Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fluting Around

For Christmas I bought myself a flute. The reason for this extravagance (it was a $90 flute off of eBay) was two fold. One, I was inspired by my niece who just started learning how to play flute, and ,two, I had offered to teach beginning band at my co-op and needed to do a little brushing up on something.

I played oboe,in addition to the piano, for many years. In fact, I probably would've pursued oboe instead of piano if it wasn't for those *#$&%^ reeds. Any double-reed player reading this really commiserates with that last sentence. Any other people reading this just probably think this is a really geeky paragraph. However, it's true. Reeds are the bane of an oboists existence, and being left-handed, it was even harder for me to learn (all my teachers were right handed). So, once I left my great oboe teacher in north eastern Ohio, I said good bye to the oboe.

I think I picked the flute because it has similar fingerings to the oboe, but mostly because I'm a cheapskate and the flute doesn't require me to purchase any reeds at all! That must save me at least $10 bucks a month!

So, I try to practice everyday, and have been making decent progress. In addition to my oboe experience, I also took all the instrument method courses necessary to graduate with a music education degree... some of that has come back. There is also a plethora of material on the web that has helped immensely, since it's all free.

Each evening I take my laptop and set it on the top of my piano. Then I get out my flute and the music I printed out. I sit at the piano and practice, occasionally glancing up to the laptop for assistance. I use the fingering charts I find on line and I work through a piece. This all seems very normal --the part where this gets weird is my daughters.

As soon as I get the flute out, my two youngest daughters come racing into the room. You might think that they do this because they love flute music, and don't want to miss a second of sitting at my feet as I play through Irish jigs, "Amazing Grace" and "Bist Du Bei Mir". That's not the case. They come racing into the room to be the first one there to grab one of two things: the cloth used to clean the flute when I'm finished practicing, or the stick used to shove the cloth through the flute.

Somehow they have developed some sort of transient value between the two items. It's transient because the value changes each day. s Which ever daughter gets in first gets the best one. It doesn't matter which item she grabs because it's value lies in the fact that she got it first. I'm sure there's some kind of great market principal in that.

As I sit there playing (or "tooting" as my youngest daughter calls it -- I'm sure that word choice has no reflection on my actual tone production), a brawl breaks out behind me.

"I want the cloth!"

"No, I had it first!"

"Mom! ***** isn't sharing." (Note: my 3-year-old always says someone's not sharing when they won't give her what she wants).

This continues until I take both items away. Then they beg me to give them back, because they claim they want to help me. The rest of the practice time is spent with one daughter on my right and one on my left, each holding one of the items just-in-case I need it. I feel like a Queen with her royal cup bearer and wine taster, except I have a royal stick holder and a royal cloth holder. They stay in position until I've finished practicing and their great moment of "help" occurs. One hands me the stick, and the other hands me the cloth.

They are so completely satisfied.

Just playing on my own wasn't enough to keep me dedicated, so I decided to join a community band. This is great for me, but probably not-so-great for the band. However, the band is at a local Christian University and the person running it is far too nice to boot me out. Although I'm really practicing my music so that I don't have to test that theory! My first practice was this past Monday, and started off by me almost clobbering the flutist sitting next to me. Having only played oboe in a band, I forgot that the flute goes out to the side and flutists need to make allowances for the person sitting on their right. That's one I won't forget soon.

So, now I'm worried that I won't get the music learned, and I think I might have a few too many hobbies. If I don't post as much on my blog, it's probably because I'm tooting.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Through the Roof

Today I am thinking, once again, about disabilities. What brought this to mind is that I'm reading through the Gospel of Matthew, and I just today read through the story of the paralytic that was healed by Jesus. The version rendered in Matthew is rather vague, so I moved onto the version of the story as told in Luke.

The story goes that there was a man who was unable to walk. His friends decide that his best chance for life was to take him to Jesus. Interestingly enough, the Bible doesn't say that the friends were looking for Jesus to heal him. They probably were, especially as the scripture refers to Jesus and says that "the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick." But still, the text never, at least in English, specifies that.

They can't get their friend to Jesus because of all the crowds surrounding, so they climb up to the roof of the house, cut a hole in the roof, and then lower their friend down to Jesus. While I find this part especially neat, I must say that all the numerous, and also near-disastrous, home improvement projects I've been involved with causes me to be somewhat sympathetic to the home owner. Perhaps Jesus fixed the roof for him and the Bible just doesn't mention it (since he just fixed the roof like a carpenter rather than as an omnipotent God).

So, the men lower their friend to Jesus. Jesus sees the paralytic lying there and then does something that no reader of the story would expect. He forgives the guy's sins.

Now, I know what some of you reading this are thinking. You're thinking, "What kind of sins can a paralytic possibly commit? He's just lying there."

Well, from my experiences with my girls I can tell you: he has many options. Our oldest daughter was, essentially, a paralytic when she was in a body cast. She couldn't move from the chest down, and then had only 1 arm to work with up top. It was pretty restrictive. She couldn't even sit up. But, I can tell you now that she was still able to: lie, smart mouth, be prideful, steal (or at least temporarily steal something by hiding it), and dishonor her parents. And that is without any knowledge of what went on in her head! The real problem, then, is not how to sin, but what to do as a parent. I couldn't exactly put her in time out --- she was already in an involuntary 6 week time out while in the cast! But, suffice it to say that sin is definitely possible in any phase of life.

Years ago, when I first read this story (long before any real understanding of disabilities), I used to secretly question how Jesus could just look past what so obviously needed healing on this man. I didn't doubt that Jesus was compassionate, I just doubted His ability to understand what earthly life would be like when you didn't have supreme powers. Now, perhaps, I have a bit more understanding than I did then.


First of all, I think we (especially those who have no experience with disabilities) who don't have a physical disability come at the healings with some serious presuppositions, the largest of which is that, of course, these people would be bringing their friend for his physical healing. And, yet, as I mentioned before, this is never overtly stated in the text. We presume that the most important part of the story is the physical healing, because, we presume that any person with a disability would desire healing more than anything. From the start of the story, in fact, Jesus had a different view of what needed healed.

I also think of this in connection with the time that Jesus healed the man in the pool at Bethesda. Before healing the man, Jesus posed the question, "Do you want to get well?"

I've heard teaching about this passage where the speaker points out that Jesus asks this question possibly because he wanted to see if this man really wanted healed. I think there is probably some legitimacy to that interpretation -- the paralytic probably did have some attitude issues or something of the like. However, perhaps Jesus asked this question because He understood the greater truth that life isn't over just because you have a disability. That understanding came through in the question to the man at the pool, and it comes to light here. Jesus went straight to the real issue, the sin, because He knew what could be redeemed from a life with a disability. The disability didn't have to be removed in order for the man to live as a son of God. His life could still have purpose, and his eternal reward would stay the same.

So, He healed what really needed healed.

Now, some of you reading this probably didn't think about how a paralytic could sin, or that Jesus was missing the point of how the guy needed his legs healed. You were thinking the same thing as the pharisees, which essentially was: Who is this guy that he thinks he can forgive sins?

Now, I've often found this to be one of the neatest part of the story. Jesus answers the Pharisee's thoughts! In Luke 5:22, he says,

"Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? "

Then Jesus goes on to heal the man, just to show evidence of his authority to forgive sins.

It strikes me that the stories of the healings have much more depth than we realize. I've read that these healings were just some of the miracles he performed, so obviously there must be a reason that these particular ones were recorded. Perhaps it was the nuggets of truth surrounding the healings that Jesus was more concerned about.

Was the man's life radically changed by his healing? Of course. It would be silly to think otherwise. It was a tremendous gift to be healed. However, in the end, the guy faced the same aging process and the same grave that every other person in the history of the world faces. At best a healing of physical nature is a temporary fix.

However, Jesus fixed the real problem.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Me and My Buddy, James, part 2

On to chapter 2.

One thing that's really bothering me about this book is that he has a tendency to quote scripture to support something, but then not fully explain how scripture supports what he's saying. Chapter 2 (Render unto Caesar) is an excellent example.

