Thursday, September 30, 2010

Casting out Fear

Another low barometric pressure day brought about the rain, the worms on the street, and the crazy dog. I thought the pelting on the roof by the little drops was comforting. Lucky however, was once again in his pacing the house fearful mode that seems to lead to him bolting to distant unsafe lands. So I watched him carefully, until I got distracted, which happens rather easily. Now....uh, what was I saying?

Next thing I knew, I didn't see Lucky anywhere. I went outside and called him, checked under the deck, went back inside room by room Lucky.

So I grabbed a leash, tied my running shoes and was off jogging along the street calling, "Lucky!!"  I ran down the cul de sac and as I was passing our house again, calling out, "Here boy! Here Lucky!", I glanced at our backyard. Lucky stood there, in the backyard, ears perked and wagging his tail. Wonderful. Now he has learned how to drive me nuts by NOT escaping.

I don't know where he had been hiding, but after happily greeting me, he was shaking again and following me, tripping on my heels. So I gave him two bones and put him in the crate. He looked woeful but then lay his head down and went to sleep. The craziness slowly dissipated. Sometimes prison is a good thing, a necessary thing, a place to reflect upon our actions and consequences, and maybe reconsider right and wrong.

Judge: Lucky, how do you plead?
Lucky: By sitting on my haunches and lifting my front legs?
Judge:  Defendant!  I didn't say how do you beg, I said how do you plead!?Answer the question or I will hold you in contempt!
Lucky: In my opinion, being put in a cage demonstrates you already hold me in contempt.
Judge: Guilty or not guilty?
Lucky: It depends on the moment in the day to which you are referring.
Judge: Do you not understand I have the power to throw you in the crate for the rest of your life?
Lucky: In that case I plead not least not in a mean way. I am guilty if you want to be strict in your interpretation, but you must admit I am nice about it. Does this mean no milk bones for dessert?

I sat by the crate as Lucky slept, so that he wouldn't feel alone in his fear. Frankly his fear was a greater prison than the crate. Asherel and I had done a Bible study that very morning on fear. We were looking at Mark 4 where the storm comes up on Lake Galilee and the disciples can't believe that Jesus is sleeping through the storm. They cry out to Him and ask Him if He doesn't care if they drown or not. Jesus resists the urge to return to Heaven where everyone knows who He is, and asks them , "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?"   The implication of course, stated explicitly elsewhere is that perfect faith casts out all fear.
"Why?" I asked Asherel, "Why should they not fear?"
"Because God will protect them," she answered.
"So Christians don't drown or get hurt or die young?" I asked., "Is God not protecting them too?"
This was one of those sticking points for me on my walk to faith. The age old question of why bad things happen to good people. Where is God then? How can Jesus tell the disciples not to fear when ultimately, nearly every one of them will be hideously martyred for their faith?
"What is the end game, the goal of every Christian?" I asked.
"To be with God," she said.
"And what could prevent that?"
"Yes, but who?"
"If we believe Jesus, do we need to fear Satan? Can he take us from God?"
"No," she answered.
"That I think is why we should not fear. If we have perfect faith (and none of us do) we know that all that really matters is eternity with God, not life here on earth, and no one can take eternal life from us once we have accepted Jesus's gift of salvation. That is the protection He offers to every believer."

Lucky cocked an ear. He stretched and I could tell his crazy spell had passed. I opened his prison door.
"Go ye and sin no more," I told him..

Bring me out of prison, so that I may give thanks to your name.
Psalm 142:7

You were called to be free. Serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13 (NIV)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


As I sat in the car waiting for Asherel, I started to add up the hours I have sat in the car waiting for my kids over the years. I am pretty sure I could not calculate them all without the use of logarithms, and since I am still a little shaky on my logarithm skill, suffice it to say, it adds up to at least half my life. Back in the days when I would wait for Anders, I would watch Matthias and Asherel climb on the modern art at UNCC. Then while waiting for Matthias once Anders was off on his own, I would walk with Asherel and point out all the bugs and other small creatures we could find. When Matt went off on his own, and I wait now for Asherel, I bring my iPod and sketch, memorializing these days. It will be just a turn of the page, and I will have no one left to wait for.

So I spend time now as I sit in the car looking at the world around me and fill the pockets of my soul with the beautiful blessings of God's creation. Yesterday I sketched the clouds, and realized most of the summer there were no clouds in NC. Just wide open blue sky. There is always something to draw. Always something left to wonder about, to love, to explore, to honor.

It doesn't feel like waiting. It never really did. It always felt like joyful expectation of being reunited, with excited voices and flushed cheeks crashing down beside me and saying, "That was fun!".  Each of us had had our own adventures to recount- theirs often much more exciting than mine, but mine were maybe more precious in some ways. Their adventures were of dashing off into a world they didn't yet know that would carry them ultimately away for a time. Mine were of reconnecting with a world that had always been there, right under my feet and beside my hand, waiting to be caressed, waiting to be noticed.

Waiting is one of the supreme characteristics of God. He watches as we scurry about exploring all the new places we think we need to go to find abundant life. And He waits, knowing that the world is finite, as is our strength. Ultimately we plop down and look around, and if we are weary enough, finally look right at Him.
"That was fun," we say, as we crawl into His embrace,"Thanks for waiting."

Psalm 130:5-7 (New International Version)

 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
       and in his word I put my hope.
 6 My soul waits for the Lord
       more than watchmen wait for the morning,
       more than watchmen wait for the morning.
 7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
       for with the LORD is unfailing love
       and with him is full redemption.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Logarithms of Helicopters

When I sat outside in the van waiting for Asherel, the rain fell like a prayer on the upturned faces of the lovely flower-scape. Obviously the van was not sitting in front of my house, as flowers have long since determined our yard is hostile territory. But I drank in the sight as the flowers drank in the gentle rain, edging the lovely lawn of a friend. It was a balm and a delight to settle my eyes on the bursts of color in the gray day.

So later, armed with optimism and hope, I watched the youtube video on how to build a rubber-band powered helicopter. I lay all the needed supplies before me, and decided the supplies I didn't have probably weren't really necessary. (This is also the way I cook, and while results may vary, occasionally it works out.)  I will admit up front in the spirit of full disclosure that this is not how I would joyfully spend my busy homeschool afternoon, but I am determined to be the best Science Olympiad teacher I can be, and have been told that the role calls upon me to actually teach. Unfortunately, I believe that I must also be able to teach them to build the helicopter and if I haven't the foggiest notion of how to do so, they may detect some degree of incompetence.

"What about the maxim that those who can't do, teach!?" I cry, "Doesn't that suggest that I will be unsuccessful in building a helicopter if I have to teach others how to do so?"

My cries are met with silence.

As I began to delve into construction, my normally helpful daughter simply ignored my pleas for help saying, "I thought you were the teacher."  As I suspected, a dangerous precedent was being set. Not only did she refuse to assist me in building the helicopter that I need to teach her how to build Friday, but she asked for help on logarithms.

