Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Withering Sun

It is predicted to be 105 degrees today. That is hot enough to melt eyebrows off of one's face. I had planned to take Asherel and some friends kayaking, but we think even that would be dangerous in this weather. Instead, we will all huddle around the AC vents and pray the electricity doesn't give out.

As I drove out to visit Comer yesterday, the little gas station on the corner from him was cordoned off with police tape. Police vans and cars were all over the lot. I entered Comer's Senior Home, and the manager was at the door, telling one resident not to go out.
"I am locking us in," she told the resident.
"Why?" asked the women with a walker.
"Because there was a shooting down the street and we don't want him coming in here."
I scurried inside. Between the deadly heat and deadly criminals, life felt very precarious. I went to Comer's room to find him looking almost perky, compared with the past two days.
"You look better," I said, gratefully.
"Not really," he said, "I wanted to find you those two short stories I wrote, but I couldn't get off this recliner!"
"Well maybe you can direct me where to search."
First he had me check all the drawers in the secretary. Next he directed me to his dresser. As I closed the last drawer, the stories still unfound, he sighed.
"I know they are here...I do so want you to read them."
I noticed a briefcase beside the dresser.
"Could they be in there?" I asked.
"Could be," he said hopefully.
I brought him the briefcase and he popped it open.
"Well lookee here! Here they are!"
He pulled them out and handed them to me. They were short stories he had written many years ago, after the war.
"I think you will find them very interesting," he said.
"Would you like me to read them to you?" I asked.
"That would be nice," he said.
I read him the stories. They were not at all what I expected. There was such depth of sadness and despair in them, that I could not believe they had come from this man I had come to know as so full of life, of joy.
I won't tell you the stories. YOu will have to read the book about Comer when I finish it to get them. But I will tell you my reaction.
"Comer!" I cried,"THIS is how you would sum up your life!?"
"Back then," he said.
"But now?"
"Yes...even now. But it isn't so much how I would summarize my life. It is what I wish I could take back."
I won't tell you all the discussion- but I asked him later, "But what is something you are glad that you did? Proud that you accomplished?"
"I was always proud of my charity work," he said. Then he told me a story of collecting money from his community for the poor. He recalled a scene of bringing milk and groceries to a poor young woman and her baby. As he told me the story, he began to weep and then said, "I can still picture that baby drinking the milk...."
My eyes welled too. I was trying so hard to conjure joyful memories for Comer in these hard days of ebbing life. Instead, I seemed to be bringing grief.
"There were folks all around that family...and no one helped them," he said, his voice rising in anger.
We moved on to happier topics, and I can't recall what else we discussed, but when it was time for me to go, he was smiling again.

I scurried to my car, on the lookout for gun toting robbers. The sun was merciless, throwing molten daggers into my skin. I got in the car, locked the doors, and blasted the AC. AS I drove, I thought about a community, so locked in on its own needs that we sit right next door to babies without milk and don't even know it. REACH OUT, I prayed, EVERYONE, PLEASE REACH OUT.

Isaiah 26:16-18 (NIV)
Lord, they came to you in their distress; when you disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer. [17] As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, Lord. [18] We were with child, we writhed in labor, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life.

-save a dog-

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Last Chapters

My old friend Comer looked pale and awful when I showed up to visit. I had called in the morning, and asked if he wanted me to come right away or that afternoon.
"Now," he said. At his age and failing health, "now" is all he may have. But I had two more chapters to read to him of the book I am writing of his WW2 experiences. He had wanted very much to read "his" book, but all I had was the rough draft thus far. I praised God that I had been writing so feverishly for the past few months, or I would not have even had that.

I hurried over and found him in his recliner, covered with blankets. He could barely muster a smile.
"Are you ready to hear the last two chapters of your story?" I asked, settling into my 'reading chair.'
"Ready," he said quietly.
As I began to read, he closed his eyes. I wasn't even certain he was awake. But I kept reading. If he sleeps through it, I will just read it again, I thought to myself.

However, then I hit a very grim story, perhaps the grimmest of all the war stories, and he opened his eyes. His face looked very sad, and very serious. I knew the end of the chapters about him had a hopeful, triumphant passage, a cathartic turning point...but I wondered if I was doing the right thing reading through this deeply troubling section. When I came to the line that always makes me cry ( I often move myself to tears with my writing), I saw his face contort and both of us were then choking back sobs. I read with a breaking voice. And then I came to the triumphant section, and the close of the Comer chapters of the book. He smiled at me as I closed the book. I had worried he would tell me to strike out the grim section, but the ending would not have worked at all without that part. I held my breath, awaiting his verdict.

"I like it very much," said Comer.
I released my breath, "You see why I had to write it that way?"
"Yes I do," he said, "It is a work of art....What a wonder. I didn't think I would ever get to hear our book."
"I can read more if you like," I said, "The other chapters, though they aren't about you directly."
"No," he said, "I am very tired." He leaned his head back and sighed deeply.
"Well then I will leave you to rest, " I said. But I took his hand and asked if I could say a prayer with him.
"I'd like that," he said.
I prayed for his comfort, his peace, and thanked God for the time we had spent together. His eyes were already closing as I tiptoed away.

Isaiah 26:8-9,19 (NIV)
Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. [9] My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.
[19] But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise---let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy---your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.

-save a dog-

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Listening Carefully

When I went to go read from the draft of my book about my WW2 friend, his door was closed. I could see through the little window that opened onto the Senior Home hallway that his light was on and he was sitting in his recliner. I knocked, but I doubted his aged ears could hear, so I squeaked open the door a crack.
"Comer?" I called. He had been expecting me. I had promised to be there to read some more chapters of the book I have written about him. He was growing weaker by the moment, and I knew I might have little time to finish reading it to him.

Comer turned his head and looked dispiritedly at me.
"Comer, how are you?"
"Not good," he said breathlessly.
"Do you need a nurse?" I asked, frightened.
"No," he said, "I am fine. Just so weak."
"Do you want to rest? I can come back another time..."
"No," he said, "I'd like you to read to me."
"Well great then! I will just take over from where we left off yesterday."
He smiled wanly, and then his face assumed the same serious concentration I had seen the day before as I told him his story.

This chapter was particularly poignant. It was about a miracle he had witnessed in the war, one of many. He had not called them miracles at the time, but they were pretty spectacular in my mind. While I was reading, his daughter came in. She and her husband run their own business and life is very busy for her. I knew she had been dropping by every day to see Comer, and I knew there was nothing that made him happier.
"Keep reading," she said, "I need to unpack some things into Daddy's fridge."
I read, a little self consciously, since this was one of the chapters where I make a conclusion and discuss God. I actually was recounting a discussion Comer and I had had during the war interviews, where he had asked me why Jesus had to come. I knew the daughter was listening, and hoped she didn't think I was some wacko prowling for a deathbed conversion. Comer was a believer, and this discussion that I was now rereading to him had taken place months ago.

Just maybe, I thought, God intended the worried daughter to hear these words too....And there was no way she could miss them. I was almost shouting as I read, as that was the only way Comer could hear me.

When I finished the chapter, with my conclusion about Jesus, Comer smiled at me.
"Maybe we should break here," he said, "Angie hasn't much time, and I'd like to visit with her."
"Absolutely!" I said, "I can come back tomorrow if you like. We just have two more chapters to go. Would you like that?"
"I surely would," he said.

I left, and now with an open afternoon I had cleared for Comer, took my kayak and headed to the little quiet lake I love. I was the only one there, as I unloaded my kayak and glided onto the peaceful water. I was feeling melancholy, and this lovely quiet lake was just what my soul needed. It's funny...I felt afterwards that I had prayed the whole hour I was on the lake, but I don't recall really any intentional prayer. The lake was my prayer. The beauty of God's world touching my aching heart was my prayer. The still waters, singing birds, and curious turtles popping their heads up around my boat were my prayer. Together, without even knowing it, we were bathed in the mercy and glory of God. If one listened carefully enough, all our stories were being whispered in the wind, moaning to Heaven like a prayer.

