Tuesday, November 24, 2015


     I happened to be wearing my spiffy red Teva sneakers when the self-checkout at the wholesale club failed in its duty, and I had to summon aid. The young man who righted its wrongs said, "I like your shoes." I glanced at his feet: bright blue low-top canvas lace-ups. "Thanks," I said. "Yours too!" 

     Soon thereafter, my daughter told how one of her high school students told her she was too old-- too old!-- to appear in her pink Converse high-tops. Somehow that boy survived to faux pas another day, but when I heard the story, I resolved that I would have Converse sneakers, and I would have them in blue. It took some searching. My feet are narrow, and the "unisex" sneakers are way too wide for me. Finally, there they were online, a style cut for women, blue as a grade-school Crayola. I ordered one of the last two pairs in captivity. 
     I love them, and it's been fun to see how many other women love them too (along with the red ones and the green ones and the coral ones.) As I loitered in a medical office hallway, waiting for the hubs, three women in office garb hustled past. The leader looked at my blue-clad feet and exclaimed, "Cute!" Doctors and nurses often admire my sneaker wardrobe, and I tell them the student story. They all make the same face over the punk kid. 
     I gave up heels long ago, not because I'm tall, but because the darn things are agony on stilts. When young friends totter in on spikes (heels, not soccer shoes), I cringe. They feel terribly chic, I suppose, but to me, they are sprained ankles looking for a place to happen. Still, I'm not quite ready for Enna Jetticks, sensible shoes in sensible colors. My relatively sensible flats are sparkly gold, or red and orange with silvery spikes on the back (Really. Would I lie to you?) I shall fight this old age thing and its concomitant prejudices with my gold elephant ornaments, my purple laces, my Celtic-knot embroidered cowboy boots, and, yes, my Converse sneakers. You can bury me in them, and I'll sprint happily into Heaven. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Somebody's Got to Do It

     Thump, bump, skitter, it was for sure a squirrel cage match in the attic above the master bedroom. A day or so later, a nasty odor pervaded the bedroom and foyer. Next day, still there. Look on Angie's List for critter wrangler. Find Gregg Granger, Wildlife Ranger. Is that an irresistible name, or what? It must be intoned in your best radio-announcer voice. It took a bit of phone tag to bring him to the house, but there he was on the doorstep in his serious boots and serious beard. He had quoted a tidy sum for a service call, but we thought about what it would take for one of us to crawl through the attic looking for dead things. Short of impending death by plague for the grandchildren, just about nothing would get me up there, so we took a deep breath-- not too deep-- and gave him the OK.
     "Where did you smell it?" he asked. And "Do you smell it now?" We were into about the fourth day since the first whiff, and now... just as when you take the car to the mechanic and the noise stops... we couldn't smell a thing. 
     He climbed into the attic anyway, through that little portal in the garage. He donned and turned on a headlamp, and as his boots disappeared into the darkness, I thought, "Well, his website does say he's a former Army Ranger. He's probably crawled into worse places than this." Eventually he tapped on the front door with "good news, better news and best news." A. There was no corpse in the attic. Not a single body anywhere, and no smell. B. There were no openings through which rodents might invade. And C. He had found an air conduit separated from its vent and reattached it. Looks like we've been air-conditioning the attic all summer. 
     His theory: the noise had been squirrels on the roof, where there's little space between roof and ceiling, and the smell had come from something small, like a lizard or a snake, which dried up fairly quickly. Thank goodness. And thanks, Ranger Granger. I asked what I owed him for crawling the attic. "Nothing," he said, and handed me his card. "Just speak of me kindly, if you speak of me at all." I thanked him fervently, and here I am, speaking of him kindly and enthusiastically. If you are invaded by squirrels, raccoons, opossums, rats or other vermin short of bears and gators, give him a call. 
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Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Awful Truth

