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, August 31, 2011

A Dead Squirrel and What It Taught Me

How can a dead squirrel teach, asked Doug when I handed him a copy for review?

Picture a squirrel jumping from limb to limb in the trees high above, searching for food. The limbs bend, yet support the weight of the daredevil who does was he was created to do.  When they miscalculate the strength of the limb or the distance, if the earth is their cushion, they may survive; if a cement sidewalk cushions the fall, they will not.  On our Saturday morning walk, we saw such a critter. It was still there this morning, four days later – four days of 106+ heat, and warm nights. 

How could the homeowner not know?  Still, I felt great reluctance to ring the doorbell and point out the problem – it wasn’t, after all, their fault. 

“Hello. You don’t know me, but on your sidewalk, the four-day old remains of a squirrel upset me. Please do something about it! ” 

Maybe it would go better if I prepared myself and asked to help them?

“Hello.   You don’t know me, but I am a neighbor.   You may not have noticed it, but a dead squirrel is littering your sidewalk. I have a shovel and a bag, and together, perhaps we can clear it away?”

Sliding of courage, alas, I called the city and requested its removal.  They will “check it out.” Out little town is good about keeping its sidewalks tidy.  

Reflecting on the fate of the over-bold squirrel, I think of the risks I am tempted to often take in relationships and their potentially disastrous consequences:
·      Speaking my mind before engaging my brain. (Proverbs 17:27-28)
·      Repeating what is neither edifying, substantiated nor useful.

We take similar risks in the church – sometimes imitating or indulging the world’s bad habits.  We do what we want to do, say what we should not, and too often – immortalize it all in e-mail, copying in “allies!”
However, this morning’s adventures, conversations, -- the imaginary ones and the real, reinforce my hope in resolving conflicts with folks I love:

·      Misunderstandings happen for reasons wholly outside my control – like that squirrel that fell from the tree Saturday morning.  
·      I mustn’t let them lead to broken relationships; they are as ugly to see as a decaying remains – and often as unhealthy.  
·      Sometimes I can’t easily clean them up – that  “cleanup” depends on getting others involved. 
·      If I can’t overlook a problem, prepare myself and do something.  If I can’t face the person because of I am anxious or self-conscious, ask for help.    

I called folks whose reputation for cleanup and disposals is reliable. My prayer for the church is that as we put ourselves in God’s hands, and use His word, we will be trust-worthy and reliable helpers who restore what sinful men and women can break.   

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene on the Morning After

She was huge – hundreds of mile long and wide -- and moved slowly. She spawned wind and rain which downed trees and flooded already saturated rivers and streams, a few of which will crest in a few days. Her fury ended least ten lives.

Cable news had little else to talk about; only streaming news testified that life elsewhere from the East Coast of the USA continued – full of the same conditions and conflict that so gripped the reports 48 hours earlier.  Life is hard; may I not forget that God is good even in the midst of hurricanes and harm.
I stayed glued to the TV in fear for the lives of those I loved – I got up at three this morning just to check the weather channel.

I’d like to say I am as anchored to the Scriptures and sound preaching that faithfully forth-tell God’s news.  But, no.  

For the deliverance, thus far God has enabled – thank you Lord; Irene lost lots of her  power when she slammed into North Carolina and Virginia, and her eye never re-formed. (a CNN weather report) A front pushing from the west also diminished Irene's westward push.   Yet she was destructive.  I mourn for those who have lost and may yet lose life and property.

Many who could, followed instructions and evacuated, believing the forecasters  -- even the ones who were standing in the midst of the storm visually contradicting their dire verbal descriptions.  Today they have their lives, through much loss. (Jeremiah 45:5)

Several reporters were candid when queried why they appeared not to have the sense to come in from the rain – they get paid to stand in harm’s way so if the unimaginable happens, we will be the first to see it, over and over, and over again.  (Not an exact quote)

I am not paid to report the biblical forecast. But my source has been  reliable.  

Thanks again for all your prayers – may we give all we can to those who are serving those who are suffering in Irene’s  path.  I am praying for you.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


An earthquake along the East coast shook millions of American, and now a deadly hurricane is taking aim?  

Wow . . . Now it looks like a storm will hit along the East Coast, the likes of which Marylanders haven’t seen since the 1930’s, when the 1933 storm reconfigured much of the waterfront in Annapolis. My kids and their families are in its cross-hairs; Irene is supposed to arrive on Sunday AM in their vicinity with high winds and rain – not good news to an area inundated with rain for several weeks.  Winds battering trees whose roots are saturated topple more easily – power lines go down. 

I am doing a better job of freaking my head than the last weather reporters did on  the Texas ten o’clock news!

 I remember a few hurricanes  that created havoc in Maryland, especially Hazel, Agnes and David for starters.  In the aftermath of Agnes, Doug and I stood on the balcony of the Kennedy Center and watched the Potomac River roiling past us about a month before we married in 1972. In 1979, David pushed floodwaters so far up the Chesapeake Bay that the result was we lost our 420-foot dock – a costly repair for which we had no insurance.  Other storms like Gloria and Isabel also called – but we mercifully escaped damage.  In 1989, we evacuated our vacation to the Outer Banks a few days early, because of Hugo, and again we did not suffer as many others did.  But in 1992, I read what a friend went through whose Florida home was in Andrew’s path. 

Our family and friends are very much in our thought and prayers – and our fellow Americans – We love you in the Lord and ask His real help for all your needs!   
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Summer Reading: Americans’ Travels

If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe?  The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions.  ~Author Unknown

My current read is We Band of Angels : The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese because a few months ago I caught the replay of an interview in 1999 with the author, Elizabeth Norman and Brian Lamb. I haven’t gotten very far, but it is time well spent.  Good biographies can be like tourist guides of all the streets worth seeing in a grand city. They can also show me   back alleys I would not know to venture – Ms. Norman’s book is such a guide, introducing me to women and events about which I did not know.  More on this, later.

I am also reading David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris – another delightful guide to people, places and times, many of which were familiar, and several others whose lives historians and biographers heretofore ignored. 

Equally engaging were three recorded books to which we listened on our travels to Maryland and back to Texas – and I found some quotes about reading and books that sums up my impression of them:
·      What the Dog Saw :  A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.  ~Chinese Proverb
·      Ford County: Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.  ~Jessamyn West.
·      The Mayflower, (mentioned earlier.)  What the people want is very simple.  They want an America as good as its promise.  
~Barbara Jordan

How grateful I am for good books:
·      Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.  ~Charles W. Eliot
·      It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.  ~Oscar Wilde

·      The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.  ~Mark Twain, attributed
No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books.  ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Prohibition: A Window into American Current Events?

Last night we joined 1,000 folks who also paid to see a film clip of the new PBS documentary on Prohibition by Ken Burns, many of whom enjoyed adult beverages from a cash bar.  We were at the Belo Mansion,  currently the home of the Dallas Bar Association. 

Whatever Mr. Burns’ overall point, the clip that we saw showed clearly that amending the U.S. Constitution can’t always   solve a social problem  -- but may spawn many more.

However bad alcohol abuse is now, it was worse before Prohibition, according to Mr. Burns. Those who sought legislative help were responding to a serious social ill.  However, the confluence of varied interest groups, upset over many issues ranging from temperance, the emancipation of women, immigration, religious intolerance, industrialization and presidential campaigns produced an unwavering lobbying effort that swiftly resulted in the 18th  amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Alcohol abuse so troubled the nation – from city streets to rural communities  -- that Americans became persuaded that outlawing alcohol would solve the problems its widespread abuse created. Mr. Burns repeatedly used the term “the Fundamentalists” to explain the distorted politics of Prohibition.  But, all proponents of Prohibition either didn’t understand, or overlooked the facts:
o   Alcohol was part of the religious and cultural lives of countless Americans
o   Many failed to understand the legislation. (For example, many thought beer and wine would be exempt.)

