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Monday, July 31, 2006


24 hours smarter

My brain has been infused with 24 hours of knowledge dripped from the lips of learned individuals in my professional field. On the other hand or cheek, my butt is just now losing its numbness from sitting all that time.

Conferences are fun overall. The best thing is you get to get away from the routine of the job. I also like meeting other folks from around the state, and listening to presentations and comparing that information to what I already believe.

I like it when I learn things or, even better, if I have to think about something for a while to make it make sense.

I like to observe the other folks and measure myself by them. It is a good way to either feel smug or be challenged to get off of your tail and catch up.

More than anything though, I become aware of all that I don't know. Over time, I tend to sacrifice thoroughness for practicality or I assume things. This is always a tension. The trick is to do the best job you can in the time allowed.

I could really help someone if I only had them to work with and unlimited time and resources to do the job. However, I have to help several people at once and the time and resources are limited. That is why you have to be flexible and creative.

Most jobs are challenging if you take them seriously. My little trip to school gave me a few ideas I can attempt to apply back at the ranch - we'll see how it turns out.

It was a nice break, but today is back on the horse.


Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Getting Schooled

I am going to be in the exotic location of Lafayette, Louisiana until Friday getting my learn on.

Here are the courses:
• Assessing risk in patients
• Differential diagnosis and co-occurring disorders
• Psychopharmacology for non-physicians
• Criminal law and mental health
• ADHD: a practical update
• Ethics and the law

I will have a laptop with me so I hope to post. We'll see.

We are leaving at 5:00 AM Wednesday so I am going to have a short night.

See you in the funny papers.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, July 25, 2006



I know it is just a temporary thing, but I am feeling blah. Maybe it's the heat, or maybe it's the time of year, but it's still blah.

I am doing my scheduled runs, but it is a mental wrestling match to get my sorry carcass out on the street. Work is a drag, it is even a chore to walk Bear.

The last three weekends, I have worked my rear end off and have been physically drained. Add to that the long runs for my next marathon 6 weeks away and I really get tired.

In some ways, feeling this way is interesting, because it is unusual for me. I am nowhere near depressed. This is not serious or of any concern, but I am lacking enthusiasm and ambition. Those are two things I like too.

I am going to a three-day training in Lafayette Wednesday through Friday. Maybe the change of scenery and activity will spark the creative juices. It ought to be fun. Me and two of my pals are going together.

The good news is I will knock out 24 of the 40 CEU's I need for my counseling license.

OK, I am tired of listening to myself whine.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, July 24, 2006


The Bear Report

Bear after a trip to the river
By Bear

Hi Everyone, it's me Bear.

It's been a while since my paws have graced this keyboard. I have been doing my job watching Daddy and playing football with him. That's right; football. Daddy bought me one and I love it. It even has the team colors of our favorite team - the Chiefs.

Daddy has been doing a lot of work with the TV's and speakers. He gets the ladder out and disappears on top of the roof. I hate it when he does that because I can't go up there with him. I can hear him on the ceiling and I get upset. Sometimes I just sit around and howl until he comes back down.

When Daddy comes back in the house he is soaking wet and dirty. I think he found a good place to swim and roll, but he doesn't look like he was having fun.

Sunday, he put a piece of furniture together. It was a TV stand for the front room. He is always doing something with his tools. Some of them make lots of noise. Sometimes he makes noise, like when he hits his thumb with a hammer.

LJ has been home all summer and he throws the football for me some. He will be going back to school in about a month. I like it when people are around. Before I know it though, I will be alone all day again, sigh.

I have had some fun. On the Fourth of July Mommy and Daddy ran in a race at the park. After the race, Daddy came home and got me and we went back to the park. I got to eat hot dogs and chicken from his jambalaya. There were other dogs there too and I got to play with them some.

For the last three weeks, Daddy has been watching the Tour de France. It finished yesterday and Floyd Landis won the yellow jersey. That means an American won the race 8 years in a row. I couldn't imagine riding a bike 2,200 miles. Come to think of it, I couldn't imagine riding a bike at all.

I better end this so Daddy can take me for a walk. I don't want to keep him waiting.

I hope you have a nice Monday.

Bye for now,


Thursday, July 20, 2006


One small step . . .

Neil Armstrong on the moon July 20, 1969

On July 20, 1969 I was 12 years old. I was at Boy Scout camp in the Kansas City area; Camp Naish.

