Silver Coin Found in Pocket Change

Reverse Showing Mint Mark
World War 2 Silver Nickel

A few days ago, I received a silver coin in my change for a small purchase. I didn’t notice what I had till yesterday. When I opened the console in my SUV, something in the coin holder caught my eye. Later, I looked more closely, and I found a WW2 silver nickel. It’s a 1944-D, to be exact. During the war years, nickel was a strategic metal for war production, more essential than silver. So silver was substituted for nickel in United States 5-cent pieces. They’re easily recognized by the placement of the Mint Mark above the dome of Monticello on the reverse side. I estimate the condition of this coin as Extremely Fine, which puts the value at about $2.00 – not bad for a nickel found in pocket change!

Disaster on the Polar Express Layout

A disaster on the Polar Express Layout – I made a silly mistake, and it proved very expensive. When connecting a new Lionel GW-180 transformer to the accessories circuit on my layout, I inadvertently reversed the polarity – connecting positive to negative and negative to positive by mistake. When I turned on the power with the polarity reversed, it blew-out all of the accessories connected. Seven remote control Fastrak switches were destroyed. I now have to replace all of them. I bought the new switches online from Grzyboski Trains (link below). The Lionel GW-180 transformer was purchased from Trainworld (link below).

https://www.grzyboskitrains.com
https://www.trainworld.com

Using Woodland Scenics Just Plug Lighting with Department 56 Christmas Pieces

When we decided to place these three Department 56 Christmas pieces in the hall connecting our dining room and kitchen, we were faced with the problem of no convenient electrical outlet to illuminate them. We looked into the cost of cordless lighting from Department 56, but decided that it was too expensive. So I checked-out Woodland Scenics products, which I use all the time on my model railroad layout. And that’s the way we decided to go. We purchased the items we needed from Amazon and Trainworld. Links and more information are provided below. Don’t forget to “Like” and Subscribe!

The battery charger and the batteries were purchased on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com

The Woodland Scenics products were purchased from Trainworld: https://www.trainworld.com

Battery Charger: EBL Smart Multi-Functional Battery Charger for AA AAA 9V 6F22 Ni-MH Ni-CD Rechargeable Batteries (3 in 1)
Batteries: AmazonBasics 9V Cell Rechargeable Batteries 200mAh Ni-MH, 4-Pack
Battery Pack: Woodland Scenics #JP5682 Battery Case
Lights: Woodland Scenics #JP5743 Just Plug LED Nano Lights (2pcs) – Warm White
Light Hub: Woodland Scenics #JP5701 Just Plug Light Hub

Building an Outdoor Cat Shelter

Building an Outdoor Cat Shelter

This shelter will accommodate approximately two to three adult cats, depending on how sociable they are.  Smaller totes can be used to make a smaller shelter.  However, the difference in cost usually isn’t significant.

Materials needed (all of these materials should be available at Lowes, Home Depot, or similar stores – Total cost depends on local pricing.)  I’ve noted where I purchased each item in the list below. Only a small portion of the tape, and about 1/2 of the insulation board, are required to assemble a shelter.:

1 – Rubbermaid 31 gallon plastic tote with lid (Lowe’s)

1 – Hefty 66 quart plastic tote with lid (Lowe’s)

1 – 4’x8’ one-half inch EPS insulation board with one foil side (Home Depot & Lowes)

1 – six or seven inch length of 6-inch diameter drainage conduit (Home Depot*)

1 – roll of All-Weather duck (duct) tape – Regular duct tape may be used, but may be degraded by weather and UV light. (Home Depot)

*  Home Depot sells this online in ten foot lengths, with pick-up at your local store.  Since only about 6-7 inches are needed for each shelter, a ten foot length will build a lot of shelters!

