A Few Personal Updates on This Notorious Day

’Tis the season to be grateful. Actually, gratitude is a year-round virtue, isn’t it? But it’s nice to have a special day of focus. Cicero, the Roman philosopher and statesman said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Orrin Woodward, NYT bestselling author on Leadershift, said, “Ingratitude produces pride while gratitude produces humility.” And G. K. Chesterton, the English writer, literary critic, and Christian apologist, said, “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” We have much to be thankful for, even though life has been challenging lately.

One. My mother-in-law continues her steady decline. She’s now on hospice, and we’ve had to learn how to use the equipment necessary to take care of her in (what appears to be) her final months. It’s been a real challenge, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve been so slow to post lately. I really do want to finish sharing those summaries on the book of Daniel. It was such a rich, encouraging, and eye-opening study, and it was hard for me to bring the series to a close. The book is timely as well as tremendous in its own right. I also have a backlog from the “Carved in Stone” series on the Ten Commandments. It just hasn’t been a good year to stay up on these kinds of tasks. I’m pretty sure my life is going to get a significant realignment in the New Year, as my health and sanity will require it.

Two. The boys continue to be a supreme blessing to me in these days. I never realized the joys of love could run this deep, but they do with these two munchkins! They are beyond adorable. When asked what the days of the week are, Samuel says, “Monday, Tuesday, Papa, Thursday….” (Yes, we keep the boys on Wednesday) 😊 That makes me want to melt into a puddle of gooey milk chocolate on a hot gas stove. Below are a few recent pics. We get to host them for Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday; otherwise, it’s a low-key weekend in our house, which is fine by me. Only after Thanksgiving do we start putting up Christmas decorations. That’s carved in stone, too. 😊 Next week we celebrate Samuel’s second birthday. 

Three. Speaking of stove, our kitchen renovation project is nearly complete. We’re just waiting on one final cabinet and the new backsplash. The transformation has been amazing. I can’t remember if I mentioned this before, but by securing and managing the subcontractors ourselves, and helping where we can, we’re saving about $20,000 over the estimate we received a couple years ago when we first started kicking the tires on this idea. Given the horrendous inflation over the past several years, that probably translates to about $25,000 today. Happy dance. Even though I can’t dance.

Four. My yearly Advent sob-fest has begun already. This one took me by surprise. I was doing some worship planning recently and wound up listening to the Tabernacle Choir’s rendition of “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming.” For some reason, it hit a tender spot, and the floodgates opened, perhaps because the load is quite heavy right now.

True man, yet very God,
From sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

I’ll post the song below.

Five. COVID killed our wonderful choir, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it resurrected in due course, especially since our church is getting a new organ this week. (It’s a gently used though lovely Rodgers organ from Ephrata.) A few of us have been crawling around the organ chambers over the past several days, cleaning things out and getting ready for the new installation. We’re all a bit stiff and banged up from that venture, but I’m ecstatic that it will be operable in time for Advent and Christmas. I’ll also post our church’s Advent letter and lineup in case anyone is interested.

Six. My dissertation is trucking along, but it’s taking longer than it should. Even I—yes, I—am starting to drift into the “Let’s get this thing done, already,” mode. It’s just so tedious to write at this level and do a thorough job of engaging all the heavy hitters who’ve written on my topic over the past two millennia. At last count, I’ve gotten up to 19 languages, and that’s more than enough, don’t you think? Still, I love the research. It’s the academic writing (i.e., being precise, anticipating objections, making and defending an argument, documenting everything, etc., etc.) that’s so time consuming. All in good time, though, right?

Seven. By the time I publish this post, it will be November 22, 2023, the 60th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I wasn’t born yet when that awful tragedy took place, but I became fascinated by all aspects of it when I was in elementary school. And, yes, I’ve done an awful lot of reading on this subject over the years, keeping up with old details and major developments in the case. I had hoped to write more extensively about it on this anniversary, but that’s just not possible this year. Maybe someday. What do I think happened? Let’s just say, “Things aren’t settled until they’re properly settled.” And this crime was never properly settled. Enough said?

Eight. In the spirit of JFK (who died on the same days as C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley), let’s end where we began—gratitude. It was President Kennedy who said, “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” In my case, that would take a whole lot of time. And it would include you, the readers of TNL. Thanks for stopping by.

And Happy Thanksgiving to all. Be blessed.





Bonus:

Edit:

Oddly enough, today I’m thinking about the death of another larger-than-life personality, Princess Diana. Last night I finished watching episode 3 of the final season of The Crown, so it’s fresh on my mind. And it’s stirring up in me the loathing I already had for the media. I’m sitting here wondering if the paparazzi have learned their lesson, or if they’re still greedy, corrupt, and dangerous.

Levi at Four Months

Levi turns four months old today. He’s mostly a happy and peaceful guy, though today he’s under the weather. I look forward to seeing him every chance I get, and I miss him terribly when I don’t get to see him for a while. As is the case with his brother Samuel, we always have a blast together. His favorite games are, “Go See,” “Go Get ‘Em,” “Cheek Thing,” and “Belly Zerbits.” It’s time now to introduce him to the “Levi Sandwich” game!

Do you see any similarities to his brother?

Back to some Levi shots…

“Mom put us down for a nap. Are you planning on sleeping?”

“Only for 10 minutes.”

“Good. Me, too.”

An Overdue Update

First, life has been a blur since I returned from teaching the latest doctoral residency out of state. This particular cohort has 15 students in it, and their nascent dissertation topics are fascinating. We had a good three days together and lots of laughs to go with all the intense study. Teaching is a blast, but residencies are grinding, all-day events, and traveling can be exhausting.

Second, speaking of dissertations, my second one is moving along nicely, but I had to slow down the writing process a bit to learn the basics of Sumerian and Akkadian. Cuneiform writing is interesting, to say the least. Let’s just say that our generation did not invent emojis. 😊 I should be able to get back on pace after finishing up about four or five more paragraphs on the etymology of a key word in my study.

Third, it was marvelous having the boys yesterday. I missed them terribly while I was away. Below are a few pictures of their continued adorableness. I got choked up putting Samuel down for a nap in the afternoon. He’s such a kind and happy little boy, and I love him to pieces. Levi is starting to roll over and get chattier. It’s fun to see his personality emerge. As the old saying goes, “I could eat him with a spoon.” I’ll see them again tomorrow for Friday Fun Day. We have a few new activities planned for the day.

Fourth, our kitchen remodeling project is going well. The items that have been installed so far are stunning. If my calculations are correct, we’re going to save about $23,000 by securing and managing the contractors ourselves. I may share some pictures later—after the project is finished.

Fifth, this Sunday I get to preach on Daniel 9 and his vision of the 70 weeks. It’s a challenging passage to decipher, but once again, we’ll be dealing with prophecy, eschatology, messiah, atonement, antichrist, and the end times. I claim no expertise on some of these matters, but I can’t think of a more important subject to teach on. We’re getting closer to the imminent return of Jesus, aren’t we? May we all be ready for that glorious moment.

Sixth, my mother-in-law continues to decline. She’s not ready for hospice care yet, but she does need round-the-clock skilled care, and we’re trying to manage all the personnel to make that happen. Sonya is determined to get her mom across the finish line in her own home, which is an apartment we added to our house a few years ago. Never has a mother had a more devoted daughter. Still, what an ordeal. Those panic attacks I had about 12 years ago are trying to make a comeback. Thankfully, so far I’ve been able to keep them at bay without meds. A real panic attack is horrible and horrendous when it happens. I do not want to start having them again. One idea in the works to eliminate one or two of my secondary jobs. Stay tuned.

