Sunday, June 30, 2013

Song for Sunday: People are Strange

First The Doors have written/performed some good stuff. I don't actually know who does their writing and I am not a fan of everything they have done but I really like some of it, including today's "Song for Sunday."

I don't really know the specifics of what The Doors are getting at message-wise with this song, but at the moment I am reading it this way.

I spent the last few days at an Intercultural Conference and Multicultural Festival. In not too many years,  the US will have no majority ethnic group. The American Baptist Churches USA are already there. We are celebrating this, but as was pointed out to us, if we are honest, diversity -- real "share our lives" type diversity that goes beyond simple tolerance -- is hard.

Many of the people at the conference were refugees and new immigrants - from over a dozen ethnic groups. They share some of the same experiences of adjusting to American culture. Sadly, prejudice and even bigotry have been themes. 

So, today, I post this song to remind us that it is hard to be a new person in a strange place. I also want to encourage people to take this biblical command seriously:

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 
     Romans 12:13    

For some people that may mean open our homes, but for others it could mean simply being friendly to strangers in our land. 

People are strange when you're a stranger 
s look ugly when you're alone 
Women seem
wicked when you're unwanted 
Streets are uneven when you're down 

When you're strange 
Faces come out of the rain 
When you're strange 
No one remembers your name 
When you're strange 
When you're strange 
When you're strange 

People are strange when you're a stranger 
Faces look ugly when you're alone 
Women seem wicked when you're unwanted 
Streets are uneven when you're down 

When you're strange 
Faces come out of the rain 
When you're strange 
No one remembers your name 
When you're strange 
When you're strange 
When you're strange 

When you're strange 
Faces come out of the rain 
When you're strange 
No one remembers your name 
When you're strange 
When you're strange 
When you're strange

What do you think of this song?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Extreme Legos

Jordan went to a Lego event recently. He was given a base and told to build whatever he wanted on it. His "creation" would then be added to a map of the US. The organizers hoped to fill the whole map before the end of the weekend.

Jordan, in the midst of Iron Man fever (though he's never actually seen the movie) decided to build a tall version of Tony Stark's Malibu Mansion.

He was, as you can see in this clip very intent on his work. The staff asked him what his plan was and he said he wanted to build something tall. They  told him the limit was four feet. I don't know what he was originally thinking of as "tall," but he took that as a challenge. Four feet or bust. The staff got behind him, helping him find the pieces he needed and cheering him on.

He had to change his design a few times. because of the pieces that were available. He showed great flexibility. He added new ideas as went along. (Does Tony Stark play golf?)

It took over two hours (in the middle of the day on Friday -- yay, homeschooling!) but he did it.
Then he had a little celebration:

The staff asked him where on the map he wanted it. He said "California, of course. That's where Malibu is." So they put it there.

It was an adventure. It was fun to see so many people rooting for a kid and helping him to accomplish a goal. Children shouldn't expect to be the center of attention most of the time, but once in a while, it's probably good for them.

A final clip showing how he feels about his work. Quite proud of himself, really.


When have you seen a child work at something?

Sorry about the orientation of the videos. I don't know how to rotate them. If you do please let me know!

Besides my son, I get to watch teens from the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park accomplish things all the time. Two weeks at the beach in August experiencing Christian community and learning leadership skills? What's not to love?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Song for Sunday: Waltz of the Flowers

Usually, I post Songs for Sunday that have lyrics. Today's however is Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers, an instrumental piece which calls to mind the beauty, light and frivolity of summer.

This rendering is acccompanied by lovely images of summer blossoms.

I hope you enjoy it!

Do any classical pieces remind you of summer?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Poetry

A blogging group I belong to is focusing on summer this month and today is the first day of summer. I decided to share a poem about a summer night. (It is night here, now.) Hope you enjoy it.

Back Yard

  by Carl Sandburg

Shine on, O moon of summer.  
Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak,  
All silver under your rain to-night.  
An Italian boy is sending songs to you to-night from an accordion.  
A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next month;
     to-night they are throwing you kisses.
An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a
     cherry tree in his back yard.  
The clocks say I must go—I stay here sitting on the back porch drinking
     white thoughts you rain down.  
     Shine on, O moon,  
Shake out more and more silver changes. 

What are your thoughts of summer?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Enticing Children

Many types of cereal come with a toy or children's  DVD in the box. I have noticed that it is almost exclusively the more highly-sugared varieties with artificial colors, marshmallows and/or a lack of whole grain that offer these extras. I wondered why.

It's just a guess, but I think cereal companies figure that parents will buy the healthier cereals anyway. They also will be the more likely choice of childless adults. Companies need to get the not so healthy cereals sold, so they add on the plastic goodies and bet on parents not saying "no" to a whiny child in the grocery store.

Many teen health programs also contend that  tobacco companies target teens and younger kids with their advertising methods.

I was speaking to a tobacco educator a few days ago and she was explaining how small, flavored cigars are sold for less money than candy. They are also displayed at kid-eye level if bright foil packages. I checked out a local shop and found that she was right, though the price was slightly higher than she had said. These cigars are no safer than cigarettes, but they don't carry the tax so they can be sold cheaply.

Studies show that between 80 and 90% of people who smoke begin before age 18. It is critical for the tobacco companies to hook high- schoolers if they want a future base of customers. It appears that they push by advertising on shows teens favor and in a manner that will catch their attention. For more info, try these links:

As parents, educators and youth ministers, we need to be aware of these tactics and arm our kids against them. Study after study shows that kids do listen to parents. Start telling kids young not to smoke, and keep telling them. Set the right example.
That goes for overly sugar, low-nutrient cereal and various other stuff that's not good for us, too.
How do you teach your kids to be healthy?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Song for Sunday: This is My Father's World

Predictable really, but we sang this in worship this morning. I was struck by the lines: "though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet!" In a world of senseless violence, it's a good reminder and very true!

        This is my Father's world, 
 and to my listening ears 
 all nature sings, and round me rings 
 the music of the spheres.  
 This is my Father's world:  
 I rest me in the thought 
 of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; 
 his hand the wonders wrought.

 This is my Father's world, 
 the birds their carols raise, 
 the morning light, the lily white, 
 declare their maker's praise.  
 This is my Father's world:  
 he shines in all that's fair; 
 in the rustling grass I hear him pass; 
 he speaks to me everywhere.

 This is my Father's world.  
 O let me ne'er forget 
 that though the wrong seems oft so strong, 
 God is the ruler yet.  
 This is my Father's world:  
 why should my heart be sad?  
 The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!  
 God reigns; let the earth be glad!

What's your favorite song about fathers?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pesticides, Lawns and Pride

I got into a conversation the other day and almost (thankfully only almost) violated all the principles I was encouraging people toward in my recent post on Respect.

The topic was pesticides, something I feel rather strongly about. I mean really strongly about. I think the various weed and insect killers we put on our lawns are pretty horrifying things. Unhealthy, bad for the environment, poisonous.

The man I was talking to actually applies pesticides for a living. He feels strongly, too. Sparks came near to flying, but we did both manage self-control.

Here's the thing, This guy needs to feed his family, so he treats other peoples lawns. He told me that 48 hours is a good safety margin for going back on the lawn after treatment, as long things as dry. He doesn't fertilize his lawn at home at all though. He keeps pesticides out of his truck by using a trailer, wears protective clothing and gets tested for cancer every year. Apparently, the man he bought the business from is having serious health problems related to the chemicals. But the man insisted that the lawns are safe.

I disagree. Studies have shown ill effects from treated lawns. One, in 1987, showed that children who live in houses with treated lawns are 6.5 times more likely to develop leukemia than other kids.

One thing is true. This man is not the enemy.

We have a culture that values perfect lawns. Many people like theirs to look like the gorgeous pictures they see in home and garden magazines. They want to keep up with their neighbors. They want compliments. Manicured lawns are considered the epitome of outddoor beauty in many areas. I know that I am working to have a presentable, even pretty, lawn.

This drive toward maintaining beautiful lawns goes back to one thing: the deadly sin of pride. The desire to prove ourselves better than others. Many other things are rooted there, not just lawns, and it is one of the more pervasive iniquities.

But one result is pesticides, which lead to soil destruction, ill health and a host of other ills. I need to look at how my actions contribute to the overall understanding of what makes a home "beautiful." Perhaps, in order to reduce pesticide use, we as a culture need to redefine the "perfect lawn."

Somehow, we need to conquer pride. Jesus offers us a different path, if we are willing to follow.

What are your thoughts on pesticides?
How do you combat pride in your life?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Song for Sunday: Jesus Loves the Little Children

Today is Children's Sunday in our church and in many other Baptist churches in the U.S. As part of our worship celebration this morning we sang this updated version of a traditional children's hymn. This song reminds children -- all children -- that Jesus loves them. It was written in the post Civil War years when slavery was still within living memory. The authors clearly wanted to make a statement of racial equality in Jesus' sight. (The recent negative reaction to the Cheerios ad featuring an interracial family is  proof that we, unfortunately, still need reminders of that.)

Beyond that, this newer version calls us all to pray for and help children, not to overlook them as we reach out to nations and cultures.

Here is a link to the traditional version of this song.

Here are the words to the newer version:

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Jesus died for all the children, all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight
Jesus died for all the children of the world.

We must pray for all the children, all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight
We must pray for all the children of the world.

We must help the little children, all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight
We must help the little children of the world.

The authors of this hymn were C. H. Woolston and Joseph Barlowe. The musical composition is attributed to George F. Root. The scriptural foundation for this hymn comes from Matthew 19:14. "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me." These (new) lyrics were copyrighted in 1996 by Integrity Music 

I coudn't find a really satisfactory video of this song being sung, but here is a a very sweet medley featuring it performed by The Children of the World Choir. Adorable!!  

What's your favorite children's hymn or song?

Friday, June 7, 2013


A friend of mine recently put out a call for respect. He felt the need to ask people to be courteous on some things he will be posting in the near future. I am actually on the opposite "side" of the "debate" that was the subject of my friend's call, but I back him on the idea of respect. Sadly, some Christians actually need that reminder and, even more sadly, there are some who wouldn't heed it, though I hope my friend doesn't run into any of those.
I Peter 3:14-16 tells us:
 "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."
Peter is talking about the central message of  the gospel, which is understood by Christians to be  the most important thing that can be brought up in conversation. Eternal salvation depends on Jesus. Even when we are talking about that we are supposed to be gentle and respectful. If we are not we run the risk of giving Jesus a bad name.
It seems to me that this means we should do the same in any lesser debates. Nastiness, rudeness and pettiness should have no place. I admit that there have been times I haven't been perfect in this area especially when I have felt strongly about something, but I am trying to improve.
Remember, we don't always have to be right. God is, and that's what matters.
There are times when we need to enter the cultural debate and do our best to make changes. When there is hunger, slavery, injustice, exploitation of the poor or harm to the innocent we are called to speak up. Other times, we can focus on keeping ourselves and the Church on the right track and not worry about the secular world. We are only called to hold our brothers and sisters accountable, not non-Christians. We also must remember that even within the Church there are "disputable things" and we need to approach all conversations with humility.
May God guide us in all our conversations, debates and disputes.
Have a blessed day!!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Challenging Youth

I took my son to a conference on global poverty today. There was an excellent program and I will share some of the solutions discussed in future blogs.

Today, I want to talk about challenging teens and respecting their intelligence. I know some people who do this very well. I also know that there are many groups, organizations and people who take the idea that adolescence should be a good time or a chance to blow off steam before the responsibilities of adulthood. I wonder, though, how well prepared such kids will be for those responsibilities.

My son was the only child at the conference. I took him as part of his schooling. He heard people talk about subsistence living, compassion, and the dream destroying effects of real poverty. He learned about biosand filters, medical missions, microfinance, farmers' cooperatives and how the Gospel of Jesus Christ has changed lives and communities in various contexts. He would have asked a question of one of the speakers but someone else asked that same question first. It was a good question. He made comments about some of the visuals.

My son seemed to grasp what was being discussed, except when the keynote speaker gave his talk. That man was discussing "fiscal restraint," "austerity measures," and "debt liquidation." Challenging concepts even for adults, especially those who haven't studied economic theory. Still, the boy listened, only fidgeting a little, and maybe learned something. At one point, I told him he could go hang around outside during the rest of the final speech. He chose to stay.

This was an adult conference and Jordan did fine. Much as the proud Momma in me wants to think that Jordan is exceptionally bright (he is rather smart) he really isn't all that unusual. Teens can handle a lot. They just need the opportunity and, like all of us, the encouragement not to be intellectually lazy.

A pastor I know has repeatedly stated, "Don't talk down to teens." In our homes, schools, communities and, perhaps especially, our churches we need to encourage kids to reach their full potential. In fact we need to push them. It's part of parenting and part of youth ministry.

That's my opinion any way. What's yours?


The academic program at the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park has been raising the bar, working with the kids to give them a solid foundation in Biblical literacy, basic doctrine and church leadership skills. (We do throw in some fun during the two-week conference, too.) In August, on the beautiful southern coast of Maine. Check it out!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Taking the Time

Recently I made  a batch of cookies for a friend. Actually, I did it twice. Here's why.

I was making chocolate chip cookies, which are high on my friend's list of tasty items. I made the cookies the day before I was to see him and his family.  The cookies came out so-so.

So-so cookies are edible but I decided I wanted something better for my friend. I did some reflecting on why sometimes my cookies come out fabulous and other times just OK. I realized that it was about time.

The first step to chocolate chip cookies is to cream the butter and sugar.  I had done it in a hurry this time and, therefor was not very thorough. I realized this had been the case other times when I had made so-so cookies.

I re- did the cookies. I took time. I mixed the dough all through chess club, handing it off to a young baker while I taught the strategy lesson. It worked. This batch came out great.

I decided to keep the time needed for various tasks in mind and to look at where I could cut so that I can give the needed time to necessary or especially desirable tasks throughout life. That task in itself will take time. But it will be worth it.

What are your thoughts on taking time for tasks? What lessons have you learned about doing well as you have tried things?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Song for Sunday: Ice Cream

I scream,
 you scream, 
we all scream
 for ice cream!!

Ok. I am being silly, but it's hot out there. 

So today's Song for Sunday is to help us all feel cooler. At least a little. Plus, my son and I are running an ice cream social tonight at our church to help raise funds for the mission trip we are taking to Burma in December. 

So, this is just for fun, but if fits. :)

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Up in Ocean Park, ME, where the Christian Youth Conference at Ocean Park meets, there is a soda fountain with fabulous raspberry lime rickeys and all kinds of ice cream. CYC also provides worship, learning and recreational opportunities to high schoolers for two weeks every August. Check it out!