Ezekiel 40:2-4 (NIV)
In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. [3] He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. [4] The man said to me, “Son of man, look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Reading One More Chapter

I called Comer at the Senior Home in the morning yesterday to tell him I would drop by to return the photos I had borrowed. I had finished scanning them into my computer for the book I am writing about him.
"I'm enjoying reading the rough draft," he said, "But I can't read for more than a minute or two and my eyes give out. It gets all fuzzy. My daughter read to me for a little bit yesterday."
"Oh! Well I have time. Would you like me to stay and read to you?"
"I surely would!" he said.
When I arrived, his daughter was getting up to leave. She had been visiting every day since he had fallen and become so weak and ill. She told him, "I'll leave you to visit with Vicky now." He gazed at her with such love that I could not believe so much tenderness could be held inside a single body. They hugged each other, and she promised to be back soon.

They had not gotten very far in the book. My book is about many different things. Comer is a big part of the book, but not the only part.
"How about if I mark the chapters that are your war stories? That way, if you want to later, you can read the rest, but I imagine what you really want to hear are your stories."
"That would be grand!" he said.
He sat stone still in his recliner, huddled under his blanket as I began reading. He watched me with rapt attention. He would often nod his head in agreement at parts, and still shook his head in anger over the ineptitude of some of his officers in WWII. He laughed at the funny parts, and sometimes wiped away a tear. I read to him for two straight hours until my voice was nearly gone. I just couldn't talk anymore, especially at a volume he could hear.
"Do you like it?" I asked. Writing a book about someone is a lot like painting their portrait. Neither is easy and the artist opens herself up to the potential of scathing criticism, even animosity if her portrait is inaccurate in the eyes of the subject.
"I cannot believe how exact you got what happened," he said, "I am thoroughly enjoying it."
"Well I took careful notes, and recorded you, remember?" I asked, "I wanted it to be as perfect as possible of your memories of the war. I thought of writing it as though I were there, rather than as an interview...but I couldn't Comer. I wasn't there. I have never been anywhere remotely like that. I couldn't have made it seem real. I think your words will be the best way to tell your story."
"I agree!" he said.
"Would you like me to come back tomorrow and read some more?"
"I would be so grateful!" he said.

Reading to Comer reminded me of when my children were young and they would curl themselves around me while I read to them. All my kids were very early readers, teaching themselves to read at age 2 and 3. They could've read the books themselves, but they didn't want to. They wanted to cuddle against the mother that loved them with all her heart, hear her words, her inflections, and watch her expressions as she played out the drama before them. Some of my fondest memories are reading books to my little ones. Their attention never wavered, they never wanted me to stop reading. When they were little, they would have clung to me forever if only I would not stop reading.

I glanced up at Comer as I was gathering my purse, his face so longingly looking at the book on his lap, a book his old, tired eyes would no longer allow him to read no matter how desperately he desired it.
"Maybe I could read one more chapter," I offered, "Would you like that, or are you too tired out?"
"I would LOVE that," he said, and looked at me with rapt attention as I opened the book to the next chapter.

It was a beautiful day outside, and as I walked out in the late afternoon, I felt a stab of sorrow that I had missed most of it being inside, in the overwarm room of my aged friend. But I thought about what we are called to do as people who claim to love God, and I think it is often those little things that add up to make the most impact. I thought again of my children, now grown, and found myself wishing that I had taken the time more often to read them one more chapter.

Romans 12:9-18 (NIV)
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. [10] Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. [11] Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. [12] Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. [13] Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. [14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. [15] Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. [16] Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. [17] Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. [18] If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beginnings and Endings

Asherel had her first class driving a car. She had been very nervous about the whole experience- not typical for her. But she came home happy and unscathed. She had even driven one of the busier roads in Charlotte. I was grateful this "first" had gone well on the road to baby bird hot-rodding out of the nest. (PS Baby Bird, if there is any hot-rodding in reality, the keys will be yanked out of your beak....)

Meanwhile, I brought the rough draft of my unfinished WWII book to Comer. He sat upright in a recliner chair in the Assisted Living Home, with a thick blanket over him, despite the 90 degree day outdoors. His eyes were closed when I arrived.
"Comer?" I said.
He opened his eyes. "Hey Sugar!" he said weakly.
"I brought you my book, but I warn you, it is not edited. It is not as good as it will be when it is finished."
He took the book and began thumbing through it.
"This is my story?" he asked, "I had no idea it would be so long!"
"Yeh, it is 250 pages so far.... but it still isn't done. I have other interviews still to do."
"I've finished my stories with you," he said, not understanding that the book was largely, but not only, about his war experiences.
I explained to him what I had in mind, the varying subplots I intended to weave through the whole story. I hoped I had done the right thing bringing him the unfinished book with no ending yet. He had been so worried he would not be around to read it and I knew I was months away from completion. However, the subplots had not yet been tied together, and I knew it was not yet what it would one day be.

While I was there, a nurse came in. Her tag identified her as a hospice nurse. I presume her presence there, the calling of hospice, did not bode well for Comer's long term prospects.
As he looked over the book, she asked him if his stomach had settled with the new medicine.
He said it had, and then he introduced me, "This is my publisher- Vicky."
Publisher? I chuckled.
I gathered some old pictures from him that I wanted to scan for the book, and then hugged him goodbye. He felt frail, and hot.
"I'll return these tomorrow," I said, holding up the photographs.
"No hurry," he said, leaning his head back against the cushion.
Yes there is, I thought....

Firsts and Lasts, all crumpled together in one day. Asherel just starting a new journey down a new road; Comer quietly ending a journey down the last road he would travel on earth. Books started, plots developing, but no clear ending with all the elements neatly explained and tied together. I was still writing each day and praying that God would direct me to the perfect End. As I left Comer, I prayed the same for him.

Ezekiel 37:1-6,11-14 (NIV)
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. [2] He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. [3] He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know. ” [4] Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! [5] This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. [6] I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord. ’ ” [11] Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ [12] Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. [13] Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. [14] I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord. ’ ”

-save a dog-

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Gate of Heaven

The beautiful purple flowers in my great room look so real that they fool everyone. And what I love about my lovely purple flowers, is unlike real flowers, they will not wilt or perish. Oh how we humans long for permanence!

I called my senior friend, near 94 year old Comer. I had called him right before our week at the beach, and he was doing very poorly. He didn't sound much better yesterday when he answered the phone. I had been working on my book about WW2, of which Comer is my prime subject. I felt a strong prompting to call him right away.

"I thought I would expire on Tuesday," he told me, "My organs are all fine, but I am just so weak, can't even get out of bed. What really bothers me is our book. I told my daughter, I would sure like to read my book! What if I don't last long enough to read Vicky's book about me? But my daughter said, 'Daddy, you ARE the book. You lived it. Don't worry about the book.'"
"Comer, the rough draft is done, or nearly done, at least the part about you is. It is very rough, no editing but if you like, I can copy that much for you so you can read it. Just remember, it won't be in its final form or nearly as good as it will be when I rework it."
"I trust you," he said, "If I should pass, you just use your imagination and you finish it as you see fit."
I wrote myself a note to copy the 250 pages I had and bring them to Comer in the morning.
"Well Comer, you rest, and I will call in a couple of days to see if you are feeling better, ok?"
I was about to hang up, when he said, "Vicky, there's something I need to know."
"Should I still trust in Jesus?"

I understood the question. Here was an old man, with a wife dying of Alzheimers. He had been a vital, strong man and his own mind was still sharp and alert. His wife still needed him, and his body had failed him. Lord, give me words....

