Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tug of War

I read that Iran has given us a stern talking to. If we insist on putting sanctions on them, they will not eat their vegetables or go to bed early.... and if we don't make Israel stop playing with their nuclear weapons, Iran refuses to stop playing with theirs. Then they crossed their arms and stomped their foot.

Meanwhile, the North Korean sinking of a South Korean ship has been deemed just an act of national territorial issues, not terrorism. North Korea will not go back on the top ten terrorist country list and can still expect a present from Santa.

And while we appreciate the show of optimism from our friends in Al Queida, for now we are not keen on them sharing power with the leaders of Afghanistan unless they stop insisting that at the first possible moment, all Western Capitalist Pigs must die.

I wish we could just spank all those naughty leaders and put them to bed without supper. Or I wish they could work things out the way our dogs did. Honeybun came to us as a starving, pitiful, homeless waif, but quickly decided that Lucky needed some readjustments in his character. She used the time honored method of trying to murder him. This did temper some of Lucky's annoying habits, like breathing in her presence, but in my eyes, it was not the key to harmonious resolution of conflict.

We learned through the skilled intervention of Hollow Creek Farm that dogs must learn to submit to authority and every human in the house must be perceived as authority. In the absence of benevolent leadership, the dogs will try to fill the vacuum and as we had seen first hand, their methods of establishing pecking order usually involves blood and ruptured spleens.

It is not easy being the authority. Being in charge has its perks, of course, like not having to make lima beans for dinner, but it has responsibilities too. Ay, there's the rub. But the dogs learned and yesterday, the completion of their rehabilitation was made evident by a midday romp. They both wanted the rope toy and they both grabbed it. But instead of ripping out Lucky's jugular to secure her rights to it, Honeybun took one end, and Lucky took the other. They both began tugging for all they were worth. I stood nearby to monitor what surely could become an explosive situation as they both shook their heads and made noise and put the full weight of their powerful muscles and teeth to pulling the rope from the other dog. I know the experts frown on tug of war games with aggressive dogs, but I am not an expert.

The game lasted a good couple of minutes. Since neither dog is good about their dental hygiene, I was afraid it might end in someone losing a full set of choppers. But instead, with a final tug, Honeybun wrenched the rope free from Lucky and the two dogs wagged their tails. Game over, conflict resolved, winner takes the rope. If only all strife could be thus waged and reconciled.

When the townspeople in Jesus' day wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery, Jesus intervened and did a most remarkable thing. He stooped down and started writing in the dirt. The Bible doesn't tell us what He wrote but it does tell us He said, "He who is without sin cast the first stone." Of course, no one could live up to that, and all walked away one by one. I know one of the things I want to chat with God about when I get to heaven is what did Jesus write? I have my ideas. I want to begin with a disclaimer- these are my ideas only, not scripture.

As far as I know, there are only three recorded instances of God writing. One incidence occurs way back in the Old Testament book of Daniel (5) when Belshazzar was king and was happily worshipping idols, profaning God, and desecrating His temple. So mysteriously one raucous evening, a disembodied hand suddenly writes on Belshazzar's palace wall, "Mene, mene, tekel, parsin." No one knows what it means so they call on Daniel to interpret it. The words, written in Aramaic, are literal weights of measure, meaning "numbered, weighed, divided" and Daniel translated the message:

25 "This is the inscription that was written:
Mene , Mene , Tekel , Parsin

26 "This is what these words mean:
Mene : God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

27 Tekel : You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

28 Peres : Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."

Flash forward to the New Testament scene and Jesus stooping to write in the dirt. My suspicion is that Jesus again in his own language, Aramaic, wrote Tekel (you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting) on the ground. I know that if I saw Tekel suddenly appear letter by letter in my presence, I would be forced to admit it applies. I too would drop my head and slink away, hopefully to a closet where I would humbly fall to my knees and recognize how far short of the glory of God I really do fall.

Praise be to God, I don't have to remain in the closet because of the last writing that the Bible records God doing. When I reached up and accepted His gift of salvation to me, my name was written in the book of life. The name of everyone who accepts Jesus as Lord and savior is written in the Book of Life. The writing that condemns (tekel) in a tug of war with the writing that breathes life....

I know which one I'm rooting for.....

Philippians 4: 2-3

...who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Character Molding Day

As I was toweling off, thinking shuddering chills in 95 degree weather was not a good sign, I noticed little red hives creeping all over for midriff. As I watched, new ones popped out, mocking me.
"This can't be good," I thought.
I read the literature on the medicine I was on.
" Rash or hives indicative of possible severe allergic reaction. Contact your physician immediately."
I was having no trouble breathing so I knew I was probably not going to die at least in the next few minutes, but went in to review with Asherel the 911 procedure should I drop to the floor in the middle of emptying the dishwasher.
"They will talk you through how to revive me so be sure to stay on the phone," I said to the eye rolling girl who was not taking this as seriously as I would have liked.
The doc would see me in a few hours, but if I stopped breathing and they needed to cancel the appointment, let them know.

So as I had presciently warned myself in yesterday's blog post, rarely does everything go right. Almost always, God feels the need to work on some deficiency in my character and He unerringly uses trials and tribulations to get His point across. I had an inkling of the point He might be driving home.

"Are you sure you can't work me earlier in the doctor's schedule?" I asked, still calm and respectful,"Because I am pretty sure this is an allergic reaction and I am feeling a little scared."
This is the point at which I usually burst into tears and begin wailing and gnashing teeth. Woe to the receptionist that stands between me and my goal.
However, I am sick and tired of these lessons about patience and kindness and I know God is not going to stop sending them until I show some sort of growth in this area.
So instead of my usual begging and badgering, I simply said, "If there is a cancellation, can you work me in?" (If I am still alive, I will be there, I added mentally.)

Lo and behold, a few minutes later, there was a cancellation. I zipped off to the doctor, chills and fever growing, and rash still spreading.
While checking in, feeling pretty awful, I noticed the lineup of pictures on the office waiting area wall. The office sponsored a series of Harris YMCA Little league baseball teams in the mid 90s.
"Hmm," I thought as I gazed at them,"That is when Matt played little league."
I moved closer to look at the team of '96. There was my little gap toothed, bespeckled, grinning boy! My little 8 year old was smiling at me and the memories of that magnificent but also hard year when my 40 year old body was struggling with pregnancy, sick for every one of the days of gestation. I also remembered the big lesson Matt learned that year. He desperately wanted to be a fielder, either first or second base I think, but he was designated the catcher. He hated that position and was horribly distraught. But after a series of discussions with him and his coaches, he came to me and told me, "Mom, I am going to go out and be the best catcher I can be. I am going to bloom where I am planted."

I too was blooming where I was planted. My rash bloomed across my entire trunk like a rose.
But I thought about how easy it is to bloom when you are happy with the circumstances. But when you don't get what you want, when you are waiting or scared, how easy it is to let your character disintegrate, your witness of God's redemptive love dissolve, your happiness really only hinge on how successfully you can manipulate the world....and God.

The doctor told me my oxygen intake was 100%, no wheezing, so while this was clearly an allergic reaction, it had been several hours since the last dose and I did not appear to be in any danger. I was prescribed new medicine and sent home, with all the dire warnings should the condition worsen.

On my way out the door, I glanced at my 8 year old Matt, his smile blossoming on a dreary day.

1Peter 1: 6-7
6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

When Bad Things Go Well

On my way to Urgent Care last night, I remembered how I had told Asherel on our very fun but exhausting 10 day trip up North that my body will often wait til the vacation ends before it implodes. I am not blessed with a terribly strong immune system and lack of sleep and overfull days always do a number on my health. I am fine now, on antibiotics and feeling a good bit better , but last night I was wondering if I could make it to Urgent Care and how many hours I would have to wait til blessed medication could attack the nasty opportunistic microbes that were kicking me while I was down.
I saw the path to health before me, but there were all those tangled thorny obstacles I would have to clear first. The last time I was in urgent care, I had to wait 3 hours. And our pharmacy was only open til 6....which had passed by an hour ago. Where would I find an open pharmacy on Sunday night? So many worries and so little forehead left unwrinkled.

