Friday, June 17, 2011


Update: Kenneth L. Robinson passed away October 1, 2012. I expect to join him in heaven one day, and see him recreated in God’s image—loving, faithful, merciful, compassionate, gentle, and kind, in all the fullness and perfection of eternal life.  

June 2011
This may be the last time I have a father for Father’s Day. My dad is 76 and very ill. At some point, all I'll have will be memories.

My dad was a hero and lifesaver. He was a terrible handyman and car mechanic, but he was a hard worker who supported my brother and me, and my chronically-ill mom, on a middle-class salary. When he was delivering dairy products to a home early one morning, he smelled smoke, broke into the house, got his hair and eyebrows singed by the fire (I remember the smell of his burnt hair), and helped an elderly woman to safety before the firefighters arrived. When my mother had a terrible virus and congestion added to her asthma, and she was choking, he force-fed her one of those killer-hot yellow chilies from the jar in the fridge. It fried the mucous on contact, and she was able to catch a breath and let the oxygen tank do the rest. Dad had AB-positive blood, and I remember numerous times when the blood bank called after 9:00 pm to ask if he could go to the hospital and transfuse blood to save a life. He always did, even when he had to arise before 5 a.m. to go to work.

Dad was loyal. When he gave his support or his promise, it was forever—come hell or high water. He was faithful to his wife and children, to his political party, his church, and his God. When his parents were old, he sent money every month, for years, to help with their expenses.

Dad was good-looking. In the college dorm, I had my father’s portrait in a 5x7” frame on my desk, and friends would ask who my movie-star crush was. Though a few women tried flirting with my dad, he was absolutely faithful to my mother. When I was little, my mom used to sing me to sleep (because Dad couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket) with Gershwin’s “Summertime,” but she’d reverse the lyrics.
Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.
Fish are jumpin’, and the cotton is high.
Your mama’s rich, and your daddy’s good lookin’,
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry.

Dad hated to inflict pain. Mom would spank and slap if we disobeyed or sassed her. She hated being the disciplinarian, and one of the few things they ever argued about (besides home-handyman jobs) was who had to punish the naughty children, and how. If I did something sufficiently egregious that it was Dad’s turn to spank me, he’d take me out to the attached garage and sit down and talk for a few minutes about how he was disappointed in me, then give a couple of halfhearted slaps to my backside that didn’t even hurt—yet I wept much harder and mended my ways better, than if I’d gotten a spanking and lecture from my mother.

Dad was a softie. He always loved our family pets, and had a soft spot in his heart for the ancient farm horse from his childhood. When he went bow-hunting for deer with his friends, I’m pretty sure his arrows came home without DNA, although he had a share in the prize when it was butchered. When I saw a domestic rabbit along the side of a road, he stopped the car and helped me catch it and take it home, and built a fence to let it have the side yard as a rabbit paradise. Cats would settle on Dad’s lap as if it were the finest, softest pillow, magnetized especially for cats. When it was time to euthanize the old and sick pets, he couldn’t do it—I took them to the vet.
My mother's journal entry
on the day after I was born.
She describes my father holding me
for the first time.

Dad was a daddy. When I had bronchitis attacks as a child, he’d set his alarm to get up at oh-dark-thirty to give me my medicine. He let me hang around as he and the neighbor guys would chat over what was needed to make the Renault run; or put me in a frilly party dress to go grocery shopping because he liked to show off his little girl. When we drove around Phoenix in the evening, he would quietly step on the foot button for the high beams and dare me to figure out how he did that. He helped me climb up to the roof to watch lightning or meteor showers; and he built a pretty cool tree house platform with safety rails, and a zipline, in our mulberry tree. Our family and the neighbors would sit out on the porch and watch the desert dust storm followed by the lightning and rain, as if it were the Fourth of July twice a week. He taught me to drive on his restored ’55 Kaiser Manhattan and trusted me to drive it often. I mourned that I'd lose my high school friends as we went separate ways, and Dad comforted me by listening and hugging. When I’d drive back to Phoenix from my California university, he always checked my tires and oil, and filled the radiator, trying to ensure a safe trip for me. 

Dad was a safe haven. When I was two, my parents took me to Disneyland. They told me that if I were to become lost, to sit tight on a bench and wait, no matter how long, until they came for me. We rode the submarine (I was terrified), took the jungle cruise with its surprise hippo emergences (also scary), and we strolled the streets looking at the vendors. I was fascinated by the glass blowers who made knickknack animals, which is where I lost my parents. When I realized I was lost, I spotted a park bench, and sat as instructed. People asked if they could help, or take my tiny self to Lost & Found. But I didn’t budge, and was rewarded moments later when my father found me. I don’t remember his reaction, but even now, I remember the utter relief and the comfort and security of Daddy’s strong arms when he scooped me up and hugged me, and then placed me triumphantly on his shoulders.

Dad was a quiet man. There was no need to fill silences: he said what needed to be said, and was silent when he was done. He had a calm spirit that soothed my mother when her asthma medications made her jumpy.

Dad was funny. We’d go on 2,500-mile car trips to visit grandparents in Minnesota, and he told stories about riding sheep or getting in trouble as a farm kid; he remembered the lyrics to poems and folk ballads (if not the tunes!); if he passed gas it was never the father, and always the dog to blame; and he remembered jokes for years. Here’s one from his homeland:
Two mosquitoes are flying over Minnesota, when they spot their prey below—an unsuspecting fisherman. The first mosquito asks, “Hey, do you think we should eat him here, or take him back to the swamp for later?” The second mosquito, older and wiser, responds, “No, we should eat him here. If we take him back to the swamp, the big mosquitoes will get him!”
Dad was a reader. If it wasn’t the Reader’s Digest magazine in the bathroom, it was the daily newspaper. He always had a history (usually World War I or II) or biography on his night table. His reading tastes were sometimes questionable: Eric Van Daniken's "evidence" for UFO interference over the eons; Velikovsky's apocalyptic "history"; and material written by the founder of the Worldwide Church of God. (My mom did not approve of that stuff!) As a boy, he read the Hardy Boys Mysteries, Black Beauty, and The Call of the Wild.  And gave them to me when I was maybe eight.

Dad loved the arts. He made frames for my mother’s paintings and stretched canvasses for her, then carried them to art shows. Though he couldn’t sing on key, he attended our school and church concerts, and loved to hear me practice my piano lessons, asking to hear specific pieces from Bach, Mozart, or Scott Joplin’s rags. Many times, he would enthusiastically describe Christmas or Easter cantatas, Phoenix Symphony, or the Messiah oratorio that he’d attended.
Dad was trustworthy and dependable. I had him as a rock-steady man I could count on to back me up or take my side against the world. I measured potential mates (obviously none of them worked out) against my dad for their real or potential qualities of commitment, honesty, kindness, fidelity, and, you know—Dadliness. 

Dad was strong and healthy. He almost never caught colds or flu, or the latest virus to make the rounds. He gave my brother and me that same immunity.

But for a few years now, my dad has been fighting several major illnesses. This may be the last Father’s Day, or any day, I see him alive, when he flies back to the home he’s shared with his wife for half a decade. After Mom died and Dad remarried, the relationships between Dad and me and my brother have changed dramatically. There are things that cannot be spoken, words that can’t or won’t be retracted, forgiveness that will not be extended. After a recent chain of events, I had to ask if my father still loved me. I had to know, had to hear the words, if these are my last moments or days with him.

He was surprised, and his big, strong hand, with bruises surrounding the IV needle taped to his skin, closed over my arm as I wept. And he said he did love me. This is the Dad I’ll remember, because my dad is trustworthy.

I will tell the promise that the LORD made to me: “You are my daughter, because today I have become your father.” Psalm 2:7 CEV 

editornado's Kenneth Robinson memorial album on Photobucket

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Parable of the Lost Earring

I lost one of my gold and opal earrings. It’s very small, about the size of a ½-inch metal nut. After attending years of Christian schools and universities with a no-jewelry policy, and working with schools, universities, and a ministry with the same dress code, I found myself laid off, without a job in this Great Depression of the 21st century. Honestly, one of my first thoughts as the shock of being jobless set in was, “Woo-hoo, now I can get my ears pierced and no one will censure me as a Jezebel.” So I did get my ears pierced for the first time at age 50, and I can finally wear the little earring sets that were given to me over the years, that have languished in my jewelry box.

I discovered the loss at about 10 pm yesterday, after I'd come back from a short walk to the mailbox, and from rolling the wheelie bin to the street for trash collection. Mundane tasks, to be wearing pretty jewelry, I suppose.

I took out the flashlight and retraced my steps in the dark, walking back to the mailboxes with a side-to-side scan of the flashlight, and looking in the gravel around the trash cans where I'd moved them. I searched the front courtyard, where I’d watered my plants, but all I found were weeds to spray in the daylight. Back inside, I searched the floors and rugs like a CSI technician, looking for a sparkle of gold. I shook out my bedding, and looked in the clothes I'd worn earlier to see if the earring had got stuck in the fabric.

THEN I prayed that if God cared about my missing earring, would he please let me find it. “It's just vain adornment, according to what I was taught, and not important when one considers earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns, or killer tornadoes. Not important, when one considers the economy that’s flushed irrevocably down the sewer. Closer to home, how does this loss compare to the ongoing lack of a job, the family member with a terminal disease, the relationships that are broken, the hope that’s been lost. It's not like Jesus' parable* of the woman who lost a tenth of her savings and searched and cleaned the house to find it—it’s just a little piece of jewelry. But you know, if you care that I care, please let me find my earring.”

I put away the flashlight and locked up the house for the night. An hour later, I went to bed and stepped barefoot on my little earring. (It didn't hurt, as the pin was closed.) It had been on the far side of the bed where the bedtime dog treats are. My lesson is that God cares that I care—maybe earrings don't matter, but my feelings do matter to God.  

My friends, thank you for your prayers! I don't think that God answers certain requests because all the “pray-ers” have collectively sent enough energy that they’ve reached some cosmic quota; or that righteous people are more favored than others in their requests. I don't know why he is silent on some things, and shows his hand on others. But it sure does good to the human heart to know that other human beings care enough to take issues to God in intercession for their friends and family. It benefits both the pray-er and the pray-ee. Please continue to pray for the truly important issues, and remember me sometimes when you do.

It does me good to know that the Creator of the universe sent me some love, and some hope that he’s working on my other issues; and at the same time, blew a raspberry at the man-made, non-scriptural “adornment” code. Haha!

Rejoice with me and the angels of God; I have found my lost bauble!

* The Parable of the Lost CoinLuke 15:8-10
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Forbidden Fruits Create Many Jams

The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:12 

In June, my baker’s rack is groaning under the weight of bottled fruit and jams. The freezer is also full. Each year, I peel and pit, squash, or dice the ripe fruit from my back yard. I have a tree trunk with one nectarine and three peach grafts; several varieties of apple on another tree, seedless and Concord grapes, cherries, strawberries, feijoa, mulberries, almonds, avocados, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. God blesses me bountifully. Some years, I have so many peaches that I give away bags and bags of them!
Every evening in late June, most of my time is for peaches, preserving them in light syrup or as thick jams. A few get sliced and frozen for nonfat smoothies. Excess juice freezes for party punch.
I heard once that “forbidden fruits create many jams.” 
Do you know the difference between jam and and jelly? Jam is made from the fruit's flesh and contains fiber; jelly is made from the juice and is usually strained clear. I make jams.
Most jam recipes call for more sugar than fruit. Four cups of berries or peaches need five cups of sugar, plus pectin, to thicken and jell. All those nutritious mulberries, perfectly provided by God for our delight and nourishment (come on, He could have just given us tasteless fiber and left it at that!), He declared “good.” Now when God says it’s good, it’s good!
I don’t want to know the extra calories I add to God’s perfect, juicy fruit when I make sweet jam. I’ve made something into a forbidden fruit—to my diet—by adding a foreign substance, although I give them as gifts at Christmas. (I have recently learned to make delicious low-sugar jams.)
When you’re tempted to sample the proverbial forbidden fruit, remember that it may seem sweet or exotic at the moment, but it’s a deception. It’s sure to make you ill or fat. Pluck from the Tree of Life, and find nourishment in “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...