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, January 20, 2010

How’s Your Hearing?

What the Haitian people have endured since January 12, 2010 is unimaginable. In the past week, I have heard that women, just like me, one minute were going about their business, the next, suffering atrocious anguish and indignities – losing loved ones or their lives, everything they valued. One woman lost her five children – and her mind. I have heard that more than 200,000 people may have lost their lives and another 1.5 million were made homeless; 3 million people risk infection. And I heard the numbers could change – will change –  this time tomorrow or next week. I have also heard about courage and charity.

How could the poorest of the poor been so afflicted? Or, did they bring this on themselves?

Predictably, some prominent churchmen speculated that the earthquake was God’s judgement on Haiti.  For those tempted to point a finger, remember how many point back! Occultism and pretend churches are just two problems in every nation, in every city and community – and God urges churchmen to listen to what the Spirit says to the churches – while there is time. (Revelation 1-3)

To whom will I listen?

Luke heard the Lord Jesus said:
  "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
"Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?
  "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."  (Luke 13:3-5)

I hear some ask, then, “Does God ‘cause’ disaster?”  He says He does – and how can anything ever happen without His “permission” if He is Lord?  (Jeremiah 32:34)

I have heard and believe  God is deeper and bigger – more than even the word “Holy” conveys. (Psalm 62) His being strikes a form of  terror in me – even as Job said (40:4) and as Isaiah responded. (Isaiah 6)

I hear Isaiah say, God is "Mighty to save." (Isaiah 63:1)

C.H. Spurgeon wrote that:
By the words "to save" we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification. The words are multum in parro: indeed, here is all mercy in one word.

Christ is not only "mighty to save" those who repent, but He is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but He is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of His name to bend the knee before Him . . .  Whether to begin with others, or to carry on the work in you, Jesus is "mighty to save;" the best proof of which lies in the fact that He has saved you. What a thousand mercies that you have not found Him mighty to destroy!

O God! Please be mighty to save – save so many more today – even those trapped in literal and spiritual chaos.

So turn to me and be helped — saved! —  everyone, whoever and wherever you are. I am GOD, the only God there is, the one and only. ( Isaiah 45:22 from THE MESSAGE )

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The photos

It’s the pictures of the children . . . the babies and toddlers who were saved, and the ones who did not . . . that testify to the depth of the horror of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Thank God or the photographers who captured the grief, the sorrow, the joy – What was so important before the quake, how important is it today?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Heroism – “Doe The Next Thynge.”

Atticus Finch in  To Kill a Mockingbird  defined heroism:

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.  It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.  You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”   (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 11)

Two real women come to mind who modeled this description – Miep Gies and Elisabeth Elliot.   
By 1942, Miep Gies was licked – the Nazis had occupied her country, Holland, since 1940. A gun would not have helped her defy so mighty a force. But, she did what she could to save a few lives, humans who were marked for destruction because they were Jewish. She was a secretary of Otto Frank and she took a risk, hiding him and his family and a few others, and continuing to do what she did on a daily basis.  She said:
"Imagine young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary."

Indeed she was an office secretary, one who defied the Nazi occupiers, and hid the family for two years, simply doing the next thing.  Here’s the full story.

In 1955, Elisabeth Elliot, too, was licked when she received word her husband, Jim and four other men were speared to death in the jungles of Ecuador. (Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and their pilot, Nate Saint also perished) She had no gun; widowed, the mother of a toddler, she lived among the very people who slaughter her husband and fellow workers. Like Miep Gies, she got on with her work and mothering.

In her own words: (Emphasis added)
When I went back to my jungle station after the death of my first husband, Jim Elliot, I was faced with many confusions and uncertainties. I had a good many new roles, besides that of being a single parent and a widow. I was alone on a jungle station that Jim and I had manned together. I had to learn to do all kinds of things, which I was not trained or prepared in any way to do. It was a great help to me simply to do the next thing.

Have you had the experience of feeling as if you've got far too many burdens to bear, far too many people to take care of, far too many things on your list to do? You just can't possibly do it, and you get in a panic and you just want to sit down and collapse in a pile and feel sorry for yourself.

Well, I've felt that way a good many times in my life, and I go back over and over again to an old Saxon legend, which I'm told is carved in an old English parson somewhere by the sea. I don't know where this is. But this is a poem which was written about that legend. The legend is "Do the next thing." And it's spelled in what I suppose is Saxon spelling. "D-O-E" for "do," "the," and then next, "N-E-X-T." "Thing"-"T-H-Y-N-G-E."

