Friday, November 27, 2009

PREMATURE BAPTISM

At breakfast Father announced, "Let's get things moving. Camp meeting starts today. Arnold, you can help me get the trailer hooked up to the car while mother gathers the stuff together."

"Yes sir," I quickly responded.

The trailer was not a creation of beauty. My Uncle Earl had salvaged it from the back portion of an old pickup truck. A tongue attached it to the 1929 Chevy to haul everything from hay to manure. Cleaned up as well as it could be, it was utilitarian and no showpiece.

"Let's pile the beds in first," counseled Father, "They will create a platform for the rest of the load. " These were simply two by fours with narrow gauged wire mesh fastened to them but no coiled springs. Set on blocks, they developed the shape of a hammock as the week progressed. The straw with which we would stuff the ticks would soon flatten out and fail to provide cushioning. The poles and tent came next followed by a crude table to rest on sawhorses. A couple of benches to sit on completed the furniture.

Food for ten days was accumulated from the garden, not the grocery store. The results of a flurry of baking were placed in special boxes to protect them from getting damaged. From the basement came jars of meat, vegetables and fruits that had been preserved. Of course the home-cured ham and bacon were placed with care. All of the heavier items were placed in the center of the load.

"Be careful with the glass jars," cautioned Grandma. "You'll be glad for the berries we picked back on the hill."

"Come get the milk now," called mother. *Father will have to come home to do the milking. I wish he didn't have to make so many trips but the cows won't wait."

"Put the bedclothes on top of the food. They will help keep it cooler," suggested Mother. "Arnold. Bring out the clean clothes. Don't get them all wrinkled. There isn't a way we can get them clean at camp."

"Time to button it all up," urged Father as he loaded the old oil stove on behind. "We'll need to get started since I will have to come back to milk. I think the mended tarp will cover most of the load."

The sun was beating down on the loaded trailer as Grandma expressed her concerns. "Elmer, it's beginning to look like rain in the west."

"It looks like it will go north of us if it does come this direction. It might be just a sprinkle," Father predicted.

Grandma didn't agree with Father. "Everything is going to get soaked.'

"Everybody in the car," Father urged. He was in the driver's seat. The car was crammed with everyone in. No trunk was available for this vintage car.

"We're off," I shouted ecstatically.

"Quiet down, now. I think Irving is going to sleep," shushed Mother

Rumblings in the back seat and in the sky continued as we made it to East Otto Corners and passed though Otto. Then, just as we were starting to climb the steep hill into Cattaraugus, the storm broke in its fury. Father coaxed the overloaded rig over the brow of the hill and pulled to the side of the street. Seeing anything through the windshield had become impossible. The brightness of the lightning flashes was matched with almost immediate detonations of thunder. Fierce gusts swirled the drenching rain against the car. Water spurted around the cracks of the doors and windows, wetting much of the contents, Wind brought down branches in front of and behind the vehicles.

Suddenly all was still. No thunder. No rain. No wind. Yet water stood six inches deep on the level, providing mute testimony to the recent storm.

Father was remarkably quiet. Mother passed up the opportunity to say, "I told you so." Father started the car and proceeded to South Dayton with no further incident.

Upon our arrival we had difficulty explaining the soaked equipage. No rain or sign of storm had been observed at the camp. The big task was trying to salvage the goods that had been so generously baptized at the beginning instead of the end of camp. Setting up a wet tent and drying out the bedding and clothing took precious time. Most of the food was kept safe so that when the table and benches were set up, Father had something good for which to thank the Lord.

by Arnold

BELITTLING THE GIFT

In the process of "raising an offering," the minister fervently exhorted the congregation: "The least you can do is to give your money." Is this appeal biblical or Christian? I would answer: "No." Here are my reasons:

FIRST, what is money? Except for coins containing precious metals that have value apart from their assigned coinage designations, money is a medium of exchange. While it may be literally just a piece of paper, its ready acceptance in exchange for goods or services does much to simplify these transactions. Before the advent of money, barter was the cumbersome way to accomplish exchanges of value.

For the committed Christian, the convenience of money as a medium of exchange permits many wonderful results to occur. The workers who cut wood, grow cabbage, or form loaves in a bakery would experience great difficulty in directly sharing the fruit of their labors with people in foreign lands for whom they feel compassion. Inappropriateness of the product to match the need, spoilage in transit, transportation costs and difficulties involved and red tape due to export/import regulations severely limit the direct sharing of the product. Even within the same country, the outcome of the direct contribution of goods can alienate the recipient.

While I was a student at Greenville College in 1942, a farmer who was an alumnus donated to the college food services a truckload of large, dry, starchy lima beans that he had grown. Soon the question foremost on students' minds at mealtime was not, "What are we having today?" Instead, the query was:" How will they try to prepare them this time?" The generous act of the farmer would have been more appreciated if the beans had been sold and the money so derived had been used to purchase more palatable fare.

A marvelous result of money used as a medium of exchange is the potential to transform the time and effort of her services into medicines that can save the lives of children in Haiti. Or the fireman in Michigan can transform a part of his dedicated service to the community into food for those starving in Ethiopia. Without money as a medium of exchange, such benevolent outcomes would be less effective, regardless of the commitment or motivation of the individual.

SECOND, money is a store of value. As such, this makes possible the accumulation of the fruits of one's efforts in a form that has limited permanence. The Bible is replete with references to the saving and storing for future needs. Money provides a convenient was to store up the results of one's efforts. While conceivably the farmer may literally store the fruits of his fields, the majority of workers today receive compensation in the form of wages or salaries. This money represents value that can be exchanged for items they desire.

So, for the people who earn through the exercise of their physical and mental abilities, money represents an exchange of their time for a store of value. Some might say, that they have exchanged a portion of their lives for money. The hours on the refrigerator assembly line, the hours nursing the sick patient, the hours digging for coal, all are portions of people's lives that they have exchanged for money.

The Bible is explicit in pointing out that time is a precious commodity that can be spent only once. Time is the stuff from which life is made.

Seconds, minutes, hours, days once used cannot be retrieved, but are gone forever. Used for one purpose, they cannot be used for another.

The value of anything should be related to what it represents. When David realized what the container of water drawn from the well in Bethlehem represented in risk to his men, he did not treat it as "just water."

Instead, he offered it as a sacrifice to God. Christ saw the widow's mite for what it represented - and made his judgment accordingly. "...she of her want did cast in all she had, even all her living." Mark 12:44

I am not advocating the exalting of money. It is merely a commodity with the potential for productive or destructive uses. What I would suggest is a clearer understanding on the part of fund raisers for Christian causes.

Money, that represents the sweat, mental effort, the skills, the very lives of the donors, would deserve a higher valuation than "the least they can do."

To belittle it is to depreciate life - one of God's great gifts to man.

by Arnold

UNLIKELY LINKUP

After admiring her from afar for several years, Free Methodist preacher's son Arnold got up courage to ask Betty for a date to Firemen's Field Day at Elba, NY. The outcome of this first date was rather uncertain - kind of up in the air, on a squeaky Ferris wheel. The following week an evening together at Hamlin Beach State Park convinced both that this attraction was for real and had a future.

The next year was one of progress evidenced by valentine sentiments:
One year - "Honest Injun, I like you"
The next - "Valentine Greetings to My Sweetheart "

Father's 1937 Pontiac served as our link between Albion, NY, where father was pastor, and Elba, NY, 14 miles to the south, making as many trips as gas rationing would permit.

Betty graduated as salutatorian of her class at Elba Central School while Arnold received his BA from Houghton College. World War II reflected some disruptions as Arnold worked for Bell Aircraft Corp. in Buffalo, NY and Burlington, VT. Betty concluded business school was not for her and became employed by Montgomery Ward in Batavia, NY.

Betty made a trip to Burlington with Arnold's parents in the fall of 1942 at which time Arnold and Betty became engaged.

On June 14, Arnold drove his 1938 twelve-cylinder Lincoln Zephyr from Burlington, VT to Schenectady, NY and took the train the rest of the way to Batavia, NY for the wedding on June 18, 1945. The ceremony took place at Betty's home. Arnold's father, Rev. Elmer J. Cook, administered the vows.

They left on the train that evening for a honeymoon in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Unexpected excitement included being stranded in a cable car on Cannon Mountain during a thunderstorm and almost losing Betty over the falls in the Flume gorge.

Returning to Western New York after the close of WW II, they moved into Grandpa Cook's tenant house on Weatherwax Rd in Elba. The big events there were the arrival of three children: Bettina Marie on April 27, 1946, Danny Leigh on June 14, 1948 and Judith Elaine on May 6, 1950.

After working for seven years at Oakfield & Elba Growers, they were led by God to seek a new place of service in helping to start a new FM church. On May ___, 1953, the1948 Hudson with a small baggage trailer headed west towards the State of Washington. Meals along the road prepared from the trailer side compartments were the norm.

Being stuck in Yellowstone during a blizzard was not on the planned time schedule, but made seeing the park a unique experience.

Upon our arrival in Ellensburg, WA just ahead of Memorial Day, Harold and Alta Overland graciously made us welcome and helped us find a place to live.

The first Sunday was organizational meeting for Mountain View Free Methodist Church by Rev. Lyle Northrup and we became charter members

Over the next seven years multiple roles in this growing church kept us very busy. One unique feature was the annual celebration of the church's birthday.

Boyd, Olofson & Co, CPA's move to a new office building and Arnold's achieving the desired certification were highlights of professional progress.

On the home front, building a new house with a view of the Cascades was a rewarding experience. A fireplace, knotty pine paneling, and cork tiled floors made it a place of warmth and welcome.

Betty's keen interest in alpine flowers prompted her to start college at Central Washington University at age twenty-eight. Majoring in botany, she managed well the dual role of full-time student and housewife without slighting the family.

