Monday, March 26, 2018

Some Easters I Have Known

It’s funny the things that come to mind when a holiday rolls around. This Sunday coming up will be about the 65th Easter I’ve celebrated. Before that I was too young to remember much. But by the time I was five I had my ear to the ground for all situations that may involve some gain in my direction. 

Five – Didn’t get much as Mom and Dad didn’t have much to give, but I knew something was up when the word on the street – so to speak – was that a bunny would be visiting with goodies for me and my siblings. Jelly beans and chocolate things hidden in nests around the house. Before the shiny green stuff you find in bags now there was the kind made from green waxed paper shreds. I found some"vintage" on Etsy selling for $26. Yikes! Trouble is, dogs and cats really like it so when it passes – well – you can imagine hopping down that bunny trail!

Ten – This year stands out in my memory because Mom made me an Easter dress that year. She had a new sewing machine and put it to good use whipping up a creation made from taffeta. Remember taffeta? Little girls the world over loved to swish around in their pretty dresses made from it. Mine was pink and covered in tiny rosebuds and trimmed at the neckline with pink velveteen (why am I thinking of a rabbit just now?) Sending up a “thank you” Mom. I know it was an effort.

Fifteen – This was the first year I sang the Hallelujah Chorus in the church youth choir, The Chanceleers. Wow. What a way to inspire a teen.  We attended a pretty big Lutheran Church in Southern California and there were about 20 – 25 kids in the choir when everybody showed up. We wore blue robes with white stoles and we rustled when we processed. What  a thrill to belt out the beloved anthem as our dynamic director, Mr. Encheff, pumped his arms and brought the altos in one beat ahead of the rest at measure 45. It burns in my memory.

Adult - I have sung the Hallelujah Chorus many dozens of times since then. With every rendition the message that so inspired Handel sinks deeper. I grew up hearing about Jesus and what He has done for us. I learned as a child and have always believed that He was my only Savior and looking back over my many years I see how I’ve been loved, chastised and guided by His life and His death.

With both Christmas and Easter there are forces out there trying to hijack the true meaning of those days. It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to and I can claim the Easter Bunny for the little ones and Jesus for our greater lives. With the one there’s the gain of weight. With the other there’s the gain of Heaven. A good deal all around. God loves each plump believer.

If you celebrate  Easter, I hope you have the best one ever this year. And in honor of Spring, I give you this.

Fiddlehead and Robin
By Susan Sundwall

A tiny curled up fiddlehead,
tucked ‘neath the melting snow,
awakened one fine  morning
when a robin chirped “Hello!”

“It’s time to rise you sleepyhead!”
said Robin to the fiddlehead.
And then they both began to sing
to welcome God’s sun dappled spring.

God Bless

Monday, March 19, 2018

Adventures While Traveling

Travel  time is coming up! Yes it is. And if you’re off into the wild blue yonder soon, you might enjoy reading about a few of the people I’ve encountered in my  own travels. This is a story that’s been published so you may have read it before. But maybe not.

The Bride, the Priest and the Maniac
By Susan Sundwall

We both sighed when the gate agent announced our flight would be delayed – again. Only twenty more minutes the agent promised. My stomach gurgled as I slumped into my seat and returned to my book. Great. I’d probably have to run like a crazy woman to make my connecting flight at the next airport. These kinds of delays are one of the reasons I dislike traveling alone. My mind inevitably churns with all the "what ifs," especially if re-routing is involved. I took a deep breath to calm myself. Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed the woman beside me pulling something from her canvas bag. She settled back and removed a small square of colored paper from the package on her lap and began folding the paper. Her fingers moved quickly, and in about two minutes she was twirling a little paper bird in her fingers. I lowered my book.

“How pretty,” I said.

She smiled. “It’s a peace crane. I’m making them for the guests at my wedding.”

I smiled back and took note of her appearance. She wasn’t young and there was an air of calm confidence about her that I envied.

“I’ve never heard of them,” I said.

This middle aged bride-to-be then explained about the Cranes for Peace project, the Children’s Peace Statue and how she hoped her bright paper creations would be a useful reminder for her wedding guests. My book stayed on my lap as she talked. The hypnotic rhythm of her fingers working the paper was a pretty distraction from my current travel worries. My anxiety was much reduced before we were finally called to board the plane. The bride shared with me that she was a chaplain and just before we went our separate ways, she gifted me with a pink crane. I still have it.

The Priest

I was kind of shocked when the man in the clerical collar glanced at the flight attendants legs then asked her if she played tennis.

“I used to,” she replied, “but it ruined my legs. I have no strength in my joints anymore.”

“That happens to a lot of athletes,” he said.

I didn’t really want to be privy to their conversation so I buried my nose in my book. (Yeah, I always travel with a book). It wasn’t too long before I was nodding off, but the priest must not have noticed because he leaned across the aisle and said, “That’s a very good book.”

I guess a priest would have to say that about Mere Christianity. I smiled at him. “I’ve read it a couple of times and always learn something new.”

As our conversation progressed I learned that he traveled throughout the country helping high school coaches build team spirit and foster a positive attitude towards their sport. One of his programs main principles was to highlight respect for one’s opponent.

“The seeds of that respect are planted when we respect our mothers,” the priest said. "It all begins there."

We exchanged a few more pleasantries and time passed quickly. Watching his retreating form as we deplaned, I marveled at the people we meet when traveling.

The Maniac

Well, the guy was from Maine, after all. I noticed him sitting in the window seat as I told the man next to him that he was in mine. Got that? There was an open seat in the middle though, and I volunteered to sit there so the offender could stay in the aisle seat. I plopped myself down next to the guy from Maine. Nothing much was said until it was time to decide on the movie.

“Have you seen this?” the man asked.

“I have,” I replied. “It’s quite good and has a wonderful message.”

 The movie also had some funny parts, and I felt my friend chuckling at the same spots that I had. When the movie was over he thanked me for recommending it.

“There are no accidents,” was the message in Kung Fu Panda, and the man was truly touched.

From there our conversation escalated to matters of faith, and I happened to mention my frequent flyer book, Mere Christianity. It was downright spooky what happened next. The couple in front of us peeked through the small crack between the seats and chuckled. Then the man held up the book he was reading, The Complete Works of C.S. Lewis which I knew had to include Mere Christianity. A chill ran down my spine.

My new buddy, Paul, (he revealed his name and shook my hand later) then told me of the difficulty he’d had when a beloved nephew died in a car accident a few years earlier. I just let him talk. I’d figured out it was no accident that I’d sat beside him that day. The few hours on that plane passed quickly, and when it was time to land my head was full of  much more than travel fears.

“If you only knew who walked beside you,” said Paul just before we parted. I smiled at that. It seems I’m watched over in the area of my greatest fear and these three examples let me know it’s so.  

Image: Free  Digital Photos

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Lasagna Sandwich

A while back somebody somewhere published a book about the telltale signs of the beginning of a civilization’s fall. You know, like the Roman Empire – the biggest “fall” of all. If you read just a little about it you’ll find out all kinds of bad stuff those people did to set the wheels in motion for sure destruction. One of them was their attitude towards food. More specifically, though, was the rise and glorification of celebrity chefs. Right? My eight pound old dictionary says “celebrity” means renown and honor publicly bestowed because of noted character or exploits. Huh. So let me tell you about dinner last  Sunday.

I put out the call early in the week. Join us if you’re able. Baked ziti, Italian sweet sausage, homemade garlic bread (yes, with homemade bread), blueberry pie. Sunday – we’d love to see you. #1 son jumped right one it and volunteered a Caesar Salad (our fall of Rome connection). The food came out well – maybe a  tiny bit of scorch on the garlic bread (stupid broiler – gotta watch that sucker and lay off the Merlot for a second) but otherwise, it was all yummy.

After all our concentrated gorging, when we come up for air and the kids had gone off to the living room, #3 son pipes up. He surveys the glorious leftovers and says “You know what would be good?”  We all politely burp, pat our round tummies and wait.

“A lasagna sandwich.” He says this with attending hand motions and we can almost see the layers going into this astounding creation. Pointing to the remnants of my excellent garlic bread he further illustrates, holding his hands as if in prayer. “Yeah, take two pieces of garlic bread, stuff some lasagna between them and it would make an awesome  sandwich. I’ve always thought that would be great.”

We  smiled, thinking of the glory. Three kinds of cheese, deep red sauce, perfectly cooked noodles, and lots of earthy spices all cozied up between slices of crispy bread dripping with butter, more cheese and garlic. I, of  course, would want to add a sausage or two. And #1 son, the great Caesar Salad maker, would add romaine, salad dressing and a few garlic croutons. A truly stacked sandwich – worthy of decadent Rome even. We all got teary eyed just thinking about it. Why worry about war, famine and pestilence, or the barbarians at the gate for that matter? We had this vision before us. 

The conversation went downhill shortly thereafter as we got off into the weeds with various eating contests we’d heard of and the exploits of the heroes of those sporting  events. Hot dogs, 14 pound hamburgers, row upon row of pies. Speaking of which, we hadn’t had our dessert yet. That blueberry pie  called to us from its place of renown on the big buffet. I abandoned the conversation and waddled over to get it. “I have vanilla ice cream if anyone wants.”

None of us was in any real danger of turning celebrity chef and becoming a contributor to the decay and fall of Western Civilization, but, boy oh boy, wouldn’t it be great to be the owner of a nationwide chain of lasagna sandwich shops? Or, if the barbarians do bust down that gate, maybe a lasagna sandwich will be what they’re after and not our heads. One can hope.

PS: Garlic bread recipe upon request

Image: Free Digital Photos