Monday, February 26, 2007

Some Unusual Sunset Pictures

Our daughter captured this unusual sunset with her digital camera. None of us have ever seen anything quite like it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Sunday Evening Post

We can finally close the chapter of the never ending transmission repair job! At least for now.

The truck is finally, finally back in our possession. Though there is one thing that I’m still not sure about, at least it goes forward and backwards. It turns out that the entire hold up has been entirely due to human error or so it would seem. However nothing is out of Gods control so there must be some bigger plan that we have yet to fully understand. As mentioned in the below posts the important thing is to just keep on trusting the Lord, no matter what.

We have certainly had an interesting weekend so I’ll take a little bit to share our experiences over the past couple days. Our good friend John from decided to put on a benefit concert for a good friend of his family who has been suffering a long bout with cancer. Through his connections with radio and internet media he was able to book three Christian rock bands for the concert. The event was held at the Rhinelander high school auditorium. John booked 3 up and coming groups for the event.

After several months of planning and making arrangements the concert became a reality Saturday evening beginning at 5 PM. As so often happens things don’t always go as planned and a major snow storm swept through a good portion of the state of Wisconsin all day yesterday and today. One of the bands and part of another was unable to make the concert due to heavy snow fall and nearly impassable roads.

The 3 bands booked were Rex Lex,
Light Switch, Escape From Earth and a guest appearance by Ilirijana a female vocalist. The ones who actually made it were Ilirijana, Light Switch and part of Rex Lex. The turn out for the concert was not nearly what was anticipated. Though at the time the Rhinelander area experienced very little snow fall, perhaps it was all the talk of all the storms that kept a lot of people away that had previously committed to come.

Unfortunately with the low turn out there was little money left over for Mrs. Poh, the beneficiary of the concert. Again sometimes it is hard to imagine the overall plan of God when we are down in the trenches living out the ups and downs of day to day life. Nevertheless the concert went on and those who did attend had a wonderful time. In some ways it may have been a much better concert with less people due to a much more intimate atmosphere. The young musicians proved to impress many folks with their natural talent and inspired music.

Well, as the night wore on the reports of winter storm warnings kept coming through. It was becoming clear that the band members who had traveled some distances to Rhinelander should think about staying over rather than head out into hazardous driving conditions.

Fortunately Rex Lex obtained a free night at a local motel but, that left Light Switch looking for a place to stay. Just so happened our log cabin was available so Kelli invited them to stay here with us. Light switch is a family band consisting of 4 young brothers. It would be them and their mother Theresa who would stay over.

Theresa kindly invited us and a bunch from the concert, including the band Rex Lex, to come up and to visit and hang out with them for the duration of the evening. It was a enjoyable time of visiting and fellowship in the cabin. We guess there must have been about 30 people in all filling the small 16’x 20’ interior. I never heard the furnace run once with all those people in there generating all that body heat. That must be why northern families seem to have so many kids. Cuts down on the heating costs.

It was a good hardy visit lasting to nearly 1 am. Since it was so late and the roads were getting bad our daughters fiancé Scott and his brother Bruce stayed over with us sleeping in our living room. Everyone slept in deciding to forgo attending church this morning.

Around noon our guests came through and stopped in for a visit before heading on home. As it went with a house full of musicians we didn’t miss having church after all. The Spirit was obviously in our midst with singing, guitar strumming and piano playing going on for several delightful hours. We found kindred spirits in this gifted and musical fun loving family. And they too are Christians committed to home schooling and seemed to have a real appreciation for simple country living.

You never know what surprises the Lord has in store from day to day. We were privileged to find yet some more members of the family of God, four brothers and a sister in Christ.

John did an interview with Abe Romo the lead singer of the group. You can check it out by clicking here. He has also interviewed numerous other contemporary Christian music artists including Big Daddy Weave, Rex Lex, Rebecca St. James, Barlow Girl, Krystal Meyers and Todd Agnew.

Until Next Time

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Well, we didn’t get a flood and the projected finish day for our garbage truck for Friday turned out just like all the other projected dates. It turned out that the problem with the blown oil seal was caused by none of the 3 things previously anticipated by the professionals.

I got a call from our mechanic late Friday afternoon informing me that the saga was still continuing and that the “pump” had split in two. Now I have yet to actually speak to the mechanic personally. He had left a message on my voice mail, so I’m not sure exactly what pump he would be referring to. I would venture to guess it is something inside the transmission since it caused the oil seal to leak. And what could possibly have made the pump split in half is beyond me. I’ve done plenty of mechanic work in my life but, I’ve never seen the inner workings of an automatic transmission. Just don’t know what’s in those things.

