Friday, March 31, 2006

Reading Pearl Buck

I have just finished reading Pearl Buck’s autobiography, My Several Worlds. To some of you her work is quite familiar; others may not be so privileged. Her works are new to me, but I am quickly learning to appreciate her unique life and her cunning observation. Reading her words allows you to walk the same paths, meeting those many people along the way, absorbing the culture of worlds previously unknown, some never to be known again.

Pearl Buck was born Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker in the early 1890’s to Absalom and Caroline Sydenstricker. Her parents were Southern Presbyterian missionaries serving in China. They were home on furlough after losing three children and Pearl was born in the comfort of her grandfather’s large home in West Virginia. At the age of three months they packed her up and returned to what would become her foster country. Indeed, she knew China and her beloved Chinese people more intimately than her native country and people. Most of her first forty years were spent there.

Unlike most missionaries of that time, her parents did not limit their world to the confines of the white missionary compound. They lived in a home right down the lane from Chinese people and Pearl was allowed to wander the streets, visit the homes of natives, and play freely with their children. She spoke and wrote Chinese before English. Her experience was unique in that very way. As a white in China, she was a minority. But she was unsheltered. She understood and felt the reality of living immersed in a culture as a minority. An innocent, loving child, she was able to win the confidence of the Chinese people and therefore lived freely in two very different worlds, the American English world of missionary friends and family and the Asian Chinese world of playmates and neighbors. Few people fully experience both. She was privileged to do so.

We find her insights into the Asian world fascinating, seen through the paradigm shaped by such experience. Her writing leaves one hungry for a greater glimpse of this mysterious yet so very human culture. She has also caused us to know that much of the China she knew and loved has since been eradicated. The inhumane machinery of total cultural revolution in the form of Chinese Communism has swept across the face of that continent, leaving in its wake complete destruction and brokenness.

It seems impossible that we Americans could truly comprehend such ancient culture; it had been formed, shaken, settled, and firmly established over the course of more than two thousand years (Confucius was born in 551BC). Such tradition would seem, in light of our national experience, to be eternal. The course of life which she observed, learned, and experienced in the China of the early 1900’s had been virtually unchanged in form and tradition for countless generations. Simplicity, therefore, abounded – place, propriety, and function were understood and unquestioned. Stability in such a setting becomes a thing assumed, taken for granted, trusted and built upon. Such is the innate beauty of centuries-old culture, the calm and the serenity. Therein is the privilege to be appreciated and cherished.

And yet in the course of her lifetime that culture was challenged, thoroughly shaken, and destroyed. It is astounding to realize the fragility of a culture hundreds of years in the making. What could disturb the rhythms and cycles of such well-established tradition? How could it be that this world, known and understood by its inhabitants for countless generations, depended upon by grandparents, parents, and children alike, be taken apart?

Intrinsic beauty is often overlooked, especially when viewed through the eyes of disappointment or bitterness. Youthful impetuosity fails to appreciate, is unable to comprehend the ages. The sacrifice of the elderly goes unnoticed; safety of established tradition becomes confinement, hard earned truth is distrusted, and predetermined roles become shackles to be thrown off. Unfortunately it is often done without a clear eye to the future or a proper assessment of the past. Our humanity can chain us to the present moment allowing deception and fickleness of self-centered desire to cloud understanding. Such was the case for multitudes in the China of the mid 1900’s.

Promises of improved living, freedom from backward tradition, and prosperity for all sounded through city streets, rousing a new generation to rise up in protest and annihilation, leaving sleepy rural villages literally in the dust. The machine of revolution began to roll. Pearl recounts an event from those dangerous times.

I put on my jacket and went out to see for myself. We lived not far from the main road into the city and a few minutes’ walk brought me to the spot. There I saw the monster machine, something I had never seen before nor heard of, and therefore which I could not name. A man rode upon it, a young Chinese man, not a workingman but a Western-educated man, and he was guiding it slowly along one side of the street and then the other. What was he doing? He was pushing down the houses. Those old one-story houses, made of hand-shaped brick and cemented together with lime plaster, had stood well enough for shelter through hundreds of years, but they had been built long before such a machine had been conceived in the mind of Western man, and they could not withstand the assault. They crumbled into ruins.

Had this been in my earlier world, I would have stopped the man and asked him what he did and why. But this was now, and I dared not ask. I was a foreigner, I knew it now, and I dared not ask. I stood among the Chinese people, watching, silent, stricken. And the young man said not a word, not even when an old grandmother, who had lived in a house since she was born, began to cry wildly and aloud. I asked her son in a whisper if the families were paid for the loss of their homes, and he whispered back they had been promised pay, but none of them trusted promises. (from her autobiography My Several Worlds)

And so the saga continued, whether a machine quite literally dismantling a housing district, or the brutal takeover by military force physically dismembering fellow human beings standing in disagreement, or the workings of cultural revolution disassembling paradigms of tradition, eradication must be accomplished. And accomplished it was, at high cost. An ancient culture, shaped and formed through the centuries, was carelessly tossed aside.

