Monday, February 28, 2011

Shift of Direction, Same Destination

When I lived with my mom in San Rafael, California, I used to drive my power wheelchair to Northgate Mall for something to do. The stores have changed since then, but I'd usually shop at Mervyn's or Sears, visit with the staff at the Thomas Kinkade gallery, spend money at See's Candies (Mom always asked, "Can't you go to the Mall without buying something at See's?"), or see a movie at the multiplex. Terra Linda (the community where I lived, and where the Mall is) has little geographic area, but I managed to find a variety of routes between home and the Mall.

Finally, Mom began asking what route I'd be taking, so she could look for me if I didn't come home at the anticipated time because of wheelchair trouble. Although I knew she was right (and therefore complied with her request very willingly), I mourned the loss of spontaneity. I'd enjoyed my little explorations, during which I'd catch fresh views of the area I'd lived in for over 40 years. I loved finding tiny variation that permitted me to see familiar sites in different angles. Actually, I felt more creative, as if telling myself, "Aha!--it can be done this way too!"

It intrigued me that, no matter which direction I took, I always ended up at Mom's door, cheerfully shouting, "Hiya!" All streets in Terra Linda, it seemed, inevitably led me home. And that was comfortable!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Parlors Of Beauty

As I posted yesterday, John and I visited three of the Period Rooms at the Museum of Fine Arts this past Thursday. After enjoying the Brown-Pearl Hall in the 17th Century area of the museum, we went to the Garden Cafeteria in pursuit of lunch. Bad idea. It was still before 1:00, which is pretty much lunch time for young children. As I mentioned in Friday's post, it was school vacation week, so kids were admitted every single table was occupied!

So we wandered for a while, not taking photos or really studying anything. We at last returned to the Cafeteria and found some tables in the hall outside of it. I was hungry, and needed a migraine pill (which worked), so I was thankful to finally eat. The downside was that, by the time we finished lunch, only 50 minutes remained before our RIDE van was due.

I wanted to look at European art, which we did, but that gallery somehow led to two Period Rooms belonging to the Art of The Americas wing. Don't misunderstand: we'd been wanting to see these rooms, but didn't know where they were. John was absolutely delighted as he escorted me into the Jaffery Parlor.

George Jaffery II was a prominent merchant and politician in early 18th Century Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The ground floor parlor comes from Jaffery's 1730 mansion, and was probably the room used for entertainment, family gatherings, and even business meetings. (Please remember to click on these photos, as enlarging them will help you see more detail.)

MFA's abstract on the parlor makes it unclear whether or not the furnishings are actually from the house. If so, they would have been acquired by his father, George Jaffery I. The fireplace, however, is definitely from the house, which was demolished in 1920.

We were thrilled seeing the Jaffery Parlor, and even more surprised and delighted when John spotted the nearby Shephard Parlor. I can't find information on George Shephard, but he had his house (located in Bath, Maine) built in 1803.

The Shephard Parlor's most striking feature is its wall paper. Rather than a repeated pattern typical of most wall papers, it consists of two murals. Both were hand-painted and imported from France. Although French, I thought they evoked the feel of an Italian countryside.

The furnishings  are not from the actual house, but accurately represent federal-period style. This parlor offered a lot to look at, as if the wallpaper wasn't enough for my eyes to feast on. I liked the soft green of this room. Amazingly, despite all the decorative objects, it had a very open feeling about it.

A couple pieces in the room interested me. One, a woman's work table, really warrants its own blog post, which I may or may not get around to doing. (So many things to write about, and so little time!) But the other was a bust of English preacher/hymn writer John Wesley. I wonder why the curator included that. Did it show a movement away from Puritan theology to other expressions of Christianity?

I can't help reflecting on the progression from Cornealius Brown's Hall, in its Puritan simplicity, to this lavish parlor built just a century later. Is it a story of America's growing prosperity? I'd like to see it in that light. And I'd like to visit the museum again soon, preferably when kids are in school!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Farmer's Hall

In my last post, I blogged about the Boston Embroidery Samplers at the Museum of Fine Arts. Continuing with my theme of home life in early New England, today I want to show you the first of three "Period Rooms" we visited. Both John and I love recreations of rooms, so we delighted in finding these!

While still on the museum's lower level, we found the Brown-Pearl room, which isn't technically 17th Century (having been built in West Boxford Massachusetts in 1704 by a farmer named Cornealius Brown). The red oak timbers, the floor boards, the pine wall paneling and the fireplace bricks are all original to the house.

