Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I Thessalonians 5:18--In Everything Give Thanks

One year, before Thanksgiving, I learned the meaning of giving thanks in everything. The verse doesn't say "Give thanks for everything." It only says to "give thanks in everything." Give thanks in whatever situation you find yourself. Give thanks when the light turns green, but give thanks when it turns red, too. In favorable situations we should give thanks to God and in tragic situations we are still required to give thanks. Bad things happen. I don't feel thankful for them. I had learned that I wasn't giving thanks for the situation, but God's intent for me was that I should give thanks. Everywhere in whatever season and whatever weather. God required me to give thanks to him. My feelings are not the focus of my thankfulness, but God's sovereignty is.

I'm thankful when I realize this is not my problem and God has a better plan that I have. My girls were old enough to memorize and I required them to learn this verse. I called it "the rule." When something happened that overwhelmed me, and I couldn't express thankfulness to God, I would say, "Somebody say the rule." One of them would repeat the verse out loud. Hearing it in real time in the midst of the event would refocus my faith, and suddenly the horrible was just inconvenient. I had another child after this had become my practice. As soon as she was old enough to know her name, she was indoctrinated, and she also became a prod to my conscience and faith.

After some years, I don't remember how many, I read the passage and continued to verse 19. I was astonished that the letters vibrated on the page. It said, "Quench not the Spirit." Boy sometimes the Word really speaks to you. I re-read the passage beginning at verse 16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. I read it again. Quench means to pour water on the fire. Don't act in ways that prevent God's Spirit from being active and alive in your situation, especially when it is a bad one. When we accept the facts as they really present themselves and recognize God's power and majesty, our faith is released for God to take action. When we whine and complain, we restrict God's freedom to act on our behalf. "Quench not the Spirit" became a corollary to The Rule, 1 Thessalonians 5:18. I find it very faith-building to read this whole section often. You may find other points and phrases that spur you on to obedience and faith in your journey with Christ. Underline them or keep a journal. Memorize them. They will sustain you in hard times. Sometimes they may be a bridge to a testimony.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Christmas Rant

The parade of sappy love stories that masquerade as Christmas TV has started. I go though this every year, and repetition does not make it better. There are a few TV shows that are repeated every year that have become a tradition: A Charlie Brown Christmas,  A Christmas Story, Home Alone, It's a Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Carol have become staples in our Christmas viewing experience at my house. Please notice than none of these are love stories. Some of them are humorous, and some are just rousing good stories set in a Christmas background. Some actually depend on acting! It's hard to beat Jimmy Stewart and Darren McGavin. Some of the other actors in these classic films are excellent too. Macaulay Culkin as Kevin endears himself to me every year. The crooks and the family were all funny and afforded Kevin revenge and triumph. However enjoyable these films are or funny or traditional, they don't match the meaning of the birth of a Savior so it's really hopeless to find the meaning of Christmas in a film made for commerce, even a good one.

I guess I'm not very fashion conscious. The new trends don't impress me much. Lime green and fuchsia don't strike me as Christmas colors. Getting drunk does't do much for me either.  I'm more into reading the Bible story that started it all and cooking dinner and having family to love and laugh with. I like Christmas Eve Communion and candlelight; I like hymns and fruit cake and boiled custard.(I can give you the recipe.) 

The Christmas Story reminds me of tragedy and sacrifice. Not all the elements of the first Christmas are celebrated or re-enacted. Three of my children were born Christmas week, but I didn't go to the barn to have a one of them, and we had a barn. Modern thought has romanticized the barn until it isn't even a threat to the life of the child that was born there. Now they talk about soft hay, and warmth, and safety. Hay is not soft. I had a barn and I know. Barns are smelly, dusty, unfitted for having a baby.

