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, April 29, 2013

The Week Begins

Here I raise my Ebenezer –
Here by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home

Saturday was another Ebenezer stone – weather that was unseasonal in its coolness and lovely in its fresh sunshine. It was a day to “do” small stuff – and enjoy all that is extraordinary about the ordinary, knowing all the while that being free to get a few chores done, and have the resources and mobility to garden will never be “ordinary” for those who were in Boston, or West, Texas. And these past two weeks show me getting home can be sudden, horrific and apparently quite random.

All kinds of emotions had been derailing me as I read of heartbreak, and broken leadership – but through a news program, I saw a recounting of another sorrowful time through which God brought America -- Birmingham Children’s March -- One huge memorial to show how far God had led African American parents to trust Him with their children.

It mattered in 1963 how Christian Americans lived; it still matters how Christians live in this broken  – upside down, opposite world. And Ebenezers are many and varied, just like people.

So, I have a choice; today, I read a piece by John Piper on staying steady in uncertain times:

“ . . . So, I can choose to let that brokenness govern me and turn it into sins. Or I can choose to say, “I’m going to deal with the brokenness I have and try to steer my way through my brokenness to do as much good for others and avoid as much sin as I can.” (John Piper)

I hope your Monday, and the week ahead is filled with “Ebenezers” gentle readers; memorial stones that guide your walk, and comfort your heart, and renew your mind. (See Romans 12:1-2)

You might enjoy:   Life in Perspective

Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston and Bible Study

Yesterday the bible study wound up – it was a nine month inquiry into Revelation; surely this has been a serendipitous use of my time. We went from apprehension about studying what we feared might be too complex or confusing, “end-times,” to being comforted, encouraged and edified no matter how quickly or slowly Christ the LORD returns. In this book, we learned how lost the lost are, and how secure the saved are, for our hope is anchored in HIS character.

His words resound: “Do not be afraid.”

The group Bible study may be done – but I feel like I haven’t wholly grasped it. Revelation is different from any other book in Scripture – to some its message appears hidden or frightening, or inscrutable. But to those who will read and hear, it is filled with [seven] blessings – blessings that meet every need of all the churches to whom John wrote. Its message is so simple a child can understand – as all the children’s leaders so faithfully taught little ones aged 2-5! These kids got it!  

Yet, I struggle to take it all in.

When I look back on what has happened since we began the study: a terrorist attack on September 11, “Sandy,” Newtown Connecticut, wounds, trials and illnesses within our church, and families, ending with another attack at the Boston Marathon, and a tragedy in West, Texas. And now, this morning’s news of murder and mayhem in Boston washes over my heart: What in the world is going on?

Seriously, Barbara?

Weren’t you paying attention?

The bottom line is people who hate God, hate people and want to kill them – for they have believed a lie fomented by God’s enemy and his servants. Christians believe that enemy was defeated at Calvary -- just as the Allied Normandy Invasion in June 1944 broke the back of the Axis. But battles abound – just as they did throughout the months leading up to August of 1945.  And until He returns, we all are on a battlefield.

The horrors have caught many Americans of-guard for we have not endured what other Christians and cultures around the world have endured.

In Revelation 2-3, Christ reveals to John the extent of the battles, internal and external. “Intimidation and persecution” are hallmarks of the spiritual reality that Christ will see us through in the time before His return.   Christ’s promises to those who overcome what He knows we struggle with have never been more precious and essential. The hope and help that God revealed to John on Patmos is as much as a comfort to us today as it was to John. His promises are trustworthy and true.  The point of Revelation is as a movie or picture book of what Matthew meant in his Gospel, 16:18,when he quoted the Lord Jesus Christ:  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Whew . . .

His promises for reward and retribution in Revelation echo the prophets. Like many their messages, this is filled with condemnation and comfort. It is a picture of the sum of all consequences of individual choices.  We see the result of having things our way.  And we see God’s retribution in His time for His people.    

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! (Hebrew 10:31)

Therefore – when information overloads my mind, and horror engulfs my breaking heart, Habakkuk [still] helps:

I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled. Yet, I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
 to come on the nation invading us.

Though the fig tree does not bud
 and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails
 and the fields produce no food though there are no sheep in the pen
 and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3, esp. 17) 

God I believe -- help THOU my unbelief.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Usually it is my voice I think I hear reminding me of the next thing I should be doing, or chiding me for forgetting a task. Sometimes though I hear myself remembering times past, and wishing I had done things differently. Regret is a more regular companion nowadays, changing the conversations in my head. 

Regret is a gentler attendant than another conversation changer in my head – resentment.  Resentment revives old hurts and excuses me, while blaming and accusing others. Regret also revives memories – but differently. Regret helps me own my part in a hard conversation, or a painful experience. Resentment enumerates wrongs, real and imagined. Regret keeps me off my high horse. Regret urges me to confess and repent, and to repair what I can now, first to God, and then with the people I can.

Regret tells me of hidden treasures in moments I thought would come again – or never end, and reminds me to recognize these riches happening all around me now.  Others heard and wisely counseled listening to regret, and shutting off resentment:  

·      Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.  Carrie Fisher
·      A true repentance shuns the evil itself, more than the external suffering or the shame. Shakespeare
·      A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than yesterday. Jonathan Swift
·      If you have sinned, do not lie down without repentance; for the want of repentance after one has sinned makes the heart yet harder and harder.  -- John Bunyan
·      The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. Harriet Beecher Stowe

 “Don’t let the darkness talk to [me].” Ed Welch  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A First

A friend invited us to the Dallas Opera; for weeks, I anticipated seeing the whole production that includes a favorite aria: Nessun Dorma. I came to love the music from a YouTube performance by Paul Potts.  No, my grasp of opera is at best, limited.

Doug printed out the libretto – and I read up on the narrative and wondered how such a grim story could produce such wonderful melodies.  Turandot and all the characters had serious issues!  It would never make a good Disney movie. Even though the guy got the girl – what a guy, and what a girl! Talk about dysfunction!  

Unfortunately, I read the review of the first night's performance shortly before we were supposed to leave for the matinee – the critic in the Dallas Morning News; Scott Cantrell was not enthusiastic, describing many points in the production and performance that went over my head – but his comments dulled my enthusiasm.  My impression was now that it would be incompetent and substandard. 

 Perhaps it was on the night he saw it; maybe that production was disappointing – but the performance we saw was charming – more than competent – and enjoyable. (As long as I didn’t think about the meaning of the words that were being sung.) In Italian, the words sounded mighty, noble, romantic – thrilling. Reading them in English, I kept thinking – “Seriously, did she just say that?”

All in all, my first opera experience was wonderful, nonetheless. While I can’t say I will become an aficionado  -- I admire the talent and discipline of so many artists and musicians who managed to engage our attention, while telling a tale of betrayal, revenge, murder, suicide and narcissism.  It was like “Dallas” in Italian.   

Friday, April 5, 2013


Insight is the ability to see with our hearts beneath a matter and understand what is not clearly apparent. It is both a talent and a gift – some gain it quickly; others learn it slowly, and a few of us never seem to have it. It paves the way for wisdom – and that is both knowing and doing what is right. 

The problem for me now, is having finally developed a bit of insight, the world in which I live is redefining “right.” 

I am coming to recognize that Jeremiah knew a thing or two about our hearts, as unpleasant as his description was – my heart is deceitful and wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9-10) Even when I do the right thing, it’s often for the wrong reasons. But, what is right if everybody can decide for himself or herself what right is?

And what now is wrong? 

The honorable Congressman from Texas, Louis Gohmert, recently became the poster child for how hard it is to describe right and wrong, mixing up gun control, same sex marriages and bestiality. It’s as if too many sound bites from talk radio, the pulpit, and House floor speeches were whirling around his brain and splashed out of an open mouth, ruining any hope of a civil discussion of how to control guns and protect people’s rights, while limiting dangerous behavior. 

And what do I mean by dangerous?

Especially now in light of a new ruling that young women of any age can buy a morning after pill without their parents or doctors knowing. What could possible be dangerous or wrong with that? 

  • I think we risk becoming the best-informed society that has ever died of ignorance. ~ Ruben Blades 

Isaiah surely could see into the increasing confusion Americans face -- and his insight is keen:

What sorrow for those who say

that evil is good and good is evil,

that dark is light and light is dark,

that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. (Isaiah 5:20)

My ongoing prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it's me.
    ~Author unknown, variation of an excerpt from "The Serenity Prayer" by Reinhold Neibuhr

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Getting in Shape with Shakespeare -- Today?

William Shakespeare observed,

“ . . . Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners; so that if we will plant nettles or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed up thyme, supply it with one gender of herbs or distract it with many, either to have it sterile with idleness, or manured with industry -- why, the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills . . .”   (William Shakespeare, Othello, I, iii)

How prescient and wise this commentary, though from a villainous character, whose intentions were not healthy – Iago.  He planted seeds of jealousy – and Othello reaped a murderous passion.  Shakespeare here posits real power deep within the soul of humans – the life force that is different than instinct; the mysterious mechanism that can propel us from or to pain and suffering, or to peace and joy.

When I blow it, the fault isn’t some wrong configuration of the planets or stars, any more than good times come when new astrological age dawns -- like the Age of Aquarius. I may be right where I am because of forces beyond my control; but how I choose to be in these circumstances, is, for today, a function of what I will.

Shakespeare wrote Othello around 1603 – adapting it from earlier works. The times in which he wrote were as uncertain as our own – and in them, he had known sorrow and financial loss: a new king and plenty of treason trials, and colonization of the new world was in its infancy.  Soon, a plot to blow up Parliament would be defused, while religious tensions continued. Disease, plague, remained a killer – and an unidentified illness killed Shakespeare’s son.  And modern research uncovered some shocking news about the Bard’s finances:

They report the great playwright did not entirely make his living in the theater. He was also a merchant, a moneylender and a tax dodger. In 1598, he was prosecuted for hoarding grain during a famine. (NPR Radio)

Yet, he urges – albeit through the lips of a rogue -- our will can generate gracious productive “gardens” – pleasant and productive people. Or, this same invisible energy can blight a life, making that “garden” uninviting.  But, its unseen authority can be set right; corrigible  means we can set and reset the driving force of our lives right.

That’s heady stuff to ponder on a day when news of powerful assassins capture headlines in Kauffman Texas – less than 50 miles from me, and North Korea is threatening a nuclear attack of the United States, and our nation’s debt accrues in amounts we be unable to repay.  

If the power of my will can change the shape of my "garden" -- what I look like, how I act, and how I influence others, I need to assess – inventory – my gardening goals and supplies, no matter the times. Thinking about this point of view is scary – it undercuts many of the reasons I often recycle for failure in matters small and large in my life. How do I do this – especially at this stage of life? If my body is [as] my garden, some parts show I’ve been not planting so wisely or so well! 

And given the news, why bother?

I guess the answer is because with God’s help I can – just for today.  Today is a day I ask God to guard and guide me, protecting me from evil, and prompting me to do good while I can.  And I ask Him to help all in leadership to know and do right. (Psalm 27 )

THOUGHT FOR TODAY:  Unload the gun before fear pulls the trigger.*

 Would that Othello had bothered to control his fear, and Iago his treachery!

(*from A New Day --- 365 Meditations for Personal and Spiritual Growth.)

 The Bard of Avon