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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