December 2, 2009

Kangaroos and Buffalo


My imagination has always been, and is to this day, a ravenous beast in a peaceful wood that will never be silenced.
Take a left off the highway and go along the main drive through town eventually making several turns. It is here you’ll find the “Barn House.”
We lived in a two story house with features that for some reason my older sister and I attributed to a barn. And so it was called the Barn House. I’m twenty-one now, and to this day we will refer to that particular home as the “Barn House.”
There were always next door neighbors. It wasn’t until I was in high school and learning to separate myself voluntarily in attitude and behavior from the normal world that I learned the practice of knowing and being friends with one’s neighbors was decidedly unpopular.
These neighbors had a son my age, and we did stuff together. All the time. Or not that often. I can never remember.
He wore a red shirt sometimes. I think.
His mom was a short lady and had curly hair.
Their house was blue.
And there was definitely a stone wall, about two and a half feet tall that divided our property and theirs.

Dad owned a garage door company, and it was in the early years of its becoming…whatever it is that companies become.
This meant that since we had little-to-no warehouse space for the doors, we stored them in racks in our garage. Dad had a small office located somewhere else he left for to go to work each day.
When I was six, he came home one day and wearing his signature Hawaiian shirt and khaki slacks, sat me down on our blue, felty-feeling couch with big buttons all over and said “Jimmy, I’ve got some pretty exciting news.”
This had to be important. Really important. I know ‘cause Mom was sitting across from me with the camera all ready.
My older sister put her pencil down and completely abandoned the homeschool math sheet she was working on. She could add seventeen minutes to three-thirty pm later.
Dad wasn’t mad at Jimmy, and her eight year-old mind didn’t already know what Dad was going to say, so she had to listen.

“Well Jimmy, one of my customers wanted a garage door. But this was no regular customer, this guy had a very special job. He goes to work every day and takes tourists for helicopter rides up the side of Mauna Kea and takes them right over the volcano.”
My Dad probably said more. I’m guessing what followed was he told me about how the customer traded him a helicopter ride for part of the payment for his garage door. I’m sure my Dad told me when we were going, and that it was at least several days away. There is no doubt in my mind that my sister waited until the opportune moment when she and Mom were alone in the kitchen, then she asked her how come Dad was taking me and not her, and she maybe even cried about it.
All I know is the seconds flew by and then I was dressed in my favorite Sher-kahn t-shirt from the jungle book that a Vietnamese lady who lived in an apartment building made for me, climbing into the cockpit of a helicopter.
Another second or two and I was adjusting my headphones, telling Dad and the pilot that I could hear them both.
Then we were moving smoothly over hundreds of acres of grass and cattle. Roads, tiny little cars and pretend-looking buildings passing relentlessly below.
To this day I’ll swear I saw kangaroos and buffalo. I can see them in my mind just as I did the day we flew over them on our way to the Volcano. I only wish they existed.
Then we were there. I could see the smoke rising angrily, billowing dark and other-worldly from the most deadly and dangerous thing a little boy’s mind could conceive of.
Lava was more dangerous than the ocean.
People died in lava.
We were at the edge of the volcano. I could see it bubbling and spurting orange and red liquid fire out at me. What if it burned a hole in the plane.
In a horrified, fascinated panic I gripped the arm at the edge of my seat and leaned back from the window.
The pilot was going right over the lava.
“Whoa, its getting pretty hot in here, can you feel that Jimmy?” I could feel it. I could smell certain death below. We were going to die. People died in lava. We were right over it and the pilot was steering us so that now we were totally over the lava. What if the helicopter stopped spinning and we dropped into it? Me and Dad were gonna die. And the pilot too.
“Wanna go down a little closer to the lava?”
“No Dad!”
The laughs in my headphones were no competition for the loudness of my imagination.
I didn’t want to die. Other people already died in that lava down there, and Dad wanted to go closer!
I could feel it all over my skin as I sank into it. It felt just like the jacuzzi I got into at the hotel before one time. Then a security guard came over and told Dad no kids allowed in it, so Bethany and I had to go play in the pool while Dad got to talk with the older tourist people from Canada with funny accents.

Somewhere a gasp and another dip in the rotors later, we landed at the airfield in Waimea. It was cold and rainy, fog covered the small private airstrip we drove away from. I was cold and numb from my mind out to my still crawling skin.
We had flown over the Volcano.

Dad had done what the imagination of a little boy could not have conceived in a million little boy years.
My sister graduated first, married first, and had the first grandchild.

But I flew over the Volcano.

November 15, 2009

Einstein, Ann of Green Gables, and Hurricane Katrina

After looking around at the house, I settled on the couch for a delicious read. I knew this weekend stay with friends would be refreshing. The air was becoming fresher by the moment as the sun stretched its long arms across the valley. It was going to be a gorgeous autumn day; I could feel it.

When my neck stopped cramping from viewing the sunrise over the sofa back, I heard the bathroom door slam. A small boy hummed “How Great is Our God”. A few seconds later the toilet flushed and the wordless tune turned to a yodel. Bare feet padded slowly toward the living room making propeller sounds between choruses. I watched as the mighty ship battled the waves and I listened as the captain reassured the first mate that he had complete control over the boat in the awful storm. Mid-sentence, the captain broke out in song, “How gre-e-e-a-a-a-t-t-t is our God… Brrrrrr-vroomvroom-brrrrrrrrrrr-put-put-put-brrrrrrrr-put-jdjdjdjssshhh. Oh no! We’re out of gas, Captain! Quick, turn her around…Sing with me-e-e-e-e, how gre-e-e-a-a-a-t-t-t is our God…”

At this point, Gary was with in a few feet of my living room observatory and still did not know I was in the vicinity. So, not wanting to scare him, I quietly said his name. He jerked and looked at the door, puzzled. I repeated his name. This time he found me and ran over with a grin, “Wow. Hi there. I didn’t even know you were here; you’re pretty quiet. Why are you here? How long are you going to be here anyways? Can you sleep in my room? What are you reading? Is that a big-kid book? I can read SOME big-kid books but not the big-kid books that have really long words. Like this long (showing hands a foot apart). I bet I could read that book. Hey! Maybe you could read it to me!”

Thus, my weekend with a 7 year old, a 5 year old, and a 2 year old began. When I say 7, 5, and 2, don’t think of kids. Think of Einstein and Leonardo De Vinci mashed together, given red fruit punch, and told to stay inside an unsuspecting 7 year old boy. Think of Anne of Green Gables and Lucille Ball enslaved by Cinderella’s stepmother, given one room to share, and told to stay inside a theatrical 5 year old girl. Think of the Three Stooges and hurricane Katrina handcuffed side to side, given boxing gloves, and told to stay inside a brilliant 2 year old bundle of rosy cheeks, spring, and giggles.

After breakfast on the first day, they taught me how to write Egyptian hieroglyphics and we made secret letters to each other. I gave 5 year old Penny her letter and she asked me to read it to her. It said something along the lines of, “Dear Penny, How are you? I am fine. I like staying at your house. Love, D”. She strutted around the kitchen reading the letter to herself; a letter which was probably no longer from me but from some prince far away who was wholly devoted to her.

Gary and Penny sat resembling gargoyles while I read them “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. Every nanosecond or so, little Paige would punch the book out of my fingers so I could see her face. Each time she was more thrilled with herself than the last.

