May 4, 2007

Churches, Pickup Trucks, and Football

Category: News — Ira @ 6:08 pm

For the last few months, I have been attending the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, along Oregon Pike. It was remodeled recently and has a huge new sanctuary. I usually go to the 11 AM service, slip up to the balcony, and unobtrusively find a seat. The choir leads in old-fashioned hymns and the congregation cites the creed and the Lord’s Prayer in unison. The good pastor (or is it vicar?), a middle-aged, rather pudgy man, then delivers his sermon. His sermons are firm and meaty, but not fiery. He usually finishes by 12:10 and as the choir strikes up the closing hymn, I slip back down the stairs and leave. All very convenient and anonymous. Thus I get my spiritual infusion for the week with no fuss or hassle.

I was a bit disappointed with the Presbyterians. At the service, only the pastor and the choir are clothed in flowing robes. That’s about the only sign of formality. I had expected a bit more. I have always been fascinated and impressed by the formality of dress and the icons of the more established and historical churches, especially the Catholics and the Anglicans. There is history in formality and high worship. Tradition is anchored in centuries and millennia of practice. For years, I have accumulated crucifixes, crosses, statues and other iconic paraphernalia, usually from flea markets and yard sales and specialty stores, and now have a respectable collection set up as a small shrine in my house, complete with a little wooden Benedictine monk in perpetual meditation mode.
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In the grim days immediately after we returned from Florida, Ellen and I faced together, as (sort of) allies, the “sturm and drang” around us. Although we knew our union was temporary because she was soon leaving, we faced the adversity as a team. For five long and dreary weeks, the days crawled by, each day a week, each week a month. And yet, for what it was worth, there was some solidarity there, the knowledge that, in this at least, we were together for a time. I cannot speak for her, but during those weeks, it seemed that there was a sort of shield around me, barely perceptible, invisible, protecting. Pastor Dave told me more than once that in such situations, the grace of God specifically envelops those mired in the thick of things, but does not extend to those who are not immediately involved.

During those weeks (and since she left), I never felt really close to or really far from God. Sometimes days passed when I did not even talk to Him. But I had no doubt He was there. I knew He was. But I did not feel this encompassing, healing and calming presence about me all the time or even much at all. Throughout, I focused on my work from day to day. You plug on, you do what you need to do. You work, go to the gym, go home, eat, sleep the night, get up, and do it all over again. Eventually, the sun will rise to a new day and a new beginning, and the flowers will bloom again. I believe that if you are His child, God is there, whether or not you are aware of Him. I know without a shadow of a doubt that His hand protected me from much deeper distress during that time, and continues to shield me from things I do not know and may not need to know right now. It’s kind of like that sappy poem about footprints in the sand, where the Lord carries you through the times you are unable to walk on your own, and you look back and there’s only one set of footprints, His (if I may be forgiven such a tired and vastly overused cliché).

I’ve never been one to cry and moan and get up in church during my pain to be surrounded by others with laying-on of hands (“not that there’s anything wrong with that,” to quote Seinfeld) and great intonations from the preacher and long sighs and “Amens” of agreement from the brethren. Too shy, I guess. What it boils down to for me is an aversion of public spectacle. Anyone can claim anything, thus triggering the laying-on of hands and prayer thing for any slight affliction. Over time, in some groups (no particular group in mind, now), I think the practice of this method has become cheapened to the point where it has lost its power and is not special anymore.
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my-chevy.jpg Me and my Truck

It is an established axiom, at least in my neck of the woods, that a man needs a truck. Not just any truck, but a pickup truck (and an Amishman needs a pickup buggy). A man without a pickup is like, well, like a bird without wings. There are a few such birds out there in nature, and a few, like the Dodo, are extinct, but everyone looks at them with a mixture of horror and pity. Sorry, guys, it’s true. No truck = freak (and muffled snickers when your back is turned). I’ve driven about everything there is to drive at one time or another, from the most rattletrap jalopies to a late-model Avalanche (but not a Lexis, at least, not yet. Still working on it.). But I’ve always felt most secure and comfortable in a truck.

I recently bought a pickup from a friend who got a new one and sold his three-year-old model to me for a very reasonable price. It’s a 2004 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD with club cab, full tow package and only 53,600 miles. Very clean, always serviced. If I’m starting to sound like a used-truck salesman, maybe it’s because I am one. I love the truck in every way except for one thing. Fill up the tank for $60, get in and drive and watch the gas gauge literally creep to the left. It’s a guzzler. Causes heartburn to a man on a budget. So, after checking with my friend to make sure he wouldn’t be offended (he claimed he wouldn’t be.), I’ve decided to look around for a 1500 model with similar options, the same amount of or fewer miles, and the same year or newer. I’d like a Dodge. After getting my truck professionally cleaned, this weekend I’m going to see a few dealers. Meanwhile, if anyone out there needs a clean, heavy-duty Chevy with tow package, email me ASAP. Step right up, do I ever have a deal for you.
my-chevy2.jpgTruck for Sale

Last Sunday, I did not go to church, but went hiking instead. My planned Saturday hike did not materialize because of rainy weather. Sunday dawned with blue clear skies, so off I went with my little waist pack, water, energy bar, and hiking boots. The Tacquon (Seven Falls) Trail was wet, mildly soggy and picture perfect, and, best of all, almost devoid of other hikers. I went mid-morning, before the sun reached the apex of its heat. It’s too early in the season for mosquitoes and other bugs, so it was about as enjoyable a hike as I’ve ever had. The loop took a bit longer than I remembered, around an hour and 15 minutes. And because this took the place of formally attending church, I did commune with and talk to God. On the way home, I stopped at my brother Steve’s place for a good, home-cooked Sunday dinner. Hiking season has officially begun for 2007.

FOR LANCASTER COUNTIANS ONLY: My favorite local politician, Heidi Wheaton, recently compared the Lancaster County Republican Party selection process to that of a communist apparatus. From all the vile and vitriolic reactionary attacks on her by a host of local party hacks, her point is pretty well proven. These are the same spiteful people who managed to successfully demonize her in the last election and get the pasty-faced, colorless yes-man, Mike Brubaker, elected to the state Senate for the next term. As we all know, he sure has done a lot since then (NOT).

The local Republican Party abhors and despises its conservative members. If you are conservative, you have one choice and you can have the joy of poking the Republican Party in the eye while making it. Vote Heidi Wheaton for County Commissioner in next Tuesday’s (5/8) Primaries. So go forth and poke some eyes.

FOOTBALL NOTES: The NFL held its annual draft last weekend. While I’m not quite nutty enough to be glued to ESPN for the entire first round, I did keep an eye on it. Brady Quinn was a steal for Cleveland and was drafted way too late. He should have been the first or second overall pick, not the 23rd. I predict he will be the most productive quarterback in this draft, with the proper coaching, of course. He is a pure pocket passer, and will not run around and get hurt, like JaMarcus Russell will.

I also noted with great glee that the Eagles (thugs that they are) drafted Kelly Kolb, a high-second-round quarterback from Houston, to torment McNabb. Poor Donovan, to quote the poet Andrew Marvell, at his back now always hears “time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” I’ve said it before a thousand times, but what the heck, here’s the thousand-and-first: McNabb will never win a Super Bowl as the starting quarterback, and I’ll put my money where my mouth is (already have, in fact. Right, AJ?). Looks like the Eagles are finally reaching that conclusion as well. Meanwhile, the Jets shored up their defense with Derrelle Revis, the best cover man in the draft. Preseason games start in August. Can’t wait.

So far I have not installed a lot of new pictures on this site, because I don’t have a digital camera and have to bother my friends who own one. Rosita Beiler, office manager (and the one who really runs the place) at Graber, provided the last few. That’s about to change. I plan to go shopping this weekend (or soon after) for an economy grade digital camera with all the doohickeys needed to transfer pictures from camera to my computer. So you may soon see more pictures than you care to.

This weekend (May 5-6) we (Steve’s family and me) are looking forward to seeing my brother-in-law and sister, Marvin and Rhoda Yutzy from Kansas, for a few days. Marvin and I go way back as best friends. He is in a lot of the old pictures on this site, and I look forward to spending some quality, putzing-around-being-lazy time with them both. They plan to drive all the way in, stopping in the northern Indiana area to visit his brother and family. I am hosting a cookout Saturday evening in their honor, and much as I’d like to, no, you are all NOT invited.

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  1. If you can hang on there till 2008, the heartburn over high gas prices should lessen, as gas should drop then,due to our new leadership, up there,close in to you all. That it’s a woman who’s last name starts with C may cause more heartburn for you. ha.

    Comment by uncle jess [pops w] — May 4, 2007 @ 9:35 pm

  2. i am holding on to a firm belief that Ms C will not have enough support to cause us to much heartburn in the upcoming election..however look out for 2012.

    just purchased my (gasp) season tkts for the AZ Cards…(second season)although i hear much ribbing for this purchase, I find I have become a fan and cannot WAIT til the season starts! have full confidence that they cannot possibly be worse then last season.

