Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Children and Carpe Diem

Here’s a truth:  children grow up too fast. And here’s an auxiliary truth: life goes by too fast; we are too soon old. Therefore, carpe diem. As a poetry lover, I wish to share with you this poem by Thomas Lux.

A Little Tooth

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It's all

over: she'll learn some words, she'll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It's dusk. Your daughter's tall.

* * *

"A Little Tooth" from Drowned River by Thomas Lux. Copyright © 1990 by Thomas Lux. Borrowed from the Poetry Society of America’s website.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Birth of Jesus

The book of Luke tells us that the angel of God said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” And so she became pregnant with the baby Jesus.

Soon after that, Mary went to spend several months with her relative Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah, who lived in the hill country, some distance away. The angel had also told Mary that Elizabeth was six months pregnant; beyond the child-bearing age, Elizabeth had been unable to conceive until then.

As soon as Mary greeted Elizabeth, the baby in her womb, she said, “leaped for joy.” This baby, from the womb, recognized the Christ child in Mary’s womb. He was to be John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for the Messiah. The Holy Spirit within him saw the Christ and communicated joy to his spirit.

My friend and Sunday school teacher, whose name happens to be Mary, said this reaction of the unborn baby John to the unborn baby Jesus is a picture of what happens when we accept Christ. The Holy Spirit comes inside us to give us the mind of Christ so that we can discern truth. And so the Holy Spirit in us recognizes Jesus and causes our spirits to leap with joy.

On the previous Sunday morning, a man in our class said he wasn’t so sure all that was possible. In human terms, it is not possible.

Do I believe God can do anything—that he is omnipotent? If my answer is “yes,” then how can I question a pregnancy that happened without human intercourse? How can I question the pregnancy of an old, barren woman? How can I question one unborn baby’s reaction to another unborn baby?

Luke 1:37 says, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

The picture comes from this site: www.dst-corp.com/james/PaintingsOfJesus/NoJS.ht and it is entitled "His Name Shall Be Called Wonderful." The artist is Simon Dewey.

This is a re-print of this entry, from 2007. The picture is different.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fear--A Cultural Focus

The American cultural focus these days is on risk, threat, danger, hazard, warning.  Swine flu, terrorism, AIDS, e. coli, massive blood infections.  Dust mites, global warming, mad cow disease, tsunamis, Lyme disease, autism. Failure, computer viruses, insomnia, PAD, ED, TB, plagiarism, death. Losing face, losing money, losing custody, losing control. We are dogged by angst.

Max Lucado wrote a thought-provoking book about this subject called Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear. He made me think about it, and I realize how huge fear is in our culture. I can think of quite a number of important things I could have done--might have done--but never even considered because of my fear and timidity. With God’s help, I can overcome fear in my life. I think it’s my biggest obstacle.

Can you imagine what your life would be like without fear?  What if fear and anxiety went away and left you in peace? How would it be if we could trust God so completely that we relinquished control of our lives to him?  He’s in control, anyway; we just think we are.

Would you live differently? How might it change things?

Picture borrowed from Voices of Oneness Blog

Saturday, December 05, 2009

On Children and Priorities

Some well-meaning (maybe) woman recently said this to a young mother I know:

Look at yourself. You look like a mom. You are a beautiful woman, but your children suck everything out of you. You need to spruce up your wardrobe and do something for yourself! Let yourself be the priority for once!

The young mother was shocked and hurt, understandably. She thought about her priorities, and here’s what she decided:

My children are my priority and greatest blessing, as they should be. My job right now is to love them, guide them into adulthood, and teach them to love God so their lives will be filled with him. That’s how they can best live in the world, which is full of hard knocks--through love of God and other people. Concern about “Self” is of little importance in the rank of major things.

I agree with her. While our children were growing up, I saw my mother-role as the most important thing I’d ever do and as the most rewarding of all hats I would ever wear.  I still feel that way, as a grandmother.  And, by the way, the baby in this picture is one of my granddaughters. Isn't she a cutie? Look how trusting she is. She knew, somehow, even at this age, that she was deeply loved.

Monday, November 30, 2009

An Occasional Word

It is no secret that I am a word person.  I have no words to describe how words intrigue me, draw me, inspire, entertain, and confuse me.  I love to investigate all kinds of wordage--their meanings, both their denotations and their connotations. 

My word! The word word speaks broad meaning.  You can give your word as a promise, to assure someone. Or you can speak a word of caution or advice. You should keep your word, in the first case, and you should limit your word in the second. People will depend on your word if you don’t break it, but they will ignore you if your outpouring of words is too numerous, too critical or bossy, or too insignificant. You must be a man or woman of your word, standing on that word, and be as good as your word. You must never break your word.

If you are quoting an expert, be sure to do it word for word rather than in so many words, or you’ll mislead somebody. If you take the words right out of someone’s mouth, your relationship might be very close and understanding. If you hang on somebody’s words, you could be in an unbalanced relationship. 

You could be a wordsmith who enjoys subtle wordplay, arranges wording in word processing, or plays word square or does crossword puzzles. You could read the wonderful words of Wordsworth. You could be wordless, which I am not. You could have a brain-lesion problem called alexia that makes you word blind, so you can’t read, and that would be torture. You could look up the 100 most beautiful words in the English language at this linked site.

You could read the word of God. You could see that it is the living word, and in the book of John, you could learn how the Word became flesh in the person of Jesus.

Words have great power, and that’s why the pen is mightier than the sword. But in a word, all this utterance is just so many words.

*For much of this word, I had the help of Webster. And the picture comes from this site: www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2009/10/

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Semi-Serious Meditation on Scavengers

The ocean floor is home to one of the world’s largest clean-up crews. Imagine all the leavings of carelessness, death, and destruction that sink to the bottom of the ocean.

Scientists in oceanography have discovered that thousands of scavengers and decomposers, as well as exotic and beautiful creatures, live in total darkness below 656 feet in the ocean, according to this linked Associated Press article on Yahoo.

The AP article says “Thousands of marine species eke out an existence in the ocean's pitch-black depths by feeding on the snowlike decaying matter that cascades down — even sunken whale bones. Oil and methane also are an energy source for the bottom-dwellers. . . .”

The deepest ocean floor is the domicile of giant tubeworms. In the upper areas of the ocean, an Extreme Science site says, tubeworms commonly grow to about the size of your hand, but the deep sea variety of tubeworm often reaches eight feet in length around warm-water vents.
According to the site of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment at the University of Delaware, tubeworms are structurally very simple in that they do not have the internal organs most creatures have--mouth, eyes, and stomach--that aid in finding nourishment and eating.  It was discovered recently that they do have mouths and stomachs in their earliest stages to help them take in the bacteria on which they live. But as they grow, these organs disappear.

The Extreme Science site says
Scientists were at a loss to explain how these tube-worms were getting nutrients to survive and grow. It turns out their insides are lined with bacteria that oxidize the H2S (hydrogen sulfide gas released by the hydrothermal vents), turning it into usable nutrients for the worms. The bacteria, in turn, benefit from the relationship because the worms deliver blood-containing hemoglobin, which helps the bacteria to break down the sulfides.

It is all a cycle whose parts mesh perfectly.

The deep-sea tubeworm is something amazing (among many things) that God has created as part of  the ocean’s janitorial team.  Even nasty oil spill messes can be scoured up and turned into nutrients. The earth is full of highly efficient scavengers and decomposers like buzzards, hyenas, and cockroaches, not to mention fungi, microbes, and bacteria.

Afterthought: A cockroach can live a week without its head! (It only dies then because it can't drink water.)  --A Good Grief! Moment from NatureWorks 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Speaking of Reading...

Here are some great Christian books that I've read:

  • The Bible
  • Bread for the Journey--Henri Nouwen, or anything by Nouwen
  • Fearless: Imagine Your Life without Fear, or anything by Max Lucado
  • Life of the Beloved--Henri Nouwen
  • Mere Christianity--C.S. Lewis, or anything by Lewis
  • Rumors of Another World--Philip Yancy, or anything by Yancy
  • Same Kind of Different as Me--Ron Hall
  • The Irresistible Revolution--Shane Claiborne
  • My Utmost for His Highest—Oswald Chambers
  • Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana--Anne Rice, and NOT just anything by Rice! I have Called Out of Darkness by Rice, the story of how she came to the decision to follow Christ, to read soon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thoughts on Reading

You can't read and drive at the same time. Well, you could, I suppose, but you might run into a bridge or something worse. I like to listen to audio books as I drive--makes the driving more interesting. I confess that I am an intense bookworm, even the audio kind. Reading is the best entertainment of the world, and listening to books is an excellent substitute.

That’s usually true. However, a recent one I heard was Emma, an unabridged (every last word) Victorian novel by Jane Austen. This book was almost interminable, as the characters conversed on and on about every possible subject, not many of much consequence, mostly relationships. One day as I was agonizing with Emma and her friend Harriet, I thought, This would make a good play, but as a book, it is hard to take. But I was determined, so I gritted my teeth and stayed with it to the long-suffering, happily-ever-after end.

Then I rented the movie, and it was delightful. I was right about it making a good play. Gwyneth Paltrow was perfect in the role of Emma. It was considerably abridged. I even cried at the end.

After that one, I checked out the audio book of Pride and Prejudice, another novel by Jane Austen. Why did I do that? I still don’t know. But after one fifty-mile trip with it, I couldn’t take it any more, and I returned it to the library. I will rent the movie.

I generally love huge, long novels. Last year, when I was going on a three-hundred-mile trip, I bought the unabridged audio version of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It had over twenty CDs, and I was completely engrossed in that story. I adored Gone with the Wind and Les Miserables and the Mark of the Lion series of three long novels. James Michener’s 900-page The Source and John Irving’s gigantic A Prayer for Owen Meany held me enchanted.

But Emma. Please….no!

The picture was borrowed from Life magazine: http://images.google.com/hosted/life/

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Peace for Rosie

Rosie* is a ball of raw emotion. She reacts too quickly in anger when her supervisor at work asks her questions that, to most people, would not be seen as threatening. The extreme feelings she has about current situations in her life overwhelm her. She thinks about what someone did or said until it becomes different and hurtful, in her mind. She cries easily and says things she doesn’t mean; she has diarrhea.

Stress is a health-wrecker--frustration, worrying, fretting, being obsessive. And besides that, it makes life chaotic and hellish. Here are some telling statistics, according to this linked article on Web MD:

Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.

Seventy-five to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, or arthritis in addition to depression and anxiety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.

The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.

I hope Rosie will be able to find peace. Many people search for it today and don’t find it. Where can you find it? The answer is simple, and maybe that’s why some distrust it, but it is true. Deep, lasting, inner-core quietness is found by trusting in God and looking to him for that peace. A sense of calm fulfillment is possible--IS possible--and this is an absolute truth.

In the Old Testament, Isaiah says if we trust in God, his peace will fill us:

You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3, NIV)

In the New Testament, Jesus beckons to the stressed, the tired, the overwhelmed:

28If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest. 29Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest. 30This yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light. (Matthew 11, CEV)

The Message translation says it another way:

28-30"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

That's my prayer for peace.

*This is not really her name; she’s a composite of several stressed-out people I know.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chris Craig and Questions

Looking through my journal this morning, I saw that in 2002, I heard a thought-provoking message by Chris Craig. It was based on the book of Jonah, the rebellious guy who was swallowed by a whale in his efforts to get away from God, who told him to go warn Ninevah that they had better turn to him.

Jonah boarded a ship, hoping it would take him far away from God, but God caused a ferocious storm. The men who formed the crew of the ship were disturbed, of course, as they tried to save themselves. They decided it must be Jonah’s fault, and they asked him some questions:

"How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish."

Then the sailors said to each other, "Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity." They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.

So they asked him, "Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?"

He answered, "I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land."

This terrified them and they asked, "What have you done?" (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)

The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, "What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?"

(Eventually, they threw him into the sea where a giant fish swallowed him. Jonah was, of course, in deep despair, sure he would die. He realized that he could not go anywhere to escape God. He prayed in repentance; after three days, the fish cast him up on the shore, and he went to Ninevah to do God’s bidding.)

Chris asked whether unbelievers today (the sailors) have the right to ask Christians these questions:

“Why don’t you pray?”

“Why don’t you shine?” (Why has evil come upon us?)

“Why don’t you serve?” (And whom do you serve?)

“Why don’t you testify?” (Tell us.)

“Why have you departed from God?”

“What shall we do with you that we might have peace?”

The answer is yes, they do have the right to ask believers these questions. Providing answers is one of the responsibilities of a Christian. Thank God, Chris added, for not giving up on us.

The picture is found at this site: