Friday, July 25, 2014

A Poem for Pippa

When I posted a wee bit of doggerel that I wrote about our kitty, Katiesocks, a few months ago, my dad sent me an e-mail saying, "You'd better post something about her sister, Pippa, now.  You know how cats are." He's right, of course.  Sibling rivalry kicks into overdrive when fostered in the breasts of tabbies.  Today, while I was roaming about the house, cleaning and doing laundry, little Pippa was following close behind me and taking advantage of any pause in my endeavors to find a flat, elevated surface onto which she could leap for loves. That is what inspired this little bit of rhyming, which I offer to all the cat lovers out there:

 
For Pippa
 
I have a soft, grey shadow
Not of my shape or size.
But one who has a stripey tail,
Four paws and two bright eyes.
And on those paws she follows
Where'er my steps may lead --
Up the stairs and down again --
For we are both agreed
That she will be my sentinel
And guard me from behind;
And I will be the best two-legged
Friend she'll ever find.
And we will live together
In harmonious accord,
For tabbies are a sweet, sweet gift
Given by the Lord.

Katiesocks (left) and Pippa
Of course I had to include a picture of both! You know how cats are!

Friday, July 18, 2014

5 Reasons I Switched from Google to Bing

5. Google is a company out of California, the most stupid, morally reprehensible state in the union. Bing is out of Washington -- beautiful, beloved, often-misguided-but-never-malevolent Washington.

4. Google encourages their employees to bring their dogs to work. That is gross.

3. Bing's trivia encoded photos are intriguing and educational. Today, for example, you can learn about the Puss Moth. How about that?

2. Google's doodles are obnoxious -- especially the endless World Cup series.  That was the final straw.

1. Wouldn't you rather Bing than Google? It just sounds more genteel and sophisticated -- sort of British: "Let's Bing a bit, and then we'll stop for tea." -- where as 'google' sounds like something two teens are doing in the backseat.

Let's make a better world! Let's Bing!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Everyday Miracles


