Pack, Pack, Pack

I found myself singing the little children's ditty from Dora the Explorer called "Backpack! Backpack!" yesterday as I packed for THREE events. I leave today (Sunday) for a four day work session in the Long Beach area, and laid out the clothes for next weekends jaunt to Oklahoma City and Dallas for a wedding and NASCAR race. We return on Monday evening and then finish packing up for our move to Sumner slated for Friday the 7th.

Our house deal is supposed to close on Monday, then hopefully the "team" will be painting some of the more hideous walls, getting the new house cleaned up, and carpets shampooed next week while I'm gone. The "team" consists of James, my Dad (who is moving with us), and my sister and hopefully Mandy and Daniel. They've all proffered their assistance to help. I have no expectations (I don't think).

The month of November promises to be a full month. Of course, the holidays are just around the corner too. I hope I survive.

A Penny Saved???

With our current economy tanking, I got to thinking about a more frugal life-style. It got me reminiscing about my growing-up years.

I grew up in a family with five other siblings and had parents who continually took in the down-and-out. Sometimes it was relatives, but more often than not it was young adults trying to find their way out of drug addiction in the 60's. Even with a very large house, we all shared bedrooms, and sometimes converted other rooms into living quarters. My parents had big hearts and couldn't bear to see people lost and without the help they needed. As a result, our house was always very full and vibrant, though not always in a good way. I remember the awful sound of retching and moaning as different kids went through withdrawals. I also remember my mom finding drugs and booting some of them out of the house because they refused to stay clean.

One of the consequences of this lifestyle was the need for constant penny-pinching. They had to feed this houseful of people, clothe us six kids and themselves, and send us all off Christian school, thereby keeping us out of the awful public school system. Mom had it down; she could pinch a penny until it squirted out two!

Here's some of my favorites:

Lentils - they can be used in place of meat with the same protein! We had lentil tacos, lentil stew, lentil chili, and even lentils mixed with beef to make the meatloaf stretch farther. I learned to like lentils.

Duck bread - our nearby grocery store sold gigantic 3 or 4 foot tall bags of stale bread. Mom found that there may be pieces still salvageable for sandwiches! Turns out that if you microwave them with just the right settings, and with a glass of water, they can actually get soft again. Be careful though. You have to eat it fast or it will harden right back up. Sandwich croutons.

Quilt Coats - mom found a local garment manufacturer that sold snippets of parka-type fabric (the kind with warm backing attached) and lugged home a couple of boxes full of the stuff in a variety of colors: purple, pink, white, navy blue, baby blue, black, and red. Being the good seamstress that she was, she proceeded to build me a coat made up of pink, purple and white squares with a trendy belt too! I was in 7th grade. Unfortunately I didn't grow much from 7th to 8th grade and the coat lasted two seasons. needless to say, I wore sweaters a lot in Junior High.

Frankenstein Garments - most kids with siblings have suffered through hand-me-downs. Ours had a special twist. Instead of just handing down garments that fit the younger child, my mom actually added extra fabric pieces here and there to lengthen, widen, or augment in some fashion so they were sure to fit one of us. So what had maybe been an OK garment ended up only having a semblance of its original style or shape.

Root Beer - this is one money-saving activity that we all loved. We made home-made root beer every summer using a stash of saved pop bottles and a weird bottle capping contraption. We loved adding in the extract, stirring it up, adding the yeast, and then waiting a couple of weeks for it to set. The results were usually fantastic and provided us with pop for weeks.

I'll think of more as time goes on. Do you have any stories?


Bizarre News

Here's the bizarre of the week:

3 Year old chosen as a goddess - girls lose goddess status at puberty and rarely marry, suffering a life of hardship post-goddess status, yet her family is honored that she is chosen!

Naked man swims in moat - I would guess that sake was involved.

The bra bandit - you'd think it was a guy!

Monkey Butler - whoever thought this up was clearly trying to escape minimum wage laws.


