Monday, October 27, 2008

Test.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Walk On!


No, I have not God-and-dog walked off the end of the world, though it may seem that way. I’m sorry for the long absence and have missed coming to this blog, missed you all.

This seems to be a weird year for the body of Christ. I’ll share a bit of my circumstances, but I know I’m not alone, that it’s not all about me, that God is at work. Many of my dear Christian brethren have also gone through odd and difficult times in the past few months. That’s life in a fallen creation—life that just begs for light, and I’m thankful that the Lord has not left us without that Light.

I am now working for a living. It’s been thirteen years since I worked a real job. Thirteen years of professional writing meant my time was my own, and I had ample opportunity to walk the dog, sing to the sky, and stumble through the thicket in pursuit of God. Most of you know I had a publisher back out of a contract, which left me with a book in hand and no place to go. Finances were very strained—as I know it is for many of you—and I had to find a job.

God has been so gracious. After being humbled by three months of little interest, I am now working in a job that pays decent money, offers plenty to do, and provides very nice co-workers. It’s tough adjusting to a 40-hour work week after so many years of floating here-and-there. I have no complaints, even am ashamed to consider that I might. Please pray I do a good job, help this company that produces much-needed pharmaceutical products. It’s a good cause, and I want to be helpful to the hard-working people here.

The most difficult part is being in a closed environment, in a secure facility. Last week learned I can leave campus at lunch time. Praise God—across the way from where I work is abundant conservation land! I can walk, oh thank you—I can walk in the trees and along the water during lunch. No dog, I’m afraid, though I’ve met a black lab named Digby whose lucky owner walks at lunch.

My dear husband also has some serious (but not bad) things going on at work. I’m not at liberty to discuss them now but they’ve added to the challenges we’ve faced as a family these last few months. And my son has been so very, very sick…and we’ve been praying hard for recovery.

So we’ve been out straight, but that’s life and you all share it with me. And that is my blessing.

I hope to drop in more often. I miss God-and-dog-walking, miss all of you. I am blessed to borrow Sadie now and then, and even more blessed when I can take my grandson into the woods and teach him how to splash in the stream!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The wolf will live with the lamb...


...but which is which?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

And Now a Word from My Sponsors...

...in this case, the marvelous people of the CSFF blog tour. We know Vanished has suffered a blow at the hands of my publisher but these awesome folks stuck by me, and have pooled their time and talent to tout the book (and, I hope, critique it if they feel justified). I am honored and blessed by their dedication to the genre and craft of Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy, and so grateful for the privilege of being a stop on the blog tour.

If you get a moment, stop in with one or more and give a hello.

See what the other CSFF (Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy) blog participants have to say about this book:
Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Margaret
Shannon McNear
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
Rachelle
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Chawna Schroeder
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Linda Wichman
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Monday, June 23, 2008

Can't Live With Her...


...can't live without her.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Crossing the Jordan

Sadie is not a water dog. No way.

I've been walking her by the river, where there's plenty of opportunity to splash and swim. Her only foray into the river was a slip and slide, and a massive leap out of it. There's also little streams that Tasha used to dash through, tiny trickles of water that I thought might induce Sadie to dare getting wet. But Sadie either jumps over them, or takes the footbridges.

So I started walking across the street. (We are blessed with huge tracts of conservation land.) There's no river and lots of low-lying land spawns mosquitoes but there is one attraction that I can't resist. The area I call the "stream" walk has a nice stream that eventually crosses under the street and wanders the river, and a lovely footbridge over the stream. I love to sit on the bridge, have a Diet Coke, and do a little work.

Sadie accidentally stepped into the stream and discovered she didn't melt. So, as I sit and read, she putters in the water, allowing it to touch her paws (though nothing more.)

Yesterday I wore old sneakers on the walk. I sat on the bridge, read for awhile, and then decided I wanted to see where the stream went. (Keep in mind--this is New England, lots of trees and dense foliage.)

So I stepped into the stream in my sneakers.

Sadie went nuts. Suddenly she's dashing up and down in the water, running up the banks and leaping at top speed across the stream. It's as if my entry into the water gave her permission to experience its joy.

Hm. Sound familiar?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nighty-Night


Steve got on a plane this morning, off to Cleveland to take a seminar. I'm the traveler--it's so unusual for him to be gone and me to be left behind. I was heading upstairs to bed, thinking about this and automatically thought, "Oh, well then maybe I'll let Tasha sleep in the bedroom tonight."

Except that's not an option.

Funny how easily an old part of life rushes back when you least expect it.

Sadie would gladly sleep in my room but she has her own "mommy and daddy" who need her close. So I'll sleep soundly with happy memories.

By the way, the stream in the photograph is one that the forester destroyed. Sad. But I've got happy memories...and new trails to follow.

Friday, June 13, 2008

------------Heaven and Hell on Earth------------


I'm housesitting for my daughter, and enjoying trips to a nearby state park. I work for awhile, sitting on a picnic table with my computer and enjoying the breeze off a sparkling lake. Then I put my computer away, hike across the long dam to the far side of the lake.

No one seems to go here, though it's a lovely spot. Shaded by trees, plenty of large rocks for sitting, sun glistening off the water, dappling the leaves so everything seems to be sun-kissed. Like heaven, I think. God bending to this perfect afternoon and breathing a little touch of heaven.

Except...

...I'm reading a book named NOT FOR SALE by David Bastone. I've been reading it in conjunction with Gary Haugen's book TERRIFY NO MORE, to learn about human trafficking. I'm stunned to learn that, what I ignorantly thought were isolated instances, have become the norm in many countries. I thought sex trafficking was about bringing prositutes to other countries. It's not. It's about kidnapping teens AND children--and we're taking little girls--and forcing them to be raped by ten men a day. And it's pervasive. In terms of human slavery, I almost vomited when I read about children as young as four being forced into a day's labor. Growing up as slaves, never understanding they live in a so-called "free" society.

My grandson is four. My nieces are six and eight and ten. It's horrifying. I won't go into more details because I can't do this trafficking thing justice. Bastone's or Haugen's books cover the problem well.

Gary Haugen runs a very-well respected Christian agency--the International Justice Mission--which operates to rescue people, give them long-term aftercare, see that the criminals are prosecuted, and change the attitudes and laws of not only foreign governments but our own United States government. You can read about their work at http://www.ijm.org/.

Bastone's book describes many other fine organizations dealing with this terrible evil.

But what about me?

I'm sitting on a rock on a beautiful day, thinking "heaven on earth."

I'm sitting on a rock while millions of people--too many young children--are forced into slavery and the sex trade. "Hell on earth" can't begin to describ the evil that is inflicted on God's children.

I'm sitting on a rock named Jesus.

I need to stand up, let the rock move.

I need to pray the rock will move me. If He cannot, I deserve to be crushed.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Covered


I've had a tough spring, business-wise. I won't go into details, though many of you know them. What's important is that, when things were at their worst, a group of dear Christian friends prayed for me. Since that night of fervent prayer, I have not felt any anger or bitterness, though I have the "worldly" right to do so.

It's been a rainy week, with umbrellas called for. It occured to me as I sheltered from the rain that these dear friends of mine have been my spiritual umbrella. I have been kept dry while they have huddled over me, spreading the Holy Spirit's "feathers" like a canopy.

Yesterday, though it was still raining, my grandson wanted to go out to play. So he got dressed in raingear that would keep him totally dry. I laughed, thinking about the armor of God, and how we must look to the Father as we head out into the "rain."

Probably a lot like my four-year-old grandson, I think.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Getting to Know You


Know that old song from THE KING AND I? Getting to know you, getting to know all about you.


The next line is: Getting to like you...getting to hope you like me.

I'm not sure that applies to Sadie and Sullie. They're trying but their natures get the best of them.
Take this morning, out in the yard. Sadie is sitting with me as I work, when Sullie "happens" to wander by. (She is Satan, you know...alert for every opportunity.)

Sadie can't resist. She jumps up, approaches the cat. Sully does the back-rise/tail-snap routine. Sadie freezes. Sully stares. Sadie takes a cautious step. Sully takes a cautious step. They freeze again, study each other.

Sadie takes a sniff. Sully lowers her tail, tilts her head, about to rub against Sadie's chest when...

...the dumb dog pounces. Sully hisses, swings her claws, and Sadie jumps away.

Sully...all seven pounds of cat...chases Sadie...thirty-five pounds of dumb dog...across the yard and down the hill.

Satan-reference aside, there is definitely a spiritual lesson to be learned here. The question is...am I the kitty? Or the dog?

Depends on the day, I suppose.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Going Home...Finally




It's been a tough nine months, hiking-wise. First I smashed my shoulder in September and had to walk on eggshells all fall and winter. Then I had the thumb surgery, a delicate affair which still requires me to wear a protective splint outside. And of course, Tasha got old and needed me to slow down for her...which I did.

Yesterday I went "home" for the first time since last September when I ruined my shoulder.

I've been up to the ridge--that rocky ledge at nearby conservation land--many times since all these injuries. But I've not been able to complete the rocky trail that loops through many ridges because of one small cliff-like rock that sits in the middle of the trail.

It's not high--maybe fifteen feet. But it requires actual climbing instead of walking, and no way would I risk my surgically-repaired shoulder to best it.

Until yesterday.

I decided it was time to go home again, resume possession of one of the most beautiful and lightly-trails around. I loaded up my backpack, put on my best hiking sneakers, strapped on my splint, and went for it.


The trail was so lovely...and I'd missed it so much! I got to the rock, sized it up, decided yes...time to come home. Climbing it requires wedging your toes into a tiny crevice, grabbing the embedded tree (see picture) in the cliff and hoisting up.

It requires a step of faith. Once you hoist, you need to push up without any handhold until you grab the trunk of the tree. There's that split-second of hoping/praying that momentum will lift you high enough to make the grab. Otherwise, it's slip, crack your chin on the rock, scrape your belly as you slide off, and think, "I'm never going to come this way again," acknowledging the inevitability that there are last times in our lives, though we seldom recognize them until they're long past.

It's not time for the ridge trail to be a last time. No way, not yet.
I secured my pack and my walking stick, made sure my thumb splint was secure, dug my toe in the crevice and my right hand around the tree root...

...and hoisted.
And made it, quite easily. But the thing is, it turned out I didn't need the left (repaired) arm at all. Something I had forgotten. It's not about the pulling with both arms...it's about the hoist...stepping out and up in faith.

I didn't conquer the rock. The rock welcomed me. And now I'm home.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oh No-NO! (Yes, YES!)


Yes, this is about baseball but, like most discussions about baseball, it’s a whole lot more.

You see, Jon Lester pitched a no-hitter last night for the Boston Red Sox. No-hitters are wonderful because they are rare, but something even more rare than a sports milestone happened last night in Fenway Park.

Nineteen months ago, in the middle of pitching his rookie year for the Red Sox, Jon Lester was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Apparently, if a young adult HAS to have cancer, this is one to have, with a 90+% cure rate. But cancer is cancer, and when Red Sox nation were informed of the 22-year-old Lester’s diagnosis, millions of people gasped, and held their stomachs. People get cancer every day, and it’s never fair, especially in someone so young. But to see it play out on the public stage like that was a grim reminder that this ugly reminder of a fallen creation is always lurking, striking young and old, rich and poor, talented or ordinary when we least expect it.

Lester got a clean bill of health right before spring training 2007 and was ‘allowed’ by medical folks, the Boston Red Sox, and his millions of brothers, sisters, mom’s and dad’s to come to camp. The Red Sox wisely started him in the minor leagues last year because no one wanted to risk his health (except Lester himself, perhaps). His first game back in the majors was in Cleveland later that season, with his parents flying in from the West Coast to watch. The cameras kept cutting to his parents, especially his mother, and I wanted to cry with her.

Last night, I swear I heard Mrs. Lester whoop for joy from 3000 miles away.

This past Sunday, I asked my class on Ezra when the last time they experienced a genuine and pure yelp of joy. Like no-hitters, perhaps they are too rare. One member of our study suggested that God intends such ebullient expressions to be an customary (though heart-felt) part of worship. We agreed in principle though, as New Englanders, we looked at each other and wondered if any of us would dare to leap and raise our hands high to the Lord.

Which is why last night was so special. Less than a year ago, another young Red Sox pitcher pitched a no-hitter. Yes—they are rare but we’ve been doubly blessed. We were thrilled for Clay Buchholz and danced the happy dance but it’s not the same as watching Jon Lester return to the game last summer, pitch the winning game of last fall’s World Series, and deliver an astounding performance last night.

Sports allows us to whoop for joy.

God’s majesty requires us to.

Thanks, Jon, and thank you, Jesus.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

You Can't See Me! (nyah nyah)


Or so Sullie thinks, as she "hides" from Sadie.


Are my hiding places from God just as flimsy?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Lessons Learned Hiking Glen Eyrie



After the conference at Glen Eyrie (Colorado Springs/two weeks ago), I stayed for a couple of days of hiking. This was an exercise in faith (or perhaps foolishness), given I would be climbing with a broken toe. But Glen Eyrie is an astoundingly beautiful corner of God’s creation and no way could I not hike.

My biggest adventure was the Garden of the Gods overlook trail, deemed “difficult” by the Glen. Moderate by New Hampshire standards, the trail was only difficult because of the first lesson I—as a long-time hiker—should already know.

Lesson 1. Not all turns are marked.
By the time I followed a level trail to a lovely but non-spectacular look-out, I realized I must have missed the turn-off from the main trail. Hence:

Lesson 2—It’s no sin to back track.
In fact, back-tracking can be downright wise, even though it did not help me discover the trail turn-off (which I have since learned from other experienced GE hikers is apparently not marked or obvious).

I knew the Garden of the Gods trail left this one. I just didn’t remember exactly where it should and didn’t backtrack far enough. Which leads me to:

Lesson 3—It’s not enough to consult the map.
If I had either memorized the map or brought it with me, I would have realized the turn-off for the GG trail came very, very quickly. I had assumed it would be obvious so I just hiked on and on until it was abundantly clear I had missed it long ago.

This misunderstanding led me to climb what I hoped was the turn-off but what in reality was a very steep deer/elk trail. Because it was so steep and sandy, I had to rely on the occasional rock outcropping and the brush to keep from slipping down the hill. Which brings me to:

Lesson 4—If you’re going to reach for a branch, make sure it’s alive.
Otherwise, it’ll break off in your hand. The trick is recognizing signs of life on brush that hasn’t budded yet for the spring. I won’t go into a horticultural discussion here but the best test is a tug and then a yank. A branch without sap will be dry and break away. A branch with the lifeblood still in it will hold.

Climbing almost straight up would have been impossible four days earlier, when I was still unaccustomed to the altitude. By the time I attempted this climb, my body had churned out enough extra red blood cells to acclimate me to breathing. Which reminds me of:

Lesson 5—Good breathing takes time and practice.
On Sunday at the Glen, I couldn’t even climb stairs without huffing. By Thursday, I could hike two hours and still sing.

This little detour finally brought me to where I could see the path. However, I had to cross some grassy soil before actually getting onto the path. I was on level ground again but the trick here was that there were tiny cacti among the grass. Since I was wearing socks and sandals due to my broken foot, I had to watch every step so not to get pricked. Those needles are barbed and rotten to get out once you’re stuck. Which brings me to:

Lesson 6—It’s not cowardly to test every step if the circumstances call for it.
I was now on the right trail, one that climbed a series of steep hills. Every time I thought I had to be approaching the final hill, I’d crest it to discover another. Which is how I learned:

Lesson 7—Trudging can be a gift.
I supposed knowing when to turn back is also a gift but no way, not after following the wrong trail to its conclusion, backtracking, climbing a steep deer trail, and braving a field of cacti-laced grass. No way. So I trudged and trudged. Though the air was 45 degrees and the wind harsh, I was soaked with sweat.

So I trudged on and on until finally I crested the last hill and beheld what I couldn’t from any of the lower hills. The photo of the snow-covered Rockies and Pike’s Peak cannot do the reality justice.

I sat down on the bench and beheld the glory of what God has given us. And quickly learned:

Lesson 8—Don’t be deceived by circumstances.
I rapidly cooled and, with high winds, had to pull on my ski hat, jacket, etc. even as the sweat still clung to my skin. I had to tilt away from the sun because, though circumstances felt like winter, the truth was it was May and high altitude—a prescription for a terrible sunburn.

I hated to go down but—in this side of heaven—one can only drink in so much beauty. So I started down the nice, clear path and remembered something I know from mountain climbing in New Hampshire.

Lesson 9—It’s oftentimes harder to go down than up.
Going up, your weight leans into the slope and your momentum opposes gravity. Coming down, your momentum, weight, and gravity conspire. Not a bad thing if we’re talking stairs or a road but when it’s a path with very loose sand, coming down can be downright treacherous. Which reminded me of something I should have known:

Lesson 10—Use a walking stick.
Next year I’ll be sure to pack mine.

I arrived at the dining hall, my legs like deadwood.

Four hours later, I went out for another hike. Better prepared, though still with lessons to be learned.

It wasn’t lost on me then, and still isn’t that each one of these lessons is a tremendous spiritual analogy.

I report. You decide.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hemmed In


The woods are getting smaller and smaller.

First the beaver pond and environs was declared “No Trespassing” because of the ATV’s, dirt bikes, and snowmobiles. Then the back side of the hill—a huge territory—was posted “Keep Out” for the same reason. Okay, I thought. Once the forester leaves, we’ll have all these news paths on this side of the hill to enjoy.

We all know how that turned out—he left without cleaning up his mess. The woods on this side are nearly or completely impassable in places.

Okay. I’ve still got all the conservation land to enjoy. Both Pepperell, MA and Hollis, NH have been magnificent in setting aside large tracts for woods for the public to enjoy.

But I can’t enjoy them because, for the first time ever, the black flies (“no-see-um’s”) are swarming me. I used to be sorry for both Steve and Marj, who are succulent targets for these miniscule tyrants. “They never bite me,” I would say, injecting suitable regret that two people I love are so terrorized.
They’re biting me this year, in droves. I cannot go in any woods without being circled and snacked on. It’s to the point of intolerant, so I stand in my woods and wonder “What is going on?”

Is God hemming me in? That’s sure what it feels like. (And yes, I know it’s not all about me but circumstances are conspiring…)

I’m supposed to embrace this, am I not? Psalm 139 speaks to this so beautifully:

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in--behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.



You have laid your hand upon me. I’ve always loved this concept.

I’m hemmed in at home, with my son’s family living with me. They are a joy and a blessing but I’ve still to learn how to focus without wanting to go play with my grandson or walk in the yard (no woods, drat!) with my grandpup.

Am I guilty of what the psalm speaks of in the most beautiful of poetry?

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths,A you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.


Do I long to be with a dog when I walk so I don’t have to be with God? Slow to anger, full of love, abounding in compassion—why would I flee when His Spirit pours these wonders out on His children?

Today it’s raining. Driving rain or bitter cold, even a blizzard won’t stop me from walking. Am I racing to God, or flying away? If I buy a netted hat, will I be further hemmed in? Will I resume my walking—to or away from my Creator?

When Sadie or Maddie strains on their leash, we who love them hold them fast.

His right hand holds me fast.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Home


And it feels like home because there's now a dog living here.

It's taking a little getting used to. Tasha had been deaf for so long, I forgot what it's like for a dog to react to noises we humans can't possibly hear.

BadCat's also had her adjustment period. She spent a week in the cellar, cowering. I finally loaded her into her cat carrier and brought her up into our bedroom for a change of scenery. Sadie came running after her and BadCat finally had enough--she struck hard. Sadie yelped away and now there's an uneasy truce between the two. Sullie is back roaming house and yard, and Sadie follows at a respectful distance.

Sadie is having walks in our woods, bounding over the barriers of limbs and tree trunks the forester left. I'm eager to walk her on the conservation land but I need to wait until I know she respects my call and will come every time. (She's about 2/3s there.) Until then, we'll stay close to home.

Nice to know God doesn't just live in Colorado.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Doggie Envy


We now have a new dog at our home, our 'grandpup' Sadie. Unfortunately, I only saw her in passing, since my son's family moved in Saturday night and I left 3:30 AM Sunday. We had a moment to sit down and watch the Sox game, and I was envious because Sadie curled up on the floor next to Steve. I am convinced she will have no room left in her heart for me after a week with him.

Here at Glen Eyrie, I climbed up to the Dorothy Fall's. It was spectacular, a testament to the beauty of creation. I'll post more tomorrow but God fills those canyons with his grace.

When I got to the falls, I sat and enjoyed the music of water crashing into a clear pool. Beyond the falls, one can climb even higher but I didn't have time. A young couple came down from the upper peak, their skinny, part-yellow lab mutt with them. Suddenly, the only beauty I had eyes for was this dog. He was shy, wouldn't come to me until I offered a pretzel. Even then, he got only close enough to snatch the pretezel away. I couldn't take my eyes off him, even though as dogs go, he was pretty odd looking. Very skinny, with big, almost German-shepherd ears.

To me, he looked like heaven. Angie Hunt and Nancy Rue have two dogs, and I have to live on imagined hugs from Lab puppies and Mastiff wonders all week. To see a real dog was a real treat.

I have another couple days here, and will soak in God's glory and--if I'm brave...no scratch that, humble...I'll seek His face.

But it's so much easier when I have a dog at my side.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Not What I Planned For


I'm in Colorado, having just finished teaching at a writers' conference at the spectacular Glen Eyrie. I was privileged (and amused/encouraged/inspired) to teach with Angie Hunt, Nancy Rue, and Alton Gansky. I was blessed to spend time with our own Kay Day and the Accidental Poet. Too many wonders to recount but the weather was spectacular and I couldn't wait for today--the beginning of my two-and-a-half day retreat--so I could do some serious hiking.


Yesterday was in the high 70s and, after the official close of the conference, I hiked up to a lovely waterfall.


Today is May 1. It snowed. This morning, the snow was so bad, I couldn't read the road signs on my way to an appointment. I had to slow to a stop in the middle of the road, and try to make out the writing through the snow flying sideway and under the snow stuck to the signs. This afternoon the snow lessened but the wind picked up, a nasty chill.


I had planned for sun and fun. Given that my proclamation to the conference was entitled "This Wasn't What I Had Planned," I suppose today was appropriate. God is allowed to throw curve balls whenever He deems suitable.


I can only hope tomorrow will be a meatball, right down the middle. Brrrr.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Going on Faith


I was at the Gideon Media Arts Festival all last week, had an amazing time. Flying into Charlotte on Monday, I was struck by the trees all bursting with leaves. It was like coming into another world, a world of hope for the future.

The conference was in Asheville, a two hour ride inland from Charlotte. Some trees were green, others still bided their time.

I came home to some green grass but still barren trees. I look at them this morning, expecting life. Still waiting but I know it's coming.

My son's family will be here next Saturday. My grandson and I will throw rocks in the stream and begin the process of moving sticks out of the path in the woods. He'll see it as a game--what little boy doesn't love an invitation to hurl sticks.

Sadie will come with us--a young dog, full of joy with no eye to the barren trees. Hope always blooms in kids and dogs, with expectation to what was or what should be. What is is daily bread, and that's all that's needed to jump and play and take joy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Nation Forgives


Yesterday was a national holiday in my part of the country.

Opening Day at Fenway Park.

Red Sox Opening Day is always a reason for hope, but until this millennium, was rarely a reason to celebrate. Now we've won 2 World Championships in the past four years, we also have reason to rejoice. Yesterday featured an amazing ceremony, with the unfurling of two world series banners the size of the entire outfield fence. World Series rings were passed out to players and on-field personnel. The usual suspects got the loudest cheers--Ortiz, Ramirez, Papelbon, Lowell, and our newest 'toy' Jacoby Ellsbury.

One surprising recipient of cheers was JD Drew. Drew had a dog of a regular 2007 season but was a hero in the crucial game 7 with the Indians when he had a 1st inning grand slam. He's started this season hot and thus--for now--all is forgiven.

But a larger, more magnaminous act of forgiveness took place yesterday.

In 1986, the Boston Red Sox were on the verge of beating the New York Mets and winning their first world series in 60-odd years when Bill Buckner let a ball go through his legs. My son Dan was nine at the time, and so devastated, he swore he'd never watch the Red Sox again. Dan got over that, but the devastation ran deep throughout the entire Red Sox Nation, and poor Bill Buckner had to move to a small town out west to escape our wrath.

Until 2004, the name Bill Buckner drew groans from Red Sox fans. The scars never healed, the bleeding often resumed, usually pricked by those darn Yankees. The first World Series championship in 86 years began the healing. Last year's championship has made all of Red Sox nation absolutely serene. (Trust me when I say this was a miracle.)

