Monday, December 31, 2012

A Chronological Bible Reading Plan by Nathan Brown

I'm excited to present Nathan's Chronological Bible Reading Plan to my FB friends and blog readers.  It can be found here under the Bible Reading tab at the top of the page.  You may notice that it only runs through May.  Well, each day he adds one more day, so no worries.  He's staying 5 months ahead of the rest of us.  The version used in this plan is the NET Bible, due to the fact that it doesn't have the copyright issues that the other excellent study versions have.  So two thoughts:  Why a chronological plan?  and Why this one?

Why read the Bible chronologically?
(Others have addressed the benefits of a systematic reading of the Bible.  See the link to Mark Minnick's sermon on the Bible Reading tab on Nathan's website for some excellent thoughts on the subject)
1.  It provides context.  The order of the Books of the Bible are not arranged in the order in which they occurred.  The modern reader easily assumes that Genesis is the first thing that happened, Job occurred right before Psalms, and Malachi was the last thing said before Christ was born.  How exciting to read the Bible in a "time context!"  (We've also found this to be especially helpful for new converts.)
2.   Many Christians camp out in one section of Scripture for years.  A little of the Gospels, and a Psalm and oh, yes, a Proverb, and off we go.  This, as a systematic approach, provides for a look at the whole revelation of God- crucial for balanced theology.

So, some features I love:
1.  The format is matched line for line when the account is repeated in other books of the Bible, showing at a glance any details added/omitted by the accounts.  For an example of this, look at page 2 of May 2nd.
2.  The prophets (which I admit to reading without any idea of what they're talking about half the time) are placed into their correct times with respect to Israel and Judah's kings.  David's psalms are interspersed through the story of his life.    Personally, I find this to be very helpful in reminding me of what is going on.
3.  I know the person who arranged this plan ;o)  He is super-thorough in his research and has included any pertinent info regarding the passage's chronology at the bottom of each day's reading.
4.  Each day has a well-supported date assigned to it.  (Of course, some assumptions MUST be made to be so specific in the dating.  He doesn't assume that all his dates are dead-on, but he does tell why he has picked the ones he has.)

And it's late, and I'm rambling on my diet coke and too much coffee from date night.  I hope this reading plan is a blessing to many.  Our church and family are being challenged to read it together and share with each other the thoughts we have about our reading.  Should be a great 2013!  Feel free to jump on board, and share with your friends, family, and church!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Not sure of the story behind this poem.  Is this the cry of a mother's heart whose son 
has died in war, perhaps?  Or a miscarriage?  I'll have to snoop around and see if I can 
find out the backstory. *"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard von Honthurst 1622
A Nativity by Rudyard Kipling
The Babe was laid in the Manger
  Between the gentle kine --
All safe from cold and danger --
  "But it was not so with mine,
                  (With mine!  With mine!)
  "Is it well with the child, is it well?"
    The waiting mother prayed.
  "For I know not how he fell,
    And I know not where he is laid."

A Star stood forth in Heaven;
  The Watchers ran to see
The Sign of the Promise given --
  "But there comes no sign to me.
                   (To me! To me!)
  "My child died in the dark.
    Is it well with the child, is it well?
  There was none to tend him or mark,
    And I know not how he fell."

The Cross was raised on high;
  The Mother grieved beside --
"But the Mother saw Him die
  And took Him when He died.
                   (He died! He died!)
  "Seemly and undefiled
    His burial-place was made --
  Is it well, is it well with the child?
    For I know not where he is laid."

On the dawning of Easter Day
  Comes Mary Magdalene;
But the Stone was rolled away,
  And the Body was not within --
                   (Within! Within!)
  "Ah, who will answer my word?
    The broken mother prayed.
  "They have taken away my Lord,
    And I know not where He is laid."

      .    .    .    .    .
"The Star stands forth in Heaven.
  The watchers watch in vain
For Sign of the Promise given
  Of peace on Earth again --
                   (Again! Again!)
  "But I know for Whom he fell" --
    The steadfast mother smiled,
  "Is it well with the child -- is it well?
    It is well -- it is well with the child!"