"Comer, above all else, still trust in Jesus."
"My prayers don't seem to be working," he said.
"I don't claim to have any great knowledge," I told him, "But this is what I think. God is good. He has proved that to me, and to you, over and over again. Think of how many miraculous times he preserved you in the war. He was saving you for a purpose. You have lived a long and fruitful life. Every one of us clings to the desire for youth, and strength, and vigor, but every one of us will feel our body fail. Our friends will fail us, our family will fail us. In the end, the only thing that will stand firm is our faith in Jesus, and His promises will not fail. You will stand before Him with a new body, healed of all sadness and disease and struggle, and Evelyn will be there with you. No Alzheimers in Heaven! I often wonder what age we will be in Heaven, but I like to think that we will be whatever our favorite age was here on earth. I understand that right now, it doesn't feel like God is good, but if you think over your life, I will bet it was during the times of the most struggle that you matured and changed."
"That is true," he said.
"Like when you didn't pass the Bar exam, I remember you telling me how devastated you were. But in the end, it made you take a completely unexpected career path, and it was the best thing that ever happened to you."
"You are right about that!"
"I think there are two responses to struggle, and trials. We can become bitter and angry and rail against God, and abandon Him. Many people do that. Or we can trust that there is a purpose in all our trials, though we may not always see or understand the purpose. We can trust that God is good, and all things that happen will ultimately lead us to the best place we should be. I think if God let us remain young, and strong, and filled with all the beauty and skill of youth, none of us would long for heaven. But this body was never meant to be permanent. Earth was never meant to be our final home. It is when we grow old, and weary that we long to move on to a better place. It doesn't feel like a kindness from God, but I believe it is. I think it is our struggles that make us lean on Him and trust Him. We will lose everything else, but we won't lose Him. And in the end, we will have all the best."
"I am so glad I spoke with you," said Comer, "I was feeling mighty low, and I wondered if I should still trust Jesus. But what you are saying, it makes sense."
"I think of how so often my children didn't like what I made them go through, or my rules, or the consequences of their behavior. At times, I know they felt I was cruel. To them, it felt cruel not to have all the icecream they wanted! But with my experience and age and greater vision of the whole of their life, I knew what was needed better than they did with their limited perspective. What felt to them like cruelty was in fact my greatest moments of love and kindness. God is our heavenly Father. He has a perspective we cannot have, and He loves us. If nothing else, still trust in Jesus."
"I promise you, I will," said my old friend with more strength in his voice.

As I type this, the beautiful purple flowers are right beside me, the fake flowers that look so real but whose petals will never droop. On the other hand, they also will never smell as intoxicatingly sweet as the flowers of the field.

Genesis 28:15-17 (NIV)
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. ” [16] When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” [17] He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

-save a dog-

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Coming Home

I don't know how dogless people can stand it, returning home after a week vacation and not be met by the joyful exuberant greeting of the dogs who have mourned your loss for a week. Honeybun and Lucky were well cared for by our good friend Josh while we were gone, but they still know who controls the food bank account. No one is more beloved than their masters. When we walked in the door, Honeybun resorted to the rare honor of licking us quickly to be sure we tasted the same, and Lucky whined, his version of shouting, "Praise God, they returned!", and brought us a toy to offer at our feet. The dismay over leaving the wondrous beach was somewhat mitigated. The outpouring of emotion of these two creatures whose joy in living revolves around us made the homecoming a delight.

In sharp contrast, my reading in the Bible today was Ezekiel 24, where God tells Ezekiel that the love of his life, his wife, will be taken that day, and he is forbidden to mourn. His actions are to be a sign to God's people. Say what? This sounds so cruel, that on first blush, one wants to throw rocks at heaven. However, the very day Ezekiel loses his beloved and is forbidden to mourn her death, the temple in Jerusalem is destroyed and the Jews dragged off to exile. This horrific event was in response to the continual willful and unfaithful desecration of their lives before God. Ezekiel, a prophet of God, was the symbolic example of what God was trying to show His people. God had begged, cajoled, pleaded, encouraged, and lamented over their descent into utter decadence and immorality and disobedience. The people ignored Him. As the Bible shows over and over again, we ignore God's gentler warnings at our peril. In the end, He had no choice but to up the ante. He pulled out the very land from under their feet, and hoped that when they finished sprawling on the ground in despair, they would finally look up to Him again.

What was so perplexing to me was the apparent calm with which Ezekiel took this pronouncement of his wife's death. A Jewish person, faced with the death of a loved one, normally goes through a period of mourning where he will sit "shiva", a ritual of prayer and lament, and a week of fasting. To not do so undercuts the fabric of the Jewish sense of tradition and heritage. Not only was the love of his life swept from him, but he was not allowed to express despair at her passing. Why? How could he comply with such a command?

The only logical conclusion I can come to is that Ezekiel was so in tune with God, so trusting, so certain of His goodness, that he KNEW he would see his wife again one day, and that Israel and her temple would be restored. The proof of that comes in Chapter 37,when the image of the dry bones being resurrected and dancing in the desert is shown to Ezekiel.

I can not imagine returning to a home where my dogs would not show their devotion and delight any more than I can imagine squelching all sign of mourning for the death of a loved one. But I can imagine that to walk so totally in faith before a God that one is certain is GOOD would give me the ability to do far more than I think I am capable of doing. Utter faith results in utter assurance that the best is always given to us, if not at this moment, then one day when we enter the final homecoming.

Ezekiel 36:22-28 (NIV)
“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. [23] I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes. [24] “ ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. [25] I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. [26] I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. [27] And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. [28] Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

-save a dog-

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Be Jubilant

I hate the last day of vacation. It always makes me sad. I want the freedom from work, home care, worries, to just fade away forever. When I am on vacation, I can justify doing nothing but fun things. When I am home, I can't. It is that simple.

We found another fun creature as we frolicked on our last day at the beach. It looked like a baby lobster. It clung to the seaweed that rolled in on the tide, and then lost its grip and began hopping on the sand, trying to catapult itself back into the surf. We snagged him, and filled our frisbee catch-pen with sea water and watched this new creature, enthralled. And then, as the tide continued to go out, we saw dolphin off-shore. I was glad Asherel got to see them. I see them every morning on my bike ride, but she is still communing with Mr. Sandman that early.

The highlight of the week probably for Asherel was the Beatles Tribute band at the Bamboo Cafe. The restaurant was a 5 minute walk from our condo, and this band plays on Friday nights. We had gone last year and were one of two customers there since a hurricane was passing nearby. No one else dared go out, but we would go through hell and high water (and did) to see the Beatles reincarnate. Not only is this tribute band pretty good, but the restaurant serves fish and chips.We were all looking forward to the band and great food to cap our week at Hilton Head.

But before dinner I took one more bike ride on the beach. The tide was out, and I saw the telltale signs of people pointing at the water. I pulled over and stood watching and soon saw the dolphin fins rise out of the water. It does not take much to bring absolute joy to me. Dolphin arching sleek grey backs off shore always sends me into paroxysms of delight.

But alas, the week is over and we drive back home today. I've missed the dogs and I will be happy to see them, and in just a couple of weeks, we will be off to another adventure to see my folks in NY and Anders in Boston. But first, I will sneak off while my family still sleeps and bike along the sand, and keep my eyes open for grey fins splitting the ocean while pelicans splash nearby.

1 Chronicles 16:27-32 (NIV)
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place. [28] Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. [29] Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. [30] Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. [31] Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! ” [32] Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!

-save a dog-

Friday, June 22, 2012


On my morning beach bike ride yesterday, I passed a woman walking two dogs. She was wearing a large backpack, that squawked. I turned around as I passed her. In the mesh covered backpack was a large green parrot.

Now that is novel! I have to get Asherel one for her bird so he can go on walks with us! But then I thought about how truly silly the whole concept was. How cruel to put a bird that could fly in a cage, to take him on a walk on the beautiful wide open beach with limitless skies that he could see, but that are denied him.

That day, on the beach, we saw another huge stingray caught and released by a fisherman, three baby black tip sharks caught and released, and one yellow unidentified animal that we watched for three hours. We caught him in our frisbee, which Asherel replenished often with fresh sea water. I video-taped it in hopes that I could find a biologist to identify it. It was about an inch long, and moved by violently thrashing its body together and apart. It was yellow, but transparent. Its guts looked like 3 miniature tennis balls. the body was somewhat ovular, with about seven or eight flowery protuberances, that looked like flowery fins. We could see no definable head, eyes, or mouth. There are unusual sea worms, and we think it is either one of those, or perhaps a mollusk without its shell. Much as Asherel longed to keep it, she released it in a tide pool as we packed up to leave the beach.

So many creatures designed to fly, swim, and thrash, caught and imprisoned for a brief time. I imagined that for all but the poor parrot, the release to the wonderful wide open world they belonged in was ecstasy. I suspect that even the yellow blob creature, which did not seem highly cognitive, felt a rush of something akin to joy when it dawned on his neural ganglion that he was free again.

