Gathering and Worship

These last few Sundays, as I have eased back into being on Church Council, I have noticed the spirit in which we gather. 

As I was outside tonight (in near hundred-degree heat) doing devotions, it slowly became clear: God calls us to gather, and then to worship. 

First, we are called to gather. There is a deep Spirit which goes back through the ages, which calls us together. 

We come from near and far, to learn little things about each other, and to be updated: How is your wife doing? Good to see you back-how was your trip? Hey, I saw a dump truck by your old house… 
We share each other’s joys and burdens, small and large sorrows, small and large triumphs. 

And then we bring these stories before God.

Each carrying a part of the burdens and joys of our friends, we lay them all before the One. 

We sing, we confess, we hold each other up. We pray for our leaders, our world, and for each other. 

And we all ask as part of the Body of Christ, “Hear our prayer.”

We leave our differences at the outer doors, and inside we are all of one heart, and of one Body. 

And after Coffee Hour, once we leave the Social Hall, we’re free to argue politics all the way to the parking lot. 

A good way to use stale croissants

So me, being “Mister Markdown”, found some nice croissants in the day-old rack at the store. We had some for brunch, but there were several still left over. And you know how they get after a few days…

I thought there had to be some way to make use of them, because they’d gone flat and chewy. To rejuvenate them, you need to heat them up somehow; but oh boy, not in the micro. Been there.

If you can toast them somehow, they get crispy again. Using the toaster’s dangerous because of all the butter in them. The oven’s a giant waste of power. But… hey, what about a frying pan… Aha, I had a “brainwave”. Another chance to experiment a bit for breakfast!

It turned out just great. Here we go:

First, split the croissants with a bread knife and toast them on the split side in a dry frying pan. You don’t need butter, they have plenty already:

 

Here’s how they look when done.

 

And a while ago, I’d scored some markdown sausages, so I pulled them from the freezer and cooked them all at once to make sure they’d keep, once they were defrosted. Good, lean sausages, too; had to add a drizzle of olive oil across the tops to help them cook:

Then I scrambled some eggs with my brilliant, internationally famous, copyrighted scrambled egg recipe (click here), and spooned those into the space made by the toasted croissants; then in an attempt at making it look pretty, I placed some sausages atop the toasted croissants. And here’s the result:

My wife called them “cute”, so I thought I’d make a post about this. Hope you liked it.

Enjoy!

Hey fellas, don’cha think that’s just a little low…?

I had just sat down to begin my devotions a bit early last night when on the far side of the mountain came the rhythmic thunder of low-flying rotary-wing aircraft.

Military.

Really low, coming really fast.

Then the first of three Apaches was roaring overhead, at not more than a thousand feet, and going like his hair was on fire. Second one, similar height and similar speed.

I grabbed the phone and made a photo, just in time to catch the third one, blasting along behind. Guess my news-shooter instincts are still good:

You can just see the leader and the second in the flight in this shot.

Oddly enough, it was almost 27 years ago, when we were building this house and I was outside one afternoon doing cleanup, when a similar thing happened.

The trees on the mountain weren’t as tall, and you could easily see the top of the mountain. Ours was one of just a very few houses, and in the evenings, you could see the huge herd of deer making their way across the ridges and the mountain.

I heard something coming, and turned to look. The deer began to scatter, and suddenly an Apache pops up over the mountain, they’re flying nap-of-the-Earth. The guy is no higher than 300 feet, and he’s coming like a freight train.

With a full war load. Rocket canisters, missiles, nothing’s missing.

And just by coincidence, he’s flying straight at me.

Yeah, it took me a couple minutes to catch my breath.

Ready… Set… Oh, wait.

I was all ready and set up to go to work this week, but that’s not happening, so far.

I’m working through a great Staffing Agency which handles a lot of temp and contract professionals. These folks are phenomenal in their client and labor interactions. Their agents have exactly the right touch, and it’s obvious that they value you and support you as an individual. I can’t say enough about how well they handle things for their clientele.

But they’ve just moved to a new Payment Agency. And it looks like I’m one of the first to be run through the new system. So many times in jobs past, I was the first to do, or try to do, something. Nowadays, we call it the ‘bleeding edge’, and looking about, I find the situation to be familiar.

