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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Catching Up on Movies . . .

Some “faith-based” movies are as subtle as a Mac truck.  So, I wasn’t the first in line to buy tickets to “Heaven is for Real” or “God’s Not Dead.”  But since both movies are now “on demand” from our television company, we watched them. The first was actually better than the book, upon which it is based – but I was not a fan of the book. The second movie was not based on any book – but upon the experience of dozens students whose faith has been challenged on university and college campuses.

More so, than “Heaven is for Real,” “God’s Not Dead” presented scriptures, and references to philosophers’ arguments for and against God. Its premise is the encouragement that faith in an infinite, personal creator-God is not intellectual suicide – and that this faith is not just a feeling, but also a commitment that often comes with a cost.   “Heaven is for Real” carefully avoided the question of the God’s justice, and stressed His love. 

One distinction I sensed between the two movies was that more people of faith in Christ were involved in the production of “God’s Not Dead.”  Initially this film seemed realistic – but became platform to present the debate over God’s existence, and magnify Christian concerts and celebrities. But it didn’t  become pedantic.

Its several characters were believable, and the stuff of their lives often painfully realistic: Adult children caring for disabled parents, selfish lovers who quickly discard their partners at the first sign of trouble, disease, and death – the characters struggles were not overblown. The characters that represented the church, a minister and his visiting missionary friend, were consistent, compassionate – and their conversations, again the platform for “messages,” were credible as they coped with big and little trials.  

 I am glad I saw them both – especially since more people may view these messages than go to church. I am glad filmmakers are tackling topics flowing from religious faith.  Both movies respected the Lord Jesus – and those who follow Him, and those who do not. Both were more restrained than the scare yourself into heaven movies of the ‘70’s – both were unafraid to tackle thoughts that plague humans – is this life all there is? If not, how do I live? One says, feel God’s love; the other encourages us to reason what faith means.

 One standard by which I judge the artistic defense of Christian faith is a sermon by  Dr. S. M. Lockridge who described hope in Christ, and the reasons for following Him. You might enjoy listening --  That's My King

May God meet you, dear reader, and me right now – and enable us to confess Him as alive, and loving and ruling.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer 2014 Ends

We returned to Dallas after postponing our return for a week. I call this summer our Grand Tour of 2014.  It wasn’t Europe, but it was exhausting and exhilarating 

It began mid June touring Houston and then seeing Dallas and Fort Worth with our daughter’s family. Over two weeks of museums, momentous meals, artistic endeavors, and movies. (When Six Folks Come to Visit)

Big cities are lot more fun with kids who see stuff we would have missed.

We had enough time to set things in order and pack for a month in Maryland – but a month was not enough time . . . and while we didn’t do much except visit, eat, and watch our grandchildren be the super souls we believe them to be, and recover from summer colds. Go figure: we get colds when the weather was nothing but unusually mild and dry in Annapolis.

Yes, Labor Day’s still a week away arrives – but the quiet that greeted our return shouted, “The vacation is over!” We had been anticipating these adventures since our return after Christmas – Texas and Maryland would be our grand journey  – and we ached to embrace the adventure – except maybe the colds.

I feel like Cinderella may have felt, waking up after the ball was over, and only a glass slipper to remind her of the extravagantly good times she had. Was our grand adventure all a dream?


Emptying the icemaker, I spied a trace of the good and crazy times: a lone goldfish tumbled out with frozen ice as if to say, little hands were in and out of the fridge, and left treasures!
A lone GOLDFISH in the old ice
Fortunately, Prince Charming is here, though.  And we are slowly reentering the non-vacation world, so grateful, even if we feel a tiny woebegone.  

  • My grandkids believe I’m the oldest thing in the world. And after two or three hours with them, I believe it, too. ~Gene Perret
  • The idea that no one is perfect is a view most commonly held by people with no grandchildren. ~Doug Larson


Monday, August 11, 2014

Failure . . .

is hardly an upbeat word. Nothing good attends it – it’s depressing, demoralizing, and hard to recommend as an exercise worth embracing.   But Marie-Helene Bertino’s title, Failure As Muse, intrigued me; reading it invigorated me -- making me want to fail just because failure means at least I am trying.

