Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Of Bugs and Bats

Perhaps this isn't the most spiritual topic, but I needed some distraction today anyhow. Last week, every evening's peace was broken by my wild children an unbelievable loud squealing noise from outside. I am not talking about the rickshaw-mounted sound systems that roam the villages all night, advertising a movie or promoting some politician or spreading health awareness messages. This was a squeal of more natural origins. It was a bug, or rather, LOTS of bugs, making this loud, sustained noise. It was literally loud enough and of such a frequency that it hurt my ears. If I had to guess, I would say it was cicadas, though I have never been much at insect identification. Insect AVOIDANCE, now there is something I can talk intelligently about!

I am only guessing about cicadas, but I did find this great website from the ABC of Oz (that is the Australian Broadcasting Company) with this photo of a cicada that certainly looks like the giant bugs I flick off our screens from time to time. I was not surprised by the volume of these big bugs - up to 120 dB! I have felt the pain!

Well, the noise of last week has been replaced by a noise that, if possible, is even louder. We have a large tree in our yard that I'm told is a rubber tree. This is not your average, US indoor potted ficus, however. This is a REAL ficus elasticus - in the wild - no wait, if it were truly in the wild, it would be inside my house, not in the garden. Ok, not in the wild, but outside in the sub-tropics, where it has room to thrive. It has 7 primary trunks growing from a central base and an above ground root structure that looks like a floor covered with snakes. Should a real snake gets in there it would be pretty tough to see!

Around this time of year, that giant tree flowers and grows fruit, which attracts the animal causing my head to ache today: the Indian Flying Fox. For those of you that don't instantly see the difficulty in that name, I will give you the alternate name: Giant Fruit Bat.

The Indian Flying Fox is the second largest bat species in the world, according to my 5 minutes of internet research at slower than dial-up speeds. Their wing span is around 4 feet - roughly the size of my 7-year-old. I told him he could lay down and use a bat for a blanket. He didn't go for that. Hmm . . . do you think that will give him nightmares?

So, from dusk until 9 pm, we have a continuous screaming contest concert in our front yard. After dark until morning - well, I don't know when they stop because I have this thing about sleeping at night. But before the sleep, you literally have to shout to make yourself heard over the din if you are on our porch.

There are a variety of bats in South Asia. My in-laws had tiny bats living in their ceiling vents when they lived nearby. When we are in the capital we see a medium size bat quite often at dusk. But none seem to be as loud or as active as our colony of flying foxes.

A few interesting tidbits: Indian Flying Fox bats are sacred in parts of India. In Pakistan, the fat from some bats is used for medicine. Some bat species are under threat from humans - who kill them for food (YUCK!). Bats do sometimes carry rabies, and have recently been implicated in SAARS. At least one of the common names for our bat neighbors here translates into some kind of snake. They are kind of creepy, so maybe it is a good name.

Adding to the ruckus is the rain-like drumming of their discarded fruit seeds on our tin roof. Don't you wish you lived here?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Birthday Dinner

Today I have been cooking. In our house, the birthday dinner menu is generally the choice of the Birthday boy (or girl). Of course, living here, I sometimes have to make adjustments based on what I have on hand or have access to. For instance, vegetables just aren't available right now. For the children this would not be much of an issue, but some of us like vegetables.

Today's menu was based on a more practical theme, however. In less than 4 weeks, we leave for 4 months in the US. So, after an inventory of my freezer and pantry, I planned every meal between now and when we go, with the hope of leaving a minimum of food items in storage here.

Tonight's birthday menu has come together beautifully:

A small pork roast with a cranberry-orange sauce.
Potatoes Au Gratin
Broccoli & Cauliflower - steamed
Apple & Craisin compote

Pineapple cream cheese coffee cake
Homemade vanilla ice cream with toffee bits and mini chocolate chips

The only things I would have liked in addition to the above would have been fresh dinner rolls, but I had to draw the line somewhere!

Now, what is interesting is how this meal came together. Based on my menu calendar, I had chosen the pork roast for today. I noticed a tin of jellied cranberry sauce (left over from last Thanksgiving) while rooting in the pantry the other day for a can of tuna. So, off to the internet to find a recipe that combined these 2 items. Voila! Oh, except I did not have cranberry juice, so I substituted orange juice, freshly squeezed from the Malta oranges that became available last week.

Next came the side dishes. I was hoping for noodles because I LOVE egg noodles with pork. But, making homemade noodles was too much to do today. So, on to plan "B" - potatoes. I dug out bits of 3 different cheeses from the depths of the fridge, all rather desperate to be cooked with, so Au Gratin was the logical choice. Vegetable was easy. Either it came from the freezer or there was not going to be any vegetable. I am out of canned veggies except 1 can of peas that is earmarked for a tuna noodle casserole later this month. The freezer yielded some broccoli & cauliflower. Finally, we just bought apples again for the first time since I can't remember when. Sadly, they were too mushy to be nice to eat. So, they had to be cooked. Add in an open packet of dried cranberries (Craisins), some sugar and cinnamon, and the extra orange juice, and we have a nice compote.

Dessert was even more interesting. A can of local pineapple needed to be used. Cans are notoriously poor around here, so it definitely wouldn't last too long. And then, there was the cheese. Yesterday, DH tried to make ice cream. But when he heated the milk with the sugar in it, it curdled, indicating that the milk was no longer as fresh as it had once been. Our milk is delivered to the door every day, still warm and usually with cow hair floating in it. We boil it and refrigerate it, but it does not keep too long. I couldn't see wasting all of that milk and sugar, so I drained it through cheese cloth and had a wonderful, pre-sweetened soft cheese. The need to use this up before it spoiled pushed me to look for a recipe that would use both the pineapple and the cheese. In the end I chose a recipe that I made once before. Of course, that meant some substitutions also. Sour milk for sour cream, pineapple for apples, my cheese for cream cheese etc. By the way, the ice cream turned out wonderfully on the second try: fresher milk.

And whose birthday was it that was celebrated in this interesting way?


Good thing I like to cook!

What a week . . .

It has been a long week. And not a particularly good one. Some difficulties with our work here have been emotionally and spiritually draining. The result is that we are physically drained as well. So, posting has been on the back burner. But today is a bit better. Praise God!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Just a Thought

From Streams in the Desert Volume 1 for September 17:
Nothing else but seeing God in everything will make us loving and patient with those who annoy and trouble us. They will be to us then only instruments for accomplishing his tender and wise purposes toward us, and we shall even find ourselves at last inwardly thanking them for the blessings they bring us. Nothing else will completely put an end to all murmuring or rebelling thoughts. -- H. W. Smith

Saturday, September 15, 2007

On Songs of Praise

For years the debate has raged: Hymns or Praise Choruses? Thankfully, many churches have found a balance, worshiping God in a variety of ways that a variety of people can relate to. I am also grateful for the reality checks that have come from various places reminding us that worship is about God, not about musical style, yet I recognize that some people simply find it easier to worship through a particular style.

Mrs. Wilt at The Sparrow's Nest posted a wonderful tongue in cheek look at hymns and praise choruses here.

There is some truth inside the joke, however. Praise choruses do tend to be repetitive. Hymns, at least the older ones, do tend to use more archaic, poetic language. But I believe that there is value in both for several reasons.

First, many hymns contain an amazing depth of spiritual truth and insight. I personally have found great encouragement from hymns such as I Take Thy Promise, Lord; When I Survey; Holy, Holy, Holy; Be Still My Soul; Hiding in Thee; and Great is Thy Faithfulness. There is a richness in these and many other hymns that pulls my heart and mind toward God as I sing them or meditate on their words.

At the same time, I love to sing praise choruses. Many of them highlight the intimacy that we as believers can have with Christ. They remind us that we can come before Him with our praises and our needs. I also have noticed that in the past 5-10 years many songwriters have recognized the danger of worship time becoming entertainment time. More and more new songs have become modern hymns, incorporating the best of hymn-like theology with more modern tunes and arrangements. We Fall Down, Indescribable, and Ancient Words are good examples.

Thinking again about how we teach our children about worship,I find both types of songs to be helpful. We are currently learning the hymn When I Survey as a family. We talk through the lyrics and what they mean and how they teach us about Jesus. Where there are references to specific Bible passages, we may look them up. Then we practice the hymn. I am trying to keep it in my head so that I can hum or sing it at odd times. Hopefully that will help it stick better in everyone's minds. To me, this is both an academic exercise and a way to help us worship with our minds.

With praise choruses, I tend to sing along as they play on the CD player. I want my children to see me worship from my heart.

Nothing I've written is particularly ground-breaking, but I hope that my love of all kinds of worship music will help my children to see that worship needs to involve the head and the heart.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A cup of beauty

Yesterday, I wanted a cup of tea in the afternoon. I reached for the usual, unattractive, "found it somewhere" mug, then stopped and chose this instead:

This lovely cup, complete with a cover to keep my tea hot, was a gift from a dear friend. Just using something pretty, instead of something simply utilitarian, made me smile. Sometimes the little choices make a big difference.

Common Sense

I have just started reading Common Sense Christian Living by Edith Schaeffer. So far, it is an excellent book. Here is what I am mulling over from this book today:
There is a blur around us, a mixture that confuses us. We need to care about not just muddling on and trying to live in separate compartments. We need to strive for wholeness in a practical way, hour by hour and day by day, that there might be the reality that is meant to be in me and in you.
I think that is something I struggle with. It is easier - or perhaps just habit - to compartmentalize life into work, family, church, worship, etc. But the reality is that life is not made up of little boxes, neatly defined. Cleaning up a child's "accident" is just as holy a work as praising God in song. Easier to say than to live out, however.


I don't think I have the capacity to become a daily blogger. I write when I have something to say. So, for the past few days when we were away, then traveling home, then unpacking, etc., I had nothing much to write. I think that reflects the fact that I had little time to think. When we are in the big city, I am too busy trying to find places in a tiny room to hand 5 people's wet laundry to ponder the greater questions of the universe. Taking the kids swimming takes precedence over contemplation, and this trip, sore throats and runny noses took over any spare minutes I had.

So, no posts for 4 days. Until today, when you get TWO!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Among the Chaos

I am sitting at the too-high desk in the not-very-clean guest house, making corrections to a project proposal document for Bob. Around me are several stacks of DVDs awaiting checking for quality; half-a-dozen books I have picked up that I would like to read; 5 varied plastic cups and a pitcher of lukewarm water; laundry in various stages of dirty, clean, wet, wrinkled; a roll of toilet paper doubling as Kleenex; an empty diet Pepsi bottle (thanks, Bob); piles of schoolbooks - some open, some closed, some currently being written in; crayons everywhere; a pile of phonics flashcards strewn on the floor; various shopping bags containing groceries, books, and winter clothes; at least 7 pairs of shoes; suitcases and backpacks of various sizes and descriptions; countless matchbox cars; an open packet of laundry soap; and 3 children in various stages of falling off the bed where they are supposed to be working on schoolwork. All of this in a room that is no bigger than 10 x 12.

Isn't life beautiful?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Beautiful Things

An amazing pink and purple sunset, glimpsed between buildings and buses in an otherwise ugly city.

Kisses from the sweetest daughter on earth.

A husband who showers his wife with love.

Praise the Savior!