For Christmas this year I want to recognize the sacrifices that make this season a joy and the glories that resonate in my soul when I remember that the Baby Jesus grew up to be the Savior of the world. There is more to Christmas than tinsel and frivolity. There is glory and love never-ceasing. Read Matthew 1:18-2:23 and Luke 2:1-38.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Walk in the Rain

The Rain People
The Rain People (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We now have the reports of Hurricane Patricia and the resultant rain. I love it! TV reception is poor and continues to be interrupted by the dense cloud cover. I love the splatter and dripping from the roof and trees. It's Autumn and this is Awesome. I love the atmosphere when there is rain and clouds, dripping and puddles. I'll read Robert Frost's "My November Guest" this evening and share his appreciation of the day. I'm sure some people are almost overwhelmed by it, but I'll take them on - one at a time or en mass.

This is a day to prepare for what comes next. Rain prepares the earth for a new crop. Rain insures new growth, and flowers, and harvest. It's not time yet, but it won't come without the rain first. It might take a year, but some time to consider is included in the wait.
While we wait, we plan what to plant. We envision the layout of a garden, or orchard, or project. While we wait, we build our strength to do the work, chose our tools, buy our seed. There is a lot to do during the rainy season.

I walked over to pick up the mail in the rain. Walking in it gives a new perspective on rain. The jacket shed most of the water, but my back still felt the chill of it, and my hair dripped, and my glasses are smeared with drops. Frost was right: "My sorrow when she's here with me thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be." We won't have the frosty chill of winter here in the Valley. We'll be lucky to have a day or two of chilly wind and a report of snow in Minnesota. But we got rain. Thank you, Lord, for rain.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Vanity or Insight?

Very Meaningful
Very Meaningful (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Are all bloggers as vain and self centered as I am? When I think about it, I am truly embarrassed. I do so want to say something meaningful to the readers. I want to be insightful and clear-headed, but most of all, I want more readers. I do try to please a lot of people and appeal to many different tastes: I write a lot of blogs. They could probably all be one blog. It's all just what I think about a variety of subjects. Maybe I should condense it all into one blog. Dump it all in here and just make one post. Might be better.  Might even be more fun.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Response to "Reluctance"

English: Autumn leaves near Turkey Farm
English: Autumn leaves near Turkey Farm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Maple and Sweet gum trees have begun to turn 
 summer is ended.
Autumn slides in on a cool breeze
hints of orange and red shine through the trees
love of fall is a yearly affliction
my soul is infected 

I am trying to learn to write unrhymed poetry, and it's not easy. I started this one as a response to Robert Frost's "Reluctance." When I reread the above lines I found an accidental rhyme. Shame on me. Unrhymed means it doesn't rhyme on purpose or otherwise. I sought to bring the same kind of insight and meaning to the thought of autumn that Frost did, but I seem not to have made it.

Maybe if I stay with the rhymes it will work better. Poetry is a cruel mistress. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Black Holes

The supermassive black holes are all that rema...
The supermassive black holes are all that remains of galaxies once all protons decay, but even these giants are not immortal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I watch a lot of science TV. I enjoy the conjectures of scientists who explore the most advanced thoughts about the creation of life and where a Black Hole comes from. Of course they don't know what a Black Hole is but they know it is huge, densely magnetic and powerful. Now they assert that there is a massive black hole in the center of every galaxy which provides the power for the planets to rotate. In the process, the black hole is consuming whatever comes close and sucks it into oblivion. 
It's amazing how the scientific mind can accept this concept and use these words as if they were real when there is nothing to substantiate them but a theory. They produce pictures of galaxies millions of light years away and propose that planets could have life. No data supports the theory but a picture of a speck of light on a film, but the scientists assure us that the odds are we are not alone in the universe. It's interesting to listen to the narration of the story. The pictures are arresting until I remember that the pictures are mostly artists renderings because they don't have cameras capable of making such find detail.
Don't assume that science is all lies and shadows, but when the dialogue is full of "might have" or "could have" I begin to question what did or didn't happen that we are passing off as real and genuine. Don't misunderstand. I still watch "How the Universe Works," but lately I've noticed sudden bursts of unacceptable references in the narration. The excited physicist says "Oh God, the power of it." When he gets to the end of his explanation there is God still doing his thing. All the theories and explanations cannot produce one real live thing or even explain how it was done. Science can chart the steps and analyze the chemicals, but it can
Simulated gravitational lensing (black hole go...
Simulated gravitational lensing (black hole going past a background galaxy). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
not make it breathe or love or reproduce. Funny how God comes back into our equations. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The God Particle

I have been searching for topics to write about. It seems I had forgotten the nursery rhyme by Robert Louis Stephenson dedicated to this idea.
"The world is so full of a number of things
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings." 
With such a plethora of ideas I should never want for a topic to explore and address. I fear the dearth of ideas is caused by my own lack of interest and not the lack of subjects. I have been considering the TV show on the Science Channel called "How the Universe Works." I have no background in physics or science except casual reading, so I really don't feel prepared to bring that kind of topic to intelligent readers.

Today on "How the Universe Works" they talked about finding the Higgs field or the Higgs particle. For the rest of us this has become known as the God Particle. It seems to mean that the Higgs particle is the property of matter that makes it possible to take energy that has no weight, or mass and convert it into matter with weight and mass. This is the how God created the world. The scientists hastened to declare this as a scientific fact without regard to God. This is my interpretation of the matter of matter and how matter came to be. God did it. He spoke it without regard to the supercollider. God said and it was. It's funny how easy it is when you just believe.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New Reason to Write

Periodically I get a new grip on the rope and try again. I'm trying to become more disciplined about writing again. Not just the blogs, but opinion and commentary and maybe even a story. I've done it before. Right now I'm also researching family history, and I'm really interested in narrating the story of my family and how they addressed the world they were dealing with.

Some of them served in the Revolutionary Army and some in the Civil War. Those are two subjects of lasting interest and I am excited about what I'll find in their stories.

Maybe I'll find out more about them than I want to know. I have one ancestor that was something of a scoundrel. I would guess that most of us have a few of the less noble and high-minded individuals in their history. There is an old saying " You should be cautious about exploring your family tree because you might find someone hanging on a limb." One of my ancestors was married to about four women without any evidence of a legal divorce. I remember family members referring to him with a definite attitude of derision.

Oh well that might make a very interesting story.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

So I'm Lonely--What Did I Expect?

I have neglected my blogs. Of course I don't have a large audience of readers, so there is very little incentive to write, but still it is my obligation. The reason I have not been faithful to the task rests in the disruptive nature of my current life. Two years ago I moved to the Rio Grande Valley because one of my daughters asked me to. I thought the idea had merit. I lived for a year in a retirement community that provided meals and transportation to Walmart and the grocery store and some medical trips, doctors, dentists, physical therapists, etc., but I found the boredom extreme. I often didn't like the menus, and I was less than impressed with the activities the administrators were so proud of.

I decided the solution to my problem lay in moving out of the home. I did. I moved to an apartment complex that provides no amenities. We do have access to a pool. Of course I get daily mail delivery and the office is handy for questions and maintenance. Accommodations are more isolated. I have no acquaintances but the ones I see at Church on Sunday and Thursday night Bible study.

Sometimes I do get lonely. My solution to that problem rests on the computer. I have renewed my interest in genealogy. I call it "visiting with dead relatives,." and believe it or not, it is very satisfying. Of course I do miss the people I left in East Texas--my children and friends, the places I used to go. Now I no longer drive. My daughter who has a talent for stating the obvious assures me I shouldn't be driving. I miss being able to go the store for paper plates or socks or a burger on a whim.

Renewing my commitment to this blog and improving it with fresh topics and better composition is my response to boredom and loneliness. I'd really like to get new readers and responses. I welcome suggestions to fill the empty hours and human contact to animate them with conversation.

