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22 August 2017

230/365

In dog years, he counts something around 84, we suppose, though there remains some dispute that it could be closer to 91. He naps a good many hours a day, moving from the expected back of the couch or curled up in a chair to a hidden corner behind a side table or next to the toilet. Yes, the toilet. We can't figure that one out either.
He lived a bit of a sad existence through the summer, when most of us were away and we had to count on the kindness of friends to feed and water and love on him when we weren't. He became a bit neglected, smelling doggydog, hindquarters a bit matted, beard a bit disheveled.

Therefore, it was time for a long overdue spa day at home, a gotta-get-him-cleaned-up-before-we-can-pay-to-get-him-groomed, makeover. He tolerated the wash and spin cycle well. Of course, he ran around like a pup once released from the tub, rubbing himself caddywhompus on the entryway rug, siding back and forth against the couch, shaking and spraying innocent kitchen bystanders. We left him to dry on his own. But once his fur lost the wet, he couldn't avoid the inevitable brushing. We fluffed and detangled and cut out knots, one set of hands at work on the coat, the other set petting and restraining and calming him, all while whispering sweet nothings like "you're such a good boy." He remains a patient pup, with a very short memory and awfully forgiving towards his people.

The end result?
Still in need of help. But awfully cute while waiting.

20 August 2017

229/365

I pulled off the blacktop and into the shoulder and rolled down the window and tried to get the steer to look my way. He did, and he looked rather annoyed at the intrusion on his mid-afternoon stroll.
Really, I can hardly blame him...

Sure, the skies are clear and the view is sublime, but does a care even care? Certainly, cows feel the August heat too, don't they? I keep wondering, when the sun beams hot overhead, when there's no shade in these south Texas fields, where there's not a drop of water nearby, when the grass is on the driest side of green, do the cows think, "Psheesh. I'm over this whole summer thing..."

Or do they just graze and sometimes stop to look up at the crazy lady on the side of the road?

228/365

O God beyond all praising,
we worship you today
and sing the love amazing
that songs cannot repay;
for we can only wonder
at every gift you send,
at blessings without number
and mercies without end:
we lift our hearts before you
and wait upon your word,
we honour and adore you,
our great and mighty Lord.
Then hear, O gracious Saviour,
accept the love we bring,
that we who know your favour
may serve you as our king;
and whether our tomorrows
be filled with good or ill,
We'll triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty
and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty
our sacrifice of praise.
"O God Beyond All Praising," Michael A. Perry (1982)

227/365

Turns out that maybe watching the previous evening's nightly news might not be the most peaceful start to the day. We got all riled up over the headlines, and we both started talking back to the screen and to each other. Things besides coffee might rapidly accelerate your heart rate in the morning.

Just in case anyone would be wondering, although I know that the ugly beauty of the United States Constitution gives Americans the right to freedom of speech, I believe any and all white supremacist nationalist groups and their vitriolic expressions of hate should be condemned, quickly, consistently and zealously, by our leaders and by our own words and actions. Violence of any kind should be handled swiftly, as a matter of enforcing the law.

A few days ago, reflecting on the events in Charlottesville and the current climate in the United States, Pastor Kevin DeYoung wrote, "So no matter how far we’ve come, or how loudly we denounce racism, we have to realize that the pride of racial superiority is still sin, and it’s still with us. Even on our best days--as a country, as the church, and as individuals--it’s still the case that the worst days weren’t that long ago. For some, they were just last weekend." In a letter published in the Washington Post, the president of World Relief, Scott Arbiter wrote, "Claiming the supremacy of any race is an affront to God." I serve and worship the Lamb who was slain for every nation, tribe and tongue.
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16 August 2017

226/365

This kid. He's the tag along little brother. He's the youngest among the kids that gather for community outreach, by at least five years. He holds his own. He is all lime green right now. Dressed in lime green. Coloring with lime green. Always wanting to hold a green lime. He has a strong arm. If you aren't paying attention, that lime might whiz past your ear, a fastball in the making. He will play catch with you for a good long while, until he figures out that he can launch the lime over the fence into the neighbor's yard and you figure out that "No" is probably not warning enough. His name fits him perfectly, as he is really quite a teddy bear.

We're going through the Lord's Prayer right now with these kids, teaching it line by line. Really, those petitions sum up what we are praying for each one of them. We're praying that they would know the Lord's will in their lives; that they would be kingdom servants and leaders. We're praying that they would know His sufficiency day by day; that they would not be tempted by the momentary pleasures of the world around them. We're praying that they would be protected from evil. We're praying that they would love the Lord and that they would love others and that they would know that they are children of the King.
We're praying for them just as we pray for our own kids.

15 August 2017

225/365

"You're not from here," said the checkout guy, as he looked skeptically at the two thick red-green stalks. "Only people from up north buy this."

Yeah. No kidding. One time, oh, seven and more years ago, my friends would beg me to take a bagful home from church, the garden bounty they were delighted to share. On Saturday (my Nebraska and Iowa friends, please sit down because you will gasp and need a deep breath...) I paid an obscene $4.98 a pound for that south Texas produce rarity. Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable? It is rhubarb.

Honestly, it wasn't a choice. Because what says summer better than Strawberry-Rhubarb pie?

I don't remember eating rhubarb as a kid growing up in New Mexico. My Grandma Cole was a pie maker extraordinaire, so surely she would have made that variety... But I remember the first time I had Strawberry-Rhubarb pie. I think it was the summer before 5th grade. It was brought over as dessert for a meal from friends when my Grammy died. I sat at the table downstairs and watched the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and ate pie. Apparently this kid didn't lose her appetite easily. A pie never tasted so very good.

I can't remember how old I was when I started climbing on the kitchen step stool chair to be right next to my grandma while she made pies. And then I married into a family with Grandma Lorraine, the pie-making matriarch who delighted to share her crust recipe with an interested granddaughter-in-law. But it took moving to the Midwest before Strawberry-Rhubarb got back in the rotation. (cue "happy baking music") Really, tell me what's not to like about rhubarb? Rhubarb pie, rhubarb cake, rhubarb pastries, rhubarb punch... rhubarb all summer long.

Then we moved to the US/Mexico border. (cue "screeching halt")
Which brings us to the moment of The Happy Dance in the HEB produce section when on a Saturday rhubarb makes its surprise annual appearance.
Even if it is $4.98 a pound.
Sigh.

It was worth it.

(Here's the recipe that guided me this year- Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Improved. But (confession), I changed my usual crust recipe for all-butter and regretted it. You're right, Grandma Lorraine- it's got to be Crisco.)


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224/365

"To encourage one another to pray is not legalism; it is breathing."
- Gloria Furman, Missional Motherhood

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13 August 2017

223/365

A whole list of places would be preferable but for now, she's pretty much stuck in this one. My friend smiles wide when we enter, and we find a wall to lean on and a corner of the bed to occupy. She updates us on this and that and shares a few stories of time past. I want to remember how pleased she was with a hot cup of coffee and a visit from her pastor and a few friends and a book at her side. I am still working on that "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content."

221/365

Somewhere far down the coast, the tempest raged, dark and wet and gusty, I know. But here, the tall clouds on the horizon looked to be only a beautiful warning of the coming storm. We didn't yet know what it would look like.

And isn't this all of life? Isn't always there some storm in route, if not already tossing around us?And yet, "In the middle of the pain of life in a fallen world, we groan with hope, knowing that when the new creation does come in its fullness, then all our groaning will not be remembered."
(Gloria Furman, Missional Motherhood

I keep my eyes fixed on the horizon of eternity.

10 August 2017

220/365

We walked maybe 10 yards before we spotted our first and second and third chacalaca, those chubby dusty brown birds scavenging under the low shrubs outside the Visitor's Center. Several hours later, we had spotted at least a dozen more bird species, overhead and in the trees. Lizards, long and short, fat and small, zip across our path, at least every couple of minutes. Rabbits and squirrels hop and skip on the trail, and then stop wide-eyed as if they are surprised to see us. Butterflies and moths flutter by along the way. We wonder where the ocelot and jaguarundi might be hiding to watch us. Spanish moss hangs thick and heavy and a bit gloomy. The Sighting of the Day must be the Very Impressive Blue Indigo snake, dark and thick and long and hustling, slithering to get out of our way. We see scat, full of seed, and wonder what animal could be responsible for littering the trails. We visit a cemetery full of wooden crosses, graves one hundred years old.

We spent the morning at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, a federally managed park that nestles right up to the US/Mexico border at the Rio Grande river in south Texas. The morning sun burned bright hot as it moved overhead. Cicadas played the high-pitched whine and click soundtrack to our hike. We saw just two other people for most the morning, although I've read that 165,000 visitors arrive at the park each year. It's a gem of a place, a place where you cannot help but recognize and be impressed by the stark and harsh beauty of this tropical dessert zone.

This still, beautiful place has been in the news recently. It has been marked as the site of the next border wall project. And frankly, that ires me greatly, for many reasons. I believe that there are better solutions to navigate immigration issues than with a fence across a wildlife refuge. I believe that other options can be found to truly improve our nation's security than to scar this land with a wall. I believe that we can be far more creative, much more resourceful, smarter and better stewards of the land, than to resort to fencing off this place.

John Muir, early advocate for the wilderness, wrote, “Everybody needs beauty...places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.” I hope that the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge continues to be one of those places.
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09 August 2017

219/365

The three days passed in a blink of the eye. Few things bring me more joy than spending time with these people. We shopped and sat and cooked and ate and worshipped and visited friends and played games and laughed and went to the movies and even managed to get in a hike. We did just enough. My peeps have a lot of personality (grin!). Together their similarities and differences and opinions and preferences weave a beautiful tapestry.  I love to listen to them and I love to watch them and I love to be with them. Though much too short, three days together is a pretty sweet gift. Thanks and I love you all muchly.

218/365

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:23-26

08 August 2017

216/365

As far as birthdays go, it met the requirements for 49 years just fine. The commitments of the day require driving back and forth, more miles than I might have chosen, but with good company, the miles pass fast and turn it all to blessing. Catching up means trips to the store and the whole day there is the fighting off of the bug that all of us have seemed to catch. I fall asleep hard on the couch when I stop for just a moment. In the evening, we gather in mass for birthdays and farewells and just to be together. A mess of low country boil spills across brown paper coverings and tea spills on the floor. I find a soft chair to settle and then later move to the feet of friends. The kids groove behind the back lit screen, waving to create shadow dances and silent hand drama to entertain. And then finally, the glow of candles on a sticky sweet pan of cake, one for each of us, and another year begins. There is yet much to celebrate.

215/365

I realize that as I grow older, I anticipate the time together more. I found myself thinking about it throughout the day, looking forward to gathering for worship, to hearing the Word preached and proclaimed, to taking in the bread and the wine. In the communion service, especially, we remember Immanuel, God with us. I consider that perfect sacrifice made on my behalf, Christ died, his body broken, his blood poured out that I might live, and I am humbled to the core. Almost inexplicably, as we confess our unworthiness and proclaim Christ as Lord, he meets us there at the table again.

John Piper explains, "If we come to Christ over and over and say, "By this, O Christ, I feed on you. By this, O Jesus Christ, I nourish my life in you. By this I share in all the grace you bought for me with your own blood and body" - if we come to Christ over and over with this longing and this conviction in our heart: that here he nourishes us by faith, then the Lord's Supper will be a deep and wonderful act of worship. Nothing shows the worth and preciousness of Christ so much as when we come to him to feed our hungry souls."

So on this day in the afternoon heat, we gathered under the hum of fans. The buzz of the neighborhood continued all around us. The dogs settled at our feet. The littlest kids carried on in their play. And the rest of us paused and worshiped, recognizing the majesty and power of our God, confessing our unworthiness and receiving the assurance of forgiveness, and feasting on His grace that saves to the uttermost. 

06 August 2017

214/365

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
- Ephesians 2:8-10 (The Message)


03 August 2017

213/365

Some moments are Bible study, sit alongside, listen, comfort, little kids, older faces, seeking, praying... is this the missionary life!
Some moments are raking, shoveling, trash in the yard, trash in the street, crazy broken phone, what are you trying to tell me, can you please say that again... is this the missionary life?

212/365

As each one began to fill the white sheet with sharpie sketch, we shook the rainbow hues out of the plastic container. What is it about that waxy scent that immediately conjures up years past? We spread the crayolas across the table and memories surface, of childhood school supplies when every point is shiny new, of my own little people gathered around the dining room table listening to the history reading for the day. We hope for those same feelings of safety and comfort in this place, where everyday hard is left outside the door. We hope for a place where kids come in and learn and create. We hope for a place where kids are simply kids, full of promise and confident in who He has made each one to be. On this day, the project was all silliness, but to see the smiles burst out at the surprise of the folds, that was all light.

02 August 2017

211/365

We wandered through the superstore and made a few small purchases. We exited and walked slowly in the afternoon heat, down the crowded sidewalk, shaking our heads at the offers for drinks, for prescription medications, for jewelry, for nopal, for toys, for clothing, for dental work. We crossed the ever dusty street in almost slow motion and made our way back to the smoky, dark cool of the lounge to wait. The Piano Lady played Strangers in the Night on her electric keyboard, bass pre-programmed, and a youth soccer game played on the big screen, crying parents celebrating their sons' victory. We ordered cold soft drinks, sweat running down the bottles, and poured them over tall glasses with big cubes of ice. We ate Spanish peanuts and chips covered with chili lime salt while sitting in low bucket swivel chairs at a short round table. In this place, the border fulfills exactly the stereotype you might imagine.

01 August 2017

210/365

For every beast of the forest is mine,
    the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
    and all that moves in the field is mine.

-Psalm 50:10-11

Another day bright and hot, and even sitting under cover, under fan, we feel the sweat form on our brow. I consider how very little is under my control, and fall again into prayer. And there I humbly remember that He who owns all the beasts of the field is completely trustworthy in our lives, too.