Friday, June 29, 2012

Getting Close

I want to share with you the letter that I have prepared to send out as I get ready to leave for Burundi.

To my family and friends,

I'm in the process of packing my bags and finishing the last details to be ready to board the plane early next Tuesday morning for two weeks in Burundi! I'll be participating in a retreat for widows sponsored by Sister Connection. Some of our team members will be working in a camp for the widows' children (up through age 13) and later in the month there will be two back-to-back camps for the youth and young adults. All together there will be 1500-2000 Burundians -- widows and orphans -- who will be a part of these times of fellowship, growth, and joy.

It has been such a blessing to be a part of this team, and I haven't even gone yet!! It's not just the anticipation; it's all the remarkable aspects of just preparing to go! Here are some highlights:

The Lord made it clear from the beginning that I should go on this trip. He called me at 1:30 on a Monday afternoon by prompting both Denise Patch, the US Director of Sister Connection, and me at the same time. Here's the story about it.

With very little fanfare, all my funds have come in. God has met all my material needs. I want to thank Him, and each of you who have had a part in that. It was a very clear confirmation for me that this is the Lord's doing. (He even used a playing piece given to me by a friend to win $100 in the recent Haggen Monopoly game, which went into my Africa account!)

So many people have encouraged me with their assurance of prayer, with their excitement over this opportunity, with their kind words. It occurs to me sometimes that people are traveling all over the world all the time, and I am not the only one who is headed out on a grand adventure. Yet the people with whom I've shared this upcoming trip have responded to me as if they have never heard of anything so wonderful! I'm so touched by people's interest.

I have met only a handful of my teammates, but these few are amazing women, women with a deep sense of God's love and a desire to touch the lives of others. They are beautiful, tender, funny, and full of faith. I anticipate some deep and lasting friendships from this trip.

A group of quilters in a group called Quilts Beyond Borders have sent us 300 child-sized quilts to give to the younger kids at camp. We are each carrying several with us, and we get to be there when they are distributed to the children. It has brought me so much joy to be able to handle many of these gorgeous, one-of-a-kind quilts as I've prepared them for travel. Can you imagine how the children will feel when they each get their own bright colored quilt! (I'd been a bit concerned that quilts may be irrelevant at the Equator, but many of these kids live in the mountains. I think the children will treasure them.)

For several years people have been cutting the fronts off their Christmas cards and giving them to Gladys Scholsser, who attaches a scripture verse in Swahili. The cards are very popular among Swahili-speaking Africans, but the trouble is in finding a way to get them there. There were now 17 pounds worth of cards and the missions ladies at church asked if I'd carry them in, and they gave me the money to cover the cost. I've made arrangements to leave them for my friend Alice Matthewson, who thought a bag of chocolate chips might also be nice to have. The cards, the quilts and the 98 toothbrushes from Toni, my dental hygienist, can all travel in the same box. 

Preparing to speak has blessed me as I've studied the story of Jochabed, the mother of Moses, and the way she trusted God with her son, and the story of the outcast woman who had been bleeding for 12 years but was healed when she touched the hem of Jesus robe. There is so much truth to plumb in these two stories and I believe the Lord put them on my heart to share with these women.

My friend Abby, who works for Sister Connection, has prepared a prayer calendar for the month of July related to this trip. It gives some general prayer requests as well as something specific you can pray for each day. It would be wonderful if you would join with us in praying for God's work and blessing trough these camps. Contact me if you'd like a copy of the calendar.

I don't know if I'll post many blogs while I'm away, but you can check back from time to time. Who knows -- maybe I'll be able to send a few updates from Burundi.

Thank you for your love, your friendship, and your gracious support.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Let's Eat Take-Out

While I work on the serious aspects of getting ready to leave for Burundi next Tuesday -- packing, making final purchases, finalizing the messages I'll be sharing, ticking items off my to-do list -- I thought you might enjoy a bit of total silliness.

Have a great day!
the Other Ginger

Monday, June 25, 2012

Peeking Into Paradise

"Do you want to tell me about Heaven?" I asked my friend Sue. We were sitting in Starbucks, friends of more than 50 years, sharing our hearts.