Saturday, December 08, 2012

 There are more bitter, more unkind, more rude things in Shakespeare's thoughts than the weather.  In comparison to the wind's chill, the loss of friends is much more bitter.  Grateful for true friends.

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

by:  William Shakespeare

Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most freindship if feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As a friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

image from 

Friday, December 07, 2012

Mistletoe by Walter de la Mare

Our oak trees bear a few large clusters of mistletoe.  And driving around, I see their green clumps all over.  I asked a neighbor how I could 'harvest' some of my own.  He told me to shoot them down.  Right.  OK, then.  He does not realize how much danger his property would be in if I ever took a gun outdoors.  In fact, I always picture myself telling the intruder, "Could you come a little closer and just stand very still?  Thanks."  Strange rabbit trail of thought aside, I do like this poem for its sweet romantic sleepiness.

by:  Walter de la Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Someone came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale green, fairy mistletoe)
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen - and kissed me there.

*image from - a vintage postcard with mistletoe curled around the scene

Thursday, December 06, 2012

This is too funny.  I can just picture Mr. Milne toting a parrot  and boar-hound (whatever that is ;o) onto the London train.  Some standardization, indeed.  And if I get a Christmas card from anyone, I'll know why.  (Actually, I feel a teentsy bit better about being too lazy to do cards this year after reading this...)  
*pic from's listing of the book A Very Merry Christmas

A Hint For Next Christmas
An Essay By:  A. A. Milne
(a la Winnie the Pooh)

There has been some talk lately of the standardization of golf balls, but a more urgent reform is the standardization of Christmas presents. It is no good putting this matter off; let us take it in hand now, so that we shall be in time for next Christmas.
My crusade is on behalf of those who spend their Christmas away from home. Last year I returned (with great difficulty) from such an adventure and I am more convinced than ever that Christmas presents should conform to a certain standard of size. My own little offerings were thoughtfully chosen. A match-box, a lace handkerchief or two, a cigarette-holder, a pencil and note-book, _Gems from Wilcox_, and so on; such gifts not only bring pleasure (let us hope) to the recipient, but take up a negligible amount of room in one's bag, and add hardly anything to the weight of it. Of course, if your fellow-visitor says to you, "How sweet of you to give me such a darling little handkerchief--it's just what I wanted--how ever did you think of it?" you do not reply, "Well, it was a choice between that and a hundredweight of coal, and I'll give you two guesses why I chose the handkerchief." No; you smile modestly and say, "As soon as I saw it, I felt somehow that it was yours"; after which you are almost in a position to ask your host casually where he keeps the mistletoe.
But it is almost a certainty that the presents you receive will not have been chosen with such care. Probably the young son of the house has been going in for carpentry lately, and in return for your tie-pin he gives you a wardrobe of his own manufacture. You thank him heartily, you praise its figure, but all the time you are wishing that it had chosen some other occasion. Your host gives you a statuette or a large engraving; somebody else turns up with a large brass candle-stick. It is all very gratifying, but you have got to get back to London somehow, and, thankful though you are not to have received the boar-hound or parrot-in-cage which seemed at one time to be threatening, you cannot help wishing that the limits of size for a Christmas present had been decreed by some authority who was familiar with the look of your dressing-case.

Obviously, too, there should be a standard value for a certain type of Christmas present. One may give what one will to one's own family or particular friends; that is all right. But in a Christmas house-party there is a pleasant interchange of parcels, of which the string and the brown paper and the kindly thought are the really important ingredients, and the gift inside is nothing more than an excuse for these things. It is embarrassing for you if Jones has apologized for his brown paper with a hundred cigars, and you have only excused yourself with twenty-five cigarettes; perhaps still more embarrassing if it is you who have lost so heavily on the exchange. An understanding that the contents were to be worth five shillings exactly would avoid this embarassment.
And now I am reminded of the ingenuity of a friend of mine, William by name, who arrived at a large country house for Christmas without any present in his bag. He had expected neither to give nor to receive anything, but to his horror he discovered on the 24th that everybody was preparing a Christmas present for him, and that it was taken for granted that he would require a little privacy and brown paper on Christmas Eve for the purpose of addressing his own offerings to others. He had wild thoughts of telegraphing to London for something to be sent down, and spoke to other members of the house-party in order to discover what sort of presents would be suitable.
"What are you giving our host P" he asked one of them.
"Mary and I are giving him a book," said John, referring to his wife.
William then approached the youngest son of the house, and discovered that he and his next brother Dick were sharing in this, that, and the other. When he had heard this, William retired to his room and thought profoundly. He was the first down to breakfast on Christmas morning. All the places at the table were piled high with presents. He looked at John's place. The top parcel said, "To John and Mary from Charles." William took out his fountain-pen and added a couple of words to the inscription. It then read, "To John and Mary from Charles and William," and in William's opinion looked just as effective as before. He moved on to the next place. "To Angela from Father," said the top parcel. "And William," wrote William. At his hostess' place he hesitated for a moment. The first present there was for "Darling Mother, from her loving children." It did not seem that an "and William" was quite suitable. But his hostess was not to be deprived of William's kindly thought; twenty seconds later the handkerchiefs "from John and Mary and William" expressed all the nice things which he was feeling for her. He passed on to the next place....
It is, of course, impossible to thank every donor of a joint gift; one simply thanks the first person whose eye one happens to catch. Sometimes William's eye was caught, sometimes not. But he was spared all embarrassment; and I can recommend his solution of the problem with perfect confidence to those who may be in a similar predicament next Christmas.

There is a minor sort of Christmas present about which also a few words must be said; I refer to the Christmas card.

The Christmas card habit is a very pleasant one, but it, too, needs to be disciplined. I doubt if many people understand its proper function. This is partly the result of our bringing up; as children we were allowed (quite rightly) to run wild in the Christmas card shop, with one of two results. Either we still run wild, or else the reaction has set in and we avoid the Christmas card shop altogether. We convey our printed wishes for a happy Christmas to everybody or to nobody. This is a mistake. In our middle-age we should discriminate.
The child does not need to discriminate. It has two shillings in the hand and about twenty-four relations. Even in my time two shillings did not go far among twenty-four people. But though presents were out of the question, one could get twenty-four really beautiful Christmas cards for the money, and if some of them were ha'penny ones, then one could afford real snow on a threepenny one for the most important uncle, meaning by "most important," perhaps (but I have forgotten now), the one most likely to be generous in return. Of the fun of choosing those twenty-four cards I need not now speak, nor of the best method of seeing to it that somebody else paid for the necessary twenty-four stamps. But certainly one took more trouble in suiting the tastes of those who were to receive the cards than the richest and most leisured grown-up would take in selecting a diamond necklace for his wife's stocking or motor-cars for his sons-in-law. It was not only a question of snow, but also of the words in which the old, old wish was expressed. If the aunt who was known to be fond of poetry did not get something suitable from Eliza Cook, one might regard her Christmas as ruined. How could one grudge the trouble necessary to make her Christmas really happy for her? One might even explore the fourpenny box.
But in middle-age--by which I mean anything over twenty and under ninety--one knows too many people. One cannot give them a Christmas card each; there is not enough powdered glass to go round. One has to discriminate, and the way in which most of us discriminate is either to send no cards to anybody or else to send them to the first twenty or fifty or hundred of our friends (according to our income and energy) whose names come into our minds. Such cards are meaningless; but if we sent our Christmas cards to the right people, we could make the simple words upon them mean something very much more than a mere wish that the recipient's Christmas shall be "merry" (which it will be anyhow, if he likes merriness) and his New Year "bright" (which, let us hope, it will not be).
"A merry Christmas," with an old church in the background and a robin in the foreground, surrounded by a wreath of holly-leaves. It might mean so much. What I feel that it ought to mean is something like this:--
"You live at Potters Bar and I live at Petersham. Of course, if we did happen to meet at the Marble Arch one day, it would be awfully jolly, and we could go and have lunch together somewhere, and talk about old times. But our lives have drifted apart since those old days. It is partly the fault of the train-service, no doubt. Glad as I should be to see you, I don't like to ask you to come all the way to Petersham to dinner, and if you asked me to Potters Bar--well, I should come, but it would be something of a struggle, and I thank you for not asking me. Besides, we have made different friends now, and our tastes are different. After we had talked about the old days, I doubt if we should have much to say to each other. Each of us would think the other a bit of a bore, and our wives would wonder why we had ever been friends at Liverpool. But don't think I have forgotten you. I just send this card to let you know that I am still alive, still at the same address, and that I still remember you. No need, if we ever do meet, or if we ever want each other's help, to begin by saying: `I suppose you have quite forgotten those old days at Liverpool.' We have neither of us forgotten; and so let us send to each other, once a year, a sign that we have not forgotten, and that once upon a time we were friends. 'A merry Christmas to you.'"
That is what a Christmas card should say. It is absurd to say this to a man or woman whom one is perpetually ringing up on the telephone; to somebody whom one met last week or with whom one is dining the week after; to a man whom one may run across at the club on almost any day, or a woman whom one knows to shop daily at the same stores as oneself. It is absurd to say it to a correspondent to whom one often writes. Let us reserve our cards for the old friends who have dropped out of our lives, and let them reserve their cards for us.
But, of course, we must have kept their addresses; otherwise we have to print our cards publicly--as I am doing now. "Old friends will please accept this, the only intimation."