The story of Jesus telling the pharisees to "render unto Caesar only what is Caesar, and to God the things that are God's" is actually one of my favorite Jesus stories. I also like the one where he calls the pharisees a "brood of vipers". I just can't come up with stuff this good! I mean if one of the leaders of the Moral Majority came up to me and said, "Tell me, wise teacher, do you think it's lawful to pay taxes when our government is involved in so many immoral things?"

Aside -- I realize this will never happen. First of all, people don't ask those kinds of questions when they already have all the answers, and secondly, they'd never ask a woman! But just stick with me here.

"Tell, me, wise teacher, do you think its lawful to pay taxes when our government is involved in so many immoral things?"

"Well,"... I stammer a response, "Ooohhh, we might have a reason not to pay taxes! goodie."

So, I just get amazed when Jesus comes up with such a great answer. I've also always liked the response because it's given me peace of mind that I can pay taxes and not be sidetracked with concern over what the government is doing. Keep a clear mind of what is God's and pay the appropriate respect and obedience to the governing authorities.

Kennedy is extending this passage to mean that, in this day of democratic government, rendering unto to Caesar includes political participation. There, I would question the argument, but for the sake of reading the book, I'll allow that it could pertain. Let's just say I think he's on shaky ground.

Now, he goes on to talk about "imposing morality" on our culture. And, in truth, I agree with him there. I agree that the Judeo-Christian ethic should be pushed on our culture. I don't want to live in a culture where thievery is accepted (I've dealt with governments like that, and I've seen, first hand, the effects on the people), sexual morality is abandoned and the people are constantly struggling to survive. However, I also have read about and seen cultures where morality is pushed to a point beyond legalism. Do we really want to just push our morality on a culture and force them all to comply? Do we really want to be little Talibans?

In the end, God gives us a choice, and there is a certain amount of grace and respect that I think we need to extend to our fellow citizens. For instance, when I argue the point of abortion with a person who is pro-choice, I don't pull out my Bible and start to lecture. Why would I do that when we've already lost the culture war, and the Bible has no meaning to them? I argue it on these points:
1) We are all better off when we protect the most innocent life --be it unborn, old or disabled. It's better for humanity in general if we preserve the least common denominator because humanity is better off when we are compassionate.

2) Medical evidence shows the existence of life from conception. As the evidence grows for this, do we want to believe we haven't protected life when we should have?

3) We are not in a position to determine if a life is worth living or not. There are three people who are living in my home, living a better and more full life than a majority of the world, who had been written off as not worthy by many many people. Where do we presume to devise the criteria for whose life is worth living?

Of course, I also support birth mothers, adoption and the foster system, as well as trying to provide support and assistance for teen mothers in any way I am able.

What I don't do is take out my Bible and systematically apply scripture to the cause. Of course the scripture shapes the morality, but I'm smart enough to realize that that isn't going to fly in our culture anymore! Thankfully, scripture reveals truth, and so we can use the truth that scripture reveals to shape our arguments.

Anyways, he goes on to the "Goal of the Founding Fathers." Eee gads.

I could write an entire book on my thoughts about the founding fathers, the constitution and the birth of our nation. How in the world did we get where we are today unless there were some problems from the start??? I'll spare you the ramblings, if you've been nice enough to read this far. However, I have to crack up at the point he makes about something the Arthur DeMoss Foundation (which has been involved in some really good things) said in a newspaper many years ago, "Religion's influence on public policy has had a long and distinguished history. Over the past 200 years religion has been a stabilizing force in this country. Suddenly Americans are being told that religion and morality were never meant to influence politics. To believe this would require a disregard for our history...even the desertion of the principles of our forefathers."

So, religion did play a big part in the founding? Was it Jefferson's disbelief in miracles and the divinity of Jesus? Was it Franklin's interest in marketing Christianity while not believing in it? Was it in the form of the freemasons? Think rationally James! The actual Constitution of the United States tell us that we have the right to the "pursuit of happiness" -- that's GODLY?

But, in addition to that religion did get used to justify taking of land from the natives, slavery and even, hundreds of years later, segregation. Of course, you can also site Islam, Mormonism, Taoist, and even Hari Krishna as religions that have influenced our government.... is this all good?

Another thing that befuddles me is his insistence on quoting dead supreme court judges and politicians, like what they thought about this topic is pertinent in any truly apparent way. Just because they sat on the bench sure doesn't mean I need to heed what they said! You're going to have to do a little better than that to convince me.

He ends the chapter by stating the we should always vote for Christians. Sure. And we know they are Christians by... their words? Because someone is a pastor? Because they drive a minivan and wear clothes from J.C. Penny? Hasn't he realized that they all say they are Christians, and that some even say they have the same values as us?

In addition to that, even if they are Christian, that doesn't mean they're competent or able to lead a nation or run a state.

We've got to go beyond this somehow because we really can't trust any of them.

Deb Takes on Beer.

Here's a pretty funny video...with some fairly legitimate points.

Friday, January 25, 2008

How Would Jesus Vote? Believe it or Not, Someone Actually Knows!

Always looking for blog fodder for me, my husband brought home a book written by the late D.James Kennedy, PhD. The book, co-authored with Jerry Newcombe, is entitled: How Would Jesus Vote? A Christian Perspective on the Issues.

This book deserves a look, not because there appears to be anything of true merit in it, but because it does provide a look into how the leaders of the "Christian Right" think. It saddens me, as I read this book, to realize how these men have bought into their own form of politics, as well as their inability to see right from rhetoric, despite their many years of education. They're as confused as the "Christian Left", but much more outspoken, and, for some insane reason, they're believed by many more Christians. Some critical analysis, though, shows just how off-center their thinking is.

The first thing Kennedy laid out in the book is his assertion that politics and the Bible really do mix. In fact, his first chapter is entitled, "Do Jesus and Politics Mix?". The chapter is expounded upon nothing except his own opinion. He throws in a couple examples, the "Christian branch" of the Nazi party for one -- which to me seems to implicate the Christian Right more than anything -- and generalizations about Christians who he claims say we "should look only at what Jesus said as opposed to the whole Bible". Of course, he goes directly to the extreme, and I know few Christians that believe we should only look at what Jesus said as opposed to the whole Bible. I do know many Christians, myself included, who believe that the direct words and actions of Jesus should be taken with more thought and study than the entire Bible. I mean, when God comes to earth in the form of a person, it seems to me that you have direct access to the mind of God and should take advantage of that! Not that the rest of the Bible isn't important, but I have to wonder about a pastor who appears to not understand the direct authority and importance of Jesus Christ and his teachings.

In the same chapter he provides two Biblical examples of Jesus stating that politics and Christianity mix. Those two examples are: "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars and to God the things that are God's" and that we are called to be "salt and light". Then he goes on to... not explain how these verses (which "salt and light" aren't even specific verses!) imply political involvement on the part of Christians today. He does delve deeper into that in the second chapter, but still offers no explanation (but whole lot of rhetoric!).


He finishes the chapter claiming that he's not looking for a theocracy and that it is the call of Christians to make this world a better place. While I do agree with him that it is the call of Christians to make the world a better place, I don't agree that we do so by trying to defend the immoral history of our country or by pretending that we can do so by forcing people to accept Christian moral law. Whether he wants to admit it or not, he is looking for a theocracy, just simply a thinly veiled one. In fact, in chapter 2, he talks about how the government should "encourage" the church. I don't want the government doing anything with the church or my Christianity. It is that nature of government and bureaucracy to grow! What starts as "encouragement" quickly grows to "involvement" and then moves onto "control."


Before moving on in this book, though, I have to state what I think appropriate Christian involvement in politics is. Unlike Dr. Kennedy and Mr. Newcombe, I don't believe I have the final answers and I don't believe that I really know how Jesus would vote. But, I do believe I have some idea on how a Christian can approach this topic without becoming caught up in political rhetoric, or dragging the name of Jesus Christ through the mud and into the mess.

I do believe that God cares that we vote. I do believe that we have been given a tremendous blessing and realized an inherent right to run our own government. It is wrong to not take part in the political process of our nation. So, then the question is how do we do that?

