Prairie View

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Cringe-Worthy

Note:  After posting only the first part initially, I added several paragraphs at the end.

In relation to politics, I find these statements from Christian people cringe-worthy:

1.  "Our party ______________ . . . ." No party is thoroughly Christian, either as defined by its platforms, its policies, its leaders, or its loyalists.  Christians should not adopt a wholesale party identity for this reason.  No party is fitting as "our party."

2.  "True conservatives are more Christian than false conservatives."  Christianity does not fit neatly under either a "liberal" or a "conservative" label--true or otherwise.  Christians should not adopt a wholesale conservative or liberal label because their Christian identity should not be subjected to such an overlay.  The Pharisees were the religious conservatives of their day and were rebuked in strong terms by Jesus Himself.

3.  "I like _______ because he will make America great again."  I take "great" in this context to mean rich, powerful, and righteous.  Only one of those is a fitting aim for a Christian.

4.  "I feel safer with an [anti-Muslim, anti-Hispanic] immigration policy. " Wrong focus.  Jesus never put safety first in his practice or his teaching and we shouldn't do so either.

5.  "I like him because he's a successful businessman and is independently wealthy."  Wrong value.  Most direct Bible references to wealth are couched in warnings against its associated hazards--not commending its pursuit.

6.  "I'll be glad to support the nominee, whoever he is." This reveals naked partisanship and is not evidence of thoughtful discernment.

7.  "That's typical of the liberal media [in reference to anything critical of conservatives]."  The media is made up of all kinds of contributors.  Some of them are rational, truthful, and interested in providing an unbiased, useful service.  They are so evenhanded in their writing that it takes a lot of reading and oftentimes some research to figure out what biases they might hold.  I love reading the writing of people like this.  Michael Gerson and Kathleen Parker come to mind as examples.  Others are terminally biased and can't admit a truth as big as a barn if it counters their own biases.  Reading such writers isn't worth my time, especially if media bashing is part of the message.  Christians should be evenhanded with their assessments and cognizant of their biases and happy to hear truth telling.

8.  "America has lost so much respect [among other countries of the world, because of not being militarily strong enough]."  These people must not know or are choosing to ignore how betrayed others in the world sometimes feel because of America's military interventions.  This "respect" narrative seems like an opinion in search of justification.  The truth is far more complicated.

Sometimes displays of military might actually elicit disdain from those looking on--not admiration or respect.  More than 15 years ago when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the US came to the rescue of Kuwait, and intervened militarily.  A relative who lived in another Middle Eastern country at the time noted that it seemed to be common knowledge there that America's intervention was all about protecting its oil interests rather than about heartfelt concern for the oppression  of the Kuwaiti people.

9.  "I've given up supporting [ ___________ (a presidential candidate)]."  This is cringe-worthy only in the sense that it implies earlier support for that candidate--unwarranted from the start, as I see it.  Placing great hope in any candidate is to invite disappointment.  Christians' eggs don't belong in politicians' baskets.

10.  "People who don't vote for . . . (the 'best' candidate) are promoting Satan's agenda."  This makes no sense whatsoever in my Christian universe--where the power of prayer is the first resort in all matters, where one vote is a puny thing, and where none of us is alone privy to the will of God or the knowledge of others' hearts.

I don't often respond immediately when I hear things that pain me on topics like these.  Sometimes I wait because I know I need to think of something kinder than the first thing that comes to mind.  At other times I just don't have enough energy to engage in debate.  Sometimes I'm not sure of what I think, and I need time to evaluate.

I am encouraged that some of the above statements have been retracted and even apologized for.

Obviously it's no big deal to anyone else what I cringe about, but if telling about them elicits careful consideration of one's own tendencies for others as it does for me, it's worth detailing them.

Do you have something to add to the list?  Do you wish to challenge or identify with mine?

