Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Finally getting there

The world is big. Open. Renewing itself.That's sometimes hard to remember, living in the city.

Mountain goat
We've driven past many places in MT without stopping. I decided to spend Monday and 100+ miles in the Montana countryside, catching up on "everyone's-been-there" places I'd seen and roads where I'd never been.

I drove into Glacier Park in the morning, up the Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass. The dogs waited in the car (no pets on trails) while I hiked up to the Hidden Lake overlook, an accessible uphill climb over boardwalks and gravel paths. The glacier lake shimmered thousands of feet below, under a hazy sky indented by mountain peaks. A white mountain goat chewed grass just a few feet from the trail. On the way down, I hauled out my watercolors for a quick sketch of wildflowers.

The red tour buses of Going to the Sun Road
Construction delays left us sitting on the mountainside for a half hour. I hauled out the sketchbook and let the dogs out on a leash, waiting for the pilot car to bring tourist vehicles through the narrow construction lane. "They're coming, ma'am," said the driver of the car in front of us. "Might want to get in the car."

The dogs hopped back into their seats as the oncoming traffic wound its way around the mountainside toward us. Finally, we inched along for a few miles behind a water truck wetting the sandy surface of the road, trailing a pilot car.

Lake McDonald Lodge
We pulled into the parking lot at Lake McDonald Lodge so the dogs could walk the shoreline and drink the cold water. Then we drove through three campsites I've wondered about (Avalanche, Sprague, and Apgar. Now I know what's there. Campsites.)

Robert Fire 2003 recovery
We stayed in the park, skirting Lake McDonald through the most awful burn area. Acres and acres of dead trees, miles of burned trunks, and underneath, four and five-foot pines and firs, growing up to the sunshine. Blanketing the hills in green, the new growth exists because the old things died off and gave them access to nutrients, light, and water.

The trip to Polebridge wound over gravel roads and pavement. There it was! Polebridge Mercantile. "We have 6 bakers on site," said the young man behind the counter. Apparently they all are fabulous at what they do. Their feta, olive, and artichoke buns? To die for! I avoided temptation in the form of huge cinnamon rolls. (Barely.)

On a little map, the clerk pointed out three ways to get back to our cabin. First, I could return the way I went. (Not an option. "I like detours," I told him.) Second, I could go down a narrow, seldom-traveled gravel road that would take twice as long. Probably not a good idea without phone reception. Or third, I could go back partway, turn right toward Columbia Falls rather than left back to the Park. "The third option is over washboard gravel. If you like smooth roads, that's not the one for you." Done. That's where I was headed.

"Washboard" was right! There's a strange beauty to being in wild country, getting a steering wheel vibration as numbing as a massage chair. The north fork of the Flathead unwound beside the road, gurgling over granite gravel and between massive boulders. In 30 miles, one car passed us and two cars drove by on the other side. Minimal traffic, I'd say. Balm to the heart for someone who lives near I-405 in Seattle!

We didn't get back to camp until 6pm. I was tired and full of memories of beautiful places and wild open spaces.

There's something exhilarating in stopping at every place that catches the eye. Without consideration of time or duties, a day of "finally getting there" is a rare privilege. Hope you find time to wander and enjoy God's wonders before the fall chores comes crowding in.

Read more:

*Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” Psalm 14:1 

*Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O Lord, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Psalm 36:5-9 NIV

*There are four things on earth that are small but unusually wise:
Ants—they aren't strong, but they store up food all summer.
Hyraxes—they aren't powerful, but they make their homes among the rocks.
Locusts—they have no king, but they march in formation.
Lizards—they are easy to catch, but they are found even in kings' palaces." Proverbs 30:24–28

*God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. 1 Corinthians 1:27

Moravian Prayer: We yearn for proof of your existence, O God, for a clear, unmistakable sign, so we often overlook the many small clues that you are with us. Open our eyes to see the daily reminders of your presence in our lives. Amen.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Creation day

The first tote - polka-dots galore!
Many artists talk about energy welling up before they paint, compose music, or sculpt. Creative tasks lie unfinished until "it's time!"

Works for me! Having cheerful people walking by the cabin helps boost the "Do-It" mood. Glacier is hosting the first day of the annual "West of 60s" camp. All those friends chatting, strolling, and visiting makes me smile. (I have 4 more years before I can attend. I've been waiting 15 years for this camp. It looks like they have much more fun than any other group.)

So... I've been thinking. For our daily walks to the post office, I could use a lightweight backpack tote. Hence, last week I bought two 1/2-yard fabric remnants that have waited unused while I figured out a work process AND waited until my art energy got high enough to tip the "GO!" bucket.
The second tote: more subtle navy and cream

The synergy happened at noon today. The how-to process became suddenly clear as I hauled out the sewing machine. Within 15 minutes, I'd finished two tote bags, one from each remnant. And then, why not? I used the leftover panels to make a third, a two-print tote. Kirsten has claimed the polka-dot one. (Our girls R & M, if you want one, let me know!)

Tools of the trade: minimal! for maximum fun
When I was done, I was still on the prowl. Upstairs in the cabin, we've ignored a "Ugly" entertainment center for several years. It's a sturdy Broyhill piece that doesn't remotely match anything else we own.

A few days ago I had a germ of an idea and bought a roll of white MacTac (sticky contact paper, for non-Canadian readers). Seemed like anything white I could create on that storage piece would at least match our white walls! We have a birch trunk in our entry and a few birches outside. White. Well, white-ish. Voila. A birch idea took shape.

"Am I done yet?" Nope. Doesn't feel complete.
Today seemed like the perfect day to camouflage the piece while I was still looking for something artsy to do.

I started by cutting somewhat-straight lengths from a 78" piece. We had a perfect razor knife (from putting up blinds) that zipped through the stick-on paper like nobody's business.

I thought I might be done after putting up the branches: I remember an art instructor saying the trick for artists was knowing when to say enough. Nope, I wasn't quite ready for "the End."

Left side
Right side
A few more snips and I had a finished product - for now. After a few gashes in the long trunks and a few leaves ...

I'm considering some pencil shading for realism. What do you think?

I may rest tomorrow, but it still feels like there's art energy to burn off. Oh oh!

What's your creative project this week?

Read more:
*The Lord God will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished. 1 Chronicles 28:20 ESV

Our Lord Jesus Christ will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:8 NIV

*(Paul wrote:) "Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things." 2 Timothy 2:7 ESV

Moravian Prayer: There is so much to do in your service, Lord, and we despair of accomplishing anything. Give us strength to continue and to know that all will be done in your time, not ours. Be with us in our work today. Amen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Good friends do

How much do you like your friends?

Enough to be honest with them? Would you risk your friendship and comfort to tell them the truth, or are your safety and self-protection more important to you?

I have a few wonderful friends, some whom I've met with for nearly 20 years. We try to tell each other the truth - lovingly, gently when possible. In one group of four, when three speak with the same voice, the other knows it's time to listen.

Another friend and I meet occasionally, and I trust her to confirm what God has begun to whisper into my heart. She's told me - from the heart - what other friends see but would never mention.

Thank God for such friends, who keep me moving toward God's purposes.

If you're looking, here' are a few steps to finding them:
1) Pray. Acknowledge to God your need for honest accountability.
2) Listen to same-gender people around you. Who is on the spiritual path that you'd like to follow? (I looked for women who loved God and were hungry for spiritual maturity.)
3) Watch for people who have the same need for privacy - little or much - that you are willing to risk. (My friends asked, "How confidential is this conversation?" when we began sharing. And I knew we were on the right track.)
4) Approach a few people with the idea of peer mentoring, getting together to share life and faith, or customize the group for your stage of life. Phrase the initial contact to convey your hopes or expectations. Don't be disappointed if people refuse or if it's not the right time for them to connect with you. Take your time. Be sure your friends are committed to God and to you.
5) Be ready to listen as well as speak. Take advice and information seriously and follow through on direction given. Check others' counsel with scripture.
6) Make daily prayer for each other part of the larger Conversation. You can overcome irritations, disappointments, and relationship barriers by aligning your friendship with God's purposes.