There was so much I wanted to write about as the summer begins to take its hold, and I find it far less enjoyable to sit in front of a computer screen for any length of time.  But, this subject was too unformed in my mind; that subject was too in need of better research; those subjects needed me to actually finish the books  I was reading before I could broach them.  Plus, you know, life in all its glory comes crashing in from all sides like the relentless waves – leaving my life a breathless, wild, holy mess! So, what to write, what to write as the rains begin to fall less often and a middle-aged, web-footed Pacific Northwesterner’s fancy turns to thoughts of sun?  Why, I shall write about seeds.
Gardening, like playing guitar or writing blog posts and NaNo novels, is one of those things where my desire far outweighs my talent, but that I cheerfully pursue, nonetheless.  When I see a grand and bountiful garden, something leaps inside my heart.  Perhaps it is the echo of a memory of the Garden of my forefather and mother that brings that sudden stab of joy. To see that immense goodness filling a well-planned and ordered space is to wish to create my own; and so I try year after year.  Some years go better than others, but every garden I’ve ever planted starts in my mind as a stray piece of Eden and ends up a bit of a disappointment. I guess when you set your sights so high, you’re looking for a letdown.   
This year, I am gamely trying again.  I convinced my long-suffering husband (who points out every spring that we live within walking distance of not one, but two major grocery store chains, both of whom are stocked year-round with every imaginable type of produce) that I needed an enclosed raised bed.  The enclosure will serve the dual purposes of insulating seedlings from our chilly spring days, and later keep out the neighborhood deer that feast off of the yearly buffet.  After we had set up the bed, which I will refer to as VegTrug, because that is its name, I stared into the mixture of garden soil and compost that reached, as we had been instructed, to within 2 – 4 cm of the top and felt a thrill of anticipation.  What scrumptious veggies would I harvest in a few months’ time from its fertile reaches? What ought I to plant?
So, it was seed shopping spree time at Lowe’s.  I came home with a veritable cornucopia of possibilities.  Beets, Swiss chard, eggplants, carrots, butternut squash . . . all danced before my eyes, fully grown, ripe for picking, delectably juicy and crunchy.  But right now they were tiny, numerous, blink-and-you-miss-them seeds.  Scratch that.  Right now they were tiny everyday miracles.  And, as I poked and scattered them into the rich soil of my VegTrug, I realized that I most wanted to write about these everyday miracles – the kinds that turn seeds into smorgasbords, acorns into oaks, farmers into poets, fighters into friends, and sinners into saints.
 L.M. Montgomery wrote a trilogy about a girl named Emily Byrd Starr.  In the first book, Emily of New Moon, eleven-year-old Emily experiences “the flash.” “It had always seemed to Emily that she was very, very near to a world of wonderful beauty.  Between it and herself hung only thing curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside – but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond – only a glimpse – and heard a note of unearthly beauty. . . And always when the flash came to her Emily felt that life was a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty.” When I read those words as a teenager, I understood them without really knowing why I did.  I had always felt, too, that there was a kingdom of wonder just beyond my fingertips.  It surrounded me, called to me, led me gently to itself, though I could neither name it nor express it.  When I came to know Christ, it fell into place.  That “thin curtain” that separated me from the “very near world of wonderful beauty” was torn in two by my Savior, as surely has He rent the veil the terrible Friday so long ago. When I catch those glimpses of the “enchanting realm” nowadays, I know that I have just had the experience of placing one foot momentarily into eternity through His grace and love.  I live on those moments.
The thing about those moments, though, is how grounded they are in the everyday.  A seed is a wonderful miracle – something that, if contemplated long enough, would make any philosopher weak in the knees.  Yet, what could be more deceptively ordinary, more fundamental than a seed?  Reams of information are packed into the tiniest vessel that can lie dormant, inactive, and to all eyes dead, until it meets with sun, soil, and water – then, voila! You have beets!  What an amazing Creator to have thought of that!
An acorn, buried for winter to sustain a squirrel, lost and forgotten, lies under the snow.  The snow melts in spring and gives water to the acorn; it awakes and sends forth roots and stems.  Left alone, it will be an oak tree.  A rodent’s neglected snack may become his great-grand-progeny’s home.  The Father must laugh to see it happen again and again, just as He planned.
A man arises at dawn and labors his days away under sun and clouds and storm.  As he works the land, it gets into his blood; when it gets into his blood, it becomes a part of him; when it is a part of him, he needs to put it into words. We are people of the Word, that sustaining mark of God, whose ever-unfolding revelatory Word writes His redemption on our hearts. We put into words whatever we can, and give a tribute of silence to whatever we cannot.  So, the farmer becomes a poet, caught up in the grand song of life that awoke the stars and formed the mountains.
“Peace, peace,” was the cry, but there is no peace for the two sworn enemies. Their quarrel was commissioned by persons unknown to either.  They fight for God and country.  Yes, even for the same God.  And Christmas comes and falls upon them both, as quietly as the winter snow. “Peace, peace,” the angels sang near Bethlehem, “and goodwill to all men.” And one soldier picks up the old tune and begins to sing.  The other hears and joins in.  Their languages are different; their songs are the same.  They lay down their arms – and, if it is only for a night, at least it is one night where the memory of a Baby’s birth turned fighters into friends.

There is no “burning bush moment” in any of these examples.  (I have always secretly wanted a burning bush to come and tell me what to do.  I say that, though a real encounter like the one on Mt. Horeb would surely leave me singed to the soul.  I do not think I could stand the holy fire like Moses did.) There is no sun standing still in the sky. There is no parting of the Red Sea. There is no water-into-wine, no bodily resurrections, no speaking new life into existence.  There is only the wonder of the everyday; the wonder that permeates everything our Lord touches. He touches us.  And when He does, the foremost so-called everyday miracle occurs: He turns sinners into saints. 
               