It was not the first time and it will not be the last. As a Christian, I enjoy a perspective lent from the Eternal. I am sure I would be undone by such renderings of human history if it were not for Him. Instead they lend further appreciation of scripture and the wisdom given to mere mortals through immortal words. He alone will endure all of time. This is what must be understood. The greatest pharaohs in their attempt to gain such immortality have come closer than many to establishing an unfading memorial, but even the grandeur of pyramids will crumble and diminish in their wonder.

Sad indeed is the failure to cherish the strands of devotion to family woven into the ancient Chinese culture, the continuous thread of reverence and honor seamlessly holding generations in their places, and the beauty of the tapestry skillfully wrought. Foolish as well to fail in acknowledging the working of sin against such beauty; sin from within and without. If this had been a culture free from all stain and failure, would it have failed? We are venturing into hypothetical ideals. Such a place would have been utopia; the scripture teaches that it would have been impossible for such a place to exist, for all have sinned and fallen short of such glory. Until His eternal reign is fully established, such a place will not be known.

The recurrent sorrow of destruction wrought by the incessantly destructive nature of sin leads me to this conclusion: I will find hope in Him, I will anchor my soul with His truth, and I will live for an eternal kingdom where sin and sorrow will be no more.

Reading the stories of Pearl Buck’s China awakened once again a realization of the poverty of any culture apart from the gospel. Beauty may abound, but it is tarnished. Tradition may yield its simplicity, but there is no understanding. Richness of heritage will be treasured then discounted. Success, subject to situation, cannot be guaranteed. The Gospel of Christ alone can remedy all of this. Tarnish can be cleansed, wisdom given, understanding of heritage imparted, and non-circumstantial success made accessible to everyone.

Therefore we must continue in the quest to bring this message to all peoples in all places. It is not liberation from a culture we must seek, but an impartation of truth into the culture. Let truth alone do the purging. May it not be said that we sought to adjust traditions, but that we brought love and purity of truth. His desire is that every man would know His love and His mercy; that love and mercy translates readily into every tongue and culture. Let His will be done, His Kingdom come. We seek an Eternal home and a Kingdom everlasting.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Technologically Dependent

For the past few days my internet connection on my laptop has been at best tempermental and at worst totally unresponsive. It has left me feeling lost -- helpless, actually.

When relegated to one seat all day long for weeks on end, you may wonder how there is any sense of productivity. But with computer in hand I shop, educate my mind, remain current in world affairs and opinion, study scripture, and do my writing. That is -- with the wide world web close at hand. Without it my productivity is severely handicapped. Even writing seems impossible. I have become accustomed to compiling my thoughts on a Word document with two websites at my fingertips (indeed, they are open continually) : and I now feel inept without them. The thought of lugging out the numerous large volumes which they both represent (dictionary, thesaurus, Naves Topical, MHCommentary, 12 or more Bible translations, and more) is quite overwhelming, considering my work is done on my lap in an easy chair, my mobility more than slightly hampered by the required crutches.

So -- productivity has become minimal. How did I become so spoiled so quickly? Three months ago I managed pretty well without all of this technology, and now I am dependent. Pastor Mike Tomford assures me that dependency is common. He enjoyed the benefits of a wireless for two days and when, on the third, he found himself in a position requiring cords and plugins, he was quite put out. I sympathized completely.

Ah, well. Another one falls prey to the 21st century and the way we now live. That one would be me.


The Spanish contingency is actually traveling back to Spain today after a few days in Morocco. I can hardly wait to hear details of that trip, but have not had direct contact since they left Malaga on Monday morning. I am sure it was a fascinating world. They will travel on to Seville where they will stay with some newfound friends, contacts made at the conference last week. These are people who want to hear more about Christian Education and generational building. And so the work will continue. From there they will head back to Madrid (Spain, that is) for a radio interview with Danica and time spent with more Christian friends.

In less than one week they will head for Madrid (NY, that is) and I must admit, that I am beginning now to count the days. It won't be long!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Spain Report #4

It has been a few days since I wrote of Spanish adventures. And there has been kingdom building -- truly the best of all possible adventure!

Rick had wonderful opportunities to share at the conference. Many other speakers were also involved; they spoke of educational philosophies or various methods and curriculums. But to Rick fell the responsibility of establishing the Biblical mandate to instruct and raise up a future generation who will remain faithful and true. His duty was to stir up a passion for the very souls of these young people who were the subject of discourse. We must be careful in all of our planning to not relegate them to the status of a project or goal, always remembering that they are created souls intended to reign with us throughout all of eternity. He desires them for His eternal abode. Suddenly the importance is seen more clearly -- quite exciting, I might say!

They traveled on to Malaga, a large Andalucian city along the Costa del Sol in southern Spain. The route was breathtaking and the city full of a depth of history unknown to American civilization. Here they were able to entertain informal conversation with a mixed company Sunday evening. In a pastor's house they convened with their hosts while in Malaga - Paco and Doreen, the pastor, and one other couple, a saved Finnish woman and her unsaved Spanish husband. The latter had visited the church and were getting to know the pastor. The Spanish man, a lawyer by occupation, was quite brilliant and interesting and their conversation covered topics of politics, culture, and social issues, including the detriments of the existing public education system in Spain. Eventually homeschooling was settled in on and Paco deferred to Rick who then manned the discussion. The end of it all was a pastor who had never entertained the prospect of homeschool in spite of requests from his own children now excited about fresh possibilities of taking ownership of his children's destiny. The Finnish woman also felt stirred to consider her children and the plight of public education there in Spain. As they filed out of the door to head home, the pastor earnestly remarked that this had been the most challenging conversation he had encountered since coming to Spain a year ago. Paco, our host and man responsible for Rick's invitation to Spain, was pleased. This is exactly what he has prayed for and is eagerly expecting God to do. His faith and prayers are being heeded. Smile indeed -- he is a good brother whose heart for the Church in Spain is devoted. May he see much fruit in the years to come!

