Saturday, October 31, 2009

Family Moments

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The week is coming much too quickly to a close. Daughter Molly and granddaughter Rylie, along with Molly's sweetheart, Tom, and his two girls, Megan & Ava, have made for some warm moments & new memories here at the Sugar Plum Fairy's roost (what Grandpa calls Grandma).
Just a few selections from my growing collection...
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Their favorite passtime ... Grandma's pool!
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And coloring in our jammies ...
Rylie & Molly
Grandma and all three girls.

Tom and his girls ... Ava (4), and Megan (9). We're celebrating Megan's birthday.

Molly & Tom


More to come! But now it's time to gather more plums. The princesses need lunch.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

By the Rules

It's always a bit disconcerting when I learn, especially so late in life, that there are rules I didn't know existed, but that I'm supposed to live by. Worse is the discovery that there are some rules I needn't have lived by at all.
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These discoveries are made all the more complex because rules here aren't rules there, and vice verse.
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Those darned old rules.
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I might be a hero in one camp because of my righteous adherence to this or that. In another camp I'm as good as dead for not living by, much less knowing the rules.
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Those darned old rules.
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I also know something about the making of rules. I did it for a living when my children were small; again when they were teens. With embroidered borders I'd post them on the bathroom mirror, or tacked with a Sticky Note (or ten) where they'd be seen clearly - and often.
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Growing up, I was schooled (literally) in the art of rule-making and breaking - - the sort that link up with blame, shame and guilt. They were the rules dejour, and many of us now know they were little more than bogeymen meant to control. Precious few of them were crafted out of love; most had the distinct look and feel of fear.

Lest you think I'm advocating anarchy or insubordination, let me allay those concerns: I'm all for rules. I'm all for boundaries and laws. I'm all for order.
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However, apart from those rules backed by the gold bouillon of God's own heart, I seriously doubt any rule has much substance. Apart from Him, there's little meat to the boney frame that undergirds the law of any land, any school, any home.
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Any fool can make a rule,
and any fool will mind it.
Henry David Thoreau
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Rules are mostly made to be broken,
and are too often for the lazy
to hide behind.
Douglas MacArthur
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Neither current events nor history
show that the majority rule,
or ever did.
Jefferson Davis
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"... why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? Matthew 15:3
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"... which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all
your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind.'
This is the first and greatest
commandment.
And the second is like it:
'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
All the Law and the Prophets hang
on these two commandments."
Matthew 22:36-40
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As if to summarize - - that clever sage of the ages - - Charlie Brown, asks:
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If you don't like the rules,
whose would you use?
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Through It All

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Daunted. That's the first thing that comes to mind when I consider the mountains that have appeared in my life.
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Some have merely been scenery - backdrops to an otherwise ordinary landscape. Some I saw coming miles in advance. Yet others have been completely unexpected, as if they'd been hidden by a bend in the road, or obscured by clouds.
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Rugged, often with jagged, ice covered peaks and steep slopes, the mountains of life have stopped me (and perhaps you?), dead in my hiking boots on occasion.
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Traveling through Switzerland recently, I had the amazing and awe-inspiring blessing of encountering mountains like never before. Coming from Washington State as I do, where both the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges are incredibly beautiful, you'd think no mountain could impress me. I thought that too; that is, until I wound my way through the Swiss Alps - - literally and figuratively!
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I've thought often of Switzerland since returning to the flatlands of the Arizona desert. My thoughts aren't fully developed as yet, but many of them center on Switzerland's well-defined tunneling systems - systems that make it possible to wind one's way through mountains. Here's a few items that I find intriguing.
  • No mountain deters the Swiss. If they can't lay a road to go over or around it, they carve a tunnel that runs right through it.
  • Some tunnels entail short treks; others are many miles long. It takes time to navigate them, sometimes with the dimmest of light.
  • Swiss tunnels are as different as the mountains they burrow beneath. Many are rather dark and foreboding. Others are well-lit, with a scenic charm all their own.
  • The weight & wonder of the mountain is always above the tunneler, yet they pass through with no sense of the heft.
  • Without their tunnels, the Swiss would have no consistent way to get between one verdant valley or lake and the next. They'd surely miss out on some incredible beauty, not to mention having their journey dead end at the mountain's insistence.

