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, June 29, 2011

More Walks

No wind today – not a breath. No clouds in the sky, either – the clouds departed   as the sun enlightened the sky to soft robin egg’s blue.  I got out and back, walking while the humid heat was not fully awake.  However it was fully awake by the time I left for appointments and duties this morning  -- and kept trying to smother me all day. Popping out for a few groceries this afternoon late, I discovered I can stroll as slowly as Scarlett O’Hara on a hot day in Georgia – ain’t no point moving fast and fainting.  But walk I did, later tonight, through all that dead still air. I came back dripping more than if I had been in a sauna.

Why am I doing this? Walking makes me sleep better, and it dispels the stiffness that keeps reminding me how old I am. 

Expecting another blast of still hot air when I stepped out at 11 PM to water the flowers not in the sprinkler’s path, I was pleased to feel and smell fresh moving air, about 15 degrees cooler than at 9 PM. Doug’s mother used to say about the weather in Texas, “If you don’t like it, wait fifteen minutes; it can change.” I wish we had an upstairs sleeping porch – tonight would be perfect sleeping weather.  But the weather might change again. 

One thing about Dallas weather, no mountains change the weather patterns here, like they do in Maryland.  People here don’t really believe Maryland has mountains. (Texans, they are too close to Colorado to be properly impressed with the Appalachians.) They don’t know that we, Maryland, have it all – mountains and oceans – plus we have a bay.  But now I am part of the "they" -- at least for the time being.

One benefit of Texas in the summer is their peaches – they are quite tasty. Not as tasty as the ones that Rookies Market in Annapolis carried, though. Rookies had a connection to a farm in St. Margaret’s Maryland – and their peaches were worth the wait. 

I miss Annapolis – as it was in the 1970’s and ‘80’s.  I used to walk in the early mornings there, too.  Down Southgate, left onto Franklin, up past the hospital to Church Circle, and then down Main Street, through the Naval Academy, past the Chapel, out Gate 3, up Maryland Ave, back around the Circle, down Franklin and back to Southgate. The fact that everything in the downtown has changed – makes being apart from it easier.  While I like to revisit in my memories, I don’t want to get trapped there and miss tomorrow’s adventure.
I remember things that happened sixty years ago, but if you ask me where I left my car keys five minutes ago, that's sometimes a problem. -- Lou Thesz  (Christians Quoting)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Keep Moving!

 Summer officially arrived Tuesday, but had been warning of its arrival for days before. All the cool dry weather evaporated two weeks ago, replaced by humidity and heat. Most days, a steady breeze has kept things tolerable.  But like many of Dallas’ residents, “it is fixing to leave”  for a spell.  And yes, if the temps dropped to 85, it would feel like a cool snap.

The forecast for the foreseeable future is heat – the description of which Sydney Smith (no relation – he was an English clergyman, critic, philosopher and wit.) perfectly captured in Lady Holland's Memoir (1885): “Heat, ma'am! it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.”  

But I have kept walking – both in the morning and at night. Though days are now supposed to be getting shorter, it’s possible to leave the house at 8:15 P.M. and get a thirty minutes walk in before it’s too dark.

Summer nights still remain my favorite walking time  especially on streets whose oak trees tower and spread out, whispering when a light breeze shakes their foliage.  On Friday evening we opted for a part of town whose houses are imposing, and trees, majestic – their branches form a canopy that blocks sight of the sky.  Plus its streets have a slight incline for better exercise.   Ah, surely the air is more rarefied in this neck of the woods?

The next morning we returned to this area and pursued some estate sales. Always arriving at the tail end, our picking through the remains reminds me of the scene from “A Christmas Carol” when Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come see the charwomen disassembling his possessions.  I suppressed thoughts that imagined  what others might think of all the “gently used” treasures.

The weather, my walks, and our “yard sailing”  -- and all those thoughts whose companionship reveal my incomplete prayer life implore me to make the most of what God gives – holding oh so lightly to the reins of my life:

I looked long and hard at what goes on around here, and let me tell you, things are bad. And people feel it.  There are people, for instance, on whom God showers everything — money, property, and reputation — all they ever wanted or dreamed of. And then God doesn't let them enjoy it. Some stranger comes along and has all the fun. It's more of what I'm calling smoke . . . (Eccl 6:1-2from THE MESSAGE.)

