Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Table

Actually just a little of what eventually ended up there. Whew!

Thanksgiving Collage

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The guys grilled our turkey. You can see that the grass is green. The pussy willow bush is putting out buds, thinking that one snow was winter. It is in for a rude surprise! Next picture is Kris and me laughing in the kitchen, then Kris on the phone with brother Josh who could not be with us. Then Turkey Tom on a platter, and then my mother shuffling the Texas-size dominoes, then a game of Mah Jong. A nice day, all 'round.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Book Quiz

I found this one at Rev. Mommy's place.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Presbyterian and the Pentecostal

Marcia and Me
The first conversation I had with Rev. Marcia took place at the first clergy association meeting I attended in this area. Almost seven years ago, I was the new pastor in the area. Several of the regulars were missing, so I was surprised to find three other women in attendance, and no men. Since we didn't have enough people there to get anything serious accomplished, we opted to drink coffee, dunk donuts and talk about life. One of the other women was married, like me, and the other two were single. We chatted about our churches and our families. The conversation drifted to how many times people assume that single clergywomen are lesbians. "Yeah," said RM, "especially when one is a former physical education teacher like me!" Her laugh filled the room.

When she called on the phone she always said, "This is the Reverend Marcia _________." Not for a long time did she ever say, "Hi, this is Marcia." I didn't know just what to think about that.

Over the next few months and years I learned that Marcia was from a long line of Presbyterian clergy but had a powerful spiritual experience at a Christian Missionary Alliance camp, would have liked to have had a husband and family, was tender hearted, straightforward, passionate about justice issues, an animal lover, and a woman of great strength. She described herself once as an "evangelical liberal or a liberal evangelical." Like me, she is an introvert by nature, and she screws up her courage and goes for it when she has to speak publicly. Paradoxically, she has a dramatic way of speaking, gesturing, and walking that exudes confidence. I can hear her voice, measured and strong, as she says with feeling, "Welcome, people of God!" Listening to Rev. Marcia always made me smile inwardly and sit up a little straighter outwardly.

Early afternoon of the infamous 9-11 she called to say that the clergy group was assembling a hasty gathering at the nearby United Church of Christ for that evening. A short while later, she and I and another woman pastor sat in the sunshine splashing across the floor of the UCC fellowship room. Clouds and rain would have seemsed more appropriate as the three of us listened somberly to the tolling bell at the Roman Catholic Church across the street. We were there to write a litany that would be suitable for such a dreadful day. ("What do I know about litanies?" I thought.) The presence of the Holy Spirit was very real as the Assemblies of God, Methodist and Presbyterian pastors pondered and prayed and shared thoughts and scribbled notes. We put together a beautiful litany in about 30 minutes. We all agreed that God had been with us.

Those same two women once turned the plain old basement fellowship room at my church into a beautiful "sacred space" with drapes and candles and chalices and more as our congregations joined in a Lenten communion service.

My first experience with Ash Wednesday had taken place not long before in the lovely old sanctuary at First Presbyterian. I sat on a polished, dark pew as I listened to an organ and worshipped in silent contemplation. I remember gazing up at a stained glass portrayal of Jesus the Good Shepherd as I stood in line for "the imposition of ashes"--a totally new experience for me. Next year the Presbyterians came to our place for Ash Wednesday. The roof did not fall in.
Our vision team held a three-day retreat at Marcia's beautiful lakeside cottage a couple of hours away. Some artwork now hangs on the cottage entry wall, a thank-you gift from our Assembly of God folks.

We taught a Lenten Bible study together, sang together, occasionally ate lunch, prayed together, talked about swapping pulpits but never did it. I'm sorry about that.

I invited her to attend a concert at our church with a wonderful contemporary band. To my amazement, and slight amusement, the Presbyterian pastor clapped and pumped her fist in the air and raised her hands and shouted "Praise the Lord" like a holy roller. And that despite that fact that she was on crutches, wearing a bulky cast, and was in serious pain.

She planted a large garden so she could give vegetables away, and she opened her home to those in need of a safe place. Once when I needed vestments (AG clergy don't wear them) she opened her church closet and asked me to pick anything I liked. She took our dog when we, broken hearted, had to hastily get rid of her.

