Wednesday, January 31, 2007


At the risk of boring some, I want to encourage others and also myself. If you are truly a believer in and follower of Christ, of what are you afraid? Think about it: what are your deepest fears? Take, even, a scrap of paper and write them down. I will share one or two at the end of this entry. If you feel like it, I wish you would do the same in the comments box so that I can pray reassurance for you.

Now hear God respond to your fears, believer.:

"Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. " Genesis 15:1

"...Do not be afraid; God has heard..." Genesis 21:17

"I am God, the God of your father," he said. "Do not be afraid..." Genesis 46:3

This is what the LORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's. 2 Chronicles 20:15

"Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you," declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 41:14

This is what the LORD says— he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant... Isaiah 44:2

"Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the LORD, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands." Jeremiah 42:11

"And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them"... Ezekiel 2:6

"Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them." Daniel 10:12

But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God." Luke 1:30

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last." Revelation 1:17

He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Matthew 8:26

I am afraid of: Being destitute in my old age...of my children doing things that will ruin their lives...of committing some sin that will deeply hurt someone else...of the emotional pain that comes with the death of loved ones...of losing my mind...and of other things too numerous to mention here.

Wherever I am and in whatever condition, Lord and Saviour Jesus, help me to hear your voice telling me not to be afraid, and help me to remember that you are with me, not because I am worthy of you, but because You have promised this to Your people. Amen.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Believer, Do You See A Trend?

"and I will be with you and will bless you..." Genesis 26:3

"...and I will be with you and will bless you.." Genesis 31:3

"Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you." Joshua 1:5

"...fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10

"Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the LORD."
Jeremiah 1:8

"They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you."
Jeremiah 1:19

"And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20

"Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you..." Acts 18:9,10

Believer, and only you, believer, have these promises applied to you, just as they were to the patriarchs. What trial do you face? Believer, remember what God has promised!

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Six Odd Things

Anne tagged me to tell about six odd things about myself. To hear some poeple talk, I'd be hard pressed to dredge up six normal things about myself. I think I'm a pretty regular sort of person, but, okay, I'll try. Thing is, what others regard as odd, I regard as...well, just part of living, for me, anyway.

1. I'm directionally challenged. I can't tell left from right because, in my mind, both are left. So don't give me directions using those words. In the car I can use "my side" or "your side". Don't tell me about my left fingers forming an "L". My right hand does that too. And, yes, I can write backwards. And upside down. At the same time. It's a wiring thing.

2. I'm not an alcoholic because wine makes me sneeze and get congested. I really like wine. But more than one glass, and I'm a mess. I'm not allergic to anything else, so I like to think that God has done this, because alcoholism runs in my family. Thank You, God. And thanks for wine, too.

3. Rich makes fun of me because I like to get into and fall asleep in a neat bed. He just pulls back the covers and falls in, all rumpled. WHen I see that, I make the bed over him, then fold back the covers real neat, and slide in, pulling the covers carefully over me. (I live to make him laugh)

4. I'm partially deaf and need to wear hearing aids. (Which I don't unless I really have to for some reason) My hearing is much worse in the morning. After about three cups of coffee, though, I'm hearing at my usual mediocre level.

5. I'm an artist who likes to draw blood and guts. Pretty weird, huh? I also love to talk about disease and medical subjects with my doctor friends, who appreciate it because their wives usually don't. Neither does Rich. And this often occurs over dinner.

6. I can still remember the s-word in Czech, because my brother taught it to me 30 years ago while he was a student at the language school in Monterey, CA. I think I have an excellent memory.

Believe me, there is much more than this. Just ask, and I'll bore you to death. OK, I'm tagging anyone who reads this to add their six odd things in the comment box, and will also tag a few other bloggers.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Guest Preacher

This from a dear friend, Jack Brooks, who is minister of an EFC church in Kentucky:

"A brief thought...

There will never be a time on this planet when we don't stand in great need of something. Heaven is the only place where all needs are continuously met, and no needs exist. Nobody's sick in Heaven, nobody dies in Heaven, nobody sins in Heaven. Everything's always fine there.

Our world, however, is one massive, constantly-rolling, boiling globe of problems and needs. And when needs spring into existence here, it doesn't matter why they come into being. Example:

During the massive downsizing of the early 1990s, Kodak in upstate NY shed thousands of workers. I spoke with an Evangelical Free Church pastor by phone during that time, while I worked for Columbia Bible College. That church was getting more than bumped around by Kodak's massive layoffs -- that church was really hurting. The pastor said churches up there were having a hard time keeping their doors open.

It was nobody's fault . It wasn't anyone's fault that so many people got laid off by Kodak and had to leave. Even Kodak was only responding to factors in the national economy that it also couldn't control. The bottom line was, a big need opened up in all the families of upstate NY, and along with them all the churches, and only God, God alone, could possibly answer the call.

Last week I asked for prayer on behalf of a church in Maryland that freakishly lost two key people in two weeks. A newly-installed elder died from injuries he sustained in a car wreck, leaving behind a wife and a two-year-old daughter. Within two weeks their youth pastor (a young man in his twenties) died from a heart attack, leaving behind a young wife, a toddler, and the wife expecting their second baby. Both these sad events happened to the same church.

Point being, these two shocking events not only caused a lot of sadness, they also create very great material needs -- needs that didn't even exist days before the events. It doesn't matter whether the car wreck was caused by a drunk driver, or just icy, slick roads. It doesn't matter if the youth pastor had a congenital disability, or was taking Vioxx. Needs now exist; only God can answer the call.

God has pledged to be there for us whenever and however we need Him. As long as we trust Him and walk in obedience to him, He will do what we ask for in prayer. Now, He might meet our needs by putting us in a palace, which He did for David the shepherd boy. He might meet our needs by feeding us bits of meat dropped by ravens, as He did for Elijah the prophet (but who later got to go to heaven without having to die). But He solves our problems, fills our holes, puts fresh ideas into our minds, energizes our emotions, and rolls over our adversaries, as long as we are doing His will and praying.

Don't despair over today's needs. We all had "unsolvable" problems yesterday. You had them weeks ago, years ago. So did I. You had them back when you were unconscious in the womb (you didn't even know about the Soviet Union, air
pollution, or mutually-assured nuclear destruction bacl there in the womb, did you? Your mother was the one worrying about those things. Now you get to worry about Islamic terrorism).

When all your currently needs are handled by God, guess what you'll have next week? That's right: more needs, more "unsolvable" problems, more gaping holes. And then there will be more after that. Then more after that. They will never stop coming, as long as Jesus waits to return. Need I remind us that we are all heading toward the ultimate "unsolvable problem" -- the end of physical life? We need to deal with life's kaleidoscope of needs now, by faith.

Lord Jesus, we are weak, small, sinful, and foolish. Please solve all our problems -- fill all our holes -- put fresh ideas in our brains -- energize our flagging emotions -- and fight our battles. Amen."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Big Deal, Part 2

Warning! Warning! 1-3 inches expected!

It's stopped snowing, and we have maybe a scant 1 inch. Sigh.

On the other hand, was I hoping for a meter of snow overnight? Definitely not! A bare inch means no shoveling, either. Color me contented.

Book Review Time

It's sometimes hard to come up with book worth a review, but here are a few for now.

An Island Apart, Lillian Beckwith. It's been awhile since I read some Beckwith, but it's refreshing and just right for this time of year. Beckwith is a Scotswoman who has spent time living in the Hebrides. This is a short love story, rather above the heads of young adolescents but not bad for older teenagers. It's about a thirtysomething woman who enters into a "hasty" marriage of convenience with an islander, and the life she enters on the small but comfortable croft there with her fisherman husband and his very dour brother. Meg read this one too, and pronounced it quite good; a little sad but not dreary or depressing. She said Beckwith has a style that is unassuming, but made her think. Beckwith has written several other books, notably The Sea for Breakfast, which is something of a sketch of her own entry into Hebridean crofting life. A nice read on a cold and snowy day.

Natural Selection, Dave Freedman. In keeping with my affinity for natural-disaster/science-fiction novels, this is a story about a group of scientists who conduct a hunt for an animal which turns out to be an (unbelievably) rapidly evolving sea creature. It wasn't a bad read although there is some cussing-- and not too much, as I remember, in the way of sexual situations-- Meg and I read it without having to put it away. What makes it interesting is to see the thinking process of evolutionary scientists. It's an argument for the fits-and-starts theory of rapid evolution. Freedman is making a case for macroevolution, and that part doesn't fly well... but this is science fiction, after all.

Crisis, Robin Cook. Aahh, another Cook book. I do love Cook's medical thrillers. This one is a bit different from his usual in that its emphasis is heavy on the legal end of the medical business, involving a new development in healthcare called "concierge practise". This is where a small group of patients pay a fee up front to retain a doctor's services, so the idea is that the patient-doctor relatinship is more what it traditionally should be, with house calls thrown in. The story revolves around The Patient From Hell And How She Died. Cook is a liberal on health care, but he's a smart guy and I read him to get this take on medical trends.

SO those are the more notable ones out of the ton of books I've read over the past couple of months. By the way, we bought Meg Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian for Christmas and she's already read it three times. A stellar must-read... I look forward eagerly to more of Kostova's work!

Game review: I bought Rich a game for his birthday called Curses. In the game, you pick up cards which give you a small task to do, which is easy enough. But you have to do the tasks while accumulating "curses" which affect what you do. For example, while being cursed to keep the tip of your tongue between your teeth, and your nose pinched shut, you might have to say why cats are better than dogs. If you fail to "keep" all the curses, others can call you on it. If you do it three times, you're out of the game. We played it a couple of nights ago with friends, and Ian held on a long time having to speak as though he had a golf ball in his mouth! And I had to speak as though there was an echo in the

Blokus: This is a good game we played in Ohio for the more mathematically minded. It involves what is known as map theory-- the science of having depicting areas with limited amounts of color that cannot border the same color. In the game you have to build a continuous string of your colors, which must touch, but only at the corners, never at the sides. Ther's definitely some strategy involved. Now, I'm anything but mathematically-minded, but if I was able to play and enjoy the game, then anyone can, believe me.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gods and Scientists.

This in from the London Times:

Professor [Stephen] Hawking, of the University of Cambridge, was speaking as the group of scientists who run the Doomsday Clock — a countdown to Armageddon that was begun in 1947 — was moved two minutes closer to stand at five minutes to midnight to reflect climate change and the nuclear programmes of North Korea and Iran.

“Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no nuclear weapons have been used in war, though the world has come uncomfortably close to disaster on more than one occasion,” Professor Hawking said. “But for good luck, we would all be dead.

“As we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and a period of unprecedented climate change, scientists have a special responsibility once again to inform the public and advise leaders about the perils that humanity faces.

“We foresee great peril if governments and society do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and prevent further climate change.

“As scientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastating effects, and we are learning how human activities and technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may for ever change life on Earth.

Well, Dr. Hawking, Earth is so grateful to its scientists [may they live forever!] for knowing all and understanding all in a spirit of benevolence towards all mankind.

Scientists can speak such pompous twaddle!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Give Me Liberty!

Rich's birthday is this Thursday-- I won't say which one it is-- and in order to celebrate, I will get dressed up and we will go out to dinner. The drawback to all this is that, for his birthday, I really want to look great. I just got a black dress, and will pair it with a silver, blue and black shawl that I bought in India. Beyond that and my normal routine, though, I don't have to look like I'm going to the Golden Globe Awards, where the women spend weeks and half of the Sultan's GNP trying to look like something they aren't. A story from CNN's website:

"Stylists swear by Spanx, a brand of bodyshapers that promise to "rescue women from love handles, waistline spillage and cellulite," according to the company's Web site.

"They go from under your bustline to the top of your knee," says celebrity stylist Inge Fonteyne, who has worked with models Gisele Bundchen and Adriana Lima. "It compacts all your blemishes you want to smooth out. The key is to be seamless and bumpless."

Well, something has to give, right? I wonder if their eyeballs bulge slightly? And maybe their shoe sizes escalates?

"Natural fabrics are easily marred by sweat, so stars plan ahead to keep palms and armpits from perspiring.

"With a silk dress, anything you touch will make a stain," Fonteyne says. "One drop spreads like it's the ocean under your arm."

One solution is botox, which paralyzes overactive glands to temporarily stop sweating. Another is Drysol, a prescription treatment Fonteyne swears by that "dries up" sweat glands."

That, and air conditioning geared for mimicking the South Pole. Better that than someone approaching me with a needle and the intent to make my tender armpits into an expressionless, astonished pincushion. Baby, my armpits are made for sweatin'...and that's just what they're gonna of these days these pits are gonna sweat all over you (bumbumbumbumbumbumbum...) And I won't be wearing silk.

"Celebrities get extensions like crazy for Oscar season because they want their hair to be thicker," he says.

Stars who don't want to make a major commitment might opt for "hair for a day," he says: quick, clip-on extensions that can be removed at the end of the night.

Corby even uses extra hair for updos. He wraps hair clippings in a hairnet and stuffs that inside buns and chignons "for that huge, full look."

Just today I was reading another article in the London Times by a peri-menopausal woman who was convinced that the hair her husband was losing was turning up on her chin. She planned to make a wig of it to give him for his birthday, but maybe she should save it up for hair extensions for herself. I mean, if he's not going to use it, it shouldn't go to waste.

Rich doesn't have a need for any hair extensions, with a full head of thick, sable/salt/pepper hair and a full beard the texture of copper wire to boot. But, hmmm... I do act as his barber....perhaps there's money in this.

No, thanks be to God, no one but he will care about how I look, so I plan to make the most of the evening, and not with the help of body armor, Botox and alien hair..

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Why Does It Hurt So Much?

A 13 year-old girl boarded a bus to Cape Cod to visit cousins for two weeks. She was traveling alone for the first time, and as she settled into her seat, she kept her eyes trained on her father who stood by, waiting for the bus to leave. She knew that when he went home, there would be no children in the house, and, having a special relationship with her father, she began to worry about him. He looked, to her young eyes, very lonesome out there on the sidewalk. As the bus pulled away, she saw him turn and walk to the family car. She felt a powerful need to cry, but didn't.

A dear and respected friend of mine is watching his son, who has just graduated from college, pack up his things to go to New York City at the end of the month. The young man is the last of four children to leave home, and his only son. As this couple count down the days to their son's departure, everything that he does to prepare comes as a shock to the parents. His room is cleaned out for the first time since before he came home from the hospital as a newborn. They realise that from now on, this young man's place to 'hang his hat' will no longer be at this address. Yet I suspect that for some time to come, there will be, for him, two meanings to the word 'home'.

Why does this hurt so much?

After my parents both died and everyone in my family had moved away from New England, I had a chance to return to my hometown. As I walked or drove past my old haunts and familiar places, I would notice changes. More often than not, the change would affront me. Some things had not changed much, except for looking a bit shabbier, like my old high school which had been newly remodeled and added on to when I attended there in the '70's.

Some places had been gentrified, which is to say, they had been "developed". My first remembered neighborhood now had houses three times the size of the one in which I grew up. The road was new and broad. Some might call it a change for the better, but I don't generally find gentrification a positive change. It may look better, but in this case, looking better meant the loss of woods in which I and my family had often taken walks, made little discoveries like ladies' slippers growing wild, and had adventures, such as when there was a fire up there. The stone walls were said to house copperheads, and we never trod in those woods without taking great care. (I saw one only once, but it proved the existance of them to me.) Change there was an affront, as though my memories were less important than magazine-cover houses. There was no mystery or drama left there, only the banality of wealthy suburbia. And no one had asked me if it was a good idea!

Sometimes the changes really were for the better. More protection was given to certain hiking areas, and the wetlands have been off-limits to developers for a long time. While some changes have been made downtown, many of the same businesses are there, only they have changed to keep up with the times. I can understand those changes. I wouldn't want them to stagnate and become shabby.

And some things stayed exactly the same, like the apple orchard business which has been cultivated by the same family for over 350 years. That sort of continuity makes me feel at home.

But when people leave us, especially children, it hurts. We can't stop it, for one thing. But then they were always changing while they were with us. Isn't it that now they will change without us? And won't those changes come as further little shocks, just at a time when we feel like change is the last thing we need?

When a child returns home after an absence, they go through some of the same things-- they see some changes immediately. Mom's hair is different. Dad's gotten a new car. The wallpaper in the bedroom has changed. Some of those things are welcome, others (the wallpaper?) are an effrontery. They changed the wallpaper, but no one asked me if I liked it! And changes in the child are received the same way by parents: the hair, why does the hair always have to change? Usually it isn't for the better, and they never asked for my opinion! What in the world is she wearing? Oh-oh...who's that girl behind him??

Somehow, when we leave, we need to think out loud about these things. Maybe we need to make promises to each other that we will try to make every change a change for the better. When my children come home for a visit, will they find me better off if I've changed? Or will I have stagnated and become somehow 'shabbier'? When I go visit my parents, will they look at me and be glad I've left because even if my appearance may have changed, my character is even better than it was before? Can I give them confidence that their investment in me has brought a high return and will continue to do so?

May God give all parents comfort, and may He give all children determination to attain to His highest. May He grant plenty of continuity of the things we enjoyed together: good character, strengths, gifts, memories, walks and belly laughs over things no one outside the family would understand.

If we must endure seperations, then may all our changes be occasions for rejoicing.

Another tip 'o the Hat

My brother writes: "I'm inordinately pleased to announce that my first attempt to break into magazine article writing met with success. My article "The New Reliable Railroad" featuring the Georgia Southwestern Railroad was officially accepted for publication in a future issue of TRAINS magazine."

Congratulations! I hope they paid you well....

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Is It Spring?

Richard is trying to learn Russian. He's doing it with the language program Rosetta Stone, which uses a mike and a CD, so you hear the word, see the sound signature, and then try to copy it.

"Malchuk....Malchuk....Malchuk...Malchuk...." He begins to sound like a large swamp bug.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Things Up With Which They Put!

This is Tchaikovsky, one of our Siamese cats, a.k.a. Fluffy-Puffy, Boo-Boo, and Snuggly Boots. (I love giving our cats undignified names, it serves them right; but oddly they seem to like it)

I have become convinced that cats take on the personalities of their owners over time. I noticed this first when we had guests over whom I did not know well. When the doorbell rang, the cats scrambled to hide in the basement, which was exactly what I wished I could do. Tchai turns out to love a good ride in a basket, just as Meg loves a good hellacious roller-coaster ride. We are not talking about some gentle carrying. We are talking about being vigorously swung around in the air; up, down, around, round and round with serious g-forces.

We know he likes this because he gets in and stays in the basket when available, looking a bit wild-eyed and inspired. And, he doesn't throw up (thanks be to le bon Dieu) afterwards.

And then there is Haydn. I'm not posting a picture of him because he looks just like his brother, only bigger and fatter. He is one strange puss. Most cats want to be treated with gentleness, but not him. Noooo...he likes to be smacked, tossed around and beaten up. He is known to yowl until he gets it, too. He'll rush for the stairs and hunch there until you drum on his body. Afterwards, he wiggles and purrs so violently that he slides, oozing down the stairs in a blissful, relaxed heap. I'm thinking it is a massage that he likes, but he likes it hard. I've had people get mad at me when I do it, but, dagnabbit, I declare he does like it.

Rich has been known to purr when I give him a thorough massage on the shoulders too. But I'm no husband-beater.