Saturday, April 30, 2011

Putting it in God's hands.

So I am trying a new tack on the home improvement/lead paint thing I talked about in yesterday's blog. I am letting God take care of it.

Well, I am trying to at least. I prayed and told Him I was putting it in His hands. Now, I just have to stop worrying about it. I wish I had thought of this earlier. Really, it should be where I started, but better late than never, right?

God tells us:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6


“But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.”

Proverbs 1:33


“I will instruct you and teach you in the way should go; I will guide you with My eye.”

Psalm 32:8

I am guessing the King of the Universe, the one who created lead in the first place, can handle a bit -- or more than in a bit -- in some old paint. I really am not sure what He is going to do here, but I am hoping I can trust enough to find out. Pray for me will you?

Blessings on your day!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Home Maintenance Confusion

I am kinda out of my element when it comes to fixing things. Or knowing what to fix. Or when to fix it. It's a big question, what to tackle and what to let go. Right now even the crash course I have had since I became the church's house committee chair isn't helping.

Yesterday, I met with two painting contractors about dealing with lead paint at my new house. It had actually taken a while to figure out where all the lead paint was and where it wasn't. We have figured that out and so I had the two painters in to give me quotes for removing the crumbling lead paint that's between the window sashes and storm windows, and repaint of course.

The first guy told me not to waste my money paying him. He said that the lead would only be a problem if a child ate a hole window sill full. He said that I should scrape the paint myself and then put a mask on my son and have him follow behind me with a shop vac and vacuum the stuff up. I asked about dust and he said, "That's all hype." He said for him to do the job would mean taking off the storm windows and that would be very labor intensive.

The second guy told me it was lead dust, not paint chips, that are the problem. He told me that covering the windows on the inside, taking the storms off and doing the job from the outside would be cheaper and easier on my family than sealing off each room separately. He also pointed out a few other areas of lead concern that he recommended be handled before we moved in, but he said we really didn't have a serious lead problem compared to others he had seen. A few issues he said I could handle myself because it just meant going over intact paint. A few he thought needed scraping and the use of lead-safe procedures.

Now who do I believe? I felt more confident of the information given me by painter number two. He seemed both more knowledgeable and more competent as he spoke of state requirements, even though he was much younger and much less experienced.

But, appearances can be deceiving. Perhaps he is just more professional in demeanor.

And what if his quote is too high? Can I safely do this myself? Every booklet and website I've seen that explains how includes an encouragement to hire a lead certified contractor to handle the job instead. But often, on the forums of those sites, there are people who talk about there being too much concern over lead. Some even say no protections are needed.

My head is spinning. I don't know how to figure it out. What's OK and what's not? What is necessary and what is overkill?

I am feeling my way here and I feel anxious. I am just not sure how to proceed.

That's what's on my mind today.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Praying for Westboro Baptist Church

Recently, my church prayed that Westboro Baptist church would know God's love. If anyone needs to know God's love those people do.

Yesterday, a friend posted this article about a response to them:
Mississippi town figures out simple, effective way to stop Westboro Baptist Church funeral protest

While I don't like condoning someone being beating and the witnesses "not knowing anything", I think the rest of this response was awesome.

I also love the way the Patriot Guard Riders handle military funerals at which protesters are present. With the family's permission, they use their motorcylces and themselves to form a screen between the protesters and the funeral procession. They sing patriotic songs to drown out protester's chants. There is no violence, no confrontation as part of the strategy. They are there to both honor and protect fallen soldiers. More about them here: Patriot Guard Riders

Sometimes people are accused of hate by those who disagree with them. It's not always true. People can make a statement against a particular behavior without hating those who participate in it. In fact, it may be just the opposite. By the same token, groups that promote things that the Bible disagrees with do not necessarily hate God or Christians. They may simply not believe in God or they may love Him. Disagreement does not equal hate.

In the case of Westboro, though, hate is obvious. They preach it, teach it, announce it to the world. I don't think we should hate them back. Stand against their teachings and their actions at military funerals, yes. But not hate. That would make us too much like them. Personally, I don't want to go there.

I hope that some day the people of that church know God's love so that they can share it. Let's pray for that day.

Blessings on you!

"If someone says, "I love God," but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don't love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?" 1 John 4:20

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

If God can Love Turkeys, then God can Love You

Do you know that you are unconditionally loved by God? It's hard to believe sometimes, but it's true.

At Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park, affectionately known as CYC, we try to teach that. Sometimes, we succeed. When asked about a significant thing they learned at CYC, a few people gave these answers:

"I learned that no matter how much I may stray and may question God he still loves me unconditionally and when I am ready to come back he will have open arms. He is the almighty person who loves me unconditionally."

"That if God can love turkeys....God can love you!!!"

That second is actually a quote from a song we sing, often around the campfire. We would look into a neighbor's eyes and sing out:

If God can love turkeys, then God can love you
For you are a turkey and I am one, too.
So when you're lonely, remember the truth
If God can love turkeys, then God can love you.

It is one of the tools we use to let student know how deeply and dearly God loves them. Think about it. Turkeys are ridiculous creatures. Funny-looking, funny-acting, funny-sounding. But God made them. He made us, too, and he wants us in the worst way. He plain and simply adores us.

At CYC we also talk about Jesus' love in chapel, classes, progams and devotions. But the most effective method is to love unconditionally ourselves. We aim to love students unconditionally, model unconditional love amongst the staff and to encourage the students to love each other unconditionally. Have people loved you unconditionally? Have you known that joy? I hope so, because there is nothing like it.

I wish we were perfect at it at CYC, but we aren't of course. There are tensions at times. There are hurt feelings. There are people who feel forgotten or left out. We keep trying to do better.

Sometimes we do get it right. Here are a few more quotes from people who were there, about what they learned:

"Being able to fit in no matter who you are"

"When you become who you truly are meant to be, your real friends emerge!"

"Being how you were. No faking it. Going in a stranger, coming out with life long friends."

Pray with me that this community keeps growing in God's love and that more know Christ because of it. I pray that you experience God's abiding love.

Blessings on your day and remember God loves you!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~John 3:16

Christian youth Conference at Ocean Park is a two week ecumenical conference for high school students held in August on the beautiful southern coast of Maine. The theme for the 2011 conference is "Face to Face" and will look at restoring relationships between God and individuals, and amongst people. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Unconditional love -- a few quotes,

What a few well-known people have to say about unconditional love.

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

~Thomas Merton

Intense love does not measure, it just gives.
~Mother Theresa

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get–only with what you are expecting to give–which is everything.

~Katherine Hepburn

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
~God, 1 Corinthians 13:7

Tomorrow's blog will be about a community that aims at unconditional love and often succeeds.

Easter Blessing

Yesterday, we took a stranger home to dinner.

She had come to our church, choosing it at random, because she wanted to worship and happened to be visiting our town to see the lake. She was in need of prayer, because she had a recent diagnosis of cancer. It turned out she was a Messianic Jew. She was also alone for Easter, so we invited her home.

It's interesting how God prepares you for things. I served as the prayer partner yesterday and was the one to pray with this woman. My family has had recent experience with cancer so I was able to empathize with her diagnosis. I also have been in conversation with a friend who is a Messianic Jew over the last few days and having been learning more about Passover and Judaism. Plus, my husband, son and I were planning a relaxed dinner at home with just the three of us. We definitely had room at the table. And even though it was going to be "just us", I had insisted on cleaning up the house for the holiday so we were "guest ready."

Our new friend was very good company. She helped get the food ready, made interesting conversation and joined us in learning a new game that Jordan had gotten for Easter. What a blessing she was.

We aren't the type of family that takes strangers home. We have had people in unexpectedly for holidays before, but always people we knew. I'm glad we did it this time though and I hope we were as much a blessing to this lady as she was to us.

Have a great day!

"God places the lonely in families...." Psalm 68:6

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ is Risen!


The tomb is empty.

The victory won.

Jesus is alive!!

There is no doubting that. But perhaps, in The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot was on to something. The first stanza is subtitled "The Burial of the Dead." Here are the opening lines:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering 5
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, 10
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie, 15
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

In the same way that April is the cruelest the month for those who feel no part of it, perhaps Easter is the most difficult holiday for Believers who grieve.

We hear a lot about Christmas being difficult for those who have suffered a loss. And with the constant family gatherings emphasizing the abscence of a loved, it is. But Easter, for the Christian, is meant to be a time of unalloyed Joy. We are celebrating the final victory over death.... but for some it doesn't yet feel like a victory. The grief is too new, too raw.

Still, whatever it feels like for anyone just now, that victory is real. Jesus was dead. He is alive. Those who believe in him live forever in His kingdom, from the moment they believe through all eternity. That can bring us a measure of comfort. More than a measure.

