Monday, July 31, 2006

Tagged for a Book Meme

Dr. Pursiful, mentioned in the last post, tagged me with this li'l book quiz.

1. One book that changed your life:
The Woman Question by Kenneth Hagin. Yes, really. I'm not a Hagin fan, and this book is really not all that good (sorry!). But at the time I read it (the only thing I could find on the subject) my spiritual eyes opened, my thoughts changed, my heart lifted. The Holy Spirit was my guide and my teacher, and I saw truth. I now have much better books on the subject of women in ministry, but none transformed my thinking like this one, which was based on the writing of P.C. Nelson, an Assemblies of God pioneer, and one of Hagin's early professors. I used to give copies away, and I keep one to remember what happened to me the day I read it--at one sitting--feeling my world change forever.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
Only one? That's tough. Any book really worth reading is worth reading several times. Okay, just one... don't expect anything deep or theological or spiritual here...hmmm...okay, I've read this one over and over. The Wind in The Willows. Great book! What? You haven't read it?

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
Well, this is cheating a bit, because it is many books, but I'd like the complete set of C.S. Lewis, including the science fiction stuff.

4. One book that made you laugh:
Lake Woebegone Days by Garrison Keillor. We were the pastors of a church of Scandinavian Wisconsinites at the time in a town so much like Lake Woebegone that it was unbelievable. I had living examples of the book's characters in the church and in the town. I laughed so hard I acturally fell off the couch. However, it seems people either love the book or hate it.

5. One book that made you cry:
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. My family owned a large set of classics. This one was...BIG. And some of the descriptive passages are hard to wade through, but it is brilliant (in spots) and it was one of my first experiences of feeling distress at a total lack of justice and right action.

6. One book that you wish had been written:
One Hundred and One Simple Explanations of Why I Said What I Said by the Apostle Paul.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
The Book of Mormon

8. One book you’re currently reading:
Jesus on Leadership by C. Gene Wilkes

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
I Suffer Not a Woman by Catherine Kroeger

10. Now tag five people:
Psalmist, Questing Parson, Songbird, Rev. Abi, Jan

An Interview

My long-time cyber friend (and occational gracious consultant on matters of Greek and theology), Dr. Darrell Pursiful, is one of the contributors to "The Scroll" -- the blog of Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE). I'm honored to say that he recently sent me a series of questions for an interview there. It is three parts, but each part is fairly short. If you'd like to see the interview, start here.

Thank you, Dr. P. for believing I had something interesting to say!

And anyone interested in matters of church and gender issues, please spend some time at CBE. They changed my life.

Dr. Pursiful, also known affectionatly as "Dr. Playtypus" also has a new blog. Find it here.

P.S. I just noted he tagged me for a book meme! Oh yay! I'll have to wait to do that one for a bit, but I'll get back to it. We drove 13 hours to Springfield, spent two days there, one sitting in chairs, and drove another 13 hours to return home. I informed my husband that I will NOT be doing that again. I do have some things to say about it, but they will keep. I'm glad to be home. Even good conferences are tiring.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My Chair is Empty

I'm heading to Springfield, MO with my chaplain husband in order to attend the annual
Assemblies of God Commission on Chaplains Convention. (A mouthful, huh?) You are welcome to sit down and enjoy the flowers, however.

I'll be back Sunday evening. I have something very significant to pray about and ponder while I am gone. I may skip a meeting or two and take a Bible and a pad and pen and find a quiet spot. Please join me back here next week

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Being One of the Lights in the City

Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world--like a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see. Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
My last post was about City on a Hill, an inner-city ministry. I love the name. When Jesus uses the "city on a hill"-- a city of light-- as a visual metaphor, he is speaking to those who are his disciples. The Christ-followers are to be the light, the city that shines where all can see.

This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Hide it under a bushel?
I'm gonna let it shine,
Hide it under a bushel?
I'm gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

This was one of the first songs I remember from Sunday School. That one and

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam,
To shine for him each day,
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam,
At home, at school, at play.
A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam,
A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
I'll be a sunbeam for him!

