Sunday, November 13, 2011


I'm following the trickling crowd over to wordpress ... we'll see about the permanence of the situation, but I'm at least going to give it a try. Follow me there, if you like.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

home school blindspots

"In the last couple of years, I have heard from multitudes of troubled homeschool parents around the country, a good many of whom were leaders. These parents have graduated their first batch of kids, only to discover that their children didn't turn out the way they thought they would. Many of these children were model homeschoolers while growing up, but sometime after their 18th birthday they began to reveal that they didn't hold to their parents' values..."

(click on the photo to read the rest of this article on Josh Harris's blog.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

never too far gone

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou
lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou
shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
Mark 10:21

The love of Christ towards sinners.
This is a truth which is brought out in the expression used by St. Mark, when in his account of this man's story, he says that 'Jesus beholding him loved  him.' That love, beyond doubt, was a love of pity and compassion. Our Lord beheld with pity the strange mixture of earnestness and ignorance which the case before Him presented. He saw with compassion a soul struggling with all the weakness and infirmity entailed by the fall; the conscience ill at ease and sensible that it wanted relief - the understanding sunk in darkness, and blinded as to the first principles of spiritual religion. Just as we look with sorrow at some noble ruin, roofless, and shattered, and unfit for man's use, yet showing many a mark of the skill with which it was designed and reared at first, so may we suppose that Jesus looked with tender concern at this man's soul.

We must never forget that Jesus feels love and compassion for the souls of the ungodly. Without controversy He feels a peculiar love for those who hear His voice and follow Him. They are His sheep, given to Him by the Father, and watched with a special care. They are His ride, joined to Him in an everlasting covenant, and dear to Him as part of Himself. But the heart of Jesus is a wide heart. He has abundance of pity, compassion, and tender concern even for those who are following sin and the world. He who wept over unbelieving Jerusalem is still the same: He would still gather into His bosom the ignorant and self-righteous, the faithless and impenitent, if they were only willing to be gathered.

We may boldly tell the chief of sinners that Christ loves him (Matt. 23:37). Salvation is ready for the worst of men, if they will only come to Christ. If men are lost, it is not because Jesus does not love them, and is not ready to save. His own solemn words unravel the mystery: 'men have loved darkness rather than light.' 'Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life' (John 3:19, 5:40).

- from another entry in the same book as last time

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

will you go away sorrowful?

And, behold, one came and said unto him, 
Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may  have eternal life?
Matthew 19:16

A person may have desires after salvation, and yet not be saved.

Here is one who in a day of abounding unbelief comes of his own accord to Christ. He comes not to have a sickness healed; he comes not to plead about a child: he comes about his own soul. He opens the conference with the frank question, 'Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' Surely we might have thought, 'This is a promising case: this is no prejudiced ruler or Pharisee: this is a hopeful inquirer.' Yet by and by this very young man goes 'away sorrowful'; and we never read a word to show that he was converted! We must never forget that good feelings alone in religion are not the grace of God. We may know the truth intellectually; we may often feel pricked in conscience; we may have religious affections awakened within us, have many anxieties about our souls and shed many tears: but all this is not conversion. It is not the genuine saving work of the Holy Ghost.

Unhappily this is not all that must be said on this point. Not only are good feelings alone not grace, but they are even positively dangerous, if we content ourselves with them, and do not act as well as feel. It is a profound remark of that mighty master on moral questions, Bishop Butler, that passive impressions, often repeated, gradually lose all their power; actions, often repeated, produce a habit in man's mind; feelings often indulged in, without leading to corresponding actions, will finally exercise no influence at all.

Let us apply this lesson to our own state. Perhaps we know what it is to feel religious fears, wishes and desires. Let us beware that we do not rest in them. Let us never be satisfied till we have the witness of the Spirit in our hearts, that we are actually born again and new creatures; let us never rest till we know that we have really repented, and laid hold on the hope set before us in the gospel. It is good to feel; but it is far better to be converted.

- from "Day by Day," a devotional collection of J.C. Ryle's writings 

love, joy, and spit milk

(an article by Douglas Jones)

Where Christ reigns humor and laughter are sure to prevail. We shouldn't even hesitate to say that laughers will inherit the earth. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks," and nothing expresses the deep triumph of Christian joy better than laughter tumbling out on all sides. Somewhere even Goethe recognized that "Men show their characters in nothing more clearly than in what they think laughable." And if we are Christians, then joy, humility, and gratitude should lead us to burst with hearty laughter. And I'm not just speaking of "pious" chuckles over "polite" quips or self-righteous sneering. True joy finds humor in all the weird details of life - the curse of broccoli, the dullness of males, the cruelty of insurance forms, and the tragedy of English cooking. Humor tells us so much about our hearts.

Terry Lindvall recently said it so well,
Laughter is a divine gift to the human who is humble. A proud man cannot laugh because he must watch his dignity; he cannot give himself over to the rocking and rolling of his belly. But a poor and happy man laughs heartily because he gives no serious attention to his ego.
In a similar note, G.K. Chesterton remarked,
As long as a man is merely witty he can be quite dignified; in other words, as long as he is witty he can be entirely solemn. But if he is mirthful he at once abandons dignity, which is another name for solemnity, which is another name for spiritual pride ... And a man must love a joke more than himself, or he will not surrender pride for it. A man must take what is called a leap in the dark, as he does when he is married or when he dies, or when he is born, or when he does almost anything else that is important.
The prideful don't give in to humor. And we should rightly learn to be suspicious of people and ministries that are not characterized by genuine humor (not Toronto laugh-spasms). They're showing us their heart. The humor doesn't have to be good to be humble. Bad jokes are far more humbling than good ones. (But for your friends' sake, do remember Paul's advice, "Shall we continue in bad jokes that grace may abound? Certainly not!" - Col. 5:2)

Laughter reveals not only joy, humility, and gratitude, but also patience and mercy. Cold reason (not wisdom) demands neatly brushed and hermetically sealed answers. But tidy rationalism isn't Christian. Christians should know that mystery surrounds us, that the secret things belong to the Lord, that we see through a glass darkly, and that golf is still legal.

Laughter rejoices in unresolved problems. It doesn't seek a clean repair job but rejoices in the incongruities of life. That's why explaining a joke often ruins it. Germans can illustrate this point well. John Morreal recounts the story of a single-pane comic strip published in a German magazine in the 1940's. The strip showed two skiers, one staring in amazement at the other whose ski tracks cut smoothly around both sides of a tree. Many Germans actually "wrote in with their 'solutions' to it. Instead of being amused by the drawing, they took it as a cognitive challenge."

Laughter doesn't demand a calculus for everything. It is the fruit of patience with an often mysterious world full of people at different levels skipping in different directions. Laughter reveals a state of rest within us. Flannery O'Connor observed that "Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe." Laughter in no way excludes truth, careful argumentation, thoughtful distinctions, and the rest, but it won't allow you to throw a fit and break the little wagon wheels when no one wants a ride.

Is your life characterized by shiploads of laughter? - not constant, boorish laughter oblivious to the pains and fastings of life, but easy laughter from the heart? Does laughter prevail in your family? At work? At church? If not, then pride and ingratitude are probably lurking somewhere. It's worth looking into. Life is short and the days are evil. Why miss the best parts of it? Pursue laughter seriously.

Why Do We Laugh?
A barrel of snoots will always tell us that defining and analyzing humor is a pastime of humorless people. That's certainly true of individual jokes but not of humor in general. We certainly don't say that sort of thing about music. In fact we say the opposite: the more we understand about music, the more we can appreciate it. I'm sure this is false in regard to humor, but the temptation is just too great to avoid.

Three theories of whywe laugh at something have held sway over the millennia, with each being snipped and qualified in interesting ways hundreds of times. In the most general groupings, the three theories are Superiority, Release, and Incongruity. I think Christianity has something distinctive which excludes the first two.

Superiority theories suggest that all laughter necessarily involves a feeling of triumph and superiority or "sudden glory" as Thomas Hobbes argued. This seems to fit with old jokes like: What do you get by crossing a Californian with a gorilla? A retarded gorilla. But though feelings of superiority cause some laughter, and Don Rickles types have made a career of it, it doesn't appear to be central to every kind of laughter. When babies laugh at tickling or a stuffed cow on dad's head, do they have deep feelings of superiority? Well, okay, maybe for the cow hat, but not for the tickling.

