Friday, December 28, 2007

Labor of Love

Chinese man carves 6,000-step ladder of love on mountainside

IANS
Saturday, November 11, 2006 20:49 IST

BEIJING: The tale of a 70-year-old Chinese man who hand-carved more than 6,000 stairs up a mountain for his 80-year-old wife has won the award for China’s greatest love story of 2006.

The story began half a century ago, when 20-year-old Liu Guojiang fell in love with a widowed mother, Xu Chaoqing. In a twist worthy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, friends and relatives criticised the relationship because of the age difference and the fact that Xu already had children.

Desperate to escape market gossip and the scorn of their communities, the pair eloped to live in a cave in Jiangjin county, which is in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality. Now the local government is attempting to supply electricity to the cave, which has been the couple’s home for the last 50 years.

Their story came atop a list of China’s top 10 love stories in a contest event organised by the Chinese Women Weekly, which collected tales from around the country since July.

At the beginning, life was harsh and Xu felt that she had tied Liu down. She says she repeatedly asked him: “Are you regretful?” Liu always replied: “As long as we are industrious, life will improve.”

Liu and his wife were not present at the award ceremony due to
their age, but their son Liu Mingsheng came with a kerosene lamp that his father had made from an ink bottle.

“My parents have lived in seclusion for more than 50 years because of their love for each other. They had no electricity and my father made kerosene lamps to light up lives,” the son said. “My mother seldom goes down the mountain but my father cut the 6,000-plus stairs for her convenience. It’s a ladder of love.”


I first heard this story on the radio on a day when I was feeling kind of blue. It choked me up to think of the kind of love that does this, but I couldn't help but feel sorry for myself as I thought of this man's labor of love and that I can't even get someone to change a lightbulb for me.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Prophecy

I had an interesting thing happen a few months ago. A woman I do not know stopped me at school and seemed to be a bit stunned. Among other things she said, "oh, I see God showering you with blessings like a river." Despite my skepticism about such things, I felt like my spirit was agreeing with hers, and I have been puzzled as to what it meant. As time went on I put this to the back of my mind and if I thought about it, I wondered if she was a kook or a false prophet. I would be afraid to prophesy for the Bible has much to say about false prophets. And yet, I have clung to the hope of scripture and of that word.

Wednesday night, December 5th, we had a special service at church. A few months back one of our little guys, just 2 years old, fell out a second story window and suffered a severe brain injury. He was not supposed to survive, then he was not supposed to wake up, then not speak, hear, see, move, walk, etc., etc. God did not listen to the doctors, and as people prayed for this little boy all over the world, he is considered a miracle by the doctors. He is home now, and though he has a long road ahead of him, he can see, speak, hear, walk and more (though many of these things require special assistance right now). He and his entire family came and provided a meal to thank the church for their support. We had a baptism service, communion, praise and worship music and a blessed speaking. There wasn't a dry eye in the place as we thanked and praised our Savior for his wonderful works.

Afterward I remember saying to someone that I felt like rivers of blessing had just washed over me all night. Then I remembered what the woman said. Now, I'm not going to get all weird on you, but I believe that this very strange woman uttered a true word from the Lord.

Part of what is amazing, is that it became clear to me that the blessings that God was going to pour out on me like rivers wasn't just about satisfying my material needs. In fact, if you remember what I told you about that service, those things that blessed me had nothing to do with my own circumstances. What they were is reminders to me of the goodness and faithfulness of God that moved me deeply to worship and praise and brought a wellspring of love and adoration up out of my heart.

Since then, I must tell you the latest. I get together with a friend of mine every six months or so for lunch. She is just a great person who I truly, truly enjoy, and whose professional services I have recommended to many of my friends. She works in the staffing industry, helping employees and employers find each other and to have a really great fit. Well she runs the local office for her company. We were getting together as sort of a thank you for all the referrals I have given her. She called to arrange the time as I was standing in line at the customer service counter at Safeway. We hung up and then she called back, not three minutes later. "You're not looking for a job are you?"

No one knew I was looking, for I had simply been talking to the Lord about it, seeking wisdom and guidance and going to him with requests, talking about my goals for this and other things and asking him how to make these things happen. One of those goals was for appropriate employment that would allow me to help people and NOT to be a secretary again.

The job she mentioned sounded great, so we agreed to a lunch interview. When we were able to finally get together, I had already spoken to her and asked the questions I most wanted to know, and had asked people to pray that I would have wisdom about this opportunity. When I showed up for lunch, she said, "let's not do the interview thing. I just want to hire you." We discussed a couple of specifics before I would commit and then had a very nice lunch.

She called back later to see if we could start the full-time thing sooner and to finalize the salary offer. Truly this job is more than I could ever ask or think. And that is something I have been praying for that He would show me great and mighty things I know not of. He has answered my prayers in ways I could not have imagined, and has truly given more than I could ask for. Certainly I had not thought of this job, although it surely meets everything I have been asking.

From blessing to blessing. I am standing in the flow of a river of blessing. Truthfully, I have been standing in the flow for a long time, but my spiritual eyes could not see the river for the painful circumstances I have been in. Perhaps I needed to learn to trust when everything looks so terribly bleak, or perhaps, like Job, I have passed the test and am now being blessed to have the restoration of the things the locusts have taken.

Anyway, I have determined that even if this job doesn't work out, that I will praise his name anyway. Test me if that happens. Remind me if I should fail in this. He gives and he takes away. Who am I to argue with Almighty God? Who am I to question his goodness? Who am I to question how he chooses to care for me? Sometimes he chooses to provide for me through gainful employment, other times he touches someone's heart to share what he has given them with me. Either way it is all from the hand of God.

It is a strange paradox, that the River of Sacrifice and the River of Blessing are one and the same. They both flow from Immanuel's veins. There is pain in the blessing and joy in the sacrifice. But tonight, rejoice with me dear ones. Rejoice. His mercies endure forever.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Weepies

There are some commercials that spark my interest not for what they are selling, or the message of the commercial, but because the music is compelling or fun. I couldn't get the JC Penney commercial out of my head. The music that is. I went on a search, made more difficult because I couldn't quite make out all the words.

Finally, I searched on the tagline and JC Penney and found The Weepies. Based on nothing more that my desire to hear the entire song, and the fact that my search turned up other nuts who were also compelled to search them out, I bought the album Happiness.

I love the album, and find myself reminded of the lyrics at odd times. How about the title track with the line that sticks in my head "It's a mean town but I don't care, Try and steal this, Can't steal happiness." I love that. You can lift my wallet, steal my cell phone, but I rejoice in the love I have found. Can't steal that.

The snow is so lightly spitting that I wasn't sure it really was snowing this morning, but seeing the tiny flakes against a blue sky and I had to go in and turn on "All That I Want" to hear my favorite verse:

Above the rooftops

The full moon dips its golden spoon

I wait on clip-clops, deer might fly

Why not? I met you



I'm not a music critic. I don't have the right words to describe their voices, or even what is so compelling about them, but next time you are watching TV, pay attention to the JC Penney commercial. If you find it com least you know where to find the music compelling, at least you know where to find it without all the time searching.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

River Called Sacrifice

River Called Sacrifice
There is a river called Sacrifice,
and my Savior asks me to jump in.
But the current is swift and the waters are dark,
I look back at the place where I've been.
I can return to the meadow called Safety and Peace,
but He calls me on, "Jump in."
"The river’s awash in the blood I shed
as a sacrifice for sin."

I’ll just dip a toe in, I think to myself,
and see if the water is warm.
I’ll test the flow to see if it’s safe.

But I can’t find a gentle shore.
The choices are two, stay put or jump in.
There’s no choice for half-out and half-in.
So I must now decide to stay or to jump
in the river called Sacrifice.

God has sometimes parted the river,
but many are swept off their feet.
It is not a safe, lazy river.
but turbulent, wild and deep.
Stephen was stoned in the river,
Victorious when they thought he was beat.
O, many have died in the river;
Is this somewhere that I want to be?

I look at the current swift and dark,
and the end I do not know.
But I leap from the bank at the love on His face
and find peace in the midst of the flow.
I’m surprised when I land to find shallows,
and it gently tugs at my feet,
but as I keep going I know that each step
could carry me down to the deep.

When I jump in there is no going back,
the bank behind me too steep.
But there is a joy in the river,
that mingles with sorrows so deep.
The pain is so strong in the current,
but He whispers, “Be still,” and “Peace.”
And my heart is calm in the midst of the flood
that may soon sweep me off my feet.

I see in the river the martyrs
of all who have gone on before.
From the prophets of old to disciples bold
they all cheer from the far distant shore.
There are faces among them I know not,
but I know now for whom they died.
And they show no regret for the lives that they gave
in the river of Sacrifice.

The river shows me many faces.
It shows scorn and ridicule, too.
It shows gunshots, stabbings, beheadings,
and beds filled with sickness and woe.
It shows me the face of rejection,
the bankruptcies, scandal and strife.
It shows me the wrong accusations;
it’s all in the Sacrifice.