Today Rick and Danica should have reached Morocco where they will be met by an old friend, Tom Spyker. Some of you dear readers will well remember the months they spent with us in Madrid many years ago. It will be most pleasant for them to see Danica again. Rick has seen them more recently.

Bill and Nancy are venturing forth on their own, traveling wherever the whim may lead, probably visiting some friends and Valencia before meeting up with Danica and Rick. I know they will enjoy the scenery, the people, and the culture. And God will use this time!

So there it is -- another report from around the world!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Equipping for the Real World

A healthy outlook is one thing I desire for my children. I want them to view life with wisdom and not fancy. Knowing that they see things honestly and yet with faith is a goal of mine.

I guess that has translated into my hesitancy to protect them from some of life's harsh realities. They have seen the effects of sin in my life and theirs. They have seen the effects of other kinds of sin in the lives of other people as well. I do not candy coat it for them. Sin has dire consequence and there is only one answer: Jesus.

Sickness and loss, death and hardships -- I am not prone to hide them from the reality of such things. Perhaps you may take a different approach. But however we decide to handle life's difficulties we must always help them see that He is the answer. Every adversity can become an opportunity to teach them of His faithfulness, His provision, His peace.

We do not need to be afraid of the hard questions. We do not even need to have all the answers. If they can learn to trust Him even for those answers that for the moment remain elusive, they will have gained a wealth of knowledge -- knowledge that will provide sustenance for them in the years to come. They will be ready to face life with wisdom and not fancy, with honesty and faith.

Oh, that my children might be equipped in such a way.

And when my heart is overwhelmed,
Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I,
Higher than I.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Spain Day 3

I haven't heard an official report but I know that even as I write this post it is 8:00pm and they are into the second evening of meetings at the conference. That means that Rick and crew have met my friends Paco, Ramon, and Jeremy. Hopefully they have had opportunities to share about investing in children. Great stuff!

Judges 2.10 When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.

This took place after the events recorded in Deureronomy. Let me remind you of what the Lord had said then.

Deut. 6:1-9 "Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you--'a land flowing with milk and honey.'

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

So check it out -- in Judges we find the children of Israel without knowledge of the Lord or the works that God had done! Someone really dropped the ball. Someone didn't listen to the Lord's command here in Deut. If they had diligently taught them, they at least could not claim ignorance. What a shame!

And what a shame to let today's next generation suffer the same ignorance. Bringing them up in church is not the answer. Sending them to Christian schools is not the answer. Homeschooling alone is not the answer. So what is? There is a critical component tucked inside that command in Deuteronomy -- functional relationship. Relationship that works involves communication. It also involves integrity. We speak clearly and we live what we speak. They must both be happening. It is crucial to impartation. That is why we see a picture of formal education ("teach them diligently") coupled with everyday life ("when you sit...when you walk...when you lie down...when you rise up.") It is the whole picture.

This would be a great time to plug homeschooling. I mean, can you think of a better venue for sitting and walking and lying down and rising up within a context relaxed enough to actually allow for meaningful conversation? It is ideal. But in all actuality those who make this command a priority can accomplish this in a variety of settings. Functional relationship is the real key.

Teach it clearly; live it sincerely. For those who are willing to do just that, another generation will emerge ready to carry the torch.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Spain Day 2

The trip has already been full and fruitful. Rick has met everyone dear to my heart in Madrid: Peter at the cafe, Juan the groundskeeper, and Jacob Bock and Daniel West with Kilometrocero in Puerta del Sol. Rick was totally impressed with their evangelistic ministry and is excited that the summer team will work with them again this year.

Rick, Danica, and Nancy (Bill wasn't feeling well from travel initially) went out on the streets with Jacob and did some open air preaching with him -- they had a blast!

Rick was able to share the Lord with a Liberian for almost an hour on the train into downtown.

Nancy and Danica did a museum and shopped while Rick and Bill secured the rental car. Then all four rendezvous-ed and visited Palaceo Real -- our team went there. Trust me, it is exquisite.

Today they head to Toledo to locate Monte de Toledo conference center. The meetings start tonight at 7:00. Rick has not been given much information so he is prepared to do whatever they need. Open discussion panels have been suggested as well as regular sharing sessions. Paco, the man organizing the conference, is expecting only 30-40 people. I say only because that seems small by some standards. I am actually quite pleased. When you present alternative forms of education to a culture that isn't accustomed to such thoughts it usually starts small. If you remember, homeschooling wasn't exactly welcomed with open arms by large groups of people here in the States. The same plowing will be needed in Spain. That's okay -- someone has to do it and I am honored that we all can somehow play a part in this! So don't forget to pray that key people will hear and be moved in their hearts to somehow grasp God's plan for generational building. Pray that they see and understand His heart for their children and the call to invest heartily in the fallow ground known as the next generation. Now is the time -- today is the day! Oh, that they may hear His call and obey! So pray to this end.

