|Leaves . . .|
Saturday, November 29, 2014
It looks like this weekend will be a climax of color – and shortly the splendor of this year’s autumn will wane. The wordless evangelist across the street and many other oaks and maples on our street are bursting with colors that make me think of Septembers and Octobers around the Maryland!
The fly in the ointment is that only a few days ago, I had all the flower beds cleaned and mulched – now they are perfectly prepared to be covered by all those autumn leaves drifting by my windows.
Timing has never been my strong suit.
But today is sunny and almost eighty – and I have the good sense to know this moment is a gift.
Beside me, a book is making an appeal – Finish me! Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, is the first book I ever tackled about the inescapable realities of aging and death. I am uneasily aware that it might be a kind of treasure map plotting out what I might expect. Thus far, I commend the book. Being forewarned many enable a wee bit of forearming.
Dr. Gawande includes bittersweet stories of real people, their families, care-givers and doctors trying “to solve a deceptively simple puzzle: what makes life worth living when we are old and frail and unable to care for ourselves.” (Page 92, emphasis added) And he has includes his experiences from India and other historical notes of how we arrived at the current crises of eldercare.
Old age really isn’t for sissies; nobody gets out of this life without hitting a few rough patches –and many of us face scary lonely stuff!
I prefer to gaze at the autumn leaves.
· Won't you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you. ~Richard Brinsley Sheridan
· God understands our prayers even when we can't find the words to say them. ~Author Unknown
. . . He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the LORD
will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
And guess what has blanketed the yard as I wrote?
Thursday, November 27, 2014
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed four essential human freedoms in a speech to Congress: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. I remember understanding these freedoms through the sentimental – stirring paintings of Norman Rockwell. One of those paintings is all tied up with Thanksgiving – good food, good times shared with the family and good friends.
But, what’s been going on this November 24, and 25, 2014 in Ferguson Missouri, shows we aren’t as free from all those terrors – and some of us hurt and hunger – we aren’t as whistle clean as a Rockwell character. The good we could do, we don’t and the stupid mean stuff we should not do . . . well some of us are doing it! Ferguson isn’t a panorama of our nation’s troubles – but it is a sharper image of what still needs fixing.
What might the National Guard, who now protect these American properties from angry crowds, be thinking -- what memories are stirred, remembering maybe their own tours in Iraq or Afghanistan?
For a couple of hours – it sure seemed like war in Ferguson! Thanks to ever-ready cable news, we knew something big might come, and they were right there with the blow by blow. And in just a couple of hours, people lost businesses and property – maybe even their self-confidence and resolve. No reason justifies the rioting – and no reason excuses mistreating the poor.
It’s been forty-six years since Dr. King was assassinated – over fifty since the first marches stirred many people to examine their consciences – and others to appalling violence. Many people have fought and won hard battles – and others have behaved badly – or not at all.
I wish media folk would listen to men and women who can shed more light than heat on the deep divisions in our nation – and can inspire us to get off our collective rears and work for reconciliation and healing. I hope you click through on the links and read the entirety of their wisdom and admonitions:
Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” We are in this together. (Dr. Tony Evans on Ferguson Mo)
My sons have far more to fear from making bad choices than they have to fear from the police. Voddie Baucham is the pastor of preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas. (Thoughts on Ferguson)
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Hang the weather – although it looks grim on the east coast. On the first trip to the washer/dryer early this morning, I discovered the small load I hoped to simply switch into the dryer was somewhat soggy – like the spin cycle decided to go home early. What was OK was the separate bag of unmentionables that is labeled wash by hand – but I not a hand washer. (I am a hand wringer!)
Figuring perhaps the little sack had unbalanced the spinner, I removed them and threw in a dry bath towel. Note the verb.
No . . . the spin cycle drained little water away.
The third time was the charm . . . however, this time I took time, and repositioned the few pieces. Perhaps we have dodged a repair bill – a ten years old dryer can be like me – some innards are flat out tired of doing the same old thing, and I may just not do what I need to do as hard as I need to do it.
The dryer may not need a tune up now, but I do.
As the flu buggies recede, I can see what needs doing, and a wave of panic is wearing out my motor as surely as the lopsided load unbalanced the dryer. I hate that sound -- like The Hulk is trying to break out of the dryer when I’ve crammed too much into the machine, or too carelessly.
With all the down time, I managed to scour PINTEREST’s quotes and humor, and realize the past few days of enforced rest hasn’t been all bad. (I stayed away from projects, presents, and meals) I don’t want to go out of 2014 like the hulk.