Global Warming?

I think scientists forgot the Pacific Northwest when some declared the controversial "Global Warming". Case in point: Boise, Idaho, October 10th. It snowed. According to the Boise newspaper Idaho Statesman, It snowed earlier than any other year since 1898! I also recalled one of my own journal entries from earlier this year where I said: It's March 28th and snowing outside. It's snowed off and on for the last two days. So much for Global Warming. The globe around me doesn't feel too warm to me!

While I'm trying to be a good world-citizen by not being wasteful by recycling, using low-energy bulbs, driving less, and the like, I am still doubtful about the whole warming thing. I distinctly remember the ecologists cry in the 70's about how the world was cooling an we were all doomed. I wasn't sure I was recalling correctly (as I was a teenager) so I researched and found an article from 1975 in Newsweek that confirms I did not imagine it. The author, Peter Grim, finishes of the article by saying, "They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality."

I'm glad politicians are slow to move on things like this. I can't imagine the consequences had world leaders actually carried out what was suggested in Grim's article.

Cool, then warm, and now maybe cool again? Yes! The Nature Journal states that a team of German scientists are rising up to say we are entering another cycle where certain zones will begin cooling!

I'll stick to re-usable grocery bags, renewable resources and energy star appliances, thank you! But please don't divert any rivers or re-freeze the polar ice caps to try to change the climate!

Coldest spell in California since the 1800's in Mendocino County

Pendleton Oregon faces cold snap that breaks record of 118 years!

And one more: Alaska Glaciers grew this last year


Coming of Old Age

Toast Dust – you know the stuff that you scrape off burnt toast to save that slice of bread? It’s important one not be wasteful, you know. I learned that from my mom, a toast-burner extraordinaire. The toaster gets the blame, and that little adjustment knob on the bottom of the toaster? Well it was years before I knew what that was there for. No one ever touched that little do-hickey at our house. Mom used to “hide” the evidence by scraping it directly into the sink (why the sink, I’m not sure as it was in the days before anyone had any garbage disposals other than a dog); which we’d always find when we went to clean up. ‘Course the slight charcoal taste was still a dead give away.

Well, I woke up one day with what surely must be toast dust in my eyes. I have never suffered much in the way of allergies, but after a second nosebleed it had me wondering. Maybe it’s because I have neglected to drink water the preceding days. Doesn’t coffee count? All of my siblings have allergies and two even have asthma.

My older sister Shirley was very sickly due to asthma and its devastating attacks. I’ll never forget when the doctor told mom to give her wine to cut the mucus down. Mom would force feed a tablespoon or so when it would get bad. I had always wondered about the blue lips. Shirley used to tell me in genuine earnest “it’s cuz I’m dying and you have to be nice to me.”

Ah, but I digress. I have said all that to say this: I think I’ve succumbed to allergies in my old age. My day will be going along fine and all of a sudden I’ll find myself sniffling, sneezing, and scrubbing at my eyes; then as suddenly as it appeared - it’s gone!

Another coming of old age is the memory thing. My mind used to be a steel trap; nearly a photographic memory. If I had read it, I could close my eyes and read it off the page. This was really helpful in college, providing I actually read the material. Not so much anymore though. I have come to the conclusion that my “hard drive” is nearing capacity, regularly deleting files to make room for more. Unfortunately, I have noticed that I don’t always have much control over what “files” are maintained and which are sent to the “recycle bin.” I’m hoping the ridiculous trivia of the past is what goes first; things like my old BFF girlfriend’s phone number from 6th grade (yes, I still remember it), or a gift I got at the 3rd birthday party from my Aunt Gloria. However, I suspect that there must be a greater purpose to those memories, trivial or not. I just have to find it. I’ll have to dig deep and put some of my good analytical skills into play and determine the ….

What am I looking for again????


A Plan for a Plan

I just read a great article today in the Chicago Tribune regarding the upcoming election. It clearly articulates something that has bugged me for a long time: candidate proposals or plans to fix things. How many times have we heard about these plans and then find the elected candidate can't seem to get anything done? Why then do we continue to believe that their plans actually mean anything at all?

Jonah Goldberg has a humorous take on these plans and writes in his October 10th article titled Best Laid Plans Mean Zip, "Every weekend I have a plan for how my 5-year-old child will spend her day. Keep in mind: I am literally the boss of her. She has no money, little education and no reliable means of escape. And yet, she foils my plans time and again. But somehow we're supposed to believe that a plan involving billions or trillions of dollars, millions of people (each with their own agenda) and thousands of communities influenced by countless interested parties and bureaucracies is not only possible, but the highest responsibility of our elected leaders."

Check out the article, it's a fun read. Let us find out what all these candidates actually stand for by examining their character, not their rhetoric, or the spin generated by journalists and others.


Reaching Out to the People!

The Birminham Cathedral is going to new heighths to reach non-church goers. In an article on Sep 2 2008 By Rhona Ganguly, The Birmingham Post states that the "Birmingham Cathedral could be doing its own fund-raising version of turning holy water into wine as it considers plans for a wine bar." A wine bar? I wonder if it is about reaching souls or could it be that it's all about money?

On August 31, 2008, Jonathan Wynne-Jones of UK's Daily Telegraph, reports that the cathedral's leaders are exploring various opportunities to engage new parishoners and are considering opening a wine bar. Church leaders state that "The new appraoch to attracting and retaining worshippers could become a blueprint for dioceses across the country." The goal is to have a more business-like approach to their operations.

The Birmingham Post goes on to say that Mr. Hope-Urwin, part of the clergy there at the cathedral, says “We’re not trying to encourage drinking, but the cathedral has to engage more with the city and find ways of meeting people on their territory. Cathedral wine bars should be seen as a potential commercial operation with profits going into the upkeep and of the building and paying for evangelistic work.

I can see it now; forget the lattes and coffee before services. Bring on the wine! Folks can come in sippin' and a swirlin' their reds and whites, offering tidbits of wine wisdom prior to hitting the Sunday evening Bible Study. Do you think they'll remember anything?

What's next? Valet parking? Oh wait, I've seen that before too. Ahh, the sacrificial life - bring it on!


Favorite all Time Dave Barry

This is my all-time favorite Dave Barry column published Friday, November 7, 1997, in the Miami Herald. Coming from Seattle, the home of the coffee craze, it had me in stitches – still does.

Favorite excerpts are:

"...consumers are always ordering mutant beverages with names like ``mocha-almond-honey-vinaigrette lattespressacino,'' beverages that must be made one at a time via a lengthy and complex process involving approximately one coffee bean, three quarts of dairy products and what appears to be a small nuclear reactor."

"... a group of workers, who were supposed to be making a birdbath, began drinking Egyptian coffee, which is very strong, and wound up constructing the pyramids."



Mountain Climbing

I love the outdoors, particularly hiking. As a child our family spent summers trekking through the Cascade Mountains in search of beautiful viewpoints, waterfalls, streams and lakes. I love the physical activity, the scenery, and the camaraderie it engendered; all of us chatting and helping each other over the rough spots and then standing in awe when we reached our goal. I remember one exhausting climb where my imaginative sisters and I closed our eyes and pointed at the mountain, commanding it to move. Even as children, we knew not to take the scriptures literally as stated in Matthew 17:20 “…you could say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it would move,” so we were not a bit surprised to find the mountain still there and continued on.

Mountains are huge, rugged, and dangerously beautiful; people try to climb and conquer them all the time. Some even die trying. But what are these mountains spiritually? Most mean great pain and hardship and our desire is to see them dealt with quickly. We may even pray that prayer for total removal of the mountain. These Life challenges are what make us grow; they can either make us or break us. However, scripture shows us powerful evidence that unfolds a new perspective on mountains, how to climb them, and what we’ll find when we reach the top.
In your trial, troubles, and conflicts that are your mountain, you can find so much more than simply an obstacle.

A Place of Vision and Destiny

In Exodus chapter 3, Moses encounters the burning bush while on Mount Horeb.” There he hears from God, receiving clear direction and calling for his future. Moses receives the divine communication through the fiery manifestation that outlines Moses’ purpose in life – the salvation of the Israelites from Egypt.

A Place of Instruction and Direction

The story of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai is famous among even non-Christians. Also, in I Kings 19, a discouraged Elijah, after confronting the prophets of Baal went to mountain cave. There the Lord converses with him, telling him to go in and anoint Hazael as king over Syria.

Jesus gave lengthy instructions to his Disciples and followers in his Sermon at the Mount. Here he outlined specific teaching that is foundational in all Christian teaching today. Again in Acts chapter 1, we see that He gave instructions, from the mount (vs. 12), to the disciples just prior to ascending to heaven. These last instructions were what prompted the disciples to wait together in the upper room where they experienced the outpouring of the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). What if they’d never gone to the mountain with Jesus to hear and obey his instructions to wait for the promise?

A Place of Divine Intimacy and Worship

One of my favorite stories is where Moses pleads to see the face of God. In Exodus 33:18 Moses beseeches, “I want to see your glory!” I have often tried to imagine Moses’ heart as he expressed his desire, craving God’s intimate touch. The Lord responds saying, “I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I’ll call out, proclaiming who I am.” He goes on in verse 22, “I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll remove my hand so that you can see my back, but not my face.” Moses experienced something no other had – he saw God. Not only did Moses receive his destiny while conversing with the burning bush, he also was told by God "I will be with you. This will be the proof that I am sending you: After you lead the people out of Egypt, all of you will worship me on this mountain."

Another example is when Jesus went to the mountain to pray. Luke 9:28 – 29 says, “And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.”
There’s been many a trial in my life, that once overcome, has resulted in my grateful praise and thanksgiving; awe at His ever-present mercy at work in my life. While my face might not need to be veiled like Moses’, or be glistening like Jesus’, I have no doubt that, when I’ve spent time in intimate worship, it’s not furrowed with frown lines.

A place of Victorious Views

One of the best examples of a mountainous view that resulted in victory is when Moses, Aaron and Hur stood on top of a hill and watched God miraculously deliver the Amalekites into the Israelites hands (Exodus 17:10-16). They were in a great position to be able see the battle raging below them. The results of their actions were readily apparent and they responded appropriately with support for Moses as his arms got heavy and he could no longer lift them himself. Once victorious, the Lord said, in verse 14: “I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.”

The importance of this mountain is that it put them in a strategic viewpoint with which to survey the situation and make the needed changes to quickly respond. The important part is not to focus on the actual mountain, or place where we’re at (an introspective view), but rather at the surrounding environment to see what tactical strategies we can employ that result in victory.

Revelation 21:10 states, “And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,” here the view is of the heavenly kingdom; truly an incredible vantage point to see the eternal future!

What is your mountain?

Is it a place of temptation? Satan took Jesus up to mountain and tempted him, Luke 4:5 states, “And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.” Is your temptation one of gossip, conforming to the world, or maybe attitudes of anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness?

Is it a place of refuge? Elijah took refuge in the mountain cleft after defeating the prophets of Baal. From there he heard the voice of God.

Is it a place of death and sacrifice? Abraham was instructed to take Isaac to a mountain of God’s choosing to offer up Isaac. Is what you’re facing mean great sacrifice?

Do we really want to ask for our mountains to be removed, or even made easier? What would we miss out on if we found a short-cut or even a way to avoid our obstacles? We could be cheating ourselves out of, not only the view, but an amazing opportunity to hear directly from God about our destiny, or clear instructions about the future, and intimate worship with the lover of our souls. So lace up your hiking boots and let’s go mountain climbing!