Thursday, May 31, 2012

Then He Came for Me

Did you know tomatoes have more genes than a human? I don't know about you but that surprises me. It just doesn't seem it would take much of a blueprint to design a tomato. Apparently scientists, some of the best minds in the universe, are studying how to make a better tomato. (scientists who, by the way, possess less genes than the object of their study). I know there are probably good reasons not to feel that this is a waste of the limited neurons and time allotted to each of us on earth, but somehow, I have trouble seeing it. I can tell you how to make a better tomato- stop genetically altering it, don't store and ship it for months past pick date, and eat it in season fresh out of your garden.That will make a better tasting tomato, and all those scientists can divert their attention and limited genes to curing cancer.

But I am pleased to see that the mayor of NY has kept his focus in the right place. He has vowed that within a year, YES, JUST ONE YEAR, he will spearhead legislation that will outlaw supersized sugary drinks. He is taking on the national scourge of obesity. With our scientists and politicians focused on better tomatoes and making being fat a criminal offense, we are definitely on the road to prosperity.

But I warn you...first sugary drinks will land you in the hopper, but soon it will be gummy worms, Happy Meals, and finally, we will be required by law to hand out lowfat yogurt at Halloween. Trust me on this. First they came for soda, and we did nothing. Then they came for chicken fingers, and we did nothing. When they come for your breakfast, there will be no one to stop them.

And here is God's message to me over all this silliness. He still loves us! The God who designed the tomato, is the God who designed us with the desire that we would use the few genes He gave us to turn around and thank Him, and long more than anything to be with Him. This boggles my mind, which I suspect, may soon be a criminal offense as well.

Leviticus 7:23
"Say to the Israelites: 'Do not eat any of the fat of cattle, sheep or goats.

Psalm 89:28
I will maintain my love to him forever,
and my covenant with him will never fail.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Standing on the Rock

I decided Asherel needed a break from her intense studying for her two big SAT 2 tests on Saturday. We called her buddy Josh and headed to the deserted Latta Lake with our kayaks. The chaos and hubbub of Memorial Day picnickers and boaters had vanished. The choppy roiling waves that had been slashing across each other in the wake of jet skis and water skiers and motor boats were now still and glassy, a mirror reflecting the sky and surrounding forests. The silence, except for the constant chatter of Josh and Asherel, was soothing to my soul. I need beauty, and nature, and quiet. I am easily overwhelmed and overburdened with sensations.

As we kayaked to the "leaping rock", we saw a great blue heron perched on it. The rock juts out of the middle of the lake. The beautiful bird looked like he was waiting for his picture to be take for a calendar. The still water around him, reflected the tall solemn rock and the hazy greens of the distant hills. We glided up to him till the prow of my boat touched the rock, and then he stretched his magnificent wings and with wide sweeping, whooshing strokes, lifted into the air and circled off to a distant shore.

When I got back home, I called another WW2 pilot to interview. His brother answered the phone and urged me to call another time. It was 4:00, and his brother the old fighter pilot, was anxious to get down to dinner. He lived in an assisted living center. So I nestled down instead with a book about WWII, so I could have a better context in which to construct my own book. It was terribly depressing. Later that night, as I drifted off to sleep, I thought about the horror of war. Given the choice between the vision of the heron standing on the rock or the vision of War, I finally closed my eyes and remembered the heron.

Psalm 89:26
He will call out to me, 'You are my Father,
my God, the Rock my Savior.'

-save a dog-

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Easiest Thing on Earth

We have a friend who wanted to kayak with us so she could practice rolling her new kayak over so that her head is underwater. I agree with what you all are thinking- people who do that are crazy. First of all what makes them crazy is that they strap themselves into their special kayak. Then they go out on the relaxing lake in the hot 90 degree day wearing a helmet. A helmet on the quiet water? This alone makes me think they are up to something that normal people would not attempt. Asherel and I took our friend who I will only identify as K (For Kamikaze Kayaker) to a large lake that has lots of motorboats whizzing by. This is fun for us since our kayaks are very difficult to tip over. K's kayak on the other hand, is designed to roll. So every wave of a passing boat threatened to roll her right over. This would be fine, except K is really still learning the sport of doing this without drowning. Thus, every boat that passed she would nervously paddle away and pray the wave when it hit her was small enough that she would remain upright.

We paddled miraculously with no casualties to a big rock we like to moor at in the middle of the lake. Asherel loves to jump off the rock. That used to make me nervous, until we brought K with us who was more deserving of my anxiety at this point.
"Gonna roll now!" shouted K.
"I got my video ready!" I said, "By the way, that nose plug is a good look on you."
And then she rolled over. I watched some frantic reaching out of the water from hands beneath the overturned boat, and then a brief shot of her head , and then a burst of activity, while I prepared to dive in after her, and then she popped out from underneath her boat.
"How did you get out?" I asked, putting a tablet of nitroglycerin under my tongue.
"I popped my skirt."
"I thought you were drowning," I told her, "I was wrestling with my conscience if I wanted to throw my $500 iPhone in the water to save you...."
"I won't drown," she assured me, "I just have to pop the skirt that holds me in and I swim right out. But now I have to take the boat to shore to drain it."
I can guarantee you this is a sport I will NEVER do. It rates right up there in my mind with spelunking and snake handling.
By the end of our couple of hours on the lake, she was rolling successfully without "popping the skirt".

Fortunately, even Asherel seemed to agree that this was a sport she had no interest in. There is no way I could watch my daughter do that. Apparently, when whitewater kayaks flip, the kayaker's instinct is to get their head out of the water first. But that is the last part of their body that comes up in a successful roll. It is completely counterintuitive. What one feels with all their heart is the one thing they must do to survive is the very thing they must NOT do. This is a spiritual lesson if ever I saw one, I thought.

I think the hardest thing we self reliant humans can do is to recognize we are not at all in control. To willingly relinquish all to a God we cannot see, or hear, or touch seems as crazy as kamikaze kayaking. It is completely counterintuitive. Yet in the end, I am convinced, it is the ONLY thing that will save us.

"The funny thing is," K told me, "It is exhausting when you are doing it wrong. Once you do it right, it is the easiest thing on earth."

Matthew 11: 27-30
"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

-save a dog-

Monday, May 28, 2012


I have always been impressed by people in the military. Their sense of duty and allegiance to honor their country as well as support each other is so admirable. The more I interview them for my third book, the more I respect them. Having so many new friends in their 90s, retired WWII veterans, I find this Memorial Day of greater significance than I have in the past.

I was walking with a dear friend from China yesterday and we were talking a little about a difference between American and Chinese families. She was somewhat aghast that American children do not grow up and then support their parents. She said she and all her siblings send money to her widowed mother. It would be unthinkable in her culture to do otherwise. I suspect that in American culture, it would be unthinkable to the kids that they should support their folks. She said the Chinese honor and revere their old. I would not trade America for China, but in that respect, I believe the Chinese have it right.

Sacrifice, duty, the needs of the many more important than the needs of *me*...that is so alien to us nowadays. I keep returning to that theme in my writing and my experiences these days. I was born into the "me" generation- the spoiled pack of baby boomers who had everything handed to them on a silver platter. We were taught "I just gotta be me" , and that individuality was the most important aspect of life. I bought all that. I lived it. But the older I get, the more I find that community matters more, that the people I am drawn to and respect are those who put the needs of others before their own. I have come to this realization slowly, and it has changed my outlook on many things in life. I have grown to detest selfishness, at least in everyone else, and honor selfless, sacrificial love wherever I can find it. It is not on every corner, as one might hope. Most of us would rather justify our selfishness rather than bury it for the abominable filth that it is.

Jesus is my hero. He is the epitome of selfless love. He is my model. I know I fall far short of mimicking His example, but His sacrificial devotion to us, to me, is what I strive for. And all those brave soldiers out there, fighting for my country, for my freedoms...they are standing right next to Him in my list of heroes.

Happy Memorial Day.