Family expeditions into the out of doors such as snowshoeing, hiking and camping further developed the love of this Pacific Northwest.

When overtures kept coming to start the business administration department at Houghton College, the response was negative for a number of reasons. Among them were our church responsibilities to which God had called us, the love of the country and Betty's need to complete her degree.

In the fall of 1959, God made crystal clear that the move was His plan for us. This set in motion the series of near-miracles that included the sale of the house, the car and critical timing that had us boarding the Milwaukee train on August 15, 1960, heading back East.

The challenge of making an old house livable, setting up a curriculum for the new department and preparing to teach courses I had never taken seemed at times almost impossible. If God had not so clearly directed and sustained, carrying this out would have been impossible.

Betty completed her BS degree at Houghton College although it took an additional year due to added requirements.

The Department of Business Administration & Economics grew with fine students who have done credit to the institution in areas of commerce, church administration and health care fields. Faculty gradually was added, with a number who had been graduates of the department.

Taking sabbatical leave in the fall of 1969, Arnold earned a Master's degree at East Tennessee State University in just one year.

While teaching in public school, Betty spent summers doing graduate work at St. Bonaventure University. She started teaching botany/biology at Houghton College in 1964 and in 1972 was awarded her MS degree.

Building another house became a possibility in 1971 when we purchased the old reservoir from Houghton College. Son Dan was available to oversee the unusual project of raising the roof and framing a home over a basement 34X70 and 13 feet deep.

The resulting structure served well with students welcomed there for a variety of activities.

Dan left for Warm Beach Camp in Washington State in June of 1972 where he served for several years until going to Haiti for Compassion, Int.

Due to his presence there, we made seven trips to that impoverished land' forever changing us. Bringing some of this challenge back to our classrooms had a broader impact on our students.

Highlights of our teaching careers were the two sabbaticals we had in New Zealand in 1979 and 1985. NZ stands out as one of the most beautiful countries on earth.

Leaving in 1960 the Pacific Northwest that we so much enjoyed was difficult. But 32 years later in 1992 God and our son Dan made our return there a reality. We have had 13 years of enjoying his house just around the corner from the church and camp.

Seeing much more of the West as well as the East has been possible with our little Winnebago Warrior. It has now been in 49 states and all of the Canadian provinces.

Being limited in the opportunity we have had available to be with our scattered family has made those occasions especially meaningful. Special highlights have been many: weddings, births, graduations, birthdays and the like.

How did we so suddenly evolve from married couple to parents to grandparents to great grandparents? Events moved by all too quickly.

With our 60th wedding anniversary approaching in June of 2005, a decision was reached to visit all family members during the month of May. Amtrak was the chosen mode of travel to Colorado, Washington DC, Florida, New York and Michigan. The 10,000-mile trip circuit accomplished its intended purpose in spite of unexpected variations along the route. At this stage in life we give thanks for family and friends who mean so much to us.

by Arnold

TRANSFORMATION

It was New Year's Eve with the temperature hovering around zero. Even inside the church was cool. The water in the baptistery was chilly, The congregation in the Baptist Church in Elba, New York was hushed as the next person to be baptized stepped into the pool. Betty had been at Bible Camp that summer and had received Christ, The officiating minister, a relatively small man, positioned her to be submerged. Then it happened. He lost his hold as her head went down beneath the surface. She ingested enough water to cause her to choke. After a few anxious moments passed, Betty recovered her balance and appeared to be all right. The next person stepped forward as the ceremony proceeded as planned.

*****

The weather had been hot in Burlington, Vermont so I suggested that we go to the beach. Betty heartily agreed but specified that we go to the special bay on Lake Champlain where it was private. We decided to go in the water before we ate our supper. We splashed around and were having fun. The water was warm and the slope of the beach stretched out several hundred feet before it reached our heads. I surprised Betty by pulling her legs out from under her. Immediately she panicked. Her cries of distress got my attention. After calming down enough to explain her plight, she told me then that getting her head under water was the problem. From that time on I was especially careful about submerging her head. The flashback of the baptism experience had long lasting effects that persisted far after the event.

*****

"Cynthia will be vacationing in Hawaii for two weeks. Who is going to lead our group?" was the question raised by the members who showed up in Beachwood at the Warm Beach pool that Monday morning.

"We want Betty," was the group response. "We all can hear what she tells us," was the consensus of opinion.

"Let's get started then. Let us get started," Alma encouraged.

Something remarkable must have occurred since those earlier experiences. Is this the same person? How could this happen?

*****

On a warm summer afternoon as I was tending garden behind the house on Weatherwax Road near Elba, New York, I heard Betty scream. At once I hurried to discover the cause of her concern. All kinds of dire images came to my mind. Had she fallen? Was Tina, our baby, injured?

As I rounded the corner of the porch I beheld Betty shaking visibly. Her hand was pointing at the step to the porch. There it was. A snake just over a foot long was trying to climb the step;

"Is that your problem?" I asked, relieved and amused.

"Kill it with the hoe," she urged me as it was still in my hand from cultivating.

"But it's just a little garter snake. It won't hurt anyone," I suggested.

"I want it dead so the baby won't be bitten. Please cut off its head right now or I won't come down to the yard."

Faced with this ultimatum, I weakened and with the hoe I did as she wished. Taking the lifeless body of the snake, I carried it out to the garden and buried it before returning to cultivating the beans.

*****

Betty was teaching her lab class in Biology at Fillmore Central School. All seemed to be in order until one of the boys sent the girls into a panic. He held a small snake in his hands with which he scared the girls. Betty literally took matters into her hands.

"Give it to me," she demanded.

When the boy handed her the snake, she calmly pocketed it in the white lab coat.
"Now let's get back to work," she ordered the students.

The rest of the day the students observed her. The grass snake stayed snuggled up in her pocket until dismissal time. She told the boy who had caused the trouble to see her before leaving.

"Young man," she warned him, "Take the snake back to where you found it. And don't repeat this action."

From this point on her discipline problems were minor.

*****

It was a warm day in June when Betty was working around the flowers that bordered the walk on Centerville Road in Houghton. I heard her talking away but saw no one to whom she was speaking. Curious, I went to the porch to find the recipient of her conversation.

"Are you talking to yourself?' I kidded her.

"No. My dialog is with my little friend, Oscar. He is often out here with me and keeps me company. He wriggles along and I talk with him. He lives in the drainpipe that runs under the walk. He's a friendly little snake," she remarked. "I like has attention."

A few days later I noted a wriggling mass of tiny snakes inhabiting the climbing juniper by the step. Mama snake was proudly showing off her brood. When I showed them to Betty, I suggested a change in name, "Why not refer to it now by the name of Oscarette?"

*****

So what can I decide about my wife of sixty-three years?

I now believe that she can change and maintain a wholesome attitude towards a variety of ideas. I interpret this as wisdom.

by Arnold

SUSPENDED ON A CABLE

"Where would you like to go today? Is there a different1 place you would like to see?" I asked my bride of three days.

"Is there a mountain we could climb?" Betty inquired.

"Cannon Mountain has always interested me since reading The Great Stone Face by Nathaniel Hawthorne," was my response.

"What was the theme of the story? It sounds fascinating," pursued Betty.

"A boy named Ernest grew up in a valley near the foot of the mountain. He spent
a lot of his time looking at the face of a man that was sculptured along the crest. According to the legend a notable man would come to the valley who was wise, kind and who loved all living creatures. His physical appearance would be like that of the old man of the mountain. The first to be seen as the personage was a merchant. His name was Gathergold "

"Was he the man?" Betty asked.

"He lacked kindness. Soon the people realized that his love of money disqualified him. The second person who gained attention was a general referred to by the townspeople as Old Blood and Thunder. He had a strong will but not the wisdom of the Great Stone Face." Arnold continued.

"But didn't anyone else qualify?" persisted Betty.

"The third person to be considered to be a look-a-like for the Great Stone Face was a statesman. He was called Old Stony,"

"Did he have the qualifications?" Betty wanted to guess the right one.

"No. He was shrewd but lacked kindness. It finally came down to Ernest, who through the years had achieved the wisdom and love for the folk of the valley. The people finally realized that Ernest best exemplified the qualities showing forth from the Great Stone Face. Gazing at the face daily through the years had transformed Ernest into the man whom he admired. Let's go and see for ourselves this Great e Face," urged Arnold as he strode toward the car.

The day was warm, the sun lighting up the mountain vistas along the way. We arrived at our destination soon after noon. Suddenly I had an idea. "Why don't we take the gondola to the top of the mountain instead of climbing it?" I suggested.

"Suits me," eagerly responded Betty. "We can look for flowers along the way."

The aerial tramway carried passengers standing in an enclosed car to the terminal near the summit of the peak. The gondola was balanced by a companion unit traveling in the opposite direction. We arrived, eager to go out to the profile top of the peak, which was not visible from the tram station.

"Which direction should we take," asked Betty.

"Let's choose the longer one that circles the top and gives a better view of the face," was my preference.

Our view of the valley below was enchanting. A green-blue lake reflected the sky that at the moment was cloudless. The breeze was fresh from the spruces along the trail, although the patches of flowers slowed Betty's pace as she stopped to identify those she discovered. Time passed as made our leisurely way in the general direction of the great stone face.

Suddenly we became aware of a change in the temperature as a huge dark cloud intruded on the sun's face. A brisk breeze sprung up causing the poplar leaves to curl as a sign of rain. We had carried no umbrella or rain gear.

"Let's hurry back before the storm comes," Betty urged. "There isn't any shelter until we reach the station."

We started off as fast as we could make it along the rocky track. Seeing the face was put on hold as we tried to outrun the imminent storm. Big drops of rain began to fall, as we put on a spurt for the remaining stretch to reach the tram. The space was crowded as others who had been enjoying the mountain came hurrying up. We crowded together, making it a full car. With a full load, the conveyance took off.