Finally, I dodged her tiny fist, “Paige, it’s time for you to do something else now. Right now I am reading to Gary and Penny. Later on I will play with you.” She immediately raised her eyebrows to unbelievable heights and pointed at my lap, “Me?” “No, Paige. You can’t sit in my lap right now.” She bounced off the couch and proceeded to point at each item in the room that she could lift her saying, “Me? Me?” All the while raising her eyebrows and cocking her head. When she found that I said “No.” too many times, she sat down to shatter the hopes and dreams of the captain and first mate.

Later that afternoon, I had to go to work and went to the bathroom to get ready. I got dressed, put up my hair with one of those huge clips that looks like a claw and opened the door. Right outside was my little 5 year old friend looking starry eyed and wistful. She looked me up and down saying “Oh!” and making big motions with her hands. The inspection ended with her asking me to turn around and kneel. I did as she asked and was rewarded with a tiny shriek of excitement. “Oh,” she squealed for the 11th time, “I love your hair. It looks so professional! Can you do my hair like that?” I checked my watch, “Sure, but we’ll have to do it fast. I have to go soon.” “Ok.” She hurriedly searched through her mother’s hair-thing box trying to be as businesslike as possible. Finding what she wanted, she ran back to me. I did up her hair as fast as I could while she expressed how lovely it was and how her mom was going to be astonished by how professional she looked. Her mother was very impressed, so Penny marched through the house proclaiming that she was a professional now. She ended our hairdressing appointment with a request for me to let her help me work at the office. Unfortunately, that didn't work out.

After many different escapades with the three, I came to a conclusion; Gary builds a masterpiece, Penny writes its life story, and Paige owns it.


October 20, 2009

Dewdrops turn Factories into Fluffy Clouds

Life from a different vantage point






Dewdrops turn factories into fluffy clouds




Cameras turn fields into photographs




Sunshine is sneaky




Islands don't live only in oceans





My room and metaphysics have a barely cordial relationship

October 17, 2009

A Letter to Faith


Dear little Faith,

Hi my beautiful girl. Yesterday, you turned three weeks old, but it seems like you've been in my heart forever. What it it like, being plunged from darkness into oh-so-bright light? Were you surprised how solid and colorful everything seemed? There's no going back to the dark, squishy place, you know, even if you want to.
We've got a lot to walk through, you and I. You see, I've never had a little girl before and I don't quite know what I'm doing. Sometimes I'll be grumpy and glare and say things I shouldn't. Sometimes you'll be grumpy and glare and say things you shouldn't. Then we'll have to forgive each other and start fresh again.
I want to know you, and I want you to know me, but mostly, I want you to know my Jesus. He's worth knowing. There's so much I want to tell you about Him, but we've got time; I'll be your mom for quite a while! I love you, daughter.
Guess what? I pray for you every day. I pray for you to rest, I pray for you to be safe, but my strongest, deepest prayer is for you to one day give your whole heart to Jesus and let him make you fresh and new.

When you do, He'll say something like this:

Hi my beautiful girl. Your new heart is only one day old, but it seems like you've been in my heart forever (Jeremiah 31:3). What it it like, being plunged from darkness into oh-so-bright light (Ephesians 5:8)? Were you surprised how solid and colorful everything seemed (2 Corinthians 5:17)? There's no going back to the darkness, you know (Colossians 1:13-14).
We've got a lot to walk through, you and I (John 16:33). Don't be afraid, though, I know all things about you (Psalm 139:1-6). Sometimes people will still be grumpy with you and glare and say things they shouldn't (John 15:20). Sometimes you'll still be grumpy at people and glare and say things you shouldn't... Then you'll have to forgive each other and start fresh again (James 5:16, Luke 17:3-4).
I want to know you, and I want you to know me, but mostly, I want you to know my Jesus (Ephesians 3:17-21). He's worth knowing (Colossians 1:15-20). There's so much I want to tell you about Him, but we've got time; I'll be your Father for all eternity (1 John 5:17). I love you, daughter (Isaiah 54:10).

September 15, 2009

Mums in Season


Taking a deep breath, there was the sound of denim on leather as he slid out of the bucket seat of his 1976 Chevy pickup. The door slammed hard, maybe just a little too hard.

Booted shoes laced up to the ankle plodded softly on the cemented walkway.
A single petal from the bouquet of Mums (her favorite flower) dropped to the ground unnoticed.
Somewhere several hundred yards to his left a frozen pine cone dropped with an echo that resonated over the frozen creek bed.

Almost there.
Heavy breathing.

He started to slow, realizing that it was cold outside.
His fingers tugged at the zipper that always seemed to catch halfway up his worn leather jacket.

Everyone he knew thought it was unhealthy for him to go and see her again, but he didn’t care. He had to. He’d promised her.
She was his everything. He lived for that smile, the laugh, the look in her eye that she kept special for him alone.
And every time he visited her, he got to see those again.

“Hello sweetheart. I missed you so much this week. So much happened that I haven’t gotten to tell you about.
Before I go any further though, here. I got these for you, I know they’re a little gone by, but they’re Mums. I had to."

“I was late to work again on Friday. Luckily Aaron didn’t say anything, but I know he noticed. He just gave me one of those smiles that said, 'lets not have this conversation.' I really like him, and I know you do too. You were so happy when I got that job, I remember you lit up like a Christmas tree and practically squeezed my lungs flat. Then you called all your family and everything…you’re amazing. You never fail to make me feel like the most important man in the world.”

“All the other men at work talk about how their wives gossip about them or nag all day. I got to come home every day to the most beautiful woman in the world with eyes that said I love you. You got excited with me, you made me laughed and laughed at my jokes, and your favorite thing was to just be with me.”

“I got a phone call from Christine the other day. She said she’s doing well, she likes college, and she’s taking a ton of hours but that there’s this guy that makes her take a break and go for a walk or to the movies every once in a while. I’ll have to get your opinion on him.”

“You are without a doubt the smartest, loveliest woman I know. If something big in my life happened, I couldn’t wait to come home and tell you about it because I wanted so badly to know what you thought about it.”

“I’m thinking about selling the truck. I know it was your favorite, but its getting old like us, and I’m going to need something more reliable soon. Especially since its winter time. Should I go with another truck or a car? Truck? Of course. Heh heh, the first truck I ever bought was because you told me it was attractive to see a man driving around in a truck. I’ll never know why you decided I should be your attractive man. Its not like I was in your league. I guess the truck was though.”

The sun had gone down and it had gotten eight degrees colder while he’d been talking to her, but he’d gotten much warmer.

On and on he spoke. And still she listened with her soft smile and eyes that held something special for him alone.

Eventually the flowers froze in his gloved hands, the scarf wrapped around his neck preserving him against the snow that had begun to fall.

The distant streetlights at the entrance glistened on her grave, reflecting on the iced-over tombstone that had her name, age, and favorite quote chiseled on its face.

Saying goodbye, he kissed the floral arrangement tenderly, then dropped them beside her.
Getting up off his knees, he trudged slowly through the wind that had just picked up, and head down, arms wrapped around his chest, headed back towards his truck that would go for sale in the morning.

As always, even though he knew instinctively what she’d say it was so important that he asked and heard her opinion.

He respected it more than anyone else’s in the world.

A solitary tear fell to the frozen ground.

The truck coughed once, then turned over and came to life with a roar.




September 12, 2009

Sheep in Deep Kimchi

"Beep! Beep! Sheep in a jeep on a hill that's steep."
And so it begins.
A tale "guaranteed to tickle every reader's funny bone" according to Amazon's review.

