Monday, December 24, 2001

Tales from the front pew, Chapter 5

Part of the sermon this morning was a video clip from "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Our normally-fidgety David was suddenly riveted to the screens, watching Linus recite Luke 2. There was an audible groan from David when the clip ended. He immediatley leaned over to me and said (loudly), "Can we rent that video, please?"

When we collected the kids to go home, I noticed that Deb had the video in her hand. Seems that David had approached the pastor immediately after the service and asked him if he could borrow the video. They watched it this afternoon.

Thursday, November 22, 2001

Tales from the Front Pew, Chapter 4

It's been seven years now since we sat in the hospital for ten days with David when he was sick with spinal meningitis. As I recall, Thansgiving that year wasn't real thankful. But we have gotten many reminders over the years of how thankful we should be. The latest of those came, appropriately enough, on Thanksgiving day.

Deb and the boys were sitting in our usual spot, fourth row from the front in church; I was running the sound board in the back. From my vantage in the back, I could see that there was a good sized crowd here today. After the initial set of singing, Pastor Paul got up. "Happy Easter," he proclaimed. There was a tittering in the audience. "Happy Thanksgiving!" he corrected. After some more introduction, Pastor Doug got up. "You know," he began, "Pastor Paul was right. In a way, we do celebrate Easter today."

At this point a voice rang out clearly from the front of church. "It's Thanksgiving!" yelled David. The entire congregation roared. "Well," said Pastor Doug after a pause. "I guess that about says it all."

Seven years ago at this time, we were not sure what our son would be able to hear, if anything. This was a reminder that he not only hears, but understands what is going on. It just would be nice if those reminders came in other ways. My eight-year-old arguing with the senior pastor in the front of a packed church would not be my first choice.

We just had conferences for the kids at their school. One of the things that came up was that David's grammar was not as good as it could be. We were not surprised. After all, why put a period at the end of a sentence, or capitalize words at all? It doesn't change the meaning of a sentence, and it's just extra work. David doesn't like extra work. He knows the stuff, however. His teacher told us that he is the first to correct her grammar in class. One of the ways that Mrs. VanVugt tried to interest David in doing some better work was to let him do some of his grammar work on the computer. Correcting sentences like: peggy ate three candy bars She and the student teacher were talking over this with Deb last week when the student teacher began to giggle. She was looking over David's work on the computer and came across the above sentence. David corrected the grammar and then typed "what a pig" after it.

David was handed a paper in science class the other day. He asked the teacher, "Is this a test?"

"Yes," said Mrs. VanVugt.

"Well," responded David, "I better concentrate harder on this one then." David only concentrates on what's important. All the other stuff like everyday assignments and penmanship are not important. If it were his choice, he wouldn't do them at all.

I played tour guide the other day. Joshua asked me a while back if his ACT class could take a tour of Gentex as part of their studies on companies and think tanks. I agreed to this and set up a tour for the 20th. Three days before the tour, a company-wide email was circulated from the head of facilities saying that children were not allowed in the manufacturing areas. And I was planning on taking 18 fifth graders through the manufacturing areas. I did manage to clear it with one of the VP's and the tour went on as planned. My co-worker, Hal, and I split the group in half and each took a group around the plant. We had to stroll around the plant ourselves the day before because we don't often go to this particular building. So it was an education for us also.

Most kids would be fascinated by all the stuff they saw, but this group of naturally technically curious kids were oogle-eyed. A group of four of them spent several minutes analyzing a circuit board routing machine, trying to figure out how it worked. One of the workers in the circuit board assembly area gave a few of the kids some of the parts that were being put on the boards, parts only a little bigger than a grain of sand. It was rather funny watching them try to pass it around, especially when one of them dropped one on the carpeted floor of the conference room a little while later. We had lots of questions, but a few enterprising souls were repeatedly asking, "What do you do with the failed mirrors?" I finally reached into my box and pulled out one of my demo pieces, a piece of mirror glass with a circuit board attached to it. "Tell you what," I said. "I'll give this to Mrs. Gabriels [the teacher], and you can have it in your classroom to look at."

Mrs. Gabriels emailed me the next day saying a couple of her students were showing their friends from school the mirror that they have in their classroom. It must have made an impression.

Sunday, October 21, 2001

Tales from the Front Pew, Chapter 3: High Fives

Our church met in the Family Life Center (that's CRC slang for gymnasium) for the evening service. As usual, the Friends were seated near the front. Because we like the kids to be involved in the family giving, we often hand them the bills and have them place them in the collection plate as it goes by. A small gesture, but it does teach the importance of regular giving. David took the bills and inspected them and then held them high in the air at arm's length and studied them some more against the overhead lights.

"David, what are you doing?!!" hissed Deb, yanking his arms back down into his lap. She had to say this rather loudly because he doesn't hear a whisper too well, especially in the presence of background noise.

"I was checking if these bills were counterfeit," David shot back. The tittering and snickers behind us told us that many other people were witness to this scene and probably knew exactly what we put in the collection plate that night. Even the minister was laughing. He was seated right in front of us while the offering was being taken. Deb told him emphatically that we do not put conterfeit money in the collection plate.

Meanwhile, Joshua had smuggled half of an ink-pen into church in his pocket. He was playing with it and demonstrated his new creation to his mother during the service. He had taken the ink line out and inserted it backwards into the barrel of the pen. By blowing on or sucking on the barrel, he could make the ink line extend out of the pen and retract back into the pen. Deb told him to put it away. "But, Mom," he told her. "It's hydraulics!" How could he put something so important away? Deb told him that church was probably not the appropriate place for science experiments.

When we got home, I gently set Josh straight on his terminology. He was actually demonstrating pneumatics in the front of church, not hydraulics. Pneumatics is the use of air pressure to perform a task. Hydraulics uses a liquid (such as oil). "Cool!" said Josh. Maybe for the next offertory, we can demonstrate true hydraulics, now that his terminology is straight.

Sunday, September 9, 2001

Tales from the Front Pew, Chapter 2

It is was typical Sunday Morning. Deb and the kids were sitting in the customary spot, fourth pew from the front, just right of the center aisle. Since this was my month for running the sound board, I was in the back, pushing buttons. Our Praise Band led in worship this morning. The church was full. We had a baptism, which brought in the extended family of the baptized, and our Welcome Weekend, which brought in friends and community members. One of the songs the Praise Band led us in was the old Baptist favorite, "I'll Fly Away". It was over halfway through the song that Deb looked down and saw David worshipping in a style all his own. With each phrase of "I'll Fly Away", he would hop into the air, thrust his arms out, and start flapping furiously, as if he was going to take off. With the next "I'll fly away", the gyrations would be repeated. People occasionally raise their hands to worship in our church. But this is the first time I have seen anyone "fly".

We were just finishing a light supper before going to church this evening when the phone rang. There was a tornado watch. Church was cancelled for the evening. The kids were delighted (We are working on that). Deb went to turn on the TV to check the weather report. David, always full of hope, asked me, "Does this mean that there will not be any school tomorrow?"

"I doubt it," I told him. "The storm will be long gone by then."

Philippians 4:6 talks about bringing our requests to God. David did just that. He sat in his chair in the most contrite posture (something that's very rare in that child), held his folded hands to his chest, and fervently prayed, "Dear Jesus, please let there be no school tomorrow. Amen."

He wasn't joking. School is not his favorite place.

The kids brought home a video from church, the latest episode of "321 Penguins". Normally they watch it the following Sunday, but since today was different, maybe they could see it a week early. Josh started the negotiations.

"Since we don't have any church tonight, we could have our own church service here at home; read some scriptures and a chapter from 'Echoes Of His Presence', and then maybe watch the 321 Penguins video?" The last phrase of this was in a more questioning tone of voice. When we agreed to this, there was celebration in the Friend home. War whoops and cries of "YES!" from the kids. It took a little while to get them calmed down enough to start devotions. Our devotions were very diverse this evening. First, Herod the Great, then flying penguins. It's enough to take your breath away.

Monday, February 5, 2001

Tales from the Front Pew, Chapter 1

It started right away during the morning church service. During the piano prelude, David pulled out one hearing aid and announced that the battery was dead. Fortunately, Deb had a package of spares, so I replaced the battery and held it up to my ear to make sure it was working. It wasn't. I monkeyed with it through the prelude and most of the first three songs. Nothing. Dead as a doornail. I put it in my pocket. Looks like another trip across Grand Rapids to get it fixed. It may actually be still under warranty, if our audiologist actually filled out the paperwork.

The rest of the service went well until the very end. David has a much shorter attention span when he has only one hearing aid in so his attention was wandering more than usual. His children's bulletin was almost completely colored black from all the doodling he was doing and he spent some time fiddling with his clothing. Toward the end he was becoming restless and eventually started banging his head against the back of the seat. Softly at first, and then harder and harder. Joshua, sitting on the other side of Deb from David, tends to have a low threshold for this type of thing. Out of the blue, he reached out across Deb's lap and socked David in the shoulder. Deb was quite surprised to have a fist come flying across her sermon notes but regained her composure quickly enough to prevent a return strike. She had the advantage of already being between them.

David wore one hearing aid to the evening service. It was partway through the service that he pulled this one out and complained that it was itching. The other one was at home so we couldn't simply match the working hearing aid with the non-itching earmold. He now had no hearing aids and at least 30 minutes of the service to go.

You can imagine David's plight by trying to watch a news program on TV with the sound turned off. You really don't get much out of it. So, very soon after the demise of the second hearing aid, David began to tell Deb something. He now couldn't monitor his own speech, so she didn't have a clue what he was trying to say. So she turned over her sermon notes, gave him her pen, and indicated that he should write it down. He did. In his own second-grade scrawl, he wrote:

I am bord.

Deb wrote back:

Read the Bible for a while. And she opened the Bible to the book of Joshua. This lasted about three minutes. He took the pen again:

I don't know what to read.

Deb said:

Listen to God and pray for a while. Another minute and a half.

David wrote back:

There are too many choices to pray about. He had grabbed a whole bunch of Home Missions bookmarks on the way in and was looking over these. 28 prayer requests, one for each day of the month.

He also was clueless about what was happening during the service. He didn't hear the announcement for the offering or the offertory, so the plate passing by caught him totally unaware, so he didn't get his money out in time. He had to hand it to a deacon after the service. At one point in the service, the minister did something unusual and stood halfway down the aisle while reading the scripture. David must have thought Pastor Paul disappeared because he was looking all over for him. He finally spotted him through the other standing people, only because we turned him to face the right direction.

At this point, I think he resigned himself to be clueless and just sat there the rest of the service. We left fairly soon after the service, eager to get our son on-line again.