Sunday, July 31, 2011

God's Response To Squabbles In Washington

The past two days, my personal Bible Study "just happened" to revolve around 1 Peter 5:7: "casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." Given the debt ceiling crisis in the United States this weekend, not to mention the repercussions of whatever decision Congress makes (or fails to make), this verse was amazingly appropriate to chew on at this time. So I thought I'd cut-and-paste the notes I took this weekend into today's blog post. They're not well-written, but I pray they'll offer you the encouragement that the Holy Spirit gave me.

DebbieLynne's Bible Study Notes


According to Vincent and Jamieson Fausset and  Brown, "casting" is in the aorist tense, signifying a "once and  for all" act. The Believer's Bible Commentary adds that Peter is quoting the Greek translation of Psa_55:22.

The "cares" we are to cast onto Jesus are defined by WordStudy as:

mérimna; gen. merímnēs, fem. noun from merís (G3310), a part. Anxiety, care that brings disruption to the personality and the mind (Mat_13:22; Mar_4:19; Luk_8:14; Luk_21:34; 2Co_11:28; 1Pe_5:7).

The NAS dictionary defines the word anxiety.

Peter contrasts our cares (or anxieties) with God's care for us. Vines explains that word:

2. melei (G3199), the third person sing. of melo, used impersonally, signifies that "something is an object of care," especially the care of forethought and interest, rather than anxiety, Mat_22:16; Mar_4:38; Mar_12:14; Luk_10:40; Joh_10:13; Joh_12:6; Act_18:17; 1Co_9:9 (RV, "Is it for the oxen that God careth?" The KJV seriously misses the point. God does "care" for oxen, but there was a divinely designed significance in the OT passage, relating to the service of preachers of the gospel); 1Co_7:21; 1Pe_5:7.

Our worrying wastes time, and forgets God's loving concern for us. This verse reminds me of Php_4:6-7. We can pray about our cares, and rest in the peace of knowing He's concerned for our ultimate welfare.


Barnes brings up Mat_6:25-30 as a corresponding passage, and I want to quote it here:

Mat 6:25-30  "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  (26)  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  (27)  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  (28)  "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;  (29)  and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  (30)  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

The passage fleshes out Peter's point beautifully, illustrating how God's loving care for us eliminates the "need" for worry.

So interesting to be studying this verse on this particular weekend, when Congress is facing the debt ceiling crisis. However it plays out, John and I will suffer. God is assuring me through His Word that He will take care of us.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Wheelchairs and Jet Planes

In 1985, six people from my church (including me) boarded a plane to Heathrow Airport in London. We were headed for three months at Living Waters Bible College (no longer in existence) in North Wales. We took a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, where we changed planes and flew over the North Pole to England.

The night before leaving, I'd gotten a loaner wheelchair from the company that was supposed to have had my new chair ready for the trip...but of course didn't. At church that night, my friend Joel and I excitedly showed the chair to our pastor, who then asked us to reassure him that we'd booked a direct flight. We hadn't. Joel (or maybe one of the girls...I don't remember) had heard about a really good fare deal, so all six of us booked that. I always had smart-mouthed answers for that pastor, so I quipped, "This way, we get to lose my fancy loaner chair at LAX!" For emphasis, I gave him the cheesiest grin imaginable.

The flight from LAX was long, but fun. It was New Year's Day, so only a few other people took the flight with us. We told them that we were missionaries, which was almost true, since Living Waters Bible College was really a 90-day training program to prepare us for possible missions work. Some of our fellow passengers equated missionaries with Mormons, so they kept asking Joel where his white shirt and tie were. Being tired from church the night before, we thought that was hilarious. We thought everything was hilarious, actually, and laughed ourselves all the way to London.

After all the other passengers disembarked the plane upon landing in London, an apologetic flight attendant informed us that the ground crew was having some difficulty locating my wheelchair, so I could use an airport chair just to get through Customs. Okay, we did that, and proceeded to Baggage Claim, fully confident of being reunited with my wheelchair there.

Instead, they called Joel to a counter. He was over there for quite some time, not looking particularly happy. At last, he walked back to me, growling, "Deb, your jokes are way too prophetic."

My loaner chair had gotten lost at LAX.

The airport loaned me a chair to get to Wales, and five days later they got my chair to me. The Lord took care of me, as He always does, and the three months in North Wales was a difficult and wonderful season in my life. Now that the crisis of the misplaced wheelchair has passed, I can laugh at my "way too prophetic" joke. But I booked direct flights after that episode! Wouldn't you?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eager And Qualified?

Perhaps I should have waited, but time is getting short. My Personal Care Attendant deserves her vacation August 8-12, definitely, and I know her well enough to know she'd like to have the substitute issue settled so she can anticipate the vacation without worrying or feeling guilty. At the same time, I didn't want to advertize until this week, aware that someone could accept the job, but then have a full-time position offered to them before the week I need them.

Tuesday evening, I posted the job on Craigslist, stating clearly that we'd be out yesterday, and could not take calls till 10:00 a.m. today. That simple instruction was on the same line as our phone number. My ad also explained, very carefully (I thought), that we prefer people with little or no experience because it's easier to train them my way.

We've had several promising calls, and have interviews lining up into Saturday already, but we've also had more than a few calls from people who obviously aren't good at reading or following  directions. Want examples?

The first call came 10 minutes after I placed the ad. Mind you, placing ads on Craigslist has gotten more complicated than it was this time last year (when my PCA took her summer vacation), so I ended up being extremely late for supper. Quite simply, we had things to do, so we didn't have time for calls (and wouldn't until 10:00 a.m. this morning). Soon after, a second call came.

While I understand and appreciate that people desperately  need work (even temporary work), I'm not at all impressed with job applicants who can't follow a simple instruction to defer calling until a designated time. I have to wonder how well they might follow instruction when they're actually on the job, handling my body. I consider my concern legitimate.

Then yesterday a woman called after we had left for Boston. Did she not see the part of the ad saying, quite plainly, "We will be out Wednesday, July 27?"

Apparently, she also missed the part about "little or no experience," because she promptly emailed me an extensive resume of home health positions she'd held, most of which involved skilled nursing. thank you. I deleted her email accidentally on purpose. Oops--oh well!

But a call today took the "I Only Read What I Want To Read" prize. She states up front that she's a Certified Nursing Assistant. Then  she asks three questions, all of which she would have seen the answers to by reading the ad. So John asks, "Didn't you read the ad?" "Well, not thoroughly," she replies. Politely, we take her number, knowing full well we'll never use it.

As I said, we have several excellent prospects.  I'm just sorry to observe so many people who could probably find some terrific jobs in this field if they would only demonstrate an ability to take directions. I'd even consider experienced candidates if they acknowledged my preference for inexperience and expressed a willingness to set previous training aside to learn what works for me. So, we'll watch the interviews this next few days, and see how "entertaining" they are. And we'll trust the Lord to bring the right person.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Where I Belong

Wheeling around Boston never grows old. If anything, its familiar sites, smells and sounds now offer a feeling of security, welcoming me home. Emerging from the subway station, John and I enter the comforting embrace of Downtown Crossing, always finding something different there (street performers, crafts fairs, promotional events, etc.) blending with the food carts that are always lined up in front of Macy's. The smell of Italian Sausages tell me that I'm "home."

Generally, we wheel through Summer Street, which turns into Winter Street, and I feel reassured by the fact that T.D. Bank finally restored the historical marker identifying it as the site of Samuel Adams home. The marker was down last summer while they built the bank, but once the bank was completed it took ages before they put the marker back in place. I found its absence terribly disconcerting. It's good to pass it as we approach Tremont Street.

Looking to the right, I see Park Street Church. If the timing is just right, we get to hear the hymns from its bell tower at the top of the hour. We cross Tremont into Boston Common, and look for our friends who work as Freedom Trail Walking Tour guides.

More often than not, we go back on Winter Street, and turn left onto Washington Street. Old South Meeting House towers grandly on the right, again giving me the feeling of coming home. Forward and on the left side of the street, I see the Old Corner Bookstore (now vacant until Chipotle puts a restaurant in--which fills me with conflicting emotions). I love to imagine that I see just the back of Louisa May Alcott's skirt as she bustles into Ticknor and Fields' publishing house, perhaps to chat with Charles Dickens or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

We cross at the Old State House, sometimes wondering how British governor Hutchinson felt that December afternoon to see that crowd of patriots angrily march from Fanuiel Hall to the Old South Meeting House, mere hours before the Sons Of Liberty staged the Boston Tea Party. On July 18, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read, for the first time in Boston, from its balcony.

The city has many other places I love, but the ones I've written about today most make me feel that I belong to Boston...and Boston belongs to me. These sites spark my imagination, and also allow my spirit to snuggle into the day, reminding me of my mother's arms enfolding me. Around these sites, I experience a satisfactiion, knowing I'm meant to gaze upon them and remember the people and events that, when I lived in California, seemed to call for my attention.

Yet, a City even more captivating than Boston calls to me. In that City, I don't think all the beautiful sights, nor the reunion with loved ones who have entered it before me, nor my resurrection body (free at last from Cerebral Palsy) will excite me, or make me feel at Home, as much as finally looking into my Savior's loving eyes. I love feeling how much I belong in Boston now, but even the security and joy of that feeling is only a miniscule taste of the belonging awaiting me in Heaven.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wrong Direction

To get from our building to the center of town, there's only one street. Its sidewalk, putting it mildly, doesn't particularly like wheelchairs. Oh, it's adequate, and I've learned to negotiate it, but it has cracks, curbcuts that are too steep, and one very narrow point where I usually hold my breath.

As I wheeled down it this morning, I imagined myself addressing all the property owners, as well as Town Council, showing them all the points where the sidewalk is hazardous. I fantasized about calmly (but firmly) presenting my case, perhaps even challenging them to navigate it in a power wheelchair. This problem, I told myself, really must be corrected!

Immediately after that thought formed, the Holy Spirit brought His correction, placing the thought in my head that I need to be thankful that John and I can negotiate that sidewalk. Our town has many sidewalks that completely prohibit wheelchair travel, but this one (despite its flaws) allows us to get to bus stops, grocery stores, doctor appointments, John's mother's house and places to eat with relatively little difficulty. My thinking had been going in the direction of complaining, but the Lord wanted to turn it to the direction of giving thanks.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

God's Will For...Whom?

So often, Christians agonize, clinging to the phrase, "God has a plan for you." They strain to find His plan, supposing it involves marriage, career and/or ministry opportunities. And on one level, those suppositions are correct. Certainly, the Lord guides us to where we can most effectively serve Him.

Ah, did you catch that concept? "Where we can most effectively serve Him! Most Christians, it seems, seek how they can feel fulfilled, blessed or useful, subtly perceiving themselves as the focal point. I find myself thinking along those lines, as if my well-being was uppermost on His list of priorities. And, while it's true that He numbers the very hairs of my head, it's evident as I study Scripture that my self-focused attitude concerning His will is slightly out of alignment.

Instead of limiting our understanding of His will in terms of how it will affect and (in all honesty) benefit us, shouldn't we broaden our vision to ask about His overall will? As I read through Genesis, for example, I see God arranging marriages, not primarily to make the patriarchs happy, but to 1) build the nation of Israel and to 2) form the bloodline of Messiah. While many of those marriages probably were happy, that happiness was a by-product to the Lord accomplishing His purposes.

We are created for His pleasure, but all too frequently our attitudes and behavior betrays our unacknowledged belief that His job is to bless us. Well, God does bless us, and in abundance, but does so for His glory and honor. His will in our lives works for the advancement of His Kingdom, not our individual lives. Is it possible that we should stop clamoring to find His will for us in favor of seeking His will for His own glory?

Friday, July 22, 2011

3000 Miles And Back Pockets

"Oh," she replied with a tone in her voice that bordered on disapproval, "you're in a long-distance relationship."

The strange part was that, until she spoke those words, I'd never thought of my relationship with John as being long-distance. Well, obviously I realized that I lived in California and he lived in Massachusetts. It registered that I'd only visited him once. But we typically spent three hours a day chatting by Internet and telephone, becoming well acquainted with each other's interests, activities, convictions and quirks. My mom once commented that we "lived in each other's back pockets."

Before John entered my life, I'd been in a relationship with a man in Memphis. We lived in the same nursing home, where we were together often. But the relationship, to my shame, was mostly physical. I never really knew much about who he was, what he believed or what made him tick. He understood even less about me. We planned to marry, mostly because we wanted to have sex with each other (not at all a good reason!) and because I honestly believed, at age 43, that it was my only opportunity for marriage.

After online chats with John, however, I saw what a godly relationship could be. Yes, we were 3000 miles apart geographically, but the Holy Spirit knit us together in our love for Him. At first, we built a friendship, laughing at each other's jokes and joyfully discovering our similarities. As we teased, discussed and conversed, both of us could see how well suited we were to each other.

As friendship deepened into romance, we got to know each other a bit more thoroughly. This new level of familiarity, of course, helped us relate more seriously, causing us to move into a more realistic relationship. We struggled through theological differences, sometimes fiercely, working through Scripture until the Lord brought us to consensus. We learned to argue, but in arguing, we learned about each other. We learned each other's joys, finding ways to delight each other. And we knew each other's secrets.

I moved to the Greater Boston Area three weeks before our wedding, and John moved into the apartment right after the wedding. The biggest surprise about living with him was how well we actually knew each other! Yet, it really makes sense, doesn't it? That 3000 miles, you see, stripped us of physical distractions, almost forcing us to a spiritual and intellectual relationship, firmly rooted in Jesus Christ, that provided a strong foundation for our marriage. I praise God for blessing us with the long-distance relationship that helped us become close.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It Ain't Fittin'!

In the film version of Gone With The Wind, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) infuriates Mammy (Hattie McDaniels) by allowing his young daughter to straddle her pony instead of riding side-saddle as proper ladies ought. McDaniel portrays Mammy's indignation brilliantly, as she stamps her foot and declares (with flashing eyes), "It ain't fittin'--it just ain't fittin'!" As Rhett walks away chucking at Mammy's tirade, she again mutters, "It ain't fittin',"  as if to console herself with the fact that she knows more about right from wrong than he does.

Righteous indignation comes breathtakingly easily when  people sin. Behaviors and attitudes that '"just ain't fittin'" actually  should make us stamp our feet, and our eyes should flash with the wounded anger that McDaniel conveyed so perfectly. Sin, which often seems inconsequential from a human perspective, grieves the Lord so deeply that He shed His own blood to make atonement for it! When Christians deliberately disobey, preferring the temporal comforts of carnal passion (in such forms as sex outside marriage, substance abuse, rage, selfishness, or a host of other indulgences), our actions obviously contradict the commands of the Lord we claim to follow. Indeed, our sins do not befit our status of children of God.

But before making denouncements about sins we see our brothers and sisters committing, Jesus told us to do some moral inventory of our own standing before Him.

 1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ~~Matthew 7:1-5

As easy as it is to quote this passage (especially when we feel that we're on the receiving end of judgment), putting it into practice is extremely difficult. Other Scriptures in fact, command us to use discernment, which is obviously a form of passing judgment. Of  course we must make judgments, and lovingly offer correction, when we see our fellow Christians sin, and we must call non-Christians to repentance. Verse 5 of the above quoted passage even provides a way to exercise such judgment.

