Sunday, April 29, 2018

Slow Down

Since late March, I have averaged at least one speaking engagement every week. Today was my last scheduled time for a few weeks and I'm somewhat looking forward to a break.

I gave the sermon at my home church today for a congregation of around 200. It was a repeat of a message I gave earlier this month at a different church, but maybe a little more refined. Looking back on it, I missed a few points I wanted to include, but primarily got everything I intended to cover.

For the past few years, I have wanted to get into speaking more regularly and could see myself doing it as a career. I believe this past month has been a good test of what that type of life would resemble and everything involved.

One area I would need to develop further is use of notes. I'm learning to research and prepare information to present, but I tend to basically memorize what I will say and then repeat it. On days like today I do have a single sheet with some notes, but I rarely look at it. If I was doing more of a variety of topics, notes to help jog my memory would be more important.

Flipping from one page to the next isn't an option though, so I limit myself to only one page. I somewhat get around this by using PowerPoint along with my information. It not only helps visual learners in the audience, but doubles as a way to keep me on track. However, it also adds to my preparation time, remembering slide order, and coordinating with the person running the slideshow.

The quad life has unique challenges, but I have learned how to work with the abilities I have been given. Today was my third sermon I preached, but I felt extra pressure with it being my own church. I know the difficulties going on in various areas and wanted to help address them, but not go into it too much either.

This coming week will have more times of getting out of my comfort zone. I look forward to them and seeing God's plan unfold.

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.