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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

What I Told My Writing Students:

You can’t write well, if you won’t read. And taking care of three little critters has shrunk my reading time this week.

But, I am managing to read Agatha Christie’s autobiography – and she was a voracious reader as a child. She read the works by G.A. Henty.  The third child and second daughter in a happy home, her education, during the last years of Queen Victoria, was not rigorous; she had plenty of time to read and play, and had time to create a world of imaginary companions. These gentle times hardened when her father died – but not her appetite for reading.

Reading is a gift I too often take for granted – until I watch my grandchild pick up beginner readers and plow through them, delighted with the discoveries words unlock. Watching her brother practice writing his name on every slip of paper he finds shows me the wonder writing is – lines and curves that convey meaning from one human to another.   And then, the littlest grandchild can be instantly soothed (often) by the phrase, “Let’s read a book!”

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

For love of country they accepted death ...  ~James A. Garfield

I first knew this day as a marker – the beginning of summer. I did not understand the debt our nation owed to its soldiers for many decades. Until the cost of war became personal, I never knew how inadequate my power was to repay those who fought for me and mine. 

While I grew up steeped in an awareness of the Civil War –  its cost was never personal until Ken Burns chronicled the cost through photographs and letters in his series, “The Civil War.” Battles like Antietam – the starting point of our Memorial Day celebrations, racked up unimaginable costs to the soldiers and citizens.  

The first time war became personal was Vietnam – the television news and journalists, most who opposed the war, shaped my opinions.  I never counted the cost to the soldiers.  That changed when I saw pictures of Vietnam vets so callously treated by the citizens they served.  One Memorial Day I watched the movie  “The Hanoi Hilton.”  I saw how much so few endured because they served.

A documentary in the early 1970’s The World at War, connected many facts I knew about WWII while showing how so many soldiers did so much – suffered so much, and how civilians suffered. So, too, moving to Annapolis refined my appreciation of a deepening debt to men and women who served – the USNA is a study in contrasts: the nobility of those who serve, and the horrors of the battles into which they go.   

Now, I understand this national holiday as a different kind of marker – this is what freedom costs. War is hell. (William Tecumseh Sherman) And real people really suffer.

When we had a son and a daughter, I saw them in every soldier, sailor, or airman I encountered. Having grandchildren, the meaning of  “blood and treasure” deepens my gratitude to those who step up and serve, and my sorrow that we haven’t yet stopped fighting and killing.

Yesterday the text for the sermon was from Ecclesiastes – my camping ground this summer. It was a reminder to pray for the leaders whose policies and politics lead to, or away from, wars that grind up the lives of soldiers who are precious to so many.  

Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!
Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!
(Ecclesiastes 10:16-17)

 And a goad to put my money where my mouth is – and give!

Saturday, May 26, 2012


It’s a privilege and a pleasure, even if it’s not always pleasurable, my husband said about the request. Our kids asked us to babysit for a spell while they enjoy a much-needed vacation. We’ve gone from the sidelines to frontlines of kiddie-care.

Whew. If I was an older mother of young children – I am an older grandma of young grandchildren.  Spills, squeals, dirt, tears . . . laundry; some things don’t change. But what is more precious are the cuddles and conversations. Grandkids give super hugs! And the conversations are terrific.

My oldest granddaughter said she had a had time imagining what I looked like when I was little.  She then asked how long papa and I have been married. When I told her forty years this July, God willing, she asked if I were little when I got married.

It is a distinct honor to be asked to care for these little beings – and it has reinforced the truth that parenting is hard work – better entrusted to the young.  I may have a bit more understanding about little kids’ foibles – but not enough endurance.  

I salute all the grandparents who have stepped in and helped raise their children’s children for the long haul, not just vacations.

·      My grandkids believe I'm the oldest thing in the world.  And after two or three hours with them, I believe it, too. . . I don't intentionally spoil my grandkids.  It's just that correcting them often takes more energy than I have left.  ~Gene Perret

·      A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance.  ~Author Unknown

Friday, May 18, 2012

Skipping Around with Solomon

This morning, Friday, as I enjoyed the blessing of quiet sun and coffee I turned to Ecclesiastes 5.  Solomon’s words express some of my worries -- regrets, frustration and fear. And yet, they give me a way through these uncertain days:

 . . .  So let your words be few. Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool.

. . . It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it. Don’t let your mouth make you sin. And don’t defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake.

. . . Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead.

. . . Those who love money will never have enough.

. . . . Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children.   

. . . Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life.  And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.

On Monday, we attended a celebration of one woman’s life – a long time friend of Doug’s family, who lived to ninety and nine years. Affectionately known as “Tib,” Elizabeth Woodward Jones, accepted and enjoyed the life God gave her; she stayed busy caring for herself and those in her charge. Her granddaughter read Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, a familiar passage to most people – but broke down, perhaps because the reality of her loss weighed heavy. In all the times of which Solomon described, the companionship of loved ones makes bearable much that is unbearable – and delightful the times of pleasure.

The good memories of others whose presence has changed me are not more valuable than the memories of the pain they caused.  Even the worries and wonders [can] have a point: They are all aids, which got me to where I am today – refiners -- to make me a better traveling companion, God willing.    

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Christian’s Evolution on a Hot Topic

What does it mean for me when a powerful  and persuasive President announces a change of position  on same-sex marriages because of his Christian faith?  President Barrack Obama announced his acceptance of the rights of homosexual couples to marry.  

“In the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people,” he said. “We are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing Himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule—treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president, and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I’ll be as president.” (Evolved) [emphasis added]

Serendipitously, today our pastor, Julian Russell, preached on the Golden Rule, (Matthew 7:12-14) 

The Golden Rule

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
a.     Matthew 7:13 Some manuscripts For the way is wide and easy

I hope Christians who urge the acceptance of same sex-marriage will evaluate their position by some points the pastor made about the standard of the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is not about “tolerance” or acceptance. The Golden Rule is the royal law, of which James wrote. (James 2:8-12)

First, Christ summed up the Law and the prophets; it is wholly loving God with all we have and are, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. (Matthew 22:33-40)  It is not enough to not harm those who are different than we are; we are to serve them, in the ways we would be served.  If you and I both like friend chicken, is serving each other fried chicken three times a day what we should be doing, the pastor asked? If God has said no to an appetite, a behavior or a choice, how is it kind or loving to affirm the behavior?    

Second, being a Christ-follower means entering God’s Kingdom by the narrow gate – a gate so narrow the pastor said, we couldn’t fit if we insist on carrying our propensities with us. Entering the narrow gate squeezes them out; puts them to death. A desire to hold on to what we want, what we think we must have, may divert us to the broad path. We can’t live in God’s Kingdom indulging habits, hang-ups and hurts – and if we love others who are wounded, we should not encourage them to pursue what God hates.  

Reading John Piper’s book, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, I came across a description of William Wilberforce’s doctrine that sustained him in the battle in the 19th century against the English slave trade. What sustained him were

   . . . the doctrines of human depravity, divine judgment, the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross, justification by faith alone, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and the practical necessity of fruit in a live devoted to good deeds. Wilberforce was not a political pragmatist. He was a radically God-centered, Gospel saturated Christian politician. And his zeal for Christ, rooted in this gospel, was the strength that sustained him in the battle. (Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, page 104)

 Can a Christian [politician] today push to strength biblical marriage between a man and a woman with the same zeal that galvanized William Wilberforce who pushed his culture to eradicate chattel slavery – another practice God forbade? Can he or she withstand the desire to accommodate what seems loving to the wider public? If one or two of them, and many more of us can explain and live the Golden Rule, as Christ taught, we might see the debate transformed. 

Christians have more than a few deeply loved friends or family members who are gay; some Christians have been open about their own homosexuality.  Homosexuals may be our siblings, children, parents, or spouses; sometimes they are our pastors or legislators.  How are we to love the people in our path? 


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Solomon on Saturday Morning

Saturday morning, and as I review this past week’s journal – what choices have I made this week will make a difference? Solomon would say none.  

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually, it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11)

Again, a week has zipped by; many days were much the same as the previous ones. Worries and wonders both sounded familiar – my routine, the same. The awareness intensifies that I am less than a speck – and so are most celebrities of our time.  My trepidation of the day when I can’t worry and wonder – when I can’t do what I please – when no one will remember me – grows.

Solomon says that God deals out our lot – and no matter what is wrong, it cannot be righted.  Working hard to be wise is like chasing the wind; all the wisdom in the world can’t dodge death, concluded Solomon. (Ecclesiastes 1:16-18) And the pursuit of pleasure is as much a dead-end as the pursuit of wisdom and doing good.

Lest the reader – or I – sink into depression: Ecclesiastes is man’s view of life; even though the guy is a smart, loaded and sophisticated, it is just man’s opinion, and Ecclesiastes is not the only book in the Bible. If it were, it might be the Bible for agnostics or even nihilists. 

Solomon – the author – wrote at the end of his life.  Autumn light, though slanted, can be as revelatory as spring sunlight – depending on where we shine it.  In today’s paper, an opinion writer reminded some memories are engraved on other pages, than those of historians.

A pediatrician told a young mother, under pressure from her all knowing mother-in-law: 
“. . . [N]ature retires a woman from parenting just when she has gotten the hang of it. . . . Bottom line: Leave the parenting to the parents. You get the fun part – grandparenting!
. . . Be more than just a name that fills a line on their genealogy chart. Be a loving memory engraved forever in their heart.” (Katie Butler Johnson, Dallas Morning News, May 12, 2012)

Fortunately, God inspired other writers to record history, poetry, and prophecy that give a framework and purpose to one preacher’s words. (John 20:31) Christ has given me life, settling me, a barren woman, as the happy mother of children – and grandchildren. (Psalm 113:9 )

Maybe Solomon needed to spend more time with his kids’ kids? 

Friday, May 11, 2012

On the Porch with Solomon

Quiet time on the back porch was almost too chilly – but a cup of coffee warmed the blood and kept it moving to old bare toes.  We have had so many lovely days! I know that this time in July and August sitting outside with java and classical music won’t be so appealing.  Grateful,  I read a bit from a John Piper’s book, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. And I filled again with sadness that times are so troubling.

My campground, as I said, is Ecclesiastes, a book I read through in two mornings. And I am reading from the Daily Walk’s Living Bible translation, which includes some handy goads and pithy commentary.  The editors ask me to answer:

·      Where am I looking for satisfaction?
·      Have I found it there?
·      If not, why not? And
·      What would Solomon’s counsel be to me?

Who wrote Ecclesiastes and when is debatable according to Wikipedia. I will refer to Solomon as its author, knowing its insights may not have been recorded in the 9th century BC, but as late as 200 BC – a time while Israel longed for a word from God, as she sunk under foreign domination. 

Solomon had wealth and wisdom –  he also had health and strength. He had perspective – and was able to see a bigger picture than many men. But he had no peace. In his opinion,
. . . nothing is worthwhile; everything is futile . . .
No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied;
no matter how much we hear, we are not content. (Ecclesiastes 1:2,11)

Yes, but . . .

Coffee and classical music on a chilly May morning in Texas ain’t half-bad.  And having  even 15 minutes to think, reflect, and pray is a luxury many women don’t have – it's more than all right. Maybe just reading about the issues Dr. Piper raises will weave a thread of understanding, conscience and courage in me to stand against mistrust, hatred and separation among Americans if only for today.

I love my country – I grieve for our failures and I ask God to give His church here a fresh start, making us comforting, kind and transparent in uncertain times.

Note: the bottle of red pepper flakes in the photo is my current weapon against the burrowing squirrels who forget where they have hidden last year's acorns. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Shell Game?

Milton Friedman, was an economist who wrote:

What kind of society isn't structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system.

If what we are facing now is the fruit of the least harmful arrangement . . . I wonder how our country will flourish in the coming decades.

I don’t understand how we got into the financial mess convulsing the world – but I believe the hole we have dug is dangerously deep.  I wonder about who our rescuers will be.

Last night we watched the second installment of Frontline’s reporting on money, power and Wall Street.   The financial crises convulsing our world today is the handiwork of young financiers who in the 1990’s came up with a way to manage risk, and legislators and politicians who took away some laws that reined in bankers’ excesses prior to the 1929 crash and world-wide depression. (Mr. Clinton repeals legislation.)

The technical description is beyond me – but what I think happened is some folks figured out how to make a few bucks – and more folks wanted in.  Even the authors of the new sources of wealth didn’t fully understand what they had created, and startlingly, their customers didn’t either. And none were prepared for the bills when they came due – whether they were banks, insurance companies, municipalities or European nations, now tottering on the brink of ruin. 

Everybody forgot: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  

When the elected and appointed leaders of our country could have imposed discipline, restraining or reforming, Frontline reports, they did not.  The failure goes deep and wide. 

Jeremiah and Ezekiel, prophets who understood the depth of Israel’s sin condemned practices that resound in today’s world:  

·      From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. Jeremiah 6:13
My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Ezekiel 33:31

The men of Issachar were commended for understanding the times – I don’t know exactly what that means. (I Chronicles 12:32) But I am hoping those with the authority will get wisdom, have understanding and courage to do the right thing. The more things change, the more they sure seem to stay the same. I think I’ll be camping in Ecclesiastes this summer.