The room is called the Hall, and was the main living space for Cornealius and his wife, Susannah. There was an upstairs, and later another "wing." but the Hall was where the couple lived, cooked, ate and slept. It more closely represents 17th Century life, explaining why the museum placed it with the colonial exhibits rather than with the 18th Century Revolutionary-era collections.

The furnishings, though not original, are typical of what a wealthy farmer of that time would own. Please click on the photos, which show how short the bed is, and consequently how small people were back then. The Hall illustrates so much about Colonial life in Massachusetts!

Tomorrow, I'll take you to the Jaffery Parlor from Portsmouth, New Hampshire and the Shephard Parlor from Bath, Maine...all without leaving the Museum of Fine Arts!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gentle Children in the Museum

Okay, maybe a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts during school vacation week (when kids had free admission) wasn't really the smartest thing to do, but most of them were in special activities and (to our consternation) in the Garden Cafeteria. Our focus yesterday centered on the Art of the Americas' lower level, and specifically the Boston Colonial Embroidery Samplers.

Girls as early as five years old in 18th Century Boston learned needlework (and embroidery in particular) to prepare them for married life. As they embroidered samplers, they learned letters and numbers, thus learning to read so they could study the Bible. Although I didn't prepare any of the photos that John took of samplers by very young girls, they almost invariably depicted Adam and Eve. Nothing in the exhibit explained this choice of subject matter, and I'm sorry to say that I don't have time to hunt down the answer today.

The spiritual content of these samplers diminished as the girls aged, but (thankfully) never completely disappeared. Thirteen-year-old Sarah Irving, for instance, dated her sampler "the year of our Lord 1730."

Likewise, in 1750, Sarah Lowell stitched a prayer (sadly no longer completely legible), demonstrating 
 her piety and faith, as well as her skill in embroidery.

But my favorite sampler, embroidered by a young lady named Martha Decoster, struck me with both her devotion to Christ and her light humor (which, depending on her age, may or may not have been intentional). She stitched: "Martha Decoster is my name. New England is my nation. Boston is my dwelling place and Christ is my Salvation. When I am dead and laid in grave and all my bones are rotten, & this you see, remember me and let me never be forgotten." (I added the punctuation.)

Martha, I'll meet you in heaven, and you can teach me how to embroider!

So, I spent yesterday at the museum with children after all. They just weren't the 21st Century kids crowding the cafeteria. They were sweet girls in the 18th Century. I quite enjoyed their company!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Above Cerebral Palsy

A young friend of mine, in her last semester of undergraduate work (she'll continue her education for an advanced degree in speech pathology, I believe) interviewed me via email for a paper she's writing. Here are her questions and my answers:

  1. When/how were you diagnosed with CP?
  2. Who helped you get through this and manage to have a happy life?
  3. How old were you when you was diagnosed?
  4. How old were you when you met John, and got married?
  5. Do you feel that you are happy now?
  6. Is there anything in life that you want to do that you havent?
  7. What are some of your interest and hobbies you enjoy doing?
  8. Have you ever felt anger/frustration with your diability?
  9. Did you ever receive criticism or teased because of CP?
  10. How did friends and family help you overcome and be strong about your disability?
  11. Do you enjoy having PCA'S assist you?
  12. Do you feel any anger or resentment because of CP?
  13. How would you help someone else dealing with this disability?
Thank you so much, this would be helpful if you can email whatever questions you feel most comfortable answering, if I have more I will definitely email you. .

 To her questions, I responded:

Well, I'm honored!

I'm not sure when/how I was diagnosed, as mom doesn't like to talk about it. I was born in late 1953 after a 10-month pregnancy, but weighed only 5 pounds. I was severely jaundiced, and I believe that caused my CP. Mom was told I would be a vegetable all my life. At age 4, I was enrolled in Marindale School for the Orthopedically Handicapped in San Rafael, CA, and my early records there classified me as mentally retarded. In September 1967, having fallen two grades behind, I was mainstreamed part-time into 7th grade. For the next six years, I went to Vallecito Jr High and Terra Linda High for morning classes, and Marindale for afternoon classes and therapy (physical, occupational and speech).

As far as who helped me, certainly my parents (though my father died just before my tenth birthday) and my younger sister deserve the most credit. Until I was mainstreamed, Mom had me in Brownies and Girl Scouts with girls my age. She disciplined me pretty well, treating me as a normal child. But I also believe my physical therapist, who had me from 1957 to 1973, taught me a lot about life. She believed in treating the whole child, rather than just the physical disability. Of course, I gave my life to Christ at age 17, and He has made the most profound impact by teaching me that true disability has nothing to do with one's physical body. All people are disabled by sin, and He brings us to spiritual health as we repent and express faith by obeying Him. So yes, He puts my disability in perspective.

I met John when I was 44, in an online chat room for disabled singles. He admired my Christian conviction that God created sex only for heterosexual marriage. Four years later I moved to MA,and lived for three weeks with PCAs until August 24, 2002--our wedding day! John moved in after the wedding.

I'm very happy now. Christian marriage, while it takes work, is immensely satisfying!

Actually, before meeting John, I worked as a correspondence counselor for Love In Action International, an ex-gay ministry that originated in San Rafael, CA and is now in Memphis, TN. Through that job, I traveled to New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Antonio and San Diego. Prior to that job, I attended a three-month Bible College in North Wales, followed by ten days in London. I graduated from Dominican University of California in 1977 with a BA in English Lit., and served at Church of the Open Door San Rafael editing their newsletter, writing and directing children's plays and with the adult drama team, coordinating pot lucks for church weddings and teaching Sunday School. I've river rafted in Oregon and taken two vacation trips to Houston. I lived in Memphis for two years. Now I'm married to a fabulous Christian man, living near Boston, and am guaranteed eternity with Jesus! Goodness--what more could I possibly want?

I spend lots of time blogging, and I mostly blog about Christian doctrine, my adventures in Boston, and my digital drawings (using Paint Shop Pro software). My blog site has a whole page discussing how I drew pictures as a child, why I had to stop drawing, and how Paint Shop Pro restored my ability to draw. I also love visiting historical sites in and around Boston, as well as going to the Museum of Fine Arts. And I'm the email liaison between our church and the 32 missionaries we sponsor.

Anger is my besetting sin, and I guess some of it indirectly relates to my disability. I can't let my mind go there, though. When it does, I justify my anger. Not acceptable. To paraphrase my pastor back in California, God doesn't feel sorry for me because I'm in a wheelchair. Anger is as much a sin for me as for anyone else, and the Lord has given me His Holy Spirit, Who enables me to control it. I'm responsible to obey Him, disability or no disability.

Teasing? Oh yes! All through childhood! Thankfully, there were no anti-bullying laws back then, because I learned to forgive those who taunted me. One boy in 7th grade was so cruel that I wished he was disabled so he'd know what it was like. Sadly, six years later I got my wish; he broke his neck in a diving accident and became a quadriplegic. Till his death a year ago, I regretted my reaction to his teasing. He was just a boy, and didn't know any better.

Friends and family helped me physically, but always expected me to do what I could. They never pitied me, nor did they coddle me. To them, I had the same moral obligations as anyone else.

Some PCAs have become dear friends, but I guess the general PCA thing is a two-edged sword. I lived in a nursing home in Memphis, so the PCA system is heaven compared to being incarcerated there. Yet I'm not as independent as my able-bodied friends, as my life is bound up in their schedules, as well as covering bases when they're absent. Recently, I had to fire my favorite PCA for calling in sick too often. The new one's more reliable, but we don't click as well. I hate having to make decisions like that!

God used my CP and John's Polio to bring us together, so no...I'm seldom angry or resentful. He could have healed me 40 years ago, but I would have missed out on a wonderful marriage, and many other blessings. So my disability is a treasure. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

This last question bothers me, as most disabled people haven't found me particularly inspirational. But I'd tell them what I'd tell anyone: the answers are in Jesus.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Burger King Spirituality

"Hold the pickles,
Hold the lettuce.
Special orders
Don't upset us.
All we ask is
That you let us
Do it your way!"

Such an attitude worked well for Burger King in the '70s, and actually would be a nice one for other service industries and agencies to adopt. Sadly, however, a growing number of professing Christians want God to adopt a similar attitude of accommodation. They love Jesus, they insist, but prefer to worship Him (or not worship Him, but keep Him handy in case they need help or warm fuzzies) as they see fit. Prayers, they reason, can happen through Eastern meditation, thinking positive thoughts or singing repeated refrains of contemporary praise songs.

Such spirituality may produce euphoric goose bumps, but it fails to recognize the focal point of Christianity. Jesus, because He is God the Son (the Second Person of the Trinity) is Lord. That means He has claims on us. He gets to tell us how to worship Him, how to manage our money, how to conduct ourselves sexually, how to order our short, He calls the shots in every area of our lives. 

Jesus, according to John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:1-2 created the universe. Think seriously about the implications of that statement. Since He is the Creator, He has ultimate authority over His creation. Most humans, because of pride and selfishness, reject His authority, turning Him into a cosmic bell-hop who sings the Burger King jingle. But Jesus, although He serves us as the Lamb slain for the sin of the world, is also the Lion who, with His roar, commands us to fall to our knees in humble obedience.

He will have it His way!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Different View Of My Favorite Place

Friday, we took The RIDE (the MBTA's para-transit service) into Boston, which seemed strange since we generally use regular public transportation. The sidewalks near our apartment building, however, still have sections buried under show, making it unsafe to drive our wheelchairs to and from the bus stop. So, using The RIDE to get downtown was the first aberration in our Boston Adventure.

The driver let us of on Temple Place, which I'd never gone down until Friday. But it's a short street, and we rounded the corner to Tremont Street just as Park Street Church's bell tower began playing its 12:00 hymns. (I love hymns, and often attempt to be near the church when it plays them.) As I heard the music, I said to John, "Honey, we're home!"

We crossed to the Common from Winter Street, and gazed at the State House, prefaced on the Common with a grand, but precise, carpet of snow.

What a splendid effect! If you'll look through my other "Boston Adventure" posts, you'll see that green lawn usually stretches itself in that spot. This view looks like a postcard picture, doesn't it?

I looked diagonally left, across a hillside of snow and up to one of Beacon Hill's mansions on the other side of the street. This next photo doesn't really capture the majesty that entranced me, but it does give a feel for the vastness of the snow on the Common, so I'm posting it!

John wanted pictures of ice skating on the Frog Pond, so we started moving in that direction. A squirrel interrupted our journey, and very cooperatively posed for our camera:

Of course, upon understanding that we had no food to offer as compensation, he scurried up a tree which blocked our view of him. Typical behavior for a Boston Common squirrel, actually; squirrels at the Public Garden generally are more congenial. So, at his dismissal of us, we continued to the Frog Pond.

I wanted to see what the Old Grainary Burial Ground looked like, so we made our way there. Its paths hadn't been cleared, so (to the disappointment of a nearby tourist) its gates were closed and locked. John got a good picture of it through the fence, though.

It was interesting seeing it without visitors. Such stillness. Thinking about it today, I almost feel grateful that the place can have this season of rest before the tourists and school groups swoop down on it again.

Getting hungry, we took the familiar route up Washington Street, turning right onto State Street at the Old State House and left onto Congress Street to arrive at Fanuiel Hall and Quincy Market for clam "chowda" and (ooh baby, come to Mama!) a cannoli. Having satisfied our bellies and our ( taste buds, we exited the North Side of the building to find the Peruvian musicians who used to perform at Downtown Crossing and, more recently, outside Fanuiel Hall near Samuel Adam's' statue.

Next time we see them, I just may buy their CD. I like their music quite a bit.

For a while, we browsed at Borders back on Washington Street, till I noticed that the sun had come out. So we returned to Boston Common and took a second photo of the State House.

Makes an even better postcard, huh? Too bad those people cluttered up the shot, but I guess they were enjoying the gorgeous weather as much as we were. We got a photo of the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial (Matthew Broderik portrayed Shaw in the movie Glory).

It was getting close to 3:00, and The RIDE was due at 3:20, but we took time to go over to the Public Garden. John got a kick from the "Please Keep Off The Grass" sign in this next photo, but I would have wasted the picture by zooming in on it. I felt like I was in a story book!

These next two photos are from the little suspension bridge, looking at the frozen lagoon..first at the ducks' island and then at the Swan Boat dock.

I hated leaving, but The RIDE, being a shared service, has a schedule that requires it to leave if a customer isn't at the designated place on time. Rushing back through the Common, we stopped just long enough to take this final photo of this snowman that some teenagers were building.

Alas, despite getting to the corner of Washington and Temple before 3:20, we had to wait a very long hour for The RIDE. Oh well...I could faintly hear the 4:00 hymn from Park Street Church.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The "Hypocrisies" of the Faithful

A statue of Anne Hutchinson stands at the ceremonial entrance of the Massachusetts State House, looking across Beacon Street. Freedom Trail guides giddily point her out to tourists as testament to the Puritans' hypocrisy. "They came to New England for religious liberty," these guides proclaim with righteous indignation, "and yet they banished her for being a Quaker." Yes Hutchinson dissented from Puritan theology, but it's really erroneous to regard her banishment as an indictment against Puritans.

Certainly, the Separatist sect of the Puritans fled England to escape the persecution of Mary Queen of Scot and Elizabeth I. But they originally settled in Leiden, Holland. Dutch society gave them the religious tolerance they needed, but not the economic security. Additionally (and this point deserves more attention than it generally receives), they felt deep concern as their children developed attractions to the worldly values of the Dutch. As the American Studies @ The University of Virginia web page on Pilgrims and Puritans puts it:

But theirs was a religious, not a political agenda; moral and theological principles were involved, and from their perspective, there could be no compromise. For them 2 Corinthians made it clear: "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord." To achieve and preserve a simplicity and 'purity' that they felt had been lost amid the some of the surviving features of Catholicism--the rituals which continued through into the Anglican Church and were epitomized in its statement, "'I believe in...the holy Catholick Church'" (Gill, 19). To establish themselves as rightful interpreters of the Bible independent of an inherited social and cultural order, they removed from the Anglican Church in order to re-establish it as they believed it truly should be. This of course meant leaving the country, and they left for Holland in 1608.

After 12 years, they decided to move again. Having gone back to England to obtain the backing of the Virginia Company, 102 Pilgrims set out for America. The reasons are suggested by William Bradford, when he notes the "discouragements" of the hard life they had in Holland, and the hope of attracting others by finding "a better, and easier place of living"; the "children" of the group being "drawne away by evill examples into extravagence and dangerous courses"; the "great hope, for the propagating and advancing the gospell of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world" (Wheelwright, 7-8). In these reasons, the second sounds most like the Pilgrims many Americans are familiar with--the group that wants to be left alone and live in its own pure and righteous way. Behind it seems to lie not only the fear of the breakdown of individual families, but even a concern over the dissolution of the larger community. The concern seems to be that their split with England was now only effecting their own disolution into Dutch culture. But it is also interesting to note the underlying traces of evangelism in, if not the first, certainly the last of the reasons. On the one hand, this strain would find its later expression (and perversion) in such portrayals of the Pilgrims as the Rotunda fresco, where the idea of conversion is baldly fashioned within the image of conquest; here, the Indian is shown as subdued before the word of the "kingdom" even as the Pilgrims are landing, and the Pilgrim is seen as an agent of domination, a superior moral force commanding by its sheer presence. On the other hand, such a portrayal suggests an uneasy tension with the common (and seemingly accurate) conception of the Pilgrims as a model of tolerance. Indeed, the first of their reasons for sailing to America is fairly passive--they want to "draw" others by the example of their prosperity, not necessarily go conquer and actively convert. Such an idea reflects the one that would be expressed explicitly by the Puritan John Winthrop, where the New World would become a beacon of religious light, a model of spiritual promise, a "citty upon a hill."

When John Wintrop banished Anne Hutchinson to Rhode Island in 1637 on charges of heresy, therefore, he did so in keeping with his vision for the New World. He did not want the pluralism that threatened the youth in Holland. Massachusetts was, at that time, a church-state, and Winthrop was doing nothing more than exercising church discipline. Freedom Trails guides may sanctimoniously judge the Puritans of hypocrisy in regard to Hutchinson, but in truth, the banishment shows nothing but spiritual integrity.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Novel Familiar

Friday's temperatures promise to be in to 50s, which means only one thing: we're going to Boston!

I'm interested in seeing the Common, and the burying grounds, blanketed in snow. I've never seen them like that, and the whole idea fascinates me in an odd sort of way, though I don't understand exactly why. Could it be the blending of the familiar with the unfamiliar? Or is it a desire to once again pull back into the 18th Century and dream about the winters that Abigail Adams, Mercy Warren and (jumping to the 19th Century) Louisa May Alcott knew. At any rate, I desperately want to see Boston with snow covering it.

So, again I'm thinking of Puritans and Patriots, and all the quirky stories I know about this bizarre little city that I love so much. Winter has sequestered me a bit from both the physical city and the legends, though I follow three blogs about the place. I wish I had time Friday to visit all the sites downtown, but I'll be content with the Common and the burying grounds this visit.

After all, once spring comes, I'll be there ever so much, again tracing the Revolution and feeding ungrateful squirrels and shopping for peaches at the Farmer's Markets. Friday will just be a little bridge, novel because of snow, but comfortable as I see favorite places. I'll think of Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and James Otis, and look forward to spending spring, summer and fall in their shadows.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Remember Romance

The last two weeks were rough for me and John. The specifics of our problems may or may not make good reading, but I don't think blogging about them honors either my husband or the Lord.

Several years ago, a friend from church told us that some of his co-workers used to complain about their wives. When he didn't join them, they sarcastically asked if his wife was perfect. "No," he answered, "she's not. She has her imperfections. But I won't tell you what they are because I took a wedding vow to honor her." Wow! That man, by telling us that story, made a deep impact on how I speak of John to others.

So, all I will say here (having checked with John first) is that we didn't feel much like celebrating Valentine's Day when yesterday morning dawned. We'd worked through our issues by late Sunday night, and in the morning he took care of the situation that had generated all the conflict in the first place. Everything left us spiritually, emotionally and physically exhausted. But we exchanged gifts that we had purchased before our disagreements began. The gifts showed how well we know each other, and our eagerness to please each other. Our hearts melted.

We went to South Shore Plaza in Braintree, first to do errands at Target. Target just opened its store at the Plaza a few months ago, much to our delight since the one in Stoughton (through closer) isn't accessible in terms of transportation. Watching John's wonder and excitement  as we explored the store brought back my romantic feelings toward him.

After making our purchases, he took me to lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. I would have been content with a less crowded restaurant, but John wanted me to have an elegant meal. At the next table, two single women picked at their food. I watched them remembering all those Valentine's Day lunches I had with girlfriends before the Lord brought John to me. 

As tough as marriage sometimes gets, I sure don't want to return to those lonely days of singleness! I remembered how blessed I am, not simply to be married, but to have married John. By the time we shared our Key Lime cheesecake, the "in love" feelings flooded my heart!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What's The Difference?

First Peter's theme is the alienation between Christians and non-Christians. Christians are more than merely "different" from the world, according to this epistle--if we're truly begotten again (1 Peter 1:23), we'll resemble our Heavenly Father in how we conduct our lives. And the rest of the world, seeing that we no longer share their temporal, self-serving values, will both reject and denounce us.

3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. (1 Peter 4:3-4, New King James Version) 
According to Peter, it appears that our difference from the world is not a winsome attractiveness that draws multitudes to salvation. Yes, the Lord calls us to be good citizens, treating all people with loving respect (1 Peter 2:13-17), so I'm certainly not advocating an obnoxious religiosity that offends solely for the sake of being offensive. At the same time, the Lord calls His people to be holy in thought, attitude and behavior.

And compromise with the world is much more subtle than attending orgies. We may not drink wildly, but do we drink socially, telling ourselves that having a cocktail in our hand will help us "build relationships" so that we can "love someone into the Kingdom?" We may not physically commit adultery, but do we faithfully watch TV shows that condone sex outside of marriage? We may attend church and read our Bibles, but do we get caught up in contemplative mysticism? Are we trying to please the Lord while staying cozy with the world?

Of course we don't want criticism or ridicule, especially from those we hope to win to Christ. But consider the words Jesus Himself spoke:

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (John 15:18-21, New King James Version)

The Lord calls us to live faithfully to Him, whether society likes it or not. And at this point, I'm asking myself some uncomfortable questions. If non-Christians admire me too much, never seeing my life as a reproof to their own, am I really an effective Christian? The difference they see in me must be more than inner peace and a loving attitude (though I must exhibit those qualities as well). And the difference goes deeper than mere morality (though I must be pure in thought, attitude and behavior).

The difference comes in knowing my life belongs to Christ, not me. How I think must find its basis in Scripture, which shows me God's perspective on all issues. Building on what I learn of Him in Scripture, I must adopt His values, and conduct my life accordingly. When His values clash with the culture around me, I must be content to be called a prudish bigot, to suffer discrimination, and (if secularism continues to overtake western society) to be imprisoned and/or executed for Christ.

Do people see that Christ is my Lord? Do they see that I am committed to Him, even when that commitment is personally costly? What's the difference between me and them?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's Winter Inside

John and I made a very hard decision regarding one of my Personal Care Attendants this weekend. A decision I've put off for probably a year or more, hoping the elephant in the room was noticeable only to me. She didn't do anything wrong, really, but her circumstances kept her from being here much of the time.

When does forgiving 70 times seven have to balance with being a responsible employer? Or is it a matter of forgiveness? How do you let go of one of your favorite employees? How do you, on the other hand, keep her when the other two perform more reliably? What's fair to all concerned? Why did it have to be the one that I felt closest to...the one who loves Christ the way I do? Why couldn't there have been a time when I could do it without kicking her when she was down?

My heart feels heavy and barren, like the snowy woods in back of our building. Did I disobey the Lord? I didn't ask Him for wisdom. And I already feel so lonely for female friendship, knowing she won't be here twice a week. Everyone says we made the right decision, but I feel so empty and isolated. Indeed, it's winter in my heart.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Emerging From Hiberation

Temperatures soared into the low 40s yesterday, allowing us to actually go to church! As people filtered in to the Adult Sunday School classroom, one lady joked, "I thought you were hibernating for the winter." Well, essentially I guess we were, since I hadn't been out of our building in 35 days and John had only gone out twice (neither time for pleasure). 

How wonderful to worship with our friends, and to hear our pastor preach live and in person! I appreciate the sermons being on the church website, where I can easily download them to iTunes, but it's really not the same. Yesterday was Communion Sunday, too, and such an important time for corporate repentance and celebration. We soaked everything in: the singing, the fellowship, and the preaching of God's Word. 

When the van came to take us home, I hated leaving. I'd just gotten out of the house, and now I had to go back inside? But as we pulled into our building's parking lot, I asked John if he had the camera in his backpack. He did! So he took these photos:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's More Than That

Complaining comes naturally. Back in college, my group of oh-so-popular-and-chic friends made complaining into an art form, criticizing school policy and the administration with sardonic wit and airs of youthful superiority. And, I found the whole idea of complaining strangely seductive. I ignored the fact that I despised my grandmother's complaining spirit, and left college with the habit (subtly blended with pessimism and self-pity) having taken firm root in my personality.

Over the next 20 years, the negativity solidified, all the more insidious because I found Scriptures (used out of context, of course) to help justify my attitude. Additionally, thanks to the pop-psychology that wove its way into the church, I took a personality test that diagnosed my "humor" as melancholic. Well then, I reasoned, by complaining I was simply being true to how God made me.

In 1995, following my job with Love In Action  to Memphis, my whining shed its veneer of acceptability and became, quite simply, obnoxious. Memphis, by and large, houses people with disabilities in nursing homes, so I willingly signed myself into one, thinking it would be merely a communal living situation. When I realized what I had done to myself, I predictably reacted by complaining, anger and self-pity.

During early 1997, I found myself complaining to the Lord about a young man three rooms down from me. He was, like me, a quadriplegic from Cerebral Palsy, but he was also blind and non-verbal. When he needed help, he'd bark like a seal. That day, he began his irritating bark, and I wondered why his room had to be in such close proximity to mine. As I figuratively shook my fist at God, He directed my thoughts: "This man can't see sunsets. He can't sing praise songs. He'll never fall in love." Those thoughts shattered decades of negativity in me, and I learned to choose joy.

For the most part, I've been different since that day. The Lord placed John (a man who doesn't know how to complain) in my life, providing me with an example of joy and thankfulness. I've learned to emulate my husband. I'm much more positive about life, able to see God's faithfulness and trust His orchestration of circumstances. Studying and applying Scripture has also changed my outlook on life, as I see Who Jesus is, and what His promises and priorities are.

This past week, however, the weather has been getting to me. I've been spewing negativity all over Facebook, and furthermore have been wallowing in it. Yesterday, I posted, "This weather has got to stop! I'm falling back into my old patterns of negativity (never a good thing)." Several people sympathized, but one godly friend exhorted me to set my mind on things above (Colossians 3:1-2). did she know that's one of my memory verses?

My friend's comment helped me repent of complaining. The Lord isn't as concerned about my circumstances as He is about my character. In His economy, it's more about giving me a heart that adores and glorifies Him than it is about the weather.


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