Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bits and Pieces of Sun

After a day and a half of nonstop pouring rain, the sun appeared in bits and pieces. I dashed outside for two walks, to make up for the previous day of slouching in the recliner, unable to put even one toe out on that flooding pavement. Then I hurried out to visit Mom K in the Nursing Home, before the deluge began again.

She was not doing well. Bed sores, pain, trouble swallowing. I sat and read to her from the Gospel of John, while we waited for the Hospice Nurse to come and advise on the best course of action. One aide walked in and ended up chatting with me for half an hour. She told me her story of how she had had a bout of severe depression, and then heard God's voice telling her that her life's work was with old people in nursing homes. She obeyed that call, and the crushing depression lifted. She continues to look upon her work with people like my mother-in-law as a calling, a ministry, sanctioned by God. As she talked with me, Mom K reached a hand out to her. Mom K is no longer talking, but she seemed to agree with the aide that God had called her to this often sad and difficult work.

When I left, a nurse walked with me to the door. I can't even leave without the staff keying the door code. They must have had some of the patients with Alzheimers escape and no longer tell family members the locked door code. I think I looked a little dismayed. It had not been easy, seeing Mom K so vulnerable and in pain.
"This is the progression of the disease," she told me, "It is hard, I know."
"Yes, it is," I said.

Still, there had been smatterings of joy in the midst of all that misery. Mom K stopped moaning when I read, "For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." And then there was the hopeful story of the aide hearing the call of God. In a way, the aide's story was just like the day. Dark clouds, drips of rain still spattering as the breeze tugged at sodden leaves...but bits of sunlight catching the edges of the treetops, lightening the dreary sky.

It is supposed to rain all week, with bits and pieces of sun forecast to break through. I will keep my eyes open for the sun.

Judges 5:31 NIV
[31] “So may all your enemies perish, Lord! But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.” ....

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rainy Day Discoveries

The rain was so relentless that I dared not brave walking in it. So it was a 'curl up with Goldfish crackers and good book' kind of day. Even the dogs didn't dare go out in the torrential rain. Lucky ran out briefly, returned a sodden mess, and spent the next hour trotting about the house spreading his special wet-dog scent through every room.

Church had been a little disheartening, to go along with the grey, weepy day. The sermon was as always excellent, and the message of 'Faith not Works' never grows old. However, in our little Sunday school class, there was a brief discussion on the meaning of "apostle" and then someone questioned if the Apostle Matthias was replaced by Paul, and was not really supposed to be an apostle at all. The claim was that the apostles were told to wait for the Holy Spirit, but while waiting, decided on their own to appoint Matthias. The classmate proposed that they had taken matters into their own hands prematurely, and perhaps Matthias was not the legitimate new Apostle.

What?! I named my son after Matthias! I loved the symbolism of Matthias replacing the fallen Judas, and being specially chosen to carry on the apostolic mission. However, the brief discussion in our class intimated that Matthias was chosen by impatient disciples who didn't wait on the Holy Spirit as commanded, and that in fact, Matthias is never mentioned again after the brief passage that explains how he is selected. Really? I had never thought about that....

When I got home I did a word search on Matthias. It is true. He is only mentioned when the other apostles try to discern God's will, and ultimately select him, and then he disappears from notice. That doesn't mean Matthias didn't go on and do wonderful things, does it? The Bible doesn't tell every story!

One classmate made the additional point that unlike the other apostles, Matthias only saw Jesus *after* His resurrection... just like 500 other people. I quietly opened to the book of Acts where Matthias was chosen. No, that classmate was incorrect. Matthias was one of two men considered specifically *because* he had walked with Jesus throughout his earthly ministry. Matthias had been with Jesus the whole time. And the passage describes the other apostles as prayerfully and carefully considering the choice of Matthias, which I always thought seemed to have been directed by God. But...was Matthias chosen, and then forgotten? Had he done nothing of worth, and if so, why wasn't he mentioned again?

There are some ancient historical writings that say Matthias preached the gospel in Ethiopia, others say modern day Georgia, and then was beheaded in 80 AD. If he was beheaded, he was probably preaching Jesus. My own personal experience has been if you talk much about Jesus, some folks don't like you. Beheading for an apostle was likely evidence he was exuberantly doing the Lord's work. (PS- mentioning this is not ALWAYS the best evangelistic technique.)

The Catholics celebrate St. Matthias day, Feb. 24, considering it the luckiest day of the year. Matthias was chosen by "casting lots" (which basically means, drawing straws). As a result, some believe Feb. 24 might be the best day to play the Lottery or bet on a race horse. St. Matthias is considered the patron saint of human frailties, invoked against temptations of the flesh. I suppose since he was chosen through a method considered "gambling", he seemed well suited to oversee the weakness of the flesh. In defense of this method, at that time period, drawing lots when overseen by God and bathed in prayer was considered a useful way of discerning God's will. Unlike gambling, lots were not cast in an attempt for monetary gain, but for discerning God's will.

There is even a Gospel of Matthias, fragments of which were considered Apocrypha, or books that were of religious instruction and historical accounts, but ultimately not considered to be inspired by God. The author of those writings is considered to be Matthias, the Apostle.

So Matthias did do works of God! He was not a deadbeat apostle, and by most accounts, was likely martyred for his witness of Jesus before others. I felt much better after I researched my son's namesake. My own Matthias is so full of promise and such a wonderful son, I would hate to have named him after a nobody.

Content, I listened to the rain fall as I returned to my good book and mug of Goldfish crackers.

Acts 1:20-26 NIV
[20] “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:“ ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it ,’ and,“ ‘May another take his place of leadership .’ [21] Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, [22] beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” [23] So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. [24] Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen [25] to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” [26] Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. …

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Message of the Hedgehog

A friend wrote and asked if Asherel wanted a hedgehog. Her cousin had a hedgehog that she needed to get rid of.
"Well yes," I told her, "But then Asherel goes to college and *I* have a hedgehog. And I don't want a hedgehog."
She sent me the picture of the hedgehog, and suddenly I wanted a hedgehog. I looked on the internet about hedgehog care. They are really pretty care-free, and are friendly. They also look like a big ball of prickles with a soft fuzzy face and gentle eyes.

My son Matt's bunny had died recently, and he told me that they missed it, but felt angora bunnies were too fragile, and it would be best not to get another. They wanted a pet, but they needed a "hardy" pet, that would require little care. From what I could tell, hedgehogs are quite hardy.
So I wrote to Matt, "Do you want a hedgehog?"
He wrote back instantly, "Karissa and I were just talking about getting a hedgehog last night. We might want the hedgehog."
How often do newly married couples discuss the need for a hedgehog in their lives? And how often am I offered a free hedgehog? If that isn't serendipity, I don't know what is!

