Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Impact of the Bujumbura Central Market Fire

Bujumbura through the bus window, July 2012

This article, by a 36-year-old Burundian pastor, gives the clearest picture of the significance of Bujumbura's Central Market fire of anything I have read. The following is an excerpt, describing the economic impact of this catastrophe:
It is important to note that our economy is mostly an informal one.  This market is home of over 5000 business people, big, medium and small.  To this figure, we need to add young people selling things moving here and there, thousands of intermediaries between potential buyers and sellers and you easily get close to double the number of people whose livelihood directly depends to the central market.
A world bank commissioned study last year said that daily transactions in the central market are worth $5000, 0000.  This is the first business in the country far before the brewery (Brarudi) which serves Rwanda and the Eastern part of DR Congo.
It is clear it will take years before people get back to their feet.
The situation today is that thousands of families lost everything, food prices have tripled especially for rice and beans (which is what people eat everyday). Some churches have announced they are already receiving people and many threatening to commit suicide. We do not have psychologists who can help with this situation and churches will have to play the role.  Already on Sunday, a woman with a baby on the back went into the flames and another man of Senegalese origin forcefully entered into the fire and was consumed by it.
Some journalists were comparing this situation with 9/11 – not in the origin of the fire (unknown so far) but in the consequences and taking all the necessary proportions into account!!
Please continue to pray for the people of this nation, the fourth poorest country in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund's 2011 gross domestic product per capita (GDP per capita) report. They need wise leadership and great peace as they face the future. Burundi has suffered terribly in its brief time as an independent nation (it celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.) May God grant them courage and strength to deal with this new crisis. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yes You Can -- Special Friends Camp

All Aboard!

When you mention Special Friends Camp to Laurie Fertello, her eyes light up and she's ready to talk!

Laurie is the Disabilities Ministries Director at Warm Beach Camp in Stanwood WA. She's been on staff there since 1989, when she moved from Oregon and served as a Program Staff Counselor her first summer.  Over the years, as she has worked with campers, she has developed many programs to reach out to the hundreds of children and youth who pass through the camp every summer. She's a fixture at Warm Beach and has touched many lives through Christian camping.

From time to time folks would approach the leadership at Warm Beach, asking if there wasn’t some way they could provide a program for the developmentally disabled. It was a great idea, something the camp was open to, but they were waiting for “an expert” to come along, someone who knew the needs of that population and how best to meet them.

About seven years ago a couple of community women came to Laurie. One was Shelly Rubatino, the director of Stanwood High School’s Transition Center, which provides transition experiences and training for 18-21 year-olds with developmental disabilities; Leah Merklinghaus, the coach of Stanwood’s Special Olympics teams, was the other. Both women were passionate about serving the special needs community, and they had an idea.

They wanted the camp to sponsor a four-day day camp for special needs adults.

Not only did these women have an idea, they also had the expertise the camp was waiting for. And that’s how Special Friends Camp came to be.

During the summer of 2007 Warm Beach Camp hosted their first week of day camp for special needs adults. I attended a portion of the orientation session for the camp staff and volunteers. Most of the workers had little experience serving people with developmental disabilities, but they were eager to learn how to make this week at camp an outstanding experience for them.

Special Friends Camp was a great success that first summer! So great, in fact, that it has become a regular part of the summer schedule. In its 6th year in 2012, they hosted five sessions for folks 15 and older.

Each week saw 70 to 100 people -- campers and staff -- hanging out for four days full of activity. From swimming to chapel to mini-golf to group time to climbing the tower and ziplining, Special Friends campers are treated to the same activities that able-bodied campers enjoy. And for many of them, it’s the first time they’ve had these opportunities.

Mother and Son

Goofing Off

When I dropped by the camp one day last summer to see Special Friends Camp in action, everyone was having a great time! The fire truck had just come and campers were checking it out. Some donned the uniform or climbed into the driver’s seat of the truck.