1 John 2:1-12, 23-25, 28
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. 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. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life. And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

-save a dog-

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Against the Current

The Catawba River was high and fast yesterday. I talked with the owner of the kayak rental just upriver from where I put my kayak in. He knows me, which always makes me feel safer when I am one of the few folks out on the water. I always let him know when I am going out on the water. I think he would notice my car at the end of the day, and would head out in his boat to scout my whereabouts if I were not back. Memorial weekend however, the water was full of kayakers. And as I stood talking with him, we watched many inexperienced kayaks head downstream at an exhilarating speed.
"They are not going to enjoy coming back," I noticed.
"I keep telling them that," said Ken, "I keep saying, at the end of the dock, turn left(upriver), but they all keep turning right."
We watched as one tipped over turning against the current. I have never even come close to turning over in my kayak.
"Well, I will turn left...but I may not go very far. I am not sure my inflatable kayak can go in this current."
"You will be fine," he said, "They have kept the dam open all day. It's been like this all day. But if you go left, along that shore there are several heron nests, and babies in them."
Another good reason to go left!
I headed off in my kayak, and straight across the racing river to the heron shore. It was hard work going against the current, and I was glad I had kayaked on quiet lakes a few times already this year to strengthen my arms. I marveled again with praise and delight that kayaking does not hurt my ulnar nerve injury. It was slow going against the current, but I wasn't in it for distance. The peace and beauty of the river remained the same, no matter how strong the current. And as I reached the other shore, I looked up. There was a mama heron in her nest, and I saw the little sharp beak of the baby heron poke up at her and then he flapped his little wings. I had never seen a baby heron before. I had to keep paddling to stay in place in that raging current. Many kayakers passed me as I sat gazing up at the birds. None of them looked up. They were all sweating, fighting the current. In the midst of all that work, none of them looked up to see the baby heron.
That's how it is sometimes. We work and sweat and struggle through life, and we don't look up. We forget there is the possibility of new life, new hope, new wonders nestled against Heaven. We become so overwhelmed by the current, that we lose focus on the miracles that line our shores.
After 50 minutes of beating against the current in the over 90 degree heat, I was exhausted. I turned downstream. It took me 5 minutes to smoke down river and skid back to my parking spot. I shook my tired arms as I pulled the kayak up on shore and glanced back at the heron nest. It was hidden in the trees, and from my safe, quiet spot on the opposite shore, I could no longer see it.

Psalm 59:16-17
But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
you, God, are my fortress,
my God on whom I can rely.

-save a dog-

Saturday, May 26, 2012

IN a Dry and Thirsty Land

This has been a particularly meaningful Memorial weekend for me. I have now interviewed four WWII veterans, all around 90 years old, in the past week. They are all towers of strength, remarkable men. The 92 year old I spoke with yesterday is still mucking out horse stalls and hauling 40 gallon buckets of water. They seem to have all lived good and honorable lives since the war, with an unbelievable sense of duty and love for country. The vet I spoke with yesterday still helps Viet Nam vets get disability and other benefits from the VA that had been denied them. These WWII veterans do not live selfish lives. Every one of them seems to have the desire to serve others.

I stood on the back porch this morning looking up at all the magnificent towering oaks in our back yard. The severed rope from where the horse swing detached swayed in the morning breeze. I want to rehang the horse swing. The limb it had been hung on was far too high for us to reach. When arborists were here to take down a dying oak a few years ago, they had scaled that enormous tree and hung our rope on the one straight and solid limb they could find. I looked carefully at all the dozens of trees in our yard. I could not see one single other solid, straight limb in the whole backyard forest. Not another limb was present that would be strong enough to hold the swing.

Strength and courage and conviction and selflessness and sense of duty and love of country and of others....those qualities sometimes seem as rare as that straight and sturdy limb in our back yard. Thank you all you veterans, past and present that fought for something bigger than yourselves. I am only beginning to learn the magnitude of what you did for me.

Sacrifice is almost inexplicable to many. But it is at the crux of the authentic Christian life. Nearly everyone has at least heard the story of Jesus taking the punishment of the whole world, that we might not have to endure the punishment we deserved. God was showing us with the most difficult example conceivable that no one enters a relationship without sacrifice. Not even God. The idea of sacrifice of self is repugnant to those who prefer to look at life as a big grab bag of whatever I can seize before anyone else. Sacrificial love is sometimes portrayed as weakness, and certainly not in line with the idea of self love and exaltation of the individual above all else. The WWII veteran I spoke with yesterday had been married 67 years. 67 years! No one can tell me that his wife was spectacularly perfect. None of us are. But something in the character of those two people helped them to put aside selfish interests to maintain the interest of the family first and foremost.

I looked up at the tall oak in my backyard to see if perhaps any promising limbs were growing. Might one stretch our straight and strong in time for me to hang the swing for a grandchild one day?

Ezekiel 19: 11-14
Its branches were strong,
fit for a ruler's scepter.
It towered high
above the thick foliage,
conspicuous for its height
and for its many branches. But it was uprooted in fury
and thrown to the ground.
The east wind made it shrivel,
it was stripped of its fruit;
its strong branches withered
and fire consumed them. Now it is planted in the desert,
in a dry and thirsty land. Fire spread from one of its main branches
and consumed its fruit.
No strong branch is left on it
fit for a ruler's scepter.'
"This is a lament and is to be used as a lament."

-save a dog-

Friday, May 25, 2012

Light and Dark

I found a walking route that keeps me winding among shady roads for almost an hour. This is important because Charlotte is incredibly close to the sun right now. It must be. Something must have shifted because it was really hot yesterday. My winter walking routes have large stretches where no trees block the sun. This is important because I am part iguana, and find my body temperature doesn't seem to internally regulate well. So in the winter I sit on sunlit rocks and bask so that I am able to move again, and in the summer, I slither from one shady patch to another. It is actually an old walking route that I had forgotten about. I used to do it when we first moved here, in fact, I used to walk quite a bit further along that route. Oh what a difference twenty years make to your energy level!

The dogs are not eager to walk with me in this heat. They lie with melted bones dripping off the edge of the couch.
"Walk!?" I said in my cheeriest voice.
They both just squeezed their eyes more tightly together. I even snapped a leash on and tugged but they planted their feet against the cushions and groaned. They know when the sun is too brutal for man or beast. So I went alone, weaving between the patches of sun.

Light and dark. Isn't dark just the absence of light, as one man suggested to me to explain why he doesn't believe in the Devil. He said he thought of God as light, and all goodness. The darkness was the absence of God, and resulted in what we call evil. But he spoke of it as though that darkness was passive. Evil was not something that pursued and tried to haul us in, like the Biblical devil. Evil is just what resulted when God was not there. I agree in part. I do think evil results when God is not there, but I don't think it is a passive nonentity as my friend does. In reality, that symbol doesn't quite work. Light is certainly active, but my understanding from my years and years of *not* being a physicist is that darkness is NOT just a passive absence of light. A black hole, the most sinister dark spots of the universe absorbs all light that has the misfortune to approach it. At a frightening, soul-sucking pace, light, along with all nearby matter, gets sucked into its vortex, unable to escape. That to me is a better vision of the Devil.

Black Holes are terrifying. Trust me, you do NOT want to fall into a black hole. Below is an excerpt I copied from a NASA site about black holes:

"If you fall into a black hole, you’re doomed. Sure, once you fall in you can never get back out, but it turns out you’ll probably be dead before you get there.
The gravity you feel from an object gets stronger the closer you get. As you approach a stellar-mass black hole feet-first, the force of gravity on your feet can be thousands of times
stronger than the force on your head! This has the effect of stretching you, pulling you apart like taffy. Tongue-in-cheek, scientists call this “spaghettification.” By the time you reach the black hole,
you’ll be a thin stream of matter many miles long. It probably won’t hurt though: even falling from thousands of kilometers away, the entire gory episode will be over in a few milliseconds.
You may not even make it that far. Some black holes greedily gobble down matter, stealing it from an orbiting companion star or, in the case of supermassive black holes, from surrounding gas clouds. As
the matter falls in, it piles up into a disk just outside the hole. Orbiting at huge speeds, the matter in this accretion disk gets extremely hot—even reaching millions of degrees. It will spew out radiation, in par-
ticular high-energy X-rays. Long before the black hole could rip you apart you’d be fried by the light.
But suppose you somehow manage to survive the trip in. What strange things await you on your way down into forever?
Once you pass the point where the escape velocity is faster than light, you can’t get out. This region is called the event horizon. That’s because no information
from inside can escape, so any event inside is forever be-
yond our horizon.
If the black hole is rotating, chaos awaits you inside. It’s a maelstrom as infalling matter turns back on the incoming stream, crashing into you like water churning at the bottom of a waterfall. At the very core of the black hole the seething matter finally collapses all the way down to a point. When that happens, our math (and intuition) fail us. It’s as if the matter has disappeared from the Universe, but its mass is still there. At the singularity, space and time as we know them come
to an end."