Tools needed:

a tape measure or a T-square (a T-square works well to draw straight lines)

a black Sharpie pen

a heat-gun or a handheld hair dryer to heat and soften plastic before cutting the six inch doors.

a sharp box-cutter or other knife to cut six measured pieces from the EPS board, and the six-inch diameter doorways, aligned through both plastic totes.

a scissors to cut duck tape into useable lengths

Overview:

The cat shelter consists of the Hefty tote placed inside the Rubbermaid tote, with a piece of half inch EPS insulation board between the inner and outer totes.  The shiny foil side of the insulation board faces inward – this reflects infrared and keeps the body heat from the cats inside the shelter, so they stay warmer.  The foil side of the insulation board may need to be wiped clean with a damp cloth or paper towels to remove excessive dust/dirt that has accumulated on the surface, before it is cut and installed.

Bedding can be straw, old towels, or anything that the cats can snuggle in to keep warmer.  Don’t use hay – it will absorb moisture and make the inside of the box damp and cold.  If using textiles as bedding, it should be monitored to ensure that it remains dry and clean.  Adult cats will virtually never soil the bedding.  Kittens, however, may not be wise enough to leave the box to take care of their business.  

Another option is an electric “K&H Lectro Soft Pet Heating Pad”.  These are available on Amazon in two sizes.  The smaller size works well for these cat shelters.  They are pressure activated, so they heat only when a pet is laying on them, and they only heat to the pet’s body temperature.  This helps the animal maintain its body temperature when it is especially cold outdoors, while drawing very little electricity, and with no risk of overheating.  The electrical cord is armored to prevent animals from chewing on it, and the cord can simply pass through the doorway opening.

Doorways should be placed on the end or off-center on a side (closer to one end and about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom).  In our experience, cats seem to like the door on the end, which enables them to cuddle up at opposite ends inside the shelter.  The plastic totes are not square.  They taper from top to bottom, so the insulation board for the sides and ends will need to be tapered, as well.  The inner tote is not as long as the outer tote.  If the door is on the end, there will be a void at the opposite end between the totes.  The insulation board should be cut to fit closely around the inner tote.  Some gaps may occur around the lid.  In a typical North Texas winter, these gaps are not a problem.  

Directions:

  • Cut a six or seven inch length of drainage conduit.
  • Decide on the location for the doorway on the outside of the larger tote, and mark a six-inch diameter circle with a Sharpie, using the six-inch drainage conduit as a template to get the circle the right size.
  • Using a heat gun or hair dryer, heat the plastic and soften it to make it easier to cut the doorway.  Use a sharp boxcutter to cut the entry hole, following the Sharpie outline.  
  • After cutting the hole in the outer tote, put the bottom layer of insulation board in the outer tote.  Then put the inner tote inside and, using the Sharpie, trace around the hole in the outer tote to outline the place on the inner tote where the doorway will be cut.  (Be sure that the inner tote is sitting on the insulation board liner for the bottom to get the height right.)
  • Cut the inner tote doorway in the same manner as the outer tote doorway.
  • Put the insulation board piece for the doorway side of the totes in place between the inner and outer totes and trace where the hole for the door will be cut.
  • After cutting the entry hole in the insulation board, assemble the shelter, taping the corner edges of the insulation board sides together to make a tight fit over the inner liner.
  • Holding the inner and outer totes in place, insert the drainage conduit to create an entrance tunnel.  allow about one to two rings (about 1 to 1.5 inches of the conduit to extend inside to inner tote.
  • Cut 4 to 5 inch lengths of the tape to completely seal the conduit and the totes together.  Overlap the pieces of tape about a quarter inch to form a complete seal.  Repeat this on the inside of the inner tote. 
  • Completely tape all the way around the doorway to hold the two totes together and to keep moisture out of the space between the totes.
  • Tape all the way around both the inner and outer ends of the conduit to protect the cats from any sharp edges around the door openings.
  • Place the lid on the inner tote, cover it with the top piece of insulation board, and put the lid on the outer tote to complete the shelter.

Placing the shelter:

Depending on how skittish the cats are, keeping your shelter relatively close to a backdoor is a good idea.  It makes it easier to monitor use, and also discourages other critters from becoming squatters in your cat shelter.  Wherever you put it, be sure that it isn’t in the path of running water during a rainstorm.  Sitting it up on bricks or 2x4s to raise it up and protect it from rain, ice, or snow accumulation is a good idea.  Also, position it so that the entry isn’t facing north or west, to keep out the prevailing winter winds.  While we’ve never had a problem with wind moving our shelters, putting a couple of bricks or other weights on top might be a good idea.  We also stack these shelters two high, with a small wooden “porch” just below the height of the entrance to the top shelter, to make it easy for the cats to get in and out.

The Story of David and Bathsheba, Biblical Text 2 Samuel 11:1 – 12:25

Today, we think of David as a great king, a powerful warrior, a devout man especially favored by God.  Whether recalling the handsome young shepherd whose zeal for the honor of the LORD emboldened him, armed only with a sling and a few small stones, to stand against the giant Goliath, or the author of psalms expressing adulation, thanksgiving, and worship, David is to us a true hero of the faith.  How then could it be that this same man, beloved of God, could commit a sin so heinous as to fill us with revulsion?  In the eleventh and twelfth chapters of Second Samuel, we are confronted by a David far more complex, and far more human than the king we learned of as a Sunday School hero and the author of the Twenty-third Psalm.

The first part of the story of David and Bathsheba is a tale of illicit lust, base treachery and betrayal, and the arrogance of power spinning out of control.  David is the all-powerful king of a country that, though small in geography, enjoys remarkable military success.  That success is attributed by the populace to David, who, though not entirely without enemies, enjoys widespread support and popularity among the Israelites.  Yet, throughout the earlier chapters describing David’s life and accomplishments, it is clear that the success he enjoys comes from the favor of the LORD, not from any intrinsic power or wisdom in David.  Indeed, David’s sole source of strength is his faith in God.  But here, as Chapter 11 opens, David seems to have forgotten who it is that is his strength.

We are told that, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army” … “But David remained in Jerusalem.”  One can only speculate why this great warrior king decided to remain in Jerusalem while his army went out to face the hardship and danger of warfare without him.  We cannot add to the Word of God, but one wonders whether David may have become too fond of the perquisites of the kingship that the LORD had so graciously bestowed upon him.  

In any case, one particular evening, rather than being encamped with is army besieging the Ammonites in Rabbah, David was taking the night air, strolling around the rooftop of the palace.  As he enjoyed the pleasant evening, he saw a woman, presumably naked, bathing on a nearby rooftop.  At this point, we may speculate that this first sight of Bathsheba bathing was inadvertent.  Though it is possible that David saw only what he was already looking for.  Again, we will not go beyond the text.  In any case, David already had several wives.  He could have immediately turned away.  He could have gone back to his bed alone.  Or he could have gone to one of his wives if he felt he needed female companionship after glimpsing the beautiful bather across the rooftops.   But he didn’t.  He gazed long enough at least to see that, “The woman was very beautiful,…”  

Now the die was cast.  David sent someone to find out who she was, and then sent messengers to bring her to him.  He had made up his mind that he would have her in his bed.  What Bathsheba thought of all this, we are not told.  However, it probably mattered little.  David was, after all, the king of Israel.  His word was law.  This part always reminds me of a paraphrase on a famous line from the musical, “Damn Yankees,” What David wants, David gets.  And Bathsheba, David wants you.  Bathsheba would have been in no position to resist David’s advances.  So David committed adultery with Bathsheba.  

In short order, we learn that Bathsheba had been impregnated by David.  If ever there was a time for repentance, it would seem that this was it.  David had sinned, and his sin had produced serious consequences.  But it seems that David’s first thought is on covering up his sin.  This part seems especially strange given David’s close relationship with God.  Did he think that God was unaware of what he had done?  David first tried to arrange for Bathsheba’s husband, one of David’s loyal soldiers, Uriah the Hittite, to sleep with her and so make it appear that the child was legitimate.  When Uriah failed to cooperate, David grew desperate to hide his guilt, and arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle.  It happened just as David had planned.  So now David added murder to adultery.

In due course, after the period of mourning, David had the pregnant Bathsheba brought to his house and made her is wife, and she bore a baby boy.  Now we are told, “But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.”  No kidding!  Here we have the king of Israel, a man chosen by God for great things, enjoying success after success, and exercising power over the entire people of God, behaving as the pagans whom God had empowered the Israelites to drive out from the Promised Land.  At this point, one wonders what was going through David’s mind.  Did he think he had gotten by with something?  After all, Uriah was dead, the beautiful Bathsheba was now sharing his bed, and he had a new son.  It was good to be the king!  But God was displeased.

