Friday, March 31, 2006


I caught these irises blooming a few weeks ago in West Vancouver.

According to my trusty Flower Expert, irises can grow from either bulbs or rhizomes. The tall bearded irises belong to the rhizome group. The bulb irises are usually smaller (I suspect the ones pictured here are bulbs.) Apparently irises come in so many varieties, they can be grown wild year-round, in water and on land.

(There were large irises in my back flowerbed when we moved here. They lasted exactly one spring before I dug them out. They were the bearded wine-yellow ones, a dithering color for a flower in the first place, and these really needed to be staked because they were so tall and heavy. I never did get around to that. Instead they lounged on the ground, their blooms lasting only a day or two before becoming brown and serving as salad for the slugs. I’m afraid they grossed me out.)

In the 11th century the iris became the emblem of France (fleur-de-lis), its three petals signifying faith, wisdom and valor. Iris is currently the state flower of Tennessee.

The meaning of iris is faith, hope, wisdom and message, or message of love.

Blue Iris is a book of poems and essays by Mary Oliver. (I think I want that book.)

Louse Gluck’s poem "Wild Iris," which takes us into the iris’s world begins:

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

(Read entire)

I hope you’re enjoying the purple and gold irises of spring!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

six steps to a beautiful face

Are you happy with your face? Or do you stand in front of a mirror, along with thousands of other women sighing, ‘If only...’ If only my forehead weren’t so high or so low, my lips were fuller, thinner or shaped differently, I didn’t need glasses, I could get rid of these, birthmarks and warts, I could afford braces...

Throughout recorded history people have admired facial beauty and wanted it. We are no exception. However, what is this beauty that we’re after, and how do we get it?

The answer to that has changed many times in the last 600 years. During the Renaissance, for example, upper-class north European women valued a high forehead and went through painful plucking of their hairlines to get it.

During the time of Elizabeth I, the English lady who wanted to be beautiful copied her queen by powdering her face white (with lead-based powder no less!) and wearing a red wig.

In the 18th century, women influenced by the likes of Marie-Antoinette went to their hairdressers for several-hour construction sessions of extravagant coiffures built over horsehair pads or wire cages (some as high as three feet with springs built in to adjust the height).

Modern trends in facial attractiveness, though not quite as extreme, have continued to change from the bobbed hair, pale makeup and scarlet cupid-bow mouth of the 1920s, to the teased beehives (for women) and greased pompadours (for men) of the 50s, to the long-haired, no-makeup look of the 60s, to the wind-blown, bronze-skinned, glossy-lipped Farrah Fawcett look of the 70s, to today’s unkempt and multicolored hair with accompanying facial piercings and body tattoos.

But before you dash from your mirror to pursue – at the store, surgery clinic or beauty salon – the face beautiful, consider looking to another source for advice on facial loveliness. The following six-step Bible facial can be applied to any face, at any age:

1. Start with a deep cleansing. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

2. As a foundation, cover the entire face with the wholesome attitude of your inner life. (I Peter 3:3)

3. Apply wisdom to soften facial lines. (Ecclesiastes 8:1)

4. Contour with sorrow to emphasize your compassionate features. (Ecclesiastes 7:3)

5. Highlight with happiness. (Proverbs 15:13)

6. Maintain with a diet high in obedience and yieldedness to the Holy Spirit for continued God-shine. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Stick with the above routine and beauty is guaranteed despite how far you lag behind changing fashion trends. In fact your loveliness will last long past the time when gray hair, wrinkles, and jowls have come to stay.

Christian Carnival 115

is up at The secret life of Gary.

Thanks Gary!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

wheels of life

My mom's best friend in the assisted living palace fell in her room a couple of days ago and broke her hip. I hate aging and all its echoes!

(Thanks, Miss Jean, for the cartoon.)

yesterday a parcel

Yesterday I got a parcel - of books!

In it: The Poetry Dictionary - by John Drury, Book Proposals that $ell by W. Terry Whalin and this beauty.

The Essential Guide to Making Handmade Books by Gabrielle Fox is gorgeous! It has photos and illustrations galore of tunnel books, accordion books, Jacob’s Ladder books, carousel books etc., and at the end of each chapter a Gallery of Ideas - photos showing various more ways that style of book can be made up (and the sweet part is I got it for $5.00!! - no lie!).

Writer’s Digest Bookclub is my ultimate temptation. I can only stand a few months between orders. I actually ordered the bookmaking book and the poetry dictionary in December. When they didn’t come for two months I inquired and found they never got my order. They told me to reorder, but I was sure they’d charge me the present price for the two books I ordered off a limited-time-offer bargain-basement-priced pamphlet.