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After I published the above, I read a piece by Greg Boyd that stated positively much of what I believe about Christians and politics.  Boyd came to the historic Anabaptist position via a very circuitous route.  His father was an atheist.  Boyd was first a Catholic, then a Oneness Pentecostal.  Next he became an Orthodox Christian.  He studied at both Princeton and Yale, where he distinguished himself academically.  His 16-year stint as a professor at Bethel University ended with his resignation after a dispute with other professors there over open theism.  John Piper, another Bethel University professor and Baptist pastor, has actively resisted the influence of Boyd since then.  Boyd helped found and still pastors at the Woodland Hills church in Saint Paul, MN.

I thought I could share some excerpts from Boyd's piece to whet your appetite for reading it, but I gave up.  I wanted to quote the whole thing.  It's written as an answer to these questions:  "In your Anabaptist view, do you believe Christians should be involved in politics at all?  Should they even vote?"  We need people like Boyd to help us Anabaptists become "more like us" instead of more like other American Christians.  Here's the link.




Friday, January 29, 2016

Serendipity


When I first learned to know Hiromi he lived in the back of his TV repair shop.  After he bought the property, he had worked diligently to create a comfortable living space out of what was formerly a storage area in the back, but connected by a doorway to the front of the shop.  One of the special features of his living area was a deep and wide Japanese-style soaking bathtub, created from tile-covered concrete.  It was partially recessed below the floor level of the building.  The address was 104 W. 5th in Hutchinson.

Later on, Hiromi moved into an upstairs apartment in the building next door which he also owned.

Hiromi sold his business and rented out the shop and the apartment when he joined our church.  After we had been married for a year or two, he sold his entire Hutchinson property at that location to Jim, the man who lived on Washington Street around the corner from Hiromi.  He had wearied of being a landlord and having to see to maintenance matters in town while living in the country.

Jim used the shop for a business which he called "The Glass Doctor." The apartment house was eventually razed, while Jim owned it, as I recall.  The living quarters in the shop reverted to storage, although it has recently again served as a residence.

Next the building became a gun shop.  Most recently, it was a Payday Loan Company, operated by the wife (now ex-wife) of the man who also owns Sunset Pawn.  After the divorce the property was put on the market again.  Here's where things got interesting.

Shane was looking for a ground-level office and storage space for Rock Rentals, his property management business.  The present office on the second floor of Sanford's Computer Works was satisfactory in most ways, but dragging tools and supplies up and down the stairs when they needed to be moved out of vehicles became very tiresome.  Nearby parking space was limited as well.  The property at 104 W. 5th caught Shane's eye, and one evening he called Hiromi and told him he was considering buying it for use as Rock Rentals' headquarters.  Hiromi was pleased at the prospect, but urged Shane to make sure it made good business sense.  He also made sure that Shane knew that he should not feel like he needs to buy it for any sentimental reasons.

It's a one-story building.  Several overhead doors on the back side of the building facilitate moving building materials in and out, there's ample office space for Nathan and Janet, and a new street side addition that can become a private office for Shane and a conference room for staff meetings--all of which made the place seem very well-suited for the company's needs.  He signed papers for the purchase over a week ago--more than 40 years after his father had done exactly the same thing.  Closing happens in February.  Hiromi and Shane are both smiling.

Hiromi drove by last week and stopped to talk to Jim's widow.  She said she welcomes Shane to the neighborhood.  I'm praying that the minimal remodeling needed will go well, the move can be completed smoothly, and that the new location will prove as satisfactory as it appears now to be.

*******************

One other piece of the story about the addresses on that street came together for me a number of years ago when I saw a picture--perhaps at my Aunt Lizzie's house.  My sister Linda and I were with other members of a young girls' Sunday School class, and we were lined up in front of the porch of a 2-story house in Hutchinson.  Aunt Lizzie was living with Alma Fern Yutzy (and perhaps Vera Nisly?) in the house during the work week.  On weekends, these young single ladies returned to the rural residence of their parents who lived in the Pleasantview area.  The ladies all worked at Grace Hospital in Hutchinson, and living in town kept them close to their jobs.  Aunt Lizzie was our Sunday School teacher, and she had invited the girls in her class to spend the night at "her" house in Hutchinson.  The picture documented the event.

