". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Proud But Sad Moment

My daughter sings in a community youth choir. It is a top flight group directed by an internationally acclaimed children's choir conductor. She had her first rehearsal this week and was pleased to see that one of the pieces the choir will be singing is a setting of the Magnificat. When the piece was passed out Caitlin immediately knew from the title what the text would be because she knows what the Magnificat is, having sung it for years in church. As the choir perused the text the director asked if anyone knew who sang the words in the Bible. Caitlin was apparently alone in raising her hand. I'm glad she knew the answer, but so sad hardly anyone else did. This choir is a secular group so obviously I would not expect everyone to know about the Magnificat. But I am surprised that in a 60-voice children's choir there were not a few more. Maybe they did know and were just too shy to raise their hands. Still, I am sad for what has obviously been lost, is continuing to be lost, as our culture becomes less Christian and our churches less liturgical.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Obligatory Political Post

If you go to my sidebar you will see labels for "Campaign 2008" and "Campaign 2012." The first of those has 98 corresponding posts, the second only seven.

In the past year I have found myself reading, thinking and writing much less about the political realm. I'm not sure why that is. Dejection? Discouragement? Resignation? Or maybe it's something more positive, such as a growing embracing of the knowledge and understanding that my God's kingdom is not of this world and as His child neither is mine.

Or maybe there have just been too many other things on my mind.

Whatever the reason, I am still not feeling the tug to write on things political, in spite of the fact that I think this is probably one of the most important elections of my lifetime. But I would like to state for the record that I am voting for the Romney/Ryan ticket, I am proud to do so, and I think you should do the same.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wise Words, Part 2

More aphorisms from Andree Seu:

"Marry a man who loves God more than he loves you."

"Living in regret of the past, or fear of the future, are two ways of not living at all."

"Thinking a lot is not the same as praying a lot."

"Your child is never angry for no reason."

"Break a fear-of-man problem by aggressively loving people."

"If you wait for better times to 'Rejoice in the Lord' you will never do it."

"Let your words be few."

"A phone call to say 'I'm thinking of you' yields benefits all out of proportion to the time investment."

"Be known as faithful. If you say, 'Let's do lunch' do lunch."

"An idol forfeits your life. You look back and say you never lived."

"God is the better chess player. Just obey."

"You're one prayerless day away from being capable of any sin."

"Pray on the spot for the person who comes to mind. It's either pray or sin."

"The longer I live the truer the Bible gets."

Thursday, August 23, 2012


It's such an elusive thing, trust. What is it, exactly? A feeling? Or a decision? Whatever it is, one can't get through life without it. Simply crossing the street requires a goodly measure of it. But then comes that day when you trust that the oncoming car is going to stop for the red light and you step out in front of it, but guess what? The car doesn't stop. And you get mowed down. And for a long time after you are afraid to step into traffic again. But you realize you have no choice. You have to get to the other side of the street. You have to cross it. And so you put yourself out there again and hope with all your being that that car in the distance sees you and realizes you are not trying to get in its way--you are just trying to cross the street like the pedestrian you are.

Green light . . . . Go!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Blink of an Eye

Yesterday my eldest child went back to college. He is a sophomore now! He came home in May and was here for three months and now summer is over. Where did it go?

The day before yesterday that eldest child's dog died. We got her for his 11th birthday. She was here, a part of our family, for 9 years, and now she isn't anymore and never will be again.

I remember a day when my oldest was only 9 and our previous dog died. She had been part of our family for 15 years and my husband's life for 2 years before that. It seems like yesterday that he got her. It has been 11 years since we touched her.

This past Sunday my husband played his last services at our former church. He began as Cantor there in January of 2000, almost 13 years ago, and now that time is done.

My youngest child is about to turn 9. He is the age my oldest was when our first dog died. I know there is going to come a day when I wake up to kiss him goodbye for his first day of college and return to an empty house (or maybe a house with another 9-year-old dog). I know it's going to come in the blink of an eye and so I try to cherish this time. And yet I don't know how. What does it mean to "cherish" one's days? It seems the best I can manage is to live them.

Besides, "cherishing time"--whatever that means--doesn't make it stop. I could wrap each day in a velvet-covered box and tie it with a satin bow and yet time would still do what time does, munching my row of pretty gift boxes like so many dots in a Pac-Man game. And once they're munched, they're munched, and before you know it, the game is over.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wise Words

For many years now we have subscribed to World magazine. It is a news magazine in the tradition of Time or Newsweek but with a Biblical, Christian world view. One of the best things about World is the writer Andree Seu. Her column is the first thing I read whenever a new issue of World arrives. She writes not about politics or current events but about the day-to-day struggles and joys of life under the cross, and she does so  from the perspective of someone who sounds a lot like me: a mom, an English teacher, a wife, and a redeemed sinner. She came later in life to the vocation of published writer, making me think there might still be hope for me!

A few days ago my husband brought home an old issue of World, dated Nov. 19, 2005, that he came across while cleaning out his office. I can see why we saved it. Seu's column in this issue was called "Andree's Aphorisms" and consisted of a catalogue of short observations taken, I assume, from her other writings. Or perhaps they were just things she had often thought or said and only compiled for this column.  Whatever the case, her observations are pure gold, so I thought I would share a few of them here.

People laugh at your unwholesome talk at the moment but think less of you afterwards.

A lot of what I thought was my personality was just sin.

I started out wanting to be my children's savior, and ended up pleading for forgiveness.

Your friend's casual joke about her husband is a deep well. Probe and you will find pain.

Whole lifetimes are wasted worrying about the opinions of people who aren't even on the right wavelength.

Better to let your child make an imperfect bed than to have a perfect bed that you make yourself.

An inferiority complex is a desire to be better than other people.

The more you see how wretched and needy you are, the less the question "How much should I pray?" is an issue for serious debate.

The best teaching moments are never at convenient times.

Sit on a sensitive letter for three days before sending it.

When I have no intention of obeying a Bible command, I say it's not meant to be taken literally.

My kids have a foggy recollection of things I tried to teach them, and total recall of my phone conversations they overheard from the next room.

Tell your child what delights you about him. He doesn't know unless you tell him.

Now and then skip the dishes and run out to the park. In 20 years your kid will remember the park and you will not remember the dishes.

Praising and thanking God all day long are the only cure I've found for depression.

Drop the dust rag and look at your child when he's telling you a story.

And, my favorite, :

While inside an idolatry you love your idolatry. When you are set free you see what bondage it was.

Seu's World columns can be read here and her World magazine blog is found here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Bigger Sinner, Who Can Find?

Some time ago my buddy Rebekah suggested that I read Native Son by Richard Wright. (At least I think it was Rebekah. She can correct me if I'm wrong.) This week I finally took her advice and picked it up. I did not realize what I was getting myself into. It is an incredibly difficult, emotionally totalizing read. I don't mean difficult in the sense of difficult to comprehend but in the sense of disturbing. I have made the mistake several times of reading it before bed, not a good strategy for someone who grapples with insomnia under the best of circumstances. But I can't help it. I have heard of people not being able to put down The Hunger Games trilogy. After the first book, I had no trouble doing just that; I went on to read the other two mostly so as to be able to talk about the books with my teenagers. Native Son is far more compelling and far more troubling than anything I have read in a while.

I have not finished the book yet. I am about to start the third and last part. I am hoping for some sort of redemption or possibility of redemption for the main character but I don't know whether it's coming. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone who may wish to read it, but I don't think it will do so to say that Bigger Thomas, the main character, is a complete sociopath. He has no sense of right and wrong and he lacks any measure of empathy for his fellow human beings. His actions in the novel are shocking and sickening; equally so is his thought process as he reflects on those actions:

"Now that the ice was broken, could he not do other things? What was there to stop him? While sitting there at the table waiting for his breakfast, he felt that he was arriving at something which had long eluded him. Things were becoming clear; he would know how to act from now on. The thing to do was to act just like others acted, live like they lived, and while they were not looking, do what you wanted. They would never know. He felt in the quiet presence of his mother, brother, and sister a force, inarticulate and unconscious, making for living without thinking, making for peace and habit, making for a hope that blinded. He felt that they wanted and yearned to see life in a certain way; they needed a certain picture of the world; there was one way of living they preferred above all others; and they were blind to what did not fit. They did not want to see what others were doing if that doing did not feed their own desires. All one had to do was be bold, do something nobody thought of. The whole thing came to him in the form of a powerful and simple feeling; there was in everyone a great hunger to believe that made him blind, and if he could see while others were blind, then he could get what he wanted and never be caught at it."

The passage is terrifying in its depiction of a sociopath's discovery of his own sociopathy and his realization that if he hides it from the world, he can use it against the world. To this point in his life he has not worried about trying to fit in or play the game or seem normal but has flaunted his antisocial behavior for all to see. Now, suddenly, he realizes that it is much more useful to play along with society, at least externally. Bigger has also figured out a basic truth about human beings that he can use to his advantage: namely, that they tend to see the world as they want and to deny those things that don't fit their predetermined conclusion of reality. It is the amazing human capacity for self-deception, and we all have it. Unfortunately, we all also have a great capacity for deceiving others. And that is probably what is most disturbing about this book. While neither I nor you, dear reader, would ever in a million years be able to commit the kinds of acts that Bigger commits in this book, we all have in our hearts the same sickness that makes it possible for us to rationalize all kinds of lies and delusional thinking. We may not be sociopaths, but we are most definitely sinners. And like Bigger, we deceive ourselves into thinking we can keep up the facade and not get caught. I guess that's why even as I am literally kept awake at night by visions of Bigger's atrocities, I also find myself feeling sorry for him and desiring for him some ray of hope--some indication that his mind and heart might be changed. I have met some Bigger Thomases in my day, albeit on a much smaller scale. And if I am honest with myself, there is a tiny little Bigger Thomas inside of me. May God have mercy on us all, for in truth, without Him, we are all equally lost.