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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.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Do You See the Reset Button?

I did it again. I set off the alarm, and the police showed up in less than five minutes. This time, I remained calm when the smoke detector erupted, sensing my charcoal toast, and signaled the siren on the roof. (The last time I got so flustered by the shrieking siren I forgot the override code.) However, I did not have the correct number to alert the emergency dispatch there wasn’t any fire; so the police arrived. The officer told me I should check with the company because I couldn’t get the declaration “FIRE” from alarm’s keypad.

I called the alarm company and a tech support person called back – and walked me through everything I did, and then reminded me to look at the key pad, and see the “reset” button. If all the smoke is gone, hit it – it may take some time to reset if the air is even a bit smokey – but it will reset the system. Next time – God forbid – after I disarm the alarm – call the emergency dispatch desk, and then, hit the reset button.

All this on the Saturday before Easter – the eternal gift that is better than a reset button. I’ve done a bunch of dumb stuff – I do wrong things – and knowing me, I will do things that are like the toast I burned for the rest of my life. But when Christ walked out of that tomb, He pushed the reset button on my life, having paid the bill for all my sins – even knowing all I would do, even after the hour I first believed. (Isaiah 53:1-12; Colossians 1:13; 1 John 1:9-2:2)

At Christmas, we may wish the Lord a “Happy Birthday.” On Easter, all I can say is “Thank you.” And God, help me hit the reset button again.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Another Beating Caught on a Cell-phone

Was this a prank?
Was it real?

You can go to the Drudge Report and see it for yourself.

It doesn’t matter on one level who the victim is, indeed who the bully is, so much as the inescapable fact: one person filmed it while perhaps a half-dozen people watched and kibitzed, expressing opinions – for at least eight to ten minutes.

It could have been a flashback to Germany in the 1930's – or the rural South in the same time period. In this clip, in a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant in America, a white woman brought down the wrath of two or three black women – and men stood by watching; one older woman tried intervening as the victim was dragged by her hair to the door, and savaged again.

Unidentified voices shooed away the attackers before the police arrived; the persistent cameraman recorded the beating victim in a seizure.

I watched others watch a beating victim go into seizures; I heard the observers remark she was seizing and bleeding – but the cameraman recorded no one assisting.

Pay back is costly.

If this was a prank, staged for an internet audience, it is a dreadful commentary on who or what we are, that this is “entertainment.”

If this actually happened – and no one stopped it – then why are we so afraid of the “terrorists?”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April Winds

The wind has been unrelenting and strong this afternoon. I see it tossing leaves all about, even splitting the trunk of the Bradford pear, up the street from us. It isn’t singing; it’s moaning down our chimney periodically. I have felt its push, and seen its force today – and cannot say it is simply a stronger child than me. ("The Wind" by R.L. Stevenson)

This wind is like a young man, vigorous, and powerful – taunting the large oak tree across the street. The oak’s branches strain as their leaves ripple – smaller branches, crack and give way, littering the lawn. The wind keeps whipping through the oak overhanging our driveway also shook loose small branches, leaves, and twigs.

Yet, it hasn’t harmed me.

I enjoy the luxury of waiting in sheltered place for the wind to calm down – looking out on another outstanding April day in Texas: sunny, not too warm – if you don’t have to do yard work, or land a plane. It’s a simple mercy to have time to wait this wind out. Others have to be out and about their business and risk getting hit, or being hurt.

I think of many folks today who can’t hide from the relentless gusts in their lives. Many Japanese and Haitian people have to keep struggling, as do people caught up in wars and uprisings that abound in today’s world. They haven’t the luxury of waiting out the winds that have swept into their lives. Instead they have to clear and sweep up the debris – bury their dead – while getting hit and hurt.

It’s not only overseas. Many Americans saw this week what a tornado can do. Children were murdered today – and their families have no place to hide. Life is hard: people are dying for a drink; men and women lost their jobs; girls saw pregnancy tests that came back positive; children ran away from their parents; and parents couldn't or wouldn't care for their children – these folks don’t have the shelter or time to remark on the force of a spring wind.

They need help – and helping involves risk. It’s not always safe, or easy to help these folks get going again in the midst of their storms. Hearing sirens in the distance while I writing reminds me someone is speeding to help another person – taking a risk.

But, they are trained and equipped . . .

How much preparation did the good Samaritan have? What did he have that I lack? He saw a need, and used what he had, and took a risk that would cost him more. (Luke 10:30-37)

If I still hesitate to take risks, Dwight L. Moody, a voice from the nineteenth century, sounds like he knew the twenty-first century’s traps: “True will power and courage is not on the battlefield, but in everyday conquests over our inertia, laziness, boredom.”

And Robert Louis Stevenson, no stranger to suffering had an answer for those of us who are risk averse:
The world has no room for cowards. We must all be ready somehow to toil, to suffer, to die. And yours is not the less noble because no drum beats before you when you go out into your daily battle fields, and no crowds shout about your coming when you return from your daily victory or defeat.

Where can I go? What can I do? I can’t go halfway around the world – nor can I roar off to the inner city or restore downed power lines. I can, however, move out of my comfort zone – even few feet into a world that is crazier and crazier – and more treacherous. The good Samaritan let go of a little time, and some money and cared for a wounded man, in a dangerous part of his world. He took a risk.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Floaters and Flashers, or

How the Sideward Glimmer of Flashing Worms Got My Attention.

I know a few folks who have coped with loss of their sight. Each person’s loss was unique, from a cicatricial pemphigoid to macular degeneration; from inoperable cataracts to retinitis pigmentosa. Until just today, I never thought about my eyesight being disabled.

My husband had endured a tear in his retina, and my mother’s retina had detached unexpectedly. So, the flashing lights to the left of my field of vision got my attention, when the swooping and darting dark flashes – that I thought was a large dark moth – had not. These new companions waited out the night and greeted me first thing in the morning – but disappeared right after I secured an appointment for an examination. He said: As long as they dissipate – or disappear – I can avoid the pleasure of meeting a retina specialist.

Bright light doesn’t make one see more clearly if the eye’s pupil can’t constrict. I didn’t think about blindness until I emerged into Texas sunshine, from having my eyes dilated during the appointment. I shut my eyes, having no sunglasses and felt a wave of helplessness, not being quite sure what to do next.

Shortly, however, the drops wore off, and I could see.

The floaters and flashers returned briefly, as if to remind me – too many are the blessings I assume are mine to keep. Life, heath, sight, hearing – strength are not givens. Then the floaters and flashers departed – for now.

And if they visit you, dear reader – call the doctor. They are probably nothing more than shifting of vitreous within your eye – but they might not be.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Follow-Up

So, I made it to Church -- on time, even. Corporate worship in a building, though, was not as delightful as our backyard had been earlier.

However, if I had chosen worship in my garden this morning, I would not have heard, “Amazing Grace” sung and signed by the youth choir – reminding me of the spiritual and physical gifts I have as a follower; I would not have seen friends who have come through a hard fight against cancer, smiling and worshiping; I would not have been able to join with others and give. And I would not have been disciplined. For that is what this sermon was this morning – a reproof – which ran over time! At twelve past noon, I saw some of the congregation fidgeting, by 12:15 P.M., some arose and left – ostensibly to retrieve their offspring from the Sunday school. Yes, I grew uncomfortable – but I recognized this was a reproof I needed to hear.

It was given by a guest preacher, a former associate pastor of the church, and a founding member of our denomination (Presbyterian Church in America): Paul Gunter Settle. His text was Matthew 16:13-20; his topic, “Confessing Christ.” Pastor Settle’s sermon hemmed me in on one level. Christ, who is God, is the only way to God. However, on another level, hearing again that I am not God, has freed me of the responsibility of detail managing even myself.

From Genesis to Deuteronomy, through Daniel and Isaiah; from John chapter 8, through Paul’s descriptions, and concluding with Christ’s Revelation, Pastor Settle quoted the passages* that expanded Peter’s answer for all the disciples, as well as offering an answer to the proposition that Christ never claimed to be God. He spoke quietly, unwaveringly, unfolding the Scriptures which describe who Christ is – the Son of the Living God – concluding with a question: “Whom do you say He is?”

This older teaching elder resolutely admonished the congregation – perhaps as Paul warned the Colossian church. (Colossians 3:16-17)

Why?

Perhaps he believes (as I wonder) if something unfathomed has happened in our country and the church in the last decades – and it’s time to be sure the church knows why Peter answered Christ so passionately, speaking for the others. And now is the time to equip us -- night really is coming:
. . . so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don't ever quit. Just keep it simple. You're going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food — catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They'll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you — keep your eye on what you're doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God's servant. (2 Timothy 4:1-5 from THE MESSAGE)

Profess Him rightly – for one day, He will profess you.

"Stand up for me against world opinion and I'll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I'll cover for you?”
(Matthew 10:32-33 from THE MESSAGE)

Without raising his voice, threatening or accusing; without devolving into conspiracy theories, the pastor spoke to folks like me, who are prone to wander, and forget Whom it is we serve.I doubt those flowers could have posed so direct and detailed a sermon as Pastor Settle did – God I believe You; over come my doubts! (Mark 9:24)

* A Sampling of verses describing who Christ is:
Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 9:6-7
Exodus 3:14
Deuteronomy 18:15
Isaiah 53
Daniel 7:22
John 1:1-18
Colossians 1:15
Revelation 1:12-18 and remember the Voice who confirmed Christ as His Son, first at the baptism before crowds, and the Transfiguration. (Matthew 3:17, Luke 9:35-36)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why Do I Have to Go to Church?

It’s a magnificent Sunday morning in Dallas! Breezy, sunny and oh so quiet.

Wandering around I am overcome – first by the labors of other hands. The roses are waving – fragrant hands of pink, salmon, deep red, pail pink and yellow. The climbing roses – that heretofore have only shown leaves – have blossomed, their dark red buds opening, revealing bright yellow centers. All got a severe pruning in February – but not as much I was told to prune roses in Maryland.

My black-eyed Susans are garnering strength, I hope will burst forth in warmer, drier weather, when the roses languish. My tiny new garden is flourishing; this morning I sowed some marigolds. The lavender I planted last year, and I feared was lost, is branching out. In between the multicolored roses, I planted some lilies – with another batch on the way. My favorites – the red geraniums – enjoy the warm sun. But, in a few weeks, I must find more shade if they are to survive the Texas summer. In Maryland, geraniums did well in the sun; fifteen hundred miles south and west – the rays are lethal. The squirrels may have assassinated the freesia bulbs I planted in an accommodating large pot. Fuzzy rodents!

The sprinkler system we inherited is a luxury – I watered by hand most summer evenings in Maryland – a therapy session, if you will, where I worked through the weeds in my heart and mind. Here, a simple timer turns on sprinkle heads which cover the beds and yard thoroughly. But we struggle with getting the timing and duration properly apportioned. Water evaporated quickly – but even a few extra minutes twice a day is too much for some plants, and I may have drowned the wax crepe myrtle we planted when we first moved in.

Surely God can be worshiped as well in a garden as church? I see His handiwork and my deficits clearly – He has preserved and brought forth “life” from plants that seemed fit only for discarding – and seeds that bore no resemblance to the flowers I enjoy. And my soul agrees – “How Great Thou Art!” But, singing a capella in my mind, in my garden, isn’t how the God of the Bible commanded worship.

Who is the real Gardener?

A church building isn’t better than my garden to draw near to God. Wherever and whenever I draw near to Him, He draws near to me. It’s the others who come to worship that distinguishes a building from my garden.

Staying alone in my garden would be like the roses – if they could – refusing to be pruned, watered, or insisting on shade rather than sun. It would be like the geraniums – if they could – refusing the shade I will provide when the slant of the summer’s sun scorches.

I need the care of corporate worship –sound teaching – and fellowship. Nothing magic happens there – but something supernatural does. Details after the 11:00 A.M. service.
So let's do it — full of belief, confident that we're presentable inside and out.
Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

If we give up and turn our backs on all we've learned, all we've been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ's sacrifice and are left on our own to face the Judgment — and a mighty fierce judgment it will be!
(Hebrews 10:22-27 from THE MESSAGE)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ebenezers – Just This Week

Ebenezer is the name of the stone Samuel told the people to erect to remember how far the Lord had led them. (1 Samuel 7:12) Erecting a memorial to God is a great antidote to pride, and a balm for fear and resentment.

Matthew Henry said
[Samuel] set up an Ebenezer, the stone of help. If ever the people's hard hearts should lose the impressions of this providence, this stone would either revive the remembrance of it, and make them thankful, or remain a standing witness against them for their unthankfulness . . . The beginnings of mercy and deliverance are to be acknowledged by us with thankfulness so far as they go, though they be not completely finished, nay, though the issue seem uncertain. Having obtained help from God, I continue hitherto, says blessed Paul, Acts 26:22. (from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible.)

I enjoyed this week:
* a serendipitous phone conversation with an old friend who also lives apart from her children and grandchildren, and also copes with physical pain.
* several pleasant meals with my husband – and one with a younger family member who has been helpful with a daunting office move.
* bible study and fellowship that answered some issues I had privately raised with God.
* a note from someone who said thanks for some [minimal] help I offered
* a friend who took the time to minister and pray with me and helped me avoid stumbling into a puddle of despair – which always leads smack dab into a pit.
* being asked to help in Bible study for next year.

All these were over and above the happiness of my marriage, our children, our health, safety and well-being, our daily bread, and a week of weather that urged the roses in our garden to burst out.

I did not enjoy equally useful reminders that:

* some people I know and love, prefer atheism to faith in Christ.
* some other folks I know and love, have besetting physical problems and others have addiction problems.
* I have failed my children and husband just as I complain others failed me.

An adage worth remembering counsels: “If you can't be content with what you have received, be thankful for what you have escaped.” And the choice is up to me to be grateful or griping. My choice is the mortar that will hold a precious stone in place – for uncertain times are a certainty.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Character Flaws Revealed by My Irksome Behavior

 
I am annoying myself – a sign it’s time to make some changes. Now, when I see my kitchen doors left open and drawers half shut, I finally understand what drove my daughter nuts. I never noticed them until we skyped and I was showing her my kitchen. Sure enough there were a few doors, not just ajar, but standing wide open. She laughed, saying, “This sure is your kitchen!”

Why don’t I shut what I open?

First – I don’t think about it until I bang into the drawer or door; I say, I am not finished with removing or replacing what the drawer or cabinet, or closet holds. A valid reason until I realize the drawer or door has stayed opened over night.

In my dreams
A second explanation may be closer to the real reason: I still bristle at the advice of the centuries’ old motto, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”* I don’t want to do what everybody else says is common sense. Coming of age in the sixties, therein is the summation of many forks in the road of my life – but that’s a topic for another time.

However, though I excuse my habit as a time saver, leaving open what needs to be shut, doesn’t mean I am efficient – it may just mean I am not thinking about anybody else who uses the kitchen, or bath, or bedroom. And while I reject the conclusion I am lazy, maybe careless is accurate, I think, as I trudge out to the kitchen and shut the cabinets I left opened when I unloaded the dishwasher, maybe . . . I could be a bit more considerate of others --

Protruding drawers and doors can become accident enablers – doors or drawers upon which I whack my head or hip or shin. I haven’t actually walked into a door yet. But “yet” is the operative word. Now they annoy me because their silent testimony may show my habit of . . . energetic distraction is maybe – self-centerednes ?


* See the following link if you are a recovering English major, or have too much time on your hands: Meanings