The thunderstorm

We had a terrible, yet spectacular, storm move through here last night. We had just finished dinner and had gone to a park in La Junta to watch our 7-year-old grandson Ethan play flag football in the city league.

Is that determination or what? By the way, he got the flag. Somebody sign that kid into the NFL.

The entire time, his mother Dee and I were standing on the sidelines with one eye on "The Beast", as they call him on his wrestling team, and another eye on the weird-looking cloud that was moving quickly toward us.

"If that cloud were spinning, I think I would be very scared right now," I told Dee.

"It could start spinning," she replied.

Just after she said that, someone who had a radio heard that a tornado had been spotted. Within seconds, Mike came to me and said, "Come on, we're leaving There's golf-ball sized hail in Swink and it's heading this way."

As we headed for the car, the football game was cancelled and everyone hightailed it out of there.

Since the storm was then right over Swink, where we live, instead of going straight home, we went down US 350, which goes southwest to Trinidad. The plan was to go that way and try to come in behind the storm. As we turned on to County Road Z, to the west, we saw a thick, gray boiling cloud in front of us that reached the ground. That was when the Code Red tornado warning sounded over both our cell phones. We stopped to watch, and as the clouds and rain obscured objects in the middle distance, and the horses in the pasture near where we stopped began to panic, Mike turned the van around and we got back on 350. We turned near Timpas on to Colorado 71 heading toward the Sierra Vista Overlook. The overlook is a small mesa on the prairie where the pioneers traveling on the Santa Fe Trail got their first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.

That's where Mike took this picture. I was in the car on the cell phone trying to reach Dee or my son Andrew, who is away at college. I knew that he would be wondering about us if he heard about the storm. My attempts were futile, though. There was no cell phone service at all.

And these pictures were taken on County Road 24.5 going into Swink. La Junta is in the distance.

Looking at the storm from this angle, it was very dark. It is the glow of lightning flashes and the camera that is making everything appear lighter. Behind us, however, the sunset lit the sky with yellow and pink light. Pike's Peak, which is about 90 miles away as the crow flies, was framed by the setting sun. It looked rather peaceful, compared to what was going on to the east of us.

A tornado actually did touch down. I got this from Facebook. It was taken by Sammi Martinez of La Junta.

When we arrived home there were marble-sized hail pieces all over the lawn. This morning we found leaves from our three cottonwood trees plastered all over the house, the garage, and the toolshed, as well as littering the yard. Parts of La Junta looked like there had been a spring snowstorm, the hail was so thick.

Psalm 29 likens God to a thunderstorm:

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

the God of glory thunders,

the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;

the voice of the Lord is majestic.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;

the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,

Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord strikes

with flashes of lightning.

The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;

the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.

And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

I kept thinking about this metaphor as we were experiencing the storm. Can you picture God in this light or is this imagery troublesome for you? Why or why not?   Have a great weekend!


A new hat on WritingPlaces

I've added a new item to my Etsy store - a slouchy beanie made with Lion Brand Tweed Stripes in gray.

The pattern came from The Crochet Dude and it was really fun to make.

My granddaughter Tayler is modeling the hat and even though she says she's not a "hat person" I think she looks cute.

I'm charging $15 plus shipping for the hat. Tayler says that it is very warm.



After our little photo session, Tayler decided that her brother Michael should be in on the fun. Doesn't he look cute? I'm sure he'll think so. And below Michael is Gilbert, Tayler's and Michael's dad. How much fun.



A kind letter

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I received the nicest e-mail from Carolann of Chichibean on Etsy in response to Friday's God and Art installment on recycling.

Carolann gave me permission to share this. She said that her story used to be on the profile of her Etsy store. 

You are a "Keeper" ~ Thank you. I spent "way too much" time reading your blog and it was well worth it. (Love the Cain/Abel story).
Yahbut ` Very Clever...Wish I had thought of that.
This is for You:

I grew up with a single parent who had been frightened by the Great Depression in the 1930's. A mother, God love her, who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then reused it. She was the original recycle queen before they had a Name for it...

It was the time for fixing things; a curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress. Don't buy new, sew up the old. Things we keep. 

It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that repairing, reusing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. A store bought dress instead of handmade. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there'd always be “more“. 

But then my mother died, and on that clear September night I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn't any more. 

Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away ... never to return. So While we have it .. it's best we love it ... And care for it ... And fix it when it's broken ... And heal it when it's sick. 

This is true ... For marriage .... And old cars .... And children with bad report cards ..... And dogs and cats with bad hips .... And aging parents .... And grandparents. We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it. Some things we keep. Like a best friend that moved away or an old Blanket we loved as a kid. 

So true, Carolann. Thank you for letting me share this because it is a beautiful way to explain the worth of people. Stuff we can get rid of if our house gets too crowded, but once a person is gone he or she can never be replaced.




God and Art Series: Recycling promotes spiritual disciplines

For this week's installment of the God and Art Series, I want to concentrate on a practice that promotes a spiritual discipline. As part of this post, I want to feature the work of some artists who are part of the Era of Recycling Team on Etsy.*

Recycling - upcycling, restoring, reconditioning, reusing, repurposing - whatever you want to call it, is once again in vogue in the world of arts and crafts. It's not a new art form, it's simply being, well, recycled, from an old way of doing things,  and with some great results, I might add. Here is a tray made from old barnwood:


Back during the Great Depression, our grandmothers, grandfathers (and some people's great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers now) learned to keep everything. Economically, things were really tight and one never knew when an item might serve some other purpose and save a little money. For example, from an article "Money Saving Tips from Grandma," in the Great Depression, people saved margarine wrappers to grease pans, reused tea bags several times, hung clothes on the line, made blankets from old upholstery fabric and clothing, learned how to garden and can, and reused aluminum foil.

When I was a little girl, I remember my grandmother and my great-aunt saving margarine containers (remember the small ones with the brightly colored flowers?) and old clothing. They even asked my mom and aunts to help them in this endeavor. So, when we received a quilt, it was no surprise to me when I recognized patches of my old clothing. The margarine containers were used for many things. The one item I remember the most was a crocheted purse. My grandmother and aunt had punched multiple holes along the rim of the margarine container and had crocheted a reticule-type purse with worsted weight yarn. I carried this purse to church and other places where I wanted to feel a little more grown up.

I'm not sure what happened in the 80s and 90s but it seemed like everyone was tired of reusing stuff and began buying everything new. This was probably because families could afford to do it in a better economy. Now, with unemployment above 8 percent and regular paychecks not covering all expenses, and raised awareness over the environment, people are going back to a recycling mindset.

It's different now than it was for our elders, however. We're coming off of years of plenty so we can recycle different items to make new. Back in our grandparents and great-grandparents time, the Great Depression followed several bank crashes in previous decades, drought and genuine poverty. Today, federal programs make it possible for the poor to purchase items that our grandparents never dreamed of buying. I'm not saying that I agree with the system as a whole, it's just the way it is.

The resurgence of recycling is good, even for people who have money. With our busy lifestyles and general abundance we need the balance of recycling to learn simplicity - a spiritual discipline from long past that staves off materialism and greed. In recent years, I have been disturbed by the talk that Americans need to get out and buy things and eat out in order to revive the economy. Why do I need to constantly buy things I don't need and eat food that isn't good for me? Maybe, instead, we need to use our creativity and reshift our focus. Perhaps we should go back to a craftspeople type mindset and buy creatively made quality goods rather than stockpiling junk in our houses or on our bodies.

So now, here are some items created by folks on the Era of Recycling Team and others that revive that spirit of using an item over and over again in creative ways to save money and the environment.




Yes, the above earrings are old bicycle tires. Neat, huh?

*I've run out of people to interview for the God and Art Series, so if you can think of anyone who would like to be interviewed or if you would like to be interviewed yourself, contact me at


How Cain killed Abel

Italian School. Cain Killing Abel
mid-17th century, (Gaetano Gandolfi, 1734-1802
My husband Mike and I had an interesting conversation the other day over dinner. The subject presented itself because of a post that Mike was writing on his blog called The Jawbone of an Ass - Timshel. Now Mike usually does not write about religious subjects unless he's taking on the far right wing over a political issue. He usually leaves the religion to me and I leave the politics to him - well, occasionally I get fired up and I speak out but it's not a common occurrence on Yahbut.

His blog post resulted from watching the last episode of Hell on Wheels from season one, in which the railroad workers and some Army troopers fight it out with the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers. In the fight, a brother ends up killing his own brother. You can see the video of the scene on my husband's blog and hear the song that was playing in the background - Timshel. In fact, this is what the episode was called and I wondered what it meant. For a great explanation, check out Mike's blog post. It's linked above

During the fight scene in Hell on Wheels, one of the main characters runs out of ammunition and picks up the jawbone of an ass or some other creature, and kills a Dog Soldier with it. The scene ended shortly thereafter but I did not recognize its significance until Mike brought it up over dinner.

"They were referring to Cain and Abel," Mike said.

That was lost on me. "How do you know that?" I said.

"Because of the jawbone, and because I know what the song's about," he said.

"The jawbone?"

Mike looked at me in disbelief. "Yeah. Everyone knows that Cain killed Abel with the jawbone of an ass."

At that point, I could feel the files in my brain furiously flipping to the information I needed. "No he didn't," I said.

"Yes, he did," Mike said.

"No he didn't. The Bible doesn't say that," I replied.

And then came the most Christian part of our conversation.

"Do you want to bet on it?" Mike asked.

"Yeah." I said.

When we got back to our computers, Mike sent me links to classical and biblical artwork depicting the Cain and Abel story, illustrating how Cain killed Abel with the jawbone of an ass. I sent him one link - the reference in Genesis 4 where it says that Cain killed Abel.

"See? The Bible doesn't say how he did it. He just did it," I said.

We both learned something that night. Mike learned that he was depending on artwork to tell him how Cain killed Abel. I learned that thinking that Cain had killed his brother with a jawbone was common.

Growing up in church and Sunday school all my life, I had learned simply that Cain killed Abel. It was Samson who used a jawbone to kill 1,000 Philistines. We're not sure what Cain used. I just assumed that it was probably a rock or something. The Hebrew word, according to the first page of a scholarly article I read by A.A. Barb, alludes to several methods. It's all quite interesting.

From our conversation, you can see how artwork can affect an opinion or convince someone that a small detail, like with what instrument Cain killed Abel, was one thing when it really was something else. Artwork also affects our conceptions of Christ. In the past, many artists have depicted Jesus as a blonde man with blue eyes - a European living in Jewish Palestine during the Roman occupation in the first part of the first century C.E. If that were the case, Jesus probably would have died of melanoma long before he could go to the cross. Pardon the sarcasm here, but you can see how depictions of Jesus as a European may have contributed to the idea that white Anglo-Saxons were the only ones who thought they were fit to rule places like Palestine, Asia, the American West, South America, Mexico, Africa, etc.

A lot of artwork also depicts Christ as very stern or morose, even insipid, as if holiness can not involve laughter and good times.

And so with art, as with any form of media, we need to be careful about the message that we, who call ourselves followers of Christ, are promoting. This is especially true of political ideas, the e-mails we forward, the things we "like" on Facebook and the literature we introduce to people we are teaching, especially our children. We need to research people's claims before we pass them to others as a form of gospel. Once we do this our words become like the jawbone of an ass. Not good for anything except bringing harm to others.

Now back to the betting. If there were any stakes to the bet Mike and I made, I have forgotten what they were - lucky you, Mikey, because you owe me! Usually, we bet each other a dinner where we like to eat. In any case, it really doesn't matter because all of our money goes into the same account anyway. It's all in fun. We learn a lot from each other and have a good time talking about the Bible and other subjects.



The Hidden Beauty of Johnson Mesa

 If you're ever in northern New Mexico near Raton, which is on Interstate 25, and want to visit Mount Capulin, consider taking NM 72 and NM 325 up through Johnson Mesa. I promise, if you love scenery, you will not be disappointed.

We've traveled on the mesa twice. Once in mid-summer and once in early September. Both times were beautiful, but the mid-summer visit was especially spectacular since summer rains had nourished the mesa causing green grasses and wildflowers to flourish.

Here are some pictures:

Johnson Mesa's highest elevation point is 8,000 feet.

The Windmill - a sign of the conquered West

Indian Paintbrush

I love the wide open spaces of the West.

Isn't it gorgeous? I think God must own a ranch up here or something.

And this September we captured some antelope on film. See the difference a little rain makes out here?

Across the highway from the antelope was this church:

Johnson Mesa Church, est. 1897
 All in all it was a beautiful day. It's definitely worth the trip.

Oh yeah. Don't forget your snacks. We love these salt and vinegar potato chips when it's hot outside.

Mike and the chips

Have a great Tuesday!


So long summer ... Hello, Mount Capulin

The summer of 2012 is drawing to a close. It was a hot summer, so I welcome the fall weather that's already trying to overcome the heat. Despite the heat, it was also a good summer. We got a lot of projects done around the house - despite some setbacks - and we were able to take some trips with the kids. This is time we will never regain. Kids grow up so fast. I'm glad for all of the time we've been able to spend with them and look forward to future outings and our daily adventures as well.

Last Sunday, we went to Capulin Volcano National Monument in Northern New Mexico - about three and a half hours from our house in Colorado. We did this as a last hurrah, a farewell to summer, if you will. Here is the crew:

Stephen, John and Tookie
To start, we checked out the visitor's center where they have artifacts from around the area that people can touch. They also have the normal supply of gifts and books. After using Mike's Senior Pass, we began the ascent to the volcano and stopped for a picnic lunch along the way.

On our trips, we have learned to bring a cooler full of water rather than soda pop or other drinks. This keeps all of us hydrated, cuts down on the expense of buying anything on the road and seems to make everyone happy. No one complains about the lack of Kool-Aid or other sugared drinks. We also bring sandwich fixings, chips, fruit and cookies (two packages of Oreos will be wiped out in an afternoon). This saves a ton of money because with all of this good food we won't hit the fast food places. Everyone just grabs another snack if hunger strikes.

After lunch we drove up the two mile drive to the top of Mount Capulin. If you go on a clear day you will see some spectacular views of the valley below, other volcanoes in the field and lava outcroppings. Once we reached the top, the kids took the quarter-mile trail down into the volcano's crater, while Mike and I readied our camera equipment.

After they returned, we hiked around the top of the crater. This is about a mile walk with some of the most spectacular views in the area.

Going Up

Fortunately, there are places to sit.

Visitor's parking lot on edge of crater

On the way down. Whew!
The path is steep but it is well preserved and there are a lot of places to sit. We suggest taking water on the trail because you're at 8,000 feet and the altitude can really sap your energy if you're not careful.

As you look out on the grasslands from the rim of the volcano, it's hard to imagine that this area was once thick with sulfuric smoke and aflame with lava. The sky was periodically brightened with flaming rocks shooting through the sky. These rocks and the flow of lava from the volcanoes formed into mesas and hills. Once outside the national park area, you can find rocks of hardened lava that were formed about 60,000 years ago when Mount Capulin blew its top. Amazing.

Tomorrow, I'll take you on a tour of one of those mesas with pictures from this year and last year. Have a great Monday!


Pastors and Sexual Addiction

When I was in the Masters of Religion, Spiritual Formation program at Northwest Nazarene University, we studied the problem of clergy and pornography. After we were done, I posted my paper to this blog without really thinking about it. To my surprise, it has proven to be one of the most consistently clicked links since I put it up in 2008. You can read it here.

If you read the comments, one person asked for more information. At the time I didn't have any, but resources are available if you look. For the last few years, this subject was probably not going to be on the best-sellers list at your local Christian bookstore, if the information was offered at all.

That may have changed though. Last week, the website Patheos published five articles about T.C. Ryan who wrote Ashamed No More: A Pastor's Journey Through Sex Addiction.

You can find the articles here:

Ashamed No More

I thought the article on Healing Sexual Addiction: Seven Things the Church Must Do, very well done.

So, take a look. The information will be enlightening, I'm sure. Many of us tend to look up to our pastors for strength in difficult times, wisdom to grow and for a moral example so much that we forget that they are real human beings who may have extreme difficulties. A lot of pastors do not have a support system available to them for help. I hope that with this book that will change for many.


A pause in the Monday morning madness

I just read Psalm 103 this morning. It was so good that I thought I'd share it with you to help you pause from the Monday morning madness. Have a great day!

Psalm 103

Of David.

1 Praise the Lord, my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the Lord, my soul,

and forget not all his benefits—

3 who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works righteousness

and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,

his deeds to the people of Israel:

8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse,

nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

15 The life of mortals is like grass,

they flourish like a flower of the field;

16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,

and its place remembers it no more.

17 But from everlasting to everlasting

the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,

and his righteousness with their children’s children—

18 with those who keep his covenant

and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,

and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,

you mighty ones who do his bidding,

who obey his word.

21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,

you his servants who do his will.

22 Praise the Lord, all his works

everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.


The cause of justice, Part 2

Some weeks I have it. Other weeks I don't. This has been one of those weeks in which I do not have it.

What I mean is some weeks I'm really good at posting on this blog. Other weeks -- I think you can figure out the rest.

With Monday being Labor Day, the week has been crazy-busy. It seems like time is flying. Do you feel that way too?

In all of that, and even though my brain feels a little mushy today, I've been thinking about a previous post: What are we doing to forward the cause of justice? It's not that I think there is anything wrong with that post. I just want to add some more thoughts. So if you will indulge me, I will do just that.

If you are like me, a person who has grown up in the church almost from the womb, you are conditioned to take on guilt easily. In fact, you subconsciously look for ways to feel guilty. For some reason, the church does that to some of us. Many of us.  Maybe it's because we really want to do what's right. We want to follow God; therefore, we listen avidly to sermons and lessons and then we over examine ourselves to the point where we automatically feel guilty about everything.

Is anyone neurotic in that way like I am? It's okay to admit it. In fact, I'm thinking about starting a small group at church called Guilt Lovers Anonymous.

Not really. Well ... maybe. (Guilt can also lead to indecisiveness.)

Ever since I read that article on justice from "Reject Apathy" magazine, I've been thinking and thinking about it. How can I do justice? Unlike the people in the article, I can't take off to another country or move to another city at this moment. I have kids in a school where I really want them to stay. I have a job. A husband. An extended family. A mortgage and a dog.

Yet, Jesus says that we're to "hate" all of those things in comparison to our love for him.

Do you see why guilt can just take over?

I saw an example of this very thing on a series my husband and I are watching on Netflix called "Hell on Wheels." We are watching Season 1 on Netflix; Season 2 is running on AMC now. A preacher, who is part of the supporting cast on the show, lives in the town of Hell on Wheels, which moves along with the rail head as the Union Pacific is being constructed. The drama is taking place right after the Civil War, so those tensions weave a thread through the entire series.

Last night as we were watching, the preacher's daughter, a young woman, got off the train and came up to him. I thought it was really weird when he wouldn't look at her and told her that she couldn't stay. Later, he explained to one of his friends, a young Cheyenne warrior who had converted to Christianity, why he acted this way. He was taking the words of Jesus that I mentioned above quite literally, instead of being willing to place Christ above all else. This interpretation clearly gave the young Cheyenne serious pause, as he gave the preacher a look of disbelief.

I was really disappointed. I like the show, but does Hollywood always have to portray Christians misinterpreting Scripture to such a degree? Of course, as I thought about it, it is an accurate portrayal of the way some people live out their faith. Literally without thought. Ignoring any deeper meaning because thinking gives them a pain between the ears.

But then again, the preacher character seems like a decent fellow. Maybe the writers will have him see the error of his ways. That's what happens in real life, sometimes.

So, getting back to the guilt I was feeling about supposedly not doing anything related to forwarding the cause of justice. What am I to do?

An example came to mind the other day. In her world-renowned book "The Hiding Place," Corrie ten Boom wrote about her mother, Cor. Cor, who suffered from a stroke in the final days of her life, had lived a life of compassion. She took food to the sick, offered condolences to those in mourning, invited people into her home for food. In her final days, when she was bedridden, she encouraged her daughters to take soup to people who were also ill, and prayed for people she knew who were suffering. Corrie said that her mother's body may have been confined to her bed but her soul was free.

Cor ten Boom practiced justice right in her own neighborhood. She was there for people and tried her best to alleviate suffering. As a result, her daughters also practiced justice. "The Hiding Place" describes their efforts in hiding Jews from the Nazis. This effort cost the ten Booms their freedom. Corrie's sister and father lost their lives.

That is a living commentary of Christ's words about "hatred". It's a decision to love Christ so much that we are literally willing to give up our lives, our comforts, our lives living close to family if he should call us away. Or, if we are called to live close to family, it's doing things that God calls us to do whether they think we should or not. Living a "hate-filled" life in the sense that Christ talks about is a life of service or self-sacrifice. It is not hatred in the sense that we really hate our families in the way that we most often interpret the word.

That's the type of person I want to be - a person who lives a life of sacrifice. However, like Cor ten Boom this may mean that I have to stay at home.

A lot of times, in the church, we get caught up in talking about and funding overseas missions. While these are important, we must also remember that there are people in our neighborhoods who are undergoing tremendous suffering. Oh, it may not look like they are but there are people who are going through a version of hell on earth. In the U.S., we are conditioned to wear masks of self-sufficiency in front of others. We ask how someone is doing as part of a greeting. We really don't care to know.

Not all of us are called overseas or to leave the places we live. If we did that, how would God minister to the people around us?

I hope these thoughts bring peace to your heart like they did mine. Unless God has called you to go somewhere else, God is probably telling you to minister right where you live and leave the rest up to him.


New Items at Writing Places

Happy Labor Day. I'm having a great day off and wondering how I can secure more of those. Ha!

I've added some new items to my store on Etsy, WritingPlaces. Here is a new shawl and a scarf and hat set. Both items are ready to ship:



 My pretty model is my granddaughter Tayler.

For Christmas so far I have revived an ornament that was in my shop last year:


I have also revived two card sets. You can also buy the cards separately on my site.

My husband Mike and I took the pictures for these card sets on some of our trips to the eastern shore of North Carolina. You can view the galleries of our web sites at WritingPlaces, just click on the Galleries link.