Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More Than Grannies

What a joy it was yesterday to spend some time talking by phone with cybersister Joan - A Portland Granny. It's not the first time a stitch in the fabric of friendship has been tightened; nor is it likely to be the last. I've enjoyed other real discussions with some of you, too -- be it by phone or email. What's so amazing is how it all happens here in a virtual community.
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When Joan and I had been speaking little more than a minute or two, I felt I'd known her for years; many years. Her strong voice and ready chuckle made me think at once of my own sisters. The anecdotes she shared only emphasized the similarities. In so little time I learned a lot about her, and likely she about me. I marveled at the course of her life, and felt humbled by her trust.
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After an hour's chat, I couldn't help but wonder about Joan's future, and mine. Why is it the Lord has called us here to the blogosphere, anyway? What does He have in mind for the many friendships that are forming? Could it be the youngers here inspire the olders? Could it be the olders encourage the youngers? Could it be that this is the uttermost of the outermost parts of the world in which we have been told to "go"?
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Oh, I know, the blogosphere has become all things to all people. But whether it's the upside or downside of one's motives, it's powerful.
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And no matter what the call, I for one am deeply indebted to the God that continues to amaze me. His ways are truly so much higher than mine, reaching beyond the fringes of eternity, and even into cyberspace. Seems He's building His kingdom even here.
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Thank you, Joan. You made my day!
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Quietness of Quietness

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Quietness. Could it be a condition oft hidden, or oft unbidden? Though we long for it, and though we give it high regard, is it possible that in reality we disdain it by our lack of grasping it as we might a helpful hand? Do we all-too-easily forfeit it for a lessor condition?
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What is it, exactly? .

  • 1 a: marked by little or no motion
    or activity: calm
  • 1 b: gentle, easygoing
  • 1 c: not interfered with
  • 1 d: enjoyed in peace and relaxation
  • 2 a: free from noise or uproar: still
  • 2 b: unobtrusive, conservative

My questions are for everyone and no one. In truth, they're for me. They summon me to that place of intentionality, that place where the rubber of my Gospel-shod feet meet the hard ground of the narrow course to which I've been bidden, and have chosen to take. It is there I am met by the peace that is the promise for the one who trods.

Some years back I discovered that it is the woman's gentle & quiet spirit that is precious - of great worth - to God. He doesn't make that claim about men; just women.

Upon that discovery I realized how disquieted was my own. That didn't make me of less value to God, but my clamorous heart made it so very difficult to connect with Him, or Him me. I may even have rendered myself less effective, if not altogether less quiet.

I dare say (confess), I often favored my obtrusive ways over His quietness.

Your beauty should not come from outward
adornment, such as braided hair and
the wearing of gold jewelry and
fine clothes. Instead, it should be
that of your inner self, the unfading beauty
of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is of great worth in God's sight.
1 Peter 3:3-4

Though Isaiah is speaking here of the kingdom that is yet to some (in fullness), I am comforted and challenged by his prescription.

The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be
quietness and confidence forever.
Isaiah 32:7
.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of
eating and drinking, but of righteousness,
peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
because anyone who serves Christ
in this way is pleasing to God
and approved by men.

Romans 14:17-18

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

For he himself is our peace ...
Ephesians 2:14

Let's meet today beside the quiet waters where He will restore & refresh our souls; where He will lead us further still along that well-worn path of righteousness. Let us find our quietness there - in Him - adorning our hearts with that which is precious and so very quieting to us.
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Camp Sassy

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It would appear that the onset of Wanderlust has been averted by a kindred penchant: a return visit to Camp Sassy!
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Granddaughters Rylie (Princess Laffsalot) and Allie (Princess Mermalaide) will arrive late July for a ten day stay at Camp Sassy. They did the same thing last year as recorded in the Damsel Diaries, with many a memory stored and re-lived in the way of tales about their adventures together as cousins.
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Not to be outdone by any Hello Modder; Hello Fadder camp experience, I have begun the process of planning our agenda. Certainly we'll need to swim and bake and ride the golf cart all over the community and have picnics in the many parks here and torment Grandpa with games of WII boxing or golf, but this year I believe we'll add some drama to the equation. I'm working on that part.
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For now I'm simply thanking God for the little ladies that always add sass to my life, and for making Camp Sassy as much my adventure as theirs!
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Epitath Written Long Ago

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Along with the lion's share of the world, I wake to the new volley of Michael Jackson death-stories. Mourners gather, media speculates, and the life that could have been is visited from every aspect.
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I add my own sense of loss to theirs, for there have been few of modern day music fame to have impacted the world of Rock-n-Roll so dramatically. My feet still tap out the beat to many a Jackson Five or Michael Jackson song! My heart is burdened for those that loved him; family & friends, fans.
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It is truly a tragic ending to an equally tragically lived-life.
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Though accolades abound for Michael Jackson's amazing creative talent, there are few to speak of the noble notes that were his over-riding life song. No doubt there were such notes, but they play faintly in the background of a life that was marked by the ignoble.
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I cannot know what was or is the condition of Michael Jackson's heart, but I thank God for all lives that end on the sure note of salvation. While sorrow descends for the death of a believer so, too, does hope.
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I pray it was so for Michael Jackson.
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Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant
about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like
the rest of men, who have no hope.
We believe that Jesus died and rose again
and so we believe that God will bring with
Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Whale Tales

Whales - what marvelous creatures of the deep. They have long baffled & inspired men. I've watched many a Discovery Channel program about them myself, enchanted by their grotesque grace. I've watched up-close, in wide-eyed wonder as they swam in pods, or breached the seas surrounding the islands of Maui of Kauai.
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How can we consider the whale without thinking of our friend Jonah? Yet the whale tales of Jonah - often focused on his three day belly-stay - pale in comparison to the overriding theme of Jonah's story: his commission by God, a commission set against the backdrop of the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 BCE), a commission fertile in the soils of God's compassion.
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What was true in Jonah's day was true in Jesus' day, and is true even today. God is compassionate. He has passed the proverbial baton to the Church, the very Bride of Christ (Please allow me to digress momentarily to say that God has, in no way, abandoned His love of, or His plan for Israel ... His own people, and a completely separate entity from the Church.).

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We - the Church - are today's Jonah. Furthermore, it is as Jesus said ... A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. Matthew 12:39
..
Yes, that sign points directly to the death & resurrection of Jesus. All that can be said is summarized in that one, amazing, life-changing, eternity-altering reality.
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Another prominent feature with our reluctant prophet Jonah I don't want to pass up is his short-sightedness. From the git-go he has his own agenda, and even after complying with God's original mandate, he goes on to stake claim to the vine he's come to cherish. He sees it as comfort ... a place of ease & shelter. Perhaps he sees it as an entitlement. Whatever ... he has a small tantrum when it withers & dies.
..
What's up with that?
.
I needn't have asked. The Scriptures - God Himself - has my answer:
.
Jonah went out and ... made himself a shelter ... to see what would happen to the city (we already know he was pretty annoyed with God for showing compassion to Ninevah). Then the LORD God provided a vine ...to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God (caused) it (to wither). God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live."
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But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"
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"I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."
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But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" Jonah 4:5-11
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Well, all this to say that anyone or anything that deflects our view of the finished work of Jesus on our behalf is likely to get us into trouble. Been there; done that!
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It's also to say that Jonah's story is much larger than a whale tale. It's the enduring sign for today, as Jesus said it was, that is timeless and relevant, and that demonstrates distinctly how great is God's love.
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P.S. Did you catch that ... the part about God's concern for the animals of Ninevah? Mmmm. Take THAT, PETA!
. .

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Attack of Wanderlust


Have you ever had one those: a wanderlust attack? I don't have them often, but at least once a year my packing urges grow intense, and I find myself perusing travel bargains.
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I've been struck by such an attack.
.
Now the trouble starts.
.
Do we drive to the California coast and join the multitudes at the beach? Or might we head north to the Grand Canyon for some rim-viewing reverie? Could it be we'd be happier jumping on a plane and flying the friendly skies to ... where? New York? San Francisco? Seattle?
.
There are no clear answers just yet, no anecdote for what ails me. I wish there were, something like Niquil or Aspirin. But alas I am not hopeful. These attacks either have to run their course, or set one.
,
Funny thing: all this fuss isn't always followed by an actual trip. Sometimes it remains in vision mode on the back burner of my life until next week, or next month, or next year, when once again I begin staring at my suitcase with longing.
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We ARE planning a Europe junket this Fall, taking in Dusseldorf, Germany (where a trade event for hubby's business will take place), followed by a jaunt to Stockholm, Sweden (where's hubby's company is located). Either coming or going we hope to extend a week and make our way through Wales and/or Ireland. It's not a firm plan as yet, but it's coming together with a small measure of certainty.
.
That just might cure the wanderlust for awhile. .
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Perishments

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You stumble day and night,
and the prophets stumble with you.…
my people perish from
lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:5-6
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How much clearer can God be?
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I’m inclined to pull a Dr. Phil on myself and ask: “What part of ‘perish’ don’t you understand?” And then it occurred to me that my response would have to be: "A lot!". Heaven forbid, I don't want to become a perishable. So it looked to me like some knowledge was in order.
.

Then I went on a mission.
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First, the word perish is a transitive verb, which simply means it requires an object in order to be grammatically correct. It never navigates alone like regular old verbs. It must have something or someone to perish with it.

Pretty profound, I’d say.

The word itself means to become destroyed or ruined; cease to exist; to deteriorate, spoil.

Yep, that's a perishment if ever there was one (or is it two?)!

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The scriptures have a lot to say about knowledge or the lack thereof. It also has a lot to say about the distinction between knowledge and knowledge. The one is information amassed without God; the other is information infused by Him.

For example … this is what knowledge looks like with the former:
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… always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7)
… Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. Luke 11:52
… since they (unbelievers) did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:28
… they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Romans 10:2
… the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Job 38:1-2
… You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, 'No one sees me.' Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, 'I am, and there is none besides me.' Is 47:10
.

But of the latter He has this to say:
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... The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Matthew 13:10-11

... And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11
... The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. Psalm 19:1-2

It is an incredible thing believers are granted: knowledge of the Most High - the very treasures of darkness (Isaiah 45:2-4).

I don’t know about you, but it leaves me incredulous. Where does one even begin?

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I needn't have worried. He not only gives us the answer, but renders us perish-proof ...
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The fear of the LORD is
the beginning of knowledge.
Proverbs 1:7

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In Days Gone By

My patience wore thin as mother went about her kitchen work with deliberateness. She was anything but hurried, and for me, nothing but hurried would do.
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I can smell it still: chicken frying and the residual scent of cooling apple pie that had been baked at first light. She busied herself with the making of potato salad while directing the impatient one to slice pickles, or run to the corner grocery for a last minute need.
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It was Father's Day. Every Father's Day.
.
More often than not the family would convene at one of two places: The Green River Gorge or Clear Lake. The fun began for the adults when at last their preparations were done and the picnic site set up. For the little ones (which included me for a good many years), the day began when the feet first hit the floor. That meant many hours of impatience, all the while demanding asking: "Is it time to go yet?"
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Clear Lake is one of those pristine, crystal clear high mountain bodies that was our family's favorite. An extended dock, high dive & equally high slide, as well as row boats meant the day would be filled with all things exhilarating.
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The Green River Gorge (one and the same as the Green River of Ted Bundy fame) is one of nature's finest productions. The setting includes forested environs, a steep descent to the canyon floor and river below, and some of the best swimming holes in Washington State.
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Oh yes ... that fried chicken, potato salad and apple pie ... it sure hit the spot when the impatient one needed refueling. Unhurried mothers obviously know that, and Dad's being honored on their special day are sure glad they do!
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Daddy

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Long before I made my own debut in 1948, a noble young man by the name of Jimmy was on the scene, having been born in 1902. A contemporary of actors Greta Garbo & Charlie Chaplin, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and Presidents Harding & Garvey, Jimmy was the 7th in line of ten children born to Annie Claire & James Elmer.
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(Jimmy the high school coach, circa 1920)
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He was a gentle soul, and a gentleman that loved the out-of-doors and sports. Find him a worthy stream and he could fish for hours. Find him a serene mountain setting and he could climb, or camp, or ski to his heart's content.
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Much as he loved those things, he loved family more: his own birth family, and the family that would be his to father and parent. He and mother shared a passionate & devoted love affair all the days of their married lives; and together they provided their four daughters with a stable and godly home at a time when many were running amock due to wars and The Depression.
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This Father's Day his memory comes vividly to mind. It has been nearly 45 years since he left us - a victim of Leukemia - at the far too young age of 62. Yet he is always strangely near, for in each scene of nature his image is forever etched. At every family gathering his presence is felt in the love shared. In the reverie of worship I see him as he bows his head in awe of the God he deeply loved.
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They called him Jimmy.
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I called him Daddy.
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He called me Beetlebom and Snicklefritz (Jimmy & baby Kathleen in 1948).
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I love you, Daddy. Thank you for the rich legacy of love and faith you left us.
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HAPPY FATHER's DAY.
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I Have Decided

I have decided,
I'm gonna live like a believer,
Turn my back on the deceiver,
I'm gonna live what I believe.
..
I have decided,
Being good is just a fable,
I just can't cause I'm not able.
I'm gonna leave it to the Lord. (*)
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They listened patiently as I poured out my heart, my pastor and his wife. As I wept, I could see them dabbing at their eyes too. It was apparent my pain had spilled into their hearts.
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As I caught my breath and attempted to stem the tide of tears, I looked to both of them, searching their faces for something. Affirmation? Justice? Comfort?
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I will never forget their gracious kindness. It inspired in me a debt of gratitude I will never be able to repay, only to pay forward. The comfort came swiftly, and equally swiftly acted as a balm to my open wound. What I hadn't expected was a challenge, but it was a challenge that would play over-and-over in my mind that day, and for these many long years since - 20 now.
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"You are understandably upset, and you have good reason to be angry and torn. What I want to know is this: are you prepared to lean hard on the Lord and trust Him. Are you willing to permit Him to fight this battle for you?"
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Huh? Prepared? Willing? What about: "Oh you poor thing; murder would be justified in this case.", or "Let us help you figure out a way to exact revenge." But prepared and willing? I don't think so.
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The particulars matter little. We've all sat in that chair to some degree or other, and at one time or other - - the one set aside for the betrayed, or the rejected, or the deeply grieved. Our hearts know the stamp of a question mark, when no answer is suitable for the burdened amazement that comes to consume us. It's the bereft Job's chair, and the weary Elijah's chair, and the bitter Naomi's chair.
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That chair had become my home and would remain so for many, many months. And each new day brought the ring of pastor's challenge: "Are you prepared ...? Are you willing ...?". In all honesty, most days I was not.
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Until that day, I doubt that my faith had much of a root system. It had never been tested so severely, nor has it been since. I've endured some tough stuff, but nothing to approximate the extremities of that long ago time.
,
Today, when tough stuff touches down in my life I have learned that it has the capacity to do one of two things: make me bitter, or make me better. It will depend largely on how I view it, and whether or not I'm prepared, and willing ... That's not to make light of anyone's burden, or trial. I acknowledge some things are just too horrible to fathom. But it is to say that God can be trusted.
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At some point during those dark & dismal days, and on through to today, I've decided to live as a believer.
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Monday, June 15, 2009

Calibrations

There is a science behind this subject, one decidedly mathematical. That's probaby why it's garnered so little of my notice. Yet I'm affected by the science each and every day of my life. Calibrations are the standard by which so much of what I take for granted is designed & measured.
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Some common things that require calibration: watches, weighted scales, airplane instruments, levels, measuring tapes/rulers, televisions, thermometers. The heart of man.
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When we calibrate something we establish the relationship between the measuring device (the standard) and the units of measure. It's a comparative process, described by Merriam like this:
.
1: to ascertain the caliber of
2: to determine, rectify, or mark the graduations of
3: to standardize (as a measuring instrument) by determining the deviation from a standard so as to ascertain the proper correction factors
4: to adjust precisely for a particular function
5: to measure precisely ; especially - to measure against a standard
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In theory we have no problem with this reality. Many things must be calibrated in order to be accurate or true. We depend on that fact, and calibrations become the standard by which our worlds are made to tick - figuratively and literally. In theory.
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On the other hand, in fact we balk at calibrations. I mean ... how many of us haven't argued with the clock: It can't possibly be that late; where did the time go? or Why is it taking so long? Or how many of us haven't criticized the bathroom scale: This scale can't possibly be right; I know I don't weigh that much!
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Perhaps we even balk at the standard by which we, human beings, are to compare our own selves ...
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We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves
with some who commend themselves. When they
measure themselves by themselves and compare
themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
.
But, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
For it is not the one who commends himself who
is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:12, 17-18
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So this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
"See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who trusts will never be dismayed.
I will make justice the measuring line and
righteousness the plumb line ...
Isaiah 28:16-17
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Like gravity, some rules just are; they're firmly fixed. It's no different for the standard by which I plan and live out my life. That standard cannot be according to my neighbor (who may take a huge tumble & upset the apple cart), or according to the rule of law (which will vary from one part of the world to the next), or even according to my own design (the "make it up as you go" one). The calibration I must line up with is Truth personified in the One Man.
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Do not conform any longer to the pattern of
this world, but be transformed by the renewing
of your mind. Then you will be able to test and
approve what God's will is—His good, pleasing
and perfect will.
Romans 12:2
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The only calibration that will ensure an accurate read and, likewise, an accurate result is Jesus. All the rest (and aren't there myriad?) must be counterfeits, and their false positive readings the source of much confusion if not a fatally flawed trajectory.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Atari, Anyone?

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It was a Christmas present that year. Though we could barely afford the extravagance, we made a case for the purchase of an Atari for the children; a pastime that would consume both them and us for many days to come.
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Well, in truth, I was the only one consumed! Let me explain.
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You see, when the warm fuzzy gratitude of the gift's newness had ended (the next day), competitive blood began to flow. Games like PacMan, Tetris, & Breakout became the battlefield and sure victory for kids agile enough for such unique warfare. They were naturals. With a Joy Stick in one hand, they were maneuvering as pros within minutes.

Then there was me. Mere seconds into a game I was out; benched. My competitors, once my beloved children, had become mortal foes on the field of battle. And trust me, they took great delight in Mom's five-thumbed buffoonery. The more I tried, the more they laughed. The more they laughed, the more I wondered if it was good parenting to crush the Atari intruder with my bare hands.
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Until that moment I hadn't been aware of the sleeping giant residing in my game-playing flesh. Once awakened, that giant would not be the laughing stock of the Flanagan household. No way. No how.
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So, unbeknown'st to the lot of them, I rose an hour earlier than normal for many weeks in order to spend time practicing. And practice I did. During that time I politely declined any challenges, deferring to their expertise and unrivaled eye/hand coordination. That made them laugh too.
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Then came the day. I felt powerful and adept, and so ready to even the score.
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I picked the biggest Atari bully I could find and challenged him to a game - - little David taunting Goliath. Oldest son Brad could almost be seen licking his chops. Really! And this from the darlings I'd born & birthed.
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What followed was not pretty. Well, actually, it was VERY pretty from my perspective. Not so much to the onlookers. I proceeded to PacManhandle his little tush way past his highest score to set a new record high. Unabashedly, and with utter glee I stood upon my Mt. Olympus to claim the hard-won, much-deserved victory.
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Funny the things one remembers especially now that the DS and Wii and Guitar Hero have usurped Atari's pivotal placement. At this stage, however, I would have to rise two or three hours early to best my opponents. Today I'll take the sleep instead, and laugh at myself.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Search

I knew it was in there somewhere. The peach colored tunic I'd purchased to go along with a like-colored skirt had been hung in my closet, but had now gone missing. Why couldn't I find it?
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Off-and-on for some weeks I checked, and checked again. I looked in every closet and storage bin, but to no avail.
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It was so very frustrating. I knew it was there somewhere. I knew because I had put it there, and I had left it there.
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Eventually the missing tunic showed up. It was hanging adjacent to a similar colored shirt, and I had looked right at it many times without recognizing it. But as I switched items around one day, there it was. I felt like a CSI agent that had just cracked a case!
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Today, when I read Oswald Chamber's devotional, I realized how vitally important is the SEEK. Little is discovered or found without it, yet all too many expect it to be so with God. The wholehearted search that precedes the FIND is abandoned in favor of a lessor effort. I dare say it is sometimes itself a dare: "If there's a God, then __________." Fill in the blank.
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And then there's the flipside: "Why look for someone or something you have little need of?"
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Oswald has this to say:
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"Seek, and ye shall find." Luke 11:9
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"You ask, and do not receive, because you ask amiss." If you ask for things from life instead of from God, you ask amiss, i.e., you ask from a desire for self-realization. The more you realize yourself the less will you seek God. "Seek, and ye shall find." Get to work, narrow your interests to this one. Have you ever sought God with your whole heart, or have you only given a languid cry to Him after a twinge of moral neuralgia? Seek, concentrate, and you will find.
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I sometimes chuckle to myself when I reflect on my own years of seeking long ago. When I finally found what I had been seeking (often having missed Him in favor of something that appeared to be equal, or similar), I realized I had been found. What a strange twist to the rules for Hide-n-Seek! My seeking may have felt fevered and relentless, but nothing equalled His finding.
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The FIND, or the BEING FOUND, far surpasses the SEEK. Unfortunately, you can't have either without the latter.
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Wholehearted. It's the impetus for all SEEKS. Without it much remains hidden, and it need not be.
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Today I think I'll wear my peach-colored tunic.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Take a Deep Breath

Hardwired into my mortal mechanism is this innate desire to hustle. It came from my mother's DNA, no doubt the result of linkage to the long line of industrious women gene pool that runs through her clan, the Grinnells.
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Mother rarely sat still, which is probably why her wee 110 pound frame never boasted of dieting. (Mine does neither - weigh 110 or not have to watch what I eat).
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But I learned a lesson from mother on this matter that is one of those unsung "aha!" tutorials: hustling is OK for short spurts, but not as a way of life. Who knew?
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Thus I'm working on my breathing exercises. In ... out ... in ... out ...
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How sweet it is to embrace my human beingness while parking my human doingness.
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I relish the guilt-free sit down.
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The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be
quietness and confidence forever.
My people will live in
peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
Isaiah 32:17-18
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Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Hidden Things

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We loved cherries, both my son - Brad - and I. And it was our good fortune to have been blessed with a prolific, fruit-bearing cherry tree in the backyard of the house we had been renting.
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He was just a little guy at the time, three. Even so, he knew to ask for cherries when inspired by his palate. Dutifully, as any good mother, I would fill a bowl with them, often climbing the tree to get to the newest fruit. We'd then eat them along with our breakfast.
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On one such morning it occurred to me, right after we'd consumed vast sums of the juicy delights, that I hadn't washed them. So before putting away the remainder I dumped them into the sink, and then proceeded to fill the sink with water. I left them to soak a bit, but when I returned to finish my chore I nearly fainted dead away. Worms. A few here and there, but worms none-the-less.
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One-by-one I began picking through & breaking open the fruit. You guessed it: wormy throughout! Beyond the revulsion I felt, there was no real harm done, for neither he nor I experienced any negative side effects. My stomach still churns, though, just thinking about our meal of worms.
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That scene came to mind just recently when I experienced another sort of aftershock.
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I have been very careful with my diet of late. With the help of a physician I've begun the monumental task of lowering my cholesterol naturally (without the use of statin drugs). That means lots and lots of vegetables, some fruit, and precious little meat/chicken/fish. I can have coffee & tea (phew!). But it also means an absence of dairy & carbs - including sugar of any iteration.
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I've been totally OK with the regimen, except I've grown weary with water. So, in quintessential Sassy-fashion, I took matters into my own hands. Crystal Light would be my new water additive of choice.
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Well, several days downstream my body was telling me that something was not right. I began assessing what I'd eaten in the prior 72 hours and could come up with nothing that would cause the little niggling that felt to me an awful lot like craving (like one might expect an addict to feel towards a much needed drug). What had been an easy regimen now got hard. I was downright hungry, where I'd not been in the days prior.
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Something had gone amok. I looked further.
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Eventually I began reading ingredients on the Crystal Light packaging, and there ... right before my eyes but in the tiniest of print, read: aspartame. A sugar iteration! I had found the culprit, and once eradicated, my body gladly settled back into a state of contentedness (at least relative contentedness for one missing their ice cream).
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So what's the connection between the two?
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Here were two examples (among many) wherein I had chosen to ingest something that was, in fact, not what it appeared to be, or not good for me. It wasn't until hindsight was brought to bear that I gained wisdom, but I could as easily have gained that wisdom by investigating further - ahead of time - using foresight.
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The stories shared are harmless, and human. But the link to the spiritual isn't quite so harmless. Thus I wonder how many things I've ingested, or believed because I didn't investigate them further? Worse, what have I taken in that totally does not line up with God's word?
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Granted, many things in this life are hidden in the fine print, as was my aspartame; or obscured by a shiny red surface, as were my cherries. Besides. who or what comes running with the proclamation: "Look here, I'm a deception."?
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But alas, I was the one that swallowed both the aspartame and the cherries - the deceptions - and I dare say they went down so easy.
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Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 4:23
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For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by
the commandment, deceived me, and through
the commandment put me to death.
Romans 7:11
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Finally, brothers, whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or
praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8
..

Thursday, June 4, 2009

From the Sumerian Plains

I rarely begin a post with a warning, or a disclaimer. Today I want you to know that what follows is bound to be controversial. I mean it to be, but by no means does that motive include the desire to be hurtful. Many of my friends are atheist or marginal believers. If that's you, you might want to pass on today's post ...
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Many things come full circle. For example: a satellite's orbit; a theater in-the-round; one's sphere of influence.
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It intrigues me to think how man's beliefs have done likewise.
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Going back to the earliest evidence associated with man's history, clear through to today, we find a plethera of worldviews. However, if you synthesize them to their lowest common denominator you have two: pagan and God worshipper (the One True God). In either category comes the aforementioned plethera, but the bottom line remains the same.
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We pride ourselves on our advanced civilization and scientific savvy. We fly about the universe and mine the sea's depths. Many things are revered; sometimes they include God, but mostly it's man. Our enchantments fall on the altar of today's gods, typically those associated with robust enlightenment, like reason, or science (or movie making). And even that isn't new. We can travel back to ancient Egypt to know that their scientific and intellectual emphasis gave way to some of the most amazing of man's discoveries (right up until it couldn't save them from demise).
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In the end, it still boils down to who's going to rule: God or man?
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Of late I've been considering those other times, other gods (or lack thereof) - - Marduk, Bel, Ashtoreth, Baal and the many others that are as alive today as they were then, some 4,000+ years ago. Advocates of an anti-theist worldview, and even some liberal self-proclaimed believers, actually point to them as proof-positive that the God of the Bible is not exclusive in His claim to be the Sovereign Creator. They say He is one among the many, and His word as mythical as theirs. Afterall, every ancient civilization has their creation stories (as if that alone is impeachment-worthy).
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It's come full circle. And when it all boils down in the apologetic arena, there are but two choices: you either believe in the God of the Bible, or you don't. You either take Him at His word, or you don't.
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But to toss Him altogether, no matter how classy one's civilized worldview might appear to be, is still paganism. It needn't entail naked blood rituals beneath a full moon.
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Today's unbelief looks remarkably pristine.
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It's as deadly nonetheless.
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Shrines

