Thursday, June 30, 2005

childhood memory meme

Julana at "Life in the Slow Lane" has tagged me to write on "Five things I miss from my childhood." Okay, here goes:

1. My dad. He died in 1975. Sometimes now, I can hardly remember him – what he looked and sounded like. Here is an early memory I have of him.

Sometimes on Saturday night, I sat on his knee as he listened to the hockey game. Our radio was a brown box, covered with some crocodile-textured material. Its black on-off switch was in the centre of its front, between two squares, one filled in with dark fabric that covered the speaker, the other one light, illuminated from inside to show the dial. The radio front looked like a face. Its two squares were the eyes, the on-off switch the nose and beneath that the two buttons which controlled tuning and volume, were a stern mouth.

I would lay my head on Daddy's shoulder and we would rock back forth in the rocking chair. In the background was the rise and fall of Foster Hewitt's voice, the slap of the puck on the boards and the hum of the cheering crowd which became a roar after "He scores!"
I studied the radio. If you looked carefully between the plastic cover of the lit square on the front you could see a light inside. I imagined the man who announced the hockey game, a little hockey rink and the crowd, all somewhere within that radio. I wished I were small enough to get inside.

2. Faspah* at my Grandma’s house. This would include the smell of coffee, and looking forward to zwiebak,** cheese, dill pickles, jam and cake or matrimonial squares.

3. Childhood Christmases. They were beyond exciting. The buildup started with studying the Eaton’s and Sear’s catalogues in October, to getting ready for the Christmas concert at school beginning the end of November, to waking on the dark Christmas morning and getting all excited and sweaty in bed till it was time to get up. When Dad had finally finished his chores, we were allowed downstairs to the dining room.

Our parents didn’t wrap our presents but had arranged them in the open the night before so that when we turned on the light, there was everything laid out – a play mat with roads and trees drawn on it, blocks which Dad had cut and painted and built into houses and stores and even grain elevators. There was a red wagon for someone and dolls for my sisters. Best of all, there was a wooden toy sink and stove for me. With lots of kids (nine of us in total), it looked like a toy store!

4. The first-waking-up sound of chickens clucking and cackling on a summer morning.

5. Running barefoot outside after a thunderstorm and squishing my toes in the warm mud.

* Low-German word meaning a light lunch – similar to an English tea
** Double-decker buns

********************

I'm supposed to offer it to four people. I’m going to pass on that. But if anyone who reads this would like to jump in and do it, just leave a comment and I’ll link to you pronto!

If you decide to do this, here are the instructions for what to do next:

Remove the blog at No.1 from the following list and bump every one up one place; add your blog’s name in the No.5 spot. Blog names are linked to their posts on childhood, with the URLs for you as well:

1. Loose Leaf - 5 things I miss
2. Black Currant Jam - 5 things I miss
3. Allthings2all - I wanted green hair
4. Life In the Slow Lane - Five things I miss about my Childhood
5. promptings - childhood memory meme

And then you pick four people. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

for a non-mainstream media take

on what happened yesterday in Canada's parliament, visit Proud to Be Canadian. Some of his headlines:

- Globe and Mail joins liberal-left in same sex marriage news orgasm

- MPs who voted "no" (i.e., for normal Canadian families and marriage)

- Left-wing liberal fundamentalists win vote to change definition of Canadian Family and Marriage

sock it to us, Joel!

my friend yarrow

It’s been a pretty dull and cloudy summer so far. But I have one ray of sunshine I can depend on! The lovely yarrow plant in my garden (Achillea x - ‘Moonshine’) beams at me from morning to night. This particular variety is pure yellow on ferny gray-green foliage.

I have a couple of others as well, "Lavender Beauty" and "Cerise Queen." They are pink and rose. But their growth habit isn’t as compact or sturdy as Moonshine’s – which I must prop up with tomato cages so that it doesn’t lounge about on the garden floor. I did that early this year and now the stems are upright and the plant looks the best it ever has.

I remember yarrow from when I was a kid. We called the modest off-white blooms that sprinkle the Saskatchewan roadsides ‘porridge flowers’ because they looked like Cream of Wheat porridge.

I picked out yarrow for my garden when I was into drying flowers. And they do dry absolutely the best. They keep their color and their stems, especially Moonshine’s, are sturdy. Their ferny leaves are aromatic and my books say they can be added to potpourri – though I’ve never tried that. They last long in fresh bouquets too.

Yarrow likes it hot and sunny. It does fine in poor soil. It really is easy to grow.

Here is some more yarrow trivia from Carrots Love Tomatoes:

- It is good for paths and borders and will grow well even if walked on. In fact if it’s in the lawn and mowed down it adapts by spreading out in low growth.

- It’s a good border plant for a herb garden as it supposedly enhances growth of essential oils in the herbs, "increasing their vitality."

- It gives neighboring plants resistance to insects (because of the pungent odor of the foliage?)

- Yarrow tea is supposed to be helpful to sleep.

- It is also said to help heal cuts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

blogcritics.org in top 100

AlwaysOn Network and Technorati presents the first annual "Open Media 100," the power list of bloggers, social networkers, tool smiths, and investors leading the Open Media Revolution.

[...]The purpose of this list is to provide an initial, helpful framework of this emerging industry and highlight its key players who are influencing the adoption of open media and proving the impact it is already having on the technology industry, journalism, and marketing. To achieve this goal, we created the following categories: Pioneers, Trendsetters, Practitioners, Toolsmiths, and Enablers. We combined both a subjective and objective process, including nominations from bloggers, surveys, and measurable data using Technorati’s blog search engine, which tracks more than 11.5 million weblogs and over 1.2 billion links. We respectfully acknowledge that the list represents our best educated guess in a fast-changing and fluid market... [read more]

It was nice to see that Blogcritics.org made the list!

hat-tip: Ernesto Burden

(pssst - and thanks to Blogcritics.org, the review of Levi's Will which I posted there yesterday, was picked up by Advance.net and is in the "Book Review" section of today's CLEVELAND.COM )

Monday, June 27, 2005

d. giles on being a wet blanket

This is my fifth whack at trying to help all the whiners further hamstring any possibility they might have for success. Part of my purpose driven life is to facilitate those who have decided to be failures by giving them a concrete road map that will ensure a solid waste laden existence

I have spent many minutes researching losers from various cultures and different epochs attempting to deduce the attitudes and actions of the derailed in order to help you, the wannabe loser, increase your chances for catastrophe. And man, have I struck the motherload with these paralyzing principles for the pusillanimous. [read
the rest...
]

lighting candles

Another Canada Day is almost upon us (July 1st). But to this point in 2005, I’ve not felt much like celebrating my country. As a nation which is internationally famous for its liberal social (constant chatter, for example, pro- legalization of prostitution and smoking dope) and soft immigration policies, and with the biggest growth industry in my part of the country meth labs and grow-ops, it doesn’t help that last week, the only federal party which had any hope of stalling the passage of the same-sex marriage bill (C-38) was caught napping. Barring a miracle, now, it’s only a matter of time before we’re known for that too.

Our church celebrated Canada in the morning service yesterday, though. They did it with a presentation called "Take the Urban Challenge." Church members involved in group after group of church, para-church and community-sponsored initiatives came on stage. Here are some of the things my church helps support with money and people-power.

CLA-Advocacy: This program is run by our church to help the poor get connected to what is already available to them in the community via Social Services etc.

(A personal story about this. About late June, early July last summer, in one of the places my husband and I walk at noon, we noticed a hobo. First we saw him ride the trails. Later we caught sight of him, sitting or sleeping on a park bench. One day we saw his cardboard ‘house’, folded up, tucked behind a tree. It became evident he was living there.

At first we avoided him. But that bothered me. We talked about it and decided the least we could do was get to know him a bit. So one day we introduced ourselves to Vern. He was from Thunder Bay, had moved here some years ago, used to live in Vancouver, but since he got off drugs and alcohol, he avoided the downtown eastside and the part of Surrey where druggies hang out.

The summer was warm and he seemed content in his digs – which eventually included a tent. The place he ‘lived’ was close to both a park with a washroom and a golf course where he seemed to be well tolerated (he sure wasn’t wasting away weight-wise either!). But he didn’t know what he’d do once winter came along.

Some months before, CLA Advocacy had given out business cards at church. My husband had one in his wallet so we gave one to Vern and told him, come winter he should contact that number.