That evening the campers huddled in an outdoor shelter and gazed at a small black and white television. We watched in amazement the grainy video as Neil Armstrong stepped from the lunar module to the surface of the moon.

I was a little boy, but I believed my country could do anything. That made me believe that maybe I could do anything too.

Man is incredible in that he can do magnificent good and yet unimaginable evil. If a large group of us embark on a mission and employ selflessness and single mindedness we have very few limits.

Man's potential is largely untapped because of bickering and selfishness. As one preacher put it, "We are like millionaires writing ten cent checks."

I am not giving up on us just yet however. If we could walk on the moon that long ago - what could we do today if we set our minds to a task?

That night was 37 years ago. Were you alive then? What were you doing?

Here's to potential.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, July 19, 2006


A tattered business card

Sometimes in my line of work you encounter someone who grabs your heart. Today was one of those days.

We take care of people with chronic mental illness so we see them again and again. Some of the patients have pretty good support. They have families or someone in their lives that look out for them. Others are less fortunate.

One of those less fortunate, I will call Rusty. Tuesday afternoon I got a call from the receptionist. She said there was someone up front who was asking for me and said he needed to come into the hospital.

I walked up front and saw Rusty sitting in the lobby. He was a mess. His clothes were dirty and drenched with sweat. Rusty was talking rapidly in short choppy sentences. He was shaking and his legs were wiggling and he could not sit still.

Rusty had been the victim of a crime. I won't go into just what and where, but it involved abuse of a physical and sexual nature. He was hurt and scared. I asked him if he had told anyone about the crime and he said no. "I kept my mouth quiet until I got hear because that is the best thing to do."

In his own simple words Rusty told me what had happened to him. He had been victimized by some brutal animals in human form. He kept repeating himself and I tried to give him comfort and assurance.

At 45 years old Rusty is not a child, but his mental age is. He has led a difficult life and has burned all of his bridges with his family. His mother is simply unable to manage him. To protect herself, she had to put him out. Believe me when I say, she tried but she really had no alternative.

Rusty hasn't stayed in group homes or anywhere very long. The right kind of place does not exist for him. The best place in recent times is a small camper / trailer in the woods on some land his boss owns. Rusty does some work performing manual labor and he seems content in his setting.

Unfortunately someone with schizoaffective disorder and mild mental retardation is an easy mark for low life predators. Three hell bound men had their way with Rusty and I am sure their cruelty will leave scars unimaginable.

Their time will come.

As I talked with him writing down the details of what happened and assessing him for injury, Rusty reached into his pocket and withdrew his wallet. He dug around in the billfold laying cards and pieces of paper on my desk, then he said, "I still have this that you gave me."

He handed me one of my old business cards very tattered and torn. It was soft and worn from years in his billfold. It was barely readable and the corners were worn away. On the back of the card I had written down his mother's name and her phone number, but some of the numbers had been rubbed off from wear. “I can’t call my mother because the numbers are gone,” he said.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was who he came to when he was in trouble. For Rusty and others, I may be all they have. I say this not just about myself, but other healthcare workers as well. If we do not help them, who will?

I felt a lot of feelings this afternoon. I felt sad for Rusty and had compassion for him. He seemed like an abused puppy. I felt anger toward the people who hurt him, but I know God will handle up on them. I felt proud and honored to know I was who someone would turn to in a time of crisis. I felt a renewed responsibility and importance for what I do.

We sent Rusty to the emergency room to get checked out. He will return to us and we will get him back on his feet.

I still have the tattered business card. I gave Rusty a new one. I think I will frame the old one and put it some place where I will see it often. Those tattered edges and faded words will be a call to action for me and a reminder that there are people depending on me.

Until the next time
John Strain

PS: Today is my 3rd Blogaversary


Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Kenny Chesney

Kenny ChesneyKenny Chesney is playing a concert in New Orleans this Thursday night. Guess where I will be?

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, July 17, 2006


Beating the heat

A fact of life in Louisiana is the heat. Complaining about it is like griping about snow in Alaska. When it comes to running though, heat is more than an annoyance, it can be dangerous too.

My next marathon is Labor Day in Tupelo, Mississippi so I have to run long distances in the heat. It wouldn't be so bad if I were to get up and run at 5:00 AM or even 6:00 AM, but lately I have been getting out the door around 8:00 AM and 8:30 AM on the weekends to do my long run.