But joy of joys, when I walked into Urgent Care, three nurses sat around the desk chewing their cud and not one other moaning patient in sight.
"Hallelujah!" I cried, "Am I the only one?"
The nurses leaped to their feet and began weighing me, measuring me, blood pressure cuffing me, handing me forms, handing me cups, patting my hand, and leading me like a queen to the examining throne. Within 15 minutes of arrival I was diagnosed, prescribed, and sent on my way with happy nurses waving in a tight pack of good cheer and best wishes.

This is why I am opposed to universal health care. Health care for JUST ME is so much more pleasant.

I found a pharmacy open 24 hours and the sympathetic pharmacist told me to sit and wait, he would have me out of there in 10 minutes. An hour later, I was done eating the good meal my husband had prepared and snuggling into bed already feeling the drugs attacking and destroying the bad guys.

It never works this way. Never. I don't know why it did this time, except that for whatever reason, God chose not to work on my character development and just hand me an evening of mercy instead. That probably means I am in for a whopping serving of character development soon, if the past is any guide to the future but for now, I am luxuriating in everything going miraculously right.
3 John 1:2
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

For the Sake of A Few Good Trainers

The beautiful "gaited" horses at the Virginia Horse center had tails that scraped the ground like a wedding dress train a foot longer than the horse. Their necks were curved with an impossible arch, and they picked up their feet like they were stepping on hot coals. They are the "super-models" of the horse world- no one looks that good without an airbrush.

We stopped there for a couple of hours before our final spurt home as both Asherel and I love watching horses. We also love riding them but watching them is much less expensive. We were fortunate enough to chance upon the gaited regional horse show so the entire show was filled with these exaggerated perfections of equininity. (ps- I am pretty sure that is not a word, but it should be.)

I felt a little uncomfortable watching as I had read that the exaggerated gait, high flashy stepping, and overarched neck were the result of cruel training techniques. What I discovered upon researching it at home later is like in many things, there are cruel trainers and humane trainers and the methods used by the humane trainers do not hurt the horse. Apparently even from babyhood, flashy high steppers are evident. I also was surprised to discover that the gaited horses are ridden slightly further back from the pastern which is a fancy word for shoulder, unless it is not, as again, I am only making a semi-educated guess. This makes the ride smoother for the rider and also takes the weight off the horse's front legs, allowing that flashy high step to become even flashier and higher. I am not a gaited horse trainer so I can't say for sure if the horses are happy to be prancing like their hooves are on fire or not. But it is pretty to watch.

And it would be unfair to brand a whole equine discipline cruel just because some people in the discipline are cruel. If it was fair to broad-brush demonize a group because of a few bad apples, then all humankind would be down the toilet.

It reminds me of Abraham negotiating with God in Genesis 18 when He wants to wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah.
Abraham is horrified, and not only because his nephew Lot is living there.
He cries out, "Lord! Surely you will not wipe out the wicked with the righteous? What if 50 kind and humane horse trainers are in the city? Will you still wipe it out?"
(I am paraphrasing to make the link to my horse story a little clearer.)
"No," says God, "I will save it for 50 nice horse trainers."
Abraham quickly calculates the number of humane horse trainers he knows and asks, "How about if you only find 40?"
"Ok, I will save the city for 40 humane trainers."
"Only because you agreed to drop everything and go where I told you when I told you," answered God, "I will save it for 30."
Abraham is getting nervous because as he looks out over Sodom, he is not certain he can drum up even 30.
"20?" (he is cringing here because depending on God's mercy meter today, there is a distinct possibility that God is getting annoyed.)
"You drive a hard bargain, Abe, but for 20, I will still stay my hand."
"One last plea and I promise I am done. Will you save it for 10....for just 10 righteous trainers? Afterall, if you wipe out the good ones...who will guide and perhaps positively affect the bad?"
God heaves a deep sigh, because He really admires Abraham's gumption as well as his compassion for the fools of the city. But what God knows that Abraham doesn't is not even 10 righteous people are in those wicked places. We all know how it ends for Sodom and Gomorrah- Lot is saved but everyone else, including his wife, perish.
Righteousness was in short supply.

It still is. I don't mean the kind of righteousness that makes horse trainers kind or cruel in guiding horses to prance prettily. I mean the kind of righteousness that makes us give our last dime to the poor, or speak gently when we are treated harshly, or humbly admit when we have erred and beg forgiveness, or hold back angry words of impatience, or pride, or disgust, and I don't mean to just our enemies....but to our loved ones as well. I don't know about the gaited horse training world, but I do know about me, and hard as I try, I sure am not righteous.

Fortunately, I have someone pleading my case, standing on the hill looking down on my city and staying God's hand saying, "Destroy me instead for the sake of the unrighteous one...."
To my eternal relief and gratitude, that is what God did.

Job 16:19-21 (New International Version)

19 Even now my witness is in heaven;
my advocate is on high.

20 My intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;

21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God
as a man pleads for his friend.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Skeletons and ghosts

For a parting gift to the nephews, Grandpa gave them each a mortal weapon - a boomerang. We had not known it would become a weapon but oftentimes that is what happens when you hand young boys objects. Nephew J, unaware of his own strength and untamed
boomerang prowess was a good quarter mile from the porch where the gaggle of senior folk were placidly gumming their lunch.
We didn't know how far a boomerang could travel but surely not that far. We were wrong. The boomerang stayed aloft circling like a buzzard homing in on the weak and defenseless. And then like a lazer guided missile it blasted right for the porch as we all watched in horror. God, in His infinite goodness, steered it on a miraculous paper-thin path between the octogenarians who all gulped some extra oxygen but otherwise remained unscathed.

Vacation over, the nephews chugged homeward in one direction, as we headed off in another. We met Matt and his girlfriend Karissa in the lovely historic town of Lexington,home to the college that Robert E Lee once presided over and where Matt will attend law school.

We wandered the campus and came upon the plaque nailed to a stable
that informed us this was the home of Traveller, Lee's famous and beloved horse. Asherel told us that Traveller's skeleton is in a nearby museum.

I understand the sentiment that would propel someone to keep the skeleton of a loved one near. As we wandered through the ancient cemetary where Stonewall Jackson was buried, the ghosts of the past shimmered before my eyes. Historic places always do that to me, conjure images of life romanticized and peaceful with horse drawn carriages and families that never moved away from each other. I find it a bit extreme but can relate to keeping the skeleton of Traveller, the boomerang longing in mortal life. We want it back , those precious moments of the past we know in reality cannot return. But I believe all creation is imbued with symbolism that points us back to the Creator. To live, we must die to self, and like newborn babes be born again to the simple faith that sometimes defies our adult understanding. It is the boomerang that circles back not as a weapon but as life- eternal life.

John 3:3-6
In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. " [4] "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" [5] Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. [6] Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Nothing to draw

The nephews are gone with favorite Aunt Amy and I am sitting in a silent house while my folks sleep. We leave this morning as well.
Sometimes I am not certain I will survive all the goodbyes.

On our first day of the glorious bedlam, Nephew N asked that I teach him how to paint. Of course favorite Aunt Amy had paints with her so I said, "Sure! Look around you. Draw what you want to paint."
Nephew N looked around the room filled with a hundred beautiful bottles my
Mom has collected over her lifetime. The bottles reflected every color of the rainbow, lined along the sill of a giant bow window that looked out over a forest of backyard trees, with leaves shimmering in the sun.
"There's nothing to paint," he said.
"Well then your first lesson is to understand you can paint anything. Everything has something about it worth painting. "

Later as we were all driving somewhere, probably to our fiftieth meal out in 3 days, Asherel played the song "Fireflies" by Owl City. It is a captivating song about a man who looks out on a sky filled with fireflies and doesn't want to sleep. He wants to believe that he could slow time down so that he could gaze upon the flickering dances of light just a little longer.

The kids eagerly discussed the meaning of the song.
"It is urging us to notice the
little things in life," I added,"the things that often we don't notice but are all around us and what make life worth living. Like discovering there was everything to paint in my parent's dining room. Beauty is where you look for it. "

I want to make the earth turn more slowly too. I want to hold on to firefly flashes of family returning to homes far away, and memories of childhood wonder and delight, youth, and vigor...
However,I think God is very purposeful in making all things on earth end and planting the longing for eternity in us.
"There is a place," He whispers to me, "where fireflies dance forever and families never need leave each other , and new bodies don't fail us. It is a place where my final masterpiece is revealed and there is everything to paint."

