Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Black Truth

Truth is like silly putty. You can bend it, stretch it, pull it until it is completely unrecognizable from its original form. Regardless, it always returns to the only thing it is whether you want it to or not. - Theba Glady

If you have never had the experience of sitting in a courtroom, listening to someone bear earnest, slanderous false witness against you or someone you love, you will never fully appreciate the importance of the analogy between truth and silly putty.

Since we have a legal system, rather than a justice system, you have no recourse but to take it gracefully on the chin while your character is used for a dartboard. It is in that moment that you hope another old axiom is true, which is, time heals all wounds and wounds all heels. For some, this is little or no comfort. Most people want justice dealt out instantly. We are deluded to expect that unfairness, in any form, should be met with rapid retaliation. This is only because humiliation, outrage, and incense boil up into your chest like heartburn. Naturally you want relief and your first impulse is to believe that somehow setting about to prove what is untrue will reap relief.

We are so temporal, we think we require instant gratification, believing time is our foe instead of our friend. We shake our fists at the injustices we see. Innocents die and murderers walk free. Hateful gossip ruins reputations and causes life altering grief. Thoughtless and/or calculatedly malicious actions foster countless number of senseless troubles. And as bad as these are, none are as insidious as black truth. Unlike a white lie, where the author knows it is untrue, a black truth becomes real to the person who has crafted it. It is a created reality for this person so it becomes real enough for others to be convinced as well. Whole belief systems are often founded on nothing more than a single individual’s black truth.

The bad news is, most of us will come up against black truth sooner or later. The good news is, there is a strategy to triumph over it, if you are willing to be patient. We are told we have free will but this only means we are given the opportunity to choose to be vessels of honor or vessels of dishonor. God will use us either way, but if you believe that all things work together for God’s good purpose, then you must also believe that He is working good things through you at all times, regardless of how it looks to you. This doesn’t mean that you can’t stand up for yourself or that you must accept abuse. It only means that you should have developed the fine-tuned listening skills it takes to hear when God is whispering for you to be still and watch. More often than not, through life crisis, He is teaching and it is in these times it behooves us to be fully engaged in a learning mode.

Learning to wait is undoubtedly the hardest lesson in life because we permit the unknown to threaten and overwhelm us. Instead of saying “peace be still”, fully trusting the storm to turn, we succumb to the fear of that which seems to be out of our control. We then become victims. If one can find comfort in knowing there is, indeed, a final judgment, one never has to be devastated by black truth. Even if it seems for a time that the whole world is willing to believe the worst of you, you can still choose to be a vessel of honor. Having made that choice, you can be at peace with losing any battle, knowing the war has already been won.

You see, God knows the difference between lies, white lies, black truth and real truth. Not even black truth, though it gathers up followers and devoted believers like a vacuum, can survive the ultimate cleansing power of that which is genuinely true. God sorts it all out in His good time. The irony is, since liars live as though there is no God or final judgment, they won’t know how wrong they have been, until it is too late.

For Him,

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. (Proverbs 12:19)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Trouble With All Things Safe

Sometimes you’re just chugging along and suddenly life jumps up and spikes you to the ground like a volleyball. You can’t believe it. You don’t even know how to react because you are in shock from the jolt. It could be anything, financial setback, sudden illness, a family death or upheaval. One day you’re all cozy in status quo and the next you’re struggling to survive or regain your equilibrium.

Trouble is something we can never be completely prepared for or shielded from either, no matter how hard we try to buffer ourselves. However we cannot live in constant expectation of worse case scenario because living in daily fear of trouble is not living at all, rather it’s standing guard while life marches past, conversely, we cannot ignore that trouble can happen at anytime and usually without warning.

Life can never be fully trouble proof nor safe either but “trouble-free and safe” has become a mantra whispered in our ears and taught to us as though it were a natural right. In fact, we seem to have become fixated with all things safe.

I watch with amazement as this new standard has slowly evolved. I don’t know how it began but it seems that in all ways, in all things, we have been brainwashed to believe that our lives can and should be without trouble and completely safe if we are simply vigilant enough. We can avoid the flu if we take shots, we can protect ourselves from all manner of larceny, theft, fire, accidents (pick one) if we use caution and load up with insurance. We can count on government and consumer advocates to monitor any and all things potentially harmful to us. If we read warning labels and cautionary statements we can reduce the chance of electric shock, skin broken or blood spilled. And even when we disregard the warnings, we can always blame manufacturers if we misuse a product that injures us. 