We are all like those captured animals, reeled in against our will in to a limited existence. For some the cage is bitterness that cuts us off from others. For some it is sarcasm that pushes a world away with hurtful barbs disguised as humor. For some, it is old age and failing bodies, or failing minds. For some it is sin that separates us from God. My Bible reading this morning was from Ezekiel. The chapter largely was God's rant against His sinful people who lived their decadent life with no regard for God's loving parameters designed to protect them. In the end, God threatens severe consequence for their continual disregard, but He does make one final plea that is repeated often in the Bible: Is there no one who will stand in the gap, fill the breach where sin has flooded into the world? Will anyone turn the people from their bondage to sin and help release them to the bountiful life they were designed to enjoy?

"Maybe you could take the yellow blob back to the condo just for the day so you could watch him?" I asked Asherel, who was having a hard time tearing herself away from him.
"No," she said, "If I knew he would live, I would...but he might die, and I don't want him to die. I am going to release him."
That is what any loving and powerful being would do for the weak, I thought.

Ezekiel 22:30 (NIV)
“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.

-save a dog-

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Passel of Memories

"Belgian Malinois dogs have never killed someone in thirty years, attacked only 7 times, and only injured 4 people. Oh yeh, and the house I am living in has a nuclear bomb shelter," Matt wrote to me.
Apparently, my son had been researching facts about the breed of dog he will be caring for while living in the law firm partner's mansion for the summer.
"Good!" I replied, "If Iran develops the bomb, you are in a safe place."
Surely someone who would build a nuclear bomb shelter in his home has also trained his dog not to kill the caretaker, hasn't he? I felt a little better about the whole gig.

With that cheery assurance in mind, I went on a late afternoon bike ride. Low tide was at 3:30 and low tide is the very best time to ride bicycles on the Hilton Head beach. You can ride nearly all the way around the island, should you so choose. I struck out in the less populated direction and soon was one of very few people on the beach. People were soon packing up their beach carts and heading in for showers and dinner. I was in peaceful, quiet surroundings, save for the roar of the surf, the wail of a strong headwind, and the screeching of the gulls. Nirvana to my soul. I know there will come a day when I will no longer be able to ride my bike on the beach. One day, my knees just won't be able to tolerate the loss of lubrication in the joints and I will have to content myself with memories. While I can, I am storing up a passel of wonderful memories.

My older two children, adults now, are not with us for this summer vacation. They have jobs, obligations, friends, and lives that are new and separate from us. I hope I have stored up enough memories for them that one day, they will want to return with us to the beaches that we used to bike on together. As I rode on the sand that seemed to stretch out to eternity, I thought about all the times I had settled with my children on the couch, and taught them what I knew of God. I prayed those memories too would survive, and be stored up for a day of need; a whole passel of wonderful memories.

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (NIV)
But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. [7] Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. [8] For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. [9] How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? [10] Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. [11] Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. [12] May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. [13] May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thou Art With Me

My son Matt has just become a summer law intern at a firm in Dallas. He really won the lottery on this position we thought- very well paid, exciting work he loves, and the firm's boss will be out of town so Matt gets to live rent free in the boss's 8,000 foot palace. On top of all that, his wife, Karissa, will be interning at the same firm (she is also a law student.) Their price of admission? They have to walk the boss's dog and let him in the "poop garden". Sounds great, right?

Until you read the fine print. The dog, it turns out, is a Belgian Malinois, and a guard dog, trained to attack. Matt loves dogs, but is afraid of them. He has been bitten a few times. He is not a strong "alpha dog" around dogs, which strong breeds need to remain civil, and in the case of attack dogs, nonfatal. Matt and Karissa took the dog for a walk yesterday, and he said the dog was very well behaved. However, the owner put the dog on the leash, and then sent them on their way. It worries me what happens when they attempt to leash the dog themselves. Suffice it to say that it is all I can do to not book the first flight out there. I have already armed him with mace and an ultrasonic dog zapper...but I am not thrilled with this strange situation at all. Here is the text from Matt.
Matt: "Met the dog. The owner gives it commands in French."
me: "Why? Is the owner french?"
Matt: "No, the owner doesn't want someone giving the 'KILL' command by accident."
me: "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND??????? What do you mean, 'the KILL command'?"
Matt: "Well, it seems the dog is a guard dog, trained to attack intruders."
Me: "And where is this in the description of law internships- walking trained killer dogs?"

We plan to go walk on the beach tonight. We want to see the luminescent waves and the stars. There will be, as there are every night, a blanket of carnivorous crabs that seep out of every pore of sand and devour every piece of edible substance upon the sand....including human toes. I will go, since my adventurous daughter and hubby think this sounds like great fun, but in the dark, I am envisioning attack crabs, trained to kill.

Life is so despicably filled with unknowns and dangers. God knew this would be so, therefore there is a reason. Fear must have benefits. I think it is perhaps that without fear, there is no reason to trust. Almost every night, I recite the 23rd psalm in my head. I am a fearful person, and I need to remember that God is in control, and that "yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me."
If I didn't have that shadow before me, it is possible I would not reach out a trembling hand in the dark to assure myself that indeed, He is with me. Fear is not pleasant, and for those of us who have a heightened awareness of danger, it is sometimes crippling. But the benefit is that we know we need God, those of us who fear. And if fear guides us to trust in the One who can banish all fear, then even the threat of trained attack dogs...or crabs, will have no power over us.

Psalm 112:6-8 (NIV)
Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. [7] They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. [8] Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fearsome Creatures

I love looking at the ocean, biking by the ocean, painting the ocean, listening to the ocean, collecting shells by the ocean...I love everything about the ocean except getting *in* the ocean. Fearsome creatures live in the ocean, and I am just too aware of how fearsome they are. However, the ocean was very inviting yesterday, so while Asherel was happily bobbing on the waves, I grabbed one of our boogie boards, and started bravely into the ocean. I was careful to keep our family nowhere near the fisherman down shore who had been hauling in some very large creature for two hours and it was still fighting him.

I felt like Lewis and Clark, braving this vast new frontier as I dipped one toe in the ocean. I took a full 3 or 4 steps when I glanced down. There, a few inches from me was a 2-3 foot stingray swimming by. I hurried out of the ocean. I glanced at my husband and daughter, in much deeper water, and prayed that God would keep the fearsome creatures away from them.

We saw a commotion and the fishing pole had been handed off to a strong looking woman. The group of fisherman and fisherwoman began straining and pulling and slowly moving backwards towards shore. It appeared that whatever enormous creature they had snagged two hours ago was tiring. A crowd gathered on the beach. Asherel, Arvo, and I raced over. We had watched the entire saga and were very curious to see what she had hooked.

Finally with the help of all four of them, they hauled in a 75 pound sting ray. It was whipping its long tail furiously and glaring at them with its beady eyes, and flapping its kite like body in a fury in the shallow water. The fisherwoman, who had fought the last half hour of the battle rubbed her arms. They all posed for pictures, then cut the line and dragged the creature back out to the ocean where they released him again.

I had always known despicably dangerous creatures live in the ocean. Yet I have been to the ocean for 17 years now, one week each year, and we have not once heard of or seen any human being with any worse confrontation than jellyfish stings (my poor kids all managed to snag some of those.) It is clear that for the most part, the creatures don't want to tangle with the humans, and leave them alone. I am certain there is a greater risk of choking on a chicken bone than of being attacked by a 75 foot stingray. Life with all the risks it entails we willingly accept each day. We drive cars, we eat large chunks of food that could clog our esophagus, we cross streets with maniacs at the wheel texting and driving, we wear tall heels that threaten to topple us, we ride in airplanes which are much heavier than air, and we listen to loud music that will rupture our eardrums one day. The risks we embrace are far more likely to fell us than those fearsome ocean creatures.