Having said this point, I must hasten to add that a prerequisite to discerning whether or not others are living in a fitting way is to first allow the Holy Spirit to examine us, asking Him to reveal our own areas of sin and, in his mercy, to bring us to repentance. Submitting oneself to His scrutiny naturally calls for humility....the humility that acknowledges His authority, believing that the Bible is His final, non-negotiable Word. As He speaks through its pages, He calls us to agree with His assessment of us, aligning our will to obedience to the Lord.

Our lives must fit His standards. Left to our own resources, such obedience is absolutely impossible, but as His Spirit dwells within us, He empowers us to live His way. He gives us integrity of character, fitting our lives into His perfect will. When people encounter us, they'll have no need to stamp their feet and glare at us with blazing eyes as they, like Hattie McDaniel's character Mammy complain, "It ain't fittin' just ain't fittin'!"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chatter And Such, Just To Maintain Contact

Do you remember such primitive instruments as electric typewriters? Seems like another lifetime, doesn't it? But those dinosaurs, which now have all the appeal of a wart-hog, produced long, meditative letters, often giving shape and form to the nebulous thoughts and feelings that badly needed a voice. Most letters filled eight pages of pastel colored stationery (both sides of each sheet), exposing tender ideas to trusted friends.

Email should have made letters all the more easier to write, but with the ease of email came age which reduces stamina, and marriage which reduces time. With just a blink, six weeks have passed before remembering that email waiting, ever so patiently, in that email folder. During those weeks, others have joined it, quietly pleading for attention. For response.

This afternoon, the pleas took over, and I sent a group email. Four paragraphs, two of which consisted of awkward explanations. Okay--excuses! (You know, sometimes it's really not fun being honest.) But it was more than silence, and perhaps that's better than lapsing into a seventh, eighth or ninth week. And, as has happened after other group letters (also making awkward apologies), the hope rises for reformation.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Polls, Stats And Decisions Based On Conflicting Data

Channel 4's meteorologist said this morning that today's thunder storms aren't due before 5:00 this afternoon, and the Weather Channel's website doesn't show anything but heavy rain through 6:00. On the off-chance that these reports might actually be accurate (far-fetched, I know, but something in me still believes them), I'll risk writing a post about this blog's future direction. As pretty as its new look may be, its content is what really matters. So, weather permitting, I'd like to spend this afternoon thinking aloud about where The Things That Come Out Of My Head is going as it enters its sixth year. I'm looking forward to hearing your comments, complaints, suggestions and ideas on making my blog more interesting and appealing.

A few months back, I posted a poll, asking what sorts of topics you, my readers, prefer. After all, who wants to take time reading a blog that has nothing to do with their interests? I certainly don't! While I have no intention of compromising my Christian convictions merely to increase my following or appease those readers who subscribe to a more liberal theology than I embrace (if they accept Christianity at all), I do desire a wide readership. What's the point of blogging if only a few people want to read it? So, submerging my all-too-inflated ego, I ran my poll.

I asked what topics interested people:

  • Boston Adventures
  • History, literature and current events
  • Bible Study and faith
  • Art
  • Paint Shop Pro and my digital paintings
  • Photos and video
Bible Study and faith was, overwhelmingly, the most popular category, much to my surprise. My Stats (a backroom feature Blogger provides to help me track which posts attract the most readers) indicate that my posts about the Lord are the least read. Hmm! Sorta reminds me of kids in Sunday School who give the "correct" answers, but not necessarily the answers from their hearts. Yet, the poll seemed very decisive that such posts were favored. I hope the poll, rather than Blogger's Stats, reflects how you  honestly feel.

I will, as things stand now, accept the conclusions of the poll by focusing many (perhaps even most) of my posts on Jesus. My decision on this point has nothing to do with either the poll or the Stats, but with my desire to please the Lord Jesus Christ. When all is said and done, my blog ultimately belongs to Him, so it makes sense that He should be its focal point.

Boston Adventures took a distant second in my poll, but the distance showed me that I needn't bother writing about every trip John and I take to the city. On this topic, the Stats pretty much agree with the poll. Although John takes tons of photos each time we go there, I have difficulty justifying a post about each excursion, knowing that such posts generally aren't wildly popular.

History, literature and current events pretty much tied with Boston Adventures in the poll, but the Stats are very confusing about this category. I wish I had presented them separately. I suspect, however, that each would have gotten few votes. History, thankfully, has a moderately fair standing in Blogger's Stats, which pleases me greatly, since Boston's history delights me so much! But I'm saddened, having graduated with a degree in English Literature, that my posts about Boston's literary history don't even show up in the Stats. Neither do current events, but I'm not as fond of writing about them as I am about history and literature. I'll most likely major, therefore, on history, but won't write about it as frequently as I used to.

Digital art tied with Photos and video for third place in my poll. Blogger's Stats show mild interest in digital art, and posts containing videos are largely ignored. So I know that using John's photographs is good, but posting videos probably isn't the best idea.

The disappointment comes from the lack of interest in my digital painting and Paint Shop Pro. As I shared yesterday, this blog originated as a platform for displaying my digital art, so it strikes me as ironic that few posts about my art (and even fewer about my medium) receive much attention. As I type this paragraph, I wonder if my decreasing motivation to paint might be connected with the apparent apathy my blog posts about digital art meet. I'm undecided on how much Paint Shop Pro will turn up in future posts--let me think about the matter a little more before I decide on a course of action.