2 Corinthians 5:1-4
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. [2] Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, [3] because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. [4] For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Of mercy and grace

The children slammed to a stop in front of the sign that arched over the path we knew led to the caves and the arrowheads. It claimed that this path we had searched two days for was closed, forbidden, off limits. The sign was old with grafitti all over it. Surely the warning had expired by now.
"We can't go there," warned the little nephew B.
I suggested we go just a little way and see if the caves we had been told were on this side of the mountain were hiding somewhere along the start of the trail. We assured nephew B that we would not go to jail in all liklihood, and even if we did, he was young enough to be out in time for college.
It became readily apparent why the trail was closed. It had been washed out and was steep and slippery with a sheer cliff to the side that plunged 100 feet onto the Susquehanna river. Rocks dislodged from under our feet skittered down the steep incline and with an ominous silence disappeared over the edge. The plunk of water devouring the hapless rock many seconds later reminded me I was the adult in charge of all the little rocks beside me. Well, favorite aunt Amy was supposedly in charge too but she was gazing a little too longingly at that parh along the sheer cliff for my taste.
I saw the danger in the distance and told the troops to forget it. No way were we risking that trail, not with children that weren't even my gene pool about to be wiped off the face of the earth.
"Oh comon!" cried out little nephew B,"We can do it. We always do trails like this, even steeper ones. "
"No, I have a better idea. Let's bushwhack through the forest filled with mosquitoes and spiders and poison ivy. If we are careful we should be able to avoid being blinded by the thorny sticks that kid in front of me keeps whipping back into my face."
Nephew B had much preferred the option of tumbling over the 100 foot cliff but we forged on through the deep and not very clear forest. When 7 large mosquitos began to lift nephew B off the ground with their cumulative sucking force, we headed toward a house we saw uphill. We had had enough of the dangers of the wilderness.
We came to a road and a friendly home owner told us that the river park was just at the bottom of the hill. He obviously did not use the word "just" with the perspective of 8 year old legs.
I promised the tired troop that I would run to the top of the mountain to retrieve the car but the river beckoned just ahead. And finally, there it was - a quiet boat launch site with shade and boulders to climb and smooth flat pebbles to skip across the water. There was even a water fountain.
I trotted back up the
mountain while the rest of the crew cooled off.
We didn't deserve this refuge, this lovely Mecca after our brush with defiance and the law. We really deserved the fate of the stones that chose to ignore the sign and tumbled off the path. But instead, mercy was extended and we did not get what we deserved. And a heaping helping of grace was thrown in. We DID get what we DIDN'T deserve- shade, water to quench our thirst, and a river to cool our disobedient toes in.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. [15] For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are---yet was without sin. [16] Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Inspiration to the world

As I followed my nephews down the steep trail, I thought how wonderful it would be if the earth were populated only by kids like these. I had asked them earlier what their parents had done to raise such delightful children.
"Discipline," they told me,"Taking away anything with a screen when we misbehave."
Whatever my sister has done, it is certainly working well.
I was pondering this as we hiked down Round Top- the mountain known in my high school days as the place where teenagers went to drink beer and do other things frowned upon by nice people. We were hunting for arrowheads and hidden caves we had been assured were nestled on Round Top. Every sharp stone the youngest nephew uncovered, he excitedly came running to me and asked if it was an arrow head.
"Nope . But it is almost the right shape. You'll know it's real when you see the chip marks."
So he continued the hunt. We found yellow mushrooms, yummy blackberries, a hidden letter box, 2 fossils- but no arrowheads.

Later that evening, Favorite Aunt Amy did a live stream video with the nephews' parents. We all sat in the living room and chatted with each other and with the lonely parents.
"That's odd," said Amy,"3 people are watching the live stream ."
One person was the nephew's mom. The second revealed himself through the "chat" capability on this magical technology. It was someone from Mexico. Mind you, much as I love my family, this was hardly riveting video. None of us were juggling or unicycling or eating live rattlesnakes. We were just chatting.
"You are a typical American family," wrote the Mexican, "Nice. "
So who was viewer number three? He never revealed himself. The parents were
delighted to see live video of their kids and it made sense that they were
watching. The Mexican watched nearly the whole time too and that made some sense as he was obviously taken with the niceness of the boys (and of course my dear Asherel)-but who was viewer number three?
I have my suspicions. I don't think Viewer Number Three normally needs live video stream to watch us and I think He is always watching. I think we brought the simple love of family to a few lonely people and perhaps delighted one relational deity.

I often agonize over all the mistakes I make as a parent, a spouse, a sister, and a friend. I fall so far short so many times. But my family shines with enough love that even folks in Mexico can tell it is the real thing. They must see the chip marks.

And I know that despite all those battle scars of living life with others , which i seem to accumulate no matter how deeply I love them, are not held against me. I am forgiven and redeemed by Viewer Number Three with His own chip marks carved upon His Hands.
Tomorrow we will scour the other side of the mountain hunting for the arrowheads.

2 John 1:1-4
...whom I love in the truth---and not I only, but also all who know the truth--- [2] because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever: [3] Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love. [4] It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The peaceful quiet objects that line the normally silent sunroom window sill in my parent's home are all agog. Molecules moving this fast have never been seen. The nephews have arrived.

My sister has gone to a ridiculous extreme to win the contest "favorite aunt". Up until this trip, we were neck to neck on the hard fought attempts to bribe and spoil our nephews. And then Amy decided to offer to bring them several hundred miles on a train to visit the grandparents while we were here. I have nothing to top this feat so must accede the title to her. I really never had a chance anyway. I could keep up with her for short bursts with scavenger hunts or Mcdonald's icecream bribes but a thousand mile train ride complete with breakfast in the dining car?
She doesn't play fair.

And the quiet knick knacks on the sunroom window sill
gaze with amazement as the cousins rush out to the back yard with no child toy or electronics in it, and they gleefully construct a teepee with the fallen branches. Another nephew is planning to construct water skis with foam so he can walk on water. The grandparents and knick knacks are already exhausted just watching this whirlwind of creativity and life.

I can see none of us will sleep much and will need a vacation after this vacation. But as I prepare to meet the exuberance of this day with those animated dear ones ready to spring out of bed the moment they hear a footstep, I am so grateful for my family. The chaos of an overfull house is shaking the normally still objects within to the core with the cumulative effect of generations of love. And I don't begrudge Amy the title "favorite aunt". She'd be my favorite too.

Psalm 16:6
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Through a glass dimly

My folks have a beautiful sunroom with a lovely potted palm in it. The palm stands in the corner against large plate glass windows looking out over a lush and thickly forested yard. It is clear what the palm is thinking as it waves it's fronds gently in the still indoor air.
"Hey guys! Can I come out and play?"
"Oh that's a good one," laughs the oak tree,"I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say your locomotive powers are somewhat compromised."
And the palm has no choice but to agree. No singing birds or chatty squirrels will alight upon it's branches. It will always stand sentinel looking out at the forest it can't join.

So I sit with it when I visit and together we watch the world outside the glass.
But I am luckier than the palm tree because my folks love to go out to eat so they take me out to lunch every day and sometimes dinner. When I visit, I shop and make home cooked meals for them if they let me. After nearly 80 years of cooking, my mom just is sick of it.
Even making a sandwich conjures memories of shopping, cooking, cleaning for 5 kids and exhausts her. So they happily explore every restaurant within an hour in all directions and single- handedly are trying to fuel an economic recovery in America.

Yesterday morning, the potted palm and I were discussing our roots when I heard my parents' television in the next room. I listened as the host described how to flambé and sauté and fricasee.
My parents who have not cooked a single meal in 15 years were watching a cooking show.
Now to be fair, I do believe mom reported making a hot dog last year and a peanut butter sandwich once but neither was flambed, or sauted or fricaseed.

The Palm and I exchanged glances.
"Are you planning a comeback?" I called out to mom, who used to be a good cook, though she never loved it.
Nope, no plans to start cooking again.
Just watching the world on the other side of the glass.

I am only looking at a reflection of what could be, what will be on the other side too. In a sense, we all are potted palms catching the scent of a world we long for but cannot quite touch , cannot quite reach.... Not yet.