I am compelled to hum along with today's musings that soul-stirring song, Through It All. If you're navigating mountainous regions today, you might want to hum along:

So I thank God for the mountains
And I thank Him for the valleys
I thank Him for the storms
He's brought me through
Cause if I never had a problem
I wouldn't know that He could solve them
I wouldn't know what faith in His Word could do

Through it all
Through it all
I've learned to trust in Jesus
I've learned to trust in God
Through it all
Through it all
I've learned to depend upon His Word

Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.

Psalm 36:5-6

In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
Psalm 95:4

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by
every experience in which you really
stop to look fear in the face.
You are able to say to yourself,
"I have lived through this horror.
I can take the next thing that comes along." . . .
You must do the thing you think
you cannot do.
Eleanor Roosevelt
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Land of Nod

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Most of us associate the The Land of Nod with the mythical land of sleep. Babies are woo'd there by lullaby-singing mothers; old men fall there as they "nod off".
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The first recorded use of the phrase in conjunction with "sleep" comes from author Jonathan Swift in his book, Gulliver's Travels written in 1726, and his Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation, written in 1737. Another early instance of it's appearing is in the work of Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child's Garden of Verses, written in 1885.
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Yet pre-dating these, even at the dawn of time and recorded history, comes the truly first use of term: The Land of Nod.
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It's an actual place known as eretz-Nod, and we discover it along with Cain in Chapter Four of the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Located just east of Eden, it's the place to which Cain was banished following his having murdered his brother, Abel. (We are told that his banishment resulted because of His rejection of God, not solely because of the crime of murder).
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"Nod" (נוד) is the Hebrew root of the verb "to wander" (לנדוד). It is synonymous with the way chosen (intentionally or unintentionally) by those preferring to go the Way of Balaam, the son of Beor (2 Peter 2); those that prefer self-rule to God's sovereign authority.
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Residing in the Land of Nod, then - rather than producing a contented, dreamlike sleep - produces quite the opposite. In fact, some Bible commentators have even associated Nod with that eternal place of separation from God, the one called hell (the same hell no one wants to mention, much less talk about).
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I don't know about you, but I've visited Nod on occasion; occasions when I felt I knew better than God.
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At first, Nod's realm has the exhilarating notion of freedom that's so tasteful to the self-determined. But then the mists roll in, the scary sights and sounds rise up from their imperceptible lurking places to become an anxious foreboding, and a sense of loneliness settles over the shoulders like a wet & weighted wool cloak.
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Long term, Nod is - quite certainly - the dead end of all dead ends.
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One rarely lingers long in Nod unless determined to do so.
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It's one thing to wander or stumble there in error, retreating to safety at first chance. And what a great comfort it is to know the safety of the Savior Who comes to collect His own when that happens:.

If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
Matthew 18:12-14
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It's an altogether different matter to settle into Nod's guilt-ridden culture and make it home. I dare say: There's no rest, much less sleep in Nod.


Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:10
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Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment... that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.
1 Timothy 6:17-21
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Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene ... they have wandered away from the truth. 2 Timothy 2:15-18

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Clustered Blessings

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It never ceases to amaze me how such an obscure collection of un-promoted thought makes its way around the globe.
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There was a time when a hand full of little red dots just blew me away - - red dots that represented those of you who dropped by to visit. Most are centered near Washington State or Arizona; natural locales given my roots in both places; or Mexico, where beloved sister Carol resides. But over time those red dots begat other red dots.
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Today I just want to say "howdy" and "thank you" to the many who've visited. Most don't leave comments, but they definitely leave a footprint that blesses me greatly.
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There are others of you that have become lifelong friends, though likely we'll never meet face-to-face this side of glory. The friendships are priceless, and so unique. What did I do BY? (Before You)
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From Alaska to Poland; from Argentina to New Zealand, and to parts in between and all around - God bless you, one and all!
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Friday, October 23, 2009

Crawling Credits

Probing questions. Writers weave them into their work with purpose and mastery. In the land of Blogville, it's a common feature of our posts. The probing question is meant to stir our thoughts; it begs a responses.
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The caption, Are We Writing a Great Story With Our Lives?, caught my notice at once, but the opening sentence cinched its affect:
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"When the credits roll, will people shrug
and think my story was
kind of boring?
Will they think your story
was great, one that inspired
their own?
How might we intentionally
write a great story into our lives?"
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Now that's writer's bait if ever such existed!
..
As if watching a mega credit crawl like the one seen on the back end of Star Wars, the production details of our lives unfold. What grand discovery, glorious design or furtive folly might they include? Will much attention have been paid to the particulars, or will it be a cobbled collection of this and thats?
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More probing questions.
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It's more than a biography, this credit rolling business. It speaks directly to the nuts & bolts of what makes me, me. It answers the oft-un-asked questions, like:
  • Who produced?
  • Who wrote the score?
  • Who designed the wardrobe?
  • Who captured the drama on film?
  • Who directed?
  • Who set the lighting?
  • Who cast the players?

Credit rolls rarely mention "how" or "what", but they are never without the "who"s. And, since no man is an island, we have come full circle with yet another probing question: Who's made our life story what it is? Boring? Inspiring? Intentional?

Those pesky probing questions!
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

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I saw the angel in the marble and
carved until I set him free.
Michelangelo
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As a youngster I had a vivid (spelled V-I-V-I-D) imagination!
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For hours on end I could be a cowgirl upon a grand steed made of stick & twine, or a nurse at the bedside of many ill dolls. I could relish the conductor's role while being master over a friend's train set (there were no boys at our house, so this was always a special time of play).
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My trike served as a bulldozer, a horse, a bus, or whatever else required a prop. Mother's laundry room made a fine castle tower, or a jail.
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That same imagination served to spook me, too. If left alone in the house (with mother, dad or the sisters never too far away), I might hear strange noises ... bad guys coming to rob us or to wreck havoc. Sometimes I'd run to hide, often in the front coat closet. I'd tuck myself behind the longest of garments and then hold my breath lest anyone know I was there. At other times my hiding places were high in the apple tree, or beneath my bed.
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A knock at the front door might send me scurrying one day, and joyfully curious as I peaked through Venetian blinds to glimpse the guest the next.
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Whether on my own or among friends, imagination featured prominently in my childhood. It still does. My mind wanders over a myriad of matters. Likely you've seen that here.
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Think left and think right and
think low and think high.
Oh, the thinks you can think up
if only you try!
Dr. Seuss
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What is it about the imagination that whisks us away from the mundane to the majestic? How can it be powerful enough to transport us from the safe to the dangerous, or from the real to the virtual? What makes it so vital to those of us who communicate, whether in speech of with pen (or keyboard)? How else might we see the unseen, or hear the inaudible. What other dynamic could produce symphonic melodies or poetic art? What other engine navigates new discoveries?
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Or ... is there any other faculty that makes mountains out of molehills, or worry out of projection - - the same one that makes what is virtuous out to be vile? What other slight-of-mind tricks the mortal into choosing wrong over right?
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You can't depend on your eyes
when your imagination is out of focus.
Mark Twain
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I don't really have answers today. I just know that the imagination is a fabulous gift - one that allows we mortals to live in a world vastly different from that of flora & fauna. With it comes great virtue, or vice; peace or perplexity ... depending on how it's exercised.
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... whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things.
Philippians 4:8
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Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
For our light and momentary troubles are
achieving for us an eternal glory that far
outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
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Some stories are true that never happened.
Elie Weisel

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"You're Pregnant"

