Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's New Year Again!

I guess I need to review my resolutions from last year to see if I accomplished them before I make new ones for 2015. Oh, what's the use? I know I didn't do much better than I had before so a new set of resolutions won't make a lot of difference. On the other hand, I do believe in setting goals and pressing on. So here goes: In 2015 I will focus on writing better and more consistently. I will make less demands on my daughter and granddaughter who provide my transportation. I will be more respectful of their time and gas money. I will pursue my goal of becoming more reclusive and practice the hermit discipline. Maybe I'll read more of Thomas Merton. I will pray with greater focus and be more intentional in my prayer life.

I think one of the aids to a more successful resolution outcome may be keeping a calendar and a record of faithful practice. Maybe I can even report my experiences in this blog. I hope I don't completely chase off my readers. I get quite giddy when I have readers, so it can be very exhilarating. And oh, the joy of a comment! I do think this kind of self examination is profitable and meaningful. I'm afraid as a hermit, I have a lot to learn. I must learn not to seek affirmation and response to my writing. It still needs to be helpful or inspiring for others. Here is my dilemma: I must write well, intelligently, reasonably, and coherently, but without pride or arrogance. I must praise people and ideas that have value and substance without being overbearing or foolish. I want the writing to stand and carry weight because it is sound and convincing without the reader having to like me or be influenced by me as a person.

I've got a day to consider this before January 1, but tonight this is the way I'm going to leave it. I may alter it later. We'll see.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Sometimes there are barriers in my way that I can't find a way around. Sometimes the obstacles are more than I can surmount. Sometimes there is no avenue that promises relief. Sometimes I just bow and weep before God and seek his mercy. This is one of those times.

My daughter is ill and I can't help her. I moved away when my health began to crumble. I had my gall bladder removed when I moved here. I was suffering with it quite a bit. Now I have had a small stroke and deal with some difficulties in walking and some other problems with balance. These things are annoying, but  I still feel guilty that I am leaving Carol without my help. I do provide some financial support, but it's not enough to supply her with everything she needs.

Sometimes I want to move back home with her and take care of her again. I know I'm not able to do what she needs, but I could do what I could. Sarah does what she can, but if I was there I could do something. Here, I'm not doing anything. I feel guilty and useless. And I love her so much. I can only bow and weep and seek God.

Monday, December 1, 2014

It'sTime to Rant

It has been 53 years since Newton N. Minow's famous speech labeled TV as a "vast wasteland" and not much has changed. I guess I made a mistake. Things have gone downhill. The morality of TV shows has slid significantly and the grade is getting steeper.

TV is not the watch dog of morality, but it's reflection, so my rant is against the people who take the limelight and lower our standards of decency. TV has the power to do that by the portrayal of character's of high moral tone as ridiculous or stiff-necked, and the use of gangsters as nice guys. 

By teaching us to witness scenes of mayhem and destruction as humorous we lose sensitivity to the horror of the story we watch. It's not a big leap for us to justify killing the murderer. I believe in defending yourself, but it is still a drastic thing to kill another person.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Who Believes in Fairness?

Fairness is a principle I hear touted a lot. Referees and Umpires are challenged about the fairness of their decisions on the field and later in the clubhouse or the locker room, but these choices are not based on whether the decision was fair to all parties, but whether they followed the rules of the game. 

Fairness in the courtroom is measured by whether all parties are represented by a lawyer who is an expert in the law. When one person is wealthy and the other poor, the law may seem weighted by factors that extend beyond the domain of the rulings the court can make, and suddenly it's not fair. No, the world is not fair.

Bosses and teachers are expected to treat everyone under their direction fairly, but some have an advantage of intelligence, talent, or humility. Some people are bolder, quicker, or more receptive, and these characteristics are often viewed as an unfair advantage by others.

So what makes life fair? Are we guaranteed fairness? I don't think we are. In God's system we are guaranteed mercy. That's several levels better than fairness. We are accepted with all our faults, and even our sins, just by our faith in the efficacy of the sacrifice of Jesus to satisfy God's judgment on the world. If we want to play the fairness game with God, there is only one avenue: righteousness. God does not dabble in fairness. 

His requirement is always righteousness, but he knows we are incapable of righteousness and uses a new standard: mercy. Our only responsibility in mercy is reception. We are obligated to accept God's mercy and respond in its light. We don't have to correct our stupidity, but we must always remember that we stand before God in mercy. We are not righteous, but mercy gives us the opportunity to stand before him just because he wants it that way. We are not righteous, but he allows us to approach him because of his goodness, not ours, because of his mercy.

Don't try to please God on the basis of your goodness. Don't appeal to him because you have done good things and been kind. Only call on him in the name of his mercy. Seek only mercy, not justice.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Who Are My Readers?

About once a week I get curious and check to see where the readers of my blog come from. I am amazed when I find that a great many of my readers often come from Russia, the Ukraine, Kenya, France, or the UK. I can't imagine that I say anything that is particularly interesting to people who are not close neighbors. I feel very humble to have drawn readers from this wide world who seem to come around when I post a new entry.

I don't have a sports focus that basketball or soccer players would find enlightening. I don't do much with food or politics or health or really anything that would draw a crowd, but it is really exciting to find that, in spite of my mundane subjects, I still have readers from China or India or New Zealand. 

I find it especially exciting many of these readers have to get a translation of the text, and still they read my ramblings. Maybe the things that draw us together are more important than the things that separate us. 

Bottom line: I love my readers. I appreciate all the people who take time and make the effort to read my blogs. I would love to know what you think and how I could make this a better experience for you. I want to expand my horizons. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How Does God See Things?

You might have discovered that I am a Christian and attend Church regularly. Sometimes I cast a skeptical eye at Church politics and positions, and I find that I am not alone in my skepticism. It is sort of reassuring to find others who have similar questions to my own.

C. S. Lewis uses Screwtape to express a rather unflattering description of the Church to encourage his nephew Wormwood when the object of his efforts became a Christian. Screwtape pointed out the habits and customs of the one being tempted were still oriented toward the desires of the flesh, and Wormwood had those habits on his side. The Church is regarded as the total mass of the members. Of course, the intended aim of the Church is to strengthen the members toward a more virtuous life, but let's face it: the members still carry and participate in a lot of sin. This indicates that the Church is a project under construction just as the individual Christians are always moving toward a more excellent rendition of themselves.

It is reassuring that God does not expect us to become Holy or virtuous overnight. I have been working at this for a long time and I'm still not Holy, but, on the other hand, I have come a long way and learned a lot about what I think God want's me to know of his word and his work. I find it encouraging that he doesn't give up on me even though I'm still not perfect. One of the things God keeps showing me are the many areas where I'm still not up to his standards. He also continually shows me the many ways where I am making progress and becoming more constrained by his commands. 

This double sided view of myself is both fearful and fabulous: Both are revelations that I don't see without his help. In this life, the Church is the collection of the humans who attend and support her. One day the Church will be transformed into the image God sees in her and, like us, the Church will be visible to us too, in all her glory and majesty. There's a great day coming!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Oh, Say Can You See...?

Cover of sheet music for "The Star-Spangl...
Cover of sheet music for "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Francis Scott Key, transcribed for piano by Ch. Voss, Philadelphia: G. Andre & Co., 1862 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today is the anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. It is our National Anthem. No matter what complaints and gripes I hear about it, I still swell with pride when I hear the initial phrase begin and the words are usually corrupted by the tears in my voice. I was never a singer anyway, but I'm impressed by it.

Rosanne Barr made a spectacle of herself when she performed it at a Padres games in 1990. It was supposed to be funny, but I found it both disrespectful and embarrassing. I sorta felt sorry for whoever contracted that deal. He or she probably got a reputation of inappropriate public awareness from it. I can't believe the players were thrilled by it, and certainly the service personnel could not have been inspired. Altogether it was a flop. Nobody has repeated it in such a manner since 1990.

A lot of verbiage has been spent on complaints about the difficulty of singing the song and the complexity of the language. To me this means we have a wonderful opportunity to teach children and all citizens about who Francis Scott Key was and the importance of the War of 1812. And by the way, the poetry of the song's four verses and what they mean. Somehow we have missed something in our value of the meaning of music, words, and patriotism. It still bugs me that the First Lady does not honor the flag with a salute. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Moving Time

Apartment Complex USA 1
Apartment Complex USA 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Have I said that before? I'm moving this month. I did that last year. I didn't think I'd do it again, maybe not ever, but I'm excited about the change. I've already announced it, but now I've found the new apartment complex. My now digs will have two bedrooms--one for the computer and some of the book cases, a bedroom for me, and a nice living room with a built-in bookcase. And of course, a kitchen. It's not large, but it's adequate. I don''t want a very big kitchen, since I don't really want to cook a lot. There is also a nook for my dining table. I think it will be very nice.

I can get one wall in each room painted a color I like. I think that will brighten up the place a lot. My present apartment is nice I guess, but very dull. The woodwork is dark and the walls are cream--it makes for dull. 

I now have boxes to fill with collectibles, books, and memorabilia which also means I have work to do. At least I won't be bored. I don't guess you call that interesting, but it is necessary. The time is getting shorter and shorter.  I'll try to keep posting my progress.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves
Autumn Leaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Living in the Valley is different. The most prominent thing that bothers me about it is the loss of seasons. I love changing seasons. and my favorite one is fall. In the middle of August it's time to look forward to Autumn leaves and Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Even in the Valley we'll still have the holidays, but the first cool morning with a brisk wind is lost on us here.

East Texas is not noted for icy roads or snow storms. We have them sometimes for short period, but that's not what I miss. In August the trees take on a weary look. The full glory of summer has started to fade, but it's just the tired sagging of limbs weary from the summer production: there's no color yet, just tired green. Some years the color change begins early in September, sometimes it takes longer. Fall may come gradually at first, but one day I see the trees take on the golden glow of Autumn. The woods have ripples of red and yellow and orange steadied by the stalwart pines standing tall and benevolent against the rush of color. 

Sometimes the best way to absorb the glory of Autumn is driving through the rolling hills to see the land spread out before you like a canvas, but sometimes it's better to walk in the pasture and climb the hill from the creek and inhale the air of Autumn. Autumn smells different, too. A whiff of wood smoke from a barbecue or someone burning a stump recalls other traditions of Autumn. 

And then there's always football. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Yeah, I think I may. I haven't found a place yet, but I think I want to do it. "The home" is getting a little oppressive. Besides being boring, it's also expensive.

I can rent a newer apartment in a complex closer to a shopping area and have access to the transit system. And for about half the price! Of course I will have to shop for groceries and do my own cooking, but that's something I can do.

Having access to the transit system will give me much more freedom in going shopping and using the library and going to the bank. And there is Sunday bus service. It sounds like a good deal.

I have made some friends here, but I'll make some more. If I can go to the Bible study at Church I might make a lot. At least the search for a new apartment will be an adventure. Riding the bus might help me get oriented to where I am. I'm kinda looking forward to it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Few Words on Boredom

This is a waste of time
This is a waste of time (Photo credit: Yung Tsai)
Sometimes I get bored. I find that not very many people really want to converse. I get bored easily with prattle. I want to share ideas and explore new concepts, but a great many people just want to tell you what they've told you before. One lady here at "the home" has one story of her family and having heard it several times, I'm not interested in hearing it again. I don't blame her for my boredom. She is dealing with some variation of Alzheimer's Disease or senility and the story loses it pzazz when repeated. I'm pretty sure my stories are just as boring to others as hers are to me.

One of my fears is that I'll become like this lady. I seek new interests to help me postpone this decline into perpetual boredom. I assume that if you have only one story, you will become boring to yourself.  I hear people say that keeping the mind active with new information and learning new skills is a defense against Alzheimer's Disease. I'm not sure it's true, but it may be the best chance you have to conceal the problem. At this point you may just want to keep track of the stories so nobody can detect that you don't remember which ones you've told. 
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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Try, Try Again.