Were you singing with me?

I recently heard someone say that "This Little Light of Mine" was a song of self-affirmation. In a sense it is, since we all have gifts and glory to share. But this song is not primarily about our humanity. The song is from the Matthew verse. It is not merely our own light that is shining; it is the light of life, the light of Christ which, hopefully, shines in our lives. Folk singer Barry McGuire once said that we are like the moon. Jesus is the main light, like the sun, and Christians are a secondary source--reflections of divine light. He joked, "I wanna be a full moon." I know, today that brings other images to mind than what Barry intended, but at the time the thought of a beautiful full moon reflecting the sun's light seemed simple but profound.

Someone left two comments here not long ago. One said the blog was "amazing" (not a compliment, I learned), and the other urged us to open our minds. Both referenced an internet site which aims to prove that God is a figment of our collective imaginations. I took a look. Some of the "proofs" required some thinking about, IMO. Others made me groan, because the statements and examples were so simplistic and revealed a gross misunderstanding of basic tools of Bible interpretation, among other problems. Nonetheless, the assertion that God is imaginary, and the site's efforts to persuade us that we are being deluded, got me thinking.

I was not trying to decide whether or not God is imaginary, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to debate atheists. I leave that to my friend Metacrock and others. I was thinking about why those who authored the site cared whether I believed in God or not. What would be accomplished if their reasoning convinced me?
I tend to think of things from my heart's perspective even when I'm trying to be cerebral; therefore, my initial intellectual arguments for the existence of God rather quickly gave way to pondering what being a Christian--a "little Christ" or a follower of Jesus means. What difference would it make in my life, and in others lives, if we all decided we are fools for having faith and joined the ranks of Christians who have become atheists?

That deserves a book, not a blog post, but here goes. The Church of Jesus Christ has often done a woeful job indeed of shining in the darkness. However, this is the ideal, and this is the aim of my heart. I want to make a difference in individual lives and in the world in my own God-given way.

I thought about our trip to the coast to help with Katrina relief efforts, which I blogged about at length, starting here. Our church back home in Wisconsin was praying that the Church would shine. I saw overwhelming first-hand evidence of that happening everywhere we went on the Gulf Coast. I am not saying that only people of faith were helping. Of course, that is not the case, but I know that those who arrived first, before FEMA, before the Red Cross, before any "official" organization, were mostly the church people. From all parts of the country and from many denominations, they came. They prayed, cried, hugged, and rolled up their sleeves and sweated in the stifling heat and humidity and worked hour after hour. I worked till I almost could not stand up anymore, and then I rejoiced that I actually had a real shower (in a church basement) to use, and a building in which to sleep. Many volunteers slept in tents for weeks, right along with hurricane victims. Over and over we heard, "Thank God for the churches. We would have nothing without you people." Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Methodists, Christian Missionary Alliance people and more, all worked side by side and sang hymns and laughed and smiled through their exhaustion.

I thought of the boxes we gave to Mississippi children--boxes with a few toys or crayons, dolls, a book or two--where did those boxes come from? From churches. Many included notes of encouragement or assurances of love and prayers. Many of the notes were from Sunday School children.

Who is reaching out to children trapped in Asia's sex trade business? Who, most often, are the ones who run rescue missions and, in spite of overwhelming obstacles, seek to share love with the homeless, the addicted, the lost and broken? Who reaches out to abused women? Who had the idea for Heifer International? It was Dan West, a Church of the Brethren relief worker. Who are the people working on the streets of the inner cities? Who is working at City on a Hill (see previous post) to reach "one block at a time?" What kids came and picked up litter and washed windows and raked and mowed lawns of elderly poor? Who removed plywood and provided real windows for a grandmother caring, against all odds, for 17 grandchildren? People of God, that's who.

I think of Galina (of the blog OceanChrist) who reaches to broken people and believes in them. Her story of an encounter with Jesus while still in the USSR is remarkable. I think of Diane who directs City on a Hill. She formerly held an executive position in a renowned and prosperous health care corporation. I think of Brian who works long hours there, not because anyone makes him but because he loves with Jesus' love. I think of someone who gave a small fortune to a little church in the south, simply out of love. I think of pastors who often work long hours and usually receive little affirmation or recognition. Most churches in America are small, not multi-million dollar enterprises, and being a "reverend" doesn't carry much prestige anymore. I think of missionaries I have known. They were not the arrogant and narrow-minded radicals so often depicted in movies or books. I know those people exist, but most left home, family, comfort and security to learn a foreign language, eat unusual food, use unsanitary toilets and sometimes face danger and even give their lives. For fun? Not likely. Their desire was to be a light in some dark places. The missionaries I know are some of the finest individuals on this earth. I think of Laurie, who cleans our church with a song on her lips. I think of my secretary, Honey, who gives time and service for no pay, and I think of Pat who has a demanding job and who often longs to go home and put her feet up. Today she will be sharing time and prayer and love with a group of women who will come to her house expecting something good. And there are so many more.

My husband was a computer programmer and systems analyst in the USMC, earning commendations for his fiscal accounting system. Upon discharge a private firm offered him a position with a salary that made our moths drop, one that would have supported us in a style of which we had only dreamed. He declined so that he could study for the ministry, and we scraped by, eating macaroni and cheese and hot dogs and living in campus housing for families (which was a none-too-new mobile home). We made our own fun with our two children, because a concert or even a movie was out of the question. Why? So he could work with felons.

I used to be well-known and respected in certain circles of state service, but I turned down a raise and a new position and relocated so I could earn about half as much serving a small and struggling congregation. Do I regret it? No. Does my husband? No. Oh, occasionally we wish we had a new vehicle instead of a 1997 minivan. Occasionally we wish we could afford overseas travel. Occasionally, while squeezing past each other in the morning, we wish for a larger bathroom.

Would we change it? No. Are we crazy or deluded or foolish? Maybe. But last week in Milwaukee when a smiling man hugged him saying , "Hi, Chaplain!" and then shared of his new life on the "outside," a life that includes a job, a church family and a new attitude, my husband's heart rejoiced more than it ever did when a computer program worked properly. Yesterday when I received an email thanking me for Sunday's sermon, my heart rejoiced too.

It took a long time, but because I believe I am valuable to God, I finally learned to hold my head up, look people in the eye and walk with hope and confidence. Because I am a Christ-ian I try to do the right thing, even when it is the hard thing and even when it costs me. Because of Jesus I seek to love unloveable people, to encourage and build up and affirm. Because I believe we are all made in God's image, I want to look for that image in even the most annoying or the most broken of people. Because of that I can seek for the promise and potential in everyone.

I once worked at a law firm serving low-income clients. Those lawyers, mostly atheists or people who did not attend church (and laughed at me for doing so), were dedicated and gifted and hard-working--and I was proud to work with them. As I said, Christian people are not the only ones who seek to make a difference in the world. Perhaps those coworkers of mine were simply better people than I. I suspect that if I did not believe that what happens here has eternal value I would likely be selfish, depressed, dishonest and feeling stupid and worthless. I am not a good person simply because I exist, and my own efforts at self-improvement always fall short.

I also know that people who called themselves Christians have done foolish and sometimes terrible things. Our efforts have often been misguided at best, and destructive at worst. The Church of Jesus brings me distress, makes me frustrated, causes me to wonder what I'm doing, makes me fighting mad at times, and is so divided as to be laughable. Still, I do not regret that I belong to it. It also brings me joy, hope and purpose. I, like the Apostle Paul, confess that I am a debtor to Jesus Christ. Sometimes Jesus' words make me irritated or confused. Sometimes I have passing thoughts if it is worth it to be a disciple. Sometimes I wish I could believe that it makes no difference what I do or think or whether people believe or not. But I can never repay the debt of love I owe my Savior. The only way I can try is by loving the people he created.

