Friday, November 30, 2012


Thanks to Pastor Tim LeCroy for this:
In the church calendar, each year we are taught to hope for justice and long for the coming of a Savior (Advent), to celebrate that Savior’s incarnation as God in our own flesh (Christmas), to bask in the glow of the light that the Son of God shines in our dark world (Epiphany), to mourn our own contributions to this world’s brokenness and darkness and the fact that the Son of God had to die to fix it (Lent), to rejoice in the great victory that Jesus Christ won on the cross and the vindication of Him by His Father when He raised Him from the dead (Easter), to celebrate that this man Jesus is now glorified and ascended to heaven and now rules all the entire universe (Ascension), to ponder anew the great power and dignity that he has bestowed on us by sending His Holy Spirit to fill us and empower us (Pentecost), and to take up the mantle as the Church Militant to extend the glorious reign of Christ to all the reaches of the Earth (Trinity Season). Each year this pattern forms Christians and shapes them into Christian disciples.
Read the rest here...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Musical Monday: By Request

For Annie, here are my most listened to Christmas albums:

I have a TON more that I really like: Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Carpenters, Vince Guaraldi, Rhonda Vincent, Joe Nichols, A Banjo Christmas,  Guitar Christmas, etc. but for some inexplicable reason, these are my GO-TO albums.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Remembering Reagan

The first time I was eligible to vote, Ronald Reagan's name was on the ballot and I was privileged to vote for him.  I  was in my freshman year in college and remember how ecstatic we all were about the possibility of a second term for him.  I was able to experience the joy of voting, not to expunge someone from office with whom I didn't agree, and not to retain a "lesser-of-two-evils," but for a man I admired and respected and trusted to rule well.  His landslide victory increased our fervor and we celebrated for weeks!

When I read biographical accounts of Reagan's life, I am reminded that I wasn't merely young and naive, nor are my memories exaggerated phantoms of a man that didn't exist in life as he does in my imagination.   He really was exceptional and listening tonight to these words from him, both cheered me in their remembrance, but made me melancholy in the realization that my children have not - and likely will not - experience this kind of national leader in their lifetime.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Contentment 2

Quotes from the first 60 pages of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs:

You do not find one godly man who came out of an affliction worse than when he went into it; though for a while he was shaken, yet at last he was better for an affliction.

It is the nature of grace to to turn water into wine, that is, to turn the water of affliction into the wine of heavenly consolation.

It is as fitting for me to bring my desire down to my circumstances, as it is to raise up my circumstances to my desire.   Here lies the bottom and root of all contentment, when there is an evenness and proportion between our hearts and our circumstances.  

To be well-skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory, and excellence of a Christian.

A contentment that results merely from external arguments or arrangements will not last long.  But that which comes from the gracious temper of one's spirit will last.

Suppose a child was born in prison and never went outside of it.  He is content, but why?  Because he never knew anything better.  But for men and women who know better, who know that the condition they are in is an afflicted and sad condition, and still by a sanctified judgement can bring their hearts to contentment - this is freedom.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Musical Monday: Harmonic Hyperbole

These guys, Justin & Michael, are a hoot.  Yes, they're musically talented, but I especially love that they don't take themselves too seriously.  A frivolous YouTube recording propelled them toward stardom and a recording contract.  Check out their 3rd and most recent album: Harmonic Hyperbole, also available on iTunes.  

You can't just listen to these YouTube have to watch as the visual humor is half the fun.  Enjoy! 

What Makes You Beautiful

Kiss Me Slowly

Check out their other videos on YouTube...LOTS of fun!


Today...everything changes.  Well, pretty much everything.  Our family enters a new phase of life which finds me transitioning from full-time mom to full-time employee.

I'm grateful.  I was woefully under-qualified for the job I was graciously given, so I'm thankful that my employer assumed the risk of hiring a mom who, except for a 6 year teaching stint at my sons' school, has been at home for 19 years, and who has not been in the business world since 1988.  A few things have changed since then.  OK...a lot of things have changed since then.  So, I'm grateful for the opportunity.

But I'm also a bit fearful.  Truth is, I have become accustomed to a life of leisure.  I go out for coffee or lunch when I want to.  I stay up till all hours of the morning reading and writing.  I do my household chores whenever I decide I'm ready.  I exercise for an hour and a half most days.  I volunteer at church and the charitable organizations of my choice at will.  I cook for others, lay out in the sun, peruse YouTube for new music, keep up with Facebook, blog, take a nap,  etc., as I please.  Basically, I've had  a great deal of freedom...and have perhaps been spoiled by that reality.  

I have a lot of questions:

Can I handle the dog-eat-dog business world without becoming one of the dogs?

Will I be too tired at day's end to engage with my 16-year-old son?

Will I become a better manager of my time or will I find myself completely incapable of keeping up?

Will I neglect...and ultimately give up responsibilities at church, at SPC, and at PFF?

Am I even capable of performing the tasks set in front of me?  

Will I become even more independent and self-sufficient than I already am?

Will I deny my lifelong tendency to be a workaholic, consumed by ambition and perfectionism?

Will I ever run another mile, read another book or write another essay, or will I lose touch with those life-giving activities?

Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da.

Silly, I know.  Many, many women have figured out how to manage both home and gainful employment over the years, so it CAN be done.  And it can be done WELL.  The question is, Can I do it well without losing touch with the things that matter to me?  It will change me...will those changes be for the better?

The up side is:  

I have a generous Christian boss who has already proved accommodating to my needs, desires, and whims.  

I'm getting in on the front end of what could be exponential growth for this young company.  

I'll be able to contribute toward my sons' education, allowing them to finish college relatively (or completely) debt-free.  

I'll be intellectually challenged and engaged by much of my work.

All I know for sure, is that this is the path God has laid out for me.  Whatever it brings, I must receive as from His gracious hand and I must learn to be content and thankful.  

Restlessness, fear, and discontent, be banished!  

In the scope of life and sorrows and trials and changes, this is a relatively innocuous one, yet there remains a bit of melancholy in moving on from The One Task I have lived for since I was...oh...about 12 (mothering!) to a new phase.  

I covet your prayers, your counsel, and your encouragement. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Contentment 1

"Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition."

This is the definition with which Jeremiah Burroughs begins his treatise in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.  He then amplifies every part of the definition in a way that demonstrates that "if contentment is like this then it is not easily obtained."  

1 - Contentment is inward: though at times we may be strong enough to restrain our outward expressions of discontent, we burst inwardly from discontent.  True contentment is a business of the heart.

2 - Contentment is quietness of heart: it is not opposed to being sensible of our afflictions...afterall, contentment is not an absence of affliction, or a pretense that no deprivation exists, or a blind  obliviousness to trouble!  Contentment can only be learned  when we know and feel that something is amiss.  Quietness of heart does not forbid making a complaint to God and to faithful friends; it is not opposed to grieving; and it is not opposed to seeking all lawful means of deliverance from the affliction. 

But it IS opposed to "murmuring and repining at the hand of God"; to vexation and fretting; to "tumultuousness of spirit"; to an instability that hinders us from our duties; to "heart consuming cares" and "sinking discouragements"; to seeking unlawful means of deliverance; and from "desperate risings of the heart against God by way of rebellion."

3 - Contentment is a gracious frame of the spirit: first and foremost, this frame of spirit springs from our judgement when we acknowledge "This is the hand of God and is what is suitable to my condition or best for me.  Although I do not see the reason for the thing, yet I am satisfied in my judgement about it."  This judgement then orders our thoughts.  We may still have much work to do to bring our wills and affections in line with our judgements, but it begins with a declaration of truth about our situation.

4 - Contentment is a gracious frame of the spiritthis is not "merely a stillness of the body which comes from natural constitution and temper [which some have, while others are naturally of a "hot and violent constitution"], nor a sturdy resolution of the will, nor merely through the strength of reason."    Burroughs argues that the distinguishing mark of a gracious frame is that it actively seeks to sanctify God's name in the affliction.

5 - Contentment freely submits: without coercion or constraint and not out of the stupidity of paralysis; the content soul is easily brought over...willingly brought to submission.

6 - Contentment freely submits:  "Is the hand of God bringing an affliction and yet my heart is troubled and discontented - What, it says, will you be above God?  O under, under! get you under, O soul!  Keep under!  keep low! keep under God's feet!"  The content soul sends itself under the power, authority, sovereignty, and dominion that God has over him.  

