Tuesday, January 31, 2012


The day dawned on my dread. It was the day of the dentist. Instead of chirping, the birds were singing scary music. I dragged myself through the despairing minutes, each tick tocking me closer to the time when I would be on the plastic covered crinkling chair, leaning back to my doom, sensitive teeth trembling.

I hate going to the dentist. I never have cavities and all I have to endure is the cleaning, but I have a few recessed areas where the nerve must be close to the surface because every time the hygienist comes near me with that little metal scraping tool, I am ready to divulge any state secret she would care to ask.
"Please, I'll tell you anything!!! Just don't touch my teeth!"
"Now now, Mrs. Kaseorg, you know we go through this every time. We have to touch your teeth and get off those stains...or worse things will happen."
"Worse? Like loosing poisonous snakes in my ear, cause that is the only thing worse that could happen."
"No, like even more invasive dental procedures. You don't want that, do you?" Her eyes glint with a hellish fire.
"Now open wide....hmmm, you don't drink coffee, do you?"
"I do...so sue me. I only have one cup a day, in the morning."
She scowls and pats my arm, then arranges the metal torture devices on the tray in front of me. She hands me a pair of sunglasses.

Now I don't like to be rude, but I laughed at this innovative growth in dentistry.
"It helps with those bright lights overhead."
"I could just close my eyes."
"Yes you could."
"I think that is what I will do, though I am very impressed by all the advances in your field....is anyone working on making it not hurt?"
She laughs and pats my arm again.
"So," I say, to put off the inevitable and put her at ease, "How long have you been working here?"
"4 months," she tells me, "And I think I am going to love this field."
Oh dear Lord, please don't let that sentence mean she is new at this. Please don't let a trainee near my sensitive teeth.
"Oh," i say, tremulously, "Where did you work before?"
"This is my first job! I just graduated!" She smiles at me like I should be encouraged.

I tried to disassociate from my body for the next hour. I tried reciting psalms, and tried to conjure images of green pastures, and still waters. I love the psalms, and they normally do bring comfort.
"Yea though I walk through the valley of death...."
"Are you doing ok, Mrs Kaseorg?"
She pats my arm and keeps scraping. I leap out of my chair.
"OOPs, that was another sensitive spot, wasn't it...?"
Thankyou for noticing, Captain Obvious.
"I will fear no evil for though art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me...."
"All done! Now that wasn't so bad, was it?"
I totter to my feet and stumble to the exit sign, noticing in big red letters on my chart, underlined, "VERY sensitive."

That I am, I thought, sensitive spirit, sensitive teeth,....were my soul so sensitive to the promptings of God, how much better off I would be.

Deuteronomy 28:1,2,15, 56-57
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God: However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:
The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.

Deuteronomy 29:29
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Breaking Away

Movies were more comfortable 30 years ago. You could trust a PG to have no naked people making you cover your teen's eyes. You could not blush and have to have a long discussion afterwards about how all that immorality that looked fun and normal would lead to horrible consequences and was not what God or I hoped for in their lives. You could point to the characters as the type of person you hoped they would grow up to be. I rarely go to the movies anymore. They are too graphic, too violent, too sexual, too depraved, too immoral. I know there are a few good ones, but even those often have sections that make me want to vomit.

So we often gather in our living room with Netflix, and the ability to fast forward should those sections appear. And since Netflix has very few of the new good movies we might want to see, we have been watching movies made when I was young. The one we saw a couple of nights ago was one I had forgotten. It was one of my favorites- Breaking Away. It is the story of poor "townies" in a college town. The heroes are four boys just graduated from highschool. None applied to college. All see a future doing blue collar work, like their folks did. It is their last summer of freedom, before they must enter the bleak, real world. One is an astonishingly good bicyclist, and wins medal after medal racing. The turning point in the movie is when he and his friends enter a bicycle race as the "townie" team, against the wealthy, tanned, gorgeous, athletic frat boys.

I loved that movie. The parents, while imperfect, were wonderful role models- a loving, hard working, committed, intact family. The four friends were loyal and fun and generous to each other- the kinds of friends we all wished we had. The bicyclist was a delightful and respectful and compassionate son, loving his parents fiercely, seeing through their foibles to their humanity. The child we all want our children to be. And when he rides his bicycle, the passion for racing the wind swirls through the very air.

The next morning, I strapped on my carpal tunnel splints on both wrists, and put on my bike helmet. I didn't know if I could bike with the injured wrists, but bicycling has always been one of my passions. I have had the wrist pain for so many months, that I had not biked nearly all summer til now. I had forgotten how much I loved it.

I didn't race the wind, like the boy in the movie. But I rode with the wind, and listened to peepers croaking in the nearby creek, fooled by the warmth into thinking spring was here. The wrist splints kept me pain free, though I only rode for an hour so I wouldn't strain them. I thought about decency, and kindness, loving one's family, honoring one's parents, living moral lives whether someone was watching or not. I thought of the title of the movie- Breaking Away. The young man was breaking away from the life of his poor town- I won't spoil the movie and tell you how. But he was wise enough to understand that the one thing he should never break away from was the love of family, or moral truths like honesty, integrity, and kindness. It was not a movie about God, but it made me think of God.

I patted the handlebars of my bicycle as I rolled it back into the crawl space under the house. The chrome sparkled, and it almost looked like it smiled as I waved goodbye while closing the door.

1 Thessalonians 4: 3-9
It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Playing Possom

"Are you just playing possum?" asked my husband flipping the stiff animal over with a shovel.
If the possum was just faking death, it deserved an Oscar. Rigor mortis is a particularly difficult role to pull off convincingly. He noticed wounds on the possum. The dogs and I watched from the safety of the sunroom. The dogs avoided my accusing stares.

Lucky had snatched a whole hunk of bread off Asherel's plate when no one was looking later on. First possum, now bread. Our dogs were turning into wild predators.

"Do you think they were the ones that killed it?" I asked, when Arvo returned.
"I can't see Lucky killing anything," he answered, "But there were wounds on its back."
We looked at Honeybun, the dog who had survived for some time in the wild before we found her.
"I better bathe them and look for wounds," I said, "I thought I had smelled dead animal when I walked in the house yesterday."

The dogs approach a bath like a prisoner approaches death row. Heads hang, ears droop, tails down, expressions glum but resigned to their fate. Sometimes they fight, spread-eageling legs to prevent me carrying them through the door. I plopped them one at a time into the tub.

Warning to all you who have carpal tunnel syndrome- dog lifting and bathing is not on the list of recommended treatments.

So with re-strained wrists, but dogs that smelled like fresh strawberry lime, I sat down and glanced out the window. I noticed a "Critter Control" truck pull into the neighbor's driveway. I headed out to talk with him.
"Too late."
"Too late?" he asked.
"The possum's dead."
"Aren't you here to catch a possum?"
"No, ma'am, I'm here for moles."
"Oh, well we found a dead possum. Do you want it?"
Now in retrospect, I wondered why I would think anyone would want a dead possum. He laughed.
"No thanks."
"Well I just thought maybe someone would want to test the possum..."
He cocked his head, probably wondering how well a possum would score. Particularly a dead one. I don't know what a possum's IQ is, but maybe Gordon Hodson has a method of testing that. He seems adept at outrageous studies. (see yesterday's blog for more on that rant.)
"No, too expensive. They almost never carry rabies. That's why we don't kill them. We catch them and relocate. Was it wounded?"
"Well, if you want to see it, my husband put it in the garbage can."
He looked at me with the same incredulity he had expressed when I asked him if he wanted to test it.
"No thanks. Did he double bag it? It is legal to throw it out in the garbage if he double bagged it."
"I think he single bagged it."
The Critter Control man gathered his mole equipment. I didn't want him leaving and sending the Possum Police, so I assured him we would double bag it.

I thought about how many times in life, rather than confront some things directly, I much prefer to play possum. If I play dead, I won't be called to action. Sometimes when you fight, you really do sustain wounds and sometimes you can even die, like our poor single bagged friend in the garbage can. What is worth fighting for...? We are studying WW1 right now in homeschool, but every time we hit a new section of history, there is some conflict that people felt worth risking their life to resolve. Which are worth dying for? Are any? On a lesser but still toxic scale, which principles are worth speaking up about? How many times do I see an ignorant or derogatory or uninformed remark pop up in facebook (sometimes even of my own making) and not comment?

"Well, good luck with the moles," I called to the Critter Control man, "Do you catch and relocate them too?"
He again threw me a glance that seemed to indicate that my IQ was not a whole lot higher than the possum's. I suspect the moles were not about to be relocated. Playing possum might be a useful trick they should learn quickly.

Ecclesiastes 3: 7,8,17-21
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. I said to myself,
"God will bring into judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
a time to judge every deed." I also said to myself, "As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?"

Matthew 18:12-14
"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

-Everything is possible with God

Saturday, January 28, 2012


"We have broad interests in prejudice generally, whether toward immigrants, foreigners, homosexuals, the obese, Americans, Muslims, women. We are even interested in fictitious groups and attitudes toward non-human animals."

This is a quote from Gordon Hodson's research site. Gordon Hodson is the lead researcher in the recent study claiming that conservatives, especially social conservatives, have lower IQs and greater prejudice against others than liberals. Look carefully at the list I quoted from his website. Does anyone else notice the glaring omission? Prejudice against religious groups is noticeably absent from his list. I presume his list is not all inclusive, but to list "fictitious group and attitudes toward non-human animals" and not include Christians, or other religious groups except Muslims on the list strikes me as telling.

I was unable to find any details on the research, but I find the remarks that are swirling about the internet elucidating in and of themselves. The dominant one is "we needed research to tell us social conservatives are dumb? Gimme a break." Does the irony of Hodson's supporters' statements about the findings of his research on prejudicial attitudes escape anyone else? Oh and another favorite comment of mine... "these are only averages, so why are you upset?" In other words, I might well be one of those lone smart social conservatives. In fact, I might even be a genius, but most of my fellow right wingers are morons. I wonder what then induces that smart one to hang with the dummies and share their views? That defies logic. Hodson tries to soften the blow telling us there "may" be compassionate conservatives...this is just a finding regarding the average. Thanks. Whew.

And does anyone else remember the outcry against the book from 1994, The Bell Curve, which infuriated many people? The researchers explored IQ differences among various races. The raging arguments with the book's release included attacks (largely by liberals, btw) that there was sparse if any peer review of the research, that the tests of IQ themselves were biased in favor of certain groups, and that the whole research direction was an attempt to perpetuate racism and prejudice. Interesting that with Hodson's research, the liberal response, at least the only one I have found on the internet is: well of course...who needed research to tell us that the religious right are stupid and bigoted? IQ research is reprehensible and suspect EXCEPT when it rips apart those dastardly religious right conservatives.

I cannot find much about how Hodson conducted his research. i presume details will come out soon. Did he undergo rigorous peer review before publishing this work? Where did he draw his sample? Was it random/blind sampling and representative of the groups he was claiming to sample? What kind of statistical analysis did he use? How does he explain the research that indicates conservatives, especially social conservatives are overwhelmingly more charitable than liberals? (see article below, but also recent article in Wall Street Journal which fully concurred with this older article.) How does he define and delineate social conservative? Are committed religious folks separated from casual religious folk, since recent research indicates there IS a difference in these groups. Research also indicates that social conservatives' charity extends overwhelmingly to groups of other races. Has Hodson explored the reason for that incongruity in this so called stupid/prejudiced group?

The research on homeschool groups, huge studies largely conducted my Dr. Ray,http://www.hslda.org/docs/study/ray2009/default.asp, has been criticized because the subjects agreed to submit test scores, thus perhaps those with low scores wouldn't have joined the study. Yet the tests had not yet been administered prior to the research. Some concerns raised were that the tests were administered by parents, thus suspect. Yet even on standardized tests administered by impartial observers (ACT college entrance tests), homeschoolers outperform every other group. Again the research is not exhaustive on this, but most findings agree that homeschoolers are overwhelmingly social conservatives. Did Hodson explore that strange seeming contradiction to his work?

Some people, when I expressed my outrage at Hodson's work, suggested I must be narrow minded, not open to change or new ideas. I wonder if those same people will read the studies I cited above, or is exploring new ideas only narrow minded when it relates to issues such as insisting a baby is a baby from conception, or an intact family with mother and father is best for a child, or that government should be small, or that Christian ideals should not be ridiculed?

As I searched the internet for specifics on Hodson's study, a moth flitted from the chair. We seem to be inundated with moths lately. I have no idea where they are coming from, but I am finding tiny holes in my cherished wool coats. They are such a tiny thing, and yet seem bent on destruction.

"To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, set your hearts on it. (Proverbs 8:4, 5 NIV)

Conservatives More Liberal Givers
By George Will
WASHINGTON -- Residents of Austin, Texas, home of the state's government and flagship university, have very refined social consciences, if they do say so themselves, and they do say so, speaking via bumper stickers. Don R. Willett, a justice of the state Supreme Court, has commuted behind bumpers proclaiming "Better a Bleeding Heart Than None at All," "Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty," "The Moral High Ground Is Built on Compassion," "Arms Are For Hugging," "Will Work (When the Jobs Come Back From India)," "Jesus Is a Liberal," "God Wants Spiritual Fruits, Not Religious Nuts," "The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans," "Republicans Are People Too -- Mean, Selfish, Greedy People" and so on. But Willett thinks Austin subverts a stereotype: "The belief that liberals care more about the poor may scratch a partisan or ideological itch, but the facts are hostile witnesses."

Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism." The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives.

If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:

-- Although liberal families' incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

-- Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

-- Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

-- Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

-- In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

-- People who reject the idea that "government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality" give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

Brooks demonstrates a correlation between charitable behavior and "the values that lie beneath" liberal and conservative labels. Two influences on charitable behavior are religion and attitudes about the proper role of government.

The single biggest predictor of someone's altruism, Willett says, is religion. It increasingly correlates with conservative political affiliations because, as Brooks' book says, "the percentage of self-described Democrats who say they have 'no religion' has more than quadrupled since the early 1970s." America is largely divided between religious givers and secular nongivers, and the former are disproportionately conservative. One demonstration that religion is a strong determinant of charitable behavior is that the least charitable cohort is a relatively small one -- secular conservatives.

Reviewing Brooks' book in the Texas Review of Law & Politics, Justice Willett notes that Austin -- it voted 56 percent for Kerry while he was getting just 38 percent statewide -- is ranked by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as 48th out of America's 50 largest cities in per capita charitable giving. Brooks' data about disparities between liberals' and conservatives' charitable giving fit these facts: Democrats represent a majority of the wealthiest congressional districts, and half of America's richest households live in states where both senators are Democrats.

While conservatives tend to regard giving as a personal rather than governmental responsibility, some liberals consider private charity a retrograde phenomenon -- a poor palliative for an inadequate welfare state, and a distraction from achieving adequacy by force, by increasing taxes. Ralph Nader, running for president in 2000, said: "A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity." Brooks, however, warns: "If support for a policy that does not exist ... substitutes for private charity, the needy are left worse off than before. It is one of the bitterest ironies of liberal politics today that political opinions are apparently taking the place of help for others."

-Everything is possible with God

Friday, January 27, 2012

Watching Daily

The bookstore, Park Road Books, that stocks my first book called me. They needed more of my first book, and asked to look at my second book. I tottered in with the box of books, my braced wrists aching. I wondered how many authors deliver their books with double wrist braces for carpal tunnel syndrome. Probably a lot. Somehow, I felt proud of this occupational malady. No one needed to know it had not come from writing books, but from answering emails about ski trips I organize....

The owner smiled and looked like he knew me when he came in from the back room. All the workers surely did too, this well known local author stepping within their sphere. I felt the aura of fame surrounding me. I smiled beatifically upon my subjects, my every movement graceful and refined. I knew there must be crowds being held back by riot police just outside the door for word had leaked that Vicky Kaseorg was delivering a box of new books. I tipped my chin at the right angle for the glimmer of sun to strike it in such a way as to suggest it no longer dripped without definition into my neck. Ah, it is glorious to be so revered!

"And what are you here for?" asked the saleswoman, breaking into my reverie.
"I brought some more books."
She opened the box, "Oh, more Listening! Oh, ok. Just a second."
Then she disappeared.
The other salesmen just kept working, while I waited.
They probably didn't recognize me without my name tag.
Fame is fleeting, I thought.

When the saleswoman returned, she handed me a check. It was the completely unexpected payment for the books I had sold. I had totally forgotten about being paid. When I subtracted my costs, the profits would not change my life...but we could have a nice dinner out maybe, and I could send a donation to hollowcreekfarm.org.

I held up the new book, my second book, God Drives a Tow Truck.
"Sarah emailed me and told me she wanted to look at this one too," I said.
The owner took the book, looked it over, and shrugged, "Sure, leave 5 of those too."
Oh the grueling, nail biting review one must endure to find shelves willing to stock one's blood, sweat, and tears!

