Does anyone out there have a good book to recommend? I can’t find anything that really holds my attention and I’m getting a little frantic as most readers understand. I picked up a couple of Nora Roberts’ discount books the other day and although I read through them, rapidly, ugh! They were formula writing; they were predictable; they were trite. Now I like a Mary Higgins Clark book as well as the next person but only when I am in the mood for something that has no enduring value -- just chocolates and a late night.
I’ve recently tried some Scandinavian mystery writers again. Henning Mankill and his Wallender series were good, but sooo dark. To read the Northern European mystery writers one would think the whole population is on the verge of mass suicide! However, a cousin in Sweden recommended Jussi Adler-Olson so I read the first three of his Department Q series and they weren’t too bad, but then I picked up a book CD of his entitled The Alphabet House and I am fast forwarding through that. Jo Nesbro, a Norwegian mystery writer has one with a wretched title, Cockroaches. It is about a Nowegian ambassador murdered in a brothel in Bangkok. A detective is hauled out and sent there to solve the case. It is all very hush-hush as there are a lot of political ramifications which is where the symbolism of the cockroaches comes from, I assume. When I am finished I am sending them to my brother who is a much more discriminating reader than I am and see what he thinks.
Next in line is David Silva’s The Black Widow. Sometime back Silva created a character Gabriel Allon. It must have taken a lot of time as Allon is very complex. As you read through the books you learn he is with Mossad in Israel, becoming involved after the Munich Olympics' massacre of Jewish athletes in 1972. His son was killed in a car bombing in Vienna after which his wife was never the same. Allon is an accomplished art restorer who tries time after time to separate from Mossad and live his solitary life. At last in Venice he meets the woman who becomes his second wife and who is also with Mossad. There are a variety of secondary characters who re-appear in Silva’s books, each one a real stand-alone, in their own right. Allon is positioned at this time to become the head of Mossad, but who knows, something always happens to skew a logical progression to his finding some peace and stability for himself and his family. I am hopeful for this new one.
The problem is, of course, that personal reading tastes don’t always run in the same direction. The author you enjoy may not touch me at all. I do like good biographies -- I remember reading Last train to Memphis, on Elvis Presley’s early years and it was fascinating. Right now I have The Fatal Shore on my end table. It is about the settlement of Australia by convicts from Britain and how that influenced the history of the nation. It is very revealing and well-written but only a few pages at a time, thank you.
Oh, well. There is joy in the search as well as the finding and I will find something, hopefully soon.
It is evening.
We live in such an international world these days. I received a text and picture from a cousin in Sweden. The picture was her daughter on a well-known hiking trail in Norway. A friend here in Glendive has family in Norway and her sister had just been to the exact same place. We compared pictures and sure enough. Small world.
That whole idea of a small world was echoed by a news report tonight from Iceland, that tiny island nation in the North Atlantic. Iceland is accepting refugees from Syria. One of the officials said that no one can choose where they will be born and that we are called to help each other in need.
The same news talked about an earthquake in Italy, another one in Myanmar and a shooting in Afghanistan. It really makes our disagreements seem pretty petty. The political discussions this past summer and now leading into the fall are slipping more and more out of the world of reality. I think the candidates themselves seem to be getting tired of it, as much as the rest of us.
When you mention politics to anyone there is a shrug of the shoulders and not much else. The discussions about the Clinton Foundation or the fact that Trump is hiring his own poll watchers so he can cry ‘fraud’ if he loses is exhausting to face in each night’s news broadcasts.
School started in many places today. A couple of grandparents sent me pictures of their grandchildren starting pre-school and first grade. I got a picture of my great-niece and great-nephew. She is 16, he is 11. Among them all there is that fresh-faced innocence, that underlying excitement of taking that bigger step into the world. I can even remember the butterflies in my stomach on that first day. When I taught high school the freshman in my world history class were wide-eyed and quiet with the anxiety that accompanies the first step into a new world and the wonder, “Can I meet the challenge?” Actually it was good to see them after Christmas descending into that crazy world called high school and for the most part enjoying it all.
Today was a gray, cool, rainy day. It was a welcome relief after the heat of summer and the few rain drops that fell were welcome. Everyone was moving as though in slow motion. I had a couple of board meetings where important topics were discussed. It is the end of the day. The sun is moving west and somewhere in Asia day is breaking and people there are moving into their morning routines. One hymn I love to sing has the words: The sun here having set is waking your children under western skies, and hour by hour as day is breaking, fresh hymns of thankful praise arise. I think of the children who had a full, exciting day rolling into bed, tucked in by grateful parents. In other places rescue workers are digging for people trapped under buildings. Tomorrow I will arise to a new day and be about the business of living.
My morning on-line devotional had a solid thought for the day. The devotional is called S O U N D B I T E S: Something to chew on that is good for the soul™. It comes daily and is from a Methodist minister, Rev. Dave Wilkinson, in memory of his son and today’s offering is by John Ortberg from the book The Me I Want To Be .
SETTING YOUR MIND
John Milton wrote in his epic poem Paradise Lost, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
Setting your mind is like setting a thermostat. It is creating a target for the climate. Once you set a thermostat, the heating and air-conditioning will have to adjust in relation to the weather. It is a constant process, but the goal is for the system to create a life-giving climate. So too it is with our minds. Many people try to tell themselves to stop thinking negative thoughts -- which immediately brings to mind the very thoughts they are supposed to stop thinking.
“Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)
“Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Romans 8:5)
Whether it is a religious piece or not, his words are very appropriate to human growth and development. There is a spiritual side to our nature and it is both good and bad. Unfortunately, we face a daily barrage of negative words, thoughts and images. It seems much easier to slip into the negative than to stand for the positive. A presidential election where the main issue is who can sling the most mud, where there is no respect for people or ideas; a world where issues between genders, between races, between religious faiths is settled with violence rather than common sense; where guns are more often than not the solution to problems; where entertainment is full of pornography and video games blow up characters so the players can score points; where blood flows freely on our televisions; where crude jokes and rude behavior are lifted up; where language is used to berate and attack and bully people into submission is a world over which we have lost control. It is a frightening picture that opens before us.
We shake our heads over the anger, even rage we see around us and yet we allow our children to live in a world where violence is accepted because ‘there is nothing we can do’. And worse we allow our children to set the stage because ‘everybody does it and I won’t have any friends if I don’t do it as well.’ Tolerance is not open acceptance of bad things. Tolerance is an attempt to raise the discussion to a higher level of understanding where violence is not where the discussion begins. The bottom line is that people are going to do what they do and believe what they believe, but at the very least we can remove ourselves from the baseness of some of what goes on. No one likes to hear crude language, no one. So why don’t we clean up our own language, police our own thoughts, what we see and read and the lifestyle we live.
Evil is a very real presence in the world. It takes some doing to get ourselves, our families, our communities in line, but the reward is a place where peace, patience, love, gentleness, and compassion hold sway.
Now that I am serving a stint on the City Council I am already learning what I don’t know about many things. Like most new ventures in my life I am sure I will have a vertical learning curve, but that is alright. We can’t hide out from new challenges and in the process of stretching ourselves we might be surprised at what we learn. I think about my Grandfather who homesteaded and started farming and ranching when he was almost forty years old. It wasn’t easy but in the end he felt very good about what he had accomplished.
As I listened to presenters at a committee meeting recently I was taken at how much keeping a community running is much like owning your home and keeping it in working condition. One community member expressed a concern about the new city parking lot and the need to tend to the details to keep it looking good so that it will last a long time. I thought immediately of how true this way whether we own a home or a vehicle. We want to keep it in good shape. Items are painted or polished and sometimes we are very protective of our personal property. Maybe our community would be in better shape if everyone thought of it as the larger home in which we live.
Picking up a piece of trash and throwing it into the closest trash bin is not a big deal. Cleaning up the weeds in our yard or along the alley isn’t huge if we don’t let it get out of hand in the first place. Much of what the city council does is keep our larger home a good place to put our smaller homes. One council person mentioned the city wouldn’t have to pass so many ordinances for upkeep and safety if everyone took responsibility for their property and their actions.
I think it all goes back again to that notion of pride in who and what we are and it has to be a personal pride. When I was growing up one of the things my folks usually said to me as I went out the door was, “Now remember who you are. You’ve been given a good name, a name to be proud of and it is up to you to keep it that way.” The same worked when I was teaching at the high school. Whenever we took kids out of town on athletic trips or other trips the students were always reminded that Dawson County High School had a good reputation and we wanted to keep it that way. When a letter from a motel owner appeared in the local paper congratulating our kids on their behavior and inviting us back again we swelled with pride. A good name is worth polishing once in awhile.
As I drive around town in the summertime I see volunteers mowing lawns and tending to flowers at local churches. It is a community of common faith. We want to be proud of where we worship. We believe God created the beauty we see around us and we are called to keep that creation in good order.
For centuries human beings have gathered in community. A workplace, a school district, a church congregation, a community is a place where people with common goals come together to live and work together. There are many little communities within the larger one of a town or city, and we all have been given a community to live in and care for and like a family we want to be proud of where we come from and we want our community to have a good name and that takes some work for all of us.
Don’t know if you caught it, but yesterday that was a hint of autumn in the air! People stared at me in disbelief, crying “But it is only August! I am not through with summer yet!” Well, perhaps it is the old school teacher in me or the former pastor gearing up for fall schedules, but I can sense the presence! It is rather like the old-fashioned calling cards people used to send out announcing their upcoming visit to the folks at the house. “Not yet, but soon!”
The sun seems to be at a little different position in the sky, the breeze is cooler although the sun may be hot; evening temps drop off; and the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves on the trees is definitely different. I think the leaves are drying out and that causes the rustle. It will be interesting to see this year if the leaves along the river are bright and golden or dry and brown. The colors vary depending on the moisture. And speaking of moisture, once harvest is over we could use some fall rains again, not storms, but soft soakers.
As I look at approaching fall schedules it is as though August is yawning and stretching its muscles after several months of sleeping in the summer sun. With harvest, county fair, school starting, Labor Day activities it is time to get moving again. Those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” are almost at an end.
“Come, little leaves, said the Wind one day.
Come over the meadows with me and play.
Put on your dresses of red and gold f
or Summer is gone and the days grow cold.”
Soon as the leaves
Heard the wind’s loud call,
Down they came fluttering,
One and all;
Over the meadows
They danced and flew,
Singing the soft
Little songs they knew.
Dancing and flying
The little leaves went;
Winter had called them
And they were content-
Soon fast asleep
In their earthy beds,
The snow laid a soft mantle
Over their heads.