Seventh, getting older might be one reason the MIL situation is such a challenge. These days I crave solitude and quiet for reflection, research, and writing, but that’s just not in the cards right now. Speaking of age, my college swim coach told me years ago that my knees would become arthritic one day because of hitting the walls so hard in flip turns as a sprinter. I’m wondering if that joyful dynamic has begun since my right knee feels mildly sore all the time, especially in the morning. We’ll see what the doctor has to say about it next week when I go to see him for a routine checkup. At least I’m not gray yet! (Actually, that’s kind of odd for someone my age.) Still, my hair has gotten a bit thinner in recent years, and the grays are trying to make an appearance at the temples. Since I’ll probably look a bit different in a year or two, anyway, I  might just grow a goatee and see what happens. 😊

Eighth, the demise of the Phillies was hard to watch again this year. They had the league championship well in hand, and then they squandered it. That’s not a surprise. I’ve often said that the Phillies are always good enough to give you hope, and bad enough to break your heart. This year’s flameout was especially disappointing. Still, they’re my team, and I’ll never stop cheering for them. I attended eight games in person this year and watched most of the rest as opportunity allowed. Our next Opening Day is Thursday, March 28, 2024. 

Ninth, speaking of the Phillies, I remember them playing “Viva La Vida” and some other Coldplay tunes during batting practice a few years ago. So, below are a few selections just for old time’s sake. And what would an update post be without a meme or two? Until next time, enjoy this glorious fall weather we’re having in Eastern Pennsylvania. 

Brotherly Love (and Screeches)

Between working on getting ready for the apologetics conference last week and digging into a few ancient Sumerian and Akkadian words this week, I’ve gotten behind in uploading pictures and videos of the boys as well as posting recent sermon summaries from our Daniel series. Thanks for your patience as I try to get caught up over the next several days. We’ve been having a blast in Daniel, especially its eschatological (end times) dimensions. 

Enjoy these snaps and vids of my beloved munchkins. I’m especially delighted by Samuel’s euphoria when Levi tries to say hi to him. I’m not sure how much more adorableness I can take from these two. 😊

Two Months of Adorableness (Times Two)

Levi turned two months old today. He celebrated by staying at our house from 8 to 4, along with his brother, Samuel. These two together are unbearably cute, and I love them to pieces. Levi and I had a good 20 minutes of just looking and smiling at each other. He’s in the cooing and pooing stage. 🙂 Samuel was his usual delightful self, charming us with his cheerful spirit. I think I read The Little Red Caboose to him four times today. He participates in some way on every single page (i.e., speaking, pointing, laughing, lunging, waving, etc.). Below are just a few scenes from Levi’s milestone.

💙 💚💙 💚💙 💚💙 💚

Levi at two months old.
Wait for it…
Samuel (above) and Levi (below) at the same milestone.

Bonus:

Micah made a special step stool for Samuel so he could help with the dishes. He loves them both (climbing the stool and doing the dishes)!

He knows his colors, too.

I Love a Rainy Night

What? A song about rain, and it’s not from Enya? Yes, and this one goes all the way back to 1980. Sheesh! There’s no real message to this song other than, well, “I love a rainy night.” 😊 That, and maybe the escapist notion of showers washing away the cares of the world, giving way to a sunnier day to come.

What I don’t love about rainy nights is how they sometimes wreak havoc on the neighborhood trees. A blast of wind sheared off the top of a tree in Micah and Bethany’s front yard, and it landed right across their driveway. Drew and I were able to run down and move it out of the way, no problem, before the kids got home.

Speaking of kids… 💙😊🩵😊💙

Levi getting to know his Poppi.
Samuel making homemade pizza with his Mimi and his cousin.

The Boys Are Back in Town

Samuel and Levi are coming to our house tonight so Bethany and Micah can have a date night. We’re so excited to have them. Samuel is staying overnight, but Levi will need to go home for his feedings throughout the evening. Someday Levi will be able to stay overnight, too, which is great because the Friday night pizza/sleepover is becoming a thing, and I love it! Pancakes follow on Saturday morning. 😊

Last night we had a spontaneous rendezvous at the Fairlane Avenue Park here in Myerstown, followed by take-out dinner from Tosco’s, our local Italian restaurant. (Wherever I’ve lived, the Lord has made sure there’s a high-quality Italian place right down the street!) The weather was perfect, and we had a delightful time. I even had a “mush moment” at one point, quietly thanking God that our beautiful munchkins live so close that we get to see them often.

Oh, and fall is in the air. What could be better?

Have a lovely weekend. Be blessed.

💙 💚💙 💚💙 💚💙 💚

Levi has a laser focus, and he’s starting to smile at us.
Such a happy boy.
Samuel loves to pick the garden. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like to eat most of what he picks.
He knows what he’s picking, too. It’s o.k. that he stumbles at okra. No one needs to know what okra is.
Learning to spell one’s name can be hazardous.
When you love your baby brother, you just have to say so.
The song is dated, but the chorus is iconic and has been adapted by several sports teams. Skip the raunch in the later verses.

Bonus:

Samuel and the Joys of Onomatopoeia

It’s commonly known that onomatopoeia refers to a word that phonetically imitates or suggests the source of the sound it describes. For example: 

The snake hissed in the grass.  

The fallen leaves rustled in the wind.  

The bees buzzed around the flower. 

The students murmured their dissatisfaction about the upcoming quiz.  

The rooster’s cock-a-doodle-do announced the arrival of a new day.  

“Chitty bang-bang. Chitty-chitty bang-bang.” (Ian Fleming)  

“Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. Oh what a relief it is.” (Paul Margulies & Tom Dawes)  

The Scriptures contain examples of onomatopoeia, too, though it doesn’t always come through in English. For example: 

“Then thundered the horses’ hoofs—galloping, galloping go his mighty steeds” (Judges 5:22). Hebrew: daharoth, daharoth (cf. English: The Lone Ranger: darrrunt, darrrunt). 

“Be silent before the Sovereign LORD . . .” (Zephaniah 1:7a). Hebrew: hass (cf. English: hush). 

“Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac” (Genesis 17:19b). Hebrew: Yitzhak (cf. English: yuk yuk). 

“Go and buy a clay jar from a potter” (Jeremiah 19:1b). Hebrew: baqbuq (cf. English: glub glub). 

“And some began to spit on him . . .” (Mark 14:65a). Greek: ptuo (cf. English: spit). 

It’s a fun linguistic phenomenon.  

Anyway, Samuel discovered its joys recently when he started imitating the siren of a little firetruck we recently bought him.  

“Eee-ooo-eee-ooo-eee-ooo!” 

He also displays a bit of rhythm, too, with the bopping head. This little munckin always makes my heart smile. 

Some Bonus Snaps

The World’s Most Impressive Fall Color Destinations

“As the hot, sticky hug of summer yields to the crisp embrace of autumn, nature embarks on a colorful and captivating transformation. Fall is our favorite.” So write the editors at the captivating Moss and Fog website, and I wholeheartedly concur. Fall is magical. I’ll be linking below to their August 17 post titled, “Exploring the World’s Most Impressive Fall Color Destinations.” First a few snaps and clips of my cherubs.

Levi cooing to Mama.
Samuel enjoying the special seat I got him for his new wagon.
Someone learned how to use the remote to our patio lights.
Testing. Testing. Testing.
He pushes a button and then announces the color.
Bubby always gets worn out after a day of playing with Papa.

O.k., here’s the link to that Moss and Fog post.

Little Ones to Him Belong

Samuel is only 19½ month old, but yesterday he joined his mama on the chorus of “Jesus Loves Me” at bedtime, and it took my breath away. His singing is beyond adorable, and my heart may have melted into a big fat puddle of Papa-love when I heard it. The video clip was shot after the lights went off, so there’s nothing to see. But there’s plenty to hear—pure praise “out of the mouth of babes.” Could there be any sweeter or more important message than: 

Jesus loves me, this I know, 
for the Bible tells me so. 
Little ones to him belong; 
they are weak, but he is strong. 

Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me. 
Yes, Jesus loves me.

The Bible tells me so. 