The house in the picture looked very familiar when I saw it again all those years later.  "Where was this house?" I asked Aunt Lizzie.

She gave me the exact address:  108 W. 5th.  It was identical to the house right beside it, at 106 W. 5th, which was Hiromi's apartment house--where he had lived on the second floor.

Let's just say that our family has a lot of memories and history invested on 5th Street between Washington and Adams streets in Hutchinson, and the next chapter is just beginning.

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Before I forget it, I'd like to pass on a story that Harry S. told the rest of our curriculum planning committee when we met recently to discuss the physical education part of our school offerings.  It happened when he was in high school in the Lancaster, PA area.

Jack Hess was on the school's basketball team.  Whenever  he fouled another player in the course of a competitive game, he had the good-sportsmanlike habit of facing the scoring station and raising his hand--presumably to take responsibility for his actions and make things easy for those keeping records.

As occasionally happens, he played during one public game when the referee "blew the call," and assigned a foul to Jack.  The ref must have been the only person there who saw it that way.  On that single occasion only, Jack did not face the scoring station and raise his hand.

Just a guess, but I think it's likely that that ref still remembers the silent reproof of Jack's action at that moment.  It certainly registered with the crowd.

Good sportsmanship does not call for obsequious behavior--just honesty and respect for the rules of the game and the individuals who are present.  When Jack was wrongly accused, his earlier integrity and consistency allowed him to speak very loudly without saying a word or making any disrespectful gesture.  Perfect.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Remembering

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of my mother's death.  Today I listened over and over to a song about heaven that someone linked to on Facebook.  I'm sure I've heard or perhaps even sung the song before, but I still had to listen carefully to understand the words.  It's not very familiar.

It didn't dawn on me till this evening that I was subconsciously referencing the memory of Mom going home.  I only knew that the song moved me and made me long for heaven.

The singing group appeared to be African, and I loved how joy shone on their faces as they sang.  I'll link to it here.  A little sleuthing later revealed that this is a Seventh Day Adventist choir from the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

I'll also link here to the site from which the words below are copied.  That site also contains copies of the music and a brief story about Frederick M. Lehman, who wrote both the words and the music.

1 There’s no disappointment in Heaven,
No weariness, sorrow or pain;
No hearts that are bleeding and broken,
No song with a minor refrain.
The clouds of our earthly horizon
Will never appear in the sky,
For all will be sunshine and gladness,
With never a sob or a sigh.
Refrain:
I’m bound for that beautiful city,
My Lord has prepared for His own;
Where all the redeemed of all ages
Sing Glory! around the white throne;
Sometimes I grow homesick for Heaven,
And the glories I there shall behold;
What a joy that will be when my Savior I see,
In that beautiful city of gold.
2 We’ll never pay rent for our mansion,
The taxes will never come due,
Our garments will never grow threadbare,
But always be fadeless and new,
We’ll never be hungry or thirsty,
Nor languish in poverty there,
For all the rich bounties of Heaven
His sanctified children will share. [Refrain]
3 There’ll never be crepe on the doorknob,
No funeral train in the sky;
No graves on the hillsides of glory,
For there we shall nevermore die.
The old will be young there forever,
Transformed in a moment of time;
Immortal we’ll stand in His likeness,
The stars and the sun to outshine. [Refrain]

**************

I'm remembering also tonight the words of Jayapradha, who sometimes sees things invisible to the rest of us.  Here's a quote from a blog post I wrote about it almost a year ago:   "It was after she had died that she told Lois that she had seen God taking Mom into heaven's Holy of Holys.  She also said, "I saw the Savior and the angels welcoming her, and the angels were really, really happy."  

That post is here.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Wrapup--Jan. 10, 2015

Two days ago Hiromi was asking "What's wrong with me?  I had knee surgery and don't have any pain."

Today he's asking, "What's wrong with me?  I have so much pain."

I looked askance at him as he trudged around inside the house on the first day after surgery, even eschewing his crutches part of the time.  He parked in front of the computer quite a long time.  He ate at the table and washed dishes afterward.  The cold pack machine sat unused a good part of the day.  I didn't nag though.  Now I think I probably should have.

On Saturday he was up and at it again early in the day, but things started heading south soon afterward.  I ended up bringing all his meals to the bedroom.  Every time he needed to get out of bed, I unhooked the cooling tubes that were fastened in place under his bandage, and I hooked them  up again when he returned.  I manually lifted his leg off the pillow and lowered it ever-so-gently to the floor, and then lifted it back up again onto the pillow when he returned.  I adjusted the pillow under his leg just so and placed four layers of covers carefully over him after he was all hooked up.  Over and over, all day and all night and all day today, filling the "ice chest" ("cold-pack" machine) with new chunks of ice and refilling the containers for the freezer.  He moved very slowly and painfully on crutches.

At the 5:00 AM commotion I asked him if he'd like for me to stay home from church.  "That would be convenient," he said, which is as close as he's likely to get to requiring such a thing of me.  I knew it was way too early (while at the same time being too late) to call someone about not being able to teach my Sunday School class, but I sent one of the superintendents a Facebook message telling him I wouldn't be able to teach today.  He responded a little after 7:00, saying they'll take care of it.  I suppose that meant his wife would teach the class.  She's the appointed substitute.

I felt really bad for springing this nasty surprise on someone else.  I was a bit consoled when I remembered that my brother had once last year asked me to teach a class within the last half hour before Sunday School started.  I actually wasn't too inconvenienced by that, and hoped maybe Cynthia was similarly inconvenienced.

I did go ahead and make notes just as if I had been teaching and ended up emailing them to Brian's house, after he invited me to do so.  Then I prayed for the substitute, and kept right on working here at home until 9:30 when I called the conference line and listened to the devotions and singing.  Later I dialed in again and heard the share time, announcements and sermon. I really appreciate this way of being able to participate in the service at a distance.

************

Tonight Grant's family came and retrieved Buck, the puppy we "babysat" for them while they were traveling.  I'm sure Barney will  miss him.  They lit up each others' lives and no doubt helped each other stay warm on frigid nights.

************

This morning it was three degrees above zero--the coldest temperature of the season so far.

************

Hiromi's niece, Bev, who will turn 60 this year, posted this on Facebook on December 31:

I ran 1,157 miles this year ... ran in 72 races including 2 triathlons, 18 half marathons, one 25k, and numerous 15k's, 10k's, 5k's, 10 miles, etc. What a fabulous year! Thanks to EVERYONE who was a part of it! Can't wait to see what 2016 brings! My goal is 19 half marathons, 1 full marathon and as many races as I can possibly do!

She got a kick out of hearing about a conversation between her high-school-aged step-grandson and his friend, who boasted that his mom had run a 5K race.  The grandson's response?  "My grandma runs marathons."  Does she ever.

"It's a sickness," she joked when we talked on New Year's Day about her running.  She noted further that it's not the cheap sport that some think it is.  Most races have entry fees, and the gear for running can be expensive and in frequent need of replacement.  Bev runs in some exotic locations, and hopes to celebrate her 60th birthday with a race in Paris.  Travel to those places and meals and lodging while there is part of the expense.

She has an office job with the city of Hutchinson.

****************

Sheila Graber got married on Friday night to Dylan Hodson.  They are both attending school in Wichita.  After they graduate this spring, she goes on to school to become a physician's assistant.  His major is accounting.

Sheila graduated from Pilgrim seven years ago during the year I was on sabbatical.

At the wedding reception, we snacked on flavorful pretzels and made s'mores over canned heat in clay flower pots at the tables while we waited to be served sandwiches.  It was a fun way to pass the time.

****************

One of Hiromi's ways of biding his time since the knee surgery is to listen to stories told by professional Japanese story tellers.  Hiromi finds them funny and fascinating.  I have no idea what they're about, but I am quite entertained by the vocal sound effects.  I may or may not have deduced what was happening and said, "Someone get that guy to a bathroom. Quick."

