Friday, May 30, 2008

Hate to Wait

Today was a shopping day. I went to Wal-Mart to get what I needed, refraining from putting anything in the cart that I didn't. The hardest part was the check out lane. As you all should know by now, I'm on Weight Watchers. Even though I chose the express lane--10 items or less--the aisle was cluttered with thousands of chocolate candies. It was overwhelming. And the express lane could not have been slower; felt like it took forever. In Weight Watchers classes, someone said that she chewed sugarless gum during times of temptation. I had a few pieces in my purse and dug one out. It helped. The lady behind me chuckled; she must have known what I was thinking. It was easy to figure out--I was intensly staring at the candy. But I was buying pants for work, at three sizes smaller than I wore last year at this time. I didn't get to this point by eating whatever I wanted.

I also had to go to Target, and the express lane there was also too long and going slowly. The only lane that had no line was the one with the screaming boy in the cart and a slightly frazzled young mom, so I took it. He was making grabs at the candy on the shelves before the checkout counter, and his mom was patiently telling him to wait until they got home. His response was "But I want it!". His mom kept her cool, repeating what she told him at least five times, calmly every time. And her son answered with the same response until she pulled the cart past the candy and the temptation was out of view. I knew how he felt. We both wanted to follow our impulses, and we both had to wait until we got home. I wanted to offer him my last piece of gum, but I decided that there was no need. If his mother said "wait", then he should wait. As should I.

Thinking about it reminded me of a verse in Paul's first letter to Timothy, where he told him that "...godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either."

The whole experience of walking into a store is a spiritual struggle of contentment for me. I am told on every aisle how much I need this "new and improved" product to be happy. When I was younger, I felt immune to this kind manipulation. Have I grown softer or is the advertising more effective? The discipline to stick to my shopping list (and budget) is no small feat. I wonder if I should pray before shopping? I think I will start. Perhaps memorizing some "shopping" scriptures would help a lot, too. Because outside of the store, everything is clear. Once I step inside, especially Target, it seems altogether too cloudy.

Materialism. Gotta hate it. But the only thing that shows me the truth is being close to God and His word. I used to be so good at the long term gratification stuff, when did I get weak? Has my American culture finally seized me? Or rather, have I not let God seize me enough? I've always known that my walk with God will always affect the way I think, speak and live. I've forgotten that the slide away from Him is subtle and slow, until it is too late. But I don't want to go where the slide leads me. Heaven knows, it is a long way down. I heard that C.S. Lewis wrote something to the effect that Satan would rather distract a Christian from God to the point of being ineffectual and powerless. Something like that.

So, instead of being annoyed at a slow checkout lane and a screaming kid, I was thankful. I am also thankful that God will use candy in the express lane to show me that it doesn't satisfy like He does. He is the only comfort I need. I can wait.

"My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken." Psalm 62: 1-2

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nine Years Old

I am getting to my ninth year anniversary in my job at Starbucks. In customer service in the food industry, it's the equivelant of 18 years. Yeah, it feels like a long, long time.

I first started back in 1999, I walked into the Starbucks at the mall closest to my home for coffee to fuel my job search. I had spent a year working with my husband's co-worker, who moonlighted as a manager of a Krystal's drive through with his wife and eldest daughter. I worked the breakfast shift as a manager of a two person team--me and Miss Jean from 5:30 am to 9am. I was ready for a change--any change.

The barista who poured my coffee asked me how my day was--her name was Susan, an elementary school teacher whose second job was working at Starbucks. She was my favorite barista, who always knew that all I wanted on a weekday was a grande coffee with room and on weekends, a pound of coffee with a tall nonfat hazelnut latte. Susan whipped out an application form and told me a new store was opening on Marietta Parkway. The manager was taking applications that day in the store. She took me to him and introduced me, and we made an appointment for an interveiw on the spot. The next day I was hired. I was apprehensive and thrilled at the same time. I knew that baristas worked hard, and I was in constant awe of them. And now I was about to be one.

I was about to learn how to call drinks and make them and know all what there is to know about coffee. I was about to wear a green apron and look cool in black and white. If I lasted the first week. What I didn't know at the time was I was hired to work at a drive through Starbucks in an area of huge demand. I've never worked at such a busy store before and never have since. I worked in stores all over Atlanta, in training and by picking up extra shifts. I made crazy over time money.

I eventually was promoted to shift supervisor within a few months and a few months after that I was slated to be a learning coach, teaching training classes on how to taste coffee. By the time I transferred to Denver Colorado, I had picked up four dollars on my hourly wage within two years. Because I transferred to a different market with a different pay rate, I picked up another dollar. And tips in Denver were much better than Atlanta. My tips went from 80 cents an hour to two dollars and more per hour. Which was great, since they changed all the overtime rules. No overtime pay for anyone any more.

I went from a really busy brand new drive through serving commuters in Atlanta to a quiet old mall store serving shoppers in Denver. Most mornings, we had rushes from the office workers in the high rises next door. Most weekends, we had rushes from the senior citizens living across the street. Most evenings, we had business mainly from moviegoers. Between floods, fires, roof collapsing and regular power outages and lots of blizzards, I actually liked my job.

No day was ever the same. No rush was ever the same. You couldn't predict what your day was going to be like, which partner wouldn't show up or which piece of equipment would break down. Or the sudden surge in demand for soy because of a nutritional news item in that day's morning paper. Or which local event the manager wouldn't know about that would bring a lot more customers to your store than you were prepared to handle. Eventually, I learned how to say to myself "Bring it on". Even when no one else was saying it.

I learned to appreciate the little things, like the partner who was always there, no matter what. The really patient customers. The manager who always knew the answers. The store down the road that always lent you extra soy, cups, lids and espresso even when they were running low themselves, because you've done the same for them.

In Denver, I learned how important it was to be that partner who was always there, willing to stay longer to run and get ice from Kroger when the ice machine broke down, willing to work a few more hours because a partner was sick, willing to handle the flood--getting stuff off the floor in the backroom when no one else wanted to get wet. I learned that sometimes I had to think on my feet.

Right now, my company has had more downs than ups lately. We've made some really good and drastic changes. This is the time in our country when you either sink or swim. It means, basically, fighting for our existence right now. So, bring it on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Song For You

When You See Her Say Hello--Bob Dylan

Covers of this song are all over Youtube, but none are as good as the original. Dylan's voice is not the best, but the way he sings makes your heart break along with his. No video is needed to enjoy the song, the audio is enough. That's when you know you're listening to a masterpiece, nothing needs to be added to the experience of hearing it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Dangerous Fruits

Yesterday, Ben gave a convicting message on 1 Kings 13 about two prophets. A prophet had a message that Jereboam didn't like. Jeroboam reached out to grab the prophet and as he did that, his arm became paralyzed. The king begged for his arm to be restored, and the prophet prayed for him it was healed. The king extended a friendly invitation for a meal, which the prophet refused in obedience to God's orders. He went home a different way than he came.

