Saturday, May 28, 2011

What's a Little Rain?

The best thing one can do when it's 
raining is to let it rain. 
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It's so hard to believe that next week, June 1,
our Baby Blue Eyes will be One Year Old. 

This week he came over to spend time with us;
 to eat raspberries (evidence on shirt);
and to see how quickly he could find all the outlets :)

Giving Grandpa a hand is always high on the list; 
and thatching the lawn at the very top! 

Throwing all this thatched stuff around proved to be great fun
(even if you CAN'T eat it).


One of our favorite destinations is Whitney's Rhododendron Nursery
 far away in the shadow of the Olympic Mountain Range.
It's an all-day ordeal for us, but an ordeal that
includes 50s music while we drive (200 miles round-trip),
lunch along Hood's Canal,
hours walking the fields of nursery stock at Whitney's,
and a return trip filled with chatter about where to plant our finds.

It rained, and rained, and rained while we wandered the floral forests.

Then the sun came out just long enough for Terry to select a
special Marley Hedges rhododendron (above & below).

I had to pick a favorite for myself,
so this was my choice:  Fire Rim (below).

We  bought several other plants before loading up and heading home.

Now we just have to wait for Baby Blue Eyes to visit so
Grandpa can get them planted.

Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness 
has never danced in the rain.  
~Author Unknown

Footnote: We've heard it often - - This is the coolest/wettest winter & spring in Washington State's history.  While we look forward to sunshine & boating, we are content with the drizzle and the simple pleasures that come with it.  Anything with 50s music or a baby just has to be fun.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Benjamin Netanyahu - Joint Congress Address

I can think of no better guest post than to share today's eloquent, powerful, unequivocal address by Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu to the Joint Meeting of the United States Congress in it's entirety.  I give you Bibi ...   

I am deeply honored by your warm welcome. And I am deeply honored that you have given me the opportunity to address Congress a second time.

Mr. Vice President, do you remember the time we were the new kids in town?

And I do see a lot of old friends here. And I do see a lot of new friends of Israel here. Democrats and Republicans alike.

Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism. Congratulations America, Congratulations, Mr. President. You got bin Laden. Good riddance!

In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America’s unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.
My friends, you don’t need to do nation building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. You don’t need to send American troops to defend Israel. We defend ourselves. You’ve been very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own. Thank you all, and thank you President Obama, for your steadfast commitment to Israel’s security. I know economic times are tough. I deeply appreciate this.

Support for Israel’s security is a wise investment in our common future. For an epic battle is now unfolding in the Middle East, between tyranny and freedom. A great convulsion is shaking the earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar. The tremors have shattered states and toppled governments. And we can all see that the ground is still shifting. Now this historic moment holds the promise of a new dawn of freedom and opportunity. Millions of young people are determined to change their future. We all look at them. They muster courage. They risk their lives. They demand dignity. They desire liberty.

These extraordinary scenes in Tunis and Cairo, evoke those of Berlin and Prague in 1989. Yet as we share their hopes, but we also must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out as they were in Tehran in 1979. You remember what happened then. The brief democratic spring in Iran was cut short by a ferocious and unforgiving tyranny. This same tyranny smothered Lebanon’s democratic Cedar Revolution, and inflicted on that long-suffering country, the medieval rule of Hezbollah.

So today, the Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads. Like all of you, I pray that the peoples of the region choose the path less traveled, the path of liberty. No one knows what this path consists of better than you. This path is not paved by elections alone. It is paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule.

Israel has always embraced this path, in the Middle East has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.

As the great English writer George Eliot predicted over a century ago, that once established, the Jewish state will “shine like a bright star of freedom amid the despotisms of the East.” Well, she was right. We have a free press, independent courts, an open economy, rambunctious parliamentary debates. You think you guys are tough on one another in Congress? Come spend a day in the Knesset. Be my guest.

Courageous Arab protesters, are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies. We’re proud that over one million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of one-percent are truly free, and they’re all citizens of Israel!

This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.

Israel fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely. We long for the day when Israel will be one of many real democracies in the Middle East.

Fifteen years ago, I stood at this very podium, and said that democracy must start to take root in the Arab World. Well, it’s begun to take root. This beginning holds the promise of a brilliant future of peace and prosperity. For I believe that a Middle East that is genuinely democratic will be a Middle East truly at peace.