A writer, above all else, has to cultivate a stubborn, impenetrable tenacity that listens to no earthly reason . . . Only when you neutralize the fear of failure can you have some real fun. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter,” Samuel Beckett said, “Try Again. Fail Again. Fail better.” I’ll do you one better than that, Sam. Fail Spectacularly. Fail Bester. Is “bester” a word? No matter. 

So, fear of failure is not a reason for sidelining myself.  Fail I might, lose I do --  At least I was in the game, right?

For several weeks I have been trying to write an honest review of book whose title also intrigued me: Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in Our Weakness,  by Barbara R. Duguid.  Marie-Helene Bertino’s piece on failure goaded me into discussing it, for it summed up why Extravagant Grace is both uplifting and convicting.  Christians can’t out-fail God’s plan for our lives, though “losers” we may surely seem to be.

The cup of cold water that refreshed me so was Barbara’s urging the reason for my hope – God is at work, in my doubts, fears and failures. My ups and downs are never a reflection of His feelings to me. They cannot change. (Extravagant Grace, p. 153) She states plainly,  “He is always at work in you, with or without your cooperation or permission, shaping you according to His will and his agenda.” (p. 106)

The conundrums of faith in Christ include: one,  being made a new creature, yet caught up in a wrestling match with my old self, that ain’t over ‘till it’s over. Another is that God is my trainer, encourager, referee and will fight for me when I can’t – or won’t.  I hate wrestling, by the way; so, the comparison of getting down and dirty with the monstrous me my old nature is, repulses me. And frankly, I get exasperated with myself, disappointed in the church and freaked by the world.  I want to quit the ring!

Marie-Helene Bertino urged discouraged writers, “Try Again. Fail Again. Fail better.” And, the author  Barbara Duguid reminds weary Christians that though,   “I will sin [fail to meet God’s mark] no matter what pathway God leads me down . . . but, my confidence and hope is his grace is greater than all my sin.  It is an unshackling from a relentless counting of wrongs, and takes away excuses for not moving into whatever God has decided is next for me.” (p. 199)

 “. . . at this very moment, you are exactly as holy and mature in your faith as God wants you to be. He cannot be disappointed in you or surprised by   you, if he is controlling the entire process of growth from start to finish. ”  (Emphasis added)(p. 48) 

So, “Try Again. Fail Again. Fail better.”

The wonder is an infinite, personal God is weaning us, like a mother weans her child, “ . . . from leaning to any supposed wisdom, power, or goodness in themselves; they feel the truth of our Lord’s words, ‘Without me you can do nothing.’” (P. 61)

 What part of “nothing” don’t I get?

Sovereign Lord is a wide description of a deep concept.   So, too is grace.

  •  “God is not in heaven wondering how we will behave and how we will respond to temptation. He is governing every circumstance for our growth and benefit.” (p. 211) Though [my sin] can shatter [my] peace and joy, it can never separate [me] from God or pluck [me] from his heart or hand.  (p. 213)
  •  None of us are saved by the correctness of our actions, opinions or  conclusions about sanctifying grace – we are saved by grace through faith that Christ died for us, while we were yet sinners. “But there is a day coming  when we all be perfect and complete and in wonderful agreement. Nothing can prevent that from happening.” (p. 227)

The questions at the conclusion of each chapter helped me dig up unproductive habits, hang-ups and hurts; they are a helpful framework for a spiritual inventory – a good tool for understanding how some things can go so wrong. Answering these questions confirms my stubborn attachment to sin – a costly and painful predilection that cannot defeat the love of God for His children. Though it can become a powerful weapon in Satan’s hands (pp. 165-164), and I will wound more than myself!  My poor understanding of God’s extravagant grace hurts many I love, especially my kids. (p. 170)

The good news of the gospel is precisely what gives us the courage to be honest about our sin without being undone by it . . . when we grasp the  gospel, we do not need to be afraid of what we find in our hearts [or others']  for God’s grace is far greater than all our sin. (pp 175-176)

Only when you neutralize the fear of failure can you have some real fun.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Alert: This is a Test!