I find Him in the midst of the river,
in a way that I never have known.
I see his love and compassion
and I see wounds--scars for me he bore.
Such mercy, and tenderness found there;
such grace and forgiveness untold.
His love has a depth with no start and no end
in the river called Sacrifice.

Should the current grow strong and o’erwhelm me,
don’t cry and plead from the shore,
don’t pray for my safety, or for my release,
for I’m here in the river by choice.
For my Jesus is in the river
and I share in his sufferings here.
But where he suffered abandoned, alone
I have him with me, e'er so near.

So if you are standing in safety
by the pastures of pleasure and rest,
and you hear his voice calling “Come join me.”
oh, come in, for the water is blessed.
Of pain I can promise you plenty,
of purpose I promise you more.
But the sweetest gift here in the river
is Jesus, the one I adore.

Oh, there is a river that flows here.
It’s name is called Sacrifice.
And it flows with the blood of my Savior;
the one who for me has died.
He bids me join him in the river
and makes me no promise of life.
But he promises comfort, and joy and peace,
in the river called Sacrifice.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend

This weekend I have been to DIA three times and the Colorado Springs airport twice. My husband flew in Wednesday night from his job in Las Vegas. We spent Thanksgiving with my dad and 24 friends from church. It was such fun! More food than you can imagine, then a card game called hand and foot that went on for hours. It was great fun.

Friday morning (early) my husband flew to Texas to see his younger brother before he gets shipped off to Iraq. His flight was delayed and missed his connection, so he got in about 5 hours late. Boy was he mad. I picked him up the next afternoon. We went from the airport to the movie theater where we saw August Rush. I highly recommend it, and my husband even said he would buy the DVD. Amazing. My youngest called while we were in the theater, so I called him as soon as we left. He needed to be picked up at DIA this morning and driven back to Golden. Did I know anyone who would do that? he asked innocently. Right. I'm thinking the only people who would drive to DIA to meet a 7:30 flight and drive you to Golden before heading back to the Springs for church are......hmmmm.....let me think......it's coming to me.......oh, that's right, your parents! Even if they have to turn around and drive back to DIA the same day!I have spent 8 hours on the road today. I'm whipped.

Oh, I did stop by Kohl's on my way back from the airport Friday morning. It was amazing. I was in the checkout line for over an hour. I have a bad habit of shopping when I'm upset, and I was kind of bummed that my husband was going to his brother's. So I decided, what better day of the year to buy socks? That's right, socks are about the cheapest they will be all year during the early bird specials on Black Friday. Plus I needed pillows for our coming houseguests. (Would someone tell me, please, where the pillows disappeared to that I bought last year for guests?) I stuffed the packages of socks in the pillow bags, along with two new bras (how can you argue with 50% off, and my style and size in stock?), a sheet for the portable crib for when my grandson visits for Christmas, and as I rounded the last bend and the registers were in sight, I grabbed a lovely rose/brick cable knit turtleneck sweater I just knew would go with my Ralph Lauren skirt from Goodwill.

While in line I ran into my best friend from Arizona, up visiting the families for the weekend, out shopping with her beautiful sisters.

Anyway to make a long story well.....less long, I suppose, I spent so long gripping the bags on those pillows that I hurt my biceps. The next day I couldn't figure out why I hurt so bad...like I had been weightlifting! I couldn't even hold my cell phone to my ear. If I ever do something as stupid as that again, I must plead disability and find some kind soul who will round up a cart for me or simply not go.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go

I'll go where you want me to go.
I'll do what you want me to do.
Though the road is long and far from home,
I'll go where you want me to go.

I'll say what you want me to say.
I'll sing what you want me to sing.
For all of my days I will give you praise,
I'll say what you want me to say.

You alone are my hope and my stay.
But for you, I would fall away.
But I can't help but last when you hold me fast.
You alone are my hope and my stay.

You alone are my hope and my stay.
You alone paid what no one could pay.
You gave up your life as a sacrifice.
You alone are my hope and my stay.

So,
I'll go where you want me to go.
I'll do what you want me to do.
I owe you my life and my sacrifice.
I'll go where you want me to go.

I'll go where you want me to go.
I'll do what you want me to do, for
you're road was long and far from home,
So I'll go where you want me to go.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bear and Barney

I got a new dog this week. He was being given away on Freecycle, and I have been wanting a dog, especially with Steve working away. The house is so quiet and I don't think I have ever been so lonely. Anyway, the research I have done on different breeds indicated that a yellow lab might be the right breed, providing the particular one was submissive. Happy, the beagle we have now, is a domineering brat when it comes to other dogs. She is not, however a great companion or a watchdog in any sense of the word. As near as I can figure she is closing in on 12 years old and likes to lay around, sleep, eat and ride in the truck.

When the offer came up for a yellow lab, I made arrangements to see him right away, and brought him home. He is friendly, calm, submissive and playful. He is also quite a beautiful dog and took to me almost immediately.

The surprise for me is that as much as I am falling in love with this dog, and in many ways he is a much better dog for me than Barney was, I find myself missing Barney terribly. The grief that I have managed to shove aside and hide from for quite some time has surfaced big time as I hold onto this great big lapdog and cry.

I don't really understand it, except that it is pretty hard to keep your heart shuttered when faced with this big lovable galoot. As the love and affection for this dog are felt, in equal or greater measure the sorrow that I have managed to push back is pouring out of me.

Sorrow and joy, grief and happiness are mingled. I am so acutely aware of the loss it is as if it happened yesterday. I steeled myself to get through putting him down and kind of let myself believe that he was merely around the corner, outside playing or downstairs and his lovable little face would come around any moment. I don't know if this is typical or not. Perhaps I am odd in the way I trick myself into not feeling the most painful things by pushing them aside and playing mind games with myself.

It's been almost four months if I add it up right. For four months I counted up the advantages to being without Barney. Far less hair everywhere; no constant watching to make sure he didn't break out of the fence; no more foul breath in my face, and far less doggy farts smelling up the house. I didn't have to worry as much about the beagle, because she became far more attached to me without him there. Less food to purchase, less poop to scoop.

I was kidding myself. All those things are true, but oh how I miss him. I miss that goofy face and personality. I miss his protectiveness and his loyalty. I miss him following me everywhere I go. I miss the way he loved riding in the truck.

Strangely, those behaviors that Bear has that mirror Barney don't lessen the grief. I love those things in him, but they also are really bringing the pain to the surface. I cannot hide from it. Oh how I miss my buddy.

Where He Leads Me...

I was comfortably assuring myself that God did NOT have a move in mind for us, and that he was testing me, asking me the Moses type question "Are you willing?" And I confidently answered "yes". That's fine.

Then Steve lost his job. Called all over looking for work and the job that came was in Las Vegas. Still fine, after all, like most construction jobs, this is temporary. Except that when he arrived they told him they want him to relocate. Relocate! To Las Vegas? Sin City? Desert? Barren? Las Vegas?!?! So I told the Lord that I said I would go and I will, but I would rather not. I don't want to, but I will obey.

So....the short version is I don't know. Steve does not want to live in Las Vegas long-term, and it really isn't possible for us to do anything before summer, anyway. We are kind of in limbo. It seems fairly expensive to live there, my schooling would have to wait due to non-resident tuition rates, my parents are here and dad is in poor health, and my church is here.

Yes. I will go. Wherever He sends me I will go.

I am prepared for: staying here with Steve working away for a while, moving to Las Vegas temporarily, as Steve says no way will we sell our house, and even for a total change of mind on his part that says we are moving. I'm trying to make sure I am following the cloud.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Go With The Cloud


On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord's command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp.

When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord's order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord's command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out.

At the Lord's command they encamped, and at the Lord's command they set out. They obeyed the Lord's order, in accordance with his command through Moses. Numbers 9:15-23 NIV


I've been thinking about this section of the Old Testament for a couple of weeks now. As I have thought about it I have become more and more aware of how often I say 'no' to God. I think I am saying it to others, but I am actually saying it to God. For example, when we moved back to Colorado more than ten years ago, I turned to my husband as we crossed the state line and said, "You know you're never getting me out of this state again."


I said this as an objection to the constant moving we had done our entire married life (we've moved more than 20 times.) As I figuratively put my foot down, I wasn't just talking to Steve, but I was saying to God that all this moving was over and that it was time to stay put.


Now, even once we were back in Colorado Springs we moved from one apartment into another, then into a rental house and then to the house we purchased in '99 and have lived in ever since. The moving boxes are all unpacked and thrown away. I am done.


As I read this scripture, however, I was certain that God was telling me that I had said this to Him and that he was asking me to be prepared to pull up the tent stakes if he asked me to go. So often I delude myself that I am responding to someone other than God when I stamp my foot and say "No!" or when I whine "but I want to." God is not fooled.

I also felt prompted to share this passage with someone else in regard to the direction our Women's Ministry Committee needs to go. I feel as if we have gone along doing what we think we should do, but have not really searched to see where the cloud is. Where is God leading? Is he leading or is he asking us to stay still?

