Sunday, November 28, 2010

Now Thank We All Our God . . .

Thanksgiving brings new things to be thankful for.
A house filled with love and laughter is something to be thankful for, and so is a house filled with children. Such a house might get cluttered, and you might wonder how the cranberry sauce got on the ceiling -- but really, does anyone mind as long as everyone is having a good time?
We have enough and then some -- leftovers to take home, and leftovers to eat til you don't want to see turkey until next Thanksgiving.
We have room for everyone who wants to come -- warm, dry rooms with chairs to sit on, and places to visit, or wash up, and plenty of room to cook and clean up afterwards.
We have freedom to thank God for the blessings He's given us.
We have abundant life, just like He promised.
Thanks be to God.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Forty-seven Years . . .

Rain beat down steadily into the grey afternoon, and the windshield wipers on my dad's car hardly kept up. He was quiet, and the radio was on as he maneuvered around other cars, other parents waiting for their kids to come out of school.
The announcement had come while I was in science class, trying to wrap my mind around the intricacies of the periodic table. “I am sorry to tell you that President Kennedy has died in Dallas. Vice-President Johnson will take the oath of office in just a few minutes. That is all we know at this time,” droned our principal over the school loudspeakers.
Our class was quiet, and so was our teacher. A kind, absent-minded man, he was at a loss for words. He did not know how to explain what had just happened; he struggled to understand it himself.
The remaining 90 minutes of school passed quietly; no more work was done. We simply sat in our classes, murmuring quietly, wondering what would happen next.
The grey skies, the rain, the quiet -- it was as if we had entered a period of mourning that would not lift for a long time. There would be more assassinations, more upheaval, more tumult to come. Change that had been accumulating slowly seemed to accelerate, and afterwards, time would seem to be marked by that day, the day everything seemed to change.
But just then, getting into my dad's car where he was waiting for me, it seemed as if I had reached sanctuary. He was sad, too, and quiet. He could tell me what would happen next, how our country had provided for such dire circumstances. He could assure me that things would be OK.
He just couldn't tell me why someone would want to assassinate the President.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Birth, or Not?

I've been thinking about one of the remarkable things Jesus said during what we sometimes call the Passion. As He was being nailed to the cross, He said, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing."
I've thought about all the things we don't know we are doing that might hurt or offend God, especially since I read about the blog of two Minneapolis parents-to-be. Birth or Not is the name of the blog, and readers are invited to vote for the couple to abort their baby, or not.
Of course the possibility exists that this is a prank, or a sham of some kind.
But what if it's real, and they mean what they say? The deadline for abortion in their state is December 9, so they will close voting two days before. If the vote is in favor of abortion, they say they will have the abortion of the baby they call “Wiggles.”
They don't know what they're doing.
We live in a callous world, where many of us don't value life very much, if at all. We don't see it for the gift it is. We don't see. We don't know what we're doing.
Right now the vote count favors giving birth. Life.
But scrolling through the comments is a sad experience. There are many hateful, hurtful comments on both sides of the issue, and sadly, some of them come from people who claim to be Christian.
I don't think this is a time for hateful, hurtful comments. It's a time for Christians to allow God to work through us in Jesus's Name. It's a time for us to reflect His passion for life, His kindness and grace toward those who sin. And it's time for several other things, too: voting for life? Of course. Prayer, for sure, for this child, for his parents, and for all those who hear of this “election.”
And, most of all, for compassion.
Because, just like all the rest of us who are sinners, they don't know what they're doing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Time to Rest

Autumn is shuffling around in dusty slippers. Each day is shorter than the one before, as if her eyelids droop, as if she is too tired even to smile much. Summer's bright colors have fallen away, leaving behind only that which has faded and wrinkled.
How, then, is each day so glorious? Harvest is over; a season of rest settles over all, yet with such a sense of satisfaction -- of thanksgiving, even -- that who can see it without smiling?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Prescription for Irritation

