Saturday, December 31, 2011

Spent Today Listening

Before writing a blog post on any given day, I usually read blogs and other articles. I'm renewing efforts to read items posted on Facebook and Twitter. This practice is good. I need to see what various folks are thinking, feeling and experiencing. Their writings solidify my own ideas, making me a better writer and (more importantly) a better Christian.

Today, however, I read so much that I left myself almost no time to blog. Perhaps that's a good thing. I'm not sure.

I haven't blogged much this month, mostly because I was wasting time playing addictive online games that distracted me from both my relationship with the Lord and from using this little purple blog to share Him with anyone who bothered to read it. Not good. At the time, playing felt good. But devoting entire days to such play, when I need to use that time for the Lord, left me feeling both cheapened and  guilty. This blog, more than anything else, has the purpose of proclaiming the excellencies of the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore requires my attention and care.

Today, far from neglecting my responsibilities to my blog, I invested in it by reading other blogs, as well as articles (mostly Christian). Just maybe, some of what I read will, by God's Spirit, draw me closer to Him and renew my mind so that it better mirrors His. If so, my day was productive. I spent today listening.

Friday, December 30, 2011

My Problem With Self-Esteem

She carried herself with the same assumption of intellectual and spiritual superiority typical of most college-aged kids, listening to the impassioned debate in our Bible Study group. Twenty-two years later, I still hear her words, which she thought would silence my objections to the "necessity" of high self-esteem. "When Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves," she reasoned, "He knew we couldn't love our neighbor unless we first love ourselves. In this Scripture, He's actually commanding us to have high self-esteem."

I shook my head, wishing she'd remember that I'd once been her Sunday School teacher (and therefore might know the Word of God a little). I answered, "The idea here is that we already are quite adept at loving ourselves, thank you very much, and we need to love others with that same love."

The doctrine of self-esteem may play well to those who attempt to integrate pop-psychology with a humanistic clone of Christianity, but the Bible gives no support to it. Instead, it teaches us to die to, or renounce, self.

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. ~~Mark 8:34

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. ~~Luke 14:26

Jesus doesn't seem to advocate "high self-esteem" in these verses, does He? I know someone who would explain His perspective with the fact that He lived in the First Century, well before the advances of modern psychology. This person would conclude that consequently the Lord didn't know as much as those of us who have, in the centuries since He taught His quaint ideas, been sufficiently enlightened by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Say what? The Lord of all creation needs Freud to educate Him? Sorry, but that thought pretty much rejects the deity of Christ! So, I'm trusting that Jesus, Who both created us and died to redeem us from the sin that is intrinsic to fallen human nature, happens to  know what He is talking about.

So if He says "self" must be mortified, rather than esteemed, I believe He understands better than anyone else what is the right evaluation. Yes, He values us, and loved us enough to personally die in our place to atone for our sin. But our worth doesn't come from ourselves--we derive it completely from Him! Apart from Him, we have no worth. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 7:18, no good thing dwells in us.

Earlier this week, I had a spirited conversation with a friend who referenced her own low self-esteem, saying she always compared herself to girls who were prettier, smarter, or in other ways "better" than she. "Don't you see?" I interrupted, "Your emphasis is still on self, not on the Lord." Then I realized what I should have realized at that Bible Study twenty two years ago: Self-esteem, whether low or high, still focuses on self, rather than on Christ.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dwindle Time

The week between Christmas and New Years usually, if not always, feels awkward and unsettled to me. Should I go about my business, or wait until the Rose Bowl parade is over? As a child, I enjoyed having this "week between holidays" to relax and play with whatever new doll Santa left for me, but now the week makes me uncomfortable.

I wait for 2011 to push its final grains of sand through the hourglass, thinking I probably ought to follow the trend set by fellow bloggers by reflecting on the passing year. But really, I don't feel like blogging at all today, and I feel even less inspired to do a "Year In Review" type post.

New Years resolutions? Never make 'em! I figure it's much more effective to walk in daily repentance and obedience to the Lord than to make massive attempts at overhauling my character in early January. So no, I see no reason to compose a noble-sounding post listing my personal goals for 2012. By January 14, those noble-sounding personal goals would give way to the onslaught of daily routine and unexpected circumstances anyway, whereas simple obedience to the Lord would work. Or at least, would honor Him.

I can make one prediction about 2012: I am going to fail Jesus. Not that I want to fail Him. I don't! But Scripture tells me that, even though I'm a new creation in Christ, I constantly battle my old sin nature, Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is ultimately triumphant, and He promises to have His way in me! Throughout my gaffs, missteps and even deliberate sins in the twelve months ahead of me, I will see His grace and rejoice in His forgiveness. And He will be exalted!

Monday, mind you, I may feel like writing a New Years post, so don't scold me for inconsistency if that should occur. In this odd week of watching 2011 dwindle into little more than memories and receipts to use with Income Tax forms (ugh--yes, it's time to think about that already), my motivation for creativity is also dwindling, leaving me uninspired. Even so, I managed to point to the goodness of the Lord, didn't I? After all, His grace never dwindles!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Confinement Isn't The Word For Wheelchairs

When people describe me and John as being "confined to wheelchairs," I have to laugh. Sorry--I guess my response is condescending, since I'm pretty much laughing at their lack of analytical skills, but I really think it's humorous to consider a wheelchair to be an article of confinement. Anyone who reads this blog frequently, and in particular reads about our various Boston Adventures, should have an inkling that our wheelchairs enable us to do amazing things!

I suppose people able to walk have reason to regard wheelchairs as "confining." Those who don't need mobility aids might perceive wheelchairs as imposing restrictions. And, comparing our lives to theirs, I'm forced to concede the validity of their perception. But I'm unable to totally embrace their terminology, especially as I think about how my life would be if John and I couldn't have these chairs.

Without our chairs, so much an expected sight in Boston during good weather, we would be stuck in bed virtually all the time. As I see it, that sort of life promises confinement (for both of us, but to a greater extent for me) far more confining than having the use of a wheelchair! Employ, for a moment, some basic logic, and you'll most likely understand my way of thinking about wheelchairs.

Life without wheelchairs would, of course, be bleak for both me and John (once he's in his chair, he can't stand staying in one place), but I believe I'd face even more limitations than he would without these contraptions. While John is able to use his laptop while he lies down each afternoon, I can't use my headstick unless I'm comfortably in my wheelchair (unlike other chairs, my wheelchair provides the back support I need in order to type for any length of time). So my writing and my digital painting very much depend on my wheelchair. Put another way, without a wheelchair, my world would consist of watching television and DVDs, listening to the radio and...well, I am married (blush). But certainly, my creative endeavors, which are so much a part of who I am and how I serve the Lord, would be non-existent.

Granted, my prayer life would be more active, though I no longer would be able to use a Bible. The danger in prayer apart from ongoing study of Scripture is subjectivity. As I grow in my understanding of God's Word, my prayers better conform to His priorities. But that's another blog post--the point here is that my wheelchair allows me to pray more effectively because I can have the access to God's Word and therefore pray according to His will.

For the past 18 years, I've had power wheelchairs, which have definitely expanded my freedom.Even when I only had a manual wheelchair, however, I enjoyed an active life. In my 20's and 30's, I was rarely home! Besides church, Bible Studies, Prayer Meetings and rehearsals for Christmas and Good Friday drama productions (I helped with writing and directing), there were Exodus Conferences in various parts of North America, parties, excursions with friends, funerals, weddings, Love In Action activities, movies and events I have to summon to memory by deep concentration. Okay, at times, friends carried me from car to house, propping me on couches or in stuffed living room chairs, but more often than not, my social life required my wheelchair.

Did you know that our power wheelchairs make it possible for John to fix meals and feed me, reducing the amount of time we need Personal Care Attendants? Our chairs actually make it possible for us to have a more normal marriage, living without a resident PCA. We cherish our time alone with each other, whether it's to eat ice cream (and nothing else) for supper or to "dance" to Shania Twain's Still The One in our apartment.

So, we both have difficulty understanding the phrase, "confined to a wheelchair." In our experience, wheelchairs are quite the opposite of confining. They open the world to us, becoming (in a very real sense) vehicles to a normal, active life of serving the Lord, living as man and wife, and pursuing happiness. And we have able-bodied friends who have struggled to keep up with us in Boston. Try telling them that John and I are "confined" to wheelchairs.

Friday, December 23, 2011

They Remade Baby Jesus

Occupy Boston visited Dewey Square yesterday, this time to stage their misinformed version of the Nativity. According to this article on CBSBoston.com's website, the occupiers portrayed Jesus (in the words of Harvard Divinity student Robin Litjhoann) as "a poor man, who was born homeless and showed people a better way to live out of compassion and out of love instead of out of greed.” View the 8-minute play for yourself to see how they subtly distorted Scripture to advance their agenda:


Okay, Occupy Boston's play actually held a degree of reverence, for which I'm thankful. I definitely agree that the focus of Christmas should be less on consumerism and more on Christ. On that basic point, I can appreciate their effort.

My problem with their message, however, is that they mischaracterized Jesus. Yes, His birth was humble, and its conditions were, on a human level, brought about because of an oppressive government. But the protesters, in their eagerness to make a modern application, have missed some crucial points about Jesus.

Firstly, God sovereignly orchestrated the census that led Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. That very census arranged for Messiah's birth to fulfill the prophecy in Micah 5:2 that He would be born  in that small town, the city of David. Rather than being born homeless, Jesus was born in the home of His royal ancestor, directed there to confirm His kingly status. Indeed, He ruled even then, using the selfish decree of Caesar to accomplish His purposes.

Secondly, the Lord made sure that His birth, as recorded by Luke, could be historically verified by Luke's contemporary readers. Although the records are no longer intact, at the time Luke wrote they would have been available. Had Luke been merely perpetuating a myth, or even a belief that could be embraced or dismissed according to personal preference, he would have been foolish to tie the Nativity account to a well-known event. Again, the sovereignty of God shines though, as He makes sure His birth can be traced through public records.

Jesus was not, as Occupy Boston suggested in their play, and unfortunate victim of Roman oppression. Nor was He simply a poor man Who took on the mission of showing people "a better way." The Christmas message is that He, being fully God and fully Man, came to die for the sins of corporate America, Occupy Boston protesters, and yes, a blogger who types with a headstick. Without His shed blood, each of us lies powerless to come before a God of righteousness. Would that people would proclaim His true purpose for coming to earth, instead of cheapening the Christmas narrative to suit a political agenda.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Christmas Newsletter


As I did the above digital painting last month, I kept thinking of the Wise Men who, upon seeing the strange star over Jerusalem, came to King Herod asking where they could find the King of the Jews. They wanted to worship Him! That simple phrase, “We have come to worship Him,” reminded me what this season really means. So, in this reflection on 2011 in our household, please see our praise and adoration of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Snow and extremely cold temperatures kept us pretty much confined to our apartment between Thanksgiving 2010 and Easter 2011, though we did manage a wonderful day-trip to Boston on a mild day in February. Seeing snow on Boston Common was quite interesting. But we were so happy when spring finally brought weather that restored us to both regular church attendance and frequent Boston Adventures.

During our “house arrest” last winter, John kept busy with various business endeavors. He’s a very hard worker, worthy of great respect. I spent those months blogging, and have built my blog substantially this past year. Netflix and John’s gift to me of the first four seasons of Cosby kept us entertained.

Spring finally came, bringing three weddings in John’s family, two of which we were able to attend. We also delighted in resuming our almost weekly trips into Boston, where we’ve developed friendships with a variety of people, ranging from the scruffy guy who begs outside Fanuiel Hall to a few Freedom Trail Walking Tour guides to our beloved train buddies on the Commuter Rail. We’ve enjoyed exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts, taken numerous photos in the Public Garden, explored Back Bay and the North End waterfront, enjoyed a Duck Boat Tour, visited a replica of The Printing Offices of Edes and Gill (which opened in April next to Old North Church), and saw the Stanley Cup at TD Garden (I even touched it). John has engaged people sharing tables with us at Quincy Market in lively conversations while feeding me delicious cannolis.

We continued serving on the Missions Committee at Brookville Baptist Church, hosting meetings in our apartment. During the summer, in answer to years of prayer, a small Bible Study group began meeting at our place every other Saturday, giving us a stronger connection to the church. Additionally, John taught Adult Sunday School in June and October, taking us through the Gospel of John.

Both of us have drawn closer to the Lord this past year, and we approach this Christmas season in awe that God took on human flesh, coming in the Person of Jesus Christ. He died for our sin, and His Father raised Him from the dead to show that His sacrifice was acceptable. No wonder John and I, like the Wise Men, come to worship Him! I pray you will too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

An Unmentioned Life

Spurred by a conversation yesterday with my mother-in-law, I placed my cursor in the Google browser and bravely typed the words, "Obituary of Adrienne Ashworth Duff." When I called Adrienne last spring, wanting to see how her health was (years ago, she had been diagnosed with kidney failure, untreatable due to her Spina Bifida and other birth anomalies), I got the recording that her number was no longer in service. John and I hoped that she had merely ditched her land-line. I kept saying I'd call her brother's office to find out how she was, but I felt shy about doing so.

The "obituary" I found disturbed and angered me. It read, in its entirety:

"Adrienne was born on June 14, 1953 and passed away on Sunday, February 20, 2011.
Adrienne was a resident of Mill Valley, California."

Nothing about her 3 sisters, four brothers or multiple nieces and nephews (all of whom she cherished). I then went to the Marin Independent Journal, and, to my shock, found absolutely no mention of her death. I'll resist the temptation to publicly speculate on why her family declined to have an obituary (mostly out of duty to respect certain parties). But at lunch this afternoon, John said, "Adrienne will have an obituary!" I knew he meant I'd blog about her.

Adrienne came to Marindale School for the Orthopedically Handicapped when we were both five. Instantly, we were inseparable, despite our drastically different personalities. Adrienne was quiet. I first heard her yell when we were 19, playing wheelchair "softball" in adaptive PE. She was raised in an extremely conservative family, and had perhaps too much social reserve. When she and I were finally mainstreamed to Vallicito Jr. High and then Terra Linda High School for morning classes, I dreaded going back to Marindale at lunch time. Adrienne, in contrast, always boarded the bus to Marindale with a sigh of relief, grateful to be with other disabled kids. There, she never had to feel different or embarrassed.

Once she began attending College of Marin, however, she transformed from a wallflower to a young woman who laughed easily and tried new things. She learned to drive a specially equipped van, and moved into an apartment complex for disabled adults. For a while, she worked full-time as a switchboard operator at a large bank in Marin County, stunning my family (we continued to equate her with Puritanical reserve) when she took first place in the company's Halloween costume contest....dressed as a mermaid!

I disagreed with her faith, seeing her sect as legalistic and possibly works-based, but she trusted God to judge her according to His righteousness. She loved traveling to conventions with her brother, especially when they visited Hawaii in 1999. Her favorite animals had always been dolphins, and in Hawaii she got to pet one (I saw the photo).

Adrienne could draw beautifully, but cultivated her musical talents of singing and playing violin. In college, she laid her artistic pursuits aside. In her later years, she discovered a new talent, as she helped her Personal Care Attendants (as well as their families and friends) learn English. When her health forced her out of her job at the bank, she volunteered at Marin General Hospital.

I leave you with this photograph of Adrienne, taken at my July 27, 2002 bridal shower--the last time I saw her.
I'm grateful that I could use this blog to honor, although belatedly, a life that almost passed without mention.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Menorah

From 4:30 to probably 6:30 this morning, I lay awake realizing that a solitary candle probably wouldn't be appropriate for a Hanukkah card. So today I went on Hallmark.com to look at Hanukkah cards. Always, as I suspected, nine candles, with or without the actual Menorah. So, I concluded, I'd need to start the drawing from scratch.

I decided on more stylized candles (i.e., no wax drips) for the Menorah that I'll use for Hanukkah cards. Also, the Menorah itself uses square angles, simply because they're easier to draw. But I like my result:

Pardon  me for not elaborating, but I'm sleepy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Painting The Light

Today, I didn't bother looking for a tutorial on creating a candle with Paint Shop Pro. Am I bragging? Okay, maybe, but I think it's good to figure things out on my own. Besides being fun, the exercise boosted my confidence in my ability to use the program. Yes, I realize I've been using it for eight years now, and therefore should be adept in using it, but I'm still pretty timid about it on most occasions. (Translation: I'm too busy blogging to practice with it.)

I do understand that most of my readers don't use Paint Shop Pro, and frankly aren't interested in learning my techniques, but humor me. I'm excited about today's accomplishment, and I feel like telling you the process I went through in putting my candle together. So indulge me!

I drew a basic rounded rectangle, adding teardrops (which I elongated and slightly reshaped) for melting wax. I duplicated the shape, and applied the cut-out filter to give it dimension. I again used teardrops, in two layers, to create the flame, blurring them to better blend the colors and give the flame a translucent quality.

Next, I used a preset shape that I'd created a year or so ago, as I needed a base to hold my candle. I applied a texture filter to make it look more like gold as well as to give it more dimension. As a final touch to make it specifically a Christmas candle, I used a holly tube that I'd made so long ago that I couldn't possibly identify the year. And here, without further ado, is my result:

I saved it as a tube (an image with no background) so I could use it for both Christmas and Hanukkah cards (one of my Personal Care Attendants is Jewish). Naturally, I couldn't wait to "play" with it! I'll spare you the narrative of how I assembled this Christmas card painting, however, and just let you enjoy it:





Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Absolute Exemptions

The conversation hardly qualified as a good attempt at presenting the gospel, although I do agree that grace means little to someone who doesn't believe she (or he, but in this case it happened to be a she) has violated God's law. I felt compelled, that day, to confront a sinful choice in her life, ignoring the fact that, because Jesus had never been Lord in her life, sinful choices were pretty much inevitable for her. So, instead of keeping the focus on Jesus, I centered my "message" on morality.

Obviously, she didn't come to Christ that day. In fact, I never saw or heard from her again. But part of the conversation continues to intrigue me. She was very firm in her position that God does not have an absolute standard of right and wrong, while at the same time the wrongs she suffered as a child gave her an exemption from any moral code God might impose on anyone else.

My bent toward logic kicked in, and I challenged her notion that the abuse inflicted on her could possibly be wrong, given her premise that no absolute standard for right and wrong exist. As a Christian, of course, I completely agree that child abuse is, if I may use the word, absolutely wrong. But then, I believe that the Lord has established moral absolutes. I wanted her to see that she couldn't have it both ways. If God doesn't hold her to a standard of right and wrong, on what authority does she judge her abuser as having wronged her?

Thankfully, God indeed does have a standard, whether we agree with it or not! He will hold this woman, her abuser and me accountable for violating His law. I, of course, will find my defense in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, which pays the penalty for my wrongs. I wish I could have gotten to the point of explaining to her that His blood would also cover her, giving her true exemption from His righteous judgment. But, to someone who doesn't believe standards of right and wrong apply to her behavior or lifestyle choices, I guess His grace is somewhat meaningless.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Textures To Explore

It's time to slow down on writing posts about protesters and corporate greed, though Occupy Boston and all its attendant issues has boosted this blog's popularity remarkably. These topics, I'm sure, won't vanish from my blog completely, but neither should they dominate it. Riding hobby-horses belongs to young children, not to experienced bloggers who design their blogs to be rich and varied.

Of course, my blog posts should revolve around the foundational theme of Jesus Christ, and how I use both my thoughts and my headstick to glorify him. But within that parameter stretches infinite latitude! He created a full, rich world, brimming with colors, shapes and textures that beg to be explored and tested.

I guess that analogy fits especially well, since I started this blog as a place to display my digital art. Those who look at my samples can see my joy in experimenting with tutorials and techniques, eager to try all the goodies that the software makes available. Yes, I do tame the techniques. Abstract art, though I can appreciate those who create it, simply doesn't appeal to me, as I need the structure and order of representational images. Thus, to co-opt a favorite phrase of my writing professor in college, I delight in discovering freedom within the form. In so doing, I often am pleasantly surprised at just how much freedom the form actually permits!

So, let's recede a bit on the political posts, and see other possibilities for conversation. As long as everything, explicitly or implicitly, reflects back on the Lord Jesus Christ, the subject matter of my blog has few limitations.The protesters have left Dewey Square. So let's leave them, and go exploring!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

All They Left Was Contempt

Early yesterday morning, Boston police liberated Dewey Square from its ten-week occupation. The media, evidently wanting to placate the protesters, used their term, "eviction," with all its connotations of intolerant landlords and victimized tenants. Talk about spin!

Never mind that the occupation of Dewey Square violated the rules of the Rose Kennedy Greenway (no loitering between 11:00 pm and 7:00 am), or that the tent city was established without a permit! For ten weeks, the general public had limited access to the park, unless they wanted its occupiers to "educate" them on the evils of corporate America and the need to plunder wealthy people so that everyone else can have more and work less.

Only two hours after Dewey Square was liberated, the graffiti testified to their willingness to deface public property, and mud replaced the green grass which had worn away under their tents and dancing. Thankfully, police thwarted their attempt to expand their encampment to one of the Fort Point Channel parks, which showcase gardens maintained by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Dewey Square's lawns will cost thousands of dollars to replace. I'm not sure what it cost to powerwash the ventilation building, which protesters used, apparently, for graffiti.

So, now the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy and the City of Boston have reconstruction costs. Granted, Occupy Boston has promised some financial assistance to the Conservancy, but not the full amount (if that's even been determined). It's a shame that, in the name of Free Speech, these protesters felt no qualms about defacing a public park that was meant for everyone to enjoy.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lorraine's Christmas Miracle

Lorraine serves as the Director of Women's Ministries at my church. I got to know her two years ago when she led me and two other women through a discipleship book During those few months, I knew that she was being treated for Breast Cancer, and that the cancer had spread to her liver, but she conducted herself with such poise, grace and humor that I often forgot that she had health issues.

Her husband frequently comes to our apartment for meetings of the Missions Committee, so he has kept me and John informed both on her condition and their battle with the FDA to get TDM-1 approved. Rather than telling Lorraine's story, I invite you to watch this 13 minute video of her speaking this past Tuesday at a rally on Boston's City Hall Plaza. Trust me--her delivery is so compelling that it won't seem like 13 minutes.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Typewriters, Email And The Meaning Of Christmas

Can one get writer's cramp from typing with a headstick?

Probably not, but I've been attaching Christmas Newsletters to individual emails all week, and I'm getting tired. How easy it would be, I tell myself, to put everybody's name in the  BCC box, type a generic message, attach the document and (with a flourish), click the "Send" key. No one would blame me. Actually, few would even notice. After all, before the advent of email (yes, I'm old enough to have experienced those primitive days), I couldn't add personal notes to my Newsletters.

That's precisely why I began doing annual newsletters in the first place; it was time-consuming to have family members and Personal Care Attendants load each Christmas card into my  trusty Smith-Carona electric typewriter so I could type (using a mouthstick, in those days) digests of my past year over and over. Though one or two friends scolded me for being impersonal, the newsletter idea sure made sense for me! In a few short years, people began looking forward to my Christmas Newsletter. A tradition was born!


Technology has come a wonderfully long way since Smith-Carona typewriters, and the blessing of email makes it easy to send newsletters with short personal notes. I like the idea of letting each recipient know that I'm thinking of him or her specifically. It's how I like being treated, and Jesus told us to treat others as we'd have them treat us (Luke 6:31).

As I catch myself grumbling today about emailing this year's Newsletter, I think about those bygone days, and suddenly I'm grateful for advanced technology. But I'm also a bit ashamed of my selfish attitude. I compare myself to the Lord, remembering His complete self-giving in coming to us as a humble Babe. Philippians 2:5-11 presents the challenge:

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Okay, so emailing those newsletters isn't a chore. It's an opportunity to imitate Christ!


Too Funny Not to Share

This is extra. I just couldn't resist!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Record Exspunged

Yesterday, amid John's Avon deliveries and catalog distribution, we stopped by the Police Station to drop off a Christmas Newsletter to demonstrate that I'm indeed mentally competent. As John struggled with the door, an officer came out to help us. Once we were inside, John began telling him about some of my abilities and accomplishments as he handed him the newsletter. Then he told him about last week's interrogation.

The officer patiently listened to our entire presentation before revealing that he had been in the second car that day. Not only has he been training the officer who questioned me, but he happens to be the sergeant in charge of Disability Relations. He explained that the officer on road detail several yards back that morning (who, actually, had helped me around the roadwork) saw that I had stopped at the library and was concerned that my wheelchair's battery might have died. The Department has a van that can, in such situations, transport a person back to his or her home to use a charger (good to know).


He agreed that asking my personal information had definitely been inappropriate. State Law requires police to so question suspects, but not citizens possibly needing assistance. He assured me that the other officer is being retrained. When I said I was still waiting for the letter of apology that the Chief of Police had promised, he said he'd look into the matter.

So we left the Police Station feeling encouraged, and made John's deliveries at Town Hall. Once finished there, we started toward the bus stop so we could make deliveries at the other end of town and say hi to John's mom. As we rounded the corner at the library, a squad car stopped, clearly to talk to us. "What's with me and this library?" I asked myself, bracing for another interrogation. When I recognized the officer as the same sergeant we had spoken with just twenty minutes earlier, I  grew even more perplexed.

But he smiled broadly, handing John an envelope addressed to me. "It was going out in today's mail," he said simply.

The Chief's letter began with an apology, and then explained that the rookie, eager to do his new job well, had mistakenly applied the protocol of asking personal information of actual suspects to a safety call. He said he's ordered remedial training for him, though he's confident (as am I) that the guy did not act in malice. He closed his letter by expressing the hope that the Police Department could earn back my respect.

Later on, I drove my wheelchair home while John attended to some business at Walgreen's. My, it felt wonderful to zip through town by myself without fear of being detained!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

For Granted

So, one "unofficial demand" of Occupy Wall Street is free college education. I think this one amuses me most because it implies that college is a right rather than a privilege. Certainly, I believe it's important for students to pursue higher education, and I'm thankful that so many financial aid packages are available to lower income students. Currently, I have a young friend working her way through college, and I do earnestly pray that she will obtain the grants and scholarships she needs to augment her part-time job.

But I'm not sure a college education, as important as it is, ought to be regarded as an entitlement. First of all, the government can't even afford the financial aid it's dispensing now, so how would it manage paying everyone's tuition? Oh...I forgot--by taxing the billionaires. Um...are there really enough billionaires to put all these kids through school?  

Truthfully, I believe that an education that can be taken for granted is often...well, taken for granted. I remember being in my Early 19th Century Literature class in the autumn of 1975, frustrated with a professor who had utterly no teaching ability (the chair of the English department didn't much like him either, and fired him after one semester). He'd only taught a few class sessions before he lost our respect, causing all but those who needed the class in order to earn our degree in English Literature to drop the course. Those of us who remained were miserable, and consequently didn't study very diligently.

One woman, about ten years older than the rest of us, was the exception.

As the semester wore on, this woman became increasingly annoyed as the rest of us treated the class lightly. I'm sure she saw the faults of the professor, but she also saw our disrespect, contempt and flat-out rebellion. Finally, a day came when she couldn't restrain her anger any longer. With tears welling in her eyes, she blurted out, "You all have your rich parents paying your way through school, so you don't appreciate the precious opportunity you've been given. But I've had to work hard to be here! I value it more because I've had to pay for it myself."

She was right. Unlike us, she had put school on hold while she worked and saved money. For her, college was something she had attained, causing her to deeply appreciate its value. Therefore, even with a buffoon for an 18th Century Literature professor, she appreciated the opportunity to study Keats and Shelly, Blake and Wordsworth. And I think Occupy Wall Street's demand for free education would trouble her.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Annoying Necessity Of Self-Promotion

For quite some time, as I think I've mentioned in a past post, I've been confessing my sin of self-promotion. That sin is complicated by the fact that I'm a digital artist and a writer who blogs. Both roles necessarily involve a certain level of self-exhibition. Obviously, I do my artwork with the idea of displaying it as publicly as possible, wanting people to see and enjoy my creations. Similarly, I type these blog posts in anticipation of people reading them. It generally takes a couple hours to type out a five-paragraph post, and I want all my hard work to actually mean something. So, yeah, it's tough to work with media that ultimately requires an audience, and in so doing keep the focus on the Lord Jesus Christ rather than on me.

Hopefully, I've been getting better at showcasing Him.

Monday's incident, among other things, has challenged me again in my struggle with self-promotion, as I've once again seen the need to convince the world around me that my mental faculties are not impaired just because my body and speech are. I'm fully capable of driving my wheelchair on a public sidewalk, of looking both ways before crossing streets, and of making decisions that will keep me, as well as others, safe. If I need assistance, I know how to ask for it, thank you very much. I'm like any other woman, and it pains me that (so very often, really) I can't be out in public without someone anxiously asking if I'm okay...or calling the police because (heaven forbid!) I'm sitting in public waiting for my husband.

Usually, "concerned citizens" ask me if anyone is "with" me, as if I require supervision. I get this question routinely in Boston as I wait while John uses the men's room. Yes, I understand that most people are genuinely concerned, and trying their best to be helpful. But I have to say, as callous as it may sound, that the concern itself troubles me.

As an example, I'll be sitting in South Station, waiting while John uses the facilities (which now takes longer because the Occupy Boston protesters all swarm over from their encampment in Dewey Square to do the same thing John needs to do). I'll look at the book seller's displays (that kiosk has some really interesting biographies, by the way), browse the bakery case or sit in front of the board to see which track our train will be on. Dozens of other unaccompanied women, different from me only in having clear speech and functional limbs, are engaged in the same activities. Yet invariably, some well-meaning soul finds it necessary to make sure I'm okay, even though they aren't the least bit compelled to inquire after the well-being of all those other unattended women (who would probably be insulted by such suggestions of patriarchy). Why am I, in contrast to the other women (some of whom are tourists who might actually need assistance), such an object of concern?

Well, because I drool. Because I can't hold my head up. And because my speech is slurred. Those factors lead people to assume that I suffer from mental retardation, and consequently should not be out in public without a "responsible adult" acting as my custodian.

Story of my life, I'm telling you! Oh, it's worse in New England. For all its progressive politics and laws to benefit people with disabilities, those of us with Cerebral Palsy still get treated as children by most people. John, who can swallow, hold his head erect and speak clearly, is pretty much accepted as a "normal" adult. I am not.

John wants to combat the assumption that I'm retarded by showing people my writing. He makes me want to promote  my abilities to a greater extent. I'm wanting, I find, to see my blog more widely circulated (as John does) so people will see past my exterior and know that I'm intelligent, and (well, yes) talented. That desire to be seen as a person who has a place in society has increased quite a bit since Monday, as I want to be understood as a woman no different from other women.

And in all this, I'm forgetting that I should promote Jesus Christ, not myself. God, help me!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Too Many Emotions Running Around

In the nursing home I lived in back in Memphis, one of the residents  was a physically and mentally disabled lady named Debbie. She always kept a huge smile on her face. Her purpose in life, as she saw it, was to sit near the nursing home's main entrance, cheerfully greeting people with the earnest question, "Is there anything you want me to do for you?"

She found particular delight in meeting anyone who shared even the remotest variation of her name. Any time she saw me, she'd enthusiastically recite a list of all the Deborahs, Debras, Debbies and (when I entered her life) DebbieLynnes, concluding her litany by chirping, "Yup--there's too many Debbies running around this place!"

That summary statement comes to mind as I continue to process all the wild, insistent feelings that have churned inside of me since Monday's episode with the police. Admittedly, I need to get my focus back on the Lord, and to praise Him for bringing a good resolution. And perhaps many of these feelings are demonic lies, meant to discourage me (if so, at present they're almost working). Anyway, I want to write some of them out.

But not tonight. Too many are running around, and I'm not sure which to chase first. Or if I should simply let them run away. What would little Debbie have done?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Criminal Record

At about 10:30 am yesterday, I was in my wheelchair, stopped outside our local Library to wait for John (we were meeting there, as we customarily do, before taking a bus to Boston). Two police cars pulled up, and one officer got out, asking if I needed assistance. I said I didn't; that I was waiting for my husband. Because I have a speech defect, he didn't immediately understand, but I assured him I was okay. That should have ended the matter.

Instead, the officer wanted my name and address. At first, I reminded him (a bit defensively, I admit) that I hadn't done anything wrong, to which he replied that he simply wanted to be sure I was okay. He again asked where I lived, and when I said told him, he condescendingly commented that I was a long way from home. He again demanded my name, address and date of birth. I complied, though I believe asking for any such information violated my rights.

