Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Joy


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Saturday, December 03, 2011

Stories for Christmas: Simeon

I must tell you this story before I die, for I have lived a very long time and it will not be long before I am gone.

Not long ago, the Lord spoke to me while I was worshiping in the temple...

Wait, let me go back a bit and start at the beginning. I live in Jerusalem and have all of my life. My father was a merchant and taught the business to me so that I could take it over when he was old and needed to be cared for. He also taught me to love the Lord and every week he took me with him to the Temple to worship. My faith grew as I did and I have seen God’s hand of blessing on me and my family. In time, I married and had children of my own. I too taught my own son to be a merchant and to worship the Lord. In time he took over the business and now cares for me in the same way I cared for my father.

Now that I am old, I spend most of my day here at the Temple. I come here right after breakfast and only leave when it is time to return home for the evening meal. My daughter-in-law is a good woman and cares for me as she would her own father. She always prepares a mid-day meal for me to take since she doesn’t approve of the food that can be purchased at the Temple gates.

One day, not long after I retired from the business world and began spending my time at the Temple, God spoke to me. I was seated against a column deep in prayer when I heard him as clearly as if he was seated next to me. I know it was him because it was early in the morning when there are only a few of us in the Temple that early and no one else was close. It could only have been the Lord.

Following the example of the prophet Samuel I said, “Speak, I am listening.” The Lord spoke to me again saying that I would not die until I had seen the Messiah. I was overwhelmed with amazement and relief. My father had fervently prayed that the prophesies would be fulfilled and that the promised Messiah would come. He understood that the Messiah was not for the military freedom of our people, but for the spiritual freedom of the world. He studied the scriptures that were recorded by the prophets about the Messiah and his coming and he passed that passion on to me. So when the Lord told me that the Messiah would come and that I would see him before I died, I was so overwhelmed with joy that I could not speak, only weep and pray for the remainder of the day.

We, as the nation of Israel, have longed for our Messiah for so long that many no longer believe. This was so with my daughter-in-law. When I went home that evening, I told my son and his family what God had told me, but they were skeptical. They were respectful as I spoke, but I could see in their faces that they did not quite believe me. On another morning when my daughter-in-law thought I had already left for the Temple, I heard her confide in a friend that she believed that I was beginning to show signs of senility because I believed that the Lord had spoken to me. However, from then on, I made sure that I was at the Temple early and I watched the young families as they came there for the circumcision and naming of their sons.

The day they arrived God’s Holy Spirit sent me to the Temple even earlier than usual and drew me to a young, poor couple, with their small son. The young man was carrying their offering of pigeons and the woman followed him close behind, holding the child close to her heart.

I walked to them and greeted them with respect. I think they were taken aback that a man like myself, dressed in the robes of a merchant would greet them, a poor couple, with such respect. When I asked the young woman if I could hold her son, she gently gave the child to my arms, still regarding me with wonder.

As I held that small body, I knew for certain that he was the Messiah. I prayed at that moment, looking in the child’s eyes saying, “Lord, I can now be at peace! You kept your promise and I have now seen the Savior. He will show God to the nations, and is the glory of your people Israel”

As I was praying, I could see his parents looking at each other in amazement. I imagine God had told them who their child was and they were wondering how I could know. I handed that little boy back to his mother, then I placed my hands on their heads and blessed them and told them that this child would fulfill the prophesies, be rejected by many in our nation, and that it would be their undoing. That the deepest thoughts of our hearts would be revealed and that her heart would be pierced with such great pain it would cut like a sword.

After I had blessed them, I realized that a woman named Anna had come to stand behind me. She was another person, like myself, who spent a great deal of time in the Temple. I often wondered if she ever left since several times I saw one of her grandchildren bringing food to her. When I finished my blessing, she too knew who the child was. She continued on by going to everyone who came into the Temple, that the Messiah had been born. Sadly, most looked at her with scorn. Just like my daughter-in-law, they had waited so long that they no longer believed.

When I went home that evening, I told everyone of what God had shown me that day. I don’t think that my daughter-in-law believed, but my son did. After the evening meal, as we sat on the roof watching the light of the sun fade away, we talked of it and of what might come.

Now it is up to him to look for the Messiah and what God’s plan for Israel is. For the child must grow to adulthood before he will accomplish the salvation of the world. I will be gone, but my son will be here along with his son to see the prophesies fulfilled.

I praise God, for he comes to take away the sins of the world.

Stories for Christmas: The Magi

I will never forget the star that sent us on that incredible journey. I am a court astronomer to the king of Persia and it is an important position with a long and illustrious history. We are not just astronomers, but also translators of dreams and advisers to the king on all important matters. One of our illustrious predecessors was Baltasar, also known as Daniel to his own people.

One evening, when I was very young and new at court, I and my colleagues were on on the roof of the palace observing the movements of the heavens. Then we saw something we had never seen before. It was amazing. A star, telling us by its timing and position that a king had been born in the land of Judea. We observed this star for several days and determined that a small company of us must set out to find this king and take him gifts to celebrate his arrival. We knew he was a very important king. The stars are rarely so specific, so when they are we pay attention.

I and my companions gathered the necessary provisions for our trip and we set out. All along the way we observed the star every evening. And every evening we received confirmation from the stars. Again and again I was reminded of our predecessor, Baltasar. He was a Judean who had been brought to the court of Nebuchadnezzar and eventually became one of the most powerful court advisers of all time. He was sent through many perils but always kept his faith in his God, Yahweh. In a chronicle it is recorded that he interpreted a dream for the king. It was a dream of prophesy that spoke of the future kingdoms of Persia. The last part of the prophesy says that God  will set up a kingdom that won't ever be destroyed or conquered even though all other kingdoms will disappear.

We believed that this new king was going to be the foundation of that kingdom and the stars continually confirmed our belief.

It took us several weeks to reach Judea and when we arrived we went to the capital city, Jerusalem. There we began asking where we would find the king of the Jews. Eventually we were summoned before Herod who asked the teachers of the religion of their one God where we might find this king. After consulting their sacred texts we were told that he would be found in Bethlehem. Herod asked us to return after we had found the king so that he could also pay homage to the king. Little did we know, that was not his true intention.

We went on our way to Bethlehem, still guided by the star to the very house where he lived with his mother and her husband.

Oh, he was a sweet child. And his mother was very wise for a young woman of her age. I wish my own daughter could have had even a portion of her wisdom.

After worshiping the child, the king of the Jews, we presented our gifts. I’m afraid the parents where rather overwhelmed. It was probably more wealth than they had ever seen before. But we could give nothing less than the best to this mighty king who was still a child. It is shown in the stars that his kingdom will last for eternity and will stretch over the whole earth. It will encompass every tribe, people and nation.

That night, as we slept, it was revealed to us in our dreams that Herod wished to kill the child. So when we awoke, we resolved to go home without returning to Jerusalem.

I am a very old man now, but I will never forget that child. A few years ago, I heard about him again. He had become a teacher. They must not have liked what he taught because the Romans executed him. A peculiarly morbid form of execution where the offender is nailed to a cross and left to die a slow, agonizing death. It seemed strange to me, after what the stars had told me, that it should happen to him.

But just a few days ago I was in the marketplace and there were several young men talking about him. When I took them aside to ask them for more information they told me he had risen from the dead three days after his execution.

Then he ascended into heaven and his kingdom goes on in our hearts. It is a divine kingdom rather than an earthly one.

Suddenly it all became clear to me and now his kingdom reigns in my heart as well.

Stories for Christmas: The Shepherd

I’m nobody really. Just the youngest son of a youngest son. Being the youngest it’s my job to watch the sheep and I spend all day, every day, out caring for them. I’m practically a part of the herd. No one pays much attention to us shepherds since they don’t see us much and when they do we are so dirty that they avoid us.

But I know that God cares. You know how I know that? Because my buddies and I were the first to be told about the birth of the Messiah. Let me tell you about it. It’s pretty awesome.

So, we were out sleeping with the sheep. We’d put them all in the pen and had set up camp at the gate and were just getting settled down for the night. One of the other guys was just dousing the small fire that we had cooked our supper on when suddenly the sky was bright with light. We all shaded our eyes it was so bright. It was an angel and he spoke to us! He said that the Messiah had been born, that he was a baby, and he was not far away in a stable. We were to go see him. Then just as our eyes were adjusting to the brightness, it got even brighter. The whole sky was full of angels and they were singing about God’s glory and of peace.

They were gone as suddenly as they came and we sat there, stunned, sleep forgotten. We were overwhelmed. We knew we hadn’t dreamt it because we all had seen and heard the same thing. Then we all started talking at once. I was all for going to find the child Messiah. My Mom had often told me stories about the longed for Messiah and I wanted to see him. I needed to so that I coudl tell my mother all about him. She would be so excited to know that he had come and would be so proud that the angels had been sent ot tell me, her son.

The pessimists in our group were hesitant. They weren’t too sure that the angels really meant for us  to go find a stable. Surely they meant a much nicer place. Surely the Messiah wouldn’t be poor like us and have to be born in a stable. Besides, people didn’t like having us show up since we stank. And someone should stay and look after the sheep. In the end the rest of us convinced them to come along and after securing the gate to the sheep pen, we went out to seek the Messiah.

While the angel hadn’t given us specific instructions, I had a pretty good idea of where we should look. There’s only one inn and I was certain that’s where they would have gone first. Since the angel said we’d find the baby in a manger, it made sense to start at the inn’s stable. I was right and that’s where we found them.

They were an ordinary family, obviously tired from traveling and her especially tired from having just given birth. There were people camped out all around under the stars and, when asked, one of them had confirmed that there had been the cries of a woman giving birth a while earlier.

When we had explained to the couple why we had come, they were happy to have us draw close. We learned that they were Joseph and Mary from Nazareth and had traveled to Bethlehem especially for the Roman census.

The baby’s name was Jesus. We stayed there awhile then, realizing that they were exhausted, we left them to rest. We were so excited as we picked our way around the camps of travelers that we were rather loud. People snapped at us to keep it down and return to our sheep. We didn’t care about the insults we were so excited. So all we said was “ The Messiah has come! He is here and we have seen him!” Some just rolled over and ignored us. Some were just curious enough to wake up and ask how we knew. However, when we said he’d been born in a stable, most lost interest and rolled over to go back to sleep.

Eventually we made it back to our sheep. They were just as we had left them. Asleep and unharmed. We couldn’t sleep, so we stayed up the rest of the night talking about it.

From then on, we told anyone who would listen about that night. Eventually, I married and had children of my own. My wife puts up with my story of the Messiah but I don’t think that she has ever really believed it. My children certainly got tired of hearing about it.

Except for my youngest son.

Stories for Christmas: Mary

It was many years ago, but I can remember my first pregnancy very well. I’m sure every mother remembers her first pregnancy as if it was just last year, but mine wasn’t exactly a normal one.

An angel appeared to me one day while I was going about my chores and he told me that I would become pregnant by the Spirit of God. He also told me that the child was going to be our prophesied Messiah. I was stunned, but it never occurred to me to question it until he was gone. When God sends an angel, you don’t argue. It wasn’t until I was sure that I was pregnant that I managed to work up the courage to tell Joseph. I have to give him credit. He was upset, very upset, but he didn’t yell at me or break off our engagement.

Yes, we weren’t married yet. Just engaged. Our marriage was an arranged one, but we had known each other all our lives having grown up in the same village. So we had affection, even love, for one another. I was so relieved when he didn’t break off our engagement. We were married, in spite of the fact that I was showing by then and all the gossips were talking behind their hands about me.  It wasn’t until after we were married that I found out that Joseph really had intended to quietly break off our engagement. He didn’t because the same angel that had appeared to me came to him in a dream. The angel told Joseph the same thing that he told me along with the fact that we were to name him Joshua, or Jesus as you know him.

It was a time that really tested my faith in many ways. I was totally reliant on God’s promises through the prophets and the angels, as well as Joseph’s faith in God and faithfulness to me.

There were so many things that, according to the prophets, had to happen and I had no idea how it would all work out. Like the fact that the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem. We lived in Nazareth in the north. Bethlehem is in the south near Jerusalem.

But God is in control and his will is done. I could never have guessed that a census required by Caesar would be the way that God would use to send us to Bethlehem in time for the birth of my son. My mother was upset, of course. She had never accepted that the child wasn’t Joseph’s and the humiliation of a daughter pregnant before the wedding was mostly overridden by the fact that it was her grandchild. My father and in-laws were not as forgiving and wouldn’t even allow us to travel with them to Bethlehem. My mother never forgave them for that because not only was she prevented from helping me travel, but they weren’t there to help when the child was born.

Joseph and I set out for Bethlehem one morning. We couldn’t afford a donkey to help carry our few belongings, so Joseph carried most of our things. I carried the few items that we would need for the baby when he arrived. My mother had managed to make and give me a blanket without my father knowing. At first we traveled quite quickly. I was young, strong, and fit. However, as we drew near to Bethlehem, we went a little more slowly. My back ached and my feet were swollen. We were just outside town when the labor pains started. Joseph really started to worry then. He wanted to stop, but I knew (and hoped) it would probably be a few hours before I gave birth, so I insisted we press on. We kept going with the hope that there would be a warm bed in an inn where we could rest and prepare. Also, there would be other women around to help.

However, when we got to Bethlehem, the place was overrun with people. We finally found a little space in a barn that was out in a field owned by one of the innkeepers. By the time we got there, the labor pains were coming in ernest. All I could do was sit and gasp while Joseph prepared a corner for us as best he could. He delivered the baby himself. We were both relieved that it wasn’t a complicated delivery. That was surely by the grace of God.

I was exhausted, so Joseph cleaned up little Joshua and wrapped him in the clothes and blanket that we had brought. The cleanest place to lay him was in the trough used to feed the oxen. I dozed on and off for quite a while, until some visitors arrived.

It was utterly amazing. These shepherds showed up with the most incredible story. Angels, a whole host of them, appeared to them out in the field beyond the barn. These angels had told them that Joshua had been born and that he was the prophesied Messiah. I will never forget that visit. It was a confirmation to me that what Joseph and I had experienced and endured was all according to God’s plan. God had taken care of us and would continue to do so because we were his children as well as the parents of his son, the Messiah.

Yes, it was a hard time for us, but after the census was over we continued to live in Bethlehem. Joseph joined one of his cousins in a carpentry shop and was able to make a good living. Gradually our relatives became more accepting of me and our situation and so it was easier and more economical to stay than to try and return to Nazareth. About a year or two later we had some more unusual visitors. Persians showed up looking for the King of the Jews. It was rather surprising to have them appear on our door step because we hadn’t really told any of our neighbors about who Joshua was and the family didn’t talk about it. It was rather a relief to escape the scorn we had experienced in Nazareth and we certainly didn’t want to invite the same thing in Bethlehem. Besides, with a man like Herod on the throne with the backing of the Roman emperor, you don’t want to claim that a poor carpenter’s boy who’s not even two years old is the King of the Jews.

I invited them in and we shared our small supper with them. They paid homage to my little boy and gave him such expensive gifts. Gold, myrrh, and frankincense from Egypt. When we went to bed that night I commented to Joseph that I didn’t know what we were going to do with these gifts. People would think we had stolen them. Although, they were probably already talking about the foreign courtiers who had visited us. I wasn’t sure how we were going to explain that. Joseph reminded me that God had taken care of us so far and would continue to do so. Besides, we could hide the gifts away for a rainy day.  No one would need to know.

Little did we know that night that we would be fleeing Bethlehem for Egypt the very next day. Apparently the Persians had come looking for Joshua by way of Jerusalem. The star they had been following led them there and they cannot be blamed for assuming that the King of the Jews would be born in a palace in the capital city. From the description they gave to King Herod, the scribes determined that they were looking for the Messiah. So, quoting the prophet Micah, they sent these travelers off to Bethlehem with Herod’s request that they return to tell him where this king could be found. God revealed to them what Herod’s true intention was to use their information to kill Joshua, and so they returned home without going through Jerusalem.

God sent an angel to Joseph at the same time. The angel told him that Herod wanted to kill my son, so he was to take us and flee to Egypt. Talk about a rainy day. We could not have made the trip to Egypt, let alone paid off our debts in Bethlehem or even set up Joseph’s business in Egypt without the gifts that the Persians had brought.

Later we heard the horrible news about what Herod did to the children of Bethlehem. It makes my heart ache for all those mothers just thinking about it. He had every boy under the age of two slaughtered. I thank God for his mercy and am reminded of his grace toward us every time I think of it.

Later, after we heard that Herod had died, we returned home to Nazareth. We had a couple more children when we moved back there and quite a few more after that. Joseph rejoined his family carpentry business and, of course, passed his skills on to our sons. When my daughters married, I realized how difficult it must have been for my mother to deal with my pregnancy and the subsequent events that took us far from home and far from her. A mother holds her children close to her heart regardless of what they do or where they go. Little did I know at the time, the anguish that was in store for me. I could guess at it, but I never imagined…but that is another story for another day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Stress

Whew! November is over.

It begins with the craft fair at work. I start getting ready a couple of months before, making things to sell. But the big push happens in the week before the sale. Gathering things together, deciding what to charge, making the tags and attaching them. Then setting up the sale and taking it back down again.



Then I have to redo all the tags for the Front Range Fiber Artisans holiday sale that comes a couple of weeks later. It also requires a shift of product. The craft fair is lower end and the holiday sale is higher end.

During that are 2 birthdays in my family which we all gather for and celebrate. We took the niece and nephew to the Denver Art Museum that day to have some fun and get out of the house.


As soon as the sales and birthdays are done it's time to gear up for Thanksgiving. With my immediate family all living fairly close together, it's always a big affair. With the addition of my Dad's side of the family we had almost 20 people at my Mom's house. Naturally we all pitched in to help with all the work. It was great family time, but wore me out.

Then, there's the new addition to the family. Calypso. Kittens are so adorable it's hard to say goodnight. So I find myself staying up too late just to enjoy her.

And now it's December and time to get ready for Christmas.

Christmas us fairly simply compared to the families of many of my friends and coworkers. We try to keep it with little to no financial expectations with regard to gifts. It's about family, not the presents. Although, that's more of a grown up attitude, so we try to have nice (but not too extreme) gifts for the kids that feed their interests and will inspire them long after the holiday is past.

Since my husband was laid off, it's a handmade Christmas for us this year. Fortunately we both sold enough at the sales to buy materials to make gifts. But, handmade gifts take time. So while Paul sits at his jeweler's bench all day, I sit in front of the TV and crochet and knit all evening...when the cat isn't playing with my yarn or knitting needles.

Tree hunting is a family tradition and that's on Sunday the 4th this year. So I should be able to get fairly far along on somebody's gift on the way up to the tree cutting area in the national forest.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Inventions That Make a Difference: LuminAID

It's been a long time since I did an Inventions That Make a Difference post. So here's something I ran across today.

LuminAID inflatable solar lights.

It's a flat piece of plastic with a hole to inflate it. On one side is a film thin solar panel with a place for 2 coin cell rechargeable batteries. It's a great idea and puts out a lot of light. Especially for disaster areas.

The only long term drawback I see is the batteries. How long do they last before they need to be replaced? If they have to be replaced, or the light itself has to be replaced, how do you go about doing that in a long term, developing world situation? Solar is awesome until your batteries wear out and you can't replace them. Then you're back where you started.

If you're interested, they are seeking funding for further development. If you are part of an NGO interested in using something like this, give them your feedback. They will appreciate it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

58: The Film

View this trailer, then download it for free (sign up for free account) here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Regarding the Glass Ceiling

Quote from Big Think:

"What most women are seeing in the workplace is a bunch of guys throwing out half-formed ideas, not particularly well-thought out, yet they’re rallying everyone and getting tons of resources put behind them while many women are waiting for their idea to be more researched, more perfect."  Tara Mohr

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Crazy Ones Think Different

I've always liked this Apple commercial because it resonates with how I'm made.



Those of us who "think different" run into a lot of barriers, walls, and people who insist we have to toe the established line. We're always having to disassemble those barriers, tear down those walls, and try to educate or go around those people who insist we have to toe the established line. It's amazing that we get anything done at all.

Which is probably why I also like the phrase...


So if this commercial resonates with you whether you're an Apple fan or not...

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

September Past

I think I'm always going to look back on September 2011 with mixed feelings.

• It started out slow, too slow, at work. It was so slow and I was so bored, I just wanted to put my head on my desk and take a nap. That would have looked bad, so I took them with my head on my chin facing my computer. That way I looked less suspicious...I hope.

• Work picked up about half way through the month. No, it didn't pick up. It went from 0 to 100 in an afternoon. It became so insane I didn't even have time to think back blissfully on my naps of the first half of the month.

• At the beginning of the month and the end of the month we got to celebrate family birthdays with family get togethers. I come from a very functional family and we love to hang out together. I'm sure it can be a strain on those who married us, but they manage. My aunt had hers at the beginning of the month. My brother's birthday is technically at the beginning of October, but as he was going to be away we celebrated at the same time as our niece who turned 6. A lot of fun and food was to be had by all.

• In the middle of the month, my almost 16 year old cat Calvin passed away while Honey and I were out of town for a break. Thankfully, my dear sister-in-law was there with him. But I miss him a lot. He was the sort of cat that proves the cat haters wrong. Devoted is definitely an accurate description. The house is so quiet without him.


• At the end of September Honey was laid off of work. I don't even know what to say about that yet except that we'll get through it and I know God has something awesome waiting for him on the other side.

• I got a bill from Ravelry, for Unyunga pattern sales in September at the beginning of October. That's a good thing since it means I sold more than $20 in patterns during the month. Could business be picking back up for the winter? I certainly hope so.

So pardon me if I'm not quite sure what to think about September 2011.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ikea Gave Me Hope

My studio could have qualified for an episode of Hoarders. About 3 1/2 years ago I developed a negative association with it because of some stuff I was dealing with and couldn't stand to be in there for long. By the time I felt like I wanted to get back in there and work, I couldn't. The furniture I had was always inadequate to my needs and, because I would only go in to grab or dump, things got out of control.

Then Ikea moved to Denver.

I have a friend who might almost be accused of idolatry in reference to her love of Ikea. So naturally I had to see if they were all that.

I got online to see what their desks and tables looked like and, lo and behold, I discovered the Expedit Workstation. An answer to one of my main problems. Not enough work surface and not enough storage. Then I found the Lack Coffee Table, an answer to another main problem. My flat drawers sat on the floor, taking up floor space and minimizing my storage space. The flat drawers are just the right size to sit on top of the coffee table. The coffee table raises them to work surface height and provides additional storage below the flat drawers.

So I've spent August reclaiming my studio space and I'm almost done. I promise to post photos when I am.

I now have a work table that has a 30"x45" surface. I also have a desk with the same dimensions. Each has a shelf where I can put tools and stuff that is relevant to that workspace. I have a new work space because I was able to raise the height of my flat drawers from 24" to 42" and more storage underneath.

I have a little more of the original mess to sort through, but I'm almost done. I've gotten this far by taking small bites at a time, but taking bites almost every day.

Hallelujah!

Monday, August 08, 2011

How to Tell if You're Doing Your Life's Work

"When you’re on auto-pilot, no problem. You’ve done it before, so you recognize every pattern you’re in and there’s no need to worry.

But this also means you’re going the wrong way. You’re getting no new input, so you’re not recognizing any new patterns. If this is the way your life is going, you are actually actually becoming more useless. In an increasingly chaotic world, the best pattern recognizers win.

So the way to have an amazing life is to be constantly fearing failure, but driving forward anyway. It’s  difficult to be doing this all the time. You need to pick your battles." Julien Smith, from his blog post "How to Tell if You're Doing Your Life's Work."

Monday, August 01, 2011

Slow Movement

In a previous post I talked about Continuous Partial Attention and Slow Cloth. While I don't encourage the use of Wikipedia as a source for scholarly research, it is useful for general questions and research.

I really like their entry about the Slow Movement. It lists many of the "slow" movements going on right now. It's not just happening in the craft world. It's happening everywhere.

There's not a day goes by that I don't resent the fast pace of American culture. It's damaging in so many ways. So when I see people rediscovering the value of a slower lifestyle, it makes me happy.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Speak the truth in love.


"Speak the truth in love." 

What is more important? The truth or the love?
In many cultures the love is more important. The possibility of a relationship means they cannot tell you the total truth until they are secure in the relationship and know that the truth will not hurt it.

People in the U.S. do it differently. Speaking the truth has a higher premium so we are unguarded. We speak the truth, call a spade a spade, at whatever cost. And if the relationship suffers, well, that's too bad, the important thing is that the truth was spoken.

So what's more important? The truth or the love? The strength of the relationship or laying it all bare?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Becoming Mom

As we grow older we find ourselves gradually turning into our parents. I am no exception to that. The older I get, the more like my Mom, my Dad, my grandmothers, and my aunts I become. Sometimes it's okay. Sometimes it's embarrassing and I just have to resolve myself to it. But sometimes it just feels weird, like I'm trespassing. Especially when I find myself turning into Mom.

I'm typing up my journal from the trip Honey and I took to Uganda in 2009. As I type it stirs up the happy memories from the trip as well as the memories that trip resurrected from my childhood. I came back to the point in our trip where we were preparing to go to bed in Lira, northern Uganda. The mosquitoes were bad and we definitely needed the mosquito net provided.

"Then with Honey in bed, I tucked in the net and got in myself."

I remember that as I tucked in the net around the edge of the bed that it was Mom who had done that the last time I had slept under one. Somehow it felt like I was all grown up. Never mind the fact that I was 42 at the time.

I guess there are just some things that become the domain of our elders and when we enter into that domain ourselves, it feels strange.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Playing For Change | Three Little Birds

Playing For Change | Three Little Birds
Check this out for a fun music video. It's a composite made of musicians and singers around the world. The whole site is full of good stuff like this.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Two Marys

As I climbed out of bed in the cold, dark morning, my whole body ached. Not with my arthritis, but with the grief of loss. Loss of hope in a better future. I tried not to disturb my husband as I pulled back my blanket and stepped gingerly over the sleeping forms of my two youngest children. I pulled a wrap over the top of my robe, combed my hair and tucked the package I had prepared and wrapped the night before under my arm.

As I quietly closed the door behind me, my friend Mary broke away from the shadows touching my arm lightly. Together we turned and walked in the beginning dawn, down the street.

 We reached the city gate just as it was being opened for the day and continued out toward the gardens and orchards that lay just outside the city walls. Mary and I had planned this as we were preparing the evening meal after the Sabbath the previous night. The day before that was the day that Jesus was crucified. We were, all of us, in a state of shock. None of us had seen it coming. We were all still numb from it all and how fast it had happened.

Last night Mary and I had talked about it, processing, trying to understand. Somehow, it seemed to help to talk about it. My husband refused to and so I needed someone. That was when Mary reminded me that there hadn’t been time to properly prepare his body for burial. The men had gone with Nicodemus to take care of it while we women stayed home to finish preparations for the Sabbath. There had been barely enough time to wash his body, wrap it and place it in the tomb. So we had decided to go early, as soon as the sun began to rise, in order to finish the proper burial necessities.

We didn’t talk at all as we walked. The only sounds were of roosters crowing, the slap of our sandals on the path, and our breathing, a little heavier from moving quickly in order to stay warm.

As we neared the garden where the tomb was located, we slowed down. It was darker under the olive trees and we didn’t want to miss our footing. Mary was leading the way when suddenly she stopped and gasped. With my head down to watch the path, I nearly ran into her. She spun around and said, “How will we get in? We can’t move the stone on our own.” We hadn’t thought of that last night. We were so wrapped up in our grief and needing to do something that we had forgotten about the stone over the door. “Maybe someone will come by that we can ask to help us,” I said. She turned around and we kept going. Just as we were almost to the clearing in front of the tomb we saw a flash of bright light coming through the trees and heard men's voices crying out. We ran forward in time to see a blinding white figure rolling the stone away from the tomb entrance. Mary and I held onto each other, seeing Roman soldiers laying on the ground as if they had been struck dead. When the stone came to a halt, the shining figure sat down upon it, looked right at us and said, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you’re here looking for Jesus of Nazareth. He’s not here, he is risen from the dead. See? The tomb is empty. Go and tell his disciples.”

I thought I was going to hyperventilate. One moment we were in utter despair and fear and then this glorious man was telling us that Jesus wasn’t dead anymore. He was alive!

Mary and I looked at each other for a moment, then picked up our skirts and ran back the way we had come. “He’s alive!” I gasped. “We have to tell everyone,” she flung back. Being a lot younger than I, Mary got a little ahead of me. At the edge of the trees I saw her come to an abrupt halt then fall down on her face on the ground. I caught up within moments and joined when I saw that he was standing there before us. We wept and whispered, “Master.” He was beautiful. He came to us, raised us up and said, “Rejoice, I have risen. Go and tell everyone – especially Peter.” Then he sent us on our way again. We ran even faster then, climbing the hill, plunging through the gate and rushing down the street. By the time we reached my house, I had lost both my package of burial spices and my wrap. I burst into our house where my family were just getting up and around.

“He’s alive! He has risen!” I shouted. “We must tell everyone." My husband looked puzzled as I turned and went back out to follow Mary running up the street. We ran to Nicodemus’ house where the disciples were staying, my husband and children catching up with me. Mary pounded on the door until one of the servants let her in. We pushed our way through to where everyone was just getting seated. Mary shouted, “He’s alive, he’s risen. The tomb is empty and we saw him on the way back. He said to tell you that he is risen, just as he said he would be.” After a brief stunned silence, there was a sudden uproar of voices, asking questions all at once.

I looked for Peter. I loved him like a son and knew that he hurt more than the rest of us after his rebuke and then his betrayal. He was still seated, a little off on his own with a look in his eyes that told me he wasn’t sure if he dared hope. I went to him and knelt down beside him. “Peter, he said to tell you especially. He’s no longer dead. He’s risen. An angel showed us the empty tomb and he met us on the way back. He especially wanted you to know." At that, without a word, he leapt up and ran out of the house.

After that, so many things happened that it’s all a blur. I do remember when Peter came back. He was no longer quiet and withdrawn, but had returned to his own impulsive, rambunctious self. He had been to the tomb after I spoke to him and found that not only had Jesus left, but he had removed the linens they had wrapped his body in. They had the stains from his wounds but had been neatly set aside and left since they were no longer needed. He really had risen!

Some were still skeptical and we were all still afraid of repercussions from the priests and the Romans. Somehow they had hushed up the story the soldiers who had been guarding the tomb must have told. I often wonder what happened to them. However, it was getting around that Jesus had risen and our little group kept growing throughout the next couple of days.

One evening after our meal, the disciples were discussing what to do next. They had elected a new member to replace Judas and his name was Thomas. He was one of the main skeptics, but participated with firm opinions on what course of action needed to be taken in order to avoid the authorities.

Then suddenly, Jesus was there. He was standing in the midst of us as if he’d been there all along. As people realized he was there, they gasped. Mary and I simply exchanged glances and smiled. We knew he would show up again. The next few days were utterly amazing and ended with our Messiah rising into the heavens to sit at the right hand of the Father as an advocate on our behalf. Some became discouraged and fearful again, but all that changed during Pentecost.

But that’s Peter’s story to tell.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Doctor’s Story

I'm not a writer, but God gives me stories to write occasionally. I've kept them to myself until now because I never think they're quite good enough. Over the last few months God has been convicting me of that. I guess he means for me to share.

My uncle recently passed away from cancer. He and my aunt were hoping he would be able to go to Palermo for Holy Week, but instead he celebrates in the presence of God. My cousin is accompanying her Mom in place of her father.

So, I step out in faith and dedicate the stories of Easter I'm going to post in his memory.

Uncle Vince, you're missed but we praise God you're in His presence.

The Doctor’s Story
My name is Dr. Nick Demus and I have an incredible story to tell. My specialty or preferred area of research is law and theology. I’ve participated in many debates and contributed to the laws that people have lived by in my country. I have always enjoyed my job and the things I’ve been able to accomplish. However, it was never quite enough. Something was missing.

I started hearing about a teacher who had been traveling extensively throughout the country. I started making enquiries to learn more about him because the reports I had heard were quite positive. Apparently his specialty was, like mine, law and theology. However, I couldn’t find any evidence of higher education which caused my interest to be piqued even further.  He was an independent scholar. From what I was hearing he had extensive knowledge of the law and a controversial theological interpretation of it.

When I began to hear grumbling and complaints about him from my colleagues, I decided to seek him out and hear what he had to say for myself.

I found that he was interested in returning to and clarifying the original intent of the law. Over the years, those of us who had added specifics so that adherence the law could be measured had mired it down in confusion and restraint. It had become so confining by the time I had begun my studies that even fixing food to eat on the Sabbath was against the law. There were those of us who sought to return to our Lord’s original intent, but mainstream resistance was intense and we risked ending our careers and sacrificing our credibility if we were too anti-establishment.

Not only was this teacher not interested in mainstream manifestations and interpretations of the law, he was extremely focused on people. It didn’t matter, rich or poor, young or old. He cared about them. There were reports that, in addition to teaching, he was healing the sick, touching lepers, and offering the forgiveness of sins. Talk about controversy! To touch someone or something unclean is expressly forbidden by law and that is agreed upon in the most liberal of circles. To offer forgiveness is to claim equality with God, and that is blasphemous. It endangers your very soul.

Occasionally my colleagues would attempt to trip him up with trick questions or controversial and seemingly unanswerable questions. They always left those encounters angry and seething in their embarrassment.

I became more and more interested in him and saw him speak and teach as often as I could. It began to transform my thinking and as a result, my life. The more I heard, the more I wanted.

Finally, just before he was taken, I met with him secretly. I had a burning question that I had to know the answer to, but didn’t want to risk discovery over. I met him at night in the darkness on the roof of the house where he was staying.

I asked him the most crucial question of all. “How can I be saved?” I had to know. I knew that before God I was as unclean as a leper. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how well I followed the law.  Even with the foolish and cumbersome additions made over the centuries, I knew that even one failure covered me as if I had followed nothing.

His response caught me off guard and at first I felt a flash of embarrassed anger. “You must be born again.” I had exposed myself, become vulnerable and all he said is that I must be reborn. But, I bit my tongue and asked for clarification. His explanation changed the course of my life.

God was calling me to a spiritual rebirth. To become a son of God, not just of Abraham. To believe that Jesus was God’s only son and that through him I could receive a guarantee of forgiveness and eternal life.

My faith in this new revelation faltered when he was taken, tried, and crucified. I felt like my hope had been given a foundation only to have it pulled out from under me. But, I couldn’t let go of the fact that it all made sense and that the life of this young man, Jesus, answered all the questions raised by the law and the prophets. Somehow, I knew that God would work it out. I had no idea how, but I had to trust him.

When we realized Jesus was dead, it became imperative to find a place to bury his body. When my colleague, Joseph asked if I would help him move the body to his personal tomb, I didn’t even have to think twice before agreeing to help. We barely had time to do minimum preparations to the body before placing it in his tomb. The Sabbath was upon us and the women said they would come back later to finish what needed to be done. We had no other choice.

When the women did go back, they found his body gone. He was risen from the dead! When I heard that he was risen...when I heard that he was risen from the dead...that he had overcome death, the joy in my heart was overwhelming.

The word spread among the followers like the hills on fire before planting. We all came together, hoping he would come to us. He did and my hope was restored and my trust justified. I’ll never forget the day that he ascended into heaven. All of us, all of his followers and their families were there.

Now they call us Christians. The message of Good News given to us by Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God has spread across the world.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Truth of History: A Voyage Long and Strange

What is considered the truth of history truly depends on those telling the story. I'm listening to an audio book on the history of the discovery of the new world and establishment of colonials called "A Voyage Long and Strange" by Tony Horwitz which addresses the truth of the history of the United States.

He states that when studying U.S. history, children are told about Plymouth Rock and the first Thanksgiving, but not much about the true place of those events in the discovery of the New World by Europeans. He sets out on his own voyage of discovery to find the true history of European discovery and exploration in the United States and it takes him beyond our borders to Canada, the Caribbean, and Central America.

It wasn't until the 20th century that confirmation of the Viking settlement in Newfoundland was discovered and now people might know who Leif Ericson was. But in spite of the fact that the Spanish settled the Southwest about the same time as the landing of the Mayflower, you don't hear about it in the class room. Even the Spanish foray into, and naming of Florida is mired in fable.

Living in Colorado, it's hard not to be aware of the Spanish colonial influence. It's everywhere in names, language, and the landscape. The main street of Colorado Springs is Tejon (pronounced Tay-hone), one of the high schools is called Coronado, and the state name means "reddish" in Spanish. But the best place to find the history of Spanish colonials is New Mexico.

Unfortunately, much of that history seems (to me) to be tainted by European American obsession with illegal immigrants crossing our southern border. I'm NOT going to address that other than to point out that many people lumped together with illegal immigrants have been living on lands now part of the United States since the late 1500s and early 1600s. As long as (sometimes longer) than those who came on the Mayflower.

But if you'd like to know more about the part of the United States named the Nuevo Mundo (New World) by the Spanish I strongly recommend a visit to New Mexico, some internet surfing for Spanish Colonial history in the Southwest, or reading/listening to Mr. Horwitz's book.

Here's some dates:
• Arizona and New Mexico were explored by Coronado in 1540.
• Oñate returned in force in 1598 to claim the area called New Spain. They established the city of Santa Fe in 1608 and made it the capital of the province in 1610. That makes it the oldest, continuously occupied capital city in the United States and it celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2010.
• In 1821 Mexico declared independence and all New Spain territories became part of the new empire of Mexico. This included Las Californias, Nuevo México, and Texas.
• The annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845 resulted in the Mexican-American War The U.S. won that war and so Las Californias and Nuevo México became territories of the United States about 1848. Statehood turned them into California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado.

The Spanish were brutal (what colonials weren't) but they introduced tools, plants, horses and sheep still found in the Southwest today.

New Mexico is still a very Spanish and Native American place and people descended from Spaniards still live there. They are as proud of their heritage as any descendant of those who arrived on the Mayflower. But Puebloans will be happy to tell you the horrors they suffered at the hands of the Conquistador.

What I have here is overly simplified, but it is a history of the beginnings of the United States that you can discover in person by visiting the people and places of the Southwest. Places such as Santa Fe, Taos, Acoma, Zuni, El Morro National Monument, and Canyon de Chelly where the image of Spanish Conquistadors was drawn on the canyon wall by Navajo ancestors.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Bee Gees

It's another flashback. The radio was on because I needed to get my mind off of work so I could start thinking about what I needed to do in pottery class. The radio program played a brief snippet of a Bee Gees song and I flashed back to boarding school.

When I was in 6th through 8th grade I shared a room with 3 other girls at Woyke House. We were either elementary or junior high aged. The other girls room was for the high schoolers and it was like a different world. The walls were covered in posters and music played from their cassette tape players. The girls were Americans, Canadians, Brits, and Fijians depending on the semester. The posters were of the hottest disco era artists such as the Village People and the Bee Gees.

The Bee Gees album "Saturday Night Fever" was new and it got played a lot. I didn't know there was a movie since we didn't have a movie theater, but we all knew who the Bee Gees were and loved listening to their music. The boys would sing in falsetto and the girls learned all the latest dance moves. (Don't tell anyone. It was against the Woyke House rules to dance.) Someone even brought a strobe light from Europe or North America that was used at school events and "birthday" parties since we didn't have a disco ball.

Since keeping our Pop culture experience up to date was reliant on those of us just returning from "home" in North America or Europe, we were always a little behind. So when my family came back to the States in the middle of eighth grade, it was rather unnerving to find that no one was obsessed with the Bee Gees anymore and had moved on to other groups and fashions. I never did quite get caught up.

It took me forever to figure out who Journey, Genesis, U2, Van Hallen, Prince, Michael Jackson, and Metallica were. And by the time I did, most people didn't care about them anymore because they'd already moved on to Madonna, Pink Floyd, and the Talking Heads. And so I've given up. I'm finding that I'm too old to relate to some of the newer bands and I get fed up with the spacey DJs, so I just listen to stuff I like.

I think I've gone from out-of-sync kid-from-Africa to too-old-to-care forty-something.

Amazing Thing

There's this amazing thing that happens when the temperature and weather are just the right combination.


The world turns into a white sculpture. Every branch and blade of grass encased in white.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

10 lessons for young designers

This is from an article about the designer John C Jay.

1. Be authentic. The most powerful asset you have is your individuality, what makes you unique. It’s time to stop listening to others on what you should do.
2. Work harder than anyone else and you will always benefit from the effort.
3. Get off the computer and connect with real people and culture. Life is visceral. 
4. Constantly improve your craft. Make things with your hands. Innovation in thinking is not enough. 
5. Travel as much as you can. It is a humbling and inspiring experience to learn just how much you don’t know. 
6. Being original is still king, especially in this tech-driven, group-grope world. 
7. Try not to work for stupid people or you'll soon become one of them. 
8. Instinct and intuition are all-powerful. Learn to trust them. 
9. The Golden Rule actually works. Do good. 
10. If all else fails, No. 2 is the greatest competitive advantage of any career.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Memories of Shaving Soap

Yesterday my husband and I were in a local kitchen specialty store looking for a cheese slicer. Our favorite one is worn out. After finding one that was like the old one, but more awesome, we browsed.

In the back of the store, a bar of soap caught my eye. It wasn't your usual looking bar of soap. It was a cube about 2 1/2" square, kind of beige semi-transparent, and caused me to flash back in time for a moment.

Our kitchen at Mbingo was separate from the house. It was a big room with windows on two sides, long counter space for working, and cupboards underneath. The wood stove was on the opposite wall and our milk separator stood in the corner near the other windowless wall. The sink was under one of the windows and I was required to help with dishes when our cook had the day off. Probably Sundays.

When doing dishes it wasn't a simple matter of running the faucet and squeezing out some dish detergent. You had to fill the sink with very hot water and carve chunks of soap off a big bar into it until you had enough suds to get to work. In my memories the kitchen and the bar of soap are the same color. Smokey beige.

I'm glad I don't have to carve a bar of soap every time we do dishes anymore. And my dish soap comes in pretty colors now, too.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wedding Song

Today I was reminded of the song my husband sang to me at our wedding by a friend who is getting married soon.

So, since it's Valentine's Day...enjoy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

May Your Spirit be Triumphant

If you've been following my blog, you will have noticed that my last two posts have been about fear. The first one was sparked by a coworker's experience in Haiti after the election announcements in December.

So, I thought I'd encourage you to go check out Brandy's recent posts at Haiti: Rising from the Rubble. The first one is May Your Spirit be Triumphant. The second one is That One Thing. Check back since there will be 2 more posts by her.

It's so easy to allow fear to paralyze us. Even the small fears. While fear can be a healthy thing and keep us from entering unsafe situations, it can also prevent us from forging forward for the Kingdom of God. That's what I love about her first post, May Your Spirit be Triumphant. She talks about that battle in herself between her flesh/fear and her spirit/call from God.

There are new things to fear revealed weekly in my family's lives and I keep telling myself what Jesus said to his disciples. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Mountains Out of Molehills

Okay, so maybe I'm a little to interested in fear right now. But I saw a cool illustration today and had to share it.

A blog I like to follow is called Information is Beautiful. It's by a man who's agency specializes in creating beautiful and easy to read images depicting boring statistical information.

His latest post is a marvelous revision of his Mountains Out of Molehills graphic. He has visualized what people have/are afraid of as opposed to what actually happens over the past decade. Click back and forth (bottom right of the graphic) to see the things we obsess over and what actually happens.

Optimists are gonna love it. We worry about a lot of things that never happen and too much about things that rarely happen.

What the pessimists will notice is that we don't worry enough about killer wasps.