OK, is it just me, or are the drug ads getting even more weird than before?
Print ads are bad enough -- one glossy page of promises, followed by two pages of small print detailing the disclaimers and warnings of dire things that might happen if you use that particular drug.
It's the television/radio ads that are a little freaky, though.
Drug ads always show attractive people with some kind of difficulty that the advertised drug will help them with. We follow the mini-drama as the patient moves from problem to solution -- but then comes the rapid, robotic list of “do not use” and “this may cause” warnings. By the end of the warnings, I'm shocked that the patient hasn't dropped dead, at least from fright if not from the side effects of the advertised drug.
The thing I find particularly irksome is that these ads add to the cost of the drugs. How much of the cost of a prescription can be attributed to prime-time placement of an advertisement, or to running an ad over and over and over again until little children can sing the jingle or ask “Mommy, what does erectile dysfunction mean?”
The ads are meant to make patients ask their doctors if they need a particular drug -- a form of self-diagnosis. The demand by patients for a specific drug is meant to make doctors more willing to prescribe that particular drug. And everyone is happy.
Except for patients who can't afford prescriptions whose cost is inflated by incessant advertising, and of course, those patients who suffer or succumb to the side effects of a particular drug they didn't need but took because an advertisement convinced them they might need it.
Some things should be strictly between a patient and her doctor. Which prescription drugs a patient should use might be one of those things.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veteran's Day, 2010: Thank You for Your Service . . .

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day, a day to recognize and honor the sacrifices of those who have taken on the responsiblity of serving in our Armed Forces.
It is not possible for us to understand fully what it means to leave civilian life behind, to exchange everyday life for the everyday risks our soldiers, sailors, and Marines face. How do we express our appreciation for what they do, when we don't always understand what they do, or how they do it?
We try. We'll put on parades; we'll wave the flag; we'll talk about sacrifice and duty. We'll do our best to let our veterans know we recognize what they've done, what they've given.
But maybe the best way to express our appreciation is to do it personally: do you know a veteran?
Just tell him or her: We appreciate your service to our country. Thank you.
It's that simple.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Creative Sanity: Intention

Here's a post from one of my favorite bloggers: I love what she says about how a mom sets a tone in her home. I think she's right -- moms are instrumental in creating the "climate and weather" in our homes!

Creative Sanity: Intention

Getting Ready . . .

Are you beginning to plan for holiday dinners and parties?
At our house, that means making sure the good dishes are ready to use -- clean and accessible. But the good dishes aren't just for everyday use. It's fun to surprise your family, and use them on a more everyday basis.
Of course, that means something might be broken, but it's worth it to see the look on your family's faces when they realize you did something so special just for them.
And it gives them a chance to practice their best manners.
Read more about good dishes and other graces in this post from Blissfully Domestic.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Plate-Spinning in November

It's early November, and our family calendar for the next two months is already crammed and jammed. Making time to fit in all the things that we need and want to do is a complicated juggling act something like the plate spinners who used to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show.
It's another exercise in figuring out what is important and what is merely urgent, as well as a good reminder that we cannot do everything or be everywhere, no matter how much we might want to. Only God can do that, and it's pretty clear I'm not God.
So, at our house, early November is weigh-and-measure season. We're trying to arrange our schedules so we can include what's important, and leave some time for slowing down and enjoying this season of Thanksgiving and celebration.
Because if we don't have time for that, the rest of it won't mean much anyway.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ben Had It Right . . .

Thought for today, courtesy of Jennifer Rothschild's Facebook post:

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote! -- Ben Franklin

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

November is here, the harvest is almost done, and it's time to begin thinking about our Thanksgiving celebration.
Before you begin planning the menu and cleaning the house, make some time to think about all the things you have to be thankful for: It Is A Good Thing To Give Thanks.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Moving Experience . . .

It's October, and you know what that means, don't you?
It's time to move the furniture.
It might start out as something we do to get at the baseboards, but pretty soon moving furniture takes on a life of its own. Wouldn't this chest work better in the basement? Of course, that means the desk down there will need to go out to the garage, and the bed should be moved to the other side of the room. And we haven't even started on the main floor of the house yet.
Which doesn't impress the pastor who lives here. He may not actually utter un-pastorly things, but I'm pretty sure he's thinking them.
Which is why this week-end, when daughter #4 was helping me clean the basement, and we realized we needed the chest from the garage down in the basement, she looked at me and smiled. “Just let me handle dad,” she said.
And she did.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

After the Storm

I love the way the air is so clear after a storm!
Yesterday the trees in our backyard were creaking and swaying in the wind; today a light breeze is ruffling the leaves, and sunlight is dancing through them, making their gold and red and orange glow.
We got through the storm with very little damage -- nothing more than some branches scattered on the roof and driveway -- but others suffered real harm. Trees were uprooted in a small community near here, and just one state away roofs were blown off and trucks blown over.
Today, though, the air is clear and lovely.
I don't like arguments or conflict. When the storm blows through, though, and the air is finally clear, my hope is that left behind, there is nothing worse than branches scattered around.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Always the Season for Real Change . . .

Wanted to take a photograph of a new “political” yard sign we spotted in a local front yard, but it's already been taken down. Here's what it said:


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rain, Rain . . .

We woke up to a grey morning; by the time breakfast was over rain was tapping against the windows, and thunder rumbled in the far-off.
Yesterday morning was one of those sunny autumn days when golden light seemed to come from within the trees, so this morning seems even more grey by comparison, but cozy, too. It's a good day to curl up with a favorite book, or make a pot of soup.
What do you do on a rainy day?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tick, Tock, Tick . . .

Time is a trickster.
It stretches; it shrinks; it evaporates.
And all time really ever does is help us keep track of where we are in this little slice of eternity.
Our bodies age, but our souls mature -- or not. The difference is important.
Fifteen years is long enough for a couple to grow into one another, to find ways to affirm on a daily basis the vows they made to one another about having, holding, and keeping unto one another, but not so long that every adventure has been exhausted.
Eighteen years is long enough for a child to gain both age and maturity, to become responsible and reliable as well as full of joy and purpose, but not so long that youthful exuberance is all used up.
Seventy-seven years is long enough to have gained perspective on what matters most, but not so long that there is no more to learn.
What better use of time, than to gain eternity?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving . . .

The holidays are coming. Christmas, of course, but first -- Thanksgiving.
Each week the temperature steps down a few more degrees. More leaves fall, and each day has a little less daylight than the day before. We've had robins and cardinals at the holly-berry pantry under our living room windows, and the back-yard squirrel family keeps hauling acorns away to their winter hiding places.
We were out with one of the four-year-olds the other night. She was excited to see the moon and the stars. She thought it was funny that God would want night lights.
Sometimes I wonder how much I allow to pass by without notice. Every season, every day offers testimony to God's care and faithfulness. I've seen autumn before, so I don't watch or listen to experience what is unique to this autumn.
I want to have eyes to see and ears to hear what God is doing all around me; I want to pay attention; I want to notice Him at work in His creation. For praise and thanksgiving to be genuine and fresh, I need to be aware of what it is I am praising and thanking God for.
I'm starting to get ready for Thanksgiving and all the rest of the holiday season, and I'm starting by paying attention.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Please Pass the Popcorn

We actually went to a movie this week.
We talk about going to a movie fairly often. We discuss the movies we'd like to see, and when we might go. We talk about the price of popcorn and the pleasures of a plush seat in a dark corner of the theater. We promise ourselves that we're going to go see a movie -- soon.
But this week we actually did it. We went to see Secretariat.
It was worth the wait.
If you like horses, or underdogs, this is your movie. You might be familiar with the story, but that's not quite the same as seeing a version of it play out on-screen.
For one thing, the cinematography is lovely -- one of my favorite scenes (besides the horse scenes, or the race scenes, or the 1960s scenes) is the one of Kentucky Derby Day and the ladies' hats. It's not a perspective you see often, and it was wonderful! But there are so many lovely scenes in this movie, so many exciting, edge-of-the-seat-even-though-you-know-how-it-turns-out scenes, that you might miss it.
The characters are appealing, and the acting is great -- Diane Lane and John Malkovich are fun to watch. And the beginning of the movie moved my heart; I'm not sure I've ever seen a better opening scene.
This is one of those movies we all say we wish they'd make -- great story, good acting, no profanity, sex, or violence -- and if we want moviemakers to make more of this kind of movie, we need to support them when they do.
So, if you're looking for a good movie for the whole family, go see Secretariat.
And please, have some popcorn for me.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kindling a Love for Reading

