Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Sky is Falling!

Scott and I were in the middle of an intense game of scrabble this evening when rocks started hitting the house, or at least that's what it sounded like. Turns out it was hail! I've seen pictures of severe hail in other Minnesota cities but in the 31 years I've lived here, it's never been this bad in Cannon Falls. It reminded me of when I was a little girl living in Southern California and we had a very rare hail storm. I put on my yellow rain slicker, and took my bucket outside to play in the hail. (This was after it had quit coming down.) It was almost as good as snow in my mind. I mean, we NEVER had anything fun like that to play with in our yard.

Though Scott and I were safely tucked inside when the hail started, John was out mowing the lawn. He saw a piece of hail land on the grass and did the most logical thing that one can do when things are falling out of the sky. He looked up! He has a slight red mark above his right eye, but I think he'll recover. Our neighbor is annoyed that the sirens didn't go off. I reminded him that hail wasn't generally considered life threatening. He said, "No, but it sure does hurt when it hits you in the head!" Below is a picture of John holding the assaulting hail. This isn't actually the one that hit him or the neighbor, this is the one I stuck down the back of Scott's shirt, so it's melted a little.

The hail in our garden made it look like there were quite a few errant miniature golf balls! If only I had a yellow rain slicker I could have gone outside to play!

Thankfully, the most severe damage at our house caused by the hail was to our hostas. Unfortunately, they make up about 90% of our very large garden. Do you think we can make a claim for them on our homeowners insurance?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What If I Give All?

There is a song from a few years back, o.k., maybe 10 or 15 years back, called What If I Give All? It's a song about a little boy who hears his preacher say that just 10¢ will feed a child. He pulls out the dollar in his pocket and asks his mom how many that will feed. When she tells him ten children, he pulls out everything in his pocket and says, "what if I give all, what will that gift do?" It's a great song, and it always comes to mind when I'm at an event such as the one I attended tonight.

Tonight (if I get this posted before midnight), I attended a dinner promoting a mission organization called International Justice Mission (IJM). IJM is a human rights organization that helps provide justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression around the world. This organization doesn't just rescue people out of their bondage, but they also provide aftercare to help them heal from the horrors of their lives. There are a lot of people working for this organization who risk their own lives to rescue enslaved people.

There were, of course, many stories shared tonight about the young boys, young girls, fathers and mothers, all held in some sort of slavery. I think the one that hit me the most was of the family of six that had been rescued and eventually moved into a home that was about the size of my home office. They were so thrilled to have a home, with a door that locked, where they could feel safe. Wow, I have SO much! I would get claustrophobic if that many people just stepped into my office for a visit!

There are so many amazing mission organizations around the world. IJM is just one. John and I have had the privilege of working in Africa with both Children's Cup and Blessman Medical Ministries. They all do great work. One thing I do know, is once you've been to a country where there is such poverty the desire to help gets into your soul. You can't forget the faces of the children who each day are excited just to get a meal of rice and beans. Or those who still hurt from the horrors they have experienced.

Usually, my posts are pretty upbeat, but tonight my heart hurts for these oppressed people. It leaves me thinking, what if I give all? You can check out all of the organizations I've listed by clicking on their names. You wouldn't go wrong supporting any of them, and there are many more. By the way, in the song What If I Give All, the answer is this, "My child a gift like that could change the world. It could feed a multitude." It then goes on to tell about the love Jesus shared when He gave His very life to free us. If Jesus was willing to give His life to free me, what am I willing to give to help free the millions of people held in bondage?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It Took a Legion of Angels . . . .

Our youngest son, Scott, spent last weekend driving home from his second year of college in Portland, Oregon. It's a long drive and we had no idea how much we should have been praying. We prayed, of course, that he'd have a safe trip home, but we had no idea we should have been praying more, much more. Thankfully, I believe God sent a legion of angels to get him home safely. Let me explain.

The problems all started, Scott says, while he was looking for a campsite at which he could spend the night on Friday. The campsite was our idea. His idea was to find a location somewhere in Medicine Bow National Forest to sleep. He had no intention of wasting $10 to pay for a campsite. Mind you, we were funding his trip home and we're still curious as to why he was so bent on saving this $10. John and I felt that a campsite would offer a little more protection from wild animals and wild people. So, Scott obediently looked for a campsite somewhere west of Casper, Wyoming. In his search for a campsite he apparently neglected to check his gas gauge. And, you guessed it, he ran out of gas. But, he just didn't run out of gas, he ran out 50 miles from the closest gas station! Yes, you read that correctly, 50 miles, five - zero! Remember, this is Wyoming.

What do you do when you are 50 miles from the nearest gas station and it's 10:00 at night? Well, you surely don't call your mother which, in this case, might have helped as I have a relative in Casper, but Scott didn't know that. Scott decided to start walking. He walked for an hour until someone finally offered him a ride. I don't believe he knew how far away the closest gas station was until way after he started his search for gas. His rescuer was a man who was on his way to Casper to do ministry at the prison. When they arrived in Casper, this good Samaritan called his friend who brought Scott a gas can, which Scott tells me holds around 2.5 gallons of gas. The man GAVE him the gas can, with gas in it! Very gracious. It would have been wise for Scott to top off the tank, but he didn't think of that. Scott found a man at the gas station heading west who gave him a ride back to his car, and offered him a beer. Scott tells me the driver wasn't drinking, just the other guy with him. Oh, and Scott refused the beer. These two men are apparently, in the irrigation business. You get to know someone when you are in a pick-up with them for 50 miles.

After filling the car's gas tank with the gas in his newly acquired can, Scott continues his trip towards Casper. But wait, he didn't top off the gas can and you can only go so far on less than two gallons of gas so, yes indeed, he runs out of gas AGAIN, now fifteen miles from Casper. Once again, he found himself walking and about five miles into his trek, along comes a trucker to offer him a ride. I think by now, it was close to midnight and still, no call to his mother. The trucker delivers him to the gas station (the same one) where he now fills his new gas can ALL the way to the top. And, once again, Scott found a kind soul headed west in a delivery truck, who willingly drove Scott back to his car. Not only that, but he waited for Scott to fill his tank and make sure he got on his way.

Once he got his car filled to the top - on his third visit to said gas station - he continued his search for a campground. Never mind that there are hotels in Casper. I know, I've been there. But Scott did have a brand new pup-tent purchased just for this trip and he was determined to use it. By 2:30 A.M. he decides that there are no campgrounds in the entire state of Wyoming, at least not along his route, unless you count the KOA, but they charge $25 per night and that was apparently way outside of his self-imposed budget. So, he finds a public access area to some local body of water and pitches his little 5' x 6' tent, climbs in (at a diagonal so he'd fit) and goes to sleep. The sun woke him early in the morning and he decided he'd better get on his way before he was discovered in this illegal camping spot. After leaving the site he checks his clock, only to find out that it's only 4:30 a.m. He's now had a grand total of 2 hours of sleep.

I called him later in the morning - 8:00 mountain time - to see where he'd spent the night. He had to confess to his illegal camping experience but, as he put it, there were extenuating circumstances. This was when I finally heard of the evening's adventures. While I was on the phone to him I suddenly heard him say, "oh, there's a police car going the other direction. Uh oh, he's turning around." It was at this point I started giving him tips on what to say when/if he's stopped. He interrupted my advice with "Yeah, mom, I've gotta go talk to this guy. I'll call you later." I could only laugh. At least he had quit "walking" his car home!

Scott arrived safely on Saturday night. We're still thanking God!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sharing the Mission

This week I spoke to a group of kids at a local Catholic school, grades 1 - 5, about our mission trip to Africa. I'll be honest, when I was asked to speak I really wanted to say no. I had no idea what to say to these innocent little children. You see, there aren't a lot of cheery things to say about Africa. How do you explain to small children, who live in nice homes, and have parents who love them, that on the other side of the world there are children who don't have enough food to eat, and are living without one or both of their parents. Aren't these little ones too young to know about that stuff? But, with the encouragement of the woman who asked me to come, and the global projects pastor from our church, Justin Mack, I agreed to go. Justin told me about the impact that visiting missionaries had on him when he was a kid. Why would I not want to give these kids a vision bigger than their own backyard?

I combined pictures of our last two trips. I showed them pictures of the children at the orphan care centers and explained how this was where they'd get what might be their only meal for the day. I showed them pictures of the huts where the children live, and the schools that they attend. I even showed them a picture of one of the outhouses at the schools. (We still aren't sure who took that picture but kids love that kind of stuff.) And, of course, I showed them pictures of the kids. No one seemed traumatized so that was good. I'm guessing they all went home and were pretty excited to use their very own toilets!

After the "mission" pictures, I showed them animal pictures. They LOVED that. The elephants, the lion, the zebras, warthogs, hyenas and the like. They were a HUGE hit. What I love about kids is how they think and the questions they come up with. One little boy asked me if there were more animals or more people in Africa. I don't know. One little girl asked me how many different kinds of animals there are in Africa. I don't know - though I did suggest she Google that. My favorite question was "how do you tell the difference between a male and a female warthog?" I did know the answer to that but here's what I said, "I don't think you'd want to get close enough to find out." Thankfully, that seemed to satisfy him. I think the teacher was relieved!

At the end of the program I slipped in another picture of the kids and asked them what they thought would be the very best thing they could do for the children in Africa. Kids are creative and so were their answers. They had the idea of doing a fundraiser or sending clothes and toys, but one little boy came up with the answer I was searching for. "We can pray." Everything we do is great, but God is bigger than all of our "stuff" and praying really is the very best. Putting feet to our prayers - priceless! I hope my little 30 minute program starts them on the road to thinking about putting feet to their prayers. You never know. In the meantime, we can all pray.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Celebrating Dad's 80th

On May 9, my dad turned 80 years old. Dad's not into big parties, in fact his words to my brother were "I don't want any big shindig. It's bad enough getting old, much less advertising it." So, my brothers, I, and our spouses went to California to celebrate with a small family gathering. Only thing is, we kept it a surprise. Mom did all of the planning - she loves that kind of stuff - and my youngest brother, who lives the closest, called dad and told him he was coming over on Thursday so they could play golf together on his birthday. This assured us that he'd be there when we all arrived. Needless to say when he opened his front door on Thursday night he was quite surprised to see, what he referred to as, four displaced people. And, I think he was relieved when we told him this was as big as the group would get. He did get to play golf with my brothers on Friday - which is his most favorite thing to do in the world. And, I think he was relieved when we entered the restaurant on Friday night and realized that indeed, the group would not get any bigger.

Our trip did start with a few glitches. Everything was fine until we landed in San Jose. Our first glitch started with the luggage. I think it may have arrived on a later plane as it took forever to show up at luggage claim. Then, in order to rent a car in San Jose, you have to drag your luggage across the street, onto a bus, ride to the car rental place, drag your luggage off the bus and check in. Other than being somewhat of a pain, that process went relatively smoothly, we got our car and left the airport, or tried to at least. Before even getting out of the airport roads we encountered an accident that sent us on a detour through long term parking. Everyone on this detour had to first take a ticket to get into long term parking and then wait in line at the check out spot to give up our ticket and go through the gate. That took quite an extra bit of time but finally we were off onto the freeway, only to get involved in a traffic jam, which we later found out was caused by an overturned truck. By the time we passed the truck we'd already been in California for 2 hours and we weren't more than five miles from the airport! I am totally convinced that God sent us the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile (with a Wisconsin license plate) in the midst of our traffic jam for comic relief. It's just not what you expect to see on the California freeways. I made John take a picture. I was driving and it makes John nervous when I try to do two things at once.

Other than the initial traffic incidences, our time in California went well and we had a good trip. The Monterey Bay area of California is one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Dad was surprised and it was fun to honor him on his birthday.

You can't beat a view like this!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

National Day of Prayer

Today was the National Day of Prayer. Usually I observe this by attending a breakfast held every year in Cannon Falls. This year I was asked to come to the State Capitol and take pictures for the National Day of Prayer event held in front of the Capitol building. Now technically, I could have done both, but seriously, if I get up at 5:45 a.m. to attend a 7:00 a.m. breakfast in Cannon Falls, there is no way I'm going to make it through an event at the capitol that doesn't start until 11:30. I'd need a nap by then. I'm just not good with mornings, think what you want.

Anyway, I don't know how to convey my feelings regarding my afternoon at the capitol. I was totally humbled by the day. I started taking pictures the moment I arrived and didn't stop until I was on my way back to my car. I did have a press badge, as I was taking these pictures for Midwest Chaplains and I'd asked for a badge so that people wouldn't think me odd as I moved all around to get shots from different angles. While some may have been impressed by my badge, the camera men from Channels 4, 5, and 11 didn't even seem to notice it as they set up their ginormous cameras right in front of me. This is not what humbled me, however.

As the event progressed different people were called up to pray for specific areas such as the legislators, senators, judges, children, marriages, churches, military, pastors, media, etc. Governor Pawlenty spoke and was then prayed for. (By the way, when he finished speaking the big gun camera guys left, making my job much easier.) Some of the legislators and senators came out and we prayed for them. I'm not one who is generally overly impressed by a person's title or status but I was impressed by their recognition of their need for prayer. There was just something about standing in front of the capitol for all of this that was quite moving. I can't even begin to put it into words.

At one point, my former pastor, Pat Hall, was at the microphone praying for the survivors of the 35W Bridge Collapse. This was the moment that brought tears to my eyes. I remembered when I first met Pat, probably 16 years ago. I heard him pray and thought to myself, "I want a pastor that prays like that." I know that may sound dumb, but you can tell a lot about a person by the way they connect to God in prayer. He did become my pastor probably one year after I first met him. I worked with him on some big events and he was, and continues to be, one of my biggest cheerleaders. Through a series of events, he is no longer my pastor but still a man I have a huge amount of respect for. I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today if it weren't for him.

The most humbling moment for me today was when people were directed to pray for the media/press. This man, whom I had stepped in front no less than 15 or 20 times in an attempt to get the right angle on a shot, motioned me to come over to him. He'd been quite gracious at my being in his way all day but I couldn't really figure out why he'd want to talk to me. When I got over to him, he and two other guys said they wanted to pray for me (since they were to be praying for the press.) I tried to explain that I really wasn't all that media related and that I was just taking pictures for Midwest Chaplains. They didn't care. They said I was doing God's work and they wanted to pray for me. I was totally blessed. And, I was grateful that one of the men prayed that my equipment would work properly, especially in light of the fact that the last time I went to the capitol I had trouble transferring my photos to my computer.

I ended the day at another prayer event held near the Stone Arch Bridge for the survivors of the 35W Bridge Collapse. My friend, Pat Hall, was leading it and I wanted to be there to support him, as he's done so often for me. Present at the event were some who survived the collapse, the spouse of one who didn't, and a woman who felt the bridge collapsing, gunned it, and was the last one off. Needless to say, there were plenty of tears. Hopefully, they were healing. Please continue to keep them all in your prayers.

2 Chronicles 7:14 - if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.