Although the camp provides some of the staffing, most of the staff are volunteers. They might be teens or retirees, even families, who give a week of their summer, just for the joy of it. Most spend the week as a buddy to one specific camper. Others are rovers, available to do whatever they can to make the week go well. All have a heart for service and are loyal and full of energy!

The experience is really a close-to-home mission trip for the volunteers. It puts them in a setting different from their home environment, working with adults with developmental disabilities, growing in their awareness of the world around them and loving them in Jesus’ name. And from what I’ve seen, the volunteers love it!

They arrive on Monday, the day before the campers come, and have an 8-hour orientation. Most stay in the cabins at Chinook Village and after the campers have left for the day they get refreshed at the chapel service at W-Bar-B Ranch where youth camp is in session.

For now Warm Beach Camp will continue to host several weeks of Special Friends Camp each summer. You’ll find the dates for 2013 camps – along with other details – at the Warm Beach Camp website. Their dream is to one day offer overnight programming and camps for younger children. They are making slow and steady progress toward those goals.

I asked Leah Merklinghaus about Special Friends Camp. "I'd like to say how amazing Warm Beach Camp is for saying YES [for starting the program] and how amazing God is in his faithfulness in growing the camp. It's been great to watch him at work in the lives of the campers and, much to our surprise, the volunteers."

Laurie Fertello says the best thing about Special Friends Camp is that "we are continually ably to say 'Yes!' Moms bawl when they hear, 'Yes, your child can ride a horse!' 'Yes, your child can swim!' 'Yes, your child can go on the zipline!'”

So here’s where I get to say, “Yes!” Yes, you can!

- Are you interested in volunteering at Special Friends Camp? Check it out!

- Are you thinking about starting a camp where you are but don’t have an expert to help you? Or are you the one with the knowledge and desire to see something happen but don’t know where to start? Go for it! Don’t be afraid to look for other like-minded people who have an interest too. Pray for the Lord to direct you to them. Contact Laurie Fertello at Warm Beach and pick her brain.

- If there’s the slightest nudge inside that you’d like to be a part of Special Friends Camp, follow the example of Laurie, Shelly, Leah, and hundreds of volunteers who have gone before you. Yes, you can!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bujumbura Fire -- What You Can Do to Help

Denise Patch of Sister Connection, a ministry to widows in Burundi, posted the following on Facebook:

For those of you asking how you can assist the widows and orphans, there are two great ways. Sponsoring a widow will bring ongoing support to a widowed family struggling to survive. If this is something you would like to do, please follow this link.

Critical Needs is the fund we have in place for times like this for general contributions to the extraneous needs of widows and their children. Please follow the link below to our website where there will be a link for online giving. If you'd prefer to send a check, please use the mailing AZ address on the website. Thank you for your caring hearts--this is a gift to us.
Sister Connection is a sponsorship program connecting the priviledged of this world with the poorest of this world's people - the widows and orphans of Burundi, Africa.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Fire in Bujumbura's Central Market

Central Market, Bujumbura, Burundi, January 28, 2013 

I can't even begin to comprend the tragedy that is unfolding in Burundi. Early Sunday morning fire broke out in Bujumbura's Central Market, destroying the market and, it would seem, collapsing the economy of the nation.

I did not visit the market while I was in Burundi last summer, but I understand it is the hub of commerce for the city and the nation. I found this video on YouTube, filmed in December of 2012, of a walk through the market.

According to Denise Patch of Sister Connection, "thousands of merchants have lost everything. Not just their inventory but their life savings as many stored their cash in their market boots rather than pay the high bank fees. Prices on food and clothing and household good are already skyrocketing with the now extreme scarcity of these things, and it is being said that this is a national crisis."

"Word is that many stored their life savings in their market booths to avoid high government taxes and bank fees, and suicide is claiming the most devastated. Others were killed or injured as they went into the fire to retrieve as much as they could."

