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, February 26, 2014

Gardening Goals

Last week, as the weather warmed, I had such a yen to fill up all the barren flowerbed spots with bunches of plants – plants that could not survive a sudden plunge in temperatures. (And it has turned chilly in recent days!) I longed to see blooming red geraniums – reminders and portenders of good summer times. And I wanted to see roses everywhere there’s a gap in the garden!
But, sobered by a warning about knock-out roses’ susceptibility to “diseases” and remembering that rain is not a given here in July, August and September, I rethought my daydreams to recreate an east-coast style “spring” garden. (As if that’s what my “gardens” ever looked like when I lived there!)

Moreover, that winter ice storm gave me an extra patch of dirt to beautify -- the spot from whence  our ice-laden old cedar departed. This spot enjoys the afternoon sun, unfiltered, and little water.  
Barren and BORING!
 It’s tempting to quickly fill it up with favorites but even geraniums bred for Texas heat, and knockout roses would be poor choices. What I need are plants that can withstand heat and drought -- but most of them aren’t my first choice.

Musing on what to plant and where leads me again to think about my own  opportunities to keep on flourishing in the “golden years.”  Bloom where you are planted is an exasperating adage.

Coming closer to seventy than I care to admit, I have gained understanding, insight, and so much practical experience – so much good advice to give!   But just when it seems the perfect time to plant some of these precious “seeds,” I hear wise women in my past say, “Keep your opinions to yourself – and be useful instead of an expert.”  Then, I remember:  I can’t force desires or daydreams to become realities, anymore than I can force Maryland –friendly plants to take root in Texas.

A good gardening goal, literally and spiritually, is to do things differently instead of only talking about it. I am still itching to fill in around the house with vibrant, long lasting color – and Paul reminds me, there’s still work to do in this “autumn” garden of mine:

·      Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.
·      Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
·      Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.
·      Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
·      Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
·      Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up.
·      Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
·      Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.
·      Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
·      Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness.
·      Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. Romans 12:9-21 (The Message)

Reminders and Portenders

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Still on a Desert Trek

Spending two weeks reading the book of Leviticus has been an interesting sojourn, given the recent political and social climate: especially, the current fight over who can refuse service to whom, and why. And now we have before us, bills on both state and national levels to protect a small business’ right to refuse service to people whose conduct violates the business folks’ religion.
Opponents of the SB1062, a religious freedom bill, urged Gov. Brewer to veto the bill during a protest rally at the state Capitol, Feb. 21, 2014.
Opponents of the SB1062, a religious freedom bill, urged Gov. Brewer to veto the bill during a protest rally at the state Capitol, Feb. 21, 2014.
Cheryl Evans/The Arizona Republic/AP
For the wonder and greatness of all America is – she is not a Christian nation – or a theocracy. Nor, is our culture tied as firmly to the Bible as we have been to Poor Richard’s Almanac. Don’t get me wrong: I am proud of all our nation enjoys because of many faithful, intelligent, wise men and women who worshipped Christ. And I deeply regret how many times we not only could have done better – we did wrong, using the Bible as a weapon that was not ours to wield. 

Now, though, I see a wee bit of difference between the right our church enjoys to teach and practice that marriage is between one man and one woman, and a   business, run by Christians, refusing to sell a service or product to some one believes differently.

“I will always stand up for my pastor’s right to say ‘I’m not going to perform a gay marriage,’ and I will have to take whatever comes with that, basically, and I don’t expect anybody to feel sorry for me because of it,” [Kirsten Powers] said.
“Sometimes I hear a lot of Christians talking in a very self-pitying way, like ‘woe is us because this is the way society is going,’” she said. “That’s not religious persecution by the state. That is the society basically saying ‘we have different views than you have.’”  (Dueling Pundits)

Because of these different views, I think it’s also time remember that while suffering [well] for our convictions may be new to us – it's not to those who have gone before us.

Reading in Leviticus, all twenty-seven chapters of clear commands, and their references to what the Lord Jesus said, I don’t see how the church can affirm same-sex marriages. Yet, many do, and this is splitting apart churches – emptying pews of people on all sides of the debate who have had it with hypocrites.  ( Anne Rice: Letting Go of Religion)

That’s the freedom of no state-enforced religion!

But, how is the church to be salt and light in generation that passionately believes in its right to pursue what they believe is right?

Here again, Leviticus – God’s commands to HIS priests, and His people on how to live in a pagan land -- is as simple, intimate and unequivocal about service as it is sex. (See Leviticus 19) And frankly, I wish our consciences were as mortified about our own propensity to put our selves above serving the poor and the aliens --  as we are over the choices people make who have yet to choose God. (Joshua 24:15)

For now, my job remains:  try to figure out how to be useful to this generation, and

·      Live so [my] descendants will know I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 23:42-43)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gray Days & Gratitude

Autumn's Yet to Be Spring Garden
From this corner of the garden – literally and metaphorically – it’s a gray day.  No matter that in that respite I was able to clean up the scraggly remains of last autumn’s additions to the garden – I am grumpy because I can’t put in all the colorful annuals that herald a Texas spring, since a sudden frost remains a distinct possibility until late March.   Forget the blessed memory of the past few days of weather that was sunny & seventy; today is gray – somewhat oppressive – capturing perfectly my heart’s malaise. 

I am bewildered by the losses sustained by some friends, and the trials that others endure, especially the unimaginable burdens a young boy bears in a hospital bed in Maryland.   And the news headlines are as worrisome and perplexing as ever.  Looking back over three years of blog posts – news still takes a toll on the spirit and baffles the mind. 

If I can't plow up flowerbeds, then I'll dig around to find what others are thinking about hard times. 
Philip Yancy repeated a joke going around Sarajevo in their nightmare years that sums up this “new normal” that too many loved ones now have:

“Do you know the difference between an optimist and a pessimist? 

A pessimist says, ‘Oh dear, thing’s can’t possibly get any worse.’ An optimist says, “Don’t be so sad. Things always get worse.”

In sum, I avoid trying to answer the Why? question because any attempt will inevitably fall short and may even rub salt in an open wound. As Jesus’ followers, we can instead offer a loving and sympathetic presence that may bind wounds and heal a broken heart. . .
  . . . As a counterbalance to the list of seven deadly sins, the church in the Middle Ages came up with a list of seven works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the sick, ransom the captives, bury the dead . . .

. . . not all of us can serve on the front lines of mercy . . . I . . . came up with an additional list of spiritual works of mercy: to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offences willingly, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead. (Philip Yancey, The Question That Never Goes Away. pages 47,40, 41)

So, if Mr. Yancey is right, I see that I am never without something to do in the midst of heartache or upheaval."Gray" still has a good deal of light in it.

On this gray day then, I need to turn from what I can’t change, and change what I can; I will soak in the comforting, convicting counsel from Dr. Tony Evans:

You may think you don't have everything you want, but God expects you to be grateful for what you have.

·      I have a yard, with flowerbeds that are ready to be planted, when the weather permits, and I have time to pray.

·      Today, I have the health to hope for gardening chores, and time to pray.

·      I live in a country that remains the inspiration of people fighting tyrannies more grim than ever, and the freedom to pray.

And I managed to get a sweet arrangement of hearty winter pansies to remind me: It ain’t over yet.  If it were all bright and sunny and hot – the pansies would shrivel up.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Parts of Speech and Suffering

Cheryl Joyner*
He slipped in behind us at the memorial for our friend who lost her battle with cancer.  In the few short years that I had known him, he had changed from a sweet little boy of 8 or 9 into a handsome man in the making of 15. Less than two weeks later Doug and I sat, watching the sanctuary fill up with a thousand hurting hearts – gathering to commemorate the life he took in “a terrible tragic moment.”   

Robert "Tex" Higginbotham, Jr.*

Attending two memorial services in less than one month generates sorrow and bewilderment.

Asking why is not wrong, the pastor said. But from whence we seek the answers is key: conventional wisdom and common sense often aggravate the pain. And when we look inside ourselves, the answers are often a painful dead-end.  What we find there is too often guilt, fear, shame, and humiliation, as well as anger, anguish, and confusion – the fruit of the mankind’s Fall. (Genesis 3) 

Some may say,  “All I can say about Christians: You people will believe anything.” (Randall Dean, Dallas Morning News, Letter, February 4, 2014)  

Did God really say . . .?  I believe God did say many things that bear on our sorrows, and answer our hearts’ deepest cry.  And I believe that seeking Him in the midst of nightmares such as cancer and suicide is the only answer to this anguish. (1 Chronicles 16:11)

Christians believe there is a purpose and hope in every human life that is created – that an infinite and personal God rules and reigns, and one day, death and sorrow will cease. (Psalm 139:13-16; Romans 8:28, 37-39; Revelation 21:1-5) The family whose child -- brother, nephew, grandson – acted impulsively and wrongly, testified nevertheless to the gift this young man’s life was to them and us – and to the gift that God’s Son and Spirit are to them.

And as if by special delivery, I received an e-mail meditation from one who knows a bit about suffering:

Does God ordain? Permit? Plan? Allow? The verb is not so much the important thing as the noun: God. And God is love.   

Your ways are higher than mine, Lord, and Your thoughts are unsearchable. I praise You that one day You will give us the key that will unlock sense out of seemingly senseless suffering. ~ Joni Eareckson Tada

 Who do people say I am, the Lord asked of His disciples – who do you say I am?   (Matthew 16)