Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Maybe It's Definite

Sometimes when I pay a visit to Merriam I am gravely disappointed.  I've grown accustomed to finding a flock of definitions about a word, which in turn engages my brain along the line of comprehension.  No such flock exists with the word maybe.  Merriam defines it with a mere & paltry perhaps

That's it?  One word?  Perhaps?  Now off you go!  It hardly seemed worth the visit. 

Well, it'll have to do.  Because today the word maybe puzzles me.  Actually, it annoys me.

Why do we have such a word in our vocabulary anyway?  Shouldn't our yes mean yes, and our no mean no (Matthew 5:33-37)?  Where's the room for maybe in that?  

It seems to me that the maybes of life are wiggly little ducks & dodges that permit me to live in the lukewarm or uncommitted, or to say far more on a subject than I actually know.  Never smart (Ecclesiastes 5:2) !   

Oh, I know ... it's hardly humble to be TOO certain on any given subject.  Maybe a maybe is useful on some level because, afterall, we don't know what we don't know?   

But ... then ... maybe ... that would put the maybe into the category of the speculative.  I'm not sure that's such a bad thing, provided we own the speculation and not relegate it to the category of factMaybes aren't that.  Yet it's funny how often they become so:  say or believe something long enough and it migrates automatically from one camp to another, or back again (just watch the political news).

And, have you ever noticed how often the word maybe is followed by a question mark? What's up with that, anyway?

I viewed a fabulous nature program about Iceland the other day.  The photography & scenary were breath-taking.  The history compelling.  When it came to topography & geology, it was riveting.  They shifted from the general to the specific, focusing on the mountain & rock formations there.  With nary a hint of doubt or humility, we were factually informed that the maybes of their formation absolutely refuted the creation narrative.  Huh? 

Here was a prime example of maybes (aka theory) shifting to doctrine (certainties). 

OK, so now that I've thoroughly annoyed you too, let me offer a wee bit of hope:

We can't & don't know everything.

Maybe that'll clear it all up. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

105 Years Young

A mother's happiness is like a beacon,
lighting up the future but reflected
also on the past in the guise of fond memories. 
~Honoré de Balzac
Helen Evelyn Grinnell-Wells

August 26, 1907  -  March 16, 1976
The young & lively Helen

Stealing (or should I say "catching"?)
Dad's heart with a fishing pole
(She never learned to swim.)

Forever in love

Our heritage ... love & affection
Mom with three of her four girls.
She "spit shined" us - -
even for a day at the beach.
(L-R: Dolores, Mom holding Kathleen, Carol)
She loved gardening.
(And I loved sneaking & eating
the peas right out of the shell)
Their last trip together ...
Mother & her girl collection. 
Oh how she loved us!
This was an annual event:  Mother
taking us out to celebrate
our collective birthdays.
(L-R: Barbara, Dolores, Carol, Mom, Kathleen)
Happy Birthday, Mom.
If you have a mom, there is nowhere you
are likely to go where a prayer has not already been. 
~Robert Brault
A mom's hug lasts long after she lets go. 
~Author Unknown

I miss thee, my Mother! Thy image is still
The deepest impressed on my heart.

~Eliza Cook

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Whilst Living in Exile

Trouble is a blessing when it makes us stronger;
and prosperity is a curse if it entices us away from God.

So reads the footnotes associated with Jeremiah's two baskets of figs (Chapter 24).  The truth of it I know well.  Likely you do, too.  Sometimes God tells us the hardest route is the best one.  Huh?

I have an aversion to trouble.  I don't like to see it coming, and I definitely don't like swimming in it when it actually arrives.  Like the dead sea, it never permits me to do much more than a flubbery float.  There's nothing refreshing or satisfying about it  - - unless & until, that is, I find a refreshing body of water or a shower in which to cleanse myself from its salt-bog effects. 

I'd rather BE salt than live BENEATH or ATOP of it!

Trouble has touched down in the lives of several people I know & love.  It's hard to witness, and so very tempting to rush in for a rescue.  It's not that rescuing is all bad - - afterall, we have Search & Rescue Teams that do exactly that when boats capsize at sea, or hikers become imperiled in the Grand Canyon, or upon the craggy slopes of Mt. Everest.  The Good Samaritan gives us a protocol for these sorts of extreme rescues. 

But the rescue I'm thinking of is related to thinking I know best about what is the remedy for a particular trouble in the life of another.  Yes, offering a cup of cold water is often the best solution - - a gentle, refreshing & caring kindness (Matthew 10:42).  So, too, the provision of practical or financial help if it's warranted.  The scriptures are chock full of related texts.

It never hurts to ask:  How can I help?

One size does not fit all, so a generous application of wisdom is in order no matter what form the trouble takes.  But make no mistake:  God never asks that we stand idly by. 

