America’s got talent?

July 21, 2008

I watched tv last night which is a little unusual for me.  Give me a good book anytime over television.  But for some reason, I watched this show, which has contestants doing things like imitating animal sounds (!!!), he got bleeped off really fast as did the next woman who sang some song in the cracks where notes had never been.  I had really expected that sort of thing  when I tuned in to that program on the premise that people will do anything for their fifteen minutes of fame and I was about to give up and go read.

 But then, this man came on.  He had been a singer and he loved it.  Not particularly as a professional, you understand, but he loved singing.     He had an accident eleven years ago and had the cords to his voice box severed.  Doctors told him that he would never talk again, let alone sing, but he was determined they were wrong and for eleven long years, he never gave up his dream that he would sing again.  I’m no professional about singing whatsoever, but I know when a vocalist really hears a song and sings with such emotion that he or she actually reaches through the room and touches the audience’s hearts.  He did.  He was remarkable. He started to sing and the audience started to boo so intensely that you could hardly hear him.  But he just ignored them and sang his heart out.

 You who know me know I am not openly or wildly emotional, but I was so glad I heard this man  and  I found myself leaning forward in my chair and hoping the audience could hear him, too. The boo’s began to fade and you could feel (yeah, through the tv honestly)  they quieted down and then started to cheer as wildly as they had jeered before.  There were tears in his eyes and mine as well as the judges and probably most of the audience as he finished his song.   I was just thrilled he got all three judges to say yes to his talent. I don’t know what happens to the contestants when they get the nod, but it’s obviously good.  So now I’ll have to watch that show again to find that out.  I will.

  I guess it’s a lot like life; you have to sort through a lot of junk to find something valuable, but when you find that one thing (or one singer)  it’s way worth the work and dirt and time and hogcallers you had to sift through to find it. 

I’ve grown more cynical through the years and I don’t expect much from people any more.  It’s easier for me just to tone down my expectations and start the ‘booing’ process before I give anyone a chance. Less disappointments, I guess.   But you know, that’s a mistake.  When I take time to pray and ask God to let me see things from His viewpoint and really begin to listen with my heart and look at the people in my life with joy and anticipation and without preconceived notions, it’s amazing to me how often God surprises me with joy and my world changes.  I’m so glad I’ve learned that.  You should try it.  It’s a good way to live.

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Vacation

June 25, 2008

We’ve been in Michigan over two weeks and leave for home in San Jose day after tomorrow.  I accomplished what I set out to do here, namely empty the locker of things that haven’t been used or seen for four years or more.  Did it.  Sorted and disposed of and will have a few things shipped to CA for no reason on earth except I love them and they belong in my home.  A rocking chair I bought probably 35 or 40 years ago, an antique desk and chest I got in 1976 after the Teton dam failed and swept away all our furniture, plus the farm and homes and livestock and other things, and a painted chest that I love.

It’s probably Conn’s last visit to MIchigan.  Travel is getting more and more difficult ,although frankly, it’s great to travel with him because people in wheelchairs get a pass on security that is just delightful.  He’d a thousand times rather be able to stand in the long lines and NOT have to be in a wheelchair, and I agree a million times over, but since we really do need the chair, it’s a nice little bonus.  Of course, they practically strip search him, because I guess a wheelchair would be a great ploy if you had a burning desire to blow the world up, but this is all about me, of course.  But all that aside, I think this has been a very meaningful and good visit for him;  he bonded with Henry,  our youngest grandson in a way that has been so great for him.  He has always loved Trini, Henry’s sister, but it was such a good thing to watch as he and Henry sat and talked and enjoyed each other’s company.  I am so grateful to God for that.  It may well be the last time on this earth they see each other, but they will see each other again in heaven.  And not as strangers.

Tonight we go and have dinner with Nancy, Dennis, Trini and Henry.  Can’t wait.  I don’t see them nearly as much as I’d like, but this has been a great visit and I feel such deep peace about all four of them.  What incredible people they are!  Actually, all our children are people of tremendous value.  I am blessed beyond words to know them and have them in my life.

Elizabeth

June 24, 2008

Yesterday, while I was in church with Nancy (who directs the music there and plays the piano incredibly well) Elizabeth whispered softly to me, in that wonderful husky undorgetable voice, “It is so beautiful here.”  At about that same moment, Nancy started to play ‘It is well with my soul.’  I completely lost it, but the people at her  church are mavelously kind and never stare.  After a while, I was just so glad she was finally home.

Elizabeth’s  battle with cancer was, like she was, totally and completely heroic.  The colon cancer was found only a few months after little Grace was born and she and Faber had only been married about a year.  She went through painful surgeries, endless radiataion and chemotherapy with a spirit and determnation that had marked her whole life.  She had Faber and her three totally loved daughters to fight for and battle she did.  Cancer is such a war and such a relentless enemy.  Long after she ran out of weapons to fight with, she continued on, determined to wrest out every moment she could to be with Faber, Evalyn, Olivia and darling baby Grace.  She never complained or had the slightest self-pity;  she only continued on with determination and grace and love.  She never doubted God’s complete wisdom,love and control, but once she did whisper softly, in the midst of terrible pain, that she wondered ‘how long.’  I whispered back through tears that I wondered the same thing.  I am so privileged to have known her and called her my friend.

I never knew her to be less than honest in everything she did.  If you needed someone to talk to, when you were facing a problem you couldn’t handle alone, you could go to her and know three things;  she’d give you an honest opinion (not necessarily what you wanted to hear), she would never judge you in the problem and she would NEVER gossip about it to anyone on earth.  I think she must have known more secrets than anyone in that valley (with the possible exception  of her mother from whom she learned) because she never broke a confidence.

She was funny.  Her sense of humor was delightful and she always got it.  IF you have to explain a joke, believe me, it aint a joke.  But she got it.

She found the love of her life a little late, but for four or five short years, she and Faber knew a love like few people ever will.  I don’t doubt for a minute that they had their differences, but I do know their communication was remarkable.  And when they looked at each other, sometimes I had to look away;  the love was so evident, I felt like an intruder on something sacred and wonderful.

And then there is Grace.  Darling Grace Elizabeth, their beautiful little daughter, two years old and so very much like her mother.  Same deep voice, same funny joyful spirit, same beautiful face.  How blessed Faber is to have that darling girl in his life.  With Evalyn and Olivia, there is so much of Elizabeth still alive and thriving in this world.

I read somewhere that the measure of a life well lived are the lives that have been changed for the better by being with that person who slipped away a little too early, perhaps, in our estimation.  If that is true, and I believe it is, then Elizabeth should have won some marvelous award for living.  There were at least five hundred people at the memorial, and I’m pretry sure the vast majority of them thought they were Elizabeth’s best friend.  We got that idea because she treated you as if you were quite literaly the only person in the world when you were with her.  She gave us that gift.

So goodnight, my dear little friend.  I will see you in God’s bright tomorrow and there are days I really can’t wait.

Memorial Day

May 28, 2007

I suppose you show your age in a thousand ways and none of the important ones are the way you look.  My age shows badly when I remember holidays.  For instance, I remember Memorial Day as Decoration Day.

That’s right.  Decoration Day.  Never heard of it?  Well then, I’m guessing you didn’t live in a small town with its only cemetery on a small hill outside of town and you’re probably under 40 or 50 years old.  So let me tell you about Decoration Day.

Decoration Day always came on the last day of May.  It was the day when, early in the morning, an old man named Irving started the day by putting a flag up in his yard and playing “Taps.”  He had served in the First World War and had come  home with a damaged mind from all he had seen.  Today we’d call it Post-Traumatic Stress, but back then, it was just weird Irving.  He was one of the kindest men in town, but he drank way too much and he avoided as many people as he could.  If you were a child, he smiled at you, but grown-ups he couldn’t handle.  He told me once on one of his friendly days that he had terrible nightmares and rarely slept.

Anyhow, that’s how the day started.  By midmorning, we’d picked all the lilacs in the yard along with any early peonies, put them in water-filled cans, loaded them in the car and were headed for the cemetery.  The car smelled heavenly.

We headed first of all for the small cemetery miles away in a little community called Squirrel, which was where my grandparents had settled when they came to America from Germany.  The little burial ground was by a dusty country road, totally neglected, weedy and desolate.  The headstones looked tired and tilted with age, but Mother always knew exactly where she was going. 

About halfway down the center road, she stopped and got out her hoe and rake and went to work.  There was a small headstone there with a tiny lamb on top and it was my job to take some of the water and a rag and try to wash it off.  I loved that lamb and as the dust and dirt came off, the name carved became legible. 

Ernest William Harrigfeld.   Born October 22, 1903.  Died January 18, 1904.

Mom’s little brother.  The tiny boy who only lived a few weeks and died in the bitterly cold winter.  I would always finish cleaning off his name and then walk around the rest of the graves.  There were so many little lambs and angels and graves of little children. They way outnumbered the graves of older people. 

Mom finished hoeing and raking the gravesite and then put a huge can filled with lilacs near his headstone.  She always touched the stone gently and then, gathering up her tools, we left the cemetery.  Not many graves were decorated in that little cemetery, but my mother never forgot the family had someone buried there and on Decoration Day, she honored him.

Then we headed back toward Ashton and the cemetery on the hill.  The grounds were crowded with people who had come to remember and leave flowers.  My grandparents were buried in the far back corner under a huge black headstone with the word “Schaefer” carved on it.  And that’s where Mom brought the lilacs and peonies and with gentle hands, filled the graves of her parents with flowers.

She never talked about them unless you asked specific questions.  Today, I wish I’d asked a lot more.

On the way out of the cemetery, we saw graves that had been decorated by small American flags.  They were the veterans who had gone from a small mountain town in Idaho to fight in a war in a place they had never seen or heard of.  They were the ones who endured the horrors, slogged through the mud and slime, endured the cold and the pain and the loneliness for no other reason than they were called and they responded.  America was their country and it was worth fighting for.

It still is.

A Woman Who Met Christ

May 7, 2007

I love to read stories about people who meet Christ and come to see Him for Who He is.  I have been told once or twice that I have a little too much imagination at times, but I don’t agree.

Jesus was teaching one day near the temple and drew a great crowd, because his stories were compelling and told with an authority people had never heard.  As he taught, a commotion arose around him and suddenly the crowd parted as two men came through the crowd, dragging a dishelved woman.  I doubt she had much more on than a ragged robe;  she had been caught  while having sex with a man to whom she was not married.  She had probably been part of a trap on the part of the men who dragged her into the crowd.  The men who laid the trap had no interest in her at all;  she was merely a small cog in a plot to discredit Jesus and she had walked into it. 

“Master,”  they said, in great confidence.  “We just caught this woman in the very act of adultery!  The law says she should be stoned to death, but what do you say, wise teacher?”

Now if you’ve got two or three working brain cells, the first question that pops into your mind (at least in the way my suspicious mind works) is where on earth is the man with whom she was caught?  Adultery , like the tango, takes two.  Otherwise, I think it’s probably called something else.

The men were a part of the enemies of Jesus, which included most of the prominent religious leaders of the Jewish nation.  They were desperate to discredit this disturbing man from Galilee who preached  and taught about a God of love and light and threatened the established religion of the day.

The woman lay on the ground in front of the teacher.  She had to be terrified and shamed beyond imagination.  The law did mete the penalty of death by stoning for the sin of adultery.  She could only lay there, waiting for the agony of the first stone to strike her.  But it never came.

Jesus understood what was happening, of course.  I don’t think he could read minds, but he knew the heart of man and the evil it is capable of.  He simply stood quietly for a moment and finally, he stooped and wrote on the ground.

The only other place I can find the finger of God writing is in the Old Testament where He wrote the Law.  Nobody knows for sure what He wrote that day, but I believe He did it again that day.  Whatever it was, the leaders of the crowd that day could read it  clearly.

There wasn’t a sound.  Jesus wrote again and then stood up and said, “He who is without sin may cast the first stone.” 

 He didn’t deny the law;  He simply, in His inimitable way, clarified it. 

“If you have never committed sin yourself, then you are qualified to judge her.  If, on the other hand, you might want to think this through again…”

Those aren’t his exact words, of course.  My interpretation.  The following scene is rather amazing, but the best part is still to come.  The men, one by one, beginning with the older men and moving to the younger ones, began to drop their  stones.  See, they already had their agenda worked out;  they were eager to carry out the law.  There’s nothing quite so satisfying as seeing that all the rules are rigidly enforced.  Unless, of course, we’re the one that got caught.

Silently, the men dropped their ammunition and left the scene.  Oddly, in shame or compassion for the woman, the whole crowd dissapated.  And this, my friends, is where it really gets interesting.

Only two people are left.  The woman, who is still at Jesus’s feet, and the Master Himself.  In what I still consider one of His greatest acts, He says quietly, “Woman, where are your accusers?”

It’s not the question.  It’s the way He speaks to her.  That word ‘Woman’ is the same word He used from the cross when He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son.”  It was respect, endearment and love.  It was everything this woman had never known and it was the one gift she needed more than anything in the world.  She was a sinner, an adultress, nothing in the world’s eyes.  And He give her a dignity and a sense of love she had never known in her life.

But the most remarkable thing  in this whole story is how she answered Him.  She knew in that moment who He was!  And her answer was simply, “No man, Lord.”

“Men may not condemn me, but the most important question now is, do you, my Lord and God?”