Man, it that isn't as close a description of hell as we can conjure up in the known universe, I don't know what is. So, I disagree with my friend. Darkness is not just the passive absence of light. Darkness is an active destroyer of light at the macro level, and in my mind, the Heavens themselves warn us to avoid the darkness, in fact to flee from it.

1 Peter 5: 8-11
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

-save a dog-

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I have spent the past two days interviewing WWII pilots for my book. And one top turret gunner. I came across them through a lucky search on the internet on an unrelated topic. A small museum in Indiana that housed WW2 memorabilia has a whole assortment of WW2 vets that are museum docents. I emailed to ask about a specific WW2 relic that pertained to my book, and a whole host of pilots emailed back. They were all gracious and more than happy to talk with me. The youngest was 88. What really surprised me was how sharp every one of them was, and also, that all had email addresses. These men who were born long before computers were all computer savvy, and sent me links to other resources as well as talking for over an hour with me. Their stories were amazing- the B17 bomber crews had perhaps the most hazardous job in the war. Half of the B17 crews were killed just in training exercises, one veteran told me. Another pilot talked with me for two hours, and never once told me he had earned a DFC, a meritorious courage award. It was another vet who told me that later. These WWII vets were a different breed. Why, I wondered? Why did we as a country unite so solidly back then, and we seem so fractured and bickering amongst ourselves now? Has it always been this way and I am just looking on a past I didn't know with romanticized, rose colored glasses? I certainly don't want to go back to a time of world war, but I envy the single minded purposefulness, love of family and country that these vets seem to uniformly possess. Maybe it is that major struggle really does dredge out a character that will never emerge if life is too easy.

Jesus said, "IN this world, you will have troubles. But take heart, I have overcome the world." We should not be surprised by struggle, nor should we shirk from it. If God didn't want us to struggle, He could certainly have arranged it that way. There must be a purpose to struggle that brings about something far more valuable than our ease, comfort, or happiness.

"Has anyone ever interviewed you?" I asked Jim, the top turret gunner.
"Nope," he said, "The 8th squadron got a lot of publicity. They flew the reporters with them sometimes. Like Andy Rooney. Did you know that? But we were ignored. The 15th didn't get much notice."
That made me sad. His "wing" risked their lives just as much as the men of the 8th AAF. Their targets were some of the most closely guarded, and close guard meant lots of enemy flak shells trying to shoot them down.
"There aren't many of us left," Jim reminded me, "But I can get you names of pilots that will talk with you who are still around."
I don't even care if their story goes in my book. Someone should be listening to their stories, I thought. They certainly deserve to be heard, these men who struggled so bravely and overcame fear to do what needed to be done.

John 16: 31-33
"Do you now believe?" Jesus replied. "A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

-save a dog-

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thank a Soldier

In working on my next book which includes the experiences of my senior friend Comer in WW2 in the South Pacific, I am learning that I don't think I am cut out to be a soldier. Nearly every soldier in Comer's unit ended up with malaria, and trench foot, and spent a good bit of time in water full of leeches and crocodiles, and snakes. I always had thought of the South Pacific as idyllic...and it is if you like 120 degree days, torrential perpetual rain, and snakes so poisonous they will fell you faster than you can say, "Oh drat, that wasn't a stick!" Our species needs to find a better way than war to contain the lunatics in society. I think it would be much better to just have a decisive game of rock/scissors/paper. As I speak with WW II vets, they remind me to talk quickly...not many of them are left. It is a wonder ANY are left after what they went through. I urge you all to go hug a soldier or a veteran today. Take them to lunch. Tell them thank you. Don't wait till Memorial Day or Veterans Day, or a birthday. Do it now. I can type whatever thoughts I have for this blog today, put it on Facebook or in a book and no one will censor it, or throw me in prison over it, or force me to write something else more glowing of their least not yet in America. I owe that freedom to soldiers.

When Jesus healed the ten lepers, 9 went off to joyfully relish the freedom of regained health. Only one turned back to thank Jesus. That story always saddens me. I know God doesn't save us *because* He wants to hear the word "Thank you", but gratitude is never offered to any being that doesn't love to hear it. Jesus is in battle with a worse enemy than my friend Comer fought, and the battle is for our soul. The least I can do is turn back for a moment in the midst of the life I have because of Him, and say , "Thankyou."

Luke 17: 15-19
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

-save a dog-

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dog Dazers

It is strange how the past loops to the present sometimes. We have friends from long ago, thirty years ago, when we lived in Camillus, NY. This is a little town near Syracuse. Anders' best friend when he was a little boy was a wonderful little girl, Mallory. We became friends with the family. I usually only keep in touch with a christmas card, though I have very fond memories of that sweet family, and especially Mallory's kindness to Anders. Well last week, after the dog attacked me walking my dogs, I ordered ultrasonic "dog Dazers". These are supposed to stop dogs with a harmless high pitched sound. I had forgotten till they arrived that my old friends were the ones who invented and manufactured the Dazers. The words "Made in Camillus" were stamped on the back. I remember them telling me there were cheap knock offs, but the Dazers worked the best.

So I clipped my new can of mace onto my belt, beside my new Dog Dazer. And of course my telephone. I was now armed and ready to walk safely in my neighborhood. I was determined that I would not be unarmed the next time a dog wanted to make lunch meat out of my Honeybun.

"What's all this?" asked a neighbor, when she saw me, decked out in my dog fighting arsenal.
"These are my dog attack deterrents," I explained.
She lifted an eyebrow, and stifled a laugh.
"This," I said, "Is an ultrasonic Dazer. It will not hurt the dog, but in most cases, when the dog hears the unexpected high sound, it will stop them in their tracks. If however, it does not, if my first line of defense falls through, I go to this."
I patted my can of mace.
"Now this is highly effective, but the dog needs to be within 5 feet of me. So it is my second line of defense."
"What is your third line?" she asked.
I held up my phone, "Call 911."
"You are ready for anything. Looks like a lot of trouble to go to just for a walk around the block."
"Desperate measures for desperate times," I assured her.

So I went prowling the neighborhood for loose dogs. I did see one in the distance, a large dog. But by the time I arrived to the spot he had been, he had vanished. I had my hand on the Dazer button just in case.
"But Mom," cried Asherel, "You can't go around dazing dogs! What if they just are coming to say 'Hi'?"
"I can tell when a dog is coming to say 'Hi', and when he is coming to attack. I will only daze him if he is coming to attack."
She rolled her eyes.
"I'm going on a walk," she said.
"Take your mace!" I called.

I remember when I was a little girl, I used to call out, "I'm going to go climb the mountain. See you around dinner time."
No one ever warned me to carry mace, ultrasonic dazers, suntan lotion, mosquito repellant, spf rated clothing, sun hats, or emergency flares. I used to ride my bike without helmets, and roller skate without full padding on every joint. The times, they are a changin'. The world is not as safe as it used to be. The sun has malignant intent. Evil lurks. Why did I not notice as a child? It had to have been there.