On the voting end that can be difficult. First of all, Christians have a natural tendency (and God-given responsibility) to protect life. I believe that when I finally get to the chapter on Life Issues, I will be in almost complete and total agreement with Dr. Kennedy and Mr. Newcombe. But, we also have a responsibility to look beyond just the abortion and stem cell issue and look at how a candidate views all aspects of life. For instance, is the candidate going to further screw-up things in the middle east and throw away the lives of thousands of more U.S. troops and Iraqi citizens while professing to be pro-life here at home, and yet not moving any legislation to change abortion laws? Is the life of a yet-to-be born U.S. baby more valuable than an Iraqi child or father?

I'm not saying that one is more important than the other, but I am saying that making a decision on a candidate has to go past valuing just the life of an unborn child. I am unequivocally opposed to abortion, and yet 8 years of a "pro life" president has not changed much on the abortion scene in the U.S. , and for someone who is "pro-life" he sure jumped into war awfully quickly. We have to think beyond the issues that the "Christian Right" are always throwing in our face. It's interesting to note, too, that if you go back to the founding of the "Christian Right" that at its inception, it was not a pro life organization. See the book Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelicals Lament by Randall Balmer. While I don't agree with everything Balmer puts forth in the book, his history of the Religious Right is extremely interesting.

I also think that God does want to preserve marriage, protect the innocent and keep our children safe from predators. All these things are important to vote on. They are not issues for us to use to bash our opponents with, exaggerate the facts about or slam the Bible on non-believers with. There's enough evidence to argue with that we don't need to shove the Bible down anybody's throat in order to present an argument for or against any legislation.

As people who shape policy, I think we need to change gears.

First of all, I think that it is completely wrong for the church to be politically active. I especially think it is out of line for pastors, ministers or any other professional staff to take on politics. Yes, individual church members can be called by God to political action. But, no, the church shouldn't be political. I'll get more into that when I discuss chapter 2 from this book.

Once I read, perhaps in Christianity Today, about the start of the pro life movement. The original founders were, indeed, Christians. But when they first began the public battle about abortion, they fought it on medical and ethical grounds. Yes, their faith shaped how they viewed abortion, and yes, the Bible teaches that abortion is wrong. But they didn't use their faith and the Bible to fight a fight that wasn't in a religious venue. They used logic and medical facts. They started to get somewhere with the struggle and then the Religious Right joined. They injected faith, the Bible and God. We're they more godly than the original pro-lifers? I would argue that they were less Godly (mostly because of their views on race). Certainly they were less logical (or wanting to incite emotion in a large group of people...), because they changed the argument and made it one that couldn't be settled unless everyone in the nation agree with the Bible.

So, maybe these politicians who are trying to shape policy need to keep that in mind. Honestly, I saw a picture of Huckabee standing next to his touring bus the other day. On the bus is painted, "Faith, Family" and something else. The thing that struck me, again, is that he's playing the "faith card". Is he trying to say that none of the other candidates , like Ron Paul or Barack Obama have faith? Even if he is the only Christian running, then don't we still have to ask questions like: Is he able to handle international relations? Does he understand the complexities of the war in the middle east? Does he have the education and training to handle those issues on an international level?

What we shouldn't be doing is simply voting for someone because some lobbying group says that they should be voted for, and we shouldn't be voting for one specific issue (like voting for Huckabee simply because he supports home schooling -- I doubt that we'd be homeschooling if the Taliban takes over the country because we don't have good foreign policy!). God expects us to critically think, pray, and follow the convictions that he places in our hearts.

And, because we all think differently, we aren't all going to vote the same way!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Let Me Take A Moment to Brag, part 1


Here is my official time to brag about my children's artistic endeavours. These pictures were drawn by my 11-year-old son. This first picture was his first attempt a shading and dimension. He was 9 when he drew it.













This one was drawn about 5 or 6 months ago....


This one was drawn last night!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Coulrophobia



When we adopted our middle daughter her medical file was riddled with horrible sounding conditions, but with all the diagnosis attached, there was one missing: coulrophobia.

We first encountered this condition when she was undergoing her first of six hand surgeries at Shriner's Hospital back when she was only 3 years old. This particular hospital has an enormous rec room for the children, filled with not only toys, but basketball hoops, Foosball, air hockey, books, movies, video games and craft supplies. She especially enjoyed Thursday afternoon bingo, where she was often a big winner.

However, as we played in the room one afternoon, she suddenly stopped her play and walked up to a portrait hanging on the wall. The portrait was entitled "The Magnificent Koko." It was a portrait of a clown.

"He's ugly," she stated, her eyes wide with horror, "so ugly."

"Don't you think he's funny?" I asked, a bit suspicous about "funny" when, in truth, a portrait of a man with a painted face, red nose, and rainbow hair, staring gently at a flower, was a bit creepy. "He's a clown."

"I don't like clowns."

Now, this can be a problem when you're a kid in the hospital. Somewhere in humanity's history, someone, perhaps a clown marketer, came up with the idea that children love clowns. This particular hospital had these portraits all over the place -- Koko looking at a flower, Bonzo holding a poodle, Buttercup wiping a tear, and, of course, Puddles with his umbrella. As we walked the hospital after her surgery (pulling her in a wagon), we'd stop by various pictures and ask her opinion.

"What about this Minnie Mouse?"

"She's cute!"

"Mike from "Monsters,Inc"?"

"I like him!"

"Puddles the clown?"

"Hate him."

"Bozo?"

"Hate him."

Several weeks later, we visited the hospital again, for a check up. The nurse informed us that it was our lucky day. A troop of Shriners were making their yearly visit from Tennessee, all of them dressed as clowns. We scurried through the rest of our appointments, hoping to leave before the onslot.

Unfortunately, just as we were headed out, our daughter toddling ahead of us, in they streamed. She stopped in horror as not 1, but 25 clowns came waltzing (literally) into the rec room. She was the only child in there, so they all made a beeline (literally) for her.

"Hi there little girl," the fastest of the creatures bellowed down to her, his booming voice not in the least matching his painted face (and the stubble from his beard poking through the makeup!) "Want me to make you a balloon animal?"

"AAAAAHHHHHH!" She screamed in terror and headed toward me, informing me that we needed to sneak out the building -- immediately.

Needless to say, we don't often visit the circus.


Well, recently, we've learned that she's not the only one. Coulrophobia is quite common, in fact, so common it actually has a name! A recent study done by the University of Sheffield has confirmed what my daughter has always believed. 250 children were interviewed about clowns, and all of them (all of them!) hate clowns, and expressed a fear of them. Apparently, clowns are not the tactic to take when trying to comfort a sick child!

Not too long ago, though, my daughter shared her thoughts about clowns with me. We were walking at the park, and I found her insights very touching...

"Mom," she said, showing all her 5 years of wisdom, "I've been thinking. I think that a clown is just a person in a costume with lots of make up."

"Of course he is, honey." I replied, "Did you think he was some kind of different species or something."

"Of course I did. How can that be human?"

"Well, now that you know it's just a person, are you still scared?"

"Yes. Aren't you?"

Maybe I should be.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Proverbs 31 -- You Knew I'd Get To It Some Day

Several weeks ago, a well meaning blog reader of mine told me that I have been too influenced by the world. When I finished laughing about that (consider the fact that I home school my kids, don't drink, don't smoke, don't have cable television, and the only secular radio I listen to is classical wguc 90.9), I had to consider what she said. I'm sure, in part, she was right. I am really influenced by the world. I can't avoid that, but I, like her, am influenced by far more than just the obvious "sins" of the world.

She saw my obvious devotion to the world in the fact that I see Vision Forum as more like a cult than a ministry of Jesus Christ. I see the confusion in understanding just what the "world" is. Is the world the list of sins that our cultural forefathers decided were the worst sins in the world? Or is "the world" any thinking that deviates from the mind of God?