But they didn’t! Writer’s Digest Bookclub - I love you!

In the same (sort-of: handmade books = scrapbooking?) category, Scrapblog is a place where you can scrapbook and blog together - for free!

Hat tip: Bloggers Blog

Monday, March 27, 2006

new kid on the block

Faithwriters for kids has just come online.

This ‘child’ of is a website especially designed for Christian kids to post their writings. Children can submit writing (by age) in a variety of categories:
- My Stories
- My Poems
- My Jokes and Riddles
- About Me
- About My Pets
- About Life
- About God

or they can write and submit on a weekly topic. (I believe the weekly topic is on the "Submit Weekly Topic" page, which is available only after registering and logging in.)

An added carrot is that the webmaster will choose one article, poem or story a week to publish on the Home page.

Because this is a new venture there will no doubt be a few creases to iron out - for example, making a way for parents/adults to register so they can comment. But otherwise the site appears to be fully functional.

So if your kids love to write - why don’t you challenge them to begin publishing there!

(I feel especially solicitous about this site because I wrote most of the online content – though I’m not the webmaster.)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

just in case

Suddenly I realize I don’t have my purse. I’m in church and there are a whole slew of places it could be. My pace quickens and my mind whirls - where have I left it?

To make matters worse, now the service ends and people begin pouring from the exits. Frantically I retrace my steps, dodging around knots of them (‘Excuse me, excuse me please’), checking out washrooms, coat racks, going back to the pew where I sat, certain my purse is more gone by the minute, trying to remember exactly what I had in it and wondering how I’ll go about replacing all that I.D.

And then I wake up! Whew! It was a dream.

Shaky with relief, I give myself a little lecture. It’s about time I get down to doing what I resolved to do months ago and take inventory of all those cards I carry around with me. If this ever happens to me in real life I need to be more prepared.

There’s a lot of stuff we do, if we’re wise, to cover us ‘just in case’. In addition to keeping an up-to-date record of our I.D., we do regular backups of our computer files, pack boxes of supplies in case of earthquakes or storms, and have blankets, candles and chocolate with us in the car in the winter. We do all these things to cover us just in case something we have no assurance will ever happen, occurs.

But do we prepare for the one thing that is inevitable? Do we prepare for death? I’m talking here about going beyond buying life insurance, making a will and having a talk with a funeral company (although those things are a good start). I’m talking about getting prepared to spend life in eternity with God. And how does one do that?

First it’s recognizing and giving assent to God’s evaluation of me - that I’m born separated from Him by sin and need His help to re-establish a relationship with Him. I need to understand that He took the initiative to do that by sending Jesus, and that Jesus, by living a life free from sin, was qualified to take the punishment (death) my sin – all our sins – deserved. Now I simply trust in that (Jesus’ death for my sin) to be ‘born again’ as a child of God.

Then it’s living as a child of God lives. It starts now by finding out what pleases my Father, what are the rules and laws of His kingdom, the ‘kingdom of God.’ (We find these all through the teachings of Jesus and in some places in concentrated form like the Sermon on the Mount). And then it’s living by these rules and laws right now.

I don’t do this latter very well. Everything in my ‘real’ world argues against meekness, humility, love, generosity, turning the other cheek, not being anxious, not being focused on things etc. etc. But I believe that the more I make God’s kingdom my reality, the more ready I’ll be for death - the only event that is more than ‘just in case.’ And no, it’s not as simple a project as packing an earthquake box, buying a memory stick or going to Office Depot to photocopy all the cards in my purse!

Friday, March 24, 2006

coffee high

Do you look forward to your morning caffeine fix as much as I do? I can’t imagine starting the day without one – the feeling of energetic well-being it spreads through my body but mostly how it leads to brain bursts of good ideas and words that flow. It seems I get my best work done in the morning and I’m sure that coffee is part of the reason. As Billy Collins says it in “Morning

This is the best –
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso–

Should this little experiment cause me to change my mind - and my habits? (Spider webs spun while on a 'high'.)

Hat tip: Carol’s Storybook

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

b.c. ferry sinks

Having ridden them tens of times, it’s hard to imagine one of these sinking out of sight within an after hitting a rock. But that's what happened between 12:25 and 1:30-ish this morning on the ferry run between Prince Rupert and Port Hardy.

Survivors had nothing but praise for the ferry crew who, by all descriptions were the picture of calmness and efficiency as they banged on the door of each room to rouse the sleepers, then got them into lifejackets and boats.

Kudos too to the people of Hartley Bay, a coastal village, who came at the first mayday call in all kinds of boats to help in the rescue – and then took the survivors back to town, to dry clothes, warm drinks and a place to sleep.

Westgarth said everyone in the community pitched in to provide help.

"They just all got together, they organized this thing without one person in charge," he said.

"To see all these people, taking them off the boats, putting warm blankets on them, giving them shoes, clothes, jackets, walking them right up to the cultural centre, giving them hot chocolate, coffee, sandwiches, everything."

Of the 101 people on the boat, 99 are accounted for. I hope the two that are still missing are quickly found.

National Post story

hometown tourists

This week has taken on a slightly different hue as we have house guests from Ontario. My nephew Matt and his wife of almost one year, Joan, have come for a spring break to visit Grandma (my mom). We’re putting them up in the Nesdoly motel!

And so though I had to get back to typing yesterday after having no work for a week, it still feels like holidays. Yesterday instead of our usual peanut butter and cheese sandwich lunch, for example Ernie hustled up a spread of egg salad on fresh brown bread, dill pickles and apple slices. Then the four of us went on a bracing, rain-spitting walk at Mud Bay Park. After that it was back to the cozy house to nap or watch curling or, in my case, bake monkey bread (imagine the smell of cinnamon throughout the house - mmm)

After dinner we had a houseful here for tea – a sister, my nephew, his wife and their kids. What a lovely buzz of conversation with everyone getting reacquainted, catching up and looking at photo books while the little kids played Lego, Duplo and magnet letters all over the floor. We finished off the evening with pie, ice-cream and of course that monkey bread!

This morning my work was light so I finished it early and got to join the guided tour. We took our Ontario guests into Vancouver for a drive along Marine Drive past UBC, Spanish Banks, Locarno and Jericho Beaches, then downtown and through Stanley Park (we stopped at Prospect Point, got out of the car for about five minutes but the ‘prospect’ was completely fogged with the rain never missing a beat), and back out into Richmond. After a chili lunch at Tim Horton’s, we ended our explore with a drive to Gary Point in Steveston. The only thing that would have made it nicer would have been the rain letting up long enough for us to get in even a short walk!

Tonight the kids are visiting Mom. And with the two of us being completely overfed in the last two days, we’ll probably extend the day-off feel of today by having cereal for supper. I still need my walk though. I might just have to go out and try to dodge the raindrops!

(We saw plenty of seagulls, like the one in the picture above, today. This one, however, posed for me on a sunnier day.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

book review: The Secret of the Swamp King

Title: The Secret of the Swamp King
Author: Jonathan Rogers
Publisher: Broadman & Holman
Genre: Juvenile Fiction; Action, Adventure, Fantasy
ISBN: 080543132-2

In this second book of the Wilderking Trilogy (review of the first book The Bark of the Bog Owl is here) author Jonathan Rogers reintroduces us to Aidan Errolson who has just spent two years serving King Darrow at Tambluff Castle. But all is not well. Aidan’s success at everything he does, plus Darrow’s suspicious nature has the king living under a cloud of jealousy. And so Darrow sends Aidan on a seemingly impossible quest to Feechiefen Swamp to find the cure for his melancholy.

Aidan’s journey into Feechiefen immerses us in an exotic setting. Here the Feechiefolk rule, and in them Rogers has created as curious and imaginative a race of fantasy people as one could hope to find. Aidan the civilizer must get along with them, though, because he needs the Feechies to help him navigate through the swamp. It soon becomes obvious that he will have more than Feechiefolk foibles to worry about, for someone is slaughtering birds for their plumes, and could it be traitorous Feechies who are shooting arrows made of cold-shiny at the travelers? Will he find what he is looking for? Will he even survive?

Rogers uses this trip through the changing swamp to address themes of ecology, the price of progress and what it means to be free as a civilization. Kids will also be able to relate to his treatment of jealousy as it is fleshed out in Darrow and several other characters. (Plus my favorite, Bayard the Truthspeaker, makes a cameo appearance to say some very wise things about grace.)

The book is written in a lively and entertaining style (with more rhymes, silly songs and lots of ickiness and mud), few breaks in the action and enough mysterious troubles popping up to keep you turning the pages from start to finish. For though the plot continues to be a retelling of the story of David and King Saul from the Bible, the story line is never predictable.

The tale of this book comes to a satisfying end – but not. For even though Aidan has done his best to please King Darrow, we know by the last page that things will never be the same at Tambluff Castle. Way of the Wilderking, the final book of the trilogy, is due out later this spring.

Disclaimer: The book The Secret of the Swamp King was sent to me by Mind & Media as a gift from the publisher who donated the books for reviewers.

Filed in Book Reviews.

vernal equinox

Happy first day of spring!

Photo credit: me - this field of daffodils beside the parking lot at Ducks Unlimited (Serpentine River - Surrey) looks like this right now - though I took the photo last year.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

nursery watch

When I asked E. where he wanted to walk today and he replied ‘the golf course,’ I knew why. For the last few years a scraggly tall pine tree at the end of the hole nearest the path has been the focus of our attention on our walks there. That’s because in a crotch of branches near the top is a large eagles’ nest.

Last year for the first time we saw signs that it was active. In early spring a pair of eagles hung around it. Then later we saw only one, but sometimes from a distance we noticed a bump in the nest’s silhouette that made us pretty sure there was a bird inside. Finally we actually saw the eaglet peeking over, then later standing on the nest’s edge. Late last summer the juvenile, now almost as large as its parents, was still hanging around that tree. Then all three disappeared.

Photo: Eaglets at one week.

Every time we’ve gone to the golf course this spring we’ve searched the tree and all its neighbors for any signs of the eagle pair. So far we hadn’t been rewarded. We were beginning to fear they may have perished. There are all kinds of hazards hidden in our ‘pristine’ environment. At Judson Lake near Abbotsford, for example, lead shot that has accumulated in the water from years of hunting has been killing trumpeter swans in large numbers since 1999. Birds of prey are also threatened by lead. And last spring there were the horrible discoveries of eagles killed by poachers for claws and feathers near Squamish.

Photo: Eaglets at four weeks
But today we saw that the eagles have returned! E. got a bead on them from the parking lot There in the distance sitting on ‘their’ tree were both dark birds with their gleaming white heads. It’s a good thing he looked when he did, though, because when we got close, they had disappeared again. But we have seen them and both of us are feeling – well... relieved. Now for another season of nursery watch!

Photo Credits - Eagle cam - Northeast Utilities Systems

Filed in Birding

Thursday, March 16, 2006

inconvenient hospitality

Thoughts about a story from Mark 1 - part of today’s Lenten reading*:

Did Simon Peter’s mother-in-law regret their home’s open-door hospitality the day she was sick and Peter brought the gang home for dinner anyway? I imagine her hidden away in a back room, just wanting to be left alone. I can hear her groan into her pillow, “Why did Peter choose today to invite the rabbi?” I think she rather hoped Jesus wouldn’t see her in her feverish and disheveled state.

But like is typical with hospitality, she got a way bigger blessing than she bargained for. As a result of Jesus being invited to her home that day, she was healed!

This story reminds me of the Karen Burton Mains’ book Open Heart Open Home. In the chapter “On Entertaining” she points out, “My hospitality, which participates in ministry, becomes a catalyst for the miraculous.”

Other memorable things she says in that chapter:

- True hospitality comes before pride.

- For the Christian, hospitality is not an option. It is an injunction.

- Hospitality is more than just a human talent, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

- Entertaining has little to do with real hospitality. Secular entertaining is a terrible bondage. Its source is human pride, Demanding perfection, fostering the urge to impress, it is a rigorous taskmaster which enslaves. In contrast, Scriptural hospitality is a freedom which liberates.

- Entertaining always puts things before people: “As soon as I get the house finished, the living room decorated, my place settings complete...” (yada, yada, yada)...

- Because hospitality has put away its pride, it doesn’t care if other people see our humanness. Because we are maintaining no false pretensions, people relax and feel that perhaps we can be friends.

- Once the gift of hospitality has been developed in our homes, churches, and neighborhoods, we can begin to participate in a larger and more difficult effort: that of playing roles of significance in our society.... There is no better place to be about the redemption of society than in the Christian servant’s home; and the more we deal with the captive, the blind, the downtrodden, the more we realize that in this inhospitable world, a Christian home is a miracle to be shared.

- The real essence of hospitality is a heart open to God with room prepared for the Guestness of the Holy Spirit, which welcomes the presence of Christ. This is what we share with those to whom we open our doors. We give to them Him and think nothing of what we give of ourselves.

Okay. I admit it. More than once I've been caught in the 'Entertainment' trap. I need to go to Hospitality School!

* Lent reading challenge here.
photo: by me
filed: House and Home
tags: , , ,

christian carnival 113

is up at Light Along the Journey. Thanks so much, John!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

gold today, gone tomorrow

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this week, what with no typing (boss on spring break) and curling on TSN - the Tim Horton's Brier: two games a day no less!

Part of that curling experience is the comment of Vic Rauter, Ray Turnbull and Linda Moore.

I’ve always been fascinated with Linda – her seeming uncanny knowledge of the physics of the game, and the way the men commentators ask for her opinion and defer to her judgement. They also make frequent references to her being a former skip.

Hubby and I couldn’t recall any time we ever saw her skip a game, so the other night, E. googled her and discovered her fascinating story.

In 1985 Linda Moore skipped a rink from the North Shore Winter Club (North Vancouver) and became the Canadian and world women’s champion. She did it without a single defeat in the provincial and Canadian playdowns.

(Linda is on the left in this photo of Moore's 1985 rink - from the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame)

In 1986 her rink was the first Team Canada after Scott Paper took over the event. Again they went to the final with an amazing record - only one defeat in the tournament. But her rink lost the last game to Marilyn Bodogh.

She didn’t give up, though. Instead, her team continued playing, eventually going on to win a gold medal for Canada in the 1988 Calgary Olympics when curling was a demonstration sport.

No wonder she gets a lot of respect from the guys on TSN. But on the other hand, just 18 years after winning a gold medal - who knows, who remembers? Which just goes to show how fleeting is the fame and glory of this earth. What seems like the biggest deal in the world today is forgotten tomorrow.

Which is a little lesson to me to order my priorities rightly. Because life is short. In the words of Moses: “In the morning they (man) are like grass which grows up: In the morning it flourishes and grows up; In the evening it is cut down and withers” (Psalm 90:5,6)

My goal needs to be “lay up ... treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20), and my prayer: “So teach me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12).

tags: , , ,
filed in: Sports

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

elder care

Too old to live at home alone?

Whether prompted by a crisis or after long family discussions, moving parents into care homes is often more painful for them and their adult children than it needs to be.

Having just come through the process of moving both our parents in the last few months, this Vancouver Sun article by Douglas Todd is bang on and reassuring!

Tags: , , . Filed in Politics and Culture

writing as a career

I get the feeling that lots of bloggers would really like to be published authors of books. Non-fiction would be good, fiction even better.

If you’re hiding such a wish in your closet check out Dave Long’s current series on "Establishing a Career as a Writer" which is in progress. Posts so far:

Part 1: - writing your first book.
Part 2: - figuring out what kind of book you’ve just written.
Part 3: - studying your market.

The faith*in*fiction blog has lots of other good info too along with networking possibilities for writers of Christian fiction.

tags: , , , filed in: Writing

Monday, March 13, 2006

practical love

“I got a request from switchboard this week,” Pastor’s wife told us Sunday morning, “to give Sylvia a call. She would really appreciate hearing from someone because she hasn’t been able to be in church for years.

“So I called her and sure enough. Because of illness, she hasn’t been able to attend church since October of 2004. But as she talked and went on and on: ‘I love it when on Sunday morning you talk to us from your heart. And I love the worship and when the missionaries come, and the flag parade...’ I grew puzzled. I thought she hadn’t been in church. So I asked her, ‘You watch the service on the internet?’

“‘No,’ Sylvia says, “I don’t have that.’

“Then how do you know what’s happening in such detail?

“‘Oh,’ Sylvia told me, ‘Every Sunday Olive goes to the first service. Then right after, she comes over here and tells me everything!’”

What a great introduction to pastor’s talk on living a life of practical love. Pastors Brent and Carrina introduced his sermon “Love in Action III” with couple of excerpts from Mother Teresa’s book No Greater Love.

One of them went something like this (a quote from Mother Teresa’s book Heart of Joy):

At the time of death, when we meet God face-to-face, we will be judged concerning love, concerning how much we have loved. Not concerning how much we have accomplished, but rather how much love we have put into what we have done.

In order for love to be genuine, it has to be above all a love for my neighbor. Love for my neighbor will lead me to true love for God..

And said another way from Pastor’s text: 1 John 3:16,17 (The Message):

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to life sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

("Love In Action III" on streaming video.)

tags: , , ,

Friday, March 10, 2006

join the honda choir

Honda U.K.'s latest sensational TV commercial features a 60-person choir singing about the experience of driving the new Civic.

No, they don't sing a song expressing the virtues of the top-selling compact car, but instead vocalize all the sounds a driver hears emanating from the car and the road beneath the wheels during a drive...

The commercial, produced by London-based Wieden and Kennedy, begins with the choir standing in a multi-storey parking lot, looking as though they are about to sing a serious piece.

But the scene switches swiftly to the Euro-styled Civic's Engine Start button and the choir begins its performance. Every sound made represents one the car makes, everything from driving over gravel, the windshield demisting on a frosty morning, a CD being inserted and played to the rush of wind felt by a pet dog with its head stuck out of a rear passenger window. The visuals flit back and forth from the choir performing -- their facial expressions are a treat -- to the driving experiences they are replicating in sound.

(Read rest of "Selling Civic a 60-person job in U.K." - The Province)

View commercial and rehearsals.

Very cool!

Tags: , , ,

roll call

Hubby got back from Kelowna on Wednesday. In the past two days we’ve resumed noon-hour walks on favorite paths. Yesterday we went to Crescent Beach. Today it was Elgin Park.

Even though the world was white when we got up this morning, the sun has been doing its thing and everywhere there’s the sound of trickling water – just like spring in Saskatchewan. To add to our enjoyment, this is the time of the confluence of birds - the water birds are still hanging around while the summer birds are starting to return.

Today on our walk we saw herons, widgeons, mallards, buffleheads, green-winged teals, a loon – very dapper in his mating plumage – robins, crows of course, some winter wrens ( the mice of the bird world – they’re always flitting in and out of the bottoms of bushes), robins and we heard some red-winged blackbirds.

Elgin Park - V. Nesdoly
Loon - Government of Canada Website

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

promptings' potpourri

First, for some substantial reading, check out this week’s Christian Carnival. (I actually entered something after taking a long hiatus.)

For all parents and lovers of kids, this lengthy but gripping ‘cinema verite’ account of one girl’s childhood comes via my Polish friend Jesus' Friend who blogs at Building on the Chief Cornerstone. (I also found it posted on the website of Sunday Adelaja’s church in Ukraine)

Now if you’re in the mood for something lighter, Joe Carter’s "The virtues of being ugly" should put a smile on your face.

Cat people will enjoy the Cat of the Day blog - with instructions on how to get your cat or other pet added to this or the Pet of the Day's collections of centerfolds.

(Hat Tip: Something Beautiful)

For whimsy, red clay at home is where one starts from never fails to get my whimsometer clicking - with her fanciful drawings and happy musings about what it feels like to be in love. (Here’s the online kiosk where her drawings are for sale.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

alien plants

Alien plants attack parks” is the headline on p. 13 of one of our weekend papers.

I like plants and I like parks, so I read on:

Local parks and forests are under alien attack. The proliferation of invasive alien plant species is a growing problem in the Lower Mainland. These are plants not native to the area that thrive here and overpower domestic species.

[...]Because they are very hardy, reproduce easily and are often immune to diseases and predators that affect native species, the invaders crowd out indigenous plants.

[...] Many of the invaders have been around so long and have become so common, few people realize they don’t belong.

And what are these deadly invaders? Himalayan blackberry. Lamium. Holly. Canada thistle. Scotch Broom. English Ivy.

No way! Some of these are pretty, others useful, and they’re all part of the landscape!

Despite appearing benign, these plants are apparently deadly. English Ivy, for example, encroaches on the forest floor eradicating all native species, creating an ivy desert. When it gets to a tree it wraps itself around it and climbs up, taking the tree’s water, nutrients and adding stress with its weight.

Sadly, I’m reminded of my life. After reading through the Sermon on the Mount in the last few days, I can’t help but contrast the attitudes and actions that so easily take over my little corner of the Kingdom of God with what should be growing there. There’s a whole patch of independence where trust should be growing. There’s a showy stand of pride and wanting to be noticed displacing unremarkable and lowly humility. Instead of forgiveness there’s a blooming and odorous patch of grudges and gossip. A prickly hedge of dislike – hatred even – has choked out love. Meekness is dwarfed by standing up for my rights and retaliation. Covering the forest floor and starting to climb the trees is the wiry vine of worry which has displaced faith altogether...

Like those alien plants in the park, not only have these alien attitudes and actions choked out Kingdom plants, but because they’re so established, and flourishing everywhere around me, they seem like the ones which really belong. On top of that, some of them are beautiful, even useful in their showy, assertive ways.

The park managers in our city have begun to tackle the alien plants. Mostly they’re depending on volunteers, who spend hours pulling out and cutting off these tenacious aliens by hand, working to again make the parks hospitable for native flora.

Similarly I need to voluntarily deal with all these alien attitudes and actions in my life. After I’ve recognized them I need to start cutting, pulling out and destroying so that Kingdom ecology – the environment in which all that is truly good and lasting can flourish – will once again be restored.

"There were about seven plots (of ivy) when we started. We’re down to three now,” says the city’s main volunteer. “In about half a year or so, it should be under control.”

Oh to be able to say that about all the alien plant plots in my life!


Photo Credits:
- English Ivy: National Park Service, Washington DC web site
- Scotch Broom - Government of B.C. web site

Monday, March 06, 2006

book review: Waking Lazarus

Title: Waking Lazarus
Author: T. L. Hines
Publication: Bethany House, July 2006
Genre: Adult Fiction - Thriller
ISBN: 0-7642-0204-9

Thirty-two year old Jude Allman has cheated death three times. But the outcome is not what one would expect. In the psychological thriller Waking Lazarus, T. L. Hines explores the what-ifs of such a state, superimposed on story events which take place over a few weeks in the very ordinary town of Red Lodge Montana – where kids from the surrounding towns are mysteriously disappearing. The result is a page-turner that is both satisfying and chilling.

Hines’ confidence with language and storytelling skill was a highlight of the book for me. He sets mundane tactile scenes – like vignettes of a five-year-old interacting with his live-out father, a man ordering food in a restaurant, a janitor taking abuse from kids in a middle school – back-to-back with scenes of outright psychological creepiness. He serves up these story segments in scrambled order and in telling the story this way had me questioning my own perception of what was real and looking with suspicion, at least in passing, at most of the male, and some of the female characters. I was intrigued from start to finish.

Besides the challenge of figuring out what Jude Allman is all about and who’s abducting those kids, the story addresses several weighty themes. Hines explores the philosophical dilemma of what’s real and what isn't, but also probes the more accessible themes of parent-child relationships, coping with being different, the paranormal and whether / how it meshes with the Christian faith.

Speaking of the latter, Hinds handles the Christian message aspect of the book subtly and with a light touch. In addition to the overt allusion to the Bible character Lazarus of the book’s title, it comes mostly through secondary character Rachel - Jude’s girlfriend. Although her dependence on prayer and hearing the internal voice she thinks of as the voice of God (my paraphrase) seemed somewhat slight and subjective theologically, I appreciated Hines’ attempt to spell out Christian experience in understandable non-jargon language. I guess what I’m trying to say is if you’re looking for some theological beef - a treatise, sermon or altar call, you’ll be disappointed. But as an appetizer the book succeeds.

It’s great to see Christian fiction cutting this new swath. As a debut novel, I’d say Waking Lazarus is quite an accomplishment and will no doubt make a big splash* when it’s released this summer. And of course the book needs a sequel. Because by my calculations Jude has another five lives left – no wait, make that four, definitely four!


*Hines is inviting readers, via his website, to be part of that spash. He also blogs.

Filed in Book Reviews

Saturday, March 04, 2006

'testimony' at pacific theatre

It was a fabulous evening last night. This Second Stage event was called Testimony and had the same format and feel as Christmas Presence only on the theme of being human, vs. Christmas. Ron Reed and others read short pieces interspersed with music. For example Ron read pieces by Frederich Buechner, Garrison Keillor, and three or four others. Carolyn Arends read part of her testimony telling of the summer she went through a crisis of faith. She ended it with “It Has to Be You” which was birthed out of that experience.

The musical line-up, besides Carolyn Arends, included Sheree Plett (beautiful plaintive voice which has that flexible flip-into-flasetto thing happening a lot), an excellent songwriter / singer named Lance ? (I’m terrible at remembering last names), and Wyndham Thiessen. The latter was very funny. Sang his own comedic creations in mostly bluegrass style. His song “Eschatology” was hilarious.

The usual Christmas Presence band backed up the singers – a collection of acoustic instruments played by the musicians Nelson Boschman assembled, including lots of guitars - even a lap one - a couple of keyboards, a double bass (double bass adds so much!), violin and mandolin the last two played by the Spencer Capier who switched from one to the other as easily as a person goes from talk to a whisper.

The atmosphere of these evenings is informal, a get-together-in-the-living-room-to-play-music feel with the musicians and story-tellers mostly in jeans and such. But the content last night was, as always, rich – a thoughtful satisfying menu with the deep stuff balanced by humor, answers countered with questions and the threat of tears erased by the urge to laugh. Not surprisingly, yesterday evening the house was full with a program long enough to warrant an intermission. But even though it was a good 10 o’clock by the time the last story was told, the last note played, I still felt like a kid who was being sent to bed in the middle of the party, and had to restrain myself from shouting out “More!”

Friday, March 03, 2006

life is good

Do you have some blogs you visit that you come away and you just feel like writing? One that does that for me is Peacefulady’s (Irene’s) blog Seasons. Just now I read a post of hers where she writes about feeling doused in blessings. And I can relate – even to the extent of feeling vaguely guilty that I’m getting all these blessings when others are swamped in busyness and life-threatening challenges.

She asks:

What do you think? How do you find it? How do you appreciate your blessings? How much do you think about special gifts God seems to send your way? Have you gotten extra blessings in certain seasons of life?

You’re right, Irene. We need to appreciate and celebrate the times of blessing when they come and not let the fact that others may be going through hard times silence us. And yes, I have felt particularly blessed in the season of life I’m in right now, with my kids grown up and my hubby newly retired. Here are some blessings of the last week:

- Ten days of living all alone. Hubby’s away, doing elder-care. Of course I wondered how I’d do this. I haven’t lived alone for more than about two days since before I was married. Other times when E. was gone, I had the kids. Now it’s just me.

Well, I’m loving it. I’ve been eating salad and pizza in front of the TV while I watch the Scott Tournament of Hearts (B.C.’s Kelly Scott ended up first in the round robin!). On Wednesday I worked well into the evening to get a couple of manuscripts into the mail. Last night I came home from choir and felt so light and happy from being immersed in music, first in choir and then from playing my CDs on the way home, I decided to carry on. I lit a candle, put in our new Rita Springer CD “I Have to Believe" that we got for Christmas and just lay on the couch letting the beautiful music wash over me. After Rita Springer was through, Robin Mark started singing. It was wonderful, drifting in and out of sleep, all the while being baptized by this worshipful music.

- Tonight I get to go to Pacific Theater with my friends Mel and Jill. This is part of the package of tickets I won at the end of last year. When I found out E. would be gone for today’s production, I knew I’d have to arrange something because I don’t do the drive into Vancouver at night - especially not by myself. Well it’s worked out perfectly - these favorite friends of mine can come and will do the driving to boot!

- Then just about half an hour ago, I got a call from my band boy. He’s now the drummer for Mongoose, and they’re on a cross-Canada tour. The thought of them driving in a van across Canada in the winter had me saying lots of prayers. This morning he called from Toronto. He was happy because he’d seen Pinball Clements in the lobby of the Royal York, went up to him, shook his hand and said, “I love you, boy.” Pinball answered him, “I love you too baby!” (Ah yes, basking in more reflected glory – but then, isn’t that the only kind?)

Today the sun is shining here and I have whole busy-work list to tackle - a little banking, a little shopping, a little cleaning, maybe the laundry, more curling, more pizza! Life is good.

(But, if you’re reading this, Babe, I do miss you!)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

book review: The Bark of the Bog Owl

Title: The Bark of the Bog Owl
Author: Jonathan Rogers
Publisher: Broadman & Holman
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy
ISBN: 080543131-4

Take places like Tambluff Castle, Feechiefen Swamp, Bonifay Plain and Greasy Cave. Now mix them with characters like King Darrow, Bayard the Truth Speaker, Dobro, Aidan Errolson. a contingent of scheming Pyrthens and you have The Bark of the Bog Owl, the first book of Jonathan RogersWilderking Trilogy.

In this series Rogers retells the story of David from the Old Testament. However, with the exception of the main plot line there is little else predictable about the story. The reworked characters have been transplanted to a medieval fantasyland which includes symbolic alligators, a tribe of outcast Feechiefolk and a seer who goes around with a pair of goats.

The book is a lively read. Twelve-year-old Aidan, Dobro, the Feechiefolk, his brothers and the Pyrthens mix it up in play, celebration, arguments, hand-to-hand fights and even a genuine battle. The action and adventure are also delivered with generous doses of humor in silly songs, rhymes and Mr. Rogers’ droll way with words.

Themes that come out in this tale are love of God and country, bravery, honor and on Aidan’s part, a thirst for action and adventure.

Though we get to know Aidan best, there are other interesting characters as well - the mysterious Dobro, Aidan’s somewhat jealous and condescending brothers and my favorite, Bayard the Truth Speaker.

It is Bayard’s wisdom, delivered in the mysterious voice of an authentic but weird prophet that had me, adult that I am, reaching for my highlighter. “Live the life that unfolds before you,” he tells Aiden on their first meeting. Later he reassures him, “Do not ask, ‘Am I being a fool?’ Ask, ‘Am I being the right sort of fool?’” It is this sage foundation that expands the story from being just an entertaining tale and gives it value beyond the hours of entertainment reading it will provide.

Kids in Grades 3-6 will enjoy this series. If I were the parent though, I wouldn’t give it to one of them to read. Rather I’d read it aloud to them myself and join in the fun.

Disclaimer: The book The Bark of the Bog Owl was sent to me by Mind & Media as a gift from the publisher who donated the books for reviewers.

Filed in Book Reviews

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