Art came in dead last in my poll, yet Blogger's Stats show that my two most widely read posts of all time were about visits to The Museum of Fine Arts. How's that for contradictory data? I probably will keep posting about our museum trips, but I'll watch my Blogger Stats closely.

I am, my dear readers, committed to pleasing the Lord Jesus Christ first with The Things That Come Out Of My Head, but secondly to making this a blog that you will enjoy and from which you'll learn. Daily, I  pray that it will honor Jesus, encourage Christians and show His love and truth to non-Christians. Your feedback, constructive criticism and advice works in tandem with the Blogger Stats (yes, despite the baffling incongruities) to help me produce a blog that serves the Lord and my readers well. Thank you for your input.

And Heavenly Father, thank You for holding off the thunder storms!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Donning My Party Clothes

The weather gurus predict thunder storms tomorrow. What a disappointment. July 18, you see, marks the anniversary of this blog. To be precise, this year my blog turns five, which is (wouldn't you agree?) somewhat of a milestone. So, after months of planning, excitement and anticipation, something as stupid as forecasted thunder storms (which, as any resident of New England can tell you, may our may not actually happen) rearranged my carefully thought-out schedule, causing me to unveil my new background, header, layout and fonts a day early.

Before coming to Blogger (though I had considered the possibility for a while), I had a small blog on MSN called "Joyful Christian Lady's Gallery." It mainly served as a vehicle to display my digital art, but occasionally I'd write about Scripture or various things going on in my life. The blog had few readers, at least to my knowledge, and I had little emotional investment in it. Frankly, it was just kind of...well, there, if you know what I mean.

On July 18, 2006, I decided to post several variations of a digital portrait I'd done of a little girl in John's family to Joyful Christian Lady's Gallery. I spent quite a while uploading the JPEG files, but finally managed to get them arranged in a way that satisfied me. Proudly, I clicked the "Publish" button. poor post vanished into a black hole of cyberspace!

That's when, in wounded indignation, I signed up with Blogger! Stubborn Irish woman that I am, I named my new blog "Joyfully Christian Lady's Museum," and posted the same JPEG files that MSN had devoured. (Don't mess with me!) At that point, of course, I was too frustrated to use much originality giving my post a catchy title, so a simply called it: "My New Cyber Home."  Yeah, I know--I'm capable of better than that.

Again, my main purpose in blogging was to display my art, but again I found myself posting on a wide variety of topics. "Joyfully Christian Lady's  Museum" gradually gained momentum,  and at some point (though I'm not exactly sure when) people at church started commenting on it. I realized I had actual followers, which consequently gave me a sense of responsibility. Could my little blog actually have become a ministry?

On February 7, 2010, the Museum motif seemed too restrictive, especially since I was doing less digital painting and more blogging, so I renamed my blog; "The Things That Come Out Of My Head," playing on the idea of blogging to share my thoughts and digital art, as well as on the fact that I use a headstick to express myself on the computer. From that point, I really got serious, and very excited about being a blogger.

A couple of months ago, I conducted a poll on what types of posts most interest my readers. Next time I post (depending on thunder storms, you must remember), I expect to discuss the outcome of that poll, and how I plan to let it affect the content of my blog. But for now, enjoy my new "Party Clothes" (ie, the new design of my blog). After all, I got all dressed up for the occasion!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Jesus In The Background

Statuary never was my favorite art form, but the statue of Philip Brooks outside Trinity Church in Boston really captured my attention on Thursday's Duck Boat tour. Yes, I realize I mentioned it in yesterday's post, and expanding on my comment could well be considered as belaboring the point. Having said this, maybe the point could stand a little belaboring, if only to confront my own attitudes of relegating Jesus, Whom I so insistently call "the Lord," into my own background. Many people who consider themselves to be Christians are guilty of ignoring Christ's authority over their lives, but I can't pluck splinters out of the eyes of others until I get the logs out of my own eye.

But let's start by looking at the statue a little more closely:

Philip Brooks was the first rector of Trinity Church of Boston in 1869. At the time of his death, he was loved by Bostonions of all denominations. So this statue, placing him in prominence before Jesus, may have been his idea, or the Bostonions who so admired him may have commissioned the arrangement. Whether the sculptor captured Brooks' inflated ego or the idolatry of Boston's religious community, however, Jesus is still conveniently on the background, dispensing His blessing without intruding.

And isn't that how we like Him? Let Him bless us. Let Him answer our prayers for health and comfort and material provision. But please, have Him tone down all that distasteful talk of dying to self, taking up our crosses and following Him. Must He keep claiming that He is the only Way to the Father? And this business about obedience to Him being evidence of our love for Him cramps our style.

Worshiping Him for an hour on Sunday (if we don't oversleep or have something else to do) is fine, and probably good for our public image. We may even pray during the week, and look at a Bible verse or two. But giving Jesus actual authority over our business practices, our political leanings, our sexual behavior, our money, and all other aspects of our lives makes us uncomfortable. What is He--the Thought Police? Or Owner? Our Master? Well...actually, yes.

We were created for His pleasure, and exist to glorify Him. In His kindness and mercy, He condescends to serve us, dying on the Cross to accept the punishment for our rebellion against His Father, and rising from the dead in declaration that, through His shed blood, we are justified. He provides for our needs, and even some of our desires (like bringing about my marriage to John). So yes, Jesus is incredibly good and generous towards us. But His goodness should cause us to glorify Him, and to serve Him all the better. He should be in the forefront, while we merely reflect His glory back to Him.

The statue of Philip Brooks reminds me that Jesus doesn't belong in the background of my life. Instead, I am to be part of His background, that He may be preeminent. I can't keep Him tucked neatly behind me, where He remains completely at my disposal. No--I belong kneeling at His feet, ready to serve and honor Him.

Friday, July 15, 2011

At Duck Speed

Taking a Duck Boat tour of Boston yesterday gave me a view of the city so much different than I get from tooling around in my wheelchair. I'll keep my commentary minimal, but hopefully the photos John took will give you an idea of what we saw, and how different things looked from that angle.

This is our Conductor

Same photograph, but zoomed out to show the Duck Boat's interior
Boston Common
Back of my head as I view the Public Garden
Statue of Philip Brooks, first rector of Trinity Church Boston

Click that photo to view it full-size, and notice Jesus behind Rector Brooks, as if obscured by the rector. I thought this symbolized Boston's spiritual condition of being proud of its religious heritage, but wanting to keep Jesus safely in the background.

Now back to our photos:
Top of Fanuiel Hall
Statue of Samuel Adams outside Fanuiel Hall

I love how the trees frame him.
Zakim Bridge
Going under the Longfellow Bridge
The sights were, of course, very familiar, yet so new from the perspective of being in an amphibious boat, going at the speed of downtown traffic. I loved it, and gained an even deeper appreciation of my adopted city.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Misshapen, Convoluted, Backwards, And Just Plain Self-Focused

As summer blended into autumn in 2002, a deep satisfaction nestled in my heart. The contentment felt good, as if a great symphony had reached its climactic note, and now the soft music took over to complete the movement. At last, God had given me every "desire of my heart," capping it off with the blessing of marriage! Now, I told Him, He could take me to heaven whenever He deemed fit. He'd given me two nieces, the opportunity to live in Wales with other Christians, a dream day in Oxford, England that I had imagined in college nine years earlier, twelve wonderful years on staff with Love In Action...and now, a miraculous marriage to the man of my dreams!

Not yet 50, I found myself wondering why He had satisfied all my desires when I was still relatively young. Now what would I look forward to doing? To accomplishing? To possessing? Certainly, I praised Him, enjoying life with my new husband! This marriage was everything I'd imagined it would be, only infinitely better, and I basked in John's amazing love for me (as I'm still basking nine years later). But in my overflow of joy and gratitude, I wondered why God had given me everything so soon, and what purpose my life could possibly have now that He had brought me to this pinnacle?

Can you see the selfishness in this thinking? As if my happiness were the ultimate purpose of my life! For all my talk of living for the Lord, my secret heart showed that I really believed it was all about fulfilling my dreams. "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4).

I missed the context of Psalm 37:4 in my excitement and gratitude over being married, obviously. David wrote this psalm to those who feel dismay over the apparent success of wickedness. His intended readers long, not for temporal blessings such as marriage, three months in Wales or nieces (as wonderful as those blessings are), but for God's righteousness to prevail. They yearn for His will, wanting nothing less than Him to be honored and glorified. While  my marriage, I hope, does bring honor and glory to the Lord, Psalm 37 is less about God fulfilling my personal desires, and more about me desiring His kingdom and His righteousness...for His sake.

Having said this, please know that I'm still shamefully fixated on this life, and what it has to offer me. Going a little deeper, I'm still shamefully focused on myself! But I understand this fact: God has given me life for His purposes, not for my personal benefit. Out of His abundant love and grace, He chooses to continue blessing me, but He calls me to regard those blessings as by-products of serving Him. Or maybe those blessings provide me with opportunities to serve Him.  At any rate, the attitude that He can take me because I'm finished getting all the goodies out of Him that I wanted has it all backwards! I understand that He's keeping me here for His purposes. May I cultivate the desire to serve Him well.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Summer Restored

Back in April, my primary care physician asked me to consult a specialist regarding a procedure she said my insurance company wanted me to undergo. I'd prefer not to be specific as to the nature of the procedure, thank you very much, but I'd always promised myself that I wouldn't have that particular screening. When my doctor told me about my insurance company pressuring her to have me do it, however, I frankly felt intimidated into agreeing to it.

At the front desk that day, my doctor's administrative assistant made some calls, and managed to schedule a consultation with a specialist on July 6. That almost three-month waiting period gave me time to imagine all the complexities (due to being a quadriplegic from Cerebral Palsy) of preparing for the procedure, getting to and from the hospital, and enduring an overnight stay in the very hospital that caused me so much aggravation last summer (see my post, How Many Nurses Does It Take).

Thankfully, Spring came early this year, allowing me and John several Boston Adventures that I figured would make up for whatever further procedures this initial screening might lead to. I enjoyed cannolis, played in the Dancing Fountains on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and (last Tuesday) tagged along on a Freedom Trail Walking Tour. Yet just as July 6 approached with all the threats of hospitalization, embarrassment and extreme physical and psychological discomfort, friends from Boston started settling in the summertime routine that means so much to me, and new train buddy relationships began to solidify. How could I bear letting go of those delights now, just when everything is really getting started?

I woke up Wednesday, not only grieving the possible termination of my summer in Boston, but the horrifying anticipation of spending a night in that wretched hospital with nurses and CNAs who had little concern for my disability and its complexities. Actually, the procedure itself scared and disgusted me too. I knew that day's appointment was merely a consultation, but it was the first step in what could be a morass of procedures, all affecting my ability to live out this summer comfortably and productively.

Three times, I decided not to keep the appointment, but each time I realized that I'd have to eventually explain myself to my primary care physician. So tearfully I boarded The RIDE van, praying for a flat tire or minor fender bender to make us late, forcing us to cancel the appointment. Even in the doctor's waiting room, I pleaded with John to come out to the bus stop with me so we could go home.

When the doctor came, he chuckled at my comment that I was there under protest, and proceeded to ask me questions, from which he ascertained that I'd been sent for the screening because of my age rather than any specific concern. He said that, while the procedure is generally recommended for people in my age group, many people (even doctors) choose not to have it. In addition, because of my Cerebral Palsy, there would be greater risks for me in undergoing the procedure than there would be for an able-bodied person. If I had risk factors for that type of cancer, he said he would urge me toward the procedure. But given my Cerebral Palsy, he thought it best to write to my primary care physician, recommending that (praise the Lord) I not be put through the ordeal! On top of that, he assured me that my insurance company could not interfere...the decision was between him and me.

I've never been so grateful to have Cerebral Palsy!

The Lord never promised this summer to me. He blessed me with last summer, in response to my prayers, and my hospitalization was the only hiccup. But suddenly, I am looking forward to long walks on Boston Common, cannolis at Quincy Market, trips to the aquarium, and lunches with friends. The Lord has restored something that actually wasn't mine in the first place, and suddenly I'm very excited about the next few months. Oh...and John is rewarding me for going to the consultation by taking me on a Duck Boat Tour!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I Should Have Posted Today

We returned from the church picnic relatively early, but I spent the remainder of my afternoon puttering around the Internet, doing nothing beneficial for myself, for others or for the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, as I type, John is preparing a light supper (guess who over-ate at the picnic), and I'm wishing I'd used my time productively. Ah, but Personal Care Attendant Time Sheets await my signatures after supper, so I may not dawdle. Hopefully I will be less wasteful of time tomorrow.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Judging Casey Anthony--Or Anyone Else

Facebook has been smothered with "righteously indignant" comments expressing outrage over Casey Anthony's acquittal from murder and child abuse charges. Admittedly, I had convinced myself that she had murdered her absolutely adorable three-year-old daughter. Never mind that my certainty of her guilt was firmly based on circumstantial evidence. As John often says, "Don't confuse me with the facts!" (Facts like no finger prints, no DNA...)

It's true that Anthony lied to police, claiming little Caylee was "missing" when she already knew the child was dead. And it disgusts me that, while investigators were searching for the child, roommates reported that she was out partying and getting a "Life Is Beautiful" tattoo. Okay, so her maternal instincts were severely lacking. Looking back, I have to concede that being a bad mother, and even a pathological liar, doesn't necessarily make someone a murderer.

In my reflections on the verdict, I've been confronted with my pride. I had judged a young woman, whom I've never met (and most likely never will meet), even though I had no real evidence that she had killed her little girl. Perhaps she really did kill the child, but I don't, and absolutely can't, know beyond a reasonable doubt whether or not she committed that murder. Shame on me for presuming to think I did know!

And that shame on myself is the real point I wanted to make today. You see, I struggle with the sin of judging other people. It's such an easy sin to commit, and it really makes me feel good about myself to look down my nose at the faults of someone else while happily ignoring my own sinful attitudes and behaviors. Of course, when I'm judged, even correctly, I resent those who pass judgment on me, immediately quoting Matthew 7:1 ("Judge not, that you be not judged") to the person who confronts me.

Lately, however, the Lord as shown me that He wants me to repent of judging others, be it Casey Anthony or people in the next pew at church. If I believe I'm discerning something, I must lay it aside until the Lord provides solid evidence that my discernment indeed has merit. Goodness, I have too many logs in my own eyes to go digging out perceived splinters in the eyes of other people! Who do I think I am?

God has humbled me (I hope) through the Anthony verdict by challenging my arrogance. If a jury saw reasonable doubt, perhaps I should back away from judging her. Perhaps, further, I need to ask myself questions before judging people in my own life, in case there's reasonable doubt regarding whatever it is I'm so willing to convict them of doing. May He have mercy on me by helping me remember this lesson.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Beautiful Red Pepper

John took a red pepper out of our refrigerator last night, noticing its brilliant color and flawless skin texture. It would be a delicious addition to my salad! But as he sliced into it, he moaned, causing me to tense up. After nearly nine years of marriage (and 13 years of knowing John), I'm becoming adept at interpreting the little sounds he makes, and this moan clearly communicate dismay.

He had cut open the seemingly perfect pepper to find its insides totally rotted! We substituted mushrooms, so I still had a nourishing salad (though I wish I had remembered the radishes that we'd bought a the farmers market near South Station last week). I think that red pepper would have really tasted good, however.

This morning, as we related our sorrowful tale to our Personal Care Attendant, I thought about that pepper as an analogy of human sinfulness. We can, and often do, display a wonderful exterior. We're polite, we demonstrate all the proper Christian virtues, and everybody admires us. Not a flaw in our character shows, as we deport ourselves with skill and grace so well that we even think we're the pick of the crop!

But as the Word of God slices us open, our rottenness exposes itself. No longer can our lovely appearance hide the depravity that is our essence. We are worthless, and in need of a Savior to restore us to purity!

Monday, July 4, 2011

An African-American Patriot

Last Friday, John and I stopped at Boston Common in hopes of seeing a friend of ours who conducts the 3:30 Freedom Trail Walking Tour (he usually arrives on the Common by 3:00 to promote his tour). We got there well before 3:00, and saw a huge black man in 18th Century garb, obviously there to lead the 3:00 tour.

Since my knowledge of Colonial American history is still woefully limited (though better than that of most people, even natives of Boston), I puzzled over who this actor might represent. The only African-American patriot I  knew anything about was Crispus Attucks, the first person to die in the so-called Boston Massacre. But the man we saw Friday was much to dark to portray the mulatto Attucks, and (I mistakenly thought) too old.

As is now our custom, we approached him and boldly asked whom he portrayed. Okay, I've become a Freedom Trail tour guide groupie--I'll admit it! But my "obsession" with Freedom Trail Walking Tour personalities isn't up for discussion today, so I'll resume my narrative now by saying that he answered, "I'm Barzillai Lew, an African-American patriot." Then he added that Barzillai Lew fathered thirteen children, supposing that those long New England winters must have left Lew needing something to keep him warm and entertained. Ahem...well, anyway...

Admittedly, my next question should have been about Lew's part in the Revolution, but I was still hung up on Crispus Attucks. I mentioned thinking that Attucks was still in his teens when he was killed, but "Barzillai" informed me that he was in his thirties. (A website I consulted this afternoon said 27, which is still considerably older than I'd believed Attucks to be.) He said Attucks had been a dock worker for at least twenty years, which again I question. There's a research project for me, huh?

Since meeting that Freedom Trail tour guide, I've used the Internet to do a bit of reading on Barzillai Lew, learning that he was an extraordinary musician who served  as a fifer and drummer, first with the English in the 1760 French-Indian War, and with the patriots in the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill.  His family offered the house that he and his wife Dinah built in Lowell, Massachusetts for use in the Underground Railroad. In fact, his church was the first church in Lowell to stand against slavery.

On this Fourth of July, it's right and proper to think of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and the other members of the Continental Congress who risked being hanged by the British on charges of treason because they signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia in 1776. But the Revolution could never have happened without the men of Massachusetts in 1775 (and earlier) who said "No!" to English tyranny. With his fife, drum and  fiddle, Barzillai Lew joined that protest, created equal to the white soldiers that fought for our freedom. Thank you, Cliff Odel of the Freedom Trail Foundation, for introducing me to such an inspiring patriot!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Autobiographical Slice

Sometimes, it seems so distant, almost as if it was someone else. That part of my life began in the summer of 1978 (two decades before I met John) when the first man I'd ever seriously loved, totally unaware of how I felt about him, haltingly confided in me that he struggled with homosexuality. Providentially, the church I attended back then hosted Love In Action, a ministry that helped people overcome homosexuality as well as ministering to friends and family members of people with same-sex attractions, The ministry comforted me, assuring me that falling in love with "one of them" did not  mean that I was somehow perverted.

Seven years later, after much prayer and friendships with various people in Love In Action, I joined the staff as a correspondence counselor. I started out handling letters from women who, like me, had fallen in love with gay men, as well as to parents of adult children who had embraced the lifestyle. As best I could (though with some minor doctrinal flaws along the way), I directed my "clients" back to the love of Christ, assuring them that He shared their sorrow and loved their husband/boyfriend/child more than they ever could. Although I couldn't promise that their loved one would repent, I let them know that the Lord would use the pain they experienced for His purposes.

Eventually, my bosses asked me to answer letters from men and women who sought freedom from their own homosexual struggles. Mainly, I offered preliminary encouragement, ultimately directing them to "ex-gay" ministries in their immediate areas. Some ended up in Love In Action. The Lord blessed me with the opportunity to see one man I'd written marry a beautiful woman who had walked away from the lesbian lifestyle.

I followed Love In Action from San Rafael, California to Memphis, Tennessee, planning to spend the rest of my life serving God as the ministry's correspondence counselor and newsletter editor. But God used the frustrations of living in a nursing home and the aggravation of using the Memphis Area Transportation Authority's para-transit system (which makes The RIDE here in Boston look wonderful) to move me out of Love In Action, preparing me for the relationship with John that would usher me into marriage and place me in Boston.

My life with Love In Action was exciting and wonderful, giving me opportunities to travel to annual Exodus International conferences and to have satisfying friendships with godly, fun-loving people who still hold special places in my heart. But the Lord moved me to a very different, and even more fulfilling chapter in my life, so far removed from ex-gay ministry that those days feel like a dream. Yet I can't imagine my life without Love In Action. I'm grateful for reminders of that precious portion of my personal history.


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