Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Come....take a walk with me.....
Hmmm......I see signs of children nearby- let's see if we can find them....
Ahh hah! Found you........
That's a pretty cool igloo you've got there......
We've come to the corner...and to my favorite tree on the block....
This is the favorite stop of the neighborhood dogs .......
Like this one....who really wanted to come out and walk with me........
The snow didn't stop the church-goers- I could hear them singing......
I think these neighbors would rather be near the ocean.......
The little bungalow on the corner....also home to about 20 feral cats......
Charlie, the horse's, home......
Don't think these will get used tomorrow.......
Ahhh......back to home sweet home......
Friday, February 23, 2007
"Prayer at Valley Forge" is one of Sir Laughsalot's favorite stories in his Children's Book Of Heroes.....and I love that he will know about this great man in our history and the great faith he had. Even though there is some debate about whether Washington was actually seen in this exact spot by the farmer, Issac Potts, it is known that Washington did pray often, usually in quiet solitude. There is something so moving and humbling to me about the story and painting... seeing this great man, kneeling before his Maker, submitting to His will and plan.
This article , interviewing author Peter A. Lillback, was in an insert that comes in our town's paper each week. He spent 15 years researching Washington and his writings and speaks of Washington's Christian faith and what kind of leader he would be in modern times. And he speaks of how some historians have tried to downplay Washington's faith.
I find it sad...this movement to de-spiritualize America..making everything "politically correct", so as not to offend anyone...even re-writing history in a lot of ways. This mindset eats away at our roots and culture. I feel the Founding Father's intentions have been warped and highly misconstrued...now making it "Freedom from Religion" instead of "Freedom of Religion." Every culture and country is permeated with its roots- spiritual, cultural, and political..and it shows up in symbolism everywhere. In most other countries, it is something to be respected and preserved, but not in America...there is a Huge underlying movement to remove anything that speaks of our spiritual past...which is Christianity.
Some historians with certain political agendas are trying to de-spiritualize our founding fathers, also. If you do the research yourself...both reading original documents and their correspondences, God was a big factor in their decisions... and their spirituality diffused their lives and their decisions and helped shape their view of government and its role and responsibility. And I think it's not historically accurate to leave that out or downplay it.
Here is an excerpt from another Great American president's proclamations..encouraging a day of fasting and prayer:
"It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, and to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in Holy Scripture, and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. And, insomuch (sic) as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which has preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness." -Abraham Lincoln [March 30, 1863]
Can you imagine if one of our Presidents made a speech like that today? He'd be run out of office. I, for one, am proud of this great faith of our forefathers and believe it is one of the reasons these men were such great leaders and helped our country attain the freedoms we have now. Because of this faith, they believed in "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and that "all men are created equal under God". No, our country isn't perfect, neither were the men who founded it. Every culture and country has sordid events in their history... a lot, much worse than America. And things like Slavery, that our country battled so fiercely over, is still going on in many parts of the world (that could be a whole other post, in itself). I think we have unparalleled freedoms and opportunities and I, for one, don't take that lightly or take it for granted.
So in closing... God Bless America!!! :)
Here are some other good links and reads regarding our Forefather's faith and out country's spiritual roots.....
1. American Destiny : http://www.americandestiny.com/index.htm
2. Stand to Reason: The Faith of our Father's :http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5243
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Monday, February 19, 2007
"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight..." — M. F. K. Fisher,The Art of Eatin'
Organic Seeded Seduction Bread...... that is the name of the bread in the photo, a hostess gift given to me by a friend that came to visit this weekend. What do you think? Does it look seductive? It did to me...... and became even more so as I smelled it warming in the oven. What is it about the smell of fresh, homemade bread baking in the oven? It conjures up many thoughts, emotions, and memories for me, as my mom made a lot of homemade breads growing up....english muffins, biscuits, oatmeal bread......
Bread is a universal...a part of almost every culture and diet and has deep meaning for many. It is used as a symbol and for teaching, as I think of the many scripture passages and teachings of Jesus that refer to bread..... "As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body” Mathew 26:26 .
We speak of "breaking bread together" when we fellowship and eat together.
When I "googled" the word bread, I found these interesting links:
1. Here is the Wikipedia definition of bread.
2. Here is a blog devoted to bread.
3. Here is a website devoted to ending Hunger.
4. And Here is a site all about the mechanics and science of baking bread.
What thoughts and emotions are evoked when you smell homemade bread baking?
Friday, February 16, 2007
"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage - to know who we are and where we have come from." -Alex Haley
"You monkeys snuck right past me," she said as she walked up behind us to open the door to her apartment. She ambled up the sidewalk , cane in hand....in her thick coat and knit hat that her mother made. My sister and I had just arrived and didn't see her sitting in her car in the parking lot.
"I was waiting in my car, watching for you."