And the greatest risk of all, many of us completely ignore. We act as though there is no One watching, no One recording, no One noticing as we do prideful, angry, lustful, inconsiderate, immoral things. We tell "white lies", we are unkind to our family, we lose our temper with our spouses, we yell at our children, we pass mangy lost dogs and expect someone else to help them.... the list goes on and on and on. And worst of all, we forget, snub, and disbelieve that the God who gave us life is worthy of our time, our energy, our relationship. We ignore Him and hope that like the fearsome creatures that we know are out there, He will not bother us. And we behave as if there is no consequence, no reason to behave any differently. Of course, when it catches up to us, we rail against how unjust and unfair the world is and we refuse to believe in a God that would allow such suffering to befall us.

After an hour and no one seemed to be dying from stingrays, I picked up the boogie board again.
"I'm going in," I announced to my husband.
I quickly shuffled in about 3 feet from shore, put the boogie board down on a little wave and rode it in to the safety of the sand, with just a tinge of fear.
"Hooray!" I yelled, and returned to his side.
"That's it?" he asked, "You're done?"
"Baby steps, sometimes you have to do what needs doing one step at a time."

Jeremiah 24:6-7 (NIV)
My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. [7] I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

-save a dog-

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Free Banquet

As we checked in, we were told that "as a courtesy to timeshare owners", they offered a one hour presentation of all the new upgrades and services to us. They wanted to schedule time for us to come for this wonderful event.
"We would prefer not," I said.
"Really?" said the receptionist, "It takes less than an hour and to compensate you for your time, we give you checks for $100 to use at area restaurants. "
"Book us," I said.

So we got that over with immediately. Yesterday at noon, we showed up. The agent assigned to us noticed in our records that every year they do their sales pitch, and every year we collect our bonus, and run.
"This will be the last year we will be doing this with you all," she told us.
No more free dinners!? She was on to us. She knew we were not going to buy anything, we knew we were not going to buy anything- so after 15 minutes, she handed us our $100 and sent us on our way. We have a choice of 5 restaurants, each with $30 a plate menus. We would not normally eat at such pricey places, but we have all looked on line, planned out our meal, and are happily anticipating a luscious free meal tonight at a place overlooking the water. Life is good.

We biked along the ocean till we found a peaceful spot, far from the maddening crowd. There were few people in that more remote section, further from the public beach. But happily there was a lifeguard. I sat in my little beach chair, watching Asherel skim board, as the tide slowly rolled in. I had to keep dragging my chair further up the shore to keep from being engulfed. When it hit the lifeguard stand, she noticed two chairs, a purse, and beach towels, about to be consumed by the water. She looked around, could not see the owners, and began to rescue the things. When they were all safely on higher ground, I told her, "That was nice of you."
"Well they would have floated away," she laughed.
"Have you ever had more serious rescues?" I asked.
"Not yet, thankfully," she said.
That was comforting, I thought, watching my daughter bobbing on the waves. It was not surprising to know that someone who would desire to save people from the dangers of the water would be concerned about their possessions as well. And I began to consider the One who saves souls. It is not surprising that He, who is concerned about our eternal spirit, would be concerned about our earthly existence. He who gives a new heart, and a new spirit, is certainly able to give us a free banquet every day. I smiled at the envelope with the $100 voucher for dinner. This free banquet was obvious, but I receive symbolic free banquets everyday, I thought, as I watched my family smiling in the waves.

Ezekiel 18:30-32 (NIV)
“Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. [31] Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? [32] For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

-save a dog-

Sunday, June 17, 2012


It is Father's Day, and I am gratefully thinking of my own dad. I think quite often of other Sundays- all those sundays growing up that we would go on discovery drives through the country side, hunting for interesting adventures, new restaurants, ice cream shoppes, and little league baseball games. Life was always one of exploration and delight in serendipity with Dad. I love him so much for that glorious aspect of my childhood.

I am sitting on the back deck of our Hilton Head condo, watching squirrels scamper in trees covered with spanish moss. A black cormorant is stretching its long neck among the branches near the water, hunting for food. (At least I think it is a cormorant....) We arrived in the late afternoon Saturday, and went for a long walk on the beach. I just really cannot imagine being in a more peaceful lovely place. Ahhhh. Life is good.

On the other hand, my reading in Ezekiel this morning was not nearly as cheerful. God was being pretty tough. In a vision, Ezekiel sees God command the prophet to go put a mark on the forehead of those who grieve over the sin they see culminating around them. Those with the mark will be spared, but everyone else will be slaughtered, without pity or compassion. And do you know where God tells Ezekiel to begin the routing of sin? At His sanctuary. Ouch.

It really hit me how seriously God considers sin. It is to be such an affront to us that we are supposed to grieve over it, lament, weep, and despair over it. And if we see sin for the abomination that it is to a holy, righteous God, we will be spared the destruction we all deserve.

The verse in Ezekiel was a sharp contrast to the placid, quiet beauty outside my balcony here at the beach. It is easy to be complacent, to grow immune to the affront of sin in my life and in the world around me. I think it is equally easy to grow complacent to those we should love and cherish and remind often how much we adore them. In essence, I think we are a lazy species. And like the verse in Ezekiel, the place to start routing complacency is where you would least expect it- right next to the source of all life, and all love.

That is what made those Sundays with my dad so unusual. He was intentional in bringing a sense of surprise and adventure to his progeny. He didn't take our delight in life for granted...he helped nurture and fan it into a lifelong flame. I didn't quite realize it back then, though I knew how wonderful and special those times were. I didn't understand the nature of my father very well, and the deep loving motivation that compelled him to take us on those weekly drives. But now I do, and now I can say, "Thank you Dad, for being who you are and loving us so well."

Ezekiel 9:4-6 (NIV)
and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it. ” [5] As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. [6] Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.”

-save a dog-

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Go Ye Therefore

The outdoor wedding was spectacular, in the setting of a botanical garden. Flowers, fountains, trees, arbors, butterflies.... Since the magnificent sun was setting behind the couple, we were all burning our retinas out watching the ceremony. The bride looked like an angel with a corona. This really was a story of a princess finally getting the prince, after a bunch of toads. Knowing that history, as I watched her come down the aisle, the once a year application of my mascara was smeary history.

Meanwhile, at home we had left Matt and wife Karissa with Asherel in charge of finishing all left overs, since we leave this morning for our beach week. I don't know how the frozen bottle of "peach beer" I found in the refrigerator this morning plays into their evening, but I am anxious to hear that tale. Dear son Matt and Karissa head off this morning to their summer law internships in Dallas Texas, while we head to Hilton Head. I wish we were all heading off to the same destination, but alas, that is the story of mothers, to pat their little chicks on the head, stuff some money in their beaks, and watch them fly away. At least one little chick will still go brave the sharks with us on our family vacation.

The verse "go ye therefore" keeps running through my head. It is an important phrase and expresses a lot of what I am feeling this morning.
GO- we are not meant to be motionless and impotent in this world. We are to move and the direction we move should be purpose driven. It is an imperative command, with a sense of urgency and immediacy.
YE- the command is not to everyone else. It is to me, and to you.
THEREFORE- this word makes it clear that the command is based on a whole knowledge that has preceded the command. Given what we know and Who we know has spoken, with all that has gone before, we THEREFORE obey.

Each day is a promise, an adventure. Each day is like my dear friend Andi, shimmering in her halo of light as she marched down the aisle to a place she had longed to walk her entire adult life. There is a happily ever after, I believe, for all of us. I think we all have visions of a resplendent garden that we were not sure was ever to open its perfumed air for us. And because we hear a call to "Go ye therefore", we ought to move forward to an altar that is filled with the glory of the One calling us there.

Matthew 28: 16-20
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

-save a dog-

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Time to Embrace

I called Comer, my old senior friend, at the Home to see how he was doing and let him know we would go out again when I returned from our beach vacation. He sounded drugged when he answered the phone. His speech was slow and slurred.
"Hiyah Sugar," he said, "I'm not so good."
"You don't sound well," I said, "What is wrong?"
"Well, I collapsed yesterday, my body just gave out. I was on that cold hard floor for 3 hours before anyone found me. Spent the day in the hospital. All my vitals are good...I'm just terribly weak."
"Oh my," I cried, "I am so sorry! Do they know what is wrong?"
"It's just my time," he said, "My body is just worn out."

Later, my dear daughter-in-law, Karissa, came with me and Asherel on the dreaded summer nice clothes shopping jaunt for my nice-clothes-phobic teen. Karissa is a magician, and managed to find 4 shirts Asherel would agree, in theory, to wear to church. Then, we hit the real bonanza. I have been doing my Christmas shopping all year because if I buy things as I see them all year long, there is no major bill at Christmas, and much less of the stress. I have been stockpiling gifts for months. Anyway, my oldest son Anders is particularly difficult to shop for. He is 26 years old and never tells us what he wants. So I threaten him every year, "If you don't tell me, then you are getting cows." He loves cows, and so I am always on the prowl for cow related items. Well I found 4 different perfect, useful cow motif gifts at the same store we snagged 4 shirts for Asherel. While we were shopping, Matt had coffee with a law firm that sounds interested in hiring him right here in Charlotte. He was bursting with enthusiasm and hope when he came home. So were we, bursting with new shirts and cows.

It was, as it often is, a day of contrast. Old body of a life well-spent winding down, new young optimism looking forward to spending a life well. Sadness over serious issues, and laughter over whimsical cows.

There is indeed a time for every thing under heaven, a time to build, and a time to tear down; a time to reap and a time to sow; a time to be born and a time to die. And God makes all things beautiful in its time.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

-save a dog-

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I am exploring a mystery for the new book I am writing, and every time I think I have solved it, I find out something else that throws snares around my theory. I think I am on the right track, the quarry is in my net, but it is not certain I will bag it. I find myself yo-yoing wildly with elation and despair each time a new fact corroborates or refutes my supposition. I am learning a great deal about pursuing an elusive conundrum. Much of any success hinges on asking the right questions of the right authority. In this case, the eye witnesses are dead, so I must rely on ancient texts, if I can find them, and then on interpretation of the data from knowledgable sources I can trust. Many of my sources have told me my assumptions are wrong. I just keep digging anyway and some of my conclusions have been, in the end, correct. I am not there yet, but I am closing in.

How like the search for God this is! Just when I think I understand His reasons, His purpose, His plan...He wiggles away into a perplexing place I cannot quite reach. The eye witnesses to Jesus are all dead, and all I have left is the ancient text to corroborate the truth of what He claimed. The more I dig through the Bible, the more I understand, but my understanding is incomplete, and at times, dead wrong. But each search leads me closer to the Answer, to Truth. It is not a passive search. It is an active, exciting, and continual exploration. It is key that I ask the right questions of the right Authority, or all is lost. And through it all, the Search has become all consuming and perhaps even more important than the end result.

Job 28:11-12
They search the sources of the rivers
and bring hidden things to light. But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?

Proverbs 2: 4-6
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Small Offerings

Hosting a bachelorette party for my friend Andi had two benefits- 1. I got to make a really nice human being happy, and 2. my house is completely clean for my son and wife arriving today and our upcoming beach vacation. I used to "entertain" more often when I was younger and more energetic. My house was cleaner in those days. And there was an unexpected third benefit: when the party ended,all the party-goers left the goodies they'd brought, and so I have a refrigerator full of hors d'oeuvres and three new bottles of wine for Matt and Karissa as well. I love killing two birds with one stone, especially when it is an odious bird, like cooking and cleaning. Funny how when the party ended, I had more than I had started with...clean house, full refrigerator, overflowing libations.

And preparing for the bachelorette party was surprisingly fun. I found a tiara with a veil and then leis for the bride-to-be to wear all in her purple and green wedding color scheme. Asherel came with me, and we both prowled the stores for inexpensive purple and green accents. I found purple and green candles, and at Goodwill, Asherel found a purple and green flower vase. Of course Party City had purple and green plates and napkins, and I found a purple wine glass at Goodwill for ten cents.

The whole experience reminded me of something I often forget. When you give, you often receive back more than you gave. Love and kindness works that way too. It seems those who are stingy with generosity, love, gentleness, and kindness get back even less, and the little they have dries up. Those who give all those things in abundance usually have more than enough and it flows out of them and envelops the world.

God knows this. He tells us reap and you will sow, cast your bread upon the waters and it will return, forgive and you will be forgiven, give generously and you will not be in want. It is counterintuitive, but it is nonetheless true. I have a confession to I was buying for the party and cleaning for the party, and stressing over all the work of the party the day before my son arrived and three days before our family vacation, I was not feeling very good-hearted. I wondered why I was spending time and money I didn't have. I know. I am a wretch. But as the party unfolded, and those wonderful neighbors I don't see enough arrived, and as we laughed and ate the luscious goodies they had brought, and as the purple and green candles lit my little world, I realized how overjoyed I was that I had made that small offering to a beautiful friend.

Proverbs 22:9
The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.

Proverbs 11: 25-28
A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. People curse the one who hoards grain,
but they pray God's blessing on the one who is willing to sell. Whoever seeks good finds favor,
but evil comes to one who searches for it. Those who trust in their riches will fall,
but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Rain rain rain. I am really happy I have finished up Jeremiah and Lamentations in my daily Bible reading. Those are weepy Bible books, and with the weepy weather, I could drown in dismal.

Now I have reached one of the strangest books of all, Ezekiel. I won't pretend to understand the really bizarre images in Ezekiel, but I read a verse that reminded me that even in the dismal rainy days, when the sun is blocked by clouds and the ground is a morass beneath me, God is guiding. My job, the verse told me is to stay on the course He is directing me. Go where He goes, do not turn aside no matter how torrential the flood that seems to be washing over me. Where He goes, I go; where He leads, I follow. It can only rain so long.

Ezekiel 1:12 (NIV)
Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went.

-save a dog-

Monday, June 11, 2012

What Becomes our Master

I am hosting a bachelorette party for my friend, A, Tuesday, so went to Walmart for some supplies and wine. As I was checking out, the cashier picked up the wine bottle and asked for ID.
"You're being proofed?" asked Asherel, "They don't think you are 21?"
"I look very young for my age. Thank you ma'am," I said, handing her my ID, "I haven't been proofed in thirty years."
"We're required to proof every one," she said. (OK, cross her back off the christmas list.)
Well, honestly, I knew it was either that or else she was blind as a bat, or she thought I dyed my hair grey, and used reverse anti-aging cream to add wrinkles since I am such a rebel.
"Do you need help out with your bags?" she asked.
Well which is it? Am I a nubile 21 year old, or a senior citizen wobbling on death's door step?
"I think I can manage," I said, handing the bags to Asherel.

I actually did need a little help. I had been breaking in the shoes for A's wedding and my feet hurt. And on top of that, my wrists which had been healing had taken a very bad turn for the worst. I think hoisting all the honeymoon clothes for my friend when I took her shopping re-strained the tendons. I am back to square one on the pain in the wrist.

So I was indeed wobbly and sore. I didn't feel even close to 21years old. When I got home, I propped my aching toes up. I opened my Bible and read these verses from Lamentations:
"her toes have become her masters; her enemies are at ease. The Lord has brought her grief because of her many sins."

WHAT!? God could not have been more pointedly speaking directly to me. Here I sat with my tortured toes, bandaged and throbbing. My toes are my masters! I am in pain with blisters and bunions and old easily bruised heels because of my sins. I work hard each day to understand what God is trying to say to me, and now this...this....this stinging condemnation.

Then I blinked. It didn't say "toes". It said "foes". Maybe this verse wasn't targeted just for me....Or if it was, maybe it wasn't about the folly of shoes with heels. Maybe it had to do with something deeper. I thought about the verse and how foes can become masters. Anything that captures our attention and takes it away from God is our foe, in the largest sense. And anything that captures our attention becomes our master. It isn't even necessarily an inherently bad thing. Beautiful shoes with toe numbing heels can indeed become our foe, if we are spending so much time looking at them, that we forget to be looking up at God.

I told my husband, "Did you know I got proofed at Walmart?"
He laughed. (PS- not the right response, buckeroo)
"What do you think of that?" I challenged him.
"I think you are a hot chick," he said.
Ok, he is back on my Christmas list.

Lamentations 1:5 (NIV)
Her foes have become her masters; her enemies are at ease. The Lord has brought her grief because of her many sins. Her children have gone into exile, captive before the foe.

