Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: February, 2011

How to Start a Fight

One year, I decided to buy my mother-in-law a cemetery plot as a Christmas gift…
The next year, I didn’t buy her a gift. When she asked me why, I replied, “Well, you still haven’t used the gift I bought you last year!”
And that’s how the fight started…..

My wife and I were sitting at a table at her high school reunion, and she kept staring at a drunken man swigging his drink as he sat alone at a nearby table. I asked her, “Do you know him?”
“Yes”, she sighed, “He’s my old boyfriend…. I understand he took to drinking right after we split up those many years ago, and I hear he hasn’t been sober since.”
“My!” I said, “Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?”
And then the fight started…

When our lawn mower broke and wouldn’t run, my wife kept hinting to me that I should get it fixed. But, somehow I always had something else to take care of first, the shed, the boat … Always something more important to me.
Finally she thought of a clever way to make her point. When I arrived home one day, I found her seated in the tall grass, busily snipping away with a tiny pair of sewing scissors. I watched silently for a short time and then went into the house..
I was gone only a minute, and when I came out again I handed her a toothbrush. I said, “When you finish cutting the grass, you might as well sweep the driveway.”
The doctors say I will walk again, but I will always have a limp.
My wife sat down next to me as I was flipping channels.
She asked, “What’s on TV?”
I said, “Dust.”
And then the fight started…

My wife was hinting about what she wanted for our upcoming anniversary.
She said, “I want something shiny that goes from 0 to 150 in about 3 seconds.”
I bought her a bathroom scale.
And then the fight started……

My First Drive

Car Accident

I honestly can't remember the first time I drove a vehicle. When I was a kid, my dad used to hold me in his lap and let me steer. I suppose that, for the most part, kids don't get to do that much anymore.

I suppose the first car I drove was my family's white 1979 Honda Civic station wagon. It had a standard transmission, so you can imagine how rough that initial trip must have been. I do barely remember my first solo trip; it was in that Civic, going from H&R Block to my house, I think. It must have gone okay; I don't think I had any wrecks until I got my next car.

When we moved to Mongolia, we decided not to own a vehicle, at least for the time being. So, while living here, I went through my longest stretch without driving since I was 15 or so. I think I went about 18 months without driving at all. Then some friends asked us to go picnicking and boating with them. At one point, they asked me to drive their vehicle from the putting-in point back to the campsite. I agreed without giving any disclaimers about how long it had been since I had driven. Once they got on the river, I jumped in the vehicle and braced myself. It was all kinds of new. It was a 4WD, which I had never driven before. It was a right-hand drive, which I had never driven before. There were no roads to speak of, and I had to ford the river two or three times. And I was parked on an incline. I'll confess that it took me a scary five or ten minutes to get back up the incline. After that, there was no major problem. I clued the vehicle owner in to the risks he had taken once they (and I) made it safely back to camp.

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My Competitive Side

This girl took a bet to eat 10 hot dogs in 20 mins. Never gonna happen.

I used to consider myself a competitive person and, to some degree, I still am, I suppose. I do really like to win at games, but don't try to hard at things when I know I'm likely to do poorly. On Wii Fit Plus, I've gone through and made sure that I have the top score on every game, and, if anybody passes me, I'll probably try to regain the high score.

When I was more active at geocaching, I would regularly check my stats to see where I ranked among Kansas geocachers. Moving up one position on the rankings was a real accomplishment for me. Now that I am the only geocacher on the entire Mongolian chart, I don't have much motivation for competition.

So, while I do still like to compete in friendly games, and while I might be able to get into competitive eating, I think that, in most of the truly meaningful things of life, I've become less competitive and more cooperative. Since my primary occupation is to be kingdom work, I would like to see the parts of the body working in greater cooperation. I probably pay more attention to nickels and noses than I ought to, but I don't think I'm especially competitive in that regard. I want to see every part of the church working to outdo its past accomplishments but not in competition with each other. I was struck by one of our pastors' sermons last month in which he highlighted God's comment about the builders of the tower of Babel. About these people joined together around a common purpose, God noted, "Nothing will be impossible to them."

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Why I'm Thankful for Caller ID

Inmate Caller ID

I don't actually have caller ID. And I don't get that many calls. If a call is coming in on my VoIP phone, then I mostly hope it's not from the Kansas City Star or the Kansas City Repertory Theater, because that means it's 3:00 AM and they just woke me up.

If it's on my landline, I hope it's not a wrong number… because it usually is. And trying to explain that in Mongolian isn't always super-easy.

I'm not currently actively avoiding anyone on my phone. In fact, I'd kinda like to talk to you. So feel free to give me a call. Just make sure that it's between 6 AM and 10 PM Mongolia time. And that I know you.

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bump on the head

We had a bit of a scare today. One of our church members had called and asked if I could come to church early to help him troubleshoot a problem with a computer program he was trying to install and use. I agreed to arrive half an hour early and the rest of the family came with me. I went in to work on the computer, and Tiffany stayed outside with the boys to play for a bit before church. A few minutes later, I heard Elijah crying loudly in the hallway. I went out and immediately saw a huge lump on his forehead. Apparently, he had been running and tripped over a stepping stone. I don’t know if his hands were in his pockets or what, but he seems to have caught himself with his head. I would say the bump was sticking out 1/2 to 3/4 inch.

Medical emergencies in this country always bewilder me. Fortunately, our pastor jumped to the rescue and drove us to the nearest hospital. It was a cancer hospital, so they were a bit reluctant to see a child with an injury, but they did finally direct us to one doctor (?), who gave him a cursory examination and declared it a minor injury. Relieved, I brought him home, put ice on it, and had him lie down. He seems to be doing okay now, praise the Lord!

Second day of White Month

Well, today was the second day of Tsagaan Sar. By Mongolian standards, we didn’t do much; by my standards, I’m full. We visited three homes; I ate eleven buuz and drank more cups of milk tea than I can remember.

The boys playing anklebone games on the floor

Celebrating with our house helper and her family

Lunar New Year Birthday

Today was the first day of the three-day Tsagaan Sar, White Month, holiday here in Mongolia. It marks the beginning of the new year, which is apparently the year of the iron rabbit or some such thing. I can never actually remember what year we’re in, but it doesn’t seem to hinder me significantly. Today was also my wife’s 33 birthday, but it tended to get overshadowed by the fact that everything else in town is closed, so we couldn’t really leave the house. We ate out a few nights ago to celebrate and then gave her some presents at breakfast today, but most of the rest of the day was not too far from a normal day for us.

I went ahead and taught Elijah his homeschool. I figure I can’t give him both the American holidays and the Mongolian holidays off of school, so we’re sticking with the American ones. We’ll have to go do some visiting tomorrow, but Fridays are usually pretty light anyway, so we’ll probably be done with school by 10 or 10:30 anyway. In history, I think we’re approaching the end of our Greece study. Today, we looked at Greek agriculture and diet. We’ll wrap up our reading of Greek News tomorrow. In language arts, after much effort, I managed to extract this set of three couplets from Elijah:

Joel played with his cars on the floor
Then he ate an apple up to the core.
Then he goes to watch TV.
He watched a show; he saw a key.
He goes to Mom and tells her, “Come here.”
Then she asks him, “What is it, dear?”

I don’t think I have a budding Alexander Pope on my hands, but I could be wrong. I’ve read a few “professional” poems that aren’t significantly better than that. In science, Elijah was disappointed to hear that we were doing no experiments today (our usual Thursday routine). Instead, we just went over some water facts and then spent some time explaining an experiment from last year that he still had some questions about. I spent most of my time trying to describe air’s “desire” to move from high-pressure areas to low-pressure ones.

I got a little work done this afternoon, but also took time to play a game of Settlers of Catan with Tiffany and Elijah. I had a surprise victory, which happened so rapidly, it actually took me a bit aback. I also baked some lemon bars for Tiffany’s “birthday cake,” since I hadn’t had the foresight to get anything else ready. Elijah wanted me to help him get through a few levels of Plants vs. Zombies, and we watched “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.”

This morning, I also chatted with one of our partners in the US, trying to strategize some things for our future. I’m so glad for our support team at Spring Lake Wesleyan Church. Their team is trying to network with some of our other partner churches to build a synergy that will help us all work together better. I hope that we can really make this happen. I’m also continuing to brainstorm possibilities for countering the paternalistic dependency mindset that the church here has. If anyone has some resources to help me think more deeply about this or some action steps to suggest, I’d love to chat with you about them.

I also did a bit of online chat with one of our local church members who is currently in his hometown for the holidays. He’s facing some difficult family issues, and is having to take some big responsibilities at a young age. I can’t give a lot of specifics but please help me pray about this situation.

Ancient Greek Megachurch

I’ve been reading through Genesis in my devotions as well as in family devotions. This morning’s passage was Genesis 44, the story of Joseph arranging for his cup to be hidden in Benjamin’s grain sack. I’m never quite sure what to do with these narrative passages of Scripture that don’t seem to have a lot of overtly theological content. It’s my idea that Moses wrote them down to be a rallying point for building a national consciousness, so I try not to make personal application in ways that would be totally foreign to that purpose. I was reading a few commentators on this passage, and I was rather amused at Adam Clarke’s mental gymnastics to try to prove that Joseph was not involved in the practice of sorcery, despite the fact that he had a divination cup. What struck me as funny was the irrelevance of the discussion in the context of the story. What does it matter if Joseph was telling the future? The whole story was in the context of a massive deception that he was perpetrating against his brothers. Most of the commentators try to somehow justify the deception by saying that Joseph needed to know if his brothers had really changed. Why? Does our desire to know something about another’s character justify deceiving them? The entire idea strikes me as odd.

Anyway, homeschooling today went fairly smoothly. In history, we talked about the ancient Greeks’ approach to medicine–both those who sought healing from the god Asclepius and those who sought healing from the man Hippocrates–as well as the construction of the Parthenon and the worship of the goddess Athena. Interestingly, our book noted the cost of these projects. I’m trying to compute what they would be in today’s wages. If a skilled craftsman in America makes $15 per hour, then the cost of building the Parthenon would be about $360 million. Even more startling, the cost of the statue of Athena would be about $420 million. I don’t think we have many megachurches today with that kind of budget. In science, we talked about hair and nails–the keratin twins. Pretty intriguing stuff. We watched an entertaining movie about hair and took a quiz (Elijah did quite well), acted as hair detectives to determine who stole the hair products from a popular boy band, and read the nitty-gritty details about nails and nail care. Elijah is now somewhat of an expert on the topic.

I had a little birthday shopping to work on this afternoon, so I traveled across town to look for a particular item. After traipsing in and out of many a shopping center, I finally found the right kind of store. Then it dawned on me that I didn’t know the words to express what I was looking for. So I spent a long time looking around the relatively small store and finally realized I was going to have to ask for what I wanted. I went around Robin Hood’s barn and, in the clumsiest way possible, explained what I wanted to buy. The saleswoman pointed to the item right in front of me. I wanted to kick myself.

We had some American friends over for a couple hours this afternoon as well. They have some young sons, so it was good for our boys to get a chance to play with them, and we had a fun time visiting as well. We have mutual friends in America but don’t know each other well, so these times of fellowship are always welcome.

It’s -8 here, but at least we’re not facing the blizzard conditions of our friends in midwestern America. Bundle up, y’all!