Friday, June 22, 2012

God's Grace in an Unexpected Flood

Tischer Creek (turned raging torrent)
Job 38:8-11, 25-28, 34-38
“Or who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb;
When I made the clouds its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band;
When I fixed My limit for it,
And set bars and doors;
When I said,
‘This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!’

“Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water,
Or a path for the thunderbolt,
To cause it to rain on a land where there is no one,

A wilderness in which there is no man;
To satisfy the desolate waste,
And cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass?
Has the rain a father?
Or who has begotten the drops of dew?

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
That an abundance of water may cover you?
Can you send out lightnings, that they may go,
And say to you, ‘Here we are!’
Who has put wisdom in the mind?
Or has given understanding to the heart?
Who can number the clouds by wisdom?
Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven,
When the dust hardens in clumps,
And the clods cling together?”

Trailhead of Congdon Park
Duluth, Minnesota, is a city on a hill – from the base of the hill, where the waters of Lake Superior lap (or pound) the board walk along the shore, all the way up the 800-foot elevation gain to the flatter top that was once a giant swamp.  Its foundation is granite, shallowly topped with red clay that offers just enough depth to make the woods flourish.  It is known for some of the strongest blizzards in Minnesota, where the Lake creates her own weather to suit her preferences.  It tends to be cooler and rainier in the summer than in the inland parts of the state, but it can certainly hit 90 degrees on a sunny July day.  Superior whips up some incredible storms with ocean-sized waves all year round, and the winter storms offer some of the best Lake surfing for extreme surfers.  Despite the quantities of water Duluth handles on a regular basis, there is one thing one does not expect in this city: flooding. 
Congdon Road

In the recent rains that covered the entire Minnesota northland, many areas received seven to nine inches of rain in the course of two days or less.  If it were winter, we’d be talking ten feet of snow, making the Halloween Blizzard of 1992 a minor snowstorm.  However, this was pure water—water that had nowhere to go but straight down to the lake. 

The shallow clay could not begin to handle the waves of water that flowed in rivers down the streets—above and below—causing up to a swift six inches to run on top of the tar, and masses of water that blasted the clay out from underneath roads in a desperate push for the lake.  Duluth’s thirty-odd creeks more resembled rushing torrents as they raged to the lake, many exceeding their banks and running down the streets instead. 

Behind the University of MN Duluth stadium
Up on top of the hill, the water was much slower to move, and parking lots and roads became lakes.  One car dealership in the city discovered all their cars completely underwater.  Basements flooded, gardens washed away—yet some places look entirely untouched.

Overall, most roads are fine (perhaps a little worse for wear, but typical Duluth roads are hardly perfect anyway).  With a few detours, one can basically get wherever one wants.  However, some streets have gaping holes or no longer exist entirely.  The zoo lost all but one of its petting zoo critters, but the more exotic creatures were safe (though not necessarily in their pens). 
Vermillion Road, at the intersection with Hawthorne

Vermillion Road
Miraculously, God kept everyone safe.  Even a little boy who was sucked into a culvert and washed up six blocks away was basically uninjured.  For a disaster of this magnitude, where children and teens were playing in the streets, tubing in parking lots, and kayaking around the east end of the University, putting themselves in danger of being swept away to drown in the raging creeks or muddy red Superior (and in danger of waterborne disease from the bubbling fountains of the sewer), God made a major miracle in preserving the life of all His children. 

Genesis 9:11: “Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy all the earth.”  The landscape is changed, but God’s promise to all creation still stands—we were not destroyed, but preserved.

God bless Hope for Duluth!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A deeper view of Ruth: a review of Regina Jennings' "Sixty Acres and a Bride"

What sort of reception did Ruth, a heathen, receive upon relocating to Israel?  How did Ruth feel about practically forcing Boaz to marry her?  And likewise, how did Boaz feel?

Regina Jennings' novel Sixty Acres and a Bride looks deeper into the story of Ruth, exploring the relationships, emotions, and prejudices that might have similarly affected Ruth and Boaz themselves.

Sixty Acres and a Bride, Ladies of Caldwell County Series #1   -     
        By: Regina Jennings
Placing it in 1878 Texas, with Rosa, the Ruth equivalent, a native Mexican who accompanies her American mother-in-law back to Texas, Jennings dives right into the prejudice toward and the fascination of a foreigner who tries to join the rest of society rather than existing on its fringes.  Since she is now the daughter-in-law of one of their own, the locals cannot ignore Rosa and must try to accept her in spite of her improper ways.  As a foreign woman, she is colorful and different, attracting the eyes of the male population while inspiring jealousy and horror among the women.  Modest attire in the Sierra Madres turns out to be scandalous in Texas; a dance that embodies propriety in Mexico becomes a seductive act suggesting wanton behavior among the Americans.  Rosa stumbles repeatedly in American culture, just as Ruth no doubt experienced the shock of Israelite culture.  In addition to cultural mistakes Rosa makes, she also faces the prejudice of a Mexican among Americans - even today, Hispanic immigrants are often seen as second-class citizens and automatically disregarded due to their coloring and country of birth. Likewise, the Moabites, though far distantly related to the Israelites, were not children of Abraham, and therefore little better than the other heathen nations surrounding them.  Ruth was every bit the second-class citizen as Rosa. 

Jennings also depicts the horror and embarrassment of the girl as she humbles herself to a reputation-shattering position as she begs financial rescue for herself and her mother-in-law.  In Sixty Acres and a Bride, Rosa pleads with the kinsman redeemer for money rather than marriage, but the end result is the same - he saves them financially and chooses to marry her (though as much to salvage her reputation as out of attraction).  So Rosa finds herself saddled to a man who married her through obligation, and her husband knows that she, too, married him under duress; they must learn together how to love and respect each other as spouses and overcome the fear of potentially being unloved in return.  Ruth and Boaz could not have been much better acquainted, and probably had less of a relationship before marriage than Rosa and her Weston.  Ruth 4:13 says, "So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife, and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son."  It offers no details of how their relationship progressed, whether it took a day or a year before they were comfortable together as a couple.  Jennings' novel offers us just one possibility to consider, but it also inspires us to contemplate other situations Ruth may have experienced, and even how we ourselves might act under similar circumstances. 

Overall, Sixty Acres and a Bride is a beautiful story - detailed, exciting, sprinkled with moments of humor, sporting a villain one loves to hate, filled with tenderness, and ripe with hope.  Not many novels inspire me to tears, but as a bride myself, I found that this one really speaks to the hopes and fears of a young marriage.  No matter how in love and prepared one feels prior to the wedding ceremony (and Rosa and Weston scarcely felt ready at all), learning to put aside one's individual self in order to live as one with one's spouse is a bumpy road, and small misunderstandings between a husband and wife can lead to great hurt without immediate reconciliation.  Thankfully, God's grace sufficiently covers us in our foolishness, and Jesus came to heal our bodies and hearts (and, of course, to save), and so we can truly love our spouses with God's perfect help.  "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear," I John 4:18a. 

The positive attributes of this novel so far outweigh the flaws that I rate it a 5 out of 5.

Ladies of Caldwell County
Sixty Acres and a Bride
Love in the Balance
Caught in the Middle

Friday, June 15, 2012

Samson's Source of Strength

Then she said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when your heart is not with me?  You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies."  And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, that he told her all his heart, and said to her, "No razor has come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb.  If I am shaven, then my strength shall leave me, and I shall become weak like any other man."   Judges 16:15-17

Of course, Samson fails to mention that he has already broken most other aspects of the Nazirite vow (detailed in Numbers 6):

1. No alcohol, vinegar, or anything from grapes (Samson threw a feast for his wedding - questionable whether he kept his vow)
2. No Shaving your head (which Delilah takes care of)
3. No going near dead bodies (Samson voluntarily comes back to fetch honey out of the dead lion)
4. If one should have a sudden death in one's vicinity, one must take seven days to cleanse oneself and then shave one's head to begin the Nazirite vow anew (Samson did not do this regarding the lion, his fresh jawbone of a donkey, or any men he killed)

Essentially, shaving the head was the final straw for Samson.

"If I am shaven, then my strength shall leave me, and I shall become weak like any other man."

However, it was not just Samson's strength than left him - in verse 20, it says,"The Lord had departed from him."  

Samson's strength was not in his hair - his strength was in the Lord.  By breaking his vows without atonement, he was forced into cleansing and atonement, for the Lord had left him.  In time, yes, his hair grew back and the Spirit of the Lord filled him once more, but his strength truly was the Lord, not his hair.  What if he had had the sense to tell Delilah the true source of his strength, that it was not in anything he was capable of doing himself, but rather in his God?

Would he have died in revenge for his eyes?

Or would the Lord have found even greater uses for a man who relied on Him for his strength?

And likewise, oughtn't we give credit where it is due?  That our strengths and talents are not of ourselves, but rather of the Lord our God?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


My Dearest Duck Sonja

Sweet Sonja, my duck -
My beloved first child;
Thou cleft unto me 
From out of the wild.

I as thy mother,
Thou followed me 'round,
From pillar to post,
O'er high and low ground.

Trailing directly 
Behind my left foot*                *or right, as occasion should warrant
We walked up the path,
O'er dirt and o'er root.

Searching for worms
Under rock, tin, and tire,
Thou tuggest them out
With a manner inspired.

Shaking and quivering
And tossing thy head,
Gulping and swallowing,
Thou downest them dead.

All sizes of earth worm,
And night crawlers too,
Slide down thy gullet
All the day through.

Chest now distended
And squishy with food,
Thou sleepest it off,
My single-child brood.

Splashing and paddling
Around in the river,
Thou shakest off drops
With thy tail all a-quiver.

And when thou bathest
In the full cattle tank,
Thou divest in deep
And spasht me in prank.

I've learned in this time
That it's a great luck
To love and to cherish
And to mother a duck.

Oh, what great luck to mother a duck!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Regarding the Posted Poetry

On occasion, or occasionally for an occasion, I feel the urge to to jot down a bit of poetry - whether it is is to commemorate an event, or I simply have a line running through my head that needs a bit more development.

The story of Sonja, my duckling, is an example of the former - in May of 2011, I discovered a lone duckling in the parking lot of a Dairy Queen, and as the poor wee thing would not survive the cool night without her mother, who was long gone, I brought her home and placed her under a heat lamp in a box that was currently devoid of the oranges it once held, and I took time to cuddle and comfort her in the days that followed.  If you are familiar with Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," you may remember Peter's friend the duck was named Sonja.  One morning, after nearly two months under my care, my child was gone - most likely to the river, where we often went down to play and dig up leeches and water insects and snails.  I never saw her again.  Incidentally, her head was turning green, which is a rather bad sign for a female (indeed, an indication she was not a female at all).  I shall soon post the poem about Sonja's life that I wrote as sequel to her "birth" poem.

"The Wanderer's Prayer" is an example of the latter - where I had some ideas floating around in my head, and maybe even a rhyme or two.  One hears of such people as Nickolai Rimsky-Korsakov, the Russian composer famous for "Scheherazade," "The Golden Cockerel," and "Flight of the Bumble Bee" (the theme song of the Green Hornet), who could actually hear in color; what would it be like to sense things with all five senses that to our meager knowledge can only be sampled using one or two of the senses?  Hear things that we can only see, or taste what can only be felt?  As I hashed out the poem, I realized (perhaps subconsciously at the time, but ten years later I now know) that it is not enough to find those answers, nor are the questions even the goal of what I seek; without the Holy Spirit walking with me, it would be utterly pointless - "vanity" and "grasping at the wind."  On this Earth I cannot hope to truly taste the night and day, nor see music flow or hear a path's glow, but in that day when there is a new Heaven and a new Earth, who knows what will be possible?  Yet even that cannot be the goal of my life - to go to a perfect place with streets of gold when my body gives up its last breath.  Who doesn't want to go to Heaven and forgo eternity in the Lake of Fire?  But the destination is not what is important; the journey is.  Spending my time wandering with Jesus, Savior and Friend, letting Him be my guide, seeing what he wants to reveal to me - that's the real treasure.  It's not about Heaven - it's about Him. 

John 3:8 acknowledges that "the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."  I don't know who all is walking with the Spirit - that is in their own hearts to choose; the Spirit will go where the heart is open to receive it.  But I do know that I have chosen Jesus as my walking companion, and every day I want to be walking with Him.

God bless!

The Wanderer's Prayer

I know not where I'm going,
Nor from whence I came,
I only know that I'm going,
And nothing e'er will be the same.

I need to hear the seasons change
And taste both night and day;
To smell the odd, the droll, the strange,
Feel all the wind must say.

I need to see the music flow
Through each and every stream;
Hear the path's soft earthen glow,
And catch each and every dream.

See all there is to see, I must,
Ken all there is to ken;
Feel all there is from love to trust
And taste both now and then.

Walk and wander, rarely stop -
Forever I will run;
Spinning always like a top
Until Thy will be done.

A wander-lust have I at heart,
And with it I must tread,
Until my life is snapped apart
Like a thin and silken thread.

No matter how far I'll ever go,
No matter what I do,
There's something else I need to know -
Something I need from You.

Not clothing will I ask of You,
Nor spoon, knife, fork, nor dish;
Not pencil, paper, pen, nor give
Aught but a simple wish:

I do not wish to walk alone,
So someone with me there must be -
Not Mr. Kent, Trapp, or Malone,
But please, Lord,
You Lord,
Walk with me.