Yesterday, Bill Buckner threw out the first pitch. He came out of the scoreboard and made the long walk to the pitcher's mound. I'm sure that first step was hell...wondering if we would boo and curse or just stand, silent and stunned.

He got a standing ovation that went on and on. He cried as he walked, cried and waved and smiled. A nation was healed, a son returned home, hope delivered as a perfect strike.

The thing is...it wasn't all of us forgiving Bill Buckner.

It was Bill Buckner forgiving us.

Bless him for his courage to come home, where we never should have let him leave. I'm sorry, Bill. Thank you.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Forester Lied


When he started this whole tree-cutting business in the woods, he told me, "Don't worry, I'll clean everything up. We don't waste wood--we use it all. This process leaves the woods healthier than before I began." Just when I'd begun to think I'd imagined the whole conversation, I ran into another abutter whose family rides (or used to ride) their horses in the woods. Apparently, they were told the same thing.

The forester lied.

He's gone, not coming back, and he's left a horrific mess. The paths that were once spectacularly beautiful (see photo...look closely, you'll spot Tasha) are now close to impassable. They're either loaded with downed trees and cut branches, or they're pitted with 2-3 feet deep holes caused by his heavy earth-mover.

It's treacherous for walking, even worse for the horses. My neighbor knows the landowner, and hopes he'll be granted permission to use his bulldozer to clear the paths. The landowner lives out of state, and given that the woods are "landlocked," the only commercial use for them are logging. With the debris left around most of the land, we're not sure how healthy the remaining trees will be.

Okay, I know--not my woods. But I also know I've been a good steward of this beauty, as have my neighbor and the other hikers and horseback riders. (No comment on the occasional 4-wheeler.) The point is, such a tangle of branches, trunks, and mud is chaos, not good foresting.

And to push this beyond a simple whine, I have to consider the forester's work in light of my own walk of faith. It's one thing to cut out obvious sin but it's another to do the hard work of clearing the debris. Those logs (or planks in my eye) are easy to spot, but that tangle of consequences easier to hide or just walk away from.

Now that the forester is gone, I need to sing praises again out in those woods. And let God bless as He will.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Shining Through


I am SAD. Not sad, but a little of that, too. SAD as in Seasonal Affective Disorder.

In other words, I need sunshine to thrive.

I can battle through January and February just fine. The sun is low but when we have snow, it brightens the world. It's March that's tough and April can be a killer. We have had a month of gray days, wet snow and rain. Easter bloomed sunny but bitterly cold. More gray days until finally, this Wednesday, the sun came back. Again, a cold wind made the temperature feel like in the 20s.

This week I spent a few days house-sitting my daughter's new home. She lives near a state park o so I bundled up and went over there, determined to huddle against the wind and soak in some sun. There's a beautiful rock by the water, big enough for three or four people, with a nice slope to lean against.

I lasted three minutes before the wind drove me looking for shelter. I followed the shore of the reservoir until I reached the dam. The spillway was open and the water flowing out was so wonderfully loud and fervent. I found a rock in the shelter of the dam that still got full sun and lay back on it.

I listened to the water flow hard, felt the sun soak into my skin, and felt the darkness lift.

And then I dropped my hand to rub the ear of the dog who wasn't there. I didn't need the dog to be Tasha...there's just something about sun and water that begs for a velvet ear to stroke. And it occurred to me that my desire for the sun is so much the desire for God's radiance; that my love of the rushing water is my love of the Living Water that is Jesus; and that velvet ear that was there for all those years is like the steady companionship of the Holy Spirit.

It's raining again today. But that's okay because you...dear ones, who walk this path with me...you are my velvet ear today.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Filling Tasha's Footsteps


I wonder when I'll stop turning around on my walk and checking for Tasha? Or come into the house through the basement and listen for the click-click of her paws on the floor overhead?

Soon enough because Sadie is coming to take her place. She's bringing her family with her--my son Dan, his wife Jamie, and my 4-year-old grandson.

A double blessing indeed.

I'm already making playdates for Sadie with Maddie. Maddie will be thrilled to have a young dog to frolic with. She watched Tasha grow old and fragile and missed the opportunity to tussle over a stick or go for a swim.

I wonder if Maddie looks over her shoulder, wondering where Tasha has gone?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Glen Eyrie Writer's Conference 4/27-30




For those of you who've emailed...here's some further information on a wonderful writers' conference. If you've never been to Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs, the Navigator's website just can't do it justice. It's heavenly, infused with divine peace.

Here's what's going on the week I'll be there. Join me if you can!

**

We—Nancy Rue, Alton Gansky, Kathy Mackel, and Angela Hunt—are so excited about our upcoming adventure. Some of you have questions about what will be covered in each track, so we’ve put together brief synopses for you! We’ll talk more on our first night together, so you know just what to expect.

Oh! And if you’re adventurous, you might want to pack a pair of (modest) pajamas for our pajama party! Nightwear not required, however. J


Novels With Nancy (continuing course)
Whether you’re coming with a completed manuscript in hand or simply the germ of an idea in your head, Novels With Nancy will take you from where you are in the development of your novel and guide you through one approach to creating rich fiction. We’ll use a hands-on, workshop approach to:

· clarifying where you want your book to go thematically
· fleshing out a powerful plot
· discovering and getting to know multi-dimensional characters
· creating setting that is in itself a character

NOTE: This is not a nuts-and-bolts lecture class. Come prepared to write (laptop or long-hand), imagine, and try some things that may sound a little out there!

And in the afternoon Nancy will teach. . .

Manuscript Mentoring: “And Then It Got Worse” – Bring your manuscript, summary, plot outline, or just an idea and we’ll work specifically on your special plot challenges.

Manuscript Mentoring: “Who ARE These People?” – Bring your characters with you in whatever form they now live (don’t’ let them be shy), and we’ll treat them to an afternoon of hands-on development

Public Speaking for Writers: Al Gansky (continuing course)

Sooner or later it’s going to happen. You’ve written a book and someone wants you to speak to their church, Rotary Club, women’s luncheon, men’s breakfast, or some other gathering. How should you prepare? How long should you speak? How do you write a speech? Can you get rid of the butterflies in your stomach? Alton Gansky who has delivered more than 3,000 speeches, sermons, workshops, classes, keynotes, and more, will take the student through the basics of speech writing and delivery—and have fun doing it. The class is open to writers or others who need to stand before others and talk.

Writing the Difficult Scenes: Al Gansky

Every novelist (and nonfiction writer, too) faces scenes that are more difficult to write than others. From love scenes to descriptions of violence these scenes tax the writer’s creativity. How much is too much? How little is too little? Alton Gansky, author of 30 books, will give the student the tips and techniques that make every scene, no matter how difficult, do its job.

Screenwriting: Kathy Mackel (continuing course)

Let’s workshop your story, capture its soul and discover its the visual essence. Define the three-act structure of your plot. Script your opening scene and storyboard your climax.

Polish and Shine: Kathy Mackel

Let’s take apart the first 300-500 words of your story, examine word choice, sentence and paragraph structure, tone, and pacing. We spiff it up together, send you off to rewrite, and cheer when you come back with your shine. Limit 10 writers per session, first come, first serve. Please email Kathy ahead of time with your pages (kathrynmackel@aol.com). Fiction and non-fiction welcome.

The Freelance Writer: Angela Hunt (continuing course)

So you want to write—but you’re not sure what! Do you write novels or articles or speeches or plays? Do you write for pleasure or for profit? Could you make a living with your pen? Angela Hunt will discuss the various markets and show you how you can break into them. She’ll also show you how to tighten up your prose to improve your odds of acceptance. She’s a firm believer that anyone can write anything, as long as they understand the blueprints!

Reading Analytically: Angela Hunt

Ever read another writer and wonder how they managed to create such a lovely string of words? How they managed to transport you to another place and time? We’ll learn how to read analytically so we can dissect writing to see what works . . . so you can use the same tools to make your own writing sing!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Looking for a Good Book? Try Chapter-A-Week

It's hard enough to find books that are just right for everyone. Chapter-a-Week gives readers the opportunity to read sample excerpts from a broad range of Christian fiction every week without having to pay a cent! Plus it's a great way to discover new authors you might not have found otherwise. We don't fill your inbox with needless emails. Only one email per week is all it takes to discover great new titles.