Some people call such an event "coincidence". I don't believe in coincidence. I believe that everything happens for a reason and our job is to discern the messages that God is constantly transmitting. Why might God be sending us a hedgehog? I think the message of the hedgehog is to help us understand each other and perhaps even God. A hedgehog has a fierce, even dangerous looking exterior. The quills are actually not as sharp or dangerous as they look, but they can be off-putting to a predator. If a hedgehog feels threatened, he rolls into a prickly ball, and few predators will mess with him. But in reality, he is a placid and quiet creature, with a soft belly and furry face. He prefers to be alone, but he likes to be held. As soon as he relaxes, he unfurls, his quills sit peacefully still and he will explore his human friend's hands.

I am often a hedgehog. When I feel threatened or attacked or misunderstood, I roll into a symbolic ball with my quills sticking out like knives. I think many of us do. And underneath that terrifying display, we are really just vulnerable, lonely creatures that will peacefully unfurl to expose our true nature when we feel safe. It might be useful to look at prickly characters as hedgehogs, and consider what it is in our relationship that makes them feel unsafe.

God has certain hedgehog like qualities Himself. He certainly has the power to be quite ferocious, and even dangerous. But inexplicably, He lets us see the tender, loving, gentle side of Him, and we are safe in His presence.

I hope to go visit the hedgehog tomorrow. Matt and Karissa may or may not decide they can work a hedgehog into their overbusy law school/new lawyer lives, but I think I can work in a visit to hold one. I want to see if she will feel safe in my hands.

Psalm 138:6-8 (NIV)
Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar. [7] Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. [8] The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever---do not abandon the works of your hands.

Psalm 27:4-5 (NIV)
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. [5] For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Throwing Things

I walked into Mom K's room at the nursing home to see her awake but in bed, with her arms up over her head holding her pillow, as though about to toss it.
"What are you doing?" I asked, as I kissed her hello.
"I am about to throw my pillow across the room," she answered.
"Why?" I asked.
She looked at me silently with a quizzical look on her face, as though to say, "Why indeed!"
I helped her lower her arms, and settle the pillow more comfortably under her head. "Is that better?" I asked.

Honestly, I feel like throwing my pillow too. I have been reading about our President's speech at Planned Parenthood Friday, how he will fight tirelessly to protect a woman's "right to choose." Choose what? Not one word about Kermit Gosnell, the abortion doctor accused of snipping the necks of babies born alive after botched abortions. Nor the Planned Parenthood abortion mills in Delaware and Ohio accused of "Gosnell like conditions." Not once did he use the word 'abortion', in fact. How do either of those men sleep at night, I wondered? Maybe they don't. Maybe they are up all night throwing their pillows too.

I read Mom K a few psalms. The psalmist cries out over and over again for God's guidance and mercy and blessing, in the face of evil. I had also read that our President, while praising the group that kills unborn babies, called upon God's blessings as well. At the conclusion of his speech Friday, he said, “Thank you Planned Parenthood. God bless you. God bless you.”
(Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/04/26/obama-first-sitting-president-to-address-planned-parenthood/#ixzz2RbdYklXPDoes )

Did he really believe God would bless that activity? Does he not see the incredible irony? As I read the Psalms to my mother-in-law, I recalled Psalm 139, the one that says:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. [14] I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

God created and knew each baby the moment he was conceived. Would the Creator of the wonderfully made being, knitted together in the womb, be disposed to honor Obama's cry that abortionists be blessed? I just don't think so. Not by a long shot.

"What are you doing?" asked Mom K.
"I am throwing your pillow across the room!" I said.

Psalm 50:16-23 (NIV)
But to the wicked person, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? [17] You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you. [18] When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. [19] You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. [20] You sit and testify against your brother and slander your own mother’s son. [21] When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you. But I now arraign you and set my accusations before you. [22] “Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with no one to rescue you: [23] Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me, and to the blameless I will show my salvation. ”

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Friday, April 26, 2013

Conquering Fear

I was terrified of the next morning. I had scheduled both a teeth cleaning and a refilling of a large cavity and then crown on a back tooth. I have very sensitive teeth, and the last few dental visits had been very painful. Finally, I left that particular dental practice and returned to the dentist we had originally had, who I liked, but our insurance hadn't covered for a period.

I slept almost not at all the night before. However, I prayed without ceasing. I prayed for everyone The Lord brought to my mind, and when you are up all night, lots of folks parade through your head. When I settled into the dentist chair, I had my strategy laid out. First I informed them I was very scared and a horrid patient with very sensitive teeth. What did they intend to do about it?

The hygienist, who looked the age of my daughter, calmly assured me she had very gentle hands, and it would not hurt. Then she set to work, but only after I reminded her to use their special numbing gel. Then, I began reciting the 23rd psalm in my head. I got stuck on "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." I forced myself to move on, and then began picturing the animals that the Good Shepherd would be protecting in the fields. I thought of sheep, of course, but then moved on to imagining all sorts of soft, furry, cuddly, comforting creatures. I spent a good amount of time contemplating alpacas with their gentle huge eyes and fluffy long mop of hair atop their heads. I utilized this same technique during the crown work. Two and a half hours later, I was released to the world, a free woman, without having endured anything remotely unbearable! The hygienist gave me prescription strength ibuprofen, though I told her I don't do drugs. She told me it would be wise to take them, as the shot in my lower jaw goes into muscle and she said I would be quite sore. My jaw was already aching, though still partially numbed, so I took the drugs.

It is amazing what a different perspective on life one has when one has endured something scary or painful- and lived through it. It makes me appreciate simple things like sunshine on the pavement, pink cherry blossoms clumped together on the grass, the breeze against my (still numb) cheek. I felt grateful for the surcease of fear, for the absence of pain.

No one relishes fear or pain, but there can be great gain enduring either. First, you learn you *can*, and secondly you learn to lean on God a little harder when you are certain you can't. I suspect that is one of the reasons God makes us go through suffering. Additionally, the beauty of the mundane registers with a new brilliance when you make it to the other side of the fear and the pain. The contrast is spectacular.

I wonder if my new appreciation for simple humdrum life will last all the way till next week when I have to have a second crown done?

Job 5:17-19 (NIV)
“Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. [18] For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. [19] From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will touch you.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Knowing What is Not

Mom K was lying in bed when I arrived to visit yesterday. She didn't seem to know who I was, though was happy to have a visitor. I had brought my iPad so I could show her the photos of Asherel, Josh, and me transforming the methane pipes on the Greenway into giraffes. She was very interested in the pictures. While having some trouble forming complete thoughts, as the progression of pictures showed the pipes slowly becoming more recognizably giraffes, she said, "Wow. You did a lot of work."
"Can you tell what it is?" I asked.
"It's *not* a zebra..." she said.
I knew she couldn't quite find the word "giraffe" in her muddled memory, but at least she had chosen the correct continent of animals. I showed her many pictures, moving on to family pictures, and by the end of the visit, she knew me again, and promised to pray for her grandson Matt, graduating from law school in a couple of weeks.
"Did you like looking at the pictures?" I asked, standing to leave.
"Yes, I did," she said, her eyes slowly closing.

It's *not* a zebra. As I headed home, I thought of how strange Alzheimers is and its effects on the human brain. Interesting that she knew it was not a zebra, and could remember the word 'zebra', but not 'giraffe'.

Still, sometimes if you know what something is NOT, you have a chance at knowing what it IS. When I returned home, I had an extended Facebook discussion with someone who felt that Christians were such miserable sinners that surely they had no market on understanding God. If they were such failures, then one had to question the truth of their God. Here was a good example of learning what something is not, I thought. There is danger in defining God based on what His followers are not. His followers are not perfect, and will fail, and will disappoint. Guaranteed. But the standard God sets before us is NOT other Christians. It is God Himself. We are to be perfect as He is perfect. We will fail, but that is not because He has failed. In fact, it is because of what we are NOT, that we recognize and need a savior so badly. If we were perfect, we would not need God. I don't know about you, but I am often reminded of what I am NOT, and it points me all the more solidly to who God IS, and what I want to be.

And then I did a word search in the Bible of what God is not. God is not human that he should lie. He does not desire our eternal banishment. He does not despise a broken and contrite spirit. He is not the God of the dead but of the living. He did not reject His people. His kingdom is not of this world, nor a matter of talk but of power. He is not a God of disorder. His word is not chained. He is not unjust. He will not be ashamed to call us His people. He is not a Zebra, either, though I didn't find that in the Bible.

But there was one more NOT in the Bible that is a favorite NOT. When I do not know what to do, my eyes should rest upon God.

2 Chronicles 20:12 (NIV)
Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

Numbers 23:19 (NIV)
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
2 Samuel 14:14 (NIV)
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.
Psalm 51:17 (NIV)
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Matthew 22:31-32 (NIV)
But about the resurrection of the dead---have you not read what God said to you, [32] ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ ? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
Romans 11:2 (NIV)
God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah---how he appealed to God against Israel:
Romans 14:17-18 (NIV)
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, [18] because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
1 Corinthians 4:20-21 (NIV)
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. [21] What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?
1 Corinthians 14:33 (NIV)
For God is not a God of disorder but of peace---as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
2 Timothy 2:8-10 (NIV)
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, [9] for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. [10] Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Hebrews 6:10 (NIV)
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
Hebrews 11:16 (NIV)
Instead, they were longing for a better country---a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Psalm 5:4-5,11 (NIV)
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. [5] The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; [11] But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Unseen Enemies

A friend sent me a photo of a child who had found my giraffe/poisonous methane pipe art, and had clambered up, within spitting distance of the noxious fumes. I checked into what methane gas can do to developing brains.

Here is what I discovered:
"Risks Associated with Inhalation
Methane gas, in higher concentrations, is capable of displacing oxygen in the air. Thus, if the gas is released into a poorly ventilated area, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, in anyone exposed. At lower levels, the gas can cause rapid breathing and an increased heart rate, as well as fatigue and emotional distress. At mid-level concentrations, methane gas may cause nausea and vomiting and even loss of consciousness. At its highest levels, methane will displace most of the available oxygen and cause convulsions, respiratory failure and death. Once again, this can be avoided by having the proper ventilation and using a breathing apparatus when necessary."
Read more: Methane Gas Risks | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/list_5919656_methane-gas-risks.html#ixzz2RKdCRl1i

I am beginning to wonder if painting the deadly methane gas pipes to look like innocuous giraffes was the smartest idea....This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Art to DIE for...."

However, at the moment, I don't care. I have replaced the massive doses of methane I inhaled while painting the methane pipe/giraffe with massive doses of sugar. I visited a dear friend, Carol, yesterday who I haven't seen in about two years. She sent me home with a box of Gigi's Cupcakes. "Cupcakes" is as disingenuous a name for those culinary miracles as "Cuddly Giraffes" is for poisonous methane pipes. Cupcakes connotes small cake like concoctions that only tempt 5 year olds. Gigi's Cupcakes would have single-handedly defeated Communism. Entire armies would be felled by one crumb of Gigi's Cupcakes because their entire existence would consequently center upon finding one *more* crumb of Gigi's Cupcakes. I ate (inhaled) one Gigi cupcake within seconds of returning home from the visit with my long lost friend. The rest of the night, I spent tortuous hours handcuffed to the recliner so I would not inhale the remaining three Gigi Cupcakes. Thanks Carol.

But back to my luring innocent children to death traps. I feel a little like Oppenheimer. (For those folks who spend far too much time playing computer games and not learning anything worthwhile, Oppenheimer is credited with developing the atom bomb.) Oppenheimer, after developing the atom bomb, quoted the famous phrase: "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." (from the Bhagavad Gita ). I hope my epitaph will not read, "I have created Giraffes, the destroyer of little children."

As all of you who follow my blogs regularly know, I always have a spiritual message. I try to discern what God is trying to tell me through the events of my day. The message of the cupcakes and the Giraffe/methane pipe was clear. Sometimes things that look scrumptious are death traps, and will make you fat. Beware, and be discerning. Invisible things like methane, and calories, can kill. So can disregard of God. You sometimes can't even see how incrementally you are falling away, until you collapse altogether. The enemy is not always obvious, and lures you with sweet promises. Be on your guard.

Psalm 13:1-6 (NIV)
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? [2] How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? [3] Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, [4] and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him, ” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. [5] But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. [6] I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Replacing Ugliness

I spent the entire afternoon at the Greenway near Squirrel Lake Park, with Asherel and her friend Josh as my assistants, transforming ugly smelly methane pipes into art.

First, let me say that if my writing stinks today, it is because I am suffering from methane poisoning. From now on, any character flaw or problem I exhibit will be claimed as a result of methane poisoning. Surely, with the outpouring of methane which I inhaled for 6 straight hours, I must have done damage to my body. The flow of methane gas was much stronger than I had anticipated. I should have taken my cousin's advice and worn a gas mask. I could hear it rushing out. This cannot be a healthy place to stand, I thought, and held my breath while painting right beneath the methane flow. Still, it was worth it.