Today is not a dress rehearsal for tomorrow, wise people have said. What I do, when, why and how   is  still important! As one astute commentator  urged:Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold -- but so does a hard-boiled egg.” (See Christians Quoting. ) 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Equal Rights to be Stupid

She made a point women should consider, and then Ms Schaeffer asked a good question:

“If, as a society, we’re interested in seeing fewer sex scandals, we need to ask more than what is wrong with men today . . . What about the role women play in infidelities?” (Sabrina Schaeffer, The Dallas Morning News, June 19, 2011, Op-Ed page, link)

The Internet has opened wide the door for women to be as unwise as men in indulging their private habits. And Eugene Robinson reminds sexual adventurers that unlike former times, the Internet never forgets an indiscretion. “Bad decisions don’t die . . . Once you’ve sent a message or photograph into cyberspace, you have to assume it will live forever . . .” (The Dallas Morning News, June 20, 2011)

I always wondered how God could keep track of every careless word I ever uttered, and stupid stunt I pulled.

  • Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously.   Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation." (Matt 12:36-37 from THE MESSAGE)  
  • For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Eccl 12:14)
  • Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him." (Jude 14-15)

If man could invent a tracking device the likes of the Internet, what must God’s look like? (!)  The mercy is that God has a reset button – one that purges all our accounts with Him. (Isaiah 1:18)

We may still have to pay the price of our folly in the court of public opinion, but His Son’s death has bought us new life. My prayer for Mr. Weiner, the women who encouraged or accommodated his gross infidelities, and even those who exposed his waywardness, that they will let God have their “cookies,” emptying their cache into God’s life-giving fountain of forgiveness and life.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Remembering to Forget

On June 18, 1913 my mother was born; she died on July 4, 1996. God was merciful to her, and to my father who died in 1978,  in that they died quickly – without enduring the pain many others suffer as they decline.   

The Spanish have a proverb, “Sudden death is God’s kiss upon the soul.” Perhaps it is so for the one dying – not so much for the ones they leave behind. Death overtook my parents before we could reconcile our differences.  Death closed a door; I was left with thoughts and memories I thought would shortly be sorted out. 

We think we have time; often we do. I did not.

 Today, readers, if you can bury the hatchet, do it. And do not make a map of how to get back to it.  

The View from My Window – A Well-Watered Garden

Thomas Fuller, said to have been the source of many of Benjamin Franklin’s proverbs, wrote in Gnomologia, in 1732, “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” I can see the worth every time I look out our front window!  One house across the street to my right uses an automatic watering system; the one to the left does not. On the left, the house’s lawn is burned brown; the lawn next door is lush green. Last summer, this was not so. 

But last summer in June we had not had so many days of triple digit heat accompanied by a relentless wind. That wind has made the heat tolerable for me, but it has stressed the plants and lawns.  The red maple we planted earlier this spring requires an extra weekly, sustained spray of water, though it’s getting watered twice a day by the sprinkler.

The view reminds me of the wonder of water in dry spells – and the news reminds me of the terror of a drought.  Literal droughts are dangerous, and spiritual droughts are as threatening.  Parts of Texas, among other states, are battling now the consequences of drought.  The smallest unintended spark has ignited harmful fires. 

Fights in the church are often more costly – burning up resources, and burning out pastors and other servants. (See The Cost of Conflict)

·      Born again Christians in the U.S. file 4 to 8 million lawsuits every year, often against other Christians, costing 20 to 40 billion dollars.
·      There are approximately 19,000 major, scarring church conflicts in the U.S. each year (an average of 50 per day).
·      32% of born again Christians who have been married have gone through a divorce, virtually the same percentage as our general population.
·      1,500 pastors leave their assignments every month in the U.S. because of conflict, burnout, or moral failure, costing the church at least $684 million each year.

Clearly, more than a few of us should check and see if we are rightly connected to the source of life and refreshment. (John 4:11, 7:38) Or we need to change our names! (Acts 11:26) Others of us should see how frequently we are being watered, and increase it.  (Isa 58:11)  Heat, drought and wind will wreck real gardens. Persecution, a dearth of sound teaching and unresolved conflict will cut a swathe through our Christian witness.

The class I’m teaching on peacemaking teaches me many everyday conflicts can be resolved; the view outside my window shows what ignoring conflict can look like.

God willing, you and I dear readers will be like well-watered gardens – repairers of the seemingly growing breaches in the walls of our nation, church and families. 

I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places —
                  firm muscles, strong bones.
You'll be like a well-watered garden,
                 a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
                 rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You'll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.  (Isa 58:11-12 from THE MESSAGE.)


Friday, June 10, 2011

Lawn Maintenance Lessons

I grew up watching my father cut the lawn, and then saw the duty transferred to my brother. When I spent a decade in apartments and I forgot about the chores that having a lawn will spawn.  That is, until  we bought our first home in Maryland and my husband assumed the mantle of head lawn-man. I timorously became the gardener until poison ivy sideline me for a few years. But that’s another story.   We had no outside help with our yards until after our children went to college.  Those who helped came one by one, spoke English and usually had only a mower.  We knew their last names, and their first. By the time we moved, a crew of yardmen who could swarm over our yard and whip it into shape in short order was not a familiar routine.  