Meanwhile here at home there is the continued need to grow in diligence. Oh, Lord, we stand in need of grace! Help us grow, help us grow.

And driving out of enemies, putting down flesh and carnal impulse, seeing sin removed must also continue. The battle is on and His is the victory! Just reminding myself -- and you as well!

The day is new, the day is His, the day can be ours! (My, that's a bit robust, don't you think?)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Life Without Godly Zeal

I am contemplating a phrase used by Matthew Henry in his commentary on Joshua -- he was postulating possible reasons for the disobedience of the children of Israel upon failing to drive the enemy out completely. Perhaps it was a lack of faith, maybe they were overcome with fear. Or could it have been a “want of zeal for the command of God?”

A “want of zeal for the command of God.” The phrase arrested me as I read it. What a dangerous condition. A sad plight, actually.

We are always in danger of succumbing to the weariness of our flesh. Let’s face it. Life can be long and frustrating. The enemy doesn’t surrender readily and sin seems to plague us. Sometimes we just don’t feel like trying anymore.

And would you suppose that He doesn’t know that? Do you think that perhaps He is not mindful of our frailty – that somehow He is unaware of our propensity to lose heart?

Think again and be encouraged. He has planned and provided even for this. The ready solution is to repent and ask Him for fresh zeal.

But that is where our part lies. We must recognize, acknowledge, and resist apathy. Eventually everyone comes to a place of weariness. The situation is “good enough, close enough, acceptable -- just the way it is.” We find that we are more akin to the children of Israel than we would like to think. Instead of driving out the enemy as the Lord commanded, they decided to live next door to them, demanding tribute from them rather than engaging in a battle to the end. After all, that would have to do. It was nearly complete obedience to the command – close enough, for sure. Many cities and peoples had already been conquered. Wars and more wars had been fought; battle after battle won. They had secured many victories; now it was time to settle down. On top of that, this enemy was stronger than the rest. So why shouldn’t they allow them to remain in the land, minding their own business? Where could the harm lie in this? It seemed acceptable just as it was. What do you think would have been easier – giving them their own little corner or driving them out, iron chariots and all?

What the children of Israel needed was to step back, recall His words, and repent for compliance to the enemy rather than compliance to His commands. Then they needed to throw themselves upon His great mercy, allowing Him to renew their faith and zeal.

zeal – enthusiastic devotion to a cause, ideal, or goal and tireless diligence in its furtherance

Romans 12:11 exhorts us to be fervent in spirit. In Revelations 3:19 we are called to be zealous and repent. Titus 2:14 states clearly that He intends us to be zealous for good works.

If we are to walk in sincere love and devotion to the Savior of our souls we cannot afford the pleasure of indulging in compliance, laziness, or ignorance. We cannot be comfortable while sin exists and the enemy continues to infringe upon His claim. Contentment with anything less than holiness is not to be tolerated.

Read 1 Corinthians 13. Then remember that His primary command is that we love. If you are not moved to repentance at your lack of genuine love toward the brethren then you are a candidate in need of renewing. Plead for fresh zeal and a desire to love what He loves. If we are not moved by His commands to love our neighbor as ourselves and to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength we are in danger of apathy. Zeal is not presently our portion. And that, actually, is a sad plight indeed.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Magic 21 and Spain Day 1

Don't get nervous. I'm not going off the deep end preaching some heretical doctrine about voodoo and magic spells. It's just that I think I remember hearing that if you do something for twenty-one days in a row, it becomes a habit. Twenty-one is the magic number for breaking old patterns and establishing new ones. And that is what we need to do around here.

So for the next three weeks we are limiting computer time and cutting back on outings. Chore charts will be focused on, but even more importantly, the quality of work will be improved. Less TV will be viewed and more books read (I hope.) Proverbs 6 -- "Go to the ant, you sluggard, consider her ways and be wise..." -- is being reviewed. We are reminded that a diligent person doesn't need someone telling them what to do when, but looks ahead, using time and resources to prepare for the future. Sounds like wisdom to me.

It's always easy to get this kind of strategy started, but I am hopeful that we will actually maintain it this time around. Dad is away for two weeks (no early morning tennis or star gazing at late hours), Mom is not going anywhere yet (distraction is not accessible), and the schedule is fairly clear at the moment, so we just need to be stubbornly insistent that it stay that way (I should clarify -- Mom needs to be stubbornly insistent that it stay that way.)

So there you have it: the 21 day plan -- I hope it yields established, "new and improved" patterns of diligence and use of time. And maybe a few magic tricks from that Proverbs 6 heroine. We all could use some around here!


I got mail!

Rick and crew arrived last night (early morning for them.) All safe and sound, although Danica was sick off and on throughout the trip. From my experince, air travel when pregnant never seems to go too well. At least both feet are on the ground once again and in no time they will adjust to time changes. I told them to be sure and meet Peter in the BETEL cafe - he was my early morning companion each day while I was in Madrid this past summer. I so wanted to introduce him to my husband and daughter myself. Hopefully they will locate him!

