Weekly Update (-) 33

This was a busy week at work and I had less energy for doing much of the work at home. I scanned a few more books, cleaned out/off some drawers, boxes, and shelves. We got another set of donation items started for the next ARC pickup. We also spent a bit of time shopping for bathroom tiles and fixtures, doors, and window blinds. On top of that, our dog, Scooter, threw his back out somehow and needed some veterinary care.

This week’s update video (linked below) is the first in a series I plan to call “Monthly Musings”, in which I do a bit of reflecting on the Bible and God’s creation. This month I talk a bit about Psalm 19.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun,

which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

10  More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

11  Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

12  Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.

13  Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

14  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

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Weekly Update (-) 34

I created the last two weekly updates by putting together a video update first (which have been too long!) and then just tagging it in a blog post (which didn’t provide very much information). I’m trying something different this week by writing the blog first and then creating a video which corresponds to that. Here are some things that we’ve accomplished this week toward our goal of full-time RV living. We:

  • Confirmed and paid for an RV rental for June. We’re planning to rent a Thor A.C.E 30.1 (32 foot) motorhome from LazyDays RV to drive up to Rocky Mountain National park for 4 days.Lazydays2017-ACE-30-1-Floor-Plan This will give us a chance to try out a Class A motorhome. Even though this one is a little shorter than what we’re looking at (we’re focusing in the 34 to 36 foot range), it’ll give us a feel for driving and living in one similar. Some of the questions we’re seeking to learn from this trip is
    • How is it to drive a gas-powered Class A up mountain roads?
    • How quickly will we go through water, battery and propane supplies?
    • How is our comfort, temperature-wise?
    • How loud and annoying is the generator?
    • How will this be as a full-time living situation, rather than just feeling like we’re “camping” all the time?
    • How is the noise driving this machine with respect to video and audio recording?
    • What will it be like to mix travel with continuing to work on Watchmaker’s Pulse projects?
    • Can we stand being “off-grid” for 4 days, not to mention 4 years (not that we’ve committed to any specific time-span?
  • Recently paid for the rest of our upcoming cruise/land adventure in Alaska in September. This was postponed from a year ago and was originally intended (and still is) in celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary. It’ll be our 31st (and a half) anniversary now, but also a great way to experiment with Watchmaker’s Pulse travel-log ideas. We’ll be traveling with Darlene’s sister (Patty), and brother-in-law (Gary).
  • Gave our first round of donations to a donation center.
  • Arranged for disposal of a piano.
  • Finished removing the first layer of tile in a bathroom (in preparation for a remodel of it). There’s still another layer to go. We also finished removing the old drywall and shower pan from the shower.
  • Purchased a dashcam and tested it in the accompanying update video. I bought this one based on the review done by Tom Morton, of Mortons on the Move, on the Road Gear Reviews YouTube channel.
  • Scanned several books to keep electronically in order to donate the physical copies. Most of our library is already in Kindle format, but there are some “keeper” items, including pictures, cards, documents, etc. that I’m scanning so we can retain digital copies.
  • Darlene and I are working on trying to get healthier, in anticipation of our upcoming lifestyle change. This week we launched new weight loss goals, I had a physical exam, and we’re both trying to take walks more frequently.
  • Heard the term “digital nomad” for the first time this week while listening to a Keep Your Daydream podcast. That’s an interesting concept to explore in conjunction with this upcoming life change. According to Investopedia.com, digital nomads “are people who are location independent and use technology to perform their job. Digital nomads work remotely (telecommute), which is now economically possible due to cheap internet access, smartphones and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to keep in contact with clients and employers. Digital nomads are usually young people [OK… so I don’t exactly fit this characteristic] and can be found working in most industries in the knowledge economy: marketing, design, IT, writing, media, tutoring and consulting, among others. They may either be remote employees or knowledge process outsourcing employees.” I’m going to have to think a bit more about adopting this “digital nomad” terminology.

34 weeks to go! Here’s the video version of this update on YouTube.