Sheep in a Jeep has become a cornerstone of literature in our family. True story: when guy 1 (last month) wanted to send a gift to a girl he likes, he sent her not only Sheep in a Jeep, also Sheep on a Ship and the one and only Sheep out to Eat. Apparently, the books spoke friendship in a way roses never could.

Given the almost-two year old's affinity for farm animal noises, I thought the time was right. He could now appreciate Sheep in a Jeep. I read the words, he supplied the appropriate sound effects (extra beeps, baaaaaas, nasal pig grunts, and "uh-oh"s). As the plot tension mounted, he became knit his eyebrows. His little voice sniffled. He literally understood the sheep's transportation predicament. To almost-two year old, Sheep in a Jeep is not comedy, it is tragedy.

Guess we'll wait a while to introduce Shakespeare.

August 29, 2009

Ravens and Water

God gives him a mission, something to say. He says it. Nobody wants to hear it. They'll most likely kill him if he sticks around.
God says, "You don't have to stick around" (whew, what a relief) "Hide yourself by this brook." (gurgling, burbling, could be relaxing)
God provides for his needs.... water in the brook and bread and meat delivered by ravens twice a day (ravens? the precursor to pizza delivery?).
Then, the brook dries up. (dries up! God's perfect provision DRIES UP?)
God enters again, "Go to city X, where I've told a widow to feed you".
He goes.
He meets a widow.
He asks for water. She says yes.
He asks for a morsel of bread. She says no. (wait, this isn't how I imagined it going)
A little flour and a little oil is all she has left and she thinks she and her son will die.
God intervenes, gives flour in her jar and oil in her jug whenever they run low.
All is well?
All is not well.
The widow's son becomes ill until there is "no breath left in him". She is bitter, angry, remembering old sin.
Elijah cries to God. God listens. The boy lives. The widow believes.

And this is just 1 Kings 17. Elijah's life takes more turns and goes through more upheaval. God does not always seem present, but He always is present.

I expect my life to follow certain paths and take certain courses. I trust my Father to provide. But maybe it will not be as I expect. Did Elijah anticipate ravens with bread, a disappearing brook, a contrary widow?

Oswald Chambers said it this bluntly,
"Let me say I believe God will supply all my need, and then let me run dry, with no outlook, and see whether I will go through the trial of faith, or whether I will sink back to something lower. Faith must be tested, because it can be turned into a personal possession only through conflict... Faith is unutterable trust in God, trust which never dreams that He will not stand by us."




August 19, 2009

A Delivery of Accidental Irony


He wore a look that only young men who have had to take their Father's place as man of the house can wear.
A scraggly goatee, tanned features, and eyes that gleamed with teases of maturity taking shape told me that he was several years older than his age of 18.
I sized his bloody face up. "What happened to you?"
Obviously he had the crap beaten out of him.
"Three guys jumped me."
My fingers pulled at his swollen cheek bones, spread the cut above his brow apart, and prodded around his eyes.
"Ow, shit."
I stopped for a second to acknowledge his glare.
"You are allowed to think whatever you want, make up any name for me you possibly can. You cannot curse in front of your sister. I know it hurts, I'm sorry."
He stared.
"She's heard it all already."
"I didn't ask that. Don't move your head, just follow my finger with your eyes."

Another few moments and I stepped out of the room.
Just under two minutes to gather up a basin, saline solution and nice expensive medical soap, scrub sponge, towel, gloves, and inform the doctor his patient was ready.
Knocking, then I pushed open the door.
"Okay, I'm just going to clean you up a little so when the doctor comes in to take a look he can see a little better what's going on. This is just expensive soap and water, and here; feel this sponge, see? It's not rough, it's soft. But it'll still sting some."

The ever present question.
"Will I need stitches?"
"Most likely. It looks like four, maybe five, but I doubt it. It'll need to be closed though for sure."
He grimaced, then a flurry of threats and harsh words came out of his mouth against the people who did it to him.
The room grew quiet as Mother and daughter watched his face slowly reappear, the crimson disappearing into the sponge and drips.
No warning whatsoever.
Just a question, his voice low and startling sincere.
"What would you do? I mean, how would you handle the situation if you knew who did it to you?"
The sponge froze on his forehead.
Every particle in the room stopped moving as Mother and daughter stared at me.

I've never been attacked by three people who used my own bicycle to beat me, who kicked me in the head while I was lying on the rough pavement being punched, who laughed and got into their car and drove off.

"Do you know who did this to you?"
"Yes."
"Where's your Dad?"
"He lives in Michigan."
"I think you need to ask him."
"I don't talk to him."
"Do you have an Uncle, Grandpa, some family here? You need to ask them."
"No, just my Mom and sister and two Aunts."

Caked blood from his ears made the water in basin officially too murky to see through.
"What would you do? Would you just let them get away with it?"
He looked at me fiercely, his query cutting and relentless.

The doctor came in and spent several minutes asking his own questions, voicing concerns and clarifying statements.
"We'll use 4.0 vicryl for him...I'll write up the orders and we'll send him to get a CT scan, I want to rule out any possible internal trauma, although it seems like he's fine."
Lidocaine and Marcaine took any discernment for detail from him and his cut was soon ready to be closed.
As the needle dove in, hemostats gripped and twirled in a choreographed dance that tightened and looped, flipped spun and tied, our words did the same as we talked man-to-man.

"Sit tight. I'm going to get a wheelchair and then I'll take you to get your head scanned."
It came out negative.
The damage would be bruises, cuts, abrasions, swelling, throbbing, anger, frustration, and the battle for making an incredibly tough decision few have encountered.
I shook his hand and had him sign at the bottom by the "X."
"You're free to go, hope you feel better man."
He smiled, a first for the evening.
"Thanks."
He shook my hand firmly. Of course he had a good grip.
"And don't come back in here to get stitched up again without bringing me a pizza."
He looked at me and rolled his eyes, ice pack held to the back of his head.

"That's what I was going out to get when this happened."

August 2, 2009

Meeting Pandora

What first alerted me to their presence next door was an the heavy aroma of spices that spilled around and over the slightly cracked door, allowing the thick scent of curry to fill the entire hallway. As I walked past their door carrying an excess of luggage that belied my eight months of traveling I picked up the faint murmur of a foreign language.
Both were both scent and sound were legitimate and strong.
Exhausted, I slid my key-card into the door and got...red.
Trying again...still red.
Impatiently I threw down my luggage, wanting green. Green, not stupid red.

Her tiny voice startled me.
"You shouldn't throw things. That's how you break stuff."
I turned sharply around and saw a short olive-skinned girl with long black hair and beautiful eyes. She was smaller than most five year-olds but spoke with the authority of at least seven birthdays.

"Be careful. You're making a lot of noise."
I was completely put in my place.
"Sorry. I'm super tired and my key isn't working. Whoops, there it goes, see? I wanted green but it kept giving me red."
She stared up at me completely unimpressed.
"So. You don't have to throw things Army man."
Now it was my turn.
"Wrong. I'm in the Air Force."
"Same thing."
If I hadn't already, I was going to lose a huge battle with someone a third of my age and more than that smaller than me.
Completely unacceptable. So I changed topics.

"Your dinner smells good, were you the cook?"
She smiled at me, finding it humorous. Whew.
"No, its supper, and I didn't cook it. I get to eat it now though, and it's going to be so good. Bye!"
With that she turned on her heel and exited the conversation and hallway.

...
A week or two passed as each evening I returned to ever diverse meal fragrances.
...

