Plethora of Missions


“Offer them food and they will come” was the joking subtitle to Sunday evenings Ice Cream Social and Missions Fair at Avondale United Methodist Church. Besides the ice cream, the key feature of the evening was a presentation and update by Larry and Kristy Schmitz of their ministry at TESOL (The English-speaking School of Lubumbashi) in the Congo.

The food and presentation were good.  What was really astounding, however, was the list of various missions and ministries featured on display boards around the hall. At just one picture apiece, they make up an impressive collage of pictures, see below:

2014-07-20 AUMC Mission Fair


As you scanned the boards, you saw inside and outside the church, near the church and far away. And now as I write, I can even think of more things that could have been represented that weren’t. Again, impressive, and all to the Glory of God.

ToonTown Rewritten Reaches 1000


Today is going to be a short look at Toontown Rewritten. This past weekend they expanded the amount of time everyone could play.  If you got a slot or waited in the playline, when your turn came up you got 6 hours instead of 3 hours of play time on Saturday and Sunday.

For me it was, really, I don’t feel a need to play the game longer than 3 hours. I just need to be able to play some every day or so for an hour or so to keep my character moving along.

During their weekend push, they got a Toontown population that exceeded 1000 — and they said things were running smooth too.

That might have been their perspective.  For me, and for Nathan, it was generally smooth, unless you tried to switch districts, or go through a door, change streets, anything that was a transition of that sort could make you log off and have to log back in.

One time I had to switch districts 5 times to find a building that wasn’t a cog building, so I could turn a task in. And 4 of those times I got logged out and had to sign back in.

I also spent a half hour at the beginning of my time signing in, and being told it couldn’t find the servers. When I finally did get in, it a message from the admins came up that they were taking things down for maintenance in 60 seconds. And it took a good half hour after that before I could sign in again.  So I wouldn’t say things were smooth.

But things were better.  I was able to find people to help me take back a building, and complete that task. So I advanced from Donald’s Dock to Daisy’s Garden.

Organic Staff Changes


Sunday Avondale United Methodist Church had a double-whammy to its staffing. We had known before service that Michelle Hoitenga was going to be resigning after almost 5 years as a nursery attendant. But what we hadn’t expected was the announcement of the resignation of our “new” organist Seth Bott after only 6 months in the position.  He commutes 50 minutes each way to play for us from Lawrence, KS, where he is a doctoral student of organ. Seems like he prefers taking a position at the First United Methodist Church of Lawrence, KS, which also happens to have the largest pipe organ in Kansas.

While that announcement was shock, I know none of us blame Seth for making that decision. But he will be missed.

But that wasn’t the intended topic of this blog.  I was talking to the head of the staff-parish committee (apologies if I get structural names wrong), which is responsible for filling positions, and she commented about how many different positions they have had to fill in the past year. Sometime after that conversation it dawned on me that, yes, there have a lot of positions changed/filled, but also how organic they were.

I am afraid I have grown up in too many churches where staff changes always seemed to be a part of non-organic issues. People disliking the pastor until he moved on seemed to be a favorite. A church split over the use of memorial funds is another I can remember. Then there was the retirement of a senior pastor that led to a church split when people who favored one of the associate pastors becoming senior pastor learned that the board had really meant what it said, years before, when it said they would not be promoting either of the associate pastors (the board had done that to prevent any rivalry between the associates, but the one pastor’s faction apparently didn’t care).

What I guess I am saying, is that it is nice to be part of a church where the movement of staff comes from ordinary life events, where everyone can wish the departing Godspeed, and look forward to seeing them again in the future without concern about who was part of what camp.

So I will feel sad at the recent departures, and know that changes are in store as we fill and find new people, but I am glad to be a part of AUMC, where these changes are a sign that we really are participating in people’s lives and helping them to move along to the next steps God has in store for them.

Living life in the Trash Lane



Bike Route Bike Lane Symbol

The reemergence of the bicycle as a means of both exercise and transportation in the United States is also being experienced here in Kansas City. Most of the time it is met with honking by motorists at inappropriate and inopportune times (the ones most likely to startle the cyclist into a dangerous swerve that could cause an accident), or by comments like the one I received earlier this week — “Go buy a ****ing car!”. More rarely  you get greeted by motorist with an encouraging honk or comments like the “keep it up” I received a few weeks ago.