Founded in February 2002 by beloved novelists Jane Orcutt and Angela Hunt Chapter-a-Week has had a steadily growing readership. Chapter-a-Week is a Yahoo! Group, so simply sign on to be a subscriber of the list and you'll start receiving your excerpts every Friday. Just go to:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ChapteraWeek/ and click "join this group."

Tasha's Gone, Sultana Rules

My daughter accuses me of putting gross pictures on my website but some things must be seen to be believed.

First, a word about the BadCat. Most animals freak out or mourn if they lose a companion pet. Not this girl. She's taken over the house completely, strutting as if she drove the final nail. She does, however, seem to be at loose ends, doing a lot of rolling and meowing, following even me from room to room.

But, if you look at her picture from this morning, there is no question who is now the alpha dog (okay, so she's a cat) in this household.

I was just sitting on the front porch, looking out at our acre of snow as the sun beat down on my shoulders, enjoying a little moment of praise.

BadCat comes up. I ignore her because to greet her is to invite disaster. She rubs against me, purrs, climbs on my lap, sends fear into my marrow as she rubs her face against mine. I venture a pat, then another, and we have a moment of harmony.

She walks away, purring.

I sit, soak in the Spirit, and out of nowhere, she attacks me! She whacks my arms in three rapid-fire blows. Mind you, I'm wearing two long-sleeve shirts, but she gets deep into the skin. The picture cannot do her damage justice because I've got wounds on the other side of my arm, and bruises are beginning to form.

What did I do, other than love her? She has pierced me deeply and without provocation.

The spiritual analogy is too chilling to offer.

I need a dog.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Frozen in Time

I've been climbing the hill, taking care not to step on Tasha's footprints as I go. Eventually the spring will have its way, melt the foot of snow that's still out in the woods, and Tasha's legacy will disappear.

Yesterday a cold front came in, and today an icy wind blows. I know when I go out to hike today, I won't be crashing through snow or ice but walking on top of it. Tasha's footprints will be frozen and uneraseable, at least for the next few days.

And I think, how fitting for Good Friday. This is a day when the sun blackened, time stopped, eternity held its breath. Creation was frozen in time while the Savior completed His work. We know Easter will come but on that day, his disciples and followers didn't understand.

They could only look at his last bloody footprints that led to the cross...and wonder when time would wash them away.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rest in Peace, Natasha 1990-2008


Faithful companion of Kathy and Steve, Natasha is survived by Sultana ("BadCat") and her good friend Maddie. Ms. Mackel was pre-deceased by her beloved cat friends Martha, Frisco, and Keyser, whom she protected from coyotes and cuddled with on every possible occasion. A canine member of the 4000-ft club, Natasha spent her last day eating tuna fish and climbing the big hill next to her home--twice.

No condolences necessary--we climbed a lot of mountains together. She earned her rest on the mountain top.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I Hate Billy Crystal


Oooh, what an awful thing to say on a Sunday morning. Palm Sunday, of all times.

And I don't really hate Billy Crystal, though I do suffer the Red Sox fan's reflex of despising anyone or anything adorned with a Yankee insignia.

But I do envy Billy because this week he lived my dream. (Okay, the dark side of my dream, given the whole New York Yankee thing.) For his 60th birthday, the Yankees signed him to a one-day contract and he got to bat in an actual game. He struck out but word is he actually got the bat on the ball and hit one foul of the first base line.

Marj and I are teaching a Sunday School class on the book of Daniel. Today's ice-breaker question is: "Have you ever sacrificed your dream for the good of someone else, or for the greater good?"

Today we'll be looking at chapter 10. Israel has been in exile for 70 years and Daniel is now into his 80's. Cyrus has given Israelites permission to return to Jerusalem and re-build the temple. This is something Daniel has longed for since being taken to Babylon. And yet, when permission is given to return, Daniel stays behind. Scholars believe it's because he could serve Israel--and God--better by remaining in his post of high authority and interceding for the people there.

Daniel didn't ink that one-day contract.

I'm of the age where I can't help but think about unfulfilled dreams. When I speak to women's groups, I joke about the realization when I was about 10 that I would never play for the Boston Red Sox, simply because I was a girl. I go on to unfulfilled dreams...singer, dancer, astronaut.

Writer was never in my plans. When my sister Janice Freeman was a star pharmaceutical rep, it didn't enter her mind that she would become a fitness trainer, and serve many women who are rediscovering their own dreams.

God wills what He will, and it's a blessing--and a challenge. Those Israelites who returned home, found rubble and opposition.

Tell me your dreams. Tell me what you've given up, and what you've found. And if you dare, tell me God's dreams for you.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Just a Little Taste

So we still have snow on the ground. Some south facing hills are barren but in my yard and the woods, the snow can run two feet deep. Snow is a misnomer at this point...with the rain and snow and thaw and freeze, it's more like freezer ice. The woods can be treacherous. I can be walking along, mushing through the mess when suddenly I break through a layer of ice and end impaled in the snow up to my thigh. I now know what it means to hyper-extend the knee.

Tasha has the same struggles. She's lighter and her weight is distributed over four limbs so she's less likely to break through, but when she does, the look on her snout is pure betrayal. She's gotten cautious, afraid to walk through three inches of water. Weeks earlier, she'd fallen into the same water when it was two feet deep. She doesn't trust her eyes now, nor my urging.

With all of it, there's a taste of spring in the air. Yesterday was a bit over thirty degrees, with a brilliant sun that was an absolute tease. The breeze is so clean, I want to drink it. Spring dances over my head but winter clogs my steps.

Heaven is in the air...but I know what it's like to crash through hidden ice, and hyper-extend my soul.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thumbs Up


Elsi was kind enough to email me to ask if I was OK. I am...in fact, I expect to be better than all right in a couple months.


I had a joint replacement in my thumb last week. Arthritis had worn away the cartilage in all my finger joints and my thumb has been particularly troublesome because I can't grip. My sister Janice Freeman has had similar surgery years ago, though her surgeon used a tendon to cushion the joint, a procedure called Excisional Arthroplasty.


Joint replacements in fingers have been almost 100 percent failures with the exception of the major thumb joint, which now has a long-enough success record (6 years) that I elected to go with the prosthetic implant rather than the tendon cushion. If this doesn't work, I'll have to have the same surgery Janice had. But I'm hopeful.


And I'm grateful. I have a tremendous amount of metal in my left side now (hip, shoulder, 3 fingers). I'm no bionic woman but the improvement in quality of life is a blessing.


Now that I've learned to type with one hand and a couple fingers, I'll be back to posting. Tasha and I have continued to walk, me using my hiking pole to protect my new hip/shoulder/now hand on the ice.


It's all good. And it's all God.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

That's Life!


I love to look out the front door in the early morning, praise the Lord for the sunshine and the new day.

Today it's pouring rain on top of the six inches of snow we got over the weekend. It's a driving, gray rain. An angry rain, it feels to me. Even when I look past it, I gaze over the soggy snow and into the barren trees and see no light.

I tell myself rain is a blessing, that water is the physical essence of life, that this water offered from sky to land will make the grass green and the flowers bloom and the vegetables hearty. I remind myself that the water slapping the ground is only a shadow of the living water, the stream of life that nourishes my soul.

That's life that I see from my front porch. It's not always sunshine and sweet music. Sometimes it's hard and cold. But oh...so necessary.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Raging Against the Glass


So I'm awakened last night by a howl and a scream. Turns out Sultana is having a cat fight. Only...she's inside, and the cat she's fighting is outside. We have the full glass front door, and even in the darkness, Sullie spotted this fluffy black cat licking Tasha's food bowl. Utterly disgusting but Sullie does the same thing.

She's at the door, uttering a continuous yowl. Loud enough to wake up Steve, a sound sleeper, and Tasha, who sleeps like the dead. I try to shoo her away (no way I touch this cat...ever) but she's not moving. Fluffy takes the challenge on the other side of the glass, begins her yowl. I tap on the glass, try to get her to go away.

Finally, she leaves the porch. Sullie runs into the office to watch from that window. I close her in there, thinking it's over.

Awhile later, Fluffy comes back and darn, if Sullie doesn't get herself out of the office and start up the fight all over again. This time she's beyond peeved...she's enraged and leaps at the glass, snarling, hissing, claws out.

Nothing can come of such activity, of course...a useless, impotent fight only disturbs those around you, brings a bump off the glass but no resolution for the warrior. Sometimes we batter the image we see in the mirror. Sometimes we yowl against the glass ceiling we think is heaven. Sometimes we want to rip and shred that which we can't possibly touch.