"Where does Sister Connection come in?" asks Denise Patch. "We have widows in our microenterprise program who were operating their businesses in the market. We do not have word yet from our staff on any more details, but as we receive them, we will post them. Until then, please pray for our widows, for our staff, for the nation. My heart just keeps crying, 'Surely our widows know we will not abandon them, that they do not face this devastation alone. God, fill their hearts and minds with reminders of Your truth, Your peace, and let them be instruments of encouragement and healing to their fellow merchants. Let the widows rise up and lead."

Please pray for the people of Bujumbura -- for their safety, for peace in a situation that is rife with opportunities for mayhem, for wise leadership, for doctors and hospitals and others who are caring for the injured, for people who don't know the whereabouts of loved ones, for merchants and shoppers and tourists who were in the market.

The quotes from Denise Patch are from several different postings on Facebook. If you want more information, Denise will post on the Sister Connection page of Facebook as she has information. This may not become a front page story in our American newspapers, but it is huge and we must keep the people of Burundi in our thoughts and prayers.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Wednesday was my dad's 87th birthday. I've been privileged to spend the past 62 years with him. He has brought joy and laughter into my life, and has been a support in all my endeavors. I know my siblings would say the same thing.

Dad is a man of integrity. He is a giver, a teacher (not by profession, but in every other way), a provider, and a man of God.

I love you, Papa. Happy birthday!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In the Midst of Your Suffering

For weeks now I've been hearing, nearly every day, about someone who is going through tough times. I've lost track of the number of people who are grieving the loss of a loved one -- a parent or in-law, a child, a sibling, a spouse. I have friends dealing with serious illness or job loss and those whose children are struggling with life threatening health issues or mental health problems. Folks are facing the fallout of bad decisions. I doubt I know anyone who is not living through something pretty heavy right now.

When I hear the stories of people suffering I want to gather them around me and shield them from the pain. Yet while I'm trying to protect people from their pain, I hear Jesus tell me what he told Peter: You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men (Mark 8:33).

So what does God have in mind when we go through difficulties? Why do we suffer?

There are many answers buried in the pages of scripture, but I this morning I'm thinking about three in particular:

1. To humble us -- As the Lord was reminding the children of Israel to follow the commands God had given, he included these words: Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands (Deuteronomy 8:2).

2. To purify us -- When Zechariah prophesied about the shepherd being struck and two-thirds of the sheep being destroyed (he was talking about his people Israel) he promised of the remaining sheep, "This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The Lord is our God'" (Zehariah 13:9). Not only does the Lord desire a humble people, he desires a pure people.

3. To bring us to maturity -- He wants us to grow and become mature, just as we want that for our own children. James even tells us to rejoice in our trials! Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).

Peter encourages us with these words: And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10).

If you are suffering today I can do better for you than try to protect you from the pain. I can lift you up to the God of all grace and trust that he is working in you to humble you, to purify you, and to help you become mature and complete. I can remind you that one day soon he will restore you and help you to stand.

May you know his presence today, even in the midst of your suffering.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Water & Rocks, New Zealand

It's summer in New Zealand right now. It seemed like a good place to go for a few minutes. There is still plenty of snow and ice for you winter-lovers. Enjoy the quick trip.

Water & Rocks, New Zealand from Metron on Vimeo.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sweet Yam Rounds

A few days ago someone posted an appealing recipe for Sweet Potato Rounds on Facebook. I didn't take time to print it out, but I sure wished I had in the middle of dinner preparation last night! I went to Facebook and scrolled through my FB site as quickly as I could, but Tom had the rounds nearly done on top of the stove and it was time to get them in the oven! 

