Friday, December 30, 2011

Ring In the True

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Many of you shared some rather inspiring, if not altogether humorous grown-up Christmas lists this season.  So it's quite likely you're crafting an equally grown-up New Year's list of resolutions, wishful thinking, intentions.  I know I am.

I like that word:  intentions.  It speaks of responsibility & accountability; of purposefulness; of will. It's the antithesis of leaving things to chance, or of expecting that someone else will fulfill my intentions.  

By being intentional, it means I have skin in the game.  It means I'm willing to pay the price (ostensibly, because I've counted the cost) for those things I've selected, a willingness that means there can be no playing of the blame game.

For many weeks now I've been making notes in my journal, collecting ideas & scriptures, considering where I've been (the rearview mirror), and wondering where I'd like to go.  No ... that's not quite true.  I've actually been wondering what it is that the Lord has in mind for the next steps of my journey.   Rightly or wrongly, I have concluded that 2012 is long stretch.

Crafting a grown up New Year's list is no easy task, but in order to ring in the true, it is well worth the exercise! 

A person’s steps are directed by the LORD.
How then can anyone understand their own way? 
Proverbs 20:24

 LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own;
   it is not for them to direct their steps. 
Jeremiah 20:23

This is true:  I'll have no more to say here for 2011.  The pages on the year are now sealed, a calligraphy'd "The End" emblazoned on their backside.  Therein lies all the adventures, joys, challenges, sorrows, frustrations, learning, memory-making, concerns, curiosities and losses of a year now packaged for history.  From now on, to get at them I'll have to again use the rearview mirror - - not all bad if I'll be honest with myself.  And quite good if I'll acknowledge just how much I owe to the Lord in their coming-and-going.   Sometimes blessings actually hide amidst a loss or a frustration, which is often overlooked until the passage of time seasons such. 

This is also true:  I'll return in 2012 and, hopefully, have much to share within the pages of this entirely new book.  Fresh starts are just that, fresh.  I will also be around to collect those things that are born of your grown-up New Year's list.

Farewell 2011.

Above all else, guard your heart,
or everything you do flows from it. 
Keep your mouth free of perversity; 
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead; 
fix your gaze directly before you. 
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways. 
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil. 
Proverbs 4:23-27   

For last year's words belong to last year's language 
and next year's words await another voice. 
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~ T. S. Eliot

Monday, December 26, 2011

Life in the Rearview Mirror

There comes a time when you have to choose between turning the page and closing the book
~ Josh Jameson

Have you ever noticed the little words imprinted on your car's rearview mirrors: "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear." ?  Apparently it's a warning in order that understand the device's peculiarities in order to benefit from its usefulness.  It's an aid for navigation; one that can also compensate for the vehicle's blind spot.  And don't we all loathe that vacant void that isn't, in reality, so very void at all?!

Interesting wisdom.

I'm not a huge fan of hindsight.  I've been told it's 20/20, whereas foresight is much less accurate.  Not sure who coined that particular factoid, but it's highly suspect, if you ask me.  I would much prefer to choose rightly going forward rather than have to assess what I'd done - rightly or wrongly - by looking back, especially by looking back via a rearview mirror.  Not only do things look closer from than perspective, but the blind spots are much more troublesome.

Forwards or backwards, I still don't know what I don't know.  I am forced (dare I say, blessed?) to be dependant upon maps & signage; upon a certain degree of trust in road maintenance crews & Highway Patrolmen.  Then there are those items that are simply part of the journey and not to be fussed over too intensely.

2011 is swiftly melting away like Frosty on a too-warm day.  Already my reflections cause its nearly 365 days to look closer than they are in reality.  How do I know that?  Because 2011's days are nearly ended when it seems they just began!  Then there's the fact that I'm always 32 years old in my rearview mirror.  That may well be due to a blind spot, if not the mirror's "closer than they look" peculiarity.    

Hindsight is rarely 20/20, no matter what they (whoever they are) tell us.  Oh, I do believe I see things a bit more clearly ... perhaps.  Then again, distortion is ever a hazard.   Rearview stuff always means I have to take my eyes off the road which is, in turn, rather dangerous all by itself. 

Still, I take stock of all that lays behind so I can navigate more intelligently going forward.   Theoretically I'll then know best when & how to make a turn, or to pass, or hit the brakes.  I'll not be inclined to run off the road or take a detour that may well lead me into hazardous realms. 