Of course, it's impossible to know the mind of God, so trying to understand Him and his intent is much more difficult than telling people to follow a formulaic set of rules for your life. It's messy and people can easily mess that up. Of course, on the flip side, you see women following "the rules" and then they end up going nuts and drowning their children or something equally grim and horrible. That's pretty messy too. However, if you are in a tight enough church then you can suppress that kind of stuff and it only leaks out every once in a while (in things like finding out your pastor has been visiting male prostitutes for the past 15 years -- incidentally, I was in Ukraine when that story broke. I wondered if I could find a t-shirt that said something like "Yes, I'm an American, and yes, I'm a Christian, but no, I have nothing to do with that guy you've been reading about." Talk about embarrassing on an international level.).

So all of this takes me back to the original thought behind this post, which is Proverbs 31. I think that Proverbs 31 is a passage that has been so taken out of context, and then exalted to a bizarre position of authority and insight.

The first thing I think is interesting is how people choose to interpret scripture the same way they choose to use statistics. The tendency is to make it fit the preconceived notion that you already have. If I'm brutally honest with myself, I approach scripture in the same way. It is very rarely that I actually approach the Bible with a heart that desires to change. Way deep in my motivation, that's there, but my flesh is generally looking for a way to justify my line of thinking because that's just much nicer for me.

So, if I want to be honest in my understanding of Proverbs, I have to first ask myself what the purpose of Proverbs is. I don't think that Proverbs is hard core theology that should be taken literally. If it is, then there have been many nights that my husband should've set up camp on the roof. I also don't think that Proverbs is a book of promises. If you think think it's a book of promises, then how can you explain the number of people who have been "raised in the way that they should go," and then departed from it? Or people who have been wise stewards of their money and then lost everything from someone else's dishonesty? Proverbs is a book of wise sayings, insight into God's wisdom.

Yet, so many Christians have taken Proverbs 31 and taken its literal words with the same authority that Jesus spoke! That makes no sense to me, because to do so would mean having to take everything in the Old Testament as a literal promise or order, and I don't know too many people following all the Levitical laws.

So, then you have women who, literally, define themselves by Proverbs 31. There are even entire ministries that base themselves on it! But, the thing that I find so befuddling is that I can't find any place in the Bible where it says that Proverbs 31 (or any other isolated verse for that matter) is the only scripture to define all of how a women serves the Lord. However, historically, this culture has had one role for women (as a wife), so people interpret it in that light. In other words, Proverbs31 is the defining verse for being a woman.

What you end up with, then, is quite a conundrum.

First of all, if this is what a woman should be and what we should raise our daughters to be, then what do we do with the women who don't marry? What should define them? What about a woman who doesn't marry until she's 45? What about a widow? What about a childless couple?

Next, if we ignore all the problems with believing that a woman should strive to be a Proverbs31 woman, then what does that mean? The Proverbs 31 woman worked. So, should all women work? But I thought that all women should be home makers? Maybe it means a woman should only run a business from her home. Well, what if she doesn't have the skills or talents to do that, but is a great physical therapist or surgeon? Some people, like my blog reader, think that woman should only help out sometimes with the family business. So, where is the line drawn?


I have to wonder if it ever occurs to people that maybe Proverbs 31 is just simply defining what a really neat wife is. Since it's doubtful Solomon wrote it (although with his 300-plus wives, he seems to have been looking for his perfect match), it logical to think that whoever did was simply showing praise for the wife he admired. She certainly does seem to be someone to look up to, aim for as a goal, but not define yourself by.

I take my role as wife and mother quite seriously. Obviously, I do, as the time I have given over to those roles far exceeds anything I've ever given. However, I choose to define myself as a servant of Christ in whom, according to Paul, there is no male or female, gentile or greek.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Karen McCarron

As I write this blog today, my five year old daughter is quietly sitting on the floor sewing pretend dresses onto a wooden bear. Her work is occasionally interrupted by some whispered singing and pretend conversation between the bear and his "little pet lizard" sitting next to her. Her missing fingers and arm bones never even cross her mind, or mine for that matter. It's all peaceful, and I just can't understand how it can be any different. Yet, for many parents it is.

Several days ago a friend forwarded me an email that was disquieting to me in a way that probably no one else noticed. The family was begging for help from anyone who could advise them. Their daughter had been born with the same leg condition as our oldest daughter (although not as severe as what we deal with), and their insurance had denied their claim for a surgical fix. The insurance problem aside, what stood out to me as a problem was the perspective of the parents. For some reason, they were sure that their daughter's life was over if she didn't have this problem "fixed". Her only hope in life was to be made "normal", as though having something physically different or out-of-whack would mean that life had no value. Where did this idea come from? Who told them this lie in such a believable way?

And yet, today, I saw the same idea again. Karen McCarron "fixed" her autistic 3-year-old daughter, Katie, by suffocating her to death in a plastic bag. By taking her life, McCarron stated that she was sending her daughter to heaven in order for her to finally be complete and whole. Obviously she didn't understand that none of us here on earth are complete and whole, but all of us have a purpose here. The defense argued that she was depressed and insane at the time of the murder. I would argue that this former doctor had become so caught up in what could be done to 'remedy' her daughter that she never took the time to find the eternal qualities there that reflected the glory of God. That's enough to depress anybody (although few would take it to the extreme she has).

Then, not much later, I received a letter from a friend of mine overseas. Our family had been praying for a boy in an orphanage there, and she wrote about him in the letter. We had prayed for a family to adopt him, and the story turned out to be that his birth family came for him. What was sad, though, was that he was ever separated from them in the first place.

This little boy was born missing his fingers, and fairly severely near sighted. For some reason, his birth parents thought he was dead. I can only assume that the doctors at his birth predicted such a grim future that they never believed he would live, and they turned him over to the state, believing they were unable to handle his medical issues.

However, as the lawyer for his orphanage began to work on his paperwork to free him for adoption, they made one last contact with his birth family. They were shocked to learn that he was alive and well, and came to see him. Now he is a happy healthy kindergartner whose disabilities are but a little bump in the road.

Then I think about my beautiful daughter who's quietly playing next to me. She was tagged with so many problems: heart problems, hand problems, developmental problems, depression (even though she was an infant!). Now she's a happy, healthy and silly 5 year old girl.

So, I ask myself again, how does this happen? How does a being that was made in the image of God, a being that reflects his eternal goodness , come to be seen as something so bleak? The only answer I can come up with is that too many people have listened to the Father of Lies. Satan can whisper the negative and we believe it so readily, and so quickly.

To quote Helen Keller, "It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision."

I've begun to believe that humanity no longer has a vision.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet



One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar. ~~ Helen Keller

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Perhaps I Was a Bit Harsh....

Okay, perhaps I was a bit harsh earlier today. I was very frustrated by the ignorance of some people, mainly the "experts." Considering that I have committed myself to Jesus and his teachings, then I have to accept all that "lovin' and forgivin' " stuff. So, I won't make any more dumb jock jokes, or blond jokes. I can't make any promises on the Hillary Clinton, tax collector or lawyer jokes, though. I may be a Christian, but I'm a Christian because I'm not perfect. I'll do my best.

In the end, I don't care what any scientists say. Having 2 cheetah legs is not going to put someone at an advantage over the other runners. I have yet to see anything in orthopedics or prosthetics that works as well as the human body in its peak form. To say that anything surpasses it just gives medicine much more credit than is deserved.

Maybe we should just amputate the feet of the other runners, then everything would be fair.

Dumb Jocks! (A Blog Title Sure to Make My Husband Very Nervous)

I can't say that I don't like to make dumb jock jokes, because, well, I do. But this goes beyond dumb jocks, and since my daughter is definitely athletic material (albeit intelligent athletic material) my number of "dumb jock" jokes has significantly decreased in the past few years. They certainly number less than my blond jokes.

However there is a reason that my husband often watches football with the volume turned down, and that reason isn't just my constant commenting on what the football commentators are saying, although that would be reason enough for most people. It's what they're saying that causes him to keep the volume off.

"Tell me," says the wise, thoughtful sportscaster, "How do you feel about losing today? Especially that play in the last quarter?"

Okay, what, exactly does the sportscaster think he's going to say?

"It felt greeeaaaat to lose!"

"I especially enjoyed the moment when I fumbled the ball and tripped and fell in front of millions of viewers!"

Stupid stupid stupid, yes, it's stupid. One Sunday afternoon could provide me with a weeks worth of blog fodder! But stupidity from the football field isn't even the tip of the dumb jock iceberg. In fact, an international board of athletes is saying the most absurd thing I've ever heard -- even further out there than this:




The International Association of Athletics Federations has barred a double amputee runner from competing in the Olympics in Beijing because his running legs are "technical aids" that give him a "clear advantage."

Oscar Pistorius runs on what are called "Cheetah legs", legs that are specifically designed for racing. However, according to the geniuses of the IAAF, these legs don't just replace his missing lower legs, ankles and feet -- they give him super power! Apparently they have never heard of the concept of a level playing field.

Of course, their defense raises a natural question.

If, as they state, the cheetah legs perform so well, then why is Pistorius the only double amputee who is potentially contending for Olympics? Wouldn't we see droves of amputee athletes routinely defeating their able body counterparts?

Stupid stupid stupid!

The real issue, of course, is that there is a group of athletes that don't want to be beaten by a guy with no legs.

Here's a good dumb jock joke.

"What's more embarrassing than being beaten in a race against a man with no legs?"

"I don't know, Deb, what is more embarrassing than being beaten in a race against a man with no legs?"

"Realizing that you were one of the morons who said he couldn't compete in the first place!"

Monday, January 14, 2008

Just to Clarify

Just to make sure we're all on the same page...

I was being facetious about the dating website. I'm not really recommending it. I'm making fun of it.

DNA -- How Romantic!

For all my single readers out there, I wanted to alert you to a great new dating website! Scientific Match offers single people a whole new approach to dating. The promise the website makes is immense.

"Welcome to a new era of human relationships. We're the only introduction service that creates matches with actual physical chemistry. Our patent-pending technology uses your DNA to find others with a natural body fragrance you'll love, with whom you'd have healthier children, a more satisfying sex life, and more*. Our personal-values-analysis provides a deep spiritual bond, to complete your path to truly amazing relationships."


Given all that's listed at the beginning of the sentence, don't we all wonder what the "and more*" could possibly mean?

This dating website was originally inspired by a study that showed that women liked the smell of dirty t-shirts belonging to men who's immune system was vastly different than theirs. To that I would question what woman would like the smell of any dirty t-shirt? I had no idea that there were ones that might smell good -- maybe vanilla? pumpkin pie? Cinnamon? Or were these just women who happened to like male stink?

Well, there's one positive to take from all this. It turns out that your stink might be attractive to somebody out there.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Doesn't He Know He Needs a Wheelchair?

Here is a link to a really neat article about Kevin Connelly, a man who has toured much of the world using his skateboard. He has no legs. It's really cool the way he has found his own way to get around, and that he's used people staring at him to his advantage.

He's much more gracious than I. The only method I could see for getting anything out of people staring at us was to tell the staring people that we charge admission for the show.

Not quite that nice, so I've never done it.


Honestly, this is the kind of life that I hope for for my daughters. And, well, they're going to have to be physically fit to do it, so I don't see how having their mobility powered will help with that.

Of course I don't know everything -- only my 11-year-old does.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Greatest Adaptive Equipment

What you see below is the greatest piece of adaptive equipment that we have ever purchased. It is a Rubbermaid 2-step step stool. No, we didn't buy it from an adaptive products store, we bought it from Home Depot.


This tool, which I could probably purchase a therapist-approved version called the "therapeutic stepping and sitting enabler" (and at twice the price I paid for this one), has been useful for giving my daughters different levels for sitting to put on a prosthetic leg, learning how to stand on knees, learning how to climb, and, also, obviously, reaching things that are normally out of reach. The really cool thing is that this is a tool our whole family can use (for Christmas lights, changing light bulbs, etc.)

For one daughter, this adaptive tool helps her reach the cabinets so she can make herself her favorite breakfast: oatmeal.



For another daughter, this adaptive device helps her get onto the piano bench and play the piano.

Yet, according to some people, it's not enough. We should pay thousands of dollars in co-pays and van work, move to a new house, and, I guess, get rid of our other children, so that she can use a $30,000 300lb wheelchair to drive up to it, push a button and slide to the right height.

Actually, I wish I could do that with the piano bench, because with 6 people using the same bench, it's never at the right height and it takes me a while to turn the knobs to get it there. Perhaps I need a power chair.

Another great use I found for this beautiful adaptive device is that my youngest can use it to put on her shirt! Two therapy sessions for troubleshooting how to put on her shirt, and no help. However, input from a soon-to-be mom who hasn't even adopted her limb different kid yet, she's just thought alot about how to help him dress, helped us come up with this idea.













She puts her hands on the back of the step stool like so:

And sticks her head in the hole, pushes up, brings her arms down, and wiggles.




































Another one of my favorites is the "adaptive spoon" we were offered to help our youngest daughter eat (even though she has no problem eating). I figured out that I could purchase 1 regular spoon (at the cost of $1-5 as opposed to the $28 for the adaptive spoon) and then slightly bend the end of it. Voila! An adaptive spoon.

One time my oldest son made an adaptive spoon by placing a plastic spoon in the dishwasher near the heating element. It melted the spoon, and caused the handle to curve for an easy grip. I told him he should sell it on eBay, but he just looked at me like I thought people would buy anything. (Note: people will buy anything -- someone bought the grilled cheese with the Virgin Mary's face).

Any how, even more importantly, I realized that unless she wanted to carry a utensil pack with her where ever she went, that she needed to learn how to eat with a regular spoon. So, she did.

We joked that we got a deal on our oldest daughter's, "Therapeutic Reclining and Sitting Device" -- otherwise known as a bean bag chair--- that she used to prop herself up while in a body cast. We bought it from Meijer.

I have also been amazed at how we can put our oldest into therapeutic swimming or swim lessons , and she can learn to play an instrument or take "music therapy" . Which would you rather do? In fact, how would you like it if you asked someone about taking music lessons from them and they said, "You might want to look into music therapy instead." I bet you'd be as offended as I was about that conversation. (She doesn't want therapy, she wants to swim faster than everyone else and play musical instruments. Duh.)

Needless to say, we have run screaming from from the therapeutic swimming and music therapy.

I'm sure that there are good uses for the more complex adaptive tools and therapeutic interventions out there, we just haven't found them. In the meantime, to quote Kevin Connelly, the man with no legs who traveled the world on a skateboard,
"My parents made the decision to not put me in a wheelchair or a hospital. They just took me home."

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Top 10 Names of 2007, and the Not So Top Ten of All Time

For the education of my readers, and, in case anyone is actually looking for a name for their yet-to-be-born or yet-to-be-adopted babies, I decided to talk for a bit about names. When I was a child, I became fascinated with the meaning of names. I learned that my friend, Megan, was a pearl. My friend, Karen, was pure. My friend Valerie was strong. Those names were wonderful... they had meaning. Then I found out what my name meant. I'm industrious like a bee.

Okay, it kind of lacks some umph. However, I have grown to realize it does fit me.

Well, below is a list of the most popular baby names for 2007.

1. Sophia1. Aiden
2. Isabella2. Ethan
3. Emma3. Jacob
4. Madison4. Jayden
5. Ava5. Caden
6. Addison6. Noah
7. Hailey7. Jackson
8. Emily8. Jack
9. Kaitlyn9. Logan
10. Olivia
10. Matthew

My Grandpa once told me that he and my Grandma had thought and thought and thought to come up with an original name for my Dad. They named him Stan, which to me doesn't seem that original. I guess because I've known him all my life. But at any rate, a week or so after his birth, My Grandpa saw a list of the 10 most popular boys names for the year. Stan was on the top of the list.

"We're more influenced by what goes on around us than we realize," He told me. I have to agree.

Now, I'm proud to say that none of my children's names are on this list. However, all three of my big kid's names are on the lists for the years they were born (that's especially impressive considering the fact that we didn't name our daughter until 3 years after she was born!). In rebellion against that, we named our two youngest with such ethnic and unique names that they have to say them 3 or 4 times before people can get them in their ears. That might be what they end up in counseling for.

Now, I have also complied a list of famous, yet not so great names, that you would want to pass if your looking for a new name (some of these you have to wonder what their parents were thinking!):

Guys that went into sports because they would've never survived the playground with their names if they weren't really tough:

Dick Butkus
Rosie Greer
Lynn Swann
Weeb Ewebank

Do you like to eat? How about:

Terry Yake (pronounced: Teriyaki)
Coco Crisp

Perhaps his parents played board games before his birth?
Milton Bradley


Or would you, along with the citizens of Bhutan, like to bow to King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck?

However, my personal favorite was a name I came upon when teaching a class on Central Asian geography. Ladies and Gentleman, the president of Turkmenistan, the honorable Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (pronounced, I guess: Gur- bang- ulee Bird-i-mu-ham-i-dow)

Try saying that three times really fast.

Only thing that would make it better was if it was Gurbanguly W. Berdimuhamedow (I think his dad might be Gurbanguly H.W. Berdimuhamedow).

Monday, January 7, 2008

PEOPLE

When I was in college my roommates and I spoke often of "people". "People" was code for one of you slackers didn't do their work.

"People left dishes in the sink."

"People forgot to clean the bathroom."

"People let their hair clog the drain."

People do alot, but mostly they just present really ridiculous scenarios.

One time, in particular, has stuck with me for nearly three years now. Three years ago, I picked up our local paper and read an article about a family that lived in a nice suburban neighborhood in our city. The family had a 12-year-old son who was an animal lover, especially a goat lover.

Now, this much I get. I'm raising a duck-lover. Kids like unique things (especially if they sell well at the county fair or make a great dinner). But this family took it all even further. They claimed that their son has ADHD and the only thing that helps him control it is his goat. Okay, this is even crazier than "green therapy"!

I'm not even going to go into the question of if this boy really has ADHD or if his crazy family environment has made him a bit hyper and inattentive, although you've probably already guessed where my thoughts go on that topic!

So, apparently, the boy and his goat would go outside and jump on his trampoline together. (see photo!) That would somehow help him to control his ADHD in ways that no other intervention could. The problem was that the neighbors weren't too happy about that goat, or the other one they own, especially when you mixed in dogs and their several other family pets.

The family was unwilling to move or get rid of any pets. The township decided to intervene and the family slapped a lawsuit against the township for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. No, this isn't a joke! I remember when I first saw the picture of the boy and the goat. I was certain it must be an April Fool's joke or something.

So, of course, this raises a myriad of questions, some of which are:

1) Why can't the boy jump on the trampoline without the goat?
2) Why can't the family get rid of the other pets to at least lessen the odor?
3) Why can't the family move to some place where there's acceptable space to raise livestock?
4) Why can't the boy try other intervention?
5) Do these people really believe what they're saying? A goat?
6) What's he going to do, take his service goat and trampoline to school with him? To work with him as an adult? Keep him nearby at all times? Or, is he just an in-home service goat?
7) If you even believe that he has a disability, what, exactly are the parents teaching him about how to cope with it? That society should cater to him? Oh, he'll get far in life that way!
8) How, exactly, does a goat help a child control his ADHD? Does he devlop a plan to help the boy structure his day? Does he create a reward system for good behavior? Does he bleat whenever the boy starts to get out of control?

This is almost not funny. I have children who are legitimately covered under the ADA, and I find this family downright offensive! It's disgusting abuses like this that endanger the legal protection of the truly handicapped. Who in the world could take this seriously?

Well, I'll tell you who. PEOPLE thought that the family had a legitimate complaint. There were something like 300 comments on that article -- many of them defending the claim of goat therapy! Can you believe this? People read the article and took this entire "goat therapy" seriously. PEOPLE were disgusted with the Township for their discrimination! PEOPLE were disgusted with the neighbors who were tired of smelling the animals.


To quote Tommy Lee Jones from Men in Black, "A person is smart. People are stupid." Amen.

New Hampshire is Moved by Tears and Tales of Eating Too Much Pizza

Wow! All these years of spouting ardent feminism, and Hillary has just played the sex card! Apparently, her poor performance in the last debate wasn't enough to do her in. The voters of New Hampshire were moved by her tears and sad tales of eating too much pizza and not exercising.

She cried and got the sympathy vote!



Honestly, I don't stress too much over who will be the next President, unless, of course, it's Hillary. I'd take just about any other choice over her... and if she wins, I might be writing my blog from my exile spot in Northern Canada. I just don't understand her dire need to run the country -- she already had her turn over 8 years ago.

I almost felt bad for her, too, when I watched the video. But then I thought, "You know, I really don't think resorting to tears is a good thing for a president."

"Mr. Bin Laden," she says as she's wiping her eye, "It's just really hard to find you. I mean I won't give up because I believe this is what's best for my country, but this is really hard. So many days I don't have time to exercise, and I keep trying to eat right, but pizza's just so easy... so please come out of hiding."

or

"Mr. de Jung, I asked you not to drop the bomb, and now look at what you did!" Her eyes welling up with tears, "I've got dead Americans, angry voters and I can't plan for dinner! Pizza again, and with all these decisions to make, when will I ever exercise?!"


So, I think that maybe Hillary needs to learn how to lose something without losing it. Or maybe not, because her strategy did work.

What does that say about the Democrats in New Hampshire?

Need Help Getting Dressed?

Have you ever woken up and wondered, "Just what exactly will I wear today?"

Well, your problem is solved. My husband was nice enough to send me this link to a revolutionary new website. I'm hoping that the link wasn't a hint.

At any rate, you download digital photos of your clothing, and enter text to tell what is ahead in your day. Then the computer will tell you what clothes you should wear.

In our home, we don't really have a problem choosing clothing. Take, for instance, my middle daughter, pictured below.


You would think she's headed out to some kind of international royal ball, but really she's just set for a day hanging at home (note the fluffy pink shoes and lacy gloves). This outfit can be worn to classes, to play soccer, and,of course, to ride bikes.

This morning she came down for breakfast dressed in a ballerina costume, sparkle shoes, and a princess crown.

"How do I look?" She asked, with excessively puckered lips.

"Beautiful." I replied.

"You like my lipstick?" I could almost make out faint pink lipstick surrounding her lips.

"Umm.. ya... but you can't wear that to co-op today." I said, truly not wanting to hurt her feelings.

Her face fell. "Why not?"

After coming to an agreement, she ended up at co-op dressed in her sparkle shoes, sweat pants, Ohio state shirt and a princess crown. But it was okay because she went in and sat down next to her friend, who was wearing a home made native American head dress. It just doesn't get any better than this!

The real problem we have with clothing (in addition to some family members thinking it's optional) is that not everyone is certain which direction clothing goes on. Now, of course, our 11-year-old knows everything, so he knows the direction clothing is supposed to face. He often points this out to the younger ones.

In turn, I often point out that he was not only a member of the BPC (Backwards Pants Club), he was president and founder. I mean, this kid would come out of his room with not only his jeans backwards, but also his underwear. I used to think, "How in the world can someone wear underwear backwards?" But then we adopted our oldest daughter.

She would put her underwear on sideways. Sideways!!?? Yes, it is possible. And, then there was the time she came downstairs, dressed for church.

"Mom, there's something weird and uncomfortable on my back. A big tag or something."

I reached down her dress and pulled out...a hanger. My lovely, brilliant daughter put her dress on with the hanger still in it!

Now, where's the website to help with that?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Lessons From the Dead

Many people would be surprised to know that my husband and I used to live in a funeral home. I know, it sounds pretty creepy, but really it wasn't.

We were low on income (SU-prise, SU-prise, SU-prise!) as my husband was a full time student and I was a part time teacher -- and full time mother of an infant. God provided us with a spacious rent-free apartment. In exchange for living there we had to answer the phones and be responsible for the maintenance of the building and the property.

No. We didn't have to handle the dead bodies. Except the one time one of the younger funeral directors called and asked for a favor. She had prepared a lady for a viewing, but had forgotten to remove the curlers from her hair.

"Could you just run down to the viewing room and remove Mrs. Smith's curlers? Then just kind of fluff her hair out."

"Sure," I replied and then hung up the phone. "ROBBBB! LaRae needs you to run down to the viewing room and remove the curlers from Mrs. Smith's hair!"

Simple enough.

Anyway, the bodies were prepared at a different location so they were only at our funeral home for the actual visitation. Generally, anyway. There was the time that the body was brought in because the family requested to see the man even though they didn't want him prepped for viewing.

Unaware of our deceased visitor, I left our apartment and went down to the viewing room to practice the piano. As I walked into the room, I saw him lying there, dead (obviously), on a hospital gurney, a sheet covering his body. I paused at the doorway.

Did I really want to go in there with ....him?

Upon consideration, I decided to go ahead and practice. I mean, I lived in a funeral home and I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me! Dead bodies really shouldn't phase me! So, in I went.

I played several scales to warm up. Then I got out my copy of the Complete Prelude and Fugues (Urtext Edition, Teil I for those interested) by J.S. Bach and began to play the 4th Fugue. It suddenly occurred to me that that particular Fugue has a somewhat creepy theme. However, I gloried in my courage, only occasionally stealing glances over my shoulder at my roommate. It was one of those glances where he really caught my attention.

His sheet moved.

Yikes!!! I jumped up from the bench and leaped out the door. As I did, I felt the cool air from the air conditioner vent, directly next to the body, against my face.

That's one thing that I learned from living in a funeral home: there's always an explanation.

Another thing that I learned is that a funeral can be sad, really sad, or peaceful. The sad ones were just what you would expect: an older person who has lived a full life and their time to leave had come. There was a list of people who would miss them, but they had come to grips with the fact that the person was leaving.

The really sad ones were terrible. Like the man who, after an argument with his sister (who told him he should go kill himself), climbed into his mother's bed and shot himself through the head. There was also the mother of three who fell into her hot tub and drowned. Those ones were difficult even for the funeral directors.

Then there were the ones where the people had not only lived a full life, but had served Jesus regardless of circumstance. The conversations were different.

"She never lost her purpose." "She was still leading a Bible study even last week." "He was thankful that the Lord took her home... He knew it was her time."

Wow. Completely different. There was mourning, certainly, for those left behind, but the prevailing atmosphere was peace, even a tinge of joy, and anticipation for when she would be seen again.

Another thing that I learned is that when a crisis hits, your family becomes more of what they are. So, if your family is kind and helpful, then that carries on through the crisis. If your family harbors bitterness and anger, then that emerges during the crisis. If your family values beauty, then that emerges during the crisis.

So, overall, living in a funeral home was a great thing, it provided a great home, some good stories and I learned alot.

I also learned that if you're Irish your body turns green when your dead, but then again, that might have just been the lighting.

Value and Comfort -- Not Just Terms for WalMart

I think perhaps one of the things that has us confused about how our Christianity should play out is comfort. Somewhere along the line we have mixed up value and comfort. So, we think that what makes us comfortable reveals our value. In other words, "If God values me then He must want me to have a bigger house." or "If God really does care about me, then He'll get me a job I like better." Or, my personal favorite, "If God really does love me then certainly our main drain won't back up again." (That one came directly from my own mouth!)

Even the big societal and political fights that so many Christians come up with are based in our need for comfort. I mean, come on, would it hurt our country to be even a little less selfish and produce a little less trash and carbon emissions? How many Christians drive a 45 minute commute to church every Sunday, in a large SUV, without a thought to how living such a geographically spread out life effects other people? And, how many Christians (myself included) have been laughed at, pooh-poohed and worse, because we've said something about how American Christians should be thinking about the environment?

The true motivation behind the culture war (whether it's the environment or homosexual marriage or anything else), I have become convinced, is preserving a comfortable way of life. If our culture changes enough to show its true nature, then that will certainly be uncomfortable for us!

So, combine our desire for comfort with constant messages about how the individual is so important, then add to that all the secular messages about comfort and taking care of yourself, then put on that the beautiful stamp of the Christian publishing industry, and, voila, you've got a culture full of self indulgent believers. Myself included.

On the flip, side, though, God does value the individual. I think back to the time that my husband and I were scraping by to make ends meet, and God provided for us a rent-free apartment. In typical God fashion, the apartment was not anything ordinary. It was above a funeral home. However, we could live there in exchange for caring for the grounds and answering the phones.

On the way to the interview for the job, I imagined many things. I imagined the owner of the funeral home to be old, peculiar smelling and creepy. I imagined the apartment to be dirty, dark and small. In a real Hollywood flourish I pictured a dark kitchen with a light dangling from a wire over the table -- complete with scampering rodents.

What I found, though, was different. The owner was only a few years older than us, wasn't creepy and had no noticeable odors wafting from him. And the apartment was HUGE. It was over twice as big as our old apartment, and was a great place to live.

Why? Because God does take care of the individual. He does love and value each of us, and He does love to give good gifts (although it seems to me that we're pretty clueless about what good gifts are). There does come a time when it's right to stand up for ourselves and to request for ourselves. We do need that. Somewhere along the line, though, that became the focus.

Go back to the couple with the SUV and the 45 minute commute to church. What if they sold the SUV for a much cheaper vehicle and lived in the community where church resided? They could take the difference in money from their budget and invest that in missions, adoption, support to foster families, boy scouts, the salvation army -- any number of things. They could also use their church to impact their community. Living simply would mean less time in the car, which would be good for their family and the environment. Was the expensive car and commute a sin? Hardly, but was it really contributing to an eternal perspective?

I guess I do think everything must change.

Spiritual Realities Revealed

Lately, I've been reading "Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises and a Revolution of Hope" by Brian D. McLaren. And, he is not kidding with the title. He is really challenging the way I've thought about every aspect of life and the story of the world. The perspective of the book is so different that I'm sure I'll have to re-read it when I'm finished in order to glean and retain everything he's saying.

He states in the first chapter of the book why he has put so much energy into researching the biggest problems that the world faces.

"More personally, I'm a rather ordinary person. I care about my young adult kids and the kids they may someday have. I care about my friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens and our common future on this beautiful, imperiled planet. I care about the billions of people I've never met and never will meet, including people who might be called my nation's enemies. I also care about our fellow creatures -- brown trout and blue herons, raccoons and gopher tortoises, red dragonflies and royal palms, barrel cactus and woodland ferns. I care about all of these for a lot of reasons, especially because I am a committed follower of Christ, and people with this commitment, it seems to me, can't help but care about all these things. " (Italics mine)

It has always seemed to me that it should be a natural overflow of our love for God to love all his people, and yet, it's so easy to love the lovable and simply by-pass loving those who are our enemies and those we don't ever know or see. However, if love is an action, then my life should be lived in such a way that I am considering all those people. Loves comes alive in my own willingness to be a loving and responsible steward of my time and resources.

And yet, as McLaren reveals in the book, these thoughts of practical nature are rarely taught in the church. In fact, a trip to Africa revealed to him a shocking truth. At a meeting, a leader in the church there opened his eyes.

"Friends, most of you know me. You know that I am the son of a preacher, and as a result, I grew up going to church all the time, maybe five times a week. What may surprise you though is to learn that in all of my childhood, in all the church services I attended, I only heard one sermon... That sermon went like this: 'You are a sinner and you are going to hell. You need to repent and believe in Jesus. Jesus might come back today, and if he does and you are not ready, you will burn forever in hell.' "

And, while I would have to say that that is not the sermon I'm hearing every week, it is the general thrust of what I've heard over my lifetime. I'm thankful that the sermons I'm hearing every week are very practical, life and community changing, and Jesus focused. But what is disturbing is that if I look at all the books, sermons, magazine articles I've read in the past 15 years, the teachings are not just about afterlife. They're about me.

Even our worship is self centered. Many times, during a worship service, I can't even get myself to sing the words to a song because the focus is on me. Take, for instance, how singing this is worshiping God:

Running through the forest
Dive into the lake
Barefoot on beaches white
Standing in the canyon
Painted hills around
And the wind against my skin

The song then goes on to sing about how I will not be silent anymore -- focusing on me, rather than the eternal attributes of God as a creator that we should be worshipping Another one is "Our Love is Loud" , again focusing on us and how great and exciting our love is. These songs are fine (if you're into that kind of stuff) but are they worship? I don't think so, unless you're talking about using worship time to think about how great we are at adoring God. I've always understood worship to be a time when you express to God just how amazing and wonderful He is, and yet it's just hardly ever about that anymore.

I don't think mis-focused worship music is the problem, though. I think it's a symptom. All the books on self-help, counseling, emotional healing, prosperity, books such as "Your Best Life Now" have all made Christianity about the individual.

This is totally missing the mark! God blesses us when we take our eyes off of ourselves and put them onto Him and others. God heals us when we risk to love in His name. It's like our minds are riddled with some kind of illness that distorts our thinking. It's the same illness that causes people to tell me how I'm just "so special" for adopting handicapped children, or how I've been given a "gift of compassion" or how someone could "never do what I do". It wasn't compassion, it isn't a gift, and anyone can do it! I traveled to difficult nations to rescue children because I love Jesus and Jesus loves them. If you radically love someone, then you care about what they care about. Their passions become your passions. Will your love always take that form? No, but it will take some sort of sacrificial and active form, as that is the very nature of love.

Acting on your love for Christ is the very visible expression of spirituality, and yet, as a nation, we're looking to feel rather than do -- with a significant chunk of our leaders telling us that that's okay. I don't see how anyone can read the book of James without coming to that conclusion.

So, to start off. I do agree with McLaren -- everything must change. How we think about our life, our time and our resources. We can't just think about ourselves anymore.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

WalCreep

"Save Money. Live Better."

I pondered that while I was at my favorite superstore, Walmart. It seems a bit better than an earlier slogan "Buy More. Pay Less.", but it still struck me as a bit ridiculous. Seriously, what do the people who run Walmart, especially their advertising campaigns, really know about living better?


Most of the time, I avoid shopping at Walmart like my youngest daughter avoids going to the dentist. However, as much as I hate to admit it, I'm addicted to the simplicity of one-stop shopping, so I often find myself there. I love to think about how neat it would be to go to stores that actually offer quality products that they specialize in, but my life is as hectic as everyone else's and I usually end up at Walmart. Of course, my one stop shopping experience is never as simple as I expect it to be.

Take, for instance, the time I went to Walmart to buy black metal paint for our front porch railing. After laboriously looking for the exterior metal paint, I came to find that they had plenty -- in purple and green.

Who, besides an ardent Barney fan, paints porch railings purple?

On the same trip, I needed to purchase a potty chair for one of our kids. I bought a basic white potty chair, brought it home, opened up and found it .... USED! UGGGHH! GROSS!

After that unsuccessful and disgusting visit, I vowed never to go to Walmart again. For years I kept that vow. But then one opened up right around the corner from me. It's foxy new exterior, beautifully paved parking lot and mammoth sized building all seduced me back. Like a woman hoping to rehabilitate her undevoted and gluttonous lover, I decided to give Walmart another chance.

My first trip overwhelmed me. This place really has everything, I thought to myself. This store did, indeed, have something for everyone: food, fabric, electronics, pet supplies, garden supplies, toys, jewelry, clothing...

As I walked the isles overwhelmed by all that was there, an announcer came over the loud speakers.

"Ladies, do you need a manicure? Stop by our nail department for a moment of rest and relaxation!"

I continued my shopping, and soon another announcement came on.

"Looking for a stylish new look? Stop in our in-store salon and have a high quality cut for a low price."

That's likely, I thought to myself, and continued my shopping. The next one made me stop in my tracks.

"Are your eyes tired? Squinting? Stop by our opthamologist for a full eye exam and glasses fitting, all for the low prices you expect at Walmart!"

Okay, I thought, what's next?

"Ladies, miss your yearly exam? Not a problem! Stop in to our gynecological department while you wait for your car's oil change! "

Or

"Did your water break while you were shopping? Was that just a braxton hicks or are you in labor? No need to worry, our full service obstetrics department is here to help -- at the low Walmart prices you've come to expect!"

Of course, to my knowledge, no Walmart has come to that point. However, it really wouldn't surprise me if they did.

I realized when I was there that it was downright creepy to go to one place for so many services, and you have to believe that the best opthamologists are not working for Walmart. While I'm looking for the lowest prices on many things, health care is not one of them!


Another grudge I have against Walmart is that their quality of product stinks. I bought a weed remover from their garden department this past spring. I took it home, opened it up, stabbed it into the dirt next to a weed, pushed back like the instructions said to and snapped the handle off!

Another time I bought pants for my oldest son. They were in his size, but when he put them on they were so loose that they instantly fell down. They were so cheap there were no belt loops.

Of course, my husband told me that's because Walmart sizes their clothing according to their customers: bubba, extra bubba, and extra extra bubba. But, I swear, these pants really said "Size 8 -10" on them!

At any rate, I hate the idea that is insinuated by "Save Money. Live Better." -- in the end, they are implying that by buying more stuff you get a better life. To that I'd say one thing:

HA! HA!

Most of what they sell at Walmart is stuff that detracts from a good life. Wii, game cubes, Nintendo DS, trinkets, home decor and the such are all fun things, but what they really are are distractions. They distract us from the great things in life that make it possible to live better.

How many children are playing inside on their Wii, instead of outside in the snow? How many married couples are watching endless evenings of tv rather than talking or spending time with other adults? How many children and teenagers are listening to music or watching videos that are training their minds in unhealthy thinking? How many families are working two jobs to pay off credit card debt because they bought tons of stuff they didn't need at Walmart? How many mothers are out there trying to duct tape pants to their son's hips because they don't have belt loops? And how many women across America are gagging as they see crusty pee in a used potty they bought at Walmart?

I don't think "live better" means what the Walmart people think it means.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Very Band Christmas

My background is in classical piano, and I'm not sure what insane thing has happened in my family. My husband and I gave our three oldest children musical instruments for Christmas. Our 11-year-old got an electric guitar, our 9-year-old a drum (which will grow into a drum set someday, I'm told) and our 8-year-old a trumpet.

Below is a video of the boys playing with my husband. The lighting isn't great, but the sound is. Really the sound is great. That's what it sounds like. I'm wondering if this is from teaching beginning band classes while pregnant with my oldest. Perhaps it affected his ears more than I realized.

(Note the plumber walking past out front window - he did finally show up and no plumber wand was ever needed! I thought he might lower his rate out of compassion for me, after listening to the "band" play all day, but instead he just tried to leave really fast.)

"Wah wah wah wah wahwah wah"

Sometimes I know that I appear to my children like the teacher in the old Peanut's Gang Cartoons.

"Mom, what does flabbergasted mean?"

"Well, honey, it means surprised, but so much more than that wah wah wah wah wah wah wah..."

"Yes mom, I understand mom...."

I have come to believe that there's good reason for this. Since I am both mom and teacher, my kids are constantly learning, right? Case in point:

We were driving down the road, listening to my favorite Christian radio station, when my 8 year old asked a question.

"Mom, what's a prophet?"

"Well," I replied with a scholarly voice, "a prophet is someone God speaks through. You know, of course, that the Bible was written, in part by prophets...wah wah wah wah ....prophecy today...wah wah wah wah wah.... false prophets....wah wah wah wah... lots of debate about that....wah wah wah.... but I think that.... wah wah wah wah wah .... Elijah... wah wah wah... minor prophets....wah wah wah wah wah wah and..."

"Uh mom, I guess I get all that, but then I'm confused about one thing. If that's a prophet then what's a 'non-prophet'?"

Ahh.... pledge drives on Christian radio.