Friday, June 10, 2011

I Am Lost: day 5 of the Count Your Blessings Challenge

Since tomorrow is a very busy day, I'm posting this a day early on the day before. Come back on the 12th for day 6!

We moved when I was in the middle of the third grade, from a town of under 400 people in Newcastle, Nebraska, to Pasadena, California. It was a change.

For about three months we lived in a rental house, and I walked to school down a eucalyptus-lined street in the heat of a southern California autumn.

Then, we relocated to the central valley, to another small town where I walked to school again. This time it was just around a corner or two. Problem was, I couldn't remember which way to turn after I got out of school.

I couldn't ask anyone, because no one knew where I lived! I was new in town.

So...I did the only thing I knew to do. I prayed. I must have turned the right direction after that, because I got home all right.

In retrospect, it was a small crisis, but for a third grader, it was huge.

I have always looked back on this incident as a faith building moment. An eight year old's blessing.

I Am Sick: Day 4 of the Count Your Blessings Challenge

Somehow, in the first grade I contracted  trench mouth, or Vincent's stomatitis, which is a gum disease named after it's prevalence in the 'trenches' of WWI. I remember extreme mouth soreness, and an extended period of staying home from school. I rinsed regularly with hydrogen peroxide. The smell or taste of it to this day brings me back to that painful time.

But, when I recovered, the world seemed a brighter, more wonderful place. Often emerging from an illness brings a new lease on life. As far back as first grade, I can remember that.

Nothing was as freeing as being well again. This turned out to be, so far, my most serious illness. The blessing of health is an ongoing one, that I hope I never take for granted. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I Am Onstage Day 3 of the Count Your Blessings Challenge

 An ancient hymn says,
"Hast thou not seen
how thy desires hath been
granted in what He ordaineth?"

 One year for a school Christmas program I got the part of a wind-up doll.

My mother made me a ruffled skirt out of brightly colored tissue paper. I was in actor's heaven. I can still remember being onstage in my costume and being 'wound up' by some boy by a cardboard handle attached to my back.

Needless to say my love for all things dramatic was born.

It was a blessing that has been threaded through my entire life.  Last year I had the privilege of staging my own play and adding in a monologue for the main character based on my feelings as a young girl playing that doll.

Little did I know!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

May I Squeeze This In? A Superb Book

A Review of:
How the Irish Saved Civilization
By Thomas Cahill
In cinematic-like prose Thomas Cahill presents images of history breathtaking, absorbing, and sometimes disturbing. While culling from a wide variety of sources, and presenting it in a way that tempts the literary palette for more, this work spans the history of more than a millennium to tell the story of the link from ancient Greece to the twentieth century.
I suppose being Irish aids my fascination with the subject matter, and being a contemplative type Christian doesn’t hurt either. Still, Cahill’s description of life in the early centuries provides illumination into what have been termed the Dark Ages for more reasons than one. The reader feels as if he had sat by an ancient fireside, complete with smells and sounds.
It remains to be seen what we will do with this illumination. I’d love to read Cahill’s thoughts on modern culture.
Seldom have I read a contemporary work of this magnitude and complexity, with such ability to engage. Happily, it is one of five in a series titled Hinges of History. I’ll be going back for more!

We Escape A Fire

From about kindergarten to second grade I lived in a rambling two story house that was called the 'parsonage'. Now a thing of the past, a parsonage was a house owned by the church for the pastor or 'parson' to live in. We had a big garden, with sweet corn, tomatoes and rhubarb. The church people, almost all farmers in rural Nebraska, would bring fresh cream to our front porch every morning.

I never heard of a shooting, a robbery, or any other crime in our little town. There was a community freezer that they called the 'meat locker' and everyone kept their meat there, which was usually local beef. I can remember the feeling of walking into it with my father on a warm summer day, nostrils constricting. We walked there, and walked home, as I recall.

We didn't own a TV although I had seen one at our neighbor's house. I spent long, lazy summer days playing in an empty lot we called 'the cliff', a section of raised earth that could have been no higher than six feet. All the kids in the neighborhood met there. We made roads in the dirt, and came home when we heard our mothers calling. It must have been close to home, but it seemed a world away.

My next door neighbor was a boy named Bobby, and he went to Catechism every week. Since we were Protestants, I wasn't sure what that was, but he brought home an individually wrapped pack of pretzels and usually shared them with me. Something about Catachism was good, I thought.

When I was in first grade, our garage burned down.

Fortunately, it was a detached garage, and the fire was caught before it spread to the house. But I remember coming home and blistered paint on the side of the house and feeling very relieved. For a long time after, when I heard a siren pass by at school, I was a bit scared.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review for Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me by Ian Cron

If you’ve read any of Cron’s other books, this memoir will knock your socks off. If you haven’t, then reading this will make you want to read more.

