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Back in January I wrote about the flowering of my indoor dwarf lemon tree. I am glad to report at this time that I now have at least 10 very young, very green, very small lemons growing on my tree. That isn’t many compared to all the blossoms it had, but in all the history of the tree I think we’ve had maybe 2 lemons make it to the yellow stage, and never 10 green ones all at once.

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How many young lemons can you see?

The tree is also sending out new blossoms, so the possibility of  more lemons is there.

Back in January I had asked about pollination, and gotten several suggestions. I had tried the Q-tip pollination method, but have no idea whether that actually succeeded, or whether these lemons are from other blossoms that did themselves.

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New lemons, dying blossoms…

Now my question is, how long does it take? The one article I looked up, indicated that the tree, with the right “weather” conditions, could bloom and bear fruit year-round. And from blossom to fruit could be 6-9 months. So since those blossoms were in January, I’m guessing fruit could ripen from July to October. That is a pretty broad timeframe.

So, after years, will I finally get a “crop”, or will something blight my harvest?

 

#187: Blest Be the Tie That Binds

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(Part of a series singing through the hymnbook I grew up with: Great Hymns of the Faith)

This particular song has a certain emotional attachment to it. My dad was a member of the Gideon’s International, and they used this song as the one sung at the end of meetings as a parting, holding hands in a circle. We also sang it at my dad’s memorial service. I never sing it without having flashing memories of those groups and the times I was with them when they did this.

1

Blest be the tie that binds

Our hearts in Christian love!

The fellowship of kindred minds

Is like to that above.

2

Before our Father’s throne

We pour our ardent prayers;

Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,

Our comforts ad our cares.

3

We share our mutual woes,

Our mutual burdens bear;

And often for each other flows

The sympathizing tear.

4

When we asunder part

It gives us inward pain;

But we shall still be joined in heart,

And hope to meet again.

 

Renewing a Passport

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My first trip out of the United States (except for Canada — back in the days when that didn’t require a passport) was 10 years ago. So the renewal of my passport is coming up this summer.

Since we are working on summer travel plans that might include a foray into Canada, and since it is a lot harder to submit a new passport application than renew one, I have been working, slowly, on the process of filling out and submitting my passport renewal.

I started by going to the travel.state.gov website, and downloading the PDF form and trying to fill it out as a pdf on my computer. When I got frustrated with that, I went to the website and followed the link for form filler, and found out that was the way to go. So I filled out the form, and had everything ready, except needing to have my passport photo.

That is where it got interesting. I went to USPS.com and looked up post offices near me that helped with passport applications. They all said you had to call to make an appointment. Each one I called either couldn’t do it because of equipment issues, or they only did it like once every so many weeks at a special “faire”.

But the one USPS person suggested CVS, Walgreens, Sam’s Club — and with that I decided to visit Sam’s club. Photos within the hour. Turned out to be 10 minutes and $4.96 for the two.

Then it took finding a stapler at home we could use to fasten the photo on to the form.

It was noontime, so I decided to wait and go later to avoid the rush.

But even at 3:45 p.m. there was a line at the post office. I got in line, hoping to ask questions about how to ship. But then I saw their display with mailing envelopes. I picked up the envelope for Priority Mail Express, but could only find mailing labels that said Priority Mail, so I filled that out while waiting in line, slapped it on, and waited some more.

When I got up to the desk, the person, Beverly, was very friendly and helpful, but mentioned I had the wrong label. I told her I hadn’t seen any, and asked her to give me the right one, which I stepped out of line to fill out and then came back once I was done and she had finished with the next person.

That part of mailing it was easy, but when I went back out to the postage rack, there was indeed no Priority Mail Express mailing labels. I went back in to try and let them know they needed to fill the rack, but everyone was “busy”, so there was no one I could mention it to without being unduly rude.

So I found the process not too bad, post office staff helpful, but the post office business model quite lacking. No wonder their business is going elsewhere.

Now to see how swiftly and efficiently the passport renewal application itself is processed.

Fitness Update: Northland Half and 5K

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Sunday was the final race of the Northland Progress Series sponsored by The Running Well Store. Perhaps next week I will do a post on the series as a whole, if something else doesn’t come up of more topical interest. Today, however, I am going to concentrate on this week, and specifically the half marathon.

Last week I mentioned my overdoing it attempt to run the half solo, the dehydration, etc. So this week I ran two 4.5 prep routes, but nothing longer, before the half marathon on Sunday. I also swam 2,000 yards, skipping my Friday swim to sleep in. I was highly sleep deprived this week by Friday, but managed to get a lot of sleep on Friday and Saturday nights, hoping to be recharged for the half marathon.

But I don’t think I was quite up to the quality I was two weeks ago when I did the 12-mile run.

Because of family car arrangements, I rode my bike the 7 miles to the race course. There I met several people I had seen before and come to know. The person I knew the longest was Paul Mast, who was running the 5K, not the half, because he had just done a 10K on Saturday. We discussed our expected times: his was around 22 minutes, mine 2 hours.

I also saw the “young man” (lower 40s) I had been seeing each of the other races, Jason Thomas, and actually got to meet his wife and daughter before the race. In each of the previous three races I had managed to finish and stay ahead of him.

I was also looking for Deidre Eilts, who would be singing Sunday afternoon with me in the Songflower Chorale concert that was my Sunday afternoon gig, but didn’t manage to spot her.

This time, I started near the front of the pack, and managed to end up running with some of the 5K people. I struck up a conversation with one guy, and about a mile in found I was at a 8 minute pace, instead of my intended 9. So when he took the turn back, I tried to alter my tempo toward what I thought was 9. But I wasn’t feeling overextended, it felt right. (I’ll have to remember that tempo for the Corporate Challenge 5K on May 6).

When I reached the 2 mile marker I saw the lead person looping back and hitting the 3 mile marker — so about 50% faster than me.

There were “plenty” of water stations, and I was well-hydrated, so I didn’t have issues with that. I didn’t feel the multiple times to walk, but as I got onto the gravel levee at mile 5 I did sense a change of my pace.

Up to this point, and through most of the rest of the race, I was getting passed periodically, and passing very few people. So the tempo and dynamic of this race was different than the other three races.

I made it to the end of the levee, and did the turn around the circle and started back. That was about 8.5 miles, and around 9 miles I found Jason Thomas coming up alongside me. He was apparently close behind me at the turn, and finally got up to there. The two of us used each other as pacers from mile 9 until mile 12. I had enough energy for spurts; I walked at the water stops and got going again, syncing with him, while he didn’t stop, not thinking he could start again if he stopped walking.

We kept a good pace, and I hope encouraged each other; I know he kept me going. I finally wasn’t able to catch back up to him after the water station at mile 12. I kept behind him, and the distance separated slightly until about mile 12.5 when I started walking until the tingle and dizzy went away, then ran the last quarter mile.

It is possible I wimped out, but though I didn’t make my 2 hours, I was satisfied with my gun time of 2:02:43.30 and chip time of 2:02:38.98 That was an overall rank of 79, age rank of 5 and sex rank of 40.

If I had made my 2 hours, and nothing else had changed, I would have been rank 70, still age rank 5 and sex rank 36. To change my age rank I would have had to carve off 6 minutes; so from the stats perspective it didn’t make a real difference.

So, while I finished before Jason on the first three races, he finished before me on the half marathon, with a time of 2:00:05.50 — just five seconds over 2 hours, and right at the pace he was planning. He placed 69th overall and 4th in age group.

I feel fortunate to have struck up that friendship; won’t know when/if we will cross paths again, but it was a blessing for me, and I hope for him.

I didn’t see Deidre on the course, but she apparently saw me. She ran a good race, and was third in her age category.

But both of us were feeling it at the concert, though the music gave us our second adrenaline rush of the day, and we had an excellent performance, that I might write about somewhere else.

I did take 15-20 minutes to recover with the refreshments at the finish line before taking a quite leisurely bike ride back home. I had the endurance for the distance, but not the strength for the speed.

Summary: first half marathon was a success, but I want to train to a slightly better edge before the Corporate Challenge Half Marathon on May 20.

#186: The Church’s One Foundation

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(Part of a series singing through the hymnbook I grew up with: Great Hymns of the Faith)

1

The church’s one foundation Is Jesus Christ her Lord;

She is His new creation By water and the Word:

From heav’n He came and sought her To be His holy bride;

With His own blood He bought her, And for her life He died.

2

Elect from ev’ry nation, Yet one o’er all the earth,

Her charter of salvation One lord, one faith, one birth;

One holy name she blesses, Partakes one holy food,

And to one hope she presses, With ev’ry grace endued.

3

‘Mid toil and tribulation And tumult of her war,

She waits the consummation Of peace forevermore;

Till with the vision glorious Her longing eyes are blest,

And the great Church victorious Shall be the Church at rest.

4

Yet she on earth hath union With God the Three in One,

And mystic sweet communion With those whose rest is won:

O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we,

Like them, the meek and lowly, On high may dell with Thee.

 

Examples of Faith …

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Today’s post is about two examples of faith I heard about today: one very close to home and personal for me, the other around the globe, but just as powerful. The latter touches a global hotspot, the former, the greater community in which I live.

Local example

The first relates to Cornerstone Wesleyan Church. On Friday afternoon, April 21 , 2017, their pastor, Densel Ball, was involved in a car accident where he was thrown from the vehicle. He has sustained severe head injuries and was taken to the ICU at Overland Park Regional.

Cornerstone, the church, came into my family’s life back in 2007, when we were at the stage of moving from the mega-church we attended to something more community-oriented and local. When we were searching, we narrowed our focus to two churches, Cornerstone, and the Avondale Methodist church where we finally ended up going.

During that search, we made connections at both churches, and still maintain friendships at Cornerstone, even though it isn’t the one of the two we now regularly attend. There was a change in pastors about the time we were finalizing our decision — that was Densel arriving at Cornerstone.

Over the years we’ve kept in touch with Cornerstone, and seen the community of faith there that continued to develop around Densel’s leadership. And though we didn’t continue to attend Cornerstone, Densel made my son and I feel very much at home and a part of the community of believers when we attend the monthly men’s breakfast sponsored by Cornerstone.

So when I saw on Facebook this morning the post about the accident, and had to look back to yesterday to find the posts about the accident itself, it was a hard punch to the emotions. The Bells had recently gone through a surgery for a brain tumor for Densel’s wife, and now this for him.

Yet when you look at the Facebook page, you can see the circle of friends, of the church, of the faith, coming together in prayer. The drawing together of the community in faith, praying for healing, ready to trust whatever happens.

As I type this they CT scan today didn’t come back with good results, and the prognosis is still very critical. Though not there in person, I am filling in the circle of faith with my own prayers.

The church is having a prayer-oriented worship service tomorrow, continuing the ministry of the worship and the faith, as they have been taught well by their pastor.

Global Example

The second example comes from Egypt, and the Coptic Christians there. This article in Christianity Today tells the story of a widow forgiving the suicide terrorist who killed her husband on Palm Sunday. In a televised interview she noted:

“I’m not angry at the one who did this,” said his wife, children by her side. “I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’

“‘You put my husband in a place I couldn’t have dreamed of.’”

This example of forgiveness is sending shock-waves through the Muslim communities in Egypt. It is also creating a resurgence of faith within the Coptic community itself. Christians in the Arab world have been declining in numbers in the past decades, with severe persecution driving them out.

The article also talks about the role of the Coptic Christians in the Arab Spring, something that I never saw in the media articles of the time. Yet that glow has faded, but a new opportunity of faith is arising, and my question is, will we of the West support, or hinder our brothers of faith in the Muslim world?

Epilogue

I mentioned that there would be two examples of faith, but I’ll allude to a third. This week I recorded and edited two quick video interviews to be used in our worship service at the Avondale Methodist church on Sunday. I won’t mention specific details, but they discuss a program of our church that in its own essential way is demonstrating the reach of the faith in the community.

The two main examples are just that, examples, of faith in action. We need to make sure that each of us continues to be examples when and wherever we have the chance, and to stay involved as communities of faith.

 

A Blast of the Past #93: India, Part 4

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I spent two weeks in India, which means I had one weekend between them — one free weekend. So I flew halfway across the country from Mumbai to Bangalore. Why? Because I had friends there.

When I met Kumar and Shanthi, they lived in my hometown, Corning, NY, working for Corning, INC. They also led the singles’ group at North Baptist Church.

Now, 15 years later, they were back in their home country, though not home state, living and working in Bangalore. So I flew to visit them.

I got to see them and their 5 kids.

The trip to Bangalore gave me a broader appreciation of India, of the vibrant, secular democracy, and religious freedom, despite the great breadth of languages and religious affiliations. They learned well from the British, but adapted it their own way.

While riding around the streets in my friend’s van, I saw a lot of interesting cultural life.

I saw vehicles of all sorts, a wedding party coming out a temple, buildings in various stage of construction. We looked in various stores for items and sampled various restaurants and fast food places. We looked at authentic tea shops, and governmental buildings.