I have no warranty on the dryer – but I found a pin I pass along hoping it keeps me in good working order for a while longer – and I hope it’s better than a shot of WD-40 for you, dear reader.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
|Commissioning a Missionary to the Nursing Home|
Sunlight rises through the leaves of trees outside my window. It’s good to see the sun – it’s good to see.
I think back to a time when I sat beside the bed of my friend Barbara Black, a woman at least ten years younger than I, who was confined to her bed because of Multiple Sclerosis. She pointed out the moving mural of autumn leaves framed by a picture window. During the time I got to know her, she pointed out many things I wasn’t stopping to see.
Today, November 18,
is was Barbara’s date of birth. She
finished her race because of others who ran alongside her. Her poetry and her
paintings reflected her faith that God ruled. Through her illness, her
testimony was as eloquent.
In Barbara’s battle to live the life God entrusted to her, to its finish, she needed help. I had never met anyone who was coping with life limitations Barbara and her father did. Nor, had I ever seen the Body of Christ rally so to help two people caught in the crossfire of age and disease, financial constraints, and aloneness. Groups of people offered different gifts – from financial counseling, practical care, and spiritual help – and one couple especially, unwavering friendship to the end.
The more the I entered into their world the deeper my awareness of the mysteries of God’s faithfulness – He makes a way unexpectedly and perfectly often with small mercies – sometimes with breath-taking kindnesses – and sometimes by withholding answers. And the more awake I became to simple pleasures, and mercies. The chief one being people who value life and will protect it – to name a few, Walter and Jo-Ann Intelkofer, the nursing staff at the Lorien Nursing Home in Mt. Airy Maryland, and a visiting pastor who sang the hymns that blessed and fed Barbara’s joy.
For, joy is her hallmark – what she practiced here, and will possess forever in heaven.
Monday, November 17, 2014
The new dishwasher when we moved into our home five years ago was not the dish-cleaning powerhouse Consumer Reports touted it to be. It will not clean unrinsed, but carefully stacked dishes and a few precariously stacked pots. And the stainless steel innards grew cloudy quickly. We therefore learned how use an energy efficient appliance, an oxymoron – for it made more work for me.
|My Energy Efficient Sink . . .|
Lowered phosphates in dishwasher soap meant no matter what the manufacturer had promised, getting the dishes ready for washing meant scrubbing them thoroughly, and not filling the racks to their capacity. And because the (cheap) plastic interior racks broke, I couldn’t fill’er up. (Phosphates and Dishwashers) We also hit the button for a sani-rinse cycle. After I load the dishwasher, I can wash by hand what won’t fit. If I forget to follow the simple instructions, crusty stuff coats the dishes. And I have start over, and run the dishwasher again. So, keeping bad chemicals out of the environment means I use 2-3 times more water – not to mention using additional energy to heat the water for the extra hand washing what my “powerful” new dishwasher can’t handle.
So much for energy efficiency.
Nonetheless, I see some applications. Like my energy efficient dishwasher I don’t always live up to what I would like to be . . . a Proverbs 31 kind of gal. Nor, can I do all the stuff I used to tell people I could – I don’t think I thought I was Invincible but I was a lot more sure of myself in the early 1970’s than I am at the prospect of the real “seventies!”
Once upon a time, our church started at nine – and before we walked out the door, to pick up midshipmen and my mother I had Sunday dinner in the oven. Seriously – I think I remember that right, too. Who was I? I was barely forty – that’s who! Now, we might be late to 11 o’clock services and I won’t have a clue what’s for lunch.
Like my dishwasher, I work – but often, I need to do-over some things that seemed simple enough. Or, I have to do things in much smaller segments!
And like my unpredictable dishwasher, I can use another rinse cycle – especially come this time of year. The holidays evoke all kinds of emotions from grief to greed, melancholy to the munchies – and from joy to depression. Even right after church, I could use a re-do. My soul feels gritty, like the cups when I pull them from the dishwasher and discover how counterproductive over stacking the racks were.
Still, I am not pumping water from a well, like my grandmother had to do. Nor must I balance heavy jugs on my head and make a long trek from a water source to my home. And the water [I take for granted] is clean: Every day, 6,000 people die from dirty water. (Samaritan's Purse -- Clean Water)
So, thank you Lord for lessons from unexpected places, and directions from unexpected things.
From that which You have delivered me,
through the stuff You have carried me,
so I might live, thank You God.
God, help me walk – even when I can’t.
Shame me when I won’t, reminding me of the walk You took for me.
For my sins You have forgiven,
so I might have mercy, help me, Lord.
God love through me when I can’t –
shame me when I won’t,
reminding me of how You first loved me.
Without You, I have no light.
Keep my lamp burning lest I curse the darkness.
And now to the dishes!
Puttering around my autumn garden, means often seeing events and conversations in a different light. And I see I misunderstood many events, and blew many opportunities for good conversations. Often for the very reason that Judge Judy – my current obsession – keeps telling belligerent folks: “Speak not! You need to put on your listening ears!” when television litigants try to talk past her opinions.
Is she talkin’ to me?
Many conversations I never began – or properly finished – because I opened my mouth and shut my ears. (Proverbs 14:29; James 1:9) Stopped up ears and flapping lips are usually symptoms of pride, impatience, and projection – impulses that ended more conversations than I care to remember. Pride and impatience may be familiar conversation-enders; but projection –thinking I know what someone is thinking or feeling – can stop more than talking.
I think back to times around the kitchen table, when I visited my parents who had retired early to South Carolina to care for my grandmother. Because I’d spent eighteen years with them, I knew what was on their minds. So, I blocked many conversational openings. Now -- remembering they would have been about my age back then – when they tried to make conversation, I am not so sure I knew so much about what they were thinking. I know I never asked them how they were, really.
One would think I’d get over the impulse to project as I grew
old matured. Sadly, assuming I
know is a hard-dying habit!
Sometimes my mother made a big deal about her poor health. I remember the night before she died, and how sick she said she was. I knew what she was up to, and I would not be drawn into her game. But when she died the next day, I knew I didn’t know how the imminence of death might feel to one worried about it . . . and facing it is no game.
Getting our garden ready for winter gives me time to think about more than trimming back bushes and mulching – and making sure a little colorful cheer is evident in the frosty flower beds. Raking and digging can turn up memories of some immature, intemperate, and ignorant comments to conversations that might have yielded better reminiscences, had I gotten over sooner my own pride, impatience and propensity to project.
Planting, seeds or pansies – digging in the dirt -- reminds me, now that I see so well after the fact, offer a hand to someone who might welcome a bit of help. Lessons learned the hard way – even if some of us are slow learners -- could make a good topic for conversation, if we are willing to listen to each other.
It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. ~Attributed to Harry S Truman
Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon.
Friday, November 14, 2014
Because an author referred to a passage from Ezekiel mentioning how poorly we understand the sin for which Sodom was judged, I started reading the Old Testament prophet. (In Our Lives First, by Diane Langberg, p.122)
Sodom's sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. (Ezekiel 16:49)
Dr. Langberg’s comments on this verse redirected my priorities in the current battle to redefine marriage, permitting men to marry men, and women, women. Unwise as this course seems to me, a deeper and more deadly spiritual threat continues in the church. That is what Ezekiel hammers on – Sodom, and her neighbors did bad things, things that God hated, and for which He acted (Ezekiel 16:50) But, for all their debaucheries, they did not commit half the sins Israel was committing. (Ezekiel 16:51)
Reading Ezekiel has been like hearing an annoying alarm clock clanking right beside my ear. (Remember Marley’s ghost in A Christmas Carol?)
I can read Ezekiel as history – seeing what happened to the nations around Israel; what was coming to the unfaithful in Israel, and what the promises were for the faithful, the remnant. He had to carry a message of judgment that is no fun to read. Yes, he offered cups of comfort, that He would preserve a remnant. But, the message given to Ezekiel stressed that God sees beneath the façade of His people’s religion, and hates what He sees. God sees His priests worshiping the sun -- bowing their backsides to Him! (Ezekiel 8:16)
To whom or what do I bow?
Trust me, I am having a hard time with all this . . . because deep down inside, I know God has my number, too. When He lays out His case against Israel, I can see myself. Oh, I am not as bad as I could be – but Israel wasn’t always as bad as her neighbors. She was bad enough – and so am I. I go to church, read my Bible, as one of God’s people; I hear His word – read His word – but do not do it. (Ezekiel 33:31)
It wasn’t only the overt sins – like sodomy -- that tipped over the cup of God’s wrath – it was what was underneath – God’s shepherds who wound up calling evil good, and good evil, and starving His people. (Ezekiel 34) And they stiffed the poor in their midst! So, here I am this morning, reading God’s promise of one shepherd. As Israel would know there had been a prophet in their midst, she will know the Lord their God is with them.