Sue has been through a lot lately. In 2005 her father died, a loss she felt very deeply. She knew he'd gone to Heaven, but she wondered what his life was like there. She picked up Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven, and found great comfort in its pages, especially during the grieving process. Heaven became more real to her.

The following year her mom, who was just beginning to show the signs of dementia, moved in with her and her husband, Rod.

On November 18, 2009, Sue sat in her doctor's office, having just had an MRI. "An aid unit is on its way, taking you to the hospital," the doctor told her. " We have found a tumor on your brain; it's very serious."  Sue rode in the ambulance, Rod followed in his car.

After more testing, surgery was scheduled for the morning of the 20th. It could be an infection, a brain bleed, or cancer. The 4-hour surgery confirmed the worst: glioblastoma, grade 4. I've heard it referred to as The Terminator. The doctors said she might have 18 months to live, maybe just two weeks. Rod went home that night to care for Sue's mother.

Sue spent four days in the hospital, recovering from the surgery. It was during that time that she became aware of a memory -- of an encounter or a visitation that she had experienced earlier, maybe while she was in surgery.

She saw down at a distance, as if peeking into a deep window. "I wasn't part of it," she said, "but it was extremely bright and extremely crowded. There were lots of heads, some were angels, some were the communion of the saints. There was this bright light coming down on them. I didn't see Jesus, but the light on the people was coming from Him. It was the intense kind of light that makes you want to put on sunglasses, and it was so bright that the details of the faces were vague and unclear. The light was shining onto the world.

"And it was musical, but it was more harmonic than music. It was like a choir singing in 4- (or more) part harmony, but they weren't singing words, they were singing 'aaahhhhh,' like they were warming up before a concert."

It was so personal, so brief, but so reassuring for Sue. She'd peeked into Paradise.

Sue held the memory close to her heart and shared it with only her husband and one other person. It was a holy moment that she savored. But slowly she began to tell others, randomly, and one day she told me. Her eyes were filled with wonder when she spoke, her face was serene. I knew that what she said was true. She'd had a glimpse of Heaven.

As Sue was recovering from the surgery and settling into a routine, her mom had a fall that required her to be moved to the nursing wing of Warm Beach Senior Community. In July of 2010, she, too, passed into Heaven.

Over coffee I asked Sue if the memory is still clear. "Oh, yes, I see it as vividly as I did when I first became aware of it. I'm not in any hurry to die, nor am I afraid of death. But that peek into Paradise was just so reassuring."

Friday, June 22, 2012


Here are some snatches of things I've been reading and hearing lately.

"God sees hearts like we see faces." ~ George Herbert

"It needs to be said that a world of confusion results from trying to believe without obeying!" ~ A.W. Tozer in Mornings with Tozer (June 20)

"The God who deserves our fellowship and communion is not hard to please, although He may be hard to satisfy. He expects from us only what He has Himself supplied. When He must chasten us, He even does this with a smile -- the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is! ~ A.W. Tozer in Mornings with Tozer (June 21)

"Concentrate on keeping in step with Me, instead of trying to anticipate My plans for you. If you trust that My plans are to prosper you and not to harm you, you can relax and enjoy the present moment." ~ Sarah Young in Jesus Calling (June 18)

God's Love for you is based on:
Who God is -- Love (I John 4:16)
When God is -- always; everlasting (Psalm 90:2)
How God is -- always faithful and kind, His love enduring (1 Chronicles 16:34)
Why God is -- to be all-in-all (I Corinthians 15:28)
Prior to you -- before you were conceived God already loved you (Ephesians 1:3-4)
Despite you -- in spite of you (Romans 5:8)
All for you -- God's promises are all "yes" (2 Corinthians 1:20)
Inseparable from you -- nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:28-39)
God's love is NOT dependent on you or your achievements!
~ Pastor Patrick Vance, Sunday message, June 17, 2011

(now, that's good news!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Ever Happened to Gloria Irene?