I went out to try a kite this morning and it almost got up several times, but with a wild twist each time it came down almost tangling me in the string and tails. The gusty wind just toys with it and then gives up. I'll try again, and one day it'll really stretch up for heaven. I'll have to be careful if it does because it will get beyond my control when it gets very high. I don't want to lose it over the building.

I guess I'm lucky there is an empty lot next door that I can get a little action with. I hear that "the home" has tried to buy the property, but without success. Maybe next year.

New Computer

I'm going to buy a new computer today. Mine is in trouble, and the folks that know about these things assure me that I can't put Windows 8 on it because it's not big enough or it doesn't have enough bytes--kilo, or mega, or some kind, I'm not sure which. Anyway this one is old and has errors and I hope I'm doing the right thing. I don't really want to understand it, I just want it to work.

If I can get a computer that does what I tell it to, I'll be able to make out here at "the home." That sounds like a pretty sterile environment--interacting with a computer for fun. It seems like the thing that would fill your life ought to be something live--friends, companions, at least a pet. I like some of the people I know, but they don't do the things I like. I do have a few that will read the Bible with me, and there are a few that, sometimes, will read poetry with me. But to really get involved the computer is better than the people. That is really sad, I think. Maybe I'm expecting too much. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Choosing Activities in "The Home"

Sometimes it's hard to get your motor started and get yourself in gear. I'm at that place now. I have things I want to do, but doing them requires the time and space to focus and explore. I have a friend who wants to help me, but she wants to help me learn to paint. She is an artist and she shares that talent with others here. They are experiencing the joys of watercolor. 

I just want to experience being with the friends. I enjoy the charcoal drawing more than the watercolor. Of course the watercolor is prettier and more colorful, but I'm not talented in that way, and I know it. 

Whatever talent I have is with words, not color. I write a little poetry and a lot of essays, and occasionally some history or fiction, but I'll never be an artist. I will love my artist friends. I hope that's enough.

It seems to me that concern over depression and loneliness in old people may be more apparent to others, and less a problem for the old people than researchers and observers want to believe. I'm convinced that frantic activity and decorations don't substitute for meaningful effort and work. These people have lived a long time and had many successes and great energy to get to where they are now. Trivial crafts and foolishness doesn't replace that in the day to day living. Visit a relative in a retirement home or assisted living apartment and see what I mean.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Old Friends

My mother had friends she played bridge with, and invited for dinner, and went shopping with. They were the long-time friends that she knew well enough to confide in and share secrets with. She intended me to have friends like that, too, I think. Mostly I remember that she expected me to be kind and nice and behave well in public. My friends were often the children of her friends. She died when I was 10, so I didn't make many friends that were outside our family circle and school connections. Now I see how much those people have meant to my life. The friends you started out with stay with you, even when you grow up or move away. I value them in the memories we share, and when we meet, we still have things to talk about.

I have friends that I've only known for a brief period. Something about us clicked and we make instant contact. Maybe my mother's training in being nice and kind to others paid off. I'm not sure why but it does work. I've learned to find that quality in other people that makes me feel safe and generous and suddenly I remember them like they were one of the original special friends in my childhood. I'm not feeble minded yet, but when someone becomes a friend, they take on a different quality of closeness and camaraderie. They get filed in my mind or my heart like one of the people I knew when I was five. That I didn't know them then doesn't matter anymore. Sometimes they share a bit of history with me and it's like they just reminded me of something I always knew about them. Even if it is new and astonishing, it is seems like they just reminded me .

Having those friends I knew and loved may have set a standard in my life for loving friends. It is reassuring to know that even though I am far from home and most of my family, I can still enjoy friends and make new ones and be encouraged and and uplifted by them. Old friends are treasures worth keeping even when I just met them.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Can I Be a Writer?

I'm excited about writing again. I've never quit, but I have gotten lax and undisciplined, so now I have a new grip on the rope and writing is laid out before me like a garden ready to be planted, or perhaps ready to be harvested.

I am seeking a new formula for the discipline: to write for a specified time each day or to type a certain number of words or pages each day. A long time ago I was writing about 1000 words a day; I didn't count the words but it was an average of 4 pages at about 250 words a page. That's not as much as it sounds like, but when I've been doing some but not much and just some days, at that, it's a big freaking deal. It makes me feel like a writer again. And that doesn't mean the blogs. No, I mean pages I'll print out and edit and rewrite and shape into a story.

