Thursday, September 29, 2005

happy birthday benjie!


Happy 20th Benjie! (and just what do you think you're doing, with that bride's garter around your head?!)

(Picture taken after B. caught the garter at Sonia's wedding in May).

a God-wink

When God Winks is the name of a book I’ve not read. Though the concept of "Godwinks" ("those amazing little coincidences that happen to you, are really divine signposts to help you navigate your way to perfect love" - Squire Rushnell) has undertones of New Age thought, I believe there is more than a little truth to the fact that God often gives us subtle reminders that He is involved in the mundane minutiae of our days.

In my morning quiet time I am working, these days, through Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind book and study guide. At the moment I’m in the chapter "The Mind of Christ." It’s all good stuff, firmly foundationed in Scripture which, I’m discovering, is something I want to soak my mind in more and more. One of the ways I’m trying to do that is by memorizing it.

Out of the study yesterday, I printed the words from Romans 8: 35-39 on a file card and began committing it to memory: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril or sword?....Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us...." These seem like good verses to mull over during these days, addressing as they do, the fact that God’s love transcends the gamut of human experience from distress to sword (though with our human understanding of love, we often ask, ‘How can it be love when it feels so bad?’)

Yesterday evening we went to hear Michael Card in concert. He shared the stage with Dave Hunt, the president of WorldServe, and with Pastor Elisha – a Vietnamese pastor who has been a part of the rapid multiplication of underground churches in Vietnam (almost doubling in numbers over the past year from just over 1000 to over 2000 churches). As you can imagine, the singing was fabulous and the stories about what’s happening in Vietnam – the people coming to Christ and the healings and miracles – were simply incredible.

I went home with a couple of new Michael Card CDs and some free literature from the WorldServe table. One of those was a booklet called Joy Over the Moon, which has a week’s worth of devotions with "Lessons of enduring hope from our Chinese brothers and sisters" (cover blurb).

I read the first devotional: "Day One: Consume the Word" last night before bed. It begins:


In 1987, Ling became a church planter. He was 13. Ling was mentored by an older pastor (in his 20s). In the first three years of their ministry, this dynamic duo planted 240 churches. Their secret? Every morning they arose early, lit a candle, and then prayed and studied Scripture until the candle burned out. They spent the rest of the day sharing Jesus everywhere they went. In the evening, they lit another candle, and prayed and studied again. Today Ling is responsible for almost one million believers in unregistered house churches in China...


The piece goes on to tell about how these Chinese Christians love the Bible, how they weep when they get their own copy, and write it out by hand to give it to others. They also memorize it: "It is not uncommon for a believer to memorize all four Gospels and many other books in the New Testament."

The day one devotional ended:

The promises in God’s Word give persecuted believers an enduring hope and optimism that allows them to stand for Christ no matter what the circumstances. Paul reminds is in Romans that no matter how bad things get, Christ’s love is always with us. Consume this verse and rest in its assurance:
And then– you guessed it – the verse which I had written on a card this very morning, is quoted:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?..."

I’m not sure that God is saying to me with this. All I know is, when I saw the very verse I had begun to memorize yesterday morning printed out again in the devotional that I just happened to pick up and decide to read before bed, I got the very distinct feeling God was winking at me. Telling me, I see you. And I’m involved in every detail of your life.

Has God winked at you lately? I’d love to hear about it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

newest project - 2

A week ago today we took Mom to check out her potential new home – Fleetwood Villa – for a tour and lunch. First Polly from marketing took us on the tour. She pointed out all the amenities from the wide hallways, to the bright dining rooms (one per floor), to the beauty parlor, to the laundry facilities and on and on. "And this is a very sociable building," she said several times. "The residents don’t have to spend a lot of time alone in their rooms."

On our way to see an empty suite we encountered Eva with a group of women in a lounge just outside the dining room, waiting for lunch. Eva is Mum’s friend. She moved into this building in February from the place Mum lives in now.

As soon as she saw we were going down her hallway, she jumped up – or the 89-year-old lady equivalent – and, using her walker, scooted over to us and invited us in to see her suite.

It was tiny but cozy and adequate with its kitchenette area (sink, cupboard with microwave, motel-sized fridge), bathroom with sink and walk-in shower, and one large room which is bedroom, diningroom, livingroom all in one.

Then Mum saw an empty 320 sq. foot suite, just a bit smaller than Eva’s. It did look positively diminutive – unfurnished as it was. Was it my imagination, or did I actually see the wheels in Mum’s head turning: where will this go, and that and the other?

Later Eva joined us for lunch on the second floor instead of sitting at her assigned table on the first floor. What a sunshiny personality! When asked how she had adjusted to living in such small quarters, she said, "I just made up my mind I would like it." It was obvious she was a great favorite as several of the serving girls came over especially to say ‘hi.’

