Brown Teeth

When you’re fifteen years old and drinking all day with your best friend, you need a toilet of some sort.

I was in that situation at Botanie Valley, near the village of Lytton, BC. (It’s pronounced “bo-TAN-ny”, by the way. It shouldn’t be confused with botany, the word for the study of plant biology.)

We had been riding dirt bikes all over the valley that afternoon. Beer bottles were a bit tricky to open in 1983 before twist-tops were popular, but thirst forced us to figure out ways on the metal parts of the bikes. Some spillage happened as the bottles had to be upside-down in order to make it work, but we were young and didn’t require as much to get our minds bent, so it was no huge loss.

We managed to avoid being gored by a big black bull somehow, even though when we came face to face with him around a bunch of trees he was snorting in an annoyed way and wasn’t backing off. In my panic, I stalled my bike. With surprising speed, my foot kicked that bike back into power mode and we hauled butt out of there.

Shakira and I were laughing and screaming our way down a hill at full throttle, rejoicing in the hot, hot sun over our escape from the bull, when a chain-link fence appeared in front of us that hadn’t been closed last time we passed through. Our non-lightning reflexes while under the influence of alcohol amazed us both and neither of us hit the wire mesh, but it was only by inches.

Darkness and mosquitoes eventually shut down our riding. Earlier in the daylight, the old wooden outhouse there on her parents’ friends’ remote mountainside property got plenty of use. It was as unappealing as all outhouses were, but not as intimidating as it was in the dark. We were sitting in her parents’ motorhome, drinking and listening to tunes. Tequila sunrises. Slurringly singing the Eagles song by that name, between sips, I said to Shakira, “I need the toilet.”

She said, “Go use the outhouse.”

I said, “Ew, though. It stinks in there.”

She said, “Well, just breathe through your mouth.”

I said, “No, that won’t work. I’ll get brown teeth.”

We laughed till we couldn’t breathe, and eventually I did weave my drunken way through the heaving ground to the outhouse.

And that started what would become an iconic joke between us for the next four decades. Brown teeth! Really, though, picture yourself in an outhouse and breathing through your mouth. It’s like the stink in the air gets trapped in the spaces between your teeth, leaving brown lines in your shallowly breathing grin. That’s what I meant. Not full-on brown TEETH – just the spaces between them.

Well, it was a long time ago, in my wild(er), silly(er), young(er) days.

“Brown teeth of Botanie keep on shinin’…”

(You might say my blogging has gone down the terlit lately…)

Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Old Days

Especially for my American neighbours, a photo of a turkey in my wood cookstove last month – Happy Thanksgiving to you!

As I woke up this morning, a song by The Judds ran through my head. It was one to which I’d listened many a time on my 40-minute drive to work in the early 1990s, but haven’t heard much since. The harmonies of that mother and daughter duo filled my head and my heart back then from a tape plugged into my bright red 1964 Chevy II’s cassette deck. Multiple cassettes in cases slid around the dashboard in front of me while I turned corners. The range and year of music heard in my car went from Mozart and Rachmaninoff to Metallica and Patty Loveless and multiple notes and tempos in between.

Cassette tapes are part of that “good old days” thing for me, but how much more nostalgia there is in years further back, even before my time, and not just regarding recorded music. I love reading and hearing about days of old. Some things were harder before “progress”, but the heart of earlier times sounds so much sweeter to me than the way the world has gone today.

And so I do what I can to give my life a sprinkling of olden days flavour.

I went to the kitchen with that song still in my head, got the fire started in the woodstove, mixed up a batch of cinnamon raisin bread dough (for a son who yesterday said he longed to try some), and while the dough was rising, I went to my desk to blog about these thoughts.

The lyrics to “Grandpa” are even more relevant today than they were when the song was released in 1986 – the year after I graduated from prison without bars high school. Here they are:

Grandpa
Tell me ’bout the good old days
Sometimes it feels like
This world’s gone crazy
Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
Where the line between right and wrong
Didn’t seem so hazyDid lovers really fall in love to stay,
And stand beside each other come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept,
Not just something they would say?
Did families really bow their heads to pray?
Did daddies really never go away?
Whoa oh Grandpa
Tell me ’bout the good old days
Grandpa
Everything is changing fast
We call it progress
But I just don’t know
And Grandpa, let’s wander back into the past
And paint me the pictures of long ago
Did lovers really fall in love to stay,
And stand beside each other come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept,
Not just something they would say?
Did families really bow their heads to pray?
Did daddies really never go away?
Whoa oh Grandpa
Tell me ’bout the good old days

And now, back to the kitchen I go, to add smaller dry wood pieces to the fire and open the dampers a bit more so the oven can come up to temperature. I must also roll out the bread dough, put it in a pan, and bake it. I anticipate our house smelling mighty fine in the near future, should the Lord leave me here on the earth that long.

And that was Day 5 of my Just Write Challenge. (Today and henceforth I won’t put the day number in the title field of my blog entry, as I don’t have any delusions that anyone but me is following or counting. I write because I enjoy it. This is my break from the gotta-do’s.)

Into Freedom

Some songs hurt too much to hear because someone I love has left their earthly body and gone to be with Jesus, and the song was special to them and to me. Memories fill in the spaces between the lyrics and blend with the sounds of the instruments, reaching out with silken tentacled arms that wrap around my throat and squeeze.

“Into The Mystic” by Van Morrison is at the top of the pain list for reasons of indescribable agony. I love it, but it is playing at a café where I am sitting and it is all I can do not to run outside and cry… yet, I am cemented to my chair with every note cutting into my soul.

I wonder if I am the only one so afflicted by songs heavily drenched with the spirit of someone beloved and missed.

This version by the Zac Brown Band especially tears my heart out. But I am going to be brave and listen, and know in the depths of my heart that I will again see my loved ones who died in Christ, better than before, singing, dancing, pain-free, sin-free, joyously free for eternity!

The Ultimate Repair

This was where I sat on Mother’s Day last year, in the sunshine, overlooking a lake, at the top of a small hill. The best part was that I was talking on the phone to my mom.

Today, the lake is still there. The sun will still shine. The hill I can still climb. But my mother is gone.

That beautiful Mother’s Day was the last time I got to talk to my mom. A week later, as she was walking home from Sunday church meeting, she had a massive stroke.

A woman driving by saw my mom fall and went to help her. My mom told the woman her name and where she lived, and then she lost consciousness.

The woman went to the assisted-living complex where my mom lived and left her number in case there were family members who wanted to talk to her.

I got a call from the complex and received the woman’s number. I called her and she told me about having seen my mom fall and having spoken to her. She said she called an ambulance and waited with her till they arrived. She told me my mom was calm and pleasant – which I know is so characteristic of her.

Hospital staff called to let me know my mom was unconscious. A few of my kids and I started driving the six hours to go see her, but four hours into the trip, my sister messaged to let me know it was too late. So, we got a hotel and went home the next day.

The doctor told me my mom was not in pain, and that she died peacefully, with no struggle. The stroke simply was too major and left her beyond repair.

I look forward to the ultimate repair, where nothing will erode or corrode the perfection given to us by God, free from sin and its effects of slowly – and sometimes more quickly – killing the body.

And I believe I will see my mom again, in her new body, in a better place. That is one moment to which I look forward, as well as to seeing the other believers I miss who have passed on. But even if I didn’t know anyone else who followed Jesus, I trust I will be in the presence of them all, and we’ll all be on the same page.

No more conflict. No more pain. No more of anything that destroys.

Unity, at last, with the focus of our adoration and gratitude flowing toward our Loving Savior.

(See you soon, Mom. You know I’m coming Home, and then we will never again be apart.)

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace [who imparts His blessing and favor], who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you [making you what you ought to be].” (1 Peter 5:10, Amplified Version of the Bible)

[This post started out as a comment here. Thanks, G.W., for encouraging me to use it.]

God Of Wonders

Video

The first time I heard this song was on a warm summer’s evening here in our little cowboy town in BC, in a huge tent, played on acoustic guitar by a guy named Cam who was visiting from another city.  Others too, cracked out their guitars and jammed.  Anyone who knew the words sang along beautifully and with heart.

That was the church fellowship that I used to feel was like family.

Most of those people eventually turned their backs on me when I left the abusive ex, because of their misconceptions and misguided ideas, but God never will.  He knows the whole story.

Flashbacks from this time a few years ago

Today, I keep having flashbacks of January/February 2004, when I was living in the women’s shelter.

I have had several flashbacks of going through the search for a place to rent.

It was January 25, 2004, when I made the final step in my escape from the abusive ex.

There’s more, but that’s all I want to say about that for now.

Here’s the long story, needing chapter divisions and grammatical revisions:  http://holy-sheepdip.blogspot.ca/2011/08/why-i-escaped-and-from-what-did-i.html

Grace Greater Than All Our Sin

Video

I love how hymns pop into my mind at random.

Before I had to work so much, when I cooked every day, I would sometimes have a hymnal open on the kitchen counter, learning the words, feeling peace (as long as the abusive ex wasn’t home).

Other times, I’d go to my digital piano, play a part and sing the harmony to it.

As a side effect, my kids memorized the words to those hymns by hearing me.

In retrospect, I learned some hymns from hearing my own mother sing, even though they didn’t take on meaning until I became a Christian at age 20.

I don’t know these people who are singing this hymn, but they bring back sweet memories of crackin’ out the guitars and harmonizing with my sisters and brothers in Christ.

Grace That Is Greater Than All Our Sin

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Refrain

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Refrain

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.

Refrain

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?

Refrain

How I Got Drinking Water In The Alaskan Wilderness

my friend Vincenzo posted this at his blog:

muddied waters
what will it take
for me to see again
for you to settle?

~ vincenzo ©

my reply was this:

muddied waters. reminds me of how i used to get my drinking water when i lived in the wilderness of southeast alaska for several years. during the months when the snow wasn’t too deep, we would ride our 4-wheelers, or drive our truck, to a spring a mile away.

the spring was maybe 10 feet wide, roughly circular, and about 2-3 feet deep.

we’d crouch to the forest floor with our 5-gallon Rubbermaid water coolers, gently submersing the coolers into the fresh, delicious spring water, careful not to allow them to touch the silty bottom.

if we accidentally hit the bottom of the spring, the water would get muddied, and we’d have to empty the contents of our cooler and wait till the water got clear.

i think i feel an analogy in this.

He Touched Me

“He touched me, Oh He touched me
And, oh, the joy that floods my soul
Something happened and now I know
He touched me and made me whole.”

(He Touched Me – Midi File)

When I lived in a remote forest location of Southeast Alaska, we made the big trip into town one day to watch an Easter play performed by a Sunday School class.  It was the most moving rendition of the Resurrection account I have ever seen.

I recorded it on my big ol’ VHS camcorder.

My oldest two children, all I had at the time, then aged two and three, were so impressed by one part of the show that they used to imitate it.

They’d stand there in the little terrycloth bathrobes I’d made for them, hoods over their heads, swaying a little bit, as they sang a capella just like the girl in the show, “He touched me, Oh He touched me, and oh the joy that floods my soul…”

I’ve got video of that, too.  It’s always a treat to haul out one of the old tapes to bring back the memories afresh.

But today, that song came to mind, and these memories accompanied it even without the videos.