This resurgence, part of a green and environmentally friendly trend by cities and other municipalities, has led to more bike routes and bicycle lanes here in Kansas City. The bridges across the Missouri River have been reworked so the Heart of America Bridge and the Chouteau Bridge both have walking/bicycle paths on them. Redesigns of North Brighton and Chouteau Trafficway in the past couple of years have added well-designed bike lanes. It would seem that the culture is supporting the cyclist culture.

Yes, and no. Bicycle Routes are nice things to ride on, but they are routes from nowhere to nowhere. If you actually want to go somewhere, you have to take a regular road, with or without the bike lane.

Bike Lane Symbol - Trash Bike Route - Trash

And what is the problem with the bike lane? Think about your regular road. Cars go down the road, their speed and weight throwing any debris toward the side of the road. Where is the bike lane? On the side of the road. Thus every object that is a potential hazard for thy cyclist, a threat to puncture a tire, or throw the bicyclist off-balance to have a crash and injury, finds itself migrating to the one space the reserved for the cyclist. It can be a lot of fun, and requires a lot of concentration to ride in the fast bike trash lane.

The obvious solution is to have frequent cleaning of bike paths and bike lanes. But glass is a regular hazard on the bridges here in Kansas City — cleaning isn’t done. On Chouteau Trafficway the landscapers for the renovation project saw the bike lane as a storage lane for their potted plant trays, and left mounds of dirt behind which haven’t been cleaned. As for North Brighton, the whole length of the revised stretch, from Pleasant Valley Road to Vivion Road, is one series of bolts, nails, and the remains of blown out tires (nice, fine tire pieces compared to the big pieces usually seen on Interstate Highways, but still a definite hazard to the cyclist).

I assume city budgets aren’t made to consider the necessary perpetual cleaning necessary for the bicycle culture. It is always easier to build the new than to budget for maintenance.  Infrastructure improvements always have a better profile to the public than cleaning up. But it is an issue that must be addressed, if people are to continue to choose the bike over the car for transportation, and if the liability for accidents isn’t to come back to haunt the municipalities.

Travelogue — The Rainbow Connection



While crossing across the Niagara River into Canada recently to view the falls from the Canadian side (the view really is better from Canada — they get the best falls, and the best view), we noticed a pillar at the Canadian end of the bridge a coat of arm with a lion and a unicorn (the Royal Arms of Canada), and an inscription from Genesis 9:12-17:

12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15 and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. 17 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

I had known the name of the bridge was the rainbow bridge, but I hadn’t known about the Bible connection.  But as you see in the attached pictures, the rainbow is a prominent theme at Niagara Falls — the spray from the falls catches the light so you see them, often even double rainbows, from most any angle you look. And back in the 1940s when the bridge was built, they still remembered the source story of the rainbow to quote it on the bridge. Thank goodness no one has tried to have it updated yet in our modern age.

Pictures follow:


Found -- Pot of gold at end of rainbow -- not exactly what I was expecting...

Found — Pot of gold at end of rainbow — not exactly what I was expecting…


No Trick — This book is a great read!


I was right — I needed a free weekend to read this book.

Trickster Noir is the second in the Pixie for Hire series by Cedar Sanderson. I read the first book, Pixie Noir, in 24 hours from first word to last, and waited, weeks as it turned out, until I had a similar block of time to read Trickster.  I needed it.

I will reiterate some of the things I said when reviewing Pixie for Trickster — because Sanderson did the same good job for both books.

The book moves quickly from the start — I was drawn in from the beginning — though this time it didn’t take me awhile to get the lay of the land to know what sort of universe the story was set it.

You definitely want to read the first book before reading Trickster, to get that understanding of the universe, since Sanderson did such a good job of making it understandable there. Since Trickster is a continuation of the story of the two main characters/narrators, you will understand the references and context a lot better if you do. That said, I believe one could read Trickster before reading Pixie and still find it understandable and enjoyable.

Trickster isn’t a second installment of a trilogy. The plot stands firmly on its own. Actually, I found it more episodic, sort of like two separate stories or plots expertly woven into one book, held together by the characters and their growth through  the sequence of events that made up the two plots, with the shadow of the “Trickster” always in the background.

Sanderson introduces a lot of elements from  myth and fairy tale and gives them believable substance and reality. I see this universe full of many other engaging stories that could be written, and hope that we might get to read some of them some day. Perhaps a third Pixie for Hire book, along with some “spin-off” books? My wife and I are already speculating on the third book’s title. What comes after Pixie and Trickster, after all?

Travelogue — Episode: Tire Change


Seems like I have been changing a number of tires in the past couple of months. Most of them have been bicycle tires. Tuesday was the first (and hopefully last) car tire. Not only was the tire flat, it was on a car more than 500 miles from home and in a “foreign” country.

The setting: After spending the afternoon with my aunt on Grand Island, and taking almost 500 pictures of Niagara Falls from both sides (side-note: for best pictures, make sure to make it to the Canadian side. Best pictures of both the Canadian and American falls), we started our drive back to home (Kansas City) by heading west through southern Ontario toward Detroit.

It was while taking one of the exit ramps from one highway that became an entrance ramp to the next highway, that I was suddenly confronted with two blocks of wood in the roadway before me.  The blocks were L-shaped, each made of two squares of wood about 12-inches by 12-inches fastened together perpendicularly. Though there were two lanes, and I was in the right lane, I couldn’t swerve left because of another car approaching from behind in that lane, and there wasn’t much of a shoulder to the right either. So I aimed toward the right, trying to avoid both blocks.  I managed to avoid the one to the left, but hit the other with the right front tire. It made a significant thud, but the car kept on rolling without any other apparent impact.

We had time to drive to the first service area, get gas, pick up food, and drive on to the next service area.  It wasn’t until we started to drive out of the next rest area that we noticed the thumping sound coming from the tire, and stepped out to find the tire flat. We had over 100 miles on the odometer from fueling up at that point. Betsy had mentioned a tendency to pull a little bit  while she was driving in the right lane, but none when driving in the left — that was the only indication that anything was wrong with the tire during that 100 miles.  Amazing how far we could go as long as the speed was good. (I should note it didn’t thump at all while we were pulling in to the service area, either.)

So I got to pull out the compact donut spare tire, and the jack, and show the kids how to change a tire. First thing I noticed was that the pressure on the spare seemed to be low.  Fortunately, we were at a service stop that had an air pump, so after a bit of fiddling we were able to inflate it up to pressure before putting it on. It took two of us — one to hold the nozzle against the tire stem, and the other to squeeze the valve that opened the air up to run through the hose. Nathan was a good help there.

I showed both kids the special jack that came with the car, the special ridge on it, and the corresponding ridge of metal underneath the car that it was to slide into to properly support the weight of the car. I then took off the hub cap and loosened the screws on the tire (took them off all the way, and put them in the hub cap for safe keeping, actually), before starting to jack the car off the ground.  I explained that if you didn’t loosen them first, the tire would spin and not loosen them when you tried to turn it with the tire allowed to spin freely in the air.

Once the car was in the air we removed the tire, put the donut spare on, added the nuts, tightened, lowered, and tightened again. Then we drove to our night’s stay in the U.S. The hotel attendant, at our request, mentioned the local Belle Tire shop as a good place to get a new tire. I Googled their hours, and was there when they opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Belle Tire proved everything the clerk had mentioned and more.  Their sign out front mentioned their low price guarantee, and they met it.  Took them less than 90 minutes to get me in and out, and they came in just under their estimate — including taxes and fees. Anyone in the Detroit area I would definitely recommend Belle Tire.

I also was impressed with the Canadian service centers along their highway. I usually expect “rest areas” with gas stations and eateries only along limited-access toll roads. But these centers were on non-toll roads, and that gas station with the air for our tire enabled us to get along to our night’s destination.