In September he disappeared. Then one Sunday in October, there was Vern in the foyer of our church. The people at Advocacy were so good to him – got him put on the dole which was enough for a cheap hotel for two weeks a month and the other two weeks he hung around church and on cold nights slept in places like the furnace room. In fact he was part of a little promotional video clip Advocacy had made for yesterday.)

Langley Food Bank

B. C. Teen Challenge - a drug rehab program in Yarrow B.C.

Wagner Hills Farm - a drug rehab program in Aldergrove B.C.

M2W2 - organization which coordinates visits to prisoners.

Crisis Pregnancy Center - Newton, Surrey

Downtown Eastside ( DTES): This is very cool. DTES is an umbrella organization for a variety of programs designed to help people in Vancouver’s poorest neighborhoods (called the downtown eastside) who want to get back on their feet, back to work, out of the sex trade etc. One arm of it is involved with Christian businessmen buying up cheap hotels and rooming houses, renovating them (paying residents to do the work) thus providing safe, clean, inexpensive living accommodation for the people there.

Gordon Wiebe (a former pastor at our church – he actually was the one who started CLA Advocacy) moved into the downtown eastside a few years ago with the intent of being a minster to the people there (no salary, he did this on his own!). He now manages the Dodson and Jubilee Rooms – two of the renovated hotels. (He told the story in church last year, of how he actually happened to be living in this hotel when a Christian businessman bought it)

English Studies for Life in Canada (ESLC) - English as a second language instruction classes at CLA.

Punjabi Church

CLA - School of Missions

Campus Crusade - SFU Outreach

Campus Crusade - Women’s Outreach

University Christian Ministry (UCM)

Summit Pacific College

Canada Family Action Coalition (CFAC) which among other things alerts Canadian Christians to upcoming political initiatives. It has spearheaded the letter-writing and poll response to Bill C-38.

Global Emergency Mission Society (GEMS) - collects clothes etc., compacts them into bales and ships to needy places all over the world.

Langley CLA Saturday Kids Klub - an outreach of our church’s bus ministry.

As one contingent followed another onto the stage, I felt my spirits lift. There is a lot of good stuff going on in my community, my province, my country. It may not make it onto the news, but it is spreading the salt and light of the Kingdom of God. It reminded me of the proverb: "Don’t curse the darkness – light a candle."

Now where did I put my Canada flag windsock?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

presence blessing

"The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months and the Lord blessed his household and everything he had." I Chron. 13:14

The carrots are thick as my arms,
tomatoes, cucumbers, figs
gathered an omer a day
by my overwhelmed, pregnant wife.
The midwife says, "It’s twins;
the way they kick, they are boys!"

Rain and sun synchronized
have overflowed our bins
with barley, wheat and corn.
Cow hasn’t dried up in three months,
her milk still covered with cream
thickens to cheesy white curd.

The love and peace in our home -
sensed even by passers-by -
those rhythms of lightness and joy
have gone to my fingers and thumbs
so that now King David requests:
"Obed-Edom, we need your harp’s psalm
in Ark’s triumphant parade
As we take it from your home, to mine."

"...and Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom, Jeiel and Azaziah were to play the harps..." 1 Chron. 15:21

V.Nesdoly © 2003

Saturday, June 25, 2005

a simple agenda

"God’s people are always called to act in faith. Scripture is filled with examples of God calling us to take simple actions of faith, that result in His responses of large spiritual impact."

The above comment from a sidebar article in my Bible had me thinking this week about simple acts of faith. The Bible certainly is full of examples. To name four:

- The Levites carrying the ark had to take their first step into the water of the Jordan River before God stopped its flow and the Israelites could walk across (Joshua 3).

- The Zarephath widow had to give Elijah the first serving of her last meal before God started replenishing her oil and flour again and again (1 Kings 17:8-16).

- The widow’s two sons had to follow Elisha’s instructions and borrow empty containers before the oil ever started flowing (2 Kings 4:1-7).

- The little boy had to hand over his lunch for one before Jesus could feed the crowd of 5,000 (John 6:1-14).

What simple act of faith is God asking me to do today? If, in prayer, I ask, Lord, what’s on the agenda today? and He replies, email this friend, or call your sister, or write up this idea, or send a cheque to this mission or spend some time praying for this person, I dare not spurn these simple things. Instead I must do them with the faith that knows God can make them significant. For even Jesus acknowledged the importance of the simple act and spelled out its eternal consequence:

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42 NIV)

Friday, June 24, 2005

book review: Levi's Will

Book: Levi's Will
Author: W. Dale Cramer
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
ISBN: 0-7642-2995-8

He begins to see that every man’s failure dips its roots into the previous generation and drops its seeds into the next. Blame, as a wise man once told him, is the province of the innocent and the omniscient. – the thoughts of Will McGruder in Levi’s Will.

Levi’s Will is Dale Cramer's third novel. It is the story of Will McGruder (Mullett), who runs away from his Old Order Amish home near Apple Creek, Ohio at the end of June, 1943. He leaves the summer farm work, a pregnant girl friend and his demanding and righteous father Levi Mullett. He also leaves the only home and life he’s ever known with its accompanying demands:

"You will live in this house and do this kind of work. You will marry this girl, wear these clothes and cut your hair this way. You will have as many children as your wife can bear, and teach them to live the same."

He leaves to join the "World" with its infinite choices where he will control his own life and choose his own destiny.

We follow Will (and younger brother Tobe, who accompanies him at first) as they jump the train, then find work and move from farm to farm. The tale winds through the war years (Will joins the army), and takes us to Will’s return home, his marriage to Helen and the raising of his own family. Through all these events, though, the real story is of Will making his way back home, to the heart and the blessing of his father – something made practically impossible because when Will leaves, he is put under the church’s ban.

Of course, the story is about more than prodigal sons and fathers. Cramer addresses, via characters and plot, themes as varied as work, marriage, family roles, religious denominations, pacifism, going to war and, above all, forgiveness.


Cramer, as always, has given us believable and memorable characters. The main character, Will, is complex and imperfect (bound as he is by the web of lies he's created), yet we root for him all the way. His wife, Helen, comes across as tough and loyal, though always the southern belle. I recognized their son Riley:


(Summer 1968)...And then Riley came home on holidays giddy with the newfound sophistication of a college freshman, his hand out for more money and his trunk full of dirty clothes for his mother to wash....Will did challenge Riley once, when he was parroting the latest rhetoric from some rabble-rousing leftist he’d heard speak in an antiwar rally at college.

"When did you turn into a communist?" Will asked.

Riley just laughed that arrogant Billy the Kid laugh of his. "I’m no communist," he said. "Too many rules. I think I’m an anarchist."


And of course, there’s the patriarch Levi who, when Will leaves home, is

...a man with thundering demands for immediate and unconditional surrender, delivered with the innate fury of his coal-fired contempt.

But Levi mellows, so that near the end,

When he got up from his chair by the stove in the living room he looked even shorter and thinner and more bent than last year. There was something else different about him too...he looked Will in the eye now. He even smiled a little – not much, but a little.

Cramer's skill as a storyteller is displayed in the way he has structured the book. Each chapter’s heading is the date in which the events occur. Chapter 1 begins "January 1985" when Will has returned to Ohio to attend his father’s funeral. (Cramer signals that 1985 is the present by writing those chapters in present tense). Chapter 2 then goes back to "June 1943" and the story’s beginning. In the succeeding chapters, we flip back and forth, between the earlier dates and 1985 putting the pieces of the story together rather like one would piece a quilt. I found this device somewhat reassuring because in the 1985 chapters Will seemed settled regarding his father and I sensed they may have had made their peace.

However, there is still a disturbing and mysterious element in that present part – Will’s son, Riley. I found myself wondering why would a 30-something son need to be treated with the caution and care Will reserves for him. Which, of course, led me to look for clues about why Riley was the way he was in the chapters that filled in the back story. I was intrigued when it came out that his perception of his father was very like Will’s perception of his father. In this way Cramer makes us aware of how life is layered and intertwined with the past. Cramer’s use of this structure and his ability to convey complexity are, I think, two of the reasons I found this such a satisfying read.

(And talk about layering – what about that title! When I first read it I thought this was going to be about Levi’s will as in "last will and testament." Someone else said he thought it meant Levi’s will as in "strength of resolve." Of course no sooner did I get into the book than I realized this was a story about Levi’s son Will -- Levi’s Will. By the end of the book I came to see how the first two meanings were as apropos as the third. Kudos to Cramer’s wife Pam who, according to the end notes, came up with that title).