     I used to subscribe to Mother Jones magazine, way long time ago. While they are pretty much a leftist propaganda rag today, they used to do the occasional piece of good investigative journalism, such as an expose' of the supposedly victimless sex trade in NYC. They showed it to be tawdry, exploitative and destructive of humanity. Had to give them points for that one. Later, they did a profile of a Christian couple who were performing some ministry that MJ seemed to approve of (I wish I could remember what). But their headline and teaser lead-ins proclaimed that they had uncovered a terrible secret about the couple's beliefs. After the report on their activities, the writer revealed the astonishing secret: these people believed that human beings were born corrupt. Not innocent, not a blank slate, but actually primed and ready to sin! Gasp!
     At the time, I was a neophyte Christian, but even I knew that this was a basic tenet of Biblical faith which had been accepted for centuries. It goes back to Adam eating the fruit that he was supposed to leave alone. The Westminster Confession of Faith has spelled it out since 1646. See chapter VI: Adam's sin made him corrupt to the bone. His now sinful nature was passed along to his offspring. We're all born with it, and from it springs all the nasty things we do to offend God and harm each other. That's "Original Sin." But to that writer it was an astonishing and terrifying revelation. "How could anyone think such a thing?"
     I see the same sort of freak-out happening as leftist reporters make what they think are damning discoveries about Ben Carson. He has a painting that shows him with Jesus! Jesus has his hand on Ben's shoulder! OMG! He's an egomaniac! He's nuts! He thinks he's God! Well, I'm no longer a neophyte. I'm a well-aged Christian with a fair amount of observation of Christian culture under my sash. I have to admit-- if not lament-- that there's a whole lot of Christian kitsch out there. Anyone for a TestaMint? Nevertheless, even though Dr. Carson's painting is not exactly Rembrandt (You know that Rembrandt drew many scenes from the Bible, don't you?), it has a coherent message. I've seen in a medical office a somewhat similar theme, in which a white-coated doctor pores over a medical text. Jesus stands behind him, pointing at a particular passage. Pretty clear. Jesus guides the physician in figuring out the difficult diagnosis and what to do about it. Same idea in the Carson painting: the surgeon is a servant of God, guided by and approved of by Him. (I've read the assertion that this painting was a gift from a grateful parent. Don't know, but seems likely.) 
     It seems to me that people who know nothing of the Bible or of contemporary Christian culture are encountering isolated bits of information and going gaga over their own misinterpretations. My turn to be appalled that so many are so totally unaware of the Bible and the Christian faith. One fellow tweeted a "question that everyone's afraid to ask: Does Jesus have a picture of Ben Carson in (H)is house?" To which I answer, yes, He probably does. He has Ben Carson's name written on His hand, along with mine and millions of others who received the gift of faith in Him. I hope that clever guy can some day come to know that, however crazy it seems, his name is there too. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

It All Works Out

     Upper body workout for the day included an hour and a half in the back yard raking and picking one utterly overgrown and one merely spent and weedy raised bed with the able assistance of one granddaughter. She needed some reminding to place the weeds in the bag and the dirt in the bed. So at the second bed, she picked up handfuls of sand from the yard and dropped them into the bed. I accepted this as the lesser of two messes, but when she pressed a shred of weed-stop material and an aluminum foil "snake" to her lips, I discouraged it. "Yucky," we agreed. Aluminum snakes
     We dragged the bag out front, came back for a stint on the garden swing seat, some kicking of soccer balls and some lifting of said toddler onto the bars of the climbing dome. We pulled a few more weeds out of a small growing box and discovered a fell-fledged peanut in the soil. It was immediately harvested and carried in triumph into the kitchen to be shown to PaPa, washed and placed on the window sill to dry. Then we washed dirt off hands. And face. And hair. And scraped it out of fingernails. 
     We earned a relaxed viewing of Thomas the Tank Engine. Next: lunch. Peanut butter and jelly, I imagine. Bon appetit. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Love Never Ends

     I've had reason to think about relationships of late, with both family and friends, and it reminded me of a dream I had shortly after my father died. It was a strange but hopeful dream. 
     When he was in the hospital with his final illness, I worried about his destination. We had talked a bit about Christian faith, and I was not sure he accepted the gospel truth that we're saved through faith in Christ. I wrote to the chaplain at the hospital and told him. The chaplain talked to him and wrote back, saying that he "would have no problem admitting him to Communion." Relief. 
     The chaplain was Lutheran. I met him at the hospital later, and he asked what church I went to. PCA, I said, Presbyterian Church in America. He laughed. "I know the PCA," he said. "I thought from the way your father talked that it was one of the way-out Pentecostal groups." Well, the straight-up plan of salvation does sound pretty wild when you're not used to it. 
     Anyway, after my father died, I dreamed of his funeral. He was in his coffin, dressed in ranch clothes-- jeans and new flannel shirt that he never got to wear around his Montana property. (That part is real.) He was dead. Everyone knew he was dead. But he looked up at me and gave me a conspiratorial wink. I knew he was telling me that death is not for real or forever when you trust Christ. 
     This week, I thought about friendship, how it can be precarious because of anger or misunderstanding or argument. Sometimes it can be smoothed or retrieved, sometimes not. But for Christians, this bit of earthly life is not all we get. We look forward to eternity, first in Heaven, then on the new earth that God promises to clean up and restore. Unbroken friendships will continue even better. Broken friendships will pick up where they left off, rifts forgotten. Even the beautiful, beloved son who won't speak to me, who may never in this life, will greet me with a smile, and I will run to embrace him. May it be soon, Lord Jesus, may it be soon. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Urge to Kill

