Unknowable Ocean

A trip to the beach brings a variety of thoughts and senses into play. This is what I recall from a composite of my seaside visits.

Unknowable Ocean

              Oceans fascinate and sustain humans, and have for centuries. This blue-green, salt-laden liquid washes over 70% of our planet. It carries the vital water we so desperately need (as it evaporates and falls on our continents). The sea is host to much food. It is an ancient highway, too, with shipping linking goods and people around our globe from exotic and resource-rich locales.

              Yet we don’t have to travel abroad to appreciate this great waterway. For the familiar, rhythmic lap of ocean slapping against a dock, reminds us of this heartbeat of our planet. Our Father is rocking us to sleep. While the tumbling ocean into the beach, with a rumble and sloosh, evokes the sight and sound of a fretful mother unable to reach her children on shore. Perhaps that is why, when breakers meet edged land, they festively toss spray into the air like confetti. It patters downward in a mini-shower, just like a life-giving sprinkler.

              Yet this changeable servant can also imperil humans just as easily. Waves slosh from tame swells into tidal wave terrors. Even a peaceful sea can quickly turn unexpectedly violent with weather inversions. Shipwreck stories are famous – Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe – and, like the ill-fated Titanic, often without happy endings. Most of us experience a “shipwreck.” With God’s grace, may we adapt to our desert islands.

              In a timeless process, the frothy power of the ocean curls and pounds on rock, creating the lovely sand beaches we enjoy. Leisurely left footprints fill with water, as we wander alongside the mesmerizing roll and plunge of incoming waves. Tiny grains invade everywhere. I imagine just how an oyster feels. Yet through this atomization of toughest stone, we remember that Man is not the only one who can shape and destroy an environment. Further, not all destruction is without purpose. God, too, in His wisdom, allows a battering, tearing down to refashion and resurrect later.

              These reformed beaches boast shells. They litter the shore like pretty trinkets with a hard history. All that remains of foreign visitors, they are rightly dwellers beneath the ever-shifting sea surface. Homeless on the beach.

              Above the skeleton-strewn sand, gulls circle overhead. Their plaintive shrieks scold for a meal. The peculiar smell of kelp also fills the air. The slimy, bulbous strands trailing along the waterline.

              What facet of a trip to the ocean do you most joyfully anticipate? And what question would you have for this sea, this aged traveler from beyond our shores and even from beyond our time?

Harlequin’s Garden

A story told by my cat Harlequin in her most special location.

              “Enjoy yourself, Harlequin!” Mommy encourages as she lets me out of the house, into the backyard. I am excited. I am an avid explorer.

              Immediately, my eyes catch the blur of a dragonfly’s path and I follow it. Quickly in leaps, at first, then, as I get closer, I stealthily sneak in so it will not fly off. It lands on the top of a lush rhododendron bush. I crouch, still as a picture, for a long while. “I will stare you down, Mr. Dragonfly! You will not escape my sharp eyesight,” I convince myself. His four wings open and close periodically, taunting me. His bright blue body glints in the sunshine filtered through the tree above. “It is as if he is metallic, with cellophane wings!” I marvel. I consider a springing pounce, but even I cannot reach that high, though I am an expert jumper. Finally, the dragonfly lifts off, like a kite bouncing in the air currents, up and over the fence. *Sigh*

              Some astilbe flags sway nearby, like metronomes keeping time to the wind. The pink, downy flower spikes beckon me. I sniff the blooms and the fern-like foliage. A slightly sweet scent tickles my nose. *Munch* The leaf is acidic and fibrous. *Munch* *Munch* I am not really hungry, but something compels me to eat some of the roughage. It must be good for me. My instincts are excellent.

              What is this below? Moss, in a delicate emerald carpet awaits me in the cool place behind the plants. It feels refreshing to crawl back here and lay on the moist ground cover. A pleasing break from the midday heat, I stretch out for a nap. *Snooze*

              I awake when a beetle disturbs my whisker. “How are you, little tank?” Ivory lines decorate his copper shell. Six feeble feet propel him, but not faster than I intercede. I push him back and forth with my paws for a while. Playtime! He is aggravated, however, and flies out of reach. “Oh, you are a June bug! How amazing that with your large body, you can launch yourself so far!”

              Continuing my circuit of the garden, I spy iris, one of Mommy’s favorite flowers. Their pointy leaves are still green, but the deep purple blooms have withered and browned. So tall and aristocratic in their prime, they now stoop like old men. The potentilla bush has a smattering of small five-petal flowers in butter yellow. “Yum! I love butter! Mommy doesn’t let me have any, so I take a lick at dinner when she isn’t paying attention.” My mouth salivates with expectation.

              “Harlequin! My honey bundle! My sugar lump!” Mommy calls me. “Harlequin! Where are you?”

              As much as I savor wandering the garden, it is close to feeding time. I am tempted to rush delightedly to Mommy. Still, I do not want to appear too eager, as I am an independent, clever cat. So, I saunter over to Mommy, rubbing her legs like Aladdin’s lamp. “Will my dinner wish come true?” I think to myself. I tell her about my afternoon adventures. “Yawl! Mussp. Mipper.”

              “Yes, Harlequin, you are right. It is a lovely day for a garden stroll. If we keep our senses open to what surrounds us, there is beauty everywhere. Now it is time for another treat – kitty kibbles – followed by hugs and kisses on the sofa. Aren’t we blessed to live such pleasant lives? God has gifted us abundantly. I am so thankful. Come inside, my Harlequin. We will finish this day as gloriously as it began.”

The Master Maker

Introduction: This is a story of the creation, told anew. The following is synchronized with Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, Movement Three. Called ‘The Pastorale,’ Beethoven’s Sixth masterpiece is a celebration of God’s natural world.

The Master Maker

Who creates something from nothing? Given a blank space, what would that Master Maker fill it with?

