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If I had any enterprise…

September 11, 2010

I would market this bumper sticker.


Serious airtime in the old ‘hood

September 9, 2010

After hitting the floor leaping and bounding and cheering my realtor’s 7:07 AM e-mail announcing that appraisal and lender were copacetic and the buyers of our house are clear to close, I took care of a few details pursuant to our move, burning more phone minutes than I would in a normal two-week period. I spoke with six utilities providers and a postmaster. In between, I exchanged several e-mails with two realtors and two title companies. I checked off the task of address changes with banks, including former banks, to make sure we receive our 1099s. We are on the move.

After years of dreading a jury summons — we all have our little peculiar phobias — and experiencing palpable relief every day that one was not delivered, I enjoyed the cosmic joke of receiving one today. The futile summons requires me to appear exactly one month after I will have become a resident of another county. I have received three jury summonses in my life. The first was from Montana and forwarded to me in Washington, right after I moved. The second was a summons to serve on a Federal court jury, and I was perfunctorily dismissed, not because I was an attorney, but because I had an attitude about the defendant, the VA. And now, another escape for want of jurisdiction. Somehow, the prospect of being summoned in the future to serve on a jury in my new small-town county courthouse is not terrifying. I think the phobia was place-specific. I am also afraid of parking garages, and I think those will be avoidable, if indeed such things exist at all in Clarkston.

A police-attended incident in our neighborhood yesterday did little to rouse any remnants of regret in my heart over our departure. The put-upon fellow (“subject” in police report parlance), normally a decent neighbor, apparently had every right to be annoyed, but someone evidently objected to the extreme volume, or rageful tone, or deplorable choice of language, or all of the above, of his cell phone conversation, which was taking place in the street. Between epithets to his interlocutor, he screamed to everyone else within earshot — likely several miles — that his business wasn’t anybody else’s business. My husband and I were just returning home from an errand when all of this was going on. I greeted one of the cops as we walked to our door from the car, mentioning how little these things would cause me to miss the old neighborhood. He asked pleasantly whether we were really moving, and I pointed to the sold sign in front of our house. He beamed and congratulated me. The Tacoma police always amaze me, the way they can be warm and jocular with a peaceable person, and coolly assertive but always congenial with a “subject.” They also meet deadly force with deadly force, and they take a lot of flak for it. They talked my neighbor down with firmness and understanding, patiently explaining how a neighbor might have thought violence was possible, and that he should not blame anyone for calling the police. The officer I greeted said ours is a quiet neighborhood normally, and I agreed, with the proviso that it was becoming somewhat transitional, which he acknowledged with a sympathetic nod. I’ve no doubt he would rather be called to our neighborhood than to Crip Central, two miles away.

We will soon be 350 miles away. And onward has never looked better.

We have lift-off… and some advice for selling your home

September 9, 2010

The appraisal of our home engaged by our buyers’ lender came through without conditions; the final contingency is now dislodged, and the sale of our home can now advance toward closing. The flow of God’s bountiful mercies has been unceasing in this entire process. When I look back at my calendar and see how rapidly events have transpired since we listed our home August 2, I can only marvel at my impatience.

A friend of mine asked me recently for tips on how to sell her home. I knew that she would not be receptive to a candid response. For those who are, my advice would be: First: jettison any and all remnants of a price concept you retain in your mind. Second: hire a young agent who is not encumbered with your sentimentality of previous markets. It’s not his fault you didn’t decide to sell your house three years ago, so get over it. Do not retain a broker who is an old friend, unless he or she will put you into a cold, unfeeling vise grip of reality. Do these things, if you really want to sell your home.

I’m allergic to moving… and timely thoughts

September 8, 2010

Hard, autumn rain is falling, and my incessant sneezing matches its rhythm. Air pressure changes have always brought this about, and the barometer has dropped dramatically. I suspect also the presence of a toxic allergen in the recycled cardboard boxes stacked against most of our walls. It has been my universal experience that so-called green products are highly toxic. I have no explanation for my elevated pulse rate, except that a resting pulse probably should not be presumed to be measured in a restless person.

The last contingency on which the sale of our house hinges remains in suspended motion, if in fact it is motile at all. The lender has not yet received the appraiser’s report, though the appraiser was sure she would have her report to the lender within 48 hours, which would have meant last Friday. This is but one more time that I have noticed that most people do not reckon time as I do. The United States atomic clock in Denver, which measures the rate of perishing of countless cesium protons, is, in my mind, the only objective way of measuring time among civilized people. Your cell phone is calibrated to the atomic clock. Traditional calendars are also acceptable for long-term time keeping. But many people simply improvise and come up with their own ways of dealing with time, most of which are subterfuges. I suspect that people who are unable to deal objectively with time are simply attempting to deny its passing, and ultimately, their own mortality. So punctuality or lack thereof is, as is everything else, a spiritual issue, disciplined or not by one’s theology or lack thereof. But I realize that this does nothing to change anyone else’s opinion; nor does it enable me to do anything about any of it.

During increasingly frequent moments, I rest assured of a good outcome for the things of this life, whatever it is and whenever it is delivered — and I don’t even spend too much time dwelling on the fate of all the abandoned neutrons, former companions to all those dead cesium protons, as they hurtle through space, doubtless securing refuge in a black hole for the long night ahead.

A knackered slacker; it’s cold and likely to rain, and some last things

September 6, 2010

The morning was completely upended over the affair, but we were forced to consign our no longer competent 8-inch skillet to the trash. Its offense was unpardonable: the nonstick coating had failed. One does not expect this from five-year-old Farberware that has been treated well, but it seems to be the way of so many things these days. The other way of so many things these days is that things you toss out are no longer replaceable. One of these things, it turns out, is a competent 8-inch nonstick skillet. Why do they put stupid metal rivets on the insides of these things — just to be egg catchers and give you something to scrub? Why don’t they have lids anymore? Why are they so heavy? Oh, that one is easy. Because the Green beans insist on ceramic, which is heavier by an order of magnitude than petroleum-derived Teflon. So after visiting three stores, and finding a uniform prohibition on efficiency and competence in cookware, we settled on something just because I was too hungry to go on and needed to get home and put eggs and sausage in it. Unfortunately, it was too late, and my glucose/cortisol cycle was askew, and I bonked. More coffee is not the answer to everything.

Like our own lives as we prepare to move, and like the state of cookware, it seems that transition is occurring everywhere I look, including my own neighborhood. We seem to be escaping just in time from a neighborhood at the vanguard of transition. For the first time, our quiet residential Tacoma street looks like Fremont. The Xers’ children, programmed for tolerance at the cost of reality, have declared gender specificity an abomination, and now they stalk our streets, daring us to meet their gaze without looking as though we are trying to guess whether they are male or female. My affable husband’s response is to look them in the eye with a broadbeam avuncular smile. My response is to stare at the bottom of his (generic sense) left ear with an expression of growing alarm, wondering why he (generic sense) does not sense that a spider the size of a Bayliner is about to consume his (generic sense) very ear. But we are invisible to them.

The hammer of Fall has dropped, and we will likely have an encore of last night’s rain along with the cold. Today would have been our last church picnic with our present church: a landmark Last Thing. I had looked forward to attending, but may have to invoke the fair weather defense.

I have checked off other last things. My last trip to my friendly independent pharmacy was a checkpoint, but nevertheless quite perfunctory. It’s a fact of life that my pharmacy is an important relationship in my life.

I cleaned our dining room chandelier for the last time in anticipation of the showing that resulted in the apparent sale of our house. The chandelier has 70 crystals suspended from 16 skeuomorphic arms with no end of gaudy gold curlicues. How happy I am that our new house has few but streamlined fixtures. Light fixture design is one area where the 90s clearly outclass the 50s.

We enjoyed a last waterfront lunch at Redondo Beach last Thursday. It was a beautiful sunny day, and between our waitress and the chef, my gluten intolerance was perfectly and deliciously accommodated. I could look out on Puget Sound with the happy thoughts that it is very attractive, and that I will not miss it. I am ready to set contented eyes upon the rolling hills of the Palouse and the Snake River Valley.

And there will be more Last Things, before the taking of toast and tea in Clarkston.

Dear Dr. Calvin,

September 5, 2010

Dear Dr. Calvin,

I am in a state of anxiety, because I am positive that the people buying our house are going to attempt to invade us and move in too early; I’m afraid we will never be rid of their endless questions about how to do things; I’m afraid nothing will ever be quite perfect enough for them. I am anxious because I am positive that the people whose house we are buying are not going to move, or at least not on time. In my anxiety, I impute the worst to everyone concerned, and do not at all trust that anything will ever work out unless I control everyone and every detail. I am exhausted. I have come to realize that my anxiety is not the sin, but is rather the chastisement for the sins of mistrust and self-reliance. Do you have a remedy?

Dr. Calvin’s Reply:

The Lord Jesus had no need to bear the cross and to suffer tribulation, except to attest and prove his obedience to God his Father. There are many reasons, however, why it is necessary for us constantly to bear affliction in this life.

The first reason is that, by nature, we are only too ready to exalt ourselves and to claim sufficiency in everything. Unless we have tangible proof of our weakness, we immediately get inflated ideas of our own abilities, and readily imagine they can prevail over every possible difficulty.

So it is that we develop an empty, foolish confidence in the flesh, which then produces a supercilious attitude toward God, as if we could manage by ourselves without his grace. God has no better way of humbling such arrogance than by showing us by hard experience how weak and feeble we are.

So he brings disgrace, poverty or sickness upon us, or loss of kin or other calamities which, try as we may, at once overwhelm us, because we are not strong enough to bear them. Thus, being humbled, we learn to plead for his power, which alone allows us to stand firm and hold up under the weight of such burdens. — John Calvin, A Guide to Christian Living, pp. 58-59, in: The Banner of Truth, August/September 2010, p. 25

Thank you. This helps me to apprehend the magnitude of the mercy of God in Christ.

Factual benefits

September 3, 2010

If you are here to learn whether the appraisal of our home aligns with the lender’s requirements for our presumptive buyers, and whether these people have been magically transformed into competent homebuyers whose aspiration is now funded, then I invite you to camp alongside us on Cliffhanger Outlook.

The factual benefits that interest me right now are the benefits of justification, adoption, and sanctification: the properties of every believer granted true faith in Christ. These benefits are, assurance of God’s love; peace of conscience; joy in the Holy Ghost; increase of grace; and perseverance therein to the end.

I have been in the midst of a life lesson on these factual benefits. My husband and I desired a transition from life in urban Tacoma that had been compassed by a daily life-attenuating commute to Seattle, to life in a small, conservative, Western town. We targeted Clarkston for its beauty and the presence of a sister church to our own in Lewiston, Idaho, just a short bridge span across the Snake River from Clarkston. Somehow, I wanted this more than I have ever wanted anything before, except to marry my husband, and for my cat to live when he was very ill. We married, our cat is well for a diabetic, and soon we are moving to Clarkston. But assurance of God’s love means more than getting my way. It means knowing God’s way is the best, and in fact only way: God’s way is for my good, and it is my assurance that this is true — not the funding of my aspiration — that is the factual benefit.

I experience peace of conscience in conjunction with joy in the Holy Ghost; I don’t apprehend these to be separable. The word of God renews my confidence in his promises and his goodness and his forgiveness and the inevitability of his good will. At times, the Holy Spirit even seems to empathize, as with Solomon’s vexation of spirit resonating with my own. If you are selling your home these days, know that the Holy Spirit inspired Solomon to comfort you: Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit. (Ecclesiastes 4:6)

Increase of grace may remain a belayed aspiration, but I catch glimpses of small increments at times and pray for more. Justification and adoption are acts of God’s free grace; sanctification is a work of God’s free grace. Sanctification is an ongoing thing. We can’t rush it.

In times of stress and trial, it becomes easy to forget that I do not requisition the factual benefits of justification, adoption, and sanctification; I already possess them, and they shine no less brightly for my dimmed vision.

As for perseverance, it is a promise, not something that can be presently manifest. I simply invoke the proleptic aorist: it’s a done deal. (Obviously, from my language, my mind has been too much lately in the real estate gutter.)