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January 23, 2015 | 0 comments

America is called a “melting pot”, and it surely is.  There isn’t a nation on the planet that doesn’t have representation, and most have brought family traditions with them.  I know our family did.  Rick and I are not that far removed from being from across the water.  We’re both Heinz 57 variety Americans with a little more of this than that.  Rick’s maternal grandparents came from Sweden.  You’d have to go back two hundred years to Britain for his paternal ancestors.  My (maternal) grandfather came from Germany, my grandmother Switzerland, and both came to the USA via Canada, legally (barely).  My paternal ancestors are a mixed bag of English and Scotch (not the drinking kind – then again, how would I know) and American Indian.  We thought our great-grandmother was a Blackfoot, but as it turned out, she came from an eastern tribe and had to live on a Blackfoot reservation when she came west.  So did her white husband.  My...

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January 16, 2015 | 0 comments

The news is full of various terrorist attacks around the world.  Journalists are currently being targeted.  Seventy have been killed by ISIS, not including the staff at Charlie Hebdo, not including the seventeen Iraqi journalists.  Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 600 lashes, 50 a week, for “insulting Islam” by criticizing senior religious leaders, and suggesting Saud Islamic University is becoming a den for terrorists.  His wife, Ensaf Haidar, has been sentenced to 1000 lashes because she dared say the floggings are killing her husband. 

This week, in the name of religious freedom, Duke University planned to allow a Muslim call to prayer from a campus chapel bell tower.  In our own county, Sonoma State University had kicked Intervarsity Christian Fellowship off campus.  There are classes at the Junior College on Islam, but none on Christianity.  Many in our country believe the propaganda that our founding fathers were...

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January 10, 2015 | 0 comments

Rick and I went to “Unbroken” recently.  We’ve both read Laura Hillenbrand’s excellent book, and bought an extra copy to loan out.  Louis Zampirini’s story shows the strength of the human spirit to survive and the power of God to enable one to forgive and thrive. 

We’ve read reviews, and have heard a lot of complaining that the movie lacked the greater story of Zampirini’s conversion to Christianity at a Billy Graham Crusade, how he recovered from alcoholism, forgave his tormentors and returned to Japan to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Hence, I went into the movie with eyes and ears wide open to see and hear what Angelina Jolie did with Louis Zampirini’s life story.

The faith message was there from beginning to end, not with a hammer, but with a gentle hand of grace.  I saw it in the way Louie’s mother was on her knees praying for her wayward son. I saw it in Pete who watched his brother running from police and taught him how to run...

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January 2, 2015 | 0 comments

I saw an article in our local newspaper the other day, announcing an “Unseen” art exhibit at the community center.  The exhibitors are part of an art program available through the Wellness and Advocacy Center which is part of the County Mental Health Division. The group is a peer-run and self-help center.  What intrigued me is these exhibitors suffer mental illness and are homeless.

As I wandered the hall and rec room, I was blown away by the artwork.  I’ve been to the Louvre in Paris and DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. I’ve been to art museums in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.  Not everything in those hallowed halls fits my definition of fine art.  I dare say some of it looked lazy and trite, thrown together by arrogance and disdain.  I’ve seen “artwork” on display in prestigious galleries that was no more than a urinal nailed to a wall and came with a tab of $100,000 – not because of the beauty of the porcelain, but who...

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December 26, 2014 | 0 comments

Rick and I got married on December 21, 1969.  With all the activities of Christmas, one would think a young couple would pick a less hectic time for a wedding, but that was the only time the church was available.  My parents had retired and moved to Oregon and Rick was in the Marine Corps, stationed at El Toro.   Hence, I did most of the planning, and it was a simple, old-fashioned wedding with family and friends.  All Rick had to do was get time off and show up (not always easy to do when you are subject to the “exigencies of the Corps”).  He said he’d go AWOL if he had to – thankfully, he didn’t. 

We celebrated our 45th anniversary this year.  Close friends invited us to share the celebration: three couples, all married in December (20, 21, and 22) of 1969.  We went to the movies and then gathered at Holly and Bob’s to share memories and break bread together.  We all brought our wedding albums.  Oh, those...