God sent the prophet Nathan to show David his sin.  Nathan told a story of a wealthy man who had taken from a poor man the one little lamb that was all the poor man had.  This is a classic story of self-righteousness, as David’s anger burned hot against the rich man in Nathan’s story who had taken the most cherished possession of a poor man.  Then like an arrow piercing his heart, David heard and understood the words of Nathan, “You are the man!”  Nathan recounted all of the blessings with which the LORD had showered David, but still it hadn’t been enough to satisfy David’s sinful nature, and now the full weight of his guilt overwhelmed him, and he confessed, “I have sinned against the LORD.”  And Nathan announced God’s forgiveness to David.  

Nevertheless, sin is not without consequences.  Nathan’s further pronouncements included God’s judgment on David and his house.  The son born to Bathsheba would die.  The sword would not pass from the house of David.  David’s wives would be taken from him in due course and someone close to him would lay with them in broad daylight (fulfilled in Absalom’s rebellion).  But David was still a man after God’s own heart, and God’s favor would not be withheld from him or his house forever.

So what are we to make of this king who, so blessed by God, nevertheless commits murder and adultery?  First, he is no god himself.  He is human, like you and me, a sinner from his mother’s womb.  But, second, he knows who God is, and he knows whom he has offended with his sin.  When confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan, he did not deny, he did not rationalize, and he did not further compound his guilt with prevarication.  Instead, he confessed.  Simply, honestly, and forthrightly, he stated, “I have sinned against the LORD.”  He could have claimed irresistible temptation (I can hear a lesser man exclaiming his innocence by saying, “The woman, whom you made so beautiful, bathed naked in full sight of my roof top.  It was her fault.  How was I to resist – I’m only human!”)  

David’s actions after the baby became ill, as Nathan had prophesied, was also revealing.  He spent the next seven days and nights praying to God to have mercy and let the child live.  Yet when the child died, David accepted the judgment of God.  He worshiped the LORD, accepting the justice and the will of God.  And David continued to be blessed by God.  Bathsheba conceived again, and bore a son named Solomon – who continued David’s line.  And God blessed David beyond all measure when he kept his promise that through David’s line would come the Christ, who would save the world.

Now we turn to David’s Greater Son, Jesus Christ.  Like David, Jesus was beloved of the Father.  Like David, Jesus maintained faith in the Father despite all of the suffering he endured, even unto death on the cross.  But unlike David, Jesus was more than human.  While fully human, he is also fully God.  When confronted with temptation, David acting on his humanity, gave in.  Jesus, touching his divinity, resisted all temptation and remained sinless.  Though offered all power on earth when Satan tempted him in the desert, Jesus rebuked the tempter and remained sinless.

We, like David, are human.  While we are called to resist temptation always, we continually fall into sin.  Though we think that we do not commit adultery and murder as David did, the words of Jesus convict us, reminding us that if we lust in our hearts, we have broken the commandment and committed adultery.  If we hate our brother, we have broken the commandment and committed murder.  We don’t want to follow the example of David into sin, but we do want to follow his example into confession and repentance.  And what comfort beyond all understanding is ours when we know that, just as God forgave David, he forgives us as well.  

This doesn’t mean that our sins have no consequences in our lives – the alcoholic who has abused his family and driven them away from him, but who confesses and repents and puts his trust in Jesus has the certainty of forgiveness.  But he may still have to live with the pain of divorce, and the disability brought on by a damaged liver.  Nevertheless, the God who forgave David and continued to love him and bless him is also the God who will forgive us and continue to bless us in Christ Jesus, as we, like David, are saved by grace through faith.  

Even in suffering, God works to bless those who trust in him and remain faithful.  David’s life is filled with both anguish and joy.  Throughout it all, David remained faithful, and God continued to love him and care for him to the end.  Just as it is with believers today – God will never abandon those whose trust is in him.