So, the good folks who pushed all that legislating and amending had not fully counted the cost of their solutions.  Hmmmmm . . .  

Moreover, the determination to end legal alcohol sale created an incentive for illegal sales, feeding organized crime, which flourished throughout the 1920’s and ’30’s. Mr. Burns also said speakeasies introduced women to public drinking, which previously had been taboo. Until Prohibition, most women avoided salons; Prohibition open the doors of smart speakeasies and jazz.

In his introduction, Mr. Burns cited Shelby Foote, who has said the reason the U.S. split apart was

. . . because we failed to do what we Americans do best: compromise.  We like to think of ourselves as uncompromising people, but our genius is for compromise, and when that broke down, we started killing each other.

Was Mr. Burns inferring the failed politics preceding the Civil War, were like the events leading to Prohibition – and what we face today?   We will have to wait and see – but the upcoming Burns’ documentary on Prohibition indeed will describe another instance of our genius breaking down again. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thoughts on Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde’s humor and insight are as amusing and often as astute as his life was a warning – warnings that reverberate in my heart:  
No man is rich enough to buy back his past
Experience - the name men give to their mistakes.
A poet, novelist and playwright, Oscar Wilde, in The Portrait of Dorian Gray, portrayed a man whose outward appearance of unchanging youth and beauty shrouded a soul, caught on canvas, so marred by his debauchery it was grotesque and musts need be destroyed when his sins had found him out. I can read neither Oscar Wilde’s life story nor this novel without sorrow.  Oscar Wilde’s life cautions me about the pursuit of passion and pleasure in an age that was as complicated as the 21st century, and often winked at decadence while extolling virtue.  His legacy shows me a better choice for where to place my hope, for his end was as dreadful as his writing had been successful.

What hope and help were the church – is the church, today? And how helpful am I?

Wilde rightly described how and why we misplace hope. (Jeremiah 17:9; 1 Samuel 16:7)  And how and why the church and its flock seem hopeless;  he nailed the religionists of his day  and ours as well with a description  that is apt and biblical. 

People fashion their God after their own understanding. They make their God first and worship him afterwards.

Yet, Oscar Wilde sought the blessing of religion and the church when he was dying from cerebral meningitis, disgraced, exiled and impoverished. Wilde was baptized and accepted into the Roman Catholic Church; it was not a deathbed conversion – but one grown from uncommon seed.  

The seed was nourished and sustained by a faithful friend.  We need such faithful friends. And I need to be such a friend.  Yet we mess up – and our message, though muffled sometimes by our own noisy sins, should speak clearly of an unfailing Friend.

And this Oscar Wilde did in a short story, “The Selfish Giant.”  Meant to be read aloud to children, the story formed a portrait of what a changed life can look like.  And why. 

The church today may seem as sore oppressed and oppressive as the late 19th century English one was.  And my Christian witness may be as fair a target for satirizing  as Gwendolyn or Cecily’s were in “The Importance of Being Ernest.” But Christ, my hope, is as kind, easy to talk to and resolute as Wilde portrayed Him, so even a child might desire a friend like the Lord.  And that’s what I want my friends to know.

 My life is no longer than my hand! My whole lifetime is but a moment to you. Proud man! Frail as breath! A shadow! And all his busy rushing ends in nothing. He heaps up riches for someone else to spend.   And so, Lord, my only hope is in you.
(Ps 39:4-7 TLB) 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reform Their Entitlements – Not Mine.

 Let’s define first “entitlements” from the perspective of the law:

An entitlement is a guarantee of access to benefit based on established right or by legislation  . . . Typically, entitlements are laws based on concepts of principle("rights") which are themselves based in concepts of social equality or enfranchisement.
In a casual sense, the term "entitlement" refers to a notion or belief that one (or oneself) is deserving of some particular reward or benefit —if given without deeper legal or principled cause, the term is often given with pejorative connotation (e.g. a "sense of entitlement"). (Wikipedia)

My grandfather scoffed at the idea of Social Security, saying he had five children. He died in his bed at age seventy from lung cancer, suffering for a mercifully short time. 

My father greatly benefited from a retirement program for Federal workers, not Social Security, and from Medicare that paid for much of  the routine and special medical both he and my mother enjoyed.  Neither could have afforded the care with what they had saved.

I now have my Medicare card, and have been told that some of the docs I see do not accept Medicare.  Speculating on what I might need fixing in the home stretch of my life, and waking up [finally] to the ominous debt problems all the entitlements have generated, I know rights Congress promised me with these entitlements cannot be granted necessarily. 

Applicants for their Social Security disability benefits learn this truth everyday: The government takes an increasing amount of money from some of us, and will not necessarily help those who paid their taxes. 

Alas it appears our leaders are running out of other people’s money. (Margaret Thatcher’s comment on socialism’s propensity) They will address this crisis after Labor Day, after their taxpayer-funded vacations – an entitlement that they attach to their positions.  

Mrs. Thatcher foresaw our problems when she described her own nation’s difficulties thirty-three years age:

I think we've been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it's the government's job to cope with it. "I have a problem, I'll get a grant." "I'm homeless, the government must house me." They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There's no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation. - - Margaret Thatcher"Aids, Education and the Year 2000," Woman's Own, 3 October 1987,Page 10 (Emphasis added)
So, to my elected representatives: Please tell us the truth about how big our debt problem really is. And ask the American citizens what we are willing to sacrifice so we can clean up the mess you made.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Care to Audition?

I love several cable TV challenges, like Food Network Star, which I’ve followed for three years – and tonight’s finale culminated not only with  the contestant winning who Doug wanted but with the challenge to sign up for next year’s challenge. 
Wow . . . me on the Food Network Challenge . . . I don’t think so.

I have plenty of experience; fifty-five years give or take a few, but no training. I started cooking when I was in the fourth grade, and my mom had taken a part-time job. I thought I’d surprise her with what I imagined would be spaghetti. It wasn’t. Later I learned Italian tomato sauce doesn’t have eggs and carrots.

Undaunted I knew I needed a recipe so I opened my mother’s dog-eared cookbook and found a good one. At least I could read what all the ingredients were. However, I later found out even experienced bakers shy away from hot-milk sponge cakes -- the one I had chosen.  Mine never materialized because I remembered I wasn’t allowed to light the pilot light in our gas oven.

Within months my mom quit that job.

After my initial foray into cooking, I was invited to watch the cooking instead of do the cooking. I started cooking for real when I was in college – and I rarely referred to a recipe book. Usually I just followed the directions on the back of Chef Boyardee pizza box, and improvised.  Improvisation well describes my culinary technique for the next several years, as does imitation.  I cooked by trying to remember what I'd seen others do. That technique made for some interesting meals. 

When I got married, though, I was given cookbooks. My mom gave me The Maryland Way cookbook and Southern Living’s Entertaining (1972), which offered lots of practical tips and pictures.  Then I started buying cookbooks – enough to fill several bookshelves. Most are still in storage in Maryland. Now I read Cooks Illustrated and Real Simple recipes. And Recipe.com is a godsend!

I like following a recipe, something somebody else has tested, to get me started, or my resourceful impulses might sway me to add carrots and milk again. The ones I like best have lots of pictures of meals with a minimal number of  ingredients.  I developed favorites that I almost can make blindfolded. (Every once in a while, alas, they’ve tasted that way, too.) When I have a success, however, it’s sometimes hard to remember what I did put in.  

None of this would make compelling, instructive or entertaining TV. 

Some of my disasters might be funny. At least now  I can laugh about them.  Like the first evening we entertained Doug’s dad. I decided we would have leg of lamb. The recipe included adding a few cloves of garlic stuffed under the skin before roasting.  If three or four cloves were good, why not put the whole flower in, I reasoned? It smelled divine while cooking; the response was remarkably similar to the one I got when I proudly served my first spaghetti dinner.  My father –in-law insisted for months after that we always go out to dinner until I redeemed myself and offered a decent meal.

My husband and kids were always good sports if I branched out. Even when I offered my son a slice of chocolate cake from the I Hate to Cook cookbook, he didn’t make a big deal when he took a bite. It was an easy recipe made with fun ingredients like cocoa, soda, vinegar flour and sugar.  I forgot the sugar.  Not a good thing. (Peg Bracken) However, neither of the kids ever pressured me to make Christmas cookies after that

When we arrived in Dallas several years ago, I cooked routinely for Doug’s mom, since the ladies who were looking after her did not cook.  My mother-in-law was used to eating her meals at tables set properly.  No condiment bottles ever strayed on to her table!  It was more of a challenge to remember what I had learned in 7th grade Home-Ec about linens and liners than any of my go-to recipes!  

One thing about remembering all my cooking “experience” I know I couldn’t hack what these kids pulled off, even the ones who were the first off the show!  The Food Network is doing a great job inspiring all these cooks to be professionals – especially in a town like Dallas where there are nifty restaurants – with carryout’s on just about every corner.  I am inspired to eat their food.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Praying for a Break in the Weather

We got a scare this morning. The house went dark  -- maybe a strain on the power grid, as we head into over forty days of 100 + temperatures. Headlines flashed in my mind: [Cute] Elderly Couple Prostrated by Heat.

Not since 1980 have we had so many consecutive hot days. What’s more, the evidence of the drought that is gripping the Southwest is growing is apparent on my walks. (TX drought) And it is tormenting our humble yard now.

Although the wonder of our automated sprinkling system mitigates some damage from the relentless heat and aridity, the leaves on the crepe myrtles we  planted this spring are curling up and slightly brown – not a good sign.  The Japanese maple, planted a few months ago, is in rough shape – having endured first a windy start of summer and now.  Small patches of brown are popping up.

The backyard also testifies to the heat and drought’s power.  I went a little nuts this spring with pots – none of which wholly match each other.  When they contained gaily-colored flowers it  -- their diversity was tolerable. Now, not so much.  Only two geraniums remain – barely; the black-eyed Susan’s are almost skeletons of the former glory – the stems and leaves are drained of color.  My once cheerful little square flower garden of perennials is oh so melancholic. All but the lavender, curry, potato vine and portcullis are dead. And it is too hot to do much else.  The plethora of pots whose dead plants overhang the rims suggest it is Morticia Adams who is the gardener in residence and not moi!    

However, I can’t imagine how it would be if the heavens over Texas were shut up as tightly as the heavens over the Horn of Africa.  Or how we would fare if our leaders did to us what has been done to so many Africans.

Hoping, gentle reader, you will join me in prayer and giving, if the Lord enables to rescue those who have no water or food, or shelter.

God’s promise to Solomon is one we should seek:
God appeared to Solomon that very night and said, "I accept your prayer; yes, I have chosen this place as a temple for sacrifice, a house of worship.   If I ever shut off the supply of rain from the skies or order the locusts to eat the crops or send a plague on my people, and my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I'll be there ready for you: I'll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health.   From now on I'm alert day and night to the prayers offered at this place. ( 2 Chron 7:12-16 from THE MESSAGE )

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The “Whether” Report

The short-term forecast is dismal – many more days of 105+ heat. Yet, I have lived long enough to know, the weather will moderate, delight, and then bring blustery gusts of freezing temperatures.  Reports of riots in London, financial downturns, upheavals in the Middle East, and our own decade-long war against terrorism coupled with all the news I get of my friends’ problems and trials are as potent arrows that worry and wound me.  I feel as powerless as one impaled by a volley of them.  I am as powerless!   

