Frozen in the middle of nowhere

 

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Seriously, I’m not frozen. Just cold.

But, I am in the middle of nowhere.

Just a few quaint narrow streets.

Surrounded by

  • Cruise ships
  • and miles and miles of wilderness.

I’m in Alaska looking for Wi-Fi.

Tried the Skagway library. Even wrote a blog. It was

amazing clever.

deeply moving

incredibly informative.

But, you will never know just how much because it wouldn’t download to the internet. Then, I lost it.

That’s what happens when your fingers are frozen.

So, you will never know what female won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race  in 1986.

The details of Jack the stray dog who got to ride around the cruise ship in a stroller. Why he is now a service dog to the same lady who rescued him.

Well, there is a possibility I will return home as unless

  1. a certain unnamed former captain of the Costa Concordia or Titanic takes over.
  2. My widowed mother finds a boyfriend on the ship and I have to hang around and help my mom pretend to be wealthy so he will marry her.

Otherwise, I will return home or what I now refer to as Wi-Fi heaven. In that case, I will fill in the blanks on the race and stray dog.

Well, my fingers are now frozen. If I keep typing furiously I’m sure one of them will break. Not the souvenir I was looking for.

Now, I’ll purchase a half hour of wifi for $2.50. In remote Alaska, that’s a screaming deal.

That’s the trade off.

  • Expensive wifi (it’s expensive for everyone, even the locals) for great fish.
  • Cold and rain for snowcapped mountains and evergreens.

As for the gold rush, they should have been looking for sunshine. In this part of the world, when you finally feel it on your skin, you know you are blessed.

Well, I’ll be back blogging on Monday.

Wander through archived posts, if you dare.

Some are pretty scary. Others are just plain disturbing. But, they are all from the heart.

See you Monday!

The Power of a Promise–How an Ordinary Superhero battles human trafficking and brings children home.

To set the record straight, this boat has nothing to do with superhero’s. It’s my home for the week.

I’m with my mom, brother and sister-in-law on a cruise. If we have to pay by the pound for passage home, you may not see me for a while. Cruising is a not a drug zone…lots of people overdosing on carbs.

t’s free. It’s fun. And, a lot of its chocolate.

Need I say more?

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WiFi is fat free, but it costs.  Big bucks.

Problem is, I can’t afford it without selling my first born. (he said no).

That’s why I’m in the local Juneau bar at 8 in the morning. Internet is only a flat rate of 5 bucks.

Needless to say, I may not post again until next Monday.

In the meantime, ponder this question.

Do you ever shop at thrift stores?

People, it’s a bargain jungle. Not for the faint of heart.

But, if you can make the trek past piles of

  • Used dentures
  • Punctured pool toys
  • Name brand shirts with the name of the deceased still inside

You just may find yourself a treasure.

I found mine.

It was a book called Little Princes: One man’s promise to bring home the lost children of Nepal.

little princes

It’s all about Conor Grennan. When he was almost thirty, Conor decided to tour the world.

It could have been just another wild adventure.

What made the difference?

Conor Grennan realized that

  1. if he just partied from country to country
  2. his mom to be disappointed.

So, he started his journey at the Little Princes Orphanage in Nepal. In this war torn country, he fell in love.

With orphans.

And stayed.

One day, a woman arrived at the orphanage door. She was looking for her two sons.

During her visit, she found them.

That’s when Conor discovered

  • Most of the children at Little Princes orphanage were not orphans.
  • · They were victims of human trafficking.
  • Seven more kids hid in the woman’s home.

Conor quickly found space for the kids in another orphanage.

Then, a violent revolution broke out.

Conor had to go home.

That’s when he got the bad news.

The human trafficker who had first found the seven kids, snatched them again.

Conor returned.

He began a frantic search for the kids. At the same time, he made a promise.

He would re-unite other children with their parents.

This was a dangerous endeavor.

Conor traveled to remote villages in the Nepalese hills. He showed pictures of children to villagers. One  by one, parents broke down. Years ago, they had been told that their kids were dead.

Today, Conor runs a program called Next Generation Nepal. Families are finding children that they thought they would never see again.