A flash of light and the immediate roar of thunder shook the car. The motor at the base that turned the cable ground to a halt. We found ourselves along with a packed car of people swinging helplessly on two cables. The car rocked from side to side as the wind blasts pushed it around like a small boat on a wild sea.

Looking downward we could see threshing trees being twirled by the gusts. The height above the mass of rocks below was some hundred feet or more. As the blast continued the assault on the tram and the thunderstorm raged on, the members of the group grasped the implications should the cables break and drop the entire group on the rocks below. We could do nothing but pray and wait as the rain poured copiously down on the soggy vehicle. The thunder continued its cannonade for over half an hour.

After what seemed like an eternity, the sound of a distant motor could be heard above the din. Gradually the car began to move at a snail's pace as the auxiliary gasoline motor powered the vehicle back down the mountain. The pace was slow but great was the relief of the group as their feet touched the ground. The electric motor that operated the lift had to be repaired before it could be used again.

"Now that the storm has passed, are you game to hike up the mountain to see the great stone face?" I facetiously asked Betty.

"I'm as ready as you are," she responded. "But why don't we wait until the tram is fixed."

by Arnold

CERTAINTY - AND THE CLOSED MIND

Recently at a campground I met a man whom I both respected and pitied. Slightly older than I, he had arrived at the point where he had the complete and final answers to all of life's questions: spiritual, economic, relational and social. Combined with the finality of the sense of having sorted out all of the issues was his eagerness to share this distillation of great wisdom.

The idea of such an achievement fascinated me, for I discover myself to be less and less certain of having arrived at all of the correct answers. I try to sense what it would be like to have achieved this pinnacle of certitude.

Instead of having become a bastion of certainty, I find myself rethinking my prejudices, reviewing some matters about which I had formerly arrived at conclusions. More information and a broader perspective have played a part in this process. New insights leading to modification of prior positions can be both unsettling and exciting. Then I feel pity for someone whose mind has become closed to new ideas, Gone is the thrill of the search. My flash of envy is replaced with sorrow for a life so rigidly boxed, packaged and sealed.

This man's statement, "I see everything in life as black and white, nothing in between," set me musing. I don't want to live in a monochrome world where all is stark contrast. Lost would be the spectrum of rich colors and textures including the rainbow, symbol of promise.

Liberate me from the tyranny of always and only "Either A or B" when for some responses it can be "Both A and B" and even C and D. May I become more sensitive to the subtler hues so that I can detect other than just the primary colors. In photography I have come to realize that changing my vantage point can alter my perception of even physical objects.

To reinforce my thinking on this, I have had a model in my father, a Free Methodist minister all of his adult life. As he became older, instead of increasing rigidity. I saw mellowing. The result was increased effectiveness in reaching needy people, especially youth. Although a proponent of Wesley hymns, he accepted invitations to sit on the hillside and join in chorus singing to the accompaniment of guitars. He officiated at weddings in some atypical settings, such as under a tree at a pond.

No, I'm not advocating departure from "the faith once delivered to the saints." I'm referring to the peripheral matters that, over time, have assumed a focal point of importance they do not deserve. Along with this I want to give others who disagree with me latitude in these areas. May I refrain from forcing my convictions on others or present them in an uncharitable manner.

Today I will seek new insights, even risking my complacency.

by Arnold

"HIS MASTER'S VOICE"

"Come and see what Father brought us," Mother called me to the front door of the parsonage in Brooklyn.

Father was unloading a bulky item from the back seat of our Chevy. Uncovered from an old blanket to protect it from getting marred, there stood a Victrola in all its glory. Emblazoned on the trumpet horn that topped the machine was the image of a black and white dog along with the famous words, "His masters voice". The cabinet was of cherry wood and stood over four feet tall. I was excited to hear it play.

"Let's turn it on," I urged my parents.

"Not so fast," Father cautioned. "I need to obtain a spring to make the turntable move before it can function," he explained.

The reasons the owner had given it to his pastor were two-fold. Electricity had arrived in his area and had not reached out to the country where we lived. He had obtained an electric unit that could play without the need of a spring to drive the record. Secondly, the replacing of the spring that frequently broke or became disconnected was avoided. He was happy to get rid of the troublesome device.

With the victrola in the house, I was anxious to get it working, Father found it would mean a trip to Springville to obtain the part. Next, it would require time to get it installed. When the spring was released from its holder, it suddenly took off like a greasy snake, resisting the attempts to subdue it. Finally we got the new one attached and the player was readied for use.

The instructions for use included the stern warning, "Do not over-wind. Spring may detach or break." Use of needles was also discussed. "It is recommended that the needle be changed after each record." Fortunately the needles were inexpensive and could be purchased for nineteen cents per one hundred. Even at that price one still had to be frugal.

The next concern was what was availarle to play on it. The donor gave Father a few disks to begin with. The artists were mainly the favorites of a classical bent such as Madame Scumann-Heink, Enrico Caruso and the like. Having nothing else as a substitute, I repeatedly played them over and over. Although the recordings were badly worn and damaged, they became fodder for my machine.

For obvious reasons, my parents were glad to have location of the Victrola in the bedroom occupied by my brother Inving and me. The recordings were short - some of them only about three to five minutes. I would try to make them last as long as possible. Over the next four years I was able to purchase a few Christian records including one of the Stamps quartet and a few others whose members I can't recall. During that same time period it became my task to replace the spring again with its coating of black grease.

Then came the fall of 1936 when Father was appointed to be pastor of the Gowanda Free Methodist Church. The myriad changes that this brought included a telephone, a real bathroom, a Servel refrigerator, gas heated hot water, a furnace with gas for fuel instead of wood to cut and split and a 1932 Chrysler to replace the old Chevy. We also purchased a used radio and a new gadget called a record player. No more cranking. Somewhere in the goods we moved was the old Victrola. But from there my memory fails me.

*

It was a brisk winter day in February 2006 when the phone rang noisily. Betty answered it and immediately turned it over to me. "It's for you," she whispered.

The voice on the other end of the line identified the caller as the son of one of my Father's prior parishioners. After a bit of chatter back and forth he finally came to the matter of his phone call.

"Do you remember the old Victrola that you moved from East Otto?" he inquired.

"Certainly," was my reply. "Why do you ask?"

"When clearing out my dad's place, it came to light," was his explanation. "I got to wondering if you would like to have it?"

In my mind I played around with the idea. The mood of nostalgia made it appear to have some attraction for me. Seventy years and here it is again. Cost would be one factor in getting it from Western New York to Washington.

"How could it be transported?" I asked. Naively I had anticipated it would be the major expense as he indicated my Father had given it to his dad.

Then came the bombshell! "I think it could be shipped for about $50.00. That plus $85.00 for me would get you this genuine antique quite reasonably."

My nostalgia cooled immediately. As I thought about the broken greasy spring, and the use I could get from it as a relic from my past, the idea seemed absurd.

"Thanks but no thanks," was my response.

With my stroke occurring just a matter of days later, I now can view the idea in a clearer light. "It's just one more piece of memorabilia I won't have to store. Thank you, Lord!"

by Arnold

ON THE WAY TO THE WEDDING

"Four more days before our wedding," I mused, contemplating the trip back to Western New York.

World War II was very much in progress in June 1945, when Betty decided to set our wedding date for June 18. By then I was living in Burlington, Vermont where I was employed by the Ordnance Division of Bell Aircraft Corporation as cost accountant. Since Betty and her parents attended the Baptist Church, the setting for the wedding would not be the church but at her home on Main Street in Elba, New York. That meant about four hundred miles to travel each way.

Although I had been saving gas ration stamps for months, there was no way my 1938 Lincoln Zephyr would provide transportation to the wedding and still leave an adequate amount for honeymoon. Even though the twelve cylinders were smaller than those in other cars, fifteen miles per gallon was the best it could do.

A telephone call to a garage in Schenectady had assured me a safe place to leave the car until my return. The New York Central's Twentieth Century Limited would take me to Rochester where the Staines brothers would meet me. Following the wedding, we could board the train from Batavia back to pick up the car. According to my careful calculations, that would ensure adequate gas for our honeymoon in the mountains of New Hampshire.

I left Burlington at daybreak on Friday morning, June15. The road took me down the east side of Lake Champlain to Crown Point and Ticonderoga. My decision there was to go down the western side of Lake George with the Adirondack Mountains to the west. In this trough between the lake and the mountains the weather had turned sultry. Autos of this vintage were pre-refrigeration. Out on the lake the boats were having a great time. How I envied them.

About midway along the length of the lake I noticed an inky-black cloud forming ahead. As I neared the small community of Bolton, darkness like night engulfed everything. The next moment fierce winds struck. Lightning and thunder played a spectacular light and sound show. The Lincoln Zephyr was light and streamlined for its size. As the gusts hit it broadside, they caused the auto to rock and tip. I began to look desperately for a place to pull off the road.

Suddenly to the right a stone wall about five feet tall appeared. Thinking that it might block some of the wind, I turned into it and drove a short distance. Becoming aware of the surroundings, before shutting down the engine, I put the car in reverse and backed up about twenty feet or so.

Just before I shut off the ignition, a loud crack was followed by a crash. A major portion of the tree had broken off by the gale. It crashed to the ground in the spot where the car had been parked just moments before. The end of the tree just grazed the car's bumper. But for God's mercy, there would have been no wedding the following Monday.

After a half hour of terror, the wind suddenly ceased and the clouds dispersed. The hot sun was blazing down on the aftermath of the devastation. I got out of the car and removed limbs blocking the way to the highway. As I started out again, fallen limbs littered the highway, creating an obstacle course. Where a tree had been uprooted, the road was totally blocked. Carefully I drove through the ditch and around the tree until I could get back on the highway again. It was some time before I found the road completely clear of debris.

After getting my car to the storage garage, I just made the train. It was running behind schedule. I slid into my seat and contemplated the ways in which God had been looking after me.

by Arnold

THE JOYS OF TENT CAMPING

For getting really close to Mother Nature, there's nothing like going the tent mode! Our first tent was a much-used umbrella style with steel pole and arms. Repairing the rips and holes cost almost as much as its purchase. The canvas was mildewed and porous. Even when coated with waterproofing it still leaked.

We took it to Mt. Rainier, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and a variety of forest camps. It provided limited shelter on the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. That was occasioned by Betty's completing her degree from Houghton College.

As our children came to desire improved accommodations, we passed through the tent-trailer stage with an Apache that went from coast to coast at least twice. That was followed by a 16 foot Batavia hard-sided trailer providing facilities so our girls could have hot water to do their hair.

In 1974, with the children gone and on their own, we reverted back to a tent again. This time it was a dome type of nylon with fiberglass bows to give it form and shape. We took a 12,800 mile trip across the country so Betty could do her prairie studies. This outfit won our respect in ease of erection and weathering storms, one of them a near-tornado in Nebraska. Two and a half months of use confirmed again that tenting was a superb way to travel light and be really close to Nature.

The choice for our sabbatical leaves to New Zealand in 1979 was a Wenzel Timberline tent with a jointed aluminum frame. About 90% of our nights "down under" were spent in this nylon-covered abode. Although it was rated a 4-person mountain tent, its height did not permit us to stand erect. All of our gear we hauled around both North and South Islands in a little orange Datsun auto that we purchased. We dubbed it "The Pumpkin."

In preparation for our second trip to New Zealand in 1986, we chose a new model of the same basic tent with some refinements. The first was a wrap-up floor which provided better protection from water in a country so copiously endowed. The second was the addition of a zip-on vestibule. This provided space to get out of the rain and take off wet boots and rain gear prior to entering the tent proper. It proved to be even more satisfactory than the first one. Due to excess baggage that we had accumulated over the five and a half months this time, we donated this tent to Christian Youth Camp at Ngaruawahia. The Harrisons, directors of the camp, had been especially helpful to us.

Although we purchased a micro-mini motor home after retirement, the mood may strike us again to return to our roots - the ones that sometimes appear under the sleeping bag during the night. The soothing staccato of rain pattering on the fabric and the sounds of the night filtering through the fragile walls remind one of how camping used to be and the joys that are so readily available. Even yet. Happy camping to you!

by Arnold

MUSINGS OF A NON-CLAPPER

Are you a clapper?

From my observations I have concluded that most members of the populace are so conditioned, nay addicted. When first I realized that in this respect I was different from those around me, I became concerned lest I be suffering from some severe social deficiency that called for serious therapy.

First, I considered the overt behavior. That seemed simple enough: the successive striking together of the digital extremities in a lively manner to produce sound waves of varying strength. The time period for this response may vary from a single tentative clap to an extended series.

Generally this appears to be in response to activities of a person or persons other than the clappers. Clapping is clearly an indication of approval by spectators rather than performers. Perhaps it is a type of acted out empathy. The act of clapping may relieve the tensions generated by the urge to carry out the observed activity, especially when such performance is beyond the ability of the observer.

At times, clapping appears to be spontaneous when at the same moment almost everyone seems to be caught in the frenzy. On other occasions it may seem to be sparked by a single individual. Gradually that lone person is joined by others as it spreads like an infection. Or it may be a follow-the-leader effect, especially when clapping is combined with the clappers assuming a vertical stance on their pedal extremities. I then am forced to ask: "If each individual clapper were alone and not under the influence of their peers, would this mass reaction take place at all?"

By now you may think me to be unappreciative, insensitive and unfeeling, not moved by what takes place within the scope of my experience. NOT SO! I tend to internalize emotion. At a great rendition in a concert, at a sports event, and in other life situations where the norm is to clap, I usually become silent. An awed hush at the close of an outstanding performance seems to me an appropriate tribute. I do not want to break the mood of what has just been experienced. A steam locomotive that is constantly blowing its whistle soon fails to attract much attention and reduces the power to drive its wheels.

When almost anything is clapped for, the expression becomes trite and loses its significance. This is particularly true when the leader orders the claps with little or no spontaneity is present. Approbation, approval and commendation are appropriate only when they are voluntarily given. They should not need constant prompting or orchestration. To clap on cue cheapens the response. It is like having a child "Say 'Thank you' to Grandma for your present."

Some of the clapping in church affects me the same way. Clapping for singers and musical performers as well as speakers draws attention to the person, not to God or the concepts being conveyed. This emphasis seems misplaced as it can detract from the message. I think it more appropriate to subsequently speak to the persons or drop them a note. Indeed a job well done merits such approval. In fact, I favor more expressions of appreciation.

The ultimate in poor taste on my applause meter is the exhortation: "Let's give God a hand." Is devotion measured in decibels? Is louder more spiritual? This seems extremely distant from the command in Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God."

In the day when a hamburger dripping with grease, oozing melted cheese, slathered with mayo, and laden with cholesterol is described as "awesome", the word "awe" has been robbed of its meaning. No other English equivalent quite replaces it. A profound sensory experience of God or truth about Him should evoke awe. Silence, at least some of the time, seems to me to be as valid as vocalizing or clapping.

Yes, I am aware of references to clapping, speaking and shouting in scripture. And I do agree that there are times and places for these modes of expression. But God, in His wisdom. has deigned to make each person a unique individual> One of my idiosyncrasies is that I am a non-clapper. I harbor no illusions about making my preferences the norm for others. In the spirit of goodwill, I simply seek your tolerance and understanding. If you are in agreement with this goal, please don't clap. Just observe with me a moment of silence!

by Arnold

KUDUS TO MY JITNEY

As I hear the woes of the auto industry, I'm pleased that I bear not the onus of their problems. From what I can read about their difficulties, my situation is not in the least affected by them. Rather it is a solution to transportation of a personal nature. Here is how I look at it.

First, I need to name the vehicle. My nomenclature for it, JITNEY, refers to the low cost of using it. The name comes from the five-cent coin that was the fare to ride it. Although no per ride cost is attached to using it, this does refer to the economy of its use. It reigns supreme as a low-cost alternative for travel.

Let us consider now its size. The space it consumes is minimal when viewed by its competitors in the field. I refer of course to its opulent relatives, the overstuffed seats that adorn the seating area in similar circumstances. Its skinny dimensions are dwarfed by the behemoths that elbow their way through.

It's maneuverability is legendary. Its modest width permits access to narrow spaces with ease. The turning radius makes it possible to go at right angles to its general direction. It can turn literally on a dime. That is really handy in tight conditions.

The arm rests fold down out of the way when not in use. The large units have them fold upward instead. That position puts them in the way of exiting the machine, making egress difficult.

The controls are at the center of the steering mechanism, making them accessible. Pulling the lever in forward or reverse controls the action. I find that the positioning of the right hand lever to actuate forward motion is awkward as I am right handed. If I take my hand from the lever to wave to someone, the whole machine stops abruptly. I'm working on my reactions so that either I wave with my left hand or control the forward movement with my left hand permitting me to wave normally.

There is no need to worry about the antifreeze as it doesn't need any. When the temperature drops below freezing, it starts as usual. I have no concern about falling mercury affecting its running.

A garage for it is no problem. At night I run it into the hallway. Being so narrow, I can walk past it if necessary. In fact, if I have it loaded with groceries, I can bring it into the kitchen to unload.

The high price of gasoline does not affect my use of it. The cost of fuel is the least of my worries. The mileage rating per gallon is of no concern to me. I'll put it up against any other vehicle.
Never has speeding been an item of importance. I can set it at its maximum of 3.8 miles per hour without ever watching to see if the state patrol is going to tag me. A pedestrian walking beside me has to walk aggressively to keep pace with me. I find that I may need to slow it down to match the pace of some people.

A dirty windshield can make driving hazardous. With my rig that is no problem. A 360 degree clear view is always available. No windows to clean mean the view is always clear, even the one up.

License fees are not applicable to my vehicle. Neither is collision insurance. Such incidental items of ownership are not part of the regimen of affording it. Seat belt laws are also not involved with jitney use.

So it's hats off to my jitney. I ride it with pride and the satisfaction that I am not an addition to highway gridlock and smog.

by Arnold

A TALE OF TWO GOATS

"Did you ever go camping?" I asked our hostess.

"We certainly did, " Jane Pound responded.

"Then how did you manage to get the goat milk that your family required?" was my follow-up question. "You couldn't have taken your goats with you."

"Oh my, but we did take the goats with us camping," was her answer.

"How did you accomplish that feat?" I wanted to know. "Did you have a trailer to haul them in?"

"Goodness no. That was a long time ago when cars were far different from the ones made today. Cars had running boards then. That made a place to put one's foot on like the traffic policemen used to do when they stopped a speeder," she explained.

"Then how did you carry them?" I persisted in my questions.

"We placed them on the running board with a rope around their necks, " Jane explained. "Then the ropes were attached to the radiator cap at the top of the radiator just ahead of the motor."

"How did they stay put without falling off," I wanted to know.

"They did pretty well where the road was reasonably smooth," she recalled. "Goats have a pretty good sense of balance."

"But the roads in those days were bumpy and rough," I commented. "What happened when the car hit a bump?"

"We were going through Great Falls on the way to camp," Jane reminisced. "Suddenly Mollie slipped off the running board."

"What happened then?" In my mind I could see the poor goat dragging alongside the car.