"Are you certain you can't figure it out yourself?" I called out. This is my most effective teaching strategy and often works.
"I don't understand!" she wailed.
With trepidation I left my woeful looking half constructed helicopter and headed to the math book.
I settled in beside Asherel wondering how many decades had passed since I had had to look at a logarithm. I would bet that even then I didn't really know what a logarithm was.
I reviewed what she had learned thus far with the guise of helping her "read more carefully", but in reality learning the material myself at warp speed. Whew! We didn't really need to know what a logarithm was...we just needed to know how to use it. Once I convinced her that for now, just accept that logarithms exist , like God, we don't need to understand exactly what they do or even why they do it.
"After you use them a while, you will understand what they are," I pronounced confidently. And lo and behold, on the next problem that she wailed for help, there was an equation with n+2 as an exponent.
"THIS," I declared ,"Is exactly the situation where a logarithm is useful!" (I had learned just 5 minutes ago that logarithms can be used to get rid of exponents). I applied the formula, and helped Asherel then solve it, and we got the right answer. (PS- if any of you readers know what a logarithm actually IS, please let me know.)

Now, having solved a logarithmic conundrum, I knew I could make a helicopter. I just knew it!
But I was wrong. I spent 2 hours on the helicopter, wound the rubber band motor, tossed it in the air, and it fell like a stone to the ground, not a single turn of the rotors interrupting its descent. Maybe it did need those parts I had not bothered to add after all.

"Those flowers are pretty," said Asherel looking at my drawing after laughing till her guts splashed out at my helicopter, "They must have taken you a long time to draw."
"Yes, they did, " I said, and wished that Science Olympiad were Art Olympiad.  But I actually think I know why my helicopter doesn't work, and so today I will try try again. Those poor flowers went 45 days without rain here in Charlotte, and they soldiered on, refusing to die, and were rewarded. Sometimes, the "drought" lasts a very long time in many areas- seeming unanswered prayer, struggles through work, or school, or friendships, that perfect "one" entering someone's life, grief that never dulls, dogs that won't stay inside their fence, problems that seem to have no easy solution, and helicopters that won't fly. (This list is not exhaustive, just illustrative.)  But then, the rain comes. It always does, eventually. Sometimes God is just teaching us to persevere.

"I will let you have an extra half cup of trail mix if you build the helicopter and teach me how to do it," I told my student.
"IF I have time," she said.

Hebrews 10:36
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Horse of a Different Color

Lexington is horse country, and while we love to visit Matthias at law school, it is not disappointing that the Virginia Horse Center is in the same town as Washington and Lee.  The shows there are always free- at least that we have seen, sparsely attended, and the coliseum has free wifi. The food is good and not too pricey and the horses are often national quality. This may be as close to heaven on earth as it gets. The only thing that would make it better is a free style and trim by Vidal Sassoon himself while we sit there with one eye on the horses, one eye on our email, and chomping on soft pretzels.

So on our return trip from Law School Day with Matthias, we stopped to see the Draught Horse show. The Irish Draught horse was not the big clumpy Clydesdale-like horse we had expected. It is a powerful and muscular horse that was selectively bred in the early 1800s by the Irish who needed horses that were strong but not Arnold Schwarzeneggers like Clydesdales or Percherons. They were able to pull plows in the field, but then leap over fences on the fox-hunt outings.

On our trip, we first went to the indoor arena and watched the conformation show, which is where the owners show the judges how pretty their horses are. Our favorite was a mare led in with her baby trotting behind her. The baby was not being judged, but apparently it was ok for the mama to have the beloved baby with her. I think that shows great kindness on the part of the Irish Draught horse show committee.

Then on the spectacular cool clear day, we headed to the outdoor arena to watch the jumpers. The mountains circled us in the distance, the air was crisp and perfect, and the horses were putting on a magnificent show for us as we ate our lunch.

"Oh look," said Asherel, "That horse has a skeleton painted on it."
I glanced up.
There at ringside was a white horse. One side of him was painted with an anatomically perfect and well done horse skeleton. The other side, in full color was a painting of all his muscles. I am used to odd things.... afterall, I believe that God became man and numbers every one of my hairs and every sparrow feather. Still, one cannot look at a white horse with a skeleton painted on it and not ask....WHY?
Perhaps this is a brief worm hole into a parallel universe where everyone has an exoskeleton except the bugs, who have strong internal bones. Squashing them would be much more difficult, and in fact, I suspect in that universe, the bugs would squash us and laugh when they notice our blood is red and not yellow like theirs.

"The Breyer horse collection has a horse like that," Asherel told me.

So someone took great pains to paint their horse so that his insides could be observed , so that his skin appeared to be invisible.  The more I thought about that concept, the more sense it really made. If our insides were clearer from the get go, we would make far fewer mistakes in dating and marriage. Maybe the divorce rate would go down. We would know a little better what we were getting.  If every time we lied or cheated or got unjustly angry or spoke unkindly or felt envious, or covetous, or arrogant.... it was painted with bright colors on our skin, I suspect we would be a little more careful of our insides.

But actually, this is the case. We may not have eyes to see that way right now, but Someone does. God sees every thought and every deed. His xray vision permeates to our very heart. And it is the heart that is judged... not the outer skin.

I don't know if the skeleton horse was being paraded around to remind us to keep our souls pure and not worry so much about outer trappings. However, I think that it would be a good message, and a good use of a horse of a different color.

1 Chronicles 28:9 (NIV)
"And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. [24] See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Tree of Good and Evil

My phone rang at 5:20 a.m.  This is never good news. I tumbled out of bed envisioning the worst....and I don't mean just a bad haircut that makes me cry for a week.
"Hello, I have Lucky," said the unfamiliar voice.
Of course my first thought was , Good, please keep him. I hoped and prayed it was a dog-napping and they wanted a huge ransom we could not pay. Anything over $1. My second thought was how did he escape the wire crate, and the yard?
Arvo woke up and told me he had not crated Lucky last night. Apparently, on his night out of his prison, Lucky decided to run away from home. The caller, Becky, had had an unaccountable urge for chocolate. (At 5 a.m.?) and had seen Lucky out on the busy road outside our neighborhood. She did not demand money in exchange for his life to my grave disappointment.
Lovely, just lovely.

"He is an awesome dog!" she said, obviously on some chocolate induced psychosis.
I reverted to my first thought since she obviously found him much more awesome than I sure did in my bleary eyed and infuriated state.

Becky was a real angel though. She told me she would drop him right off. So she pulled in to our driveway, with Lucky in the back seat. He hopped out and I resisted the urge to kill him. When I got him in, I closed off the dog door. I heard a rustling from the boys' bedroom and ran in to see him pawing at the window. I chased him out of there, and a few minutes later heard scratching again. This time he had climbed up on the couch and was pawing at the dining room window, trying to claw his way outside.

So I opened the dog door and watched. He ran out. Then he stood in the yard a while, as though he had not just been the stupidest dog on earth, and then came back on the deck and pawed to be let in. The dog door, to his left, was open and readily available for his convenience. The dog that can escape every enclosure known to man did not seem to know he could come in using the dog door that he has used for 8 years.
I brought him in and put him in the wire crate so I would be able to eat breakfast without having to chase after him. Within minutes, I heard frantic scratching and saw that he had busted his head out the back of the wire crate. I got rope and tied it but know this fix is probably also only temporary. I am at a complete loss about what to do or why he is behaving this way.