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Those of us that have been on the receiving end of that proclamation - You're Pregnant - know what a powerful fact it is. It hits home hard; rarely without an immediate, visceral reaction.
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For most, the reaction is one of great elation. For others, it's one of dread. In both instances, it's typically associated with the incredulous - a mystified awe - as if not quite sure HOW it actually came to be. Rarely is there a gray space between the two extremes.
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How odd that a blessing for one is a curse for another. I realize there are a myriad reasons for the contradiction; some I understand and others I don't. Likely my own mother felt a tinge of both when learning of her pregnancy with me when she was 42 years old. It's not a new phenomenon associated with any particular culture or generation. It's as old as life itself - this blessing and cursing of being with child.
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Today this subject matter is prominently placed in my pondering pocket.
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Just a few short hours ago my youngest son's wife, Katrina, called to let us know that a new life is forming just beneath her heart. They've affectionately named the little one Baby Dot for now.
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The news came as a small surprise - to them and to us - given the fact that their youngest child is now 11; the older ones are 16 and 14. They had packed up the infancy mode of their lives, believing they'd shifted to an altogether new phase; one that would soon include cars and dating.
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That is, until they were told: You're pregnant.
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Yes, there's much elation in this family. A blessing has decidedly landed - one no one expected (pun intended) but desires none-the-less. Our hearts are filled with joy and anticipation, knowing with absolute certainty that the little one to join us will change us.
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Yet somewhere ... many somewheres ... that same announcement is being born with tears and angst. It's an unwelcome burden that summons no joy, no merry musing. It is a knowing that leaves me today humbled before God; a knowing that reminds me that many among us just don't understand, or are left without the love and encouragements of family.
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As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother's womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.
Ecclesiastes 11:5
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Your hands made me and formed me.
Psalm 119:73
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My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together
in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Psalm 139:15-17
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Choice for Exile

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OK ... I'm going to take a sharp turn that'll lead straight to a subject I don't much consider on a day-to-day basis: living in exile.
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I wish I could tell you why it's been a recurring theme in my thoughts in recent weeks. I haven't a clue. All I know is that it's important, and comforting.
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A number of you have shared that you are studying the Book of Jeremiah. What a book! It's what I've chosen to ponder as well, though hardly did I think it would stir in me so many thoughts and feelings, especially while I made my way in foreign lands. Perhaps there was no better way to grasp what it might mean to be in exile - - an object-lesson, no doubt.
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From Merriam we learn that exile means:
a : the state or a period of forced absence from one's country or home.
b : the state or a period of voluntary absence from one's country or home.
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So we see that a person living in exile might be someone driven away, or drawn away. One's forced; the other is by choice. Fact is, Jesus Himself chose to be exiled. It changed everything - for everyone, forever..
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This is what we see in chapter 29 of Jeremiah's indepth telling of Israel's Babylonian exile. It came upon the heals of some very difficult times; times brought on largely by Israel's own ungodliness. You might say the perfect geo-political storm had brewed, and now the people of Israel were actually instructed by God to go willingly, even eagerly with their captors. Their very lives depended on their obedience.
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Furthermore, He instructs them (and us) how to live while banished from their homeland.
  • Accept what is.
  • Settle down; settle in.
  • Prepare to care for yourself.
  • Make plans.
  • Go about your normal routines.
  • Seek the peace and prosperity of the land around you.
  • Remain alert; focused on God's word (and truth).
  • Reject lies and deceptions.
  • Be at peace.
As Jeremiah tells us, there's great freedom in chosen exile. Forced exile is hideous by comparison, with slavery being it's unwanted by-product.
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It occurs to me that equally perfect storms brew in our lives on a variety of levels every day - not the least of which is our current geo-political condition. I am greatly concerned (I could write a small Thesis on those concerns), though I am greatly comforted as well. Some things simply must be.
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Thus I choose to live in exile.
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While I relish life - the wonder and mystery of it most of all - the moment I stepped onto the soil of God's kingdom was the moment I chose to become an exile. And no matter the literal soil upon which my feet trod, I know my ambition for living is richest when hitched to God's perfect design.
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Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life,
to mind your own business and to work
with your hands, just as we told you,
so that your daily life may win the respect
of outsiders and so that you will not be
dependent on anybody.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
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Monday, October 19, 2009

