Peacefulness permeates the International Peace Garden

The International Peace Garden in the heart of the Turtle Mountains is less than an hour from Newburg, N.D., and the farm where I grew up. I don’t recall how old I was the first time I was taken to the Garden, but I do recall one trip as a teen.

My two same-age cousins, Idamae and Carole were with me and we talked and dreamed of one day having a triple wedding ceremony in this setting with the millions of gorgeous flowers as a backdrop.

Of course that never happened, but each time I return I remember that little dream scheme. Such was the case on Monday.

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Brother Myrlin, nephew John, me and sister-in-law Shirley

We were at the farm visiting family which included nephew, John of Denver, Co., and once again a trip to the Peace Garden was a given. This was John’s first Garden visit and it’s always such a joy for me to return to this 2,339 acre prairie wilderness adjacent to Metigoshe State Park in North Dakota and next to Turtle Mountain Provincial Park in Manitoba.

A bit of history: My cousins and I aren’t the only dreamers. It was always Sculptor Henry Moore’s dream to have a formal botanical garden in the heart of the North American continent. That dream became a reality on July 14, 1932, with the dedication of a cairn (landmark) built right on the 49th Parallel in the Turtle Mountains. About 50,000 people attended that dedication which established the International Peace Garden that celebrates the peaceful coexistence of Canada and the United States. On the cairn are these words:
“To God in His Glory, we two nations dedicate this garden and pledge ourselves that as long as men shall live, we will not take up arms against one another.”
On Monday, the sky was the bluest of blue and the flowers brilliant beyond belief – perhaps the prettiest I have ever seen them.

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I believe we walked all 2,339 acres of the formal gardens which stretch along the border from the entrance all the way down to the Peace Chapel. We stopped in at the Vitko Conservatory which is home to more than 6,000 thriving cacti from North and South America as well as Africa. This is quite the amazing display.
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We stopped at the 911 Memorial Site, which displays actual steel girders from New York City’s former Twin Towers. Very touching.
We spent quite a bit of time in the sacred Peace Chapel where quotes from many people line the walls. I especially enjoyed these words: “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year. Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown, and he replied: go out into the darkness and put thine hand into the hand of God. That shall be to thee better than light and safer than a known way.”
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We also walked around the base of the Peace Towers built in 1982 as a symbol of the peace that reaches across the longest undefended border in the world.
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Unfortunately these towers are experiencing crumbling at the top and bottom and plans are to soon take them down.

We topped off our visit to the Peace Garden with a delicious lunch of soup and sandwiches in the café located in the Interpretive Center.

I’m told about 150,000 people visit the Peace Garden each year and this is where International Music Camp has been held for the past 60 years.

After several hours in the midst of this beautiful spot, your heart is indeed filled with peace along with thoughts of what might have been – a triple wedding once dreamed up by three silly cousins.

Until Soon

Awakened by a song from yesteryear

Our grandfather clock

Our grandfather clock

I woke this morning with a song on my mind and in my heart. Feeling the need to belt it out I jumped out of bed and opened our bathroom door. There’s no audience like a husband who can’t run because his face is covered with shaving cream and he has razor in hand. And so I began, surprising even myself as every lyric and the melodies of both verse and chorus to “My Grandfather’s Clock,” came back to me as if I had sung it yesterday.

And, I had not:

My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf

So it stood ninety years on the floor

It was taller by half than the old man himself
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born
And was always his treasure and pride
But it stopped, short never to go again
When the old man died
Ninety years without slumbering
tick, tock, tick, tock
His life seconds numbering
tick, tock, tick, tock
It stopped, short never to go again
When the old man died
“Very nice,” Jim said at songs’ end. His thoughts returned to the days he also sang it as a child in school.
I learned this song during my elementary years at Russell School in north central North Dakota. Mrs. Mabel Goheen was our music teacher and when she gifted my classmates and me with this classic she gave us a true treasure.
Maybe that’s why I have always dearly loved the quiet ticking and tocking of a clock. The sound takes me back to my grandmother’s serene and sacred farm house. She had a clock on a shelf in her dining room whose tranquil tick tock could be heard from any room in her house – upstairs or down. I loved being at Grandma’s. I loved the sound of her clock which wasn’t drowned out by a blaring TV set.
When we moved to East Grand Forks 40 years ago, we were the new owners of a grandfather clock that we brought from Cheyenne, Wyo., where it had just been lovingly built by a stately retired gentleman who was now making clocks as a hobby.
All these many years I’ve had a corner of my grandmother’s dining room right in my living room. Sometimes in the middle of the night I hear the tick tock tick tock of our grandfather clock. It makes me think of my gentle Grandma Ida (my favorite person in the world) and I’m lulled back to sleep.
I researched “My Grandfather’s Clock,” and found out it was written in 1876 by a man named Henry Clay Work. Henry saw an extraordinary clock in a hotel that inspired him to write the song from a grandson’s point of view.
The song’s storyline is that this clock is purchased on the morning of his grandfather’s birth and works perfectly for ninety years, only needing to be wound at the end of each week. The clock chimes 24 chimes when the grandfather brings his bride into his house; and before the grandfather dies, it rings an eerie alarm. The family recognizes that the grandfather is near death and gathers by his bed. When the grandfather dies, the clock suddenly stops, and never works again.
The Oxford English Dictionary says that the song is responsible for the fact that a longcase clock is also known as a grandfather clock.
And now, the rest of the verses to, “My Grandfather’s Clock:”
My grandfather said that of those he could hire
Not a servant so faithful he found
For it wasted no time and had but one desire
At the close of each week to be wound
And it kept in its place, not a frown upon its face
And its hands never hung by its side
But it stopped short, never to go again
When the old man died
Ninety years without slumbering
tick, tock, tick, tock
His life seconds numbering
tick, tock, tick, tock
It stopped, short never to go again
When the old man died
It rang an alarm in the dead of the night
An alarm that for years had been dumb
And we knew that his spirit was pluming for flight
That his hour for departure had come
Still the clock kept the time with a soft and muffled chime
As we silently stood by his side
But it stopped short, never to go again
When the old man died
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Check out Johnny Cash’s version of “My Grandfather’s Clock,” on YouTube. He sings the exact melody I learned as a child.
Gosh! I hope music teachers are still teaching this wonderfully fun song to their students. It will leave a lasting impression.
Until Soon

When two or three gather, they’ll not walk alone

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From left: My high school classmate Judy Olson Ellington, her husband, John, as he sings, “You’ll Never Walk Alone:” and another of our classmates Leon Wedar and his wife LaVonne.

I’ve mentioned before a comment my mother made as I was out the door to college. But her words of wisdom bear repeating. “It’s OK to make new friends,” she told me, “but don’t forget the old.”

Mom would be tickled pink to know it’s easy to heed her advice.

I think the “kids” in my graduating class from Newburg, (N.D.) High School will forever remain among the friends I cherish the most. We may be scattered here, there, and everywhere, but our roots are entrenched in the Newburg Eagles’ soil.

This week I had the great joy of having a couple classmates and their spouses around my kitchen table. We first met for lunch at Olive Garden and then they followed me home for rhubarb pie (with yummy coconut meringue) and coffee.

With just 14 in our class (one is now deceased) we were proud back then to be small town North Dakota stuff. We still are.

It’s been a while since the whole class has been together, but, like the Bible verse reads, “Where two or three are gathered . . . , well, we take what we can get. Turns out “two or three,” is a bit of heavenly sunshine. Earlier this summer Jim and I had a lovely evening with another of my classmates, Gene Anderson and his wife, Laural, who were in town from Colorado.

These latest plans were set after Judy Olson Ellington, who with her husband, John, lives in Baraboo, Wis., contacted me saying they were passing through Grand Forks on Monday. Could we meet for lunch?

Absolutely!

I called another classmate, Leon Wedar, who with his wife, LaVonne, lives in Minot. Like the rest of us, they are on-the-go people and thought nothing of driving a couple hundred miles for lunch then back home again.

That’s the way it should be at this stage of the game.

Let me tell you about my quality guests, who have lived our class motto to the fullest. It was, “When the sun sets, the stars shine on.”

Judy, who radiates classiness, met her husband at the University of North Dakota. He earned a degree in music education and Judy graduated from the College of Nursing then went on to become a nurse practitioner.

Leon is our U.S. Navy hero who served aboard the USS Intrepid. He later had his own radio repair business in Minot where he is very involved in the community. Among her talents, his wife, LaVonne, is a marvelous sewer/quilter. In fact, a quilt she made sold for $2,000 at an auction to benefit Metigoshe Ministries at Lake Metigoshe near Bottineau, N.D.

When we do get together, we classmates love to reminisce about our wonderful teachers, Leona Strom, Bob Tvedt, Lester Wyman, Ozzie Noraker and Bob Hunskor, to name a few.