When the periodic sound from a TV or radio jars me, I am quickly relieved to hear the voice that assures me – This is only a test. If this were a real emergency . . . as I settle back into the routine from which I had been jostled. (The Emergency Broadcast System)

Today’s news from Iraq, however is no “alert” and the American response is a test for Christians worldwide.  It is a real emergency for the world as well.
from Greta van Susteren 
Christ warned us in the last days to be armed with the word of truth, ready to serve the suffering, busy but guarded. (Matthew 24) So, also did Paul. (2 Timothy3) Yes, it is important to know what the Bible says about the end of times – and herein many Christians differ. Beware that our hair-splitting over theology may keep seekers wondering if there is GOD who is aware of the suffering, and cares.

People are now fleeing, as human beings, all who is not a Muslim, or the right kind of Muslim, are losing their lives – with gruesomeness too unspeakable to describe, what is our answer, Christian?  

Our words matter – so do our deeds – and especially our prayers.  (See Luke 11:1-13 for a pattern for prayer.)

  •  God help us, your church, to seek as You save the lost; to be steadfast, abiding in love and courage as the earth seems to give way under our feet. Through Christ we have a hope and a future – although You did say, in the meantime, we will have tribulation.  

Two Helpful Articles:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

I Lost My Voice . . .

  . . .  because of summer cold’s cough. Its been gone for three days and the experience of trying to communicate amongst four children eight and under is awkward. They have a tough time waiting for me to croak out what’s on my mind. Talking to Doug is equally frustrating. I can’t talk on the phone, either.  Somehow, the effort required to get the words out makes me look cranky – well, after having to repeat myself 2 or 3 times, I am crabby.

Not being able to make myself heard because of a stupid virus, however made me think of people who can’t make themselves heard because of the wars raging around the world – and in American cities, like Chicago and New York City, and Baltimore. I can’t always keep the countries or combatants straight – and I don’t understand why human beings shoot into crowds of people hoping to hit their enemy.
But I see the images of those who cannot make themselves heard and have been caught in crossfire so virulent that rational men and women apparently cannot stop.

In a few days, my voice should return – but what of the voices silenced in fighting in the Gaza Strip . . . Sudan . . . Ukraine . . . the drug wars, the gang wars . . . abortion?

·      Sometimes I think it should be a rule of war that you have to see somebody up close and get to know him before you can shoot him. ~M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter

·      Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron. ~Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 16 April 1953

·      What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world. ~Robert E. Lee, letter to his wife, 1864

*Quotes are from quotegarden.com.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Three Simple Sentences

From the mouth of a fictional character came the best three-sentence summary of who I want to be:

You is kind. You is smart. You is important.
(Aibileen Clark The Help)

And that those whom I love and treasure would know they are kind, smart and important.

How much better our mental and emotional health would be if this is what we believed about ourselves!

It’s easy to encourage those I love with this wisdom – not so much with those who annoy, frustrate or infuriate me. I often have difficulty extending to this description to those with whom I disagree.  I don’t think they are kind, smart, or important!  

Yet, the tender resolve with which Aibileen often spoke these simple truths – a woman who had endured humiliating cruelty – to strengthen the heart of a little girl whose cowardly mom inflicted great harm upon Mae,  illuminated and illustrated a Scripture I can recite but fail often to live:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.
Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
(Philippians 2:3)
It wasn’t a suggestion – He urged them, who by the way, were in the midst of hard times, to practice these principles.   J. B. Phillips’ translation puts some flesh on the bare bones of Paul’s exhortation.

 Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view.

Three simple sentences that could renew our personal well-being; truth that might reawaken and restore marriages, or revitalize our parenting routines, or help us grow old more gracefully.  And just perhaps, this attitude might rescue the downward slide of political discourse!

Can you imagine how our conversations around the dinner table or in the US Capitol might change if we regarded those who frustrate us with the conviction, You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important.

My Humble Review: