Tuesday, November 30, 2004

a match made in heaven?

With a prayer to God for help and guidance we began shopping Friday afternoon to replace the Mazda that was wrecked in Tuesday night's accident. It’s been a whirlwind several days of playing the car-field and feels a lot like falling in love and finding a mate.

We nixed the first two Honda Accords we test drove. Too much to pay for a couple of silver gray plain-Janes.

The red Nissan Sentra we drove next wore clunky shoes - well actually no, but who wants to pay $13,000 for a car whose brakes grab?

The 2003 pearly white Kia was lovely, but we’re not sure of her genes – the Kia family being very new in the neighborhood.

The 2003 Hyundai Sonata was also lovely and we were interested. But so was someone else, for after we took her out, we found there was an offer on her, pending financing. Did we want to put in a back-up offer, the salesman asked? We’re not into playing second-fiddle, so we walked, but left our phone number. That ended Friday.

Our quest continued Saturday. The 1997 Toyota Camry we drove first had a wiggle. At high speeds her shimmy made us realize again how many details blend together to make the perfect car, and how much we missed our Mazda,

The 2001 Nissan Altima was a flirt with her sunroof, plushy black upholstery and zippy motor. But she also had a wandering eye as, the second my husband released the steering wheel, she drifted to the right.

Remembering our Hyundai encounter earlier, we took out another one (a 2001 GS 300). But this elegant dame with her heated leather seats, wood-grain interior trim, sun roof and power-everything made us feel like peasants aspiring to royalty. Plus, the dealership wanted a big dowry.

After our encounter with her poshness, though, can we be blamed for rejecting her unremarkable older sister (a 1999 Hyundai Sonata) after one short drive?

Saturday night found us still car-less and weary but growing wiser in the ways of romancing a car. We took Sunday off.

Yesterday we got a call from the dealership where we met the first Sonata. He told us her wedding was off. Were we still interested? Aha! We hurried over and ended up - well, I guess you could say, giving her the ring.

Today, if all goes according to plan, we’ll be tying the knot. Like a marriage, we enter this union with a blend of excitement and apprehension. Like a marriage, we’re praying God has directed us. Like a marriage, we’re hopeful it will be a match made in heaven.

Monday, November 29, 2004

the last time

My key ring feels empty without the Mazda key on it these days. My husband, still carrying his around in his pocket, remarked to me - he might as well get rid of his too. Neither one of us will be using it any more. I had no idea when I drove the Mazda to pick up my work Tuesday morning, it was the last time I’d ever get behind its wheel.

Of course this was only a car. Lives are snatched with the same suddenness. On the same Tuesday we lost our car, this happened in a neighborhood nearby (Surrey Leader):

A man cutting down a tree in North Delta was killed in a freak accident Tuesday morning. Investigators at the scene said the man, a professional tree trimmer, died of injuries suffered when his chainsaw kicked back while he was cutting branches high up in 50-foot-tall cottonwood tree in the 11000 block of 81A Ave. at about 11:30 a.m.
Just imagine - Tuesday morning, this man had his last cup of coffee, ate his last breakfast, kissed his wife goodbye for the last time, drove his car for the last time. No one knew he was hours, then minutes from death. There was no warning.

I think it’s good to anchor our balloon of invincibility with these sobering words from James:

Just a moment, now, you who say, "We are going to such-and-such a city today or tomorrow. We shall stay there a year doing business and make a profit!" How do you know what will happen even tomorrow? What, after all, is your life: It is like a puff of smoke, visible for a little while and then dissolving into thin air.... As it is, you get a certain pride in yourself in planning your future
with such confidence. That sort of pride is all wrong. (James 4:13-16 J. B. Phillips Translation)

I feel I need to end this by asking - what if today is your last day? Are you prepared? If not, here is an option to check out.

Friday, November 26, 2004

proverbs woman

Today I’m thinking of making a big pot of minnestrone soup.* My recipe calls for spicy Italian sausage, pasta, kidney beans and cabbage (yum, and pass the Beano!).

Cabbage soup reminds me of something I wrote last year. (It was sparked by a years-old journal entry, in which I ruminated on the fact that perhaps making cabbage soup in the morning before the family got up - something I used to do when the kids were little and my days were chock full - was going overboard, even in the "Proverbs woman" department.)

BTW I posted that poem briefly on a Christian web site but got a flame note from someone who thought I was being disrespectful of the Proverbs 31 ideal. I assure you:

I am humble
I am meek
altogether
tongue in cheek.

PROVERBS WOMAN

I will be a Proverbs Woman
"Real Estate Weekly" close at hand
keep a hawk-eye out for bargains
on a cottage, house and land.

Strive to decorate with savvy
"Learning Channel" here I come!
Sew new curtains, cover sofas,
paint the kitchen lime and plum.

Make a list for all my shopping,
know the prices in each store,
then I’ll cherry-pick the bargains,
smug, my money’s buying more.

Brave the rabid crowds of Bay-Day,
snatch those fashions for the kids.
Shop at Sally-Ann, consignment
and on E-bay leave my bids.

Love my kin like Proverbs Woman,
leave my bed before the sun
cook the meals that we’ll be eating
long before the day’s begun.

Fill the house with scent of baking,
muffins, scones and bread of course,
brown the ribs and dice the veggies
make a pot of cabbage borscht...

Proverbs Woman – buy that cottage.
Decorate with style and verve.
Travel far and wide for bargains,
shop for clothes with all your nerve.

But that smell of cooking cabbage
waking everyone above
goes beyond proverbial virtue.
Altogether too much love!

© 2003 Violet Nesdoly

* My Minnestrone Soup recipe is way, way down on this page (bottom of yellow section).

eulogy for the "Blue Lady"

The "Blue Lady" is no more. Yesterday our insurance adjuster told us our Mazda Cronos is toast. I am sad. I'm wondering if I shouldn't go to the salvage yard to see her as this might help with my grieving. Do you think?

Today we begin car shopping again. I'm thinking of holding out for a Lexus this time.

(Ernie - just kidding!)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

waiting...

Dealing with insurance adjusters and the inconvenience of no wheels.

Waiting around for phone calls.

When they come, finding nothing’s simple or clear-cut
as I thought it would be.

Discovering that snippy, punchy side of my nature
always lurking, just under the surface.

Reminding myself of this song by Carolyn Arends

We are prodigals and pilgrims
We are sinners, we are saints
It gets hard to tell the difference
the more you make us wait
There is variance in circumstance
Direction and occasion
But the truth is we’re all travelers
Who have not reached our final destination.

© 2001 "Travelers (The Airport Song)" by Carolyn Arends


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

car-less in surrey - but thankful

I was finishing the dishes yesterday night, after the last of our cell group had left, when the phone rang. It was our 19-year-old son Ben. At the first sound of his voice, silent alarms began going off in me. He’d left home about 40 minutes earlier for a trip that should take 20, with our car - as his was in the garage, had just been repaired, but he needed to wait till payday to pay the garageman. His errand was to pick up his girlfriend at the Skytrain station, and bring her here to spend the night in our daughter’s otherwise-empty room, so he could take her to work in the morning.

"Mom, I’ve been in an accident. It’s bad. But it wasn’t my fault! What do I do now?"

"Are you okay?"

"My chin’s bloody. But I’m fine"

"Good. You’ll need to exchange information. Call the tow truck. Here’s Dad." I quickly handed the phone to my husband, as he’s the expert in this kind of emergency, and realized we’d just stepped into another chapter of Stuff Happens.

After the phone call we waited, sans car and helpless, for the kids to arrive home. As it was already late for me - I’m an early riser - I decided to go up to bed and try to read. But I couldn’t concentrate.

So I turned off the light, and prayed for sleep. But my mind and body were as buzzed as if I’d just had three coffees. I lay there and imagined the accident as Ben had described it (and what if the other driver told it a different way and Ben was found at fault and where would that leave Ben and us in the insurance department?). I thought about what could have been (the kids hurt or killed!). I dreamed up Job-esque scenarios of what would most likely happen next (like hassles with the insurance company, another accident, or even the house burning down - and Yikes! that would mean my book manuscript I’ve spent months and months working on would be destroyed, and so I need to make a cd of those files and stash them somewhere away from the house along with a hard copy...).

And at every juncture, I tried to calm myself with the reminder, God is in this too. Violet, remember your prayer of this morning? How you audibly committed each minute of this day to God? Well, He’s in these minutes too! Yet I found it almost impossible to stop rolling the situation over in mind for worry potential. It’s in times like these we get a vivid object lesson of what our faith really rests in.

I jumped out of bed at the first sound of the front door and flew down the stairs. The kids were soaking wet, still shaken, and my tall little boy barely stuffed his tears as I held him close. His chin was indeed bleeding, after that intimate encounter with the air bag (thank God for airbags though!). Aside from a concern about Amelia’s back, which they’ll get checked out today, the kids seemed physically okay.

We finally all got to bed around 1:00, after the online insurance claim had been filed, the accident relived again and again, and Ben’s apologies for smashing our car uttered about a hundred times (ironic, this was only the second time he’d ever driven that pretty "Blue Lady" - a pale blue Mazda 626 - from when we bought it this July).

Today we face the realities of dealing with insurance adjusters, getting Amelia to a doctor, rescuing the personal effects left in the wrecked car, finding a way to deliver and pick up my work (medical transcription, which I do from home but deliver the typed letters and pick up new tapes at the doctor’s office) all without wheels.

Yesterday, the writer of this blog challenged her readers to name things for which they were thankful, with a special focus on thanksgiving items claimed by faith ("What Thanksgiving Means to Me" and "Thanks for...Something"). I glibly commented - I didn’t need to do the assignment because I was Canadian, and had already been thankful.

Today I recant that statement and say, I am thankful, today, for a whole lot of things I didn’t realize I’d be giving thanks for yesterday.

- I’m thankful my son and his friend were spared serious injury - and all that was badly damaged was a car, which can be replaced.

- I’m thankful no matter how the insurance claim and the money issues sort out, God is our ultimate source of supply.

- I’m thankful God will help us go through all the rigamarole of red tape and paperwork we now face to get this accident behind us.

- I’m thankful we can look to God for guidance as we repair or replace our vehicle.

- I’m thankful I know a God whose word to me today is:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 5:6,7)


Christian Carnival XLV

Christian Carnival XLV is up at CowPi Journal

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

contemplating elder-care

We are beginning to navigate the tricky rapids of elder care on behalf of my beautiful and gallant 90-year-old mom. In our province that means you first have your senior assessed by the local community health nurse. She has at her fingertips, a variety of in-home options she can dispense, from an aide who can oversee getting into the bath a couple of times a week, to twice daily visits to supervise taking pills. It’s all designed to keep seniors in their own homes as long as possible.

And so we had Mom assessed by nurse Shelley a few months ago. She came into Mom’s home, noted things like the bathtub railings, the raised toilet seat and the powered chair which raises her gently from a sitting to a standing position, and gave her blessing on Mom staying in her home. So far the arrangement is working beautifully.

But in the last few weeks, Mom’s ability to stand up from sitting in a regular chair, get out of cars, and generally walk around is getting noticeably worse. Suddenly we’re at the stage of not being sure exactly what to do next. We’ve begun to ponder the more drastic step of hedging all bets and putting her name on the waiting list (some as long as a year) of various institutions which offer a variety of services, at a variety of prices. So far, though, we’ve held back. It seems so drastic and final...

A couple of weeks ago, Mom herself put the wheels of that in motion when she suggested we put her name on the list of a seniors development being built in our town (a 45-minute drive from where she lives now). Because many of the units in that development are government subsidized, getting on that list means meeting with the nurse again. We had an appointment to do that yesterday.

When we arrived at Mom’s, she was visibly anxious. She’d just come from a funeral, where she’d been with many of her friends. Now the thought of moving from her community to ours, along with comments thrown her way like, "Stay in your place as long as you can...you’ll be sorry if you move..." were giving her great pause.

We tried to reassure her. But the nurse, Shelley, really carried the day in that department. She let Mom talk and vent her anxieties. She gave Mom options that we weren’t aware of closer to Mom’s home. She helped Mom understand that once your name comes up, it’s perfectly ok to say "No thanks, I’m not ready to move yet."

As I let her out, Shelley said to me, "Keep talking. It’s the best thing to do in a time like this.

"I’ve found too," she went on, "that once the uprooting’s been done, and the move made, there’s usually very little regret."

Kudos to wonderful professionals like Shelley, who come alongside seniors and their bumbling kids facing difficult crossroads, with an air of efficiency, patience, understanding and just plain niceness. Yesterday Mom wasn’t the only one reassured.

Monday, November 22, 2004

signs of life

Does it ever happen to you that a similar theme keeps recurring throughout the day? I notice this often, especially on Sundays. It happened again yesterday.

We stayed home from church in the morning because we’re still on ushering duty in the third (evening) service. As a result, Ernie channel-surfed, and found one of our favorite Sunday speakers, Charles Price (pastor of the People’s Church - Toronto). He’s doing a series from the Old Testament - the life of Saul. Yesterday he spoke on the event of Saul, sparing the Amalekite king Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle after God had expressly commanded him to destroy everything (1 Samuel 15).

In his interesting way, CP showed how Saul’s sin was one we easily commit ourselves, i.e., the sin of partial obedience. Saul destroyed most of what he was supposed to destroy. But his obedience was selective. In his judgement, some of this was too good, too useful to kill and burn, and so he kept the best of the sheep and cattle, supposedly to offer them to God, though these things were cursed, and marked by God for destruction. (My thoughts - I don’t think Saul was really planning to sacrifice these things at all. I think his excuse, that he’d spared them to sacrifice was something he had in his back pocket, just in case he got found out. I think his real intent was to add this livestock to his own herd.) And he spared the king Agag - perhaps for strategic and political reasons - who knows?

Anyway, God was not fooled. Samuel came to Saul and confronted him: "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?" (1 Samuel 15:14).

"He was hearing," Dr. Price said, "signs of life, when there should not be any life left at all."

What sounds of life issue from our lives, he went on to ask. What things (habits, relationships, tangible objects) have we spared, and allowed to live on in our lives, when God has expressly told us, they must be destroyed? They may not be bad things in themselves. There is, after all, nothing inherently wrong with sheep and cattle. But God knows the hold the particular things he has asked us to destroy have on us and where our line of temptation lies. If He has told us to destroy something, no matter how good or legitimate it may appear, we are wise to obey fully.

He went on to show how Saul’s sparing of these Amalekites came back to haunt history. It was an Amalekite who may have completely finished off Saul (2 Samuel 1:1-15), and both Haman’s and Herod’s lineage can be traced to Amalekite roots.

In the evening service, our pastor also spoke of "signs of life." However, the signs of life he referred to were of the life of Christ he saw as he has traveled in the last two weeks from Israel, to Russia, to Turkey to Kazakhstan. Some of the things he observed were hospitality, genuine love, confession of sin and wrong in community, generosity (the Kazakhstan church took up an offering for our church in Canada!), sacrifice for Jesus, biblical values, and standing firm under persecution.

And so today, as I weave together the strands of yesterday, I ask myself, what ‘signs of life’ issue from me? Am I characterized by hospitality, love, admission and confession of sin, generosity, sacrifice for Jesus, biblical values, and a willingness to undergo persecution? Or is there also the "bleating of sheep...lowing of cattle" where there should be silence?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

oh not to be young again!

My husband and I went to our son’s cd release event last night. He’s the drummer of the Christian punk rock threesome called "Just Stay Calm" (if you know punk, you’ll know they’re anything but).

And so we found ourselves in "The Loft" of a local church, easily the oldest in the room by generations. Feeling conspicuous and trying to blend in we parked ourselves against a wall, next to a lone girl who also looked out of place.

I introduced myself to her and she told me her name was Jennifer. I explained why we were there and asked if she attended this youth group all the time. She said she was new in town, was going to school taking a hair dressing course, and this was her first time here. She’d come with a friend, who had had to leave but was returning later.

We chatted a bit. Then the band got into motion and it was impossible to hear - even one’s own thoughts. We stayed for a few songs, connected with parents of one of the other band members, and, moving to a ‘quieter’ part of the room, even tried visiting a bit - shouting above the loud and louder music. All the while, I kept an eye on Jennifer. No one came over to say ‘hi.’ When we left, she was still standing there, alone in the crowd, waiting for her friend, and I’ll bet vowing she’d never come here again!

Seeing Jennifer took me back to being her age. In a way, I can understand why everyone ignored her. For one thing, they probably hardly noticed her, in their absorption with themselves and their own friends. For another – if they’re anything like I was at that age – they’re thinking it’s someone else’s job. Doesn’t it, after all, fall to the kids who are leaders and have tons of self-confidence to welcome strangers into the pack? Last night, it’s obvious those leaders were focusing on other things. Also, to be fair, she herself wasn’t putting much effort into making a friendly connection.

Being in that environment also made me think about church youth groups and their purpose. This group was obviously successful at affirming the talents of the band members by sponsoring their cd release. It looked to be doing a great job at providing a social outlet for its regulars. But as an outreach to strangers - what a flop! When I talked to Jennifer it was clear she came from a Christian background and probably knows the Lord. But if she had been a seeker, I doubt her impression of Jesus, as left by His children, would have whetted her appetite for more.

I hope Jennifer’s friend finally arrived. I hope last night’s experience ends up becoming, for her, more than the memory of hours spent alone in a room full of people, and a tear-soaked pillow later. I’ll bet it does one thing. I’ll bet it makes her more sensitive to the next lonely wallflower she sees. Sometimes a horrible experience like that is what it takes.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

katya's hopeful story

We had dinner last night with our nephew, his wife and their almost-six-year-old daughter, Katya. They were visiting the coast from the Okanagan to attend Children’s Hospital and have the first of a series of post-treatment MRIs to check Katya’s condition.

Katya’s story began to unfold this day almost two years ago (December 9, 2002; she was three at the time), when a week-long massive headache was found to be caused by a build-up of fluid in her brain. They flew her to Vancouver that night, did surgery, drilling a hole in her scalp to drain the fluid and then, after a battery of tests, inserted a shunt to give her brain fluid a permanent and reliable route into the abdomen. But the cause of the fluid build-up in the first place was not discovered.

About three months later she was back to have her shunt checked and more tests, with an MRI this time to also check the spinal column. That MRI told the malignant story. She had a vicious and rare pediatric brain cancer with cells found in brain and spinal fluid. It appeared the earlier blockage had likely been caused by a collection of those cells clogging the normal routes from which fluid drains.

Pediatric oncologists from a variety of hospitals in the U.S. and Canada worked together to come up with a treatment regimen. They devised a harrowing schedule, with a cocktail of drugs, a round of radiotherapy and then more chemo.

I was at the hospital the day Katya’s chemotherapy began. Her mom explained to me how toxic the medication was - so toxic that even Katya’s bodily fluids were poisoned. On the white board in her room there were circles and x’s - a pictorial explanation to a little girl of four, how there were now good and bad cells inside her brain and how drugs would go after the bad cells. But Katya remained her delightful self. Though weakened and already drugged with pre-chemotherapy medications, she insisted on finishing a craft in the play room, then went to her bed and asked for a movie, a red popsicle and could we make sure her toy ponies were easy to reach? That night we left Katya, still not nauseated, just after the nurse attached the second chemotherapy drug to the I.V.

That day also happened to be first day of the U.S.’s foray into Iraq. As I watched the grainy black and green shadows, and the star-burst and sheet-lightning explosions on the television screen, I couldn’t help thinking of the war being launched at the same time in Katya’s body, and hoping the end of that war would be as quick and decisive as they were predicting this middle-east war would be.

The intervening months were a series of ups and downs. To avoid having to give her endless pricks to get blood for tests, the doctor installed a portal in her abdomen. When, partway into her first round of chemo, she refused to eat, she had a feeding tube put down her nose and into her stomach. Every round of chemo had its tense days when her white blood cell count was so low, she easily fell prey to the weakest infections and spiked fevers which, several times, interrupted up her chemo schedule.

There were good things too. The "Make a Wish Foundation" paid for the whole family to take a trip to Disneyland. The community of Kelowna, where Katya lives, rallied round the family so that work interruptions and the expense of many trips to Vancouver was no longer a burden. And little Katya rallied so many to pray that God would send His healing touch, instantly, or the long way, through doctors and medicine, or however.

Finally, this May, an MRI after the last treatment, proclaimed Katya’s system free of any visible cancer cells. We were all jubilant. But now comes the rest of her life.

She must now have an MRI every six months for two years. The chemo did some permanent damage. Her balance is slightly affected, though she’s taking ballet and last night had no trouble showing off her exercises to us. She also has some hearing loss - a tricky thing, though, for she heard the sound of a distant train whistle yesterday, and yet a few minutes later, asked her dad to get her hearing aids in from the car. "She hears some frequencies well," her mom explained to me. "But other wave lengths just don’t come through, so there are blanks in what she can hear."

Her mom and dad will find out today what yesterday’s MRI showed. We hope and pray that everything is fine - and remains so. I want Katya to raid my leftover stash of Halloween treats again another year. I know she’ll realize her dream and get good at dancing if given a chance. I imagine her someday having her own little girl and telling the hopeful story of how God heals - even though He doesn’t always use the instant route.

4:00 p.m. Just got a phone call. Yesterday's MRI was ALL CLEAR! Yes!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Christian Carnival XLIV

Christian Carnival XLIV is up at ChristWeb

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

which came first, the chicken or the road?

(Just in case this one hasn't already found its way into your inbox...)

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road I am now against it!

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not. The chicken is either against us or for us. There is no middle ground here.

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

HANS BLIX: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

RALPH NADER: The chicken's habitat on the other side of the road had been polluted by unchecked industrial greed. The chicken did not reach the unspoiled habitat on the other side of the road because it was crushed by the wheels of a gas-guzzling SUV.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American

RUSH LIMBAUGH: I don't know why the chicken crossed the road, but I'll bet it was getting a government grant to cross the road, and I'll bet that somebody out there is already forming a support group to help chickens with crossing-the-road syndrome. Can you believe this? How much more of this can real Americans take? Chickens crossing the road paid for by their tax dollars. And when I say tax dollars, I'm talking about your money, money the government took from you to build a road for chickens to cross.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR. SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain. Alone.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.

GRANDPA: In my day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heartwarming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its life long dream of crossing the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

KARL MARX: It was an historic inevitability.

CAPTAIN KIRK: To boldly go where no chicken has ever gone before.

SIGMUND FREUD: The fact that you are at all concerned that the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

BILL GATES: I have just witnessed eChicken2004, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook, - and internet explorer is an integral part of eChicken.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken!

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

unlinked thoughts

The Writer’s Almanac this morning has several quotes which sparked a response in me.

The first one was this, said by novelist Andrea Barrett:

"I love research...I describe a [sailor] character who has to go belowdecks, and I think, 'So what is belowdecks?...Then I have to get books about ship building, ship history, immigration history, so I can write a little more...I love learning that way——lurching from subject area to subject area. When you're lit by your own purposes, it's astonishing how easily you can leap into a new field and get to that center of passion."

Yes, I’ve experienced that. But in order to write like that, to give oneself to one’s subject like that, one has to have a long patience. The love of the subject becomes greater, even, than the love of writing or the desire to see what will be the fate of the end result. It is a scary thing to do in an email, instant text-messaging, see-next-to-immediately – delayed only by the time it takes for a satellite to relay the signal– time.


Essayist Philip Lopate said:

"The prospect of a long day at the beach makes me panic. There is no harder work I can think of than taking myself off to somewhere pleasant, where I am forced to stay for hours and 'have fun.'"

Last night at a gathering with friends, the topic of cruises came up. It seemed we were the only ones there who hadn’t been on one. I tried to imagine it, giving oneself unabashedly to 10 - 14 days of pleasure - unlimited food, unlimited gym time, recreation possibilities galore, going ashore and exploring and shopping. In one way it sounds wonderful. In another, I think, it might probably be largely wasted on me, whose idea of having fun is curling up anywhere with a good book.

And finally, a word of reassurance. Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago said:
"Until the age of fifty we have to learn, and after fifty we have to work until the end occurs."

Monday, November 15, 2004

just plain "church"

My husband and I attended the church our son attends yesterday morning. This was in an elementary school gym. The congregation was about 100, of which I’d say a generous third were students from the nearby Christian university. We were easily the oldest in the crowd. The Christian punk band our son is a member of led worship (they, thankfully, play more than punk - whew!).

The service was simple - about 30 minutes of singing/worship (one hymn interspersed between contemporary worship songs), followed by announcements (an upcoming outreach event – a babysitting service on a Saturday in early December to which parents from the neighborhood could drop off their kids in order to go shopping without them and for which flyers would be available next week), the offering, then a coffee break, during which the kids split for their own service.

Then the adults were seated again to listen to a talk, today introduced by about five minutes of the movie Les Miserables. The body of the lecture / sermon was a Bible-rich treatise based on Ephesians 4. From it I took away the truth that any gifts or talents I’ve been given are not mine to use on or for myself. Rather they have been given to me to bless others.

They used overheads and powerpoint to display the church’s trademark picture and name, as well as words of the songs, and of course a DVD player for the movie bits. The "screen" was a piece of cloth, draped over what looked like some kind of stage prop.

In the evening we attended our own denominational service - the third of three identical services of the day. We meet in a large building of our own. Mark, one of many worship leaders, led the worship, all contemporary songs accompanied by a rock ensemble. The announcements, words for the songs, Scripture passages, and the pastor’s sermon notes were displayed (via powerpoint) on two, large, opposite-facing screens at the front of the church.

After a couple of songs, we were invited to sit, and watch the baptism of two men - former drug and alcohol addicts and now in the Teen Challenge program. Their stories were, as these kind always are, God-originals – God speaking through childhood memories, a mother’s prayers, a response to the altar call of a healing evangelist in London

This month our cell group is on ushering duty so we were at our posts in the balcony to help serve communion and take the offering. Like last week, we witnessed a crowd as restless as teenagers in the bleachers at a basketball game. Actually the balcony crowd does have its share of teenagers, as well as busloads from local drug and alcohol recovery / rehab houses. There was an altar call after the preaching - and a response.

All that to say, from the reading that I’ve done around the topic, I don’t think either of these churches are cutting-edge. They wouldn’t be considered postmodern or emergent. However, neither are they passé. Thank God for the rainbow which is the church in 2004!


Saturday, November 13, 2004

greg sczebel

Wonderful Saturday afternoon - part of it spent shopping for music! We had this $20 gift certificate for the Campus Crusade Bookstore from last Christmas which, for once, we didn’t leave to expire under the paperweight on the file cabinet. We came away with six CDs having spent under $10. Now that’s hitting the jackpot!

Admittedly, the five cheapies are a gamble - but for $2 a pop, not much of one. The disc I’m really stoked about is "here to stay" by Salmon Arm’s rising star, Greg Sczebel. Since his CD was loaded into the listening post, I could sample each cut and I know I’ve come away with at least one treasure.

His songs are all Greg-written originals. His style is pop, rhythmic and danceable (not that I’m a dancer). I love the way he uses his voice - flips like a gymnast into falsetto, does that levitate-around-the-note thing gospel singers do, and here and there slips in smoky jazz notes. His keyboards (he plays them) and the band that backs him, remind me of a couple of records (yes, records!) by Michael Omartian from years ago.
I love it when I find a new artist. Especially when that artist is Canadian and from my home province!

a-counting

What a useless morning!

Last night, feeling curious and adventurous, I decided in install a counter on my blog. I looked through the listings on the blogspot help page, selected a meter which offered a great multitude of information (for free of course - though no idea why I need to know all that or how I’ll use the information) and spent the bulk of the evening setting it up.

It worked. After a couple of false starts (of course - if there’s a way to mess up a simple process like this, I’m sure to find it), the meter appeared on my site and within minutes tracked three page-views. Good.

This morning when I checked the counter (counter’s web site statistics page) - it hadn’t changed. And when I clicked into my blog from my husband’s computer (visits from my computer don’t count), then out, then in again, and went to check the counter on the page of my blog - the counter had disappeared!

Predictably (for me), figuring out the reason behind this puzzling behavior and trying to fix it has become my morning’s crusade. Two hours later I’m still without a counter, quickly coming to the conclusion, maybe I’m not meant to count my customers, and wondering, on the day I must account for all I’ve been given, hours and minutes included, what WILL I say to God about this morning?

(HA! it finally worked when I tried someone else - maybe this was really a lesson in perseverance.)

Friday, November 12, 2004

my lilypad life

kermit.jpeg
You

You are Kermit the Frog. You are reliable, responsible and caring. And you have a habit of waving your arms about maniacally.

FAVORITE EXPRESSIONS: "Hi ho!" "Yaaay!" and "Sheesh!"

FAVORITE MOVIE: "How Green Was My Mother"

LAST BOOK READ: "Surfin' the Webfoot: A Frog's Guide to the Internet"

HOBBIES: Sitting in the swamp playing banjo.

QUOTE: "Hmm, my banjo is wet."

What muppet are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Link via Rebecca

last gardening

It looks like today might be the day – the day I tackle my garden one last time. How does it happen, that I always find myself with this job still to do as late as mid-November?

I started it weeks ago, when I clipped the dried stems of astilbe, chopped off the limp variegated hosta, trimmed back the oregano and thyme, and hack-hoed the weeds that had grown up behind the summer-mature perennials. But I decided I couldn’t finish the job that day, because the impatiens was still blooming, my blue-green hosta looked like it was enjoying the cooler weather and it’s always nice to find rosebuds into late October, even if those buds are mottled from weather and insects. Instead, I ended that day by extending the life of this year’s dahlias and roses in exchange for a late bouquet, yet imposing tidiness by raking the droppings from the park poplar that leans possessively over our fence.

However, I should have finished the job then. For in the interim, each time I look out the kitchen window, the pot of impatiens has grown more pathetic, the dahlias paler and scarcer, and the rose ridiculous, with those pink buds, blushing on top of leafless branches.

So today, because the sun is threatening to shine, and I can’t use the excuse everything is mud for it hasn’t rained in several days, and my former beauties are begging to be put out of their misery, I will get to work in the soggy garden one last time. I’ll chop down the dahlias – by now tree-sized (though I refuse to take the corms out of the ground and store them in the basement. I figure if they survive the winter, as they have three or four now, they deserve to live; if not, let them die - it’s called passive plant euthanasia), drastically prune the roses, machete the remaining hostas and impose order for the duration.... or will I? For I see the mums have grown brilliant - opening into clumps of wine, white and rusty peach. Yikes, does this mean I could be gardening into December?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Christian Carnival XLIII

Christian Carnival XLIII is up at Digitus, Finger & Co.

'Trackbacks': The Crusty Curmudgeon and Chapter and Verse


Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Mossy tree - Fort to Fort Trail, Langley B.C.

bits & pieces

Courtesy The Writer’s Almanac:

- Karl Shapiro, whose birthday it is today, said:

"Poetry is a separate language. It’s a language in which you never really come to the point. You’re always at an angle."

Martin Luther, who would today celebrate his 521st birthday if he were alive, at the end of his life apparently regretted how many books he had written. (For 30 years, from 1516 to 1546 he published an article on religion every other week = 60,000 pages. During the time he wrote, his published writings were thought to make up 20% of all literature published in Germany at the time.) He said:

"The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no limit to this fever for writing....I wish that all my books were consigned to perpetual oblivion."

Today we’d say:

The multitude of blogs is a great amazement. There is no limit to this fever for writing. Is it any wonder, then, that all my blogs are consigned to perpetual oblivion?"

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

yes!

Pockets bought a manuscript!

Monday, November 08, 2004

songs from bright avenue

I popped Bob Bennett’s CD "Songs From Bright Avenue" into the car for wherever we were driving on Friday - and have let it play and replay all weekend. It’s one the few CDs of mine which can bear that kind of relistening.

I first heard Bob Bennett in concert a few years ago when he toured around our area with Steve Bell and Carolyn Arends. From his first song, "Here On Bright Avenue," I was hooked. I liked the whole package - the skillful acoustic musicianship, the mellow voice, Bob’s honest, self-deprecating personality, but most of all, his lyrics.

As a writer who dabbles in poetry, I sometimes find the lyrics of modern Christian music cliche-ridden and trite. My theory on why it succeeds is because those cliches make a connection in the quick way that songs must as they fly by. But after the initial delight, one soon wearies of them. Bob’s lyrics aren’t like that. They are many-layered, honest, spring from deep wells and make tangible connections to life.

Bob wrote the songs on this album while he was going through a divorce. Cuts like "No Such Thing as Divorce" and in a way, "Angels Around Your Bed" echo his transition to his new role as a single dad. "The Doing of the Thing" speaks to the issue of having made a covenant, then breaking it.

His lyrics aren’t always full of pathos, though. He can be very witty. "Our Codependent Love" and "The Place I Am Bound" prove that.

The two songs that move me most deeply, though, are "Hope Like a Stranger" and "Singing For My Life."

Who of us hasn’t at one time or other, felt the despair that whispers - life won’t have any more sunny days - and what’s the point anyway? "Hope Like A Stranger" takes us through that kind of thinking and ends pointing to the Author of all hope: "Hope like a stranger, came to my door / But He’s risen and He stays / A stranger no more."

"Singing for My Life" I think of as a kind of Christian artist’s manifesto. In this song, Bob talks about his identity as a singer/musician and that he’s "...tempted to think / It’s the only time that I can do any good." He says an implied thank-you to his audience: "I sing these songs and you listen to me / But who’s doing the favor for who?" Finally he admits he comes to his vocation as a faulty vessel with a "deep dark secret." So he prays, God, do something in me, with the words I sing: "May the words in my mouth fall to my heart..."

I too understand the feeling of being defined by what I do (writer). I also can relate to the feeling of gratitude toward any audience which responds to my work, giving it a full-circle feel. But Bob’s lyrics push me further into a realization of why any of this is significant: "And remind me why I live and breathe / Is it not to know You? / Is it not to believe?

If you want bread, wine and oil for your spirit, get this CD!

(And if anyone reads this and would like to talk about a favorite CD and why - please be my ‘comment’ guest - I’d love to hear about it.)

Saturday, November 06, 2004

gay nuptials - what WOULD Jesus do?

Marianne Meed Ward in her essay "What Would Jesus Do?" ("In Your Faith" column, Toronto Sun - October 10, 2004), tackles, among other things, gay marriage.

She says, in part:

"But I’ve never understood the brouhaha over gay marriage. And it’s not just because I’m in favor of making it legal (what do you expect from someone who attends a United Church .....I’m thinking this is an issue where minds are made up...

Alright then. Conservative Christians are free to believe gay relationships are not God’s ideal, according to their reading of the Bible. I won’t try to persuade them otherwise. Instead, let me appeal to a favorite method of these groups and ask: What Would Jesus Do? Better, let’s look at what he did do when he was kicking around on earth. Let’s see: He ate at the home of a tax collector....

When he was asked whether to pay tax to Caesar, he said if Caesar’s name is on the coin, let him have it....

On another occasion, he let a prostitute wash his feet with expensive perfume....

In short, Jesus came not to plead for legal rights for Jews or overturn their oppressors. He came not to consort with the righteous. He came to change the hearts of sinners. If he were here today, he’d visit the gay bars. About the most preachy he’d probably get is to warn against the perils of promiscuity. And one way to cut down is to let gays and lesbians marry."

I agree with most of what Ms Meed Ward says, until that highlighted statement (my emphasis). At that point I ask, lady, where do you get the grounds for saying that?

Let’s look at the Bible’s attitude toward homosexuality generally.

It’s condemned outright in the Old Testament (Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22).

Jesus never comments about it specifically but upholds the Old Testament law (Matthew 5:17), and in fact when it comes to lust demands a thought-life purity that lines up with the spirit of that law (Matthew 5:27-30).

Paul condemns it (Romans 1:18-32).

So, what WOULD Jesus do? What DID he do when he met people who were living in sin?

1. When he talked with the Samaritan woman - he quickly turned small talk to the subject of her inner thirst - a thirst she’d been trying to fill with relationships. He didn’t preach at her, but neither did he condone her brokenness. Instead he offered her "living water," - a relationship with God to satisfy the thirst she’d been trying to slake in other ways. (John 4:4-38)

2. When he had dinner with the taxman Zacchaeus, Jesus’ very presence convicted Z. of his dishonesty and brought him to the point of making restitution for his thievery. (Luke 19:2-10)

3. When the religious leaders brought a woman caught in an adulterous act, Jesus refused to condemn her but also refused to affirm her lifestyle, saying instead: "Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:11 - NIV) (bold mine).

Ms. Meed Ward is right. We do need to spend time with people - of all kinds. We do need to relate to them with the humility that is aware there is in each one of us the same DNA predisposition to sin. And we as a Christian community need to face up to the fact that for some of us that sin has expressed itself in forbidden (read ‘sinful’) heterosexual relationships (fornication and adultery), which God condemns just as strongly as homosexuality But it would be unloving and a denial of God’s power, to say it has to end there. That because the proclivity to sin is so natural and powerful, and socially accepted, it’s obviously the way things were meant to be. (That, in the realm of sexual preferences, if you’re attracted to the same sex, it’s your fate and the best you can do is avoid promiscuity. Where will that line of thinking take us? To sex with children, animals, the dead? It leads directly to those destinations- "...and who are YOU to tell me these things are wrong when I was born this way!")

Ms. Ward is right. Jesus did come to change the hearts of sinners. However, the fact that he spent time with them was not a way of saying their sin didn’t matter. Rather it was a way of showing them God’s heart - a heart that has compassion on all us sinners. A heart that knows if we are left to our devices, we’ll self-destruct. A heart that says, come to me, give your life to me, live it my way and you’ll find a satisfaction that will quench all sins’ thirsts.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

they're back!

Now that we’ve switched from daylight savings time to standard, the early dark evenings really underline the fact summer’s over, as does the nip in the air, the leaves turning yellow, russet and flame, and the return of our birds!

I know birds are supposed to leave for the south in fall. But here they (the water birds at least) break the rules.

All summer long in the places we walk - along the Nicomekl River from Elgin Park to the Nico Wynd Golf Course dikes, along the Serpentine at Ducks Unlimited and beside all its ponds and fens, along the ocean at Blackie’s Spit, Crescent Beach, and Mud Bay Park - it’s been deserted except for gulls, the odd pair of mallards and a few herons. But in the last few weeks, our favorites have started coming back.

First we noticed a couple of loons. Then we saw the odd cormorant - not yet as plentiful as they will be later in the season - when they bob about fishing, and then stand by the dozens on buoys and rotten pilings with wings spread wide, hanging them out to dry.

Another day we spotted a couple of coots - those odd-looking black birds that swim, not smoothly like ducks and geese, but jerking their heads the whole time. That same day, we took note of our first pair of widgeons - for the season which really proves how duck-starved we were because later, we don’t give them second look.

On a walk along the drainage creek across from the community gardens at Blackie’s Spit a few days later, we saw our first pintails of the season - ducks with the most elegant necks.

Then Monday, I saw my favorites - the mergansers. A couple of hooded merganser pairs were swimming in one of the Ducks Unlimited ponds. What a funky hairdo the female has - right in tousled style and without gel too! How suave the male looks, with his black-and-white coif. What wonderful and exotic company for the dullest time of the year!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

one

A good thing to remember on election day in what is probably the most powerful country in the world (not mine) is:

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF ONE.

Corollary 1: You have no idea the multitude resident in one person.*

Are there more?

* Something my pastor said a few weeks ago. Did he make it up, or did some other famous person say it?

Monday, November 01, 2004

words - trampled or buoyant?

Articles about the American election like the one written by Toronto Sun reporter Eric Margolis Non Americans Dread Bush give me the urge to dash to my keyboard and fire off a ‘...but...but...’ rebuttal.

It’s not the fact he chooses sides but the reason for that choice which gives me, a professing Christian, a chill. He says, in part:

"What deeply alarms many non-Americans is the prospect of a second Bush term dominated by a coalition of evangelical Christians, Christian "Rapturists," American partisans of Israel’s PM Ariel Sharon, and rural voters from the Deep South who reject evolution and think French is the native language of the devil.... politics is falling increasingly under the influence of extreme religious groups at a time when secularism is accepted across Europe and non-Muslim Asia...American’s fastest-growing cult, the Rapturists, believe once Greater Israel is created and all Jews converted to Christianity, they will be instantly transported to heaven while the world will be destroyed and all non-believers slowly burned alive....

I haven’t followed the American presidential campaign carefully enough to make an intelligent choice for either side. However, Mr. Margolis’s inflammatory remarks attacking Mr. Bush not for what he’s done but for what he believes and who he associates with, leave me with the urge to defend him as a person with whom I share many of the same beliefs. His name-calling is characteristic of the religious chill in Canada and shows the Canadian media’s penchant to discredit and sideline evangelical Christianity.

As I said, the temptation is to fire off an email or letter to the editor. But yesterday morning as I read these words about the youth Samuel: "The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground," then juxtaposed that thought against the above article, it occurred to me there are ways to use my words other than contributing them to the dust storm swirling in the media.

1. If I choose to respond, I can wait till I’ve cooled down, and then answer with words of restraint, politeness and thoughtfulness.

2. I can choose to withhold my words altogether, and be silent.

3. And/or, I can pray. I can pray for Mr. Margolis. More importantly, I can pray against the source from which his words were spoken - the spirit behind them. For doesn’t his diatribe sound a lot like this, and this - cases in which prayer rendered words scornful of God and His people, impotent.

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