We girls will never forget the day we were in Bottineau for a music festival. We had a little free time so we went to Trutna’s Department Store and bought big red and yellow farmer’s handkerchiefs. We each sewed ours together that night and wore them as blouses to school the next day. Principal Bob Hunskor promptly sent us home to change into something more appropriate. Guess we weren’t so cute after all.

We talk about seeing each other for the first time on the bus, and the times we got together to make pizza, which back then was the beginning of Chef Boyardee in a box.

We reminisce about the class picnics we had after finals in the spring and marching the band to the cemetery for the Memorial Day service, singing in the chorus and all the class plays. Oh what fun!

I mentioned that Judy’s husband, John, has a music education degree from UND. That day I learned that for 18 years he sang in the Gospel Quartet, “The Messengers.” He continues to give hour long concerts at nursing homes. John raved about his accompanist but since she wasn’t with us, I asked if he sang A capella? A moment later, his marvelous baritone broke into robust beautiful song:

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
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Each of us three couples has marked 50 years of marriage. We all have children and grandchildren, and yes, we’ve all had storms – floods, loss of jobs, illness.

But we’ve decided that because of our days together – way back when – we’ll never walk alone. Our friendships, our memories and our common faith walk with us.

Until Soon

The secret’s in the sauce

My husband, Jim, spent two years in Japan with the U. S. Navy. While there he came to know and love fried rice of the shrimp variety.

That’s just one of the food specialties he brought to our marriage and then to all of us. In fact, when one of our sons and his family plan a trip “home,” we usually get a pre-call with a request. “Could we have shrimp fried rice one night?”

We accommodate because we love meal suggestions.

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Back in the late 1960s, while working for the Boeing Company, Jim and I spent three wonderful years in Great Falls, Mont. It was there that shrimp fried rice became our Saturday night ritual because Great Falls had a fish market where fresh (never frozen) shrimp were flown in from Seattle that very morning.

Great Falls also is where we discovered Kikkoman’s Sukiyaki Sauce which is sweeter and mellower than your average soy sauce. We are convinced Sukiyaki Sauce is the true secret to Jim’s amazing shrimp fried rice.

After leaving Great Falls for other Boeing assignments, we could not find this Sukiyaki Sauce in a lot of places, not even for a time in East Grand Forks/Grand Forks. So we were forced to order it by the case directly from the company in Wisconsin.

One day I stopped at Toucan International Grociers in the Grand Cities Mall and a bottle of this Sukiyaki Sauce nearly jumped off the shelf and bonked me on the head. (It’s on a top shelf near the entrance). I felt like I had been reunited. We love to buy locally and now we no longer order it from Kikkoman. At Toucan it sells for $3.99 a bottle. I keep a couple bottles on hand.

There’s another secret to Jim’s stunning shrimp fried rice. It’s the rice itself. Since we discovered Jasmine rice we no longer buy any other.

Jasmine rice is often compared to Indian Basmati rice, another long grained rice variety. Jasmine is grown primarily in Thailand and has a subtle, nutty flavor. It’s rich, refined aroma is just delightful even as it is cooking and wafting its bouquet throughout the kitchen. Its wonderful flavor is even more enhanced when mixed with other fried rice ingredients. Toucan International Grociers sells Jasmine rice and there again we buy none other.

We’ve recently made another discovery. At Trader Joes in the Twin Cities we found Jasmine brown rice. It also has excellent flavor, but when we make our fried rice we prefer Jasmine white rice.

As for the shrimp, we buy cooked, deveined, tail-on frozen jumbo shrimp by the bag thawing it under cold running water.

When it’s fried rice night at our house I get the rice on to cook while Jim starts chopping vegetables. When it’s just the two of us, we want to end up with about four cups of cooked rice. You need:

1 1/3 cups rice

2 2/3 cups water

Heat rice and water to boiling, stirring once or twice. I do not add salt to the rice. The Sukiyaki Sauce provides enough saltiness. Reduce heat to simmer, cover pan tightly and cook 14 minutes. Do not lift the cover or stir again. After 14 minutes, remove pan from heat. Fluff rice lightly with a fork; cover and steam for 5 to 10 minutes.

In the meantime, this is what Jim is chopping:

1 to 2 bunches of green onions

4 to 6 stalks of celery

I green pepper

1 minced garlic clove

Then he slaves away at the stove, sautéing the above in oil and a bit of bacon grease (to add a smoky flavor) in a large frying pan or wok until tender. He pushes the vegetables aside and breaks in two eggs to scramble. When the eggs are fully scrambled he stirs them with the veggies. Then he adds the cooked rice, shrimp and about half a can of bean sprouts. He sprinkles the mound of rice with the Sukiyaki Sauce (amount of sauce depends upon your taste) and stir-fry’s it all until it’s heated through.

Jim and I have different tastes. I like more Sukiyaki Sauce then less so I add it at the table. I also like English peas in my fried rice (actually on everything) and Jim does not so I do a side dish of peas and add them at the table.

And there we are still savoring every bite after all these years.

It’s always a special night when we work together making delicious Shrimp Fried Rice with Sukiyaki and Jasmine. I’m glad Jim was in Japan. If not, look what we would have missed!

Until Soon

“Judy” — the only animal POW – a remarkable read

Funny how a great book just falls in your lap when you least expect it.

One night after a meeting at church my pastor, Craig Fenske, handed me a book he had just finished. “I think you’ll like this, Naomi,” he said.

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On the jacket is a picture of a beautiful dog with an affectionate faraway look in her eyes. Her expression, the title and the subtitle immediately grabbed my attention.

And that is how I came to turn the pages of “Judy – the Unforgettable Story of the Dog Who Went to War and Became a True Hero.” Written by Damien Lewis I read the author’s notes and preface that night. As a result I could hardly wait to begin turning the pages in earnest.

The book belongs to another church friend, Barb Tellmann, who after reading it couldn’t keep it to herself. Barb is a devout dog lover and sincerely believes there are dogs in heaven.

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It’s possible, I guess, that “Judy,” a beautiful liver and white English pointer who during WWII, pulled men to safety from the wreckage of a torpedoed ship, went scavenging for food to help feed starving inmates in a hellish Japanese POW camp (she too was starving), and who by her very presence brought hope and inspiration to the humans she loved, is looking down on us as we speak.

Judy was born in Shanghai, China, in an English–run dog kennel in 1936. Being a curious little puppy, she escaped from the kennel and lived for several months on the streets of Shanghai. That was a miracle in itself since the Chinese eat dogs she could have been somebody’s dinner.

Judy was rescued from the streets by a group of British sailors who served on a British war ship that patrolled Chinese rivers. And when they were captured and ended up in a POW camp Judy was with them.

Nations who fought in World War II used dogs for such things as mine detection, carrying dispatches and patrol duty along with being wonderful companions to the soldiers.

In Judy’s case, even amongst physical and mental torture while living in inhumane conditions in more than one POW camp, she inspired her crewmates to stay alive.

She would sneak off and bring food back for them and she found ways to distract the enemy.

Besides so wonderfully telling this true story, Author Damien Lewis includes examples of the unique and extraordinary aspects of canine behavior.

One thing he speaks of is, “intelligent disobedience,” which he described as, “the ability to hear a human’s command or request and to ignore it because the dog knows better.”

Another thing he talks about is a dog’s “sixth sense.” On page 104 of “Judy,” Lewis writes: “Dogs appear to be able to read our minds. They seem to have the gift of anticipating our next move and guessing how we are feeling. In the most extreme cases, they’ve been known to foresee earthquakes, the approach of a violent storm or even the death of a human companion. The most sensitive canine noses – like a pointer’s – can detect human pheromones and so they may be able to smell our moods.” Pheromone is a substance that is externally secreted by certain animals and induces a behavioral or physiological response.

The story of “Judy,” is disturbing, suspenseful, heartwarming and endearing.

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I mentioned earlier that my friend, Barb Tellmann, is a dog lover and in visiting with Barb about “Judy,” she told me about Service Dogs for America, an organization in Jud, N.D., that trains dogs for service to assist humans in many ways.  (www.servicedogsforamerica.org.)

I called SDA and spoke with Annie Strickland, senior administrative coordinator/client services.

I did not even know there was a place such as this in North Dakota. Annie tells me someone donated 10 acres of land for their campus and it has been in operation since 1989. They have five dog trainers who train dogs to help people with mobility assistance, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorders/Wounded Warrior Program) and medical emergencies.

The dogs they train are of mixed pedigrees like an Irish Wolf Hound mix or Husky mix, but the majority are Labradors. “We like labs because of their temperament and personality,” Annie said. She says about 250 dogs have been trained there since the organization began.