I think at this point, He reached down and lifted her up and smiled as He said, “Neither do I.  Go and sin no more.”

Wow!  What a God we serve!

church

April 15, 2007

I did it!  I found the right church.  Notice I did not say it’s the perfect church.  If it were, I would have wrecked it the minute I walked in the door.  But it’s right for me.

 First, there’s the music.  Sorry for all you lovely ones who think I’m so spiritual I only go for good theology.  I don’t.  It’s important that I agree with the teacher, of course.  That doesn’t say either of us are right;  it’s just that we both think we are…

No, the music is what draws me and keeps me and causes me to worship.  It’s been that way since I was a child in the Methodist Church in Ashton, Idaho.  My parents had been raised Lutheran and both had been turned away from that early on.  I actually would go to the Lutheran Church some Sundays just to see what I was missing, and because they didn’t have central heating, but a stove up in the front corner where you got so hot you felt the teachings on hell fire were true and you definitely did not want to go there. On the other hand, you could have chillblains in your feet and hands if you sat at the back of the congregation.  It was hard to concentrate on anything the pastor said when your teeth were chattering and you kept jiggling to keep from freezing.

So I went Methodist.  They had central heating and they had great singing.  I don’t remember a single sermon, not one!  But the words in those great hymns spoke in a way no human being ever could.

This church I went to today is in Escondido.  About 15 minutes or so away on Sundays freeways.  The sermon was on Doubting Thomas, with whom I have identified with more in my life that I want to admit.  Thomas’s middle name was Didymus.  That means Twin.  And as a teacher told me once, ‘if you want to know who his twin was, just look in the mirror!’  Most of us have moments of scepticism in our walk with God;  the longer our walk, the shorter the moments.  And as the pastor pointed out, Jesus never lost patience with those who were willing they needed Him.

The recessional hymn was “He Lives.”  Those words go back to the day I first came to know Him and I repeat them here for me, not for you.  But you are welcome to listen in..

I serve a risen Savior, he’s in the world today  I know that He is living, whatever men may say.  I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

He lives!  He live!  Christ Jesus lives today.  He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He Lives!  He Lives!  Salvation to impart.  You ask me how I know He lives?

He lives within my heart!

And if you catch yourself singing that in the next few days, I understand.  I am, too.

April 12, 2007

Sometimes I’m amazed at the web world and sometimes I’m just plain confused by it; most of the time, I think it’s really exciting.  Becky told me about this site and I’ll just have to try it out.

 It’s nearly the middle of April and the weather is downright cold here in San Marcos today.  I realize those in the midwest don’t understand cold  in the high 50’s, but when you get used to daily weather in the 80’s,  you find yourself incredibly cold on a day like this, especially when you get some strong breezes from the ocean.

 Conn and I moved to San Marcos, CA a litle over a year ago.  It’s north of San Diego, east of Carlsbad and moving toward the mountains.  We are in a senior complex and beginning to get acquainted enough that we don’t have to call everyone sweeetie.  That’s a great step forward to me.  If I call you that, you can almost bet the farm that I’ve forgotten your name…

Conn has congestive heart disease that causes him to go pretty slow most of the time.  His doctor (who actually comes to the house) said the only answer is to start exercising.  Since he made it official with a prescription pad, Conn said he’d listen.  I realized then that I’ve needed initials AFTER my name to make real suggestions all these years.  Silly me. 

 Celebrated my uncle’s 90th birthday last week.  We made it a mini family reunion with people coming from Wisconsin, NYC, Idaho , Utah and California.  It was just great fun.  We all ate too much, but since everyone, as far as I know, is still alive, I can only conclude that gluttony, while ugly, is not necessarily fatal.  And unfortunately, like so many other of its ilk,  the sin of overeating is a lot more fun than dieting.

I saw cousins I hadn’t seen in more years than I like to remember and enjoyed them so much.  I find that they have the same sense of humor I have and while that’s not altogether comforting, it’s way less lonely!  There’s something in that blood line that makes everyone feel whole.

I plan to go to San Jose a week from Saturday to visit with Lisa for a few days.  I’ll also see my darling friends, Elizabeth and Gretchen, whom I love.  Lisa is facing more surgery on the 4th of May so I want to see her before that.

 Julie is spending this month in Paris where she’s taking a French language immersion course.  I talked to her yesterday and she was bloody but unbowed.  I don’t think any of my kids were born with the ‘quit’ gene.  I am amazed and a little awed as they just keep on plowing through obstacles to reach their goals.

Hello world!

April 12, 2007

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