Confessions of A Dishwater-Blonde in Bib-Overalls

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THE BIBLE SAYS AN HONEST answer is like a kiss on the lips.

So let’s call this a kiss, not a confession.

Ready?

I’m as disillusioned as Solomon (disillusioned in a general sense), and I won’t attempt to analyze this feeling (let’s leave that to Oprah). In the style of Ecclesiastes: it is what it is and, like everything else, it will pass.

The meadowlarks have returned, and I’m glad to hear their sweet songs again; long-lost friends have also come back into my life; I’m picking up the slack for an employee who quit without warning, which is a challenge, but there’s good synergy at the office and plenty of bad customer-service jokes to relieve the strain; weekends are a whirl of weddings, holidays, etc…

So it isn’t that I’m depressed, anxious, or bitter. It’s just that my brain is tired, and my heart is tired, and if I weren’t so busy I think I could probably sleep twenty-four hours, seven days a week. (But now I’m analyzing, and I said I wouldn’t do that.)

Anyway, the weather is fickle and stormy. My dad surprised a bear when he was out checking pumps, and the night shift had to be cancelled after one of our guys faced down a mountain lion. The hired men are nervous, but field work must continue, so a professional hunter has been enlisted (an aging Rambo type who used to hunt the two-legged kind of predators, once upon a time).

I hardly taste my coffee in the mornings.

My little niece was crying one day, because no one had time to play, and the tragedy of it was too much for me. I gathered her up in my arms and burst into tears.

Did I forget to mention that an uncle killed himself?

I’ve been kind of mixed up lately, so if I’ve frustrated or hurt anyone, I’m sorry. Continue reading “Confessions of A Dishwater-Blonde in Bib-Overalls”

Madam Secretary Reflects on International Relations and Happy Happenstance

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The Ring of Kerry. My photo.

WELL, MY FRIENDS, IT’S MARCH, and I’m sure we all agree that Old Man Winter has way, way overstayed his welcome.

I thought I would be serving tea at a place in the city. Instead, I’m working in our office so my dad can make up for lost time in the fields, and my current occupation doesn’t involve traveling to anywhere except the post office. (It’s like doing laundry: you sort through the junk mail, code the invoices, file the vouchers, try to decipher heavy Asian accents on the phone, empty the waste baskets and get everything tidied away for a little while, and then you start over again.)

I’ve always said that administration is not my thing.

The joke is on me, as usual.

Anyway, I’m bored, and thinking of tea and travel makes me nostalgic, so I’m going to ramble about foreign countries and things that are none of my business.

I’m not a politician–just a farmer’s daughter. But Ireland and Israel are like strangers who keep crossing my path and bumping into each other, and I feel like they should be friends.

I had the joy of spending Christmas 2014 in Ireland with my sister’s husband’s family. Dublin looked like a bloom of glowing plankton from the sky, the night we flew in. I woke up at three o’clock the first morning and didn’t know where I was until I tuned into an Irish radio station. Billy Joel was singing “Just The Way You Are,” and that song has had a special place in my heart ever since. Continue reading “Madam Secretary Reflects on International Relations and Happy Happenstance”

Revenge of The Broken Horse

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I KNOW WHERE WILD HORSES roam free as the wind. It’s a peaceful place, high in the hills, where there are no fences. I’ve taken a few friends there, when the sun was sinking behind the white peak of the volcano.

I’m not a cowgirl by any stretch of the imagination, but I do love horses in my own way. I always have. I think I’d hardly be human if I didn’t love horses. And horses in the wild are especially beautiful. They’re shy and curious at the same time, and violent and playful, and their thundering hooves drum the anthem of the free.

The Bible contains a famous eulogy to the horse–a poetic tribute that almost jumps off the page (remember that awesome scene in Secretariat, with the Edwin Hawkins Singers belting “Oh Happy Day”?)

Do you give the horse its strength, or clothe its neck with a flowing mane? Do you make it leap like a locust, striking terror with its proud snorting? It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength, and charges into the fray. It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; it does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles agains its side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground; it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds. At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’ It catches the scent of battle from afar, the shout of commanders and the battle cry.–Job 39:19-25 NIV

One day I realized that, although a circus of wild animals are described in this chapter, these verses are a picture of a warhorse, and warhorses are not wild.

I have to imagine a warrior on this horse’s back, even though a warrior is not mentioned, because he is implied by the horse’s disciplined and extraordinary behavior.

