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.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Making Lent a Way of Life

In the church, Lent is a  time of preparation for Easter – the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection for the dead; it is marked by prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial. I grew up in a church that observed Lent. Whether it was their teaching or my obtuseness, I could not understand the point – it only showed me what a weak-willed so and so I am.  So, I gave up Lent long before I left the church. 

Decades later, though, when I began looking into what Scripture really said,  I made it through one Lenten season, faithfully abstaining from two pleasures. At the end of those forty days, abstinence taught me more than I bargained for.  I became a Christian and with Christ, I had the courage to face my addiction to alcohol.

I learned that Scripture commends fasting – but in a better way than the one to which I was originally  introduced. Fasting isn’t about just giving up, but it means taking on – becoming active in opposing evil and producing good. (Isaiah 58:1-14) So, a different slant on Lent might be seeing it as a continuing time of learning, changing, doing – not simply as a time of going cold turkey off simple pleasures. Forty days of no chocolate isn’t enough time to make me a  life-giving garden in the 21st century deserts of our world.  And it isn’t enough time to learn contentment with who and where I am.  (1 Timothy 6:6)

 Paul gave up and took on many things and at the end of his life could say, "I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content." (Philippians 4:11)
    These words show us that contentment is not a natural propensity of man . . . Paul says, “I have learned . . . to be content;” . . . Do not indulge the notion that you can be contented with learning, or learn without discipline. It is not a power that may be exercised naturally, but a science to be acquired gradually.  (C. H. Spurgeon)

 Learning contentment is key to recovery – and it is key to growing up in Christ, daily.
    . . . Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
    Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    Taking, as He did, this sinful world
    as it is, not as I would have it;
    Trusting that He will make all things right
    if I surrender to His Will; . . . (From the Serenity Prayer)    

Monday, February 15, 2010

More Lessons in the Dark

More Lessons in the Dark

Our return to power after Dallas’s blizzard was short-lived, less than 18 hours. A series of fiery snaps, pops and crackles abruptly severed our electrical service. A power surge – or something – fried a wire overhead, and darkness and cold crept back in. We shivered for another 24 hours. Then, wind knocked more limbs down and complicated the power recovery! Our situation was an uncomfortable and inconvenient  reminder how dependent  we are on  “services,” – inconspicuous until they are interrupted.

Upon reflection, the power failure – and the power company’s  workers who have labored diligently to bring us back to civilized living showed me how I might better serve.  For decades, one of my favorite choruses has been “Make Me a Servant.”
    Make me a servant – humble and meek;   
    Lord, let me lift up those who are weak
    and may the prayer of my heart always be,
    make a servant, make me a servant today.
Lifting up the weak may be heavy lifting  – but as long as I have a pulse, I really do have a purpose – just like Paul Newman observed. And how many times have His servants lifted me, unconditionally? But sometimes I reserve the right to stop serving – always with reasonable reasons – and especially if the problems are not of my making – or, if those whom I serve are oblivious to the cost of my service!

So, this weekend, God showed me another picture of  “servants” who have kept  working to solve problems they didn’t cause. These servants had to keep working because they have the training and abilities most people don’t have to restore storm-damaged power lines. They have been working in cold, wind and damp because their boss offered a vital service others depended upon.  The workers I saw looked like they had been working longer than an 8-hour day; they were haggard but determined.

And this is the lesson I must needs learn again:
  • I also have a Boss who offers me all the power to I need to deliver all kinds of  services, (John 10:10 )
  • He even offers to take the lead in the work and He doesn’t sleep.  (Matthew 11:28-30; Psalm 121:4)
  • He encourages me to rest from – but not run away from life’s problems. (John 16:33)
So, Barbara,
“. . .  let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.”  (Galatians 6:9-10 from THE MESSAGE )

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow in Dallas -- "Snowstorm of the Century!"

The snow, that was not due until mid-afternoon, started accumulating early by 9:00 A.M.; enormous wet flakes blanketed everything.  By 10:00 A.M., we lost power.  Snow-laden live oaks, magnolias, and crepe myrtles bent low over power lines, severing them when their branches snapped. My MD family who had endured upwards of 40 inches and wind, had power!

Clearly an expedition to Lowe’s was in order – since we had no shovel, sand,  or scraper. Doug bundled up, headed out, and returned with aforementioned gear plus a nifty lantern, battery -operated so we could read. During the first of the power outages we visited  the library during the afternoon, and I got a biography of Mary Cassette and stories by Wallace Stegner. It seemed like a lark, especially when the power came back on in the afternoon, and we enjoyed dinner before the fire. Then we lost power at 10:30 P.M. and knew it might not be back on in the foreseeable future. But our neighbor across the street still had power.

I didn’t even have time to say goodnights to folks I was chatting with on-line! Click! Conversations over. The power goes, and so does light, warmth and the Internet. I tried reading.
But the blue-hue of the led isn’t comforting like the old-fashioned 60 watt-er. Besides I went to bed with all my clothes on and my scarf. (If my neck is warm, I am warm.)

And did it get chilly! The house went from 68 degrees to 57 degrees in the morning. But more than the chill and shadows cast by the fire and candles was sensation of a different kind of solitude. How did women homesteading this country make it without TV commentary,  chatting on discussion boards, e-mail,  face-book or blogging?  And how do you do housework without electricity or hot-water? Or make breakfast? We bundled up for another adventure – in search of food. Our first stand-by was closed, our second, crowded; we finally settled on a friendly place, and shared our table with strangers, having a fine conversation and breakfast.

When we got back, the inside temperature dropped to 52 degrees, and when Doug left for the office – the aloneness became a bit menacing.  It felt safer to be out and about falling limbs and globs of snow melting from bent branches. By three, I knew it was time to return home – and mercifully, I opened the front door, and was greeted by warm air.

I feel again my familiar solitude – heat, warm water, light – shelter. The people across the street were not so fortunate – it’s past 11:00PM and their homes are unusually dark – not a hint of light!   Doug was told some folks in Dallas won’t have power until later in the weekend or even Monday!

Some people are on the streets in Dallas tonight – some have said they feel safer outside than in. That’s surely true for folks in Haiti! Today, I got a glimmer of feeling more threatened inside than outside.

I thank God for all the people who have risked their health and safety so I might have heat and warmth; I thank Him for all those who feed and shelter and care for others who have no homes.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Praying or Just Reciting Well- Loved Words?

A familiar plea, the words sometimes come off as rote:  "Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil [or, the evil one]." (Luke 11:4) A plainer translation makes the thought more lively: “God, keep us from ourselves and the Devil.” (From THE MESSAGE )

C.H. Spurgeon, commenting on this part of the disciples’ prayer wrote, “What we are taught to seek or shun in prayer, we should equally pursue or avoid in action.” With every prayer, I believe God shows me a path to pursue actively or avoid assiduously. Christ is my path;  my own inclinations, I must avoid, so that I won’t “tempt the devil to tempt me.” 

Getting the enemy’s attention is not smart. (See _The Oath_ by Frank Peretti)

Christ permitted the devil to tempt Him; Christ spent 40 days wrestling with real temptation  – physical, emotional and spiritual. (Matthew 4) I rarely last 10 minutes into a temptation.  And then I am where I should not be: the wrong pasture! Before I know it, I am in an argument, or misunderstanding; I’ve lost my temper, or I’m using my time unwisely, or, making unhealthy food or exercise choices. I am doing what I shouldn’t, and not doing what I should: and so become an easy prey.   I need deliverance! (Romans 7:24)

Mr. Spurgeon said of the plea, “Prevention is better than cure: it is better to be so well armed that the devil will not attack you, . . . Pray this evening first that you may not be tempted, and next that if temptation be permitted, you may be delivered from the evil one.” So I pray, God please keep me from wandering into the wrong pastures, . . . and deliver me from evil – the one who can tempt me. My worst enemy is me – and my real enemy is the devil. (Ephesians 6:10-19)

The plea is simple; the purpose is lifesaving – my own and the lives of those I love: “God, keep us from ourselves and the Devil.” It covers my husband, our children, and grandchildren – and you, dear reader.

God, I believe; Help, Thou, my unbelief – and keep these oh so familiar words from being simply a bedtime recitation!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Remembering An Anniversary

Seventy -eight years ago, on February 7, 1932,  my mother married my father in San Juan Puerto Rico. Their marriage ended on March 5, 1978 with my father’s unexpected death. They were married just over forty-six years. How a child sees their parents’ marriage is rarely accurate – how they see their parents is oft equally inaccurate. I am hardly a child – but I confess to never having seen either my father or mother  clearly, much less understood them. 

I know very little about my father – I don’t remember many conversations, although he was a distinct personality in my life; but, he didn’t talk much. He wasn’t much interested in the persistent genealogical endeavors that consumed other family members’ time; He never talked about God, except to say thankfulness to “the man upstairs” was important. He joined the same church my mother attended, and was a church-goer. 

Long after he was gone, his younger brother and sister, then  in their seventies,  told me he was expelled from high school. I knew he never finished high school; the reason was never given.  I assumed hard times in a small, rural South Carolina town was the reason my father’s education stopped. And he never corrected my assumption.

About 1926, shortly before graduation, the school expelled him and another student, whose lineage was not as old, but whose family was as poor as his. My father was caught in an unfortunate game of “hot potato.”  That potato was a new product only recently available in a pharmacy – a condom. The small town,  without much else to divert attention marked both young men.  I wonder how deep that humiliation went?

Within in weeks, my father boarded the train for Baltimore, where his older brother, an engineering graduate from Clemson, had made a successful start – financially and socially. He earned an accounting degree at night school, and found  a promising position with the Federal Land Bank – marrying  a beautiful young woman with a few family issues herself.

Not many people are alive who remember my parents, or their anniversary. Horace and Mildred Williams’ life together  formed so much about what makes me, me – yet as the years slide by, I see how fleeting  my understanding was of the people they were. 

So, what’s my point, I can almost hear my son ask?

Take time to get to know people you think you know like the back of hand – whether it’s a parent, a sibling, a spouse or a child, or a  friend.