So we made an executive decision -- we would make up our own seasoning! Here is the recipe that we came up with. I think you'll like it. If you prefer a more savory taste, you might like this recipe, the one Kathy first posted on Facebook. Or you just might want to try out your own seasonings.
 Sweet Yam Rounds
Sweet Yam Rounds, served with
pan-fried fish, steamed broccoli and baked pear


3 yams, scrubbed, cut into 1/4 inch rounds (no need to peel)
olive oil
1 cup apple juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-cook the yam rounds by stir frying them in oil. Add 1/2 cup of of the apple juice, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Spray a large glass baking dish and spread the rounds out in the dish. Add 1/2 cup apple juice, sprinkle with cinnamon, cloves, salt, and pepper. Place in a 400 degree oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. (If you remember, turn them over part way through. You might want to add more seasoning at that time. But if you forget, don't worry. They are still quite good!)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Calling All Word Nerds

At the risk of sounding wordy,
or maybe just plain nerdy,
I am here to tell you straight
that the way to levitate
your daily conversation
to a whole new elevation
is to scour the dictionary
with a fine-toothed comb, and vary
your word selection smartly
as you speak -- well, that is partly
how to sound more fascinating,
but then, it could sound grating
to the crowd with whom you're speaking,
and you may need to start seeking
others who will listen to you
throw your big words around.

So do proceed discreetly
as you try to speak more sweetly,
or more smartly if you'd rather;
or if you simply want to blather
all your new vocabulary
to the people on the ferry
or the bus or train or taxi,
thinking you sound very classy --
beware, not everybody
(perhaps not anybody)
likes ostentatious people.
But, hey, they're not illegal!
Folks like colorful expression
when it's used with great discretion,
so don't be shy to try new words
and see how they might sound.

Phew! Now that I've got that out of my system, here are some word-wise sites that will stretch you and make you sound smart, though not ostentatious. Merriam-Webster Online is filled with words. Not only does it offer a dictionary and thesaurus, but there are plenty of word games and quizzes, a word of the day, and delightful, informative videos. Check out this one, about the ghost word "dord".

And here's public radio's A Way With Words, a radio call in show with marvelous stories and words and phrases and jokes and lots of fun. They also have a blog and other features on their website. You really should check it out.

Monday, January 14, 2013

What's on my Mind

Photo by Marilee Drew
Sometimes when I sit down to write a post I have no idea what to share. But once in a while I have more ideas than I know what to do with. Today is kind of like that. So here are three things that I'm thinking about right now.

1. Happy Anniversary, National Geographic Society! Begun in 1888 the society exists "to inspire people to care for the planet," according to their website.  That may be its purpose, but the greatest benefit it has offered me is a chance to go places in the world I will never visit myself. I love their photos. I also like to know who took the photos, and how. Do you feel that way too? Check out their Image Collection Book and look at dozens of National Geographic photos. You can also get a glimpse into the who and how by clicking on the Behind the Photos button. Pretty amazing!

2. Last week PBS's American Experience premiered a video called The Abolitionists. The film is marvelously produced and tells of the beginning of the American Abolitionist Movement  in the early 1800s. (Part 2 airs on Wednesday of this week, January 15.) Having recently seen Lincoln, the movie about the president during the Civil War crisis, and heard a discussion about President Lincoln on Haven Today, our nation's struggle over the issue of slavery is fresh in my mind. As I watched The Abolitionists I wondered if I would have stood strongly with these passionate people who chose to defend the rights of all people, no matter the color or station in life, or if I would have been a silent observer. I'm still mulling over that one.

As I watched the film about an era in our history nearly 200 years ago, I was reminded that we are again facing a crisis over slavery. A friend of ours, Kevin Austin, is a modern day abolitionist, working with The Set Free Movement. He spends his days working to help free people who are caught in the sex trade. He, too, is passionate about his work and continues to call the church to open our eyes to the problem and to pray and work to see the end of this evil. It is a very real problem; just last week the Herald, our regional newspaper, ran an article about sex trafficking in our own community. Again I ask myself how strongly I am willing to stand on this issue.

3. OK, that was pretty heavy. So I will close by talking about the weather. It has been cold but glorious here lately. On Saturday Tom's sister Marilee came to visit and we went to Mt Vernon. We pulled off the road for her to take some photos of Mt Baker. She took the photo at the top of this post just north of the Conway exit off I5 (exit 240). And last yesterday afternoon Tom and I grabbed the camera and raced over to Camano Island to catch the light on the Cascades. The pictures below are from our outing.