So is it OK for the grieving to join in fully with the celebrations of Easter? I say, yes, because we are celebrating a true thing that nothing can change. But it's also fine not to feel up to it. God knows our hearts, understands pain and loss. After all, He's been there.

May your Easter be blessed and may you find true Joy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Waiting for Sunday

Yesterday we commemorated Jesus' crucifixion. Today, Holy Saturday, is a day of quiet reflection and waiting in many Christian traditions. In some, altars are stripped and clean. The idea is that Jesus is not there.

Of course, He is there. Everyone understands this is a commemoration; not a redo of Calvary and the tomb. We know the end of this story. Sunday's coming.

Last August my favorite community, Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park, included a Stations of the Cross program in their two week high school camp. It was a highly interactive event. We moved around campus in groups and participated in powerful symbolic activities. We saw a Roman executioner nail an apple to a cross. It gave us a taste of how violent the original event was. At another point we carried a wooden cross for a few feet each. It was smaller than the one Jesus bore, but it was heavy. How much Jesus suffered for us!

We confessed our sins, too. It was our sin that sent Jesus to the Cross. It was his love for us that kept him there. The nails just held up his body.

We know what happened on that Sunday morning long ago. We know this isn't the end, that the victory is won. It is still good to remember Christ's willing sacrifice and commemorate it in ways that help us to understand the depth of it as much as our humanity will allow.

As you wait for Sunday, may you remember what Christ did for you on the Cross. And may your love for Him be made more strong.

Blessings on your day.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Guest Blogger

I have heard that it is a good idea to have a guest write your blog once in a while. Today I thought I would let God speak in most of mine.

First, for Earth Day, Psalm 24.

Of David. A psalm.

1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.[a]

5 They will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God their Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.[b][c]

7 Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty—
he is the King of glory.

And in honor of Good Friday, in remembrance of Christ's sacrifice for us. 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”[d]

May you be blessed as you contemplate the meaning of this day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chag Pesach Sameach!

Yesterday was the first day of Passover. Actually, it began at sundown on Monday evening. Jews the world over celebrated two seders, one on Monday and one on Tuesday, in honor of this very important holiday. Passover is celebrated on different days and dates each year, as far as our calendar goes. It is scheduled based on the Hebrew calendar.

I am not Jewish, but I know several people who celebrate Passover, so I posted "Chag Pesach Sameach!" as my Facebook status on Monday. It is a transliteration of a Hebrew phrase which roughly translates "Happy Passover." A few of my friends were confused by this and asked me what I was talking about. Therefore, I offer this blog as an explanation of the importance of Passover.

First a few words from David Just, a Jewish friend who has faith in Christ:

There are only two holidays that we are required by The Law to committ to God. Those are the weekly Sabbath and the Passover. Because this is a joyous holiday, a very serious one at the same time and one commanded specifically by God, it holds a special place in our hearts, on our minds as well as on the calendar.

If Christians understood the meaning of each element in a seder, what each cup of wine represented, what each prayer meant and why "Next year in Jerusalem" is said at the end of both seders and the end of the holiday, then I believe Christians would have a deeper understanding of Our Lord's Last Supper, the cup of wine after dinner which He gave to His Disciples to drink, His death and resurrection and the Good News in general. Because is it not true that without His coming back from the dead there would be no Christian faith today?

A Passover Seder is a ceremonial meal which commemorates the Jews exodus from Egypt. The ritual contains several symbolic occurences which are reminders of the happenings leading to the Jews rescue from slavery. Questions are asked and answered. Ten drops of wine are placed on the plate as the plagues God sent on the Egyptians are listed. Herbs are dipped in salt water to bring to mind the tears and bitterness of slavery. Tasty charoset looks like the mortar Hebrew slaves put between bricks as they built. Matzoh -- unleavened bread -- is eaten as a reminder of how quickly the Jews had to leave Egypt when God told them to go. The meal is very rich in symbolism and is meant both to teach and to remind.

Passover is a festival of freedom, a celebration of God's protection and provision and as such it is a festive occasion. But it's even more than that. It is a foreshadowing of Christ's redemptive work on the cross. Way back at the first Passover, when the Jews ate standing up because they had to be ready, each family sacrificed a lamb for their meal. The blood of that lamb was painted on the door so that the angel of death would know to pass over that house as he sought out the first born of the land. For Christians, Jesus is our Passover lamb, his blood protects us from death. An interesting note from David:

God commanded that the lamb’s blood be painted on the posts and lentils of their doorways. The pattern on the passage from being inside (as slaves) and outside (as men on the path to freedom and redemption) has been compared many times to a gibbet. Many scholars believe that was the design Romans were using for crucifixions.

