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Friday, August 26, 2016

Non-fiction Review: Elsie's Mountain

Elsie’s Mountain: Memories of Palomar and Southern California 1897-1987, by Barbara Anne Waite is the second of her Elsie books based on the true story about her grandmother. This book is closely compiled from Elsie’s diaries and letters and decorated with wonderful period family photos. Elsie was a poet and free-lance writer, and some of her poems are featured throughout the book.

This story begins with Elsie’s parents and her siblings and quickly moves to her marriage and married life, which occupies much of the book. Elsie’s childhood was wonderful and privileged. She especially loved the times her family went camping on Palomar Mountain, today the site of an important space observatory and telescope, as well as a National Park. It was wonderful to be out in nature and to enjoy the beauty of the scenery.

After Elsie’s marriage to Jack, a successful businessman, they undertook several ventures up on Palomar Mountain—a prosperous apple orchard, and a hotel for wealthy guests. Elsie managed the hotel. As in every life, there were some terrible disappointments. Jack and Elsie lost their first child to miscarriage. There were ups and downs in the businesses, too, and they grew and learned through them. They welcomed a little daughter, Caroline. Their circumstances began to change.

Elsie shares happy times and hints at the sad ones. Jack seems to have had emotional issues, which worsened with time. Instead of complaining, Elsie gets on with life, becomes postmistress, and happily dedicates herself to rearing Caroline and serving others. Elsie obviously had a genuine Christian faith, though she doesn’t express it in the same words we might use.

This is a rare, completely authentic glimpse into the times of World Wars 1 and 2, the Roaring Twenties, and the Great Depression. It’s also a delightful history of that part of California.

I enjoyed both of Barbara Waite’s books about her grandmother. The first, Elsie: Adventures of an Arizona Schoolteacher 1913-1916, tells about her life as a teacher and her romance with a young man there.

Elsie’s Mountain gives the reader an overall picture of her life, much of it quoted from actual diaries and letters. If you enjoy history with a touch of romance and a little bit of real-life sadness, you’ll enjoy these books. It’s probably the most authentic book I have ever read. My own grandmother lived during this epoch, and for me, it was an especially interesting glimpse into the way things were—the customs, entertainments, transportation, and everyday life. I know you’ll enjoy it, too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

S-T-U-P-I-D: Your Mistakes Do Define You

What do you think when you hear the name Ryan Lochte? Liar, drinks too much, party boy . . . . It’s sad, for sure, since he’s one of America’s most decorated Olympians, one of our great sportsmen. He’s four times an Olympian and has won twelve medals for the U.S.A.

Justin Gatlin? Drugs cheat several times over. Many don’t think he should even have been allowed to compete in the Olympics.

Lance Armstrong? What a fake! Liar, cheat, cancer survivor, winner of the Tour de France multiple times, drugs, phony, bully . . . .

Anthony Weiner, President Bill Clinton, General David Petraeus, and John Edwards? Famous men, cheaters on their wives, disgraced . . . . All but Clinton lost their jobs as well as their reputations.

It doesn’t have to be a big mistake. It can be a “twisting of the facts,” as Ryan Lochte found out. There was a gun. The four friends were held at gunpoint. There was an exchange of money. The man with the gun was dressed like a policeman. Lochte still lied. He misrepresented the facts. And, sadly, the Brazil Olympics for Lochte will be about that stupid story and not his gold medal, won cleanly after four years of intensive training.

My family remembers my disasters:
  • They remember the time I broke a whole carton of eggs on the floor—the whole dozen broken, in gooey slop!
  • They remember the time I was riding a bike with hand brakes for the first time and didn’t know how to stop—and how it looked like slow motion when I went off the road and fell to the side.
  • They remember when I couldn’t find my keys to open the suitcases at the airport, and I was transporting wooden eggs—which Agriculture Control thought were real. They also remember that I said I had no food. (I’d completely forgotten, as I packed weeks before—and I actually had olive oil, olives, and chocolate. I didn’t think of those things as food.) How completely embarrassing!
  • My husband remembers my walking out of my shoe on a church platform as I went across to give my testimony.

People remember the dumb things you do. Those things make an impression. They don’t have to be necessarily wrong, but when you do something stupid, people notice.

I keep seeing signs, “Your past does not define you.” I agree up to a point. But, there are always consequences for wrong actions. And, one of those consequences is that people remember your wrongdoings much more than your good doings. They remember if you lied, cheated, were violent, drunk, or out of control. They paint you in their minds as a liar, cheat, violent person, drunk, or without self-control. In a way, you’ll forever be the impression you made.

So, what can you do if you already messed up? The secret is in putting the sin behind you, about not going back to that sin again, about true repentance. Do you remember what Jesus told the woman caught in adultery? He forgave her and said, Go, and sin no more (John 8:11b).

When we truly repent, the Lord blots out our sins. He doesn’t see them any more. (I wish we humans were more like Him!) Here are a few verses that will encourage your heart:
  • Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:34b).
  • To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities (Psalm 51:1, 9).
  • As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12).
  • Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isaiah 1:18). 
I’m so grateful that God literally does away with our sins, when we confess and forsake them. We go to Jesus for forgiveness. It’s amazing that Jesus would love us like that!

What should Ryan Lochte have done?
  1. He should have behaved himself in the first place. He was representing his country.
  2. Since he did wrong, he should have admitted exactly what happened.

When we see that a person has truly turned from his sin, we should accept him. It doesn’t matter what he's done, we need to accept that he has been changed by the grace of God.

And, we ourselves should strive to live to the glory of God. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's (1 Corinthians 6:20).