The poem says, "Do it immediately, do it with prayer, do it reliantly, casting all care. Do it with reverence, tracing His hand who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing, leave all resultings, do the next thing." That is a wonderfully saving truth.  Just do the next thing!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Burned Out?

“Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” 
(Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

In the row of four walkway lights, leading to our front door, one non functioning bulb was obvious and upsetting. We just installed those!

Finding a LED  replacement bulb seemed an easy task. Proceeding down to the local Lowe’s, I anticipated no problems. However, a few cropped up – beginning with the fact, Lowe’s has (at least) two separate displays devoted to light bulbs – and in both displays, the LED bulbs are stored behind displays, in small packages, with small print.

The first cheerful, helpful sales associate directed me to a humongous display of bulbs, found one that matched the size of my burned out bulb, assuring me, this was the one; I did not read labels, for it matched the size and  shape of the one clutched in my hand. However, it  cost over six dollars, for a fixture that was less than twenty dollars!

Wavering, I moseyed over to the outdoor fixtures’ aisle  just for curiosity sake.

The sales associate in this department was also friendly but not so confident about finding a replacement bulb from another considerable large array of choices.  This area was not as well lighted as the previous display; the packages were harder to see. After the first attempt, he recommended going to a speciality light bulb store across town (a direction not helpful to a newcomer to a big city like Dallas). I then expressed my frustration that  Lowe’s would sell a fixture and no replacement bulbs! So, he searched around for other bulbs, from a series of small bins labeled with hard-to-read characters.

I then checked the box of a fixture similar to the ones we installed, and  my problem was not simply getting the right bulb and being certain it was an outdoor replacement bulb – but making sure the bulb was the proper voltage. The sales associate retrieved one; the price was better: three dollars for two bulbs. As I had become a more discerning reader of lilliputian letters, I examined the package of light bulbs the other sales associate showed me, comparing it to the packages in this department. Though the right shape and size, I now saw the former was for indoor fixtures. Therefore, though it had been recommended  confidently, it was not a match.

I am often like that row of lights leading to our front door – part of me is burned out; I shouldn’t be – but I am.  And it’s as obvious as an unevenly illuminated walk. Not only am I unattractive, I can trip other people up.   Somebody needs to replace me! 

Scripture says rest – (let God) take care of my body. (1 Kings 19)

Scripture says rest – (let God) take of my spirit. (Isaiah 30:15)

Scripture says rest – (let God) take care of my heart. (Isaiah 139:23-24)

Maybe  I  should  let God – do for me what only He will, so that light comes back on?  (Psalm 51-12-13) 

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Blessing of SKYPE

Though I didn’t know my grandmother well, I knew she lived in a small town in Jonesville South Carolina. This morning I learned where my little grandson thinks I live. His dad pulled out his laptop, and Jack started pointing at it, squealing, “Mimi! Yea Mimi!”

Could my grandmother have imagined the technology – like skype – I take for granted? 

She enjoyed several fruits of technology, early 20th century.  My grandmother’s children saw to it that her home had indoor plumbing, a washing machine, and a brand spanking new electric range; she had used a privy, boiled her sheets in a large black cauldron, and fried chicken on a wood stove.

Could she have imagined the whirlpool in my bathtub, albeit two decades old? What would she have thought of my  washer and dryer that does a load of  sheets in less than one hour? Having watched her catch, kill and clean a chicken which she then floured and plopped into Crisco, how would she like the local carry-out that makes the guilty pleasure, fried chicken, a breeze? And what would she think of a microwave – or a coffee pot that turns itself on and off?

I knew where she lived, and I saw her occasionally – but I never had a conversation with her about what she thought. She played the piano, though, and I remember her playing “The Old Rugged Cross.” Perhaps that’s the closest we came to a conversation – but it is a memory that goes very deep.
        “. . . One generation shall praise Thy works to another,
    And shall declare Thy mighty acts.
    On the glorious splendor of Thy majesty,
    And on Thy wonderful works, I will meditate.
    And men shall speak of the power of Thine awesome acts;
    And I will tell of Thy greatness.”
(Psalm 145:4-6)

Lois told Timothy what she knew – (2 Timothy 1:5) Grandmothers are still useful purveyors of truth – especially in the age of instant communication. The blessing of technology is that I can have conversations with my grandchildren! Jack may think I live in a computer for now – although he has been to Texas – but we talk. 

How can I use it to tell them what I know about God?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Christmas Carols --Musical Mallets

I disposed of the Christmas mantelpiece arrangement tonight, leaving the three wooden kings and the angel out until Epiphany: three days hence. But I am still listening to Christmas music.Our cable provider offers more than a dozen music channels – and the one that has been of great comfort this holiday plays Christmas carols and secular music – from the Hallelujah Chorus to Spike Lee singing “All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth.” I have listened to it for three weeks and counting.

When the news got too grim, or, other programing too mind-numbing, I found classic carols, new ones, and quiet jazz arrangements of this glorious music comforting. How much greater their comfort as this holiday season closes – it’s as if I am sitting with old friends reminiscing how great the party was we just threw.

Those carols untangle the strands of memories – threads that hold glimpses of grief and joy firmly in place for months and years unravel when certain notes sound – and I am cast back to the times I first heard them. For example, with the first quiet notes of “Silent Night” I am in the choir stall one midnight Christmas Eve service; I look out and see the mother of my friend and fellow junior member. She is fighting back tears; her eldest daughter has given birth to a little girl, Annie, a child born with profound disabilities. At twelve I do not understand how a new born Child of whom we sing will help them.

For melodies that are so familiar, I am sorry to admit how poorly I understood what the Christmas carols were saying – thrilling to their poetry and music – but at a loss understanding what their message had to do with me.

Maybe that’s why Christmas is as much a time of sadness as it is gaiety? We see and hear joyful sounds, but have no joy. We eat glorious foods and are still hungry. Maybe that’s why the Puritans banned “Christmas?”

As much as I complain about its excesses, though, I am glad the Puritans didn’t have the last word. The music of Christmas weaves its magic with memories and expectations of a time of year that seems brightest because the shadows are deepest. Though the carols’ theology may be incomplete, they are a goad – possibly some will keep the treasures of the music in their heart, and ponder, how can this little Child help me?

Verses stayed with me – going into my heart, musical mallets in the Holy Spirit’s determined hand –
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven . . .
O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today . . .

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Help

A stroll down memory lane isn’t always easy or pleasant. I just took one when I read  The Help  by Kathryn Stockett. This first novel weaves together several lives, just as the fabric of segregation began unraveling in Mississippi in 1962, and as a new cloth of civil rights for black Americans unfolds. Though we know how that appalling era ended, The Help portrays people often neglected in the formidable tapestry of the US civil rights movement – black women and the white women for whom they worked – beautiful strands each. The women take turns, as if at a loom, telling her experiences, weaving her observations and ambitions into small part of a much larger fabric, familiar to us, especially those who lived through the ‘60's.

By scattering historical facts in her fictional account of how three women authored a best-selling novel in Jackson, Mississippi, Ms Stockett creates a potent and personal story. Their matter-of-fact observations, and casual commentary emerge against the racial tension in the south in the ‘60's. Two women, Aibileen and Minny, are black women who are maids; the third woman, Skeeter, is white and like a misfit in her hometown. They disclose their aspirations, humiliations and heartaches – interlaced with fear of real consequences, from ostracism, to tongue lashings, brutality and incarceration.

The reader is a trusted confidant, also growing in understanding as the characters describe how they cope with a monster who is becoming more recognizable, as their stories include names of real people and real events. The awareness of the blight Jim Crow propagated deepens – and disturbs. For those who know about James Meredith, the Freedom Riders, To Kill A Mockingbird, Dr. King, and Medgar Evers, even the most humorous scenes are bittersweet.

The reader may laugh at how stupid the racists looked and sounded; empathize with the heartaches and marvel at the maids’ forbearance – but then the reader may remember what happened to people who overstepped. This is why what began as walk back in time hurt.

I am no longer just reading a well-written first novel; I am looking through a glass – seeing the cost of slavery exacted from still another generation. And I am looking into a mirror. The novel’s words are unadorned – familiar – describing attitudes like ones I heard growing up in Baltimore at about the same time. Our segregation was not as blatant in the 1960's as Jackson’s, but it was just as real.

As the novel ends, the reader has hope. The book they have written is a double-edged hope for all three. “Wasn’t that the point of the book” Skeeter wonders? “For women to realize, ‘We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.”

Perhaps their lives, torn apart by fortune and misfortune, will be re-woven again with strength, dignity and success? It is, after all, 1964.