As he was radioing in my information, my John wheeled up. The officer explained to him (as he should have to me) that a "concerned citizen" had called, evidently troubled by the fact that I was out by myself. I had broken no law. I was neither blocking an entrance nor obstructing a sidewalk. My chair had not tipped over. My only "crime" was that I have Cerebral Palsy.

As I see it, disabled citizens of this town don't need to be profiled. Had I been able bodied, no one would have thought anything of my being there. Had I been black or Hispanic, the officer would have been guilty of racial profiling.

Upon returning from Boston last night, instead of doing the Cyber Monday shopping that I'd looked forward to enjoying, I spent the time typing an email to the Chief of Police, explaining what had happened. I told him that I now feel unable to roam about our town unaccompanied, lest I again be subjected to interrogation. I am a adult with a  college degree, a voter and a tax-payer, yet I now feel as if I have no freedom. This feeling is wrong, and the Police Force of our town should not treat persons with disabilities as suspects. Had I engaged in suspicious behavior, I could understand the officer needing my name, address and date of birth (what did my date of birth have to do with it?). But I was waiting for my husband. Able bodied wives do that all the time.

To correct this violation, I told him I want a letter of apology, assuring me that I will, in the future, be allowed to drive my wheelchair on the sidewalks of our town without fear of police interrogation. Further, I strongly suggest that all officers go through sensitivity training, so that citizens of this town with disabilities will be treated with the same dignity and respect as anyone else.


When I checked my inbox this morning, there was no reply to my email. John called the police, who defended the officer, and said we could call the Inspector at 4:30 this evening. I wanted to take a walk this morning, since going off alone usually helps when I'm angry (and believe me, I'm about the angriest I've been in many years). All he could say was that the officer had a legal right to ask my birth date.

So John called a Town Council member who knows us personally. This man agreed that I'd been wrongly treated, and said he would call the police chief immediately. The chief just called, apologizing (while defending the officer...so not a complete apology), and promising a written apology. He also said he'd retrain the officer, who just joined the force four months ago. I'm hoping they've learned from this incident. All I've learned, sadly, is that I'll never be accepted as a functioning adult.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunflowers By Day

In the summer of 1964, Granny decided to sell her house in Jacksonville, Florida, and Mom arranged to help her prepare it for sale. Since Granny refused to travel by airplane, train travel was the only option. Between San Rafael, California and Jacksonville, she had a daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and another daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in Overland Park, Kansas. She'd been living with us for nearly a year, Daddy having died unexpectedly a few weeks after she'd come to visit. So the plan evolved that she, Mom, my sister and I would take a six week vacation.

Stopping in Albuquerque, we spent a week visiting the Santo Domingo Pueblo, horseback riding, and enjoying my uncle's practical jokes (which were usually aimed squarely at me). I remember riding double with my uncle, and suddenly breaking into a gallop to chase my sister's horse, who had inexplicably run away with her. I can't remember whether she was frightened or delighted (she was only 8), but afterwards she'd speak lovingly of "her" horse. I wondered at her forgiving attitude.

From there, we went to Kansas, where my sister and I would stay while Mom and Granny went on to Jacksonville. Both my aunt and uncle worked, so their college-aged daughter took charge of her two brothers, my sister and me.

Time won't allow me to go into detail about that glorious month in Kansas. Most of the memories are just fragments. I remember Debbie, a girl just my age who lived across the street from my aunt. We were inseparable, and she brought other girls our age over to play with me. If I recall correctly, she was the one who invited my sister, my youngest cousin and me to Vacation Bible School, where we made paper mache maps of Israel.

I loved living in a house with stairs. My uncle would have to carry me up, of course, but I could "bump" myself down. Indeed, I'd be quite indignant at the mere suggestion of being carried down, as I took enormous delight in my independence, as well as in the stairs themselves.

One day, my oldest cousin had to attend a sorority rush, which left her teenaged brother in charge of us three "little ones" (ages 10, 8 and 7). Said teenager, evidently fond of conducting "experiments," decided that creating a peanut butter and raisin pizza would be a good project. (Way too much sugar in our recipe, by the way.) To say that my aunt was displeased would be a definite understatement. She punished us by making us eat  it (which is how I know it had way too much sugar).

Our days were filled with trips to home construction sites, where we'd get wood and tile scraps for my uncle to form into a house for my Troll doll. Each afternoon, my oldest cousin would read to us: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Black Beauty and (our favorite) A Wrinkle in Time. My uncle took us up in his plane one day, and Debbie slept over one night. We saw sunflowers by day and fireflies by night, and basked in having my uncle fill the void that Daddy had left nine months earlier. There were stairs and basements, laughter and hugs. And I was happy.

Mom returned to Kansas without Granny, who stayed in Jacksonville presumably to sell her house. We took the train home, stopping in Albuquerque long enough for my uncle to get in one more practical joke (again, directed at me) before heading back to San Rafael. But I treasure all the memories of that summer. I enjoyed reliving them today.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

365 Days Of Cheerios

Whew! The 2011 Christmas Newsletter is written and ready to email/mail. Writing it each year, while feeling like a chore, does help me look back over the past year to see how much the Lord has blessed me and John.

Funny, don't you think, how we can meander through 365 days, drinking coffee, making sure floors are vacuumed, paying bills and eating Cheerios without seeing how many blessings the Lord has flung into our laps? We focus on the repetitive, mundane tasks that pull us through each week, almost forgetting the delights of a new Bible Study group, walks to the North End, or seeing the Stanley Cup. And it takes sitting down to compose a Christmas Newsletter to remind you that the year exploded with all sorts of treats.

So I'm glad I do an annual newsletter. Yes, it's work, but it's a good way to count blessings.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Preparations

It's the Friday after Thanksgiving. Tradition mandates that I commence working on our annual Christmas Newsletter, which started as my annual Christmas Newsletter in 1978 (practically 20 years before John found me in a chat room).  So I've spent most of today on Paint Shop Pro, creating my digital painting for this year's letter.

Click to view full size
Working on this piece reminded me that, as I see Christmas approach, my first response must be one of worship. I can get caught up in all the cultural expectations of newsletter writing, gift shopping and decorating, and those activities are good. But before anything else, I need to maintain an attitude of worship. Like the wise men, I must see this season as something that calls me to Jesus Christ in adoration, acknowledging that He is worthy of praise, honor and glory. Join me! Let this Christmas be a celebration of Him!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Only ONE?

Sometimes, after feasting on the customary turkey dinner with John's family (usually a small gathering of roughly 40 people), we'll go around the table to let each person say one thing they're thankful for. Obviously, with such a large group, we really need to limit it to one "thank" per person, but for me, the limitation is somewhat frustrating.

The Lord has given me so many wonderful blessings. He's given me, for instance, the best husband imaginable, who fills my life with joy and inspires me to be a godly woman. That's typically the blessing I mention at the Thanksgiving table. I offer it sincerely, because John is everything I always wanted in a husband (only better), and I've never been as happy as I am being his wife! But also, his cousins love hearing me say it, so it's pretty much expected. Hey...if I can be honest and please 39 people in the process, that's a good gig!

Of course, there are so many additional reasons for me to give thanks. Like living near Boston, which I love more than any place I've ever been. And I'm thankful that I've been to so many places, from Hawaii to Wales. I'm thankful to have seen live bull-riding at midnight in San Antonio, and gentle hills in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. I'm thankful for a zany bus tour through Manhattan and a three-day river rafting trip on Oregon's Rouge River. I'm thankful for seeing Big Ben in London and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. But oh, Boston has my heart, and I give thanks for the strolls through the Public Garden, the Freedom Trail Walking Tours lingering at the Old Granary Burial Ground, the cannolis at Quincy Market, and rolling back to South Station down the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

I'm thankful for my mom, who raised me to live beyond my disability, and encouraged me to study writing. I'm thankful that my sister and I were close in age, and therefore able to share so much of our childhood together. I give thanks that, at age 14, I was finally  mainstreamed (if only part-time) into 7th Grade at "regular" school.

See? I've only scratched the surface of reasons to give thanks, and wish I could keep going! The Lord has done so much for me in 58 years--He deserves more thanks than I could ever hope (finite being that I am) to give Him.