The Release theory of humor suggests that we laugh when we need to vent excess nervous energy. Some jokes surely do this. In its more Freudian version, laughter releases energy normally used to suppress forbidden feelings and thoughts. Release theories usually rest on passing scientific fads about bodily energies, but they also don't take into account all examples of humor. Take the following Steven Wright line: "Why is it a penny for your thoughts, but you have to put your two cents in? Somebody's making a penny." If you find that mildly humorous, where is the suppressed nervous energy in that? What forbidden feelings are we venting? And again, when infants laugh, we can hardly charge them with overactive Superegos. We could only wish.

The Superiority and Relief theories fail rather decisively I think to grasp the heart of laughter. Heaven will be a place of great laughter, and yet it will also be a place of freedom without sin. But both these theories involve sinful drives - human superiority and forbidden thoughts - which will be wonderfully absent in the future state. Nonetheless, our perceptions of incongruity between glorification and the previous life or between divine perfection and our own finitude will stand out sharply. Humor will prevail.

This bodes well for the most popular theory of laughter, the Incongruity theory - the view that laughter results from a pleasant psychological shift. In other words, we are amused when something clashes with our expectations of regularity. The world runs according to certain patterns, and then we suddenly find something out of place, facing the wrong direction. So inside we say "No, that's not how it goes!" and express this with laughter. Now not all incongruities are pleasant. If they are frightening, say, an odd bump in the night or a stranger in our bedroom, then we don't laugh but scream. Horror and laughter may not be that far apart. Puzzles in life - like the occultic incantations necessary for plumbing - are incongruities too, but they aren't usually funny (until years later). Laughter demands pleasant incongruities, and our judgments of these vary widely. That's why we don't all laugh at the same things.

Incongruity - that "No that's not right!" delight - is evident in Fran Lebowitz's observation that "Being a woman is of special interest only to aspiring male transsexuals. To actual women, it is merely a good excuse not to play football." Another case of strong incongruity occurs in Monty Python's movie, In Search of the Holy Grail, long an underground favorite in Reformed circles (yes, I know the objections; put your hands down). Consider this dialogue in which King Arthur questions some medieval peasants:

ARTHUR: How do you do, good lady. I am Arthur, King of the Britons. Whose castle is that?
WOMAN: King of the who?
ARTHUR: The Britons.
WOMAN: Who are the Britons?
ARTHUR: Well, we all are. We're all Britons and I am your king.
WOMAN: I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
DENNIS: You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship. A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes--
[The discussion heats up more and then:]
ARTHUR: Shut up! Will you shut up! (Arthur throttles democratic Dennis)
DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! HELP! HELP! I'm being repressed!

Children's laughter too can be explained via incongruity. The drinking straws don't normally stick out of dad's nose. Mom doesn't usually hang upside down from the sofa. Things are out of order, and the child laughs. Of course, if you're too incongruous, you terrify children, but this is a worthy price for parental comedy. Little children themselves are the funniest things on the face of the earth. They are incongruous aliens in our world - little humans who don't know the rules or how things work. Their eyes are too big for their heads. They put electrical plugs in their mouths, and they try to brush their hair with spatulas. And when they are three, they often have ludicrous explanations of the world. At that age, my son once explained - with a deep scientific frown - that milk comes from a cow's butt.

Always the Limits
Not all comedy is pretty. Much certainly violates biblical norms (Eph. 5:4; Ex. 20:7). Contemporary, sentimental evangelicalism tends to sin in the other direction though, being embarrassed at any Christian laughter. A sinful sentimentalism also clamors against the legitimacy of holy ridicule. Some claim that any sort of ridicule is unloving and unChristlike. One wonders what Bible they are reading. The Father (Ps. 2:2, 4), the Son (Matt. 23), Elijah (1 Kgs. 18:27), and others reveal the necessity of ridiculing arrogance. Bold arrogance against God deserves ridicule. Who do the arrogant think they are to raise themselves up against God and His Christ? But you can almost hear some Christians complaining against Christ's rude treatment of the Pharisees or Elijah's harsh attitude toward the priests of Baal.

At the base of all our laughter, even our holy ridicule, stands an overwhelming joy - a joy that pushes us to laugh aloud at the glorious incongruities of life. Our joy is the joy of triumph. We were dead, but now we live! We were abandoned, but God became flesh! How can we not shout and laugh in triumphant joy? I will never forget the best picture of this sort of triumphant laughter. My wife was giving birth to our fourth child, but things weren't going well. The pain was especially bad, and the time seemed to drag. I was of little help by her bedside. I couldn't take her pain, though I wanted to. Her body became rather badly mangled in the process, but just before our new son finally made his painful entrance into the world, my wife laughed and laughed, again and again, heartily and triumphantly like one finding a prodigal son. The tears were gone, and laughter prevailed - incarnational laughter.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

33 minutes that will rock your world

Until today, I've had this sort of meaningless hangup about including photos or videos in my blog life. I inflicted myself with the vague challenge to always aim for posts written well and clearly enough to not need such crutches. I haven't abandoned that idea altogether, but I'm going to have to give up on it as a law, because this video has to be posted.

Actually, it's already phenomenally popular, and I'm a bit of a latecomer to the scene, so there's a fairly good chance that many or most of you have already seen this. But if you haven't, here's your chance.

I'll warn you, the video deals in part with the Holocaust, and includes some graphic imagery. It's not for children.

Prepare to have your world rocked.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

hope and change might be mutually exclusive

There's no use denying it any longer - I'm a stupidly sentimental person.

One time, a few years ago, Mom wanted to throw away this old whiteish blanket we had (in earlier days it had also incorporated other colors), which had been used and abused to the point that it finally occupied more negative space than positive. With no pretense toward melodrama, this prospect saddened me significantly. That blanket had been a part of our living room arrangement - in three or four different houses - for as long as my young brain could remember having a living room.It had always found its home cast more or less gracefully over the arm of the denim couch (now another relic of the irretrievable past). Always, that is, except for when it had to do time standing in for us kids as a wedding dress, Rapunzel's hair, a dog sled, wings, a flag, a turban, part of a tent, or a puddle of lava.

I asked Mom if I could have the blanket instead of throwing it away, and for several months I kept it wadded up in a ball under my bed. I got used to our living room without it, comforted subconsciously that it nevertheless still existed. Then I forgot that it did exist. Then, some time later, a cleaning spree turned it back up, and I found myself finally enough distanced to accept the idea of discarding the useless, old, long-beloved thing. Beloved, perhaps, merely by virtue of being owned, and even then only realized as such at the point of impending separation - but circumstances aside, still beloved.

Just writing this inspires little twinges of guilt when I recall my final decision to, yes, relegate that piece of my childhood to the trash.

In passages of more recent history (say, within the last few days), I was seized with a fit of organizational madness, and spent an evening restructuring the layout of Cami's and my undersized bedroom, in order to fit this thing here, that thing there, use this space better, and get the electric keyboard out of the kitchen. It worked out quite well, if you don't mind my saying so. (And the keyboard ended up in an empty part of Dad's  office.)

I confess, I may have inherited my Grandma's fabled furniture-moving disease. It's hard to predict where things will be in her house from one visit to the next, and I know people who find this perplexing. I am not one of them.

But I spent that night, much of the next day, and most of the evening following, thoroughly creeped out by the change. My dresser has been under the window ever since we switched bedrooms with the boys several years ago. And all of a sudden - fwoop! there it is on the opposite wall. The plain white shelves Dad built way back when, and which have more or less always been included somehow in our bedroom set, are now in another room entirely. And a weird old green chair I'm barely even acquainted with must suddenly be welcomed into our most private lives. How do we know it isn't a spy? I ask you.

But seriously. It was a little creepy and melancholy at first. I'm getting used to it. And - yes, irrelevantly - it's also made me briefly contemplate my persistent singleness in an innovative new light ... one which sheds a unique appreciation onto the fact that God has so far kept me from the good - but, by all accounts, monumentally life-altering - changes that accompany matrimony. Quite possibly a mercy in disguise, because in light of recent (and other remembered) events, I'm not at all sure I would survive them.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

new blog

In addition to the webpage you currently peruse, I have instituted the existence of another internet log - one whose purpose has so far been (and will, Lord willing, continue to be) to hold records of various quotes and book excerpts which I find particularly convicting, encouraging, insightful, useful, inspiring, sobering, applicable, good, brilliant, telling, amazing, revealing, or in any other way worth repeating.

