Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Family Car

DCJ621.  That was the license number of the 1948 Hudson that our family had when we were young.  It was back when gas prices sometimes dipped below 19 cents a gallon and people took Sunday drives.

Cars were bigger back then, with wider seats, more leg room, big back windows, and wings.  I'm not talking flying cars here; the vent windows on the car doors were called "wings," I guess because they stuck out like wings when you opened them.

We'd pile into that big old green Hudson and head off to visit the cousins or the grandparents, and stay till we should have been home in bed.  When we'd finally get ourselves out to the car for the long ride home, Dad and Mom would help each of us kids settle into our places.  Tom and I would lie down in the back seat, my head up against one back door and his against the other, like you might put chicken legs in a pan to bake.  Tim and Ted, the babies, would lie across the front seat of the car, one with his head on Mom's lap and the other with his head on Dad's lap.  Peach always got the back window.

This was the 50s, years before we knew anything about seat belts, car seats, and airbags.

As we got older we moved into 9-passanger station wagons, the precursor to the mini-van.  They had three rows of seats; the third row usually faced forward, but we had a couple of cars where the third seat faced out the back window.  As you can image, it was a little tricky to get into that back seat!

The two back seats folded down so that you could carry lots of cargo -- or kids.  Every now and then Mom would declare a "Why Not Day" and she and her friend Margie would load the five of us kids and Margie's four into the back end of the car, stop by to pick up three of our cousins, and head out of town for the day, to Vancouver BC or some other exotic destination.  Twelve kids and two moms stuffed into our car drew a fair bit of attention from others on the road, even back then.

All our cars were pre-owned until I was pretty well grown, when my parents bought a brand new Rambler station wagon, a sweet looking butterscotch colored car with wood paneling.  It turned out that the car had one fatal flaw, a faulty starter. We kept a hammer under the driver's seat so that if we had trouble getting the car to start someone would jump out , pop the hood open, and whack the starter with the hammer.  It never failed.  In a matter of moments we were on our way.

Ahh, those were the days!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent

Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus
will grow.
And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean will not journey on it;
it will be for those who walk in that Way.
Only the redeemed will walk there,
and the ransomed of the Lord will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Isaiah 35:6-10

Friday, November 25, 2011

Advent 2011, Jesus in Isaiah

Do you remember Sue Staple's Isaiah Tree from a blog I posted last December?  Taking names and descriptions of Jesus from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, Sue designed a Christmas tree that would highlight Jesus in Isaiah.

In Advent we anticipate the coming of Christ.  For each of the five Sundays of Advent this year (November 27 through December 18 and Saturday the 24th) we will look at one of the names of Jesus found in Isaiah and the decoration from the tree that illustrates that name.  I invite you to meditate on Isaiah's descriptions and attributes of Christ which he made known 400 years before Jesus' birth. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Blessings

Family, food and football, the essence of American Thanksgiving.  The house is filled with the aroma of roasting turkey, fresh pie and homemade rolls, and the table, set with the best china, is laden with salads and vegetable dishes, a heaping dish of potatoes, the family's favorite stuffing, gravy, pickles and olives.  Have I forgotten anything?

We prepare for the meal for days, cleaning the house, checking the ads for the best prices on holiday items, polishing the silver, whatever is important for us to enjoy the perfect Thanksgiving.  Over dinner we join hands and offer a prayer of thanks to God for His blessings -- Aunt Susie's improved health, the birth of the newest baby, snow (or no snow), a day off work -- all things that are worth celebrating.  But I wonder, have we lost sight of the greater significance of the holiday?

The Pilgrims who suffered great loss in their journey and settlement in the New World, gathered to share a feast with the Wampanoag Indians after their first bountiful harvest.  Later the Puritans gathered for times of thanksgiving for God's care and provision.

By the mid 1800s many states celebrated Thanksgiving, but there was no unified date for the holiday.  Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor who was concerned for the nation that was moving toward Civil War, began a letter writing campaign to have a united Thanksgiving day in hopes of averting war.  Her campaign lasted forty years; finally, in 1863, President Lincoln designated the last Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving.

God has abundantly blessed our country.  Whether you are gathered at a family feast tomorrow or are alone with a turkey pot pie and the Hallmark Channel, spend a few moments to consider God's rich blessings, both to our country and to you, and, from a sincere heart, give Him the thanks due His name.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 21, 2011

How to Shop for Christmas and Impact the World

Four days till Black Friday, when the craziness of Christmas shopping erupts.  Shoppers, beating a path to the mall in the wee hours of the morning drag home with sore feet, throbbing heads, and empty wallets.  Is that really what you want?

Here's how you can save yourself a trip to the mall, provide wonderful gifts for your family and friends, and support women from around the world!

This Christmas, give gifts from Sister Connection and Heavenly Treasures!

Sister Connection serves the women of Burundi who were widowed during more than a decade of civil war.  Not only does Sister Connection connect Burundian women with sponsors, build homes for the widows, and provide camp opportunities for their children, they also teach the women sewing and other skills by which the widows can earn a living.  And their aprons and purses are available for purchase for $10 each!
My Sister Connection apron
Aprons in other fabrics ($10)
All bags (10"x9") are $10

Recently Susan Rice, a SC board member, hosted a Sister Connection Craft Event, where they raised $550 for the widows.  All proceeds go directly back to the widows, with none being held out for administrative costs.

Should you be interested in purchasing aprons or purses, send me an e-mail with your contact information and I will tell you how to reach Susan to shop Sister Connection!  You can reach me at (

Another organization that sells a wide variety of products made by people from around the world is Heavenly Treasures.  "Since 1998, heavenly treasures has assisted refugees, single mothers, widows, the physically disabled, women & children rescued from human trafficking, orphans, the disenfranchised, and many others. Lives around the world are affected each day through the sale of handicrafts. Each product made reflects the heart and soul of one or more of our artisans around the world.  Assistance is provided to artisans in the areas of Business Development, International Marketing, Leadership Training, Product Development and Spiritual Guidance. We desire to see people fed physically, spiritually & emotionally" (taken from their website).  Like Sister Connection, 100% of all sales go back to the crafters.

You will find jewelry, table linens, toys, ornaments, paper products, gifts for men, and many other handmade items, available through Heavenly Treasures.  Here are some examples:

Teak notebooks ($6 each)
Ceramic car ($10)
Silk scarves from Thailand ($10)

Make your Christmas shopping count for not only the receivers, but also for the crafters who made the items by hand.  And spread the word!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Reaching Out to Kids in Need

My friend Briana is the director of The Spot, "a safe place for youth" in Stanwood.  She and two other women, Kristi and Leslie, work full-time for Youth for Christ, "coming alongside [young people] wherever they are in life, meeting their needs and sharing the hope of Jesus," according to their brochure.

This all sounds good on paper, but it's even better when you meet these passionate women and hear of the lives being touched by the ministry of Stanwood YFC.  That's exactly what I was privileged to do earlier this week.

Leslie Hauck is the director of a new program called Step Up, and she works with kids at Lincoln Hill, Stanwood's alternative high school, helping at-risk youth develop job skills and find mentorships that will equip them for the future.  She has an office on campus, where she is available to meet with students for guidance counseling or assist school staff with office work, whatever the need may be.  Her open heart and warm smile are just what these kids need as they try to navigate a world that could so easily swallow them up.

Another group of kids in need is teen parents.  As a former teen mom herself, Kristi Foster knows how to connect with the nearly 30 young women with whom she works.  The Stanwood YFC brochure states that "the YFC Teen Parents ministry connects gained adults with pregnant girls and teenage parents in programs designed to help them make good choices and establish a solid foundation, not only in their lives, but also in the lives of their babies."  These young women find love and support in this very caring arm of Stanwood Youth for Christ's ministry.

I've spent time with Briana Gibson, the Spot's director.  To know her is to know her heart for kids and her love for Jesus.  She is passionate about working with teens.  Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday after school and every Saturday evening the Spot is open for youth in middle school and high school.  And each time the doors are open, caring adults from the community are there to serve the kids, whether laying out a spread in the kitchen, playing pool with them, or engaging one-on-one in conversation.  My son has spent many hours at the Spot, so I know firsthand that it is a great outreach to kids in Stanwood.

The other day Briana posted a story on her blog.  At a recent staff meeting she asked what they could do to enhance their ministry.  One of the volunteers suggested that they should always honor the Lord through the Spot.  Out of that comment came a new policy -- each time the doors open they would take a few moments to remind the teens why the Spot exists and pray.  It's not mandatory; no one is required to come into the room where this takes place.  At first the kids listened but didn't participate.  But soon there were prayer requests from the students and now they are more open with their questions about God and sharing their own lives.  As the staff at the Spot strive to intentionally honor the Lord each day, God is honoring their efforts.

Thinking about my last post, praying for the kids served by Stanwood YFC and the volunteers who work with them is one way we can love them.  Maybe God will even show us concrete ways to reach out to needy young people right where we are with His love.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hymn of the Month -- Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing with lyrics

Robert Robinson penned the words to this hymn 250 years ago.  He was born in Norfolk, England in 1735, to poor parents. His father died when he was eight, and his mother sent him to London at 14 to be apprenticed to a barber.  There he joined a street gang and got involved in drinking and gambling.  He and some members of his gang once plied a fortune teller with enough alcohol to get her to tell their fortunes for free.  She pointed at Robinson and told him that he would live to see his children and grandchildren.  Her words startled him and made him think about living a better life.

