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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)