It can be found here: In case you care.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

it all depends on how you tilt your head

Twenty-two years. Huh.

When you're little, every birthday matters - one, four, seven, nine - all of them. At ten, you hit double-digits. Thirteen makes you a teenager. You can get your driver's permit when you turn fourteen, and your license at sixteen. The doors swing open to voting (if you would) and smoking (if you must) once you're eighteen, twenty leaves the teenage years behind forever, and of course no one can wait to turn twenty-one. Goodness knows why, and so does badness.

But twenty-two? Now all that's left is to tick off the decades until I expire, I guess. And how shall we describe such a day as this?

It was a good birthday, but weird.

  •  I started off by sleeping in waaaay later than I meant or wanted to, largely because 1.) I was tired, 2.) no one woke me up, and 3.) my unconscious self kept fighting to retain its unconsciousness in order to finish a dream which now, for the life of me, I can't figure out why I would have wanted to finish. It was all about getting chased around jungles and creepy warehouse basements by a maniac who wanted to murder two of us - first with poison perfume, then when that failed with axes, mallets, and machine guns - so he could have our cars. 
  • Anyway, after that was finally all over, I woke up with just enough time to shower and rid myself of all visible cobwebs before my lovely friend came to spend part of the day. (And if you knew which part of the day she spent, you would know how late I slept; but do you think I'm going to tell you that? Yeah, me neither.)
  •  My mom made a yummy brunch, then Jessica and I went for a longish walk, during which a dog from a neighboring farm followed us for nearly four miles. Dumb dog. 
  • A little later, while we all munched a snack and chatted, the clock got off its leash and charged at a break-neck speed into the future; when I looked up again, I had five minutes to get ready, say good bye, and leave. I taught three piano lessons, grabbed a slice of pizza and a donut at the gas station, then bounded off to the community college to spend three and a half hours learning CPR. 
  • Alas and alack, I am one of those pathetic people who won't tell you it's her birthday, but will be a little sad when she reaches the end of the day and all the people she didn't tell, didn't know. I thought about mentioning it at almost every stop ... I just ... didn't. Not even to the lady at Hardee's, and certainly not to the last guy I walked past on my way out of class, who looked like he might have wanted to kill me. 
  • When I got home at 10:00, the only two family members who weren't in bed were looking at football pictures on my laptop. I hid away in Dad's office and hopelessly practiced a cello piece whose fingerings made absolutely no sense to me. And that was that.

On the other hand, however ... It was a weird birthday, but good.

  • I had a bizarre dream about almost getting murdered, but the good news is that (so far) it hasn't come true. 
  •  I slept late, but as tired as I was yesterday I must have needed it; and while I slept, Mom was slaving away at a labor-intensively lovely brunch just for me, and Jessica was trekking across the countryside with her two small children in tow, just for me. 
  • While I blearily showered, someone made my bed for me. I now realize I forgot to even ask who. When I blearily tripped downstairs, everyone sang the happy birthday song at me. While I blearily scrubbed gel into my hair and brushed my teeth, Jessica and Co. were making their way up our sidewalk and into our collective arms. 
  • They came bearing gifts: the sweetest card, beautiful stationery, scrapbooking supplies, and - ohmygoodness - dark chocolate with mint inside. 
  • I got to sit on the living room floor and not do a thing but talk to my friend and play with her baby, while my loving mother and sister spread the table with blintzes, eggs, fruit, yogurt, syrups, cheese, milk, iced tea, coffee, and chocolate-covered-cherry-flavored coffee in the french press for me. When it was ready, we ate it, and it was fabulous. Fabulous. 
  • When we were done eating it, I got chased away from the kitchen and forbidden to help clean anything up. 
  • My grandma called me, like she does every year on this day, and sang to me. 
  • Sam kept hiding away in different places, and hollering to ask Mom how to spell my name, and coming to me with folded-up drawings of me, or me and him together, or other people - and lots of letters and words he knows. 
  • Jessica, sleeping William, and I walked four miles in the clear, cool, breezy sunniness of this perfect day. Four miles on quiet gravel, rustling dry corn all around, obnoxiously friendly dogs at our heels, and the occasional truck or combine to remind us that we didn't actually own the road. 
  • There was leftover spice cake and Breyer's ice cream for a snack when we got back. 
  • A package came via UPS, with two CD's - not for me, but music I like - and their chirruppy cheeriness accompanied our cake-munching. 
  • Several cards came in the mail, and a couple of emails from sweet friends, not to mention a form email from a website where I'd forgotten I had an account. 
  • When it came time (so soon) to leave, Jessica left at the same time, and I followed her for ten miles before I came to my turn. Strangely charming.
  •  I taught three somewhat shortened, but moderately successful piano lessons, during which each student advanced slightly. 
  • And seriously - even if it's inhaled at a mad gallop down the highway, there are definitely worse suppers than pizza and donuts. 
  • I got to spend the evening learning CPR, a potential life-saver and the first step past the paperwork on the way to becoming a real, live EMT. 
  • On my way home, I bought myself a birthday shake and enjoyed it heartily, even though the Hardee's employee didn't seem to care whether I lived or died. 
  • When I got home, all my family was safe, sound, and alive, and my siblings had picked me a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers and left them in a vase on the counter, with a note. 
  • And my precious, awesome God is still drawing breath into and out of my lungs - over and over again for twenty-two years, and still tonight He holds all the intricacies of my human frailty in order. And still today, His mind-boggling promise stands - that when my little trek around this planet is over, the blood of His Son is enough to bring me home, to refashion my death into never-ending life, and to give me the task of loving, glorifying, and enjoying Him forever.

Yes, it was a bit of a weird birthday. But it was good.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

thoughts based loosely upon

As mentioned in the entry immediately preceding this one, last night found certain ones among us sitting in a darkened room, slurping (or not slurping, as the case may be) apple wine, and watching the movie "Emma." It's a good movie. I listened to Jane Austen's original tale in audiobook form once a few years ago, and from this I know that the book is good, too.

(Even today the voice of the woman who read "Emma" aloud for takes me back to a sunny afternoon one summer or fall,


All but one of our male members being absent from home last night, we ended Mom's birthday (which marks the calendar only a few days before my own) by watching Emma. Some months (maybe even a year or two) had passed since I last saw it, and I was a little taken aback at the precision with which the title character reflected my own current sentiments. Vis:
"What is the point of my being almost twenty-two when there is still so much for me to learn?"
What, indeed?

Friday, September 23, 2011

breffuss genius

Not to be perpetually posting about food - and not to brag - but I think I semi-invented something rather charming for breakfast yesterday, and it seems only right to share.

I started with an online recipe for pumpkin oatmeal, which I followed approximately. Ok, now that I look back over the recipe, 'approximate' might be too strong a word. In any case, it served as the initiating idea. Upon sampling my eventual creation, I found the pumpkinny flavor a bit much, and a little boring in spite of the cinnamon. So in went the cloves, the nutmeg, the applesauce, and the raisins. (Also a little sploosh of leftover coffee in the last few bites - I'm not positive that was the best idea ever, but it wasn't horrible.)

The end result was fabulous! I thought so, anyway. Autumn rocks the world's socks off (albeit at a time of year when the world is trying particularly hard to get its socks and other warm articles of clothing on), and this was a breakfast that tasted just like autumn in a bowl. So very lovely.

In case this madness sounds as appealing to you as it does to me, here's an approximation of a recipe.

1 C. rolled oats
scant 1/2 C. pumpkin puree
2 C. water (or milk?)
cinnamon, nutmeg, & cloves to taste
~1/3 C. applesauce or cooked apples
some raisins

Cook the oats, pumpkin, water, and spices over medium heat until it resembles a slightly goopy version of oatmeal. Stir in the apple(sauce), raisins, and whatever else you feel is fitting - drizzle with honey - and enjoy!
The delicious factor diminishes significantly when re-heated, however, so it's best to only make as much as you can eat right away. (This makes 3-4 servings.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

philosophy of a salad

Have you considered the inspiration in a list of ingredients? Consider it.