Yes, Conor is an ordinary superhero.

He is keeping his promise, one child a time.

Rainy days, long nights–why sometimes we have to wait so long for the sun

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Last weekend was a crazy mess of rain and wind.

Today, the sun came out. Quite an event on the northwest Coast. Every time it happens, I marvel at the brightness.

There’s something about the morning light.

Twenty-six years ago, I went into labor for the first time.

By late afternoon, the contractions all bunched into one big pain.

Don’t scream or cry out,” the day nurse told me just before she went off shift, “The night nurse served in Vietnam. If you scream she’ll slap your face.”

By midnight, the pain was so bad I could hardly breathe. But, I didn’t make a sound.

To my surprise, this combat-savvy nurse commended me on my endurance. She had no idea that I feared the back of her hand more than the agony of childbirth.

The morning light brought surgery and a baby boy.

Funny, one look at his wrinkled little face and all I felt was happiness.

“Weeping may remain for the night,” penned the author of Psalms 30,  “but rejoicing comes in the morning”.

It makes sense as long as you know how to measure night and day according to loss.

Sometimes the night is just a night. Sometimes it’s a long, long time.

When I was in my late twenties, I got a call that woke me out of a deep sleep.

“You’re dad’s having a heart attack,” mom said quickly.

My sister and I followed the ambulance to the hospital. The darkness  blotted out everything but the excruciating pain of the moment. When we got to the hospital the doctors had already pronounced Dad dead.

It was a long time before I saw the sun again.

Overwhelmed with sorrow, I felt betrayed.

I didn’t understand that

  1. sorrow is tough.
  2. sorrow is patient.

Sorrow settles in for the long haul. It stays until the job is done.

  • the cleansing of our anger
  • the acceptance of our loss.

One day, a ray of light danced across my face.

A bit of warmth touched my skin.

It felt good.

How to Ditch Fad Diets and Feed the Soul

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I woke up this morning with a Bible verse running through my head.

I know, I know.

You probably woke up wondering why you’re alarm didn’t go off or if there was still enough time to get the trash out to the road before the garbage truck came.

Waking-up-Your-Child

Don’t be intimidated by my spirituality. I often have no thought patterns until well after breakfast.

Waking up is a complex process.

So, to experience one clear thought was exhilarating.

I have to confess, the verse was not about

  • the covenant,
  • end times,
  • immaculate conception.

It was about food.

That may have been because I stayed up until 2 in the morning writing about

  1. hush puppies
  2. catfish
  3. frog legs.

Confession -I struggle with food.

Not hand-to-hand combat with lethal dishes of apple pie or stare-down contests with diabolical beef ribs slathered in Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce.

It’s more like the abuse of food.

I use it as an

  • escape from stress.
  • shelter from criticism.
  • distraction from responsibilities.

Sometimes I don’t even taste it. After a while, the pounds start piling on.

I get angry at

  1. skinny people.
  2. calories.
  3. myself.

And I lose the joy of food.

Sure, too much can cause serious illness even death. But, it’s not like smoking or drinking. Total abstinence is not an option.

Fact is- food is a magnificent gift from God.

All you people munching down on cardboard crackers lightly smeared with an artificially flavored fat free cheese, give your head a shake.

I’m not talking about ingredients with names that require a chemistry degree to understand. I’m talking about food with shelf life.

Eat real food.

I know. I am not the poster child (or geriatric pin up model) for body beautiful. I never will be.

That’s fine.

I just want to get healthy, not skinny. Enjoy my food, not force down a skimpy diet of prefab, no flavor substitutes.

Ditch the fad diets. Feed the soul.

Oh, about the verse that ran through my head this morning –

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

No artificial sweeteners. No reduced fat.

Just full flavored goodness.

Food consumption–does who you eat with and why you eat with them have an effect beyond mere sustenance?

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Bentonville, Arkansas.

It’s the home of

  • The first Walmart -Sam Walton’s original variety store. (That’s me in front of the store.)
  • The stunning Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

And, the Flying Fish.

Before you break into a comedy routine about airborne fins and sky-high gills, consider this. I’m talking about a restaurant with one entire wall covered with Billy Bass plagues. Yes, the ones with the plastic fish that sings when it senses motion.