I stood waiting for the insultingly slow elevator to arrive, my basket of laundry weighing more as my boredom grew.
"I bet you can't tell what we've been saying. It's in another language that you don't know."
This time I knew better than to give her the first hit of astonishment, regardless of whether she deserved it.
"You're right. I don't. You know an entire language that I don't know?"
"Yep." The smug look on her face was pronounced. What was it I did to deserve this relationship again?

"Wow. Guess what."
Instead of answering, she looked straight into my ignorant eyes and spoke several sentences of her native tongue, whatever it was.
"No, I'm serious, guess what."
The only way for me to avoid annihilation was to ignore her shots across my bow.

The elevator door opened and closed.
I set my laundry down.

It was on.

"What."
"I know another language too."
"No you don't."
"Yes, I do. I'll prove it. You ready?"
"Yep."
I smirked at her.

I crouched down and pointed to her stomach.
"What is this called?"
"Its my tummy."
Nope. Not even close.
"Nope, not even close ma'am."
She challenged me.
"Then what is it?"

I began pointing at her tummy, guessing roughly as to where things were located.
"Here's where your duodenum is, it's the beginning of your intestines. Here's your colon, and you have mucosa and submucosa all through there. Your pancreas should be about here, and this is your gallbladder. Hey look, it's your liver! Not. You can't see it, but it's there. And here is where your stomach is."
She looked at me.
"Yep, I knew all that."
"No you didn't. Just like I didn't know what you were saying."
Win or lose, she wasn't going to lose.
"Fine."
And with that she turned around and scootered off down the hallway.
As I leaned over to pick up my bags, her father followed in his daughter's footsteps and scared the living everythings out of me.
"You know, I am quite impressed. She's usually very shy but for some reason she gets along with you. That is very good!"

I smiled at him and backed into the elevator.
"Thank you, your daughter is very sweet."
The doors closed and I caught myself audibly snorting.
Shy? Sweet?
No...neither one of those.

She was...acute, calculating, clever. Aggressive, daunting, and fearless, intelligent, small and...
she won.

July 30, 2009

When He Left

Hot sun melting below the horizon. End of a long day.
More sick come. More healing. More demon-possessed come.
This is taxing on the body and soul.

And so He left.
Woke up in the morning and instead of rejoining the needy, He left.
Left for a desolate place.
The Son of God left.
Left the people, left the needs, left the crowds, left the friends.

Of course, one can't leave for long (you know it's true).
The curious found him and "would have kept him from leaving them."
There was a "must" imprinted on His soul, so instead of serving the same crowds, he left to follow the Father's will.
Luke 4:40-44

Two boats, two brothers, enough fish to sink a boat.
The two brothers set aside for a time homes, jobs, families, all for Him.
A man bitterly diseased: healed.
The media got wind of this action. More people needed Him. More people wanted to listen.
So... he left.
And not just once, over and again.
"But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray."
Luke 5:11-16

Religious leaders stunned, academics offended, puzzling questions answered, societal guidelines ignored. He taught in the fields, He taught in the homes of wealthy, corrupt men, He taught the "religious" on Sunday mornings, too.
Right smack dab in the middle of all this teaching,
He left.
Hiked a mountain to pray all night.

Day came, He knew exactly what He needed to do: Name the 12 men who would follow him until his betrayal. Eleven would follow him after he rose.
Luke 6:12-16

My carpet hasn't been vacuumed this week. O.K., it's been longer than a week.
One and a half year olds who are learning to pee in the toilet need affirmation, attention, "Llama Llama Red Pajama" stories, hugs, naps, time-outs, crackers, yes, more time-outs.
There are friends I need to call, Father's day gifts I need to send (and not because I'm thinking ahead to next Father's Day), blueberries that need to be washed and frozen before they mush forever, a Greek alphabet I need to learn, and roughly 69 boxes to pack this month.
Shall I reconsider?
In light of Luke 4, 5, and 6, I reflect.

The Son of God,
the Rescuer of sinful man,
the Perfect One,
left
to
pray.

June 27, 2009

The Training Instructor's Favorite

My first day of basic training I was told to sit perfectly still until my training instructor returned. He came back after just over five hours. I'd rather be hit in the face with an agitated puffer fish then ever try to sit still for that long again.

By the end of basic I'd hands-down been in trouble more often and had to do more push-ups than anyone else in my flight of 56 guys. I was also the training instructor's favorite. I know this because he told me, right before I got sent outside to move four hundred sandbags for no apparent reason other than I was his favorite.

One time I got in trouble for dancing in the kitchen while on KP duty. My punishment was... unpleasant. I say "one time" because that is not the kind of thing you want to get in trouble for twice.

Inside our bathroom was a vent that went up, over, and down into the girl's bathroom of our sister flight. Needless to say when our respective instructors were absent, there was much communication through the vent. I won fifteen dollars for doing an imitation of our First Sergeant into that vent. Word somehow reached our instructor and the next day I found myself doing that same imitation, only not into a vent.

My job in the flight was to roll shirts. I figured out a way to use two drawers side-by-side that made every shirt turn out immaculate, far above what was expected for inspection. Every guy had five PT shirts, six white undershirts and six tan undershirts. Times sixty.

One night for no apparent reason my entire body broke into hives. To this day I have no idea what caused it. Bees?

I don't remember ever feeling as proud as the day I had my name tag sewn on my uniform. It's strange to me how strongly I felt and still do feel about it.

My sisters sent me letters that occasionally had pictures in them. I'll never forget how powerful a letter or a picture can be.

During the six weeks when I'd never seen so much hazing (or public ridiculing), cursing or anger in my life, God turned what started out as two of us praying together every night into well over twenty guys gathering every night in the shower... the only place we'd all fit without waking the others up.

And I will never forget the day my drill instructor walked up behind me at breakfast and said
"You might want to get up. Now." Then flipped our entire table full of food into the air.
I'm pretty sure none of the cockroaches survived the fall.

June 19, 2009

How Do We Speak of God?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer watched as hundreds of years of church tradition crumbled. The German church had become an arm of Hitler. Few within the church even dared voice questions. Imprisoned in Tegel military prison, he penned these words,
"What is bothering me incessantly is the question of what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today... We are moving toward a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious any more. Even those who honestly describe themselves as 'religious' do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by 'religious'. How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless as well? Are there religionless Christians? If religion is only a garment of Christianity - and even this garment has looked very different at different times - then what is a religionless Christianity... What do a church, a community, a sermon, a liturgy, a Christian life mean in a religionless world? How do we speak of God?..."
"Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Letters and Papers from Prison" Edited by Eberhard Bethge
Bonhoeffer was right. In many ways, Europe adopted a "post-Christian" society after WWII. I sit within my own culture, watching the gods of Self, Entertainment, and Affluence displace reverence. Because my Christ continues to change lives in this context, Bonhoeffer's questions ring true: What do a church, a community, a sermon, a liturgy, a Christian life mean in a religionless world? How do we speak of God?

June 9, 2009

Morning at the Medical Clinic


I had finished opening the medical clinic and was wandering around, waiting for something to capture my attention. My eye fell on the Doctor's stethoscope hanging near my desk. On this particular morning, the Doctor was not in yet and no patients had arrived. I carefully picked up the ancient stethoscope and placed the ends in my ears. It was a tiny bit big so I had to hold it in my ears while I pushed it on my wrist. Nothing. I moved it to where I thought my heart should be. Strike two.

I tested different areas of my chest until a vigorus tattoo came to my ears. I grinned and held it there thinking of my unborn niece's heart beat I had heard not 2 months before. Just then my eye started pumping as it sometimes does. I wondered if I could hear my heart beat from my eye. Like a dork, I shut my eye and pushed the stethoscope against it.

A loud cough echoed through the room and I jerked around. An old, stately woman cocked her eyebrow at me with a puzzled smile. How long had she stood there? Quickly, I shoved the stethoscope away, "Oh, hello. Sorry about that, I didn't see you. How can I help you today?" She ignored my question and stepped farther into the room, "Does your scope work, Doctor?" Ouch. I desperatly wanted to bruise my head on a wall in some hole elsewhere. "Yeah." I smiled sheepishly, "It works."

June 2, 2009

Roadnoise will drown out an enchanted childhood

Many people have said "There's nothing like family."
Do they know what they're saying?
Think about it for a moment, what is a family? Family is proof that God exists, and that He has a sense of humor. Family is one of the least logical ideas in the universe.

The process of family-making in America goes something like this:
Take a person, and have them meet randomly and fall in love with another person.
Boy and girl get married.
Soon another person comes out of the girl.
Voila, family is made.
The person coming out of the other had no choice in the matter.
The child is bound by the law of "family" to the kissy couple, and is for 18 (or a nerdy 35) years of their life under their authority.

When the child needs to be fed, the kissy couple that had him/her will feed him. Every time.
When the child throws up or does something equally disgusting, the kissy couple that had him/her will clean up and hold him/her.
When the child does something wrong, the kissy couple that had him/her will be responsible for him/her.
For 18 (or a nerdy 35) years.

This I ask of you. Why does it make sense? It doesn't. It isn't so much duties carried out by a kissy couple as it is love and dedication.
An endless cycle of selflessness to the end of seeing the success of others.
Yum.

Think for a moment about the role of parents... get a job and hold it so that your family may have income to feed and clothe the children, as well as provide for their wants and needs.
What inspiration. It makes no sense, but all across the world, in every tongue, tribe and nation, it is a complete idea practiced by all.

And yet when someone sits behind the wheel of a vehicle, the last thing on their mind is the fact that a kissy couple has dedicated their life to their success as an individual.
The furthest thing from their thoughts is that they were born into a loving household, provided for their every want and need for 18 years, and the amount of love they were shown.
The person behind the wheel might as well have been born into a family of wolves.

They want to kill you.

They sit behind you on the freeway traveling at one mile an hour faster then your 71 mph, two feet behind you mouthing not-nice words and shaking a fist that someone once called "adorable, so small, and delicate!"

Not anymore it isn't.

In a cruel joke of a personality switch, the person driving behind you just left the baby shower where they were swapping embarrassing stories, exchanging laughs over presents being opened by a soon-to-be mother of twins, and they probably even grabbed a handful of napkins to clean up the accidental spill of apple juice on the lunch table when it was knocked over by the passing of hot dogs from one end to the other.

The person driving to your rear was once given a trip to Disneyland as a surprise birthday present.

Recently, the person behind you now swerving lane to lane trying to get as close as possible so they can hopefully cause personal harm was given the opportunity to speak at a conference on Leadership and Management of Self.
The five points in the speech each with ten minutes of sub-text and illustrations accompanied by humorous stories were as poignant as any well-delivered sermon. Most who attended that session left with at least a page and a half of good notes.

It never fails to amaze me what the wheel of a car will do to some people.
Put them behind it, and their family, their careers, and their love of life all grow strangely dim in your headlights and they become homicidal land sharks on wheels.

As Plato once said..." ."


Well, Plato said nothing about being cautious you don't set aside your humanity to become the picture of ferocity every time your speed exceeds 35 mph.

But he should have.

June 1, 2009

Ransomed from Futility

The dream first started in the midst of a spoiled fish stick induced fever. I was ten. It recurred during other fevers or linguistic finals induced stress. The dream is a nightmare because of the terror it pours on my soul.

Whether a dream is a nightmare or just a dream does not depend primarily on the events that occur in the dream, but on the emotion that the dream carries. A rabid midnight black grizzly may chase me for hours, but if I am not truly afraid of the grizzly, it is simply a dream.

In the recurring dream, there is no person but myself, no concrete object. There is only knowledge. Knowledge that I must do something, be something, and I absolutely, totally cannot. That's it. Some nightmare, eh? It is when I awake sweating and crying.
I must be righteous. It is beyond impossible.

The Corinthians were messing around with theology. Some of them tossed an idea up in the air "Hey, what if there's nothing after death?" Paul wanted the Corinthians to feel the terror of their logic: "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain... And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." 1 Cor. 15:13-17

I need the righteousness of Christ as a man who is floating on a plank in the ocean needs pure water and food, desperately.

"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead... that God may be all in all" 1 Cor. 15:20-28

In light of this, I told my dream to take a hike.

"When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
'Death is swallowed up in victory.'
'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." 1 Cor.15:54-58


May 16, 2009

Question Asker Strikes Again


My friend Jesse is a question-asker. She is a thinker, that one. Her questions are not of the typical "How-are-you-I'm-fine" variety. She's also a ridiculously good baker, but that is beside the point.

One day last month as I scrubbed the stove, wedging the cell phone that contained Jesse's voice between my ear and shoulder, she asked, "How did your parents raise you to know Jesus as a child?" That question made me think for approximately 27 days.

Almost five years ago, I acquired a second set of parents, my husband's dad and mom. I am not capable of summarizing the parenting journeys of my four parents in a sentence or two, so I shall fall back on my hobby: list making. That fabulous English word they shall vaguely refer to one or two or three or four of my parents. Us shall refer to my husband or I or our siblings. Who did what is irrelevant. How and why are more valuable to ask.


1. They prayed for us daily, starting before we were born. Instead of mainly praying general "God bless our family" prayers, they prayed specific prayers. "God, help our son to come to know his sin and your forgiveness at an early age." "God, prepare a Christian husband for our daughter."

2. Every night as they tucked us into bed they prayed with us.

3. They sang hymns and praise songs to Jesus with us. Kids understand the words younger than you'd think.

4. They made their own relationships with God a priority. I remember watching my Dad read his Bible as he walked on the treadmill. My husband remembers the chair his mom would sit in to read her Bible and pray.

5. They came to us (little kids) and asked for forgiveness when they sinned against us (for example, speaking harshly or having a rotten attitude). So we learned that big people sin too, and a healthy response to sin is to apologize and ask for forgiveness.

6. They prayed with us after we "got in trouble" (for example, for giving a brother an "indian burn" then lying about it) to show us that seeking forgiveness from each other is good, but seeking forgiveness from God is most important.

7. They treasured their relationship with each other. How did they show us this? Going on dates even when we didn't want them to leave, going away for weekends as a couple, never using the word divorce, backing each other up on discipline issues, never deriding the other to us.

8. On car rides, they suffered through (or... possibly enjoyed?) countless tapes and CDs that communicated God's love to children. "Donut Man" "Adventures in Odysey" "Patch the Pirate" "Psalty the Singing Songbook" "

9. They read Children's Bibles to us.

10. They gathered a "library" of God centered resources for us to enjoy: children's devotional books, Bible story books, Christian chapter-books, dramatized Bible on tape, etc.

11. Our dads lead family devotions in the living room after dinner. (Ahem, don't start to get the wrong idea here. A joyful family with the 3 and 5 and 7 year olds sitting perfectly still reverently listening to their father read from the King James Version at least 6 nights each week - NOT - alright, erase that mental image and let's start over.) "Family Devotions" consisted of reading a Bible story book, or reading an actual chapter in a readable translation of the Bible, or singing some Bible songs together (clapping and jumping ones preferred by the younger set), or asking "What are you thankful for today?" or "What challenge are you facing tomorrow?" then praying together, or discussing a verse. The littlest one would be roaming, mom would be falling asleep in the recliner chair, one brother would be touching another brother with his toe, etc. But there in the once or twice a week consistency, we saw our dads heart for God and their desire for us to know God.

12. They told us when God answered their prayers.

13. They celebrated Christmas traditions that reflected Jesus. Example: Each Christmas, we put a cattle "feeding trough" in the living room. Before we went to bed each Decembery night, we each placed a single piece of hay in the trough. By Christmas, it was brimming with hay. When we woke up Christmas morning, baby Jesus (a dark-skinned, lifelike baby doll) was lying in the manger.

14. They celebrated Easter traditions that reflected Jesus. Example: One year we made a small tomb out of paper mache. On Good Friday, we wrapped Jesus' body (made of popcicle sticks?) with white strips of cloth and placed him in the tomb. Then we found a large rock to seal the entrance. On Easter morning, we woke up to find the tomb open, Jesus body gone, and the white cloth lying in the tomb. (The fabulous thing about 4 year olds is that they can imagine a popcicle stick person to be almost a real person, so the sequence of events above is meaningful).


more to come

May 6, 2009

Bob: The T-Rex

Sibling rivalry, adventure, chicken dinosaurs... This story's got it all. If you shy away from gore, this story may not be for you. But if you're all about redeeming endings, read on.

by Guy 3

Once there was a T-rex. His name was Bob. He loved to eat chicken dinosaurs, especially when they were fresh from the kill. So his dad taught Bob to fight.

Bob loved to fight, especially with his older siblings. His siblings didn't like it, but Bob did... He also liked to roar at the top of his lungs and scare the wits out of cavemen. The cavemen screamed and yelled. Bob loved their reaction.

One day Bob roared at the top of his voice, and the cavemen didn't scream and yell. He roared again and again, but they ignored him. So Bob decided to eat a caveman. So Bob chased a caveman and caught him by the arm. He thought it tasted great. Remember, Bob is a T-Rex, and they can get pretty tall and fat (but don't say that to Bob; he might bite your head off).

Now Bob's favorite food was caveman. He ate alot of caveman. It was like ice cream to Bob, except cavemen were a little bit messier. (Fair reader, you were warned. Now that you've gotten this far, you must read on to the plot's resolution.)

...
Bob weighed fourteen tons. He liked to ram other dinosaurs. But Fred, his older brother, rammed him so hard he was knocked over to the ground. So he didn't mess with his older brother, Fred, at all. But he liked to practice on his pet pterodactyl, but the only problem was he still desperately loved cavemen.

One fine morning he was eating the most delicious caveman he had eaten in a very long time. "Yum, this is the yummiest caveman in the whole world," he thought to himself as he ate the last of the phalanges, then all of the sudden he felt sorry for the caveman so he decided to do them a favor and get them a big meal of fish. They seemed to like the fish very much. So Bob started fishing at once. He probably ate more fish than he saved, but never the less he saved some and that was a big deal for 'ol Bob.

He made a make-shift bucket and put all the fish in it and took it to the cave where the cavemen stayed and left the bucket of fish there and went home never to eat a caveman again.



The End of the Story

May 1, 2009

Pass Me by World, My Nose is to the Window

The other day I rode on a jet plane again. I’d forgotten what a spectacular experience it is; soaring high above twin-engine Cessna planes… gliding atmospherically in a manner that was way, way above my allotted privileges as a two-legged wingless mammal.

Glancing around me at the dignity-starved individuals surging towards a doorway too small for the mass of shoving and selfishness that abounded, I couldn’t help but rudely marvel to myself.
“Huh. That little teeny, tiny plane out there is going to get him (large guy), him (another pretty hefty fella) and HERRRR? (uh…) up in the air?
What science plus technology and a few rubber wheels can do these days.

Then my mind jolted back to reality. Ah yes, it was time for me to go to my seat.
4A.
Priority seating?
Weird.
I strode casually past throngs of mobbing pulses and jumped in front, flashing an i.d. and proof that my random, entirely accidental superiority complex of priority could in fact take a physical form.
“Thank you sir, enjoy your flight!”
Oh, I would.
Four ay, bay bay!

My bag barely fit in the overhead compartment.
No, wait! If I turn it this way and shove with all my might, it might just…
AW MAN!

Oh, those moments we feel alive.
“Sir, I don’t think it will fit. Would you like me to take it to the back?”
There was no condescension in her voice. Not just a little bit that made me feel like a million yen.
“Sure, that’d be great thanks!”
Feigning obliviousness to the possibility of appearing like a moron, I handed her the blue road-runner bag.
“No problem.”

Fifteen minutes later our wheels lifted off the ground, the world became obtusely angled for a few moments, and we shot into the air.
Subconsciously I did my part as a good passenger and lifted my seat-end off my seat, hoping that we’d at least be light enough to not crash immediately.
By some miracle of consistent laws, lots of oxygen and nitrogen and extensive money/engineering, we made it alive into the air.
A two hour and forty-five minute flight.
My seat-end sighed as we leveled out, and I scooched and squiggled, reaching that point where I was deceived into thinking I was relaxed when in fact my knees were driving the person the next seat through three rows into the cockpit.

The squirrelly guy sitting next to me glanced at me once…twice…three times, then ILLEGALLY put his headphones in, and took out a Stephen King novel.
What if we crashed, killing several dozen people because of his stupid Stephen King headphone antics?
Uncool.
This guy was totally and irrevocably out.
Out of my universe.
See ya bud.

“Can I get you a beverage?”
“What’s a beverage?”
This lady was smart enough to ignore me.
“We have Coke, Diet Coke, Ginger Ale, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, V8…” Her voice trailed off and she stared at me like there was a mole growing on my cornea.
“I’ll have orange juice…please.”
I slid down a nanometer in my chair, and like a foot and a half on the inside, reaching the appropriate internal height of the four-foot eight I was acting like.
“Here you go Sweetie!”
Her energy was infectious. I was back.
“Thank you ma’am. Could I have a third bag of pretzels?”
She didn’t miss a beat, even though no drum was in sight.
“Nope.”
She wheeled her cart an inch and a quarter, and out of my universe entirely.
“Sir, can I get you anything?”
Entirely out of my universe, she was asking the gentleman behind me what he would like.

My forehead spent the next hour and thirty minutes pressed against the plastic window as Texas, Arizona then Nevada slid by silently down below.

Ah, it felt good to ride in a plane again.
There’s nothing like seeing seamlessly perfect circular and square fields of whatever far down below.
What ARE those things anyway?
They’re so puzzling when you’re in the air; you literally hurt your head trying to figure out how they’re so exact and who keeps them up, but when you get back on the ground you never think about them, or if you do you can’t find them.

They’re SO out of my universe now.
Entirely.

April 24, 2009

Unexpected Call

The true-story sequel to an earlier post.

"Doodley-doo-doo... doodle, doodle doodle doo..." Cell phone rings.
Some out of state area code. I push the phone away.
A gear catches in my brain, or maybe in my heart.
I reach for the annoying plastic object that seeks to interrupt my life.

"Hello"
"Hey! Remember me?"
Pause. I shift my feet and knit my eyebrows, reaching for another fork to wash.
"Help me remember... where did we meet?"
"It's Talina! Don't you remember?" Her voice sounds tired.
Memories flood back. I drop the fork.
"Talina, this is a different number. Are you still in Washington?"
"No, I'm down here in Arizona now."

I want to ask about the baby, but I'm scared. In Washington state abortions are legal beyond the first trimester. I know she changed her mind after that first phone call, but I know she may have changed her mind again. Pregnancy swirls emotions into a confusing heap, after all. I know her husband divorced her after he found out she was expecting. I know she wanted to be a nurse, and thought a baby would change her plans. I know she had trouble finding a roommate, and had to move three times in three months. What I don't know is what has happened in the six months between then and now.

"Guess what?"
"What, Talina?"
"I had the baby last week!"
"I'm so excited for you! Was it a little boy, like you wanted?"
"Nope. A girl. And she's beautiful. I just want to look at her all day long."
I hear about her barely-made-it-to-the-hospital birth story. I hear about her mom's sweet obsession with her first granddaughter. I hear about her sleepless nights and sleepy days.

At the end of our chat, my little phone receives a picture text message. In the picture is a tiny girl with dark, curly hair. Her white dress and trusting brown eyes capture me.

"But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." Psalm 86:15.

Now I know the rest of the story. But I suppose this is not the rest. It is only the beginning.


April 19, 2009

Two Bright Shades of the Same Color

Her “good morning” lit up every one of their already joyful faces.

They’d come trundling in with their backpacks by ones and twosies, filing into the classroom and going directly to their wall spaces to put their lunches up, then sit down in their seats.

Watching them talk animatedly, she smiled.

Innocence could not be duplicated.


“Teacher, teacher, look!”

The words always preceded a marvel; a captivating accomplishment of either God or mankind that demanded full and undivided attention.

Bending a knee, taking a seat, walking over to them with her skirt swishing silently taking naturally feminine footsteps to make the conversation more sincere, she met every child at their level and brought them up to where they should be.


“Wow, look at that! You drew that? Did you have any help?”

Her eyes sparkled teasingly.


“Nope. I did it all by myself. Brandon, he’s my older brother…”


“I know Brandon. I met him, remember?”


“Oh yeah! Um…Brandon, uh, he helped hold the paper some while I drew it, but I didn’t trace it. I just drew it…all by myself.”


“It’s really pretty. I like the colors you chose. They remind me of Easter. Did you do Easter with your family on Sunday?”

She paused briefly to turn away for a moment.

“Good morning Michaela!”

No preschooler made it through the doorway unnoticed. Each was as much an individual as any adult, if not more.


“Yep. We hid eggs and Skyped Grandma. She’s in Iowa er…somewhere. See, here’s where I messed up on my paper. I didn’t mean to use purple but I did.”

The embarrassment was genuine.


“So I see. Great job, I like purple, it’s my favorite color!”


“Really? Thanks!”


“Now go find your seat and wait for the pledge.”


Through compassion and an unwavering firmness each year she fought sniffles and coughs, the occasional unreasonable side of parents who could be extremely demanding, and paying her bills.

Each year she fought to stay awake after several hours of inputting grades online with several hours left of work.

She fought her way through the snow early in order to make it in time to greet her pupils as they filed through the door all flushed bright red and bundled up tightly against the cold.

She fought the gossip in the break room.

She fought through any monotony, unpleasant or boring material, and she fought the random rampant bad attitude that fumbled its way into her classroom.

She fought with grace, with beautiful blue-green eyes, and a heart that was absolutely in love with each and every one of her students.

She craved that look in their eyes when they lit up with a sudden understanding the concepts.


Her creative side thrived as songs, posters, field trips, reading aloud, colors, the floor, the table, and each brightly colored child-sized chair all served as tools, outlets for them to learn.


The designer of the first in-flight, unmanned, military aircraft refueler jet.

A filmmaker.

The first person to invent a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus that created 90% recyclable oxygen for longer, deeper dives.

A computer scientist who built the first hard drive based off nano quantum mechanics.

Those and hundreds of others throughout her career grew up to become great things.



Her name was Anna. Some said she was the victim of down-syndrome.

Anna didn’t see it that way.


She had her own personality, her own sharp mind that was on fire with a will to learn just like every other student she wasn’t the same as.

She stood quietly on the outside edge of the playground watching the other children play. Their coordinated games of tag or hide and go seek were not familiar to her, but she was visibly focused and concentrated as she carefully studied their behavior.


After five minutes, which would have been an eternity to any of her peers, she dove into their world. Moments later she was jumping, sliding, laughing and yelling just all the rest of her class.

Maybe she was a little louder.

Not all of the children included her in their activities.

She might’ve tripped a few more times than the rest.


But nothing escaped the pen and hand of her teacher, sitting on a bench silently journaling the activities of the beautiful girl.

By studying the trend of her pupil throughout the year she’d noticed a retreating wait time before Anna played with the other children.


Anna began needing assistance with most simple tasks, but after patience, a healthy dose of frustration and her incredibly strong will, she was walking to the child-sized fountain and filling her own water bottle.

Then she used the restroom completely of her own accord, completing all the necessary tasks with no help.

Most of the time.


And every day as she played on the padded steps, spongy ground, underneath the sun and watchful eye of college interns, her teacher journaled, strategized learning plans and set goals.

Anna learned best through sign language and hands-on games that sent multiple learning sensations to her memory through sight, feel, smell, taste or joy.

So they did math in the gym.

Hula hoops taught Anna how to count to five.

The beanbags inside the hula hoops helped her get to twenty.

She signed she was hungry, she signed she was mad, she signed numbers, her letters, and dozens of words.

Her colors didn’t come to her easily, but when she realized how many places colors could be found in she ran throughout the room pointing out and signing yellow, pink, blue, green, grey,

black…but her most excited unintelligible squeals of happiness came when she found purple.


It was her teacher’s favorite color too.


by Guy 2

c 2009


April 16, 2009

Shocking Seasons

Rainy Season, Dry Season.
Ten Degree difference.
This was the terrarium I thrived in.

My first taste of all four seasons right in a row is in progress... and it's different than I thought it would be.

Seasons evoke stereotypes, right?
Fall = leaves & orange
Winter = snow & Christmas
Spring = flowers & growth
Summer = warmth & sun

During fall, happy woodland creatures busily gather nuts in preparation for their winter hibernation, right? This is what I assumed.
When winter actually arrived though, our squirrels forgot to hibernate. Their pleasantly plump little selves continued foraging, playing in snow, and digging up my daffodil bulbs. They never got any thinner.

Winter contained other surprises too. Do you know what happens when snowmen melt? Their heads fall off. For reals. Cruise suburbia on a warm day following a snowfall and what shalt thou see? Goliaths after the battle. Dozens of them.

Spring is bringing overwhelmingly pink flowers. It's bringing warmer days. And it's also bringing noise. Imagine that... one season being louder than another. Lawnmowers, road construction, neighbors speaking to each other, and birds. I'm sorry birds, for three months I did not realize you were gone. When you came back though, I noticed you were back.

April 10, 2009

The Shadow, the Deadbolt, and the Missing 2 Inches.

The one year old is growing inventive, but in disastrous ways. He knows a) Doors open b) the front door opens to the great outdoors, where live squirrels, raccoons, tree frogs, and funny neighbors.
Fortunately, he is a) too short to reach the deadbolt b) unable to turn the door knob.

This morning, after discovering his shadow and staring at it suspiciously for fifteen minutes, he resolved in his mischievous mind to... open the front door. Tried. Realized that last night's growth did not afford him the extra 2 inches he needs. -Click- -Whirr- -Mind gears in motion- That's it! Something to stand on. Perfect: The inflated $1 bouncy ball Daddy bought him from Wal-mart.
Did not work out so well.

Thankfully, one year old attention span timed out.

Free Us to Think

When we die, we are just that: dead.
Some say this. The Sadducees said it (Matthew 22:23)
This is logical if you know neither the Word, nor the Power of God (Matthew 22:29).

Jesus simply said, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matthew 22:32) God does not want his children dead. The dead do not celebrate, do not relate, do not rejoice.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Christian imprisoned during World War II for his part in an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, penned these words from prison on Easter day, 1943, "Good Friday and Easter free us to think about other things far beyond our own personal fate, about the ultimate meaning of all life, suffering, and events; and we lay hold of a great hope."* Bonhoeffer died less than two years later, hung in a Gestapo prison.

The faith of Bonhoeffer, our strange faith, is based in these three days: Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Death, Emptiness, Shocking Life (1 Corinthians 15:12-21). In these strong verses, I rejoice (1 Corinthians 15:50-56).






*"Letters and Papers from Prison" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Edited by Eberhard Bethge.

April 7, 2009

This Week, So Many Centuries Ago

The darling of the highest court died
While his father looked on and cried
Tears of blood to match the pain
That flowed from wounds like crimson rain

An aged earth deformed with war
Took out her anger on her lord
Fixed his son to a cruel machine
And mocked the one and only king

"He saved others; He cannot save himself."
They laughed and promised to believe
They asked for one last show
He hung nine hours
Then died

He was foreign to wrong, a perfect man
Yet the marks of sin were on his hands
He had seen the world in all her shame
But loved her enough to take the blame

The light of love shone down, even on
The dark side of earth, a glorious dawn
To color the fading earth once more

March 28, 2009

Thinking

Guy 3 likes to think. He thinks about "Danny: Champion of the World", the last book he read. (If, by the way, you missed reading that in your 11-year-old history, he highly recommends it.) He thinks about how magnets work. He thinks about how to bother Girl 3. He thinks about making a snowman then knocking the head off the snowman and naming it "Goliath". He thinks about his AWANAs memory verses. He thinks about the cockroach collection he used to keep in his bedroom in Hawaii. But mostly, he thinks about being 12. That seems just the sort of age that should come next, don't you think?



"Thinking"
by Guy 2
© 2008
RPE
All rights reserved

March 25, 2009

Recycle: A Green Post

In response to "To My Parents", one of my parents (the one that can be found wearing clown wigs and unmatching socks around the house... or out of the house) wrote this poem (between the hours of 1:30 and 3:30am I'm sure).



Recycle

I never liked boxes;
they're all quite confining.
So why must we always
be clearly defining?

And who is the one
that decides how things ought
to be done or processed
or be written or thought?

A box is for sending things
padded with peanuts,
not living and loving...
I sincerely mean it.
If someone is used to
being properly boxed,
tell them to just try
wearing non-matching socks.

Then after they're out of
the box they were in,
go recycle the cardboard
and try on a grin!

© Mrs. E. ~ 2009

March 22, 2009

To My Parents: Who [still] Think Outside the Box

My parents have many ordinary parent virtues. They loved us, provided for us, bought us red tricycles, etc. There is a time and place to extol these ordinary virtues and thank parents for them, but that time is not now, in this posting.

This quality I have long admired in man, woman, and child: the ability to think outside the box. To approach a problem or situation and not assume that the usual course of action is the only course of action. Yesterday, at the grand old age of 24, it occurred to me that my parents both display an immense quantity of this quality.

Examples beg to be presented.

When facing daunting dental bills, they had some dental work done in Mexico. Dental work is cheaper there.

I've heard women speak of bringing the outdoors inside. Mom did that literally. Complete with Ficus benjamina trees in giant pots and clouds sponged on the sky blue living room ceiling.

Seven year olds are not generally brought to business dinners, Building Industry Association meetings, accountant consultations, or candidate's speeches. Dad thought we might learn something if we tagged along and we'd at least have a good talk in the car on the way home.

Why was there a random used car salesman at Thanksgiving dinner? Dad met him the day before (yes, at a used car lot) and found out he was new in town. I guess my parents thought outside the box about "family gatherings" too.

It didn't occur to my parent that they had to stop having children after the second one. They thought kids were fun, so they had four more. Hence, 6wayintersection.

My parents didn't only think of their own little munchkins, though. With the new birth of each of their own children, they began sponsoring a Compassion child or local crisis pregnancy center. As they prayed about how to become more involved in supporting women who chose life for their babies, God led them to become foster parents. Babies came, cried, were loved, and went- for years.

Rolling black-outs were common in the early '90s on the Big Island. When the black outs stopped, we missed the spontaneous story and board game nights. Easy fix. Dad and Mom randomly announced "Black Out Night" and turned of everything except the refrigerator (which couldn't be opened for the evening). Instant family night.

Dad thought outside the box about breakfast. He dumped leftover spaghetti into omelets, for example.

For any of the unique gifts above (except possibly the spaghetti-eggs), my parents would not take credit. It's nothing they drummed up on their own, it's Christ through them, the Hope Of Glory in their hearts (which is why they named our homeschool H.O.G.S... go figure)


March 16, 2009

Spaghetti Prayers

Her husband usually doesn't beat her.
The one 12'x12' room they share with their two boys has only a little mold on the walls.
Although she quit school in the fourth grade, she can read, and read well.
The drinking isn't quite constant, and he promised from jail last month he would quit... soon.
When she falls to the end of her rope with caring for two babies (ten months apart), her husband's grandma will watch the littlest one for a night.

I ask my friend to help Girl 2 make spaghetti.
"Spaghetti?" She repeats, uncertain. "I can't cook. I'll get dizzy or something."
She shifts her foot away from the direction of my small kitchen.
"You are a capable woman, and Girl 2 need some help. Let's go make spaghetti."

Girl 2, my sweet sister, loves and teaches and loves and teaches.
"So, when the pot of noodles starts to boil over, I just lift it off the burner, like this."
"My grandma always says that it's important to eat well-balanced meals. She's good at having a side of vegetables with every meal, but sometimes I forget."
"To see if the green beans are done, I just bite one!"
"Here, you season the meat, just dump these spices in. It will taste great."

How does she love so sincerely and teach so graciously without sounding bossy?
I guess I'll never know... since I'm an oldest.




I pray, but I don't know how to pray.
I don't understand.

~~~

I remember other women I know.

One married to a man who desperately wanted a son. She infertile, he looked elsewhere. When questioned about his wife, he lied to another man. Twice. They never really settled. One year here, another year there. Suddenly, she looked around and realized she was old.
God, the One Who Knew her heart, changed her name and blessed her beautifully.

One a competent woman on the surface, homeowner of a house with a view. But the wealth came through what she most despised, prostitution. In a moment of crisis, she works against her own government.
God, the One Who Knew her heart, kept her safe, kept her family safe, and provided an out to a fresh town and a fresh life.

One beautiful young woman, already a widow. She experienced the debilitating loss of both her children. Leaving the home of these memories, she moves in with an angry woman, her mother-in-law. A below minimum-wage job provides bread, but not much else.
God, the One Who Knew her heart, sustained her. Caused a decent, kind sort of guy to become interested. It worked out between them. Her mother-in-law even brightened up after a while.

These women I don't know from college geography classes, soccer teams, or Moms' support groups. I know their stories from the living, breathing word of God.

When they sought God, He answered their hearts' cry.
He treasured them.
And they knew they were treasured.

I know a little better how to pray. At least, my prayers are full of hope.