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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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Backed up Plumbing



Our backyard grass has a big new gash – and not because of the heat and drought. We had a sewer back up. I won’t detail how we discovered this problem. A seventy –four years old house in Dallas is bound to have problems, even given a few major renovations. Seven decades ago, houses had clay or iron pipes that carried waste from the house to the miracle of city sewers. And the lots, upon which those houses were built, having been created from the division of land that had been cotton farms, needed trees. Those trees and other plantings developed roots and other debris that created problems in those pipes, buried four feet under in our back yard. And we had to correct a portion of such a problem.

Or, more accurately, [we had to] hire someone who knew how to dig a deep trench, extract the clay pipe, and replace it with a PVC extension.  The professional also recommended using a chemical routinely to discourage further interior growth.

Assuming the lines may have been replaced in earlier renovations was wrong.  Discounting the distance downward tree roots can run compounded the problem. 
Roots running deep can entangle themselves around deeply laid pipes. Sometimes they can wrap so tightly around the pipe they crush it. Or, their tenacious tendrils will invade a poorly secured joint, invading the interior of the pipe, and clog it, obstructing the evacuation of waste from the house.   

Looking at the gash in the back yard, remembering how deep the plumbing problem was – and how useless the old clay pipe was – reminded me of my part in squabbles and fallings out. 

These impulses – assuming and discounting – can create emotional and spiritual back-ups. Our hearts and minds can become as sewer pipes, caught in the grip of roots and debris, crushed from the outside or clogged from the inside with deep hurts and wounds.  Sometimes professionals can step in and help resolve the problems, but too often we may stuff the hurts of unresolved misunderstandings, disagreements and disappointments – assuming it is in the past, or discounting the harm we may have contributed.  Having both southern and Irish roots – I can brood or wrap myself in self-righteousness and wholly discount how I might have hurt someone, or I assume they knew I was only joking.

Owning my part in a misunderstanding, argument, failure, or other interpersonal debacle is hard – especially when the other person is being the real jerk! However, my program says it’s not about what some one else does.  (Step 10)

What matters is what I do – And I can control myself, just for today.

So, when I am wrong, even if provoked, admit it -- Never ruin an apology with an excuse.  ~Kimberly Johnson

Deep down inside, I’d rather chew nails on most days than own my part in a conflict. However, believing that repaired is much better than ruined: I am learning not to choke on three little words: I was wrong.

An apology is the superglue of life.  It can repair just about anything. ~Lynn Johnston

Hopefully the grass will repair itself – not sure if apologizing to it would work.

Need help apologizing? Here’s a link to how to begin. SEVEN STEPS: How to Offer a Credible Apology

Other thoughts on why excuses convince few others than ourselves.


·      The Mug's Last Lesson

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bible Study . . . Again



Autumn nears – and I will return to a group of women to study the Bible; this year it’s Exodus. And I am rereading The Gospel According to Moses, by Athol Dickson. All during a time when ancient countries like Egypt, Syria and Israel are current events.
For many years, I thought I knew what Exodus was about because I had seen the Charlton Heston version. When I finally read the book, and moved beyond the flannelgraph story, I learned the connection between Passover and Communion. (No kidding, even though I was “churched,” I had missed the part about why blood, and not wine, is central to relating to God. Hebrews 9:22)

I learned about Israel’s attraction to idols, even in the midst of God’s miracles and Law. They had seen and heard God’s power; they knew what He required – and they still wanted to worship gods of their own imagination – a persistent problem that plagued the Israelites.

And I have learned their problem and mine are quite alike:  I am prone to whine and wander!  Knowing what Scripture says – and does not say – is so important – but sometimes I feel like the Israelites: Manna again(So, You Wanna Go Back to Egypt?)

So, why study what I think I know?   

First – because I can. I have the right to learn about my religion. Years ago we met Egyptian Christians studying how we taught English in high schools in the United States, and they were flabbergasted that with all our freedom of religion here, we did not take advantage of it in sharing our faith.

Second – because, again, I can. I still have my wits about me, and the wherewithal to take some time and study what God did, so that I might understand what He is doing. Moreover, I might be able to encourage or be encouraged by other desert-trekkers.  A kind, edifying word can be as refreshing as a cup of cold water.

Third – because I still usually prefer my own way – and I don’t have another forty years to wander in deserts of my own making. (Isaiah 65:2)

But, fourth – I still have questions. And Moses questioned God. Athol Dickson described why some abandon faith:

“ . . . I abandoned my faith because t seemed I had no right to question difficulties, much less expect answers. I had been taught to accept ready made-dogma rather than to personally take my doubts to God.
 . . . God loves a good question.”  (The Gospel According to Moses, p. 17)

Exodus isn’t only about supernatural acts, or commandments that are impossible to keep; it is about real people – whose desert trek to worship their God turned into something nobody anticipated. All of which raises questions.  

So  – I am approaching the study in Exodus, thinking what it must have been like for an “older” woman to leave Egypt, not knowing if she will get to the Promised Land.   Real women had been enslaved in Egypt – they suffered, because of injustice and oppression; because of persecution and personal failure – women contributed their gold for the making of that abominable calf! (Exodus 32)  They whined, complained, and longed for the good old days, right along with their men – teaching their daughters and sons very poor lessons.

I’d like to offer better lessons and be a better companion. (Joel 2:25-27) But, this raises questions -- a bunch of questions.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

On Being Rebuked





Russian President Vladimir Putin (Yuri Kochetkov/REUTERS)
It hurts -- especially when it comes from an adversary. But what really galls is when the rebuke has truth in it, truth we cannot dismiss as just a dig.

It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.  (Mr. Putin's Op-Ed NYT)

It stung; it made me mad, and many Representatives and Senators expressed their outrage. Social commentators and comics right away mocked Mr. Putin’s dismissal of the homosexual rights agenda as the a log in his eye. (Matthew 7:3)

But Americans and American Christians should pause and consider that indeed the world is on equal footing before a holy God who is our Creator and Sustainer. (John 1:3; Psalm 145) And nobody has an excuse for any of our conduct.

Americans and American Christians have done exceptional things in our brief history on this continent – and we have done some shameful things. We have fought and died for the well being of others, and we have stood by while others were harmed – worse,  some Americans, claiming to be Christians, have harmed people whom we should have protected. I believe we do very much more good than evil; but even a scintilla of wrongdoing undermines our standing before God.

It hurt to be rebuked by a man who himself is no stranger to strong-arm, cruel machinations – but from whom would we tolerate such demanding words?

God spoke through creation – the Bible, and spelled out the problem to Belshazzar, that described all our problems: we have been weighed, and found wanting. (The Writing on the Wall)

Being exceptional does not impress God; no amount of doing good can fix what we have broken – for what we broke belongs to Another. (Psalm 24)

I am praying our leaders aren’t paying lip-service to God; for America, and all citizens; for Syria and those within her borders and for Russia, and all her citizens. And for that matter, I pray that for thee and me, gentler reader – for it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)

Today many of us have a breathing space – let’s not harden our hearts to the truth, even it comes from a man we distrust. We are all equal before God – and I am not sure that’s much to boast about.

 But God's angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth . . . They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives . . .  (Romans 1:18-31 The Message)

Mr. Putin, whether he understood or not, spoke the truth – Thank God for the Cross!

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Drought Tolerant

 
Words have specific meanings, meanings that communicate ideas, which have consequences, right?

My understanding of some words, however, is not always surefire – sometimes what I want words to mean can override their basic definition.   This also is not without consequences.

For example, drought tolerant on the tag introducing a plant or flower means the plant can tolerate a little more heat and dryness than say, impatiens. Hoping to have an easy to care for garden, one that would not require much effort, in previous years, when I saw drought tolerant—sun tolerant, I interpreted from the description they could live without regular watering.  I read planting instructions with my desires decoding the meaning instead of common-sense gardening instructions:

All plants . . . have drought tolerant potential both from results in trials and what is inherent in the genetics. Remember that Florida drought and Arizona drought are different animals. Dry with drought is different from humid with drought; this terminology is relative to your region, so use caution when using this information.

ALL plants need at least 2 weeks of regular frequent watering to become well established in the landscape, longer for larger pots and shrub lines. NONE . . . will do well watered once at planting and never watered again. (What Some Say – emphasis added)

Such redefinitions have never borne flowers in Maryland or Texas!  But I see an analogy or two flourishing, that caution me.   If relying on my own definitions because I am lazy can wither plants, such habits may wilt even hardy friendships.  Too many plants suffered because what I wanted from them – to flourish without much help from me – was altogether unrealistic.  No friendship does well without watering.  

Following is a simple layout for a garden that will bear fruit. It’s old-fashioned but her gardening advice, gleaned from a favorite quotes’ site, overflows with words whose meaning have great consequences. 


A GARDEN, by Eugenie Prime

For best results, this garden should be planted every day:
Five rows of "P"eas:
Preparedness,
Promptness,
Perseverance,
Politeness,
Prayer.

Three rows of squash:
Squash gossip,
Squash criticism,
Squash indifference.

Five rows of Lettuce:
Let us love one another,
Let us be faithful,
Let us be loyal,
Let us be unselfish,
Let us be truthful.

Three rows of turnips:
Turn up for church,
Turn up with a new idea,
Turn up with the determination to do a better job tomorrow than you did today

                                                                        ~

Kind hearts are the gardens,
Kind thoughts are the roots,
Kind words are the flowers,
Kind deeds are the fruits.
Take care of your garden
And keep out the weeds,
Fill it with sunshine
Kind words and kind deeds.
Longfellow

                                                                          ~

The centre of trouble is not the turbulent appetites -- though they are troublesome enough. The centre of trouble is in the personality of man as a whole, which is self-centred and can only be wholesome and healthy if it is God-centred. ~ William Temple(1881-1944)  

And I have had the empty pots and bedraggled beds to prove it. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Book Review


A Jane Austen Devotional



Although one reviewer called this book pabulum, I say pabulum is a good and necessary source of nutrients for folks at certain ages and stages. Approaching a second run at childhood, I welcome an opportunity to reacquaint myself with characters, their times, and setting, and their conduct -- descriptions that have engaged so many readers for so long.

Its author, Stephanie Woolsey, connects basic living truths in good literature to the Truth by which Christians live. It may displease some readers, but it pleases me for a couple of reasons:

*            The topics in the Table of Contents  -- maybe 100 in all – are the hot buttons with which we struggle, in and out of the church, such as:

·      Evaluating Your Focus 
·      Stirring Up Trouble
·      Developing Self-Control 
·      Letting Go of Worry
·      Justifying Compromise
·      The Art of Good Timing 
·      An Honorable Legacy

*            The compiler first allows the reader a refreshing reminder of Jane Austen’s words, showing  character matters; so do good manners, and healthy thoughts. Then, she offers an easily digestible commentary on the scene or characters so beloved by Miss Austen’s readers. Ms. Woolsey finally anchors her view to a line from Scripture. 

The volume may be as unfussy as a dish of pabulum.  For those of us those who might like an easy way to digest harsh reminders of how silly we can be, and how noble a few are, though, this volume is a good tonic.

Christians who write will enjoy seeing how Jane Austen’s characters and stories edify and entertain without preachy prose.  In Ms. Woolsey’s words:

Jane did her readers a great service when she used the gift that God gave her to touch the world with her writing and wisdom. May each of us do the same with our own talents.


Friday, September 6, 2013

I Remembered!




What is THIS?
When we came back from Maryland, I was overwhelmed to see how well one large pot of flowers had boomed – but I could not for the life of me remember what it was! I had started some flowers from seeds, transplanted others and rejoiced other flowers had simply made it thought the mild winter – what was this lush, flowering plant?

It stumped me for weeks! And nobody else seemed to know, including a couple of friends with gardening skill!

Yesterday, it popped into my head.  A friend had given a baggie full of dried flowers from her garden that she had gotten from her mom!  She had assured me that bachelor buttons were both hardy and prolific, even in Texas summers.

I remember now burying them about an inch into potting soil in a large container, not knowing what exactly to expect -- thinking when I buried them, this might not work.  But I watered a pot of dirt until we left for Maryland in mid June.   And somehow, they survived in the sun and heat with whatever drops of rain that fell in our absence. These are a hardy lot!

This forgetting and remembering made me think of a bit of shared wisdom between a friend and me years ago – “Sometimes, we will not get out of the deserts in which we find ourselves, until we like the taste and feel of sand.”  Now, that may seem as dodgy a bit of wisdom as those dried flowers seemed a possibility of vibrant color in my garden – that insight has helped me, nonetheless.  

I buried the wisdom, watered it with the truth that God inhabits the praises of His people, and I have seen unexpected blessings bloom, in her life, in others and in mine. But I often forget this – as I forgot planting the dried flowers, and their name. I forget that God can bring forth beauty from unexpected, even forgotten places.

But from a desert?

When I became a Christian, I didn’t bargain on desert treks – long periods of grief, fear, troubles, and setbacks; feelings of separation from God and estrangements from loved ones.  Although warned I would make them, I thought I had secured a spot in a safe oasis that would shelter me until . . . whenever. And this is where my friend’s experiences, strength and hope helped me – she told me of her desert trek, invited me to join a praise choir as she and her family were on a brutal journey.

Deserts are scary places – my idea of fun still would never be what some do – exploring and camping in the desert as one couple did in the Tunisian desert. (Paul and Sheryl Shard’ pictures from Distant Shores) They found beauty, wonder and adventure – and some danger. But they made it through, and loved their adventure, even recommending it.  
And I can commend such a walk with God . . . knowing that no desert, either a spiritual or a literal desert, is without hazard, deprivation, and even terror.  But this desert is the one place where God can show us stuff about ourselves we would learn nowhere else. (Deuteronomy 8:2) And this spiritual desert is where we can learn the excellent provisions of His grace that the world’s oases can obscure.

God, help me remember this when I forget so many other things! 

Tunisian Desert DISTANT SHORES

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Other People’s Opinions




An early “boomer,” I know that whites must needs be put away today.

. . . [E]ven though the rule was originally enforced by only a few hundred women, over the decades it trickled down to everyone else. By the 1950s, women’s magazines made it clear to middle class America: white clothing came out on Memorial Day and went away on Labor Day. (Why you CAN’T wear white after Labor Day)

No kidding – nobody I knew in Maryland ever wore white after the first Monday in September. Even as a hippie, I put away the white. But in Texas, where weather is hot, hot, hot sometimes until mid October, that rule has some flexibility in it.

But I can’t shake the idea that wearing a white watch, shoes or slacks, or using a white bag is a faux pas.  Me, who managed to ditch much bigger social conventions so that I might be me. Choosing to be hide bounded to silly “rules,” while ignoring God’s Law isn’t an impulse that disappeared when I became a Christian. Other people’s opinions are powerful and personal influencers.

I [still] want to be liked.

In these times when folks are quick to spot my hypocrisy, I need a continuing education class on conduct and conscience.  A blogger* collected several descriptions of how Solomon saw fools, and said as one reads the verses, they should ask: 

  • In what ways am I like the fool?
  • How can I learn not to be a fool but instead to be wise? *What is a Fool? 

The first three descriptions from Proverbs 1 follow and remind me I never to old to learn better ways to live  --

·      1:7
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
·      1:22
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
·      1:32
For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them.





Be open-minded, but not so open-minded that your brains fall out
~Stephen A. Kallis, Jr.


Another rumination on the “End” of Summer  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Another Lesson from the Garden


A Gardening Lesson from the Crepe Myrtles
 
An Unexpected Tutor
For a few minutes this morning, I enjoyed our back porch – something the weather and health has precluded. (I mean, when the air feels hotter than the coffee in my cup, who needs that?) But, this morning, we have been bathed and refreshed by a gentle persistent rain. 

What pleasantly surprised me when I sat down was the change in the row of crepe myrtles along the back fence of the garden. Weeks ago, before our “house arrest,”  they seemed almost barren of blossoms. Since they are mature trees, I wondered if the hot, dry weather were inflicting too much pain on them. But no – they boomed!  And I had missed it because their blossoms are above eye level when I look out the kitchen window.  I may see the new plants that thrive in the heat – but they are not all there is to see in the garden.

Noon is approaching – and the sun’s return is imminent and with it, the hope of being out and about in the garden for long spells ebbs.  But I enjoyed this respite – and the reminder:  hot dry spells help crepe myrtles do well!

And the testing of this day – or the next, which may feel like a desert --  isn’t an excuse for me drying up personally or spiritually.

“Finding comfort in the Lord doesn’t make all the discomfort go away.”* 

Maturity of mind is the capacity to endure uncertainty.
~ John Finley
 (An English historian and mathematician)

 Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
    they will remain vital and green.
 They will declare, “The Lord is just!
    He is my rock!
    There is no evil in him!” (Psalm 92:14-15 ~ NLB)



*An apt quote from a favorite blog, and the speaker tied her comment to Psalm 27.