Yesterday was one of those late days. It was 9:00 AM and the temperature was already 90 degrees. The heat doesn't just make you suffer, it hurts the workout. I have been struggling just to finish my long runs, much less do the proper pacing; speed up as you go.

So instead of broiling in the hot sun, I ran the mile to the gym and put in my 12 miles on the treadmill. The treadmill offers a cooler environment, but the boring factor goes way up.

The bank of television sets in front of the line of treadmills are too far away for me to see, so I usually just run and look at the same old never changing scenery. It is a different kind of struggle that is really a toss up. Do I want to be bored out of my mind, or do I want to roast?

I opted for the boredom yesterday. Only this time, I took the iPod. I never have listened to music while running. One reason is I can't see very well so I depend on my ears to alert me to cars and bicycles coming my way.

That wouldn't be a problem in the gym. If a car runs over me while I am on the treadmill on the second floor of the gym, then it was my time and being zoned out on Jimi Hendrix wouldn't be the reason for my demise.

Another reason I have resisted the iPod is I like to just be outside and listen to what is there. Birds, barking dogs, children playing, and the sound of my feet hitting the pavement is my playlist.

It was an interesting experience. The music really cut into the boring factor. Time seemed to pass more quickly. Some songs were motivational and gave me a boost of energy. I actually enjoyed the 12 miles and my pacing was good. I slowly sped up over the hour and a half and finished fast.

Something else. On my way home, I just walked the mile instead of jogging easily. I kept the iPod on and it was interesting walking hearing the music. It was like watching a movie. I had a soundtrack playing for the sights I was seeing.

I don't think I am going to start running with the iPod, but when I don't get out the door early enough on the weekends, it will be easier to go to the gym and endure the treadmill as long as I have my music machine with me.

Keep cool folks.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, July 14, 2006



It is easy to become jaded these days. Under a seemingly constant barrage of bad news, angry conversations, and disagreeable politics, becoming dulled is a natural defense.

The problem is, becoming jaded is an unhappy state and others will not enjoy your company.

Who gets jaded? Everyone. If you work with the public you may be at the front of the line. Policemen, salesmen, healthcare workers, teachers, are all top candidates to become angry, desensitized, and generally fed up with the human race.

The jaded individual tends to see the negative in everything. They expect the worst in people and situations. Usually, they have past experiences to back up their opinions.

This attitude permeates your life and you can become what you despise.

When I rode in the patrol car with my friend Bob off and on for several years, I realized how a police officer is constantly confronted with the worst of humanity and people at their worst.

Issuing tickets often evoked complaints, whining, arguing, and other undignified responses from the guilty party. Intoxicated individuals surely had had better days in their lives. The police officer also sees carnage from accidents and the results of angry tirades leaving bodies broken in ways most folks never see.

It is no wonder police officers often become cynical and angry.

In my line of work, I see a lot of personality disorders. Others are very entitled and try to use their "mental illness" to wring every morsel of favor from the system they can. The families of the mentally ill can tick you off. From using the patient’s check to outright neglect, there is a lot of pain generated by the folks who should be quarters of solace.

Hurricane Katrina brought out the worst in many people. Just review the fraud perpetrated on FEMA. Think back to the looting. Stories of evacuees being poor guests and over the top politicians certainly added shades of green to my level of jadedness.

I am reminded of a line in the Bible attributed to Jesus. "The poor you will have always." He was stating a fact. No matter what we do, no matter how benevolent we become or no matter what programs are implemented; there will always be poor folks.

The same can be said about people behaving badly, disrespectfully, and dishonorably.

The problem for us as individuals is balance. Are you aware of how negative and cynical you are? With me my level of jadedness moves along a continuum with completely jaded on one end and Pollyanna on the other end. Hopefully I stay somewhere in between.

To repair the damage, you need some of the opposite experiences. You need to see the best in people, witness a heroic deed, see someone give to others not expecting publicity, and just experience good old, innocent, genuine, love.

Friends are usually a good source of this. Family is too, hopefully. The good is everywhere the bad is, it just doesn't jump out at you like the negative stuff does.

Good is quiet, modest, and doesn't look for fanfare. The complaining, negative, entitled, whining, individuals are preceded by marching bands and accompanied with bullhorns.

The devil may shout, but God only has to whisper or move a gentle breeze across your face carrying the smell of freshly cut grass to let you know Who is in charge. Some may use a clenched fist thinking it is powerful, but that pales in comparison to an open loving hand freely offered.

The Yankees may be down 8 - 0 in the third inning, but you know that somehow they will win. Good and bad is the same way. We know that good will conquer evil.

You can wait around for that to happen, or you can start making it so in your life right now.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Homemade Ice Cream

When is the last time you had some homemade ice cream? I was walking Bear dog at dusk last night. It is always a treat to watch the day begin and end. As darkness settled and I walked along in the warm humid night air, there was a gentle breeze that brought just enough coolness to make the walk comfortable.

For some reason, I remembered homemade ice cream. Before they came out with the electric ice cream makers it was the manual hand crank models. I have cranked many churns of ice cream.

Like many things, making ice cream was an event only part of which was actually enjoying the final result. One needed a churn, lots of ice, rock salt, a good recipe, and willing crankers.

Summertime was ice cream time and we took advantage of the sultry nights to enjoy a treat from the North Pole. At least, it tasted like it came from the North Pole.

Sometimes we would make ice cream to cap off a BBQ, but we didn't need a special event. It was common to just make it, but one almost always had friends and neighbors over to enjoy the making and eating of the icy delight.

Here is how it worked. The ladies would make the ice cream in the kitchen, while the men readied the churn somewhere outside. Everyone could catch up on gossip, tell jokes, and comment on current events.

I can't tell you too much about what went on in the kitchen. All I know is there was lots of yacking, chattering, and laughing. Eventually, one of the ladies would emerge with the churn filled with a special blend that magically transformed into ice cream after the men performed their own kind of magic on the concoction.

Outside, the men staked out a special spot. It had to have lawn chairs or some place to sit, it had to be a place where melted ice water and salt would not ruin grass or create puddles in pedestrian traffic areas. The good humor of the ladies could turn quickly if someone tracked muddy, salt water on one of their carpets.

In the days of the manual churn, the spot could be almost anywhere, but when electricity became necessary, the spot had to be wired. Some folks even made it in their kitchen sink.

I never was a fan of the electric churn. I think electricity eventually ruined everything for homemade ice cream. It took out some work, but a lot of the fun. It became more of a process than a social event and people found it even easier to just buy their ice cream from the grocery store.

What great memories. Summertime, warm night air, the sound of crickets, the blinking of lightning bugs, and the sound of an ice cream churn spinning in the night. The churn filled with the ladies elixir would spin around and around in its cocoon of ice. Rock salt was liberally sprinkled on the ice causing it to melt. The spinning and melting ice caused the potion to change from a liquid state to a consistency we all know as ice cream.

Churning was a perfect job for men. You could tell a lot about someone by the way they would churn ice cream. I never wanted to stop. "Do you want me to crank for a while John" someone would say. "Nope, I would say," with my tongue nearly getting caught up in the churn, out of breath, "I'm OK." Obviously marathons were in my future.

Others would easily relinquish the crank. If kids were around, adults wouldn't have to crank at all until the cranking got more difficult. Advice was always being offered, "You need more salt on that ice." "Turn that churn so the water flows out the hole that way." "Go tell the women to get the bowls ready."

Ice was for putting in the churn and putting down someone's shirt or pants. Lots of joking and hijinks accompanied making ice cream. Conversations and laughter filled the night and my memories are of happy silhouettes of friends and family.

When the churn got too hard to turn, the crank apparatus was removed and the bucket was filled to the top with ice. The frozen ambrosia was nearly complete. The ladies readied the eating area with bowls and spoons, kids were called in from play, and the men straightened up the cranking area.

Can you smell it? The fresh coffee that is; coffee and ice cream, spoons clanking on bowls, and the conversation momentarily goes away. I won't mention brain freezes and mosquitoes, but they were also a part of the homemade ice cream pageantry.

That is a lot of happy memories bouncing around in my head. I wonder if I would of had them if I hadn't taken Bear out for a walk. It is amazing what happens when you relax and let your mind kick into neutral.

I hope you enjoyed your ice cream. Just leave the dishes in the sink. The dish fairies will take care of them.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, July 10, 2006


Goodbye to an old friend

Old TV

Sunday I said goodbye to an old friend. Actually, as you can tell, I put it on the curb; already with the revisionist history. I wasn't sure if the garbage man would haul it off and I didn't want to take the time to drive it to Goodwill.

Within two hours, the TV fairies came and took it to another home. Given the way I separated from my old television, one might surmise I had no emotional attachment. After all, it is only a hunk of plastic, glass, and circuit boards. It is just a thing well past its prime.

I would wager you know and understand the feelings that come up when you part with something you had for a long time. Don't you get a lump in your throat when you clean out your car and hand the keys over to someone for the final time? A piece of furniture or clothing can muster the same reaction and my old TV was no exception.

That old TV came to live with us in 1986. I searched forever to find just the perfect set. Barbara can attest and she still talks about how many places we looked before settling on this particular TV.

It cost $600 and I bought it on credit of course. It was a prized possession and the state of the art at the time - a monitor television. That meant it had all kinds of jacks for plugging things into. It was stereo and could make the VH-1 experience even better. Movies took on a whole new dimension for home viewing, and it was a giant step up.

I loved that TV so when I was working one Saturday at Methodist Psychiatric Pavillion and got "that" phone call from Barbara you can imagine the feeling I got in the pit of my stomach.

She said, "John put pennies in the TV. It smoked a little bit, then it quit working." John was going on two years old and obviously trying to add to the lore of the terrible twos.

Apparently, my son, also an admirer of the new television, noticed slots in the side of the case. Not yet grasping the concept of cooling vents, he reasoned with his young brain that it was like a built in bank. He began to deposit little pieces of copper, which came to rest on the power supply. Copper being the good conductor that it is, shorted across streams of electricity never intended to meet as evidenced by smoke and no picture.

The television was so young and not ready to die and not in this way. I took it to the TV doctor who for the small fee of $100 brought it back to life. He even gave us the four cents John deposited.

At least I learned one thing about myself in that incident. I knew I was no child abuser. I had passed the ultimate test.

I have set in front of that television and screamed for joy and moaned in agony as I have lived the high and low points of my favorite sports teams. I saw the Jayhawks win the Final Four on that very television.

I can still remember the arrangement. I would lay on the floor, Barb would be on the couch, and John would be running around. Sometimes laying on me, other times playing on the floor, but eventually laying on the couch next to his mother.

My routine was to carry his slumbering body to his bed, make sure the door was locked, and then switch off the TV. I performed those actions many times.

When we moved to Covington, of course the television came with us and it was our main set until 1997 when I bought a big screen TV. Still, it has been used and it has been faithful for 20 years.

The picture was still pretty good, but the sound was a bit fuzzy on one side, probably just a speaker, but it was time to move on. Recent acquisitions made it necessary to move it out.

So goodbye old friend. There is life in you yet. We experienced a lot together. You have witnessed 20 years of my family’s history and you have been my window to the world.

Would somebody play the National Anthem? Now turn off the TV and watch the bright dot in the middle fade away.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, July 07, 2006



Do you remember what it was like to get a letter in the mail? Many now living do not know the anticipation of waiting on the mailman to see if there is a letter from a friend or family member and that is sad.

Today, most folks pick up the phone or shoot out an email. In our "must know it yesterday" society, letters are much too slow. Letters are not practical anymore and they don't make sense, and that's too bad.

I come from a family of letter writers. My mother was the example. I have memories of her sitting at the table writing. The sound of her pen sliding and dotting on the table had a certain rhythm to it and gave life to a home like the ticking of a clock or the sound of a hot water heater.

She chronicled our lives, dispensed wisdom, offered commentary on current events, and shared her feelings. People always loved her letters. I loved her letters.

Shortly after my parents divorced, my mother moved to southern Missouri to help her father who had been diagnosed with cancer. She sent letters and I began sending her letters.

Long distance phone calls were a luxury then and most people only used it sparingly or for practical matters. Her letters appeared in my dorm PO box when I was in college. At seminary in New Orleans, they found me there as well. After I was married, they did not stop, but I began calling home more often than I wrote.

The letters came almost weekly and they carried in them small town news, garden reports, and updates on friends and family members. They were a welcome message and a good companion to accompany a cup of coffee.

My letters to my mother tell my life's story in the day-to-day detail long-term memory cannot recall. I know this, because my mother saved all of my letters and recently returned them to me all tied up with green yarn in little bundles arranged by year.

I can read about my life in high school, college years, seminary days, dating escapades, job woes and successes, the birth of my son, and I can follow my own intellectual development.

It is a real gift and a treasure to have something from your past returned. In this case, I have been given my old thoughts.

These days Christmas cards are about the closest thing we do to letter writing, but most of us write one letter and the one size has to fit all. We are too busy.

Too busy?

Anything worth anything takes time and maybe even a little sacrifice and effort. What are we saving our time for?


Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, July 06, 2006


My life Part XII: Playing house, cleaning houses, and biding time

I had a masters degree and I was cleaning toilets and pulling weeds for a living. I guess God wanted to make sure I wouldn't become cocky; it worked.

On the upside, we had a place to live, friends, and enough money to pay the bills. We settled into a routine of sorts. Barbara and I worked all over the city and we kept busy. In the evenings, we fixed dinner and watched TV.

I was living a marriage stereotype and I liked it. Our apartment was small, but plenty big for the two of us. I had a grill to begin perfecting my BBQ skills. Barbara was trying out a different recipe almost every night.

I liked biscuits and Barbara, being a faithful wife tried to make them for me. Most attempts were close to good. It was like living an “I Love Lucy” episode, each night she would offer up her best effort. Sometimes they were flat and hard. Other times they were big and crumbly.

I worked at making tough biscuits appear tender and sometimes I needed extra water to wash down the dry crumbly ones, but I was not one to criticize good intentions - besides; I didn't have the balls then anyway.

My downfall is always my smart mouth. I tell people, usually after I just insulted them, I didn't mean it. The truth is I just can't lay off of a good straight line. One evening Barbara announced she had a new biscuit recipe. My response was, "Oh know, not another biscuit recipe."

I paid the price for my words with her hurt feelings and silent treatment, but she didn't hold a grudge long.

We were getting used to each other and my memories are good ones. We had fun and we were happy.

On the job front, I kept sending out resumes and regularly talking with my professors and the folks in the placement office. I had a couple of interviews, but nothing panned out.

In July, we went to Georgia to see about a little church just south of Atlanta. It was the stereotypic white Baptist church with a parsonage and cemetery all together. The church was over 100 years old and its members were mostly senior citizens.

Barbara and I stayed with the chairman of the board of deacons while we were there. In the evenings, we walked with him to his pond where he fed his pet catfish.

Fields surrounded the church and the man told us that in the fall after harvest, mice were everywhere. I guess once the crops are in and the fields are cut, they have no place to go. Barbara was getting nervous.

I preached the Sunday sermons on that July weekend. I don't remember much about them, but I do remember a conversation I had with the head deacon at his kitchen table.

He was asking me what I would do if I were extended a call to be their pastor. I told him I would probably begin by canvassing the area. I would go door to door and introduce myself to folks in the community and also use the opportunity to invite them to church.

"That's all well and good, but what if you knock on a door and it is a black person?"

"I would do what I said, introduce myself and invite them to church."

He pushed back from the table and stretched his head back some. "That could be a problem."

He went on, "In the old days, if we had a revival, the black folks would come and they would sit off to themselves, then after the service, they would go home. When the black folks had a revival, we might attend, but we would sit off to ourselves and go home after the service. A few years back when we were having a revival, some of the blacks wanted to stay, mix, and mingle. That was a problem"

He explained to me that the church had a rule that blacks could not be members.

I don't think I hid my shock very well. I tried to reason with him. I told him it wasn't my mission to get black people into the church, but neither would I discourage anyone interested in attending.

It is one thing to know prejudice exists. It is another thing altogether to meet it. Needless to say, I was not extended an invitation to that church either.

I remember a book written by JB Phillips, "Your God is too small." Another way to look at it is our pettiness is too big.

I knew something of prejudice myself. Barbara and I had a friend who was working for the Home Mission Board. She took it upon herself to look into our case and see why we weren't hearing from anyone.

Since our trip to Ohio, the phone stopped ringing. My attempts to find anything out were like calling the phone company. I talked to a lot of secretaries, but their bosses would not return my calls. I was beginning to feel like damaged goods.

One afternoon, Lisa called and talked to Barbara. She explained that the minister in Ohio, the one who put us through the inquisition, called the Home Mission Board and took them to task for sending them a handicapped candidate.