****************

Hiromi and I have a little post-surgery tradition going.  I rather like it, but I'd give it up gladly if we never had another need for surgery.

On Thursday, after we left Surgicare of Wichita, which is an outpatient surgery center, we drove to the Dillons store on Rock Road.  I went inside and purchased two sushi trays, one for each of us.  We ate it in the car.  We did the same thing when Hiromi had surgery ten years ago on the other knee.  In May when I had surgery we actually drove to the Dillons store in Hutchinson for our sushi.  The timing worked out right to eat closer to home, and we had to fill a prescription in Hutchinson anyway.

I don't know how many times Hiromi said on the way home on Thursday, "That sushi was good!"  If I had had any openness to doing so, I think he would have been happy to have me turn around and go back for more sushi.  If only it were less expensive!

***************

The doctor who performed the knee surgery always prescribes physical therapy as a followup.  Hiromi believes this is a key component of the good recovery he experienced after his earlier surgery.  The first appointment is on Tuesday, five days after the surgery.  The therapist is in Hutchinson.

***************

The orthopedic surgeon had his own knee repaired at some point recently.  He told Hiromi he went back to work the next day.  I suspect he's better at urging other people to take care of themselves than he is at listening when others want him to take care of himself.  He's a big friendly bear of a man whose specialty is knee surgery.

****************

The CASP crew is here again and it's really good to see Marcus and Lois and Dwight and Katie again--from South Carolina and Ohio.  Both couples have been here in the past as cooks/houseparents/crew bosses, etc.  Marcus and Lois have been here six different years.  We haven't yet been introduced to the guys who came, but that will likely happen soon.  I think there are often about ten young men.  They come from many states.  Katie was the big sister of some of my students when I taught school in Ohio.

At the last public report, more participants were still needed for the month of February and March.  If any reader here knows of someone who would be interested, feel free to pass the word.  The work consists of repair, remodeling, and construction.  The project happens in partnership with Interfaith Housing, a charitable organization operating in Hutchinson long before CASP came to town.  Everyone with CASP lives together in a big house in town.  Interfaith  Housing owns the house, which was remodeled by the CASP group one year.

*****************

The first cut flower class will meet this Friday evening in one of the Pilgrim classrooms.  I'm very pleased that this is possible.  I would be happy to see the building used as a community learning center.

****************

I'm on my second reading of The Lean Farm, a new book for 2015.  In essence, it applies to farming the manufacturing principles used most famously by Toyota in Japan.  Efficiency rises almost to an art form in this system, focusing on the elimination of waste in various forms, and allowing production to be customer-driven.  The end result is impressive productivity.  The author, Ben Hartman, lives in northern Indiana, and was mentored by a Mr. Brenneman who has an aluminum trailer factory in Nappanee.

By running a lean operation, the Hartmans have reduced their market garden production area from three acres to one acre and are making more money in less time than before.

Hartman has Amish neighbors and notes ways in which they have traditionally operated with a lean mentality without knowing it had a name.

While I see many things I've done wrong habitually, something about the book feels familiar and right--perhaps because of what has come to me through acquaintance with both Amish and Japanese sensibilities.  Yet, I find myself resisting it a bit as well--just like I did when I read Marie Kondo's book on housekeeping.  Let's just say I'd need a bit of a values reset to get on board fully with all of what is recommended in the interest of efficiency.  I contend that creativity can be harnessed for maximum productivity--not only streamlining ruthlessly and regimenting every part of the process.

I do recommend the book to anyone with an interest in the topic of productivity.  The principles apply to a variety of endeavors.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Going Too Far

In a link liked by a former student of mine who has a military career, I found the gem below--an explanation for puzzling behavior.  I've written before about my own similar observations.  The main point of the article interested me mildly--that further research has redefined the role of some of the military figures involved in the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium and nearby countries in World War II.  The peripheral information interested me more.  The article is from the New York Times and references below one commander named Montgomery:

"Beevor speculates that Montgomery had something like Asperger’s syndrome, and although one shies away from amateur diagnosis, one suspects that he is right. Oblivious almost to the end of the impact of his arrogance, smugness and condescension on others, he nearly brought about his own dismissal on the verge of final victory over Germany."

