Changing an Alternator & Living Out the Kingdom

Monday I replaced the alternator in Fred the Minivan. I’m not really good enough to be a shade tree mechanic. I am more of a small to medium size shrub mechanic. This means that I don’t have any great knowledge or skill in working on my vehicles but I desire to be able to fix them. That’s why changing the alternator in Fred the Minivan this past week was a scary thing to me that I avoided for a week.

I’ve changed alternator in cars several times before and they aren’t really that difficult. They are usually pretty “plug and play” in their design. Typically it involves: removing the belt from the alternator, unplugging the alternator from the wiring assembly, removing three supporting bolts, and then reversing the process to install the new alternator. The problem is that everything in the engine of a minivan is tight. I was pretty worried that due to the tight shape of Fred’s engine compartment I was going to really mess something up.  SO how did I handle this fear of not being able to complete the process of changing the alternator? Well, as I wrote earlier, I avoided doing it for a week. Thankfully I had some very good resources and a very trustworthy backup, so I finally jumped into replacing the alternator.

I usually buy a Haynes and/or Chilton manual for the vehicles we own (I usually just use the library online version for our newer vehicles). These manuals do a great job of walking a person through how to do most repairs on the vehicle. Youtube now does an even better job. When I searched for changing the alternator in a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan I found many videos of people walking through the changing of an alternator step by step. I might not always be able to read a description of a task and understand it, but I can definitely watch a video of someone doing the task and then figure out how to follow their directions. Even better I have a friend who is a mechanic and I am comfortable that if I really lose it all Conor will walk me through things. The fact that I have these two wonderful resources and a friend who is an excellent backup enables me to take chances.

Conor is my backup for Buddy.

The best part is that with this type of backup I’m not as scared to actually taking chances when working on my cars. I’m still scared, just not so scared that I don’t try anything that is beyond my meager abilities. Thanks to Conor, last year Buddy the Mustang went from having an automatic transmission to a sporty manual transmission. If things work out this year Buddy will have her engine upgraded from a 2.3l “all show and no go” to a spunky 2.3l turbo. There is no way I would try this if it weren’t for the backup of Conor and the beauty of YouTube, Chilton, and Haynes. That backup gives me the courage to take chances.

As a minister (pastor and chaplain) I frequently have conversations with fellow followers of Christ in which they worry that they will mess something up in another person’s faith exploration because they do something wrong. They worry that they will say or do the wrong thing when they are trying to portray Jesus in the best light possible. “What if I say something wrong?” “What if I give the wrong answer?” “What if I do the wrong thing?”

The truth, however, is that God wants to use you and me. When we don’t know what to say or do we have backup. First, from the Holy Spirit. “… do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20) Second, from our fellow believers, church, and ministers. When you don’t know what to do or say there are other believers (myself among them) that want to help you. We don’t have to know all the answers. We don’t have to know the exact right thing. This isn’t an excuse not to prepare and study, but it does mean that we aren’t dependent upon our own abilities. We have serious backup.

Now go out there and take some risks.

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