Typically I don't sit around reading from the Book of Habakkuk for entertainment. To make my way to his somewhat obscure placement in the scriptures, I've got to be fairly intentional. So, for some odd reason I recently decided to pay him a visit.

I hadn't been reading but a few seconds when a passage wrapped it's muscled grip around me and refused to release me. I read, then re-read the following passage several times before closing my eyes to consider the timeless implications.
..
The wicked foe pulls all of them (God's people)
up with hooks; he catches them in his net;
he gathers them up in his dragnet;
and so he rejoices and is glad..
Therefore he sacrifices to
his dragnet, for by his net
he lives in luxury
and enjoys the choicest food.
Habakkuk 1:15-16
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At face value that seems pretty darn ridiculous. The thing used - in this case a fishnet - had become a god merely because it facilitated victory, and gained prosperity. A full-on shrine was dedicated to it, and the rest is history.
..
By now I'm curious what Merriam might say about shrines. I believe I know the answer, but it's never a waste of time to ascertain a certain definition. Comparing options to the scripture referenced, it is clear that #3 is our best bet ...
..
1 a: a case, box, or receptacle; especially one in which sacred relics are deposited, or b: a place in which devotion is paid to a saint or deity (sanctury or niche containing religious imagary
2 a: a receptacle (as a tomb) for the dead
3 a place or object hallowed by its associations

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Why would anyone pay homage to a fishnet?
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For man to be created in the image
of God is very awesome.
For God to be created in the image
of man is very comfortable.
Marvin Lubenow, Bones of Contention
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It's rather amazing how appropriate are the analogies of hooks and nets!
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I don't think Habakkuk's done working on me yet.
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Monday, June 1, 2009

Leavin' On a Jet Plane

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Well, my days here in the sunny, warm Pacific Northwest (a rare delight for marine grey sky/mist-dwellers) has come to an end.
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I've been here since mid-week, last week to spend time with my 12 year old granddaughter while my daughter's been out-of-town. And, since all my other children & grandchildren live here too, it's afforded opportunity to go from Nanny to Granny and back again (no Sassy around the children!). In fact, hubby was here on business already, so he was able to join us for the weekend.
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Trip highlights? A few ...
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  • Watching in silent awe as my granddaughter went about her early morning regimen so skillfully; from making & packing her lunch, to handling her chores. What a responsible young lady she's become!
  • Spending last Thursday with my dearest & oldest high
    school friend, Marilyn; visiting old & new memories; tales of children &
    grandchildren; comparing aging processes; lots of laughter.
  • Watching hubby putter around our daughter's home as the Tool Time Mr. Fix-It (that man can do anything!).
  • Spending all day Saturday with family at Silver Lake. Boating, kayaking, swimming, sun-bathing (them, not me), BBQing, Bocce Ball (I've got to get me one of those games!), and just plain old-fashioned family interaction (do brothers ever stop tormenting each other?).
  • Hangin' with my granddaughter after hubby left yesterday; taking in the new movie: "Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian". Such a rich ending to my stay here.
  • This morning's silence. My daughter returned late last night and, as yet, the house is asleep (come to think of it, most of the world is asleep). This quiet reverie allows me to consider them, and this time I've had ... and to be grateful.

It won't be long and we'll pack up to head north to the airport. My bags are heavier than when I arrived, filled now with the rich stuff one cannot buy ... memories.
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See you in Phoenix!
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(Pictures: Left/Kelly, Rylie, Allie, Me, Kaden/Eric. Right/Me, Brad, hubby/Terry, Kelly)