But while we hope and work for the best, we must also recognize that powerful forces oppose this future. They oppose modernity. They oppose democracy. They oppose peace.

Foremost among these forces is Iran. The tyranny in Tehran brutalizes its own people. It supports attacks against American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. It subjugates Lebanon and Gaza. It sponsors terror worldwide.

When I last stood here, I spoke of the dire consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out, and the hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger facing humanity could soon be upon us: A militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.

Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam. I have no doubt that it will ultimately be defeated. It will eventually succumb to the forces of freedom and progress. But like other fanaticisms that were doomed to fail, militant Islam could exact a horrific price from all of us before its inevitable demise.

A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world. I want you to understand what this means. They could put the bomb anywhere. They could put it on a missile. It could be on a container ship in a port, or in a suitcase on a subway.

Now the threat to my country cannot be overstated. Those who dismiss it are sticking their heads in the sand. Less than seven decades after six million Jews were murdered, Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people, while calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state.

Leaders who spew such venom, should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet. But there is something that makes the outrage even greater: The lack of outrage. In much of the international community, the calls for our destruction are met with utter silence. It is even worse because there are many who rush to condemn Israel for defending itself against Iran’s terror proxies.

But not you. Not America. You have acted differently. You’ve condemned the Iranian regime for its genocidal aims. You’ve passed tough sanctions against Iran. History will salute you America.
President Obama has said that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He successfully led the Security Council to adopt sanctions against Iran. You in Congress passed even tougher sanctions. These words and deeds are vitally important.

Yet the Ayatollah regime briefly suspended its nuclear program only once, in 2003, when it feared the possibility of military action. That same year, Muammar Qadaffi gave up his nuclear weapons program, and for the same reason. The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation. This is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message: That America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

As for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.

My friends, while Israel will be ever vigilant in its defense, we will never give up on our quest for peace. I guess we’ll give it up when we achieve it. Israel wants peace. Israel needs peace. We’ve achieved historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have held up for decades.

I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal. I mean that literally. I battled terrorists along both banks of the Jordan River. Too many Israelis have lost loved ones. I know their grief. I lost my brother.

So no one in Israel wants a return to those terrible days. The peace with Egypt and Jordan has long served as an anchor of stability and peace in the heart of the Middle East.

This peace should be bolstered by economic and political support to all those who remain committed to peace.

The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are vital. But they’re not enough. We must also find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state.

I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility to lead my people to peace.

This is not easy for me. I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland. In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India. We are not the Belgians in the Congo.

This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.

But there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they will be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy, where their creativity and initiative can flourish.

We’ve already seen the beginnings of what is possible. In the last two years, the Palestinians have begun to build a better life for themselves. Prime Minister Fayad has led this effort. I wish him a speedy recovery from his recent operation.

We’ve helped the Palestinian economy by removing hundreds of barriers and roadblocks to the free flow of goods and people. The results have been nothing short of remarkable. The Palestinian economy is booming. It’s growing by more than 10% a year.

Palestinian cities look very different today than they did just a few years ago. They have shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, banks. They even have e-businesses. This is all happening without peace. Imagine what could happen with peace. Peace would herald a new day for both peoples. It would make the dream of a broader Arab-Israeli peace a realistic possibility.

So now here is the question. You have to ask it. If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us? Because all six Israeli Prime Ministers since the signing of Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state. Myself included. So why has peace not been achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.

You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said yes. The Palestinians said no. In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli Prime Ministers, to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War.

They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.

My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people, and I told you it wasn’t easy for me, and I said… “I will accept a Palestinian state.” It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say… “I will accept a Jewish state.”

Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end. That they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. They will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace. With such a partner, the people of Israel will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise.

This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967. The vast majority of the 650,000 Israelis who live beyond the 1967 lines, reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv.

These areas are densely populated but geographically quite small. Under any realistic peace agreement, these areas, as well as other places of critical strategic and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel.

The status of the settlements will be decided only in negotiations. But we must also be honest. So I am saying today something that should be said publicly by anyone serious about peace. In any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. The precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967.

We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, independent and prosperous. President Obama rightly referred to Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, just as he referred to the future Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people. Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to the Jewish state. Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state. This means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.