When he came across an old prophet in Bethel who invited him to have a meal with him, he refused at first. Then the old prophet said that he had another message from God saying it was okay, which was a lie. And the visiting prophet believed him and went home with him to enjoy his hospitality. During the meal, the word of God came upon the old prophet who told the visitor that he had disobeyed God and would die a violent death quickly and not be buried with his ancestors.

They finished eating and the prophet went on his way and got killed by a lion. The lion stood gaurd over the corpse with the donkey standing on the other side and the word got back to the old prophet about a lion standing by a dead body. The old prophet figured it out and went and got the dead prophet's body and buried it in his own tomb prepared for his own funeral one day. The old prophet told his sons that the dead man's prophecy would come true and to bury him next to the dead prophet that visited him. Meanwhile, the sex and religion shrines that the prophet had shared God's word against continued to be built with Jeroboam's support.

Ben's message was pretty simple--the younger prophet was punished for believing a message that contradicted the one he heard from God himself. Although he was decieved, like Eve in the garden, he was still responsible. No excuses. Ben gently and quietly challenged us about how we are living according to the truth we know from the Scriptures, and if we are compromising in any way by believing lies that contradict God's written word.

In the past, I felt comfortable buying and reading any book I bought from a Christian publisher. After I graduated from college, I bought a book about healing from sexual abuse. It was about the most expensive book I ever bought up to that point, but I felt that it would be helpful as I worked out some issues in my life. As I read it, I realized that as helpful as some of the chapters were, the authors had a different world view than mine and were promoting sin as a way to deal with some of the problems, even though the book was bought at a Christian bookstore and was recommended to me by several believers.

I was living with an older woman from my church who was mentoring me in how to live and grow as a Christian single in Seattle. She asked me about the book, and I told her it was good with revealing and describing hurts that I didn't know how to address, but that I was taking it back to the bookstore and getting a refund. She asked why and I told her that the book was subtle in its persuasive support of a lie and that even though it was helpful, I was in too vulnerable a position to let this book influence me so much. She applauded my discernment. I told her it wasn't the first time that it happened to me. I had bought a book in college about forgiveness, and took it back even though the author was a pastor because I didn't like the chapter he wrote about forgiving God. It ran smack against a verse I memorized in Numbers 23:19 about how God does not lie nor does He need to repent. But I lost the receipt, and couldn't get my money--my very hard earned $4.95 by babysitting, monitoring salad bar in a dining hall, laboring in a tree nursery and washing dishes at a mexican restaurant--back. So, from then on, I always kept receipts.

When I buy books by secular authors, I expect a different view point from mine and that's okay. I can weed out the chaff from the grain. I'm not looking to these books for spiritual truth. But when I buy books by people who are in positions of spiritual authority or are saying they are teaching God's truth, it is an entirely different thing. Especially if what they are preaching or saying contradicts what I know Scripture says.

An old friend critiqued a book that has been popular among men in addressing Christian masculinity. Indeed, even I had read it and thought it was okay at first even though it seemed to "re-interpret" old Christian ways of handling issues, like teaching sons how to deal with bullies. The old honorable way of walking away when provoked was replaced with showing the bully not to mess with you. So much for loving one's enemies. My friend's critique dissected the popular book aggressively marketed by a Christian publisher with surgical precision.

Since then, several books that have had big name endorsements and widely read by Christians have been shown to be false. That has not been surprising. What is surprising is how many Christians, who should know better, are defending these books. I guess what is happening is that a lot of people are letting authors press their emotional buttons instead of using their heads. This is a dangerous place to be. There are no excuses. Not for Eve, not for prophets, not for us.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Prayer Story

In 1988, Dennis was looking for a job before he graduated in December from WSU in Pullman, WA. I was merely a friend, but we had a few casual dates during this time when he visited Seattle, over six hours away by car from Pullman. Back then, there were no pc's and long distance calls were expensive. The main way I communicated long distance was through hand written letters. During this time, I wrote Dennis more letters than I sent. The letters I sent were cautious and restrained, almost impersonal. The personal ones I kept to myself.

Eventually, Dennis did accept a job offer in California. What surprised me was that he called me long distance from California after his second interview in late November. And I was speechless when he said that he was going to work in California. I had been praying that he'd accept a job offer in Seattle, and I saw God's answer to my prayers were "no". My train of thought at that time was that God was also saying "no" to my friendship with Dennis ever progressing into something more serious. And also that whatever casual friendship I had with him was going to be even more distant than it was. I was feeling a dear friend slip through my fingers at that moment and there was only one response I could think of. I congratulated him. I mustered up as much enthusiasm that I could find and told him he was in my prayers. Since it was long distance, it was a brief conversation. Besides, I could not think of anything else to say.

At this point, I was used to a lot of romantic disappointment in my life, giving it and recieving it. I didn't date a lot and I never had a serious relationship except a romance that lasted a spring semester during my freshman year. (Yeah, it was only five months but my heart was broken afterwards for a year.) So, when Dennis basically called and said indirectly to me that there was nothing drawing him to Seattle, it was par for course. I was 27 and decided at that moment that it was time for me to be serious about being single for the rest of my life. Not that I had given up hope, but it was my responsibility to be realistic. In my singles group at my church, most were over 30. My closest friends were my age and single without any prospects for husbands.

Besides, I worked overtime with very little time to spare for a serious relationship or even dating. And with lifelong singleness looming over my horizon, I was about work even harder at building a career in my field. My consequent letters to Dennis after his announcement were basically reports of recent promotions and pay raises, which happened relatively quickly after only one month. My extra time on the job was paying off and I had a bright future with the company. The president of the company, Jim, was a Christian and asked me about Dennis at one point. I told him he decided to go work in California. Jim, as sensitively as he could, suggested that maybe it wasn't "meant to be". I never said anything to Jim about Dennis, but I'm sure he heard it through the grapevine that I liked a guy. Jim encouraged me that God had other plans for me, I guess my countenance showed my disappointment.

In my quiet times, though, was my strength. God showed me that although I took a risk in having feelings for Dennis, it was a healthy and good risk even though it didn't go the way I that I desired. And instead of anger and bitterness, I was glad and thankful that God did bring a good and honorable man to me as a friend. I got to the point where I was able to articulate this to my friends and co-workers. And I did pray that God would bless him, cause him to grow spiritually and meet his needs for fellowship. I kept a small prayer journal dedicated to several specific prayer requests that I had prayed for Dennis as well as Scripture verses about where those prayer requests originated from. I determined that if God opened a way for me to give the journal as a gift to Dennis before the end of the year, I would. If not, I would burn it as an offering to Him and that would be the end of my prayers for Dennis.

Long story short, Dennis visited me at Christmas and I gave him the journal along with a book about effective prayer by J. Oswald Sanders that I loved. I just found the book this morning by his Bible, he read parts of it during his quiet time early this morning before he went to work at 5am. And did God answer my prayers for Dennis that I recorded in the journal? Yes, every one of them and none of them had anything to do with me. And He continues to answer them to this day. He just gave me the blessing to be around to see it.

"I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live." Psalm 116:1-2

Tozer Time

From A.W. Tozer's Renewed Day by Day:

"Why is it that the professed Christian church seems to have learned so little from our Lord's plain teaching and example concerning human failure and success? We are still seeing as men see and judging after the manner of man's judgement.... The Christian should turn away fro all this. No man is worthy to succeed until he is willing to fail.... until he is willing that the honor of succeeding should go to another if God so wills. God may allow His servant to succeed when He has disciplined him to a point where he does not need to succeed to be happy...when he has learned that success does not make him dearer to God or more valuable in the total scheme of things."

I just read that above from Ruth Myer's The Perfect Love. Now, it's time to get to sleep.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Late Night Blogging is Bad For My Health

It's late, I know. I got out of work late because some equipment malfunctioned right before we left and I had to call it in. On the way home, I realized we were out of milk for breakfast and stopped to buy some and a mango on sale. When I finally got home, there was my hubby putting out the trash; he was supposed to be in bed a long time ago because he has to be at work at 5am. Because I wasn't home on time, he wasn't keeping track while doing some work on the computer. It had to be done before he could go to bed, so he was up anyway. I drank iced coffee to get through the night at work, and now I can't sleep. Iced coffee is pretty potent stuff. So, I blog. I am crazy.

I've been reading Reason For God by Tim Keller. I thank God for this book. In fact, I'm thankful for a lot of books I've read that helped me grow in following Christ. When I was in college, I started with my first serious book during my sophmore year, The Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges. I was a relatively new to the Bible and had just started being discipled. I couldn't get past the first chapter for four months, it was hard for me to read. But I kept trying. I took it with me to read it during the summer, in the park on Sunday afternoons, my only day off in the week. It finally clicked sometime in July, probably because out of my frustration I started praying that God would help me understand. Before this book, I didn't read anything more challenging than Ann Kiemel books. (After Kiemel got married, she almost disappeared until she wrote her last book about how she and her husband became adoptive parents). After Bridges, a door to my heart and mind swung open. I read A.W. Tozer, Amy Carmichael, Francis Schaeffer, Charles Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, Hannah Hurnard, Elizabeth Elliot, C.S. Lewis (who knew that he wrote more than the Narnia Chronicles?)...a whole new world with new biblical thought and a new biblical vocabulary.

For a long period between the time I graduated and maybe until now, very few books I read since then came close to the classics that fed me during college. I think I fell into the Christian "self help" book pit for a long time, where I read about boundaries, hedges in marriage, building my mate's self-esteem, love languages, and making peace with my past. They weren't the only books I read, but a majority. I almost fell into a "New Kind of Christian" pit full of Brian McClaren and Rob Bell type of books, but it was a brief and shallow pit. For a little while after that, I just read my Bible, like my husband always does. Occasionally, I found a book that challenged me such as Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias or The Question of God by Dr. Armand Nicholi, Jr.

Things have changed since then. I will explain why later. It's getting late, and I don't want to be still up when my husband's alarm goes off. I will also explain why we have this silly work arrangement sometime, too. If you have a suggestion for a good book to read, feel free to comment.

Except for Confessions by Augustine. Please, I've already tried. No can do. Maybe some other day, but not today. Thanks, anyway.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hawaii Story 4

I have green eyes. Kind of amazing considering that my dad is known to be mostly Hawaiian, and my Granny Silva was considered pure Hawaiian. There aren't many of them left. My father was adopted by Grandpa Silva, and we never found out who is natural father was, Granny's secret. My father thinks he was from Makawao, a paniolo, a Hawaiian cowboy. So, when I was born, it sort of answered a few questions. Somewhere in the family tree, a great-great-great grandmother knew a guy, maybe a sailor, with green eyes. Hawaiians tend to do everything from the heart, so casual sex was not considered dishonorable. But a bond of love was important. There are reports of Hawaiian women pursuing caucasian men out of a desire to have light eyed children. If that was true of an ancient ancestor, she would have had to wait a very long time to see her light-eyed descendent.

In fact, very few things about me look Hawaiian. As I was growing up, it was often remarked how different I was. For one, I tanned differently. I didn't have the rich taupe tan that my siblings had (a couple of them stay tan all of the time), with a lavender skin tone or the high cheekbones, either. My hair bleached blonde and my skin went into a golden tan instead. Later in the '80's when it was the rage among women to know their "season", I could never tell. My skin has bluish green veins--blue was considered "cool" season and green was "warm". My eyes have flecks of gold and my skin has a gold tone. One of my sisters is a feminine replica of our dad with her eyes, facial structure as well as body structure. When I watch the hula videos, I see resemblences between the dancers and members of my family. I don't see anyone looking like me. I expect not to.

This was tough for a long time. First, I have an uncommon first name. An "ethnic" last name before marriage. Once, on a first day of school, the teacher did the first roll call of the year and when she came to my name, she thought I made a mistake when I raised my hand. It happened every fall I went to a new school, there would be confusion between my appearence and my name. They were looking for a brown skinned girl, not the golden skinned green-eyed girl with the sun kissed hair from spending the whole summer swimming or biking. My siblings had none of these problems.

After awhile, it became too important to me to stress my hawaiian blood. I was proud of it, but it wouldn't have been noticed unless I said something. While still living at home, in a small town, everybody knew us, so no one had to be told what I was. They could just look at my family, which weren't easy to miss. After I left home to be in college, this was tough.

A friend in college pointed out that I held on to this identity issue too hard. She didn't realize that I was afraid of forgetting where I came from. I didn't want to cut off all ties to family, as independent I tended to be, I never thought of myself as completely caucasian. And truth be told, didn't want to be. I struggled with this until I learned to thank my Maker, who created me to be who I am. I've finally come to terms that I look like my beautiful mother so much so that when I see old photographs of her, I have to look twice to realize it isn't me.

Things started to change before I graduated and accepted that I was just passing through this world and I was going to live much longer in the next. That no matter where I went, God created me and knew me and that my identity was wrapped up in being His daughter. I was ready to face the world that knew nothing about me and liable to put labels on me that could never contain the real me. I am not the summation of my ancestory, personality, appearence or gifts, I am more than that through Christ because through His blood, I belong to Him by adoption.

"But there's far more to life for us. We're citizens of high heaven! We're waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him." The Message, Philippians 3: 2-17

So, with a French last name, I'm glad God showed me not to be hung up on bloodline or last names before. When people sometimes tell me I don't look French, I laugh. Neither does my husband. And who cares?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Final Notes About Hula

I've enjoyed watching lovely hula on youtube, and I've noticed a few things about the Miss Aloha part of the Merrie Monarch competition. Miss Aloha is basically solo hula, the contestants do both the ancient kahiko and the westernized 'auana hula forms. Kahiko involves perfect chant in Hawaiian, and traditional dress--modified by bloomers under the full skirts and tank tops instead of near naked like some of the kane or male kahiko hula. How "traditional" will some go?

The winners of Miss Aloha for the last three or four years have not been the thinnest among the dancers, in fact among the runners up, they are actually the biggest women. All of the women have been practicing hula since they were small children or nearly all their lives. All of the women display amazing grace and presence. But it is the larger women that seem to possess a quality of strength missing among the smaller competitors. They included a lot of steps that display their power, that gives one goosepimples (Hawaiians call it "chicken skin") as they move across the stage.

When missionaries came to Hawaii, they discouraged hula for some good reasons among the Hawaiians that received the Good News of Jesus. But they misunderstood the importance of dance in Hawaiian culture, and the impact that hula would have if it was directed towards worship of the Lord, and sharing the Word with others. Hula is the heart language of the people, it would have gone a long way for them to know God's love conveyed to them in this way. The above video is of "Shout to The Lord" in Hawaiian, with a dance. If you can't see it on my blog, you can go here.

In the above clip, women from Grace Church in Maui danced to My Redeemer Lives in Lahaina in order to proclaim the Gospel. They are also using sign language. You can go here to see it.

Earthly Concerns

One struggle I have is remembering what is important sometimes to me isn't important to God.

And I shudder to think that what God deems important I forget about.

He really doesn't care about the color of my hair, for instance. Or whether my shoes match my outfit. Or what I'm cooking for dinner tonight. Or how I'm going to find homes for three or four kittens. The last time I dusted the blinds. Or my plans for my garden. These things can easily burn up a lot of my brain cells but I have to remember that these are not eternal concerns.

I can make a long list about what I think about a lot which doesn't mean a lot in heaven. But I need to filter out the unneccessary stuff with the question "What difference will this make a million years from now?". Some things will actually matter. Most will not.

So, as my day is made up with a thousand trivial things like, cleaning the litter box, I'm glad my life is not the sum of them.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rebel Fredo

Fredo, orange tabby male kitten, is sitting on my lap. He's the biter I've written about before. To help him out of that, I spend more time with him apart from his brothers and sisters.

All of them have quit scratching me, and are substantially more relaxed when I pick them up than before. Fredo will often purr whenever I hold him. He will bite, but it isn't a fearful vicious bite like when he was a couple of weeks younger. It is a gentle holding bite instead. The kittens have quit playing rough with each other, too. They will tumble and wrestle, but the claws stay in and the bites aren't strong. All signs of well socialized kittens.

Having so many kittens caused Dennis and me to consider giving them away as soon as possible. I changed my mind when I kept reading how kittens become more secure and stable and ready to bond when they are at least 12 weeks old. The kits are now in their 12th week and I see the difference. They are ready now to be companions for humans because they've learned how to be friends with each other.

Fredo will stay with us a little longer, I think, to get over some of his insecurity and begin to trust.

We once had a kitten that turned out to be really insecure her whole life. She attacked our friends with bites and scratches. She never acted that way with us, but she really had a tough time bonding with us. We adopted her from the pound, she was my birthday present, but she turned out to be Dennis' cat more than mine. She was six weeks old at the time and full of fleas. This was before modern once a month flea treatments, so I had to flea dip her and give her a lot of baths. I thought her hysterics were common among felines until last year when during my visit, my sister and brother-in-law found a stray kitten, about 12 weeks old and gave him a bath. He was fine with it, didn't cry or carry on like he was about to drown. He trusted that we weren't out to kill him.

It's the same with my litter of kittens and clipping their claws. Three of them had their first clip at the vet office, but the other three didn't have their clipped. It showed a few weeks later when Dennis and I attempted to do it on all six. The three who had it done to them before had no problems, even Crema who carried on like she was dying at the vet office. She was ready for a manicure again, and went through the procedure like she was at a nail salon. This was unimaginable behavior for our first cat who could never relax no matter how many times she had her claws clipped.

Fredo might turn out a little like her, but I'm hoping not. When they were a few weeks old, I watched their mother carry them one by one from one room to another. When she went to grab Fredo by the scruff, he cried and fought back at her, clawing at her face. She pushed him down and carried him almost all the way and accidentally dropped him. Maybe she dropped him once too many before. But then, if he'd just relax, less dropping would occur.

But now he's playing on my lap, trying to type on the keyboard, purring loudly. I think Fredo will be alright.

Love Surrounds Us

A love song composed by a Hawaiian married couple for each other, a beloved classic in the Islands. I particularly like the beginning, when the girls sing acappella, beautiful. The song, Aloha No, means "Love Surrounds Us".

What God Can Do

"Only God's perfect love can deliver us from our inability to love others. How often have you been frustrated because you were unable to love family members or friends as perfectly as you wanted? Occasionally something comes out of you that is just the opposite of how you really feel. You know you're supposed to love them, yet in little ways here and there you find yourself hurting them instead. But as we more and more embrace and rest in God's love for us, the experience of that love empowers us to more freely channel it to others." Ruth Myers, The Perfect Love

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Conversation Du Engagement

During our engagement, Dennis and I had a few long talks about expectations. We both admitted that we each didn't know what we expected, but we agreed it was an important thing to talk about. My husband had the disadvantage of seeing his parents get divorced when he was in grade school. My parents had a long and very good marriage (until my mom died 12 years later). It didn't take a genius to figure out that our two vastly different family experiences were going to affect us. But it was a foregone conclusion that my background enabled me to see marriage more clearly.

After awhile, we learned that it really didn't matter whose parents' marriage was better than whose. God would teach us every day, every hour and every minute of our lives that we need Him in order to make our relationship work. It was that simple, and that hard at the same time. We found out that the more we sought God, enjoyed Him and obeyed Him, we enjoyed our marriage more. The less we pursued God, the less we understood and appreciated our spouse.

A few developments showed us that our initial pre-marital discussions about our expectations were a little flawed. Even though my mom and dad had a good marriage, from what I saw, I discovered that they had issues. Some they resolved very well and some they never quite could. The advantage that Dennis had from learning from his parents was the humility to admit that he didn't know much about marriage, as well as a deep conviction that arguements solved nothing. Two things that I deeply needed to learn myself and over time, hopefully I have.

I remember from that early expectations discussion was Dennis was adamant only over one thing. He didn't like it when women wore sloppy, baggy sweats all day and really didn't want to see me dressing that way unless I was in a gym. He felt that women should look like women. This was going to be a challenge for me, but I accepted it. In college, I dressed a combination of both feminine and less feminine ways. I had a lot of men's clothing, cast-offs from my brother and Dad as well as items, like jeans jackets,and shirts, that I actually bought from the men's department thinking that they looked kind of outdoorsy and practical as well. Dennis said that in college, I wasn't among the worst of the baggy sweats offenders, but I didn't hear him say I was the best, either. I got the point.

I told my mom what my future husband's preferences for my appearence were. She tactfully chose her words. The more stylish clothing I possessed came from shopping trips that my sister and Mom took, without me being around. I got this point, too. She also addressed the fact that I dressed for comfort more than appearence, which wasn't wrong, but I needed to learn how to combine the two. She also assured me that Dennis loved me and would always think I was beautiful. But the unspoken truth of what she, my sister and maybe most of the women of my family really thought of my appearence became apparent to me. They probably thought I dressed like a lesbian. It hurt, because it was untrue. I was not out to attract women.

Even though it was a way of discouraging unwanted male attention. But I was never successful. I had (and hopefully still have) a feminine face, smile, and eyes that drew men towards me and no amount of jeans and plaid shirts could disguise them. As a single woman living and working in Seattle, that became clear as day whenever I was at the grocery store, coffee shop, bus stop, workplace and church. It made me feel uncomfortable, for several painful reasons stemming from my childhood. God, in His goodness and soveriegnty, wanted me to marry, and He pretty much worked that out despite how I dressed or what I endured as a kid.

And oh, yes, what did I I say I expected during our premarital expectations talk? That my husband would love God and love me unconditionally. It hasn't been easy for him but so, far, I haven't been disappointed.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hawaii Story 3

When I was seven, my Auntie Maggie and Uncle Clarence Ho'opi'i came to visit us in North Dakota. They were from Hawaii and they brought three of my cousins who turned out to be a lot of fun and a hoot to play with. One summer afternoon while seated gracefully on our living room floor, lovely Aunt Maggie told all us girls it was time for a dance lesson. My cousins knew a lot already about the basics even though they were five, four and two years old respectively. My four year old sister, Frances, and I knew nothing, even though we had heard all our dad's hawaiian records for as long as we lived. My six year old brother, John, sat down on the living room couch, ready to make fun of our show. Dad sat next to him, admonishing me and my sister to listen and remember everything our Auntie Maggie taught us, that she is one of Maui's best.

I was excited, I had no idea what we were doing. There was some dancing when we visited Maui when I was five, but I wasn't paying attention. So I had a vague idea where this might be going. What surprised me is that Auntie Maggie had us start with our feet. Our feet? I remembered in the island that there was a lot of arm and hip movement, but nothing about feet. Auntie Maggie explained all hula grows from the position of our feet. So she had us silently standing straight with our feet pointing forward, wanting us correct our posture and hold our heads upright. No looking down at our feet.

She had us take one step to the side, then bring the other foot together. Then back again. We practiced this a lot. Then two steps to the one side, then two steps to the other. Slide. She then showed us how hula grows from the position of our feet. As she took her two steps sideways, her hip slowly followed forward, then back, rolling like the ocean. At this point, I was totally overwhelmed. Auntie Maggie had a talent that I could not see me ever having. And for the first time, as she concentrated on me more than my younger sister and cousins, I felt the pressure of having to be the eldest and do something perfectly.

The next lesson was about the arms. The arms! My favorite part. She showed us two basic movements, one depicting a coconut tree and the other gentle waves on a beach. The hard part was putting the arms and feet and hips in a dance together. After awhile, I finally caught on, but it wasn't easy. With my dad sitting there, my sister and cousins following me, my brother ready to laugh at me and Mom watching, it seemed like a whole lot of pressure. I was not famous for being co-ordinated. But Auntie Maggie seemed to like what I was doing, and was extremely patient until she got the result she wanted.

She then broke out in a demonstration of what hula was about. In our living room, dressed in white slacks and a pale pink sleeveless collared blouse, looking like a very contemporary 1960's young slim Hawaiian mother, she became the expression of what Hawaiian culture is all about. It was about love, nature, history and family. Nothing was hurried, she took her time and time stood still. Even in the muggy heat of a Dakotan summer in our living room, we were back in Maui as I discovered the possibility of actually being in two entirely different places at the same time. One you carry in your heart.

Being a Christian is a lot like this. We live here, but we also have a different spiritual kingdom ruled by God that we co-exist in.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hula 'Auana

Among the different Hawaiian dances--the repertoire includes emotional, historical and spiritual themes--my favorite type is the westernized Hula 'Auana, the form that developed after the arrival of missionaries to the islands.

Hula 'Auana is probably the form you are more familiar with--the slow swaying and the arm waving from side to side is often the caricature portrayed of Hawaiian dance. But it is so much more complex than it looks. Hula is often taught by "kumu" or masters of the dance, who don't just pass on the dance techniques but also the cultural and moral values that sustain the Hawaiian identity. They possess and pass on the oral knowledge so that Hawaiian history would not vanish but live on.

A kumu will often spend as much time lecturing about the spirit of the hula as he would train his students in the dance choreography. There is a set of disciplines that involve the whole mind, heart and body, you can not truly know the hula unless you are putting 100% of yourself into it. With the basic few moves that you learn comes a multitude of creative possibilities to execute the story you are telling through the dance. To acheive anything in the hula, you have to face many challenges. Most dancers find it emotionally exhausting and exhilerating at the same time. For them, it's more than a performance. It often drives them to a point of vulnerability both emotionally and physically.

In America, it is wrestling or boxing. In Korea, you have tae kwon do. In Japan, there is karate. In China, shaolin kung fu. In Hawaii, it is hula. In fact, most martial arts are a type of dance. In fact, there is a hula about surfing.

In the previous post, I included a YouTube video of women dancing Hula 'Auana. They are wearing muumuu's with high necks, fitted bodices, long sleeves and full skirts, like around the 1800's when the missionaries were introducing clothing. The music is extremely slow and the women move to it with smaller, gentler gestures than the ancient hulas. Hula in Hawaii has never been the fast hip dance like in Tahiti. The ancient hula typically includes a mele or a chant, as well as more abrupt and forceful moves. When the beat picks up, like in a war chant (purity warning, this link involves men in loincloth but it isn't as revealing as men in ballet wearing tights, which in my opinion is much more, um, obvious), the moves do get faster, but it usually involves more steps and complicated arm movements.

Hula 'Auana is more poetic, and because of Christian influence, became a form of prayer as well. In the previous video, the troupe simulate the graceful movements of nature, as nature includes signs of God's aloha or love, as expressed in Romans 1:19-20. So the dance is an acknowledgement of God as seen in His creation. As a group, the women become the waves on the ocean, a group of trees swaying in the wind, the sun shining brightly, colorful fish swimming in the water and dewy tropical flowers blossoming in the forest. All that God has made shows His invisible qualities, especially His aloha. In the beginning of the dance, the narrator ends his poem about aloha with "Mahalo Makua", which means "Thank you, Father God"--"Makua" is specific to the God of the Bible and used in prayer.

So, I thought I would write a little more about the Hula 'Auana so that you can appreciate what you are looking at as you watch the video.

John 1: 1-5
1In the beginning, the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn't make. 4Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone.

Halau Hula 'O Kawailiula 'Auana

From the Merrie Monarch 2003 Hula competition. I think this is the loveliest of the hulas, except for my godmother Aunt Maggie Silva's. When we were small, she used to teach us the dance. She danced for Granny, who was a highly esteemed dancer in Maui like she was.

There are Christian hula groups, including Ohana Praise from Saddleback Church in California that has seen their "Island Style Worship" of Jesus Christ turn into an evangelical outreach as they tour internationally. You can check out the performance to "Amazing Grace" by Chris Tomlin that was used in the movie:


"How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none." A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sufjan Stevens

This musician is from Petosky, Michigan. This is an intimate rendering of "Come Thou Fount".

And From Your Eyes

Not only by the words we say,
Not merely by our deeds confessed,
But in a most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed.

To me, 'twas not the truth you taught,
To you so clear, to me so dim,
But when you came to me you brought
A sense of Him.

And from your eyes He beckons me,
And from your heart His love is shed
'Til I lose sight of you, and see
The Christ instead.

A.S. Wilson "Indwelt"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"He who keeps a royal command experiences no trouble, for a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every delight, when a man's trouble is heavy upon him." Ecclesiastes 8:5-6

These were memory verses of a good friend while I was in college. When he shared them, I looked them up later and realized that these could apply to me. This particular friend was structured in managing his time, and I was anything but. Proper times and procedures for things seemed like a chemistry lab experiment. I had a lot of chemistry labs, and they taught me a lot about following directions and observation. But that was a controlled environment, so unlike real life were there could be numerous variables and unpredictability.

That I, through skill, could deal with life's troubles kind of blew my mind. It involved timing and doing the right things the right way, specifically for "every delight". I've meditated on these verses for years. The idea that keeps coming back to me is that what I once thought was the "right way" doesn't seem like that to me anymore. As I've gotten older, life's complications makes having the "proper time and procedures" a little more harder to know. I guess that's why it takes an exceptionally wise heart.

I've found out that it is less about having a systematic way of approaching a problem and more about trusting God to help me get a broader view of it. Things eventually fall into place and if they don't, it is out of my ability to handle or control it. Acceptence goes an extremely long way. Minding my own business and doing my own part as well as letting God, and other people, do theirs. In that sense, I am keeping myself under a royal command or in other words, under God's control.

As for my old friend, I hope these verses guided him well over the years. At the time he shared these verses, he was applying them towards his love life. Which also blew my mind back then. For me, that area of my life seemed like a sink or swim proposition. I was flayling around in the murky waters of dating, trying to hang onto Jesus for dear life. Making wise decisions about how to operate in matters of the heart appeared to be important but also very difficult. And I was right, as experience bore out. There was no amount of wisdom that can protect myself from getting my heart broken, but wisdom proved to be a lifeline in the midst of the pain. Again, there is no easy way to love, but love can ease the way.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I was watching a bit of a movie a while ago, an old one. The husband is taking off for work in the morning, saying good bye to his wife who sat at her vanity table putting on nail polish. It was just a blip in the plot, but it stuck with me as several impressions flashed in my brain circuitry. One was remembering that it was established earlier in the movie that the couple was well off enough to have a housekeeper. The other was that this woman had nothing to do with her time except work at looking good. And sure enough, the wife's next scene was her greeting her husband looking better than good. Like her main purpose in life was being his ornament. But since she was such a lovable character as well, no one held it against her. A perfect companion--no complaining, no demands, no mood swings, no hormones and certainly no problems. She was free from any concerns of her own to be available to him.

Loving her would be easy.

But in real life, love is not easy. Not for me, at least. And I don't assume it is for my dear hubby either. When we were dating, we talked about how many deep personal flaws we each had. I told Dennis that I had plenty of baggage to unpack and I didn't know how long it would take. Which is an understatement. After we exchanged vows, my few suitcases turned into several steamer trunks. Den's has remained just a few pieces of luggage still, with the locks stuck and the keys lost, resistent to opening but at least we got some of the carry-ons taken care of.

And you know, I don't want to open the rest. I just accept that they exist. And that God knows the contents and really, only He understands what's in there. He carries the burdens and shows me how to love and accept love. It's not easy, because of selfishness and sin. I'm learning that the most valuable and closest connections happen through sacrifices and work. If it was easy, would it be as wonderful? I doubt it.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Hello? Myanmar?

I read the news reports about Myanmar's refusal to let aide in to help the cyclone victims. The UN flew 38 tons of food and survival materials to take care of 95,000 people for one day. The government refused to let them distribute it and so it is all sitting on the tarmac. Under these circumstances, the UN cannot bring in more supplies. The Prime Minister of Australia is baffled as visas for Autstralian aide volunteers are delayed, saying that he's never seen anything like this before. China, a longtime friend of Myanmar's, has been trying to persuade them to allow outside help, to no avail. The US military is positioned to air drop food and supplies without touching down. A Myanmar politician is trying to convince his country to concentrate on helping the cyclone victims instead of continuing on to hold an election to ratify a constitutional amendment to strengthen military power, also to no avail.

Even worse, I read this snippet of a CNN report:

"To complicate matters, Myanmar's embassy in Bangkok, Thailand -- where aid groups have been waiting for days for entry permission -- was closed Friday for a holiday."

Does anyone have an explanation as to why Myanmar is behaving this way? The only lame excuse I see written is how Myanmar has been closed to the outside world since 1962, but I tell you, it is no real explanation. To what extent do the citizens languish before the decisionmakers in their government start to take action? If at all?

The only thing that I can think of is that the government is frightened and distrustful. It is in a vulnerable position that it has never been in before. And, I don't think that they really understand the magnitude of their problem. But that's letting them off too easily. There is something more sinister here. I would call it evil.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Garden Talk

Today, I worked on the yard while my dog supervised. All she wants to do is play, so she is a lousy boss. I spent most of the day out of doors pulling weeds and thinning out perennials that have overgrown. I think I pulled at least three bushels of plant material.

But as I worked, I had a lot of breaks. Veronica from next door came over to chat, she had a ton of gardening to do, too. And Jennifer and her girls drove by, always chatty. It was a nice day, so people were out walking and stopping to chat.

Jennifer keeps saying that we have the prettiest yard in the neighborhood. I think that might have been true for our first four years here, but last year was pretty mediocre and this year is definately a rebuilding year. I wish I had taken pictures from years before, but the memories are still clear.

We had hostas in the front in a circle, with phlox banking fluffily around them. But the strawberry plants have overrun the circular design and the sweet woodruff is out of control. I pulled what was left of the phlox, it has not come back in its usual glorious display this year. Half the hostas are not reappearing, so now the beautiful circle is a horseshoe, facing north.

The tulips were lovely this year, but some are a puzzle, looking a little worn. My imperial fritilleria did not bloom this year. It was about to last year before a big freeze got it. The time for the bulbs is just about over, and it is time to plant hardy annuals before we spread the mulch down. I bought 2 tomato plants, hoping that this would be a great year for a little vegetable garden.

Veronica has told me that deer have been visiting through our back yards. A stag and a couple of does with their fawns early in the morning and around sunset every day for the last two weeks.
I have to do a little pruning and dividing hostas tomorrow morning, so I might see them.

Despite all the hard dirty work, I find gardening relaxing. Especially when everything works out well. And that is one of the benefits of living in Michigan, the soil is a nice loam here. Not like sand in California or clay in Georgia. It reminds me of the soil in eastern Washington state. I used to work in a tree nursery during my summer college breaks, taking care of baby apple and cherry trees, many of which were shipped to Michigan. When we go to Traverse City, I wonder if some of the cherry trees I grafted are still growing there.

If things work out, I'll take pictures. At this point, I feel like tearing most everything out and starting all over again.

Spring Is Here!

Sunscreen. Check.

Garden gloves. Check.

Hat. Check.

Garden tools. Check.

The dog and I have yardwork to do. See you later.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Not Your Typical Movie

Finally. I watched "I'm Not There" and it was as wonderful and complex as I heard it was.

It was refreshing to see that a person can have many layers and a biography need not be a linear account of "he did this and later, he did that". And it was great to see that the makers did not flinch from the spiritual themes in Dylan's life. They fully took it in and even worked the theme of being born again and salvation into the storyline. Several personas "die" but interestingly, some do not. For instance a charming, lying, faking poser transforms into a seeker of truth. How ironic is that?

I'll spare you my critique and plot summation. But I will say I laughed sometimes --Julianne Moore as a type of Joan Baez was hilarious to me ("I thought he was just this twerp hanging around ...we were all amazed at the music that came out of that little toad...and those lyrics, he was churning them out like ticker tape..."). The acting, all around, was great.

It was nice to see an American movie that wasn't your typical American movie. Well, it wasn't about a typical American musician. Take that, American Idol.
I do recommend the soundtrack CD. The difficult thing about listening to Dylan's music is listening to Dylan. The CD is a compilation of various of current artists, the old songs are given a contemporary touch without a loss of Dylan's meaning.

Monday, May 05, 2008

At Last!

The film "I'm Not There" came out in two theaters in all of Michigan last fall, so I'm pretty happy that the DVD is coming out tomorrow. I'm looking forward to Cate Blanchett's protrayal of Dylan during the 1965 European Tour. Here's a clip from the trailer of an imaginary first meeting of Dylan and his friend, Alan Ginsberg.

Cry Awhile

When I went to the concerts, I wasn't smart enough to bring binoculars. The nice thing about this video, you see his face as he sings.

Yes, he sounds and looks pretty old. But I'm glad that he isn't quitting.

27 Feb 2002

Grammy Awards - LA

Well, I had to go down and see a guy named Mr. Goldsmith

A nasty, dirty, double-crossin', back-stabbin' phony

I didn't wanna have to be dealin' with

But I did it for you and all you gave me was a smile

Well, I cried for you - now it's your turn to cry awhile

I don't carry dead weight - I'm no flash in the pan

All right, I'll set you straight, can't you see I'm a union man?

I'm lettin' the cat out of the cage, I'm keeping a low profile

Well, I cried for you - now it's your turn, you can cry awhile

Feel like a fighting rooster - feel better than I ever felt

But the Pennsylvania line's in an awful mess and the Denver road is about to melt

I went to the church house, every day I go an extra mile

Well, I cried for you - now it's your turn, you can cry awhile

I'm on the fringes of the night, fighting back tears that I can't control

Some people they ain't human, they got no heart or soul

Well, I'm crying to The Lord - I'm tryin' to be meek and mild

Yes, I cried for you - now it's your turn, you can cry awhile

Well, there's preachers in the pulpits and babies in the cribs

I'm longin' for that sweet fat that sticks to your ribs

I'm gonna buy me a barrel of whiskey - I'll die before I turn senile

Well, I cried for you - now it's your turn, you can cry awhile

Well, you bet on a horse and it ran on the wrong way

I always said you'd be sorry and today could be the day

I might need a good lawyer, could be your funeral, my trial

Well, I cried for you, now it's your turn, you can cry awhile

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Miss Understood

Cool song; great lyrics. Check out Carolyn Wonderland's "Misunderstood".

Kitten Time

From the top: Vito, Vinnie and Gina.

Left to right: Gina, Vito and Vinnie.

Vinnie a.k.a. "Batman" in his "batcave".

Left to right: Fredo, Sonny and Crema

The kittens are still small and their mother is still nursing them. Despite their youth, they are jumping at least five times their own height. I should have known, since their momcat is an accomplished leaper. But it makes it hard to keep them corraled in our spare room, and I can only guess what this will mean as they get older. They are ten weeks old, and I don't want to adopt them out until they are at least 12 weeks old.

I've set aside money for vet bills, they just had their first round of shots last week, and are now officially de-wormed. Their next round of shots are next week, and they won't be neutered/spayed until June. Carly will be spayed in a few weeks, after she is done nursing. She doesn't nurse as often, but they still depend on her at least once daily.

Crema has turned out to be the most affectionate, she comes up to me and lays a paw softly on my arm and that's her signal that she wants to be petted. The rest just want to climb up the leg of my jeans and fight with my shoes. On occasion, I've had Sonny and Vito purring in my arms as they took a nap, but it doesn't happen often. This morning, after I fed them, about four of them jumped up to the window sill and huddled together as they groomed themselves and each other. Vinnie is still a loner and prefers eating by himself instead with everyone else around their dinner plate. Fredo is the biter, and although he behaved at the vet's office, I constantly have to watch out for him. I don't understand why he's so agressive-his twin brother, Vito, has never attempted to bite me and he's bigger. None of the others bite either.

I've decided to take Fredo out of the room to be with me by himself, and he has never bitten me during those times. So I'm wondering if it is his way of being playful with the other kittens and then also with me. I've seen Carly discipline the other kittens if they get too rough, but she doesn't intervene with him that I've seen.

All cats are not alike. They do have their own personalities and temperments.

Crema--tortoiseshell female; whines, gets special attention from her mama and generally acts like a princess--delicate, petite and sweet.

Gina--black female; ambitious jumper, fierce in playfights with her brothers and will always get her way. Sleek, slender and persistent.

Vito--orange shorthair male; the biggest of all the kittens, patient, and possesses a regal bearing--noble, gentle but will not be messed with.

Sonny--orange longhair male; fluffy, easy going and affable. He is the one most likely get himself stuck somewhere and generally is the clown of the bunch. Not the brightest.

Fredo--orange shorthair male; the second biggest, most creative escapee--he will hide in places that make him hard to find for hours. Insecure, impatient but affectionate when handled correctly.

Vinnie, a.k.a. "Batman"--black shorthair male; shy, gentle and aloof. But he stays close to his mother, seems like a sensitive guy.

From the top, clockwise: Gina, Sonny, Fredo, Vinnie, Vito. Crema is in the basket--they are all sitting on her and she's screaming loudly for them all to please get off. As usual, they are all acting like they don't know what the heck she's talking about.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Bad Hair Days

I'm writing about my hair again. As you might have read before, I decided to take the plunge and color my grey/white/sometimes silver hair. It was traumatic. I was a washed out dark blonde for a month and then morphed into a more appropriate light brunette. I was going to color it yet again this week, except for a small disaster while on vacation.

While hopping out of a cab in downtown Chicago, I banged my head on the sharp edge of the taxi's door. I had lunch with Dad and Starla anyway and put ice on the wound at the restaurant, it didn't seem too bad. Later, I went to the VA Navy Hospital at Great Lakes Naval Air Station where I was staying. Just finding my way through the maze on the hospital campus to the ER door after sundown was proof enough that I was okay, I guess. But I was relieved to be told that a concussion was ruled out and a pain reliever was prescribed. I've had a bump, a cut and a headache for about eight days since then. Putting a bunch of hair dye on it didn't seem like such a great idea. So along with a bump on my head, my very grey roots are showing and there's nothing I can do about it for awhile at least.

When I'm ready, I'm looking forward to coloring my hair a deep chocolate color. It is a little radical than what I'm doing now. Having it in the range I'm at now disguises the resistant greys, but with a darker color, those hairs will be more obvious. So, yes, I'm having second thoughts. The alternative would be having it done professionally, but it is expensive. Something to think about for a few more bad hair days.


I watched "Vincent and Theo", directed by Robert Altman in 1990 about Vincent Van Gogh and his brother, Theo.

After trying to work as an art dealer, missionary, enter a university's theological school, and generally driving his family to frustration, Van Gogh followed his brother's advice to pursue art full time. For ten years, Theo supported Vincent as he worked at developing his skills and produced 2000 works of art. The film covers those ten years as both brothers sank deeper into depression over failed love relationships and futility, especially when Theo finally married and could not support his brother and his wife and child at the same time.

Van Gogh also tried to establish an artist's commune in Arles, but it met with disaster as tension increased between him and Gauguin when his mental health broke. Van Gogh as a result cut off a piece of his ear, which landed him in an insane asylum. While he was there, he was allowed supervised walks in order to paint. His masterpiece "Starry Night" was painted while he was a patient. After a few years, he was discharged under the care of a doctor, whom Van Gogh described as sick, if not sicker, than he.

Not long after, while painting in a wheat field, Van Gogh shot himself. The film leaves it up to the viewer to decide if it was suicide or an accident, since Van Gogh possibly used the gun in order to scare up the crows that he painted in his last few works. Ironically, when the gun goes off and Van Gogh drops into the cover of the wheat, the scene from his last painting was created as the crows fly out of the field and into the air. It makes you wonder if that was intentional. After shooting himself, Van Gogh packs up his art equipment and walks back to his room above a cafe, not knowing that his wounds were serious. He died two days later. His brother died a few months afterward succombing to the last stages of syphilis.

The music is jarring and the movie is uncomfortable to watch, especially since Altman does not cover up the dirt and squalid living conditions that Van Gogh, his mistresses (he shows one using a chamber pot while the artist sketches her) and his contemporaries lived in. You get a feeling that Theo is on a higher level of existence, but not by much and in the end, Theo ended up worse than his brother. The only beauty that these brothers experienced was probably through their art--Theo made it possible, and in many ways was just as much a part of producing it--that transcended their circumstances. Theo described a painting he once saw as a child that was so magnificent he wanted to walk into it and live in it.

I have been wondering if Van Gogh in the haze of insanity, still thought about God from time to time even towards the end of his life. And if the nature that he loved to portray in his art was somehow communicating to him the love and presence of the Creator. Because of his mental disease, his thoughts and feelings were not likely coherent. But I would like to think that his art says something spiritual even though Van Gogh himself could not. To me, to be eternally in the presence of God someday in Heaven is like a painting so wonderful that I would want to walk into it. Van Gogh's art reminds me of this spiritual longing to be at home with God.

A Fun Morning

This morning, I'm herding cats.

We keep them in a spare room with a tall trunk standing on end between the door and the door jamb so that Carly, the mom cat can jump over and get access to kittens without the kittens getting out and running amok. After I went in to feed and care for them I left and went downstairs, I heard the pitter patter of kitty feet upstairs. Kittens were running amok.

I gathered them up and put them in the spare room. I shut the door all the way and went downstairs to read blogs. And now I hear kittens running amok again. And now I heard something crash.

Everything is quiet, now.

This is going to be a fun morning.

Want a kitten?

They don't bite...much.