Farewell, Bubbles

There's nothing like a near-death experience to get one blogging again.  So here I am.

And here is the interior of my car, Bubbles, at 1:06 a.m. on August 30, near Ellis, Kansas:

After traveling all day, I was just 65 miles from my destination when a deer stepped in front of me.  She  lived to regret it for approximately two seconds as she flipped onto Bubbles' windshield and came to rest in assorted pieces behind me.

You know how those television commercials touting a car's safety rating show air bags inflating in slow motion, like big, soft marshmallows?  Inaccurate.  Air bags are shockingly loud and incredibly fast.  They are also very smelly after the fact.

And here's something commercials never address: the difficulty of driving your car with a limp, bulky air bag hanging out of your steering wheel.  How would I know?  Because I drove Bubbles that final 65 miles, at the encouragement of the surprisingly-cheerful-for-that-hour-of-the-night sheriff's deputy who came to my assistance.  "It's just cosmetic damage," he concluded as he circled the car with his flashlight.  "Just take 'er slow.  I'll follow you to your exit."  And he was right: Bubbles started up and ran fine.  Takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.  Hits a doe 'n' keeps on goin'.

Never mind the fact that I couldn't see through half the windshield, and that a headlight was left lying in the ditch.  We made it to my folks' house near 3:00 a.m., Bubbles and I.  Our last trip together.  My insurance determined it was a total loss "two or three times over."  I guess smelly air bags are pricey to replace.

Thus ends a seven-year friendship with the first car I have ever owned.  Last I knew, she was sitting at the Insurance Auto Auction on 53rd Ave. in Wichita.  I like to think that her various parts are being tenderly salvaged and inserted into other worthy vehicles, giving them the heart and soul of a car that was well-loved.

Is it absurd to grieve an automobile?  I make no apology.  Farewell, beloved Bubbles.

And—hello, Wendell the White!

My folks.  What can I say about them?  Generous is certainly a good start.  Their daughter wrecked her car and stranded herself 900 miles away from her home in Utah.  What to do?  Not a moment's hesitation—they promptly pulled out their well-worn SuperDad and SuperMom suits and came to her rescue.  It wasn't enough that they let her take their best car back to Utah and pay for it as she is able—they also gave it an oil change and scrubbed every last bug speck from its bumper before handing over the keys with a smile.

And so I write this with a gently-used 2006 Taurus in my carport.  And merely a sore wrist from the air bag.  It's cliché but true: it could have been so much worse.  If the plastic binding had not held the shattered windshield together... or if there had been a vehicle directly behind me when I hit the brakes and swerved—this would be a very different story, friends.

Though I [drive my car] in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life.  Psalm 138:7 NIV


Pioneer Day

It was on July 24, 1847, that Brigham Young led the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley.  Pioneer Day is an official holiday in Utah: parades, fireworks—and, in Provo, the first-ever Temple to Temple 5k.  Over 5,000 people are running from the Provo LDS Temple to the City Center LDS Temple, which is under construction in downtown Provo.  According to the website, the purpose of the race is two-fold—to remind participants of the Mormons' journey west from Illinois, and to honor one's ancestors:
Temples are special places where families can be sealed for time and eternity. They allow us to perform ordinances in behalf of our ancestors, if they choose to accept them. We invite you to use this chance to remember a specific ancestor who is important in your life that you plan to run for. Tags will be available for you to put their names and stick them to your bib.
Registration for the Temple to Temple 5k was closed early due to the overwhelming response, but maybe I'll get in next year.  I would be glad for the chance to remember my ancestors.  Their eternal destiny, however, was determined the moment they died.  There is no proxy ceremony that can add to the perfect blood of Jesus, itself enough to purchase their pardon from a holy God and a home in heaven.  The only question is: did they place their trust in Jesus?  (And, have you?  Learn more here.)

But while I'm on the subject of Utah culture, here's an invitation that was taped to my door one day:

Also, don't miss this amusing list of my state's idiosyncrasies.  It's good reading on Pie and Beer Day—I mean Pioneer Day.


Farming and Ministry

This intimate song from Peter Rowan evokes all kinds of memories and feelings for me.

Among them, this biblical thought (see I Corinthians 3)...
How much in common has the gospel ministry with farming!

You bust the sod,
You trust in God,
And you work night and day.

"Barefoot Country Road"
from Dust Bowl Children, Peter Rowan


The Essence of All We Create

With sunshine soaking into my winter-weary bones and robins bustling about nearby, I lounged on my patio a few weeks ago and committed a bit of poetry to memory.

Yes, I realize this sort of thing is normally done by people three times my age.  In my defense, I was not sipping Ensure, nor was a crocheted lap rug anywhere in sight.

And after all, what better time than spring for Greenleaf?  John Greenleaf Whittier, that is.  An excerpt of his "The Eternal Goodness":
I know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death
God’s mercy underlies. 
And if my heart and flesh are weak
To bear an untried pain,
The bruiséd reed He will not break,
But strengthen and sustain. 
No offering of my own I have,
Nor works my faith to prove;
I can but give the gifts He gave,
And plead His love for love. 
And so beside the silent sea
I wait the muffled oar;
No harm from Him can come to me
On ocean or on shore. 
I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.
Mmmm.  Beautiful.  And this is where I slip into poetry geek mode.

That crisp iambic tetrameter (if I'm not mistaken) is a welcome sound in an age of free verse.  And I am crazy about that alliterated line, "And so beside the silent sea".  The maritime references are delightfully reminiscent of Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar."

But more striking to me are the allusions to Scripture.  Whittier was a Quaker and it's obvious he knew his Bible.  Psalm 73:26 must be the source for the phrase, "if my heart and flesh are weak".  The "bruised reed" alludes to Isaiah 42:3, while stanza three refers, I think, to Titus 3:5 and related passages.  II Timothy 1:12 also comes to mind with the whole tone of the poem.  Do you see any others I'm missing?

A lesson from Whittier, if I may.  Poets, storytellers, songwriters, wordsmiths, artists all—let us submerse ourselves in Holy Scripture.  Then may it ooze from our pens.  May it anchor every expression of thought.  May it be the very essence of all we create.


One Perfect Book

I've been looking for a book like this for a good six years.

John MacArthur's One Perfect Life blends accounts from all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) into one seamless narrative.  Occasional related verses from the Old Testament and epistles are inserted for beautiful commentary.

"The complete story of Jesus" is broken up into short chapters—perfect for devotional reading.  I have never spent much time in the New King James Version, and I'm enjoying the fresh, readable translation.  Bonus: notes from the MacArthur Study Bible are included for extra insight on things like cultural context and cross-references.

Five stars for this book that will stay in my library for a lifetime.


On Turning Twenty-Five

A quarter-century ago, I was climbing Minnesota trees, reading Dick and Jane books, and determinedly mastering the skill of riding my banana-seated purple bike without training wheels.

My family did not own a television in those days, but the radio was often playing.  Children's Bible Hour, Ranger Bill, Jungle Jam, and later Adventures in Odyssey—these provided the wholesome, imaginative soundtrack of my childhood.

As I was wobbling down the sidewalk, free of training wheels at last, something special was happening in Provo, Utah.  A group of Christians was taking the reins of a debt-ridden AM radio station, intent on establishing it as a beacon of truth in a valley where less than 1% of the population shared their faith in Jesus.

KEYY, 1450 AM in Provo, had been a popular rock-n-roll station for a couple decades until it faced financial ruin in the mid-1980s.  Then in 1987 it came into the possession of a man who reinvented it as a station which aired primarily Bible teaching.  The following year, Biblical Ministries Worldwide acquired the station with the purpose of using it to share God's grace and assist church-planting missionaries in the area.

I had, of course, no idea what was going on in 1988 in Provo, Utah.  (Where was Utah, anyway?  Who cares; did you see me ride my bike?!)  But now I can see how the Lord was preparing me for joining the team in Utah, investing in radio ministry which had been so special to me even as a kid.  I love what I do.  I am convinced of its value to the kingdom.  There is nowhere I'd rather be than Provo and KEY Radio.  Well—except for heaven.

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of BMW's operating KEY Radio.  Larger organizations would have banquets and speeches and commemorative Rolex watches distributed to their well-paid employees.  For us, the anniversary arrives with little fanfare.  Unpaid bills sit at the bookkeeping computer; Rolexes are out of the question.

There are a few things we're doing to commemorate the milestone.  For one: airing the intriguing first-hand story of a young man who left his polygamist religion for a relationship with Jesus, largely as a result of listening to KEY Radio.  Listen here and rejoice with us: God is using radio to reach lost souls.  He is good.  His kingdom advances—even in Provo, Utah.

Happy 25th, KEY Radio!  To God be the glory.


On Turning Thirty

"Ah! Women are like cheese strudels. When first baked, they are crisp and fresh on the outside, but the filling is unsettled and indigestible; in age, the crust may not be so lovely, but the filling comes at last into its own."
- Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb

In masks outrageous and austere,
The years go by in single file.
But none has merited my fear,
And none has quite escaped my smile.
- Elinore Wylie, "Now Let No Charitable Hope"



The Grace Awakening

I am stoked about this series now airing on KEY Radio.  Dr. Chuck Swindoll is a marvelous communicator, and this subject matter is life-changing.  I wish every person I know would awaken to God's grace
LDS and Christians alike.  Including myself.

If you can't listen to KEY Radio in Utah, you can listen online anywhere.  Times listed are MST.  Or, listen on-demand and find out more here.

Here's a teaser to get you thinking: what is grace?  And how do we live it?


My Fair and Peculiar City

Provo City recently created this nice 3-minute look at our town.  The city has been going through a re-branding process—new logo, motto, signage, etc.—and this is one result.  There's a little commentary by our esteemed mayor, with whom I have chatted about contact lenses and airline preferences, and have found to be a most pleasant fellow.  It also features some spiffy time-lapse video and shots of favorite local businesses and landmarks.  I dig it, yo.

After watching the video a second time, it hit me: there is something curiously absent from the video.  Remember, this is a city that is about 90% Latter-day Saint (Mormon).  Yet there is no evidence of the religious culture—no shots of the Provo Temple... or Brigham Young University... or the LDS Missionary Training Center... or the ubiquitous LDS chapels.  And the people that show up in the video seem surprisingly non-LDS-ish (I'm going mainly by clothing here).  Indeed, this could be Any Nice City, USA.  The only reference to the LDS Church that I noticed is a passing view of Brigham Young's statue at 2:42.

What's my point?  Like a stubby pencil, I don't have one.  I'm just curious.  Like George.  Was the omission intentional?  Even strategic?  Or am I, an outsider, overly sensitive to the peculiarities of this religion-dominated city?  Maybe I am the only one to think the absence strange.*  Any thoughts?

This wouldn't be the first time I fixate on minutiae nobody else notices.  I pore over the liner notes of CDs and records with a zeal most would reserve for a lost gem.  And if there is one renegade comma in a 500-page book, I will find it.  There are probably support groups for people like me.  Come to think of it, maybe that's why I never get asked on a date.  "Karisa?  Oh, she's the one who will point it out if my shoes are laced asymmetrically.  No thanks.  Cute girl, though."  I know, that last statement is unlikely.  But when I make up other people's remarks, I can jolly well insert a compliment.


The Case of the Upside Down Glass

It's been precisely two years since the single most bizarre discovery of my life.

Late that evening, this is what greeted me when I walked into my kitchen:

When I left that morning, this glass and cookie sheet, along with a bunch of other dishes, had been sitting in the dish drainer on my counter.

Two questions.  How did these things get out of the drainer without disturbing the other dishes?  And how did they happen to perch themselves on the floor in just such an arrangement?

See what I mean?  Bizarre.  If I had found Lyle Lovett doing Yoga in my kitchen, I could not have been more surprised or confounded.

The first thing I did, upon making this discovery?  Laugh: good and hard.  It was just so absurd.

Then it occurred to me that the only logical explanation was that someone had placed these dishes there.  Someone had been in my home.  Someone very much uninvited.

Was the Someone still here?  There was only one way to find out.  With a bread knife in one hand and pepper spray in the other, I cautiously peered into every closet, under beds, anywhere a human body could fit.  All the while, I kept making ridiculous loud announcements like, "I know you're here.  Just give yourself up now, and I won't slash your eyes out."  When in doubt: feign confidence.

Nothing turned up.  I slept that night with a chair wedged under my bedroom doorknob and the knife within reach.  Plenty of other people were far more concerned when they found out.  If you're into Facebook, you can see the original comments here.

In two years, I have yet to think of or hear a decent explanation.  I had my house key with me that whole day.  My landlord had the other copy.  He lives next door and had not noticed anything strange.  My windows were all secured.

I settled on the following story: there were two slight earthquakes (Provo is near a fault line, you know); the precariously balanced cookie sheet fell onto the floor during the first; the glass followed during the second, landing at the exact angle necessary to keep it from shattering or falling over.  Ha.

So it's a mystery.  People often say how they are going to ask the Lord questions when they reach heaven—why He allowed them to get sick or lose a loved one.  I simply want to know: how did the cookie sheet and upside down glass end up on my kitchen floor?  And why couldn't it have been Lyle Lovett instead?

Meanwhile, I rest in the care of a loving, sovereign God.  Cause for fear?  I can't think of any.

Faith is so much better than feigned confidence.