Friday, May 28, 2010

A Wonderful Tribute

Boston Common always has something interesting, but yesterday through Monday, there's an extra-special display. The Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund has planted 20,000 American flags in front of the Sailors and Soldiers Monument in the park (near Charles and Beacon Streets). If you live in the area, please go see it. But for those who live further away, enjoy these photos!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Sometimes, what I learn in one sphere of life moves into other, seemingly unrelated, spheres. And I find myself applying the principles. So it's been with my church's April Adult Sunday School class on Isaiah and my digital art. Yes, I hear y'all thinking, "Okay...Deb's really losing it now!" Hang on. Let me explain. I might actually make sense.

In our class, the teacher spent three weeks just setting up the historical background of Isaiah's book. He explained the separation between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the political alliances each made with heathen nations, how each had rebelled against the Lord, and how America's present-day rebellion parallels Israel and Judah in defiantly turning from Him. Finally, in the last week of class, we started reading Isaiah. It made so much more sense to me because I knew the historical context.

Now I'm studying 1st Peter a second time. This time, my study is less inductive, and I spent time doing background work on Peter. Not as thoroughly as I should have, I'll admit, but I definitely didn't walk into it cold, as I did when I went though it a month ago. Although, that first study helped me see how Peter's thoughts flowed, and what his main point was. So yes, now I'm studying with a  context, and I'm less likely to get caught up in the minutia that generates rabbit trails. So I'm following my Sunday School teacher's example of laying groundwork.

In terms of Paint Shop Pro, I'm not working on a specific project at present, but I'm gathering tutorials and looking at new ideas. I'm experimenting with my own ideas and making small things that I may use later. In a sense, I'm laying groundwork there, too. Hopefully, I'll have some good results!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Disabled Physical Ed Major

After church, John and I chatted with a friend about disability. He commented, "The real disability is sin."

As we talked, I thought back to my college days. I attended an extremely small school, so everyone pretty much knew everyone else--especially those of us who lived off-campus (the "Day Students"). So, although I majored in English Literature, I knew students from a variety of disciplines. Including "Tom Terrific."

Tom majored in Movement Ed (the school's name for Physical Education). He was well-chiseled, barrel chested...the type of guy I guess most girls swoon over. I can't recall seeing him in clothes other than tennis clothes. And yes, I mean the stereotypical white shorts and V-neck cable-knit sweater. I kid you not, he looked like a caricature of a jock that the creators of Rocky and Bullwinkle might have designed.

Sadly, the caricature was all too complete. Handsome Tom had very little personality, and even less interest in spiritual matters. My mom asked me if I was attracted to him, and I think she was relieved when I replied, "He has everything going for him physically, but he's totally empty. I think he's much more disabled than I am."

Without Jesus, we are disabled by our innate sin nature, as my friend at church remarked today. People scoff at Him, remarking that He's a "crutch." Well, crutches sure come in handy when you don't have a leg to stand on! And only through Jesus do we have the ability to be more than conquerors!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Puritans, Tea, And Why Grade School Field Trips Don't Thrill Me

We wanted to take the Freedom Trail Tour through the National Park Service for two reasons: 1) it's free (as opposed to the $12 per adult that most tours cost), and 2) it went to the North End. I thought different information would be presented since it went to the North End (all the other tours John and I have taken have been restricted to the Downtown area).

This tour overlapped other tours quite a bit, covering Spring Street, Old South Meeting House, the Old State House coupled with the Boston Massacre site, and Fanueil Hall.  I really appreciated the respectful way the ranger spoke about the Puritans! Ever other tour I've taken has been punctuated with stories ridiculing Puritans, with ill-disguised delight in their perceived hypocrisies. So a tour that demonstrated understanding and (I'll say it again) respect for their beliefs was extremely refreshing!

Personally, I learned the most at Fanueil Hall. Maybe it's because most of the tours we've taken finish there that I've always zoned out, but I'd never understood its role in the Revolution until yesterday. 

The ranger who led our tour told us that Peter Fanueil built this marketplace, adding a floor for Town Meetings. On December 16, 1773, those who opposed the Tea Tax Britain demanded held one such Town Meeting at Fanueil Hall. As the day progressed, the Hall (only a quarter of the size it is today) could no longer contain all the people who had come. So they marched to Old South Meeting House, right past the Old State House. This move was, the ranger thought, calculated to intimidate British officials, particularly Governor Thomas Hutchinson. After hours at Old South Meeting House, of course, men went to Griffin's Wharf disguised as Mohawk Native Americans and dumped a million dollars worth of tea into the harbor.

From Fanueil Hall, we looked at pubs in the Blackstone district, significant only because the Revolutionaries who met at one pub would send young boys across the street to spy on the Loyalists who met in another pub. Mildly interesting. Both pubs still operate today.

The trek to Paul Revere's House was difficult, not merely because the sidewalks were narrow, but because I believe every elementary school in Boston had a Freedom Trail field trip yesterday! Negotiating sidewalks in the North End is never pretty, but it's that much worse with unruly, wiggling children crowding in front of us!

Sadly, the ranger said very little about Paul Revere as we gathered in front of his house. I learned much more four years ago when John and I went there on our own. Shortly, we resumed our trek, heading toward Paul Revere Mall with even more school children separating us from our group and even more treacherous streets. At that point, I was really glad we hadn't paid for the tour. I was also glad I'd taken migraine meds before the tour started. And when, at Paul Revere Mall, the ranger told us nothing that the other tour guides hadn't said about Revere's midnight ride when they took us to his grave at the Granary Burying Ground downtown, I pretty much decided North End Freedom Trail tours are better left to the able-bodied!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Misdirected Adventure

When my sister was probably about 10 years old, someone gave her a miniature antique sewing machine. I mention it because Monday John and I wheeled up Newbury Street, looking for First Baptist Church of Boston. I saw the church, but dismissed it because it was on the right side of the street when I distinctly remember it as being on the left!

So, because I didn't really want to bother checking out the church that "couldn't possibly be" the church I'd wanted to see, and because the curb-cut going straight on the right side of Newbury Street was steeper than the curb-cut crossing left (where I fully expected to find the church), we crossed left. Instead of finding the church (which we'd already passed because it wasn't where I expected it to be), we saw a 60-foot wide window display of antique sewing machines!

I know this photo doesn't begin to capture what we saw. One of the clerks recommended coming at night, when the floodlights are on the window. Do you think our Personal Care Attendants would mind putting us to bed three hours late so we can take a photo of antique sewing machines? As if I could find my way on Newbury Street in the dark! With my track record, I'd probably end up at First Baptist!

But we got to think of my sister. I enjoyed that!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Sword That Never Gets Dull

Lately, I'm spending much more time with the Lord, largely because I downloaded e-Sword last summer. I had BibleSoft's PC Study Bible for about 19 years, but never could build much of a library with it because it cost so much.

e-Sword's basic software, and many of its modules are free, following Matthew 10:8's injunction, "Freely you received, freely give." I recently needed to reconstruct my Bible after a friend replaced my computer's hard-drive, and I was startled that I only needed three Product Keys to reinstall modules I'd bought (two Bible translations and Vine's Expository Dictionary). As I put it back together, I did purchase another bundle of Bible translations in  order to have the translation my church uses (so I can quote it in articles I write for the church paper), but all the commentaries and most of the dictionaries I replaced were free!

The initial download of e-Sword includes a Scripture memorization system that actually works for me. I'm pretty pathetic about memorizing, but e-Sword's system feels like a computer game. So, I'm having fun and committing God's Word to Memory. Would you believe I can quote Philippians 2:5-11? Yes--six successive verses!

Another feature included in the basic software is the prayer request tool. I know...disabled Christian generally have the reputation of being "mighty prayer warriors," but somehow my psyche is missing that component. (We're supposed to be asexual too, but here I am, quite married...) Since I've started utilizing e-Sword's prayer request tool, I've tracked several answers to prayer, so obviously I'm actually building a disciplined prayer life for the first time in way too long!

The commentaries section has a tab for topic notes and a tab for study notes, so I've been writing down my thoughts, questions and observations. Today, as I wrote about 1 Peter 1, I could see the epistle in context. Then, I extrapolated an application to my personal life, even pulling on one of my memory verses as a cross-reference that Torrey's Treasury of Scriptural knowledge doesn't mention. 

I'm not a great Bible student, but the Lord has blessed me with great Bible study software. And I'm learning to use it to draw closer to Him. After all, that's the whole point!

Friday, May 14, 2010

What Is THAT?

Three or four years ago, John and I paid our first visit to King's Chapel Burial Ground. After visiting John Winthrop's grave (which I blogged about at the time), John spotted a curious found structure with a wrought-iron grate.

Looking down into it, all he could see was a very deep hole, which only increased his curiosity. Being in a graveyard, it seemed to be a monument of some sort. Yet the plaque next to it only spoke of 17th Century burial practices. Interesting information, to be sure, but it hardly addressed our questions about the...the...what was it, anyway?

We went inside King's Chapel Church, and talked with the docent about the church's journey from being an Anglican church to the Unitarian church it is today, about how backwards-facing seats in its pew boxes allowed parents to keep an eye on their children while listening to the sermon (there were steep fines for disruptive children), and about Louisa May Alcott's grandfather being buried in the crypts underneath the church.

Finally, John couldn't contain himself, and he asked about the...the...what WAS that thing? The docent laughed, saying "Everybody asks that question!" Then she told us one of the quirkiest stories of Boston's quirky history:

In 1897, when Boston built its subway tunnels, the city asked the church for permission to put an ventilation shaft in the graveyard. Horrified, the church officials said no. To do so would be a desecration!

But a subway vent was needed, and the city refused to let either history or religion thwart its plans! So one night, city workers crept on to church property, moved some 17th Century graves, and constructed their ventilation shaft. When church officials arrived the next morning, the deed had been accomplished!

John and I visited King's Chapel Burial Ground this past Tuesday to photograph the shaft. Sure enough...we could hear the Orange Line rumbling underneath it! Loud enough to wake the dead!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Carousels and Helicopters

Going up Atlantic Ave last Wednesday, John was thrilled to see the carousel being restored to its rightful place on the Rose Kennedy Greenway between Quincy Market and Columbus Park. He couldn't resist taking photos!

From there, we skirted around Quincy Market, making our way to Government Center Plaza. I'm planning to build a slide show about the odd things in Boston (there are just so many!), and I wanted a picture of the giant Tea Pot outside Starbuck's.

From there, we shopped at CVS on Tremont, had lunch at the food court at Downtown Crossing, and proceeded to wander through Boston Common. We'd forgotten it was Marine Week until we spotted helicopter blades.

That section of the Common was filled with all sorts of copters, tanks and robotic cameras. But the most intriguing contraption was...well, this:

I'm not sure what it's called, but it lifts like a helicopter, and apparently those propellers retract once it's airborne so it can fly like a plane. We wished we could have spoken with someone about it, but it was getting late and we needed to start the trip home. 

As we moved back toward the Frog Pond, John was pleased to snap a photo of the carousel there. Boston: a two-carousel city!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Suffering...In Context

After years of prayer, God has opened the door for us to have a Bible Study in our apartment. So far, it's just us and one other couple. Tonight, we'll meet for the second time and will begin studying 1st Peter.

I've been going through 1st Peter since our last meeting, making inductive study notes. Although I'll really be happy to use commentaries and Bible dictionaries to go though this book a second time, I'm fascinated by the way inductive study helps me grasp the context of this epistle. After 35 years of isolating verses (not really a good way to handle God's Word), it's exciting to follow Peter's progression of thought.

The book largely discusses suffering. Not suffering in general, as Job does, but suffering for taking a Christian stand. That suffering emulates Christ, especially if we follow His example of humility. I know...easier said than done!

Today, I believe I found a good summary of the epistle. 1st Peter 4:15 says:

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters.

As I began to type out my thoughts on this verse, I thought about its connection with the rest of Peter's letter. Peter had just finished saying that God blesses those who are reproached for the name of Christ. Although those who make such reproaches stand guilty of blasphemy, we glorify the Lord by making a stand for Him. Further, if we maintain the attitude that Jesus modeled during His trial and crucifixion, we again glorify Him by demonstrating that His Spirit resides in us.

So as I meditated on verse 15, I caught a main point of Peter's epistle: Suffering for sin is not something God  blesses, nor does such suffering glorify Him. Peter wants his readers to take responsibility not to suffer in that respect. I think he wrote this verse and verse 16 to clarify verse 14. Any suffering I undergo at the hands of unbelievers must be for the purpose of glorifying the Lord rather than as a consequence of disobeying Him.

I think the Lord has much to teach me as I study with John and our friends from church. Hopefully, we'll apply what He shows us, and we'll glorify Him.


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