I best remember all the benefits & drawbacks of the rearview mirror's positioning.  It's a tool ... nothing more, nothing less.  And how I use it will determine which category it falls into. 

Interesting wisdom.

  Just because it's not what you were expecting,
doesn't mean it's not everything you've been waiting for...
~ Unknown


Sunday, December 25, 2011

For Unto Us

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
Those who live in a dark land,
the light will shine on them.”
(Isaiah 9:2)

The image of light is central,
not only to Christmas, but to Christianity.

Jesus said: “I am the Light of the world;
he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness,
but will have the Light of life.”
(John 8:12) 
This is the sum and substance of Christmas.
The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.
Those who have lived in a dark land have now experienced
the shining of the Light of life.
~ Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

In the right light, at the right time,
everything is extraordinary. 
~Aaron Rose

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bedford Falls or Pottersville?

This guest blogger doesn't even know I've designated him so.  However, what he crafts here is, as they say: "spot on"! 

I don't know this guy, but I like him.  Or I should say, I like what he has to say ...

My Take: When Bedford Falls Becomes Pottersville

By Larry Alex Taunton, Special to CNN

My favorite Christmas movie is, unquestionably, Frank Capra’s 1946 feel-good flick "It’s a Wonderful Life." Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed play George and Mary Bailey, a happy couple living a life of genteel poverty in the small American town of Bedford Falls.

George is a kind and generous man. He is active in his community and in the war effort. Most importantly, George is all that stands between the town’s mean old man, Mr. Potter, and the demise of all that is good in Bedford Falls.

As financial pressures crowd in on poor George, he begins to question his value to the community. So much so, that he wishes he had never been born. To demonstrate to George the folly of his wish, an angel is sent to give him a glimpse of what Bedford Falls would look like if that wish were granted. In Dickensian fashion, the angel takes him from one scene in that small town to another. The difference is stark. Indeed, Bedford Falls isn’t even Bedford Falls anymore, but a place called Pottersville. The town’s main street is a red-light district, crime is rampant, and life there is coarsened.

When George, in desperation, turns to the angel, seeking an explanation for these drastic changes, the angel says, “Why, George, it’s because you were never born!”

According to a recent poll conducted by The Hill, 69% of voters think America is in decline, and 83% say they are worried about the country’s future. And that has generated a lot of finger-pointing: Republicans blame President Obama; Obama blames Republicans; environmentalists blame industrialization; the “Occupy” people blame everybody who isn’t occupying something - most of us agree that there is a problem, but efforts to identify the source of it are incomplete, misguided or downright evil.

The problems of human society are the problems of human nature, wrote "Lord of the Flies" author William Golding. Indeed. This was the discovery of the monastics. Seeking to escape the evil of the world, they found instead a doctrine central to Christianity: that evil is innate to us all. History tells us that a given philosophy, creed or religion will either restrain our darker impulses or exacerbate them, but escape them we cannot. Not in this life, anyway.

So what will save us from ourselves and preserve human dignity and life in the societies we create? Democracy? Socialism? Stitching up the ozone?

These days, there is a lot of talk about religion - Christianity in particular - and its role in public life. Whether it is protesting Nativities, the debate over “In God We Trust” as our country’s motto or the controversy surrounding the public faith of Tim Tebow, a national discussion is taking place on what the present and future role of Christianity in America should be. The consensus among the secular elites seems to be that it is a bit like smoking: It is harmful, but if you must do it, do it in the designated areas only. Richard Dawkins, the Oxford scientist and atheist provocateur, calls Christianity a “mental virus” that should be eradicated.

The professor should be more careful in what he wishes for. Like many others, he grossly underestimates the degree to which his own moral and intellectual sensibilities have been informed by the Judeo-Christian worldview.

"It’s a Wonderful Life" is a fitting metaphor for a nation absent Christian belief. Jesus Christ said that his followers were to be like “salt”; that is, a people whose presence is felt for the good that they do. As a man or woman’s evil nature is gentled and restrained by the grace of God, there is a corresponding outward transformation of society. The data bears this out. According to the research of The Barna Group, Christians are the most charitable segment of the population by a substantial margin. Hence, any society that is liberally sprinkled with them has a greater concern for the poor, sick, orphaned and widowed - “the least of these,” as Jesus called them. (This is precisely what Nietzsche, and Hitler after him, hated about Christianity.)