Several small children passed by as we painted, their tiny red cheeked faces agog. One disabled woman was wheeled in front of the giraffes and she sat there quite some time watching us. Several runners ran by, and gave me a thumbs up. Many elderly couples strolled by and stopped to watch and chat, thanking me for transforming those ugly eyesores.

With the able assistance of my daughter and her friend Josh, we finished the entire thing, except for the antlers and ears. The Parks and Rec staff will attach those soon, per my instructions. One other artist sauntered by and was incredulous that we had completed two giraffes in a single afternoon.
"I had good help," I said, "And besides, I have always been known for getting things done quickly, if not expertly."

Josh and Asherel took several breaks to wade in the creek, daring the copperheads to bite, or playing disc golf, and throwing frisbees. However, I never paused from my work, since I knew it was the perfect day with no rain expected, and if I could finish in one afternoon, it would be a blessing.

And it was a blessing. I haven't been so transported to another world in a long time as I was yesterday afternoon. My daughter was happy, and enjoying the beautiful day. She and her friend were contributing with excellence....and they knew it. I was loving the creative outpouring, as thick and fast as the methane gas filling my lungs. Big ugly cement blobs and poisonous gas pipes were transformed almost miraculously into whimsical, gentle, and lovable giraffes.

One man and his wife stopped by, and watched me for a little while. Finally, he said, "You are taking the ugliest thing here and making it a thing of beauty."

I stopped painting and stood up, rubbing my back that was aching mightily.
"Thank you for saying that," I told him, "That is exactly what I had hoped to do." It is exactly what Jesus did for me, and it is exactly what every one of us should do with our life. Wherever we see darkness, strive to bring light. Wherever we see oppression, strive to bring freedom. Wherever we see corruption, strive to bring cleansing. Wherever we see hatred, strive to bring love. Wherever we see hopelessness, strive to bring faith. Take the ugliest thing you know, and strive to make it a thing of beauty.

Isaiah 61:1,3 (NIV)
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, [3] and provide for those who grieve in Zion---to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Monday, April 22, 2013

By Faith

I visited the methane pipes that I will be turning into giraffes as part of the Public Art Greenway Project. I wanted to see exactly what I had gotten myself into. Asherel came along and dressed Honeybun in her purple sweater as it was a little nippy outside. The pipes were shorter than we had initially thought, which made me happy, as that means if I fall off the ladder, I could conceivably survive. We then went to the community center where my supplies were stocked and picked out the paint colors. We hope to begin painting today.

I like whimsy and this is just the sort of whimsical task that will brighten my world. With my brother-in-law's death on the day of the Boston bombing, and the past week of awful events, it has been somber around my home and America. I like to think that a brightly painted methane pipe, made to look like a giraffe might bring a smile to someone who is overburdened.

Our pastor didn't speak directly yesterday about the Boston horror, but he did talk about how we who know God should never succumb to worry. We began our journey walking with God by faith. That is how we should continue, and how we should end. It is by faith we have been saved and by faith that we should live. I felt, as I often do, the peace of God fall over me as I considered the gentle pillow of faith. In a world that seems out of control, God is still there. When what we see before us is unbearable, we must walk by faith, not by sight. What matters is that *He* sees where it is all leading. He has shown me time and again that I can trust He is good, so where He is leading me must be Good as well. Perfect faith squashes fear.

Having never painted a methane pipe or large cement structure before, it is also by faith that I take my paints and head off to the Greenway. I see a giraffe every time I look at the methane pipes, though my less artistic friends tell me not everyone does. I hope children pass by while we are painting and the bright colors make them smile. Maybe someone who is hurting will even laugh that an ugly, deadly gas pipe could become something so gentle and comical as a purple and yellow giraffe. Maybe it will plant a seed that beauty and hope can emerge from ugliness and despair.

Hebrews 11:8,32-34,39-40 (NIV)
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. [32] And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, [33] who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, [34] quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. [39] These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, [40] since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sweeping Away Pollen

I made the mistake of sweeping the front porch without a gas mask on. A prolonged sneezing fit erupted from the maelstrom of pollen. I hurried inside, closed the windows, and washed my face. Then I made the mistake of reading a recent review on one of my books. This particular reader read the first chapter, knew how it might end, and decided to can the book and write a review based on the first 20 pages, an unfavorable one. There were 4 recent glowing reviews right before it, but the negative review bothered me, especially because she hadn't even read the book. Why do I read these things, I thought, while sneezing? Lots of people like my books and write thoughtful reviews after actually reading the books. Why do I torment myself reading the negative reviews? One review said, "I haven't read this yet, but I do intend to." Huh?

My eyes were so full of the yellow pollen, that for a while, the whole world seemed yellow, malignant, full of toxins that made my throat constrict. That is what I think we all are feeling here in America, even without the pollen. The Boston Bomber, the mysterious Texas explosion, the lock-down and fear in Boston, rancorous hateful debates between "friends" over gun control, the constitution, marriage. It does feel as though the world covered in the yellow toxin of hate cannot ever emerge clean again.

I opened my email this morning, and there was an update from Amazon, telling me there had been a reply to the reviewer who slammed my book after reading 20 pages. That new comment said, "You gave up too soon. Your loss."

Don't give up too soon, I thought. Not in books, not in life, not in the power of love, not in God's miracles. It may look impossibly awful with dire results sure to ensue, but the story isn't over. Keep reading, because the Book of Life ends well for those who believe and who persevere.

1 Timothy 4:16 (NIV)
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Hebrews 10:36,39 (NIV)
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. [39] But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Heavy and Happy Heart

I never watch TV, unless it is for something REALLY important, like American Idol. However, last night, I was glued to the TV watching Fox News as the last Boston Bomber was being corralled. My son had been in lockdown in Cambridge all day, and I was very concerned. For one thing, I know he eats out a lot. I was afraid he would starve. But seriously, my heart had been aflutter all day, worried that the terrorist who had already callously murdered so many innocent people would find more victims. And my son was in the immediate area where the terrorist was hiding. Praise God, the terrorist was apprehended and in custody.

In describing the deceased older terrorist brother, Fox News commentators kept saying, "Hell has a new resident today."
It might...but the sentence bothered me. I know that both Boston terrorists, and all terrorists, do things that are deserving of Hell. I hope they receive the just consequences of their horrific actions. But, I also believe that every one of us deserves Hell, and by the grace and mercy of God, we don't necessarily get it. I know most of us don't go on murderous rampages, but all sins, from little to large, are an affront to a perfect, Holy God. And, the wages of sin is death.