As I surrendered to God's prompting and said that I would follow the cloud, a feeling of peace and contentment I cannot really describe came over me. I am so glad to so, have, for once, done the surrendering without fighting, whining or complaining.

I have no idea if there is a move in our future, it seemed more like a question of "will you surrender" rather than a confirmation of an impending move, but when you say you are willing, you gotta mean it.

But how do we know where God is leading us when there is no actual cloud to follow now? First, God will never lead us contrary to scripture. Second, we must pray. Through prayer, concentrated and constant, God talks to us, sometimes he reveals himself through a new understanding of his word, sometimes he leads by moving the circumstances.

I have a friend who was recently offered another position at double his current salary. He told me that he already makes plenty of money and wanted to know what I thought he should do. Was this a temptation or an opportunity?

It wasn't clear to me at all, as this is a man who I believe is one of the few who can manage wealth without letting it drag him from serving God, and I told him so. But sometimes I believe that we are led through our spouses and he has a wonderful wife and has godly counsel, so I just agreed to pray for him, and I have.

I am thrilled to report he has decided to turn down the position. I would have been equally thrilled had he decided to take it, as I really believe this man put the matter to prayer and was confident that he was following God's leading. That's the main thing, after all. He followed the cloud. I want to follow it too.



Thursday, September 20, 2007

Goals

Been thinking about what it takes to reach my goals, and what those goals are.



One of my goals is to complete my degree(s). To do that I must start. Check. Work at my coursework. Check. Check.



One of my goals is to lose weight. Not just some weight, but to reduce considerably in size. One doctor said it wouldn't have much of an effect on the fibromyalgia, but I don't believe it. It seems as if anything that makes movement more difficult puts more strain on joints, muscles and ligaments, so anything you do to reduce that should help. I used to think that there was something wrong about surgical options, but I keep thinking about the scripture that says if your eye offends you pluck it out. I read that as "do whatever it takes to avoid sin." If you cannot control your eating habits on your own, and surgery is a viable alternative, go for it. I'm not there yet, but the whole food control is barely working. Just like the doctor said, it is nearly impossible.



Another goal is to finish the Timmy book. Unfortunately what I've written lately isn't sequential, so it doesn't fit online very well. I need to continue the story from the last point and post what I have missed. I really need to settle down and do this. I'm going to have to schedule this in, because it's too easy to let time go by.



Another goal, and the one that should be top priority is more time reading the Bible. More time in the Word. I do this, but in all honesty, not as much as I should. Why not? I think in part because it is a reminder of how far short of the mark I am. Am I gentle? Am I kind? Am I merciful? Do I visit the sick, the prisoner, the widow? Do I love God with my whole heart? Yet how will I change and become the person I want to be but am afraid to become? Only through the word. Reading it, meditating on it, putting it into practice. How else? Don't know.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm In Stitches

It's 2:22 am and I can't sleep. It has been a very long day, beginning with the first alarm at 5:30 am. A few hits on the snooze button later and I got up. I had a little more than half an hour to get ready for school, but it was enough, as I merely had to iron, get dressed and grab a breakfast drink. That is, until I realized that I hadn't printed out the paper I wrote the night before.

My laptop began having trouble. It is a recurrance of short in the power connection and I couldn't get the thing to stay on long enough to log on. I finally got that working only to find that my network wasn't working. Rather than work on that I quickly hooked up the spare printer with the USB connection.

This delay made me about 10 or 15 minutes late. Arrgh! First class. Second class. Then wait until office hours at 11:00 am to discuss arrangements for a test with enlarged print as my eyes are so bad right now. Then rushed off to a meeting to work on music for the upcoming women's retreat. Missed a turn and decided to go a different way and took a wrong turn there. Late for this appointment. It went well and I got a real treat watching six deer and one tiny rabbit in the back yard, not ten yards from the patio door.

Had a nice lunch with Ellen, complete with homemade applesauce. Really good! Then realized I was late for my next appointment, so I called the coffee shop where I was to meet Jennifer to ask them to let her know I hadn't ditched her. I showed up, she wasn't there. I waited, then decided that I had the time wrong. I waited for the next half hour point to pass, then the next and then the next, taking the time to write some more Timmy story.

Then off to school for a 5:15 pm viewing of my first speech. The speech itself was not bad, but I look like the before picture for an advertisement for gastric bypass surgery. Awful!

Then home for a bowl of baked potato soup and taking care of the dog. 7:00 pm Bible study with Judy. It was really good to catch up with her and talk about some stuff I've been going through. When I got home I took a quick minute to check email and there was one from Jennifer confirming our appointment on Wednesday(!).

At about 10, I decided to light the candles on the mantle and sit and watch some TV. At about 10:45 pm, I stood on the raised hearth to blow out the candles. After doing so, I stepped backward off the hearth and cut my foot on a 3-hole punch Steve left on the floor when he was doing some paperwork. (He's sure the dog moved it there. :-)) It bled a bit and I managed to get upstairs to clean it up and bandage it. Upon inspection, I decided it looked pretty bad and called Mom (my friendly local EMT) for a second opinion. She looked at it and took me to the ER where they shot me full of numbing agent before scrubbing the wound and putting in six stitches. They followed that with antibiotic lotion, bandages and a nifty, hot pink wrap.

The anesthetic is wearing off and it is throbbing like crazy. I don't know if I'm going to be able to sleep. Oh man. This is what happens when you hit the snooze button!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Peaches cooking on the stove...

Got peaches cooking on the stove, the beagle's asleep on some towels by my feet, a depressing western movie on the TV, and a terrific headache. About this time of year there is a particular weed, whose name and description I don't know, but whose smell I am quite familiar with, which gives me terrible congestion. Even with Claritin D, my head is so stuffed up I can barely stand it.





We had a nice surprise this weekend. Alex came home yesterday afternoon and stayed overnight. He headed back to Golden a couple of hours ago, but we got to take him out for a birthday lunch, a birthday movie and got him a "leather" jacket to wear riding his motorcycle. It was real pleasant. He got my chainsaw working, though it still doesn't work well. Now I can cut down the branches that need to go.





Still nauseous after a week and a half. Terrific. Can't quite figure out what that is all about. I assume it is something emotional, a response to stress or something. So I am adding some extra excersize to my schedule. I am assuming that even walking an extra block or two should do it. It can't hurt.




Tomorrow I have to do my Logic assignment. Hopefully I can find my notes, but even if I don't if shouldn't take too much time to find more flaws in logic during news-type television programs.





Well, I've been thinking about a few things lately. One, I have been wondering why we do such incredibly stupid things to mess up our lives. Observation leads me to believe that some people allow themselves to be ruled by their momentary desires and not think long-term. Also we have a bizarre expectation that we should not be unhappy--ever. How incredibly silly and vapid. How ignorant of the ways of the world both historically and in most of the world right now. We would be happier in general if we accepted suffering and disappointment as normal and not the extraordinary. Accepting that my life will have bumps and bruises and expecting that means that I am not so easily thrown by them. Accepting that my husband isn't perfect and cannot "make me happy" paradoxically makes me happier. It is the strange expectation that my husband will do all the little and big things that make me feel loved, in exactly the right way and in the right time and that he will never take his moods or problems out on me that make a person miserable. If I trust that a flawed person that loves me might say an unkind thoughtless thing on occasion or may not understand the things that drive me nuts makes it easier to love that person and deal with the inevitable disappointments.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Another Question

How do you determine whether you will travel to a distant wedding or funeral?

Just yesterday a friend of ours died out in California. We consider him a friend, and I know Steve really loved him, though it would be fair to say that his son Craig and Craig's family are our really close friends.

I am torn. I want to be there to be of whatever comfort I can be and to be there for the service. They are like family to me and it seems like you should be there for family. On the other hand, I have a review on Monday, participation grade in my other class, and a test on Wednesday. I have a paper to turn in on Monday and the only way to get credit for it is to discuss it in class.

I am also scheduled to sing on Sunday. I don't have a problem with that, as they would be quite understanding, but the school stuff is more difficult.

We were going to have Steve go, but the only flights he can get back have him coming in after 9pm and he would have to leave at 2am for a 5 hour drive to Grand Junction to begin his next project. He is too new with this company to have much flexibility with them. Were it not for the funeral, he would likely drive to GJ on Sunday afternoon to be there to begin the project on Monday morning.

In some circumstances we would say that it matters not. If it were Craig or his immediate family, we would be there no matter what. It's difficult because we really are like family.

I was unable to go to either of my in-law's funerals because of financial considerations, and that certainly is an issue to consider now as well.

I had determined that I would not be able to go, but that if it were at all possible Steve should, but by the time he gets home from the airport, he would likely only have 3 hours sleep before making a 5 hour drive and working a full day. Not a good plan.

I know our friends understand, but it tears me up not to be there for people who have always been there for us. To have your friends hurting and be unable to be with them is sooo hard.

