Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to school

The kids are not the only ones going back to school. I've picked up the pace on studies again, flipping through notes from winter and spring, reading original journals of missionaries and early Pentecostals, while grinding through edits and revisions along the way.

If our brains need stimulation to keep growing and strong, it pays to keep learning and trying new things. Hope the studies don't make me lose my mind instead!

Our bodies get bored, too. I'm about ready to get off this chair to take the dog for a walk.

How about our spirits? I listened to a reading of Genesis 10-15, the journey from Babel to Abraham in Canaan, awaiting a promised son.

Abraham's father was also on the way to Canaan, but stopped in Haran. Had God called him, too? Only after his father died did Abraham move westward toward the promised country. Even then, Abraham knew so little about God. Scripture was not yet written, God made personal appearances, and sacrifices were the norm. Abraham trusted and obeyed (faith), but he also attempted to "help" God to realize the promises, with disastrous, long-lived consequences.

My morning's meditation was "The God who Knows." I sat enthralled, considering our God who is never confused, surprised, or out of options. Then a phrase from previous meditations began to insert itself: "The Beloved God."

Finally, my heart came to rest on "The Beloved God who Knows." Ah, who else has a God like this? He knows us. Carries us in our weaknesses. Loves us. Wants us to love him in return. Embraces us with care and benevolence.

May our bodies, souls. and spirits be devoted to loving him today with the obedience of wholehearted trust.

What's your back-to-school "aha" today? Are there impossibilities that God wants to answer in a miraculous way?
  • Letting a little one go for that first day of school
  • Believing that healing is on its way
  • Trusting that financial challenges will be met
  • Provision for that difficult relationship
  • Meeting the needs of a troubled family, friendship group, or congregation
  • Or?

Read more:
*But Moses protested again, "What if they won't believe me or listen to me? What if they say, 'The Lord never appeared to you'?"

Then the LORD asked him, '"What is that in your hand?"

"A shepherd's staff," Moses replied.

"Throw it down on the ground," the LORD told him. So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back.

Then the LORD told him, "Reach out and grab its tail." So Moses reached out and grabbed it, and it turned back into a shepherd's staff in his hand. Exodus 4:1–4 NLT

*Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:28 NIV 

*But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good for a laugh and a night out!

Don't miss the new season of Taproot Theatre coming soon... after the end of this one!

Taproot Theatre concludes 35th Anniversary Season with An Ideal Husband

Oscar Wilde’s comedic classic opens on September 23

SEATTLE – August 16, 2011 – Taproot Theatre brings the work of one of Britain’s wittiest playwrights to the stage this fall with Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. Dandies and diamonds swirl in and out of this comedic classic. Sir Robert appears to be the ideal husband, until a choice from early in his career comes back to haunt him. Can he be restored to his adoring wife or will the truth be everyone’s undoing? This smart satire sparkles with wit and romance. Written by Oscar Wilde and directed by Karen Lund, An Ideal Husband opens on September 23 and runs through October 22, with previews on September 21 and 22.

Although perhaps lesser known than Wilde’s beloved The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband captures all of his wit and sparkle. Wilde was an Irish writer and poet, and one of the great playwrights of the Victorian era. He is known for his short stories, his one novel—The Picture of Dorian Gray—and a number of plays including An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere’s Fan and A Woman of No Importance.

An Ideal Husband premiered at the Haymarket Theatre in January 1895 and ran for 124 performances. In addition to being produced countless times at theatres around the world, it has also been adapted for television, radio and film, including the 1999 film starring Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett and Rupert Everett.

The production features a talented cast of Ryan Childers, Anne Kennedy, Aaron Lamb, Adrienne Littleton, Joe Monroe, Pam Nolte, Nolan Palmer, Simon Pringle, Candace Vance, Nikki Visel and Sarah Ware. The production team includes scenic and sound designer Mark Lund, costume designer Nanette Acosta and lighting designer Jody Briggs. Anne L. Hitt serves as stage manager and Sonja Lowe as dramaturg.

Following An Ideal Husband, Taproot Theatre presents Beasley’s Christmas Party, running November 18 through December 30 (opening on November 25).

An Ideal Husband
By Oscar Wilde
Directed by Karen Lund

WHEN: September 21-October 22 (Wednesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Saturday matinees, 2 p.m.)

Dates to note:
·         Previews: September 21 & 22, 7:30 p.m.
·         Opening night: Friday, September 23, 8 p.m.
·         Pay What You Can: September 28, 7:30 p.m.
·         Senior Matinee: October 5, 2 p.m.
·         Student Matinees: October 11
·         Post-play Discussions: Wednesday nights, excluding preview

WHERE: Taproot Theatre Company, 204 North 85th Street, Seattle, WA 98103

TICKETS: Tickets are available online at and through Taproot Theatre’s box office, in person or by phone at 206.781.9707. Tickets range from $20-35, depending on the performance. Taproot offers a $3 senior/student discount off regular priced tickets (excludes previews). $10 tickets are available for ages 25 and under. Tickets for the senior matinee are $20. Discounts are available for parties of 8 or more through Group Sales; call 206.781.9708. Tickets for the pay-what-you-can performance are available day of show at the box office only; contact the box office for details.

ABOUT: Dandies and diamonds swirl in and out of this comedic classic.  Sir Chiltern appears to be the ideal husband, until a choice from early in his career comes back to haunt him.  Can he be restored to his adoring wife or will the truth be everyone’s undoing?  This smart satire sparkles with wit and romance.

Taproot Theatre Company is a professional, non‐profit theatre company with a multi‐faceted production program. Founded in 1976, Taproot Theatre serves the Pacific Northwest with Mainstage Productions, Touring Productions and the Acting Studio. Taproot exists to create theatre that explores the beauty and questions of life while bringing hope to our search for meaning. Taproot Theatre Company is a member of Theatre Communications Group (TCG), Theatre Puget Sound (TPS), and the Greenwood‐Phinney Chamber of Commerce.

Thanks to our opening night sponsor, The Upper Crust. Support for Taproot Theatre’s 2011 Mainstage season is generously provided by The Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, The Seattle Foundation, ArtsFund, 4Culture, PONCHO and Nesholm Family Foundation.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Living in real time

Today I'm deciding if I graduate in April of 2012 or 2013.

Actually, I'm setting in place the pieces that would help me decide, so I'm not engulfed by details one way or the other In October when graduation requests are due. Emily's blog has given me reassurance for riding the surge of normalcy I have been feeling. "Go for it, with freedom that comes from seeking God," she calls to us all.

In the thick of last winter and spring, depressed, overwhelmed, sick from grey skies, drizzle, and cool dampness, I couldn't focus on studies. When I looked at research, I swam through a fog where none of it made sense or stuck in my head, flailing in a churning tide where ideas refused to fall into written data. The resistance was so great, both inside and outside, that I put off the decision about graduation. It was a great relief to say, "Maybe, we'll see," rather than, "I plan to be done in 2012."

It's time to plan as though the future is more open than I thought last winter. I have to harness the good and energy for the year ahead during these days of physical light, when summer's given us a warm week of sunshine, when my body feels alert and coming back to life, when possibility again seems possible...

Yeah, I have SADs, like my grandma did. She told us every February that this was her last year, that she was sure to be dying soon... every February for over 20 years. This winter, I'm putting the SADs light on a 6 hour timer from October through June. My body has to pretend it's nice out, though my mind knows Seattle will close in like every year with its dark cold.

At the end of summer, my office feels like a safe lively place to work, rather than like an obligation to sit myself down for another day of failure. In the logic of yesterday's sunshine, I can think about where to stay when I do research in Missouri, which advisers to meet in October, and which books to re-read while my head is clear.

We only have the choice to live today. This hour. This minute. I'm not thinking of time as a clock, though the West couches time as a pace through the the hours.

I'm thinking of time and timelessness, the flow of eternity, into our lifetimes, and beyond again. There's no crisis about encountering a segment of time. Eventually, God's timelessness embraces us after death. Real time means walking life through with prayerful best intentions, good information, and one foot in front of the other in the world and our interior life. The minute or hour may include intense concentration, relaxed solitude, scheduling the future, or planning a project.

But this time, this real time, is all God gives us. Now. One minute, one hour, one day... after another until our days are done.

I don't know what challenges face you today. Your issues - joyful or dreaded - may be with health, finances, relationships, or other things.

Today I know that whether or not 2012 turns out to be my year for graduation or slogging through more pages, God is faithful. I'm still alive, the sun has shone in Seattle for a whole week of warm weather, and the future rests firmly in his hands. Let's commit everything to him, to see what he will be for us, and what He will do in and around us.

Thanks be to God.

Read more:
*But Moses pleaded with the LORD, "O Lord, I'm not very good with words. I never have been, and I'm not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled."

Then the L
ORD asked Moses, "Who makes a person's mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD?Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say."

But Moses again pleaded, "Lord, please! Send anyone else."
Then the LORD became angry with Moses. "All right," he said. "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say. And take your shepherd's staff with you, and use it to perform the miraculous signs I have shown you."

Before Moses left Midian, the Lord said to him, "Return to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you have died." So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and headed back to the land of Egypt. In his hand he carried the staff of God.

And the LORD told Moses, "When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go." Exodus 4:10–21 NLT

*Now the Lord had said to Aaron, "Go out into the wilderness to meet Moses." So Aaron went and met Moses at the mountain of God, and he embraced him. Moses then told Aaron everything the Lord had commanded him to say. And he told him about the miraculous signs the Lord had commanded him to perform." Exodus 4:27–28 NLT

*Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV

Friday, August 26, 2011

Row'in down the river

Actually, we were paddling. And the Sammamish River feels more like a slough, not a real river.

We took the inflatable Sea Eagle kayak up the quiet creek after dropping it into the water at Bothell Landing. What a tranquil, slow-paced evening! We spent about two hours dipping paddles on alternate sides of the boat.

I giggled off and on for two hours yesterday on our first outing with W's new toy. The boat kept turning from side to side. I saw more riverbank than I've seen in a year of canoeing. It took effort on W's part to get anywhere at all. His shoulders were sore today from all the hard work.

I'd paddle a bit, but when we'd shoot off toward the side, I'd stop to wait for W to get us back on track. I sit pretty still and paddle evenly, but without a rudder (skeg, the little white fin under the back), the twists and turns added a few lengths to our journey. Like I said, it really made me laugh. Today W put on the skeg, and the pace evened out.

