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, October 12, 2011

Life Lessons from Several Relatives

God has used many women in my family to teach me about life, and His power, mysteries and purposes – sometimes the lessons were wise examples; others were heart-breaking warnings. All of these women are gone – their friendship and interest in me changed me. None of them deliberately developed any lesson plans – but the consistency of their world-views created indelible instruction. 

Hello! I moved, so to speak -- and the article is found in my NEW
Garden! Please come over!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Star Trek Applications?

For the second night in a row, the third time in six weeks, our television went nuts – the image on the screen froze. And so began a new conversation, first with a computer with whom I exchanged phone information and account numbers. I purposed to remain calm, avoid coughing or extraneous sounds – or wrong answers; the computer has been known to hang-up on me.

Last night I talked to a young woman in the Philippines; tonight my technician was in India.  I don’t know where the computer was from. They all spoke good English, especially the computer. As long as I remain patient, I speak good English, too.

The idea that I can speak to people a world away from me, first to the West, and then to the East – and that they can analyze the “cable” box in my living room renders me speechless.


I talked with a computer tonight! Didn’t Captain Kirk do that?  I had a perfectly intelligible conversation with people half-way round the world.  Lieutenant Uhura could  not have arranged a better connection!  The idea that a computer has the capacity to “read” what is wrong in an enclosed case thousands of miles away is what all those “Star Trek” computers did, high above the earth.

What was sci-fi in 1966 is real today.

I’ve been listening NPR’s coverage of Steve Jobs and his death from pancreatic cancer.  (Link ) He was responsible for so many advances that we take for granted.  He began his work in 1977 – barely thirty-four years ago. The conventional wisdom included the following:

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." 
-- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp.,1977

Let me hasten to add that in the mid-1980’s, I wondered why anyone would want to spend so much money on car phones.  

Yesterday’s expensive toys and gimmicks have become today’s necessities. A radio and telephone astounded my grandmother; television, my parents. Computers, cell phones and the Internet were new technologies to me, which now are ordinary props in my life. Ten years ago, I was just getting used to my cell-phone; today I take pictures with my phone and send messages. One of my friends urged me to get the I-phone, while I am young enough to learn the technology.

She may be right. But talking to the Philippines and India while the TV reprograms itself is about all the excitement I can handle for awhile.

Things I am glad I did not [know enough to] say:

  • "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." 
-- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949
  • "But what ... is it good for?" 
-- Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip

Friday, October 7, 2011

Closets, Contentment and Christmas

Warm, humid air and cloudy skies are the forecast. Having packed away my summers shirts, moved the long-sleeved tees to the forefront of the shelves, I am not surprised. The other extreme of weather always attends the bi-annual clothes closet exchange.  However, switching seasonal clothes remains a wise investment of time.

During the exchange, I inspect, sort and relinquish stuff that no longer serves its purpose: making m look presentable.   And the process reminds me I really am the princess of quite a lot! It reminds me to ask:
·      How many women today have no change of clothes or undergarments?
·      No toothbrush or fresh water or food for their children or husbands or brothers?

I don’t know all the things that taught the apostle Paul contentment in want or plenty – but cleaning out closets, and recognizing I not only have changes of clothes, I have clothes for more than one season is a great goad!  (Philippians 4:11-13 )

James said we have fights and quarrels because we do not ask God – and when we ask our motives are wrong.  ( James 4 )     I wonder if I am slow in giving because I have not asked God to show me how I can be generous, and shower me with a generous spirit and resources – not just money to make a difference. A wise steward is a generous one – more content to manage and share than acquire to squander. (1 Timothy 6:3-10)  

Some points to ponder, from The Quote Garden:

·      Gold can no more fill the spirit of a man, than grace his purse. A man may as well fill a bag with wisdom, as the soul with the world. -- Robert Bolton

·      A little is as much as a lot, if it is enough. --Steve Brown

·      Agur said, "Give me neither poverty nor riches"; and this will ever be the prayer of the wise. Our incomes should be like our shoes: if too small, they will gall and pinch us, but if too large, they will cause us to stumble and to trip. But wealth, after all, is a relative thing, since he that has little, and wants less, is richer than he that has much, but wants more. True contentment depends not upon what we have; a tub was large enough for Diogenes, but a world was too little for Alexander. --Caleb C. Colton (An English Cleric)
·      It is so important not to waste what is precious by spending all one's time and emotion on fretting or complaining over what one does not have. Edith Schaeffer (Co-founder of L’Abri: Fellowship International) 

·      Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition. -- Jeremiah Burroughs

·      Contentment in every condition is a great art, a spiritual mystery. It is to be learned, and to be learned as a mystery.-- Jeremiah Burroughs

·      Next to faith this is the highest art -- to be content with the calling in which God has placed you. I have not learned it yet. -- Martin Luther

God bless the hands that serve the hurting and give in Christ’s name! Our deacons, and local ministries, food pantries and shelters – thank you! God bless those who serve the refugees. Christmas is coming up – and now might be the time to salt away some money to give Christ’s name? Here a few links that might revive  our passion for giving and our determination to manage our resources wisely:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Discipline of Writing

Most of the first writing I did was persuasive writing – convincing a professor, I had learned the course material, or the US government to award a contact to my boss.   Or, I wrote up some of results of the contracts our company won.  The professors were not always convinced; but I did land a few contracts. 

Back then, I survived essays and research and proposal writing because I could outline and diagram sentences.   I also liked reading dictionaries and the Thesaurus. So, I was hired as an editor and technical writer because I could spot more errors in grammar than others and I knew how to arrange and rearrange words, though with unexceptional ability.  I was young – and it was during the 1960’s-- I wasn’t self-conscious about the magnitude of my lack of knowledge.

But I knew I was not yet a writer. 

A writer is one who uses the same twenty-six letters of the alphabet I use, but has the ability to arrange them into words that tell the truth about the human heart. 

Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Copy editors and proposal writers don’t write that way.  Although we should read that way:

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.  ~William Stunk, Jr., The Elements of Style, 1918

Digesting this little handbook with additions by E.B. White and his stepson Roger Angell is hearty fare for all kinds of writers, new ones, or those in need of refreshment  – no matter some folks’ disapproval of the guide. (See the naysayers.) Mr. White described writing this way: Writing is both mask and unveiling.  He also advised,  “The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity.” 

A concise explanation of why good writing is so fun to read and oh so harder to do.  

Like a mirror, writing reflects a writer’s hopes, failures and deficiencies.  Usually, however, we only glance in a mirror – turning away when we are finished or frustrated. Writing means looking at the reflection – warts and all of the writer’s abilities and limitations. 
The hardest, but most startling thing about writing electronically is seeing the words appear on the screen that only moments before were swirling around in my mind and heart, filtered through my old English major sensibilities appear in black and white – underlined in red or green, depending on the error they convey, spelling or grammar. Keyboarding doesn’t supplant journaling –or scribbling – for so, too, putting pen to paper is a great delight.

Writing is scary – but it is a dread I love to hate.

Writing is like looking in a mirror: some days I see clearly -- but on others, not so much.  Writing about what I am learning in Scripture is a great vision corrector and solace.   Reading and writing help me make sense of life that is precious and precarious -- delightful and quite dangerous.

"Reading makes a full [woman]; conference a ready man; and writing an exact [woman]."(Sir Francis Bacon, 1561-1626 Of Studies.)

Two years ago, I finally posted on the blog I secured in the year 2005. Other friends who had blogs praised this vehicle; I sat cowed for four years. It took me longer to learn how to use this dimension of the Internet than e-mail or discussion board – or even keyboarding. But coping with the move was a great motivator. And I posted Uprooted, as we moved. 

I took time, read and tried to understand the directions (which are more straightforward when I began to understand the words than the MLA Handbook) and put together one page. Next, I started going to "next blog" wondering how they did all their artwork. A few weeks ago while fiddling with all the templates and commands, I got to where I am now. 

 My daughter helped me transfer photos from my camera to the computer -- and I learned how to put them on the blog. The delight has been seeing all my photos whenever I work on the computer – and now being able to share them with others – the happiest moments of my life, illustrated – illustrated faster than I can type the words.

Almost 200 entries later, I am not yet an exact woman—but I surely know what I don’t know!

Included is a popular YouTube that captures how challenging this process has been.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dressing for Prayer: Is My Belt On Right?

 This morning I thought today was the last day of September. So, I opened my favorite almanac  (The I Hate to Cook ALMANACK: A Book of Days, by Peg Bracken) and I read her closing rhyme, thinking it timely:

Thirty days hath September,
Thirty shining beads.
Thirty days hath September.
Actually, that’s all it needs.

But the time had passed; today is October 1,2011. I should have known September was gone when I went out for the papers, for the refreshing, almost bracing, morning air had no hint of heat. 

If I were in Maryland, by October 1 I would have sorted and packed my summer togs, and shaken out warmer clothes. This exercise usually assured a few more weeks of warm temperatures – just as changing from winter to spring clothes is a more reliable prognosticator of wintery days than the groundhog seeing his shadow is of a longer winter.  But, I am 1,500 miles south and west of the Mason-Dixon line, and we have many warm days in October – usually in the mid-eighties with cheery sun. Given the serious drought we have, though, maybe I should pack away the raincoats?

Some encouraging soul predicts that drought in Texas could continue  until 2020.  Months ago the governor urged Texans to pray to pray for rain;  how much more do we need God to shower us with steady, gentle spiritual rain?

Feeling thirst, worrying about the consequences of drought may be God reminding His people we don’t have because we haven’t truly asked. (James 4) So, if secular rulers ask for prayer, I pray!  How much more should the church urge herself to pray? (2 Chronicles 7:11-22) And many are!  But still no relief is in the forecast.  

Our natural problems are affecting the whole country – much the way the church’s failures harm even those who are unchurched, hiding the light with which God entrusted us, and we all stumble. (Isaiah 1) I don’t know why this section of the country – part of the “Bible Belt”– is so literally and perilously parched – for we surely have deep wells of sound preaching! But, I know that being thirsty for righteousness, according to Christ, is a blessing -- for those will be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6) And I know many hungry, thirsty people!  How’s our prayer life?  

Maybe we have misplaced – or misused – our belt in our prayers?
Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. (Ephesians 6:14, New Living Translation

Maybe God wants us to look in the mirror, when we pray and examine how we are dressed, (James 2; 1 Timothy 2, esp. 8-10) while there is time. Not just the churches in the Bible Belt – but all over. What are we missing; what is askew? Ask God – who gives generously and without reproach, while there is time. (Ask, seek, knock; get wisdom; wise and foolish virgins)

And if those rains are slow coming– God grant that you and I remember and believe Habakkuk’s prayer and declaration:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.   (Habakkuk 3:17-19)