I could write so much more about this, but lunch time is over and I need to get some work done. Today, among a long list of other things, I will call a grieving widower and seek to bring comfort. I will travel an hour to make a hospital visit to a woman suffering excruciating pain. I will call someone who is working with me on setting up a counseling ministry in our church. I will talk to a teenaged boy who is confused and troubled. I will have a conversation with a woman who I suspect is angry with me, and I will try to be diplomatic and mend fences. Why? Because I am some sort of deluded do-gooder? Nope. I don't necessarily look forward to hospitals, counseling sessions or angry people. Pastors and priests and chaplains and deacons and laypeople from around the nation and the world will do the same kinds of things today.

I look forward to the day when I see my savior's face, and I want to hear the words, "Well, done good and faithful servant." If the commenter is correct and I die and there is nothing but oblivion, I will still have had more joy, more love, more hope and more purpose than ever could have been remotely possible if I did not believe God IS.

This little light...let it shine! To God be the glory.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

City on a Hill

Matthew 5:14-16
You are the light of the world--like a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see. Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Twenty-one people people from my church piled into vehicles yesterday for a trip to City on a Hill (COH) an urban ministry in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We were headed to "The Family BarBQ."

In addition to many small-group and one-one one kinds of ministry, City on a Hill periodically hosts "big events" for the neighborhood. The Family BarBQ is one of those outreaches. The staff at COH is small and stretched to the limit already, so these event require many helpers. There were well over 100 volunteers yesterday from various churches, mostly Assemblies of God, but others too. City on a Hill works with many different churches and ministries.

So here are some of my parishioners, piled next to the wall for a group picture. A few faces were not included--I think the person we drafted to click the button had never used a digital camera. In spite of how the picture looks, we were actually having fun. I'm on the end ot the back row, and my husband is the guy in the hat. I was glad and proud that our small church had one of the largest turn-outs of volunteers!

A few minutes later (as we set up in the large parking lot) a little smoke, the mouth-watering smell of grilling meat, and sounds of hip hop and jazz drifted together down the city street, crowded with apartments and houses set close together. People appreard on porches to see what was happening.

Here's one of our beautiful teens, wearing her "Unshakable Youth" shirt. She is setting up children's games.

Don't these folks look like they would be good to know? I do have wonderful people as part of my congregation. Most of this bunch were working to set up the food. The smiling young guy in the center was part of the security patrol. Would you be intimidated by that face? Well, he can look tough when he has to. Fortunately, the need for that did not arise.

Under the big awning, children and a few grownups watched a magic show. If you click on this picture to enlarge it, note the expressions on the faces of the girls. Priceless! I had more pictures of the goings-on, but blogger is not cooperating again.

It was warm. Okay, hot. Mixed with bright sunshine, dark clouds swirled over our heads. We later heard that parts of Milwaukee received four inches of rain. A cool breeze fanned us all day, but not a drop of rain came down on our parking lot!

This morning I was told we served over 1,000 hot dogs, 700 brats (bratwurst, a staple of the Wisconsin diet) and an uncounted number of hamburgers. In addition to a free meal, the guests were treated to kid's games, face painting, basketball, various talented people who provided music and entertainment, smiles, handshakes (and sometimes hugs), and many gentle reminders of God's love. I wish my picture of "The Joshua Generation" could be posted. They are part of "Under the Clouds," an arts program at COH for young people. They performed worship dance to an urban beat. Their exciting, uplifting music, fresh faces, happy smiles, and exhilarating dance moves brought the crowd to their feet. Some of the braver onlookers occasionally joined the young dancers with some moves of their own. It was wonderful to see the encouragement they brought. One toothles elderly man, dressed in a colorful striped shirt that made me think of Joseph's coat, jumped up and astonished us as he moved in perfect rhythm, smiling and laughing and clapping his hands. We laughed and clapped with him. I worked in downtown Milwaukee for seven years, and something I learned to appreciate about many people in the black community was their ability to express emotions without self-consciousness.