And what if I find myself (again) living in the sort of trouble - exile - penned in Jeremiah's captive story?  What if I need to encourage someone burdened by exile?

I'm not left to wonder ...
God Himself provides the prescription
(even though this scripture is often
taken out of context). 
He promises that, when the time is right,
He will alter our circumstances. 

Remember, "exile" was the blessing. "Escape" was the curse.  The trouble dejour was actually God's provision for protection.

“Build houses and settle down;
plant gardens and eat what they produce.
Marry and have sons and daughters;
find wives for your sons and
give your daughters in marriage,
so that they too may have sons and daughters.
Increase in number there; do not decrease.
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city
to which I have carried you into exile.
Pray to the Lord for it, because
if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty,
the God of Israel, says:
“Do not let the prophets and diviners
among you deceive you.
Do not listen to the dreams you
encourage them to have.
They are prophesying lies to you in my name.
I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
This is what the Lord says:
“When seventy years are completed for Babylon,
I will come to you and fulfill
my good promise to bring you back to this place.
For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future. 
~ Jeremiah 29:5-11

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wednesday's Delights

For nearly two years we've spent every Wednesday together - my sister, Dolores and me.  We vary our routines on those days, but mostly we focus on God's word, family, world events and prayer.  It may not sound very exciting, but I can assure you it is often lively, and always lovely.  Sometimes we sneak away for lunch, or a shopping foray.  But mostly we curl up with a Bible & a cup of coffee, allowing the day to unfold one God-breathed moment after another. 

Yesterday we spent the bulk of our time recalling our parents and our upbringing.  More than once tears threatened to stymie our Time Machine travels.  Sometimes painful tellings of our father's struggle with Leukemia troubled old scars.  The empty space once occupied by our parents seemed so large.  We'd then switch to fits of laughter as each shared unique stories synonymous with being naughty or sassy (you might be surprised to know I wasn't). 

There's a 15 year age difference between the two of us. In our youth it mattered, but not so today.  In some ways, we were raised by different parents, only because they'd learned alot in the span between her arrival and mine.  She was the child of their youth - the first of their four joys.  I was the child of their mid-life, born when mother was 42 and dad 46 - the last of their progeny.  In between are two others: Barbara & Carol - 13 & 7 years younger than Dolores, respectively.  Together we are the Wells Girls - a neighborhood identifier we all cherished, though not half so much as our father. 

(L-R, Dolores, Carol, Barb & Kathleen)

It stands to reason that Dolores' memories would be colored in different hues from mine.  But make no mistake, the distinctive thread that runs through both our lives is this:  we were loved & nurtured, & taught to appreciate the things of hearth & heaven.  Our parents were firm, but never stern or unkind. 

It was so good to see you again yesterday, mommy & daddy.  We love & miss you, & look forward to that day when we rendevous for eternity.  Thank you for providing such a secure, noble upbringing.  Thank you for loving the Lord & teaching us to do likewise.  Thank you for loving each other & for demonstrating such respect & affection towards each other, & to us.  We bless & honor you, and give God thanks for having planted us in the garden of your hearts; and you in ours.   

Monday, August 13, 2012

Walking the Glen

Mentally, I've been traveling for several weeks now.  Between Rick Steves' videos & assorted websites & Travel Guides, I've virtually made my way to Germany, Austria, England, Scotland and Ireland.  Next month I'll do it all in real time.

I've been packing too ... again virtually.  Mostly I've been sticking Post-It-Notes all over my brain in order not to forget this or that.  In reality, those Post-Its are beginning to show up next to my suitcase.

Today I am grateful for the amazing gift we call imagination.  No other creature on the planet is so well-endowed (which sort of nixes all the theoretical stuff about amoeba-to-fish-to-lizards/birds-to-monkeys-to-man stuff). 

Imagining - envisioning - is the rare realm of mortals.  Long before something IS, it comes to life in our our mind's eye, and even our spirit.  It renders us capable of living in parallel universes such as the one I describe above.  I'm here in Washington State, but somehow I'm aboard a train on Germany's countryside, or walking the sands of Galway Bay.  Incredible!

It works in reverse, too.  How many of us don't visit a place or a person or an era no longer present, either delighting in or dreading it/them? 

I dare say that most bloggers, and certainly all authors understand how vital is imagination.  How else would we ever craft a sentence, much less an entire tome? 

Photographers & artists, too, use this endowment to see things.  Theirs is a craft which insists upon vision; which brings to life scenes that speak for themselves.  And songwriters.  Isn't it amazing how many assorted arrangements of notes & instrumentation over the eons have come together to delight (or assault) our ears?