Sunday was her last worship service at First Presbyterian. Known for her mediation skills, Rev. Marcia is going to a deeply troubled congregation elsewhere in the state. They have two years to shape up. If I know the Rev. Marcia _____________ she will get it done if anyone can. "I'm called to go there" she says emphatically.

We shed a few tears as we hugged good bye--the Pentecostal and the Presbyterian. My life is changeed. I love you, my sister in Christ, Marcia, and I sure will miss you.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A "Black Friday" Shoppng Friday Five

Here's this week's RevGals/Pals Friday Five, in honor of "Black Friday" (aka Buy Nothing Day) the busiest shopping day of the year:

1. Would you ever/have you ever stood in line for something--tickets, good deals on electronics, Tickle Me Elmo?

I have never stood in line for Christmas deals, or shopping items. Never have, never will. NOTHING is that important to buy--no item anyway. However, I have stood in line to purchase tickets to both movies and concert events. But I have limits, even then! Oh, unless you count the gas shortage time in the '70s when we waited in long lines or went without gasoline.

2. Do you enjoy shopping as a recreational activity?

Occasionally. It depends on who I am with and where we are. But I am not a person who just loves to shop. My husband, h0wever, is. Yard sales, grocery stores, malls, Goodwill and so on. The man is a shopaholic.

3. Your favorite place to browse without necessarily buying anything.

I have two. Antique stores is one. I can't usually afford to buy much, but I love to look at interesting old stuff. And the other is book stores. I can spend hours in one...not that I do...but I could if I had my way.

4. Gift cards: handy gifts for the loved one who has everything, or cold impersonal symbol of all
that is wrong in our culture?

Either, depending on the situation. They are handy for times when you have to buy a relative a gift, maybe, and you have no clue what they like. Or I could give my son a gift card to a music store, knowing he will have c.d.s in mind he'd like to buy--but I sure don't know what they are.
I could do the same for my daughter, except the gift card might be to a book store. When people give us a gift card it is usually to the local Mexican restaurant (which anyone who knows me knows I love), so that is really not all that impersonal. Last year we gave a gift card to a home improvment type store, knowing the recipient is a guy who loves fix-it projects but not knowing what he might need specifically. That is not totally impersonal, IMO. A gift card to Wal-Mart though? No. Tacky.

5. Discuss the spiritual and theological issues inherent in people coming to blows over a Playstation.

Disgusting, eh? It reveals the thing we don't want to admit about our culture, that we are crassly materialistic. It also flies in the face of the Golden Rule. Those who lose all civility when it comes to aquiring stuff are frightening to me, because they apparently have no concept that people are vastly more important than stuff.

My daughter and I went shopping on Black Friday a few years ago. It was a nightmare of no parking spaces, crowds, and drizzling rain. I won't do it again, if I can help it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Count Your Many them one by one

I can hear my father's voice belting out that song in church. He's been gone for about 15 years, but I still miss him. It wasn't a song we sang at Thanksgiving at First Baptist. It was a song we sang about every third week. (Grinning....I grew very tired of that song...but now the memory of my dad singing it really does make me think of my blessings.)

This is a short update. I know some of you have been praying, because my mother is like a different person. She is being reasonable, relatively kind and courteous, and mostly clear in her thinking. There are still memory issues, to be sure, but she is almost like she was say three or four months ago. The moping and bitterness and anger are gone for now.

I know this may not last, and it is mysterious to me, but I'm so thankful for it. I am glad she will be able to enjoy our daughter's and son-in-law's visit. She has completed the baby blanket and will give it to them on Thanksgiving.

I have vacuumed the spare room, arranged a bouquet for the table, and chosen a fall-themed tablecloth and candles (a necessity at my house). The menu is planned and I'll soon head to the grocery store to spend way too much. The snow is gone, but it is cold. Things feel pretty normal 'round here for the moment.

Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Giving Thanks

The RevGalBlogPals Friday Five this week is a simple one.