I hope you have a good week, wherever you are and whatever is on your to-do list. How about putting this item on the top of your list: Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you (Psalm 116:7, Amplified).

Photo by Tom Kauffman

Photo by Ginger Kauffman

Friday, January 11, 2013

Limit: One Complaint a Day

Not long ago I started noticing how much I complain. I don't yell at people, but I notice things and I say it out loud. "I'm starving!" "It's sure dark in here!" "Why do they have the music up so loud?" "My feet are so cold!" "Hey, lady, quit tailgating!" Stuff like that.

It got to be annoying, just listening to myself blather on about whatever I was feeling at the moment. And if it was annoying to me, what must it do to other people?

That's when I initiated the one-complaint-a-day rule. That's right, I allow myself just one complaint a day. It's a self-monitoring thing, and I often forget the rule all together. But I'm becoming more aware of my tendency to mutter about whatever, and I believe I'm making some strides.

But you know what really perturbs me? It's when I use up my complaint first thing in the morning. I get only one chance a day and I squander it early on!

Then I read Paul's admonition in Philippians 2:14-16 and see an entirely different approach to complaining: Do everything readily and cheerfully -- no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You'll be living proof that I didn't go to all this work for nothing (The Message). The Living Bible starts off this directive with, Do everything without complaining and arguing. That's pretty clear. If we do everything readily and cheerfully, not complaining, we're a breath of fresh air to people around us. Fresh air -- that's what I'd really rather have come out of my mouth.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hymn of the Month - Creed

Today starts a series on the Apostles' Creed, a statement of the beliefs of the Christian church. It dates from the eighth century and is recognized by believers in Christ worldwide.

Maybe you are very familiar with the Apostles' Creed, maybe not. Each month during 2013 we will look at a portion of the Creed, with a hymn particularly relevant to that portion, celebrating the great truths upon which our faith is established.

We begin with Third Day and Brandon Heath filming a recording session of Creed, a song released by Rich Mullins in 1993. As they sing through the Apostles' Creed they also include a chorus which says:
And I believe that what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
the invention of any man.
Below the video are the actual words to the Apostles' Creed.

The Apostles' Creed

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick ad the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Monday, January 7, 2013

But Wait! There's More! (The Eclectic Reader, Part 2)

There was just too much to say last time in my post about books, so I'm going to keep on talking. I hope you are dazzled by the insights you receive from my thoughts!

When I read a book I enjoy, I look for other books by the same author. Nothing brilliant about that. But I also look at the reviews written on the very first pages of the book or the front or back cover. You know, those promotional notes written by other authors that tell you in a couple of sentences how lovely or articulate or groundbreaking (or whatever) the book is. As I read the reviews I jot down the books written by the reviewers. I've had the joy of discovering many books I'd never have thought to read if I hadn't met the author on the back of someone else's book.

Our pastors often mention books in their messages. So do radio preachers, leaders of seminars and classes, interesting guests on the radio or TV. National Public Radio (NPR) is a great source for finding out about amazing books! When a catalog or magazine arrives, I check it for books that pique my interest, then dash to the computer to see if the titles are available at the library. Sometimes my husband, Tom, tells me about an author he's reading and friends on Facebook mention books from time to time. I've even called in to a radio station and won books once or twice. I take advantage of every opportunity I can to find new authors.

I remember a conversation years ago with a group of women about books. "What are you reading these days?" asked a retired librarian. I blinked back tears as I told the gals that I hadn't read a book in a long time and didn't know if I'd ever be able to again. My boys were young and apart from the picture books and Bible stories we read with them at home, I simply didn't read. The women assured me that one day I would read again, but I didn't really believe them.

As the boys got older we began to read chapter books at dinner. We read adventure stories, fantasy, biographies, missionary stories, humor, even a little satire. We were still reading together as a family when they were young teens.

