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 29, 2009

Follow-up on Granite Countertops

I have enjoyed the fall out conversations from my discovery that granite countertops may pose health risks. Some  granites have been reported to have higher radioactivity – perhaps creating a link to cancers. But, lo, and behold, I learned the science is not so definite and the warning may be tied to advertising wars: the countertop competitors may have magnified the scientific details. And this from the man who gave me the great deal.

One says there is a threat; another says the threat is without proof; which do I believe? If death, even a terrible death like cancer, is the result of acting on a seemingly innocent decision, what then?

My religion teaches that my days are numbered and known by my Creator; my Savior comforts me, assuring me worry will not add a thing to my life. (Psalm 139:16; Matthew 6:27) My Redeemer promises I will see Him, even after my skin is destroyed. (Job 19:25-27; John 11:25)

But,  my Friend asks me, as He asked Martha: “Do you believe this? " (John 11: 26) 

Martha confessed her faith, called her sister, and finally let the burial stone be rolled away, demonstrating her belief. (John 11:27-41)  My circumstances are not so dramatic as Martha’s, but, the Lord Jesus’ question remains. He wants to know if I believe He is the Life, the Conqueror of death and my Deliverer from its snares? Alas, it is a question I struggle with, even as I answer “Yes!”

We are remodeling a house that may well be around after we are not; we made improvements – granite countertops – which were formed and will endure after we die. Until Christ returns, this material world will outlast us. Yet, the life God promises me is more real than the granite, and will endure His fire –

My flesh argues; my heart replies – my hope defends and delivers me:
     "LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the extent of my days, Let me know how transient I am.

     "Behold, Thou hast made my days as hand breadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Thy sight, Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah.

    "Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches, and does not know who will gather them.

    "And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee.

    "Deliver me from all my transgressions; Make me not the reproach of the foolish.
    (Psalm 39:4-8)

And deliver me from my own foolishness – please.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Should I Start Smoking Again?

I quit my three-pack a day smoking habit thirty-nine years ago this Labor Day. This morning I discovered I may have introduced a potential carcinogen into our lives that is almost as deadly as smoking.

So, what have I done?  I put granite counter tops in our kitchen and bath.

The voguish folk tell me granite is good choice; science, though, has issued  a warning. Today, surfing the net,  I discovered that my economical, valuable solution  may pose a health risk comparable to smoking! Wikipedia says:
    “. . . Granite is a natural source of radiation, like most natural stones. However, some granites have been reported to have higher radioactivity thereby raising some concerns about their safety . . .     Radon gas poses significant health concerns, and is the #2 cause of lung cancer in the US behind smoking . . . ” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granite)
Something “natural” might be deadly?

Do we have, courtesy of Wikipedia, unexpected support for statements in Genesis 3 that the Fall was deeper and wider than we can imagine? That it distorted nature?  Builders, salesmen and scientists may disagree. But, I believe Scripture is right in saying that what God created as good, now groans under His curse. (Genesis 1:10, 3:17; Romans 8:22)   And what we promote as not just OK, but useful and cost-effective – see cigarette advertising before the Surgeon General’s report – may not be so fashionable, or wise. “. . .  What the world calls smart, God calls stupid. It's written in Scripture, He exposes the chicanery of the chic.” (1 Corinthians 3:19 from THE MESSAGE )

So when I am in my refurbished kitchen, preparing meals on a “natural” surface, I will be slightly disquieted, wondering if my penny-wise trendiness was so smart. I just hope they give me as much pleasure as the long pull on a Benson & Hedges I still dream about taking.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Remodeling This Far

Getting situated in our “new” home has been a series of starts, stops, and holding patterns. Buying our bungalow took almost three months of negotiations, and this in a down real estate market! Though the little house presented well, we understood it needed some repairs just to maintain its charm. So, we decided to address the problems before moving in. 

Planning and pricing  the remodeling work took another six weeks. The contractor kept saying he likes getting the work figured out beforehand as much as possible, so the sure-to-come glitches will be less likely to derail us.

The remodeling started slowly after Labor Day, picked up steam and last week roared along with roofers, foundation workers, carpenters, electricians, and painters. Promptly, they tore out rotting wood, redirected water from the foundation, upgraded wiring and discovered gas leaks. One of the genuine delights of the remodeling has been seeing so many craftsmen, whose full names I don’t know, who are equally thoughtful, careful, diligent and creative.  Even so, we have had those glitches: a sub measured the kitchen and bath counter tops incorrectly.

At first, I thought it might not matter, but waiting an extra ten days to two weeks for the new counter tops didn’t set well with the contractor who had scheduled the remaining work for back splashes, appliance installation, attic insulation, and floor refinishing.  His careful preplanning kept me from accepting a delay, and he directed me to a faster and more cost-efficient alternative.

Do  any of these daily adventures compare to remodeling of my heart without over spiritualizing the analogies? Just as remodeling sites are usually  messy, even when the workmen daily tidy up, I seem messy, even as I confess and repent. There have been spiritual fits and starts right along with real changes. I have misunderstood, miscalculated and misconceived God’s resources and my need. Worse, I have dallied on my inner remodeling site, putting off what I was supposed to be doing, preferring other work. And I have tripped up others by my faults.

While I am a new creature – by grace through faith – I remain a work in progress. God, the Builder has worked a unique plan, one that overcomes “glitches.”

    When someone becomes a Christian, [s]he becomes a brand-new person inside. [S]he is not the same anymore. A new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17 TLB)

    . . .  For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you do what he wants. (Philippians 2:12-13 TLB)
    'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD,' plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11  NASB)

Lord, I believe; Help Thou my unbelief!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Painful Ebenezer: Talking to a Computer

This week the pressures of overseeing our humble  remodeling effort have kept me moving, and in the past two days anger has swept over me, almost drowning me in emotional “in-bursts” and out bursts. What robbed me of my composure is one too many conversations with a mechanical voice.  Before I could speak to a person, I had to answer a computer’s questions; sometimes I lost track of the choices and had to start over; sometimes I heard way too much elevator music; once the computer hung up on me, and then my cell phone started ringing with a computer-generated notification of an appointment. Surely, I could maintain my composure simply conveying information to a machine?

Alas, not.

What I have thought and what I have said this week has been neither wise nor kind.  (Proverbs 31:26) And this week we began a study of Dr. Paul Tripp’s book, War of Words. Does God have a sense of humor or what?

Dr. Tripp described the purpose of words, using Proverbs 18:21 in a pointed paraphrase: Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit — you choose. (From THE MESSAGE ) God gave us words so we could, among other things, solve problems. (Can you imagine ordering phone service without using words?)

I had several problems this week – arranging work, ordering services and getting information – but how I chose to use my words, spoken and unvoiced, brought a bitter harvest. No computer held a gun to my head, demanding I think or speak rudely; I chose, either to think, or to say unkind, unwise words. More than once, I yelled  – at  a computer – to make a point; worse, I used words as if no one else could hear, souring my tone when a real, live person finally came on line.

So, how far have I come this week? (1 Samuel 7:12) I am learning again, Someone listens, and He hears even my unspoken words.

“May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing even to you, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer  ” – even when I am answering a computer’s questions. Let me use Your gift of  words so I might be prepared to speak with wisdom and winsomeness to the next person you place in my path. (Psalm 19:14 TLB)

All rather ironic given my comments on Rep. Wilson , huh?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

So Far Around the Bend, I Missed the Curve.

Coming into the house, chatting on my cell, I dump my purse on the steps, and start searching for my cell phone so I can be sure and plug it in. I mean for almost two minutes I searched those pockets madly while keeping up a conversation on the missing phone.

What does this mean?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Current Events – Saying You Are Sorry to All the People You Offended.

When Representative  Joe Wilson  responded to the President’s assertion that illegal aliens would not be entitled to health care, he shouted, “You lie!” This assertion offended the President, the Congress, his South Carolinian constituents, and me. He apologized to President Obama who graciously accepted it. However on a news program Representative Wilson declared his refusal to apologize to anyone else and cited his civility.

The U.S. House of Representatives sit because of the shed blood of millions of Americans. I hope Rep Wilson will take the next step and apologize setting a concrete example of civility

Christ warned his followers that if you even suspect someone has something against you, make it right. (Matthew 5:23-25) It’s good advice for all of us – regardless of religion.

If I blow it, onlookers are sometimes as wounded as the person who was the brunt of my frustration. Taking the time to think about what I said and whom I may have harmed is time well spent; and having the courage to ask forgiveness from all whom I offend  – without inserting excuses – is part and parcel of being blessed by God. (Matthew 5:9)
Seven A's of Confession (From Peacemaker Ministries)
As God opens your eyes to see how you have sinned against others, he simultaneously offers you a way to find freedom from your past wrongs. It is called confession. Many people have never experienced this freedom because they have never learned how to confess their wrongs honestly and unconditionally. Instead, they use words like these: "I'm sorry if I hurt you." "Let's just forget the past." "I suppose I could have done a better job." "I guess it's not all your fault." These token statements rarely trigger genuine forgiveness and reconciliation. If you really want to make peace, ask God to help you breathe grace by humbly and thoroughly admitting your wrongs. One way to do this is to use the Seven A's.

   1. Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)
   2. Avoid if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs)
   3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)
   4. Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
   5. Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution)
   6. Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions)
   7. Ask for forgiveness

See Matthew 7:3-5; 1 John 1:8-9; Proverbs 28:13.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Cost of Ownership

Time lost is too rarely realized as an irreplaceable gem until it is long gone from its setting.  A downside of our recent yard sale was the growing awareness that managing my stuff foreclosed being with people: no time to dally over coffee, take a long walk, shoot the breeze, or ask a question. No, I had to be about hauling, sorting, discarding, keeping, selling repositories of my memories, while the most valuable commodity I had – time with folks I love – slid away.  A hidden price of my treasures cost me time with my husband, a conversation with my daughter; the cost kept me from listening to my son, watching my grandchildren, and calling a friend. If I had known this unseen but real cost of all the possessions –  slated for disposal – would I have been so ready to buy? 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Yard Sale Ebenezer

This time last week we faced an enormous task: emptying a 10x10 storage locker, moving it to our former home, sorting, pricing and preparing for a yard sale, scheduled for the same day a hurricane was due to visit Maryland. Now, the day before, when flying up from TX, we enjoyed a smooth flight – with an empty seat on our row! Then we relaxed with kids and grand-kids, girding our loins so to speak for the “reveal” day.

So, Thursday a week ago, we rented a truck, and began unpacking the contents of the storage locker; what did not go home, went into a locker one-fourth the size.  Two friends pitched in; our daughter-in-law gave up her last days of summer vacation before beginning a new academic semester and joined the insanity wholeheartedly: loading, moving, unloading. Then, our daughter and son-in-law’s living room and porch became a mountain of Smith clutter. And the sorting began: this stays, this goes, this is trash; the “this” was a pile of priceless pieces of a long and happy marriage.

Friday dawned – the sorting continued while the pricing began. What’s realistic? What’s not? We had some help from an antique dealer who gave us a few bottom lines, and educated us: some stuff we thought was valuable were just decorator pieces; some stuff we thought was knock-offs were the real deal. Throughout the run-up to the sale, we tended a busy three-year-old and eighteen months-old who doesn’t know how to walk; he runs! Our daughter-in-law brought crafts and kept some semblance of quiet.  We worked until 10:30 P.M.; my daughter, taking the occasion to purge her “collection” worked until midnight! Projections of bad weather the day of sale slowly became firmer.  Did we have a fall-back plan if rain was a reality on Saturday? No.

Saturday, the big day began at 6:00 A.M. We awoke to a  humid morning, hints of sun shining through clouds; our son-in–law had secured tables for us, so we  quickly began transferring the inside on my daughter’s home to the front lawn. Buyers showed up at 7:15 – before we finished unpacking. The cloudy skies were a mercy; the humidity was not.  Sell, sell, sell – you offer, we deal – that was my mind set, closing my mind to the memories. That is, until one yard-sailor demanded how badly I wanted to get rid of a carpenter’s chest? I preferred consigning it. By one we had loaded up the truck and deposited what was not sold to the Salvation Army. Our unsold books went to the A.A.U.W.  And nary a rain shower!

Then,  we collapsed – taking a long nap!

Was such an effort worth it? Money -wise, we made some. But it wasn’t the money that made Thursday, Friday and Saturday worth it. (Next time I have the urge to purge, my “junque” goes to Salvation Army directly!)  What made these three days great for me was the people who helped and those who came to the sale – the helpers’ time, kindness and strength were invaluable. And those who came to sale, some shared genuine compassion, understanding what it means to “downsize.”  We also got to see friends we hadn’t seen in many years, who promised to give our stuff good homes.

Some of the lessons of the last week  are still percolating – but, given all the possible problems, I know God heard the  prayers for us – His kindness was overwhelming! From giving us many loving, helping hands, re-routing the rain, to having a good time with kids and grand kids – to getting rid of stuff we can no longer use, God is surely kind.