It's that time of year. In the U.S., college students will be on their way home, traffic on the highways will be at its highest point, cooking and baking will ensue. But before the gorging and napping begins, let's take a moment to give thanks. Please tell us five things or people for which you are thankful this year.

Only five? That is difficult. All goes. I am thankful for:

1. Memory. Watching my sister with Alzheimers and my mother with another type of dementia has caused me to value the gift of remembering. All of life is essentially a memory.

2. Color. What if we lived in a black and white world (like in the movie Pleasantville before the color came on)? How enriched my life is by the bright greens of spring, the first purple and yellow crocus, the red of the tulips in the side yard, the blue sky and bright flowers and fields of summer, the goldens and oranges of fall, the red cardinal against the white background of winter snow, the bright lights of Christmas, the delicate hues of a rainbow, a sunset, a red convertible! And how I thank God that I, the kid who was supposed to be blind, can see it.

3. Our granddaughter is on the way, due to be here around the time 2007 begins. The anticipation of this long-awaited event is part of the fun.

4. Animals. Birdsong, the soft silky fur of our little cat, Patches, the happy "smile" of a dog running in a field, elephants with their swinging trunks and big ears, horses with beautiful eyes and tails and manes, long-lashed camels, graceful giraffes, deer, bouncing through the woods as though they have springs for legs--animals are fascinating and amazing.

5. People. Exasperating, irritating, frustrating, fascinating, intriguing, glorious humanity. Relatives, children, church families, friends old and new, strangers, brown, red, white, or yellow skin tones, smiling blue eyes, large luminous brown eyes, black slanting eyes, thin, plump, willowy or stout bodies, young, old and in-between, men and women. Sometimes I wonder why we were created and how God Almighty can stand us, but sometimes I catch a glimpse of what God loves too.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Treasures of Darkness

Mom and Sis Walk Down the Tree-Lined Road
Last weekend was difficult.

It was good to see my sister. The visit was all too short, except that was good in a way. That's because my mother was being especially difficult. I don't know why, but she seems to have gone from irritated to agitated to bitterly hateful over the past few weeks. I do not know how much of this is beyond her control, but it is overwhelming at times--wearying to both my body and spirit. Over the weekend she moped and complained and criticized and accused and generally made us rather miserable.

We went for a drive to see the pristine glory of the season's first snow. The trees and fields were beautiful, but the grey sky matched my mood. Nothing brought a smile to my mother's face (except telling her to smile for a picture).

My sister left with sadness in her eyes. Pulling her suitcase out of the car, she said to our mother, "We love you. Try to find the good side of things."
My mother seems more clear-headed than usual these last few days, so I talked softly but directly on the way home from the airport. I will not accept being called a liar. I will no longer go out of my way to please her, since nothing works anyway. I will care for her and love her as best I can, but I request that she refrain from constant criticism and see if she can find something good to say about me. She was silent, mostly. But she has been very sweet these last few days. I don't know what to think, and I'm trying to take it day by day.

Other things weigh on my mind lately. My emotions are a bit erratic, and that is unsettling. Seeking peace this morning, I put on a worship c.d. for background music as I alternately sipped a cup of coffee and stirred the oatmeal. The words slowly began to sink in.

You are my strength when I am weak,
You are the treasure that I seek,
You are my all in all...

Jesus, Lamb of God,
Worthy is your name,
Jesus, Lamb of God,
Worthy is your name.

When I fall down you pick me up,
When I am dry you fill my cup,
You are my all in all...

Jesus, Lamb of God,
Worthy is your name,
Jesus, Lamb of God,
Worthy is your name.

I prayed silently. "I am dry, God. Please fill my cup a bit today."

Later I read from Isaiah 45:2-4 in the New Living Translation:

I will give you the treasures of darkness,
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the LORD,
Who call you by your name,
Am the God of Israel.

Treasures of darkness? Hidden riches of secret places? My heart longs for that. Is the treasure in darkness, in my case, the image of Christ being formed in me? Oh God, may it be so! Preserve me from impatience and bitterness and the dangerous protection of a cold heart.

Tonight I walked into a classroom at church. I had worked hard on the Bible study. My mother and only three others joined me. I sighed inwardly. What am I doing? Is it worth the effort?