As they grew they became great readers. And I began to read more myself. I discovered Jan Karon's Mitford series, set in the North Carolina and peopled by friends I still think about many years later. I've read most of Francine Rivers' books, intricately woven biblical and historical fiction. Mindy Starns Clark's Million Dollar Mysteries were a nice balance of mystery and romance, as was her Jo Tulip series. I was finally able to stories by Bodie and Brock Thoene, books that focus on the creation of the state of Israel and introduced me to characters that became my friends. They are prolific writers and weave some of their characters through several series.

I have enjoyed the stories of George MacDonald, an author, poet and Christian minister whose life spanned most of the the 19th century. His writing is clever and winsome, his characters exhibit character, and good always wins in the end. Reorganizing a bookcase the other day I discovered MacDonald's trilogy, The Curate of Glasgow, unread, on a shelf. It's now in my queue for books to read.

So is Lynn Austin's Gods and Kings, Book One of her Chronicles of the Kings series. The series is among Tom's favorites -- he's read a lot of biblical fiction and this is a series he especially enjoyed -- so when I found this one for fifty cents at a used bookstore, I snatched it up.

One day I was at the Lynnwood library, waiting for one of my kids. I decided to look for some books, but I didn't have anything in mind. So I went into the fiction section and started browsing. The catch was that I told myself that I could only look at the books on the third shelf down. I moved from section to section, scanning the titles until I found something that sounded interesting. I'd pull it out, look it over, and put it in my pile or returned it to the shelf, then move on to the next section. Rather unorthodox, I suppose, but it entertained me for thirty minutes and it brought me hours of reading pleasure as I read through my finds.

I've written several posts about other books and series I've enjoyed. You'll find them by typing "books" in the query box on the top bar above the blog's header. (While you are looking for the query bar, you can also click on "More" and a list will drop down to give you ways to share my post with others. Just thought I'd mention it!)

I'm always looking for good books, and I suspect many of you are too, so why don't you take a minute and let us know what you've enjoyed. We'd like that.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Eclectic Reader

As I look at the list of library books that I have either on hold or checked out at the moment I see all the evidence I need to call myself an eclectic reader. Whereas some people prefer fiction or technical tomes, or maybe mysteries or home improvement books, I dabble in all kinds of genres.

Currently I have five books out from the library. A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen: Easy Seasonal Suppers for Family and Friends by Jack Bishop is to inspire some dishes that our wheat-free-dairy-free family with a son who is also vegetarian can all enjoy together. I got Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling by Helene Dujardin to give me some ideas on how to make my blog posts featuring a tasty recipe look more appealing. (Even I, who ate the delicious food I share on my blog, find my food photos quite unappetizing!) 

Then there's Little Bee, written by Chris Cleave. I'm not sure about this one. The flyleaf of the book does not reveal much about it, only that it is a truly special story. From the library website I see that it is about "the tenuous friendship that blooms between two disparate strangers -- one an illegal Nigerian refugee, the other a recent widow from suburban London." It's due in a few days, and if I don't get started on it I'll never know if I like it or not!

I was reading something online about Abraham Lincoln and saw a reference to a book called God Struck Me Dead: Voices of Ex-Slaves, edited by Clifton H Johnson. It was not in the Sno-Isle Library system, but they ordered it for me through Interlibrary Loan and it was sent to our library from the Seattle University Law Library! It put me off a bit, since I thought it might be a little heady for me, but I am enjoying reading the testimonies of men and women, former slaves, who had become Christians. It doesn't look like I'll be able to finish it before the three-week limit (that's all you get for an Interlibrary Loan book) but I'll have read enough to get a good sense of the African-American church in the late 1920s, when these stories were told.

When I picked up my books I was surprised to see that one was a beautiful children's picture book. I'd ordered it, but who knows how I found the title or what was in my mind when I put it on hold! It's called The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and is written by William Joyce as a way to celebrate the curative power of stories. It is delightful for any age reader, although I suspect it was probably written for kids. Oh, well. 

I see that the music book I put on hold, The Big Book of Broadway: Piano, Vocal, Guitar, has been shipped. I thought it might be fun to try to play some of the music from Les Miserables since seeing the movie the other day. Speaking of Les Miserables, we've ordered a couple of videos of the story, one done in 1998 and the other in 2011, a live production for the 25th Anniversary of the musical. We'll have to wait a while to see them, though, as we are number 20 on the waiting list for one and 49 on the list for the other.

My Canadian friend Lori introduced me to Emily Carr, who spent most of her life in Canada. and was both an author and a painter. Her Book of Small, which I began but did not get through, is especially sweet as she tells in simple phrases but great detail about her childhood in Victoria. Its on my holds list now so that I can finish reading it.

I saw a list of novels written by Northwest authors that sounded interesting to me. I put six of the titles on my hold. I'll let you know how I like them once I get a chance to read them. 

The only book I have on hold at the moment that is faith based is called An Altar in the World: a Geography of Faith, by Barbara Brown Taylor. Since I know very little about the book, even where I heard about it, I will wait till later to comment on it.

There you have it -- the library check-outs of an eclectic reader. There's a lot more I wanted to say about books today, but it's time to post and I still need to take a photo of the books. Too bad I haven't finished Plate to Pixel. I'm guessing I could apply her lessons of photographing food to getting good pictures of books too.

Stay tuned! If I make it through all of these books you will be the ones to benefit, what with my improved photography as well as my book reviews!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

This is the Year to Ponder

After the church service when we dedicated our son Samuel to the Lord twenty-one years ago, a dear godly man spoke to us of future things God had in store for our child. In so doing, he spoke a blessing over our baby.

When Tommy was seven, he and I spent time with a friend as he took us on a tour of Nintendo -- a kid's dream workplace!  As we were leaving, Mark turned to Tommy and encouraged him in the faith and gave him words of wisdom for his life. "He just blessed you!" I told Tommy as we left.

I was thinking of these two experiences today as I was finishing a study I've been doing on Mary, the mother of Jesus. (I've been slow to move away from the Christmas story this year.) In the study of Ann Spangler and Jean E Syswerda's book, Women of the Bible, the reader is told to choose an episode in Mary's life and imagine herself in Mary's place. I thought of her experience when she and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to be dedicated (Luke 2:21-40).

Mary had been through so much already -- the visit from the angel; the very difficult situation she found herself in with her family, Joseph, and the people of Nazareth; her time spent with Elizabeth; the trip to Bethlehem; Jesus' birth; the shepherds. Mary was young, barely a teenager. She must have had so many questions swirling around in her mind. And very few answers. She was a participant in a drama that was so much bigger than she was.

When Jesus was forty days old she and Joseph took him to the temple to be presented to the Lord. While there, Simeon, a righteous man who had been waiting for the consolation of Israel, approached them, took the baby in his arms, and praised God. He called Jesus a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. Later Anna, an elderly widow who never left the temple, recognized Jesus' purpose, gave God praise and spoke of the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

To see such reactions to her child must have stunned Mary. She knew her baby was special, that he was the Son of God, but with Simeon and Anna she received more information. Simeon had prayed, Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared, in the sight of all people. And to Mary he had said, This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too. Those aren't the kinds of things people say to new parents! We just don't talk about the rising and falling of people or swords piercing souls! What was Mary to do with that?

Perhaps she could have shared some of her thoughts with Joseph or her mother, or visited Elizabeth and told her what she'd heard. But I don't think she did, because we are told in Luke 2:19, after the visit of the shepherds, that Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Life is full of the unfathomable. There are certainly times to share our thoughts and concerns with other people. Maybe we want help interpreting our experience. Perhaps we need assurance or direction from another. But maybe we do too much sharing and not enough treasuring and pondering.

When our kids were little and life was coming at me hard and fast, Mom gave me a heart-shaped box where I could keep my thoughts and questions. We called it my Ponder Box.

As we start the new year, let's do less talking and more pondering. What we see day to day is just the slightest peek into what's happening around us. Pondering gives us a chance to watch in wonder as God works to bring things together. Being quiet before Him draws us closer to His heart. And isn't that where we really want to be?