1 Corinthians 13:12
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

One mile at a time

On our last day in Boston, I went on a run along the Charles River joined by people whizzing by in commemorative Boston marathon shirts. I slogged happily by sparkling water with college kids in long low boats rowing while a coach in a speed boat magaphoned ,"Stroke! Stroke!"
A stranger called out to me,"Enjoy your run!"
Ducks cavorted just offshore, and many healthy trim folks lapped by me. Since I was not in a race and thoroughly enjoying the sunny day and sparkling water, I didn't mind. I have always loved running but nowadays, calling it "recreational plodding" might be more accurate. I pushed the pause button and sat on a bench and did the little sketch in todays post. I noticed a beetle I had passed earlier scramble by me. Time to move on and chase the morning.
So as I cheerfully recreationally plodded, a runner zipped by but not so fast that I couldn't read the back of his shirt: "One mile at a time."

My folks celebrate their 57th anniversary today. There is only one way to make it this far- one day at a time.

When my brother was going through a very overwhelming situation and called my mom lamenting the troubling and impossible future he saw before him, my wise mom asked him if he knew what he needed to do for the next 5 minutes. He did.
"Then live the next 5 minutes - and then the next 5 minutes after that when you get there. "
And now many years later though there are always struggles, he has spectacularly strung thousands of 5 minutes together and crafted a remarkable life.

As I recreationally plodded along the Charles River with lady bugs leaving me in their wake, I thought of all the mountains of worries and woes left to climb before I finished my own life marathon. The finish line sometimes seems so impossibly distant and the path is rutted with booby traps and holes of wallowing despair that threaten to swallow me whole. Still , there is only one way to run it- one mile at a time.

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. [2] Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A room with a view

We are on the 21st floor of the hotel overlooking the Copley Square section of Boston with the Charles
River in the background. It is a spectacular view which we are only able to enjoy because I pricelined our hotel. That is the Internet hotel service where you can bid your own price on a room and if the hotel has unsold rooms,they will often accept bids of half price or even lower. I always priceline our Boston hotels when we visit because only people who did not grow
up wearing belly packs
can afford them at full price. Also,the spokesman for Priceline is Captain Kirk from Star Trek, a tv show I always loved. I know Captain Kirk would never steer me wrong.

And the lovely view with buildings stretching to the horizon shows clearly that Boston is huge. However not as clearly as our sore feet showed us yesterday after Asherel bookmarked all the posh dog boutiques we were to walk to.
"So we can do anything you want to in this big beautiful city," I told her as we gazed
at the panorama from our 21st floor, "And we have til 6 when we meet Anders. Name our adventure!"
And with all the wonders stretched below her, she wanted to visit as many pet boutiques as we could find.
This was fine with me as Boston is a beautiful city and I love to walk. Normally I can only entice Asherel to walk very far if there are choclate chip cookies strewn along the trail. I noticed gleefully that one pet boutique was clear across the map. It was a lovely day and we set off. The first boutique was not too far, though still further than Asherel would normally ask to walk without threat and coercion. I personally see little need for stores
that sell swim goggles for dogs (doggles) or dog parkas with real fur hoods even at half price. But Asherel was oohing and ahing and seemingly not noticing how many miles we were piling on. And I was loving the walk past gorgeous historic buildings, brownstones with heavy carved doors and massive stone churches with Corinthian columns and elaborate carvings along the roof.

Then we set off for the final boutique - the one that was at least a mile or so away. The day had grown hot. This part of Boston seemed poorer and garbage lined the curb. The buildings were still beautiful but more run down. Asherel didn't complain because this boutique was the most expensive of them all and she was highly motivated to see to what ridiculous extremes ridiculously wealthy people would go to in pet pampering. We got closer slowly, our feet aching and sweat dripping.
"It is the next block," said Asherel, who was guiding us with a map she had downloaded to her iPod and marked with the uber-boutique location.
"There it is!" she clarioned triumphantly and we stumbled to the front door beneathe the long awaited sign.
It was locked, closed , out of business.
Fortunately there was a Dunkin Donuts next door where we revived ourselves with Boson Creme donuts, and ice tea before the long trek back.

Sometimes that's the way journeys in life unfold. Sometimes we start off with great hopes, high expectations, tremulous anticipation of what might be. And sometimes it leads to dead ends, wounded hearts, deflated dreams bursting open to disappointment.

Again God was reminding me to enjoy the journey because it almost never leads where I expect. Dog goggles might be replaced by donuts but if happiness lies only in the goggles, then I am bound to find disappointment. The search is half the fun, and I imagine the goal is not at all what we think it is.

Philippians 3:13-15
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. [15] All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Friday, June 18, 2010


My folks have outwitted the squirrels after doing battle with them for 50 years. They finally broke down and got a "baffle"- a cylinder that slides on to the birdfeeder pole that the squirrels are simply,well, baffled by.

They are completely flummoxed, perlexed, and bewildered by this contraption. They are stopped like balloons on a porcupine. Sustenance taints them mere inches from their nose but they are stymied by technology. I can relate as they all chitter and weep unable to unlock the intellectual code needed to overcome this modern device.

Despite all my longing to understand the simplest computer task- like how to allow blog recipients to unsubscribe automatically, I have been outsmarted by mere metal and wire. I just could not figure it out.

I grew up in the era of the first color television. Computers were born in my generation and it wasn't til I was an adult that I could own one, let alone begin to understand it. It is even worse for my folks. They grew up in the morse code era. My poor mom still finds it almost beyond her to turn on Dad's new iPad and she is a very smart woman. My genius dad is similarly baffled by tabs that seem to disappear of their own volition yet are critical to using programs claimed to be "intuitively simple".
"It is like a foreign language," he roars,"and I don't want to learn it. "

My folks, the squirrels, and I lament the technology that leaves us in the dust, sliding down poles of techno advances designed to enhance life but instead lead to bouts of ranting and throwing acorns.

Yesterday my brilliant son Anders, who I am happily visiting, popped open his computer as I bemoaned the impossibility of adding an unsubscribe capability to all 2 of the adoring subscribers I have left. He logged me into the blog manager section and asked leading questions like ,"do you think maybe what you want is to edit a footer?" while the button "edit the footer" blinks on the screen. And lo and behold, my blogging viewers can now unsubscribe all by themselves. They no longer need to contact me and announce it on CNN that they have better use of their time than deleting my blog messages day after interminable day.

I thanked Anders, overjoyed with relief that this distressing issue was finally solved.
"I didn't do anything but open my computer and look at you," he said, shaking his head.

Sometimes that is all it takes. Someone willing to stand nearby while you tremulously search for the "on" button. Someone who speaks the language and wants you to succeed. Someone who will hold your heart in His hand so you can triumphantly declare,
"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me."

I think I will go throw some seed to the squirrels.

Psalm 3:5
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The old made new

You never know what you might find on rural roads deep in the mountains.
"Look Asherel," I pointed out the window,"Dinosaurs!"
That was enticing enough for her to glance up from her iPod.
I was grateful for the stoplight for once. It gave us time to gaze at the brontosaurus munching grass beside the stegasaurus.
They towered over a nearby building with a sign that said, "Dinosaurs!"
What was particularly strange was that we were in a historic town founded in the early 1800's. Even if you subscribe to the new earth theory, that was well after dinosaurs roamed the Blue Ridge Parkway. The dinosaurs certainly gave new meaning to "historic preservation."
"What are they doing there?" asked the inquisitive one at my side.
"Hard to say since even when they were alive their brain's were the size of a pea and they never learned English. "

Our GPS was routing us on a scenic route though I had told it to take us on the fastest path.
I guess it felt that we had traveled the same old interstate too many times. Maybe even GPS units need a change of scenery every now and then.
But now I was glad for the winding route with bypasses through tiny near deserted towns with populations of 3. I admired the entrepreneurial spirit that drove someone to erect
giant dinosaurs in the hopes of luring the hurried,tired folks off the blistering interstates.

The ghosts of the old aren't always as apparent in the new settings. But it reminds me of Jesus's admonition that not one jot or tittle of the Old testament would become obsolete. Instead it would be fulfilled by the New. The bones of ancient beings become the earth that we walk upon. Nothing from the past is ever really lost. It is just changed.

We waved to the dinosaurs and continued on the new route to our ancient destination.

2 John 2: 5-7
5 But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him:
6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. 7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.