Glancing toward the blackboard on the wall, I read,

I love you Pastur!
My cup filled a little.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

First Snow of the Season

My middle sister, Pauette, is visiting us. It has been almost two years since we've seen her, so we are catching up and reminiscing and all the stuff sisters do. I think this may be the last time she can visit our mother and have a sort of conversation. Last night we had thunder, lightening and sleet, and as the night progressed it turned into a heavy, wet snow. We awoke to a snowscape of wonderful beauty. Every twig was snow covered. We sipped coffee and watched the birds and squirrels at the feeder.

Below, we are about to hop in the car for a drive in the country. Ken snapped this picture of us in front of the house. It is a very short visit, sad to say. She will head home to Mississippi Monday morning. She didn't expect to see snow while she was here! I'm younger than her, but you wouldn't know it by our hair would you?

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Remembering Haggard

I am late in adding my cyber comments about the disgrace of Ted Haggard. Several RevGals have weighed in on the subject as well as a plethora of others. I'm late because I just couldn't bring myself to think about it for long. I read, however. I've read comments that imply this man is an idiot, a ranting fundamentalist preacher, a hatemonger, a total sham and phoney and fake. In short, a charlatan of the first order. For me, this is heart breaking.

Perhaps that is all true. I don't understand my own heart sometimes, much less someone else's. This post is not a defense of Ted Haggard. His actions are unfathomable to me. What kind of disconnect happened in this man? Some say that he is simply a repressed homosexual and needs to face facts. I don't know if that is true or not. And I know that there are divergent views in the Church of Jesus Christ about homosexuals. I am not writing about that in this post either.

I cannot add much to what has been said, except for my own experience of Ted Haggard and his congregation.

When I heard the news, after my initial shock, I cried. It hurt. I have met and talked with Ted Haggard. I do not agree with his views on every subject, but I think I need to say some things. Perhaps it is only for my own sake, but please indulge me.

Two years ago Ted Haggard came to our district to speak at our Minister's Winter Renewal. He is not from my denomination. His church is independent. However, he has been involved with us in some co-ventures. That particular minister's gathering was...I can't deny it...wonderful. I have c.d.s of much of it.

Am I confused? Yes, I am.

Here is what I saw:

A handsome man with a beautiful smile, dressed casually, speaking to us without apparent arrogance or pride--and I have a pretty darn good radar for phoneys. Yeah, he's got nice hair, but he did not seem flashy or "coiffed" if you know what I mean. We spent focused time in prayer each session. During these times he was often on his knees quietly in a corner. He was down-to-earth, , direct, practical, articulate, focused and helpful. His messages to us were not harangues or rants a la Jimmy Swaggert. Not at all.

Among other subjects, he has written books about the changing face of the evangelical church and how critical it is that we rethink our methods in order to more effectively reach a postmodern generation. One of those, Dog Training, Fly Fishing and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century is on my office bookshelf and has powerfully influenced my thinking.

These meetings were times of blessing for the ministers present. Among other things, I talked with him about women in ministry, and he seemed to be an advocate for female clergy and leadership. His exegesis of scripture was not at all superficial. It was insightful, and I took notes madly, surprised at the depth of his understanding. He is not stupid. He is obviously intelligent and well-read.

Because of his recent political stances (a mistake for clergy, I usually think) some might be surprised to learn that he is quite ecumenical and has long been a strong influence in bringing the various churches and pastors of Colorado Springs together to work cooperatively on issues where they could agree. His church folk aren't out carrying "God Hates Fags" signs like Fred Phelps and his ilk. New Life Church reaches out in very specific ways. They established a prayer center that is connected to all points of the globe. I'd love to visit there and spend time in one of the private prayer rooms. You can log on to the center at any time and see current needs from around the world. It is amazing. I've used that service often.

Speaking of New Life, I personally know a few people who attend there. One is a long-time close friend of my mother's. I wept for her and her family as I pondered the implications of Ted's behavior. She is one of the most gracious, yet powerful women of faith I have ever met. She is a woman of prayer, compassion, strength, and intellect. She has a very effective ministry at New Life with sexually abused women. What will happen to that?

I suspect some of my more "liberal" colleagues (I hate that word) will say that he deserved what has happened. Some of what I read spoke a great deal about "fundamentalists." I think this is stereotypical and, frankly, disrespectful of a large segment of the church. (No, I do not consider myself a "fundy" but that is beside the point.)

As for me, I grieve. I grieve for the enormous damage that will result because of his presidency of the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization to which my denomination belongs. I grieve for his wife, who is a delightful woman, and his children. I grieve for his congregation--14,000 hurting Christians. I grieve for charismatics and Pentecostals, who once again, have an enormous black eye. How is it that so many of our clergy can be so--flat out fools? I grieve for all of us, the believers who will suffer the consequences of Haggard's deceit, duplicity and disgraceful hypocrisy. All of us will suffer. That grieves me, but it also makes me exceedingly angry. Hard-working, honest, decent ministers will be painted with a brush they do not deserve. I'm among them.

Most of all, I grieve for the world around us. I grieve for searching, hurting, precious people who need to know that God is good and faithful and can be trusted. I grieve for those who will leave church, perhaps forever, and worse will leave the faith, or never consider the claims of Jesus Christ in the first place.

I grieve for Ted Haggard too. I hope that he will be humbled and broken so that he can be healed and restored. God's grace is greater, more amazing than I can fathom. I can't point fingers, much as I'd like to, and hurt and angry as I feel. I can't because I realize the depth of my own denial and self-deception. I'm not a Calvinist, but things like this push me that way.

Finally, for what it is worth, here are the things I am pondering in the aftermath of this...things I am coming more and more to believe.

Fame is not good for ministry. It brings pressures no one should carry.

Mega Churches can offer ministries that small churches like mine cannot. But there MUST be a better way to be the Church in action.

Accountability is CRITICAL! If we become so foolish as to think we can live out the life of Christ alone, well, someone needs to sit us down and give us a straight talking to.

Truth is imperative. When I read that 70% of pastors have accessed internet porn, I get the heebie jeebies. God's Holy Spirit wants "truth in our inmost parts." Ted was, among whatever else was happening, lying to others, but most of all lying to himself to believe that his hypocrisy would not be his downfall. I find it so ironic that his prayer from the pulpit the Sunday before all this became news included a plea for God to uncover lies. God answered his prayer, it seems. What else did he expect?

I hate to mention this, but so many of the highly publicized ministers who have "fallen" are from my own camp, the Charismatic-Pentecostals that I think we of this part of the Church MUST take a good long look about why this should be the case. Are we more prone, for whatever reasons, to arrogance, pride, self-deception? I can't answer those questions, but they need to be honestly faced.

Meanwhile, I grieve and I pray and I am angry and I am confused.

God is not confused, however. For that I give thanks.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

At the Polls

I'm not in Australia, I'm in the USA, but I thought this was funny!
This morning we drove to our polling place bright and early, hoping to be among the first in line. Voter turnout seemed larger than usual, and we had a bit of a wait. Outside, people exiting the building (in our case it is city hall) smiled and greeted us.

As we entered the building we heard a buzz of friendly conversation. Everyone was smiling. It was noticable. Pulling out our identification, we chatted a bit with the poll workers. Ken tried out the fancy new electronic voting machine that has made its debut appearance in our precinct. I voted the old-fashioned way, entering the tiny booth, stepping behind the short curtain and filling in the ovals with a black marker. Ken took longer than I did. Apparently the new method is not particularly fast.
As I said last post, I do not fit very neatly in either party. I had a bit of angst as I looked at the lists of names, wondering if I was doing the right thing. (I blush to recall that the first person I campaigned for was Richard Nixon.)

In Wisconsin we are voting on whether or not to reinstitute the death penalty for capital offenses. I voted no, but I know most of the people I know will vote yes. I never quite understand how those who are strongly pro-life when it comes to those yet unborn can be in favor of the death penalty. Of course, I know that we are speaking of an innocent life and a convicted murderer. But I find no basis for execution in the New Testament. All the "Christian" arguments I hear in favor of the death penalty are from the Old Testament. I don't want to live in the Old Testament, thank you!

I know each side can make a fairly good case for their point of view, and only God truly knows the answers to these kinds of issues. But if I err, I choose to err on the side of grace and mercy. And as for the argument about how much it costs to house an inmate versus the cost of execution--people need to do a bit more homework! Enough about that.

As we left the polling place, I pondered the blessing of voting in the United States of America. It was quite clear that being able to cast a vote had actually lightened people's spirits. We are not required to vote, and we are also not afraid to vote. There were no soldiers with rifles guarding the polls. There were no tanks passing in the streets, no threats of retalliation, no anger or frustration in people's voice or on their faces. On the contrary, the atmosphere inside city hall was almost jovial, rather like a friendly neighborhood party. Perhaps people were thinking, just a little, of the blessings of freedom.
Or perhaps they were just incredibly relieved that, at last, the weeks of mud-slinging and outrageous personal attacks were finally over. Thanks be to God! Sad to say, I think the campaigns in Wisconsin reached a new low in sleaze. I was reduced to yelling at the television screen last night, even though I voted for the guy who brought me to the edge!

I do not trust in politics to make this world or this country the place I wish it could be. However, I always vote, even when I struggle with the choices. I vote because I can. And for that I really do give thanks.

Monday, November 06, 2006

California Dreamin' (Last Post) -- This World is Not My Home

This was our ocean view from the balcony. The brown field will be covered with flowers in the springtime. I'd love to see that!

We didn't make it to the big red trees. If we had continued north from Lake Isabella we would have come to them in another fifty miles or so, but we needed to get Kevin back home.

We returned from Bakersfield late. It was a drive like I've never experienced. Ten lanes of traffic on I - 5, five each side, completely solid with cars for hours. The sheer volume of people now packed into Southern California is mind-boggling. In a bag in the back seat were fresh corn tortillas (still warm when we purchased them), a bag of avocodos and some oranges. Now that is a beakfast in the making!

Next day I felt a little ill, waking with a sore throat and a badly congested head, but I spent a little time at the pool and Ken took a last dip in the Pacific--the day sped by. Next morning my sister and family flew north and we flew east.

I dislike the word "closure." But I experienced a bit of it, I think. It was good to realize that in some ways I still am a Californian even though I moved away a very long time ago. I could still drive in stop-and-go freeway traffic...eek...and felt quickly comfortable with the culture. I have a broader point of view than several of my Wisconsin neighbors about many things, and I believe it comes from growing up in a metropolis on the coast. I was reminded, once again, that I love diversity. I awoke in colors I love, and I realized that some of the color palate I prefer comes from my California roots. Califorornia looks like Florida at first glance, because of the beach and the palms. But California, unlike Florida, is full of bright colors. (Florida is full of pastels.) I loved the blue, yellow and green beadspreads in our condo, the paintings of turquoise blue sea and sky and bright flowers, boats or buildings. I loved the food--fresh and beautifully prepared with lots of flavor.

I also realized anew that no place is home for me. California is not my home. It was fun visiting places in the San Fernando Valley, but it was not home. It was fun to realize that part of me still says "Made in Los Angeles" but I would no longer want to live there, nor in the valley. I am not completely at home in the city anymore. But than again, Wisconsin is not home either. I like many things about Wisconsin, but there is a part of me that will never be a small-town person, no matter that the town in which I currently live is under 4,000 in population.

For that matter, I never quite seem to fit anywhere. I do not fit neatly into the Evangelical nor Pentecostal Church models. I do not fit into the Republican Party, and I do not fit in the Democratic Party. I do not fit in many women's groups, though I am a woman. I do not fit neatly into either the Pro Life or Pro Choice camp. I like loud and happy woorship and being joyful in church, and I love candlelit silence and stained glass windows too.

Perhaps I am just a mutt, as my profile says. Or a misfit! Or perhaps we are designed to find our home in God.

Philippians 3:20-4:1 (Today's New International Version)

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord..."