We are told we are to enter the kingdom of God with the faith of a child. I think I am beginning to understand what that means. It does not mean a naive or foolish blind allegiance to a powerless Father. I think, in part, it means trusting and believing with your whole heart that you are so loved, so protected, so cared for, that nothing can touch you. In the shadow of your heavenly Father, evil dare not approach. As an adult, I well know evil is out there, and from personal experience, know it attacks if given the opportunity. But I long for the days when I was so convinced I was watched over, that I didn't worry about it. I am not saying we should think evil in this world will not at times scorch us ... we all know it might, and often does. But the faith that sustains us is the one that hopes, that knows, that our Father will one day lift us out of all this mess, and will cradle us in His everlasting arms in a place where mace and Dazers will no longer be needed.

Mark 10:15-21, 26, 27
Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

-save a dog-

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fireflies and Fish

As of yesterday, my book was the top rated dog training book on Amazon....and the #2 bestseller in dog training behind Cesar Milan. I don't understand. Why am I not rich? This is a tough business. I figure if all you tell your friends to buy my book, I might nudge out Cesar Milan. Go ahead. I'll wait till you get back.

This morning as I came out just as the sun was rising, I saw a small luminescent fleck on the floor. I put my cup down and could see that spot in the still dark area glowing from across the room. I went closer and peered down at the golden bright speck. It was a dying firefly. I picked it up and it moved a little, so it was not quite dead, but it was clearly not quite alive either. Still, in the last few moments of life, it was glowing. When I gently picked it up, it glowed more brightly, flashing for a moment and then returned to the slightly subdued glow. I had never seen a firefly with its lights stuck in the "on" position. I put it on the leaf of one of our plants where I thought it could slowly sparkle off in comfort and peace.

I dropped Asherel at a friend's house during the day yesterday, and then went to a lake nearby on which I had never kayaked. It's shores were filled with picnickers and people fishing. It was a spectacular day, and it was no surprise to see the popular county park thronging with people. I kayaked to more quiet remote areas. At one point, I glided past a family just as a young boy caught a fish. It was clear that this was the first fish he had ever caught, perhaps the first fish anyone in the family had ever caught, judging from the family's reaction.
"I caught a fish! I caught a fish!" the young boy cried, waving the pole with the little fish in the air.
The whole family rushed over. An older brother high-fived the fisherman. The mother and father clasped hands and pointed. Another brother began dancing. All were celebrating with incredulous joy the catching of that tiny fish. I smiled, remembering how joyful my little Matty had been when he had caught fish. Today he turns 24 years old,and no longer goes by "Matty". Long gone are those days when he would rip earthworms in half with his bare hands to bait his hook, with the barb we filed down to make it gentler on the fish. (Obviously the gentleness did not extend to the earthworm, for which I feel bad.)

When I die, I hope to be like that firefly- glowing with the light that has led me through many dark days to the very end. I hope to grow old with the same delight and enthusiasm in the blessings of God as that little fisherman catching his first fish. I hope to always carry the deep love and appreciation for the little ones God entrusted to me and pray they all become such fine adults as my son, Matthias has. It is so easy to focus on what is going away- like fireflies that slowly burn out. How lovely instead to be like that firefly closing its eyes to mortality while flashing such a lovely sparkle of light. How important to remember that if our light is extinguished, who will light our corner of the world?

2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.

-save a dog-

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I Call You Friend

Yesterday was our biannual Hollow Creek Farm dogfood/towel drive that I organize for our neighborhood area. I got a call an hour before I was to start circling the neighborhood and picking up donations.
"Hello Vicky?" said the stranger, who identified herself as Robin, "My husband and I are so impressed by the work Hollow Creek does for God's creatures, we bought 10 bags of dogfood. Can we bring them to you right now?"

In that first sentence, Robin was no longer a stranger. I knew a great deal about Robin. She loved God, she revered His creation, she had a gentle spirit that listened to His promptings, and she acted upon them far above and beyond expectation. When Robin and her husband pulled in to the driveway, I recognized her. I had spoken to her once long ago. She lived on the other far end of the neighborhood. I had commented on her beautiful hair at the time, and she had laughed, and said, "Oh honey, that's a wig! I'm going through chemo and I'm as bald as an egg."
Robin could not help lift any of the bags out of the car because of multiple surgeries, 28 to be exact, with another coming soon. But she said she is doing great, and is blessed of God. When she and her husband left, they first hugged me like I was an old friend.

I went on to finish the dogfood pickup and filled the van. Some folks donated a new dog bed. Others added big dog pillows, towels, and bags and bags of dog food. I added a big can of coffee for the owners. I know sometimes they scrimp on their own needs because feeding the dogs is primary and their budget is really tight, especially in this time of "hope and change." HCF is an hour away, but it was a beautiful day, a perfect day, so I knew a drive in the country would be glorious and I wanted to get the food as soon as possible to HCF. I packed my kayak in the back (the inflatable one since the whole van was full of donations), planning to stop at a little lake on the way home. I cannot yet scrub a counter without pain from my ulnar nerve injury, but joy of joys, it doesn't hurt to kayak. This is an excellent injury to have.

When I arrived at HCF, I saw they had installed a front yard fence so that the dogs that were too weak or infirm to play in the fenced backyard with the rowdy dogs now had a place of their own to be safely outside. This is where Speedy, the little corgi with the paralyzed back legs could roll around with the cart that carried his limp back legs. He had died recently, but he had loved the wide open space to run, like any dog. There was a new puppy there, who had a filmy covering on one eye and a wounded looking area.
"Who's this?"
"He's one we just got in," said N, the founder of HCF.
"Is he blind?" I asked, scratching the pup under his chin.
"We think it might be able to be fixed," answered N, "We are bringing him to the vet and they will remove that skin that grew over the eye. They think he might be able to see when they do that."
As we carried the carload of goodies to the van, we had to step around the old dog who had both eyes removed. He thumped his tail happily as I pet him. He was well fed, I could tell. Another weak and thin dog nudged my knee softly, and asked submissively if I could spare a little petting for him. Before I left, N handed me a special candle that HCF is now offering on their webstore. It is specifically designed to kill dog smell in homes.
"I really need this!" I said, "Our house really stinks."
"It would make great christmas gifts for all your friends with stinky homes," she said.
"How much do I owe you?"
"Nothing," she said, waving me away, "This is just to hook you on it, like cocaine." (PS- go to to purchase.Great stuff and helps the farm!)

As I kayaked later, in the peaceful gorgeous day, I had the whole lake all to myself. I was again, the only one on the water. All I had for company were the birds, the new mother goose and her goslings, the turtles, and my thoughts. And what I was thinking mostly about was selfless love. The love of a man and woman battling cancer to help feed creatures they'd never seen, the love of neighbors to donate to a distant rescue farm despite such hard economic times, and the love of the founders of HCF, who would build a special pen for a special dog to run free, replacing his legs with wheels. Above all else, we are to love one another, and care for the world God has given us. What a blessing to me to see sacrificial love in such overflowing measure.

John 15: 15-17
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

-save a dog-

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Arming Yourself

As you all know, I love dogs. But I hate being attacked by dogs. It is not the dog's fault. It is the stupid owners who don't train their dogs, control their dogs, and have the common sense to walk their dogs outside on leash. It is the irresponsible owners who don't understand that even if their dog is friendly, my dog might not want you in her face. All you yoyo dog owners out there, I am talking to you. I carry mace and I will use it. It is a good thing I had it yesterday.

This is a tutorial on what to do in a dog attack. I don't get attacked any more frequently, on average, than anyone else. However, because I am a runner, walker, and biker, I am outside and available to canine clashes more than the average human target. So I know of what I speaketh. I have never been bitten, and I believe that is for two reasons: #1. I speak loudly and carry a big stick, and #2. I have a very powerful guardian angel.

SO, now for the tutorial. Most dogs attacking are pets, however ill trained and ill mannered. Therefore, most of them understand the words, "No", "Go Home", and "I'm Armed and will shoot". The first line of defense in a dog attack is to turn to face the idiot owner's dog, and in your most threatening deep voice yell, "NO!!!! GO HOME!!!" In 3 out of 5 cases, this alone will work. The absolute biggest no-no is to run. When you run from a predator, you become prey. Even well trained dogs can sometimes not resist the primal urge to run down prey. So don't run. If there is a tree right there and you are sure you can get up it, that is not a bad idea. But do not try to outrun a dog. Even a 3 legged dog can outrun a human. You should not stare down a dog. That also makes them nutty. It is a challenge and dogs with 3,000 pounds of jaw bite pressure should not be challenged.