I also learned a lot about the Amish from this book. The people and their sometimes unusual customs are explained with a frankness that is always tempered with respect and compassion. Cramer who, according to his bio notes, "...was the second of four children born to a runaway Amishman turned soldier," is obviously well qualified to write about these people – his people. If the names in the book’s "Acknowledgments" are any indication, he has a host of Amish people behind him to vouch for the credibility of the world he has created.

If I compare this book to Cramer's other novels, Sutter's Cross and Bad Ground, I would say it’s written without their literary razzle dazzle. To be sure, we are given the same peppering of insights and aphorisms. But as a whole, the language is simpler, doesn’t draw attention to itself but seems toned down, perhaps on purpose to stay consistent with the story’s subject matter – the plain folk and their simple life.

Finally, beyond the skill with which it’s written, there is something about this book that makes it more than a finely told family tale. The wisdom and depth of understanding coming from it made me wonder more than once, what did it really cost Cramer, in lived experience and soul-searching, to write this story. It asks deep questions like what does God want from you, how do you know what real love is, and how do you conquer anger at hurts as deep as a father’s rejection. But it doesn’t preach. Instead it suggests answers in such a winsome and moving way, you’ll be pondering them long after you’ve read the last page. Highly recommended.

***********

Disclaimer: The book Levi's Will was sent to me by Mind & Media as a gift from the publisher who donated the books for reviewers.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

off the bizarre-o-meter

My son used to make duct tape wallets but formal wear?!

This annual contest for a scholarship of $5000 is sponsored by Duck® Brand duct tape.

The rules are that each couple must attend a high school, or home school prom held in any given year (e.g. spring of 2005), wearing complete attire or accessories made from duct tape.

That’s right. With a little (or big) imagination and a trip to the hardware store, you can come up with stunning gowns and tuxes like this! (This in the 'themed category' I'm sure)



See more...

(Hey Red-Green, maybe there's an idea for a segment here!)

Hat-tip: The Happy Homemaker

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

peonies

In the last day or so, every time I ponder the question, what shall I blog next, from somewhere this answer presents itself: peonies

Which is odd, because I don’t even own any. I wish I did, though. Every year when new sprouts break the soil in others’ gardens, I recognize peonies among them and get a twinge of jealousy; I should have planted some.

But I never have because they sprawl all over the bed so languorously and bloom for such a short time, I just haven’t found space for them in my niggardly suburban plots. Plus whenever I see them in bloom in someone else’s yard, they’re crawling with ants.

But we do have a history, peonies and I. I had them in rose bowls as centerpieces for my wedding (and what a tense time that was – the spring of 1981, when we’d planned on peonies but the season was early).

Here are a few peony bits:

From my flower bible: The Flower Expert by D. G. Hessayon:

Paeonies are the aristocrats of the herbaceous perennial world. The flower stalks rise up above the attractive foliage and each one bears several blooms – blooms which make most other garden flower blush with shame.... (would you say he likes them?)

Regard paeonies as a long-term investment and learn the rules before you start planting. Choose an open, sunny spot but try to avoid a situation where early morning sun will shine on the plants. Early autumn is the best time for planting and the soil should be deeply dug and enriched with compost or leaf mould. Set the crown of the plant no lower than 1 inch below the soil surface. The main thing you then have to remember is to leave the plant alone – it may not flower in the first season and may not be properly established for three years..."


And from Lois Hole’s Perennial Favorites:

Don’t plant peonies near trees where they will have intense competition for nutrients and moisture. Also avoid low spots, where puddles form after a rainfall. Peonies will rot in wet soil.

Never add manure to the planting hole, as this results in weak, spindly growth.

Blooms cut at the loose bud stage will open and last twice as long as those cut when they are fully open. The best time to cut peony flowers is in the morning. They last about two weeks in a vase.


Peony petals retain their fragrance for a long time and thus make a good addition to potpourri.

They also dry well and can be added to arrangements of other dried everlastings.

And work and patience of cultivating peonies does yield a stunning reward. Two of my favorite poets have written about peonies.

Peonies

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open-
pools of lace,
white and pink -
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities--
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again -
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

- by Mary Oliver

and here is Jane Kenyon's

Peonies at Dusk

White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They're staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it's coming from.

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one's face.

Jane Kenyon from Constance(1993)


So sniff a peony today, but don’t get an ant up your nose!

Or, read more writing inspired by peonies. Accidental Poet has a Peony Post, which will take you to this poem and this story.

celebrations & carnivals

If you like the metaphor of life as a pilgrimage or journey, you'll love the road trip that is this week's Christian Carnival, hosted by Dee Kreidel at In the Spirit of grace. (Beautifully done, Dee!)


Marcia at Writer-Lee has just posted the June 2005 Fiction Celebration.

Loosely based on E.B.White’s words, "Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar," I’m eager to dig in to this compendium of encouragement, inspiration – and maybe hopefully even a kick in the pants!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

doug giles - on how to eat government cheese and live in a van by the river

If you like satire, Doug Giles (columnist on, among other places, Proud to Be Canadian) is a must-read. He’s begun a series "Developing the Disaster Master Mind©" which starts out...

After 20 plus years of being on the radio, writing books and articles and speaking to a lot of people across the globe, I’ve been amazed at how people have both revived and ruined their lives. I have seen some amazing transformations in people’s lives, as well as some astonishing self-inflicted thrashings. Being the sardonic guy that I am, I’m particularly interested in those who boldly and zealously want to wreck their lives. You’ve gotta love them! I mean, without them, we wouldn’t feel as good about ourselves as much as we do. Yes, they keep schadenfreude alive and well, baby.

Being fascinated with the feckless has caused me to document the traits of the detrimentally determined in order to:

a. make certain that, by God’s grace, I don’t imitate them very often and
b. to have at my disposal solid, sure-fire bullet points to assist those who’re hell bent for mishaps because, as a minister, I feel it is my job to be non-judgmental and help all people achieve their goals, whatever they may be. [That’s the ministerial mantra of postmodernism, isn’t it?]

Now, let me allay some initial fears of those who think it is difficult to derail their lives. You are in luck. Believe it or not, having a chaotic and cruddy life isn’t as thorny as you might think. It is as easy as making a decision, in particular, consistently making bad decisions, and sticking with them no matter how much life kicks the snot out of you.

Yes, I guarantee, if you believe and obey these ten points below I can assure you that you’ll eventually be broke, friendless, a disaster to date or marry, a bad father or mother, and possibly a whore or a pimp or a welfare brat. More than likely, if you stay the course and develop what I call a Disaster Master Mind©, you will end up costing the government lots of money. In addition, if you can actually find someone to procreate with, you will spawn a new generation of losers; and if you really embrace the following, you might end up eating government cheese and living in a van down by the river.

Here’s a challenge:

For 90 days . . . that’s just 90 days . . . commit to living out the proven loser principles below, and I can almost promise you that you will be well on your way to no where (more...)


Habit one: Be A Slacker © (above) is followed by habit two: Blame Others ©, habit three: Embrace Hopelessness © and habit four: Follow Others Mindlessly ©.

Monday, June 20, 2005

this week's christian carnival

will be hosted by Dee at In the Spirit of Grace.

There's still time to submit an entry (June 21st midnight - EST I think)

Pick your best post of the week and send the following information here:

  • Name of your blog
  • URL of your blog
  • Name of post
  • URL of your post
  • A brief description of the post.

things to try at home

1.Sealed envelope - Put in the freezer for a few hours, then slide a knife under the flap. The envelope can then be resealed (now why would I need to know this?!)

2. Use empty toilet paper roll to store appliance cords. It keeps them neat and one can write on the roll which appliance it belongs to. (My Mom does this!)

3. Crayon marks on walls? A damp rag, dipped in baking soda is supposed to take it off with little effort (elbow grease that is!).

4. Permanent marker on appliances/counter tops (like store receipt BLUE!) rubbing alcohol on paper towel.

5. Blood stains on clothes? Not to worry! Just pour a little hydrogen peroxide on a cloth and proceed to wipe off every drop of blood. Works every time! (Now, where do I put the body?)

6. Use vertical strokes when washing windows outside and horizontal for inside windows. This way you can tell which side has the streaks. Straight vinegar will get outside windows really clean. Don't wash windows on a sunny day. They will dry too quickly and will probably streak.