Now that’s impressive.

And a brilliant way to keep folks from stiffing their bill. Just threaten to activate an impromptu concert of “Take Me to the River” Talking Head style or a tinny rendition of “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. They’ll come up with the money just to get  away.

Besides being totally creative, it was certainly not as costly as incarceration.

Another wall was dedicated to something called the Liar’s club. If you bragged about a big fish that you caught you could have your picture up there. The wall was covered with photos.

Disturbing.

So many liars for such a small town.

But, the aroma from the kitchen kept me focused.

Smells of

  1. crispy frog legs with coleslaw
  2. grits and gumbo
  3. mud bugs (boiled crawfish)
  4. pickled green tomatoes
  5. fried okra
  6. grilled grouper
  7. fillet of catfish cooked any way you liked –batter fried or grilled, put in a poor boy or sliced across a salad

My family ordered the catfish basket.

That’s when I made a significant discovery.

Underneath the

  • fillets of catfish,
  • tucked in between golden fries

were three little hush puppies.

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Side note – Contrary to what you may believe if you live in the far north, hush puppies are not extremely quiet canine pets.

They are a deep fried bit of heaven fashioned from

· cornmeal,

· wheat flour,

· eggs, salt,

· baking soda,

· buttermilk or plain regular milk

· bits of onion, garlic and hot peppers.

As the tang of onion and cornmeal exploded on my tongue, I was transported to a scene from my past. People around me munched on hush puppies and drank sweet tea. I saw my Dad, now long gone, listening to the conversations of his parishioners while he watched us kids splash in the murky creek nearby.

Another bite and I was a teenager again. Elbow to elbow, I crowded with my siblings around the table at the local Catfish Cabin. Dishes of Chow Chow and black eyes peas sat next to the hush puppies and fish.

After a few seconds of  being back in time, I shook my head.

Food does that kind of thing, you know.

  1. Wraps itself around the senses.
  2. Binds what we feel with what we taste and smell.

Think about it –

  • In the Old Testament, when two parties decided to make peace they celebrated with a hearty meal.
  • In the New Testament, the early church shared their food with each other daily.
  • Funerals, birthdays and weddings still marked by the consumption of food and the gathering of the ones we love.

Perhaps, sharing sustenance with another human being is more than just

  • munching down
  • or grabbing some grub

What do you think?

Feeling Groovy and Super Busy–what really matters when it comes to good works

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Last Sunday afternoon, I drove out of the church parking lot,

Feeling

  • kind of groovy. (seventy style)
  • a little smug.
  • Secretly superior.

After all, I was queen of the intricate Sunday school hive. My honey had to be just a little more sweeter than the bees who buzzed around in the sanctuary listening to Pastor Barry preach.

All morning I had been busy, busy, busy.

  1. Managing teachers.
  2. Handing out supplies.
  3. Calming down children.
  4. Cutting out crafts.

Super duper me.

It felt so wonderful I almost forgot to drive.

“So, how was church,” I asked my husband.

Without loosening his grip on the dashboard, he replied,

The pastor talked about showing God’s grace.”

As our Honda careened onto Highway one, my husband explained that when we judge other people we are not showing grace.

Ouch!

One comment. Not even fully explained.

But,

  • it cut deep,
  • slicing and dicing away my delusions of superiority
  • until I was finally whittled down to size.

Only one truth remained.

In the light of eternity

  1. Good works
  2. Big accomplishments

are nothing more than a clump of smelly old rags.

Forgiveness matters. 

Grace transforms lives.

Donald Wheeler, Small Town Papers and Selfless Living–How to tell the difference between a superstar and a super hero.

movie stars

Ever get tired of hearing about the antics of the latest super stars?

  1. Phenomenal athletes with drug problems
  2. Reality show stars with crazy personalities
  3. Socialites with too much time on their hands
  4. Famous actors with marriages that last as long as a commercial

Basically, we as a society make superstars out of anyone who catches our fancy. Sometimes, we even call them heroes.

This is a a big mistake.

A sign of gross ignorance.

There is a profound difference between a super star and a hero.

Heroes are called heroes because they care deeply about other people and act on it.

We need more heroes.

Last Friday I found one. Not intentionally.

I was leisurely perusing the Stillwater Newspress.

Yes, Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Fact is, I live in Surrey, British Columbia.

My son lives all the way across the known world in Stillwater.

I miss him.

So, I spend most evenings reading about the town where he lives.

That’s when I saw the head line.

Tribal Talking Circle honors memory of child welfare worker Donald Wheeler

Three things were obvious about Donald Wheeler.

  1. He was respected by his peers.
  2. He worked selflessly for children
  3. He was gone.

I had to know more.

So, I read what reporter Ricky O’Bannon had to say.

  • Donald Wheeler met his wife while a Baptist minister in East Texas.
  • He worked for department of Human services for twenty four years.
  • He was named child advocate of the year in 2010 by the Kids First Coalition.

I also found out that he loved neckties.

And, he loved people.

The article ended with an inscription offered by Donald’ wife.

“Most superheroes don’t have super powers,” it read, “They are just regular men and women from everyday life that have a super passion and super tenacity and are not willing to endure the unethical and unconscionable.”

Never met the guy.

Due to his tragic death I never will.

But, I wish I had.

How about you? Know a super hero? They may not be

  • Handsome or beautiful.
  • Famous or rich.
  • Dynamic or trendy.

Seriously, does that really matter?

I”m talking about people like Donald Wheeler. Selfless. Generous. Courageous in their own way.

I’d like to introduce a superhero every Monday.

  1. Maybe someone I’ve talked to or read about.
  2. Maybe someone who impacted your life.

Let me know.

I’d love to hear from you.

You against the odds -Three reasons to give up and one reason to keep on trying

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I’ve faced the odds.

Challenges that made me feel queasy.

Inconsequential.

Crazy in the head that I would even think to take on the job.

But, I did.

It was September 2011. My daughter and I had just taken over the Sunday school program. Part of our duties was to put on a Sunday school Christmas program.

We looked through old material, searched the internet for new material. It was October before we realized that there was

  • no play
  • in the entire universe
  • compatible with the size and age grouping of our Sunday school.

So, we wrote our own.

At this point, maybe we should have just given up.

Three very obvious reasons come to mind.

  1. Time constraint – we only had about 11 Sundays to practice. One Saturday dress rehearsal. One constant prayer that everyone would show up to practice on time.
  2. Fear of the unknown – we were going for something beyond just a few songs and recitations. It was about a time machine. Would the audience even get it? Would it come off too presumptuous? Or would be so boring it would be hailed the new wonder drug for insomnia?
  3. Constant confusion – Kids announced half way through that they couldn’t make it. Kids suddenly showed up toward the end ready to participate. Kids too scared to talk. Kids to excited to stop talking. Kids with the munchies. Kids with short attention spans and even shorter memories. Kids dancing and jumping and just fooling around.

But, we didn’t.

One reason – it had to be done.

So, we did it by  

  • Refusing to think about insurmountable odds.
  • Breaking down every component into little steps.
  • Including everyone in the planning and preparation.
  • Flexing with the changes.

I have to confess

  • Our “Time Traveler’s Christmas” (a monumental statement on the birth of Christ and time travel) was performed in front of a live audience one time.
  • There was no rush at the box office for last minute tickets (it was free, for Pete’s sake!)
  • We used the “cutsie wootsie” factor to wow the audience toward the end. (we brought in the preschool class dressed like sheep. Now, who can say that’s not show biz?)

But, it was a success.

  • Parents were happy.
  • The kids felt proud of what they did.
  • The congregation felt included.
  • We reminded people what Christmas is really about.

What have you tackled that seemed almost too much for you? New job? New relationship? Trip you always wanted to take? Passion you wanted to pursue?  What helped you get through?

Teddy bears with tiny jackets–why it is important to remember evil even when times are good

holocoust bear

I love to think about

  • Books I’ve read.
  • Funny shows that I’ve seen.
  • Profound ideas.
  • Teaching my dog sign language so that she can stop barking and start articulating how she really feels.

I don’t like to think about

  • Cleaning my house.
  • Making a menu.
  • Growing old.
  • Zombies roaming the neighborhood. (Remember, I tutor college kids. I’ve seen them on  Saturday mornings. )

Seriously,  sometimes it’s important to remember the things we’d rather forget. 

That’s what happened today. I retrieved a small teddy bear from the back of an office shelf. It was a gift from my son.

When I picked it up my first thought was not,

  • “Oh, wow, you’re fur is so soft”
  • or “your muslim coat is so cute.”

I thought of

  1. smoke stacks,
  2. Train cars jammed with people,
  3. Death camps,
  4. orphans and refugees.

You see, my son purchased the bear at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Every time I see this little bear, I remember the tears of an entire nation. The loss of a generation. I remember the hideous face of evil.

I remember the Holocaust.

Evil.

It resides in all of us.

  • Jealousy.
  • Envy.
  • Murder.
  • Gossip.
  • Genocide.

We are foolish if we think  we do not need redemption.

Only God is truly good.

The Test of Endurance, Courage and Bladder Control- what I learned about camping and strange camp sites at an early age.

 

Camp-Site

 

It’s that time again.

Camping season.

Maybe you envision

  • sandy beaches,
  • sunny meadows
  • lush forests.

Not me.

I’ve been to the third level of camping hell.

I never ever want to go back.

“Let’s go camping,” were the words that started the venture that took me to the edge of darkness.

It was mom’s suggestion.

For a moment, it seemed like a great idea.

Then, I remembered. Dad was a preacher who earned a preacher’s salary. We didn’t have tents, sleeping bags or camp stoves. People in our income bracket

  1. ate wieners and beans in the back yard
  2. next to a plastic wading pool
  3. while spitting watermelon seeds at innocent puppies and little kids.

We didn’t go camping.

Mom wasn’t interested in logistics. When dad got home from work, she revealed her master plan.

“Convert the flatbed trailer in the backyard into a camper.”

Despite his spiritual insight and wisdom, Dad fell for the whole crazy idea.

“Grab mattresses from the bunk beds,” He yelled after he rigged a tarp over the slats on the sides, “Pillows and blankets too.”

The family station wagon lurched out onto the road with the makeshift camper following behind. It was so dark all I could see were the headlights of our station wagon poking holes into the night.

For the next few hours, we passed campground after campground. Every sign posted “full”.

Then, Dad hit the brakes.

He yanked the station wagon off the pavement. We crawled onto a narrow dirt lane between two fence posts and lurched to a stop.

I opened my car door and looked up.

Stars.

Everywhere.

Mom jumped out of the car and opened a cooler. She handed out chips, juice and cold hot dogs.

A few minutes later, we crawled onto the mattresses. All eight of us lay side by side. There was barely any room to move. Dad pulled down the open corner of the tarp and tied it shut.

“Gotta pee,” I confessed.

Side note – My bladder is very sensitive to bathroom access. As soon as I am any distance from a flush toilet I can hardly think about anything else.

Inspired by my condition, my siblings took turns emptying their own bladders.

After Dad pulled the tarp down the second time, I fell asleep.

“Don’t move,” my sister hissed into my ear in her best Hannibal Lecter voice, “Something’s moving outside.”

I opened my eyes slowly. When I saw a dark shape the size of a small mountain pressed against the slats, I felt my bladder relax.

“We’re going to die,” I gasped.

Dad shushed me as he lifted a corner of the tarp and peeked outside.

“It’s a bull,” he pronounced, “scratching his back.”

For the rest of the night, I prayed for the slats to hold.

The next morning, I woke to sunshine and the smell of frying bacon.

We had survived the night.

“Let’s get out of here the bull comes back,” Dad said after breakfast.

Once again we bounced down the deep ruts of the narrow lane. The car lurched over a few pilings that looked a lot like a broken fence poles in the light of day.

So much for the fancy life.

  • Motels with tiny soaps and shampoo bottles.
  • Dairy Queen hamburgers and truck stop dining.

I was a preacher’s kid.

Ready for hard times.

But, camping?

It was a sport for souls much braver than me.