Saturday, October 31, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

I will blog about my most excellent bible study class, but I have to get my halloween post out lest I lose the seasonal applicability. What a hoot, this is the first time in several years I get to celebrate the thing properly. We've always had something going on or had to take the kids somewhere so if the trick or treaters weren't at our house by 6PM they would miss out. I had visions of toilet paper, or tricks even worse than the ones I had the misfortune to play as a kid, waiting for me when we got home. So far we've been lucky and no damage has been done to our house.

This year my wife didn't have to work so she took the kids and I got to stay home which is my definite preference. Let me first explain we have extremely busy lives, and I mean extreme. We have our calendar booked with so many things and we continue to add more, like we're going for some insane Guinness record. We really don't know most days if we're coming or going. Thankfully, my wife and I are both really good organizers. Mostly due to necessity. Our methods of organization do differ dramatically. If you remember the book, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," that kind of explains the situation. But everything always seems to work out, she usually remembers things I don't and every once in awhile I remember something she didn't. (I love it when that happens)

This weekend was a case in point. We recently purchased a NordicTrack A2350 with Universal Dock for iPod(r). That's right, ladies and gentlemen, the Meissners are officially on a health kick. This is our 2nd treadmill purchase. The first one having crashed and burned years ago. It was a hernia operation dragging that thing to the dump let me tell you. I swore that was the last fool piece of exercise equipment I would ever buy. I know I'm not supposed to swear, but forgive me, I just got done hauling that thing to the dump.

In my 21+ years of marital bliss we have purchased exceedingly more expensive and gimmicky exercise machines. The former treadmill behemoth was the last proverbial straw. I only wish it would have weighed as much as a piece of straw. You know how exercise machines work, you use them heavily for a couple weeks, then they sit and collect dust. They are awful expensive dust collectors. Every once in awhile the fitness bug bites and you start using it again only to stop once the bug bite heals.

We used the last one off and on, granted for many years, then it started to wear out. What made me the most angry was that the treadmill didn't wear out, it was the fancy electronic garbage that failed. Something that can't be fixed cheaply, nor is it something that is truly needed. The electronic bells and whistles don't get used that often and really are just more chances for something to break. I would like to say again this new one is the last piece of exercise equipment I will buy, but that is probably an exercise (pun not intended) in futility.

Back to my story, Friday morning I had to take the van (not my usual vehicle) because I had to pick up the treadmill. I went to the store to get the machine. The guy tried to scare me into the maintenance contract but I wasn't falling for that again. I've been fleeced over by those way too many times. He was persistent, so I had to give him the hairy eyeball and say I was not interested and please process my transaction, thank you.

The next hurdle was finding out my store credit card expired due to lack of use. Go figure, we're trying very hard to stop buying what we can't pay for. So then I had to go through the exercise (pun intended this time) of finding my driver's license and signing a bunch of carbon copies to get the transaction through. Then, weighed down with all my paper (receipt, rebate receipt and info, credit card forms, etc...) I proceeded to the merchandise loading gate.

I'm a computer geek and I love self-service computer terminals. This one is very good, the scanner works well, the computer voice almost sounds like a real person, and my wait time was a lightning fast 23 seconds. I still can't believe they were able to wheel that thing out so quickly. They had to have been forewarned.

If you haven't had experience with treadmills, they really do weigh an enormous amount. The two of us could barely slide that thing into the van. But we "GOT'ER DONE!" and I was off to take it home, very worried how I was going to unload the cargo into the garage. I needn't have worried. Unloading is much easier than loading. I got a little cranky when I noticed the "this end up" arrow was upside down in my van. The loading guy should have known better. So then I had to maneuver the thing so it was right side up in my garage. By some extremely weird coincidence, the fact I had to rotate the box made it very easy to unload. Almost of it's own volition, it very gracefully slid out of the van onto the floor, right-side up. Perhaps the loading guy had that choreographed when we put it in the van.

Then, I had to race back to work and try and get a days labor done in a couple hours so I could leave early to get to my bible study class in Jamestown. My wife really doesn't like my vehicle so we had to swap. It's crazy how productive we suddenly become with a little motivation. I think I not only did a days work but almost half another day as well. Somehow I made it on time to the swap location at the Rockin' McDonald's parking lot. I packed everything the night before so it was waiting for me in the trunk of my car, but I still had a bunch of items to swap anyway and my wife had a few things as well.

We said our goodbyes, "bye honey, miss you already!", and she was off to pick up the kids from school and take them to Grandma's so she could go back to work for her 2nd shift. I went through drive-thru and got 2 McDoubles(extra pickles) and a large Mello-Yellow. I loaded up with gas and headed East.

I had a great, but exhausting class and raced back home tonight, all hallows eve. I didn't plan on talking so much about the treadmill but it comes in to play during my halloween shenanigans, so you'll have to wait for a part 2. Don't worry I will not keep you waiting long. Halloween is almost over after all. Don't get spooked!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Love Thine Enemies?

I recently finished reading the textbook for a lay speaking class I'm taking this weekend. The class is called, "Lay leaders lead bible study." I have to take a class at least once every three years to maintain my certification. The classes have always been extremely good. I like them because they not only make me a better lay leader in the church (I hope). But they make me a better person as well.

The textbook is called, "Introducing the Bible," by William Barclay. What a read! This book answered so many questions I've had about the bible over the years and really cleared some things up. At the same time, it made my daily scripture readings much more personal and meaningful than they ever have been.

I could write another 6-part series and bore you to death, but I'll try very hard to focus on just one thing. Jesus' command for us to love our enemies.

The textbook got into some really nasty scripture verses in the ancient history of the old testament. Bitter rivalries and feuds would occur just because of an insult or something trivial. It's like if you would call someone a dummy, they would retaliate and kill not just you but maybe your spouse, children, and even your livestock if they wanted to be really vicious. Then your family would have to avenge in turn with even more dramatic consequences. These feuds would last for generations until no one remembered why the fight started in the first place.

God didn't care for this so much so he initiated the "eye for an eye" method. If you poked someones eye out, accidentally or intentionally, they got to poke your eye out. If you killed someone, I'm sorry to say your life would be forfeit as well. This still sounds rather bloody but if you take it in context, you have to admit, it's a lot better than the family feuding. Once equal damage had been delivered the matter was considered closed. Justice was served. The generational wars didn't happen as often.

Then Jesus comes along and tells us now we have to love our enemies. Talk about a huge, ginormous, cultural shift from the eye for an eye method. You may begin to see why this message shocked the world so much back then. It was a very different way of life than the people had been used to. I can just see someone raising their hand to ask a question, "Excuse me, teacher, I have to turn my other cheek and let them slap that too? Can't I just give them a good pinch and call it good?"

No, I'm afraid not. Loving our enemies can be extremely hard to do. I am lousy at this. Especially when I get behind the wheel. It would seem everyone is now my enemy when they prevent me from making it to my destination on time, or cut me off unnecessarily. Another peeve of mine is people who don't practice good coffee making etiquette at work. It's such a simple rule, "If you drink it, make it."

I was a spectator at a Toastmasters competition awhile back. The event was impromptu speaking. You are given a quote and you have a couple seconds to respond with up to a 2-minute comment. The quote for that event was when Abe Lincoln apparently said, "keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer."

It is words like these that put Lincoln in my top 3 list of favorite presidents. I was reminded of the Toastmasters event because my textbook also quoted Lincoln. Towards the end of the Civil War, he stressed kind and respectful treatment of the southern states. He was rebuked by his supporters as to why he was being so nice to the enemy.

Lincoln's response was, "do I not effectively get rid of my enemies when I make them my friends?"

I believe Lincoln understood the wisdom behind loving your enemies. My number one commentator on this blog says I've now gone from preaching to meddling. Yes I have. But I'm also meddling with myself as well. "Love your enemies" is arguably the most difficult command Jesus has given us. Some people seem impossible to love. My good commentator said he thinks he's over something only to have the old wound re-opened in a different way. I am extremely familiar with old wounds being re-opened. There are times I truly stink at being nice to people, enemies or not.

However, the value lies in the attempt at loving and forgiveness, whether or not we are successful is not as important as the act of at least trying.

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

Wish me luck at my class this weekend.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The View From My Office Window

I hope my pastor is reading this. For months after the ND Game & Fish Department opened a season on Mountain Lions he would constantly chastise me and my employer for killing these magnificent creatures. I told him the reason we have a limited harvest of these magnificent creatures is so that they don't invite themselves into your home for dinner.

My pastor is not alone. The Game & Fish Department has gotten a lot of comments that range the whole spectrum from people that don't want any Mountain Lions in the state to people that cannot believe we allow people to kill them.

The truth is the ND Game & Fish Department appreciates these creatures also and believes that the southwest corner of our state has the necessary habitat to support a limited population. But we don't particularly want them outside of this habitat nor do we want the population to exceed the capacity of the habitat we have.

So we have a season on them for a couple reasons. First it assists us in managing the population to tolerable levels so that the animals and people can share this great state we live in. It also helps us keep them out of areas in the state that do not have suitable habitat. The season also allows us to study these creatures to learn more about them to help us in managing the population further.

You may be asking what on earth does this have to do with my office window. As you may have guessed, my office does have a window, but it does not look outside. Instead it overlooks our atrium where we have a variety of static displays of various animals and their habitat. Up until a few months ago the view outside my window consisted of the hind quarters of 2 bighorn sheep.

I don't particularly have any problem with these animals, but it's not the most exciting view. A few months ago, however, this view was changed somewhat.

The Game & Fish Department came into possession of a Mountain Lion that had been inadvertently taken by a nonresident hunter. We had the animal mounted and it was most obligingly placed so as to present a perfect view from my window. Since my computer faces the window I can stare at it as often as I like. It's the first thing I see when I turn on my light in the morning. It's like I have a kind of watch cat that guards my inner sanctum from unwelcome guests

This is the view I have now. I'm much more happy with this compared to the sheep. If you know me well enough you will understand that cats are not my favorite animals. I really kind of detest them. However, this dislike only applies to the house cat variety. The big, vicious cats I truly admire. They are quite extraordinary.

This particular cat was taken in Billings county in December of 2007. It was accidentally snared in a bobcat trap.

So, if you ever decide to visit me at work. Beware of cat!