7. Candles will last a lot longer if placed in the freezer for at least 3 hours prior to burning.

8. To clean artificial flowers, pour some salt into a paper bag and add the flowers. Shake vigorously as the salt will absorb all the dust and dirt and leave your artificial flowers looking like new! (I haven’t tried this, because most of my flowers are in swags – and they’re not artificial, they’re dried everlastings. Does anyone know how to clean those?)

9. To easily remove burnt-on food from your skillet, simply add a drop or two of dish soap and enough water to cover bottom of pan, and bring to a boil on stovetop.

10. Spray your TUPPERWARE with nonstick cooking spray before pouring in tomato based sauces and there won't be any stains.

11. Wrap celery in aluminum foil when putting in the refrigerator and it will keep for weeks.

12. Cure for headaches: Take a lime (not that lime!) cut it in half and rub it on your forehead. The throbbing will go away.

13. Don't throw out all that leftover wine (what leftover wine?). Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces.

14. To get rid of itch from mosquito bites, try applying soap on the area and you will experience instant relief.

15. Ants, ants, ants everywhere ... Well, they are said to never cross a chalk line. So get out your chalk and draw a line on the floor or wherever ants tend to march.

16. Use air-freshener to clean mirrors. It does a good job and better still, leaves a lovely smell to the shine.

17. When you get a splinter, reach for the scotch tape before resorting to tweezers or a needle. Simply put the scotch tape over the splinter, then pull it off. Scotch tape removes most splinters painlessly and easily.

18. Clean a vase. To remove a stain from the bottom of a glass vase or cruet, fill with water and drop in two Alka Seltzer tablets.

19. Polish jewelry. Drop two Alka Seltzer tablets into a glass of water and immerse the jewelry for two minutes.

20. Clean a thermos bottle. Fill the bottle with water, drop in four Alka Seltzer tablets, and let soak for an hour (or longer, if necessary).

21. Unclog a drain. Clear the sink drain by dropping three Alka Seltzer tablets down the drain followed by a cup of white vinegar. Wait a few minutes, then run the hot water.

22. Paula at Listen In suggests: When you're out of fabric softener or softener sheets, use a small amount of hair conditioner rubbed into a wash cloth and throw it into the dryer with your clothes.

Disclaimer: promptings does not take responsibility for cord confusion, wilted celery, a soapy aftertaste in your skillet, or any fallout which may result from resealing envelopes, tampering with blood evidence or having such an apparently potent product as Alka Selzer in your medicine cabinet in the first place.

Hat-tip: My friend J. -- who else?! (I think she should start her own blog, she's such a fount of uselessFUL information!)

I’ll gladly accept additions to these (in the comment section) and post them here.

Want to read more lists. During June Rebecca Writes is featuring some of the Top 100 lists. I especially like the list of favorite children’s books.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

thoughts on God the Father

Some thoughts on what I imagine it was like for God the Father. (Sorry, but yes, this is a repost)

**************

BAPTISM

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened. Luke 3:21


For thirty years and nine months
heaven’s Son-silent corridors,
its echoing rooms with their litter
of creation and Word-clutter
have been my constant reminder
of His absence.

Though always vigilant
I have restrained myself
from reaching down
to steady His first tottering steps,
held back from lavishing gifts
against hunger, sadness, cold
from interfering with Nazareth bullies
and the enticing eyes of Galilean girls,
limited myself to an awakening touch
in the still-dark morning,
inaudible whisper in a garden.

Today – this coming-of-age
beginning, graduation, birthday
all rolled into one –
He has come to this river
with questioning prayers.
Does He really not know?
Today even the decorous angels
will not hold me back.

I release Spirit
not as wind, or flame or flattening bolt
but as Dove – He will understand
this message of foreshadowing –
then proclaim
in a deluge
that immerses time,
"You are my Son whom I love.
With you I am well pleased."

© 2004 V. Nesdoly

Saturday, June 18, 2005

playtime

This year Father’s Day and our anniversary fall on the same date - tomorrow! In order to keep ourselves from becoming positively giddy with celebrating tomorrow, we’ve set aside today to play as well!

This morning we head to West Vancouver for brunch with friends. Tonight we have tickets to hear the Canadian Three Tenors.

We’re celebrating tomorrow too, with lunch at Cosmos – a Greek restaurant on the beach.

(I’ve already earned my break today, though. This morning when I pressed my computer into service, I discovered that Symantec’s virus definitions hadn’t installed since the June 3rd version [this after I just bought the new NAV 2005 version at the beginning of the month]. So I was launched on a predictable merry-go-round ride of troubleshooting – including editing my Windows registry key [= high stress], clicking here there and everywhere, starting and restarting the computer, and finally getting a very nice Symantec troubleshooter on the phone, who walked me through setting up my help file, then going through the things I’d just done about 25 times, again. And wouldn’t you know it – this time it worked ARGHH – isn’t that always the way, and he must think I’m a real dummy. What he thinks aside, I’m glad it’s now working, my computer is again behind Symantec defences, and he didn’t charge me the $29.95 which web site threatened could happen.)

Friday, June 17, 2005

epiphany at l'abri

A recent post of an interview of Nancy Pearcey by Catez on Allthings2all mentions Ms. Pearcey's experience at L'Abri, the former Swiss home of theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith. I have my own L'Abri experience. It was not quite as earth-shaking as Pearcey's, but significant all the same.

I decided, the fall of 1974 when I was backpacking around Europe, that since I was in Switzerland anyway, I would visit L’Abri. However, it wasn’t because I was terribly religious. In fact I was, at the time, distinctly irreligious.

Turning my back on the beliefs and lifestyle I had been immersed in since childhood was not something that had happened overnight. In fact, I couldn’t isolate an event or pivotal moment at which it had begun. It had been more of a gradual slide from faith and obedience that had started during my years in university. It had continued the two years I taught school in northern British Columbia.

After my second year of teaching, three of us teachers had decided that a fancyfree trip around Europe was far more appealing than the prospect of again facing rows of wriggling students. So we quit our jobs and, Eurail passes in hand, embarked on the “Europe Cure.” By the time it was October and I was boarding the bus for L’Abri, I was a seasoned and somewhat jaded traveler.

I had read about L’Abri years earlier in a book by Edith Schaeffer and been intrigued by what she’d described. The Schaeffers had decided to give an open door welcome to all the spiritually lost and searching youth who trekked to the mountain chalet home they called L’Abri (Shelter). It was supposedly a place where seekers could question Dr. Schaeffer and discuss the deep issues of life and being, with him and the brilliants in his orbit. It had become, since it was begun in 1955, a place where people would wander in and stay, for a day to months while they tried to “find themselves." This cool autumn morning I joined them.

I’m not sure exactly what I expected to get from this visit. In a way I was surprised that I even had the urge to seek the place out. For there had been little sign of spiritual life in me for months now. But there was something – a restlessness, a holding back, an inability to fully enter into the godless outlook of my friends – that made me feel marked. It was as if my Christian experience had spoiled me for really enjoying my backslidden state.

And so I think, looking back, this side trip was my somewhat grudging assent to what seemed inevitable - my way of saying to God: Well, here’s Your chance to get me back.

When I got to L’Abri the other visitors and I were toured around. At lunchtime we were invited to join in a meal - similar to other meals I’d eaten in communal settings: soup, raw vegetables, bread made with coarse flour and lots of seeds. Neither Dr. Schaeffer nor his wife were home. We did sit around and talk to some people for a while. But nothing happened inside me. I mean, despite the whole effort of making the trip up the mountain, I didn’t feel any closer to God. After a few more hours, daylight faded to twilight and I made my way back to the road and the bus stop.

On my trip back to town I mulled over what had and hadn’t happened. Frankly, I was relieved that there had been no Damascus Road experience. It meant I wouldn’t have to radically change anything or go through awkward explanations to my friends. But I was also just a tiny bit disappointed – and worried. Was this spiritual numbness I was feeling, here to stay? A verse I’d memorized in childhood came to me: “No one can come to me, unless the Father... draws him” (John 6:44). Had God decided not to draw me any more? Had He written me off?

I began to see God with new respect. I realized that re-establishing my friendship with Him was not something I could do entirely on my own initiative and in my own time. It was also dependent on His wooing me. Would He again tug at my life, like He had in the past? As I got off the bus and walked toward the hostel where my friends and I were staying, I realized that I hoped He would.

************
I discovered after posting this, that June is the 50th anniversary of L'Abri fellowship. Joining the celebration, Tim at challies.com has posted an article by Rick Pearcey: "Francis Schaeffer: A student's Appreciation of a Distinct Voice."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

green day

Yes, well, today is green day - that is, the day one empties all those little Tupperware and margarine tubs that have somehow been pushed to the back of the fridge and has a smorg of leftovers.

First:

UNBELIVABLE MATH PROBLEM
Great for kids!
This is cool :)

Here is a math trick so unbelievable that it will stump you. Personally I would like to know who came up with this and why that person is not running the country.

1. Grab a calculator. (You wont be able to do this in your head)
2. Key in the first three digits of your phone number (NOT the area code)
3. Mutiply by 80
4. Add 1
5. Mutiply by 250
6. Add the last four numbers of your phone number
7. Add the last four numbers of your phone number again
8. Subtract 250
9. Divide number by 2
Do you recognize the answer?

Hat-tip to sis-in-law M.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here's HOW TO CLEAN HOUSE

1. Open a new file in your PC.
2. Name it "Housework."
3. Send it to the RECYCLE BIN
4. Empty the RECYCLE BIN
5. Your PC will ask you, "Are you sure you want to delete Housework permanently?"
6. Answer calmly, "Yes," and press the mouse button firmly...
7. Feel better? Works for me!

Actually, Debra at As I See it Now has a much more uplifting take on the subject of housework, which you should now read to cancel out the above.

Hat-tip to my friend J.


~~~~~~~~~~~~

And finally, once in a while when my doc rambles on, his twongue gets tisted. He let drop this little pearl on Monday: "This gentleman is suffering from weight-related age loss." Oh that there were such a thing – or maybe there is!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

book review: Oswald Chambers -- Abandoned to God

My discovery of the book Oswald Chambers - Abandoned to God by David McCasland recently (Discovery House Publishers, 1993, ISBN 0913367729, paperback, 286 pages), was a real find. As a several-year reader of My Utmost For His Highest, I was exceedingly curious about the writer of this devotional. If this biography has done anything for me, it has made me respect Oswald Chambers more than ever.

The book encompasses Chambers’ life from his birth on July 1874, to his death in October 1917 at 43 years. It also goes beyond that time to explain how Chambers’ wife Biddy was the main thrust in getting his sermons, lectures and talks published.

The story is an inspiring one. Oswald, an exceptional young man from the beginning, came to a crossroads in his life at 22 when he felt himself pulled toward the ministry and away from his original ambition to become an artist. In response to that call, he left the University of Edinburgh and went to a small training college in Dunoon Scotland to be taught and mentored by Duncan MacGregor.

Quickly his gifts in various areas were recognized and used, so that he did things like help with the architect’s drawings when the college added to their buildings, teach philosophy, and speak in the surrounding district.

In 1906 he left Dunoon to become an itinerant speaker, largely under the sponsorship of a non-denominational holiness group called the "League of Prayer." He made interesting contacts wherever he went and soon had invitations to speak in the British Isles, USA, Canada and Japan, preaching at camp meetings and in schools like God’s Bible School in Cincinnati and the Oriental Missionary Society in Japan.

On one of his voyages to North America, he was asked by the mother of a parishoner in his brother’s church, to look out for her daughter, who would be traveling to New York on the same boat. Gertrude Hobbs was that girl. Two years later in May 1910, Biddy (Oswald’s pet name for Gertrude) and Oswald were married.

Due to bad health, Biddy had not been able to go to complete her schooling but had taken courses in shorthand and typing. Oswald quickly saw how her skills could be a great advantage to his ministry, and from their honeymoon on, whenever possible Biddy listened to his lectures with pencil flying across her steno pad

Never one to let anything slow him down, the married Oswald kept up his frantic pace, which now included, in addition to speaking, putting together lessons and marking hundreds of papers for a correspondence school run by the League.

In 1911 his dream came true when the League rented a large building in London, and the Bible Training College opened its doors. Ever since the years at Dunoon, he’d been convinced of the value of not only learning about the Bible, but of living its principles in community. As McCasland explains it:


Oswald enjoyed the courses in Manchester district but still longed for a place where students could live as well as study. In Dunoon he had learned more by living with Duncan MacGregor than from anything he said in the classroom. Listening to MacGregor preach had been inspiring. Observing him at home had been life-changing.

Oswald’s months at God’s Bible School had brought home the value of day-by-day interaction in an atmosphere of commitment to God. In community living, more was "caught" than "taught." During every Cincinnati camp meeting he had been most impressed by the unselfish work of the students who cooked and cleaned. In a class he could teach people to study and preach. In a home he could help them learn to serve. (Page 179 - page numbers as in the 286-page book. This book has since been republished in 1999 as a 336-page volume.)
The Bible Training College soon reached its capacity of 25 students. From the description in the book, it became a true community with Oswald and Biddy sharing their lives (and their baby girl Kathleen, born in 1913) with the students. They even holidayed together.

When war broke out in 1914, Oswald gravely considered his obligation to his country and in 1915 applied to and was accepted for work in the YMCA desert camps of Egypt. The Bible Training College closed. Leaguers were informed that it was in its ‘Expeditionary Force’ phase. And yes, many of the BTC students, along with Biddy and Kathleen did join Oswald in Egypt.

In Egypt Oswald was a great favorite with the soldiers, and soon had hundreds in his Bible classes. He worked as incredibly hard as ever. On some Sundays he preached four times a day, walking an hour in the sand to and from one of those speaking places in the hot Egyptian sun. In fact, photos in the book of that time show how bony his face was becoming as the heat and his schedule took its toll on his body.

He died in 1917 after a several-week illness, the result of complications from an appendectomy.

The book managed to convey so much more than the consecutive events of Oswald Chambers’ life, however. McCasland has made this a valuable and reliable biography by bringing into it much primary material in the form of letters, journals, bits from printed articles and anecdotes from eye witnesses. Some of the things I didn’t know about Chambers till I read this book were:
- How much he loved kids. McCasland tells many stories about his interactions with children, how he treated them and how they loved him back.

His niece Irene remembers the times he came to visit their home in Stoke-On-Trent:


"He came into our quiet home life with its parochial outlook like a west wind, waking us up and bringing an exciting sense of the limitless possibilities. He was always ready at any moment for anything, anywhere. One never knew what lovely, exciting thing might happen where he was, and maybe catch us up in its train. He had a great scorn for small petty outlooks and actions, ‘small potatoes rather than frosted" was his expression for all that. (P. 134).
How he encouraged rigorous thought and reading across disciplines.

"Chambers stressed that an active mind was essential to vital experience. In many of his lectures, he sounded a constant warning to people who said, "Thank God, I’m saved and sanctified, now it’s all right."....The result of resting on experience, according to Oswald, was "fixed ideas, moral deterioration and utter ignorance...." When assignments seemed overwhelming, he assured students that the pains they felt were signs that their brains were working. "With a little practice," he laughed, "the pain will pass away." (P. 178,179)
How upbeat and optimistic he was. Note these Diary snippets:

March 10, 1917: "This morning I am filled with a sense of quiet wonder at the way things have transpired and that the B.T.C. Expeditionary Force" should really be altogether here now. ‘This is from the Lord; and it is marvelous in our eyes..."

March 26th, 1917 "The Saturday evening class was peculiarly satisfactory....Sunday was a full and glorious day....

July 24, 1917 "This is my birthday, my 43rd. It has been a glorious day in all ways, very hot but physically very fine, and it was a summarizing time for me..." (Pages
242-247)

How Oswald Chambers didn’t really write My Utmost for His Highest at all.

In 1924 Biddy told Oswald’s publisher she was working on a new collection of daily readings taken from all Oswald’s talks.

The problem was getting it ready. She needed three hundred sixty-five portions, each on a single theme, each complete in itself and not more than five hundred words long. Before she could make the selections, there were hundreds of talks she must transform from verbatim shorthand notes into typed copy...." (Page 277)
No where in the book does Biddy talk about the part she played – the taking of the shorthand notes, typing Oswald’s messages (being a transcriptionist myself, Biddy, I feel your pain!), merging the thoughts from sometimes three different sermons into one paragraph.

The book took three years to compile. If you have a copy, you’ll see the initials B.C. under the "Foreword." This is the only trace of herself Biddy left on the book.

Above all, Abandoned to God left me with the sense of a man who was in love with Jesus, preached surrendering every iota of oneself to Him and who, as much as possible, practiced what he preached. When that preaching is as lofty as My Utmost for His Highest, we are prompted to look beyond the person and acknowledge the "quickening life and inspiration of the Holy Spirit."*

*Concluding words of B.C.’s "Foreword."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

money!

Verily I say unto ye..........
Money
It can buy a house
But not a home
It can buy a clock
But not time
It can buy you a position
But not respect
It can buy you a bed
But not sleep
It can buy you a book
But not knowledge
It can buy you medicine
But not health
It can buy you blood
But not life
So you see money isn't everything
And it often causes pain and suffering
I tell you this because I am your friend
And as your friend
I want to take away your pain and suffering!!
So,
Send me all your money
And I will suffer for you!
Cash only please! (OR paypal - that even sounds chummy!)
After all, what are friends for??

(via my "friend" Joe)

Monday, June 13, 2005

tagged!

Waterfall has tagged me for the latest book meme floating around the blogosphere. Ah yes, books...

Total books ever owned: In the hundreds for sure – probably not as many as 1000.

Last book I bought: Three actually, from our church library’s sale table so they are oldies: Goforth of China by Rosalind Goforth (I already own an abridged version but I wanted the whole thing with photos and all), © 1937. Uganda Holocaust by Dan Wooding and Ray Barnett, © 1972. And To Live Again by Catherine Marshall.

Last book I read: Oswald Chambers - Abandoned to God by David McCasland. It was very good!

I am currently reading: Levi’s Will by Dale Cramer, to uphold my obligation to Mind&Media but this is no heavy duty. I love Dale Cramer’s writing and this book is no exception. (See Amazon.com box in sidebar.)

Five books that mean a lot to me:
Pat of Silverbush and Mistress Pat: This is a series of two non-Anne books by L. M. Montgomery (there may be more, I’m not sure). The main character, Pat goes from being a little girl to being a young woman and falling in love in these books. Two of the things which define her are how passionately she loves her home (a farm on P.E.Island) and how she hates change. I have always identified with book characters and did particularly with Pat in these books, so much so that I began looking for wonderful things about my prairie home. There are also some colorful characters in those books (Judy, the Irish maid for example). Those characters, so realistically and lovingly portrayed, taught me about looking for the interesting and unique in people.

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. I read this book about the life of Jim Elliot (including entries from his journals and letters) during a formative time in life and somehow it put starch in my resolve to live for God.

Adventures in Prayer - by Catherine Marshall. I’ve lost (or given away) my copy of this book so I can’t check back on exactly why I liked it so much. I just know, I read it at a pivotal time and the chapter "The Prayer of Relinquishment" probably changed my life.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg: My favorite of the books written to empower writers (which would also include The Artist’s Way, The Right to Write and lately Page after Page). Bones is so original and hit me so right-on, I keep a book of notes I made from that book (I don’t actually own a copy) at arm’s length and glance through it regularly when I’m feeling discouraged or blocked in writing.

The Carousel by Rosamunde Pilcher. This is the first book I read by Rosamunde Pilcher – actually, though I could choose almost any book by her. There are several reasons her books appeal to me: the Britishness of the setting, her gentleness towards her characters, her wisdom, the way she doesn’t put down domesticity, her respect for traditional things while at the same time seeming to understand modern life--just off the top of my head (I was gratified to see her book The Shell Seekers number 50 on the BBC's list of top 100 favorite novels, link posted on Rebecca Writes!) When I found her writing, I knew that if I ever wrote contemporary fiction, I would choose to model mine after hers (as much as one can model that sort of thing!).

Now I will tag five people. I hope I’m not tagging anyone who has already played. Here’s my stab at it: Teem at Callmeteem, Nancy at Just Thinking, Bonnie at MacroMoments, Coleslayh at KT’s Site and, finally, Deanna at WhisperingBrooks – who really needs to update her blog!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

freedom of worship in russia -- really?!

After a decade of runaround from the government on getting a building to house their 1000-member Emmanuel Church, Pastor Alexexander Purshaga decided it was time to act. The church filed for permission to protest and held a church rally on Pushkin Square (Moscow) May 22nd. They also filed for permission to hold a week of protests on Tverskaya Ploschad.

When parishioners gathered there on May 30th, Helena Purshaga (Alex’s wife) reported, "The police came and asked to see our papers. We showed them, and everything was fine.

"But on Tuesday no one asked who we were, whether it was legal or not. They started tearing our posters down and grabbing women and pensioners."

Police then produced a document, dated three days after the legal deadline for permission, changing the rallies’ location to Pushkin Square.

Several Emmanuel members were fined 500 to 1000 rubles. A pastor who came from St. Petersburg to support the protest was thrown in jail. And so was Pastor Alexander (five-day sentences).

(Read the entire article "Evangelical Christians Fight for a Church" - Moscow Times)

Alexander and Helena have visited our church many times, and he and Pastor Brent (Cantelon) are pretty tight. Thus it was not surprising to see Pastor B. visibly shaken this morning when he related these events. But even in this, there is a beam of light.

Apparently Alex was cold and Helena went to the jail with some warm clothes for him. In the process of filling out the forms etc., the jailer mentioned to her, there was no prisoner in the whole jail like her husband. He got up willingly in the morning, went for his shower, then back to his cell without protest. And the rest of the day, all they heard from his cell was his prayers. "Could I be a Christian?" the guard asked.

And so right then and there, Helena led Alex’s jailer to the Lord (and with that, she said, the gloom and numbness of the last days lifted from her as well).

***************
Related:

"Moscow Stonewalls Pentescostals' Efforts to Build Church" - Charisma Magazine

"Russia Evangelicals Blocked in Efforts to Build Churches" - Christianity Today

"Persecution Watch in Russia"

i am a minister

I minister to the largest mission field in the world. I minister to children.

My calling is sure, my challenge is big, my vision is clear, my desire is strong, my influence is eternal, my impact is critical, my values are solid, my faith is tough, my mission is urgent, my purpose is unmistakable, my direction is forward, my heart is genuine, my strength is supernatural, my reward is promised and my God is real.

In a world of confusion I offer truth. In a world of immorality I offer values. In a world of neglect I offer attention. In a world of abuse I offer safety. In a world of rejection I offer acceptance. In a world of anger I offer peace. In a world of bitterness I offer forgiveness. In a world of sin I offer salvation. In a world of hate I offer God’s love.

I refuse to be discouraged or distracted. I will not look back, stand back, fall back, go back or sit back. I do not need applause or stature. I don’t have time for business as usual, small thinking, outdated methods, average results, petty disputes or small vision. I will not give up, give in, lie down, quit or surrender.

I will pray when things look bad. I will pray when things look good. I will move forward. I will trust God. I will get up when I fall down.

My calling is to reach boys and girls for God. It is too serious to be taken lightly, too urgent to be postponed, too relevant to be overlooked, too significant to be trivialized, too eternal to be fleeting, and too passionate to be quenched.

I know my mission. I know my challenge. And I know my God. Let others get the praise. Let the church get the blessing. Let God get the glory.

I am a minister. I minister to children.

– Roger Fields

(This is on my mousepad, a gift from my friend and the former children’s pastor at my church, Maralee Dawn of the TV program Maralee Dawn and Friends. Next to the reading is the picture of a little Malaysian boy, hands folded, eyes closed in prayer. )

Saturday, June 11, 2005

the last post

Can one have too much of a good thing? It would seem so! As the last of the strawberries we took home on Tuesday grow soft and weepy in the fridge, I realize today I’m ready for a banana on my cereal. So finicky we westerners are, with our palates trained for and expecting variety.

But I think I must still go out and get more regardless that I am now sated. For in a few weeks, when the strawberry season is over and the price for them has quadrupled, I’ll regret I didn’t freeze a couple of margarine tubfulls to make jam for my Christmas baskets, and neglected to make my most favorite strawberry treat of all – fresh strawberry pie.

My tattered Pillsbury Cookbook has a great recipe for that – in which you make your own glaze. Here it is:

FRESH STRAWBERRY PIE

9-inch baked pie shell
3 pints (6 cups) strawberries, hulled, washed and drained
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup water
a few drops red food coloring (optional)
Whipped cream

Bake pie shell. In small bowl, crush enough strawberries to make 1 cup. In medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add the crushed strawberries and water. Cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly. (Stir in food coloring.) Cool. Spoon remaining whole or sliced strawberries into cooled pie shell; pour cooked strawberry mixture over top. Refrigerate 3 hours or until set. To serve top with whipped cream.



And finally, my last strawberry thought – a poem:

STRAWBERRY SEASON*

In Krause’s fields the berries lie
‘neath Fraser Valley’s June-blue sky.
They fantasize a fate of fame
on platter for M’sieur, Madame:
"Discriminating – come and buy!

"Or if you ring us round, a pie
with glistening glaze to glorify
we’re fine with that, or set in flan,"
from Krause’s fields.

July sun swelters... "Hear us cry!
It seems we’ve set our sights too high.
We’ll modify and reprogram
and gladly now consent to jam,
leather or juice. Pick, or we die
in Krause’s fields."

– V. Nesdoly © 2003.

*Written in a spirit of lightheartedness, with apologies to John McCrae – and intending in no way to disrespect or trivialize his timeless poem.

Friday, June 10, 2005

obeying God

A mother was at the grocery store with her 4-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, when they heard an announcement over the PA saying, "Elizabeth, please report to the bread section."

When they continued walking through the aisle, the daughter looked at her mother and said, "Mommy, we're not obeying God. He wants me in the bread section!"

hat tip: my sis-in-law M.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

a look back: saskatchewan summer

(Fragments from Floyd started this memory meme here. He invites other bloggers to join in on the summer reminiscences. If you do, let him know. )

**********************************

For me, summer in childhood started officially at the end of June, which was the end of school. Even though there were summer-like days before that, it was hard to get into the spirit of things while still held captive by desks and books and needing to pay attention. I knew we were on the verge, though, by the nodding roadside dandelions, yarrow and clover, and the wild roses. Their fragrance came on the warm breeze of our mile-plus walk from the country school we went to as kids.

But that deliriously happy final day of school came at last and with it freedom – to a point. For though I may have fantasized endless lazy hours of play in the sun, when you’re the oldest of nine kids, summer also means work. For me that meant hours in the garden pulling weeds, doing breakfast dishes by hand (of course, including the cream separator – how slimy that dishwater, how dead the soap bubbles, quenched by the greasy scum of the last half-dozen milkings), and sultry afternoons on the front porch with the whole shebang of us shelling peas.

My brothers made that job fun, though. How we laughed at the rude armpit fart and burp contests they started and the funny things they said. Boredom was kept permanently away when someone made up the long-running game of seeing who could get the most ‘riders’ (empty pea shells which, when thrown into the garbage box, straddled the edges).

Of course there were play times too. We’d go on play jags. It would be days on end making forts in the Log Cabin Bush. Then Dad would trim the caragana hedge and someone would invent a way to fish for the branches from the roof of the sandbox. And of course there was always fun on the slide – an inclined plane covered with galvanized metal built for us by Dad to take us from the sandbox roof to the ground. We quickly found it was far more challenging and fun to think up ways to go up that slide – with speed and in a variety of styles – than down.

And I mustn’t forget the storms. We got some pretty violent thunderstorms on the prairies, and they were usually at their worst in the middle of the night. This meant we’d be shaken from sleep in our upstairs beds by Mom and herded into the livingroom, where all the pullout and drop-down couches were ready for us. After we were settled it was hard for me to fall back asleep as the storm played out – faint crackles followed by, a millisecond later, flashes illuminating the room, and then the cracks of thunder. I’d lie there counting the seconds between the flash and thunderclap trying to gauge the nearness of the lightning, and feeling scared, excited and safe all at the same time.

Sometime in the middle of the storm, I would fall asleep I guess. For suddenly it would be morning, with the sun shining through the livingroom windows, cheerful and as if there had never been a storm. From the barnyard I would hear a rooster crow and chickens cackle. The open screen door let in the cool air, clean, damp and fresh-smelling, inviting me to get up to enjoy another wonderful summer day.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

what to do with a bucketful of strawberries

1. Hold a strawberry fete or regale. My little reference book about all things sweetly and old-fashionedly past tells me:


During the Victorian era, a favorite summer amusement on warm June evenings was the community’s annual strawberry fete or festival. Usually these eagerly anticipated outdoor socials, sponsored by churches or schools as fund raising events, featured an abundance of fresh-picked strawberries...

[...] "Strawberries in every style and form will furnish the refreshments for the occasion; strawberry ice cream, strawberries and whipped cream, strawberry whip, fruit lemonade, strawberry shortcake and strawberry sherbet."
2. Take a strawberry bath. Apparently Madame Tallien from Emperor Napoleon’s court loved to bathe in the juice of fresh strawberries, using 22 lbs. per basin. (Yikes, I hope for the sake of those around her, she didn’t insist on this kind of bath all year long!)

3. Find a double strawberry, break it in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex. Legend has it you will fall in love with each other.

4. Spread the goodness around by feeding some to the birds. Apparently the reason for the wide distribution of wild strawberries is because strawberry seeds pass through a bird’s digestion intact, and germination responds to light rather than moisture so seeds don’t need to be buried in soil to get started.

5. Take some as medicine. Ancient Romans believed that berries helped cure melancholy, fainting, inflammations, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, bad breath, gout, diseases of the blood, liver and spleen.

6. Bake a strawberry shortcake. Apparently this originated with the American Indians, who crushed wild strawberries and mixed them with cornmeal to make strawberry bread. The colonists invented their own version of the recipe, and called it Strawberry Shortcake.

This recipe of Strawberry Shortcake is from my most treasured recipe book – the one handwritten for me by my mum. It’s predictably short on instructions (like how many strawberries, the order in which to add cake ingredients, size of pan and heat of the oven...so I’ll do a bit of guestimating).
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Begin by slicing a generous amount of strawberries (3-4 cups?), sprinkle with sugar and set aside.

QUICK STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 well-beaten egg
2/3 cup milk
1 ½ cup flour
½ cup melted shortening.

Mix all ingredients. Spoon into a round, greased cake pan and bake for 15 minutes in hot oven (probably 375 - 400 F)

Let cool slightly, split cake and fill with half of the strawberries, reserving remainder for the top (or put whole strawberries on the top). Serve with whipped cream.


(For more strawberry facts, trivia and history, go here.)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

all things strawberry

It’s strawberry season where I live. Yesterday after our noonday walk, hubby and I went to a local produce place and bought 7 lbs. picked earlier that morning. I had strawberries on my cereal just now, we’ll serve them to our cell group tonight and their sweet odor permeating our fridge has my mind feasting on all things strawberry.

They are an ancient fruit. My Reader’s Digest, The Origins of Everyday Things tells me.


The warm, dry climate that Britain enjoyed after 2500 B.C. allowed its early inhabitants to pick naturally sweet wild strawberries and raspberries....


Strawberry cultivation began in the 13th century, but the large, modern fruit appeared only in 1819, the result of crossbreeding a small, sweet, scarlet fruit from Virginia with a pale Chilean variety tasting of pineapple


Wild strawberries are a memory of my childhood. Every spring we’d search the virgin prairie grass beside the railroad track which bordered our Saskatchewan farm, and pick the tiny sweet fruits. Later, we’d listen to Mom tell of the time there were enough wild strawberries for Grandma to put up in preserves and jams.

I had my own strawberry patch once. It flourished at the beginning, before the city trees growing just beyond our fence, alders and cottonwoods, grew tall. Their gangly growth took away most of the sunshine above and their greedy roots leached the moisture below. I implored the city to take out those trees. But in this town, chopping down a tree is considered about as sacrilegious as chopping down an Asherah pole in the Old Testament. My berry patch languished, producing fewer and smaller berries. Finally I put the plants out of their misery.

But if you’re inclined to grow strawberries, a book I own (Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte) has some advice ( I don’t know if it’s good; I’ve never tried it. But it sounds like something your grandma would tell you – so I have a feeling, some if not all of these things would probably do a strawberry patch some good):

Strawberry (Fragaria). A cover crop of rye following sod will reduce the incidence of black rot on strawberries. They do well in combination with bush beans, spinach and borage. Lettuce is good used as a border and pyrethrum, planted alongside, serves well as a pest preventative. A spruce hedge is also protective.

White hellebore will control sawfly and marigolds are useful too if you suspect the presence of nematodes (slugs? - I think so). Pine needles alone or mixed with straw make a fine mulch said to make the berries taste more like the wild variety. Spruce needles also may be used as a mulch, but my personal preference is chopped alfalfa hay.


(More strawberry posts in the coming days.)

Monday, June 06, 2005

meet Oswald Chambers

Despite the many unread books stacked beside my bed, because of a new habit I’ve fallen into, that stack is getting smaller more slowly than quickly. Each Sunday after church I feel tugged toward the church library. Yesterday I found a book I never even knew existed: Oswald Chambers: Abandoned To God – The Life Story of the Author of My Utmost for His Highest, by David McCasland. As someone whose several-year-old copy of My Utmost is looking more worn by the day and yellow-highlighted to the ridiculous, this is a find indeed. I spent yesterday’s rainy afternoon becoming acquainted with one of my heroes.

I never knew, for example, that it was Chambers’ original intention to pursue a career in art, and that all his life he was a great supporter of reading widely and across the disciplines.

When (Major John ) Skidmore found himself in a mental cul de sac, emptied by his role of continually giving the truth out to others, he shared his dilemma with Chambers.

"What do you read?" Oswald asked.

"Only the Bible and books directly associated with it," Skidmore told him.

"That’s the trouble," Chambers replied. "You have allowed part of your brain to stagnate for want of use."

Within a few minutes, Oswald had scribbled out a list of more than fifty books – philosophical, psychological, and theological, dealing with every phase of current thought. In a follow-up letter to Skidmore, Oswald said: "My strong advice to you is to soak, soak, soak in philosophy and psychology, until you know more of these subjects than ever you need consciously to think. It is ignorance of these subjects on the part of ministers and workers that has brought our evangelical theology to such a sorry plight." (Page 156 & 157)

McCasland had access to original documents to write the book, and the story he tells is enriched by Chambers’ own unique take on things in excerpts from letters, diaries and prayer journals. Here’s another bit on books, something Chambers wrote to his sister Florence on April 7, 1907:

I have been having a reveling few days. My box has arrived. My books! I cannot tell you what they are to me– silent, wealthy, loyal lovers. To look at them, to handle them, and to re-read them! I do thank God for my books with every fibre of my being. Friends that are ever true, and ever your own.... Plato, Wordsworth, Myers, Bradley, Halyburton, St. Augustine, Browning Tennyson, Amiel, etc. I know then, I wish you could see how they look at me, a quiet calm look of certain acquaintance. (Page 109)
Chambers also wrote poetry. Here’s a poem he wrote at the age of 22 (this was before he felt the call to become a minister)

PRELUDE BY CHOPIN
(Perth [Scotland], August 23, 1986)

O the wonder
Of that music in my ear!
How it touches–pains those fibres
Of my soul-life which I fear!
Fear because they wake emotions,
Whispers from another sphere.

Slow subdued a tender minor,
Constant, deep and wonder-ful;
Not a grief but something finer,
Something pure and spirit-ful
Underlies a great, strong yearning,
Weirdly strange yet power-ful,
Passionate, yet purely burning,
Disciplined, and prayer-ful. (Page 62)

And of course, there are the letter and journal snippets, which hearken so closely to the kind of thing one finds in My Utmost, like this bit from a letter written on February 16, 1907:

I want to tell you a growing conviction with me, and that is that as we obey the leadings of the Spirit of God, we enable God to answer the prayers of other people. I mean that our lives, my life, is the answer to someone’s prayer, prayed perhaps centuries ago.

It is more and more impossible to me to have programmes and plans because God alone has the plan, and our plans are only apt to hinder Him, and make it necessary for Him to break them up. I have the unspeakable knowledge that my life is the answer to prayers, and that God is blessing me and making me a blessing entirely of His sovereign grace and nothing to do with my merits, saving as I am bold enough to trust His leading and not the dictates of my own wisdom and common sense... (Page 107)

Saturday, June 04, 2005

a better mousetrap

A new website launched about ten days ago featuring bait car videos.

What exactly is a bait car? Here is the http://www.baitcar.com explanation:


A bait car is a vehicle of any type that is owned by the police and is intended to be stolen. It is parked in high auto crime areas and left there, sometimes for an hour, other times for days. Once the vehicle is stolen, police are immediately dispatched to the moving bait car. Once police are following the bait car, the engine is disabled remotely and the suspects are arrested. Everything that is said and done by the suspects inside the bait car is recorded on audio and video which is used for court purposes. The bait car program began in Greater Vancouver on May 1, 2004 and was expanded to Vancouver Island in April 2005. A further expansion to the interior of BC is under active discussion.

And why are bait cars necessary in our part of the country and in my city specifically? The statistics speak for themselves:


[...]In the city of Surrey alone 8,000 vehicles were stolen from this city of 390,000 people. This was the highest auto theft year in the region's history after a steady increase for the previous decade. The next year, 2004, brought with it the introduction of the bait car program which is partly responsible for a 10% reduction in auto theft in Greater Vancouver - the first decline in ten years. [Read entire
article
]

Though watching criminals freaking out in the actual bait car videos posted on the site is pretty hilarious, and though, according to the article, the jail time these car thieves are being given is lengthening, there’s still a problem with slap-on-the-wrist sentences for car thieves, especially those who are young offenders (caught red-handed but between 12 to 17). They’re usually back out on the street within hours.

So I have another project for Tim Shields: design some sort of mousetrap to catch and expose those soft lawmakers and judges!

Friday, June 03, 2005

book review: To Live Again

I gave in to a great weakness again, a few weeks ago, and bought several old books from our church library sale table. To Live Again by Catherine Marshall was one of them. Although I’ve read several books by her - A Man Called Peter, Christy, Adventures in Prayer, to name three, I’d never seen this book. (Although my copy is the 1957 version, I see it was republished in 2002 by Chosen Books.)

The book begins:

"On the gray morning of January 25, 1949, my world caved in. At 8:15 my husband’s tired and damaged heart stopped beating..."

The author goes on to relate the events of that fateful day. The story is about how she kept from capsizing in the wake of her husband’s unexpected death (he was 46, their son only nine), came to edit a book of her husband’s sermons (Mr. Jones, Meet the Master), write his life story (A Man Called Peter) and become involved in the movie production of that book.

The main appeal of this book for me came in two areas. First, I think it would be a helpful book to read when dealing with the death of a loved one.

Mrs. Marshall makes no secret of how painful and devastating the death of her husband was. She manages to do this, however, without sounding whiny, pitiful or maudlin. I’m sure her insights would be reassuring and comforting to someone on such a journey.

I did question the orthodoxy of her conclusions in at least one department of this pilgrimage, however. As she tries to figure out what her relationship with her husband is now that he is dead, there were times I felt the author was on the verge of opening the door to accepting psychic phenomena. She uses a phrase from something her husband wrote in a letter ("I believe that those who have died are with us still in a different form and communicate with us in different ways...."), a fragment of the Apostle’s creed ("I believe in ... the communion of the saints..."), and stories from martyrs of the early Christian era to wring the assurance that the living are justified in trying to contact their dead loved ones. She sums up her conclusions:


"It made me wonder even more about that clause of the Creed whose meaning had been all but lost. On earth, human fellowship always involves the inner person, the spirit. Then what about after death? Either there is simply oblivion, or else the spirit that is the real person lives on in conscious awareness. If the latter, then the only possible communion across the barrier is through spirit. And for the Christian, the most potent vehicle of spirit – as well as the safest – is prayer." (Pages 211,212)

The inspirational story of how the book and movie projects came together is the second area this book had great appeal for me.

Choosing and editing the sermons contained in Mr. Jones, Meet the Master not only gave Catherine a job to do shortly after Peter’s death, but it also helped her in the healing process. When she embarked on her second project, writing Peter’s life story, she quickly realized what the focus of the book should be:


"I saw immediately what was wrong with the outline. The hero of the biography had to be God – not Peter Marshall. What I was to write was no ordinary Horatio Alger story of the successful immigrant. What Peter Marshall alone had done was not important; what God had done through him– a man with faults like the rest of us– was important. Jesus Christ would have to tower as the central figure of the book if the biography was to be anything more than a wife’s fond recollections. I saw that the life of no human being has lasting significance apart from his relationship to God." (P.133)

As a result of her taking this Jesus-honoring direction, it came as no surprise to me to read: "A series of events vindicated my faith that Someone Else’s hand was on the project and that His help was always available." (p.135)

She goes on to recount how time after time the right person would appear on the scene with exactly the information or help she needed, events would be set in motion or halted in a timely way, decisions made or reversed with no intervention on her part other than private prayer. That part of the story left me with the feeling that anything is possible when God initiates a project.

A minor irritant in this department was the reprinting of innumerable pieces of fan mail Catherine received in response to both books and the movie. A sampling would have been sufficient, but a whole chapter and then some? I skipped skimmed it.

Altogether, though, the book was a worthwhile read. I came away from it with a sense that God has the power and creativity to turn even tragedy into triumph. He certainly did that for Catherine Marshall in the aftermath of her husband’s death.

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