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 30, 2013

Losing and Winning

Psalm 37:24-34

A Christian friend lost his battle with cancer recently – it was a terrible battle. His hope, and mine, is that his soul is at rest, secure in the great communion of saints, awaiting the Lord’s return.  He fought bravely – and vigorously; so did a faithful cadre of friends, who shouldered financial burdens, physical burdens and prayer burdens. 

This Christian had lost some other battles – battles with sin and temptation that may seem unthinkable to lose. And the costs of these battles were as devastating to him and others as the disease of cancer was to his body.

If a person is truly walking with God, some may begin to wonder, how could they  . . .
I don’t know. How could I have done the stuff I did – do?

Doubt, despair and all kinds of depravity do not disappear from even the most sanctified walk with God!  This trio is like cancer – and just as bewildering and deadly.  We, who know better, can do truly awful things – no matter how or when God rescued us. The Holy Spirit, Christian fellowship, preaching and the sacraments can be like – Interleukins – which sometimes stimulate the body to fight types of cancer.  However, just like fighting cancer means availing ourselves of the treatments, fighting the fallout from sins means taking concrete steps.

Screwing up – sinning – is disappointing, horrible, harmful and wrong  – Hindsight gives me a high definition picture of so much I would like to forget I did.  But, it doesn’t have to be disabling.  Confess, repent, make amends, and try again.  And when a Christian close to us stumbles, blows it, and sins – it might be God graciously holding up a mirror showing you and me where we are headed if we keep on with our own little peccadilloes.  (John 8:1-12)  So, maybe we could offer a hand? (Galatians 6:1-2)

Days before this Christian man slipped his earthly chains, he commended Psalm 16  as his help and comfort in all the battles he fought – and what is noteworthy, praiseworthy and a goad – he kept fighting; he kept living so that he might declare the praise of God. (Psalm 18:50)

My chief praise is the sword of God’s judgment has been sheathed against those whose hope is the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  And that the means of His grace still abounds is praiseworthy indeed. 

Yet, His enemy still prowls, looking for some to devour --     

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memorial Day 2013

During the past twelve years, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, American soldiers have fought a different kind of war than they did in previous wars – but our debt to them is as great for what they did, so that you and I might spend our time as do right now. It bears repeating:

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

They are still sacrificing, even as we pause to remember the cost to millions of American soldiers. (Wounded Warrior)

Renewed awareness of our soldiers’ courage and suffering – and my debt – emerged from an unlikely source – a book, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey - the Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle. In the middle of a guided tour of the gilded excesses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the author and current “caretaker” of the castle also describes the carnage of World War I as she reports how Lady Almina established hospitals for the wounded warriors of her times. She served hundreds (of the millions) of the soldiers who were injured, many of whom returned to combat and die on the battlefields. This legacy is far grander than any castle’s preservation – or the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb, and its subsequent tensions and rivalries.  

 Less than three decades later, the world was at war, again – the fruit of international politics and a peace treaty.  (The Treaty of Versailles) How both the World Wars changed us might well explain why  we are still embroiled in war. One general who fought in both wars, describes a legacy Americans – and the world – resist, considering: 

We have too many men of science; too few men of God.
We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death.
The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.
We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. – General of the Army,  Omar Bradley   (1893-1981) Armistice Day speech to the Boston Chamber of Commerce,1948.

May God deliver those in harm’s way today – and may God build in us a holy reverence for those whose courage cost them their lives, and their loved ones. And please God give us a holy fear of war and deliver us from its evil – and especially that of own making! But may we not shrink from defending our country.

War is evil, but sometimes it is the lesser evil. George Orwell.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Summer Reading Thus Far

I fell off the pink weather cloud. It was bound to happen.  As the weather warmed, tornados arrived. The gut-wrenching images from Granbury, TX were a foretaste of worse ones sweeping across Moore, Oklahoma – where the tornado was among the strongest. (Deadliest Tornados in USA) When the pictures of the storms’ paths revealed their power to lift houses from their slabs, crush school buildings and toss pick-ups, I wondered at our hope of huddling in an interior powder room, that such a shelter could keep us.

Providentially, I recently had finished reading a biography of Anne Bradstreet. She enjoyed, and lost various shelters that I recognized – an education, prosperity, adventure, marriage and children. And she suffered terrible losses through “storms” – fomented by religious and political upheaval, long separations from loved ones, physical afflictions, disasters, fire, and death.  And she committed her thoughts and prayers to paper, wrestling with God  – in verse – as forcefully as Jacob wrestled with that angel, laying bare her faith, frustration and fears.  (Genesis 32:22-32)

Finally, she left her children a biographical account of how she came to be who she was. She was candid about her character defects; dispassionate, describing her afflictions, and crisp in connecting all the points in biography so that even a child understands and can apply her words – rejoicing in faith, and walking through doubts and disappointments. Reading her poetry is time well spent, set in the context of her biography.

Another book that offered some shelter was one I finished almost in one reading: Sober Mercies – A Memoir – How Love Caught Up With a Christian Drunk. The author, Heather Kopp, is also a writer, and like Anne Bradstreet, a Christian – and is as candid about her troubles as Anne Bradstreet – but in prose. It is a quick read -- Well-written and no-whining – Her autobiography is composed with enough hindsight to be winsome, and enough courage to be oh so helpful to one who is also recovering, or thinking about putting the bottle down.

And she tackles prayer – pointing out that maybe coming to believe in God, as we understand Him – might be more honestly confessed as trusting a God we don’t really understand. Her growing understanding of prayer, God, and trust shone a light into cobwebs that are plugging up my own prayers.

Finally, I just finished The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else.  I came to this lovely book serendipitously; I bought Whatever Happened to Sophie Wilder? (Recommended by Marvin Olasky in WORLD magazine) And I was looking at other books by Christopher Beha.

The author celebrates learning, living and love – in the midst of tears, and simple pleasures. Describing what he thought about some of the writers in this collection is artfully woven into vignettes he describes of his family, health, and writing.  His recollections of a year devoted to reading through the Harvard Classics reminded me how much I missed in university! He left me with an impression of being on a “grand tour” of all that has been wonderful in western civilization with a gentle soul and friend. He made me reconsider why I keep writing, and that learning is never over as long as we are willing to read and think about what politicians, philosophers, poets, explorers and dreamers have written.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


from Wiki Article

I watch too much TV . . . but sometimes the fare on cable is mesmerizing!  And it beats the news by a long shot!

The other night, watching "America’s Worst Tattoo" I realized that of all the things I never did, not getting a tattoo was a good thing.   In the two episodes I watched – transfixed – the tattoos people showed were unattractive, inappropriate or incompetently rendered. They wanted their tattoos covered up – the “new” designs were startling solutions.  

Tattoos are as taboo for me, as piercing ears were for my mother – She about took gas when I had my ears pierced, by her sister-in-law.  But now, the nicest people have chosen to commemorate events, dreams, or opinions by tattooing them discretely or blatantly.  (Link to more than you might want to know – but read anyway)

 My mother couldn’t convince me not to pierce my ears – any more than I could convince someone to avoid decorating their flesh with color and designs. But I can share two warnings --

·      Think before you ink!  ~Author Unknown

·      Women, don't get a tattoo.  That butterfly looks great on your breast when you're twenty or thirty, but when you get to seventy, it stretches into a condor.  ~Billy Elmer – comedian

And finally – just thinking about the reality of skin that is losing a wee bit of elasticity:

·       When you make a mistake, admit it; learn from it and don’t repeat it. (Bear Bryant)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Beauty and Mental Health

Neighbor's Magnolia
"Well, take it all in, and see what you find."” Good advice from a favorite blog, Living with Flair, that has been whirling around my little gray cells.

It’s so gorgeous again today it almost hurts!  The wonder of yet another glorious May morning is that I did not will its arrival, nor can I prevail upon it to remain. It’s lovelier because I know it can’t stay – I have to hold it tight with open hands.  Taking it all in, though, means understanding this good day’s beauty isn’t all there is and I am simply choosing not to listen to news of the day for now.    By this morning’s  urging, I know that being present, even in troubled times, is a privilege, a privilege with the responsibility of learning and applying what today’s slice of life shows me, and remaining sane. 

So, from an older blog written by John Piper, 10 Resolutions for Mental Health I see the blessings of seeing what I can find when I take it all in, this glorious morning! 

1. At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.

2. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end . . .

3. I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities . . .

4. I shall not turn my life into a thin, straight line which prefers abstractions to reality . . .

5.  I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.

6.  I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence.

7. I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the "child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder."

8. I shall follow Darwin's advice and turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably, as Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music.

9.  I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, "fulfill the moment as the moment." I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now.