Sooo, we would have to wait for the broken part to be replaced on Monday. That is, the replacement part was due to arrive on Monday, so I figured it’d be at least another couple weeks judging by how this whole fiasco has gone.

Monday came and went in it’s usual fashion and I didn’t have it in me to call and hear another disappointing excuse. Figured there was no sense getting all worked up, so I’d just keep on waiting.

But then, this morning, there was a glimmer of hope. Scott, our future son in-law called us this morning to say that he saw our truck going down highway 17 heading in our direction. Whoa now, could it be? Was it really possible? I sure hoped he was right about that and he confirmed that yes it was true and he even saw the sign on the door. So I waited for a call from our mechanic and gave plenty of time for the truck to arrive at his shop but, heard not a word.

Finally during lunch I called. Of course the mechanic too was out to lunch but, the receptionist confirmed in happy terms that yes the truck was there at their shop. The reason for the delay in calling was that we also were going to have him service the engine and check the rest of the truck over for other possible problems. They do a ten point check looking at all the fluid levels, the brakes and so forth. So barring anything major we will be getting the truck back tomorrow morning. But, I’m not allowing myself to get overly enthused. We shall see if the end is actually in sight. And, if this piece of work transmission is going to actually perform for us.

I’ve learned some valuable lesson’s and have been reminded of some deep and abiding truths these past few months. The Lord doesn’t promise us a life of ease. In fact Jesus himself declared that we would face troubles of various kinds. As well as persecutions if we are indeed following him. Really what matters most is not that we get this truck back in service, but rather how we react to the adversity. Do we keep on trusting Jesus? Is it really him who we rely on? Take away our security and we quickly see where our allegiance is really placed.

I’ve often likened adversity to a boiling pot. Turn up the heat and you see all the things that rise to the surface. This also happens with precious metals I am told. When you apply the heat the impurities come out and float on the surface. I’ve seen that first hand with a small lead pot we used to use when I worked for our Uncle. We would heat the lead pot with a torch for soldering the ends of electrical wires. The impurities would rise to the surface and underneath was pure lead. Must be very similar with precious metals and gives a very appropriate description of what happens to us when troubles come our way. Turn up the heat and the impurities come right out for us to see. Often times it is not a pretty site. Humbling to see the foul corrosive stuff that comes up from deep inside.

It’s been quite a battle really. To keep the ugly stuff from taking over. Just when I want to start cursing what appears to be the incompetence of the parties involved I am ever reminded of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and what does it all matter anyway in the eternal scope of things. God loves those folks too and Jesus died not just for me but for them as well. I really have no idea what struggles the folks up there in Michigan are going through. They put their pants on one leg at a time just like I do.

So, I guess the motto of the story is, just keep trusting the Lord. No matter what.

Until Next Time

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Learning Patience

I must confess that I’ve had kind of a stress induced mental block of late and haven’t been able to cough up a blog post. The words of Jesus are amply clear about the fact that we should not worry. (Matthew 6:25) So I try to make a practice to release my human tendencies to want to control things and try to release all my cares to the Lord. After all I am merely a created being and it is He who holds the universe in the palm of His hand. Heaven is his throne and the earth is his footstool the scriptures declare. (Isaiah 66:1)

The scriptures also say that a man plans his course but it is the Lord who determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9) Over the last three months my personal plans have been put on hold. At the end of November our “new” garbage truck went down with transmission troubles and has been out of service ever since.

It seemed at first a godsend that we found this particular truck. The price was way below what I had been seeing for comparable machines and it seemed we could not pass up the opportunity. Though it had high mileage we felt that we could easily afford what ever repairs may come about and still be in the ball park of other trucks of similar make, type and year.

We ran the truck for 4 weeks all the while attempting to work out various kinks. Then it experienced transmission problems. We were hoping it was just something to do with some of the electrical components that I had previously been working on. But, it was not to be. The automatic transmission was found to have severe mechanical damage. Now, most folks who have been keeping up on our story have asked if there isn’t some kind of recourse with the dealer who sold the truck to us but, it was clear and in writing that it was an “as is” deal considering the mileage and age of the machine.

We found a local mechanic with a good reputation and were presented with a couple options. Get a brand new transmission or have the current one rebuilt by a place in the U.P. called Michigan Automatics. After weighing the options we concluded to do the rebuild. First of all the rebuild would be one thousand dollars cheaper than the new one and given the age of the truck that seemed a more reasonable option. Plus I thought at least with rebuilding our existing transmission we wouldn’t run into any hitches with incompatibility problems. Like finding out with a new one that things might not match up as anticipated. And further more, the rebuild would have the exact same warranty as a brand new unit.

Our mechanic was able to get right on the job and in short order the tranny was whisked up to the re-builder in the U.P. While we certainly didn’t foresee serious troubles this soon into the game we were thankful that the price of the truck was such as it was and it wouldn’t be a major set back. Then came the first of a series of disappointments.

It turned out there was more damage to the transmission than would be anticipated and they would have to order some parts. After a couple projected finish dates came and went, about two and a half weeks later the mechanic finally called to let us know the transmission was back at his shop and he expected to have it back in the truck the following day.

Right on schedule the mechanic called the next day, which I assumed would be him telling me the truck was ready for us to pickup. Ah, relief was in site and we’d be back in business. But, not just yet. There was a hesitance in the mechanics voice and he informed me that there was a problem. He told me that when they went to test drive the truck, upon putting it in reverse it stalled out the engine. Clearly there was problem with the rebuild. Upon conferring with the rebuilder they anticipated a problem with something called a “valve body“. So, we wouldn’t be getting the truck back just yet. They had to figure out the problem.

A couple days went by and I hadn’t heard from the mechanic. So I called him and found out that they towed the entire truck up to Michigan Automatics for them fix. I was a little surprised that he hadn’t notified me first but, I agreed it was the appropriate thing to do since it was the re-builders responsibility anyway.

By now I was seriously wondering if perhaps we had made a mistake with the purchase of this truck. It was turning out to be one of those things were what you hope won’t happen, does.
At this point from past experience we fully expected it to take them at least a number of days for them to get the problem fully diagnosed and repaired. I’ve actually begun to lose track of all the details but, after the expected finish day came and went we learned that yet again they had to order some parts. In fact multiple finish days have been proposed only to be met with further disappointment. I would say to date there have been at least a half dozen proposed finish dates that have yet to be met. My personal opinion is that the folks at Michigan Automatics lost money on the job right off the bat and they have done nothing but put it on the back burner ever since.

It’s really hard to say exactly what the big hold up has been, really. We’ve heard many excuses. And by now it has gotten to the point were you can either laugh or cry. I mean actually it is so absurd that we are just laughing and shaking our heads at this point. The mechanic recently told me that in the 19 years he has been in business he has never run into anything like this.

Last week we had a deep freeze with temperatures reaching 26 degrees below zero. Once again the thing you hope doesn’t happen, did, again. This time it was our “old” truck. I went out that cold Monday morning and it wouldn’t start. The battery ran down from all the cranking so I pulled our Jeep up to it to give it a jump and if I wasn’t already having a hard time keeping my composure the hood latch on the Jeep broke off in my hand due to the extreme cold. If something is going to break it will break in the cold. Nevertheless it was apparent the truck was not going to run.

So that day my Dad and I went around in his pick up truck with a trailer in tow to get all the garbage picked up. Monday is our biggest day of the week with around 90 winter time stops. In the summer it is around 115. After getting the route finished we pushed the truck into the garage, put some electric heaters under it and blocked up the sides with plywood and whatever else we could find to help hold in the heat. We hoped and prayed that it was just a frozen gas line and that the heaters would thaw things out.

That night as I lay down I was doing some serious soul searching. Lots of things go through your mind when everything falls apart around you. I was wondering what God was trying to teach us through it all. Was our plan going against His will? Or was it the enemy trying to thwart Gods plan? Was it either of those things? All you can do is just keep on trusting. There’s a reason for everything, I had to tell myself. We breathed a big sigh of relief when the next morning our old truck did start. Since then during this cold snap I’ve been making sure the gas tank is dosed up good with plenty of Heet.

Well, at this point the saga still isn’t over. Last Friday they finally had the transmission back in the garbage truck and when they tried it out an oil seal blew out. I was told that there are 3 possible reason’s for that to happen so they are going to replace all three of them to cover all the bases. And for the umpteenth time another projected completion date came and went. Very soon the truck will have been down for 3 months. On Tuesday of this week I was told that Wednesday would be the completion day. I called late this afternoon and was informed that “come hell or high water it’ll be done Friday”.

When I told Kelli she said, “does that mean there’s going to be a flood“.

To be continued……….