Annie says she’s “with,” Barb, in believing there are dogs in heaven. She also believes Barb is heaven sent. “She’s a longtime friend and donor,” Annie added. “She’s been very good to our organization.”

Oh, the things you learn when someone simply hands you a book.

Until Soon

 

The 3 M’s: Medora – Musical – Misti

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MEDORA, N.D. – The Teddy Roosevelt Medora Foundation’s advertisements ask us to “adore” Medora. I speak for my family, immediate and extended, when I say we definitely do adore Medora. We are stuck on this quaint little historic town and we try to get there at least every other year. This was our year!

We drove on to Medora after a family wedding in Minot. That’s another whole wonderful story, but today adorable Medora is the topic.

Getting there – driving across the Flickertail State (my homeland) is a nostalgic indulgence for me. I don’t need mountains. I don’t need oceans. Give me the quietness of the flatland plains of Dakotaland, the Garrison Dam, Lake Sakakawea and the friendliness of the people in such tiny towns as Pick City and Riverdale. They are among the best.

In the past we’ve pretty much “explored” and done it all in Medora: ride horseback, visit the Chateau De Mores Historic Site and the Harold Schafer Heritage Center, stop at every shop, saw and heard Joe Wiegand portray Teddy Roosevelt in the Old Town Hall Theater (he is incredible), walked the streets or just sat by the pool. Our guys have yet to play the Bully Pulpit Golf Course. Next time.

There are several places to stay in Medora. We like the Badlands Motel.

This time ours was just an overnighter. We arrived Sunday evening in plenty of time for the Pitchfork Fondue. This is an experience in itself as while in line you gaze at the beauty of the rugged badlands below the bluff. When it’s time to be seated, the food is fantastically tasty. We watched the chefs as they threaded juicy steaks on pitchforks before dropping them in huge vats of hot grease for frying.

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Some in our party had the steaks and others had the Cowboy Café which included ribs, beef roast and chicken with the rest of the buffet items.

The musical is one of the big reasons why we keep going back to Medora and the last couple times the big draw has been Misti Koop.

We have loved Misti’s music and acting since first seeing her on stage at East Grand Forks Senior High School in the 1990s. We followed her to Red River High School’s stage after she transferred there. Misti went on for a BA in Music from Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minn., and also earned an MA in Theatre Arts from the University of North Dakota.

After a few years as a band teacher, Misti moved to New York City for a time and had an ensemble role in the national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. She entertained on the Norwegian “EPIC” cruise ship and now, Misti has come home. She teaches music at South Point School in East Grand Forks and once again is spending her summer in Medora as one of the musical’s Burning Hills Singers.

Because we know and love her, Misti is the life of the party for us on the Medora stage. This year is the musical’s 50th year and they have pulled out all the stops. It’s been said that this is Medora’s best one yet. I just might agree although I have loved all I’ve seen.

This summer, performers begin by taking the audience back to the beginning in 1965 in costume and song. As the show progresses, the singers and dancers proceed through the changes made over the decades.

The six member Coal Diggers Band and the show’s hosts, Emily Walker and Bill Sorenson do an amazing job. Along with Misti from our towns (Grand Forks/East Grand Forks), this year the Burning Hills Singers hail from Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, other parts of North Dakota, Maryland, California and Indiana.

The show ends with such a beautiful musical tribute to North Dakota and America that it’s enough to bring a tear to your eye.

I had let Misti know we would be there on the shows’ third night and afterwards we met her by the concession stand to gather our hugs. Here are a few photos of her and the show:

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The Medora Musical runs nightly through September 12. Call: 1-800-MEDORA-1 for information. Like us, I know you and your family will “adore” Medora. You won’t be able to help it.

Until Soon

To ride or not to ride — that is the question

20150529_091456 rI never realized the importance of a chain and sprocket working well together until my two decided to dissociate with one another.

It happened Tuesday as I was clipping along at the posted speed limit on the bike path when I hit a significant bump causing the chain on Tudy Trek (my new name for my cruiser bike) to literally fly off the sprocket wheel.

I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened, but no longer being able to pedal or brake is a pretty helpless feeling.

I was just entering an incline which helped to reduce my speed so I scraped the pavement with my left foot until I came to a stop. Looking down I noticed that Tudy’s chain hung down like sheets on the line that had just lost a clothes pin.

