Stop, Listen, and … Be

Today, and in a greater sense, this weekend, has been more than a whirlwind. 

Saturday was our church cleanup day; and I am so humbled every time by those who come selflessly to help, and by the amazing results of the work of everyone’s hands.

Our 93+ year-old building gets spruced-up, both inside and out. And as the Property guy on Council, I have to say that the old girl looks great. 

One of the things I personally have a burden to do is wax the hand-touch areas in the sanctuary: this is the tops of the pews, the ends, the assist rails that are on the steps to the altar; and the communion rail. And this time, l had a helper from the Scout troop that we support, and things went faster.

It’s just that when these small, seemingly insignificant things are waxed, people are better protected against germ transfer, and besides, it makes things look nice and welcoming.

It is truly a quiet labour of love; I do not seek, nor acknowledge, recognition, for this work. I note it here only to show that it has been done. But it’s done, in spite of the protestations from my knees.

Then today, we did our taxes. This is much later than usual. But they’re done. May I say, Stressful…

Tonight, there’s rain in the area, keeping me in. And the physical and mental stress of this weekend would ask me to focus on just that, rather than on what is in front of me: the cold,wet wind rushing breathlessly through the trees, the bluntness of the wet-cold outside; the freshness of it all. It is here, reminding me that all I have to do is choose to look up and see God’s reminders in nature around me that God IS, GOD IS!!

When things look down, look up.

Do not lose sight of what is all around you.

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That Daily Challenge

 

Challenges are a part of life.
Sometimes it’s just
the act of getting up after pressing ‘snooze’ only once …
and sometimes
it’s soldiering on when
things hurt
and ache
and protest every move.

But the challenges call to us
begging us to meet them;
things we do, because we must.

Sometimes
these are great and spectacular things;
for instance, my (much younger) work colleagues have a different challenge: biking that trail, running those miles today…
and sometimes
the challenges are quieter, subtler;
but no less of an obstacle when seen from the right viewpoint:

one more day in defiance of the obstacles presented by aging,
helping another deliberately turn away from crossing into the despair of a chronic illness.

We are made for Hope;
we are made for answering
‘Yes’ to God,
the spark of life within us
unquenchable.

The call for each of us
is unique,
an encounter to be met
in the way that we are the one person who is equipped to meet it.

 

I still go out every night to heed that call;
out to read,
out to pray,
out to think,
out to be quiet
and know that He alone is God.

But sometimes I feel a reluctance;
the weather is harsh, inclement, cold wind-chill numbers;
I’m going to get cold and wet, and my arthritic fingers are going to hurt.
But I go.
For a few minutes, at least.
And after coming in, I reconcile myself to the sunroom
where it’s warmer and I can still feel a part of outside.
And I had a reward:
the warm indigo tones of an Alpenglow.

(I caught the colors in a way that shows how sometimes you have to fool the camera’s sensor).

But now I’m inside, my fingers are warmed up and working, and God is as just as present here as everywhere else. 

Acts 17:27-28:

27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

Please help me solve a 54-year-old Cooking Mystery…

I was Sitting the Sunset tonight, and in parsing the things which are important in this, my short life; I remembered an old mystery:

Good, powdered, scrambled eggs…

Wait… What…?!

A contradiction in terms? Not so!!

Now, the back story:

In 1963, I was privileged to attend an experimental school camp for children of my age.

We spent a week at Mayfield Youth Camp (which seems to have changed direction from secular to Christian, and wow has it changed), learning about our environment, how The Forest is a part of our existence, and about all the living things around us.

Yes. Wait…

Before you think that this is some liberal touchy-feely thing, think about this: we lived in the very heart of redneck logging country; but everyone here knew and understood that proper forest management was key to not only our livelihood, but to that of future generations. We even had classes about Forestry as a part of our standard school curriculum.

That’s how important it was.

So enough people of this discipline thought it was important enough to spend the money to send us to Camp to immerse us in The Forest, and to pass on to us their love and respect and care for The Forest. And this camp experiment was an add-on to all those classes and field-trips.

I got it. And I still have it today.

Now then:

Every other morning, we had these MOST AMAZING scrambled eggs. Literally, these were the BEST I’ve ever had in my life! But they were so different from any eggs I’d EVER had!

They were buttery, sweet, smooth… They caressed the pallet. They were light, full of love, full of the essence of egg. They stole my heart, by awakening my love for food.

Yes, they were THAT good.

And I’ve been trying to duplicate this wonderful taste and texture, ever since.

Yes, I’ve come up with some great stuff, like adding Ranch to scrambled eggs, but I have never, ever, matched this amazing taste and texture…

Okay, now to the one and only clue in this mystery: my Dad (a WWII veteran), knew who the cook was. And he said, “He probably reconstituted them with cream.”

Well, yeah? And? …but that’s all I have.

This means that the cook started with the powdered eggs of the time, and used some sort of magic in reconstituting them.

But WHAT did he do? I’ve never been able to duplicate it. I’ve started with King Arthur’s powdered eggs. Yes, I’ve tried reconstituting the eggs with cream. And various other things. But nothing works.

Herein lies our mystery.

Intrigued? It’s a challenge of cooking!

Please feel free to post any ideas!

Would it not be wonderful to share with others, this Divinity of great scrambled eggs? And for others to have this amazing experience?

Thank you, from the depths of gratitude for a long-time mystery solved.

Thankful to be working from home after a heavy snow

The last few days, we’ve had some little bit of snow; just enough to show an inch or two. Nothing to keep me from going to work.

But beginning yesterday morning, we got SNOW!! Thinking it would abate (like the rest has), I got in the car and went to work. After noon, my wife called to tell me that it was really beginning to pile up. “Oh? How much?” “About eight inches! And it’s still coming down like crazy!”

I made arrangements to work from home, and left as immediately as possible.

Good thing I did.

I commute via the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge, and although the crews do a valiant job of keeping the roads clear, it was obvious that they were beginning to fall behind. As I approached Mount Pleasant, (where the infamous Cape Horn overlook is located), I saw 40 cars in a long, slow-moving snake; all of them were following a number of semi-trucks that were going no more than 20 MPH.

I hadn’t wanted to drive Canyon Creek Road.

Most times of the year, it’s a beautiful, pleasant drive, especially in the fall; with all the big hardwood trees. But in winter, it shows a mean, nasty side: it’s narrow-shouldered, twisty, and dead-scary when it’s icy. The road drops off steeply on one side (into Canyon Creek), and there are NO guardrails. It doesn’t get any sunlight in the winter, and so if it gets icy, it stays that way. But the choice was to take another hour to get home, or drive it. So I turned up Salmon Falls Road on my way there, and saw that at least it didn’t look too bad. I began to relax a bit.

Turning onto Canyon Creek Road, it looked as good as Salmon Falls. So far, so good; maybe this will be okay after all…

Then I came round the corner which takes you into the deeper woods.

And the road disappeared.

There was about a foot of fresh snow, and no tire tracks from the ‘wanna-be-monster-trucks’ that are prevalent out this way. Nothing to guide me.

Two choices at this point: Turn around (risking going off into the canyon) or keep on. It was only about three miles to the main road at the other end of Canyon Creek, so I spoke a quick prayer for guidance, and settled back, settled down, and remembered all those country roads I drove in the fresh snow in times past. There are subtle signs in the landscape that will guide you, if you can be aware of them. This all came back to me in a moment of calmness, and so I carried onward.

And no, this is no time to be fiddling with the cellphone and trying to get a picture. If you want a simulation, look at a piece of paper on the long edge, and then bend it into a gentle S-shape. The upward flow of the S is the canyon wall continuing upward, the sort-of-flat portion of the S in front of you is about where the road should be; and the downward portion of the S is the bank falling into the canyon.

No guardrails.

There’s a certain quiet beauty in making the first tracks down a deserted country road. I relaxed into that, and kept my confidence in the car and in those abilities which I had been given and had practiced.

(Meanwhile, Subaru: this would be a great commercial for you guys.)

I eventually turned onto the main road from Canyon Creek Road; only a few more miles of driving the River Ravine and I’d be home. Meanwhile, I could tell that it was still snowing lightly, although the trees overhead were catching most of it. Once I came up out of the River Ravine and more onto the mountain where we live, I saw that I’d underestimated it: it was still snowing like mad.

Thank you Lord for getting me home safely. Glory to your name, Jehovah-Rohi…

And this morning I was up pretty much at first light to start working from home. Dara was happy to be out, frolicking in the deep snow. I could get an accurate gauge on the depth, then: Above her chest in the deep spots where it’d drifted (2′), and below her chest where the wind had scavenged it (18″). The “Dog-Gauge for snow depth” is pretty accurate, since it’s sampled from all over the meadow.

I grabbed a photo from the kitchen window, and I’ll attach it.

Well how about that! A White Christmas!

In my more than sixty years, only twice have I seen a White Christmas.

Until now.

This is only the third time I have seen a White Christmas. (I had to grab this shot from the home office window – everything else is iced over.)

Living here in the Pacific Northwest, our weather is some of the most unpredictable – and changeable – in the world. We have a unique position between the ocean and tall mountains, which makes for unstable weather.

Yesterday, I would not have believed that this cold would stick around long enough to keep snow on the ground for this morning. I had gone down into town and it was nearly 40 degrees, the sun was shining, and the ground was dry! Not even a hint of the rough conditions up here on the side of the mountain.

But we live on the snow line. And that just got proven once again.

Last night, I couldn’t even go out. And I can stand some pretty severe stuff. But… The wind was gusting past 30 knots, and driving snow before it. It was the kind of stuff that stings the skin and wants to get in your eyes. Temperature was in the mid-20s, making for a wind chill in the low to mid teens.

I went into the sunroom to try to grab a shot of the conditions, which would be considered a blizzard, had the snow been falling at a higher rate. As it was, the snow is powder and is being picked up and drifted by the wind:

Just a few moments after I grabbed this shot, the rattle of freezing rain began to sound against the windows. I knew that by morning, it would be treacherous to walk out there.

But this morning, we have a warm house, the makings for a nice Christmas breakfast, and warm hearts for each other. A roast is curing in the garage fridge for dinner tonight. Dara snoozes happily on the bed.

We take time to pause and remember the coming of the Light of the World, Everlasting Saviour, Prince of Peace.

And to marvel.

A White Christmas! How about that.

First Snow

Yesterday, I was looking at the conditions, and they were ‘right’ for snow.

I was up at about three this morning, and I could see that the back deck was white. I went back to my nice warm bed and pulled up the covers.

After sunup, I fed Dara and let her out to do her thing. You could tell she was hippety-hop with excitement. I clicked the screen button on the cellphone to catch her excitement, but by the time it made the capture… well… This is all I got:

The cold beauty of the Ridge is in full view; witnessing it outside in person demands much. You have to “bundle up”, as my Mom used to say; and meanwhile the strong winds and low wind-chill numbers try to suck any warmth from your body.

My chair cushions were frozen solid, very un-fun to sit on; that’s once you break them free from the chair. My hands were shaking at this point and I couldn’t get a snapshot of the frozen cushions, which may I wryly note, would certainly give one a case of ‘polaroids’.

Will this snow stay through Christmas? I’m pretty sure not: the daytime highs will be too warm. And down in town, you’d never know it was so cold and snowy up here – temps were nearly 40, dry, and sunny.

It’s interesting to note that in all the Christmases I’ve seen, I’ve only seen two White Christmases. So for me, in their rarity, they are special.

But after these few moments alone out in the quiet, I return with a sense of gratitude for warm clothes, a snug, warm house, and the love of a wonderful woman.

May you also be blessed in the same way.

Summer and Fall, shaking hands

I think of the seasons, sometimes like affectionate brothers, sometimes like atagonistic brothers; shaking hands. 

Sometimes the embrace is warm, hands gripping forearms; sometimes it’s fingers, barely touching fingers. 

This season, it’s a warm embrace. (So far.)

The sunset tonight seemed symbolic:

A gentle fading of colors…

And a gentle handoff of Summer, to Fall…

And tonight, it is as if Fall is stepping up to embrace Summer, as if to say, “it is my turn now”. 

The crickets are in full song, applauding Summer as it exits; the winds herald Fall’s entry, bringing showers and rain and cool, gray days. 

The chill air presses upon my summer-accommodated skin, cooling me so much that it drives me inside.

I marvel at the work of God’s hand, in that he made us adaptive to so many different different environments; even though I am “cold” now, I’ll be the same kind of “cold” when there’s snow on the ground.

Tonight, I can see Vega and Deneb overhead. Other constellations just hint at their presence through the cloud cover.

Thank you Lord. Thank you for the things we can see, and for those which we cannot see.