Kicking off Halloween in Horror

This morning (Halloween day) I went to the DMV and oh, what a horrorible place that is.

They talk about the rise and fall of civilizations.  If the wait time at the Driver’s License Bureau is any indication, I’d say America is on the rocks.

I’ve been twice in two days.  Yesterday I went at 10am because I thought that would be a good time to miss the morning crowd and beat the lunch crowd (also, that’s when I woke up).  Guess again! the place was so packed I knew I’d be there all day so turned and left, determined to beat the system later.

The ingenious plan I hatched was to arrive before the place even opens at 7:00am.  Haha, that oughta work, right?  The early bird gets the worm, right?  No line, right?

Thus, this morning at the ghastly hour of 6:55am I could be found bleary eyed, shivering in the dark, stumbling into the DMV, only to be greeted with… an insanely long line!  Apparently I wasn’t the only person in Wichita hatching the same sneaky idea. 

Despite my best efforts, my wait time was still 40 minutes.  Perhaps if I’d arrived 40 minutes before it opened instead of 5, I could have been first in line.

Heads up, they’ve changed the format at 21st and Amidon.  Now you don’t shuffle along in a de-humanizing queue reminiscent of food line photos from the former Soviet Union, but instead sit in a well-lit lobby with an assigned number. 

Additionally, they have installed a screen which gives estimated wait times, which is nice.  My number was 19, yet somehow they went to number 32 before I was called.  Then I was treated with suspicion and my number double checked to make sure I wasn’t cutting. 

As I walked up, trying to straighten the arthritis from my back after sitting so long, I gave the lady a cheerful, “Good morning,” and what I considered (on the inside) to be a pleasant smile.  However, my neighborly cheer was not reciprocated.  Working there must be a hard life.

You know, what I also found a bit eerie is how silent it gets in the waiting room with the huddled masses hunched over their smartphones in mesmerized trances.  Airports are the same way. I’m thinking this Orwellian technology is de-humanizing us, the GDP (generally dumb public).

The Tube of You

So one of my best talents is watching YouTube videos.  It’s not hard, really, just keep clicking the never-ending recommended clips.  Yet I seem to have a special knack. 

It’s impossible to watch everything on Youtube because eight years of new content is posted daily!  Wow.

Awhile ago I watched a bunch of America’s Got Talent clips…  and Britain’s Got Talent, Australia’s Got Talent, France Has Talent  (France has work to do, by the way).

Ahh, good ol’ Susan Boyle. 

I found the longer I watched the less talent there was.  Pretty soon I’d seen most the ones with over a million hits.  As you know, if it doesn’t have at least a million hits, it’s not worth watching.

But the Talent TV shows got me thinking, “All the glory [or infamy] in these programs go directly to the person on stage.  They get their moment basking in glory, and then…?” 

Sure, some go on to sign a record label, like Boyle.  Though even her CD title, “Standing Ovation,” is revealing.  Others, less fortunate, fade into obscurity. 

Not that it’s wrong to bask in the praise of men, per se, but as Jesus says, “They have received their reward in full.”

Got me wondering what the proper stance is in a show-off skill like musicianship?  There aren’t any hard and fast rules, but two things come to mind:

  1. Be inspiring.  Ideally through lifting others hearts toward God.  This is one reason I’ve primarily played Sacred Music over the years on piano.
  2. Create beauty!  ThePianoGuys do a great job at this.  Just watching their works brings peace. 

Thanks Be, My Heart is Still Pumping

In other news, I received a heart rate monitor in the mail this week (because I ordered it off Amazon last week). 

Yep, I’m on a new kick of running.  In theory, I’m training for a 100-mile ultramarathon so need the heart rate monitor to fine tune my intensive racing schedule.  In practice, I’ve gotten to where I can locomote my body about half hour before it collapses into a jelly-melt on the sidewalk.

Turns out there are multiple “zones” one can exercise the heart in.  One for burning fat, one for slow-twitch muscle growth, one for fast-twitch, one for keeling over with a heart attack in the middle of the road, etc.

Then there is the Maximal zone, when your heart is running at 90% capacity (or higher).  That zone is not recommended for routine training.

Anxious to try my new monitor, I went on a leisurely jog, intending to target the aerobic level.  Within two minutes my heartrate was up to “Maximal Zone.”  Yikes. 

Tried slowing down, but hey, I wasn’t out to walk, but to run like the wind.  Which is to say I was already moving so slow any further reduction in speed would have been walking.

So I ended up jogging several miles in the high heartrate zone.  They say when the heart runs full-out pitter-patter the body doesn’t even burn fat, only carbs!  Lucky for me I had downed four butter-biscuits loaded with carbs just before heading out, so it was Ok. 