Imagination - the blessing or curse of it depends on how we employ it.  Worry or wonder?  Half full or half empty?  Stuck or soaring?  Chained or empowered?  Outer or inner focused?  Dead or alive?

Just for today, I am delighted to find myself on a continent far, far way.  For some glorious reason, I am able to smell & hear it too.  Now THAT's imagination!

Glen Etive, Scotland

Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. 
Whatever you have learned or received
or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. 
  And the God of peace will be with you.
~ Philippians 4:8-9

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Birthday Blessing

By the time I was 21, I'd been married nearly three years.   During that time, both hubby & I worked fulltime while he went to college. so we could afford to pay our living expenses, as well as those associated with his education.  It never occurred to us to expect or ask for help. 

We agreed that we would one day begin a family, but not until he had his degree and a job that paid well enough for me to stay home and raise a child, or children.  It was a hopeful dream I anticipated often. 

On many levels ours was an idealic life.  We were young & idealistic; passionate about life & each other; hard working & fun loving.  We did have our challenges, and learning to share & consider the needs of another was often daunting for we wizened 18 year olds. 

We had precious little in the way of worldly goods, but we had enough.  And when the time was right, so too was the desire to expand our boundaries.
In the summer of 1969 I was bulging at my proverbial seams (see photo at right), pregnant with our oldest son, Bradley James.  We were over-the-top excited about his birth, though for the life of us we could not imagine how that would feel, or even how it would alter our lives.

With Brad's arrival came a new job for hubby, a new home (rental) for our growing family, and a new horizon for our collective futures.  Our sweet boy truly became the focal point of our lives. 

In time we would add Molly Diane  (1970), and then Kelly Michael (1973).  But those early days with Brad often left me at a loss for words to explain how consumed with love was I for the wee ladd in my care. 

Brad was adorable.  A smart, precocious, curious child with curly blond locks & eyes of deepest hue - he learned fast, talked early, and was forever studying something enigmatic.  He still is. 

Over the years Brad would be our resident brainiac.  Gifted in all ways except bedroom cleanliness, he would excel in school.  His finely tuned sense of humor provided us with many hours of raucous laughter.  (I will forever think of him when I hear the line from Speilberg's movie, "E.T., phone home.")

There wasn't a Lego he couldn't quickly craft into some architectural wonder; nor a complex, boxed model that he didn't dispatch in a fortnight (I knew I'd get to use that word someday).  His nightly dinner-table revelations kept us all wondering how this kid knew so much.  He was forever tutoring us.  He still is. 

This week that curious wee ladd turns 43.  Not much has changed in time's span.   

Recently Brad retired from the Marines.  It came as no surprise that he would find civil employment in a familiar arena, working for an organization that restores/repairs Blackhawk helicopters for the military - specifically for our troops fighting in the Middle East.  Simultaneously he's working on his college degree in accounting, hoping to go on for his MBA.  

Brad does simultaneous well. 

Several years ago Brad took up kayaking, and just last year built his own.  He's an avid student of the scriptures, leaning favorably in the direction of Judaism.
There are few in the family that cherish our Celtic (Scots/Irish) heritage as much as Brad.  A few years ago he began connecting to our roots (a passtime we share), following our McAleer & McFadden clans to the shores of bonnie-bonnie West Scotland; to the mulls & glens we consider to be our ancestral home.  Inspired to study the history & tartans of our clans, he is now fully kilted when representing us with yet another learned skill:  bagpiping.  Today he plays whenever this mama asks (like at Thanksgiving, when he provided a benediciton of Amazing Grace), and as part of the Olympia Highland Piping Band.


(Brad, tallest piper/middle, 2nd row)

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.
Robert Burns

Today I am mindful of how gracious has God been in placing this particular man in our midst.  Yes, he's still a precocious and fun son, but he's so much more:  a devoted husband and father, a terrific friend, a patriot, a lover of all things green & glorious. 

We are still over-the-top with his place in our lives.  In more ways than I can recount here, he has altered our lives - better than we could ever have imagined.   

(Allie, Megan, Erik the grad, Brad)


If there is righteousness in the heart,
there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
So let it be.
Scottish Blessing

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Coming Out - The Blogger

Five years and 802 posts ago I was arguing with no one in particular:  Why, oh why would I want to blog?

It was August of 2007 when Michael, my co-worker, insisted I at least give blogging a try.  He raved on-and-on about how easy it was.  And fun.  He assured me it was safe; that I need not fear cyber-stalkers or indentity theft.   

All of 28 years old, Michael was an avid-techno-social media savvy-curious-undaunted harbinger of all things related to contemporary communications. I suppose that's why he headed up Graphics & Communications.  Thus he had a bit of street cred on the subject.  I listened.