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December 19, 2014 | 0 comments

Imagine being rock bottom and hopeless.  Imagine being fifty-six years old, jobless, in failing health and near bankruptcy. When you were younger, you flunked out of college and left home, hoping to find your own way in the world. And you did.  You made a name for yourself. People recognized your talent. You wanted more freedom, more opportunities to expand your gifts.  So you emigrated to another country.   And you had success in your new homeland, too.  Everything was coming up roses until ill health began stripping you of everything, from the joy of life, to finances, to your ability to work.  Strokes and bouts of rheumatism exhaust you.  Cataracts dim your eyesight.  All the creativity you had in your youth is but a distant memory that torments you.  Now when someone knocks at the door, you’re afraid to answer because it might be another creditor.  All you can do is pray God takes you home before you’re carted off to jail...

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December 13, 2014 | 0 comments

I used to have a long list of things I “needed” to get done before the family celebration on Christmas Eve.  The change in my thinking began when I attended an “Unplugging the Christmas Machine” retreat.  When I made my to-do list for Christmas and who did each chore (me), I was appalled.  No wonder I was tired and cranky.  No wonder I felt depressed by the time Christmas Eve was over.  Expectations were so high, failure was almost guaranteed. 

How many other moms and wives mistakenly believe it is their responsibility to make sure everyone in the family has their perfect Christmas?  So we do the shopping (making certain everyone has the same number of gifts to open), wrapping, addressing and writing individual notes in each Christmas card, decorating the house and the tree, making cookies for neighbors, shopping for those who serve us through the year (pastors, mailman, newspaper delivery lady…)  Then there’s the shopping for the big...

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December 6, 2014 | 0 comments

As Christmas approaches, volunteers in red aprons or jackets and a velvet Santa cap stand by a red bucket and ring a bell.  You see them in front of supermarkets and stores and hear them wishing people a Merry Christmas, even those who don’t give a dime to help others, but walk right past to shop inside.  Rick and I have not rung the bell, but we never pass by those who do without putting money in the bucket. 

Why? 

Years ago during the Great Depression, Rick’s Dad jumped a train in the Carolinas and headed west in the hope of a better future.  All the money saved for college was gone, but he’d heard a smart young man could make something of himself in California.  He ended up in Oakland with 14 cents in his pocket.  Exhausted and hungry, he wrapped his shoes in his shirt and used the bundle for a pillow.  Dad slept soundly and didn’t awaken when a thief lifted his head and took the few possessions he had.

What does a...

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December 1, 2014 | 0 comments

Alas, Thanksgiving is over.  The turkey and all the trimmings have been gobbled, the dishes washed and put away. The children and grandchildren have all gone home and the mums on the front steps are wilting in the rain.  The house echoes with conversations and laughter.  Sigh. 

Then I remember:

Thanksgiving is far from over.   It’s not just one day a year when we gather around a feast and talk about the blessings we’ve experienced over the past year.  It is a state of mind that can remain with us each and every day. 

Sometimes, in the darkest of night, when worries worm their way into my mind, and steal my sleep, I remember thankfulness is seeing real life, rather than the shadows of how hard our temporal time on this earth can be.  Life is hard.  Yes.  But -- I am God’s child. (John 1:12)  I am Christ’s friend. (John 15:19)  I have been bought with a price.  I belong to God.  (1...

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November 21, 2014 | 0 comments

It’s been a couple of weeks since we returned home from South Africa, but we’re still talking about the many things we enjoyed. 

Sua du Plessis from Christian Arts took us to Moyo, a restaurant across the street from the hotel in Melrose Arch.  Moyo is Swahili and means “soul”.   Sua ordered for us, knowing we were all eager for a foodie adventure. The evening was a feast of the senses; African music, the cool evening air, the stars coming out, the smell and taste of great food. 

For starters, we  had peri peri chicken livers bunny chow – pan-fried chicken livers in a spicy East African sauce, presented in home-made bunny chow bread rolls; moyo samosas – three deep fried triangular pastry pockets with chutney; wors, vetkoek en sous – bits of beef, ostrich and venison in fritters. 

For the main course, I had oxtail braised with butterbeans and carrots in red wine beef au jus.  Rick and Karen had...

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