Life Through New Lenses

Here at home I’m wrapping up loose ends before heading to Haiti.  One was getting my dilapidated glasses replaced.  Been wearing my stodgy pair because the good ones were lost in the Current river whilst canoeing last June.  Yes, the expensive $400 ones.

The worst part about getting a new pair of glasses is the initial adjustment.  These ones were particularly stubborn as they’re made from flexible materials difficult to re-flex.

First my earpieces needed bent.  Then my nose pieces were too close.  Then they were too far apart.  Then crooked.  Finally, all seemed well.  The lady had made them comfortable, and I left. 

Driving away from the office, I glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed my glasses were slewed sideways on my face… one lens up in the air, the other down low.  “That’s odd,” I thought, and pushed the high side down.  It came back up.

Shucks, they need more adjusting, but am I going to be that “obnoxious customer” who comes back in with more complaints?  Not I, too embarrassing.  Especially after all the hard work she’d done (think she was new).

So I decided to swing by good ol’ Wal-Mart on my way home and have them take a gander at my proud new specs. 

There, a motherly African American type gave me a hard stare before starting in with something to the effect of, “Good gracious, chii-yield! these are off something terrible.”   Yeah, I know.

She began working her magic, tweaking, bending, prying, grimacing.  She was not impressed, “Honey, ‘ave you jest gotten your head smashed into with a ball?”

How was I supposed to answer, seeing they were brand new and just laboriously adjusted?  I answered truthfully, “No.”

“Then why come these frames are so bent up crooked?” she exclaimed, giving me a hard look, no doubt wondering if the impact had knocked out a few of my memories.

Finally she got them to where they sat crooked on the table between us, but more or less straight on my face.  Maybe I need a face alignment next.

The End of Horror

So maybe this post wasn’t so much about kicking off Halloween in Horror as it was about kicking it off in Humor.

Honestly, I didn’t even know it was Halloween today until I went through the McDonald’s drive-thru and a pink ballerina was at the window to take my money (complete with tu-tu).

That got me wondering if something was up, so I asked her if it was St. Patrick’s Day or something and she told me yes, it was Halloween.

Life in the Slow Lane

So after five weeks working at summer Bible camp, I’m back in Wichita.  There were friends I made at camp I most likely won’t see again anytime soon.  Sad.  But, there are friends here I’m getting re-acquainted with. 

The whole last year of my life seems to be a long series of “hellos” and “goodbye’s.”  Frustrating.  Sometimes it feels like I have a million acquaintances but no friends.  Maybe I should stay put in one place a little longer?

I had to laugh at a sign I recently saw in front of an Automotive Collision Repair Shop that read, “We make friends by accident.” 

While I too have met many people by accident, I’ve also met many people intentionally.  I find my better friends are ones which chose me and not ones I chose.  Probably some spiritual lesson there…  God can only have true relationship with those who reciprocally choose Him.

While I have things to do here back home, it is a bit depressing to not be living the life of high adventure.  Instead, I’ve been working on getting my car running again.  It was over-heating, but now it’s fixed.

High adventure aside, I miss living in community like I did on the Kibbutz in Israel or at Camp this summer (and last summer).

Been spending some time researching Haiti, where I’d like to go back.  Reading about it’s history, culture, people, geography, strengths, weaknesses, and language.  Even listened to Haitian Christian music on Youtube, some of which drives me nuts because its too repetetive while other songs I truly enjoy.  Good or bad, they greatly enjoy their music.  I liked this a capella group and this choir singing Psalm 23.

Speaking of music on the Tube of You, have you heard ThePianoGuys?  Not sure why they have that name because only one out of four plays the piano: 1 cameraman, 1 audioman, 1 pianist, and 1 cellist.  They put together fantastic stuff.  A few classics are: Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Me and My Cello – but my personal favorite is Bourne Vivaldi.

Since I haven’t written in forever, I forgot to mention the last two weeks I was at camp my job was life-guarding (which was fun).  No one drowned so that was a success. 

Lifeguard Pic

I wish there was more to write about, but my life is pretty slow these days.

Crocs, Moby Dick, a Lost Toothbrush and a Light Princess

I was too quick to laud the merits of Crocs in my last post.  This week one of mine sat out in the sun an entire day and (would you know it?) shrunk down at least two whole sizes!  No joke. 

Made me feel like one of Cinderella’s sisters trying to jam a foot into a glass slipper, my heel hanging out the back.  Who would have thunk mere sunshine would shrink a Croc down like cannibalistic natives shrink heads? 

The sun ruined another of my belongings as well.  After sitting in the broiling trunk of my car for some time, my laptop battery no longer accepts a charge.  This is sad, but someone told me I should put it in the refrigerator to fix it.  I tried. It didn’t work.  Then they told me I should put it in a ziplock baggy and freeze it.  With some trepediation, and after warning my roommates to not be alarmed if they heard a muffled *boom* from the freezer, I tried that as well. Thankfully it didn’t explode, but the trick didn’t fix it either. Maybe I should try throwing it against a concrete wall next?

So another week has passed at camp.  I was a lifeguard, and will be again next week.  Nobody drowned on my watch, for which I’m thankful.  The only event of note was on a tube float…. one guy got this large hook stuck in his heel!  Apparently some aspiring Captain Ahab missed his Moby Dick, only to later, in a roundabout fashion, harpoon a 22 year old human!  What’s worse is the hook was attached to a line which was snagged at the bottom of the river.  So this fellow was struggling to tread water against the current!  With some fanfare we freed him, after one of our number produced a massive knife which he had been swimming with for just such an occasion.  Our saved victim was appreciative, and after getting him to shore the hook was removed, only having buried itself in about 1/2 inch.

In between snatches of this and that I’ve managed to do some reading.

Almost finished the book, Haiti: the Tumultuous History – From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation.  It’s enlightening, but soo depressing and makes me feel angry at Hatian’s crooked leaders. 

Also read a shorter work, The Light Princess, a fairy tale by George MacDonald.  It was clever, funny, and fun.  The protagonist reminded me of at least one person I know.  The chief lesson was that love is the only thing which can bring back into harmony laws out of balance.

In other news, in my last post I gave my current camp address in hopes of receiving more letters, and it worked!  I got a letter!  It was from the brother of my brothers’ brother-in-law.  So that was exciting.  I also got a cheery e-mail from Seth, an older brother of my father’s youngest son.

One day last week I lost both my Bible and my toothbrush!  Can you believe it?  I was again reminded of my propensity towards absent-mindedness.  After these losses, the quality of both my Bible reading and my teeth began deteriorating.  Later, after much searching, both essential items were found (though not in the same place) which made me happy.

I heard a series of messages this past week on King David and how he had a heart after God’s own heart, even though he had failures in his life, some of which were dramatic.  These messages were quite encouraging to me (and convicting), and when they get posted online I’ll link to them here.  Some main points were that David wanted to know God and actively sought after Him, that he owned up to his mistakes when confronted regarding them, that he was obedient in obeying God, and that he wanted to be where God was and for God to be where he was.

Off subject…. after spending a lot of time with kids this last month, I’ve got to thinking on the topic of “maturity”.  What is maturity?  I Googled it and the following definition appeared:

The state, fact, or period of being mature.    

Brilliant, Sherlock. 

My definition would include being serious, something I’ve noticed is outside the realm of possibility for many teenagers (especially guys), not to disparage the odd anomalies. 

In the OZARKS, where the Internet is RARE, and the heat is BLAZING

Here at Turkey Hill Bible Camp, finding internet is like finding a burning bush on the North Pole, it just ain’t happening. 

Last weekend I didn’t even have time to post a single jot or tiddle on simplefollower.  Making up for it now by posting twice in one fell swoop.  Impressive, I know.

So here I be at McDonald’s in Jeff City again, my standard portal into the interwebuhshphere.  Camp ended early this week: Friday instead of Saturday.  That’s because this past week was the final Youth camp of the summer and an extra day is given for cleaning up the facilities before Family Camps begin.

I didn’t counsel last week but instead was on, “Grounds Crew.”  We worked on making a new trail down to the lake and other such illustrious activities like weed-wacking, cleaning bathrooms, and raking leaves.

The best part of last week was the staff Bible study sessions.  We spent an hour each morning and an hour each afternoon in the Word.  We used various study techniques like summarizing (we summarized the book of Ephesians), looking at structure (looked at Revelation chapters 2 & 3), examining key words (John 15), and word studies (so do you know the difference between reprove and rebuke? or do you know what the word “Saved” really means?).  It was fun and I learned some things.

Being at camp these past three weeks has been a big spiritual recharge for me.  Mainly because I’m in the Bible so much, and around others who are like-minded.

I haven’t done much other reading, unfortunately.  I’m currently wading through a History of Haiti, which is fascinating.  The history of Haiti is more complex (and bloody) than I realized. 

The only book I’ve finished so far at camp has been Grandpa Jack’s, From Tarshish to Ninevah.  I’d link to Amazon, but don’t think he has it up there yet.  I enjoyed his stories and especially hearing about his faith in writing.  It got me thinking about my legacy of faith and how, in a roundabout way, it had an inauspicious beginning many years ago with a farmer sharing his faith with Grandpa.  I even mentioned that story (and the book) in a staff devotional I led one morning last week.