I stood next to a lovely woman about thirty five years old with a sweet face.. She moved to the music and clapped her hands, smiling at me as I joined her. As the dancers took a bow, I said, "Aren't those kids great?" She replied with a kind of wonder in her voice, "They are so refreshing!" I moved away, praying for the kids, knowing the kinds of things they often face on the streets of Milwaukee's inner city.

Throughout the day some guests visited the prayer tent for one-on-one ministry. As I walked by that tent I noticed my friend, Pastor Bertha, who is pioneering a church in another area of Milwaukee's inner city. She saw me and gave me a "thumbs up" and a smile.

At the end of the day I stood with my husband at the exit, waving good-bye to the children and adults too, calling "God bless you and thanks for coming!" to various kinds of families. There were singles, old couples, young couples with children, very young moms with several kids in tow, homeless people, druggies, alcoholics, Muslims, Christians, young men with hats and cocky swaggers, others dressed in white shirts as if they were going to church, women in clothes much too tight for them, men in stained and dirty rags alongside men in new shirts, little girls with colorful beads in their hair, little boys dressed in Green Bay Packer shirts, old people, many in wheelchairs and missing limbs. Grandmas and babies. Black or white, many seemed broken and scarred by life. Some avoided eye contact; others waved and smiled, calling out to us in return.

A woman turned back to me, and I looked into the beautiful brown face of the one who had watched the dancers with me. "May I hug you?" she asked. "I just had to share some love with someone!" "Of course!" I said, laughing, and I reached to hug her over a short stone wall. This woman, whose name I never learned, hugged me and smiled as she said, "Thank you so much, all of you, for sharing the love of Jesus today. I heard again that God loves me, and I saw it too. I have been away from God, but today I talked and prayed with that lady pastor in the prayer tent. She helped me get it straighened out again.""Praise God!" I replied, thinking of the irony of the two of us hugging over the fence. I wish I could know her and maybe be a friend. She turned and waved as she went on down the dirty street, and she called out again, "Thank you!"

I'm a middle-aged white woman with a nice husband and a nice little ranch-style home in a nice rural town that is extraordinarily clean. My nice street is sometimes too quiet for my taste. In minutes I can be driving in green fields or sitting by the shores of Lake Michigan or Lake Winnebago. How blessed I am! But how blessed I was to be able to go, even for a day, to my "Samaria." Jesus told his followers to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth to spread the good news of the kingdom of God.

I was born in Los Angeles. I lived in Washington, D.C. and I worked in Milwaukee for seven years. I sometimes miss the city and it's people, even though I enjoy the country and believe God has placed me where I am now.

If you are interested in learning more, check out the City on a hill website. At the homepage you can watch a video that communicates what they do in a way that mere words cannot do. I was part of the beginnings of this ministry, and they have a special place in my heart. There was a reason I shared this experience. I'll tell you why in another post on another day.

Friday, July 21, 2006


In honor of one year of blogging sisterhood, with brothers included , here is the Anniversary Edition of the Friday Five!

1) What is your first memory of the RevGalBlogPals?
Reading St. Casserole's blog accounts of her life after Katrina. I had just returned from a life-altering trip to the formerly beautiful town of Waveland, Mississippi (mostly wiped off the map), and St. C.'s accounts kept me reminded to pray and pray some more, and that the aftermath is far from over, even now.

2) Have you met any of the other ring members in real life?

No, but Cheesehead in Paradise is in commuting distance, so there is hope!

3) Of those you haven't met, name a few you would love to know in person.

Where to begin? There are so many. Off the top of my head: Rev. Abi, Songbird, Lorna of See-Through Faith, Journey Mama (new, but I already know I'd love her), LutheranChik, Quotidian Grace, Cheesehead, Rachel, Mary Beth, net, and my long-time cyber buddy and "sister" Psalmist. I'll stop now, but there are many more.