Romans 6:14
For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

-save a dog-

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Choose Wisely

I shopped with my friend, A, to outfit her for her honeymoon for 7 hours yesterday! I would run back and forth to the clothes racks and return with piles of choices for her which I stuffed into her dressing room. We had a few saleswomen helping too. Soon, she had such a backlog that she banned me from getting any more. So I sat in a chair in the dressing room alcove and each time she emerged in a lovely new outfit, I oohed and aahed. A few got the thumbs down, but most of them looked spectacular. Maybe I need a new career in personal shopping assistant. We moved on to the dress section after a rather unhappy stint in the bathing suit department. (Bathing suits tend not to be a favorite for most women, I have found). The dress department, on the other hand, was a bonanza. We found several fantastic dresses.

While A was trying on her dresses, another rather short stocky matron who spoke almost no english, came out of her dressing room in a dress that was clearly 3 sizes too small. The open zipper gaped, showing way more than I, a total stranger, wanted to see. In broken english, she asked me to zip it for her. There was NO WAY that dress was going to zip. I tried, valiantly. Finally the saleswoman came back and told her as gently as she could that perhaps the dress was too small.

I wanted to shout, "AND you look like a tart in it!" This was the mother of the groom and she was short and stout and at least 50 or 60. She should not have been in a lime green slinky dress that was held together by skinny straps across the back and bodice. She looked at herself in the three way mirror, and then looked at me, and sighed and said, "Fat."

At that point, I felt sad for her and wondered why she didn't choose a style that accentuated her good points rather than flaunt a body she probably never had...none of us ever had! She went back to her dressing room, and emerged again, in a new less revealing dress, still unzipped.
"Help me zip?" she asked.
This dress again was too small, but less wildly inappropriate for a mother of the groom. In fact, it was only mildly inappropriate. I managed to hoist the zipper up almost all the way. As she stood in front of the mirror, I told her, "That one is better."
She nodded, had me help her unzip and returned to the dressing room.

Then she emerged, with a dress with no zippers, that fit, and was gorgeous. In fact, it was the same dress my daughter in law's mother had worn at my son's wedding a year ago.
"That is gorgeous!" I told her, "And you didn't need help zipping it!"
She nodded again, and smiled as she looked at her reflection.

As she was leaving with her arms filled with three dresses, she held them out to me and said, "Which?"
"This one," I said, touching the last elegant choice, "Without a doubt. Don't even consider the others. Get this one." She smiled again, said, "Thank you," and was gone. The worried scowl on her face had disappeared.

Are we all that deluded, I wondered, as I watched her walk away? Do we all look in a mirror and see something we wish was there but it really isn't...never was? Are we all that pathetic, grasping at an image that only makes us ridiculous? Yet something had made her choose the wise choice, the perfect choice, the one dress that accentuated her lovely shoulders and pretty face, and dark complexion perfectly while draping nicely over the waistline that had seen many years of childbearing and living. Something inside of her yearned for the wrong things, but still knew what the right thing was. Dress number three gave me hope for mankind.

Joshua 24:15
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

-save a dog-

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Do This for Me

Spending some one else's money is fun. My friend A who is getting married in a week had run out of time to buy her honeymoon week clothes. She still needed a rehearsal dinner dress! She was really stressed as she hates shopping, and didn't have the time to fit it in on top of all the wedding plans and craziness. So I went to Belks, and found the PERFECT dress. It was her favorite color, her size, her style, and GET THIS: on sale! And then, I started prowling for outfits for her honeymoon. Since the economy is in such shambles, there are a lot of pretty stupendous half off sales going on. I began rummaging. A saleswoman appeared. Normally, I think of them as sharks, just trawling the shopping waters waiting for their next victim. But this time, I put them to work. I described my friend, her likes and dislikes, and soon, I had a whole herd of saleswomen adding to my growing pile. I had soon collected about 20 outfits. I had been there 5 hours when I noticed that I was about to pass out. It was well after lunchtime.
"Can you hold these in a separate room and me and my friend will be back at 10 a.m. tomorrow?" I asked.
The saleswoman who had been most invested in the adventure scowled.
"Oh, but I don't get in till 1! Can't you bring her in then? I want to see if she likes them!"
"I'll leave you a note!" I said with a smile.
Then I emailed A with the good news that all she had to do was hop in my car at 9:45 this morning, and her personal shopper would whisk her to her private dressing room where her honeymoon wardrobe awaited her. She said she was so relieved when she got my note, that she cried.

I have often thought this, but it struck me again as I considered my past week. I had had two friends cry on my shoulder, a lonely senior friend and his wife with Alzheimers enjoy fast food in my car while I drove them through beautiful areas of Charlotte, and taught one of Asherel's new friends to kayak. No one, NO ONE, should ever be bored or claim they have nothing to do. There is a weeping world out there just begging to be comforted. My mission field, I thought, is right outside my doorstep.

Luke 9:48
Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest."

-save a dog-

Friday, June 8, 2012

Looking at the Moon

We all look at the same moon every night, but we all see it differently. Some see it shrouded in clouds, mysterious and romantic. Some see it hung like a glowing jewel on a blue velvet sky. Some see it as a cold and distant place where life cannot exist. Some see it as a beacon of hope that reflects on waters connecting my shore to the purple mountains. The moon is always the moon, but from the place where I stand, it may look very different than from the place where you stand. It takes a gentle and compassionate soul that sees the moon with the eyes of the stranger on the other side of the mountain.

Job 25:2-5 (NIV)
“Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven. [3] Can his forces be numbered? On whom does his light not rise? [4] How then can a mortal be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure? [5] If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes,

-save a dog-

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Living Up to our Names

When Lucky was going on day three of no "waste disposal" and day 6 of very little eating, we decided we better bring him back to the vet. However, our regular vet had cost $300 just for the xray. (We knew they would want a follow up xray). And that would be the cost if they did nothing else except tell us our dog was about to explode. If we wanted them to do anything about it, it would easily be another $1000. We had already had that immense joy once, and had not really been chomping at the bit to repeat it. So we decided it was worth it to trek the 45 minutes into the country to the vet that our favorite rescue farm, Hollow Creek Farm, raves about. Not only are they priced in a way such that even people who do not peddle cocaine for a living can afford them, but they are really excellent vets, we were assured. So we packed our unhappy dog in the van, and headed to Palmetto Veterinary in McConnell, SC.

Who could not love a vet who towers around 6'5 or so, and is named, "Dr. Love"? And this kind-hearted giant was really only about 35 minutes from Charlotte. A 35 minute drive was definitely worth a vet that costs a third of what we are paying in Charlotte. The office is in the middle of a rolling country road, that is designated a scenic byway. It was just gorgeous, and worth the drive for the lovely scenery alone. Lucky even looked a little perkier, watching the cows, and horses, and lovely hills slip by. The office itself is a charming red building nestled in wide open fields. I brought my poor old dog in and was greeted by a sweet receptionist, and two customers who all exchanged stories about their dogs swallowing near fatal bones.
"My dog was 14 years old," said the lady, "And a bone got wedged in between his teeth and the top of his mouth. He couldn't close his mouth! WE couldn't get it out. Finally he got his paw up there and shoved and wrenched it out. You should have seen the blood!"
Oh my. So sorry to have missed that, I thought, leading Lucky back to his exam room.

Dr. Love came in, blocking all sunlight that might have tried to stream over his head. It just may be that I was sitting down, but he struck me as larger than life, at least taller than most life. I don't think he even looked at me, or acknowledged me. He went straight for my dog, and palpated his tummy.
I like this vet, I thought. Not only do I love someone named Dr. Love, but I loved the no nonsense focus on the object of my visit. I didn't need small talk- I needed my dog fixed. I handed him the old xrays and notes from our last vet visit, the one that had sent us home scraping the piggy bank for lost change.
"We need to do an xray," he said, "But it will be MUCH cheaper than the one you already had done." He whisked Lucky away.
When he came back the second time, he smiled and said, "I think he will be fine. Come on back and I will show you the xray."
I followed him to his computer screen in a back room. Lucky's guts were displayed on the screen.
"See, the air bubble that was here on the first xray is gone now."
(I presumed that was a good thing)
"His lower intestine looks normal now, just filled with feces. He just needs to get eating again to push that along. I'll prescribe some stomach soothing medication, and give you some special food."
ohoh. The last vet gave us special food, too. $30 of special food that Lucky spits out.
"Most dogs really love this stuff," Dr. Love assured me.

After paying about a fourth of what we paid at the Charlotte vet, we headed home. The view was even more beautiful. When I got home, I gave Lucky the stomach soother and the special food. He ate every bite, and licked the bowl.

Palmetto Vet on McConnell highway, SC, folks. If you live anywhere near them, and think dog ownership shouldn't cost more than owning a home, they are your kind of place. And Dr. Love lives up to his name.

I wondered if he was destined to be a compassionate health care provider with that name, or if he felt he had to try to live up to his name. It would be a terrible atrocity if Dr. Love had decided to go into a career of professional assassin instead of soothing a hurting dog's stomach. My name means Victory. And Lucky's name means...lucky. I pray we all fulfill our appointed destiny.

Psalm 18: 49-50
Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name. He gives his king great victories;
he shows unfailing love to his anointed,

-save a dog-

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Silver Linings

I left BJs, the wholesale shopping club, and loaded my groceries from the cart into the big silver lined bags that I had bought a few weeks ago. BJs does not bag your groceries, so you either have to make a thousand trips from your car to your kitchen to unload, or after 4 years of shopping at BJs, you come to the startling conclusion that you should buy some of those "green" shopping bags and keep them in the car. As I was loading the bags, a woman stopped and told me, "Good for you!"
Good for me? I was being cheered and I had no idea why.
"You know, in California, it will soon be law - no more plastic bags at grocery stores. They take 50 million years to decompose, you know. And you will have to pay ten cents a bag for paper ones. You are very smart buying those big reusable bags. Good for the environment and good for you!" She smiled at me.
"Well...thank you," I said.
She walked away and another woman approached me just as I was about to wheel the cart back to the cart corral.
"Are you done with that? I will take it for you," said the woman.
"Oh...sure. Thank you." (Strange day at the grocery store!)
"Does it work well?" she asked.
"Yes, it sure does," I said.
"Cause you never know," she said, taking my cart, "Some of them are just awful."
"This one was fantastic," I assured her, happy to have test-driven it for her.
She smiled happily and waved as she pushed the cart away.

I often go seeking praise, but rarely does it just plop in my lap. It wasn't exactly what I would have considered day-making encouragement, but it was better than nothing. Without even trying, I had been lauded as environmentally conscious, and an excellent judge of grocery carts. Like my "green bags", there had been an unexpected silver lining in the tedious duty of grocery shopping.

Encouragement often takes such little time, requires such little effort, but can loom so large in the heart of the one who receives it. I am always impressed by strangers who take time to offer small words of encouragement, those little bits of sadness-sponges.

As the lady with my cart started to roll off, I called after her, "I hope you enjoy the cart I have prepared for you! Drive it well!"

Romans 15: 4-5
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had

-save a dog-

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Glass of Wine in a Yacht with a View

It is amazing what passing a bone through your gut successfully will do to your outlook on life. Lucky actually followed me to the food bowl, wagged his tail and perked his ears. It is the first conclusive sign he will survive that I have seen since last Thursday when he swallowed the bone. He despises the healthy food the vet made us buy ($30 worth of yuck in Lucky's mind), but if I mix defatted chicken broth (homemade with the help of a skinny chicken), and bits of turkey in with the yuck food, he eats it. Poor Honeybun continues to hover nearby, wondering why the big dog keeps getting all these luscious perks that she is denied. I throw her pieces every now and then so she doesn't feel left out, but remind her, "Honeybun, just be grateful it was he and not you that swallowed that impassable bone. Be thankful for your good health and stop wanting what others have."

That is called, "Coveting". Honeybun is not alone in coveting. My sister sent a picture of a friend on the back of a plush yacht, with her legs up on cushioned seats, Seattle in the background, lovely blue waves lapping at the sky, and to top it all off, a glass of wine in her hand. I began to covet. And I mean covet big time. I wanted a yacht, the view, and the wine. Suddenly, my shady lawn with towering oak trees didn't look quite as lovely, quite as idyllic. My most favorite recliner didn't feel so luxurious.

Coveting is one of the surest ways to build dissatisfaction in life. To long for what you don't have, instead of noticing all you do have, is the absolute best way to lose what you do have and end up with something worse. Our society is largely based on coveting. Every commercial taps into the coveting gene we all possess. And at the root of coveting is competition. If she has the glass of wine in a yacht with a view, then she is better than me, and I want to be better than her, so I want the glass of wine in a yacht with a view. And the basis of competition is pride. If she has all those things, I should have all those things because I deserve them and am worthy of them. And the basis of pride is separation from God. If God really loved me and was who He claims to be, He would see I deserve a glass of wine in a yacht with a view. But since He has not given me a glass of wine in a yacht with a view, He must not be God.

And pretty soon, we are spending our life swirling after something we can't have or don't have, raising a path of dust in our wake rather than a legacy of faith. Sometimes it takes something quite devastating to bring us back to our senses, back to our knees. Sometimes a beloved dog almost dying reminds us how fleeting life is and how important it is just to be grateful for every breath we take.

"Since when did I become a beloved dog?" Lucky asks me, since he knows I have at times referred to him as the stupid dog.
"Since we almost lost you," I said, scritching his neck.

Hebrews 12: 28
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,

-save a dog-

Monday, June 4, 2012

What Goes in, Must Come Out

Poor Lucky. The X-rays showed an obstruction near the end of his large intestine, probably the rib bone that we thought was going to be a special treat. I know bones can splinter or get lodged, but I just always figured dogs have eaten bones for thousands of years. I didn't take the concern seriously. However, our dogs, should he survive this, will never eat another bone.

After the X-rays and a barrage of other tests (read: bankruptcy), they determined all else was fine and gave him a doggy enema. It didn't work...until Arvo was checking out. Then all ***&&&5%%%$$$$@@#@!!*** came loose and I will let it suffice to say that the vet aides earned their salary cleaning up after him. However, the vet feels that parts of the bone still need to come out. She seemed to feel confident that it would. She sent Arvo home with meds, special food, and instructions.

Since it was Asherel's birthday, and we didn't want her special day totally marred by the sad situation with Lucky and his most unlucky bowel, I took Asherel horseback riding. It was a perfect day, and we meandered through a shady forest by my favorite kayaking lake. They put Asherel on a big old horse, a clydesdale type, who tried to eat a branch that then smacked Asherel in the face. I was on a sweet horse, Maggie, who is very good when you are on her back, but likes to bite you when you are on the ground. She was pleasant to ride however. (Having not ridden in about three years, every muscle in my inner thighs are protesting right now.) Still, it was so worth it. Asherel, who loves horses, came to pet my horse, and Maggie instantly put back her ears and made nipping motions.
"Don't come near!" I warned poor Asherel, "She bites."
One thing Maggie has going for her is that she doesn't hide what's inside of her. She lets all her cantankerous stuffing right out there. This is a good policy, as Lucky would attest.

My experience has been that if you try to hold ugly stuff in, it finds a way to come out. Pain and hurt can only be contained for so long. They eventually find expression, often as explosive anger. And when things that should come out, *don't*, like Lucky's gut blocking bone, bad things happen. A friend recently asked me, "So what do you do with all that awful hurt inside?"

The vet gave Lucky an enema. He probably needs more, in my opinion. We need "spiritual enemas" too. Something that drains all the awful feelings, thoughts, hurts, pains, and poisons of existence out of us. I think we do have such a thing, though it is not labeled as such. When we accept the gift of Jesus' atoning death for our sins, all that ugly inner filth is ripped away. We are instantaneously forgiven, washed clean, and ready to embark on new life. Unfortunately, life continues to beat down on most of us, and so God gives us ongoing treatments- prayer, His word, His presence, His comfort. If we keep eating the bones of the world, all the immoral garbage that is luring us from God, they are going to keep getting stuck, and need powerful work to extricate. I am finding the more I walk this earth, the more I understand, it is best not to eat bones in the first place.

Psalm 51: 8-12
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:8-12 NIV)

-save a dog-