O. K. Guys the balls in your court. Let me know you're out there. I'm lonely! 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Suicide Is Not a Noble Act

Today I learned of the death of a young man who is a member of my church; he was a teenager actually, and I didn't personally know him, but never the less, I was emotionally torn by the news. It was mentioned that he recently broke up with his girl friend.

I did a little research on the subject and found out things I'm not sure I wanted to know. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in teenagers and young adults. The ages they counted varied a little. Some used 13 to 19 and others used 10 to 24. In both cases the first leading cause of death in these years was accidents. The second was homicide. The third most common cause of death in youths from 12 to 19 was suicide. These numbers come from the National Center for Disease Control.

One thing that disturbed me was the idea that suicide is somehow noble and a good choice when life is difficult. Family members would not have such a response. Life cut short before it was embraced is neither noble nor exciting. It is surely tragic and bitter to family who had other futures in mind.

One of the factors mentioned as causes was break up of relationships, bullying, difficulties in school and general depression. When I worked, I was often called on to counsel people who expressed suicidal thoughts or behaviors. My response was to seek their reasons and defuse the immediate source of distress. It usually worked when they began to see the finality of the act, it became clear that suicide didn't help anything.

For these youths it is obvious that they need more than a little talk.
They need the confidence that what ever is bad today won't be so bad tomorrow. They also need to understand that a noble death is not one that is inflicted by one's own hand.

For the family of the young man in my church I can only pray and offer support. I don't see a silver lining in this cloud.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Boring or Bored

Ronald E. Powaski has written about the Trappi...
Ronald E. Powaski has written about the Trappist monk, peace activist, and writer, Thomas Merton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I find my life to be verging of hopeless and useless. Nobody depends on me. I have no job and no responsibilities. Sounds like a prescription for boredom. On the other hand I have many opport unities to entertain myself and generate enthusiasm for life. I have a relatively large library, two computers, a TV, and a DVD player

I have explored   the idea of becoming a 'solitary';maybe you think of the older word-hermit. Living alone with limited contact to others does make one subject to loneliness and boredom. At least that's the prevailing perception of older people:sick, isolated, lonely. That sorta fits me. 

Becoming a 'solitary' is not just permission to be boring. It's taking on a new role. It's a chance to explore more depth in me. I can compare my life and my thoughts to others in private. I enjoy studying and exploring other cultures and lifestyles through books, TV, and research. Traveling is tiring and expensive, but books and computer searches are revealing and cheap. And it's more fun to grow old this way. If I could be as productive as Thomas Merton was in the tradition of a solitary, I wouldn't worry so much about the boredom or loneliness. There were others who found the solitary life very rewarding. Maybe I will too.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Night Sounds

            I love the sounds of night. Whether I’m sleeping in the house or outside enjoying the settling of darkness on the world, I love the sounds that accompany the activity of darkness. Trains blow their whistles around the clock, but the mystery and sadness only comes with darkness. The rattle of the wheels plunging down the tracks is like a deep drum beat accompanying the song of the whistle.

            I love to hear the soft calls of the owls and doves cushioning the night. No chirping songs pierce the gloom, only cooing to signal a mate. Sometimes the birds rustle the leaves or cause a branch to sway. They do not disturb the promised rest and quiet.

            Dogs bark. When I was little I wondered what they were saying. Bragging about chasing away a possum or skunk, maybe, or asking if a friend wanted to take a run in the pasture. They alert to every sound, ready to defend their territory, protect their home.

            Some trick of physics causes sounds to change with darkness. They become more distinct over longer distances, maybe because there are fewer of them. Trucks on the highway shift gears and gain speed as they leave congested streets. Their engines grab the night and soar off to other towns to deliver their load.

