Jack’s Babysitting Job

job1Jack’s friend, Tracy, called early this week to say that she had a job for Jack. Tracy needed help with Sammy the maltipoo puppy who was coming over for a few days. She needed someone (like Jack) — to keep Sammy entertained. (Awwww, Jack … we remember when you were just a tiny puppy, and now you’ve got your first job.)

So Jack’s been at Tracy’s helping with Sammy. When we went to pick him up today, we observed his work for a while. (He’s very good at this babysitting stuff.)

Sammy is the cutest pup ever. Here he is chewing on a stick and looking adorable.

Sammy the maltipoo

Jack’s got good babysitting tricks. One is a game called, “Chase Me. I’ve Got the Ball.” Sometimes Sammy chases Jack.

playing ball

And sometimes, Jack chases Sammy.

playing ball

Either way, it works great.

Another game in Jack’s toolkit is “Chase Me. I’ve Got the Stick.” Here’s the early part of the game where both pups are getting ahold of the stick.

Stick

And here goes Sammy with the stick!

Sammy with the stick

Sammy’s still got the stick! Go, Jack, go!!

Chasing Sammy

This is Said. He lives with Tracy all the time. And he’s Very Ready for Jack and Sammy to go home. He needs just a little peace and quiet for a change.

Said

Jack said he’s got the greatest job ever!!

1. Chasing and being chased by Sammy.
2. Running. Eating. Taking naps.
3. And then Running. Eating. Taking Naps. Barking. Playing. …

Tonight, back at home, Jack’s asleep. He’s tired out. Babysitting is hard, hard work.

 
 

The Anniversary

Brainard LakeThis is a repost from my article on Alive Now’s blog.

When the 9/11 attacks happened, I was in Colorado on vacation and away from television. We had scheduled a hike on that day and decided that since there wasn’t anything helpful we could do, a hike would be a perfect response — a sort of physical prayer. The images I remember from that day are mountains and water, fragile flowers and blue sky. It wasn’t until over a week later when we were finally able to fly home that I saw all the images of devastation. I’m grateful that pictures such as the one above are what I associate with that terrible day.

I know that anniversaries of tragedy are especially difficult. It’s been over 25 years since my mom died and I still feel the loss deep in my spirit when that date comes around every year. I cannot imagine the pain I would feel if her death was a part of such a gigantic national tragedy. I pray for those for whom this news event brings such deep pain.

This week’s gospel reading from the lectionary is Matthew 18:15-20. Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who has wronged him. “Seven times?” And Jesus’ answer, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” And then Jesus goes on to tell a parable about settling accounts.

I’ve been thinking about this scripture falling on the anniversary of 9/11 and wondering what will be preached in churches this Sunday. (I’m grateful that I’m not having to prepare a sermon for such a difficult day!) I’m wondering what God is saying to me, to us, through this scripture and through this season of remembering. I’d like to invite you to take some time to pray the scripture using Alive Now’s Audio Lectio recording.

Here are a few random thoughts from me:

  • We are a broken and fragmented people. Our culture is divided to the point that we often jump — too quickly — to judgment, labeling, and condemning others rather than seeing them as human, vulnerable, children of God.
  • Forgiveness is our calling as Christians. It’s perfectly appropriate that we study and pray this scripture at this time.
  • Yes, we are called to forgive — over and over and over. But forgiveness is a very individual step, part of a process of healing and reconciliation. I cannot say to you, “It’s time for you to forgive.” Forgiveness is a gift given by God at the just the right point in a person’s healing process.
  • I wonder what Jesus would say to us today? to our national leaders? our faith leaders? to our children?

Share your thoughts. What does it mean to be people of faith in a post-9/11 world? What message is God giving you through this week’s Audio Lectio?

Related Resources


Photo Credit: © Beth A. Richardson. Brainard Lake, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado.

A Wren Story

Wren
One of the wrens last winter

Feeding birds is a love I inherited from my parents and grandparents. We love the the birds — and especially the little wrens. They have such spunk, such personality. We wanted to make a home for them, so we bought them a little wren house and put it on the lower deck. Isn’t this a great home for a wren family?

house
The wren box

 
This is their new bird bath — it’s heated. The birds sat around on the edge of the bird bath all winter. I imagined that they were wrapped in little towels pretending they were at the spa.

bird bath
Bird bath (heated)

 
The wrens love the suet. They are so cute when they hang on the feeder.

Suet
Suet feeder

 
We feed, exclusively, hot pepper suet (because the squirrels don’t like hot peppers). We get this at Home Depot.

Hot Pepper suet
Hot pepper suet

 
Check out another new addition — a covered bird feeder. We got this to feed the bluebirds, but the wrens eat there too. (Actually, the bluebirds never came, so the wrens had it all to themselves.

Covered bird feeder
Covered bird feeder

 
Here’s what goes into the covered feeder — mealworms!! (Woo Hoo!!)

Mealworms
Mealworms

 
Yes, these are actually mealworms — here’s the bag they came in. They are dried mealworms, but you can make them look alive by putting oil on them. (Eeew!)

Mealworm bag
Mealworm bag

 
So, it’s the perfect place for a wren family to settle in — Right?

Nesting season came, and there was no wren nest in the box. Not the first week. Not the second week. Not the third week. ūüė¶

I went over to Neighbor Deen’s house — and what did I find? I found my wrens had built next door at Deen’s house.

Nest
The wren's choice for a nest

And not only had they built next door at Neighbor Deen’s house and not at our house. They built their nest on top of a string mop. (Ouch!! Rejection!!) Oh, well. That’s life.

We kept providing them food and water — because we love the birds — even if they rejected our beautiful, perfect little wren house on the lower deck.

After a few weeks, the eggs hatched. The nest fell apart as the little birds grew. Here they are all hunkered down just a couple of days before they fledged. You can see their dark feathers and little yellow beaks.

Baby birds
Baby birds

Thank God for the birds … especially the wrens. Do you have wrens nesting at your house? What’s the secret to becoming a wren landlord?

Jack and Friends

JackI love Spring. I love pups. And I love taking pictures. Here are pictures from photo shoots this spring with Jack and his good buddies, Spec and Girlfriend.

It was Jack’s eyes that caught our attention when he was a tiny puppy. And when his eyebrows aren’t too long, you can still see them. Aren’t they the cutest eyes? He’s wearing his St. Patrick’s Day bandana in this photo.

 
 
Here’s Jack again in his lucky Irish bandana. I used one of The Pioneer Woman’s photoshop action to make this photo dramatic. Not that Jack needs any help with drama …Jack

 
 
In the middle of this photo shoot, some people walked by. Jack’s always alert and he jumped up to bark and growl and watch the people until they left “his” street. (See what I mean by drama?)Jack
 
 
Jack’s buddy, Spec, stays with us a couple of days a week. (He stays with us when Sandy, his human, is traveling.) Spec is 13 years old very wise. He’s also nearly deaf and doesn’t seem to mind Jack’s sonic bark. He’s a handsome guy.Spec
 
 
Spec is such a cute “little old man.” Here he is on the back porch. As I said, he can’t really hear. But he loves to be outside on the back porch, keeping watch and randomly barking. Bark! (“I’m in charge here!”) Bark! Bark! (“Is anyone out there?”) Bark! Bark! Bark! (“This is my porch!”)Spec
 
 
Girlfriend is the dog next door. Girlfriend is a miniature Schnoodle (Schnauzer and Poodle mix). She was Jack’s first friend after we brought him home. He has great fun playing with her. I took these pictures of Girlfriend one night when the light was so perfect and the grass so green.Girlfriend
 
 
Girlfriend’s got a hurt knee, so she and Jack don’t get to play together very often. Jack’s pretty sad about it. When Jack arrived, he was smaller than her. She still can’t figure out how he got so big.Girlfriend
 
 

If you are still reading after all this canine photo love, thank you — and here’s one last picture of Jack. Did I mention that I love, love, love the Spring. And pups. And taking pictures.Jack

Grandpa’s Peonies — 2011

I wrote about Grandpa’s peonies a couple of years ago, so this year, I thought I’d document their growth. They bloom early in spring before much else has started blooming (even the other peonies) and every time they bloom, they bring me delight.¬†This year’s spring was cool, so it took over a month between when the plants started coming up until when they bloomed. These photos span from around March 17th through April 23rd.

I call these “Grandpa’s peonies” because they came from Grandpa Tom’s yard in Norman, Oklahoma. After his funeral, I dug up a little clump, put them in a grocery bag, and brought them home to my front flower garden in Tennessee. When they bloom, Grandpa and Grandma Wilson are right here with me.

Here they are after the peonies started coming out of the ground. (You can see all the things they hide during the summer — the hose, down spout, etc.)

Getting taller and greener. I like how the stalks are red.

Now they’re all leafed out — and hiding the ugly stuff. Behind the peonies, the lilies are starting. And in the lower right part of the photo, you see the Lamb’s Ears. (I love to rub those leaves!)

Finally, a little peony¬†bud — and some ants. The ants love the nectar produced with the budding of the peonies.

And, finally, this little triangle of color. I like that little shape that you see before the peony opens up. (And more ants.)

The buds on a rainy morning …

And . . . the first bloom. These are the old-fashioned, single-bloom peonies. I love the little yellow things in the middle of the flowers. The colors are so intense this time of year.

A riot of blooms on Easter weekend. Thank’s Grandpa and Grandma!

 

Marty’s African Violet

African VioletsMy mom (Marty) and grandma both raised African Violets. I particularly remember the little plant stand in the east window of Grandma Ida Mae’s house in Ada, Oklahoma. The stand had shelves of african violets which she fed, watered, and turned with care. When Grandma died in 1981, I took a pink violet home with me. Then, when my mom passed away in 1983, I took home one of her purple violets.

I’ve kept these plants going through the years, starting new plants from the old ones. After a move a couple of years ago, the plants got some kind of fungus and I thought I had lost all the plants from Mom’s violet. But recently, a young plant bloomed and I realized that my “Marty” violet was still alive.

These plants are special — so much more than houseplants — they’re a little bit of presence of Ida Mae and Marty … women who helped make me who I am. I’m grateful for their presence, still with me after all these years.

Do you have heirloom plants in your life?

Birth of a Magazine

We’re happy to announce the birth of the January/February 2011 issue of Alive Now magazine on October 21, 2010 at 4:00 p.m. – 10:0 p.m. We took a party out to Courier Printing in Smyrna, TN and watched as the presses were prepared and the magazine began to be printed. We took cookies to the Courier employees, received a tour of the plant from Sam Suppa, our contact at Courier. We got to see the first half of the magazine run on a gigantic web press — it prints, heat-sets, cools off, and folds the pages of the magazine faster than you can say “hermeneutic of suspicion.” The cover was run on a sheet-fed press. It looks really great!

The J/F 2011 issue of Alive Now is scheduled to be mailed in early-mid November. If you are not already a subscriber either at home or at your church, I hope you’ll consider ordering now. You’ll receive the January/February issue if you sign up by November 1.

Here’s a slide show of our adventure —

Italian Lessons

Bells in Italy
Bells in Italy

I loved the church bells in Italy. They reminded me of the Christian tradition of praying the hours. In a tiny village where we stayed, the bells sounded every hour between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. I didn’t need to wear a watch — after a short time, I relaxed into the comfortable rhythm of daily village life. As I heard the bells throughout the day they brought me back to the present moment — of waking, eating, resting, praying, praising, reflecting, preparing for sleep.

The 7:00 a.m. Bells

The village followed the rhythm of these hours. Before 7:00 a.m., the only sounds I could hear were the waves and the swallows. After 7:00, the people of the village began to move around — ¬†sweeping the sidewalks, opening up the cappuccino shops, the baker loading the station wagon with warm brioche (sweet pastries) to drive to the nearby towns.¬†The children started their hikes up the hill to the school. Listen to the 7:00 a.m. bells:

The 5:00 p.m. bells

The village quieted down for a siesta around 2:00 p.m.. Most all of the restaurants and stores closed for a 3-hour rest. During those hours, the bells continued to ring, but quieter. (I settled down for a nap.) Around 4:00 p.m., the men of the village gathered in the square to play cards.

Then at 5:00 p.m. the siesta time came to an end with rousing peal from the bells. By 7:00 p.m., restaurants opened back up to serve dinner. Here is a recording of the 5:00 p.m. bells:

I miss the bells of Italy and their reminders to stay in the present. What are the reminders that bring you back from the future or the past? What helps you stay in the present moment?

Learn More about Praying the Hours