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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blue Bloods

Frank and the Father
We have been fans of  the police drama “Blue Bloods” for a few years. A recent episode touched on the police chaplain’s escape into alcohol abuse; he was deadening the despair he felt, realizing that few of his flock ever came to him for solace, understanding or help to keep doing their jobs – or – simply living.

He said these kinds of troubles have been redefined.

He had been on duty through 9/11 and its aftermath, but now he was “feeling useless as cops who used to seek his counsel were now opting for doctors who prescribed pills and diagnosed them with things like depression and PTSD.”

Frank (Tom Selleck) asked Father Markhum what was different about his recent circumstances, his having dealt with loss for so long, The chaplain lamented that "nobody's coming" to him anymore, given other sorts of counselors and even the meds people take to feel better. And, basically, he had decided to throw in the towel. (Crises of Faith)

In the television drama, bad things happened; how should the characters cope?  The show did goad me to wonder how well I can help a soul in crisis. Some of them faced stuff that has yet to happen to me and mine – but some of it, like broken hearts, happens routinely. The writers on this show raised unanswered questions – and showed hurt that is not automatically healed. 

A dramatization of living in the post-Christian era?


How do I answer a sudden cry for help? Are you prepared?  Are we living in such a way, a hurting heart could trust us with their tears? Or, are we living like that chaplain, consumed with rejection and self-pity because of today’s re-definitions of faith, sin, and ethics?

What I liked was those writers pointed to the help and hope God can be, without expressing one-size fits all bromides. We didn’t hear what the chaplain said – only that he offered a fresh cup of coffee, and a sympathetic ear. Counseling and prescription medicine help heal . . . but counsel that ignores God may lead us into more dead ends.

God did not turn all His healing power over to counselors, even those who preface their profession with “Christian.” Nor did he compress the power all into prescription drugs. 

He leaves room for Himself to work in ways we don’t expect. But if we go A.W.O.L., throwing in the towel the way that police chaplain initially did, despairing that nobody seems interested in the healing hope that faith in Christ is, we’ll miss His mysteries, too.  

 “God did not die and leave you in charge!”  And if I slip into thinking God is my co-pilot, change seats!   

In the “Blue Bloods” episode, finally the police commissioner, Frank, sent his hurting son to get the help that he knew the chaplain could and did offer.  Just one person  came to him – just one, and found the chaplain on duty, albeit in a very empty church.

Praying we have ears to hear the cry, and hospitable hearts to help, even in big empty spaces.

A little Humor & Wise Advice: Bob Newhart: Just STOP IT!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A New Commission

A distinct delight that these years in Dallas have given me is a weekly art class at Pigment School of the Arts. Though the most of the students are primary students, a few times a week, older students are welcomed – and I am among the oldest. Since 2006, I have enjoyed the camaraderie of painters and potters, and the tutelage of an accomplished artist and teacher.  And I have produced . . . art. 

Now, all my accomplishments are not ready for a prime time exhibition at the Kimball, or Dallas Museums, but I placed a few of my paintings in a recent show that Pigment Hosted. And someone liked a painting!  They wanted to buy it! It was however only on loan to the exhibition, having been promised to Douglas, who is unfailingly supportive.  

(Doesn’t that sound . . . a wee bit cheeky: It was only on loan . . .?)

The subject is a bright red cardinal nestled in snow-laden trees in western Maryland, painted from a photograph that Dave Wolfe snapped. I loved the photo, and felt my picture fell short of conveying the moment Dave recorded. So, in addition to it being promised, I was uncertain of its worth. However, I agreed to reproduce it, for a modest fee.

Because so many of the students attending classes at Pigment are six decades younger than I am, they are transparently kind in assessing my work in the studio.   On a few occasions, they have made especially thoughtful and positive comments. But recently, when one young student learned I had expressed reservations about the painting’s worth, she stopped her art own project and wrote me a note.

I was stunned and deeply touched and remembered how powerful a tonic a few kind words spoken from the heart can be. 

Emboldened by such kindness, I started my first commissioned painting, hopefully reproducing what first attracted someone’s interest – alas, with instructions that I leave out the bird.

Kind words are like honey -- sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (Proverbs 16:24) 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What Heat?

(AP Photo/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)

Today is sunny, seventy degrees – and gentle breezes. October’s last days in Dallas are worth remarking upon – and remembering. The roses have returned for a colorful farewell appearance; the late summer additions are, however, tired. The bachelor buttons are bending because of the cooler, damper days. And the sun goes down now by eight PM.  It’s not exactly bundling up weather, but it is cooler – and so pleasant. What a difference 20 degrees can make!

 Remembering that heat in all this sunshine, shows how quickly I can forget. As I look over what I have written about weather the past four years, I see several times the weather was more than aggravating – it was scary.  

We are coming up on the anniversary of a storm of literally biblical proportions – Sandy.   By Monday night, October 29, 2012 she came ashore – above Maryland and slamming into New Jersey – Wow . . . Hurricane Sandy has been so off my radar screen! When the news stops covering the troubles, I forget as quickly as I forget the heat when the weather cools.

Do you remember fearing for what she might do? (From Boring to Superstorm)

 I do – I was preparing a lecture on Revelation 7.  And what did the very first verse in Revelation 7 say?
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.

Knowing our children were in the path of the biggest storm to hit the East Coast in almost two hundred years. I wondered – worried: What if one of those beings drops the corner? After all, in Revelation 6:8 they were given power to destroy one fourth of the earth.  Sandy’s swath was huge and brutal, from New York to the Great Lakes; a newscaster said it would affect one in four Americans, one quarter, of the US population.  

In the Dallas Morning News, today, a story from the AP confirms the scars from Sandy are still deep – thousands of Americans are still trying to fixed their wreck homes, and billions of federal aid hasn’t reached those it was authorized, months ago, to fix.

      Here are ways we can remember and still help, including through the subsequent disasters that have happened in the past year:  Pray & give.

·      Samaritan’s Purse    

Earlier Blog: Hoping for the Best

Monday, October 21, 2013

Anne Rice: Letting Go of Religion

Anne Rice at home in Palm Springs. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian
On a YOUTUBE clip, Anne Rice described a journey from religion to faith in Christ that resonated with my own – being raised in the church, and deciding to leave the church because the world beyond the church was powerfully appealing.  It is time well-spent listening to her well-expressed experience leaving and coming back to faith in Christ. She gets what it means to be saved – looking at the Cross, you are forgiven, and there are no barriers to Him. Christ is inviting you to come back to God. Once you’ve embraced God, your surrender is total. His love is without measure or qualification.   (I am second: Anne Rice)

But a decade later, in an interview on National Public Radio, she said something else:

"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else." (NPR Interview)

What happened?

Well, I know what might have happened – when she uses the adjectives like this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous to describe “the group’” aka the church. Evidently, the doctrine and the activism of the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to homosexual rights – while covering up its own sexual abuses -- convinced her to leave. She said: I found God, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a member of any organized religion.    

I can so relate . . . Organized “religion” -- can be a problem – and it may be the reason some who receive the word of God gladly, wither and fall away. (Matthew 13)  

The church is a mess . . . has been a mess, and until Christ returns, it will be a place for sick people, saved from their own destruction, to recover, and to make themselves useful to others.  Its shepherds are as many and varied as the flocks they tend. Living with sheep – as a sheep – is a picture of church life. None of us are the brightest animal in the realm – we are prone to problems and need tending; the wonder is that Christ bothered with any of us. (John 10:11)

But He did – and Ms Rice surely understands the cost of His care for us – a humiliating death. He gave us a message – and we have a mission. (Matthew 28:19-20) Feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, visiting prisoners, and serving widows is [often] welcomed by the world – until we mention responsibility before a holy God who so loved the world He gave His Son, but hates sin. (Leviticus 19:2; I Peter 1:15-17 KJV)  It is good to know nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ – not so great to hear the seriousness of our sins.

Being delivered from sin’s penalty, Christ’s precious promise to us also comes with warning: “Stop it!” (John 8:1-11) He never added, “Unless you were born that way.”
And that’s our reason for not living differently after He saved us.

We don’t want to hear from folks who can’t get their own act together! Talk about hypocrites!

But, if we rightly see what Christ did on the Cross, as Ms. Rice described, we must let go of what we can’t imagine living without – our little peccadilloes that seem to be just how we’re made.  And we are supposed to do this together . . .

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

Figuring out how to be in a world that seems to be going crazier and crazier, remaining faithful to Christ, and loving others with the love God showed us, when sometimes we are only barely healed ourselves is tricky. (Mark 5:30-34) Figuring it out in a flock of recovering sinners is trickier. Seeing Ms. Rice’s dislike to what the church does reminds me to take my meds before I point out how the world – and you – needs to shape up.  (The Be-attitudes)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Autumn Weeds: Too Many Words and So Little Wisdom

The Chinese are said to have a curse: May you live in interesting times. (Background) These are interesting times indeed – especially since Americans have permitted our government to meet our needs, real and imagined. And it’s dawning on us that the service is pricey and second-rate.   Indeed, some of us wonder if government has now become our master, demanding more of our money than is prudent to pay, given the results. *

Hence, the most recent government shutdown.

Is this just a petulant backlash, or, is it a principled resistance to disastrous debt and income redistribution? Or, is it just business as usual?

Whatever it is,  it’s all confusing and upsetting, made worse by political leaders indulging intemperate language, politicized press coverage, and news of the government’s mining of private information from our electronic correspondence and conversations. It isn’t that the problems are more vitriolic than ever – see who said what about whom in the American Revolution and the Civil War -- it is that they are interminable, because of our technology, often inaccurate, and usually unchallenged or refuted.

Our leaders, on both sides of the aisle, have blown too many opportunities to reform a health care system that has done great things and could do better. How I wish we could have had an open debate on how best to serve those for who we are responsible! (Proverbs 24:11; Luke 10:25-37) But we did not. So, here we are.

The bottom line is TANSTAAFL – and offering “free” insurance to the sickliest, the neediest, and the oldest is a good thing. But insurance doesn’t mean health care. When he preached there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, I thought my father meant, beware: nobody gives you something for nothing. But to some extent, many of us have all come to believe the government can and should. It can’t – but we

I keep listening for answers from the White House and the Congress.

You'll find wisdom on the lips of a person of insight, but the shortsighted needs a slap in the face. The wise accumulate knowledge - a true treasure; know-it-alls talk too much - a sheer waste . . . Liars secretly hoard hatred; fools openly spread slander. The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words. (Proverbs 10, esp. vv 13,14, 19, emphasis added)

*( See How our High School Graduates Rank internationally, and the state of our roads Decay Despite Stimulus.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Thoughts today stirred from a poem, titled “Hurry.” (Gleaned from a blog,  Sober Boots)

Yesterday, I did not hurry; I spent the whole day putzing and trying to come to terms with the emotions a favorite PBS program generated.

What a gift it was.

To have a day when nothing pressed in, scolding me to “Do this now.”

We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store
and the gas station and the green market and
Hurry up honey, I say, hurry hurry,
as she runs along two or three steps behind me
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.

Where do I want her to hurry to?
 To her grave?
To mine?
 Where one day she might stand all grown?

Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,
Honey I’m sorry I keep saying Hurry—
you walk ahead of me. You be the mother.

And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking
back at me, laughing.
Hurry up now darling, she says,
hurry, hurry, taking the house keys from my hands.

—Marie Howe, The Kingdom Of Ordinary Time

All the memories the poem evoked! For I hurried our kids, and Doug and myself through many days  -- days that dragged through at break neck speed.

But I found a hymn written by Kristyn Getty for her little baby girl that slowed me down – and reminded to pray:

"This world is not as it should be..."; "May my mistakes not hinder you..."; “Father hear my ceaseless prayer == o keep my children and theirs in your care. A Mother's Prayer

Monday, October 7, 2013

Unplugging from a Party Line

Last Tango in Halifax's Characters
The Last Tango in Halifax tells a winsome tale of how two families and their friends get on, when Alan and Celia rekindle a flame, 60 years old.  The writing is excellent. The whole production, terrific! The characters and their peccadilloes are wholly believable; even the rascals are engaging.  A form of religion is in the background, but with no substance, except negative stereotypes and bad language. And by word and deed, they are all doing fine with out God, having given up on Him long ago. 

While the series began with a winsome premise – this last week’s chapter was anything but charming.  It’s a quietly disturbing propaganda piece about life in the post-Christian era.  

If you read a summary of the episodes, thus far, it reads like real people we know.  God knows I’ve walked down a few paths on which the characters are now treading! (See a summary: Last Tango in Halifax.)  But, last night’s episode took my breath away.

They do terrible things to themselves and to each other! I have grown to care about all these people – and what they get themselves into – their pain is so credible. 

It’s what life looks like, when people do what is right in their own eyes – and the depravity seems harmless enough at first. 

Okay – if you are still reading after that word, let me hasten to say, I have loved this show!  Would that I felt so deeply for the real people God has placed so directly in my path.

I am in Chapter 3 of Exodus.  (Bible Study . . . Again) It’s where God commissioned Moses to go to the Israelites first, and tell them God is real, with eyes, ears, and a heart. (Exodus 3:6-7) Then, Moses would get to carry this message to Pharaoh.  Moses was not on board with this plan, however, having made a good life for himself and family in Midian. I can so relate to his hedging!

Too often, I don’t want to unplug from well-done propaganda that says, everybody is doing just fine without God. I look at this story, Last Tango in Halifax, and I can see people are hurting! Habits, hurts and hang-ups can make us crazy, mean or stupid.

But who wants to be a messenger with God’s remedy?  I so get why Moses wanted someone else to go!   

And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy . . . It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk. (Colossians 3:5-8)

 Alas, I regret unplugging from so well-written and acted a production, that misrepresents the truth. 

"The Devil isn't as conspicuous in society as he once was, Scalia said, because "he got wilier" and now advances his agenda by "getting people not to believe in him or in God."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sign Up Today

You will have health insurance!

Actually, we aren’t sure what we will have – for what is on paper has never been done in America. It will not be free – or uncomplicated, and it will not be the end of the world, although the Affordable Care Act will change forever how we care for each other in the country. (As did Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and indoor plumbing.)

The November issue of Consumer Reports has an informative article on the new law. (As well as information about long-term health care choices) These folks also have created an online guide:HealthLawHelper.org

Seeing the problems inherent in government –run insurance programs, such as Social Security Disability, I believe that the Affordable Care Act may offer help, but it will also bring complications, delays, and inequalities that can frustrate sick people and their loved ones. 

The times in which we live are indeed interesting – reminiscent of what the prophet Isaiah saw. (Isaiah 10)  Whichever side of this divisive issue you stand, please remember your health is a gift, as is your life.  So, too, the length of your days, and your children’s days – even the best insurance program will never add a minute to it.  And pray for your leaders – all of them, even the ones with whom you disagree. (2 Chronicles 7, especially  verse 14)