Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Am a Soldier

I've been trying to get people to wake up about the Lord Jesus lately, in my posts and Facebook entries. This is a message we must preach out of love, but we can't love these people to the gates of hell either. We must tell them the truth, whether it offends or not. The enemy knows his time is short and as Christians, we need to be more active in witnessing, unashamed, for Him who redeemed us. I was looking on Repent Amarillo's website, where I shamelessly got this quote from. It's a sobering reminder of what it really means to be a Christian...

"I am a soldier in the army of my God. The Lord Jesus Christ is my Commanding Officer. The Holy Bible is my code of conduct. Faith, Prayer, and the Word are my weapons of warfare. I have been taught by the Holy Spirit, trained by experience, tried by adversity, and tested by fire. I am a volunteer in this army, and I am enlisted for eternity. I will either retire in this army at the Rapture or I will die in this army. But I will not get out, sell out, be talked out or pushed out. I am faithful, reliable, capable and dependable. If my God needs me, I am there. If He needs me in the Sunday School, to teach the children, work with the youth, help adults or just sit and learn, He can use me because I am there! I am a soldier. I am not a baby. I do not need to be pampered, petted, primed up, pumped up, picked up, or pepped up. I am a soldier. No one has to call me, remind me, write me, visit me, entice me or lure me. I am a soldier. I am not a wimp. I am in place, saluting my King, obeying His orders, praising His name and building His kingdom! No one has to send me flowers, gifts, food, cards or candy or give me handouts. I do not need to be cuddled, cradled, cared for or catered to. I am committed. I cannot have my feelings hurt bad enough to turn me around. I cannot be discouraged enough to turn me aside. I cannot lose enough to cause me to quit. When Jesus called me into this army, I had nothing. If I end up with nothing I will still come out ahead. I will win. My God has and will continue to supply all my needs. I am more than a conqueror. I will always triumph. I can do all things through Christ. The devil cannot defeat me. People cannot disillusion me. Weather cannot weary me. Sickness cannot stop me. Battles cannot beat me. Money cannot buy me. Governments cannot silence me, and hell cannot handle me. I am a soldier. Even death cannot destroy me. For when my Commanding officer calls me from His battlefield, He will promote me to captain and then allow me to rule with Him. I am a soldier in this army, and I'm marching claiming victory. I will not give up. I will not turn around. I am a soldier, marching Heavenbound. Here I stand! Will you stand with me?"


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Replacing a Power Steering Rack in a Dodge Intrepid, Installation

Getting the gear back in is pretty much the reverse order of removal, with a few caveats. Make sure that the gear is turned all the way to the right (by hand) before you try to line it up with the coupler. This is the worst part. There is a flat spot that must line up on both the gear and the coupler or you will utter every expletive known. I had to take a screwdriver and using it as a lever (through the roll pin hole) to get it on back on the gear. Once this is on, take the roll pin and squeeze it in the coupler until it's relatively even top and bottom. By the way, if you're tempted to tap the coupler on the gear with a hammer DON'T. This coupler is designed to collapse in a crash and you will PERMANENTLY damage it if you do. The result is a dangerous steering steering joint that may cause a crash. Bite the bullet, pack your patience and do it right. Install the four bolts to secure the rack to the firewall and then reattach the coupler to the steering column.

The tie rods are another sticking point on this car. The wheels must be OFF the ground or you'll have serious problems. Take ONE of the NEW bolts, washers, the main washer, bushings and tab and assemble this into the RIGHT side of the gear. Thread this loosely by hand until you can almost tighten it all the way. Do the same with the left bolt, washer, bushing, using a screwdriver to pry the tie rod ends apart. Thread this BY HAND at least several turns. It will also be noteworthy to say that there is a spacer inside the boot of the gear that needs to line up with the bolts and holes in the gear. Assuming the spacer in the boot is lined up with BOTH bolts and the BOTH bolts are threaded in the holes straight, carefully tighting with a ratcheting box end wrench. These should tighten smoothly and easily. If not, find out why. You could be cross-threading the bolts and will do damage to the bolts or gear if you force it in. At best, the steering will clunk when you turn the wheel. At worst, you'll be in a crash faster than you can utter an expletive. Tighten the bolts securely and bend the retaining tabs over them.  Install the lines, reattach the hoses etc, but don't button everything up just yet. You'll want to bleed the steering gear first. This means filling the power steering reservior, starting the engine and moving the wheel lock to lock a few times (with the car still on jackstands); checking the fluid level all the while. Once the fluid level stops dropping and you've added it up to the fill cold line and you're satified there are NO leaks, you can install the rest of the parts and lower the car.