I'd been thinking about getting an e-reader.
I went back and forth pn the “can I adjust to a 'book' that isn't made of paper and ink?” question. Was the tactile experience part of the pleasure of reading? And if so, how much?
Would I miss thumbing through actual pages? Flipping through a book, back and forth, comparing passages? Or would an e-reader simplify my reading experience?
Most importantly, could I still read the end of the book first?
Those questions weren't the only issues I struggled with: I felt a little bewildered by all the e-reading options. Should I just download a reader on my laptop? I'd checked out the Nook -- every time I walked into Barnes and Noble, someone offered to show me everything I needed to know about it. And I'd always been satisfied with everything Sony; maybe their e-reader was the way to go.
Or I could just succumb to the temptation of the Apple and get an Ipad -- as if money were no object.
Speaking of money, would I spend even more money on books if they were only a click away in the Kindle store? Could I exercise discretion and judgment when book-shelf space wasn't a consideration?
My family saved me the trouble of making a decision. For my birthday this year, they all went together and gave me a Kindle.
Initially, the learning curve isn't too steep, although I know there are features on my Kindle I haven't figured out yet.
And I'm liking it. I'm liking it a lot.
With its pebbled leather cover (complete with its own light!), reading is still somewhat tactile, although there are no pages to turn. Late at night, though, when I'm tired, I still forget to hit the page-turning button, and reach up to turn a (non-existent) page.
The Kindle fits into a purse in a way most hard-back books won't. And it keeps track of where I am in a book. It offers variety, convenience, and fun in a very small, very portable package.
There might be a few drawbacks -- it seems as if it will be harder to share a book with someone. I still haven't figured out how to navigate quickly from one part of a book to another. Illustrations and photographs aren't quite as crisp as in a print book. Some books don't seem to be available through Kindle, although perhaps I just haven't found them yet.
And perhaps worst of all, there aren't too many children's books available in Kindle editions.
But overall, I like this new reading experience. I don't think e-readers will replace paper-and-ink books. I think they will just give us more options. And who could argue with that?
So now I'm curious . . . have you tried a Kindle, or another e-reader? What do you think? Are you using it a lot, and enjoying it, or is it sitting quietly by your bedside? And what are you reading?
I'd love to know.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chocolate Chip? Peanut Butter? Sugar?

Today is a perfect example of Indian summer -- warm sunshine splashes over trees wearing bright reds and golds. But later on next week, there's rain in the forecast, with somewhat cooler temperatures. I know what that means: baking cookies!
If you'd like to read more about this fall ritual around our house, check out my article, Baking Cookies, on the Hearts at Home website.
Just keep in mind, it will read better if you have a warm cookie in your hand, and a glass of cold milk nearby.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hello, again . . .

So, what do I say after such a long silence?
“Let me re-introduce myself,” maybe?
Or should I just explain why I haven't checked in for such a long time?
It's been such a year!
Weddings. Babies. Graduations. Holidays, busy days, ordinary time. A part-time job.
Moving home, changing congregations. Facebook and Twitter -- meeting old friends and making new ones.
And always, sorting through the basement -- the never-ending story of my life.
Somehow, every time I thought of blogging, I set the thought aside.
Isn't that the way? Life rushes on and we get distracted; sometimes even important things are set aside on the sidelines.
Eventually, though, we miss the things that matter.
Which brings me back . . . here.
Hello again.
Let's get re-acquainted.