Eggs. Life on earth begins here. Men with long pipes and longer beards may sit by the fire and argue relentlessly about whether a child's soul enters a state of existence before or after conception, and where it resides, and of what it consists - but the subject of our current discourse limits itself to the infant offspring of chickens, who never are endowed with souls however long they may live. So there's little need to worry our little ponted heads (bearded or no) about that perplexing matter, at least not until after dinner. When wise, bespectacled men do argue about poultry,

the recipe

Chicken Salad

4 chicken breasts, boiled in salt water, then cut up
3 boiled eggs, chopped
2 to 3 sweet pickles, chopped
1 to 2 celery stalks, chopped
1 C. pecans (I use less - saves $$)
1 C. green grapes
1/2 C. raisins
1/4 C. mayonnaise
1 tsp. sugar (or 1/2 tsp. honey)
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix chicken, eggs, pickles, celery, pecans, grapes, and raisins. Mix mayonnaise with sugar (or honey) and salt. Mix into chicken mixture.
Mix, mix, mix.
Let season for several hours. Eat plain or on bread; also delectable here or there, in a house, with a mouse, in the rain, or on a train. You may like it, you will see. You may like it in a tree!

Monday, August 22, 2011

third-hand wisdom

from Frederick Buechner's The Magnificent Defeat, as quoted in Francis Chan's Crazy Love:

The love for equals is a human thing - of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing - the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate  is a rare thing - to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy - love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured's love for the torturer. This is God's love. It conquers the world.

On an obviously related note, you should probably read Crazy Love.

I dare you. Let me know if you do it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


- that's what she was. Clumsy. 

She wanted to help, but she was afraid. Afraid of failure, of her own weak foolishness. Afraid of people, afraid of their pain. Of vulnerability. Of hurting and being hurt, knowing and being known. Afraid of getting it wrong. Her fear would hold her back, halting, hesitating until the last possible moment - and finally, convicted, desperate, and flailing, she would splash abruptly in.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

a series of unfortunate decisions

Looking back, I think the day's first mistake might have been my answering emails, checking facebook, and sitting around at breakfast instead of practicing cello before my lesson this morning. Or at least running through my assignment once or twice, you know, since I hadn't really practiced anything worth mentioning since last week's lesson.

(Don't look at me like that ... I had my reasons. Good ones. Like funerals and being out of state and helping clean up our yard after a massive storm.)

Turns out, though, that music teachers like their students to have practiced (or at least looked at) their songs between lessons. Interesting philosophy. Maybe I should try it out on my piano students. Yes, I have students.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

fireflies are magic

His earnestness and childish enthusiasm caught me a little off guard. He was a child, but one of those children who act, generally, a little too old for their age, maybe a little too cynical. I suppose he came by it honestly enough.

But tonight, when I found him trotting around the kitchen just before bedtime, he immediately enjoined, "I caught six lightning bugs!"

"Oh, yeah?" I said, looking around vaguely for a jar. "Where are they?"

"I let them go in here!" he said happily.

Like the irresponsible non-parent I persist in being, I found this only momentarily unsettling. "What?" I said.

And in a more inquisitive tone, he replied in kind: "What?"

"That's just not exactly standard procedure," I said, following an instant's thoughtful pause.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

three little thoughts

Whenever I open my checkbook to balance it, whenever I set out to update my perpetual stash of dreaded paperwork, whenever my eye wanders carelessly over to that pile of unsorted newsletters and bank statements on my over-loaded dresser ... something funny temporarily takes over my worldview. The only good thing I can think of to say about it is that it most certainly expands my capacity for enjoyment in life. Faced with any (or, occasionally, all) of the above-mentioned tasks, I am suddenly struck by the hitherto-unnoticed allure of almost innumerable other activities. Very nearly all other activities, as a matter of fact.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

of one thing I am adamantly positive...

... and this is that I quite absolutely hate being alone at night, especially away from home. Being in my house with everyone else asleep does not count as "alone." Me and my Vue on the lonely highway, driving home from work at 11:30, most certainly does. Tonight was the last night of my (approximately) year-and-a-half-long, weekly job of cleaning the grain elevator offices in town, and it wasn't as bittersweet as some of my previous job-endings have been. The work was alright ... but I'm awfully glad to be home.

Friday, May 20, 2011

the least of these

We live in a fast, fast world. It's all at our fingertips, and the definition of "impossible" only shrinks - especially in America, with a standard of living so unbelievably high, and no social or religious caste system holding any of us irreversibly in check. There is truly very, very little that any of us literally couldn't do (within the realm of human possibility), if we wanted to badly enough.

Change your mind about what you want to make for dinner tonight? The grocery store is just down the street - they have everything, and you can probably afford at least a couple extra items. Want to learn to play basketball or saxophone, sew a dress, fix a car, build a house? Stardom isn't guaranteed, but if you apply yourself you can learn.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

be kind. rewind. recycle. remember.

I feel a sort of inexplicable moral obligation to blog.
I feel what a long time it's been since I rhymed a rhythm.
I feel thoughts and joys and problems burgeoning near craziness.
And I feel absolutely disinclined to write anything original tonight.
So here's a re-post from my old blog, since, in spite of my current inability to corral my hordes of stampeding thoughts, this versification still expresses one of numerous topics battling for top position on the latest edition of Things On My Mind.

Last time I posted it, I called it "Skin Deep." It might need a new title. 

A city on a hilltop stood,
with gleaming walls all round;
and all within were fair and good-
but none remembered there, who should,
that sickness lurked within the wood
that did their walls surround.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

freaky friday


... was my third complete day in a row almost without leaving the house at all - I didn't realize how unusual this has become until I realized how abnormal it felt when it happened.
... I didn't get dressed until almost 1:30 p.m. (in spite of the fact that I was up and at 'em with reasonable (I didn't say sufficient) earliness).
... a breakfast discussion, centered loosely on the significance and implications of varying musical tastes, lasted far longer than it meant to when it came in, and possibly accomplished less ... but had a middling to good time while it stayed.
... I was a little stir-crazy, but mostly happy. It's good to be busy, and it's good to take a break.
... my parents and numerous siblings were gone, or at least otherwise occupied, for much of the day - which left myself and a certain unnamed younger brother to console and entertain one another for that duration of time.
... that brother and I managed to accomplish a quite decent amount of school work in a few hours, with somewhat startling cooperation on the part of our junior member, and (perhaps in consequence) unusually durable good humor for the senior.
... I didn't do much at all in the way of anything resembling housework.
... we made banana muffins together, just for fun.
... we ended our just-you-and-me part of the day with a mammoth argument about whether or not the brother (now you know why he's unnamed) should do as he was told, even though the job in question belonged technically on someone else's chore list.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

songs I really like right now

While I like to think that my taste in music stays approximately the same through the ages, it's still true that different songs resonate more deeply (musically and/or lyrically) during different life stages ... different moods ... different hours within a day, sometimes. This is, I've little doubt, true of almost everyone on the face of the earth, if they listen to music at all.

Lately I've actually been in almost an anti-music phase. I mean, not philosophically or even literally anti-music ... I just like the quiet, and even when music is on, I can ignore it (unless I hate the song; then I can't). But when I do turn something on, this is what I love right now. Maybe you'll love it, too - or have in the past - or will sometime in the future.

Monday, April 4, 2011

hair in my mouth

We stepped outside, and the wind whipped our hair into a mad dance, but we didn't really notice. Our voices were locked in deep combat, all eyes straining inward, intense.

"Yes," I said, not for the first time, "but how do you know it's real? Obviously you think it is, but you can't prove it. It's all words and ideas, all stuff anybody could have just made up. How do you know somebody didn't just make it up? It's just made up, you can't prove it isn't."

She looked at me intently. "It isn't," she said.

"That's ridiculous," I said. "Prove it to me."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

today's beautiful discovery:

If you turn the heater up pretty high, you can start the sun-shining, no-coat, open-highway, windows-down, radio-blaring season fairly prematurely, and you can do it with gusto.