Wild horses, as beautiful as they are, don’t gallop into the clash of arms, “devouring the distance.” They don’t tremble with excitement at the signal of the trumpet, and they would almost certainly panic at the first glimpse of any shiny weapon. A horse without a master would perform badly in this context, but when a horse and rider function as one they become something truly amazing.

An unbroken horse, free as the wind, is beautiful to behold. But an unbroken horse never plowed a field or won a race or carried a king into battle…

The Romance of The Cross

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San Miguel, Mexico. My photo.

STAY, MY RESTLESS HEART, my wandering feet. The way of escape is here. The place of newness and purpose is here too. Not in the next adventure, the next accomplishment, the next good deed, the next admirer.

Stay and look up, above the spectacles, the sensations, the vanity. There is a cross up there in the sunshine, strong and plain, beckoning you back to Contentment. Back to your First Love–the Christ who willingly went “like a lamb to the slaughter”–the Christ who showed you what love really is. Back to the victorious Christ who repaired the pastor’s broken marriage and rescued him from the cartel.

How many kings and priests and wise men and prophets of ancient times longed to see what you see? You belong to someone, not something. You belong to a person, not a religious tradition or ideal. It is nothing less than the precious body that was broken like bread and the precious blood that was poured out like wine. “God With Us.” God for man and man for God. God and man, reconciled in the person of Jesus Christ.

Stay, my restless heart, my wandering feet. Desire the one who desires you. Continue reading “The Romance of The Cross”

Nasal Ecstasy

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Us, 25 years ago… We were almost struck by a rogue bolt of lightning one day on the hill in the background.

IF MY SOUL HAD A SMELL it would smell like mint. We drank it and played in it, waist-deep, when we were little. Its vibrant, heady fragrance has infused my whole life. 

The ancient Romans personified it as “Menthe,” the water nymph loved by Pluto, god of the underworld. Pluto’s queen became jealous and trampled fair Menthe, turning her into a humble plant. But Pluto decreed that the more mint was bruised the sweeter it would smell. (I can vouch for that last part.)

Mint is a popular herb in the Middle East, where it’s used in salads, roasts, and many other dishes. I was delighted to find bulging sacks of fresh spearmint at a market in Jerusalem. I crushed some of the leaves between my hands and the aroma immediately took me back to the verdant fields of home. Continue reading “Nasal Ecstasy”

The Genealogist

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From Grandmère’s album.

GRANDMÈRE IS REPEATING her favorite stories for my enrichment in a tidy room carpeted with green shag.

Grandmère has no filter.

On TV, Pope John Paul II is pretending to be God. A statue of The Virgin is enshrined among candles in a window. I should kneel in front of it, says Grandmère, and ask it for a good husband. (She was a naïve girl when she married Grandpère and definitely didn’t love him, but he was a fine husband anyway, and she was very content).

It’s wrong to worship idols, says my thirteen-year-old self, conscientiously. But ninety-one-year-old Grandmère isn’t listening…

Grandmère is so petite–when she plays the organ her feet barely reach the pedals. She has a memory like an elephant, though, and has traced her roots all the way back to 1695. She opens her album and flowing names like Jean-Baptiste reenforce the knowledge that my people came from France, ate snails, and died praying to the dead. (Ahhh, you say, that explains so much!)

They are strangers to me, these people of antiquity.

But I came out of them. Continue reading “The Genealogist”

Charity Begins At Home

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GOD CAN USE ANYONE, anywhere, anytime.

He might not want all of us to get P.H.D.s or move to the other side of the world, and you don’t have to be a televangelist or a best-selling author in order to live a great life (not to belittle anyone.) Take Jesus for example. He spent most of his earthly life in his small hometown, and people were surprised that he even knew how to read. He wasn’t married, wasn’t very attractive, and wasn’t a stranger to sorrow. He chose illiterate fishermen and social outcasts to be his companions.

Neither of my grandfathers had college degrees or ordinations. What they did was common but also very important. They labored patiently to provide for their families and to put food on other people’s tables in the process.

After serving in the military, my father’s father built a successful business, and today the profits help to support charities near and far. He was always generous and ready to give. His door was wide open to friends and strangers alike. (By the way, in the Bible, hospitality is listed among the special gifts of the Holy Spirit, just like prophecy and healing). Continue reading “Charity Begins At Home”