The only power I have is deciding what I will do with what is my portion of life.  And then, doing it.  I can’t change the weather, quell rioters, or save the world from its folly and cruelty; I can’t protect any one from life’s “reproofs” – whether they are broken transmissions and water pumps, illnesses, old age, or Christians’ failures to act like Christians  -- probably the most painful of all.  

So, why can’t I remember that? Why do I spend [so much] time critiquing, kibitzing and worrying?  (Matt 6:25-34)

Probably because it is still easier to cluck like some mad hen over other stuff than settle down and tend my own nest.

You and I live in times that are important as those proceeding the Great Depression, World War I and II.  Our rulers and leaders are much as those were who lead people into and through those dreadful times.  What’s somewhat different is the 24/7 news reporting. We also live in times when many of us don’t have family, farms, or faith to sustain us when we lose our jobs or health.  And the 24/7 news reporting can underscore our helplessness.  Are we really only expendable [nameless] cogs in a mighty machine of worldwide destruction? 

 God, I hope not!

Is that hope in a meaning, purpose and power that is greater than myself, and those around me, just wishful thinking?  Is faith in God nothing but an evolutionary adaptation that keeps men from giving up?

Does the squirrel that wrecks my flower garden imagine a creator who hides acorns just for it? 

I wasn’t created to be a commentator on God’s ways – or yours. But, I can communicate His grace. (Isaiah 55)  I can tell you – and me -- cooler days are coming to Dallas, for they always have; at the same time I must tell you and myself, today is all we have.   And too many are dying without knowing the Creator God who gives them a hope and a future: Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.  The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.  He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene . . . (Isaiah 59:15-16)

Living in air-conditioned comfort today, knowing where I have a bit of food and a change of clothes, and having time to reflect on the Scriptures is an mind-blowing blessing, then, isn’t it? How will I spend it?

Today I got an e-mail devotional from Joni Eareckson Tada who described people she met who do not know there is reason for their afflictions – and reminder that even a quadriplegic has work to do:

I was at a loss for words when a young disabled girl in Bangalore, India told me, "My aunt said I would have to go through eight reincarnations before I could become a whole person."  A doctor from New Delhi said, "Most people do not consider autistic children to be human."  On that same trip while I was in Africa, I met mothers who were beaten because they gave birth to a child who was blind or disabled.  A man told me his cerebral-palsied sister was left out in the jungle for the animals to take; "My parents thought it would appease the animist spirits," he said.   In Southeast Asia I met people who thought disabilities were "curses from the shamans in the village."  My heart broke when several disabled women told me they were "easy targets for abuse."

Isaiah lamented, "Truth is nowhere to be found... Is there no one to intervene?"  This is the commission God has given us.  Jesus is "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6).  When we follow his way and carry the truth into the dark corners of the world, we bring light, hope and deliverance.  Jesus tells the truth about everything; from the atonement to autism, from the resurrection to rickets, from sanctification to spina bifida. 
"So my counsel is: Don't worry about things-food, drink, and clothes . . . [Your] heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.
 "So don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time. (Matt 6:25-34TLB)

Whether you and I put this hope -- that God will care for us -- to good use is wholly our choice.  
Lord, I believe – help Thou my unbelief – and please send me. (Mark 9:24; Isaiah 6)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Back in Texas . . . through the Cherokee Nation

We arrived home this afternoon to join with others who are enduring the triple digit dry heat. Who knew Maryland in July would be so cool compared to Texas?

We drove down through Oklahoma, having traveled  through Virginia and  Tennessee and crossed  the state of Arkansas.  The parts of Oklahoma we saw were lovely – I have never been to this great state. 