The cooling system on these is not going to be fun to bleed and you may want to take this into a shop to make sure it's done properly. If this isn't done right right you could have air spaces in the cooling system which could cause the engine to overheat. It also bears mention that you will want a service manual for this car. Maranatha!

Replacing a Steering Rack in a Dodge Intrepid.

I'm sorry I don't have pictures for this one as the work was bad enough without having to try and document it with the camera. Most if not all of the steps will be self evident if you have more than a little mechanical inclination. Again, if there are any doubts, take the car to a competent mechanic to avoid perpetrating expensive damage to your ride. I am not responsible for your errors and cannot warrant that my advice is correct. Do this repair at your own risk. You can take credit for doing the job right. This is a job for an experienced mechanic. I've been fixing my own as well as friends and families cars for 25 years. I'm experienced, but don't know everything by a long shot.

The steering racks on the Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde, 300M and LHS are basically the same, save that some models have speed-proportional steering. This simply means that the rack will adjust the power assist to max for low speed manuevers and minimum for highway driving for better steering feel. This rack will have an actuating valve with a couple of wires hanging out of it. These are NOT compatible with cars without this feature, as power assist will be minimal all the time, i.e., you will not be able to drive your car unless you happen to be Hanz or Franz. This will also be a stubborn source of leaks. If you get the wrong part RETURN IT and do NOT use a 25 mm plug to seal off the hole as this will not work, despite the insistance of the rebuilder. These units have a plastic plug where the actuating valve screws into that will pop out and spew power steering fluid all over the place the moment you try and turn the wheel with the engine on. The racks without this feature will NOT have this (25 mm) plastic plug. It pays to pay attention. God is in the details.

You will also want to purchase new lines and remove the reservior from the power steering pump. The fittings going to the rack are 19 mm and 18 mm. The pump may have a 19 mm and will have at least one or two lines on the reservior (I have a 2.7 liter engine, with the reservior on the pump. 3.5 liter people have the reservior in a remote location) Be careful when removing the line from the reservior as this part is brittle and expensive. The Dodge dealer sells this for over $90 as of this writing. Used parts can be a bit hard to find. The reservior has a screen inside, which should be cleaned with clean power steering fluid. Do NOT use brake cleaner on any power steering part as it will damage the seals. Those lines are also bolted to the frame rails. You could also try and save the lines and just flush them. Don't tell me I didn't warn you. You will need new O rings on the ends of the lines going into the rack of you go this route. You will not be able to access anything anyway until you start digging in, so to speak.

The wiper arms will have to come off first. Pry out the plugs with a small screwdriver and unscrew the nuts with a 15 mm socket. Torx screws hold on the cowl, removing the left, then right side. Set these where they won't get stepped on. The strut brace, that black thing that goes over the strut towers, comes off next, using a 13 mm socket. Use a 10 mm to remove the 3 bolts holding the wiper motor and linkage. Disconnect the electrical connector and set aside, laying the bolts inside the holes where you found them. The air cleaner assembly comes out next, with one plastic bolt you pry out, clamp you don't want to break, an electrical connector you want to keep track of and the two clips as if you were replacing the filter. Lift this off and set aside, leave the part with the filter in place. Drain the cooling system at least halfway.

Now would be a good time to disconnect the negative battery cable and raise the car a little bit, or not. Raising the front is MANDATORY when putting things back together as I will explain later. You may want to raise the car or leave the battery connected long enough to turn the steering wheel all the way to the right until it is upside down. This will make life easier on all counts. The steering column will be locked, so you won't have to worry about damaging the clockspring, the tie rods will be accessible and the coupling nut and roll pin will be relatively easy to manipulate. DO NOT move the steering wheel with the rack removed. Remove the fluid from the reservior with a poultry baster and discard. A piece of cardboard under the work area would be nice too. Clean up any spills and try not to let the fluid stay on the paint; it will dissolve it. This also goes for any coolant.

The steering gear (or rack) is a center take off design. So the tie rods are going to be on the center. Use a 7/8 inch or 15 mm socket with a breaker bar to remove the bolts after peeling back the retainer tabs. Pull the bolts out and catch the washers behind the tire rods, along with the big washer up front and the retainer. You need to use NEW hardware to secure the tie rods to the rack. Inspect the bushings on the tie rods. If their condition is the least bit questionable, REPLACE THEM NOW. The O.E. ones are one piece and be pried out. Aftermarket ones commonly are two piece with a sleeve; these are the easiest and most cost-effective for the home mechanic to use. There is NO reason to replace the entire inner tie rod if the bushings are bad. These parts are about $50 to $130 a side plus the cost of a wheel alignment, which will be manadatory after replacing the rods. The bushings and all the other hardware come in a kit that's less than $15 at an auto parts store. You will want to get this ordered before you begin the job. DO NOT resuse the old hardware, lest evil befall you. Do not unscrew the rods as this will change the alignment.

Go inside the car and under the dash on the driver's side is the steering coupling. A captive nut and weird looking bolt hold the column and coupler in unholy matrimony. There's also a cotter pin (resuable) inside the bolt. Remove this and unscrew the nut, remove the bolt. The cross section of the mating surfaces are in the shape of a "U"; pay attention as this is the way they have to go back on. There are four bolts holding the gear (or rack) to the firewall (15 mm). You will have to remove the master cylinder from the brake booster (DO NOT disconnect the lines), and  disconnect the heater core hoses from the firewall first. Pull the gear away from the firewall until you see the coupler clear the seal a bit. Holding this together is a roll pin. Take a pair of vise grips and place to keep this relatively stationary. You can use a roll pin remover (I could not find one) or tap it out with a hammer and the longest bolt holding the brace to the wiper motor. Be careful and you won't have to replace the bolt or the coupling. The coupling should slide off the gear and you can remove the gear from the car. Be careful of the cooling core lines just above the gear and you might want to unscrew the lines at the end of the gear to make remove easier. DO NOT think about removing the cooling lines, lest evil befall you. Prepare for part two and take a break, you've earned it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Benefits to Owning a Beater (My 100th post, yippee!)

1. There are no payments, epsecially if it's free (you can't say that about a later model vehicle).

2. No worries about muddy shoes, door dings, or higher insurance rates.

3. You don't have to dodge the repo man. Not that anyone should.

4. A lot less electronics to fool with, especially with a 20+ year old van.

5. You learn to be handy (always a good thing).

6. You can do redneck repairs without guilt.

7. Aftermarket isn't a choice, it's a necessity.

8. Recycling yards are fun places to be...

9. Few problems with people trying to race you.

10. You're being more environmentally responsible by using what's already made.

11. Those dents aren't depreciation, they're character.

12. You don't have a $6000 drop in value the minute you drive it off the dealer's lot.

13. No pushy salespeople, just chatty owners.

14. No one in their right mind will dare try and sell you an extended warranty plan.

15. You're not making a banker rich with interest payments.

16. Who cares if the tires don't match.

17. No worries about voiding the warranty for "modifications".

18. Keys cost $1.25, not 50 bucks

19. Did I mention no debt to deal with?

20. Did I mention no bankers?

Golden Harvest

I had the opportunity to go to a restuarant yesterday with my parents (yes, I'm a mundane kind of guy) I drove over to my folks and arranged to get my unemployment compensation sent in over the computer. This is much better than trying to call MARVIN (Michigan's Automated Response Voice Interactive Network, someone was really grasping for straws to get this acronym, but I digress) which is akin to calling a radio station to win Smokey Robinson tickets (been there, done that, won the tickets).

My mother suggested, from my aunt's recommendatiuon, that we go to the Golden Harvest restaurant yesterday. The name seemed innocous enough, and though this place had been in business since 1951, I had never heard it before. Living in this area for nearly 40 years, and in the interest of getting soemthing to eat, I drove my parents over. When we found it on Turner Street, just north of Grand River in Old Town, I noticed the mascot, jolly roger complete with a skull and crossed fork and spoon on the door. A rainbow sticker proudly reading "celebrate diversity" on one of the windows. We got out of the van and made our way through the door...