How do you decide? Maybe you don't agonize over these decisions, but I really believe that it is important to show up for the funerals. Weddings are optional (though they're important too) but funerals are manditory. People don't need you as much when they are celebrating, but they do need to know you care when they are hurting.

It seems like so many people will do whatever they can to avoid funerals, but Proverbs says, "Better to go to a house of mourning than a house of mirth because a wise man will take it to heart." I'm not sure that is an exact quote or if it is a Kim paraphrase, but the gist of it is correct.

Tell me your thoughts.

To Secure or Not

Just a question: all things being equal, if no one could possibly access your data and your speed weren't noticeably affected, would you secure (by password or WEP key) your wireless internet or would you leave it open for any neighbor near enough to use?

I guess the argument is you pay for it, why should someone use it for free? However, if it did not affect you in any way, it doesn't cost you anything, what would they really be taking?

I have always secured my connection (not CIA secure, just ordinary security) because of some vague notion of protecting my computers from the most overt amateur hacking, but if there were a way to secure my computers while leaving the connection open, would I?

I'm not going to give you my answer, but if I get enough response, I will go ahead and post my answer then.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Gelatina Prugne e Port


Here's a tutorial on making plum jelly.


Take a mess of plums. Here I have a medium size box about 3/4 full of plums. These are a bit under-ripe, which works best for jam- and jelly-type concoctions as it has more natural pectin and firmer fruit.

Wash fruit and remove leaves, stems and cut out damaged areas.

Plums are seeded and quartered. Some don't suggest this, but experience says you get the juice more easily if you do this. Add water not to cover, but 'til you see it at least to the bottom of the top layer of fruit. Cover and cook on medium heat. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. You want to cook it until it is soft and mushy.
I then usually mash it a bit with a potato masher before going on to the next step: straining.

I was unable to find my jelly bag and holder, so this is my improvisation. I took a clean canvas bag and shortened it. Since the holder was missing, I looked around for a substitute and decided this three tier plate holder might work. In the future I will make two changes. I will redo the bag so that it is a bit shorter and so that it comes to a point in the center rather than leaving it in a rectangular shape. Additionally, I will either find a tall three wick candle holder (with the glass piece removed) or hang it from a heavy duty ceiling hook over a bowl.

As you can see, I altered the way I hung the bag to raise it higher above the pan and so that one corner hung lower enabling it to have a good drip point.

Measure the juice and figure 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar for each cup of juice. Pour the juice into a heavy bottom pot and cook over medium to medium high heat.

I am adding a splash or two of port for flavor.
In the background you may notice a small pot sterilizing the lids. What I forgot to mention is that the jars must be clean and sterilized. The heat of the dishwasher rinse and heated dry cycle work for this. (Yours should have a heated water and heated dry cycle.)
Add the juice of one small lemon or
1/2 large lemon to each quart or so of juice. You will probably need to add pectin, about a box per quart or so of juice. Bring the juice to a full rolling boil. Skim off foam. Then add the sugar all at once. Stir til all sugar is dissolved. Add a teaspoon or so of butter if you want to keep the foaming down. Bring to a rolling boil again and boil without stirring for at least five minutes. Checking sheeting (how the juice runs off the side of a spoon) or using a candy thermometer to bring the juice to about 220 degrees.

Fill prepared jars to within 1/4 inch of the rim. Seal and allow jars to cool. After nearly cool, turn lids an extra 1/4 turn. If re-using jars like babyfood jars, the lids will not seal properly, so you must use melted parafin or keep jelly in refrigerator.

(Toss the contents of the jelly bag into your compost pile and clean and boil your bag for future use.)



The finished product: YUMMY!





Saturday, September 08, 2007

"Stardust" Movie Review

I have to admit that the trailers did not inspire me to go see this film, and I probably would never have seen it at all if a friend hadn't said how much they liked it and that it was actually a "guy movie". She gave a vague description of a gallery of men who applaud at sword fights and death.

Well, Steve said it was my choice, and though I enjoy torturing him with lame chick flicks as much as the next gal, there weren't any showing, so we agreed to see "Stardust". With half an hour before the show started the bored ticket guy said there were plenty of seats left. Not a good sign, but we bought our tickets and sat down.

While I would not rate this as a top notch movie, it was enjoyable on both a fairytale/chick flick level and on a comedy in the vein of Princess Bride or Monty Python. It is not as well-pulled together as either of those. It is missing the non-stop perfection of the Princess Bride and isn't as over the top as Monty Python.

If you are offended by any mentions of witches or acts of witchcraft, even of the fairy tale kind, you will probably be offended by this movie, but as the [SPOILER ALERT] bad guys all get it in the end, it struck me as the old fashioned good-vs.-evil, fairy tale type story, it was just a bit of harmless fun kept from being so good as to be boring.

Robert DeNiro is hysterically funny. There is now a mental picture of him in my head that will probably intrude on every serious role I ever see him in in the future.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle Dead at 88


Yesterday we lost a wonderful writer. She was a great storyteller and poet. Whether she was writing fiction or non-fiction, she had her own voice and inspired me. She wrote with such truth, understanding and gentleness, speaking of her life, her marriage, and getting older, just as openly as she wrote of the Murrays in "A Wrinkle in Time" and other books that followed.


Her unique voice will be missed. I hope you take the opportunity to acquaint yourself with her writing. I honor her.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Best Looking Baby On Earth


"And then I says, I says...bad is good baby! Down with government!"
[Obscure cultural reference alert.]

Melt Down

My third week of the semester is now over. Last night, as I was rehearsing my 1st major speech for Public Speaking, I realized that the hours I spent on it were mostly wasted. I had too much information for the time allotted and there was no way to say what I wanted within the appropriate time frame, and had to shift the focus a bit. I was in meltdown mode when my husband asked me what the point was I was trying to get across. Yikes! If he didn't know I hadn't made the point. I had spent hours and hours working on a four minute speech. How am I going to make it through college if I can't prepare a four minute speech in under an hour or two? I feel like I don't know what I'm doing.

If you already knew how to do this you wouldn't need the class, my husband said. He was right, but I glared and said something nasty anyway. I am frustrated by how much time I've wasted. Clearly this semester is about learning how to study, how to manage time, how to determine the expectations and from there figuring out the most efficient way of meeting them.

The speech was pulled together, though not rehearsed as thoroughly as I prefer, and went off reasonably well, though I need to do a better job at time management.

Upon completing my speech outline in the proper format, I needed to print the paper I had written for Critical Thinking: Logic and Reason. It was nowhere to be found. It completely disappeared. The entire paper. Not so much as a draft. I remember writing it, and merely needed to rewrite the remembered argument. I probably used slightly different examples, but it was done, leaving me less than five hours of sleep. I don't manage well on this little sleep, and feel as if I need a serious nap.

Man, its a good thing I'm only half-time this semester. I might be a crazy person otherwise. Wait. Too late. I'm already there, at least half way.

Still waiting on the eye doctor. Horrid not being able to read without headaches. Three weeks before my appointment. nearly three weeks after being put on the cancellation list. Out of six eye doctors in the practice not one cancellation for me! Ah well. This will pass. Once I have the right prescription I will forget all of this.

************

My purple roses are in full bloom. Absolutely gorgeous and the scent is heavenly. The rich pink in the front yard has finally recovered from an incident with a weed whacker earlier this year. It has the most beautiful large roses. Absolutely perfect. The one single bloom is worth an entire year of watching the plant.

I was going to attend a speech this afternoon at 4:30 for extra credit, but I'm so tired I think I'll go ahead and take a nap. Off to sleep now.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Perfect Father

Today's at church, Matt talked about God, the Perfect Father. He talked about how our fathers can damage our picture of who God is and that although fathers are meant to be a representation of God to their children, they are flawed, and so it's like looking into a cracked, dirty mirror for a picture. The good news is that God is NOT a reflection of our fathers, he is the perfection of fatherhood. He is pure in motive, in love, in deed. He listens and understands as no one else can. He accepts us unconditionally and without expectation, and he completes us. He loves us and blesses us and says "I'm so glad you are MINE!"

If you have a flawed father (and who doesn't) it should be a huge relief to know that that isn't what God is like. If your father is cold, unforgiving, cutting, cruel, abusive, neglectful, absent, passive, unfeeling, uncaring, busy, demanding, or withholding, you will look at God and expect him to be the same. My dad, bless his heart, has been an insulin dependant diabetic since he was a teenager. While I was growing up, in addition to the flaws he brought to the role based on his relationship or lack of same with his father, in addition to his own personality flaws, insecurities and extraordinary expectations, he had personality disorders caused by blood sugar issues. At dinner time he was usually quite irritable until his blood sugar stabilized. Dinner time was...um, er...difficult.

Well, I don't want to go into my dad's shortcomings here. It would be really unkind. Suffice it to say that I know he's feeling better when he begins insulting me or saying hurtful things about me publicly. He doesn't mean to, and perhaps doesn't really understand how these things hurt me, and besides, I am a far from perfect parent and should probably not "throw the first stone".

The point is, that I have great pains, neurosis, difficulties and ideas and fears about God that interfere with a clear picture of who he is. I have a hard time believing that He accepts ME! Oh, sure everyone else, but my flaws...my fears...my behavior would keep me from being accepted. I can't meet the standard.

But recently I have begun to see that all along, God had provided me with surrogate dads who had qualities that my dad could not express. Jack Boucher and Bob Holli both gave me unconditional acceptance and the feeling that they were proud of me. Dad never had that growing up and could not give it to me. I have trouble expressing unconditional approval and acceptance to my children. I wish it were not so.

However, looking to Jack and Bob, I have examples for what that looks and feels like. And in their example I can see glimpses of God as Father that provide me a less cloudy view.

Matt talked about how children raised by a particular kind of Father have trouble connecting with people, and I confess that as much as I love people I feel rather disconnected at all times. It was all I could do not to cry. I have often wondered what flaw in my being makes me incapable of that connection. If that flaw, that broken spot in me, is due to nurture, then can't the nurture of God heal that? Can't he tear down the wall that separates me from others?

This disconnection is what makes me a writer. My natural detachment allows me to watch and observe in ways that many people don't. It does bother me, though. I wonder if other people are aware of the wall.

I withhold parts of myself because I doubt that anyone could really love the lazy, nervous, sad, sarcastic, willful, horrid parts of me. After all, I don't love those parts of me. I am disgusted by those parts. The horror of FM is that I have to fight my innate laziness, and sometimes the pain is so restricting it feels like giving in to the laziness. I am often not sure if I should push harder than I do. Am I giving in or taking reasonable precautions? Do I feel the pain more intensely than it really is as an excuse for laziness?

Anyway, that was a bit off subject, but as I could never meet the expectations of my Father, I am plagued with self-doubt. Does this have to be? Ah, no. but I'm afraid that even when we have overcome our past doubts and difficulties, they remain weak spots, and like scars that are fully healed, still the sight or even the touch brings back phantom pains. Else why would a person who has long since given up smoking return to the habit? After a few days the physical addiction is gone, but for many there remains a weakness that is purely mental.

And so it is with my doubts. I've never been 100% free of them, but I am getting better. Mental discipline and scripture are the key. Take every thought captive, and all of that.

So....to make a long story short (too late!) I have decided to do my level best to see in my father all the traits that I always longed for. I have decided that when we get to heaven and our sin-scarred selves are burnt away, that we will be seen for traits we had but did not know how to show. My father, I am convinced, is a kind, loving, and gentle man. Were he capable of understanding the effect his words have on his children he would monitor them more closely and would express his love in the ways each of us want to hear. So I am determined to treat him as if he were already expressing himself that way. I am working on this and so I am flawed in the execution, but this is the goal.

May I spend time with my HEAVENLY Father, learning what the perfect father is really like, and may that affect the way I treat others, including my parents, my husband, my kids, my friends, neighbors, fellow students, teachers, fellow churchmembers, pastors and the people at the checkout counter. And may you choose to see me as perfect and complete--the way I will be in heaven when the reflection of my Father God is clear.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Update on Dad

Went to see the "old folks" today. Mom sprained her ankle yesterday and needed crutches, so I picked them up from the last people we loaned them to and brought them to Mom. Yikes! Her foot/ankle looks terrible! Terribly swollen and purple. I wonder if it might be broken!

Anyway, Dad is doing much better for the last couple of weeks. He's lost more weight and it really helps him be mobile. He has really cut down on his painkillers which is terrific. Today he talked about how much he really liked my mom and really enjoys spending time with her. It was surprising and very sweet to hear it spoken aloud. Wish my brothers and my sister could have heard it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Late Summer Surprises

One of the joys of gardening is the surprises. An end of the season sale at a roadside nursery (such as the one that sets up each year in the parking lot of a nearby parking lot) I picked up eight lavender augustofolia and an apple mint. When I went to the counter I found that anything 1 gallon or under that I could fit into a "flat" was $5. So I picked up another clematis, a purple columbine, an impatiens and a greater meadow rue. This last one had familiar leaves, but the official name didn't ring any bells, and I've been intending to look it up.

Well, I looked for a picture to post, but everything was copyrighted, and mine doesn't have flowers on it at the moment. Ah well...

Earlier in the year I spread seed from a "purple and green flower mix". I was annoyed that nothing came up, but since many of the seedlings I put in about the same time whithered or disappeared, I shrugged and figured, oh well. Recently I've had some potential weeds coming up, but something about the leaf structure looked...well...right. So I've left them. After a month or so, I was beginning to believe these were weeds, but since the plant structure was attractive, I decided to wait until they looked or smelled bad. Instead I have several plants of two varieties that have sprouted nice purple flowers in varying shades. So that bed is my "purple" bed. The flowering plants are all varying shades of purple between bluish purple and pinkish purple. These attract bees and look sure to attract butterflies.

I was late this year hanging hummingbird feeder, a nyjar sack for finches stayed empty for much of the summer, hanging from the crabapple tree, but since the crabapples are so heavily weighing down the branches I have three feeders that are hidden from view. At least they were hidden from view from most angles...

Pulling into the driveway the other day in the Civic, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and spotted hummingbirds darting about the feeder, dashing in for a drink, then back to hover several inches away before darting back in. A pair of yellow finches were hanging from the nyjar bag and some other bird darted in for a quick bite of seed at the big hanging feeder. I sat for a while in the hot sun, unwilling to spoil the view.

I love my truck, but I would never have had this particular viewpoint from that seat height. It was a special show. Even though ragweed season has begun and I am clogged, swollen, headachy, itchy, stuffed up and fatigued, I am enjoying the wonders and the beauty of this time of year. I'm enjoying the crabapple harvest, the shared harvest of peaches from an acquaintances tree, the excess vegetable harvest from a friend's garden and the second flowering of the year's lavender.

There are big, splashy moments of excitement in life, altogether too few and far between, but I think that the most unhappy, depressed and bored people I know spend far too little time appreciating the everyday surprises and joys.

As I was manning my garage sale this Saturday, I puttered around, replacing a scraggely lavender, deadheading the perennials, giving away a plant I wasn't crazy about (it was a poorly flowering lavendar variety with very little scent, unlike the variety I have planted elsewhere and love. I noticed that my rosebush with the pale purple roses has more buds preparing to bloom than all the previous blooms combined. In fact, it appears that all of my rosebushes are enjoying the weather, because they are all either in bloom or preparing for what should be a glorious show. Can't wait!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Freshman at 43

They say age is a state of mine, but I will tell you it is also a state of body. There are things that at 18 I could do without thought, that now require preparation and perhaps even a new pair of shoes. Hiking across campus is one of those things.

My mind, which still thinks I am 20-ish, doesn't register the distance between Columbine Hall and Dwire Hall as any big thing. My body, and in particular, my aching feet, say differently. With 10 minutes to get from one part of campus to the other, and parking such an issue that I cannot drive from one building to the other, park, and arrive in time. This is a hike, and an uphill one at that. Moving as quickly as I can, I am easily outpaced by the flip-flop set in their short shorts, and barely make it in time.

What I found upon arriving at my first class on Monday was not what I expected.

I had just finished reading about an elementary school teacher and her excitement about getting the room ready, the chalkboards freshly cleaned, the floors buffed to a high shine and the desks situation just so. I had similar expectations of freshly cleaned rooms, bright white, whiteboards and neatly ordered rows of chairs/desks.

The first room has more desks than can reasonably fit, and the stacked ones take up room that the setup ones need. The one-armed chair/desks are so closely shoved together that it is hard to get beyond the first chair, and I have no explanation for the rows being so crooked. If there were a fire it would be nearly impossible for me, seated in the back to maneuver my way to safety. The whiteboards show the remnants of many other classes, even though this is the first class of the first day of the first semester of a new year. All in all, not what I was expecting, but I'm still probably the happiest and most excited student there.

This semester I am going half-time, so my two classes are Logic and Reason and Public Speaking. What a lot of fun.

Another thing that changed since I was 18 is my eyes! I'm having trouble reading my textbooks and can't get new glasses 'til our insurance kicks in sometime in September or October. Yikes.

Hike to Mysterious

I found this piece while cleaning out my nightstand. I wrote it in November 2002 for a class on nature writing. Hope you enjoy it.

I have often told my family not to bury me when I die, but instead to sprinkle my ashes in the place which calls to me in the stillness and quietness of my spirit. Instead of a manicured lawn covered in precisely placed headstones, I want to be remembered in the place which in its serene wildness speaks of who I am and who I want to be. It is the place I think of when I remember my dad before age and illness stole his strength and vitality. It is, of all places I love, the place I consider my true home, my church, my cathedral, where choirs of trees sing to the music of the water and the birds harmonize an anthem of praise to their creator. The memory of it calms me when I need it most.

Our first attempt to get to Mysterious Lake had us gasping for air above timberline, with no lake in sight—Mysterious in name, mysterious in location. Following that attempt, my Dad made other trips and, with my older brother, had found his way in over a punishing seven-and-a-half mile trail. Too long and strenuous for the entire family, Dad sought an alternate route.

As I sit here in the city, I think back…and in the blink of an eye I am back. Back in 1972, eight years old, ready to embark on a trip that could bring success or failure. I can still be eight years old and back on the trail, any time I close my eyes—drying my boots by the fire, looking out over Mysterious Lake, just the way it was the first time we hiked in. Back, before others discovered our trail, before dirt bikes and ATV tires tore up the trails and churned up the creek beds—when it was as innocent and untamed as I was.

That first successful trip begins after a journey over the Continental Divide, past the large expanse of Taylor Reservoir, past the beaver dams where we’ve camped and fished for years, and up rough logging roads, where our small Toyota stations wagon scrapes and groans over rocks and downed trees. At the end of the logging road, we leave the car behind, tugging on our outerwear and check for the last time to see if we have the essentials for a trip in the backcountry.

After an uphill hike of nearly an hour, we reach an unmarked road. (On our return trip we will trace this road back down and find that we could have entirely eliminated the first hour of the hike.) We follow the road up to the end and stand in our heavy clunky boots, overweight packs on our backs, staring up an impossibly steep hillside. We are following Dad with his axe, ready to blaze the trail, topographical map in hand.

Moments later, I am scrambling up the hill, tiny rocks skittering down, kicked loose by my boots, still damp from crossing the creek. I can smell the pines and hear the heavy breathing of my family, the path too steep and too hard for talking. I can’t quit, I tell myself, though with each step I want to stop and wait for their eventual return.

At the top I half sit, half lean against a boulder, not taking my pack off for fear I won’t be able to lift it back onto my screaming shoulders. There are faint sounds of camp robbers (gray jays) and robins calling each other and rustling sounds of chipmunks in the underbrush.
The sun is warm through the pines as a cool breeze dries the sweat on my face and neck. The rest is all too brief. “Let’s go.” Dad is ready, so we rise to follow him.

There are six of us on the trail, but up here, with the sound of my heart pounding in my ears and the sound of my own labored breathing, I feel alone, but not lonely. My boots are heavy, and their sure footing gives me a feeling of confidence and strength as I follow Dad down the hill.
Thwack. The echo of metal striking wood is followed by the sound of flesh being torn from a tree ahead. As I pass, I admire the fresh blazes, the sap beading and glistening in the fresh wooden wound.

At the bottom of this hill we must cross another stream and then across the mire of the marsh, the muck clinging to my boots when I step off the high ground. I slap at the multitudes of mosquitoes rising from the vegetation to feast on my blood, drawn by my exhaled breath. The grasses are lush, the leaves wide and green, making a lovely swishing sound as I pass.
At the far end we stop before taking on the second steep hill, and I try to knock the mud off my boots, drinking water from my canteen (We didn’t worry about giardia in those days.) It tastes so good, so refreshing when I’m in the high country. No chlorine. No impurities. Liquid silver poured by heaven’s hand.

At the end of the short but rough trail, we come out of the pines into a wide meadow, at the top end of a small lake. We have arrived.

I am as yet unaware of spectacular places like Niagara Falls or the Mediterranean, so the dark waters reflecting the pale blue sky and wispy clouds overhead strike me as the beauty of a daisy—hardy, cheerful and pure. The waters are as clean as the first snow, as cool as the first winter chill, as refreshing as the first drought-ending rain. The lake seems to hide great mysteries in the depths. To the south, above a broadening meadow, treeless peaks fill the vista, snow clinging to the ramparts. We won this view by virtue of our sweat and blisters, by the climb that leaves us sitting, thighs trembling from the unaccustomed exertion, shoulders aching from carrying all our gear over one and a half of the most grueling miles I will ever encounter. I feel triumphant, healthy, alive—and tired. My older brother takes his pack off, lays back, closes his eyes and goes to sleep.

I made that same trip many times as I was growing up. I hope to hike that trail ‘til the hair on my head is a white as my father’s and the skin on my face as lined as the map that showed him the way in. I long to follow the still visible blazes into my favorite spot on earth.
No matter how many times I’ve been there, the first time, the effort the newness, and the wonder remain etched in my mind. Each swing of my father’s ax is a tick in the clock marking the days of my childhood, so quickly gone. Each step is imprinted in my muscles and memory by the sheer will to dominate that trail and soaked into my skin by the rewarding delight of swimming in the shivery shallows of Mysterious Lake.

Today, despite the damage left by others, and the occasional discordant roar of a motorbike engine destroying the peace, what’s left is the soaring hawk above, the trout below the dark water, the quick sighting of an elk across the lake. There is a vista without power lines, without roads and without the trappings of a modern civilized life. It is a place where you must be alert to the ever-present danger of nature in all its wildness, and the inattention that can cause catastrophic injuries so far from assistance.

I close my eyes and hear my boots crunching on the trail, smell the sweet pines and decaying undergrowth, feel the sun filtering through the trees, the gentle breeze and the strain on muscle and will. That first trip is the pinnacle, and when I am too old or too feeble to climb that trail again, I will still remember cold water, warm sun, hard boots, and the sweet scent of pines. Life never gets better.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Ordinary and Sublime

Huge things are happening in lives around me. A very little boy has suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and is in Children's Hospital. It's awful. The family goes through such incredible strain. The emotional toll can only be understood by someone else who has gone through something similar. For the rest of us, the best we can do is to love them, pray for them, bring meals, take part in fundraisers, send cards, visit, or other small kindnesses. There are parts of this that we can do nothing about.

Sometimes it seems odd to be going about normal everyday things while some people are in the midst of such life-altering events. Sons go off to war, husbands die, children are hurt, jobs are lost, finances are stretched to the breaking point, and yet we register for school, buy socks, do laundry, fill ice trays... When I stop and think about Jackson and his family, I momentarily feel guilty, as if living my life denies the pain and tragedy this family is going through.

But if everyone were to feel the intensity of this emotional situation, there is no one they could count on for support or strength. There would have been no one to volunteer to help with the fundraiser this past weekend, no one to make meals, no one to be the shoulder to cry on.

So I am grateful that there is some sense of normalcy to my life right now. Going back to school and all the preparation for that takes my mind off of our financial problems and gives me something to look forward to. This is a positive step toward reaching lifelong goals, and eventually will make me able to make a better living, which will, in turn, make our financial life better.

Long-term goals are not promises for the future, but without them we are living a life with no hope. I can live the same lifetime without making any plans, striving for any goals, but that is stagnation. Stagnation is worse than death, it is the growth of putrification. Without forward movement--striving toward something, we become a smelly, molding pool of yuck.

I am moving forward. It kind of goes along with my favorite story about Abraham Lincoln. A contemporary of his said he was the only man he knew who became a better person the older he got. This has been a goal of mine for years. Better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today. I can do nothing about the past, but I can strive to always grow and be better.

This is easier said than done. It means facing fears, and it means examining yourself to determine if you are getting better. It means facing your flaws, the times when you are unkind, when you are irritible with people who don't deserve it, when you are selfish, unjust, when you judge others unfairly, or when you simply think too highly of yourself. It means seeking to live without excuses (I'm sooooo not there yet.) It means guarding my tongue, harnessing my thoughts, seeking to use my time more wisely. All of these are rather lofty goals, but since they needn't be accomplished all at once, I strive toward them.

Anyway, today was church, worship team, women's ministry meeting, baby shower, and picking up books for classes tomorrow. A very full day. I put in 9 hours by 3:30. I'm beat.

I should probably get my clothes ready for tomorrow. I have to be in class by 8. I can't believe it. I finally get to go to school. I must go now.

Oh, and one last thing....my favorite guy at the local Starbucks, Ryan, is moving to Oregon. I will miss him. He is unfailingly cheerful and friendly. I will have to go in during the next few days to say goodbye. Wednesday is his last day. So if you get to the Starbucks at Flintridge & Acadmy in Colorado Springs, stop in Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, say goodbye to Ryan and tell him I sent you in. Better yet, call me and we'll go together!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What I'm reading, watching and listening to...

Books

A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin
This is the fourth or fifth time through this book. The entire series (A Song of Fire and Ice) should be read from the beginning. I hate using cliches, but this truly is an epic series. It feels historical, magical, and true. The characters are so well developed and so well written, that you can see them as you read, and their actions seem true to their character even when you don't anticipate what they will do next. Each of the characters are flawed, but Mr. Martin draws their flaws so clearly that you understand where they come from. You love them, you hate them, you root for them, you mourn for their loss, but what you want to know is what happens next. Totally engrossing in the way few books are, each successive volume is both fully satisfying and leaves me longing for the next one. I can hardly wait for the next and final book.

Table for Five by Susan Wiggs
Although Ms. Wiggs has written several books and has made the New York Times bestsellers list, this is one book that I won't be reading a second time. The plot seems familiar, though the characters are reasonably written is is somewhat less than satisfying. It is a good story for a little light reading, aimed at female readers. Not really my cup of tea.