But Dallas is different – at least in our part of Dallas. Lawn maintenance crews are a way of life – a blessing, to which I quickly became accustomed.  But I don’t know their names. They speak little English, and often arrive at a time when I am gone.  I don’t usually see them work their magic; I only see the bagged clippings, placed neatly at the curb for the refuse collectors.  They work for a company who schedules their arrival and pays them for their work.

And then I thought about all the other people I don’t know, upon whom I equally dependent. I live my life wholly reliant on the work and good will of others.  Were it not for them, I would not have potable water, fresh food, shelter, safety, transportation, or clothing.  

I live because unseen others do.

It’s realizations like this when the reality of my dependent insignificance almost undoes me . . . for a few minutes . . . before my aging ego kicks in, and I think I have written something worth reading!   

G. K. Chesterton when he wrote his autobiography near the end of a long and useful life, set himself the task of defining in a single sentence the most important lesson he had learned. He concluded that the critical thing was whether one took things for granted or took them with gratitude. --James Reston  Sketches in the Sand  (from thequotegarden.com)

God bless your day dear reader – with joy and wonder, and a deep sense of gratitude for the life you have before you today – but let’s both speak out!

William Arthur Ward, an American who wrote in the last century, wrote, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.“   Indeed, “Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone. “(Gladys Browyn Stern)  

Let the Word of Christ — the Message — have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God!   Let every detail in your lives — words, actions, whatever — be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. (Col 3:16-17 from THE MESSAGE.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Telling the Truth While There is Time

Last week he said he was hacked; he didn’t do it. This week, Rep. Anthony Weiner   broke down and said he did do it.  He takes full responsibility for sending compromising pictures of himself and thus harming others. He will not resign his public office however, because he doesn’t believe he broke the law.    

We have invented technology to help us serve mankind but we use it  to sin deeply against each other and God.   We can take pictures while sinning – That’s something King David couldn’t do.  (2 Samuel 11)

Pornography and all that flows from it is a river as mighty as the Mississippi – a river that has churned up so much chaos in recent weeks. That river’s source appears tranquil, pristine. Its end into the Gulf of Mexico is often fraught with angry, muddy floods. So, too, the source of sex is good: God.  Sex is a good, and pure gift from God – never meant to be a source of shame, or pain.  But because we choose our own way, we use His gift selfishly. What was intended for procreation and pleasure is too often a source of death and grief, and a powerful moneymaker.    

The psalmist urged God’s people, if they love God, hate evil. (Psalm 97:10) Strong language for a generation of Christians who are trying to appear non-judgmental and reasonable. But God’s bluntness shook David out of his denial. (2 Samuel 12, Psalm 51) 

Watching Mr. Weiner, I ached for how I think he felt.  There is no satisfaction in seeing people fail. It was another warning to me. Not that I have done what the disgraced U.S. Congressmen, and others, have done with technology. But I have flirted with and courted dumb stuff – wrong stuff – that would leave me as humiliated if I were caught in the excuses (a.k.a lies) I wove to protect myself.  

Confessing privately to God now how wrong I have been is a great privilege. Owning my full responsibility in the privacy is a great blessing. But being publicly humiliated  -- even in a smaller circle than a press conference – is a distinct probability for refusing to look at what I am doing wrong.    (2 Peter 4:17)
The important thing is to stop lying to yourself. A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself as well as for others. When he has no respect for anyone, he can no longer love and, in order to divert himself, having no love in him he yields to his impulses, indulges in the lowest forms of pleasure, and behaves in the end like an animal, in satisfying his vices. And it all comes from lying- lying to others and to yourself. FYDOR DOSTOEVESKY, The Brothers Karamazov

Image courtesy http://www.officeclipart.com/

Monday, June 6, 2011

The News from Texas:

I got out and walked this morning, before it got too hot; ten weeks from now what feels warm – 85+ degrees – will feel chilly, portending the coming of fall. Until then, every day I can get out and about, breathing in and out comfortably, I am glad.  

In our back yard, the battle with the squirrels over the domain rights to my growing collection of flower and plant pots continues. I tried applying concentrated pepper, and got talked into (dried) fox urine – sprinkling it around the edges of the pots. After a few days, the squirrels may have noticed, no fox was lurking – and perhaps, because this is Texas, the squirrels don’t mind extra pepper.  Today, when I noticed one persistent critter, digging in a freshly potted hibiscus I resolutely added both pepper and urine to all the pots!  Hope the plants survive.

Speaking of my garden: at least half a dozen black-eyed Susan’s are waving bravely in the sun and this mornings gentle breeze.  Started from seeds last year, they did not appear until this spring; I despaired that they would bloom. Chilly weather and strong winds have knocked them about; some rains and hail pummeled them – but they were upright and boldly at attention when I took action against the squirrels – cheery reminders of the Old Line State.