Nothing is impossible with God

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The mike is on

We are nearing the end of our flurry of doc appointments and endless waiting in doctor offices. And not a moment too soon. Matt insists one should never show up on time as we always wait a half hour and I insist we should be on time no matter what because it is the right thing to do. Our philosophical differnces here threaten to weaken the gentle sweet spirit I carefully cultivate. As I drove en route to NY, I had my phone headset on so I could call Matt's doctor and arrange his appointment. I left my message on their voice mail and closed the phone.
"Time to listen to Rush!" I said. I was anxious to hear my favorite bombastic radio host talk about his recent wedding.
I turned on the radio and Rush's voice boomed out that this time with this wife he had finally gotten it right.
"I hope he did," I told Asherel,"But I am not sure because this is what he said about wife #3 as well. "

I chattered on in this teachable moment about wise choices in something so valuable as marriage and then about how to make a marriage work. I didn't notice she was plugged into her iPod and wasn't listening.

But someone was.

At that point my phone beeped and asked if I needed more time to leave my message.
I think I have made enough of a fool of myself , I told my phone.

So apparently I had just left a 6 minute monologue unwittingly on the doctor's answering service about marriage, wise choices, politics, and persistance in relationships. I wracked my brain hoping I had not spewed any horribly stupid opinions or words in those 6 minutes. I was the shuddering public figure who suddenly realizes the conversation he had thought was private had ben televised - his mike was on.
Fortunately I have never met that particular doc so it was unlikely I had vomited any nasty or incriminating remarks about him.
But the panic that gripped me as I tried to recall all I had said made me think how little I live the way I should. I mean, should I really ever fear that "the mike is on"?
Afterall I am fond of reminding my dear ones that God hears every thought. He of course loves us anyway, but people do not tend to be as unconditional.
But it is something I should strive for- to always speak as though my words were broadcast. Afterall, they really are. Someone with a capital S is listening.

When I called the doc back and described myself as the one who left the 6 minute message, they laughed and told me it was the wrong number but were happy to transfer me. I had reached the psychiatry department by accident.

Excellent speech becometh not a fool.

Nothing is impossible with God

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Left Behind

The danger with computers is that they are smarter than me. So I do what appears to be a simple task, and suddenly emails the size of Tyrannosaurus Rex are leaping from my screen, and thundering across my living room ready to devour me.
I want desperately to get back to the keyboard to take back what I have started, but the emails have teeth and claws that are snapping and scratching and multiplying. All I can do is frantically push another button as I race by and hope it is the one that will contain the monsters.

It seemed a simple thing, transfering my blog users list to a google group so I could email the daily reminder from my ipod when I travel. It apparently was not. Other monsters were roaring in living rooms all across the USA and no one could get rid of them. I am pretty sure there is a "monster unsubscribe" button for google groups, but I guess we all were under such ferocious attack that not one of us could find it. The funny thing is I have used the google group for months, without problems. I don't know what egg hatched the monster, but I am lucky to come out of it alive, and not too badly wounded. On one of my passes, while the terrifying monsters pursued me, I did manage to disable comments from the google group users.... but they seem to still be coming. All I can surmise is that self replicating life now lurks in that evil metal box on my desk, and I am forever to be running in fear.

In the midst of this onslaught, I packed for my trip to see my parents, and to see Anders. The dogs, oblivious to the horrifying creatures that were snatching and grabbing at me from the computer, lay next to the suitcases, hoping that when the car was loaded, they would not be left behind. Their fear was to be realized. They will be left behind, though Arvo will be here with them. All day they lay by the suitcases while I did battle with the computer. It was a gruesome day for all of us.

Several kind people wrote to commiserate, offer condolences, suggestions, and their own experiences with the brutal ether-beasts. While I know it is not personal (usually), it was still traumatizing to face such an onslaught of unsubscribe requests. In the relative peace of this morning with only 3,000 more requests (and that is more members than are on the list- people all over the world are now proactively requesting to be unsubscribed even BEFORE they are subscribed.....), the dogs are still lying by the suitcases.

I know how they feel. Whenever I walk into a room where I just saw a loved family member and the room is empty, I feel a moment of panic. I am always convinced Jesus has returned, grabbed up my beloveds, and left me behind. I collapse on the couch with the same feeling of rejection that I fought not to feel as I faced the monstrous quantity of unsubscribes.
"But Lord!" I call out, "Why!!!! I have loved you, tried to follow you, sought you all my life...or at least most of it. How could you leave me?"
and then as I collapse in tears, a son or daughter wanders in from a back room and looks at me.
"Why are you crying?"
"I have been left behind! And I so wanted to see strawberry fields forever...."
My child shakes his head, and as I glance up, I realize I have been reprieved. There is still hope.

Exodus 10:26
26 Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshiping the LORD our God, and until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship the LORD."

Monday, June 14, 2010


I had the earring I found tested at a jeweler, anxiously wondering if I would walk out of there rich or just me.
"Cubic zirconium," said the jeweler as his drill swiftly scratched into it.
"oh well," I told him ,"I was hoping I was a millionaire."
"Well you would only have been a hundreds-aire anyway," he consoled.
So many fakes are so convincingly real. I used to take photos and throw food to a swan in the middle of a lake I walked by for months.... til it drifted close to shore and I realized it was plastic.
And I have plunked down $10 for a "real" fake Rolex watch sold
by the thousands in New York City.
Some things take a long time to convince you they are real, things like loyalty,goodness, faith, and love. I am really proud to say that today Arvo and I celebrate our 30th anniversary. Frankly, there have been times we both wondered how we would make it for the next ten minutes let alone a lifetime. We have both pondered at moments , and sometimes more than a few moments, how we ended up with a cubic zirconium when we thought we had bonded to a diamond.
The 30th anniversary is a pearl anniversary. Arvo doesn't wear jewelry so I was at a loss about what to get him to commemorate this milestone. An internet search revealed there are top of the line golf wedges made by Cleveland called Black Pearl. Arvo is an avid golfer. After hurried consultation with his accomplished golfing brother, I got the Black Pearl and could not wait to give it to my long suffering, faithful partner for so many years.
His hands were worrisomely empty as we settled
down to exchange gifts. I prayed silently that God would give me the grace to overlook the fact that my husband had not gotten me anything, not even a dust rag,after 30 years of sticking through richer and poorer and sickness and health.
"Before you open this, remember it is the pearl anniversary ," I said as I handed him the gift.
His face looked blank.
"You do know it is our anniversary ?" I asked.
"Yes," he said, "I just didn't know it was the pearl one. Sorry. "
He opened the gift and was thrilled. It was one of the finest clubs he now owned and he took several practice swings. His joy made me forget ( almost) that he had given me nothing. Because really, he has given me so much. He has worked tirelessly beside me raising three wonderful kids. He has supported my homeschooling and sacrificed much of what he has wanted to allow us to do that. He has brought humor and intellect and insights in many areas completely foreign to me. He has seen me at my worst and seems to still love me. And when half of marriages end in divorce, he has vowed to remain til the end before the God we both love and try to serve, however brokenly. What is a little material gift compared to all that?

Arvo paused swinging his new club gleefully. "Oh , here," he said handing me a small box that had been nestled in his pocket.

I opened the box and two beautiful diamond earrings sparkled at me. Even I could tell these were not cubic zirconium. Any fool could see the real thing when it is in front of her eyes.
"oh!" I breathed ,"I have always wanted diamond earrings!"

Our sermon yesterday was about what it meant to truly love. Our pastor pointed out that most of us would rather just leave hard issues by moving on, ending friendships , divorcing, running away to easier things. However, he assured us , the issues will always arise if you are with anyone long enough. Maturity and growth can only occur if you are willing to stay, confront , and work through them.
Even diamonds start their life off as dark and dirty coal. It is time and pressure that transform them...and us.

Romans 12:2
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is , that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

Nothing is impossible with God

Sunday, June 13, 2010


While pleased as punch that when you do a google search on "alligators in Lake Wylie", my blog is the top hit, I am moving on to a new subject....after one brief update on the severe alligator situation in Lake Wylie. I contacted the management of Tega Cay, the section of Lake Wylie we kayak from, and asked him to give it to me straight. In an inflatable kayak, easily punctured by teeth that are designed to rip living muscle to shreds, was I in any danger from alligators in the lake?
He assured me that the only sighting of an alligator was a year ago and it was far from Tega Cay and the wildlife people tried to catch it, but it was so skittish about coming anywhere near people that they could never get anywhere near it.
"You should be fine," he said.
So with no alligator ever sighted in Tega Cay waters, Asherel and I officially close the blog on alligator discussion. ("They are going to get bored, " Asherel warned me.)