So... do you have friends who love you enough and whom you love enough to tell the truth? Please leave a comment telling us about them, if you do!

Read more:
*An anxious heart weighs a man down,  but a kind word cheers him up. A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.  In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortalityProverbs 12:25, 26, 28 NIV 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Eager expectation

Do you ever lie awake at night--trying to figure out the next move? Trying to read the future? Regretting the past? Ruminating on a plan? Unsure about your next step? Heartsick about the present?

To all who worry, here's God's reassurance: don't just ask for help. Expect it from Him!

David said, "Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." Psalm 5:1-3 NIV

Expect the Lord to act on your behalf today. 

Read more:
*The river of God is full of water. Psalm 65:9

*From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16 

*This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." Hebrews 4:15–16

Moravian Prayer: Holy Jesus, you love us even though we have not earned it and can neverbe worthy of such a gift. For this grace, we give you thanks. Amen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Walking fool

“It is good to collect things, but it is better to go on walks.” Anatole France

Do you walk regularly? Whoever Anatole is/was, that’s good advice. The American lifestyle demands a car culture. (NY and a few other urban centers are the exceptions.)

The grocer is a few miles from our house. It’s a long way to the pharmacist or pet store. Our friends may not live in our neighborhoods and church may be 15 minutes away – by car. Shopping malls have big parking lots to host vehicles for those who come from a wide radius from the stores.

A car makes the trip convenient – and if our loads are heavy, makes errands possible. So, some of us don’t walk further than from our house to our car to the office or shop. Ever.

And our bodies suffer. “Every hour, take a break from sitting,” experts say. “You need the circulation and the movement.” Yet who remembers to leap from the chair to stroll around the building or neighborhood? My mom does. At 77, she takes several walks a day to keep her spine straight and energy high. Sometimes Dad walks along with her – he’s 80 today and fit as the fiddles he loves. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, POP!)

The dogs and I walk almost every day at home, rain or shine, usually 1-3 miles. I hate our climb up our driveway to the steep street that gets us to the flat mountaintop of our neighborhood. “Do it for the dogs,” I tell myself. Actually, the dogs get me moving = my reason for having a dog, besides companionship.

Here at camp, I’m a walking fool. Each morning I walk my dogs just over a mile to the post office to deposit a postcard or letter. I try not to get into the car unless I have to, fending off runs to the store (“Can I do without that?”) or local attractions (“Do I really want to see that?”) If we want to visit, want to use wifi at the lodge, or otherwise decide to get out of the cabin, we walk. The gravel roads are good for the feet and bad for my shoes, the sharp pebbles wearing through the soles.

Walking provides stimulation for the eyes and a rhythmic meditation of breath and muscle. 20 minutes nearly a day, with a ½ hour walk once a week, should begin to heal and nurture your body and refresh your soul. Your body and soul are the only ones God gave you. Take care of them!

So why are you still sitting there? Get moving!

Read more:
*Does God not see my ways, and number all my steps? Job 31:4

*But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands. Psalm 10:14

*Jesus saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34 

*For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10

Moravian Prayer:
We know that you are always with us, O God. Be with us today and every day as we go through life, and help us remember to live as your children, until we see you face to face.

Lord of compassion, we sense the needs of many we pass on the street but do nothing to help. Your sensitivity and concern as the great Shepherd is always at work. Hear our prayer, O Lord. Amen.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Love without fear

(Jesus said, ) But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, "Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn't yours and harvesting crops you didn't plant."

"You wicked servant!" the king roared. "Your own words condemn you." Luke 19:20–22

What’s wrong with bringing back an original investment? It’s better than risking all and losing, isn’t it? Re-reading the verses above, I wonder if unearned gains are the reason the king reacts. Perhaps it’s not as much about keeping what we have, as hoarding out of fear. Perhaps it’s not doing our best because of our trepidation of failure … or success.

