When SPAM Saved an Alaskan Pilot's Life


We are near Chicago now. En route from the West, highway dazed, we spied the SPAM Museum in Minnesota and stopped. Not because we are frivolous people, and decidedly not because I am on a pilgrimage of praise. If I were to praise SPAM it would go something like this: "I thank you Spam that your global ad campaigns have not penetrated the walls of my kitchen---beyond breakfast." 




Or---I thank you Spam for feeding our troops during WW2 (but your time is up, Bub!)

The stats on this meat-ish canned contrivance are astonishing. And, their global reach.

Did you know there are more than a dozen flavors of spam? Cheese Spam, anyone? Garlic Spam?

Did you know there are more than a dozen flavors of spam? Cheese Spam, anyone? Garlic Spam?


Let me state my feelings straight out: I hate SPAM. I scorn SPAM. Despite my subtle feelings,  I have been related to SPAM now for almost 40 years. I am related to it through my husband, a true SPAM fan, who serves it occasionally to his family for breakfast, and secondly, among the 50 states, Alaska and Hawaii, per capita, are the highest consumers of SPAM. (Because many Alaskan villages and fish camps had no refrigeration.)

AND---I have my own SPAM story to share.

Years ago, I was flying from Anchorage to Seattle and sat by a friendly man.  He was the Pacific NW sales rep for Hormel meats (the maker of, you know . .. ). He had been at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer manning the SPAM booth and presiding over the Alaska SPAM bake-off. While sharing this fascinating information, to my surprise, he reached under the seat and pulled out a SPAM cookbook and gave it to me. Clearly he had no idea who  he was sitting next to: a woman raised on whole wheat flour, soybeans, blackstrap molasses and goat milk. And someone who could have rattled off all that was seriously wrong with SPAM at age 11. But I am not a total snob. I took the cookbook graciously (also recognizing a possible opportunity for satire at some future date.) 


spam cookbook.png

But the real meat of our conversation was a story, a testimony, actually. At that state fair, a man had approached his booth with a gleam in his eye: “SPAM saved my life,” he started. The story went something like this. He was a bush pilot in the interior of Alaska. That winter he was flying between remote villages when his plane malfunctioned. He crash-landed on the tundra, in the middle of forty-below zero God-forsaken nowhere.


What would he do? How would he survive? He did have a survival box, and in it was-you know what. But you can’t eat meat at forty below. Forty below turns meat into rock-ice. But----


“I opened that can, and would’ja believe at forty below I could slice that stuff? Yep! Forty below and SPAM still slices!  It saved my life!”  the sales rep said that he said.


I joined in my seatmate’s excitement, mentally filling in the rest of the story, which was, of course, that SPAM slices at forty below precisely because----it’s not meat. It’s mostly lard.


But I’m happy for that pilot. I’m happy for that sales rep who probably secretly longed to “make a difference” in the world, and maybe now he had, in some remote, tangential way.


alaska bush pilot.jpg

This is my story this week from life on the road. But I want to feed you more than SPAM. I want to end with a blessing. I want to bless you as I was blessed this week after teaching two intensive writing workshops in Wisconsin. A beautiful writer from our group sent this Psalm (150):


Thank God! Pray to Him by name! 

Tell everyone you meet what he has done!

Sing him songs, belt out hymns,

translate his wonders into music!

Honor His holy name with Hallelujahs,

You who seek God. Live a happy life!


Can we do this---Dare a "Hallelujah"!  "Tell everyone you meet what He has done"? Can we Dare to live a happy life!!??

I'll be filling my mouth with SPAM this week (Duncan bought 5 cans of it!!) ----AND with Praise! 

 BOTH will save our lives----even at forty below. 



Beyond Despair: Reclaiming JOY (Hint: Kill your Local god)

I am having trouble speaking today. And writing. I live on an island far away from drug gangs, abortion clinics and the violence that is terrorizing El Salvador right now, but it presses and silences my tongue today. It feels so close . . . To you as well, I am sure. Evil does this, travels across time and space to smother us. 

How do we live and praise today when we can hardly breathe? I promise you breath and beauty in a moment. We'll get there in just a moment. First, come with me here:

I do not want to know about all evils in the world. A few at a time is all I can bear. But even in the horror of it, I am relieved that Planned Parenthood has finally been exposed in these videos. Killing babies has done anything but "empower" these women in crisis. It has only "empowered" the PP leaders and clinics who have profited by trafficking in baby body parts. 

People who do not (yet) believe, and even those who do often challenge Christians asking, "How can a good God allow so much evil and suffering in the world?"  But many times we're asking the wrong question. We should be asking, "How can good people allow so much suffering and evil in the world?"  

We have allowed it. One step at a time. This is our own human-made evil---the jokes about getting rich enough to buy a Lamborgini off babies' bodies while munching on salad and sipping  wine. The "technicians" casually separating human organs in a  pie dish to sell to the highest bidder here in this third video. . . .  We don't have to allow it. (Consider signing some of the online petitions such as this one.

Just one more: El Salvador. The country is spinning out of control as the drug gangs declare war on the government. Twenty-two people have been killed every day of this last month. My daughter, who lived there for 2 years, is in constant contact with friends there. Everyone is terrified to even leave their home.  

I ache for them, for all the good and lovely hard-working people there who cannot even imagine any kind of future. Who cannot even imagine having a job with a real living wage. Who cannot imagine lying down at night in peace and safety. 

So---how do we rejoice in the Lord today? How do we sing and praise and walk through our days in the joy of the Lord?

We can. And should. Every single day we awake and drink our morning coffee before rising to enter the swirl of work and people, there is enough evil in the world to overwhelm us with sorrow and despair and send us back to bed. And So has it always been. 

But when I let the dailiness of evil overwhelm me, I am blinded to even greater truths---the stupendous glories and mercies of God everywhere around me. My eyes can be so downcast at what is happening there I miss all that God is and all He is doing here right in front of me. Does God not care about your here as much as he does about their there? 

Does God not desire and deserve to be loved and enjoyed in ALL the ten thousand places Christ is at work and at play?

Here, would you walk with me for a moment through this week on this Alaskan island?

Dear friends, if God is so present to us in our days and backyards, in friends, flowers, starfish; through storms, work, and daily fish, can we believe that He is even more present to those in faraway yards, who are afraid and suffering? Do we not believe that God will be true to His word and lead ALL his people through the valley of the shadow of death, that He will deliver them to quiet waters and green pastures, as He has done for us so many times? 

Is our God so small that because WE are not there in those valleys, we do not quite believe that HE is there?

Can we get rid of our tiny, local god to embrace the Real God, the Omnipotent, Omnipresent God over All That Is??

Let us believe God's promises for others as much as we believe them for ourselves. And let us pray these promises for them! God wants this, that we share their burdens through prayer, believing that God WILL be to them just who He said He will be. Just who He has been to us. 

Believe this. And then pray. Join me in praying for El Salvador, the only country who bears His name (It's original full name was "Provincia De Nuestro Señor Jesus Cristo, El Salvador Del Mundo" ["Province of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World"], abbreviated to "El Salvador" [The Savior].

And---please join me in helping to take away Planned Parenthood's federal funding. 

THEN, full of prayer, praise and joy, go out into your day, your yard and your work with eyes open for all the ways God is already redeeming Creation, redeeming His people, for all the ways God is ruling as King here and there even now. 

Even now. 

Believe it.

3 Ways to Save Christmas Today--And,Winners!

Just now (yes, JUST now!) the doorbell rings and I hear terrible shouting. My husband is yelling something I can't understand but it sounds like a crisis.  Fire? Flood? It's 9 am and still dark . ... what could have happened? I come running downstairs and---it's my son, who isn't coming home for Christmas. Standing there! Who has been traveling in Europe and who was going to spend the holidays with his girlfriend's family (Ahh, that was all a trick!) He's here!! In the flesh!  Smiling, grinning, while we dance around him with joy.

This is one way to save Christmas. This is not what I planned to write this morning.  I wish I could send a beloved son or daughter to every door!! I know how many are alone over the holidays, how many children don't come home (my daughter will be in El Salvador)---at all. How far-flung families are . .. how many relationships are jagged and bleeding, and homecomings are far far off . ... 

 I can't send anyone else's long gone son or daughter to your door---but there IS something I can bring to your door today, now. Three other ways to save Christmas. 

(Do I need to explain why holidays need saving? SO many reasons! Here's just one: I think I should be more holy, more spiritual during these days, but ironically, I'm so busy I spend less time in prayer and worship. Maybe the same happens to you.)

 I want to share with you now 3 things that have opened my heart and saved my Christmas this year. 

*Give your Ears Song

Leonard Cohen's haunting "Hallelujah" has entranced the world. But this version celebrates not brokenness and disillusion, but Christmas healing. 

Words and music by Cloverton.
(with a few adaptions by Leslie [poetry+grammar police]))

 I‘ve heard about this baby boy
Who’s come to earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing that song to you.
It goes like this, the fourth the fifth, 
the minor fall, the major lift,
With every  breath I’m singing hallelujah. 

 The couple came to bethlehem
Expecting child, they searched the inn
To find a place for you were coming soon.
There was no room for them to stay,
So in a manger filled with hay
God’s only son was born, O hallelujah!

The shepherds left their flocks by night
To see this baby wrapped in light
The host of angels led them all to you.
It was just as the angel  said,
You’ll find him in a manger bed,
Immanuel Our savior, hallelujah!

A star shone bright up in the east.
To Bethlehem, the wise men three
Came many miles and journeyed long for you.
They  found the place where you were.
Their frankincense, gold  and  myrrh
They gave to you  and cried out Hallelujah!

 I know you came to rescue me
This baby boy would grow to be
A man who’d  one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in you
That rugged cross was my cross too
Still every breath you drew was Hallelujah!

*Give your Heart Fresh Astonishment:

Let the Stable Still Astonish

Let the stable still astonish:
Straw-dirt floor, dull eyes,
Dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain,
And then, the child,
Rag-wrapped, laid to cry
In a trough.

Who would have chosen this?
Who would have said: "Yes,
Let the God of all the heavens and earth
be born here, in this place." ?

Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms of our hearts
and says, "Yes, let the God 
of Heaven and Earth 
be born here ----

         in this place."

   -----Leslie Leyland Fields

*Give Your Prayers to the Persecuted

It is never enough for us to receive. We aren't whole and complete without giving, without lightening another person's load. It's what we all want to do---but we falter, hesitate. How to do this? Here is one simple life-changing way. Pray for the persecuted. In this new year, go to I Commit to Pray  once a week, (more if you can or are able) and post prayers for those who are suffering for their faith in Christ.  Read prayers from people all over the world. Just words? Are words enough? You KNOW how God answers prayers on your behalf. He will do the same with our prayers for others. The God who Speaks has asked us this, to "Remember the prisoners as though in prison with them and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.  (Heb. 13:3)

Who knows where this will lead?  We may be astonished at what God will do for our brothers and sisters---and for us.

Thank you all for your presence here. You bless me every week. You astonish me every week. 

               *       *           *         *          *          *

Here, at the last, another way my Christmas is saved: Sending out stuff to wonderful readers.

For Christianity Today  (I've written some by email. I'm hoping to reach the rest of you here!) If your name is here, would you  contact me with your mailing address+email? Send by email to

Holly B.
Ann V.
Diane M.
Michelle N.
Barb W.
Holly M.
Jenny A.
Stephanie K.
Ro E.
Catherine (left a comment on last post)
Judy (left a comment on the last post)

Gift Box:

Sandra R.