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Friday, December 28, 2007

Reflections

Granddog Cindi in afterglow
Looking back on the week there is an afterglow of fun family time, being together for Christmas. We spent the week preparing food, beds, house for family filling it. The first to arrive was Lu and Matt and Cindi from California. How great to give the first hug to Lu and Matt and their baby girl to be born in April. They decorated the tree the night they arrived, a definite challenge but Matt’s artistic talents filled in the gaps between limbs.

The next day Chris, Tomoko, Dylan and Pappy arrived with the King Crab sent from Jeff and family in Alaska, and the prawns and New York Strip Loin that vendors sent him to try. It was fun to have them try it out on us. Christmas eve more family arrived, Nan, Neil’s mom and Alan. We had no church service to go to, but a children’s Christmas musical at the community center. We ate the fantastic dinner after we got back, New York steaks, Cedar planked Alaskan King Crab legs, mashed potatoes, maple butternut squash and green beans. For dessert a chocolate peppermint ice cream cake with a candle as we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus, then sang carols and then watched a classic movie. We continued eating the next day with traditional Christmas brunch and decided to just do leftovers for Christmas dinner. It was a “foodie” family Christmas and Santa even brought the game “Food Fight” a fun trivia game for food lovers that we all enjoyed.

No matter how wonderful our celebration, the reality of our fallen, imperfect world appears. The septic tank started bubbling up, not backing up, but with the rain, it was not pumping into the drain field. We didn’t spend much time outside and Chris and Matt quickly put up a chicken wire fence around the area to keep the dogs out. The green house started leaking and then there was the garbage and recycling that piled up. Even a cold bug was recycled to Lu, Matt and Neil. Overeating, too many sweets, staying up late, I can’t say I was tapped onto the vine all the time (see previous blog). All this is a sign that some things need attention and should be taken care of soon.

The week before New Year’s I tend to think about what needs to be changed and it is often a time of reflection and planning ahead. Instead of New Year’s resolutions, I reexamine my life, our life, our focus, reflecting on the past year and what was good and what needs improvement. I know because of Jesus, whose birth we celebrated, every day I can ask for a new beginning and for the power and wisdom to change that which needs attention. This is my hope for you and wish for the New Year. May your New Year have that wonderful afterglow.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Prepare for Christmas

Charlie Brown tree (branch) creatively decorated by Matt and Lu
After coming back to the island Monday morning, we started preparing for Christmas and family, 10 of us plus two dogs, arriving. Besides baking, we cut the red berry holly and fir branches from our trees, strung lights along the grape arbor and the roof line near the walkway. We put the wreaths on the entry gate and strung colored lights on a fir and plum tree outside the gate.

We decided to find and cut a local tree as we had no time to get one from the tree lots in town. This is more fun anyway. Most of the trees that we found at our place were light starved with branches long or spindly or lopsided. We considered the Korean fir that Neil planted years ago that struggles to survive. The bottom three feet, bare from the nibbling of deer, could be the right height if we cut off the bottom, but we decided to let it go another year.

A friend offered a tree on her land. “Just go and look, especially around the power lines as they need to be cut anyway.” So we headed off with the truck and chain saw and walked the roads and power lines and found two. One was in the middle of many firs under the power line and looked delicate and symmetrical and the other was full, coming out of a downed, still living tree. This side branch decided it would be a real tree and was shaped well and full, so we cut both, one for outside and one for inside. I kind of liked the persistence of the latter so we chose that one for the indoor tree as a reminder of full life even when downed.

I seem to like imperfect trees, although not as imperfect as I remember my Dad and I bringing home. That year we went out to get a tree from the Sunoco gas station lot near our home in Massachusetts where Mom said there were Nova Scotia trees. It was late so not many left and we didn’t realize how bad it was until we got it in the house and the needles started falling off. Even our cat got sick eating the fallen needles. There was one side with hardly any branches on it. I remember my Dad trying to take a bottom branch off and drilling a hole in the bare spot to glue it in so it would look decent. At least I know the needles won’t fall off the tree we just cut.

I can relate to downed imperfect trees, still recovering from illness. I still don’t have the strength back but looking at that tree that was only a branch on a downed tree and how it decided to grow symmetrical and straight for as long as it could gives me encouragement. I don’t feel bad cutting it as it soon would stop growing since the trunk, actually a branch was very small and the life in the downed tree where it got it’s source was dwindling.

So in preparation to celebrate Christmas, we remember Jesus born who later said, “I am the vine (tree with the life source), you are the branches. If a man (woman) remains in me and I in him (has Jesus in their heart), he will bear much fruit: apart from me you can do nothing.” 1 I’m glad we can celebrate the source of our strength and hope not only this seeason but always and am looking forward to a wonderful Christmas tapped into the vine.
We wish you a Very Merry Christmas as well.

1. John 15:5

Friday, December 14, 2007

Peace

Prepare Ye

For Peace

I’ve decided to take my unsent Christmas cards that say “Peace on Earth, Good Will towards Men,” to the free bench this year. It hasn’t happened and won’t happen as long as the Earth and man in their present state exist. All the schemes of men, peace accords have not lasted for long. It is too hard to write an explanation on every card about why this has not happened since the angels predicted it to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth over two thousand years ago, so I’ll give them away.

I have had peace this week in between regular coughing bouts. With a second week of fever, I couldn’t think very clearly nor have energy to run around so it has been quiet here. But inside, except for my lungs, I have peace. “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me,” goes the song but I know I can’t bring about Peace on Earth, even if I have peace from God inside. I wish it could spread peace as fast and furious as this bug I contacted. But then I have stayed away from everyone so it stops with me. I realize I would have to be out there with everyone in order to spread peace if that were possible. I have learned that the more I am out there, the more chance for lack of goodwill towards man. I can’t think of anyone for whom I have ill will but know some who have it for me. I remember someone once said, “If you don’t have any enemies then are you really standing up for anything?”

If you think I am cynical, it could be the fever, which has finally left midweek. I’ve tried to look at the “Peace” cards from the perspective of those receiving them. Some might discard them as childish thinking or a Biblical untruth. Others may think, “Yes, it starts with me.” I remember in the eighties the bumper sticker "Visualize Peace" and then in the nineties, "Visualize Peas". I never believed that visualizing would make it happen. I remember my naïveté almost 30 years ago when I went to Israel and later communicated with a friend I met, expressing that peace will come. He had given up hope a long time before. Now in Israel only the hopeful give up land for peace. Anyone with their eyes open knows it will not come until Jesus comes again.

The birth of Jesus was the entry of this era. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, God in the flesh, coming to live on this Earth for 33 years, left His spirit with us who believe. He came to set us free by his sacrifice so we could regain right relationship to God. This spirit empowers us to be peacemakers, that is the idea but we still dwell in imperfect bodies with imperfect souls and minds.

Today, I think about the cards on the free bench. I hope that anyone picking them up might not think that whoever left them gave up hope on “Peace on Earth.” The Bible says, “Always be prepared to give the hope that dwells in you.”1 This is our hope. When Jesus comes again, a promise, He will resurrect our bodies to live forever on a new Earth… where for the first time there will be unending Peace on Earth, true peace and goodwill forever. I can’t wait.
So until then we prepare to celebrate Christmas, the celebration of the beginning that leads to the hope within us.
1. I Peter 3:15

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Perspective

Perspective on the world from couch while sick


“It never rains but it pours," so the saying goes, meaning once something bad starts happening, more follow. The week started with a bug I caught that went right to my chest and put me down with fever and chills. Then Neil got a call from the assisted living facility in Seattle saying that his Aunt in Seattle was not doing well., not eating nor drinking or talking, ‘failure to thrive” they said so he took the last ferry Monday night to try to get her turned around, which he did.. For me, he was able to call his doc in Seattle who faxed the antibiotic prescription to Friday Harbor and an islander who worked at the drug store there, brought it home with her that evening. Another friend met her at the ferry and brought the medicine to me. I am thankful for this island community, friends, medicine available, a warm dry house with electricity and hot running water. For food and clothes available at any time, the opportunities and choices I have all my life and especially hope when I felt the worst. I’m thankful this illness was temporary. I am also thankful for Neil’s help and his aunt’s turnaround, although maybe temporary.

