D-I-Y Project of the Day (with pictures!)

A few months ago our main shower began to have a small problem with a slight dripping.  It was due to the knob for the hot water having a worn out rubber gasket.  The problem with fixing this is that in order to replace the gasket, one has to have some special tools that will actually reach far into a very tight spot, and I don’t have any tools that could do that.  I also don’t have much hope for being a successful plumber.  I learned that from my dad who was also a rather remarkably bad plumber!  (I don’t cook either, but I can do windows!)

On one occasion about 2 months ago, there was a significant problem with the plumbing on the roof.  Yes, roof plumbing is universal in Mexico because pretty much everyone needs a water storage tank on the roof because water in the public water lines isn’t always available, and a storage tank will provide a water supply when there isn’t water coming in from the street.  Not only does that mean there is a water storage tank on the roof, but there are pipes and valves and, in our case, a hot water heater with more pipes…and a gas line, etc.  It gets a little complicated up there on the roof…not to mention the large stationary gas tank.  Come to think of it, I’m so glad the cupola was struck by that lightning bolt last fall and not the LP gas tank which happened to be just over our heads when that lightning struck.

Ah…I digress (which as you know, I rarely do…ha!).  So, the point about the roof was we had a problem up there, and the owner of the house sent a plumber that he knows to fix it.  It was a big job and he did fix it.  When he finished the big job, I thought, well…he’s a good plumber, maybe he can fix that drip!  So, I asked him if he could and if he would.  He could and he did.  Sorta.  Within 24 hours of whatever he did, the knob for the hot water was dripping again…and now the knob for the cold water was also dripping!  Arghhh.

This pretty much sums up the vast majority of our experiences with plumbers and electricians and most other fix-it people that we’ve come across down here.  We typically have to fix their fixes…which has caused a fixation on my part with not asking fix-it people to fix anything because most of the time they’ll just make the fix-it job bigger and more complicated and more expensive, and I’ll have to eventually fix it myself anyway.

So, the past couple weeks, the dripping has gotten worse.  At times the dripping is not dripping but simply running.  We have a set of valves outside of this bathroom for both the hot and the cold water.  We ended up turning the cold off (because it was running the worst) and leaving the hot with a bit of a dribble.  Of course, this created a situation.  The bathroom didn’t have cold water and so the toilet tank would not be able to fill.  We solved that by putting a large bucket in the shower to catch the dribbling hot water (which wasn’t really dribbling out hot to speak of).  We then used that bucket of water to refill the toilet tank.  Yeah…we’re hillbillies (except I didn’t find a way to use duct tape in all of this).  Get over it.

Of course, there’s more to the situation.  The valves outside of the bathroom are magical.  They not only control the water flow in this one bathroom, but also the flow of water in the kitchen (which is on the other side of a wall from this bathroom so I guess that’s logical).  What isn’t logical is there is also a bathroom on the other side of the kitchen and it is unaffected by these valves.  So, only the kitchen had to go without cold water in addition to this bathroom.

Leaving only hot water working meant that taking a shower or washing dishes could get to be too hot to handle, so we had to turn down the hot water heater.  And with cooler hot water, showers get cold more quickly and some complain but mostly, all take quicker showers.  Maybe we’ll save some money out of this problem yet!  The LP gas is more expensive than the water…I think.

Yet, as you wise people know: a neglected problem becomes a worse problem.  We finally found the hot water was not just filling the bucket enough for a toilet tank refill, it was overflowing the bucket after just a short overnight.  That’s not acceptable.  That’s a lot of water.

But we don’t know any good plumbers, and I’m only good at breaking things and making things worse…hey…maybe I could get a job as a fix-it guy?  Hmmm…well…I digress yet again.

Today, after our morning Bible study, I decided that Bethie and I should drive over to our local Home Depot (yes, we have a pathetic version of this poor excuse for a hardware store) and see if we could come up with some ideas on how to fix this problem.  I thought maybe I could figure out how to get those gaskets changed out.

What we came up with was not exactly the direct route to solving the problem, but it appears to be working for now!

IMG_3274 IMG_3275

So what you’re looking at there is a heavy duty valve (with the blue handle) which I attached to the “water saver” that doesn’t really work.  I decided to leave the water saver because it’s been on there a very long time and it’s not leaking.  Why fix something that ain’t broke when my experience has been that doing so is likely to break it?  Anyway, adding the valve was quite simple.  The problem with that was the valve has “female” ends on both sides and the shower head needs a “male” end.

Hmmm…Home Depot only had a small, angled “male-male” piece that I wasn’t sure would work but for $3, it was worth bringing home to save a trip back.  I quickly figured out that the angled piece wasn’t going to work because…it was angled.   I also realized that it is 100% plastic.  Give me a break.  It needed to be straight otherwise the shower head would be pointing back at the knobs or straight up in the air.  We may look strange, but our bodies are not going to be able to get wet with these contorted spray directions.  And seriously?  We’re going to have showers made out of plastic junk that would break if you happened to squeeze it a little?  Forget that.

So, back in the van and head downtown to the regular hardware stores with the shameful piece of angled plastic and the hope that my Spanish vocabulary would manage to help me find something that would work.

And so, after a few attempts at the first hardware store I came across…I purchased a lovely piece of  straight, heavy duty metal pipe with male threads on both ends and about an inch of plain pipe between the threads…wide enough to wrench it on and to hope for the best.  Total cost was 1/10th the price of the plastic junk Home Depot sold me.  It was cost about 35 cents.

Drum roll please….it works!  We turned the magical valves back on and with the blue-handled valve turned off, we get sweet silence.  Wait.  Stop the presses.  Cameron discovered that if the hot water knob is turned off (at least as turned off as we can get it with that bad gasket), it starts dripping from the knob!  So, we simply tried just leaving the hot water knob on and that did the trick!  The drips are gone.  Well…we’re still here, but the water drips are gone!

Necessity is the mother of invention.  If this invention doesn’t work, I guess we’ll be able to say that invention is the mother of necessity, and we’ll need to find a plumber who can attempt to fix the rubber gaskets that we’ve managed to work around…for now.  And as we’ve already seen, neglect is the mother of necessity.  You know…the fix-it “family tree” is really starting to flourish in this house, and it does appear to have a maternal bent.  You can draw your own conclusions about all that…but I’m not about to.  I have too many problems already.

For my next D-I-Y project, I hope to find an electrician who can figure out why it’s dangerous to be barefoot and to touch the fridge or my laptop at the same time that my feet are on the floor!  Don’t worry…I definitely have no plans to tackle that one myself!  (sorry to disappoint a few of you!)

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Josh McDowell & the Torah, an Egyptian burial mask, and a most valuable Bracelet

I’m behind on this post, but knowing it would be a long one, I’ve been taking my time getting to it.  A week ago Saturday (April 12), Josh McDowell gave a day-long conference and evangelistic message in an auditorium in Querétaro.  We had testing to give on Saturday in the opposite direction so we couldn’t go.  However, our teammates who were going offered to take Cameron with them.

So, after testing in Querétaro on Friday, Cameron and Dayton stayed overnight with the Smith family.  We purchased Cameron’s ticket  at attend (about $8) and he went on Saturday for the day while Dayton stayed behind with his buddy, Ben.

Both of them had a great time and having both boys two nights away from home was something we have rarely experienced, if ever.  I can’t even remember such a time.  So, that was the setup for the day and we drove back to Querétaro on Sunday after our house church service to pick them up and enjoy lunch with the Smiths and get a summary of their experiences.

Wow.  That’ all I can say.  Josh McDowell is a rather famous name.  It sounds like he is famous for lots of reasons.  He’s an amazing brother in Christ and has an impressive testimony and walk of faith.  His book More Than a Carpenter is one of the top 30 selling books of all time.  Combined his books have earned over $100 million dollars and from the beginning of his ministry, he had it arranged so that the profits would go directly to ministries and not to him personally.  That fact alone demands respect in my opinion.

We didn’t know much about the conference, other than what was written on a promo poster.  Turns out, he didn’t follow that script at all!  He came with a totally different agenda and our co-worker said it seemed to be way better than what was listed on the poster!

Apparently, the McDowell ministry is in the early stages of some remarkable discoveries regarding the Scriptures and Josh wanted to share those with this particular group.  Why?  I don’t really know.  Perhaps just because it is so fresh and so exciting that he just felt led to present this information and display.  For whatever reason, he knocked everyone’s socks off with what he shared.

So, what was it?

I’ll have to show you the pictures that Cameron and others took.  Some are blurry as they were taken with a portable device in a room that didn’t provide enough light for the cameras of such devices and at the same time being bumped and jostled in a crowded room.  So, forgive the poor quality of the pictures.  Also, I listened to 3 different individuals, not at the same time or place in order to compile the following information/summary.  I was not there.  I think I have the gist of it quite accurate but there is always a chance that I may misstate a particular detail…so that is my disclaimer.

McDowell (or his ministry) brought a copy of the Torah (the Pentateuch…i.e. the Books of Moses or the first five books of the Old Testament…for those who don’t recognize any of those terms).  The original Torah is thought to date back to about 1,500 B.C. when written by Moses.  This copy was on the market after WW2 in Europe when a synagogue from a small town on the border of Germany and Poland decided to sell this copy of the Torah because it was valuable and because the town was literally starving and had no resources after the war to feed themselves.  They decided to sell their copy of the Torah in order to survive.

So this copy that was put on display is unusual for a couple of reasons.  It dates back 500 years, thus back to about 1,500 A.D.  Why is this unusual?  Because normally a copy of the Torah would only be kept in use until the ink begins to fade.  At that point, a professional scribe would be hired to copy that copy and then the original copy would be sealed up and buried/stored.  In some cases, the holders of a copy couldn’t afford to have the long scroll copied (depending on the font type the total length is 112-148 feet and it takes about a year to make an acceptable copy that meets over 4,000 rules for making such a copy).  In these cases, a professional scribe could also darken (restore) the ink of the text which would prolong the life of the original copy for another 100+ years.

So, for this copy of the Torah to have been purchased with an age of 500 years means that it was restored several times rather than having been replaced with a new copy.  That’s important to note because apparently this is not common to have a copy that has received such treatment and to survive 500 years without being set aside in lieu of a new copy.

As an aside, this particular scroll was treated so that now the ink cannot fade in order to preserve it and to allow it to be put on display.  It was partially unrolled and people were allowed to touch the blank borders.  The text itself was not allowed to be touched but not because it would degrade the ink but because the human skin oils would collect dust on the surface and require a costly cleaning.

Also as an aside, the scroll actually comes in sections which are tied together so that if there is ever damage to any particular section, that section can be copied and replaced as necessary.  Apparently, the newest section of this particular scroll is about 500 years and some sections may even be older.

Another unusual significant detail of this scroll is that it was copied from a scroll that itself was known to be 1,000 years old.  That would mean that between this copy and the copy from which it was made together date back to about halfway back to the original writing.  There is no other known set of copies that could make this claim.

McDowell explained some of what is involved in making a copy.  It is impressive, thorough and a process that virtually eliminates the possibility of errors of any kind.  I’m sure even those in attendance would have difficulty remembering all of these points and I certainly couldn’t present them well since I was not there.  I have found a list online from a Jewish source that describes some of these particulars which do indeed agree with the details I was told in piecemeal fashion.  Here is a list from one source:

• A Torah Scroll is the holiest book within Judaism, made up of the five books of Moses.

• There are 304,805 letters in a Torah Scroll.

• Each page has 42 lines.

• The Torah Scroll must be written by a specially trained pious scribe called a sofer.

• A sofer must know more than 4,000 Judaic laws before he begins writing a Torah Scroll.

• It takes about a year to write an entire Torah Scroll.

• Even a single missing or misshapen letter invalidates the entire Sefer Torah.

• The Torah we use today in your synagogue is written exactly the same way the Torah was written the very first time by Moses 3,300 years ago.

• The Torah is made of many sheets of parchment that are sewn together to make one very long scroll.

• The entire Torah is written by hand, each letter is inscribed and individually formed with a quill and specially prepared ink.

• The Torah is read at least four times a week in synagogues around the world.

OK, so here are a few pics and notice the external note cards with pics and explanation of particular details.  Cameron mentioned that some of the letters of the text include small decorative marks above the letters.  If there were just a few of these marks, they were purely decorative, but scribes are not at liberty to remove them so they leave them in their copying work.  If there were like 4 or 5 of these marks, it actually is significant and has meaning other than decoration and so these especially should not be removed for that reason.

As mentioned in the list above, there is an exact number of letters in the Torah.  There is a numbering system used in order for a scribe to check the work to be sure that there is not one letter more or less than that number which is 304,805 letters.  They know exactly where and which letter is the middle letter of all of these…good thing it is an odd number, I guess!  If the middle letter is not that exact letter, the copy is incorrect, invalid and is destroyed.

IMG_20140412_122724 IMG_20140412_122730 IMG_20140412_122738 IMG_20140412_122811 IMG_20140412_122821Fascinating, isn’t it?

Well, McDowell wasn’t finished and the presentation turned to an even more impressive display.

It seems that in the recent past, perhaps 2013, the McDowell ministry purchased some Egyptian burial plates.  These were apparently decorative items found in burial tombs of ancient Egyptians.  These were made of papier-mâché.  A scientific investigation of these burial plates revealed that the paper-like products used to create these plates was not just plain paper but “paper” with writing on them, like we might use old newspaper.  It turns out the these old writings were often considered useless by the Egyptians and so fitting for use in a burial plate.  Guess what they had on-hand as useless paper?  Hebrew writings!  These burial plates contain ancient fragments of the Torah!  My understanding is that they decided to have the plates destroyed in order to salvage the fragments.  These apparently are among the oldest known surviving fragments of the Torah ever found.  They’re quite valuable and quite important.  In comparing these fragments with existing fragments/portions/copies of the Torah, there are no differences or errors.  They match completely.  The type of ink, the type of paper, and other particularities provide a dating system of these fragments and so once again, discoveries of ancient pieces of Scripture reveal that the copies of the Word of God have preserved the originals with an incredibly high level of accuracy.

In late 2013, the McDowell ministry purchased at least one Egyptian burial mask, made with a similar type of construction as the burial plates.  He mentioned that they paid $60,000 USD for it.  In early 2014 CAT scans were made of the mask and it revealed it is made entirely from fragments/portions of ancient writings.  Either they know or they think that there are about 22 fragments of Scripture inside this mask.  Each fragment would have a value of over $1 million apiece!  It’s rather amazing that they would even put this on display without a good amount of armed security!  But, no one knew this was coming and who would have thought?!

McDowell mentioned that not too long about only 50% of the Bible was well preserved enough with evidence to support just how well preserved the Scriptures are.  Discoveries in recent years (like the last 2 years) have bumped that percentage up to 90%, and they feel that with what they’re now finding in these Egyptian relics and other findings, that 100% of the Bible will be confirmed.

He mentioned a copy of one of the letters to Timothy was found recently that is dated by the paper and ink used to about 100 A.D.  That is a spectacular discovery as it totally destroys the modern arguments that the epistle was written hundreds of years after Christ and is not of Paul but of a later writer and thus not an inspired book in the canon.  Skeptics once again have been proven wrong and their efforts to discredit the validity of Scripture is once again denied.  (I would like to read of this more definitively myself as there was nothing in the pictures that supported this particular statement as far as I know.)

Here are the pics of the Egyptian burial mask which is covered in 22K gold:

IMG_20140412_141009 IMG_20140412_141033We’re thankful that Cameron had this opportunity to go and be encouraged in his faith and his walk with Christ.  He learned much and it is always good, in this day and age, to hear and see evidence for the validity of our faith, even if by definition, we believe in what we do not see.  Yet, there is evidence that can be seen that supports what we do not see.  Thanks to Bryan Smith for taking Cameron and his daughters Kendra and Tara to this grand event.  We had no idea how valuable this investment in a day would be for all of them.

Another of our teammates, Brock Hower, went as well with some folks from his church.  Brock was unable to take any of his kids (who are younger) and Bethie and I were actually testing his two oldest that day anyway.  Brock told me a really neat personal story regarding this event.  I’m sure I don’t have every detail exactly correct, but I think the following is a fairly accurate retelling of the story:

In the week leading up to this conference, one of the leading couples in the Bible churches of this region went up to the Howers “plantation” to get away from routine and spend a couple of days resting and taking a personal spiritual retreat.  During that time, Brock’s oldest son gave a wrist-band to the husband (Hector).  The homemade band was made of parachute cord which though only about the thickness of a very thick shoelace can hold 800 lbs of weight.  It is meant for rock climbers to wear and should there be an emergency situation, the braided bracelet can be quickly unwound and in the right circumstance could save one’s life while using it to support one’s weight while dangling or hanging on to a precarious perch.  It’s a neat thing to make and to give as a gift.

Well, I don’t know if the idea was for this bracelet was for it to be quickly given away a 2nd time, but Hector had the opportunity at the same conference to approach Josh McDowell.  In doing so, he noticed that McDowell had a couple of interesting bracelets on one of his wrists/forearm.  I also don’t know if Hector may have asked Brock or his son (beforehand) if it would be ok to give away this bracelet or if the original intent was to give it to McDowell or not, but Hector offered it to McDowell who was busy signing copies of his books for dozens of people at once.  Hector explained that what it was made of and how it is used and that it was made by an MK and explained a bit of the family experience as missionaries.  McDowell accepted the bracelet and began wearing it.

A bit later, Brock was able to get close enough to McDowell to introduce himself by saying he was the dad of the one who gave him that bracelet.  McDowell looked up and stopped signing books.  He quipped, “You look to young to be the father of the ‘kid’ who gave this to me!”  Of course, the child wasn’t there so it was a funny moment.

McDowell went on to say that he receives lots of gifts over the years and more than he can know what to do with.  However, this gift was special.  In fact, this bracelet is so special that he said that he’d only wear it for about a month, and that it means so much to him that he was going to take it off in a month and put it in a very special place.  This special place is some sort of “treasure box” that he had made, and that in it he is collecting his most valuable treasures.  After seeing a multi-million dollar Egyptian burial mask, one would have to wonder just what would McDowell put in such a treasure box and that it would be full of various gifts and treasures he’s collected over the years.  However, he’s quite particular with his gifts.  This bracelet (if I recall the correct number) will be the THIRD object to be placed in it.  He went on to say that he was going to pray for Tucker (Brock’s son) every day, for the rest of his life.  Seriously.

Josh McDowell has my vote for one of the most impressive Christians I’ve ever met or heard about.  His writings and testimony have led to uncountable numbers of people turning to belief in Jesus Christ.  Of course, it isn’t Josh McDowell that has made anyone believe, but certainly, God uses His people as important instruments in His hands to lead people to Christ.  How can they hear unless one is sent?  Thank God that he sent Josh McDowell into this age and this world to be salt, and light, and a voice that is heard proclaiming the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ…and who lives it very eloquently.


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Si Hubiera Estado Alli (If I Had Been There)

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Through the Life of Christ – A Worship Collection

I wanted to post more of Michael Card’s music in my last post and it dawned on me like Easter morning that over the years, Michael has published so much Scripture and biblical narrative in his music, that one can revisit much of the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and return of Christ through his songs.  Here is a “small” collection that I came up with that touches on many of these wondrous (and “woundrous”?) themes.

Worship Jesus and enjoy with me.

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He Is Risen!

Good Friday to you all and don’t forget…Sunday’s a Comin’!

One of my favorite Easter songs from 1981 (before Internet!):


and another favorite from the early 80′s…


and since we’re stuck in the 80s, here’s another classic…


and can’t leave out this one…


and Love Crucified Arose…

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Peace Child

A well-known and marvelous missionary testimony of reaching deep into a barbaric culture and pulling out an evangelistic illustration from their own traditions as a way to share the truth of God’s Word and the Good News of peace with God through Jesus Christ.

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Did You Know?

Q. Which country in the world receives the most foreign missionaries?

A. The United States of America

[excerpt from link below]

Meanwhile, most missionaries continue to go to mostly Christian nations. “The ‘top nine’ receiving countries were home to only 3.5% of the world’s non-Christians but received more than 34% of all international missionaries,” notes the CSGC. “All nine have Christian majorities, and they were home to over 34% of the world’s Christians in 2010.”

By contrast, “The ten countries with the most non-Christians in 2010 were home to 73% of all non-Christians globally. Because many of them restrict or deny missionary access, however, they received only 9% of all international missionaries,” notes the CSGC. The lion’s share are in China, India, and Nigiera, where “large numbers of home missionaries also work among non-Christians.”

The country that received the most missionaries in 2010? The United States, with 32,400 sent from other nations.

The Surprising Countries Most Missionaries Are Sent From and Go To

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