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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, December 28, 2011

Living in a Brave New World



Chilly, constant downpours did not dissuade us; we forged into Washington and to the Smithsonian’ Natural History Museum, in the company of children and grandchildren.  Wanting to share my memories of the towering preserved African elephant in the main rotunda spurred me on – so did the remembrances of the suspended whale in an adjacent exhibition.
 
We arrived close to lunchtime, and so did a vast crowd of diverse groups of people – English was not the predominant language I heard. I had braced myself for crowds, but the volume of visitors flabbergasted me – they exceeded the number I remember from spring field trips to the museum with the kids. Whatever the capacity of that museum is – it appeared the numbers of people exceeded it by 15%!  

Few security guards were on duty – and the ones who did security checks at one entrance were harried – distracted. Information stations were unmanned. It wasn’t Bedlam – solely by the grace of God. But it sure seemed close to it!

The crush of people – and the potential for problems – tested the limits of my self-control, so I would not panic and generate problems. But, I was not the only one who was somewhat panicky. Keeping one eye on the exhibits, and one wary eye on the potential crush of humanity ebbing and flowing about me. I paused before displays and then moved, lest I lose sight of companions and grandchildren who longed to roam freely in the milling crowds.

We saw only a portion of the exhibitions – and had little prospect of reading the descriptions or explanations. In some ways this was a mercy, for of all the exhibits we saw, the message was evolution, evolution, and evolution. And just in case we missed that message: evolution rules!  One would think evolution is an irrefutable fact.

I am not well versed in scientific knowledge but I know enough to recognize a party line.  No where in the displays did I see any discussion of the history or diversity of different scientific worldviews.  Although the folks who set the agenda for a display on race took great pains to celebrate the diversity in the human race that unites us, they see no value, apparently, in the diversity of opinion in science on the natural world that defines us.  (Religion and Science article) So much for letting people study and explore, and come to their own conclusions. 

What I remember – from my childhood, more than a half century ago, wandering the exhibits, was exploration and examination – displays that introduced me to wonders I had never seen, casing me to think about how enormously multifaceted the world and universe are – long before I believed an infinite, personal God created it all.   

 Including even one exhibit on the correlation of religious faith (from ALL the world’s religions) and scientific inquiry might have revealed an organizing principle that propelled man to understand and harness the power of creation.   But, no. Yesterday’s reality check showed man’s determination to place to ride roughshod over evidence and unanswered questions with his own opinion. 

. . . Carl Sagan, the atheist, once said "If we can get only one intelligent message from outer space we'll know there is intelligent life out there." Here’s the funny thing: when the archaeologist goes into a cave and sees some scratches on the wall, he determines an intelligent mind has been there. We have 600,000 pages of digital information in one strand of DNA and there are actually people who want to say there was no intelligent source to it? (Are Christians Anti-Science?)   

Describing the influence of faith on scientific inquiry is not an establishment of religion. Relating what men and women of faith discovered about the natural world is not forcing the faith of the scientists on the visitors who willingly came to a public facility.  The government and benefactors of the Museum of Natural History  don’t agree.  The organizing principle of the Smithsonian museum was for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Yet, in practice, the museum has become a sprawling purveyor of politically correct thinking – and on my dime!  

"It isn't only art that's incompatible with happiness; it's also science. Science is dangerous; we have to keep it most carefully chained and muzzled." Brave New World.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Gospel-Teaching Crèche


The  Crèche is as proverbial this time of year as it is controversial. A rustic enclosure, usually a wooden lean-to, wherein sheep and cattle, and a donkey sleep, shelters a man and woman watching a newborn, swaddled and laying in a manger – a food trough. Sometimes a few shepherds lurk around the outside; often an angel perches overtop. Three lavishly attired and foreign men bow before the manger, each bearing a gift, their camels secured at a distance. Why this generates so much controversy about its display on public places is its religious message:  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)  

So, given what a Crèche represents, I understand why a nativity scene should not be elevated in importance in the public arena. We are a nation that protects the freedom of religion. It’s clear, that US Congressmen should not say “Merry Christmas” on the public’s dime. (Or 44 cents!) 

