Simple Is Best

Yesterday two things happened to re-confirm what I have long felt: the simpler, the better. We awoke to hear – and feel – our furnace fan blowing. Continuously. The heater was not running (it is summer, after all), and it’s not hot enough to run the central air conditioning. After trying everything with the thermostat, we called a repair service.

Repair guy arrived and found several things wrong. First off, we had the wrong type of air filter in the furnace, he said. I was surprised, as it was supposed to be one of the best kind, filtering out all types of allergy particles and more:

furnace air filter

Repair guy said they work so hard to filter out everything that they keep the air from moving through freely, and so over-tax your furnace! He suggested we toss this one in the trash, and get the cheapest, simplest filter we could find. Then he opened up our thermostat and found a faulty relay wire in the new computerized thermostat that was only three months old. The faulty part was sending the message to the furnace fan to run continually, which would eventually have ruined the motor in the fan. So repair guy put in a very simple thermostat with no special settings or scheduling programs – just off, cool, or heat.

The second thing that happened yesterday was a frantic call from my mother, saying that her electric lift armchair had abruptly stopped working. There is no manual override lever to put down the footrest, just what looks like a remote control gizmo on a cord. She pushes a button to recline, a button to tilt the whole chair to help her stand, a button for everything. But yesterday it just decided to stop working, leaving her stuck in a chair that looked like this:

electric lift recliner

The repair service from the place she bought the chair came out this morning, was unable to pinpoint the problem, and hauled it away to be examined elsewhere.  They left her a loaner chair. I should mention that this computerized chair my mother has is not even a year old!

Enough said.

Simple is best.


Amusing Ourselves On A Stormy Day

2017-08-07 hide a plushie in plain view

It was a dark and stormy day about a week ago. Lightning had prompted us to turn off and unplug the TV and computers. How to amuse grandpa, grandma, and two grand-kids? Have a stuffed animal hunt! How many places can these critter hide?

In a shirt.

2017-08-07 hide a plushie in shirt


Among our DVD collection.

2017-08-07 hide a plushie on DVD shelf


On the stairs.

2017-08-07 hide a plushie on the stairs


In one of my sewing drawers.

2017-08-07 hide a plushie in sewing supply drawer


In the glove compartment of the car.

2017-08-07 hide a plushie in car glove compartment


But Grandpa came up with the best hiding place – the underside of the kitchen table!

2017-08-07 hide a plushie under table


Who Stole My Church? – by George MacDonald (2008, 2010)

who stole my church

There are millions upon millions of people that love Jesus and gather to worship every Sunday. But having people from as many as five generations trying to do something together can be challenging. There are endless variations of ways to conduct services, sing, study the Bible, reach out to the community, support missions, have classes/youth activities, etc. Each generation has strong feelings about how exactly to do those things.

The author wrote this book in a unique way. Although it’s non-fiction, it’s written as fiction. The only characters in the story that are real people are the author and his wife; other characters are prototypes of church members you might have. The setting: a church that is slowly dying because most of its members are older, and the younger people have disappeared. So the pastor gets a small group of church members to meet twice a week to talk about how to re-connect with the younger generations and re-invent the church.

Some parts of the book were agonizing to read. It just seemed like the odds of being able to actually have services and programs that were relevant for everyone were all but impossible to achieve. What was good for one group was not for another group. But in the end, the only thing that really worked was different age groups getting to know and love each other, and a willingness to alter the way they did things without changing their basic mission of helping people find Jesus.

What stood out the most to me was how individualized each church has to be to make it really thrive. There is no one formula that every congregation can follow, and be guaranteed happiness and growth. And just about the time you think you have things running smoothly and everyone’s getting along and your numbers are increasing…things will change again.


Are Church Libraries Dead?

church library
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I can still remember the church library of my childhood (well, middle school, actually). It was fairly large, with well-stocked, orderly shelves and two dedicated volunteers every week. Often I would get there before the doors were unlocked, and would wait with several other people for the wooden doors to be opened. Once inside, I was lost in the rows of titles that beckoned me. What should I pick? One or two books this week? Sometimes it would be something already read, but that didn’t matter. It was like greeting an old friend. I loved the smell of the wooden shelves and the book ink, the feel of the soft pages under my fingertips, and the hushed sounds of people checking out or exclaiming over a book they found. The library volunteers often had to hurry people out as the worship service started up.

As an adult, I’ve attended a variety of churches, and few of them have libraries. My current church has a tiny library, which has been going for about 30 years or so. It’s only about ten feet by ten feet, with bookshelves along the walls. There used to be a lot of people who stopped in it to grab some reading material. There were even middle school and high-schoolers who came in and picked out books. Biographies, encouraging non-fiction, Bible study books, and tons of Christian fiction. Yes, business in our little library was booming.

But churches and culture have changed dramatically in the past twenty-five years. Now we have 250+ channels on TV, Amazon Prime movies, Hulu Plus, Netflix, video games, Facebook, cell phones, and Youtube on high-speed internet. These pastimes have introduced us to sensational, fast-paced excitement that is difficult to match with a book. Even among the people that still read, they seem to want more language and smutty content. They’ve gotten used to it in their movies and tv shows, and they now find “clean” reads too boring.

These days, our little church library is barely used, which I don’t think is unusual. Church libraries seem to be on their last mile, just a step behind the Christian bookstores that have gone out of business. We are told that churches have to be willing to change and adapt to reach the newer generations of attendees. That is true. We can’t live in the past. Out with the old, in with the new. But still – I feel great sadness for the demise of church libraries.

Running Out Of Time – by Margaret Peterson Haddix (1995)

Running Out Of Time

Margaret Peterson Haddix is best known for her book series “Shadow Children” and “The Missing”. But her earliest book – a standalone novel – is “Running Out Of Time”, the story of an Indiana community in 1840. The main character is 13-year-old Jessie, one of six children. Her father is the local blacksmith and her mother the midwife. Although life is full of hard work and no luxuries, Jessie is content with her life.

When several of the neighbor children fall ill with diphtheria, Jessie’s mother begins to act strangely, then quietly tells her daughter a secret: it is actually 1996, not 1840. Years before, the adults in the community made a choice to live without the conveniences of modern life. They agreed to be part of a historic reconstructed village that tourists could view through hidden cameras. The adults all know the truth, while the children are blissful ignorant. Families were supposed to be able to leave any time they wanted, but things have changed and now no one is allowed to leave.

Jessie’s mother is desperate to get some modern medicine for those who are ill, and keep the diphtheria from spreading. She tries to describe the outside world to Jessie, and quietly sends her out to seek a person she believes will rescue them. The new world is a confusing and scary place, but Jessie knows she needs to find someone to help the village before people start dying.

This is a great first novel from Ms. Haddix. There are different recommended reading ages, from 3rd to 8th grade. Personally, I think some of the concepts would be a little overwhelming for third and fourth graders. I would say the book is suited for anyone 5th grade and older.

Help! I’m A Prisoner In The Library! – by Eth Clifford (1979)

Help I'm a Prisoner In The Library

Ten-year-old Mary Rose and 7-year-old Jo-Beth are with their dad, being driven to an aunt’s house, when they run out of gasoline. Dad grabs the gas can and starts walking for the nearest gas station, leaving the girls in the car. When the younger sister Jo-Beth desperately needs a bathroom, they leave the car and walk several blocks to a library. The librarian, who is closing up as they come in, never sees them, and inadvertently locks up the place with the girls still there. And that is how their adventure begins!

I loved this fun, uncomplicated story. The library that the girls are trapped in is actually a hundred-year-old house that’s been converted into a children’s library/museum combo. The unusual sights the girls see during the night keep the story interesting. The story will appeal more to girls than to boys, since the main characters are female. The recommended reading level is 2rd-5th grade, although I think it could easily be enjoyed as a family book read aloud.

The book was first published in 1979, which explains the dated locks on the library door. Apparently the old house/library still had the original  skeleton keys on the doors, which meant you literally couldn’t get out the door without the key – a huge safety issue that is no longer allowed with modern building codes. So someone will have to explain to young kids reading this book about the way old locks used to work, which could lead to an interesting discussion about safety. The book has been re-printed many times, and can still be found on Scholastic book-club fliers, in libraries, and on Amazon.

Books For Dogs?

dog with headphones
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When I first heard someone say there were books for dogs, I thought it was a joke. Turns out it’s really happening. Audible, the company that offers tens of thousands of downloadable audio-books, is now expanding into the dog world.

Audible partnered with Cesar Millan to start a line of audio-books that will keep dogs company while their owners are off at work. They stay calmer and happier if they have the same voice talking to them, so audio-books can work better than music to sooth. In fact, your dog may be better behaved if he’s had a book to listen to during the workday. If you want to look into this new idea, just go to

So hey, why not? I find audio-books quite relaxing myself. I’m not sure that you need to buy one from Audible that’s specially for dogs, though. Just try a book from your personal collection, or check out a few from your local library. Try different readers, and hopefully you can find a narrator that leaves your dog feeling as mellow as the one in the picture above.