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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.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Falling Back



When told the reason for Daylight Saving time the old Indian said, "Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket."
~Author Unknown (quotegarden.com)

This Sunday we will lose the hour of sunlight we gained in spring, which we had lost last fall – having only regained the hour we lost in the previous spring – and so forth.

I wish I could lose at least sixty of those less than a stellar flash-by moments when I said something stupid, snarky, or sanctimonious. Or I wish I could fall back and regain the treasures that are often locked in humdrum minutes of what seem to be tedious days.

I think about this when I am resetting the clocks -- especially the electronic clock on the stove as I tap forward or backward minute by minute.  Maybe the best time to restrain or regain is now? 


How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?

~Dr. Seuss



Friday, October 24, 2014

Preparing for Thanksgiving 2014


As we soon head into November, preparing for a national holiday, Thanksgiving, I slipped into Grinch mode when I picked up the current Real Simple, a favorite magazine. They changed the name from Thanksgiving to Friendsgiving. I closed it, and gave it away.

I know, I know the day is often renamed Turkey –day or shortened to T-day, and I get that the fourth Thursday in November has become more about serving good food and having good times with friends. Thanksgiving kicks off the combo celebration, the Christmas holidays – a time whose origins are becoming as unfamiliar as Thanksgiving -- and is an accurate reflection of our nation’s values. (Secularism on the Rise) But changing the name, from Thanks- to Friends – bugged me.  

Maybe because the pictures of the table spread, dishes and food made me examine my gratitude, and how lavish my thanksgiving is for so much I take for granted.

Some churches believe they are under no obligation to observe what truly is a secular holiday, although couched in religious sounding jargon: a day to offer "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens" (A. Lincoln)

Others set the Wednesday evening before as a time of praise and fellowship, and thanksgiving to God. Growing up, our family went to church the Wednesday before Thanksgiving –because it was expected. Thirty-five years ago, we went to church the night before – because we wanted to – and we did so for decades, until we stopped, for a variety of reasons – all of which made sense at the time. 

Which is crazy.

I’ve reached the age and stage of life where getting out of bed and breathing is a gift! 

Do not take anything for granted — not one smile or one person or one rainbow or one breath, or one night in your cozy bed. ~Terri Guillmets

When unexpected circumstances bewilder me and often rob me of joy, and I feel boxed in by my age and stage -- being thankful steadies me: If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily. ~Gerald Good

Thankfulness is an essential of ours that makes an older person a pleasure to be around, or a pain. The mother of a friend knew her short-term memory was gone, and cheerfully acknowledged her deficit. And inevitably followed with an expression of thankfulness for her son, whom she said was better to her than twelve daughters. Her conversation was unfailingly loving, if repetitive.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. ~G.K. Chesterton

So, I guess I better stop grinching, and be grateful for the magazine that made me think about my own attitude.

Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, — a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.

~George Herbert



Thursday, October 23, 2014

What One Person Can Do

 
Unique Squash - Photo by W. Bagshaw
A lone gunman can do horrific damage. Just yesterday, apparently one gunman in Ottawa wrecked havoc and heartache, shooting a soldier to death before one man felled him.  (WSJ Report)

One man, Thomas Eric Duncan, died and exposed scary flaws in our health care system. 

A young man and a police officer clash, and America saw again how raw the wounds of racism are. (The Evidence so Far)

And one woman writes of her journey to and through cancer.  (Mundane Faithfulness) Blogger and author Kara Tippets asks questions that prod her readers to evaluate what each of us is doing in response to the situations we find ourselves – as if any one of us might make a difference in the crazy, chaotic world.

Be the Difference,” however, is the slogan of the West Dallas Community School, and it went deep into the heart of one young child who grew up to be blessing to his home-town.  Listening to alumnus Timothy Jackson, Dallas police officer,  speak at the annual school fundraiser, I also remembered an earlier conversation on public radio of a boy incarcerated in Angola prison in LA because he murdered his abuser. (KERA: Just Mercy)

One child rescued, one condemned.

What is wrong with this world?  In G.K. Chesterton’s words: I am.   

Kara Tippets described her young rebellious self that describes so many:  

. . . married to [our] bitterness, . . . looking for a reprieve from [our] spiraling story. An answer for [our] hurt. A truth. (The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the  Midst of Life’s Hard, page 29) 

The one person who prayed for Kara Tippets was her grandmother – for Timothy Jackson, his preservation began with his mother, and then his pastor’s wife.

One person does make a difference!

Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work."


The hunger for hope and the desire for things to be “fixed” are met in the one who, on Calvary’s Cross, bore our sin and shame, and rose again to offer new life and hope. Thus, the great hymn writer Augustus Toplady said it best: “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to your cross I cling.” We Fix Things

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Microbes Aren’t Our Biggest Problem


In the nineteenth century men lost their fear of God and acquired a fear of microbes. ~Author Unknown*
One headline about a deadly viral threat helps me breathe easier – Dozens in Dallas considered at risk freed from Ebola monitoring. Then I learn that one mosquito has been found to be a carrier of the West Nile virus in a neighborhood not too far from here.    

In the words of Charley Brown: “Good Grief”

Ebola and West Nile virus conjure feelings like a shroud of suffering and death is about to descend – surely I will see people dropping like flies! (Myself among them!)

Yet, when I calm myself down, and read, I see even bigger killers – flu, car crashes and skin cancer!  (NYT: Scarier than Ebola) Moreover, their power may be reined in with getting a shot, using a seat belt, and applying a sun block.  Alas, simply washing our hands after using  gas pump, grocery shopping, or  going to the bathroom is still not a universal practice! (People's Pharmacy -- We all Need to Wash our Hands!)

 Gross! 

(But shame on me for even looking at my phone when driving --  Six Times more Dangerous than Drinking)

We are too often our own worst enemiesThe invisible enemies, detected only by a microscope, terrorize us as relentlessly as our own willfulness, and Islamic radicalism. 

When triplets of terror rob me of sleep,  I look comfort in Scripture. Word to the wise – Amos is a sobering place to start – Damascus and Gaza, war-torn sites in today’s news, were in the prophet’s sight too.  Then he sees Judah, and Israel, and the disaster seems as inescapable as a pandemic, or holy war. His prophecies did not soothe my fears, I have to tell you! The Lord’s plans he saw were not for prosperity or peace! Just a tiny verse comforted, here and there: 

 Be good, flee evil—and live! Then the Lord, the Lord Almighty, will truly be your Helper, as you have claimed he is.   Hate evil and love the good; remodel your courts into true halls of justice. Perhaps even yet the Lord God of Hosts will have mercy on his people who remain. (Amos 5:14-15, The Living Bible)

Easier said than done in these crazy days when everybody demands freedom to do as they please. 

Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of the Beatitudes is like a cup of cold water:

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
(Matthew 5)

Christ Jesus gave His disciples real help how to live in uncertain times – when we are at the end of our rope, brokenhearted, scared, confused, conflicted and persecuted. He is a drink of cold clean water.   

19 Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer. 20 Will you permit a corrupt government to rule under your protection—a government permitting wrong to defeat right? 21-22 Do you approve of those who condemn the innocent to death? No! The Lord my God is my fortress—the mighty Rock where I can hide. 23 God has made the sins of evil men to boomerang upon them! He will destroy them by their own plans. Jehovah our God will cut them off. (Psalm 94:19-23Living Bible  TLB)




*The Quotegarden.com

Monday, October 20, 2014

Six Years Writing

On one of our adventures estate sailing in Dallas, I saw a display of more than a few unfinished canvases and baskets of wool and threads. A few were appealing possibilities. But why take on another woman’s unfinished projects when so many of my own await completion – and may become a cheerless part of our own “estate” sale?
 
Barely Scratching the Surface . . . 
I picked up needlepoint in January of 1970; I hoped needlepoint would help me stop smoking. But I learned I could do both. 

Also, the ambience of that first needlepoint shop -- now long gone--created an impression, wholly of my own imagination, that if I became proficient, my living room might be as lovely as the shop. Located off Dupont Circle in Washington DC  it was nestled in a former grand residence – of someone important in perhaps Teddy Roosevelt’s administration. I still recall the soft gray color on the walls complimenting the multitudinous carrels of colored wools surrounding racks of canvases; a splendid chandelier illuminated a large rectangular table with comfortable chairs.  

I remember the woman in the needlepoint shop who kindly showed me how to get started.  She made it look doable.

She didn’t show me how to correct my mistakes, though.

That was trial and error – and more error than anything else. I learned to use scissors and a seam ripper gently, lest I cut the canvas and create a hole. 

Now, I eventually stopped smoking, and I have completed several canvases. But I have accumulated quite a stash of unfinished canvasses – and so much thread!

I never work as fast as I think I will when schmoozing with the sales folk – nor as capably as others, whose work is displayed. I make mistakes -- some mistakes glare at me in the pillows I finished. Other times the mistakes crushed my enthusiasm and I just lost interest, or got distracted with other stuff. So, I have collected quite an assortment of canvases, not quite the equal of the estate sale display – but perilously close.

 Writing about this propensity to procrastinate in one area makes me face the fact I have put off finishing other projects. Or, I have shelved what was no longer exciting, creative and rewarding: from finishing too many books, and completing some paintings—not the only things on my to-do list. 

But chucking writing is something I won’t do, as long as the Lord allows. One of the reasons I started blogging was to work out some knots – and get comfortable writing about personal stuff – without whining. Or pontificating. (The first blogs)

It’s hard to do that. 

Writing helps me look at the tangles and knots on my life’s canvas – and my tendency for not finishing what I start.  Forcing myself to write turns out to be the best part – the act of writing turns out to be its own reward. (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, page 20.) “Good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are,” whether or not we ever get published!  (Lamott, p. 26)

Okay – it’s a given -- I am a knotted mess on the underside, a work in progress on topside.  That’s not news, and I am not special.  Writing helps me see  my  canvas, remembering all the stuff I have squirreled away for whatever reasons, and helps me feel a little compassion for other people who may have a design on their canvas – a trial, or burden – that has them tied up or bothered.

Maybe nobody ever told them even world-class artists make mistakes?

·      Or, nobody trained them how correct their mistakes?
·      Or, maybe they need a bit of encouragement, and praise for the work they are doing?
·      Or, maybe they need a bit of help – something I can give so they can finish the work at hand?    
·      Or, maybe they need encouragement to simply set their problems aside for a season?

Owning up to my knots -- admitting the failure, being willing to change, and then trying a better way – is a way of showing, we can correct mistakes without blowing holes in our lives  or the lives of others. 
  
They're not gray hairs. They're wisdom highlights. ~Author Unknown

·      You know you are getting old when it takes too much effort to procrastinate. ~Author Unknown


·      Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't. ~Pete Seeger

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Making Wise Choices

tharderdesign: February 2012
Over twenty five years ago, I heard Kay Arthur (Precept Ministries) describe what she thought would be the most perilous battle the church would fight – and it was not against the -isms that threatened us in the 20th century.  The antagonist she declared would be from within the homosexual community. I thought she was overreacting. But she had been in a northwestern state recently (1989-90) and had witnessed how heated local political campaign that ignited a debate over the rights of the homosexual community and the candidate who was a Christian.

 Was she overreacting or giving us an ample warning?

She might have been prescient. 

Pressure from the entertainment industry grows. Just recently, on a favorite TV show, Blue Bloods, I heard Tom Selleck’s character, Frank Reagan said what many Americans believe: "I do believe the [Catholic] Church is backwards on [gay marriage]. And of all the stands to hold onto. In the midst of the scandals of the past decade." 

A growing number of people outside the Catholic Church, and in other churches think so too. The social and political pressure on the church to embrace and sanction alternative sexual practices is mounting – all the best, most admirable people seem to have joined the chorus of being open-minded -- people do not want to be condemned for what they say they cannot help, their sexual identity.

Now, people with political power also have acted. The Houston Chronicle reported on October 14, 2014:

City attorneys issued subpoenas last month as part of the case's discovery phase, seeking, among other communications, "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession." City Subpoenas Sermons in Civil Rights Case

As the culture tries to force acceptance or even approval of homosexual practices, what is a wise and workable response from Christians who disagree?

1.     We can exercise our political freedoms guaranteed by the US Constitution, First Amendment.
2.     We can acquiesce, albeit sullenly.
3.     We can respect those who advocate a right to do as they please, and pray fervently and respectfully win them over.  

But, how do I navigate the choppy waters, which Kay Arthur anticipated?

Remember God didn’t die to leave me in charge – He let me live, to love and serve Him, and those He puts in my path. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)


My behaving the way God commands in the multicultural world the church now serves, may make an appealing a defense of the Gospel to one who is perishing. The cup of cold water everybody needs to hear is what Tim Keller declared: “sin doesn’t send you to Hell.  What earns that one-way ticket after this life is the sin under the sin; the sin that says I can be my own God.”  (Tim Keller on How to Treat Homosexuals) 



Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Internet and Faith

Source: technologyreview.com
If the number crunchers are right, Americans are walking away from religion – we prefer being spiritual – without the ball and chain of the GOD of the Bible. What’s happening?   

Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, . . .  says that the demise [of religion] is the result of several factors but the most controversial of these is the rise of the Internet. He concludes that the increase in Internet use in the last two decades has caused a significant drop in religious affiliation . . .

The drop in religious upbringing and the increase in Internet use seem to be causing people to lose their faith. But something else about modern life that is not captured in this data is having an even bigger impact. What can that be? . . . (How the Internet is Taking Away America's Religion)

An intriguing question –

We resisted getting on the Internet – mindful of its benefit, but fearing its power to distract our kids.  Well guess who got really distracted when we finally connected? (!)

Me!

Connecting in 1996, our business plans changed, as we evolved into marketing and selling our publications online, and I found the wonder of discussion boards. Logging into them, I found both comfort and conflict -- and I spent way too much time conversing with people in cyberspace, most often debating what I believed and why! These conversations became almost as important to me as everyday interactions! In time I laid aside debating – but communicating through my computer consumes a huge chunk of time – as I still hammer out what I think and why.

Wait . . . I hammer out what I think . . .

I . . . the first letter in idolatry, is it not? Could it be, that with as much evidence for debunking religion that the Internet provides, it is also a means and end for ignoring the simple requests God makes:

·      Look at the natural world and see His handiwork – (Psalm 19:1-5)

·      Look at His word – for in it I will find answers to heartache and pain. (Psalm 19:7-13)

·      Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength – love others as yourself.  Deuteronomy 6:5

Could it be that what man has created in the 20th century is just the latest, most powerful idol of our hearts, connecting us to all the little idols that have waylaid, confounded and confused in ages past?


 Let me post this to see what you think . . .

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Relinquishing Control of My Departure


It didn’t register that this might be the big thunderstorm we’d missed during the summer, until the airline gate agent urged us to hurry up and get on board because the pilot wanted to outrun the storm.  Now, I had known there might be a better than average chance of severe weather the day of our scheduled departure – but hey, it’d been dry here in Dallas for weeks.  So, we scurried on the plane – us and 123 other souls. (You can figure how fast we were moving if you have lined up for boarding and waited for those with carry on luggage!) But, buckled in, we felt a surge of hope as we felt the mighty plane back out of the gate, in just few raindrops.  
Visibility

We would beat this severe weather! 

But we stopped – out of nowhere, heavy rain made visibility zero; 65-75 mph wind gusts rocked the 737, and I thought, oh great – I will die in a plane crash as we are lifted up by a microburst and then pummeled back to the ground! Lightening illuminated the runway for an instant – the same bolt that blew out the power for 300,000 Dallas residents; thunder followed, and the plane returned to a new gate . . . and we slowly filed off, knowing we had out-run only our travelers’ luck.  

The storm was over quickly – our re-boarding took somewhat longer, six hours longer. You can fill in all the details, if you have enjoyed a similar storm related air-travel adventure. We boarded another flight – but that too was canceled. 

Joining now the tired exodus out of Love Field, we hailed a cab, and headed home to our powerless house; grateful the storm had blown out the high temperatures when it toppled trees. 

I considered just canceling our plans – but our luggage was no longer in our possession – and this trip was to a party that would never be held again. (THS Class of'64, fifty years later.)

We made it out the next day – and eventually reconnected with our luggage. 

But I got to thinking about the hope of trying to out run trouble – especially in light of a recent You-tube by Brittany Maynard – a young woman with brain cancer.  She is dying and wants to end her life on her terms.  I am old and certain kinds of death scare me – from what I have seen. I would like to outrun what I have seen others suffer.  And I know certain kinds of troubles – some folks can’t outrun, or solve on their own terms.    I am grateful that one who knows the unique path Brittany travels, reached out to her. (Kara Tippets

We all will be hit by something -- like our departing plane was; we will be rocked – and our plans will get canceled, the way our flight was. I don’t know why. I commend Christian Wiman’s words – they are steady light when the power is blown out by circumstances beyond my control.

The Mind of Dying

God let me give you now this mind of dying

fevering me back

into consciousness of all I lack

and of that consciousness becoming proud:

There are keener griefs than God.

They come quietly, and in plain daylight,

leaving us with nothing, and the means to feel it.

My God my grief forgive my grief tamed in language

to a fear that I can bear.

Make of my anguish

more than I can make. Lord, hear my prayer. ~ Christian Wiman

___________________________________________
Of Note -- from a Blog worth exploring: A Call to Doubt and Faith

Monday, October 6, 2014

Why I Went to This High School Reunion

The first couple of reunions didn’t sound big – but this one sure did – 50 years. Half century flew by since that night in June 1964 when we graduated from Towson Senior High school, the first wave of Baby Boomers to earn our high school diploma.

But what drew me to return and celebrate was not the milestone, so much as the friendships I have made and enjoyed – not everyone came; but for those who did, they made it quite a weekend for me, and for Doug.

These friendships taught me more about life than most of the classes I attended. (Mr. Carter, Miss Schaeffer, and Mrs. Meginnis were “friends” for another time.) We taught each other to wear make-up, do-up our hair, choose clothes, jewelry, and boy friends; together we figured out how we might get around our parents; we learned to smoke and  . . . other stuff.

In the decades that followed, we stayed in touch – usually sporadically, occasionally as roommates. We have tolerated each other’s quirks, and overlooked our failures cheered our successes, and been genuinely interested in each other’s paths.

Over fifty years, my friends became women who kept right on teaching – but on different subjects – like marriage, divorce; raising kids, and sometimes rearing them alone. They taught me what pursuing an education and a profession looks like; what recovery from alcohol abuse looks like – the cost of battling breast cancer; what caring for a dying spouse takes, and what living though widowhood demands. And they have taught me strategies for being the parents of adult children, even as we learned to take care of the parents we tried outsmarting.

We have laughed more than cried – as we commiserated over our aches and pains, and rejoiced in each other’s happinesses. This weekend was no exception!

The 50th Reunion was a super time – the people who planned it thought of many sweet touches, and because they did, we had a great excuse to come together, four of us this time, and do a little remembering, and a lot of laughing.


·      You can always tell a real friend: when you’ve made a fool of yourself [s]he doesn’t feel you’ve done a permanent job. ~ Laurence J. Peter

·      A true friend is one who thinks you are a good egg even if you are half-cracked. ~Author Unknown


·      A good friend is a connection to life — a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world. ~ Lois Wyse









Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Beware Using the F Words!


Kind words aren’t strangers when everything is going my way, like when when it’s a relatively quiet morning, and I can sip my coffee with no interruptions. It’s when I am crossed, that I default into sharp tones and cutting remarks. 

Three F’s have enabled me: fatigue, frustration and fear – they were a handy excuse to let ‘er rip.  God! I have said some bad things – and thought worse things. 

Reading an interview of a woman battling cancer triggered a flood of  memories of times I used F words to excuse my unkindness to my family or friends because I felt lousy.

The wonder is I can try again to speak with kindness. (Psalm 118:24) But with that wonder will also come an aggravation – the proportions of which I could use again as an excuse to use words as weapons.

Today, I read about a practical restraint.  Kara Tippetts*, facing the destruction cancer brings asked the elders in her church simply,  “. . . that I would not use illness as an excuse to be unkind to my family.” (Trusting God with Terminal Cancer)

·      When sleep eludes me, fatigue is not an excuse to be unkind to anyone, those closest to me.

·      When my body won’t cooperate, frustration is not an excuse to be unkind to anyone who is doing what I can’t.

·      When my mind wanders into too many what-if’s, fear is not an excuse to be unkind to anyone – especially because they, too, are walking through daunting or vexing times. 

In others’  words:

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

Don't be yourself — be someone a little nicer. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not. ~Samuel Johnson
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own
. ~Adam Lindsay Gordon