Sunday, February 28, 2016

Do Not Worry

  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

  “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6: 25-31, NIV)

Every Sunday during Lent, I’ve been sharing Jesus’s beautiful words from The Sermon on the Mount in the book of Matthew. Aren’t these some of the most beautiful words ever written? Words will all need to take to heart. I surely cannot remember a time in my life when worrying solved any problems. Can you?

Lord, God, settle our hearts and minds so that we can rest in Your peace, knowing that You have all things taken care of. Amen.
No flowers yet...

Friday, February 26, 2016

Putting Frustration into Perspective

Last week Tuesday I gave a presentation to my local chapter of certified medical assistants. I really wanted to tell them all about and show them pictures of Kenya, but to get CEU credit, I had to tailor it to fit the health care field in America. So the topic was “Poverty in America and Its Effects on Health”. Denise, my partner in crime on the trip to Kenya last fall, is going to give the same presentation with me tomorrow for the state CMAs. We are tying the many examples of poverty we witnessed in Kenya into our talk.

In preparation for both presentations I had printed off not only the outline of the talk, but several pages of highlighted articles off of the internet to use as reference. When I started setting up last Tuesday’s talk I could not find any of those papers in any of the stuff I had taken along. I didn’t sweat it, I could wing it. I would find the papers at home that night and slap myself upside the head.

Alas. The papers weren’t anywhere to be found at my house. Or in any of my bags or my car or anywhere else that I have traversed in the last ten days. Not a problem, right? Because I surely saved my work on the computer and can just print off more pages for the talk tomorrow. No, of course, I did not do that.

I spent all of last night searching the house and both my computers one more time, but to no avail. I even went online to find those articles again and start from scratch. That was an exhausting search which ended nearly as quickly as it began. In frustration.

It’s not like I don’t have enough good and accurate information for this talk on Saturday. I still do have the complete outline and the powerpoint. It’s just - argh – you know – one of those things that makes you think are losing your mind. Or at least makes you want to just punch something.

As I started writing this rant, this is what came up as my scrolling desktop picture on my laptop.

This is on the grounds of Southern Cross Academy at the SIDP at Maai Mahiu. I’ve written about this school many times. This foundation was supposed to be where a community center was going to be, but funds and volunteers to build it petered out. I just needed that picture to put it all back into perspective.

Maybe our talk tomorrow won’t have all the bells and whistles I would like, but it not only has a foundation, it has walls, a roof, and windows. Or at least I hope that’s what the attendees think. And if they don’t like it, well, if our presentation has a door, they can go out it. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - Topi

I first met the Topi on safari in 2006. Before that, I don’t know if I knew they existed. Of course, I should admit I don’t think that I knew half the animals of East Africa existed until then and I’m pretty sure I thought that there was only one type of antelope. No, I take that back, I knew there was an impala, and that’s just coz Mom owned a Chevrolet impala when I was a kid (it was a white boat of a car and was replaced in the mid-1970s by an AMC matador – now that car brings back memories, but I digress).

The topi is a medium­-sized antelope with a deep red-brown coat and distinct black patches on the face, the upper forelegs, and on the hips and thighs. His tan legs make it look like he is wearing stockings. He is a beautiful creature. 
 Although not quite as large as his relative the hartebeest, the topi has a similar body shape. The female topi is usually lighter in color than the male. Both sexes have thick, heavily ringed horns that are about 21 inches long.

The topi is a picky eater, eating only grass. If they have access to plenty of green grass, they can go without water for long periods of time. 
 They are extroverted and even mingle outside of their species, such as with wildebeest and zebras, which we witnessed a lot. Sometimes it was hard to tell if the topis knew just what herd they belonged to. 
 God gave the mother-to-be topi a wonderful gift. The females can actually delay giving birth if they sense immediate danger. Of course, when us human mothers are close to going into labor it is only our male partners who are in danger – and that would be from incurring our wrath when the cool rag they put on our forehead is not the right temperature or they are not applying the right amount of pressure on our aching lower back or they tell us we are doing fine when we are trying to push what feels like a fully-inflated basketball out of our bottom. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Give to Everyone

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:16-24, New International Version)

I look around my modest house, I look at my closet full of clothes (many from the second-hand store), I look at my cupboards full of food, and I think I have got so much. God has blessed me more than I deserve. I need to give some of this away to the poor. Why do I have so much stuff and live in such a big house? What master am I really serving? God or money?

Lord, God, thank you for all that you have given me, so many good and gracious things, and thank you most of all for sending Jesus into my life.  Help me to serve the poor and share all that I have, including the Good News of salvation. In Jesus name, Amen
The snow is receding from the flower pot - well not yet this year, as this picture is from a few years ago. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Dino the wonder dog and the most useless cats

I was going to share a Wildlife Wednesday post today, but ended up dealing with other wildlife.