I pray that, even when I am aging and fading from this world and finding both feet straying ever further into eternity and ever more reluctant to return into time, I never forget that first miracle of my life.  Without that transformation, without that piercing, consuming  encounter with Christ almost twenty years ago, I would not even see the miracles all around me.  I feel so sorry for people who do not know the Lord and who might look at my VegTrug full of seeds and say, “Miracle?  What are you talking about?  That’s just science.”  Just science.  Sheesh.  As though all of science were not God’s giant treasure hunt to lead us to greater awe in His astoundingly creative glory! Or for those who cannot see that a farmer who recites poetry that is a paean to the One who first thought of the land that fills his soul is a more complete man than one who composes verse on nothing beyond his own belly-button lint.  Or for a man who might discount one moment of true peace in the midst of war, because war still rages on – not understanding that one moment of true peace is worth a year of a fool’s paradise. Not that I mean to be harsh to anyone. Until I knew Jesus, I might have said the same. Not now, though; not now.  One of the best gifts, of oh-so-many-wondrous gifts of belief, was when He opened my eyes to see that all that lives and breathes does so at His command and for His pleasure in a glorious harmony. There is not one mistake; there is not one forsaken. Then, by His grace, He brings us, sinners like you and me, into the dance.

If you are reading these words, I hope you have a beautiful summer, filled with times of refreshment and renewal.  Hey, I’m feeling generous: I’ll wish the same for you, even if you’re not reading these words!  In this world that truly is “a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty,” I pray that you are blessed by those everyday miracles of seeds and songs and salvation.

Monday, March 17, 2014

In Honor of My Irish Friend from Vermont

In honor of the Vermonster who is as Irish as a shamrock stuck into a Guinness that's being drunk by a leprechaun on the Hill of Slane, and is also a very proud Vermonter (hence her screen name), I have duly celebrated St. Patrick's Day by funneling a good chunk of money into her home state via two of my favorite companies: Vermont's King Arthur Flour and Vermont's Gardener's Supply Company. Behold:

Cloche-style Ceramic Baker:

VegTrug Elevated Patio Garden:
 
And oh-so-much-more!  Happy St. Patrick's Day to Vermonster and all!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Each in His Own Tongue


                L.M. Montgomery wrote many short stories set in the idyllic province of Prince Edward Island.  In one of them, Felix Moore, age twelve, is a gifted violinist being raised by his grandfather. This grandfather, Mr. Leonard, is a minister, deeply devoted to the son of his only daughter; however, he refuses to allow the boy to practice his gift, as it reminds him of the boy’s vagabond father, a fiddler of popular tunes who had stolen away the minister’s daughter and had broken her heart.  Mr. Leonard fondly hopes that his grandson will follow in his steps.  Felix laments to a sympathetic ear that, “Ministers are good things to be, but I’m afraid I can’t be a minister.”

                “Not a pulpit minster. There’s different kinds of ministers, and each must talk to men in his own tongue if he’s going to do ‘em any real good,” the friend replies.

                Ms. Montgomery wrote, “Mr. Leonard thought rightly that the highest work to which any man could be called was a life of service to his fellows; but he made the mistake of supposing the field of service much narrower than it is.” In a terrible moment, the minister exacts a promise from his grandson that the boy will never again touch a violin. The very soul of the child is his music, but he makes the promise out of love and respect.

                Ah, but Naomi Clark is dying. Naomi Clark is “an awful, wicked woman” who has “lived a life of shame” and “mocked and flouted” every effort of the minister to reclaim her from “the way that takes hold on hell.” But, she is dying, and she wants the preacher.  Mr. Leonard does his duty.

                “Can you help me? . . . I was skeered I’d die before you got here – die and go to hell. . . . I can’t go to God for help. Oh, I’m skeered of hell, but I’m skeereder still of God. I’m sorry for living wicked. I was driven on by the fiends of hell . . . but I was always sorry.” The woman’s voice is desperate.  The minister offers to her that all she must do is repent and God will forgive her; He is, after all, a God of love. Naomi, though, will have none of those truths.  To her, God is “wrath and justice and punishment,” and though she fears the outer darkness, she cannot let in His light.