In Lieu of Sleep

Home turf. How wonderful.
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While our body clocks are now totally bamboozled (I love it when I get to us that word!), we are delighted and so very grateful to have arrived home safely - - due, in large part to your prayers. Thank you.
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Our last days in Europe can only be described as wet and cold. Rain, and then more rain. So imagine the shock of touching down on Sonoran soil with temps hovering near 100 here in Arizona.
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It was 7:30 PM (3:30 AM Germany time) last evening when we actually walked into our welcoming home. It felt like Christmas. We grabbed a few hours sleep but, for the most part, we've been awake all night. In lieu of sleep I've caught up the laundry and now plan to visit you, my cyber-neighbors.
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Gaining nine hours has its advantages, but sleep isn't one of them.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Munich

They were the best of times, and the best of times.

Leaving is sometimes bittersweet, and leaving Luzern was certainly that. I doubt we've ever enjoyed a way-point (what Brunhilda, our GPS calls our stops) to the degree that we enjoyed the 48 hours we immersed ourselves in this one.

Switzerland's boasts of beauty are to be believed!

When we first picked up our rental car in Dusseldorf, we had misgivings about it being a station wagon with a stick shift. I must say, we have grown very fond of it.

From Luzern we meandered through miles and miles of pasture and agricultural lands to reach our remote roost in Affalterbach. Terry had arranged to spend the day with a client there - a client kind enough to have made and paid for our room.

A detour in route took us quite by surprise when we happened upon Rhein Falls. The natural cascade is on the border between Switzerland and Germany, surrounded by a monastery above and parklands below. The roar of the falls insisted on attention.

Now, about that hotel ... the one booked for us by the lovely client.

I mean no hubris nor ingratitude when I say it was as stark a contrast to our chalet experience as one could possibly get. But it more than met our minimum standards for a room: clean, with a bathroom.

It was built in the early 1800s, and I must say it was immaculately clean - but dare I say antiquated? They have no elevator, so hubby hefted each of our 43 pound suitcases up four flights to a loft above. Room decor included blue velvet-covered chairs. The view was a combination of parking, wetlands and a small creek. The foam beds weren't too bad either.
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I must confess, we saw great humor in our newest home away from home - just another of the amassing charms of this journey.
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A
lso worthy of note: Terry's instinctive ability to find a bakery on whatever route either he or Brunhilda's decided to travel.
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Yesterday we made the trek into Munich; a trek supposed to take 2 hours. It actually took 4, due to road construction, traffic, snow flurries, and cosmic dust (I just tossed that in there to see if you're awake). It all conspired to be a bonus, for never had we anticipated the beauty of snow dusted trees and the unique welcome of a winter wonderland as we pulled into our hotel for the night.

So now we move decidedly into our last days on European soil. Tomorrow evening we fly to London, and then onto the U.S. Sunday afternoon.

But not before we press, wring and savor the remaining memories to be had here.

This morning we’re headed to Dachau - a more somber hue to this otherwise ebullient adventure. We are prepared for the hideous and its accompanying sorrow; yet somehow it feels right - even necessary - to honor the victims by hearing them out in this personal way.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Search of Heidi

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Few views have caught my breath away like those seen on the ascent of Mt. Rigi. With my nose pressed to the cog-trains window, I gaped and gazed in utter amazement.

Known as "the Queen of the Mountains", Rigi provides panoramic views over the Alps. On a clear day, you can see far into Switzerland, as well as into Germany and France.

On a clear day.
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We didn't have a clear day ... but the passage from clear climes below into the clouds above as an eerily stirring journey in itself.
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It wasn't long and we'd arrived above the cloud cover, well into the high mountain meadows (for my Heidi friends: I looked for her, to no avail) where cattle and goats and sheep grazed leisurely. A young calf ran and kicked up it's heals as if at play. It warmed my heart, and this scripture came immediately to mind:

I have no need of a bull from your stall,
or of goats from your pens,
for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird in the mountains,
and the creatures of the field are mine.
Psalm 50:7-9
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Here-and-there were Bavarian homes surrounded by chords of wood so high and deep I had no doubt their winters promised harsh fare. People live here, atop Mt. Rigi, where no car or motorized vehicle is permitted. I wondered if I might survive such a life, grateful I've been called to another.

Soon a light dusting of snow announced declining temps, and by the time we reached our destination, the summit, they dipped into the low 30s. The snow had mounted as well, so I snapped
a quick photo of Terry in his lightweight jacket. Neither of us expected the shocking cool, or the shocking beauty.

We were utterly charmed by the sound of cowbells - some in view; some far up the slopes and out of view. Given our natural curiosity, we wondered at their usage. Here's what I learned.

The large cowbell in traditional use in Switzerland is known as a trychel (also spelled Trichel, Treichel, Treichle). It's made of hammered sheet metal, which makes it much lighter than the bells made of cast iron. This results in a less clean, clanking sound, but at the same time results in a bell that is less heavy and thus easier to carry.

We then spent the rest of the day combing the hills around Lake Luzern. I learned a long time ago to "buckle up" when hubby's on a mission; especially a mission that involves new roads, new views, and new adventures.

When we returned to our room, I noticed Mt. Rigi had cleared. This is our view, and to think we stood atop her just a short while ago.

Adventures like these are so very humbling.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What I Learned fron the GPS

Technology both baffles and delights me. I'm a huge fan of digital cameras, microwave ovens, cell phones, the internet and most modern medical practices.

However, never have I been a champion of the GPS (Global Positioning System), probably because I've had little call to use one. I also don't have a clue as to how it works.

I've learned that it
uses signals from satellites in Earth's orbit to identify the latitude, longitude and altitude of the user. All of which seems a bit sophisticated, if not downright superfluous, in making one's way around on any given day.

But what if it's not any given day?

Perhaps I've been too hasty in my assessment.

As we've navigated here in Europe, I can tell you we'd still be trying to find our way out of Dusseldorf had we not had one. In fact, we've grown quite fond of ours. We've named it/her Brunhilda.

But it's not really the GPS I'm fascinated with this day. It's what I've learned:
  • It's only as reliable as the coordinates you feed it.
  • It's important to get the right country/destination entered, as well as the right city. Many places have the same or similar name.
  • So long as you don't second-guess it's directives, you really do end up in the right place.
  • It cannot take into account road changes made since it was last updated.
  • It never hurts to use common sense in conjunction with it.
  • It always know where you are.
There's a good many life lessons, if not spiritual parallels to make with the GPS - some powerful & good; some rather scary. To think my whereabouts could be known (even 6 levels below grown in a parking garage) at any given instant is both comforting and disturbing.
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I'm not sure Brunhilda cares.

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Room With a View


We are here ...
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Just a brief note to say we've been without internet for several days, and boy do I have some catching up to do!

We've also covered miles and miles of some of the most beautiful terrain I've ever seen so I will have much to say in the days to come.
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For now, we are glad to have a new roost; one that has us perched just above Lake Luzern, and just below a number of picturesque mountains; their names I've yet to learn. But I will.
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Collecting Memories

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"My nose, eh ... how you say, is not too efficient."
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How succinct. Now I know what the French have to say about not being able to smell due to a head cold.
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It was an amazing day, Thursd
ay. I have written many notes in my journal, the half of which have yet to be penned. Suffice it to say there were myriad Divine Appointments and great joie de vivre.
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New friend Kathleen and I made our way around a new part of the city, ducking into this shop and that while we sought out treasures for those back home. I've yet to make an serious purchases, but I did manage to score a new bottle of Listerine. How practical.
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At lunch Kathleen and I found ourselves sharing some of life's heavier burdens. What a joy it was to pray with her; to be an encouragement and to be encouraged. We both left
the restaurant with a more deeply forged friendship.
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A short time later we came upon a lovely German lady
offering ice cream (who can turn down such an invitation, even with chilly weather?).
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Wha
t began as a chance encounter quickly turned into yet another lengthy conversation with a woman troubled by Germany's economy and the resultant threat to her livelihood. Her name is Gaby John, an accomplished soul who speaks German, French and English fluently.
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By the time we parted, we'd exchanged email addresses and snapped photos; and somewhere in my heart I knew this would not be the last time I'd see this new friend.
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That evening, Terry's business group (20+ that have arrived here from all over Europe and Asia), met up at Brauhaus Joh. Albrecht. By any other name that's long for pub. Germany does love it's pubs!
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The meal was wonderful, but not half so wonderful as the merriment around our table (the aforementioned joie de vivre). Conversations dotted in Swiss, French, German, Swedish and Italian left all of us laughing heartily throughout the gathering.
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About every twenty minutes someone would raise their stein to offer a toast (I'm clueless as to what we were toasting), followed by mor
e rounds of laughter.
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In this picture is Peter, representative of the larger group, sipping the last of his meal -
an aperitif to accompany his beer, wine and coffee!
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Terry and I lifted our own delectable Coca Cola steins (we long ago decided alcohol wasn't good for either of us, though we have no problem with people choosing to enjoy theirs) to join in the toasts, secretly wondering how this group would fare come morning. Ouch.
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Tomorrow we again pack up and begin the more serious, vacationing part of our journey. Terry's eager to stash the business suits and ties in favor of jeans; and I'm relieved to know that we won't be eating three squares (or oblongs) like we have been.

The Black Forest beckons, but not before we follow along the Rhine's course as it makes it's way along Germany's western region.
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This has the texture of a romantic sojourn as well as an adventure. Bonus!
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In Quietness

It's a good thing to be without words now-and-then; at least words that can be spoken or exchanged. My English skills mean little or nothing amidst a city of German-speaking residents. As I've said, they don't know Merriam!
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Thus my listening skills are given some much needed exercise.

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I'm a wor
d person ... I relish thoughts and concepts; definitions and details. In large part I suppose that's why I blog, or why I read blogs, along with a plethora of other material. It's also why I enjoy people of varied backgrounds, interests and beliefs.
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There's a reason my childhood friends called me "Chatty Kathy".

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This for
ced listening has some amazing benefits and side effects.
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Examine yourselves to see whether you
are in the faith; test yourselves.
Do you not realize that Christ Jesus
is in you—unless, of course,
you fail the test?...
Aim for perfection,
listen to my appeal -
be of one mind, live in peace.
And the God of love and
peace will be with you.

2 Corinthians 13:5, 11
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When it comes to listening, I have to wonder at the placement of the ears. The eyes, nose and mouth feature prominently on the head's front side, as if to affirm the importance of the things in front of us; even a gentle reminder that's it's best to focus forward and speak of what is rather than what was.
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But the ears are positioned on the side of the head, where they are better situated for detecting sounds from all directions, and from a variety of sources. I wonder if that's by accident?

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The day ahead promises a great many opportunities for listening. And I am eager.

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"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 46:10
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Monday, October 5, 2009

H2O Go


Today I graduated from a wannabe local to the real deal. I navigated my way to-and-from Old Town via the rail system! Alone!
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Can I get a cheer?
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Among our group is another solo spouse who just happens to be a Kathleen herself. We met up for a day of meandering and sight-seeing, with a wee bit of shopping tossed in. Hubby will be delighted because the only thing I purchased was for him: a beautiful wood cheese board with a built-in cutter, and three wood handled spreaders.
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It rained the entire day, though it certainly didn't dampen our enthusiasm for girl-chat and adventure. My new friend was gracious enough to snap this photo of me with angels overhead (a wet head, I might add). I think it rath
er prophetic, if not poetic.
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Come to find out the other Kathleen is also a Christian, so our day quickly became a time of sharing - fellowship - that is synonymous with sisters (ya'all know what I mean). She also happens to be Native American, so over lunch (scrumptious lamb with the most amazing mixed-vegetable dishes I've ever eaten) I was riveted by tales of her great-grandfather, a tribal chief (the Osage Tribe of Oklahoma), and her princess grandmother.
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Did I say it rained? Well, it rained. The temperature never did rise above 60 degrees, and by the time I made my way back to the hotel I was sopping (my umbrella having been inconveniently left behind at the Trade Center during yesterday's excursion). Oh well, I'm from Washington State (51 years worth), so I'm no stranger to the wet stuff. It was rather fun, actually ... sort of like being a child again, without care.
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T
he highlights of the day are many, and varied. But with verve not typical, I artfully made my way onto the train and off again, which ranks right up there near the top. I'm now emboldened to do it again.
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Tomorrow I will tackle some new thing, God willing. I've got four more days of solo navigating while hubby works before we leave on Saturday to roam the larger lands of Germany's Rhine River and Black Forest.
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Now for some hot cocoa and a helping of gratitude.
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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Glimpses & Snippets