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Week (-)36 Update

I’ve posted the first Watchmaker’s Pulse video on YouTube. Admittedly, the sound quality is not very good, but I’m taking the advice I learned from several of Tricia Leach’s interviews on Keep Your Daydream… just start somewhere and learn as you go. So, here’s the first video.

It’s called Week (negative) 36 Update because I’m counting backwards to my actual retirement date of December 21, 2017 – 36 weeks from now.

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These weekly updates will just update you on activities, thoughts, events, etc. leading up to the actual retirement and full launch of The Watchmaker’s Pulse. This week was a typical week of church, work, and house chores. I was able to rip out the carpet in one of our bedrooms to reveal the hardwood flooring underneath (which has been covered since we bought the house 31 years ago.

We also went to see The Case for Christ movie, which is a very good cinematic version of Lee Strobel’s story of his path from skeptical atheism to full-time Christian minister and apologist.

Tomorrow is Easter. I hope you find yourself in church somewhere celebrating the resurrection from the dead of Jesus!

Our To-Do List

Image from blog.hubspot.com/marketing

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. It’s my intention, once 2018 rolls around, to establish a more regular cadence to the material I produce for The Watchmaker’s Pulse, but until then, I’m just using the site(s) to experiment and practice some of the tasks that I have planned. This is what I was referring to in an earlier post titled The Framework is Coming Along!. A lot of details have to be figured out before The Watchmaker’s Pulse is fully up and running, which will be after my actual retirement date of Dec. 21, 2017.

With that in mind, I wanted to create a “to-do” list here, both for my reference, but also to highlight for you more of the plans that I have. I welcome feedback and comments.

  • Prepare our house for sale. Not a minor task, it includes
    • Remodeling the kitchen
    • Remodeling 3 bathrooms
    • Updating electrical and lighting from the original 1965 configuration! (about 1/10 is complete now!)
    • Tearing out all the upstairs carpet which covers beautiful hardwood (1/4 is complete now!)
    • Refinishing all the hardwood in the house
    • Tearing out carpet on the lowest level and redoing wall and floor coverings there
    • We also have some cracking in the garage and lower level concrete, inadequate insulation, and no lawn sprinkling system. We’re still unsure if we’ll try to rectify any of these or not.
    • Replace the front and back doors.
    • Clean the HVAC system.
  • Determine when and with whom to list the house for sale.
  • Get rid of stuff. We have been in our house for 31 years. We’ve also lost all 4 parents in the last 9 years, 3 of which have been in the last 2 years. We have a lot of their stuff packed into various places in our house. We also have 2 adult children who no longer live with us, but whose apartments don’t have room for stuff which we still have – not to mention all the “non-junk” stuff with memories attached that we have to figure out what to do with. So, we will be:
    • Selling anything which might be useful to others, except I HATE THE PROCESS OF SELLING THINGS!
    • Giving away anything which might be reused by someone else
    • Throwing away things (sorry… landfill… I know)
    • Somehow archiving, through pictures, scans, etc. those items which have sentimental or practical value but which may be too voluminous to keep
    • Keeping stuff in a rented storage unit that we might eventually want in a small apartment in the future
    • Keeping the stuff we’ll want designated for use in our not-yet-owned RV
  • Change our residency. I’m learning from a number of full-time-RVers that certain states (e.g. South Dakota, Florida, Texas) have set their laws in such a way that works better for people without a permanent residence location. I’m still investigating that, along with its impact on taxes, vehicle licensing and insurance, and voting.
  • Change our health insurance. I’ve been fortunate to have insurance coverage provided by employers for nearly 35 years. In November/December, which is the standard open-enrollment for insurance, we’ll have to make a decision about our health care moving forward.
  • Figure out mail handling and banking. I haven’t researched either of these much at this point, but we’ll need to ensure both are set up in such a way as to be fully accessible and functional from the road.
  • Make sure we leave necessary paperwork in order. We need to update our wills and life insurance policies and make sure necessary people know about them.
  • Get necessary medical and dental work taken care of before we leave, along with a plan on how to communicate with our doctors while on the road.
  • Obtain an RV which will suffice as “home” for the foreseeable future.
    • I’m leaning toward a Class A motorhome. Gas or diesel?
    • Darlene (my wife) is leaning somewhat toward a 5th wheel trailer.
    • A standard trailer is still not out of the question.
    • Whatever we end up with, we really want it to include: a king-size bed, an oven, a bathroom with shower and toilet in the same room (as opposed to across the hall from each other), a length of about 35 feet or less, a couch, ample storage, and a functional and comfortable secondary vehicle either towed or used for towing. Additional preferences would include a dinette with chairs (rather than a booth), an oven, a residence-style refrigerator, slide-outs, an awning, outside kitchen, fireplace, ceiling fan, solar capability, and a means for Darlene to continue with her love of jigsaw puzzles.

Specific to The Watchmaker’s Pulse, I need to:

  • Design a more permanent logo. When I created this site, I threw this together…,cropped-cropped-logo.jpg  and cropped-logo1.jpg, but would like to engage someone to create a more refined look for me.
  • Similarly, for my videos, I’d like a theme. I’ve worked with some ideas but would like to engage someone to help me create a more defined, professional theme.
  • Also for this website and the associated sites, I’d like feedback and help in refining the theme and continuity of the products.
  • Purchase necessary equipment for planned activities:
    • Internet and data coverage sufficient to keep us connected on the road.
    • Adequate video and still photographic equipment
    • One or two new laptops for each of us to use
    • Decent video editing software
    • A dashcam for in-motion driving video
    • A drone for aerial photography
    • Necessary tripods, audio, and storage equipment to support the video and audio creations
    • Memberships for any necessary activities, including national and state park passes, fishing licenses (yes, that too), campground or travel memberships, TV coverage
  • Create a few sample videos and get feedback on them on our YouTube Channel
  • Figure out potential podcast formats and methods
  • Develop ideas and sample modules for The Watchmaker’s Pulse Academy, a planned for-profit homeschooling resource center
  • Figure out the best approach to engage with and inter-relate the various social outlets connected to The Watchmaker’s Pulse, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.
  • Identify missing elements from The Watchmaker’s Pulse idea and develop those. This might include speaking engagement activities, RV-park ministries, publications, other product lines, business cards, advertising, financial support options, …?
  • Plan out our initial route and destinations
  • Convince Darlene that she really does want to participate in these videos

I realize that I may not have thought of everything yet, and also that God could very well change the course of this plan, but this will at least give you an increased understanding of what we think lies ahead for us.

Choosing the Right Path

On a recent business trip to Tulsa, OK, I had a few hours available before I had to catch my flight, so I headed to an area just south of town called Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area. It was a surprising forested area full of countless trails along and around a ridge bounded on one side by the Arkansas River.

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Trail map of the Turkey Mountain area, downloaded from the site linked above.

I hadn’t found this map before arriving there and it would have been helpful to have. There was a copy posted on a sign next to the parking lot, but it had been rather worn by fingers and weather so that a photo captured on my phone was not as helpful as this one would have been. I read a few reviews of the area and consistently people talked about the importance of a map to keep from getting lost. I thought, “Yeah, right. This is Oklahoma where everything’s flat. I won’t have any problem.”….

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After hiking for about 1.5 hours, I found that I was having to try to keep very aware of what direction I was going and where I was in relation to the parking lot. Fortunately, I had the river and sun as reference, but trails were criss-crossing so much, that it would have been very easy to lose track of where I was.

Which brings me to an observation about choosing the right path. The Bible is very clear about some things. It reveals to us God’s overarching plan for creation and salvation. It also gives us very specific instructions about a number of moral and social issues. But there are times when we are faced with decisions about our actions and activities that may not be explicitly dealt with in any particular or combination of biblical passages. In those cases, we must decide the best we can, but our decisions should be influenced by several factors:

Biblical principles – This is first and foremost what should drive our decisions. Even though scripture may not deal explicitly with a particular topic, it gives ample guidance in so many things from which foundational principles can be derived. The only way to really be able to discern those principles is through regular immersion in God’s word. Read it, study it, memorize it, talk about it, teach it, listen to others teaching it. These are all ways to embed the Bible in our minds so that it will be there to be brought to our attention when we need it. Through Jeremiah the prophet, God promised

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

The principle here is that in God’s new covenant (realized through the advent of Jesus Christ), God would enable His law to be known and understood by all who are recipients of that covenant promise. Jesus reiterated this when he promised, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-14) One of the activities of the Holy Spirit is to enable us to recall and understand God’s Word, but to do that we have to be diligent in staying familiar with what it actually says. The analogy here to the criss-crossing trails described above would be the map. Having access to and studying the map is the surest way to keep on track with where we intend to go.

Godly advice – Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “ where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” This verse is often quoted without acknowledging the context in which he spoke it. This is in a broader passage in which Jesus is encouraging believers to be diligent to correct the sin that lies among them (e.g. church discipline). He describes the process in a progression from private confrontation, to larger group involvement, and finally to a whole congregation appealing to someone to end their sinful choices. The principle here is that none of us is ever intended to operate in a vacuum. The choices we make should always be made with consideration of their impact and influence on others around us. And, since we are surrounding ourselves with other like-minded believers (the local church), that enables us to give and receive guidance and correction to one another. In the analogy of my wandering along the trails of Turkey mountain, I had the ability (via my phone) to read others’ advice about not getting lost on the trails, and I could have called for help if I had fallen or gotten lost.

Circumstances – Another way in which we can receive guidance is through the events that God allows into our lives. I continue to assert that I do not believe in coincidences. God is very much involved in directing our paths and does so through the arrangement of events that intersect our lives. This is illustrated in numerous examples throughout the Bible. One in particular comes to mind. Paul, Silas,20170224_153655 and Timothy were on what is known as Paul’s second missionary journey, as recorded in Acts 16 and beyond. Verses 6 and 7 tell us that “they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” Now this does not explicitly say in what form the Holy Spirit directed them away from Asia and Bithynia, but by the fact that they “attempted to go”, indicates the possibility that circumstances arose that thwarted their efforts in that direction. Now, I caution reliance on circumstances as fool-proof indicators of God’s direction. These indicators are often more clearly recognized in hind-sight. However, when one is well-versed in scripture, and are consistently surrounding him or her self with Godly influences, it is much more likely that they will be sensitive enough to God’s prodding that they will be guided by their circumstances as well. In the hiking analogy, I equate this to using the sun and river as guides. Remaining aware of these will help you keep oriented in the right direction, as long as you acknowledge the broader truth that these reference points are not necessarily fixed and vary with time (particularly the sun). 

Humility – I need to also mention that a sense of humility is necessary to making Godly choices. 20170224_150933As I was walking on these paths, I needed to keep a close eye on my footing and be cognizant of my physical fitness (or lack of, as the case may be). I’m not an athlete. Neither am I as young as I used to be, which means that there are definite limitations to what I can safely or easily do. Now these paths were not terribly strenuous, but there were occasions in which I had to be very cautious and in some cases even turn back and choose another path because the way I was going was proving not to be safe for me. This brings to mind the caution that Paul gave in 2 Timothy 2:22-23: “22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” Sometimes we will find ourselves starting down a path that we quickly recognize as being unwise. A prudent believer will recognize and admit their limitations and turn around to choose a safer path before they find themselves deeper in trouble!

Oklahoma City National Memorial

I had a chance to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial and adjoining museum recently. It was a stunning reminder of the April 19, 1995 bombing attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, and the months and years of recovery, investigation, and trials which followed. The exterior grounds (the actual memorial) is operated by the National Park Service and the museum is operated by a non-profit foundation.

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Tons of emotions were evoked in me as I wandered through the exhibits and grounds. Sorrow. Empathy. Anger. Bewilderment. At first I was embroiled in sadness for the families of the 168 who were killed (and 680 others injured). Then I was focused on both anger and bewilderment at how or why individuals could possibly justify such acts of destruction and complete disregard for human life. Then in the quietness of wandering the memorial grounds outside I began to think about how these acts affect God, and the following three observations came to mind.

  1. God was and is grieved when evil manifests itself. People struggling with tragic events such as this or any other tragedy they’ve faced will sometimes ask, “Where was(is) God in all of this? How could he let something like this happen?” Even believers may wrestle with these questions, and skeptics will even go so far as to suggest that these types of events prove that there is no God, or at the very least that He doesn’t care. This is often referred to as the problem of evil and is discussed in numerous other venues, such as this and this.I want to point out, though, that the Bible is very clear on how much God hates evil and grieves over its impact. In Psalm 10, David (the presumed author) begins by asking the question, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Yet he confidently asserts a few verses later (vs. 14), “But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.”

    God is not unaware of our pain. He grieves when His people are in turmoil, even though they may be rejecting Him. He used the prophet Hosea to reiterate this point when he said, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? … My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.” (Hosea 11:8)

    The writer of Hebrews even reminds us that “since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

  2. Ultimate justice will be meted out. When one reads a statement like this in the context of something like the Oklahoma City bombing, a natural reaction might be, “Yes! Justice must be served! They deserve the harshest punishment possible for what they’ve done.” Indeed, that is a common theme through scripture. Consider again some of the Psalms, with statements like “For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.” (Psalm 37:17), and, “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:5-6).

    Isaiah also speaks of God’s judgment on the wicked. He says, “I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.” (Isaiah 13:11) Even in the New Testament, Paul asserts, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5:5)

    We may very well read verses like these and feel very confident in the fates of terrorists who harm innocent people. However, let’s stop and consider that phrase “innocent people”. It’s easy, perhaps, to place people whom we deem as “evil” at the head of the line of people deserving God’s punishment, but imagine lining up all the people in the world in a line like this. McVeigh and Nichols, and others who have committed egregious crimes can be at one end of the line and people might get progressively better as you move back through the line. So now, decide where the cutoff point is. Where do you draw the line and say that people on one side of that line deserve God’s punishment and the people on the other side of the line don’t? That brings me to my final observation.

  3. My sin is just as grievous to God as Timothy McVeigh’s and Terry Nichols’.

    Yep.

    The measuring stick or line that determines “good” and “bad” is determined by God, and based on God Himself. God is completely good and holy and righteous. When He is recognized as the standard to which all definitions of “good” should be compared, nothing else comes close to measuring up to that standard. God cannot allow any thing that is less than His standard of “good” into His presence (heaven). Paul makes the following observation in Romans 3:9-12:

    What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

    This is bad news for us. No one has a chance of being declared righteous based on their own deeds or lack of misdeeds. However, the good news is that Jesus fulfilled the requirement of God’s goodness and perfection. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Did you catch that? 

  • For our sake – God knew that we couldn’t help ourselves out of our mess, so He provided the solution for our sake.
  • he made him to be sin who know no sin – Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life, so God made him to “be sin” by allowing Jesus to take upon himself all the sins of the world and die a sacrificial death on the cross in the place of the sinners who actually deserved such a punishment.
  • so that in him we might become the righteousness of God – Because of Jesus’ death, and the fact that he won the battle with death and rose from the dead as evidence of the victory he had won, we have the opportunity to become righteous and good in God’s eyes. How?

John 1:11-13 states, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” When we receive Jesus, believing in what God affirms about him and trusting that God will count his righteousness to us, we become the righteous people that God expects. Not righteous because we do certain things, but righteous “of God” – He declares us righteous because we are linked inseparably to His righteousness – Jesus!