Priming the Pump

Pump

John 4:13—14: Jesus answered the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

I don’t know if you’ve ever pumped water by hand. I first encounter this at my grandmother’s house in the mountains of west Tennessee. She didn’t have any of the usual amenities such as running water or a flush toilet, but we loved going there to spend some time with all kinds of relatives who treated my brother and me as special creations, unlike the way our parents saw us. I think you know what I mean.

I remember clearly the day my grandmother asked to come out onto her back porch. She said she wanted to show me something. I thought it might be a pony, but all I saw was the cast-iron pump protruding from the concrete. I was puzzled. I knew about the pump which spouted water as if by magic, but I knew nothing about how it did this.

My grandmother took a nearby bucket which was half filled with water. “I’m going to show you how to pump water.”

I thought, that’s no big deal. You pump the handle and water comes out.

“I know how to do it already,” I said, but I didn’t.

“All right,” my grandmother said. “Show me.”

I took a strong grip on the handle and worked it up and down in a flurry of action.

No water came. I pumped harder. Still no water. And a third time with the same result. “Granny,” I said. “This pump is broken. No water comes out.”

She didn’t say a word but poured some water from her bucket into the pump. She studied the place where she had poured for a few seconds and then began pumping, slowly and deliberately.

Then I heard something. It was—no, it couldn’t be. I watched in disbelief as water gushed from the spout.

“What’d you do?” I demanded. “How’d you get the water to come out?”

“I primed the pump.”

“You what?”

“I poured a little water in to soak the gasket.”

“What’s that?”

“A little piece of leather in the shape of a doughnut that allows the water to come up.”

I tried it and was astounded that I could duplicate her work. I also saw that I didn’t know as much as I thought. That was a valuable lesson.

We had a pump because water was so important to us, just as it was in the scene at Jacob’s well. Jesus acknowledges this when he asks the woman for water, but he takes it further when he tells her about living water, his message that brings new life and salvation. Thanks be to God for water, for being able to learn new lessons and for our savior Jesus Christ, the living water and saver from all our sins. Amen.

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Light and Darkness

Psalm 119: 105: Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

I don’t know how you regulate the level of light in your home or place of business or wherever you might find yourself. Some people might need a low level of light, which I prefer. In fact, I need so little light that someone who lives with me calls me, “Cave man.” She does this fondly, of course, although she is decidedly not fond when I turn off the light in a room she’s in. My excuse is that I couldn’t see her for the glare.     I’m sensitive to light, that’s all. And I am pleased to report that our firstborn Amy was called, “Cave woman” at college. I’m proud that she followed in my lightly footsteps.

Becky on the other hand, prefers blinding levels of light, so much so that airplanes going into Dulles can navigate by our dining room lights. And we could do surgery in the kitchen. I think you get the idea.

We all know that life in Bible times was dark, literally and figuratively. And I think that people then were like I am: without strong lights in their lives, they still could walk around with very little light. The scripture passage seems to be only figurative: the Bible is the source of light that guides our ways. But it also literal: when people in Bible times needed to go out at night, they put miniature oil lamps on the toes of their sandals and off they went. They could see very well with those tiny lights.

God has given us light ever since God created it on the first day of creation. And that light continued literally in our lives. But it also presented itself to us as the love of God throughout the ages, finally arriving at the brightest life in creation in the person of Jesus. His life and his death on the cross meant that, as John wrote, “in him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Amen.

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Washing the Dishes

Revelation 21:5:  And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

I don’t know how you handle the dishwashing opportunities at your house. Growing up, my mom took care of that and the cooking, at least until she got a job. Then she solicited our help in comforting tones: “if someone doesn’t help me with the dishes, I’m not going to let you eat.”

We didn’t believe her until we left the dishes for her to do one evening. The next day I came downstairs, expecting breakfast, but there were no plates at my brother’s or my place. She and my dad had their usual spread.

I protested, “It’s child abuse not to feed us.”

“It’ll be worse than that if you don’t help me.”

I thought, she has a point and so until I went to college Ron and I washed the dishes. When we got a dishwasher and had it easier, we still had to put the dirty dishes in. I even complained about that (I was nothing if not determined), but she re-invoked her declaration.

The point of this is that we are called to help each other with all manner of things, the most important being the necessity of spiritual growth. This begins when we are born and accelerates when we accept Jesus as our Savior. The one who washed the feet of the disciples also washes our souls when we come to him. Praise God for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and for the way we can grow, past death and beyond. Amen.

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Wheels within Wheels

Ezekiel 1:16: This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel.

I don’t know if you have a history with bicycles. I know I do, from the fat-tired woman’s bike my family found in the woods while takin a walk. I learned to ride with that bike. Then my parents bought me a three-speed English racer (it really was from England) and then I acquired a ten-speed with the paycheck from my first “real job.”

I still have that bike, although I haven’t ridden it for years after I had a close encounter with a fire hydrant. I wasn’t hurt badly, but it made me think about doing any more biking. I keep the bike in our shed and hadn’t had it out for years. As I was looking for some potting soil for Becky, I noticed the bike and I realized that my bike-riding days were over. My balance is not so good, and that’s important to riding.

I also realized that each bike was an improvement on the one before, and I had reached the pinnacle with each bike and my ability to ride. So, no longer riding is a natural step. I’m not sad about it: rather, I have a calm acceptance, confident that I won’t have to encounter any more fire hydrants on a bike. I’ll probably donate the ten-speed.

I was thinking that, just as I went through the different bikes, God calls us to grow spiritually and become a better believer. And I think this isn’t a smooth path, but one strewn with obstacles and problems. But God is with us through all of this, until we grow to meet him and, I think, continue to grow.

Praise God for growth, both spiritual and otherwise, and praise God for God’s presence and love. Jude noted that God “is able to keep us from stumbling and to present us before God’s glorious presence without fault and with great joy” and so he does, world without end, amen.

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Two Wheels and a Realization

I don’t know what your history has been with bicycles. I think most of us have ridden one at various times and places. When I was about five, our family found a fat tired model during a walk in the woods. We took it home and I thought we were set (although I wasn’t big enough to ride it) but my mom insisted that we call the police. We did, and they said they would take it to the station and try to find the owner. They tried to make it fit in the trunk of their cruiser, but quickly realized it wouldn’t fit. So they gave it to us, but even I could see the bike would fit easily. The police were making a gift to us, and I was very happy.

After we moved to Fairfax, I learned to ride the big bike by the time-honored method of having someone run alongside me and hold the bike up. One time my uncle (who lived with us them for a while) was running alongside me holding on to the seat when suddenly he let go, leaving me on my own. I circled the yard, imploring him to come back until I tired and navigated into one of my mom’s bushes. Everyone found this very funny, except for me. And my mom.

I eventually learned to ride that machine and graduated to what we called an “English racer,” a bike made in England (go figure) with three speeds. I thought that was cool, and make the bike even cooler by taking the fenders off. I thought this would reduce the weigh of the apparatus and increase my speed, but it didn’t.

When we moved to a farm in Loudoun County, I didn’t think that much about bikes, preferring to think about cars. I got my license and had driven a few years when I decided to save the earth and buy another bike in 1971 with my first paycheck from my first real job. It had ten speeds and was extremely fast and light.

I still have that bike in my shed. I don’t go into the shed much anymore, but I had occasion to get some African violet fertilizer and potting soil for Becky and when I opened the shed, there lay my ten speed. I hadn’t ridden it since I narrowly missed running into a fire hydrant one day. That memory made me realize that my cycling days are over unless I use a senior tricycle, but I’m too vain for that.

The point of all this is that changes come to us all, and we can resist them (generally to no avail) or we can accept them and move on. I’m okay with that except if the change involves an adult tricycle.

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Rocking and Porches

Isaiah 41:13: For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

I don’t know if you’ve ever spent some time rocking on a front porch of a house. I know I did. Until I was in high school, my family and I went to Tennessee to visit relatives. There were a lot of them, and they all came at one time or another to my maternal grandmother’s house, which lay hard by a railroad track. When we heard the whistle, the children ran to the track for the candy and loose change that the train men threw to us.

The property had a hen house, a pump for water, a barn and some cows, and more to the subject here, a front porch with a swing which would take four people at one time, as long as one of them didn’t weigh very much. We rocked and talked and sometimes fell asleep. I felt warm and cared for. In fact, rocking on the porch was my favorite activity there, even more than candy, and that’s saying something.

I was thinking that being with God is like rocking on the porch. There we were safe and comfortable, and we knew we were loved by all those around us.

The house has been sold now, but I sometimes think of it and I smile. We do not only have memories like that: we also have a God who gathers us in mighty arms and tells us we are loved, both now and forever.

Praise God for the care he brings and for the promise of salvation that comforts us and keeps us going through it all. Amen.

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Changes

Isaiah 40:28: Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

I don’t know if you think about change that much. I know I do, and lately I’ve been thinking about telephones and how they’ve changed. Many of you probably remember rotary dial phones, party lines and making a long distance call.

Now if we’re forced to use a dial phone (and don’t ask me where you could find one), it seems to take forever for the dial to do its duty. If you were making an emergency call, someone might be suffering while you dialed. And of course, the dial phone was replaced by the push button model—it was much faster.

We were on a party line when I was a lad, and I enjoyed listening in on our neighbors and their business. Such ill-gotten pleasure did not last long when my parents found out what I was doing. They took away my phone privileges, which didn’t bother me since there was no one I wanted to call. Eavesdropping was better.

Making a long distance call was a big deal. For one thing, we had to call the operator who put the call through. Then we had to decide whether we wanted a usual call or to make it collect or even—gasp—person to person, a relatively expensive proposition. Not that it bothered me since there was no one I knew who could take a person to person call.

Obviously, all the changes to phone service came as a result of changes, though enhanced services sometimes could be a problem. We carry our phones with us, which means we are accessible until we turn it off. And then there is the curse of unsolicited calls, which means that I can renew the warranty on my seventeen-year-old car or improve my medical insurance or have my roof fixed. I don’t need any of those, but they keep calling.

The point of all this is that change is a mixed blessing. We need some of these improvements, while others we really don’t need. God, as we know, never changes, and God is good, staying with us throughout our lives and beyond. Praise God for God’s eternal presence, given to us while we were yet sinners. His gift of love means that God will always with us, now and forever. Amen.

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Adhesion

Adhesion

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I don’t know if you receive a lot of packages in the mail, but I know we do. The recycling bin fills up rapidly with packages, mostly from Amazon and music companies, so I have to empty it twice a week. Before I put boxes in the bin, I have to, as us disposal engineers say, “break it down.” That means I have to cut or tear tape and labels off the boxes. Now, I know these companies have a vested interest in not having the labels and tape come off (as do I), so they have developed the strongest glue in the universe. To show how strong these adhesives are, NASA used them to glue the heat-resistant tiles on the shuttle. That explains why the labels and tape are so hard to take off.

I have two methods for removing tape and labels. First, I try to scratch them off with my fingernails, which doesn’t work well. I keep my nails short so I don’t scratch myself. This accounts for my difficulty removing a label. Usually I end up tearing what few nails I do have. If that fails, and it usually does, I have to resort to a knife or scissors to remove the stubborn item. The drawback there is that I’m clumsy, and sometimes manage to stab myself in various places. If I didn’t want something like a book on the clothing of Romantic poets so badly, I wouldn’t open the box. But I’m curious and have to see what’s in the box. It’s a kind of Christmas throughout the  year.

The point of this is, just as labels and tape stay on boxes and can be removed only with effort.

In the same way, God has bound himself to us through the death of His son, and if we accept this gift, nothing can separate us from God for eternity. Let us praise God that God has saved us and we will be with Him, forever. Amen.

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On the Wings of Sacrifice

Chapter Twelve

New Life

January, 1979

Otto sat at a table in Mata’s café, enjoying a cup of black coffee. Maria tried to get him to order something fancier, but he told her he wasn’t in the mood for fancy. He had almost finished his drink when he saw D come in. He stood up and waved him over.

“D! Come sit down! How are you?”

“I’m fine, Dad.”

“And how are Samantha and the baby?”

“They’re fine. I hadn’t talked to you for a while, and when I went to the office to do that, Mata said you were here.”

“You could have called. I would have come back.”

“Thanks for that, but I wanted to get away from work for a while.”

“Oh? Is there a problem?”

“No, I just wanted a change of scenery.”

“Well, sit down and let’s talk.”

D sat across from Otto.

“So, how do you like being a father?”

D smiled. “It’s amazing to watch her grow, but we do lose some sleep.”

“Oh, yes, I remember those days.”

D sat silently for a while, and then he said, “What would you say I’ve been offered a really good job with United in Chicago?”

It was Otto’s turn to be quiet. Then he said, “If that’s what you want, sure. Why not?”

“You don’t sound too sure.”

Otto put both hands on the table. “Look, D, here you have everything you know here, and your family is here to help guide and support all of you.”

D sighed. “Yes, I know that, and I’ve been grateful for it, but I feel I need to have my own identity, and that can’t happen around here.”

Otto could think of nothing to say about that. Finally he said, “You know that whatever you do, short of any sort of felony, you have our love and our full support.”

“Thanks, Dad. I appreciate that more than you can know. Now I’d better get back to work. I’ll tell Mata about the job in Chicago so she can get the paperwork started.”

Otto stood up, as did D, and they shook hands. “I’m sure I’ll see you around for a while,” Otto murmured.

“You bet. See you soon.”

As Otto watched him walk out of the café, he thought, this still doesn’t seem right to me, but I’ll see what Mata thinks.

Otto finished his coffee and started back for the office. When he pulled up in front, he didn’t see D’s car there. He must have finished his business, he thought, but that’s good because I can talk to Mata without him around. He walked in the office.

“Hey, Brother. How was your coffee?”

“Oh, pretty good for a local effort.”

“Hey! I can make you drink lattes until you can’t drink any more.”

“What a horrible punishment.”

“Did D find you?”

“He did, and I’m sure you know about the Chicago job offer by now.”

Mata sighed. “I do. He came by here after he saw you to get the paperwork started. I think it’s a mistake, but I didn’t want to say anything until I talked to you.”

“I think it’s a mistake as well.”

“So what do we do?”

“Other than tell him that, not much. I expressed my doubts and told him this was the best place for him and his family right now, but he was having none of it.”

“So.”

“So we let them go and then see what happens. We have no other choice.”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“Are I always?”

“You don’t want to hear what I have to say about that.”

Otto laughed at that and went into his office. I suppose that waiting is all we can do. I just hope nothing bad comes of this, but I think it will.

 

 

 

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On the Wings of Sacrifice

Chapter Twelve

New Life

January, 1979

Otto sat at a table in Mata’s café, enjoying a cup of black coffee. Maria tried to get him to order something fancier, but he told her he wasn’t in the mood for fancy. He had almost finished his drink when he saw D come in. He stood up and waved him over.

“D! Come sit down! How are you?”

“I’m fine, Dad.”

“And how are Samantha and the baby?”

“They’re fine. I hadn’t talked to you for a while, and when I went to the office to do that, Mata said you were here.”

“You could have called. I would have come back.”

“Thanks for that, but I wanted to get away from work for a while.”

“Oh? Is there a problem?”

“No, I just wanted a change of scenery.”

“Well, sit down and let’s talk.”

D sat across from Otto.

“So, how do you like being a father?”

D smiled. “It’s amazing to watch her grow, but we do lose some sleep.”

“Oh, yes, I remember those days.”

D sat silently for a while, and then he said, “What would you say I’ve been offered a really good job with United in Chicago?”

It was Otto’s turn to be quiet. Then he said, “If that’s what you want, sure. Why not?”

“You don’t sound too sure.”

Otto put both hands on the table. “Look, D, here you have everything you know here, and your family is here to help guide and support all of you.”

D sighed. “Yes, I know that, and I’ve been grateful for it, but I feel I need to have my own identity, and that can’t happen around here.”

Otto could think of nothing to say about that. Finally he said, “You know that whatever you do, short of any sort of felony, you have our love and our full support.”

“Thanks, Dad. I appreciate that more than you can know. Now I’d better get back to work. I’ll tell Mata about the job in Chicago so she can get the paperwork started.”

Otto stood up, as did D, and they shook hands. “I’m sure I’ll see you around for a while,” Otto murmured.

“You bet. See you soon.”

As Otto watched him walk out of the café, he thought, this still doesn’t seem right to me, but I’ll see what Mata thinks.

Otto finished his coffee and started back for the office. When he pulled up in front, he didn’t see D’s car there. He must have finished his business, he thought, but that’s good because I can talk to Mata without him around. He walked in the office.

“Hey, Brother. How was your coffee?”

“Oh, pretty good for a local effort.”

“Hey! I can make you drink lattes until you can’t drink any more.”

“What a horrible punishment.”

“Did D find you?”

“He did, and I’m sure you know about the Chicago job offer by now.”

Mata sighed. “I do. He came by here after he saw you to get the paperwork started. I think it’s a mistake, but I didn’t want to say anything until I talked to you.”

“I think it’s a mistake as well.”

“So what do we do?”

“Other than tell him that, not much. I expressed my doubts and told him this was the best place for him and his family right now, but he was having none of it.”

“So.”

“So we let them go and then see what happens. We have no other choice.”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“Are I always?”

“You don’t want to hear what I have to say about that.”

Otto laughed at that and went into his office. I suppose that waiting is all we can do. I just hope nothing bad comes of this, but I think it will.

 

 

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