Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dream Summer: First Minutes in Yellowstone

A horse sidled up beside me and the cowboy riding it tipped his hat in a way that said, “Howdy, Ma’am.” On our way over the Big Horn Mountains to Yellowstone, we’d been caught in a cattle drive. A first for me. I recently heard a woman share about her struggle to adjust to country life after a move from a metropolitan area. She said, “I’m mostly city and cement.”  


Though it’d been some time since we’d had an historical encounter with Lewis and Clark, we found they indirectly named these mountains. They’d given the Bighorn River its moniker on their return from the Pacific. The mountains were named for the river that runs through them. There’s no hurrying a cattle drive, so we just inched along on our way to Yellowstone surrounded by cows the color of dark chocolate.  

Once we passed the cattle drive, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the altimeter my dad had installed in the van we borrowed from him. Yes, altimeter. An Air Force veteran, he liked aeronautical gadgets. We’d begun at about 4,650 feet at Buffalo. At 8,000 feet, we stopped at Ten Sleep Creek and took some pictures. Then we crested the mountain. 

I’ve never understood the meaning of the word “switchback” until we crossed the Bighorns. I do now. Switchbacks are the only way engineers can cut roads across some of these mountains.  

The elevation is high. 

The drop offs sheer. 

 Be still my heart. 

We weren’t quite up to speed on how to take these mountains, and we began to smell brakes. We needed to pull over and let them cool a bit, and the place we chose turned out to be a United Methodist Youth Camp in the town of Ten Sleep. As we waited, we went inside the chapel there and hanging on the wall was what would be one of my next Vacation Bible School projects. Composed of foam sheets made by individual children, they were woven together to make this wonderful wall hanging. I loved it and had such joy in remembering its origin later when I helped the children at our church create the same thing.  

When we finally made it to Yellowstone, just inside the east gate, we saw a crowd of people stopped along the road forming what we later learned was a “bear jam.” We stopped to see what was happening. 

About fifty yards away, a grizzly ambled toward us (left middle ground in the above picture) . Astounding. People come to Yellowstone for years and never see a grizzly and here we were only minutes inside the park. We felt safe enough at first, but when he started moving in our direction, we headed for the car. In the next few miles, we’d see both bull elk and buffalo.  

Both my children kept journals on this journey as part of a home school assignment. Aaron had made hardly any notations in his up until this point. But these wildlife sightings ignited his creative energy. He grabbed his journal and tried to record all he saw. 

I recently came across this journal.

"I just saw a GRIZZLY bear!!!" he writes. "Two minutes later. I just saw two BUFFALO!"

As I held it in my hand and thought of his bedroom walls full of wildlife prints, I wondered how much those first few minutes in Yellowstone helped move him toward  his current goal of becoming a wildlife biologist.

I don’t know, but I do know I’ll never forget those precious days of discovery we had together as a family. And I believe God who cares about all the details of our lives sent those animals along that day just to make glad the heart of my little son. 

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Love Covers

I learned of a conversation recently where a parent was engaging a teenager about an issue in the teen’s life on which they held differing opinions. The child who’d struggled with faith issues said to the parent, “I want to be very angry with you, and push you away, but I can’t. You’ve been good parents, and I know you love me so much.”

When I heard this, a Bible verse, which appears twice in different forms, came to mind.

First from Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs,” and from I Peter 4:8,”Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

To make sure I understood this, I looked up the word cover from the Proverbs text in the Hebrew. It means clothe, conceal, hide, overwhelm. For the I Peter text, I sought out the Greek word, which also means cover or hide.

Eugene Peterson translates the Proverbs verse this way, “Hatred starts fights, but love pulls a quilt over the bickering.”

A wedding ring quilt made by Mr. Joe Sanders for Jerry and me when we were married
And when I turned to I Peter, I found these words in The Message, “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.”

It bears repeating, “Love makes up for practically anything.”

In matters of the heart, when the rift runs deep, love on. Despite the heartache, despite the differences and the seemingly impossible to resolve dispute, keep loving. Love “…always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” I Corinthians 13:7-8).

Of course, our love can fail, but God’s love never does.

One dark Friday, on a Judean hillside, God overwhelmed our sins through the death of his Son. On that day love didn’t just make up “…for practically anything,” it made up for everything.

Once and for all, love covered.

If you’re in the middle of dissension today, love on, for through you God wants to overwhelm, cover, and hide whatever it is that’s causing the trouble.

Repeat often, “Love covers.”

I do.

(I feel I need to add a disclaimer here, loving doesn't mean staying in abusive situations)

I'm reposting this from the June archives to tie into Ann Voskamp's theme for "Walk with Him Wednesdays."

Monday, July 25, 2011

One Ringing Bell News Update: Lucy to the Rescue, Again, and other news

ONE RINGING BELL NEWS UPDATE—The staff at HQ has enjoyed watching several recent sporting events including the Women’s World Cup and the British Open. The animals at headquarters also seemed to have been swept into the excitement.

The tuxedo, Wilbur, has been especially mesmerized by the television coverage.

Here he is watching the United States and France match.

And again keeping an eye on the ball during the British open.

Wilbur, a muscular boy already, shows strong promise for future sports participation. And with this early interest, why he might turn up in some world events himself.

In other news, the staff at HQ recently had an opportunity to take a long needed respite from their daily responsibilities. On arriving at their seaside vacation spot, one junior staff member overheard a conversation between Lucy and Charlie who'd accompanied them on the trip.

“The new bed the staff purchased for me is really hard. I toss and turn all night,” The senior poodle Charles commented. “If they had to sleep on this bed, they wouldn’t put up with it for one night.”

“Hmm,” Lucy said. “I think I may be able to help you with that.”

Excited about the vacation, the staff member dismissed the conversation thinking only that Lucy might make an appeal for a new bed on Charlie’s behalf.

You can imagine the shock of all the Ringing Bell staff when they returned from a few hours at the ocean and found this scene.

Lucy had decided to take matters into her on hands. She carefully removed all the stuffing from the outer covering of the new bed, and chewed up the inner covering. While she was on a roll, she also ate her dog food, paper plate and all, pulled down a curtain and yanked a blanket onto the floor. 

But, Lucy and Charlie’s plan worked. A junior associate pushed all the stuffing back into the outer covering, and a senior staff member sewed up all the holes. Charlie slept peacefully on his new much fluffier bed.

“Thanks, Lucy,” someone later heard him murmur in his sleep.

Even when away from headquarters, the animal antics just keep rolling.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones"( Proverbs 17:22).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dream Summer: Snakes, Alligators and Frogs

Yes, that’s mostly what we saw when we visited Reptile Gardens, a stop on the way from our hotel room in Rapid City to Mt. Rushmore. I want to support my herpetologically inclined son in all his endeavors, but he has stretched me to the limit on this one. I’ve spent many a Saturday out a local nature center on Snake Day studying all types of snakes. I never thought a copperhead and I would be nose to nose with only a quarter inch of glass between us.

But we have. Many times. 

That’s only the beginning. For example, one day Aaron brought in a green racer wrapped around a pencil. 

“Oh, Mom, isn’t he cute?” he asked as he shoved the snake up to eye level.

 With game face on, I said, “He’s just a doll, but I bet he’s looking for something outside.”

He retreated to the yard and let him go. Whew! On other days, we’ve had any number of frogs, lizards, and snakes in the reptile ranch in Aaron’s bedroom. (For those who might not know, a reptile ranch is just a plastic reptile enclosure. Ours is almost worn out.) And how can I forget Blackie, a King Snake who lived in our yard and was the resident rodent remover. I actually kind of liked him. In fact, I was upset when he wandered into a neighbor‘s yard and met an untimely death to decapitatation. 

Aaron had seen the signs on the road for Reptile Gardens which claimed to have the largest collection of reptiles in the world, and that was it. Once more, I was nose to nose with critters I’d normally walk a hundred miles to avoid. On our field trip form, Aaron made me write his favorite part was Death Row. I’d almost forgotten that. He hadn’t. It featured the ten most venomous snakes in the world. \

Oh, bliss.

Aaron had his picture made with a reticulated python and another shot with an alligator.

Nobody asked me, but my favorites were the prairie dogs in the outdoor exhibits.