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This is an old city; one rich in history and lore that dates back to 1288 AD. Not only is it the capital, it is also Germany's richest city - - the very heart of commerce in the region.
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Croissants and cheese; fruit compote and tapioca; pan fried salmon & potatoes au gratin are standard fare. Too, no decent German would be without their breads and beer. They look twice when we decline on both counts (well, the beer anyway).

Every dialect known unto man is spoken here; most locals are bi or tri or quad-lingual. One minute the tongue is notably French; the next an odd combination that could be German ... or Swedish ... or Dutch. How would one know, for sure? Oh well, a smile and a hug seem to be a universal language!
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It was my good pleasure to sit amongst a varied group at last evening's dinner (a welcome entourage, given my earlier day). On my left was Kurt, from Switzerland. Opposite him sat Phillippe, from France. Others joined us later - from Russia, Sweden and parts beyond - and as each new country was represented, hubby and I were charmed by the gracious concession to speak English. Our botched French was cause for much merriment.
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Predictably, the dinner conversation centered largely on world events. It was fascinating to hear first hand how we are viewed outside our own borders. Dare I say hubby set them all straight? If not, I smiled enough for both of us.
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The city itself owes much to Duke Johann Wilhelm (known as Jan Wellem) who lived here in 1690-1716. He was the enlightened Renaissance ruler par excellence - a rake (free-thinker) and bon vivant (refined taste, especially one who enjoys superb food and drink). He married into the famous Medici family - a developer of the city's trade and infrastructure, and a patron of the arts.
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Dusseldorf has managed to remain a provincial city with cosmopolitan affluence and style. It has green spaces, dramatic flowers that dot every landscape, high-brow tastes in shopping and museums, numerous bridges, and is the second-most important art market in the country, after Cologne.
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One thing's certain: I'm hardly a bon vivant or a rake, but I do love this city - home for yet another six days!
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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Playing Indoors

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Plans get you into things but you must work your way out.
Will Rogers
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What I'd planned to do today ...
  • Ride the train to town (a huge solo adventure).
  • Shop my way through Alstadt.
  • Eat a German pretzel, warm.
  • Walk the Rhine.
  • Sip Expresso and people-watch.
As the day draws to a close I survey my plans against the day's realities. Interesting how the little twists and turns of life muck up the best of them: plans AND realities. Sometimes one must shift to Plan B, or C, or Q.

Here's what actually happened ...

I thought it best to stop by the front desk this morning to get better directions to Old Town, also known as Alstadt - - about eight miles from the hotel. The blue-eyed, blond-haired Germanic lovely simply grinned as she advised me that today is a special bank holiday. There would be no shops or restaurants open. It would not be wise to take the train there, or anywhere for that matter.
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Seems these "special bank holidays" are rare.
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It soon began to rain.
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So, what had begun as a plan for excursion quickly became a plan for embarking on a hotel adventure. It included ...
  • Reading for quite awhile, making note of thoughts and "aha"s from the Book of Jeremiah.
  • Straightening the room (domestic habits are tough to shake).
  • Taking a long walk once the rains subsided.
  • Learning that my hotel is eight miles from anything!
  • Finding a Subway and ordering a take away. Mostly I pointed and nodded.
  • Troubleshooting a fickle internet with an English speaking Dutchman (some things don't translate).
  • Taking a nap.
  • Awaiting hubby's return like a cat about to pounce.
All in all, not a bad day.
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