Having a dad who worked for the CIA without your knowing it is one thing, but having an alcoholic dad is another thing entirely. Cron issues a disclaimer at the beginning that hedges the expectation of the reader to hear the ‘truth’ about his childhood. I don’t think he needs this. There’s enough detail here to make it totally believable, and poignantly so. 

The life he led as a child is the stuff of black and white films. He recounts a childhood in Greenwich Village of both privilege and horror, and a gradual coming to faith despite a rigid immersion in parochial school, and a gripping drug addiction in adolescence, that continued to plague him in adulthood. 

My mainstream evangelical self squirmed at his assertion that he actually heard the voice of Christ pleading for ‘forgiveness’, but then, given Cron’s unconventional way of expressing his faith, it fits.

I read this latest work of Cron’s just the way I ingested the last one, “Chasing Francis”. With zest. Cron is a gifted writer who knows how to salt the page with just enough hyperbole and a gentle touch of poetry. 

I received this complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson Publishers in return for my honest opinion of the book.

The Green Room: I Begin My Life Blessed

The Green Room: I Begin My Life Blessed: "I'm on the far right. It was just after the Great Depression. The 'war to end all wars' had been fought. A girl, Frana, had been born ..."

I Begin My Life Blessed

I'm on the far right.

It was just after the Great Depression.
The 'war to end all wars' had been fought.
A girl, Frana, had been born to a family in a poverty-stricken section of the east coast.
No indoor plumbing.
No telephone, no jobs, and not much food.
She was named after her paternal grandmother, who had been named after a ship. Her father had come from a long line of sea captains, but he had not continued the tradition.
He was a frustrated musician/farmer who had really wanted to be a fireman. His strictly religious mother had other plans. None of them had worked out.
His wife was a mild, self-educated woman, who had only formally finished the eighth grade. They worked at a hotel in the lowest of positions until finally they were able to build a house on some land in the country.Four more children came along, stretching the meager budget.
Neither of these parents had any religious leanings to speak of, and the girl had never been told about God.
One day, a neighbor took her to church, and she became, to borrow the term of the older saints, 'gloriously saved'.
For the next seven decades she would mature in that faith to become a seasoned, godly woman, my mother.

Meanwhile, another little girl would grow up in a sod house on the Iowa prairie, losing her mother at only three years old, and marry a crooning bartender. They give birth to a son named Weston.
The son joined the Army by the time the second world war came along, as did nearly every able bodied young man, and spent his nineteenth birthday in a foxhole in Germany. Upon his return, he found his family converted to Christianity, and soon after gave his life to Christ, (and I quote) "on a dead end street in Pasadena". This was my father, a gentlemanly preacher who by the end of his life had spoken so often of heaven that we knew he was ready to go.

These two were to meet, both passionate about Christian evangelism, in the heyday of Billy Graham, fueled by the likes of Jim Elliot, and gave birth to me in the very same year as Michael Jackson and Madonna. But in the turbulent sixties, I was raised in a quiet, modest pastor's home that was virtually soaked in scripture.

The parents I grew up with were not perfect Christians, but they provided a foundation for my faith that would not have been possible to imagine given the homes they were born into.

I began my life, blessed in many ways.

As I promised in my last post, I will be counting my blessings in upcoming posts. I plan to devote the next thirty days to this and invite you to join me in counting our blessings!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Green Room: Upward and Onward

The Green Room: Upward and Onward: "It's raining here at Stonehenge, too and has for centuries. Rain should be no surprise, huh? It's been raining. In fact, during a time ..."

Upward and Onward

It's raining here at Stonehenge, too and has for centuries. Rain should be no surprise, huh?
It's been raining.

In fact, during a time when normally we'd be dry as bones and hot as chilies already, here in California we've brought out our winter things...again.

Spring has withheld it's grand entrance with a teaser, an aperitif of wet, and cloudy skies, unlike any other May and June I've lived through.

And a few drops of rain in the form of troubles have dropped on the Maris household as well. Mainly financial troubles. Hence, the earlier post about modifying our home loan(s).

But since the load of blessings we've received for the past 40-50 some years would fill a few hundred posts. I think I'll start on them. A certain blind poet once wrote:

"Count your many blessings, see what God hath done."

By anyone's standard, blindness is a heavy load of trouble. So I'm going to take Fanny's advice and start counting.

Praise precedes deliverance, so the saints say. I'll take that advice too. The next few posts here will be my attempt to recount the blessings the Maris family has been recipient of. Stay tuned, and feel free to offer a list of your own!