As for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know that this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe with creativity and goodwill a solution can be found.
This is the peace I plan to forge with a Palestinian partner committed to peace. But you know very well, that in the Middle East, the only peace that will hold is a peace you can defend.

So peace must be anchored in security. In recent years, Israel withdrew from South Lebanon and Gaza. But we didn’t get peace. Instead, we got 12,000 thousand rockets fired from those areas on our cities, on our children, by Hezbollah and Hamas. The UN peacekeepers in Lebanon failed to prevent the smuggling of this weaponry. The European observers in Gaza evaporated overnight. So if Israel simply walked out of the territories, the flow of weapons into a future Palestinian state would be unchecked. Missiles fired from it could reach virtually every home in Israel in less than a minute. I want you to think about that too. Imagine that right now we all had less than 60 seconds to find shelter from an incoming rocket. Would you live that way? Would anyone live that way? Well, we aren’t going to live that way either.

The truth is that Israel needs unique security arrangements because of its unique size. Israel is one of the smallest countries in the world. Mr. Vice President, I’ll grant you this. It’s bigger than Delaware. It’s even bigger than Rhode Island. But that’s about it. Israel on the 1967 lines would be half the width of the Washington Beltway.

Now here’s a bit of nostalgia. I first came to Washington thirty years ago as a young diplomat. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out: There is an America beyond the Beltway. But Israel on the 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth.

So it is therefore absolutely vital for Israel’s security that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River. Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace, they are necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels. For in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow.

And when I say tomorrow, I don’t mean some distant time in the future. I mean — tomorrow. Peace can be achieved only around the negotiating table. The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace. It should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end.

I appreciate the President’s clear position on this issue. Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated. But it can only be negotiated with partners committed to peace.

And Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, but says ‘kill the Jews wherever you find them’. Hamas’ leader condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a holy warrior. Now again I want to make this clear. Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future of peace for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.

So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate! Make peace with the Jewish state! And if you do, I promise you this. Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so.

My friends, the momentous trials of the last century, and the unfolding events of this century, attest to the decisive role of the United States in advancing peace and defending freedom. Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty. All peoples who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation. Among the most grateful nations is my nation, the people of Israel, who have fought for their liberty and survival against impossible odds, in ancient and modern times alike.

I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America, Thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support for Israel. Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world. May God bless all of you. And may God forever bless the United States of America.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Morning's Magical Muse

Morning is born from the womb of night.  
Malcolm McLeod


The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
   where morning dawns, where evening fades,
   you call forth songs of joy. 
Psalm 65:8

I know you know that I'm a huge fan of the dawn.  I've written about it copiously, but I dare say it's an itch I simply cannot scratch.  Plainly put:  dawn captivates me.  It's my favorite part of the day, which means I'm quick to retire at night in order to rush towards dawn's early light. 

Here I simply want to share some thoughts about dawn.  Some derive from scripture, some are quotes; and others emanate from my own imagination.  No matter the source, there is something magical and majestic about the sun's faithful return, morning-by-morning; and with it, grace-upon-grace.

Climb up on some hill at sunrise.  
Everybody needs perspective once in a while, 
and you'll find it there.  
~Robb Sagendorph

Night does not swallow day; but day, night.  
Sunrise sets the darkness fleeing.  
~ My own

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear ...
God will help her when morning dawns.
Psalm 46:1, 5

Like new-fallen snow, dawn's soft, gentle mantle 
envelopes all of life in hushed silence.  
~ My own

What humbugs we are, who pretend to live for Beauty, 
and never see the Dawn!  
~ Logan Pearsall Smith
The heart soars highest on dawn's thermals. 
~ My own

Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness
of the woods before sunrise. 
~ George Washington Carver

There was never a night or a problem 
that could defeat sunrise or hope.
~ Bern Williams

Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
... “Have you ever given orders to the morning, 
or shown the dawn its place,
that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?"  
Job 46:12-13

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Doomsday Wait

Here I sit, waiting for the world to end.  Tedious stuff.  But we've been told - unequivocally: The world is ending today, May 21!

I've never been very good about waiting.  Nine months of pregnancy was never my cup of tea; nor was the distance between planning a vacation and actually being on that vacation.  Waiting in long lines at the grocery store or at Disneyland tightened my jaw & troubled my feet.  No, I dare say waiting is my least favorite condition.