Imagine the first burst of blinding rays flooding into sheer darkness. The expansion of mysterious, mischievous matter acting in concert with specific laws and principles, from gravitational pulls to quantum mechanics. All resulting in revolving dust and gases, nebula colors, exotic patterns – an abstract art-extravaganza like no other. (pause)

Our universe!

Where our world, placed amongst the galaxies, is protected from supernovas and colliding solar systems. Here, land arises from the waters, like giants awakening. Continents rift and smash; behemoths competing for primacy. Glaciers stand at attention, abominable, crystal armies (1:00) with aquamarine insignias. Liquid, salt-laden waters encircle these shores, home to their own varied terrains – from lava vents oozing volcanic titans to vast chasms of murkiness, reminiscent of Hades’ dismal domain.

This temperate, hand-picked planet, though originally barren, teems with potential. Beneath the cyan sky where wayward winds propel rain-giving thunderheads, more miracles abound. Yes. At just the right time, this silt-covered sphere erupts with jewels of vitality. (pause)

Life!

The marauding shark, sniffing, hunting, snatches the finned prey. The muscled tiger dispatches the unsuspecting lynx. The herd of stilt-legged giraffes stretching up to the acacia leaves must beware the roving hyena pack. Even the tiny bee, hurrying to pollinate numerous blossoms, may fall victim to the Venus fly-trap.

Imposing needle and leaf camo-green sentinels guard the homes of many dwellers. A floral jungle exhibits the fifteen-pound monster, parasitic rafflesia, as well as innocent, deep-throated amaryllis in eye-popping red.

Listen! Do you hear the whir of the rubied hummingbird as it jets in to extract ambrosia?

Fragrances suffuse the air: the damp earth with its mulchy aroma, the rich orchid perfume, the crisp evergreen scent of fir forests. Each creation interwoven in the survival of our globe.

“More” is the watchword of this Creator. Another surprise unveiled. This time with the ability to self-reflect and extensively investigate. (pause)

Man!

Whose dexterous hands adorn caves with bison stampeding and antelope bounding. (pause)

The gift of design! Egyptians sculpt curious sphinx, pharaoh’s head on stately lion, and engineer raider-thwarting pyramids leading ruler in burnished sarcophagus to a sumptuous afterlife. (pause)

The gift of verse! The rhythmic poetry of Homer introduces the hero Odysseus who outwits cyclops’ appetite and sirens’ luring melodies, returning to his homeland to usher in justice. (pause)

The gift of science! Astronomers cast their eyes heavenward and biologists inward through ingenious telescope and microscope. (pause)

The gift of music! A deaf Beethoven for his Ninth Symphony experiments with chord, harmony and choral voices in unparalleled sound. (pause)

The gift of finery! Dior fashions of floating multicolored marvel turn women’s forms into earthly goddesses. (pause)

The gift of technology! Data at lightning speeds churns through internet connections to bring use, joy and worldwide communication. (pause)

              Onward!

So it is that humanity encounters His Originator at each endeavor and exploration. From undersea expeditions into the Marianas Trench to outer space successes – a moon landing! Our species thrives on overcoming obstacles and expanding horizons.

Who achieves these wonders without divine inspiration and favor? Who conducts ultimate prevailing goodness through the restoration of our planet? Who is trusted to finely tune and fairly govern the final masterpiece?

I leave you with this thought from the Bible – “Should you find a more awe-inspiring and capable god, follow him; as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” 

My Perfect Home

Introduction: My own visions and pieces of science fiction took root and sprouted this Heavenly Haven. So much astounds me, driving me to describe!

My Perfect Home

How do you envision Heaven? Bored inhabitants strumming harps and lazing on clouds? Bland Bible Studies, flat sermons and off-key hymns, like a careless church production? Or maybe a constant, spectacular vacation?

Well, maybe so. But I invite you to sample my Perfect Home, tailor-made to each resident, exploding with excitement and purpose.

Welcome! First, you’ll notice we are beyond our former universe’s space and time. Not a parallel universe, but a higher dimension, where three become one. That’s why our surroundings seem vaguely tessellated and fractal. Here we are so much more solid and expansive than Earth, as if limitless in volume and energy, as well as time. Because there’s an extra axis for movement, we can move between any two three-dimensional spots in only a few steps. The magic of Star Trek’s transporter, without the stomach upset.

As you may know, there is no “night,” since God’s Shekinah glory illuminates with more watts than a Hollywood movie set. There’s our permanent ethereal rainbow, like colored mist. Yes. Dorothy is correct, there is somewhere over the rainbow. You’ll find all the sagas we thought fictional, have their basis in fact here. Some days the firmament flashes with neon fireworks or long-lasting, glow-sky-writing. We’re always celebrating.

But let’s turn our focus to the park expanse of dew-sparkling grass, a gathering of eons-old redwoods to the south, and wonder-filled gardens to the north. Everything here is uniquely fashioned and specifically named, giving lasting testimony to worthy works on Earth. For example, this rose, vital red center bleeding into purple with fluorescent blue petal edges, is a tribute to Mother Theresa. Bend closer and listen, as each bloom describes her deeds forever giving glory to God.

Let’s stroll toward that grand weeping cherry. This tree is dedicated to Sarah Smith. Though never acknowledged prior to Heaven, she is a giant saint. Sarah is always surrounded by crowds – children she raised to awe God, neighbors with whom she shared her few possessions and meals, even those who initially hated her (envying her simple belief, persisting through enormous grief to greater joy). Yes, even those detractors she drew to God. (Note that all find their true parents here – those who nurtured, accepted, inspired them – not necessarily birth parents.) No, Sarah’s not “famous.” God is our only “celebrity.” Sarah prefers bustle and conversation about her, so that is how she is blessed in eternity.

