Sunday, April 22, 2018

I have a Stick

In 2006, a family in my church, the Hoetfields, needed help with watching their children. At that time, it was their two-year-old daughter, Rae, and infant son James. James' twin sister Elaine was born with a number of medical challenges and had to spend time in the hospital. Unfortunately, Elaine went home to the Lord after a few short months with us. During that time, my family grew close to the Hoetfields and their kids.

My parents call Rae and James their adoptive grand kids and they are regular visitors. Rae is now 13 and James 11. Several weeks ago, Rae had an evening concert that her parents attended, but James decided to stay with us. Mom was also gone that evening, so it was just dad, James, and I.

Joel and kids in 2008
About an hour before James' parents were due to pick him up, I offered to watch a show he wanted to see on Netflix. As I laid flat in bed watching the animated entertainment, he sat beside the bed and updated me on the various characters.

As the show progressed, I noticed James kept poking at one of his feet. After about the fifth time, I said, "Yes, that's your foot." He then told me about a splinter he had gotten in his heel at home and was uncomfortable and was hoping to get it out.

Of course I have no personal experience in such things as splinters. However, dad has had several instances of them and during my lifetime has readily told many times how he lets them work to the surface and then digs them out.

My parenting skills need more development. I retold the routine to James who was fine until I said dig it out. With his eyes as big as saucers, I quickly backed up and said if he left it alone, the splinter would work itself out. Just to keep barefoot and not drive it further in. This answer satisfied him and we went back to the show.

Maybe a minute later, he was back to poking at his heel again. Trying to practice parenting, I indicated with my mouth stick and said to move over so I could take a look at it. The saucers returned for eyes and James said, "No, don't dig it out!"

Me while waving my mouth stick I replied, "I have a stick, what am I going to do?"

James, "Oh, good point."

He repositioned on the stool he sat on, and I could see the tiniest of spots on the bottom of his foot. It didn't have any red areas or infection that I could see and looked fine. I poked around it for good measure and reassured him it wasn't bad and everything would be okay. Not long after this, it came out and all was right in the world again.

Looking back on this exchange, it made me realize something I hadn't noticed at the time. James didn't see a mouth stick or Joel the quad laying in bed. I was a normal guy with my version of hands just hanging out and helping with a problem.

Living the quad life, I'm very used to getting stares when in public and generally being ignored. I often wonder if I had been blessed with children, if they would just see me as James and his sister do. I look forward to continuing to watching these two grow and improve my rare parenting opportunities.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Tech No Week

It has been a busy week in the quad life, and not without interesting times. Last week Sunday was my first sermon of 2018, my parents left for a week-long vacation Tuesday, and I spoke at the Iowa Lung Association Tuesday. Each event has had it's own individual circumstances.

When I agreed to preach last week, it was early February and I thought by April 8 warm weather would be upon us. The day of the sermon bare got to mid 30's and had snow showers. I can tell I need to practice on single, one-time talks. The message I gave went okay, but I ended up missing a few points I had planned to cover. In every other presentation I give, I basically give the same talk year after year and adjust the first few times. Sermons aren't generally done that way, so more practice is needed.

The service was held in a school gym after a potluck lunch. It was equipped with a microphone system, but ended up being full of echos. I'm not used to hearing my own voice and partly ended early due to sounding dry and scratchy. My grandmother was unable to hear with her hearing aides, but I did get good responses from the rest of the crowd.

Before leaving, dad went around checking light bulbs and anything he could think may need work while they were away. Tuesday came and went without trouble and they got to start a much needed break from regular life.

Thursday's conference is one I have been preparing for and looking forward to since last fall. The organizers very nicely had a ramp to the stage so I could actually be seen. It was a little tight with my chair, and groaned under my chair's weight, but it worked. My PowerPoint worked okay, until it got to my videos. They stuttered and started and unfortunately wouldn't work for anything. I used a lapel mic and it picked up my voice, but I sounded like a metallic robot of sorts.