Apparently pain and suffering has a hefty dollar value now.

Unfortunately, regardless what we have been told, living in this world remains naturally full of risk. Here’s a newsflash: safe is not a right bestowed on us at birth. We come into this world without guarantees. The human infant is hardwired to accept risk as a given or no one would ever learn to walk upright. New dangers emerge daily; we cannot stop them nor avoid them. 

And if we could, should we? 

Progress is the end product of trial and error. Innovation is the result of risk takers stepping outside of what is sure. Pioneers who strike out for new territory often die trying. Trouble and tribulation are the knives that carve character into life. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with being safe, it’s only a small part of what is worthwhile about living. Sometimes standing up to conflict and surviving is ten times more satisfying than hiding behind security. To spend our days obsessed with avoiding every possible scenario of strife is to deny us opportunities for growth. Yes, risk is dangerous and sometimes we get hurt, even irreparably. Sometimes the price seems too high. But wisdom is rarely born of status quo and what is wisdom worth? How valuable is courage that stares squarely in the face of insurmountable odds and emerges triumphant? 

If I had to choose, I’d pick courage that overcomes rather than security that shields because the myth of life that is trouble free and safe was created to sell product and service not preserve us from harm. Safe and secure does not always guarantee quality of life either anymore than wealth insures happiness. 

Establishing a fear of everything is the perfect set up for enslavement because a society obsessed with being safe at all times is already enslaved to fear. Ironically, those who fear nothing and no one but God, live in complete freedom from all other fears.

For Christ,

(Matthew 6:27) And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life?  

To those who have had no agony Jesus says, “I have nothing for you; stand on your own feet, square your own shoulders. I have come for the man who knows he has a bigger handful than he can cope with, who knows there are forces he cannot touch; I will do everything for him if he will let Me. Only let a man grant he needs it, and I will do it for him. ~ Oswald Chambers 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Choosing The Light

I’m exhausted today because yesterday was full and long, though incredibly eye-opening and encouraging. Holly, the boys, and I attended the annual state home education convention, GHEA. We milled about, exploring, gathering information, and visiting the colorful exhibits that were selling everything from hands on teaching tools and  curriculum to T-shirts - “Homeschool Mom-Just Add Coffee”, “I Love My Kid’s Teacher”. 

What an experience, filled with abundant opportunity to network with seasoned homeschoolers, both parents and kids. The old perceptions of homeschoolers being pale-faced, narrow-minded, fundamentalist, isolationists are not only misconceived, they are ludicrous. In recent memory, I’ve not been exposed to a more intelligent, educated, well-rounded mass of individuals gathered in one place.

While the boys were being entertained in a high energy program put on by teens, we poured over a plethora of different curriculum sets. Given all the choices, Holly didn’t expect she would find one off the bat–but she did. Having been advised to cherry-pick and custom design for her boys’ particular learning styles, she bought the BJU math and language arts workbooks for 3rd and 6th grade. For all the other subjects, history, social studies and science we will create our own curriculum. And there are plenty of other options online that we can tap into as we go along, not to mention bookstores, libraries and home school consultants. The possibilities are staggering. 

Having gone in anxious with a million questions, we came out feeling incredibly liberated. There is so much out there to learn and the homeschool environment opens not only the door but time for abundant unfettered learning, by leaving out all the irrelevant chaff. No need to even mention the unspeakable negative influences we will kick to the curb as we embark on teaching not just information but, and more importantly, the love of learning which is like teaching the hungry to fish instead of shoving a fish down their throats and saying, “eat!” 

For a life-long lover of learning, such as I, this new paradigm, scrutinizing the dynamics of homeschooling, has added an unexpected dimension to what I thought was a nearly capped off capability to learn. But the real epiphany came for me as I took a coffee break and sat engaged in people watching. The convention was well-attended; whole families came, which meant every age group was represented. As I watched the individuals and groups move about, I noticed something seemed different from a run of the mill standard crowd, especially those with children. I finally realized that what I was witnessing could be defined as overall calm, civil, peaceful, intelligent, respectful, self-controlled, godly. 