Many asked how we fared as they watched the Pacific Northwest storms and floods on national news. We had a lot of rain but thankful there was no damage. There are not many low spots on this island and it is mostly covered with trees which absorb the water. Not so with others in town, sewage backup, basement flooding, loss of presents, household items furniture. Many have sufferings that don’t go away. Many children, especially in other countries, have no one to get them medicine or food, clothes or care. While I was thinking of this, Neil came back from Seattle on Wednesday night with mail from our PO Box, the first Christmas card, a wonderful personal DVD from a missionary we support in Africa through Rafiki Foundation raising up orphans to be godly contributors to their county. http://www.rafiki-foundation.org/. Most of what we build up can be washed away or uprooted in a minute, if not now, eventually. Helping helpless children gives lasting results; I’ve seen the difference when I went to work with orphans in Uganda. I’m glad for the reminder to send donations to help locally and afar.

I also want the focus of this Christmas to be on what is lasting, family, friends, fun times, celebration, and the pure joys of this life. As a believer in Jesus whose birth we celebrate this month, scripture says when He comes again, whether we are dead or living, He will rebuild a new Heaven and new Earth for His own (those who believe), a real Earth with whatever glimpses of what we see of His glory now will be the reality. We will have real resurrected bodies, no more sickness or decay or flooding or destruction and whatever joy we have now in some part will be what we will experience all the time with friends and family and people we’ve always wanted to meet. We’ll have a real and exceedingly more beautiful Earth and Universe to enjoy and explore forever with amazing adventures to look forward to. But the most fantastic of all will be the physical glorious presence of the living Christ. This is the end design for which His birth was the beginning. I especially want to keep this perspective this season and hope you will as well.

(Just finished reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Changing

Birthbath yesterday

Thirsty Pine Siskins take advantage of missing sailboat




Birdbath in May 2007

Yesterday, after a night of rain, the unexpected sunlight pushed through the kitchen window revealing grime, cobwebs, and dust. I stopped what I was doing and decided it was time to clean from the inside out, the windows first then the counters, walls, cupboards, floor and no stopping until I was out the door.

As I cleaned, I thought about the huge windstorm or twister that uprooted the large Douglas Fir and did other minor damage while we were away. Although the tree was healthy on the surface, the uprooted tree also revealed shallow roots that could not stand a stiff wind and twister. Neither could the soldered sailboat on the bird bath stand up to the wind that sheared it off.

I looked out the clean window and noticed a flock of pine siskins landing on the newly changed birdbath. The sailboat in the middle previously hindered more than one bird from drinking at a time. Now that it was sheared off at least ten could drink at once. It was a delight to see.

I know this week, You God, have been doing a house cleaning in me, uprooting and shearing off some old habits that I didn’t realize I had. They were shallow or superfluous and have been there for years unnoticed. I realized that I don’t receive thanks very well. Could it be because of my fear of conceit or pride? I have attributed what I do well to God instead, but what I do well is not that good that God should get credit even though I depend on Him. I just need to graciously say “thank you.” I say this now to those who have tried to encourage me. I realize that properly receiving thanks will also help me receive constructive criticism better as well, which I need. I find also that I don’t give praise to others as often as I should either, perhaps again for fear of encouraging too much pride or conceit in them or guarding against insincerity in myself. Like the sailboat in the middle of the birdbath, these serve no good purpose and keep me and more from enjoying the living water.


I am thankful that the Holy Spirit wind and Light of God has given me revelation and the power to make changes in my life for the better. Thank you for joining me as I pass on some living water to you.

John 4:13-14











Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Day

Four generation Thanksgiving gathering


I'm continuing to give thanks for daily grace and blessings as our family from Alaska and Seattle visited us in the islands. We arrived back from Alaska to find that while we were away a twister, raced through our place, starting at the entrance road uprooting a huge tree, bursting past the cottage, breaking the soldered metal sailboat off the bird bath, pushing out the gate panel, uprooting plants and placing potted plants well beyond their spot. Praising God, no damage to buildings nor people.
I guess it was just preparation for the good tornado of sorts, the whirlwind of family and activitiy, that came and left our house Thanksgiving weekend.
No written blog this week as took time to spend with family and rest. See video blog instead.
Cooking Prime Rib Thanksgiving Day 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanksgiving

Moose in the neighborhood



Andrew's hockey team won





Instead of a bad attitude,
I’m practicing gratitude.
Everywhere evident, God’s grace
Is there all the time,
I guess I’ve been blind.
Grumbling will not have a place.

Thanksgiving’s next week,
So I’ll give you a peek
More blessings I see all the time
Safe travel to Seattle
No traffic to battle,
A watercolor turning out fine.

We flew to Alaska -
A serendipity? I’ll ask ya
Friend flight attendant upped us to first
Arrived Anchorage in storm
Had planned and dressed warm
They said it broke records, the worst

Jenn and boys safely there
Delayed, snow everywhere
“146 accidents, 86 ditch divers” the news
Andrew’s hockey team won
All this on day one
Safe travel with ditched driver views

While their parents away
Watching grandsons’ each day
Building sled and ski runs for fun
Two moose near their yard
Taking pictures’, not hard.
The mountains revealed by the sun.

So this Thanksgiving I hope
Gratitude? Yes. Grumble? Nope.
I want to continue my part
I pray that you’ll see
The grace given thee
And thanksgiving will be in your heart.

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for joining me here.



Saturday, November 3, 2007

Treat

Trick or treat


Every once in a while I need a treat. It’s not that I have been good and deserving one like a dog. I have in fact been grumbling a lot lately, not very appreciative. The old “trickster” is shaking my leg. I’ve been feeling like there’s a heavy load on my back and I’m walking up hill backwards so I can’t see where I’m going and no end in sight. As hard as I push and pray, I get nowhere fast. The only place I get is to another day that is not much different. That was until we decided to go to town to visit family and walk amongst the parade of “trick or treaters” on Halloween afternoon. Our grandson was more into people watching and playing with leaves, and watching him was a pleasure.

But then this pleasant delight did not last very long. On the way back to the Islands, we missed the last ferry and had to get a motel room for the night and rise early for the 5:30 am boat. I was a little upset as I was tired and should have double checked the ferry schedule instead of relying on my husband who read it wrong.

I am looking for that great feeling that lasts longer than a day. I think that heavy load on my back is keeping me from seeing the daily delights around me. My mind does not see what is ahead and I don’t really want to look at where I’ve been. I realize that my burden is caused by rebellion. I resist dying to my old ways of doing things. I know I want to be all God wants for me, and as a result God has been changing me, but I really am struggling with letting it happen. As a result, I make it harder on myself such as walking up hill backwards. But finally this week I realize that all I have to do is confess my rebellion, turn completely around and walk hand in hand with my Lord and Savior up the hill. He knows the way and points out the pleasures and takes the load from my back. I do long to be free, the most wonderful feeling of all. He’s picked up the tab of my rebellion and treats me with care and consideration every day and I am grateful once again for the treat of grace that lasts a lifetime.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Gifts revisited


Formerly green with envy, now there's hope


Sometimes it just takes a little longer to mature and recognise our gifts. With a little patience, persistence, a little time and especially a lot of warmth and light from above comes hope. I've decided not to be so hard on myself. Sometimes the sun is just not shining on me and it just takes a little longer to get my blog out.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 28, 2007

At the peak

Red Oak at its peak
I can see it from my workspace window standing tall at the fork of the entry driveway just inside the orchard fence. The red oak is at its peak. The once green of its large oblong pointed lobed leaves is now barely visible. In some leaves the dead leaf brown begins to show. This is the perfect in between time; when the more brilliant red than orange six month old clothing catches my attention. Unlike us who button up and put on heavier coats, the oak with each wind gust shivers and shakes off top-coat layers to bare itself for winter. As the leaves dance to the ground, I go outside and gather some of the best leaves pressing them between waxed paper (with newspaper to keep wax off the ironing board and iron). I then flattened them with heavy books, hoping to preserve the color for our family to enjoy at our Thanksgiving table.

