Friday, November 24, 2006

Really Thankful?

Wednesday night, and I wavered. There's a great service at church tonight... 'Thanksgiving Eve.' should I go? Such things can either stir my gratitude or arouse my discontent. Being alone in a family-oriented church challenges me. I dread my own reactions to hearing all those people stand up and thank God for their wonderful husband, their beautiful wife, or that all the kids could be together this year. It is hard not to feel alone and alienated by so many people blessed by those things I do without.

This year, though, it did not bother me. Instead, I wondered: Isn’t the reason they are thankful to have their kids around them, or a wonderful husband / wife, or even that God has blessed them through the church, precisely because they DON’T take such things for granted?

God, you have been nothing but good to me. Now grant me two more things: open my eyes to your indescribable gift; give me a pure and grateful heart.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I've been putting a fair amount of energy into raising funds for a member of our staff who is not really able to do so because her health is so poor - my roommate, Deb. Meanwhile my own support, having topped 100% every year for the last 10 years, is falling short. Insurance is up 40%. Giving is not really that far down, and end-of-the-year donations may make up the difference, but maybe it won't. I had a hunch that this might be the year I would fall short. But I am not sure how to interpret it.

It's been a huge privilege to live out 2 Cor. 9 most of the time:
"You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." 2 Corinthians 9:11
I am thinking 2 Chronicles 32 is more what's happening now, like what God did with Hezekiah:
"But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart." 2 Chronicles 32:31
I think I've been a bit proud of always being at full support and able to give to others. Ever since my paychecks have been low I've been aware how materialistic I am, how much I think I "need" new clothes, shoes, and stuff for the house. Not to mention a new computer... I probably need to stop looking at all those glossy, lowest-price-of-the-season ads in the paper! I'm also feeling grumpy too about not having more money for Christmas, or for my own end-of-the-year giving. Ah, see what is in my heart! Maybe this holiday season will be a time for purifying.

Come to think of it, my favorite Thanksgiving was the one when I stayed in my dorm at college and everything was closed down. I had a place to go for dinner that Thursday but was on my own the rest of the long weekend. Everyone was gone. When I went to the ATM to take out cash for groceries, the machine took my card and wouldn't give it back. Since the state of Oregon had pretty tight policies on cashing out-of-state checks, all I had to live on until the next Monday morning was what was in my dorm room and in my wallet - $5. Figuring out how I was going to eat and entertain myself those three days and nights was a challenge, but an enjoyable one. I had a good book, and I went for a number of long walks. But I don't think I've ever been that careful filling my basket at the grocery store! $5 can go farther than you think. Or, at least it could back then!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Quote from Douglas Adams

“Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that's invented between when you're 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things.”

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ice Cream and Vashon Island

I wrote to my coworkers, earlier this week, the following message:

When I was a growing up on Vashon Island we had two stoplights but only one fast-food, chain restaurant – and they didn’t even serve food, just shakes and sundaes and cones and so on. Mountains of soft-serve ice-cream. When Peanut Buster Parfaits went on sale, oh my!

Friday, November 10 is my birthday. I’d like to invite you to join me in reliving those days with a celebratory trip to Dairy Queen on Broadway and Mineral. Meet in the lobby at 3:00. Won’t take long. We’ll descend on them like an overgrown Little-League team. Won’t it be fun? Put this on your calendar.

* * *

Several of them asked me about Vashon Island. Here’s my favorite description from Betty MacDonald in Onions in the Stew, circa 1955. A few things have changed with the times, but much is still the same. We moved away many years ago, but the years on Vashon were a formative time for me. Maybe this explains a few things!

"Our island, discovered in 1792 by Captain Vancouver and named Vashon after his friend Admiral James Vashon, is medium-sized as island go, being approximately fifteen miles from shoulder to calf and five miles around the hips. It is the intense green of chopped parsley, plump and curvy, reposes in the icy waters of Puget Sound, runs north and south between the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, and is more or less accessible to each by ferryboat.

"On the map Vashon Island looks somewhat like a peacock and somewhat like a buzzard. Which depends on the end you choose for the head and how long you have been trapped here. The climate, about ten degrees warmer and wetter than Seattle and vicinity, is ideal for primroses, currants, rhododendrons, strawberries, mildew, and people with dry skin who like to read. The population is around five thousand people and an uncounted number of sniveling cowards who move back to the city for the winter.

"Everything on Vashon Island grows with insane vigor and you have the distinct feeling, as you leave the dock and start up the main highway, that you should have hired a native guide or at least brought along a machete…

"From the water Vashon looks like a stout gentleman taking a Sunday nap under a woolly dark green afghan. The afghan, obviously homemade, is fringed on the edges, occasionally lumpy, eked out with odds and ends of paler and darker wools, but very ample so that it falls in thick folds to the water. Against this vast greenness, houses scattered along the shore appear small and forlorn, like discarded paper boxes floated in on the tide. The few hillside houses look half smothered and defeated, like frail invalids in the clutches of a huge feather bed.

"…Vashon was once, and perhaps still is, a Mecca for the more vigorously religious… As Vashon still retains a pungent frontier atmosphere the over-all effect is faintly ridiculous – like a man sitting in the parlor in his undershirt, drinking beer and reading the Bible."

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Ever find your own long-standing weaknesses and eccentricities excruciating? For example, I would pretty much rather die than to call someone on the telephone. Public speaking, no problem. Travel around the world, no sweat. But I'm afraid to make phone calls and sometimes it really messes up my life.

A good friend of mine lives about a mile away, and I work with her husband, but since she left our office several months ago I have not communicated with her directly even once. A few weeks after she began her new job I called her cell phone to ask how she was doing but I only got voice mail. Several weeks after that I got an email from her which began with words, “I’m sorry! I’m terrible about returning calls. Quite phobic and ridiculous, actually…” I could have typed those words. It took me another week or two to answer her email simply because I was thinking I ought to just call her instead of writing, and didn’t.
I wonder what will happen next.

Of course it also affects my work. The prayer guide I’m editing now could have been done so much faster and better if I could have made phone calls instead of sending emails and fretting when they did not get the desired results. Just a few minutes ago I figured out that the little picture on my cell phone did not mean, as I had thought, that I had a text message. I knew about the text message: it’s for the girl who used to have the number I have now. And I had not erased it because I’m sure there must be a way to actually reply to it, which seemed the polite thing to do. The little word ‘reply’ sits at the bottom of the screen but how do I get there? For the life of me I can’t figure it out.

No, the picture meant I had a voicemail, and it came two days ago. It was from Chris, the main guy I need to reach about the prayer guide. He was sorry not to call sooner. I had left two messages. Both calls resulted from hard-earned mental victory that took a day, each, to achieve. I mean, it took a whole day to work myself up to making one phone call! Twice!

Figuring out my cell phone is not a big deal; a tad embarassing but not really beyond my ken. I just need to find the book that came with the phone, or ask someone else for help. I’m fairly sharp with technology, generally. But making phone calls, that's what intimidates me. Whatever am I going to do to break free of this cloak of fear that covers me every time I know I should make a call? To what extent is it OK to be realistic about my weakness, let myself off the hook so to speak, and avoid situations where I'm agreeing to make phone calls? Surely that is part of the answer. But I may need a more effective system of accountability to make me take action when making a call is the right thing to do.