Friday, December 28, 2012

Frodo and Sam in Crochet

My sister, the crafty one, packed a box full of oohs and ahs for Zaya and Mim this Christmas.
She adapted her patterns from last years Star Wars set, used sculpey clay for making swords, staffs, pots, pans, silverware, salt box, and  lembas. There were even a couple of elven leaves, bedrolls, elven rope, and bags for carrying them all.

This one is Sam, heavily laden for the journey.

And here is Frodo with his staff and, of course, little ring on a chain around his neck.

They camped for a rest in the perilous den of large humans, surrounded by odd snorts and guffaws. Occasionally a mysterious flash interrupted their uneasy dreams, and when they awoke, they found that someone had been pawing through all their supplies. Fortunately, however, the intruders had no interest in stealing anything, only sorting and arranging. Odd.

Here's a close up, showing the ring.
If you look closely, you can see fine metal-work on Frodo's lapel.

 With the bright sunlight in his face, Sam stares, a little stunned, realizing that he must pack quickly and turn his face toward the dark region of Mordor.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

He Felt Cold

He felt cold.
The first strange thing…
And he shivered like a God had never done.
He felt hunger from the journey
Such an unfamiliar weakness
Something wanting
Something needed
And—as feelings go—another unknown one.
He felt rigid pain, swaddled cramping.
Heard the sounds of sobs and shouting,
He saw those too poor to matter as they gathered mute and awed
And the smell of field and fold knelt around his newborn soul
As they worshiped him and wondered how a baby could be God.
No one interfered to hinder their first uncertain touch:
“He’s a human! and so fragile!”
“He's a human--one of us!”
“Why would God trade endless splendor for a vapor and decay?”

He felt cold.
It was morning.
Another first—a very early, cold and hungry Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Design Goes Down the Drain

Over the Thanksgiving break we went to convention in Dallas again and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the center of town. From my window I could look over a myriad of designs and beautiful buildings, and the balcony-wrapped lobby still boasted its two-story waterfall. Our rooms, however, had all been redesigned. Gone were the cozy, wooden swinging doors to the bathroom, and the oval, multicolored designs in the halls--yes the ones that always bubbled up in my camera lens in some sort of optical illusion. Instead, the rooms were stenciled in gray, and office white. The bathrooms were starkly pipes and ceramic, and the one couch looked as inviting as the bench in a traffic court waiting room. So, the automatic blinds scrolled up and down at the push of a button, and the beds were wonderfully comfortable, but the room itself was bleak. Even the standard picture over the dresser had been replaced by a colorless aerial view of the Trinity river.  Outside, down every hall and puddled in front of the elevators was a gooey-looking stream. Its scum-yellow color contrasted oddly with the gray solemnity of the surrounding carpet. 

This was the view from my window, and I loved being able to see the old courthouse with it's delightfully antiquated spires and warm bricks against the cold glass backdrop of the other buildings.

 This is the chandelier in the grand ballroom, where we held our opening sessions each day. The lights were like a thousand warm stars in a a box. They've been there every year, and I hope they don't ever try to remodel them.
 View from the balcony of the13 or 14th floor.
 The fountain and waterfall cascading down the well-lit cylinder with the convention logo superimposed in warm light.
 Glass elevators float soundlessly downward.

 A detail in the hall carpet. This was the old decor...the one they are now replacing...
With this. Can you believe it?
 Here it is again. Old carpet.

 And the new carpet. Yes. It does look like someone spilled a gallon of puke.

 The splendor of this architecture

 Is now reduced to this. I guess it keeps one looking up.

 I don't have any pictures from a room which had the older decor, but I remember it being more cozy than this.
 Bathrooms--all ceramic and steel.
 No spreads on the beds--black headboards with doodles for a design.
 Strictly utilitarian
 Striped floors.
 Couch for uncomfortably reclining while thinking of home far away...

 And more ugly floor. I know. It's hard to believe.
Ah well. That was our last convention in Dallas. I guess I'll never see how long the new carpet lasts. Somebody should have dared to criticize, I think, before they installed it on 26 floors.

I always try to take the stairs at least half of the time to offset all the large evening meals we consume at those Dallas restaurants.
This time, however, my room was twelve floors up. That's an awful lot of stairs. By the time convention was over I had climbed over a thousand....and I took the elevator most of the time. It's a wonder I didn't collapse and fall into one of these rivers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Eighty-five Students a Day

Eighty-five students a day.
That’s how many I see--
for six years of their lives.
So I've taught 450 students in over twenty  years of Christian school, and the question I ask myself is not, “Where has the time gone? I know that one.
I’ve felt its passing in my bones and seen the years collapse into piles of crumpled calendar pages... 

No. The question I ask myself is :  Where have they gone?  These students of mine: the ones I met as shy, fumbling, excited, energetic, irrepressible seventh-graders; the ones I watched , as year after year  they listened, wide-eyed and earnest, while priceless light broke over their faces; the ones whose hands I guided, whose thoughts I helped shape, whose hearts I bombarded with the story of Christ. Over the years I prayed for them, drawing their names out of a box and holding them in my hand like so many fragile pots of pre-fired green ware.  For six years they were my children too. Then they threw their graduation caps into the air and danced merrily out of my life, headed for fires or fields as the case may be. Where have they gone? What have they done? Have the hours I spent in their Christian Education mattered at all?

 I stand in the hall at CBA and turn the pages of graduated classes—sometimes I’m smiling; sometimes I’m suddenly sober. They haven’t all remembered that above all ambitions on earth is the one great ambition—glorifying God.  Some are floundering in a darkness of their own seeking and some are frail, but still searching for strength. They make me catch my breath and say: “Please God, Bring them Home.”

But there are others—so many others--who give me great joy.
They are a world grown rapidly darker. 
They are salt in a tasteless society. 
They are the “city on a hill” and there is no way to measure what they bring to the Kingdom of God.

I read their blogs…and see women and men of faith—raising their children to be a generation of hope.
I listen to their songs as they create works of praise and sing them.
I see their pictures and read the scriptures they post on face book. I pray when they send out a cry for help.
They are scattered in location but united in purpose:  They honor God.  They are: doctors, soldiers, pharmacists and engineers. Some drive trucks or work on engines while others splice genes in molecular research.  Some farm and weld; some paint, write books, teach, build houses. That doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they serve Christ.
In Peru, Swaziland, and Thailand; in rescue missions, and small town mission churches. On and on, I see their faces. They are deacons, and pastors, and pastors’ wives, church planters, Sunday school teachers, and worship leaders. They counsel inner city derelicts and kids at summer camp. They volunteer for disaster projects, run Bible schools, write literature.
For a handful of these…my years would have been worth it…for a multitude?  I’m overwhelmed!  If I could see them all I’d tell them, just like the Apostle to his precious Philippians:
You are my joy. You are my crown. I thank God because of you.

Philippians 4: 1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

No More Calculus!

The senior calculus students--all five of them-- meet in my classroom. No, I don't teach that too, but I do get to listen in amusement as the math teacher invariably out-wits his pupils. Yesterday they knew they were going to have a test. In a sudden burst of senior mischievousness, they sat on the floor outside the door and chanted: "NO MORE CALCULUS! NO MORE CALCULUS!

Mr. T. didn't seem the least bit disturbed. He calmly opened the door and invited them in with a cheery: "Come in, come in, illustrious math students. I love your theme song."
This drawing was waiting for them on the board.
They all had a good laugh and settled down to do some math.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Twenty five years ago he adopted a little town:  not a fast-paced, frantically climbing, up-and coming- trend chasing city suburb, nor yet an angst-ridden, point-to prove, news-engendering "huddle of outcasts" kind of settlement.  No. It was a sleepy town of modest, well-tended houses and people who hid from the news by doing good deeds and living normal, and--for the most part--sane lives.

There was one main street in the town, a couple of shops, a  cafe, a shoebox post office hardly big enough to wrap a package in, and a long, stuccoed, vintage-windowed building with a bench outside; it looked like just the place to get some presses rolling and start a newspaper-- a grand newspaper, a "County Enterprise".
 So Res moved into the community, set up a photography business and a newspaper, sampled the ethnic delicacies offered by the local cafe--borscht, verenika and schnetke--and made a point of getting to know everybody in town. Surely there were stories here!

What to write...
Not many murders on main street. No protests or petitions in the nursing home. Not any drive-by shootings in the local high school or the parochial academy dorms--not even an embezzlement scandal in the town office, or a traffic jam within the two mile circumference of city streets...

