Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Fiction: Bearmobile problems

Bear ended up taking a break from the book, and wrote a humor piece about something that actually happened to Bear last Saturday. It turns out God uses even bearmobile problems to help grow His cubs and urge them to new heights ...

Bearmobile Problems!

Some people might not know that bears drive; but in reality, many bears do. They don't, of course, drive boring run-of-the-mill cars, like people do. Instead, they drive bearmobiles -- vehicles which are very similar to cars, but which have some unique characteristics that make them particularly endearing.

For example, Bear owns a small, 19-year-old bearmobile, with its original carpet and upholstery totally stripped out, so that it now has a metal floor and no seats in back. It also has a few other modifications that, although not worth mentioning, stamp it as top-of-the-line bear transportation.

Even though its paint is chipping and there are rust spots here and there between the hail dents...and even though it had a few leaks at one time which have been repaired with left-over caulk from a Den-improvement project ... Bear is most fond of it.

It hardly ever breaks down and it gets great gas mileage.

But Bear wasn't even thinking about her wonderful bearmobile while shopping her local Thrift Store one bright April afternoon. She was too busy and happy, picking up cheap furniture for the Den. She found an old pole lamp with a broken plastic lamp-shade on one of its sockets, and an undamaged shade on the other, top socket ... only 10 bucks, and a sticker on its pole with the word "Works" written on it. Since the store was run by Mennonites, and she'd found them to be very trustworthy people, she knew it really would work, too. So, after screwing its loose pole in tighter, to keep it from wobbling so much, she decided it was a good deal.

I'll just throw away the plastic shades, and it'll give great light from behind my chair, onto my writing space in the Den.

She grabbed it and dropped it off beside where the two cashiers were working, saying over her shoulder as she headed out from behind the counter again, "It's okay to leave this here while I finish shopping, right?"

The two clerks, both with silvery hair, were used to Bear popping in and out behind their counter with stuff like that, so just nodded, smiled, and gave a quick wave of hands while they waited on other customers.

Bear lumbered off, to check around for any other treasures, and browsed through the books awhile. She gathered together a basketful, still not yet thinking about her bearmobile at all. It was a sunny day, and the drive to the store had been amazingly peaceful and cheering, at the end of what had been a very rough week. She could even feel an extra sense of the Lord's encouragement and strengthening, for which she was very grateful, knowing people had been praying for her.

Her next find was a metal storage unit on wheels with two compartments. The top compartment had a lid that opened, revealing an empty metal box about the size of a file cabinet drawer. The bottom compartment was like a metal cupboard, with a little door that was designed to swing open sideways, (likely revealing another empty metal box about the size of a file cabinet drawer). Bear liked the unit a lot, with its little wheels that would make it easy to shove into a closet for storage, and also easy to pull out into the main Den area whenever she wanted to use it. (Dens don't have a lot of space to spare, and bears have to be somewhat innovative in how they do things.)

There was only one problem. The bottom door was locked. And no key in sight. Which meant that no key existed anymore.

Bear tried to get a claw hooked into the edge of the door, hoping it wasn't really locked, after all.

Nope. Definitely locked.

Rats! It's so perfect. And no price-tag. Probably because the key's lost. Bet I can get it cheap.

Bear decided to try one of the keys on her bearmobile key ring, just to see if she could maybe turn the lock a bit and jiggle it open.

So she reached into a pocket ... but felt only cloth and her small bottle of liquid paw-soap she always carries (hating the smells of the perfumed soaps in public bathrooms), and a roll of Tums. Her eyes widened. Strange...

She tried the other pocket ... cell phone only.

That's when Bear began to think about her bearmobile.

Noooooo! If her keys weren't here then they must be...

But she hadn't locked her keys in a bearmobile for seven or eight years at least!

She checked her pockets again. Nothing.

The day had started so well, too; and it was so nice and sunny...

She thought awhile; checked her pockets one last time; and then decided she wasn't going to let this spoil her good mood. After all, the sunshine was still pouring in through the store's huge windows, wasn't it?

Giving up on the metal storage unit, she headed for the door, dropping off the basket of books with the now-idle store clerks, and saying, "I was going to try to get that locked cabinet open with one of my keys, but then found out I don't have them in my pocket, so I need to go out and see where they are. Be right back!"

Both of the clerks were kindly people who Bear always enjoyed hanging out and chatting with. The man usually had an interesting and humorous story about happenings in the store or local events; and the woman loved to discuss the books Bear bought each week, and to comment on her own favorites. They both moved slowly behind the registers, due to their age -- the woman might even be in her 70's. But Bear was never in a hurry.

The man put a hand up to his grey beard for a moment, thinking, then chuckled, folded his arms, and peered at her through black-rimmed glasses. "You thought one of your keys might work on that old lock?"

But the woman, leaning against the edge of the counter, had a worried expression that contrasted sharply with the purple floral pattern on her somewhat faded dress. "You've lost your keys?"

"Doubt they're lost. Be right back. It's okay to leave my books there, right?"

They nodded in unison.

Bear got out to the parking lot and tested the door on the driver side. Locked. Since it was an older bearmobile, the doors had those old-fashioned type of little buttons along their top ridges by the windows, that you press when you're inside to lock the doors (and that pop up and down when the key turns in the lock from the outside). Bear could already see that both buttons were pressed down. But she circled to the other side, hoping to spot the keys somewhere.

Yes! There they were.

In the ignition.

Rolling her eyes, she headed back into the store, silently thanking the Lord she had Triple A Bearmobile Insurance and that one of their services was breaking into locked bearmobiles in just such circumstances as these.

She was on the cell phone before she even made it back to the counter, listening to tinkling AAA Bearmobile Insurance music that was designed to soothe frazzled callers as the minutes tick by while they're waiting "on hold".

Bored with the song already, she said to the clerks, "My keys were in the bearmobile, all right."

The woman's troubled eyes brightened and she smiled. "Oh, I'm so glad! You got them OK, then?"

"Well, not exactly. They're in the ignition. But no worry. The doors are locked."

"Oh my. The engine's not running is it?"

Bear thought about that. Why would she leave the engine running while shopping in a thrift store? Was this woman getting a bit senile, maybe? But then again, why would she lock her keys in the bearmobile, while shopping in a thrift store? Might be a rational question after all...

"Uh...No. It's not running."

The woman looked relieved again. "Oh! That's good! You won't run out of gas."

Bear had to smile. "Good point. It could be worse. Plus, I have triple A."

Somewhere around that time, the music in Bear's ear stopped, and a young woman's voice replaced it, saying in the most perky manner imaginable, "Hello! This is your triple A service department! How may I help you today?"

It sounded too lilting to be the voice of a real live person. Maybe a recording? But it had asked a question, and Bear didn't think recordings usually asked questions. So she decided to test it out by answering.

"Umm ... Hi there. I locked my keys in my bearmobile."

"We can help with that!"

Since the woman didn't seem inclined to say more, although Bear waited, Bear finally said, "Well, I had figured you could."

"Are you in a safe place?"

Bear looked around. Old clothes hanging on racks, a vacuum cleaner standing among broken and thread-worn furniture, shelves of brightly colored plastic trucks and stuffed animals, a couple of smiling store clerks who gave away free Bibles...

"Uh ... Well, yes ... it seems pretty safe to me ..."

"Are you sure?"

Bear checked again. "Yeah. Actually, I'm standing in the middle of a thrift store."

"Oh good! That does sound safe ... Is your bearmobile running?"

People must lock keys in running vehicles more often than Bear knew about. "Uh ... no. Not running."

This made the woman's voice even happier sounding. "Oh good!"

She asked a bunch more questions, (getting an exact description of the bearmobile and where it was parked), then promised she'd send someone out "within an hour" and that an automated recording would call Bear's cell phone five minutes before the repair person would actually arrive, so Bear could be by the bearmobile, waiting.

Bear shrugged, pocketed the phone, and decided that the best thing to do when stranded inside a thrift store that had now been officially declared a "safe place" was to keep shopping.

She looked longingly at the locked storage unit, wishing again for her bearmobile keys, but decided to give it up, under the circumstances. Then headed over to check out the dollar videos.

Eventually Bear started feeling pretty run down from the mixture of thrift store fragrances: clothes with old laundry detergents in them, tools with oil on them, dusty upholstery ... She began to long for fresh air. So she decided to finish up and wait outside, in the sunshine.

It was while paying for her items and chatting with the clerks, that she spotted a man by her bearmobile, through the store's windows, apparently trying to open its door.

"Oops! Gotta run! Either Triple A has arrived, or someone's trying to steal my bearmobile."

They laughed and waved her out. The woman called after her, "Hope it's Triple A!"

But the man working on the locked door was not at all cheery. He had a black rubber rectangle wedged in at the top edge of the door, that he had pumped some air into, forcing open a small crack. And he had slipped a long hook in through the crack. He was sweating in his tee shirt, hair mussed by the wind. As he pulled on the hook, Bear could hear him forcefully muttering things under his breath that sounded likely to be at least R rated.