Aaron bought a black tee shirt emblazoned on the back with large white letters, which read, “Go Wrestle a Gator.” Weeks later Aaron would be wearing that shirt just below me on a down escalator in the Boston Subway system. Two construction workers laboring in the “Big Dig” walked down beside me. One of them punched his buddy in the ribs and pointed to Aaron.

“Hey man, look at that kid’s shirt.”

All I could say was, “That’s my boy.”

Words of Jesus that I pray for my son, "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you" (Luke 10:19).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dream Summer: The Badlands

After several hours on the western side of the Missouri in South Dakota, I began to understand why people see mirages in the desert. I kept seeing one that looked like a Cracker Barrel. 

Where were we going to stop, eat lunch, and stretch our legs? After miles of desolate sameness, we finally spotted some signs about an 1880’s replica town in Murdo. 

“Let’s stop,” I said to Jerry.

“Probably a tourist trap,” he said.

I gave him my nonnegotiable look. He stopped.

Turned out to be a good idea, if I do say so myself. The kids played checkers while they drank their sodas, and Bethany dressed up as an 1880’s belle. The owners had gone to some lengths to make the place as authentic as possible and still have it be a fun attraction for kids.

It was so much fun, we had a little trouble leaving, but we were close to the Badlands Entrance—a destination we had long anticipated.

Driving through the Badlands National Park is like driving on to another planet. The windswept terrain is unlike anything else on earth according to many who’ve circled the globe. The short loop through the park begins on I-90 and makes a forty mile circle back to Wall, South Dakota. There is a desolate beauty about the Badlands. But because of its unpredictable landscape, the French trappers and Native Dakota Americans found this part of the country a “bad land” to cross over.

I eyed the gorgeous layers of sediment and rock banding the buttes. Out west, it was always tempting to do what Lucille Ball did in the movie, The Long, Long Trailer. She picked up a rock from every place she and Desi’s character went when they’d toured the country. Those rocks nearly sent their trailer plunging over a cliff when they crossed the Rockies. Aside from the similar danger of adding more weight to our already full van, I knew the National Park service would not be happy. We tried to leave as invisible a footprint as possible.

“Everybody put on your shoes, we’re getting out,” I said as I scanned the park service brochure. “We’re coming up to Journey Overlook.”

I turned around in my seat to see if the kids were ready and discovered Bethany had put on her flip-flops.

“Why do I have to put on shoes?” she cried clutching her flip-flops to her feet.

I pointed to the rocks. “Look, you might slip trying to climb in flip-flops,” I explained. “This is for your own safety.” 

“I won’t slip,” she said.

“Just put on the tennis shoes,” I insisted. Why were we always struggling over shoes?

 A scowl spread across her face. She put them on, but she was not happy, and made no secret of it.

We explored a few of the overlooks, took pictures and returned to the van. There was a deafening silence coming from the back seat. Sometimes the silent treatment could be a blessing. As we neared dinner, stomachs began to growl, which only added to the shoe debacle. I was beginning to get what the Native Americans meant when they said this was a bad land to cross over.

It took about thirty minutes to get to Wall, South Dakota, our next stop. Just before we arrived, I turned around and saw my daughter drawing on a tablet.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

Without speaking, she handed over the tablet. What I saw stunned me. She’d captured in colored pencil the rainbow layers of fossilized sediment that appeared in the rock formations—a masterpiece from a six year old and probably one of the best drawings she’d ever done.

 “It’s what I did with my madness.”

“This is beautiful,” I told her. She let go a smile. 

For years, we’d encouraged our children to do something constructive with their anger like run laps or kick a ball. Amazingly, she’d gotten it this time. Oh, how I wished I’d always created beauty from my anger.

As surprising as this painting was, nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. When we finally got to Wall, we felt like we’d crossed the Sahara. Thirsty and hungry, we went where all tourists go—Wall Drugs. We sat down at a table in their dining room and studied the menu. When the server, I couldn’t believe it when Bethany, the queen of all finicky eaters. ordered a buffalo burger.

Drop my jaw.

I never dreamed she’d actually eat it. But she did, the whole thing.

The story of Wall Drugs captured our interest. In 1931,Ted and Dorothy Hustead were considering buying a drug store in Wall, South Dakota. Their families were not encouraging. “That town is in the middle of nowhere,” a cousin said, “and furthermore, everybody there is flat broke busted.” The depression had not been kind to the people of Wall. 

But after much prayer, the Husteads decided to go ahead with their purchase. In 1936, after five discouraging years they were nearing the end of their resources trying to establish a viable business. Then in July of that year, Dorothy had the idea to draw in the hot thirsty tourists traveling on 16A by offering them free ice water. They put signs on the highway and the rest is history. At the time of our trip, about twenty thousand people a day came during the summer.

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters..." (Isaiah 55:1).

There's a chapel for travellers at Wall Drugs, as the owners have never forgotten how it all started.

With prayer, it’s amazing what God can do in the middle of nowhere.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

His Nature and His Name is Love

The other morning as I walked early with Lucy, I came upon this scene.
A verse came to mind from a Charles Wesley hymn taken from Genesis 32:24-32, "Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown."

Jacob wrestled with a man all night. At dawn, the man touched Jacob’s hip socket, but Jacob still would not release the man. “But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’” (vs. 26).

The man said, “…Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome” (vs.28).

When Jacob asked the man’s name, he answered, “Why do you ask my name? Then he blessed him there” (vs.29).

Wesley’s conclusion to the story goes this way:

     Tis Love? ‘tis Love! Thou diedst for me, I hear thy whisper in my heart.
     The morning breaks, the shadows flee, pure, Universal Love thou art.
     To me, to all, thy mercies move; thy nature and thy name is Love.
     To me, to all, thy mercies move; thy nature and thy name is Love.

At dawn, Jacob received a new name. At dawn, God blessed him. At dawn, Jacob knew the God of love.

May you meet God in the morning as the one who imparts your identity,the one who blesses you and who, in Wesley’s words, reveals himself as the one whose nature and name is Love.

To read more of the fourteen verses of this hymn, click here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The 2011 Christy Awards

Last evening, I had the honor of attending the 2011 Christy Awards held in Atlanta this year. The Christy, taken from the name of Catherine Marshall’s novel, is given for excellence in Christian fiction. 

Jerry and I managed to maneuver through rush hour traffic to make it to the Regency Hyatt downtown on time ( a rare occurence for us), and from the moment we entered the area where attendees congregated, it seemed a time of wonder. 

It was good to be with many folks I’ve known for years including my friend, Rusty Whitener and his wife Rebecca. Rusty, a finalist in the First Novel category, also made the finalists for Contemporary Fiction for his novel, A Season of Miracles. We spoke with Cindy Sproles of Christian Devotions.U.S., Vonda Skelton, Elizabeth Musser, Ane Mulligan, and Gina Holmes, a finalist in First Novel. We later shared a laugh with Robert and Kathy Whitlow.
Jerry, Bev, Rusty, Rebeca
We eventually took our seats for the banquet, and I found myself beside Susan Osborne, long time industry professional, who knows absolutely everyone. How I enjoyed her effervescent personality.

Another special treat--Liz Curtis Higgs, the Master of Ceremonies for the evening, kept us laughing with her quick wit (shown right).

As I’ve mentioned before on One Ringing Bell, the author Debbie Macomber suggests making a list of people you’d like to meet. The keynote speaker at the Christy’s heads the top of my “want to meet” list: Randall Wallace. According to the back cover of his book The Touch, which he so generously gave away to attendees last evening, Wallace “is an author, screenwriter, director, producer, and songwriter. He directed the movie Secretariat. His other films include Braveheart, Pearl Harbor, and We were Soldiers.”
Jerry and I watched Secretariat several times when Jerry faced cancer., and it profoundly affected us. So, I was glad Jerry could be with me.                                                                   

Wallace’s message both challenged and encouraged those attending, but two things stand out in my mind. “It’s more powerful to believe than to know,” he said, and then shared that he is well versed in Christian dogma, but what's more powerful is to believe God’s message. It’s the difference between knowing the facts and believing the truth.

He also said, “Stories give us our identity.” Many of us can point to a book or movie, which we latched onto as sort of a banner. Jesus used story to communicate his powerful message. For all of us in the audience who feel called to tell stories, this was a huge encouragement but also served to raise the bar, to make us think about the identity we might be giving away through our stories.

As Brandilyn Collins prayed a concluding prayer, it was also a night of remembering that it’s all about Jesus. It’s all about what he’s called us to do.
What a night of joy! My face hurt from smiling so much when I went to bed last night. Many congratulations to the winners, which you may read here. But, really, after a night like last night, I think every person there felt like a winner.

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dream Summer: Crossing the Missouri

In Sioux City, we departed for a time from the Missouri River as it turned west, but we continued north for the next eighty-five miles to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where we made a hard left turn.

Almost imperceptibly at first, the terrain began to change. We began the ascent we’d seen on the topo map back at the Western Historic Trails Center. I started visualizing the jagged twelve and fourteen thousand foot summits of the Rockies ahead of us.

 “Didn’t you say we rejoined the Missouri at some point?” Jerry asked from the driver’s side. 

For most of the journey, I occupied the seat of navigator. I checked the mileage. “We ought to be close.” In a moment, we topped a rise, and right before us lay the magnificent Missouri River valley. As we lifted our eyes to the west side of the river—the oddest thing came into view. 

We learned later that on the east side of the river, the green agricultural endeavors were sustained by irrigation. On the west side, there was no irrigation but what seemed to be an ocean of black desert dirt. Now I know it’s Pierre Shale, a grayish black sediment that was a shallow sea bottom in prehistoric times. Ancient sea creatures including fish, marine lizards, flying reptiles, and sea turtles have been found in this shale. We were finally getting to the Great American West.

“It looks like a painting,” Aaron said awestruck from the back seat.

“Yeah,” we all said in wide-eyed wonder.

We ambled into a local eating establishment, Al’s Oasis, and sidled up to a table for our grub for the night. At the time, they still boasted five-cent coffee, and that was good enough for me. I was disappointed however when they didn’t serve it in a tin cup.

Windows overlooking the Missouri surrounded our indoor pool for the evening. We’d captured a five star view at a two star price. We’d not made a single reservation before we left home, but carried a book for RV owners, which listed lodging at all interstate stops across the country. When we figured out where we might end up at the end of the day, I’d start calling to get a reservation. Our first criterion was an indoor pool, then after that, it really didn’t matter as long as we could fit into the room. It was potluck as to what kind of situation we’d have. This time, we’d gotten prime rib.

Jerry and I sat in the hot tub and watched the kids splashing in the kiddie’s pool. “This is great,” he said slipping down a little further in the water.

“Did you know Lewis and Clark stopped almost at this very spot two hundred years ago?” I asked him.

No response. I don’t think he heard me, apparently lost in the sound of bubbling water. 

Too bad he couldn’t hold on to that feeling the next morning.

“Battery’s dead,” Jerry said silhouetted darkly against the early morning light as he stood in the open door of our hotel. He closed the door a little too hard. “We left a light on in the van. Where’s the jump box?”

“It’s not in here,” I said. I’d already packed the room, and hadn’t seen it.

“Has to be,” he said as he moved suitcases and looked under the bed. “I always bring it in at night to recharge it.”

Jerry poked around a little, went to the van, and returned with the jump box. “I forgot to bring it in last night. It’s dead.” He dropped down on the bed and shook his head.

I felt for him.

Due to some problem, we had to run the refrigerator in the van off the jump box during the day to keep juices cold, and recharge the box at night in the hotel room. The one night we forgot to bring in the box was the one night we needed it to recharge the battery in the van. 

“I saw a repair shop around the corner,” Jerry said. “I’ll walk down and see if they can help.”

He returned fifteen minutes later with another jump box just like ours. “Twenty dollars,” is all he said. But the tautness of his jaw told the rest of the story.

It worked great, though, and we were on our way in no time. I figured out it’d be best if I didn’t mention the jump box again, at least for the next ten years. That time has passed now. 

As we crossed over the Missouri River into the bareness of Pierre Shale, I cracked open my Streams in the Desert Devotional as I normally did every morning. Almost unbelievably, the reading for the day was this:

                God has His mountains bleak and bare where He does bid us rest awhile;
                Crags where we breathe a purer air,

                Lone peaks that catch the day’s first smile.
                God has His deserts broad and brown-a solitude-a sea of sand.
                Where he does let heaven’s curtain down, unknit by His almighty hand.

As I took in the view and deeply inhaled the South Dakota air, I turned and said to my children the first of at least a hundred times, “Do you know how blessed you are?”

They didn’t and for that matter, I didn’t either. I just had the strong impression there was something incredibly rare about these precious days we had together as a family. A few weeks later on a September morning, I’d have an even greater understanding of their significance.

Meanwhile, I was learning how refreshing a desert could be.

“I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gideon Iraq

Rodney Marett, along with his wife Lori, founded the Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival In 2008. Since then, God has done amazing things through the connections made at these conferences. The Maretts have been such a blessing to me, because it was through an appointment I had with Dave Moody last year at the Gideon that my screenplay for Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees was optioned.

Rodney recently took a job as a contract medic in Iraq, even though it meant leaving his family for a season. He and Lori both believed God leading them in this direction, and just after he arrived, he attended a church service.

In Rodney’s words, “the chaplain talked about how Christ has never quit and that He never quits on us. So, I went back to my room and was really thinking of the message…

Lori and I had always talked about that God was going to use me in some way while I was working here. So, later that night, I got the idea of doing a faith based movie night, talked to Lori, to see what she thought, and then I emailed the chaplains and they loved the idea. Told all our film friends on Face book and then I pretty much got out of the way and let God handle the rest. We opened up this past Friday night …

It’s been a real blessing to me and I'm really excited about what God is doing here with the military.”

That‘s how the Gideon in Iraq was launched. He now holds weekly faith based film nights, which contract workers, and military personnel including officers attend. Due to his connections in the Christian film industry, Rodney has been able to secure films such as Jericho, No Greater Love, The Cross and the Towers, and Saving God. Tonight he’s showing Lost Boy, the story of mega-church pastor Greg Laurie.

Remarkable. In fact, every time I think about what God is doing through Rodney, I get a little teary eyed. It’s such a marvelous example of God at work using Rodney through this assignment to “…go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19).

It also reflects how God uses us in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves, and might perhaps move us to ask, “How am I allowing God to use me in my current situation?”

Something to think about.

If you're interested in film production or screenwriting from a Christian world view, please check out the Gideon Film Festival which is being held August 6-11.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

ONE RINGING BELL NEWS UPDATE: Eloise's Exit and Wilbur's Employment

This is a continuing series. For more posts, click on the One Ringing Bell News Update label below.

ONE RINGING BELL HEADQUARTERS—Here at HQ, we’re bidding a fond farewell to Eloise, one of our triplets. Eloise’s new loving staff is Betty and Griff (Betty shown holding Wilbur. A very blurry Eloise in foreground). As with Sara’s staff, Betty and Griff have many associates to help them with the care and feeding of Eloise.

For now, Carl will be taking over Eloise’s job as printing supervisor (shown here with Carl in training).

Though we’ll miss Eloise, we’ve already heard she’s adjusting well at her new headquarters, and we'll continue to bring you periodic updates.

Meanwhile, Wilbur has accepted a permanent position with the animal brigade at HQ.

He’ll be focusing on four areas of responsibility.

Computer screen cleanliness: Screen is shown just one swipe away from being dust free.

Tassel maintenance: We all know how unruly those pesky tassels can be

Laundry inspection: Just to double check for stray bits of Purina Kitten Chow

Lucy Grooming: Why, with all her digging in the back yard, someone had to take over the job of keeping Aunt Lucy’s face clean.

As you can see, Wilbur will be challenged in many ways, and we hope we’ve not overloaded him. But his mother, Belle, has promised to assist in the event Wilbur falls behind.

Upstairs cats, Isabelle and Misty, have expressed their alarm at the news that Wilbur has accepted a permanent position at HQ.
“He’s got his mother’s disposition,” Isabelle said. “All street kitty.” She switched her fluffy tail in disgust.

“That’s right,” Misty added. “You can’t look at those two sideways or they’re all over you. It won’t be safe to walk the halls at night with Wilbur here. Exactly, who approved this? Nobody asked us what we thought.”

“And what is wrong with his nose?” Isabelle asked. “Is it …dirty?” She shuddered.

Aunt Lucy, of course, is thrilled with the news. “Why, I knew the day I found him lost in the ivy bed when he was only a week old, that we were going to be special buddies.”

All the staff at One Ringing Bell is working hard to bring you the latest in developments. Stay tuned for more on the triplets and tuxedo you’ve come to know and love as well as news from all the animal associates here at HQ.

From the Message: "The world's a huge stockpile of God-wonders and God-thoughts" (Psalm 40:5).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dream Summer: Mt. Rushmore and Freedom

We're seeing Mt. Rushmore a little out of order  today, because of its relevance to the Fourth.
According to the parking pass in our scrapbook, we entered Mt. Rushmore at 1:21 p.m., way past lunchtime. So we headed for the cafeteria at the base of the monument. The dining room was divided into sections by state, each one designated with a flag. We found our spot under the red and blue Georgia colors, which gave me a twinge of homesickness as we sat down, but not for long. That’s about the time I looked up at the monument and had a very North by Northwest moment. I’ve never been sure if the movie was shot on location or just had a very convincing set. In any event, I could picture Grace Kelly and Cary Grant bursting in any time.

The faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt were ever with us as we devoured our food. Jerry and I marveled at the engineering feat creator Gutzon Borglum had accomplished through his Mt. Rushmore sculpture. Borglum, who had studied under Rodin, and according to the official guide for Mount Rushmore, had also worked on the confederate memorial on Stone Mountain in Georgia. He "designed the flickering flame on the Statue of liberty’s torch," and as the brochure noted "created more art displayed in our Nations’ capital than any other artist.” 

After we finished our food, we followed a path along the base of the monument to get a closer look. I felt I was living in a “Weekly Reader.” As a child, I never dreamed that my universe would expand to a point where I’d actually visit the places we studied. In contrast, my children have probably never dreamed they wouldn’t visit the places they study. 

I was struck by how many other nationalities I saw visiting the monument. From all over the world they came to see this sculpture in the Black Hills of South Dakota called “America’s Shrine to Democracy.” Perhaps, some of the visitors I saw did not come from countries who subscribed to a democratic understanding of government. I thought of this long after we left the monument, and wished I could have spoken with them about their experience that day. 

I wanted to bring in sleeping bags and sleep under the gaze of these stone men, but of course, the National Park Service would’ve never gone for it. So, we reluctantly said good-bye to our large Presidents and hoped to see them again soon.

President Ronald Reagan said of the Mt. Rushmore sculpture, “Even after the many years it will take to wear away these rock carvings, their ideals, the principles of democracy and freedom, will live on. For more than 200 years now, this great country of ours has enjoyed the freedoms these four giants fought for. So, let us cherish that freedom, and never lose sight of this Memorial and the men behind it.”

Today, as Reagan said, let us cherish freedom, both physical and spiritual. If physical freedom is not yours because of where you live, spiritual freedom is always available. “So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Unbelief is the only wall that can separate you from this liberty. 

May God’s freedom be yours today.

"Mount Rushmore National Monument Official Guide" and America's Shrine of Democracy by T.D. Griffith were used as a sources in this post.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Yum! Peaches!

Here where I live, the peaches are just beginning to roll in. The most recent batch given to us by our friend Gene from the local Thomas Orchards is disappearing fast at our house.

There’s no way to eat a peach without juice dribbling down your chin and pulp getting wedged between your teeth. But oh, it is so worth it. 

You know a peach is perfect when you slice or bite into it, and the red tinged fruit literally falls away from the seed. 

I might have to make another trip to the Orchard before the Fourth. Just can’t run out here. 

One recent year, a hard frost on Easter, wiped out the tender buds. And come summer, we were scrounging around eating peaches shipped from across the country. Nothing wrong with that. But it just doesn’t compare to eating a peach that was hanging from a limb just a few hours before. 

If you haven’t already, find a peach grown near you (or if you must, far away), sit down, enjoy every bite, and be thankful. If you live somewhere, they aren’t available, maybe you can feast in some way on the pictures.

From the Message: “Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him” Psalm 34:8. “You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God” (I Peter 2:2-3).

God invites us to taste and know his goodness. Just one taste, and like that bite into the first peach of the season, you’ll want more. More of his Word. More of Him.

Isn’t it good to know that with God, you don’t have to worry about frosts coming or not having enough? With the one who invites us to taste, there’s always more.

And He is good.

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