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?

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