And it looked like he'd been at it for quite some time.

Bear set the lamp down on the raised sidewalk at the edge of the parking spaces, and the book bag alongside it, saying, "Sorry I wasn't out here. They said I'd get an automated call five minutes before you got here, but I never did."

The man gave her a quick, somewhat hostile, glance; then pulled on the wire that was attached to the hook a couple times, sharply. She heard a "thunk, thunk" inside her bearmobile.

He glared at her. "Don't the inside door handles on this crazy bearmobile even work?"

"What do ya mean?"

"When you're in the car -- can you even open the blasted doors from inside?" He seemed about to add more, but pressed his lips together tightly, clearly restraining himself.

It was then Bear realized that he'd already successfully snagged the handle on the inside with the hook, but the door wasn't opening as expected.

She thought about it. "Well... Let's see. Yes, they work ... Hmm ... But now that you mention it, they don't open the door when the lock button at the top of the door is pressed down like it is. I always have to lift the button when I'm inside, in order to get out. They're not broken. That's just the way they work."

"But that can't be right. This is a Ford!" he said, almost shouting. "Fords don't..."

At that point, the lamp tipped over with a loud CLANG as the metal pole hit concrete. The two plastic shades popped off and started rolling away down the sidewalk, blown along by the wind. Another smaller plastic part of unknown purpose trailed along just a bit behind them.

Bear watched them go.

"Your lamp fell," he said.

"That's okay. I was gonna dump those shades anyway."

He shook his head, and pulled the hook out of the door handle, and upward, to try and snag the button. But it didn't look good to Bear. The button was shaped like a triangle with a flattened top, and had nothing on it for the hook to snag onto. Sometimes, on a winter's day when her paws were cold, she even had trouble pulling it up while she was inside the bearmobile.

She could hear the lamp shades bumping and clattering along the pavement behind her, still being propelled by the wind. Looking over her shoulder, she saw that they had made their way into the intersection, and seemed intent on crossing the street. She debated whether it was time to lose the day's cheerful mood yet, or not. "Uh... I'll be right back. Better grab those shades."

He grunted, the hook having already slipped off the button several times. Then muttered something about her bearmobile that this time Bear was sure was R rated.

Thankful for the opportunity to leave the scene for a minute, she ran off, chasing after the shades, which had now made it across the street, and were angling over towards some parked cars.

Sitting on the edge of the raised sidewalk nearby, was a woman in an old cotton dress and beads, with braided black hair and wrinkled, dark skin. She nodded with satisfaction, her brown eyes sparkling, as Bear went past. "Good! Better get 'em!" Her wide smile showed three missing lower teeth, which somehow made her seem very friendly to Bear, and helped Bear decide that the day was still sunny and cheery despite a few glitches.

The woman pointed at the little unidentifiable part rolling along, closest, so Bear scooped it up on the fly; then, checking traffic, dashed across the street just in time to see the largest shade roll under a parked sedan.

Terrific. She was going to have to get down on her knees on oily pavement... (Bear hated getting oil on her fur.)

Finally she had the shades in paw, in a nice neat stack, and was again approaching the woman, on her way back. Looking for something reasonable to say in circumstances like these, Bear grinned and tried, "Ever have one of those days, when..."

The woman smiled and nodded, acting as if Bear was the best entertainment she'd seen in a long time. Then turned to watch the rest of the action taking place at the bearmobile.

The man did not seem at all entertained though. By the time Bear got back, his shoulder muscles were bunched in a way that made Bear suspect he was thinking seriously about slugging the door. "I've never had so much trouble breakin' into a bearmobile! It usually only takes a minute. This is ridiculous!"

Setting the shades down in the bag with the books, Bear decided it would probably be wise not to tell him how good that sounded to her. Not too many thieves were interested in old bearmobiles. But still ... she mentally added another star to the list of her bearmobile's positive attributes. Then walked over and stood watching as he tried repetitively, and unsuccessfully, to snag the little button. Clearly he was not going to succeed at this rate; and his constant muttering was getting louder.

This put Bear into a dilemma of sorts. Obviously, at this point, the best thing to do was to ask God to help and enable the man to open the door, in the Name of Jesus. However, although this man was only a bit taller than Bear, he had muscular arms and powerful looking shoulders; and, from some of his vocabulary choices, Bear tended to think it unlikely that he knew the Lord. Bear figured, if she prayed aloud, that any last restraints holding his anger in check might blow ...

And it just might not be a very safe thing to do.

But was she being chicken if she prayed silently? Maybe God wanted this man to get a witness of His power in a seemingly hopeless situation? Besides, if she prayed silently, maybe God wouldn't answer, figuring she was being faithless and unbelieving -- i.e., chicken.

While she was still pondering all the pros and cons, the little string lariat that the man was now using to try and snag the button again slipped off, and he looked about ready to quit the whole thing if something didn't change soon.

Bear had to make a choice.

Though feeling guilty, she decided that maybe it would be best to err on the side of safety ... i.e., chickenness.

So, closing her eyes, she prayed silently, but desperately, Father God, please enable this man to get the lock open. Clearly he can't do it himself, and I really need the bearmobile unlocked, and I know I should probably pray out loud, but I'm not sure what to do, and this guy's pretty big, Lord; and could you please have mercy anyway and just open the door, in the Name of Jesus?

Then she opened her eyes and watched hopefully.

Just a minute later, the man shoved the end of the heavy wire (that was holding the little lariat) against the button, creating just the right pressure at just the right angle, so that when he jerked upwards -- even without the lariat being around the button at all -- the wire itself pulled the button up.

He appeared stunned.

"YES!" Bear said. "Way to go! You did it! Good work!"

Not seeming to believe the door would actually open, he slowly reached for the outside handle, paused, and then pulled up.

The door swung open.

He just stood there, staring at the door. Then grabbed all his tools, and without a backward glance at Bear, headed for his tow truck.

"Don't you need my Triple A number or want me to sign anything, or anything?"

"NO!" he climbed into his truck, refusing to look at her.

Bear started to follow him, but then thought better of it; and ducked into the open doorway to grab the keys from the ignition and drop them safely into her pocket before the door slammed shut again in the wind.

Once she had her lamp and books stowed, she thanked the Lord much for opening the door for her.

But she still felt guilty too, and wondered what would have happened if she'd prayed aloud, instead of silently. Plus, she'd told the man "Good work!" giving him the credit instead of the Lord, when even he clearly knew it hadn't been his ability that had opened the door.

The woman sitting on the sidewalk smiled and nodded and waved as Bear pulled away from the curb. And it was only then that Bear realized she might be homeless. And that Bear hadn't even thought to pray about what to say to her at all. And wondered what frustrations she might be facing in her day.

Bear sighed. She was going to have to work harder at this praying stuff, for sure, if she ever wanted to be used of the Lord as much of a witness at all.

So many missed opportunities ... So many unfulfilled possibilities ...

But the Lord was gracious, and the smiling sun shone warmly on her fur as she drove onwards, heading for the grocery store to pick up more supplies for the Den.

Laury Hubrich over at His Mercies Are New is hosting Friday Fiction this week. So be sure and drop over there as well, to find links to the whole selection of entries, 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, April 28, 2010

Bear's PDA metamorphoses into a super duper writing machine

Bear has had a couple very rough days of illness, in bed mainly. But people were praying for the Bear, and she is so thankful. The Lord lifted her in the midst of the illness, and encouraged her in many ways. Plus, she got quite a bit of work done, even while stuck in bed, through His Grace.

In fact, she learned a lot more about how to use her little PDA to good advantage for writing, in times like those. She has an old Treo cell phone PDA that she got cheap off the Internet a couple years back, long after this particular model of Treo went out of style. She's never even had the cell phone part connected to a service. But it has been a very handy gadget for many things -- almost like a tiny portable computer. And she picked up a foldable keyboard for it some months ago, on sale also, although she hadn't gotten around to using that part for anything yet.

Bear has a laptop (even after she accidentally threw a cup of water on its keyboard last week), and had already set that up on a TV tray type of table right next to the bed, which helped a lot. But much of the time she was too tired to prop herself up enough to use it. It's heavy, and really is too awkward to use for long, directly in bed.

And she was frustrated and bored, wishing she could work on the Writing Challenge for the week, and other projects.

That's when she remembered the Treo's keyboard, and started playing around with it. It turned out to be perfect for typing in bed -- super light weight -- and sat nicely on a clip board she had on hand. Plus, the Treo has Pocket Word on it. So she got about half of the Challenge entry written up that way.

But then she remembered something she had tried out on one of the more ancient PDA's that she had had about 6 years ago. It was a piece of programming software that causes a little 9 square grid to pop up on the screen that has letters on it. All 26 letters of the alphabet (and most the punctuation symbols) fit on various locations in the 9 squares -- some around the corners of the squares, some at the sides, and some in the middle. If you tap the square, it prints the letter in the middle. If you slide your stylus to one corner of a square, it'll print the letter in that corner. Etc.

So she looked it up on the Net again, because she remembered it had been helpful when she had it on her older gadget. And was happy to find it's still available. It's called "MessageEase". And it works on cell phones of many sorts, and regular computers, and PDAs of almost all sorts. It works basically like the regular screen-popup keyboard does on most PDA's, but the grid with only 9 squares is larger and much easier to type faster on, with the stylus, than the tiny QWERTY keyboard that normally pops up on screen. Some people can type 50+ words a minute on MessageEase even.

By last evening, Bear had it downloaded to her Treo, and was practicing, starting to get the hang of it again. By this afternoon, she was up to about 20 words a minute, typing on it, and was able to finish the draft of the Challenge entry with even more ease, that way, than by using the keyboard. It was wonderful, because she could just turn off the PDA when she needed a break, and then when she picked it up later, and turned it back on again, the Pocket Word document was still on screen, right where she'd left off.

And Bear found that she really loves that way of writing and re-writing. It's much more relaxing than trying to do it all at once at the computer, yet she felt that the quality was just as good, or better than, while sitting at the computer. Pocket Word even has a Word Count function in it, so she could tell if she was going over the allowed number of words for the Challenge (which she was, as usual), and could edit the Word Count back down to the proper limits.

MessageEase was, of course, slower than the computer, although while using the PDA's actual external keyboard, she was able to type almost as fast as at the computer's keyboard.

But it was so much more relaxing, it convinced Bear to continue to experiment with it more in future, even while not sick. Once she synced the Treo to the computer this evening, when finally feeling well enough to sit up again for awhile, all she needed to do was a bit of final polishing and a double check of the Word Count (which exactly matched Pocket Word's), and she was set to submit the entry.

So she's thanking the Lord much for what turned out to be one of her most interesting and uplifting sick times ever.
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tackle it Tuesday -- Shakespeare or David?

Today's Tackle it Tuesday assignment from FaithWriters Blog:

"April is National Poetry Month! So, in celebration of poetry, your Tackle-It Tuesday assignment on this last Tuesday of the month, is to write a poem about poetry. It can be a Haiku, rhyming, sentimental, or humorous. Keep it under 50 words and make sure the actual topic of your poem is poetry."

Bear wrote:

Where do people search
For great poetry
Shakespeare had nothing
Over David
A man of war
A keeper of sheep
Conquered Goliath
Fell with Bathsheba
A prophet
A king
A slinger of stones
A swinger of swords
A singer of beautiful
God inspired Psalms
A man after God’s
Own Heart

Now Bear is going to go rest some more -- a rough day physically.
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Happenings -- We used to kill each other with spears all the time...

Bear stumbled onto a recording yesterday where more of the "Aucas" speak (who murdered the five missionaries with spears). To hear their voices talking about what it was like back when spearing one another and spearing missionaries was common everyday life, and then to hear them talking about what life is like now, was riveting. The strength and power of their down-to-earth quality of faith seem somehow of stronger substance than what we often hear in our modernized society. These same men who speared the missionaries are now regularly out risking their own lives, reaching out to tribes around them in the jungle which are still very violent, so strong is their desire to share what they've found.

So Bear decided to go ahead and post the 28 minute Day of Discovery recording below.

It also includes more quotes from the five missionaries who were killed, about why they chose to take that risk. And it includes the last interview with Rachel Saint, before her death from old age after living decades with the tribe. (She was the sister of Nate Saint, one of the missionaries who was killed, and was one of the two women who went to live with the tribe about a year after the slaughter, and helped translate the Bible into their language).

Plus, there is more from Steve Saint, Nate Saint's son, who was baptized (as a fatherless teenager) by two of his father's murderers, and still lives happily with the tribe to this day. Note: When Steve Saint discusses the death of his daughter and says "my daughter was taken out of my protective custody", he's referring to her death in a hospital of natural causes -- a brain hemorrhage -- and to a father's "protective custody" of a child while that child is on this earth, not of a marriage struggle of any sort.

For those of you who have heard much of the five missionaries and the Aucas, as well as for those of you who have heard little, Bear can safely guarantee that this show, with its interviews, will be of immeasurable value, and deeply moving.

(Note: If you're reading this by feeds or Facebook, you'll need to drop by Bear's Writing Den to hear this week's recording, above).

(For those who missed last Sunday's prior post at the Den which initially summarized the story of the five missionaries, with its videos which showed so vividly the way the tribe was changed over the years afterward, in the aftermath of those seemingly senseless deaths, the videos and info are still available at this link: Sunday Happenings -- The hopes of 5 murdered missionaries fulfilled through the "Power of His Love")
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den