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Earlier this week, I went on a mini-retreat. I left Sunday afternoon and spent Monday at the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park. Sunday afternoon and evening the park was pretty busy. I could hear teenagers yelling to each other as they climbed the trails and walked within the park. But Sunday night everyone went home. One guy came to the park to walk every morning. As he went around Monday morning he informed me that I was the only one who had camped in the park that night.

Monday was pretty quiet. I spent time reading my Bible and I started Rob Bell’s The Velvet Elvis. I was able to go hiking a couple of times, though most of the trails were closed down due to flooding. I enjoyed the quiet. I enjoyed being by myself with God. Sometimes it’s good to get away.

I really dislike TAXES. I know it’s important to contribute to the well being of society. I know its beneficial; there are things we can do collectively that we can’t individually. But I wish there was a simpler way of making our contribution. 

Minister taxes seem to be especially difficult. In some ways we’re considered an employee. In others, we’re considered self-employed. Then there are special rules for clergy housing. It makes for a complex situation. In fact, it usually difficult to find a tax professional well versed in the rules for ministers. 
So, I do my own taxes. I’ve used the same tax software for the past several years and had become accustomed to it. But this year they made changes. I’d have to buy three versions of the software to cover all the rules for ministers. Instead, I made the switch. It’s more to figure out. I can only take the frustration in small doses. For two weeks now, we’ve had tax receipts spread out over my home office. 
I plan to have them done this week. I just wish there was something simpler.

Each week I take the boys out to give Traci a little and much deserved break. We usually go out to eat and then to a book store or some fun activity. Our youngest picked up a book on how to win at poker at this year’s library book sale. He’s been wanting to play ever since. 

So, last night we went over to some friends’ house and had a poker night. We had our IBC Root Beer and Cream Soda and pretzel rods for cigars. Our poker chips were candy; Jolly Rogers = 1, Double Bubble = 5, and Air Heads = 10. We played Texas Hold’em. 
It was interesting to watch the kids play (we had 5 from ages 10 to 15). Some would go all in quickly (and with nothing in their hand). They’d lose. Go borrow some  more candy from someone and be back at the table. Another didn’t want to risk it. He won a nice hand early, pocketed the winning and walk away. (He didn’t seem to understand that we were splitting all the candy at the end of the night anyway. For a brief while, it was his all his, and he wasn’t sharing it with anyone. Although, I think he might have been bank rolling some of the early losers.)
It was a fun night. We finally quit about 10:30 with 4 of the original 7 still playing. One remarked, “You play poker awefully well for  a preacher.” I didn’t start out life as a preacher. I was a finance major in college.

Traci took the boys to a local “Jakes Day.” The Jakes organization sponsors safety courses for guns and archery. They went last year and enjoyed it, so they headed back out again today. #2 won a gift certificate to a local shop. #1 won a knife . . . or so I thought. Our conversation was as follows:

Me: Where’s your knife?
#1: In my piggy bank.
Me: In your piggy bank?
#1: Yes, in my piggy bank.
Me: (looking in the piggy bank) There’s no knife in this piggy bank.
#1: Knife? What knife?
Me: What did you think I said?
#1: I thought you said money.
Me: Money. Knife. Yes, they sound a lot alike. Where’s the knife you won?
#1: I didn’t win a knife.
Me: You didn’t win a knife?
#1: No, I won a duck.
Me: You won a duck?
#1: Yes. I won a duck. . . . I traded it for a knife.
Me: So, where’s the knife?
#1: In my sock drawer.
Me: That’s a nice knife.
Sometimes communication is difficult.

We’ve been having problems with the goats born Monday night. They were all born breech. One died during the birthing process. Another died two nights ago. We were concerned that it was so cold out. We thought she would be OK, but she crawled away from the others and she didn’t survive. Last night Traci was concerned about the boy. She’s named him Manly. 

She brought Manly in to sleep in the sun room. Evidently our dog didn’t care for that. She went in and pulled off the towel we had Manly wrapped in. Manly let us know he didn’t appreciate that. So at 11:30 Traci went out to try to get him to feed. He wasn’t eating. Traci milked the mother and brought Manly back inside. She held and rocked him in front of our heater and fed him with an eyedropper. She got out a sleeping bag and curled up with him in front of the heater. (I think that lasted about half an hour; I went to bed.) 
Manly’s made it through another night. Sometimes life is hard. 

Tonight we met again for a time of prayer. We focused on Adoration. God is amazing. We read psalms and added our own praise. We also prayed for Jonah Williams (son of Matt and Patrice). After the time of prayer we went out to check on one of our goats. Faye was in labor before we began. She had three kids, all breech (one didn’t make it). The kids are very cute. God is amazing.