Sunday, October 31, 2021

What's a Church?

When someone drives past certain buildings, they may say "that's a church." While it's commonly said, and thought, it isn't necessarily accurate.

The Christian church is made up of people that are spread across the globe. Groups, or congregations, from small to large form local congregations that often meet in a certain building. The structure could be a shack with a dirt floor, a house, or an ornate cathedral that is hundreds of years old. Many congregations grow attached to the place they meet as it is used, hopefully, many times a week for worship, praise, and studying God.

For my entire life, I have been part of one congregation that has used one structure for most activities. I remember for many years dad pulled me in my manual wheelchair up the long flight of stairs into the sanctuary, twice every Sunday. Around junior high, an elevator was installed that allowed me to get in with my power wheelchair and easily access the main floor and basement. It was small, but it worked for me as well as elderly members using walkers or other mobility aides.

Subsequent wheelchairs were a challenge to get though as many were too large for the church elevator. The current chair I now use took eight years to get partly due to difficulty in getting one small enough for church. Some weeks, the elevator wasn't working and I couldn't attend. I even got stuck in the building once due to an elevator problem and had to be carried out, chair and all.

Even with its challenges, I grew to love our church building, the choir singing in the sanctuary, and my designated bench. For several years, a waiting line has existed by the elevator for people waiting to leave. This has been a time I talked with people regularly and got to fellowship.

Last week Sunday was our final week in our facility, today my congregation met for the first time in our new building. I preached for another church and wasn't in attendance, but will have to work on new routines. I will no longer have an end of a pew that has been my spot for 36 years and can sit anywhere. I also won't have my regular group of people milling around for the elevator to catch-up with every week.

I have already given my thoughts on building types, but will see how the change adjusts the congregation. This week ahead will be interesting, but that will be another post.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Disability Day

My church denomination, Christian Reformed Church, designates certain Sundays to recognize historical events or an aspect of the denomination. Last week was officially Disability Concerns Sunday, placing emphasis on making church buildings and worship available to everyone. I'm a week late, but it was my theme or main topic for preaching today.

Thankfully, many churches are wheelchair accessible, but it's still something I need to ask when visiting at a new facility. One of the larger challenges is getting around people's thoughts about disabilities and how someone can contribute to society.

In Jesus' time, it was thought that disability was a result of someone's sin (see John 9) and they were being punished. It is true that sinful choices may result in an injury, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or distracted driving. However, a deformity is often not due to a particular choice someone made and shouldn't be treated as such. Another regular comment is that if a person just "has enough faith," they will be cured of any ailment.

Cleaning wheels in gravel
Yes, it's true that God can, and has, cured all types of disabilities and problems (Jesus' miracles and Mark 5:25-34 are examples). However, God also uses them for His purposes, even though we may not understand. Many people make-up several excuses of why they can't share the gospel until they see me doing it. As I say when I give evangelism sermons, not being able to move or breathe independently is no reason why you can't share the gospel. Therefore, I can use the life God has given me to help others.

That doesn't mean life is always easy, the past two days have shown that. My planned to go on a fall drive Saturday to see colorful trees in northern Iowa. However, my day nurse called off sick on Friday and Saturday, making it so they couldn't go. Therefore, the three of us spent a few hours in our local area getting pictures.

Mom saw a few areas for good family photos, but they weren't always near cement. After one photo stop, I got stuck in gravel and had a challenge getting back in the van. For the second stop, I ended up spinning my wheels in mud and spent the next several minutes trying to drive around to clean off my tires. This is part of the quad life sometimes, but we were able to get good pictures for the occasion.

Hopefully this week will have all my caregivers healthy and able to come, but I'll work with whatever God gives me.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Virtual Interviews

Two years ago, I was selected to be on an advocacy group called the Olmstead Group. They work to make sure people living with disabilities in Iowa are as independent as possible. At our last meeting, one of the new members said they were doing a podcast that interviewed persons with disabilities. It sounded like something I would qualify to do and volunteered to help. This past Thursday was my day to be interviewed.

Prior to my time of being questioned, mom wondered if I had listened to the podcast before, what was it called, and what was I expected to talk about. All of these were good inquiries, but none of which I could answer. The person I had been corresponding with said they just "go with the flow" and don't really have planned topics. I also didn't receive information on where to find anything to preview.

Therefore, when my scheduled time arrived, I had no firm idea what to expect. I was fairly certain I knew my own life well enough to talk about it though. My caregiver also called off sick for the day, which meant mom was with me while I was questioned.

For nearly an hour, I talked about my history and why I'm too lazy to lift a finger. I also went over my experiences in school, looking for work after college, and what I do now. However, I did receive a question I prayed would come and had somewhat planned a response. When asked about how I stay positive (or something similar, it was a few days ago), I got to share about being a Christian and looking to God for everything. Yes, some days are worse than others, but I know that as someone that has broken God's commands, I deserve nothing other than eternal punishment in hell. However, I have been extremely blessed instead.

I will be allowed to preview the podcast in about a month and was told it should come out around January. I thought the experience went okay, but mom said I did a fantastic job. I was glad to hear she thought it went well. Later this week, I'm also scheduled to be part of a webinar talking about the diaphragm pacemaker system. The busy quad life continues, but I'm thankful for another and hopefully being able to help others from the experiences God has given me.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Lemonade from videos?

My nickname in many places online is some variation of trainman. However, it's becoming very rare that I get opportunity to go and just watch trains. Last Saturday, dad and I got to a small town in southeast Iowa to watch trains. To document the trip, I like to make sure to get trains on video and then put it on my YouTube channel.

After lunch, we checked out a model train display from Scale Trains and could then finally record the trains we were seeing. Dad isn't very familiar with my camera, so I try to make it as easy as possible to use. Instead of going through settings to select video type, I had him hit one button that would just record from whatever was set previously. 

Dad very nicely setup his tripod and made sure to have the shots framed well to see the trains, or barges, perfectly. We caught several trains on the busy main line and even two trains that met perfectly in front of my camera. On the three-hour drive home, I looked forward to seeing what we captured and getting them put together into a long video. However, when I transferred the content from the camera to my computer, I noticed the files seemed much smaller than I expected.

When I looked at the videos, I realized they were all taken in high-speed time lapse without any sound. Therefore, instead of nearly 30 minutes of train videos, they were less than three-minutes total. Looking at them, I could see they were all perfectly framed and looked great, except in high-speed. I felt horrible that dad went to all the work to capture the videos and they wouldn't be useful. If I had him use the slow method to setup video type, it would have been fine. However, in trying to make things easier, it ended up being worse.

I thought and slept about it Saturday night and Sunday and wondered what I could do in editing. I tried slowing the videos down, but they looked jerky. Therefore, I found a music site for YouTube, put the videos together, and did a high-speed review. It wasn't what I had planned, but it still worked out. Next time though, I'll go through the slow setup method at least once.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Fourth Visit in 28 Years

In June 1993, I went to my first week of CHAMP Camp. It has been 28 years since my first encounter with what would become a life-long commitment. I attended camp for seven years as a camper and have been a counselor 15 years in person and this year virtually. In 2018, I also went to the Louisville area to preach for a camp friend and a few others came to hear me. The summers I was not active at camp, I have visited at least twice and promote camp any chance I get.

With nearly three decades of involvement, I have made several friends of fellow long-term counselors as well as current and alumni campers. However, camp is based in Indianapolis and many of the people involved are from that area or further east. Therefore, I normally only see camp friends in person during camp week. However, that does change on some rare occasions.

This past Tuesday, a counselor friend came to visit for the day. Cayla and I had talked about her visiting a few years ago at camp. She would stop over during a trip she had planned to Nebraska with her family. However, this pandemic thing kind of changed plans. Therefore, we got it worked to reschedule before winter arrived and another year has passed.

Cayla's visit makes the fourth time someone from camp has come to visit me, with two of them during my camper years. It was fun getting to show her my little town and areas I like to go for entertainment. Camp also gets very busy with many people around and it's hard to find time to just talk with friends and get caught up. I enjoyed getting to just talk and actually get caught up with her, even with my parents or caregiver also with us.

She started driving early Tuesday morning from the Indianapolis area and arrived around noon. By 9:00 that evening, Cayla was ready to head to the hotel and then returned home Wednesday. Therefore, she drove about 14 hours and had an overnight stay for a nine-hour visit. I have done the same drive and stay for a three-hour visit to camp. I'm thankful it worked out and that I was able to spend time with friends twice in September.

As changes in the country and my physical needs continue, I doubt I will be returning to volunteer at CHAMP Camp. I hope this won't be the last time I see any of my camp friends in person, but I enjoyed this one as a rare treat.