My country is having a rough time – we are struggling to do the right thing for our citizens. People should be able to marry whomever they love, we say, overturning conventions. But the bigger problem is when a growing number in the church bow to “the new wisdom,” forgetting what He says about His holiness and His peoples’. For me, reading Ezekiel, the problem is that we both know that God my Judge sees through my pontificating about same-sex marriages, abortion, ignoring the poor, being self-absorbed, or whatever. (Ezekiel 14)
I need a lawyer – One whose “birthday” the church is preparing to celebrate. (1 John 1:9-2:1)
If some in the church are hungry, hurting, and hopeless, how many more in our world have some needs we can meet? (Matthew 25:31-46) Whose name is first on our gift list this year, whose stocking will we fill first? *
*from The Bishop’s Wife, David Niven's Sermon
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
No geographic barriers keep cold air from sweeping across the western states and spilling icy winds into Dallas, and dropping temperatures. Yesterday was so lovely – low seventies, sunny, and a persistent wind that limited any attempt to rake up the leaves and acorns; perfect pansy planting weather.
A good thing, too -- Today, I couldn’t work outside for love or money!
Twenty-four hours – what a change. More change is coming with the onslaught of cold winds – and the remains of my autumn garden will succumb to frost. I am glad I put some fresh color in! Bloom on pansies – stand tall snapdragons! Multiply you cabbage and GROW!
I like change and I don’t. I like it when I do something new; but, not so much when I can’t control the new . . . when change does to me what I didn’t anticipate.
So much of what makes my life comfortable are people doing what I anticipate they will do – even If I don’t like what they do. But when they make changes in how they think or act or talk, I can’t stay the same. Nor, usually can anything else in my life.
Well, I could try to keep things, including myself, the same. Then I think of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, and realize failing to consider the upside of disappointments can limit a girl’s prospects.
No, change is normal – change is necessary! Even if it’s not what I want. Change is the code in creation that makes life bearable, and understandable. If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies. ~
Author Unknown Pollyanna
Surveying our little corner of creation in the midst of changing weather, I realized that for all my handiwork, our backyard will change. First, because of the seasons – a power greater than myself sets the amount of heat and sun, and regulates the rain. (Ecclesiastes 3) Second, how diligently I tend my duties affects the yard. (Proverbs 6:6) And third, my tenure here – when it is up— well . . . yards and houses in this neighborhood disappear in a day, enfolded into far grander schemes. (Psalm 39:5, 144:4)
Winds of change keep whipping around my life too – I know I am changing – not always so gracefully. But, hey – according the conventional wisdom recorded by Pinterest: Only dead fish go with the flow!
Every single thing changes and is changing always in this world. Yet with the same light the moon goes on shining. ~ Saigyo
You must welcome change as the rule but not as your ruler. ~Denis Waitley
If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, and keep advancing. ~Saint Augustine
|Before the First Frost|
Monday, November 10, 2014
I moved my desk from its spot in the front window. So, when I lift my eyes, I don’t see my friend – the wordless evangelist -- a neighbor’s oak tree that has helped me mark the seasons the past five years we have lived here. (A Wordless Evangelist) I stepped outside and noted that its leaves have not turned – they still are a rich green, unlike other trees, which border our home, are dropping leaves, branches and acorns all over the back yard.
Seeing brown leaves falling over red geraniums still blooming in the wonderful cooler days we have been enjoying is odd. What is odder is I did not kill the geraniums this year – I followed the directions for these cheery beauties, bred for Texas heat, and did not over water them.
Coming cold weather this week may expedite the evangelist’s change, and the geraniums’ demise. Time to get the pansies in before the dirt in the "edited" flowerpots becomes cold and uncooperative.
This fall my father’s youngest brother died. Thomas Francis Williams lived to be 100. As he aged, he never became cold or uncooperative – and he had more than one reason to be bitter or cantankerous – he fought cancer, Guillain-Barr Syndrome and macular degeneration. He lived in a nursing home -- He lost his loving wife seven years ago. While his world grew more restricted, insular, lonely he was unfailingly happy to hear from my brother or me – he never made a secret that he cherished his daughters. I believe I saw the fruit of a century’s worth of cultivation in the midst of severe pruning.
It’s never too late to work now on the person I hope to become. Tom Williams modeled what Paul Newman preached – if you have a pulse, you have a purpose.
May God teach us to number our days, to invest the time we have left time in worthwhile work, and pleasure – and confirm the work of our hands, confirm the work. (Psalm 90)
Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many. ~Author Unknown
Friday, November 7, 2014
|My Father and Son|
When I read Operating Instructions for Raising Children I remembered one of the craziest parts of our marriage – raising little people. And no instruction manual came with them! It was a rollercoaster ride: scary and fun, and over too soon. I remember that bittersweet moment when I knew the little people were grown-ups with issues beyond my power to help them solve.
Our kids face tough hurdles – and while nothing is new under the sun – theirs seem higher and trickier than the ones that we faced. The world then couldn’t invade our home via a hand-held device! What wisdom can I pass along to them, when I don’t know where the icloud really is.
