Thanks for stopping by, whether you got here by a link or hitting "next blog" -- I am glad you are here. I've also done some writing on homeschooling, and what I learned thinking I was teaching.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Taking Our Kids to College

Three of my friends dropped their daughters off at college last week; each one fared well through the attending emotional turmoil. Now that the first full academic week begins, I am thinking about them, and remembering the waves of emotion that crashed over me when I turned that corner with my kids. Nothing prepared me for the intensity of those emotions when the apron strings were snipped, though many friends had tried.

When I turned from waving farewell to our son, 800 hundred miles from home, that August morning fourteen years ago I stared into a black pit swirling with sadness, joy, and relief: Sadness that the door on his childhood really was shut tight; joy that one was opening on his future; relief that homeschooling had not hobbled him in the academic race. Our daughter finished college near home and drove herself to her first academic week; the black pit emotions over her didn’t overwhelm me until she invited me to come along on a local photo shoot as she completed a homework assignment for her photography class – I saw the door to childhood firmly shut, and the one opening on her future was not off kilter because of homeschooling her.

College presented as much of a parental challenge as watching our kids walk, talk or feed themselves – or assume control over their little bodies; hovering didn’t make them walk or talk faster. They needed our protection for some things, our provision for others. Protecting and providing made me feel great – the challenge when they went to college, and as they have grown up, is redefining my protection and provision. And the hardest part of the challenge may loom: accepting their protection and provision for us.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Words as Puzzle Pieces

Growing up, I was easily defeated by jigsaw puzzles; usually because I never understood how to begin. And if I managed to assemble one, I came up short, missing one or two key pieces – usually because I dumped the box out. So, until God gave me a daughter who loved them, I avoided jigsaw puzzles.

Now, writing this blog calls to mind piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. Over the past few weeks, finding the words to write this blog has been like finding the right pieces of a jigsaw. I know what I want to represent, the puzzle of an autumn garden – but I am missing the lid and straight edges.
What does an autumn garden look like anyway?
Is it a flower garden, or vegetable?
Nurtured or neglected?
And when I am churned up, words spill out, like pieces from a jigsaw puzzle box, carelessly upended

I think back to the puzzle-piecing lessons my daughter gave me. She taught me to start jigsaw puzzles by studying the cover, and keeping it close at hand when getting the straight edges together. She also taught me not to upend the box, spilling, and losing puzzle pieces that fit only when the puzzle comes together.

Describing things I deeply care about takes me places I don’t want to go, like contemporary author Kathleen Norris warned:
“When we write about what matters to us most, words will take us places we don’t want to go. You begin to see you will have to say things you don’t want to say, that even may be dangerous to say, but are absolutely necessary.”
And at times, the words I write express ideas that aren’t fitting easily together. Forcing them to fit seems as unwise as forcing mismatched puzzles pieces. Ignoring them also is unwise.

So, I am glad for another day in which I may keep sifting through the puzzle pieces for my blog, remembering God is good – though life is hard. Even if I don’t have a clear picture of my own autumn garden, I can refer back to what Scripture says God looks like. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13;1 John 3:2) I will collect as many straight edges as I can to frame my developing puzzle. (Hebrews 12:12-13) Also, I will avoid dumping pieces all over the place: “Smart people know how to hold their tongue; . . .” (Proverbs 19:11 from THE MESSAGE )

Friday, August 21, 2009

Getting Out of Life Alive

Many have said death is not what scares them – it is what leads to it. Older women and men I have known are quick to affirm, old age is not for sissies – and the golden years come replete with much brass. If our minds stay clear, our bodies may not cooperate; if our minds fail, our bodies may survive.

Mrs. Palfrey, who took up residence at the Claremont, in the novel and movie bearing her name, did so to minimize the burden her aging and decline would cost her family – robbing them of an opportunity to come to terms with death. She confronted the end of her life in surroundings she chose, with strangers who became comrades. Some simply helped her manage the details of daily living, like sorting out appropriate dress. Others enabled her to reflect on all her life’s blessings. Yet, none could keep her from her final appointment.

Mrs. Palfrey’s winsome spryness, regret and loneliness engaged me – perhaps because if God permits I will be facing what she faced. Maybe you will, too? But God, who lent her life, was not her final comfort; William Wordsworth was – especially his thoughts from “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” Facing death, she remembered creation’s infinite delight – “. . . a host of golden daffodils . . . flash[ed] upon that inward eye . . .” filling her heart with pleasure.

If only the end of one’s life were so serene, albeit solitary. Is there not a comrade for this time for me and thee – a group of sympathetic companions whose words will fill our hearts – with more than memories of golden flowers that are here today, and gone tomorrow?

Surely, thinking on creation’s beauty is a tonic. Springtime – the daffodils – heralds hope; as Martin Luther observed, “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection not in words alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” But what of autumn? Is there a helper here?

Isaiah spoke of One who knew us before our birth:
“. . . I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and be your Savior.” (Isaiah 46:3-4 TLB)
And the psalmist, a son of Asaph, knew Him, too.
“. . . When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, GOD is rock-firm and faithful . . . ”(Psalm 73:23-28 from THE MESSAGE )

Mrs. Palfrey, nearing the end of her life, sought solace in solitude; she found serendipitous companionship and poetry. She believed that she would never get out of life alive, and wanted to control her end. Approaching the home stretch of my life, I believe I will get out of it alive. I also believe that yielding control to Someone greater than I is how I will live.
"And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes shall see and not another . . . ( Job 19:25-27)

Photo Source

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blog Neigbors

Moving into a new blog is a lot like moving into a new (old) house – which is what I am doing.
Though now I am very much alone in the house, we hope to make it a home, nestled on a charming street of equally attractive cottages; the street one of several in an attractive community – which is a part of growing metroplex, linked in expanding ways to the wider world. For now, though, as I walk through our house’s comfortably proportioned rooms my flip-flops echo – that’s empty they are!

In someways that sound is how this new blog adventure feels. When I check it through the day, as I do the house, it seems lonely – though I am grateful for those who stop by. When I click on my interests, favorite movies, music and books, though, I see I am often in the company of an astonishing number of souls. For example, I am one of 14,600 bloggers who enjoy needlepoint; one of 139,000,000 who love reading – and almost as many who enjoy painting: 137,000,000. Trying to meet the neighbor in these communities seems as daunting as trying to meet individuals in the DFW Metroplex.

I can knock on the doors of some bloggers who enjoy _The Prodigal God_; there are, as of today, fourteen in this community. And I find only three neighbors enjoy the Brentwood Jazz Quartet. Alas, for now, this blogasphere doesn’t know of Joni Eareckson Tada – a fellow former Marylander; she has persevered and blessed millions – with her writing, painting and music. Here’s an introduction from YouTube: here's Joni!
I hope many will want to be her neighbor in this amazing community!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Coping with Pain -- two views:

In 1895  Andrew Murray was in England suffering from a terribly painful back, the result of an injury incurred years before. One morning while eating breakfast in his room, his hostess told him of a woman downstairs who was in great trouble and wanted to know if he had any advice for her. He handed her a paper he had been writing on and said, “Give her this advice I am writing down for myself. It may be that she’ll find it helpful.”

This is what he wrote:
“In time of trouble, say, ‘First he brought me here. If it is by his will I am in this strait place, in that place I will rest.” Next, say, “He will keep me here in his love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as his child.’ Then, say, ‘He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons he intends me to learn, and working in me the grace he means to bestow.’ And last, say, ‘I am here by God’s appointment, in his keeping, under his training, for his time.’”

(Quoted in _Calm My Anxious Heart_ by Linda Dillow, p. 171)

And from a one who also knows pain, this reflection:

anything but that

“Send anything but that,” I cried,
and still the thing I feared did come;
I watched its shadow rise
and shrank in terror from the blow:
“Oh, Lord, this thing I cannot bear!”

And yet Thy tender love did send it me
in answer to my prayer.

My prayer! My cry Thou heedest not
and leav’st me sick, in pain.

And still Thy presence sears and binds –
is all my praying vain?

And still it comes, this fearful dark;
I cannot stem the tide.

“No more,” I cry, “I know my strength!”

And then, Thou, God replied,
“Thy frenzied strength thou knowest, ah
but thou dost not know Mine.”

Barbara Black 1991 (Taken from her poetry, In Affliction)

Renovation Lessons

Renovating an older house goes better with input from people who have done this before – folks who can predict problems. So too, the psalmists helps me renovate my broken places.

Yesterday I had the chimney cleaned; when finished the technician spotted a problem: holes in the smoke shelf. The reason this is bad is that the smoke is not drawn up through the flue but flows into the attic, creating all kinds of problems. Correcting it costs money – an unanticipated expense – but it is a safety issue. Then, I learned that new housing codes require smoke detectors in the bedrooms and not just in the hall: more money.

Nobody would know if we did not correct these problems – that is, until the emergencies ensued –such as carbon monoxide poisoning or a fire. Suddenly I am in peril, but worse, I may have put other people at risk because of my unwise thrift.

Dealing with some of my character defects is similar. Having been cleansed and forgiven by God’s grace in Christ, I daily learn of spiritual holes – habits, hang-ups and hurts – some that persist below the level of consciousness; they are as pernicious as those in smoke shelf, and as threatening as insufficient smoke alarms. Yet, if no one knows about them by me, and if I am only hurting myself, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that neglecting the hidden stuff does hurt other people, whether I it or not. My attitude, my anxiety, causes pain, and it leads to death: a formidable assertion, but one in which the psalmist concurs (See Proverbs 14:12)

Repairing the smoke shelf will cost $700.00, and direct the fumes and smoke outside the house, out of the chimney; installing extra detectors will cost several hundred more dollars, and cut the risk of a catastrophe should a fire started behind a closed door. I will not be willfully putting myself, loved ones, or firemen at risk.

Asking God to shine His light on my heart may cost the sacrifice of ingrained habits. However, by His words, then “. . . I can see where I'm going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.” (Psalm 119:105 from THE MESSAGE )

By those same words, He disarms me from hurting you. (Psalm 139:23-24)

The blessing is my repairs are wholly free – enabled by His grace, if I am willing.

God's Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds. You'll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries.

There's more: God's Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure.

Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool?

Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.

These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar.
(Psalm 19:10-14 from THE MESSAGE)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Not Mantra, but Marrow!

To embrace is to draw close, so close that the fragrance and warmth of the person enfolded fills the senses on of the one who embraces. We enjoy embracing our loved ones, feeling their embrace and savoring their closeness. An embrace confirms our affection and reassures our hearts.

As Mary Magdela reached out the first Easter to touch the risen Savior, we, too, long to feel His touch. (John 20:17) If you could embrace the Lord Jesus today — feel the strength of His arms, the warmth of His love, and savor His closeness, would this “hug” build your faith?

When I think of what the Lord smells like, I think of fresh linen, and wood – rough hewn. But there is another smell – disturbing and frightening. It is the smell of death: His, and, as His follower, my own. Sheep have an excellent sense of smell – maybe that is why I am so prone to wander from Christ – I can smell the necessary death of something I cherish – my own way.

“I am crucified with Christ, and I no longer live . . .” isn’t just a mantra. It is marrow:Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 from THE MESSAGE )

So, taking up my cross doesn’t mean sighing deeply and living with disappointment; it means putting to death, as on a cross, all my little passions: An ancient Roman cross where Jesus suffered and died was rough-hewn, splintering shards of wood into His back. When I embrace the Cross, it will cost all I claim is mine -- not just the "good things" that I enjoy toting around, like my husband, kids, education, work, etc. -- but it means letting go of resentments, disappointments, bitterness and frustrations, all of which have become such familiar traveling companions in my life's journey. It means letting go for it is not ultimately me who has been sinned against.

Maybe that’s why the Cross is such foolishness to people who don’t think our little indulgences are so bad? We don’t like smelling death. So, it’s easier to debate if Christ really lived; if God really is.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Blessed Be the Tie That Binds – Even those that Chafe

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?” (“Our Town” by Thornton Wilder)

We are removing the carpet and appliances and window coverings in our new home today. Twenty-one years ago, they were brand-spanking new – and top of the line. Ah – the best of the ‘80's. The carpet is wool, and a shade of green I have always loved; the drapes are clearly custom made from fabric whose patterns and colors I also like – but they are “dated.” Even without the furniture which the carpet and drapes set off, I can see the little home was more than cozy. The home was lovingly remodeled for an older woman – a widow; now she lives in a nursing home.

Twenty-one years ago, we were about to begin homeschooling our children who were in fifth and first grade with the Calvert School curriculum. Our home was not so color-coordinated – but it was comfy – and way nosier/messier and chaotic than this cottage for a single mature woman.

Perhaps, the former owner of our new home would agree with Mr. Wilder, the playwright: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?” (Our Town) If, twenty-one years ago, she looked with delight on her newly re-furbished home, did she ever anticipate a day when another woman would sweep away all her carefully designed choices?

Twenty-one years ago, I was able to have so many conversations with so many people: my mother was still alive, and so was Doug’s dad, and his mom and her husband; his brother was also still alive; my aunt and her daughter were still living; our kids were always about. Every once in a while I still catch myself thinking, “Oh, Mom would think this is crazy,” – or “I need to tell Virginia or Karen about this.” Death ended so many conversations – and distance now impedes others. When I surveyed the boxes of curriculum from Calvert I couldn’t imagine the time when no confluence of lesson plans and housekeeping and tending family would exhaust me. I told myself I would think about all the problems tomorrow, and sort them out. So focused on what I thought the prize is would be – a first rate education for our kids – I didn’t understand many parts of the advantages of simply being home with the world’s best kids.

Throughout the three-act play, Mr. Wilder, who embraced his Puritan heritage, inserted the hymn, “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds.” (By John Fawcett) I urge you gentle reader to review its words, especially if some of your biding ties chafe.

If I could go back to August 14, 1988 – and just enjoy that day again – what would I have done? Like Emily in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” I am coming to see that the tragedy of death is not greater than the tragedy of living carelessly - assuming that tomorrow will be time enough to do and say all the little kindness we imagine we might do. When Emily Webb, after her death, steps into the past, revisiting the morning of her twelfth birthday - she sees how incredibly wonder-full that morning was – though it was not extraordinary – and how insensitive both she and her family were to its beauty.

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.

We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.

From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How Do You Like Your Coffee?

Joe Fox in “You’ve Got Mail,” remarks:
“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what [ . . . ] they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.”

What does it say about me that I can’t handle that number of choices?

I take a small coffee black unless I am with my daughter, or someone who knows how to order. I let them go first, making me look polite; I smile and agree, “That sounds good, I’ll have one too,” faking decisiveness. I don’t always know what I am getting, but their company makes it all worth it.

I wonder if church looks like a confusing array of choices to seekers – people looking for answers or companionship?
  • Do you want early, 9:30 or 11:00 A.M. worship? Or, do you prefer an evening service?
  • Contemporary or tradition worship?
  • Where do you park?
  • Do you need child care? Sunday school . . . for teens or adult?
  • During the week, do you want Bible studies, discussion groups, church suppers, or recovery groups?
  • Do you want to help in the inner city?
Or, were you just wondering who Jesus is – and if anybody here knows how to ease the ache that is driving you crazy?

The church may seem like a fancy coffee shop – and we may seem like busy baristas trying get everybody’s order right – and we may be so comfortable in our little hang-out that we forget those who wander in may not know how to read the menu – because they don’t know what we really are serving – and don’t know how to ask for what they want. Sometimes even us regulars lose sight of what to ask for.

John the Baptist lost that sight – and I am greatly comforted that when he was facing a bad end, he sent to the Lord, asking if He was who John thought He was. And Christ sent back word – "Go back and tell John what's going on: The blind see, The lame walk, Lepers are cleansed, The deaf hear, The dead are raised, The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side. Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!" (Matthew 11:1-6 from THE MESSAGE )

Are we offering anything that smells good and delights those who wait for it? We get so busy serving – the church forgets we aren’t offering a menu of God, nor an array of choices of how to fit Him into your take-away container. Maybe we need to lay aside our questions about what you want, and tell you what’s going on with us, because of Him – believing He will help you and me know what we are doing with our lives in ways that mastering the choices at Starbucks never will!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Too Much Salt!

Every time I write this humble rumination in my head, I come off sounding insufferable – So let me just jump in. I did not like the book that birthed a brilliant movie I did love, Julie & Julia . She relied on one too many “F”- bombs to convey how she felt. The recovering English major in me wished she had tried a bit harder to describe her emotions – experiences – exuberance – without lapsing into so many expletives. For in her exuberance to define herself Julie Powell uncovered other people’s secrets – her parents, for example. I learned more about her (and her family) in her book than I needed to know – she might have taken a cue from Noah’s son, Ham, who shamelessly broadcast his dad’s nakedness. (Genesis 9:20-25)

An alternative comes to mind: Shakespeare’s portrayal of Hamlet’s mom. We get the drift of some of Gertrude’s issues, without so much detail. We learn about some pressures on Hamlet without profanity repeatedly used as verbs and adjectives. Of course, we should give credit where credit is due and note that the Bard was one of the first to use crude language to highlight a character’s character, or their state of mind.

Writing about why we think we are the people we've become is hard work. So is having a conversation that communicates ideas. Occasionally profanity makes a point that no other word can in writing about pain or evil – and perhaps frustration. Profanity and gossip (a.k.a. throwing up on your audience) may make getting words on paper easier, but neither edifies nor encourages readers – much less the writer. Its shock value is arresting in speech or writing. Ms. Powell’s choices stopped my reading her material.

In the movie, the character “Julie” asks if her repeated use of a particular profanity may have offended Julia Child. Who knows? It wasn’t as if either Julia Child or I have never heard crude language or blasphemy. In my teens, I slipped into swearing, the way I slipped into smoking and drinking. I thought that’s what grown-ups did coming in the 1960's. Movies, music and literature strongly suggested potty mouths were cool – and that’s what I wanted to be, cool, unencumbered by the heat of social conventions.

I rarely thought of how I sounded to others, so impressed I was with how I sounded to me until a woman I worked with graciously told me how I sounded when I took the Lord’s name in vain: “You know, Barbara, one day you might be in trouble and pray; God won’t know if you mean it or are just cursing.” Its theology is a topic for another day, perhaps. However, with that reproof she held up a mirror – well, maybe a set of earphones. She didn’t want to listen to what I said because of how I chose to season my message. And Ms Powell unwisely spiced up a warm story with words that stopped this reader. That’s a shame; Julie Powell did stick to a regime that was daunting – with a tenacity that was formidable and winsome – but she over salted her fare.

Wow how sour are my grapes, anyway?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Julie & Julia

We just returned from seeing “Julie & Julia” – time well-spent! The screen play was delightful – intertwining lives of two women, from different generations, who never met; I want to read more about Julia Child, her husband, Paul and the McCarthy era, and (maybe) even how to cook French food. It’s also clearly time for a field trip to the Smithsonian to see Julia’s kitchen. The actors were flat-out super.

Good stuff!

I loved it because it was about two separate women, and the men who loved them; women who followed their dreams and did well. Following their dreams was hard work for each woman - long work – all amidst other responsibilities – and neither woman's work was whole-heartedly accepted the first time around. But they kept at it, making their dreams come true:
* to learn (something difficult, French cooking)
* to create (something difficult – French food ) and
* to communicate (something difficult – how to learn and how to do).

Another theme I loved was how Julie and Julia’s husbands inspired and supported them, establishing a new proverb: Behind every great woman there is (often) a great man. It’s refreshing seeing marriages portrayed as vital relationships mutually supportive, delightful – able to weather storms – low self-esteem, financial squeezes, infertility, job uncertainty and persecution. The Childs made it – and the Powells seem off to a good start.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hey Hon! We're gonna live in a tear down!

So here we are – undertaking our seventh house renovation in thirty-seven years. (We have also lived in four rental units.) Our newest spot is a home that was built the year my husband was born, and he is not a boomer baby.

When I went to city hall to inquire about permits for this house, the lady smiled and said, “A tear-down.” It was not a question. I said “No, I am from Maryland. We renovate houses like this one.” What I didn’t add was nobody I knew in Maryland ever had the money or the inclination to level a house that had suited two or three generations of families. Or maybe we didn’t know better?

The home we now own is the kind of home that two years ago a builder would have torn down to build a “spec” house – an anomaly that has defined the Dallas building market for several decades. We get a buzz out of Dallas homes built in the 1930's. And we found one: a house that has good bones, spiffy woodwork, and well-proportioned, compact rooms; situated on a modest lot, carefully landscaped but not so carefully groomed for the past few years. (A Garden!) Alas this charmer also has minimal closet spaces, and is one bath short of our desires – true to the M.O. of all the homes we’ve enjoyed in Maryland.

Dallas is a builder’s city – even in down markets. Until recently developers paid good money for homes built in the ‘20's and ‘30's and later: houses with gracious proportions, wrap-around porches, big windows – but plumbing problems – electrical problems – rot problems. Overnight, it seemed, they leveled a grand house, into a spacious lot, and erected structures that dominate the lots from front to back, and side to side. Clearly no guidelines of restrictions on conspicuous consumption – French chateau Texas I have sniffed. Even my mother-in-law, a true lover of all things Dallas, agreed.

In Maryland, Annapolis specifically, we preserve houses – yes, indeedy – as well as all the problems that go with living in an old house! And we don’t drive so much as a nail without the permission of a commission whose ambition is make the town a living museum. They keep all who want to live in homes within their jurisdiction historical and perhaps a wee bit more elegant than the original owners would have been. They then rewarded each renovator with colored plaques, an unspoken testimony to how much money they probably blew bringing even a modest, but old, house up to code. We have rules back east that most of Dallas hasn’t had – but precious few of our finely restored homes have more than one walk-in closet, large laundry rooms above ground, and bathrooms for every bedroom, plus two or three ½ baths for good measure.

So we bought a house in Dallas that any Marylander would be proud to fix up – and the best aspect is the covered porch that sports two fans (in need of cleaning) and enough room for a couple of picnic tables where I might lay out a few bushels of crabs – there’s even a sink in the garage to wash up. Alas, this little jewel of a house is far, far away from the Chesapeake Bay. But it’s good to know I have the outdoor space for hosting a chili party – when the weather cools.

Turning Back, again.

One thing about writing out what I am thinking – the evidence of my sheep-status (a.k.a. bull-headedness) is unmistakable. I am prone to wander – maybe not all over the map – but further away from the Shepherd than is wise. Maybe that’s why it’s been too easy to duck daily devotions recently?

Up through July 2005 I enjoyed warm-weather quiet time on our screened porch – in Maryland. Even on an August morning so sticky my glasses fogged when first walking from the AC to natural air, I rarely missed – reading, studying, journaling – in the presence of God; it was a delight. Since coming to Texas in August of 2005 my quiet time perches have been only indoors: first, my mother-law’s kitchen counter (Not so conducive to spreading out) and then dining tables in two different apartments.

My trusted quiet-time companion remained a paperback Daily Walk Bible – the Living Bible translation – (or should we say a paraphrase?) I found this copy in 1996 in a used bookstore on Maryland Avenue in Annapolis for $6.50. Over the years, and despite the addition of other study Bible editions, even a different translation of the Daily Walk Bible, (DWB) this well-worn copy greets me, challenges me and comforts me. (No I am not selling Bibles!) Both a devotional and reference, the layout breaks Scripture into portions that nourish me through a year, and inform my understanding of the daily passages. Once a week, the book directs a time of worship, anchored to a Psalm and a hymn, all connected to the portion of Scripture I have just read during the previous six days. Its pages bear several different colors of underlings – the bright pinks, blues, yellows, and orange testify to the times God met me – getting my attention.

But some portions have no markings – testifying to my slow turning heart.

Today’s caption for the passage, Jeremiah 21-25, is a pithy summation of Judah’s waywardness, “Turning Too Late.” It has never been an easy portion to read. I can surely see my foolishness when Jeremiah speaks so plainly to people who were going into exile for 70 dark years in Babylon. God (through His prophets) warned and warned about the discipline that was coming for their persistent idolatry – His people ignored Him. I know God spoke to Israel in ways that are not always the same as He speaks to the church – or me – but His theme is the same: “Turn unto Me and be saved.”(Isaiah 44:22; Jeremiah 18:11) God chastens the slow turners – and that principle never changes.

Yet, I am often way too slow turning around. And avoiding the Bible, whatever translation, can really slow an already turn down! I like my own way – and after all my own way is not really so bad – when you look at me compared to . . . say, the Proverbs 31 woman, or Mary, or the Lord Jesus?

Turning back even today to Him who alone has the words of Life!
God's laws are perfect.
They protect us, make us wise, and give us joy and light.
God's laws are pure, eternal, just.
They are more desirable than gold.
They are sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb.
For they warn us away from harm and give success to those who obey them.
But how can I ever know what sins are lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
And keep me from deliberate wrongs;
help me to stop doing them.

Only then can I be free of guilt and innocent of some great crime.
May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing even to you,O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.(Psalm 19:7-14 TLB -- emphases added)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Is it escapism of the most pathetic proportions to live fixed on the future? The rewards that Christ Jesus plans for the church – (you and me) – are our deepest heart’s desires: Life, Peace and Purpose – eternal and free. (Revelation 2-3 ) But what good is future hope if today I am ensnared by a web of my own making, woven with circumstances beyond my control? (Romans 7:24) God says I overcome the snares when I listen; when I listen I hear His words; though sometimes His words seem unbearable, they are life, the sum of truth! (Psalm 119)

So, what do I listen to? I listen to the world’s future hopes, summed up in three words: personal peace and prosperity! (Proverbs 30:15) Or, I listen to myself – rehearsing, rehashing, resenting, resisting what is on my plate today. Is it any wonder I am so deaf – unable to hear hope’s whispers, especially the still quiet voice? (Isaiah 30:21) Complaining about my portion of daily bread is more deafening than any worldly hope!

Because God doesn’t give up, the Holy Spirit asks me why I invest so much in what will never satisfy – rehearsing, rehashing, resenting, resisting.
Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy? Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest. Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. I'm making a lasting covenant commitment with you, the same that I made with David: sure, solid, enduring love." (Isaiah 55:2-3 from THE MESSAGE )
And that lasting covenant is mercy – free, unmerited, and unending! (Psalm 52:8)

When your heart hurts because of what others have done to you, remember His mercy. (Lamentations three, esp. 22) When your heart is hurting because of what you can’t rise above, remember His mercy which identifies with you, saved and redeemed you, and lifts you up and carries you. (Isaiah 63:9)

Is it, then, escapism to rest on such a promise, “pie-in-the-sky, by-and-by”theology?

Not if we trying putting the promise into practice! God’s promise can enable us to keep the greatest commandment, and overcome worship disorders and wrecked relationships – remembering from whence our help comes. (Psalm121:2) Christ told the churches that fulfillment of that promise comes from hearing – from listening to what the Spirit says, and doing it while there is time. (Revelation 2-3; Romans 10:17) But, you can’t hear His promises if you won’t listen! And listening hurts. No Christian can read Christ’s revelation to John and not recognize our own failure to love Him best, first, and foremost, and inability to care for others as much as we care for ourselves.

Which promise, then, – God’s, or the world’s – is escapism? Peter answered this question: "Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life.” (John 6:68) We have a hope and a future, right now. May our hearts hear what our ears miss! (Jeremiah 29:11)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer nights

Seeing my husband’s reaction to a Texas summer sunset tipped me off that his re-entry to Texas was faster and deeper than mine – and mine was really fast. One simple pleasure here – or, anywhere – is the evening summer sky. The nighttime summer sky in Texas delights, even in the city. It’s different from Maryland’s evening sky; the lower latitude changes the sun’s rays, making them seem closer. Powder bright blue skies dissolve into richer blues, and backlit pearly clouds mass; then orangey purple hues melt into colors of gray, ever darkening – especially if I look west.

I have loved summer nights – here or in Maryland; they are an ancient badge of being grown-up. Before I got this badge – this right and privilege of staying up late – I was overcome with an unhappy sense of injustice. Robert Louis Stevenson understood the feelings, writing one poem I thoroughly understood!

. . . In summer . . . I have to go to bed by day . . .When I so wanted to play it was not fair to . . . have to go to bed by day!
(A Child’s Garden of Verses)

Then one summer I was old enough. I remember the thrill of playing hide and seek in deepening shadows, lit by a zillion lightening bugs. And, I have not ever gotten over the exhilaration being old enough to stay up late – although I have regretted it from time-to-time. All part of the old rubble of a past life that somehow will build up this autumn garden. (Isaiah 58:11-14)

Saturday, August 1, 2009


 We moved; uprooting ourselves from “the Free state,” we transplanted ourselves in the Lone-Star state, thinking we would return to Maryland. So far, the move has lasted four years – almost to the day. We have found good soil here: Texas has a “can-do” spirit I admire. Family and friends have tended us well here, and we flourish in many ways – grateful for our marriage, our health and our work here.

But, just as transplanting flowers late in the season is risky, our move may be risky.

To read more, would you uproot yourself gentle reader and go to About Me? I am tilling some new Ground.