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, November 29, 2012


I created a problem on my humble blog when I figured out how to upload pictures from my camera and change the background on the header. For all my fiddling, trying to make the blog appealing, I made it too large for the memory of other people’s computers and e-readers.

 I returned to the simplest version the hosting site offered: “Dynamic.” 

Dynamic comes from a Greek word meaning power – and power is a word that means a transfer of energy in physics, or the ability to influence people’s behavior.  And the design that the hosts put together conveys ideas more quickly than the former blog because its display is simple and pictures on the list of blog entries are easier to read. Less verbiage to wade through – it's like I went from an 80’s mindset to almost the second decade in the new millennium. 
Twelve years ago, awaiting the year 2000, btw, I was wondering if the sky would fall when all the computers in the world crashed as the New Year dawned. Many of our friends were making serious plans for huge outages, shortages, and other problems springing from being too dependent on grocery stores, ATMs and cars. Even now, describing the craziness is too much information, so, I offer links: The Problem  and The Panic.

By the end of 1999, we realized we had missed the chance to stockpile, harvest wheat we never planted, to grind into flour for bread we would never bake in the solar powered ovens we never built. So, we went to the Red Cross Website and followed their instructions – a handy reference for any who live in the path of hurricanes or tornadoes. (Y-2K Checklist)

We  set aside a two weeks supply of soup, bread, bottled water and toilet paper; we bought an alcohol-fired cook-top, batteries, and hand-cranked radio. We filled up our gas tanks and also bought two 50-gallon plastic drums, and filled them for flushing and washing. If the worst happened, we would have avoided being part of the problem for maybe a week or ten days – and perhaps we could have helped others a little. 
What made News Year Eve that year tough was our son was overseas, and daughter was at a party. News came that Australia made it – then India and finally Great Britain survived. When we stepped outside to greet the New Year, the year before the third millennium, we breathed deeply and were never so glad to see Christmas lights as we were on that new morning!  (Explanation)
The problems Y-2K posed seem small compared to the threats we still face.  The run up to Y2K’s problems though may have equipped Wall Street to rebound after 9/11/01.

·      What have we learned in the past twelve years that could help us cope with storms like Katrina and Sandy?
·      How have the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq made a difference in us who are stateside?
·      Has our thinking about debt and deficient spending changed so that we could manage in a major financial crash?
·      Have we thought about the fact that death follows hard on the heels of disasters and outbreaks of diseases?

My friend, Lucy Higginbotham, writing for the White Rock Lake Weekly described what to do in the first few hours of a crisis – like a huge storm: Like your own funeral, the time to plan for an emergency is not after the fact, but before, she said.  

Three things are critical: first, we must be equipped to care for ourselves and/or those in our households. Second, we must know our neighbors, determine their needs and their resources and have a plan to address both. Third, wanting to help is good, but knowing how to help in a way that does not endanger you or others is best.  (White Rock Lake Weekly – November 12, 2012)

Before the unexpected happens – whether wars, or rumors of wars, weird weather, (like a gigantic tornado in Italy!) or illness, betrayal, or disappointment, plan now: 

·      Rejoice in your portion.  ~The Talmud

·      Beware the barrenness of a busy life.  ~Socrates

·      Eliminate physical clutter.  More importantly, eliminate spiritual clutter.  ~Terri Guillemets (The Quotegarden)

And don’t let what you think about Christmas past wreck what might be a fresh understanding of the season we are about to observe, both Christians, or “None’s.” 

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

That’s not too much information, is it?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Remembering Our Roots – Faith and Fear

Here and now is a great time to remind ourselves why the fourth Thursday in November is a good celebration to enjoy, especially since few of us have exhausted ourselves bringing in a harvest of our crops in the past few weeks. (Wiki facts on T-day) And less than half of us credit what we enjoy to God.  
Thanksgiving has deep religious roots and was a day the pilgrims and other adventuresome souls set aside to bless God and enjoy their harvest of all their labors, and the help of their neighbors. The habit endured. Our first President, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, "as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God."
By 1863, though, Abraham Lincoln saw an added relevance of this event, and proclaimed a celebration to restore a sense of unity of Americans, though torn asunder by a grave civil war. And in 1941, when we were in another fight for our national life, President Roosevelt (FDR), hoping for continued economic recovery, proclaimed the celebration to be always on the fourth Thursday of November. 
This year, Americans will be mixing what has been a celebration of our unique history, God’s providence and our own productivity with our drive to get good stuff at cheap prices. Black Friday is the manifestation of fear that we may never be able to acquire our hearts’ desires at a better price – as well as faith on the part of merchants that they can finish their year in the black.   Now the genius of American commercial ingenuity is urging us to get out right after a T-day feast, and buy, buy, buy.
This is no segway into a rant, gentle readers. No – look for any snarky comments about how anyone chooses to enjoy Thanksgiving. That is the blessing of being an American!  
(But, before some of us nod off, party on or head out, remember to thank the cook(s); also, let’s remember dishes don’t get done by themselves!)  
Whatever we do today, my humble hope is that you and I remember how good we have it, and how too many Americans are hurting. Mr. Obama said today:
"As Americans, we are a bold, generous, big-hearted people," the president continued. "When our brothers and sisters are in need, we roll up our sleeves and get to work - not for the recognition or the reward, but because it's the right thing to do. Because there but for the grace of God go I. And because here in America, we rise or fall together, as one nation and one people." (Source) (Emphasis added)
I hope we will remember and thank the God who is; that we will reflect upon our heritage – the good and the bad, our history and government – its positives and negatives -- and the armed forces who give us the right to choose how we spend this day.  
Today is a good time to be thankful that we have opportunities to add good things to the lives of others!
God, please expand our vision to see You, as the Enabler of our prosperity and generosity – and the Sustainer in times of trial and troubles.  May we be wary lest we fall into the trap of pleasing ourselves first.
Preoccupied with ourselves, we have lost the grace of being thankful. It is sad to live in a world where there is no one to thank because we have ourselves become the cause and source of all good things. —John Hannah ( Self-Centeredness Reminders)
Thank you God for all You have done and are doing for us – by your grace and through your Son Christ the Lord.  Forgive us please our transgressions for His sake.  And give us a healthy fear of and faith in You.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Thanksgiving Warm-Up

The news of the day – People still treat each other badly, and nature remains the force that mercilessly flattens us with little warning!  Although her panic helped neither herself nor those she alarmed, Chicken Little may have had a point – some days it really does feel like the sky is falling! But she ignored what could be plainly seen about the sky, and what was known about her companions.        

Recent and current events, coupled with some reading material have felt like “some things” falling on my head:

·      Four years of campaigning
·      The looming fiscal cliff
·      The Middle East’s issues
·      “Sandy ”
·      The morphing of the West Nile virus into a more virulent strain, and
·      Troubles in the lives of those I love

And books by my bed describe how bad things were for the Russian nobility in the early 20th century and how challenging life is for women in Afghanistan*.

Blam! Blam! Blam!

A suffocating impression taunts me, “Life is hard, and then you die.”  Life hurts: if not from our fellow man’s machinations, then from the destructive capacity of nature; or, worse, from my own blunderings.

The good thing is that when I lookup from my computer – I see the sky: nothing is falling – though this morning gray-white clouds are blocking the marvelous Texas blue skies. Then I see the gigantic oak tree: brown leaves highlight its green.  And I remember:

·      I believe a power greater than myself -- infinite, personal and knowable -- created this world and all that is in it as “good.” 
·      And, I believe because man rejected God’s rule, we have trouble; Adam earned for us God’s wrath; the natural world and mankind suffer.
·      Because we can’t work our way back into His favor, I believe God sent His Son to take the punishment we earned.
·      And I believe that God accepted this perfect sacrifice as an atonement for all the sins of any who will come under it.
·      He authorized a few folks to offer these truths and act them out  – from the prophets to the apostles, to preachers and teachers, and all kinds of disciples. The most persuasive remain those whose deeds and words match.
·      One day, nature will no longer be a terror to those who turn to Him. 

Until then, though it may feel like the sky may be falling, these sorrowful tribulations are not random acts of wrath – not if they get our attention before God remakes the heavens and the earth. Many have believed Christ is Lord and God raised Him from the dead. Alas, this message still hasn’t reached everyone yet. Unfortunately, many who have heard, don’t or won’t believe it. Unhappily, some of the messengers have muddied the message; and God’s enemy can blind and deafen hearts. 

But this week we have a whole day to remember what that power greater than ourselves has done, or permitted – including the scary stuff. Well, we did until somebody got the bright idea to make money off our national holiday!        

Chicken Little’s panic helped neither herself nor those she alarmed.  Eating too much, power shopping at weird hours isn’t going to make Christmas merrier or the New Year more prosperous. But practicing an attitude of gratitude might. Thinking about who this “power” is  -- looking up, and seeing the stars – takes time. So does taking the time to look at our companions, and look out for them, especially if their lives seem under siege.  Time redeployed from worry and self-absorption to loving God and our neighbors as ourselves is time well spent.  

I am grateful to God, the masterful Gardener, who has preserved my life thus far. My hope is to finish well the life God has lent me.

Hope is hearing the melody of the future. Faith is to dance to it now. Rubem Alves (A Brazilian Theologian)

While it is wise to accept what we cannot change about ourselves, it is also good to remember that we are never too old to replace discouragement with bits and pieces of confidence and hope. -Elaine N. Aron,  The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
(Psalm 27:13 -14)

*Former People: The Last Days of the Russian Aristocracy, by Douglas Smith; In the *Land of Blue Burqas by Kate McCord)

Monday, November 12, 2012

How to Say What I Mean

I thought I was on the winning side when forty years ago, women won a constitutional right to abortion.  We wanted this very old practice legalized and regulated; we wanted the lives of women facing unplanned pregnancies protected. In the afterglow of victory, too few of us thought about the life of the child – being assured “it” wasn’t a life – not really. 

Nor, did I ever once think that “God” would care.  I have come to believe God does care for both the baby and the mom – and for the father, and grandparents and aunts and uncles – and siblings of the little child who develops from an unplanned pregnancy. But a majority of Americans no longer sees God as a credible authority. (Pew Research) 

Shortly after, in 1976, I withdrew from the winners – and joined their opposition, after seeing in quick succession on PBS a Nazi’s film of the careless treatment of bodies of humans who perished in the death camp, and a photo essay in Life Magazine on an abortion clinic, and its careless treatment of so many tiny bodies.  Since then, I have struggled with how be a proponent of choosing life – without being dismissed as “a loser.”  

Recently candidates who lost their bid for Senate seats, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, demonstrated how hard it is to express pro-life principles clearly and lovingly.  How we say what we mean matters. The candidates backed voters off by speaking imprudently on the right of a woman to have an abortion if she has been raped. Both men believe each human life is a unique and valuable gift, even when created through the horror of rape; and that living with the trauma of rape is an inexpressible pain and having a life conceived through rape, even more so. 

I think I understand what these men were trying to say. Thirty years ago, I met a baby boy whose mother had been brutally raped – she never saw her rapist; nor, was the attacker ever apprehended and punished. Three months before I met this newborn, I had met his grandmother. She was distraught because she had just learned what her daughter suffered and that she was unable to get a late term abortion for her daughter.  Anguish had so crippled the young woman, who was in her third year of college, she couldn’t tell her parents. For six agonizing months, she was alone, and had no help. 

A friend and I were able to get counseling for her mom and dad, and they got their daughter help – first, rape counseling, and then birth counseling.  The young woman decided on an adoption plan – and the baby’s foster parents let me see him before he went to his adoptive parents.

Recently, I saw the grandmother, who remembered our help. She told me her daughter recovered physically and in time emotionally and mentally; the scars are there – but she completed her course of studies and went on to an advanced degree and impressive career, marriage and her own kids. She has met her first born, and knows he too has done well. 

Of course, nobody is living “happily ever after,” but they are living – scars and all.  They are living, being loved and loving. 

Perhaps winning the abortion versus giving birth argument is learning to   persuade people of a better way when they face an unplanned pregnancy. I doubt this will ever happen through elections.  Taking the time to listen to a woman’s desperate plea, “Make this go away!” is a start. Being sure, I know how to explain what abortion is, and how the procedure is performed so I can help that precious woman make an informed decision is next. Being willing to walk with her – for more than nine months is just as vital. 

How, then, do we help the woman respect and decide wisely about the life she now carries? No easy answers come to mind – although a simple one does. If in doubt about the choice between giving life and terminating the pregnancy, choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Two Important Links:

Christians are differentiated from other people by country, language, or customs . . . They do not live in cities of their own or speak some strange dialect . . . They live in their own native lands, but as resident aliens . . . They marry and have children just like everyone else, but they do not kill unwanted babies.  Epistle to Diognetus (Christiansquoting.com)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Morning Coffee Quarterbacking

When you blame others, you give up your power to change.  ~Author Unknown

How the game should have been played is a favorite pastime for sports enthusiasts and political junkies. I can’t second-guess sports games, and I probably shouldn’t wade too deep into political analysis. But I am listening to the pros analyze the recent elections and I am smelling an aroma of coffee that is different – I am a citizen of a country that is quite different from the one in which I grew up.

And that’s not all bad. Those times seemed kinder and gentler because I was a child – I didn’t have a clue about what it was to come through the Depression or a World War; or, the actuality of segregation and racism; my daily needs were met and I did not have to struggle to survive. Plus, there was no 24/7 news reporting.   

Through this election, we are learning the voters aren’t who we thought they were –they were not a flash in the pan in 2008. We are  not quite certain about who we are becoming. We are tired of gridlocked government, but unable (unwilling) to change it.  So, we kept on the same politicians mas o manus. 

Now, we have elected a government that is poised to increase our dependence on the services it will provide. It seems like we Americans no longer believe we have the ability to care wholly for ourselves – too many of us are unemployed or underemployed. 

We hope the rich can give a little more to reduce our 16 trillion dollars of debt and 1 trillion dollars per year of deficit spending.  

Since we have not had a budget in three years, I don’t know how the politicians will reduce or reorganize the entitlements; nor, how they will apportion health care under the new healthcare plan that promises so much to so many citizens. I suspect more of us will experience unexpected changes in how our doctors treat our ailments. 

The election analysts described the outcome by saying the demographics have shifted. And many pollsters sheepishly admitted they didn’t see it coming, and so, their forecasts were incorrect.  The demographic shift means younger voters, Latino voters, African Americans and women have more clout. This voting coalition held from the 2008 election. I submit the voters with the most influence are the ones who stayed away and did not vote.

 Thursday's report, from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, put 2012 voter turnout at 57.5% of all eligible voters, compared to 62.3% who voted in 2008 and 60.4% who cast ballots in 2004. In 2000, the turnout rate was 54.2% . . .That means 93 million eligible citizens did not cast ballots. (Read more: link)

Steve Blow, writing in today’s Dallas News (11/07/12), said we can thank the crackpots for the outcome of the election.  “ . . .Truth matters. And inversely, blatant disregard for the truth comes at a cost . . .

I think we can thank the voters who sat home.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hoping for the Best

Sandy changed the lives of one in four Americans who are living in part of the country that stretches from New York to the Great Lakes. The pictures of the devastation that swept in on the night of October 29, 2012 ago are jaw-droppers.    My brain can’t wrap around the troubles that have flooded into people’s lives.  Over night, thus far, one hundred-ten Americans lost their lives; others lost their possessions; many more have been overrun with fear. 

Before the storm hit, when the warnings from the weather reports were beginning,  I was preparing a talk on Revelation 7 – a welcome interlude between all kinds of troubles John saw when six of the seven seals were undone, and then when the seventh one was broken open.  (Revelation 6 & 8) When I started reading the lesson on Thursday, and the description of the four angels holding back the four winds, Sandy  had just pummeled the Caribbean, and  now threatened the east coast. By Friday morning, I had passed from being mildly concerned about my family’s well being to being more frightened – mindful of severe repercussions that come with a late season hurricane in Maryland.  That day at lunch, a friend and I managed a laugh about what a great illustration a hurricane might be in the discussion of those winds in Revelation 7:1. But, with the unfolding details of the storm, and the seriousness with which the kids were preparing their homes, I wasn’t laughing.  Our son’s comment was, “We are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.”

Sandy’s potential swath was so vast and brutal, from New York to the Great Lakes that a newscaster said it would affect one in four Americans, one quarter, of the US population.

Hmmmm. What did Revelation 6:8 say?   The pale rider was given power to destroy a fourth of the earth  

When we walked into church on Sunday morning, I was freaked.  A storm, the likes of which had not been seen since the 1820’s,  a storm the size of Texas, was bearing down on our kids. There was nowhere to run to – to hide – and I couldn’t shelter them.  But in the midst of worship, God got a grip on my runaway emotions.  Worship does that. So, too, the compassion and prayers of friends help calm me down – even as I remained glued to the coverage of what was happening, trying to put together a talk on what John saw in the throne room. (Praise in the midst of Peril)

Believing the promises of God in the midst of faith-testing trials is a facet of Christianity that is a fiery dart for Christ’s followers, and an enduring objection of those who doubt or reject God.   We all want to know “Why?” when the innocent suffer. I believe God showed John answers in the apocalyptic visions recorded in Revelation.

I hope for the best: I want to be in the throne room – with all the people I know and love; I want to be in that number – when the saints go marching in - I don’t even want my enemies to miss its splendor! (Revelation 4) But preparing for the worst, though, is what I must do now. (John 16:33)

Encouraging words are important; concrete help – a shovel and a trash bag and a hot meal – are more important.   The folks in Staten Island were happier to see the Marines than they were with the politicians!

“It was wonderful to see them,” said Jessie Gonzalez, 34, whose home on nearby Patterson Avenue was flooded after the storm.
“They gave us supplies, water and food. It makes us feel like we’re actually getting help now. At least we feel safer with their presence.” (The Marines Have Landed!)

Please consider how you can help; whatever time, talent or resources God enables you to give – give!  Here’s a starting point or two: 

·      Samaritan’s Purse    

May God make thee, dear reader, and me as welcome a sight for suffering eyes as those brave and gallant Marines! 

 Photo REUTERS/Keith Bedford