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Showing posts from 2017

Gotta Get Them All

Recently, I had the privilege of going to an energetic Pokémon Trainer party where celebrities were in attendance.

The mood was giddy at times and conversations, animated. Although some guests were jumpy.

Decorations appropriate for the occasion festooned the room: balloons with watching eyes and streamers, among them. Marilyn Monroe was unable to attend and sing, so we all chimed in as our musical talents allowed. A small child, Toby, the guest of honor, beamed above a candle-lit Pokémon cake.

Guests seated themselves at long tables. Superman shoveled cake into his mouth with superhuman relish.  Cinderella toyed with dainty bites of cake, more intent, it seemed, to talk quickly with other guests, great and small, than to actually consume calories.

A representative from Star Wars sat in quiet dignity beside other comic characters. And a number of guests in plainclothes munched quietly.

But even casual observers could discern this was no ordinary birthday gathering. Serious business h…

Roots for a firm marriage foundation

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Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.Psalms 111:1:10 NLT)

How can two young people make a commitment to love and honor one another for a lifetime? Who can know what troubles and joys the years bring and the changes that result? Who can know what it takes to build a relationship and commitment that lasts? Who is that wise and foresighted?

Few marriages seem to last any more. Promises are strained and broken. Vows are whispered joyously and later forgotten or angrily cast aside. Seasons change and people change. So, how can two people build a relationship that can weather the changes? How can anyone know?

In 1975, when David and I were good friends and becoming more, I didn't know the answer to these questions. More than forty years later, after as many years of marriage, four children and ten grandchildren, I still can't predict the future any better than I could when I was young.

Over the years both David and I h…

Book Review: Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard

Jennie Allen reveals healing aspects of God's grace in her book Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard. Allen wrote the book after becoming exhausted trying to measure up. Two women helped her understand God's unconditional love for her. The dedication sums up God's grace at work:

You two show me unconditional, never-going-anywhere, no-matter-what, never-have-to-prove-a-thing love. 
Through thick and thin we've tested that this year, and God through you was solid Forever grateful for you. 
What kind of love is this? Unconditional love that sees faults and mistakes, yet forgives; that knows everything and loves, that encourages and accepts and endures, going the distance and beyond, never leaving us.
As believers in the living God, we have this love through Jesus, working in us and through us. God in us is enough. We have nothing to prove to the one who loves us and who lavishes his good gifts and grace on us.
When we can remember, recognize and believe God at…

On finding Abundance in empty places

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We normally think of abundance in terms of things. Of having a comfortable home, stylish furniture and clothes, shiny appliances and cars, plenty of money in bank accounts for emergency and fun getaways. Things.

Or, a loved one sharing our space. Or, children playing on that carpet. Or trips scrawled on the calendar.

What if abundance is an attitude? A mindset. A sense of well being and of being enough and of having enough even if meals are meager or possessions are few?

Priscilla Shirer talks of abundance in a DeeperStill Orlando event video. We are watching these videos as part of our current Bible study that uses the book, Faithful, Abundant, True. In this week's video Shirer encouraged thousands of women at the event, as well as the women with me listening in Vancouver, that abundance is possible in any season of life.

I agree with her and appreciate her reminder.

Shirer lives in a season of youth and ministry with her three young children still at home. My children are gro…

At what point do you turn it around?

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The leader in the 9:00 a.m. Saturday Weight Watchers' meeting asked, "At what point do you turn it around?"

No one answered.

I would bet my paycheck, if I had one, she knew full well at least one person in that crowded room did not follow the program every day that week. And we all know what that means, don't we?

"At what point do you turn it around?"

Still no one answered.

Finally, she asked for a show of hands. "Has anyone struggled this week?"

Several of us -- yes, me included -- raised our hands. Yes, I did. I lifted my fingers and palm at least a few inches, hoping no one would see me.

Uh huh, it was that kind of week. I'd gained a few pounds. Traveling, a few meals out, bowls of Simply Naked popcorn, Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, Pei Wei dinner special in the airport -- these may have been the biggest offenders this week, but there was plenty I'd been eating and not tracking. Too much food.

Not tracking, not writing down everyth…

Distinguished Americans series: Robert Panara

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Throughout his life Robert Panara  (1920-2014) served the deaf community with intelligence, creativity and modeled overcoming hearing loss. He was a teacher and pioneer of Deaf Studies.

The 16th issue in the United States Postal Service Distinguished Americans series issued April 11, 2017, honors Panara, as he signs the word "Respect."

Panara wasn't born deaf. At 10, spinal meningitis left him changed. Resources for the deaf in the 1930s were few. After completing high school, Panara learned American Sign Language. The second world war was ending the year he graduated from Gallaudet College (now Gallaudet University) in Washington, D.C. After earning a masters from New York University in 1948, Panara taught at Gallaudet for nearly 20 years before beginning his career at National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) where he developed programs and taught, helping deaf students thrive on a hearing campus.

Panara is best known for his passion for literature and drama. He…

Simplyfying life isn't always simple

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Joshua Becker, author of The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own, spoke on today's Focus on the Family broadcast "Simplifying Life, Living More Fully."

Becker and his family have chosen to live with less so they could enjoy life more. They wanted to resist the urge to chase after things, accumulating, living in and caring for clutter that didn't add meaning to their lives.

"Eight years ago my wife, Kim, and I came to a life-changing realization: There is more joy in owning less than we can ever find pursuing more," Becker writes in "When Clutter is an Obstacle to Marital Unity."

Becker writes how easy it is to see the clutter your spouse holds onto and overlook your own clutter. He likens this truth to Jesus' warning "first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:5).
Becker goes on to write that it takes communication, co…

A Season of Less is More

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"Less is More."

In writing classes, we're taught to write lean, trim out the fat, cut all words that don't add power and punch. Less is more.

Recently, in Arizona, I trimmed back palm branches that leaned over our patio, thinking less is more. Now our patio looks bigger, and we no longer have to brush aside fronds to move about. Trimming improved the livability of our small patio. More importantly this season, serious buyers may linger longer and consider buying our patio home.

I've been living less is more for a season. We're moving to Vancouver. Right now more is in Arizona. Less is in Washington state.

At first it was fun. There is nothing like getting in touch with college days when money was tight, jeans were tighter, and skin clung tighter still, than camping out in an empty new home. Only a few material possessions sat here, hung there, or broke up empty spaces in empty rooms and on empty walls.

Can less be more in this season of transition?

I'v…

Book Review: Never Unfriended

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What if you were to become the friend that you always wanted to have?

What if you chose to model your friendship after God's kindness, commitment and forgiveness for you?

What if you intentionally broke down walls that separate you from others and let new friends see the real you even if it was inconvenient or messy?

What if you could grow a friendship beyond the things that hinder intimacy and become the type of friend who would never unfriend others with a casual swipe of a finger?

In her book, Never Unfriended, Lisa-Jo Baker explores these questions and more, offering compelling reasons and practical tools for investing in friendships that can last. Baker shares wise insights and practiced and true strategies that can initiate and nurture lasting relationships.

I found some of Baker's experiences of betrayal and abandonment by friendships which could not endure through difficult life seasons painful to read. But I was glad that she could explain how she initiated nourish fr…

Book Review: Eleanor: A Spiritual Biography

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In his book, Eleanor: A Spiritual Biography, Harold Ivan Smith explores Eleanor Roosevelt's Christian faith through her life experiences during turbulent historical times.

Eleanor Roosevelt's spirituality and personality were shaped by events and people in her life. She suffered major losses early. Both parents died while she was young. Her mother's mother took her in, exposing Roosevelt to religion and a chaotic, dysfunctional home life that she was glad to escape during teen years at Allenswood school in England.

Roosevelt blossomed at Allenswood, under the influence of her mentor Marie Souvestre who encouraged her to think and interact with others with confidence. Roosevelt's many questions where welcomed and she explored what she believed, discovered life and her own spirituality, different than her grandmother's religiosity. After leaving Allenswood, in 1903, Roosevelt was confirmed in the Episcopal Church, and lived a faith modeled after Jesus' teaching…

Happy First Day of Spring

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Uncle Sam's Hat Celebrates Diversity

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The 2017 design on a postage stamp issued by the United States Postal Service deviates from years of tradition surrounding Uncle Sam. The additional ounce rate stamp shows eight Uncle Sam's Hats, each in familiar red, white and blue stars and stripes atop eight different faces, each with a different racial hue.

This is the first representation of Uncle Sam's hat on U. S. stamps to embrace diversity. All previous designs have shown a patriotic white male or just an empty hat.

For more than 150 years, Uncle Sam has been a popular nickname for the United States government around the world. Political cartoons and newsprint have popularized and refined the caricature.

The History Channel traces the origin of the term Uncle Sam to the 1800's. During the War of 1812, Samuel Wilson, a meat packer, supplied the government with beef in barrels marked U. S. So, soldiers called their grub "Uncle Sam's." The media adopted the term and broadened the meaning. Over the year…

Book Review: This is Our Time, by Trevin Wax

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In his book, This is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel, Trevin Wax expertly exposes and analyses everyday myths that exert influence in our lives and culture.

Today’s prevalent myths regarding smartphones, purpose, sex, marriage and shopping cause challenges for Christians who want to conform, not to this world and its values, but to God's kingdom ways.

Wax informs and encourages thoughtful Christians who want to be faithful. He reveals legitimate longings found in today’s cultural myths and their empty promises. For each myth, Wax provides truths about God, his love and character, and the life-giving kingdom ways God has provided for us to satisfy our true longings.

This easy-to-read book is packed with ideas, observations and relevant biblical truth that provoke thought and a call to action.

In this thought-provoking book, readers are challenged to look beneath and through the swirling and tumultuous times in which we live and recognize patterns, so we can bette…

Book Review: Still Waiting, by Ann Swindell

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In her book, Still Waiting: Hope For When God Doesn't Give You What You Want, Ann Swindell tells the biblical story of the woman healed by Jesus who had been bleeding for 12 years and makes comparisons with her own personal struggles coping with Trichotillomania, a hair pulling disorder. Swindell skillfully weaves the two narratives so that the reader has a chance to walk beside the characters in their pain and gain insights and understandings that only an intimate friend might learn.

Swindell writes with vulnerability, authenticity and faith of her helplessness to overcome her condition and of the loneliness, pain, frustration and shame she experienced. Those who have struggled with difficult situations will recognize some of the feelings she describes, even if the particulars of their sources of pain are different. At times, I wanted less repetition and fewer words, but the frequent meadows of beauty of Swindell's prose and the word pictures she created made spending time l…

Finding God's Blessings in Brokenness, by Charles F. Stanley

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Is it possible? Brokenness and blessing can co-exist? Now that is something worth thinking about on a rainy day in the Pacific Northwest.

In this new book, Finding God's Blessings in Brokenness (on Amazon), Charles Stanley shares insights into the heart of God who allows his children to go though painful times. He asserts: God is powerful. God is good. And God loves us.

So, why do we suffer? And what are the blessings?

These are questions I have wrestled with for years, for myself and for others, who have had painful childhoods or have gone through difficult situations. I'm not content to accept clichés without understanding more. Perhaps you aren't also.

I also want to see good results come from difficult things I have gone through -- I want to see real blessings and not just hear about it being possible. And so I have been wading in God's blessings more. Maybe you're tired of words and want to hug God's blessings close to your hurting heart.

Stanley shows…

Devotional Thoughts: Waiting for an Answer

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In Jesus' time, the blind, deaf, lame, and paralyzed waited for an angel of the Lord to stir the waters at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. They believed the first person to enter the waters during a supernatural moment would be healed.

One man who had been paralyzed for 38 years was waiting by the pool when Jesus found him.

Through the years how often had the man prayed, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?"

More than 30 years earlier, when Jesus first opened his eyes in a manager, perhaps the family of the paralyzed man waited with him by the pool of Bethesda. Did they become discouraged as others beat him into the water, and someone else walked away, whole? Over and over.

While Jesus and his family escaped to Egypt, and many families wept for their murdered children, did the man haggle for food and shelter, inwardly crying, "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?"

When the boy Jesus sat in the temple…

God's Masterpiece of Living Stones

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In addition to bringing classic sculptures to life with LEGO® bricks, The Art of the Brick offers guests original pieces of art. Nathan Sawaya, the artist behind these creations, said his goal is to elevate a childhood toy we all know and love to a higher place of art. -- Photo, courtesy of The Art of the Brick


In TheArt of the Brick exhibit, Nathan Sawaya uses only LEGO® bricks to create art forms, some original, some representations of the world's master artists.

Sawaya's work exceeds efforts by master builders, young and old, who for years have used LEGO bricks to construct original, super heroes or Star Wars scenes. Sawaya's accomplishments with LEGO bricks is more than child's play; he creates awe in contemporary art circles. People around the world praise him.
CNN heralded, “The Art of the Brick is one of the top must-see exhibits in the world!”
While people admire Sawaya's genius in The Art of the Brick exhibit, currently on display at Oregon Museum of Sci…

Nana Time: Helping out on a shopping day

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I enjoy helping out with grandchildren. Recently I watched my daughter’s four youngest children in a fast-food restaurant while she bought groceries nearby. What could happen in an hour?

Eli, four, and two-year-old Theo played with other small children on the slide and elevated plastic tunnels. Now and then they ran to our table to take another lick of a dripping ice cream cone. The five-month-old twins were content to alternatively be jiggled on my lap or to stare around from a VIP seat in their twin stroller.

When Theo needed a change, all five of us headed for the small two-stalled women’s bathroom. I figured the oldest could use a break anyway.

I spread the door wide and pulled the twin stroller toward the sink, wondering if I would be able to close the door with us all inside. As the door slid shut, I saw a small woman pressed against the door to the first stall. She blinked at me. I blinked back, and pulled the stroller an inch closer to the sink. She smiled and quickly squeezed pa…

I Believe in the Sun, a cry of faith

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An anonymous poem found written on a cellar wall where Jews had hidden in Cologne, Germany, during dark days in World War II:

I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when he is silent. I believe through any trial,
there is always a way
But sometimes in this suffering
and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter,
to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me, saying hold on
my child, I’ll give you strength,
I’ll give you hope. Just stay a little while. I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there
But I believe in God
even when he is silent I believe through any trial
there is always a way.
May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace….”
A discussion in this morning's Bible study reminded me of this poem, so I found it on the Internet. When I was a young woman…

President Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr, Robert Kennedy

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Today, on President's Day, the United States Postal Service is issuing a new commemorate Forever stamp of former President John F. Kennedy, celebrating his birth 100 years ago. For those who lived through the difficult days of the 1960s, these small reminders of JFK include memories of other great men of the times, of their hopes, of their pain and of their timely messages to us today.

With trembling voice, Senator Robert Kennedy broke the news in 1968 to a predominately African-American crowd gathered in Indianapolis: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr had been killed. Kennedy stood on the back of a flat-bed truck while his police escort watched uneasily from afar.

Kennedy spoke briefly, looking into the faces in the night, reminding those gathered of Dr. King's dedication "to love and to justice between fellow human beings." And Kennedy spoke of his own pain of losing a brother who was killed by a white man. Kennedy urged his listeners
But we have to make an effort in the…

Messages of Love, ephemeral, eternal

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You may have seen cancelled Love Skywriting Forever stamps on letters and packages. These commemorative stamps issued by the United States Postal Service are the latest in a series that celebrate the popular topic of Love.
This stamp issue adds a unique typography twist to the four letters that spell "Love" by using a small plane and skywriting on a partly cloudy sky.

Skywriting is a technology that has been around for decades. Pilots use small planes to write messages in the sky by mixing paraffin oil with smoky plane exhaust. When this mixture spills from the plane, it leaves scrawled marks in the sky. Skilled pilots maneuver aircraft so letters are formed and can be read by people below.

Skywriting is not witnessed as often as it was during the 1930s to 1950s. Today, communicators use other techniques and technology to send messages.

Prior to the man-made invention of skywriting, God used more elementary techniques for communicating love to his people. He sent God-ins…

I hope you can dance

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Snow White sang and danced during a dark time in her life when the wicked Queen was searching for her.

Snow White danced, surrounded by people she loved. Most of all, she danced because she loved them. (Really? All of them? Some of those little men were ones only a mother could love. Yup, even "Dear, ol' Grumpy.")

Snow White didn't let fear keep her from the festival of joy in the moment.

I like Snow White. We can learn from her example.

My husband doesn't like to dance in public, so I've given up most pubic shows of energetic reactions to music that tempt me to sway more than an inch.

Some days we feel like dancing.

This last Sunday, I spent the day with a young grandson who turned 6. We were going to go to the Children's Museum in Portland, but first he came with me to church. We were in good spirits, and he was eager to tell everyone the good news (that he was 6, not the other Good News).

We sat near the back of the church, the second to the last r…

Underfoot, across the room, upstairs

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Have you experienced joy and peace in a tough time? Our women's Bible study recently challenged me to remember and share an uncommon time of God's joy and peace.
February, 1987.
Living with four small children is busy. As a stay-at-home mom at the time, some days felt like living in a three-ring circus. I learned to keep looking around to see what little people were up to ... underfoot, across the room, upstairs.

When they were small, it seemed someone was always sick or thinking about it. So, when four-year-old Kimberly became clingy during her brother's birthday party, I thought she was jealous.

But, the next day, it became obvious Kimberly was coming down with something, a cold probably. And we knew it wouldn't be long before more were sick, again; they shared everything. So, we decided to get out of the house while we could.

After church, we drove to Locus Grove Nature Center, a favorite educational place for families with active young children. Especially on co…