On our way back to the car after our visit we came to the moment I’d dreaded all day. (I once took training to sell life insurance. I hated it and quit in about three weeks. Ever since, I have avoided anything that resembles the close). I did manage to get the question out though: "What do you think?"

‘Yes," she said, "I’ll go for it."

Wow - sweet words. It was almost too easy!

But now comes the part that is not easy at all. Mum has lived in her 1000 sq. ft. apartment for 20 years – plenty of time to fill it up! Now that she has decided to move, she will need to pare down, practically to the bone.

Back at her apartment she and I went through each room with a pad and paper making an inventory of what we need to deal with.

Of course there’s all the furniture and appliances - dining room suite, living room furniture (some of which will go with her, but not much!), dressers, cupboards, end-tables, lamps, washer and dryer, fridge and stove.

On top of that, Mum is a crafter. She has books of instructions, scrapbooks of ideas and all the supplies to do paper quilling, counted cross-stitch, fabric crafts like quilting and doll-making, stamps, inks and embossing stuff to make cards, dozens of vases to make flower arrangements. She has collections – spoons, bells, glasses, cups and saucers – several sets of dishes, photo albums by the dozen and on and on...

Mum also has nine kids, 25 grand-kids and six great-grand-kids who are spread all over this province and Saskatchewan. And how will we find out what everyone wants / could use, and then get it distributed to everyone’s satisfaction?! I’m praying for lot of little miracles in the days ahead.

*********

Addendum: Early Monday morning, Mum phoned me. She hadn’t been able to sleep, worrying about the smallness of the suite. The long and short of it is, we’ve now put a deposit on a suite that’s slightly bigger and moving day is November 1st!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

yes!!

I’m happy. I’ve had two bits of good news in the last few days.

1. A poem I wrote, "Losing it," won first place in the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship Fall Contest. (Can’t post it here, though, because when I entered it in the contest part of the deal was that if it won FellowScript* would have first rights to publish it)

2. After submitting two columns as a sort of audition, I found out this morning, I will be FellowScript’s new poetry columnist -- never filling the shoes of Nathan Harms, the last columnist, I know -- but I'll give it my best try!

(FellowScript* is the quarterly publication of Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. [FS is a paying market too!] The website of this excellent little Canadian organization for writers is worth checking out. It has a multitude of goodies for writers of every genre.)

Monday, September 26, 2005

newest project - 1

It began, like many things do, with a message left on the answering machine.

"She had a lot of pain in her arm," my nephew Chris said when I returned his call. "So much she had to stop unloading the dishwasher and sit down. She seemed alright when we left. I just thought you should know."

Since the hour was late, I phoned to check on my 91 year-old mum a day later and found that, yes, she had indeed felt an unprovoked and sharp pain in her arm which, after it went away, had left her right arm weak.

A stroke, I wondered, or a heart attack? She hadn’t gone to the doctor or Emergency this time because an incident a few weeks earlier for an unrelated problem had her spending seven hours in the E.R. Then she was discharged home still in pain but none the wiser.

When we went to see her ten days ago, four days after the pain-incident, and her arm was still not back to normal strength. I realized, this was probably the time.

As the daughter who has taken on the responsibility for Mum’s care, I’ve faced the reality that one of these days she’ll probably need to move. At 91 she has slowed down a lot physically in the last year. Thankfully she’s still feisty and alert mentally. We have discussed her future with her over the last months. We’ve had her assessed by the community health nurse twice (part of the process to get government funding and services in our area). But always in the past, she’s come to the conclusion that she still wants to stay on her own in her comfy and familiar apartment 45 minutes’ drive from us. I have prayed often that when the actual time comes for her to move it will be clear to me, my other siblings will be agreeable and Mum herself will not resist it.

So this day we discussed again the possibility of her moving. The nurse had suggested an assisted living complex in our town which opened in February this year. Mum, though not enthusiastic, agreed that perhaps it was worth investigating.

Thus on the way back home a week ago Friday, hubby and I dropped into this new complex – modern, well-appointed place where residents have access to emergency assistance 24 hours a day, get three meals a day in bright dining rooms on each of three floors, and which is equipped with amenities like a media room (which also doubles as a chapel), a beauty salon, a craft and sewing room, a coffee-shop-type sitting area called ‘The Bistro’ and a huge lounge. We also saw a suite – very tiny at 320 sq. feet, yikes! We came away from our tour with an invitation for us to bring Mum for lunch and a tour of her own.