                The minister, in great anguish of spirit, falls to his knees to pray for this sin-sick soul. “O God, our Father!  Help this woman!  Speak to her in a tongue which she can understand.” Naomi falls back on her deathbed in a spasm.
*****

                My daughter and I were biking to her Tae Kwon Do class the other night when we passed a demonstration at the main intersection in our neighborhood.  Some church’s adherents were at every corner with signs proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus and the need of repentance.  This is an unusual sight in the Northwest in general, and our neighborhood in particular; however, I always admire those who put their convictions on the line and subject themselves to ridicule, violence, and indifference.  I mentioned the sight to my friend, Shirley, while our daughters took their class together.  She whispered thoughtfully, “Do you think that sort of thing ever really works to bring someone to God?”

                “Well, I don’t think it would have worked for me.  But,” and I paused a moment to choose my words carefully, “If it works to save just one soul . . . if it is that little nudge of consideration that starts one person onto the path of reconciliation and redemption, then it must be worth it.”

                I was reflecting upon this shortly afterward when we read over the second chapter of Acts in our family Bible study.  The apostles began to speak in tongues – known languages of the many nations of pilgrims in Jerusalem.  The people, of course, marveled at this wondrous thing in those days before Rosetta Stone and asked, “How is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?” Acts tells us that the apostles spoke “the wonderful works of God” in a way that left the people amazed and perplexed.  Are we, too, not left amazed and perplexed when we first hear the truth of God spoken in a way that moves our hearts toward Him, filled with awe that He would speak to us in our own tongue?

                Ever since I became a Christian, in all my thousands of prayers lifted to the heavens, there has been one constant one: that God would use me in some way to help bring at least one sinner to His salvation.  Just one.  And, who knows?  Maybe He has.  In teaching Sunday School, my great hope is that when one of my little Kindergartners is someday at that crossroads between the narrow way and the wide one, he might just remember his Sunday School teacher who long ago showed him Jesus’ love in a real way, and that memory will help him choose to seek the Holy One.

                Some people have a natural gift for walking unbelievers through every step toward a belief that culminates in complete and true redemption; how I admire those people.  That was not how I was saved.  The final work of my salvation was done very privately through God’s Holy Word and a heart long-prepared. You see, when I look back upon my life, to those days when I walked in foolishness and pride, I remember those who planted the seeds of faith.  My soil was not yet ready to bring forth harvest; but, I had faithful sowers who showed me God’s love in real ways. Three, in particular, come to mind: Robin Stapleton, Carolyn Pon, and Juan Barba.  I write their names as a benediction; they put the goodness of His Word into my life when I was a feckless, shallow teen.  They spoke to me in my own tongue, though not one of them knew it at the time. I can hardly wait to tell them when we meet again in the Kingdom. 
*****

                Back to Naomi: Felix appears at the door, worried about his grandfather’s long absence in the raging seaside storm. Naomi, in a last burst of consciousness, asks Felix to play her something on her old fiddle, needing music at her final moments, because “there was always something in it for me I never found anywhere else.” Felix looks at his grandfather, who nods an ashamed assent. So, Felix plays for the dying woman. The tune winds its way from mirthful innocence to rapturous love to agonized despair to indescribable evil. Then, the tune changes again to a tortured repentance and rests at last upon “infinite forgiveness and all-comprehending love.” And Naomi whispers, “I understand now . . . God is a God of love . . . He sent you here tonight, boy to tell it to me in a way I could feel it.” By daybreak, she is dead, but no longer lost, because she has heard God’s truth in her own tongue.           

               

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Poem About Katiesocks

A more faithful alarm than even my clock's
Is the daybreak ritual of my Katiesocks
Each morning at precisely six ante meridian
She leaps on my bed and starts up her kittyin'
Biscuit-kneading paws and whiskers that tickle
Put my half-conscious brain in a bit of a pickle
For her message is one that I both love and dread
For I've too much to do to be seductively led
By her rhythmic purring and the tilt of her head
That say so convincingly, "Just stay in bed.
Oh just stay, oh just stay, oh just stay in bed."


Katiesocks and Pippa, both of whom make getting out of bed
even harder than it already is!

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Anti-Dog Song

Of all of the creatures on God's good, green earth,
Lacking in wisdom and whimsy and worth,
There is one possessing of these greatest dearth,
And that, my friends, is the dog

From their big, lolling heads to banal, wagging tails
An aura of witlessness surely prevails;
When they clickety-clack cross your floor on their nails,
You know the heartache of owning a dog

Chorus:
Oh, cursed be the man who first lured to his cave
A creature once noble, ferocious, and brave
And watered it down to a slobbering knave:
Minus lupus, add canis: the Dog.

As frightfully absurd as a man eating quiche
Is the bubble-brained cur at the end of a leash;
A potpourri, medley, composite, pastiche
Of inanities make up the dog.

When you try to avoid them, it's a futile case
As their owners so clueless, ignoble, and base
Let them shit in your yard and yap loud in your face
And hate you if you don't like their dog.

Chorus

You can give them a bath, and yet still in one hour
A smell that no shampoo can yet overpower
Will emanate forth, sending you to the shower
If you've been forced to touch someone's dog.

Some people dress dogs in sweaters or put them in hats
Whether they're big as Goliath or smaller than rats
Y'know who won't put up with that crap, folks? Yep, cats!
Who are a hell of a lot smarter than dogs.

Chorus

****
This is my "Anti-Dog Song" which makes the dog-lovers in my life sad, mostly because in their hearts they know that every word is true (except the part about quiche -- I really do think it's OK for a man to eat quiche).  I wrote it this past summer, when I was in the throes of depression over the fact that we had a dog.

My dad said that I ought to remove from this blog my post from May 2013 about our dog, Daisy, that we had adopted.  But, I do not believe in erasing history.  We did, indeed, adopt a dog -- only to find out that we had made a dreadful mistake. 

There was nothing wrong with Daisy, other than that she is a dog, and we are not dog-people.  She really was our Bellis Perennis, Canis Optima -- the best possible dog that we could  have ever had.  She did not bark or have accidents in the house.  She did not chew. She was not aggressive.  She was sweet and nice and eager to please.  But, her fatal flaw for us was that she was a dog, and -- as I said -- we are not dog-people.

Here is the happy end to the story -- one with which dog-lovers cannot quibble: When we collectively realized as a family that nobody loved the dog, we immediately made steps to have the adoption agency put her back into the system to try to find her a forever home.  We fostered her for about two weeks until they found a lady to come look at her.  It was love at first sight for both of them.  I am delighted to report that Daisy went to a loving home -- one that could appreciate her many stellar doggish qualities -- at the end of August, and we have been dog-free more than three months.  We have since adopted two kitties, whom we love with all our hearts.  Everyone wins!

Anyway, I still think that this song is pretty funny, in a painful, truth-telling, cathartic sort of way.  Here in western Washington State -- where there are more dogs than Christians -- our family is surrounded by the "Children of Dog," as I have taken to calling the cult of canine that has sprouted all over the world in recent years.  Two of our neighbors have each a little rat-like mutt, both of whom come regularly into our backyard to eat the bird food I put out and then leave stinky deposits.  I hate them. However, friends and family have nice enough doggies with whom I do not mind having occasional, friendly interactions.

I guess if you think dogs are one step removed from angels, you can leave a comment telling me how utterly wretched a person I am and how I am going to hell and all that.  I won't believe it, but you can vent.  But, I am really posting this for the oppressed fellow travelers out there who know that dogs are not really all that great and are rather a nuisance than otherwise and maybe have to deal with obnoxious dogs in your neighborhoods or homes.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!