Miss Lucy’s Real Life Bear Encounter

For those who don’t know…..Peri Zahnd becomes Miss Lucy when she’s in the mountains, and her main man is Mr. Jinks.

It’s become a familiar occurrence—the alarm clock going off once a year at 1 am during our family vacation—the wake-up call for the Longs Peak climb. The past two years I got up and dressed silently along with the others in the clothes that had been carefully laid out just a few hours before, gulped down a bowl of Cheerios, and hiked the six and a half miles with the summitters, only to wave good-bye at the Keyhole. I would have done the same today, but the guys weren’t going the Keyhole route, wanting to try the Loft, and would be turning off at Chasm Junction, so I made other plans for the day.

Since I wanted the car, I’d need to drive them to the trailhead. So instead of getting up when they did, I laid there and began to dread returning at 2:15 am to this remote house we had rented halfway up the side of Prospect Mountain. Our road dead-ended after several switchbacks at the house, and there was a climb up a set of steps past a bushy tree that hung over the stairs. As Jinks would put it, I had a case of “bear on the brain.” Continue reading “Miss Lucy’s Real Life Bear Encounter”


We’ve been talking about the world, the “cosmos”, and what the Bible has to say about it. John 3:16—“For God so loved THE WORLD” and didn’t send his only son into the world to condemn it, but to SAVE it. However, the same man, John wrote in his epistle that we should “love not THE WORLD.” And so I love the world, but I don’t love it…..another one of the ditches we humans are called to straddle.

But it’s true, I love the world, INTENSELY, but there are some things I really hate. I sat down to think about those things briefly, and I made some lists… Continue reading “THE WORLD–WHAT I LOVE AND WHAT I HATE”


My grandparents were born at the turn of the century and lived long lives—I used to marvel at the degree of change they experienced in their lifetimes. They were born into homes without telephones or automobiles. I didn’t figure I’d ever see that amount of transformation in my life—everything we needed had already been invented.

But I grew up in a home without air-conditioning, as did most of my friends. I remember hot sweaty nights, lying on the top of the bed without covers, a fan pointed directly at me. My parents later had central air installed, but when I got my married it was back to the fans. On particularly hot summer nights we’d run the tub full of cold water and soak in it every few hours. After a few years, we got two noisy window air conditioners—a big one in the living room and a small one in our bedroom. The roar in your ears was a trade-off for the heat. My two oldest sons may remember a few years without an air-conditioned house, but the youngest has always had the luxury of central air…. Continue reading “PROGRESS”

Dirty Little Secrets–a Psalm of Peri

I’ve heard it said, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” Ain’t that the truth!

Dear Lord, I don’t want to die! It really irks me that I’m getting older. It seems a giant waste, all this experience that has taken so long to accumulate. Youth is wasted on the young. No offense to the young, whoever you are, we’ve all been there. But I wouldn’t go back to being eighteen again, UNLESS I could somehow compress all the life experiences I’ve had into six months, but then again, those six months would have killed me for sure. It really does take a lifetime to learn how to live. It seems to be a bad system, O Lord, no disrespect intended, spending our lives acquiring very valuable knowledge and skills, just to fade away in the end. The idea of some kind of “eternal rest” actually horrifies me–yeah, I like taking a day off now and then but resting forever sounds like torture. You know I like doing stuff!

Oh Lord, I’ve heard the talk about heaven, streets of gold and pearly gates and all, but I have to tell the truth, I really love this earth you created, and I’ve only had the chance to explore such a little bit of it…. Continue reading “Dirty Little Secrets–a Psalm of Peri”


I am taking a break from practicing the violin to write this blog. Yes, the violin. It’s been a lifelong desire, and I have just had my third lesson. And I can verify that the comments I have heard all my life about listening to a beginning violinist practice being a very annoying experience are indeed true. I once thought my opportunity to learn had passed me by. But I have changed my thinking. My new way of thinking has influenced me in many ways, and so at the ripe old age of…. Continue reading “SMEDES”

Menagerie Update

Salman Rushdie, our pet raccoon, has returned–that is, has emerged from hiding, and is once again enjoying sharing meals with the three cats at the back door. The animals are very relaxed and cordial with one another–they seem to be unaware of any differences in species. It’s good to see them interacting without prejudice and intolerance, much better than some people I know. A human guest at our house last night made some disparaging comments about Salman and even made threats involving firearms. We made it clear how we felt about that.

The big news is that Salman has apparently given BIRTH since she last visited. Therefore Salman has become Salmonella!

I feel a tad guilty saying this, but I do hope she doesn’t start bringing the kids around. Enough is enough.

St. Francis of Assisi

One night last week I walked through the kitchen and glanced through the sliding glass door where Brian was sitting reading on the deck. I noticed one of our three cats, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, eating from the bowl of food by the backdoor, just a few feet away from where Brian sat. But I looked again at the cat—his tail looked a little fuller and fatter, and I moved around to see his face. It wasn’t Fyo, the calico cat, it was a RACCOON! I rapped on the window to get Brian’s attention—he turned around and then yelled “Hey!” The critter looked at him calmly for a minute, and then stuck his face back in the bowl. “Hey, get out of here!” Brian yelled again, and got up to chase him off. The coon reluctantly ambled over to the steps and down. Leo, the big yellow tomcat, (that’s Leo Tolstoy) who had been sprawled out under the table got up when Brian yelled, and walked placidly down the steps with the coon…. Continue reading “St. Francis of Assisi”


On Tuesday our church staff put aside our regular tasks to go pick up trash. No, it wasn’t glamorous. But I had been aghast at the huge amount of trash that had been thrown out of car windows defiling our fair city, and decided we could at least take care of the two roads leading to our church building. It was overcast and windy, which made our job a little less pleasant, but doing it together made it fun.

Walking about four miles of roadway on Cook and Riverside Roads, we filled approximately fifty large trash bags–that is, a full pickup bed and two trailers, which filled up an empty dumpster, and that’s not including the decomposing deer carcass. It was an unbelievable amount of trash.

Some observations we made:

1.Beer drinkers in our city are decidedly health conscious—almost all the bottles were lite beer, and Miller Lite seems to be on top.

2.The beer bottles outnumbered the soda cans 10-1. We decided this doesn’t mean ten times more beer than soda pop gets consumed in our city, but that beer drinkers are more likely to toss their trash out the window. We found a surprising amount of full, unopened bottles of beer—perhaps people are worried about getting caught with it in their cars?

3.Most of the paper trash is related to fast food.

4.There was very little other trash of any interest whatsoever.

5.All that bending, stretching, squatting, and hefting is far more exhausting than you would think.

I was excited to drive to work the next morning. I was anticipating an amazing difference. It did look much cleaner. It looked different to me, since I had been so aware and disgusted by the mess. But driving down Cook Road, I admitted to myself that the absence of trash is not something people notice. What gets noticed is TRASH. I was also quite indignant to notice the Hardee’s sack and two drink cups that had shown up overnight.

TRASH. It’s the ugly part of life, but admittedly, there’s a lot of it. There was far more laying there by the side of the road than we would have guessed. And there’s not much glory in picking it up. But I’m glad we did, even though it will re-accumulate, and need to be done again.

I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus. Last Friday’s message at church asked the revealing question, “Why Do You Want to be a Christian?” That’s a great question—how we answer that in our own mind will greatly affect the quality of our Christian life. I want to be a Christian because I want to participate in God’s plan to redeem creation, and creation includes me. I recognize the world is full of trash—I not only want to go pick it up on the streets, but I want to get it out of my life and help others to get it out of theirs. So what we did was a prophetic declaration of what we’ve committed our lives as a church staff to.

We could have looked at the trash, condemned it, said, “That’s not my trash.” That’s what good Pharisees would do. Jesus joined the human race and gave himself up to the purpose of redeeming creation. I deal every day with trash in the lives of people who are in the process of being salvaged. Picking up beer bottles and paper was a bit of a break, but a reminder that what we do everyday is eternally valuable.


It’s Easter–we’re celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! And rightly should we–in any way we can possibly celebrate! We had a feast this afternoon after church–forget eating healthy, ignore the calories–that can all wait until tomorrow! We had ham, scalloped potatoes, and about six side dishes. Everything was awesome, including the homemade rolls–I ate two of them, slathered with butter. I knew there was a delicious lemon meringue pie waiting at the end of the meal, but that didn’t slow me down. And I didn’t just have one piece of pie, I had half of someone else’s as well, with a cappucchino to finish it off.

After lunch, I had started cleaning up when it hit me. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like passing out, and crawled off to the sofa, leaving the kitchen in a shambles. I grabbed a pillow and prayed for sleep to quickly overtake me as I felt lightheaded and miserable. My prayers were immediately answered, and I think I was out for about half an hour, as my blood sugar fought to recover from the assault it had encountered.

When I awoke, I laid there and wondered why I had eaten so much. Yes, it felt good while it was going in my mouth, but the lasting effects weren’t so great. I felt like a slug most of the rest of the day. I recovered enough to play Scrabble with the family, but I continued to chastise myself for my frenzied, gluttonous fit. I had momentarily forgotten that I prefer to eat healthy not because I am self-righteous or think I’m better than others or that I’m obsessed with how I look in a bathing suit (oh, please!) but simply because I FEEL better when I make an effort to limit my intake of sugar and simple carbs and highly processed foods.

So tomorrow is Monday, the sun will rise in the morning and it will be a new day. And like every day, it’s an opportunity for a new beginning. And I’ll be hoping someone else will finish up that luscious pie–which tastes so good but leaves me feeling not so good in the end. I’ll remind myself that it’s worth it to deny immediate gratification and reap longer term benefits. I’ll hopefully take a nice long walk or exercise in some way that will get my blood flowing, my metabolism stimulated, and my feel-good endorphins circulating!

Was it a sin? Oh, who knows! If it was, God forgives me. It’s not a big deal. But there’s something to consider here–I know the right way to eat, and I pay a price when I don’t. A little bit of pie, once in a while, one roll–would have been perfectly fine. Pie and hot rolls fresh from the oven are good things–wonderful things! That is, when eaten in moderation, when a little self control is shown.

There are parallels that have much farther reaching effects. There are so many good things that God has created for us to enjoy, but when we use them in wrong ways, we can suffer incredibly. I’m thinking of someone I’ve been trying to help who is suffering deep emotional wounds because of a casual sexual encounter–wrongful use of something God created to be a blessing. It’s not that God is angry and can’t forgive her, but that this woman can’t forgive herself. Why does God hate sin so much? Not because He is so personally offended, but because He knows the damage it causes.

God is not a harsh, moralistic goody-goody whose ears burn at the thought of sin, but a Father who loves us intensely and knows exactly what we need to be healthy in body, soul, and spirit. Not only will a diet that consists of soda pop and twinkies make us miserable, but so will a heart given over to unforgiveness or to anger or to pornography.

We’re on a journey, learning lessons along the way. We are hopefully beginning to understand why God has told us to do certain things and not to do certain other things. It’s not a random list of commands, but commands all designed for our ultimate good. If I want the best for me, I need to pay attention.

I’m going to bake another lemon meringue pie next Easter. But I’m going to remind myself that I’ll feel better later if I simply enjoy a nice little piece–I don’t want TOO MUCH of a good thing!


It was a great trip, and now I’m back home, trying hard not to succumb to the jetlag demons and go to bed at 7 pm….

This was my third trip to India, but I’ve come away with deeper and richer feelings about the place. I feel like India is in my blood now. It’s the most different place from where I live that I’ve ever visited. As Kipling so aptly put it a hundred years ago, “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”

I was worn to a frazzle as we concluded the conference Sunday night—dozed in the car on the 45 minute trip back to the hotel, and then slept the night through, which is a real feat considering the noise. Yes, we’re on the fifth floor of the hotel, with the windows shut, but the noise from the street is deafening–every kind of horn you can imagine, being blown nonstop, and an occasional impromptu musical performance blaring on loudspeakers. In the morning, we checked out at 10 am, on our way to Varanasi. It was supposed to be a 2-3 hour car ride, but we were now hearing it was more likely to be six. It was about 300 kilometres, but with Indian road conditions that can easily be six hours.

It turned out to be a ride to remember. I was thinking of many of my American friends and thanking God they were not here with me—you know who you are! It was six hours of swerving and braking and hornblowing, dodging bicycles and trucks and other cars and rickshaws and animals and everything else imaginable. I was sitting in the back seat looking out the side window. We would frequently pass bicycles at 60 km/hr with what looked like only inches to spare, and the bicyclists never seemed to flinch. I looked out the front window a little, but the view was too harrowing. I thank God that in my entire life I have never been bothered with carsickness—if I was ever going to succumb, this was going to be it.

The ancient road was now paved, but in the same location it has been forever. Shops and stalls and houses lined most of the route, coming right up to the edge of the road. Children played, adults shopped, ate, bartered, made furniture, cooked, worked on vehicles, changed tires, slept, bathed—everything humans do, they were doing it. Villages turned into cities, and the traffic slowed further. Only now and then did we pass a small section of uninhabited ground.

This is India. Most people don’t live in the big cities, but the thousands and thousands of villages that cover the land. The more prosperous villages are located on the highways, like the ones I was seeing. The poorer villagers live far from the main roads, but in reality, it is hard to imagine poorer living conditions than what was passing before my eyes.

I saw lots of men relieving themselves—mostly they turned their back to the road, but it didn’t take much of a guess to know what they were doing. I also saw a few men bathing—squatted down with what looked like a sheet over them, and again, it was obvious what they were doing. I’m not sure where the ladies were taking care of business…perhaps they’re a bit more modest.

There were people napping here and there on crude homemade cots—do they have real beds in houses somewhere where they sleep at night? I don’t know. I saw many “barbershops”—single chairs outdoors in front of a large mirror nailed to the side of a tree. Haircuts cost 20 rupees here, about fifty cents.

Food was being cooked and eaten. Toddlers ran about in warm sweaters, but naked from the waist down–toilet training? Laundry was hung out to dry, on clotheslines and sometimes on bushes. Mechanics worked on cars. Life was happening.

When our driver stopped to get gas, I talked Lilly into walking a ways down the road with me, and our driver said he would pull over and pick us up when he caught up with us. I soon realized that there was about two inches of dry dusty dirt all along the side of the road. It was impossible to walk without kicking up a cloud around you. If I lived in India, I would soon tire of the dirt, the noise, the pollution, the traffic and the crowds.

Everywhere I looked, there were people, people, people. If India has more than three times as many people as the US, and the land mass is only a third our size, then that means the density of people is about ten times that of the US. It seemed like a lot more than that!

The road trip to Varanasi was an education in itself.

On our last day in India, back in Delhi, I finally got to see the apartment that our church helped to buy for PG and Lilly. They had never had a home of their own, were living in the basement of the ministry office, and we were thrilled to be able to bless God’s servants who had sacrificed so much their entire lives. They are really happy here.

The apartment is on the fifteenth floor of a high-rise complex on the outskirts of Delhi. As we approached the area, I suddenly saw dozens of very new, high tech, architecturally sophisticated skyscrapers. I was shocked. “What is all this?” I asked our driver. “Call centers” was his answer. It was unbelievable. I had seen handbills posted for “Spoken English Call Center Training.” These are highly desirable jobs, very well paying jobs, but high stress, according to the driver. Of course they are high stress. Imagine talking to irate Americans all day long, angry because they can’t understand your accent! Oh people, be kind!

We also passed a glitzy mall that reminded me of a Galleria. Our driver said there were twenty malls like it nearby. I was stunned.

We arrived at the apartment, and PG and Lilly were so happy to be able to show it to us. It is very modest on American standards, but it is located in such a booming area that their initial investment has now appreciated four to five times in four years! The value is comparable to East and West Coast housing costs in the US. Lilly says her favorite part is that she can wake up in the morning and see the sunrise from her bed. I looked down from the balcony (fifteen floors!) and everywhere I looked construction crews, men in hard hats, were working. It was dark now, but I am told that construction continues 24 hours a day. The foundations have been laid for another huge highrise directly in front of PG and Lilly’s building, but fortunately that building is only twelve floors, so Lilly’s view of the sunrise will not be blocked! I think our Father in heaven may have helped to engineer that.

India is definitely changing, has changed significantly since I was last there five years ago. There is an emerging middle class that is highly educated and motivated. The economy is going up, up, up. But extreme poverty remains for a huge percentage of the population, with living conditions that would never be tolerated for anyone in our country. I would like to think that as the economy improves that those living conditions will also improve for all. But in a country where the caste system rules and Hinduism prevails, I fear that is not going to happen. The gospel is the only answer for India. The Kingdom of Jesus is the only thing that will make a difference. May His Kingdom come, and His will be done!