Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Heartwarming Hallelujah Chorus

After all the versions of the Hallelujah Chorus I have seen this year, I might have to choose this one as my very favorite!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Christmas Creche revisited....

One of my favorite stories gets pulled out every year when I once again set up our Christmas crèche. Inside the box is stored this story:

When Ken and I were first married, we bought a complete crèche scene and painstakingly painted and antiqued every piece. We still have all the pieces, minus one chip out of the donkey’s ear, knocked off the shelf by the family cat. We never did find that missing ear and finally decided that the crèche was just perfect without it!

As our children grew, however, the crèche took on “other” meanings during the Christmas season. Our kids had a lot of fun changing the scene. One year the shepherds and wise men formed a rock band, complete with little guitars and drums. Another year, Sylvester the Cat would show up in the scene. Or various animals would roam the stage. Or the smurfs. Or whatever action figures happened to be in vogue at the time. Our kids recreated life, mostly in fun.

But one year, as we were waiting to have our Christmas eve dinner, we got a phone call from our middle son. He had pulled out into oncoming traffic, driving my car, and been hit by a car he hadn’t seen coming. He and his girlfriend were fine, but shaken up, and we interrupted our planned events to go and sort things out.

When we returned home, the crèche had mysteriously morphed into a new scene, complete with a wrecked toy car with shepherds and wise men all looking on with concern. Joseph was on the phone, Mary was sitting at the dinner table waiting for the family. And above it all, the angel hovered, having done her job, keeping everyone safe.

Today the crèche sits, undisturbed by the hands of children, awaiting the next generation’s take on the meaning of Christmas. And, after a half hour search in my completely disorganized photo storage system, I found the picture! If you look closely, you can even see the missing donkey ear.

My grandson, Caleb, when he was 2-1/2, added to our story.  He and I set up my Playmobile creche scene. It has a cardboard backing with a stable and door. We set up the camel, the wise men, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the angel. I was waiting for Caleb to begin acting out the story of Christmas. Caleb picked up a shepherd and resolutely walked him over to the stable door. "TRICK OR TREAT!" he yelled!

Guess we've got a little way to go til he gets the story down!

(Photo by mharrsch, shared via Flickr)

PS:  This year, thanks to my crazy husband, the creche was visited by a Queen, a Rook and a Pawn, in celebration of 6-year-old grandson Gavin's new interest in the game of chess!   Send me your creche stories!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And Yet Another Clever Christmas Rendition....

DO turn your sound off as "Dashing through the Snow" doesn't quite go along with this Christmas story, in my humble opinion.

Find this video here!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice Hymn

In gratitude and honesty
Let us reckon well the cost
Of every journey traveled
...And every river crossed

In wintertime, in solstice
When the dew is turned to frost
Let us celebrate the year we've lived
And mourn the year we've lost

Scott Burnett, Director Worship & Art
University Presbyterian Church

Friday, December 17, 2010

Inspiration needed

I guess it is obvious from the paucity of blog posts that I am somehow not inspired to write this month.  Guess I miss my old blog partner from Grace and Gravity!  But here is something I really like to get the Christmas story as though Facebook had been around at the time....

Monday, December 6, 2010

Singing My Kindle's Praises

With the Christmas season fast upon us, I want to make a plug for the Kindle.  I have hesitated to jump in with both feet to the e-book party, but had decided that I would wait until the Kindle was below $150.  When it hit $139, I jumped.  Shortly thereafter, I bought a second Kindle so that my husband could also enjoy the fun.  I am an avid reader and I do love books in their physical form, but I have spent the last several years downsizing, only to find my stash of books growing once again.  My Kindle is the size of a paperback and I opted for just the wireless function.  I don't see why I need to have any other type of connection.  I have enough books loaded to read for days and the only reason I can see for having 3g is if you're somewhere without a wireless connection and have to have a book RIGHT NOW!  Following is a list of the things I like about this new reading experience.  (Google's new idea about reading books "in the cloud" means that you have to have an internet connection to read your book.  This is an important distinction). 

1.  My Kindle was the only book I took along on a recent 10-day trip.  In the past I would have loaded down my suitcase with books, not knowing how much time I'd have to read or what book might strike my fancy.
2.  I purchased the fancy case with the built-in light which isn't quite enough light on it's own but works in a pinch if I'm in bed and don't have a reading light.  I use it for added light when reading at home in certain places where the light isn't quite right.
3.  I can set my Kindle flat on the table if I want to read while eating.  In the past I would try all kinds of tricks to get the book to cooperate, setting heavy objects across the pages or putting it in a recipe holder rack to make it stand up.  It is easy to hold on my lap of in my bed.
4.  A 1000 page book is not any heavier than any other book!
5.  Whenever I open a book on the Kindle, it remembers where I left off.  I realize bookmarks serve the same purpose, but this feature is still nice.
6.  If I want to, I can read the same book on multiple platforms.  I have Kindle for PC and Kindle for iPhone.  If I am in a waiting room somewhere without my Kindle, I can turn on my iPhone and open the book and it will be synced to the last place I was reading.  When I return to my Kindle, it will also sync to the furthest page I've read.
7.  I can increase or decrease the font on any book.  This is great for those of us with diminishing eyesight!
8.  I love current fiction and non-fiction.  I can buy new books cheaper on Amazon for Kindle than at Costco.  Most new hardback books are between $9.99 and $12.99.
9.  Project Guttenberg offers 33,000 books for free!
10. The Kindle will also play audio books.  This is a boon to my husband who listens to audio books while driving to and from work but has difficulty finding what he wants at the public library, runs into download issues, and has to clear off his iPod to make room for each new book.
11. The Kindle will hold about 3000 books.
12.  You can register up to 6 Kindles on one account.  My husband and I are therefore able to share the same book, cutting the cost.  I am looking for someone to join us who likes the same kind of books we like! 

What's not to like?  As an English major I suppose I should be weeping over the demise of the world of physical books, but as a person who loves technology, I am excited about this new reading option.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Post Maui Blues

Those of us who live in a place where a sunny day is cause to celebrate and get outside find it hard to imagine places where a shining sun is the norm -- and expected!  My husband and I just spent ten glorious days on the island of Maui and I found it comical to watch us -- and others like us -- as we headed for that island.

As much as we would like to start out (and return) from such a trip in shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals, we must begin and end our travel in multiple layers of clothing.  For me that means a silk camisole under a t-shirt under a turtleneck under a fleece, a scarf, a pair of jeans and warm socks and shoes.  The trip to the airport and back home must be kept in mind, as well as the freezing temperature in many airplanes.

Upon arriving at our warm destination, however, we stumble out into the blazing sunshine, amazed and now beginning to believe that 80 degrees is really 80 degrees.  We start frantically taking off layers, changing into our lighter-weight clothing in the rental car parking lot, baring our pasty bodies to a suntanned populace.  A roomy sundress over my head allows me to strip off the unnecessary layers without wasting time in a restroom pawing through my suitcase.  Sunglasses, visors, sandals, shorts, tank top, how can this be possible?  We are in a hurry, anxious to get to our destination so that we can begin to play in the hot sun.  It takes only a few hours to realize that most of the clothes we brought along are actually too warm to wear in this glorious Camelot!  I wore the same two loose dresses most of the ten days, usually with a swimsuit underneath, ready for any eventuality. 

At the end of our ten-day visit, we sadly leave the sunshine behind, returning to freezing weather and a dusting of snow.  SNOW!  Already the memory is fading, but even as the snow falls and the temperature plummets, I can close my eyes and remember that somewhere in the world it is warm.

Upon returning last year about this time from Kauia, I resurrected a poem I had found years ago after a trip to another sunny island.  I repeat it here.

If Once You Have Slept On An Island

If once you have slept on an island
You'll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name.

You may bustle about in street and shop,
You may sit at home and sew,
But you'll see blue water and wheeling gulls,
Wherever your feet may go.

You may chat with the neighbors of this and that
And close to your fire keep,
But  you'll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell
And tides beat through your sleep. 

Oh! You won't know why and you can't say how
Such a change upon you came,
But once you have slept on an island,
You'll never be quite the same.
 -- Rachel Field

Friday, November 19, 2010

Change your expectations...

I wrote in my last post about how your view of the world impacts your relationships. You learn a way of being in your family of origin (the family you grew up in) and you and your partner both came from entirely different families. Even if you think you have a lot in common, it is soon apparent that differences in expectations can cause you a lot of pain and conflict. I'd like to talk about three common expectations that can give us trouble in our relationships.

1. The Happiness Expectation

One of the expectations that we often bring to a relationship is that marriage, or another person, will make us happy. I long ago framed an old cover copy of LIFE magazine, in which one half showed the wife lounging in bed being served breakfast on a tray by her adoring spouse. The other half of the cover showed the spouse, also lounging in bed being served breakfast by his adoring spouse! I am sure that I found this particularly enduring because of some of my own unfulfilled expectations. We expect the behavior of our partner to bring us happiness. For example, I fully assumed that my husband would be the one to handle the trash in our family. My father always took care of that chore in my family or origin. I assumed that taking out the trash was equal to an act of love. My husband, however, had a different idea. His mother took care of the trash and he considered it women's work. We battled that difference for many years before finally reaching peace. We still both try to pass off the task to the other, but we don't any longer make the same assumptions as to who owns the problem.

This idea that we our happiness depends on another person's behavior is a troublemaker. Happiness begins as an inside job and expecting your partner to fulfill all your needs will only lead to frustration – and unhappiness! I spent my early married years waiting for my husband to bring me flowers. That is not the way he shows me love and when I realized that, I began to buy myself flowers.

2. The Change Expectation

Another expectation that causes problems is assuming that your partner will change after you are married. If you don't like the package prior to the wedding day, don't assume that you can bring about change. I will admit that change does happen in response to each other in a relationship. Sometimes it’s changes we want; other times it’s changes we didn’t expect. But assuming that you will be the change agent in forming your partner into the perfect man or woman of your dreams is sheer fantasy.

Barbara Streisand said, "Why does a woman work ten years to change a man's habits and then complain that he's not the man she married?" This is not a funny joke. Many people, when asked what they saw initially in their spouse, will produce a list of qualities and behaviors that were once endearing. Often these are the same qualities or behaviors now topping their complaint list! Perhaps your partner was spontaneous and fun loving. In later years, that might translate into "unpredictable" and "irresponsible." Or maybe you were serious and down-to-earth, only to hear now that you are "no fun," and "too boring." Beginning to accept your partner "as-is" is the beginning of a healthy relationship. We are often attracted to a person who is very different from us or our family and then spend a lifetime trying to make that person more like us!

3. The Peace-At-All-Costs Expectation

Many of us came from families where conflict was avoided at all costs. In those families, it is considered taboo to bring up topics that will cause anyone to become even the slightest bit upset. In other families, yelling and arguing are considered the norm and are not upsetting. Isn't it interesting that we seem to gravitate to someone who is the opposite of what we are accustomed to? Often the two types will marry and before long will wonder why there is such a disagreement in how arguments are solved. But the expectation that everything will always be smooth and that disagreements won't need to be worked out is also a poor start to a relationship.

Recognizing that these expectations exist is a good starting place for understanding why it is that two people who started out thinking that their relationship was perfect, find out soon enough that there is work to be done to make the relationship last!

(Originally posted at The Tranquil Parent blog).  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Changing World View

When my husband and I were engaged to be married (40 years ago this month!), we were required by our church to have several sessions of pre-marital counseling. The pastor who counseled us was an older, single man. He asked us how we handled conflict. I answered, "That's easy! We fight and fight and fight and then I cry and he gives in!" I was dead serious. The pastor suggested that perhaps we weren't ready to get married and should put off our decision until we had worked out better ways to solve our conflicts.

Being all-wise at the age of 21, we were quite sure that this pastor, having never been married, couldn't possibly know what was best for us and had no right to tell us we weren't ready for marriage. Besides, our method was working quite nicely (for me at least), so we ignored his comments and proceeded to use this very method of conflict resolution for the next 6 or 8 years. I was the master of the long pout and could hold out for several days, if necessary, to get my way. My husband, himself a conflict avoider, wasn't happy with the outcome at times, but since his goal was to keep me happy at all costs, this method worked for him as well. We would kiss and make up and have great make-up sex!

A funny change happened about 8 or 10 years into our marriage however. At some point, my tears stopped moving my husband to give in, and we gradually realized that our methods weren't getting either of us any satisfaction. We began the long process of learning to fight fairly, learning to negotiate, learning to look at the possibility that we might both have a valid point in any given situation. Many methods, books, counselors, retreats, friends helped us along the way. I plan to bring some of those ideas to you in later posts, but today I want to talk about how my own world view changed.

We establish our world view in our family of origin (the family we grew up in) and usually don't realize that we are acting out of that world view. My world view was that the most important thing about an argument was being "right." If I wasn't "right" then my whole belief system began to crumble around me. I needed to be "right" to prove that I was a loveable, "okay" human being. If I was "wrong," then there must be something fatally flawed about me. Many of us suffer from this black and white thinking.

One of the most important changes you can make in your relationship is to begin to accept the fact that your partner's position on a given subject has equal validity to your own and that there is a possibility that you are both "right." For example, you might assert that the "way" to get to the grocery store is by taking certain streets, making sure that all of your turns are left turns. Your partner, however, may choose a route that goes past some familiar landmark and assert that this is the correct route. Is there a "right" way to get to the grocery store? Obviously, this is a simple example, and many far-more-complex examples abound in any relationship. What is the "right" way to discipline your child? Or the "right" way to clean the kitchen? Or the "right" way to celebrate a holiday? Or the "right" way to spend or save your money?

When I began to accept that both my husband and I had valid points in a disagreement, our relationship began to grow. I began to understand that we could both hold different ideas at the same time and both be "right." I began to look at the world as a place where not only black and white exists, but many colors and shades in between.

Think of some areas where you might be willing to consider your partner's point of view and begin to change the way you see the world!

(This was originally posted by me at The Tranquil Parent blog)

Monday, November 8, 2010

I'm getting old....

I know I am getting old and I say so,
but I don't think of myself as an old man.
I think of myself as a young man
with unforeseen debilities. Time is neither
young nor old, but simply new, always
counting, the only apocalypse. And the clouds
—no mere measure or geometry, no cubism,
can account for clouds or, satisfactorily, for bodies.
There is no science for this, or art either.
Even the old body is new–who has known it
before?–and no sooner new than gone, to be
replaced by a body yet older and again new."
— Wendell Berry, VII, in Leavings

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Week that changed lives....

Here is an amazing story of God's timing, written by Hilario Pardo, Global Missions Pastor of Northshore Baptist Church, here in Bothell, Washington:

It is hard to know if writing will do justice to our experience. Photos help, but there is a great mountain of feelings that can hardly be expressed- at least with my limited literary gifting.

Northshore people responded to the January earthquake that devastated Haiti with an offering and a commitment to make sure that the money would be well-spent on the people of that country. To follow up on that commitment, a team of workers left in July under World Concern’s umbrella and direction.

 Later that summer, Jeff and Terry Clark, members of our congregation, felt a calling from the Lord to be involved further in the country and to take a medical team to hold clinics for people still affected by the damage of the quake and in great need of medical attention.

I, as a Global Mission Pastor, signed up to go with them for two important reasons:  one, to support the calling and efforts of these two emerging leaders and two, on a more personal level, to offer my help and expertise as a Registered Nurse to the people in Haiti.

Eleven people- seven from our congregation and the rest, friends and a contact from Medical Teams International, formed this team. We completed our short-term mission training, meetings, and devotionals and all embraced our philosophy of serving the world and being representatives of Christ.

One of the essential goals for every team that goes is to listen to the voice of God, remain flexible for changed direction, and to obey Him.

The evening before our departure, Thursday, October 21st, we received an email and phone call with breaking news from Haiti. A cholera outbreak was in full force in a town north of Port au Prince. It was the first cholera outbreak in the Western hemisphere in 100 years. Cholera is a bacterial disease that spreads via polluted waters and produces such violent vomiting and diarrhea that, if not treated with IV fluids, people die within hours. Reports from the internet talked about 190 people already dead by Thursday night; other reports were more graphic and tragic.

When the question, “Will you come help with the cholera outbreak?” was presented to the team, the teaching on flexibility and trust in God paid its dividends. Every single one on the team said, “Yes” to respond to the crisis; not without some trepidation or fear, but with trust that God would lead us to literally save some lives.

The trip to Haiti was a step of trusting in God. We had a lot of questions; we studied and talked about the reality of dealing with death and a very contagious disease, and we gave our lives and our knowledge to the One that can keep us safe.

Flexibility is one thing; what God allowed us to be part of and experience is another. More than being flexible, we were “stretched.” From our original plan of holding medical clinics in the city, our team was used by Medical Teams International Haiti as a first response team- we became a medical crisis team. The idea excited most of us and placed our emotions and our dependence on God to a level I never had experienced before.

We created a base camp near Saint Marc, the small city that was receiving all these dying patients from other parts of the country. The team was split to tackle two areas with very serious cases.

On Sunday, October 24, we committed ourselves to the Lord, embraced each other as we separated, and walked into the most devastating place I have ever seen.

Children, mothers, fathers, and teenagers all lay on the floors of the hospital rooms; some of the rooms were never even used for patients before.  IV fluids were hanging by nails on the wall, in open windows, and on door frames. A mother with a dying child laying on a piece of cardboard on the floor, since no beds were available, held my leg to get my attention- her eyes telling us, “help my baby.”  There was nothing we could do but change the empty IV fluids.

On the faces of our team members was despair and disbelief. I encouraged our team and said, “Do the best you can” not even believing what I was saying. The “best we could do” was not enough to save so many lives.

And we did the best we could- and even in doing that, felt totally worthless. Lots of IVs, prayers, and smiles were given to people whose faces reflected the fear of a disease unknown to them.

I have to confess that the hardest part for me was caring for the young men. They looked strong and full of youth, muscles well-formed and skin, black and shining. Each time I saw one of them, it reminded me my own son, Roberto. Lying on the floor or on the stretchers there, in a few hours, their bodies would start to deteriorate. The panic in their faces will haunt me for long time . . . and the look of despair on the faces of mothers and fathers just like me, not understanding what was happening to their child.

Oh, God really stretched us and took us to places we did not want to go. In His wisdom we trust.

A mix of emotions that ranged from feeling useful and privileged to be there to wondering, “Are we doing anything for these people?” went through our minds each day. In the end, the phrase that consoled our hearts was, “for such a day as this the Lord has brought us here.”

I am proud of our team- simple people that embraced terror and danger, not without fear, but with trust in God’s direction and compassion. I am so proud we were able to saves lives- to pray with fervor for a child as we transported him in our arms and risked our safety to save his life. I am so proud of each of the team members that did much more than what he or she was trained and called to do.

I am so proud to be their pastor, friend, and their colleague in this situation.

Today, we are going back to Seattle. As I was boarding the airplane, I overheard a conversation of someone in the line asking one of our team members, “So you were in Haiti on vacation?” “No,” Terry said, “we were part of a medical team, helping people with cholera.” The man responded, “Cholera? What is that?” After her explanation, the man jokingly said, “Yes, I was rehydrating people as well- after they had lots to drink on our yacht!!”

 And I lost it…I started to cry without consolation. I think I will cry for a long time, not only for the people in Haiti, but for me and the people  around us- for our inability to feel, to understand, and to respond to what is going on around us. Oh God, touch our hearts, Oh Lord have mercy on us.

Hilario Pardo
Global Missions Pastor

Friday, October 29, 2010

You know you are living in 2010 when...

I usually write "I don't usually share these things" before I send on something like this!  A good friend sent me this and I found it funny, so here it is: 

1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave.
2. You haven't played solitaire with real cards in years.
3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of 3.
4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.
5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don't have e-mail addresses.
6. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries.
7. Every commercial on television has a web site at the bottom of the screen.
8. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't have the first 20 or 30 (or 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go and get it.
10. You get up in the morning and go on line before getting your coffee.
11. You start tilting your head sideways to smile. : )
12. You're reading this and nodding and laughing.
13. Even worse, you know exactly to whom you are going to forward this message.
14. You are too busy to notice there was no #9 on this list.
15. You actually scrolled back up to check that there wasn't a #9 on this list.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Whose Rules Rule?

I wrote a post for another website a while back about grandparents titled "Whose Rules Rule?" I followed it up with a second post titled "Dealing with Challenging Grandparents."  These two posts were rather controversial and some grandparents weighed in heavily on the side of grandparents needing more freedom in the care and loving of the children.  I still agree with my two posts!  Here is an interesting piece on CBS dealing with the same issue.  This segment did not go into the issue as much as I did, but seems to be very even handed in their discussion of these very important relationship issues.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Be Like Dave

I have been following the Towne family since August of 2007, when their two-year-old son, Ben was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.  I followed them through the year and a half of treatment and attended the memorial service after Ben died in December of 2008 at the age of 3.  I am now following them as they launch the Ben Towne Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation to further pediatric cancer research.  A recent post by Carin, Ben's mother, describes beautifully what is helpful when coming alongside someone who is suffering, exemplified by Rev. Dave Rohrer:
If I were to give guidance to anyone who is walking along side a family who is losing/has lost their child here is what I would say:  Be like Dave.

When you have the urge to speak, listen. When you feel like your job is to point out the good news, wait.  When you have the need to wrap up our experience, please don’t. For real, loving care is the willingness to sit with someone and remain with them in their pain. To hear their fears and sorrow.  To say with your actions, “I don’t have all the answers, but I’m sorry. And I am here.” (Read the entire post here.)
May we all strive to "Be like Dave!"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ike Makes a Touchdown!

Here is the feel-good story of the year!  Ike, a high schooler with Downs Syndrome, was accepted as a member of the football team at Snohomish High School.  Read about how the Lake Stevens team allowed him to make a touchdown, ruining their shutout against Snohomish.  This story has gained national attention and will possibly be made into a movie.  Kudos to the wise coach and the caring team and school members who have looked past Ike's disability and shown true love and compassion! 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Eyes Wide Open

I have heard so many people in my circle of influence who have problems getting to sleep at night.  Or problems getting back to sleep when something awakens them.  I am compelled at such times to offer the one exercise that I have used for more than 20 years.  My mind is so used to the exercise that I can just barely get past the first part before falling asleep.  This does take practice!  But often the thing that keeps us from falling easily to sleep is that we can't turn our minds off from the issues of the day.  This exercise helps to focus your mind on something other than your problems and concerns.  Think of it as a sophisticated way of counting sheep! 

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

When trying to get to sleep, begin by naming 5 things that you see --  (“I see the ______________, I see the ______________, I see the _____________, etc., naming things in room or things in memory from bedroom where you sleep).  You silently say these things in your head.

Now close eyes for rest of activity.

Move to 5 things you hear, then 5 things you feel.  Next progress to 4 things you see, 4 things you hear, 4 things you feel, then 3 of each, then 2, then one.

Keep the “chant” going throughout:  I see the __________, I hear the ____________, I feel the ___________etc. through 4 items I see, 4 items I hear, 4 items I feel; use the same items or different, then 3 of each, then 2, then 1

At first you won’t hear anything, but as you listen deeply, noises will rise to your consciousness (ex:  breathing, fan, people in next room)

Examples of feelings:  I feel my foot going to sleep, I feel hungry, I feel my leg against the sheet.

If not asleep or relaxed, start over with 5 things I see.  If you get lost or mixed up, start anywhere.  It doesn’t matter as long as you are calm and relaxed. 

With practice, you will notice it takes less and less time to fall asleep when you begin this routine.

I see the clock on the wall, I see the window, I see the bureau, I see the door, I see the picture.  I hear the birds outside, I hear cars going by, I hear the hum of the frig, I hear people walking by, I hear snoring.  I feel tired, I feel anxious, I feel the bed against my leg, I feel my hands twitching.

On to 4 of each, then 3, then 2, then 1, starting over anywhere you get mixed up.  Focus isn’t on doing this exercise “right,” but on concentrating on something other than the things making you anxious or unable to sleep.    (Michele Weiner-Davis technique)

(Photo "counting sheep" by andywon, shared via Flickr)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Long Obedience in Action

Update on Steve Ruetschle:
On Thurs, June 17, Steve was in a severe motorcycle accident while on a multi-state motorcycle trip.  The accident was in North Carolina. Medics on the scene made the decision to life-flight Steve to the nearest trauma hospital, in Asheville, North Carolina.  Steve fractured his c6 and c7 neck vertebrae. Steve currently has some feeling but no movement from his upper chest to his feet. He has partial use of arms/biceps; no fine motor movement in his fingers.  The doctor says that Steve has a 10% chance he’ll ever be able to regain any meaningful movement in his legs, however a definitive prognosis is still not established. It is clear that prognosis will play out over the months and years. (italics mine)
Since that time, there have been 202,642 page loads of the website supporting Steve's recovery.  The Christian community throughout the world has been praying for Steve's recovery.  How exciting to see the following videos, chronically Steve's progress!  Praise God for answered prayers as Steve continues the hard work of recovery! 

Here is a link to the videos!  Watch, weep, continue to pray!  We do not know why sometimes our prayers bring about a positive outcome and sometimes we are left to mourn.  But we trust in the One who has the power to heal and look forward to seeing Steve whole again!

A book worth reading....

I love to find a book that I can't put down.  They are few and far between with life's busyness interfering and all of my other interests taking center stage.  But when I find one that grabs me and won't let go, it's a rare treat.  I remember times this would occur when I had three young children and would stay up half the night finishing a book, only to drag myself through the next day.  My life is easier now, but the "can't put down" books seem harder to find.

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese is such a book.  I read it over the course of a couple of days, ignoring as many of my responsibilities as possible, wanting only to get back to the book.  It is a gripping tale, set in Ethiopia, and written by a physician.  The author was born and raised in Ethiopia and is a physician, so obviously knows Ethiopia and medicine intimately.  The story touched me deeply.  Here's a quote from the book: 
"The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not."
This, in a nutshell, seems to be the theme of the book.  The actions and omissions of the characters left me hanging precariously throughout, but the loose ends were tied up by the end of the book.  I was sorry to turn  the last page.

I'd love to hear about books that have grabbed you!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

20 Wishes

Here's something I gleaned from a good friend's post, taken from Julia Cameron in her book Walking in This World.
"The following simple little exercise is one I use when I’m feeling a bit stuck on who I am, where I want to go and what the next steps may be.

Number a blank sheet from 1 to 20. Writing (quickly) finish the phrase: “I wish” 20 times. Your wishes can range from the big things that you find difficult to wrap your mind around or the very small (almost imperceptible) things that are sometimes passed off in pursuit of bigger things. There is no right or wrong wish!

What you will notice, once you have completed your list, is that there are several small, yet doable steps you can take that you may not have thought about. The simple act of putting your wishes on paper (instead of holding them in your head) allows you to gain insight and perspective."  (Read the rest of the post at Windridge Reflections)
My husband and I used this exercise on a recent road trip and some of the things we each wished were surprises to the other (and to ourselves!)  Try it for yourself or as a conversation starter.  Obviously some of the things on the wish list are probably not going to happen, but if even just a few of them can begin to take place, it does help you to decide what you want to do with the years remaining to you!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You're Here Now!

I recently finished reading Eat Pray Love and also saw the movie shortly thereafter.  Just for the record, I really enjoyed the book but thought the movie was quite unsatisfying.  (And it bugs me that the only version of the book now available has to have Julia Roberts on the cover!) The book seems to follow a true search for God, meaning, and healing, while the movie glosses too quickly over the deeper parts and by moving so quickly seems very shallow.  I have some issues with the healthiness of moving in rapid succession through divorce, new relationship, end of new relationship, beginning of still another new relationship that is now characterized as the perfect culmination of a one-year journey.  Condense all of this into a movie and it happens at breakneck speed.  In the book, the final relationship evolves over a very long friendship (still too soon, in my humble opinion).  And the movie basically leaves out the many parts that show that this is indeed a search for God (albeit sometimes a different version of God than I might posit).  I chose to ignore some of the flaws of the book and looked for the nougats!

Several things struck me in this book, but one has to do with being in the present (connected to my last post on not borrowing tomorrow's problems).  Here's the quote from the book:
The other problem with all this swinging through the vines of thought (her reference to the "monkey mind" where thoughts swing from limb to limb) is that you are never where you are.  You are always digging in the past or poking at the future, but rarely do you rest in the moment.  It's something like the habit of my dear friend Susan, who -- whenever she sees a beautiful place -- exclaims in near panic, "It's so beautiful here!  I want to come back here someday!"  and it takes all of my persuasive powers to try to convince her that she is already here.  IF you're looking for union with the divine, this kind of forward/backward whirling is a problem.  There's a reason they call God a presence -- because God is right here, right now.  In the present is the only place to find Him, and now is the only time.

I have begun to use this phrase in my head (and out loud with some near and dear to me):  "But You're Here NOW!"  What a great reminder to live in the present and appreciate our lives as we are living them, instead of "digging in the past" or "poking at the future."  You're already here!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sufficient unto the day

There's a lot of talk about "living in the moment."  This is difficult to do.  Here's an example of what I mean.  We were on our way to an event with some friends.  I was driving and the light I ran turned bright red before I managed to get through the intersection.  Unfortunately, it was one of those intersections that has a camera and a warning sign.  My dear husband (who recently got caught by camera going too fast in a school zone, paid a large fine, and can thus be forgiven for being just a little testy when I ran the red light) began to obsess about the fact that I was going to get a ticket, we were going to have to pay a large fine, this was really awful, and was beginning to ruin the possibility of a fun evening. 

I said to him, "Don't let it RUIN the day and the fun we're about to have." 

His response was "But what if you get a TICKET?"  And I responded with what I think was brilliant clarity:  "Let it ruin THAT DAY instead!" 

I have been thinking a lot about that exchange and my statement and how truly Biblical it really was.  I was raised on the King James Version of the Bible and here is the text:

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof.  (KJV Matthew 6:34)  A newer version says:  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)

A line from Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sufficient Unto the Day, says:   Is not to-day enough?  Why do I peer into the darkness of the day to come?

Oh, and by the way, I haven't received that dreaded ticket in the mail -- yet!  I will let it ruin THAT day if it does indeed come!

(Photo by dagring, shared via Flickr)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

88-year-old mayor

Although I am no longer posting mainly about aging, I can't seem to stop that process in myself, so aging will be front and center in many of my posts.  I recently received this vido in an email from a friend and I thought it was worth sharing.  I haven't yet decided if this woman's life makes me feel better about aging or worse -- given that she seems to have more energy at 88 than I've had for a number of years!  This woman has been mayor of the 6th largest city in Canada for 31 years and her city is one of the few in the world with no debt and a 700 million dollar reserve.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fall is in the Air

No matter how many years I live in the Pacific Northwest, I am still surprised when, sometime between the 15th and 20th of August, Fall makes an early announcement.  One day it is in the 90's and we are playing at the beach; the next day, I notice that the trees in the park next door have begun, all at once, to drop their leaves.  It's as if a bell or timer went off and a loudspeaker began announcing "Hurry, hurry, hurry, don't miss out on the beginning of Fall!"   One day we are still thinking we might need another tank top or pair of shorts; the next we are wondering how soon we will need to pull out those warmer socks to take away the chill.

Life is like that too.  You go through your days without thinking about the fact that you are getting older.  Time seems to stand still for a child.  A teenager yearns for adulthood.  Or a young parent wonders how he or she will ever get through the next day, the next year, of raising children -- thinking of all the years of expenses up ahead, diapers and baby food, then sending kids off to kindergarten, then middle and high school, finally college and weddings.

And then, all at once, you notice that time has begun to speed up.  Just like those last two weeks of August, your life is now speeding towards a final destination, yelling "Hurry, hurry, hurry, don't miss out on anything!"  You begin to think about the things you might really never cross off your list.  Maybe you'll try jogging to get into better shape.  But your knees tell you after a block that this really wasn't such a great idea.  All those books and lists of things you need to do before you die!  Thousands.  Places to visit.  Places to revisit.  Books to read. Service to render. Relationships to nurture.  Grandchildren to savor as they move through time.  Not wanting to miss a thing. 

So fall feels a little poignant to me.  A little too much like life.  Yet, I am a glass-half-full kind of person, and I will look for the clean, crisp days that autumn brings and hope that the winter is kind again this year.