Earlier, I had been watching the dogs on this gloomy, cloudy day. They were sitting at the glass door, as usual, watching the world go by. They had an expectant cast to their head, as though they knew something wondrous, something momentous could occur at any moment. Something unexpected and miraculous could shake their world and they wanted to be looking for it. They were taking no chances that they might miss it.

Proverbs 8 is a whole chapter about seeking with expectant wonder. In that book, Wisdom is personified, and the writer is diligently seeking and exhorting others to set all else aside in the pursuit of Wisdom. The seeker is described as waiting and watching at a door, knowing that the blessings of God will flow upon those who earnestly seek the best that God has to offer. The implication in that proverb is those who aren't watching could miss it. It would be like my poor dog Honeybun deciding to go get a drink of water just as the mailtruck she so loves to bark at drives by. Her daily vigil would end without coming to fruition from that lapse.

I stepped back outside the bookstore. I noticed that the police had done a masterful job of dispersing the crowds. Not one adoring fan remained, swooning as I emerged. The sun was trying to peek out from behind the gloomy clouds that had dampened the entire day. Smiling, I tossed the empty book box in a garbage can.

Proverbs 8:34
Blessed are those who listen to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.

-Everything is possible with God

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Linking All Creation

I laid out a kleenex in front of the art student. She looked dubious.
"See all the shadows and highlights? See the lines the folds create? Drawing tissues is much harder than you might think."
And perhaps more boring....She didn't say that, but I suspect she was thinking that. She is one of my new students and so far this new semester, I have taught only necessary but unexciting techniques like grids and pencil grips for varying types of shading. And now this, drawing a tissue. She was likely wondering why her mom heard this was a fun class, a fun art teacher.

I remember in art school, the same teacher who made us spend weeks drawing a broccoli floret also had us draw a crinkled piece of saran wrap. It is amazing what you can learn by trying to draw saran wrap. One of the biggest lessons is that there is beauty lurking in everything. You sometimes have to practice finding it, but it is there. It is one of my favorite reasons for living- finding treasures that most people don't notice. Hearing the message that often goes unheard. Linking all creation back to the Creator.

"Technically, God didn't make saran wrap," my little angel on my shoulder reminded me," I'm not so sure you can make glowing messages about the Creator from a wad of tissue either."
I brushed the aggravating voice aside, "You don't know your Bible then...the Creator spreads out the earth with ALL that springs from it."

Isaiah 42: 5-8
This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it: "I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. "I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not yield my glory to another
or my praise to idols.

-Everything is possible with God

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

As the Creator Intended

Yesterday, I tried an art form I had never done before, and no, I don't mean "one that requires talent". A friend gave Asherel and me tickets to a little gallery that teaches glass fusion classes. I had no idea what glass fusion even was, but it sounded better than what I had planned for Tuesday night, which was to go to the internet site where i could watch the sales tick off on my new book. Hard as it was to pull away from that exciting activity, we headed off the little gallery, which was nestled in a shopping center.

Right off the bat, luck was with us. Since I personally believe there is no such thing as luck, I will leave it to your imagination what or Who was really with us. It was a BYOB event, which meant to every participant except those at our table that this was a license to leave the designated driver home. Now I have nothing against a glass of wine while handling sharp shards of glass that you cut and snip so little pieces fly off into neighboring table occupants' eyes. I was concerned that copious amounts of alcohol were being consumed (one couple had two bottles perched beside them) and I didn't see any taxis waiting to haul their tottering rear ends home.

But back to that luck part. We sat down at a table where, praise be to God, there was another teenager (the only other young person there besides Asherel). Her father wore a tshirt that said, "Elevation Church." They had no bottles of booze. This was his BYOD night instead- Bring Your Own Daughter. He had 6 children, all girls, and each week he took one girl out alone to a wonderful event of their choosing. I settled happily at that table.
"Do you do other artistic endeavors?" I asked the girl.
She blinked at me. "um....what?"
"Do you do art?"
"I play softball...is that art?"
"It depends on how you play it. It could be," I said smiling.
"And how did you get dragged into this?" I asked the kind father.
"Actually, I have done this before. I suggested it. I really like it."
Well there, in two short sentences, I had potentially alienated the only other sober people in the shop.

The owner began the class saying, "Glass fusion is a lot of fun."
After that sentence, I was lost. Small wisps of comprehensible instructions flitted in and out of her instructional discourse. I knew I needed two layers near the edge or the piece would get "wonky". I knew that if I clipped a corner off the glass, wear the goggles and warn the others to close their eyes or duck. I knew that opaque and translucent created different effects and one should never be layered on top of the other but for the life of me, couldn't remember which.

"Any questions?" she asked.
Oh, where to start.... I was all questions. I wasn't even sure if layer one was the form we were given or if that was the zero layer and we needed two more layers atop that.
"What would you like to make?" she asked holding out our choices.
"A trivet...I guess," I answered.
"What color background glass?"
I paused. I had no idea. I didn't know what I wanted to put on my trivet. I turned to Asherel who is usually helpful in artistic matters.
"Should I do a blue trivet and put Honeybun on it?"
Asherel raised an eyebrow. "I'm not sure you want to try to make something that looks real," she advised.
"Blue," I told Jen, the owner.
Asherel shook her head and gathered her supplies to make her pendants.
I went and gathered little pieces of glass in yellows and browns for my dog head.

As I carefully arranged the glass on my trivet, I realized that little angular pieces were not easily assembled to create anything remotely looking like a dog.
Jen looked over my shoulder.
"What are we making?" she asked.
You are making a whole bunch of drunks that will be driving home as a menace to society, I thought, but, "I am making a dog."
She peered at the trivet and squinted. I wanted to tell her at that point that I was a professional artist, but then thought that might make her more dubious of my talent than just being silent about that little tidbit of info.
"I see it," she said.
"You do? Because frankly at this point...I don't."
She patted my shoulder and drank some more wine.

It actually was a lot of fun. The people with the wine were turning out masterpieces. Asherel made some really lovely pendants. My dog on the trivet looked vaguely canine, and I could always just call it abstract art. The pieces were left at the gallery where they would be fired, and we were warned, your never know what they will look like when they come out. That was the fun of glass fusion, Jen told us. It would resemble what you put in the kiln, but could be completely unexpectedly different when it emerged.

"Now these are the simple rules to make you like the piece you make. You can choose to ignore them," warned Jen, "But then you aren't going to like what comes out of the kiln, and you will blame me."

I thought about how God must feel. He gathers all the raw materials for decent, responsible, good, and loving human beings, and then He throws us in the kiln of Life. We all are individually and often surprisingly transformed by the circumstances in the fire of living. Some of us emerge as masterpieces, but I suspect most of us don't come out quite as the Creator intended.

Job 23:10-12 (NIV)
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. [11] My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. [12] I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.

-Everything is possible with God

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Searching for Number One

My book, newly published and out on Amazon in both print and e-book format started its life as the 333,000th best seller. By the evening, it had soared to 70,000th best seller. I am on pace for hitting number one before the world ends.

According to the hype, the Mayans predicted the world ends Dec. 21, 2012. From the brief research I did, which almost assures it is inaccurate, the Mayans never predicted a cataclysmic end on that date. They had a "short"calendar, that roughly translated to a person's lifetime expectancy, and then they did some ingenious math to string together a "long" calendar...and that long calendar ends on Dec. 21, 2012. Somehow, people decided that meant the Mayans had predicted the end of the world, when in reality, all it meant is that they would need to tack up a new calendar on Dec. 22.

This is good news for me on a few levels. First, I am not at all excited about a cataclysmic end to the world before I have grandchildren, or graduate my last one out of homeschool. After twenty years of this job, I want to see how it ends. Secondly, if I do reach number 1, I want to have time to bask in the glory of it all.

However, the Bible also makes it quite clear that there will be an apocalyptic end to earth as we know it. We are clearly advised not to dwell on that, nor to try to figure out when it will be. It is unknowable. But we are told to be ready. Now that seems somewhat contradictory. Be ready for an event that you don't know when it will happen. It might not even happen in your life time, but be ready anyway. The more I thought about that, the more interesting a dilemma that produced for me. Being ready is not easy. Being ready means having in the back of my mind that at any moment it will be time, and my last moment on earth may be here. Will I have ended my sojourn speaking words of kindness or words of acrimony? Will I have had the last touch of a human being be one of gentleness and love, or one of cold harshness? Will I have been smiling in the last memory everyone will carry of me...or scowling? I don't know about you all, but I don't live life well with the assured conviction that it might be my last moment. Yet, I should. I should always treat others as though it were the last memory they would have of me....because it really could be, even if the whole world doesn't end. My world could end any time. Any of our worlds could.

