Saturday, November 7, 2009

Workin' on the car

I left a rather cryptic status update on FaceBook last night: "Not exactly what I wanted to do tomorrow..." or something to that effect. Here's what happened: when we got home from the potluck, there were billows of steam coming from under the hood of the car. It overheats periodically (more momentarily) but never like that. When I popped the hood, there was coolant everywhere. Initially I thought a hose had broken, but it was too dark to really tell, even with a flashlight. So, the conclusion to my status update was that I was going to have to work on the car today.

Now, some background. This section will be rather technical in nature, so if you don't know about cars, or if such things bore you, feel free to skip a few paragraphs for the conclusion. Warning over. On with the background: some months ago, I noticed the car was running hot if allowed to idle for any length of time; running the speed up helped it cool off. It kept getting worse, and eventually, a friend helped me diagnose it as a bad thermostat. By the way, I really was missing my dad around then... he'd have diagnosed it much more quickly.

So, I went ahead and changed the thermostat. After all, I could get to it easily, there was really nothing in the way, should have been super-simple. Of course not. Ford decided to use a t-stat housing with three bolts on this engine (why? idk. Maybe because the housing is vertical? Maybe because it's not one of Fjord's better designed models?), one of which is directly on the bottom of the housing. The top two bolts came out fine, maybe a little stiff, but nothing major. The bottom bolt (of course) snapped when I tried to take it out. I was very careful, but it did it anyway. I RTV'd the crap out of the gasket, crossed my fingers, and put the two bolts back in. It had a minor leak, but no big deal. Of course, the leak got worse, because it didn't occur to me to re-tighten the bolts after a while to account for gasket compression. So, we needed to constantly replenish the coolant, but instead of checking the levels regularly, lazy me just did it when it overheated.

This brings us to last night. A combination of having to run the defroster (which, on this car, automatically runs the A/C system, which has a leaky valve and thus no freon, so that heats the system up worse) and driving briefly on the freeway on a cold, damp night evidently made the gasket finally rip. I didn't notice any blown hoses, so here's hoping. Anyway, on to today.

I figured this would be my opportunity to go ahead and pull the rest of that broken bolt, particularly now that we have a second vehicle (that was one of the main reasons I didn't try to the first time - no way to go anywhere to get a bolt). So, I pulled the thermostat housing, then realized I needed space to get to the bolt. That necessitated removing the (distributorless) ignition from the end of the forward head, which required removing another bracket, which also had to be unbolted from a TVS, etc etc. Finally, I had the way cleared. I began considering what tools I had, finally concluding that I had no EZ-Outs, nor even any vise grips. Well, I had to go to Kragen anyway to get coolant and hopefully the bolts I needed.

So I washed up, stuck a bolt in my pocket, climbed into the truck, and went to Kragen (which, by the way, is about to officially become O'Reilly). That experience is a story of its own, which I will not share here in the interest of brevity (I know, too late). I was able to find everything I needed, spending more money than I wanted/planned in the process, so I came on home. On arriving home, it took me nearly two hours, several trips up and down the stairs (our apartment is upstairs), and a great deal of frustration to discover that I could not, no matter what I tried, get that stupid expletive-deleted bolt body out of its hole. The vise grips just ripped metal from the outside of the bolt; the ez-out just ripped metal from the inside of the bolt. Somebody probably crossed it up when they put it in, and then it proceeded to rust in place.

So I put everything together as best I could, put 2 gallons of coolant (mixed, of course) in, cleaned up a little, and went for a test drive. It seemed to be fine. I got home, popped the hood to double-check everything, and discovered I'd gone and left the lid off the coolant tank. Praise God, nothing happened; I put it back on and closed the hood. My wife said it was fine on the way to work. I'll check everything in the morning. This time, I'll keep an eye on the coolant and re-check the bolts periodically.

The point: I do not like working on cars. It makes me angry, frustrated, tired, and inflicts physical pain and discomfort on me. I know this. I knew this going in. "So what," you may be asking. Well, some time ago, Pastor Dane preached a sermon on the armor of God, and challenged us to pray each piece on every day for a week. I've been doing it since then, at least during the week. I tend to forget on the weekends; I forgot today.

Satan is an opportunist. Don't get me wrong; I don't believe he's omni-anything or that he truly has power over a Christian unless we give it to him. A lot of what we attribute to him is simply human nature, such as the consequences of our own laziness or bad self-image. However, I do think he uses our natural tendencies to push us. Here's what I mean: Say you make a mistake, not even necessarily a big one, just a mistake. That first little voice you hear, saying "You are such an idiot! Why do you do stupid things like that?" is, in my opinion, Satan (or his minion) whispering in your ear to get you to respond, "Man, I am an idiot! Why the heck do I always do that kind of dumb stuff?" You are not an idiot, and you do not always do dumb stuff. The prompt is the enemy; the response is human nature.

Back to my story. The impetus: I couldn't remove the bolt body no matter what I tried; not my fault. I broke it off in the first place, but it snapped at a level of pressure that does not normally break bolts --- weak bolt+poor installation = still not my fault. Today's prompt: "I can't believe you couldn't get that bolt out. You should have made sure it never broke in the first place; now what if you made it worse? This is why you should never work on cars. You always screw it up." And I started to buy that! I started to recite it, to believe it myself. Then I finally realized it wasn't my fault!! I didn't screw up! I did everything I could --- it just was beyond my abilities with the tools I have. I did everything right, even last time --- it's just one of those things that happen.

So here's the bottom line. PRAY!! Pray on God's armor every day, even the weekends. Given what it's done for me on weekdays, I firmly believe it would have helped today; I wouldn't have gotten so angry and frustrated, and I wouldn't have so readily bought the lies. On top of that, pray when you have to do something that you know makes you upset, or sad, or frustrated, or whatever. God will help you with that. If I had called on Him before I started, or really at any point in the process (other than "God, please make this work!"), my experience would have been better.

Will I ever enjoy working on cars? Not unless everything goes right, I have all the right tools, and I'm doing something I want to do instead of something I have to do. Will I continue working on them when what needs doing is something I can do? Yes --- but I'm sure as heck gonna pray first!!!!!

Purpose for the blog

In my opinion, this blog is not just to share the goings-on in my life with everyone. I feel that part of what God has charged me with is to help others grow and develop as Christians by sharing what He has been doing in my life, the lessons He has been teaching me through the things that happen to me. So when I share an event, or just vent, I will include the things that I think God is showing me with those things. I also intend to read my Bible a lot more; as I do, I plan to share what I'm reading and what insights God is giving me. Caveat: in these cases, what I will be sharing is not the meaning, it will just be my personal insights.

There will be things I will not share, but you won't know what they are, because I won't share them! :-)

Please enjoy my ramblings, and I hope that my readers will gain some benefit from my experiences and thoughts.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Well. My cousin is going into the Air Force; he leaves Sunday for MEP and Basic. He's 18. There was a potluck tonight at my uncle's place (his grandfather). I've been wanting to spend more time with my family, so we went. It was a lot of fun; I always enjoy spending time with my cousins. I just haven't done it much in years.

Family is so important. Unfortunately, my dad's generation had some problems among the siblings, so we didn't all spend as much time together as we should have. I haven't spoken to my other aunt's kids in a really long time. Of course, it doesn't help that I am way younger than any of them.

Anyway, it was nice to hang out with my cousins. I'd really like to go see my brother and sister (in law) and my nephews. But they live in MoVal and I live in Coalville. I barely have the energy to take care of my daughter after work and on Saturday. How do I manage to find the time and energy to visit family? What about friends, especially those I consider family? At some point in the past, I suggested to someone that maybe I should schedule visits. They said that didn't seem like a very... I don't remember exactly... loving, I suppose, thing to do. Like it would make them feel like a business obligation or something.

Here's the problem: If we don't schedule it, it's not going to happen. My daughter is only ten months old, and life is so busy we ain't got time for nuttin'. Between my work schedule, my wife's work schedule, church, and that pesky sleep thing, the only thing we seem to have time for is vegetating on the couch with the help of our laptops and cable TV.

So, my family and friends, know that I want to connect with you and spend time with you. Please don't be offended if I ask to schedule some time with you (I'm seriously considering trying it). Perhaps this will inspire some more of you to have conversations with your family...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Where is my Christianity -- really?

So I was participating in an online discussion yesterday. (BTW what's going on with me starting stuff with "so"? Just sayin'.) Anyway, I commented, supporting the view of the originator and most of the commentors. I was reading further today, as it was an interesting discussion. Another friend had posted a comment to the effect that perhaps the originator's actions in posting were wrong, or at least misguided. He quoted a great deal of Scripture and Christian thinkers supporting his point. His words made me question my own response, which in turn makes me question my entire Christian perspective.

Actually, that questioning is not new. This event just added to it. I look at my thoughts, actions, and reactions and wonder where I really am as a Christian. My thoughts and so on tend to fall into the category of "humanly" (to coin a term) rather than "Godly". And so I wonder. If my own personal life - my inner self - is not truly reflecting Christ, should I be attempting to teach others to do that which I do not do myself? I realize that even Paul struggled with this concept, but Acts records that more often than not, his true self was Godly, not humanly.

Am I a hypocrite when I teach? Does the simple act of standing in front of a group of people, sharing with them a Word I am not steeped in, teaching them about living for God, make me appear to have it all together? To be well-versed in these things and successful in all that I attempt, at least as far as living a Christ-like life goes? I think people automatically assume (not always correctly) that someone who is preaching has it all together, is living the way s/he should, has a fantastic walk with God, etc. etc. ad infinitum ad nauseum. So when those of us who do stand up to preach don't have it all together, aren't living the way we should, etc., are we violating those expectations? And if we are, do we do more harm than good?

On the other hand, God uses flawed vessels, the weak, and the imperfect. He deliberately chooses those who are not the best and brightest (don't believe me? Look at the disciples, who they were, how they acted, their personalities. Look at Paul, and Moses, and Abram/Abraham, and ...) to be His spokespersons. But don't we have an obligation to improve? To seek to live our lives in a way that brings glory to Him? Jesus calls all of us to be a light in the world, to be visibly His followers. I realize I am only human, and perfection, while I should seek it, is not attainable in this life.

I truly feel God has called me to teach and preach the Word, to interpret and make known what the Spirit has to say. But my attitude has to change. My actions have to change. I am not by any means qualified to teach, preach, interpret, or, really, even advise. But because He has called me, I will continue to do so.

By continuing to be in front of others, continuing to teach and preach, am I endangering others? Here's my final (for now) conclusion. It is fine for me to be in front of others, doing these things, attempting to help them learn who they are and Whose they are. That is, as long as I am aware I am far, far from perfect. As long as I don't pretend that I am an example of what to do as opposed to what not to do. On the other hand, I need to work harder at becoming the man God created me to be. I must make the changes that need to be made so that I can truly say, "Yes, you can do it. See? Even I did it."

So where is my Christianity? Really? My Christianity is on the journey. It is reflected in being open to the Lord's gentle nudging that I need to improve. It is in learning to be quiet and listen, to not be so hasty to judge or to share an opinion. I have much to learn and a long road to travel. But I am not alone in the classroom of life nor lonely upon the road, for even if none travel with me, I know that God is there every step of the way. That's where my Christianity is.