My dad served as a soldier in the Philippines during World War 2. He told the following story over Father's Day dinner:

"Our company was sent on a mission toward the end of the war which required us to travel hundreds of miles by foot. We were without opportunity to clean up -- no way to bathe or brush our teeth, no change of clothes, no clean socks. (After three days it didn't matter anyway!)

"We'd been walking for weeks when one of our men wandered off by himself.

"He returned with a little girl in his arms, not much more than a baby. He had found her sitting on the ground near her mother who, clearly, had been dead for days. It appeared that the child had been fed recently, maybe by a Japanese soldier.

"All the men cared about the girl. We got her cleaned up in a little stream near where we were camped and found some way to clothe her. We thought she deserved a name.

"Several ideas were tossed around before one of the guys said, 'Everything we get from the army is considered Government Issue. I think we should give her the initials G.I.'

"But what would the G.I. stand for? We settled on Gloria Irene.

"When the Japanese surrendered a few days later, we were picked up by trucks and transported back to our base on the north end of the island. A medic in our group said that he'd take her to an orphanage back home, one that was operated by his church. That's the last we saw of Gloria Irene."

He's never heard anything else about the little girl who would be in her mid- to late-60s by now. Did she make it to the US? Was she adopted out? Where is she now?

One thing I know -- she made a profound impact on my dad. She is part of the reason he loves kids so much, as anyone who knows him would confirm.

And one more thing. When my parents brought my baby sister home from the hospital, they brought their very own baby Gloria into our lives. The Irene had been replaced by Mom's middle name, but the Gloria was for the precious child who had survived the horrors of war and stolen the hearts of the American GIs.

I wonder what ever happened to her?

Monday, June 18, 2012

He's Been Training for Years

Don Spears didn't always love trains. He started out building model airplanes, before the days of Radio Control. But shortly after he married Lenora one of his planes, a beautiful free-flight plane with a 6-foot wingspan, caught a thermal and got away from him. He couldn't coax it down, he couldn't shoot it down. It spiraled up out of sight, never to be seen again.

It was time for a less risky hobby. He'd just learned about HO railroad track, how you can take a piece of track and shape it, creating curves and bends, so he decided to pursue trains. With the encouragement and assistance of Lenora's father, himself a train buff, he began collecting trains and tracks, creating sets and painting miniature backdrops for his trains.

His collection grew as he spent 25 years at Boeing, working as a technical artist and a marketing specialist. When he left Boeing, he and Lenora began Spears Graphics Express, a graphic arts business. The office, of course, featured trains.

When they retired they moved to Warm Beach Senior Community. At Warm Beach they were near family and friends (Don's father-in-law, Elmer McDowell, played a major role in the early days of the Senior ), a wonderful church, and a lovely community. But they didn't have trains. Don found the perfect spot to develop a train room, just between the nursing home's dining room and the hallway leading to the Garden Room restaurant. A mostly ignored patio, it needed some work, but Don had a plan. In 2002, He and a number of other volunteers got approval to convert it to a train room. That's when the real fun began.

Combining their interests and talents, the team put a roof over the patio, built and painted the sets, created buildings, and laid the track. They combined scales, including in their train room O Gauge (Standard Gauge engine), HO (half the size of the O Scale tracks), G Scale (Garden Scale, because it is often used outdoors), and N Scale, which is Standard Gauge for toy trains. The tracks run through tunnels, along mountainsides, over bridges, through towns, past a waterfall and even a volcano. Through their hard work (or was it hard fun?) and the donations of many friends, the train room became a part of the lives of the Warm Beach residents and guests.

Come on in. Take a look around The Train Station.

A recent addition, this plane was built by Paul Hammon,
a resident of WB Senior Community

Don took the photo below when he was standing behind the mountain. It gives a unique view of the train layout. If you look closely you can see that there are several sets of track here, each set carrying a different size train. It was designed to give the sense of perspective when you stand in front of the display, with the largest trains (G Gauge) in the front and the smallest (N Gauge) at the back.

An O train runs past one side of this station, and a G train runs past the other. The train station, built by Ken Gray, a Warm Beach resident in his 90s, was built to scale, so that each side is in proper scale for the train that it services!  The next two photos show both sides of the station.

Other meticulous structures built by Ken Gray.

I stood on guard waiting to get a train sailing past. As it turned out, I got three trains passing by!


Each piece of the train set is made with care by the volunteers. Don Spears did the construction and painting and keeps the system running. But many others help keep it running and the sets looking great. For example, Paul Johnson built the logging cars on this G train and found the sticks in the woods to make the logs. He's also cared for the lighting of the room. And when the wheels of one train car were removed for use on another car, the O'Brien Turkey House restaurant was fashioned to honor a favorite local eatery that has recently closed. Paul Johnson built, among other things

The brains of the operation

Residents can enjoy the trains from their places
at the table in the dining hall.
I asked Don if he has spent much time riding on the train. He said that in 2004 he and Lenora got an Amtrak Rail Pass that allowed them to travel for 30 days, wherever Amtrak goes. They traveled across Canada and visited Niagara Falls, New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, the Grand Canyon, Dallas. Sometimes they traveled in the sleeper cars, where the clickity-clack of the wheels and the rock and sway of the car brought a sense of joy and rest.

How about engineering a train, I asked. Have you ever done that? No, he said, but he got to ride in the cab of the engine once from Bellingham to Mt Vernon, videotaping the ride, while his grandson sat next to the engineer.

He and Lenora are hoping to hop a train again and take another trip, but for now he contents himself with engineering an entire network of trains, designed to bring joy to his neighbors and friends.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Average American, Part 3

Bob Burns (l), The Average American, with author Kevin O'Keefe
photo by Jonathan Olson
Kevin O'Keefe searched high and low for The Average American. Starting with 281,421,906 candidates (the US population on April 1, 2000), it took O'Keefe a full five years to discover that the one person who met all 140 criterion was, indeed, the man that had been the school custodian during O'Keefe's senior year! His name was Bob Burns, and he lived in Windham, Connecticut, just minutes from the O'Keefe family home. You can learn more about Bob here and here.

So here's installment number 3 of the qualifications for being The Average American. See how you compare to the list yourself.  Once again, this is not my list and may not be what you would consider "average," but is the list that Kevin O'Keefe compiled based on the 2000 US Census and conversations with people whom he met as he traversed the nation.

*chief local politician is a Democrat
*local governing council is mostly Democratic
*reads local newspaper daily
*has read or has started to read at least one book within the past year
*uses landline phone
*uses mobile phone on a regular basis
*home is within range of cell service
*believe friends are "extremely" or "very" important
*home has a paved parking area to his garage or carport
*favorite way to spend the evening is in the home
*home is between ten and fifty years old
*home has between four and six living-purpose rooms
*grew up within 50 miles of current home
*has a kitchen
*hasa clothes washer
*hasa clothes dryer
*has an automatic dishwasher
*has at east one full bathroom
*brushes teeth daily
*visits the dentist annually
*showers daily
*has a Christmas tree every year
*has a credit card
*has an ATM card
*has household credit-card debt
*uses the Internet
*has played video or computer games over the past year
*is a football fan
*is a baseball fan
**political viewpoints are three, four, or five on a scale of one to seven
*owns jeans
*has done better financially than parents
*has at least one living parent
*has at least one living sibling
*represented by at least one Democratic US senator
*has a Republican US House representative
*takes annual vacation time
*has listed phone number
*eats at McDonald's annually
*lives within 3 miles of a McDonald's
*lives with twenty minutes of a Wal-Mart
*shops at Wal-Mart annually
*is between 5 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 10-1/2 inches in height
*lives in the middle majority of the nation's populated areas

How did you do? Are you even in the ballpark to be considered "average"?

Well, now that you've met The Average American, you may enjoy seeing what National Geographic considered to be what the "average Joe or Jane" looks like. It's Today's Bonus, and a great way to spend 75 seconds!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Average American, Part 2

US Resident Population by State, 2000
As Kevin O'Keefe traveled back and forth across the United States he met many people who helped him define the criteria for The Average American. But he also relied on the statistics from the 2000 US Census. If there is anything at all that you would like to know about the US, between 1790 and now, you are sure to be able to find it by looking on the website for the US Census Bureau. Their home page states the business of the Census Bureau: Measuring America -- People, Place, and Our Economy. From QuickFacts I see that the mean travel time for Stanwood residents to get to work is 29.5 minutes, as opposed to the 5 minutes determined for The Average American. I also learn that, on May 31, the US population was 313,648,520. Ten days later our population had grown by 71,500!

OK, installment number two of criterion required for someone to be The Average American:

*live where there is at least 0.1 inches of snow annually
*live where the average annual temperature is between 45 and 65 degrees
*ls between eighteen and fifty-three years old
*spends most of time indoors
*gets moderate exercise weekly
*has health insurance
*walks under own power
*weighs 135 to 205 pounds
*lives in urbanized and suburban America
*resides on zero to two acres
*has a private lawn
*supports the U.S. troops
*drinks soda
*drinks coffee regularly or occasionally
*has an electric coffeemaker in the home
*eats bread weekly
*believes music can bring family closer together
*has stereo in the home
*wears glasses and/or contacts to "correct his vision"
*has all five senses
*can read English
*can speak English fluently
*his community mirrors racial/ethnic make-up of the nation
*life is "impacted" by drugs or alcohol
*opposes legalization of marijuana for recreational use
*supports the use of pot for medicinal use
*has visited the ocean
*lives within 100 miles of the ocean
*lives in the Eastern-most time zones
*has consumed alcohol
*considers homosexuality an acceptable alternative lifestyle
*has color television
*has cable service
*has a DVD and/or VCR
*commonly watches television daily
*household's per capita income is between $15,000 and $75,000
*primary weekday destination is within 5 miles of home
*primary mode of transportation is the privately owned motor vehicle
*home has a porch and/or deck and/or balcony and/or patio
*has outdoor grill at home
*eats meat (red and white)
*has one to three registered voters in household
*lives on a local road
*household files federal income-tax return
*household files state income-tax return
*pays sales tax in state
*eats ice cream at least once a month
*lives within 2 miles of a public park
*uses recreational facilities annually

One more installment coming tomorrow. In the meantime, Today's Bonus! If you'd like to know what the equivalent to The Average Joe is in various countries, check out this Wikipedia page. And if you'd like a few more fun insights into The Average American, click here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Average American, Part 1

Do you consider yourself to be average?

It took Kevin O'Keefe five years to discover the one person in the United States that could actually be called "the average American," and he documents his quest in his book called (what else?) The Average American: The Extraordinary Search for the Nation's Most Ordinary Citizen. Filled with more information than anyone would ever think to wonder about, O'Keefe let the people he met, plus the information from the 2000 US Census, help him develop the criterion for what makes a person "average." By the time the list was complete, there were 140 items on it.

So I thought you might like to see the list. If you want to know how any particular criteria made it onto the list, you'll find the answer in the pages of the book, and you'll likely enjoy the read. But if you just want to know how you fare, go ahead and check yourself against the list below.

One more thing. Not only should the Average American meet these 140 criterion; he must have also met them for the majority of the previous five years. Ultimately he did meet one person who met all the criterion, identifying him as "average." More about him on Friday.

I might say before I proceed that a blog with 140 items listed could be a little unwieldy, so you'll get this in three installments. You can check back tomorrow and Friday for further sections of the list. I'll throw in a bonus each day as well, something fun that I think the average person is bound to like.

Remember, these are not my criterion, and may not have been what yo would choose. But, based on them, just how average are you?

