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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, August 31, 2013

Summer’s Passing

I didn’t get the great American novel finished, or started. Nor did I leave myself without projects for the fall and coming winter. 

Summer 2013’s concluding moments approach – three days or three weeks, depending how I reckon it. It began in the aftermath of a terrorist bombing in Boston, and amidst a stunt – walking across the Grand Canyon.  Being with our kids and their little ones was the delight of this season – a bout with pneumonia, its weeds.  

An Inheritance?
Regrettably, I fell behind in one project that is a big job – one that I self- assigned: completing journals for the grandkids. My friend Lynette gave me the idea – and have composed many thoughts, prayers and ideas for each, but too many remain unwritten.

Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren . . . (Proverbs 13:22; Isaiah 59:21)

Ann Voskamp explained why such a journal may lend a hand to grandchild reading my humble thoughts decades after they crossed my heart:

. . . I write for the woman who wants to unwrap her life again, for the man who wants to reorient again, for the boy on the brink of leaving again, to remind him of Whose he is and the one love story that will always save him. . . (When You’ve Messed Up 1,000 Things  )

So, I went back to those journals this morning – took a picture of the assignment thus far, and hope that one day each colorful copybook finds it way into the hands of these dear human beings who have an anchor into my heart.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Holding My Breath

The sky is a pale shade of blue that looks almost white above the wordless evangelist  across the street as I look out in the shelter of air conditioning. The oak’s leaves are a lush green. 

Cloudy weather had shielded us from the some of the heat predicted for the rest of the week. But, at some point, “they” – the weather experts -- think we will hit 100 degrees several days in a row, with higher humidity. The morning sun soon burned off those friendly clouds.  

Yet, there is some good news. 
Thriving with Watering

There are fewer hours of daylight. The diminishing hours of daylight moderate slightly the build up of heat – we have an hour and a half less sun today than we did in July. The new flowers do seem drought tolerant, indeed, as long as I water daily.  And it’s so hot the squirrels are not foraging in my flowerpots. For all I know they went to Maine for a few weeks.

I wish the bad news from around the world would go somewhere – wars, and more rumors of tribulations war – pictures of overwhelming cruelty.  They bow my heart, reminding me what so many suffer because some have the wherewithal to inflict it. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same . . . 

·      In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war. ~Durant's Lesson's of History p 81

·      It is appallingly obvious our technology has exceeded our humanity. ~ Albert Einstein

·      The essence of war is fire, famine, and pestilence. They contribute to its outbreak; they are among its weapons; they become its consequences. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

·      Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Amateur Diagnosis

Some Serious Change Here
If the average price of a tube of dry-skin cream is $8.00, judging from the pile before me, I’ve spent some money on hand cream this past year, not counting two trips to a dermatologist trying to identify the reason some of my fingers and both palms have become an itchy mess. 

Since last fall, these digits, just the ones I have cut and burned in the last couple of years cooking, have itched, cracked, split and healed over, only to come apart again; my palms developed tiny blisters and erupted in scaly patches that came and went – sometimes twice a day. 


The professionals said it was just dry skin, exacerbated by too much hand washing. 

Hand washing is not a new habit with me! Had I just simply depleted the last bit of moisture in some of my fingers, but not all? The good doctor gave me a prescription for a steroid cream, the overuse of which thins skin! 
What afforded the most relief was slathering my hands in a thick OTC ointment at night and then slipping my hands into white cotton gloves. (Doug said he wanted a pair, to be Mickey to my new Minnie Mouse look.) For five months, I rotated ointments and lotions. 

Not wholly accepting this sudden and persistent annoyance was simply dry skin made worse by hand washing, I went sleuthing on the Internet – WebMD, Wikipedia, etc. 

Following a link from an article on eczema, I found an article that linked chocolate to skin disorders. 

Chocolate? Good griefCome on!

I have only been an addict for the few years we’ve been in Texas – Doug’s mother and sisters introduced me dark chocolate and the simple delicious pleasure it is, especially dipped in steaming hot coffee – it’s not like I have had a life-long relationship with it! 

But I cut it out three weeks ago. 

Then I remembered an old time remedy – Bag Balm.  I have been using it for two weeks, and yes-siree, my hands look and feel almost normal. Here’s hoping I am not creating more problems by relying so heavily on a treatment meant for cows only. 
That article on the reasons for itchy hands also mentioned that stress contributes to the condition. Oh great . . . me worried about when I am going to start mooing, and all without a bite of chocolate!



Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.  ~Chinese Proverb

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gardening Update

We are headed back into triple digit territory this week – just when I thought fall might saunter in  . . . and just after I made a modest investment in more flowers for the garden!



New editions
The former hot spell a few weeks ago wilted so much, I thought some fresh flowers and plants might celebrate the new season. I shopped carefully for drought tolerant and sun-dependent additions. I bought some zinnias, plumbago, and porchulaca, some plant food and a Mexican-made planter to keep the black eyed Susans company.   

I got started early Saturday morning – stopping only when my eyes stung with perspiration. In the midst of potting new plants, I repotted a few old plants, and fed the lantana and morning glory that had survived. The Texas geraniums had survived – even if with few blooms. One plant flourished – sorry to say, I don’t know its name.
 
What is this blooming thing?


 But what delighted me when I closely inspected it – the impatiens I had rooted from a broken branch lived and flourished in the heat and haphazard watering that has been my recent gardening habits.


Survivor!


It was confirmation that a little shade and a little water can overcome lazy gardening habits. But the wonder is not a pass so that I can be careless with the newbies – especially if the heat and drought linger.

The blooming impatiens was like God saying to me – You gave up tending this plant, and yet I nurtured it.  Seeing that little basket, from my kitchen window, prods me to think again about my prayer habits. Prayer is doing what I can and trusting God to do what He has promised – even when I see no help – relief – on the horizon. (Maybe I need to reread Habakkuk?)

I don’t see how things can work out in Syria, or Egypt, or the Sudan. But that doesn’t mean I can give up praying for the relief of all those folks, and for humility and wisdom for all our leaders.

I don’t see how the church is going to cope with the assaults on Christ or His commission. But that doesn’t mean I stop praying and serving.

I don’t see how some of our family and friends can bear up under their loads – but that is no pass from prayer.


“This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’” (Jeremiah 33:3)


Time and weather will wither that happy little impatiens plant – the first cold snap will destroy it. But I hope I remember its lesson.


God makes not His abode in a narrow heart
(Jacopone Da Todi)


Monday, August 19, 2013

How a Survivor from a Train Wreck LIVES

 

  The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert – An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (Crown & Covenant Publications)

A “journey” may describe a passage, expedition, flight, crossing or simply travel. Rosario Butterfield’s account of her passage from one way of life to another is an illumination of Colossians 1:13-14. The Message offers a fresher translation of the truth:

 13-14 God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

The description of her transfer from one kingdom to another –personally, spiritually and professionally is timely, reminding us that loving the lost is a better use of time than freaking out over times in which we live.    Hers is no different than any other rescue – although the back alleys through which all Christians wandered before His rescue may not seem as dimly lit as the one in which she languished, we are all headed in the same direction: away from God.

However, her relating her “conversion” to the Lord Jesus Christ to a “train-wreck” was novel – especially in light of the terrible news of a recent train crash in Paris France. People died, others severely injured and traumatized. (NYT article) In this slim volume, Rosaria deftly recounts how her character was transformed through comprehensive chaos. (Page 27)

Rosario also describes the aftermath of her personal train wreck –and she shares how she learned to worship God, and love Him and those around her.  Her discussion of right worship through psalm singing exclusively was one on which I have no comment.  What makes this book a worthwhile use of time is seeing not just God’s rescue, but how His provision and establishment of her life in His kingdom.  God took her out of the dark shadows of pride, manifested in sexual choices and helped her live as a new creature, enduring so far all the bumps, setbacks, heartaches and triumphs that life in the church can be.  

Had I met the author before she read Pastor Ken Smith’s response to her newspaper article commenting on Promise Keepers, I, too, would have described Rosaria Champagne Butterfield as an unlikely convert to faith in Christ  His response demonstrated the power of measured and kind words – something Christians have not always appropriated in the uncertain times in which we live.   

Ken Smith asked a question – How did you arrive at your interpretation? He opened a door, which invited Rosaria into a conversation. And he took an interest in her professional life, helping her – becoming as a “big brother, of sorts” – something no other Christian had done. (p. 15)

Asking good questions – rather than making good arguments – allow God to speak to the souls of those we love.  God taught her that homosexuality is but one manifestation of the pride that separates us from God – her heterosexual past was not more sanctified than her lesbianism. God showed her,
“. . . the integrity of our relationships matters more than the boldness of our words.” (p. 48) She recommended Psalm 15 as a pattern for living, esp. when shaken by others.

The church is a hospital for sick people, a pastor said. Based on some of Rosario’s experiences, some of us aren’t taking our meds.   Mercifully, the Great Physician never left her unattended – and to her credit and His, she kept seeking Him even when others in the church were unkind. 

One segment of her journey that she included in her book that I have reread is her lecture to incoming graduate students at Syracuse University, as a brand-new creature in Christ.  (pages 42-50) It helped me – hardly a grad student!

·      Real learning depends on our quest for real knowledge, not its perpetual deferment in the form of endless doubt.
·      Knowledge depends on the renewal of our minds.
·      Learn how to fall on your face and pick yourself up. Learn how to turn the train around.
·      Learn how to adjust your focus.
 
Old patterns were there,  waiting for her and knew her name; intentional Christian ministry was an antidote –but that too had side effects. Sometimes “church work” can blind and distract us, keeping us from the Holy Spirit’s work in us. (pages 50-52) And one question she was asked by a lesbian neighbor who watched Rosario, as a Christian, hurt, reverberated:

“I didn’t give a damn about who your God was to you in your happiness. But now that you are suffering, I want to know: who is your God? Where is he in your suffering?”

That's a question we all ask. 

God gave, and He took away – and Rosario declared it was for her good – the hard lesson she learned, one I need to master, is never confuse other people’s hopes and dreams as proof of God’s will. (Page 62)

Other aspects of her reported journey that were edifying were discussion of marriage, love and Married by God’s Design, by Pastor Doug Comin.  It never hurts to review basics – particularly since our world today is eager ignore God’s pursue in marriage and His principles for having healthy and pleasurable ones.  So, too her experiences as an adoptive mom, a foster mom, and a mom who is homeschooling her children as a pastor’s wife that Rosario describes, help me evaluate my attitudes. 

Rosario she includes sad reminders of children who fall through cracks in our foster care system – the simplicity of her experience with Jessica is a case in point:
Jessica was a child of God.
She spent time in our home.
She wanted to be adopted.
She never was.
She died alone. (page 128)

The best thing about this slender volume is that Rosaria Champagne Butterfield shared her secret thoughts and described what living through and beyond a conversion account looks like and how it feels. Her experience is a timely reminder that the fields are ripe for harvest – those with gentle words and steadfast love can expect a rich harvest.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

At the Movies, This Time with MOSES!

 
Moses’ life has captured another generation of filmmaker’s imagination. (Info.) Now, Christian Bale will portray this friend of God’s. (Exodus 33:11) It will be quite an opportunity for the actor and Ridley Scott , the director. Charlton Heston’s interpretation of Moses and Cecil B. DeMille’s vision of how Israel escaped Egypt shaped more of my early understanding of the Old Testament than any knowledge what the Bible said. (The Ten Commandments)

I’ve since studied Exodus; the second book in the Bible, and am looking forward the upcoming women’s Bible study this year – Out of Egypt – Israel’s Rescue and Ours. Every time I look over the highlights and notes in my Bible from other years, I learn something new – or see an application I’ve never seen before. (Hebrews 4:12) The Daily Walk Bible, a beloved devotional, describes its 40 chapters as a book of crying, complaining and consecrating. Moses is, of course, an important character. But God is the “leading man.”

How will Hollywood cast Him? Morgan Freeman? (Bruce Almighty, Evan Almighty)

Moses talked with God face to face – as a friend. Moses, and the Israelites, saw His mighty deeds – and tasted His blessing and chastening. They saw His power, and heard His purpose – so Pharaoh would know . . . there is no one like the Lord, our God. Pharaoh and all Egypt found out this God was different than those of Egypt’s.  So, did Israel.

Portraying the ten plagues and destruction of the Egyptian armies is just an extravaganza of special effects unless we are willing to consider God’s power, authority and character – the very attributes that can back off people from drawing closer to Him. The reality of suffering is never more apparent – its reasons can lead deep into darkness and despair. 

How can we understand Moses, and the Israelites, without understanding the God whom they worshipped? What is Moses’ story apart from God who spoke to him as a friend? Yes, his life is action-packed! Moses’ birth, adoption, and upbringing in Pharaoh’s household as a prince of Egypt are the stuff of fairy tales; his ignominious fall is Shakespearian! But Moses’ rescue . . . that is biblical. (Exodus 5:11-12)

How will Hollywood portray such a personal redemption? Ben-Hur’s redemption and restoration came close.

Moses lived a life that seems unrelated to mine; the Israelites lived through circumstances that seem dissimilar to what our local church experiences. What ties us together, however is the same infinite personal God who kept track of each of us, and knew when the time had come for our rescue. (Exodus 2:25)

Is this Hollywood’s mission? Maybe not.

This might be our job. How can we show that this leading Man – the God who called Himself, I AM , the One who preserved, rescued and commissioned Moses and you and me, and gave us a purpose,  is not an ancient idol, or a cultural myth?  Can I explain that in no more words than a text message to a young woman who is unexpectedly pregnant – or to a friend who got bad news from the doc – or to myself?

The story of Exodus, texted or tweeted – or as a re-packaged blockbuster – the question is still how do we live out are parts – especially when hearts are getting harder and harder?


·      What we worship determines what we become.
·      Circumstances never create character – they merely reveal it.
·      Give yourself to God, first, and then giving your possessions – and kids – will be easy. *





* Quotes from The Daily Walk Bible.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Mid August


Storms and rains recently restrained the triple digit temperatures, giving welcome relief – hinting that cooler days may come. Something in the air felt refreshing, when I ventured forth to collect the paper – short for newspaper, for those who may not partake in the anachronistic practice of reading the news on thinly pieces of paper, called newsprint.

In my 10th grade world history class, the teacher urged us to read newspapers, but warned us that it would take at least eighteen months of reading the news to understand the news.  This is just one of the nuggets I gathered from him.


The others included a survey exposing the hoaxes of the missing links between man and apes, and assessment of the distinctions between ancient Greece and Rome. (Greece was the real deal – Rome, the master imitator and adapter of Greece’s gifts.) Mr. Reifner never emphasized the Judeo-Christian roots that flourished along the same Mediterranean basin.  He was the first to introduce me to Edith Hamilton, whose works I was too immature to pursue then.  I don’t remember the textbook for class – some small paperback; for some reason, I think it was the same one Calvert School used in its curriculum for world history in the 6th grade curriculum. (by V.M. Hillyer)


But I remember his lectures. Carter Reifner’s reputation as a demanding instructor preceded him – so, I was nervous when I discovered he was my teacher.  However, his lectures were  like ambling along side a tour of a grand museum with a guide who knew and loved all the exhibitions. His world history classes, which did not go beyond Rome, left me with the impression current events are firmly anchored in the history of the ancients.


The headline today confirms that what happens in civilization’s cradle – Egypt – affects the world, still. (Death in Cairo-BBC) And the combatants’ determination has equally old origins. The Bible was never cited as a source in Mr. Reifner’s classes. However, it’s a useful source we might explore to better understand what’s behind the headlines.


Moses saw the conflict from afar when God showed him Abraham’s two sons – Ishmael and Isaac. (Genesis 21-22) Isaiah saw it a bit more plainly -- Isaiah 19. Egyptians are fighting each other – brothers and neighbors are killing each other, and cities against cities – and it is demoralizing!  (19:2-3) But Isaiah also comforts Egypt and the watching world – comfort that is the framework for all the woes that come upon those who oppose God.


The Lord will strike Egypt, and then he will bring healing. For the Egyptians will turn to the Lord, and he will listen to their pleas and heal them. (Isaiah 19:21-23 )


God, I pray for the people who are caught up in this conflict – including the leaders of my nation – that You would stop the carnage – and show Yourself Mighty and Merciful, drawing us all to Yourself.





 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Confession

 
I was taken in – the television commercial about the wonderfully light, transportable, retractable hose got me. This might be the answer to recurring wrestling match I have with the garden hoses, I thought! Tugging and hauling and then tripping over them is not as much fun as it used to be – especially since I learned a friend lost her round with her backyard hose and fell, breaking a hip and her wrist! So, I ordered two hoses and bought several for my kids and friends.  The hose seemed so sensible and inexpensive I simply had to share it – but those hoses had a design flaw – one that had been pointed out by other buyers on Amazon, but one I ignored. 

Instead of brass fittings, the lightweight hose had plastic connectors, unable to withstand the “pressures” of watering a few flow beds. Therefore, when watering the plants, I got watered, as water gushed from the connectors.  Then I pictured our kids and friends being similarly drenched – and winced. Some gift!

What I hoped would be helpful turned out to be a hassle. The amazing hose I thought could minimize the risk of falling, and make watering easier for others just showed me: don’t give cheap solutions to real problems – especially when a multitude of people before me, said This is doesn’t work!  But, so enamored was I with the hose’s possibilities, I ignored the warnings: save your money!

Wrestling again with my cumbersome old hose this morning, I wondered what the little lessons were in this little debacle. I saw three – clich├ęs, maybe – but good goads, nonetheless:

1.     Some things that look so good may be too good to be true. 
2.     Learn from other people’s experiences instead of repeating them.  And,
3.     Gardening, including its choice of tools – like life -- may convey risks among its many rewards.* 

And maybe I see a subsequent lesson: beware of giving cheap gifts assuming they might solve other gardeners’ problems. 

*Rewards of gardening that others describe well:

·      Gardening is not a rational act. ~Margaret Atwood
·      Hope never dies within a true gardener’s heart. ~author unknown - 
·      You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. ~Author Unknown