Within minutes, however, I was feeling rather smug – like a mechanic even. I laid Tudy down on her side and tried to put the chain back on the sprocket – to no avail. With my fingers now sufficiently greased in black, I spun the back tire and lo and behold, the chain and the sprocket reconciled and reconnected.

They were in sync. They were together again.

I set the bike back up on its two wheels and I was off to complete that day’s miles.

All went well during Wednesday’s rides, but then came Thursday.

That evening I was out riding when the chain and sprocket apparently argued again – and separated. No bump to blame it on this time.

A very nice man named Jeff, was out walking his cute little Cavachon (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Bichon Frise). I know this because his dog is the spittin’ image of Zoe who lives with our son, Troy, his wife Sheri, and grandchildren Elyn and Ethan.

Anyway, Jeff heard the clanking and stopped. He was very willing to get his fingers blackened with grease saying he felt like he was back in high school fixing his own bike.

Jeff tipped the bike upside down and got the chain back on. I took off again but got – maybe – six feet when a huge fight broke out between the sprocket and the chain. This time the chain had packed its bags and left. I mean, walked out, as in flying completely off the sprocket and throwing a fit on the pavement.

There it laid like a snake!

Jeff was still close enough to hear it again. He walked toward me, picked up the chain and handed it to me. I thanked him profusely and decided there was no more to do but walk Tudy home.

As we speak, on this Friday, Tudy is having a “time out,” at the Ski and Bike Shop getting a new chain. Funny how things happen. Today is windy and cold and not a good riding day.

It is, however, a good day to rest.

Until Soon

Ben Hylden is purified

20150520_201502Christian artists, The Newsboys, recorded a song that has become Ben Hylden’s favorite. Ben loves all the lyrics to “Amazing Love,” but a few nearly reduce him to tears. They are: I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me.   .   .   .   .   .   I know it’s true, it’s my joy to honor you, in all I do I honor you.

Ben most assuredly is alive and well despite not being expected to live through the day after driving too fast and losing control of his car on the way to school one April morning in 2007.

As a sophomore at Park River, N.D., high school who was “always” late, Ben was not wearing a seat belt, He hit the ditch, then an approach and was tossed about like a rag doll before being ejected out the passenger side and landing face down in a field of mud and ice. His first thought was to try to crawl to his parents, Kenny and Lana Hylden, to tell them he was sorry. Sorry for oftentimes not being nice to them and his siblings. Sorry for only living for himself. Sorry for so much.

But Ben couldn’t crawl. He had bruised lungs, kidneys, pancreas, liver and small intestines. An artery in his right leg was crushed, his pallet broken in half and his nose broken in nine places. He had a badly bruised right hip, four broken ribs, a severed tongue and most of the bones in his face were shattered. Along with all that, his brain was bruised and bleeding.

Ben was so bruised and bloody and muddy that his parents, who were on the same road on their way to a meeting, were the first ones to come upon the accident. They did not recognize their son.

Ben was raised in a devote Christian home but he said he didn’t really know Jesus then. Growing up on a dairy farm he didn’t want to help out on the farm because all he lived for was himself and sports.

The whole horrible, heart-wrenching, nearly tragic turned beautiful story comes from not only Ben’s pen but his heart and soul. Because I had read his book, “Finding Faith in the Field,” I wanted to meet Ben and hear him speak of how the accident has made him a changed man.

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Wednesday night I was among a large crowd of all ages who listened to Ben tell his story at Calvary Lutheran Church in Grand Forks.

Ben, now 24, recovered much more rapidly than his physicians ever expected. “Simply put,” he said, “everything that happened was supposed to be impossible. I healed at a rate that’s not medically possible. The doctor said prayer was doing it. I believe the only reason I’m alive today is because of prayer. It’s by God’s mercy and grace that I’m here.”

All Ben ever wanted to do was play basketball and football. “Basketball was my God,” he said. He did play some after his recovery, but after twice getting elbowed in the head during a basketball game, which resulted in concussions, “I gave it up and my bond with God grew.”

Soon Ben realized that God had other plans for him. Since “Finding Faith in the Field,” was released in 2014, he has told his story more than 50 times to many organizations including camps, schools and churches. He has many more talks scheduled down the road and sometimes even he finds that difficult to believe.

“That’s the Holy Spirit up here,” he said Wednesday night as he stood at the podium. “There’s no way I can do this myself. I have to have Christ in me. I was saved to tell my story and that there is a God and a man named Jesus, a heaven and life after death. Even in the field I didn’t ask God to help me and He still came to my rescue. He gave me mercy and grace when I didn’t deserve it.”

Ben’s book, which sells for $12, is available at Hugo’s stores, Fergusons Books in Grand Forks, the University of North Dakota Bookstore, Ye Ole Medicine Center in Park River, and on Amazon.com. You also can order it from his website: www.higherspeaking.com., along with a line of clothing he has developed (t-shirts and sweatshirts) called “Purified,” branded by I John 1:7. It reads: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Ben will speak at the Cavalier (N.D.) nursing home at 5:30 p.m. Saturday (May 23) and next Wednesday (May 27) to a class of drivers’ education students in Fordville, N.D.

“This is my career now,” Ben said. “I preached for the first time this past Sunday. My whole inspirational message isn’t to teach people but just to share the name of Christ. Christ is everything. I can look back and I just get sick. He has completely humbled me. My human dream was to play sports, but for people to know Christ, life is so much better. If they can know what I know, it takes such a burden off you. I was given complete mercy and grace. He’s our joy, our peace and life. He’s the best teacher there is and the Gospel is the most precious thing you can hear.”

These days, when Ben isn’t speaking, you just might hear him singing along with his Newsboys CD:

I’m forgiven

Because You were forsaken
I’m accepted
You were condemned
I’m alive and well
Your Spirit is within me
Because You died
And rose again

Amazing love
How can it be
That You my King
Would die for me
Amazing love
I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor You
In all I do I honor You

Until Soon

They were the best of days!

I cherish my senior class ring. Embedded in it is my ruby birthstone.

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Graduation always is a wistful time for me. I will never forget how sad it was to have my four years at Newburg (N.D.) High School come to an end. Our 14-member class was brother/sister close and it’s safe to say we all loved every minute.

Besides all our studies, band and choir concerts and the music festivals we took part in together, there was our senior class play titled, “The Campbells Are Coming.” It is just one highlight of our days together.

I was Ma Brannigan, head of a clan of Hillbillies who had a summer cabin by a lake in the Ozarks. Still have my playbook and the corncob pipe I pretended to smoke on stage.

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We’ve only lost one classmate and when we get together, which we hope to do again this summer, we talk about what happened to the hat Cyrus Scudder (played by Roger Wahus) tossed high in the air during one scene. It never came back down and we discovered at plays’ end that the hat got caught in the above-stage curtains. We actors had to hold it together as it set off a roar of laughter from the audience when it seemingly vanished into thin air.

Every year, after final exams, our class picnicked together somewhere in the country. And how we looked forward to donning our handsome blue band uniforms to play and march from the school to the cemetery for the Memorial Day services.

I have the yearbook from my senior year, but I cannot turn a page. They are all stuck together after being saturated in the flood waters of 1997. I did not have the heart to throw it out so I hang onto it for posterity. Maybe time will untie its pages.

Inside the front cover is a message from my dear younger friend, Karen Wahus Irey, who died much too young from cancer. And on the opposite side is a picture of Robert Hunskor, beloved teacher/coach, to whom we dedicated that year’s edition of “The Eagle.” You may recall that Bob Hunskor at one time was named North Dakota’s “most winning” Class B boys basketball coach.

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I don’t have a photo of my senior class to show you, but I do have our 7th grade class picture. I am front row second from left with white shirt and black dickey. Does anyone wear dickeys anymore?

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I’m sure today’s graduating seniors will have just as many fond memories of their high school days as I do of mine. I will, however, keep to myself the number of decades I was already out of high school the year their mothers gave them life.

I don’t recall my senior class motto, but I do remember our 8th grade class motto. It was musical: “Be sharp, be natural, but never be flat.”

I enjoyed Sunday’s Herald section which saluted 2015’s graduating seniors. I especially appreciated their class mottos. Every proverb offers insight and wisdom for all ages to ponder. I’ve listed some of them below:

  • Each of us has different talents, different dreams, and different destinations. But all have the same power to make a new tomorrow.
  • If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. Everybody has had them, but obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.
  • I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.
  • How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
  • Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile.
  • Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
  • And so, the adventure begins.
  • There are many roads we have crossed, many hills we have climbed, and so many dreams we have yet to realize.
  • The best is yet to come.
  • Believe in the promise of tomorrow, but live this day to its fullest.
  • Here on earth and in heaven above our class is bound always by never-ending love.
  • What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
  • Started from the bottom – now we are here.
  • A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.
  • Take pride in how far you have come, have faith in how far you can go.
  • This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
  • Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
  • Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.
  • Work hard in silence, let success make the noise.
  • Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.
  • Believe you can and you are halfway there.
  • In the end we’ll all become stories.
  • Tough times don’t last; tough people do.
  • Chase your dreams, but always know the road that will lead you home again.
  • Learn from yesterday, live for today, dream for tomorrow.
  • I like the dream of the future better than the history of the past.
  • Our fearlessness shall be our secret weapon.
  • I hereby command you; be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9.
  • Behind us are memories, beside us are friends. Before us are dreams that will never end.
  • Success is a journey not a destination.
  • Behind you are all your memories, before you all your dreams, around you all who love you and within you all you need.
  • If we wait until we are ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.
  • We cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
  • Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.
  • We met as strangers, grew as classmates, and leave as friends.
  • Your attitude is either lock or key to the door of success.
  • Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.
  • Adversity equals opportunity.
  • You have seen what we have done, but not all that we will achieve.
  • The path to a fulfilled dream is filled with ordinary days surrendered to an extraordinary God.
  • But He knows where I’m going and when He tests me I will come out as pure as gold. Job 23:10.

These last two express my sentiments exactly:

  • No matter how far apart we are, in our hearts we’ll always be together.
  • Together we have experienced life. Separately we will pursue our dreams. Forever our memories remain.

And so it is that no matter how far apart new beginnings take us, home will always be home and the friends and memories made along the way will never be forgotten.

Until Soon

 

Music music music

Layout 1Those in the know say we can live without food for three weeks and only three or four days without water. Along with food and water, something else sustains me and without it I think I just might die in a day.

That something else is music.

That’s a huge exaggeration, of course, but just like I get grumpy and frumpy when I get hungry and thirsty, I require a healthy dose of music every single day. I need it to survive.

The words of a 1950 song recorded by Teresa Brewer have been singing in my head for a couple days now. They are:

Put another nickel in

In the nickelodeon

All I want is loving you

And music, music, music

How fun were the nickelodeons back in those days where you could play a song for a nickel while you enjoyed a burger.

I know for a fact that music is the heartbeat of my soul. It is the tie that binds people from all countries and all walks of life.

No one knows for sure when exactly music began. Perhaps while people were working, they began to chant or sing to make their tedious tasks go faster. People who were repeating movements, like picking crops or rowing boats, maybe started singing or humming or chanting tunes to the beat of their actions.

Or maybe someone started whistling or trying to mimic birds, how leaves sound as they rustle in the breeze or the crackling of a fire in three-four time. Wouldn’t it be fun to know who first realized that the world is so filled with natural music?”

The other day, I received a note from my friend, Alice Jean Rand, reminding me once again that May 3-10 is National Music Week. Alice Jean is a long time member of Grand Forks’ Thursday Music Club which is now 117 years old. Alice Jean is much much younger.

As part of the club’s National Music Week committee, Alice Jean along with Dee Larson, Karen Dalager, Marian Hanson and Edith Soli, want to remind all of us of the importance and appreciation of music in our lives. If you know of concerts on the calendar by all means go.

They also suggest that we say, “Happy Music Week,” to all we meet just as we would say, “Happy Birthday.”

And they remind us to sing our hearts out, especially in the shower, to dust off our instruments and play them. As for me, that would be my harmonic and my drums  and my soprano voice.

Grab a partner and dance. (Jim and I dance a lot, right in our kitchen). Encourage all the youth you know to sing, dance and enjoy music. And best of all, try a little candle light and music at dinner this evening.

National Music Week was first established by the National Federation of Music Clubs. I found, on line, the creed that has sustained the organization (like food and water) since its inception in 1898. I share it with you here:

We praise and thank Thee, Father, for the gift of music. Through us, as channels of Thy grace, may this blessed legacy be shared with all mankind.

Grant that we may exemplify in our own lives the harmony of Thy great purpose for us. Give us magnitude of soul and such understanding hearts that we, who make music, may be as players upon rightly tuned instruments, responding to Thy leading.

Let us with renewed consecration dedicate ourselves to the purpose of our federation to bring the spiritualizing force of music to the inner life of our nation. Open our minds that divine knowledge and wisdom may teach us how to best execute our pledge.

_________

National Music Week’s purpose is to create an understanding and appreciation of the value of music in our homes, our communities, our nation and our world.

To me, music is as vital as the food we eat and the water we drink.

Until Soon