On nights like this, I thank God for the abundance and beauty around us. The blackberries hung in great clumps on the riverbanks. Fish jumped to get the little flies hovering above the water surface. Yesterday, two herons poked about the shallows, fishing for supper. Today, several families and their kids drifted by in boats and kayaks.
We're trying out these kayaks for next year's family reunion in Hungry Horse, Montana. "These will be great to float down Glacier River," W enthused.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking a slow quiet drift around Lion Lake would be more my speed.

Missy, our toy poodle, loves the kayak. She lays down on the tarp covering the bow and relaxes while we work. When we pulled the kayak onto a dock to add more air, she didn't move. She sat happily a foot above the ground, waiting for us to get back on the water. She doesn't mind her life jacket, and doesn't fuss when we lift her by the handle on the top of the jacket. Another quality to add to the perfect dog: good sailor.

The sun is going down, the work week is ending, and we are grateful to God for his tender mercies, new every morning and long into the night.

Read more:
*Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. Psalm 147:1-5 NIV

*On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38 NKJV

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The truth about... Healthcare

Everyone seems to have their own viewpoint, and of course, "everyone is right in their own mind." After hearing so many negative remarks about socialized healthcare, here's my personal experience. For what it's worth.

One of the heated debates of the past years has been universal healthcare for Americans. A former coworker posted a note from a chair in a government waiting room. His surroundings were sticky, dirty, and crowded. He used the germ-y setting to note that he wouldn't want the US govt to run healthcare. Hmmm, is that a bit like saying we wouldn't want our surgeon's office to administrate our bus drivers? Or that we wouldn't want our plumber's union to be in charge of driver's ed because they're not competent in licensing drivers?

In response to the first post, another former coworker sent a video link of some actor exploring healthcare in Canada. Not pleasant, this footage. He flew to Montreal, found a clinic closed on the weekend ("Go to the emergency room" where he had to wait for service, etc.) and otherwise was not impressed. I watched the Canada healthcare video - from Montreal (not the most efficient, those Quebecois, either at grocery stores, serving customers in shops, etc.) That's comparing the worst of one place with the best at home... the debate might be different if we'd ask those who can't afford good healthcare (and who also have no power to effect change).

May I note the following after watching the clip on YouTube? Waiting can be a nightmare in the doctor's offices of the US as well as Canada, not to mention the chaos of urban emergency rooms... (as we've experienced with ongoing appointments with our children over the years.) Many clinics close on weekends in the USA, and US city hospital emergency rooms are often so overcrowded that patients go from hospital to hospital to find someone to treat them unless it's critical care. Even then, patients report long waits and incompetent treatment.

Okay, now about me. HA HA

We had our first three kids in Canada @ free (1st 2) and $5 (Timo). That included excellent prenatal care, 3-4 day hospital stays ("Do you think you'd like to go home today, my dear? You can stay another day if you like,") several pediatric nurse home visits (they came to our house after the babies were born to teach us to bathe the baby, answer questions, give practical help), free vaccinations, pediatrician visits, etc. which was all included in our $300/yr premium. I'm sure it's much more now, but let's compare apples to apples - Jono was born within 3 years of our move to the US from Canada.

After insanely steep premiums, thankfully matched by our employer, Jono cost us $2000. That didn't include our deductible. I went for five awful doc visits that took forever, both in scheduling and once we got to the office. No family doctor would see us; we had to go to a "specialist" OB/Gyn. (Lawsuits made it too risky for her, said our family doc.) We had an Ultrasound done for a reasonable amount in Vancouver with our former family doctor, who sent the files to the specialist in Seattle; we couldn't afford the test in our adopted land.

When Jono was born at our local well-respected (Overlake) hospital, a doc who was on call and who I didn't know, got there just in time to catch the baby. He left a few minutes after checking that the baby and afterbirth were healthy. My own doc had been at the symphony that night so "wasn't available" at midnight when we got to the hospital.

I called for the nurses when I was ready to push. They'd left me and W on our own after check-in, including my trip to the restroom a few minutes before I rang the nurses that I was about to deliver. Within a few minutes, Jono arrived. They scrambled to get things ready and call a doctor (as above). The nurses put the baby on my stomach after checking our vitals and swaddling him in a towel. They gave him eye-drops, and since it was slow on the floor with no other moms-to-be that night, they walked away and forgot all about us. I could hear them laughing and visiting with each other at the nursing station for 3 hours.

I finally pressed the call button at 3.30am and said, "Anyone want this baby? I have to sleep." Jono hadn't been washed, cared for, or otherwise cleaned up other than vitals taken, and a swish with a towel... I was exhausted, dirty, and numb from trying not to have my baby slip off me.

"Oops," said the nurses. "You were so quiet we forgot about you." (Dear W had gone home as well, in the day before cellphones were common.) The nurses cleaned me up (oh yes, I was still filthy from giving birth.) They settled me into room about 4am, and started clanging about at 5.30am, talking loudly to each other in the hall, slamming the swinging doors open and shut nearby, and otherwise making it impossible to sleep.

"Help yourself, dear," said the nurses to my inquiry about the ziplock bag of pain-pills, enemas, and hernia cream left on my night table. "We'll count the meds you used after you leave and add the tab to your bill."

What?! I told them they could just carry the lot back to the pharmacy. I'd never heard of such careless medical treatment. They tabulated every bed pad, swab, piece of laundry, and utensil used for and around us... and added that to our bill as well. We were stunned at the exact bean-counting when we received several different invoices in the mail, from every department that could have billed us.

I went home at noon the next day, absolutely wiped out and glad to be out of their "excellent" medical care. Our $2000 covered 5 pre-birth visits to the doc (I couldn't endure more of the indifferent, impersonal appointments), the one-day hospital stay, one 6-week post-op doc visit, no home care, no doc's calls to see if we were doing ok... and none of the other extras which "terrible" socialized Canadian medicine had conditioned us to expect after having a baby. Subsequently, we paid for every  trip the kids and I made to the doc (not many, as you can imagine). We visited our folks in Canada every time a vaccination was due... Jono got his shots done free at our hometown Canadian health clinic.

Years later while living in England, we took Jono to a clinic (more "awful" socialized medicine) where he got exceptional treatment, a reasonable waiting time in a clinic, and a reasonable invoice. Socialized medicine? We'd take it over the robbery and over-charging that passes for private care here anytime!

Maybe the issue is perspective, though. Maybe our experience included the best Canada had to offer vs. the worst of American healthcare, exorbitant payment for relatively good and bad care. Our boys had good treatment here when their lungs collapsed lungs. They might have done as well in Canada for less money. Our daughter continues to seek treatment for arthritis, but says after exploring many options, her docs throw up their hands and say, "We don't know what else to do." She could probably get that in Canada, England, Germany, or other "socialized" countries as well. (However, more medication options are available in Europe and Asia because drug companies don't have to go through the expensive certification processes here.)

Maybe it's a moral dilemma. Greed drives business, including healthcare, in the West. This country's residents are independent-minded, not wanting people to know our business, wanting to customize our experiences. No one wants to be lumped in with others in government-run healthcare because we aren't impressed with other gov't agencies. Trust and confidence is very low.

Docs enter the field for various reasons, not all of them noble, both in Canada and the USA. Many healthcare providers find their insurance premiums so high in the US ($230,000 annual premium for my ear, nose, and throat specialist in 1990), or have long line-ups for patients in Canada, so they treat people like numbers instead of caring for them as individuals. Such attitudes rarely underly good medical care.

My folks and W's have good doctors in Canada. We've been mostly happy with our docs here, too. Our family isn't very picky who treats us for routine care. Since my doc went on maternity leave 14 years ago, I haven't bothered to get another family physician. W's doc seems competent for him and did fine on our occasional visits with the kids. He'd probably work well for me when I need a doc some day.

The media makes a big deal out of the healthcare issue, so political debates become cumbersome, ineffective, and unwieldy. Our Ami friends are terrified of hostile health takeovers by their government. Meanwhile, our family has experienced both sides of the healthcare border and the ongoing debates. We'd rather pay a reasonable amount for similar care. We're living here, happy to be here, and paying through the teeth like everyone else. We're puzzled and bemused by the fear of our friends and the media hype about the dangers of  "socialized medicine."

I bet human and government inertia and an increasing demand for health services keeps us just where we are. The Americans who stay home because they can't afford to fly to Asia or Europe for cheap, up-to-date treatment will continue to lose their shirts, houses, and savings to emergency or old age care. Canadian docs will keep moving to the USA to get rich. Wealthy Canadians will gladly follow these doctors to the USA or go abroad for the services and experience the docs take with them. The rest of Canadians will take what they can get from their government-run healthcare, happy to stay at home as long as possible, without ruinous medical costs.

What's your experience? Are you happy with the care, costs, and future of healthcare where you live in the Americas, Europe, or Asia?

Be in good health!

"Thank you, thank you!" I said to God, driving back from an errand this morning. The women I met with have smoker's voices, rough, raw, coarse. Their skin has wrinkled and their lips have puckered from smoking. Sin is its own punishment, says my husband, and it looks true on these dear women's faces.

I'm transcribing the diaries of Alice Wood, missionary to South and Central America in the early 1900s. Alice suffered mental and physical anguish, yet she was determined to share Good News. She writes of fevers, nervous attacks, and migraines, among her other ailments. Typing out her journals brings her suffering into my office, where I sit with a cup of tea, good health, and warm shelter.

In contrast, our daughter-in-love Rebekah ran, cycled, and swam this weekend in a women's event. Her sister, who does similar competitions each year, persuaded R to join her in the fun. They successfully completed the race and beat their time goals to boot! We are really proud of both sisters. Their training efforts and health choices paid off! (However, we miss her smile in our family photo below, taken Sunday.)

My folks remain healthy in their late 70s, walking daily, eating well, and boosting food with supplements. Dad's become knowledgeable in vitamins, minerals, and alternative health therapies. Compared to their siblings and peers, my parents are energetic, able to work and play with vigor, and continue to thrive.

Seattle weather, which recently cooperated with dry ground or sunny skies, turned ugly and rainy yesterday. Our daughter Kirsten is visiting for a few weeks from sunny Austin. She came out of her room this morning barely able to move, handing her dog Zoe over so I could take the dogs to the groomer. Yesterday, Zoe got her vaccines and a vet exam so she can travel on the plane to Austin with K Thursday. Zoe must have been uncomfortable from the shots: she was restless in the night. That didn't help Kirsten rest after RA joint pains hit her during yesterday's rainstorm. (We're reminded every time a storm blows in why K can't live in Seattle. Even visits are debilitating and painful. Sincere thanks to each friend who remembers to pray for her!)

Thinking about all these circumstances, the struggling and the successful, I felt most grateful for health and strength to complete my daily tasks. I wiggled my toes, moved my spine around the driver's seat, and tapped my fingers on the steering wheel, singing along with hymns of gratitude on my playlist.

God reminded me of missionary and scientist Paul Brand's work with lepers. Instead of focusing on the horrors of the illness, Brand remained joy-filled because so much "was going right," even in leprous body systems. Humans are complex creatures, Brand maintained. His research showed that the most gravely ill body compensated internally to maintain its health and strength. When systems were overwhelmed, the body kept trying alternatives. "Miraculous!" Brand said. "Our bodies are the amazing work of God!"

Thank you, God, for every bit of well-being!" My heart soared, so glad to be healthy and living in a country where medical treatment is available. None of our privileges are deserved or earned. We could be destitute, mortally ill, or isolated. Some of us may have these things in our past, present, or future. Somehow, God's presence is always enough for the hours. "As your days, so shall your strength be," says scripture.

I am grateful for the mercy of this day, beginning with the rising of the sun. God is good. He is Enough and Abundance, in pleasure or pain.

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.

by poet Robert Browning Hamilton

Read more:
*O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things; your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. Isaiah 25:1 NKJV

*I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2 NKJV

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Brown's Syndrome: perpetual music

"Would you rather give up your sight or your hearing?" a friend asked me ten years ago, on our way to a piano concert in Seattle.

Without hesitating, I exclaimed, "That's a no-brainer! Hearing, of course. Music would still be going on in my head." Until yesterday, I didn't know how or why. Thanks to Dr. Steven Brown for describing what I'll call "Brown's Syndrome." (Download a PDF of the complete article at The Perpetual Music Track.)

...I'm playing air-piano on my arm and my teeth are clicking a rhythm. "What's the song?" I ask myself, turning in. Oh yeah. It's a loop of a hymn I recently learned while listening to British Christian radio. I sing along in my head for a while, then zone out to watch traffic.

We're on our way home from Vancouver, BC, where we celebrated my brother's wedding yesterday and my daughter's 30th birthday today. The music persists, looping around until I zoom in again, then fades into the background while I remember details of the bride's stunning dress, a visit with Kirsten's friend at a fabulous raw food restaurant (Organic Lives), and the lush green summer outside the car windows.

I change the song a few times, but the same melody and words are back when I check in after a few minutes.

"It's time to find out if there's a name for this!" Maybe someone has written a paper on waking up at night or in the morning and checking the internal soundtrack, before drifting back into sleep or wakefulness.

I Google "persistent music in my head" and come up with an article by Stephen Brown at SFU. Brown calls the symptom "The Perpetual Music Track," and says none of his friends can relate. Their heads are full of words, pictures, or quiet.

Brown describes PMT in detail, using his experience as a case study. Like me, Dr. Brown took music lessons from early childhood on, and considers himself an amateur musician. In those with PMT:

  • known and improvised tunes loop through the conscious and unconscious.
  • the tunes don't stop, though they can be temporarily replaced by conscious effort.
  • even when unaware of the music, the body responds by "playing piano," tapping, conducting, moving. I find myself clicking my back teeth to rhythms when I can't hum, whistle, or fidget toes, feet, or fingers.  I suspect my brother has PMT: he taps or hums into almost any silence. I don't know that he's thought about the persistence of music in his head. It just is. Most of the time we don't realize the music track is going. If there's external quiet, I might check in to see what I'm singing or playing inside. Mostly, I move through the day and night, music coming and going throughout my body.
  • music in dreams can be experienced and composed far beyond what happens in wakefulness. Oh the songs I've written, played, and conducted! (Mind you, the paintings and drawings of my dreams are amazing, too.) It's disappointing to forget completely upon waking, because the melody and harmony -- or line and color -- can be defined and reworked in dreams in such detail that I'm positive I could never forget them. Oops. Eye blink. Morning light. Gone!
  • we just live with it. Though it's distracting at times to stream the plethora of notes and lines, we might as well enjoy it. There's no turning it off. A few years ago, the silence in my head turned off for a few months. It felt weird and lonely; my whole body felt empty and quiet without music.

I postulate Beethoven wrote his best music while deaf because he had no external interruptions of his music loops. I've thought many times about what it would be like to be able to refine phrases over and over without overlays of noise. What subtleties of orchestration, rhythm, harmonies, and melodies could emerge without other sounds breaking in? The greatest frustration would be like Beethoven's: not being able to hear the result of the score composed in the void of silence. Then I wonder, how are Beethoven's rhythms and melodies related to feeling his pulse, swallowing, the slow drip of lymphatic fluid, the quiet hiss of muscle movement, and the grating of his bones and joints? Was he deaf inside his body? Did he feel the sounds of body movement rather than hear them?

Anyone else relate to this? Oops, sorry. Gotta go, got Josh Groban's "The Prayer" stuck in my head. Time to change the DVD!

Read more:
*Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5-6 NIV

*Praise the LORD. Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD. Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised. Psalm 113:1-3 NIV

*Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:26-28 NKJV

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Appreciating the day

The ad described Zoe as the perfect little companion. "She was the size of a Beanie baby" when she found her first home with a young single woman. In the intervening six years, Zoe grew to a tiny five-pound bundle of apricot hair. Her home expanded as well. A marriage and three toddlers later, she was overwhelmed.

Zoe came to our house last week and met Kirsten, our daughter. In a week, Kirsten returns to Austin with her new friend, the lovely Zoe! On days that seem long and lonely, Kirsten will have company, a little poodle who adores her. Zoe is house-trained, likes slow walks, and loves snuggling in bed with her person. At first, she curled up at Kirsten's feet, but she's gradually moved up to flop next to Kirsten. No fuss, no squirming. Perfect poodle girl!

When she arrived, her only bad habit was yelling at the top of her little lungs when someone came in the door or her person left the house. She's almost cured of that; after learning "Wait!" she sits down at the door and waits for her people to come home. She's learned to chomp raw chicken wings which sweeten her breath and fill her tummy. And she's good at walking behind us on a leash.

Kirsten is gentle but firm. Zoe wants to please more than anything else and is attention- as well as treat-motivated. Kirsten bought a rolling carrier to take Zoe home and shopped the dog store to see what else they need. Not much, it turns out.

Kirsten's roommate is a dog-lover who can't wait to meet Zoe. "You had me at the word, 'Dog,'" Jen exclaimed when Kirsten called to ask if it would be ok to bring Zoe along.

For me, it's interesting to watch the bond form between human and doggie. If Zoe was human, she might hang onto the past when arbitrarily moved from her unsafe but well-known life to Kirsten's welcome. We'd be inclined to cry out, "Oh, I remember when... How I miss..." or "Why did this happen to me?" Instead, a dog lives in the moment. Zoe has good food, lots of petting, and an adult who will care for her.

She is happy. Her whole back end wiggles with delight when Kirsten pays attention to her. She loves eating the food we give her, and is grateful for a warm place to sleep.

Oh, that we would be as appreciative and trusting when God cares for us!

Read more:
*The godly are showered with blessings. Proverbs 10:6 NLT

*Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act…

Then the LORD told [Moses], "I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land." Exodus 2:23–25; 3:7–8 NLT

*Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them.

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”  Num. 11:1-6 NIV

*From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. "Heaven forbid, Lord," he said. "This will never happen to you!"

Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God's." Matthew 16:21–23 NLT

Monday, August 15, 2011

Renewal as summer ends...

Enjoy the end of summer with us! Here's a prayer for the renewal of Christ's church around the world, as universities begin their academic calendar, as work vacations end, and as children go back to school. (The tune is chosen from Hymnal.Net. You may listen to it using the player.)

Lord of the Church, We Pray for Our Renewing

Lord of the church, we pray for our renewing:
Christ over all, our undivided aim.
Fire of the Spirit, burn for our enduing,
wind of the Spirit, fan the living flame!
We turn to Christ amid our fear and failing,
the will that lacks the courage to be free,
the weary labours, all but unavailing,
to bring us nearer what a church should be.

Lord of the church, we seek a Father’s blessing,
a true repentance and a faith restored,
a swift obedience and a new possessing,
filled with the Holy Spirit of the Lord!
We turn to Christ from all our restless striving,
unnumbered voices with a single prayer:
the living water for our souls’ reviving,
in Christ to live, and love and serve and care.

Lord of the church, we long for our uniting,
true to one calling, by one vision stirred;
one cross proclaiming and one creed reciting,
one in the truth of Jesus and his word.
So lead us on; till toil and trouble ended,
one church triumphant one new song shall sing,
to praise his glory, risen and ascended,
Christ over all, the everlasting King!

Timothy Dudley-Smith
Words © 1984 Hope Publishing Company

Friday, August 12, 2011

Endlessly inventive

God is endlessly inventive. Each morning when we wake, the world seems born new and fresh.  I'm a light-sensitive sleeper, so when the sun comes up, I'm awake if I can't pull the covers over my head fast enough.

The Morning Glory cloud on the Gulf coast of northern Queensland
Some awakenings feel like, "What! Morning already!?" while others are, "Oh, can't wait to see what the day will bring!" Sometimes the clouds hang low, and I wonder what the day can possibly bring. I love the days when sunlight, reflecting off the forest to caress me awake.

It can be unsettling when God's creativity moves us outside our ideas of who we are and what we should be doing.
  • Sometimes he nudges us with an opportunity that is such a great fit that we happily embrace it. 
  • We may feel discontent where we are, unsettled when what once made us thrive is no longer appealing.
  • Once in a while, someone else opens our eyes to the next season, "Look, that job/house/friend would suit you so well!" or "I think you've gone as far as you can where you are. Why don't you look elsewhere?" 
  • Other times, God pushes or carries us up steep mountain slopes, kicking, screaming, wailing that we are no longer in the valley below. Or gasping with joy at the new vistas that come into view.

Change, inevitable and ongoing, is rarely our preference. Sure, we like a little variety and a few options.

A few of us are adventurers who love to capture, examine, and embrace new things, new work, new friendships, or new family members (including children, in-laws, or long-lost relatives). We thrive by moving wholeheartedly into the unexplored or repurposing the normative into the unusual.

But most of us want the security and safety of doing what we we're good at, with people we know, in the time and place we have chosen. We often forget that we weren't that happy to arrive where we are, and that the past seemed challenging and scary. The future may feel just as comfortable and secure to us, once we understand it better.

God seems to have little respect for our wishes, though sometimes our stubborn refusal to let go and move on creates havoc for others and us. Since God knows how life interlocks, he chooses best. We can only celebrate the inventiveness with which life's challenges and comforts come our way.

What are you celebrating today?

Read more:
*Then Jacob said to Joseph, "I never thought I would see your face again, but now God has let me see your children, too!" Genesis 48:11 NIV

*The wise are glad to be instructed, but babbling fools fall flat on their faces. People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall. Proverbs 10:8–9 NLT

*Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, "Why couldn't we cast out that demon?"

"You don't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." Matthew 17:19–20 NLT

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What are you good at?

This repost from Christianity Today made me pause to think about what comes naturally to me that could be useful to God. Hope you enjoy this post by Diane Eble, author of Abundant Gifts: A Daybook of Grace-Filled Devotions:

Situation 1: ...When Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. 

After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand. …

Situation 2: Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters who came as usual to draw water and fill the water troughs for their father's flocks. But some other shepherds came and chased them away. 

So Moses jumped up and rescued the girls from the shepherds. Then he drew water for their flocks."

Exodus 2:11–12, 16–17 NLT view in context

Way before God called Moses to rescue his people from Pharaoh's cruelty, Moses was a rescuer. He tried to rescue his fellow Hebrews. He rescued the girls who drew water. God created him with this bent toward rescuing, and God later used it in a mighty way. "Rescue" was the verb that defined Moses.

What verb defines you? What you do naturally is what God will use to accomplish his purposes through you.
—Diane Eble, author of Abundant Gifts: A Daybook of Grace-Filled Devotions

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How women lead

One of the most insightful interviews on the way successful women think and lead. Inclusive, visionary, resourceful.

Kim Kiyosaki — Author and Founder of

Monday, August 8, 2011

"In the same way, you husbands ought to..."

Yesterday I attended Kenmore's Northshore Church. I've been there a few times and really like it. Pastor Steve spoke on 1 Peter 3, a passage that goes against our culture in asking wives to respect the authority of their husband.

What caught my eye? The little phrase prefacing instructions to husbands: "In the same way, you husbands ought to..."

What did Peter say? "In the same way as..." Peter has just instructed wives to live with respect and humility, not relying on outward beauty nor flashy appearances but on her quiet, meek spirit. Those beautiful attitudes form godly behaviors.

A male loud-mouth, revving his muscle car, preening with tailor-cut suits, handmade shoes, or custom golf clubs, one who emphasizes status at work -- a guy who gets jazzed about his "best barbecue" skills and other displays of one-upmanship -- does not reflect the spirit Peter encourages in men and women.

Over the years, I've heard apologetic sermons, excuses of "culture was different back then," and other explanations about Peter's intentions and God's mission for women.

Steve did a good job of showing how the respect a woman shows her husband, especially when her position is culturally powerless, would help him to note the transforming power of following Christ. "Back then, a man coming to Christ would bring his family into the faith. A woman would have no such power. But her changed behavior would show her husband and the whole family the difference Christ makes in us."

In today's culture where gender equality is a hot button, a man with strength, meekness, humility, and respect for others stands out as much a woman with the same qualities.

Only Christ can produce such a transformation in us. Our natural tendency is to "look out for ourselves" and act with self-interest.

Jesus, through Peter's letter, encourages us to move beyond cultural norms to reflect his humble character and the fruit of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control..." (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV). 

Read more:
*Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 NIV

*Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:1-10 NIV 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Praise the everlasting King!

Culture inundates us with sounds, sights, textures, tastes, smells. Western noise floods every sense with diversions that keep us from meditating on God and his ways. I suggested to a young friend that hymns might help soothe him when he has trouble sleeping.

"Don't think so! I hate hymns," he replied. "They drive me crazy, like a busy Bach piece or random jazz. There's too much going on." Many people without a background in traditional Protestant churches or classical music would agree.

When W and I lived in Cambridge, UK, we enjoyed Evensong at the various colleges. On debate trips to the UK, students and I attend Evensong sung by one of the exceptional university choirs of Oxford or Cambridge as a cultural experience. Students and I sit with other tourists near the choir and reader, on hard benches facing the center aisle in cold, dark chapels. The music washes over us. Old and New Testament readings pour into the shadows between songs. Responsive readings from the Book of Common Prayer echo against stone walls. The discomfort of non-religious or world religious adherents is obvious:  the Word, prayers, and music direct attention without apology to the living God and his expectations. I am always astonished at the indifference of the singers as they pour the tones into the air. They pass along Living Water without sipping it or drinking deeply themselves.

The music and lyrics of Evensong, written to glorify God, have been sung for decades or centuries, reminding us of God's faithful provision and constancy. I love the thick growls of the pipe organ that buzz and rumble through soles to scalp. The occasional bleat of an oboe or keening cry of the trumpet accompaniment gives me goose-bumps. The pure voices of young boys soar into the rafters, their innocent clarity and white choir robes denying sneaky shoves in the foyer before the preteens marched into the chapel. 

I hope my young friend engages in worship within his own culture. My prayer is that he seeks out meaningful words, melodies, rhythms, and harmonies written by his peers, opening his heart to be drawn into God's presence. 

Anyone desperate for well-sung, beautifully written hymns can enjoy old and new favorites online. UCB Media plays hymns at 7-9am Sundays (Greenwich time), and streams British and American "inspirational" worship music without commercials the rest of the week. (Another option is saturation in scripture as it's read aloud on UCB's "Bible" station.) 

Whatever else we do today, let's take time to praise the Everlasting King! 

Read more:
*Praise the LORD!
         Praise God in His sanctuary;
         Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
Praise Him for His mighty acts;
         Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
         Praise Him with the lute and harp!
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
         Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
         Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
         Praise the LORD! (Psalm 150)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Count 1000 ways

Martha handed me a wonderful book, one thousand gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, for my birthday in March. Every few days, I read more of it. The poetry swings me into the pages and leaves me gasping with wonder. The power and enthusiasm, the bold life and creativity wrap around me. I can't read more than a few pages before I am engulfed and have to surface for blank air.

Some people's words help, encourage, and affirm. The language of others wounds and destroys. But this poet unfolds pleasure and pain, beauty and wonder using ordinary words, words used in conversation or correspondence.

After recognizing her negativity, Ann Voskamp began to write 1000 phrases of gratefulness. It was transforming. Liberating. Joyful. Her written gratitude unwound the strangulation of everyday blues, freeing her to live again.

"What could I lose," I asked myself as I felt like I was unraveling in the darkness of a seemingly endless grey Seattle spring?

I began to write my own 1000 ways, charting: things that made my heart sing; people who were life-givers; things that made me grateful. Sometimes, even, I just wrote down things that made me feel ok with not being dead and gone. (Yes, some days were that bad.)

Some mornings I couldn't wait to touch the pieces of the day and 25 items flowed freely: "glorious sunshine!," "birds chirping outside my window," "crisp white cotton duvet and pillowcases," or "soft breath flowing between W and me in the waking dawn." Some evenings I merely recorded 25 measures of relief for reaching the end of the day: "glad for the inky nightfall," "still breathing after the meeting," or "had to leave the party early, but am still barely intact."

Words. Words. Words. They bring life or death, says scripture.

How grateful I am for Psalms that affirm that God is good in this life. That people can be kind and generous. That our future and our hope is in God not our feelings. That circumstances change and better days come. That the cloud lifts and joy comes in the morning.

Today the sun streams in the office window, the dogs and I have walked, the fish swim in a cleaned aquarium, our daughter sleeps late, my husband tiles the new shower, the day stretches warm and welcoming into noon and beyond. (19 more, and I'm done for the day.) Thank God for Martha and her gift! (18 more...)

Try it! Write 25 things for which you are grateful, up to 1000 ways. See if deliberate, ongoing thankfulness transforms you and brings a smile to your face, as it does to mine.

Read more:
*The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2 NIV

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The new guy in town

"I'm so nervous. The new guy doesn't know us. Is my job is secure?" All of us at one time or another have negotiated new relationships as hirelings. For those in ministry, a new senior pastor can be good or bad news for the existing team. The entire ministry team used to resign and leave when the senior pastor left, but in today's megachurches, it's not practical to have every administrative chief ousted when the boss leaves. Sometimes the knee-jerk of fear and insecurity comes from middle management, creating dysfunction as it trickles down the ranks. 

According to the Bible, Joseph enjoyed power and prestige, protecting his family with as an influencer and top executive. His boss, the Pharaoh of Egypt, let Joseph choose the area in which his family lived, feed them from the royal storehouses, and otherwise privilege them with the best of the land. Joseph's family grew, had many children, and came to the notice of a subsequent Pharaoh: 

   Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, 'Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don't, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.' (Exodus 1:8–10 NLT) 

Insecure leaders fear the power of others. Rather than promoting and including those who could help them succeed, such leaders undercut and restrict them. Poor Pharaoh! He could have had an entire people group working for him. Instead, he made a decision based on the small thinking of a control freak, setting a precedent that ruined his nation's future:

   Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: 'When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.' But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king's orders. They allowed the boys to live, too. … So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. (Exodus 1:15–17, 20–21 NTL)

God rewarded the women who disobeyed the ruler and obeyed him. Meanwhile, Israel experienced 80 more years of slavery and oppression, but the obedience of the midwives brought about the birth of the boy who would lead the uprising against the oppressors. The years flow by in our reading of the first few chapters of Exodus. Yet three more generations of Israelites suffered and died under cruel and impossible work loads.

Corrupt leaders have always disregarded and subdued the weak. No one people group seems to have a premium on domination. Their Israelite story of hopelessness and grief has resonated with those more recently been enslaved, like the feudal peasants of medieval Europe, centuries of Muslim slaves of Africa and Asia, African descendents brought to the Americas in C17-19, and refugees around the world today.

If you're the "new guy/gal in town," be sure you and your executives are continually releasing the people who work for them, not enslaving or restricting their best ideas and talents. All the fancy gadgets and hardware money can buy won't replace sound relationships, good will, and the eager flow of assistance from employees and volunteers who are valued and rewarded for their hard work!

Attempts at control and suppression (like Pharaoh) not only prevent a church or company from achieving its full potential, but foreshadow ruin and God's judgment in the future. After all, it is God who gives the increase in numbers, vision, and gifting among workers to help the whole organization move forward with health, wisdom, and energy.

Read more:
*Wisdom has built her house; she has carved its seven columns. She has prepared a great banquet, mixed the wines, and set the table. She has sent her servants to invite everyone to come. She calls out from the heights overlooking the city. "Come in with me," she urges the simple.  To those who lack good judgment, she says, "Come, eat my food,  and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways behind, and begin to live; learn to use good judgment." Proverbs 9:1–6 NLT

*Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, "I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don't want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way."

The disciples replied, "Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?"

Jesus asked, "How much bread do you have?"

They replied, "Seven loaves, and a few small fish." Matthew 15:32–34 NLT