View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


View from the Ridge

Over the years I have become an advocate for close family ties.   My mom and dad grew up just a mile or so apart on the same country road.  All the farm ground between them was owned by either a Hoover or a Query.  When I was growing up most of my relatives lived in that same five square mile area of Henry County Indiana, but I didn't.

Once married my parents became nomads and we lived in places like San Diego and Hemet, Calif.;  Kansas City, Missouri; Fairfax, Virginia; New Castle, Delaware, then back to Woodland Hills, Calif.  If it hadn’t been for the many long summers I spent in Indiana I wouldn’t know hardly any of my relatives.   I was always envious of my cousins because they were around each other and all the aunts, uncles and grandparents year round.  I was the novelty relative at the annual family reunions.  “Oh, you must be Bertie Ellen’s boy!”  Hug, hug, kiss, kiss.   Yep, that’s me!
As Abraham was told by God “and said to him, 'Leave your family and country and go to the land that I will show you” Acts 7:3, in 1968 Jeri and I were directed to move to La Grande from Southern California.  Maybe the voice wasn’t God’s but some Fleetwood executive, but I know that God was directing everything.  All of our immediate family lived in Southern California as well as most of Jeri’s extended family.  We were young and the excitement of a new area and new beginnings was mixed with the fear of moving to a place we had not even heard of, let alone visited or known anyone from there.  We stepped out in faith that God knew what He was doing and “Surprise, Surprise,” He did! 

Scripture also tells us to “Be grateful for the good things that the LORD your God has given you and your family;” 1Ch 17:16 Over the years He has blessed our family “Better than I deserve” as Dave Ramsey would say.  And as King David said “Then King David went into the Tent of the LORD's presence, sat down, and prayed, "I am not worthy of what you have already done for me, LORD God, nor is my family”.  Deu. 26:11  We have been richly blessed spiritually with a loving church family, with a pastoral staff that preaches the truth of scripture and refuses to compromise it.  We live in a beautiful valley on more acreage than probably 99% of the world.   It has not been without trials and tribulations, heartache and tears, good times and bad, but through it all Jesus has walked with us, carried us when we needed to be, as God molded and shaped us into the servants He wanted us to be.

As I write this, it is just after thanksgiving, and that is what prompted me to write about family and being together.  Seldom do we have all our family here at thanksgiving, and so over the years we have exercised our gift of hospitality and invited friends and neighbors to join our family and our kids that do make it home.

 “If his family is too small to eat a whole animal, he and his next-door neighbor may share an animal, in proportion to the number of people and the amount that each person can eat.” Exodus 12:4.  I ran across this scripture by accident but it so fits with this theme of Thanksgiving and hospitality.  We normally have 12 to 14 at our table at Thanksgiving, but this year it is was 20. Needed a BIG turkey this year, 24 lbs.   Fortunately, God has blessed us with a house that will accommodate a crowd that big.   And our daughter, Kris, came a day early and worked so hard in helping with all the cooking and baking.  Another one of our blessings.   Gal. 6:10 So then, as often as we have the chance, we should do good to everyone, and especially to those who belong to our family in the faith.

If a family divides itself into groups which fight each other, that family will fall apart. Mark 3:25.   I have seen so many families split apart by dissention and it grieves me.  I vowed years ago that would not happen in our family.  I have stressed with our kids that disagreements will happen but we will resolve those issues and not let it separate us.  Since 1964 we have only missed 2 Christmas’ where most of us were together, and both of those were due to my health.  I am so thankful to the Lord that we have been blessed with kids that still want to be with family at Christmas and will travel great distances to be here.

Eph. 2:19  “So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God's people and members of the family of God.”  Because of this scripture, Mark 3:25 is also so important in the church family.  We cannot be divided and fight among ourselves, for we will surely fall apart and what kind of witness and testimony will that have among the unsaved in our community.

Twelve years ago I wrote about change that was occurring in our church.  For two years the church dealt with the arrival of a new pastor and his family, new style of worship, contemporary music with different instruments, various church starting times, no Sunday school and then back to having Sunday school,  and we were not done yet.  Just about the time we thought we might be settling into a somewhat normal routine, God ups and orders another change.  He had a new assignment for his servants, our youth pastor Rick and his wife Jeanne.  Through all this we lost some families but the church has continued to grow and prosper. 