By the way, the Last Supper that Jesus ate with his disciples was a Passover Seder. The bread he passed to the disciples was unleavened bread. Some have noted that when he broke it, it would have made a snapping noise that would have been a powerful symbol to the disciples. The cup he gave them to drink was probably the fourth cup of wine, the Cup of Redemption. It is drunk to remind the Jews of their redemption from slavery into freedom.

Well that was, I hope, a lesson in both history and religious tradition. May it give you just a glimpse of this holiday. If you look more into it, you may find it enriches your faith.

Have a blessed day. Chag Pesach Sameach!

Monday, April 18, 2011

"And fired the shot heard 'round the world....."

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled;
Here once the embattled farmers stood;
And fired the shot heard round the world.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Patriot's Day commemorates the start of a war. The war that led to our independence, true, but a war in which young men were hurt and killed nonetheless. We are at war now, and so once more young people are in danger. I know some of them mostly through my work at the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park. I pray for them and I pray for peace.

On the great seal of the United States, there is an eagle. It's right talon holds an olive branch, its left a cluster of thirteen arrows. Since the time of Harry S. Truman, the eagle's head has faced right. Right is also considered the side of honor. The very first seal of the US showed the eagle's head facing right. At other points in history it has faced left. Some say that until Truman made the change the head pointed toward the olive branch when we were at peace and towards the arrows when we were at war.

I am not sure why President Truman decided that the head should always face right, but it seems appropriate. We are either in a time of peace or we wish to be. While we honor those who fight for us, we do not really want to send them to do so. So we pray for wars to end, for peace to reign, and we know that someday that will be the case. In the meantime, God send that our soldiers all come home.

Have a blessed day.

"After much occasion to consider the folly and mischiefs of a state of warfare, and the little or no advantage obtained even by those nations who have conducted it with the most success, I have been apt to think that there has never been, or ever will be, any such thing as a good war, or a bad peace." – Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, April 17, 2011

All Glory, Laud and Honor

This bold and vigorous Palm Sunday hymn was written in around 820 AD by an incarcerated Italian Monk. Theodulph of Orleans, an Italian noble who chose a life of service, was appointed Bishop of Orleans by Charlenaigne. After Charlemagne's death he was imprisoned by Louis the Pious who suspected him of being loyal to Italian political leaders. He died in prison in 821 after three years of incarceration. This hymn exhibits his faith and ability to praise in tough situations. It also narrates the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is in the public domain.

All glory, laud and honor
To Thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring!
The people of the Hebrews
With palms before Thee went;
Our praise and pray’r and anthems
Before Thee we present.

Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou, David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s name comest,
The King and blessed One!
To Thee, before Thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise.

Thou didst accept their praises;
Accept the pray’rs we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King!
All glory, laud and honor
To Thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of Children
Made sweet hosannas ring!

All Glory, Laud and Honor. For Festival Chorus with Orchestra or Symphonic Band. [Words by] Theodulph of Orleans ... Setting by N. Cain. [For mixed voices and P. F. accompaniment.]

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ancient Chinese Burial Practices -- Awesome!

Jade. That's what the ancient chinese made burial costumes for royalty out of, because jade was, to them, a symbol of eternal life.

My son was very excited by this. He told me all about it today as he was outlining his current history text. "Mom, you have to read this!!"

I am really glad that Jordan is so excited about history. He's even doing extra work. The pages on burial practices are supplemental. He didn't have to do anything with them, but decided to make an outline of them anyway. He told me he always reads the supplements, even if he doesn't do any work on them. I really enjoy seeing him so interested in something. It's one of my favorite things about homeschooling.

When it seems like his education has been interrupted for the millionth time. I remember things like this. Also, how much he learns just by reading for fun and by interacting with others.I am hoping our school district will see it the same way. I have been writing parts of his progress narrative in my head. I'll let the principal know that he hasn't done as much as he should because of his own illness and family emergencies, but I will also tell them he has had made huge strides in some areas. Here's a note I am thinking of:

"Jordan has not progressed a full year in writing skills during fifth grade. He has learned to outline books and he will be learning to outline his own essays. He participated in a Creative Writing Workshop with other homeschoolers and wrote a short piece. He did some grammar lessons but only completed half of the fifth grade workbook. Over the summer, we will spend some extra time on writing, focusing on a description of Ancient China and his 4H story."