Could it be that for those of us who belong to Christ, we will only be 'at home" in His presence? Ever since returning from our short trip, I have had the words to an old gospel song in my mind. "This world is not my home...I'm just a passin' through..." I believe it is a little trite but nonetheless true, and perhaps I should just rest in that. Not the song, the awareness.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Just a couple more pictures

The brothers are waiting for the steaks on the grill to finish. Ken is in blue, little brother is in grey. He is a miracle. A sweet little boy, he became an angry teenager and (he says) "a descipable man." After living on the steets for 10 years, he lost a leg to infection. He also says he lost anger and bitterness at the same time. Now the loving person we knew years ago has returned, sadder and physically struggling, but wiser.

Afterwards we headed back to Bakersfield. Ken took a walk to take pictures and was rewarded with rocks in his shoes.

Bakersfield is dusty, dusty, dusty. This is a picture at sunset. It is Ken's attempt to show the dust in the airl If you look closely you might see that the mountain is dark and in between the black of the mountain and the grey-blue of the sky is the brown haze of desert dust. Everything in Bakersfield is dusty. Even the trees.

California Dreamin' Part VII -- Up the Mountain

This was my attempt to capture the rugged landscape of California's high desert. After picking up Ken's brother we drove up, up, up a very narrow road. The granite rocks are enormous, some as big as a large car. On the rock strewn mountainsides grow scrub oak and little else. I am amazed that anything grows.

Down at the bottom of this steep canyon flows the Kern River.

And at the summit of the road, Lake Isabella. What a contrast to the lakes in Wisconsin which are always surrounded by greenery (when they aren't frozen over). The blue sky and water were beautiful in their own stark way, as were the distant purple mountain peaks.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

California Dreamin' Part VI - The Valley

My California Home

We woke before dawn and headed for Bakersfield and Ken's brother, Kevin, planning a stop in "The Valley" on the way. About 40 miles NE of Los Angeles, the San Fernando valley is a sprawling bowl of many small cities crammed together. Sylmar, Pacoima, Mission Hills, Granada Hills, Van Nuys, Panorama City, Pasadena, Canoga Park, Northridge--and the list goes on. When we lived there no one much cared, or could find, boundaries between the cities. It was just, "The Valley." We drove around looking for familiar places, calling out street names as we went, trying to get our bearings. Their Spanish syllables rolled off our tongues like water over rocks. El Dorado, Terra Bella, San Fernado, El Camino Real, Buena Vista, Playa del Mar. We recognized the streets as if they were old friends. We didn't recognize much else.

The Valley has changed from mostly Anglo with pockets of Mexicans, Cubans, Asians and African Americans. It is now almost completely Hispanic with pockets of Asians, Pakistanis and Middle Eastern folks. Anglos are few. We heard almost no English spoken. Spanish signs, Mexican music, and brick fences with wrought iron predominated.

We found my old church, First Baptist of Pacoima. It looked the same, and those drops of memory came...baptism...Sunday School...Pastor Stanley Polk...Vacation Bible School...youth camp...Ken finding faith in Christ and leaving the LDS church behind. The brick building with the white cross looked the same. I remembered the day we broke ground to build our beautiful new church. Now it had one of those fences added, and the name on the sign read, " Iglesia Bautista Hispanica del Valle." I was happy to see that what had been a dwindling church when I left it now seemed to be thriving. Down the street, Valley Christian Church was now Templo Calvario. I remembered a hot dog stand on the corner where the teens from the two churches sometimes chatted and flirted with one another. The corner stand was still there, much worse for wear, but now a yellow and red sign advertised TACOS!

We found my old house. It looked neat and cared for. The rail fence I used to sit on, watching cars go by and comtemplating life, was replaced by one of those brick and iron ones. It was much more attractive, I had to admit, even though it looked sharp. The big walnut tree still spread over the front sidewalk, and even though a wheelchair ramp changed the look of the house, I could see the front porch a bit. I was kissed for the first time on that porch. I hugged many visiting Texas relatives there. I cried there, and once I stood there screaming in frustration at my mother who was leaving, not to be seen again for several years. Drops of memory...good and dad working in the garage and listening to the Saturday Night Polka Parade...sunning on the patio roof...planting Azaleas...listening to the Beatles on the "hi fi."

We didn't stay long. We headed up the highway towards California's "high desert."