Friday, November 29, 2013

Chad, The Dog Whisperer

In our family we call Chad "The Dog Whisperer." Dogs just love him. Even dogs that belong to other people will gravitate to Chad.

Yesterday, after Thanksgiving dinner, we moved to the living room to visit and watch a fun movie. When the movie was over Chad went downstairs for a short time and came back with two of their Chihuahuas, Pip and Sassy. Pip played for a while, then visited different people for a cuddle. Sassy was delighted to have Chad to herself. When Chad is around no one else exists for Sassy.

Anne Marie and Megan began calling to Sassy, trying to get her attention. This is the response they got:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

In All Things. . .

The Bible tells us to be thankful in all things. We could probably have a pretty good debate about what that means and how in the world we can be thankful when times are hard or painful or full of grief.

We can, of course, "put on a happy face" and mouth platitudes when we feel ill, in pain, fearful, or filled with grief. But that is hypocrisy, something that is decidedly displeasing to God. And fake emotions will eventually be recognized by the people around us.

So, what do we do when we feel desperate for help, but are being told that as God's people we must be thankful?

Faking it is not the right option, so what is?

I truly do not know, but here are a few of my thoughts about it.

The psalms may give us some help with this. Many of the psalms are hymns of praise and thanksgiving. But many are songs that bare the deepest emotions of the heart--not just praise and thankfulness, but dire need, fear, grief, distress, and the questioning of why God is not helping. But even in these there is almost always a kernel of recognition of the greatness, power, and care of the Lord.

Perhaps being thankful in all things is simply to recognize that which is good in our lives, despite our current circumstances, and to acknowledge that God is and always will be. This quality of acceptance doesn't require faking emotions. It does lift our minds and hearts at least a little way out of ourselves and our troubles.

I know that I do not like to be instructed to be thankful for my pain, sorrow, or other distress. There may come a time when I can see some good come out of those bad things. There also may not come such a time in this life. Suffering is real. To try to negate it by saying we must be thankful even for the suffering does not ring true to me. It may be possible in hindsight, but not while it is happening. Unlike the Apostle Paul, I don't glory in suffering!

Does this make me a lesser Christian? I don't know. I do know that I should be honest with God. He can take it. And, yes, the Psalms prove that point again and again.

Now, please don't think I wrote this because I am suffering something terrible right now. I am not. I am actually feeling very blessed in many, many ways.

No, this came out of thinking how hard it is for those who are suffering today to feel like celebrating a day of thankfulness when they are so full of pain and distress.

I don't want to preach at them to be grateful at this moment.

Perhaps the wisest word I could say about this is simply to refer to the Psalms--you will find there an expression of just about everything you may be experiencing, from joy to repentance to physical pain to grief to questioning God with your "whys". And you may be reassured that it is all right to feel these things. God will not reject you for it.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Little Story from 1945

I worked yesterday just a little on my slow-moving re-do-the-old-album project. One of the things I did was scan and enlarge two of the old, tiny photos--1.5 x 2.25 inches. I definitely need them to be larger for my own viewing.

When I started this project, I removed the photos from the old book in order to scan the ones that needed enlarged and to reorganize them in a new album. Most of the photos have no date on them. A few do, and a few have writing on the back.
These had no date, but Mother had written on the back, which gave me the clues to when and why they were taken.

Take One: Edna Prochaska and Rose McLaughlin
Take One says: "I was instructing Eugene as to how to take the picture and he up and took it just as I started over to him."

Take Two

Take Two says: " Second trial."

The background in the photos plus the notes tell me that they were taken early in 1945, before the porch vine had leaves, and that they were sent to our father while he was in army basic training. This was during WWII.

Mother's cousin Edna was visiting with her two boys, Eugene and Harry. These other photos were taken the same day. Edna's husband, Joe Prochaska, doesn't appear in any of them, so I assume he was not there. I don't know if he was in the service. I did not turn four until July of that year, so I don't remember everything from that time!

Harry Prochaska and Michelle McLaughlin

Don't know if the original was blurry or if its just a bad scan!
Apparently, after the war the photos came home with Daddy and were added to the photo album.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Those Silly, Sappy Christmas Movies!

All right, I confess, I am once again watching Christmas movies on TV to get in the Christmas spirit.

And, I'll admit, I do love a happy ending.

I do wish, however, that the writers/directors/producers of these seasonal stories that so often are set in small towns (do they think only small town people get carried away by Christmas?) had some clue as to what small towns--and small town people--are really like. Hollywood has a very distorted view of the rest of the country! They only know California and New York.

And I wish they would write for a little--just a little would be nice--higher IQ viewer. I watched one yesterday that was set in the mountains of northeastern U.S. The exact state was not named, but the town was formerly a ski resort. But they had no snow (global warming, ya' know) so were looking for some other source of income. Of course, the no-snow plot was a cover for the fact that the film was made in the summer. Now, even if no snow had fallen by Thanksgiving, they would have had fall. But, the trees were in full leaf, flower gardens were blooming, and the grass was bright green. They didn't even try to take shots that did not show that it was summer! Maybe I'm just being picky.

And while I'm being picky. . .most of these movies have a love story in them. And I am very weary of the post-2000 movies always showing courting couples already living together. Another movie I watched yesterday in the Christmas-genre was about a couple who had planned their wonderful Christmas wedding down to the minutest detail in the year since they had gotten engaged the Christmas before. Of course they were living together the whole time. It is just assumed that any couple that is even dating is automatically living together. It is a circular thing--some couples just live together so it gradually becomes acceptable and becomes the norm in entertainment media which feed the mindset that this is the norm so more couples think dating means living together and more people simply accept this as morally okay.

Those are my gripes. I rather expect I'll continue to watch Christmas-themed movies, though I wish for higher quality. Sometimes I'm just in the mood for sweet, sappy, happy ending stories.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Christmas Came Early

Yes, I know we haven't even had Thanksgiving yet, but yesterday was a Christmas day.

First, Anne Marie and I went shopping for gifts to fill our Christmas Child Shoeboxes, a project of Samaritan's Purse to provide Christmas gifts for underprivileged children around the world. Sharing these gifts is a way of demonstrating the love of Jesus. It is always fun to see just how much we can get in the shoebox! (We don't send junky stuff.)

I was having one of those days where I just felt completely wiped out, and would have just gone home and crashed for the rest of the day, but. . .Anne Marie reminded me that the Mannheim Steamroller concert was that evening. Our tickets had been ordered weeks ago. I was almost sorry I had a ticket. I was too weary to feel like going anywhere.

However, the tickets weren't cheap--how could I waste mine? I have loved the Mannheim Steamroller music for many years and have all their Christmas albums. I play those CDs over and over again every December. I could not miss the opportunity to hear that wonderful music live!

The concert was being presented twice and both events were sold out. Our tickets were for the five o'clock concert. When Anne Marie ordered our tickets she was able to get four seats together, and they were the first four seats from the aisle. This was important for her claustrophobic mother (that's me, unfortunately). We arrived shortly after 4:30; we had time to settle in and read the program before the concert began.

My writing skills are simply inadequate to express how wonderful the music was.

The lights went down. The brief introduction was given. Hark the Herald Angels poured from the orchestra. From the first beautiful notes a bubble swelled in me that felt like I would burst. It was pure joy. I must have smiled through the whole concert, and my hands were tender from applauding at the end of each number. It was one of those experiences where I wish life had a rewind button so I could live it all again.

Yes, there were interesting effects with lights (including making it look like it was snowing), a little fog from the fog machine, and videos of various types accompanying each piece on a big screen behind the orchestra. Those added to the concert, but just the music would have been enough. It was that good. The volume was just right--clear and strong without being deafening. I felt surrounded by music, not battered by it.

During the intermission Chad bought us copies of the new Mannheim Steamroller CD. It is a remix of some of their Christmas classics with Steamroller and some of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Chad said, "Here's an early Christmas present." And, of course, I played it before I went to bed and am listening to it again as I write.

A day that started off with my feeling weary, draggy, and just wanting to stay in my house and read a book, ended with off-the-scale enjoyment. Music is such a gift. It is no wonder that the Scriptures describe the presence of God as being filled with music.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Crawling in a Hole

There's a saying I've heard a lot in my family. It goes pretty much like this: "I'm so [fill in the blank yourself] that I'd just like to crawl in a hole and pull the hole in after me."

It usually means being frazzled to the point of desperately needing some alone/quiet time. I think introverts, of which there are many in my family, reach this point more easily and often than extroverts do. Too many people, too much activity, too many responsibilities and our nervous systems become frayed and we just need to get away to regenerate. I even react to things like shopping in WalMart, where I get sensory overload.

Sometimes it's not an excess of people and activity. It's a mood that falls upon me that shuts off the desire for company, activity, or even outside news.  That's where I have been the past few days, despite the fact that I spent a day traveling to Rapid City with my daughter and granddaughter for medical appointments on Thursday, I went to the movie Thor with the Birdies on Friday, Megan spent part of the weekend with me and we enjoyed a meal out together on Saturday, and on Sunday I taught a Bible class. I always appreciate the time spent with my family and teaching the two classes I do each week are important to me.

But after each of these things I am content to climb into my hole. While I am often a dedicated follower of the news, I have given myself a vacation from most news coverage for the last few weeks. I check it from time to time, but am enjoying ignoring things I can do nothing about.

I won't stay in my hole permanently or exclusively. That is not good for anyone, not even an extreme introvert. But I will always treasure time with books and doing my own thing. That is one thing that aging and retirement have given me plenty of. I try to guard against retreating too far, however!

Excuse me now--I feel my hole calling me.