Monday, May 31, 2010


Sleep tight tonight -- you are safe.

In our family we call Papa Joe -- Captain Safety.
It all started at Chenoweth Elementary School where he was made a lieutenant of the Safety Patrol.
In fourth grade when he slipped into that sash with the badge on it he took on the mantle of ultimate responsibility and he feels it to today. We never have to worry about the bad guys or imminent danger. The Captain is ready to spring into action at the slightest indication of threat.
We all just accept that he on duty and we are safe.
What a luxury in a surprise a minute world. It leaves the rest of the family free to explore and celebrate.
He may not be the guy with the lampshade on his head at the party but we are that smiling family in the corner. We're free to have FUN because we know we are


Friday, May 28, 2010

"Suds of Love"

Have you ever had to use a Laundromat? I don't mean to wash something that you don't want to wash in your own washing machine -- I mean have you ever HAD to use a Laundromat?

When I was a child bride we had no insurance, home of our own, car for me or a washing machine. I remember going to the Laundromat and pouring a small fortune into those machines to get our clothes clean.
No one goes to the Laundromat for the joyful experience they go because they are needy.
Today I discovered a group called "Suds of Love".
Once a month they go to a local Laundromat armed with rolls of their own quarters, laundry detergent, softener and treat everybody there to free washes and dries.
Their kids are "quarter jockeys" and get to feed those hungry machines while the moms help fold the dried clothes.
This party has evolved into snacks for all and games for the kids. Last month someone was led to bring "take home bags" with a muffin and a juice box for the next day's breakfast.
Don’t you love the simplicity of it?

A need – a blessing – no meetings – no administrative staff – stereotypes flying out the window – friendships being made – laughter – an impromptu party.

What Kind of Church Do You Want to Belong to?

One of the "characters"  Papa Joe and I had the chance to spend some time with in Philadelphia is Tony Campola.  He and our friend Jim Sweet started the school in the projects that Joe and I served. Tony, who grew up in inner city Philadelphia, is a professor of sociology at Eastern College in St. Davids, PA
This is one of the stories he tells............

A few years ago Tony flew to Hawaii to speak at a conference. The way he tells it, he checks into his hotel and tries to get some sleep. Unfortunately, his internal clock wakes him at 3:00 a.m. The night is dark, the streets are silent, the world is asleep, but Tony is wide awake and his stomach is growling.
He gets up and prowls the streets looking for a place to get some bacon and eggs for an early breakfast. Everything is closed except for a grungy dive in an alley. He goes in and sits down at the counter. The fat guy behind the counter comes over and asks, "What d'ya want?"
Well, Tony isn't so hungry anymore so eying some donuts under a plastic cover he says, "I'll have a donut and black coffee."
As he sits there munching on his donut and sipping his coffee at 3:30, in walk eight or nine provocative, loud prostitutes just finished with their night's work. They plop down at the counter and Tony finds himself uncomfortably surrounded by this group of smoking, swearing hookers. He gulps his coffee, planning to make a quick getaway. Then the woman next to him says to her friend, "You know what? Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm gonna be 39." To which her friend nastily replies, "So what d'ya want from me? A birthday party? Huh? You want me to get a cake, and sing happy birthday to you?"
The first woman says, "Aw, come on, why do you have to be so mean? Why do you have to put me down? I'm just sayin' it's my birthday. I don't want anything from you. I mean, why should I have a birthday party? I've never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?"
Well, when Tony Campolo heard that, he said he made a decision. He sat and waited until the women left, and then he asked the fat guy at the counter, "Do they come in here every night?"
"Yeah," he answered.
"The one right next to me," he asked, "she comes in every night?"
"Yeah," he said, "that's Agnes. Yeah, she's here every night. She's been comin' here for years. Why do you want to know?"
"Because she just said that tomorrow is her birthday. What do you think? Do you think we could maybe throw a little birthday party for her right here in the diner?"
A cute kind of smile crept over the fat man's chubby cheeks. "That's great," he says, "yeah, that's great. I like it." He turns to the kitchen and shouts to his wife, "Hey, come on out here. This guy's got a great idea. Tomorrow is Agnes' birthday and he wants to throw a party for her right here."
His wife comes out. "That's terrific," she says. "You know, Agnes is really nice. She's always trying to help other people and nobody does anything nice for her."
So they make their plans. Tony says he'll be back at 2:30 the next morning with some decorations and the man, whose name turns out to be Harry, says he'll make a cake.
At 2:30 the next morning, Tony is back. He has crepe paper and other decorations and a sign made of big pieces of cardboard that says, "Happy Birthday, Agnes!" They decorate the place from one end to the other and get it looking great. Harry had gotten the word out on the streets about the party and by 3:15 it seemed that every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. There were hookers wall to wall.
At 3:30 on the dot, the door swings open and in walks Agnes and her friend. Tony has everybody ready. They all shout and scream "Happy Birthday, Agnes!" Agnes is absolutely flabbergasted. She's stunned, her mouth falls open, her knees started to buckle, and she almost falls over.
And when the birthday cake with all the candles is carried out, that's when she totally loses it. Now she's sobbing and crying. Harry, who's not used to seeing a prostitute cry, gruffly mumbles, "Blow out the candles, Agnes. Cut the cake."
So she pulls herself together and blows them out. Everyone cheers and yells, "Cut the cake, Agnes, cut the cake!"
But Agnes looks down at the cake and, without taking her eyes off it, slowly and softly says, "Look, Harry, is it all right with you if...I mean, if I don't...I mean, what I want to ask, is it OK if I keep the cake a little while? Is it all right if we don't eat it right away?"
Harry doesn't know what to say so he shrugs and says, "Sure, if that's what you want to do. Keep the cake. Take it home if you want."
"Oh, could I?" she asks. Looking at Tony she says, "I live just down the street a couple of doors; I want to take the cake home, is that okay? I'll be right back, honest."
She gets off her stool, picks up the cake, and carries it high in front of her like it was the Holy Grail. Everybody watches in stunned silence and when the door closes behind her, nobody seems to know what to do. They look at each other. They look at Tony.
So Tony gets up on a chair and says, "What do you say that we pray together?"
And there they are in a hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon, half the prostitutes in Honolulu, at 3:30 a.m. listening to Tony Campolo as he prays for Agnes, for her life and her health. Tony recalls, "I prayed that her life would be changed, and that God would be good to her."
When he's finished, Harry leans over, and with a trace of hostility in his voice, he says, "Hey, you never told me you was a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to anyway?"
In one of those moments when just the right words came, Tony answers him quietly, "I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning."
Harry thinks for a moment, and in a mocking way says, "No you don't. There ain't no church like that. If there was, I'd join it. Yep, I'd join a church like that."
"What kind of church do you belong to anyway?"

Thursday, May 27, 2010

You Can Do Anything -- For 15 Minutes

My girlfriend Eleanor's Mother died last week. She was the embodiment of a fine genteel southern woman. The kind they don't seem to make anymore.

She didn't lose her demeanor when times were trying and she wasn't the focus of her world.
In the absence of her demands her every need was graciously meet by her adoring family. When Eleanor asked how she was so brave she said, "You can do anything for 15 minutes."
Being a widow, having pancreatic cancer and all of the daily trials never robbed her of ... well 'her'.
Wow, when I think of the time I've wasted looking way down the road imagining every imaginable pit hole, most of which never happened, I realize the 15 minute plan is the way she wrung out every drop of joy in this life.
Lesson observed – lesson learned.

Luke 12
Do Not Worry
Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life...
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Get Out!

My father loved summer and his tradition was to set up a circle of lawn chairs in the front yard after dinner. He would make himself comfortable with the news paper, a portable phone, a big glass of iced water and wait for the party to begin. Within minutes those chairs would fill up with neighbors out for their evening walks. Mom would work the kitchen and bring visitors a bowl of ice cream or a cold coke in a bottle or whatever the Lord of the Lawn deemed they needed. Small talk reigned.

I often thought it would be fun to do one of those timed videos to see all of the seats fill, empty and fill again over the period of one night.
If the sun was setting and the folks were still coming by Daddy would instruct June Cleaver (aka Loie) to bring out a floor lamp (with several extension cords -- can you see it?).
Papa Joe and I love it when we amble out on the front yard to tend the ducks and neighbors walking from the duck pond stop by to say "Hello".
Last night two little girls who are regulars brought their dad. Katie (9) and Cece (3) each got a scoop of feed for the duck bowls while Katie informed us she no longer wants to be a Paleontologist but a Marine Biologist.
We discovered goose eggs under the saw grass and the world was a fascinating place seen through their eyes.
We've decided to make our own circle of chairs and the heck with a tasteful front lawn for the summer. Stop by if you are in the neighborhood!

Doesn't live here.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pot Lucky

As I've said before -- Hosting a once a month neighborhood pot luck is one of the best things we've done to connect us to our neighbors in a meaningful way.

It began as  a way to live out Jesus' command to "love your neighbor -- as yourself" but like most of God's rules there is a surprising reward in complying.
Last week at the beach the Big Sister Girls asked me to break out the steps in starting neighborhood pot luck.
Here it is:
For the first few months I delivered a notice to each neighbor's home stating the day of the week -- time (start and end) . We provide a main dish and water to drink. We encourage BYOB (bring your own beverage) to keep cost down and allow folks to drink their preference.
Each month we asked for E-mail addresses (gave mine) on the invite so we could build a list. Now all we do is send out an E-mail notice to the group.
We host it the second Thursday at 6:00 (if you want to have a drink before dinner) and give the blessing at 6:30. We like to have it during the week to insure that it won't be a late night. We meet September --- May.
I bought a big new garbage can and use it only for the pot lucks. Inside the can I store heavy plastic ware that can be reused, large garbage can liners, melamine plates I found 75% off after the summer, Costco large paper napkins, name tags (a must if you want to have people mix and meet), small disposable clear plastic cups for wine and large plastic disposable cups for water. I keep all of the supplies in the can and store it in the shed – ready to pull out the day of the dinner.

I bought about 12 large spoons at the restaurant supply and put out: pot holders, a spatula, several cutting knives and salad tongs. These are flung on the counter.

Joe and I set up tables all over the place and in our small house it is amazing how much seated space we can make.

Joe brings home a bag of ice for the ice holder and we set the drinks station up on the porch. It gets people to spread out and not all congregate in the kitchen.
Joe and I go over the needs and concerns in the neighbor's lives and he mentions them when we all hold hands and say the blessing.
I make an inexpensive main dish like turkey meat loaf or teriyaki chicken legs and try to keep the cost under $20.00 so Joe doesn't feel like I'm a one girl "Feed the Nations" operation.
Once people get here we just let it go and act like company.
People are great to pitch in and help stack the dishes after dinner. Clean up takes about 20 minutes.
The quality of the food has improved with each month. I suspect there is a little competition going on.  The size of the group has increased too.  I imagine folks wanted to wait awhile to make sure it was going to be regular and not boring. 
We encourage others to invite people we don't know.
The mailman Reggie comes all the way back across town to come each month.
We have gotten back so much more than we've invested! We thought we were doing this big sacrificial service but in reality we have received the gift of family and memories that will enrich our life forever.
This is the recipe for one of last night's "hits"
Vidalia Onion Pie (courtesy of Paula Deen)

3 cups thinly sliced vidalia onion
3 T butter melted
one 9 inch prebaked deep dish pie shell
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup sour cream
1teasp salt
2eggs beaten
3T all purpose flour
4 slices bacon crisply cooked and crumbled

preheat over to 325. Saute' onion in butter until lightly browned. Spoon into pie shell. Combine milk, sour cream, salt, eggs and flour. Mix well and pour over onion mixture. Garnish with bacon. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm in center. Pie has taste and texture of a quiche.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Will You Pray Me?

Yesterday my friend Mary called to let me know her cousin is very ill and suffering from extreme pain. All I knew to do was offer to come and pray for her.
Mary explained that Christine is not a exclusively a believer in Jesus . I totally understand but in these situations all I know to do is pray or cook and her cousin has nausea so -- there you go.
I asked Mary to put my offer out there.
Mary called me back and said her cousin would like for me to come.
It made me teary to think of the humility in Christine's request. She was so quiet and dear as we prayed. I know those prayers were delivered.
I had dashed off some scriptures on praying for the sick and read them before we began.

James 5

The Prayer of Faith

13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.

It was a blessing for me to be asked to pray and it got me to thinking -- do I often humble myself and give the blessing of asking someone to pray for me?

Today on my walk home with our dog I saw this lovely woman sitting on a bench near our front yard at the Duck Pond. She was reading her Bible and after we said "Hello" I asked her if she is a praying woman.
"Yes" she said and I asked her if she could pray for my Daughter in Law's mother who is having emergency surgery today.
She was delighted and I could tell she is a woman of her word -- and God's word too.
As I was preparing lunch for a friend I saw my pray-er still perched on the bench so I shuttled out a glass of the iced chai tea I'd prepared.
We exchanged names and as I was getting ready to head back to my kitchen another of our Pond Pals rolled up on their bikes.
 This was the couple who generously adopted (on the spot) one of the kittens left to die under a trash can at the park last winter.
Introductions were made and more tea was shuttled.
It was a  regular love fest!
We each departed feeling like the world is full of good folks no matter what FOX news has to report tonight.
All because of the simple act of asking - would you pray for me?
Thank you Christine.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What Cost Beauty?


When you are a freckly little girl and the whole world is full of Cheryl Tiegs look a likes the desire to be your version of beautiful can drive you to desperate measures.
Now that I'm in my 60s I see some things never change.
Last week at the beach the "Big Sister Girls' had plenty of conversations about lotions, potions, and the loss of our youthful beauty.
From the drug store to Canyon Ranch we have spent our pin money on the hope of turning back the clock.
Truth be told we all still look like we are just about on the conveyer belt of life in the same condition we would have been without the "cures".
I am reminded of my desperate measure to erase the freckles.
My cousins told me of a secret they had read in a magazine. Guaranteed to work. Cow manure.
Lucky me -- Mommy and Poppie Sumner lived on a farm. I had full access to the magic potion.
Imagine my surprise ( and my cousin's halarious laughter) after one very fragrant night of restless sleep when I looked in Poppie's shaving mirror and I still looked like me. Freckles and all.
It's still the same old story.

I Peter 3
3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gone Fishing

Today I head out to the beach (Winter's Past) for a week with girlfriends from my Philadelphia Bible study. It is an annual fling and is a real vacation with seven women who all know how to cook -- pick up -- nurture -- listen -- tell a tale -- share wisdom -- and laugh.

I'll be back on the 18th.