Let’s see, what else can I write about?  The news.  Well, my knowledge of current events and news is dismal.  Someone mentioned a shooting in Colorado and I assumed they meant Columbine, but then later realized there must have been a more recent calamity. 

I am, however, not in such a bat-cave as to not know that a new batman flick just premiered: The Dark Knight Rises, or some such.  However, I have no interest in watching it, because I don’t like batman, and it looks like a dark movie. 

In other news, I’m being asked (often) what I’m going to do next.  I have some ideas, but they don’t make sense (to others), and perhaps not entirely to myself either. 

I took comfort in John McHoul’s latest post about our lives being Living Sacrifices.  He said, among other things, something may be wrong when our lives make sense.  You have to read the whole artivle to get his context, but the gist was that our lives are in God’s hands, and they’re meant to be given up for Him, which means they likely will not look like the “status-quo” deal. 

Ok, I’d love to hear from you.  You being “anyone” who actually reads this, those few and far between people (like my Mom). 

I’ve only been checking my e-mail once a week, and hardly using the interwebs at all, which you would think would make checking my mail an exciting event as I get the fun of reading an entire weeks worth of personal letters in one sitting, but there’s a funny phenomena that happens when you don’t write other people: nobody writes you!  So my inbox is largely empty. 

Luckily, one person sent me a regular letter at camp, which bolstered my spirits.  And I hear on the grapevine my niece Kailee also sent me a bonafide letter, which unfortunately got detained in the mail, though I took comfort from her thoughtfulness, and even wrote her back, which was tricky since I didn’t know what important things she had written me about.

Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I should be here two more weeks.

My address is:

Nick Middleton
c/o THRBC
13489 Maires Rd. 301
Vienna, MO 65582

Wilderness Week

Two weeks ago (July 15-21) I was one of four leaders on a week-long Current River canoe trip with fifteen teenagers. 

Here are a few pictures:

Group Photo

Bluffs

Canoeing

Morning Bible Lesson

Cooking Supper

A highlight was the time I spent up late talking with different guys.  One night until 2am!

When I was a kid (8?) I went on a week long father-son Current River trip led by Tom Richardson.  The strongest memories I have of that trip are sleeping on gravel bars and poking my feet on rocks all day because I forgot to bring my water socks (which mom had just bought for me the day before I left).  My whole life I’ve felt awful I forgot those brand new water socks on that particular campout (where we all got “Tip-A-Canoe” T-Shirts).  Never was there a campout on which they were more needful.

On this trip I was careful to not repeat history, and carefully packed away my “crocs.”  For those who don’t know, I’ve been wearing my trusty crocs nearly continuously for about three months now.  Even to such places as church (when I was overseas and didn’t have anything else) and while doing such jobs as construction work (like pickaxing through rock), mechanical work, and plenty of hiking.  Crocs truly are versatile, working well for nothing, but getting by for everything.  The best part is not having to wear socks anymore.

Remembering the aches put on my 8-year old back by sleeping on gravel bars, this time I packed not one, but TWO sleeping pads for my resting enjoyment.  They worked well, and I slept like a dead man, just like I do back home.  Which I’m not sure where home is anymore, as I guess I’m technically homeless. 

The funniest thing I saw on the river was a certain man (hillbilly?) doing a back flip off the top of a tall bluff (30 feet?).  This fellow was wearing bib overalls (with no shirt) and appeared to be “under the influence”, that is, at least before he jumped.  In my opinion he had enough height to do four somersaults, but instead did about 3/4 of one of them, and landed with a perfect belly-buster!  Haha, it was so funny.  Based on his swearing when he came up, I assume the impact sobered him.  At first I wondered if all his organs were ok, but guess they were, probably saved by his jean coveralls.

The scariest thing I did was swimming back in this cave-room place in the dark in a spring where the water was bitterly cold.  For the next half hour of canoeing afterwards (in 100 degree heat) I was shivering.

None of the kids got hurt, though one ate a minnow.  Some kids dared him, and he was about to do it when I walked up, and then he didn’t think I’d let him, but I told him it would probably be fine to eat the minnow, so he did, and, like I suspected, didn’t seem worse for wear afterwards. 

Spiritually, I think it was good for everyone.  We spent time studying the Bible and each of us leaders shared our testimonies and led at least one devotional time.  It was neat seeing certain ones attitudes improving as they were challenged by things they were learning.

The last couple days you could really tell the fellows were missing civilization.  I had a number of them start telling me things like, “I miss my bed, I miss my iPhone, I miss my TV, I miss the internet, I miss my Mom.”

I think being unplugged was good for them and they didn’t get much sympathy from me.

So that’s my quick report of “Wilderness Week”!