Thursday, August 31, 2006

Off with Her Royal Head

"Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom."
( Psalm 45:6)

"Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
'You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
for You created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.'"

(Revelation 4:9-11)

Before hanging up the phone, even while reluctantly wrapping up the conversation, I knew I would have to attend to wrestling my ego down to the ground. Too many nice things verbalized about me in a row. Not enough balance (or might someone add truth?) to keep the equation from crashing over the edge into the beckoning Land of Narcissus, replete with fun-house mirrors that make me look slender and twenty years younger.

Our egos are sprightly things; they don't take to eternal death well. We can hunt them ruthlessly, flail them with heavy spiked bats, and stomp the stuffing out of them. And yet they rise like a phoenix from the ashes, hardly rumpled and actually looking refreshed. After such a search-and-destroy mission, my impish and undying ego generally greets me bedside in the morning.
"Now, as I was saying...." , she begins, eager to set her beautiful self aright on the throne in the center of the universe. She is already adjusting her crown and rearranging her royal robes as she addresses me.

This phone conversation was really about other things: wallpaper, for example. And also about a really insightful snippet that the person on the other end of the line found in the Bible, and how it was immediately applicable to his (and possibly my) life. I delighted in my friend's rediscovery that
a) it's not all about him
b) his efforts to improve his messed up internal state are futile, and
c) that our infinitely good God blamelessly guards us from danger and destruction (probably mostly from our own selves). See 1 Thess 5:23.
All this was followed by extended sincere compliments directed toward me. Which were totally appropriate, mind you, in that they drove me to self-examination.

As I clean the clutter around the house today, I hope to mirror the same work inside this tent I carry around. Self-examination is a discipline that begs honesty, uncompromising standards, sharp pruning shears, and squinty eyes that can zero in on what lurks in the mud of indifference.

And if Queen Ego gets a little more accustomed to being kicked off her high horse, then I am that much closer to the ultimate goal.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Learning by Trying

A rare and wonderful moment arose last month, in which I actually had nothing to do. Well, not actually nothing, but the dishwasher was churning, the laundry was drying, the kids were occcupied, dinner was marinating, and bread was rising. I listened intently for a moment: the phone wasn't ringing, either. Nice.
Friend #7's library (displayed in Friend #12's bedroom at that time) drew me upstairs. Wedged between familiar classics (Friend #7 has impeccable taste in books and friends...) was an intriguing little volume: Bird by Bird (Some Instructions on Writing and Life) by Anne Lamott. Never heard of her, but it said "National Bestseller". That's gotta mean something, anyway.
I dipped in and was dragged away by great writing. Part writer's guide, part biography, and part late-night comedy, this is the book I didn't know I was missing all this time. Of it, the Seattle Times says,"A gift to all us mortals who write or ever wanted to write...sidesplitting funny, patiently wise and alternately cranky and kind- a reveille to get off our duffs and start writing now, while we still can."
Friend #7 happened to be visiting at the time, (she doesn't live here presently, but her books do) and after complimenting my choice in literature, she whisked this little gem away to hoard it in some closet in Tennessee. The nerve.
But my loss was short-lived. Because I am vocal about my likes and dislikes, and maybe also because she was tired of my whining, Friend #12 lovingly found a used copy online and had it delivered to me. By the way, both of these friends give me presents. Life is full of give-and-take, and that's just the way this one worked out.

Why am I telling this story?

Because I am all revved up about learning to write, and write well. Okay, at least better.
When I started an online journal last February, it was all about Winter Therapy -those in the North Country will nod their heads at this last line- but it has morphed into something else. I have really really enjoyed writing this humble blog. Upon its electronically-lit leaves, I've tried my hand at musing, waxing poetic, trying to entertain, ranting, teaching, reminiscing and pontificating. Oh, and illustrating with pictures because no one likes a book without those. As I stated in my very first entry, the toughest task for me would be finding my voice, and I'm still fishing around for it.

So for all you kind people out there still electronically checking in with me, thanks. It means a lot to me, your tolerance for my bumbling around, messing with words, and shooting for pie-in-the-sky literary eloquence.

Ben Jonson said it well: "Who casts to write a living line, must sweat."
Someone else very wise said: "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."
And lastly, I always quote the old adage: "Horses sweat, men perspire, but women glow."

So excuse the glowing, and thanks for being patient. We all know God isn't finished with me yet.

Monday, August 28, 2006

from garden, to porch swing, to plate

It was a wonderful treat to turn picture #1 into picture #2 today. Arugula is too pungent and adventurous for the rest of the clan, so I get it all to myself. I added chopped basil, fresh carrot, cuke, roma tomato, chopped egg, Oscar's bacon, and grated parmesan. Topped the whole beautiful thing with Newman's Own Sun-Dried Tomato, and had myself lunch.

So, I'm a tiny bit obsessive about salad.
But I'm no snob: McDonald's Asian Chicken Salad is 4-star in my book.

Someday I'll write a salad cookbook.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

the crunch of the driveway

ah, the crunch of the driveway
the swing of ghostly headlight through grass and over barn
the dry ivy crumbling over wire frame on the window sill
the toppling stack
slippery mail
the wink
wink of phone messages,
strewn clothing that didn't make the final packing-cut,
and unmade Sunday morning bedding, circa pre-vacation
( a different person was I back then, so very two-dimensional.
knowing faraway places only via brochures!)

ah, the empty fridge
the half-drunk-up carton of (now dubiously drinkable) milk
the shriveled kitchen fruit of summer
the surely-bursting garden tomato on midnight vine

all these crowd to greet me
from my brimful-cup of journey so fine.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


When the Little Darlings were mere babes, the days were full of humble lists. These I attended to with gusto and sweet intent, accompanied by nursery rhymes and Sunday School songs. But one day, I felt an emptiness in my chest that took a number of quiet mornings to define. And with two rambuncious toddlers and two teenagers to tend to, these don't come every day.

I needed the sea.
The glorious sea: that wide expanse of gray-green, the punch of salt air, the elusive sand that carves castles beneath my toes: the whole nine yards. Yessir, that's the ticket, I pose convincingly to Hubby.
"All well & good, dear, but the sea lies a five hour drive east of us."

So we plan a Cape Cod vacation and I begin checking off the days. I remember my family's curious delight in my wild dash over the dunes and unrestrained joy as I plunged into the frigid waves. Basically, they thought I was nuts. After all, I was MOM and as such, needed to show a bit of restraint and proper decorum.

Yeterday we completed a ludicrously long loop of the Outer Banks to visit my "little" brother and his wife. They are the proud new owners of the Cape Pines Motel in Buxton, North Carolina. It was totally worth the gas money. We ate grilled pizza, seafood, and peaches. We played with Twiggy (adopted greyhound) and Heidi (bulldog puppy). We invaded two motel rooms, no charge, thankyouverymuch. We saw the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, very pretty. But before we left, WE VISITED THE SEA.

For all who need to know, Mom continues to defy the laws of Restriant & Proper Decorum. At least when it comes to the sea.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Agenda, plain & simple

1. drive to metro station
2. insert ticket and board the proper train
3. jump off at the zoo
4. play with animals
5. walk back to metro
6. zip over to the National Mall
7. run to the National Gallery for one glorious hour
8. sip an iced tea, fountain-side
9. jump on the metro
10. exit train where car is parked
11. wiggle through rush hour traffic
12. hang out with the fam for the rest of the evening
13. post some pics with the desire to be a bit more poetic.
(if only to please Mr. Mix from Kenosha...)

Observed in the L.O.C.

At times, I think that I show way too much enthusiasm. Heart on sleeve stuff, you know. Keeping a running commentary of "this is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE
a. piece of art
b. garden
c. exhibit
d. resturant

(and so on) is a sure-fire way to tire my family out.

Yesterday, in the hallowed Great Hall of the Library of Congress, I soberly observed a lady and her husband for a few minutes. He stood back placidly, mildly allowing her to take in the stunning views. She stood gazing upward, her cane dangling awkwardly at her side.
"'s so beautiful. So beautiful..."
That is all she kept saying, softly over and over to herself. Her voice quavered with emotion and tears spilled down her cheeks. She was trembling. A bystander with less tolerance for such a display would suggest she pull it together, but not I. I loved her for her show of appreciation for (yes) my favorite building IN THE WORLD.
I noticed Friend #12 observing this over-the-top display.
"See that lady?" I inquired. She nodded wordlessly.
"I know how she feels."
Yeah. I know how she feels.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

road trippin'

I depart tomorrow afternoon for a happy weekend.

The Catskill Mountains will keep me company, crowding the skyline outside my hotel window. Rehearsals in an acoustically perfect old church, dinner in a new bistro, walks down a trendy Main Street, and beautiful melodies will be my lot for the next few days. I will meet some interesting people and reunite with others of a musical kindred spirit. My trusty red carriage will take me down the slopes for more pleasant socializing while I'm "in the neighborhood". Somewhere along the way I will actually have to work, but it won't feel like work. (I've read the scores, and let's just say I'll be doing a heap of counting in between notes.) Mahler and I will get more acquainted in the process though, and he's worth getting to know.

Meanwhile, the Fam will be mowing lawns, cleaning out the fridge, and packing for our vacation. Friend #12 will join us for the whole week in D.C.-Land, where we will do all kind of fun things. We will wedge in a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, too. Oh joy, joy, joy.

Although I may be internet-challenged, my battered journal will be on hand to log interesting events and quirky thoughts, which I will stir together then simmer on the back burner. It may boil down to an unusual burgoo when all is said and done.

See? I'm even at the stove when on vacation.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Rescue Mission

"When we were utterly helpless with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners who had no use for him. Even if we were good, we wouldn't really expect anyone to die for us, though, of course, that might be barely possible. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."

(Romans 5:6-8, The Living Bible)

Utterly helpless was I
all thrash and quiver with self-rescue
while astride the crumbling lip of tomorrow's chasm,
teeter-footed with pre-plunging fear.

The wide mouth of Leviathan gaped for me
as the rip-tide of ocean
snatched at my shirttail
and shoelaces
and teeth.
(prying my fingers, it was.)

Timing is everything,
mused God
while the rocks were nursing-young
and unnamed animals teemed, slithered, and flew.

from the vaulted sky shot Jesus
faster than a speeding bullet straight to the cross
(or so it seemed to me
as I threw my last vestige of dignity, sanity
and balance into the icy blast.)

At the right time
(my last stab at goodness a whimpering failure)
He grabbed me
as I fell shuddering with death throes
while spewing I'm fine.

Yet utterly helpless was I
shorn of all worth saving.

"Amazing Love, how can it be
that Thou my Lord, should'st die for me?" (Charles Wesley)

Monday, August 14, 2006

wisdom for sale

Like apples of gold in settings of silver
Is a word spoken in right circumstances.
Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
Is a wise reprover to a listening ear.

Proverbs 25: 11-12

Because we are usually surrounded with a gang of children, I don't have many uninterrupted conversations with Friend #21. The scarcity of a thing tends to increase its value, which is indeed the case with heart-to-heart talks with this dear friend. So if it takes a getaway in a large van (destination: mall) , I'm in.

To the casual observer, the spoils of the day may look like the bulging shopping bags I dragged through the mudroom door. But if you ask me, I would tell you the real treasure I bagged today, none of it displayed under any "clearance" sign: apples, earrings, and ornaments. All gold.

Thanks, Friend #21.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Sweet, Sour, and Hot

Never mind beads, baubles, or bangles.
For my money, bring me pickles.

Yesterday I raided our humble garden plot with a gleam in my eye. A basket of bell peppers, jalepenos, and plump cukes were scrubbed, sliced and diced. Sweet onion, garlic, and oregano were prepped. Pots were set a-boil. Jars, lids, and screw-tops were scrutinized and assembled. Fumes of vinegar filled the air. Like a surgeon, I sanitized the kitchen: sinks, countertops, stovetop, utensils. A tidy stack of clean dishtowels stood ready at my elbow. All this trouble to embalm vegetables? You betcha.

Whenever my eye catches the mellow glow of green glass on the pantry shelve, I will be happy for a summer morning like this one.

Friday, August 11, 2006

the Rest-Giver

You chart the path ahead of me
and tell me where to stop and rest.

Psalm 139:3a (New Living Translation)

Rest is spontaneous.
Last evening on the spur of the moment, I had to run to town to deliver a check and took #1 Son along. He was happy for new scenery on which to try out a new camera, and I was happy to grab a chance to kayak around Ives Park. The evening was cool and breezy, full to the brim of green grass, pink and purple wisps along the skyline, and inky pools of stark shadow spilling from legs, arms, benches, and shrubbery.

Rest is necessary.
An action-packed week was behind me. It was memorable, stupendous, exhilarating, hilarious, emotional, and full of food prep and dirty dishes. Yes, all those wonderful things. But it was not restful, I don't think. As I dip my paddle in the brown water, my heart lifts for the nth time as I wiggle the soggy bank out from underneath me. My little craft is transported to the world of bouyancy and now the river is mine.

Rest is a gift.
The riverbanks are rife with batches of water-flora. A sprinkling of adventurous maples have staked their claim on island strips, lending the first red of autumn to the eye. Fingers of evening sun stretch through cattails and grasses and etch a rim of gold around bushels of willow groves. I drink it in hungrily, imagining that God appreciates how much I appreciate Him.

I take to rest like a beggar takes to stew.
And I'm always up for seconds, if offered.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

retro decor

Have we had enough of wallpapering yet this summer?
Evidently not.
I must add: the stand-up comedy at this home is unbeatable.

check out my new pics.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

my kids are home-teached

Here's a word that chills my blood: curriculum.

Any homeschooling mom worth her IHIPs knows what I'm talkin' 'bout. These are forms that homeschooler's need to file with their local school district which outline proposed curriculum for the upcoming academic year. They are pinned efficiently on our kitchen corkboard, where they have flapped in summer breezes since I received them on Academy Night in June. Untouched by human hand.

They were due last month.

Doesn't anyone appreciate inspiration anymore? Seriously, folks. I was waiting for it. So it shouldn't have surpised me when, pen in hand, poised over my journal ready to take life-altering notes on Sunday's sermon, it finally struck me: THE MIDDLE EAST. I looked around to see if anyone was distracted by the light bulb glowing over my head. Nope. Their eyes were glued pulpitward, as they should've been. I, on the other hand, was furiously scribbling. Inspiration is not something to be frittered away.

What I don't know about the Middle East could fill the local Home Depot. and Howe's Caverns. And we all have to admit, that's a bad thing. When I take in the latest news about Israel and Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iraq, religious sects etc., I shake my head. How do I pray, Lord? Do I pray for an immediate cease-fire, like the rest of the world? Or do I side with Condi and the President? And what are they thinking, anyway? Just who are these Hezbollah guys, and why don't the good Lebanese people order them out? This uninformed reasoning compares to my logic when watching a football game: Don't hurt each other, for goodness sake! Just forgiddaboudit. Let's hand over that clumsy ball and all go out for pizza."

We learn a lot together, the kids and I. (Dad, too.) It is high time to dig in and do some learning about a place Jesus instructed us to love and pray for.
With the help of Barnes & Noble, CBD, and required reading lists on Ivy League college websites, I am formulating a plan:
1. one or two serious tomes on Middle Eastern history (from Bible times to present)
2. a dose of historical fiction, biographies, and contemporary novels.
3. a smattering of classic Eastern literature (think A Thousand and One Nights)
4. the history of the formation of the modern Israel.
5. recipes, music, dance, drama, and other examples of ME culture.
6. Walk through the Bible DVDs with Bruce Feiler.
7. mapwork
8. a book on how a Christian can befriend an Arab. (way cool.)
9. interviews with friends that have lived in the Middle East, a few dinners with international students, visits with missionaries from Turkey, YOU GET THE IDEA.

On a completely different note, we heard from a lady that once lived in our 1830 farmhouse. She insists that it was on the Underground Railroad route. (We are only 15 miles from the Canadian border.) The mysterious door in the attic that leads to "nowhere" is part of her evidence. This whole concept, based on family legend, intrigues us greatly. So I found a website that will help us start the research. HOW COOL IS THAT? Even if the Hull Homeschool Academy decides (after much research) that these claims were unfounded, think of all will learn about This Old House.


When we get it all together, I will sleep better. And when I am all excited about something, I hit the caps-bar. Sorry for all the yelling.

Homeschooling is the best.

Monday, August 07, 2006

she goes "home"

tomorrow morning, she leaves us.

car packed to the hilt
basil plant in the back seat
backpacks overstuffed with favorite books
once left behind
making this place a little less home
(or so I lament).

she heads for O-Hi-O first
then to Tennessee.
who can can call a state like "Tennessee" home?
that's not home.

here is home
where we'll be waiting for her
when she is done getting smart.

there's some letting go to be done here,
I know.
I'll get right on it, too.

but not tonight,

Hay there

I was seriously sidetracked yesterday afternoon by an allergy attack. A hive of furious retaliatory bees had lodged in my head, invading the cracks of my nasal passages and pinning me helplessly to a box of kleenex. Conversation was sporadic, being held up for wild bouts of sneezing (yelling, really), blowing (honking), and the wait. You know the wait: an index finger held quaveringly, signaling the coming onslaught. Such violence. And all for innocent hay-dust from farm machinery in the neighboring meadow.

Retreating to my bedroom, I shut the world out in order to concentrate on my bees. If I was allowed to lie perfectly still, breathe deeply, find my center and think "out, bees", I could perhaps return to our happy company watching NASCAR in the air-conditioned family room. I am not making this up. I hate NASCAR, but that's really what I longed to do.

The end of this story: I medicated myself and went to bed early. This morning I feel one hundred percent better, although my head feels stunned and achy from one hundred sneezes.
I need to shore myself up though, because this Old Mother Hubbard needs to take stock of the empty cupboards and visit the grocery store.

I like to end my posts with a punch line called a stinger. But forgive my omission today, on account of my recovery from certain bees.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sunday meal

Fourteen places were set at the table,
(the table that was fashioned from attic floorboards
that fugitive slaves once, shivering or sweating, slept on
while awaiting the last leg of their journey north).

Fourteen places:

one for a cowboy
who chased escaped mules at four o'clock this morning
while wearing only a bathrobe and a cowboy hat.

one for his wife
who brings along puppy
to mop my kitchen floor with
moppy floppy paws.

one for a their handsome son
who helps with the farm
and races thunder cars.

one for their younger son
who loves Star Wars
and has a freckly crinkly smile for me.

one for Lowly (of Friend #7 fame)
and one for her quippy dad
whom we love.

one for brother
brave of heart
and gregarious.

one for Gentleman #1,
one for Gentleman #2,
both visitors no more
only now friends we love.

one for Friend #12
quietly taking it all in.

the rest for the Four of Us.

Fourteen places were set at the table
and now the dishes are done!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

a mean, (lean,) gleaning machine

"You can try that patch up there on the hill," he waved as he straightened from weeding the beets.
"Although they are a bit past season, you could also look at the row between the strawberries. You might just hunt up a few if you look hard enough. Oh, and--no charge. You'll have worked hard enough for them!"

Gleaning for raspberries on a Saturday. Being game for most of my schemes, Friend #12 joined me this glinty August morning at the Martin's farm. Indeed, our family has a towering row of raspberry cane, but they are late-summer bearing and I simply cannot wait any longer for a bowl of berries fit for a king. An hour later, we come away triumphant with over two quarts of royal fruit won by our juice-stained fingers under the morning sun. We decided to pick purple beans and lettuce, too. A once-over of the produce shed gave us tomatoes, summer squash and a fistful of green onions. It was the most invigorating grocery-shopping I have done all summer.

Such a pleasing farm! The tidy grounds exude the honest smell of dirt and grass.Rows of greens, beet-tops, purple beans, carrots, and herbs are tended by gentle people accompanied by the tunes of rowdy children in overalls, family pets, and a toy piano being accosted by toddlers on the farmhouse porch. Those sounds, mixed with the saw of cicada, rasp of cricket, and chirrup of swallow left me exuberantly content.

"I am in love with the world today. And everyone in it." I proclaim to my picking-partner as I eat a bean and survey the rolling landscape. (She regularly puts up with outrageously inclusive statements from the author of this here blog.) What a wonderful world this is, where sights, sounds, smells, and raspberries are free for the gathering!

Would to God that each day I would arise ready to glean.

Friday, August 04, 2006

my kind of day

First things first: rising early enough to watch the mist lift from the meadow lends me a thousand reasons for a long walk. Two deer ventured across the road on dainty stick-legs, leaving dew-laden boughs of brush waving lazily in their wake. With all the crackle and noise of yesterday's doings behind me, I push myself into a quicker pace. Quiet resides over the next rise, among the maple trees on the crest of the hill, in the cool, and I'm going there. Unfortunately, the deer flies reside there too, and they shatter the tranquility of otherwise perfect morning jaunts.

We are loading two green canoes onto a rusty red trailer. A camper's lunch (PBJ on wheat, grapes, and soda) is stuffed into a blue cooler. A green truck follows a yellow-striped road to a blue lake, loaded with six colorful people. Green and brown frogs will spring from yellow grass as our red faces hoist the green canoes onto woodsy brown dirt. An orange sun covers us all.

August fourth in the North Country.
Hallelujah and pass the bug-spray.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

and again....

One more entry regarding giving; excuse the fixation.

It begins with that inner nudge, a niggling idea that refuses to be shrugged. When watered by thought, it grows into something more: an invite to dinner, an offer of prayer, a sprung-out-of-nowhere phone call or any such thoughtful thing.

The call to give.

Allow me to present again that snatch of heavenly advice from the Apostle Paul:
"Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase your harvest for righteousness;
you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God." (2 Cor 9:11-12)

I've been given seed and bread galore, and as for being "enriched", Bill Gates ain't got nothin' over me. I'm feeling rich today. Dripping rich.

A breezy hot morning calls me out of the quiet house for a stroll with someone dear. Friend #7 is here from Tennessee, along with two gentle gentlemen with the kindredest of spirits. She blesses my life with friendship of the true kind, of which I wouldn't blame the angels for being jealous. When I consider the things I have "given" to her, they seem so small in the face of what she has brought to me and my family. I've tried to express this without being poetic, but I don't believe it can be done.

So dear reader, if you want to join the equation, you may. Just produce thanksgiving to God and we can call Apostle Paul's instructions a wrap-up once again.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

the power to give

Since there is more to be said about giving, consider today's post Part II.

Without having met Bill and Melinda Gates, I can assert this: I would like them because they give. No one is gonna knock the Gates's for selfishness. Their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose aim is to provide lifesaving health care products and technology for the poorest parts of the world, has an endowment of US 29.2 billion. Billion, that is. According to the latest estimations, that would dole out almost 5 bucks to every human being alive worldwide.

Of course, Bill and Melinda didn't accumulate that kind of cash by being so willy-nilly; they are savvy investors. Savviest of the savvy, really -which is demonstrated by the way they go about their business. Exactly two years from today, Bill officially "retires" from Microsoft in order to devote himself fulltime to the foundation. This example of dedication inspired the second richest person in the entire world to send in his pledge. Whadda deal. On June 25, 2006, Warren Buffett arranged for 10 million Berkshire shares (worth over US 30.7 billion) to be given over multiple years in annual contributions. (that's another crisp Lincoln per person, thank you...) He set down the conditions as follows:
"Buffett's gift came with three conditions for the Gates Foundation:
Bill or Melinda Gates must be alive and active in its administration;
it must continue to qualify as a charity;
and each year it must give away an amount equal to the previous year's Berkshire gift, plus another 5% of net assets."

We're talking college scholarships, AIDS prevention, diseases that strike mainly in the Third World, and other worthy causes. I am not throwing a blanket of approval over all the Gates's endeavors; some recipients of their help are not ones I commend (namely Planned Parenthood and the US Population Fund) but this is not the moment to criticize. Let it be enough to point out that the three wealthiest people on the face of the planet seem to have outdone us all in the Giving Department.

All this giving should make our heads spin. And it does. Let me take your spinning head and point it in this direction:

"And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.
And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.
And calling His disciples to Him, he said to them, 'Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury.;
for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, and all she had to live on." (Mark 12:41-44)

Ah, the wisdom of Jesus. He reposes on the dusty ground across from the offering bucket, just to watch. His disciples were busying themselves elsewhere, as Jesus has to call them over when He finds what He was looking for. He bowls them over with His wacky statement:
"Look who gave the most!"
"What, Lord? Not that old widow! We didn't even hear the jingle of gold when she hobbled past."
"Let me explain..."

You and I have the power to give, and give big. We don't need endowments, appointments at the top of powerful companies, or investment banker's advice. The power to give lies in our hand, be we rich or destitute. As a child, I used to picture this old woman sighing as she reluctantly squeezed those few thin coins through the offering slot. But now? I see an eager face, lit from within with the joy that comes from sacrifice. I believe that was the countenance that compelled Jesus to rally His disciples together: Check this out. This is the real deal. This is giving.

Watch out Bill and Melinda. And Warren. We're about to pass you.
And we have small copper coins in our hands.