But Christian influence goes well beyond benevolence: Our laws, art, literature and institutions find meaning in a rich Christian heritage. In his new book "Civilization: The West and the Rest," Harvard historian Niall Ferguson argues that the decline of the West can, in part, be attributed to the decline of a robust Christian presence in Western culture. Ferguson’s point is largely an economic one, but the inference that Christianity has served to strengthen the fabric of life in the West as we have known it is unmistakable. T.S. Eliot made a similar observation: “If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes.”

That is just another way of saying that the difference between a nation with meaningful Christian influence and a nation without it is the difference between Bedford Falls and Pottersville.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Larry Alex Taunton

SOURCE:  CNN's Belief Blog

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Merry Christmas

From my house to yours comes this 
heartfel expression of Christmas joy. 

May it be a season of silent & holy nights;
of wonders & grace.

May you find riches & treasures
among your loved ones near & far.

May you & yours forge
new memories, new bonds.

May we all love the Lord more
than we did last year, or yesterday.

What a gift each of you has
become to me - - among the very best
of my delights this season.

Merry Christmas 


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Uncompromised Pruning Process

Pruning your roses is easy, but it's like so many things in life, you need to do it regularly, every year in fact, to see results.

... some people just shear their roses about half way down and leave it at that. The problem with doing this is that you have not removed old dead wood, or suckers, or cleaned out built up debris, and in time, I think, you compromise the health of your plants and the quality of your flowers.

So skip the short cuts, and prune your roses properly and you'll be rewarded with really gorgeous flowers.

The above text came directly from a gardening website (link below), as did the exact details for carrying out the actual pruning process.  I rather believe God Himself penned this piece because He NEVER compromises or takes short cuts - which is to say:  "We can be assured of the unrivaled beauty of the blooms to come." 

From a barren & seemingly dead sprig of wood grows a sublime flower and - with it - a fragrance equally so. 

Source:  The Weekend Gardener

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Season's Wisdom

The most trustworthy statement that we will
ever know is that Christ Jesus came into the world
to save sinners.
That, above all other declarations,
deserves full acceptance.
This is far more than the reason for the season,
it is the only reason for our hope.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen his glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth,” declared John (John 1:14).
“While we were still sinners, Christ dies for us” (Romans 5:8).
~ Albert Mohler

Christmas.  I absolutely relish all things about it, from glitz to glitter; from Balsam to cinnamon.  Twinkle lights still captivate me.  The sounds of my favorite tunes sweep me away to precious memories new & old.  With the season's progress, my mother & father are alive; my own children still small.  Laughter decks the halls of my soul.  Well worn traditions settle in like a blanket of new fallen snow.  Savory delights torment my determination to be disciplined.

  It is good to be children sometimes,
and never better than at Christmas when
its mighty Founder was a child Himself. 
~ Charles Dickens 

I welcome the season's onset, and I mourn when the tinsel is no longer tinseling.

Yet it is here in these quiet morning hours -- with soft light & a bedazzled tree to accompany me -- I am awed anew by the strange way in which God chose to save all who would believe, and me among them.  

No hoops. 
No religious ceremony or ritual. 
No "ten steps to gaining God's attention & favor".   
No good works or self-prescribed misery.  

Just an invitation to come, just as I am.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest. 
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. 
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” 
Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus answered,
“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me." 
John 14:6

Is it any wonder that wise men still seek Him?

At Christmas, all roads lead home. 
~ Marjorie Holmes

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Resolving to Resolve

It's a powerful little word, resolve.  When I hear or read it I immediately think legalese; about how "I hereby & hereunder do, to wit, to resolve ...", as if selling a parcel of land, or turning over an estate to some worthy beneficiary, or issuing a penalty sentence.  

In both of its verb states (transitive & intransitive), resolve has facets that vary, like the facets or surfaces of a diamond.  Those facets give it its powerful appointment; and what they have in common is this:  they determine or form a resolution; deliberate & conclude. 

Resolve shows up in our English vernacular in the 14th century, where it derives from the Latin word resolvere.  That is to say:  to unloose; dissolve.  Thus is has the potential for being powerfully positive, or powerfully negative.  Like any choice we make, what we resolve has far-reaching implications. 

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself
with the royal food and wine,
and he asked the chief official for permission
not to defile himself this way. 
Daniel 1:8  (NIV)

Other translations render the word "purposed" or "determined".  But whatever translation you use, the word is decidedly decided! 

If you (religious leaders) do not listen,
and if you do not
resolve to honor my name,”
says the LORD Almighty,
“I will send a curse on you,
and I will curse your blessings.
Yes, I have already cursed them,
because you have not resolved to honor me.
Malachi 2:2

Today I want to resolve to resolve some things.   I'm not talking New Year's Resolutions here ... We all know how they typically go anyway (unresolved).   I'm also not talking big things, but all the little ways in which I might be compromising.   An accumulation of small stuff can become quite a mound.

I'll take Daniel's resolve over the leader's un-resolve any day.   Trouble is, the latter is far easier than the former.

Who, then, are those who fear the LORD?
He will instruct them in the
ways they should choose. 
They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land. 
The LORD confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
Psalm 25:12-14


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Granny Go-Go

With all of December's customary doings, I've added Nanny-Granny (not "ninny") to mine.  For the past week I've been hanging out (code for chauffeur, shopping advisor, chef, fan) with my 15 year old granddaughter while a certain set of parents vacation in Hawaii for ten days (poor dears). 

I'll leave here this week to pick up the Nanny Train again with yet another set of grandchildren while certain other parents celebrate their anniversary with a four day, cross country skiing getaway. 

In the midst of it all, I drop by home to gather my wits & enjoy a bit of time with hubby.  He has opted out of my current adventure.  Mostly he's delighted to have the channel tuner all to himself.

Grandchildren are God's way of
compensating us for growing old. 
~Mary H. Waldrip

As I made my way to school on Thursday for the fourth trip in one day, the thought occurred to me that I used to do all this stuff all the time, times three - - AND work full time.  Little wonder my unusually congenial & amazingly patient personna was anything BUT in those long-ago days.  Like trying to master the Rubix Cube, I'm still wondering how I did it?   It's pointless. 

There are many best parts to all of this, and only a few worst ones.  Being out of my routine, not getting my daily dose of 4 miles walking, eating on the fly & sitting for long periods has damaged the bath scale.  The worst part?  The darn thing is reading about 5 - 8 pounds too high.  Ugh!

Anyway, given my residence in reality I'm doing precious little visiting via the virtual.  Thus the Blogosphere suffers and, with it, my connection to friends here.   

I'll return ... of THAT you can be certain!   Hopefully the bath scales will be fixed by then.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Winter's Charm

The color of springtime is in the flowers,
 the color of winter is in the imagination. 
~Terri Guillemets

It won't be long and many of you will be hosting pictures & tales of of winterscapes.  Some of you are already dreaming of a white Christmas.  Likely I won't be joining you.  You see, Winter in the Pacific Northwest - at least along the coastal regions - is mostly wet.  Our soupy naturescapes find it difficult to compete with Winter-Wonderlands.

Yet from where I perch I am ever reminded of Winter's glories.  Forever reigning over the valleys Orting, Sumner, Puyallup & others is the stately, 14,000' Mt. Rainier.  Winter has arrived up there.  I know.  I can see if from my perch.

I thought by now I'd surely be homesick for Arizona's sunny skies and warm climes.  Afterall, wet is a condition that often accompanies gray & gloomy.  No such thing exists in Arizona.  So far, homesickness has not afflicted me; and many a day I find myself enraptured anew by God's unique touches on the water soaked sod beneath Mt. Rainier's gaze and my feet.   

Oh well, it's never too foolish to dream of a white Christmas.  They're rare here, but not impossible.  My mind & heart are spattered with memories of them from my childhood, and from the childhoods of my own children.  Laughter accompanies such thoughts.

So I look to the hills, watch the temperatures, and dream a little dream or two.   Never mind checking signals with our weather prognosticators.  They're customarily wrong anyway - -   false prophets of the worst sort.

Should I grow tired of dreaming, I can always don my snow boots and head to the hills, where I can be absolutely certain Winter is living out it's destiny.

Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.
~Bill Morgan, Jr.

In the depth of  Winter, I finally learned
that within me lay an invincible Summer. 
~ Albert Camus