Wendell Barry mentions that trees planted on a farm are a sign of the owner’s “long-term good intentions for the place.” With the hundreds of trees Neil has planted here, he certainly has made a mark for genreations to come. The oak, now about 30 feet tall could last 500 years and mature to 90 or 120 feet tall reflecting his hope for the future. How many generations is five hundred years? I have hope in the future as well, but it comes in the daily pleasures that are hints of the glory of God who will outlast the oldest tree. I guess that is one reason why I try to write a weekly blog to attempt to capture the week in time, press it on the page to preserve the color for family and friends. I admit that I have been “off”, not at peak performance, these last few weeks. Just too much going on and no time to sit and think. So today, over a week late, I shed off my other responsibilities putting on my long term good intentions for this blog as Neil has headed off the island to buy more trees.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Instead of writing

Asian Pear
Biological Preserve


Monday, October 22, 2007

Gifts

Harvesting the last of the tomatoes



Green with Envy


We harvested the rest of the tomatoes this week and instead of making a lot of sauce, I gave most of them away to those whose tomatoes only got green.
When a gift is given, it is for the receiver to do whatever they wish with it; otherwise it is not a gift. This is not only for gifts given by people but by God. Sometimes I don’t appreciate the gifts He gives and I try instead to do something that doesn’t come easy or doesn’t give joy. I realized this week when taking a watercolor class that I actually enjoyed it. I have neglected painting for many years and was persuaded to take the class in order for it to be held at our community building, the teacher needing a certain number to make it worth while for her to come to this island. I usually like to be in the background, but the only seat left was one up front and I tried to make do with a wash that I had done the week before not wanting to waste the paper. I copied off a photo that was taken at the biological preserve and decided on a horizontal orientation. When the teacher came up to me to see how I was doing, she took it away and said, “You are finished,.” and hung it on the board for all to see. She didn’t make any comment but I received some from others in the class that were upset that I finished so soon with a decent picture. Perhaps I’ll just post pictures for awhile. Writing has been just too difficult and I keep getting further away from my desired Sunday posts. I don’t think writing is one of my gifts, although I do ask God for help. I give these to you each week to read even though some are not ripened or finished. You can do what you want with them.








Tuesday, October 16, 2007

October discovery


When Mom died of cancer February 1993, Dad placed in my hand the silver necklace, a charm attached to a long chain, which she wore all the time. It was a gift, a remembrance of Mom, and perhaps he thought it would comfort me since I too was going through cancer treatment, diagnosed the previous October. I wish I could have been there for her but the 3000 miles apart and my treatment made it hard.

Dad bought it for Mom on one of his travels to Rio as a Bank Examiner. The charm was in the form of a lower arm, with cuff and wrist bracelet with the hand clenched into a fist. On the cuff standing out in raised letters was the word “Brasil”, how Brazilians spell it, and an anchor design on the back of the cuff. Later when she needed a colostomy and radiation treatments, she began to wear it all the time, with her own right fist clenching the hand of silver as it lay at the end of the long chain on her chest. It was almost as though it was her anchor, another hand she could hold that was always there. I too, after receiving it, wore it going through the treatments when I was feeling especially vulnerable, hurting, alone or just missing Mom. I would grasp the hand that Mom grasped and in a way it was like having her close. It was not until it was in my possession that I took a good look at it. The fist was not an ordinary fist but had the thumb placed between the index and middle finger. It was not until a few weeks ago that I took time to find out the meaning of that fist. Called a figa, this amulet is used for good luck common in Brazil. The figa or higa supposedly came to Brazil through the African slaves brought to the West Indies and beyond, and used to ward off the evil eye or demons, and diseases. It was also brought to the West Indies with seamen of the Spanish Armada again worn for protection especially against shipwrecks. I don’t believe in good luck charms, only the grace and sovereignty of God. Man made objects cannot protect us as evidenced by the multitude of Figas retrieved from shipwrecks in museums in Bermuda and Florida and Dominican Republic and no protection from disease for Mom. I also found that this particular fist gesture is an obscenity in some countries.

Mother and Dad would have been mortified if they realized what she was wearing. Not only the obscenity of it, but a man made object whose purpose is to trust it for protection rather than in God’s sovereignty and faithfulness would go against their beliefs. So I contemplated how to get rid of the necklace.

Last week I traveled to the city, driving a friend back and heading to a luncheon to benefit mobile mammogram programs. I still have a hard time with October, the month I was first diagnosed, but wanted to recognize and celebrate my 15th year survival anniversary. So on that day, that would have been Dad’s 100th birthday, I stood on the deck of the ferry as we traveled past a reef marker towards Anacortes, with the witness of my friend, and with much celebration, praising God, grabbed a hold of that hand for the last time and flung this charm into the deep. I could almost hear Dad and Mom clapping and celebrating too.

“Lord You Are More Precious than Silver” I sing.

Monday, October 8, 2007

More manna

City crows gathering daily French fry road kill

Lately whenever we travel to the city, I notice more crows congregating in large family groups. From early autumn until breeding season the individual needs of most birds are suppressed and they become community minded. 1 So instead of a cormorant, it is a gulp of cormorants, a cast of falcons, a gaggle of geese, a covey of grouse, a colony of gulls, a flight of swallows, a host of sparrows, a murmeration of starlings, an unkindness of ravens and a murder or storytelling of crows. 2 So here is my story telling about crows.

We drove to the city for a few days this last week to gather with family and friends. In between times I ran errands in Madison Park and ran into crows, congregating with their constant cawing. As I was walking along the sidewalk an acorn dropped right in front of my face, just missing my head. I looked up to see the crow culprit sitting on the telephone pole watching. So I started watching the crows instead. Near the park I saw one ingenious pair dropping the hard sycamore fruit out on the street to be cracked by the next motorist to come along, afterwards retrieving the seeds. Further down the sidewalk I saw the trash receptacles were so full the crows had a party and invited all their extended family. It was near here the crows were contemplating the demise of a French fry run over by a delivery truck. This flattening produced no seeds but an opportunity for a game. It could be called King crow on the French fry which included a lookout partner or a game of who can stay the longest peeling it off the pavement before getting run over by a truck. Perhaps there was a claim on this fry before I happened to come along, a story behind it all, the finding the bag in the trash and distribution of it all until the last fry. Then the decision of who gets it and perhaps the dropping it from the air and another catching it on the fly with the last crow mistakenly dropping it to the pavement just before the truck came and flattened it, and every time they tried to get it, another truck came along. So when they finally had an opportunity to congregate in the street there was much ceremony in taking the last fry because they didn’t want this game to end.

I've rewritten this ending every day this week since the post to no satisfaction. You'd think I was hit on the head by that acorn with all the trouble writing I've had this week. One day I'm community and family minded, the next day I want some space; one day having fun, the next having a frown, one day glad to give up my needs for others, the next day, upset that I did or that others didn't give up their needs for me. I wish it was as easy for me as it is crows, to know my place and give way to community for a season. But then I realize I have available the daily manna of grace for me through Jesus Christ who died for me, not crows.

Ecclesiastes 3:2 "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:"
If you missed this video, go to www.youtube.com/angelambryant or you can search "A storytelling of crows"

1.Eliot Howard, Territory in Bird Life
2 James Lipton, An Exaltation of Larks


Monday, October 1, 2007

Daily bread

recreated the next day

This week the raccoons harvested the Bartlett pears; and ravens harvested the loaf of bread left outside in a basket. I was distracted.
The phone rang and I left it there all alone for awhile. When I came back for it, there was neither sign nor crumb. Next day I apologized to the men building the rock wall
That morning they were waiting for the promised bread.
It was manna from heaven for the ravens instead.

