None of what follows is of earthshaking importance, but at one point Marlene said, "This is a Murphy's Law day." I suppose it started when I meant to get up early--about 3 AM--and drive to Tupelo, Mississippi to visit my brother Alan. I'm taking a few days this week to work on a book manuscript, and I thought I could visit my brother, do some bike riding in the sunny South, and work on my book at the same time. That's the sort of idea that worked better ten or fifteen years ago. Marlene and I have always enjoyed long trips in the car. In our early years we enjoyed driving from Dallas to Los Angeles. Many times we drove from Dallas to Alabama. When we moved to Chicago, we made many trips to Alabama and Mississippi. A ten or twelve hour day in the car was no big deal. I remember one marathon 17-day vacation that took us from Chicago to San Francisco, down to Los Angeles, then to Phoenix, on to Dallas, and eventually back to Chicago. So I was all pumped and primed and ready to drive to Tupelo in the wee hours of the morning when reality set in. After getting about three or four hours of sleep on Saturday night, then preaching three times on Sunday morning, then having Easter dinner at our home for fifteen people, it just hit me. I couldn't do it. Just too tired to make the long drive by myself.
I was getting ready to go to bed when I discovered that we didn't have any hot water. Go downstairs and find water pouring out of the washing machine. Fiddle with things until I figured out how to turn off the hot water. Got up this morning and fiddled around some more. Definitely still not working. Since Nick was leaving this afternoon to back to college, and since he brought his dirty clothes home with him, and since he had naturally left them in his duffel bag until last night, I volunteered to go to the Laundromat. The last time I did that was about eight years ago. They had so many different washing machines I couldn't figure out which one to use. Wasted a few quarters in the wrong one. Spent an hour and a half reading the paper while waiting for the clothes to be done.
Then back home, drop off the clothes, pick up the checkbook and go to the Post Office to pick up some commemorative stamps. This part is a bit of a digression. Twenty-five years ago, when I pastored a church in Downey, California, and definitely before the age of personal computers, Marlene and I and Joanne Hale attended a day-long seminar on how to write letters with a whiz-bang machine called the Friden Flexowriter that could produce form letters. Someone had figured out how to make churches grow through "personal" form letters, and that's why we attended the seminar. It was all very impressive, and even though we didn't buy their machine, I've never forgotten what they told us. When sending a letter you want people to read, you should handwrite the address and use a commemorative stamp. They also said it helps if the stamp is slightly askew on the envelope. Since our two youngest sons are going to China soon (our oldest son Josh is already there), we're sending out letters to various friends. That's why I was on my way to the Post Office in search of commemorative stamps. After perusing the selection and not finding anything I liked, I happened to see some 37-cent stamps honoring the Chinese Lunar New Year. Perfect. American stamps with Chinese characters on them. They didn't have quite enough so I bought what they had and made up the remainder with the very impressive Ronald Regan commemorative stamp. On my way back, I thought to myself that those Friden Flexowriter people would be proud of me. When we got home, I showed the Chinese Lunar New Year stamps to Marlene, who was suitably impressed until she opened the package (they didn't have any sheets of stamps left so I had to purchase a special package for extra money). For one thing, the woman at the Post Office said the package contained 48 37-cent stamps. Not quite right. It contained 26 37-cent stamps plus (and I still don't understand this), 3 29-cent stamps, 3 32-cent stamps, 2 33-cent stamps, and 2 34-cent stamps. Now I ask you, who uses a 29-cent stamp? I checked the package and nowhere does it say, "You are about to buy some stamps in very weird denominations."
While I was trying to figure that out, Marlene said that she had sealed a bunch of envelopes and had forgotten to insert a special card that was supposed to go inside each one. I think that's when she said, "This is a Murphy's Law day." So I got in the car and headed back to the Post Office. Amazingly, in the twenty minutes I had been home, highway crews had blocked off the main road to the Post Office. I arrived after detouring a few blocks. The man at the counter was very patient, but it was confusing when I said I needed 3 8-cent stamps, 3 5-cent stamps, 2 4-cent stamps, and 2 3-cent stamps. Back home I went, stamps in hand, not thinking anything about what the Friden Flexowriter people would say now.
By then the repair lady had finished with our washing machine. $198 to replace a faulty intake valve. Meanwhile Mark was carrying out a broken lamp to the garage. It was a very nice (though not expensive) vertical reading lamp from our living room. Someone had been wrestling around in there (names omitted to protect all the guilty parties) and the lamp stand had broken in two.
As I write this note late at night, I can report that I never made it to Tupelo, the washing machine has been repaired, and we got the commemorative stamps on the envelopes with the cards inside. At this moment I'm at a hotel south of Chicago, getting ready to work on my book manuscript. The day is almost over, and I think it's time to go to bed before anything else happens.
To sign up for Pastor Ray's free weekly sermon email list, click here. You can find his daily weblog, online sermons, travel schedule, and other resources at www.keepbelieving.com. You can write Pastor Ray at [email protected].