The folks at the Home Mission Board basically rolled over on me. They had not been sending out my packet, but didn't have the nads to tell me. Lisa raised some hell. She told them that my lack of vision was not a problem. She knew me and could vouch for my abilities.

She was angry and called us to let us know what had not been going on. The news hit me like a sucker punch to the stomach. I have been underestimated and written off many times in my life, but I did not expect it from servants of God. For the first time in a long time, I began to feel sorry for myself.

I found it incredible folks had no problem believing David could slay Goliath, but didn't see how God could use some legally blind guy.

I kept cleaning toilets and waiting. Fall was around the corner. I was wondering if I would ever get a church.

One August morning, I was cleaning Dr. Johnson's house when the phone rang. It was a man by the name of Larry Carter. He was on the line with another man named Matthew Stevens. They were calling from Rock Island, Illinois and they wanted to talk to me about being a church planter for their project in the Quad Cities.

The phone conversation went well and they wanted Barbara and I to fly up and see their mission. I accepted the invitation. My heart was pounding, I finally got another nibble.

"I need to tell you about my eyesight." I said. "I am legally blind and therefore, cannot drive a car. It isn't any big deal though, because my wife drives me wherever I need to go."

Matt and Larry took no exception to my vision problem. The trip was on.

Things were looking up and I could feel it.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Attic rat

Bedroom entertainment centerI have become an attic rat the past couple of days. I have a renewed appreciation for people who make their living working in attics; my air-conditioning man for example.

I have run up and down the ladder a million times. It is a good test of anger and patience to get way back in the attic and then realize you need somethig back on the ground.

My attic is pretty accessible in the middle, but venture out to the sides and the pitch of the room makes the space quite cramped. I have bumped my head more times than I can count, because it is a lot, and because I think I have a con - con - con - concussion.

I have inhaled dust and whatever is in the old insulation up there. I have given my sweat glands a good working out, and my knees are raw from crawling around. In spite all of this; I'm still not done with my projects. I am close, but not done.

All the cables are run and at their locations, but I still need to tie some electrical wire in to create another receptacle.

There is a lot of satisfaction in doing things yourself. I like the end result of course, but I also like the challenge. Of course when the job is complete, I have stories to tell the other men around the village campfire.

At least the bedroom project is finished. Hopefully the other stuff will be completed by this weekend.

Very exciting stuff.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Happy Birthday America

Click the link above for a tribute to America

Until the next time and God bless America
John Strain


Sunday, July 02, 2006


Things to do today

• Run 10 miles (in the rain).
• Walk Bear dog.
• Go to Slidell and pick up the component shelf at Circuit City.
• Mount my new LCD TV on the bedroom wall.
• Mount the shelf I bought with it.
• Move the DirecTV box into the bedroom from the living room. Lots of wire stringing and splicing involved here.

I like a project. A few months back I talked about the cable company calling me up trying to strong arm me into paying for all the channels I was getting from them.

I am only paying for the most basic plan because it is a backup for my DirecTV. They would call up and ask if I got channel 30; just want to make sure your reception is OK.

When I told them I did get channel 30 and it was coming in loud and clear, the tenor of the conversation changed. Oh, you aren't supposed to be getting channel 30, but you can for $30 a month. I like them, they are always looking out for me.

Because cable was a backup to DirecTV and I figured they couldn't filter out the upper channels, I always said thanks, but no thanks.

After about two years of this, they finally sent someone out to make sure I am only getting channels through 23 (ESPN). They finally did it.

Now it is my turn to fire back.

There were a few technical issues that made cable nice to have just by the way I had my DirecTV set up.

I have 2 receivers and one of them controls 3 TV's. To change channels one must be in the living room. Not good if you are lying in bed. Since I also had cable, I just flipped around on those channels. I still could do that, but my favorite channel 52 Fox News is no longer available - except on DirecTV.

So now that I can't lie in bed and flip from the local news to Fox News without going to the living room, I bought a new TV, mount, stand, and am going to move the satellite receiver into our bedroom. To top things off, I am going to hang the old bedroom TV in my bar.

The last thing I will do is call the cable company and cancel. They tried for $30 not satisfied with my $10 and now they will have $0. That'll show them. My annual payment of $120 will really be felt you can bet. Dump your Charter Communications stock immediately.

I am glad my son works for Circuit City. He got me a good deal on an open box (used) TV.

So I have a new toy to play with and it's all because of channel 30.

Until the next time
John Strain