the van would “fit” me like a glove. Well, maybe like a suit. Well, maybe like a barrel and suspenders. Anyway, the adjustments were made (no Spreewells). I was able, as we say in the spinal cord injury business, to “transfer” (picture heave or lurch) from my wheel chair into the T&C’s real front driver’s seat, and drive the two and a half hours home – in just three hours.

From the sunny suburbFrom Ride Awayan streets of Norristown, over the rolling hills of southeastern PA and northeastern MD, down I-95 from Perryville to Baltimore, through the 895 Charm City Harbor Tunnel Throughway, and down the 295 Balt.-Wash. Parkway to Laurel (or “La-Rule”, as my GPS lady likes to say), like one little fishy in a vast school, we navigated fast and heavy traffic back home.

Lots of change. New employer. New mobility. Both presenting a strange blend of uncertainty and opportunity. Excitement and anxiousness. I am prone to worry. It’s no small comfort that God provides peace that passes understanding, wisely, and powerfully governing and preserving us as we trade familiar and comfortable circumstances for new ones. Onward.

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Tomorrow, It Is True of Me

My friend, former cyclist, and now quadriplegic, Kip writes succinctly but insightfully and hopefully about his (and our) struggles, God’s purposes and our responsibility in “Tomorrow, It Is True of Me.” Follow him at “Hope for Kip.”

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Just Might Go Vegan

An enterprising young man stopped by yesterday evening and rang the doorbell. Standing at our storm door, he carried two obviously heavy boxes labeled “Prime USDA Select Cuts.” I was on a business call, so my wife spoke with him at the door, partly open. I could hear his well-rehearsed extended soliloquy. As he soliloquized, she politely declined his several, ever intensifying, invitations to fill the freezer at “one-time-only prices.” I turned to get a look at him, still on my call, just as he walked into the foyer, backing mSteaky wife out of the way as if he was behind a moving force field. As he continued to blaboquize, he presumptuously suggested he might set the boxes down for just a minute. I begged off my call momentarily, and asked what he was doing. My wife explained that he was selling steak.

The salesman and I gazed at each other momentarily. I thanked him for his interest, but told him we were not interested in buying steak. He looked shocked and said, “But, I’m selling them at next to nothing.” I said, “Then I’m confident in your ability to make a sale to one of my neighbors.” He remained standing in my foyer, incredulous, as I further and repetitively explained “I don’t want to buy steak . . . I do not want to buy steak . . . I will not be buying steak from you.” Suddenly he indicated comprehension and with downcast expression thanked me for my consideration. I thanked him for his. He left. I rejoined my call.

I plan to post a sign at my front door that reads:

“If you 1) are not a longtime friend, 2) are not my neighborhood’s cookie-selling Girl Scout or the U.S. Postal Carrier, or 3) are not FedEx or Mr. Brown delivering something I did order and do want, simply put your collateral beside or in the mail box and move along to the house on the left. Know that I’ll contact your company if I’m interested. Anyone else ringing my doorbell or knocking on my door will be ignored and should despair of making a sale.”

It’s almost enough to make me go vegan.

The Big Reveal

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Joseph 2Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. . . . ” Genesis 45:3-7

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Wow. How terrified Joseph’s brothers must have been. How furious Joseph could have been. So many years of secreted guilt borne by Joseph’s brothers. So many years of loneliness, alienation, and confusion punctuated by false accusation of a worst kind and unjust incarceration. How godlessly Joseph’s brothers acted. How God-less Joseph must have felt.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Aren’t there seasons when we feel as though God has left and won’t return? As though He changed His mind and abandoned us? And yet doesn’t God promise never to forsake His. Doesn’t He demonstrate time and time again His merciful, patient power toward even the most treacherous in league against the defenseless, tearing down their pride, their high walls, muffling their rage, confounding and turning their venomous stratagems, transforming their minds, hearts, wills, showing them their fatal sinfulness and need for saving rescue?

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take! Didn’t He do that to Joseph’s brothers? Didn’t He do that for Joseph? Yes He did. Hasn’t He done that to, in and for you? Yes, He has. Won’t He continue? Yes, He will. Faithful is He who began a good work in you,to bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

William Cowper

Paternal Blessings and Backhands

“Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope[e] that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.” Genesis 48:22

I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed this verse before. Apologies at the outset — could be a run-on ramble.

At long last, Israel (Jacob) has reached his life’s span and is preparing to move from his century plus pilgrimage onto promised eternal rest. He shares special moments with his Egyptian born grandsons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and then with Joseph. To Joseph he gives an extra parcel of land that might’ve gone to Joseph and his brothers in equal shares, but didn’t. Joseph was his favorite. It was Jacob’s prerogative to show his favoritism. Joseph was the wisest. His wisdom ended up the salvation of his father, his (arguably) idiot brothers, and entire civilizations. I picture this a deal done on the side. I don’t think Joseph’s brothers knew. One could argue they didn’t deserve to know. They had behaved so badly (save Benjamin). I wonder if they felt shame for their behavior. I wonder if some looked at Jacob as “the old geezer.” I think a few of them wanted Jacob out of the way so their lies about Joseph and their hidden dastardly man-stealing could finally stop plaguing their consciences. But however deeply bruised by them, Jacob later blesses all his sons. Some receive a back-handed form of blessing, but they are blessed nonetheless by Jacob. Though offended, though seemingly bereft of Joseph for decades, though worried for their foolish commonsenselessness, he loves them. In degrees, perhaps, but he loves them still. And he blesses them all.

Families are messy things. Having only noticed this verse today, I’ve not ruminated over-much on it, but it does put me in mind of me and my own sons. All pretty good guys. Some more mature, some more academic, some more athletic, all disappointing at times, all pleasing at times, and some closer to me than others with a closeness that shifts and ebbs and flows. I once gave advice to an expectant father: When tending toward anger at your children, keep in mind the longer view and do what you can to preserve friendship capital. Kids can’t pick their parents, and ultimately I did not pick my sons, but here we are. Though they have offended me (and I have most certainly offended them), I love them. I have no basis for rejecting them. In fact I plan to bless them. Maybe not while they place their right hand under my right thigh to solemnize the occasion as in Jacob’s day, but in some fashion or another. And that in spite of their having bruised me. As my friend, Mimi, noted the day I wrote this, love covers a multitude of sins.

Our Physiology Is A Cosmos

Our Physiology Is A Cosmos

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 1 Corinthians 12:14-26

My thoughts have nothing to do with the metaphorical populated, variously gifted, church of Christ. Probably more than a bit askew. Went to the spinal cord rehab doc today and am thinking about the passage above more literally than I should. As we are fearfully and wonderfully made, we can be fearfully and horribly broken. And even then our physiology is a cosmos in its own right,Spinal Cord dangling as it were by a thread. A fragile bundle of myelin sheathed neurons and dendrites. Now damaged, once synergistic systems are smashed and struggle to find balance again. One compensating for the absence of another. Another firing instinctively but not connecting with its downstream receiver. Others quieted seemingly forever. Still others sabotaging the survivor with inconvenient, never timely “less honorable” functions.

Even in these messy, inconvenient moments, my thorn in the flesh gives me cause to remember that in my weaknesses, Christ’s power is perfected and His grace is sufficient. When borne patiently my embarrassment is His honor, and I am sanctified a bit further.