I also contacted Jacob Bock, head of Kilometrocero, an evangelistic ministry in downtown Madrid. He thought that tonight would be the best time for them to meet him. Our team worked with him last summer and it was quite exciting. The ministry is located in the heart of Madrid in Puerta del Sol, an area filled with history and all the romance of ancient Europe. The winding narrow sidestreets are lined with buildings of terracotta, soft yellow, warm beige, and pristine white all accented with wrought iron balconies boasting window boxes filled with red and pink flowers. On the main street the bustle of the 21st century moves tirelessly, disregarding any sense of history; signs for McDonalds and the Metro are juxtaposed alongside those quaint terracotta storefronts. Daily, tens of thousands of Spaniards and tourists move along this avenue and every night this ministry preaches the gospel to whoever has ears to hear. All of our kids had the chance to boldly proclaim His name right there. We saw men and women from all over the globe respond and receive prayer -- people from the Ivory Coast, Belgium, Romania -- broken lives who share the same human needs in spite of language and cultural barriers.

Because of my avid interest in this trip I will continue to keep you posted on the Spain adventure. Hope you don't mind!

Oh, well...

We packed for his trip all day yesterday. We set the alarm for early this morning. And now they are off. A sunny adventure in Spain -- without me!

I knew my eyes would fill with tears when I saw the vehicle actually drive away without me.

And I was right.

Oh, well... time to move on to a new day that God has other plans for. I think it will take a moment or two to get adjusted.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Who left the gas on "empty"?

Isn't it amazing how quickly the gas tank is empty, especially in a busy family with lots going on? And have you ever noticed that no one wants to be the one to fill it up, even when Dad is paying the bill? I guess it is just the inconvenience. I know that's often my reason for contributing to the empty tank syndrome.

But after numerous times of finding the arrow pointing to that infamous "e" when I am running late -- and the last thing I need to do is take a trip to the gas station -- I am more appreciative of timely fill-ups. Do it while you have the time, not when it is urgent.

I think there may be a spiritual lesson here if I will just take a look.

Lately I have been pretty empty. My tank is dry. Does anyone else relate? It happens routinely, and certainly if you plan on giving much you must put yourself in the position of receiving much. Sooner or later
a crisis arises -- and because we have failed to fill-up the spiritual tank when we had the time, we are now in a pinch. Somehow that doesn't seem to be the way He intended. Situations arise when there just isn't time to get "prayed up". As a mom, they seem to occur frequently. I need to do better than point at the fuel indicator and say, "Not now, I'm empty."

Is getting "prayed up" always convenient? Never. Is it a favorite chosen pastime? Rarely. Does the thoughtful one put it off or get it done ahead of time? That's obvious.

So in spite of the fact that you may be empty, which is always the time we are least likely to find the strength to press in, press in you must. But the wonderful thing is, we don't have to bring Him anything but our emptiness. Just like that young driver, Dad is paying the bill. We simply have to open our hearts, yield our minds, and still our souls. We just need to be there.

When we are empty, He fills us up. When we simply come.

You Are My All in All

You are my strength when I am weak,
You are the treaure that I seek,
You are my all in all.
Seeking You as a precious jewel,
Lord to give up I'd be a fool,
You are my all in all.

Jesus, Lamb of God - worthy is Your name.
Jesus, Lamb of God - worthy is Your name.

Taking my sin, my cross, my shame,
Rising again, I bless Your name,
You are my all in all.
When I fall down, You pick me up,
When I am dry You fill my cup,
You are my all in all.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Across my fireplace mantel are several masks all nicely lined up in purposeful display, carefully arranged by their proud owner. Merrick leads each new visitor into the room by their hand after clear instruction to "close your eyes and keep them closed!"

Then with a flourish he unveils his collection. "Ta da!" Eyes twinkle and lips refuse the full grin that wants to burst forth as he awaits the anticipated reaction. And, of course, everyone knows enough to be pleased -- well, most everyone. And the most favored response is that of ecstasy. And ecstasy isn't difficult to muster when such enthusiasm is displayed by this young man!

He points out the lion, the scarecrow, and the tin man. Next we have the king's crown and then Batman. Today we will make one more - Sonny, the robot. For you iRobot fans, you may recognize him as the special robot in that film. We watched it last night. And this morning, after being urged to get dressed for the day, Merrick came bounding into the family room with stone colored summer pants and white button down dress shirt. I almost called out,"What are you wearing Sunday clothes for?!" But before I did I caught the impish grin. He was clearly delighted with his plan -- but what was it? What had this mind concocted now?

Aha! Revelation comes -- this is a Sonny costume! In the movie, Sonny sports a white and transulscent rubbery-type outfit. I overheard Merrick discussing the color with Jamie last night. So - this was his best effort at reproduction of said costume. He promptly brought me scissors and white paper, commenting that this mask may be tricky to make. So that is today's project -- at least for now. We shall see what else develops!

This boy is destined for something -- don't ask me what!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I am . . .

. . . endlessly full of error and sin.

. . . eternally grateful for grace and mercy.

Is there any better hope -- any other way to lift the load, ease the burden?

I would be undone were it not for Him. Instead I have the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

And He forever will be my song! Forever!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dr. of Good News

Hooray for good reports! Yes -- mine was a good one. "I'm happy with how this looks. It seems to be healing well. Time to start getting aggressive with your stretches." "It's going to take a long time-- I'll probably be telling you that at every visit just so you remember -- but so far so good."

Excitedly I ventured forth a question. "My daughter plays in an international competition in California at the end of May. What do you think? Is there any possibility that I could be ready to go?"

"Why are you asking me? You will go, even if I say no. I have a mother. I know how these things are. How could you not be there?"

I smiled and mentioned that it wasn't a given, but if he thought it was possible . . .

Then the trip to Spain next week was discussed. He wondered why Rick was going. This led to good conversation.

As we were concluding the visit, he smiled his mischievous smile (he has a very little boyish look about him) and let us know that "far be it from me to tell you not to go to Spain. I am not saying you can't." Now, he wasn't recommending anything one way or another, but he definitely wanted to open up the possibility. He knew he was opening a can of worms for us to sort out and he chuckled at the prospect, saying, as he sauntered from the room that he hoped he hadn't started any kind of a row between us. We smiled.


Now, I'm not ready to jump at the opportunity. I haven't been on crutches much at all for three weeks. I will need to test my strength and determination. And you can be sure I will do just that! Who knows, we may determine that I can handle it after all! If not I will still be making great progress -- "aggressive work" as he would say.

So today I like doctors. After all, he gave me good news. Now to see him receive the truly Good News. That is the real goal.


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Pleasures of this moment

As I sit here savoring the few remaining morsels of my black bottom cupcake (thank you, Carina) I pause to reflect on the happiness of this very moment. Certainly those morsels contribute to such satisfying pleasure. I also am hearing some of my favorite sounds: older girls are assigning household duties to be done, the vacuum cleaner is already humming along with the operator (I can't quite make out the tune), dishes are clinking as they are loaded into the dishwasher, a violin is being tuned in preparation for a practice session, and two boys are discussing the marvels of Batman. Well, one of these things is not like the other, that is true (only one item on the listing tends toward the relational -- I guess it's officially out of the bag -- I love accomplishing stuff...)

At any rate, these things make me happy. If everyone gets to it all quickly, we will be able to sit together come evening and enjoy our time of leisure without regret. But wait a minute -- does this mean that I am not altogether non-relational after all? Wonders will never cease.

Morningtime Musings

I woke up thinking about summer missions work - specifically a trip to Spain. It has fallen my way to put something together again this year. I have some people already interested. It seems as though the best plan will be to send a smallish music/drama team. One of our main contacts is working on planning a schedule for ministry in southern Spain and perhaps even Morocco. I also hope to develop an itinerary for Madrid and surrounding areas. At the moment we will have to keep numbers somewhat limited -- we will rent a van there and must all fit! The dates we are looking at are June 28-July 19. If you have an interest contact me!

I feel a bit stuck in a time warp or something. Spring is showing signs of appearing soon. A whole season has passed with my primarily living from my family room chair or couch. Weird. A bit surreal. Out of touch with a sense of the real world. At least it feels that way. From my limited experience, I think I prefer the old way of living. But not to complain - just to let you all know.

It's Louissa's 18th. That's another wonderment. My precious baby girl, adorable toddler, innocent child, and sweet young lady is now eighteen. If anyone can explain how that happened so quickly and so permanently -- well, it just doesn't seem possible to me. I know, I know. It happens all the time. Everyday, in fact. But not to my Louissa!

I will see Dr. Henline today. I eagerly look forward to my visit for two reasons: I long to hear news of my progress, and I want to continue to build relationship and share Christ's love with him. God wants him to be saved and so do I. So pray for him if you think of it.

Grandparents Day is approaching so preparation has at last begun. Three of the girls are learning an arrangement of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. It will be fun. Merrick is still thinking along the lines of a pirate theme. We haven't put that together yet. Maybe today some ideas will gel.

Matthew Henry suggested that perhaps the children of Israel, in their failure to drive out all the inhabitants of the promised land, either knew fear, lost faith, or lacked zeal for the commandments of God. That is something I have been pondering a great deal. My heart was gripped when I considered that last one -- to lack zeal for His commands is -- well, it's not where I want to find myself. But more on this another time. I'm not sure this is the place for expressing my thoughts anyway. It could be too lengthy. Maybe I will write in "installments"!

Have a good day -- worship the Lord, give Him praise in all things, serve Him with gladness, and bring glory to His wonderful name! Amen.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Lessons Unknown

Often when I am in the midst of trying situations there is a sense of profound cluelessness (is that an oxymoron?)

"Have you learned what He's teaching you yet so you can move on?" friends will inquire of me.

Most of the time, as already indicated, I am quite oblivious of the lessons being presented.

My response could be one of nervousness, insecurity, and at the least, introspection. But never one to be given to lengthy fits of such inward study, I shrug my shoulders and leave the responsibility upon His. They are much bigger and more suited to carrying the weighty matter of schooling me in His holy ways.

I acknowledge my responsibility to seek light and then to walk in light, but I do not claim responsibility to create light. That is His realm alone. So I will not fear my denseness or lack of great insight. I will not feel concern or panic over being "in the dark" - He will shed light when the time is right. I will walk in obedience to what I have been shown, repent when I fail, and ask Him for continued light. But if I lack understanding, I will not try to muster it up on my own. What good could that possibly do, aside from creating a false sense of progress and security? It may feed my pride (for insecurity truly stems from pride) but will not bring me into holiness in the long run.

When needing answers, we ask Him to speak. We lend Him our ears to listen, but it is His divine grace which enables the hearing. When desiring to learn a new lesson, we seek Him as teacher. We lend Him our hearts and minds, but it is His divine grace which writes upon the tablet and enlightens the intellect.

So I will lend Him my ear, my heart, my mind, my eyes, my will. I will dedicate all that I am to Him. That is all I can do. He alone can open, change, impart, and cause to see.

Why trouble myself with things too big for me? It is His problem, His work, and He is more than capable. Even in the midst of profound cluelessness.

Phil. 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Music Man and Prayer

While Merrick and I entertain ourselves with the tuneful strains of music and dances done in a library, a crew of young people gather once again in my front rooms to worship together and beseech mercy and grace from the God of heaven and earth. Can a Friday night get any better?

My husband is faithfully pastoring a group of people in a small town 45 miles away. Jamie is doing school work in Potsdam and Carina is babysitting a neice and nephew so that her sister and brother-in-law can attend a party. The rest have already been accounted for.

I've had lots of wonderful visitors today for which I am most grateful. Always nice to have the world come to me since I am unable to go out in pursuit.

But best of all, I have met with my Lord in His word and in prayer. I am persuaded of our need to persevere in faith - and I mean persevere. Tenacious determination goes a long way but more importantly, we will not go a long way without it. But more of that another time.

I have encouraged a daughter to write a story for a contest hosted by the Frederic Remington Museum. She has done a great job - who knows but what she may win something. But win or lose, she has gained much. I think she has a love for such things and it is never too soon to encourage a writing gift. I find that contests and displays are great inspiration for getting the finishing touches put on a story or poem. Somehow I never manage to push them to that point without deadlines. I wish I didn't need outside accountability, but I do. So I will do my best to find such opportunities!

Another daughter will try her hand at singing the Star Spangled Banner tomorrow for some basketball games. It will be a first for her - I know she will do a fine job! Quite a challenge for a 10 year old, but she is up for it! I am blessed and proud of her willingness.

I have always believed that one of my duties as a mother is to help them discover their talents and then help them be faithful in using those talents. I still have some children with treasure yet to be fully unearthed and polished. So my job in that department is not yet finished. For me, this is a favorite aspect of mothering. It's like treasure hunting - you know there are good things to find - now to identify them and develop them. Fun!

At any rate, another weekend is upon us. Then a new week. Next Wednesday I will head to the doctor for a check-up. I hope that he is pleased with my progress and will release me to the next step toward movement. The family room couch is better than a bed in the hospital, but it has its drawbacks. I'm ready to be done with it!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Applying Those Scriptures!

Ephesians 6:16 ...above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

My little guy, Merrick, is an avid fan of knights in shining armor, Star Wars and light sabres, and any scenes displaying chivalry and daring. He is also busy memorizing scripture verses about faith as a member of Friendship Clubhouse, a program offered at our church for such pint sized guys (and older, lovely young ladies as well!)

At the beginning of each week (if I am on top of things - otherwise it could be a Wed. or Thurs. before we get to it), I locate his assigned memory verse and carefully inscribe each letter of each word into his penmanship notebook. He then faithfully copies each symbol in his own childish script, and it becomes the basis of many lessons for the week. Penmanship, for starters. Eventually we will learn spelling from it as well. And it goes without saying (almost) that we discuss the deep theological implications of said verse.

Hey - I figured a long time ago that in order to simplify this whole process of home education I would extract as much learning as possible from any given assignment. For instance, with this approach to his FCH verse program, I have eliminated a penmanship course, a spelling workbook, and a Bible curriculum from his already crowded shelf and my decidedly crowded life! Voila!

And the verse this week was a cinch to expound upon.

"Remember the knight we watched in that movie and how he held his shield? Did he use it to hurt his opponent?"


"He used it to defend himself, didn't he? That's what we do with faith when the enemy tries to hurt us. And how many fiery darts will the shield take care of?"

"A hundred?" Mom's eyes look doubtful so he ventures another guess. "A thousand?"

"Merrick, if a million darts come at you, will faith handle them all?"

"Yup, it says 'all'."

You got it, bud. All. Lesson well learned. Good reminder for Mom, too.

Minutes later he was released to play. Louissa sits at the computer, chuckling.

"What are you laughing at?" I query.

"I'm listening to Merrick. He is acting out some scripture with his Star Wars action figures." She chuckles some more and I tune my ears to listen as well.

(spoken with great animation): "And take your shield" - (insert self-made little boy type sound effects: light sabres whirring) - "and quench all these fiery darts" - (more whirring) - "a shield for all those fiery darts."

I smile.

I think he got it. And I think I love homeschooling. I may even concede to loving Star Wars right about now.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ahem . . . Your Attention Please

Just wanting to be a proud mom for a few minutes (although I am almost always a proud mom in all actuality!)

But I just have to let you all know that Julia Marie was accepted as a semi-finalist in the: (ready for this?!!)

Parkening International Young Guitarist Competition at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California!

She is one of 11 international participants who made it through the initial round and will be competing against players from all over the US as well as China, Puerto Rico, and Chile.

It was most certainly cool and exciting to see our very own Julia from Madrid New York on a list with all these international names and places! She will fly to California for a May 30 competition - so lots of hard practice between now and then. Fun!!


The birthdays of two fabulous people were celebrated last night with words of deep appreciation, tears of joy, wonderful food prepared by loving hands, beautiful gifts, and American Idol. What can I say - we love it!


French toast, sausage, and coffee - Julia has been preparing a great breakfast and I feel inclined to eat some! Have a wonderful day in His love. Abide there and bear great fruit for Him!

Monday, March 06, 2006

A Double Redheader Day

On the morning of March 15 we welcomed Louissa Elaine into our family. Her peach covered little head clued us into her coloring before we knew if she was a she or a he. Her older sister, our first redheaded daughter, excitedly received her as her very own early birthday present. The next day would mark her seventh year.

Needless to say, Mom wasn't baking many cakes that day or the next. So, a dear friend, Gloria Pierce, whipped up a cake and delivered it in timely fashion on the 16th, and we celebrated Danica Lee's seventh birthday while we rejoiced in our brand new baby as well.

This month finds them turning 25 and 18. A dear friend is in town and asked if we could celebrate early so that she could share in the joy. And joy it is! Who wouldn't rejoice at such treasure? Such treasure, indeed.

So tomorrow will find us trimming a table, lighting some candles, wrapping packages, and creating cards that will hopefully convey love and fondness for sisters and daughters who rank above most (doesn't a mother have the right to say that?) It will be a lovely day because of two lovely girls. My Lord is gracious and good.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Healing that is ours

Matt. 10:7,8
And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

It would seem that it is the Lord's will, even His command, that I heal the sick and cleanse lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons. This verse also supposes something; it clearly declares that I have received. That is, in fact, the pre-requisite to giving. I suppose that one cannot give something that one does not have.

I am enjoying stirring up faith once again. It seems as though it has settled out, a bit like a pot of chicken soup - you best stir it up if you want to get a mixture of goodies in every scoop.

So I am reviewing the Words of my Lord. "I will come and heal him." "Heal the sick there and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'"

It seems as though this healing thing is all part and parcel of the kingdom of God - it comes with His domain. I kind of like that, especially right about now!

I am looking at what He did. He chose them to be with Him so that He could send them forth with power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons. He healed again and again and again. The command was a blanket command - "Heal the sick." Period.

So this is just a reminder - we are to do what He does and even more. Greater works. Multiplied.

But it seems to start here: "He chose them to be with Him so that He might send them forth."

So I think this is also another reminder - I need to be in His presence, hearing Him, watching Him.

How can I deny His words? The command is clear. I just need to hear to His voice only. That requires time with Him, listening, activating faith, walking in obedience. Then I will indeed be prepared to give what I have freely received.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Friday Morning

Jamie and Stephen left this morning as usual at 7:40, headed to Potsdam State for their schedule of classes, books (actually I'm sure it's mostly computers), libraries, and whatever else they do all day long.

Louissa and the rest of the crew scooted out the door as usual, headed to CFA Friday School (scooting because it is always done with a bit of a flourish and frenzy.) They will sing, run, paint, giggle, and do whatever else they do all day long.

Carina will make her departure soon, heading to CFA and choir teaching, then on to Shapes and Colors Salon where she will cut, color, blow dry, curl, and do whatever else she does all day long.

Hubby (sorry L - I know you hate that, but that is what I fondly refer to him as!) is out the door as well, to teach class, lead a band, meet with people, pray for more, and do whatever else he does all day long.

I am sitting on my couch with my books, computer, notecards, calendar, and such preparing to do what I do all day long - sit or lay on my couch, leg up and bent, coddling my injury. Two more weeks like this and then the doctor will let me know if it has improved enough for me to be out and about a bit, and to sit in my recliner where I can get more work done. But for now, this is what I do all day long.

Exciting, eh?

Finding God in the midst of every circumstance is vital to peace and joy and righteous living. So soon I will open the precious book - sustenance once again. Where would we be without those life-giving words? I know I would be in a whirl of emotion, confused thought, and tangled course. But the word lends light to the path. The word renews the mind. And the word is an anchor for my soul. I will not drift away or be tossed about by the waves.

Life at times is very naturally ordered. We learn, work, marry, give birth, release. But there are seasons of ebb and flow within our ordered worlds. And there are times when order is turned completely upside down. I've been reading The Grapes of Wrath. Homes were lost, abject poverty was thrust upon them, and they were migrating across an unknown region to reach a place of empty promise.

"Got ta make us up a little stew," said ma. "We ain't et nothin' cooked right sence we come from home. Pa, you go up to the store there an' get some neck meat. Make a nice stew here."

Sometimes those seasons are longer than we imagine. In the midst of it we struggle to make order whenever and wherever possible - it's human nature. Home, settledness - it represents security - it's programmed into us. Our creator is orderly and we were made like Him.

But when our world is upside down, no matter what the cause, sometimes order is elusive. It is not to be found.

We have a choice: we can panic and drown in the sea of despair or we can set our gaze upon the hills, from whence comes our help. Our God remains the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Hearth and home may not endure, simple routine may vanish, "the way it's always been" will not remain forever. But He will. His word will endure. Forever and always I can depend on His word.

"The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40.8