Yesterday before beginning my flurry of a day, I went on a bike-ride along the greenway near our home. I was lost in daydreams about the gorgeous civil war era home I want to buy, and the upcoming trip to visit my beloved son and my parents next week. At my turnaround point, I spied a young boy, close to tears, his face screwed in distraught worry. A woman was trying to talk to him, but he, like the Lake Wylie alligator was skittering away. (Ok, I promise you, no more mention of the alligator.) Having been a skittery child myself, I could see the boy was lost, this was not his mom, and while she was trying to help, the child was terrified. I pulled up to the pair.
"Are you lost?" I asked.
He nodded, but sidled away.
"Were you with your parents?" asked the lady. Ana, I later found out was her name.
He looked at us mutely. He was frozen in confusion and fear.
"Did you come from that direction?" I pointed down the Greenway. He nodded.
"Or from there?" asked Ana, pointing in the opposite direction. He nodded.
"What's your name?" I asked.
He looked like I had asked him about the Lake Wylie alligator. (oops! no more alligators!)
"Do you know your phone number?"
He nodded. Ana handed him her phone after he quietly told her the number. It rang and rang. It was a home, not cell phone.
"I have a cell phone," I said, "How about if I bike down the trail and if I see people looking for a lost boy, I will call you Ana."
"What's your name?" I asked again.
"Will," he whispered, clutching his shirt.
So Ana and I exchanged numbers, she was going to wait by the bridge there, and I started off on my bike. I was only about 2 minutes down the trail when Ana called me. The boy's father had come from the other direction right as I left. Will was found, reunited with his loved ones, and I was free to go on with no worries about Lake Wylie alligators stalking my thoughts.

There is a lot of grief in this world, but for me, the saddest always involves children. I knew the boy was in safe hands, that Ana was a lovely woman who wanted to help, and I wanted nothing more than to help him find his folks. But he didn't know that. We were strangers, and he wanted his mom.

Once when Anders was very young, he had somehow become separated from his church class, and wandered into the main sanctuary. A friend of ours saw him, and brought him to us. Anders was trembling and crying.
"All I saw," he told me, "Was a room full of mass murderers."

And that is how the world often seems to a lost and frightened soul. Being lost is terrifying. But I think perhaps a greater horror is being lost and not knowing it. Believing you are safe, trusting in a false guide, a shepherd who leads to pastures you should never approach. My prayer for that little boy Will, and all the lost children of creation is that they would find the Father who is so earnestly and constantly calling them home.

Jeremiah 50:6-7

6 "My people have been lost sheep;
their shepherds have led them astray
and caused them to roam on the mountains.
They wandered over mountain and hill
and forgot their own resting place.

7 Whoever found them devoured them;
their enemies said, 'We are not guilty,
for they sinned against the LORD, their true pasture,
the LORD, the hope of their fathers.'

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fraught with Danger

Having survived potential alligators, lightning, and copperheads, it was now time to just relax and enjoy kayaking on Lake Wylie....we thought.

So we went to Kayak Launch number 3. This site was again lovely, a cove surrounded by houses of people who are either in the mob or Illuminati, or related to Bill Gates. No one else could afford them. There was a swimming dock next to the boat launch. Across a vast stretch of open water was a small island. Since it was a weekday, there were few motorboats out, so we felt it would be safe to traverse the open water.
I pushed out of my mind the story of the 16 year old who is currently circumnavigating the globe in a boat and seems to be lost in cold waters somewhere. (all I can think of is what parent allows a 16 year old to do that?)

We set off across the water, and while we did not ever lose sight of land, it did take a half hour of constant paddling to reach the island. However, it was far from deserted. A score of motorboats were moored there, with large people lounging on the sandy beach. I think there might be a correlation between large people and motorboats. Kayakers tend to be small, because it is hard to get in and out of the boat. In fact, one very nice lady corroborated that fact as she came over to chat with me.
"I envy you paddling all the way over here," she said.
"Oh it is really fun," I concurred, "You should try it. Kayaks are cheap."
"Oh I am too fat to get in a kayak!" she laughed.
She was a delightful lady and we talked while Asherel cavorted with the motor boat oil droplets and fish.
After ascertaining that the woman had lived for 4 years on the lake, I asked her my favorite question.
"What do you know about the alligator?"
Her face grew serious and she shook her head. No laughing behind her hand at me.
"Well, I haven't heard anything about them since last summer when they were sighted. I don't understand this policy of wait until they get big to catch them."
I nodded, "Last summer they were 3 feet... how big do you think they are this summer?"
I had found a fellow worry-wart, and we both assumed an expression of deep thought over the cataclysmic growth of reptiles with no natural enemies in the lake.
"All I can tell you is that we live in a cove, and yesterday there was a wildlife worker with a speargun just off our property. "
I am not thinking he was hunting for oysters.....
"They were sighted a year ago up by the dam..." she pointed way up the lake, way far away from all our launch sights. Whew.
"And we live down that way." She pointed way down the lake, way in the other direction.
Either, the alligator has a motorboat, or there are a few of them, or they can and do swim far and fast. Of all those options, I prefer number one, the least likely.
"But they would only be in shallow coves, not in this open water," she assured me.

We headed the half hour back, loaded our boats and then leaped off the floating dock by our launch site for a cool off swim. A group of teens and a Dad were also on the dock.
Suddenly, one of the teens splashing about in the water screamed and scurried up the ladder.
"Snake!!!" he called.
"Out of the water," I commanded Asherel, asking the boy, "You are not kidding?"
"NO! I don't do snakes!!!!"
NO, neither do I, and with alarming frequency, they seem to be cropping up.
Asherel climbed the ladder and as we toweled off, the man told me,"It isn't poisonous in all likelihood."
"What about water moccasins?"
"Oh it is too cold here for them. They are mostly south."
(Note- this is what they said about the alligator too.)
"Now it could be a copperhead," he admitted, "But in general, they don't hang out under docks."
This might not be one of those "in general" times, I thought.
"In all likelihood, it is a water snake. They are not poisonous.... just aggressive."
In my humble opinion, none of those options gave clear incitement to ever swim off that dock again.
We decided that our best swim spot was the spot where the pop up thunderstorm had threatened us.
Or we could just fill the bathtub and kayak there. That is looking better every day.
So God who is always speaking is telling me something. All the dangers we have faced this week are really not likely to actually harm us. They could of course, but probably are as afraid of us as we are of them. Every breath I take is a gift of God, and I trust He will continue to supply the oxygen. So, with trust and faith in His protection, I will head out into His snake infested, alligator crowded, treacherous water world..... but not til I buy a snake bite kit, air horn, and full body armor today.

Psalm 18
16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.

17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.

18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.

19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Respite and Refuge

"Didn't you say the thunder and 4 million watts of lightning were not due til 9 pm?" I asked, as we swam to shore, glancing at the huge bolt lighting up the sky.

We had been in doctor appointments all day and had raced out at 4 pm hoping to beat the inevitable summer late afternoon storm. We wanted to see dock site number 2 on our Tega Cay kayak launch/swim list.

LIttle children and older teens as well were speckling the bright waters of the little alcove beach. Mothers chatted with each other, merely glancing at the bobbing heads, with no apparent concerns. As we pulled our kayaks into the water, I did ask one teenager, "Have you ever seen the alligator here?"
She looked at me like I had 3 heads, and sidled away with her friend after shaking her head no. Apparently the alligator infestation had not yet reached this beach. I saw her talking with her friend behind her hand and pointing at me though, similar to the kinds of body language I used to get when I would wear my 10 pound belly pack. Would normalcy forever evade me?

The teen was too young to remember the movie , JAWS, but everyone was swimming unconcernedly then as well.
"Consider yourself warned!" I called to the teen.

Then Asherel and I launched into an even more beautiful section of the lake than the previous day, if that were possible. This was a more open section of the lake, dotted with small islands. The island had red clay cliffs with little caverns at the base, etched by the waves. Big sandy beaches lined many of the edges, wonderful private shady areas where we could bring a lunch and swim. We even had a new 10 pound anchor that was sure to hold the kayaks securely. I was eager to explore, but it was already late, and while the sky directly above us was blue and sunny, the sky on the horizon was dark and foreboding, with ominous billowing thunderheads building. We knew we only had about an hour tops.

We circled the island, watching Blue Herons circle above us. A group of young adults in a boat moored at one of the sandy beaches offered us a beer.
"Have you seen the alligator?" I called out.
"Oh sure," they answered, "We offered him a beer too."
Then they snickered, again behind their hands and pointing.

As we started back towards our beach, we saw something flat, floating on the water.
Asherel pointed at it, and for a flicker of a moment, I saw a tingle of fear in her.
"Does that look like an alligator?" she asked.
There was a rumble in the sky.
"Is that thunder?"
So death looked us in the face on two fronts- devoured by lightning, or by reptile.

However, it was not thunder, it was a plane. And it was not an alligator, it was a floating dead fish.

NOnetheless, we scurried back to our beach, riding the waves of the motorboats that skimmed by. Then we beached at our beach, with the signs that said, ""Do not beach boats."
Asherel pointed to the sign.
"We are not boats," I assured her, "We are kayaks."
but just in case, I loaded the kayaks while she swam.
And now, having earned my reward I raced into the water and swam out, luxuriating in all the Goliaths we had slain that day. And then I saw the thunderbolt, and we raced into shore. We piled back in the van just as the rain and thunder started in earnest.

This was a hard year, filled with some unexpected trials, and long long days of hard work. I knew we had several medical issues to tackle this month and I knew our summer was going to be busier than usual. But, what a blessing in the midst of all that work and worry to have found these moments of paradise, of utter joy, of thrill and beauty, and uncharted waters. Lightning was striking all around us, but we were safe on our insulated tires, driving out of the storm.

Psalm 9:9-10 (New International Version)

9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Facing Leviathan

As we saw a brief window of opportunity to dash out to the alligator infested waters of Lake Wylie, I told Asherel we would load the 2 hard shell kayaks, rather than my inflatable.

"Why?" she smirked, throwing down the gauntlet. She knows I love my inflatable, even prefer it to a hard shell kayak. She also had read my blog about the sighting of 3 juvenile alligators in Lake Wylie.

"It's easier," I said. I did not add that it is easier to stand on top of to fight off 3 leaping Leviathans with rows of razor sharp teeth and jaws that unhinge wide enough to snap an elephant in half.

"But you love your inflatable.... are you afraid of something?"
She smiled innocently. This is the problem with letting mere children know the thoughts of their parents. It gives them leverage.

"Of course not," I answered, "Fine. I will take the inflatable."

When we arrived I put on my life jacket. I always bring my life jacket, but I don't always wear it if it is a quiet lake and there are no boats or waves to pitch me into the murky depths. I am a very good swimmer.
"Why are you wearing your life jacket?" taunted the observant Asherel, "You usually don't."
"So some of my body parts will still be floating for you to bury after the alligator attack!" I admitted.
She smiled, victorious. She had pulled the neuroses right out of me.

This was our first glimpse of the private beach and launch site we had bought a non-resident Tega Cay parking pass to enjoy. It was magnificent, even with the fear of alligators looming. The beach was sandy and deserted and looked out on a wide sparkling finger of Lake Wylie, with mansions adorning the shores. We launched our kayaks into the sparkling water and I held tight to my paddle.
"Be sure you hang on to your paddle," I called back.
I did not add that I hoped that would be sufficiently strong to bop the alligator's nose with and deter him from eating her.
Lake Wylie is a huge lake. The 3 alligators were sighted far from our spot over a year ago. Nonetheless, I paddled with one eye on the excruciatingly beautiful scenery and one eye on the surface of the water for telltale logs with eyes.

I could've kayaked all day. We skimmed near shore, amazed at houses that looked like hotels. Who lives in these? They are big enough for a small village. Finally though Asherel requested we return to the lovely beach and swim.
"You mean swim as in get in the water?" I asked.
That is the kind of swim she meant. So I posted myself as lookout and kept a sharp eye on the nearby lagoon. If I were an alligator, that is the direction I would come from. Then I saw a mama goose with goslings in the lagoon. I watched. If the alligator were there, the goslings were definitely about to be lunch.

But they passed over the placid waters without incident. So, I decided to overcome my fears and paddle across the lagoon. I kept watch over my happily splashing child and paddled tremulously over the shallow water. I thought I saw some sort of wildlife just around the bend of trees and I wanted to find out what it was. If I perish, so be it.

I paddled slowly, straining my eyes to scan the water. A fish jumped. Escaping the alligator? I held tight to my oar. And then as I rounded the bend, where the water was not much more than 6 inches deep, I saw it. A giant and beautiful Great Blue Heron, who turned to look at me.
My personal symbol of God, there in the water, watching me as I trembled in the waters filled with unknown terrors.

I returned to happy Asherel and told her it was time to pack up. As I wiped down the bottom of my kayak, I told her it was good that I did this each time as it allowed me to always look for cuts or leaks.
"Or teeth marks?" she quipped, grinning.
"Those too. And there are none."

It was a little thing, daring to kayak in a lake the size of New Jersey that has 3 alligators in it. Many people would not consider this "daring". But I have never considered myself brave. And this did take some courage on my part. Go ahead and laugh. It has given me the confidence to move on to greater fears, such as closing my eyes while someone else is driving. I think perhaps I can do that now.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Risking Living

We were dismayed to discover there is no free lunch. Not even free snacks. Our beloved docking place on the Catawba river to launch our kayaks was sold, and the new evil Capitalist owner feels the need to charge us for the privilege of using his land. My good looks and new spf 50 bathing suit did nothing to change his mind. I even tried quoting scripture about loving thy neighbor. No good. He insists on making a living.

So we had no choice but to find alternatives. I scoured the internet for public docking/swimming sites on nearby Lake Wylie. Due to concerns over liability, Lake Wylie had closed their one public beach many years ago. As yet, they have not reopened any. And while I will kayak joyfully with no need to hop in the water to cool off, my sidekick insists that half the fun of kayaking is finding swimming holes. I found private beaches that have kayak launch sites and a minimal yearly parking fee. In between Matt's summer spree of doctor visits, I dashed off to Lake Wylie with Asherel to check the beach out and decide if it was worth the fee. As soon as we pulled in to the parking lot, I knew we had found Nirvana. It was a shady sandy beach area, with the kayak launch right there. And to seal the deal, sitting on a nearby dock was a great blue Heron. I love Great Blue Herons, and always feel God sends them to remind me of His presence. They remind me of God- elusive, rarely seen, usually only glimpsed in peripheral vision, but magnificent. We hurried to pay the parking fee for the year and raced home for doc appt. # 3,007 .

Later, I did a little research on our new kayaking site. I discovered some interesting facts about Lake Wylie. It has monsters. There are sightings of alligators in it. 3 juvenile alligators were caught on video near a popular swimming spot. I clicked on the video. The popular swimming spot looked eerily like the beach we had just visited and plunked down money to be allowed to swim there. In fact, the camera panned over a nearby dock, a dock that looked eerily like the one where the symbol of God, the Great Blue Heron had perched.

Kayakers and swimmers have swum those beaches and kayaked those waters for years, and there is not one report of an aggressive alligator, or alligator incident. They are probably pets that were released when they got too big, and the experts say that alligators can't breed in Lake Wylie- too cold they claim. Still, I must admit, this news gives me pause. For someone who broke her toe just walking the dog around the block, and gives new meaning to "accident prone", I am just not nuts about paddling around with Leviathan.

It seems inevitable that in every endeavor there seems to be risk. Sharks in oceans, lightning in the sky, meteors hurtling from outer space, cars swerving, pollution filling lungs, food clogging arteries....As soon as my eyes open, the day is spotted with land mines. I could certainly be justified in living each breath in fear.....

But I think maybe the heron perched on the dock was to remind me of something. God is there, always there. In the midst of dangers and trials, there is beauty and wonder and joy. To live in complete safety is impossible and to live in fear is miserable. To find the fullness of life, and the wonder of all God's creation, one must risk living. But just in case, I googled "alligator deterrents". The best advice: "don't fly to Florida and if you do, don't get off the plane. There are no documented evidence of alligator attacks on airplanes."

Psalm 3:5-7 (New International Version)

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

6 I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.

7 Arise, O LORD!
Deliver me, O my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hiding in the Tunnel

During the same blistering hot Dog Days event I spoke of in the last blog post, dogs were performing amazing feats of frisbee catching. There was a big black dog that could catch 5 frisbees without dropping one. That poor hot dog leapt like fire in the blazing sun, absorbing all those searing rays of sun in his dark coat. His tongue hung out a mile when it wasn't wedged in his mouth by 5 Frisbees.

Finally, mercifully, the demo was over and the owner told the dog to go gather the frisbees and "load up". "Load up" is dog lingo for hop back in your crate and get some goodies for enduring heat prostration. The dog was one of the most obedient creatures I have ever seen. He had tirelessly leapt after all those tossed frisbees, not once putting his paws on his hips and growling, "If catching these stupid things is so important to you, why don't you run your tail off with your coat on fire and have a go at it?"

He had swirled left on command, right on command, upside down on command.... and now he dutifully gathered a mouthful of frisbees in the tormenting sun. And then he eyed the Agility Tunnel against the fence and the seed of rebellion was born. Without a backward glance as his owner called to him, he trotted to the tunnel, crawled deep into its shaded recesses and lay down. "Go load up yourself," he mumbled through his frisbee-laden teeth.

The owner called and cajoled but the dog was having none of it. He had found shade and the desire to obey was overcome by the desire to cool down. He did not chance pushing his defection too far. He somehow panted without dropping a frisbee.

The owner was afterall, a good and kind owner, and she walked over to the tunnel and told the dog she understood it was hot, and she would get him into some shade and give him a nice cool drink. And he did not have to pick up any more frisbees. She had retrieved the rest. The dog looked at her and sighed, and crawled out of the tunnel.

I love the story of the talking donkey in the Bible. His owner, disobeying God and trying to prophesy against God's wishes for monetary gain, is stymied by his donkey who refuses uncharacteristically to go a step further. The owner beats the donkey and finally, the poor donkey speaks, to the astonishment of all. ( some liberty taken in paraphrasing while remaining true to the story's message.)
"Have I been in the habit of disobeying you?" asks the stricken donkey.
"No", admits the callous owner,"That's why I don't understand why you are doing so now."
"Because, you blind idjit, the angel of the Lord is standing there in the path and is enormously much that if I hadn't laid down here, He would've killed you.... and might I add, it would have been no great loss. Heehaw."

Likewise, that poor Frisbee dog should not have been asked to run and jump in sun so powerful that it even holds Pluto in its grasp. Not on such a blazing hot day. We all ask others to do stupid things at times, and sometimes we are restrained by the groanings of a dumb beast....or by silent pleas of eyes of those weaker and unwilling to speak out against us. I think God shows us His will in many remarkable and unexpected ways... and I think when it opposes our will, all of us "beat the donkey" sometimes instead of listening.

2 Peter 2:15-17 (New International Version)

15They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dog Days and Defying Death

Word to the wise- when it is 100 degrees out, with 100 % humidity, watching events on a baked open field with not one scintilla of shade is not all that much fun.

Nonetheless, when we saw that the white water center was hosting Dog Days, complete with dogs kayaking, we felt we should go watch. Perhaps they could show us what kind of anchors a kayak needs. The first 5 minutes were fun, watching our friend and mentor Polly running her amazing dog in an agility and flyball demo. However, heat stroke set in on the 6th minute, and by the 7th minute, we were afraid Jesus had come again, and left us behind to that other place. We love dogs, but we had to escape and seek shade. The dog water activities weren't due to happen for 2 hours yet, and we were already feeling like those earthworms baked on the asphalt after a summer rain and drought.

So we sought shade along the White water "river"- man made rapids that people pay a lot of money to ride floating coffins on and see how far their eyeballs can bulge out of their head should they happen to survive.

"That looks fun!" said Asherel.

Ohoh. I detect another motherly sacrifice along the lines of those snowboarding escapades I made in the winter. Dotted every few feet along the banks were rescue people. Each carried a rope and hauling human device, as well as a variety of emergency supplies. There were also several expert kayakers planted at the edge of each terrifying swirl of rapids, and each time a new floating coffin of victims would loom on the horizon, they would tense and hold paddles ready to race after the unfortunates tossed overboard by the raging water.

"Fun?" I squeaked.

As we watched, some body went sailing through the air and splashed into the torrent. Rescue people sprinted to the person being tossed like popcorn down stream. Several threw lines like lassos and hauled her in. She rose shakily and climbed with their assist out of the water. She bent to examine the bruises and cuts.

"Let's bring our DI team here and do this for our party!" called out Asherel.

It is funny how young people do everything in their power to tempt death, and old people, with so much less to live for, become increasingly fearful. What is up with that? It seems so backwards. On par with all those crazy convoluted things in the Bible like "He died that I might live" or "unless ye be born again you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven" or my personal favorite, "the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things."(Philippians 3:8) To gain what is best, we must lose everything else. I guess that is why we get wrinkles, and bending bones, and aching joints, and brittle grey hair, and body parts that drip like honey to the earth. Unless we lose all good things, maybe we don't long for the best. Maybe all those thrill seekers on those rapids know something I don't know. Until you depend on someone else to haul you out of the waters as they threaten to engulf you, you might not understand your own limits. Maybe some people honestly can't value life until they are about to lose it.

As we walked along the raging river to return to the car, another body was bounced off the boat and into the wild current.

"Fun!!!" shouted Asherel.
"Oy vay," I moaned.

2 Samuel 22:4-6 (New International Version)

4 I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and I am saved from my enemies.

5 "The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

6 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I got Asherel a kayak anchor for her 13th birthday. She got other more exciting gifts, but the anchor was long awaited. We both had visions of kayaking to a lovely deep bay area, dropping anchor, and feasting on beauty and lunch from our bobbing perch.

Yesterday, we had a couple of brief hours we could hurry off to the Catawba river and try out the new anchor. We brought Honeybun and kayaked to the popular swimming sandbar. In actuality, despite the poor grammar that would indicate the sandbar swims, the people who dock at the sandbar swim. The sandbar just lounges in the sun. But on this occasion, the sandbar was completely submerged. The water was only about 3 inches deep and many people were docked there, pushing their kayaks into the nearby reeds. This meant that should there be any snakes around, they would go for the people near the reeds, and in all likelihood, they would instead look for calmer waters. So we felt this would be a good place to drop anchor.

"Anchors away!" I bellowed and tossed my anchor overboard, into the murky 3 inch depths. The wind and current immediately began pulling my boat along, dragging the ineffectual little anchor behind. I had thought the anchor seemed small and light, but the salesman had assured me it would tether a kayak. I may not have shouted the proper seaman words.
"Drop Anchor!" I called out and tossed the anchor a little more forcefully. It gurgled as it settled to the sandy bottom a toe depth down, and then bobbed merrily behind the drifting kayak.

Meanwhile, Asherel had found a piece of fishing line and tied her kayak with it to a reed. While I was heaving anchors right and left, and shouting various permutations of "Hold the boat still!!!!", she took Honeybun out of the boat and the two of them went swimming in the deep water off the sandbar. Her boat held fast to an invisible fishing line, while I came perilously close to swearing as my steel and heavy rope anchor floated behind me, pushed by the wind.

Finally, I dug a hole in the sand and buried my anchor. That held the boat as long as no motorboats with large wakes skimmed nearby.

I kept watching Asherel's boat, tied to a thin reed with a silken thread of invisible fishing line, waiting for it to snap, and for the kayak to disappear down river. But it held for the entire 2 hours we were there.

I guess sometimes what anchors us doesn't seem to make sense. There seem to be so many strong anchors - money, health, beauty, youth, credit cards..... but all those things ultimately fail to uphold us in the currents and turmoils of life. Sometimes the strongest anchor is invisible, and as ethereal as prayer, as impalpable as faith. It really makes no sense to trust in something we cannot see, but I can't see gravity either, and still it glues me to earth.

Tomorrow I am getting my money back on the kayak anchor and buying a spool of fishing line.

2 Kings 18:6
He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses.