Wednesday, August 4, 2010

WFW: Money Bear

"So is he that layeth up treasure for himself,
and is not rich toward God."

Luke 12:21 (KJV)

"And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment."

Luke 12:16-23 (KJV)

Bear was so sad to run into her friend, good 'ol Money Bear, at the dump the other day. Someone had propped him up against the dump man's little shack, just down the hill from the main dumpster, probably hoping some kid might still want him and take him home, to give him a second chance at life.

But despite his cheery smile and his coat filled with money, there obviously were no takers. He looked so pathetic sitting there, too, leaning against the peeling paint of the wall, grime all over his face, his once cheery green bow tie hanging loose. Oh, sure, he was still wearing that wide smile, eyes still bright with glee over all the money he'd collected during his life, and pinned to his coat.

But where had it gotten him in the end?

Bear had tried to warn him. Tried to remind him that moth and rust do corrupt -- that it's better to put your treasures into heaven -- that earthly wealth passes away -- that you can't take it with you.

But did Money Bear ever listen?


Whenever the church collection basket for the Missionary Offering went by, Money Bear ignored it, even though his coat already had bills hanging out all over it, and he had plenty to spare. He always wanted to keep what he had . . .

Was always looking for more.

He loved to shop the aisles of Bear-Mart though. Loved to build Dens with hand crafted Maple furniture (very expensive stuff). Loved to squeeze that extra bit of profit out of any business deal, even though it often met his customers weren't treated quite fairly. (He always had a rationalization. Always an excuse. So long as it allowed him to keep pinning bills onto his coat.)

Despite that though, he was a pretty fun bear to be around -- had a basically good heart.

Just always had a blind spot when it came to money.

But where does all that money get him at the dump?

It's all too sad.

Bear will miss him.

Internet Cafe Devotions is hosting Word Filled Wednesday, and this week's links are HERE . So be sure and drop over there as well, to find links to the whole selection of entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion! Bear is also joining in the Seven Clown Circus "Wordful Wednesday" loop this week, and likely in future weeks as well. Seven Clown Circus is not Christian focused -- goal is to post photo(s) and commentary.
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Fiction: Risky Welcome

: Bear got so immersed in spring Den cleaning this week, that she missed posting on Word Filled Wednesday. But fortunately, while in the process of cleaning, she was sorting through years worth of old papers and ran across a short story that she had submitted to a magazine, but which was rejected.

So she did a major rewrite on it (and was concentrating on it so hard that the goat's milk she was pasteurizing almost boiled over on the stove -- she caught it just in time!) And she likes the story much better now, feeling it to be much tighter than it originally was. So likely will try submitting it somewhere again, although she may need to make some more adjustments before doing so.

At any rate, it got done just in time for Friday Fiction.

(And the Den is looking quite a bit cleaner, although it has a long way to go yet. That project may take several weeks! Hopefully though, more stories will turn up, as she sorts through more papers . . .)

Risky Welcome

"Heads up, Rico!" Nick called to me, stealing the ball from Mary and zooming down the sideline. He leaped into the air and made a perfect lay-up. The ball rattled the schoolyard hoop as it shot through.

"Yes!" he shouted. "Two points!"

Nick's a good friend, even though he ended up paired off with Craig, playing against Mary and me.

He hadn't seen the stuff Craig was pulling. Mary, my twin sister, hadn't noticed either. She was too busy trying to guard our hoop against Nick's onslaughts. She's fast, but Nick's taller.

I dribbled the ball, slowly moving towards the goal, trying to see past Craig, guarding me. Then, seeing Mary finally get in the clear, I bounce-passed under his waving arms. The slap he gave my forearm was so loud, it echoed across the concrete court.

Oh, he was a dirty player, all right. Closing my eyes, I waited for the sting to ease.

"Time!" I yelled, glaring at Craig. He looked back at me, dark eyes expressionless. Hands on my knees, I concentrated on catching my breath. My temper's my weak point, and I felt like I was about to burst . . . Even prayed silently the Lord would help keep me from slugging him.

It was a warm, sunny afternoon, like we sometimes get in Texas in late November. Dry leaves skittered past my feet, and the breeze cooled my sweat soaked T-shirt. Still waiting for my arm to stop hurting, I tried to figure how Mary had ever talked me into letting Craig play . . .

She, Nick, and I had been walkin' to the court last Saturday, when she'd spotted him hanging out in front of Braum's Ice Cream shop. He was wearing a denim jacket with a patch on one elbow, his ever present black baseball cap turned backwards, and old scruffy jeans. Looked like he was smoking somethin', but he put his hand behind his back quick when he saw us, so I couldn't be sure. Thought I smelled pot on his clothes in the hall one day at school too, but maybe not. It's hard to tell in a crowd.

"Hey, there's the new kid," Mary said. "He looks bored, and we could use a fourth for a change. I've seen him shooting baskets after school. He's all right."

"We don't even know him!" I protested. "And if you ask me, he's trouble. Always has that sneaky look about him."

She grinned, "Come on, Rico. He's just new and lonely. Weren't you listening when Mrs. Carey was talking 'bout how we should make new kids feel welcome?"

Mrs. Carey is our Sunday School teacher. Personally, I figured she'd cringe to hear Mary talkin' about her lesson, using it for a dude like Craig. After all, Mrs. Carey was always talking 'bout how the Bible tells us to obey parents and teachers. Would she really want us playing basketball with Craig? I so doubted that. What if it was a joint he'd just ditched in that garbage can behind him?

Nick shrugged. "I don't know, Mary," he said. "Craig's kinda rough, looks like."

She stopped walking and put her hands on hips, brown eyes flashing. "Well, what about when we rescued Gray-Boy last year? He was all dirty and growled at us at first, 'cause he was scared. But he turned out to be the most neatest, loving dog we ever had! Right, Rico?"

I knew that look. She wasn't going to back down an inch. But I tried anyway. "Craig's no lost spaniel. He was in a gang once, from what I hear. I doubt hanging with him is even safe."

She laughed in my face, hooting, "Not safe. You're scared of that lost-looking boy?"

I snorted. "He's no homeless puppy, I tell you!"

But she won Nick over, and 'fore I knew what hit me, I was in the middle of this game, with wonderful Craig fouling me right and left. My ribs still ached from where he'd elbowed me earlier.

Nick clapped his hands together. "Come on, Rico. End of time-out. Let's move it!"

We played hard over the next fifteen minutes, but neither team could hang onto the lead. Then, when we all were near the hoop and Nick was coming down from battling Mary for a rebound, his right elbow hit Craig on the cheekbone.

Craig yelped, slapping a hand to his face, then shouted, "You did that on purpose!"

Nick whirled, dropped the ball, and swung his hands up in the air, palms forward. "Sorry, dude! Didn't know you were so close."

Craig's face flushed deep red. "You knew, all right!" He dropped his hands to his sides, balling them into fists. His cheek was already starting to swell.

Mary and I just stared, it was all happening so fast.

Nick took a step backwards, warily. "Honest. I didn't mean to --"

It happened in a flash.

I couldn't tell you just how Craig got the knife into his hand. Maybe he pulled it out of a jeans pocket.

There was a loud click, and the long blade flashed bright in the sunlight.

"Run!" yelled Mary, grabbing Nick's arm to pull him away.

The three of us were outside the cyclone fence 'fore I had time to think. When I glanced back from the street, Craig was still standin' there, holding the knife. He seemed frozen, like I was seeing a snapshot, or somethin'.

It wasn't 'til we got to our driveway at home, that we finally stopped running.

"Did ya see the size of that knife?" asked Nick, panting. He looked stunned. "I thought I was dead!"

"Mary . . ." I tried to get my breath back, huffing. "If I ever let you talk me into anything . . . like that . . . again, you can --"

The words caught in my throat.

Craig had just run around the corner and was heading for us at top speed, arms pumping.

"Whoa, dude!" Nick shouted, just before he hit the end of the driveway. "Don't come no closer!"

Craig skidded to a halt. "I dropped the blade in a garbage can, man!" He shoved his hands deep into his pockets. "I'll never pack it again. I swear. I got mad, and it was like, there, you know? I wasn't even thinking. Before I knew it, you all were running and . . ." He swiped his eyes with a forearm, his tattered shirt cuff flapping open.

Was he crying? Mary, Nick, and I glanced at each other, then back at him.

He winced as his arm brushed the swollen cheek. It was turning purplish. Then said, "Where I lived before, you had to have a knife on you if you wanted to survive. It's like a habit. It gets you by, from day to day."

Nick said, "Right. Some habit. That's rich!"

But Mary cooed in her lost-puppy-dog voice, "Oh, you poor thing! Was it that bad in the city you came from? You can play with us any time you --"

I crossed my arms, still breathing hard. "He can not . . . What's gonna happen next time one of his . . . habits takes over?"

Craig looked down at the gravel, not saying anything.

To my surprise, Nick backed me up for a change. Usually he sides with Mary.

"Rico's right," he said. "Dude, if you're really sorry, you're gonna have to show it by letting us see you change for a while, before you're on the team again."

Craig's shoulders slumped, and he turned slow, to leave.

Before he got three steps though, Mary said, "Wait a minute! Couldn't he come play at the park games on Wednesday nights when we're with the Youth Pastor and the church team? Wouldn't that work? There'd be plenty of people around. And it would give us time to get to know each other in a safer --" She broke off, embarrassed.

Craig turned back, looking kinda hopeful for a second, but then shot a look my way and shook his head. "Nah! If you don't want me around . . ."

Well, my ribs still ached, my arm still stung, and it seemed like I was never gonna get my breath back . . . But it did sound like it might work, and the dude looked so down. Reluctantly, I signaled Nick with a nod.

So Nick said, "Right then. Let's try it in a bigger group. You can come Wednesdays."

That's when, for the first time ever, I actually saw Craig smile.

"Thanks," he said. Then repeated, "Thanks!" and waved as he walked away, saying over his shoulder, "I'll see you Wednesday."

So it worked out okay in the end. The dude really did change. Within a few months, the four of us were back to playing at the schoolyard again, regular, on Saturdays.

After some more months, he even started coming to church with us Sundays. Mary was the one that talked him into that.

And I never did end up slugging him. Which I guess just goes to show . . .

The Lord does answer prayer.

The End.

Rick over at Pod Tales and Ponderings is hosting Friday Fiction this week. So be sure and drop over there as well, to find links to the whole selection of entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion!
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Sharing: A Spiritual Secret

: (NOTE: The Bearmobile's fixed! More on that below . . . )

"The founder of the China Inland Mission was J. Hudson Taylor, a physician full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, of entire surrender to God and His call, of great self-denial, heartfelt compassion, and rare power in prayer . . ." *

Bear thoughtfully laid down the book at the midway point one recent Sunday afternoon, to take some time to think and pray about what she'd just read. Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret by Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor, (Moody Press) was turning out to be filled with much food for thought, despite its faded cover, deeply tanned pages, and slightly musty smell. This condensed biography of Hudson Taylor's missionary outreach to China back in 1853 - 1905 was definitely not something just to be breezed through, all at once, on a single Sunday afternoon.

Bear hadn't known much about Hudson Taylor, except that he was a famous missionary in China and that many people trace the roots of today's tremendous Chinese Christian movement back to him as one of its main founders.

And normally, Bear wouldn't be too interested in a book that was called someone's "Spiritual Secret," because Bear's not much of a believer in spiritual "Secrets" in general, feeling that the Lord has made things pretty clear in the Bible, and is not very secretive at all, for anyone who wants to take the time to sit down and listen to what He has to say by reading His Words.

However, she was certainly interested in reading about any man that could sail off to a place where the Gospel was almost totally unknown, back in the 1800's, and successfully plant churches across a whole huge country, on faith alone. Especially since the times were clearly not easy -- as an excerpt of a letter he wrote soon after his arrival attests (p. 50) . . .

My position is a very difficult one. Dr. Lockhart has taken me to reside with him for the present, as houses are not to be had for love or money . . . No one can live in the city . . . They are fighting now while I write, and the house shakes with the report of cannon.

It is so cold that I can hardly think or hold the pen. . . . Jesus will guide me aright . . . I love the Chinese more than ever. Oh, to be useful among them!

As Bear read the opening chapters of the book, she could see that his trust in the Lord just grew stronger, as circumstance pressed harder upon him. He wrote shortly after, in another letter (p. 51) . . .

What it means to be so far from home, at the seat of war and not able to understand or be understood by the people was fully realized. Their utter wretchedness and misery and my inability to help them or even point them to Jesus powerfully affected me. Satan came in as a flood, but there was One who lifted up a standard against him. Jesus is here, and though unknown to the majority, and uncared-for by many who might know Him, He is present and precious to His own.

He learned the language quickly though, and soon even dyed his hair black and began to wear a Chinese style braid and Chinese style dress in order to be less initmidating to the people he was reaching out to, despite the fact that men of his own society in those days frowned on that type of thing (to say the least). And as Bear flipped the pages of the book, reading descriptions of his daily trials, and challenges, and faith, and outreach to the people (as both a doctor and an evangelist), she soon forgot all about the book's title. Despite wars, riots, sickness, deaths in his family (including death of his wife and a couple of his very young children) . . . onwards he persisted, riding boats down China's waterways on long journeys with short rations -- as a 19th century Apostle Paul.

But then, near the middle of the book, when she least expected it, Bear came upon Hudson Taylor's "secret," and was surprisingly rocked by it.

It was an experience he had in the middle of his missionary years in China that he said totally transformed his life and walk with the Lord (even though he had already been a tremendously fruitful missionary over the years already). On September 4, 1869, he suddenly caught a deeper understanding of what it meant to be part of the Body of Christ; and he writes that he then entered into what he referred to as "The Exchanged Life".

In a letter to his sister he writes (p. 161) . . .

"Nor was this all He showed me, nor one half. As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in wishing to get the sap, the fulness out of Him! I saw not only that Jesus will never leave me, but that I am a member of His Body, of His flesh and His bones. The vine is not the root merely, but all -- root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves flowers, fruit . . . Oh my dear sister, it is a wonderful thing to be really one with the risen and exalted Saviour, to be a member of Christ. Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and your left poor? Or your head be well fed while your body starves? Again, think of its bearing on prayer. Could a bank clerk say to a customer, 'It was only your hand and not you that wrote that check.' or 'I can not pay this sum to your hand, but only to your self?' No more can your prayers or mine be discredited if offered in the Name of Jesus, (that is, not for the sake of Jesus merely, but on the ground that we are His members) so long as we keep within the limits of Christ's credit -- a tolerably wide limit! If we ask for anything unscriptural, or not in accordance with the will of God, Christ Himself could not do that. But "if we ask any thing according to his will . . . we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. "

And farther along in the letter adds, (p. 162) . . .

"The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His Will, and His Will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. It little matters to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money and brings me his purchases. So, if God should place me in great perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources will be unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine -- for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me."

And he relates more about how he realized that he needed to stop focusing so much on his own shortcomings, sins, and failings (always feeling he was falling short in his own efforts of trying to strive towards holiness and unwavering belief), and the need to instead focus much more on the Lord Himself. And he went on and on for pages, writing how he found new rest, new peace, and a new strength for his work in that, and detailing more about it all.

And Bear has found herself praying on that much and asking the Lord to reveal to her more about it. Because she tends herself to get so discouraged with all her own shortcomings, failings, and sins of unbelief in various areas -- frustrated at how easily upset she can get in situations where she should just be resting and trusting the Lord.

In fact, reading that far into the book already helped some, making it a much easier two weeks than it would have been, while waiting to find out what was wrong with her broken Bearmobile, which was stranded in a mechanic's shop in a town miles away from the Den.

Even though Bear knows she doesn't yet understand fully how to enter that rest that Hudson Taylor found (in the midst of his trials and danger in war-torn China and in the midst of risking his life daily in evangelistic outreach), she did catch a glimpse of what he was driving at.

Enough of a glimpse to help much already.

And she's looking forward to reading more of the book this Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Bearmobile got repaired on Friday, finally, and is running "like a top" again, as the mechanic put it. It turned out that some sort of bearing assembly thing-a-mabob that is important to the timing belt froze up completely, and broke, which caused the timing belt to break.

But even though the repair job involved at least three hours of labor, (and likely more), and even though the mechanic towed the car several blocks to his shop; he only charged Bear for two hours labor and parts. Said that he was thankful that Bear had given him plenty of time to work on it, so he could do it between other repair jobs -- so was charging her less. Also said he had been in church a few times with Bear a few years ago (when she hadn't known it), and so had heard a couple of her testimonies (even though Bear hadn't known they'd met before). Said he wanted to help out.

So she felt overwhelmingly blessed, and thankful (to the mechanic, to the Lord, and to all those who prayed and helped these past two weeks in various ways) as she headed out to catch up on her shopping and errands.

Her trusty Bearmobile once again zoomed down the highway, its motor purring happily and steadily.

And she knew Hudson Taylor was right. She knew that he did have a "Spiritual Secret", after all; although in fact, Bear thinks maybe it's a Secret that's no secret at all . . .

But is rather another step in learning to lean on the Lord's power and strength daily -- focusing on His strength, rather than on one's own weakness . . .

A secret that whispers the truth of just how fully each branch in the Body of Christ is a part of the Vine.

"Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:" Colossians 1:26-27 (KJV)

Drop by Spiritual Sundays as well, to find links to the whole selection of this week's entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion! (NOTE: A small percentage of Spiritual Sundays' entries may be by writers of other religions or of the New Age -- Discernment is advised.)

* All indented quotes are from Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret by Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor, Moody Press, (Publication date not listed in the book).
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Fiction: Find That Dachshund!

: Bear's starting to feel stronger again, and so it's been a busy week, catching up on many chores after the long period of heavy symptoms. For those who have been sending up prayers for the illness and for the Bearmobile . . . many thanks! God is clearly working in both situations, although the Bearmobile is still in the shop. The mechanic started working on it Wednesday, and thinks it might be the timing belt. Which sounds hopeful. But that's the last heard about it. So it's back to waiting mode. But Bear's thanking the Lord for progress on both fronts!

At any rate, Friday kind of snuck up on Bear quickly this week, without her having produced anything new yet. So she decided to pull out this short story from 2006 -- one of two that actually was purchased by a small church magazine. For those of you who got a chance to read Bear's post this weekend, Sunday Sharing: Turning the Clock Back, this story is an illustration of what Bear was talking about concerning how some magazines seem to opt out of using the Name of Jesus, and substitute "God" in instead. Although Bear specifically used the Name of Jesus several times in this story, in appropriate places, as you read it, you'll notice that His Name does not appear once in it. Each time, "God" was substituted. In fact, the story is exactly as Bear wrote it originally, word for word, except concerning the Name of Jesus -- that's the only thing the editor edited out.

But the main reason Bear chose to post it today, is that it was fun to write, and was fun to look up again and read and post. She may do a bit of editing on it (which it needs -- it was hard not to edit it, as she typed it up for this post in fact), plus put Jesus back into it, and send it around as a reprint, to see if she can get another sale from it. 'Twould be fun.

Find That Dachshund!

I live in your average small town in Texas, and let me tell you, when August rolls around and the thermometer starts popping over 100 degrees, things tend to get pretty boring. By noon, we try to shuffle indoors into the air-conditioning, because by then it starts feeling too hot to breathe.

That's where Elaine and I were headed that Wednesday, just before lunch. Indoor coolness. We were looking forward to making ice-cream sodas and watching the new video her parents had given her.

Joking around and giggling as we pedaled our bikes, we were just rounding the corner by Mrs. Olsen's when we braked to an abrupt stop, our tires skidding on the pavement.

Mrs. Olsen was on her front porch, calling in a shaky voice, "Barney! Please come home, Barney! Oh, where are you?" There were actually tears rolling down her wrinkled face. Her short gray hair was mussed, and even from the street we could tell that she hadn't slept much.

"How long has your dog been gone?" I called.

"Since yesterday. Maybe he's hurt." She twisted her sodden handkerchief as she walked toward us. "Oh, please help me find him, Trish."

Well, who could turn down a plea like that? Barney, that little brown sausage of a dog she called a dachshund, was her only family.

"Don't worry about a thing," I assured her. "We'll have him back before you know it!"

Elaine looked at me skeptically as we continued riding down the street toward her house. "What about the video and sodas?"

"We'll get to them after we put up the LOST DOG posters. Once the posters are up, all we have to do is stay home and wait for the phone to ring."

"Yeah? Where are we going to get posters?"

I smiled confidently as we pulled into her driveway. "Your brother, the computer whiz. Remember him? He can zip them out in no time."

"Not Tommy!" Her face blanched. "You can't --"

But I was already through the front door, heading for Tommy's cave. He was always sitting in there with the blinds closed, the place eerily lit by the computer screen alone.

I walked straight in, Elaine trailing fretfully behind. "Tommy," I said, slapping him on the back to snap him out of his hypnotic state. "We need LOST DOG posters. Right away, please."

He laughed, stuck out his tongue at Elaine, and ignored us. Finally, I had to resort to bribing him, promising to cater ice-cream sodas to the cave that afternoon.

Within 20 minutes we were on the street, going from telephone pole to telephone pole, stapling up the posters. I was feeling pretty smug about the whole thing -- until the police officer drove up at our fourth pole. He was scary-looking in his all-black uniform and with a big frown on his face. The gun on his belt didn't help, either.

"Girls, don't you know there's a $100 fine for posting signs on city property?"

He let us off with a warning, but only after he made us promise to take down the posters we had already put up.

"Now what?" asked Elaine, discouraged. "How're we going to find Barney?"

I was a bit discouraged myself, with ice-cream sodas and air-conditioning becoming steadily more distant, but a vision of Mrs. Olsen's tears kept me going. "We'll just have to go door to door and ask if anyone's seen him."

"You're kidding! It must be at least 90 degrees out here already!"

"Probably more like 95," I agreed, wiping sweat from my forehead with the back of my arm.

But Elaine followed along, helping me rip down the four posters. Then we headed up the porch steps of the first house.

Mrs. Stevens answered our knock, juggling her nine-month-old baby on her hip.

I held up a poster, asking, "Have you seen him, ma'am?"

There was a crash of pans from the kitchen, followed by a howl from her three-year-old.

"No, I haven't, but I'll keep a lookout," she said, hurrying away from the screen door.

Elaine shot me an I-told-you-this-would-never-work look. I shrugged, wiped more sweat from my forehead, and headed for the next house.

A man lived in this one. Rumor had it that he worked nights. When he opened the door, we stepped back a bit. He was taller than my dad, with thick, muscled arms sporting a couple of tattoos. His T-shirt and jeans were stained and wrinkled, and his eyes were all puffy from just waking up.

I held up the poster, my throat dry. He scanned it, then shook his head, frowning. "Nah, ain't seen no pooch."

"Woof! Woof!" It was a small bark, coming from a back room. The man looked over his shoulder, grunted, and slammed the door in our faces.

"That was Barney, for sure," I whispered to Elaine. "That man's probably holding him hostage!"

To my surprise, she nodded in agreement.

I tried to keep my voice steady. "Let's sneak around and look in the back window."

"Are you out of your mind?" Elaine's eyes widened, but she reluctantly followed me around the big, green bush that stood at the corner of the porch. I spotted a pile of old tires under a window and climbed onto them, putting a hand on her shoulder to steady myself. Then, cautiously, I squinted through the dusty glass.

There was a dog in there, all right. Unfortunately, it was a cocker spaniel. Also unfortunately, when it spotted me, it leaped toward the window, barking. I was so surprised that I lost my balance. Tires skidded out from under my feet, flying every which way, and I landed on my back in the dirt.

Above me, the door burst open with a loud BANG. Suddenly I was staring straight into the angry eyes of that man, looking down at me from the back porch. Then, miraculously, I was on my feet, running faster than I ever had before. Elaine was right behind me, too, even though she had always been a bit slow in gym class.

By the time we reached our bikes, we were gasping for breath, sweat pouring down our faces. "What're we going to do now?" puffed Elaine. "This sure isn't working!"

I stayed silent, trying not to breathe so hard -- trying to look like I still had things under control. Then inspiration struck.

"Hey! Why don't we ask God for help? God knows where Barney is! God knows everything, right?"

Elaine crossed her arms, thinking. Then she said, "Yeah, but how will God help us find a dog, when we can't even use posters, and it'll be 100 degrees soon, and -- "

But I knew I was on solid ground. I tried to cut in. "We're talking about God. Who knows how? We're just supposed to pray and leave the rest to God, right?"

"-- and Tommy's going to be wanting us to pay up with those sodas . . ."

I grabbed her hand, shaking it. "Let's pray!" So we did.

Then she looked at me. "Well?"

What did she expect? An instant miracle or something? These things take time.

But then, amazingly, a miracle happened. All of a sudden, I felt like I knew just how to find Barney. I couldn't explain it, and it didn't usually work that way, so fast and all, but . . .

I hopped onto my bike, saying, "Thank you, God!" Then I yelled, "Come on, Elaine! We've got to get Fargo!"

"What are you talking about? Why Fargo? You are so crazy!"

But she caught up with me within a block.

Fargo was my German shepherd. Since we lived next door to Mrs. Olsen, he and Barney played together a lot. Whenever I let him out of the house, Fargo joyfully headed straight to wherever Barney was.

When we got to my front door, I threw it open. "Fargo! Here, boy!" I whistled.

I didn't have to call twice. He zoomed at me, leaping up and planting two huge paws on my shoulders as I crouched. He gave my face a lick as I fell into the porch rail, and then he took off, running toward Mrs. Olsen's house.

I wiped dog slobber off my mouth and hair. "Eeeeewwww! . . . Follow him, Elaine! Quick!"

We were on our bikes in an instant, watching Fargo sniff the ground around the house. After he had sniffed clear across the front yard, he started trotting down the sidewalk.

At first, it was easy to keep up, but then Mrs. Banducci's cat, Cross-eye, leaped out from under the battered old car in the driveway, and Fargo took off after him at about 100 miles an hour.

"Oh no! We can't lose him or we'll never find Barney," I yelled, ditching the bike to shortcut through a hedge.

"This is so crazy!" Elaine panted, amazingly close behind me.

We climbed over fences, ran through yards, zoomed around trees, tromped through a few gardens, and even made a fast tour of the schoolyard.

Finally, Cross-eye climbed an oak tree next to the school and leaped onto the roof, out of sight.

Fargo watched the roof for a few minutes, then gave up and headed back the way we had come. Before long, he started wagging his tail, sniffing the ground again.

It seemed as if he was taking us on a tour around the whole town. Then behind Mr. Sandlin's bookstore selling used books, he slowed down and planted his paws on the side of a huge brown garbage bin, barking.

The bin was taller than I was. There was a huge pile of boxes of old books stacked next to it that made a rough stairway up to its rim.

Elaine and I were gasping for breath. She looked at me, raising an eyebrow.

Why not? I thought. It couldn't be worse than tires. I crawled up on the boxes and grabbed the edge of the can's metal rim, peering into the shadowy interior.

A pair of tiny eyes stared back at me.

Mrs. Olsen was overjoyed when we handed him over. "Oh, Barney, Barney!" Big tears rolled down her cheeks.

Was it worth it? Even though we had to spend the rest of the afternoon making ice-cream sodas for Tommy and watching him gloat? Even though we had to repair a few damaged gardens the next day?

Hey, if you'd seen the joy in old Mrs. Olsen's eyes, you wouldn't have to ask.

Even Elaine admitted it was worth it.

The End

Christina Banks over at With Pen in Hand is hosting Fiction Friday this week. So be sure and drop over there as well, to find links to the whole selection of entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion!
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WFW: Showers of Blessing

"And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them. ... Thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord God."

Ezekiel 34:26-27 & 30 (KJV)

Bear had been having a rough couple of weeks. Celebration over the computer victory (finally getting back on the Net after a full month of computer glitches, breakdowns, and bugs) was short-lived. Because almost immediately, the Bearmobile broke.

Bear was driving home from a distant town one night, when it suddenly jerked a couple of times and stopped running completely.

Even so, Bear sent up many thanks to the Lord that she was only 20 miles away from the Den, and that the Bearmobile died right across the street from a mechanic's shop. And thanked the Lord also for a kind policeman who arranged to have it pushed across the street into the mechanic's parking lot. It seemed to be that all was going well, and she'd be back on the road soon, even though she had to abandon the Bearmobile there and get a ride home.

And she wasn't too worried about it, because she'd taken the Bearmobile in for a tuneup just a couple weeks before, and the man who worked on it said everything looked very good. He didn't think that the weird noise it was making was the engine. But felt it was more likely a twig or something caught near a belt, even though he couldn't track it down. Or something else minor. He told her to bring it back when the noise got louder, so he could hear more clearly where it was coming from, to make it more findable.

So she wasn't at all worried, initially, the night it broke.

But Bear got really sick off and on during much of the following week.

Plus, the mechanic (whose parking lot the Bearmobile was stuck in) was having some problems of his own that week, and couldn't get to it.

So at the end of a full week, still no Bearmobile.

Finally, (since that mechanic was still having problems and hadn't even started working on it yet) Bear took the Bearmobile key over to another mechanic a few blocks away. He cheerfully said it would be no problem to tow it over and get to work on it.

So Bear was temporarily encouraged again, although still getting pretty sick repetitively.

That was last Thursday evening though, many days ago now.

And still no Bearmobile.

It's been a week and a half since it broke, and Bear doesn't even yet know what's wrong with it or how much it will cost to fix (assuming it's fixable). Nor does she yet know when this current mechanic will actually start work on it.

Meanwhile, the nature and pattern of Bear's symptoms lately has caused her to be concerned that her overall health problem might be worsening.

Then, just when Bear was feeling the most stretched by these happenings, suddenly...

The above pictured "shower" of gifts poured in, all in one day.

Bear hadn't made it to the Post Office for a week, and the card, mug, and "Bear Country" button were all waiting for her there (gifts sent by two separate households of friends).

She felt so blessed and cheered by them, that she took their picture for this post.

And then, within just a few hours, a neighbor stopped by with all the fresh garden veggies and the cross bookmark and another gift.

The gifts were now from three separate households . . . That's when Bear knew that it wasn't only her friends who were kindly cheering her up, but the Lord also.

So she took another picture of the veggies and bookmark and inserted it into the first picture.

Bear thinks it's pretty incredible the way He provides a sign He's still with us when we most need it.

"... thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them ..."

And Bear is so thankful to kind friends and kind Lord for sending showers of sunshiny blessings on a cloudy day.

Internet Cafe Devotions is hosting Word Filled Wednesday, and this week's links are HERE . So be sure and drop over there as well, to find links to the whole selection of entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion!
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sunday Sharing: Turning the Clock Back

: How has our country changed in the past 65 years for Christians? And just how much has that changed our personal walks . . . with the Lord; with our families, with our churches, and with those who don't yet know Him?

Whether you're a Christian writer or not, Bear thinks you'll find the following very interesting, as she turns the clock back to the world of 1945, just 65 years ago. Oh, how times have changed . . .

NOTE: Bear is doing something a bit different today. Instead of sharing a favorite video or recorded testimony for Sunday Sharing as usual, she'll share using straight writing. Bear's new computer, running the Linux operating system, is having some trouble handling Internet videos -- it has trouble playing them at all, in fact -- something to do with codecs that Windows has, but which have to be specially loaded with Linux operating systems. If that turns out to be an ongoing problem, Bear might drop the media aspect of Sunday Sharing altogether. But for now, we'll wait and see on the longterm, and take things one week at a time.

Although today's sharing has roots in Bear's interest in learning to write for youth, it actually concerns changes in Christianity in America, in general. But first, to fill in a bit of needed background info . . .

Bear has sold a couple of short stories to small Christian youth magazines in the past, so already has a general feeling for the market, for publishers' guidelines, and for what various Christian publishers are currently seeking in Christian Youth Fiction.

More and more nowadays, Christian publishers tend to be looking for a very soft approach to the Gospel. They want books and short stories that stress strong Christian values; but most publishers apparently don't feel that modern-day youth are going to have much tolerance for teens that go around being "preachy" or "like pollyanna". (And many publishers even state this flat-out in their guidelines for writers).

Often, when you submit a short story to a Christian publisher, if you even use the Name of Jesus in the story, for example, it's changed by editors to the more generic "God", so the story has a wider appeal and bigger market.

Christian youth magazines and book publishers who don't have these types of cautions in their guidelines are few, although some do exist, here and there.

In light of these restrictions becoming ever stronger nowadays, Bear has been researching what Christian youth writing was like in the old days, in order to get some perspective on the issue; and has been praying on how the Lord wants her personally to walk this situation.

Should she compromise and tone things way down for the modern market?

Or is there a way to somehow bridge the gap between the older type of bolder witness (which you'll see as you read the sample below), and today's modern, more hardened, generation of Christian youth?

Bear has read many of those youth books from older days. But for a representative example of what she's talking about, she'll use quotes from just one popular book for teens from 1945 . . .

Ken Saddles Up by Basil Miller -- Zondervan Publishing House, 1945 NOTE: Direct quotes from the book below are indented, block quote style.

Dedicated to: The thousands of wholesome, red-blooded American boys who follow Ken's adventures, and daily pray, "Help me, God, to be as true to Thee as Ken is."

On its back cover, nine other books in the "Ken" series are listed, with titles like: Ken Rides the Range; Ken in Alaska; and, Ken South of the Border. Below the list is written: "Over 190,000 copies of this series in print" (which in those days means it was a fairly popular selling youth series.)

The book opens with 14-year-old Ken and his unsaved (but wholesomely cute) friend Kay riding the desert range together, just outside the Grand Canyon, searching for the rustlers who have stolen cattle from Kay's family ranch. Kay's father has been paralyzed since last spring, and the stolen cattle are desparately needed to pay pressing doctor bills and an overdue mortgage on the ranch. Bank foreclosure is imminent.

On page 14, worried about the troubles they might be headed into, the two decide to pray. (Notice that prayer was so common in those days that even Kay, though still unsaved and not a girl of church, wants to pray) . . .

"Let's stop right here and pray, Ken. I'd feel much better if we did."

"O.K. Let's ground hitch our ponies and pray," said Ken dropping Cal's reins to the ground, thus "ground hitching" his mount. He leaped from the saddle and helped Kay to dismount . . .

Kneeling on the sand, Ken prayed earnestly: "Dear Lord, we are in Thy hands, and Thou knowest what trouble Kay is in. We don't know how much danger we will face before this is over, but we are trusting in Thee to see us through. Touch Kay's heart and make her a born-again Christian. She needs Thee, and her father and Dirk need Thee in this hour of trouble. Save them all. Help us to find out who's stealing the cattle. For Jesus' sake. Amen."

Rising from their knees, Kay and Ken stood for a moment, listening silently to the near-by rumble of cattle . . ."

Notice that in those days, even when outside in public, it was natural and expected for people to pray on their knees rather than standing up.

By page 17, Kay and Ken have become separated while running away from the rustlers and Ken is wondering what to do next . . .

. . . Something must have happened to Kay. He felt that it would be useless for him to ride back and search for her. This would only bring him into the line of the guard's fire.

A verse from the Psalms warmed his heart with its message of comfort: Because thou hast made the Lord ... Even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

Notice that a Christian teen in those days was expected to know Scripture well, and to have key verses of Scripture memorized and/or a pocket New Testament with him. (And this has been confirmed to Bear by reading other Christian youth books from this period.) This was normal, not exceptional.

Page 18

As he prayed for help, a voice out of the skies seemed to say: Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him.

Page 20 - Kay and Ken are back together again and on the run . . .

The burst of a machine gun filled the desert night; its withering fire began to kick up the stones beyond the fleeing riders.

"God must help us, Kay!" Ken shouted as they raced across the uneven desert.

"Pray, Ken; pray as you've never prayed in your life. Our lives depend upon it."

Again notice that this is Kay reminding Ken to pray, while she is yet still unsaved. That's how common dependency on prayer was in America, back in those days. Moral people considered it normal to pray, even if they weren't regular church go-ers. In fact, in Bear's family, even back in the early 60's, though she never saw her mother set foot in a Christian church, and her mother made sure she understood that it was very wrong to consider Jesus anything more than a "good teacher", Bear was taught to pray every night before bed, "Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take . . . "

(For another example of this, Bear recommends watching some of the older, original black and white Godzilla movies. For example, in one of them, when Godzilla was coming towards a town, that town's response was to go to mass prayer, even though it wasn't a "Christian" movie, per se.)

Page 21 - Ken and Kay fleeing on horseback from the band of rustlers . . .

In the distance he could hear a line of cow ponies pounding the Painted Desert in pursuit. He thought of a New Testament verse which he had read many times: Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.

"Kay, I believe that God will protect us," Ken said. In his heart he felt the rustlers' bullets would not find their target.

Page 27 - Later, while the two are hiding in the darkness in a valley (the time when even most Christian youth fiction books nowadays toss in the expected romance), Ken leads Kay not to romance, but to the Lord . . .

Then Ken said, seriously, "Kay, before we go, let's ask God to direct us on this dangerous ride. Remember-- tomorrow the big roundup begins. Before two weeks there'll be two hundred thousand beeves on their way to the markets. Believe me, I don't want to miss that fun!"

"I would like that," Kay answered. "I wish you could see to read some verses from your Bible." She knew that Ken always carried a New Testament in his pocket.

"It is too dark for that," the boy replied, "but I can quote some from memory."

"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?" he began. "Ye are the light of the world."

"What does that mean, Ken?" Kay interrupted.

"Christians are the light which God has set in the world to show men the way to Christ. If sinners are to be led to Christ they will have to see the light of Jesus shining through Christians."

"Ken, I wish you would teach me how to be a Christian. I want to be Christ's light. Will you show me how?"

For an hour, despite the nearness of dawn and the thirty miles between them and the Bar-H, Ken talked with his friend about Christ's invitation to all men to come unto Him. "The way of salvation is plain, Kay" he said. "The Bible says, Whosoever shall call upon the Lord shall be saved."

"To be saved, then, means that I will belong to Jesus?" asked Kay.

"Yes, you are a sinner, and when you ask to be forgiven, you are born again and Jesus saves you. Let's pray now. Remember -- you must confess your sins and forsake your sins and believe that Jesus saves you right now."

Page 29 - By early morning light, not only are the two still innocent (and unsullied by major sexual temptations at 14 years old), but Kay is now a born-again Christian . . .

"How do you like it?" asked Kay, as they stood together looking at the scene before them. "Isn't it beautiful in the early morning light?"

"Yes it is, Kay." He turned toward her and put his hand on her shoulder. What a wholesome, likeable girl she was! "Let's always be friends," Ken said.

"Yes, Ken," Kay answered. "But listen, cowboy, right now we have a thirty-mile ride ahead of us." With a gay laugh she threw herself into the saddle and raced away at breakneck speed.

One more example of how Christians were expected to pray in those days and how easily they depended on prayer appears on page 47. Ken and Kay have arrived back at the ranch only to find things have gotten worse. Now Ken's little sister was missing, kidnapped, and being held for ransom by the rustlers . . .

"Ken, you talk to God for us," said the old rancher, as he dropped to his knees. "We are doing everything that is humanly possible to find Sandra, but we need God's help or our efforts will fail."

Ken knelt beside his uncle. The others followed his example.

"Dear Heavenly Father," he prayed, "we are gathered at the Bar-H. We love our little sister and want her to come back to us. Don't let any harm or danger come to her. Protect her from those evil men and bring her back to the ranch safe and sound. Thy promise is that if we ask anything according to Thy will it shall be done, and if we ask in faith, believing, it shall come to pass."

"We are asking now for Sandra's return and we believe that Thou wilt help us right now. Help us find the rustlers and break up this terrible black market. For Jesus' sake. Amen."

Note that it was credible for a teen to pray and preach the Lord with a solid understanding of the basic principles of salvation and also to be able to apply Scriptural verses concerning prayer while appealing to God. This wasn't eliminated from books as too "preachy" or "pollyanna" or with the thought that the teen was too knowlegable of Scriptural truths to be believable.

At the end of the book things come to expected resolution . . . The rustlers are captured, the cattle are returned, and the ranch is saved. Ken is rewarded for his part in the matter by an Army pilot being sent out to teach him how to fly a plane (a one-time treat for someone at the age of 14 -- an unusual privilege as reward), which has always been a dream for him.

Page 68, the final page of our story - Ken and Kay are out on the airfield together at sunset, the book's last opportunity for expected romance . . .

His mind was full of wonderful visions for the future -- visions of the good that, with God's help, he might do. His heart was overflowing; surely these words of the Psalmist were his experience, too: The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

Kay and Ken walked down the airfield runway where Ken's glider gleamed in the sun. The lad stroked a long, silvery wing, and said, "Some day, Kay, you and I will fly together."

Kay smiled and said, "I don't know whether I'd feel safe . . ."

"Kay, wherever duty calls, God is there, and we are always safe, for the Bible says, Underneath are the everlasting arms."

And so ends the book.

Again, take note that the other nine books in this series (selling at $1.00 each which is probably equivalent to about $15 apiece nowadays), had sold over 190,000 copies. And the population of the United States and output of the book publishing industry in general were both much smaller in those days. Also note that, in 1945, the date of this book's publication, World War II had been raging for many years and the economy was totally geared towards the war effort, with food and gas rationing likely still in force, even.

In other words, an amazing number of kids were happily reading about Ken and Kay, their heroes.

Another series advertised on the back cover of this same book is the "Patty Lou" series, which is obviously the clone series for girls, with titles like Patty Lou of the Golden West; Patty Lou -- the Flying Nurse; and Patty Lou Home on the Range.

These were all top Christian youth books of the day, and highly popular.

It certainly gives one pause for thought . . .

And pause for prayer . . .

Even, perhaps, pause for prayer on one's knees . . .

Drop by Spiritual Sundays as well, to find links to the whole selection of this week's entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion! (NOTE: A small percentage of Spiritual Sundays' entries may sometimes be by writers of other religions or of the New Age -- Discernment is advised.)
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Fiction: Zappy and I -- Part 3

: FINALLY! Bear's back for Friday Fiction, after more than a month of computer problems. And she's thanking the Lord much that things are up and running again -- all systems go!

Under the circumstances, it seems very appropriate to be featuring more adventures with that first Internet Computer of so many years ago... good 'ol Zapclunk.

So, onwards to our concluding episode of Zappy and I.

This final episode picks up just after Clicky, the keyboard, has succeeded in conning our heroine into trying yet another useless procedure to fix the computer's scanner and get it up and running... (Dealing with a rebellious, talking computer that has come to life, while trying to keep focus on a basic Christian walk in the midst, is turning out to be harder than one might expect...)

(NOTE: For those who missed the first episodes, Part 1 is available HERE, and Part 2 is available HERE).

Zappy and I -- Part 3

That night, I was back at my all-too-familiar post in the hall...

The keys clattered, giggling, "Man, did she fall, or what? Thinking I was helping her. Department store's Electronics Section!" It trailed off into helpless laughter.

"Yeah," whirred the disk. "Good job, Clicky! Like we don't know she listens at the door every night. Give me a break!"

I groaned quietly. They were on to me.

The monitor's voice trembled a bit, the glow of its screen dim. "Did you see her attack me? In cold blood, too. An inch to the left, and she would have gotten me right in the eye!"

"It serves you right, Greenie!" The disk whirred louder. "Now you got a taste of what it's like, huh? You won't be so quick to laugh next time she tries a reformatting, I'll bet."

"But I was doing my job! If she wanted to kill someone, why not go for Scan-boy, or Mr. Inky, over there? That's what I wanna know!"

Then a tiny voice I hadn't heard before piped up, high and squeaky. I had to turn my head and hold my breath to hear...

"Well, why don't you just tell her to turn on the other USB port in the BIOS menu? Then she wouldn't be so upset. Greenie's right. If you guys would just do your jobs--"

"Shh!" hissed one of the speakers, static crackling angrily. "Don't you know she's probably listening?"

"Whatever." The little voice got louder. "The BIOS. Check the BIOS! You have to turn on the other USB port. It's still turned--"

There was a sudden THUNK, and one last squeak. Then silence.

I charged into the living room and flipped the light switch. There on the floor was the mouse, flipped over on its back, still rocking like an overturned turtle in its shell.

I tenderly picked it up, glaring at Zapclunk's blinking red light. "You didn't have to hurt the poor little guy. BIOS, huh? We'll just see about that."

I gave the metal case a slight kick, even though I was sure they advised against that sort of thing in all the books, and stomped out of the room.

By the next morning though, I had grown suspicious of Squeaky mouse. I couldn't believe the manufacturer would actually sell me a new computer with parts of it turned off. What was the point of having two USB ports if they weren't even turned on? Who'd ever heard of having to tell a computer to turn on one of its ports before? This was probably just another setup. Squeaky had been acting and was in cohoots with all the others. I wasn't going to fall for that twice -- the old "sympathetic component" routine.

But as I went about preparing my breakfast, trying not to think about it, the word "BIOS" kept repeating in my mind... "BIOS", "BIOS", "BIOS"...

The stove's burner splattered and spit as oatmeal boiled over. I made a fast grab for the lid, pulling it off the pot, shaking my head. No, I wouldn't...

"BIOS", "BIOS", "BIOS"...came the mechanical whisper.

I leaned around the corner of the kitchen door and stared hard at Zapclunk.

But the red light was dark, and I remembered I'd unplugged him last night, after putting Squeaky back on his pad.

This was where it ended then. I was losing it. It had to happen, sooner or later, I suppose.

Grimly, I jerked the oatmeal pot off the stove, tossing a wet washrag over the spill... "BIOS"...

Turning off the burner, I stomped into the spare room and began rummaging through the drawer, looking for the manufacturer's manual. Ten minutes later I was scanning its pages, searching for all mention of the word "BIOS".

I don't know how I ended up on the floor... but minutes later I came to my senses, sitting there on the carpet, the manual still open in my lap. I read the page again (likely for the sixth time, at least).

It was true. It told me that the USB port might actually need to be turned on in the BIOS menu, instructing me how to do so.

The tiny little twerp was right.

Oatmeal forgotten, I followed the instructions step by step. It only took a few minutes. Then I held my breath as I hooked the scanner into the port, carefully checking its icon.

Yes... so far, so good. The icon was where it should be.

I sent up a quick prayer, once again centering a photo on Scan-boy's glass, and clicked the button, signaling Zapclunk to load the picture.

I couldn't believe it.

The scanner light was actually coming on.

Yes... The light was moving across the photo now. I stared at Greenie's screen in wonder as the picture of my dog and me slowly began appearing there, bit by bit.

Then with a yell I leaped up, throwing my hands high in victory. "It WORKS! IT WORKS! You were soooo right, Squeaky Mouse! It actually works!"

I know it was stupid...uncool... even downright lame.

I know I shouldn't have done it.

But it just occurred to me, as I was dancing around the room in joy, that "Squeaky" was not a very good name for a mouse that had saved the day. "Saved the day... Saved the day..." I thought.

"I should call you 'Mighty,' not 'Squeaky Mouse'." And the old cartoon intro popped into mind as I joyously burst into song about a flying mouse.

I think that's what did it.

Because it was then, just as the last sliver my dog's tail was appearing on the screen, fully loaded, and I was right in the middle of the second verse...

It was then Scan-boy froze, the picture disappeared, and Zapclunk crashed again.

Later, the landlord asked me quite a few questions about the whole thing... Wanted to know why he heard me yelling about mice clear over at his house (which is halfway down the block). Was worried that they had overrun the house... offered to pick me up some traps at the store.

Thankfully, by then, I had become quite calm again. I told him not to worry about a thing -- that I would take care of the mouse, all right. Told him trapping was too good for it.

He didn't know what I was talking about, of course. And I didn't fill him in.

As I said, he wouldn't understand.

That's when I reassessed strategy. Obviously, hiding in the hallway again wouldn't work. They knew I was listening. It had just been another setup, after all.

Stupid mouse!

So late that afternoon, I made a big show of starting up the Anti-Virus program, setting it to do a full system scan. Then, while Zapclunk was distracted, scanning for bugs, I looked at my watch in shock.

"Oh my! I forgot those overdue library books. And the library will be closing any minute. Silly me!" Grabbing a couple of random books off the shelf (I ended up with an old college algebra textbook and my classical music piano book), I tore out of the house.

I even leaped into the car and backed it out of the driveway, for added effect.

But when I got to the end of the block, I pulled over under the shade of a neighbor's maple tree, and quickly made my way back. Sneaking through the yard, I was careful not to step on any of the pine cones that lay hidden in the grass, not wanting their crackling to give me away. Finally, I reached the wall nearest the computer and flattened my back against it underneath the open window, hoping my elderly neighbor wouldn't call the police on me. (Her vision wasn't all it should be).

Sure enough, they were having a party in there. The printer was laughing so hard, in fact, it could hardly get the words out. "Mighty... Mighty... Oh, that's so good..."

There was a hurt sounding squeak, and then the voice so tiny. "Well, it should have worked. She must need a power USB hub. Mr. Disk's processor is so small -- I bet the USB ports are weak too -- bet they don't even have the power to run Mr. heavy-drain Scan-boy, over there."

Zapclunk's main fan grated, "Maybe Scan-boy does pull a lot of power, but you'll never have a chance to tell the tale. One squeak from you -- even one -- and--"

"Yeah," cut in Greenie, glowing so brightly the curtains actually turned slightly green, "Remember what happened last time. And we were going easy on you, shrimp. You landed on a nice soft rug that time..."

Sneaking away from the house, still feeling somewhat criminal, I headed over to the landlord's place to ask him what a powered USB hub was.

He explained, matter-of-factly, that sometimes the USB ports don't get enough power from the main computer to run some components, like scanners, that use a lot of power. So, in that case, you could buy a "hub" that has many USB ports on it. One end of the hub plugs into your USB port, and the other end plugs into the wall, pulling power directly from the wall to run the whole thing. Then you can plug scanners and other heavy duty USB equipment into the hub instead of the computer, and get power directly from the wall for them.

Suspiciously, I wanted to know why it didn't mention this in the manuals. And why hadn't he ever mentioned this to me before? (Not that I thought he and Zapclunk were conspiring together or anything, but still...)

He shrugged, saying lots of computers didn't need the power hub, and he hadn't known I was trying to run a scanner. So he hadn't thought of it.

To me, he seemed pretty casual about the whole business, considering I'd been driven to near nervous breakdown. But then, I'd never told him about that...

Anyway, I had a brand new USB hub plugged in and ready to test within a day.

There was no dancing this time.

I was calm and cool, my movements methodical, as I hooked the hub into the computer and plugged it in.

I watched quietly as the scanner copied the same photo of my dog and me, this time displaying it fully upon the screen.

The computer worked silently and efficiently, doing its job.

It felt eerie.

Zappy never spoke again.

Oh yeah... I call him "Zappy" now.

God changed Jacob's name to "Israel" after their struggle. I figured Zappy deserved as much. After all, we work together now, Zappy and I. True partners in spreading the Gospel for the Lord's Kingdom and glory.

Sometimes though, as I wake up late at night, I find myself listening, thinking I hear something. But it always turns out to be just a branch scraping against the window in the wind, or the sound of a distant car engine.

One night, rolling over in the darkness just before dropping back off to sleep, I wondered, rather sadly, what Zappy would say now if...

A scripture popped into mind from Ecclesiastes (3:1,7), "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven...a time to keep silence, and a time to speak."

I smiled as I fell asleep, finally at peace.

The End.


Bear would like to put in a few words here, just to set people's mind at ease. For the record, she has never actually attacked any of her computers with a pocket knife, or even kicked them, although she does feel that computers sometimes probably deserve such treatment, and admits to having had a few fantasies...

Zappy, although he turned out to be a great writing partner for years, was eventually retired some years ago, due to having such a slow processor speed that he was no longer able to handle Internet work. However, Bear is planning on pulling out his 20 GB hard drive for future use, before sending him on to a computer rest-home. So part of Zappy will live on...

But then, after this past month of dealing with more recent computer challenges, Bear suspects there's a bit of mischievous Zappy living in all computers anyway.

In fact, Bear thinks Zappy has many brothers and sisters...

And cousins and aunts and uncles...

And second cousins and third cousins and...

So don't be surprised if, when sound asleep and you least expect it...

You yourself wake up thinking you hear the sound of mechanical chuckles in the night.

Joanne over at An Open Book is hosting Fiction Friday this week. So be sure and drop over there as well, to find links to the whole selection of entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion!
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WFW: Grasshopper's Journey

"Now the Lord had said unto Abram,
Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred,
and from thy father's house,
unto a land that I will show thee:"
Genesis 12:1 (KJV)

Bear was in her Bearmobile, zipping down the highway at 60 mph when she first noticed the miniature hitchhiker desparately clinging to her windshield wiper. She watched as he adjusted his position slightly to get a better grip with his suction feet. The tiny feelers on his head were waving wildly in the wind.

Bear laughed. This little hopper was on more of a journey than he'd ever bargained for, back when he'd innocently climbed aboard at the Den's driveway.

She decided she couldn't pass up such a picture, and carefully reached into a pack for her cell phone camera, while keeping an eye on highway. By propping the camera up against the glass, and adjusting it little by little, (holding it at arm's length and trying to center the viewfinder by guesstimate) she was able to catch a few shots.

It seemed to her that the grasshopper was even hamming it up a bit, leaning against the glass sometimes, seeming to pose for the camera. But he might have just been yelling to Bear to stop taking pictures, and pull the car over somewhere so he could get off this crazy machine.

Forty miles later, Bear gave him his chance. In fact, she felt so sorry for the poor little guy that she pulled to the curb as soon as she got off the highway.

The grasshopper seemed to catch his breath a bit, looking around cautiously, still clinging tightly to the windshield wiper.

He couldn't seem to believe it was over.

Then, apparently deciding it was truly safe, he made what must have been at least a 15 foot leap, to solid concrete. A second long leap and he was out of sight, heading for a distant patch of grass.

As she pulled away from the curb, Bear wondered what his life would be like in his new town. She wondered what he felt like, being so unexpectedly transplanted from the cool grassy shade around the Den, to a new, strange town, so far away... in a grasshopper's eyes -- a world away.

She shook her head, still amazed the grasshopper had been able to hold on at highway speeds for so long. The little guy was certainly a trooper.

Sometimes it seemed to Bear that she too seemed to find herself unexpectedly hurtling along to an unknown destination in life, (being whisked up in the Lord's Providential Plan), feeling as vulnerable as a grasshopper precariously clinging to a windshield wiper at highway speeds in the hot July afternoon.

She decided she could learn much from her tiny hitchhiking friend about how to hang on at times like those... Until that final great leap for joy that comes at the end of every such journey... when faith finally becomes sight.

Internet Cafe Devotions is hosting Word Filled Wednesday, and this week's links are HERE . So be sure and drop over there as well, to find links to the whole selection of entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion!


Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Thanking the Lord

: About 9 pm Thursday night, in stunned amazement (mixed with exhaustion), Bear got up from her computer desk, walked over to the nearest wall, leaned her head against it, and thanked the Lord for a miracle.

"Thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord! That is an actual real miracle, and I just acknowledge it was You that did that, Lord."

She dropped to her knees. "That is so incredible. You are so awesome..."

She started walking around the Den, continuing to thank Him, still amazed.

She finally was on the Net with her $70 eBay computer and the free Debian Linux operating system. The Web Browser, after days of giving her "can't be found -- check your Internet connection" message screens, had suddenly switched to the Home Page of Debian's Technical Support Website -- a real live page on the Internet.

To explain why that was a miracle and so shocked the Bear, let's go back to where Bear's last Den post left off about 10 days ago...

At that point, despite having accumulated three modems, she still was unable to get on the Internet, and had narrowed the problem down to either the modem's power supply having a faulty cable, or a cable inside the wall as being faulty. (She only had one modem power supply cable, despite having three modems.)

While waiting for a fourth eBay modem to arrive in the mail (which included a modem power cable as part of the deal) Bear was spending much of her time reading up on Linux, hoping she could use the free Debian Linux operating system and other free software packages on the $70 computer she had also ordered off of eBay, due to arrive any day. (Both her modem connection, and the computer itself, had chosen about the same time to go on the blink in various ways.)

When the eBay modem finally arrived in the mail, she was surprised and happy to see that it looked to be in new condition, despite the fact it was advertised as used. The power cable was even still in its original little box.

And, Hallelujah! A quick test showed that it worked. It successfully connected her old Laptop (which has Windows XP on it) to the Net.

So that problem was solved... which was a tremendous relief after weeks of struggle.

But the Laptop still had its own problems...

So she waited for the $70 computer to arrive, continuing to study Linux operating systems, in preparation for what she was about to attempt.

While waiting, she also ran across an old book called "Building a PC for Dummies", and started reading that, intrigued.

Bear had known almost nothing at all about what a computer was like on the inside. So she was fascinated to discover that the inside parts were just connected to one another with screws and plugs and "ribbon" cables and things, and that they could be removed and interchanged with what looked to be relative ease.

And the book made it sound easy too.

For example, Bear had always thought that replacing a computer's hard drive was a very complex and technical process. She hadn't known that you could just unscrew a few screws and unplug a few wires and pull the thing out. Then put another one in its place.

And it looked like you could even do the same thing with the CD/DVD drives, although that looked slightly more complicated. There was a chapter in the book with pictures, showing how to do it.

Which got Bear to thinking a lot...

She knew, from the $70 computer's photo and description on eBay, that it didn't have a very good CD or DVD drive on it. They were both ROM -- read only -- and neither one could do any recording.

But one of her old dead computers had very lovely CD and DVD drives on it that could both record and play...

Plus, old Zapclunk -- her original Internet computer -- had a 20 GB hard drive that was still likely to be in great condition. His long-term memory had never been any problem at all -- the one component that had always been charming and cooperative in nature and attitude. It had been his 120 MB RAM short term memory and his incredibly slow processor speed that had led to his eventual retirement, making him useless for Internet work.

So Bear began to picture herself performing amazing surgical procedures on her $70 computer, if needed, to help it become more than it had ever hoped to be...

But then she shook her head, put the book aside, and went back to studying Linux, telling herself she was getting too crazy and that it would be best not to destroy what she hoped was going to turn out to be a computer very usable for the Net (with its fast processor), by experimenting on it, using some crazy "For Dummies" book from a Thrift Store as a surgical reference manual...

And she went back to checking the Den's front porch and the nearby Post Office, watching for the computer, which seemed very slow in arriving.

But it finally did arrive, and Bear was most happy to find that it was well padded in bubble wrap, and not broken (like the one that had arrived a few weeks earlier). She hooked it up and saw its initial screen flash on, showing it was actually a working computer, as advertised, even though there was no operating system installed.

She rubbed her paws together joyfully, ready to try out her Linux CD's on it and load the new operating system.

But first, to figure out how to get into the BIOS menu...

About 8 hours later, Debian Linux's Welcome screen came up with reassuringly bright colors (after quite a bit of trial and error on Bear's part, and many adjustments). It was a match! Debian Linux had successfully detected all the computer's hardware components and loaded workable Linux drivers for them, and was even working okay with the computer's video card (which can be a major trip-up point when trying to load a Linux desktop system).

Except there was one problem...

Debian had failed to successfully set up the modem connection basics...

And had given her an "if you think I'm going to get you on the Net, you're out of your mind" type of error message.

Bear frowned.

This did not look good.

She wondered what the problem was.

Maybe Linux hadn't had a generic driver to substitute for her modem's Windows' driver and she was going to need to search the Net for a compatible driver? (She did have some Net access via her old Laptop now, and could do that, possibly).

But was it really a driver problem?

Or had she made an error putting info into the Internet Connections setup screens?

Or something else?

Debian isn't like Windows. It's not built to be so "user friendly", although it is getting more "user friendly" as the years go by. Sometimes, in Linux, you have to type in commands into the Operating System, to tell it how to do things when it gets stuck with something it's not sure about. You have to kind of help it along, giving it step by step instructions.

And Bear, as a total Newbie, was in the dark as to how to do that for this kind of issue. Plus, the menu screens seemed a lot more confusing than Windows' are.

All the regular things (like Word Processing programs, desktop look/feel, etc) are actually very similar to Windows, and even better in some ways. But the Internet Connection screens were more complicated and confusing.

Plus, Bear had learned from her reading that sometimes you had to actually find out from your ISP provider people specific numbers and facts to plug into the menus, if the Operating System couldn't detect the information on its own (like Windows always does).

Was that the problem maybe? Did Bear need to get those numbers and try that?

But what use getting the numbers, when she didn't yet know where to plug the numbers in, or how to do that?

And she knew that it was very unlikely that her ISP technical support person would know anything about Debian. It's not a super common operating system yet.

Plus, if a missing modem driver was the problem, numbers wouldn't help. She'd need to figure out how to install a driver.

She tried fiddling with various things for a couple days, trying to learn as she went.

Eventually, she even found a program on one of her Debian CD's that could be installed that was supposed to help set up Debian to connect to the Net, for those who had Bear's kind of ISP's service (PPPoE).

So she installed that program, and answered all its questions, typing in the commands it told her to, giving the Operating System instructions that were supposed to work.

But it didn't change anything.

Finally, she gave up in frustration and retreated from the computer -- back to reading manuals.

But she tried to look on the bright side.

True, she wasn't on the Net yet. And she didn't have a CD/DVD that could record. But she at least had a very nicely working computer with a free Operating System and lots of free software programs to play with...

But she worried much about the Internet issue... What if she could never get on the Net? What use a nice computer if it wouldn't work on the Net? She didn't want to lay out the money to buy Windows and its related software (and do so repetitively for the rest of her life every time she got a new computer or upgraded). She just couldn't afford to keep doing that.

Besides, she liked Debian lots better than Windows already.

She decided it was worth studying more, to learn how to do this thing...

A few days later, on Wednesday, she figured she had studied enough and was ready to tackle the Internet connection problem again.

And she spent that whole day trying various things to get on the Net.

She decided that it really didn't seem to be a modem driver problem, because all her modem's lights were on. Plus, one of Debian's screens even claimed that a few "packets" had been sent and received.

So why wasn't she on the Net yet?

If not a modem problem (which, after the last weeks, had of course been Bear's first assumption), then what?

She figured out from Help manuals exactly which numbers ("addresses") Debian might want from her ISP provider, and went looking for them on her Laptop. Sure enough, she found the "addresses" for her modem's broadcast address and the ISP's address in her connection settings screen there, and so plugged those numbers into Debian's menus.

Debian was not happy with that though.

It stopped claiming that packets were being sent, and spitefully turned off her modem's lights to make its attitude extra clear on the issue.

So she tried the program that was supposed to configure PPPoE connections again -- following its directions very carefully.

No luck there either.

By Thursday afternoon she got desperate enough to actually call her Internet Service Provider's technical support line, (although she had understandably lost confidence in them after they had told her she needed a new modem with her old computer when it was clearly a cable she needed.)

The young man who answered her call did nothing to increase her confidence in them when he said, "What did you say the name of the Operating System you're trying to use is?"

"Debian Linux."

"Never heard of it. We don't support that operating system."

"Well I figured that. But just please answer me a few questions here... What's my IP address and my Subnet Mask?"

"I don't know. Are you trying to set up your email?"

"No. I'm just trying to get on the Net! Do you show my modem as being connected over there?"

"Uh... Yeah. It's registering. But you're not on the Net."

"Yeah. I noticed that, all right. But if my modem's registering over at your office, then the driver on it has to be working. We can at least assume that, right?"

"Uh... I don't know. It seems to be registering though."

Bear sighed as the conversation continued on in similar fashion. The young man was trying to help, but was clearly in waters way over his head, just as Bear was. And he kept repeating that they "don't support Debian".

Finally she told him she would do some more research and get back to him.

He seemed thankful to hang up.

By then she was truly exhausted. (She'd overdone a Den cleaning project that day too, and was sore from "head to paw", the pain and fatigue adding to her sense of hopelessness over the computer issue.)

It had been a long month. Or was it more than a month now since the computer problems had started? She wasn't sure.

All she knew was that she was truly and totally stumped, and that it was going to take a miracle to get her on the Net with the new computer anytime soon.

So she went to more prayer. And she told God she was definitely, absolutely, totally stumped, and really needed to get on the Net, and needed "revelation knowledge" on the issue, because she was at an end of her resources. And "please get me on the Net".

It was an hour or two later, while doing dishes, that an image of herself typing something into Debian's command terminal window popped into mind. She could see the screen in her mind's eye as if she were typing at that very moment.

She saw herself typing her User access name for her ISP after the prompt: "Username" on the command line...

And she suddenly realized that maybe she shouldn't have typed it after the prompt, like you do in Windows.

It suddenly came to her that Debian might be different that way. What if she erased the prompt "Username" and replaced it with her info? (Instead of putting her info after it?)

Suddenly she was convinced that might be worth a try, and went back to the add-on program that was supposed to help her configure the Operating System for a PPPoE type account.

And she replaced "Username" rather than typing after it.

And instantly she was on the Net, staring in amazement at a real live website in her browser's window.

Which is when she walked over, leaned her head against the wall, and started thanking God for a miracle.

Then, hardly able to stand, she went to bed and fell asleep.

It was ten minutes after midnight when she woke up, feeling somewhat better, and had a sudden urge to try and pull the CD and DVD drives from the new computer and put in the better ones from one of her dead computers.

Naturally, she tried to talk herself out of it. That was too crazy even to consider.

Messing with the new computer when it was finally working?

Risk breaking it?

At midnight?

She tried to go back to sleep.

But couldn't seem to shake the idea.

Muttering about the sheer lunacy of the whole project, she pulled herself out of bed, turned on the light, and started re-reading the chapter in the "Building a PC for Dummies" book.

By 1 a.m., she had two computers on the Den's living room floor, with their guts open.

By 2:30 a.m., after much sweat and worry, she had made the exchange. There were a couple of wires involved the book hadn't told her about, and that concerned her deeply. But she had disconnected the wires carefully on the first computer and made sure to reconnect them in exactly the same places and in the same order (and direction) on the second computer and was hoping for the best.

By 3:00 a.m., she had tested the new drives with Debian and discovered that, although they worked, Debian thought that it now had two CD drives and two DVD drives, and its programs couldn't figure out which drives to actually use.

It kept trying to use the drives that were no longer installed. And it bombarded Bear with many irritated error messages, demanding its missing CD and DVD drives back.

So she decided to erase the whole Debian operating system and reinstall it fresh, hoping that it would recognize that it only had one of each drive, when it configured itself during reinstallation.

6 a.m. -- Debian came up again, reinstalled, and now understanding that it only had one CD drive and one DVD drive, and apparently was ready to cope with that fact in an adult manner.

6:30 a.m. -- Bear was back on the Net, with a fully operating computer and free operating system, including rewritable DVD and CD drives.

There were still a few bugs in the system, but of a minor nature, that could get worked out over time.

The whole thing was up, running, and ready to roll.

Soon, Bear would be back at the online Den, writing again.

She thanked the Lord more...

For miracles in the night...

And went back to bed, an exhausted but happy bear.

Bear sends thanks also to those who have been praying for the Bear during these weeks!

Our God is an Awesome God.
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

UPDATE -- Computer Problems Continue

: Bear is leaning in to wave hello to everybody today, but is not yet officially "back", because she doesn't yet have full access regularly to the Den again. In fact, she's writing this on her little Treo PDA gadget, and plans to upload it to the Den via the Internet next time she gets to a library where she can borrow a computer for an hour or two of use.

It has been a rather frustrating two weeks.

The $125 computer she ordered off of eBay might have worked, if it hadn't arrived broken due to rough handling and inadequate use of padding in the packaging. One of its memory circuit boards had fallen off the motherboard and was bouncing around loose in the case. And the DVD drive had been shoved back into the innards of the computer, and twisted somewhat.

Bear toyed with the idea of putting the thing back together and hoping it worked. But she decided that circuit boards aren't really made to be bouncing around inside metal computer cases while crossing the country, and didn't want to have it seem to work in the beginning, and then turn out to be damaged later, too late to get her money back.

So she made arrangements to get her money back right away. Fortunately, it was an honest seller, and she did get a full refund, including shipping cost. But it took about a week to get the money back for that, and of course, it left her with no computer still (except for the dying one she has been limping along with).

Meanwhile, she still had some hopes of getting on the Internet when the modems she had also ordered off eBay arrived. She figured she'd hook one of them up to her old computer until she could purchase another main computer, and that might hold her for a few weeks.

To review for just a minute... Remember, Bear ordered two used modems, (since they were only $9 apiece, and don't last forever). The telephone company people did state clearly that the ups and downs in her modem's power just before her connection went completely dead (that they were seeing at their office on their monitoring gadget), meant that she definitely needed a replacement modem, even though the error message was reading "cable unplugged" on Bear's computer. They informed her that her only solution was a $53 modem that they would happily sell her from their office.

So Bear figured that the eBay replacement modems would surly do the trick, when they arrived. Even if one of them was broken, the second one was bound to work. Since they're exactly the same brand, model number, etc as the original modem, how could she go wrong? The seller advertised that they came without power cords and cables, but Bear wasn't worried about that, because the phone company people had assured her it was the modem she needed to replace. And she still has the old modem's power cord and cables.

Unfortunately however, it was apparently not a modem problem at all. Because both the eBay modems she bought, when they arrived, reported the exact same error message that the original modem reported, and refused to put her on the Internet.

All three modems were now in unanimous agreement... "CABLE UNPLUGGED. CABLE UNPLUGGED. CABLE UNPLUGGED."

This did not do much to cheer Bear's mood. Now she had three modems and still no Internet access, even though the phone company had assured her confidently that "cable unplugged" translates into "you have to buy our new modem for $53 to solve your problem."

Bear now had clear evidence before her that "cable unplugged" more likely translated into...

Cable unplugged.

So she took the next logical step, and started accumulating new cables. (After plugging the modem into an older computer still lying around, to make sure it gave the same error message.)

She figured, since all her cables are plugged in, that she might have a defective cable -- especially since the cables are threaded through a door crack, to get from one room to another, and tend to get pinched in the door occasionally.

So, the next time she did errands (about a week later), she stopped off at her favorite Thrift Store. Happily, she found a brand new telephone cable there for 30 cents, and a used-but-good-looking LAN cable for 80 cents.

However, unfortunately, neither of those did the trick. So it's now narrowed down to one of two problems. 1) Her modem's power supply cable is bad -- quite possible because it actually has a visible cut from being pinched in the door -- or, 2) there's a cable inside the WALL that's problematic.

Obviously, Bear is voting for number one, because number two involves the phone company coming out and charging her ridiculously high prices for a service call to fix stuff inside the wall.

However, we must remember that Bear does not have an extra power supply cable yet, although she now has three modems.

And, surprise, surprise... The power supply cable for the modem is not a simple, standard type power supply hookup that you can just grab at your local Wal-Mart. That would be too easy.

In fact, the power supply is not even the kind that you can substitute a Universal power supply for...

This modem comes with a very unique and rare type of power supply, which Bear searched an hour for on the Internet during her next library visit, and still was unable to find. The volts and milliamps and all those little numbers wouldn't line up... noway, nohow.

It became clear she only had one option... The only way to get another power supply and so to get another good power supply CORD was to buy another used modem off of eBay -- this one advertised as including the power supply cable with it.


Unfortunately it was also more expensive -- 23 bucks.

So Bear now has a fourth modem on the way. Due to arrive sometime this week, with a power supply cable. It also has an extra LAN cable with it, so she'll have an extra LAN cable, for good measure.

At least now it doesn't matter that these types of modems only have a two to three year lifespan. Bear figures she's likely covered for 6 to 9 years, at least, even so.

Meanwhile, still not having a replacement computer, Bear searched eBay again last time she was at the library, for another cheapo computer.

This time she actually found one for $70 with free shipping. And it looks like it could possibly work. This one's from an office liquidation company in Chicago. The seller got a bunch of computers from an office going out of business, that he's now selling off.

It's a desktop -- the tower only -- with no peripherals (keyboard, mouse, etc) and its memory has been wiped clean. So it has no operating system at all. But it has a 2.4 G processor and 512 MB RAM.

And Bear has accumulated all sorts of peripherals from dead and dying computers over the years (similarly to how she seems to be accumulating modems, all of a sudden), so that's no problem.

And she's planning on trying to load Debian Linux on it for its operating system.

With all the computer problems, Bear has had a little more time on her paws over the last couple of weeks (not being able to do her normal computer work). So she decided to make use of the time as best as possible, learning more about the free Linux Operating Systems that are available. During one library session, she downloaded lots of info to her PDA's memory card about the options available, along with Linux manuals and articles of various kinds, explaining these types of operating systems. She also downloaded a demonstration sample program of one of the Operating Systems to a USB stick, to try out.

And she was quite impressed.

A person can download the full Debian operating system itself totally free off the Internet. But it takes a lot of computer time to do so -- way too long to try on a library computer.

So, liking the sample much, Bear went ahead and paid $19 for a set of CD's that have the full Debian OS on them. The CD's also contain a lot of other "open source" software, like Open Office, a web browser, an email program, etc. -- many, many other major programs. Well worth the $19, if she can get it all up and running on her computer.

So, if the $70 computer is usable, as advertised, she's going to load it with Debian and go ahead and learn to use that now instead of waiting for some future time to learn it (as she was originally planning).

Now definitely seems to be the right time to move away from paid software, into free software, if at all possible.

Bear has noticed something interesting in the midst of all this...

Even with all the time spent learning Linux these past couple weeks, and all the computer trouble and glitches, she has spent less time on the computer than usual because of the lack of Internet access.

At first, that was pretty frustrating. But then she started noticing...

The house is slowly getting cleaner...

She's getting more freshly cooked food...

She's actually becoming more productive with general writing, as well...

She's starting to feel a lot less stressed...

So it's likely that when Bear does finally get regular access to the Internet again (assuming a day such as that will ever come around again), she won't want to be on the Internet quite as constantly as she has been in past months. Likely she'll try to keep it down to just two or three days a week of letting her computer connect to the Net, instead of daily, as in the past.

Bear had already been planning to cut back some. But now that she's seeing some of the good effects of actually being almost totally off the Net for two weeks, she's realizing that the idea of cutting back has been confirmed more than ever as being definitely "right direction". And so is determined to follow through, even more.

Hopefully, she'll find a happy medium -- somewhere between zero access and excessively constant use.

Meanwhile, Bear does have "Zappy and I, Part 3" written (the concluding segment), ready for her next chance at Friday Fiction access. But, since she doesn't get to the library on Fridays, it will have to wait until her modems (or cables or phone company), decide to cooperate and let her back on the Net before participating in the Friday Fiction loop again.

Rewriting Part 3 did cheer up the Bear much however, on one particularly frustrating day in the midst of this past couple weeks...

But that's another story.
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den