Montgomery had flung his army down a single road with a bridge across the Rhine River, which proved to be a "Bridge too Far" in the words of an officer, used later as a book and movie title.  

Just maybe Beevor was onto something, and maybe I'm onto something.

The Ruckus in Oregon

Today was the first day that I spent more than a few minutes glancing over news about the ruckus in Oregon over the prison sentence of a father and son, Dwight and Steve Hammond, now about 75 and 46.  They have been convicted of federal arson charges under anti-terrorism laws in relation to setting a fire that burned 139 acres of federal-controlled land.  It was adjacent to ranch land that they owned.  The fire was set intentionally as a back fire--probably so that burning on their own property did not accidentally race through a huge swath of public land, only a small portion on the margin of it.  A group of armed citizens (many of them not from the immediate area) are staging a protracted protest on the site of a local National Wildlife Refuge office.  The Hammonds have just begun to serve their sentence.

Today, after my friend Sharon Nisly posted this link to a speech by the US representative for the region in Oregon that is at the center of the current controversy, I listened to what Mr. Walden had to say and found it reasonable and compelling. He is a Republican.

If anyone doubts the effectiveness of simply telling stories to make a point, listening to Mr. Walden should remove all doubt.  Not just any stories, of course, but stories that illustrate the soundness of the position being explained and defended.  I especially liked how he "told it like it is" to be a resident of a sparsely populated area, and to have connections to the land of one's residence in a way that is hard for people to understand who have never experienced it--in short, to live in the culture of the Great American West.  These are folks who love the land passionately and care for it painstakingly.

I liked too how he defended his constituents as decent people, freely acknowledging that the armed protest should stop now and people should go home (out of Oregon, in many cases), since their point has been made.  By doing this he distanced himself--appropriately, in my opinion--from the Bundy men from Nevada who have been in armed conflict with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the past.  They refused to pay the federal government for the privilege of grazing their livestock on government land as they were asked to do.  They still have not paid up, and their cattle still graze those lands.  The federal government backed down in that case.

Walden also traced the sequence of events that began in the Clinton administration when the federal government began to move toward designating the Steens Mountain area in Harney County, OR as a National Monument.  A National Monument is similar to a National Park but can be created by presidential decree within any lands already owned by the federal government.  This would have triggered a level of federal control that local residents were not happy with.  Walden was able to persuade the Secretary of the Interior at the time that if he gave local people a chance to put together a plan that would preserve the natural beauty of Steens Mountain, they'd do a good job.  They did it, by congressional legislation creating a history-making partnership between local citizens and the federal government.  With local input, the Steens Mountain area became cow-free land, even though ranches surrounded it. The BLM within the Deptartment of the Interior approved--for a while.

Since the original agreement, many hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land have been burned in wildfires.  The amount makes the 139 acres the Hammonds burned look like a pittance in comparison.  In the course of fighting these fires, sometimes private land has intentionally been the site of backfires designed to stop the wildfires on public land.  Burning of ranch fences were a result, and public servants had set those fires without permission from the landowners.  Walden wisely acknowledges that fighting a fire is often chaotic, and unintended consequences sometimes result, but he is unhappy that the same generosity extended by residents to these public servants is not offered to the residents by government officials.  I can understand why it seems unfair.

This is actually the second time that the Hammonds have gone to prison over a single incident.  The first time the sentence was short, imposed by a judge who intentionally departed from sentencing guidelines because he believed that the guidelines called for a sentence out of proportion to their crime.  Despite being a very highly respected judge, his ruling was challenged and the challenge prevailed (he actually had no leeway to depart from the guidelines) and the stiffer sentence was exacted.   Now elderly Susie Hammonds is left to manage the arid 6,000-acre ranch alone, and the controversy near her home continues to fester.  God bless her.



 




Sunday, January 03, 2016

Weekend Chuckles

Hiromi bought a pair of short pants to wear when he has his knee surgery this week--the attire the pre-op literature designated as proper for the procedure.  He's not used to making such purchases and wasn't sure that the "Large" size he bought was the right one--although his waist size was within the range listed on the tag.  So he prudently decided to try them on for size after he got them home.

We both collapsed in giggles when the first attempt resulted in having two of Hiromi's legs inside one shorts-leg.  It was a decisive answer to Hiromi's indecision.  The shorts are being exchanged for a smaller size.

***************

The other chuckle came from the Budget, courtesy of my sister-in-law Brenda's uncle Enos Stutzman.  In a year-end reflection he noted that at the beginning of 2015 one of his goals was to lose ten pounds.  Near the end of the year he wrote this:  "I have only 15 pounds left to go."  

Friday, January 01, 2016

Year-end Post

My brain started churning out a year-end post after I read through several such columns on the editorial page of our daily paper.  It's most of a day later and I'll see if I can gather up the bits that occurred to me then and make them hold still long enough to pass them on.  I'll start with the gloomies--the griefs and disappointments--just to defy the recommendation for how to catch and hold a reader's interest.

This year brought personal grief, personal health crisis, and disappointment.  My  mother's death in January and my brother-in-law Matthew's death in March stand out.  My own cancer diagnosis and surgery at the end of a busy school year was the closest-home incidence of illness--except I never did really feel bad before surgery.  Now, at the end of the year, our dear church sister, Twila, is undergoing treatment for cancer also--with a more grave prognosis than mine.  My dad has enlarged lymph glands, which are a concern to his oncologist.  Hiromi has a knee in need of surgery, scheduled for next week.  Ageing is robbing people around me of much that they treasure, and it's hard to watch.

I'll hurry through the disappointment section, although I think this could be the longest one of all.  I'm disappointed in Christians, many of whom I loved and trusted.  I cringe when they show the world a small-minded, ungenerous, and selfish side--often as part of maintaining partisan political loyalties and agendas.  I hate when power is abused and ordinary people suffer because of it.  I hate seeing hedonism embraced.  I dislike seeing loved ones indulging in vices or misguided pursuits, and rejecting help that is offered.  I'm disappointed in some non-Christians too, but I expect less of them to start with, so the pain of unmet hopes is less acute.

Now, on to better things.  I now own a camera that I'm slowly learning to use.  I also own a Kindle with which I am unfortunately stuck in learning how to use.  I've had some enjoyable opportunities to learn and serve.  I'm not sure how to list those without displaying false Anabaptist humility.

Dreaming of big improvements and making small improvements to the house, garden, and yard have been gratifying.  A successful fall garden was very nice.  Snuggling and interacting otherwise with grandbabies and toddlers is a special kind of pleasure.  I loved how the church trustees invited input from the church people in planning the new kitchen and then honored what they heard.

I like that Grant was able to find a new job he enjoys (although I could easily worry for his safety if I was so inclined), and Shane's business is growing and providing income for a number of families--as well as an investment opportunity for many more individuals and homes for many families--85? of them.  I love thinking about Joel's family coming home in April.

I was really happy to be able to spend time with my extended parental family several times this past year.  I always marvel at how smart and funny these people are.  (Nothing like a new Trivia game to drive home the point that I'm quickly left in the dust on many matters.  Myron, on the other hand--he's easy not to like much during a Trivia game.  He even gets sports and entertainment questions right.) I participate in what's going on, but mostly look on and listen and laugh at appropriate times.  I liked that Linda and Lois played Scrabble with me on Christmas Day.  I like that Shane and Dorcas are hosting the annual Iwashige family New Year's Day Japanese food extravaganza this year--tomorrow, one day late since Hiromi had to work today.

And with those warm fuzzy feelings I'll sign off and go to bed.