Now, when we packed up and left in the morning, we skipped the free-breakfast in hopes of something a little more special on this the last day of our vacation.  Assuming we’d also find a gas station we decided to keep driving – quickly covering a hundred miles in the wide-open spaces that I am coming to love. 

Unlike Ritchie Highway, (in Maryland) gas stations in Oklahoma are few and far between. This dawned on us when we were enjoying the panoramic views that reminded us of all those Westerns we used to watch, and our cell phones were on “extended network.”  Checking the dashboard, we noted our cruising range was but fifty-eight miles, and in all that beautiful hilly country, we saw no billboards, for miles! 

Checking my handy-dandy new GPS gadget, I located the next gas station – only it isn’t where the technological wonder says it is, as we find ourselves on some desolate back roads. That rabbit trail cost us ten miles.  Oh great! I worried: We are on the home-stretch of a 2500+-mile car trip and we run out of gas on the last leg. 

But we find a station,  fill up, and spot where we will eat; we have that special breakfast in the local Denny’s. It’s as slow as the one in Maryland, and the waitresses are as nice. 

Driving through the Cherokee nation, we listen to The Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick. We have learned many “facts” that none of our respective American history classes imparted.   

I know less and less about more and more. 

It has been, however, time well spent, especially in light of discussions on the place of faith in the public discourse.  In many ways the Pilgrims seemed wiser than we do in adjusting to the challenges of living amongst others who do not share the same convictions. In other ways, what were they thinking?   And the author has presented the Indians as evenhandedly; they were as wise and foolish – brave and manipulative as the Englishmen. 

Given all the squabbles, fights, and disappointments I’ve seen in the church and the country these past thirty or so years our problems are not so different; nor are our needs. We need leaders who have courage, integrity, common sense and imagination – people who will not start off on a car trip assuming there is always a gas station around the bend!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Promising to Take Care of Folks . . .

 It’s been a proud tradition of our national heritage that we care for folks who come upon hard times. It’s part of an American’s DNA.   It seems “charity,” is no longer a human virtue, it is a governmental obligation.   Somewhere along the line, though, common decency became a political weapon – one which rival politicians could use to attack one another – and while the wrangling goes on, the every-day problems that caused by men and women who have used the promise of  [unlimited] government money to secure their power bases have ballooned right along with the money we’ve borrowed to finance our promises.

My financial acumen is sophomoric to those better trained in all matters of money, granted.  And the experts may know how we are going to bail ourselves out of the sinking boat also known as the US economy.  But I do know that it seems we have come to end of trying to solve the real problems that overtake people with government money.

I have been guilty of thinking that if we just gave folks money to get on their feet, to get started, to keep going, for a spell, they would be able to manage. For all the successes of such plan, too many failures have weakened it – and the people we wanted to help are being crushed, especially the men.   Dr. Tony Evans, (The Urban Alternative) wrote:

Men, when we look at the state of our culture and our country today, we find that we are in a crisis situation. How can we not be when 40 percent of our children go to sleep at night with no dad at home? Among the minority populations, that statistic goes up to 63 percent, and in the innermost inner cities, it rises to 83 percent. There is no respect or dignity among men anymore. They are fathering children but not taking the responsibility to help rear them. Men have become like the fabled abominable snowman, whose footprints are everywhere, but he cannot be found.

And what will happen to the children and their moms when the reality of our profligate financial policies dawns on them? 

 I know Americans will do the right and good thing – as we have done -- continuing to give. But I hope we will also each consider how much we have given over to the politicians, whose first thoughts maybe colored by different agendas.

Is it too late?  George Orwell and Aldous Huxley saw this day, and despaired. 

In contrast, a politician called for a prayer meeting in Houston and that ‘s driving folks nuts. (Rick Perry)

What will the church do?  These are [still] the times that try all our souls – what difference would a few people make, who repented and prayed – like Daniel did in Daniel 9:1-20? What if I just shut the computer and poured out my heart, baring my soul to God, my God believing  . . .