(to be continued...)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

raspberry squares

Today we are going to be part of something that God enthusiastically endorses – a celebration. From the multitude of Old Testament feasts to Jesus’ own social calendar (a wedding, eating with tax collectors and sinners) I have always had the sense that God smiles on people getting together to fete special occasions, each other, and God.

Today it’s the marriage of my friend Jill’s oldest son Ben to his Hong Kong high school sweetheart, Sarah. The actual wedding took place on September 10th in Montreal. This afternoon we’re getting together in Maple Ridge to honor them – and to eat (of course). It will be a barbecue with potluck salads and deserts. (My husband always threatened our daughter that her wedding reception would be a potluck. After organizing the actual event this spring, the potluck idea looks very sensible indeed!)

The mother of the groom requested I bring Raspberry Squares – one of the many squares I baked for Sonia’s reception. Here they are ... something for your next celebration?

Raspberry Squares

Base:
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ cup margarine
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp. milk
1 cup raspberry jam

Cut margarine into sifted dry ingredients. Add egg. Spread in greased pan. Spread with jam.

Topping:
4 tbsp. margarine
1 egg, beaten
1 cup sugar
¾ cup coconut
1 tsp vanilla

Combine ingredients well and spread over jam. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Cool thoroughly before slicing.

From Pantry Patterns - Central Mennonite Brethren Church Ladies, Saskatoon, Sk., 1977.

Friday, September 23, 2005

survivor, apprentice or disciple?

On Wednesday night the first episode of Apprentice Martha Stewart ran. Then last night I caught the end of Survivor (episode 2, I think) which was followed by Donald Trump’s Apprentice.

Now I don’t watch much TV. But last year I got hooked on Apprentice. And before I knew it, I was going from catching the last 10 minutes or so of Survivor that ran just before The Apprentice, to sitting down at 8 for the whole thing.

So on Wednesday I blocked off an hour for TV to watch Martha Stewart get into the hiring game. Then last night we got home from choir practice in time to see who got cast out from the tribe in Guatemala before getting introduced to the new crop of ambitious, driven, sometimes unscrupulous and always gorgeous apprentice hopefuls. Somehow after that I just sat there mesmerized through a whole Without A Trace episode as well!

This morning in my quiet time, I sense a difference. Something has happened to my relationship with Jesus. It’s as if a dullness has come in, a numbness, a distance, almost like my spirit is wearing gloves. And I realize, this fall maybe I’m not supposed to get sucked into these backroom dramas, these cut-throat whispering sessions, this self-serving behavior.

Though there is something in me that loves being a voyeur of these high energy young women and men perform under pressure in the variety of tasks they’re given – with all the attendant personality clashes, pettinesses, jealousies and self-promotion – in another place I realize this is not nutritious Christian fare. What happens on these shows sounds a lot like the "works of the flesh" list from Galatians 5: "... hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissension..." By watching them, I realize I may well be feeding that part of me I’m trying to starve in the rest of my life.

And then there’s the time spent. Somehow lately I have this sense of time being short, that my allotted time is quickly running out. God knows I’ve already wasted plenty of time in my life. In fact, even when I’ve had a busy day, I often come to the end of it and feel I could have used my time better.

But the feeling I get about spending all that time in front of the TV in the last two days is different even than that. It’s a definite check in my spirit. A feeling of a child being curbed or reined in by a parent – ever so gently, mind, with something as subtle as a pointed glance, but reined in nonetheless.

I want nothing more on earth than to "...do those good works which God predestined, planned beforehand for me, taking paths which He prepared ahead of time, living the good life which He prepared and made ready for me to live" (Ephesians 2:10 Amp). Somehow I don’t think the 2005 fall season of Survivor or Apprentice is a part of that.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

control the atmosphere

in your workplace, home or car, with music.

I make it a habit every morning when I drive to pick up my work, to switch the car player from playing the radio to a CD.

Here are three of my latest morning plays:

Jacob’s Dream - Jason Upton. I especially like the title cut “Jacob’s Dream.” If you haven’t been introduced to Jacob Upton’s considerable musical talent and passionate heart for God, do yourself a favor. Go on over to his web site and listen to some of the clips. My two favorites CDs of his are Faith (which we no longer own - it was stolen from our car [may it bless whoever now has it] and Jacob’s Dream.

Keep On Praying - various tracks from Britain’s leading worship leaders (Matt Redman, Noel Richards, Stuart Townend, Ian White etc.). Here’s the blurb from the back:

In Revelation chapter 5 we see the powerful dynamic when worship and intercession are joined together. Here are 13 tracks by Britain’s leading worship leaders that will inspire you in intercession as you cry out to God for Him to show His power, to heal nations and to send revival.

