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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