I suppose I shouldn't bash my four cats completely in this post, as Alice initially discovered our problem last week when she spent several days studying part of a wall in my house. Hubby thought she must be hearing something, but I claimed she was either crazy or it was just our ghost. Until Sunday when I heard distinct scratching coming from inside that wall. Oh, nuts, I thought, there is something - or someone - in that wall.

Monday, Hubby and I spent a rare quiet day off of work until he woke me up from a mid-day nap.

"I found what was in the wall." While he was in the basement, he watched a tiny mole scampered back and forth three times.

I went outside and called in the three outside cats. The two boys, Ches and Fred, came running, but Betty remained typically aloof. She knew something must be up. Needless to say, none of them seemed at all interested in looking for any type of prey in the basement or anywhere else in the house. They were more than happy to curl up on the couch and sleep - the couch I had hoped to still be napping on.

We put mouse traps on the store slip.

When I got home from a meeting last night, I went downstairs to get something from the freezer for a late supper. Dino and Alice had found something of interest near the cat food bin. Sure enough, there was the little mole nibbling on spilled catfood crumbs. Dino took chase, while Alice stepped back in confusion. To her credit she only weighs a couple pounds and surely figured that the dog had this covered. The mole scooted under the basement stairs.

I sighed, hoping this wouldn't be a long night. How wrong I was.

A short time later, while in the living room beginning to write that Wildlife Wednesday blog, something scurried through my peripheral vision. Dang, the rodent had made his way upstairs already. Dino however was on it.
Where is that little mole?
Keep looking for it, Dino.
Betty cannot believe that I think she should go after that rodent.
Fred and Alice are mildly curious, but not about to jump into action.
When the mole finally came out from hiding, Dino grabbed it and flung it in that direction. It wasn't moving much when I set the bucket over the top of it.
Oh, sure now Ches shows up. Useless cat!
Dino wouldn't leave his prey until Daddy got home.
Good thing I'm married to an employee of the department of corrections. Even though he got home at 11:00 pm after a 16 hour shift, he was willing to evict the critter from the house.
I thought that Dino had only stunned the rodent, but when Hubby flung it out into the yard, he deemed it deader than a doornail. Teamwork, that's all I can say.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love Everyone

Last Sunday, I wrote that for the following six Sundays, until Easter, I would post verses taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The following passages seemed rather appropriate considering that many are celebrating St Valentine’s Day today.

Eye for Eye
 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies
 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 38-48, New International Version)

Giving to the Needy
 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4, New International Version)

Hopefully, not just today, but every day, you are kind and giving to your loved ones. But what are you doing to show your love towards others? Strangers? The Poor? Those who have wronged you?

Lord God, send your Holy Spirit into my heart so that I can be loving to others, whether I know them or not. Help me to care for all of Your children as You care for me. Amen 
There are no flowers here to give on Valentine's Day. Will there be flowers by Easter? 

Friday, February 12, 2016

My Take on Valentine's Day

I don’t believe that I have ever written about St Valentine before. Probably because I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, viewing it as another day for the greeting card manufacturers and flower growers to make an extra buck.

So where did Valentine’s Day come from? Was there a real person named Valentine and why did he become the patron saint of engaged couples, marriage and lovers?

No one seems to know for sure. Supposedly there was a real man named St Valentine and he is believed to have lived in the third century. There also were possibly three men known as St Valentine around this time, so who knows what to believe.

Whether true or not, the story about Valentine that I like the best and which seems to make the most sense when making him the patron saint of love is this one. The emperor was busy sending men off to war, which seemed to be quite popular even previous to that according to the many stories of war in the Bible. This required many able-bodied men, and it was thought that married men made bad soldiers because they didn’t want to leave their wives behind and they certainly didn’t want to die for the cause and never return to their beloved. So the king ruled that young men couldn’t get married. Along comes the priest Valentine who defied this order and began marrying young couples in secret. When he was found out, he was imprisoned and eventually executed.

There are a lot more stories, none of which have been proven. One such legend is that on the day he was to be executed (which was February 14, of course), Valentine sent a note to a girl who he had cured of blindness. The note was signed, “Your Valentine”, which is where the tradition of signing cards that way this time of year comes from.

I am somewhat of a curmudgeon when it comes to romance. Cards and roses are a waste of money. Going out to eat at a fancy restaurant is a waste of money and a waste of time. And who wants to get dressed up for dinner anyway when they can eat a bowl of cereal in their jammies on the couch? And if hubby is in his chair next to me and we are watching “The Princess Bride” for the hundredth time, that’s all the romance I need. 
Is there anything more sexy than a man in his chair with his cats? 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Getting Ready for Lent

Matthew Chapter 5, beginning at verse 1

 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them.

