Thursday, October 31, 2013

Uncle Beanie--An American Patriot

Aunty, my sis Evy, Uncle Beanie, my brother Jay, and me on the back porch of Grandma and Grandpa's house.  

When I was a child my favorite place to go during summer vacation from school was to my grandparent’s farm in Eastern Washington.  There I would spend time with my cousins, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunty (my grandma’s sister), and Uncle Beanie (Grandma’s brother.  Not sure if we should spell it Beenie or Beanie.  His real name was Ben Kirk.)  Uncle Beanie was a natural caregiver.  So it usually fell to him to entertain the cousins when we were all at the farm.

Uncle Beanie’s skin was like a soft tanned piece of leather because of his hours in the sun working in the garden.  His eyes were a brilliant blue.  His hair salt and pepper.  He wore a tweed cap, white shirt, black wool pants, and a tweed jacket.  When it was very hot he would take off his jacket. 

  If anybody needed anything fixed, like a pearl necklace that needed to be restrung, or if we needed a wagon, he would string the pearls on fishing line, and build a wagon out of various parts of old wagons he had saved.  He was always able to come up with a satisfactory mend of some kind. 

I’ll forever remember how he looped a long heavy rope around a strong branch of the big tree just down the hill from the white farmhouse and just up from the acre vegetable garden.  He then put a sturdy wooden seat on it.  We could swing so much higher on that swing than on any other swing.  When I was swinging I loved to think of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem---How do you like to go up in a swing, up in the air so blue? Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing ever a child can do!”

One of my fondest memories of Uncle Beanie was that he would take us on long walks across the fields covered with dry grass and smelling dusty and through the pine-treed woods.  Sometimes we would go to the dump.  My cousin Alyce found a doll and a Teddy bear there once.  Uncle Beanie repaired them for her and she was just as happy as if she had something new.  Rick found a dollar.  He saved it for a rainy day.  Uncle Beanie was a great recycler.  He collected bottles, cans, string, and aluminum foil.  He made big balls with the string and aluminum foil.

But the hike down the long dirt and gravel road with grasshoppers hopping out of our way, from the farm to the side road where the mailboxes were, was the highlight of each day.  Uncle Beanie had built a bench of recycled wood for us to sit on to wait for the mailman.  He also mounted the mailboxes on a wagon wheel so the mailman could turn each box toward him to put in the mail through his car window.  Uncle Beanie would carry down letters to mail and would write a greeting on the back of each envelope before he put them in the mailbox to be collected.

Uncle Beanie died on my mom’s birthday February 16, 1962. I was eighteen and a freshman in college.  He had been down from his house the day before to eat dinner with the folks and went up to his house that night.  He died in his sleep.  His was the first funeral I had ever been to.  The funeral was on February 20, the same day John Glenn flew the first 3-orbit flight that the United States made when the space program first began.  He would have been so proud.  He always hung up the American flag and saluted on every important holiday and Washington and Lincoln's birthdays.  He would talk of the red, white, and blue and America the Beautiful. He was a patriot and set a good example for all of us. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Journey To Faith

By guest blogger Heather Brown

My Mom has given me quite a bit of good advice over the years. You need to "overcome your genes," she often told my brother and me. When I was faced with dealing with criticisms, as we often are in this world, she told me to evaluate the criticism and see if it was relevant. If it was, do something about it. If it wasn't toss it out.

She is one of three very faithful Christian examples in my life. The other two are my Grandma and my Godmother. Through the years though, I have had my periods of utter faithfulness, and my years of complete denial. Throughout my 20's I was a declared Atheist. My Uncle Wayne said that I was too smart for that. I guess in my 30's my neurons reconnected, and I realized that he was right. I am too smart for that.

The thing that I have always struggled with is that it seems so hard to have faith. Some people just have it, like my oldest daughter. She just gets it. She reads her Bible, and writes it down in her reading log for school. She sees the Bible as her guide. She seeks out what it says, and applies it to her life. Man, I wish I had her faith. For her, that's just the way it is. She doesn't have to try so hard.

Lately, my perspective has changed. In my early 30's (when my neurons reconnected) I decided that I was going to turn back toward God. So, first I had to retrain my brain. Step number 1, change the way I thought. For 6 months I listened to nothing but Christian music on the radio. I remember the first month was like torture. I don't know if it was the music, or the message of the music but it drove me crazy. Finally, I started to enjoy it, and some of the messages started to resonate with me. Eventually that is what I listened to the majority of the time, and I didn’t feel this immediate opposition when I heard the word “God.” Brain reprogramming step number 1. Check.