There were only churches, small schools, a nursing home, a creek that filled with frogs and turtles in the spring (if the rains came), an occasional tornado north of town, and miles and miles of wheat fields which suspended the town in space and kept it adrift in a bubble, isolated, if you will, from the chaos of frenetic living. And there were people--chuckling, cheering, crying, bumbling, brilliant, bellowing people--five hundred of them!

So Res joined the volunteer firefighters and took pictures of the people--people and events and people at events--and if the events weren't immediately forthcoming, he organized events:  turtle catching contests, Easter egg hunts in the park and Easter children's parades through the retirement village, Memorial Day celebrations with high school trumpeters blaring taps into the spring sky, trunk or treat gatherings in October, quartet singings in the summer and fire-fighter appreciations in the fall. He attended all the school activities and made front page heroes of everybody in town. Parents loved him; seniors filled their scrapbooks with pictures and articles he had written about them. Distant grandparents were subscribed to his weekly paper, just so they could keep up with their grandchildren and laugh at his witty jokes. Weaving local names into his "tall tales" column, he endeared himself to the community.

Years passed. The town shrank. Stores closed, and the paper finally stopped printing, but Res remained. He took on the job of town clerk., became a county organizer, and took pictures of graduations and bingo nights at the nursing home. He refused payment for this service, waving it away with, "No, I enjoy taking pictures."  He posted them on facebook and encouraged the county to take all they wanted. They were printed and shared widely as almost a thousand friends regularly scanned his page for pictures of themselves and their family members.

Then, last week, very suddenly and unexpectedly, Res died, sitting in the town office, surrounded with town memorabilia. Outside, on the sidewalk bench, schoolkids sat and visited with the town youth pastor. Not many people noticed anything wrong until the ambulance wailed and his firefighter friends came racing down main street.

Friday night at the football field, there was an empty circle, honoring the spot where the town photographer used to stand. People searched their files for pictures of Res, but those were sparse, because, of course, he had always been at the other end of the lens.

Yesterday at his funeral there was an unusual slide show...not pictures of Res himself, but pictures he had taken.--state basketball triumphs, church pie auctions, museum days, and T-ball games. Res had never married, but his sisters and brothers were there, nephews, nieces, cousins--they filled about four pews. The rest of the church was filled with friends: County leaders and fire-fighters, an entire section of school kids in their royal blue shirts, an entire town, stricken silent-- realizing as they saw their own happy faces over and over, that this man was someone who loved them...and that he had given them a gift they would never be able to repay.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Since October 31st fell on a Wednesday this year, all the churches in the ministerial alliance held a "fun night" at the fair grounds. There was a concert for the older kids and a games and candy room for the younger ones. I ran the glinko table and awarded everyone with candy whenever they played. They could play as many times as they wanted to, and were assured a prize of at least one piece each time they played. Since they could win up to nine pieces, depending which number their glinky disc landed on, it was a win-win-win situation...unless you count the money their parents would later spend at the dentist.

We had the usual array of costumes--graspy little skeletons and punk cats.

These ninjas and yodeling princess (who assured me that she wasn't a princess, but a ninja in disguise) had to get in character for their picture. I decided that the red-eyes should definitely be left in this one.

There were cute little pumpkins being carried around by proud mamas.
Gracious pirates politely requesting candy with hopeful eyes,

Waddling ducks,
Green-haired dragons,
Ethereal Garden fairies with scarlet eyes,
...and a baby peering anxiously out of the mouth of a Saint Bernard.
Oz Creatures were just waiting for Dorothy's house to fall on them.

A teeny gnome, somehow escaped from the garden, was running around with a pacifier in her baby mouth.

I wasn't sure if this child was supposed to be a leopard...or a stuffed quail. Her metaphors were mixed, but her pony tails really cute.

I really admired this costume, because it was obviously a hand-crafted one...yet every bit as impressive as those bought off the rack.
The angry rooster doesn't seem to mind his boa feathers or the elaborate comb head dress. What really amazed me were the yellow chicken feet dangling from his mother's arms.

A peering pumpkin...
...Peter Pan

 and a determined nuclear super man

Matching bandanas; beards the same size.

And old men telling stories as they supervise.