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, March 31, 2014

This Could Become a Habit!

Not that I am making a habit of attending the opera, but we enjoyed our third excursion to the Winspear Opera House yesterday – this time it was “The Barber of Seville.”*   

Me and a few friends awaiting the curtain to rise

Who knew it is almost two hundred years old? Doug liked it because nobody dies.  Turandot, and Carmen, our other two adventures, are a little depressing.*

It was a super day weather-wise, and walking in the Dallas Arts District on such a glorious spring day was trilling – so many remarkable new buildings: a cityscape renewed and renewing itself.  And just when the classiness of so much urban renewal was about to overwhelm me, Doug smelled barbecue as we were leaving, and spied a smoker in tow, reminding me of another reason Dallas charms me so: its ever available barbecue! 

The Smell of Texas Culture
Finally, we capped off the day with dinner with a friend – the one who introduced us to the opera – at a fun restaurant. And we still had time for our walk!

Doug asked me what I liked best about the day. Being with friends on a sunny day was number 1 – and of equal delight  -- was watching talented, enthusiastic people doing complicated things well, while making everything they did look easy and fun.  What an encouragement to hearts whose songs have yet to be sung, whose music waits composition!   

Once upon a time, I pooh-poohed opera as a stuffy anachronism – three operas into this new learning curve, I admit I have sensibilities that could do with development and refinement – which is the gift that the arts give to every single person who pursues the delights of reading and creating and achieving.    

Reading the profiles of the performers, the conductor and the designers, and doing the math, seeing how many years it took for each to prepare for this one performance, I got to thinking. How well we are propagating such talent for our children and grandchildren’s pleasure?

Public schools have pared the arts programs, and phys-ed, from their budgets, wrongly defending their decisions as in the kids’ best interests.  (ed. opinion: Because elected officials will not address our burgeoning debt!)    

Yes, we need students who grow up and are competent – able to compete in a global, complicated economy – we need scientists, medical people, even lawyers. But we need artists, writers, musicians, and athletes to show us just how wonder-full humans can be.  Especially on a sunny spring afternoon, with the smell of Texas barbecue in the air!

Extra-Credit [Sad] Reading:  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Storm Clouds

We headed out for our evening walk last night, enjoying way warmer temperatures, and immediately noticed a looming purplely-gray, towering thunder cloud. (Can summer really be so far off?) Ten minutes into our constitutional, another cloud caught our eyes – a massive wall of white, startling in proportions.  What I had never seen so clearly as I beheld its magnitude* was horizontal lightening, rapid and erratic. 

Whoa – about face! – and we headed home.  

In Dallas, because it’s so flat, we can see storms coming that might be obscured if we were in Maryland. We could tell its direction but not where it would hit.  Who could say if or when this phenomenon would blow over us? We passed another walker, also enjoying the warmer weather, but with earphones connected, she was blissfully unaware of what was so dramatically illuminated against the horizon.  We caught her attention and pointed out the potential danger. She, too, then quickened her pace home.

That monster cloud so reflected how I feel about these crazy times in which we live! The 24/7 news cycles capture terrifying images of danger, suffering and looming ruin: Russian troops massing on Ukraine’s border, a downed jet-liner, now missing for weeks, Ebola outbreaks in Canada as well as Africa, murderous mudslides in Washington state, and interminable political gridlock in Washington DC.   (Matthew 24:5-8)

And yes, I know I’ve written a bunch about the how scary these days seem to me.

Fifty years ago – I thought firmly believed we could and would solve problems – and the more we have advanced, it seems the farther back we have fallen. In Bible study, we have been delving into Moses’ life and times – and the marvel of seeing mankind advancing and falling back is OH so old.  


15 But Israel[a] soon became fat and unruly;
    the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed!
Then they abandoned the God who had made them;
    they made light of the Rock of their salvation.
16 They stirred up his jealousy by worshiping foreign gods;
    they provoked his fury with detestable deeds.
17 They offered sacrifices to demons, which are not God,
    to gods they had not known before,
to new gods only recently arrived,
    to gods their ancestors had never feared.
18 You neglected the Rock who had fathered you;
    you forgot the God who had given you birth

~Deuteronomy 32:15-18 (NLT)

Doug walked back quickly  – but I wanted to record the moment for I had never seen anything like this! And I stand in awe of the God who was a cloud and pillar of light to His people – and still is. (Isaiah 65)

And this storm finally hit north and east of us.

Earlier similar thoughts: Tiny Troubles

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Houston, . . .We Have a Problem

Kreig Barrie WORLD Magazine 3.21.14

Here is a  phrase that originally meant a life-threatening problem. Now when we hear it, it’s usually a precursor to disclosing a great big mess.  Well, church, we have a problem.  And that problem is how we stand up for what we believe, especially if we anchor our beliefs to Scripture.

The Bible is the bedrock of the church’s confession. (Psalm 19; 2 Timothy 2:16-17)
But, the Bible is bigger than our favorite verses.  We can’t snip a few “Thus says the Lord’s” out of context and convince those who see things differently -- especially when too many of us don’t make Bible study a practice.

"I see the problem as analogous to obesity in America. We have an awful lot of people who realize they're overweight, but they don't follow a diet," [Doug] Birdsall said. "People realize the Bible has values that would help us in our spiritual health, but they just don't read it."
If they do read it, the majority (57 percent) only read their Bibles four times a year or less. Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis (four or more times a week). (Caleb Bell RNS)

The church is losing members because of political issues, science issues, and issues surrounding sexual choices. (Why Millennials are less religious) And the exodus has been going on for a while – charges of judgmental hypocrisy fly, and awkwardly, sometimes stick. 

In the past two days, World Vision the great humanitarian and Christian ministry stirred up many of us when they announced henceforth they would hire married homosexual couples to work in their ministry. Franklin Graham caught flak for chastising World Vision; his words were called scathing and despicable. (Kirsten Powers) Was his rebuke cutting and wrong? Then, how do we – the church – reform ourselves? (Matthew 5:23, 18:15; Galatians 6:1-2) How do we share the news with each other that when God said it, He meant it, and His words are not optional? Alas, instruction in God’s word may becoming just another conversation. (Talking Around the Problem) 

We are supposed to be helping each other OUT of our grave clothes, not telling one another we look great in them and should keep them on for the Wedding Feast.  We have a choice now – if we have ears to hear. (Colossians 3:12-16)
And by the way, a firm, loving rebuke can work: World Vision recently rescinded its change of policy. (Change of mind)  

An Older Blog Piece:

Monday, March 24, 2014


Because of the improved capabilities of my cell phone camera, I am able to record moments better than I ever could with my digital camera – which in 2006 I thought was the bee’s knees capturing “Kodak Moments.” And I am in grand company – the heads of Western democracies – and Hollywood royalty are gratified when the instant “Ebenezer  -- their Selfie – reflects back their thrill and wonder at being who they are and where they are. (See Mr. Obama and others at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial, and Ellen and friends, the night of the Oscars.)

Since I carry my phone on our walks, (for its I.C.E. benefit) it becomes a handy way of memorializing what is often an agreeable but brief moment – though admittedly mundane by most standards.

Would that I could have captured this past Sunday frame-by-frame, and preserving it so that its simple pleasures – from beginning to end – would never slip away. Pictures from Sunday would have been sweet confirmation of good memories.  Nothing extraordinary --   just a day filled with so many simple pleasures – from gathering with family to worship – to dinner and a movie with family.  

The movie, About Time,  is quirky -- both pleasant and profound, underscoring the worth of memorializing the mundane.  Its storyline is about men, who can travel through time, because they so deeply live their families and friends and the good quiet times they have enjoyed. And some if its dialogue framed the reasons I have gotten so into selfies – and maybe all those famous souls, too:
·      We're all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.

·       . . . I just try to live every day as if I've deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.

Being able to walk and talk with my best friend – sharing memories, hope and prayers – is so more achingly, fleetingly beautiful than I ever imagined.  So, expect more selfies while God grants me the opportunities to do us-ies.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Living with Thorns

Thorns in my Garden
An unscratchable itch is one way to describe eczema, which is an irritated or inflamed skin condition. Over the past year or so, it has been a new normal for me* – teaching me lessons about dependency, embarrassment and compassion, reminding me even annoying little afflictions can help me understand bigger truths

Eczema can hurt like an unexpected thrust of a thorn; pruning roses, I know what it feels like when my hand brushes against the formidable thorns on the old rose bushes in our yard.  Its pain can be a real handicap! So, when Paul said,   “I have been given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations.”  I can now better imagine his frustration.  (2 Corinthians 12:6-10)

Granted, on a scale of handicaps, mine barely qualifies for the least of them, but when the eczema flares, all kinds of simple chores and pleasures become more complicated because my stupid fingers hurt or bleed all over the place.  And the itch is unsettling in the rapidity with which it robs me of charm.


I have learned eczema is not uncommon, and it affects children more frequently than adults -- I really feel for little ones who can’t understand how to cope with the spiky itching that is a hallmark of this thing!

The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but it's thought to be linked to an overactive response by the body's immune system to an irritant. It is this response that causes the symptoms of eczema. (See WebMD – my go-to source for freaking myself out!)

So, what is irritating me?

Too much chili or barbecue? Too many tacos? Surely not!  

Or, maybe, this irritant is invisible: fear, worry, and resentments, or fatigue?

Because we aren’t certain of its causes, we have no foolproof cures. This year – when I screwed up the courage to mention my hands, folks, even younger than I, told me they struggle with crackly, dry, painful skin. Moreover, everybody has a recommendation for a lotion, ointment, or tonic, including superglue!  Some suggestions work well, others -- not so much.  

The relief comes and goes. Suddenly, tiny cracks or itchy blisters may re-appear, sending small shock waves of itchy pain. Interestingly, I can see those cracks are along the line where I formerly cut or burned my fingers or thumb or palm  – it’s as if the healing has been superficial, and beneath layers of skin, damage persists – a reminder that being past something doesn’t mean being over it. 

My faith teaches that God has separated me from my sins as far as east is from west. (Psalm 103:11-12) But I can recall details of what was buried -- which can be equally disabling and discomforting. The longer my walk with Christ, the sharper my memory seems, too!   When the memory of my meanness -- in all the nuances of that word – breaks out, precious little relieves the awful spiritual itch.  


The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. ~Blaise Pascal

I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart:  I am, I am, I am.  ~Sylvia Plath

Crackly skin may just qualify as another thorn, one that time and again drives me to distraction, or discipline and prayer. Like the unexpected tear on my fingers or thumb need cleansing and care, my heart does too.  I need consider cleansing and talk candidly to God like David did. (Psalm 51) Or, maybe I need comfort, balm, which only God can offer, and also the literal help of sleeping well and eating healthy stuff. (1 Kings 19)

·      The healthy and strong individual is the one who asks for help when he needs it.  Whether he's got an abscess on his knee or in his soul.  ~Rona Barrett

·      Lord, help me not to despise or oppose what I do not understand.  ~William Penn

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spiritual Eczema . . .

I just finished Philip Yancey’s latest book, The Question That Never Goes Away when three current events, on top of how our elected reps [are reported to] discharge their duties, burst through any semblance of calm:

·      An airplane vanished – and with it 239 souls. 
·      An explosion in NYC, and two buildings cave in. 
·      Russian troops go into Ukraine.

Yep – I can feel my breathing go shallow, and sleeping this week has not been deep or restful. (You Are Having a Panic Attack)  “Where was God when these bad things happen?” That’s the question that never ever goes away.  It’s like spiritual eczema – an invisible itch for which there is no effective scratch.  I don’t know if I am looking for answers to keep myself sane, or people I love, safe.   As if I even could!

So, I went back and looked at all the portions of the book I underlined and I got a bit of balm, that I pass along – sanity pills and spiritual Wheaties – if you will, a don’t and a do:

·      Be real reluctant to offer an opinion: Christians often cause more suffering when they try to comfort the hurting.  “Christians made it worse by offering contradictory and confusing counsel.” Those who were hurting said they heard explanations of their afflictions varying from God punishing them, to His especially choosing them for to demonstrate faith, to pinning the pain on God’s enemy, Satan (The Question That Never Goes Away, page 9.)

·      Be useful:  Contrary to nature’s rule of “survival of the fittest,” we humans measure civilization by how we respond to the most vulnerable and the suffering. So, we must look to the helpers.  (The Question, page 33) And be willing to be one. Yancey then reminds those who want answers to unavoidable suffering to consider what Viktor Frankl said: “Despair is suffering without meaning, everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”   

The Christian hope is that of a radical intervention; one day “the creation itself will be liberated” – in a sort of cosmic rebirth. Until then, no answer to suffering will satisfy, even it we had the capacity to understand it.  Faith that an infinite, but personal God rules, Mr. Yancey concludes means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.  (Yancey, page 29.) He ended his consideration of the question that never goes away by quoting Dietrich Bonheoffer, shortly before his execution:

I believe that God can and will generate good out of everything, even the worst evil. For, that, He needs people who allow that everything that happens fits into a pattern for good . . . I believe that God is not a timeless fate, but that He waits for and responds to honest prayers and responsible action. (The Question, Page 113.)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Springing Forward, Part II

Springing Forward 
I know. I know. I’ve reached the age and stage when giving over even one hour of [beauty] sleep is risky. But it is a refreshing reward to have an extra hour of sunlight so early in March. And a necessary push.

The soft green haze on the trees has yet to come; lawns are still brown . . . but hope is stirring in my heart – hope that skeptics might dismiss as antiquated, irrational. Yet on a late winter’s afternoon, the slant of the sun’s rays at twilight are comforting – reminding me of the good spring growing season ahead of me, making me forget the heat and dryness that is summer’s M.O. in Texas.

During the recent spate of chilly damp days, when the sun still seemed to set too early, I had a good excuse to forego a routine neighborhood hike, albeit on level sidewalks. This afternoon, though, an hour’s light nudged me out the door: exercise is as beneficial a beauty aid as an hour’s extra z-z-z-z-z’s.

Use it or lose it, sunshine.

o   When told the reason for Daylight Saving time the old Indian said, "Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket."  ~Author Unknown

o   You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by; but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.  ~James Matthew Barrie

o   Watches are so named as a reminder — if you don't watch carefully what you do with your time, it will slip away from you. ~Drew Sirtors

Springing Forward Part I 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunny & Seventy: Mas O menos

That’s what Doug and I just about average age-wise – and we felt sunny this first day of March!

O! Today! When Texas weather is good – it is very, very good; and the two of us walked about our neighborhood before lunch – spotting jonquils, tulip trees, and lawns turning green in the sunshine. We were as covered up from the sun’s rays at noon as some of the same flowerbeds were later covered for the coming frost. By dinnertime, wispy white coverings on many pots and beds meant some folks  do believe the weatherman. 

Some front is sweeping in,  that will plunge us back into winter’s chill and dampness in the next 24 hours. But, having a day in which I can open up the windows and feel sunlight – and smell the hope of new life . . . may these moments stay firmly planted in a retrievable data bank in my aging brain!

·      Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.  ~From the television show The Wonder Years

·      One need not be a chamber to be haunted;
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place.
~Emily Dickinson, "Time and Eternity"

·      It's surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.  ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

(Quotes from the Quotegarden.com)