Archive for the ‘West Douglas County Record’ Category

Merry Christmas to all my readers! My wife thought this photo looked like a “Moon bridge to the stars.” :O) So I decided to share it as part of my Christmas greeting:

7:53 AM CST 12-20-11 (13:53 UT), 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, 2x Barlow. Click for larger view.

This article was originally published in the West Douglas County Record on December 15, 2011:

I almost made it through 2011 without noting a very important anniversary: this year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible, first published in 1611. The King James Bible has been called “the most influential version of the most influential book in the world, in what is now its most influential language”, “the most important book in English religion and culture”, and “the most celebrated book in the English-speaking world.” Even National Geographic magazine has featured the King James Version in its latest issue. Recently a group of over 100 members of churches in Perry, Georgia, took turns reading the entire King James Bible from beginning to end in 76 hours, reading in 30-minute shifts between December 1 and December 4, 2011. I will celebrate the anniversary of the King James Version by quoting Luke 2:8-14 from it, just as Linus does in “A Charlie Brown Christmas:”

“‘8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'”

“…And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”


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This article was first published in the West Douglas County Record on April 14, 2011:

When I was a sixth grader, in the Autumn of 1976, my teacher gave us an interesting assignment: she handed us a long, detailed list of typical grocery items, and asked us to go to the store and write down what their prices were. It was a simple yet profound lesson in economics. For awhile I decided that we should buy Corn Flakes since it was the least expensive cereal! Of course, after awhile I branched out again to other cereals. But of all the assignments I ever did in school, it was one of the most memorable, and I wish I still had that 1976 grocery price list that I made! It would be utterly fascinating to see what all those items cost over 34 years ago, a true time capsule.

Not long ago I was trying to research inflation on the Internet. To be specific, I remembered that when my Dad and I built my large telescope in 1979 it cost a total of $300, and I wondered how much that would be in today’s dollars. Perhaps about six or seven hundred, I speculated. Soon I found the answer: the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis had what I needed, a calculator to translate one year’s dollars into another’s, and I was surprised to find out that those $300 in 1979 equal over $900 in 2011 dollars! That made me appreciate even more the investment that my parents made for their teenage son, both in spending that money and in the many evenings of work that Dad spent building my telescope. At that time my homebuilt telescope was a good deal, but it wouldn’t be that way today, as one can now order a sizable no-frills telescope equal to my own for about $325 in 2011 dollars, and it would weigh less than half as much as well! Wouldn’t it be great if groceries, or gasoline, had also plunged in real price during the last 34 years the way that telescopes have?

(Note: After publishing this article it’s coming back to me that the cost of my telescope was $150-200 rather than $300, but that still would be at least $450-600 today.)

One thing I’ve learned in life is that there’s often little, if any, relationship between
something’s price in the marketplace and its true, intrinsic value. That’s especially true spiritually. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36 NASB) Lent and Easter are a great time to remember
what is truly worth the most, and especially to remember that Jesus considered us sinners so valuable that He spent everything, including His life, in order to buy us back. “You were bought with a price.” (I Corinthians 7:23 NASB)

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This article was first published in the West Douglas County Record on March 31, 2011:

Anyone who has lost his or her wedding ring knows the awful, sinking feeling I knew for one year and eight months. At my job at Donnelly Manufacturing in Alexandria, we can’t wear finger jewelry on the production floor, and one weekend in July 2009 I looked for my ring in the usual place where I kept it during the week. Where was it? Suddenly a terrible chain of events came into focus in my memory. The previous Monday I had discovered at work that I was wearing my ring, so I wrapped it up in tape and put it in my toolbox. Sometime later, I accidentally dumped part of the toolbox’s contents on the floor and quickly scooped them up, forgetting to look for the most precious thing in the box! Finally, when I discovered the ring was missing, I thought for sure that the ring had tumbled out of my toolbox, and since it was wrapped up in tape, it would have looked like any other wad of scrap. It probably had been swept up and didn’t exist anymore.

In a way, that was one of the worst things about it. I would have rather thought that it had been picked up and appreciated by some stranger instead of being unceremoniously swept up with the trash and incinerated. As it was, I gradually adjusted to the loss of the ring. My wife, bless her heart, was very gracious about the whole thing and took it in stride. Life went on, we focused on other things, and though I always felt a bit dejected whenever I thought of my wedding ring, I thought of it less and less. We occasionally talked about finding a replacement ring and having it blessed, perhaps in connection with a renewal of vows. I was even well on my way to thinking that a replacement ring could be as good as the original after all.

Then the miracle happened. Not long ago in mid-March 2011 I was heading off to work early for some overtime, when I put something back in my toolbox, and suddenly out flipped a wad of tape with something in it that I never thought I would see again: my ring! Of course my toolbox had been the first place I looked, but I had never thought of lifting up the tray that sits in the top of the toolbox and looking underneath. For 20 months the tape with my ring in it had been stuck to the bottom of the tray! Of course that means that I had hundreds of chances to lose the ring any time I opened the toolbox. I was on the verge of being late, but I was taking no chances: I rushed inside, giddy to the point of goofiness, and told my wife, “It’s a miracle! I found my ring! Here, put it in a safe place!”

I’m overjoyed to have my ring back, but of course life would have still been okay if it had really been gone forever. Losing a ring is nothing like losing a person. Do we treasure the people around us more than things? What about Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us? Do we treasure Him and His Kingdom more than earthly possessions? “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” Matthew 6:21. “Or what woman, if she has ten sliver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10 NASB. My lost ring was one of my least favorite topics of conversation ever: I only remember even telling my wife, my mom, and one other person. But now that it’s found I enjoy telling everybody!

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This article was first published in the West Douglas County Record on January 20, 2011:

Sometimes when people find out that I’m an amateur astronomer, they ask me whether I agree with Pluto’s “demotion” from full planet status in 2006, and they’re often surprised to find out that I’m OK with it. One reason why may be purely selfish, as I’ve seen all the planets from Mercury to Neptune, but I’ve never seen Pluto with my own eyes, so the reclassification enables me to say that I’ve seen all the planets! There’s more, though. From 1930, when 24-year-old scientist Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, until 1992, no other objects like it were known further out than Neptune, but now we know of three others similar in size, and as many as seventy that are somewhat smaller, so I think it makes sense to make a new category rather than keep on adding to the list of planets until there are too many to list on one page!

It’s a case of history repeating itself, because when the asteroid Ceres was discovered in 1801, it was considered a new planet, but within 50 years there were fifteen asteroids known, and the list of planets was getting long! By the late 1800s the small objects between Mars and Jupiter had been put in their own class as asteroids and the number of planets reduced once again to eight, until Pluto made it nine, at least for awhile!

Clyde Tombaugh died in 1997 at age 90, but his widow Patricia is still alive. When Pluto was demoted she was asked how she felt, and she said she was somewhat shaken, but not terribly so. She also said that if Clyde were alive today he would have been a bit disappointed, but would accept the decision. “Clyde was a scientist. He would understand they had a real problem when they start finding several of these things flying around the place.”

So what’s God’s definition of a planet? And what else is out there that we haven’t discovered? The answer is beyond our imagination. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are my ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.'” Isaiah 55:8,9 NASB. Learning about God is like learning about His creation; sometimes it means replacing the old thoughts with the new.

By the way, I like the new term “dwarf planet” because the “dwarf” part sounds Walt Disneyish enough for an object called Pluto. That’s what I think, anyway, and since I’m nicknamed Mickey and I have a dog named Pluto, my opinion should count for something!

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This article was first published in the West Douglas County Record on February 3, 2011:

It’s now (as of early February) just about one year since the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and three years yet till the next Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. I’m one of those rare “in-between” people in regards to sports. There are a few who dislike them, and many others who rarely let a day pass by without watching sports. As for me, I tend not to make them a priority (except for the Winter Olympics!), but I do enjoy them when I watch them, and during my life I’ve even risen in my own athletic abilities from “rock bottom” to “almost average,” which I count as no small achievement!
I thought of sports this past Sunday, as I wasn’t able to make it to church at Chippewa, but I did visit a brand new church starting in Alexandria called Catalyst Covenant Church. There I ran into Mr. Luedtke, my Phy-Ed teacher at Garfield School way back in the early to mid 1970s, “when the world was young.” Mr. Luedtke looked much the same as he did nearly 40 years ago. No doubt he has taken good care of himself. Anyway, I shared with him that somehow over the years I’d improved moderately in my athletic skills, and he said that others have told him the same thing! I remember him tirelessly trying to teach me the concept of the “double dribble,” which I somehow never grasped at the time. I now understand why my teammates were so frustrated as I invariably took that next step instead of passing or shooting!
A few highlights of my slow rise to ” athletic averageness” (which is an achievement when you start at the very bottom): In Grade 9 Phy-Ed we played Broomball, which somehow matched my unique set of skills very well, and unleashed my buried competitive instincts. For some reason I had no fear of other players’ broomsticks as I lunged and dropped to the ice to hit the ball. One classmate, a noted wisecracker, even composed a short parody of Kenny Rogers’ new song at the time, “Coward of the County,” including these words, “You could hear a pin drop … as he stopped, and dropped, and hit the ball.” The best part of my Broomball career was that instead of being the very last kid begrudgingly picked for a team, I was actually one of the first picked! Also in Junior High, once we were playing Softball, and I was playing right field, when one of the biggest jocks of the class was at bat. There’s not much to it; he hit the ball right toward me, and I reached up and caught it, the one time I ever “outed” someone. The class cheered, Ms. Feldman beamed.
I didn’t do too badly at downhill skiing when Andes Tower Hills first opened, and sometime during young adulthood I got the knack of serving at Volleyball, which at least helped me not to be an embarrassment to my team. Finally, a few years ago I once again skiied downhill at Andes, for the first time since I was half my current age, and it went better than I thought it would. I only fell once – the second time I got off the chairlift!
God wants us to take care of our bodies and use them for good things: “Glorify God in your body,” I Corinthians 6:20. He also wants us to be “team players” in His Kingdom: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth,” I Corinthians 3:6; “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit … But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” I Corinthians 12:4, 7. And He wants us to “run for the prize,” “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:14. “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength,” Isaiah 40:31 NASB.
By the way, the next time you’re in charge of picking teams, don’t let the least athletic kid be forced to be the goalie. A critical defensive position is the worst place to put a kid who lacks skill and confidence! A lower-profile offensive position would be much better. Take it from someone who’s been there!

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This article was first published in the West Douglas County Record on January 6, 2011:

Five years ago this winter, when I was pastor of two churches in South Dakota, three of my parishioners who lived near the “Country Church” were on their way at dusk to a mid-week study 17 miles away at the “Town Church,” when they found their agenda slightly rearranged. They were a couple named Rick and Suzie, as well as Rick’s mother Donna, and as they drove past a T-corner in the gravel township roads, they noticed a pickup in the snow that had obviously slid through the T-corner and gotten stuck. At first they didn’t see anyone, and Suzie and Donna hoped they would just get on their way, but somehow they knew that Rick wouldn’t pass by without investigating. Sure enough, he backed up, parked, stepped out, trudged over to the pickup – nobody was in there, but soon Rick heard a voice from a short distance away: my voice! The pickup was my blue Ford Ranger, and I was the one who was stuck!

About a half hour earlier I had just finished teaching Confirmation at the Country Church, and planned to eat supper with my wife before leading the evening study. But I had underestimated the iciness of the T-corner two miles north of the church, and sailed right through straight-shot, so straight, in fact, that I was still on the track between two fields, and would have still been on the road had there been one there! But I was stuck, I couldn’t pick up a strong enough cell phone signal to call anyone, and though I knew almost everyone in the neighborhood, everyone lived at least a mile away. I had just started walking the long, cold mile east to a farm belonging to another parishioner couple, when Rick, Suzie and Donna came upon the scene. I hopped in the car with the ladies and amazingly we got there on time for the study, though I postponed supper till later. Rick got help to get my pickup unstuck, and drove it to the study, arriving only about a half hour late. The moral of the story is, no matter how godly your purpose, don’t hesitate to adjust it in order to show Christian love to someone in need. The purpose you save may be your own! “Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.” Ecclesiastes 11:1 NASB. And remember, we all need to be rescued from the power of sin. Never be too proud to admit you need what Jesus has to give, and don’t ever think you’re too far gone for Jesus to love you or to save you. A friend of mine named George passed this on to me that his priest said one Sunday: “There is no saint without a past, and no sinner without a future.” May your present and future be filled with God’s purpose for you during 2011!

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This article was first published in the West Douglas County Record on December 9, 2010:

Once when I was in college (back in the mid-1980s!), I was enjoying a mid-morning snooze at about 9:30 on Saturday morning, when the telephone rang. I sleepily got up and answered the phone. It was my cello teacher, Dr. Garvin. She asked me, “I’m here. Are you coming?” Suddenly I was wide awake, but very confused. What was she talking about? She said, “I’m here at the recital hall. Will you be here soon?”

Finally it dawned on me. I was soon going to be performing in a recital, and we had reserved the recital hall for 9:30 AM Saturday so I could rehearse on-site. The time was set, the arrangements were made, and Dr. Garvin had made her way to campus … and I had completely forgotten and was asleep! Embarrassed and unprepared to come, I ended up rescheduling the rehearsal. The recital didn’t go a bit badly, but I learned a lesson about being prepared.

When Jesus came the first time, many were unprepared for His coming, but some were watchful, expectant, and prepared. One of my favorite people in the Christmas story is Simeon, the old saint who had received, and believed, the promise that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. On a glorious day his prayer was answered as Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple to present Him to the LORD. Simeon said, “Now Lord you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word” (Luke 2:29). On the day Jesus came, Simeon was prepared.

As we prepare for Christmas, I pray that we would prepared not just for an event, but truly to receive the Christ Child, our Savior, in our hearts through faith, to receive one another with love, and be prepared for an event yet to come – Christ’s Second Coming.

One more thing: A few years ago I made contact via email with Dr. Garvin once again, who now is a music librarian in her native California. Though I had apologized for my forgetfulness years ago, I once again apologized for the “rehearsal incident” as well as one other occasion when I was inconsiderate. She replied, “I honestly don’t remember those things. I only remember good things about you.” That just about brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered (Psalm 32:1).”

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