    Comment by janice — May 4, 2007 @ 10:53 pm

  3. Was nice that you came and grilled for us!! We enjoyed it very much. After you left, Benjamin asked Patrick “Vo is di friend Ira?” ( :
    Nice post once again – although I will always be an Eagles fan – just can’t help it – one of those things!!!
    Mj

    Comment by maryjune — May 5, 2007 @ 7:20 am

  4. Well, now we get into politics, don’t we….I always said last fall, disheartened as I was, that I would live to fight another day, politically speaking, and here I am, getting all sucked in to this thing again. As far as 2008, Ms. C has very little chance of again inhabiting 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The elites who produce much of what we read and hear in the news may really believe that the time has come for a woman like Hil to be the leader of the free world. The one thing that the media elites don’t realize is that between the left and right coasts of this great nation, the fruited plains are inhabited by many, many, pickup with a gun rack driving, big belt buckle & Levi’s wearing, Jesus loving, common sense, hardworking men who will not, under any circumstances, ever, until there’s ice you know where, go to the polls and pull the lever for a screechy, condescending, elitist, angry white female to be the commander in chief of their camo wearing sons. While we’re putting our money where are mouth is, I might just do that…
    Without playing into too many more stereotypes, I suspect that many of these men have a garage, shop, or barn that serves as an escape from just such an aforementioned AWF…..I for one am blessed not to need any such escape, but those of you who do, you know who you are. (Love & Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is a great book for you & yours, if you find yourself in this situation)
    Sorry Ira, I’m rambling on as if I have a blog or something….
    Good writing on your part, very nicely done. btw…I am looking forward to more slabs of meat above charcoal this summer, that was a nice time.

    Comment by pat — May 5, 2007 @ 10:17 am

  5. What – no super food on the hiking trip?! Surely you could have finished the hike in an hour if you had some about half way through!

    Comment by Rosita — May 5, 2007 @ 3:49 pm

  6. keep the truck, man. If you have a good truck that you know from where it came, with no major mechanical problems, hang on to it. The difference in gas consumption is likely low enough that it won’t trump the risk of getting fleeced on another vehicle purchase. Wow, not sure where that came from. guess i feel like dishing out advice.
    Also, thanks for generating traffic to my website. I got lotsa hits after linking to it in an earlier comment.

    Ira’s response: Thanks for the advice. May decide to do that. I added your site to my Links page. Thanks for the link on your site to mine.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — May 5, 2007 @ 8:31 pm

  7. Ok you can blame the following sentimental gush on my very pregnant state or just on the simple fact of the sentimental freak I can be..take your pick :)
    The whole man needs his truck thing took me back to my teens and a certain young uncle who used to taxi Janice & I around in a certain “goldish” colored car (in which we learned the love of the mournful yet soulful music of Vern…) and when on one of those excursions on one of those curvy Pickens county roads, that car (a t bird I think?) hit 100,000 miles, we pulled over and thanked the good Lord for the first 100,000 and asked for a 100,000 more…those were the days :)
    Food for thought..
    Maybe the key to your heartburn lies with a goldish colored vehical, or may be a Ford???
    Enjoy your time with Marvins!

    Comment by Dorothy — May 5, 2007 @ 10:19 pm

  8. This AWF will not be voting for the aforementioned Ms.C. … I still have heartburn from navigating her health care “reforms” …

    Comment by Glo — May 6, 2007 @ 8:24 am

  9. “But misery still delights to trace
    It’s semblence in another’s case.” ~William Cowper

    Ira, while there is much I cannot empathise with you upon (ie. Eagles, trucks and fitness) there is too much I can; the absence of a love that ‘should’ be here, the new challenge of daily existence and the beauty of narcotics. And while the inappropriateness of me dropping you off leftovers is obvious (not that I even cook these days), I do however fervently pray that the God who is our Hope and Stay will restore your years that the locusts are currently munching on.

    Comment by Sharon — May 7, 2007 @ 11:35 am

  10. hey Ira, I am a faithful reader. I cannot agree on your pickup spiel. After many years my good ol’ VW is still chuggin’ away at 30+ mpg and I’m feeling very good about it. I just feel a wee bit sheepish for driving an import! o well…

    Comment by jason yutzy — May 7, 2007 @ 4:41 pm

  11. Thanks a lot for having us over for one of your famous cookouts. The grilled sausage was perfect and you were the perfect host, as always. And Johann loved all the toys. Will we see a bright red truck whizzing down the road soon?

    Comment by ella — May 8, 2007 @ 7:44 am

  12. Beings we did not get invited to your cookout, I went out and bought a charcoal grill, a bag of charcoal and we had a cookout of our own. The children loved it, the hamburgers and hotdogs were great, charcoal beats gas anyday. Comment from Rebecca, (Dad, these taste just like Ira’s). Keep writing buddy !

    Comment by Bear — May 9, 2007 @ 10:50 pm

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