When he was 17 he gathered a group of hoodlums and went to an evangelistic meeting where George Whitfield was preaching.  Their plan was to heckle the preacher and interfere with the meeting, but Whitfield's words pierced his heart and set in motion a battle in his soul that would last three years.  When he finally surrendered his life to Christ he found forgiveness and peace.

He joined the Methodists and John Wesley later appointed him to the Calvinist Methodist Church in Norfolk as pastor.  It was while there that he composed this song for Pentecost Sunday in 1758.

There are lots of teenagers today whose stories are similar to Robinson's.  Living in a single parent home, barely scraping by financially (or maybe not), hanging out with other kids whose backgrounds are the same, getting into trouble.  They are on the streets of every community.  We see them, shake our heads, and comment on their sense of hopelessness.  Too bad, we say, as we drive past them.

But that's not how God sees them.

He who has known them from before they were even born (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1:5), has His eye on each young person who struggles, whose home life is difficult, who hangs out on the streets, who seem so hopeless.  And He loves them and is intent on drawing them to Himself, just as He did Robert Robinson.  He knows their hearts, and He knows how to reach them.

What does He require of us?  He wants us to love them too.  He wants us to pray for them.  He wants us to open our hearts to them, to smile at them, to listen to them, to help them as we can.  He wants us to see them with His eyes.  He is as anxious to set people free from their hopelessness today as He has ever been.  And He is just as able.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Soaring with Eagles

New friendships formed
Our church was bursting at the seams on Saturday as we hosted the first ever Eagle Wings Thanksgiving Dinner.  With 160 dinner guests coming from all over the county and more than 100 volunteers cooking, serving, hosting tables, helping with parking, and caring for a myriad other details, the place was buzzing.

Eagle Wings serves the developmentally disabled adult population of Snohomish County.  As Executive Director, Kinder Smoots (whose wedding last month was a wonderful event) works with churches and other groups to provide annual events for our often overlooked neighbors.  With the addition of the Thanksgiving Dinner, there are now 19 events throughout the year sponsored by Eagle Wings.  Coming in December are three events -- the SeaFair Christmas Cruise, an evening at the Lights of Christmas, and the annual Christmas Celebration hosted by an area church.

The events fill up fast.  Once the invitation goes out the reservations always come quickly; in just three days we were up to capacity!

Saturday night was a time for reconnecting, good food and fellowship, and joy.  As guests entered, they received a name tag and sat down at one of the two photo booths to have a professional photo taken. Before they left for home, each guest was given his or her photo to display in the nice frame they had made as a craft project before the meal was served.  My friend Ginger ran into a woman she'd known at a church she attended 30 years ago.  It was a sweet reunion for them.  My son and his housemates and caregiver sat at the table I hosted.  So did Neal, the best man from Kinder and Jim's wedding last month.  It was a joy to get to talk to him and his sister, who drove from Kirkland so that he could be at the dinner.

I was so impressed with the food preparation and serving.  The delicious dinner -- turkey gravy served over mashed potatoes, green beans with onions and red peppers, strawberry jello, cranberry sauce,  dinner roll and slushies, and followed up with pumpkin pie -- was set before us by a host of servers who were thoughtful and efficient.  The organization required to provide and serve such a grand dinner for so many was impressive as well.

The worship team provided background music and also led us in song at the end of the meal.  When the singing began, I watched a young woman from the table closest to the back wall stand up in the aisle and raise her hands in joyful praise.  Soon she was right in front, joined by a number of others who sang and danced to the Lord.

I do hope the guests enjoyed the evening as much as the church family who got to participate in this wonderful evening did!
Kinder doing a Volunteer Training before the guests arrive
More volunteers
A happy guest
Ginger and one of the guests
"Let the serving begin!"
Crafts at the table and a video on the screen

Guests and volunteers worshipping
Do you want to know more about Eagle Wings?  Do you want to get involved in one of their ministries, or do you or a loved one have a special need and would like to included in Eagle Wings activities?  Be sure to check out their website.  Kinder would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Monet Tea Set

My friend Lorie visited us over the weekend.  Thirty years ago we shared an apartment in Japan and have had a sweet friendship since that time.  Remembering my teapot collection, she brought me a lovely gift, an exquisite teapot/cup and saucer set.  It came in a beautiful box with Monet's Poppies on it, and inside was this delicate porcelain teapot that sits perfectly into the cup, with a matching saucer.  I love the fine china feel, the colors and beauty of the pieces, the way the hot tea steeping in the pot warms up the cup.  It was a loving, thoughtful gift and I appreciate it very much.

And if you come to my house for tea, I will serve you with my Monet Poppies tea set.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Snoqualmie Falls

Tom and I bundled up on Saturday morning and headed toward Preston, Fall City and Snoqualmie Falls.  We were in search of cheese, beautiful scenery, some photos of Snoqualmie Falls and lunch out.

We drove through farm country as we traveled Pioneer Highway from Stanwood to I-5, which we don't do often enough.  I should have had my camera ready, because, as beautiful as the sights were that we saw later in the day, nothing compared to the barns and fields bathed in sunlight and backed by colored trees that we passed in the fresh mid-morning.

Going south on I-5, we turned off at I-405 and then east onto I-90.  The cheese we buy, Greenbank Cheese, is made in Preston, just 15 miles down the road.  According to the internet they have a store and we were looking forward to doing a little shopping.  Alas, no cheese company at the address we found online, and no sign of them anywhere we went in Preston.  Oh, well, the day is young.  Let's move on.

Snoqualmie Falls is another seven miles, and I watched as we climbed higher and higher above the river gorge.  The falls were beautiful!  Next time we'll go later in the day, when the sun is further to the south and not shining in our eyes as we try to photograph the falls.  Still it was a spectacular sight to view this 268 foot waterfall spilling over the rocks.  I've read that, next to Mount Rainier, this is Washington State's most popular tourist attraction.

With well-built walkways and lookout points and native Northwest landscaping, the two-acre park is inviting.  The hiking trails, as I understand, will be closed until 2013.

Our biggest disappointment was that both our cameras gave us some trouble.  My camera's battery went dead and I didn't have a recharged replacement for it, and Tom's photos turned out quite grainy.  Still we were able to capture a few good photos.

On our way home we stopped at the Fall City Roadhouse where they heat up their biscuits on the grill (yummy) and serve food that continues steaming long after they bring it to the table!  Tom enjoyed the Hangtown Fry, featuring oysters, eggs, bacon and hash browns, and my Country Scramble was loaded with vegetables, including Yukon Gold potatoes, and topped with goat cheese.  I recommend the food and the service.

Next time you have out-of-town company, or the next time you just want an enjoyable trip that's not too far from home, why not head to Snoqualmie Falls!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pick a Little, Talk a Little

We had a phenomenal apple crop this year.  It was our best ever, yet it was a total bust.

We've got this tree in the front, just beside the road, and this summer we noticed it had one little apple on it.  It's never borne an apple before, so we were quite excited.  Except for these little red berries that were growing on branches that intertwined with the apple tree, there was no other fruit to be found.  And this little apple was beautiful!  But one day, when we had our heads turned, something happened to our solo apple.  Was it one of the neighbor kids -- or some kind of wildlife -- that got our apple, or did the wind knock it off the tree?  I guess we'll never know.

So that made Heather's e-mail especially sweet.  She said, "Martha's got lots of fragrant, delicious apples that you can go pick.  Any takers?"  So Karen and I went to her house on Wednesday to pick.  We had a bucket and two baskets; Martha had the "apple pickers" and the trees.  We'd never used an apple picker before.  It is a long handle with a wire basket with a rake-like set of teeth around part of the the basket to pull the apples from the tree.  You can get several apples at a time, if you're careful.

The apples were firm and delicious, with snowy white flesh.  Great eating apples.  And now I'm singing that song from The Music Man, "Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little..."  I guess that's what friends do when they pick apples together!
Karen and our harvest of Martha's apples

A little art shot

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Falling Short

Art by Patrick Slaven
For months I've been pondering the meaning of Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...  I always assumed it was talking about God's standard of expected behavior from His followers.  I would see myself, heels pressed against the wall while I stretched to my full height, hoping to be a little closer to the top of God's huge yardstick designed to measure my righteousness.  I saw this verse from a legal point of view, and I always fell short.

Charles Stanley says that we fall short of God's likeness.  This is falling short of God's standard, and even more. Created in God's likeness (Genesis 1:26), we fall short of it.  We are incapable of living up to all that God had in mind for us. We are sinners, we are fundamentally flawed!  

But there is hope!  It is found in Jesus Christ.

Here's how the Message Bible renders Romans 3:23 and 24:  Since we've compiled this long and sorry record as sinners...and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we're in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. (emphasis mine)

Praise the Lord for the gift of Jesus Christ, who makes us righteous and qualifies us to experience the glory of God in our lives!