He said:

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
 Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

(Matthew 5:1-12, New International Version)

Lent starts this Wednesday, six weeks of preparation for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. For many, it is a time for repentance, self-examination and reflection. Many will also choose to give up something (chocolate!) or to volunteer and give of themselves for others. Last year, an acquaintance of mine sent a card each day (40 in total) to someone who they admired or felt was living out their Christian faith or just made a difference. There are probably lots of other ways you can observe Lent and grow in your faith. Hopefully, anyone who observes Lent in any of these ways is doing so to focus their heart and mind on Jesus, and not to satisfy some manmade requirements. Whatever you do, do it for the right reasons.

That being said, I once again wanted to write my Sunday blogs during Lent around a central theme. I was thinking about sharing one of Jesus’ parables each week, but when I started looking at them in my Bible, the Beatitudes jumped out at me. Aren’t these beautiful verses? They are also the first verses of the Sermon on the Mount, which you just might get to read more of over the next six weeks.

In the meantime,

Lord, God Heavenly Father, open our hearts and minds to Your word, not only between now and Easter but every day of the year. Amen. 
One of my flower pots buried under snow. In six weeks will it have emerged?

Friday, February 5, 2016

What was amazing for you this week?

Besides writing something for the Dino Chronicles three times a week, I write twice a week on another blog, writing what i can when i can. This second blog was inspired by the Round of Words in 80 Days, which is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Basically, you get to pick your goals for the 80 days of the Round and then post about them twice a week. Of course, you then turn around and see how your fellow bloggers are doing and cheer them on by posting comments on their blogs and it’s like a big happy family after while.

The first and foremost goal of one of these bloggers is to find something amazing that happened each week, a tiny seemingly insignificant moment which seems like a gift from God. Every time I read her blog and what inspired her that week, I think to myself, “I need to do that.”

And then I forget to even look for those things.

A week ago, I found such a thing. Or, as always, it found me.

I had been out of town for the day to a friend’s house. As I drove through the nearest town and past the local high school, I passed a car accident - someone had been rear-ended. A teen-age girl was sitting on the side of the road, sobbing, while a teen-age boy tried comforting her as he talked on his cell phone. There didn’t appear to be any physical injuries, and there was already another stopped car, so I kept driving, sending up prayers for the girl and the others involved.

At the next town, I stopped for gas. I pulled back on the highway and as I got to the end of the block, someone in a mini-van pulled out in front of me. I stepped on the brakes, knowing better than to slam on them because my car has the habit of not even slowing down when I do that (which I blame on those anti-lock brakes, even though our mechanic has told me the last two times he rotated my tires that I need new brakes).

My car stopped about a foot from the mini-van, a minor miracle considering those bad brakes of mine. The woman driving the van threw her hand over her mouth, knowing that she had nearly caused the accident. I waved her on, what else could I do. It had been close but everything worked out.

I sent up a prayer of thanks and another prayer for the girl in the accident that had occurred. It could so easily have been me that day. 
The accident two years ago that I couldn't avoid, but even that turned out okay.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

things that pop up

I wasn’t going to write about this – I don’t like sharing my personal life that is about people in my life unless they live or have lived under my roof – but then something popped up on Facebook tonight. 

An article that Pete Seeger, age 94, had passed away. In truth, he passed away two years ago on January 27. But if you are on Facebook much, you may have noticed that things pop up from who knows where or when. This particular snippet, however, was sent directly to me for this express purpose of this blog.

Pete Seeger, for you younger folks, was a folksinger in the 1940s and 1950s, writing songs such as “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”.  His song “Turn, Turn, Turn”, based on the book of Ecclesiastes, helped to inspire my memoir, “A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven”. But he was also a rebel for his time, protesting war and admitting to being a communist. We think sometimes we live now in times of protest and rebellion, but it has been going on for years, and people like Pete Seeger led the way.

But that’s not who I’m writing about. Thinking about Mr. Seeger, naturally reminded me of Woody Guthrie. Which of course won’t mean much to many of you. Woody Guthrie, born in Oklahoma in 1912, was the original American folksinger and a friend of Seeger's. He would travel throughout the country during the 1930s, writing countless ballads about life in the Dust Bowl. His most famous song, “This Land is Your Land”, was sung in lots of elementary schools during my childhood, I don’t know if it still is.

If anyone reading this, remembers Woody Guthrie, you may or may not know what claimed his life at the young age of 55. Huntington’s Disease. I won’t copy and paste, so you can read about it here.

The personal part is that my Uncle Bob died from it in 1978 and my cousin Phil in 2000. And yesterday, Phil’s beautiful 30 year old daughter, sweet Erin went to be with them.

Sometimes, Lord, things just don’t make sense.     
Uncle Bob and Aunt Helen's wedding in 1942
Philip and Erlene's wedding in 1979
Erin at her sister Sara's wedding in 2015