And… Payment Agencies… Oh yes, this is definitely familiar ground, from my days when I was in television. I’ve seen it from the client side. We’d cast someone, make the call, shoot the video or record the audio. Then we’d agree on a set number of hours for this call, the person would submit that to their Payment Agency, and the Agency would invoice us. Accounts Payable would handle the distribution, and meanwhile we in Video Services would be post-producing the program.

At that time, the Payment Agency was to us like Alice’s rabbit-hole. Things go in, and we’d have to trust that they’d come out somewhere. In general terms, ‘the entertainment industry’ uses payment agencies to make sure a very long list of people get paid, for when Union talent is used in production. It gets even more convoluted when the talent signs a contract that includes residuals or a piece of the distribution. From talking with various talent folks, this was never pretty from their side of things, and it was seldom prompt for them, then. This was because that payment to them went through a number of ‘splits’. I’m going to list a typical set of the splits (as I recall them), in order, here:

  • The talent agency
  • The talent’s agent
  • The Union
  • The talent’s Union rep
  • And finally, the talent themselves get paid.

Each took a percentage, and each took time to process things, as that payment went from hand to hand. Often, a lot of both.

The saddest thing for us as a talent employer was that if we called Union talent for a program, it could take up to three months for that person to get paid. Meanwhile, the poor guy is starving, waiting for the check to come.

That was then, this is now. Now we have things like internet-based processing, which is of course much, much faster.

Fortunately for me, I don’t have all those splits and percentages to worry about. Just the setup time. Which has taken all of this week, so far. The analogy of Alice’s rabbit-hole is holding amazingly true. And here I was, hoping to start the new job this week.

But even after all the initial setup, there will still be paperwork. I have to have a set of documents witnessed and Notarized, then send them in. “In the tunnel there are many objects and things, and the walls are filled with books and jars…”

I pray that my work here as one of the first will make it smoother for those who follow.

So meanwhile, somebody has to go first, right? I guess God has selected me for that role. Maybe I’m helping others even before I get to go do this job.

About which I still remain energised and excited.

And can’t wait to start, so that I can again be making a positive difference.

The Next Chapter

All through this period of unemployment, I have been asking God, “what would you like me to do next?”

I will admit, I had been wearied a bit by the many years of ‘giving it all I’ve got’, every day. But I took away a quiet satisfaction in bring able to look back on that effort and to know that God honoured it with gainful employment and the satisfaction of a job well done, at the end of every day, every week, every month, every year. And I took away a great recommendation from my former boss, a guy who had some serious moxie as VP of HR. (It’s not worth asking how MarComm got put under HR. Really.)

But I still have that spark within me to go out and do good. Last night I read a quote in Max Lucado’s Cure for the Common Life which really sums it all up nicely, and I’ll paraphrase here:

God gave me the gift of certain talents.  My giving back to him is to offer those talents as a gift to his glory.

And it looks like I’ll be starting work on Monday. My hand’s in yours, Lord. Let’s go do good things together.

 

A brief update: I’ll be starting mid-week; it takes a while for the Agency to get my account set up and ready to use by all three of us: my Client, the Agency, and me.

Remembering my father on Memorial Day

My Dad served in WWII. 

He found a way to serve, in a way that did not violate his faith at the time. He was a Mormon (then), and therefore had restrictions of conscience upon how he could serve. 

But he found a way. Eventually becoming Master Sergeant of Patton’s motor pool (many stories there), but when the battalion was in motion, he took the most hazardous job in the column: driving a Low-Boy (a drop-center trailer) with a tank on the back. Everybody and his sister waited to kill that transporter, because it meant disabling of that tank. 

There was a Jeep both in front and in back, with soldiers whose job it was to protect that tank. Dad told me a couple stories about everyday encounters, but only hinted at the treachery and violence which was attempted. Suffice to say that reports from Vietnam were the same or even a bit milder. 

Dad was there, all through the invasion of Sicily, Anzio, and finally Italy, serving in a nonviolent role until he was “damn near killed by a bunch of drunk assholes” by being run over with a halftrack in Paris, while trying to get a decent Christmas dinner for his division. 

His back was broken in several places, and these well-meaning but drunk soldiers picked him up and put him in the back of a Jeep, to transport him to the nearest field hospital. 

Dad came home on a hospital ship, and lived the rest of his life with two pieces of steel in his back. That didn’t stop him from meeting Mom, and from loving us two kids in a way that valued our lives. 

I can’t say more than two words: 

Thanks, Dad.

Awesomeness in the midst of conflicting emotions

In the last few months, we have had several burdens upon us.

We haven’t been able to go camping; and this is when we’d be quite frequently camping. My wife’s Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is giving her trouble with being able to catch her breath after doing the most simple of things. She’s able to get around, but has to stop about every 20 feet to catch her breath, and has no stamina, due to the lack of ability to get into condition. My old knees haven’t been right, restricting my own mobility; and although I’m working on getting into better shape, even that’s gone in the wrong direction lately.

Thanks to my former boss (VP of HR) and his prescience, he got me into a category such that if there were cuts, it was going to make cutting my job hurt my employer rather badly. Consequently I have a year of full severance and fully paid COBRA insurance coverage for both of us, as we were covered in that manner previously.

There’s a ‘but’ with that.

Meanwhile, to keep my wife’s health up, we’d of course been on several doctor’s visits. But there were ongoing problems with getting the insurance to cover her visits. After many phone calls, and probably a day’s worth of waiting on hold, we discovered in April that my wife was supposed to have immediately applied (back in January when my job was terminated) for Medicare in order for the COBRA insurance to partner in covering her – so all coverage since January has been denied!

CHF isn’t a cheap disease to have. And you have to stay ahead of it. But with expensive visits (let’s call it the equivalent of a couple car payments) she’s had to skip the visits until Medicare begins coverage.

There is good news: We finally have things straightened out, and she will be fully covered again after June 1. We have doctor’s visits scheduled ASAP after that date, as her CHF symptoms are really bothering her.

The bad news is that even after appeals, we find ourselves liable for well over a thousand dollars in medical bills.

Meanwhile, God continues to remind me that he is on my side. And we respond by looking up in faith, instead of looking around; we both remain positive that things will turn out okay.

And now, in a God-moment of “look at this, child”: I came to this devotion in Tony Dungy’s book, The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge. I’m giving proper credit and quoting ver batim with editing for flow. I’m also highlighting the passages which struck me:

For Us

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:31

How many times have we prayed for a certain outcome, imagined that a problem has only one solution, and lost heart when that outcome or solution didn’t occur? How many times have we seen that happen in our lives at home, at work, in sports, or with financial investments?

And then we learn, of course, that God has something much better in store. That’s what the apostle Paul proclaims in today’s verse.

For me, 2001 was a monster of a difficult year in Tampa Bay. First, as a team, we had all gone through the uncertainty of 9/11 and the aftermath together with the rest of the country. But we rallied from a slow start to make the playoffs again, only to lose to the Philadelphia Eagles in Philly—again. Off the field, the media was having a field day speculating whether I would be fired and if Bill Parcells would be the guy to replace me.

My staff and I just kept coaching, believing that the Lord requires us to do our jobs and He will take care of the rest. And then, despite much prayer, we were fired. That was not the answer or outcome we were looking for, but it was the answer we got.

And so in the midst of much disappointment and uncertainty for the future, we packed up, not knowing what doors the Lord would open tomorrow, but still believing He would provide. And He did. The Indianapolis Colts called with a mission statement they wanted me to fulfill.

If God is for us. (How could I have forgotten that promise?) Then who can ever be against us? Once again I was reminded that in every outcome—whether it was the one I had been praying and hoping for or not—God had a good plan in place, something whereby He would be glorified. And the amazing thing about that plan? It was just one of many in my life.

Ever since the appeals were denied, as I continue the prayerful hunt for a new job, I’d been looking to God to find me the right one, and with immediate medical coverage. It didn’t take much calculation to see that it would take just two of the COBRA payments from my former employer to fully pay off our medical bills.

But God is at work here. His timing is perfect, as always. In the mail on Saturday came the notice for my first payout of my pension, which was activated upon, and retroactive to, my job’s termination.

The check is exactly enough to cover all our medical expenses.

Thank you Lord.