Another paragraph I am considering:

"Public speaking is one area in which Jordan has made tremendous progress. We are memorizing passages of scripture. While this is primarily a spiritual exercise, we have taken the opportunity to work on his elocution skills. He read a Psalm at his grandmother's funeral and did very well. A pastor helped him to do his best with this. Jordan also served as Lay Reader at church on two occasions. He was the only child to do this. He participated in the 4H Visual Presentation program, earning blue ribbons at the town, county, and state levels, and also the Big E Award which will allow him to present to a larger audience at the Eastern States Exposition."

Perhaps things have been a bit lopsided in Jordan's curriculum. I'm not sure public speaking is actually conidered a subject until high school. Arithmetic and writing skills should be big in the late elementary years. But I'm not worried. He'll catch up in those areas.

And he's learned so much! Just ask him about how people were buried in Ancient China. But if you do, be prepared to hang around a while.

Have a great day!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Is the President paid too much?

This is just my opinion.

The following is making the rounds on Facebook:

Salary of the US President...$400,000. Salary of retired US Presidents...$180,000. Salary of House/Senate...$174,000. Salary of Speaker of House...$223,500....Salary of Majority/Minority Leaders...$193,400..........Average US Salary...$33,000 to $77,000. HELLO! I think we found where the cuts should be made!

Well, I am not so sure.

It's true that most Americans make much less. The median salary in the U.S. is $46326.
( Half the people in the U.S. make more than that, half less. It's clear that our elected officials are in the former half.

The median income for a person in the U.S. who is over 25, works full time and has a professional degree is $100,000. ( )

If we look at people who head organizations we find that the CEOs of some charities make pretty hefty salaries. At least fifteen earn salaries over $800,000 and a few earn compensation of over $2 million per year.
( )

In the businesss world it is not uncommon for CEOs to make multi-millions of dollars each year. In addition to seven-digit salaries, many get large amounts of money from stock options and similar forms of compensation.
( )

Of course, it's not our taxes that pay those salaries. We have a choice as to whether to give the donations or pay for the products that make them happen. We don't have a choice with the salaries of our government leaders. Still, Scripture tells us in 1 Timothy 5:18 that "A worker is worthy of his wages." The president has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. I think he deserves adequate compensation. $400,00 really doesn't seem like too much. The same holds true for members of congress. The one item I am not sure about is the $180,000 per year pension for former presidents.

I am not speaking of the current incumbents specifically, but of the offices of President, Senator and Representative. I am also not talking about what should happen if the government shuts down. If others aren't being paid maybe these people shouldn't be either.

Anyway, this is all just my opinion and I am not very knowledgeable about politics, so maybe I'm crazy. But I thought I'd put it out there.

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Poem for those who grieve.

This poem, by an anonymous author, was printed on the remembrance cards at my friend Peggy's funeral. It applies to so many others, including my Mom and my former choir director, as well. I thought I would share it. May it be a source of comfort to those who need it.

God saw you were getting tired,
And a cure was not to be,
So he put his arms around you
And whispered, "Come to me"
With tearful eyes we watched you,
And saw you pass away,
Although we loved you dearly,
We could not make you stay.
A golden heart stopped beating,
Hard working hands at rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us,
He only takes the best.

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reviving the Fellowship of Upside Down Hymn Book Singers.

In church today, I sang with hymnbook upside down.

My son got a kick out of this, even yelping with delight at Mom's strangeness. But it wasn't something new I was doing. My friend Paul and I used to do it all the time.

Maybe it was because I saw Paul yesterday that I had the impulse this morning to go back to that practice. Paul was my high school youth advisor/ Sunday School teacher and we used to sit together in church every Sunday through my teen years and beyond. We would sing every hymn with the hymnbook upside down and called ourselves "The Fellowship of Upside Down Hymn Book Singers."

Now and then, people would sit with us. They would look at us strangely. Most of them would think we were turning our hymnbooks round the wrong way just to pull their legs. We'd tell them it was our usual practice. Once, someone in the choir decided to check us out. They looked to see which side of our hymnals was fatter and discovered that there, in the pew by ourselves, we were singing with the music wrong way round.