Fall is here, the gathering season, and I think about the Israelites in the wilderness daily going outside their tents to gather manna, a flaky substance that they made into cakes. It was God’s daily provision for them. They gathered only enough for that day, except the day before the Sabbath they gathered twice as much and it lasted two days. Other days if they tried to gather too much, what they didn’t use rotted.

This week I am trying not to look too far ahead. I want to daily depend on God for whatever He wants of me, not do more than I need to do, not expect too much, just trust what He has for me this day and do it with His power. Give me this day my daily bread. I know He will provide whatever I need for the day in order to provide for others. I ask Him to just help me not to get distracted.

Exodus 16:11-21



Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Harvest

photo by Neil Bryant
Tomatoes discussing the harvest

“There’s a reason we’re slower to ripen ‘round here
Because now comes the day that I really fear
I see her gather each day those that are red
I hear they slice us to put us on bread”
Now it is our turn, picked from the vine
And here we are on a bench in a line!”

“Don’t be downtrodden; I see that you’re sad.
No need to fear or even get mad.
I know if we’re left out there on the vine
We’d certainly be mush in a matter of time
They picked us for a purpose I surely know
It’s our purpose in life, I know it is so
I can’t wait to see what soon we will be
Oh to be the T in a BLT!
Perhaps we’ll be salsa dipped up with chips
Perhaps in a penne pasta, chopped in bits
Think of the pleasure and maybe some fun
To become spaghetti sauce when someone slurps “yum”
When you die to yourself, for your purpose just see
What more you’ll become just wait, trust me.
It’s better than mush on the ground."

John 11:25 “He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live”

Monday, September 17, 2007

The way it was



I have often thought about the way it was before the white man and even to the beginning of the age before the Fall of man. These weeks have been much too busy to piece together that subject, so I will just give you some scattered thoughts amongst my week of distractions, additions and subtractions. I think of this theme as I spend a small scattered time dealing blows, (subtracting), to the Eurasia (white man) bindweed and the right-after-the-Fall-of-man thistles. I think of Eden as I drive the roads of this island in between meetings and errands.

I love the distraction of late summer, the slanted muted light that hits a red tail hawk’s tail and wings as it flies to a tree, crossing the road eye level in front of my windshield. Later in the day I stop, spirit refreshed, to see a doe and fawn slowly cross the same road in front of my car to enter the woods on the other side. I love this time of year. Returning in the dark of evening, my headlights pick up eyes ahead, I slow down and pass a buck on the side of the road. This week I’ve watched the ravens, the turkey vultures, the juncos, and nuthatches and brown capped chickadees all the time thinking that they were all around before man. I look at the land to see if there is any hint of what it might have been like. The trees, what is left of the native grasses all moving together with the wind, the native plants, snowberry, with its now white round fruit. When the light hits them , I smile and am refreshed.


I remember the camas looking like bluebells, that were on the point when we first bought the land. That was before the deer became too populated. Our field used to be full of camas, propagated by the first peoples, bulbs harvested to make a flour like substance. We’ve planted some seeds around inside the gate to see if they might grow once again.
A lot of people look to the native people thinking that the environment was much better when they ruled the land. They didn’t have bindweed, but they still had thistles. They might have been better stewards, but they worshiped nature not the Creator and all of us including nature have not been perfect since the Fall of man.


I have often wondered about the times when something in nature stands out, as the red tailed hawk and the deer and grasses. Why does my heart have joy? I knew it was not because I worshiped nature since I worship its Creator, but how was this connected? And why was I always so sad and upset when that which I delighted in was destroyed? As I mentioned in another blog, I’ve been reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I had an insight from this book this week. They joy was a glimpse of the new heaven and earth where there will be no death or decay or beauty destroyed and a chance to praise God. Heaven and Earth will be one when Christ comes again. He points out that the old Earth will be restored. We all have that longing for the beauty that we think is untouched by man. This is where my longing for the pristine, beauty of natural landscape comes from and my inability to keep it pristine, fowled by man’s actions or the weeds or unruly plants in my garden.


Until Heaven on Earth, God, however, looks to the church, the unlikely group of fellow believers, to demonstrate His beauty and presence on earth. This week this diverse group with every church background possible, has, only by the Holy Spirit’s intervention, come to a meeting of the minds to write an installation service for our new and first pastor, a new beginning for our fellowship of believers who have forever been without a shepherd. We still have a long way to go with a lot of subtractions and additions. The way it was is now gone and we have a better chance now of bringing light and refreshment and joy to those we meet along the road.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bindweed revisited

Field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis




Last week, while in town visiting friends and daughter Lu, I walked past a man wearing a white tee shirt with green words, stating “plants rule.” It caught my attention. If ever there was a plant that tried to rule, it is the bindweed.

In the May 13 blog I wrote about painting the bindweed invasion with Roundup, but since then I have not been diligent, mostly ignoring the garden for other interests. I think I am in denial because I don’t know how else to combat its tenacity. So with the “plants rule” reminder, upon return, I walk around and take a real look. It is worse than before, escaping underground in the opposite direction from my Roundup attacks, there finding more plants to bind up with vine so no more freedom of movement. When trying to untangle or pull out the bindweed, the perennial gets pulled out as well. It has now moved from the border to form a huge patch in the lawn, crept underground past the grape arbor, through cracks in the rock wall and attempting to invade the next lawn terrace below and field beyond.

Six years ago, we were in England at Great Dixter taking a plant propagation class when a gardener who was listening to the radio quietly came and told us about what had happened at the World Trade Center. “Apocalypse” the British papers headlined. I think of this every time I look at the bindweed that took root in the newly planted perennial border established upon return. I look at how it operates. Plants are not made to rule, humans are as they depend on God, but that was before the fall of man. Since the fall, all of creation is tainted and out of order. As I fight the bindweed, I am made continually aware of our need to be diligent in prayer for our country and the need to fight back those who wish to do us harm, those who wish to make us to be like them at our expense, taking away individual and corporate freedom. I see the way the bindweed goes underground, becoming stronger as it goes and how it springs up in other places as soon as it is driven out in one place. It gathers the sun and the rain that is given to the other plants and brings it down underground to become a fatter root and more impermeable. What can stop it?

Some day there will be a new earth, it will be restored when Jesus comes again, with bindweed and humans that behave themselves. I remember that the battle belongs to the Lord and remain humble in that I don’t have the whole picture. In the meantime, maybe I’ll paint a picture of bindweed on a tee shirt and in between its clutches, the words looking like soon to be crushed flowers, “Come quickly Lord Jesus”.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Family

Last brood of three barn swallows to leave the nest


Following much diligent feeding and nurture, the third and final summer’s barn swallow family has fledged. The morning after the first batch left an evening empty nest; the second pair came and claimed it. They checked out the nest and tossed out the white feathers to start their almost 2 month lease which ended last week. A second pair, discovering the nest already taken, found a new place under the eaves of the main house that we could watch from the attic window. I can see September swarms of swallows gathering in the sky to start their southern journey. They have once again fulfilled their God given purpose “to be fruitful and multiply” This week I will take back dominion over this spot of earth by the back door. It is time to clean up their mess.

In the meantime we head south to the city to gather with our family and feed and nurture our “third and last hatch” daughter, Lu, newly expecting. She flew north to visit, to be in a wedding and to put on a baby shower for a longtime friend. I spent most of the week excited to be a Mom nurturing a Mom to be, feeding and caring for one whose changing system didn’t tolerate being around strong smells of food preparation. So, with focus on family, (not blog) we visited mother-in-law and Aunt Maine, celebrated daughter-in-law Tomoko’s birthday, and Chris’ birthday and their anniversary and kept Dylan while they celebrated. We prepared for and gathered with former neighbors and friends at the shower and thought of family and friends far away. It was wonderful to connect, catch up, keep up, bond again and stick together in the fun times not just the tough times.