            When I was little, the night was filled with giants and monsters, galloping steeds and gallant warriors. Somewhere in the madness there was also sleep and dreams and rest. Now I remember my childhood nights and dreams with nostalgia. I love to revisit them in memory. Then I was always safe from the threats I imagined. Not even a storm disturbed my sleep.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Zones of Peace

I want to create in my life and my environment zones of peace that relieve the stress brought on my the normal activities of my days. Mostly I do this by the kind of things I read and meditate on. I have favorite Bible verses that help me slow down or calm down when I feel the problems of life beginning to overwhelm me. Sometimes I read poetry that helps me find my calm center. I think it helps me to keep up with the house-cleaning and not allow my surroundings to become messy. Pictures of peaceful scenes are comforting and pleasant. I also like to look at pictures of people I love and have them around my house.

Before I begin trying to really get into the serious business of achieving peace, I return to the problem that disturbs me. This seems a little counter-productive, but when I'm trying to claim and maintain peace, first I have to understand what is causing anxiety.

Writing about peace using scripture and quotes from other writers is the most useful thing I do to create and sustain peace in my spirit. I like to read a verse or a line over two or three times to begin my meditation. Then I may rephrase it in different words. Sometimes I realize my own attitude or mindset is the cause of my distress. If my unrest is caused by jealously or bitterness, I may need to confess before I seek peace. Confession alone may be the answer to my need of peace.

I recommend this method to my readers. It is not a quick fix, but it lasts for a while when you are through. Of course, you are the judge of whether it works for you. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winter in the RGV

I'm not particularly thrilled with living in the RGV. The Winter Texans seem to love it. They flood in here sometime about October and stay till about March. It really helps the Valley economy and Church attendance, but they are here for the same reason I not so happy about it. The Winter Texans want to avoid winter and I value it greatly. Of course I'm not talking about winter in the far northern states where hard winters are common. East Texas is just 4 or 5 hundred miles north. We'd have a little ice, some very cold nights, and I'd need a good coat, but Texas is still a Southern State.

The real thing I miss here is the change in seasons. There is not a change here. I can't even tell winter from spring. Summer does make an announcement with heat! And it starts early, but that doesn't grace the environment with the kind of joy spring brings. Autumn is the same. There is no drawing of the curtain with the leaves changing and the smell of harvest in October. A few degrees on the thermometer is the only witness that the rest of the world is seeing these changes in vibrant technicolor, but the RGV just picks up the sun screen. 

Enough of the complaining! The weather man on the 10:00 O'clock News keeps whining about how dreary it is when it rains. He is yearning for the sun to come out; he and Annie know the "sun'll come up tomorrow" and my wonderful rain will be gone. The thermometer will hit 100 and I'll never noticed there was a spring.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Good Quality TV at Christmas

I think I have an in-bred fear of cheap and shoddy merchandise. My mother was very focused on maintaining good quality in her clothes, her home furnishing, and in my appreciation of what good quality meant. Lately I've become aware of cheap quality in groceries and ordinary items used every day. Tissues, for example, don't have to cost a lot to be useful, but I prefer that they not exhibit a high wood fiber content. At least I don't want to be able to count the tree rings in them. I don't really care to buy the most expensive item on the shelf, but I do want to avoid the out-of-date milk and the brown, mushy bananas. I assume all shoppers will agree with me on this.

This expectation of a quality product extends to TV programming. In late-night shows, quality performance has always been some what suspect. When Johnny Carson was the King of late nights, he was often criticized for the abundant use of guests hosts because he was taking a few days off. Every holiday was an excuse for Johnny to go on a cruise, or to the seashore, or spend a few days in Europe. Finding a substitute host  was an acceptable way to shift his responsibilities. Fans who missed him pointed out that he  was often gone more days than he worked. In his defense I will point out that guests on the show were the same quality entertainment that was present when he was there.  

Today late-night TV and daytime talk shows don't spend the same time and effort on programming around a hosts absence. Now they just run a repeat. I find this a cheap substitute for the real thing. I know re-runs are a staple of TV entertainment, but I expect a little more than I've seen lately from "live entertainment." Christmas TV programming has been a "cheap and shoddy" disappointment in this area.  Maybe it wouldn't be so insulting if there was more time delay, but when the same show is repeated with hardly a week time lapse, I can't get excited about it.