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

A Little Piece of My Own

I've been looking through lots of winter / Christmas poetry (great bedtime reading :o).  I supposed I'm not surprised by the dirges, the weeping and wailing these sentimental greats proclaim over the loss of beauty in their world.  I kept looking for one idea in particular, hoping that one of the famous pens would have written of it.  No luck.  So I took a stab at it.  It comes from that breathtaking moment when the sun sets the sky on pink fire behind all those black trees.  I love looking at their shapes, sometimes able to tell what kind they are, or when lightning struck.  There is one particular scene nearby, where a mile-swath of trees was mangled and snapped off by tornadoes, that when the moon rises or the sun sets on it, it looks so very surreal.  I wish I was a painter or a great poet to do my heart justice.  But here we go.

The Beauty Takes My Breath

Black etchings, limbs reaching, pleading
For the last blessing of the sun.
An abandoned bird’s nest, bouquets of mistletoe
Hung high for the world’s romance.
This silhouette, graceful, in symmetry
This, torn and twisted by the storm.
Disrobed by the chilly winds
Vestige of leafy robes thrown aside
Bare, they are become a lacy filigree
The day’s end, burning through in rosy flame.
The beauty takes my breath.

Standing in silence, the soul is reaching
Reaching for that Light of men.
The shelters given, companionship enjoyed
All memories that sweeten this empty hour.
Some seem unmarked by the cares of time
Others are deeply scarred and torn.
In the quiet, every heart is stripped and bare
Its strength, its flaws, its wounds, its flesh
And then, yes even then, the Light burns through
And in and around the surrendered life
The beauty takes my breath.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"During the American Civil War, Longfellow's oldest son Charles Appleton Longfellow joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father's blessing. Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, after Charles had left. "I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer," he wrote. "I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good".[2] Charles soon got an appointment as a lieutenant but, in November, he was severely wounded[3] in the Battle of New Hope Church (in Virginia) during the Mine Run Campaign. Coupled with the recent loss of his wife Frances, who died as a result of an accidental fire, Longfellow was inspired to write "Christmas Bells".  He first wrote the poem on Christmas Day in 1863." - Wikipedia entry

Here are the lyrics with some verses omitted in our hymnals today (specific to the Civil War setting he was in)  Love the "earthquake rent the hearthstones of a continent."  May this country never have to see such violence again:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Monday, December 03, 2012

If your pardon is needed, pardon this third Robert Frost poem in three days.  His joy in nature hooks me somehow, and I indulge in reading and re-reading my favorites.  Here is a new-to-me favorite, not specifically winter- but a moon over the snow, seen through the empty branches is the image my mind conjures here.

"The Freedom of the Moon"

I've tried the new moon tilted in the air
Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster
As you might try a jewel in your hair.
I've tried it fine with little breadth of luster,
Alone, or in one ornament combining
With one first-water start almost shining.

I put it shining anywhere I please.
By walking slowly on some evening later,
I've pulled it from a crate of crooked trees,
And brought it over glossy water, greater,
And dropped it in, and seen the image wallow,
The color run, all sorts of wonder follow.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Christmas Trees (photo above from Mary Ellen Olsen Huff ;o)
Robert Frost (1920) 
clr gif

(A Christmas Circular Letter- How much more fun would it be to send THIS letter to our friends instead of the "The husband still works at..."  "The wife fills her time with..."  "The kids say the funniest..." "The dog is sniffing my socks...."!  R. Frost must have been quite the interesting character.  My favorite line of this poem?  "He proved to be the city come again To look for something it had left behind And could not do without and keep its Christmas"  Enjoy!)

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said,
“There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north. He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Looking For a Sunset Bird in Winter by Robert Frost
The west was getting out of gold,
The breath of air had died of cold,
When shoeing home across the white,
I thought I saw a bird alight.

In summer when I passed the place
I had to stop and lift my face;
A bird with an angelic gift
Was singing in it sweet and swift.

No bird was singing in it now.
A single leaf was on a bough,
And that was all there was to see
In going twice around the tree.

From my advantage on a hill
I judged that such a crystal chill
Was only adding frost to snow
As gilt to gold that wouldn't show.

A brush had left a crooked stroke
Of what was either cloud or smoke
From north to south across the blue;
A piercing little star was through.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Light Is Coming!
The Christmas season is upon us.  Some Christmas/winter poems for your enjoyment will be posted here in the next few weeks, and perhaps (if time and mental resources permit ;o) they will be interspersed with 'real' blogging.  

A Christmas Carol
G.K. Chesterton (1900)
clr gif

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What to do about Halloween?

This is the second time I've written this post today.  I tossed the first because I figure it doesn't really matter that Nathan and I "discussed" ;o) this when first married, he on the cons, me on the pros.  Nor does it matter that I clung stubbornly to trick or treating because I wanted to recreate the simpler time, more innocent pleasures of my childhood for my kids.  Nor does it matter that I even sewed elaborate costumes just three short years ago so my kids could be super-cute.  Or that I'm so thankful the neighbors don't have full-sized dummies strung up by their necks across the street, or that I'm even more thankful for the delish-nature of all things chocolate.  See?  My thoughts bounce all over the place this time of year, so aren't you glad I avoided putting you readers through that?

Even though the possibility of a certain someone being re-elected ;o) gives me far more concern (and even a nightmare or two), Halloween IS next week.  This 'minor' issue comes up annually, and my kids discuss it from the moment the decor appears in the store (approx. March) until Christmas baubles overwhelm their petrified little psyches with joy.  My children truly hate Halloween.  OK, Kathryn truly hates Halloween.  Alex just does because she does.  She's scared stiff of everything related to it.  And note to retailers:  the decor that yells out at you when you move too close isn't helping!  Last year, I actually intercepted a Walmart employee who thought it would be fun to jump out at them with a hockey mask on.  (They didn't see him, but I gave him a nice motherly reprimand).  And then it gets really complicated.  Every church we've been in over the years has some kind of event that night.  Trunk or Treat, Fall Festival, Jesus Doesn't Trick, He Treats- it must be a local phenomenon.  None of you have heard of this, right? 

So...  what to do?  There are varied, and strong, opinions on the subject.  Do we 'redeem' Halloween, 'reject' Halloween?  What about those weirdos who do Reformation Day instead? (;o)- a little hint about what our Oct. 31 blog will look like).  In the discussion, it's easy to lose the fact that there are impressionable, sensitive children involved in our decisions.  So here are just some thoughts to consider:

1.  What is the purpose of your local church's event?  There is a great difference between giving the Christian kids wholesome activities so they don't feel punished for not 'doing' Halloween, and doing 'outreach' to the community.
2.  If your church is of the outreach mindset, is it working?  I mean, are people responding to the gospel, or are you just a place where lots of candy can be gained for little work on the parents' part?
3.  Do you restrict your kids' movie watching to a certain rating but then expect them to comfortably 'minister' to the neighborhood kids/adults dressed up in scary, scary costumes?  Or sexy, sexy costumes?  How do you deal with their fear/shock?  If they're not afraid, is that always a good thing? 
4.  Is your child's conscience bothered by participating in the events your family goes to?  How does your family deal with that?  Is it a "you stay home with the babysitter, mommy and daddy have to go - it's a church thing, you know" or maybe "you know it's just pretend, it's not real."  I'm going to give credit here where credit is due.  I heard Karen Blankenship (a Bible Methodist pastor's wife) counsel a mom with a sensitive child with this simple question:  "What does what you do say to this child?"  I've thought a LOT about this one.
5.  Is your desire for sentimentality closing your eyes to what is around this holiday these days?  I know the devil is blamed for everything, but focusing on the macabre, the spooky, the evil- how is this possibly a "God-honoring" activity?  (Note to trunk or treaters at CHURCHES:  I've seen some dark stuff in Christians' car trunks.  Our image to the world should be intentional and careful- just saying)
6.  If your spiritual authority (pastor) asks you to participate when you're not comfortable, what does a respectful appeal look like?  How might you 'participate' and still value your family's position?  (This can take creative thought).
7.  And most importantly, how does what our family do show our love for God and our love for others? (Including the others living under our roof?)

Did you hear the doorbell?  Trick or treat!  Here's your can of (gummy) worms! ;o)

Friday, October 12, 2012

No Grace Given

Last night we stood in line to pay our respects to the Scott Harbison family on the loss of their middle child, Trent.  Trent, only 20, passed away suddenly of an overnight extended seizure.  And of the last six funerals and/or viewings we've attended, he was the fifth young person.  In the last ten years, we've grieved our dear, dear friend Greg Makcen (mid-40's).  And just before him, Judy, a dear Christian lady (mid-40's) who died of heart failure.  Since then, it's been a 9 year friend of Kathryn's who had a brain stem tumor, a young Spanish student of mine who accidentally shot himself while cleaning a gun, another self-inflicted gunshot death, a baby who lived seven minutes.  We've attended a few elderly people's services sprinkled in here and there, but just a few.

Everything in me tenses up before/during these 'young' services.  As you know, there can be a general sense of rejoicing, relief, bittersweet nostalgia that happens around the services of the elderly (at least the Christian elderly).  But it's at the 'young' services where there is more of the sounds that haunt you for months.  More of the questions, more of the tears, more of the unnaturalness that rides on the shoulders of the parents who have to bury their children.  The grief comes and rides in waves of tears, or in the dumbstruck look on the young children's faces who are close to the family.  Or in sudden moments of laughter when something amusing is recalled on the surface of such dark emotions.

I spoke with a friend of mine yesterday (who doesn't know the family at all.)  We talked about the mind-game that an observer to these tragedies can fall into.  It looks something like, "I just can't imagine what they're going through" and "I keep thinking about how I would handle this" and "What if it were my child?"   This friend had gone to a child's funeral (her first 'young' one) and had to leave before the service even started.  Because of her grief for the child's mother, her friend?  No, because she had lived through the possibilities of it happening to her so completely there in the pew that she couldn't be in the building.  This is such a natural, human response.  How do we stay in the valley with someone, weeping with those who weep, comforting without sinking into this mind-game?

I'd love to hear any tips you have for these kind of moments.  I have only one that I lean on- a life-saying that I chant into my soul in those lines, that I speak into my heart on the pillow.  In the moments when prayer for the hurting turns into worry for the future. 


God is granting to the Harbison family the grace to follow Him through this very dark valley.  He is not giving that to me.  God walked beside my friend when she found her son dead.  He is not walking through my mental picture of that.  God held my friend's hand when she held her sweet dead baby.  He is not holding mine when I imagine holding mine in such a moment.  It's been a relief to find I don't HAVE to feel what they're feeling to give a hug, to send a card, to call them up and let them give me the 'unedited' version of their day.  And when something tragic happens to us, and someone says, "I just can't imagine...," we can say, knowing that we are receiving His unique grace, "Don't try."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Am I "Homophobic" Parent?

This is an honest look at some of the reasons Christians may be nervous about ministering to homosexuals.

Fear of AIDS.  That would be number one.  Why?  This may sound utterly pathetic, but I'm afraid of disease.  Especially incurable ones.  And I happen to know that there is a higher rate of the incurable HIV/AIDS in the homosexual community than in the heterosexual community.  I took the classes in school, the ones that said, "You can't catch AIDS by..." and then listed everything I was afraid of.  For Pete's sake, I'm a toilet paper draping person in public restrooms, and have a good relationship with antibacterial soaps.  Once my OB told me that the rate of STDs that he sees in his office would shock me.  He said when he does surgeries, he wears double pairs of gloves, face shields, the whole bit.  Even with that precaution, he said every so often, he finds blood inside his gloves from a nick.  He said that as a physician, he expects to eventually contract and perhaps die from one of those dreaded diseases.

 (I've even heard people say they were afraid some activist would stick them with a dirty needle on purpose.  That reminds me of being afraid to talk to Muslims lest one blow you up.  All I have to say on that is that fear can be paralyzing and not useful at those levels.  What's the worse thing that can happen?  Being killed for the cause of Christ?  I can think of worse endings...) 

Fear of my Children being Exposed to Deviant Sexual Behaviors.  As a parent of young children, I must protect my children from as much exposure to sin as possible.  People like to say that we shouldn't put our children in a greenhouse.  I say that a tree grows best when it puts down roots in a safe environment.  There will be plenty of years for the rains and winds of life to test and strengthen those roots.  Practically speaking, I'm simply not going to allow certain people access to my children.  This does NOT mean that I believe all heterosexuals are safe childcare providers (yeah, right).  This also does NOT mean that I believe all homosexuals are potential child abusers.  However, kids are often exposed to deviant behaviors by people the family trusts.  I ask God for wisdom, and do my dead-level best to keep any predators away from them.  Eventually they will learn much about the evil of the world, but I plan to carry the suitcase of that information for them until they are strong enough.  (Corrie Ten Boom and her dad's illustration)

"It's A S-- Thing".  The church has done itself a disservice by not talking about God's role in human sexuality.  The world talks about it ALL THE TIME, but it's so very twisted.  My Pandora station recently had an ad that said, "So you finally moved in together?  It's about time!"  Recently someone teased a friend about his (normal and godly) sex life in front of an open homosexual.  The homosexual blushed.  Blushed.  He was embarrassed to think of this man having a sex life, while he wears a wedding band to celebrate his relationship.  OK, then.  So twisted.   Until the church gets comfortable talking about sex biblically, it can hang it up when it comes to helping addicts to pornography and homosexuals.  

So where does this leave us?  I'm careful about hygiene.  When I'm around known homosexuals, I'm even more careful.  Speaking of being careful, there's so many diseases out there, just thinking about it makes me want to walk around in a Hazmat suit and duct-tape my windows.  The lady I saw wearing surgical gloves while cutting her steak in the restaurant may not have been so crazy after all ;o)  However fear of disease is not going to keep me from loving others. 

I'm refused to be guilt-tripped into allowing questionable people into my kids' lives.  There are NO sleepovers, no unsupervised visits.  And if I don't feel good about a nursery worker, I don't care who they are related to or how weird I may be perceived to be.  My children are only children once, and I'm the only mom they've got.  It can be tough sometimes, but if I hurt some feelings inadvertently, oh well.  I try to be discreet. 

And we talk about sex.  Off and on.  Whenever the kids ask, we talk.  We keep the details age-appropriate, but my kids know there are wicked, sinful people out there who like to hurt children, they know who is allowed to touch their bodies, they know it takes a daddy and mommy to make a baby, they know mom and dad 'snuggle' when they're asleep and how to respect a locked door.  They know God designed their bodies to do some interesting things and that changes are coming.  They know what privacy is, and how to get dressed alone.  They even know that there are some people who think that it's OK for two men/women to be 'married,' and that it's wrong.

I want my kids to see sex as the beautiful gift it is, to desire it in marriage, to see its precious value.  I want them to see that the fire that warms and gives comfort and ambience in the fireplace will burn the house down if pulled out of its proper boundaries.


Sunday, September 02, 2012

Inspired by Sarah Fry's daybook approach this morning.  Thanks, Sarah!

Outside my window... The sun is coming up on the back corner of our home and the crickets are singing- not the frantic buzz of summer.  A more sleepy sound that says fall is on its way. 
I am thinking... that I am avoiding working out.   
I am thankful... for my poor sick hubby and two of the sweetest kids in the world who are at this moment, fast asleep.  The hubby in a darkened room trying to breathe.  The kids, in some weird contortion all over their beds.   

In the kitchen... Sunday morning cinnamon rolls coming up.  Then for lunch, a basic pot roast, mashed potatoes, green beans (made a la Cracker Barrel), rolls and leftover cake from the football party last night at Rocky and Joyce Sagely’s place.  (Whoever heard of a Duncan Hines Fudge Ripple cake mix without the fudge packet?!  Yep, I took a plain yellow cake.)
I am wearing...Workout gear.  See above.
I am creating... a Shutterfly book called “What We Pray For.”  With pictures of family, friends, places, things, I’m trying to give the children a visual aid to prayer.
I am going... nowhere for Labor Day.
I am wondering...if my kids will notice the neighborhood kids out playing tomorrow while they do homeschool.  I’m going to adopt NEXT Monday as Labor Day, so we can hit the zoo or someplace without the crowds.   
I am reading...
  The Father Brown Mysteries of G.K. Chesterton.  There is something about Mr. Chesterton that makes my mind happy- all my little brain cells jump up and shout, “YAY!”  ;o)   
Also, Romey’s Place.  I kept hearing that this book was fine literature that should be read at least once in a lifetime.  Through the first chapter- riveted, I must say.   

Trying to read Hitler in the Crosshairs, too.  The huge difference in writing styles blows my mind.  I (with my limited skills) could probably write the Hitler story, but Romey’s Place smacks of fine thoughts and great writing.

I am hoping..that Nathan won’t laugh at me when I ask for a bike for Christmas.  I’m tired of jogging beside the kids’ bikes.  Plus, I have such negative memories of bike-riding.  I inherited a massive old thing from the seventies (or earlier, perhaps).  Today’s bikes are so much easier to ride. I plan to find out, anyhow.

I am learning... to let the house go during homeschool hours.  It’s crucial for me.
Around the favorite fall decor has come out of the boxes.  I have a thing for tall skinny ceramic people.  I have two sets of pilgrims that just make my heart smile.
I am I can bless the people of our church this morning.  How I can bless my own family.  I find smiles and hugs to go a long way in both groups.
A favorite quote for today... There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.
~G. K. Chesterton, Heretics (1905)
This is so true.  When I was a college student, I needed an art credit.  I was in the mood for something bizarre, so I chose History of Oriental Art.  Our professor had lived in China and studied in? the Forbidden City for a number of years.  It was an early morning class, and I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat to hear about the glazed pot she was holding, or caught up in her description of the artwork.  Amazing professor!
One of my favorite things...simmering cinnamon sticks, cloves and some citrus peelings on my stove.  Note to self:  it’s officially September, so I can do this now!
A few plans for the rest of the week: Homeschooling Alex and Kathryn- week 2.  Picking out a piano duet that Connie Snodgrass and I can do for church- fun!  (I’ll make sure to give her the hard section ;o)
One of my guilty pleasure..  to listen to ooshy-gooshy love songs when I’m in the car alone, and let my mind think on my man.  It never fails to make me smile.  Another guilty pleasure, an occasional Mocha Frappe from McDonald’s.  Come to think about it, I don’t feel too guilty about either one of those pleasures!
 A Pet Peeve.... is that I never can select a grocery cart (or buggy, as we call them down here in the South) that just SLIDES OUT of the line.  Why must I engage in judo chopping, kicking, pulling a muscle and basically looking like an idiot to buy food for my family?  And unlike normal people, who gently test each rack for a easily removed one, occasionally I get it in my mind that I WILL WIN THIS BATTLE, and I’ll engage in warfare on a level that must be amusing to any passersby. 
Oh, pet peeve number two.  Medical specialists who are so myopic in their area of medicine that they seem completely unaware of how the body systems affect each other. 
Something new about me.....hmmm I’ll get my braces off next spring, and then I will have a new smile.  Without mouth sores, poky wires, and general mouth malaise. 
A peek into my day...  would show a very real person trying to walk with God.
 Here is a picture to share: How I feel at the end of my days right now