     Back in the days of newspapers-- you know, those big foldy things-- I read faithfully Jimmy Hatlo's "They'll Do It Every Time" cartoon, a commentary on human foibles, which sometimes included an "Urge to Kill" bit. One I remember had a matron demanding that the butcher thoroughly trim a roast for her and remove the bones. Then she says that, of course, she will need some of the fat to cook it with, and surely he will give her some bones for her "little doggie." Hatlo may have exaggerated a bit just how bad the offense was. 
     Today, God help me, I have that urge, and I can't say I'm not serious when I propose a plan based on it. Here's why. We are learning that, for some time now, US soldiers have been aware of  Afghan officers' practice of keeping boys like pets, dressing them up, putting makeup on them. sometimes chaining them to their beds, and raping them in the night. Officers. Openly. Like you might keep a goldfish. And when this Green Beret responded to the laughter of one of the rapists by knocking him down, he was dishonorably discharged. Other Americans report they have heard the children scream, but have been told to leave it alone. It's their culture, don't you know. 
     Well, we have a culture too, don't we? Show me an American jury that would convict a man of assault for knocking down someone who laughed in his face when confronted with the crime of raping a boy and beating up the child's mother when she begged for help. Something is very, very rotten in US military command. How high does the rot go? How can anyone have been told to ignore this practice? How can a decent American bear to stand by and let it go on?
     Here's what I would draw if I were Jimmy Hatlo: a figure in a black mask slips into an Afghan pervert's room, quickly strangles him, unchains the boy and scoots him out of the room. In my imagination, this happens every night until none of those filthy creeps dares to touch a little boy. 
     "Me, sir? In my bunk all night, sir."
     "See anyone moving, sir? No, sir."
     Because when the people in power stop believing in justice, it gives the rest of us the urge to kill.  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Homegrown Slander

     I just watched yet another video talking about how screwy the modern church is. This time it was "dress code," that the church has made what you wear the most important thing, as if Jesus cares about that most of all. Another was about a drunk who came to church smelling of alcohol and was scorned, saying he felt more welcome at the bar. And then there's the tale of the homeless guy who sits in the back unspoken-to and turns out to be the new pastor. (There is no "Jeremiah Steepek." The story is a distortion of a 1970 experiment recording reactions of seminary students to a homeless-looking guy. Snopes found one real pastor who lay down on the church lawn. A good 20 people offered to help him. Check it out. http://www.snopes.com/glurge/homelesspastor.asp )
     I don't believe these stories, and I hope you won't believe them either, unless there is documentation-- names, dates, location. Otherwise it's just slander. Well-meaning slander, I suppose, but slander nevertheless, on the same side as "...the hatred painstakingly indulged in and lovingly cultivated by the movie Kingsman in a way that I have never seen before from Hollywood." http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/414149/god-hatred-hollywood-and-government-discrimination-maggie-gallagher  
     As far as I can tell, these lousy, hateful churches exist mainly in the imaginations of the prejudiced and in the quiverings of church people who fear the scorn of the prejudiced. Maybe they invent and share such stories so as to say, "I'm not like that." Throw it in with all the "I'm a Christian, but I'm not _____." (Fill in the blank: racist, sexist, homophobic, uncool.) 
     A contractor who attended our church picked up a day-laborer, a Hispanic guy from Texas who was in Orlando to make some money in landscaping. The boss invited him to church, and he came in the same clothes he worked in because that was all he had. We gave him an outfit or two. He came to many services and events and finally asked to be baptized. The pastor did the usual interview and baptized him without hesitation. Pretty sure he felt welcome. 
     A transient was living in woods nearby and started walking early to make it to church. He quickly became a fixture in adult Sunday school, Bible study and Sunday services. People shook his hand and joked around with him as we do with just about everyone. We helped him with shelter and food. Pretty sure he felt welcome. 
     Scruffy beards and salon do's, Hawaiian shirts and custom suits, bikes and Beemers, all sit side-by-side at church. My experience for years has been that all sinners are welcome to come to Christ for redemption and to become part of the company. If your church sneers, talk to the pastor and the elders. Ask why. (You know, handle it the way Christians are supposed to.) But if they don't sneer, don't make up stories to post on Facebook. Truth fits much better with the gospel.