But if I could only thank Him for one blessing, it would be for His gift of salvation, which He gave me through Christ's crucifixion and Resurrection. That salvation will allow me to spend eternity with Him, joyfully serving Him and gazing into His eyes. Even then, I'll never be able to thank Him enough! But of all He's given me, this salvation is by far the greatest treasure, because it means I'll always be with Him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Land Of Faith

Linda Smith, a good friend of ours (and director of  Joni and Friends--Greater Boston), bought a wheelchair van several years ago for the purpose of helping her friends who use wheelchairs have recreational outings. In August of 2004, John and I were blessed to go with her to Plimoth Plantation, a re-creation of the Plymouth settlement as scholars believe it was in 1629.

I thought, as Thanksgiving Day approaches, that it might be fun to blog about that excursion with Linda, reflecting on how those early settlers, who came to America seeking to build a Christian society based on Scripture, lived out their commitment to God's principles. Sadly, I've long since lost the email I'd written to friends and family describing the experience, but I'll try to recount a few bits and pieces, peppering them with some of the photos that John took.

The houses on the plantation, interestingly, are quite wheelchair accessible, obviously because they replicate the actual structures that the Seperatists (they didn't call themselves Pilgrims) built. As we entered the first house, I was surprised that the interpreters were dressed, not in the somber tones that most people associate with them, but in bright, cheerful colors.
As anyone who knows me would expect, I was just slightly shy of obnoxious, excitedly asking a wide array of questions. I felt as if I was a guest at a huge banquet, looking over a vast table of choice meats and delicious desserts, and I wanted to make certain that I sampled as many dishes as humanly possible!

One of my questions was "How do you take care of disabled people?" After converting my inquiry to 17th Century terminology ("Oh,,,you mean cripples!"), the man in gold explained that the community (or, to use his word, "parish") cared for its own. I remembered that this plantation was based on shared faith, and wondered if they would approve of a state-run attendant care programs.

As you can see by the above photograph of me and Linda, the beds were in the main room of each house, usually opposite the open hearth used for cooking.

One of the women explained that their woolen skirts protected them from flying sparks when they cooked meals, and that our bare legs would easily be burned. Another man, responding to our question as to his opinion on how we dressed, wittily replied, "I did not want to be rude in speaking, but I figured you had fallen on hard times to be so poorly clothed."

At one point, we asked them their beliefs on education. One man told us that they made it a high priority to teach children (both boys and girls) to read, so that they would be able to read the Scriptures for themselves. How sad that now, almost 400 years later, public schools do all they can to discredit the Bible, not permitting children to have them on campus!
Still, I'm grateful for those Christians, who sought to have a land where Christ would rule. Although their vision perished, and America crept steadily toward the secular land that now marginalizes those who consider the Bible to be anything more than "great literature," I rejoice that the Seperatists at least tried to establish a land that honored the Lord.

Thanks Linda, for taking me and John back to a time of simple living and deep faith.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Who Should We Thank?

This time of year, people traditionally list things/people/circumstances for which they give thanks. And that's good. Perhaps our country would better better off if we dispensed with our entitlement mentality and realized that everything we enjoy (down to the very air we breathe) is a gift to us, not a fundamental right that we can claim. I believe I'm a more mature person as a result of shifting my focus from what I don't have (and would like) to the abundance of blessings that flood in, around and through my life. Being thankful has, in short, counteracted my dissatisfaction with life. I feel less entitled to things.

But aimless thankfulness still misses the mark, it seems to me. Thankfulness requires a benefactor. Someone is responsible for providing these blessings.

God.

Well, yes. But can we define our terms? Is God an undefined spiritual energy which conforms to whatever spiritual expression suits a given person? From my observation of American culture, particularly in the last 50 years, that certainly appears to be the prevailing attitude, even among professing Christians. This all-inclusive entity makes no personal demands, and can be conveniently fashioned into whatever image fits our ideals and lifestyles, so that he/she/it exists for our benefit. It's all very comfortable to thank such a well-mannered God. He/she/it is wonderfully tame, and doesn't much interfere in our lives (bothering us with such nuisances as values and--gasp--commands) unless we invite his/her/its intervention.

Of course, the true God is a definite Person Who reveals Himself in the Bible. He lived in Israel for 33 years in the early First Century, and died for our sins, only to be raised three days later as evidence that the Father accepted His sacrifice. Having accepted the punishment for sins that we committed, He rightfully claims authority over us. Those who willingly yield to His authority easily recognize how abundantly He bestows His blessings, knowing how little we deserve anything good. How thankful I am!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Food, Prayer And Demands

Today's Adult Sunday School virtually exploded with joyous recounts of yesterday's astounding experiences with the Brookville Basket Food Pantry, a ministry affiliated with (but broader than) Brookville Baptist Church. The Food Pantry, in addition to providing food for the hungry in Holbrook, MA and its surrounding towns, will celebrate its second anniversary this coming January. Yesterday had been the most exciting, as well as the most exhausting, day in the Food Pantry's young history, as a record 198 clients began lining up outside the church at 7:30 am...2 1/2 hours before the Pantry opened its doors.

For over 15 minutes, Michelle Yundt (who directs the ministry that she began in response to the Lord's dealings with her) and other members of the Food Pantry's all-volunteer staff eagerly told stories of 6400 (nope that second zero is not a typo) pounds of food being distributed yesterday, of the crowd in the Eubanks Prayer Room who heard the Gospel being presented, and of the 36 people who (after receiving their food) filled the upstairs classroom to attend the optional Bible Study.

From that point, our Sunday School teacher launched into excited narratives of past Food Pantry "glory stories" (to use Brookville Baptist Church vernacular). He told of praying for a woman who had a brain tumor. The next time she came to the Food Pantry, she joyfully informed him that the tumor had disappeared! He told us of a new mother whose baby was still in the hospital and not expected to survive, asking him to pray with her for the baby. Two weeks later, she came back with her baby, who was perfectly healthy!

Michelle then affirmed how lavishly God answered her prayer for money yesterday, as she felt overwhelmed by the enormous influx of clients lining up all the way to the corner of the street. Clearly, she'd need to buy more food. As she prayed, a co-worker from the bank that employs her drove up, offering her a substantial check for the Food Pantry. At the end of the day, Food Pantry volunteers were begging clients to take extra meat!

Finally, my husband again brought us back to the passage of Scripture that we'd been considering  before the discussion on the Food Pantry broke out. James 4:1-3 says:


1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Undoubtedly knowing what I'd been thinking, John contrasted the Brookville Basket Food Pantry with the Occupy Boston protesters who demand a $20  minimum wage, free college education and forgiveness of student loans. They are not humbly asking the Lord for resources that they can use to offer practical and spiritual assistance to the truly poor. They are instead demanding that billionaires (many of whom give generously to charities) be forced to give them a bigger slice of pie.

Somehow, I believe the Brookville Basket Food Pantry honors God. Occupy Boston? Well, ask yourself how they hold up against James 4:1-3.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How Righteous Is My Indignation?

Because my father passed away just before my tenth birthday, my memories of him are rather scant. In general, I never used to associate him with anger, instead focusing on his abundant love for me. I can recall, for instance, the amused paternal pride in his eyes when I said something funny, and his faithfulness to warm my leg braces on the radiant heat floor each winter morning so they wouldn't feel cold when he put them on me. A favorite memory is the father-daughter pool party my Girl Scout troop had, when he and I ate a whole bowl of potato chips all by ourselves.

Years later, as I directed rehearsal for a Sunday School Christmas play, I caught a glimpse of Daddy in myself that shocked me. The kids had been unruly that year, and I'd warned them that if their behavior didn't improve, I'd have to cancel the play. Well...suffice it to say, they didn't amend their behavior. But instead of calmly informing them that they'd just forfeited their privilege of being in the Christmas program (which, I see now, would have been the best way of handling their disobedience), I flew into a tirade which concluded with the shouted words: "I don't want to look at your faces!"

As those vicious words left my mouth, I immediately flashed back to Daddy yelling the very same words when my sister and I did something that he didn't like. I'd learned, apparently from his example, to control people with my rage.

Throughout my life, I've continued using anger to bully people. Thankfully, the Lord has patiently been teaching me to exercise self-control, and I see progress as my outbursts decrease in frequency, length and intensity. Sadly, I still have a long way to go in  repenting of this sin, but Jesus is  slowly but surely having His way. I cling to Him in this matter, knowing that I'll easily fall back into old patterns if I'm left to my own devices.

In my struggle to repent of anger, I've learned some ugly things about myself. One discovery is that, in many instances, I rationalize it by spinning it as "righteous indignation." When I unleashed my fury on the Sunday School kids that afternoon, I convinced myself that I was teaching them the seriousness of disobedience. Through my explosion, I reasoned, they would learn that misbehavior had serious consequences. Yes, I thought in proud self-congratulation, I had actually done them a service!

Never mind that the lesson would have been infinitely more effective if I had calmly canceled the play.

Seldom is my anger truly righteous, though in many cases I deluded myself otherwise, Even anger against societal sin, whether it be Joe Paterno's shortcomings in reporting Sandusky's abuse of children, corporate greed such as Solyndra accepting a government bailout, or the countless unborn children slaughtered at taxpayer expense since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, must be held up to the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. In my anger, righteous though it may be, am I trusting God to bring judgment in His time, or do I believe I have the authority to exercise vengeance on His behalf? Have I forgotten Romans 12:17-21, the passage of Scripture that attracted me to Jesus in the first place?

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

  

      “ If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
      If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
      For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

  
 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The Lord is, I assure you, continuing to move me into repentance regarding anger. As much as I still love my earthly father and see qualities in him that I'd do well to emulate, I want to have a temperament that instead reflects my Heavenly Father. I want to trust Him, rather than myself, to correct the very real wrongs in the world. Perhaps He should begin by correcting the very real wrongs in me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Speaking Against Injustice

Sunday, in my zeal to make a point combined with inadequate sleep the night before, I grossly overstated an idea that had been germinating in my mind a few days prior to my post. I wrote; "The Bible explicitly teaches that, even though injustice abounds, fighting against it simply draws us into different, but equally reprehensible, forms of corruption." My good friend Kim, who has always been faithful to correct me when I've deviated from Scripture (I love that about Kim), challenged that sentence. Throughout this week, I've known that I needed to own my irresponsibility.

The Bible does teach than human anger, by and large, is tainted by sin. When I wrote my sentence, James 1:20 served as my inspiration:

for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

And that's obviously an important Scripture in light of the Occupy Movement. I concede that the protesters, in some respects, are trying to address corporate greed, which is a real evil (though I believe they're overreacting and countering it with demands that would devastate our country). However, their anger is becoming destructive, as I noted yesterday. As understandable as their indignation is, they are now showing their own corruption. No where, in this protest, do I see godly righteousness.

Yet, juxtaposed against the story of the Occupy Movement, we grapple with the terrible silence of Penn State's Joe Paterno and Mike McQueary, who didn't take reports of Sandusky's sexual abuse of children beyond the school's administration. When the school turned a blind eye to Sandusky's crimes, Paterno and McQueary had a legal (not to mention a moral) obligation to take their allegations off-campus and to the police. Hopefully, they were incensed at the sexual exploitation of those young boys. And such outrage, being the only proper response to such reprehensible child abuse, should have compelled them to be relentless in making certain that Sandusky was fired and prosecuted!

Would not reporting such things as the sexual abuse of children fall under God's command in Isaiah 1:17?

Learn to do good;
      Seek justice,
      Rebuke the oppressor;
      Defend the fatherless,
      Plead for the widow. 

Yes. Of course it would! And whether or not Kim had the Penn State scandal in mind when she questioned my statement, the incident definitely illustrates that there are times that anger should motivate decisive action, especially when inaction puts innocent people (vulnerable children, at that) in harm's way.

Does Kim therefore think that the rage that the Occupy Movement displays is pure? She is invited to speak for herself by posting a comment on this post. But based on all I've known in my 14-year friendship with her (wow, Kim, has it been that long since Memphis?), I tend to doubt it. I appreciate her challenge because she called me to use God's Word accurately...and I suspect she wanted to see His Word honored more than she wanted to see our shared views on the Occupy Movement defended. I agree!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Boston Harbor And Manhattan

It's 4:06 PM, EST, as I begin typing this blog post. If everything went according to plan, thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters shut down the subway in New York City this afternoon as a demonstration against corporate greed and economic inequality. Earlier today, those same protesters unsuccessfully attempted to close several banks in Manhattan, as well as shutting down the New York Stock Exchange. After I publish this post, I guess I'll check the news to see what really happened...


Are such actions analogous to those of the Sons Of Liberty dumping caseloads of tea into Boston Harbor on December 6, 1773? I suppose so...especially in their minds. In both situations, anger compelled people towards destructive activity. The difference between the 1773 protest in Boston and the 2011 protest in Manhattan, however, is that ordinary citizens in Colonial Boston were merely deprived of tea, whereas today's demonstration interrupted lives of thousands of New Yorkers who, by going to work or shopping, all play a part in keeping the economy going. Additionally, today's protest threatened public safety, not to mention costing taxpayers goodness-knows how much money, in contrast to the Boston Tea Party's purpose of standing against oppressive taxation.

Our Founding Fathers never opposed protest as a way of redressing grievances, but I'm unsure that they would have condoned protests that threatened to harm free enterprise or jeopardized  the safety of ordinary people. Maybe one could make the case that the Revolutionary War, in fact, did both those things temporarily for the purpose of freeing America from England's tyranny, but I would suggest, as a counter-argument, that the goals of Occupy Wall Street (if I understand their website correctly) would actually result in the tyrannical system of Socialism. So, if you'll excuse me, I'll prefer Boston's protest, praying that no New Yorkers suffered more than minor inconveniences today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beautiful Ending

It's getting cold, despite the fact that yesterday was near 70 degrees. I'm guessing that our Boston Adventures may be over for a while, though I'm more than willing to be surprised. We visited the Boston Public Library, wanting 1) to be indoors and 2) to see its exhibit, Torn In Two, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, emphasizing Boston's part in the conflict. We didn't take pictures, being unsure if doing so would be permissible.

Oddly, but thankfully, the library has a small cafe, saving us a trip to the Prudential Center. After lunch, we left the library to find that temperatures had become very pleasant, so we scratched our plan to take the Commuter Rail from Back Bay Station to South Station in favor of driving our wheelchairs through the Public Garden. We definitely made the right decision, as evidenced by these photos John took:


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Response, Bible-Style

So, we've agreed with Occupy Wall Street that banks and corporations (even "green" corporations like Solyndra) misused Stimulus monies. Not all big banks, perhaps, and not all corporations; let's be careful not to paint with too big of a brush. But yes, abuses did happen, and denying that fact would be worse than dishonest. I do still believe that some lenders pocketed money in efforts to recoup losses incurred when government regulations forced them into giving mortgages to low-income people who couldn't afford houses, and I have a hard time begrudging them their profits. But yes, there were abuses, and that fact must be acknowledged.

It does not follow, however, that squatting on public property while taxpayers finance the police protection for encampments (and in some cases) pay for riots as major seaports are closed and property is damaged constitutes an appropriate response to the sins of Wall Street. At least, not for those who claim to be Christian.The Bible explicitly teaches that, even though injustice abounds, fighting against it simply draws us into different, but equally reprehensible, forms of corruption. As I see it, the tent city on Boston's Dewey Square visibly depicts how a beautiful public park, which people used to enjoy on sunny afternoons, can be...well, corrupted by protesters on an indefinite camp-out for which they have no permit.



Urban Beautification?
But both the occupiers and those of us who just want our city parks back need to understand that injustice is inherent in sinful humanity. As we live with its stench, we must remember what the Holy Spirit said through David in Psalm 37:7-11.

7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
         Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
         Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
         Do not fret—it only causes harm.
        
 9 For evildoers shall be cut off;
         But those who wait on the LORD,
         They shall inherit the earth.
 10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
         Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
         But it shall be no more.
 11 But the meek shall inherit the earth,
         And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What? No Justice?

The story I shared yesterday always irked me, especially once I'd become a Christian. "Of course there is justice," I'd fume self-righteously, thinking of Christ's return. And I had a valid point. When the Lord returns, in all His splendor, He will judge all of mankind throughout history, executing a justice that we really don't want, showing mercy only to those whose sins are covered by His blood. Those who reject His mercy, falsely believing in their own "goodness," will experience a terrible, but perfect, justice. That's why I plead with people to confess their utter sinfulness and cling to Him as Savior. His blood shed for the remission of sin has satisfied God's justice!

But the Occupy movement has caused me to revisit my relative's story, this time taking it as a lesson for this present life. While true justice is with the Lord Jesus Christ, we rarely see His justice played out in the world. We see exploitation, deception, greed and unfairness. Scripture tells us that all these maladies result from Adam's rebellion, which has turned all of creation against the Lord. See Romans 1:18-32 for God's indictment against humanity. (I'll wait while you click the link.)

As I meditate on that passage of Scripture, I see that all the corruption on Wall Street is quite inevitable, as is the anarchy in Oakland, California. Without the Holy Spirit, who takes up residence only in the hearts of those who surrender their lives to Him, corruption is a forgone conclusion. Admittedly, not all people show themselves to be corrupt. Many, in fact, appear quite altruistic. But as 1 Timothy 5:24 says, some people's sins are visible now, while those of others won't be seen until the day of Judgement. Either way, it's useless to expect anything less than corruption in a society that's comprised of sinful human beings who reject the Lord's authority over their lives.

We can shut down the Fed, establish socialism, capitalism (or a hybrid of the two), and congratulate ourselves for striking a blow against economic inequality, but it won't take long for corruption to reappear. The real problem, you see, is in each of our hearts, and can only find resolution when Jesus Christ returns to reign over the whole earth. Until He comes, the words of my relative's high school principal must help us through the inequalities that always accompany life: "There ain't no justice."


Friday, November 11, 2011

A Lost Perspective

One of my family members, famous for her stories of growing up in the South during the Great Depression, often told me the story of getting a bad grade on a high school paper she wrote. She was usually an excellent student, unused to poor grades, but her outrage really wasn't the wrath of a spoiled child. She had worked especially hard on this particular paper, and absolutely knew it deserved higher marks.

With the righteous indignation that is so pronounced in teenagers, my relative marched into the principal's office, demanding that he read her paper. She sat in front of him as he read, struggling to conceal her impatience. At last, he finished reviewing it. She looked him, afraid he would back her teacher, yet hoping he would agree with her.

As she searched his face pleadingly, he admitted, "Well, you're right. This paper deserves a better grade."

"Then you'll make her change it?" My relative was giddy with the euphoria of vindication, and felt empowered against her teacher's tyrannical misconduct. Right was on her side, so justice would simply have to prevail!

But the principal shook his head, saying sadly,  "No, I've decided to let this grade stand."

Understandably, the girl  was now more outraged than ever! She fought her Irish temper, but found self-control to be both elusive and, to be quite honest, undesirable in the face of such an obvious affront. As her young body shook under the building rage, her eyes flashed with the potent mixture of defiance and frustration, betraying her determination to win this battle. From deep in her soul, she yelled, "But it's not fair!"

Saying her name in a way that instantly calmed her, the principal explained his decision: "This school has taught you to read and write well, and your paper proves it. But there's a lesson you need to learn from this incident that I believe is much more important, and will prepare you for adult life. If you remember nothing else from your years here, I want you to remember these four words: There ain't no justice!"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Completed Project

Ten months ago, I started drawing a portrait of a very special lady. As usual, I procrastinated quite a bit, especially over the more detailed aspects such as the facial features and the scarf, knowing such detailed work is both tedious and nerve-wracking.


I prayed daily to be more consistent in following through on this project, but then invented all sorts of convenient excuses to avoid doing so. Playing Bookworm seemed much more of a priority when I reasoned that word games keep one's mind sharp. And, after all, I've reached that age at which mental exercise is important. Never mind the fact that drawing the details of a scarf also offers a good mental challenge...in fact, it offers substantially more of a challenge than playing Bookworm does. Yes, well...


So, I finished it today. Before I show it to you, however, I need those of you who recognize this lady to promise not to identify her, even by innuendo, in any comments you may offer. I drew this portrait to express my love and respect for her, so it's crucial that her privacy also receives the respect of both me and my readers.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What Government Would Work?

An octopus is slimy, curling its tentacles in odd, haphazard directions. And usually, according to staff members at the New England Aquarium, it retreats from those who would study it (even on a cursory level). In short, putting pantyhose on one, while perhaps good for showing agility and courage, makes for a task that is both daunting and overwhelming.

Eventually, I hope to address more of the grievances and demands of Occupy Wall Street. Of course, I'll first need to search my heart, making sure I'm not doing so in an effort to show myself as a clever debater. The truth is that I'm not an economist. John has helped me understand basic things, and Townhall.com has verified many of his assertions. As a former Democrat (oh yes...I rode the Donkey most of my adult life), I remember flinching when people questioned entitlement programs or asked why the wealthy should pay a higher percentage of taxes than they already payed. John, Townhall.com, and other conservative sources have challenged my liberal politics, and I believe I'm more educated on how the economy works than I was as a Democrat. But I'm primarily a student of theology, not politics.

And so, as much as systematically dealing with #0WS point-by-point might flatter my ego, I must be honest about my shortcomings. I'm studying the issues the protesters raise, and will continue studying, but I can't claim expertise. But neither, I suspect, can most of the protesters.

What I can claim, however, is that I know Scripture. Within that claim, I can unreservedly say that capitalism, socialism, democracy and monarchy are all flawed forms of government, and doomed to failure. I'll say it another way: all man-made governments, no matter how altruistic  their beginnings may be, will ultimately fall to corruption because humans are...well, corrupt. Left to ourselves, all of us are greedy and perverted. Not just Wall Street. Not just Capitol Hill. But you and I.

Segments of the Religious Right hope to make America a "Christian" nation. As much as I believe the Puritans who first settled New England had that vision, and as sad as I am when I visit their graves and tombs at King's Chapel Burying Ground, I know that any Christian government this side of Christ's Second Coming will again unravel. I pray we will retain Judeo-Christian values in this country (if nothing else, out of respect for our Puritan forefathers), but human effort can never really contrive the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet, His rule is, ultimately, the only real answer. When He returns, true righteousness and justice will prevail.  Not because human beings have brought corporate America to its knees, or because entitlement programs have been abolished, or even because prayer has been restored in public schools. No, righteousness and justice will prevail because Jesus, our very Creator, will at last bring His rule to earth. When that happens, there will be no need to address the grievances of Occupy Wall Street...or anyone else!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Deep Waters And Flame

Although I would like to re-enter the "Hymns vs. Praise Songs" debate, I'm not sharing the following hymn lyrics as a way of pleading my case for incorporating more hymns into church services. At least, not in this blog post. I may, in the future, explore that topic, probably to the consternation of several friends from various churches I've belonged to over the years, but today I want to share my favorite hymn as an answer to all the social, economic and political upheaval going on in the world right now.

First, I'll post a YouTube video, allowing you to enjoy the soothing melody, with its hint (as I see it) of Irish cadences.


As I sang this song in my head at 3:30 this morning, the security it depicts startled me! Based mostly on God's promise in Isaiah 43:1-2, "How Firm A Foundation" reminds us that, even though the Lord will allow us to go through the deep waters of sorrow and the fiery trials of life, we can lean on Him.

Certainly. my flesh is tempted to fear the repression that will come as America moves toward greater degrees of socialism, which should explain my apprehension regarding Occupy Wall Street, Obama's Health Care bill and other items favored by liberal politics. As I've been forced to rely on entitlement programs, I've experienced the restrictions and regulations that go along with them. (Citing those restrictions and regulations would violate family privacy, so I am not at liberty to divulge them on the Internet.) I believe that, as government increases its role in subsiding the populace, many American freedoms will necessarily be erased.

From what I see, those with liberal political leanings (and remember, I used to be in their camp) fear economic disaster as much as conservatives do. As I fear government control, they fear that a wealthy "class" will consume too many resources, leaving an economic disparity like the one experienced in the Great Depression.

Both groups fear economic collapse. Well, no matter which group "wins" the power struggle that Occupy Wall Street has brought to the public's attention (they didn't create it; they merely brought it to light), I believe that collapse will come. Whether Wall Street triggers it or Washington does, we will go through some very dark days.

For those who place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, however, the hardships (though very real and horrible) can't totally break us. We know that there's a future after physical death, and that He will use our present suffering to prepare us for His Kingdom. He has given us the firm foundation of His presence, promising it to us in His Word (the Bible). And that's a profoundly better foundation than either government or the economy.

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