Aristotle, by comparison, enjoys his studies and experiments most, so that is his paradise. No, there is no antipathy between science and faith in Heaven. Brother Truth-Seekers. The imagined divide is just an earthly misunderstanding. Science is a subset, explaining God’s created universe within our purview. Thankfully, God builds bridges. Just so! A “Golden Gate” God. What is required is “suspension” by faith; then the structure holds. Newton, Archimedes, Einstein, Curie, DaVinci, Kepler, Pasteur, Tesla, Edison, Goodall, most curious minds continue on in their fields and even combine insights into fresh areas of inquiry. Creation is so vast, complex and varied, there is never a shortage of questions. God could answer all immediately, but He wisely lets us unfold each discovery drama.

Speaking of drama, all endeavors here – theater, books, music, movies, dance, every art, architecture, sports – march forward with the classic as well as the cutting-edge. Wait ‘til you participate in the latest pieces by Michelangelo and Mozart!

Oh yes, I mentioned excitement. Ever pilot a Stealth jet past the speed of light? Niagara bungie-jumping? Extreme fencing with D’Artagnan? Horseback riding on Man O’ War with Mongolian trainers? Football in four dimensions with Walter Payton? Raise a companion phoenix or unicorn? Perhaps a trip in the holograph room’s virtual reality – your choice of any fictional or historical expedition? The pleasures are actually endless, with no danger of permanent injury.

Besides play, there is “work” to do – most gratifying – the restoration of our planet back to the Eden God first created. Everyone relishes his tasks because each contributes exactly as they are most gifted. Further, everyone realizes their skills are given and renewed by God, so He receives the praise for each new feat, each new invention, each new breakthrough. All our talents plus God’s wisdom are required to undo humanities multitude of problems. Injustice. Pollution. Corruption. Greed. War. Poverty. Moral decay. Yes. Seemingly impossible, and is unachievable without Him. Thankfully, God has a plan, and we are honored to implement it. When all is made clear, everyone will agree His solution is flawless.

Here we are at the River of Living Water. Yes, the water tumbles, leaps, spurts, spirals, even “walks.” Take a swallow – so pure and refreshing, a lift to even our soaring spirits. Yes, it would be a fountain of youth on Earth. But here we already have complete health and vigor.

Oh! The water is making a mirror of your reflection. That is you! The real you is breath-takingly beautiful; your inner love, peace and joy bubbles to the surface here. God sees us this way our entire life. In town you can see the lovely attainment and diversity of the unsullied human form, with each one’s unique choices of clothing, hair styles, jewelry, tattoos, body and face paint, even scars.

This is a treat! Jadasha wants to say “hello.” Don’t be alarmed, all our animals are good. No, not domesticated. They retain their majestic, willful natures, they just don’t eat meat. Jadasha’s roar is intimidating. That’s tiger for “please stop gaping, but thank you for fearing me.”

Yes, our communication is amazing – a mix of telepathic and empathic. With it, the deepest, most intimate thoughts and feelings are shared. This ability allows us constant communion between God and every being – an unbroken prayer community. Even “elementary” languages can be understood, though I doubted I’d ever master Anemone.

Ah, everyone asks about dinner, sooner than later usually. That’s not an expertise of mine, though I do revel in a prime rib au jus with a hint of horseradish sauce. Very funny, I’ve gone from Adam’s rib to Prime rib. At least I’m a cut “above.” I guarantee every food is organic, bringing about no pain or loss. Each person’s preferences and palette are considered. Yes, it is miraculous, natural meat dishes without sacrificing animals. With a word, God can create whatever is desired.

No, despite the advances in Heaven, no one knows how God does it. He is still mysterious. His miracles, like His kingdom, know no end, a perpetual, sage Ever-Ready Bunny, batteries included. (Just a bit of humor, God. No disrespect intended.)

Hmm? Where is “religion”? Everything here points to God and His glory. But if you mean earthly “religion,” visit His Throne – truly the most magnificent experience in the universe – indescribable, much less explainable. God’s holy love fused with your reverent faith permeates deep into your soul – unforgettable. (But only visit after your cleansing entry here, otherwise the terror of your wickedness may destroy you.) Then, in animate cathedrals, witness splendid voices rise in visual praise music of all types.

Unsurpassed, inspirational lessons and stories. Our speakers include Buddha, Mohammad, Gandhi, Confucius, the Dali Lama, Hillel, Moses, Socrates, Nietzsche, special guest Greek goddess Athena and occasionally selected scientists. Even people who slept in church on Earth, find the repartee fascinating and thought-provoking. Since no one here is offended or alienated by disagreement, no question is off-limits. All have a voice because all inquiry leads to Truth, God’s Truth. The Perfect Home for a unified, supportive family, finally a functional one.

What about Jesus, you ask? I’ve been waiting to reveal my superhero. No, not exposed to His tights! Seriously, the Son of God, my Savior, my Spirit-Guide, my Sustainer, my Master, my Friend, through His crucifixion, took the punishment for my sins, allowing me: fellowship with God, settlement of His Law and Grace in my heart, and entrance into this blessed Heaven. My heart is forever linked to Jesus, pierced and broken separately, yet healed together as one. An eternity of gratitude is too short for what He gives me and what we now share. Jesus is essential to project “Renovate Earth.” Only He, perfect and sinless, yet knowing intimately every sin committed, can fairly set our seemingly insurmountable divisions, differences and disgusts to rights.

Yet many here in Heaven didn’t profess Jesus on Earth, you say? Yes, but Christ Himself commands love to be the distinguishing characteristic by which Christians are known. So, if the fruit of your life is love, regardless what you speak, you are following Jesus. He who follows, actually believes. Actions trump words. And should you be doing good deeds with sketchy motives? The state of your heart trumps all, and exposes your true faith. Which means, the people most likely to lose out on Heaven, are those who arrogantly show no concern for the godly well-being of themselves or those they accost. Indeed, who would worry about another’s wayward “lion” when you’ve got your own self-righteous “pride”?

Which brings me to a caution about the word “love.” What often passes for “love” on Earth? Casting money, possessions, treats, even unwarranted compliments, to anyone who “needs” them; enabling yourself or others to indulge in vices and gamble with life. In contrast, Heaven’s love is “tough love.” We push ourselves (and only then others) to become our highest selves, asking for sacrifice, not to spoil, but to train. We help everyone reach the fulfillment of a beneficial purpose, pursuing it fervently. With all this secondary to obeying God’s guidance, for He shepherds disciples to pure, sacred, holy life.

So how do you get to this Heaven? That’s for God to decide, a state of each heart only He knows intimately. But there is plenty we can control. Initially, the proper advice appears be to love boldly, discipline fairly, contribute selflessly. That is fabulous, until you realize all you do wrong will keep you from God’s perfection. Thus, Jesus’ sacrifice and grace, which is His unmerited mercy, is essential. It becomes a tender balance between your own striving and your grateful receiving from God. Instead of the Earthly that get into Heaven, it is more like the Heavenly gets into those on Earth. Therefore, the best way to start, is to ask God to send you His Word (both the Bible and Jesus) and His Spirit into your heart. Then follow God’s instructions. The godlier you become, the more “you,” there will be to bring to Heaven. All else is lost.

Come. Discover first-hand why Jesus’ discipleship is the most demanding, yet rewarding calling of any on Earth. Or, if you can’t get past Jesus or some of His supposed “followers,” ask God to lead you along another loving and disciplined path. He will work with wherever you are. But do join our never-ending adventure, with huge, loyal, caring family and the most awesome Daddy ever.

Only one take-away is left for this place we all long for – Promised Land, Nirvana, Valhalla, Elysian Fields, Paradise, Eden, Heaven, my Perfect Home – don’t miss it!

Christmas Bells

Introduction: Fairytales are a major part of my life. Both for the beauty of the words and pictures, as well as the lessons learned. So, I wrote my own tale based loosely upon Joel, a book of the Bible. Transformation through trials is the defining characteristic of Joel’s life, my own life and many others. May your heart be touched, as well.

Christmas Bells

              Listen fair lads; our hero Joel is but ten years when his father’s barley crop is consumed by locusts. All that remains is stubble. Joel and his family separate; tear-stained farewells. Joel is sold into slavery to pay the debts of the farm. Yet as winter’s Christmas descends, a song lies in the silver bells. Joel hopes for future freedom.

              Years toil in his master’s vineyard only grows his exuberant spirit. Joel collects stories like some men acquire money or women. He is popular. For during the day’s drudgery, Joel describes fanciful exploits to amuse those working alongside. Tales of fantasy such as: “Shearing the Lion’s Mane” and “Painting the Sheep’s Wool” and “Tooting the Cow’s…Horn” evoke laughter and delight. These Christmases Joel listens to bronze bells hailing harmony and light.

Sadly, fire spreads over the trellises and grape vines like a blanket of dancing orange spires. Joel is sold once more.

A mill owner realizes the value of a quick mind and a strong body. Joel keeps the water wheel and grinding stone operating to make flour from each customer’s grain. Along with the flour, Joel provides entertainment, as well.

Alas, his new master is harsh and humorless. He believes Joel’s tales distract from his work. Silence is expected and punishment is frequent when Joel speaks other than on business. Robbed of his joy with words, Joel takes delight in the forest fragrance, gossip of goldfinch, and craft of woodwork. During mill Christmases Joel hears bells of brass, cacophonous and tinny.

Ultimately, Joel is falsely accused of striking a beautiful lady distressed over Joel’s lack of attention and flattery. His master’s testimony exponentially lengthens Joel’s sentence.

              Three bitter twelfth-months devoid of light follow. Joel’s easy manner and ignorance of evils make him simple prey for the manipulations of fellow prisoners. Joel continues to collect tales, new bawdy and vicious kinds. However, the other prisoners resist Joel’s presence, considering him an outsider. In addition, a leader of the prison guard fears Joel’s speaking is inciting disobedience and rebellion. Joel stops telling his tales. Darkness of heart is much more despairing than darkness of environment.

Yet deep within Joel hides his passion and soul-spark. Iron prison bells toll every Christmas through these empty nights. Joel barely survives his three years.

              A morose and cautious Joel exits the prison. The miller sells him yet again. This time to a monk. Life is not always pleasant. Hard work is mandatory. Scant sleep. Hunger during fasts. Cold and sparse cell.

But for Joel, all compares extravagantly to his bleak prison days. Whether in the abbey fields, their mill, his cell or the bustle of the monastery, Joel belongs in this familiar home. Joel becomes a cherished member of the monastic community. Tortuous memories fade like bloody clothes bleached white once more.

              “What do you seek?” the monk who brought Joel asks delicately.

              “Storytelling is my desire. To bring smiles and messages to people I meet.”

              “Ahh…why do you remain silent then?”

              “I have been punished for talking.”

              “You have spent time in prison. But real prisons are the limitations we place upon ourselves in our minds. To find joy despite horrific circumstances is to be truly free. Do you remember Apostle Paul in the Roman dungeon?”

              Joel absorbs the monk’s wisdom. Though Joel amazes and ofttimes offends other monks, he tells stories once more, as allowed. He gathers new tales based upon the Bible.

Joel even develops an intimate prayer life with His God. His initial rage at His Creator for his brutal life, burns away into a thankful spirit. Joel’s dream has been wildly fulfilled. Joel’s stories shine so much richer and more magical than if he had not been through such grim trials.

Golden Christmas bells rejoice these years with a multitude of melodious resounding in Joel’s heart. He realizes that God has always been present. In his favored youth, in his beloved companions and stories, in his friends of nature, in his darkest determination, in his wise monk, in his healing present; God has been and is still close at Joel’s side.

Know this, dear listener, freedom, whether physical or just mental, is never out of reach. The only true necessity for liberty is to walk with God Himself. Then, every moment, Christmas bells chime with glee.

Joys of Jesus “Cookbook”

A “cookbook” full of happy “recipes.” Bon Appetit!

Joys of Jesus Cookbook

Overview of this cookbook: We share our food and faith with family, friends and Jesus. Begin each meal with a blessing of thanks to God, our Provider of all that is good. Ponder especially His gifts of food and relationships we enjoy presently.

History of this food: Unleavened bread is used in Jesus’ Last Supper (a Passover celebration) because the Israelites were called to quickly leave their old, enslaved life behind. Grape juice (or wine) is a powerful symbol of the sweetness of God as well as the crushing of His chosen to be used for His purposes.

Fill up: We also feast upon the “food” from our Father – His Words from Scripture and Spirit Indwelling.

Biblically: Jesus calls us to remember Him regularly with Communion. The bread symbolizes His broken body and the grape juice (or wine) symbolizes His shed blood on the cross.

Miraculous Blessings Bread

Multiplying loaves of Bread-of-Life

Dried dates sweet with Savior’s love for despised “tax collectors and sinners”

Water-to-wine walnuts

Paralytic walks dried plums

Samaritan woman restored to community sesame seeds

Restored sight raisins

Madman returned to sanity sunflower seeds

Dried apricots of pardon for guilty adulteress

Lepers cleansed currants

Lazarus resurrection to new life lemon zest

History of this food: Rich breads, particularly with a variety of dried fruits, nuts and seeds added, have been a staple of mankind’s diet for thousands of years.

Fill up: Try fasting to augment prayer vigils and focus completely on our true “bread,” Jesus and His Word.

Biblically: Jesus called Himself the “Bread of Life,” since He is sufficient to give us what we need to live. He wants us to prioritize a relationship with Him at all times, whether we are grieving, laughing, despairing or complacent. (See the details of all these miracles in the Bible Books of Matthew and John.)

Heavenly Nature-Hike Hash

Magnify each moment sweet potato sunrise

Mercies-new-every-morning mustard meadow

Jesus’ Spirit mountain of mystery meatloaf

Applause babbling brook broth

Evergreens of eternal splendor sausages

Snow drift, less-is-enough, onions

Mirror lake self-reflection milk

Dew-laden Scripture grass greens

God’s wisdom lookout peak pilaf

Abundant gifts waterfall wine

Patience cauliflower clouds

History of this food: “Hash” is a term used to describe leftovers combined into a new dinner. Just like a proper hash, God uses every event in our lives to bring us to bring us into conformance with His Will.

Fill up: God’s creation can draw us closer to Him, as well as give us rest and beauty. Try bringing along a sketch book or journal to capture His glory and listen to what He reveals.

Biblically: From Genesis to Revelation, nature as “the garden” is a powerful vision of God’s intent for our stewarding of His planet and appreciation of the Earth’s riches He has given all of us.

Feisty Fireworks Frosties

Epiphanies ice cream

Exuberant praise dancing dipped cones

Fly Jesus’ banner bravely banana

Bursts of Truth butterscotch

Caramel comfort rocketing hope

Poppers passionate prayers pineapple sauce

Parade of faithful heroes’ hot fudge

Grateful spinners granola

Psalm singing sparkler sprinkles

Triumphant triple cherry bombs

History of this food: Ice cream, brought from China to the West by Marco Polo, is inextricably connected in America to celebrations and good times. The addition of fruit flavors, toppings and even crushed candies and nuts has added further revel to its many tastes.

Fill up: Fireworks are linked to America’s Fourth of July, celebrating our independence. Let it also be a reminder of worship due Jesus for His deliverance from our bondage to sin.

Biblically: King David called for national celebration as he pranced naked and joyously unashamed before God’s Ark of the Covenant when it was moved into the then capital city of Israel. (See 2 Samuel 6:14-22) May we be as thankful and unembarrassed to be fully committed to God and His ways.

Companionship Chocolate

Hold-me-tight Hershey hugs of warmth

Dark kindness kisses of cocoa

Wonder-filled Lindt laughter

Milky Ghirardelli gazes of adoration

Cadbury repartee of respect

Semi-sweet three-strand cords of support

Seven times seventy expressions of Nestle forgiveness

Tender Toblerone sighs too deep for words

White chocolate peppermint partnership dreams

History of this food: Chocolate, a well-known mood-booster, releases the same endorphins in our bodies as falling in love. It is the go-to gift for Valentine’s Day or a proclamation of love between sweethearts.

Fill up: Strive to treat everyone we meet to a “chocolate zap” of compassion and appreciation.

Biblically: None loves like Jesus. He invested patiently in His disciples, teaching and interceding with healing and miracles for all who came to Him. They all expected Him to overthrow their oppressive Roman rulers, but He came for a much greater sacrificial love: taking upon Himself all sin and therefore allowing us direct access to a relationship and eternity with God.

Imperfect Parenting Berry Pudding

Quality time cranberries

Pick-your-battles blueberries

Consequences for mistakes marionberries

Listen-listen-listen lingonberries

Learning to share and give blackberries

Age-appropriate responsibilities raspberries

Strong lessons infused by godly example strawberries

Letting go as they grow gooseberries

Consistent discipline butter

Rich cream of observing and discovering your child’s calling

Encourage the positives sugar

History of this food: Berries are eaten world-wide and important to human diet since before the start of agriculture. When made into preserves or dried, they can be stored and used in the winter when other foods are scarce.

Fill up: Thankfully, with God’s grace, we don’t have to parent perfectly to raise the next generation up with God. Going without may actually teach more valuable lessons to children than spoiling them with abundance.

Biblically: Hannah was an outstanding mother to Samuel, renowned prophet and priest. After a long season of barrenness, God gave her a precious son, whom she dedicated to God’s service. (See 1 Samuel 1:2-2:21)

Self-Discipline Salad

Repentant heart romaine

No-boasting humility hummus

Turning from temptation tuna

Daily dedication to help others diced celery

Carrot of carrying your cross

Obedience to God’s Will avocado

Trust in His promises tomatoes

Enduring persecution red potato

Care-for-yourself cottage cheese

Non-conformist croutons

Moderation Dijon dressing of denial

History of this food: Salads, though prone to having a short storage life, are perhaps the most common diet food. Low in fats and sugars (except for certain dressings) they are lean-builders, equated with self-controlled eating habits.

Fill up: In addition to working hard for the Lord and resisting ungodly temptations, we should take care of our bodies (temples of God) with enough sleep, good nutrition, grooming and time to de-stress.

Biblically: Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, shows amazing discipline in the Bible. Despite suffering slavery by his brothers’ hands, being falsely accused of rape and bearing imprisonment for years, he never lost faith in His God. Ultimately, Joseph rose to second in command in Egypt and saved thousands from starvation, including his brothers who had wronged him. (See Genesis 37:3 for the beginning of Joseph’s trials and perseverance.)

New Perspective Nuts

Last-shall-be-first peanuts

Who-can-stand-against-you hazelnuts

God’s-perfect-timing pistachios

Confidence-in-God’s-strength cashews

Love-always-prevails pecans

Share-His-Majesty macadamias

God-always-gives-what’s-best almonds

Blessed-thoughts-words-deeds brazil nuts

Revenge-is-His hickory nuts

Stop-complaining coconuts

History of this food: Nuts are a high-protein and high fiber snack. They give lasting energy and store easily. Since the time of early hunter-gatherers, nuts and roots have been an important dietary component.

Fill up: Tap into God’s inexhaustible source of energy when you are pushed to your limit. Pray and reach for some Scriptural “nuts.”

Biblically: Job accepted a new perspective on God after horrendous trauma and loss. When God finally revealed His superior wisdom and power to Job, Job accepted his lot in life with no more questions asked. God then restored Job’s wealth and health to greater levels than before his sufferings. (See Book of Job)

Life Well-Lived Lamb

Sacrificial roast lamb leadership

Gravy from a loving heart like God’s

Gethsemane olive oil of transformational tears

Sabbath rests sage

Join God’s rosemary redemptive work

Generous with time, treasure and talents turmeric

Meditations on God’s Word garlic

Prioritizing rapport with Jesus mint jelly

Interruptible and moldable for God’s purposes parsley

Salt of spreading God’s joy and peace

History of this food: Lamb was not only an important food in Biblical times, but the unblemished lambs were used as sacrifices to God to pay for the sins of the Israelites.

Fill up: Don’t shy away from sacrifice for others. Imitate Jesus, the “Lamb of God.”

Biblically: Excluding Jesus’ unreachable example of a life perfectly obedient to God, Moses shines next in line. He was fully dedicated in mind and heart, successfully carrying out his heavy responsibility to lead God’s chosen to the Promised Land. (See Book of Exodus for Moses’ numerous exploits for God.)

Everlasting Friendship Fondue

Swiss sentiments which touch the heart

Blue cheese tears of silently shared grief

Smiles of Colby compatibility

Encouraging provolone words

Gentle gouda understanding

Challenge to stretch mozzarella

Staying in touch regularly stilton

Prayers for protection parmesan

Sharing each other’s excitement and interests pepper jack

Enjoying our differences camembert

Authentic honesty Havarti

Frequent Muenster humor

History of this food: Another staple of the ancient diet was cheese. It keeps and travels well, and is available year-round. Earliest cheeses were produced from sheep and goat milk, as well as cows and buffaloes.

Fill up: My melted cheese fondue is a reminder to take any shape God requires of us to fulfill His purposes with our submitted lives.

Biblically: Apostle Paul, who brought the gospel to the non-Jewish world, boasted of becoming “all things to all people” for the sake of saving people for Christ. He suffered the hardships of hunger, shipwreck, attack by animals and humans, imprisonment and ultimately death to serve Jesus. But Paul counted it all gain to serve Jesus. (See Book of Acts starting chapter 9.)

A Canine Christmas

Introduction: You heard the story about my cats. Well, there are three dogs in our house, as well. Here is their Christmas tale. ‘Mom’ in the story is my daughter. ‘Dad’ is my son-in-law. I’m ‘Grandma’. But the story is told by Warwick, the eldest male dog. Nocturne is his rambunctious younger brother and Fiora his nervous sister. Have an uproarious holiday season!

A Canine Christmas

              (Yawn) “Rise and whine, Nocturne and Fiora.” (Licking Dad’s face) “Let’s wake Dad up to take us for a walk!”

              (Go out door) Out on the trail! (Wagging) A winter plunderland. Strange poop to sniff! Scents of skunk, racoon, squirrel! I bet one of those furballs would make a great appetizer with tonight’s dinner. But no, I’ve got to be on my best behavior, so I can be taken out again. Just the right weather. Twenty degrees and snowing! I’ll catch some snowflakes. (Sticks out tongue) Frosted flakes for breakfast! Over so soon. (Whine)

              (Go in the door) Now for a nice snooze on Grandma’s bed.

              (Shake awake) What was that noise? Better check on Nocturne. I’m a responsible older brother. Grandma, come with me. (Pawing Grandma) Something’s wrong.

              Oh no! Wait ‘til Dad sees this. Plastic ornaments everywhere. Grandma, make a scatter plot of these strewn items. Determine whether Nocturne or Fiora is responsible by projecting the trajectory based on each dog’s mass and energy level. Fiora, you should be in on this, you’re a German Shepherd, where are your police dog instincts? Yes. You’re guilty, Fiora. Stop having a panic attack. Sisters, so emotionally volatile. Look at Nocturne, he’s completely unconcerned that he’s been bad. Here comes Dad. Yep, Fiora and Nocturne both get a butt-chewing and into the kennel for two hours of time out.

Warwick? Me? I had an alibi, Dad. Phew! Exonerated by Grandma.

              Mom and Grandma are picking up the décor. Just wait, Grandma is going to trot out those destroyed ornaments as brand-new chew toys at a later time. I’m not fooled. But Fiora and Nocturne will be fighting over Rudolph with his missing brisket and St. Nick, who, true to his name, now has several teeth scars. Grandma’s deduced an angel lost its wings, a wise man lost his head, and Fiora and Nocturne have shared the consumption of six silver bells. I guess instead of water over their kibbles tonight, Nocturne and Fiora will be begging for Pepto Bismal.

              It’s no wonder this happened, though. What were Mom, Dad and Grandma expecting? Figures of deer, lambs, mice, peculiar people, even a baby. Couldn’t they see these are all triggers for dogs? Especially Fiora.

Fiora and Nocturne finally released from jail. Better check up on my brother.

Hmm. The stocking that smelled like dog treats is gone. Nocturne? No, don’t – vomit on the rug. Dad, Mom and Grandma arrived just in time to see the evidence. Grandma is picking up the red and white pieces to launder and resew into a smaller stocking.

What’s this? Mom discovered her gift of scented candles has also been chewed. Wow! (sniff)  vanilla cookie smell. Nocturne had some dessert with his biscuits. That Nocturne, oblivious. Sugar is bad for dog’s health. I’ve warned him countless times. Rebuke and more time in the pen.

              Nocturne just had another hour added to his dog-jail time. They discovered he peed on the tree skirt. I tried to tell him the ammonia in his urine would not help that tree grow. “Restroom is through the dog door, Nocturne, on your right.” But youth of today just don’t listen.

              Nocturne freed again. We’re all ready to watch “Lady and the Tramp.” Fiora’s distraught over Lady in the pound. Purebreds! Fiora is going to worry herself sick. She’s snuggled onto Mom’s lap for petting and comfort eating. No wonder Fiora has weight gain. Nocturne is watching… Grandma’s shoes? No, Dad’s beard? No, the movie? No, that bug on the floor? No, that chew toy? Nocturne must have ADD. Better than Fiora’s anxiety issues. Products of their time. Not a classic breed like me, the husky. We’re solid, dependable, intelligent, unflappable…

              Look at Lady’s gorgeous long ears. Reddish-brown coat. Large, sensitive eyes. Now there’s a dog! Can’t see why she’s spending time with that mangy, flea-bitten Tramp. Hey, Lady! Look here! A strong husky. Just like Jesus, perfect. Well, not exactly Jesus, I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb. But for you, Lady, I’ll be faithful and true. (Howl) Lady’s settling down with Tramp. I’m heart-broken. (Whimper and hangs head)

              What’s that Grandma? Happily-ever-afters are not all they’re built up to be? I do have Mom, Dad, you, Fiora, Nocturne. (Lifts head) Really? Family gathering at the fire pit in more snow weather! (Wagging)

              Nothing like a roaring blaze to brighten a tragic love story. Six voices raised in caroling. “Jingle Bellies,” in honor of Fiora and Nocturne. My favorite “I Came Upon a Midnight Deer.” And our finale, “Bark, the Hairy Old Angels Sing.”

              Mary Christmas? M-A-R-Y Christmas? Sheesh! Don’t Joseph and Jesus get any credit? Women’s lib has gotten out of hand. OK. OK. Mary Christmas to all! And to all a chewing, wagging, howling, good night! (Woof)

My Three Blessings

Introduction: Everyone who has pets knows they are God’s gifts to amuse and love us. I invite you to meet my three hairy cats.

My Three Blessings

              Each morning as I arrive at work, I receive comments such as:

“Excuse me, you been substituting as the dryer lint collector at home again?”

“I think she’s hoarding gerbils.”

“No, no, it’s ‘Hug a Hundred Cotton Balls Month’ for the twelfth time in a row.”

              I had to admit, I do value snuggling my kitties far more than keeping a fastidious appearance. So, I let the remarks continue, as I walk around like a black and white Sasquatch. But I have the last laugh, because I get to share my life with Dante, Virgil and Harlequin – my three blessings.

              These long hairs on my pants are Dante’s gift. They remind me of my “intellectually challenged” cat. As a matter of fact, Dante is so dim, he cannot learn to use the litter box. Instead, he leaves his surprises behind the sofa or under the bureau. This happens even more frequently when I leave the house, prompting Dante’s nickname “The Mad Scatter.”

              If you are a Star Trek fan, as I am, Dante is best described as a large tribble. He has just as little drive, but the same huge, cuddly, gentle heart. Actually, Dante is so meek, I suspect instead of chasing mice, the mice would chase him.

              Then there’s these black hairs on my shirt. That’s Virgil’s contribution. He is educating himself to become an expert locksmith and magician. Virgil can already open childproof secured cabinets. (Childproof, but not cat proof!) Then he mysteriously disappears for long periods of time, only to rejoin his siblings, like magic, with the words “kitty kibbles.” Virgil is a rescue kitty adopted after a winter had passed, so I dubbed him “The March Hairball.”

              Virgil’s energetic and fun-loving nature often get him into predicaments. Like the time he ate through the garage wallboard in search of a mouse (to play with, not with his picky palate, to eat). Virgil did purge himself of the siding after plenty of water and a few white poops. I guess you could say Virgil was “plastered.”

              Lastly, these white hairs on my shoulders are Harlequin’s addition to my wardrobe. Harlequin, OMG! That stands for ‘Oh My Gorger.’ She is my one-and-one-half kitty. Harlequin scrounges on anything on dishes in the sink, butter cubes on the counter or food left over in the other cat dishes. She’s even been the culprit nibbling houseplants down to a stem nub and foraging on Kleenex. You’ll understand why her nickname is “Ballast in Wonderland.”

              Harlequin is a continuous talker as well as eater, generating an extraordinary range of sounds. She tells me endless stories and tattles on her brothers, while unknowingly implicating herself in the process. Once I left a covered pot of spaghetti sauce out to cool on the kitchen counter. An hour later, I found the lid off with an unrepentant Virgil, a maroon Dante care package, and a pool of scarlet cat vomit next to a bloated Harlequin. Harlequin was not too sick to explain the entire escapade, “Rirr.” “Yik-yak.” “Blurp.”

              What would I do without my cats? Probably spend a lot less on lint rollers, and ruin the free entertainment at the office and at home. But I prefer looking like a yeti. After all, I’m actually covered in kitty love.

The Gift of the Net

This story is from a vision: I beheld a golden net woven of pure love, cast away from a boat. The net sinks and covers many sufferers drowning and slime-crusted on the sea bottom. They fear they will be trapped forever in their Hell. But against the devastating undertow of despair, up, up, up, all the gathered break the surface into the cozy, sun-strewn, new air. The outcasts are reunited with their kin. Welcome home!

The Gift of the Net

              Yosef mends his fishing nets silently, diligently, expertly, keeping his distance from the others in his village. So it has been for sixty years; a life of threading and knotting, while considering the best places for tomorrow’s catch.

              But today is extraordinary because a stranger appears, calling himself Yasha. Even more surprising, he approaches Yosef. Yasha offers Yosef an unusual, heavy filament to help his nets stay strong. What magnificent quality! As Yosef considers the purchase, assuming it will cost much more than he can afford, Yasha disappears as suddenly as he arrived. Yosef inquires and searches, but never finds Yasha. Yosef finally decides to weave an entire new net from the precious twine, which he will gift to Yasha, once the stranger returns.

              Skillfully, with great attention to detail, Yosef creates a durable fishing masterpiece. The final product shimmers and shapes smoothly, almost with a life of its own.

              Excitement fills Yosef the day he tries Yasha’s net. It casts perfectly. A lovely bell descends into the lake. After a short wait, Yosef pulls the cord to close the net, but his foot intertwines in the line. In seconds, Yosef plummets over the boat’s side and down into the frigid, opaque waters. He thrashes, further entangling in unbreakable filament. Soon the pressure of the lake depths and quiet stillness of the darkness surrounding him, echo the end to his solitary life. As the final air in his lungs exhaust, a prayer from Yosef’s childhood emerges murkily in his mind. “Father…hallowed…give us bread…forgive us…” Yosef’s thoughts die in a last blink of regret.

              At that moment, an inexplicable tide change in the sea brings an inversion of currents. The surface water plunges, while the lake deep rises to the shallows. As if released from a forbidding hand, Yosef and the net quickly ascend, directly beside the boat. The blast of chill wind revives Yosef immediately. He coughs up liquid, weakly grasping the side of his craft. When he regains strength, he unties the cord from his legs and re-enters the safety of his vessel. Ever the fisherman, Yosef hauls in the net with a phenomenal number of choice tilapia. Flapping fins and twisting bodies fill the craft to capacity. Yosef is saved and given an abundant income this remarkable day. Indeed, his special net continues to produce incredible returns. This is miracle enough, but a far greater harvest awaits Yosef.

From that turning point, Yosef perceives his life as opulently blessed. He begins to share his wealth of fish, knowledge and joy with those in his village. He comes to appreciate everyone he meets. In return, those around Yosef start to care for him. Even when scarce, stormy times befall Yosef, he confidently carries on with support from his strong friendships.

Although Yasha does not reappear, Yosef is overwhelmingly grateful for the otherworldly net. The net never needs repair. The tale of its wondrous, regenerative quality spans the land. Yasha will come again unexpectedly one day to claim his net; Yosef is certain. In the meantime, Yosef profusely, daily thanks God for meeting Yasha and accomplishing his upside-down resurrection. With every sunrise, every “good morning,” every fish, every breath, even every struggle, Yosef experiences hope fulfilled. He knows it is ALL a gift. Yosef sees that a boundless, glinting net of light and glory reflects in everything. An entire world enmeshed in God’s great plan and purpose.

May we, too, catch the vision of God’s spectacular net and give thanks, like Yosef.

Clouds of Magic

Introduction: Have you ever spent time cloud watching? What have you seen?

Clouds of Magic

              Perhaps I have stared at the sky for too long, but the shapes of clouds fascinate me. Some, like stacked cotton balls of various sizes, build walls keeping out the sunshine. Often grey, loosing panes of rain, they battle with fair weather and temporarily win. If they are angry enough, their cracking, reverberating voices, precede shots of lightning gunning down the land below. These dark armies march double-time across a formerly peaceful scene, possibly bringing flood or fire.

              Blue-sky clouds display their different drama. Sometimes, mere threads of angel hair brush across the heavens. Gentle as their godly counterparts, they wave and elongate slowly at great height. Other times, whipped cream delights trigger my imagination. Can I find, on my Waldo-search, a sunken sailboat, the sphinx, otters at play, a dented space shuttle? A nutcracker-man opens his mouth to mash the marshmallow gummy bear. Vanilla ice cream scoops top a two-tier wedding cake. Too soon, my cloud companions tire of such frolic and re-mold into indeterminate blobs, like play-dough ready to go back into the can.

              These popcorn giants store wisdom from the ages. A race against fleet time on Earth, gives way to for clouds to an eternal clock which always has enough millennia. Mostly silent spectators, they realize the true purpose I lost in my drive for success. Just be my best being, without the puff, and worship the Creator. Trust the winds of His Spirit to shape and fit me where I am most helpful. Listen to the desires of His Voice, commonly beginning as a subtle breeze, instead of the commanding storm I heed. Watch for the movement of His Beauty and Goodness, as they parade across His canvas. Act in unity with Him and fellow beneficial vapors.

              What can I learn from clouds’ unhurried, Spirit-directed lives? What stories do they tell me? Are these heavenly representatives actually the Magician’s subordinates, morphing from form-to-form as God sparks His sunbeam wand? Or can I bring God’s magic to my soul, seeing in these cuddly sheep His varied and surprising world?