*US. or D.C. citizen
*lives in the same home as five years previously
*resident of native state
*resides in nation's most average community (which turned out to be Windham, Connecticut)
*family is "extremely" or "very" important
*high school graduate
*in paid labor force or working toward it
*has at least one married couple in home
*has offspring
*regularly in bed before midnight
*believes in God
*is Christian
*is respectful of others' religions
*attends church at least once a month
*religion is "very important" in own life
*is respectful of all races
*annual moviegoer
*lives in owner-occupied home
*resides in one house (a "one-unit, detached")
*as direct access to one or two motor vehicles
*home has garage or carport
*has driver's license
*has two to four people residing in home
*regularly wears seat belt
*household has discretionary income
*is in full-time paid labor force or retired from it
*has at least one pet
is not trying to be nationally known
*is satisfied with the way things are going in personal life
*supports current abortion laws --
*but believes the act of abortion is wrong --
*and supports the stricter enforcement of environmental regulations
*describes self as very or fairly happy
*believes money can't buy happiness
*has home valued between $100,000 and $300,000
*participates in recycling
*has fired a gun
*believes in the right to bear arms
*is against public use of semiautomatic weapons
*is in favor of registration or waiting lines for gun owners
*believes gambling is an acceptable entertainment option
*has gambled with money in at least one organized game of chance in the past year
*household has a craft or hobby
*donates money to charity annually
*gives time to charity annually
*has a net worth between $30,000 and $300,000

Today's Bonus -- You can hear an interview with Kevin O'Keefe on NPR by clicking here.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Once in a while you get to enjoy a hodgepodge of activities in one day. That's what our Saturday was like, a happy Scatterday for us.

Out the door by 5:30 for an early morning airport drop-off, then to Ballard for breakfast at Portage Bay Cafe. (They have a better selection of gluten-free breakfasts than I've seen anywhere else. Warning: Go there hungry.)

To Golden Gardens to see if we could get some good photos. I'm afraid the weather was not too concerned about our interest in photography; it was not at its best on Saturday morning. Still, we tried.

This stump-turned-dritwood has more personality than some people I know! It was quite intriguing.

We drove through the park about 7:00 and found a couple of people hunkered down by the campfire. They looked cold and a bit lonely, the only ones on the beach except the parks department crew. When we came back to the park about 9:00 the canopy was standing and their hearty friends had joined them for breakfast on the beach.

We saw three young men hoisting logs up over their heads, heavy looking logs about three feet long. It turns out they were in training for the Tough Mudders event to be held in September. It's an 11-mile run/swim/obstacle course, and, according to the official website, designed by the British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. (I know the picture is out of focus. I was so dizzy thinking about this event that I couldn't see straight to take the photo!)

We sat at the QFC in Ballard, drinking coffee and eating chocolate-covered almonds, until the library opened. I knew Tom would be interested in the library's sod roof, and I'd recently heard that patrons of the Sno-Isle Regional Library system (that's us) can get cards for the Seattle Public Library. I suppose that it's not too practical for me to have a Seattle Public Library card, but it just seemed too good an offer to pass up. Of course, I'll have to drive to Seattle to pick up any books I put on hold (except e-books) and drive back to Seattle to return them; there's only a 2-week check-out time for DVDs as opposed to our 3-week time limit; Seattle's libraries charge overdue fees while our libraries don't. Perhaps some folks would consider these to be good reasons not to bother with a card, but not me. (I just hope it doesn't turn out to be like getting a $200 Nordstrom dress for $5 at ValueVillage, only to get it home and discover that it's dry clean only.)

On our way back to the south end for the family birthday party we got stopped by the Ballard Bridge. It's a draw bridge and as a sailboat with a tall mast passed through I jumped out and got some pictures. The people standing on the boards made me a little nervous; they seem so small and vulnerable next to the large boat in the background.

We arrived at Chris (Tom's nephew) and Rebecca's house for Marilee's birthday party at noon. It was our first time to see the house they bought and have spent the past year refurbishing. With beautiful tigerwood floors, a stone fireplace and nice gardens, it's a lovely home. Two particular features caught my eye:

This lovely light fixture in their living room hangs from
the high ceiling and casts these exquisite shadows.

A vegetarian's hunting trophey

Our barbecue included grilled corn on the cob. Chris par-boiled the corn, then put it on the grill. Part way through cooking he basted it with a mix of cilantro and melted butter. It really was delicious.

We came north over the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Tom has traveled the road hundred of times in his life, but now they are taking it down. We aren't sure if we'll be down that way again before it's gone, so as Tom drove I pulled out the camera to document the experience. It's a little hard to get decent photos when you're in a car with closed windows, going 40 miles an hour, but I gave it a shot. Here is some of what we saw:

The viaduct is coming down. You can see the demolition above and the posts below that have stood for 60 years.

Out the driver's window I saw this ferris wheel. Can you see the ferry through the spokes of the ferris wheel? 

The 38-storey Smith Tower, built in 1914, was the tallest building on the West Coast until the Space Needle was built in 1962. Now it stands dwarfed by Seattle's many skyscrapers, but it is still beautiful to me.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hymn of the Month -- O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

I've loved the song, O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus since I was a young teen and one of our church's college girls came home on break. One Sunday evening she shared that her college used the hymn as their school's theme song and could we sing it? The song leader graciously listened to her request and had us learn the song. 

I've been singing it ever since. But I don't think I've ever heard a more powerful arrangement than the one here. It compels you to sing along. Go ahead, don't be shy!

The story of the writing of this hymn appears on the website for The Center for Church Music. It is told so well that I am copying a part of it here and suggesting that you follow the link to read more.

Few hymns paint such a vivid picture of God's love as this one by Samuel Trevor Francis. It helps visualize the immensity of Christ's love: overwhelming and free, submerging us in the depths of his tender heart. Even the swelling and receding notes of the melody create an image of God's love, reminding us of the gentle waves on a vast ocean.
Francis experienced that love in an especially compelling way one cold, winter night. At a point in life when his faith had wavered, Francis f...

You can learn a bit about the life of the hymn writer, Samuel Francis (1834-1925) here.

While I'm sharing links, do you know about the wonderful online resources for finding hymns and hymn stories? Of course you can always go to YouTube and type in a hymn you'd like to hear. There are usually several versions of each song I look for on YouTube.  But you can also get great information and insight from these links, and many others: is a great source, offering hundreds of hymns -- classical hymns, new hymns, classical hymns set to new tunes, children's songs, scripture songs -- with a MIDI of each song. Among the other features of this site is the option to print out the music. It's an outstanding site.

You can read stories about the hymns here and here. Another good source, as mentioned above, is The Center for Church Music.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Stirring Up the Memory

I was digging through a box of old notebooks and journals and I came across some long buried memories:

- a report of the daily activities on a trip to Hawaii in the 70s with a friend. (She's the same friend who took the ukelele on an earlier trip to California and sat cross-legged in the back seat and played as four of us were stuffed into a VW bug.)

- notes from my three years in Japan (1979-1981), including a reminder to ask my supervisor for a book about the life of Fanny Crosby.

-  a Japanese hymn written out in romaji so that I could sing along*.

- my old passport number, and a list of all the costs for returning to the US.

- a journal of a trip to eastern Washington in the early 80s, when it cost $13.18 to put 20 gallons of gas into my gas tank.

- instructions from my voice teacher to keep my face straight -- don't "squiggle it up." Apparently that helps you stay on tune when you sing.

- a list of several Simplicity patterns I was interested in and the amount of yardage it would take to make them. (I think I remember a garment or two that I made from that list. Let's just say, I don't sew any more because of that experience!)

- a reminder to check at the Datsun dealership for posters and cars (huh?).

I also found this quote:
"Yourself in your hands is a pain and a problem;
Yourself in God's hands is power and a possibility."
The quote is attributed to E. Stanley Jones. As it turns out, he's the one who's name I couldn't remember the other day when I posted about joy in aging. I knew his name would come back to me one day. And there it was, in a box that has sat dormant in my house for many, many years.

Sometimes you have to go to great lengths to stir up the memory!

*(Romaji is the Japanese letters written in roman letters so that you can read Japanese even if you don't know the written characters),

Monday, June 4, 2012

At the Movies with Jimmy Stewart

Bring out the popcorn and gather around; it's time for a Jimmy Stewart fix. What would you like to see -- suspense? humor? romance? western? politics? You've come to the right place! The Jimmy Stewart movie marathon could last you through several dozen bags of popcorn. We'll turn down the lights, now, and no more talking please. The show is about to begin!