A few people told me to make sure to give time for questions, so I decreased a few of my talking points and had about 15 minutes to spare. Unfortunately, only one person asked for further information and I ended up ending my time short. One of my long-time RT's met me afterword and said the previous night's party may have resulted in a few hung over participants in the crows with fewer questions.

My assistant and I finally got home after the talk, hit my room's light switch, and no response. The light that dad had checked was now dead. It's a fixture that also has a very unique type of plug on the bulb that's making it difficult to find a replacement. Dad said last week that when the bulb died, it would likely require a new fixture. So I sit in a partially lit room with a lamp borrowed from another part of the house.

I'm very thankful that I had these opportunities to present and that my parents could get away. If everything went as planned, it would be boring. Hopefully this week is calmer, but I will look for God's guidance in good times as well as slightly frusting ones.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

For a Laugh

According to the calendar, spring arrived a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, looking outside and at my thermometers says winter is still here. Last week had several days that barely reached 40° and today a few inches of snow is projected.

Winter can be a time when people struggle with depression and sadness as the months drag on. Humor is a great way to combat the trend and can make for some fun. I have been collecting pictures with funny phrases and situations for a few years and have a good selection.

Some of them show problems with translation:

Technology related:

Church humor:

I haven't preached at this one.

And just general humor:

In the quad life or not, it is good to take a brief break from more serious issues. The upcoming week is looking packed and I look forward to reporting back on what God has in plan.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Leash your Rock

On this first day of April, I have a scenario that came to me a while ago. Let's say I know a child that wants a dog for his birthday. His heart is set on having man's best friend as his pet and he reads and learns everything about caring for a dog. Since I know his heart is completely set on this desire I help him out, and give him a rock.

I remind him he needs to put a leash on his new pet and be sure to give it water. If he just waits long enough, that rock will turn into his best friend. However, he may need to put Fido in his will so that it gets passed down to his great grandchildren, and their grandchildren, so they can watch the transformation.

At this point, if anyone is still reading, you think I making an odd April fool's joke. A rock is a lifeless object, it will not turn into a dog, cat, or even an ameba. In fact, after generations of watering and handling, that rock will eventually wear down to dust. I would answer that you are absolutely correct in your thinking. Sadly, their are many who believe that rock will, and has, already turned into all the creatures we see today, including us.

Looking at molecules-to-man evolution, it teaches that life somehow spontaneously came from non-living objects. In some fashion, water, rocks, and maybe even lightning came together at just the right combination and produced the first single-cell organism. However, with today's ability to study microscopic details, we know that even seemingly simple organisms are highly complex and require multiple processes to work simultaneously for life to occur. Some even try to say life came from aliens, but ultimately that just puts the process on another planet. However, by giving a rock as a pet, I have already accelerated the process. Where did it come from?

Leading atheists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss say that the rock, and everything else, came from nothing! That's correct, the universe and everything in it came from absolutely nothing. I wish I was making this up, but sadly I'm not. Watch the video in the link and hear it yourself.

Romans 1:22 comes to mind in this scenario that is unfortunately taught in science textbooks. On this Easter Sunday, I ask that you look to our risen Savior who created the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. It is all that makes sense in the quad life, and everything in the universe.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Crazy World

I watch very little actual television. I watch shows on NetFlix and some on YouTube, but very rarely anything recently produced. What I do watch, nearly every night, is about 15-20 minutes of news. My main purpose is to see what the weather may do in the coming day and week. Unfortunately, that also means watching the other information given.

The nightly show labeled as news is getting to a point that it just feels like I'm watching political bashing and opinions. The occasional local traffic accidents, fires, and other misfortune are items to note, but they aren't the majority of coverage.

In the last few weeks, the current agenda, or news, has been gun laws in the wake of the February 14 school shooting. Various suggestions for rules are given with video of teenagers marching and giving their input. Something you don't ever hear is what regulations already exist.

Granted, I haven't researched, but I'm quite confident that every state, county, and town has a rule against murder. There are various self-defense clauses, but nobody is allowed to go and kill people. Despite this, people die by the acts of another throughout the country on a regular basis.

Maryland recently had another school shooting as well, but the gunman was quickly taken care of by a security officer. The suspect was under age to have the weapon he possessed, in a gun free zone, and was against several other ordinances. Despite this, he still tried to carry out his ill intent. The media hardly mentioned the incident and certainly didn't show the laws that were in place that were ignored.

Unfortunately, we can make all the rules and regulations that can be considered, but they won't stop a would be criminal getting what he or she wants to fulfill their desire. Laws on illegal drugs have been enforced for many years, but it still doesn't stop the sell and spread of these harmful chemicals.

Jesus said that times like these would come, but it's still not fun to see them. The only true solution is getting hearts and minds back to God and that all life is precious, from conception to natural death. I don't see this change happening any time soon, but I still pray it does. Hopefully this coming week will be one with less chaos, but only time will tell.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Celebration Week

With the last official week of winter, it has been one of celebration. None of it had to do with the change of seasons, but it's another reason for me.

The first milestone of the week was celebrating mom's birthday. I was given balloons during my birthday in November and they are still floating toward the ceiling. Therefore, I thought they were perfect to give to mom on her day along with a humorous card.

She wondered if it was a case of re-gifting, but I like to think of it as creative recycling. For supper, we went about an hour from home for a good meal that didn't need to be cooked or cleaned. They has sushi on special and we decided to be adventurous and give it a try. I gave it a taste, but can't say I care for it. No matter the food, it was a nice warm spring day in Iowa to get out.

Two days after mom's day, we went to her mother's for supper. Four years ago, my grandfather passed away after a week in the hospital. A couple mom's siblings were able to come as well and everyone had a good time of talking and getting caught up on family events. Unfortunately, winter came back and the trip for supper had a mix of rain, snow, and everything in between. Thankfully, the roads were fine and we could go and spend the time with grandma.

To end the week, yesterday included attending a family friend's wedding. One of mom's friend's youngest daughter was married in a ceremony near Des Moines. Mom has been helping with some of the preparation and mainly an ear to be open for the bride's mother.

Looking back at past events is a great time to realize God's blessings He has given and the people around us. At other times, looking forward to the future and wondering what God will bring can be both exciting and frightening.

This coming week has me scheduled to start a busy time of more talks. I pray I will effectively share the story of the quad life God has given me and look back at all the blessings, and challenges, that have come along the way.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Lately, I have been hearing a lot about people dealing with anxiety. Some people choose to let it out while others look to medicine to help cope with life. It can be a major obstacle that severely limits a person's ability to function.

In living the quad life, regular living can be a very real struggle some days. Every few seconds, we depend on a machine to give every breath every hour of every day. Due to this, someone trained to help with breathing systems and all activities of daily living need to be present at all times. However, home care nurses are very hard to find and many people have to depend primarily on family members for help.

If you sit and think about these facts and nothing else, it's very hard to get through the day, every day. I recently spoke with the mother of a 14-year-old girl who is a quadriplegic and uses a vent. They have been looking for a caregiver for over a year with very few interviews. She is unable to go to school until more help is found and misses getting out of the house.

Other people that suffer with this problem don't necessarily have physical challenges, but the worries of life seem overwhelming to them. These cases can turn to alcohol or illegal drugs as coping mechanisms and make problems worse.

For me, a few verses of Scripture put my mind at ease. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus said to not worry about tomorrow, for God knows what we need. Constantly worrying about everything will not produce any benefit.

Yes, it is very hard to remember this at times and I have been guilty of worrying myself. In the case of the teenager above, it can make me wonder why a caregiver isn't found as one is needed. I'm sure Joseph had worry when his brothers sold him to slave traders, but he continued to trust in God.

I look at my calendar coming up and wonder how I will get everything complete for upcoming talks. It could be a source of anxiety, but I make sure to pray and continue to work on each item as it comes. May this coming week be one where we cast all anxiety on God, and make sure to remember He is the one in control.