How many times have I said this? Get thee behind me, BadCat.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Enough, Already

Monday, February 25, 2008

Six-Word Memoirs (more added--keep 'em coming)

I challenged folks to submit six-word memoirs. Interestingly, it seems like it was easier to capture our pets than ourselves in six words. Honestly, beyond my loves baseball, wrong gender, writes instead snippet, I found it hard to write a serious one for myself. So I walked up the hill, and sought...not inspiration...clarification.

It's a useful exercise, I think. A snapshot, to be sure, but take away the trappings and circumstances, what do we get down to? It's easy enough to do the heart seeks and loves the Lord description--and we do aspire to that. But when we look in the mirror, who do we see?

Thank you to all who have shared their memoirs. Some submitted more than one--I chose my favorite two. Some also included clarification which I am not posting. I think it's more compelling to be 'raw' about this.

If anyone else is prompted to share, email me at kathrynmackel at aol and I'll add you on. Or you can share in comments, if you'd prefer.

**
God redeems all locust damage-hallelujah!
Elsi Dodge
http://www.rvtourist.com/


Empty Nest blahs, new adventures exploring
Jane Squires

"Reluctant Geek, now deep fries words."
David W. Fry
http://www.frydwords.com/

Think once - twice - then zip mouth!
Nancy Wade


I. Clicking her shoes to no avail.
II. Pastors wife trying to stay afloat.
Suzanne Schaffer
http://www.luvchai.blogspot.com/


I. cold in Maine, heart in pain
II. Regal Name, Children's Work, Song Crafter
Victoria James
http://www.victoriajamesmusic.com/


Climbing hills. Running to? Or from?
Kathryn Mackel


Writing and quilting using God's talent.
Laughing how God changed my plans.
Merry Stahel
http://www.merrystahel.blogspot.com/

Loves Family. Helps Women. God Directs.
Janice Freeman

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Slippin' and Slidin'

Rain and haze, alternating with crisp, freezing temperatures still plague the Northeast, and make walking in the woods an adventure. A couple of days ago, I spent an hour in the driving rain hiking around the hill, up the backside, and down the new path the forester has made. I was out in that horrific weather to stomp footprints into the top layer of snow.

We had a deep freeze overnight and an inch or so of ice formed over the snow. Even on flat sections of the path, the ice was impassable because it was so slick. Even shuffling couldn’t keep my feet from slipping. The slightest four-inch rise or bump was an invitation to disaster. But my footprints—two inches deep in the ice—made for very safe walking. All I had to do was keep to them, even on the steepest parts of the hill.

Tasha is no respecter of footprints. She was fine the first half of the walk, where the path is relatively flat. As long as she trotted instead of run, she didn’t fall. But the spot where I start up the hill (which used to be a ski slope) is dreadfully steep.

Wisely, I had driven my feet straight into the snow the day before, rather than trekking on top of it. This gave me stair-like steps to follow. As I slowly climbed, I realized that Tasha had not followed me. Instead, she was about twenty feet to my right, clawing her way up the slick crust. She saw me looking at her, and stopped.

And then she started to backslide. The panicked look on her face was hilarious (especially given there was nothing dangerous behind her). She finally slid back to the level path and had to retrace her steps to follow up the footsteps I had laid down.

We reached the top of the hill, where the trail levels off. She stayed with me, even though the walking was the best of the hike. I took a right and started down the hill, following the track the forester bulldozed. My footsteps were frozen into the snow here as well, a nice two-inch hole to step into and not slide.

Tasha went her own way again. I tried to call her to me but she wasn’t sold on following in my footsteps. Her back legs went out from under her and she skidded down the hill. Her claws caught, she righted herself, and trotted over to finish the hike in my footsteps.

Yesterday it was mushy again, and I took the opportunity to stomp out a new path. This totally confused my poor dog who had obediently followed in my footsteps, only to see me veer waaaaaay off our normal path. I wanted to check out a stream that only rushes this time of year.

I’m glad Tasha trusted me to follow, even when I took her into strange territory. That cold, pure water was worth every stompin’ step.

Six-Word Memoirs

Now that we've honored our pets, I'd love to hear your six-word memoirs. My newsletter readers have been emailing them in...please join them. I'd like to post them this Sunday. Feel free to send more than one, though I might choose only one to post. (Otherwise, you're sending a twelve- or eighteen-word memoir!)

To refresh your memory on how it works, here's a couple of examples from Angie Hunt's posting on her blog (http://alifeinpages.blogspot.com) from a week or so ago:

Found true love twice, with spice. --Stephanie Whitson Higgins
Dazed/confused most of the time. --Robin Carroll
Got lost. Got found. Got joy. --Nancy Mehl

Send yours along to kathrynmackel at aol. We'd love to get to know you better. And you might get to know yourself just a little bit better in doing this.

Friday, February 15, 2008

She Came Looking for Me


Two days ago we had five inches of snow, followed by hours and hours of driving rain. Overnight, it froze, leaving us with a horrible mess. The driveway is impassable by foot because it's thick ice. The snow has an inch crust of ice on it. It's bad if you go through, and it's worse if you don't because it is so slick.

When I took Tasha out for her afternoon walk yesterday, my plan was to bust through the ice and make a path for her to follow. She got excited, jumped on the crust and broke through. I didn't get into the woods before I decided to take her back, fearing she'd get cut. I put her inside and left a note for Steve, telling him I had gone into the woods by myself.

Once I got in there, I saw that the woodcutter had been through on the paths with his bulldozer and broken up the crust. It was a lovely little walk for me, though I picked my way very, very carefully, and used my walking stick. Though I didn't go up and over the hill like Tasha and I have been doing, I was out almost an hour.

Though Tasha had been inside all this time, as soon as Steve came home she insisted on going out. She not only came looking for me, this dog who is nearly deaf and has so-so eyesight spotted me almost immediately out in the woods. She worked her way along the crust--breaking through in places--until she reached me.

I took her home via the woodcutter's trail, keeping her safe.

Were only I so habituated to being with God that I would so wisely know where to seek Him out, and easily find Him!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I JUST WANT SOMEONE TO PLEASE, PLEASE TELL THE TRUTH!



My six-word memoir (Loves Baseball. Wrong Gender. Writes Instead.) should clue you that I watched the Congressional hearings yesterday. Combined with my love of baseball is the research I did for BOOST, my upcoming novel about girls taking steroids.

What looked like a he said-he said investigation---or witch hunt, depending on your perspective---of Roger Clemens’ alleged steroid use was in truth a check on The Mitchell Report. Following the 2005 publication of Jose Canseco’s book Juiced and the ensuring Congressional hearings, Major League Baseball commissioned former Senator George Mitchell to investigate the use of steroids in baseball.

Some of the players named in the Mitchell Report have admitted to using HGH, steroids, or both. Some have remained silent. Only one player---Roger Clemens---came out forcefully with a denial.

There’s a couple things at play here. The first is the fairness of competition and the purity of the game. If Barry Bonds is pumped up on steroids and hits home runs instead of fly balls off Curt Schilling, where is the fairness in that? If Jason Giambi, who has admitted using steroids and suffered from a pituitary tumor because of it, is so pumped up on the juice that his forearms look like they’re about to explode, where’s the purity in that?

I understand the temptation to use. As a chronic pain sufferer who has never smoked marijuana, I have had times when I was desperate to get some pot to relieve my pain, help me sleep. As someone who is still rehabbing from a shoulder injury, I would love to be on HGH to accelerate recovery.

Sports Illustrated just did an article about an in-line racer whose father started him on the juice when he was only thirteen. A football coach I know told me when he played in college, Winstrol was so widespread among his teammates that they were left out in plain sight in dorm rooms.

The temptation is immense. A teenager wants to build his body and draw the attention of college or pro scouts. A college player wants to get off the bench, or be a star. A pro player on the bubble wants to get good enough to keep from being cut. A very good pro player wants to become great, and thus hit that huge payday.

I just want someone to tell the truth.

The way to stop this cycle is for a sports icon like Roger Clemens to stand up and say, “Yeah, I did it. What did you expect? If one does it, we all have to do it to keep up. Our careers are so short and the rewards so immense, how can I not do it?”

The Mitchell Report made clear the steroid problem is the responsibility of MLB owners, the players’ association, doctors and trainers, and the players’ themselves. We fans are not to be excused. The home run chase between Maguire and Sosa revived baseball after the strike almost killed it. We want power and speed and performance. I want David Ortiz to be clean and pure but I also want him to jack homeruns.

Andy Pettitte, a close friend of Roger Clemens, gave testimony and an affidavit that Clemens told him he took HGH. Pettitte was devastated to have to give this testimony but, as a Christian, he said he was compelled to tell the truth. Not only did Pettitte stipulate to McNamee’s accusation that he injected Pettitte with HGH in 2002, he confessed—under no duress—to using it in 2004 (not with McNamee). He didn’t have to say anything about the second use but he told congressional investigators that “someday he would stand before God” and he wanted to be truthful about all his use.

Assuming Clemens did use steroids, as the evidence suggests, that he pitched so well deep into his forties is likely a result of illegal performance enhancement. Contrast him with another excellent pitcher, Greg Maddux of the Atlanta Braves and the San Diego Padres. Maddux has also has pitched into his forties, not with power like Clemens, but due to experience, wisdom, and guile.

It seems to me, as we “walk out our salvation with fear and trembling,” we should follow the Maddux example and not the Clemens-Bonds model. Spiritual maturity brings wisdom, experience, craftiness which not only keep us in the game but---like Greg Maddux with his young teammates—helps us model how to do it clean.

Please guys---just tell the truth. I’ll forgive you. And I’ll cheer and cheer and cheer!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Our Pets in Six-Words

There's a new book called NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING. It's a collection of six-word life summaries by writers and speakers, collected by Smith Magazine. Please enjoy some six-word summaries from my friends.

(If you want to join in, email me at kathrynmackel at aol and I'll amend the list....Keep them coming...we just got our first bird!)

Enjoy! I certainly did.

* * *

Shrill bark. Jumps high. Loves Robin.
Poppet
~~Robin Lee Hatcher's pup)

Prancing hooves, bowed head, gentle heart
Classy Bonanza (aka Nanza)
~~Wanda Dyson's Quarterhorse

Too smart to be a dog.
Daytona (aka Toni)
~~Wanda Dyson's Austrailian Shepherd

Survived coyote kiss, chews good handbags.
Fiona
~~Kristin Billerbeck's 14 week Yorkie/Pom Puppy

Chew Dig Chew Cuddle Chew...Sleep.
Dasha
~~Karen Ball's 4-month-old Siberian husky

Affection and food. More, more, more!
Dakota
~~Karen Ball's Aussie-Terrier mix we got from a shelter, whom we affectionately call our "black hole of emotional need"

Unconditional love wrapped in (tangled) fur
Belle
~~Mindy Starns Clark's Shih Tzu

Long red hair, matching temperment, squeaky.
Fergie
~~Sunni Jeffer's cat

Docile, petite, pretty, a female terminator.
BC (aka barn cat)
~~Sunni Jeffer's barn cat

Gentlemanly, loves to work and hug.
Chester
~~Sunni Jeffer's adopted stray dog

Uninhibited, affectionate, big heart, no brains
Tigger
~~Janelle Clare Schneider's boxer puppy

Getting older, loves affection, shadows Janelle
Mystery,
~~Janelle Clare Schneider's Cavalier spaniel/Pomeranian cross

Sleep all day and steal socks.
Elliot, Emily and Eloise
~~DeAnna Dodson's cats

Four cats in the house. Crazy!
~~Cheryl Hodde's cats

Lots of love. Gone too soon.
Eddie
~~Nancy Mehl's Jack Russell pup

Do my job. Foam and growl.
Babe
~~Angela Hunt's mastiff

Look mastiffly. Bark deep. Hide quick.
Charley
~~Angela Hunt's mastiff

Sleep, eat, snuggle … life is good!
Lady
~~Elsi Dodge's elderly beagle

Stalk, attack, plot … accept homage graciously
Dolphin
~~Elsi Dodge's saber-toothed tiger masquerading as a tabby cat

Whole house chewed, puppy eyes, forgiveness.
Bacon D
~~Annie Jone's Hammbutt - a terrier + dachsund = Derrier, 8 mos

Evil eyes, fast claws, stay away
Sultana
~~Kathryn Mackel's cat

Very very old, still climbs hills
Natasha
~~Kathryn Mackel's dog

Wrestle with Koda and chase Ryan
Sadie (the Lady)
~~Ryan Mackel's dog

Walk? Run! Play! Sniff! Fun outside!
Echo
~~Merry Stahel's wolf/husky mix

I will protect after my nap.
Flint
~~Merry Stahel's Shiba Inu mix

The world should fear this cockatiel.
Reepicheep
~~Danielle's cockatiel.

Always happy, want Food, love Love.
Brittany
~~Judy Vine's 11-year-old best buddy

Best Cat. Purred loudest. Loved most.
in memory of Miffer
~~Janice Freeman

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Saying Everything in Six Words

There's a new book called NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING. It's a collection of six-word life summaries by writers and speakers, collected by Smith Magazine. Angie Hunt challenged some of us to have at it, and the results are on her blog today. Please check it out, see if your favorite authors are there:

http://alifeinpages.blogspot.com/

For example, here's three that I cut and pasted:

Princess by nature with good handbags. --Kristen Billerbeck
Sarcastic Southern belle, lies like kudzu. --Tammy Alexander
Happy mom outgrew job. Invented another. --Deborah Raney

Next month, I'm going to sponsor a contest for my readers (and my friends, ya'll) to submit their own six-word memoirs. But given we're all pet fanatics in this neck of the woods, let's see if we can do our dogs/cats/birds/whatever pet lightens our lives.

Here's a great example from Robin Lee Hatcher:

Shrill bark. Jumps high. Loves Robin.
-- Poppet Hatcher

Please email me at kathrynmackel at aol dot com, and I'll post them in a couple of days. And I promise...I will not post Evil. Evil. Evil. And more evil. as Sultana's memoir. (Unless she whacks me today.)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Eyes of Love


I'm fine, I'm fine. No big deal. It was a small patch, and I have an L-shaped repair over my eyebrow. A small bandaid would cover it but they put this big pressure bandage on it because they stretch the skin to cover the hole, and they need pressure on it for a couple of days.

Here's what's funny. My sweet husband called me midday, made sure the procedure went fine. He came home, said hi, got about his business while I cut the vegetables for the stir-fry. I finally asked him what he thought of this big bandage.

"I didn't notice it," he said.

"How could you not?" I asked.

"I don't know. I just saw you."

It's not a disregard that made him overlook the bandage, I know. He just wasn't looking for the injury...he was looking all all of me for whom I am.

Doesn't God do that? Dig us out, bandage us up, and then see us with His eyes of love--see us whole?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Eyes Have It


I need to have a basal cell carcinoma surgically removed from my eyebrow today. No big deal--basal cell is a surface cancer, 100% curable simply by removing that outer layer of skin. I'm going to have a Mohs micrographic surgery, which means they'll remove some tissue, freeze it and look at it under the scope. If there's still some cancer cells, they'll remove more issue. On and on until the region is clear of the basal cells. It's a procedure I'm grateful for, because it's designed to remove the cancer but also to limit disfiguration.

The only problem? I likely will have to be at the surgeon's office for about 4 hours, most of the time spent waiting.

I cannot sit still at the best of times.

And I certainly cannot sit still in front of daytime television, which the receptionist cheerfully tells me will be available in the comfortable patient waiting room.

Two things can entertain me enough to sit still. One is reading, the other is writing. I plan to bring my computer and get some writing done but there's a little complication.

I wear contact lenses. And because I need them for distance and reading, I have different lenses in each eye. My left eye has the lens for reading, my right for distance (though I usually don't bother to wear that one.) If you've never experienced this, it sounds bizarre but your brain accomodates both lenses, automatically focusing with the correct eye for the correct distance.

Because the patch of cancer is on my left eyebrow, I won't be able to wear my reading lens. And Iwon't be able to wear my glasses because they cover the spot with a bulky bandage between removal and inspection. I've been told my eye will probably swell shut.

Reading and writing are like breathing to me. I can't just sit there for four hours and vegetate. I HAVE to be able to read. So I put my reading lens--always worn in my left eye--into my right eye this morning.

And thus...the war began. My right eye took to the lens right away...I can read quite well with it. But my left eye is not happy, not at all. It wants to do the reading because that's been it's job for years and years. With uncorrected vision, it can't help at all. But it keeps trying to, thus screwing up the corrected vision in my right eye. I walked around dizzy for the first 20 minutes, my brain was completely disoriented because it was being directed to read and see close-up from the wrong side. As I write this, my left eye is still trying to help...but it's calming down a little.
This puts me so in mind of the Holy Spirit. When God gives us that spiritual corrective lens, it's a joy and a revelation. But I keep trying to see life through my "old" eye, focusing the way I'm used to focusing, seeing the way I am accustomed to seeing. The war between the redeemed eye and the natural eye can be spiritually disorienting, even to the point of open warfare as the natural eye submits to the corrected--and transformed--eye of the Spirit.

The Christian walk can be a dizzy affair as our vision is corrected. Lent is a great time for getting back into focus, isn't it?

Friday, February 1, 2008

If A Tree Falls in the Forest--Redux


The joy of snow and ice...the ticks are gone for now, and Tasha and I can tromp anywhere in the woods we can get to. The only limiting factor is the fact that there is a crust under about six inches of our latest snowfall, so some places are treacherous. We think we're walking in that small layer of snow, break through the crust into empty air until hitting ground a foot further down. I'm learning to recognize those areas by the waves in the surface snow that indicate empty space underneath.

Tasha is feeling frisky these days and happily following me up this hill. Don't think a little rise...think a hill that's probably a half a mile from side to side. It's so big and steep that it was once a local ski slope. It's great exercise for me and she gets excited when she sees me heading up instead of around.

The other day, I checked the weather map (as I always do) before heading out. The map showed showers about sixty miles away but was otherwise clear.

Hm. Right. Tasha and I were on the far side of the hill, cresting it when dark clouds and very high winds blew in. It is very dangerous to be in the woods during high winds (and someday I'll tell you my miracle story) because big branches and huge trees that are either dead or dying can be brought down. I was stuck on top of the hill, trying to figure out a safe way home.

And then it occurred to me...the forester has been cutting trees on the side of the hill where I never go, because it is always laden with ticks. No ticks on this day and, because he's been cutting, there was a clear swath all the way back to his workspace (which is on the other side of my stone wall). Tasha and I cut over that way, still under trees but not nearly as many as in the other ways back to my home. The windstorm raged over my head but the trees were now at a distance, giving me a real measure of security.

His clearing had made it so less likely that some disaster was going to come down on my head.

Will I ever learn?

CAT MONTH...Did I miss anyone's cats? Email me privately if I did and I'll get your kitties posted. kathrynmackel at aol

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Oh the Pain, the Pain!

Elsi left such a beautiful comment to my last post--touched my heart--that I thought I'd clarify something here, rather than in a comment.

The thing about my shoulder now is that it is not painful--except when I do my rehab stuff. So I could go the rest of my life like this, arm that works somewhat, and never have pain.

Or, to regain the function that my arm was created for, I must go through the pain. In these months, my therapist has been the expert at dealing out the pain for my own gain, but now that I've "graduated", it's up to me to apply and endure the pain...for my own health.

Each time my therapist pushed and pulled my arm, causing enough pain so I was kicking the table, she'd whisper, "Relax, relax. It's okay." As the months went on, I began to believe her, because I saw the results. And I trusted her to cause such pain for my own benefit. And now I'm an expert at working my shoulder into that pain, knowing it's the best thing for me.

I could sit this one out, and have no more pain. Or, I could keep working.

And if this isn't a marvelous (though painful) analogy of our Christian walk, I don't know what is!

***

Speaking of good health...be sure to check out my sister Janice's blog. She's running a series on Osteoporosis, and she did one post on Alli which should dissuade anyone from trying it. Do check it out at:
http://cookwellbewell.blogspot.com/

Friday, January 25, 2008

Use It or Lose It

File this one under "you don't appreciate what you've got until you lose it."

I graduated from physical therapy yesterday, but I'm still getting "it" back. The "it" in question was my ponytail, something I'd totally taken for granted until September 29 when I took at header at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and smashed my shoulder to pieces.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, I had a plate and many, many screws put in before I could come home to Massachusetts. I've been in physical therapy since. That therapy has required enough pain that I would leave the session with a bright red face and teeth marks in my tongue.

I was declared "graduated" because I have become proficient enough in administering my own pain to progress at home. Two hours a day, I listen to sports talk radio and scream. Given that, in the time I've been doing this, the Red Sox have won the World Series and the Patriots are heading for the Super Bowl, you may rest assured that my screaming (and cursing) are because of the pain and not celebration--though in my case, one could argue they are synonymous.

When I came home from Dallas, I required neither a cast nor a sling because of the hardware in my arm. My arm, however, hung like a swollen, dead fish at my side. I could move my fingers but little else. My early goal in therapy was to be able to rest my arm on the table long enough to type. This took almost a month.

My ultimate goal in therapy is to get my ponytail back. I still cannot easily raise my left hand to the crown of my head, and I certainly struggle to hold it higher than my shoulder for the period of time it takes to pull my hair through a scrunchie. Today I bit the bullet (or would have, if I had one), bent my face to my lap, and tried my best to get a ponytail in. As you can see by my self-portrait, I did it, though not without a couple of karate yelps.

Though my ponytail is far from perfect, I got what I wanted.

God, being ever so much wiser, may desire something else.

Earlier in the day, I had knelt at the door for a moment of prayer. I began to sing and, as with so many songs, needed to lift my hands. My right arm shot up but my left arm creaked and chugged its way heavenward, pain surging as I stretched and stretched. And I was struck by two thoughts.
The first is...you don't appreciate what you've got until you lose it. Before my accident, I wouldn't have thought twice about raising my arms--though perhaps more too often to cheer the Sox than to cheer our God.

The other thought is this: how often do I take the privilege of prayer and worship for granted? If it is too often, then stretching heavenward will become painful, perhaps to the point of almost impossible.

Use it or lose it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Meet George, Valerie Comer's Charmer of a Cat

I continue to be astounded at these clever and loving cats we're meeting. I'm also a bit irked since I have the only unredeemable cat in the group -- but I'm enjoying all the cyber cuddles. Please welcome Valerie Comer and her cat George.

*
George, aka Fur Face, is almost 13 and looks like a Himalayan. His actual lineage is purebred Alley Cat. He was born behind my sister-in-law's couch and dubbed George by her toddlers, who dragged him around by his hind legs and tortured him. This actually made him into quite a tolerant cat. My kids, much older than their wee cousins, weren't too sure about the new kitten's name when he moved to our house, but they decided that rather than Curious George he was the George of Warner Brothers fame, where Marvin the Martian squishily hugs Bugs Bunny and says: "I will hug him and love him and call him George, and he will be my best friend forever and ever."

The most annoying thing about George is that he isn't as attached to his hair as I'd like him to be.
But astounding? Yes, in several ways. We've had open stairs for much of George's life. His favorite game involves touch-and-go tag on the stairs. There are so many directions we can tag him from but he does a superb job of defending all angles. He rarely plays with claws out unless he has given plenty of warning that he no longer finds the game amusing.

The most amazing thing is that he acknowledges his name every single time it is uttered. If he is asleep (on the chair that folks notice does not contain the permanent indentations of any human bottom) his ears will twitch. After speaking to him a few times he will open his eyes and look at me as if to say, yes? What is it this time? The funniest aspect of that is every time my husband calls him, the cat comes running. In the past few months, Jim has been training George to come when he snaps his fingers. I can still scarcely believe that any self-respecting cat would leap to attention when summoned, but the evidence plays itself out for me often!

There is nothing in life that compares to a snuggling, purring cat. Babies grow up, but the kitten remains inside the cat. This Christmas is the first year that George hasn't removed an ornament to play soccer with at least once, so maybe he is growing up at last. He is nearly always ready to snuggle if I need it and makes sure I have something to laugh at every day.

The main life lesson that my cat teaches me is how little it takes to be content. His life is full and complete with a roof over his head, food and water, a litter box, and someone to tickle his tummy. He can play for hours with the simplest of toys; the plastic tab off a milk jug is one of his favorites.

We people get so busy with Important Things that we often forget to count the blessings that God has given us. We fret over what happened yesterday or might happen tomorrow. George, however, is secure just being a cat and living in the present. He trusts us completely to fill his water and food dishes, to scoop his litter, and to come home from work to play with him. Why do we agitate so needlessly in our own lives? Why can we not rest in the assurance that the God who made us loves us and will care for us?

Valerie Comer