"Mollie just trotted along keeping pace with the car. Vehicles in those days were relatively slow and we were in city traffic. She had no trouble keeping up with the car until my dad found a place to pull off the road. He was very careful this time to secure the rope tightly to the radiator cap," Jane chuckled.

"When you reached camp, how did the milk taste?" I wanted to know.

"It was a bit like a milkshake," Jane giggled. "Only that was prior to the invention of milkshakes."

by Arnold

WHAT A GRADUATION!

"LOOKING FOR A CAREER IN REFRIGERATION?" the advertisement read. It then proceeded to present a rosy picture of the field of opportunities for qualified people who were trained in this specialty. Utillities Engineering Institute of Chicago, Illinois was offering by correspondence the education needed. World War II was still going on but the chance to get into the field was to prepare now before the supply of new products became available.

I was working in Burlington, Vermont for Bell Aircraft Corporation, a key manufacturer of aircraft for the war. But I was aware that the job I held would likely be eliminated as soon as the war was won. My evenings weren't busy and I was looking for some way to keep occupied. As soon as my interest was indicated, a representative appeared to sign me up. The last part of the course, he explained, was a two-week core of applied hands on experience at the Chicago facility at my convenience.

I signed up and became engrossed in the study, keeping the assignments clicking along at a rapid pace. After completing the course, the next item on my agenda was marriage to Betty back in New York. Three months later the war ended as did my job. So we returned to New York State. Instead of immediately looking for a job, it seemed logical to complete the two-week course requirement in Chicago.

Early on Sunday morning I said goodbye to my bride and was deposited at the Batavia. NY station of the New York Central Railroad. At 4:30am I was surprised to find the car almost full. I couldn't help but notice how shabby it appeared. This was my start on what turned out to be an eventful trip. Along the way the train made numerous stops before pulling in to the Union Station.

Unfamiliar with Chicago, I took a taxi and depended on the driver to take me to the address that had been given to me. By this time darkness had fallen. The cab took me into a run-down section of the city and let me out at what looked like a seedy rooming house. When I entered the desk area and gave my name to the clerk, he informed me: "All rooms are filled. You'll have to find another place to stay for the night."

"But I don't know where to find accommodations. I was promised a room here."

"I'm sorry, but there is no one here tonight to help you. You'll have to contact someone in the morning," the young man responded.

"How can I find a place tonight?" I pleaded.

He handed me a tattered telephone directory and pointed to the pay phone. "You can find some place there. Good luck."
Reaching into my pocket, I produced a supply of coins and dialed a number. On the fourth ring a voice answered: "Acme Hotel. How can I help you?"

"I need a room for tonight. What do you have?" I asked.

"Are you a serviceman?" she wanted to know.

My reply was a negative. "Then we don't have any," was her quick response.

Disappointed, I hung up and continued down the list. The question was repeated over and over as I discovered the city had rooms only for servicemen. And I was not in that category. I persisted until my coins ran out.

Gazing out the window, I noted snowflakes were mixing with the rain. Staying the night outside on a park bench had no appeal in such weather. Also I considered the probability of being mugged. With no known acquaintance in the area, I thought about what I could do.

On the way there in the taxi, I had noticed a sign on a church announcing that Vance Havner was speaking that evening. I picked up my suitcase and walked the six blocks to the church. In the foyer I noticed an usher wearing a Gideon pin.
Having been a member of that organization for several years, I shared with him my problem. He promised to take it up with the pastor and get back to me after the service. Offering to take care of my suitcase, he showed me to a pew. I began to relax and really enjoyed the message.

At the close of the meeting, I waited for the usher to appear with my luggage along with the anticipated solution to my dilemma. When most of the people had departed, he brought me my suitcase.

"I've spoken to the pastor. He is sorry but no one is able to put you up for the night," he explained and headed out the door as fast as possible.

My euphoria of the prior hour evaporated. What was I to do? It was warm in the foyer but already the lights were being turned out. I decided to stay next to the heater as long as possible. About that time a trio of young people was walking past me. It was only a quick glance, but the face of one of the girls caught my attention. Then I decided that I was probably mistaken as they walked on out.

More lights were being switched off. What could I do now? Then the three young people were back. Ruth Fancher, the girl I had noticed, introduced me to her friends and then asked me the question: "What are you doing here?"

I was only too glad to respond, "I'm finishing up a refrigeration course I started in Burlington, Vermont." Then I explained my problem of having no place to spend the night. I asked Ruth what she was doing in the Chicago area.
"I'm doing graduate work at Wheaton," she responded. "Could you come out to Wheaton with us for the night?"

"You could stay in my room," offered the young man.

"That's better than a park bench," I agreed.

"We'd better hurry or we'll miss the next Roarin Elgin," they agreed.

On the train we filled in more of the details. Ruth had been in my graduating class at Houghton and was a daughter of the German professor. The thought of a bed intrigued me as I had arisen at 3:30am that morning. When we got to Wheaton, I was welcomed to the dorm and got to bed directly. And sleep I did.

The next morning, I called the school and reported what had happened. They were apologetic and assured me that a place would be found for me. I took the train back and got in on the first session. As soon as the day's class was over, I was teamed with another student and given an address that promised to be our 'home away from home.'

My roommate was from Montana and had been on the bus three days in arriving here. He hadn't slept except on the bus and was anxious to get where he could get some shut-eye. We located the house. It was the size of a mansion but appeared to be a bit seedy. I rang the bell. Nothing happened. After trying it several times with no response, we turned to the servant's entrance. Finally an elderly black woman appeared and let us in.

She showed us to a room with two single beds and an adjoining tiled bathroom that was huge. The fixtures were of marble but looked as if they hadn't been cleaned in a long time. Making sure that we had towels, she then indicated she was through for the day and was leaving.

Tired as I was, I decided to write Betty a letter. My roommate had sleep on his mind and headed for bed. He had scarcely fallen asleep when he became restless, moving around in the bed. At first I assumed that he was overtired. As he continued to squirm, I looked over at him. Bedbugs were crawling over his face and biting him.

I awakened him and told him what was happening. He was so tired that he couldn't cope with anything else. "Let me rest," he begged me. I checked my bed and discovered that it too had a lively congregation of the varmints. That clued me in that any sleep would have to take place in my chair. Undressing would be a waste of time.

As I was finishing my letter, the heat went off, not reappearing until morning. By now I was getting chilled. I donned my coat and pulled up a second chair upon which to place my feet. It wasn't very comfortable but beat being eaten alive. By the time to arise, I was ready to depart. When we arrived at the classroom site, I had a complaint to make: "Either you provide adequate housing or else....." At the end of the day I was provided with another address.

This time I went with eyes wide open. To my delight, the house noted was perfect. It was a retired elderly couple. They couldn't do enough for me. They had not tried to offer such accommodations before and made me feel like one of the family. Thanksgiving was observed toward the weekend and what a celebration it turned out to be. When I came down with flu symptoms, they were helpful. I corresponded with them at Christmas time the following years.

The course work was pleasant and even the exams went well. When the two weeks were over, I was able to enjoy the graduation. I was now a CERTIFIED REFRIGERATION TECHNICIAN and still have the certificate to prove it. Although advances in technology have now made much of that knowledge out of date, the experiences of that time away from Betty made the reunion of coming home to her most sweet.

by Arnold

"I DIDN'T DO IT"

"What a perfect day this is," Betty commented as I pulled out of the campground at Jasper. We were on our way home to Houghton, New York after a month of touring Alaska. The Icefields Parkway through Jasper and Banff National Parks to Calgary, Alberta offered great scenic views of the Rocky Mountains. We chose this eagerly as our designated route.

The first stop was where the Athabasca River crossed under the highway on its way north. At this point its glacier-fed stream vigorously hurried along its boulder-strewn path towards the northern sea.

Climbing the steep road brought us to the Columbia Ice Fields where the snows of many past seasons had accumulated to produce the ramparts of ice. What a sight it was to see the inexorable weight scouring down the mountain crests of the Continental Divide.

The Winnie seemed to revel, cruising the highway between the rows of serrated peaks that lined both sides of the route. Glimpsing both borders at once seemed an impossible feat as Betty attempted to draw attention to her side of he display as I tried to fill her in on what appeared on my side. The blue-green color of the water from the overlook at Peyto Lake offered a wonderful perspective of the broad scene to the north.

Descending to Lake Louise, its crystal waters glimmering with Mount Victoria in the background, seemed to take first prize. We pondered, "How could we just forget the glorious views at the Valley of Ten Peaks to the south? Was it urgent enough to delay our schedule just bit?" The sense of "ougtness" won over our thoughts and we headed towards Banff to locate a campground for that night.

"Let's stop at the city gardens before searching out a site," Betty suggested. "I would like to see what plants are featured there."

"It's after four o'clock now so the tourists will be thinning out. Start looking for a spot where I can park the Winnie," I suggested.

We finally located a place about four blocks away but within reasonable walking distance. With cameras strung around the neck, we fared forth to see what would make a good photograph. Wandering through the area we discovered that it was populated with a plentiful contingent of drifters who were stretched out along the sidewalks as well as on grassy spots. I was glad that we had a hard-sided vehicle that had door locks. Finding the area so crowded, we started to move towards a less congested area.

"Let's go over by the fountain." Betty indicated a concrete walk nearby.
She was slightly ahead of me where the grade started down. Then Betty tripped on the sidewalk. She attempted to keep from falling by increasing her speed. A few days before she had hit her knee and wanted to avoid another encounter. However, her momentum accelerated as she reached the flight of steps. Encumbered with the camera, she was helpless to assist herself. I was unable to reach her before she went hurtling over the steps, landing with her head, face down, on the concrete below. The sound was like a ripe watermelon being dropped.