The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway
I picked this up at a second-hand bookstore thinking they were having a half price sale. It was an impulse, since they didn't have books on Amy Carmichael. This is a truly compelling autobiography that left me on the edge of my seat, staying up late reading by the bedside light. Brother Yun became a Christian as a teenager in communist China and for the sake of his faith was imprisoned and tortured for years. His testimony is compelling and inspiring.

Blogs of Note

UseWellTheDays
I started reading this yesterday after noting the address on a Yahoo Groups post. Sustainable living, economizing, medeival times, gardening, cooking, home schooling, etc. This is an interesting woman. Time will tell if this stays on my list.

The Simple Dollar
Constantly updated, practical, interesting writing by a man seeking to live frugally and save and invest wisely. Very personal and very wise. I read this nearly every day.

Living From My Heart
My friend Beth hasn't posted as often as I would like, but she is droll, earnest, interesting and down to earth, as well as being a closet romantic.

Doug Green's Garden Blog
I love this guy's site, his blog, his newsletter. This guy knows gardening. He loves it and this comes across. Always inspiring me to be more adventurous in my garden, his blog and newsletter encourage any gardener, from the novice to the advanced.

Zambia K8
Caitlin is serving with the U.S. Peace Corps in Zambia, and is fascinating in her description of a life so totally different for her. Her exuberant personality comes through on each page.

1000 Days Non-Stop At Sea
The idea of this journey is so foreign to me that I can't help but be fascinated. Will they make it 1000 days without stopping for provisions, repairs, or simply the need to put foot on land?

Full Blue Moon Dementia
What can I say? Incredibly well-written. Is it truth? Is it fiction? I don't know.

Movies

The Simpsons Movie. Lots of laughs, but wait for the DVD, or even wait 'til it comes to television, unless you are a die-hard Simpsons fan.

The Bourne Ultimatum Dizzying camera work, lots of action, great performances. A really fun time. Highly recommended.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Whether you have issues with Harry or not, this is a good movie. Great cinematography, well-written, good acting, thoroughly engrossing. I highly recommend this movie.

No Reservations A feel-good date movie. Catherine Zeta-Jones is beautiful and believable, Aaron Eckhart is charming and engaging, Abigail Breslin is top-notch. Story is typical romantic fare, but done well. This one goes in my must-have chick flick DVD collection.

Television

I caught "The Kid" on the other day and the kid is frustrated that there are 120 channels and nothing on. Much of the time that is true. Still...

Side Order of Life I can't really explain what I like about this show.

State of Mind A bit more messed up and yet more understandable than Frasier's looney pair of sibling psychiatrists, Lily Taylor is terrific in this show. What happens when your life is crazy and you must deal with clients whose difficulties are entirely of their own making? Watch and find out.

Deadliest Catch Men being men. Men who do the toughest, deadliest, coldest, riskiest jobs. Working on the open deck with rogue waves crashing over you. In between you break the ice that coats everything while you wait for the opportunity to work 20, 30 or more hours straight hauling crab pots, hoping they are keepers. Hoping the weather stays in your favor, hoping you get your quota, hoping you make it back to port without much loss. Praying you come back with all your crew. Praying you find the crab. Wild. Probably my favorite show.

Music

Amore Andrea Boccelli
I cannot get myself to take this out of my CD player. I love it!

I'll Find You There The Kry
This one is regularly cycled through my playlist. I really enjoy the music, the lyrics, the feel of this.

Faith Jason Upton
Although I think this album is uneven, there are some real gems on it. I heard the song "Freedom" being played as background music during the offering or between services at church and had to find out who it was and where to get it. Try it and skip what you don't like.

I actually have several Rod Stewart albums in my CD player:
Unplugged and Seated (Live)
It Had To Be You...The Great American Songbook
As Time Goes By...The Great American Songbook: Volume II
Stardust... The Great American Songbook, Vol. III
Thanks For The Memory...The Great American Songbook IV
Some singers have natural gifts and do nothing with them, when listening to them you think, what a beautiful voice, and wonder why it leaves you cold. Mr. Stewart doen't have a great voice, but what he does with it is compelling. When I am loving his music there is a part of me that wonders, how can this be? Still, he gets to me and that part of me tells the voice critic to shut up.

Irish to the Core~ Wolfe Tones I love this unabashedly, unashamedly nationalistic Irish music. No apologies, no political correctness here. It inspires me to want to don the green. You'll love this too.

Windham Hill Signature Series: Piano Sampler This is quite pleasant background music as I write, read or do housework.

My-Redeemer Matthew Ward Although I love Third Day and listen to them often, this album inspires me to worship more than any other I have ever heard. My copy of this CD is so battered that it skips terribly, yet I cannot throw it away until I have replaced it. It is in my heart. Order yourself a copy, and while you're at it, order another one for me too.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Does God Care What He is Called?

This is the text describing the article as I went to email it to someone:

Dutch bishop: Call God 'Allah' to ease relations A Roman Catholic Bishop in
the Netherlands has proposed people of all faiths refer to God as Allah to
foster understanding, stoking an already heated debate on religious
tolerance in a country with one million Muslims. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20279326/from/ET/
To quote Bishop Tiny Muskens, ""Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem."

Does God care what we call him? He names himself "I AM". "YHWH" is the usual English translation. He calls himself the self-existent one. He is named "Adonai" (Lord), "Adonai YHWH" (Lord God), "Elohim" (a plural, often seen as evidence of a triune God from the story of creation on), "El" ' A Elyon(Most High God), "El Shaddai" (God Almighty), "El `Olam" (Everlasting God), "El Hai" (Living God), "El Ro'i" (God of Seeing, or the God who sees me), "El Elohe Israel" (God, the God of Israel), "El Gibbor" (God of Strength), "YHWH Jireh" (God who provides), YHWH Rapha (The Lord that Healeth). . God reveals himself through prophesy to Isaiah: "Wonderful", "Counselor" "Everlasting Father", the "Prince Of Peace".

When one makes such an effort to reveal himself through his name, which describes who he is, what he is like...do you think we should idly decide to name him something other?

For instance: my name is Kim. "Kimberly" to government types and doctors who don't bother to read beyond my given name to my preferred name. I am known as "Mom" to my kids, "Aunt Kim" to my nieces and nephews, "Mrs. Bentz" to some very well-brought-up children of my acquaintance, "honey" to my husband, "Kristen's mom", "Craig's mom" or "Alex's mom" depending on who you might be talking to, "Kim Carlson" to those who knew me before I got married, or even "Norm Carlson's daughter" or "Kris's sister". I have been called "the writer", "the singer", "the herb lady" and even "the hat lady". These names and descriptions all fit me. The are who I am or describe who I am. You cannot just walk up to me and begin to call me "Sally Kirkland" because you wish me to be that. I will not respond. I will be offended that you do not use the name with which I introduce myself.

When you ask me to do things for you, I won't do them, or if I choose to do so, it will not be with the warmth and intimacy that I wish to share with you.

Why would someone who calls them self a follower of God (such as the bishop) insult his creator by offering him up the name someone else calls their own god? Given his flawed logic, should we then begin to call YHWH "Thor"? or "Baal"? "Zeus"? Shall we call upon him by the names of Hindu gods? Ptuiy! May it never be!

It is discourteous, impolite, even rude to call one by the name of another. When it comes to God, the creator of the universe, our master, maker, savior and Lord, it is treating the Holy One as common. It is without decency or respect for the divinity and majesty of God. What disdain this man shows for his creator.

Why not ask the Muslim world to call upon YHWH? Because they understand that names mean things.

I occasionally get someone's name wrong in my head when I meet them. For a time I had registered in my head that my friend Becky's name was Peggy. One day I called her by the wrong name when introducing her to my husband. I was mortified when she quietly corrected me. Why? Well, you know why. My gaffe revealed that I hadn't made the effort to ensure that I NEVER called her by the wrong name. I have since, by repeated utterings of her correct name whenever I see or think about her, completely erased the Peggy connection in my head.

Such should be the nature of man when he finds that he has not used the correct name for God. Out of respect, he should retrain his brain, his thoughts, his emotions, his very being, to know God as he wishes himself to be known. He has given us many names by which we can call him, even, for those who are his, "Abba" or "Daddy" as it translates into English. Why would you call the Holy God, your Abba, by any other name but his own?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Some look for Sasquatch. I look for bull moose.

When I was in Alaska, I went out on snowshoes following moose track. I never caught sight of a bull moose, but when we would drive somewhere (the post office, even) there would be fresh tracks when we came back. Drove me nuts! Even when the car broke down on the way to the airport...we were in the office waiting for a ride and the man who ran the tow company asked if there was anything else. I just jokingly (I had nearly given up) said, "I'd like to see a bull moose if you've got one hanging around." "There was one here about a half an hour ago, but he's gone now."

All the way through Yellowstone I had my eyes peeled. Lots of cow moose and calves, but not a single bull to be seen.

A few years ago there was a young bull moose who had wandered down Fountain Creek and was seen wandering around in the area of Monument Valley Park. Never saw him. He apparently decided to head back up through the Air Force Academy and off into the hills, but he never made himself available when I was down looking for him. He made quite a stir in these parts, let me tell you, even had a naming competition of some sort. I think they came up with Bullwinkle or something equally original. Doesn't matter. It was a nine-day wonder and now I can't even locate info on it on the web.

I still want to see one. Need to head up to Estes Park. I read on the park website where there tend to be sightings, and a friend of mine just spent the weekend backpacking in another part of the park and has tons of pictures of bull moose.

Please don't write me about how stupid it is to go looking for moose. I know the dangers and am fully prepared to stay as far away as necessary for safety. I've seen a grizzly in the wild and didn't get close enough for danger--I'm not a complete idiot. I don't want to pet them or get close-up...I just want to see them in their natural habitat. Not a nature show, not at the zoo.

It's a reasonably harmless longing. It doesn't keep me from seeing what's right in front of me while I am out, but it does provide that little extra spark. Maybe, this time I'll see one. Maybe as I go over this ridge or turn the next corner, there will be one off in the distance.

I have to admit there was a thrill each time I saw fresh moose tracks in the Alaska snow. Knowing they were out there, less than a block from the house added to the excitement of the chase. Elusive, but clearly there. The evidence was all around me. It could only be a matter of time before I saw one.

It's only a matter of time.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wines

Okay, this is a strange subject for me to write about, and even makes me a bit nervous. There is so much criticism on the subject of alcohol among Christians. Never mind that Jesus turned water into wine as his first public act of ministry and miracle. Never mind that Jesus began at a party of all things. Never mind that the Bible only says not to be drunk. We have a strange attitude toward alcohol and other things in the church.

I was a tea-totaller until I was 30 if you don't count the two drinks I tried in high school, communion wine (blech!) and a taste of an almond wine a guest brought to thanksgiving dinner while still living at home. At thirty I realized that my kids were picking up the same attitudes that frustrated me in the rest of the church. One of my kids made a comment about someone having had a (gasp) beer! They were horrified and judgemental and I realized then that I had not communicated what the Bible says and what I really believe.

That being said, it was a little hard for me to have a glass, as I could feel hundreds of disapproving eyes on me. Still do sometimes. Also, there is a strong history of alcoholism in my family. So I sat the kids down and explained the dangers given our family history, but because I was pretty sure I did not share the family alcoholism, given my reaction to alcohol as a kid, I began having a glass of wine on occasion. It had become clear to me that my kids were not going to believe what I said, and that I needed to model responsible drinking.

There are things about a glass of wine that really appeal to me. Wine glasses are lovely in shape and form. wine bottles are beautiful and the color of wine so beautiful. The process of wine making is filled with beautiful images. Vines heavy with grapes, the picking, crates filled with lush clusters, the crushing, the fermenting, the rows of oak casks, bottling, tastings. The whole thing invokes images of long tables set in sun-dappled gardens, crisp white linens gently flapping in the breeze, while a dozen or more friends and family laugh and talk and eat fresh produce, fine cheeses, and pass glorious platters of pasta and bottles of the latest vintage. In these visions I always hear Italian spoken.

So, to the point of my post...my particular favorite wines.

Generally speaking, I prefer reds and have a partiality to slightly, or even more than slightly, sweet reds. I also have a kind of rule about wines--I usually only buy wines in the $10 range, either recommended by someone I trust or fairly highly rated in wine snob circles. Two of my top wines don't fit that, but instead are wines that were given to me by someone else, and are a bit out of my budget for all but the most special occasions.

1. I wish I could remember the name of this one. It is a lovely merlot in a very simple bottle with the simplest and classiest label. I remember a simple gilt outline "T" as the main visual of a very subtle label. Dark bottle. A co-worker and his wife made me a gift of this one. I meant to keep the bottle til I wrote the info in a wine-tasting book, but the bottle disappeared. I would know it if I saw it, but I know it is more than my $10 range.

2. Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir. Without a doubt the best wine I have ever tasted, but at $40 a bottle, a bit out of my price range.

3. The wine I buy and try to keep in my wine rack at all times: Roadkill Red by Colorado Cellars. At $12/bottle, it is more than what I pay to try new stuff, but I already know I will love this one. It is a semi-sweet light red wine that goes with a lot of stuff, or stands on it's own. I missed the Wine Festival in Manitou Springs this year, so I am down to my last bottle. My local liquor store can't get this one (you can buy it online, but they self-distribute, so he can't get it for his store) so I plan to go to the wine festival on the western slope in September. I fully intend to make Colorado Cellars one of my stops and to pick up several bottles of this one.

I don't drink often, and I hate to open a bottle and drink alone (Steve is diabetic and can't drink), so it only takes a few bottles to be my yearly allotment. One of my plans for the kitchen remodel is to install a small wine refrigerator so that I can have a selection of varieties of wine for cooking and drinking. The sweeter wines aren't so good for sauces and stews, so you need a selection of Burgundy, Cabs, and I will occasionally open a generic red or chianti and use it for both.

For sparkling wines, I like Moscato d'Asti. It is much sweeter than champagne, which I find distasteful.

My daughter laughed when she saw me drinking White Zinfindel. Working at a five-star restaurant, she became conversant with good wines, so when we ate there, I let her pick for me. I don't know the name of the white she chose for me, but it was lovely, I will admit.

That being said, I will admit that some of the things people talk about when they describe wines are a mystery to me. I must have a poor palate, as I don't taste "plums, with a hint of cherry and a nice oaken finish" Huh? I do sometimes smell the oak of the wine cask, but when they start talking about smelling and tasting the entire produce section, well, I don't know what on earth they're talking about. I often wonder about the wine that Jesus made. Was it dry? Was it sweet? What were the topnotes? What was the bouquet? Do NOT tell me it tasted like Mogen David or Manischeiwitz, it was supposed to be the best wine.

A nice glass of wine in a long-stemmed goblet. Lovely. Good for the stomach and ONE glass will help you get a good night's rest.

Given my family history, I must leave you with this caution: Always drink in moderation. Never drink at all if you cannot stop with one, or if it starts longings that make life difficult for you. This post is not intended to give you permission to drink if it is against your conscience or medical history. I do wonder when the modern church developed it's horror of wine. Perhaps it is the same thing we try to do with a lot of things. Since a lot is bad for you, have none. No moderation required. Well, it's a nice idea, and I understand the fear, after all, how do you know when to scold your neighbor. Is it after the second glass? See, that's the problem, somewhere between the 2nd glass and 6th is the cutoff, but since we are all built differently (different weight, metabolism and different eating and drinking habits) you can't just look at your neighbor and know it is one sip too many. Nor can you always know with yourself.

It seems to me that it is much easier to judge matters of conduct than of the heart and motive. If one person has a hard time with TV, then no one should watch it. We all instinctively seem to know that there are shows that definitely have crossed the line, but since we cannot see the line, we must be led by the Spirit. Well, for me, having certain propensities in the area of sins and desires, the Home Shopping Network may be an absolute no-no, while for you, it doesn't cause you to stumble in any way. But it is easy to find the areas we personally struggle with and then attempt to make everyone else show the same restraints as we must have in that area.

No offense intended to any Christian ministry, but I interviewed with a ministry several times, and was absolutely puzzled by their code of behavior and dress code. They were so much stricter than Scripture that I wondered what it was all about. Why, I wondered would sling-back shoes be forbidden? I was told that it was to avoid criticism from within the church. Wow. Silly, ridiculous rules to mollify people who find some issue with footwear? So instead of sharing God's grace and freedom and scriptural truth with the complaintant minority, freedom is taken from hundreds. This is so like the church. Gertrude doesn't like the paint color. It's not enough that it's beige, but it's not the right shade of beige. It doesn't have the essence of beige-ness necessary for painting the sanctuary. Also, the pastor insists on calling the sanctuary an auditorium, but that isn't a holy word... Then there is John. John grew up reading the Authorized King James Version, just like his father and his grandfather. That new preacher uses the New King James, the NIV, the NASB and sometimes Phillips. He sometimes says that the King James doesn't always express the intent of the Greek or the Hebrew as well. It's heresy, I tell you, and John is raising a stink in the church. So the deacon's board gets together to find a shade of beige paint that will mollify Gertrude, because even though 90% of the congregation wanted tan walls, they won't complain at all the meetings that the color doesn't bring about the right spirit of worship and devotion. The elder board counsels the pastor that John has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the building fund and asks him to teach from the KJV. After all, we shouldn't offend John.

I wonder if it isn't sin for us to be adding rules and regulations to Scripture. After all, if the goal is personal holiness and a heart for Christ, why do we suggest that God was almost right when he inspired Scripture? When we say that holiness is more complete with closed toe, closed heel pumps, that pantyhose are a requirement for righteousness, and that pants invite permissiveness, we are adding to Scripture. So, most of us don't do that, but the church and para-church ministries often say this without words. We don't even roll our eyes at these kind of restrictions. We accept as given that we must cater to the most irritable and vocal of our brothers and sisters.