Rose-Marie finds Jimmy Stewart cast as the scoundrel younger brother who is mentioned throughout the movie but seen very little. One of his first movies, it is among the handful of films that casts Stewart as a villain. He has escaped from prison and his sister, Rose-Marie (played by Jeanette McDonald) is searching to find him in the Canadian woods. Not only does she find her brother, McDonald also meets Nelson Eddy, with whom she sings the beautiful Indian Love Call.

Sometimes Jimmy Stewart gets himself involved in a relationship that just seems impossible. In You Can't Take it With You, he's the son of a banker, in love with a young woman with a free spirit and a quirky family. Made for Each Other finds him married, having fallen hopelessly in love just the day before and gotten married on the spot, only to have the marriage tried in the fire of better or worse, richer or poorer of the first year. And in The Shop Around the Corner, he's in love with a mail box number and can hardly believe that she's really the pushy girl at work.

How's the popcorn holding out?  Can you stand some suspense? Rear Window and Vertigo, among others, will have your heart racing, thanks to Alfred Hitchcock's directing.

Jimmy Stewart stands for justice in Mr Smith Goes to Washington, uncovers truth in the Old West  in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and plays a mysterious clown who never removes his makeup in The Greatest Show on Earth.

A shy kid who chose not to follow in the footsteps of his grocer father; a graduate of Princeton who starred in dozens of movies and became one of America's favorite actors; a man whose life spanned the 20th century (1908-1997); this is Jimmy Stewart. We end this film marathon with a moving tribute -- James Stewart: The Ordinary Hero.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pondering Motherhood -- The Bishop

This was written by my mom, Helen Fosket 
and first appeared in 
Light and Life magazine in 1978.

You lift him carefully, this wriggling, crying bundle of boy with the homemade curl and the smell of baby powder. Out of the crib, into your arms.

"What will you ever be, anyway?" you ask, cradling him close to you for comfort. "What will you be -- after you have conquered first grade, your fear of dogs, a kite, a rope swing, a trumpet, the football team, student body president, the heart of the prettiest girl in school? Hey, you with the dimple in your top chin, will you be the first man on Mars, a banker, engineer, milkman, carpenter, clown, dropout? Will you be a builder or will you tear down? Let's talk about it."

But he doesn't answer. He just blinks his big blue eyes and chews on his fist. He's chewing on the hand that may someday help change our world!

"You, little one, you with the clean hands and the innocent heart, who has 'not lifted up his soul unto vanity nor sworn deceitfully,'* will your life be one of building, or will you tear down?"

Say, you, mother of the clean hands and the innocent heart, you who will spend so many hours each day with this child of Mine, molding his very life, what will he be? When he leaves your care, will his hand be clenched in greed or will it be open to share his blessings with others? Will you raise him with love and care in preparation for a life with Me, or will he be allowed to make his own choices and 'do his ow thing'? You, wife of your husband, mother of the laundry, the kitchen, the Sunday school class, the choir, the Bible study, the bowling team, the PTA, he can be anything I want him to be; but I need your help.

His diaper is changed, his bottle is warm. You sit holding him tenderly as he drinks. You ponder. A A bishop? You sit taller.

A bishop...above reproach, one wife, hard worker, kind, hospitable, good Bible teacher, even-tempered, gentle, well-behaved family, not a new Christian.* You shiver with excitement and hold him closer.

"Little one," you ask, "little one of the big burp, would you like to be a bishop some day? You could, you know, for the Lord and I will mold you that way. And then, if He changes His mind and wants you to be president, well bishops make good presidents, too."

His tummy is full. He has fallen asleep. You gently lay him in his crib and rush to the mirror. The reflection shows disheveled hair, a baggy sweat shirt, and a smudge on the left cheek. But it's truly a bishop's mother you see!

A surge of energy comes over you, and you whisper as you leave the room, "Sleep tight, little button nose; the bishop's mother has to finish cleaning the oven."

*from Psalm 24:4 and 1 Timothy 3