If the Bible is true, and I believe it is, then Jesus paid the penalty for all our sin. We only have to repent, believe, and accept the truth and gift of His sacrifice. Hard as it is to stomach from an earthly perspective, even those terrible terrorists could enter Heaven by the grace and mercy of God, should they choose to believe and acknowledge Jesus as Lord. All of us could. It is the beauty of the Gospel, and why I find it so ironic when I hear people describe Christianity as exclusive. No one is excluded from the hope of Heaven.

There are, and should be earthly consequences to sin. In my opinion, the death penalty would be very appropriately applied in this case. But I cannot help but feel great sadness that a young man, 19 years old, would be so deluded that he would choose to inflict so much sorrow on the world, and cut short his own life and future of promise. So I pray for his tortured soul while I mourn for the victims, and the lives he destroyed. I do not rejoice that Hell has a new resident. I want every heart to know and love the Creator, who never desired us to veer so sharply away from Him.

John 3:16 (NIV)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Matthew 7:8,21-27 (NIV)
For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [21] “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ [23] Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ [24] “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. [25] The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. [26] But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. [27] The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dwell in Safety

I had lunch with a dear friend who will be returning to China soon. If everyone could just get to know each other from different cultures one on one, there would be a lot less hatred and warfare in the world. We all seem to want the same thing deep down inside- love, acceptance, meaningful work, a safe world for us and our loved ones.

In contrast, I just read the news that last night, the police chased down the two bombing suspects right near MIT. They are from Chechnya, an area plagued by Islamic insurgency. The police were injured, one killed, in the ensuing firefight. They killed one of the suspects. The other is still out there, presumed armed and dangerous.They have urged people in Boston suburbs, including Cambridge where my son lives, to stay indoors, and not to go to work today. Mass transit is shut down, businesses have been asked to remain closed.

Please pray for the speedy capture of the remaining suspect, and for the safety of all those in his path...including my son.

Psalm 4:1,8 (NIV)
Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. [8] In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Where is thy Sting?

The bees have alzheimers. That is what the beekeeper at Monroe Tires suspects. (By the way, Monroe Tires doesn't necessarily need a beekeeper, but he told me that is his side job.) He sees his bees go out in the morning to pollinate the flowers, but many don't return. He thinks the pesticides and genetically modified plants are messing up the bee's chemistry. He suspects they are getting confused, and lost, and our planet is in big trouble if the honeybees die.
"Most of our food plant sources depend on the bee for pollination," he told me, handing me his business card. I put it in my wallet, just in case I was ever in need of a beekeeper.

This is a much bigger problem than global warming, and probably one we could affect. Why is no one sounding the alarm about the dying bees? They are such a quiet part of nature. They don't grab our attention the way a tornado, or bomb, or gun rampage does, so when the threat of their absence is mentioned, little hubbub ensues. Most people don't love bees, particularly if they are allergic to the sting. But Bees are one of those creatures, stinger and all, that we cannot live without.

With the recent sudden death of Raivo, my husband's brother, I have naturally been thinking a lot about the tenuous hold each of has on life. In a moment, we too could be gone. The optimistic response is to live every second with joy, and wonder, and delight. I struggle to memorize, so only a few verses in the Bible easily flow into my head when I am pondering deep and sobering thoughts. But one verse that keeps returning to me the past few days is , "O death, where is thy sting?"

I find it curious to remember that verse while learning about the plight of the honeybee. I have been stung by bees, and it really hurts. Yet, I love honey, and I love flowers, and both are only possible with the bee.

The sting of death is its permanence. And the Bible tells us that the consequence of sin is death. We all sin, hence we all die. Once we die, we lose all the sweet joy of life, and I think few of us face that prospect unwaveringly. But death doesn't have to be the end of the story. No matter how great my doubt and how little my faith, about thirty years ago, I came to trust that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin so that by His substitutionary sacrifice, I can stand righteous before God. The sting of death is removed, and it becomes not an enclosed grave, but a door into eternity.

My prayer as I ponder the dying honeybees is that everyone would let the tiny voice of faith bring them to their knees, asking Jesus to forgive them for their doubt, and increase their faith. It was a prayer He answered for me abundantly, when I was young and death seemed but a distant legend.

1 Corinthians 15:50-57 (NIV)
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. [51] Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed--- [52] in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. [53] For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. [54] When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” [55] “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” [56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Freedom is Not Free

For every benefit, there is a cost. While I was not crazy about the city of Cleveland on my recent visit, it did have many beautiful statues. One was of a soldier, holding a cloth with a cannonball hole in it. Perhaps it was a flag. The sculpture commemorates the Hungarian Freedom fighters against Soviet oppression in Oct. 1956. The inscription on the base of the statue begins with, "Freedom is not free." That statue moved me greatly.

In the wake of the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon, I kept thinking of that statue. I read the newspaper reports that said our President did not wish to characterize it as a "terrorist attack." Say what?

Perhaps I don't understand the finer points of governing but what exactly is the sticking point for the President? Did he think the pressure cooker bombs filled with nails and small metal projectiles was meant to congratulate the marathon winners? I am tired to death of politicizing and dancing around facts to advance an agenda. This was a terrorist attack. And the other part of the media coverage that exasperates me is the suggestion this might have been a "right wing extremist." Even though a Saudi Nationalist was detained. Hmmmm.

Evil exists. No amount of being nice to evil will result in evil rolling over and asking us to scratch its tummy. I suspect our president would not want us to think that all his attempts at appeasement and apologizing and unilaterally disarming have not for some reason made the bad guys nice. And best to point the finger at a group you would like to sweep away if you could since they have a distressing habit of being critical of your world views.

In my personal corner of the world, I believe I am called upon to love others as God loves them, to forgive, to reach out to those who are hurting, and to show the blessing of forgiveness, just as I have been forgiven. But I think it is blind and foolish to think that the battle is won by unilateral peace offerings. This battle is not between flesh and blood. This is a spiritual battle for the souls of all humankind, and there is evil- raw, hateful, determined evil- that will not stop until either it wins, or it is stopped.

God tells us that in the end, He wins. I cling to that, knowing that sacrifice will be required. Because freedom is not free. The most important freedom, freedom from eternal punishment for sin and reconciliation to God, comes at an enormous cost. Just ask Jesus.

In the meantime, I love a blurb I read from one of the Boston Marathoners. She said that the enemy has made a tactical error bombing runners. Runners train through almost unendurable pain and exhaustion. This is a target that will not remain lying down. "We will run," she said, "And we will run fast, and we won't stop till we catch you."

Ephesians 6:10-14,16-20 (NIV)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. [11] Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. [12] For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. [13] Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. [14] Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, [16] In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. [17] Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. [18] And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. [19] Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, [20] for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Winter or Spring

Mom K looked at the picture I had taken of her and cried, "Oh no. I look so old!" I spent the morning yesterday visiting with her, and was showing her pictures on my phone. She shook her head at the pictures of her, "So old!"
Why is it that those in the winter of life look in the mirror expecting to see spring? And sometimes, those of us expecting spring look at life and see winter.

Crowds were gathered at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, celebrating the race that has such a history there and always heralds the spring in the chilly Northeast. Meanwhile, Asherel and I were at a nursing home teaching the residents to draw a panda. We go once a month. Asherel leads the class, and I circulate among the residents helping them. Our little art class has increased in size. We had so many residents that we had to sit one off to the side at his own table. While drawing, the muted TV was on in the corner of the room. My phone rang. I answered it, noticing it was my husband, and saw a sign flash across the TV screen that there had been explosions in Boston. In Boston! My son Anders lives in Boston!

But the phone call was not about Boston. Arvo's brother, Raivo, had been found dead in his upstate NY apartment. He was only 61 years old.

"Explosion in Boston!" said one of the residents, looking at the TV, "What happened?!" The activity director went off to check her computer to give us details while we finished the art class. My son is in Boston, I thought.

We went home to hug Arvo and make plans for him to head to Syracuse. I had texted my son Anders that morning, before any of this transpired, asking how he was doing. He had not written back. That morning I had also led a Bible study with Asherel about how we so often grow angry with God when we don't receive blessings, when all we see are trials. I told her that as a parent, I understood that a little better. Sometimes, our children don't like the restrictions, the struggles we place them in which we as parents know they must endure. And sometimes children grow very angry and hateful over what they see as insufferable, unfair rules. The lesson is, I warned her, trials will come. Don't hate God or lose faith when they do. He is not there to prevent the trials, but to be there with you through them.

As we moved somewhat numbly through the day, calling friends and relatives, I got a text from Anders. "Can't chat now, but I am fine," he said.
Raivo was a believer. He had many struggles in life, but in the past few years had embraced Jesus as Lord. Arvo called him nearly every day, often to talk sports, but also to talk about God. We both knew that Raivo was now out of the race, out of the struggle, and could finally rest with his Heavenly Father. I imagine our Heavenly Father is as weary and dismayed as all of us of the scene that remains in Boston. This is not at all how races to glory should end.

Ecclesiastes 9:11-12,18 (NIV)
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. [12] Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them. [18] Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, [2] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [3] Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Beginnings

I noticed the newly mowed lawn at the recently sold home across the street. One 10' x 5' patch was noticeably a good inch or so shorter than the rest. Then I met the sweet new neighbor. She looked no older than my son, so young and eager to greet the world.
"This is our first home!" she burbled delightfully, "And my first time ever mowing."
We both glanced at the patch.
"I didn't know there were levels on a lawn mower," she admitted laughing.
"Don't worry," I told her, "Neither did I."

I am so glad this sweet young couple has moved into our neighborhood. Married just a year, first home, first dog, first unevenly mowed lawn....I can't wait to see the new baby that should follow soon. All us grey haired neighbors will be ready to swoop in and offer all our wisdom, love, and advice. The sweet young couple may soon not be quite as excited over all the attention young blood brings to an established neighborhood.

I love seeing the glowing anticipation of all that lies before a young couple. I love the expectation of blessings flowing like a waterfall into their outstretched arms. We of the grey hair know that it will not all be as easy as it looks to those eager-eyed newbies of life, but their enthusiasm is infectious and reminds me of how every new day should be embraced.

"We just wandered from room to room, last night," said my bright eyed young neighbor, "And kept saying, 'This is OURS! We OWN this!"
When I went home, I glanced at the beautiful cathedral ceilings of my home, the sunroom, the wood floors we installed ourselves. I am glad for all of it, but I don't wander room after room exulting in my home anymore, though I did when we first bought it. It is all familiar now, comfortable, and I know every nook and cranny.

I remember when I first came to know God. I could not get enough of reading the Bible. I poured over the pages, hour after hour, incredulous that I had never understood the power, the magnificence, the promise, the blessing, the utter JOY of its message. Now, when I open my Bible, a quiet peace usually descends, but it is always tempered. It is not the same as it was when I first met God. Now He is an old friend. I focus less on all the blessings, and understand a little more of all the trials. He is there with me, through all of them, but now I understand He was never meant to prevent them.

I glance outside at the perky new neighbor and am glad for youth, and the optimistic outlook of new beginnings.

Revelation 2:4-5,8,10-11 (NIV)
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. [5] Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. [8] “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. [10] Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. [11] Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wistful Longings

I entered my happy place yesterday. Asherel was off to her riding lesson, hubby off hitting golf balls, so I loaded my kayak in the van and followed the siren call of the Catawba River, the herons, the Osprey and the turtles: "Come Vicky, come! The peace of God settles upon the waters! Come feel His presence!"

It was my first trip kayaking this season. I unloaded my little boat, the lightweight, wonderful boat my dear Dad bought me at the end of last season. I carried it to the water, and glanced up to see a heron mama settle in her nest. Soon I will see little herons stretch their snaky necks to the sky, high above the water where the kayaks glide.

I paddled upstream so that when I grew tired, I could turn back and float with the current. Turtles watched me slip by, oars dripping water on my thighs. It was my first time out this season, and i knew I should turn around after half an hour. If I didn't, I would get blisters, sore wrists, and painful muscles that would scream at me all night. But who can turn around when the blue sky beckons, the trees wrap gentle fingers around puffy clouds, and turtles line the shores?

Finally, I turned reluctantly back....and the stiff breeze that I hadn't known was at my back was now at my face. OOps.

No wonder it had been so painless, so euphoric, so fun.

I returned to the dock at a much slower pace than I had left it. I knew I would be sore the next day. But it was so worth it.

As I tugged the kayak back to my van, an elderly couple sat in a car next to the van and hailed me.
"Do you need help?" they asked.
"Thank you, no," I answered, "My dad bought me this boat because it was light enough for me to handle on my own."
They nodded.
"Are you just watching the river?" I asked.
"Yes," they said, "It is so peaceful. That looks mighty fun, what you are doing."
"It was glorious," I acceded.
With a look of longing on their wrinkled faces, they asked, "Where did you get your kayak, if you don't mind us asking?"
I told them, and I didn't mind them asking at all. I only minded that I could not take their aging bodies, plop them on my kayak and shove them out onto the river where the heron mamas kept vigil in their nests, high above the water.

Psalm 148:12-13 (NIV)
young men and women, old men and children. [13] Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.