(Rear-ending the truck ahead of you would kind of ruin the morning, though, so unfortunately, you still have to watch the road.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

a cure for goosebumps

You know, sometime, if you ever find yourself really chilly some evening at the very beginning of April, when the daytime weather has just been starting to get its sunshine on, but when the evenings are still quite nippy; and if you are ever wandering around the house on such an evening, chilly (as mentioned before) quite possibly because you only have on a t-shirt and lightweight pajama pants and no socks ... and possibly, too, because your house isn't very well insulated; and if, added to all these things, you have a mother who bakes very good bread - in that case, I have an idea for you. My idea is that you should take the bread dough your mother has mixed up and set to rise in pans on the stove top, and when it's risen you should put it into a hot oven and set the timer for thirty minutes. When, from another room, you get an ethereal feeling that the bread should probably be done soon, you should trot downstairs and find that, incidentally, there's just one minute left on the timer; and when the seconds have ticked down and the beep resounds, you should shut off the oven and open the door and take out the loaves ... one by warm one ... slowly, so as not to be a disturbance. And when they're all on the counter, since the oven door is open anyway, you could probably just stand there for awhile, nice and close, and look in. You know. Just for awhile.

There are, quite likely, other good ideas out there that could help you out on such an evening ... but who knows, this might be one of them.

Friday, March 25, 2011

feather flakes

A quiet, Christmas Eve kind of feather snow wandered its way down out of an expressionless sky, incongruous because of the green blush just beginning to return to the grass below, incongruous because just a few days ago it felt like spring. I watched it fall through an old stained-glass window hung incongruously in the back of a weathered but pleasant little kitchen, and sighed.

I would have adored this snow ... in mid-December, or even January.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

while we were sleeping

[This post has been removed by the author for structural revision and re-processing. It will most likely be returned to the web at some later date, in some form or another, when it is deemed suitable for public consumption. Thank you for your patience, and have a nice day.]

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


You were out with your dog on this first really warm day. Several houses down, I was walking to my car, on my way home. When someone's bigger dog came bounding across the street, your little dog was not amused, and neither were you. She hollered at him to come back, came after him with a leash, but how you shouted, how furiously you shouted. 

 You cursed her  for the sake of a little dog. If you thought of the words, would you still say them? I could see in her movements, she was apologizing, explaining he didn't mean any harm, but you backed away, stalked off, cradling your unhurt pet.  

I was angry at first, angry at the injustice, angry at your anger - though I only saw it from afar. I drove away sad, the world is so broken, so trapped in its own mad snare - and I trembled when I watched you and saw my own reflection. I knew how you felt, because I felt the same things this morning. The old nature dies so hard, and I fight it so feebly - but the arms that hold me up are strong. 

I wish you could be free, would let go of your rage, the seething need to be right, your upside-down priorities. I don't know how to reach you, I don't even know who you are, don't know where you live - your face was too far away, and disappeared down the street. 

 I prayed for you on the way home, that someone will be sent to you, sent with the light. Oh, what you could be if you were restored, if you believed! You are immortal, do you know?  

I forgot to pray for the kid behind the gas station register, with hair in his sad eyes and a mumbling voice. He is immortal too, but I was too much in a hurry, anxious for supper and family, eyes turned in already.  

There is so much need, so, so much, and I see so little of it. How can I reach you? God, show me how ... make me willing, make me see, and show me how.

This song came on my mp3 player's shuffle as I drove away. How can we keep from singing? But we have to sing so the world can hear.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

slough on a string

Sometimes I feel like a pilgrim, like Christian in The Pilgrim's Progress, trudging down a frequently dark and weary road, but guided along as I hold my Father's loving hand. Quite often I foolishly let go and plunge into a brambly ditch after a kitty that turns out to be a skunk, and then attempt to strike out on my own through the tangled wilderness. I let myself forget that death is out there. But always, He comes after me, takes hold again of my erring paw, and leads me back to the safety of the path. I didn't ask to be loved like this, but you'd better believe it's saved my life.

Still, there are times when I feel like the above-mentioned pilgrim-self is consistently doing something really dumb and weird. I feel like I stumbled into the Slough of Despond somewhere near the beginning, like Christian did. But then after Help pulled me out, before moving on, I took a log chain out of my pocket (what, can you think of a better place to keep it?), and hooked one end to the Slough (please ignore all the logical fallacies in this analogy) and the other to my own belt loop. And so all the time (or some of it) I go around hauling my own personal swamp behind me - which, I'll have you know, is pretty hard work in itself.

And I'll tell you what purpose it serves. Whenever I'm wandering along and suddenly find myself face-to-my-own-face with a mirror, and am appalled at what I see - whenever I jump back in terror from some real or perceived danger - whenever I'm suddenly confronted with a decision or a situation that's much harder and murkier than I'd imagined it was going to be - at these times, I say, as I back away in fear or revulsion or total befuddlement, there behind me waiting is my friendly neighborhood Slough - and, ploosh! in I go. 

To compound the problem even further, the Slough has some inexplicable way of becoming familiar and almost ... comfortable? It's filthy and it stinks and for goodness' sakes I'm up to my neck and sinking ... but, you know, we've been here before, and it's hard to get out, so what's to be done? We'll just kind of ... wallow here awhile, how about.

Bwonnkkk - wrong answer.

It's possible a better solution would be to wrestle my way out, unhook the chain, and quit dragging the dumb thing around with me all over the place. And maybe it will follow me on its own, or maybe there are more Sloughs out there like it, waiting for me. But in any case, maybe a safeguard against falling into them would be to just stop backing away from challenging surprises - to stand still a moment, perhaps, clinging to my Father's hand and gathering His strength - but then to plunge ahead again in faith, and kick maybe some dust into the old swamp, just as a parting gesture.

This is hard. But I think it can be done. Pretty sure it falls into the category of the "all things" I can do through Him who strengthens me. Hmm, yeah.

Friday, March 11, 2011

run, rabbit, run

(This is several weeks old at least, but I just rediscovered the draft the other day, so here it is for your reading perplexity.)

I woke up this morning in the middle of a dream in which my mother, my sister, and I were first threatened, then stalked and ambushed, by a gunman on the campus of a local Christian college. Two minutes before my alarm went off and released me, we were cowering in a furnace room at the top of some stairs, while the gunman and some well-meaning but incompetent college guys battled it out below. There were more stairs to an escape, but we couldn't get to them, couldn't move, couldn't stop listening and waiting. Somehow the terror of the dream (intense as any I can recall, and slow to wear off upon waking) was unmitigated by the fact that our assailant was dressed up as Godzilla.

I'm serious - the dream was terrifying; and when I did snap out of it, there was none of that oh, whew, it was just a dream. In fact, the fear didn't completely go away until the sun had come up and the radio had been piping cheerful music for awhile. Weird, huh? Kind of childish?

It might be because of one of my deepest gut fears - not the subconsciously intellectual kind, like the fear of failure, or the fear of commitment, or of germs - but the stomach-dropping, no-brain-activity-needed, paralyzing kind of fear that smashes into you like a tidal wave and makes you a rabbit in a den of lions. It's the fear of being chased. Being hunted.

The adult in me (she really is in there somewhere) knows the answers. I know that the chances of my actually being gunned down - particularly by Godzilla - are really quite low. And I know that, even if by some strange chance that should prove to be my fate, fretting about it ahead of time will only waste today. And I know that the worst anyone could do is kill my body, and that, unless Jesus returns, it'll have to die somehow or other, anyway. And I know that whenever and however death does claim me, it will only be the gate to an everlasting life of bliss and glory beyond imagination. Death has been conquered by my precious Savior, and all the ragings of His and our enemies are only like so many handfuls of sand thrown into the wind. Can it hurt the wind? It will only come back to sting their own eyes. And over it all is the almighty hand of loving Providence, a hand from which I cannot slip. Cannot. I know this.

But the child in me still trembles. To be hunted - to be sought out and chased down for evil intent - there are few enough things in the world that terrify quite so deeply.

Which is really ironic, since one of the trademark characteristics of the maturing feminine psyche (to which I claim no immunity) is a deep-rooted desire to be pursued. Pursued and, when the time is right, caught. And so on the far-removed other end of what turns out to be the same spectrum, I'll admit that one of my greatest desires in this life, if God permits it, is to find and marry and love a godly man, and to raise a family with him for our Lord. (This is not an advertisement.)

So on the one hand, paralyzing fear of being hunted; on the other, God-given (though oft-twisted) desire to be pursued. Come again? But it's all in the intent.

Just as the ignorant, self-serving, wicked child I once was, and still am in part, looked back in terror as I perceived an angry God thundering in my wake, breathing down my neck, knowing what I'd done and poised to devour me for it. But guess what happened.

You'll guess wrong (who could have guessed right?), so I'll tell you. He caught me - but when He had taken off my blindfold and breathed life into my cold lungs, I saw that He had snatched me not into hell, but out of it. He had always been coming, and not to destroy, but to restore. It was love that pursued me, and not vengeance; love, and that mystery of mercy and justice; love unbounded.

When I was still dead, He chased after me and made me live.
When I stray, He still pursues, and always brings me back.
He teaches me to seek Him, to pursue Him with all my heart.
He won't give up the chase until He's brought me safely home.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

the kid in the souped-up truck

So, one of the latest developments on this side of the tracks has been Keegan's dual-enrollment at the local public high school, and subsequent participation in their track ... program. (Hi Keegan! Yes, this post is sort of about you.) This afternoon on my way to work, I dropped him off "at school" (that was weird) for practice, which, naturally enough, begins almost immediately upon the conclusion of the school day.

La de da ... bye, Keegan ... done this before ... only, last time we must have been a little late, because it was with some sudden startlement this time that I found myself and my Vue unwittingly swept up in a teenage mass exodus from the parking lot. After processing my first thought, which was something like: Uurrgghhh, my second thought was to note with lethargic bemusement that, for practically every other living American over the age of fourteen (including, I suppose, most of my few readers), this madness probably was - or had once been - a daily routine. I sure missed out. Baha.

Anyway, as I lurched and poked my stick-shift way into the lineup, just ahead of me a largeish tan pickup of a moderately souped-up nature was (impatiently, I assumed) squeezing its way back out of line, between some parked cars, and zoom! over to the other, less crowded exit some little distance to the right. Jerk, I thought without thinking.

However, every living soul going out of either exit was turning left, because that's where the whole rest of the town lies - and, due to the stop sign almost immediately outside, the traffic jam backed up behind it was (for our little old town) substantial. Ha, I thought when I saw the truck from a moment before, idling behind seventeen other vehicles, So you'd just rather wait on the road than over here, huh?

I lurched ahead a few feet, stopped, and drummed my fingers on the steering wheel. This was one slow line - everyone already on the road was taking full advantage of their advantage, it seemed. Then we started to move, and I looked up, and there was the tan, souped-up truck, stopped with a line of cars behind it, and the driver was flapping his draped-over hand at us. Go ahead, the motion said, go ahead. One car, two cars, three, four pulled out ahead of him. The suburban in front of me took its turn, and the pickup driver flapped his hand at me, too. I waved and smiled, mortified, as I wedged myself into the right lane just in time to escape an oncoming sedan. One more car followed me onto the road, and then the tan pickup took its turn. Did I feel like a worthless slime head? Well, yes, I did.

I don't know who you are, souped-up truck-driving kid, but you're cool. I'm sorry for all the mean-spirited things I was thinking at you before. You didn't deserve it. You're cool, and whether you meant to or not, you shined some goodness into the world this afternoon and made my day a little better. Thanks.


She hated him. She tried to get away, tried to kill him, denied that he was even there. She was ugly and hateful, covered in filth. She shoved him away, tenderly embraced her own bony shoulders, wallowed miserably and refused to come out. Couldn't.

She deserved it. He'd given her everything, and she threw it away for a thorn, a thorn that dug into her own heart and killed her. He'd laid out the terms of the agreement, so simple, so easy, and this was justice. She must die. She'd known it all along, and it was just.

They were perfect, father and son. They were, and were together, from forever, and the being of all was from them. Out of love and for glory they made her, holding dirt together and making it like God. What dirt would have imagined such a fate? But she spit in his face. 

He didn't need her. He was enough, and she was just an expression, only a little echo, and now an enemy, futile and wicked. Walking, breathing mud bent on rebellion, hurtling blind toward the promised wages of her evil labor, utterly empty, unnecessary. 

So where was justice? Where was the analysis, the careful weighing of costs against benefits? Where was the easy, obvious decision to let the suicidal monster have its way, to rid the world of its corruption, to begin again? Where was it? It was not.

She said he was crazy, she railed against him and ridiculed him, didn't believe it. Who would do that? she scoffed. It would be mad, it's not worth it, doesn't make sense. Who would do it? He would know better. He, more than anyone, would know better.

But she didn't know. It was true. Together they agreed, and eternal holiness came down, sent by love and rejoicing to come - made himself into dirt, meekly laid himself down under her knife. He took it all, the agony of abandonment, the forever death, every last drop of justice he drank in and bled out - and died.

And she was free. The bitter depths of justice were empty, and only mercy was left, shocking mercy and grace un-looked for. And the vastness of the mystery - that this was the new justice, turned on its head yet unbroken - and somehow, life was now hers by right.

He died and yet lived, and so did she. But why? Why? Staggered by overwhelming love, she didn't find an explanation, couldn't begin to understand. Eternity lay before her, wide and free, joy beyond imagination. How could it be?

Could it be answered? What could she give back that was enough? Perhaps a careful life, conservative and calculating, hesitating, holding back, mistrusting. Heaven forbid! She wouldn't dare. How could anything he asked for be too much?

And she laid herself down at his feet, undone by - and raised again for - and called to - crazy, glorious, unreasonable love.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

would you go?

A thick black cloud rose in the East,
and stretched its fingers across the sky.
The world looked at it,
brow furrowed,
wondering at the ominous thunderings.
This was not new-
where had they seen it before?
Lightnings hissed out
and people died.
The world backed away, aghast;
Well, they said to each other,
this darkness isn't so very different, after all,
from the light.
And they embraced it.
Gladly it reached to envelop them.

A little candle in the West
flickered in the chill, growing wind,
the wind that reached even through the weave,
the bushel-basket weave,
and whispered at the little candle.
Your world is changing, it said,
your world is changing.
Will you hide forever?
And trembling, the little candle knew,
even under the basket
the world wasn't safe.
And it knew,
even in a safe world,
hiding was wrong.
a life so suddenly dear,
so frail, so passing,
and so much might go wrong;
from such fear you could go mad.

The world felt dark,
so dark and cold.
Then memory spoke:
There is no fear in love,
no fear in love,
no fear in love.
He who fears has not been made perfect,
perfect in love.
Perfect love casts out fear.
There is no fear in love.
And cried out,
Then take it away, Lord-
help my unbelief!

A new voice spoke,
an old voice,
a voice without time,
but true and deep and free,
lovelier than morning,
stronger than all;
the voice that spoke, and it was so:
Tierney, child of Tim,
do you love Me
more than these?
Lord, you know I love You-
don't I?
Feed my lambs.
I might call you.
Would you go?
Are you Jonah,
or would you go?

Would I run to the darkness,
arms wide,
with reckless, faithful love?
Would I count the cost,
and give everything,
be poured out willing and joyful,
until nothing is left?
Would I tear my bleeding heart
away from this world,
where it never should have been,
and plant it firm in the soil of eternity?
What would I give?
My time? My funds? My toil?
My family?
My life?

Tierney, child of Tim,
do you love Me
more than these?
Lord, you know I love You.
Teach me love still deeper.
Show me where You would have me,
and give the means to get there;
show me what You would have me do,
and strengthen me to do it.
Take away my desires
that run counter to Yours,
and lead me to run hard
after only You.
Here I am.
Send me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

the very hard workout that wasn't

I don't know who reads this blog, but if it's you, you may have gathered from my most recent post that I've been sick recently. It's the truth - from Thursday until Monday, I was beset by a weirdly morph-prone bug which manifested itself in its various stages as a pounding headache, a sweltering fever of nearly 103, aching limbs to beat the stars, drastically decreased lung capacity, a constant compulsion to cough (yielding no results), and a competition between my nose and eyes to see which could do the best impression of Niagara Falls.

Now, I will admit that, before I fell prey to these afflictions, I had been slowly but steadily coming to the opinion that I could really use a sick day or two. Not that I've been running my tail off to any unreasonable degree or anything, but you know how there's just always something more to do. Visions filled my head, of myself curled up in a blanket with a hot water bottle on my head, a mug of hot tea at my elbow, and a stack of good books to get through. Yeah, I could stand to be sick, just for a little while. Just for a break.

Well, I curled up in a blanket alright, but the only book I read was The Hobbit, and that was on the day between the mind-killing fever and the eye-crippling water slides. Visions filled my head again, this time of myself breathing freely while I walked nimbly up the stairs, without sitting down at the top to recover my strength, no tissue box in tow, speaking in a voice with only minimal resemblance to that of a goat. Yeah, I was done being sick.

Anyway, I felt well enough today to tackle a few of my standard Tuesday activities, so I taught a couple piano lessons, then went to clean at the local grain elevator offices. I might have moved a little slower than usual, but I was pleased to find that I could do it without anything approaching misery. Still, as I neared the end of the evening, I couldn't help but notice that I was feeling a little weird - and in an almost good way, which was weirder. With every breath, air rushed into my lungs, not without labor, but with an almost insane clarity and freshness. My arms, and especially my legs, burned strangely. Was I about to die or something?

Then it occurred to me - my body felt like it had just finished a good, rousing workout. (The infrequency with which this actually happens in my life may or may not have had something to do with the time it took for me to recognize the sensation.) A good, rousing workout - of walking and standing around for just under two hours, at a pace sufficiently stagnant to accommodate the concurrent dusting and mopping of several offices? That rushing, unchecked breathing, the thudding heartbeat, the burning muscles ... yeah, I definitely earned that.

How pathetic.

Like when I wrestle with myself sometimes - shall I do what I want to here, or should I go a bit out of my way to help someone out a little? It wouldn't be that much extra trouble, but it'd be extra, and it wouldn't make so much of a difference, anyway. I wrestle ... okay, fine, I'll do it. Feel pretty good about it, too, as I do. Yeah, I'm alright - I go out of my way to do little nice things for people that they might not ever even notice I did. Thankless, that's what it is, but do I mind? No, sirree. I do it anyway.

And then it slowly dawns on me that, um, Tierney? This was really the only decent thing to do, actually. If you'd decided to just walk on by without touching it, that would've been, like ... really lousy. Like, total jerk, why don't you just sit on the couch with your potato chips and forget the rest of the world even exists while you're at it? That kind of lousy.

And I look back, and I go ... oh. So you mean ... that feeling like I just conquered something really grand, just did something really above and beyond nice, just flexed some real spiritual muscle there - that was out of line? You mean that big ol' honker of a good deed was just ... my duty?

The old cleaning-house-disguised-as-an-aerobic-workout trick. Fifteenth time I've fallen for it since lunch.

I read somewhere (I really wish I could remember where) that if we find ourselves doing our duty, and feel a subsequent satisfaction with ourselves at having done well, the only thing this shows is how seldom we do our duty. How's that for a humility-inducer?

So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'
(Luke 17:10)

Friday, February 25, 2011

sick day

My, oh my, do you have any idea at what an abysmally slow pace a day can creep by when you have a fever, and can hardly move your creaking joints, and certainly can't sleep? Well, I suppose there's a pretty good chance that you do - more people than just me get fevers, after all. Still, if the news breaks tomorrow morning that, by some freakish turn of events, this day took a whole week to get itself over with, I won't be terribly surprised.

I've been the fifth of us to fall prey to this bug within the last couple of weeks, and the level of tip-toeing and sympathy (at least among our younger members) seems to have dropped significantly since our first victim fell. That isn't to say that Sam doesn't lovingly doctor me up with his "preciouses" (chewable vitamin C's), or that Eli isn't willing enough to run and get whatever forms of nourishment and hydration I require. They're a fine little set of caregivers, if a little on the short side.

But they're still little boys, and my day of lolling helplessly around the living room came well-equipped with more than its fair share of light-saber thwacking, hollering, arguing about who had pulled the tallest stack of DVD's out of the closet, as well as climbing all over me and asking the same questions multiple times.

Now. I love my brothers. However. With all the aching and head-aching and fevering and despondent clock-watching I was busy doing, by the end of the afternoon I didn't feel like I had such a very great quantity of time or patience left over for these things. So when my family went out to eat for supper, I kind of thought ... ahhhh, yes. the house to myself. You know.

So while they were gone I finished watching Spiderman 3 (which I'd started earlier), ate some toast and canned peaches (why not live it up?), and re-read the first two chapters of The Hobbit. When I was smaller (ten? twelve?), I recorded myself reading The Hobbit aloud on cassette tapes, and gave it to my dad for Christmas. At the time, it was rather embarrassing to listen to (is my voice really that squeaky??), but tonight as I read through those familiar passages, and heard my own younger voice lisping along in the back of my mind, the memory was a sweet one. (But maybe anything can seem sweet, from far enough away.)

Curled up in Dad's chair, wrapped in a blanket, eating toast, and reading The Hobbit, I almost felt like a child again. But a child alone, home by herself with only a rabbit and an obnoxious dog to keep her company. And when I looked up and saw that it was 10:00, it wasn't fun anymore. I'd had my time alone, and now my family needed to come home. Morbid visions of why they hadn't returned yet flashed through my mind. It was a precious cargo that Santa Fe was carrying back to me, all of them together, all of my family together...

I shook myself by the mental scruff, and quieted my heart to pray briefly for their safety, instead of freaking out about their very reasonable absence of two hours. Finished my chapter, turned off the light, dozed for a bit. Not long afterward, as I wandered the house in search of another blanket, I saw lights in the driveway, and my heart was happy again. The loud voices, the lights, the thump-thump-thumping little footsteps everywhere, the silly questions ... yes, this is how it should be.

In conclusion, I think the point of this post is either:
A) I like to have my family around me;
B) Being alone isn't all it's cracked up to be (especially at night);
C) I'm still feverish;
or probably D) All of the above.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

it wasn't me

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, 
who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God 
in the face of Jesus Christ.

In the beginning, God didn't see a speck of flickering light struggling for survival in the blackness of space. He didn't take it up gently and coax it into a spark, didn't feed it and stoke it until it exploded into Daylight, divisible from and irreconcilable with Night.

How could it be, apart from Him?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was without form, and void,
and darkness was on the face of the deep.

There was nothing. Without form. Void. Darkness. Nothing.

Then God said,
"Let there be light":
and there was light.

In my beginning, God didn't find me struggling, wallowing in the darkness and filth of sin, loving yet hating it, searching blind for a way out. He didn't see my outstretched hand and come to lift me up, didn't take that little glimmer of truth and nurture it into a steady flame.

How could it be, apart from Him?

And you He made alive,
who were dead in trespasses and sins.

There was nothing. No feeble gasping, no clinging desperate to a last fading spark of truth. Darkness. Nothing. Dead.

Then God said,
"Let there be light":
and there was Light.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

medical update

Well, here's the scoop. Some time ago I found myself experiencing significant difficulties in a variety of life areas, and after a period of research and testing, was diagnosed with what has come to be known as Oymbr Syndrome. It's an affliction approximately as old as dirt, but most of the currently available remedies are still in the experimental stages. I did some looking around and decided on one called Imncleuiaseomo. (What, did you ever hear of a prescription med that was easier to pronounce?) It came highly recommended, and the fine-printed columns of possible side-effects and fatalities weren't noticeably longer than average. Plus it was cheap. Good deal, right? The only thing is ... it isn't working. Not only is it not taking care of the Oymbr Syndrome from which I already suffer, but it has turned against my system and added to my calamities a developing case of Toad Disease. The longer this goes on, the slimmer grow my chances of surviving - and, frankly, they weren't that great to begin with.

Now, confession time. Pretty much everything written above is, in its own way and to its own degree, true. However, the following points should be taken well into consideration when evaluating these claims:

  1. The Oymbr in Oymbr Syndrome is shorthand for the ailment's more scientific description, Oh, You Must Be Right.
  2. The original name of the drug mentioned was also judged overly lengthy - I Must Now Commence Learning Everything Until I Am Strong Enough On My Own - hence the acronym, Imncleuiaseomo.
  3. Toad Disease is named after its three most distinguishing symptoms: Tired, Overwhelmed, And Depressed.
Let's flesh this out a little. First, Oymbr Syndrome - closely related to, but not to be confused with, its very healthy counterpart, Wycbr-Icio Condition (Well, You Could Be Right - I'll Check It Out). Patients afflicted with Oymbr Syndrome typically begin their self-inflicted descent into poor health by setting their foundations in the unqualified proposition that the self knows very, very little indeed. The patient goes on to observe the vast quantities of knowledge and wisdom available in (and beyond) the universe, as well as the apparently unshakable confidence of many of its inhabitants. The patient then concludes, rather hopelessly, that by simple virtue of being other than itself, the bulk of the intelligent-seeming members of the human race whose ideas come into conflict with its own, must by default be correct about most things. Faced with an argument or opinion to which the patient has no immediate answer, the instinctive response is owl-faced uncertainty of potentially indefinite duration.

Except in rare, often terminal cases (in which the patient is rendered practically non-functional by an absolute failure to stand on any kind of principle in the face of any kind of contrary breeze), the most severe symptoms of Oymbr Syndrome manifest themselves only sporadically, and generally in response to semi-methodically selected types of stimuli. Ideas out of sync with the mob are frequent targets, as are subjective or ambiguous topics, and assertions made about the patient's own self.

This may be why the antidote known commonly as Imncleuiaseomo has gained such popularity in the general public. The alluring promise of the Knowledge of Everything is hard indeed to deny, and who is there among you that does not hotly desire the glorious defense of being Strong Enough On [Your] Own? It solves handily the double problem of knowing very little indeed, and of uncertainty in the face of disagreement. If you know Everything - I mean, seriously. What could go wrong?

Well, this is where Toad Disease comes in - an ancient, pervasive, and extremely contagious ailment if ever there was one. It has more causes than science has yet been able to number, but it's been confirmed that one of them is as a side-effect of the drug discussed above. Because, you see, To Learn Everything is a tall order. Really tall. Like, ain't-no-way-in-a-million-billion-years kind of tall. And even if the patient somehow did manage to miserably live that long, the cold fact is ... s/he will never be Strong Enough On [His/Her] Own. No can do, sorry. 

Faced with those statistics, who wouldn't be Tired, Overwhelmed, And Depressed? For real.

So Imncleuiaseomo doesn't cut it. I'm trying to come off it even as we speak, but it's kind of habit-forming. Death'll make me come clean, though - no worries. Still, in the meantime, what do we do about this besetting Oymbr Syndrome? I can't just live that way, for Pete's sake. So do I have to die that way?

Answer: No. 

There's a cure. It's called Grace, which for once isn't an abbreviation of anything, but its whole glorious, beautiful name. Grace brought home in this instance by steady application of Wit (sorry, one more acronym and I'll quit) - What Is Truth? And how will we find the answers? Read the Book, plead with its Writer, and I think we'll find that, in His time, He gives liberally to those who seek. 

You don't have to know Everything - you just have to know Him.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

a life

little tiny heart
thumping, thumping
little tiny beautiful body
resting in the quiet dark

little baby heart
lurching and crying
lights are bright
air is cold
voices are loud, ecstatic
everything bangs

tiny soothing heart
quiet, trusting
warm skin on warm skin
learning of mother
of safety
of love

treasured little heart
beating stronger
exploring a bright world
crawling, walking, leaping
sometimes falling
the world is also hard

selfish little heart
ears plugged
crowns its own kings
beats its own blood
brushes off loving wounds
charges reckless on

broken heart, undone
discovers an unkind world 
pounds in anguish
it will not yield
if we are not king
who is?

empty heart and soft
finds it filled, restored
held in rhythm
by a strong enough hand
grieved indeed
but rejoices

little beating heart of flesh
pulses to serve, yet fights
little beating heart
whispers how long, how long
it is fragile
and knows it

weary burdened heart
a road so long
a sky so dark
it is too much
too much to bear

precious ransomed heart
you cannot be alone
I promised
would I lie?
do not waste these last days
live well
and then come home

Thursday, February 10, 2011

something to offer

It was a Sunday evening, and there were four young adults in a small car with a manual transmission. They were on their way to church, but as it happened, they went left instead of right, and started looking for a place to turn around. They missed a driveway hidden under a blanket of snow, but found a gravel road instead. Unfortunately, the darkness and the falling of many snowflakes made it difficult to see, and what was meant for a U-turn manifested itself instead as a small car parked neatly in a snowbank on the side of the road. The small car was valiant, but not very heavy, and not very strong. It was stuck.

The four young adults climbed out of the marooned vehicle and discovered a snow shovel in the trunk. For a time the only masculine personage in their midst applied himself to scooping snow with it, until such a time came as seemed fitting for two of the feminine bystanders to apply their weight to the front of the car while he tried to back it out. Unfortunately it turned out to be what they call a no-go.

One of the girls said, How about if I try driving, so he can push. (Guys are stronger than girls, you know. Usually.) She had started to learn to drive a stick once, after all, she said. Sadly, this mission had also to be aborted in its trial run, in spite of the best intentions. It was becoming a sad situation in the middle of nowhere, with only the sub-zero winds and lots of snow flying around, and no parents answering their phones.

Then the girl who had been standing by the side watching (because she only had summer shoes and no socks on her feet, and in such a condition objected to wallowing around in snow drifts) - this girl said, How about that other girl, the one that's my sister? She can drive a stick.

And the girl who was her sister froze, and she looked out of the corner of her eye for a bush to hide behind. There weren't any, though, so her thoughts flew around in the open air: I can, she thought, but I haven't known how for very long, and I don't do it very well. What if I do it wrong? What if I get it more stuck, or what if it comes loose and I fly it right across into the other ditch, or what if I run over someone? I can't do it, I mean I can, but I ... but all she said was, Well, I can, but ... well, okay.

So she tried, and it took some time, but in the end it was she that sat behind the wheel when at last the small car was dislodged and went spinning happily back onto the beaten path. She was happy, but not very proud. That was no path to heroism - to get volunteered in the homestretch for a job you should have taken up at the gate.

Maybe you've guessed by now that that girl is me, and that the story in which I so ingloriously participated is true. Well, it is, and it's actually not even a week old.

I do that a lot. I stand in the midst of a Situation, and I hold what could (or could not) be the Key; but I'm afraid. I feel so very young, so foolish, so inadequate. I think I'm probably wrong. I'll mess it up. I'll hurt someone, and it'll just be better if I stay out of the way and let someone else take a risk. So many doubts, like so many snowflakes, or maybe so many gnats - What if what I think is the right thing to say, turns out to be insensitive and hurtful? What if my idea falls flat? What if I offer my opinion, and everyone disagrees? What if we end up worse off than we are now, just because of my input? I haven't been here long enough yet to be useful ... I'm too small ... too weak ... I don't understand.

But I'm realizing that if I wait for myself to be big enough to help, I think I'll wait forever. All I can do is grow smaller, as I realize who I am. Yet, in spite of all my nagging doubts, if I stop moping at my miserable reflection and look down at what I hold in my hands, I find that, of all things, I do have something to offer. I've been entrusted with more gifts than I can quite wrap my mind around, now that I look - an entire life (as far back as I can clearly remember) lived in a solid, loving, Christian home; a phenomenal family; a so-far peaceful lot in a so-far prosperous nation; friends, neighbors, and a church family like most people only dream about; an un-boxed education, and a few minor talents - just to tick off a few. And the crowning, unforeseen glory: the blood of God's own Son poured out to save me from eternal fire, and the promise of His Spirit to indwell, comfort, and sanctify me for as long as I walk this earth - and the sure hope that this gift is freely given to all who believe.

None of these gifts are mine, I can't take any credit for them - but they've been given into my hand, which seems to make me an intended vehicle for their distribution. What shame if I held such inestimable treasures, given to me for a reason, and I only clung to them useless forever, too afraid of stumbling to venture out into the dark to give them away. Certainly I lack wisdom, but if you read the first chapter of James, I think you'll find that He can take care of that difficulty, too.

In fact, I have yet to hear of a difficulty He can't take care of. Not a single crooked stick He can't use to draw a straight line, if only we'll yield ourselves to His touch, and stop trying to stand up on our own.

How about you? Is there a gift you've been clinging to, afraid to seem arrogant in raising your hand, afraid of falling short? Do you know the truth of the gospel? If you've been given something to offer, offer it! Don't wait, like I did, for someone else to do it for you. Life is too short, and time is far too precious, to live that way.

Pray about it earnestly; and then, like those shoe people say, Just Do It.