Apparently God was in the house. 

Children were quiet, well-behaved, obedient. Parents were pleasant, gentle, yet in control. A family of four, mom, dad, two boys under age twelve met to chat. The parents left, probably to attend one of the many lectures offered, and their sons sat down, pulled out books and started reading. I didn’t see a single incident where a parent had to scold or fuss at a child. 

At the end of the day I remarked that it was something of a shock to my system to be in such a public place where no one seemed to be afraid of the words “God” “Christ” or “Jesus”. But it wasn’t like “church” where the focus is on all things Christian. It was more like a walk back in time to a period when basic Christian principles were the quiet underpinnings built into the behaviors and social interactions of hundreds of unrelated strangers. And what does this say about our anything-goes-culture when being in a crowd that is civil and well-behaved is an unexpected, pleasant and unique experience? What does this say about what one lecturer referred to as “how do we raise authentic children in a hypocritical age?” 

I don’t know what others might glean from this but it certainly confirmed for me that there is a genuine difference between good and evil. It is not a compromised gray area that darkness pushers constantly strive for us to meet in the middle. There is a defined line, not in the least blurred. I see more clearly now why there has always been a struggle to outlaw homeschooling. It’s not about the thousands of different combinations of things that children can learn in twelve years, or the methodologies of how to teach those things; 2+2 will always equal 4 no matter how many ways you can get to the answer. It’s not even really about the opposition to religion-based curriculum. 

I believe there is a battle raging between those who choose to live in the light and those who prefer the dark where nothing good can bloom or grow, where no one is held accountable for behavior that is counter to all things moral and/or civil. The opposition to homeschooling is about extinguishing the white light that exposes that which desires to eliminate everything that will not conform to the gray middle.  

Over-board dramatic, you say? If you sat and listened to the horror stories of what is happening in the gray middle where our precious children are being carefully conditioned to embrace and prefer the dark, you’d be looking into alternatives too.

For Christ,

What some think is the world becoming more Christian is just Christians becoming more worldly. We can have the word or the world but not both. There is no concord between Christ and Belial. We are strangers here. Don’t make yourself at home. ~ Vance Havner
(James 4:7) Be subject therefore unto God; but resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  (4:8) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Novelist, Lawrence Naumoff, who teaches creative writing classes in a university, is quoted as saying he sees a bad trend in his students. They have no curiosity, no interest in learning for the sake of learning. They attend his class, never find out his name, and get what they have to in order to get a grade. This is both sad and scary to me because it reveals a major societal downturn. Not that I am surprised, I’ve been watching this slow slide for decades. The last time I brought it up was in a debate in my Advanced English class in 1964 and met with such distain, I’ve kept it to myself ever since. I guess it is safe to speak about this now since others are beginning to see the light.

It is a given that collected general knowledge is the engine of problem solving; problem solving is the foundation of positive growth. If we cannot figure out how to make do with what we have and what we know, then we end up like many of the hurricane Katrina evacuees, not all of which allowed themselves to be ignored by inept government. Helplessness is not a sign of positive growth in the human condition. If we are moving forward in the wrong direction, we might as well be moving backwards.

Some might argue against this but I believe modern technology is at the root of this trend and is, at the same time, both friend and curse to civilization. Because of constant and ever changing technology, there is so much that is new to learn, all things old must be kicked to the curb. This includes most of the greatest most inspirational and elevating elements and processes of civilized society and human achievement acquired at enormous cost. But who cares anymore? The scramble to know about the latest thing seems to have overtaken the need to spend time learning what we have gained from the past. Unfortunately, all that is new to learn is not always worth learning but we are coaxed to believe if we are to survive in a high tech world, we must keep up so we spend our time learning it anyway. We think we are being productive because we now have things that save us time, and we tell ourselves that we are so smart for all we know even as we grow dumber and dumber. We don’t have to commit anything to memory anymore because some soulless device keeps all the data for us. But regardless of how many conveniences we have at our fingertips, time is one thing that cannot be saved; it moves on. To compensate we cut back minutes in one activity only to add on minutes to another. In the end, we find we are hustling faster, sleeping less and worrying more…and ultimately, for all our trouble, knowing less and less. And when the lights go out or the batteries die, all our data is useless to us. We stand there, ignorant as babes. 

Today there is so much information to assimilate, it all must be compartmentalized, divided and doled out in specialized increments. This narrowing down of focus is so pervasive in our culture now, which effects how and what people choose to learn, it spans all industries and professions. The practice of medicine is a prime example of specialization and reduction of broad knowledge. There is no such thing as a liberal education any more, which means there is a huge loss of general curiosity about many and assorted things. Who has time to be curious about anything that does not pertain to the moment at hand?

Unfortunately, what is forgotten about the benefits of knowing a little about a lot and grasping the bigger picture of how all things work together, is that life, regardless of all its new innovations, continues to be made of many experiences. Some of these are thrown at us suddenly and unexpectedly. Problem solving is born of multiple opportunities of having been able to apply liberal knowledge. If we lose our ability to solve problems that we have never been faced with before simply because we have no baseline of common knowledge to draw from, we become completely vulnerable to disaster. 

This then is the point: when we lose our natural curiosity and love of learning for the sake of learning, eventually we forget how to learn deeply and, more importantly, how to discern what is significant to our ability to survive independently. It is a very bad sign, albeit true, that the more basic problem solving skills we lose because we are trusting in someone or something else to be responsible for our survival, the less chance we have to survive. But it is ever so, and a rule of the natural world, that no one is as interested in an individual’s wellbeing than the individual him/herself. Does it make sense then to ignore the basic answer of doing what is in our own best interest and learning how to learn, to be curious and garner information that can not only improve us as humans but society as a whole?

B.F. Skinner said: “Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten” And … “The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.”

So, who is B.F. Skinner? 

I have no idea, but I bet I will go find out.

For Him,

(Psalms 139:12) Even the darkness hideth not from thee, But the night shineth as the day: The darkness and the light are both alike [to thee].  (139:13) For thou didst form my inward parts: Thou didst cover me in my mother's womb.  (139:14) I will give thanks unto thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Wonderful are thy works; And that my soul knoweth right well. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mother Goose

Every year, a pair of Canadian geese claims the small island in the middle of the pond to build their nest. This process begins with several pairs duking it out for a week or two to determine who gets the prime real estate. Once the decision is firm, everyone else has to leave because the male goose will not allow anyone on or even near the pond while the female is nesting. 

This begins sometime in mid March or early April, depending on how long winter persists. But it is always still cold so the mum, who sits on the nest almost 24/7 sometimes must endure weather extremes, such as freezing temperatures, torrential rain, hail, lightening. She does only what she has to do to survive while dad patrols the pond and fusses at her when she dares to take a short break for food and drink. It’s a hard gestation period by any standards, human or animal, in my opinion.

But stalwart sitting on the nest and protecting the pond, keeping all comers at bay, until the goslings are born are not the hardest jobs for mother and father goose. While the tiny island affords some degree of safety for the eggs from marauding nocturnal predators, there is little protection once the fluffy yellow babies are escorted around, being taught how to fend for themselves. When the babes are out and about, the real dangers and odds against their reaching maturity increase exponentially, from everywhere. When they are still very small, big mouth bass can simply pick them off from underneath. Hawks and crows start stalking and waiting for the perfect opportunity to swoop in. Sometimes in the middle of the night a goose ruckus wakes me up and I know there is a life or death battle occurring out on the dark water. I don’t even want to know what that means and who the villain is because then I would have to admit how truly raw, dramatic and very close real nature is. 

Some years, like in 2012, the babes survive. A brood of five made it to adulthood. Another family, with four chicks managed to keep three. This year, though, there were six little hatchlings one day and then a couple days later–none. Nature happens. 

This is the cycle of life on the pond, and in a greater sense, life in general. But this year, for some reason, I have a heart for the mother goose, who sat so stoically on the nest through some terrible spring storms and late bitter cold. The water has never been higher and wisely she had built her nest at the highest point closest to the trunk of the willow tree instead of on the edge as usual otherwise the whole thing would have floated off early on. 

I know that nature has a natural rhythm and it’s foolish to intervene. I know that the cycles, animals that live and those that don’t, keep the ecology in balance. I know that when the geese get old enough to walk around the pond all day they make a terrible mess so I don’t really want them to get out of hand. Even so, though I am more than resolved to let nature take care of itself as God established the perfect order, still in all, I felt bad for mother goose this year. 

The tug on my heart for her somehow leaves me exceptionally grateful for all my blessings  this Mother’s Day. 

For Christ,

(Matthew 10:28) And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  (10:29) Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father:  (10:30) but the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  (10:31) Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

On A Lighter Note

My way (way) older sister, Jo, and I have been blessed in our over-the-hill years to live in close proximity after many years of living long distances away from each other. When the weather cooperates we meet to walk around the pond in the mornings for fresh air and exercise. My daughter, Holly, who sprints around the pond, often catches up with us and, in order to maintain the pace of our more mature and measured gait, walks backwards to sufficiently slow herself down.  

As we mosey down the path, two dogs accompany us–Auri and Neo–our grand dogs. Since their owners work, Jo and I, who consider ourselves semi-retired, volunteer to let the dogs hang with us during the day so they don’t have to be alone. We have developed a daily routine now which includes walking, or sometimes riding in the golf-cart to pick up the dogs. Then we walk, or ride, depending on the weather, and/or our disposition of the moment toward walking. We never argue about whether to walk or ride. Neither of us really wants to walk anyway. We discovered this one day when instead of parking the cart so that we could begin our walk, I absentmindedly kept going. There would have been no way to explain to a casual observer why the two old ladies in the golf cart were laughing hysterically, as they followed behind the somewhat confused dogs. Coincidentally, I have found that hysterical laughing is more common now that I am meeting Jo for exercise. I’m pretty sure I needed it and I think she did too, laughing that is, not exercise. I suspect that we have reached the point of no return, in a world going to hell in a hand-basket, where one must laugh to stave off uncontrollable weeping. Under such dismal circumstances exercise seems somewhat moot.

Even though Jo is, as I mentioned, way, way older than I, a fact I am often compelled to remind her of, for some mysterious reason, I have caught up to her in age physically, if not chronologically. Degrees of physical decline, arthritis, assorted other pains, and forgetfulness are non-quantifiable in terms of years and thus it seems we have come to be equally old.  We’ve both scratched off or deleted everything on our bucket lists. We have both been-there/done-that and more, running now mostly on auto-pilot. Though different in many ways, we have both always been doers who love to learn and do and we have both forgotten more things that we learned and did than most people hope to do in a lifetime. No brag, just fact.

But what we both have learned together in the past nine months of pseudo-exercise walking/riding is that growing old, apparently, is not for the faint of heart. One must be pragmatic and good-humored to suffer the indignities of aging with grace. I, for one, and I believe Jo agrees, do not understand the obsession with living long enough to advance into the triple digits. I haven’t even hit 70 yet and I am already wondering why anyone would aspire to be 90. Another 24 years? Can’t imagine.

So, both of us, being nothing if not practical, are taking what is left to us and enjoying everything day to day, minute to minute. Given the hard truth that cannot be ignored anyway that we are no longer young and there are many more things that we can not nor wish to do than there are those things we can, therefore we have embraced the point in fact that the smallest pleasures are indeed what matter, after all. 

At the end of our exhausting (if not exhilarating) morning exercise we often pause to chat over coffee, hashing over current events, positing the perfect solutions for the problems of the world. We try to avoid comparing the hallmarks of our downhill slide from seniors to elders, like how putting on our pjs and crawling into bed shortly after an early dinner never seems to get old, focusing instead on things we enjoy like tracking the various activities of the wildlife on the pond or going to lunch together at least once a week and doing our grocery shopping together. We are an exclusive two-person book club and share deep discussions about the current titles we are reading, she preferring fiction and I non-fiction. We are on the same page spiritually and can talk with discernment about faith and trust in Christ as the only place to hide in the escalating times of trouble.

And walking the dogs (sometimes following them in the golf-cart). 

After all these years of just being sisters connected by familial bonds, now we are not only good friends, we are an ongoing source of good humor for ourselves and to our family. We are referred to, in great fun poked at us, as the Two Grannies, Little Doggy Daycare. It’s okay though. We don’t mind being the cause for laughter. After all, what better legacy can we leave to those we love? We have unwittingly adopted our dear brother’s life-long motto: Better to leave them laughing

In the end, what treasure on earth can buy a belly laugh?

For Christ,

(Matthew 6:19) Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal:  (6:20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:  (6:21) for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.