We are now at another cross roads where the pastor and elders are advocating some change.  Some might question the wisdom of a second service off site and name change, and that is good.  Sometimes people in the congregation see issues that leadership misses.  Our pastors and Elders have an evangelistic vision that encompasses not only La Grande but the whole valley.  So I encourage you to be mindful that we are a family of believers and we need to listen and carefully consider what is being proposed.

On top of all this, our Associate Pastor is candidating for a senior pastorate at another church, which will result in a huge change for our church.  But change is what life is all about.  I see it every day in the mirror.  Don’t like it but its there.

As for me, I have one more scripture that I need to work on to fulfill.   Mark 5:19But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he told him, "Go back home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how kind he has been to you.I have added another trip into my bucket list and that is to journey back to Indiana and visit one more time with what few relatives I have left and share with them what an awesome God we serve and what He has done for our family. 
Joshua 24:15  If you are not willing to serve him, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors worshiped in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are now living. As for my family and me, we will serve the LORD."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dust to Dust

Ecc_12:7  Our bodies will return to the dust of the earth, and the breath of life will go back to God, who gave it to us.

Dad, age 42, with first grandchild, Chuck
This past August, the family said their final goodbyes to our dad, granddad and great granddad.  He passed away on the fourth of April this year, requested no services and asked that his ashes be spread in the Pacific Ocean.  My sister, Sharon, and I decided that since Hawaii was in the Pacific, that would fulfill the request.  Besides, the water off of Hawaii is a lot cleaner than off   Oceanside, Calif., where I'm sure he expected to have his ashes spread.

The Doser crew, winging their way to Hawaii.
Andy, Chuck, Stacia, Kris, & the eye of Lani

Charles and Stacia
A total of 15 family members and two wannabes made the journey to the Big Island of Hawaii to pay their last respects and have a time of family fellowship together.  And what a great time it was!  We used Dick and Sharon's condo and rented two others in the same complex at the Wiakoloa Beach Resort.  The first four arrived on 8-24, with nine more arriving on the 25th to help Chuck celebrate his 50th birthday in the 50th state. (Can't believe I have a fifty year old son).  The last four arrived on the 27th.  It was a minor miracle that we were able to find a 10 day window of time that 17 people from 5 states would be able to take time off from work or school.

On Sunday the 28th, we had a family gathering to remember Dad and share all the good memories we had.  I shared from the 23rd Psalm how fathers are like a shepherd to the family; providing, protecting, guiding and nurturing each member.  Dad was a good shepherd to our family, providing well for us, guarding and protecting us as best he could.  He was wise in giving us what we needed, not necessarily what we wanted.  He was always there for advice, but never interfered in our lives.  The family photo included here is his legacy, the results of two kids leaving Indiana and raising their two kids to the best of their ability.
The following day we took a catamaran out of Kona to spend a half day swimming with the spinner dolphins, spreading Dad's ashes and then doing some snorkeling.  Swimming with the dolphins was a highlight of the trip.
"Hey, where the heck did they go!!"
Picture taken by Andy with an underwater camera

Kris said that the dolphins came so close she could have reached out and touched them.

Spinner dolphins spend the night hunting at  depths  down to 3000 ft.  During the day they seek lagoons that have white sandy bottoms where they can rest and can see the shadows of enemy sharks.

From "spinner dolphin pictures and facts"

The Captain of our boat then took us out past the three mile marker to spread half of Dad's ashes.  Dick and Sharon will spread the other half later in the Sierra Mountains where Mom and Dad loved to spend time camping and fishing.

The captain then moved the boat slowly in a circle three times around the ashes - a Hawaiian tradition - as they gently spread in a gray cloud just under the surface of the deep blue waters of the Pacific.   Sharon had brought along a bottle of Dad's favorite scotch and poured some into the ocean and then it was passed around for a toast.  Dad was a cigar smoker for most of his life and a couple of those were lit up and passed around.

I had never been a part of spreading some one's ashes before, on land or sea, and really didn't have a clue what to do.  I did remember to make sure the boat was positioned upwind from me so that turned out OK. 

It was a surreal time while the boat was circling the ashes.  I had expected the ash to sink fairly quickly, but it remained just under the surface and slowly dissipated into a larger and larger gray cloud.  It was a very peaceful time as the sea, which was already fairly calm, seemed to become even calmer.

The other Mike, Merrill and Dick
We then went to a snorkeling area.  On arrival the word among the boat captains already there was that "Lucy" the tiger shark was somewhere around and to be on the watch for her.  She is a well known and frequent visitor but has not bothered anyone so far.   Us included.  Did make some just a tad nervous!

Sharon, Lani and Randy "the towel guy".  Dude, you have to spend more time in the sun!

Beth and Kirsti swimming with the dolphins

A special thanks to Lesley and Andy for the use of their pictures.  Great job!

All in all, it was a perfect day.  More to follow later.       Q

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Good bye, old friend

 You can say what you want about the current "recession", but there is one industry that is going gang busters: The scrape iron dealers.  The price of scrape iron has reached a level where it is now attractive to clean out barns, sheds and barn yards of old equipment, cars and scrape iron that has laid around for decades.  So far I have taken in two loads in my utility trailer of about a thousand pounds each of just scrap that has accumulated over the years that I swore I would eventually need.  And, yes, I used some of it on occasion but it was accumulating faster than I was using it.  They are paying $189 a ton for stuff and I have probably two more trailer loads to go. 

I took the header off a really old swather and my next door neighbor came down with his fork lift and loaded the two pieces on to his flat bed trailer that I borrowed - from him.  Received $321 for that.  Still have two grain drills, one very old four bottom plow and a liquid manure tank wagon to dispose of.  

So, it was finally  time to say goodbye to an old friend Yesterday, I loaded the old 78 Olds  diesel and took it in.  Got $378 for that.  We drove the Olds for 13 years, went through 2 engines and transmissions while putting 230,000 miles on the old girl.  The odometer turned the first 100,000 in October of 1983, and the second 100,000 in July of 1988.  It was stolen once, would not start several times when we were out of town, once at the Bonneville dam with the Winkles with us, and was towed for being in a no parking area in Portland late at night.  We thought it had been stolen again, until we noticed the unlit no parking sign in a dark corner of the lot.  Turned out to be an expensive dinner that evening. 

Yet it survived four kids learning to drive.  Andy slid it sideways down the highway at 60 mph, the deep black skid marks visible for 6 months, and Lani put it 100 feet into a neighbor's wheat field one wet spring, those ruts being visible for all to see until that fall when the field was finally plowed.   She also put it into a bar ditch that same year.

The engine finally quit running the fall of 1991.  At the time it was not worth it to haul it to the junk yard, so I parked it down by the shop and it has sat there for the last 20 years.   And for 20 years, Andy and his friend John wanted to use it for target practice, but I refused to let them.  Sorry about that, Guys.  

There are a lot of good memories, and some not so good, associated with that car, and I am sad to see it go.  It was GM's answer to the fuel crises during the late 70's, converting a gas 350 ci engine into a diesel.  It got great mileage and back in those days diesel fuel was cheaper than gasoline.  But the heads kept cracking because they just weren't heavy enough.  Chuck and I replaced the heads once, and then the engine and transmission, courtesy of Oldsmobile.  They shipped everything to us and we removed and replaced everything.  Great learning experience for both of us.  But even with the later model engine, the heads still cracked.  Finally when the injection pump failed, it was time to give up. 

Over the years it seemed that to be classified as a farm you had to have at least one old car or truck setting in the weeds.  Seemed like every farm or ranch I ever saw was that way.  But that may be a'changing.  The times I have been at the scrap yard (now called recycling centers) there have been several rigs bringing all kinds of vehicles, tractors, combines, you name it, and the number of truck and trailers hauling the scrap iron on to Portland is unbelievable.  The local dealer has at least 10 employees driving cranes and loaders, cutting stuff down to size, removing tires and sorting out the good stuff for resale.  In the mean time there is a lot of places that are being cleaned up that should have been years ago.  I know my place will look a lot better with all this stuff gone, and my lovely wife will not have to - ah, how do I say this - not mention that I should be getting rid of all this.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New sights

Last June I played in a Youth for Christ golf tournament.  While our team has not always done as well as we would like, I have done well in the prize drawings afterwards.  Tickets are a buck a piece, 6 for five dollars and I always chip in for the six.  This year I won two rounds of golf at Kah-nee-tah Golf Resort on the Warm Springs Indian reservation.  Since Jeri and I were making a trip to Portland, we decided to take an extra day, spend the night at the resort and play golf early the next morning before the heat and wind arrived.
We departed this last Monday morning,  the car  packed with clubs and luggage for our three weeks in Hawaii, and headed to town to do a couple of last minute errands and gas up the Camaro for the run to Warm Springs.   Less than a half mile out of Imbler I spotted what I thought at first glance was a herd of deer in an alfalfa field.  It turned out to be a herd of antelope.  It has only been in the last 15 years that antelope have been visiting our valley and usually are seen in the southern part in the wildlife refuge.  This is the first time I have seen them anywhere near the north end of the valley and they were only about 100 yards from the highway.  This was quite a treat for us as we seldom get to see antelope.

Our journey required three hours of driving on I-84 before turning south on highway 197 at The Dalles.  We were about 10 miles east of The Dalles when I remembered to start looking for the big horned sheep that some people have spotted along that section of the Columbia River Gorge.  Jeri and I have looked every time on our numerous trips to Portland and back and have failed to see any of them.  During this time of year with the grasses brown and dried out from lack of rain, they tend to blend into the back ground and are hard to see.  Jeri and I were looking high near the top of the ridges when I suddenly caught a glimpse of them low just off the freeway on the other side from us.  There were seven rams, just standing and laying around, not thirty yards from the traffic of trucks and cars roaring by at high speeds.   I don't know if they were waiting for a bus load of ewes to show up or what, but they sure weren't bothered by the traffic noise.

Which leads me to one of my pet peeves.  The Forest Service, BLM and Oregon Dept.  of Fish & Wildlife have over the past 20 years closed numerous forest roads under the guise of protecting Elk and Deer habitat from human intrusion.  Yet we constantly see deer and elk along side major highways feeding and resting seemingly oblivious to the traffic and noise.  Each winter we have herds of elk trek through our place stomping the winter wheat into the ground and leaving 25 yard wide trails through our and our neighbors fields.  Each spring we have a small herd of 15 to 25 bed down at night in the pine trees a hundred yards from our house and graze in our neighbors and our pastures during the day.  We love seeing them and their calves and don't have a problem with them other than the wheat damage.

There is a family up the road from us that wants to build a house on their property and can't because Fish and Wildlife has determined that they are in an Elk Habitat area and that would be detrimental to the elk.  Excuse me!  My house has not been a detriment to their movement in this area, not even when we had dogs!  If the safety of the animals is the concern, there are more road kills of deer and elk than taken by hunters in this state.  I'm not sure if that is a reflection on the accuracy and ability of our hunters or the driving abilities of Oregon drivers. I have seen semi-trucks disabled from hitting elk when the impact shoved the radiator into the engine. 

My question, then, is why does an occasional vehicle on a forest service road disturb deer and elk but heavy freeway traffic doesn't.  And why can't my neighbor build on his land because it might upset the elk, yet those same elk flock around our house apparently undisturbed.

One of the reasons we live in this part of the country is the diverse wildlife.  It is a privilege to have them virtually in our back yard.  But with that comes the responsibility to protect that same wildlife.  In the ninth chapter of Genesis, God said to Noah "The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into you hand thy are given.  Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant."  Gen. 9:2-3

Mankind has been given authority over fish and wildlife and everything that creeps and crawls, and with that authority comes responsibility.  We are to care and make sure that each species is provided for, but not to the detriment of the one who has authority over it.  I will tolerate the elk trampling my winter wheat and occasionally taking out the top wire on my fence when they can't quite get their fat fannies over it,  but I will not stand by and have someone dictate to me or others where or where not I can build a dwelling or how I can use my land based on some perceived needs of these same animals that we have authority over. 

I have friends and neighbors who shoot coyotes, but not on my land.  Coyotes don't bother me and I don't bother them.  They eat a lot of gophers and field mice, and yes, a few cats along the way.  I would hate to see the day when someone tells me I would have to change my farming practices because of the coyote, deer or elk.  As far as I am concerned, elk habitat is in the mountains where they spend the majority of their time, on national forest and BLM land.  Now that the elk spend the spring in my back yard, does that now make it elk habitat?  Time will tell.

As for now, I will continue to enjoy the wildlife that blesses Jeri and I with their presence, and will continue to forbid hunting on our land.  But if this recession turns into a depression and we get hungry, I do own some pretty high powered rifles that will help fill the freezer.

 Our round of golf was very enjoyable, I shot 88 and Jeri didn't keep score, the round was free but accommodations and meals were not. 

If any of you are involved in betting pools as to when I will get my first speeding ticket in the Yellow Hellfire, if you have before the 13th of September, you loose.  No tickets so far, and it is parked until the 13th when we return from Hawaii.   Aloha and Mahalo


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bumble Bee

People make decisions every day - some major, some minor - and there are consequences and responses by others  to each one.  I made a major one about a month ago, and while the jury is still out on any consequences, the responses by others has been surprising to say the least.

I had taken my pick-up into town to have a Banks electronic "Speed Brake" installed.  It is sort of like an electric Jake Brake to slow the truck and trailer down while descending steep grades without overheating the brakes.  Jeri was then going to drop me off at the church for the weekly Tuesday men's prayer lunch with our pastor.   As we drove down the main street of town we passed by Goss Motors, our local GM dealer.  I always look and see what they have sitting out on display.  Well, unfortunately, on that day they had this bright yellow Camaro SS on display with a sale price on it.  Long story made short, a week later Jeri and I were picking it up.

It was an agonizing week going over all the reasons why not to buy and only one reason to buy it: it is a flat out fun car to drive!  I am very conscious of my image in the church and community, having held various positions in the church, including several terms as deacon.  Some of you will laugh at that image statement since my life long theme song has been "What you see is what you get".  I did not want to come off as some old codger trying to relive his youth, or having a mid-life crisis, or trying to fill out his bucket list.  What it came down to was I was tired of driving a 14 year old Bonneville, and nothing else out there excited me that I could afford.

So I prepared myself for the expected comments about my mid-life crisis or trying to be a kid again, which I did receive a few. But what followed in the past few weeks has really taken me aback.  I have become the envy of every kid in town who has seen the Transformer movies (of which Jeri and I have not) and a lot of men and women who love the adrenalin flow of fast sport cars.  It started two days after we got the car when we were driving through Island City on our way to Boise to show the car to our kids, Andy and Kris.  There were these three kids about eight to ten years old walking along the street, and the middle kid's jaw dropped wide open, his eyes got as big as hub caps, as he locked on to us as we drove by.  The next Sunday a lady came up to me in church and asked if the rumor was true that I owned the yellow car out front.  I sheepishly answered yes, and she stated that every kid in the youth group was drooling over that car.  I hear small kids point and yell out "Bumble Bee, Bumble Bee" as I drive by, which I understand was the name of the car in the movie. I've seen several guys almost get whip lash from quickly looking around as I drive by.   I had a state trooper wave at me as he went by in pursuit of an SUV doing 80 or so in a 65 zone.   If I was 40 years younger it would be a chick magnet. 

In a town of 13,000 and a county of 25,000, there is not another car like it.  I don't think there are a half a dozen yellow cars in the whole county.  In a land of silver, gray and white vehicles with a scattering of blue, green and maroon and an occasional red, a yellow car with black racing strips realllllly stands out. There can be 150 cars at the local Wal-mart and that yellow Camaro stands out like a search light on a dark night, which will be really handy when dementia sets in and I have trouble remembering where I parked it.

And, yes, the highway patrol can see it a mile away and it looks like it is going faster than it is, and I know that, which keeps me from putting the pedal to the metal.  Oh, I might have tasted the adrenalin flow and G forces from 400 horse power pinning you into the seat going from zero to something well over the speed limit and back to zero in less time than it took to write this sentence - on a remote county road - once or----- well we'll just leave it at that.

It also tempers me to know that before long, if not already, most will know who owns the only yellow Camaro in the county.  Therefore if I do anything out of the ordinary, I will surely hear about it.  Besides, one of the Sheriff deputies lives up the road, several of my friends are retired Oregon State Police, and one has two sons who are stationed with the OSP in La Grande.   It appears I have lots of big and little brothers watching me. 

This has caused me to think about my Christian walk in the community as well as that of my fellow Christians.  As followers and servants of Christ, our lives should stand out like a yellow Camaro, yet few of us do.  Our life style should stand out and be as desirable as that yellow sports car, that others would hunger for, stop us on the street and ask how they might attain the joy and peace of mind that we have in our awesome God.  Our witness and testimony, our truthfulness and integrity should be so apparent that no one should ever have to question whether we are Christians.  We have such a mission field right in our own neighborhoods and communities, so many fields ripe for harvesting, so few workers willing to harvest.

"You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."  Matthew 5:14-16

Friday, July 1, 2011


View from the Ridge
I leaned a new word last week.  My sister e-mailed me a link to Times Magazine article by Bruce Feiler    published on June 2nd.  He is a fellow cancer survivor who is going through events in his life much as I am.  What he has written says it so much better than I have been able to and I have taken the liberty of copying portions of his article to share with you along with some of my comments.  Since I am not writing this for profit, I am assuming that is permissible.

The date is not circled in red on my calendar. Often I don't even write it down. I don't have to. It gets locked into my inner Outlook calendar and gradually grows larger in size and gravity as the day approaches, as if I'm being pulled backward through a looking glass. Objects in front of you are closer than they appear.
It's my cancer scan. My regular date with my digital destiny, in which a few seconds of X-rays will show whether the handful of nodules that have been in my lungs since I was diagnosed with bone cancer three years ago have grown larger

Here is where my experience differs from Mr. Feiler’s.  My CT-PET scans and MRI’s last from 90 minutes to 2 hours.  Scan times last 15 to 25 minutes each, with just a couple of minutes in between.  Couple that with my Restless Legs Syndrome and I am about to go crazy by the end of the session.  Then there is a 24 hour wait until my appointment with the doctor to hear the results.

All patients have complicated relationships with their scans not unlike the hate-love relationships we have with other technologies in our lives. We first learn we have cancer from scans, then learn from them if that cancer has shrunk or disappeared, then learn if it has come back. Scans are like revolving doors, emotional roulette wheels that spin us around for a few days and spit us out the other side. Land on red, we're in for another trip to Cancer-land; land on black, we have a few more months of freedom. 

Scans are not all alike, of course. They come in all shapes, sizes, even flavors. I've had scans that required me to drink disgusting, semisweet liquids, scans that shot a Chernobyl-like dose of radioactive isotopes into my bloodstream, scans that inserted me into a giant doughnut of a machine and scans that used a machine that looks like a huge daddy long legs and ran a coffin-size metal plate over my body. 

The most painful scan I have had involved injecting Radioactive isotopes with a hypodermic needle into my left nostril, four times, in order to locate the lymph nodes in my neck that was servicing that area of my nose.  It took a sumo wrestler wannabe to hold my head still!

But there's one thing all scans have in common: they engender "scanxiety" as they approach. Scanxiety is one of those uniquely modern maladies, like carpal tunnel syndrome and BlackBerry thumb, that arise because we're experiencing something entirely new to human beings. For millennia, doctors and patients would have given almost anything to be able to look inside the human body. Now we have an ailment for the fear of what we might find when we do.
The name scanxiety hints at the larger ambiguity we feel toward these medical miracles. On the one hand, as someone who was once months away from being overcome by cancer, I know that scans saved my life. Yet they could be killing me too. One aspect of scans that's rarely discussed is the damage the radiation leaves behind. I asked my doctor about all the radiation I'm currently receiving. "I'm trying to protect you from the cancer you have now," he said, "not one you might have in the future." And if there's anything true about cancer, it's the unpredictability about what's coming next." 

I asked my doctor the same question, and basically received the same answer.  With any cancer early detection and early treatment is the answer to success.  With most cancers, when they return, they return with a vengeance.  The earlier you detect it, the better your chances of survival.  It is a constant battle of risk vs. reward.  

As my scans approach, I become increasingly wary and deliberate in my actions. I put off major decisions until after I hear the results. My breathing gets tighter. And those regular drives to the clinic are among the most tense I have — though there's nothing I can do at this juncture to affect the outcome

The toughest part of all this is how to handle major decisions.  On the one hand, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, but at 72 the end of the road is a lot closer than I’d like to think.  A year ago we weren’t making any.  Today we are better able to at least consider them.  As my scans approach I find myself withdrawing some, less outgoing, less able to focus on task at hand.  My mind tends to run through hundreds of scenarios of what will happen if the cancer returns.  What treatments are left, what will my body be able to tolerate, what effect will this have on my family, etc., etc.  Border line depression?  Maybe. 

It occurs to me that scans may be the only area of modern life in which progress is not embraced. We measure success in sameness. As I'm leaving, I stop at the desk and set my next appointment; the calendar starts again

There is an elephant in the room that Jeri and I try to ignore, but can’t because he is so enormous.   After a scan, he retreats into the far corner of our minds but always within sight.  As the weeks pass and the time of the next scan approaches, he becomes larger and starts inching his way back to the center of our minds until the day of the scan when he is sitting his fat fanny squarely on top of us.  As we sit in the doctor’s exam room, waiting for her to show up with the results, the tension is almost unbearable.  So far, she has entered the room with a smile on her face and the words of “all clear” are met with a huge release of tension and tears.  

No matter what the outcome of the last scan, it has no bearing on the next one.  So the question becomes will it ever get to the point of routine, where it becomes like an annual blood test, or will the elephant in the room stay there making his presence known.  My next MRI is in late July, and I am already dreading it, partly because I know the radiation is going to ultimately take a toll and may cause cancer, and partly fearing the results if the cancer returns.  But the questions raised by NOT knowing would raise the anxiety level even higher.  It is not the dying I fear, it is the whole process the disease will take me through, the decisions that will have to be made, the suffering that will come with or without treatment, the wear and tear on the family, etc., etc.  The problem with cancer is you are only cancer free until the next scan.  I was cancer free from prostate cancer for four years, and still am, but then a totally different, unrelated cancer comes out of nowhere.  So I am now, presently, cancer free of that one, but will the radiation and nuclear medicine cause a third kind?  I have no control over this, so I continue to put my trust in God, because He does have control.  And I know that no matter how this goes, He will take me through it. 
Psa 91:1-16 Whoever goes to the LORD for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty, can say to him, "You are my defender and protector. You are my God; in you I trust” He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers and from all deadly diseases.  He will cover you with his wings; you will be safe in his care; his faithfulness will protect and defend you.  You need not fear any dangers at night or sudden attacks during the day or the plagues that strike in the dark or the evils that kill in daylight.   A thousand may fall dead beside you, ten thousand all around you, but you will not be harmed. You will look and see how the wicked are punished.  You have made the LORD your defender, the Most High your protector, and so no disaster will strike you, no violence will come near your home. God will put his angels in charge of you to protect you wherever you go.  They will hold you up with their hands to keep you from hurting your feet on the stones.  You will trample down lions and snakes, fierce lions and poisonous snakes.   God says, "I will save those who love me and will protect those who acknowledge me as LORD.    When they call to me, I will answer them; when they are in trouble, I will be with them. I will rescue them and honor them.    I will reward them with long life; I will save them." GNB

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Memorial Day Picnic

Memorial Day weekend has always been a time for 
families to get together and barbecue steaks, ribs, hamburgers and hot dogs or what ever.  I especially remember three when I was a kid and was able to attend the Indianapolis 500.  My Uncle Charley was a salesman for an electrical whole seller who every year reserved second row seats on the straightaway between turns one and two.  Back then I think we were less than ten feet from the wall and it was something else seeing those race cars up close and personal, hearing the Offenhauser 4 bangers and the Novi V-8 roaring by and smelling the alcohol fuel.  But I digress.
This Memorial day we were invited by our friends, Mike and Kelly, to their place in Alicel in the center of our valley.  They have invited friends and family each year to their place for an afternoon of fun, food and celebration.  They have seven kids and are very active in youth programs in and out of the church.  Where they get the energy for all of this is beyond me, but you seldom ever see any of them standing still.  What surprised me was how well planned and organized this gathering was and how is was all about the 30 or 40 kids that showed up.  
The afternoon started off by Mike giving a question and answer history lesson on Memorial Day and what it stands for.  The kids were surprising knowledgeable and many had relatives that were veterans.  Time was spent honoring the past and present members of the military and a prayer was offered to our soldiers who were still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for our freedom and way of life.  Then it was off to the races and games.

Mike and Kelly had all sorts of games and races set up, based on gender and age group, that enabled all the kids, from toddler to college, and even us old folks if we dared to get out there, to compete.  And compete they did.  Oh how I wish I still had that kind of energy!  Those days are long gone but it was fun to watch the kids of today run and jump, toss and kick anything they could get their hands on.

They did egg races and water balloon tosses, Frisbee football and kick ball baseball(or what ever they called it), drop the clothes pin in a jar,  but every one was able to participate.  A whole lot of energy was burned up that afternoon and I am sure those kids went home tired and slept really good.  

There was even a little basketball for a dad to show his son how to dunk the ball.

For a few, 3 man tackle football was the only game they were interested in.  

All in all, it was a great afternoon.  It was fun fellow shipping with others, meeting new people, enjoying the view, remembering those who have given their lives, and sometimes limbs, so that we can enjoy this freedom, remembering the reason our country was founded in the first place, and thanking God for the blessings he has bestowed on all of us.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"How high's the water, Mama?"

Grande Ronde River flooding Hilgard Park (La Grande Observer Photo)
We have all heard the reports of the Mississippi flooding this spring and the hundreds of thousands of acres of farm ground that has been lost to water.   Contrast that with the drought being experienced in West Texas and the thousands of acres of range land that is being burned by fires.   Here on the West Coast, we are experiencing above normal rain fall and record and near record  snow packs in most mountain areas of Oregon.  

La Grande sale yard (La Grande Observer Photo)
So when our valley received 2.5 to 3 inches of rain on a weekend, it didn't make the major headlines.  I know that you all back in the mid-west can get that much in half a day, but for us, that's more than a month's worth.  Our valley is surrounded by mountains with deep snow pack, so when we get those kinds of rain, coupled with snow runoff, it all flows down hill into what few rivers we have.  

This and following photos by Mike Query
Our main river is the Grande Ronde, hardly comparable to the Mississippi, Columbia or Snake river systems.  It's flood stage is a mere 6.6 ft.  The record flood level is 7.1 feet, but on that weekend of mid May, it crested to a record 7.7 feet.  There are about 40,000 acres in our valley with over 5,000 acres of farm ground under water.  That doesn't take into account the number of acres that are still too wet for farmers to be able to work the ground for spring planting due to the above normal rainfall. 
Most farmers living along the river have built dikes or levies to keep the river at bay, but this year the water was so deep it flowed over and around them.    
                                                                                  To say that this has impacted many families is an understatement.  One family is our friends Russ and Tracy.  He is the manager of the local Ford New Holland dealership.  He also runs a small herd of cattle on the side.  He has a small place outside of La Grande where he winters the cows and then leases pasture during the rest of the year.  He lives near the sale yard, pictured in the second picture, and has been fighting high water all spring.  His cows had been forced into the corral, the only high spot on his place.  

 A couple of weekends ago, they were out visiting us and asked what we were going to do with our pasture this year.  In the past we have rented it out for cows but last year because we were so late in getting home due to my health issues we weren't able.  We hadn't planned on doing it this year because I have one fence that needs to be replaced and wasn't sure if I was going to be able to do it.  But then God has His agenda and we had better be willing to adjust. 

That's when Russ told me about his dilemma and how he had arranged for pasture this year but it was now under three feet of water. I told him that he could put his cows in the pasture by the house and that would give me time to rebuild the fence where we could put them next.  He tried to convince me that I could make more money with hay, due to the number of hay fields under water, but I told him that I couldn't care less about the little difference in money.  The bottom line was he had a need and I had the solution.  That, my friends, is what Christianity is all about.  Each one of us meeting the needs of those around us as best we can, sacrificing what might be more profitable or convenient to meet someone else's needs.   

I am sure Russ and Tracy had been much in prayer about their situation, and God promises to meet our every need,  not necessarily our wants, but our needs. 
Luke 12:24  Look at the crows: they don't plant seeds or gather a harvest; they don't have storage rooms or barns; God feeds them! You are worth so much more than birds!(GNB)

So stay alert for those opportunities where God can use you to meet some one's need.  Be an answer to their prayers.  God will truly bless you for your faithfulness.  Guaranteed!  

 As for the cows, they are happy campers, belly deep in green grass, all 21 of them.

"How high's the water, Mama?  Three feet high and rising."  Johnny Cash