Step number 2; change my philosophy. I have two clear problems that make it hard for me to have faith. 1) I have an overactive brain. My friend Ann says that I need to write an idea book, because I have an idea for everything. 2) I am a problem solver. I can't see a problem without trying to come up with a solution; but, what I learned in my late 20's (which is what ultimately ended my Atheism) is that I cannot solve every problem. In fact, no human can. So, to change my philosophy I started repeating the prayer "Thy will be done." This actually came to me while reading one of Jan Karon's "Mitford novels." It's a simple three word prayer, but it has power. Brain reprogramming step number 2. Check

Step number 3; figure out what this whole God thing is about. I was going through a book at my Church called The Jesus Creed by Scott McNight. Basically, I figured out that what it really boils down to is this, "Love God, and Love Others." (Matthew 22:37-40) Now, for me, that is really hard. I am a natural cynic, and I am very good at critically evaluating everything and everyone around me. In fact, I come from a long line of excellent critics. So loving God, I am getting pretty good at that. But loving others? That's a little bit harder. Brain reprogramming step number 3. Well, I am still working on that one.

But, this whole Faith thing is still really hard for me. It's so ambiguous to say "have faith." So, I tried to make it concrete. I focused on praying for God's guidance and peace and to help me have faith and not worry. I prayed and prayed. It just seemed so hard, and I couldn't feel anything. I didn't feel like my faith was growing, and I didn't feel like I was doing what I needed to be doing. And that's when it hit me. I needed to slightly change my focus. Instead of focusing on what I was supposed to be doing, following the rules (I am a rule-follower. Pretty sure that is genetic because my brother is too), I changed my plan to simply focusing on Jesus. There is an old song "Turn your eyes upon Jesus...and the things of earth will go strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace." (Hebrews 12:1-2) So, this is Step number 4 of my brain retraining program. Focus on Jesus and let everything else fade away. I'm sure there will be a Step 5. But I'll let Jesus worry about that one.

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6

Saturday, October 19, 2013

They Are Coming To Take Me Away! Ha! Ha!

Wow!  Have things been wild around here.  If it isn’t one thing it’s another!  It started about a month ago.  First several garages were broken into in our condo complex.  Then my friend was having hang up phone calls.  Somebody would call her and not talk but if she started giving them a sermon they would hang up.  Sometimes they would call four times a day.  Then at church one Sunday 2 people out of our congregation of 30 ended up going to the emergency room.  Next one man in our congregation fell, broke a rib, ended up in the hospital, and was diagnosed with pneumonia.  He then had a heart attack.  A woman in our congregation had a car accident and had to have oral surgery and spend days recovering from bumps and bruises.

Then we look at our nation and our world.   I won’t mention the unrest that has been going on with all of the protests against what governments are doing.   But you get the idea that there is turmoil everywhere.

All of this chaos sounds like war to me, a spiritual war that is. 

Here’s why:  I relate these problems to what is depicted in the TV show Mash.  (Yes, I watch a lot of TV using it as a tranquilizer to help me to over come the chronic pain I have 24/7.)  Here we have a group of people who have a mission—to save lives of the wounded.  But they are in a war zone so their lives are in danger too.  While dealing with their safety and the healing and safety of others, they manage to have a little fun and relaxation.  They don’t take themselves too seriously (except for Frank and Hot Lips.)   To me this is what the life of a Christian is all about.  We are on a mission from God.  We help the wounded. We take care of ourselves.  We exercise our brains, body, and spirit.  And we try to have some fun and relaxation along the way. 

Because of Jesus coming into the world, and paying the price for our sins, we can rest in hope and joy in Him.  He is preparing a comfortable place for us so that some day we can be with Him.  He is the love of our lives, our best friend.  We can depend on Him to guide us,  protect us, and fill us with joy in all of our ways by the power of the Holy Spirit.  There is nothing better than this!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Are You Lonely Tonight?

Sailing Flyaway to La Paz, Baja, Mexico.  My mom called me her little flyaway when I ran away from home when I was 18 months old.

 “Blast From the Past” is one of my favorite movies from 1999 (and yes, there are some racy parts.) I identify with Helen the housewife and mother who is imprisoned below ground in a bomb shelter for 35 years with her husband and son.  (She took up drinking.  I empathize!) Now don’t get me wrong, husbands and sons are good company, but for some reason I crave the company of women at times.  Maybe it is because I enjoyed being with my mom and sister or maybe it is because I have more in common with women. There is really no reason for this but when I have no women in my life, I feel lonely.  I do enjoy the company of men though.  They are such fascinating creatures. 

 So my sad story began when my husband and I took off sailing our boat from Seattle to Mexico.  We were pretty much confined to the boat, first for nine days to San Diego, and then for eight day down the Baja, past Cabo, and up into the Sea of Cortez to La Paz. 

On the first leg, when we arrived in San Diego, I was yearning for information from home.  We had no cell phone; it was impossible to receive letters from home, as we had no address, and Wi Fi was not available.  I thought about carrier pigeons but instead opted for a desperate move, and purchased a something or other that would work on a pay phone to send and receive e-mail.  Can’t remember if we ever made a connection.  Then we got satellite e-mail which charged big $ for each character.  You didn’t pay by word you paid by letter!  We made up a text shorthand and this was before texting! 

Marina office.  The people were a great help to us.

Next, after we arrived in La Paz, we learned a ham operator in southern California would beam his antennae toward Honduras so that the missionaries could communicate with ham operators in the United States.  The cruisers in La Paz competed to get a signal so we could send ham e-mail.  We would wait until the ham operator would swing his antennae in our direction and then it would be a feeding frenzy to get connected. Not everyone could get on at once.  I had one friend who would send me e-mail messages from home.  Everything she wrote would be streamed so that all the ham operators could read everything she wrote.  She would send me her tea column that she was writing for a newspaper to critique.  I’ll bet those ham operators learned more than they ever wanted to about tea.

Heat and salt water are tough on boats.  We were constantly having work done on Flyaway.

The antenna for our ham set was attached to the backstay of our boat.  One crewmember, who crewed for us for a short time, accused me of trying to kill him.  He was afraid if he touched the backstay when I was on the ham e-mail that he would be electrocuted.  Other crewmembers saw the wild look in my eyes and steered clear of any comment about me being on e-mail all of the time.

So how should one deal with loneliness?  Maybe what God was trying to tell me during this time was that He is sufficient for me.  I don’t need to depend on other people for company.  If I would just read the Word and pray, God is always there.  He has promised that He will never leave me or forsake me.  But He has also promised that if we delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts.  Shortly after we arrived in La Paz I was made aware of a missionary who was willing to preach sermons in English on Sunday morning before the Spanish language church.  I met a few other cruisers and some ex pat Americans that way.  Someone started a writing club and we would meet weekly to critique each other’s writing.  It was a stretching experience and I’m grateful for all that God had provided—but I was glad to get home to the good old U.S. of A.!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Who Are The Poor?

Where my great aunt and great uncle lived without electricity or running water.  They were not poor.

Many Social Justice Christians in the United States vote for the Democratic Party candidates because they say we must take care of the poor.  For some reason they don’t believe that the Republicans care about the poor.  Now we find that there is rampant welfare fraud going on.  According the “60 minutes” TV show on Sunday, October 6, there is outrageous abuse of Social Security disability by many.  What has caused this entitlement mentality?

Maybe we need a clarification of who the poor are.  In this country we must have the wrong understanding.  I have been guilty of this false thinking by saying, “Let the government take care of the problems. “ Well, it isn’t up to the government according to my study of the Bible.  Here are two blogs written by Michael Youssef about "Keeping Jesus out of your Socialism."  In the second part he mentions that Jesus did not come to set up His political Kingdom.  I believe that when He comes the second time He will set up the government and He will be our benevolent dictator:

In our study of Amos in Precepts Bible study we learned that the poor are the people who have been cheated, oppressed, or abused in some way.  In our country we have decided that the poor are anybody living under the poverty level but this is incorrect.  A person living under the poverty level may not have been necessarily abused, oppressed, or cheated, so they really aren’t poor.

In one example of people who are not poor but living under the poverty level we can look at the depression.  In 1929 many learned to live with what they had.  They had not been oppressed, abused, or cheated.  They learned to grow food, wear one or two outfits, put cardboard in their shoes when the soles wore through, eat onion sandwiches, etc. 

Another example could be from my childhood.   My childhood family of seven lived in a 32’ trailer.  We may have lived below the poverty level but we weren’t poor.  People gave us clothing and shared garden grown vegetables, and wild caught fish with us, but we were not poor.  (We ate mustard sandwiches, but that is another story.)

My husband said that when he was a teen he had less money than I did in my childhood.  He was an only child and had only one outfit to wear to school.  He never missed a meal though.  He wasn’t really poor.

In this country, to help the poor, we should help the oppressed, abused, and cheated.  So what I wish was that the people of this country could understand what “poor” really means.  The government as well as private citizens should work for justice and righteousness and relief from oppression, cheating, and abuse of the truly poor.

Here is another opinion about what causes poverty.  If a person's relationships with God, others, and oneself is broken-- this causes spiritual and emotional poverty.  Only Jesus can bring healing and wholeness.  Watch the you tube by clicking the link: