Monday, July 30, 2012

Constitutional Morality And Religion

We may certainly question whether or not John Adams (our country's second President) was a Bible-believing Christian, and today that's not our central focus. We do know that he adhered to a form of religion that honored Biblical principles, as did the other signers of the Declaration of Independence. He drafted the Constitution of Massachusetts, which in turn served as a model for the Constitution of the United States, and therefore spoke with authority regarding the relationship between religion and the U.S. Constitution:

Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.

Slightly over 200 years later, there are people who insist that our Constitution is a wholly secular document that "liberates" us from the constraints of morality, particularly if that morality arises from religious convictions. And especially if those convictions have Christian undertones. That assumption, however, contradicts Adams' statement.

Unlike many evangelicals of my generation, I'm not adamant that the United States of America was founded as a specifically as a Christian nation. But I do believe our Founding Fathers wanted our country to reflect Biblical values. Obviously John Adams had no intention of completely isolating the nation from morality and religion! It's time to be the type of people that Adams described!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Silky Smooth Sidewalks

Just over a year ago, I wrote a post entitled Wrong Direction, discussing the poor condition of the sidewalk leading from our apartment building to the center of town. That post generated comments from concerned readers offering to pray that that sidewalk would be repaired.

While I appreciated the concern, I also felt a bit disappointed. People had missed the main point of my post: my ability to be thankful that, despite its many flaws, the sidewalk was there in the first place and that I could negotiate it. The Lord had been teaching me to lay aside my propensity for complaining in favor of gratitude, and I was very excited to see myself actually begin to obey Him in this matter!

But in His divine humor, He convinced town leaders to fix that street, including its sidewalks. They've been finished for about three weeks now, and it's such a joy to drive our wheelchair along that sidewalk that used to be so treacherous! So, dear readers, thank you for your prayers. And if I blog less frequently, you can assume it's because I'm on the sidewalk.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Gay Christians And My Fits Of Anger

So, can a same sex couple living in a committed relationship be Christian? That sticky, ooey-gooey question has come up quite a bit lately, causing considerable controversy among people that I've known, respected and loved for many years. In wrestling with some of the answers, I've had to examine my own struggles with habitual sin, firmly believing that my sin is just as deplorable to the Lord as homosexuality. Thus, yesterday's blog post. I cannot, in good conscience, address anyone else's sin unless I'm first willing to acknowledge that I also stand in need of God's grace.

As an aside, let me insist that I do celebrate His grace, grateful that I will spend eternity with Jesus! How utterly amazing that He, despite His holiness, would save a wretch like me! I adore Him more in those times when He helps me look at my sin honestly, acknowledging its repugnance to a holy God, and then grasp the wonderful truth that Jesus paid the penalty for that sin by shedding His blood on the cross!

I preface my discussion of willful homosexual behavior with this admission of my  own habitual sin because some of the bloggers writing in defense of "gay Christians" point to people like me as evidence that the Lord accepts people who persist in homosexual behavior (particularly committed same sex relationships) just as readily as he accepts any other sinner.

For a moment, then, let's take homosexual behavior out of the conversation and pick one of my sins. Anger is a good choice here because it's more visible, and more reprehensible by human standards, than my other ones. As I've lived in anger, I've run the gamut of saying it's part of my Cerebral Palsy, justifying it as "righteous indignation," and blaming my Irish heritage. But none of those rationalizations hold up to Galatians 5:19-21, which lists "fits of anger" as a work of the flesh that keeps people out of the Kingdom of God. My anger, in other words, is not acceptable to the Lord.

Thankfully, Jesus bore the punishment for my anger. Yet He calls me to see it as a vile thing that I need to eliminate from my life. Yes, I still commit this horrible sin, and it shames me. But the very fact that it shames me gives me encouragement when I understand that the Holy Spirit is convicting me of sin. The fact that I hate my anger because it grieves and dishonors the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrates that He's working in me. I pray I'll reach repentance soon.

Now, the difference between me and the professed Christian couple in the same sex relationship lies in the willingness to recognize our respective behaviors as sin. If the couple denies a conflict between the clear teaching of Scripture and homosexual behavior, it's reasonable to question their Christianity. Are they recent converts? Then okay--they may be genuine Christians who, as yet, haven't been properly taught. But if they deliberately manipulate God's Word, forcing it to accommodate their sin, there's a very serious problem. (Just as there would be a serious problem if I twisted Scripture to accommodate my anger.)

Homosexuality, in and of itself, isn't really the big issue. Neither is anger. Rather, it's whether or not we will accept the Lord's authority to determine what constitutes sin. If we argue against His assessment, which He outlines in the Bible, perhaps we should evaluate our relationship with the Lord. Perhaps we really aren't Christians.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. ~~1 John 1:5-10 (ESV)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Disturbed By Logs, Specks and Lies

Every so often, it seems as if I can't escape the darkness capturing friends with whom I'd ministered for decades. Some have fallen into "Christian yoga," an oxymoron if I ever heard one. Others have embraced liberal politics in a way that causes them to post Status Updates on Facebook vehemently attacking conservative Christians. And others have, sad to say, resigned their struggle against homosexuality.

All these shifts from truth to error deeply challenge me as I battle my own sins (which are many). The logs in my own eye are numerous and huge, requiring that I remove them before presuming to deal with specks in anyone else's eye.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. ~~Mathew 7:1-6 (ESV)

Is Jesus saying that, once I've addressed my own sin, I may address the sins of others? I believe so. Part of love is alerting someone when he or she embarks on a path of beliefs and/or behavior that jeopardizes their spiritual well-being. If "friends do not let friends drink and drive," then surely there's an appropriate manner of discerning spiritual loss of sobriety, and a responsibility to correct people who lose their way.

My problem is in understanding when the logs are sufficiently removed from my eye. Although I recognize my logs, and confess them as sin, I keep repeating the behaviors. I earnestly desire to repent, knowing how I grieve the Holy Spirit when I fail, time after time, to walk in obedience to the Lord. Sometimes, I'm forced to question my salvation, until I remember that the shed blood of Jesus Christ , and only the shed blood of Jesus Christ, secures my place in Heaven.

I'm troubled, very deeply, by both my sin and the sin of people I've known and loved for years. I guess I find it disturbing that my friends boast about their ability to reconcile their beliefs and behaviors with their version of "Christianity," but even then, I don't want to turn my willingness to acknowledge my own  sin into a perverted self-righteous humility.

May the Lord come soon and deliver us all! I long to truly live in holiness! And I long for my friends to be liberated from deception. Hope lies only in the Lord Jesus Christ, I know, so I cry out to Him. May He grant us his gift of repentance.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Playing With Lilacs

So, a couple weeks ago I poked around some old, nearly-forgotten links for Paint Shop Pro tutorials that I'd saved before I switched from Internet Explorer to Firefox (which I did at least three years ago). Predictably, most of the websites no longer exist, largely due to Corel buying Paint Shop Pro from JASC several years back and radically changing it. (Also, John purchased Version 8 for me back in 2003, making it fairly antiquated now.)

Anyway, in rooting through what few tutorials that have managed to survive, I found a fun one called Lovely Lilacs from Gloria's Graphics, and thought it looked fun. Only...I didn't exactly follow the tutorial. All right, already--I didn't follow it at all! I read it, and a day or two later started doing it from memory. Still, I like what I ended up painting:

Maybe I should go back and actually try the tutorial. But I doubt I will.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

From One Broken Heart, A Hymn Of Triumph

Horatio Spafford endured several personal tragedies that, humanly speaking, should have embittered his heart against the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1871, his four-year-old son died. That same year, the Chicago fire decimated his business, leaving his family in financial ruin. Those two terrible events would have been enough to shake the faith of most people,

Sadly, there was an even more devastating blow to test this young man's faith. In 1873, his wife and daughters boarded the SS Ville du Harve for Europe, but business connected to the Great Fire necessitated that Spafford remain in Chicago to clear up zoning problems. He planned, therefore, to follow his family a few days after their departure. As the SS Ville du Harve crossed the Atlantic, it collided with another ship, causing all four of his daughters to drown. His wife Anna cabled: "Saved alone..."

As Spafford sailed to Europe to join Anna in her grief, he composed a poem that has become one of the most triumphant hymns of all time.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Washington's Horse's A....(ahem!) And The Art Of Shooting Swans

Yesterday was John's day in Boston, which meant going to The Public Garden. As usual, we stopped on the suspension bridge to photograph the Lagoon and watch the Swan Boats. As I thought how over-priced those Swan Boat rides are (and how bored the people on them looked), my more optimistic husband thought how marvelous it is that one person can paddle a boat full of people with no motor.

Leaving the bridge, we encountered the familiar sight of Washington's horse's, backside. I'm not sure who the landscaping genius was that lined that statue up so perfectly with the bridge, or why I'm so perverse that I constantly find it amusing, but yesterday I decided I really needed a photo of it. To share! Not to disrespect our first President, but because I have a warped sense of humor just straining at the bit!

John, being more genteel than I, set out on a quest to photograph both of the swans that reside in The Public Garden during summer months. I'm now thoroughly convinced that both swans recognize John and deliberately conspire to strike the most ungraceful poses possible whenever he raises his camera. It's like they feel a compulsion to compete with Washington's horse for some sort of nastiness factor. But, even though John couldn't get a photograph of them both, he got a shot of one of them that I cropped and made pretty.

So now you know the seamier side of Boston's Public Garden. Shocking, I guess, but somehow making the place all the more least to my distorted mind.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Detective Work, Neophites and Relief

I felt extremely resistant to the idea of John having an endoscopy, and began to wonder how experienced John's oncologist really is (he looks very, very young). So I looked him up, discovering that he only got his license in 2007, and he just completed his fellowship at Dana Farber in 2012--as in, just a few short months ago! I didn't like the idea of him cutting his teeth on John, thank you very much!

Meanwhile, John contacted the doctor scheduled to do the endoscopy, telling him of our concerns. As John told him about the near-fatal colonoscopy, he said he wanted to know what John's Primary Care Physician thought, and that he also wanted to have some of his collegues review John's CAT-scan to determine if something as risky as an endoscopy is really necessary.

Today we spoke with John's Primary Care Physician, who believes the endoscopy should wait at least until John's cardiologist returns from vacation. She does not consider this situation to be an emergency. She also agrees that we should avoid doctors who are green (this oncologist is so new that he's not even listed on the Mass General Hospital website). So tomorrow's endoscopy is cancelled. We're going to play in Boston!

Monday, July 16, 2012

John's Oncologist Said...

We saw John's oncologist today, expecting just a standard visit. Instead, he told us that John's CAT scan from Thursday showed that his small intestine is swollen. Best-case-scenario is that it's simply a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics. Most likely is that it's a peptic ulcer, which is problematic because he's on blood thinners due to his heart attack. Worst-case (and unlikely) is that it's cancer.

So, this coming Thursday (July 19), John has to have an endoscopy to find out what's wrong. As you'll recall. his colonoscopy had serious ramifications him in March, so the doctors will, of course, take extreme precautions.

I'm asking, first and foremost, for prayer that John will get through Thursday's procedure smoothly, and that this problem will be treatable. Also pray for someone to be with me that day

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Depends On The View

Though her earnestness characterized some aspects of her apparent walk with the Lord during a certain point in her life, causing me to both admire her and examine my own zeal for Him, a mere ten years later she had rejected her Biblical beliefs in favor of an ungodly lifestyle. Her spiritual decay, not surprisingly, occurred gradually, corresponding to her undergraduate studies, and accelerating as she neared her PhD. Not  that higher education is solely responsible for pulling her away from Christ--it wasn't. Looking back, even at the seeming pinnacle of her Christian experience she didn't quite get it.

I still recall the room we were in when she made the telling remark, with its rich, dark wall panels. "If we're just going to worship all the time," she mused, "I think Heaven will be boring."

Stunning words, especially from one who otherwise exhibited such a passion for Jesus! Yet I now believe many self-professed Christians hold equal varieties of apathy toward an eternity which centers completely around the Lord Jesus Christ.

Case in point: countless friends of mine have excitedly anticipated dancing, running, and even playing tennis with me in Heaven, as if celebrating my Resurrection body is a main attraction once we enter the Pearly Gates. Others fantasize about conversations with Moses and Paul. Then there are people looking forward to reunions with loved ones who have gone before them, certain that those loved ones will be eagerly awaiting their arrival. Interestingly, Jesus isn't present in any of these scenarios.

Yet the Bible describes Heaven as a place revolving around Jesus Christ, filled with people worshiping, praising and adoring Him without ceasing. He is central!

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” ~~Revelation 5:6-13 (ESV)

Such unbroken worship seems unimaginable to us, as we still live with stubborn sin natures that find the thought of total concentration on Christ to be (if I may be blunt) perhaps a little repulsive. We want Heaven to be about us, and then (once we've received our rewards, comforts and pleasures) we'll give a nod of recognition to Him. After all, we reason, eternity is an awfully long time to stand around singing hymns and praise choruses.

It is...unless we see the Lord in His glory, fully comprehending for the first time the great extent of His sacrifice for us. We forget that, this side of Heaven, our spiritual  vision is dulled, muting His splendor until we forget our sense of wonder at Who He is and what He's done for us. But once we stand before Jesus, gazing into His eyes, we will no longer be hampered by our flesh, and His majesty will so enthrall us that eternity won't seem long enough to Praise God.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Schmaltzy Movies And Renouncing Selfishness

Yes, I'm corny enough to watch movies like The Princess Diaries, a fact that undoubtedly appall the nuns who served as my English professors at Dominican University of California with the lofty goal of instilling in me "an educated taste." My intellectual failures aside, the climatic scene, in which Mia publicly accepts her role as princess of Genovea, sets forth the idea that life is less about personal gratification and more about serving a greater cause. That attitude is fast disappearing in our present culture, and I lament the fact that only schmaltzy movies aimed at preteen girls would attempt to convey such a necessary message.

This post, however really isn't about the shortcomings of the secular media. Actually, it's to admit that, like Mia, selfishness dominates my life. Marriage has confronted me with this bitter fact. John, being much less selfish (he's such an example to me of how to walk in the Spirit!), frequently defers to my wishes, and in doing so gives the Holy Spirit opportunity to convict me.

But being open about my personal struggle with selfishness is merely part of my design here. I've confessed this sin, you see, trusting that the blood of Jesus Christ sufficiently atones for it and that the Holy Spirit has empowered me to deny, rather than indulge, myself. Yes, I stumble all too often, to the Lord's grief and dishonor, but He's patiently transforming me,  little by little (2 Corinthians 3:18). As I admit my own selfishness, my prayer is that I might, by extension, challenge attitudes of selfishness that currently infest popular evangelical teaching, pulling us away from Christ's purposes for His Church.

Naturally, a single blog post couldn't possibly cover all the specific ways we have shifted the focus from God to self. There are numerous rabbit trails to follow, and I can see a delicious possibility of venturing down some of those trails in future posts. Right now, however, let me delineate the bottom line: We have distorted Christianity into a system of God becoming our servant.

And He certainly did just that, as the Apostle Paul teaches in Philippians 2:5-11:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (ESV)

(The NKJV renders verse 5, "Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus," giving a clearer understanding of Paul's thought.)

Please notice two points in this passage. Firstly, Christ became a servant, setting an example that He explicitly commanded Christians to follow. His servanthood led Him to willingly surrender Himself to take the death penalty for sin that rightfully belongs to you and me. Therefore, His service ultimately places us in absolute obligation to him.

That obligation leads us to the second point, which is that one day each of us (whether willingly or unwillingly) will bow in humility to Him. The blessings He gives to us demonstrate His kindness to us, but He will not let us forget that He is the King to whom all must bow. Christianity isn't about Him meeting our needs, and it's even less about Him fulfilling our self-centered desires. And if He frees us from sinful behaviors, the benefits to us of that freedom are secondary to His goal of glorifying Himself! He never intended to initiate a religion that would cater to our petty whinings and demands, but rather He intended that we regard His goodness as greater reason to praise, honor and glorify Him.

