Wednesday, July 31, 2013

{pretty,happy, funny, real} - beach edition

Happy Thursday! As Mr. Rogers reminded us, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...won't you be my neighbor?" In this era of electronic neighborhoods, one of the best is centered around the blog Like Mother, Like Daughter, especially the weekly linkup to share our pretty, happy, funny and real experiences.

The Pirate and I live about a mile from a huge beach - miles long - that usually is completely empty. The reason is that there is a nasty undertow there that will suck you in if you're foolish enough to try swimming there. But the beach is lovely, and the waves are awesome, and the dogs love the freedom of a visit.

The beach is perfect for walking and having picnics and riding horses and watching whales and all the other things you might think of doing on a beach. Most visitors to our town who want to get up close and personal with the ocean want to swim or surf, so they don't go to our beach. So it's left for the locals to enjoy, which we do.


Here's one of our dogs, taking a break from a lot of running. The two people you see were with us...and there's nobody else around!


While we were at the beach with our guests, the only other people we saw were some people on horseback.

There aren't many shells on this beach because the dropoff is steep and the waves are large, but our guests looked diligently and found some.


We found this dead puffer fish fairly high up the beach. Puffer fish (botetes in spanish) are a real delicacy down here - like lobster. If you don't know how to gut them, they have a sac that contains poison which can kill you if you eat it. But the local fish shop has them occasionally which is a real treat for us!


There are two bodies of water for people to enjoy on the Baja Peninsula - the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California (traditionally known as the Sea of Cortez). The Gulf gets most of the people who want to be in the water, because as you can see, the Pacific is a dangerous ocean to mess with. The waves on the day this picture was taken probably averaged 10 feet high, which is common here.

For more pretty, happy, funny and real things away from the beach, swim on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pirate Post #3

This poem of the Pirate's fits my past weekend perfectly - beautiful and solemn.


Bubbles filled with poetry rise from
English cottages, abandoned Ohio warehouses
Mud huts in the desert, and school busses on their outings

These are the translucent spheres of emotion
Too three dimensional to stay on the page
Uniquely endowed to escape the gravity of language
In hopes of doing a somehow greater good

They hang momentarily in the air
Next to their authors who have last rights
To inspect their shifting globes of rainbows.

In this fragile state a mere touch of the finger
Can destroy, but the warm breath
Of acceptance will send them upward
Soap bubble gems on their way to heaven.

Where God, the owner of poetic chemistry
Touches these lighter than air offerings,
Reading and enjoying the hearts
Rembering their DNA, their fingerprints
All woven into all their words

And in so doing His touch gives weight
Adding to them the destiny of re-entry
Now marble size, white hot, and meteoric

Those untouched pass on
Becoming hardened outside the earth’s influence
To eventually become fuel for the
Ravenous sun furnace

Poetry sent back is like the
Person who dies, sees the bright tunnel
But is told they must return
For continued service in a postponed state of ecstasy.
So the good poetry, those that come back
When you rub one against your cheek
Always seem to have a certain density.

A kind of sadness because of postponement, But
at the same time
An ecstatic, violent beauty, which holds you
Adding miniscule, but divine weight to the reader.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Week Ending 28 de Julio

This fin de semana (weekend) I've been swimming in the depths of God's kingdom. It started on Friday when a colleague from my days as a financial planner called to talk about God. She's been having situations come up in her life that are causing her to ask a lot of questions about christianity and God and we had a wonderfully dense and chewy conversation, especially about how God is different from His followers. Odd point, I know, but I think quite common - consider all the people who reject God because of what they see His followers do or neglect to do (guilt by association!)

That evening (Friday), when we went to mass, everyone was so sad - lots of long hugs and crying - and we found out that the brother of one of the leaders of our Renovacion group was killed in an auto accident only a couple of hours before. The brother's wife also died, and their little girl was taken to the hospital. The siblings and the parents were all there at mass, as well as for our Renovacion (charismatic) service afterward. The renovacion service started with an acknowledgement of the pain we were all feeling, either as relatives of the couple who died, or as friends of the family, and prayers for the families. Then we spent the rest of the time praising God and focusing on His sovereignty and great love for us. At the end, all the family members went up to the front for an extended time of prayer.

On Saturday morning I went on a walk with a friend of mine. We walked and talked about the things of God, and agreed that there's really nothing more satisfying or worthy of conversation than that. So this weekend I was blessed with TWO long conversations focusing on God!

Saturday was also the funeral for the couple that died (down here the funeral is always the day following a death). The church was completely packed. Anibal, (the Renovacion leader and brother of the dead man) and his cousin were lectors, and Anibal wanted me to be the third lector. I was so honored that he specifically asked for me to read the New Testament reading (Romans 6:2-4). Remember that all of this is in spanish! I was so humbled to be chosen over others for whom spanish is their mother tongue, and who are closer to the family than I.

These are the flowers from the funeral mass in front of the door of the business that the couple was connected with.

Sunday when we arrived at church for mass, we discovered that there would be multiple baptisms. So in one weekend we had sorrow, followed by joy, both appropriately addressed with solemnity.

There were probably 15-20 children (plus of course parents and godparents) there to be baptized after mass - just those people took up half the pews! As I was praying before the mass, one of the nuns came up to me and asked if I would be the lector for the first reading! I'm always so blessed when I'm asked to do a reading; it's such a privilege to serve that way.

I generally do some special spiritual reading on Sundays after mass, and today I turned to a little-known book by Louis Tronson, "Examination of Conscience Upon Special Subjects". Father Tronson was a priest in France during the late 1600s and the rector of a seminary there. This is a jewel of a book, although a bit tricky to read since it's one of those old public-domain books that was scanned in the google project and therefore there are occasionally strings of letters that were mis-translated by the electronic reader. But the book is SO worth reading! And it's free! (in electronic form, of course)

For dinner Sunday evening I made lettuce soup (!!!). My DH had WAY too much lettuce in the garden and was discouraged about having it go to waste, so I found a great recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler (although Alice Waters is given credit on the cover, she only wrote the preface).

The description in the book is actually too simple to be called a recipe. Start by sautéing an onion (cut up any way you want) in some butter or oil or whatever type of fat you want. Add 1/2 cup of rice, 8 cups of chicken stock and as much salt as you prefer and cook until the rice is so done that it has become jagged around the edges (like Campbell's soup chicken and rice). Then add the lettuce, cut into thin ribbons. You can add as much as a BIG head of lettuce, or less if you're a bit wary. Let it wilt a little in the warm soup, add pepper (and more salt if you want) or any other seasonings that you like. Because this is Mexico, I added some cayenne & garlic. That's it - easy peasy! The DH really liked it!

Quite a fulfilling weekend. Here's the perfect ending to it:

A typical sunset at our house.

For more weekend stories, hop on over to Wanda's blog, Reinventing Mother, and bless the bloggers whose posts you read by leaving a comment.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

7 Quick Takes for July 26th

I'm hoping to be consistent in participating with Jen's 7 Quick Takes linkup since it helps me to keep from sinking under the waves of indolence. I hope that you find something useful as you rummage through my random thoughts.

[1] Sometimes I wish God would just keep me in my cage, because it seems like every time He lets me out I manage to set back His kingdom a few notches. I don't understand why I can be delighted to see some people and gracious toward them, and annoyed and lacking grace for others, all within a single minute. The description of the tongue in the book of James comes to mind, especially the image of a spring yielding both salt and sweet water. But I don't even have to say anything to communicate a lack of grace. Thank God that He never despairs of me, and never runs out of grace for me!

[2] In the same vein, I am so fed up with getting nowhere on my own steam in learning to show my husband respect in all things that I got desperate and asked him to help me to recognize when I'm disrespecting him (he's go gracious that he doesn't mention it otherwise). Maybe that will help - I sure hope so because I've been working on this particular lack of virtue for 45 years now and it's still a problem.

[3] Looking in the other direction, I've been reflecting recently on how the Catholic Church is like the ocean. If you're not already swimming in it, the waves can look like insurmountable obstacles, but once you've decided to take the plunge and get past the waves, the ocean is bigger than you ever imagined. And the farther out you go the deeper and broader it gets, and at some point you realize that you can't go any farther on your own energy and you drown in the love of God.

[4] Talking about drowning, what does everyone do with the ZILLIONS of photos that you take? I've been sorting and culling as I go along, but there are still many, many photos that I will probably never use in my blog and will otherwise have no reason to ever look at again. I'm not one for looking through old photos as an exercise in personal and family history. In fact, I never took pictures until I started a blog. Should I just be ruthless and delete anything that's over a month old?

[5] The Pirate's sister Lisa and her husband John left yesterday after spending a week with us. They are seriously considering moving to Mexico, so we did our best to help them see what the challenges and rewards are. Here's one of the rewards - an afternoon at the beach nearest to us, which, as usual, was empty of people.

As we drove away I got a beautiful photo of the mountain that is nearest our town - the one that provides the town with water from an artesian spring.

[6] While John and Lisa were here we ate out a LOT - not because I didn't want to cook (I love cooking for people) but because the Pirate loves to act as a tour guide and he believes that visitors need a varied restaurant experience to enjoy a place. As a result, I became aware that most of the time I'm not actually hungry when I eat a meal with someone (real hunger is a rare occurrence for me), but since eating a meal is more a matter of socializing than making sure my body doesn't starve, I eat anyway. After a number of days of this I feel like Monte Python's Mr. Creosote - so blimped out I can hardly move. I'm still trying to figure out how to have enough self-discipline to order the smallest thing on a menu, rather than opting for the most interesting thing.

[7] I just figured out that the Liturgy of the Hours has special readings for saints' feast days. What's specially neat about that is that you can get to know and learn from the saints as their stories are incorporated into your daily prayers. Yesterday was St. James' feast day, and meditating on the special readings helped me to see his life and his witness in a fresh way. I also found this website that has a meditation to go along with the daily missal readings that can help in getting to know the saint of the day more intimately.

For many more quick takes, mosey on over to Conversion Diary and look through the linkups there.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pirate Post #2

Yesterday in my Week Ending post I shared a photo that I think captures the Pirate's personality. Here's something of his that conveys it much better:

Somewhere inside me is the love of Jesus, a machine gun, and an Eskimo Pie.

Somewhere in this wonderful clutter is a undeveloped librarian,
Knowledgably arranging endless facts so other may apply them.
Also a logger, plaid, sweating, getting things razor sharp
For a good day’s work. Sometimes teacher, sometimes the grandfather,
Sometimes a novice sailor. Some kind of
Mark Twain, Steve Wozniac, Euell Gibbons guy
That preaches Ezekiel to the neighborhood dogs,
Though they seldom repent.

Going somewhere, almost certainly important
To be interested and involved with characters who aren’t.
So let his music blare, let the ice cream melt, there on the floor.
Keep that machine gun welded and by all means
Let the love of Jesus flow.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Week Ending 20 de Julio

The last day of the past week and the first day of the current one - the tipping point between one unit of time and the next, like midnight or New Year's Eve. For me the Week Ending theme provides a bridge, smoothes out the passage of time, reduces its claim for our attention and service to it. That's probably why I was drawn to Wanda's link-up.

So here's what we did with time (not ours, really, is it?) this weekend as we hosted the Pirate's sister and her husband who are visiting us for a week, trying to discern whether our part of Mexico might be a good fit for them when they retire. On Saturday we went to the nearby city to give them a sense of what's available there and to get some supplies that aren't available in our town.

We went to "el centro", where the town plaza and cathedral are. My favorite store is on one side of the plaza. We call it the "five and dime" store, because it reminds us of the old Woolworth's or Kresge's stores of our youth. It has saddle soap, yarn, school supplies, neckerchiefs, purses, craft supplies, reading glasses, swiss army knives, and much more.

We had lunch at our favorite restaurant in the city, where I managed to capture the essence of the Pirate's personality in a photo.

After mass on Sunday we went to lunch one of the many restaurants in our town. The palapa (palm roof) of this restaurant is particularly impressive.

We ended the day with a walk around the barrio (neighborhood) at dusk. Lovely!

Life in the slow lane without any "have to's" is wonderfully refreshing, no?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

7 Quick Takes

Having actually gathered 7 (SEVEN!) things to talk about this week, I'm joining up with Jen and the other Quick Takers at Conversion Diary this week.

[1] I have come to the conclusion that I need daily periods of silence. If I go too long without it I start getting jittery and my mind starts buzzing. This is no doubt why I go out of my way to avoid large noisy crowds.

[2] Happily, knitting has been proven to calm the spirit. Knitters (and crocheters) find in their handwork the comfort they need in the face of anxiety, frustration, anger, and other negative feelings. I'm so glad I've been a knitter most of my life - I can't imagine how insufferable I'd be if I hadn't learned patience and received grace through knitting.

This is me, knitting a shrug that I'm currently working on.

[3] This past week I read what I thought was a well-written article about the apocalyptic prophecies in the book of Revelation. I emailed the link to my sons since I had recently had conversations with each of them about that particular book in the Bible. Needless to say they were not terribly excited about receiving a long article from their mom, and when one of them asked me to please not send him long articles to read, I remembered the countless times my mom sent me articles (which often were not about subjects that interested me).

After some reflection, I came to the conclusion that the reason I have sent articles to family members is that I subconsciously want to start a conversation about something (or continue it), and since we live far apart I was using things that other people had written as a proxy for a real conversation. That caused me to wonder if my mom had been doing the same thing, and perhaps I had missed the many opportunities that had presented themselves to reach out to her and really talk about things that obviously mattered to her.

[4] That bit of reflection led me to thinking about another form of communication: blogging. It's hard to know if anyone is connecting with what you're writing since the feedback mechanism is weak (no body language or verbal cues as there would be in person or even on the phone). The voice I contribute to the blog world (or anywhere for that matter) is one that focuses on finding the deeper meanings in the small things of life. This means that it matters to me to know that someone is being helped.. encouraged.. strengthened by what I share. I'm still trying to figure out how to make my posts meaningful to more people, and one thing I realized is how much I appreciate posts that provide links to fill in the background on something that's being talked about. Let's see if that observation can contribute to a stronger voice in the future.

[5] One voice that I have found to be exceptionally clear and elegant is that of Isabel Huggan. Her book, Belonging: Home Away From Home, is a joy to read and draws from the depths of human experience as well. It deals with the interaction between people and the places they live and the things they surround themselves with. What makes a home? What things are meaningful to us, and why? This is a jewel of a book.

[6] Today (Thursday) I was praying the rosary and when I got to the second mystery - the wedding at Cana - something jumped out at me that I had never considered before. The host of the party had NOT asked Mary to help him figure out what to do about the wine running out - she had seen the need and interceded with Jesus on her own. How wonderful to realize that she intercedes for us without our asking!

[7] When we unexpectedly had to stay an extra 2 days near the San Francisco airport due to the plane crash (my observations on it here) I found this blooming cactus at our hotel. It's a great image of how painful circumstances can produce beautiful results. Since for me images are more powerful than words in conveying deep things, I appreciate that God is so lavish in providing images to tell forth His glory.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pirate Post, Poem vol. 1

The Pirate writes beautiful poetry, and since we were recently up at the family compound where he built the house that one of our sons now lives in, this seemed like an appropriate place to start his weekly contribution to this blog.

The House I Built

In this house I built
A place still standing
Despite its deep inadequacies
I hear the stillness of
10,000 nails, clutching wood
Faithfully holding their assigned angles
Only one or two complaining at midnight.

Redwood boards
Basking in fog and sun
Fog and sun, are hoping
To be released. Straining to return
To the friendly twigs and green
Back to the forest floor.
Once my songs played in this house
They’re embedded in the walls.
This still place where sons rolled on the floor
Where now their own children
Play, and color, cry and sing
Life grinding and growing in this house I built

Today, the growers are elsewhere
On the job or swimming camp, or
The Ladies Social Activities Team
I’m alone with the chickens
To enjoy the unusually thick quiet.

You know it rather than understanding it
You feel it rather than hearing it
Forty something years later,
Sitting in this house I built
Beyond life’s buzzing
I become aboriginal.
These eternal patterns, this stillness
Helps me find my voice again.

NOTE: I don't have a photo of the original house he built, but here's a picture of the view.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Week ending - 14 de julio

I've come to the realization that although I want to participate in group linkups (it's a way of building community, after all), several of the ones that are most popular to don't fit me. I really like {pretty, happy, funny, real} at Like Mother, Like Daughter but the things I have to share don't always fit well enough into that framework. And with many linkups I feel a little lost in the crowd when there are over 50 participants. So I was really happy to find the link that Wanda at Reinventing Mother created to memorialize and reflect on our weekends and I decided that I'll be joining her Week Ending linkup. However, she's taking a break this week so there's no linkup, but I wanted to share what we did this weekend anyway.

Saturdays tend to be our "out and about"days. Sometimes we go to the city near us, sometimes we go on little excursions, and sometimes we just go to the vivero (nursery). This weekend we did the latter and came back with some real finds.

These are called corona de cristo (in English we call them crown of thorns). These two are varieties I'd never seen before, one with pink flowers and one with large pinky yellow flowers.

I was stunned to find crocosmia at the vivero. I haven't seen it around here at all and it's one of my favorite flowers! The owner of the nursery didn't even know what they were!

On Friday the Pirate had returned from one of his excursions with a new type of fruit that neither of us had ever seen or heard of before: the mamey (also known as the sapote). He tried some and decided that it wasn't something he liked. I tried some and was astounded to find out that it tastes just like canned pumpkin. The color and the texture are the same as well. Since I had 3 large mameys that weren't going to be eaten as fruit I decided to find some pumpkin bar recipes that I could use them in. They were going to rot soon so I had to use them all up at once, which meant that I would have to bake far more sweet stuff than we have had in the house for a long time.

I ended up making 2 types of "pumpkin"(mamey)bars, both of which turned out more like cake or brownies than what I was expecting. I got the recipes here and here. They both tasted great - just like pumpkin brownies - but if I try the recipes again I might just leave out the flour (I used rice flour both times) since the mamey seems to provide sufficient body by itself (like what peanut butter does in the 3-ingredient peanut butter cookie recipe).

I added pecans and chocolate chips to the recipe. I wanted to put dates in it - I think they would have gone well - but I didn't have any.

What I spent the most amount of time on this weekend was knitting. I'm working on a shrug which I want to finish this week because I want to start on another project, so I spent probably 5 hours working on it this weekend. This is one of those projects that seems to knit quickly but the piece doesn't seem to progress at all. I measured it on Friday evening and it was 24" long. After knitting what should have been 4" of rows I measured it again and it was 26" long. I knitted 4 more inches of rows and it was 29" long. And yes, I checked the gauge and this estimate is based on the actual gauge of the piece! Ah well, that's what I get for wanting to complete the piece by a particular date rather than letting it lead me in the pacing.

Friday, July 12, 2013

3 Reasons, vol. 4

Welcome back to the States, Micaela! And now that you're all settled in (yuk yuk) let's focus on that glorious Church that we love so much! Here are three aspects of the Catholic Church that I am deeply grateful for:

The Church stimulates her children to create glorious works. People want to beautify and adorn the things that they love. The argument has been made that the Church should sell all its valuable assets and give the money to the poor. Setting aside how that same argument was by Judas Iscariot, the thing to remember is that it is THE POOR who were (and still are) most enthusiastic about having a beautiful place to worship, with rich decorations and vestments. The church is their meeting place, the center of their social activities, the storehouse of all that matters to them. Poor people want to have lovely surroundings just as rich people do, but since they can't afford to do it in their individual homes they pool their resources and create church buildings that are as beautiful as they can make them. The Catholic Church recognizes the significance of beauty and its connection to love, and encourages her children to reach for beauty in their acts and in their works.

It make look busy to you, but to us in this humble town it's our beautiful church home.

The Church knows how to celebrate! Important events and people are not just remembered mentally, they are an excuse for a festival. In her book Walking on Water Madeleine L'Engle writes about a group of Congregational ministers who wanted to observe the Feast of the Transfiguration. They checked out all the Episcopal churches in their area and none of them were having a celebration that day. Too bad it would never have occurred to them to go to the nearest Catholic church. Here are some photos of the "peregrinacion" (march) held on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by the nearby parish of that name, which our parish participated in (hey, when it's your birthday or name day and you have a party, you invite the whole family!) We brought the traveling statue of our Lady of the Pillar (our parish is named after her) to join in the march.

The Church is comfortable with sinners and the needy in her midst. Of course every Christian community says that they love sinners and the needy, but in my experience much of the time those who clearly do not "have it together" are not particularly welcome within the community. The needy are the outsiders to whom we minister, not part of the family who sits at the table with us. The Catholic Church reaches out and provides welcome and safety as part of the community to the homeless, the confused, the ignorant. She is patient with her children, loving them toward health rather than judging them for their lacks. The spirit of humility is thick within the walls of the church.

This photo is from a mass that our church had for a group of migrant farm workers who had never had the opportunity to partake in the Church's sacraments. During the mass there were 15 marriages, a lot of baptisms and confirmations (everyone you see here is being confirmed). If you want to read more about this wonderful event, read this post.

For more awesome aspects of the Catholic Church, go see Micaela at California to Korea and Back.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

7 Quick - and definitely unrelated - takes

It's time to get back in the link-up game with SQT. I've been sorely lacking in motivation to join the bloggy conversation but I decided that the solution is to jump back in rather than quit (even if nobody notices one way or the other). So thanks to Jen for her consistency in providing 7 Quick Takes as a meeting place for us all.

[1] Ugh! Why do I always chose dusty places to live? Almost every house we've ever owned was next to (or had) a dirt road. And how is it that Carmella (you MUST check out her blog, Assortment), who lives at the edge of a meadow, seems to have a perfectly clean house with all white interiors, including furniture? Is the meadow dirtless? Is their driveway paved instead of being a dirt driveway as ours have always been? Do they actually live in a corner of Disneyland? If only I could figure out her secret for banishing dust and dirt from her home! (it's truly a beautiful home, and her blog is a beautiful blog).

[2] I'm thrilled to announce that starting next week my husband will be doing a post every Tuesday right here on this blog. He is truly the best essayist/story teller/poet I know and I'm sure that any of you who pop over to read his stuff will either be enchanted or bust a gut laughing (depending on the subject matter). I hope you check it out.

[3] It seems like every place has its down side, something to remind the inhabitants and any visitors that perfection is not to be found on this earth, at least not before Jesus returns and restores all things. The Northern California coast is definitely a paradise, except for banana slugs. Here's something to think about when critters gross us out.

[4] I was watching Northern Exposure again this past week while we were in the States (I have to watch the whole series at least once every couple of years) and was struck by an episode in which Joel is astonished at how Marilyn can "just sit" - in silence - for long periods. When he tries it, he doesn't last beyond one minute. That got me thinking about how our culture has led us down the path of continuous stimulation. I personally don't believe that people were made to multi-task, or to be doing something every minute of the day, or be "plugged in" to the universal chatter machine 24/7. How long can you sit without doing anything..."just sit"? I think it's a good test to give yourself.

[5] Humans need silence just like they need sleep or food, but somehow we aren't as aware of the connection between a lack of silence and irritability, confusion, ineffectiveness and failure to thrive. That's one great gift of eucharistic adoration: silence. If you haven't ever been to eucharistic adoration, and there's one at a church near you, try it. You'll be amazed at how restorative it is.

[6] For some reason, I'm currently reading SIX books. In the past I read one book at a time, but recently I've been likely to have 2 books going at once: a spiritual book and a lighter read. But now I'm partway through Commonsense 101 by Dale Ahlquist (on GK Chesterton), Knit One, Purl a Prayer by Peggy Rosenthal, When Donkeys Talk by Tyler Blanski, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis (which I'm reading with a friend), Consuming the Word by Scott Hahn, and Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle. And of course that doesn't count my daily devotional books! Most of these books were recommended on various blogs, and it's so easy to buy a new book on the nook (or kindle) that as soon as I read a great recommendation I just pop over and buy the book and start reading it. Better slow down, I think!

[7] I am SOOOO HAPPY to be home in Mexico...especially given the most recent news in the States. There doesn't seem to be any other way of interpreting our culture than to say that it's on the fast downhill slope to total breakdown. Well, Roman culture had to totally break down too so that a Christian culture could arise in its place.

After that happy note, you might want to go to Conversion Diary to find some happier Quick Takes.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Musings: tragic? No, marvelous

We were on our way home. We boarded the airplane, the doors were closed, we pulled away from the gate at 11:30am and got in line to take off. The safety video was shown and we were ready to go. Then the pilot's voice came over the system saying that our takeoff would be delayed a few minutes because apparently there was a brush fire at the side of the runway which was being put out. After 10 minutes or so he announced that the fire was due to a plane crash and that we would be returning to the terminal so we could de-plane since it was unclear how long it would take before we were cleared to leave.

As the plane turned around we could see a mass of black smoke rising and expanding. It was clear that the fuel tanks of the crashed airplane had just exploded. The purser of our flight announced that they had no information about the crash other than that it was an Asiana plane. We were told that we would have to take all our carry-on luggage with us when we de-planed, and that it would be awhile before anyone would know when our flight would be cleared to go. Once we got into the terminal it was announced that the entire airport had been closed and would not re-open until at least 8pm, but there was still no information on the crashed plane. We were told to stay near the gate until there was clarity about when our flight could leave.

There were several big screen TVs near our gate and a number of us went over there to see if we could get any information there. Each TV was tuned in to a different channel, with all of them reporting on the crash. They were all showing really awful photos of the body of the blackened plane with the top blown off and the tail missing, and of course they were all describing the incident as a TRAGEDY. However, the real story was much different - a positive story of escape from peril, of grace in the face of danger.

While we waited for an announcement about our own flight, many of us logged onto the internet and discovered that one of the passengers of the crashed plane had been able to post a number of tweets that described the crash and its aftermath. He said that everyone had been calm and had been able to exit the plane before it burst into flames.

Although there were 2 deaths and a number of injuries, the first reports were significantly exaggerated and the the fact that almost all the passengers survived is a marvel. The photos of the burning hulk of the plane that the media kept obsessing on were taken AFTER everyone had been evacuated. The majority of the passengers were already in the airport terminal after having been examined and found with only minor injuries.

Later that day we were sitting next to a woman who was talking to her sister on her cell phone. Apparently the sister was due to land at SFO at about the same time as the plane that crashed. For an hour the caller kept repeating to her sister how worried she and her parents had been when they couldn't get any hard information about the accident - worried that perhaps it was the plane with the sister on it. The woman went into excruciating detail describing how traumatized she had been and how poorly she was coping. This was someone who was NOT one of the passengers on the doomed plane, nor was her sister.

It struck me that this is probably how most people who have no strong faith in God would react to a frightening situation. People are afraid of being made victims by circumstances beyond their control, and can become obsessed with real-life situations in which there were victims. But what is it about being a victim that is so terrifying? The issue is suffering without assent, right? But if the victim assents to the suffering - which is what happens when you offer your suffering to God as an act of unity with Christ - where's the terror? The "victim" has the power to change death into life (Christ's resurrected life) through his or her assent to the suffering. What an awesome weapon God has given us against Satan's primary mode of attack! This is the testimony that the martyrs of the faith have for us, to take heart no matter how awful the circumstance, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds...bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

P.S. After several hours of waiting at the gate the airline said that they were unable to arrange to fly our plane load of people into Cabo in an unscheduled flight, so our flight was cancelled and we all had to book a new flight. Happily, I had already called the hotel we had left several hours earlier and reserved a second night in the room we had vacated. After an hour and a half of waiting to get through to Virgin America to book a new flight, we finally were set up to fly out on Monday.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Jen has her scorpions
Cari has her cougars and fisher cats (and other fierce furry forest folk)
Kelly has her bats
Dweej has her mice
And I have....


These things can be 12 inches long, and they're more slimy than snails! All my adult life I have lived in their favorite habitat, the coastal region of Northern California. All my life they have been terrorizing me, placing themselves where I might accidentally step on them, grossing me out when the car runs over them, and sliming their way through unseen cracks into my house where I discover them and shriek, running for rescue, putting as much distance as possible between me and them to eliminate any possibility of accidentally touching them.

My husband, who used to lead children on nature walks, says that if you lick a banana slug your tongue will go numb, and a lot of the kids on his walks took up the offer with enthusiasm. I can't think of a worse torture than being forced to lick a banana slug, except stepping on one barefoot, which I did once at camp. The trauma of that has never left me.

There were lots of banana slugs at camp. One time when my cabin group went on our weekly outpost (sleeping in the woods) one of my cabin mates found a banana slug. She got a bunch of us together to watch what she said was a fun trick. She brought a salt shaker over and shook salt on the slug, which writhed and slimed and melted until all its insides came out and it shriveled into a hard black mass. We were appalled (all except the girl who did the salting). In a fit of shame she suggested that we give it a christian burial, which we did, but that didn't make me feel any better. To watch someone torturing a helpless creature for fun - even something as grossly disgusting as a banana slug - is a horror that I hope never to experience again.

When God looked at creation and pronounced it good, that included everything that grosses us out or annoys us - bats, mice, scorpions, banana slugs, and a thousand other things. We may wish they didn't exist, but we know that these creatures are fulfilling their niche that they were created for, obeying the laws that God set for them. That's more than we can say for ourselves much of the time.