I was embarrassed to tell Michael I was clueless as to what "blog" even meant.  I had to look it up to get some sort of understanding - - my first cyber-related visit to Merriam (yet another relationship that spans 802 posts!).  There I learned it was a term first coined in 1997, and meant:  a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.

So, on the advice of this younger-wonder, I began pondering ... a portent of the plentiful ponderings to follow.  The rest, as they say, is history.

How vain it is to sit down to write
when you have not stood up to live.
~ Henry David Thoreau

For many long weeks I posted away in secret, hoping-beyond-hope that no one would discover my clandestine craft.  Heaven forbid someone might actually read what I'd written!  It all felt so personal, so awkward, so diarylike - - as if I needed one of those itty-bitty books with a key in order to lock up the mundane musings of a mis-guided matron gems of my heart..   

Finally, on January 7 of 2008 someone discovered me: a fellow church member I'd confided in.  She would be not only the first, but also the only for many long months. 

Then, in March of 2008 I had a visit from Elaine @Peace for the Journey.  She would be my first official follower, telling me:

OK...after spending a few minutes reading some of
your amazing posts, here's my question...

What's a "sassy granny" and where can I get one?!

Seriously, you are a hoot and are leaving a wonderful legacy
for your children through your words of remembrance.

I'm new to your blog via Alicia Britt Chole's blog
(don't you think she's just about the best writer ever?). 
I'll be back again for more sass from granny!

From such tentative, obscure beginnings I have to say how utterly wrong about blogging was I initially.  Oh, it's been a love/hate relationship, no doubt.  But it's also been a blessing more rich than ever I could have imagined.  I met YOU here!

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. 
~William Wordsworth

There are thousands of thoughts lying within
a man that he does not know till he takes
up the pen and writes.
~ William Makepeace Thackeray

Friday, August 3, 2012

Are You Serious?

WARNING:  What follows might well be labeled a rant

In utter disbelief I sat there with my jaw resting somewhere near the floor.  Had I actually heard what I'd just heard?  Was this guy serious?  He seemed serious.  With the straightest face & innumerable hallelujahs he sure sounded like he was serious.

Had I not heard it with my own ears I would have scoffed & laughed it off.  I scoffed anyway, but I had difficulty laughing.  Without naming names, the following items were actually a part of the preposterous litany testimony that I heard: 
  • People without limbs grew new ones. 
  • A man with steel rods in his leg had the rods disappear & new bones grow instead.
  • Obese people instantly lost all their weight.
  • People who were bald grew hair right before your eyes.
  • Teeth that had been filled with alloy suddenly turned to gold fillings.
I have long harbored a skeptical eye towards the sensational, especially when wielded with showmanship.  I am gravely concerned when men or women rally masses of people to demonstrate God's glory by way of miraculous signs & wonders, ostensibly for His glory.  I have often wondered why such gatherings entail crowds, faith offerings, stadiums or fanfare since I've not found a precedent for such in the scriptures. 

I also wonder why these ministers aren't quietly & humbly working alongside doctors or missionaries, or at senior centers if their healing powers are so potent.  I wonder a lot.    

It concerns me, too.  Unbelievers have a field day with the audacious claims & demonstrations that accompany the sort of reports I've noted above.  It's even worse when the Media gets ahold of it.  God's Name is sullied. 

With all my heart I believe God can & does do sensational, miraculous things.  I've been beneficiary of His providential moves.  I've seen Him heal, or restore, or replenish.  From nowhere & nothing have come solutions or opportunities that could ONLY have come by His hand.  And because He does such amazing things, I am not in the least bit surprised that some attempt to harness that power for a variety of reasons; reasons that often have the look of personal gain.  And there's plenty of it, personal gain - - be it money, power or pomp.  Oh how the flesh does love center stage!

The true hypocrite is the one who
ceases to perceive his deception,
the one who lies with sincerity. 
~ André Gide

I am now in the process of searching far & wide for at least one credible report & endorsement of someone without a hand or foot having grown one miraculously.  You'd think so great a sign would be easy to find.  You'd think. 

There's a reason Snopes & Factcheck & Youtube do such a booming business.  There's also a reason so many oversight groups probe deeply into the abuses men put forth in the name of God. 

End of rant.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit,
but test the spirits to whether they are from God,
because many false prophets have gone out
into the world.  By this we know the Spirit of God:
every spirit that confesses
that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh
is from God; and every spirit that does not confess
Jesus is not from God;
this is the spirit of the antichrist,
of which you have heard that it is coming,
and now is already in the world.
You are from God, little children,
and have overcome them;
because greater is He who is in you
than he who is in the world.
They are from the world;
therefore they speak as from the world,
and the world listens to them.
We are from God; he who knows God listens to us;
he who is not from God does not listen to us.
By this we know the spirit of truth
and the spirit of error.” 
~1 John 4:1-6