If a 16-year-old fictional princess can understand her duty to renounce her selfishness for the sake of her responsibilities to a kingdom, perhaps real-life Christians should seriously consider our responsibility to put our selfishness aside for the Lord's honor. Such a concept may grate at us. Okay, it definitely grates at us. But He calls us to such an attitude, and if we're as honest as the princess in that schmaltzy movie, we'll choose to glorify Him.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Inhalers, Mucinex, Antibiotics, And A Paste For Canker Sores

Friday, the headaches started. I'd been coming out of a cycle of migraines, so I thought it was an unusually long cycle. Thursday, I developed a canker sore, and thus was really not in the mood for a migraine. Okay, I'm never in the mood for migraines, but you know what I mean. Well, the migraine pill only provided minimal relief, leading me to think Saturday that I'd mistakenly treated a sinus headache as a migraine. Oops!

The sinus headache pill I took Saturday did alleviate the headache, but the canker sore made eating more than unpleasant.So when another headache (accompanied by nausea) occurred Sunday, I figured it actually was a migraine--probably triggered by hunger. But again, my migraine medication accomplished nothing. I was very nauseous, so I drank ginger ale all day.

Yesterday, the headache persisted, joined by dehydration, wheezing and fever. Obviously time to see a doctor. Happily, my doctor's office is half a mile from our apartment, so John and I wheeled over. My Primary Care Physician was off, but her colleague examined me, said I have an upper respiratory infection.

So now I'm taking a variety of extremely nasty medications, and feel somewhat better. But we scraped our plans for Boston today. For some reason, an Adopted Luke Turkey Burger and Mango yogurt shake from B Good Burgers on Washington Street lacks its usual appeal.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

But Should It Work?

She felt more than disappointed. She believed, by "answering" her prayers with a firm "No" that reverberated in her mind for several years, that God had actually betrayed her. Consumed with bitterness, she seriously contemplated turning her back on Christianity, explaining simply: "It doesn't work."

And, from a human perspective, Christianity didn't "work" for her in that specific instance. She'd prayed for a certain blessing, fully convinced that the Holy Spirit had given her the desire for that blessing in the first place, only to be frustrated when He closed all possible doors to her obtaining what she thought He wanted to give her. Something had evidently failed. Maybe God had failed, or maybe she had. In any case, she wasn't going to receive what she believed she'd earned through her devotion to God and her service to her church, leading her to think that Christianity was defective.

Disappointment, indeed, can warp a person's thinking.

In her case, disappointment reduced her concept of Christianity to the notion that, to be valid, it had to function in accordance with human expectations. Since it failed to meet particular expectations that she held, she reasoned that following the Lord didn't work. Not for her.

Thankfully, the Lord brought her through her anger, and (although He never granted that one request of hers) He uses her powerfully today in ways He might not have if He'd said "yes" to her request.

Sadly, many other people don't come through disappointment as well as this woman did. They get stuck on the idea that Christianity is supposed to "work" for them. If they do certain things, they expect God to bless them by behaving in ways that they believe He should. If He doesn't meet the obligations that they impose on Him, they conclude that Christianity doesn't "work," and therefore should be rejected.

But Christianity mustn't be evaluated on whether or not God performs as we think He ought. We aren't consumers that He is duty-bound to satisfy. Such thinking puts us in the erroneous position of considering Him to be our servant, subject to our authority.

Jesus, in a humility and mercy that is foreign to human comprehension, certainly condescends to serve us. But it is, please notice, a condescension, not an obligatory action. He is Lord, and He makes the final determination on when and how to answer our prayers. Furthermore, those answers fulfill His purposes,  regardless of whether or not they coincide with our desires.

Do we ascribe to a form of Christianity that "works" for us, or do we follow Jesus Christ because He's Truth? If we insist that Christianity must "work," perhaps we're wanting God to worship us. Sometimes, He makes sure things work for Him, knowing that ultimately His will really works for us.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,  for those who are called according to his purpose. ~~Romans 8:28 (ESV)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Don't Let Me Crash!

I don't feel like blogging today. I'm upset over a few matters that, while appropriate to discuss on Facebook, shouldn't be discussed here. At least not at this point in time. Yet, the emotions connected with these situations (especially one situation) so overwhelm me that I've forgotten what I'd planned for today's post.

Of course the Lord will get us through these problems. My feelings say otherwise, screaming that one day my life will finally crash and burn the way people at the school for special needs children predicted I would all those years ago. They saw me as a dreamer, unrealistic about my disability and therefore doomed to self-destruct. A high school friend of mine, who had gotten a job at the school after I'd graduated, informed me of this prophecy, and I've spent my entire adult life sweating under it's weight and wondering how much longer I'll escape its fulfillment.

Obviously, the prediction is a lie, as Scripture promises that God will carry me. As much as it echos in my ear that my crash is inevitable, I  have to believe that His promise to Israel also applies to individual Christians:

even to your old age I am he,
    and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
    I will carry and will save. ~~Isaiah 46:4 (ESV)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Children Of Park Street Church

Typical of most Boston landmarks, the church on the corner of Tremont and Park Streets (just across from Boston Common) overflows with historical significance. Today, as our nation celebrates 236 years of Independence, Park Street Church also celebrates its own patriotic anniversary. On July 4, 1831, the children of that church gave the first public performance of "America" (better known as "My Country, 'Tis Of Thee").

The lyrics, written by Baptist minister and Boston native Samuel Francis, largely praise America's vast and varied natural beauties. Yet the fourth stanza, midway through the hymn, anchors everything in the Lord's sovereignty and grace, reminding us to always acknowledge His fundamental part in establishing this great nation:

My country 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing:
Land where my fathers died !
Land of the pilgrims' pride
From ev'ry mountainside
Let freedom ring !

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love:
I love thy rocks and rills
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom's song:
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our fathers' God, to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing:
Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!

We love thine inland seas,
Thy groves and giant trees,
Thy rolling plains;
Thy rivers' mighty sweep,
Thy mystic canyons deep,
Thy mountains wild and steep,--
All thy domains.

Thy silver Eastern strands,
Thy Golden Gate that stands
Fronting the West;
Thy flowery Southland fair,
Thy North's sweet, crystal air:
O Land beyond compare,
We love thee best!
Obviously, America's Christian heritage has, even from the days of the Founding Fathers, been flawed, so it's intellectually dishonest to insist that we're a distinctly Christian country. Having said that, most of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence on that sweltering July day in Philadelphia had some sense of God's involvement in forming the United States of America. Samuel Francis Smith, being a man who loved the Lord, wanted to commemorate God's hand in creating both the beautiful land and the principles (deliberately taken from Scripture) that make America great.

Those children who first performed Smith's song at Park Street Church left a quiet legacy. The generations that followed by-and-large learned only Verse 1 of this anthem, diminishing  its majesty as it forces out all reference to God. But next time I see the church, may His Holy Spirit help me imagine those tender voices rightly directing this hymn to the Author of Liberty.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I'm Not Ready, Colonial Penn

At the end of September, I'll turn 59.

Note the significant pause after that statement, with its assumption that most readers (at the very least, most female readers) automatically understand the emotional ramifications it carries. A little over a year from now, I'll pass into the decade that denotes the early stages of being elderly, and that idea just doesn't appeal to me. In fact, it makes me shudder.

I've been watching those commercials for Colonial Penn Life Insurance on TV, realizing that the women portraying aging school cafeteria workers are about my age. That realization brings me more than a little discomfort. You see, I still envision myself as being young, with a nice distance between myself and older women, and those women clucking about grandchildren and warning each other about "final expenses" seem much too old to be my contemporaries.

No, I can't visualize myself as a Senior Citizen. When gentle summer breezes wrap around my shoulders, they take me back to the summer of 1973--just before I turned 20. I still feel like that young girl when I hear Motown music. Driving my power wheelchair through the streets of Boston yesterday evoked memories of driving my first motorized chair around Terra Linda (the community where I grew up). Watergate, Prince Charles' wedding to Lady Diana, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the rise of the Internet and Obamacare have all filled in the decades between that summer and this one, and I've filled those same decades with a rich variety of experiences and relationships. Yet I have the same feelings now as then. And, precisely because those youthful feelings still reside in this body, I'm not ready for my 59th birthday.

Taken in the fall of 1972


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