Also emerging unexpectedly – for I worried the squirrels had forged the bulbs – a stargazer lily. Other shoots are tentatively appearing. Another surprise, and reappearing this year with more blooms and brighter colors, is canna lilies, planted by the former owner. The flowers are a combination of brilliant red and pure yellow against deep green foliage – Viva Mexico! Alas, the freesias are languishing. Perhaps they resent the squirrels’ incessant foraging? Or maybe pepper and fox urine discouraged them?

On another hopeful gardening note, though, the pansies have not given up. The remains of what I planted in the fall, pansies and ornamental cabbage, seem inexhaustible.  Daily, as I cut them to file tiny arrangements in the house, more flowers appear. Indeed, my gardening friend told me pansies are also known as the grandmother’s flowers, for busy little hands can never wholly demolish their beds.

And speaking of grandchildren, my morning walks have become as if I have a small child in tow. This morning, just as I reached a heart-healthy pace, the magnolia trees distracted me. The blooms are lovely and profuse this year, tempting me to draw close, bend a branch down and inhale their unique fragrance.  Slowing down, I had to have a stern talk with myself about not touching other people’s property.  Mercifully, I didn’t have to explain why to myself.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tiny Troubles

Some say our world will end in conflagration – perhaps nuclear. Others predict a watery death as the polar icecaps melt.  Other plausible theories include over-population and starvation.  A poet said the world would not end with a bang, but a whimper. (T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”)  But in the scary warnings of “invisible” enemies threatening our health, how much is made of the visible persecution of Christians in Sudan and the Middle East – today? 

Today, I am not so sure it’s the big stuff that will annihilate us. Stuff we can’t see may be fixing to do us in.  Europe – and maybe the USA – is facing an epidemic of a new strain of e-coli, and bedbugs have resurged, also immune to formerly successful treatments.  And our careless habits, the most prevalent purveyor.  

How would that warning look on billboards across the nation?  “Repent! A microscopic bug is gonna get you!”  Hardly an admonition that would turn any one to seek God. 

Yet, reading today’s headlines I remembered a lesson I prepared years ago for a Bible study on Isaiah. Preparing background for what happened to the Assyrian army encamped outside Jerusalem I cited some info from National Geographic's July '94 issue, which devoted quite a chilling spread to "viruses:"  
  . . . [M]inuscule, mysterious, microscopic genetic menaces that can invade most living things with deadly consequences. AIDS, polio, Lassa fever, influenza and the cold are potential killers of phenomenal ability. Each begins beyond the ability of the human eye to discern, and ends with consequences that are tragic to behold.  
Could such a virus have swept through the Assyrian army encamped outside Jerusalem? We are not told HOW, but in Isaiah 37:36, the angel of the Lord moved through the Assyrian army and slew 185,000 soldiers (that is roughly 5 times the population of Annapolis, Maryland). 
Herodotus records an Assyrian defeat occasioned by a plague of mice, which consumed the equipment of the army and left them helpless before their enemies. Such rodents are notorious carriers of disease and plague.

We don't know if this is what happened, but savor the humor and irony if the Lord chose to defeat the bellicose, belligerent Assyrians by letting a few mice loose among their soldiers! What a rebuke! They boasted of their "war machine" that overturned the gods of the nations in the Mesopotamia, and God took them with an invisible killer carried by furry critters. Could it be? Angels unleashing mice to conquer those who shake their fists at heaven!  
Of all the conquests that Sennacherib took pains to detail in his "inscriptions," there is no account of his ever conquering Jerusalem - only that he received King Hezekiah's tribute by messenger in Nineveh.

I don’t know how the world as we know it might end. For too many today it will end violently – painfully – horribly, slaughtered by their fellow men and women who hate them.   May God protect us, not only from the invisible insurgents who take our health, but from the unseen and real enemy of God who means to destroy us. 

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.   But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. . . (1 Peter 5:8-11)



Thursday, June 2, 2011

How do I know I am entering my second childhood?

·               Lunchtime excites me  – because I know nap time surely follows. 
·               Walks around the neighborhood take longer as I see more things to stop and gaze upon – flowers, leaves, and patterns in concrete.
·               Lightning bugs on a summer night make me happy.
·               I don’t understand why so many folks are in such a hurry. I once knew.
·               The world no longer looks like such an oyster  . . . anyway, I am allergic to  mollusks.  

Come, thieving time, take what you must,
Quickness to move, to hear, to see,
When dust gathers near to dust,
Such diminutions need must be,
But leave, O leave, exempt from plunder,
My sense of humor, curiosity, and wonder.

-Anonymous poem, from 93 year-old lady, given to her pastor in Washington church

This charming quote I gleaned from http://www.christiansquoting.org.uk/