Thursday, November 29, 2007

just for fun



Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I've heard it said that the reason one feels so rejuvenated when close to the ocean is because photosynthetic organisms absorb carbon dioxide, and then the pounding of the surf releases massive quantities of oxygen into the air.


Or maybe it's because when you stand at the edge of that churning mass, and you stare out at an entity powerful enough to take your life and beautiful enough to make you cry, you have a sudden, deep down, cell-level awareness that the God who thought that entity into existence stands watch, and tells it minute-by-minute, "This far, and no further."

It's the worship that rejuvenates me. Maybe worship is spiritual oxygen.

We're in Cannon Beach, Oregon--a place so spilling over with lovely memories from all our many visits, that sometimes I feel a physical longing to be here. We're on a free pastor's getaway, courtesy of the Cannon Beach Christian Conference Center. I doubt they'll ever know how much they've blessed us.

Our room is as close to the ocean as you can get. One window is entirely filled with the view of that endless, white-tipped blue body. The other window looks out at Ecola Creek, a fresh-water stream that runs into the ocean.

We have free wireless. I could live in this room forever.

We've just come in from a walk around town, which resulted in a tall, nonfat, 1 1/2 pump almond latte for me and a 20-ounce, four shot, two pump vanilla latte for Dave; breakfast at the Pig 'n Pancake (the lingonberries on my Swedish pancakes looked like a mound of baby rubies ... and they gave me not one, but two scoops of whipped butter); and then a 45-minute walk along the ocean to try to work off at least a portion of the bounty.

I've never seen so many intact razor clam shells. They were everywhere, scattered like a beckoning, irresistible, blue and honey-gold pathway that led straight toward Haystack Rock. We took the invitation.

And then, after we had squinted up at Haystack Rock and commented on its permanence (like we do every visit), we retraced our steps, came back to our room-with-a-view, and opened both windows wide, because we weren't quite ready to shut out all that noise, and all that oxygen.

Photo found at www.oregonscenics.com



book giveaway

I have two copies of Cindy Woodsmall's new book, When The Morning Comes (from her Sisters of the Quilt series) to give away. All who comment here or email me by December 5th will have a chance to win. If you don't win (or don't want to wait to see if you do win), you can buy the book here.

Synopsis and author bio:

Her relationship with former fiancé Paul Waddell in tatters, Hannah Lapp has fled her home in hopes of finding refuge with another Amish outcast, her shunned Aunt Zabeth in Ohio. Hampered by limited education and hiding her true identity, Hannah struggles to understand the confusing world of the Englischers and embrace unfamiliar freedoms, but a deepening friendship with the handsome Martin Palmer renews her courage to face the future.

Meanwhile, Hannah’s absence and the distressing events that led to her disappearance create turmoil among her loved ones in Owl’s Perch, Pennsylvania. Her father stubbornly refuses to search for her or to acknowledge increasing signs of instability in daughter Sarah, who suffers secret guilt over her sister’s ruined reputation. Fiancé Paul Waddell is wracked with regret over his betrayal of Hannah’s trust and is concerned with her whereabouts. He befriends Hannah’s remaining allies—brother Luke, best friend Mary, and loyal Matthew Esh—trying to convince them to help search for his love.

Rich with authentic details of Amish community and powerful in its theme of hope beyond measure, When the Morning Comes succeeds as a compelling follow-up to Cindy Woodsmall’s best-selling debut novel, When the Heart the Cries.

Cindy Woodsmall is an author, wife, and mother of three sons. Her first novel released in 2006 to much acclaim, including a Reviewer’s Choice Award from the Road to Romance website, and became a CBA bestseller. Her real-life connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families enrich her novels with authenticity. Cindy lives in Georgia with her husband and the youngest of their three sons.



Thursday, November 22, 2007

not too late

She was sleeping when I began slicing onions and celery and a Granny Smith apple; when I crumbled one tube of maple-flavored sausage into my heavy black skillet, and stirred, and watched the heat rising in savory wisps.

She didn't see the coming together of a fresh batch of homemade poultry seasoning--all those spice containers gathered in a huddle around my mortar and pestle, and the careful measurements of half-, and quarter-, and eighths of a teaspoonful of rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, pepper, and nutmeg. She didn't get to see the turn of the pestle as it crushed those herbs into one pungent, indistinguishable spice.

She missed all the rest of the stuffing-making steps, too--the chicken broth poured slowly over that mound of seasoned bread crumbs, the three cubes of melted butter spilled in golden dribbles over the mixture, the last dash of salt, and the final twist of freshly ground peppercorn.

But she is there when I stuff the turkey, and oil him up, and lift him to the pan. And I'm glad. For at the last second, I need her extra pair of hands to widen the opening of the cooking bag.

Bag closed and bird in the oven, she asks, "What do you need me to do next?"

I love having a daughter. As weeks become months and months disappear into years, she is slowly becoming my second self. On days like today, I can give her a general suggestion and she knows how to carry it straight on to finish.

"We need to set the tables," I say. And without asking any further instructions, Tera wipes first one, and then the other table, covers them both with tablecloths, and begins to carefully set out the china from its rest-of-the-year hiding place.

While folding whipped cream into a big bowl of marshmallow-flecked fruit salad, I watch from the kitchen as she arranges the candles on each table. She moves the tall, glass-enclosed pillar an inch to the right, then two inches to the left. After a few long seconds of thought, she brings a votive to join the pillar. As a final touch, she sets a tiny pilgrim man in front of one arrangement, and a tiny pilgrim woman in front of the other.

"Will you put on some music?" I ask. She sorts through the CDs piled near the player and selects one. I'm glad when I hear Fernando Ortega's voice.

I cut an inch from a head of garlic, nestle the tangerine-sized orb on a square of foil, and drizzle olive oil over the exposed cloves. Tera watches me twist the edges of the foil upwards and curl the tip, and set the packet in the oven for roasting.

"Did your Grandma teach you how to do all this?" she asks.

I think of all the recipes my grandmother passed on to me--Poor Soup, breaded tomatoes, red beans ... the list goes on, each memory more homey, more bacon-grease enhanced than the last. Kalamata Aioli isn't on the list. That one I figured out for myself. The stuffing recipe is my own concoction, too.

"No," I say. "But Grandma taught me to love the kitchen."

Tera leans against the counter, resting her pretty face in her hands. "When I get married, I'm going to have you come over and make our Thanksgiving dinner."

I look at her, and just as I do, Fernando Ortega's voice rises from the living room.

Out of time
We're running out of time

How old was I? I try to remember the first time Grandma handed me the spoon and began to transfer her love of cooking. Was I Tera's age? Younger?

"No, you won't do that," I say. "Because you're going to do the cooking yourself."

Tera laughs. "No way. It's too much."

"No, it's not. You're going to be a great cook."

Out of time
We're running out of time

I glance at the counter. What's left to make? Green bean casserole.

"Wash your hands," I tell her. "You're about to make your first Thanksgiving dish."

Her eyes widen. "What am I making?"

"Green bean casserole."

She draws in her breath. "No! Not today. I'll make it some other time. Not on Thanksgiving."

But I'm looking at that hourglass. "Some other time" won't happen. And next year, she might not want to stand here in the kitchen with me. If I wait, I might miss my chance.

"Today," I tell her. "You're making it today, and it will be wonderful, and everyone will love it."

She did ... and it was ... and everyone loved it.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

from the mouths of babes

Some of you have probably already heard this conversation between Logan, a 13-year old boy from a small farm in Nebraska, and Pastor Mike, who hosts a radio program on Sky Angel.

But everyone should hear it. So here's your chance.



Thursday, November 15, 2007


I fell in love with Israel during our first trip in 2004. If you've been, you understand. If you haven't, I don't have words to get you there, and I'm sorry about that. The tears came as I glanced across the aisle and out one of those impossibly small windows, and caught a glimpse of land. When the door opened and I drew in my first lungful of Holy Land air, I wondered if I'd been holding my breath my entire life. My soul felt that I'd brought it home, and fought with me every step of the trip, knowing I planned to wrench it away soon.

Maybe that's why the side trip to Jordan felt painful. We would only be gone two days, but I wasn't ready to leave Israel. And Jordan itself seemed a dark place. It's 95% Muslim, and the remaining 5% who are Christians understand that to share their good news would mean losing their life.

Fear is the only thing you're permitted to bring across the border with you. Eventually you're reunited with your passport, luggage, and tour bus--along with a strange (to you) driver and guide. But for a short span, it's just you and your fear walking through customs.

We stopped at a "restroom" just inside the Jordanian border, and I saw the only native woman I would see over the next four hours. She squatted in a corner of the room, watching those of us who had come in to use the "facilities" (barely a hole in the ground ... and no paper) and motioning toward a can on the floor for us to drop our shekels into. Her eyes were sad, and guarded.

As we drove through the border town toward a highway, we passed hundreds of men on the streets. Some sat in chairs in front of shops. Many worked on cars in what seemed an endless offering of auto shops. And interspersed between these mechanics were, oddly, men tossing pitas in the air. In fact, if there was a rhythm to the view outside my bus window, it was, Mechanic, mechanic, mechanic, pita man. Mechanic, mechanic, mechanic, pita man . . .

Our destination was Petra. I'll write about that another time. For now, let me say that it's one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring places you could hope to see. It's filled with color and texture and noise, and a wide cast of characters for whom Petra is their backyard. I suspect those Jordanian bedouins see no romance there--only the foreigners whose pockets conceal shekels and dollars. I loved Petra, perhaps as much for its future possibilities (as refuge for the Jews during the Great Tribulation) as for its current beauty.

But I didn't know any of that as our bus took us farther and farther from Israel. I didn't know anything at all except that I'd left a place where I felt at home and ventured into a place where I felt unwelcome. As the sun set and lights began to appear in the Muslim homes we passed, a dark sky crept over our bus. The moon rose, but it seemed a foreign moon. And though my husband sat next to me, and my friend Denise sat across the aisle, my heart felt disconnected and alone.

Right in the middle of those thoughts, God brought music. The human hands that strummed those guitars belonged to two men from Calvary Chapel Oceanside, but I know who inspired the worship. We sang, and the darkness overhead felt less foreign, less stifling. Outside my window, I saw the beauty of the moon as it bathed those roadside roofs.

Song after song, we worshiped. God walked the aisle of the bus, and we felt His touch. But even in that pocket of adoration, I still found room for a melancholy thought. My heart turned toward home, and all those I loved who were so far away--and feeling further away with every mile. But God again intervened. Look at the time, He suggested. And I did. And then I did the math, and drew in a startled breath.

"Dave!" I whispered. "It's 9:30 back home ... on Sunday morning."

He smiled. And as we continued singing praises to God on a strange road in Jordan, our hearts felt the rise and swell of worship across the world as our church family in Marysville stood together, looked up, and entered into God's presence ... with us.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007


I just noticed something ... any minute now, I'm going to have my 100,000th visitor. How did that happen?

I'll tell you one thing--three years have gone by fast. Thanks for sharing this ride with me. :)



The trail at my feet is a carpet of orange and gold, red and brown. In places, it crunches at my step. Here and there, where wet patches dot the path, indignant, still-dry leaf tips curl upwards from their soggy torsos, protesting the humility of the puddle. I walk, and think, and crunch the crunchables in my way.

It looks like I'm the only walker on the trail today. One jogger huffed past me from behind, early on, but she didn't seem aware that we were sharing a bit of time and space together. Most of my companions are bikers in their expensive, streamlined suits. You'd think I'd stumbled upon the course of the Tour de'France by the gear these people are sporting. What I dislike more than their over-the-top attire are the black glasses they each wear. Are there eyes behind those lenses? I'm doubtful.

It's a melancholy day. I'm not sad, really, but I do feel alone. I'm alone in a way that permits unwelcomed thoughts. In this bubble of invisibility, I can't resist snatching from God those things I previously entrusted to His hands. "I'll have that back, thank You," I say, in my politest tone.

Just as I'm working my way through the batch, grabbing back one by one all the worrisome "what ifs" I've handed Him in past days; and all the regret from all the missteps that have brought me painful consequences, God sends me a boy.

He's tiny--so tiny he fits nicely in the bike seat behind his father (grandfather?), who is piloting a regular old, sensible, no-ambition-for-France bike. I love that the man is wearing sweatpants and a matching sweatshirt--real people clothes.

As they pass me from behind, the boy turns his shiny, black-haired head in my direction. I see enormous brown eyes. But he's leaning over and laying that tiny head down, and I don't think he notices me. He must be falling asleep, I think. It's the steady whirring of those wheels, and the blur of passing trees. He's probably closing his eyes right now ...

But just as I think that, one tiny hand shoots upward from the back of the bike seat. It lifts toward the sky ... and waves.

I smile. I can't help but smile.

Black hair shows itself above the bike seat. Dark brown eyes peek at me over the rim. I can't see his grin, but I know it's there.

In order to wave, I have to free my hands of all I've filled them with. "You can have it all back," I tell Him. And then I wave.

And the boy waves.

And I wave again, grinning like an idiot.

And for two long minutes, while that bike keeps dropping more distance between my new friend and me, we share our mid-air conversation.

When he disappears around a corner my eyes can't follow, I feel a bit of loss. Then the words to a favorite song come back to me.


A spider spins the lines from leaf to ladder
A trellis spans the canyon to Kathmandu
A transatlantic cable carries transatlantic chatter
And there are lines that run from me to you


A circumstantial glance from passing strangers
Both exchanging sadnesses of souls
Time will take the travelers so they may not remember
But there are lines that hold them even so


Lines that run from vine to branches
Lines that carry love's advances
For those who try to find their place in time
There are lines ... lines

How the strong and mighty take their places
Following the politics of war
Eliminate the enemy
And never see their faces
There are lines that maybe we ignore

Lines that run from vine to branches
Lines that carry love's advances
For those who try to find their place in time
There are lines ... lines

Now and then I hear my grandma's laughter
From the cloud of witnesses above
And every generation from Abraham thereafter
Makes the lines that lead us back to love

Lines that run from vine to branches
Lines that carry love's advances
For those who try to find their place in time
And for those who long to know that they belong
For those who pray
And those who up and walk away
There are lines ... lines

~Billy Crockett, from the album "Watermarks"

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Thursday, November 01, 2007


I know what I'm supposed to be doing right now. And I'll get to it. I'll pull my eyes from those ceiling beams, and the sunlight that has spread like warm buttercream over that tiny triangle of wall near the window. I'll open a document and switch to something mindless, an instrumental playlist that will stay politely in the background of my thoughts--so unlike this praise song that has my heart drifting toward heaven.

This song is my song right now. For weeks--maybe months now--it's the song I keep returning to, again and over again, when I miss God and want to tug on His sleeve. Paul Baloche has put it all to music for me. And when I hear it, I ache. It's the ache of missing the one you love the most. My longing fills this library, and while the people here are wandering past one another with heads down or heads in books or heads scanning the spines of all these endless rows of endless volumes, I want to look up. I want my praise to rise, and keep rising ... till it finds its way home.

As morning dawns and evening fades
You inspire songs of praise
That rise from earth
To touch Your heart
And glorify Your name

Your name is a strong and mighty tower
Your name is a shelter like no other
Your name
Let the nations sing it louder
'Cause nothing has the power to save
But Your name

Jesus in Your name we pray
Come and fill our hearts today
Lord, give us strength to live for You
And glorify Your name

Your name is a strong and mighty tower
Your name is a shelter like no other
Your name
Let the nations sign it louder
'Cause nothing has the power to save
But Your name

Jesus, Jesus
Your name ... Jesus
Give me strength for another day
There's healing in Your name
Salvation in Your name
Oh, there's comfort in Your name
There is joy in Your name
Tender mercies in Your name
There's no other name
No other name

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