I got to thinking about how or what the “older generation” in my life might have thought about our issues. Nobody ever offered me unsolicited advice, but, I thought I’d just repeat the counsel they seldom spoke.
My father spoke rarely about God. However, he sometimes hoped I would remember to thank “the Man Upstairs”; said grace before our meals; took instruction in, joined and went to church. He was always interested in me and my family.
My mother’s last words according to a friend, before my mother dropped dead, were “My Lord will take care of me.” She had changed her life around; she read her Bible, and she went to church. She was always interested in me and my family. Her sister, my dear Aunt Virginia, who also changed her life, told me, when I was about to embark on a really unwise escapade: “Don’t ever be too proud to admit you were wrong.” She, too, was always interested in me and my family.
My mother-in-law and mother also advised expressing as few opinions to adult children as possible and to be helpful. She went to church regularly – even when her health was frail. She was always interested in her son and his family. Her brother copes with chronic pain honestly, but cheerfully, and in the spirit that God is good, even in his pain and suffering. He loves the Scriptures, and he goes to church. He is always interested in our family
My father’s mother gave me no advice – but she made a point of playing “The Old Rugged Cross” the few times I heard her play the piano. She went to church. She wrote me a few letters.
My great uncle and aunt, who raised my mom after her mother died, never gave me advice, but they gave me a Bible. And they went to church I was told.
My older family taught other life lessons – some more cautionary than others. However, what they taught and how they taught stuck:
Be interested in your family. Be grateful to God; go to church; cherish the Cross of Christ; swallow your pride and admit your transgressions; say little, do good when you can, and the Bible is a gift worth giving – and reading.
In it, I hear a promise: My children, and their children are loved with an everlasting love, and underneath are God’s everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33: 27) They can’t fall beyond His reach. (Elisabeth Elliot)
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
You non-voters could have really upset all the prognosticators – and made them rethink their tealeaves! But you didn’t. Did you think all their punditry discounted your one little old vote? For those who did not stir their stumps, shame on you!
And now for all you winners – some of whom were my choices – watch what you say today -- which might mean check your heart, and think about the bigger picture!
Think about all the people who voted – and those who skipped the ballot box, who still do not understand the power and privilege and responsibly they could have exercised.
Remember you exultant winners you have been given an opportunity to serve more than your own constituency – you have nothing to lord over anybody! Nor should you fear the media who may want you to fail.
Finally, unless we all learn to listen to each other, no victory – however stunning – matters. And unless we learn that, our national political, cultural and religious heritage, mixed bag that it is, is worth preserving, reforming and passing along to the next generation nobody won anything.
The Presidential Debate-Round Two – My concerns have not changed.
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Andree Seu Peterson has the same problem with her newest picture, that I have with mine – they reveal change – and changes we aren’t so crazy about revealing. (The New Photos) It was a timely reflection, given my recent high school reunion. I came across three photos that testify that not only are gray hairs victorious in my formerly colored head of hair – but gravity and girth are more obvious than I wish -- but hey – if you enjoy eating a little too much, and dread exercising – spread happens.
The first photo is fifty years old – that’s half a century in other words. I thought I was overweight. The next photo is thirty years old – I knew I was plump. The last one – I see I am quite substantial.
I thought I’d never get to graduation from high school -- It’s true what Robert Southey observed: Live as long as you may, the first twenty years are the longest half of your life. ~ The Doctor . (Note in this book, you will find dear reader, the first story of the Three Bears)
The second twenty years of my life, when I woke up in my forties – my age in the second photo – zoomed by. Who knew so much could be packed into so little time? The most recent score, though, broke the sound barrier! Who is this woman in the last picture?
I don’t feel older than I did at 18 – except when I try to stand up to quickly from a seated position. So, looking in a mirror longer than to see if I’m decent isn’t a good use of time. A quick glance at reality, and I can replace my self-awareness with . . . other images. I may not see myself as that bright-eyed brunette – but somewhere between the strawberry blonde and the gray-haired granny.
Ironically, the keepsake 50th reunion coffee mug faded as fast as the current memory of my real reflection in the mirror. It was inscribed with a maroon emblem, and the occasion – 1964-2014. But apparently, my dishwasher, which doesn’t always get the dirty dishes clean, washed off the burgundy crest and date. That’s convenient.
· The comfort is: It's sad to grow old, but nice to ripen. ~Brigitte Bardot
· And my prayer for thee and me is: Some people, no matter how old they get, never lose their beauty — they merely move it from their faces into their hearts. ~Max Buxbaum