“Awake, O Sleeper”


I grew up in a liturgical church. I’m not there now, but I have fond memories – one of which I’m sharing today.

Our congregation went through an abrupt transition from a perpetually smiling, always gentle shepherd to a vacancy pastor who had missed his Marine drill sergeant calling. I’ve noticed that people in nondenominational churches don’t put up with such things. They just leave if the pastor doesn’t suit them or if the preaching gets too hot. But in the church of my youth, we hung in there by our fingernails for the sake of denominational loyalty.

We couldn’t do without our pipe organ, and our elderly organist thought we couldn’t do without her, either. Mrs. Leidenfeist must have been installed along with the pipes seventy years before. Her possessiveness of her organist position had increased proportionately with the percentage of clinker notes we now endured each Sunday. She fussed if anybody else ever touched the keys, and she never took a vacation for fear of finding a permanent replacement on her bench when she returned. The elder board, not knowing how to turn her out to pasture without devastating her tender sensibilities, piously reminded complainers that forbearance was a virtue.

One summer Sunday, it all came to a head. Keeping the congregation alert in a sanctuary with no air conditioning was a challenge for the pastor, but he excelled at strategically punctuating his sermon points with thunderous emphasis, so most of us kept our eyelids up. Still, it must have been unbearably hot in the choir loft, where the organ and Mrs. Leidenfeist resided. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have had a hard time keeping awake up there.

The sermon finally ground to a conclusion, and ending the service required just a little more liturgical dialogue between congregation and pulpit.

“Let us pray,” intoned our pastor.

We all waited for our organ cue to respond in song. Deafening silence lingered for an eternal twenty seconds, while the pastor shifted impatiently from foot to foot. Every child, parent, and granny in the building was dying to turn around and check out what had gone haywire in the balcony, but the mamas of our denomination had drilled into their children for ten generations past that looking behind us or laughing in church would net us ten thousand years in purgatory – and we didn’t even subscribe to that doctrine!

“I SAID, ‘Let us pray!!!’” the pastor shouted, as he glared towards the choir loft.

The organ lady hit the keys with a full body slam, at the same time tromping down hard on the volume pedal. I know the Bible says the resurrection of the dead will be announced with a trumpet blast, but if it had said “organ,” this would have done the job. Mrs. Leidenfeist recovered quickly, and the traditional notes were duly sounded. Not a snicker was heard. How many prayers shot heavenward for divine aid in giggle suppression can only be guessed, but the liturgical response, done with the usual perfect decorum, prevailed over all temptation.

No doubt the pastor consulted his Excedrin and Maalox bottles for the rest of the day, while the laity enormously enjoyed chicken and Mrs. Leidenfeist’s embarrassment for dinner.


Where Life’s At


I have been one busy little person lately, and haven’t blogged much as a consequence.  I hope to get back to writing my favorite wacky stuff soon, but just haven’t had the time or the inclination.  (Besides, the retired mailman and the teenage princess haven’t been doing anything outlandish enough to tattle about in the last few weeks.)

For those of you who don’t know, I am an author and publisher.  We publish Christian prayer and character building materials, some of which cater to the home school community.  At this time of year, I am up to my earlobes in book-packing for my wholesale customers.

Although I work pretty hard and get a little tired, at least I get to stay home.  The folks who buy wholesale from us are out on the road, traveling with their vans full of kids from one home school convention to the next, trying to make a living.  They travel all week, and then spend Fridays and Saturdays giving speeches, doing workshops, and, most importantly, selling books.  Some of them travel the entire length of the country and do not get home for months at a time. 

I would not want their lifestyle for the world, but I guess they enjoy it.  I’m happy to take their orders, ship their boxes of books to wherever they hope to show up next, and relax in the recliner with a heating pad on my sore back at the end of the day.  They are all surprised that I do not want to do the circuit with them, and they tell me I am missing a lot of fun and fellowship, but it’s just not me.  I would rather spend my time in prayer and with Beebee and Paul, and I certainly would not want to miss being with our beloved church family on the weekends.

I’ve been spending a lot of time writing stuff for this magazine, that newsletter, and the other anthology.  Being a freelancer is fairly new for me, and I’m still learning the ropes.  I’m finding out which writing things are time-wasters (writers’ forums where people socialize over their desire to write the next best-selling murder mystery fit this category) and which might be worthwhile (paying articles and ministry writing fit here), and I’m improving my writing skills in the process (I hope).  I’m also discovering I can crank out stuff on a wide variety of subjects, if need be.  I love the funny stuff, but I can do the heart-warming reminiscence of Grandpa or the totally serious informational report on something boring, when required. 

I even waxed imaginative a while back and did a fiction piece about an environmental cop.  A problem developed, though.  It was for a writing contest sponsored by some folks who are really, really, really serious about living the green lifestyle, and my quirky sense of humor refused to be denied, and it ended up being a spoof on environmentalism.  Realizing I would be making a total idiot out of myself if I submitted it, and not being fond of doing that unintentionally, I decided it was best to sit on it until I find a market where

a.) the editor hates the green movement and wants to take a few pokes at it,
b.) the editor is green to the gills, but doesn’t mind laughing at himself and his royal environmentalness, or
c.) the editor doesn’t care whether he is green, brown, blue, or purple, just as long as he can laugh ’til his sides ache.

So that’s how it’s been lately.


Daniel Fast Revisited


The most popular blog entry ever at Over 50, Still Kickin’ has been the one on the Daniel Fast.  In it, I joshed about my daughter thinking a potato chip counted as a veggie and our insane indulgence the day after the fast was finished.  It was meant to be fun, although I guess it was informative, too.

I am amazed at the number of people who are still reading that post, and I am really amused at the search engine terms they use to find it:  “Can I eat potato chips on a Daniel Fast?”  “Is cheese pizza acceptable on the Daniel Fast?”  “How much weight can I lose on the Daniel Fast?”  (I also think it’s pretty funny that people type whole questions into the search terms box, rather than just key words, but hey, I guess it works!)

It didn’t take me too long to figure out that all the people fixated on Daniel’s fast were not intensely spiritually-minded types.  I predicted to my family, right around Christmas time, “Watch.  As soon as Christmas is over, people will be swarming to this blog, looking for another diet to overcome the extra Christmas poundage.”  And sure enough, that’s the way it was.  New Year’s, with all its resolutions to reshape the bod into movie star likeness, brought in another wave of seekers.

So, I thought it might be a good time to poke a little fun at everybody, and also do a little educating about the Daniel Fast.  It is a biblical fast, and it had nothing to do with Daniel feeling he needed to lose some excess baggage around the middle.  Let’s look again at what it says in the Bible:

In those days, I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks.  I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine into my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all [the equivalent of modern-day hygiene tasks], until three whole weeks were fulfilled.  — Daniel 10:2, 3

At the end of twenty-one days of fasting as mentioned above, an angel came to Daniel, and said this:

… Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to chasten yourself [afflict yourself by fasting and skipping the hygiene tasks] before your God, your words were heard, and I have come because of your words [prayers].  — Daniel 10:12

So there you have it.  Daniel was praying, seeking the face of the Lord, not trying to lose weight.  He was not concerned about what he could get away with eating and still make the fast “count.”  He was going after God with all his heart, praying for his beloved nation of Israel.  And God answered by sending an angel, which Daniel saw with his physical eyes.  The angel went on to tell Daniel a whole lot about future events, some of which are still to transpire.

I don’t think any of us probably want to quit taking care of our personal appearance and cleanliness for twenty-one days.  I haven’t heard that even one Daniel Fast expert is suggesting such a thing, but it was a common component of fasting in Old Testament times.  King David did it, too.  People meant business with God back then, when they fasted.  I wonder how popular the Daniel Fast would be, if not “anointing oneself” were a requirement?  Maybe everyone would just do the South Beach Diet instead, and call it a fast!

So there you have it — my little attempt to put the whole Daniel Fast fad in perspective.  Happy cheese pizzas and potato chips to you!

For just a little bit more on the Daniel Fast, see my post, Weird Search Terms #4. (Scroll to the bottom of the post.)


A Double Portion of Mercy


In still another of my many quirky moments, this is what was rolling around in my head.  It was in answer to one of those writing challenges at a Christian writers’ site  — the theme, “At the Pulpit.”  I don’t know how anyone could get more “at the pulpit” than this.  (I take things way too literally.)  And I don’t win any prizes for this kind of stuff, either.  They probably want something morally or socially redeeming, and by now the judges are probably recognizing my entries, and thinking, “Oh. Her again!” — even though it’s anonymous until after they judge it. 

A Double Portion of Mercy

When I was a lad,
I often was bad
And resourceful in the extreme.
The parson, though oldish,
Could preach rather boldish –
He’d rant, and he’d rave, and he’d scream.

God’s man for the hour,
He’d preach with great power.
Appreciate it, I did not.

Not wanting, back then,
To be born again,
I thought it all nonsense and rot.

I slipped from my pocket
A spit-waddish rocket
And rubber band launcher, to boot.

He paused for effect.
I aimed at his neck
And waited my moment to shoot.

I let my piece fly —
Missed his neck, hit his eye.
A most stunning silence set in.

He looked quite surprised,
As he mopped at his eyes
And searched for the doer of sin.

I saw a grim smile
Ply his lips for awhile,
And then his eye lighted on me.

The culprit was found!
He’d prob’ly expound
And then take me over his knee.

I’d be thrashed in great shame,
In humiliated fame
Fore’er in church hist’ry renowned –

And what would my folks say?
A bitter price I’d pay,
Now that my sin had been found.

He just cleared his throat,
Said, “And on that note
We’ll end, for the sermon’s been long.”

He prayed a short blessing,
The people still guessing
Which wicked young boy did the wrong.

I went home relieved –
Great grace I’d received.
My gratitude much overflowed.

I repented of sin
And Jesus came in –
And now I am on the right road!


Please Don’t Make Me Write Anything!


The retired mailman continues to do a good job of looking convincingly busy.  I don’t know what he does all day, but whatever it is must be impressive — or else he is an extremely fine actor.  He is so busy that I cannot seem to get him to do what I think is important.

Some mailmen bag groceries to avoid boredom once they retire.  Mine, to my great delight, is going to enroll in the River Church School of Ministry (RCSM).  They used to call him Pastor Paul and Parson Paul at the P.O.  Now he’s apparently going after the real thing.

I had been bugging him for days to get his application for RCSM done, since it is due tonight.  He couldn’t see what the rush was until, GASP! we noticed he had to write a 250 to 300 word testimony as part of the application.  Last night he finally worked up enough gumption to get it done.  I heard a whining sound, like unto what a humongous disgruntled mosquito would make, coming from the direction of Paul’s chair.

“What’s the matter?”
“I think they are being awful hard on us, expecting us to write all this!”   Whiiiine!
“Paul, 250 words is not ‘all this.’  It’s a very little bit of writing.”
“I don’t know.  I haven’t got that much to tell.”
“Well, talk about what a great inspiration your wife has been to you in your Christian walk, then.”

I encouraged him to do it in Word on the main computer.  He insisted on doing it in Wordpad on his laptop, and then copying and pasting it into his e-mail, and sending it to himself, and then opening his e-mail on the main computer.  From there, he pasted it into Word.  Of course it did not come out the way it was supposed to.  Too much paste will turn anything funky-looking.  I sat down to fix it for him, knowing he would not have the first idea how to make it look right.  The word count — 495 words!  This, from the man who was sure he wouldn’t be able to come up with 250.  (I knew it!)

I proceeded to hack at it to get it down in size. Acid-free paper is always best.  This would not be an acid-free paper, as the editor-wife was being quite caustic. All the poetic phraseology had to go — including the flickering candles in the military chapel where he gave his life to Jesus.  Description of the guitar-playing lady who led him to the Lord — hack.  Explanation of his search for God through Eastern religion — hack.  How long his hippie-looking fellow converts’ hair was — hack.  Paul likening himself to the Apostle Paul in his religious good intentions previous to conversion — hack, hack, hack!  My husband, the budding Charles Dickens.  It wasn’t a testimony; it was an epic saga!

The testimony is ready to go now — respectable, likely to qualify him for inclusion in the school, and not nearly as interesting without the Apostle Paul thrown in for color.  At least we know that Paul will have no trouble whatsoever completing the required five-page term papers.


Daniel Fast


Our church family just finished a 21-day Daniel fast and time of prayer.  For those of you who may not know, a Daniel fast is patterned after how Daniel in the Bible fasted and prayed:

Daniel 10:2, 3In those days, I Daniel was mourning [probably repentance prayer for his nation] three full weeks.  I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.

At the end of the 21 days that Daniel fasted, an angel came with revelation from heaven for Daniel.  His prayers were answered.

It’s amazing what people do with a small passage in the Bible like that.  There are umpteen web sites that will tell you exactly how to do a Daniel fast.  Supposedly, the web site authors have done research, and have discovered exactly what Daniel ate and what he didn’t eat during that time.  But the web sites do not agree with each other, so either several somebodies’ research is faulty, or else they are making it up as they go along.  (Can I say this, and get away with it?)

One web site declares that on a Daniel fast, we must eat all whole-grain bread, fruits and veggies galore, no preservatives, no sugar, no meat, no dairy, no oil of any kind.  Another site allows dairy, including butter (but not margarine).  Another says sugar is bad, but honey is acceptable.  Still another says we cannot eat any bread.

I did not think the verses in the Bible were as hard as all that to understand — No wine and no flesh is pretty straightforward: we weren’t going to be eating meat, and we don’t drink wine anyway.  No pleasant bread tells me just that — the cookies, sweet breads, and goodies of that ilk gotta go.  Some translations say “no pleasant food.”  OK, so fruit is a pleasant food in my book, so shouldn’t that go, too?  (But we ate fruit.  We had to eat something.)

My family obsessed over food for two weeks leading up to the fast.  I never saw my husband and child so preoccupied with their stomachs before!  They were wringing their hands about what in the world they were going to eat.  Now, you have to understand how serious this was to them.  My daughter is a growing teenager, and teenagers need a lot of fuel.  My husband is six feet tall and weighs about 150 pounds on a good day.  He has a high metabolism and a high-energy job.  He eats constantly, just to keep going and maintain weight in the process.  We call him The Hummingbird.  I, on the other hand, do not need more fuel.  Maintaining weight, for me, means not blimping out and breaking the scale.  I saw this fast as a marvelous opportunity to lose a few pounds and not have to cook!

It was very interesting hearing from our church friends how they were doing the fast.  They ran the gamut from hard core fruit-and-veggies-only people to letter-of-the-law types who tried to get as close to the line without stepping over it as possible.  One family in our acquaintance finally decided that cheese pizza would fit the fast criteria, since there wasn’t any meat on it.   They managed to find one with a whole wheat crust.  Hmmm.  Some spent many hours in the kitchen, coming up with gourmet bean delights that were as tasty as any meat dish ever thought of.  I rather thought this might be defeating the purpose.  I thought we were supposed to suffer a little, and use the time we would normally spend preoccupied with eating on prayer.  Well, what do I know?

Several of our people suffered horribly without their Starbucks or Mountain Dew fix.  The caffeine withdrawal was enormous.  My sympathies to them.

My daughter decided she was going to fit into the get-as-close-to-the-line group.  She read all those web sites, and picked the most appealing “acceptable” foods from each.  On the first day of the fast, I caught her eating white bread with honey on it.  I think potato chips (a veggie) would have been next on her agenda, if I hadn’t put my two cents’ worth in.

“This is a fast, after all, Beebee!  It’s supposed to be a little hard for you.  Somehow I don’t think honey bread is fast material.”  I noticed that the next day she was dutifully gagging down the whole grain bread with no sweeties on top.

It was a challenging three weeks.  We were not hardcore.  I would describe our eating patterns as moderate.  We drank milk and ate some butter on our bread.  We popped pounds of popcorn in olive oil.  We ate a few baked potatoes.  We will be paying off the credit card debt for the fruit and veggie grocery bill for the next year!  (Daniel fasts are an expensive way to eat.)  My child refused to eat beans under any circumstances.  We were hungry a lot; the food was just too boring to care about eating it, starved or not.

I reminded my family that things could be much worse.  What if the angel hadn’t come to Daniel at the end of 21 days?  We could have been on this fast for three months, or a year, if the angel had taken that long to get to Daniel!  So, I heard a few thanksgiving prayers from our teenager, “Thank You, Jesus, for not waiting 52 days to send the angel to Daniel!”  It’s amazing the things you can find to be thankful for.

Yesterday was the first day off the fast.  You want to know what we ate, don’t you?  We had been carefully planning the menu for a week, and it was outrageous.  I had a Toaster Strudel for breakfast and potato chips for midmorning snack.  Also part of a chocolate candy bar.  Beebee ate a fat-laden store-bought muffin as big as a softball.  We had milk and an apple, to assuage our consciences. We had Dairy Queen ice cream cake for lunch.  I did not feel well all afternoon.  I prayed my gall bladder would hold up!  This did not stop the excess at suppertime, however.  We indulged in a Little Caesar’s pizza.  We controlled ourselves a teeny bit and did not eat quite the whole thing.

Today, we will climb back out of the abyss of indulgence and eat with more sanity.  The junk we ate yesterday is not typical for us.  I think I’ve bought Toaster Strudels only once before in my whole life, and if the potato chip companies had to depend on people like us, they’d all be bankrupt.  Ditto for Dairy Queen and Little Caesar’s.  It was fun for a day, but will not be a trend.  (And my gall bladder prayers were answered, by the way.)

So yes, thank You Lord, for coming to Daniel after 21 days instead of 60, thank You for the answers to prayer You are sending our way — and thank You for potato chips!

Sequel: Daniel Fast Revisited  
Additional Sequel: Weird Search Terms #4  
(Scroll to bottom) 


The Church Dinner


Recently we had a dinner at our church, and I was volunteered to be part of the kitchen crew. The thing I love about church dinners is that something amusing always happens. It is part of the nature of the situation. And we were not disappointed on this occasion.

My source of entertainment this time was a visiting elderly lady of peculiar appearance — bright blue spectacles, with blue tassels and beads hanging from the bows. While she was going through the food line, she commented that she couldn’t eat the salad because it had Italian dressing on it, and ohhh, she couldn’t eat dressing! One of the serving ladies offered to bring her some plain lettuce, but she wouldn’t have it brought–she had to march into the kitchen to get it.

A few minutes later, I happened back into the kitchen, smack dab into the middle of an extremely graphic monologue this woman was slathering all over Daisy Miller about why she couldn’t eat the salad with the dressing on it. Daisy is an extremely elegant, lady-like person, and she was politely listening and nodding, with a little smile on her very frozen face. If I could have read her thoughts they probably would have gone something like this: “Do … not … show … emotion. … Look noncommittal. … Do … not … look … grossed … out. … Do … not … look … embarrassed. … Oohh my! What can she be thinking??!! … Try … to … look … pleasant. … Focus … focus … focus ….”

It had a lot to do with having a barium test and the hospital people forgetting to prescribe an enema first…and what happened as a result. And how she has to be very picky, picky, picky about what she eats ever since — two years later. OOHHH MY!!!

I waited until she had left the room and was out of earshot, then burst out laughing. “Some people will just tell you anything, won’t they?!!” I chortled. Daisy didn’t say anything. She was still trying to process — or maybe erase her memory banks, I think. I, however, will cherish this little episode forever in my memory banks, because my humor is a little sick, and I love people’s quirks.

Later on, the lady came back into the kitchen. She needed milk–2% milk–in her coffee, couldn’t use creamer, you know (because of her condition), and did we have any 2%? We looked in the fridge. Ah yes, there was a gallon of milk in there.

(Now, you have to understand about the church fridge. It is a scary place. All sorts of forgotten items were in there. Half-eaten this, and half-eaten that, some from pre-Noahic days, I think. Take-out pizza–nobody dared lift the lid of the box to find out what was residing there. No one ever seems to know who put these questionable items in the fridge, why they didn’t finish them up, or how many years ago they were abandoned.)

Mabel Cory expressed doubts about the milk and said we would look at the date. June 30. This was July 11. The lady insisted, “Oh, I’ll just taste it, and if it’s OK, I can put it in my coffee.” Mabel was horrified and protested that it was too old by now. “Oh, you can’t believe the dates on those jugs!!! You got to taste it to tell! It’s probably fine.” She proceeded to pour a cup, taste it, and smack loudly several times. Smack, smack, smack! “It’s good! I’ll take it!” (More laughter from yours truly after she left the kitchen. Why can’t I control my funny bone? Nobody else seemed to think she was nearly as funny as I did, except my ten-year-old daughter, Beebee–only she informed me on the way home that the old lady wasn’t so much funny as SCARY.)

So, that was how I spent last Friday. I am laughing still. I’ll bet you’re all just envious, now aren’t you?


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