Fly Me to the Moon (or at Least to Nebraska)

21 Jul


My step-mother recently passed away. While the term “step-mother” often conjures up images of an abusive pseudo-parent: this was not the case with Doris. She was always kind and loving to my siblings and me, never tried to replace our birth-mother and was a devoted wife to my father for over 30 years. I felt it was important that I get to her funeral to pay my respects to her and to support my dad. Achieving that goal proved to be somewhat daunting.

My initial reaction was, as normal, to drive the 1,000 miles separating me from her home of Sprague Nebraska. But a number of factors conspired to make that option impractical. Some of these might have been mitigated through car-pooling with a brother who lives in the same general part of the nation as I, but that too was quashed by circumstances.

Marie and I decided the best option was for me to fly to Nebraska and back and we began researching airfare and schedules. In the end we decided on United Express, a division of United Airlines, and a flight plan that took me from the Knoxville Tennessee airport to O’Hare airport in Chicago then on to the Lincoln Nebraska airport with only a 1½ hour lay-over in Chicago. This would get me to Lincoln by 9:45 AM and I didn’t need to be back on board for the return flight until 6:15 PM, giving me most of the day to visit with relatives and attend the funeral service. The cost was doable and it seemed a reasonable solution.  Read the rest of this entry »



20 Jul
Calvin S. Metcalf on Dying     When we reflect upon the cross of Jesus, we are impressed by the fact that He invites us to share death with Him.  In following Him we expose ourselves to a cross-like life.  His promise is that in losing our lives we will find our lives.  Love has no greater expression than laying down one’s life for another.  The gospel is a cause worth dying for and many martyrs have made the ultimate sacrifice.  The Christian life is a risk-taking adventure.  We cannot escape its call to death even as it offers the highest quality of life.  Because life is our most precious asset we cannot make a total commitment until it too has been offered.  We can never overestimate the power of dying love.
     There is a sense in which we are all dying for something.  Some folk are dying for cigarettes.  They are smoking themselves into the throes of lung cancer.  There are those dying for excessive use of narcotics.  They are drinking themselves toward alcoholism and cirrhosis.  They are popping pills with fatal implications.  Some people are dying for their careers.  They are exhausting themselves into workaholics.  They are losing the joy of their work in the addiction to work.  We are beginning to see more and more people dying for food.  Poor diets and gluttonous eating habits are creating serious health problems.  There are any number of people dying for attention.  They worry so much about being neglected it eats away at their nervous system.  Yes, in one way or another we are all dying for something.
     The big question which confronts us is this: Is what we are dying for, worth dying for? This is where the gospel comes to our rescue and offers us something bigger than ourselves to which we can be committed.  Giving ourselves away to worthy causes is what the Christian life is all about.  From the time we are born we begin the process of death.  Hopefully on the journey we can find a life worth living through the things worth dying for.  Some people are dying for no good reason.  Other people are dying with a peace and a purpose from God.
     The cross of our Lord becomes our model for both living and dying.  The spirit of sacrifice is necessary for abundant living and peaceful dying.  Our Lord taught us that unless a seed falls into the ground and dies it cannot produce life.  Dying daily to ourselves we are resurrected in fulfillment.  Giving ourselves away to that which is high and holy exposes us to that which is high and holy.  May the Lord God of the cross give us a cross-bearing witness in a world which still crucifies innocence.  Since we are all going to die at some time, let us make it worthwhile.



The Bed By the Window

15 Jul

hospital bedTwo men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.   One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.   His bed was next to the room’s only window.   The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end.   They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.   The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the descriptions of the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.  Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.   As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.   Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.   She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.  It faced a blank wall!

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.  The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”


There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations.

Please note

I cannot claim credit for writing this story: it has been floating around the internet in some form or another for years.  I came across it in my files recently and thought I’d share it here.  I’ve probably tweaked it some – I tend to do that.


How Much Does a Cloud Weigh?

14 Jul

Most normal people have, at some time in their lives, laid on their back in the grass and looked up at the summer sky as clouds drift slowly over. Often we play games of finding familiar shapes in those clouds. But have you ever wondered how much a cloud weighs?

At first thought, that would seem to be a nonsensical question: obviously, it doesn’t weigh anything because it’s floating in the air. But if you think that through a bit more, you’ll see that this claim doesn’t hold water.

Cloud watching What are clouds made of? They’re mostly air and water in some form or another. Generally this would be water vapor. Think of it as cold steam. The droplets are so tiny, they can ride eddies and currents of air that constantly swirl about in our atmosphere. Dry air is also denser than water vapor, so it will buoy the clouds up until the vapor turns to larger droplets (rain) or freeze into snow or hail.

It is a common sight here in the Great Smoky Mountains to see fog banks that form overnight along creeks and rivers be lifted up the slopes of the mountains as the morning sun warms the trees, which warm the air, which rises. As the warmer air rise, it drags these fog banks with it, up the slopes, to the mountain crest, then they launch; changing from fog to cloud (which is essentially the same thing except for location).

Water has weight: 8.34 pounds per gallon at room temperature. So if clouds are made of water, clouds must have weight. Can we calculate the weight of a cloud?

Read more:



13 Jul
Calvin S. Metcalf on Church Burnout     Burnout in the church and with the church is a live possibility for many folk today.  They either drop out of church altogether or move to another church they think would be less stressful.  Church has a way of overworking the gifts and skill of the over-willing.  Some folk have so much to do at church they never have a “Sabbath” experience.  They get caught up in “church work” and lose sight of the “work of the church.” 
     “Church work” is hard and demanding.  It requires leaders to be on top of every situation, to manage conflict and to deal with interpersonal problems.  These folk try to fulfill the wishes of a diverse body of believers and it is sometimes stressful.  On the other hand, the “work of the church” involves everyone in doing  missions and ministry.  The “work of the church” is a cooperative effort where love, understanding, and shared responsibilities produce an effective witness.  The focus is on the many and not the few.  We must all be careful that “church work” does not hinder our vision of the “work of the church” or else burnout will occur.
     Church burnout may have theological implications.  Some may do their “church work” as a kind of penance.  It becomes an effort to atone or pay for their sins.  If they work hard enough they hope to find some relief for their inner guilt. Church burnout also comes to the overly pious.  These folk overextend themselves in order to impress others with their commitment.  Their struggle to be humble is frustrated by their proud intentions.  They are so weary with “well doing” they lose the joy of what they are doing.  Unwilling to accept their limitations they lose themselves in needless guilt.  Having no theology of failure they lose their theology of hope. 
     “Church work” sets us up for burnout because there is no finished product.  It is never completed.  We never reach all the lost.  We never feed all the poor nor heal all the sick.  We never fix all people’s lives nor eliminate all their problems.  We never learn all there is to learn.  We are unfinished participants in a task that is far bigger than our ability to perform.  Because there is no closure to our task we can easily become overwhelmed and burned out.
     The “work of the church” rescues us from trying to do it all to doing all we can together.  We do not have a finished job description because Jesus does not call us to a job, but to an adventure.  Only God knows what it is all about.  In His love He recalls us, changes our direction, and offers us new challenges.  We surrender our burned-out souls to His rejuvenating care and do the best we can for Jesus sake today.



Movie Review: Strange World of Planet X

11 Jul

Strange World of Planet XWe watched a movie called The Strange World of Planet X as our Sci-fi Friday movie, which toured theaters under the title The Cosmic Monsters.  It was quite interesting and a refreshing twist on an old theme.

Here we have a group of scientists doing experiments with intense magnetic fields.  The lead scientist is brilliant, dogmatic and a bit mad.  They are funded by the military which hopes to weaponize their research. The happy little crew is stirred a bit with the addition of a new computer operator, who turns out to be an attractive (and smart) young woman.

Of course it all goes awry and ends up creating giant bugs which begin killing people.  Flying saucers have also been sighted and are blamed for the killer bugs and the atmospheric disturbances.  But in fact, the UFOs are there to help.  I’ll leave it there so I don’t spoil it for you should you want to watch it for yourself.

The Trailer

The Movie

Internet Movie Data Base ( rates it at 5 of 10 stars with 424 ratings and has this to say:

A friendly visitor from outer space warns against conducting experiments with the Earth’s magnetic field, that could mutate insects into giant monsters.

Director: Gilbert Gunn

Writers: René Ray (novel),  Paul Ryder (screenplay)

Stars: Forrest Tucker, Gaby André, Martin Benson | See full cast and crew »


At a small, rural British lab, monomaniac Dr. Laird and his staff create ultra-intense magnetic fields. Inexplicably, the apparatus seems to be affecting distant objects, and to be drawing “extra power” from…somewhere. One night, after a “freak” storm, strange and deadly things start happening in Bryerly Woods, and a strange man from “a long way off” appears in the district…concerned about Laird’s pulling down disaster from the skies. Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Dressing for Work as a Writer

08 Jul
dressing for work the tug-o-war between prfessional and comfortable


There has for some time now been a tug-of-war going on between two schools of thought about how writers should dress when they go to “work”. On one end of the rope we have the combatants who advocate dressing for comfort: if that means a well broken-in sweat suit and bedroom slippers, then so be it. On the other end are those who insist that writers treat their writing like a job and dress appropriately, just as if they were going to work in an office with dozens of other people. This is not necessarily a power suit, but at least a dress shirt and slacks for men, and equivalent for women.

Both camps have some compelling arguments in their favor. Let’s look at them.  Read the rest of this entry »



06 Jul
Calvin S. Metcalf on amazable     A miracle is not a miracle until its source has been recognized and celebrated.  A beautiful sunset loses much of its splendor without a grasp of Who causes it to happen.  The dawning of a new day is a spectacular event for all who see the divine paintbrush at work.  Life is dull and routine if there is no awareness of God’s intervention in its particulars.  Every day is full of mystery and meaning.  The miraculous is as common as the explainable .  The journey of life is one of faith.  It requires us to see beyond the natural to the supernatural.  Most of life is lived in the context of that which we do not fully understand.  We simply trust the process observing much of which we consider is miraculous.
     What then is a miracle?  A miracle is any aspect of life that has God written all over it.  It is not only that which is humanly unexplainable.  It is that which has redemptive consequences for us.  It is outside our ability to achieve.  It is grace in motion as God’s power to perform is recognized.  A miracle is capable of many interpretations.  All of us do not see the same miracles.  They are individualized to minister to our unique circumstances.  We must not minimize each other’s miracles simply because we have a different interpretation to some event.  Surely it would be a form of blasphemy to ridicule that which another person feels is God’s involvement in his or her life.  
     We are blessed indeed when we can behold the hand of God at work in His world.  When the miracles of life leap out at us in unexpected moments, we can surely praise God for His unmistakable presence.  A miracle is not a miracle for us until we have some significant way to celebrate its occurrence.  We do not announce every miracle as though we have a more favored position with God.  A powerful personal miracle is a humbling experience and we savor the event only for God’s glory.   Sometimes it is a moment of grace for private interpretation only.  Then again it may be an occasion for others to join the celebration.  Let us be mindful of life’s miracles and find ways to share God’s power for God’s glory.

Battling the Evil Flea Beetle

04 Jul

The adult flea beetle is a tiny (1/10 inch long) black, brown or bronze beetle that can jump like a flea when you disturb it. You’ll know it’s around when you see the small, round “pinholes” they chew through leaves. They will attack most vegetables, flowers and weeds but are particularly fond of brassicas (cabbage family), potatoes, spinach, radishes and eggplant.

Flea Beetle

Flea Beetle Life Cycle

Flea beetles are found throughout North America. The larvae live in the soil and are thin, white, legless grubs with brown heads that feed on plant roots. Adult Flea Beetles emerge from the soil in spring to feed and lay eggs on the roots of plants. The adults die out by early July. Their eggs hatch in about a week. The larvae feed for 2 to 3 weeks then pupate in the soil. The next generation of adults emerges in 2 to 3 weeks. These voracious pests produce two to four generations per year before the final generation of adults settles down for overwintering.

These beetles are most damaging in early spring when an infestation can kill seedlings. As plants mature they are better able to survive and outgrow the damage, unless the beetles carried a plant virus.

Battling the Enemy

Prevention is often the best defense. The larvae overwinter in soil and can be destroyed with regular hoeing and cultivating. Be sure to remove all debris from previous crops and keep the area weed free. Weeds are an important early season food for flea beetle larvae. Without cover and food, the larva will starve.


Independence Day

03 Jul

Independence DayI was chatting with a friend this morning and he mentioned that he has been trying to convince his co-workers this week that we are not celebrating the 4th of July: we are celebrating INDEPENDENCE DAY. He makes an excellent point.

This holiday is not about BBQs and boat rides. It’s not about fireworks displays. It’s not about getting a day off work and a long weekend. It is about a time when our nation stood up on its hind legs and said, “We’ve had enough, England. We’re tired of over taxation. We’re tired of big government telling us what we can and cannot do, think and believe. We’re tired of Aristocrats looking down their noses at us and treating us as mindless rabble. We’re tired of being exploited and lied to.”

And we did something about it.  A nation of farmers and shopkeepers took up arms and went toe-to-toe with the British military … and beat them.  But not without significant loss of life and damage to property. In so doing, we earned the right to think for ourselves, to govern ourselves.

THAT is what the celebration held on July 4th is all about, and we would do well to remember Independence Day so we do not once again become dependent, which leads to subjugation.

By all means: fire up the grill, invite friends and family, and touch off some fireworks.  But as you celebrate, remember that the celebration is not about burgers on the grill or booming starfires in the sky – it’s about freedom.