Another Story to Be Thankful For: “Where Were You?”

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

My brother Andy has put together an extraordinary video I want to share with you as another Thanksgiving offering. Both the subject matter (the “Big Bang”) and the background music (“Magnum Mysterium”) put me in mind of Job, Chapter 38:4-38.


Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?

    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt’?

12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
    its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
    and their upraised arm is broken.

16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this.

19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
    And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
    Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
    You have lived so many years!

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
    or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
    for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
    or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
    an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
    and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
    Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
    Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
    when the surface of the deep is frozen?

31 “Can you bind the chains[b] of the Pleiades?
    Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons[c]
    or lead out the Bear[d] with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
    Can you set up God’s[e] dominion over the earth?

34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
    and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
    Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom[f]
    or gives the rooster understanding?[g]
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
    Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
    and the clods of earth stick together?

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The Travelers: A Thanksgiving Story

RE-POSTED from November 2013 and 2015 because I love this story. 

My brother-in-law shared this story. With his permission, I post it here. In a world heavy with cynicism perhaps this will lighten your heart as it did mine this, and past, Thanksgiving seasons.

By Gene Taylor

stock-photo-20399839-vintage-american-truckMy mother, Rosemary, was an angry person.  She didn’t know why and that bothered her, not so much that she cared about how her anger affected others but that it was a facet of her being that she was not in control of.

The day I met the three travelers in this story my wife Nancy and I were on our way back from Reno where we had visited my mother at a very nice care facility. The Hospice folks and my wife, who also works in health care, had found a way to help Mom find peace on her death bed, which was our main concern.  The sure-fire solution for patients with anger, anxiety, depression and pain was 20 mg of morphine accompanied by 2 mg of Valium every two hours.  That med combo seemed to cure everything for Mom except for the anger.

Even experienced Hospice personnel there had rarely witnessed Mom’s kind of anger. And I was amazed and saddened by it, too. I had been hoping to be present for the magic end-of-life transition I had heard about where I might see my mother become one of us non-angry people. I was hoping she would reveal some part of the real Rosemary that I’d never seen, share some side of her I knew must be there, tell the secret of her pissed-offedness, if you will, or in some other way become genuine.

Didn’t happen.

Nancy and I headed home without the kind of closure I so hoped for.

Early that Monday morning at the start of our return trip, we stopped at an AM PM Gas Station/Mini-Mart outside of Reno to fill up the gas tank and get some hot coffee on this frosty fall morning.  The usual Mini-Mart crowd of construction guys were milling around. I noticed a rag-tag white pickup truck parked a short distance from the apron.  It had a cardboard sign affixed to the tailgate. The handwritten lettering said something to the effect that the occupants of the truck were stranded and needed money to continue on to California.

A folded up mattress, old BBQ grill, and cardboard boxes filled the pickup bed to overflowing.  It was a real “Dust Bowl look” going on. A young man, handsome, with a lean, wiry look, dressed in worn Carhartt coveralls was soliciting money near the rear of the rig; he was trying to make eye contact with the people going in the store.  A couple of people walked by him and spread their arms out with palms up indicating a no-sale. In fact, I didn’t see him collect any money and frankly he wasn’t very good at it.  I knew this was a common scam but he did have the look of fear and desperation, and that truck and its load did look genuine.

I was busy filling up when I noticed a young woman get out of the cab of the truck with something in a blue blanket held close to her.  I thought it was a baby at first and was kind of mad that they would put a child in that position as it was very cold outside.  Then I saw it was a cat!  Okay, heart melting time.  I walked up and gave her $10.  The man came around and thanked me and immediately pulled the truck up to the pumps and began filling it with that ten spot.

They were beside our car, now, and I asked the young woman, a pretty brunette with clear eyes and a quiet manner, what her cat’s name was.  She responded, “Velcro”. Clever. I got it. We exchanged smiles and I started to check my oil. The young man asked me if I thought his quarter-tank plus that $10 in gas would get him up and over the Sierras and on to Yuba City, a journey that included the infamous—and high elevation–Donner Pass, not someplace on which you wanted to be stranded in the cold. I really didn’t think he had enough.

He told me they started out from someplace in Colorado, the name of the town escapes me, with $180 hoping to make it to Yuba City where his family lives. They just ran out of money.   I fished out a $20 bill and gave it to him.  Immediately, the expression of fear and worry on his face vanished. He jumped around a few times and hugged me while thanking me.

From our brief interactions, it was clear they were both country folks. I loved them. They were so freaking genuine and authentic.  While the young man jumped with joy, the girl just looked at me with a look of amazement as if this was the first time a stranger had ever befriended her.

We were now preparing to head off over the hill to California ourselves while they finished fueling up.  The young man said, “I wish there was something I could do for you.”  I told him, “You have done plenty already.”

I’m not sure he got it; perhaps he did.

I do stuff like this often but rarely do I get this kind of reward. I was still thinking about my mother and her perpetual anger, and in that moment I knew what my mother missed her entire life by being angry, which influenced her attitude toward people in need. She would not have done—and never did—anything for people like these two beautiful travelers. If I had that void in my life, it would make me angry, too.

She missed so much…

I’ll never miss that $30 but it lifted the cares of the world off that young man at least for a moment, and a moment is all we really have isn’t it?

I’ll never lose what I felt that cold morning and I doubt they will either. We all changed, in some way, just then.

Even though it was early in the day and still freezing cold, there was no ice on either the passes or bridges over them although the elevation is over 7,000 feet and the ground atop was dusted with a second-week-in-November snow. And I wondered a little about that“gift,” too…

My wife and I met up with the Mini-Mart travelers at the Donner Pass Rest Stop and I asked their names. He was Joshua and she was Haley. The cat was still Velcro.

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When Prayer Is Passive Aggressive Abuse and How to Deal with It

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It’s Never Too Early To Enjoy Some Christmas Mirth: Every Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie Ever

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila and Andy Beveridge

My brother Andy and I are, we confess, already watching Hallmark Christmas movies–even though the neighborhood kids are still coming down from their Halloween sugar highs and Thanksgiving turkeys are still in the freezer awaiting the big day.

We take all the ribbing we deserve for this—from each other and other siblings who do not share this (pre)season penchant—and yet, well, we watch, even though the scripts are as predictable as fake snow in L.A. The topic of all-too-predictable plot lines came up between us in a series of back-and-forth e-mails recently that went something like this: Continue reading

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“Another Jesus?” by Dale Rudiger at The Ex-Catholic Journal

I have previously featured some of Dale Rudiger’s writings in various posts, here. He writes of his experiences coming away from Roman Catholicism with compassion and clarity. As referenced in his commentary, below, and elsewhere, there are myriad reasons for feeling greatly compelled to remain in the system (as per the mandates of RC doctrine), but as innumerable other ex-Roman Catholics will attest, myself included, Jesus is greater. And He understands the struggle.  Continue reading

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Is It The Silent Treatment or Emotional Survival, Part 6: “Losin’ All Your Highs and Lows”

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

A segment of the lyrics to the old Eagles’ tune, “Desperado,” that I listened to again, recently, speaks to the topic of this series. These words: “You’re losin’ all your highs and lows; ain’t it funny how the feelin’ goes away”  speak  to withdrawal from another person, needed or not, and how that can damage one. Continue reading

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On the “Human Cube” and Other Walls, 2: Awakening

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

So I keep thinking about the mid-town vagabond I wrote about yesterday “posed” as it were, tight, in a kind of “human cube” shape (for lack of a better way to describe his appearance), ensconced absolutely still  on the step of an old building near the coffee shop and seemingly deep and far in his private world (if not just asleep–or worse) while all around him: life. Continue reading

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