What was inside can best be described as ecclectic. There's a Pee Wee Herman doll over the cash register, along with skateboard, masks and every strange and interesting thing you can imagine in this very intimate restaurant. It was also very busy with music playing spiritedly in the background. The clinetele was as diverse as the decorations that help define this business. Many sported tattoos and piercings in diverse places. There was an older couple and some young people there that were pretty ordinary. Then there were us middle aged folk who had walked in to get a table.

The tagline is "Same Good Food! Same Bad Attitude!" but the waitress greeted us warmly and took our order. I ordered eggs, their "homemade" sausage and hash browns with wheat toast. My stepfather a breakfast burrito and I can't for the life of me remember what my mother ordered. Oh well.

Well is right. What I got were eggs over medium that were just like I ordered them, the best spicy sausage I have ever had, and everything else done to perfection in a clean, friendly place that's local. Unlike chain eateries with a lot of scripted policies, the Golden Harvest seems to have only two, cook great food in a wonderfully eccentric and ecclectic atmosphere.

The point that I'm tring to make is that the saying "never judge a book by its cover," is chiche', it still holds true. Anyone taken aback by the mascot, tattoos, etc should really take a second look at this place. There was a time when an eatery wasn't nearly always some national coporate chain as everything seems to be now. In fact, businesses were all small businesses at one time. This is one that the national chains will never duplicate, ever. I'm recommending the Golden Harvest for anyone who wants to check it out.

the Golden Harvest
1625 Turner Street,
Lansing, MI 48906
(517) 485-3663

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Righteous will never be removed...

This is my 98th post for Fixing Grace and is one I've been moved, by the Lord to write for a long time. May this be a source of encouragement and comfort for our brothers and sisters waiting for the Bridegroom with as much anticipation as this writer.

When someone presents a view of the Bible which is contrary to same, those who defend the Word invest a lot of time and energy not only debunking, but reassuring as well. I've heard nearly every arguement against a pre-tribulation rapture and pre-millennial return of our Lord Jesus. This also goes heard nearly every Biblical reason why the Bible is right and men (and women) are wrong. One verse which is commonly used as a source of confusion at best and to try (and I use the word "try" very strongly, because of points I'll get to) and refute the rapture and Jesus' rightful place is Proverbs 10:30.

In the King James version this reads "The righteous shall never be removed, but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth."

The word "removed" means "separate or remote in space, time or character."

Those arguing a post-millennial viewpoint for the Bible (those glorifying man and not the Lord) use this verse as their "proof" and then use "Jesus is not going to take Christians in some rapture," as the capstone. What we need to understand is that the Bible is about the Lord's relationship with man and is therfore from His point of view, not man's. We all know, or should know as Christians that one day we will see Jesus and live in His presence for all eternity (read Rev. 21) living in a new earth. Therefore, being removed in this case is being removed from Jesus' loving presence first and foremost.

The second part of this verse "but the wicked shall not inhabit the the earth" is also used to argue that the wicked, not the righteous, will be" raptured."

Make no mistake, as the evil one, Satan is well-versed in the "divide and conquer" strategy. When Jesus does come back to take His church, this will be one of the lies perpetrated on a confused and frightened world. There are many references, positve and negative, as this second part of the verse means what it says. Matthew 5:5, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." For further evidence of this truth, Matthew 25: 31-46. He  will separate the sheep (righteous)  from the goats (wicked) when He comes to establish His 1000 year reign on earth after defeating the antichrist, false prophet and putting Satan under lock and key (read Rev. 19 and 20). There are more references to this fact, but they do not conflict in any way with the fact that Jesus is still coming to take His bride (the church), or that He will come back with his believers after a seven year foretaste of hell on earth. Are you ready? Are you waiting for His return, or are you letting the cares of this world eclispse the glory of the Lord? The choice is yours.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Day of Thanks and Coffee...

After writing about biting the bullet and being couped up in this apartment for what seems a small eternity, a small miracle happened. No, it wasn't a job offer or donated car, but it was no less important. Not to complain, but this has been the norm for nearly 7 months since my last layoff and compounded by my car being out of commission and needing $10,000 in repairs at this point. But I digress, as this was a very nice day.