"For how long?", we asked.
"Since 9 o'clock", she said.
"NORMA!", I said, because I knew it was after 10. "Did you not think we could find our way? It's freezing outside!"
She just grinned at me and unlocked the door to let us all in from the cold.
Norma is my second cousin and lives in Hagerstown, MD. She's the last of my grandfather's generation. She's approaching 90 and is a treasure trove of memories and stories of growing up near my grandfather and her summers spent on his farm.
My sister and I met up in Hagerstown this past weekend for a two-fold purpose.....to see each other one last time before she flies back to her current home in London, and to visit with Norma and record her memories and stories for future generations. My grandfather died when I was pretty young...so her stories are my connection to him...a living diary of their intertwined lives.
Norma is all spunk and personality, as were most of the women on my dad's side of the family. She loves visits from "cousins" and basked in the attention and questions. As she recounted her past, she would often drift off, getting caught up in the memory...often a smile would appear during these moments..or a tear in the eye. She told us of the mischief that would happen on the farm....and of fighting with her sister over Emory Metzger, whom her sister ended up marrying. Her favorite phrase is "Cotton-pickin"...used over and over in regards to people and circumstances.
Norma and her younger sister, Jenny, never married. They lived together most of their life and provided foster care to infants until a home was found for them. We took Norma to her favorite diner for lunch and she pointed to a place in the restaurant where one of her foster babies found his "forever family"...a couple that saw him as they were having dinner and became enamored with him, eventually adopting him. We chauffeured her around town as she pointed out places that were near and dear to her...giving me driving directions such as "Stay on this road until you get somewhere else".....
At the end of a wonderful day spent together, we hugged and kissed, and her parting words were, "I love you, monkeys!" A day to be cherished.... and stories to be passed down to the next generation so that the "living" history of our family will be preserved and told for years to come....
(photos courtesy of my sis' )
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
"Within every heart there exists a special place, a place where the hopes and dreams of the soul soar, unchained by logical or physical entrapments... It is a place where the impossible flourishes, where dreams survive the inferno of reality to become the miraculous wonders that draw us forward- it is the place where hope rises. " -Kim Meeder, "Hope Rising"
There are so many ways to destroy hope.
Children and animals are more vulnerable than most. For them, even a good meal comes at the whim of someone in charge, and there is little they can do to escape abuse at the hands of their caregivers.
For years, horses at Salem have found their way past the pain into our children's hearts as healers, helping them toward compassion, trust, confidence, responsibility, hope, and the freedom to fly.
And now, with two newcomers in the stable who were abused themselves, a new chapter has opened. The healers themselves need healing, and two of our young ladies have already begun the journey with them.
Otto and Percy came to Salem from At Last Farms in Oakland last month on a free lease basis, and may stay as long as they are needed. They had already begun to benefit from therapeutic care at the rescue center.
Otto is a Belgian, a huge draft horse. Much of his history is unknown, but the scars on his body, the marks of an electric cattle prod, a piece missing from his ear, and this giant's initial fear of humans tells an all-too-familiar story of abuse. At 17.3 hands high, he was severely underweight when purchased at an auction last summer in July. Since then he has gained 300 pounds and, at about 1500 pounds, is within 200-300 pounds of his ideal weight.
Percy is a thoroughbred, a former race horse abandoned by his owners when he could no longer earn enough money to save his life. He, too, was rescued by At Last farms at an auction where he had been destined for slaughter, four years ago. Percy was in such poor health and so weak that he could barely stand; so thin that his ribs hung from his backbone in a hollowed-out row and his sides were invisible from the front. Since the auction he has done well; his health has improved dramatically and he has continued to gain weight. Most important, he is, like Otto, gentle and affectionate.
Both horses can be ridden by beginners, and our two human angels are eagerly awaiting the day when they can saddle up and share that first trip mounted. But all Salem horses must be in residence for a month before being ridden by kids, and Camille and Maria(names changed for privacy) are redeeming the time by reaching across the gulf of pain and abuse with love and care and words of kindness.
"Salem has given these two horses more hope and desire for life by presenting them with the job of teaching and healing children who have been abused and neglected, " said Instructor Charlotte Stimmell. "These horses can now help heal human hearts as their own have been helped to heal."
"Sometimes it is only through devastation that we find the truth," writes Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch owner Kim Meeder in her book Hope Rising. "Hardship can be like a savage cleansing fire. All the things we think as necessary to our survival are soon revealed as nothing more than the dross of complacent luxury, consumed by the fire as it burns down to the true metal of the soul. Hardship uncovers the only thing we truly need to survive- HOPE."
For these horses and these girls, hope rises out of the devastation. "What once needed healing now gives healing. What was once broken has now been restored. What was once lost is now found." (Meeder)
Friday, February 09, 2007
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Monday, February 05, 2007
Saturday, February 03, 2007
At the age of 22, I drove down this road for the first time...... and my life was forever changed. I was living in NC and had just finished my Associate in Arts degree, was waiting tables, and was surrounded by a lot of old, nagging ghosts. I was restless and didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. Some old friends from KY had convinced me to rent a place on Kentucky Lake with them for the summer and I had already lined up another waitressing job there.
One afternoon, while packing my belongings, I took a break and started glancing through one of my parent's magazines. This in itself was odd, because it was a conservative Christian political magazine....something that I had absolutely no interest in at the time. While browsing through the classified adds (something else I NEVER did...) a "Help Wanted" add caught my eye......... and the rest is history.
I never went to Kentucky. Within 2 months, my car was packed with all my earthly belongings... basically clothes, my guitar, a djembe drum, and some various sentimentalities...and I was headed north on Interstate 81 to what would become one of the most challenging, yet earth-moving experiences in my life. A little, lost, NAIVE country girl that grew up with a most idyllic childhood entered into an unknown world of broken promises, broken souls, abuse, and anger..... but also into a place of miracles and healing......a setting that was familiar, but amidst lives and backgrounds that were not.
The road led here........
(sidenote: apparently the link hasn't been consistently working... their webserver host is down. so if you can't get it to work, please do come back and check it out later, and read the "stories". I'll leave the post up for another day.......)
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Jesse stayed true to his word that day and also made sure he was the center of attention- shouting over all the other kids, grabbing things from people, and generally making a nuisance of himself. During recreation was the only time he listened, and that was only because the guys I worked with led it and he knew he couldn't participate unless he followed the rules. At the end of the day, while I was breathing a big sigh of relief, Jesse informed me that daycamp was boring and he wasn't coming back.
Tuesday morning dawned and I was quietly preparing activities for the day when I heard a loud voice coming from down the hall: "WHERE'S THAT WOMAN?" Jesse did come back. Not only that, but he was my only kid that day. Looking back, I know that this was God-ordained and I did my best to make a connection with Jesse and keep him engaged. I had brought in a CD of one of my favorite Christian bands to play while we made crafts, which at first Jesse balked at. That was until he heard that it was rap music. We turned the volume up and I did my best MC Hammer moves while Jesse rolled his eyes and then laughed hysterically. He then joined me and we danced around the room instead of making crafts. We talked about his tattoos, which he told me his dad gave him. We played basketball and I beat him in a game of HORSE. And by the end of the day he actually called me by my real name. He was a little more reluctant to go home that day.
As each day came, Jesse continued to show up and thoroughly enjoy himself. He basked in the attention and love. He became my shadow the rest of the week and wanted to help me with everything I did. Each day he became more and more reluctant to go home.... and as the week progressed I got little glimpses into why. The van driver's reports about Jesse's home were pretty dismal and Jesse talked of drinking and yelling. There were also some tell-tale signs of neglect.
The last day of our daycamp dawned and Jesse was extra clingy all day. We had a little farewell party in the afternoon and then the time came for the kids to board the van and go home. I knew it would be sad because we had grown attached to many of the kids, but nothing could have prepared me for Jesse's goodbye. Every kid had left to board the van except Jesse, who kept finding reasons to piddle. I had already told him goodbye and given him a big hug and kiss. When the last call came for the van, Jesse ran to me, started crying and clung to my leg with all his might. He asked me if he could come home with me, to which I replied that he couldn't but I would really miss him, too. At this point my heart began to hurt for him so much as I realized this tough little man was really just a hurt and needy little boy.
I couldn't pry Jesse off my leg and he continued to cry. Eventually he had to be pulled away by one of the guys, who then ushered him to the van. I wept the whole drive home that day.
Jesse was just one of many children living in similar circumstances that we encountered that summer. We had been warned, but nothing really prepares you for it. As progressive a community we lived in, our county had one of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the state.
I left for college at the end of that summer and I don't know what happened to Jesse. I have no grand illusions that his week with us was any major catalyst in his life. But I still think about him, cry over him, and pray for him. I pray that the seed of Love and hope that was planted in his heart that week was watered by other people in his life and would grow to fruition. And I pray for kids all over the world who are just like Jesse. You see, I believe a seed was not only planted in Jesse's heart that week, but also in mine. Gradually, over the years, the seed has been watered by other kids and other circumstances- many of which I will tell about in the future. Meeting Jesse that week put a burden on my heart that was so great it led to a passion, and eventually, a career working with troubled and at-risk children.
I write this only because you need to know about Jesse. He lives in your community, too. We live in a fallen world and child neglect and abuse will probably be a constant in our world. But can you imagine the impact it would have if every adult, every family, and every church got consistently involved in the life of a troubled or at-risk child in their community? I have no doubt the impact would be great. Even one hurt soul that was healed could change the destiny of many. Just imagine!