4) What has Ring Membership added to your life?

A renewed realization that all kinds of people call Jesus Christ the Lord of their lives. Awareness that we pastors seem to struggle with some of the same kinds of things, which helps keep things in perspective. Laughter. Tears. Prayers. Sermon ideas. A BOOK with my words in it!

5) Describe a hope for the future of the WebRing.

A RevGals/Pals in-person party. See question #3.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

At Church

My brains seemed to have turned to oatmeal. Ever have that happen? Thus, no post, just a few pictures.

Outside the door, last November.

Welcome to Jubilee!

By the cross on the front wall.

From the back.

I'm introducing Jeff Pockat and Friends , at church for an Irish church meeting. Unfortunately, Jeff's face is right behind his Gaelic Harp.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Being Called

This is a group of ministers and their spouses. (Mine wasn't present.) The older woman in the back row is a Nazarene pastor. The only other woman pastor in the group is me, second from left, last row. The group also included a Methodist pastor, a Lutheran pastor, a Church of God youth pastor, and a Baptist pastor. I think I have those right. The reason I posted this picture is because I recall conversations among this group about "the call." We were at Cedarly Pastor's Retreat Center, spending a marvelous (and free) week eating gourmet meals, visiting a nearby Anglican Seminary, walking in the woods (wet!), practicing lectio devina and (in my case) sleeping for hours on end from sheer exhaustion. It was fall. A chilly drizzle continued all week until our day to go home, when the picture was taken. We built fires in the fireplace every day, and we shared good fellowship with one another.

Conversation turned to our churches, of course, and then to our calling to ministry. The Nazarene pastor's husband was not present at that time, but as for the wives, some felt just as "called" as their pastor husbands. Others most decidedly did not. Several of the Rev Gals and Pals have spoken about "calling" on their blogs. It is a diverse group of clergy, but everyone, from nuns to Methodists to Lutherans seems to understand that word. I've also been asked to be a guest blogger on The Scroll, the blog of Christians for Biblical Equality, and as part of that I've been writing about my calling to ministry.

I am not sure how many Rev Gals, or other "called" folk may stop by, but I would love to hear your stories. The calling of God is difficult to explain sometimes. And sometimes, especially after running a gamut of emotions and experiences as I did last week, I wonder what God was doing.

You can check out The Scroll once the article (from me and some other clergywomen) has been written and posted. I'll let you know. Meantime, here is a little part of my call story.

It is a very long story, so I'll skip the beginning and I'll skip the end and hop to the middle, not telling you about the longings of my heart when a child, nor my subsequent experiences at Trinity College, North Dakota. My husband had already told me that when he finished his USMC enlistment he wanted to complete his degree in order to enter some kind of full-time ministry. I was more than fine with that. One Sunday night our pastor (Rev. Dave Davidson, Evangel AG, Silver Springs, Maryland--anyone out there?) preached a message about placing God at at the center of life and seeking to arrange other issues around serving Jesus Christ and his Kingdom. We concluded with a time of silent prayer, after being instructed to ask God if there was something we needed to understand about our life in the Spirit. I was tired and hot and wanted to go home, but I did as I was told, acknowledging my rather "unspiritual" state to the Lord as I closed my eyes.

To my utter surprise, as I stilled my thoughts I began to see what I later described as "slides." My dad once had a camera he loved, and he always took slide pictures, which we would later project onto our white living room wall. It was like that, only the "wall" was inside me. The scenes were vivid--and very surprising.

I saw five still pictures, all related to people and to ministry. I was present in each, but never alone in the picture. I won't describe them all, but one caused me great consternation. I was preaching, something I had never done and never intended to do. I wore a suit and I held a black Bible aloft. (Something I don't do, but I sure couldn't miss that I was preaching, not teaching a Sunday School class.)

I opened my eyes and left the church feeling wide awake and startled. For some time I told no one, not even my husband. There is more to the story, of course, but I trace later events, and my search to discover if it was really acceptable for women to preach, to that hot summer night in 1976 in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

It was a while before I acknowledged that what I had seen just might have been the Holy Spirit--but, deep down somewhere, I knew.

Anyone else care to share a little? If you post on your blog, just let me know.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Home Again

I'm back early, and very tired. We arrived home Thursday. While I was gone someone here died, so I'm home to officiate a very sad and completely unexpected funeral. Just letting you all know I am home -- and thanks for the heartwarming comments to my last post. They blessed me and I am grateful for the prayers!

Here are a few pictures from last week's "pretending" at the Midwest Muzzleloaders Rendezvous.

My husband puts the finishing touch on our lodge after setting up. This is our mandella. It says, "Bearded Eagle and Singing Owl." The little things hanging from it are ribbons or tokens from past rendezvous.

Happy Otter, the mother-to-be, sits in front of our lodge doing some embroidery. Isn't she beautiful? I wish I could look like that with no makeup!

Bearded Eagle contemplates whether he wants to enter the archery competition in 90 degree heat. (He does.)

Two Foxes and Happy Otter in front of their lodge. She made her dress, her necklaces, her beautifully beaded bag, and his shirt. She made the blue dress, above, as well. Do I sound like a proud mama?

Bearded Eagle and Two Foxes set up their new business, ready to use the stones to make axes, knives, and tomahawks as sharp as new. It takes two to use the old wheel--one to turn the crank and the other to hold the blade to the stone, so it's an ideal re-enacting enterprise for a father and son in-law to do together.

It's hot and I need a shower. How about we all cool off with some juicy watermelon?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Early Morning Pondering on Flowers and Mortality

This morning I woke up early. It is a beautiful day, dry, sunny and promising to be hot later. My husband headed off to his follow-up appt. with the orthopedic surgeon. I made coffee (you can see my cup in the picture) and took my Bible out to the back deck, where I spent time enjoying solitude and quiet--except for the mourning doves cooing, and the cheerful "chee chee chee" of a cardinal who perched on top of the bird feeder and preened his feathers in the morning sunlight.

After a while my mother joined me in the swing and began her usual comments on the weather, particularly what I (silently) call "the breeze report." She does this every day of her life. This morning she said, with wonder in her voice, "Just look at that tree." I did, not sure what I was supposed to see. (I should have known.). "Well just look. See how completely still it is? Not a leaf stirring." "Wow." I said, trying to muster that same tone of wonder, and failing. I don't think she noticed. As she grows older, my mother's thoughts return more often to her girlhood on the west Texas plains. The wind blew constantly. She, along with her parents and her 7 brothers and sisters, lived in a little wooden farmhouse full of love and laughter. They were poor for much of their early lives, but they were rich in the things that matter. My grandfather later became quite well-off and infuential in his town, but in the early days life was difficult.

They all worked hard. In the late summer the children each received a long burlap sack and headed to the cotton fields with "Papa" and the Mexican field hands. They picked cotton all day in the Texas heat--a tiring job of stooping, pulling the cotton so as not to lose any of the precious white fluff but also not getting bloody fingers from the sharp leaves at the bottom of the cotton boll. They welcomed the breeze as they kept a sharp lookout for snakes or spiders hiding in the rows of cotton plants. They also watched the sky for "thuunderheads" -- puffy white clouds that could turn dark quickly. At noon they headed in for "dinner," which always included some of my grandmother's famous hot biscuits. My mother tells of the preacher who often just happened to arrive at their place for a visit around dinner time, a man who never refused an offer of their biscuits. As my mother remembers it, he, covering a golden biscuit with butter and honey, always said, "Miz Lela, you make the best biscuits I ever et."

I adored my charming grandfather but I never knew my grandmother. My only memory of her is when I, creeping fearfully into a hospital room painted an ugly green, was urged up to the bed by my mother and my Aunt Ora. I was three years old, but I knew "Mama," at only 63, was dying. Her face was frail and drawn and she spoke to me in a whisper. It was sad and scary. My mother and I had travelled from California to Texas on a train. I remember little of the trip except for the clickity clack of the wheels on the track.

I thought of that this morning, looking at my mother as she sipped her coffee and talked of the weather. My mother looks very frail these days. She has changed in the past year--grown thinner and more confused and more melancholy. She doesn't smile much--but come to think of it, she never did smile much. She had a strange life. That is another matter, but this morning I looked at her wrinkled, pretty face in the sunlight, her blue eyes, her tiny nose and then her long, thin hands. How fragile those once-strong hands seem now. The mottled skin looks almost transparent, streched tight over the bones. We talked of "home" and of her parents and her brothers and sisters. She and my Aunt Pauline are the only ones that remain, but she looks forward to a reunion in Heaven with "Papa, Mama, Vernay, C.G., Cleo, Robbie Jo, Ora, and Maxie Rae."

I remembered these verse from Isaiah as we went on to talk about the flowers on the deck.

Isaiah 40:7-8

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass. The grass withers
and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever."

The "companion" from the local home care agency will arrive tomorrow morning. Mother is very unhappy about that, but life goes on.

We'll soon be enjoying some days of rest and relaxation with our daughter and son-in-law. No doubt there will be happy conversation about our much-anticipated grandchild that will arrive in about 5 months.

Birth. Life. And age. And death. And God, and eternity. Such mystery.

I looked at the bright flowers and thought of how fragile they are. This is Wisconsin, and the cold winds will blow in a few short months and they will wither and grow brown and then be covered with a blanket of snow and ice. We'll look out the kitchen window at our icy little deck and wonder what happened to summer.

How foolish we are when we grow distracted and fretful over our "stuff" or over temporary things. People are eternal, so they are what really matters. We usually can avoid thinking such melancholy thoughts, but we know that we are perishing. At least our bodies are. God's word, God's love, remains.

How I rejoice that our spirits can flourish and grow and expand and reach upward, even as we grow frail.

2 Corinthians 4:15-17 All of these things are for your benefit. And as God's grace brings more and more people to Christ, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever!

I've been feeling overwhelmed with life this last week or two. But all of this is nothing compared to the joy of great glory -- which will last. Some things never change and those things will remain. Praise be to God!

I'm off to make a few last phone calls. I'll be back in ten days.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I Hear America Singing


I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,

The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

The day what belongs to the day--at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

-- Walt Whitman

Thanks to Lutheran Chik for reminding of one of my favorite poems.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Sad Little Cat

This is our little cat a few months ago. She is a really sweet and cute little "tortie." The news from the vet was not good--a steroid Rx just made the sores worse. She has a horrible one on the top of her head and down almost to her neck. It looks really nasty. The next step is a biopsy, which will be done as soon as we get back from vacation. And of course, at some point it must be decided just how much money should be spent on a cat. The cat is one elderly mother, who LOVES this little kitty, is another. She is also very concerned about what she will do with "Patches" if she gets worse while we are gone. And folks, I need this vacation pretty badly.Prayer appreciated, if you don't have a problem praying for a little cat...and us too.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Bearded Man

We sort of had a flag in church today. :-) My husband's July 4th tie says, "United We Stand." Note the bushy beard. He's getting ready for an National Muzzleloaders Rendezvous next week. Bearded Eagle and Singing Owl (us) will be meeting up with Happy Otter and Two Foxes (daughter and son-in-law) in Iowa for a much-needed week of fun and relaxation (we hope).

Jus' fer fun, here are a few pictures of past events.

Happy Otter

Bearded Eagle and SingingOwl (still coloring my hair then)<

Little-Too-Much and his woman

Blowing on the fire

Anyone near Waverly, Iowa? Come out and see us next week!