The sun was shining as it has been all week; no snow to speak of. The remnants of the white stuff, though hanging on have cleared all but the most shaded part of the sidewalks and the promise of spring all but assured. My mother also called, well I called her and after running my stepfather to work, came to visit. Cleaning the apartment a bit, she came over and we spent nearly a half hour at Beaners (I know it's Biggby, old habits die hard and this is not a bad one). We talked, I drank their wonderful coffee and ate a delicious bagel with premo creme cheese. She drank a latte and even met one of her friends from JCPenney.

We talked with her and she made mention about her new boyfriend, a youth minister and all around good guy. She, like us is a Christian. I'm especially proud of her that she chose someone of this caliber. This is like a reverse Dr. Laura moment and proves that women can and should feel they deserve better and expect this in kind. Kudos!

After our trip to Beaners, we went to Big Lots and scrounged around for awhile. She was trying to find a case for her clippers (she's a master designer/hairdresser and has been for 20 plus years. I'm proud of her too). We found a tablecloth, easter stuff and a picture frame. A stop to Goodwill produced a pair of shoes for my older son and another picture frame. One to Horrock's some flowers. Yes it was mundane on the surface. However, for someone shut in, this was an absolute godsend.

Never underestimate the importance of such an act of kindness. This is far more important and feasible than a trip to a theme park. Time is the commodity well spent, more valuable than anything else. For this I am grateful.

Random Thoughts...

Truths are few, yet lies are many.
Many claim the truth, but not everyone can be right. Anyone claiming the truth can come from many sources is admitting he is lying.
However, there is one source of absolute truth and one of many lies.
The reason man will not accept truth is because he wants to be god in his own way.
Such is the source of all lies.
If men claim to be animals as an excuse, yet proclaim to be gods, both are made void.
Men want to deterine their own morality, yet complain of the chaos in the world.
It is mathematically impossible for everyone to be selfish and get their way; something has to give.

Biting the Bullet

The phrase, "bite the bullet" came from when soldiers injured in battle would have to endure pain (from amputations, etc) and they would literally have to put a bullet between their teeth because the pain would cause their jaw to contract. This was very common during the war between the states when battlefield medicine was vestigial and crude at best. The soft lead would yield enough under the pressure of the injured person's teeth and jaw. This is something I was well accustomed to during an ingrown toenail removal (without the benefit of Novocaine properly applied) or the two cortisone shots in my left foot (which hurt like hell).

Today, I had to take another painful step that kept me up most of the night. I've been out of work for nearly 13 months with a 6 week stint with my former employer in June and July. Since then, for all practical or impractical purposes, things have gone downhill from there. My car suffered several costly and potentially dangerous breakdowns and sits in the parking lot with a ruined engine. Job prospects in Michigan are only slightly better than they were a few months ago and dismal in Lansing. At least the transportation situation may be rectified soon as I'm trying to barter for that, but this is not a done deal.

I'm one class away from my bachelors degree (which I'm signing up for in April to get that done). However, the students loan are now due and they are not going to be fun to pay at this point. They must be paid, and burying my head in the sand is not an option.

The payment coupons for one came in yesterday and a near sleepless night later, I took my son to the bus stop, showered and cleaned up. Then I proceeded to call or otherwise contact each one of these guys and worked toward a solution for all of them. This took the course of one hour and the result is to make payments on one, pay off one and defer the two others for now. This is on top of everything else going on. It is all the Lord at this point, because I would have beat feet about now (just kidding about the beating feet part).

For anyone else who's in my situation right now, there are options. Bankruptcy is not an option with student loans and neither is ignoring them. Like everyone else, you need to call these people and work something out. This is the painful first step, but it gets easier after that. Gather your bills, make a budget tackle the smallest first and make minimums on the larger stuff. However you do it, don't wait until you're delinquent as these people will nail you. The point I'm trying to make is this: make arrangements to pay your bills while you have options, Because if it goes into collections, your options dwindle.

A case in point is one of my servicers thanked me for calling, a rarity at this step. I'm very thankful for the people around me, and yes even the people who have the unenviable position of working for these firms. The Lord will make a way to help me with what I'm facing right now, so the sleepless nights should be few and far between. The promises still need to be kept and an effort must still be made to get these paid off. I know the Lord will help me through. Nevertheless, Maranatha!