And simultaneously with that certainty that the world will end and this is just a temporary home, the Bible reminds us that we are to live our lives fully. We are not supposed to just sit around moping, watching the sky for little winged animals with teeth like razors to come streaking from the gates of Hell. We are to live victoriously, as though we have all the promise of tomorrow. It is like living and working to bring my book to number one, just in time to have all the bookshelves annihilated.

How is this possible? To live in expectation of both abundant life and certain death? KIng Solomon went through a depressive episode where he said it was not possible. Hedonism was the only solution, for nothing had meaning if life were ultimately only to end in a puff of dust. However, Paul of the New Testament had a cheerier conclusion. He recognized death comes to all, but he also made a startling claim- "To die is gain." In dying to self, we become alive to the very presence of God.
Having a number one book will pale in the magnificent light of standing with all God's creation as one Spirit, striving together as one for His glory.

Still, if everyone reading this hurries and orders my book today, I might be catapulted to 35,000 best selling book, making my job of happily treating each possible moment as my last a whole lot easier.

Philippians 1:21-24, 27

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.

-Everything is possible with God

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Muzzle on my Mouth

My new book is out and ready at Amazon.com (http://tinyurl.com/7fgvm4l ).
I wanted the e-book to come out simultaneously, but am having some trouble figuring out how to do it. Having illustrated this book, I have entered a level of complexity into the e-book process that I haven't dealt with yet. If doing new things prevents Alzheimer's, then for sure, I am safe. But I have a long way to go in perfecting my e-book skill. The publisher wrote back and said it was ready to review the e-book, but noticed I had not mentioned who the author was.
In some ways, that would've been better, to leave the author out of it. I talk about a lot of family and friends in this new book. I changed the names of all but my family, in case the people I wrote about didn't want to become famous. And I never used last names. Then I gave every member of my family a chance to read the book before I published it, in case they wanted to disown me. But the point is, writing books is frightening. Any good writer of necessity draws upon her own experiences, perceptions, prejudices, and biases; particularly in works of non-fiction. It opens up a whole world of readers to despise her. But to be dishonest or inauthentic in baring one's soul makes for boring reading. I feel the need to write burning in my soul. If not physically writing, my mind is continually narrating events, either real or flights of imagination. I don't know if everyone does that. It occurred to me only recently that perhaps everyone does not. I write as unconsciously as I breathe, and have since keeping journals when I was old enough to form letters. There is something very basic to what I am that yearns to express itself in written or artistic form.
I love what David of the Bible says when he stops speaking the Word of God. He holds his tongue for fear of sinning. As a result, he is filled with anguish in his soul. While believe me, I am not saying that I am on par with David, I do share his feeling when he squelches his outpourings to His heavenly Father. I think we are created for a purpose, and it is only by neglect, sin, or force that that purpose will not emerge. I think a great deal of damage on earth is done by thinking my purpose is identical to your purpose, or that somehow my purpose is more worthy. I am guilty of this kind of thinking far too often.
Perhaps the greatest adventure in life is finding what we were born to do, and then doing it with delight. Some people discover what that is at a young age, and some never seem to quite figure it out, but everyone was put here on earth with a plan and a purpose.
Maybe I should just keep the author name out of it, I thought, as I reviewed the e-book parameters. That would be cowardly, my soul whispered.
Perhaps my purpose is to be cowardly...? ok, ok, I will sign the author page.

Psalm 39: 1-7
I said, "I will watch my ways
and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
while in the presence of the wicked." So I remained utterly silent,
not even saying anything good.
But my anguish increased; my heart grew hot within me.
While I meditated, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue: "Show me, Lord, my life's end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure. "Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be. "But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.

-Everything is possible with God

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Smile of God

It was a rainy miserable day- cold and dark and wet. Yet something always brings a tinge of light to a dreary landscape. I called my old friend Comer who had been dreadfully sick. His entire Nursing Home was under quarantine with a flu so virulent that nearly every resident had it. I had talked with Comer two days ago and he had told me he was very bad off- very weak and hemorrhaging from all the bowel attacks over the past two weeks.
"Good grief, Comer, will they put you in the hospital?"
"If I am not better by tomorrow they will," he said, "They are watching me."
"You know, when I was nauseous last week, I had pineapple juice. It is supposed to be really good for nausea. It helped me. Would you like me to bring you some?"
"I love pineapple juice," he said, " I would be most obliged."
"I have a big can of it right here. Do you have a can opener?"
"I'm sure I can get one from the front office."
"Good, I'll leave it at the front desk for you tomorrow. I won't come see you since your hall is still filled with sick people. But maybe next week you will be all better and we can all go out."
So I called the front desk, made sure they had a can opener, and then finished proofing the final copy of my new book. It was the second proof I had reviewed, so had, as far as I could find, no errors. I contacted the publishers and told them to go ahead. The book, God Drives a Tow Truck, should be up at Amazon in a day or two. It will be at extended sites, like Barnes and Nobles.com within a few weeks.
"I may as well send this proof to Comer. It is a book of miracles and it sounds like he needs one," I thought, so I put it in the bag with the pineapple juice.

Yesterday, I drove the juice and book to the Nursing Home. I noticed the quarantine sign was off the door.
"This is for Comer," I told the receptionist,"I see the building is no longer quarantined."
"The sign just came down," she said.
"You have a can opener he can borrow, correct?"
"Yes," she said, "I will bring this to him right away."

Later that day, I got a call from Comer. He sounded like his old self, his voice strong again, and with inflection, like he wanted to live.
"I didn't know you wrote another book!" he exclaimed.
"Yes," I said, "I am working on a third as well."
"Well I am already a third of the way through. It is very fine writing. I don't know anyone who writes like you do."
"Oh Comer, thank you! You sound great, by the way. How do you feel?"
"I feel so much better!" he said.
"Did you have the pineapple juice?"
"Sure did! My that was delicious."
"Good, they got you a can opener?"
"No, I opened it myself."
I paused. I knew he didn't have a can opener as he had already mentioned that.
"How did you open it?"
"With my little hammer."
I burst into laughter. The vision of a 93 year old man pounding on the top of a large tin can to smash it open filled my brain.
"Did you have a nail or something?"
"No, I pounded the screwdriver and poked two holes."
"You must be feeling a lot better," I said.
"I am! So I'm drinking my pineapple juice and reading your book."
"Sounds like a nice way to spend a rainy day."
"But is this the book you were telling me about...I thought you told me about another book."
"No, this is the one. It is a book about miracles."
"That, it surely is," he said.
"So the hemorrhaging has stopped?"
"Yes it has."

I learned this morning that my sister, Holly, and her Science Olympiad team of one third the size of a normal team had won the "Spirit Award" at a Chicago competition. And her own son placed first in his event. I know she had taken on coaching this group despite the fact that she did not have any particular skill or love of science. She did it because if she didn't, they wouldn't have a team. She stepped in where she saw a need. How lovely to see blessings flow from such selflessness.

I thought about what is the most important thing, if we could choose only one, that we ought to be teaching our children. Holly's story captivated me so much because I think she is managing to instill in her children and those around her that the most important thing we can do is love God by loving others, and sometimes to do so sacrificially. Most of us won't earn any spirit award, at least not here on earth. But blessings flow when we love others, and troubles seem less troubling. Grey skies seem tinged with color. We can almost see the smile of God.

Romans 12:10
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another

-Everything is possible with God

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Never Despise the Day of Small Things

When we were skiing Thursday, I was freezing. I lose 2 pounds every time I ski. No kidding. My body seems to struggle mightily in the cold. My eyes were gluing shut with little icicles and my fingertips were starting to drop off the planet. I decided in the interest of preservation of my flesh, I should pop in the ski shop at the lodge and see if it was too ridiculously priced for me to find a solution.

I walked in and a very cheery saleswoman greeted me. I have had a string of good experiences with customer service lately. I wonder if my own attitude has anything to do with it. I have been practicing being nice to sales people.

"May I help you?" she asked.
I pointed to the dripping icecubes that used to be my best feature.
"These eyes are supposed to be open," I said, "Do you have a suggestion?"
They were beginning to thaw out and I blinked my eyelids apart.
"How about ski goggles?"
"Yes.... do you have any that are not too expensive?"
She handed me her least expensive pair.
"How about these? They are just $30."
I took them, "That is still a little more than I wanted to spend."
I put them on. She looked at me, while I could read in her face a question. I was pretty sure she was thinking : You are one big cheapskate.
"What do you think?" I asked, turning towards her with the $30 goggles.
"I think you need youth size...." she said.
"I want to be an adult..." I said, "Just once. Sigh. Really? Even in goggles I need the pair with the Mickey Mouse princess on them?"
"They are only $20."
"Sold! Don't bother to wrap them. I will wear them out of here. Do you think I would fit into really warm youth gloves too?"
"I would bet my life on it."
"Good, throw those in too. Are they also cheap?"
"Yep. You are lucky that you are so small. Did your mother smoke?"
Ok, that last statement was made up, but all the rest was true.

Sometimes, we think we are cursed with detriments to normalcy, like the smallest head in a graduating senior class of 431. But sometimes it can be turned around and become at times, your greatest asset. Never despise any part of God's creation. He can use anything.

I returned to the ski slope decked out in my youth sized helmet, goggles, and face mask. I heard several people say, "Awwww, isn't that cute how well she skis for a toddler!" (OK, I made that up too, but you get the point.)

He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great. (Psalm 115:13 KJV)

-Everything is possible with God

Friday, January 20, 2012

Doing the Right Thing

I do not handle chaos, confusion, or crowds well. So don't ask me why I organized the Charlotte home skiers group to bring each week to Sugar Mountain. It is all those C words mentioned above, and more. On top of that, in case I don't feel adequate stress to be sure a whole crew is safe and happy, I brought a group of 4 kids in my car yesterday. Only 1 was my own kid, so now I could quadruple my concerns over broken, mangled body parts.

Fortunately they are a great group of kids, and while it is not really easy being in charge, they are as good as they could be. Largely, once the first hour madness of getting everyone on the slope is over, I don't see them again till mealtime. Well, I see them, since we all are on the easy slope. On occasion, I go to the intermediate slope, but I like the beginner slope better since I suspect I would sustain fewer broken bones at 20 mph as opposed to 40 mph. The kids stay on the beginner slope. Anyway, everything was wonderful and without mishap, and every time I saw the kids, they were smiling and laughing, and snowboarding quite well.

I had told them to meet again in the lodge at 7:30 so we could return our rentals and be on the way home by 8. I told them not to get on a ski lift after 7:20. I was throughly enjoying the beautiful empty slopes of night skiing, but noticed after 7 pm, I hadn't seen the kids in a while. Usually I see them from the chair lift skiing down, or while I am skiing, I see them in the chairlift. It must just be because it is dark and I have missed them, I thought.

I returned to the lodge at 7:30. No kids yet. I wasn't worried because I was sure they had gotten on the ski lift at 7:21, thinking a minute wouldn't matter. At 7:40 they came tumbling into the lodge. They all had bright red cheeks, and Asherel had a tinge of green to her as well. Her eyes looked a little wild, and there was a look of perhaps terror lurking in her expression.

"We went to the top of the mountain!" they blurted out. Now I knew that the black diamond runs were at the top of the mountain- the trails that only people who have completely severed all neurons that travel to the section of the brain where rational thought occurs. Only Olympic skiers or serious lunatics go to the top of the mountain.
"You are kidding," I said, I hoped, I prayed.
Asherel shook her head weakly, "No we really did."
"By accident," cried Ben.
"You went to the top of the whole mountain?" I asked.
They all nodded.
"By accident," said Daniel.
"And we all skied down it, and none of us are dead," said one of them.
"By accident?" I asked.
"Well," explained Daniel, "Leo told us that if we went up the middle chair lift, there was an intermediate slope. We had already been on the bottom of the intermediate slope, so we knew we could do it. So we all got on the chair lift. Asherel and Alex were in the front, and then me and Ben, and then Leo was in the last chair. So we reached the middle of the slope where we were supposed to get off the chair lift at the first stop...but Asherel and Alex stayed on, so we thought they were being brave and wanted to get off at the second stop. But then they didn't get off, and the next stop was the top of the mountain."
"Why didn't you get off, Asherel?"
"We missed it. We just didn't notice till it was too late."
"And then we started freaking out," said Alex. She and Asherel exchanged glances.
"I told Daniel, we better get off at that first chairlift stop anyway, where we were supposed to," said Ben, "Cause I was already getting nervous."
"But," said Daniel, "I was terrified, but I told him, we can't let them go up there alone. We better stay with them."
"You're right...." said Ben, though he figured the older and wiser (and instigator of this dilemma) Leo, would probably stay with them, and frankly, he was not thrilled to be falling on the sword for the girls who were responsible for putting the boys in this sticky situation.

When the got off at the top of the mountain, I am told Asherel was repeating over and over again, "Why am I here? What am I doing here on top of this mountain?" All the kids told me they were all petrified. Ben noticed that while there were runs marked with the dreaded Black Diamond, there was one run marked with a blue diamond- for intermediate level skiers that would take them to the bottom.
"We just stay on the Blue trail," said Ben.

Asherel is actually a very good snowboarder, but at the top of the mountain,
she was not filled with her usual confidence.
"I braked the whole way down," she said.
Leo and Daniel stayed with her. They would careen down a little ways, and then turn back and wait, shouting encouragement. Ben and Alex went on ahead, as braking takes enormous energy and even skill, and they are newer to the sport than even Asherel.
"Were you scared?" I asked Daniel.
"We were petrified!" he said.
"But we did it," they said, "And we didn't even wipe out."

I thought of how the boys, with less experience than the girls in the lift in front of them had overcome rational thought, and immense fear to do the right thing.

"You should have seen it, Mom," said Asherel, "It was a really beautiful view from the top of the mountain."

Yes, I could imagine it was. The view of courage and righteousness is always beautiful.

As we drove home, the kids still high on adrenaline sang "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" all the way to the end. It took about a half an hour. As they finished, one kid shouted, "Again!"
"No," I said, "I think I have reached my limit."
(But Praise God for the limitless spirit of those kids singing in my car, I thought, and God's limitless mercy in protecting them and honoring their courage.)

Joshua 2:11-13, 22-24
11 When we heard the news we lost our courage and no one could even breathe for fear of you. For the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on earth below!
12 So now, promise me this with an oath sworn in the LORD's name. Because I have shown allegiance to you, show allegiance to my family. Give me a solemn pledge
13 that you will spare the lives of my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and all who belong to them, and rescue us from death."
22 They went to the hill country and stayed there for three days, long enough for those chasing them to return. Their pursuers looked all along the way but did not find them.
23 Then the two men returned - they came down from the hills, crossed the river, came to Joshua son of Nun, and reported to him all they had discovered.
24 They told Joshua, "Surely the LORD is handing over all the land to us!

-Everything is possible with God

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Instruction Manuals

Settling down with my new iPad, I felt like Lewis and Clark. Here was a world I knew little about, and was about to explore all by myself. I had foraged through all the easy stuff. Now it was time to tackle the real reason for buying the iPad. Even my computer guru Brian had emailed asking if I had tried the word processing program yet. I had had the iPad nearly one full day and only had a 2 week trial period. If the word processing application stank (or is that stunk...? I can never get that one right.), then I would have to return the iPad, even though I had already downloaded 8,000 photos onto it successfully over the course of several hours. I wrote my guru back, "Not yet. I am still trying to figure out how to delete email, or find the back button." The guru left me alone, at that point, likely deciding that if I still hadn't found the back button, then maybe technology like the iPad was not the right venture for this writer. Maybe writing with my finger in wet sand would be more my speed.

However, undeterred, I decided to plunge on, although frankly, I never did find the back button. It is there for some applications, but not for others. First I read over the help manual for Pages, which is the word app I had bought. I only read over the manual in a cursory way. I like to fiddle with things to figure them out, and noting the success of finding the back button, you can see how well that works for me. I was surprised that the day before, when I had spoken with 4 different Apple Care advisors about the things that confused me with my new iPad, every one of them ended the discussion telling me that they were sending me the free download for the iPad manual. Even Asherel walked by and suggested I borrow Grandpa's IPad for Dummies book.

O Ye of little faith!

I read just enough of the manual to get me started. My second book is in review right now and should be published by next week. I have been waiting for the iPad to work more on book #3 because working at the desk computer hurts my wrists. I found that working with a small keyboard on my lap, seemed not to aggravate the swollen tendonitis in both wrists. So I first discovered, totally by accident, that with one button, I could send my document directly to Pages. And then I began playing with it all afternoon.
One of my criteria for a great word processing app to write my book is that it be able to number the pages. I know that seems like a little thing, but it is the one aspect of writing that I can always have just the right word for: 1, 2, 3, etc. I count as well as Shakespeare, so I wanted that capability desperately. Not a single word processor for the Galaxy tab I had returned allowed for pagination.
"Yes but Mom, this one will," Asherel told me confidently.
"How do you know?"
"Mom, it is called Pages."

So I fiddled and fumbled and could not put pages on my document. My heart was breaking. My needs in life are really quite small. A haircut that makes my little head appear human, comfortable shoes that don't make my children laugh at me, and a word processing document that lets me number pages. There are a few others, but those loom large in my daily life.

I was ready to call Apple Care and tell those nice young advisors that while they had been the best customer service employees I had ever known, I would need to return the iPad and sever our burgeoning relationship. And then, I did a last ditch maneuver, a desperate maneuver even. I read the instructions. And in those instructions there is a section labeled, "Numbering Pages."

You may be laughing. Don't worry. I am used to being ridiculed. But I would hazard a guess that many of us never touch the greatest instruction manual ever written. Or if we do, we give it a cursory glance and presume we know enough to get on with life. I am always struck by the magnitude of exaltation the psalmists seem to possess when they write about the Bible as a guide. It is described as a path, a light, a delight, truth, and even Love.

"I did it!" I cried out, and my family looked my way.
I leaped from my chair and swirled joyfully.
"I can number pages! We will keep the iPad!"

Psalm 119:105
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my soul."

-Everything is possible with God

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rude worse than Stupid

I got the replacement for my wonderful Christmas gift. The Galaxy Tab wouldn't work out for me as on God's green earth, there is not a single adequate word processing application for android operating systems. In English, this means I cannot write my books on it. This is a deal breaker since I hope to become a rich and famous author, and unfortunately, one must write books to do that.

So, I got my new iPad (actually a refurb, but it looks new at a fraction of the cost) and spent several hours trying to figure it out. I found that the easiest way to figure hard things out is to have other people do it for me. So I called Apple Care. Apple Care is the phone support for all Apple products, and the employees are chosen by one of the most rigorous methods known to business. Prospective employees are dangled above 16 foot great white sharks and then must answer a mock customer call. The customer has an IQ of 10, and has never touched a computer before. In fact, the customer doesn't even know how to spell computer. The potential Apple Care employee is tested on how patiently and kindly he responds to every inane question the mock customer poses. If the shark is not very good at leaping, and the Apple Care potential employee remains considerate throughout the entire phone call, he moves on to step number two of the culling process.

In that phase of employee selection, the potential employee is put in a tub of boiling oil. Now a mock belligerent customer calls him, and berates him for being the biggest lunkhead on earth, and asks repeatedly why his iPad cannot fix dinner and then wash the dishes afterwards? If the potential employee is still patiently responding as though Mr. Belligerent was not the most obnoxious animal of the human race, then he is hired. Of course, this would only be if the skin grafts are successful.

So while I do see issues with the iPad, I will likely keep it just to talk to those nice young employees at Apple Care. They are unfailingly gentle, even when I ask the most ridiculously ignorant things. Not only did they talk me through the iPad set up for hours, but they even helped me fix some of the issues on my desktop computer. I asked one of them, "I hope you are a father, because you have the patience that is needed to raise children."
"I'm a grandfather of 8!" he said.
"Good for you!"

Then I had to call back because I had not yet managed to make any Apple Care employee run screaming and naked into the wilderness. The next young man helping me was even more patient than the grandfather.
"You must get extensive training in working with...well, people like me. I don't want to use the word 'ignorant' but...." (I fear I may have to in all honesty....)
"Oh, believe me," he said, "I have worked with alot of people and you are definitely not the bottom of the barrel."
My self esteem must be sorely in need of stroking considering the glow that comment put on me. I am not the bottom of the barrel!
"To tell you the truth," he said, "I don't mind stupid. My hackles go up with rude though."
I thought about my typical response to frustration with computers and with authorities trying to help me in this foreign language of informational technology. I am not only stupid, but am very loathe to admit, often rude.
However, because I had been praised as being not the bottom of the barrel, not even close, I spent 2 hours on the phone, and smiled, and laughed and endured enormous frustration pleasantly because someone believed I could.

The verse on my daily reading on my computer was from the book of Mark chapter 9. Jesus has just been greeted by a desperate father whose son is demon possessed. The father begs Jesus to exorcise the demon. Jesus answers the father with one of my favorite mottos to live by- " Everything is possible for one who believes."
"I do believe," exclaims the father,"Help my unbelief!"
With those words, Jesus works His miracle and saves the boy, and extracts the demon from his soul.

The Apple Care employee, as we entered our second hour of trying to figure out how to download 8,000 photos to my iPad told me, "Hang in there. We almost have it! Do you believe we can do this tonight?"
"I do believe," I cried, "Help my unbelief.

-Everything is possible with God

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cheap Grace

My one home treatment for BPPV, or vertigo, had been very effective, but there was still a lingering nausea. Just a teeny weeny bit. So I decided I needed a second treatment. After all, the literature said that I was to do the procedure 5 times in each set, three times a day till the symptoms were gone. I had only done it 3 times in one set, because it caused temporary increase in nausea and at heart, I am a wimp. But, feeling almost within grasp of total normalcy, I decided to risk the temporary discomfort for the permanent blessing that would ensue.

According to the literature, I had a choice of two treatment techniques. One was gentler, but not quite as effective. One was described as intense, but highly effective. I am an extremist, thus guess which one I chose? I followed the set requirements to the t this time. (What does it mean "to the T"? T is not the end...Z is. Why don't we follow it to the Z?) As it turns out, I didn't follow it to the Z. I could only get 4 sets in before I felt so violently nauseous that I decided to terminate treatment immediately and abandon ship. I struggled to the recliner where my worried husband found me and suggested I drink gatorade. He is a good man, and indeed Gatorade is highly desired when one's electrolyte balance is off. However, when one has just screwed up the semicircular canals in the vestibular system, there is no magic drink that will solve the issue.

 "I should've done the gentler treatment," I groaned. I then developed a splitting headache, and photophobia. I thought perhaps I had misdiagnosed myself and I had the flu or a brain tumor. I went on line and discovered that the technique I had used can set off migraines. Best to use the gentler technique called the Epley technique. Then I read how the technique is reversed depending on which ear the little errant crystal is bobbing around loose in the vestibular system. OOPs. I knew the errant ear was the left ear, but I had done the treatment on the right ear. You can tell which ear is the culprit as the dizziness is most severe when you lay on the bad ear side. So, I decided to go for broke. I took instructions for the Epley gentler maneuver and did it for the correct ear. This time, the nausea subsided, and today, I feel fine.

I thought about how similar all of life is to this little vignette, this snapshot of my day.  Life is often glorious, but none of us get through it without at times, extreme discomfort. We sometimes settle for quick fixes,  that don't really address the malady...or even make it worse! We look to the wrong cure to get out of the mess quickly, but we don't find the source of eternal health. At least I do. Friedrich Bonhoeffer called this tendency in the spiritual life, "cheap grace."  We want the blessing, but we don't want the sacrifice or work that comes with it.
Our worship becomes perfunctory, and as quick as possible so we can feel virtuous without putting in too much effort. Our prayers become rote. Our passion becomes lukewarm.

Guilty, I admit, shaking my head sadly.
Ooops, don't shake too hard or you will undo all that treatment to put the floating crystal back where it belongs.

2 Samuel 24:23-25

23 Your Majesty, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the LORD your God accept you.”
 24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
   So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekel of silver for them. 25 David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

Monday, January 16, 2012

One Easy Cure

     I noticed a vague dizziness washing over me while I was running errands.
     This could be hunger, I thought, though having polished off the Chinese take out leftoves, that is not likely.
     It could be the flu, but while Asherel is sick today, she doesn't have a fever and it looks like just a bad cold.
     It could be disgust with the human condition, the depravity and lack of respect of life that leads people to do despicable things leaving us sensitive souls mourning and crying out to God for justice and relief.
     But no, while I did feel this way after listening to some particularly heinous crimes on the radio, I often have that reaction to my fellow beings, and I am not always dizzy.
     Ohoh. I realized I might very well be having an episode of that unpronounceable disease that basically means, when translated from latin: Dizzy.
     When I got home, it was clear that the unpronounceable disease was the culprit. I ate dinner at 2:00 to rule out hunger. All that did was make me feel guilty, and stuffed, but still dizzy, with the added downer of no dinner to look forward to. I remembered that there was a simple procedure I had once found online which claimed to instantly cure 95 % of the dizzy people out there. But I could not remember the name of my malady to do an internet search. I sat swaying at the computer and typed in the search bar the two letters I remembered: BP.
    Praise God for my intelligent computer! It instantly read my mind and finished my thought. BPPV appeared on the screen- Benign Parosysmal Positional Vertigo. I clicked on the section titled: Treatment.

    There were four different treatment procedures. It was recommended that two of the four only be done in the safety of a doctor's office so the patient would have a professional to catch him when he keeled over. I chose the "home treatment" procedure. It looked simple enough. It said it was demanding but effective in 95% of the cases. The patient sits on the edge of a bed, lies down quickly to one side with the head upturned at approx. a 45 degree angle. The patient lies there while waves of intense dizziness wash over him for 30 seconds. Then he sits up for 30 seconds, unless of course, the intense dizziness has made him crash to the hard wood floor, since he didn't listen to the advice to do this in the safety of a doctor's office the first time, and at that point, treatment is discontinued til he returns from the hospital where a plastic surgeon has repaired the damage done to his face. If by some chance, the patient remains upright, he goes on to step 3. He quickly lies down to the other side, head at that same upturned position, again waits out 30 seconds of wanting to puke while the world spins, and then sits back up. This is repeated for 5 sets, or 10 minutes.
     I'm game! I printed the instructions and went to my bedroom where the floor is carpeted. I was only feeling a little dizzy, but when I did step two, I was feeling a lot dizzy, By step 4, I was ready to go be with Jesus in Heaven. However, I swallowed my nausea and did 5 sets...or maybe only 3 sets. I lost count because my eyes were rolling in my head and I was pretty sure I would not be filling out my application for Dancing with the Stars that evening.
     Now I was to sit upright for 2 days with my head no lower than 45 degrees to horizontal. Forget that, I thought, but I will try to remain upright for the next couple of hours. Within a few minutes, the dizziness was gone....completely gone. I am supposed to repeat this treatment twice a day every day until all symptoms are gone. Since one treatment did it, I may just call it quits while I am ahead.
     If only all life's problems were solved so quickly, so neatly! Poor Asherel was still sniffling with watery eyes and the glazed look of a suffering sickie. My wrists are still in braces after two solid weeks, and still not painfree as I am attempting home treatment to avoid carpal tunnel surgery. And very sadly, the poor body found behind the dumpster yesterday at Chickfila of a young, pregnant woman is not going to find a cure here on earth. Struggles and troubles are everpresent. Sometimes we are transported instantly from our afflictions, as in the BPPV treatment, but most of the time we share the sentiment of Jephthah, who cried out ,
“I and my people were engaged in a great struggle ..., and although I called, you didn’t save me out of their hands" (Judges 12:2). But Jephthah had called out to the wrong source. He had called out to supposed friends, who in the end, were of no use in saving him. He recognized his mistake and finished by calling out to God who alone could secure victory. The hardest part for we mortal humans is to understand that when we call out, the victory is sometimes not instant, and sometimes not apparent this side of Heaven. And we better be sure that the one we are calling out to is the One who can help us.
   "Well, Miss Smartypants, what kind of a victory is one you can't see or enjoy, or that is delayed til you are dead and gone? You have a funny definition of victory." The little creature that speaks to me when I get too full of myself was tapping on my head, then snapped her hands on her waist, waiting for my response.
     "I don't know. I just know that hope deferred doesn't mean hope denied. Maybe we don't know what we are really fighting for. Maybe we are victorious just by staying in the battle."
     "That is easy for you to say,  with one home treatment and you are good as new."
     "Yes," I admitted, "You are right about that."   

Psalm 20:
1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
   may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
   and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices
   and accept your burnt offerings.
4 May he give you the desire of your heart
   and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory
   and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
   May the LORD grant all your requests.
 6 Now this I know:
   The LORD gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
   with the victorious power of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
   but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

No Trifling Hardship in His Eyes

When my old friend from the Nursing home answered the phone, his speech was slurred and he sounded awful.
"Comer! How are you?"
"You don't sound so good!"
"No, it is the flu. The whole building is quarantined."
"So I guess our lunch outing is off this week? I am so sorry! Next week you will be better and we will go then."
"That would be good," he said, "I really need a milkshake with all the weight I have lost."
"Well I will call you at the end of the week and see how you are doing."
I got off the phone and hurried to get Asherel to her volunteer work at the horse farm. Driving home, I thought how happy it would make Comer for me to bring him and his dear wife Evelyn a milkshake. That is the favorite part of their outings with me. They suck down milkshakes as though cows were about to be extinct.

I pulled into the Chickfila that was on my way towards Comer's home. Giant news trucks were on every corner. Reporters were being filmed shivering in the cold, with a cordoned off  Chickfila behind them. Police vans and cars littered the parking lot, along with an ambulance. Crime scene tape completely encircled the building and adjoining lots.
"Hmmm," I thought, "Chickfila does not look open for business."
I rounded the corner to Wendys, bought the milkshakes, and asked, "What's going on at Chickfila?"
The two young men at the register exchanged glances, "It's closed for renovation."
Now I may be naive, but I know renovations do not require crime scene tape, policemen, ambulances. Nor do they merit on the spot news reporting.
"What else is going on at Chickfila?" I asked.
They laughed, "Well, we heard they found a dead body in the parking lot."
"Oh! Well that is not the wisest renovation strategy," I said.

I drove on with my milkshakes to Comer's nursing home. A huge sign was plastered on the door:
"Quarantined by order of Mecklenburg Health Administration. If you enter, please report to receptionist for decontamination information."
I gathered the milkshakes, and took a deep breath of fresh air. Then I barreled to the receptionist.
"These are for Comer and Evelyn," I said, trying not to breathe. Then I scurried out.

Death and disease. What a day, I thought. Good thing my Bible reading is in such an optimistic book. I had highlighted and read Chapter 9 of Nehemiah twice. In that wonderful chapter, Nehemiah is recounting all that God has done, and how His people mess up time after time after time. And yet, the wonder and joy of God is that He is a God of mercy, and time after time after time, He forgives. Even more remarkably, He restores.

"Did I wash my hands after leaving the Nursing home?" I thought. EEEEk! I raced to the faucet and scrubbed for 10 minutes. God will restore, but it is always best to do our part too....

Nehemiah 9: 29-33

 29 “You warned them in order to turn them back to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, of which you said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
 32 “Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Not the time for weeping

The boy glanced at me with a worried look on his face as he tossed the ball to Shadow, the black lab. My dogs love Shadow and whenever we pass his yard, they stop to have peeing contests with each other. I knew Shadow's owners had two small children, not a teenage boy. The boy looked kind, and vaguely familiar, but I knew he didn't own Shadow and wondered why he was in the fenced yard.
As soon as my dogs hurried over to greet Shadow, the boy blurted out, "I feel so sorry for him...he's always alone. I came over to play with him."
"That's very kind of you," I said, "I'm sure he appreciates it."
"I come over after school whenever I can. He seems lonely."
Shadow barked as the boy tossed the ball across the yard. The boy relaxed now that I was not going to report him to the police for climbing into a yard that was not his own.

We chatted a little longer and then I went on my way. I was filled with a joyful hope for the future. I thought of my emails back and forth with my dad. He is buying an electric car because he is convinced that we are about to lose access to gas and he is buying the cute little car "for survival." I suspect he just really wants the cute little car, and the survival tact makes the purchase fly with my mom, but the whole doom and gloom scenario had made me a little depressed. What kind of a world would my children be growing up into? It does sometimes look bleak.

There have always been bleak times. As I mentioned, I am in one of my favorite Bible books, Nehemiah, and before the Jews began rebuilding Jerusalem, they cried, "How can we build with all this rubble?" The walls were fallen, the buildings smashed, and before they could even begin to rebuild, they had to clear away the debris. Talk about hopeless! But Nehemiah was an optimist, and a leader, and a man who loved God. He not only oversaw the rebuilding of the city, but when it was all done, he set his people down and read to them from the dusty Book of the Law, the scriptures, that they had forgotten. The people wept because they had neglected God for so long. I love what Nehemiah told them- "Now is not the time for weeping! Now we have God's word again- it is a time for rejoicing, for moving forward, for hoping!" (PS- this is a paraphrase, but you should read Nehemiah and check it out. You cannot read that book and come away sad.)

I watched Shadow playing with that wonderful boy as we continued on our walk, and the worries about gas and my childrens' futures dissipated a little.
"Now is not the time for weeping," I thought, "We have God's word. Now is the time for rejoicing."

Nehemiah 8:10
Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength

Friday, January 13, 2012

Start Rebuilding

I am waiting for my wrists to heal. I can't work too long on the computer because it makes them hurt. Waiting to heal from any infirmity is not easy. Life goes on hold. What used to  be simple tasks, like unloading the dishwasher become unscalable walls. So I wear my double wrist braces and sometimes just sit, gazing into space. Most of what I do requires wrist movement, I have discovered.

I have a friend who is battling cancer. It has been a long process, and things are looking good right now, but it has not been easy. Today I noticed in her update about her radiation treatments, she closed asking if we would all pray for a friend of hers who has just been diagnosed with cancer. Here she is battling a horrific enemy, and she has the compassion and empathy to divert focus from herself to others who need help. That is a woman of God.

I am reading the book of Nehemiah right now. I love Nehemiah. He is someone who just ignores the enemy, keeps his focus on God, and keeps struggling through impossible odds. Nehemiah is not one of the well known heroes of the Bible, but he is one of my favorites. He was cupbearer to the King of Persia, during the exile of the Jews to Babylonia in the 5th century BC. He was in a position of influence and favoritism. But he was a Jew, and when he learned of the condition of his historic homeland, he asked the King's permission to return to Jerusalem, and rebuild the city and the crumbling walls surrounding it. The King grants permission. Nehemiah could have taxed the people to help with the repairs, or had special food and comfort for himself as an emissary of the King, but instead, he throws his lot in with his people and has no special favors for himself. He looks around at a ruined city, a devastated, ransacked, crumbling city and says, "Let us start building."

And then, the enemy comes while Nehemiah and his small ragtag remnant of Jews are rebuilding the walls. The enemy taunts them from just outside the wall; tries to undermine the people's faith in Nehemiah and his God. The enemy includes the armies of Samaria, and they threaten attack, urging the Jews to stop rebuilding, join the enemy, and leave this crazy leader asking help from a deity everyone knows will never rise out of their imagination to be of any true service. The people are weary, and poor, and the work seems impossible from the get go. The enemy is wearing them down. But Nehemiah then utters the rallying cry that I find myself calling out in my soul over and over when life bears down a little too violently:
The God of heaven will give us success.

The people rally, the wall is rebuilt, in an impossible 52 days. The Jews begin to trickle back to Jerusalem. The lagging faith of a beleaguered people is fanned into flame, and hope begins to rekindle in the hearts of the exiled Jews when they learn Jerusalem is rebuilt!

Meanwhile, I look at my braced wrists, and realize one thing I can do without my wrists. I can pray.

Nehemiah 2:20
I answered them by saying, "The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding,

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Middle C

On this day in 1928, one of the most beloved magnificent pianists of all time made his appearance in the United States. Contrary to what you may suspect based on my picture, it was not my son. It could have been, had he decided to pursue that career. I am convinced of this, as every mother is who knows greatness and obscurity for their progeny is only a matter of choice. But in this case, the pianist was Vladamir Horowitz. I have a very special place in my heart for Vladamir Horowitz, but not because of his piano playing. I love Horowitz because of his piano, and my son in the picture actually did touch greatness on the Horowitz piano.

My boy Anders was 5 years old, and quite precocious on the piano. He started lessons at age 4, and had already garnered interest in our community with his exceptional talent in music. I used to have to force him to stop practicing, and go outside and play.

One day, we went to his lesson, which was in a Steinway piano showroom, and the parking lot was mobbed. News trucks were there, and reporters were hauling gear out of them.
"What's going on?" I asked Jim, Anders' teacher.
"The Horowitz piano is here," he said.
"Is Horowitz here too?" I said, for even the musical neanderthal that I was, knew that Horowitz was an exceptional pianist.
"No," said Jim, "Horowitz is dead."
"Ah, that would make travel for him difficult....so what is his piano doing here without him?"
"The piano is perhaps the most famous Steinway of all time, and it is on tour."
"The piano is on tour...all by itself?"
"Over there," said Jim, leading us to the sparkling piano roped off in a corner. Then he dropped down on his knee in front of Anders and asked, "Would you like to play it?"
Anders looked at the huge, gleaming piano, and the crowds of people and reporters. He shrugged his shoulders.
"It is perhaps the greatest piano in the world," urged Jim.
"Ok," said Anders.

Jim took his hand and led him to the piano. A few reporters began taping as they saw the small boy being seated on the beautiful piano bench. Jim put a small stool under Anders' feet, which did not reach the floor.
Then Anders began to play. I don't remember any more what he played that momentous day. I wonder if he does. The newsmen rolled their tape while my little boy played the most famous piano of all time, whose keys had once been stroked by the most famous pianist of all time.
When he finished, the crowd clapped and Jim helped him off the seat.
"What did you think?" asked a reporter. We all looked at the little prodigy, anxious to hear his enthusiastic portrayal of this high honor that had been bestowed upon such a small child.
He paused, as he often does before speaking and a hush spread over the crowd. Finally, after much thought, he said, "The middle C is flat."

I sent a note to an art student yesterday and mentioned to her that I felt she had enormous talent, and I suggested she enter a certain contest. She wrote back that she values my critiques in art class, and knows I would never say something that wasn't true to her. She says she takes all my encouragements, and my criticisms to heart. That comment really struck me. One should never ever give false critique, I thought, good or bad.

And I thought of God. I often squirm in church . We have a very godly pastor, who is unashamed of the Gospel or of its often hard truths. I am often chastised in my soul for how little I truly follow and love the Creator of the Universe. I don't love feeling that way, conviction of sin is rarely fun....However, I am certain the Pastor speaks out of heartfelt sincerity, love, and truth. I don't like being told my middle C is flat, but I will never create the music in my soul it was meant to create if that key is out of tune.

Galatians 5:9
9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

Psalm 108: 1
1 My heart, O God, is steadfast;
   I will sing and make music with all my soul.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Square on the Grid

     Once again, rain has moved in over the mountains with malice aforethought. (We are studying the Civil War and so words Lincoln might have used are creeping in to my blog.) It is slowly disintegrating the snow base on the ski mountain, and the homeschool ski trip I organized for tomorrow is likely being buried in slush. Meanwhile, one of Asherel's good friends has been felled by the flu this week. And then my old friend, Comer, from the Nursing home called to tell me our outing for lunch had to be postponed. Not only was he sick with the flu, but his entire floor of residents has been quarantined. It is apparently a nasty bug with a policy of equal opportunity that preys on  victims indiscriminately: Young and old, rich or poor, wrinkled or smooth.
     I teach my art class today. I am doing a very basic knowledge class on overlaying the subject matter with a grid. Everyone in public school probably is taught to do that- I know I was. But I don't think I have ever taught my homeschoolers to do that. I thought to do it when I saw a spectacular portrait of my sister that her son had done...in lego blocks. He had taken a photograph and made a grid on it, and then used the grid to help him design his unbelievably accurate lego portrait. I hate to use the grid approach myself- it is tedious and mathematical. My brain doesn't easily wrap around either. However, it is highly effective in drawing exact reproductions, and there are times when one wants to do that.

But as I was contemplating the likely cancelled snow day due to rain, and the cancelled lunch outing due to flu, I thought how so often, we only see from the perspective of one square on the entire grid. From our portion of the whole picture, it might seem like the artist has an incomplete, or even faulty vision. It is sometimes nearly impossible to envision the whole from a tiny segment. It won't look like a masterpiece until every grid is filled to be the best segment of the whole that it can be.
 As I was wading through lists of kings, and geneologies in the book of 1 and 2Chronicles in the Bible, I could not help my eyes glazing and my interest lagging. But for some reason, each name is in there for a purpose, one I am not always privy to. Each seemingly insignificant unpronounceable name is there because it represents a person who had value and purpose and was one more square on the grid.

I am a square on the grid! The whole picture is not up to me! I only need to be the best square I can be, and I am pretty sure my kids would attest that I am as square as squares come. And today one square is raining, and another square is filled with flu germs. So my square will today be spraying lysol all along its perimeter.

Luke 11: 36
36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

Ephesians 4:16:
16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.