10.  Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

This morning I lift my eyes from the keyboard and see beauty – the wordless evangelist, that oak tree,  against a May morning’s sky. I hear the melody of St. Francis’ prayer – make me an instrument of thy peace . . . a work by John Rutter. (Link)

My eyes and ears urge: put on the garments of praise and gratitude – even as the morning news confirms the depths to which many are plunged. 

Take it all in and see what you find

This morning I find time and opportunity to be useful – a time to be up and doing good, in the words of my mother-in-law.  May we both take it all in today – and see what we find; may we be useful – dear reader, Seeking not to be consoled – but to console . . .

·      I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see.  ~John Burroughs
edited for brevity -- well a bit.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Another Marvelous May Morning in Texas


Wow . . . Lush and green are like synonyms.  The roses still are arresting my breath; we have enjoyed an abundance of them this season; even the winter pansies have continued blooming. This morning -- the weeds look good!

Gardening chores are a welcome relief given today’s headlines, or too much information on BBC world news: a newsreader dispassionately reports slaughter, chaos and more violence. 

Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection not in words alone, but in every leaf in springtime. --Martin Luther

But . . . shortly the plants and I will be HOT and dry! And as summer stomps out the bright freshness of this season’s garden, this morning will be a happy recollection.

The wordless evangelist across the street is enjoying this morning also – as if the sunshine and breezes are making her laugh, even though two pockets of dead branches blemish her.  I can’t get too far from the certainty; disability and death are always the context of what is delightful. 

This twosome is the ruin ever-circling my autumn’s garden. 

It is important to speak of suffering and death in a way that dispels fear. Indeed, dying is a part of life. - Pope John Paul II in Austria: Message to the sick and suffering June 1998

When the cancer that later took his life was first diagnosed, Senator Richard L. Neuberger remarked upon his "new appreciation of things I once took for granted--eating lunch with a friend, scratching my cat Muffet's ears and listening for his purrs, the company of my wife, reading a book or magazine in the quiet of my bed lamp at night, raiding the refrigerator for a glass of orange juice or a slice of toast. For the first time, I think I actually am savoring life. _Better Homes and Gardens_

Providentially, I read separate blog pieces that are grand weed-killers,  powerful antidotes for fear and grief. May I commend them?    

 . . . My problem with euthanasia is not that it is a immoral way to die, but that it has its roots in a fearful way to live. (Dying and Euthanasia)

. . . For those who may, this day, be fearing the dark and feeling lost... there is a light shining in the darkness... trust it... follow it... there is safe harbor there for your souls. (A Light for the Darkness)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Difference between God’s Artistry and Mine:


My handiwork

 and HIS so wondrously captured by Heather Holleman.

The world embarrasses me, and I cannot dream that this watch exists and has no watchmaker. --Voltaire

Friday, May 3, 2013

How About the Weather?

Last night, temperatures plunged in Dallas – the coldest night for May 2 in decades.

Up until recently, the weather has been a safe conversational subject – Henry Higgins thought so anyway.  (Act 3, Pygmalion, a.k.a. My Fair Lady) But now, it   seems a hotter subject than religion or politics; we may have a new triumvirate of topics that divide us.  Discussing the weather can quickly generate more heat than a summer’s afternoon in Texas. But, it’s chilly now, that’s sure – thanks to something that blew through.

Yes – the fake fireplace is crackling!

 Since science was never my strong suit, my opinion on weather is only that – my opinion. I don’t believe while we can destroy the planet – but we sure can make messes in our corner of creation that are without excuse – making life harder for other people, critters and plants.  We were supposed to care for creation – but trying to be like God hasn’t been working out so well for the creation or us.

An obliging voice  - perhaps because of his accent – offers a way that makes sense to me. Jeremy Irons shows us the consequence of all our carelessness, and is determined we can and must do better with trash disposal.   In an interview on the CBS Morning Show he said: 

"I don't believe we're doomed because I believe that human nature is extraordinary," Irons said. " I think we will be brought to our senses eventually. I think things may have to get worse. I think, I hope we will be brought to our senses. We're on a highway to a very expensive and unhealthy future if we do nothing."

"And gloomy future," Smith [the reporter] added.

"Well, the sun will still shine," Irons replied.

Looking forward – well, not really – but am confident that Mr. Irons’ new film,
TRASHED: No Place for Waste will be a worthwhile contributor to a critical conversation, no matter the weather.

Jeremy Irons' environmental documentary "Trashed" addresses the pressing problem of garbage. (Belnheim FIlms)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

National Day of Prayer 2013 and Jonah

Since I was in first grade, Americans have prayed on the first Thursday in May for our nation’s needs. (Wiki on National Day of Prayer) But dissenters demur: people of equally informed consciences who want freedom from religion. (Freedom from Religion Foundation)

Our cultural heritage, Judeo-Christian, define our prayers from Scripture. The Bible urges folks who want GOD to intervene on their nation’s behalf to amend their own conduct so that God will hear their prayers.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

And the land can get plenty sick.

In Leviticus, God spelled out what would happen to His people who went their own way – the blessings of obedience and woes of disobedience. (Leviticus 26)  Israel literally experienced all He said would happen. 

America is not Israel – so what about us? What of the church? Do these warnings matter today?

The mystery of the God of Scripture is that He still makes His appeal to return to Him, for there is no other Savior. (Isaiah 44:22 ) He still holds out His blessed hand, which even we resist – let alone those who want freedom from all things “God.”

"I opened my arms to my own people all day long, but they have rebelled. They follow their own evil paths and thoughts.” (Isaiah 65:2) 

The Chairman of this year’s National Day of Prayer Greg Laurie said, If God could bring a revival to Nineveh, surely he can do the same for America. Re-reading this short account then shows me how to pray for my nation, my fellow believers, and myself.

God sent an unwilling evangelist to a powerful nation of people who knew not God, much less their left hands from their right. (Jonah 4:11) Ninevites heard the word of God preached, and they repented –from the top down to the bottom, up:

The Ninevites believed God.  . .
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
(Jonah 3:5-10)

Frankly though, I think that what gave impetus to Jonah’s preaching was his appearance – when he showed up on the shores of Nineveh, he didn’t look like a man who had a life-changing message.  Before Jonah preached, God humbled him – so, his prayer is something to consider on this day of prayer – it reflects a man who was humbled: thrown overboard, swallowed up and spit out on a on beach covered in whale vomit is pretty humbling!   He had learned the limits of God’s love.

. . . But you, Lord my God,
 brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
 turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
 will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”(Jonah 2:7-9)

Unhappily, Jonah never seemed to love the people to whom he preached – he sulked when God did what He said He would do for Nineveh.  His little pity party makes me examine how I feel and act in my little world. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Christians live amongst a diverse and great nation of many faiths, including alarming numbers of those with no faith in anything but themselves. My prayer is that as God shows me this day my issues – He mercifully shows my fellow citizens the glory of Himself – and the power of His word. And that I will love well all those in my humble path today – it is no accident when we meet.

If God could bring a revival to Nineveh, surely he can do the same for America. (Pastor Greg Laurie, Chairman, National Day of Prayer)

May revival begin in me – and in His church, for His glory and our beloved nation’s good.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Warnings: If You See Something, Say Something.

This has been our government’s warning to us for over a decade, since September 11, 2001.  And because of folks who heeded this warning, we have saved lives.  

I see something – and I want to say something, and it’s news from a courthouse in Philadelphia, news that our press simply is not covering. In this corner of my garden, wanting to be more winsome than whiny, I wonder how to say what I see that is at best upsetting – and at worst, disastrous.  I will use others' words:  

·      A journalist who saw that few of the American press were covering the trial, and  reported on the Pennsylvania authorities who ignored serious health and safety violations for almost two decades.  And he described what happened in that clinic. The link is not for the fainthearted: What I Saw at the Gosnell Trial .

·      Andree Seu Peterson wrote, of this trial, “The shocking part of the Kermit Gosnell trial isn't only what's illegal.”  (Another link that that shocks: Courtroom Horror)

We can roll over, and ignore the alarms that some people are reporting, remembering the doctor may be exonerated.  

But, what then?   

How that jury rules will tell us more about them and us than about Gosnell.
Still we have to ask:  How could such monstrous practices go on for so long? How could people be kept quiet?  How could medical malpractice procedures not ever be instituted? (Gadfly’s Muse: The Pathway to Kermit Gosnell )

I’ve been known to sleep through alarms, to ignore many obvious warnings – believing nothing bad could happen. But now, the warning I hear is old -- reverberating from somewhere in the tenth century B.C.  when Solomon warned his son get involved in saving people who are being butchered:

Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.   
If you say, "See, we did not know this,"
Does He not consider it   weighs the hearts ?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his work? . . .
(Proverbs 24:11-14 emphasis added)

Wake up O sleeper – and listen to what God said to Esther through her uncle:
Mordecai sent her this message: “Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14 The Message)

May God lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil – the evil that is smack dab in front of us, and of our making!
WORLD Magazine May 4, 2013