 💙 🙌💙 🙌💙 🙌💙 🙌💙 🙌

Nothing to see but plenty to hear.
Samuel picked up all his toys, so he was allowed to watch a little TV.
Levi is laser focused on those who came to see him.

Two Little Dino-Mites

Samuel likes being a big brother to Levi. We had them over to our place a couple times this week, which is always a sheer delight. The last time they were here, they had on matching dinosaur shirts. Of course, I had to get the camera. 😊 Levi had a procedure at CHOP this week, and all went well. He seems rather peaceful, with no lingering effects. 

This time of year is always thick with course and syllabus preparation, which also comes with added tasks and responsibilities in the digital age. Still, it’s a labor of love, as is the dissertation, which is still in motion. Next month always feels like a changeover at church, too, so the pile is doubly high these days. All the more reason to throw in some silly memes for a few lighthearted moments before getting back to the grind.

Enjoy. And have a fantastic weekend.


The cats don’t even try.
This is never more true than when I try to swim or play softball.
As long as it’s not a lead pencil.
A legitimate observation, despite the typo.
I guess this qualifies as a generation gap.
Passed the test at school. Flunked the test at home.
Yes, I am an INTJ, but my N is moving in the F direction these days. In fact, I tend to extrovert my F, which is why I could never be a good poker player.

A New Red Wagon for the Boys

Last week I got a new red wagon for the boys that I can hook up to my lawn tractor. It’s our own little Knoebel’s ride—with no tickets necessary (though my next door neighbor offered me two bucks for a ride. Unfortunately, he couldn’t fit)!

Samuel likes the wagon, though he doesn’t really like the noise that comes from the tractor. We did several laps around the yard, and then I dropped him off at the garden, where he loves to help us pick the ripe stuff. As we love to say around here, “He’s the best Bubby ever.”  

Levi is becoming more alert and used to our voices. It was fun to feed him for the first time last week and sing him to sleep. He is so precious, and Samuel is (mostly) gentle with him.

Bouns

Identity Theft

We’re thinking that Levi (aka, “Nugget”) bears a striking resemblance to Andrew (aka, “Uncle Tino”). My history in pictures doesn’t begin until I was 13 months old, so we’ll have to wait for those comparisons. All the same, he’s a cutie pie, and I was able to give him a bottle for the first time today. Last night Samuel stayed overnight at our house, and we had a blast. I’m so thrilled he loves coming to our place. We love having him!

Andrew is on the left. Levi is on the right. I think.
Samuel loves to pick the vegetables out of our garden.

Bonus:

I did a double take when I saw this in the grocery store. I once had a demon-possessed Pomeranian.

‘When Are the Boys Coming Over?’

I just got back from church camp where I had the privilege of sharing five evening messages with a responsive and appreciative crowd. Their favorite, by far, was a sermon called “It Is Finished” from John 19:28-30, where Jesus says, “Tetelestai!” from the cross. It’s the gospel in a single word, and I got a bit exuberant preaching it! 

While I was away, Samuel and Levi kept being cute, and I missed them greatly. I gathered up a few snaps and clips upon my return, and now I have some new ones to share. I may have shown a few of their previous pictures via PowerPoint during one of my sermons. 🙂 Do you remember that picture of Bubby washing the car? And the one where he’s holding a sponge, covered in suds? The camp folks are now smitten, too!  

Here’s something I’ve been eager to say for the past nine months, and now I can say it: “When are the boys coming over?” Haha! Actually, Samuel was here yesterday (and it was SO good to see him). He’s coming tomorrow, too, so I’m super spoiled. I’m thinking it’s time to establish a Friday night pizza tradition at our house, with them staying overnight and having pancakes for breakfast on Saturday morning. 

Enjoy a few glimpses of my cherubs. And a song that may send your spirit soaring.

💙 🩵 💚 💙 💚 🩵 💙 💚 🩵 💙 💚 🩵 💙 💚 🩵


Tetelestai


Bonus

I made a reference to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in one of my camp messages: “Barely even friends, then somebody bends unexpectedly.”