I was frantic. Betty displayed no signs of breathing. My attempts to rouse her were unsuccessful. What had occurred? Did she have a skull fracture? Glancing around, I noted that the place that had teemed with people just a few moments ago was practically deserted. Everyone wanted to avoid getting involved. I felt absolutely alone and totally helpless. Was she dead?

Suddenly a young woman with a collie appeared. "Let me help you. I'm from the hospital. I'm a therapist. Let me see if I can get her breathing," she encouraged. The woman began resuscitation techniques. Very gradually breathing came in gasps, then more normally. Her face began to regain color but her eyes remained closed

"She needs to go to the hospital at once," the woman spoke authoritatively.

"Shouldn't I call the emergency squad, I asked.

"If your vehicle is nearby, you will probably make better time than they would at this time of day. Where are you parked?"

"About four blocks down the street. But I can't leave her here like this," was my anxious response..

"I'll stay right here with her until you get back and then show you the way to the hospital," she assured me.

I lost no time getting the Winnie and returning. Carefully we picked Betty up, careful to not cause additional injury. We retrieved her glasses, both lenses of which were shattered with glass ground into her face. And, at last, the camera.

I drove swiftly the route to the hospital, parking at the emergency entrance. My knowledgeable assistant knew how to get action and soon had Betty under the care of capable hands. Now there was the wait for the tests she was being given.

I gratefully thanked the young woman who was so helpful. I promised to let her know the outcome. There was nothing more I could do but pray.

The woman doctor who was looking after Betty eventually came with the good news that there was nothing at the moment they could do. They wanted to keep track of her over night and check her in the morning.

When I asked where I could park the Winnie, the response was that it could be right there outside the emergency door. If I would check her regularly to see that no complications developed, she would not have to be admitted and be assigned a room. Thank you, Lord.

Through the long night, I kept vigil, checking her hourly or more often. The sedatives administered were effective and her sleep was peaceful except for the pain of her face. Fortunately the broken glass had missed her eye. But both eyes were a sight. With black and blue all around them, they gave the impression of a raccoon. The cuts and bruises gave her face a rather frightful expression.

While awaiting the doctor at her office the next morning, I began to realize the impression of Betty's injuries. A husband and wife sitting across the office began to take notice. Their reactions were all too obvious. They had assumed that they were seeing the results of an assault. As later patients continued to arrive, they likewise reacted in similar manner. All of them thought they were viewing the results of spousal violence. There seemed to be no way I could dispel their misconceptions.

I was relieved in more ways than one when the doctor called us in and freed us to continue on our journey home. Sensing that getting meals for the long trek across the country would make more work and be stressful to Betty, the doctor suggested that we eat out on the way.

On almost every occasion I felt the reaction occur again as diners viewed us. How could I explain what had happened? I became convinced that the only way to make people understand was to print a sign stating: "I DIDN'T DO IT!"

by Arnold

WHAT IS IN YOUR HAND?

In creating us, God has given each of us different talents or abilities that make us unique. What we do with these gifts makes a great difference in what we can accomplish for Him. Think about the following:

HANDS

A basketball in my hands is worth about $10. A basketball in Michael Jordan's hands is worth about $33 million. It depends whose hands it's in.

A baseball ball in my hands is worth about $10. A baseball in Mark McGuire's hands is worth $19 million.

A tennis racket is useless in my hands. A tennis racket in Venus Williams' hands means championship winning. It depends on whose hands it's in.

A sling shot in my hands is a kid's toy. A sling shot in David's hand is a mighty weapon. It depends on whose hands it's in.

Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in my hands can produce a few fish sandwiches. Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in God's hands will feed thousands. It depends on whose hands it's in.

Nails in my hands might produce a birdhouse. Nails in Jesus Christ's hands will produce salvation for the whole world. It depends on whose hands they are in.

As you see now, it all depends on whose hands it's in. So put your concerns, your worries, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, and your relationships in God's hands. The results will then depend on how He chooses to use what you bring to Him.

Sometimes the result of using what God has given us can be surprising, even such an ordinary tool as a camera. God has chosen to direct our photography in ways that advance His kingdom. I want to tell you about a personal example of how God in his providence worked in ways we never could have dreamed to accomplish His purposes.

The large Christian & Missionary Alliance Church in Ellensburg, Washington was packed out one Sunday afternoon sixteen years ago. (2/7/93) The audience was not the usual congregation of worshippers. Included were mountain climbers from many walks of life: sheriffs, mountain rescue personnel, university professors, and ranchers as well as many other area residents. Some had traveled long distances to be present.

The occasion was a memorial service for Gene Prater, a noted mountain climber whose life had impacted many, of whom those present were just representatives. For almost two hours we listened as numerous tributes were brought by family and friends. His death had been quite sudden and unexpected - not by way of a climbing mishap, but by a rare form of cancer on his heart.

I recall in particular what Gene's attending physician, who was a Christian, had to say. Gene had told the doctor that he was aware death was near, but he was not afraid to die. That he trusted God's wisdom and goodness and that he was ready to make the transition from time to eternity. The doctor, who had witnessed the end of many lives, made this comment: "When it is my time to die, I want to be as prepared for the crossing as Gene was." The church was hushed. This witness was received by many who were not on close speaking terms with their Creator. Indeed, it was a powerful witness.

About forty years prior to this memorial service, we had moved from New York State to Ellensburg. We built a house on Hanson Road about a half mile from Praters. Gene, and his brother Bill, had established reputations in mountain climbing including first ascents up difficult routes. They were called out on mountain rescues, even, at times, to Mt. Denali in Alaska. But up to this time we hadn't met them personally.

I had been asked to present a slide program at the Cove-Damon Grange for their annual harvest dinner. My choice was to illustrate some autumn poems with samples of God's creative handiwork.

The following morning, Betty saw a young woman zip into our driveway in a Henry J auto and dash up to our door. She wanted to know where we went to church. She said she would be interested in attending where people felt about God and creation as she had heard in the program the night before. Betty invited Yvonne, Gene's wife, to attend Mt. View Free Methodist Church the next Sunday. She became a regular attendee and brought her children. In due time, Betty had the privilege of leading her to the Lord during a church service.

Gene was a rancher who worked hard all week so he could devote his weekends to climbing with his brother Bill and others. In spite of our efforts, he seldom found time to attend church. Our prayer was that we would find a way to lead him to Christ.

One day I noticed in The Ellensburg Daily Record that Gene and Bill would be offering a series of classes on mountain climbing at the YMCA over a period of several weeks. Betty and I considered it prayerfully and felt prompted to enroll. We felt that showing interest in Gene's area of expertise might offer a way to reach him. We did this in spite of the fact that my feet had been malformed at birth. This point in time was prior to reconstructive surgery years later.

Our decision to take the course met with some disfavor from the church folks, as the classes met on Wednesday, that was prayer meeting night. But we felt strongly enough to follow through and complete the course. Climbing Mt. Denney at Snoqualmie Pass was a kind of practical final exam. I literally hobbled off the mountain, leaning on Betty's shoulder for support.

Next, I believe that God nudged me to take another step. In my mind, thoughts began to form about producing a slide program in which mountain climbing could be a type of allegory of the Christian life. In doing this, I had to accurately portray mountain climbing as we had been taught. For this sequence, I needed a number of particular slides. By this time, we knew Gene and Yvonne well enough to ask if they would be willing to serve as models in some pictures. They were willing if I would let them see the program when it was completed. Of course this was what I wanted to happen.

Gene didn't become a Christian until later, after I had gone to teach business administration at Houghton College in New York State. The ringing of the phone awakened us about 3am. It was Yvonne calling to tell us that Gene had just accepted Christ. It happened at home under the instruction and encouragement of Pastor Jim and Gene Sanders. Yvonne had forgotten about the 3-hour time difference.

The slide program was one of my first and was prepared about fifty years ago under the circumstances I have related. If you are familiar with climbing, you might note that it was done prior to many of the advances in climbing gear such as Gore-Tex, footwear, etc. REI was just starting - founded by Whitaker in the loft of an old Seattle warehouse. Film speeds were very slow and cameras lacked many of the modern refinements.

One point I want to emphasize: GOD may call us to use nontraditional means to reach out to others. In this instance it was a camera. Had I failed to obey God's urgings, the powerful witness in the Ellensburg church that Sunday afternoon at Gene Prater's memorial service might not have taken place.

We read in Exodus 4:2 And the Lord said unto Moses, "What is in thy hand?"

What is in your hand? Are you willing to let God use it?

by Arnold

BLOWN OFF A CLIFF

"What a perfect view," Betty exclaimed as we reached the handful of camping sites located on top of a cliff on the west side of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. "I could stay here forever," she rhapsodized happily.

We made camp and planned to stay there overnight. It was only a few miles down the coast to Cheticamp where earlier we had planned to stay when we noticed this alternative. We were using a small fold-down tent/trailer pulled by my Olds 98 for this trip. The trailer seemed to be sturdy although the canvass had some small tears.

We had enjoyed a pleasant day filled with many exciting experiences that started with the climb up and over John's Hill to the beaches along the east coast. The white sands and the rows of trees that lined the road to a famous golf resort made it look exotic like a travel brochure. It didn't look like our kind of place.

Another point of interest was the Lone Shieling, a stone shelter for the sheep and shepherd. Built on a rocky outcropping, it harked back to the days of Scottish farms dotting in the region. We had purchased the park pass so did not incur the fine assessed to a motorist who arrived about the same time we did.

Farther up the coast we halted for lunch at an historic spot made notable by the
presumed landing of John Cabot on May 2, 1497. This was one of the many voyages to find the Northwest Passage to the Orient.

We continued our exploration of this fascinating bit of land to the tiny town of Meat Cove. Turning south along the west side of the peninsula, we drove up into Cape Breton Highlands, the rugged area of the park. This region was reputed to be the moose range. Betty and I took a rather long hike into the hinterlands, finding flowers but no live moose. Tired from our bushwhacking through the scrub, Betty and I decided to call it quits. We headed down the mountain towards Cheticamp, where we had planned to camp.

Part of the way down, we noticed a wide pull off with a cluster of spots that had obviously been used for camping.

"Why continue on to the main campground when this site was available?" I queried Betty.

"I'm in favor of this," she voted. "I'd like to paint the picture from here."

"Which of the two remaining spaces would you prefer?" I questioned her.

"Let's take the one with the clear view to the west", she indicated.

I pulled the trailer into the spot indicated and proceeded to set up camp. A large motor home had already preempted the prime location at cliff edge. Looking around, I noticed a rather large heap of wood nearby. Grabbing my hatchet, I split and piled the sticks in pile, ready to burn. Knowing Betty's penchant for a campfire, I felt pleased with myself for preparing it prior to being asked.

What a picture this made! Right from our campsite we looked out over the Bay of St. Lawrence. A boat was making its way up river. Gulls wheeling and calling as they sailed over us made it seem magical. Betty was engaged in recording it on her easel. The afternoon proved to be too short. Suppertime interrupted our pleasant pursuits,

While we were eating, a bit of breeze sprung up, fanning sparks from the fire I had started. I had inadvertently built the fire on Cliffside, so the smoke blew in our direction. As the wind increased, it blew the sparks on the tent. Furiously I tried to douse the blaze. It took some minutes to discourage the fire.

I had unhitched the tent trailer, as now it began to shift in the wind. I used sticks and stones to block the wheels, but it kept shifting position as it was located on bare rock. The wind treated the tent fabric like a sail. The stones weren't large enough to keep the trailer in one place. While engaged in controlling the movement of the trailer, a sudden thunderstorm struck the face of the cliff. What to do now?

Quickly I backed the car up and hooked the trailer on. Next came the furling of the canvass as the trays for sleeping were retracted. It became a tussle to get it all under control. Trying to store equipment became a nightmare. All of this took place while the rain blew sidewise and the lightning flashed. As the last of things were stored, we hunkered down in the car,

"We can't stay here now", I groaned, "Where can we go?"

"Let's go to Cheticamp. It can't be too far, I'm afraid we'll be blown off the cliff if we try to stay here," was Betty's suggestion.

"I'll try it," I responded. "It's raining so hard I can't see very well. You keep watch for tree limbs," I said as I started the car.

The Olds crawled along, dodging debris as I tried to watch for the entrance to the camping area. At last I glimpsed the sign marking the entrance to Cheticamp.

Pulling up to the window, I explained our predicament.. "Sir, I paid before but was forced to leave because of the weather on the mountain. Will you accept that?" I asked.

"Sorry about the situation. You'll find a vacant spot in the second row," he indicated with his flashlight. "Hope the rain lets up soon."

With lightning continuing and thunder pealing, the downpour continued as we backed the trailer where indicated. It seemed useless to unhook the trailer. Holes added by the fire to those already present gave little incentive to attempt to open it for sleeping.

"Let's try to get some rest on the seat here," Betty said resignedly. She looked as if she had reached her limit

I agreed, glad we had the large Olds instead of our Volkswagen bug.

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

The next morning dawned sunny and bright. No matter how promising it turned out to be, dealing with the wet trailer almost a thousand miles from home took some ingenuity. First we had a hearty breakfast at a diner/laundromat overflowing with mainly those who were camping without vehicles. Their soggy possessions were evident around the place.

Noting the run on the drying facilities, we got in line with quarters in hand. Betty took charge of this operation while I went to a nearby hardware and purchased a clear plastic sheet that would cover the canvass. This second layer of protection, when secured to the guy wires, would keep out the rain. All of this procedure took until lunchtime to complete. But we left Cheticamp better prepared for whatever might lie ahead.

by Arnold

MEMORY - FRIEND OR FOE?

Do you ever find yourself thinking or saying "I remember when ..." and then complete the sentence? Have you considered what that says about your outlook
on life? Your mood? Your expectations? Your hopes or fears? Is your memory
a positive or negative factor in determining your actions or response to various life situations? I believe that it can be either one.

Whenever I think of my Grandfather Cook, I recall the countless times he told of selling his crop of beans at a given price just before the market rose. He was almost completely deaf, making it difficult to redirect his thinking. He would tell anyone who would listen about what he could have made if the market had risen just a day earlier. His obsession with this one occurrence influenced his outlook.

Forgotten was the sale of his farm at a price higher than normal, located as it was at the spot in the swamp where the reclamation ditch began. He relocated at a new farm between Oakfield and Elba that had finer fields than the old one. He was far from rich but he owned this new place without the encumbrance of debt. But the memory of the unfortunate sale of beans at the lower price clouded his view from that time forward. He never became a Christian.

At the opposite pole I recall my Grandmother Willis who came to live with my family before I was born. Her husband had died when my mother was young so I grew up with her as a part of our home. She loved flowers and faithfully planted a bountiful supply each year. I delighted listening to her telling about her childhood in Ireland. It sounded idyllic. It was years after her death that I saw the two-room
cottage where she was born and lived her years until she emigrated to the United States. All ten siblings were housed in an open loft built above the peat hearth. We visited the church where she became a Christian as she read from the Common Book of Prayer. She had a sunny disposition in spite of the misfortunes that befell her. Her view of living was optimistic and positive, She looked on each move to a parsonage location with keen anticipation of what it offered. Until her death after I had left home for a job in Burlington, Vermont, her influence was always forward looking.

With the above as my heritage, what is my bent? The German in my background causes me to be disposed to view the future as a projection of the past. But the Irish portion balances the conclusion that the future can be altered by the choices that are up to me. If I surround myself with people who are upbeat and view the future as a challenge, I too can take the position that God is working to bring good results to my efforts. In spite of circumstances, God is the critical ingredient in the equation. I shall look to Him with joyful anticipation and thank Him for His promises.

by Arnold

GARDENING MEMORIES

The blossoming at Cedar Forest began late in January, as the first to show bloom was always the lemon yellow of the witch hazel. The unique flowers of this shrub were a reminder that winter eventually would start to recede gradually as the days begin to lengthen. It signaled: Time to start watching.

The surprises that February had ready for us varied by the snow and chilliness of the weather. The cheery faces of the varied colors of primroses, sometimes staring from a snowy blanket on which they seemed embroidered, were unfazed by the cool reception. They seemed jubilant to announce the coming of spring. The catkins of the pussy willows were eager to affirm the announcement.

At the edge of the cedars the cherry trees fat buds swelled and burst forth with their amazing pink display. Each tree had a different hue to add to the colorful array. One spread its limbs like a huge pink umbrella.

The display of the trillium varied from single stems at the base of trees to clusters that made an area a delight to view. The several masses of the white flowers that I had removed at Carrie Silva's request responded to replanting. How rewarding it was to be able to find each appearing where they were located previously.

The pink and white bells of the heather started to chime spring. A hardy shrub, it increased annually and always looked green no matter the season. It shrugged off the cold weather.

Bergenia formed a neat border for the drive and obliged with pink blooms beneath the green leaves. At the halfway point in the driveway one rhododendron is flanked by two camellia bushes, one white and the other pink. I recall how it attracts deer to the juicy buds just as they are about to open. Just in advance of this happening, I remember anointing the bush with a special concoction with the suggestive name, "Not Tonight, Deer". It makes a bitter taste that keeps the deer from nibbling the attractive morsels.

Around the perimeter of the triangle south of the spruce grove the golden daffodils spread their cheer, some of them single and others with double blooms.
Later in the season a succession of colored lilies replace them. At the peak of the high knoll in the upper garden a five-foot tall lily with multiple flowers will also take its dominant place.

The rustic rail fence surrounding the road edge at the front will herald the beginning of iris season with its array of Siberian blue. Next comes the wave of vibrant pink candles that starts anywhere it is given a chance. But how it sets off the various clumps of daylilies spiced up the rail edge with their individual hues. Behind the rail fence and overlooking the rest rise the exotic bird-like shapes of the crocosmia. Its stems, holding the blooms above its neighbors, add a multi-tier effect to the entire display of gorgeous bloom.

In a very moist place beside the private road a place was found for the yellow iris,
an especially neat specimen. It proved to be an ideal setting. Likewise the ten-foot remains of an old cedar was exactly the right setting for the orange clusters of the trumpet vine. Appearing as summer approached, it seemed jubilant to announce the changing season.

The line along the back fence proved to be a place for the redbud and dogwood trees. The redbud put forth its blooms before it showed green leaves. The fence provided a useful support for the dinner-plate blooms of clematis which also adorned the porch. Near the rear gate entrance an impressive stand of foxglove found a likely location. And lupine's blue or other shades added a dash of color.

Oriental poppies made the roadside bank an accent point among Shasta daisies. Likewise the floral tributes of both the star magnolia as well as its neighbor lent to the scene a touch of grandeur. Among such a show of beauty the beds of Japanese and other iris seemed in proper place. The native bleeding heart felt right at home in this setting.

To such a display of sight for the eyes, the consummate touch of rhododendron and azalea, large and small, was the climax. The span in size and blooming time along the drive and bordering the road provided a finished appearance. Our efforts have given us both a sense of accomplishment as we have cooperated with our Creator.

by Arnold

DO I PRACTICE DISCRIMINATION? YOU BET I DO!

Increasingly it seems that the tide of words muddies the waters of understanding until confusion turns logic on its head. Communication is impeded until it veritably ceases. Because some words have more than one meaning, definition of terms sometimes must precede their use in dialog. Such is the case with DISCRIMINATION, a term that has fallen on hard times. Often the person who uses it is the object of opprobrium.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary provides this prime definition of discrimination as "the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently; differentiation. the quality or power of finely distinguishing."

