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, February 28, 2012

Have You Seen a Five-Legged Dog Recently?

I don’t know when or why he said it – context can be crucial. However, its common sense quotient is refreshing: 

How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?  Four.  Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.  ~Abraham Lincoln

 Just because [they] say it doesn’t make it so, has been a handle I used to evaluate the accusations and excuses an alcoholic  I know once made – but it’s one I forget to apply when I hear talking heads pontificate about pornography.

We could defuse arguments about pornography by depicting Christians who object to its uses as puritans: You know, people who are haunted by the fear that someone somewhere is having fun.  Or, we could agree with Garrison Keillor  when he described his ancestors, Puritans from England, [who] came here in 1648 in the hope of finding greater restrictions than were permissible under English law at that time.  But even secularists aren’t laughing so much about the cultural fall-out from everybody – including young kids --  being one-click away from hard-core material!

Some may see access to pornography as their their Constitutional right; others see it as an industry rich enough to help wipe out the US debt, and deadly enough to ruin and destroy generations of people. One source states: Every second - $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography. Another source declares:

A growing body of research suggests that the habitual use of pornography—especially internet pornography—can damage people of all ages and both sexes, negatively impacting their relationships, productivity, and happiness, as well as their ability to function in society.

The debate over the growing dependence upon pornography could just be a debate secularist values versus religious  values. Religious citizens who call pornography a societal evil may seem to citizens whose values are secular as mistaken as those who would call a dog’s tale a leg. My worry however is what we are calling pornography within the Christian church.  (Audio link on a talk I gave on sexual purity )

Things haven’t gotten better in the three years since I prepared the teaching on 1 Thessalonians 4 & 5.  Nor have our excuses:

      I need to know what the culture is saying or doing so I can be a better minister of the Gospel;
      It is after all, art . . .
      I am living a chaste life – abstaining from unbiblical sexual relations;
      High school is R-rated;
      I just want to know what my husband (or, boyfriend) is watching
      It’s not hurting anyone but me;
      I can handle this . . . 

We can call our use of pornography a ministry tool, an aide to abstinence, the reality with which we all must live, or even a harmless pleasure we can manage. But the reasons we give for enjoying pornography don’t change its nature or power. Malcolm Muggeridege knew he couldn’t handle it:  How do I know pornography depraves and corrupts? It depraves and corrupts me.  (The power of pornography )

Calling it art is as silly as calling that dog’s tail a leg! That dog won’t hunt!   (What the Bible Says about Pornography )

Being “mature” is no more an immunization against pornography’s downward pull than innocence is a safeguard.  Clicking through the TV movie guide the other night, a jaw-dropping and graphic sidebar preview of the movie shocked me; I looked at it, and so burned an image in my mind that was not edifying.  But I didn’t open it. (That time)  Its thorny memory reminds me pausing on any slippery slope to enjoy a view isn’t safe or smart.  

It is impossible to tell the full result of sin, just as it is impossible to tell which snowflake will cause an avalanche (The Daily Walk Bible)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Time Flew

Last night wasn’t the best use of my time, and the host told me what the experience would be like before the party started: a bunch of millionaires giving gold statues to each other. He was right – that’s all Oscar's night was.

The film clips from the spectrum of movies honored suggested artists had been at work – the presenters and recipients’ words, no so much.  But I “taped” it so I could speed through the commercials or other boring portions. So, I pressed on.  The recording stopped itself, however, in the middle of one of the last speeches – Meryl Streep’s – almost as if the recorder were saying: “Enough!”

No wonder I make so little progress on my great American novel!

Unlike the time I have spent watching “America Idol,” she wrote defensively, and then realized she was without excuse for the management of her time.  

 Time is the coin of your life.  It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.  ~Carl Sandburg

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fire! Fire?

The sound of the alarm worked faster than a bottle of Geritol – dispelling all the leisure we were enjoying this Saturday morning.   I set the fire alarm off this morning – again.  A whooping siren straight away follows the five-second warning beep; the sound disables my ability to think or remember the code which I must enter into the system to silence the amplified horn’s cry for help.  Mercifully, Doug remained calm, and entered the code and checked in with the fire department – although his first impulse was to try to disable the smoke detector – an impossible aspiration with our hard-wired system.

No, I wasn’t playing with matches – I had cooked bacon in the oven, a method I’ve used for decades that enables fat to drain away while it crisps the meat evenly. (Bake bacon @ 400 degrees, 20-25 minutes, in a broiler pan with a spot of water in the base of the pan.) I had removed the bacon and was toasting the bread when the horn blasted. Nothing even smelled like smoke.

In some ways the fire alarm exercise was a concrete application of the passage in Scripture I’ve got to prepare for a class and I hate it.  David does the unthinkable.  (2 Samuel 11-12) The good part is that God sends help; the bad news is why  David needed the help! What he fancied -- what he thought was within bounds, given that he was the king -- cost more than he could pay – so others paid.  Adultery, murder, the abuse of a general and his soldiers, and a child’s death . . .

Whew. Making breakfast never was such a welcome distraction! I wanted to lay aside this study!

Having read recently of a man who perished because of fire, preceded by the smell of smoke, I am grateful we have such a sensitive system. If nothing else, the sound got my blood pumped into places I didn’t know I had. 

Serendipitously, that clanging alarm, the rush of adrenaline it brought, and then trying to describe how it all felt also keeps me from glossing over one of Scripture’s actual horror stories. I don’t do what David did!  I don’t see any smoke. But, God knows I can go A.W.O.L. often enough – never a good place to be, given I have an enemy and a tendency to do things my way.  (1 peter 5:8) And if these challenges were not enough, I live in a time when even in the church we seem to have a hard time calling evil, evil. (Isaiah 5:20-21)

And when I say we, I include myself!

I am too comfortable in my times; I nod off – ignoring and excusing how our culture or the church got to be where we are and I do the same for my own actions and desires. As Nathan, sent by God, penetrated David’s conscience effectively this week’s lesson – alarming as it is – reminded me how simply temptation(s) can corrupt decisions.  Because I haven’t done exactly what David did – doesn’t mean I can’t, or won’t.  But God has not resigned – He answers as surely as fire department did, responding quickly to the prayers that David prayed – a “fire extinguisher” worth remembering!  

1-3Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
   Scrub away my guilt,
      soak out my sins in your laundry.
   I know how bad I've been;
      my sins are staring me down.

 4-6 You're the One I've violated, and you've seen
      it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
   You have all the facts before you;
      whatever you decide about me is fair.
   I've been out of step with you for a long time,
      in the wrong since before I was born.
   What you're after is truth from the inside out.
      Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

 7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean,
      scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life.
   Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
      set these once-broken bones to dancing.
   Don't look too close for blemishes,
      give me a clean bill of health.
   God, make a fresh start in me,
      shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
   Don't throw me out with the trash,
      or fail to breathe holiness in me.
   Bring me back from gray exile,
      put a fresh wind in my sails!
   Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
      so the lost can find their way home.
   Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
      and I'll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
   Unbutton my lips, dear God;
      I'll let loose with your praise.

 16-17 Going through the motions doesn't please you,
      a flawless performance is nothing to you.
   I learned God-worship
      when my pride was shattered.
   Heart-shattered lives ready for love
      don't for a moment escape God's notice.

 18-19 Make Zion the place you delight in,
      repair Jerusalem's broken-down walls.
   Then you'll get real worship from us,
      acts of worship small and large,
   Including all the bulls
      they can heave onto your altar!
(Taken from Psalm 51, the Message)

Friday, February 24, 2012

American Idol – Season 11 and Lent

Lent, a season of fasting and penitence for forty weekdays in preparation for Easter, began this year on February 22, 2012 and will end on Sat, April 7, 2012. For whatever reasons, it is my childhood religion’s reminder that giving up a guilty pleasure – a.k.a.  Idol(s) is a punishment that I deserve and will put me in better standing with “God.” In church-speak, fasting and penitence are necessary mortifications, a putting to death, of the flesh.

I toyed with the idea of what I could give up or take up this liturgical season -- Not that my foregoing or embracing pleasure or disciplines would impress God.  But, before Ash Wednesday ended, I ate the first temptation – being careful to cut the brownie in half, however. And I now have blown three beautiful opportunities to resume a walking routine. 

The bad thing about Lent is that it puts me on a guilt trip;  that is also its chief benefit.  Forty days of going without a few pleasures, and forty days of doing  what I won’t “naturally” do is less than 10% of one year. Why, one might argue that “Lent” is simply a reasonable tithe!  But, I have read what God thinks about tithes!  (See Malachi 3:8-11)    

So, “Final Judgment Week” on American Idol stirred up all kinds of emotions when its 42 contestants had to take a long walk into the judges’ presence to hear their fate. Those 24 souls, whose performances were consistent and excellent, escaped elimination. No excuses were accepted -- like the ones I could make for giving into my guilty pleasure or eschewing the benefits of a brisk walk.

I think more about life after life every year – Christians believe in a life after the grave, anchoring all our hope to Christ’s empty grave. And we believe we will face the Living God as either our Judge, or our Defense Counsel. My life has been inconsistent and less than excellent on too many days. Even if I could rise to make a plea, what possible defense could I make to a holy God for my faults, failures, and sins?

Forty week days is little enough time to ponder what my inconsistent and lame performance cost my Defender and Friend.(See Isaiah 50-53)

Ed Welch writes of the idols “Lent” can reveal:

An ‘idol-hunt’ would turn me introspective and self-analytical. It would make me mistreat you. Faith makes me extraspective and God-relational. Love makes me extraspective and other-relational. Faith and love draw us out of sin’s enmeshing self-obsession (including enmeshment in obsessive introspection). So come forth. Our Savior gives us his own joy, and joy is an interpersonal emotion. He throws open the doors to the fresh air and bright light of a most kind grace. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name!  Idols of the Heart )

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Whitney Elizabeth Houston

Whitney Elizabeth Houston

Whitney Houston’s mom took people to church for a longer length of time than many of us have spent there in the last month – four hours.  It was not simply a four-hour memorial to her daughter’s talent  -- but to how she lived, loved, struggled, failed and kept getting up and giving, until she died.  How she died, although the subject of hours of TV/cable/tabloid speculation, was not chief to the celebration – but it was a compelling reason I watched her home-going commemoration.

She said her faith was in God; (I Look to You) – but, gossips insisted she found help in drugs and alcohol.  Her friends described with spoken and unspoken words every Christian’s nightmare: professing faith in the finished work of Christ, we [can] resist the refining work of the Holy Spirit to whom we must needs give our idols – those objects of affection to which we cling. 

Why do we cling so?

Maybe Christians do not trust wholly God can and will be for us what we think the idols are – personal sources of help and love. Now, Ms Houston has finally been delivered from this lie. “Death appeared to win,” one pastor said, “But Christ fought him took away its sting and Love won. God is love.”

No commercial interruptions -- hours of worship –   And I saw the help that God never failed to provide her, even though Ms Houston died. Yes, she stumbled publically – but these were fewer times than I have stumbled out of the public eye.     

If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)

But, throughout Whitney Houston’s memorial service, I saw the ferocity of the roaring lion, which devours those who will not remain alert or practice self-control. (1 Peter 5:8)    Nobody gets a pass on His battlefield – that I even have another day to live – an hour -- is mercy all.  And I saw the battle from which God delivered Whitney Houston remains as real for me as it was for her. 

Thank you Mrs. Houston and your family for having your dear daughter’s memorial service in your church – it was time very well spent! I got the message: Prioritize! Don’t put off until tomorrow what needs doing today.  (Matthew 6:25-33)



Friday, February 17, 2012

Un-knitting – Another Metaphor?

I am making progress on the garter-stitch baby blanket. Will the third try be the charm? Last night I wasn’t so sure.

Having again been caught up in the latest “America Idol” show, I started knitting in the wrong direction, perhaps a hazard of using circular needles.  I don’t speak knitting lingo fluently, so, I can’t accurately diagnose my mistakes. All I know is that on one side, I had five rows, and the other had four. 

How did I manage that?

The music selections were a distraction. The contestants were performing hits from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s – My music!  Some adaptations were excellent, others not so much. So, watching the heartbreak of  elimination from the competition  sidetracked me – seeing how some said farewell with class, and others couldn’t contain their wounded pride saddened me – reminding me how well I have handled constructive criticism and “elimination.” 

But one trio of hopefuls, young women dressed ala The Supremes made me put down my knitting. All three had experience entertaining, and each one declared, before their performance, their performance background was enough so they had no need to rehearse with the band before their presentation. 


You have professional musicians at your disposal and you think rehearsing with them before an opportunity of a lifetime would be a waste of their time and yours?   

Their performance was at best lackluster: one gal, the one whose pride marred her parting comments, was immediately disqualified; another when eliminated later broke down.  I don’t know any of their names – only their glittery pink-sequined shifts and puffy hair – and their pride, which was their downfall. To have come so far, and rebuffed generous and genuine help! (Washington Post)

Maybe that’s when I started knitting in the opposite direction?

Last night’s “American Idol” showed me a thread, however, that shook me up – how often my pride – smugness, self-importance, arrogance and conceit – took me in the wrong direction!  I have too often kept on knitting with it, wrecking good and simple patterns in my life. 

I managed to un-knit my blunder, although it took at least three tries. (Long past “American Idol!”) But, I am now ready to cast on the next color.  Those young women can’t redo their unsound decision to rely on their own experience and talent – Hope they learned from their experience as much as they taught.  


  • There is nothing so agonizing to the fine skin of vanity as the application of a rough truth. --Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton (Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton) 
  • Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
  • The sun will set without thy assistance. (The Talmud)
  • A confessional passage has probably never been written that didn't stink a little bit of the writer's pride in having given up his pride. (- J. D. Salinger)  
  • Pride is the shirt of the soul, put on first and put off last. (George Swinnock

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Flirt

The weather warmed today after the rain cleared out, and the sun sparkled. Just like a vibrant young flirt does his or her best to convince admirers, they may stand a chance of conquest, the weather tempted me –making me remember how great early March can be in Texas. The weather flirted, tempting me to inspect the rose bushes and the state of the beds, and cast off my sweater. The blue and white pansies prospered this winter; so did the snapdragons. No frost crippled the lavender or curry plants, and their spicy sweetness emanated in the warm sun.

But I resisted the flirtation, as the setting sun failed to warm the evening’s chill.

It’s not quite time to dig, and clip and rake. Nor is it time to anticipate early mornings on the back porch sipping coffee, pursuing a book or Bible study. It’s not time   to switch the closets -- giving an afternoon over to sorting, tossing and packing away clothes, shoes and blankets.

It’s still February – the longest winter month. Or, so, it seems to me.

By late evening, I shivered, wrapped up and took up “the knitting” again.  A half a blanket to finish remains unknitted.

Where does the white go when the snow melts?  ~Hugh Kieffer (A deep thought from one whose biography and reputation I know not.)

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.  ~Maori Proverb (A mighty people whose ancestral home was our a part of our honeymoon destination – New Zealand)

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.  ~George Santayana (The author who knew the importance of studying history)

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.  ~Anthony J. D'Angelo, The College Blue Book

(Thoughts from the Quotegarden.com)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rip, Rip, Rip . . .

So, about the knitting project: I am on the fourth try, and finally have completed an inch or two of error-free stitches. I had gotten further on previous tries but always messed up, and had to rip out my work.   I dropped stitches, added stitches, purled when I should have knitted and knitted when purling was the stitch.

Yes, I am a klutz knitter – but I am a calmer klutz – because the problems generated by my ineptitude keep my mind from playing silly games with my heart.

Doug smiles sympathetically, and asks, “Again?”

I had to abandon the index card pattern the dear clerk so kindly sketched for me, and go back to a very basic pattern that I am copying from the well-loved “Target” designed baby blanket.  And to that end, I must needs return to the little shop before we head to Dallas, and garner a few more colors of the type of yarn I am using. (Local craft store don’t carry the precise weight.)  I need a bit of yellow, a splash of beige, and a pinch of a pink that is between the raspberry tone and soft pink I am using. I had forgotten how, though minor, their presence brightened the effect.

During these past twelve days, I have remembered many seemingly inconsequential kindnesses and forbearance others have worked into my life, just as those dashes of colors enhance that baby’s blanket I am adapting. But small splashes of memories have made me long for the ability to rip out some of my life’s inept stitches and start over. But what a futile jumble that would make!

No, perhaps this time to be dependent on other people’s prayers, hospitality, compassion and expertise, and God, who is ever mindful of my weakness, has been time well spent.

·      The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it. --Sir James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937) _The Little Minister_ [1891], Chapter 1

·      Classic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. ROLLING IN THE MUCK IS NOT THE BEST WAY OF GETTING CLEAN.- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World.

Now – back to the knitting . . .
(Quotes from Christiansquoting.com)

 IMAGE SOURCE PAGE: http://www.picgifs.com/clip-art/knitting/

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Knit, Knit, Knit

Though the proverb has more to do with working, it applies equally to squirrely thinking: Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. So, to keep from driving others and myself nuts while we awaited news about our son’s son, I searched out a knitting shop – a time warp back to the seventies when boutique craft shops seemed a way of life.

The one I found was in Bethesda, up a steep flight of stairs, the climbing of which gave me a completely new set of worries: either me falling up them or down them.  The shop had several windows and dormers and was filled with cubbyholes of glorious colorful and luxurious yarns: wools, cottons, silks, alpaca, and blends. Two or three knitters sat about a large heavy wooden table, working on their projects.

I quickly settled on a plan, thread and needles, guided by a clerk whose passion for knitting did not obfuscate her ability to help me. Her care so impressed one of the knitters, that she came up to us at the cash register and complimented her guidance and my receptivity to help – and she identified herself as a professional counselor.

Desperation can make for   more receptivity to help, no doubt.

The clerk had sketched a pattern and I set about trying to remember how to cast on stitches. My fingers fumbled – as if pleading amnesia; but the counselor and another clerk cheered me on – and I cast on 150 stitches for a small blanket. Making sure the count was correct took several attempts – I kept losing count. But finally, I knitted several rows. 

At no time did my busy hands impede the fears and worries – but the activity left the calming impression I was doing something for somebody – that, and I didn’t want to alert the professional I might be her next patient!    

Now, I’ve come to the point in the design of adding in different colors – four of them. This will be interesting – I don't know how to do this without creating knots or bumps. 

Whoa: Is my knitting project now a metaphor for my life? 

In the past three days, however, the knitting has been useful – so has the happy reality that this new little grandbaby is at home with his parents – opening their minds and hearts to all kinds of wonderful thoughts and feelings. They won’t have time for knitting anytime soon. But crafty little projects like this blanket will help me from having too much time to be too helpful!

  • Knitting is a boon for those of us who are easily bored.  I take my knitting everywhere to take the edge off of moments that would otherwise drive me stark raving mad.  ~Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit's End:  Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much
  • All my scattering moments are taken up with my needle.  Ellen Birdseye Wheaton, 1851
  • Sewing mends the soul.  ~Author Unknown
  • From the manner in which a woman draws her thread at every stitch of her needlework, any other woman can surmise her thoughts.  ~Honore de Balzac

(Thoughts from the quotegarden.com)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Teaching and Then Applying All Those Principles

I am sitting at our host and hostess’ breakfast table, looking through the bay window – enjoying a view of dark green cherry laurels against taller bare gray-brown tree branches. A squirrel’s nest is evident in one of the trees. The morning is cloudy  -- but – a sliver of blue sky intermittently breaks through, reminding me that today may well be all the weather forecasters predicted – sunny and unseasonably warm for the Washington area this first day of February.

This time last week, in Dallas, I was finishing up a talk for the ladies’ Bible study on 1 Samuel 27-31   – four grim chapters – with only one verse that helped: David strengthened himself in the Lord. (1 Samuel 30:6) That preparation was an Ebenezer. Just as the peace and serenity, I am enjoying now is a reminder how far God leads and provides. (1 Samuel 7:12)  

Fear for his life almost derailed David in those chapters; fear for all he would lose did drive Saul to insanity and his death.  Little did I imagine how studying two kings’ response to fear could have so much personal application so quickly.  Fear  -- arriving with all kinds baggage – was a relentless intruder.  

Our son’s son hit a rough patch coming into this world and has spent several days in NICU.  That little guy is quite a fighter – but his mom and dad must cheer him on only from the sidelines – and we, his two sets of grandparents, are even more powerless to help him. Watching all this from the sidelines of this battle highlights nuances of a word I thought I knew – powerless.

Whatever the dictionary definition, powerless does not begin to express the absence of control, strength or usefulness any of us felt when we got the news from his parents.  I know that being powerless is more than surrendering my life to a power greater than me. Admitting my powerless means that not only am I unplugged from my silly self – rule but I am willing to stay that way. (Psalm 131) Powerless is not a synonym for passive; to rest in God, is hard work, especially when fear hisses “What if . . .” Or, when she bullies, describing all my weaknesses and failures.  

It was hard for David to trust God, after ten years on the run from Saul.  And 1 Samuel 27 showed the cost of seeking counsel only from himself.  I had a few talks to myself this week. Many ideas have seemed sensible to me these past few days – but none were worth repeating or acting upon. How could I fight this for my son, or his wife? How could I do anything to restore his son to health?  But I sure dreamed up a bunch of wild, ridiculous scenarios! 

Trusting  my life – and all the lives of those I love – over to the care of God as I understand Him restores serenity and protects my sanity.  I understand my God to be David’s God – who gave him strength in battles, literal, and personal – and had mercy on his failures.  Strengthening myself in God is more a turn of phrase – it is the one choice I can make when nothing I do will change anything. 

The last thing I prayed with the ladies on Thursday was that the promises we have in Christ, and the hope of our salvation would be more real to us than any evil we would face after we left Bible study. On Saturday, I learned some applications, and thus far, the Lord has led me. Our son and his wife were facing a terrible ordeal – but God has given them great medical care. He stirred up watchmen who are praying faithfully, and whose love and concern are almost tangible. Day by day, they and we have hope, therefore, that our grandson, their first-born, will be restored.  And here is my hymn  in this night: If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee.