Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Party Line

I threw a birthday party for one of my kids this week, Granted, it wasn't the most exciting party ever in the history of the world, but we had crafts and games, cake and ice cream, party favors and time to play with the birthday girls' new toys.

"Where's the pinata?" asked one guest. "Do we get a present to take home with us?"

(If you're reading this blog and your child was at the party, I promise it wasn't yours.)

It reminded me of funerals in Togo where guests come to soak their grieving hosts dry. If the funeral is a disappointment, the disgruntled guests walk behind the coffin on the way to the cemetery singing something like this:

"It was a lousy funeral
The food was so bad I had a hard time eating it.
And there wasn't enough besides.
There wasn't enough to drink.
It was a lousy funeral."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Old Softy

I admit it.

I watch Hallmark Movies for the commercials.

I know they're just stringing me along to make me cry at the end, but I fall for it every time. My all time favorite is the one where the woman pays a visit to her major professor who's packing for retirement. You know the one.

I saw a new one tonight, this time about a man named Ed who was learning to read. He starts with a Little Golden Book, then works his way up to the newspaper, then to adult books. And finally to the pinnacle of all reading materials, a Father's Day card from his granddaughter.

Sometimes a few words say more than volumes can.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I will never...

1. Go Bungee Jumping.

2. Be a TV, Movie or Stage Star.

3. Fit in my wedding dress again.

4. Jump out of an airplane.

5. Be as sure of myself and my abilities as I was at the age of 17.

6. Tire of learning.

7. Climb Mount Everest.

8. Be an astronaut.

9. Visit all the places I'd like to go.

10. Like the smell or taste of oysters.

How would you complete the sentence?

Sayonara, Satsuma!

One of my favorite parts of winter has come and gone. The Satsuma oranges have been replaced by the far inferior Clementines.

Time marches on.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Work of the Devil

A peddler came by the king's palace selling books. He had a particularly fine copy of a Bible. The printing was so straight, so true. It must have taken a lifetime to write such a perfect book.

The archbishop paid a call on the king.

"I've got a book I want to show you," he said. The archbishop produced a Bible, written with perfect hand, remarkably like the king's own copy. In fact, when compared, the two Bibles proved to be identical, with the same number of pages and the same words upon each page.

How could this be? How could two such beautiful books exist, exact replicas of each other? It would have taken a man's whole life to produce just one such book, but two? Impossible.

More copies of the same Bible started showing up in other places, in monasteries and libraries, in the homes of noblemen. Not having any other explanation, they concluded that this must be the work of the Devil.

Isn't it interesting that what might have been God's greatest evangelical tool of all time, the printing press, was scorned by church and state alike as the Devil's work? Has there ever been anything that has done so much for advancing the gospel, for offering knowledge and freedom to the impoverished and enslaved?

Coldest Night of the Year

When I went out to the garage this morning to switch last night's laundry from washer to dryer, the clothes were frozen to the drum.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Oh, Lait!

Anyone who has ever been to France knows about their love affair with dairy products. I spent many a day tromping through alpine meadows where the Beaufort cows eat the wildflowers that give Beaufort cheese its special aroma and flavor. Whatever the French need to do to spoil their dairy cows, they should keep on doing it.

Emmetaulier, cheese fondue, creme fraiche, boursin, yogurt and high fat milk... the lactose delights go on and on.

I was so disappointed to learn that the French also gave us one of the greatest disasters in culinary history - margarine. Oh la la! Quelle catastrophe!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Observations at the Grocery Store

The only thing sadder than a Christmas tree on July the 25th (nod to Shel Silverstein) is a tomato on January 15. The ground is frozen solid and even the chard had finally given up on hope for spring, so I set aside my garden catalogs and troop off to buy groceries.

Sometimes I think it's just my imagination that prices are rising, but this time it's for real. Milk is up 89 cents, bread is up 20 cents, eggs are almost twice what they were last year. Even the gas to get me to the store is more, but that's not news to you. I bet you're feeling it, too.

As for the great grocery question - paper or plastic - I've finally decided to say "neither." Armed with 8 canvas bags, I am self-sufficient in the bagging department. The only thing is, I haven't quite got my system down, so I feel the press of the line behind me as I try to stand up my bags in the cart to fit just right. I hate to inconvenience the other customers, though I do imagine people looking in my cart and thinking, "poor dear. She still has to go home and cook dinner for her 14 children. Why doesn't she bring some along to help?"

The truth is, I like shopping alone. I don't have to tell anyone not to hang on the cart. I don't have to keep saying, "no, we don't need a box of sugar coated chocolate bombs. Put them back." Let the kids save their energy for when I get home. I'll need their help carrying everything into the house.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


As we drove from mile 88 to mile 9, I was treated to a play-by-play countdown of highway miles that went something like this:

"That said 79. Did you see it? 79. That means next we'll see 78, but not until we see 2 more 79's, right? Exit 79. Exit 79. E-X-I-T. Now we'll see some 78's. You watch for the signs and I'll read them, okay?

"Hey, that said 77. What happened to 78? Did you see it? I didn't. Did you? 77. 77. I'll count to 77 now.

"1...2...3...4...5... (and so on) ...77. 77 is not a big number because it didn't take long to count that high. Exit 77. Now 76. Watch for 76, okay?"

I'm not kidding. It was an 79 mile monologue, punctuated only by a couple of grunts from me. The miles went quickly, but my goodness, all that talking makes me tired.

Oh, and did I mention we're in countdown mode for birthday #6?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

You Think You Had a Bad Day?

*photo credit: Entropy S.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Imitation Incentive

We did it.

We joined the bajillions of other resolvers and bought ourselves a treadmill for Christmas.

If there's anything I know about myself, it's that I'm easily bored. (I get that from a father who likes to take a different route every time he leaves the house.)

So I know that I'm a likely candidate to give up unless I have some kind of incentive to keep using the behemoth bedside stand.

I've borrowed an idea from a friend of mine and have decided to pay myself by the mile (I'm not even compensating for the fact that treadmill miles feel like they equal 3 regular miles).

Another idea (nods to Mom) is to measure off distances to places you want to visit and when you've walked that distance, you get to go there. So, this week I might be able to go to Starbucks, next week to Target and by the end of the summer, maybe I'd earn a trip to Saskatchewan.

Do you use any kind of incentive to keep you going on things you really don't like to do?

Mea Culpa and the Comeback Kids

I promise you I am not going to turn political, but as I make observations on the news, politics has to creep in once in a while, especially during an election year. Here are a handful of observations from the New Hampshire primaries:

1. Despite all the polls, the pundits, the media, the commentators, it's the American public that gets to elect a president.

2. Both John McCain and Hillary Clinton referred to their "comeback." Is the election already decided? I thought we were at the beginning of the race, not in the sprint to the finish line.

3. I appreciated Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News owning up to making wrong predictions. Here's what he said on his blog.

We in the media will beat ourselves (and deservedly so) for reaching conclusions before the voters have spoken. A further prediction? Give us a few weeks — we will promptly forget the lessons of this debacle in polling, predictions and primary politics. We will all live to screw up another day, though our performance in New Hampshire will be hard to beat.

4. I think we're all apt to forget lessons we should have learned long ago. I know I am. Still, I look forward to seeing if the major news outlets can stand to bite their tongues for at least the Michigan primary.

Friday, January 04, 2008

News From Kenya

Here's an update from a missionary who is in Eldoret and a request for whatever help we can offer.

3rd January
Dear Brethren,
Greetings in the Wonderful Name of our Lord,

I thought that I would try to send an update on our situation. FIRST of all, know that we are SAFE and that the Lord has heard your prayers and is taking care of us and the Leister family. The kids are happy and playing outside as I write this letter.

Also, as an update as of this afternoon , the people who threatened to burn the Zakayo Kiprono home because they helped 5 Kikuyu families while their homes were being burned, did not do so. But he did move his family to a gov't compound. He told me that he was going home today to gather the church to pray.

Today, there were a good number of stores open in town, that people who have money could get food. I meet with two of our preachers who minister at the edge of town. They walked all night and took their families to a forested area, along with some Kikuyu families. This was two days ago. I listened to their stories, that I will not repeat here. I gave them the money that Ihad. The banks are not open as of yet, so getting money is a problem.Their children and they have not eaten in three days. They are fearing for their lives because of the Kikuyus with them.

Be proud of our Christians, they are helping at the risk of their own lives to save the lives of others. Christopher said on the way to town today, he stopped at his house and read his Bible. And he told me what word of encouragement that he got from that reading in Jeremiah. In the end, I really feel that Glory will be given to the Lord, because these men and their families are doing as our Lord would do, helping those who need help.People will know who the "real" Believers are now, those who practice what they preach!

I hear that the 1000 people at the airport who have waited to get out is down to about 200 now. The police have organized for trucks to take the Kikuyus out of Eldoret, if you have $16, you and your family can get a ride to a safe area. Many are not able to pay this amount, so many are camped still at the police station and Catholic Church.

In many ways, you watching CNN News probably know more than we do. There is a general black out of news in the media (radio, newspapers and TV). What is heard is mostly via people calling each other on the cell phones. We hear that Desmond Tutu is here and trying to help. As well as a group from the European Community. Let us keep praying for the results of all of their talks.

Kirsten and Ruth and I were talking today and they asked why we were not going to Nairobi like everyone else. I explained to them that soon this problem will be over and someone needs to be here to help the people. Those without homes will need shelter, those with their clothes gone will need clothes and those without food will need food. And, we can't help them if we are in Nairobi! They both said they can give the money they have to help. They gave a lot of their clothes at Christmas time to a house with a lot of orphan girls, so they don't have many clothes to give away.

Please, we are on a limited budget, help us to help our Christians and others. Please, however small the amount it will help someone. Please involve your children, to help other children. Please send a check to our sponsoring church and note it is for relief for Kenya. That address is:South Eleventh and Willis Church of Christ, 3333 S. 11th St., Abilene, TX79605


In Service to Christ,
Keith, Grace, Kirsten and Ruth Gafner
LATEST NEWS, just got a phone call from Charles Luvanda. He is the neighbor to Joseph Muhoro (who is Kikuyu). He said that the Kalenjin elders in the village met today and said that all Kikuyus and Kisiis people are to have their homes burnt in the area. Pray for them tonight, even the Luvanda family are fearing as their house is close to the Muhoro house.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Did You See?

Today's unauthorized rally in Kenya was called off, or at least postponed until next Tuesday!

Thank you, God, for hope of relief.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Front Lines

Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Missionaries in Guatemala and Uganda, Turkey and Togo, Irian Jaya and Italy.

Fighters on the front lines for our country and our kingdom.

But the ones on my heart today are those working in embassies around the world. I've got to admit, when we lived overseas, I thought embassy workers were a little spoiled with their food allowances, their trips home, their fancy houses. That was before they became a target.

My first awareness of their risk started when the Tanzania embassy was bombed. Other incidents through the years served as little reminders.

Last night I came undone. I kept the news on to see what was happening in Kenya. It breaks my heart to see people lashing out at each in other with machetes in Eldoret, the town that made me fall in love with Africa. I cringe at the comparisons being made to the genocide in Rwanda. Oh please, God, no. Not again. Not the Luo. Not the Kikuyu. I'm praying fervently but with little hope against the protests being called.

Following the Kenya story came a one line report, a tag-on, about a U.S. official being killed in the Sudan. U.S. official sounds so... official, so out of the realm of where I spend my days... so political. Only it wasn't. This official worked for USAID, the agency that spends its time trying to help undeveloped countries deal with the problems of AIDS, of disparity, of malaria.

It's the same agency that took one of my very dear friends to Africa where she sits wondering if her husband is in danger because of his job with USAID.

Now it's personal. More personal than the news about the shooting 2 miles from my house. More personal than the hit-and-run accident a couple miles south of me.

May God protect my friend and her children, her husband, his colleagues. May He stir the heart of Africa with a calm that soothes the anger, with a peace that passes explanation and understanding.