Sunday, September 30, 2007

Going To California


I'm heading out to see my parents and my sisters, and, if I'm in the right place at the right time, my brother. I want to see the ocean for a few hours, too. I'll be missing Dennis and Ginger and Carly. But I'm looking forward to seeing my new niece for the first time, little Jonna.




California. What a concept.




If you are not familiar with the West, you are probably thinking: beaches, palm trees, sunshine, people in swimsuits all day long....well, yes, it's all that. And more. It's expensive.




We lived there for eight years, in the Monterey Bay Peninsula and in the San Francisco Bay area. We made great friends and enjoyed adventures hiking, biking and camping by the ocean and in the mountains. Good times. We had bible study groups meeting in our home, close friends becoming Christians, deeply spiritually fruitful times. Funny how it didn't feel expensive. We had one car. I didn't work most of the time. Our needs were basic and our wants were pretty simple. And through Den's job in the Navy, God provided.




It's that simple but it is pretty complex at the same time. We believed God wanted us there. We decided to stay whether Dennis had a job or not. God confirmed it by bringing Dennis into recruiting. After awhile, God moved Dennis (and me) around the country. But it is good to go back and while I'm there to remember that God answered our prayers and how He did it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Balance and Priorities

I've been sick with a cold for a couple of days--I don't get these often, but they slow me down big time. I still take walks with my puppy, Ginger, every morning. We go to the park where she gets to run, run and run. Today, I'm bringing her tennis ball to chase. It took her awhile, but she understands the fetch game now. She and Carly still wrestle and play, but she is getting a little too rough and I have to break up the fight every now and then, especially when Carly growls, either from pain or anger. Even though Carly is half Ginger's size, she initiates most of the rough housing. The kitten thinks she's a dog.

Ginger is back to her feisty self again. I was worried for awhile. I didn't see her golden retrieverness anymore with the perpetual smile and energy. She was being too good. Dennis took her to the vet, and she got de-wormed and some shots. Lisa told us to feed her a little bit more than she can handle, that there should always be some food left in her bowl when she finishes. Lisa told us that we picked the perfect dog. We knew that. She never runs off, she stays beside us inside the house or outdoors. As for housebreaking, we had success, then trouble and now it looks like we got where we all need to be. She'll chase a squirrel, but not be obsessed with them. Yesterday, on our walk to the park, she carried her water bottle in her mouth most of the way home until she dropped it and Dennis put it in his back pocket.

I'm still reading and thinking about women in the Bible. I have been contemplating the Proverbs 31 woman. She was a challenge to me when I was younger, in my twenties, in just her productivity in the home. And still does. She challenged me in my thirties in her relationship to her husband. And still does. She challenges me now in how she keeps her balance and priorities. Her managerial skills are amazing. She speaks with discretion and kindness. As Eugene Petersen puts in The Message, it all comes down to one thing: "Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear- of- GOD."

In other words, the Proverbs 31 woman knows God and lives out her life in respect to Him. He is the reason why she does what she does in the way she decides to do it. That's how she keeps her balance. That is her main priority. That is how she manages herself before she manages everything and everyone else.

Well, it's time for that walk. Both animals are under the desk, by my feet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Review of A Review

Way up here in Michigan at my little Starbucks by the freeway, I meet a lot of people from all over. I had the pleasure a few months ago of talking with a lady from Austin, TX about the Austin City Limits Music Festival. She was surprised that someone from the middle of Michigan knew anything about it. Actually, I read about it while researching Dylan tour dates and I was thinking of going to see the Bob Dylan Band perform there. Just to travel on my own for a day and a half, to remind myself that I am a grown up woman. After looking at the facts, I realized that I didn't want to go all the way to Texas in the middle of the heat for a Dylan show. Especially when he comes through Michigan at least twice a year. My coming of middle ages trip will have to wait for another time and another place.

But I read reveiws, and I especially liked this review about the show. Occasionally, Bob will pull out an old hymn, like "Rock of Ages" or gospel song of his own writing, like "I Shall Be Released" out of the blue. This particular reveiwer shares the way that this surprise had an effect on him.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's all about the waiting

This Week's Highlights:
  • Breakfast with husband, prayer and quiet time afterwards
  • Swimming with Hubby at the Y
  • Working a four hour shift in the afternoon, seeing customers I haven't seen for awhile
  • Hubby bringing flowers to me at work in the drive-through
  • Ginger in the jeep with Hubby, wagging her tail hello
  • Ginger going to the vet, Lisa, who helped us through the tough time when Buttercup had to be put down
  • Great turn out at our ESL class (I couldn't go, not feeling well)
  • Watching "The Lives of Others" DVD with Dennis
  • Seeing Valentine, an old co-worker, drop by to visit me at work
  • Seeing Lis Wilson, an ESL teacher by profession who taught in Tunisia and is back in the States teaching in Oregon, who came with me to Church on Sunday
  • Joan asking me about going back to SICF (International Christian Group)on Sundays, I need to alternate that with her husband Tom's class on Cross-Cultural Servanthood
  • Finding out that our friend Dingeh from Zambia knows Bob and Patty Meredith from The Navigators in same country
  • Church, in general, because I love University Reformed Church, where we go every week
  • Finding out that Art and Marty are starting to go to URC--they are a couple who are really neat customers at my Starbucks
  • A regular customer, Cindy, offering a ride to a new MSU student whose car just broke down on Jolly Road
  • Enjoying the rich stories about women in the Bible from Gien Karssen's "Her Name is Woman" series, vols. 1 and 2. I've read them several times before a long time ago, it is great to re-read them now
  • Having a chance to encourage a young woman at work who is having a hard time with her boyfriend being away to study in another state, then meeting her parents and finding out that they know several people in my church
  • Letter from Danielle, a co-worker who is now living in New York
  • Hearing about Kevin and Trishia's new baby girl, Elizabeth Mae

And, finally, last but not least, but actually transcends the list: Learning more about how God is still with us even if we can't feel Him--

"That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held
back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready
and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead.
Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and
barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting . We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray,it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good."


--Eugene Petersen, The Message, Romans 8

Following Christ, then, is like being a pregnant woman. We ache, groan, get restless, have to wait, feel too large, feel birth pangs and have a joyful anticipation. Like a single person who is looking forward to the Return and the resulting marriage feast of Christ and His Church, I'm encouraged by these verses, having never been pregnant and probably never will. But I can experience the yearning for full deliverance.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Breakfast

Dill Feta Scramble--from "Everyday Food"

2 large eggs plus 4 large egg whites

Coarse salt

1 ounce feta cheese, crumbles (1/4 cup)

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh dill, coursely chopped, plus more for garnish

1 whole wheat pita bread (6-inch), halved

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and egg whites; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in cheese.

2. In a small nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-low. Cook eggs, scraping bottom frequently with a flexible heatproof spatula, until just set, 1-2 minutes; stir in dill.

3 Spoon eggs into pita halves, and garnish with more dill. Serves 2

Happy Breakfast!

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Gospel According to Bob Dylan

As you might have noticed, if you are regular readers, that I've been posting the gospel songs written by Bob Dylan and performed in a concert in 1980. Of all the songs Dylan ever wrote, these are my very favorites. Of all songwriters out there, one who gained his fame through folk and rock music, decided to write songs about God, Jesus Christ and authentic faith. And they are deep in theology and full of black gospel tradition. When they first came out, Dylan was boo'd by audiences and disparaged in the press. And he went on to write and record two more albums.

It is one thing, when a composer always writes music about the Christian faith (and is paid by the church) and excells and receives adulation for centuries. It is quite another when a composer writes music about the Christian faith and excells and receives absolutely no credit for it at all for what beauty is contained in the music. In fact, not only never recognized, but actually despised. A new film is coming out about Dylan. And like most of the recent biographies about him, they focus on the 60's period of his life and work (Ms. Blanchett is going to be honored for her portrayal of Dylan in the 60's). When he was the most messed up and frankly, angry at the world, it seems. But no one pays more than a nano second on his conversion or his extraordinary work in the Black gospel tradition.

As for me, Black gospel always provokes a strong emotion in me whenever I see or hear it performed. I don't know why, but I cry every time for joy. Click on the video below and hear how the African American Gospel singers feel about Dylan's songs.


Things I Still Think About

I have a lot to do today. But I spent some time this morning reading about Hannah and Mary again. I have a lot of questions--more than I have answers. It does bother me that Hannah would go ahead and make a vow to God without discussing it with her husband, Elkanah. It occurs to me that this all took place during the time of Judges, you know, the time that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. And Hannah and Elkanah, despite their situation with his other wife--a decision that caused a lot of suffering in their home--were trusting God.

God does a lot with imperfect situations.

Something to think about while I walk the dog, clean the house, do the laundry and get ready to go to work tonight.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

See You Later, Madeleine




Madeleine L'Engle died Thursday. She was the author of my favorite book in elementary school "A Wrinkle in Time". The NYT has an article about her, you can check it out for yourself. I love the last line:






“Why does anybody tell a story?” Ms. L’Engle once asked, even though she knew the answer.



“It does indeed have something to do with faith,” she said, “faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”



What Depression Can Sometimes Lead To

If you have never read Hannah's story in the Bible, it is in 1 Samuel 1-2, in the Old Testament. Hannah is one of Elkanah's two wives. Although she is his favorite wife, she had no children. Year after year, she was reminded of that when the family went with Elkanah when he performed his yearly religious sacrifice and his other wife made fun of her.

Every year during the sacrificial meal, Hannah was depressed and could not eat. But finally one year she decided to go to God and make a vow. Her vow was that if God gave her a son, she would give him back to God to serve him. Her prayer was so intense, the temple priest thought she was drunk. After explaining her situation, she asked him to pray for her, and the priest wished for her everything she asked God for.

And, He did.

She presented the boy to the same priest that saw her praying in the temple, and dedicated him to God. She left him there and visited him every year, bringing clothes that she had made for him. She had five more children afterwards.

I think of Hannah on many occasions. First of all, how the story seems so real on so many levels. Hannah's emotional vulnerability is easy for women to relate to, no matter what trouble they are going through. The Bible shows us a glimpse of what happens a lot in life: a wife depressed and a husband's inability to console her (Hey, you've got me, Honey! Isn't that all you would want in life?).

Then Hannah talks to God. She doesn't go through any middle man priest. She gets very personal and shows her trouble to Him. She makes a vow. She doesn't ask her husband if it would be a okay with him if she left their son with an old guy at a temple several miles away-- an old guy, by the way, who has bad sons and doesn't discipline them. In fact, Elkanah has no idea of Hannah's plan until a year later. Then, he basically says to her it's okay by him, whatever she wants.

He trusted his wife. She trusted him to trust her.

It sort of defies what we would all call a traditional marriage, with the wife making some major decisions independently. I am sure, though, if Elkanah was opposed to it, Hannah wouldn't fight it. But Hannah knew that her godly husband would not oppose such a vow to God. He would support it, and he continued to support it throughout each year when they visited their son and worshiped together. And even though they did not get to raise their son on a daily basis, he turned out to be a godly man despite the circumstances, not by accident nor a lucky break. Samuel knew his purpose, it was to serve God. And Hannah understood, by the evidence of her prayers recorded in the Bible, what kind of God Samuel was meant to serve.

Because of his sons' bad behavior, the temple priest, Eli, was warned through prophecy that his family--that was set apart by God since the days of Moses and Aaron--was to be wiped out. God warned him through Samuel when the day was soon approaching. And Samuel took Eli's place in serving God. And when the people wanted to replace God's leadership with a king, Samuel brought the demand to God and did what God wanted him to, even though it meant a place of lesser prominence for himself and his family. Samuel was a man of true godly character.

A lot of the time, I hear other believers say that Christians should never be depressed.

But here is the story of Hannah who was sad for many years. She did not hide it. She felt what she felt. She poured her heart out to God. She made a decision, not out of blind faith, but on faith full of knowledge of the Almighty. Her emotions led her to God, not away from Him. And when she went to Him, the servant of God, Samuel resulted. And God makes sure that we know about Hannah. Maybe because there is something there for both men and women to learn from.

Thursday, September 06, 2007





"I could be unraveling wherever I'm traveling, even to foreign shores. "


--Bob Dylan, "Emotionally Yours"

Another Side of Mary

So often, when we think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, we think of her humility and her faith. But I think that she was also a woman of strength and fortitude.

It all comes down to Calvary.

Jesus received an agonizing and appalling death sentence by hanging on a cross. And His mom was there as He went through it--she was there when He came into the world and she was there when He left it.

J. Oswald Sanders comments on her in 31 Days On The Life Of Christ :

"Sympathetically she entered into all His sufferings. The spear would pierce
her heart as it rent His flesh. With joy she had followed His career, had feared
and prayed for Him, had rejoiced in His successes and wept over His
disappointments. But now He was dying as a criminal, not as a hero! What an end
to the life of such a Son! Lest she add to His sufferings, she did not give way
to uncontrolled weeping but repressed her grief as the sword pierced her soul.
She did not faint or swoon; she "stood". He had enough suffering of His own
without her adding to His overflowing cup of sorrow."


Here was Mary, unselfish despite the crushing grief she experienced. Here was Jesus, unselfish despite the extreme physical, spiritual and emotional suffering He experienced--He told His disciple, John, to be a son to her and for her to be a mom to him.

That we would be as brave and thoughtful in our own moments of extreme need.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Breakfast

Apple Pecan Buckwheat Pancakes

(I used Hodgson Mill Buckwheat Pancake Mix)

1 1/2 cups Pancake mix
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup applesauce
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons canola oil


Heat electric griddle to 360. In a bowl mix above ingredients, add more milk to thin the batter if needed. Let stand for five minutes. Cook pancakes on one side until bubbles form on the edges, then flip and cook on other side until golden brown. Serve hot. Made about 10 large pancakes.

Great to freeze for later.

Serve with butter, applebutter, maple syrup and Starbucks coffee-- Colombia Naraino Supremo is best, if you still have Brazil Ipanema Bourbon, even better.

Happy Breakfast!