Yeah! I want to write fiction and serious stuff and articles and commentary. It does mean I'll have to think again. That seems to have been missing for a while, too. I may have to think and consider and reassess and reconsider. Sometimes I may have to take a stand and argue my point. I don't really like to argue, but to be the person who writes like I have described, it may happen. I'll let you know how I'm doing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Am I Really Sick?

I went to the doctor and she told me I am sick. At least her test said I'm sick. Now I am feeling sick and I'm using that as an excuse for not engaging in activities. This may be what my mother called "enjoying poor health." I'm not really feeling pain or distress, I just don't want to do anything. On the other hand, if I really wanted to or other conditions were right, I could make some bread or fly a kite or make cookies for a grandchild. I'll just sit here in my bathrobe and reflect on life and the thought of getting better. If taking the medicine will give me a boost, it might be worth a try. Well, maybe not.

I'm not "mad" and I don't do many things that others question. I do read the Bible and poetry, and I even write it, but in my own defense, I'm not obsessed with my illness. I'm capable of using it as an escape. Some women of the 17th and 18th centuries that got the title really were crazy, but there were a few that used illness to enjoy a reclusive life. Their society allowed and even encouraged it. They didn't have to meet other people or work or dress for dinner. Emily Dickinson was a very productive poet with the restrictions her life imposed. I'm pretty sure I can't measure up to her standards, but for today maybe I'll just "enjoy poor health." 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Mother Didn't Tell Me About Old Age

My mother never told me a lot about growing old so I'm having to figure it out for myself. I've learned that when the time comes the course is determined by how I have handled other crises. It is a new path, but not an unfamiliar one. You take a step or two, and the next step is revealed. You can't see the end from here, but the beginning is available.

As Winston Churchill said, "This is not the end. It's not even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning." I have things yet to learn and I relish the opportunity. O.K. lets say I'm old, but it aint over this it's over. I'm glad I still have lots to learn. I'm glad I've learned what I have since I need all that to handle this. Somebody famous said getting old isn't for wimps. Now I get to ask "What is it for?"

Maybe it's for wisdom. But I just said there are things I still need to learn. So I get to pass along some things and mentor people who still have more to learn than me. Now may be the time to deepen my understanding of what I already know. When I try to do that, I find that I'm not as smart as I thought.

I like to blog. Talking about what I've learned is wonderful. Sharing it is sort of mentoring. I hope it is interesting or helpful to someone else. Getting this old and learning this much hasn't been easy, so about the only thing that justifies it is hoping that someone else can benefit from my experience. Just reflecting on getting old is not all that great, but forming a theory and formulating a plan has promise.George Valliant has noted stages in late adulthood that were not recognized just a few years ago, so maybe getting old is newer than I thought.
For my other insights into aging see: Getting Older-Getting Better. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year--Old Habits

I read a review of the biggest stories of 2013 and found that they reflected a severe lack of progress in the area of human responsibility, ethics, or humility. It seems like the most notable progress our society is capable of centers on technology and computer skills. There were big headlines about the efficiency of drones to kill people the government considers dangerous. Of course, that technology also allows surveillance with pictures and tracking. 

The technical skills do not come with a guarantee of trial by jury. It seems that anyone with this technology can target any subject and watch, track, or eliminate the individual on a whim. Who has the right to use such a weapon?

Of course, the same question applies to a hand gun, a long range rifle, or a shotgun. We have put limits on the right of individuals to invade the privacy of others or to assault them, or to make a mortal threat against them. This technology carries a moral responsibility with it--we must not attack others without due course of the law. We sometimes claim self defense. That seems to be a justifiable cause to use deadly force, but what court or authority allows the use of this equipment against individuals? How is this enforced? 

The FAA is the body now charged with making the rules by 2015. Ah, yes, it just gets curiouser and curiouser. Apparently nobody is concerned about it yet, even though the technology is for sale now.