7 - Contentment delights in God's disposal: this is a degree beyond submission because not only do I place myself under the affliction as from God, but "I see that there is good in it.  I find there is honey in this rock."  The content soul declares, "It is good that I am afflicted" because it comes from the Lord's hand and the Lord's hand is good.  "Not just good when you see the good fruit it has wrought," but in the midst of deprivation, emptiness, nakedness, peril, poverty, starvation, persecution, the content soul takes pleasure in God's hand because he trusts His goodness.

8 - Contentment submits to and delights in God's disposal: "He does not look down at the instruments and means, so as to say such a man did it, that it was the unreasonableness of such and such  instruments...but he looks up to God.  The Lord knows how to order things...he sees further than I do I know but that had it not been for this affliction, I should have been undone."  A wise father knows what to give his children and he is not oblivious but attentive to their circumstances.  He knows what He is doing.  The content heart believes this.

9 - Contentment submits and delights in every condition:  we are prone to think we would be more content if our affliction had only come in a different form.  No, not my possessions!  or not my marriage! or not my health!  If only he had taken this or that other thing from me, I would be content!  "BUT WE MUST NOT BE OUR OWN CARVERS."  

Not only must we submit to the type of testing, but to the timing and duration of it. We may contentedly endure an affliction for a while, but when no relief comes - especially for those afflictions of the soul - or when one grief is added atop another, we grow weary and dissatisfied.  "When God casts us down, we must be content to lie till God bids us stand up, and God's Spirit enters into us to enable us to stand up."   Just as Noah had to remain in the ark after the waters had receded, we too have to stay where we are and wait for God to open the door.  He put us in and He will bring us out.

"Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition."

Friday, November 16, 2012


As a youngster, I heard about Gladys Aylward's mission work in China, but hadn't remembered her until a friend recently mentioned her.  This prompted me to read her story again. 

There is much to be astonished by and to give thanks for in the way the Lord used this courageous little woman to spread His Gospel but, for me, one of the most memorable passages in the whole book was this:

Refugees from the east came pouring into Sian speaking completely different dialects.  Among them were three godly Christians from Shansi, Mr. and Mrs. Wong and Mr. Cheng.

These three and myself decided that something must be done, so we obtained permission to use the disused factory belonging to Chang Tsi Ni as a church in which we could preach in an understandable dialect for these refugees.

We called it the Independent Christian Church, but we were certainly not isolated.  Near us was the Baptist Church with George Young as its pastor, and the Church of England with Bishop Sheng as its vicar, and our three churches were in perfect unison.  We were one in spirit, in purpose , and in desire - nothing but true service to God and blessing for the needy souls around us.  We might have had different names, but we were surely "all one in Christ Jesus."  

If a refugee went to the Baptist Church or the Church of England and it was felt that maybe we would be able to help them more easily, then he was escorted to us and introduced.  If one church had a convention then the members of the other two attended and were blessed.

If you know Gladys's story, which is full of almost incomprehensible circumstances, it may seem strange that this particular passage would strike me as significant.  But it brought home to me one of the fruits of forces us to lay aside our petty disagreements (as well as our weighty ones) and labor side by side for the cause of the Christ we serve.   Our vision becomes clear and focused when we lose the "luxury" of alienating one another over fine points of doctrine and we suddenly SEE that our purpose is ONE.    

Wednesday, November 14, 2012



3 c. flour
3 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. water

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend on medium speed until a ball forms.   Dough will be wet and sticky.  Turn dough into a greased 9x13 baking pan.  Using oiled hands, press dough to edges of pan as evenly as possible, ensuring there are no holes.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

Spread generously with a mixture of:
Oil and melted butter (about 2-3 T. of each) 
1 T. minced garlic.   

Sprinkly lightly with:
Sea Salt
Freshly-grated Parmesan (1/2 c. or so)

Return to oven for another 6 minutes. 

Quick, easy, and delicious!  ENJOY!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In the Dark

When I find myself swallowed by darkness, it does me no good to deny it or pretend it is otherwise.   Whether I'm there by my own choosing, by circumstances thrust upon me, or by Divine Intervention, truth is: darkness is dark and there's a reason I don't like it.  

When that darkness is complete, I can't even see to take the next step...I don't know whether that step will land me on solid ground or hurl me over a precipice...whether it will be slippery enough that I'll fall...whether it will start me on a steep ascent that I have no strength to navigate...there is no way to know what lies ahead.  Or behind.  Am I being pursued?  What unseen dangers lurk all around?  

There is no escaping the reality that a place of darkness is a place of fear.

There is but one comfort.  Only one.  It is this: even the darkness is light to Him.  Night?  Bright as the day!  HE SEES.  I simply have to go on, one very small, careful, frightened step at a time and TRUST that He will catch me, pick me up, rescue me.  I must believe in His goodness and mercy when I can't see it or Him.  I must REMEMBER His works of old and the way He has continually worked on behalf of His people.  He WILL preserve me.  He WILL bring me out of darkness into His glorious light, and one day He will  BANISH that darkness forever.  He Himself will BE my light!  

When I trust, when I remember, and when I anticipate that day, the darkness doesn't cease to be dark, but it loses its power and I am able to take the next step AND to be at rest. 

PSALM 139: 7-12
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day
for darkness is as light to you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Lake Ladies Weekend

Our 13th annual Lake Ladies Weekend was once again a riot of laughter, food and wine and has resulted in the following recommendation:

Dreaming Tree Crush, a hearty Merlot blend, was my favorite of the weekend - kudos  to Denise for discovering and sharing it.  It's one of those wines that I classify as a "Marlboro Man" know...the barnyardish, leathery, smoky, earthy, full-bodied kind of wine.  In case you prefer a more dignified and professional description, check out this link.

Here's a brief account of the collaboration between a musician and a reputable winemaker:

Search out a bottle and give it a go.  Good stuff and very reasonably-priced.  Can be found locally at Straub's and The Wine & Cheese Place.

Musical Monday: Hugh Jackman

Thursday, November 8, 2012

From St. Patrick's Breastplate

I arise today, through
God's strength to pilot me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chesterton on Capitalism vs. Socialism

From: What's Wrong with the World

My main contention is that, whether necessary or not, both Industrialism and Collectivism have been accepted as necessities - not as naked ideals or desires.  Nobody liked the Manchester school; it was endured as the only way of producing wealth.  Nobody likes the Marxian school; it is endured as the only way of preventing poverty.  I do not propose to prove here that Socialism is a poison; it is enough if I maintain that it is a medicine and not a wine.

The idea of private property universal but still private, the idea of families free but still families, of domesticity democratic but still domestic, of one man one house - this remains the real vision and magnet of mankind.  The world may accept something more official and less general, less human and intimate.  But the world will be like a broken-hearted woman who makes a humdrum marriage because she may not make a happy one.  Socialism may be the world's deliverance, but it is not the world's desire.

Dangerous Article for Boys

I found this Dangerous Article for Boys essay in my inbox today and though I find it thought-provoking, I also find it irritating.

One assertion underlying the author's somewhat valid critique of modern literature, is that "real" manhood is incompatible with an empathetic spirit.  That a man's man cannot be - or rather, OUGHT NOT TO BE - "in touch with his feelings."

My gut reaction?  Yeah...tell that to King David.  It's pretty evident from his life that he was a courageous and manly man.  Not full of bravado like so many of America's iconic men, but actually engaging in acts of bravery...he was wisely cunning...yet he felt for people.  He composed music...played an instrument by which he could sooth a troubled spirit...he wrote poetry for crying out loud.  EMOTIONAL poetry.  And let me tell you, that requires a great deal of empathy and sensitivity.

The Christian men, both past and present, that I regard most highly are a beautiful combination: they have a fire in their belly that drives them toward adventure, toward conquering their world, and that fuels their sense of justice.  But that fire exists and functions right alongside an incredibly gentle spirit that doesn't separate itself from their own or other's feelings.  They fight when fighting is called for and they cry when crying is called for.

Frankly, the men I find the least manly are those who  are entirely disconnected from their feelings, possessing the bravado without the gentleness.  Those men are cowards who use their "manliness" to control and intimidate others.  They know nothing but their own elevated sense of ego.

I am quite certain that Cothran doesn't intend to promote that brand of "manliness," and I appreciate his determination to resist the push to strip masculinity of its real glory and replace it with effeminate fluff, but it seems to me that this article attempts to combat that in a wrong-headed way.  Scoffing at a man's sensitivity is one of the  attitudes that produces an anti-Christian understanding of what it means to be a True Man.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why Are You Here? Part 2

In the previous post, I revealed my reasons for volunteering at The Pujols Family Foundation.  In this one, I want to share with you why I intentionally choose to direct my energies toward folks with Down's Syndrome.

Besides the obvious fact that my Aunt Riesa, whom I love, was born with Trisomy-21 (the genetic marker for Down's), I spent a number of years working in a variety of settings in what used to be called the MR/DD field (mental retardation/developmental disability).  I worked in classroom, residential, and workshop settings and I loved every minute of it. 

From those experiences I am going to paint the  DS population with a broad brush, highlighting some common characteristics, much as we would if we said that "children" possess an unequaled sense of delight and wonder.  Or that "the elderly" are forgetful.  Or that "teenagers" are self-absorbed. My intention is not to diminish their individuality, but to highlight the shared characteristics that cause me to LOVE their company.

1)  The Way Things Are
People with DS are refreshingly honest and forgiving.  

I'll never forget, at an event a few months ago, I was meeting a young lady for the first time.  She told me, "My name is Sheila.  This is my boyfriend, Rob.  Over there, [pointing unashamedly]...that's Daniel.  He used to be my boyfriend, but then he started dating JoAnn.  But now Rob is my boyfriend...he loves me and he's good to me.  Aren't you, Rob?"  BOOM.  Lay it all out there.  Rob was standing by for her commentary and was completely nonplussed by it.  As Daniel wandered over our way, she introduced him and repeated her story...and all the involved parties were alright with it.   After all, she was just telling me the way things are.   WE WOULD NEVER DO THAT.  But why not?  Yes, there is a certain maturity and dignity in protecting our and other's privacy, but there is also something gloriously refreshing about just telling it like it is without any desire to gossip or harm another's reputation.  I suggest that, for us, guarding our pride is just as important as guarding our own or another's privacy.  But DS people are not proud.  They are not interested in gaining reputation or status, or in being viewed as superior to or more "together" or holier than anyone else.  The combination of humility and innocent honesty IS A BEAUTIFUL THING to behold!

2)  The Way You Are 
DS folks are also infinitely accepting of others.  In spite of almost certain experiences of rejection in their own lives, they don't reject others but readily offer love and acceptance to all.  They don't calculate the risks.  They don't evaluate whether or not you're worthy of being welcomed into their fold.  They take you just the way you are and don't try to change you. Yes, this makes them vulnerable...but again, there's a real beauty in an open spirit who is not cynical about others and who trusts easily. 

3)  Drama! Drama! Drama!
These folks experience life as intensely emotional.  Perhaps it's because they don't process everything through a fine mesh intellectual grid like many of us do, nor do they rationalize away their emotions.  Experiencing life in this way, of course, leads to some serious drama!

If their heart is in turmoil, they WILL tell you about it.  If they are full of exuberance, it will bubble out and spill onto everyone around them.  They have a lot of Best & Worst Days.  The lovely thing is, today's Worst Day status says nothing about tomorrow, as there's an unspoken, perpetual expectation that tomorrow has a ripping good chance of being a Best Day.

None of this is said to sterilize the reality that Down's Syndrome is a result of something gone wrong in the genetic makeup and that it brings moments of genuine heartache - when a parent first learns and realizes that her child will never marry...when other children poke fun at a DS child...when they need surgery and don't understand the pain they're experiencing, etc.  DS is one result of living in a broken and fallen world.  I'm not sugar-coating it.  

Nor am I attempting to assert that people with DS have some sort of theological immunity from sin and are therefore always happy and pleasant and forgiving.  No.  But they are much less prone to social sins than the rest of us (and really...aren't social sins the majority of sins??).  When they sin or act selfishly, it is rarely with malicious intent and they retain a sort of innocence about them that is unique and well...special.   My experience is that these people exude joy and they bring SO MUCH JOY to those around them.  

So there you have it...I love the innocent honesty, the readiness to accept others, the drama, the abundance of expressed and transmitted joy to everyone in their path.  Their way of living illuminates flaws in my own life and provides an example of ways I can live differently.

I love people with Down's Syndrome and That's Why I'm Here.