And Here Come the Azaleas

Here’s a teeny life update with a few extras—for no other reason than that I need a brief diversion from proffing, pastoring, lawyering, dissertating, and websiting. Life is good; it’s just a little thick right now. 

1. The brilliant petals on the tulips in our front yard have finally dropped. They lasted slightly longer than last year, but they’re naturally transient, so I had to bid them farewell. Fortunately, our azalea bushes are now popping. These flowering shrubs are admirably carrying the color torch passed on to them by the tulips. I dig ’em, even though they’re not my absolute favorite. I hope to get a Japanese maple some day, along with a replacement dogwood tree. I also love trees with white bark (see below). The grass in our neighborhood right now is a thick, lush, deep green. Heavenly.

2. I’m thoroughly enjoying my new Ford Edge. I finally learned how to use the display and all its apps. The moonroof is super cool, too. I’ve never had one of those. I can also open the hatch with my foot (as long as I have the key fob on me), which has come in handy several times already. It also closes at the touch of a button. Very convenient. My youth like to pile into it whenever we go for a McDonald’s run during Sunday school. But my cars haven’t always been on the newer side. When I was in high school, I drove a hideous 1973 Mercury Comet. Its color was indecipherable, but it was somewhere on the spectrum between Gulden’s mustard and burnt pumpkin pie. It had 4 doors and a brown vinyl top—a real chick magnet for a teenage boy. But, hey, it had a 302 engine. The only other car I had with that kind of pickup was a Mercury Grand Marquis with an 8-cylinder engine.

3. Our Keurig recently bit the dust, so I had to go get a new one. The upsides of the new unit are that (a) it wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, and (b) I like this one even better; it has more cup sizes and a bigger water reservoir. It also looks more stylish. No, I’m not addicted to coffee. I just drink it for the protection of those around me in the morning.

4. Our bathroom renovation project is slowly coming to an end. The list of missteps and mishaps is too long to mention, but soon it will be fully operational. Fortunately, we have two others to use in the interim—which has lasted eight months now instead of one. And these are the professionals doing it! That’s not a bust on them; it would have taken me a decade to do it myself given what they were up against. The latest mishap was their knocking over the medicine cabinet and shattering one of its three glass doors. The good news is that everything they’ve actually done or installed so far looks amazing. 

5. I preached the other week on Psalm 23, so I riffed on the cluelessness of sheep for a bit, underscoring why they (we) so desperately need a good shepherd. This brief video clip makes the point much better than I ever could.

6. This week’s song of the week at TNL, which I post every Monday, is Lauren Daigle and the Hillsong team singing “How Great Thou Art.” Lovely.

7. Charles Wesley’s “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” is required singing on Easter Sunday morning. Here’s a contemporary version with an added bridge. Not bad. 

8. Here’s the best thing you’re likely to see all day. A group of special folks recite Psalm 139 for us. As someone who was unplanned, unwanted, and unloved from the day of my conception until the day of my adoption 22 months later, I have always been moved and encouraged by the words of King David in this beautiful psalm. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Before we ever had a place in this world, we had a place in God’s heart.” Amen.

9. It’s been a long time since I published a “Just between You and Meme” post. I’ve been collecting good stuff, but I haven’t had time to pull it together. So here are just a few clippings that recently made me chuckle. (I’ll save the really good stuff for later.)

10. I’ve been working out at the local YMCA lately (cardio, weights, and swimming). I figured that since we all have to wear masks while on site, the rescue dummy should have to wear one, too. So, yesterday I gave him mine to use while I was in the pool. He didn’t resist. (BTW, that’s my new Batman towel at the bottom of the one picture. My mother-in-law got it for me for my birthday. When I use it, I feel invincible. Haha!)

11. I spent two decades loathing the mainstream media, but I think The Babylon Bee has a better approach. Just mock them mercilessly. Loathing takes too much energy, and it’s all negative energy. Sheesh, why bother? Yes, the Bee crosses the line sometimes, but the national mainstream media try to play us every single day. They’re just contemptible.

12. Supremely encouraged by so many blessings in the last five years. Of course, it helps when your spouse’s kingdom gifts are not only recognized but compensated. The best part is being able to give more. Home renovations are an added benefit. I can’t help thinking of Jenn Johnson’s song, “Goodness of God.” 

13. A former ICL student stopped by yesterday and expressed his appreciation for our ministry to him and also to enroll in seminary. He said thank you with Wilbur Buds. I wanted to say you’re welcome by eating them, but I’m trying to behave right now. Goals and all that. But how “sweet” of him to express his gratitude in that way. As my students have heard me say many times, “Chocolate is proof of God’s existence. Peanut butter is proof of his power. And the two together are proof of his goodness.”

And now…

May the Fourth be with you.

(And also with you. Hehe!)

Have a great week!


UPDATE: Mother’s Day is the time we usually plant impatiens in the front flower bed. Last year we did red and white, but the white ones didn’t do very well. We may try petunias this year. Any other suggestions?

Throwback Thursday: More from the High School Scrapbook

When you spend 2 hours a day in the pool (high school) or 4.5 hours in the pool (college) for swim team practice, your hair tends to get kind of crunchy. Hairstylists could always tell that I was a swimmer because my hair would “snap” when they cut it. The picture below indicates a certain stiffness setting in even as my hair is drying. No such problems exist these days, except for a slight lightening of the color when I spend time in the chlorine and/or sun. This morning it was back to the Lebanon Y for another workout—this time 1,850 meters (74 laps) at something of a “cruise” pace. It went much better than the past couple days. But unlike the newspaper article, no records to report this time.

From Hibernating to Hyperventilating

Today in Lane 3 at the Lebanon Y…

  • My arms were like ropes of jelly.
  • My legs were like noodles of lasagna.
  • My lungs became a chlorine furnace.
  • My shoulders eventually went on strike.
  • My eyes are now bleary and itchy.
  • My head is still spinning and throbbing.

And I loved every minute of it! Yes, it’s great to be back in the pool because goals don’t accomplish themselves. As Rita Mae Brown has said, “Never hope for it more than you work for it.”

Now for some PG Tips to help me stay awake the rest of the day!

My date with Lane 3 today at the Lebanon YMCA natatorium.

Image Credit: wallpapercave.com.

Throwback Thursday: Where My Swimming Career Began

My introduction to swimming pools began a long time ago in Reading, PA. My brother and sister and I grew up in a row home with a very small backyard, but it was big enough to accommodate an inflatable pool. My Nana, who lived just a few houses down the street from us, also had a blow-up pool. We eventually graduated to the real thing, as the East Reading Swimming Association featured an outdoor pool that was only a few blocks from our house. Neighborhood kids loved it, even though it was an odd size for racing (33-1/3 yards instead of 25 or 50 yards/meters). The faded color of these Kodak snaps shows how long ago they were taken.

L to R: Me, my mom (with her beehive hairdo), my younger sister Ronni, and my older brother Bobby. (Presumably that’s my dad’s finger on the far right.) Bob and I are preparing our containers to squirt our sister.
Me going solo in the inflatable pool at my Nana’s house. Apparently, we had a cookout that day. And, apparently, I was up to something sinister, as indicated by my tongue sticking out.
My first time off the 1-meter diving board at the East Reading pool. The following year I tackled the 3-meter board behind me.

Throwback Thursday: Those Miserable Training Trips

As members of the WVU swim team, we would sacrifice our Christmas vacation to go on a 2-week training trip someplace on the globe that was warm and sunny. During my years in college, that included St. Croix (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Those trips were like “boot camps for swimmers,” with every day featuring triple sessions. The first session was an early morning swim practice lasting two hours. The second involved weight training, calisthenics, plyometrics, and/or runs on the beach for about 90 minutes. The third was an evening swim practice lasting two more hours. 

On Christmas Day they lightened up on us, mandating just one two-hour practice in the morning; then they gave us the rest of the day off. (Thanks for that.) I remember how dreadful and depressing it was to have to practice on Christmas morning!

Below are some snaps from the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center. Once a week all the teams who had gathered to train swarmed the pool for what they called “Fifty 50s.” It was only a 2500m parctice, but the lanes were crowded, and there wasn’t much time between sprints. Finding a place to dive safely was a challenge. The whole thing was exhausting and annoying, even for this sprinter.

Between sessions we hit the beach or went out on the town, and after the 14 days of agony, we enjoyed a trip to Disney World. The rest of the time we ate or slept.

The dreaded Fifty 50s practice session. That’s me under the red arrow looking for a safe place to dive for the next interval.
C’est moi in the lower left getting ready for another workout. I have no idea why I’m smirking.
The International Hall of Fame Aquatic Center in Fort Lauderdale, a place of memories and miseries for NCAA Division-1 athletes.

Friday Fun: Light It Up Like Dynamite

A few weeks ago I was driving to the Lebanon YMCA for a morning swim. I usually listen to upbeat music to get jazzed up for my workout, letting the tunes take over where the coffee left off. On this particular day, my Spotify randomizer took me to a song called, “Dynamite,” which I had never heard before. I was digging it and thought, “When I get home I need to research who does that one.”

Turns out I was listening to BTS, a K-pop (or Korean pop) group made up of seven members (Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook) who come from various parts of South Korea. I WAS LISTENING TO A KOREAN BOY BAND…and kinda liking it!

Naturally, I started wondering what was happening to me. (“Really, Tim? A boy band?”) My solace came in the realization that: (1) BTS launched in 2013 and has since rocketed to global stardom, so they must have some real musical chops and showmanship; and (2) Spotify was throwing random workout songs my way; I didn’t go looking for this one myself. Small comfort.

So, I guess this post is more of a confession than a “Friday Fun” spot. Either way, enjoy the song if you’d like. I’m going swimming.

Do I detect some choreographic allusions to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video in this dance routine?

Throwback Thursday: Is That Really Me? (Part 4)

All are invited to have a chuckle at my expense (for the fourth week in a row). This shot is from my sophomore year at West Virginia University. At a meet in Ohio at the end of the season, I swam 51 yards in a 50-yard race. Actually, I lunged at the wall as we always do to finish off a sprint, and I hyperextended my right arm. The timers had to pull me out of the water because I couldn’t get out myself. It was a little bit of embarrassment on top of a whole lot of pain. 

Fortunately, we were close to the Cleveland Clinic, which had a top-tier sports health center for which they were well known. They casted me up quickly, gave me some good pain meds, and minimized any damage to the ulnar nerve. My arm was numb, and I was out of commission for a few weeks. So much for swimming not being a contact sport.

Throwback Thursday: Is That Really Me? (Part 3)

All are invited to have a chuckle at my expense (for the third week in a row). This is my freshman year as a Reading High Red Knight, making me 14 or 15 years old at the time. Notice I’m breathing to the left in the top picture. In the bottom picture I’m just catching my breath after the race. I’m loving those twig-size arms. And the bug-eyed goggles. 🙂