So apparently when I bought the laptop computer back in 2015 (actually, I can’t believe it is already five years old!), I also bought the set of Microsoft programs that I would use on it, and I must have been reimbursed by the conference at that time. An interesting and crafty sales maneuver of Microsoft, by the way, happened when they went from selling computer programs as a product, to selling programs as a renewable service, that you were given the honor of renewing each year, with updates and such. Shame on you, Microsoft – that’s a stinky thing to do… anyway, when the “renewal” time came up the next year, I bought the updated “service” using my conference credit card and my conference email. For four more years, I ran two emails simultaneously on my computer, which isn’t too rare, and also somehow had two separate Microsoft program systems at least sitting on my little computer, even while one of them – the one with my personal email – went further and further out of date. I really never noticed.
Now – fast forward to the wonderful land of retirement. I no longer needed, nor did I want the conference email on my computer, since I was no longer a superintendent, and certainly did not want to continue to get emails about things I no longer wanted to know! I thought I had been a shrewd and computer savvy guy by deleting my conference email account and all the emails I didn’t need that went along with it. Unfortunately, it was a lot like taking a pair of scissors and snipping off all the leaves on a rose bush, and expecting it to have then disappeared from the planet.
I was wrong – really wrong. I kept discovering this past week that I was constantly running into my conference email as the sign in source for all my computer programs. Uh – earth to Randy? Apparently you forgot that you have those programs on the system you purchased with your conference email as the sign in, and not your own personal one. I know, I know – it’s a bit complicated. And it only got worse. Not only could I not get rid of the conference stuff, I also couldn’t use my own personal system because it was four years out of date, and needed a renewal. However, every time I tried to walk through the steps to renew it, the diabolical – meaning evil, I believe – computer kept throwing me onto the nasty conference system. It was a huge circular mess. I’m old enough to have watched some of those “Twilight Zone” shows, where someone is trapped in a situation, and no matter what they do, they can’t free themselves… I was trapped in my own computer, with no way out.
Normally I would do one of two things. One, I would find a tall hill, and using all my skills learned of throwing boomerangs from my childhood lived in Australia, I would grip my laptop, and send it flinging far into the atmosphere, only to land hopefully in a large body of water. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before in eastern North Dakota there is neither a tall hill nor a large body of water. The best I could have done would be to toss it into the sprinkler, but that would not have been very dramatic. The second option would be to just go buy a new computer, and start over fresh. The trouble with that possibility is that I have hundreds of pages of writing – three or four books in the making, that are all hidden within the thick castle walls of the computer programs. In my life, I could never recover in my mind the thoughts I have written down. Now, of course, it’s nothing written that is going to save the world, or bring an end to the pandemic, but it’s my stuff, and it has some promise, if someday I can find a publisher. So, with that, I didn’t want to scrap it all, but it does mean I need to learn to backup data a bit more consistently… I know, I know – but right now is a little too late to lecture me about that piece of computer life that I conveniently avoided…
So, I came to the only option left. “Adam – do you have time to help me with my computer problem?” Adam for now is living downstairs, since he is working from home, and apparently as we sent him to college and graduate school, somehow he learned how to do “all that computer stuff…” Without even a groan, which I thought was pretty big of him, he came upstairs and sat in my comfy office chair, and began to hammer through block walls of the computer fortress, discovering secret passageways, and unused commands, and slowly and surely, he made it all the way down to the prison cells in the basement, and unlocked my poor outdated computer system, used my credit card to bring it back to life, and marched into the shining sun of victory.
Sort of. He did all that, but then discovered that for most of the last four years, I had been pushing data on the conference system, somehow, and so all of that will need to be discovered, backed up onto a hard drive, and then transferred to my civilian system, and then have the dragon beast of the conference system finally slain and dragged off and thrown into the abyss.
Sorry – I get carried away. It’s not that dramatic, but I have to tell you that even though I touched my first computer back in 1973, the entire enterprise is a bit wonky to me. It requires a certain brand of magic, and dealing with computer fairies and ogres, and not a small amount of code and back space and serial numbers and passwords of enormous length. It’s not my world.
I have a plaque on my wall that used to be applicable to working with difficult pastors, churches, and sometimes larger church messes. Perhaps you’ve read one before: “Do not meddle in the affairs of Dragons, for you are crunchy, and good with ketchup.” That now certainly applies to me and computers. That’s why God created sons, who, although they openly pity their poor ignorant and helpless parents, still will do what they can to overcome the messes that the “old folks” have done.
It’s sort of like finally getting payback for the dozens, even hundreds of times, Cheri and I came to the rescue for their sake growing up. School projects that were way beyond the construction skills of little kids, or math homework, or being handed something – anything – that needed fixing, or to be put back together, or cars that wouldn’t start, or even little rabbits stuck in the window well in the middle of the night. Part of the definition of “parent” is “One who takes care of the messes the child makes, with love and willingness, even if they are tired.” It’s nice to know that the definition of “adult child” is “One who does the same for the parent, when that time comes.”
A big part of life is found not in the perfect moments, but in the messes, and coming to know you can rely on someone, or Someone to get you through it. Blessings on your mess today – and I do hope it doesn’t have a computer involved!
Word for the Day: heckle. Sure – you know this word, maybe even from Heckle and Jeckle. The word is easily pronounced – HECK-ul – and it is defined today as “to question or challenge in an attempt to discover a weakness; or to taunt a speaker by pointing out his or her weaknesses in either presentation or content.” A heckler is someone who is really irritating. Actually, if you take the word, heckle, back to the Middle Dutch, it indeed does mean “to prickle or irritate.” However, the word came into its useful meaning in the Middle English language, hekelen, which described the method of combing flax or hemp before it could be woven. Apparently, flax is a real stinker in terms of getting the actual fiber for spinning or weaving. After it is harvesting, it often is left to lie on the ground, to decompose part of the tough outer shell, and then the fibers are “heckled” and the pulled and combed, separated from the husk to create the useful material. Sure seems like a lot of work. So, when we are “heckled,” it feels like we are being crushed and pulled through a long toothed comb, where the worthless part of what we are saying is cast aside, to see if there is anything of value left.
On another note, a similar word is “hackles,” as in getting one’s hackles up. Normally, hackles are the long hairs that stand up on the neck and back of a dog when it is either frightened or threatened. They look like tall-toothed combs standing on the dog’s back. When our own hackles are up, it comes from the same feeling, especially if it happens while we are heckled.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.