Totality: Unlikely Events

As I told you Monday, Brent and I drove to Missouri to see the solar eclipse.

A solar eclipse is an unlikely event requiring three objects moving through space to be lined up just so. This is why we don’t see them very often.

But it was a different series of unlikely events that made the experience truly memorable.

Clouds threatened in Sedalia, where we were staying, so everyone scrambled to figure out where to watch from. Brent and I set out east along MO Hwy 50, where the sky was clearer, and finally decided to park in Tipton, Missouri. Tipton, at one time home to a billiard-ball factory, is best known now for its water tower…

Surely Tipton was the most random possible place, but several other out-of-state cars parked in the same lot, at the edge of a golf course. We introduced ourselves around. At least two others were from Texas. One man works in Ft. Worth just blocks from Brent’s office. Another had driven from Austin with his son and a buddy. They would have to leave right after totality passed, because the boys had to start school the next morning.

Everyone tried to get photos of the partially-eclipsed sun. Try as I might, all mine looked like I’d turned on a floodlight and photographed it through a translucent shower curtain. Only the little reflection below the sun shows the crescent shape…

At last the sunlight became noticeably more dim. The moment the moon completely blocked the sun was memorable; the sight lovely and amazing.

 

Olaf, the man from Austin, got a wonderful photo of the corona.

Photo courtesy of Olaf Roepke, Austin, TX

As everyone congratulated Olaf, he offered to share the photo, and took time to get people’s contact information.

I’m so very glad we got to make this “bucket-list” trip and see the celestial choreography that is a total solar eclipse.

But you know… I’d seen photos before, and had some idea what to expect. What really made the eclipse memorable was experiencing it with a group of strangers, a most unlikely ad hoc “family” that formed in a most unlikely place.

Thank you, Olaf, for your kindness and generosity.

And thanks, everyone, for reading!
Jan

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Eclipsed by My Own Words

Today I’m in my mother’s hometown, which happens to be right in the path of total solar eclipse. I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be here, but I’m definitely playing hooky from writing.

I’ll give you a report when I return. But for today, rather than abandon you, I thought I’d re-run an old favorite post. While this one first appeared nearly 3 1/2 years ago (March 26, 2014), it speaks to me all over again about the state our world is in.

Present-Tense Only

The state of our hurting world often troubles me. We’ve got crime, war, hunger. People who have been wounded turn and wound others. It can all get kind of depressing. How to keep from growing cynical?

It’s encouraging to remember the end of the story as given in the New Testament book of Revelation. The part where the Lord Jesus sweeps in to set up his heavenly kingdom for everyone who trusts him. In the process he permanently banishes all evil, suffering, and death. I used to tell myself, “Just wait… in the end God will win.”

“…will win.”

But I don’t put it that way any more. Recently it’s dawned on me that, while this bit of cheerleading was on the right track, it fell far short of the truth.

The weak link is that future tense. I had the idea that God would eventually, at some unknown time in the future, somehow finally manage to win.

Pffffffft. We’re not watching a hotly contested football game here, folks.

one letterThe truth is, the sovereign God who transcends time can see all of it right now. Just like I can see an entire page of a book at once. But let’s say I was two-dimensional, a letter printed in one of the words on that page. I could only see the part of the page immediately touching me. I would have no idea what word I was a part of, let alone what the next sentence said. Similarly, in our three-dimensional world we are limited within time–we can’t really see what’s next.

For God, in a sense there is no past, present or future. The future tense is irrelevant to him because he is already there. Not only can he see the whole story, he wrote it.

one word

From my perspective, God will win.

But from his perspective, it would be more accurate to say “God wins.

That present-tense has sort of been following me around for the last couple of weeks. When someone mentions a promise from God, I find myself not “wishing” or “hoping” He will fulfill his promise, but expecting him to. Somehow my faith has inched upward, resulting in a calm confidence that if God said it, it’s a done deal.

God wins.

As certain as if I had already seen it happen.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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I’m Listening

The recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia has left oceans of public pain and outrage and debate in its wake. I’ve been asking myself how I should respond.

Silence is complicity, I’ve heard.

So I shared some relevant posts on Facebook. However, I haven’t addressed the issues of racism and violence here. My question has been, “Plenty of eloquent people are already proclaiming how evil racism is… will it make things any better if I put my voice into the mix, or would I merely be adding noise?”

Then a Twitter connection led me to a fabulous blog post at Sojourners. Courtney Ariel, the author, answered my question with these words:

Listen more; talk less. You don’t have to have something to say all of the time. You don’t have to post something on social media that points to how liberal/how aware/how cool/how good you are.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m listening. Because nobody needs to hear me talk, but everyone needs to be heard.

If you’re willing, you could join me in listening.

For starters, you can click here to read the Sojourners blog post.

And there’s this insightful piece written by Jon Foreman of the band Switchfoot.

Okay, I’ll be quiet now.

What about you? Have you been on the receiving end of racism, or observed it happening first-hand? Did you do anything to counter it? Or wish you had? Is there anything you’d like for me to understand? Your comments are welcome… please use the “Leave a Reply” box below.

I’m listening.

Peace.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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Nutrition Absolutes (an oxymoron)

Ever notice how consistent and unanimous nutrition advice is? Over years of bicycling and eating, we’ve heard it all. Here, then, are the recommendations we’ve gathered…

Eat carbohydrates. Lots of carbs. That’s what endurance athletes need.

Your body recycles protein, so you hardly need to eat any.

No fat, no sugar.

Coffee is bad for you.

Eggs are bad for you.

You need protein. Protein builds muscles.

But not dairy. No dairy.

You’re over 40. Give the carbs a rest… especially grains.

Low-carb, high-fat.

Eggs are good for you.

Coffee is good for you.

Go vegetarian. Which apparently includes such “plants” as, um, fish.

Go vegan. (Or, as I call it, the “sensory deprivation” diet)

And if you combine these theories and sift out all their no-nos, you end up consuming nothing but collard greens, carrots, and distilled water.

Unless you’re taking warfarin. Then, no collard greens for you.

Well, I certainly hope this clears up allllll your nutrition questions!

Carrot stick, anyone?

Thanks for reading!
Tailwinds,
Jan

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The Other Six

Have you ever read a familiar paragraph that you’ve read a million times, only to discover there was one little part that you’d never really thought about?

I’ve got an example in mind. (C’mon, you knew I would!)

Consider the Fourth Commandment, about keeping the Sabbath; i.e., taking a day off every week for worship and rest.

Image credit: Stephen Liddell*


Here’s the whole commandment, found in Exodus 20:8-11.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

I’ve heard some great teaching on this passage, and see the importance of a sabbath. For instance, obeying this commandment shows you trust God, not just your own efforts, to provide your living.

My no-work day is Sunday. Your schedule might require you to pick a different day. No matter; it’s the principle that counts. On Sundays, I write no blog posts. No drafting or revising my novel. No outlining, no editing… nothing pertaining to my work. Even if I’m chasing a deadline.

Frankly, I was becoming rather pleased with myself. Maybe even ever-so-slightly smug. “Oooh, lookie how faithful and obedient I am, never working on my Sabbath!” (waves “sarcasm hands”)

Eww.

To keep me from breaking my arm patting myself on the back, God brought this clause to my attention:

Six days you shall labor and do all your work…

“Hang on, Lord. The commandment is all about resting on the seventh day, right?”

Yeah, but are you as diligent to obey My instructions for the other six days?

(Recalls the boatloads of time spent on Sudoku puzzles, Games with Friends, Facebook videos, sneaking M&Ms) “… Ohhh.”

All the days are Mine. Make the most of the ones I give you.

“Got it. Thanks.”

Thanks for reading!
Diligently yours,
Jan
* For related reading on Stephen Liddell’s blog, click here.

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Food Stories

I’m no food blogger. Rather, I’m all about stories.

Lately, though, I’ve been reading the labels on some new foods I’ve found. No, not the nutrition labels. That is, I read those, but that isn’t what I’m talking about.

I’ve been reading the story behind some of my new favorites.

Here’s one: “Soy Vay” brand sauces and marinades. One day while in a fit of Hoisin sauce craving, I ran across this version at the grocery store and tried it out that very evening.

Wowzer.

The sauce is fantastic (notice the nearly-empty bottle), but I really became a raving fan of the brand when I read the fun story on the label:

It all started when a Jewish boy and a Chinese girl shared a deep passion… for food. They began making unique sauces with real, high-quality ingredients—just the good stuff. “Oy vey!” exclaimed his parents. They called the company Soy Vay. Everybody’s happy. …

And then there’s Dave’s Killer Bread, which I found during a hunt for healthy bread options that didn’t remind me of cardboard. There I stood, in the bread-and-peanut-butter aisle, reading this story on the side of the package:

15 years in prison.

That’s a tough way to find yourself. Dave Dahl realized he was in the wrong game and knew he had more to offer. His brother, Glenn, saw a change in him and gave Dave a second chance by welcoming him back to the family bakery. Dave set out to make a loaf like no other—the most nutritious, organic whole grain bread—and the result is what he called “killer” bread.

Dave’s Killer Bread is built on the belief that everyone is capable of greatness. What began as one man’s journey has turned into so much more. Today, one third of our employees at our Oregon bakery have criminal backgrounds, and we have witnessed first-hand how stable employment sparks personal transformation.

I tucked the loaf of bread into my cart and gave it a pat. “You go, Dave!”

Yes, the bread is truly delicious, but the story made it all the more memorable and kept me coming back, loaf after loaf.


Your turn: What do you dream of doing? What do you have to offer? Are you going to pursue it?

As I always say, “Everybody has a story.” Don’t let your story remain unwritten.

I hope this gives you some food for thought!
Thanks for reading,
Jan

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It’s Not Me… It’s YOU! –Poll Results

I recently asked you to tell me what ads you see on my blog. My question was, does WordPress randomly assign ads, some of which might embarrass me to death…. or does each person see ads that reflect his/her browsing history?

Well, you can un-bate your breath now… I’m about to divulge the results of that informal poll, answering the question for each ad: User or Random?

Kayak Travel: 3+ sightings. Frequent and/or world travelers. Clearly user-oriented.

Restaurants: 2 people reporting multiple sightings. Everyone loves to eat, so that’s neutral.

Clothing catalog site: 1 sighting, by a customer of that site. User!

Quilting ads: multiple sightings by my Quiltapalooza friend. User!

Used vehicle dealer: 1 sighting. My guess is Random.

“Pam” cooking spray: 1 sighting. Unless the reader had been searching online to find out whether he could get a buzz from inhaling the spray, I’m calling this one Random.

 
Score: 5+ user-oriented ads, 2 probably random, 2 neutral so they don’t count.

There you have it: WordPress usually shows you ads based on your browsing history.

So, it’s not me… It’s YOU.

Oddly enough, though, when I logged out and opened this blog without signing in, here are the two ads I saw under a recent post:


Nothing to do with the post or with anything I’ve ever browsed.

Maybe the Randoms are catching up!

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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