Those mountains  and quiet balcony I left behind in Lexington have assumed an even greater allure

It is Adam and Eve enacted in canine theater. The dog is in the Garden of Dog Delight. He has food, water, shelter, several couches, several dog beds, toys, a huge yard.... he may have anything he wants except one thing. He may not leave the yard for if he does, he will surely be hit by a car and die.
"Surely your Master jests!" hoots the owl from the oak tree,"He is a cruel Master to deny you freedom, the one thing that separates you from being just like Him. If you escape over the fence, you will be on equal footing with all the free humans on the earth, and you will see, it is much better than what your selfish and stingy Master has given you."
The dog tasted of the bite of freedom, and saw that it was good. And over the fence he flew.Or maybe under. Or perhaps through. I have not yet found how he managed to get out of the Garden.

On one level, I sympathize. It often is what we can't have that we long for the most. We give up the pleasures at hand thinking what is denied us is far better. And then when we are locked out, wandering on a highway with cars rushing around us, we wish (if we are more than dog-brained) that we had recognized sooner how blessed we were in the safety of the Master.

Genesis 2:16-18 (New International Version)

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

When I grow up

I want to go to law school. I had so much fun sitting in on Matt's class and made it through the entire class without mortifying him.... at least as far as he knew.

When I arrived to the class, he wasn't there yet. Many other parents were seated near their law student however, so I asked a student if they had assigned seating.
"Sort of," he answered,"I mean we always sit in the same place."
"Where does Matt sit?"
Now I was pretty sure this was the right law school. I checked my name tag- yep Washington and Lee. Is it possible he had just skipped class all month?Had he just taken the tuition money and gone to Vegas?
"Oh, do you mean Matthias?" the young man asked.
"Oh I am so glad!" I said,"He changed his name back to Matthias! Since highschool he has made us call him Matt. I am glad he's Matthias again. "
"That's what he calls himself here," said the student.
Fortunately Matthias heard none of that exchange.

I learned all about why lawyers are not slimeballs for prosecuting 3 year olds who drive their tricycles into unsuspecting people and many other fascinating cases. I could answer almost everything the prof asked but I was having a difficult time sitting in my chair. It was tilted subtly forward such that I kept sliding
slowly out of it. I think this was the law school's underhanded way of keeping students on their toes.

Matt seems to be thriving and we stuffed him full of a Chinese Buffett and returned to our hotel. We arrived just in time to see the sun again setting behind the endless blue mountains. It was the same scene in reverse that had greeted me early that morning.

I won't go to Law School really, fun as it was to play there for a day. Law students don't have time to sit on balconies and gaze at the sunrise and the sunset. I've raised my lawyer for society and now it is time to sit on balconies and listen to the sound of him marching to the drumbeat of his dream being realized.

Deuteronomy 11:11 (NIV)
But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven.
- Nothing is impossible with God

Friday, September 24, 2010

Peace in the valley

I am sitting on the balcony overlooking the spectacular Blue Ridge mountains. This peaceful little town is peopled by mostly retired folk so everything shuts down around 7 pm. The restaurant where we had dinner with Matt was empty at 7:00.

We noticed the whole time we were eating that a van outside in the parking lot had it's door wide open. The owners were apparently in the restaurant eating, unconcerned about theft.

"There's no crime here," Matt told us,"Well I think there was a burglary in 1996."

As I sat on the hotel balcony after dinner, I watched the sky fade from deep pinks to blue. The varying shades of blues of the endless mountains gradually morphed into the encroaching night sky. Crickets chanted. Stars twinkled on, one by one.

I don't slow down easily. But when I sat down and watched the day melt slowly into night, I felt a deep and abiding peace.
I am blessed, I thought, thinking of my dear children and husband, and the beauty of mountains sleeping beneath the stars.

Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)
" ` "The Lord bless you and keep you; [25] the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; [26] the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. " '

Nothing is impossible with God

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Sole for my aching Soul

Between the broken toe that still hasn't healed (5 months later!), the swollen painful red ant bites, and now the many blisters from trying a slew of shoes hoping to find some that don't hurt, I read the email from Holly that told she was the second sister in a month to be felled by a ruptured achilles tendon. Poor Amy has been in her achilles boot for weeks.  My sister Wendy has nursed a tender achilles ready to rupture for years, and I had a complete achilles tendon rupture 22 years ago myself. That means every single sister in my family has had a ruptured or near ruptured achilles tendon now. What a legacy to pass on to our female offspring!

I stared at the shoes sitting by the back door, the somewhat comfortable shoes that look like duck feet on. Would those make the appropriate fashion statement at Law School day? Maybe if I wore my belly pack with them..... The information sheet on Law School Day for Family and Friends said dress was casual. Can casual be slightly modified to "frumpy and ugly"? Will the son whose first few words to his now-fiancee were, "My mom wears a belly pack," be mortified if I show up in a skirt and Ugg fleece lined pillow boots for law school day?

The folks who have normal feet cannot begin to understand the toils and struggles of us people (we people?) with compromised walking apparatus. Why can't anyone make a shoe that supports the arch, lifts the heel to relieve achille stress, is soft enough to never cause blisters, and makes me look like a movie star? Fashion and comfort in one simple shoe? Is it really so hard? This is the country that can split an atom, take photographs of planets a million miles away, and we can't find a single shoemaker capable of creating a pretty and comfortable shoe.  Forget solving world hunger or curing cancer- I think we need to be directing our bestest and brightest into cobbler school.

I know shoes are important to God as well. He references them often. He is continually telling folks in the Bible to remove their shoes in His presence as they are standing on Holy Ground. But He also understands the importance of a well made shoe. When He sent the Israelites on their 40 year journey through the wilderness, He not only provided daily manna from heaven  for them to eat, a cloud by day to lead them, a fire by night to guide them.... but He gave them sturdy shoes. My quest for the perfect haircut may not be totally of God, but the perfect shoe..... maybe that is.
Deuteronomy 29:5
During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Terror on a Tricycle

Two friends made me cry yesterday. One told me that her sons had raised money turning in recyclables and wanted to donate it to Hollow Creek Farm. It doubled the intake of Walter the wobbly dog's theater fundraiser. And then another sent an astronomical sum, an unbelievable amount that will truly make a difference in the lives of the Hollow Creek animals. Those two acts of sacrificial giving made me smile all day, after I finished crying.

Then it was on to the real world. I leave tomorrow for "Law School Day for Family and Friends" at Washington and Lee. So I had to pack and fine tune our school week checklist, gather the materials I'd need to study up on helicopters so I'd be ready to impart knowledge to my Science Olympiad team that I currently do not have, prep for my art class.... etc.

I realized I didn't have directions yet, so returned to the Law School Day website and realized with aghast that there was homework.  Click here for homework, it said! Homework for the family and friends of the law students! Homework we would be expected to do before arriving! Subtly wedged in between the sentences about breaks and receptions!  I had thought this would be a nice little tour of the law school with a chance to see the cute little cubby office that Matt and every law student is assigned, a free lunch with the dean, and a nice dinner out with my son. But no. Work would be involved.

I opened the document.  It was two actual cases. There was no clue about what we were to do with the cases, other than read them. This was ominously open ended, and all my performance anxiety began  to kick in. I noticed Matt was on- line and wrote him, "Are you allowed to help me with my law day homework?"
"Law day homework?"
"Yes, some case involving a 3 year old and tricycles."
"OH, the Macafoo case? My prof loves Macafoo."

The case involves a lawsuit brought against a 3 year old for riding his tricycle on the sidewalk, bumping into someone's achilles tendon, and smashing it such that it required surgery. The obviously related case involved a 5 year old sued for pulling a chair out from under his aunt, such that she fell, broke her hip and required surgery.

These are real cases.

"I don't really want your help.... I want to do it myself..."
"OK, just read the case and ask yourself what if some aspect were different."

Ok, my first "what if " is what if people were sane in this particular case?
My second "what if" is what if aunts behaved like aunts and loved their relatives?
My third "what if" is what if kids were not supposed to act like kids?

I am not sure if this is what the prof is going for. The cases presumably help refine the understanding of the law of assault and battery, but  PUH-LEASE!!!!!!! Someone sued a 3 and 5 year old?! What I think is edifying about this case is the sharp contrast between the loving aunt suing her nephew and the friends I wrote about in the first paragraph giving so much money to a wobbly dog and his rehabilitators. 

Our Bible study yesterday centered on the one line about Jesus, hanging on the cross, and the moment He died. It said Jesus "gave up His spirit"(Matthew 27:50)
"Why didn't it just say He died?" I asked Asherel., "We know every word of the Bible is inspired, chosen with care. What is the implication in the verb 'gave' as opposed to 'died'?"

This one threw her for a loop so we went through the various meanings of give. Give of course implies a willingness, a sacrifice, a conscious decision and act. Jesus could have hopped off the cross, ripped the nails out of his hands, healed His wounds and gone out for a well deserved cup of coffee and croissants. He is God... He could have done anything He wanted.  But He didn't. He gave up His spirit, willingly and consciously. He knew the penalty for sin was death, and He was willing to die so that the penalty for our sin could be paid and we would be the beneficiaries.  This is the kind of law I understand. The Jewish people long understood the need for dire consequence or penalty for sin. They knew a holy righteous God could not have communion with sin. They also understood that substitutionary sacrifice could redeem. Each year, a goat was released into the wilderness, with the people's sins placed upon him symbolically, which he carried away. He was the original "scape-goat."  Yet the Jewish people knew all the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was only a precurser and inadequate. The only sacrifice that could save was one that was consciously and willingly entered into, and one that paid the greatest price. It is not sacrifice if it does not cost one dearly. One day the true "scape-goat" , the true savior, the Messiah would come and  He would be wounded for the transgressors and "by his wounds, we are healed."

Meanwhile, I am pondering the implications of suing a relative, a 5 year old nephew,  and a marauding 3 year old tricycle terrorist, and keeping my blood from boiling by remembering my friends Andi and Carol who gave to a farm they have never even seen.

Isaiah 53:5
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

John 3:16   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.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Paralyzed With Crazy

My student gazed at me, pen poised to record the glorious diamonds of sparkling thought that shimmered from every word I spoke.

"First, the theory not only explains the universe but creates it."
Asherel glanced up.
"Are you writing this down?" I demanded.
She bent back over her notebook.
"Next," I continued, "We create history by observation rather than history creating us."
She squinted to keep her face impassive.

"There is no model- independent test of reality. It follows that  a well constructed model creates a reality of its own."

"I'm confused," said Asherel.

"These words are quoted from one of our preeminent scientist, Stephen Hawking. You know of him, right?"
She shook her head.
"Ok, be sure you are taking notes.  Stephen Hawking is a professor of applied math and physics at Cambridge U. He is almost completely paralyzed but still writes and teaches using a mouth stick and computer. He does not believe in God, but believes in materialistic determinism."

The goal during my current events time with Asherel is to teach her current events, but also to work on her speed note taking skills, comprehension, understanding bias, rewording complex thoughts into her own words and such noble goals like that. In reality, it often degenerates into who gets frustrated first.

"But what does it mean?" she asked.
"Material determinism means that matter follows its own rules and predetermined activity, and there is no free will and no guiding a God. In a sense, matter is its own God."
"That's crazy," she said.
"Now, his so-called M-theory..."
"What does the M stand for?"
"Mentally unbalanced.," I said, "Let me continue. His M theory is an attempt to come up with a single unified theory of the universe. Newton and Einstein couldn't do it, so Hawking is determined to figure it out."
"Mom, I'm confused."
"Just take notes. Ok, now before the Big Bang, time did not exist. Our universe has infinite parallel universes where every possible version of the universe exists simultaneously."
"How do they know?" she asked.
"I assume they did an experiment," I answered knowledgeably.

Now came the critical part of our current events study. Could she restate the article from her notes in her own words.
She began just as I was sipping my hot tea.
"Stephen Hawking is a paralyzed atheist."
You can imagine for yourself what happened to that sip of hot tea. I'm lucky I didn't aspirate and drown. If laughter is medicine, I overdosed.

But I think her summary is on to something. The extremes to which people will go to avoid the necessity of a guiding force, a God, is indeed paralyzing. I am sure Stephen Hawking is probably a genius, and I am very sorry for his disabling disease that he has lived nobly with. However, I do not think it is his disease which is paralyzing him as much as his attempts to explain away any need for God. That makes me much much sadder for him.

Isaiah 44:20
He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, "Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?"

Monday, September 20, 2010

All of Life's a Stage

While sitting with Walter waiting for intermission when the patrons would hopefully stream out with pockets full of donations for Hollow Creek Farm, the actors would rush out of the dressing room and watch the monitor near us of the ongoing play. As their cue arrived, the manager would open the door to the theater and I would watch them scurry through the door, and then see them on the monitor as they hit the stage. They would practice dance steps silently as they kept their eyes on the monitor, last minute prep for their big moment.

"You pay close attention," I told Walter, "This is the way life works. You spend a lot of time watching, a lot of time waiting, a lot of time preparing, and you get your chance. Sometimes it is just a few moments on the stage so you have to be ready to give it your all."

His head wobbled on his wiggly body and he climbed into my lap.

So we were at the theater all weekend and came away with a grand total of $18 in donations for the wonderful farm that saved Walter and so many other great animals. This is a little discouraging, but I guess we don't know the full repercussion of our time. Maybe all those people who took flyers about Hollow Creek Farm will decide they want to adopt one of the wonderful dogs. Maybe they went home and wrote a big fat check. I know Walter gave it his wobbly all.

I ammended my speech to Walter, "That time on the stage..... It is not all there is. All that stuff we were watching going on behind the stage.... that is most of it. That's the part we have to value more, because sometimes it is all we get."

Walter lay his big head on my lap and closed his eyes.

The event brought to my mind the passage in the Bible when Peter is on the mountain top with Jesus, and Moses and Elijah appear. Peter is obviously overwhelmed. He is in the presence of the biggest spiritual heroes of all time, and he is seeing them with his own eyes. So he does what all of us wish we could do. He wants to build tents so they can all camp out there and he can hang on to that joyful experience a little longer.He is like the kid at the end of the beach vacation, on the verge of returning to school...."But I don't want to go home!"

 Jesus instead leads him back down the mountain. I am sure as they plod back to the valley, He tells him, in a kindly way, "Peter you are a fruitcake. You can't hang out on the mountaintop, though the view is indeed great and the experiences pretty amazing up there. Hope you enjoyed it, but get back in the real world of the valley and toil and trouble. It may not seem like it can compare, but you will discover it is what gives the mountain meaning. Without a valley, there is no mountain."

So, we may not see the whole picture; we may not have hit our big moment on the stage yet; we may just be squirming on the valley floor for a while, or in Walter's case, wobbling. But we are honing our skills, and when the mountain is ready for us, we will be ready for the mountain.

Psalm 18:29
By my God I can leap over a wall.

2 Timothy 1:7
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power
and of love and of self-discipline.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Gentle Giant

I would have finished this post an hour ago, but Walter keeps trying to climb into my lap.  This big wobbly dog has been the perfect guest. He has not barked once. He compliantly goes wherever we drag him with his disjointed bumbling gait. When he sniffs, his poor nose bounces up and down as he tries to control the extraneous movements that cerebellar hypoplasia imposes on him. Despte outweighing all of us, he is gentle and sweet. Even grouchy Lucky went outside and played with him. Honeybun is a little leery and keeps looking at me as if to say, "I knew you had a few screws loose, but letting this special needs canine loose is not one of your more lucid moments."

HCF has trained me well though, and thus far, all the dogs appear to believe that I am alpha dog, and all of us remain unscathed. In a few hours we return to the Theatre Charlotte with Walter to man (dog?) our fund raising booth for the Sunday matinee. Walter was a hit last night at the Saturday evening play.  Children flocked to him like fire ants to my naked toes when they step on a nest (which by the way, did happen yesterday and I would highly NOT recommend it.) Walter licked them, and with his wobbly nose, tried to shove his face into theirs, and then flopped deliciously onto his back to let twenty small children rub his belly, bat his jerking paws, and lie down against his silky fur.

I knew HCF would not send a huge dog to a theater filled with live bait unless he was completely trustworthy. I know they are well aware of my inadequacies as they have known me a few years now. So while I would not have trusted either of my pets in this situation, I had been assured that Walter, the big clumsy lug would not remove even a tiny freckle from those cute little cherubs. 

You of course know that this sweet giant must have been a gentle breed, a lab or a Great Dane. But no. Walter is a pitbull mix.  The theater patrons were more well informed than I am about pitbulls. (Not that that requires an advanced degree or anything...)
"Did you know that they are the number one dog in shelters?" asked a young man, (that fact I actually did know), "And it is so unfair. They are a fantastic dog. When I grow up I am starting a pitbull rescue group."
"Did you know that they used to be the most popular dog in the 30s?" another woman who heads up a rescue group  herself told me, "They were a favorite pet because they are so good with children."
We glanced over at Walter who had his massive head in the lap of one child, and all 4 paws were waving spasmodically in the air. One little boy was timidly stroking the wagging tail.
"This breed has been given such an undeserved bad name," said another man who was rough-housing with Walter, "Is he up for adoption?"

I didn't open the money box, so I don't know if all the love Walter spread translated into donations, but I do know that a lot of people went away with a little bit different feeling about pitbulls.... me included.
My revelation regarding pitbulls is not unlike my coming to faith. I once thought that people who believed the "Jesus story" were stupid losers who couldn't deal with reality.  The Bible was a ridiculous collection of fairy tales. And then slowly, my eyes were opened as I read this Book that has changed so many lives, and prayed to this God that so many claimed had a personal interest in whether they bought wheat or rye bread.  And as I look back on now 25 years of trusting Jesus, I realize that He may have the power to chomp my head off, just like Walter, but instead He chose to die that the punishment I deserved would fall instead on Him, and He turns His belly up and invites me to trust and love Him.

Matthew 11:29
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Drawing What I See

I have been assigned the job of teaching how to build a helicopter that will fly for 8 minutes using a rubberband motor I found out at our first Science Olympiad meeting. It's easy, I have been told, just break it down into steps. My first step is to resurrect the mind of Leonardo Da Vinci, who first designed a helicopter way back in the Renaissance in his breaks from being the greatest artist in the world. Piece of cake! Just be Leonardo Da Vinci II.

Coming from my Destination Imagination background where parents and coaches are not allowed to do a thing, not the idea, not the research, not the building..... I knew this would be a piece of cake.  Step Number 2, I would just pass the assignment on to Asherel.

However, the manager of SO tells me this will not fly ( a little helicopter humor to keep the mobs returning to this site.) She says while she certainly expects the kids to build the devices, the teachers are expected to teach. They are expected to do the research, break it down, and actually know more than the children in their care.

I have managed to go 25 years through three homeschooled kids, and have almost never had to teach something, so I am a little worried. Well, lest you think me derelict in my duties as the educator, I did teach all of them how to use a library card. What more do you need? Yes, computers, but they taught me how to use those.

But no, while kindly said, the SO manager made it clear that I would be imparting knowledge, which implies that first I must become knowledgeable myself.  I sat in the gazebo at the park where Asherel was learning how to play ultimate frisbee and chatted with some other moms. Part of me seemed totally on board with all this, but most of me was wondering if I had enough brain cells left to find out how to make a helicopter fly. And frankly, part of me was rebelling. Asherel is much smarter than me. All my kids are. Most of the world is if we want to be totally honest. So I am plotting how I can appear to be teaching, but really just doing what I have always believed is the true goal of educators- guiding the kids to learn how to figure it out on their own. What are they gonna do? Fire me? I'm a volunteer.

One of the moms noticed that my iPod picture looked surprisingly like the view out the gazebo where we sat.'"Oh, you are just drawing what you see right now!?" she exclaimed.
That is it. I try to draw what I see. And I spend a lot of time looking. It works for finding God's messages in every blade of grass, and I am pretty sure it works for children with feeble guides trying to build helicopters powered only by rubberbands and prayer.

Isaiah 66:2
 2 Has not my hand made all these things,
       and so they came into being?"
       declares the LORD.
       "This is the one I esteem:
       he who is humble and contrite in spirit,
       and trembles at my word.

Mark 10:27
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

Friday, September 17, 2010

God's Spelling Lesson

I hate work sheets, fill in the blank type of questions. I think those kinds of things kill the capacity for true thinking. They require mental regurgitation, and that is a useful skill too, but in a day when every kid has an iPod in his pocket with access to the world wide web of information, it seems to me a less necessary skill than it used to be. It may also be that I am rationalizing my own inability to remember salient facts, but the point is, I am more prone to delve for deeper conceptual understanding in educating children.

And that is how we approach our daily Bible study.  Any smart kid quickly figures out that if you answer "Jesus", "prayer", or "Bible", you will likely get almost every Biblical question at least tangentially correct. I try to push Asherel to stretch for a fourth response when possible. Yesterday we were looking at a verse from Matthew 21-
"If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."

I asked Asherel what she thought the whole passage that verse was buried in meant, summarized by that verse.
She didn't answer immediately, which is an affliction I have noticed in all my kids and my husband. They all take long pauses so that I am not even sure they heard me. If I am willing to wait, sometimes take a nap or have a snack while waiting, they do almost always eventually respond but our school days are too busy to wait an hour for answers to each question.

So what I often do is jump in and frame the question more carefully to speed things along. In this case, I explained the context of the paragraph, how Jesus first is shown overturning the  tables of opportunists selling sacrificial animals in the temple itself, berating the people that His Father's house is not a den of thieves, but a house of prayer.  He then passes a fig tree, and notices not a single fig is growing on it. He rebukes the fig tree , and in an instant, it withers. He tells his amazed disciples that they could do this and more, if only they would not doubt.

"What are the main words in the verse?" I then asked Asherel.
"Believe, receive, prayer," She answered.
I was excited that we were moving at a reasonable rate through this passage. I was thinking of all the places this study could take us- what does it mean to "bear fruit" for the kingdom of God, and what is the implication and link of the withered fig tree, and of Jesus' exhortation not to doubt? Why were the stories of greed, misuse of God's temple, and the unfruitful fig all linked in the chapter of belief and receiving? Which one of these amazing conceptual flights would my brilliant daughter choose to fly today?

"So," I summarized, as I have found that is sometimes another little tool to make the interminable pauses a little more terminal, "Believe, Receive.  What is God telling us?"

"I before E, except after C," answered Asherel.

And while on first blush, this is not quite the answer I was looking for, it is not a bad answer. God does give us rules. The rules are not meant to confound us, just like spelling rules are not meant to confuse us. They are all there to help us, to guide us, to keep us on the straight and narrow path of righteousness and ...literacy. We are free to break them. But when we do, we don't bear fruit, we don't nourish the world around us, and in the end, we may as well wither away. And the key to following the Rule Giver righteously is don't doubt, trust in the one who gave us the rules that they will lead us to the place we are meant to be, and He will bring us everyplace we are meant to be. Every word that He sends us will begin to make sense and we will have eyes that see, ears that understand, and we will be healed....And I strongly suspect we will have eternally perfect spelling.

Matthew 21:21-23 (New International Version)

 21Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An aptitude for desirable discovery

I am bringing a dog to the theater for the production of Annie, but not in the coveted role of Sandy. The dog will instead be begging for money.  When the lady in charge of finding the canine star for Annie received my photos of Lucky, she also noticed my signature on the bottom of my email of .  She went to their website, being an animal lover herself, and was awed by their work and their incredible success in saving thousands of animals. She asked if I might want to come to the running of Annie and set up a booth, free of charge, to promote HCF.  You all know that old saying, "Don't look a gift dog in the mouth." This is because many dogs do not have adequate dental care due to the extortionist rates charged to clean their teeth and the breath of a gift dog, or really any dog, could impair the nostril's ability to intake oxygen for decades. The other less literal meaning is when opportunity knocks, open the door.

So I will drive 100 miles in one day (I was a little disturbed when I mapquested the route to theater and HCF.... that far... really?....I ought to check out these kind of details before I make commitments.....) to pick up the dog from HCF that will be the canine ambassador and then hop skip back to the theater. The dog will spend the night with us and then we will go to the Sunday show as well.  I have no idea if we will receive any donations or volunteers or adopters by sitting in the theater lobby with the canine ambassador and a jar and a prayer. But it seemed too large a serendipity to pass up. Serendipity is my favorite word in the whole wide world. I would use it more but some people only know of definition #2 which I don't believe in, as opposed to definition #1.

an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.

Serendipity is a relative newcomer in the English lexicon, though not as recent as "yomomma" or "google". It was used to describe the characteristics of the heroes of the 1754 Persian fairytale The Three Princes of Serendip by Horace Walpole,  in which the heroes possess this gift.

I do believe in an aptitude for serendipity, but I do not believe in luck. I don't think it was lucky at all that the theater manager loved dogs, asked for dogs for the role of Sandy, rejected my dog Lucky but saw my email tag for and offered us a forum for donations/adoptions.  HCF has begun a new program, Northbound Hounds, where doomed dogs from southern "humane" societies about to be gassed are snatched away in the nick of time and ferried north where for some reason, it is easier to find them homes. Maybe they are so cold in the North that they need more dogs to snuggle with.

It is a wonderful program that has saved 25 dogs in just the past few weeks, but the funds for vetting, cleaning, innoculating, and prepping the dogs for their forever home has to come from somewhere.

So our canine ambassador will be Walter. I have written about him before. He is the big lovable dog with the cerebellar abnormality that makes him move like a bowl of jello. He is a gentle and lovable bowl of jello though and even if he doesn't raise a single donation, it will be a nice day for the dog who never met a person he didn't love and want to wrap his big clumsy paws around.

And since I don't believe in luck but instead believe that all things have a purpose and direction and are guided by an invisible hand, I suspect something very unexpected will happen at the theater Saturday night. Something too wonderful for me to imagine. I might not see it that night... or even in this life.... but I know that it will manifest itself in some remarkable way.  As we speak, I am sure angels are whispering in Walter's ears giving him instructions.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Drought and Flood

There have been something like 30 straight days of no rain and low humidity. The bugs are lined up on the curb holding little tin cups out with signs, "Will work for water."

The nasty looking creatures we call "crickapeeds",  cricket/millipede mutants, are braving the Terminex chemicals in our home to seek a drop of sustenance.They congregate in the bathrooms, heads hanging, their million feet still and waiting. This is a poor choice. If Asherel finds them, they stand a chance of rescue to be tossed outside where they belong. If I find them, on the other hand.......

We never have much grass because the weeds tend to demand extortionist rates to allow "that kind" into the neighborhood, but even the weeds are dying and brown. The bushes are drooping, and the lovely birch has dropped half its leaves.

Most folks water their lawns. I am philosophically opposed to doing that. I believe that if plants can't make it on their own in our yard, then they are in the wrong place. I am considering putting up a sign on the curb to explain our position so the neighbors don't stone us. It is not like we have amassed any points towards "Neighbor of the Year Award" given the proclivity of our dog to fill the evening period of repose with very un-reposing sounds. But I feel like I am probably being harshly judged regarding the condition of our so-called "lawn". Perhaps if the neighbors knew that I am taking a stand of deep conviction they will not be as horrified.

And that tangled mess around our mailbox....well that could not be avoided. I tried. We have planted at various times sunflowers, mums, azalea, clematis, ivy, and small bushes. Nothing lived. Except grass. It is the one place where grass grows, though we can't get it to grow anyplace where we want it to grow. We have discovered that no other plants at that location could survive teenagers learning to drive over them, or my benign neglect gardening philosophy.

However, I do love the birch in the middle of our yard, and I could not bear to see it suffer.  So I buried my conscience, and pulled out the old sprinkler.  I turned it on and went to make dinner. That evening, I went to bed and realized that someone was taking a very very long shower. I dreamed of waterfalls.  In the morning, I remembered the sprinkler I had never turned off.

So the birch and the bushes got a good soaking, and the bugs are all joyfully laying out beach towels and drinking mimosas by the pools. There is no rain in the forecast, however and their joy will be short lived. Sometimes the environment is harsh. The things we know we need to thrive just are not forthcoming. Every moment, the thirst grows. The specifics may be different but I think the general needs are the same- love, respect, understanding, recognition for effort, connection with a universe, finding one's place and seeing it unoccupied and perfectly shaped to fit me and only me..... you all know the list.  But at times, the drought is never ending and all those drops of sustaining needs are withheld.  Other times, troubles wash over us like a flood, and threaten to sweep us away.

I think God is more merciful than I. I don't think His philosophy is "Green things, you are on your own. Survive by your own wits or perish."
I think He withholds what we think we need most to refine our understanding of what we truly need, and of where our strength comes from. The same Lord is the Lord of the drought and the Lord of the Flood. Whether withered or bloated, my limbs need to be reaching out to Him.  When I can sing with a throat parched or drowning, I may be on the cusp of understanding The Song. And I think then I  might recognize that He was sending me streams of living water all along, in the perfect amount.

Psalm 42:6-8 (New International Version)

6 my God.
       My soul is downcast within me;
       therefore I will remember you
       from the land of the Jordan,
       the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
 7 Deep calls to deep
       in the roar of your waterfalls;
       all your waves and breakers
       have swept over me.
 8 By day the LORD directs his love,
       at night his song is with me—
       a prayer to the God of my life.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Small things

Our school room certainly smelled like a biology laboratory. Asherel was bent over the new microscope, with pond water scum floating unappetizingly in the jars around her.  She had made her slides and was peering into the scope.
"What do you see!?" I asked.
"Nothing," she answered.
I elbowed my way into the Research Corner, and looked at the slide.
At first, it did indeed look like nothing, but then I focused the little knob and an ovular blog appeared. It had tiny squiggles inside it. I glanced at the biology book open before us.
"That's a paramecium!" I cried, triumphantly.
"You think?" asked Asherel dubiously.
"I am sure of it- it looks just like that picture."
Asherel looked at the paramecium, with less of the exultant enthusiasm one would expect after waiting a week for the new microscope to arrive, and then cleaned the mess up and dumped the pond water scum that had been brewing for weeks. It did seem a little anticlimatic. I think the paramecium was dead... or at least moving very slowly. I probably should have thrown a little coffee in the pond water. That might have made it more interesting.... paramecium on a caffeine high.

Meanwhile, in the other corner of the sunroom, the dog crate sat. Lucky has now slept relatively peacefully for two nights in a row, without barking at owls, chasing moonbeams at the top of his lungs, or seeing how much plastic crate a dog can swallow and still live.  The wire crate had been slightly unhooked at a corner, which was likely the result of the rattling that I had heard around 5 a.m., but it was intact, and Lucky was happy and peaceful when I let him out. I am not quite ready to declare victory, given the warning of the Titanic, that it was unsinkable. But I am hopeful.....

Little things sometimes give an abode of light. Little victories, little resolutions.  Had one never seen it before, when the sun first peeks over the mountain, one would never imagine that soon the whole earth would be filled with its brilliance.

I had a similar experience when I first encountered God. There were just little glimpses of Him. I would never have believed that given enough time, He would fill the screen.  Little things can become huge. A small sighting of a dead paramecium may spark the scientific career of someone who will cure cancer one day. A mustard seed becomes a mighty tree. A dog and its owners sleep through the night. A glimmer of faith becomes the whole world. Never despise the day of small things.

Zechariah 4: 9b-10
Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you.  10 "Who despises the day of small things?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Clouds as Ear Plugs

The next dog won't have one smidgen of terrier in it. It won't dig out of fences, bark at owls all night, chew apart heavy plastic crates, dissemble wire crates, or break little toes while playing tug with leash. If there is a next dog. Even cute and fluffy has its limits. Man does not live on cute alone, but on every minute of sleep that terriers deprive him of. I believe that is in the Bible, and if it isn't, it ought to be.

We set Lucky up with a nice fluffy soft bed in the bottom of his palatial plastic crate Carol had given us. We served him an appetizer to make his stay more pleasant, and turned back his sheets. We closed the door assuring him that room service would be back in the morning to serve him a complimentary full buffet breakfast.

And then, the sawing and pounding and clawing and grinding began. In the morning, a small slat of the thick plastic crate was pulverized. Plastic dust marked the demolition spot. The crate is not yet destroyed and useless, but one more night of the Terrier Take-down, and it will be. The donated wire crate was a little too small for Lucky, so under dire threat from Arvo who is losing sleep in buckets and is not at all happy about it, I went out to find an indestructible wire crate. It is him or the dog, he warned, and it isn't him that will be leaving our happy abode.  We donated both crates to Hollow Creek Farm where dogs are homeless, but not deranged.

I think this qualifies as one of those struggles in life where God is patiently trying to mold and shape me. It has been 8 years of trying to keep Lucky contained and civilized. Our expectations are not outrageous. We don't want him barking all night, and we don't want him escaping over the fence and heading off to busy suicide highways. I think we have tried everything we could, and now crating him, the dog who hates to be confined, is our last resort.

I have a few of these constant, ever present struggles in life. Paul of the Bible talks about a thorn in his side that despite constant pain, struggle, and prayer, the Lord saw fit not to remove. We all have them.  A sarcastic nature that wounds over and over again but can't be reined in, a rebellious child that we can't love into returning, a continual battle with mounting expenses and dwindling resources, a body that is growing weaker despite all our efforts to stop the flow of time, an algebra problem that we think is unsolvable though the text insists it can be done.....

Those little irritants sit like a tick in the back of our mind, growing and bloating as it sucks the life blood out of us.  God sees fit to let them remain sometimes. I have long since learned that "why" is a question God almost never answers. He never answered Job who begged to have counsel with Him over that very thing.  God only answers "how" with any consistency.  How  then are we to live, given these thorns that prick and bleed?
Turn your eyes to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, He tells us.
That's it? That's the best the creator of the Universe can offer?
It is. The Best. The Very Best. In the end, it is the Only thing.
When my eye is on Jesus, completely on Jesus, I don't see the dog eating concrete walls; I don't hear the grinding of canine teeth. I see my Savior, and the joy that one day will be mine... a good night's sleep with clouds as earplugs.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (New International Version)

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Washing away despair

Seven dogs were lined up in crates on the porch, all of them looking a little scared and a little hopeful we might pet them. The largest was a huge black Newfoundland, and the smallest were two pups a few months old. They all needed brushing, baths, medicine, ear cleaning, and toenail clipping.  They had all just been pulled from area rescues, all slated to die, and all reprieved by Hollow Creek Farm.

Fortunately for HCF, this time they had some help. Four volunteers tackled the job that HCF often does alone, and it still took 2 hours. We discovered the Newfie, with some areas of hair so matted that we had to cut them off, knew how to shake. He good naturedly sat as we tugged, and combed and pulled through massive matts that had probably never seen a brush, and then Alex, the child volunteer, said, "Shake."

The sweet giant dog lifted his massive paw and laid it gently on Alex's lap. Either the polite greeting "Shake" resides deep in dogs' DNA, or someone had taught this matted, unbrushed, skinny, and homeless dog to shake paws. They had neglected details like feeding, brushing, or neutering him, but he knew how to greet the human world genteelly.

  None of the dogs acted like they had ever had a bath, but the sparkling and beautiful fluffy creatures that emerged sweet smelling when we were all done strutted a little more proudly on the end of the leash. They get their pictures taken tomorrow, and when HCF has had time to make sure any issues that need resolving are resolved, their pictures will be posted on and they will wait for a family to love.

They will share the living room couch with the dog that HCF hopes to bring home from the shelter next. A dog with no eyes.
"I mean, why not?" she asks me, "I don't have a dog with no eyes yet!" 
That dog is not likely to be adopted. It will share the home with the other dogs no one wants that found safe landing at Hollow Creek.  But the seven freshly scrubbed creatures now resting are hopeful. Surely someone will want a giant dog who lifts a paw with the gentleness of a cloud to shake hands with his new friends?

There are always a thousand reasons not to go volunteer or not to send money. And then when I get there and greet those animals who have chosen to reside peacefully with humanity for thousands of years, and so often abandoned and misused.....

"Where have you been? " asked Walter, the big mixed breed with the cerebellar anomaly that makes him wobble and crash into my legs as he enthusiastically says hello. His head shakes like a bobble-head doll, and he slathers me with kisses of infinite forgiveness.

Zephaniah 3:
19 At that time I will deal
       with all who oppressed you;
       I will rescue the lame
       and gather those who have been scattered.
       I will give them praise and honor
       in every land where they were put to shame.  20 At that time I will gather you;
       at that time I will bring you home.
       I will give you honor and praise
       among all the peoples of the earth
       when I restore your fortunes 
       before your very eyes,"
       says the LORD.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In Wisdom they are all made......ugh!

We plan to spend the day at Hollow Creek Farm helping them wash dogs in preparation for the happy canines going to their new homes. This is a wonderful event, and one I am glad to be part of. We even cajoled some new friends into joining us and help with the ongoing fence building/poop scooping projects that are never-ending at an animal rescue farm. With the farm nestled in the country an hour south of Charlotte, it is not always easy to find time to get out there, but I am always glad when I do.

"Because," I told Asherel one day, "We are commanded by God to treat animals kindly."
Voices were raised about me, skeptical as to the Biblical basis for that comment. I won't name any names about the heathens challenging my biblical knowledge. The challenger knows that while I may perhaps get the correct gist  of the verse, I rarely know how to retrieve it.
"I mean, of course we should treat animals well, but I just don't think we are commanded to do so," continued the Skeptic of my biblical accuracy.

"Yes, we are," I countered,"It is in Psalms somewhere. It is written on the door of the pet shop in Carmel Commons."
"It is not!" said Asherel, who watches all pet shop doors with eagle eyes, prowling for another frilly outfit for her long suffering Honeybun.

"Et tu, Brutus? " I cried.

Now I assure you followers who read this blog faithfully hoping for nuggets of biblical wisdom to drop into your lap like jewelry from heaven that most of my biblical understanding is not gleaned from doors of pet shops. I do indeed read the Bible, at least a little, every day. Pet shop doors can be useful as biblical reinforcement, is all I am saying.

And two days ago, on our way up the stairs to the dentist at Carmel Commons, we passed that very pet shop door of which I had spoken. Asherel stopped dead in her tracks and said in amazement, "There is a verse on the door!"
"Have I ever lied to you?" I said.
And there it was, from Proverbs (ha!- I was close)-

Proverbs 12:10

A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal 

 which in the more colloquial version The Message Bible, translates to    

"Good people are good to their animals."

I smiled smugly as we walked by The Door.  I was less smug when the father of Asherel's new friend picked up a little snake in our front yard and held it tantalizingly close to my horrified face. I hate snakes. It is just a visceral response, and quite at odds with my love of all other creatures God has made.  Yet the man let the little snake slither all over his hands, and as I watched it, I did have to admit it had beautiful markings, it was remarkably well-behaved for a snake, and as Asherel kept repeating, it was small and even cute in a snakish way. I realized as I watched the snake that I am a hypocrite. I have realized this at various points in my life, but I knew right then that God was talking to me through the little snake. I am not supposed to just love the furry and cute creatures in His creation. I am to love them all. They all bear the marks of His hand. And similarly, sometimes, it is the most unlikely, most unlovable people that I am to work most hard at loving.  They were no less crafted by a loving God than me. I don't like to admit it, but I am quick to judge and quick to put at a distance the creatures that I don't find  compelling.

As the man put the little snake down, it quickly slithered away to a hole in the base of the tree, and I realized that was likely its home. I would have more opportunities to learn to love all creatures great and small. Oh goody.

Psalm 104: 24-25
 24 How many are your works, O LORD!
       In wisdom you made them all;
       the earth is full of your creatures.
 25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
       teeming with creatures beyond number—
       living things both large and small.

Friday, September 10, 2010

God Carries a Crate

"You have not because you ask not."
Could it really be that simple?
Probably when the Bible records those words, it is with reference to things like developing a soul that God would want hanging out with Him for all eternity.  I mean, it is not likely that God would reject the heartfelt sincere prayer of someone begging for the soul transformation that would bring her the ability to pray more deeply, love more fully, reflect God more completely.  I don't think it generally means material possessions, though every single one of my kids has quoted that verse at one time or another as support for the shiny new thing that they felt I had been biblically mandated to provide.

So I didn't even think to pray for a crate for Lucky.  I did what anyone does who needs an item and wants to get it as cheaply as possible. I got on the computer and hit my favorite button, the shopping button. The world of crate construction has expanded like melting cheese since I last  was in the crate buying market. There are still the basic wire crates with the single function of keeping a dog contained in a small space that  will prevent him from packing his bags and heading off to a vacation on the busy highway a mile away.  But now there are also crates that are designed to meld seamlessly with home decorating.  Crate end tables, made of cherry with tasteful mission-style flavor. Crate coffee tables that hide the imprisoned pet neatly under the magazines artfully arranged on a mahogany surface. Crate couches with padded seats for the guest who wants to sit on the dog without getting dog hair on his black pants. Rattan crates, plastic crates, wood crates, glass crates.... gold plated crates.....crates for small dogs, crates for big dogs,  crates for growing dogs with removable walls so one crate is all the growing pup will ever need.  I can't imagine what impoverished third world countries that make a total of $1.23 per year think of people who spend thousands of dollars for a dog crate that can double as a cappuccino machine.

But even the cheapest dog crates the size Lucky requires were not cheap.  So it was with incredulous delight that I perused the email from an old friend who read my blog and offered large crates that she was just going to donate to the Humane Society anyway. Instead, she would donate them to Lucky, and to Hollow Creek Farm.

I didn't pray for a crate, but God sent me one anyway. And He sent it in the arms of a loving friend who also stood and listened to some of the turmoils of my soul and eased some of the burdens that we all carry.  I suspect God knew I didn't need the crate as much as I needed the sweet listening spirit of a friend. God works in mysterious ways, and while the path is often clear in hindsight, sometimes it doesn't make any sense at all while we are lost in the underbrush.  And then, He reaches into the bramble and clears a patch with a fellow traveler.... and the traveler bears the image of Love and carries a crate.

Psalm 112:4-6 (New International Version)

 4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
       for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. 
 5 Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely,
       who conducts his affairs with justice.
 6 Surely he will never be shaken;
       a righteous man will be remembered forever.