It has wonderful songs like this one we used at our cell meeting on Tuesday night:


Whose Lips Will Plead

For the people of this land?
Who’ll stand in the gap
And who’ll build up the wall? etc.

- by Alex Muir - sung by Ian White.

Pray - Andre Crouch. This is an oldie, and sometimes sits in our CD rack for months on end getting no play time. I took it along on our trip this summer and realized what a blessing I was missing out on. This is typical Andre Crouch, with its mix of Black Gospel, jazzy bluesy stuff, a little reggae, some sweet intimate harmonies and all solid hymns, songs and spiritual songs. I played it this morning. What an excellent way to start the day!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

pick-your-prize-month

at Challies.com

Sept Giveaway

Now if only I'd win for a change!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

the raunch trend

"Girls Gone Raunch" (Macleans September 26th) begins:

She and her friends talk about it constantly. How to go out and have a great time. How to make their way through a sexual landscape that somehow has upped the ante in racy behavior. The challenge, says Shauna (not her real name) a 20-year-old third year psychology major at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario, is how not to feel like a misfit just because she thinks that sexual titillation factor has gone too far...
Judith Timson’s article goes on to define what the raunch culture consists of, borrowing liberally from the observations of Ariel Levy, author of Female Chauvinist Pigs a book that examines the raunch phenomenon in depth.

...there is, if anything, more pressure than ever to look not just good but bodacious... combined with a certain sleaziness that is everywhere in the culture...

...girls and young women today put presure on themselves not just to be pretty and popular...but to be "hot." Hot, hot, hot. Even Olympic athletes, with their gorgeously powerful bodies have to be hot.... Even top-ranked female tennis stars have to be hot, showing up for play with a hint of cleavage and a skin-tight ensemble.

...high school girls in particular are looking "for that new way to get more attention. I interviewed high school students and they were always telling me that at their dances and parties girls were constantly giving guys lap dances or making out with each other to attract attention to themselves..thinking ‘what kind of performance can I put on that’s going to be slightly more provocative than the last performance.’"

Now Timson and Levy decry this trend, not because of the moral implications of daring wardrobes, sexual acting out and pornographic overtones. "I’m for more sexual liberation not less," Levy declares, "and I don’t think the answer is more chastity. I’m not here to outlaw pornography or impose a minimum-fabric requirement for high school girls." Their problem with it is the way it violates the gains in self-respect and feminine ‘progress’ supposedly made by feminist forbears.

I couldn’t give a hoot what this raunch culture says about the progress of feminism, because it violates something far bigger than that. I’m just glad I don’t have a tween to twenty unmarried daughter these days! I know how intense the pressure to conform can be and how hard it is to convince kids who just want to fit in, that passages like 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 3 have any relevance to modern life at all, let alone to them. May God empower Christian parents today with courage to withstand this trend!

Monday, September 19, 2005

inoculatte monday

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational asks reader to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one letter and supply a new definition. Here are some of the winners:

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinate period of time.

5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

7. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

8. Hipatitus: Terminal coolness.

9. Karmageddon: Its like, when everybody is sending off these bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and its like, a serious bummer.

10.Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

11.Glibido: All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a misquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you are eating.

More? Post them in comments and I'll add them to the list here!

(Thanks Barb!)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

sowing or reaping?

from Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer:

One pastor I know often says when he hears that someone has been talking about him in an unkind way: "Are they sowing, or am I reaping?" (p.127)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

the 25-year marathon


It was June 28, 2001 and we were on our honeymoon. I remember I was sitting on the bed in the motel room in front of the TV when this ran on the news.

I fought back tears. I had been so sure he’d beat his cancer. But now he wouldn’t. Because Terry Fox was dead.

I still can’t think about this incredible young man without feeling a range of reactions – from sadness that he was taken from us so young, to respect at the pluck and determination he showed, to amazement at the impact the life of one ordinary yet extraordinary person can have.

I have never gone on any fund-raising runs or walks. If I were to choose one, it would be the Terry Fox Run. It has happened annually the third Sunday in September since1981 and is keeping alive Terry’s dream of raising research money for cancer. Tomorrow is the Terry Fox Run’s 25th anniversary.

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

Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope - from the CBC archive. A collection of radio and TV clips.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

the latest 'celebration' carnival is up!

Whether you're a closet writer or outspoken about your passion, whether you write simply for pleasure or unabashedly court publication, you'll enjoy the rich offering in the latest "Celebration of the New Christian Fiction" collection.

My apologies for submitting something not related to fiction at all. I certainly left the door open for Mary DeMuth (of relevantblog -- this month's hostess) to leave it out. But she graciously included it along with the other posts, many of which can also be applied to any genre of the craft of writing.

Great job, Mary!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

beyond the land of 'almost'

Today I'm cheating and posting something I wrote some time ago. But after four meetings with Sunday Adelaja, it expresses what I'm feeling just now.

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

I am packing to go to Russia - or some eastern bloc country where it is forbidden to bring in Christian literature. I have a sheaf of such papers and decide to pack them anyway. So I slip the foreign language ones amongst the English ones and hide them in my backpack between my clothes. I spend a lot more time organizing my luggage, but finally I’m on my way, though I’m sure I haven’t packed enough things to wear.

I come to a railway trestle. In the distance I see a silver engine moving toward me. I decide, despite my fear of walking on plank bridges, that this is the time to take two youngsters across the trestle. To accomplish this, partway down I must lay on my stomach and coast down the rails. This ends up being amazingly pleasant and the train, which I continue to worry about, never makes its appearance.

All at once I am working at a computer. Suddenly the screen turns grainy and I hear the CPU working hard. I feel a familiar dread as I read what flashes on the monitor - VIRUS!

And then I wake up - sort of. Enough to know- Whew! None of this is happening; it’s all a dream.
But a minute later, I’m back looking at that pesky computer. While I’ve been away someone has tinkered with it, so now what I see on the monitor looks like the cross-section of an anthill and I can watch the little pink, yellow and white viruses replicating in each cubicle.

Shouldn’t I be contacting Symantec, to find out what to do? But how will I do that with my infected computer? Do I have their phone number somewhere? I begin searching for it.

Now someone draws my attention to a timer that has been ticking since the virus arrived. Time has almost run out, this person tells me. I have only five minutes.

Five minutes till what, I wonder. But if I have only five minutes I must hurry. And so I begin rushing around again, as ineffectually as ever. Here, thankfully, I wake up, this time for good to find it's morning.

I don’t put a lot of stock in dreams (in fact, rarely do I remember them, especially as clearly as I remembered this one). But the sense I had as I got out of bed, put on the coffee and showered, a few minutes later, was how real that dream had felt. While I was dreaming, it all seemed completely authentic - the nagging worries, the false urgencies, the unwise priorities, the foolhardy sense of power, the debilitating procrastination, all presided over by a sense of impending disaster - the Land of Almost.

I wonder how much of our life on earth will seem like a dream when we get to heaven. Verses like:

“Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)

“Dear friends, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known.” (1 John 3:2)

“There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
imply that our life there may differ from our life on earth as much as our dreams differ from the state of wakefulness.

When we awake in eternity, will we rue the fact that while on earth we put our faith in appearances and our trust in what looked and felt real? Will we suddenly twig to the realization that we gave ourselves wholeheartedly to the wrong priorities and worked our whole lives for things that didn’t last? Will we regret that we finally settled for a life of ‘almost,’ even though we were never completely satisfied that we had found the answer to why we were put on earth?

If this world and its system is illusory, where can we go to find what is real? May I suggest the Bible? Each part of this amazing book contributes to the picture. A good place to start in the Bible is Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6 & 7).

I challenge you to search for the reality behind this ‘Land of Almost’ we inhabit. I urge you to do it now. If you do, you may well avoid a rude awakening at a time and in a place where you can no longer do anything about it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

bog fire


An hour or so after the sun rose this morning, it was still a red ball. That's because the air is filled with smoke from the Burns Bog fire, a few km. from here.

Apparently peat bog fires are incredibly hot, aren't put out by wetting the surface and travel underground (because the peat burns as well as the above-ground stuff), popping up hundreds of feet away from the the first blaze. This makes them unpredictable and dangerous to fight.
***********
Thanks to Julana's question in the comments, here is a cool link I found about Burns Bog -- its formation and photos of some of the flora found there.

Monday, September 12, 2005

poetry readings

I chuckled when, after taking part in one of these myself on Saturday, the Sunday issue of The Writer’s Almanac (Sept. 11) contained Charles Bukowski’s poem "poetry readings."

There is a lot of truth to his rather biting assessment of these gatherings. On Saturday at the Abbotsford reading, for example, the audience was small, there were tapes, books and other poetic nicknacks for sale and all in all, the tone was hopeful. I doubt, though, that any of us who read has illusions of fame or are looking for that New York publisher.

I like being a part of poetry readings because they give us writers of this somewhat odd genre, a place to share our handcrafted pieces with others who understand or enjoy the craft. We can demonstrate to our hearers/readers, the way we, the creators of the poems, mean for them to sound. We can invest them with just the right cadences, at just the right speed and get practice in gestating those pregnant pauses for just the right amount of time before delivering punch lines (oops! :). It is also a very efficient way to get to know people.

Because good poetry is often personal, listening to someone else’s poems is a bit like peeking into rooms of the heart. On Saturday, for example, I saw that Alvin is still harvesting a healthy crop of humorous verse from his prairie roots (with even one about an outhouse), that Shelley has had experience in some way with depression (her poem "Depressionville" rang true and was very clever), that Paul struggles, like many of us do, with obsessions, that Jaye has been betrayed, that Hernan clings to predictability so tenaciously, he doesn’t even like the river beside which he walks to change course, and that Stella has empathy with new Canadians, evidenced by her poem – in Polish – about a family in Warsaw who has filled out the exit forms for the fifth time and waits now for an okay to board the boat to Canada (in fact when she read it, even though I didn’t understand a word, she spoke it with such care and love, I couldn’t help but feel moved).

Mr. Bukowski, maybe I’m just naive or not yet jaded enough, but I think poetry readings are fun. Though they are typically poorly attended and everlastingly optimistic, I would submit to you, they do serve more of a purpose than to suggest that poetry is irrelevant and poets are a deluded and pathetic lot.

Friday, September 09, 2005

update

on my daughter's friend -- the one who went to New Orleans for her holiday, and met Katrina instead. I knew she was back when I heard her interviewed on the radio by Charles Adler (Adler Online) this afternoon. Here's the story of what happened and how she made her way home -- from the Williams Lake Tribune.

from somewhere in the alto section

Yesterday evening was our first choir practice of the fall season -- my first in years and years.

I would never have joined our church choir on my own volition. But a few months ago Ernie felt a distinct impression it was time for him to sing in the choir again. God literally tapped him on the shoulder during the choir's last performance in spring (they break for the summer) and said, "Ernie, it's time." As E. puts it, "I would be disobedient if I didn't join."

Ok. Where does that leave me? I was thinking of getting back into some area of Children's Ministry this fall. But I realized, as soon as E. told me of his conviction, this would be awkward because a few months ago we sold our second car. Singing in the choir in our church means getting there (and we live a 20-minute drive away) early Sunday morning -- 8:15 for the 9:00 a.m. service -- and staying till the choir's part in the second, 11:00 a.m., service is done. I doubt I could have found a children's ministry job that would fit that schedule and I quickly realized, if I didn't join the choir too I'd be hanging around church doing an awful lot of waiting while E. did the choir thing. (When I asked God why didn't He give me a similar impression, He as much as said to me -- I didn't need to; I told your husband!)

And so Thursday a week ago we auditioned (yes, in our church, choir membership requires an audition -- good thing I know the words to "Amazing Grace" by memory!), and last night was the first rehearsal.

Though I have really had no strong feelings one way or another about being in a choir again, the rehearsal last night nailed down the fact that this will indeed be a good thing -- even a God-thing. That's not to say there won't be adjustments. If last night is typical, it's clear this choir is a little different from other choirs in which I've sung.

For one thing, (this is what we were told at the audition) the choir in our church isn't up there primarily to perform. Its function is mainly to back up and encourage the corporate, worship-in-song part of the service.

Which leads to another thing that's different. Last night at least, we didn't use a lot of printed music. Instead we practiced with the leader of Sunday's worship team, brushing up on the hymns and worship songs we'll be singing Sunday morning. Though we do have SAT parts, the leader taught each section their part by rote. I can see to sing in this choir it will help to have a good ear and a good memory.

This Sunday we have a guest speaker coming -- Sunday Adelaja from Kiev, Ukraine. I have been so anticipating hearing him. Now I have even more to look forward to. Now I also have the awesome opportunity of, with a multitude of others, leading the congregation in songs like "Worthy" (You are awesome / God of power / Lord of glory / come and fill this place...") and lots more. I can hardly wait!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

promptings potpourri

This week’s Christian Carnival is up at Technogypsy. Don’t miss it!

Eerie National Geographic article dug up by Katy at fallible.com. Who would have guessed that less than a year later, almost all those predictions and worse would come true?

As an appendix of sorts to the book review The Bible or the Axe, Catez at Allthings2all has just posted another compendium of posts on Sudan. Get up to speed on the current situation in Darfur at Spotlight on Darfur.

A few weeks ago Stacey Harp interviewed William Levi, the author of The Bible or the Axe. Link to listen here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

book review: The Bible or the Axe


Book: The Bible or the Axe
Author: William O. Levi (as told by A. F. Chai)
Genre: Autobiography
Publisher: Winepress Publishing, 2004
ISBN: 1-57921-732-X

In The Bible or the Axe, William O. Levi (with A. F. Chai) tells us what it was like to live as a refugee from and later a Christian in South Sudan.

William was born to Messianic Hebrews Ajjugo and Anna Levi in 1964. In 1965 when Muslim troops from the north made life in South Sudan dangerous for Christians and Jews, the family fled to Uganda. There William’s earliest memories include being responsible for a herd of cattle at age five.

Another early memory of William’s is how much he wants to go to school. He finally gets his wish when he is eight years old. Even the miles-long trek through the jungle each day is worth learning to read. However, his joy is short-lived. In 1972 when Ugandan President Idi Amin brokers a treaty between North and South Sudan, most of the refugees leave Uganda to return home. The school closes after William has attended for only half a semester.

William does eventually return to Sudan and school. There, under the influence of his grandfather, he makes a personal decision to accept Christ. His grandfather also teaches him the Bible and baptizes him in a moving ceremony where, discerning full well the struggles that William will someday face, confronts him with a decision – will he fight with the Bible or the axe. William determines then, his weapon will be the Bible.

As the political situation worsens with North Sudan’s Khartoom regime assuming more and more control, William’s education is again in jeopardy. Finally, Shari’a law is imposed. South Sudan resists, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) comes into being and when William and his friends hold a series peaceful demonstrations, they are arrested and questioned about SPLA involvement. Though they are tortured, they are eventually released.

In following days William is tempted to join the SPLA and fight alongside his countrymen. But he can’t forget the decision he made the day of his baptism. He also senses that he will be able to best help his people by getting an education. To do that, he knows he must flee the country. The story of his flight takes us from Kapoeta in South Sudan, to Khartoum (North Sudan) to Cairo (Egypt) to Istanbul (Turkey) to France. He eventually lands in New York in August 1988.

Here the miracles continue. William, who knows no one in America, finds, in his wallet, the phone number of a Christian American man he met in Egypt years earlier. He calls the number and a few hours later has a bed for the night in the home of the parents of his only American friend.

With incredible determination and hard work, he earns his American high school diploma and finally graduates from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 1993. Far removed from Sudan and now looking forward to living the good life in America as an engineer, he attends a last Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship retreat where his friends encourage him to join a circle of potential full-time ministry students for prayer.

Though he has felt no such call, that day as his friends pray for him, he feels the hand of God on his life for a special purpose. The struggle to live his life selfishly is completely overcome a few days later. He meets Richard Wurmbrand (Voice of the Martyrs) and Wurmbrand’s description of the 1993 situation in Sudan changes William’s focus once and for all. By October of 1993, he has established Operation Nehemiah for South Sudan – a ministry to restore the church, enhance the education of youth and promote agriculture and health care. This ministry carries on till today.

Several themes running through the book take it from being merely a gripping story to an inspiring one. The first is William’s single-minded focus on getting an education. His bull-dog tenacity and can-do attitude (he maintained a full-time night job while going to school full-time as well, subsisting on about 3 hours of sleep a night) stand in sharp contrast to the lazy, world-owes-me stance many North American kids have.

William’s simple child-like faith is another inspiration. Each step of the way, from facing herdsman dangers as a young child, to his flight from Sudan, to his life in America, William’s faith is tested. As God sees him through situation after situation, he learns that it’s a waste of time to worry. And of course all these faith tests prepare him to establish the ministry which is helping thousands today.

Finally, William’s determination to make the Bible and not the axe his weapon of choice is a testimony to the power of God’s Word and faithfulness. Using this weapon, he overcomes the temptation to hate the Muslims who torture him in Juba, the fellow South Sudanese who mock him for resisting temptation in Cairo and the students who make racist comments to him and his roommate in America. Instead, he attacks the real enemy, Satan, with the truth of God’s word and prayer. What a victory he gains with his positive attitude, lack of bitterness and love!

I have two small criticisms of the book. First, the story stops at 1993 and though the book contains photos of Mr. Levi’s wife and children, they are never mentioned. A brief update would have made the story seem more complete.

Second, I searched for but couldn’t find the incident which begins the narrative (Foreword) in the latter section which deals with the same dates. Some linkage here, even if only a sentence referring back to that opening scene, would have brought the story full-circle and made it a more satisfying and structurally sensible read.

For students of Africa and specifically Sudan, this book has added value with its opening chapter on the historical and political background of Sudan and its Appendix Two "The Politics of Jihad." However you don’t need to be a specialist to be riveted by Mr. Levi’s story and be amazed at what God has accomplished through the Nehemiah Ministry (Appendix One) since it was started in 1993. More information on Mr. Levi and Operation Nehemiah Missions, including how to support it financially, is found at Operation Nehemiah Missions.

************
Disclaimer: The book The Bible or the Axe was sent to me by Mind & Media as a gift from the publisher who donated the books for reviewers.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

parenting -- another go-round

We had guests this weekend – friends from the Island, over here to settle one of their three daughters into school for the semester. At lunch on Sunday, we batted around our experiences of living with adult kids. Our friends, who still have two adult-aged daughters at home, are in the thick of it. We’ve been there, though since our 19-year-old son moved out in March we’ve had an empty nest. We’ve begun easing the congestion in our house by spreading our stuff into the empty bedrooms, loving the lack of chaos and all in all liking the situation a lot, thank you very much.

"I don’t think B. will ever come back home to live again," Ernie said confidently in that conversation.

Yesterday morning, B. was on the phone. After the usual niceties, he came to the reason for his call. "I’d like to move back home."

Gulp.

Ernie and I spent some time yesterday, rehashing the ideas we’d discussed previously when faced with just this possibility. We want to avoid some of the mistakes we made before. We’re trying to understand the differences between issues on which to compromise because they are a mere inconvenience and the kid has out-grown the house-rules of an adolescent, and on which to lay down the law because our love needs to be tough and we need to maintain our own sanity. We’ve even gone to the extent of formulating a discussion paper, listing the areas of concern and possible dissension: meals, room, laundry, girlfriend, use of our computers, use of downstairs TV etc.

Tonight, before the moving truck with drum kit, TV, dresser, mattress and bags and bags of second-hand clothes rolls up, we’ll be having a family meeting. We want to know what his expectations are and we want him to know ours. Above all, this time we we're praying it will be better.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

dale cramer interview

Dian Moore interviews Dale Cramer (author of Sutter's Cross, Bad Ground and Levi's Will) in the latest issue of Infuze. If you're a Dale Cramer fan, you won't want to miss this!

blackberries are plentiful too


While Rebecca is gathering cranberries, we are growing fat on blackberries. They are in every wild meadow at this time of year and tantalize with fat juicy clusters, the best always well out of reach to anyone but the birds or those who have the foresight to bring a ladder. One could say they too are ‘plentiful’ (that lovely word – with its liquid ‘l’s and soft vowels that make it a pleasure to repeat – though Rebecca’s daughter was chagrined [probably another golden-oldie] to see it back in use, claiming it was best left undusted and in the archaic cupboard).

A few weeks ago on our walk to Ducks Unlimited we brought along zip-lock bags for picking. What a bad choice! E’s bag had grown quite plump when he snagged it on a bramble. Of course it sprang a leak and the only way we got it home without dripping black juice all over the car was to zip it up and transport it zipper side down. Since then we’ve picked some more, but always in plastic buckets.

Blackberry picking also has a dress code: cover as much of your body as you can. Thick fabrics (cotton, denim) are best because the blackberry bushes around here, at least, are vicious. Even pickers protected by hat, gloves, long sleeves and pant legs pay for their booty with scratches and thorny splinters. It helps to bring along garden shears.

What do you do with blackberries? We keep fresh-picked ones in the fridge unwashed, and rinse them just before using them to top cereal or yogurt. I have in the past past also made blackberry jam. But of the brambleberries, I prefer raspberry for its tartness (blackberry jam is somewhat bland), plus blackberries are even seedier. The thought of dealing with all those seeds by mashing them through a colander or squeezing through a jelly bag is entirely too daunting and would spoil the pleasure of this August/September windfall. I did freeze a bucketful, though, for adding to muffins in the winter.

Friday, September 02, 2005

eye on the street

Follow what's happening in New Orleans with Survival of New Orleans Blog. Live cams and lots of photos.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

food for thought for some canadians

This from Charles Adler Online today:

It was June of 1973 when the American Red Cross was going broke. The announcement of that was made at their annual meeting in, believe it or not New Orleans. There were other things going wrong for the Americans. Their dollar was sinking in overseas markets. Confidence in the American economy was wavering. The country was still bogged down in an overseas war. Vietnam was the killing field back then and here in Canada the United States found a very good friend behind a microphone. Gordon Sinclair, best known in Canada for the curmudgeonly wit and wisdom on Front Page Challenge. Gordon Sinclair spoke into his Canadian microphone in a Toronto studio and said and I quote....

"This Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people on all the earth. "

Read all of Gordon Sinclair’s speech at Proud to be Canadian

birth order predictor

You Are Likely a Second Born

At your darkest moments, you feel inadequate.
At work and school. you do best when you're evaluating.
When you love someone, you offer them constructive criticism.

In friendship, you tend to give a lot of feedback - positive and negative.
Your ideal careers are: accounting, banking, art, carpentry, decorating, teaching, and writing novels.
You will leave your mark on the world with art and creative projects.


Well, birth order predictor - you're wrong on at least one count - I'm a firstborn - perhaps an untypical one? But I'll take comfort in the wide net of career predictions.

Hat-tip: The Upward Call

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