Education, both formal and informal, depends heavily on this process. Discrimination starts from the moment of birth. Without the ability to distinguish between alternatives, no progress can be achieved. Honing the student's ability to finely distinguish is the mark of the real teacher. To make distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable, between failure and success, between good, better and best is important.

The concern about discrimination is that it be directed towards those characteristics or factors that are significant for reaching the right conclusions on the subject matter under consideration. People should not be treated as inanimate objects.

by Arnold

HUMAN OR ANIMAL?

From the Kittitas Valley I could see the white tip of Mount Rainier on the skyline over the Menastash Ridge. It seemed to beckon me to respond to the call, but it was Friday night and church duties were a part of our plans for Sunday. There just wasn't time to go to Rainier, but a lesser jaunt seemed possible. We could go to the lookout at Quartz Mountain on the ridge across the valley and maybe get a view of Rainier from there. I called Betty from the office about my idea.

"Why not?" was her ready response. "I'll pack up the gear and be ready when you get home. What vehicle will we take?"

"Let's take the Jeep," was my decision. The old red Army vehicle was a recent acquisition and it seemed that it would be a good place to see what it could do. The road going there was not paved and it seemed like the terrain called for its capabilities.

When I reached home shortly after five, Betty had the paraphernalia including the food ready to load. The limited capacity of the small vehicle posed a question, but we managed to get all five of us in and secured before takeoff, including a snow shovel. We wanted to be ready for whatever might lie ahead.

The road up the Menastash Canyon was familiar from my fishing expeditions. With the arrival of spring, new growth gave the hillsides a fresh green mantle and a carpet of flowering beauty. As it climbed higher, the track became rougher and we paused occasionally to permit Danny to remove branches that had fallen on the track. Snow began to appear in sheltered patches where the warm sun hadn't
reached. Soon it became apparent that we were the first to travel this far as some drifts were gradually getting deeper.

"Let me off here," Danny volunteered. He took the shovel and went to work on the large drift that appeared by the next bend. It was deeper than the Jeep could manage. After even larger drifts appeared as we struggled higher up the mountain, Betty asked, "Where are we going to camp? We can't drive much farther."

"There's a wide spot by the trail just ahead. Down below is Taneum Lake where I used to come fishing. Space for parking there will make a good place to pitch the tent," was my answer.

The pull-off appeared shortly and to our surprise we found a picnic table on which to pile our belongings. "Dan, why don't you help dad set up the tent while Judi and Tina help me get supper going," Betty encouraged. "My stomach tells me it's time to eat."

All hands working together made the tasks light and soon we were devouring the grub that mother had planned for us.

"What are we going to do this evening?" Tina wanted to know.

"It's quite light," Judi commented. "Why don't we play games?"

"What did you bring," I questioned her.

"I've got Pit," was the answer. She began to shuffle the cards.

Tina, Danny, Betty and I joined in. For the next two hours or longer the cries of "Corner on Wheat", "Corner on Rye" and similar words rang out. The moon had appeared over the tops of the firs that together with the afterglow provided adequate lumens to read. Mild weather made this extended evening a time to recall with special pleasure..

"Let's get some sleep so we can make it to Quartz Mountain tomorrow," I urged.

Time seemed to fly, for coffee brewing with bacon and eggs cooking was enough incentive for early rising. Betty asked Danny, "Why are you up so early this Saturday morning without any urging but give me such a time on school mornings?"

"Mother," he reacted to her comment, "I don't want to waste my day."

Cleaning up was done in jig time and we were headed for Quartz Mountain. Soon the going got to where the Jeep couldn't make it even with 4-wheel drive. As far as I could see ahead, the snow kept getting deeper.

"This is it," I announced. "We will have to go the rest of the way on foot."

"Judi and I don't have any boots," Tina objected. "We'll stay with the Jeep."

"All right," agreed Betty. "Blow the horn if you need us."

Dan set off ahead of us breaking trail. The melting snow made the tracks difficult to negotiate. When the slushy going get even tougher, Dan was glad to pass the trailblazing to me.

We were approaching what appeared to be a rude cabin that was used by hunters in elk season when Betty heard a sound. We all became silent as we listened to the noise. Our senses, honed to high alert, concentrated on the strange sounds. It sounded like someone or something was walking back and forth, trying to get out. The steps would recur at frequent intervals. There would be a pause before the sound was repeated and then it would start over.
We huddled together, making as little noise as possible. Thoughts surged through our heads, as we tried to figure out the possible scenarios. A man had jumped from a plane with a bundle of cash and had not been found. Yet if this were indeed a human, would he not speak? What could have happened to cause him to be speechless?

If this were an animal, would it be hungry? What would he like to have a bite of? This was getting to be spring. It made one wonder if a bear would be looking for a full meal. The going back and forth were getting more agitated. Would the animal find his way out like he apparently got himself in? All around the cabin the snow was untouched, leaving us to the conclusion that what was making the sounds had not been coming or going in or out.

What if we stole quietly away? The thought assumed the logical answer. If we reported this to the ranger in Ellensburg, he could check it out. No one would be put in danger. I motioned Betty and Dan that we would quietly depart in the direction of the Jeep. We didn't speak or make unneeded talking until we were beyond where we figured he could hear us.

When we arrived back at the Jeep, we reviewed the episode. Tina wanted to know what we found. Judi thought we should have looked in the window to determine what we might have done. All agreed that we should return to Ellensburg without delay and report to the ranger there.

When we arrived at the Ranger Station, we found that it was closed. Our attempts to find someone else to report it to likewise failed. Finally, on Monday when I got to talk to the ranger, he indicated that they would check on it. However he failed to call me back. But to this day I wonder about the answer to the riddle of the cabin occupant. It remains the sixty-four year question to which we would like to have the answer.

by Arnold

THE GOLDEN YEARS

The term "Golden years" does not appear as such on any of the 1,854 pages of WEBSTER'S ENCYCLOPEDIC DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. It appears that its omission from this volume leaves me free to make my unique contribution to the meaning of this frequently used term.

The first indication of the golden is the proportion of my mail devoted to the golden opportunities to make contributions to myriad worthwhile causes. From the appeals to "Save the planet" all the way down to the "Help preserve the earth's minutest organism" is the plea to be generous. The future of all lies in my speed of my grabbing the checkbook.

Following closely is the exhortation to grab the golden moment to stay fit. "Fit for what?" I ask. I consider the triathlon. "No," I respond and go down the extensive list until the rocking chair marathon comes to mind. "Well, maybe I could enter that one!"

The golden chance to read flits into my mind. A great idea. Getting to read the world's finest literature is presented to me as a challenge. Concentrating on what the world's best minds have been dealing with sounds right down my alley. I can easily accomplish that by means of the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library. I excitedly order from the latest catalogue: "How the Horse Has Shaped Civilizations". Eventually, in due time, I receive instead: "Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer." So much for reading.

But these golden years do have really golden opportunities. Let me now recount some of them.

I manage my own time. I can pretty much plan on what I am going to do today. Medical appointments are the main exception. I can decide if today I feel like writing or reading or nothing. My wife, Betty, is willing to let me decide what to select. I also permit her to choose broadly what she prefers. Long gone are the late night sessions of preparing for the morrow's classes or rising at 4;00 am to get the tests graded to hand back as promised.

Here too I can take advantage of the golden opportunity to procrastinate. What if I don't accomplish the proposed task? The person who interrupts my self-assigned job can be considered to have precedence. What I was about to do can wait until later today or tomorrow. I may even decide to procrastinate until it no longer has any urgent relevance.

Lest I be considered too cavalier with these choices, seem too eager to avoid any responsibility, I do not act without any concern for what God requires of me. While I am vitally interested in what He wants me to do, I am freed from the many man-made constrictions that can so easily entangle my time.

For me, the Golden Years began after semi-recovery from the stroke that took me from active involvement in March 2006. It took a full year of effort to reach the point where I felt able to do anything substantive and we moved to Warm Beach Senior Retirement Community in April 2007 at age 85.

Since that time inquiries from friends and acquaintances about my health I find difficult to answer. With my walking, sight, and memory impaired, it seems almost untruthful to respond, "I'm fine." Yet I am feeling well. It is with such reservations about discussing the Golden Years that I proceed.

We have many friends with whom we are vitally interested. Being alert to their needs has become increasingly a mission. Reminding them of God's concern for them as well as our own has seemed like a prime activity. One example of this has been a couple who have both passed away recently. It seemed like the only thing I could do was to pray and write. Others with personal problems I could reach in the same manner. My personal letter writing has increased. The older people become, the more that being remembered matters.

Writing about incidents from the past is a way to bring individuals into touch with things remind them of their lives. Again, older persons are especially grateful to be reminded of things that were a part of their human drama. Over and over again I am surprised to discover the experiences of those who reside here and cease to be amazed at what I had not recognized as present in their backgrounds.

Being here at Warm Beach has afforded me the opportunity to live in close harmony with nature. This afternoon as I sit at my computer and look out my office window, I can appreciate the humming bird who flits back and forth from gladioli to petunia to nasturtium to crocosmia. She samples the nectar from each flower of her choice and shows no fear as I observe her sweet experiences. She does not appear to begrudge the other birds their choice. I am reminded that the acquisitive spirit is not all pervasive.

Listening, I can hear the raucous call of the pileated woodpecker announcing what is providing his snack instead of complaining about how much flute-like melody can be produced by a lark. The eagle at the top of the tallest tree does not cause the common sparrow to decide not to fly so high but to pick up crumbs at my doorstep. It all blends together in a contented blending I can simply admire.

At least for the present, I can enjoy these Golden Years benefits here at Warm Beach and be thankful for them.