Secondly, if the dog is still persistent, has hackles raised, is showing teeth or growling, you had better hope and pray you remembered your little can of mace. You are doing humanity a service if you mace that dog BUT GOOD. It is likely he will remember it and think twice about attacking anyone again. I discovered yesterday that Dick's Sporting Goods sells mace. I bought 3 cans.

Yesterday, the stocky muscled missile armed with teeth came sprinting down the street after my dogs and me. The owner, in curlers and bathrobe, stood in the yard. She had violated two tenets of dog ownership right off the bat. #1. She was a nincompoop, thinking it just fine to let an aggressive dog go poop in her yard off leash, #2. Who needs a #2 when you have a #1? I did all the things outlined in the tutorial. I told the dog no, go home, in my deepest growliest voice. That did make the dog pause as it reached us. Then I maced him. He went racing home to his stupid owner. It is really the owner I wanted to mace, but I think there may be laws against that.

Unfortunately, there is no law against stupid.

Now, to the Godly message in all of this. I know,I don't usually throw out words like stupid. I really shouldn't use such words but I am at a loss as to how else to get my point across. Here is what I think God was telling me: Be prepared.

If I had not had the mace, that dog was intent on attack. Usually I can find a stick or something if I don't have my mace, but there was nothing like that in sight. I don't always bring my mace, but now I will. The Bible speaks often of being prepared. We don't like to think of our neighborhood streets as being dangerous, but as long as there is sin in the world and, forgive me Lord, stupid dog owners, we had best acknowledge that fact, and be prepared for battle.

The Bible warns that there is an ongoing battle for our soul. If we pretend that battle isn't real, and are not prepared for it, we will be attacked, and we will have no defense. Our 'spiritual can of mace' is the Word of God and His spirit within us. We are supposed to arm ourselves by delving deeply into His message, and never ever leaving home without it.

2 Samuel 22:33
It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.

-save a dog-

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Dog's Life

I think dogs have it made. All they really have to worry about is food and shelter. Why do we have such a complicated life in contrast? I am in the midst of planning and ordering for our home school next school year. I think I made some bad decisions this year, so I want to work hard to do better for next year. Some extras get closed out if you don't sign up early. I also need to plan so I can prowl sales on the materials I need over the summer.And I need at least a full summer to wrench my hands together and obsess over what horrible choices I have made and how I am ruining the most wonderful child on earth. I have a game plan roughly in mind, and have plenty of time to work out the details, but in the midst of all my researching the best curriculum, books, classes, requirements, etc., I glance at my dog. She is snoring on the couch. She has been fed breakfast, given clean water, and now she is fully stretched out on the warm fuzzy comforter on the couch. I don't have to do anything else for her till dinner. Nor does she really want anything else till dinner...except maybe a walk. Sometimes I wish I were a dog.

I have never seen a dog upset that the dog next door doesn't bark with them, that they themselves are getting a little thick around the waist, or that they are getting a lot of grey hairs around the muzzle. Dogs don't wonder what are the best classes to take or exams to pass to get into the best college they can. I have yet to see a dog rub his paw across the dust laden end table and ask, "Who intends to clean up around here?" They never ever insult anyone, or use sarcasm to express how odious they think you are but don't want to say it too directly. I have never heard a dog complain about the food preparation unless it is rancid. And they never hold a grudge. Even when I leave on a walk without them, when I return, they are wagging their tails and licking my hand, happy just to be alive in my presence. Not only do I wish I were a dog, I sometimes wish everyone else was too.

But I am not. And unfortunately, neither is everyone else. So the world of humans with all their silly worries and woes and even serious worries and woes is where I must settle. I know God doesn't make mistakes, but sometimes I feel like I am much more suited to be a dog than a human. I don't seem to be getting the human life down as well as I should be after half a century of practice. I am not alone in my poor excuse of being the best I can be. It is an age old problem. Solomon, the wise old man of ancient times wrote:
This only have I found:
God created mankind upright,
but they have gone in search of many schemes." (Ecclesiastes 7:29 )

Then I read a verse like this, and my canine yearnings are brought into perspective:

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

In His Image! I am created, you are created "in his own image, in the image of God." Why would He do that unless He holds us in special honor, for a special purpose? I long for the simplicity of a dog's life, but God has something else in mind.

-save a dog-

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I have been studying the battles of the South Pacific in WWII, in order to write my book about my friend, Comer, the war veteran. I even found a picture of a gunner crew in Milne Bay, and I put it on my iPad to bring to Comer. I think it might be him in the photograph. As I have been writing, I have learned much more than I ever knew about the Japanese assault on New Guinea. I even know enough now that I see where some of the historians were incorrect! I had often wondered why Midway and Guadalcanal were such important battles, such inconsequential tiny islands...why would anyone fall on the sword over such tiny places? Now I know.

I had planned to take him and Evelyn out for our weekly drive and lunch, which has been postponed for weeks since she had a very bad fall. But Comer called to cancel, "I just got back from the doctors and I don't feel like I could even stand up, let alone make it to your car."
"What happened?"
"They took out a whole chunk of my cheek," he said, "Skin cancer. I got 15 stitches. I thought they'd never stop scraping and cutting."
Well, that description took care of my need for lunch as well.
"I am so sorry," I told him, "I'll check on you at the end of the week to see if you would be up to it by then."
"I would be able to interview over the phone if you have more questions," he said hopefully.
I had actually finished most of his portion of the interviews for my book, but I paused.
"Are you sure you feel up to it?"
"Oh it would take my mind off the pain," he said.
"Well then...sure, just let me get my notes."
There can always be more questions, I thought, and if it eases the pain.....

One of the most interesting things I have discovered in my extensive interviews for my book is that people are smoldering masses of inconsistencies and conundrums. Even the people you may consider pure have pockets of darkness. I knew that was true of me...but it always surprises me to discover it is true of everyone. We are a mixed bag, we humans, and we like to hope that the face we turn to the world is a pleasant one, but we all harbor murky depths.

Comer's war experiences definitely formed strong opinions of the Japanese at the time. He said they were brutal to their captured soldiers. Reports of mutilation and even canabalism led to many war crimes inquiries and convictions. Yet Comer said once, he had the opportunity to look into the hold of a Prisoner of War ship, filled to the brim with captured Japanese. I asked him how he felt, looking on them in that miserable stinking hold, smashed together and chained.
"I felt sorry for them," he admitted, though his job in the war was to kill them.
I suppose, in a way, that is what God sees when He looks at us. A swarming mass imprisoned in our often brutal and mindless sin. Yet He feels sorrow for us, such overwhelming sorrow that He devised a plan to release us. The plan has a code name: Jesus.

Romans 7:21-25
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Rapture

It happened again. I was certain the Rapture had come. For those of you who don't know what the "Rapture" is, it is when Jesus returns and all the believers on earth are "caught up with Him in the air" and carried away, presumably to eternal joy and bliss. The people left behind will endure some mighty unpleasant events, not the least of which would be what would happen to all those airplanes and cars whose drivers have suddenly been raptured.

Anyway, I had been out getting a haircut (my hairdresser said with my tiny head and frame, I needed short hair, so it is all chopped off Pixie style. I feel like an elf.) When I returned, I knew Asherel was home doing her school work. I called her name. No answer. I checked every room, including her bedroom. No Asherel. Both dogs were here so I knew she hadn't gone on a walk as she always takes at least one dog.

I hate that, I thought. Here I am *certain* I am a believer, and the rapture has come and taken my daughter, and left me behind! I guess I better get ready for airplanes to fall out of the sky now, I thought, looking up. Then I heard a small voice, coming from the closet in Asherel's room. I opened the closet door. There she was, in a nice cozy corner with her booklight pointed at her study cards.

"It's quiet in here," she said, "Would you please bring me some icecream?"

I don't blame her for hiding away for a little peace and quiet. I have felt vaguely ill for a few days, probably mostly just exhaustion but maybe a touch of some bug. It is not a bad idea to take a closet sabbatical. When you are all alone in the dark corner, where no one but God can see you or hear you, it is easier to be who you are, to settle the chaotic call of conflicting voices around you. I suppose that is why in the Bible, Jesus tells us to go to our closet to pray to our Father. The main point of that passage is not to pray ostentatiously, not to pray before others just to be seen and revered for our holiness. However, I think the surest antidote to hypocrisy, and any other sin you might name, is to get alone in a closet, and try to listen very hard for what God is saying to you. I don't think it is nearly as important to come out of the closet as to go in.

I brought her the icecream and knocked on the closet door. She opened it a crack and took the icecream.
"Thank you," she said, closing the door and pushing the rancorous voices of the world away.
"I'm just glad she wasn't 'raptured'," I said, walking away, "I would have really missed her."

Matthew 24: 36-44
"But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:36-44 NIV)

-save a dog-

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I love getting free kindle e-books. I belong to a newsletter that tells me some of the books that are new, and available for a limited time for free downloads from Amazon. Many of the books are by new authors, trying to build an audience. Since I know what that is like, I enjoy supporting the new authors. Of course, the free books don't support the authors financially, but it the books are stupendous, I write a review on Amazon which will hopefully make people who aren't tightwads like myself buy the book. I know a lot of folks avoid the self published books, but I have found a few real gems.

Yesterday, I saw one that caught my eye, and went to Amazon where I have enabled myself to buy with "one click". Buyers, beware! Buying with one click is code red for "Go broke in a nanosecond." I bought my "free" book with one unobservant click, and then went on with whatever work I was doing on the computer. A few minutes later, I got an email that said Amazon had charged me $2.99 for the book. Now most people would not bother fighting a $2.99 charge, but it was the principle of the thing that bothered me. I often tie myself in knots over the principle of a thing. So I went to the returns section of Amazon. There was no way I could find to return the e-book and get back my $2.99. For some reason, that $2.99 was becoming larger and more critical a sum in my bank account with every passing moment that I was unable to discover how to get it back. The $2.99 that is equal to what I probably lose in my pocket every week to the washing machine was suddenly more precious than gold. I would do anything to get my $2.99 back. I searched site after site on the internet, researching e-book returns. I clicked on the email verifying the sale, and then followed all the links on that email, all to no avail. I was still out $2.99.

Finally, about an hour later, I found how to do "live chat" with the Amazon customer service. By now I was in a tizzy. I poured out my mournful story of how I was supposed to be getting a free book, but had been charged instead the unconscionable sum of $2.99. How could I get this atrocity rectified, remove that blot from my account? The customer service representative apologized for the inconvenience, pushed the "satisfy customer with one click" button, and the charge was removed.

I suppose you are laughing at me, but while I am an extreme example, we ALL do this at some level. We look at a little problem, and it starts to grow and grow and grow. Soon, all the money we do have in the bank seems insignificant to the one unfair charge that was made to our account. Our focus shifts from what we do have to what we don't. We forget how much God has forgiven, and find it difficult for us to forgive others. We counsel others not to judge or not to worry like the Bible commands, but then we cannot turn our hearts from judging and worrying. We have heaven itself in our future, but it is marred from our sight by the problems on earth, and the joy that would be ours is sullied.

The little chat box with the Amazon service representative blinked a final note: "Have I solved your problem?" he asked.
"No one can solve my problem but God alone," I typed back, "But yes, thankyou, the charge for the book was removed."

Hosea 13:6
When I fed them, they were satisfied;
when they were satisfied, they became proud;
then they forgot me.

-save a dog-

Monday, May 14, 2012

Musings over Broken Ropes

I was already in bed but I could hear the sounds of my grown son and his friends and wife playing on the horsy tire swing in our backyard. Their laughter was lulling me to sleep when I heard a scream, some muffled concerned rumbles of voices, and then silence. Then I heard the footsteps on the back porch and my teen daughter, Asherel's voice, "That's ok."

I knew then that the rope to the tire swing must have broken. The rope is easily 50 feet long tied to a very high branch of an oak tree. When we had tree work done many years ago, the tree climbers had put it up for us. I could tell from the mumbled voices that no one had been hurt (at least seriously) and I was glad it had come down with an adult, and not a small child sailing as high as an exuberant adult could push her.

It made me consider the connections in life, the ones that seem they will be safe and strong forever. That is not always the case. Sometimes time and stress can snap the sturdiest of ties. Which broke away, I thought, gazing at the horse swing crumpled on the ground? Had the horse pulled away from the tree, or the tree relinquished its hold on the horse? Or was it a mutual parting of the ways?

And since it was Mother's Day, I thought about children, and the hold a mother has on her children. Children grow up and move away, but does the tie holding them need to be broken? Couldn't it just stretch perhaps thinner no matter how far they might stray? Does it have to be severed completely? How does a child become an adult, with all the independence necessary, all the freedom needed to develop all the character he will need in a brutal world ... and still remember that the ties back to his mom were once the very things that helped him soar, like riding our horse swing under the strong, supportive arm of the tree?

I suspect every child responds to that differently. But I know every mother clings to the same hope. It is the same hope I had as I looked out at the broken swing. If the rope breaks, the child will remember so fondly the days when he would swing for hours under the leafy arbor of the tree that he will one day gather a new rope, a different rope that won't break, and return the swing to the place from which it had fallen. Maybe not because he himself wants to swing anymore; perhaps he has grown beyond that. But the memories of the swing are so precious and the gratitude to the old tree so immense that he too longs to return to it, and remember how it once supported his first eager flights over the endless horizons.

God was the perfect parent, yet His children strayed. And the descendants of Adam and Eve continued that willful severing of the most important relationship of all- the created from their creator. Still, God promises us repeatedly in scripture that when we recognize how our sin has detached us from our Heavenly Father, He will still be there, like the tree in our yard, eager and longing for us to return, to swing again in the shade of His branches.

None of us ever are too old to swing quietly in the shade of a tree, I think. Today, I want to find a lower branch, one I can reach, and a sturdier rope, and put the swing back up so it is always ready for the child, should he return.

Jeremiah 31: 17-20
So there is hope for your descendants,"
declares the Lord.
"Your children will return to their own land. "I have surely heard Ephraim's moaning:
'You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
because you are the Lord my God. After I strayed,
I repented;
after I came to understand,
I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.' Is not Ephraim my dear son,
the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I have great compassion for him,"
declares the Lord.

-save a dog-

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Gift of a Mother

There is nothing so precious a gift as being the best mom you can be to the children entrusted to you. My mom taught me to cherish the simple pleasures of life, the wildflowers along a wooded path, the common birds fluttering along the way, the beauty of a round blue pebble. She made everything she touched a thing of wonder. She carved out paths in our wooded backyard, lining them with wild plants she transplanted from the nearby forest. She creating a mock river of smooth bluish pebbles, that meandered among her wildflowers. She greeted us every morning with breakfast and a smile as we hurried off to school. She had the wisdom to trust us to do our homework, make our mistakes, and hopefully learn from them. She lived by example, and her example was one of gentleness, kindness, reverence for the beautiful world God has given us. She was the one who explained to me that a forsythia bush was never meant to be trimmed to a round, manicured shape. They were meant to throw out long wispy tendrils in a profuse explosion. She knew the nature of things, and how they should be allowed to grow so they would be just the way God intended them to be. That is the gift of a wonderful mother.

Thank you Mom. I love you.

John 15:12
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

-save a dog-

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Looking for What?

Yesterday was a happy day- Asherel got through her first AP exam, then got to ride her first roller coaster, and Matt and his lovely wife Karissa, along with their delightful friends, came to visit for the weekend. So of course, there had to be a yang to the yin. I was up early, as usual, setting out breakfast choices, wondering where Lucky was. Surely at age ten with sore, creaky joints, he had not climbed the fence and escaped. The phone rang. It was my neighbor.
"Vicky, I hate to call so early...but is Lucky supposed to be out in the front yard?"
I ran out. He was shivering. I suspect he had escaped early in the evening and been out all night. Our neighbor is a vet. I contemplated whether I should ask if she had any magical dog brain enhancing drugs in her doctor kit.

"Why, Lucky, why, why, why? You are ten years old. You have food, water, kindness, and the choice of three couches inside to choose from, not to mention the beds and also the dog bed that is where you are supposed to sleep. You have 4 extra visitors in the house, all of whom are too polite to stop petting you, especially that cute little one that you climbed into the lap of...and FYI, Lucky, that made you look like an ill-trained dog with an owner who is far too lax."
He looked at me pointedly. Then he licked me, and sprinted to his food bowl. Being out all night had stirred up his hunger.

Why do we always want what we cannot have, seek after what we should not get? Why are our hearts so often discontented with all the bounty God has provided and instead we yearn for the things outside our boundaries? Why do we suffer, shivering on the outside, when our loving Master has provided us with such a wondrous, warm, loving, and safe abode inside?

After Lucky ate, he went immediately back outside into the still chilly morning.
He stood for a moment, surveying the wide expanse of the backyard, and then went prowling in the thick bushes on the perimeter. I am certain he was plotting his next escape.

Psalm 42:2 NIV
"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?"

-save a dog-

Friday, May 11, 2012

Winding Down

Today, the exam Asherel has spent the year studying so hard for will finally come. There will be other hard tests in her future I am sure, but persevering to get to this one is probably the most demanding task of her academic life thus far. And in mine, as a teacher. We are both heaving big sighs of relief, or will be at noon when it is over.

I had called my old senior friend Comer last week to see if they could go to lunch, but Evelyn was still not doing well. With all the test prep over here, I really was best stationed at home anyway. Asherel would describe my presence as hovering and demanding. I would describe it as teaching an impossible amount of material. Either way about it, time was running short and there were chapters to go before we sleep, chapters to go before we sleep....

So I interviewed Comer over the phone for the book I am writing about him. I wanted to visit, but really didn't have the time until all these nasty exams were over.
"But next week, I'd like to take you and Evelyn to lunch. Would that be ok?"
"I just don't know," Comer said, "Evelyn is in a wheelchair now half the time. I don't know if you could manage."
"I could manage," I said gently.
"Do you think you could? It would do her good to get out."
"Yes Comer, I am sure I could. I will come pick you up Monday."
As I got off the phone, I thought about how much Asherel and I had both been looking forward to the day when things would be winding down from the exam work and this very hard school year. But then I thought of Evelyn.
Never long for the days of things winding down!

Ecclesiastes 11:9
You who are young, be happy while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.

-save a dog-

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Weeping Day

It rained off and on all day yesterday. I was busily working on my book and helping Asherel with her AP exam prep, so it didn't really matter that it was so grey and miserable outside. However, while resting my sore elbow, in between hours of typing, I did what I should not do when I can't go outside for a walk- spent time on Facebook. As a result, I saw a slew of vicious names being slung at anyone who may have voted that marriage should be defined as one man, one woman. "Hateful" and "bigots" were two of the favorite epithets. There were a few less complimentary terms, but I can't include them in a G rated blog. I am always impressed by the language the purveyors of love and tolerance choose to describe those who disagree with them.

I am not going to rehash the discussions here but it did make me think about the nature of Facebook. I do like seeing how the world around me thinks but some things on Facebook make me want to drop boiling coffee on my computer. I have one major pet peeve, besides the assumptions of hate and bigotry without any idea of why people may vote they way they vote on the marriage issue. The pet peeve involves what Facebook posters ask of their readers. The message sometimes differs in subject, but it always follows this theme: "If you love your children, share this message." "If you are my friend, press 'like' ", "If you are a decent human being, send this message on to ten people", etc. Of course, the implicit message is that when you don't follow the instructions, it is because you hate your children, are not that writer's friend, and really an abomination to mankind. I NEVER respond to those messages as my own personal campaign against subtle coercion. I feel the same way about chain letters. Don't ever send me one. It will die in my inbox, and thus angels will not extend miraculous blessings, I will not become a millionaire by 3 p.m., and I will not be sent 50 time tested recipes in exchange for my three mediocre ones.

I have finished Isaiah and moved on to Jeremiah in the Bible. This is like going from sunshine to a rainy day. Isaiah is filled with hope and promise and messianic prophecy. Jeremiah is one big droopy rain storm, filled with doom and gloom. I can't wait to get to my Bible reading when I am in Isaiah. I feel a little down and reluctant when I am wading through Jeremiah. But it takes both to make a story. We need the hope to get us through the depressing times, but without the downers, up has no meaning.

God cries out to His people, through the sad prophet Jeremiah, and begs them to reconsider their ways, to stop doing evil, to turn to good. His pleas fall again and again on deaf ears. He warns them over and over that if they choose to follow their own selfish inclinations and ignore God's laws, He will remove His hedge of protection around them. They throw Jeremiah in a pit rather than heed the warning. God threatens disaster, but continues to plead,to beg, to cajole. Even in the midst of his litany of all He will do to let His people follow their sin to their destruction, He throws out a life line.
"Find the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."

The ancient paths? What are those? We are always seeking the new, the better, the modern, the change....We do not heed the advice of the aged, of those who have lived and struggled and overcome. The past is just one of folly. God is just a crutch, an invention, an attempt to keep progress at bay. What are those ancient paths that we should be returning to where our souls will rest? I am thinking that as a people, we are not finding them.

(For those of you reading this on Facebook, press 'like' if you agree.)

Jeremiah 4:19-22 (NIV)
Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent. For I have heard the sound of the trumpet; I have heard the battle cry. [20] Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins. In an instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment. [21] How long must I see the battle standard and hear the sound of the trumpet? [22] “My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.”

Jeremiah 5:12-13 (NIV)
They have lied about the Lord; they said, “He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine. [13] The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them; so let what they say be done to them.”

Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)
This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

-save a dog-

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why God Made the BlueBird

I wondered why God made bright colored birds. The goal of most creatures is to blend in with their surroundings so foes won't find them. Yet consider the blue bird or the cardinal. They pop out of the trees with their beautiful bright plumage. I was on a run yesterday when a blue bird flew right in front of me. It struck me then how brilliant and noticeable he was. Granted, he is blue like the sky, but he is a brilliant blue, a color the sky might be in Heaven on steroids, but not the color of the sky here on Earth.

Bright colored birds in the jungle blend in with the bright colored profusion of plants there, but this is not the jungle, and cardinals and bluebirds stand out like tasty m&m's against the leafy background here. I know there are brightly colored butterflies that taste horrible. Predators learn to avoid them because of their nasty flavor. This works for the species, though the individual butterfly who was tasted is not so happy. But I have never heard cardinals or bluebirds taste any less savory than the drab crow. Beautiful bright colors attract mates...but ALL the bluebirds and cardinals have beautiful bright colors, thus the advantage seems watered down to me.

Could it be God made them beautiful just for me? Yesterday, when I saw the bluebird, the sheer unusualness of that striking blue made me smile. I was feeling uncharacteristically tired on my run, struggling to breathe after only a short uphill. I even had to stop and walk home, something I never do. I just didn't feel good. And I thought, "This is how it starts, soon I will be stopping after a shorter time of running, and then I will not go running at all anymore." That's when I saw the Bluebird, resplendent against the everyday color of the world, and I felt cheered.

When Moses looked upon God, the reflected glory of the vision was so bright that he had to wear a veil as the Glory slowly faded. Later we are reminded by the Apostle Paul that we get only the tiniest glimpse of Heaven while sojourning here on earth. Even those glimpses take our breath away, but the purpose of those brief snatches of glory is only to whet our appetite for the unsurpassable glory that will endure: the glory of standing in an eternal relationship with an eternal God for all eternity.

For now, the Bluebird with its impossibly beautiful blue wings makes me smile and yearn for more than just a fleeting glimpse. It soars upward, stretching its brilliant blue wings against a backdrop of heaven, and disappears.

2 Corinthians 3: 10,11,18
For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Attitude of Your Mind

Well, I made it through the radio show. For those of you who want to hear it, it is at the following web site:
All in all, I was pretty happy with it. I thought my heart would explode across the room while waiting to be introduced, but then I calmed down. The only persistent problem over the hour interview was I was having trouble swallowing. I had to consciously force my esophagus to contract to swallow the sips of water I was taking. I also had to pick out the splinters from the chair arm I was slowly embedding in my clenched fingertips. Other than that, and some minor episodes of hyperventilating, I was ok.

Since it was a Christian radio show, I mostly talked about God, and I can do that all day. Finally, I said goodbye to the hosts, leaned back, and heaved a big sigh of relief. I don't think I made any blunders that would haunt me for the rest of my life, and there had been no long stretches of silence as I tried to remember the English language. My first radio interview was over without any visible signs of extreme bodily harm as a result.

An hour later, it occurred to me that it was possible the show would result in book sales. I clicked on my online accounts. 2,000 books had sold in the past hour! I did a crazy dance, ran around the house, and then told my son who was online with me on Google Chat. Then, right before calling all my friends and family, as well as the NY Times that might want to feature me in today's paper, I noticed I had clicked the wrong button. The book had sold 2 copies in the past hour, not 2,000. Riches to rags again. And I went from being elated about the radio spot to totally depressed in a nanosecond. This is an ongoing problem, this extreme fluctuation in mood based on externals. Hadn't I just finished an hour of talking about trusting God and finding joy and contentment in Him?
well, yeh...
but would it be so outrageous to ask for joy and contentment AND 2,000 book sales in an hour?

God is always working on me. He just never lets up on those lessons and I am continually poked and prodded till my true character is revealed. If I trust Him, *really* trust Him, then I should trust what He brings my way, particularly those things I have no control over. And honestly, when it comes right down to it, the only thing I do have control over is my attitude. And as I demonstrated, that one thing is taking me a lifetime to master.

Ephesians 4:22-24
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Philippians 2: 1-3
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

-save a dog-

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Treasure

I took Asherel and her friend to the flea market Sunday after church. They hurried off happily on their own to prowl through other people's junk. I was not nearly so enamored, but made the best of it. I did laps through all the buildings, zigging and zagging between people at near workout pace. I figured if I walked the full time the girls were there, I could get in my regular walk distance. The vendors watched me do my laps, and I even heard some whisper, "There she goes again." I think I may have brought a little joy in that dismal scene of wanton materialism.

I wonder where all these flea market items come from. Some are obviously garage sale items. But some are brand new and not what one would find at a garage sale. One vendor had a whole table of unopened Prismacolor colored pencils. Those are expensive art pencils normally. I didn't ask the price as I had little money with me anyway, but I wondered where he had gotten them and how would he be able to resell at a profit? Were some of the items at the flea market stolen? I found the whole atmosphere there somewhat depressing, and desperate, until I found 6 little claw hairclips just the comfy well made kind I like, priced at next to nothing. At the stores they are often $10 a piece. I bagged my little prize. Despite my happy purchase, most everything there was used, old, and outmoded. (Ohoh...were my pretty sparkly hair clips outmoded too?) And the place was mobbed with people, poring over the goods. What do they all see in this place? Asherel emerged with a new Beatles bag. She smiled, "It was only $5."
Her friend held out her arm, "See my new bracelet?"

So out of all that dusty, depressing array of junk, we all emerged with a little treasure. That is the allure of those kinds of places, I think. Most of the stuff there is not worth looking at, but tucked in an obscure, hidden corner, there is a small delight seemingly just for us just waiting to be noticed.

I have been thinking a lot about faith and how it transforms a life. I believe it does, but it doesn't do it all at once, and it doesn't remove struggle from life. Faith is sometimes as tiny as that one little hidden sparkle of treasure in the flea market. Sometimes it gets buried by all the worries and concerns and garbage of life. And then when you stumble on that little nugget of faith, you remember the reason you showed up that day in the first place. It makes the trip worthwhile, and you are even glad you came.

Luke 17: 1-6
Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.
"If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying 'I repent,' you must forgive them." The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.

-save a dog-

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Mute Speak

Tomorrow is my interview on blog radio. I am not a speaker. I am a writer. Thus, I am a little nervous. Ok, I lied. I am a lot nervous. What if I suddenly am struck mute? That happens when I get nervous. Suddenly all the wonderful vocabulary I used to be able to toss out with aplomb vanishes and I am reduced to grunts and tortured groans.

Once again, the book of Isaiah comforts me. It is true I may well be silenced by own stumbling fears...but it will not be forever. There is a day when the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the mute will sing for joy. I will just focus on that.....
If you want to listen in and see if I can indeed string 2 words together, the web address is and I will be on
from 11-noon, EST, Monday May 7. Gulp.

Isaiah 35:3-10
Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts,
"Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you." Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow. And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

-save a dog-

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Doing a New Thing

Our sneezy dog has allergies and this year seems to be a very bad year. I give her Benadryl with her meals, but we recently switched to the bright pink knock-off Benadryl, the generic brand sold in quantities to reduce price. The bottle is the size of a small pig. At any rate, those pills must not taste as good. I noticed she spits them out and a little pink blob is left in the middle of her spotless-licked-clean-of-any- food-molecule bowl. Due to allergies as well, she had developed a hot spot on her flank, a quarter sized inflamed red skin which she licks endlessly so that the hair in that area has fallen out. So I have been putting hot spot medicine/antibiotics on the patch, and have had to wrap the pink pill in soft delicious bribes. Then I have to watch her to be sure she doesn't promptly lick off all the medicine from the hot spot. She is beginning to require as much energy as teaching Asherel's AP US History does.

Yesterday, while watching her to insure the meds had time to sink in, I called Comer to continue our interview on his WW II experiences. We are in our final week of work towards the AP exam, so I couldn't afford the time to leave the house, but I could picture Comer with his pile of notes on his knees wondering when I would be back to continue his story for my book. I didn't want to disappoint him, so the phone interview was the best option I could come up with.

"Comer," I told him, "If you think of any WWII stories you have forgotten and want to add them to the book, I will be writing for months, so just call any time. But now, I really want to know the details of how you met Evelyn. I know you want this to be just a war story, but i think it will be a better book if I can balance it out with the man you became once you met Evelyn."
"Whatever you think is best," he agreed readily.
"How is Evelyn?" I asked. I knew Alzheimers was robbing her each day of a little more of her body and mind.
"She's holding her own," he said, "I'm sitting here with her right now, holding her hand."
"So, how and when and where did you meet Evelyn?"
I settled down in a comfortable chair with my pen poised. I could not wait to hear how this tough, hardened, WWII hero, and self declared "dandy and a ladies man" met the woman who finally snared his heart.

However, I won't tell you. You will have to buy the book when it comes out. I will say, he left me laughing and cheering for the wondrous effects of a good marriage.

It is easy to forget that change is possible when everything looks bleak. I think God does that on purpose. If we weren't in dire straits at times, I wonder if we would bother to notice He extends grace and mercy. We might not know we needed it. But God makes all things new, just when we think we have no choice but to make the best of the old.

This morning I noticed that Honeybun's hot spot was a little cooler, a little less inflamed. It was healing. With now less than a week to go till the daunting AP exam, Asherel wrote her best practice essay yet, and I felt hopeful the year might end well.
My interviews with Comer have come to a point of near completion as well, with the war period in all its detailed horror now balanced with the joining of his life with a beautiful and gentle woman. So often it feels like the bad will never end, at least while we are going through it. But wounds do heal, dogs do swallow the pink pill, wars give way to peace, and kids do learn how to write excellent thesis statements. What seems impossible is always possible with God.

Isaiah 43:18-19
"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

-save a dog-