A crèche then, remains a powerful encourager, and uncompromising tutor. Christians and non-Christians know what the holiday teaches:
Christians know why He came as He did – to give His life a ransom for many. But, others see our failures to honor our Lord:

·      Don’t expect too much of Christmas Day. You can’t crowd into it any arrears of unselfishness and kindliness that may have accrued during the past twelve months.” – Oren Arnold

·      How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep holidays than commandments. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

·      Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves."
~ Eric Sevareid (1912-1992), American newscaster.

The Christian symbols of the season were real people whose problems were real. A baby born of a virgin, Mary, in the humility of a stable, with only her espoused, Joseph, attending; shepherds, angels and Magi – tell a dramatic story – weaving suffering, humiliation, supernatural exaltation and intervention, royalty, intrigue, flight and unspeakable slaughter.  

·      Mary and Joseph, facing the birth of a baby outside the bounds of marriage endured hardship because of unexplainable pregnancy – perhaps that was why there was not room anywhere in Joseph’s hometown for the couple? 
·      Joseph and Mary suffered because of the requirement to be counted by Rome; they had travel over 70 miles when she was about to deliver!
·      Mary had no comfort in her delivery – Joseph had no expertise birthing babies.
·      The shepherds knew the sting of disrespect because of what they did – they were low on the social pecking order. 
·      It took the Magi perhaps a year and a half to reach the newborn King –
·      Even the angels who rejoiced couldn’t grasp the meaning of the Incarnation.  (1 Peter 1:12)  
·      And then there is the humiliation Christ embraced so that He might fully understand the human condition – the dependency, the laying aside of all His prerogatives.

Yet, they also enjoyed real blessings in the midst of their trials:
·      Joseph stuck by Mary – he feared God more than humiliation or gossip, and put her welfare ahead of his own.
·      Joseph did what was right for Mary and her Son.
·      The shepherds, the least in Jewish society were the first to see and hear the angels praising God.
·      The Magi saw the One of whom Daniel had spoken 750 years earlier.
·      Because of their gifts, Mary and Joseph had the wherewithal to escape Herod’s slaughter of little boys under two years old. And the holy family could live in Egypt, historically hostile to Jews, and lived there for two years before returning to Nazareth.
·      Finally, the Wise Men themselves departed on a different path from whence they came to Christ, Bishop Fulton Sheen said: Those who come to Christ never leave the way they came.

A familiar icon still conveys the Gospel . . .  For God so loved the world – He gave His Son . . . So many people will look at so many different kinds of crèche – I hope they will see the story behind the symbols -- but better yet, may they ask the question: “What Child is this -- really?”  
But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law.   Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage.   You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, "Papa! Father!"   Doesn't that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. (Gal 4:4-7 from THE MESSAGE.)

Click here for a great choir in a box:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Late Bloomer


Zipping through the grocery store the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the unmistakable products selling the holidays I could no longer ignore – heretofore, I have grumbled to myself about the commercialization of Christmas and I will not succumb.  But a stacked display of boxed red and white Amaryllis bulbs overcame my humbugging, and I bought a box holding a bulb for a bright red flowering plant. 

I should have read the instructions – which assured me with careful watering and plenty of exposure to sunlight, my Christmas “decoration” would bloom in six-eight weeks! So, when other holiday trappings are gone, the glorious red flower will be emerging – if I don’t mess it up.  The instructions warn: Beware of overwatering, shade, and cold. 

Our house has a southern exposure, so the shade that is a bonus in summer complicates growing indoor winter plants – so does my penchant to overwater houseplants.  There’s no way to force the bulb to bloom – it will take time, warmth and moisture.

So much for being a critic of commercialism – if I want plants booming in Christmas, buy them by Halloween!   

But my disappointment with natural seasonal decoration reminds me I can’t force anyone’s blooming, including my own.   

“Patience is a good servant whom all recommend, but few like to employ,” an anonymous sage observed. It’s what I want others to be!  Things take time . . . be patient . . . was counsel I have disregarded – forcing the outcome I wanted, often creating a mess.

The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it. --Arnold Glasow (20th century American humorist and writer)

Slowing down and reading the side of the boxed Amaryllis, might have changed my choice; being patient gives other people time to think about their choices. Rushing to tie up loose ends, so I can get on with whatever, may mean being stuck with the consequences.

A Chinese proverb says, “One moment of patience may ward off great disaster.  One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.” Good advice for impatient drivers – like me, and doubly caring counsel for parents whose children may need time and attention putting together the puzzles of their lives.  And for children whose parents are losing some puzzle pieces.  

Patience minimizes potential for injury – literally, emotionally and spiritually.    Having patience with others and myself is a sure antidote to anger and depression – and aimlessness that sometimes plagues us in our autumn gardens.  

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them -- every day begin the task anew. (Francis de Sales   1567-1622 )

How poor are they that have not patience!
What wound did ever heal but by degrees?
~William Shakespeare, Othello, 1604

There is a kind of joy thinking about a lush red bloom in the chilly gray of January. The joy is anticipating the bloom and never losing sight that,  “Patience is also a form of action, as well as a companion to wisdom.”  (Auguste Rodin, St. Augustine)

  • Rest in the Lord; wait patiently for Him. In Hebrew, "Be silent in God, and let Him mould thee." Keep still, and He will mould thee to the right shape. Martin Luther (1483-1546)
  • Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. --Proverbs 16:32 NIV
 Illustrator: Brenda A. Aiken

Monday, December 12, 2011

What I Learned from Frank Schaeffer


Typos, Spell-check and A Christian Witness


I write because I can’t paint or sculpt. Although I am gaining some mastery with brushes, paint and paper, I can’t get on the paper all my heart sees through my eyes.  The same is true for the clay; I can shape some thoughts through the clay. Alas, my fingers are not nimble enough to smooth the clay without thinning it. One of my clay creations –an angel -- testifies to my limitations.  So, I keep up my writing – arranging and rearranging words.

Reading informs us, conversing trains us – but writing shows how much and how well we know about a subject according to Sir Francis Bacon. ( Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man; writing an exact man.) This blog – a journal I share, a thesis under construction – is my humble canvas and words my medium, rather than acrylics or watercolors.  Its entries are as clay I’m manipulating.  I use words so you, gentle reader, can know me and think well of me – and so that both of us can think about ideas, events; problems and their solutions. 

So, when I review a selection and discover silly typos, or misspellings that the spell-check overlooked, I am embarrassed. Mercifully, I can edit the errors. Excuses may abound: I was so excited about an idea; it was late – or too early in the AM; or, I had mistaken information. But the impression of inattentiveness or ignorance has been made. I wish I could say as Henri Rousseau did, “Excuse my scribbling, it is late, and I have a poor candle.”  But, poor lighting doesn’t cause carelessness and ignorance.

Fatigue may cause some writing gaffes; so can laziness.Immaturity, pride, and hurt hold back a writer more profoundly. Writing what is true, useful, and God-honoring sometimes slams me against this trio of character typos, showing me maturity is not always an attribute of age; humility is still hard to get hold of, and I’d rather blame anybody but myself for the fall-out of stuff in my life.         

So, why bother?

Good writing should inform the writer, first, and so, overcome his or her ignorance. 
Immaturity, pride and hurt are not attractive, useful or edifying. Artists and writers – and Christians – who will not edit them, look silly  -- careless and ignorant.  “Editing” this trio is constructive. Editing this trio means looking away from the mess, and asking for help. As editing my writing means making changes someone else suggests, editing immaturity, pride and hurt means making changes.    

Last night on Cspan  we watched Frank Schaeffer discuss his new book Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics—and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway.   Listening to him, I wondered that he has never had an editor challenge his assumptions and generalizations; one who will  help him make changes in the trio of character typos that limited his talk, and writing. (I read Addicted to Mediocrity and Portofino) Or, is it he chooses not to edit his words?

However, Mr. Schaeffer taught me some lessons worth learning:
1.     Pray for Christians who are leaders, like Francis and Edith Schaeffer were. Pray they never inadvertently neglect or harm their children – and pray their children will feel the love of God, who will never fail them though their parents do. 

2.     My memory is not infallible; it is colored by immaturity, pride and hurt. Therefore, use The editor!  (Psalm 19:12-14, 119:105)

3.     Accepting my parents’ failures, forgiving and learning from them is healthier than exposing their nakedness.  Their character deficiencies may be basic sculpting tools  God uses to whittle me into shape.  (1 Peter 4:7-12)

4.     Recognize and mourn over the church’s failures -- and change the parts I can. (Matthew 5:23-24, 18:15; Galatians 6:1) 

5.     Words are powerful tools or weapons. (James 3:1-18)

When I write about anything, may I write as one growing-up, willing to learn, and ready to be healed.  And please excuse my typos!

·      By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach. (Winston Churchill)

·      Language is the apparel in which your thoughts parade before the public. Never clothe them in vulgar or shoddy attire. (George Crane, author)

·      Blessed is the person who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact. -- attr to George Eliot


Quotes from Christians quoting.com

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas Carols – Serendipitous Tonics



Hooray – It is wafting again on radio stations and through stores – familiar strains that evoke memories of words fewer people seem to know. The old carols are as old friends who link my heart to six decades or so of Christmases.  Just hearing them cheers me up! And new compositions are equally edifying. John Rutter has written and arranged some holiday music that lets me imagine how carols may have sounded in the olden days – echoing in stone castles or cathedrals – or an English countryside in which I’ve never celebrated the Lord’s birth.

Tonight on our local classical music station (WRR) I heard What Sweeter Music’s evocative lilt and lyrics – I wanted to know more. When I investigated, I learned the John Rutter composed the carol using the poetry written in the 17th century by Robert Herrick, some of whose work I barely skimmed in a survey of English literature.   What I learned about him was limited to his sensual poems.  He was the cleric and poet who urged, “ . . . gather ye rosebuds while ye may . . . “.

How much I missed! So busy was I keeping themes, dates, titles, and authors straight -- I never appreciated  the urgency of this man’s worship. I never made the connection between the terrors of the English Civil War which affected Herrick’s calling – as a cleric or a poet.  He was a man who lived through times as perilous as my own, never losing sight of God’s great gift in Christ.
What Sweeter Music

What sweeter music can we bring

Than a carol, for to sing

The birth of this our heavenly King? 

Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night, fly hence away,

And give the honor to this day,

That sees December turned to May.

Why does the chilling winter’s morn

Smile, like a field beset with corn?

Or smell like a meadow newly-shorn,

Thus, on the sudden? Come and see

The cause, why things thus fragrant be:

‘Tis He is born, whose quickening birth

Gives life and luster, public mirth,

To heaven, and the under-earth.

We see him come, and know him ours,

Who, with his sunshine and his showers,

Turns all the patient ground to flowers.

The darling of the world is come,

And fit it is, we find a room

To welcome him. The nobler part

Of all the house here, is the heart.

Which we will give him; and bequeath

This holly, and this ivy wreath,

To do him honour, who’s our King,

And Lord of all this revelling.
What sweeter music can we bring,

Than a carol for to sing

The birth of this our heavenly King?

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Thanks to WRR that played John Rutter’s carol, and the Internet that gave me the information omitted from the survey course. I am finding that You Tube is a better text for a recovering English major than the The Norton Anthology of English Literature! God’s serendipitous mercy is that faith- enriching words and music from ancient and modern carols remain an acceptable tradition. Searching out information on their author’s and composers – reading their words – exercised my heart, mind and refreshed my soul, a soul sometimes falling into gloom in this glittery season.   

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holiday Lights



The advent of the twinkling lights wrapping round trees and houses and shops intensify the exhilaration the coming holidays promise. First one house and then the next – and then the shopping centers exploding with millions of lights combine with carols and familiar refrains  -- echo a message: this is no ordinary happening, no commonplace celebration.  The “holiday lights” in Dallas are a breath-taking spectacle and seem to say something wonderful is coming. But we must be discrete about defining what the wonderful is, lest we give offense. 

Growing up in Baltimore in the early 1950’s the downtown department store windows were wonderful – thrilling displays of toys, the North Pole and sugar plum fairies -- just like the one around which the children crowded in the opening scene of The Bishop’s Wife, (a movie I never saw until 1985 with our son, who was battling strep throat.) The windows, the lights, the stories built together a feeling that in the hush between December 24th and December 25th I would receive a wonderful gift. The Christmas holidays have always been a time of hope; from my childish hopes for this doll or that to hopes we would just stay healthy over the celebrations.  Some of my childhood dreams – for peace in our family – were answered decades later when I grasped that Christmas was not simply about the world’s celebrations. 

Being raised in a liturgical church, I knew what Christmas meant – the birth of Christ, also called Jesus.   I just never made the connection between what His name meant and my needs.  Understanding that  connection is the source of continuing discoveries about people I love and myself. But our culture looks for ways to obfuscate the meaning, lest it offend and ruin the holidays – itself a shortening of “holy days.”

Scripture commands no memorial of Christ’s birth; we don’t know when He was born for certain – although Christ’s birth – God’s personal intersection with man as man – has influenced religion, art, music, literature and philosophy for two millennia, three or four if you count the time awaiting His arrival.  For all the good His followers have done, we’ve much for which we owe Him an account. (Revelation 2-3) Therefore, that many outside the church don’t want to be lumped under a celebration of His birth, I get.  That many of us inside the church don’t want to be maxed out in the world’s celebrations, I also get.

Before the wave of wonderment crashes over us – and we totally lose sight of the fact that in the fullness of time God kept His word, and brought forth His Son, born of a woman, I hope you see His light in all the lights of the season.  I could wish you all kinds of things for this season – joy and peace to last a lifetime  -- but I wish both you and me what Scott Wesley Brown sang about so many years ago: I wish you Jesus.  And I pray you enjoy afresh  the hope He gives that does not disappoint.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Life Lessons from Several Relatives


God has used many women in my family to teach me about life, and His power, mysteries and purposes – sometimes the lessons were wise examples; others were heart-breaking warnings. All of these women are gone – their friendship and interest in me changed me. None of them deliberately developed any lesson plans – but the consistency of their world-views created indelible instruction. 

Hello! I moved, so to speak -- and the article is found in my NEW
Garden! Please come over!



Sunday, October 9, 2011

Star Trek Applications?

For the second night in a row, the third time in six weeks, our television went nuts – the image on the screen froze. And so began a new conversation, first with a computer with whom I exchanged phone information and account numbers. I purposed to remain calm, avoid coughing or extraneous sounds – or wrong answers; the computer has been known to hang-up on me.

Last night I talked to a young woman in the Philippines; tonight my technician was in India.  I don’t know where the computer was from. They all spoke good English, especially the computer. As long as I remain patient, I speak good English, too.

The idea that I can speak to people a world away from me, first to the West, and then to the East – and that they can analyze the “cable” box in my living room renders me speechless.

Almost.

I talked with a computer tonight! Didn’t Captain Kirk do that?  I had a perfectly intelligible conversation with people half-way round the world.  Lieutenant Uhura could  not have arranged a better connection!  The idea that a computer has the capacity to “read” what is wrong in an enclosed case thousands of miles away is what all those “Star Trek” computers did, high above the earth.

What was sci-fi in 1966 is real today.

I’ve been listening NPR’s coverage of Steve Jobs and his death from pancreatic cancer.  (Link ) He was responsible for so many advances that we take for granted.  He began his work in 1977 – barely thirty-four years ago. The conventional wisdom included the following:

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." 
-- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp.,1977

Let me hasten to add that in the mid-1980’s, I wondered why anyone would want to spend so much money on car phones.  

Yesterday’s expensive toys and gimmicks have become today’s necessities. A radio and telephone astounded my grandmother; television, my parents. Computers, cell phones and the Internet were new technologies to me, which now are ordinary props in my life. Ten years ago, I was just getting used to my cell-phone; today I take pictures with my phone and send messages. One of my friends urged me to get the I-phone, while I am young enough to learn the technology.

She may be right. But talking to the Philippines and India while the TV reprograms itself is about all the excitement I can handle for awhile.

Things I am glad I did not [know enough to] say:

  • "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." 
-- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949
  • "But what ... is it good for?" 
-- Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip

Friday, October 7, 2011

Closets, Contentment and Christmas


Warm, humid air and cloudy skies are the forecast. Having packed away my summers shirts, moved the long-sleeved tees to the forefront of the shelves, I am not surprised. The other extreme of weather always attends the bi-annual clothes closet exchange.  However, switching seasonal clothes remains a wise investment of time.

During the exchange, I inspect, sort and relinquish stuff that no longer serves its purpose: making m look presentable.   And the process reminds me I really am the princess of quite a lot! It reminds me to ask:
·      How many women today have no change of clothes or undergarments?
·      No toothbrush or fresh water or food for their children or husbands or brothers?

I don’t know all the things that taught the apostle Paul contentment in want or plenty – but cleaning out closets, and recognizing I not only have changes of clothes, I have clothes for more than one season is a great goad!  (Philippians 4:11-13 )

James said we have fights and quarrels because we do not ask God – and when we ask our motives are wrong.  ( James 4 )     I wonder if I am slow in giving because I have not asked God to show me how I can be generous, and shower me with a generous spirit and resources – not just money to make a difference. A wise steward is a generous one – more content to manage and share than acquire to squander. (1 Timothy 6:3-10)  


Some points to ponder, from The Quote Garden:

·      Gold can no more fill the spirit of a man, than grace his purse. A man may as well fill a bag with wisdom, as the soul with the world. -- Robert Bolton

·      A little is as much as a lot, if it is enough. --Steve Brown

·      Agur said, "Give me neither poverty nor riches"; and this will ever be the prayer of the wise. Our incomes should be like our shoes: if too small, they will gall and pinch us, but if too large, they will cause us to stumble and to trip. But wealth, after all, is a relative thing, since he that has little, and wants less, is richer than he that has much, but wants more. True contentment depends not upon what we have; a tub was large enough for Diogenes, but a world was too little for Alexander. --Caleb C. Colton (An English Cleric)
·      It is so important not to waste what is precious by spending all one's time and emotion on fretting or complaining over what one does not have. Edith Schaeffer (Co-founder of L’Abri: Fellowship International) 

·      Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition. -- Jeremiah Burroughs

·      Contentment in every condition is a great art, a spiritual mystery. It is to be learned, and to be learned as a mystery.-- Jeremiah Burroughs

·      Next to faith this is the highest art -- to be content with the calling in which God has placed you. I have not learned it yet. -- Martin Luther

God bless the hands that serve the hurting and give in Christ’s name! Our deacons, and local ministries, food pantries and shelters – thank you! God bless those who serve the refugees. Christmas is coming up – and now might be the time to salt away some money to give Christ’s name? Here a few links that might revive  our passion for giving and our determination to manage our resources wisely:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Discipline of Writing



Most of the first writing I did was persuasive writing – convincing a professor, I had learned the course material, or the US government to award a contact to my boss.   Or, I wrote up some of results of the contracts our company won.  The professors were not always convinced; but I did land a few contracts. 

Back then, I survived essays and research and proposal writing because I could outline and diagram sentences.   I also liked reading dictionaries and the Thesaurus. So, I was hired as an editor and technical writer because I could spot more errors in grammar than others and I knew how to arrange and rearrange words, though with unexceptional ability.  I was young – and it was during the 1960’s-- I wasn’t self-conscious about the magnitude of my lack of knowledge.

But I knew I was not yet a writer. 

A writer is one who uses the same twenty-six letters of the alphabet I use, but has the ability to arrange them into words that tell the truth about the human heart. 

Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Copy editors and proposal writers don’t write that way.  Although we should read that way:

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.  ~William Stunk, Jr., The Elements of Style, 1918

Digesting this little handbook with additions by E.B. White and his stepson Roger Angell is hearty fare for all kinds of writers, new ones, or those in need of refreshment  – no matter some folks’ disapproval of the guide. (See the naysayers.) Mr. White described writing this way: Writing is both mask and unveiling.  He also advised,  “The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity.” 

A concise explanation of why good writing is so fun to read and oh so harder to do.  

Like a mirror, writing reflects a writer’s hopes, failures and deficiencies.  Usually, however, we only glance in a mirror – turning away when we are finished or frustrated. Writing means looking at the reflection – warts and all of the writer’s abilities and limitations. 
The hardest, but most startling thing about writing electronically is seeing the words appear on the screen that only moments before were swirling around in my mind and heart, filtered through my old English major sensibilities appear in black and white – underlined in red or green, depending on the error they convey, spelling or grammar. Keyboarding doesn’t supplant journaling –or scribbling – for so, too, putting pen to paper is a great delight.

Writing is scary – but it is a dread I love to hate.

Writing is like looking in a mirror: some days I see clearly -- but on others, not so much.  Writing about what I am learning in Scripture is a great vision corrector and solace.   Reading and writing help me make sense of life that is precious and precarious -- delightful and quite dangerous.

"Reading makes a full [woman]; conference a ready man; and writing an exact [woman]."(Sir Francis Bacon, 1561-1626 Of Studies.)

Two years ago, I finally posted on the blog I secured in the year 2005. Other friends who had blogs praised this vehicle; I sat cowed for four years. It took me longer to learn how to use this dimension of the Internet than e-mail or discussion board – or even keyboarding. But coping with the move was a great motivator. And I posted Uprooted, as we moved. 

I took time, read and tried to understand the directions (which are more straightforward when I began to understand the words than the MLA Handbook) and put together one page. Next, I started going to "next blog" wondering how they did all their artwork. A few weeks ago while fiddling with all the templates and commands, I got to where I am now. 

 My daughter helped me transfer photos from my camera to the computer -- and I learned how to put them on the blog. The delight has been seeing all my photos whenever I work on the computer – and now being able to share them with others – the happiest moments of my life, illustrated – illustrated faster than I can type the words.

Almost 200 entries later, I am not yet an exact woman—but I surely know what I don’t know!

Included is a popular YouTube that captures how challenging this process has been.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dressing for Prayer: Is My Belt On Right?



 This morning I thought today was the last day of September. So, I opened my favorite almanac  (The I Hate to Cook ALMANACK: A Book of Days, by Peg Bracken) and I read her closing rhyme, thinking it timely:


Thirty days hath September,
Thirty shining beads.
Thirty days hath September.
Actually, that’s all it needs.

But the time had passed; today is October 1,2011. I should have known September was gone when I went out for the papers, for the refreshing, almost bracing, morning air had no hint of heat. 

If I were in Maryland, by October 1 I would have sorted and packed my summer togs, and shaken out warmer clothes. This exercise usually assured a few more weeks of warm temperatures – just as changing from winter to spring clothes is a more reliable prognosticator of wintery days than the groundhog seeing his shadow is of a longer winter.  But, I am 1,500 miles south and west of the Mason-Dixon line, and we have many warm days in October – usually in the mid-eighties with cheery sun. Given the serious drought we have, though, maybe I should pack away the raincoats?

Some encouraging soul predicts that drought in Texas could continue  until 2020.  Months ago the governor urged Texans to pray to pray for rain;  how much more do we need God to shower us with steady, gentle spiritual rain?

Feeling thirst, worrying about the consequences of drought may be God reminding His people we don’t have because we haven’t truly asked. (James 4) So, if secular rulers ask for prayer, I pray!  How much more should the church urge herself to pray? (2 Chronicles 7:11-22) And many are!  But still no relief is in the forecast.  

Our natural problems are affecting the whole country – much the way the church’s failures harm even those who are unchurched, hiding the light with which God entrusted us, and we all stumble. (Isaiah 1) I don’t know why this section of the country – part of the “Bible Belt”– is so literally and perilously parched – for we surely have deep wells of sound preaching! But, I know that being thirsty for righteousness, according to Christ, is a blessing -- for those will be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6) And I know many hungry, thirsty people!  How’s our prayer life?  

Maybe we have misplaced – or misused – our belt in our prayers?
Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. (Ephesians 6:14, New Living Translation

Maybe God wants us to look in the mirror, when we pray and examine how we are dressed, (James 2; 1 Timothy 2, esp. 8-10) while there is time. Not just the churches in the Bible Belt – but all over. What are we missing; what is askew? Ask God – who gives generously and without reproach, while there is time. (Ask, seek, knock; get wisdom; wise and foolish virgins)

And if those rains are slow coming– God grant that you and I remember and believe Habakkuk’s prayer and declaration:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.   (Habakkuk 3:17-19)