PS- Personal plea- My 15 year old homeschooled daughter, Asherel Kaseorg needs your votes to win the congressional art contest. To vote, click on the picture and then like it when you are redirected to the site. It takes 2 seconds and would help her so much! We would appreciate you sharing it, but please copy this blurb to accompany sharing the link. Very Important: If you just "like" the post, it isn't a vote. You have to click on the picture, and "like" it at the Pittenger Art Contest site. (She has lost quite a few votes because people don't get that.)Thank you in advance. You can vote until April 17. She needs to be in the top 5 to make the finals. This is completely hand drawn- no copy, trace, projector, computer assist- it took her months.
The link to her picture is:

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Saturday, April 13, 2013

In the Nick of Time

When Asherel has morning tests, I time it to the minute when to leave the house. She is not a morning person so I let her sleep as absolutely long as she can and still have us arrive on time. Each year, as homeschoolers, we are required to do some sort of standardized test to prove that her teacher (me) is not just sitting home in pink fluffy slippers eating bonbons and reading trash novels while my homeschooler cleans the ashes in the fireplace. So every year, we do the ACT. Last year, we almost missed it because the route to the test was chock full of marathoners! The cops had no pity on me wailing that the marathoners were between me and my legal homeschool compliance. I made a wild detour and arrived with less than a minute to spare.

So this year...I forgot about the marathoners. But something tugged at my mind, and I made Asherel leave 5 minutes earlier than I had planned. We arrived at the same stop sign where I had been delayed twenty minutes last year. There were crowds lined on either side of the road, and cops everywhere, but apparently, the pack of runners had not yet arrived. I dashed through the intersection in the nick of time. Not 5 minutes later, the racing hordes arrived, but we were safely through.

A lot of us wait till the last minute. And sometimes, in procrastinating, we miss the important thing we should have gotten done. The world's most famous procrastinator was the criminal hanging on the cross with Jesus. Having led a life without God and now facing imminent death, he understood he had precious few moments to get right with God, and finally acknowledged Jesus as Lord.

Had I been 5 minutes later, I would not have made it through the intersection, and Asherel might have missed her test. That is nothing compared to the eternal consequences if I died tomorrow and had not acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus. Procrastinators, beware.

Proverbs 27:1 (NIV)
Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.

1 Corinthians 15:32-34 (NIV)
If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” [33] Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” [34] Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God---I say this to your shame.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Bottom Line

We sat through an hour and a half spiel on some wonderful attic wrap stuff that will cut our energy bills by at least 25 %. Then they finally told us the cost. We both would have spit out our dentures if we had any. I think the shock may last long enough that when we do get dentures, we will still spit them out. It would take 20 years to recoup the savings! Who, except the Feds, hops on a deal like that?

I told the salesman we were very sorry to have taken so much of his time, but we were bottom-line kind of people and he should have started with the bottom-line. It would have saved us all an afternoon looking at charts while the blossoming dogwoods fluttered unappreciated just outside our door.

It is one of the reasons I love the Bible so much. The bottom-line is obvious and stated over and over again. Ignore God at your peril. Love and follow Him and the blossoming dogwoods will be just a pale reflection of the awesome beauty and joy in store for us.

Deuteronomy 30:4,6,11-16,19-20 (NIV)
Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. [6] The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. [11] Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. [12] It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” [13] Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” [14] No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. [15] See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. [16] For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. [19] This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live [20] and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Seeing Through the Pollen

It's that time of year again when a fine layer of yellow misery blows on every gentle breeze then settles like dust in a deserted castle on every surface. The trees are resplendent, with lime green shoots unfurling into tiny leaves, popping open against the pure blue sky. If only my eyes would stop watering long enough for me to gaze upon its beauty!

Oh Pollen, thou art a cruel, cruel master!

It was time to trek over to the Nursing Home and see Mom K. Arvo had warned me she was doing very poorly while I had been gone the past week in Chicago. She had stopped speaking, often sleeping, usually moaning in pain, and the few things she tried to say were incoherent.

I walked into her room and she was wide awake.
"Oh Vicky!" she said.
Well that was an unexpected utterance. She knew me and my name!
"How are you?" I said, sitting down next to her bed.
"Well," she said sadly, "We just came from the funeral."
Before I understood Alzheimers, I would have asked, "What funeral?", and been completely confused since I knew she hadn't left her bed since breaking her hip. I have learned a thing or two during my experiences with my old friend Evelyn, and now Mom K.

Like a good lawyer, time to redirect!

"You will never believe what happened in Chicago!" I exclaimed.
"What?" she asked, forgetting the funeral.
"Your grandson, Matthias, won 4th place in the whole nation of law schools as the top speaker in the National Appellate Advocacy contest!"
Her face transformed from dejected sadness to euphoric awe. She grasped my hand and then clasped her hands together and began to pray out loud, thanking God for the wonder of her talented grandson who has brought her so much joy. I pulled out my camera and showed her picture after picture of my son at the contest. She kept shaking her head and smiling. We had a wonderful visit, and I left her smiling.

Ah-choo!!! In desperation, I took an allergy pill. Almost instantly life was worth living again. My red eyes cleared and I saw that the world in the blossoming Spring was unutterably beautiful.

Mark 8:25 (NIV)
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

From Chicago to Hawaii in an Eyeblink

Finally home after a whirlwind week to Chicago, and then the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But my last morning was spent on a 5 mile run through Hawaii. It was beautiful, with waterfalls, and a lung searing ascent up the highest dormant volcano on the island. I was able to enjoy this magnificent scenery from the most amazing high tech treadmill I have ever been on. As I stood in the hotel workout room, obviously perplexed by all the buttons, a maintenance man came by.
"You need help?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Would you like to run in Hawaii?"
"Of course!"
He pushed some buttons, and soon I was blissfully lost in the tropical world of one of the prettiest runs on earth.

Asherel felt similarly as we strolled through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We spent the most time slowly meandering through the Beatles' room. She had a very content look on her face, the same one I know I had as I jogged in Hawaii.

It would be nice to be able to teleport to the world of your dreams. How enticing to just push a button and float to a place where the rancor and evil is but a distant memory, replaced by music made by genius, waterfalls, and rows of waving palm fronds.

We have that. It is not available by pushing a button, but we will enter that world instantaneously. There will be no more struggles, or pain, or despair. All we have to do is trust that Jesus is who He claimed to be, and accept His gift of forgiveness for our sins. He promises that Heaven awaits those who walk with Him- a world of eternal bliss.

I don't know if the Beatles will be there. I don't know for sure who will be there. I do know that the Bible promises I will be there if I surrender my life to God. I imagine Hawaii, gorgeous as it is, won't hold a candle to Heaven. And the music of the Beatles, perhaps unsurpassed here on Earth (in Asherel's opinion anyway) won't begin to rival the voices of angels echoing through eternity.

Meantime, I'm in my temporary home again, with a load of wash to fold.

1 John 1:1-4 (NIV)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched---this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. [2] The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. [3] We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. [4] We write this to make our joy complete.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Bathed in the Son

I spent a lot of time in prayer the past few days. I prayed especially hard when I was in the huge completely unfamiliar underbelly of Chicago, driving in the vast dark road system beneath the elevated trains. My GPS could not receive a signal and I had no idea how to get to the hotel where the awards ceremony for the National Appellate Advocacy competition was being held. I knew my son had a shot at a Best Advocate award, and I didn't want to miss it...but it started in 15 minutes and my GPS was lost, and therefore, I was lost.

"Lord, please help me here," I said, driving through those dark and scary alien roads. I saw a shaft of daylight in the distance, and decided I needed to find the sun, get out of that catacomb of darkness, and perhaps the signal would return.

As I burst into the sunlight, my GPS flickered back on, and I was a mere minute from the hotel. I raced to the valet parking workers, handed off my keys, and shot upstairs to the banquet room. I was the first one there.

It occurs to me as I write this that my experience parallels my spiritual walk. I am hopelessly lost in darkness whenever I lose sight of the Son. The guiding signal is faint and I could wander forever without finding my way. But when I seek Him, when I drive hard for His Light, He is there and He guides me, and I breathe a sigh of relief as I travel the path I long so desperately to be on.

At the Awards Ceremony, my beloved son's team won 3rd place overall, 4th place best brief, and then, most delightful surprise of all, Matthias placed as the National 4th Best Advocate individually!

On the way out of the city, I took only roads that remained bathed in sun.

1 John 1:5-7 (NIV)
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. [6] If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. [7] But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Go In Peace

On our way this morning to Chicago! I packed winter coats, winter hats, winter gloves, boots, and emergency blankets. I am glad to leave behind debates on guns, same sex marriage, and insupportable debt. For the next few days, I will be watching my son in his National Appellate Advocacy competition, and maybe sneaking out to look at the Picasso sculpture by City Hall. We lived near Chicago when I was 9 years old. I still remember that Picasso sculpture fondly. The place where I learned to ride horses, once on the outskirts of the city, has long since been plowed down for a subdivision, but the memories still linger.
I doubt I will write any blogs while I am gone. So I will leave you with one of my favorite verses:
Judges 18:6 (NIV)
...“Go in peace . Your journey has the Lord’s approval.”

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Cure for Grumpy

We got a rare treat this weekend. We went out to my favorite animal rescue on the planet, Hollow Creek Farm. Asherel was so excited, because we haven't been there in quite a while and she really missed the mean little pony, Bob. I love underdogs, even under-horses...but Bob is just not an endearing personality. I am not sure why Asherel loves him. He always has his ears back, and if you turn your back on him, he nips you. He has to be in a pasture all by himself because he picks on the horses, who are all much bigger than him. He kicks them, bites them, and terrorizes them.

Nonetheless, I went out to Bob's pasture with Asherel so I could "protect her." While she curried and brushed Bob, working out the myriad tangles in his long mane and tail, I enticed Sadie, the wild mustang to come close enough for me to pet her muzzle. I was leaning over the fence, when Bob came over and started nipping at my pants. I smacked him, but he was completely unaffected by that.

"He just wants to say 'Hi' ," said Asherel as I climbed on the fence, out of his reach. She kept brushing him. He began nibbling on my boots. Good thing I was there to "protect" Asherel.
"Why doesn't he bite you?" I asked.
"He likes the attention," she said wisely.

She has a good heart, my daughter, and I think she understands a key element not only of pony nature, but human nature as well. The grumpy ones in our midst more often than not are grumpy because they have sought love and not found it. I do believe that there is evil in the world, and no amount of love will change a heart bent on destruction. However, I think there are misunderstood "Bobs" of the world, and we have a chance with them.

I love my cousin's motto in the wake of the Newtown shootings- "Choose Love." That is a good motto. It is what Asherel did with Bob and the whole time we were with him, Bob never bit her. Not once.

Psalm 31:7-8,14-16 (NIV)
I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. [8] You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place. [14] But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” [15] My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. [16] Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org

Monday, April 1, 2013

Miracles Abound

It was supposed to rain on Easter, but instead, the sun came out, and my daffodils all popped open! I went on a run in the morning, as the white petals from the Bradford Pear trees swirled in the air around me. Glorious! I love this day we celebrate Miracles!

But besides the blessed miracle of Jesus' Resurrection, a second miracle occurred on this Holy day- I had culinary success with a potato. Anyone who knows me well knows cooking is not my particular forte. Anyone need success losing weight? Just come live at my house. If that doesn't turn you off to eating, nothing will. However, I saw a recipe on Facebook that looked so fool-proof, I thought even I could do it! It was a baked potato, sliced thinly almost all the way through so that it fanned open. Then I was to dribble butter and olive oil on it, add salt and pepper, and bake 40 minutes at 425. It looked really beautiful on the recipe card.

"I am going to try this for Easter!" I told the adoring crowd that loves my cooking. (my two dogs.)
The human consumers just quietly went about their business.

Anyway, it was indeed almost fool proof. It took a little practice to slice *almost* all the way through without going too far. On the couple of slices that I went too far, the slice of course fell off the fanning potato. Fortunately, that only happened on my first couple of slices at the first end. I could not believe how pretty it looked.

"Wow," Arvo said walking by, as I pulled it out of the oven. It looked just like the picture on the recipe card. This was perhaps the most successful cooking venture I had ever achieved: beautiful and delicious! I can occasionally get one or the other, but almost never both at the same time. And, I never eat a whole potato, but I ate the whole thing.

You never know what miracles await on Resurrection Sunday!

Our pastor preached on the first miracle of Easter- the empty tomb and the risen Christ. He pointed out that no Jew or Greek had ever produced the Body, which would have been the quickest way to disprove Christ's resurrection. The fearful scattered disciples upon seeing the risen Lord changed overnight to brave men, fearless in witnessing even unto death that indeed Jesus had risen. Countless lives began changing from that moment on. If you don't believe lives can be miraculously transformed by the truth of the Resurrection, just remember my potato. It will give you a visual that miracles can and do abound.

We leave Wednesday morning on a whirlwind trip to Chicago to watch my son Matthias in his national Appellate Advocacy Finals. I think I am very unlikely to have time to draw and blog, so for the first time in three years without missing a day, I will probably miss a week. To all of you who hang on my every word ( ;-D ), I apologize. To those who were wondering when I would knock it off, you can do your happy dance.

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (NIV)
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. [51] Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed--- [52] in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. [53] For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. [54] When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” [55] “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” [56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [58] Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

-save a dog- hollowcreekfarm.org