It was a week for our church family as well. As a barely hatched church, the pastor is now in place, soon by God’s grace to be installed. He will feed and nurture us and protect us as we huddle together in prayer to be united in our chief purpose “to glorify God and praise Him forever.” We, unlike the birds, are made in God’s image. We have will, reason, and a unique relationship to Him, marred by the fall of man but reconciled by the blood of Christ. We pray that we, as a church, might conform to His will in order to give God the glory so we can hatch, fledge and go out into the world or our community with light and hope to feed and nurture. In the meantime, we claim God’s dominion over our lives to help us clean up our own mess.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Saturday night


"Plastichrome" postcard P324407 Arts & Cards, 374 Boylston St., Brookline, MA 02146

I decided that Sunday posted blogs are not going very well. So on this Saturday night, I post a food related piece written this week for our writer’s group; besides, I need Sunday to be a day of rest.

Every Saturday night, as long as I can remember, growing up in a north Boston suburb, we sat down to supper with a sense of history, homemade rolls, hot dogs with piccalili and Boston baked beans in a pot. Our mother baked the beans in an ancient glazed crock called a bean pot. It was two toned, brown on top, tan on bottom with a handle and tight fitting lid. Because I preferred the pea beans, small, round and white somewhat like navy, over the kidney beans, she would bake two pots one kidney and one pea or weekly alternate beans. On Friday evening before bedtime she soaked the beans in water overnight. On Saturday morning she parboiled them for an hour or so, draining the beans, according to Fanny Farmer’s original Boston Cooking School Cook Book 1896,”throwing bean-water out of doors, not in sink.” Then she put them in the bean pot with dry mustard, brown sugar, molasses, salt, pepper, salt pork and sometimes an onion, with just enough boiling water to cover. She then placed the lid on top and slow cooked it for 8 hours, adding boiling water as needed. The anticipated Saturday smell transformed the house for one day a week.

One of our ancestors on my mother’s side, Stephen Hopkins, an adventurer pilgrim from the Mayflower, 1620, was the first to become friendly with the Native Americans. .He had been to Jamestown around 1610 and in Plymouth colony he spent time at native camps, Pokanokets, Narragansetts including visiting Massasoit, namesake for Massachusetts. Many natives also stayed in his family house in Plymouth.. I believe it was he who learned from the Narragansetts how to make baked beans using maple syrup and bear fat. Since the Pilgrims strictly followed the commandments of God, to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, no work including cooking could be done on Sunday, just worship and prayers, the meal needed to be prepared the night before and beans were a perfect choice, according to some sources, the start of the Saturday night Baked beans tradition for most of New England.

During colonial times, Massachusetts became part of the triangular trade, Boston to West Indies to West Africa. Originally some Native American slaves from Phillip’s war 1674, were sent to West Indies to work in the sugar cane fields. The byproduct, molasses was sent back to New England to be made into rum. The first distillery in Boston was in 1667. Rum was then sent to West Africa to buy slaves which were sent to West Indies to increase the labor force, production and continue the sequence. It is interesting that we have sponsored an orphan through Rafiki Foundation in Nigeria, West Africa. It is also interesting that our great grandmother whose house we live in and whose bean pots and roll pans we used, lived most of her later life in Barbados, West Indies. I even have a glass rum jug of hers with basketry wound around it. I often wondered about why she would go to the West Indies from Boston area. Perhaps it was the baked bean/molasses/rum connection. By 1783 there were 63 rum distilleries around Boston area. With often a surplus of molasses, the baked beans became a way in every household, a substitute for the maple syrup.

In the 1920’s Friend’s Brothers established a baked bean factory in our town Melrose placing them in cans to sell along with cans of steamed brown bread. Even with the factory in Melrose, my mother still made the beans and rolls from scratch. The piccalilli, green tomato relish, however, was locally made and eaten.

The franks when she could get them, were Maple Leaf a Canadian brand from Nova Scotia, grilled in a black cast iron frying pan. Even though both parents were immigrants from Nova Scotia, my mother especially needed the continual connection in any way she could get it. The rolls were from a recipe passed down from generations on her mother’s side. She began making rolls on Saturday morning as well, putting bowl of covered dough on the hot water radiator under the kitchen window to rise. When puffed she punched them down and when risen again she turned them into light balls of dough, stuffing them in rows into my great grandmother’s metal baking pan, placing them in the oven to bake to a soft light brown.

I can still smell Saturday night’s meal and wonder why I have not continued tradition. But you know, I found the old pot, the recipe, some beans, even salt pork, and am making some today for history’s and Mom's sake. Besides, I too will try not working on Sunday, for the blog and God’s sake.
Exodus 20:8-11

Sunday, August 19, 2007

County Fair

Mother Hildegard and 4-H Lama’s heading to the fair


“You’re always busy,” said my husband. It’s true. I am busy most of the time. There are so many things I want to get done. But a week like this, when I go around in circles or backwards with constant distractions and interruptions and the computer loses all that I worked on for a day, shows me that life is very much more than just getting things done. So we took off a day and went to the San Juan County Fair.

Two days before, I headed down to the ferry dock on fair entry day see the entries and wish them well. A long line of cars and trucks waited with excited, dressed up 4-H’ers and their projects and animals. In the overflow lane were Mother Hildegard’s lama mobile filled with lamas, and more trucks and trailer with alpacas and Cotswold sheep. Mother Hildegard, with a doctorate in child an adolescent psychology using animals in therapy runs the 4-H Lama club.

I was excited to get there myself to see how they fared with ribbons galore. We watched the animal trials as each 4-H islander showed their animals with much patience and connection. It was fun to visit the live stock tents and talk to our island children
We sampled the fair food, listened to the music and performers, checked out the vendor stalls and visited booths of vegetables, flowers, arts and crafts and fiber arts, sheep to shawl. But the most fun was the daily 3:30 pm chicken and rabbit races. They were started many years ago by a former WSU extension agent Burrell Osburn. People just show up with their rabbit or chicken, a race or two for each, huddle in the inner circle and when the race starts, let go. The object of the race is a prize for the first, second third bird or animal to go over white chalked line of the outer concentric circle. The chickens or rabbits did not know about any prize. They had no goal except what rabbits and chickens always do, obedience to God's call to be fruitful and multiply. It was very funny to watch.

I think the chicken and rabbit race was much like my week, from the human prospective not fruitful. I would just get an inch away from the goal and give up or get shut down. I would end up going backwards and starting over again from where I began. I would wander around, get distracted and again never get to the goal or sometimes just sit there stuck, frustrated, not going anywhere. But then, perhaps this is just what I needed to see this week, to look at myself from a broader perspective, rabbits, chickens and crowd. I ask God to change my goals and instead to trust His rule over my life especially when frustrated. I ask him to help me be His idea of fruitful (in dependence on Him receiving the fruit of the spirit, patience and joy being two of them), and to continue to enjoy life, the perspective that going to the fair provided.
Galatians 5:22-23

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fog

Shaw Island Classic in the haze


When you wake from sleep to a long muffled ferry horn blast, raise your head up off the pillow to look out the window and can’t see beyond the patio stone, it is fog.
Fog lay out over the land and sea as we packed our car to take our guests to the early morning ferry. The field came into sight before we left, and as we passed the bay to the ferry, the grey dissipated to reveal hazy boat shapes silently sitting it out. The skies cleared in time for the ferry to arrive, load and take off and in time for the two annual races around Shaw, the Round Shaw Row and the Shaw Island Classic.

Our guests came to conduct an important Friday night meeting and I cooked up some of the salmon caught last week for dinner. The meeting was a gathering of our community of believers to call a pastor and begin a church. Many, including myself, have been praying for this for over 25 years.

Sometimes the fog comes without warning of a ferry boat blast. It is then that years of fog become such a way of life you don’t realize it could be different. In a book I have been reading, Heaven1, there is a reference to Florence Chadwick in 1952 who tried to swim between Catalina Island and the California mainland. It was a cold and foggy day and she swam for fifteen hours before giving up, just a half mile from her destination. “All I could see was the fog…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.” Fog is like waiting on the Lord. You pray, and it seems nothing happens. Only when the fog lifts do you see what clouded eyes obstruct.

The fog lifted enough to see the Lord had indeed brought a pastor in our midst. But the fog covered once again when we realized the impossibility of calling a pastor without a church structure and with such a diversity of opinions and desires in our group. But God is a God of the impossible, always working behind the scenes, desiring this more than us. The meeting was clouded, with everyone having a say, and at the very end many had given up hope, amongst confusion and frustration. Several, however, in faith, were quietly praying and claiming God’s faithfulness and Christ’s desire to build the church, believing “we would see the glory of God.”2 The cloud lifted and by a miracle of God, His Holy Spirit unity prevailed, the sun came out and we called a pastor for this new church on our island.

I hope that in this new beginning, as we awake each day, we recognize the fog covering, keep our eyes on the shore, and trust God. Learning from Shaw race participants, and Florence Chadwick, we will to continue to press on.. “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”3

Heaven, Randy Alcorn, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 2004, page xx
John 11:40
Hebrews 12:1,2

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Wait




Some of you waited for my blog this week. My computer lost my password (continuing the theme last week). I depend on it to remember and place the password on the line when I try to log onto my http://www.youtube.com/ angelambryant account with my user ID. Because I can’t depend on myself to remember, I stow the password in a little black box in the islands and I won’t be able to dig it out until I get back there. So I wait.

Waiting seems to be the theme this week, starting with two days at Seattle airports. I volunteered to help gather high school friends at SEATAC, dine with them, and head them on the ferry to Bainbridge for their annual gathering. I did it for the fun of catching up while waiting for five separate friends to appear from across the country at the baggage terminal. The five hours waiting went quickly.

The next day we sat in the waiting room of the other “airport”, Kenmore Air, to take a floatplane to fish in British Columbia. The socked in Seattle cloud cover delayed take off for an hour and a half, so I read the book I brought, Full Moon Flood Tides, about the history of the places and people of the Inside Passage where we headed to fish. We had a beautiful ride once out of Seattle, flying over the islands heading north to Nanaimo, stopping at customs, waiting for fuel and slow passengers taking potty breaks and getting a snack and drink. We headed over Johnstone Straight to our destination, Berry Island and Farewell Harbour resort. The pilot made a “hot dog” landing confirmed by everyone waiting for us at the resort, bumping in at tree height.

There was no waiting to go out fishing upon landing, as the 2:00 fishing time was in a few minutes. Neil and I quickly went to the resort store, filled out our three day fishing license, put it around our neck, donned our borrowed yellow rubber overalls and orange float jackets and headed for the boat with guide waiting. The windy beauty of the afternoon, watching whales and the tip of the rod, and waiting for the fish to bite anchovy bait landed us two pinks or humpies the first day fishing.

While sitting, watching and waiting, I thought about the history of these islands here off the coast of Northern Vancouver Island. The book I finished talked about how many of the first settlers were loggers or fisherman, same as today. They built their homes on a float and waited for the Full Moon Flood Tide to come in order to plant their home on the high beach until the next summer when they could move on again if the lumber or fish were better elsewhere. They say the salmon come in from the ocean on the full moon tide. You catch the springs on the slack tide stated the book. Just days past full moon, with hope we fished for pinks and springs. You could see the plentiful resident “pinks” or humpies jump as the tide brought them up against the “wall” side of Parsons Island. In the early morning of the last day, wanting to sleep in and work on my blog, but thankfully being persuaded to go, I caught the 18 pound spring, (chinook or king) by Flower Island. What fun but hard work. My arms and legs were sore and weak and shaky afterwards as it took about 15 minutes bringing it in with periods of letting go and letting it run and starting all over again to pull it in as it fought all the way. The cheering team kept me going. My mom always said, “The best comes for those who wait.” That “best” salmon was worth the wait and a sucessful trip.

After everyone else left on their boats and planes to go home, we had an hour before Kenmore arrived, so we decided to counteract the sitting and waiting around, with exercise, a walk on the wooded marked trail in back of the cabins. I forgot a cell phone and a map. What we thought was a one mile circular trail was really 4+ miles and a lot uphill and down. My legs and arms were still weak and burning from bracing myself while pulling in the spring and I was getting tired. After 45 minutes walking we came to a red ribbon with no more ribbon in view anywhere around. We spent about 10 minutes trying to find the trail to no avail thinking it was a circular trail not a dead end. I had been singing “You are Lord of creation and Lord of my life, Lord of the land and the sea,” off and on all the way, remembering the fish I caught. When we realized we were lost and tired and would miss our plane we started to pray for wisdom and direction. We “waited on the Lord” so He would “renew our strength” to get back. Since we would miss our plane no matter what with another 45 minutes back, and knowing that only by God’s grace and a late plane would we get off this island for a while, we hastened back the way we came. This time I sang “Great is Thy faithfulness” along the way as much to ward off the bears as to convince myself of God’s faithfulness to the lost, to those who ask, to those who reach out to him for help and direction. We got back an hour late for the plane and found that not only had it not shown up, no one had heard from it or cared. We praised God for His grace while waiting another hour for it to come and pick us up and bring us back to Seattle, extremely thankful for the delay.

1. Isaiah 40:31

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The lost

"Homespun" Concert


I spend a lot of time looking for the lost lately, my mind in particular. I forgot where I put my blog draft, so I start over again. I left the video camera charger in Seattle so no video this week. I found myself looking under “M” for a muffin recipe in the telephone book. I get distracted, my brain skips a beat and heads south with the swallows. At least I’m not trying to change channels by pressing and pointing my hearing aid towards the television, as a friend Sheila, visiting this week, remembered a former dementia client doing. But then I don’t have a hearing aid.

Speaking of swallows, the Violet greens have left. Now there is a nest of four barn swallows under the attic eve, almost ready to fly. A new barn swallow couple claimed the vacated nest at the back door of the cottage the first day after the former’s first night’s absence. The swallow has been sitting on the nest all week and withstood our fun amphitheatre christening party with music and sound systems and singing and friends in and out the back door. Sheila says that focusing on nature (birds included) helps the mind and does away with the distractions. I think music does too.

Sheila and Cathy and I spent a day figuring out what songs we could do together for the concert Thursday night. Cathy memorizes a lot of songs keeping her mind active. I need to do better. I’m beginning to think it is rude to anyone listening if I neglect to learn the song. I’ll begin. Like the swallows, I don’t want to leave the old nest empty for long. The advice from Cathy regarding learning is to have the words with you always on a card and just sing a line and look to see if you have it right and then go to another line and so on. Maybe the first song I’ll learn is “The Last Thing on my Mind”.

But I’ve received even better advice.1 I know Jesus’ main job is looking for the lost. I think that includes not only my lost soul but my lost mind and everything else I misplace. So I ask Him, who knows all, knows me, knows where everything is. I ask Him, restorer, healer, helper transformer, to help my mind and find what I’ve lost. He does. I look under “A” in the song book for “Amazing Grace.”


1. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,” said Jesus. Matthew 7:7

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Focus

waiting for the ferry in the rain
Flitting back and forth from country to the city tends to keep our life a blur. It was pouring rain while waiting in line for the island ferry, distorting the view from inside the truck, almost like an impressionistic painting. The camera first focused on the rain running down the windshield and I played with the zoom as I thought about the day.

Rainy days in summer settle my soul. Noise and color tones are muted and lines of distinction blend together. Grey sky meets grey landscape. Puddles produce concentric circles. I stay in the truck and concentrate on the rain drops falling in front of my face. I like the rain. You can tell I am a gardener and North westerner. There is less to do outside so over half my choice of distractions are gone. I have such a hard time directing my attention and rain helps me in a strange way.

A friend directed my attention to the book Focus your Writing by Bonnie Hearn, with hopes I find a solution for my writing. Hearn compares focused writing to a camera centered clearly on a single object, which reminded me of how unfocused my videos are. I try leaning against a tree but every time I breathe the camera moves. I know I need a tripod to keep me steady. I also need to move slower with the camera, I notice the frames are out of focus when I’m in a hurry. I also need to simplify the video and the blog. “As the words are reduced the idea is expanded,” Hearn states.

Yes, I am moving too fast for a focus, too many projects and pulls. I need a tripod - Father, Son, Holy Spirit, three in one anchor.
Yes, like looking at the rain from the truck, I focus on what is in front of me, not the big picture or purpose for my life.
Yes, I cram too many ideas and thoughts into a single topic so it comes out confusing or without clear meaning – like this.
Yes I do want to simplify, it is harder work than anyone thinks. With a small place 800 sq ft, my focus seems to be constantly cleaning up, filing and throwing out. I need to do this with my writing.

I notice new activity in the nest box on the front of the tractor shed this week and marvel at the singular focus of the Violet-green swallows in their diligence to feed the first of the newly hatched. I know in the realm of time, the birds did not fall like man. We alone are created in God's image and with free will and reason. The birds are as originally created, following the commands of God to be fruitful and multiply with no free will to do otherwise. Yes it is my will that gets in the way. You, God, provided a way out, through the blood of your son Jesus, the singular sacrifice for my errant will and sin. By your power and grace truly, what I need to do is to let go of me, letting go of my will and choose to take on yours, Lord, like it was originally planned. I want to focus on you Lord, your plan for my life, day by day, with minute by minute instructions to help me do your will for your glory even if it is flitting about, back and forth and being unfocused.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thistles

Photo by Neil Bryant


Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)



In the past I've thought that there might be some weeds that I could live with if they were put in the right place. I know the good Lord made them for a purpose and perhaps I could find just the right spot where it might be happy and me as well. I read about King Ferdinand II who had a whole field planted in thistle so he could watch the goldfinches. I tried to leave a patch one year and for a week the goldfinches truly delighted me, but everyone suffered greatly for years after from multitudinous thistle. They took advantage and spread like wildfire.

We have battled thistles, the alien noxious weed for almost 30 years. Since they’re found mainly in disturbed ground and my husband is always moving dirt around “our” thistles thrive. It’s a conspiracy, while we were busy last month, they, like no other garden plant grew lush, thick, healthy and I say smug, bloomin’ ready in the heat to turn to seed which the slightest wind blows right to the ground my husband prepared. They think it was groomed just for them.

Actually, it all started with the curse. “And unto Adam he said, because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; … Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; …” Genesis3:17-18 So I decide it is bigger than me but I'm going to try to do something about them anyway.

So ignoring the goldfinch I set out every year to cut them down before they’re blooming ready. Last year by the compost pile, hacking them before they hid in the compost to multiply millions, I found a camouflaged white crowned sparrow nest in the middle of the patch, wedged between three stalks. The twined hay in a soft cup had no eggs and perhaps the nest was abandoned as it probably rose in the air from the hay pile as the thistles grew. Perhaps in my zeal to stop the multiple millions I ruined the sparrow’s chance for multiplication. Perhaps the thistle protected them from other birds and did have some use. Now I look for nests every time I hack, pull or cut.

I know neighbors have had spurts of vengeance with thistles, like the one who decided one year to pull all thistles along the road for three miles and some neighbors take vengeance with me especially when our crop blows into their gardens. So yesterday I decided again it was time for my turn against the bloom bursting thistles. The ground was dry and they healed themselves in deeply so I couldn’t dig and pull. I cut them low so they can’t easily branch blossoms, I found this out the hard way after cutting high and in two weeks I was fighting more blossoms lower on the stalks. I remember taking hours to pull and cut thistles and I laid them beside the road, no blossoms, just buds, but in the time from when I cut them and came back to dispose of them, they blossomed and went to seed even though they were uprooted! So I stuff them now into large black plastic bags and pull the ties to suffocate them. Perhaps they are screaming inside, but I don’t care. There are plenty more seeds that will soon be flying around.
There are some people in my life that are like thistles -the thorn in the flesh that stays and causes pain. They crop up and get in the way of what I consider beauty. They thrive better than me no matter what the situation. They take over when my back is turned. I can’t treat them like plants that wither and die away because they are God’s creation made in His image like me. They are in my life for a purpose. Perhaps it’s because of a curse that I can claim the blood of Jesus over or perhaps a chance for me to look at life differently and how in Christ’s name I can work with them. I can choose to look at the goldfinches they might attract or the nests they might harbor and put out my boundaries of where they can lay their feet or not and love them by God’s grace. But I don’t have to love thistles.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Independence

The last one to fledge

Declaration of Independence, the solemn declaration of the Congress of the United States of America, on the 4th of July 1776, by which they formally renounced their subjection to the government of Great Britain” as defined by Noah Webster’s Dictionary of 1828
When I think about independence, I ask independence from what?

As much fun as we had with our grandsons, we had a sense of independence when we deposited them at their new home in Alaska. We were suddenly free from the guidance of taking care of them. We spent a few days at a B&B nearby and flew back to Seattle to rest, celebrate the 4th and drive the next day to the islands.

Upon arrival I noticed that the barn swallows outside our back door had all fledged except for one. I view the first flights of newly hatched swallows as independence, free from the confines of a crowded nest of 5. But then, the one left is not crowded anymore either. The lone swallow could look like an independent one not wanting to leave the nest, but actually as the last to hatch, is the most dependent. In reality they are all still dependent as evidenced at night when they all return to the nest and nearby ledges chipping, chirping and fluttering, still trying to get fed by parents.

I used to think of myself as quite independent, sort of an individualist. I had the “I can do it myself” two year old mentality. I thought independence was the goal in life. I didn’t learn a lot from others nor receive a lot of help because I never asked. I lost out.

In reality no one is independent and I am grateful for the grace that found me and showed me truth. Webster stated his primary definition of independence, “A state of being not dependent; complete exemption from control, or the power of others; as the independence of the Supreme Being.” Independence is delusion for us. The only one in the universe that is truly independent loves us enough to ask us to depend on Him. So now I ask.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Through children's eyes


What fun to experience our journey through the eyes of children. We four boarded Amtrak from Seattle to Vancouver BC last Sunday to catch the Ryndam on our seven day cruise to Seward Alaska, to deliver the grandsons to their new home. From the enormous size of the ship, the small room that transforms nightly into cozy neat cabin, a bed that lowers from the ceiling a couch that makes up into another bed for the boys, a king bed for us all with places for our suitcases, clothes and games. A tv that has a DVD player attached, The views of mountains, waterfalls, fiords, seaplanes, dolphins and whales at a distance. “Oh look!” exclaimed a lot. . The jumbo shrimp cocktail and Alaskan crab dinner, the night shows with a comedian and Las Vegas dancers, the kids HAL club games, the food, did I say that already? The boats that follow on the horizon, the other cruise ships, the sunsets at 11:00 pm from the crow’s nest, the formal night when we all dressed up in tux, suit and cocktail dress. Andrew playing shark, minnow in the Lido pool for hours most every day with children his age, the amazement that there are 15 other teens at the kids club for Jon, games scavenger hunts all over the ship and prizes and “chilling out” in the loft. The amazement that the cabin steward made a lobster out of towels one night, a scorpion and a squid, elephant and gathered all the stray socks and belts and ties and papers in a design on one bed and all Andrews stuffed animals that jumped ship onto my forehead from the bunk in the night.

I am grateful to God for safety, good health, fantastic weather, a good time for all. I thought alot about my lack of expressive gratitude and excitement in comparison, to the children and the song, “More Precious than Silver,” went through my head especially in Skagway as we traveled the White Pass Yukon Railroad past 1898 gold rush trails along the river.
“Lord you are more costly than gold, the gold that in 1897, 98 lured 100,000 people to the Klondike and Yukon River junction, through terrible hardships, giving up jobs and often their lives to try to stake a claim.

As Robert Service wrote in “The spell of the Yukon”,
I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy – I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it-
Came out with a fortune last fall,-
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.
Now they had enthusiasm, but mostly misplaced.

“Lord you are more beautiful than the diamonds,” continues the song,
reminding me of the gems in the shop windows lining the streets of every port.
As we cruise Glacier Bay I say to myself “Lord you are more beautiful than the blue glaciers of the pristine wilderness, mountains and bays.

“Nothing I desire compares with you,” ends the song.

If desire is linked with expectations and history, our grandsons did not know what to expect, nor had they any history with a cruise ship, so their wonder and joy was fresh and fun. I want the fresh fun enthusiasm and my desires to be focused on you Lord and the wonder of your creation including grandchildren. Help me to desire you more than anything and give me a dose of childlike eye drops.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 2

1.Written by Lynn DeShazo
2. Mark 10:15

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Journey




“Even a long dangerous journey can be faced confidently when God is leading the expedition.” I am not sure where this quote is from, but it stuck in my mind this week as we prepared for our boat trip to Alaska and our son and daughter in law prepared and set on their land journey from Utah to Anchorage with all their belongings including a car, two dogs and birds. Our part in helping them is to pray, care for the boys and get the boys to Alaska.

In the meantime we had fun this week in the islands. The boys fished from our boat one day, Chris caught a rockfish, filleted it to eat, they tried digging clams, and spent a lot of time playing at the beach. As you see from the video, (www.youtube.com angelambryant day at the beach) the boys tried making rafts from driftwood and Dylan had his first beach experience. Perhaps this was a beginning attempt at losing their land legs.

I know our journey is neither as long nor as dangerous as our son and daughter-in-laws, but we too can face our trip at sea with four of us in a small room for a week with confidence. As we take Amtrack tomorrow morning to Vancouver BC and leave for Alaska in the evening by ship, we also ask God to lead our expedition.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Monday, June 18, 2007

Blooming

cousins at the zoo
My mother used to say to me, “You can have thriving children or plants”. This month it is children. Considering children and plants, I think the phrase “Bloom where you are planted,” should be “Plant where you can bloom.”

For example, in spite of neglect, my philanopsis orchard, in the right spot on the south facing bathroom window sill is fully blooming. A $6 reject from the grocery store, the fifth year of bloom, thrives on the mist from the shower, airborne roots, the shoots spring up and wonderful waxy white interlocking petals. It wouldn’t do that without being in the right place.

The hoya which marked time for years in a north corner is now flourishing in the south facing kitchen sink window. Upon return this week I found it winding up the cord of the shade and sprouting fresh leaves. I think it will see a bloom soon.

The clivia on the other hand in the living room has not bloomed for over three years. I got it because it thrived with neglect but not any more. So I will move it from the city to the country to see if it is happier besides it has a clivia cousin there.

Speaking of cousins, midweek we moved ourselves and grandchildren to the country to play together. We started the fun in the city visiting museums, parks, and the zoo now the fields and beaches of the islands. We entertained family, Dylan’s parents and other guests, including the guest speaker, Cricket from Rafiki Village Rwanda. She spoke to a group about the too many children who are planted in Africa, 13 million of them just in sub-Saharan Africa alone, orphaned and alone due to war, AIDS and other diseases. They are uneducated, malnourished, helpless and without hope for a future. In contrast to our grandchildren, these children are far from thriving and blooming. Rafiki Foundation, Inc. finds these orphans that could never bloom where planted and plants them in a Rafiki Village, with tender loving care and nurture and trains them up to be leaders of integrity.

We all are thankful for the reminder that by the grace of God we are planted in a place with the necessary resources, climate, and care to not just survive but thrive. We are reminded to do what we can to move and plant those who are orphaned, neither surviving nor thriving, to a place where they too can bloom. See http://www.rafiki-foundation.org/ to sponsor an orphan or support Rafiki programs.

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Packing

Charges for the month


As I packed my bags last Sunday to head to Park City, Utah for the week to collect our grandsons, I thought about how I hate packing. I’m glad it is not me packing up a household and moving to Alaska. Our part is keeping charge of the boys this month while their parents move.

I hate packing mainly because I want to make sure I have everything I need, not leave anything behind, yet keep the suitcase small and light so as not to be overburdened. I’m glad I brought a fleece jacket for the two days of snow in Utah, yes, snow and the light tee for the hot day before. The necessities got packed plus my laptop, cell phone, iPod, blackberry and camera to keep in touch with family and friends. The biggest problem is the tangled collection of wires and chargers to recharge and connect all the devices, looking somewhat like parts for a bomb as they sit in my suitcase. I know this is the reason security at the airport leaves their “we were there snooping” note in my bag.

Without the wires, the communication devices are useless. Actually, without remembering the wires and plugging them into the devices to charge them then remembering to unplug them and put them back in my suitcase, the communication devices are useless.

I am grateful for a 24/7 working, charged, wireless communication network with you Lord. 1 I know with two grandsons, You Lord need to give us a Holy Spirit volt charge of energy. I will include in my bags as we travel to the San Juan Islands and then to Alaska, your grace to keep us on the straight and narrow, your love so we can relish it on our grandkids, your wisdom to order our days, your work through me, your direction so we know what will be meaningful to all. We will have fun because You make our burden light. Help me to remember to charge my batteries with you at night and/or in the morning, taking time to pray and read your instruction manual as we take on our charges this month. I don't have to worry about leaving you behind.

 “Lo I am with you always, even unto the ends of the earth.” Matthew 28:20

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Joy




When my husband Neil starts hearing operatic singers every time he turns on the shower and I hear his talk radio show whenever the refrigerator motor starts, it is time to get back to the city. Noise deprivation it is called.

It’s time for a change of scenery, time to be with old friends and family and go to a noisy restaurant to eat for Africa. Time to hear the “Ummmm zap ummmmm zap” of the gas powered edger on sidewalk strips and crows at 4:45 am, cawing from trees outside our city bedroom window or the, crash, clank, clank of glass breaking and bump of containers emptying into the recycling truck, then the high gearing of the grinding mechanism that squishes everyone’s non-garbage into one truck, or the background hum of traffic far off that you would not notice if you hadn’t known the silence.

Perhaps the more serious problem is lack of humor and joy, rather than lack of noise.
Like a scratchy old record, the song “Create in me a new Heart” still goes through my head this week, but gets stuck in the groove “restore unto me the joy of thy deliverance”. Joy, humor, “lighten up”. Yes, I need a good dose of it. My blogs are getting darker and more depressing. I have been ill this week, a bad cold, fever, sore throat that traveled faster than the bullet train right to my lungs. “A joyful heart is good medicine”(Proverbs 17:22). Joy, laughter, I want it. Enough of this death stuff. “A crushed spirit dries up the bones.” The doc even said, my bones are brittle, so I give myself a prescription of laughter this week. Has anything caught my funny bone this week? Perhaps my funny bone is as brittle as the rest.

So it is past time to sing and laugh. I haven’t even been singing or playing an instrument for several weeks. It is time to pick it up, learn the words to a new song, and sing an old one like “Happy Birthday to you Dylan” for Dylan’s first birthday. A beginning month long feast of fun with grandsons, laughter and joy. How sweet it is noticed even more when it has been a long time missing. Lord, increase my sense of humor this month, and give me joy and laughter.