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.

Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31, 2012

The Christian’s HOPE is that death is not the end – and that our suffering has purpose and meaning in God’s economy. In her devotional Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic and breast cancer survivor, comforted those of us in tight places by commenting on Revelation 5:

Then one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.'  Revelation 5:5

Could this be the day the Lord returns, Joni wonders –
 . . .  If so, you will experience for the first time what it feels like to be pure and blameless.  . . . You will know family members and friends as God intended them to be all along, their best attributes shining brightly, and their worst traits gone with the wind.   . . .  No confused thoughts, no mental illness, no Alzheimer's disease.

She said:
. . . If you faced deep heartache and disappointment this year, take encouragement that soon the Lamb who sits on the throne - the Lion of the tribe of Judah - will triumph. Every tear will be wiped away. Let this fact encourage you for the weeks and months ahead. Commit afresh and anew to deepen your walk with Jesus Christ in the New Year, preserving for yourself "a rich inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you" (I Peter 1:4).

I am weeping this morning because a lovely acquaintance apparently chose to end her life in the parking lot of the gun store from whence she had just purchased a handgun. (A Tribute) She was a welcoming light as we relocated in Dallas – and offered counsel and friendship in that transition. She loved the Lord Jesus Christ – what burdens she bore that robbed her of strength to carry on, I cannot say. I know there were times God brought her to mind, and I did not follow through with a call.

Following through – and offering to bear one another’s burdens – is something Christ commanded, and Paul urged. (Matthew 5:41-42, Galatians 6:12) Following through, though, has practical applications we often miss in the busyness of each day.  It takes time we often do not have – or choose not to offer. It means sacrificing . . . giving up or giving overtime and stuff I don’t want to give up.

New Years Eve is a time to reflect upon how I spent my time – and how I will spend it, God willing.  Surveying all the suffering in the midst of joy boggles my mind and challenges my faith in an infinite, personal God. Knowing that people are angry at God because He permits suffering saddens me – especially when they ignore the Cross. Therefore, being reminded by one who has suffered, Joni, reminds me to look at Christ as deeply as I do all the inexplicable heartaches, the cause or end of which I cannot fathom.

Picture Source

Friday, December 28, 2012

Clearing the Decks . . .

  . . . is an idiom, which means to finish dealing with what you are doing so that you can start to do something more important. Its original usage was,  “If navy officers clear the decks they prepare a ship for war.” (Source)

War is hell – but we, Americans, have been embroiled in them throughout our history: literally and figuratively. After more than a decade of literal war against an ideological enemy bent on destroying us, our brave soldiers and our citizens are exhausted, and our resources are depleted. After waging war on poverty and illiteracy, the news is as draining and discouraging.  And many folks I love are in hellish battles to recover their health, finances, marriages and children; some are fighting for their sanity and sobriety.    Turning a page on a calendar doesn’t ameliorate the heat of the battle.

But one idea that this idiom reinforces is making sure extraneous stuff isn’t lying about to confuse ongoing preparation for war. I hope our elected leaders can clear the decks and see their way clear to fight for our nation’s security: financially, militarily, and diplomatically. 

This goes for all the radio, TV and Internet pundits and prognosticators: SHUT-UP with the diatribes! 

And for the folks I love, today is the day to clear the decks of our minds and hearts – turn over everything to God. That Baby grew up, as I have said before; He has the muscle and the resolve to do what we can’t: clean up our act! He will enable us to forgive, reconcile and persevere in troubled relationships and troubling circumstances.  

His promise is to show us solutions when we ask that we could not imagine. (Jeremiah 33:3) Our hope, when we call to Him, is that He will do immeasurably more than we can conceive. (Ephesians 3:21-22)

·      Faith is not without worry or care, but faith is fear that has said a prayer.  ~Author Unknown

Faith is like radar that sees through the fog.  ~Corrie Ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord

Reason is our soul's left hand, Faith her right.  ~John Donne

And I repeat a favorite quote from Winston Churchill that seems apt after we have cleared all those decks: If you are going through Hell, keep going.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas!

Today is a day of feasting, friendship and gaiety, often overlaid with regrets and sorrow.  Too often, “Christmas is the Disneyfication of Christianity." (Don Cupitt) I am not down on Disney – but an adventure in an amusement park leaves us stuffed, exhausted and broke – just like too many of our Christmases!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote

We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God's coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God's coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.

I hope and pray your celebration is blessed with your heart’s desires, gentle readers, and a holy, happy knowledge that God gave His Son so that you might have life and have it abundantly. (Psalm34)

Sunday, December 23, 2012


So, the Mayans’ prognostication didn't happen – yet. Some cartoons have been funny, especially the one that relates the Mayan calendar to an Oreo.  The Mayan Doomsday Calendar may seem like many ancient superstitions, we readily ignore – But as I fell asleep the other night, I wondered: Okay, what if . . .

Every human, the Bible says, bears the image of God, including the ancient Mayans. Their dread may have been evidence of His imprint.   Solomon saw this:

 Yet, God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

I believe every human heart knows something bigger and smarter has been at work, and we are torn between wanting to rule and being governed. Our restless hearts seek a resting place; we long for peace. But we resist God’s offer, preferring our own way; and are shocked when He, who is a Person, reacts. (Isaiah 65 )

Scripture never says explicitly when – or how God will sort things out. But we know from the Bible it has begun – with Christ’s coming, His death and His Resurrection and Ascension.  And we know God’s people are not exempt from the consequences and pain with which His plan comes.

Are the natural disasters like Sandy or the 2004 tsunami, or the massacre at Newtown, Connecticut, or the personal tragedies and stumbling blocks we encounter daily, God’s sorting our of His people and this world?  

I don’t know.

But, I believe that the tribulations we are enduring in America and in all the other nations are like persistent ringing bells: Alarming to many, annoying others, but sweet to some.   

Bells are a symbol of the Christmas holidays – church bells tolling, calling people to worship, and announcing a day celebrating Christ’s birth. But fewer Americans hear them; some Christians ignore them, or misunderstand their melody.

 . . .  Rather than declaring the suffering of their neighbors to be deserved, [Christians] should work and pray for the common good. (Peter Wehner)

I hear those bells,

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men." (I Heard the Bells on Christmas Morn)

Mr. Longfellow and I may have our differences, but he was right about this: God isn’t dead or asleep. He is appealing now – showing modern types like us how Mayans feared destruction, and repeatedly He is showing the way through and from despair, disappointment and destruction.  (John 14:6 )

I believe God will arise and renew this world; He will not destroy it.  He will punish wrongdoers, and preserve those who are sheltered under His wings – those who freely chose to be chosen. (See the prophet Zephaniah )  And I believe He is at work now, too, doing things, permitting things to get everybody’s attention – to call us to, or back into a right relationship with Him.

 And I ask for ears to hear and a heart that responds to message given the shepherds long ago for both thee and me dear reader.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
(Luke 2 )  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Third Sunday in Advent

This morning dawned gray – as if the skies here are filled with the sorrow overflowing from Connecticut.

O! God, O! God is all I can say when I think of families waking up to the second morning after their nightmare began.  I pray He holds them tight on this morning, and the one following, and the next one, and the next one – for their pain will never go away.

From what we heard yesterday, from those whose jobs are to rush into situations from which we would flee, we know what they saw was horrifying, more from what they did not say, then what they did.  English has no words that can describe what happened – the word that still comes forth is evil. And the measured description of its power in that elementary school that Friday morning pulls us under as waves of mourning crash over us. 

One reporter, Geraldo, chose his words deliberately and described what he had learned about the slaughter as a “mini- Holocaust,” another marker in human history for which we have few words.    

Gov. Mike Huckabee said aloud what worries many Americans – Where Was God?      
Gov. Huckabee’s faith informs him, and a pastor who spoke with him, Max Lucado, that God permits man to choose – even evil – that is the bitter fruit of Adam’s taking that that was forbidden and eating. The Bible teaches our choices may harm not only ourselves, but others.

Why did God let this happen?

I don’t know the answer.

In China, on the same day a man burst into a class of little children. (23 Injured in Knife Attack) Mercifully, none died.

Why did God let this happen?

I don’t know the answer.

I know what the Bible teaches – that God permits us to choose how we will live, even as He gave His Son to die for all the consequences of my choices.  The choice of whom or what to serve is daily before me; God is pleading: Choose life! (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Pastor Lucado concluded his conversation with Gov. Huckabee with an appeal to anyone who approve, or would choose a course of action like the one the shooter chose, don't.  Ask for help. 

My hope is that those who ask will find help in Christ and that the Christian community will love and support them and their families.

Pastor John Dickinson observes that the power of evangelism is declining in America – not a reality to be lamented, if we would expand our reach the world for Christ:

. . . I believe the cultural backlash against evangelical Christianity has less to do with our views — many observant Muslims and Jews, for example, also view homosexual sex as wrong, while Catholics have been at the vanguard of the movement to protect the lives of the unborn — and more to do with our posture. The Scripture calls us “aliens and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), but American evangelicals have not acted with the humility and homesickness of aliens . . .

. . . Simple faith in Christ’s sacrifice will march on, unchallenged by empires and eras. As the English writer G. K. Chesterton put it, “Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.” (NYT: Decline of Evangelism)

God we need that way out! 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Nightmare

 A nightmare, by its definition, is an unpleasant dream that can cause a strong negative emotional response from the mind, typically fear or horror, but also despair, anxiety  and great  sadness.   When I have them, I often awake uncertain of the details, but certain of the emotions the dream evoked. It may take me awhile to get my bearings.

Gunmen in Nigeria and suicide bombers in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq kill large groups of people, including women and children, creating nightmares for all the families and friends touched by the senselessness.  But, though they should, these acts do not haunt me as the act at a school in Connecticut on December 14, 2013.

Yesterday, a nightmare became a waking reality and I can’t seem to shake off the horrors attending them; I am struggling to get my bearings. So is our country – even the world, as we process the news one human slaughtered twenty-eight other human beings, twenty of whom were children, after apparently murdering his mother.  Yesterday, stirred up unanimity of reactions, expressed best by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut: “Evil visited this community today.”  

How we contend with evil – how we survive its onslaught – is answered in the Bible.  The prayers and counsel of many of its colorful and courageous characters wake me up. Jehoshaphat and Jahaziel, a king of Judah and a Levite, had a conversation worth repeating two and a half millennium later. (2 Chronicles 20)

Facing an invading army who meant to destroy Judah, Jehoshaphat cried out: God, act – we have no power to face this army – we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. And Jahaziel told the king how to fight; first by remembering the battle is the Lord’s.

Am I saying Scripture says do nothing?

The church may offer ideas on how to change laws to better guard our citizens. The reality is no law can restrain a roaring lion  – even the best laws can’t conquer evil, or people determined to destroy others. (1 Peter 5:8) Whatever our nation does in the coming weeks and months, I pray the church will call for fasting and mourning.  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Our government is not a theocracy – God is not the head of the US of A. But He is the head of the church, and it is first within our boundaries to renounce and repent of the stuff that is sapping our strength.  We need a clean heart – and maybe we can see how serious the battles are we face with God’s enemy. (Psalm 51)  May God Himself wake us up! (Revelation 3:3) With a clean heart, then, maybe we can be useful, and rightly mourn with those who mourn, and in time,  maybe really bind up the wounds of the broken hearted.

Sing with me a  Hymn of Meditation:

Friday, December 14, 2012


Evil roared again – this time 20 little children were cut down, and 8 adults also. Job 2:13 says Job’s friends when then saw his agony – they sat and mourned with him, saying not one word, for they saw his grief was great.  

No words.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Responding to A Legitimate Criticism

Just Say No?

A few points that Mr. Dan Barker, an evangelical turned atheist made in a recent blog, Atheists Like Christmas Too, bear pondering. 

By usurping a pagan holiday, long celebrated “for millennia,” the church is principally responsible for the recent upticks of culture conflict Mr. Barker believes.  O.K. Perhaps the church erred in adapting its celebration of Christ’s birth to the Roman culture. Would the public celebration of the birth of Christ in March be more palatable to atheists?

No – not if the celebration is anywhere but private or church property. 

And I recognize this as just might be the new normal.

Americans should not burden each other with Christmas trees in our senior centers (The Daily News), or Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special.    What’s next? No Christmas cookies?  While I am not nuts about Christmas trees – I love that crazy jazz ensemble behind that cartoon! And Christmas cookies  are a long-time guilty pleasure.


Now, I may be reading between the lines, but I have a hunch the real issue that Mr. Barker wrestles with is not the church’s imprudent appropriation of pagan revelry, or our cheek to use public funds or property for what is clearly a religious conviction.  I believe it is the church’s assertion that God entered human history as a man – and a man on a mission. That mission puts us all under an unhappy conviction that Mr. Barker describes clearly:       

To us nonbelievers, the nativity scene is a ridicule of human nature. We are all damned sinners who need to be “saved” by bowing down to the baby in the manger who grew up to become a king and dictator who threatens us with eternal torment if we do not submit like slaves to his authority. A popular Christmas carol claims that Jesus came “to save us all from Satan’s power while we were gone astray.” Believers might see a cute baby in a manger, but most nonbelievers see a reprehensible put-down of humanity.

And that expressively condenses the real conflict – if God gave His Son to die in my place, so that I might have peace with Him, then I am not the basically decent person I like to think I am.  

Moreover, Mr. Barker believes “[w]e are not sinners or slaves.” And that America is  “ . . . a proudly rebellious country that fought a divisive Revolutionary War to get rid of kings and lords, establishing a nation that disestablishes religion.” Leaving aside for a moment the truth about who we are, the above is such a condensed description of how and why we fought Great Britain – and so compresses the establishment clause -- that Mr. Barker muddles years of colonial and national history and two documents, The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. (Wiki in the Establishment Clause of the Constitution)

The history of Christmas and unraveling the origins of so many beloved traditions could keep us busy all year.  And taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for displays of symbols of anyone’s religion, or non-religion – Mr. Barker has a point. 

How then do Christians commend their God to folks like Mr. Barker, who states:

We atheists love this time of year like everyone else, and we actually know what we are celebrating: the rebirth of the sun, not the birth of the son.  

These are interesting times, indeed.  

Praying that in this season, especially, we keep extending the invitation to the Table,  winsomely and wisely – it’s no private party! (2 Kings 7:3-20)

Cheer Up and sing with me, friend! 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sunny and Seventy

If the days and weeks seem to flash by – and Friday arrives before I realize Tuesday is past -- this year has flown by, too – a common complaint from we autumnal gardeners. Now aflame with color, the oak tree across the street daily concurs: 2012 is almost gone – and a new year is coming. Christmas lights, which started appearing the weekend before Thanksgiving, underscore the reality.  The horse-drawn carriages also are back —bringing the sound of sleigh bells and plodding horses.  And again, the season’s luscious music surrounds me.  The magical melancholy of Christmas is here!

The sights and sounds of the Holidays have arrived, but summer 2012 lingers.  And with such moderate temperatures, the prospect looms of another outbreak of West Nile virus carrying mosquitoes for the summer of 2013.  Ho- Ho- Ho. Sunny and seventy makes for an interesting forecast as the holidays speed along!

So, the sights and sounds, if not the temperature, spur me on. We put up a live wreath, duly illuminated with strands of battery-operated tiny lights.  And I have high hopes again for completing the Christmas cards, and getting them in the mail before mid-January. Some years I make it, some I don’t. 

Selecting a proper card – not too schmaltzy, preachy, or vapid – took some time.  I avoided selecting any cards with angels.  Studying Revelation this fall, I learned what Hallmark represents these creatures to be are not like the real ones John met!  They were neither roly-poly cute bundles nor serene and pristine beings. They are terrifying!  And their message is blunt: Woe to the world that rejects still its Creator and Lord! 

Not the jolliest of greetings, huh? That would give a boost to the “take the Christ out of Christmas” crew!

Seventy and sunny may not feel seasonal – and I may not be ready to close out another year of life, but, for Christians, Advent -- four weeks before  December 25 --  is the beginning of a new year on the church calendar.   This preparation time before Christmas  remind the church that Christ has come and is coming again.  Whatever others are celebrating, it’s a time for us to ponder the symbols of  His first coming, Christmas, which are either repressed or ignored:

·      a virgin-birth in a humble stable, 
·      angels that announce to shepherds God’s purpose in coming to earth, and
·      a star which guides wise men to His presence.  

If “Christmas is understanding what God has done for me in Christ,” (to quote a friend), it’s the time when former prisoners can explain to those still bound up what it feels like to be free – and invite them to join us. (Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir)

Others might play the Grinch and try to steal the symbols of  Christmas’ joy – so what? Now is the time for our taking our own personal inventory and preparing, not for Christ’s birth but His return.  

Check your  oil supply now – batteries may not be available  when you need light the most. ( Matthew 25:1-13) It’s time to be ready for His return – the one He commanded that John share with the church.  (Revelation 1:3 )

Other humble thoughts on the Holidays:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

You Want to Teach Her What?

Condom use is risky, even if a partner will use them. Leaving aside the reliability of this method of birth control, the reality of young people having sex outside of marriage increases greatly their chances of living on government assistance, living in poverty, and/or contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and passing both conditions on to their children.  However, especially in this economy, others say the remedy is our government’s providing free access to sex education and contraception. (CNN Opinion)

But many, many Americans now enjoy the widespread availability of birth control information and products, and access to abortion on demand. We are able to enjoy sex outside of marriage in ways our parents never could. But neither the pill nor abortion lowered the out of wedlock births, or contained STD’s.   In five decades since I graduated high school, we have gone from less than 7% births out of wedlock births to over 40% of the live births are now outside of marriage. (Source) And the news on how we are making our children and ourselves sick with infections is alarming. (Wiki on STD’s) What’s worse is the rise of entitlement thinking that assumes the government will pay for what we need to support our private choices. 

Now, the US government is funding, a $100,000 program to teach teenage girls how to negotiate condom use with their partners. (Washington Examiner)


Is the first fruits of Julia?

Negotiating with a partner to put on a condom is not a useful skill for a girl who is too young, or unable to support herself, a child, or to contribute to a long-term relationship.  And that condom doesn’t even keep her from the diseases that can disable or kill her – or him.   Certainly choosing safer lifestyles and avoiding pregnancies is a great life skill for girls 14-17 years old to learn! But if she is about to have sex with a partner who has to be negotiated into protecting her, she’s bought into the delusion that she has a right to what she can’t afford.

How do we say this in 140 characters or less? Texting or tweeting is how many young women – and men -- communicate; so, any life skill message must be brief as it is bold. Here are two:

·      Serving one's own passions is the greatest slavery.  ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomolia (17th century)

·      Do not bite at the bait of pleasure till you know there is no hook beneath it.  ~Thomas Jefferson (18th century)

If we won’t describe the reality of self-induced slavery, or the pain of hidden hooks that unwise sexual choices cause, in a few words, then we aren’t telling our children, especially the poorest among us, the truth.  We aren’t giving them life skills if we let them think what they want means they can only live on government subsidies.  

The freedom we know in harnessing our deepest passions, the safety we have in not getting caught in the snares of disease and poverty that unprotected sex among our young exacerbate -- these are gifts worth passing on, no matter the cost, especially to those who are the least of them. (The Lonely Life of Julia)