I’ve been thinking about what life would be like if we loved without fear or faltering. Most of us, in loving and living, have a certain amount of anxiety or hesitation about risking all in the act of giving ourselves to others.

But what if we threw ourselves into life with reckless love, regardless of the perils? What if we were willing to put everything on the line – our reputations, our dignity, our sense of entitlement to reciprocal love – to embrace others and our opportunities with all our personalities and character?

From some, that would look extravagant and extroverted, a splash of kindness in every direction. It’s scary for those who are used to being pushed away from their attempts to do things for others to keep an outgoing flow of love. Especially when we’re told over and over again, “No thanks! Keep away!” “I don’t want your attention!” or “I’ve got life under control, back off!” More devastating still, hearing: “Who do you think you are? You’re not good enough to contribute to me/ this project/ this ministry (etc.)”

Others would quietly serve, wholeheartedly seeing to the good of those around us. Sometimes a gentle spirit is crushed by not being noticed, by having attention drawn to good deeds, or hearing a scathing remark about the inadequacy of such actions. Having someone take the credit while belittling us for loving acts or sacrificial commitments can wither the heart, too.

It might also be shocking to receive such unfeigned grace and good deeds. After all, aren’t we sometimes suspicious of those who lavish good works around them? Don’t we fear that someone who does us a favor may want something from us? Something we might not be willing to return to them?

With all the talk of “love banks” where good actions or “deposits” accumulate to balance “withdrawals” of human need or unkind actions, it’s hard not to start measuring what we are owed and what we owe others. Sometimes, starting from a core distrust, such measurements begin to build a relationship. In truth, we’re so far in debt as far as God is concerned, that the accounting of rights and wrongs smacks of humanism, not godliness.

Scripture says we owe an un-repayable debt of love – that we have become debtors to Christ. In fact, we are His slaves, entirely purchased at Calvary through a bloody ransom. Therefore, if our Master asks us to love other, we don’t have permission or power to refuse – if we want to stay in right relationship with Him. (“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, that you have love one for another,” Jesus said bluntly.)

We probably try to like and love most people. However, I’m thinking beyond the human ability to do no harm and to be nice to those who are our friends and family.

LOVE WITHOUT FEAR. What would a day of that look like to those around me? To those around you? How would such courage feel?

Read more:
*Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him. Lamentations 3:22-25 NIV 

*I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:18

*Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?” Mark 2:19 (NIV)

Moravian Prayer: Creator and Sustainer, you have provided such bounty for us, your children. When we feel a lack of earthly things, help us to trust in you to provide for our needs, on earth and in heaven. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Precious moments

Two young boys, probably about 12 and 8, walked by a few minutes ago. "You know that God is interested in you," said the elder. The younger one looked seriously at his friend, listening carefully.

I eavesdropped as they strolled along, talking about how God knew all about them and how he wanted them to be men of God. Twas a precious moment.

The Lifeline denomination is here for the week. Little trailers, campers, and tents sprawl across the grass, and the streets around the tabernacle are full of young families. The shouts of toddlers, the cry of babies, the schoolkids laughing at the playground ... it's fun to hear the young'uns enjoy the beautiful weather and gorgeous surroundings. Mothers push strollers and kids ride their bikes.

Got me thinking: so many moments make up a life, from the time we are young until we are old.

Hope your day is wonderful - and that you enjoy a few precious moments of your own.

Read more:
*The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm. Exodus 14:14 NLT

*I am the Lord, who frustrates the omens of liars, and makes fools of diviners. Isaiah 44:25

Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge. 1 Timothy 6:20

Moravian Prayer: Divine Guide, our world today is filled with constant communication, information, news and “knowledge.” Help us to listen for your quiet voice to guide us where you want us to go. Amen.

Your personal treasure hunt

Roman treasure coins
What’s your greatest treasure?

Without deliberation, what popped into your head?
·      A person?
·      A possession?
·      An experience?
·      A memory?
·      A future goal?
·      Or ?

“Time,” was my first thought.

Today is the 59th wedding anniversary of my parents, Art and Adeline. Since childhood, I’ve admired their respect for each other, their devotion to God, and their care for others – especially family. They’ve had different jobs, volunteered in churches and education, but always centered their lives on home and church. Congratulations, Mom and Dad! for time spent together, loving God and each other.

W is spending a week with Kirsten in Austin, looking for a home for her. I’m SO excited that they have time together. One son and his wife are back to work, enjoying evenings and weekends together. Another is alone while his wife recovers at my folks’ place. The youngest is home, probably in his last summer of “student-hood” and relaxation before adult life and work grabs him.

And I? I’m splurging on refreshing and renewal. I don’t turn on the lights at night, letting sundown determine when I sleep. Too dark to read? Must be time for rest. Bright light? Must be time to wake and stir.

View from friends' screen tent
I skip rope for a bit, then take the dogs for a 2-mile walk, mailing one item a day from the local post office. We walk through the tiny lobby, pop the mail into the slot, and walk out back to camp. Then it’s time for brunch. Or reading. Or cleaning a space. Or sitting. Or visiting. Or walking. Or blogging.

Each day is full of options. It flies by without a schedule, without any demands. Friends are coming to stay in a guestroom this weekend and perhaps beyond, but they have their own agendas. Other friends have come on the grounds and we’ll have supper together some evening. Their kids walk the dogs or chatter as they head for the park. Before I know it, it’s time to connect with family on the phone … and then it’s sundown.

Rail tracks shifted in an earthquake
Time. Alone or with others. The minutes and hours and days are precious gifts from God our Father. In misery, they seem endless. In joy, they speed by like tumbleweeds on a prairie, hesitating on the odd memory or event. And not one is truly ours to control.

Enjoy the day, whatever your treasure.

Read more: 
*Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Psalm 98:1-3   NIV 

*O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago. Isaiah 25:1 NIV

Monday, August 6, 2012

Myths and Fables vs. true religion

Hindu offering
When did you last marvel at the direction spirituality has taken in the West? For me, it was this morning.

I opened an email from Mother Earth News, offering a free viewing of a film, titled “I Am.” Its caption: “What if the solution to the world’s problems was right in front of us all along? Everyone needs to see this film!” And below, a quote from Buddha: “Be a light unto yourself.” The film was produced for Gaiam TV, a Hindu-based (yoga) network.

The questions filmmaker Tom Shadyac asks: “What’s wrong with the world? And what can we do to fix it?”

Buddhist art
I’m bemused when I hear accusations that Christianity is only myths and fables. There’s more archaeological evidence for the historicity of – and more manuscripts of – biblical writings than any other historical documents of the time. Yet where are the scholars who are tearing into the Koran, Hindu writings, or Buddhist scripts with presumptions that they are forgeries, made-up tales of lunatic writers, or historically inaccurate. Why attack the Bible so fiercely?

Religion is humanity’s attempt to please God or the gods by doing something. Sacrifices, pilgrimages, prayers, and rituals are part of systems responding to the Unseen, appeasing the gods, or winning favor.

Torah scroll
The Creator understood our human need to express devotion and attention, to make appeals and requests, and to understand our surroundings. Books 2-5 of Moses (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) explained to Israelites – uneducated, raw from slavery and oppression, and being shaped by I AM into a innovative culture of blessing to the world – how God could be approached. The laws and rituals realigned them from pagan idolatry to the Creator’s nature of lovingkindness, goodness, and justice.

Alternative "medicine"
But we hate being told what to do! It’s easier to:
·      walk on a bed of nails
·      breathe in and out contemplatively, thinking only of the current moment, blocking out our sins or suffering
·      deprive oneself of pleasures in a monastery
·      endure hunger, heat, and cold in the name of self-actualization
·      devise strict systems of discipline in eating, exercise, and meditation
·      focus on self as the center of the universe and the solution for world peace, environmental care, self-love, or whatever the faddish focus
·      slavishly follow a charismatic guru with wise-sounding philosophies
·      chip off part of God’s Truth and manipulate until it twists and warps to fit us rather than molds our nature to please God …
… than it is to do as God has told us.

The Ten Commandments
God hasn’t suggested inner happiness and wholeness. Instead, he’s laid out for us exactly what it would take to achieve those things. Hard things, that cut to the core of our motivation, like:
·      honor God, not only with words but with actions, with our time and wealth, with our energy and devotion
·      become friends to the poor and needy and help them bear their burdens
·      love others as we love ourselves
·      meditate on God’s Word and let it shape our lives
·      pray, fast, and do other spiritual disciplines as alignment with God rather than as self-discipline and self-promotion
·      be thankful for what God has given us: the husband/wife/single life, the family, the possessions, the job, the ---
·      keep ourselves free from unforgiveness and jealousy so that our relationships are sweet rather than bitter

These things require self-renouncement without external praise or affirmation from others. They happen between us and God. And God judges the heart, knowing how sincere our motivation and how much integrity we have.

DIY - or not ...
Ugh. There’s no faking it with God, so we’d rather turn away from our shame and failings to devise our own systems of right-ness. We feel better when we can attain some goodness without accountability. We prefer “DIY” checklists rather than exposure to God’s searchlight of perfection and his solution of Christ as Savior, Benefactor, and PeaceMaker.

Because of this, complicated myths and fables arise in cultures, becoming systems of worship and self-protection against spiritual beings. Anthropologists record many stories of the Flood, tales of Father and Son gods who save their people, and rules upon rules of behavior that mimic the Ten Commandments. Our first parents knew the stories and passed them down, interwoven with human worship systems.

Muslim pilgrims
Why are religious counterfeits still so compelling and enduring today? Why am I reading nonsense from Mother Earth News promoting self-idolatry? Because we instinctively know God’s ways. In Self-preservation, we reject the laws he has written on our conscience and refuse guidance by his Holy Spirit.

Rebuffing his good direction has always brought deceit and religiosity … without life. It has killed us from the inside out: entire cultures become cruel and self-seeking. We are able to do things so vile – in the name of religion – that other humans shudder in disbelief. Sacrifice of children to ensure the harvest, maiming the innocent for temple worship, mass slaughter of those who disagree with our beliefs. Unthinkable. It’s been going on since humanity’s rebellion against God’s prescription, “Do not eat of this one fruit, because it will kill you.”

To those seeking self-actualization through guided meditation or physical movement, harmony through good works and positive thoughts, or self-medicating with the jewels of materialism, remember that we’re not inventive. Idols have always appealed to more people than the terror, accountability, and overwhelming awe of a relationship with the Living God.

Accepting the sacrifice; telling the Story
Today, we may choose again – for or against Him, but only on His terms.

Achieving a true flow or “harmony” with the Creator’s purposes (glory to God, peace on earth, and goodwill toward humanity) will cost us everything. Our pride. Our self-will. Ownership of anything. Human systems of religious accomplishment and recognition. It will even cost some of us our lives, today or in the future.

But what we win, what we win! Life, inner peace, joy, Love, kindness, goodness, self-control, friendship with God, integrity, and wholeness.

What is that kind of a life worth to you?

Read more:
* Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

*If you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord. Jeremiah 29:13-14

*Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:4-5

Moravian Prayer: O Lord, sometimes it is difficult to hear your voice amid the everyday noise and distractions of our lives. Pause our lives, if only for an instant, to let us hear you clearly and know that you are still with us. Amen.

Friday, August 3, 2012

3½ cups of goodness (and a recipe for Borscht)

Clay teaset
What do you accomplish in a day? Do you ever think about all that running around and working? Wonder if you’re leaving a mark on people or the world among all the busy-ness of modern life?

I have little earthen cups and a teeny teapot, suitable for tea in a crowded city like Beijing. I also have medium-sized china cups and saucers that remind me of our stay in England. And now – my favorite purchase yesterday – I have a 3½ cup tea mug that fits Montana perfectly.

The BBC recently mentioned the wonder of driving in Iowa for 40 miles and not seeing a soul. “That would never happen anywhere in the UK,” they exclaimed. But it’s true for parts of Montana as well.

Volunteer firefighters
The siren still goes off in Hungry Horse to call the volunteers for fires, medical emergencies, or Search and Rescue missions. The one grocery store in town and little post office suffice. And as I wrote yesterday, any news is interesting.

The days pass here, one after the other, just like anywhere else. Yesterday I walked to the post office and to the wi-fi spot (and got rained out), drove 25 miles to look around some shops, and walked to a neighbor’s for an excellent Mexican burritos and enchilada dinner. I felt satisfied, crawling into bed.

3 1/2 cups of tea goodness!
Drinking deeply from my Big Cup of peppermint tea, I felt better about the day than I sometimes did after “a good day’s work” at the office. I’d met people, talked to them, walked, and read a story aloud. I’d played with the dogs and skipped rope. I’d cooked a fine borscht soup for lunch (recipe below), freezing the leftovers for two more meals. It was uneventful, crisis-wise, and totally compelling - I'd like to repeat it again.

Such sabbaticals (of rest, not study as in academics) offer God’s respite between energized work. I haven’t heard a Great Task to which I’m called next season. I’ve considered starting a study  of Bible characters, in a public space, with whomever shows up.

But the ideas for the next season are hazy and fluid … and few. I’m loving it. For a task-driven person, such a vacation from “I should” and “I could” can only be healing and God’s kindness!

How about you? Are you accomplishing much with all your activity? Or have you bought into the culture’s hopes that busy work will still the restless soul, that external productivity will reduce the longing for internal significance?

A peaceful spot in Montana
Steal away alone for an hour, a half-day, a day, or a weekend. (If you’re married, offer the same timeout to your spouse.)

Listen for God’s stillness. Perhaps he will speak into your heart that He is enough and we are enough. Just as he made us. Just where he put us – whether that is in the frenzy of output and production that drives capitalism, in the stress and helping mode of people-care, or tucked out of sight on the back shelf, in the pause that encourages prayer and reflection.

Borscht, sour cream, and dill:
the perfect combo
Not-Your-Russian-Grandma’s Borscht Soup
Meat* (vegan option below)
1-2 tbsp. oil
Onions, Beets
Savory herbs and spices
3-8 c. water or broth – the amount depends on how much soup you want
Optional: cabbage, beans, carrots, etc.

1.     In a non-aluminum soup pot, lightly brown 1-2 sliced sausages, 2-3 slices of bacon, OR ½ cup leftover meat in 1-2 tbsp. oil.
2.     Add a chopped onion and stir into the meat until it is translucent.
3.     Meanwhile, cut 3-8 beets into ½-¾” cubes.
4.     Fill the pot with 3-8 cups of water or broth and add beets. (I used 8 beets in 4 c. turkey stock.)
5.     Sprinkle in savory herbs to your own taste. I used 2 bay leaves; a teaspoon each of dried marjoram, parsley, thyme;  ½ tsp. each of celery salt and mustard seeds. (I chose those because they were near the stove, not for any particular culinary reason.)
Optional: add up to 1 c. each chopped carrots, sliced cabbage, or a mix of beans, Brussels sprouts, or other vegetables to taste.
Cook for ½-1 hour. You can let it sit in a non-reactive pot until the meal. Heat it up and salt to taste before serving. Options: a tbsp. of sour cream in each bowl, fresh dill on top for flavor.

Vegan option: skip the meat, brown the onions, add vegetables, herbs, and spices to a vegetable broth. Include cabbage, smoke salt, and sautéed mushrooms for a heartier taste. Vegan “sour cream” (1 cup): mix together 1 c. soy yogurt + 1 tbsp. lemon juice + ½ tsp. salt.

Leftovers freeze well.

Read more: 
*All a man's ways seem right to him, But the Lord weighs the heart. Proverbs 21:2 NIV  

*Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. Psalm 34:14

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 1 Peter 3:8

Moravian Prayer: In our families and in our church families, O holy Mediator, help us to reflect your love. Forgive us when we wrong those around us and restore us to your harmony and peace, in your Son’s name. Amen.