So I'm thinking, since the world is about to end (so THEY say):  What shall I do while I wait? 

This is where I could:
  • Pull out my dusty soapbox and set up shop on the street-corner.  Nothing like a little doomsday-saying to fill the waiting void.
  • Prepare my final meal(s), like someone on death row, just ahead of execution (tough choices here, given the vast array of possible delicacies).  You know:  eat, drink & be merry.
  • Not be merry whatsoever, but to crawl beneath my bed in hopes of being overlooked; somehow escaping the doom to come.
  • Pretend there's nothing to wait for (my favorite).

Or maybe I could just relax and remember (and obey) what I've been told to do while I wait - though NOT for the world's end, but for the return of the world's Rightful King who will establish His rule throughout the universe:

Then Jesus (after He had risen from the dead) came to them and said, 
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and 
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. 
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. 
Matthew 28:19-20

That's pretty clear to me:  Go, make disciples, baptize, teach.  Live, and live well!  This waiting thing is not to be with the wringing of hands or the saying of dooms.  It's about hope, hopefulness and the amazing gift hard-won for me (and you). 

I am to be His witness - living proof that He changes things; He changes people.  He changed me. 

I hope today's doomsdayers figure that out while they wait.

He (Jesus) said to them: 
“It is not for you to know the times or dates
(of the end of the age, NOT the
end of the world)
the Father has set by his own authority. 
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, 
and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, 
and a cloud hid him from their sight. 

They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, 
when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 
Men of Galilee,” they said,
why do you stand here looking into the sky

This same Jesus, who has been taken 
from you into heaven, 
will come back in the same way 
you have seen Him go into heaven.”  
Acts 1:7-11

Now THAT'S worth the wait!

Monday, May 16, 2011

From on High

It was late evening in 1991 when we boarded our flight from New York to London, having already spent an entire day getting from Seattle to New York.  There's just no easy route when heading over the pond, as they say (whoever they are), so weariness was already threatening.  I had hoped to sleep during this leg of our considerable journey; but I hadn't anticipated the wonders we'd behold along the way - wonders that caused sleep to lose it's charm.

Umpty-umpty feet above the earth we made our way through thick clouds until, at long last we were far above, and looking down upon them.  The earth had disappeared from view altogether.  The fast fading daylight gave the billowy clouds a surreal appearance; as if they were a world unto themselves - one of verdant & mystical landscapes.  I could see hills & valleys & mountains made of cloud-stuff.  There below me, and in plain view were enchanted forests straight from Narnia, or the Land of Nod.

Once night fell (and it fell fast and hard as we headed up and over the globe's surface), the clouds went from enchanted to eerie  A storm brewed, and for most of the flight, and the night we looked down upon flashes of lightning - like a million Tinkerbells joined into a Riverdance below us, or like popcorn exploding into puffs of light.  At times the plane shook and rattled, as if those light prisms were warning us to scoot along.

It's next to impossible to view a storm today without a deja vu from that London-bound flight.  What is beheld from the bottom up is simply no equal to what is beheld from the top down. I suppose that's why I was so deeply stirred when I read this excerpt from yesterday's Streams in the Desert e-Devotional:

O child of God! If you could see your sorrows and troubles from the other side; if instead of looking up at them from earth, you would look down on them from the heavenly places where you sit with Christ; if you knew how they are reflecting in prismatic beauty before the gaze of Heaven, the bright light of Christ’s face, you would be content that they should cast their deep shadows over the mountain slopes of existence. Only remember that clouds are always moving and passing before God’s cleansing wind.

I am able then, with a memory's glance, to sit in wide-eyed wonder at the storms below ...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Sufficiency of Courage

After settling into our home in Arizona in the year 2000, Terry and I agreed that our Arizona experience needed to include church.  He quickly dispatched me to reconnoiter and find us a place of fellowship - - a commission high on my priority list, but not so much on his :) 

I took my dispatch seriously, so for several weeks I visited this church and that in an effort to locate a good fit.  It was a challenging task because I knew Terry would quickly nix any connection that didn't feel right to him.  That limited many, if not most of the possibilities.

Then, just ahead of Christmas that year came a knock at our front door.  I heard Terry open the door, and then the muffled sounds of dialogue before I heard him shut the door.

As he returned to the kitchen, I could see that he was holding something:  a lunch sack bedazzled with holiday festoons.  He handed me the bag, and quickly announced:  This is our new church.

Seems our neighbors had set upon a mission of their own to provide Christmas cookies to the entire neighborhood, along with an invitation to church services.  Any church with a Cookie Evangelism Program ranked high on Terry's "feel right" scale.

The rest is history ...

Over the course of our ten year Arizona sojourn, we deeply rooted ourselves in Palm Valley Church, watching it grow from some 150 people in early 2001 to over 4,000 when we left last year.  We knit ourselves into several Home Teams (or Small Groups) in the intervening years, but I believe our richest Arizona treasure resided in the young couple that launched and pastored the church.  Greg and Lori became fast friends early on; and more than friends. Many an event, many a Sunday dinner, many a shared holiday and even vacations we came to know and to love them as family, even as we watched their family of four expand to six when children were added to their numbers.

In recent months Greg has endured test after test as doctors attempted to understand some strange symptoms in his body.  A few weeks ago they finally reached a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease - - no pleasant thing, for sure, but far better than the many other possibilities they considered.

Even so, other symptoms warranted other tests, and just ahead of Easter Greg was informed that he has a Parkinson's-like disease that is far more lethal.  Multiple System Atrophy is terminal.  Worse, the disease entails a shutting down of the nervous system.  Slowly Greg will go from robust & mobile, to bedridden.  The process could span a mere two years, or take as long as nine.

I know you can imagine the implications of this; the heartache already being born by Greg's beloved wife Lori, his four children - Jake/14, Zach/12, Josh/10 and Brooke/5 - their extended family, the church at Palm Valley, and a collection of friends that span the globe.

Some of you are already praying for Greg and his family.  Thank you.  I now ask others to join that initiative as we hold out for a miracle.  But know this:  Greg is a noble man that has made noble plans, and by many a noble deed he stands (Isaiah 32:8); and he will continue to stand.

Greg's own testimony begins and ends in a life-verse he chose for himself long ago, and that he lives out so nobly today. How could he have known that a sufficiency of courage would be woven into it with tears?

 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, 
but will have sufficient courage so that now as always 
Christ will be exalted in my body,  
whether by life or by death. 
For to me, to live is Christ 
and to die is gain. 
Philippians 1:20-21

 Please keep this precious family in your prayers.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Life: It is Good

Has there ever been a moment, or several moments, where you've thought to yourself: " Life just doesn't get any better than this." ? If so, then you've probably also had converse thoughts, "Life just doesn't get any more difficult than this!"

Can two such diametrically opposed perspectives reside in a believer's heart?  You bet!  Otherwise, how would we distinguish best from all the rest?  How could we ever understand God's proclamation at creation: "It is good!"?

Many moons ago I lived beneath the ungood moon, totally bamboozled and bereft.  It was not good.  Not even close.  There was little to be thankful for, but that's only because I couldn't see beyond bereft.  Had that been possible (and it wasn't), there resided many a blessing in my life for which to gift thanks.  I was simply too confounded to go there.  

It has been such a sorrowful week here.  Not because of what I'm experiencing, but because of what others - people I love deeply - are enduring.  Their lives are shadowed by their own not good moon.  I look on with understanding, knowing that some paths are difficult.  Very difficult.  There is little light with which to navigate.  I have no magic potion, no sage wisdom, no prescriptions that will change or alter, or even make easier their labored living. 

But I know something now that I didn't know back when I traveled beneath starless skies: 

Even though I don't know the way; and even though I am blinded by all that is not good; and even though life just doesn't get more difficult than this ... there is a promise (many of them) to cling to.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. 
They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, 
and have it to the full. 
John 10:9-10

This, then; even this not good path beneath the ungood moon shall lead to life.  

How can I be so sure?  Because He - the Good Shepherd - says so.  

He alone knows the way.  He can be trusted.  That way may not include an abundance of worldly success; it may not include restoration of finances or health or relationships; but it will include a fullness of life that is incalculable, beyond imagining.  And life just doesn't get much better than that!

Besides, the darkness is as light to Him (Psalm 139:12); and death is as life (Philippians 1:21).  

For in the day of trouble
   He will keep me safe in His dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent
   and set me high upon a rock. 
I remain confident of this:
   I will see the goodness of the LORD
   in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:5, 13
It is good; and all is well with my soul.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother's Day Reflections (Reprised)

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD
is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned,

and let her works bring her
praise at the city gate.
Proverbs 41-30-31

Born Helen Evelyn Grinnell on August 26, 1907, my mother was anything but typical.

Oh, you can be sure she enjoyed all things prissy - frilly dresses, fancy "do"s, and the like - but she also had an eye for the adventurous.

She was a bold & courageous woman, though such sturdy attributes were often shaded by her tendency towards fretting, and the fact that her tongue was sometimes sharp.

From her young years on a farm in South Dakota, to her making her own way to Washington State (where providentially she met and married my father), mother was first-and-foremost a "lady".

I cannot recall her memory, or honor her motherhood without somehow linking her to her young years. She was a much-beloved child, and so it is no wonder that we - her four daughters - were equally beloved.

Too, mother was every bit my father's equal. Certainly they had diverse roles in the family, but she never missed an opportunity to join him in fly-fishing, berry picking, yard puttering, or basement chores. His workbench could be seen just feet from her laundry sink. Often they spent their evenings together attending to their respective chores; and every Saturday night you'd find them watching Lawrence Welk together; snuggled closely and munching popcorn. Oh how they loved to dance! I am the youngest of Helen's four daughters. While my sisters leaned strongly on their bonds to our father, my own formed closest to my mother. Perhaps that's because I was unplanned, unexpected, but never unwanted (as was my own youngest) - the child of their mid-40s; mother 42 and Dad 46 when I arrived.

(I can't help but notice the resemblance in this picture of me at 6 mos, and the one of her above at the same age.)

She's gone now, leaving us in 1976 for a better land. I'll see her again; of that I'm certain. She loved her Jesus - - and her well-worn Bible is the most enduring of her legacies. 

I will tell her, then, all those things I forget or neglected to say while she was nearest my hands, or I in her arms. 

Today, and for the several days to come ahead of Mother's Day, I simply wish to honor her, to rise up and call her blessed. Her worth, to me, is far above rubies!

A mother is a person who,
seeing there are only four pieces of pie
for five people, promptly announces
she never did care for pie.
~Tenneva Jordan

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Economy of Tears

Love must be sincere.

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Live in harmony with one another.

Do not be proud, but be willing to associate
with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  

Romans 12:9-16

Yesterday this verse donned flesh and followed me the entire day.

I'm often found on the upside of it, as laughter/rejoicing is a welcome & frequent attendant in my life.  But yesterday I had great difficulty with the underside of the verse; and even more difficulty holding back tears.  I confess I failed.  They flowed often, and easily as I wept with those who weep - - at a loss as to what balm to apply that might salve a hurting, mortal wound.

We must embrace pain and
burn it as fuel for our journey.
~Kenji Miyazawa

I find it compelling that this collection of verses from Romans 12 - long among my favorites - marries such diverse elements as evil & good, joy & sorrow, humility & conceit.  It's not uncommon, for truly we know that God's economy is weighted like this throughout the ancient texts. 

It's the mingling of all this with the admonition to not be conceited that compels me today. 

Why that?

I'm not totally certain, but I have to wonder if it doesn't have something to do with thinking I know what's best, be it for another or for myself?  I have to wonder if cavalier or presumptuous summations (aka pat answers), or manipulative praying doesn't reveal the under-belly of conceit?  Otherwise why place such an admonition alongside such hospitable gestures done on behalf of another?  How and for who does the conceited one pray, or weep - or rejoice, for that matter?

How is it possible to be conceited when serving another so nobly?  I think the answer(s) are many & varied, but one's things for certain:  There is no shame in sorrow, and no victory in avoiding the human condition.

Jesus wept.

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh."  
Luke 6:20-21

Earth has no sorrow
that Heaven cannot heal. 
~Author Unknown

Footnote:  Thanks to Terri's comment, I feel compelled to affirm God's sovereignty and goodness.   We could not live out Romans 12 at all or in any facet were that not true.  So, we can pray along these lines all day long and never err, certain that it is a LACK of conceit that allows us to draw near to Him, and to lean upon His everlasting arms.