Well, of course we were. We didn't do it (just) for fun. Paul explained when he initiated me into this little group (there must have been other members here and there though I don't remember any) that most people sing hymns without thinking about them. Turning the hymnbook upside down forces you to concentrate on the words. He was right. (As for the music, we didn't read it too well anyway and were defintely more among the joyful noisemakers than the celestial singers.)

So, I am reviving the club. I'll get Jordan to join or I'll be a solo member for now. Feel free to join me in my pew Sundays at 10:15. Or start a chapter in your local congregation. Some of these hymns have amazing messages when you pay attention.

Have a good day!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Good-bye, Friend

Funerals are sad events.

But, also chances to share, to give and receive support, to grieve with others.

I was at a funeral today. It was for an old friend, Peggy. There was both heartache and good memories. Her husband Paul, a good friend of mine, gave a very moving tribute to his wife. Many people shared memories of Peggy's generous spirit and her gracious and dignified fight for her life.

Back in the early days of Peggy's cancer diagnosis, Paul called me and asked me to be his prayer partner. For a long time, I prayed daily, often more, for Peggy. I called to check in with Paul. I sent a card. I felt I did so little, though! We live a couple of hours away and Peggy was too ill for overnight visitors.

My Mom's diagnosis came after Peggy's. Peggy and Paul supported my Mom and I as we dealt with chemo and later, radiation and hospice care. Her calls were always welcome, always helpful. In the last days of my Mom's illness, Peggy sent a card to her which included the line "Don't worry, the 'second set of parents' will take care of your children."

Paul attended Mom's service. Peggy tried to, but could not. She was too ill and the car ride tired her. She spent that day with her infant grandson and it turned out to be the last time she saw him. She spent the next weekend with her other two grandchildren. Then she entered the hospital unexpectedly on Wednesday and died on Saturday.

I looked at pictures of Peggy today and realized that I haven't actually seen her in years. I was amazed at how different she looked in recent photographs. But still her presence was felt in my life and in my family. I will miss her.

Rest in peace Peggy. We love you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Earth is Not Your Ashtray!!

Warning: tonight I am going to rant.

Yesterday, I walked around my church, looking about. I am the chair of the House Committee so I have some responsibility for the grounds. What caught my eye was cigarette butts everywhere.

I am not going to rant about smoking. You have all heard how bad it is anyway. Suffice it to say it's not allowed at my house. Or in my car. And when I have a yard it won't be allowed there either. I am going to rant about where some smokers put there cigarette butts when they are done smoking.

Long before yesterday's walk around my church building, I had been bothered by cigarette butts on the ground. They are distinctly unattractive, down right disgusting in fact. All litter is I suppose, but butts seem to have an added dimension of grossness. They were in somebodies mouth. filter has trapped poisons from the cigarette itself. They are just nasty.

And on top of that they are just the right size for little hands to pick up. When little hands pick things up, they usually put those things in their mouths. YUCK!! Even the most vigilant of parents can miss things sometimes. So, yes, smokers you do bear some responsibility here to keep those butts away from small people. It's not all on Mommy and Daddy.

I appeal to all smokers (and I know some of you do this already) please dispose of your cigarette butts properly. There are ways. You can figure them out.

Thank you!!

And have a great day.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Seeking a "New Normal"

This has been quite a school year. Back in August I bought some workbooks, intending to send them with Jordan when he needed to do his school work with a babysitter. The mojority of school time we were going to spend on research, projects and field trips. Then came my mother's diagnosis. As we moved into the routines of chemotherapy and, later, palliative radiation those workbooks became the lifeline for Jordan's education. They were all we had time for.

Next, Jordan had a bout of pyomyocytis and spent January and early February going in and out of the hospital. We didn't get much school work done then, although his education continued. He learned a lot about veins, arteries, art and more. Following that we managed to get in a weeklong writer's workshop with friends and a week of regular lessons.

After that, it was full tilt into hospice and bereavement routines. Lessons were entirely suspended.

Now we are trying to find, as my friend put it, a "new normal." I don't think, though, that we will really get into a consistent routine until after we move, which should be in the next month or so.

It's interesting being in flux, to say the least.

Jordan would have progressed more in his academics over the last couple of months had he been in a regualr school. Well, maybe. There is no guarentee of that. It seems likely, though as his class schedule would have remained stable regardless of what was going on. Except when he was in the hospital of course.

Then, again, he would have been segregated from the family. He would not have participate in his grandmother's care much as he would have either been at school or doing his homework. He would have had very little time with her. I think the tradeoffs were worth it.

Now his lessons are being interrupted by the processs of moving. His lessons, but not his education. Yesterday, he went around with the home inspector and learned a bit about things like electric control panels and chimneys. In the afternnon, I came down with a little a bug and he put his recent education to work by diving into the role of my caregiver. There is a very detailed log of my symptoms, food intake, etc., upstairs.

We are trying to devise a schedule so that his academics get back on track. Perhaps we will do summer school this year, with extra tours and field trips. Things will settle down and we will find that "new normal" which will, hopefully, involve a consistent routine.

Until then, we'll take this phase, this season, as it comes. God will see us through, and very likely we will learn more than we are expecting.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"I have poked you!!"

I just poked a bunch of friends. Poked them back, actually. On Facebook that is. I kinda had to you see, because, the one who stops poking loses which is not something I like to do. Actually, I may have lost already, because I haven't done any poking in weeks. According to one set of "official" rules you lose a "poke war" if you don't poke back within 48 hours. :( But, hey, I didn't hit the x button so I am still in the game, right?

On another tack, there are rather a large number of theories about what poking "means." Some people think it's just a way of saying "hello." I can go with that. That's how I use it.

Others think of it as a way to get attention and still others figure it's a form of flirting. For some people, I suspect it is and I hope they enjoy it. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately in some cases) most people say they find that poking doesn't lead anywhere. I suppose that makes it a safe way to flirt.

Well, almost. People have been arrested for poking someone on Facebook. Of course, restraining orders were involved.

There are other ideas about poking out there. Facebook actually has their own explanation of poking.

"When we created the poke, we thought it would be cool to have a feature without any specific purpose. People interpret the poke in many different ways, and we encourage you to come up with your own meanings."

Their own meanings. Ah. People have come up with those. Prolifically. If you google "facebook poke" you find dozens, probably hundreds, of pages with discussions of this. A random sampling will reveal a suprising number of views on the subject.

You know what this means? Some people take this way too seriously and think about it way too much. But, then again, it's rather more harmless than a lot of things people think about, so why not go ahead and think about it?

Have a fun day!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Jordan having fun.

Jordan is at just the right age to enjoy April Fool's so we had fun yesterday.

Actually we had two field trips yesterday, too. One with other homeschoolers and one that was just us. So by late afternoon I was tired and inclined to be cranky. I had, however, been reading in one of those inspirational parenting books, books which I generally avoid, about a young mother learning to enjoy her small children because her mother reminded her that this time passes in the blink of an eye. Because of that story, I took a deep breath and decided to have fun with the pranks Jordan was planning for his Dad. I am glad I did. We ended up having a few laughs.

There is so much to enjoy in this tween time of life. Jordan and his friend were in the 4-H State Visual Presentation Competition today. They didn't place but they did get a blue ribbon. Just making it that far was a real accomplishment. They had lots of fun just hanging out with other
. 4-Hers and seeing presentations about everything from pirates to origami cranes. It was good to be a part of it.
I need to spend more time enjoying my son, even when I am tired. Every stage of life has its amusements. So I know I need to work hard, but I'm going to try not to forget to have fun, too.

Have a blessed day!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

No that isn't an April Fool's Joke -- though I enjoy those immensely.

Apparently, April 1st used to be the end of New Year's week. That changed in 1582 with the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar. New Year was changed to January 1. According to one theory, many people either didn't hear of the change in date or refused to accept it. Others made fun of them and played tricks on them and that's how April Fool's Day got started. (Learn more about that here.)

I only learned today that April 1 used to be New Year's Day. It makes more sense than January 1st, especially in an agrarian culture such as would still have been the norm in 1582. April is neat the start if Spring, when things begin. Januaty 1 is after the start of winter, in the deadest part of the year. The best I can find out is that January 1 was chosen by the Church because leaders didn't like the new year celebration coinciding with pagan observances of the Spring Equinox. But the beginning of the liturgical year is the first day of Advent, wouldn't that have made more sense as New Year? Well, of course then it wouldn't be on the same day every year.

Ah, well, all this historical musing probably won't get me anywhere. I just find it interesting. I always thought January 1 was a strange time to place New Year.

Anyway, I hope you have all enjoyed April Fool's Day. What was your favorite prank this year?