Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sounds from the Past.

-The sound of the apple tree spraying truck. My mother would tell us all to shut the windows, and the truck would pull close in. The engine would go "HmmmmmMMMMMM" and a spraying noise would ensue and clouds of chemicals would envelop the three apple trees in our backyard. At age four, it terrified me, and I thought of it as a dragon, and the noise featured heavily in my nightmares. It wanted to kill me with its poisonous breath.

- Back then, my hearing was quite good, and I could hear the jingling bells of the Good Humor man's truck from a mile away. I would beg my mother for a dime and buy something with fudge on the inside.

-In the heat of summer, in a small house with no air conditioning, we were put to bed before the sun was fully down. This always felt like a gyp. Watching the fading light in the stillness of the evening, I would hear the sounds of whippoorwills in the distance. I imagined them sitting in the branches of the woods, looking like singing, glowing fairies. I don't think I've ever seen a whippoorwill.

-Again, in the heat of summer, the rackety clackety noise of the old blue metal fan that sat on the dresser. It was loud, its noise invaded my dreams, and terrified me. I was always afraid that the noise would cover up the sound of an approaching monster, or thunderstorm. Sometimes it did cover up the noise of an approaching storm, and then suddenly the storm would be upon us, frightening me out of my wits with a sudden loud thunderclap. I hated thunderstorms because I was sure I would be killed by a tornado.

-The sound (never mind the aromas) of the rotisserie roasting Sunday dinner. Rrrrrrmmmm...mmm...mmm...rrrrrrmmmmm...mmm...mmm..

-The sound of my fathers steps resolutely coming upstairs to tell my brother and I to settle down each night. We both knew that one well, and our ears were tuned to detect it above all other sounds.

-The self-concious noises of the church before services on Sunday mornings. Footsteps, cloth sliding on the pews, hushed voices in whispered tones-- perhaps a stifled chuckle, all magnified by the echoes of the stone, plaster and wooden walls. The organ is playing softly, and when it stops I can hear Mr. Swinden's feet shuffling on the pedals, and the sound of him shifting his music, and pushing in knobs. Someone always dropped a hymnal or prayer book; it echoes between the pews. The door in the rear thumps closed with a latecomer. And the smells.... but that is another entry.

-The fire alarm bell, happily announcing an interesting break in the routine of a humdrum day at school; with just a touch of a delicious danger which never materialised. A red-brown rubber ball with its strangely musical slap aginst the pavement: punk..punk..punk. The rhythmic squeal of the swings, never synchronised, and the clinking of the chains as someone jumps carelessly off it in mid-swing. The sound echoes a little through the structure of the swingset. Heels incessantly banging on the shiny surface of the slides, and the clatter of pea-gravel being thrown upon it, and sneakered feet grinding it cruelly across the benevolent face of the slide's incline..

-The apocryphal sound of the ice on the lake in winter cracking while we skated on it. We imagined cracks shooting through the ice like lightning, and would watch for slabs to loosen under us, marooning us and maybe dumping us into the freezing water. They never did. Lying on my back in my snowsuit, staring up through the bare limbs of the trees to the sky so unbelievably blue, listening to the silence of the winter air sifting through them, and the tiny noises of the twigs peacably clicking together, then ceasing.

-The skid of a car and the panicked yelp and squeals from my dog, Heidi, when she was clipped by a car. It was her fault, but who cared about that? Her toenail was destroyed and we fawned over her while she limped around in a bandage for a week. We made the lost toenail worth her while many times over. It was the '60s, and the family dog was King.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Not Alone.

See that tiny little white dot off to the right?

That's Earth, as seen by Cassini, from the environs of Saturn. How solitary and alone it looks, how bereft of any company or sympathy in all the reaches of space!

So much noise coming from that little blob-- so much noise. On that tiny little thing hardly bigger than the period at the end of this sentence, God made His appearance, and made himslf known to its inhabitants. Today Jesus sees it and His heart is full of love. His Spirit has enveloped that planet, and actually lives inside some of the beings there.

Cassini can't hear the cries coming from that planet. They are so weak, and there is no sound in space. But God Almighty can, and He has taken thought and action for them. He has called. Some have heard him, and they know to call in return, like lost children. The rest-- they continue to cry.

Psalm 61:1 Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

4 I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

When I Was A Kid...

Scenes from Early Childhood:

Age five: She was chasing the cat, and missed. Her eye connected with a piece of furniture. The next day she had a loverly shiner. It was photo day at school.

Age four: She goes to visit the nursery school with her mother, who is an ardent civil rights Democrat. Her mother is talking to a black woman also visiting with her son. Ever the socialite, Eleanor chirpily asks the black woman why she doesn't wash her baby's face.

Age five: (winter) ELeanor is privileged to be the first out on to the ice on the lake in back of their family home. Her brother has graciously allowed her this. The ice breaks, and down goes Eleanor. Fortunately the ice is only waist deep to her, and she waddles out in her soaking snowsuit. Brother has disappeared. Eleanor wonders where he went, but is more preoccupied with what her mother She sheds the snowsuit in the basement and disappears. There is no ending to this story, happy or otherwise, and perhaps it is just as well.

Age three: Eleanor recalls toddling around the bedroom with a large load in her pants. It doesn't smell very good. Another unresolved story.

Age six: Eleanor recalls treating a neighborhood cat to the fun of being swung around by its tail. She wishes she wwre the cat because it lookes like great fun. Her mother calls her in. The end of the story involves pain and a hairbrush.

Age four: A party on the terrace being given by her parents for friends. To her great delight, her parents aren't paying too close attention to what she is doing, so Eleanor is running gleefully around the backyard in the dark wearing nothing but underwear. She smacks straight into the open pipe end of the monkey bars with her face. Blood everywhere. Eleanor finds mother, who has a cow. Eleanor knows this means that some stinging medicine will be put on her cut, so she runs. Mother yells frantically, promising it will NOT sting. Eleanor begins to fear a hairbrush, so she cautiously approaches her mother, who with great self-restraint stays calm so Eleanor will not bolt again. To Eleanor's surprise it actually doesn't sting. She carries the scar to this day. (Addendum: Was this the party at which she told one of her parents' guests that he drank too much? Memory foggy)

Age four: Eleanor wants to play with a friend, but the friend says she cannot play. For the first time, Eleanor wonders if the friend perhaps might not like her so much after all. It is a thought that haunts her about her friends for the rest of her life. (Not without reason)

Age three: Running brainlessly around the yard (again), the unthinkable happens: Eleanor gets caught full on by a large orb web rigged between the house and some lilac bushes. Instantly realising what has happened, she loses her mind and jumps in the lake, frantically washing and scrubbing lest the spider bite her. To this day, Eleanor has arachnophobia.

Age four: Eleanor shares a bedroom with her brother. Brother's bed is next to the window, her bed is next to opposite wall which is built with funky glass bricks. However, Eleanor has discovered that whenever she falls asleep facing those bricks, she has a nightmare, which happenes pretty often. Slavishly she spends the rest of her time in that house and that bedroom training herself not to face the wall when she sleeps. To this day she hates glass bricks. (They really are cheesy, anyways.)

Example of nightmare: Eleanor dreams that her father has made her hellishly angry, so she murders him with a kitchen knife. (Note: Father dies of natural causes thirty years later)

Nightmare #2 Brother is chasing her with a box full of spiders. In the basement, she stops, but he comes up to her and dumps it all over her. Eleanor has connptions in the dream. To this day, Eleanor has arachnophobia, and a certain caution of her brother, and basements.

Nightmare #3 Tornado hits house. Started after seeing the Wizard of OZ. To this day, Eleanor has nightmares about tornadoes.

Nighmare #4 Gorilla carries off Eleanor. She pees on him to make him stop. It works. She does not remember wetting the bed.

...More scenes from the Life of Eleanor another time....

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Strange Sounds of Silence

Conversation before bed:

Rich, in bathroom: I need a blue training hiccup.

Eleanor (brushing teeth noisily in bedroom) You need a blue training hiccup?

Rich: (Snorting) I said I needed a beard trim and haircut!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

On Second Thought

This morning, I took an item out to the mailbox shortly after I decided not to run my usual three miles. I'd showered and had a list of things I wanted to get done, and was feeling purposeful. Indeed, I got outside and decided that I was right: it was too beautiful a day to run. I had to walk instead.

We are at that magic time of year in Indiana that hovers between summer and fall. Some of the maple leaves are beginning to turn color; the locust trees and burning bushes are already clearly underway. The sky is unrealistically blue and the air chilly (the temps have been in the 50's and 60's) and the sunshine, as a favorite childhood authoress put it once, gives everything a blue edge. I strolled my three miles with leisure; stopping to watch hawks on the light wind, a heron hunched moodily at the edge of a pond, and the light dancing off the dew of the clover leaves and flowers and chicory blossoms with yellow sulphur butterflies still huddling among the leaves. I was wearing what I call my 'freaking orange sweatshirt' because it is so danged bright. It has a screaming yellow collar. I've gotten alot of compliments on it. It is a day of bright colors. The air is cold and the sun warm.

The trouble is, this sort of day often makes me too squirrelly to be very productive. Even the cats are behaving oddly, zipping around like madmen and wrestling the throw rugs. So I am trying to get dinner started (pork stroganoff, a nice fall meal) and ingredients cut up so that I can toss them in the skillet and not fuss. I doubt I shall get to the ironing....

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sermon Aha.

Today's sermon dwelt on the following passage:

Luke 22:39 "Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." 41He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."

Some things that were pointed out here: 1. The word used for temptation is a word that actually means testing. It doesn't seem like much of a difference, but the subtlety here is that there are two faces to the coin: temptation for our downfall is the purpose of Satan, but testing for our refinement is the purpose of God. Satan tempted Adam and Eve, but God allowed the test, which they failed (this was no surprise to God, incidentally). All of us are tempted/tested. Jesus asks (OK, let's face it,; He is commanding ) us to pray that we will not fall into the hands of Satan. Clearly this is another one of those promises we can be confident that He will say Yes to. But He is not saying that we will not be tested.

2. We can see that Jesus was tempted by Satan and tested by God here. It was the ultimate test of all. Jesus knew it was coming; our sermonist said that this test followed Jesus around all His life like a black cloud, and at this moment it gathered above Him and descended on Him in all its fury. It was agony. It is at this point that it is arguable that Jesus 'descended into Hell'. He pleaded with the Father that this Cup should be taken away if possible, but a second prayer shows Him conceding His will to the Father in letting it come as necessary.

What I had never seen before is the ministration of the angel as He entered His darkest hours. And as Jesus experienced darkness, so can we experience it: asking for the power of Heaven to aid us. This reminds me of some favorite verses from Psalm 20:

1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.

3 May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.

4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.

All of us will enter times of darkness, but that does not mean that we have to go through them unstrengthened and in our own powerlessness. I don't for a minute want to minimise pain and suffering that millions of Christians go through, which Paul details in 2 Corinthians: 7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

The help of the Lord, however, is at hand:

Psalm 23: 4 "Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me."

This should give us hope. We are never given up so long as we plead for help. Jesus suffered, but not without being equipped to bear it. And what is the outcome of the prayer of faith, even though we may die? Back to Psalm 20:

5 We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.

6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.

If we are hidden in Christ, we can confidently ask for help, just as He did:

9 O LORD, save the king!
Answer [a] us when we call!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Good Housewife Guide Tips

"Over the cooler months of the year, you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel as though he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction."

"Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first. Remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours."

My feminist friend had underlined the last sentences of these paragraphs as ones to particularly regard as ridiculous. Now, she is from a hardscrabble Indiana farm family, the mother of which would rub her hands raw with the laundry and other work around the house while overseeing the children and preparing for her husband who was primarily a musician. Later, he (the father of five) abandoned the family. So you can see why my freind V.S. would be bitter. This is not a good way to introduce a child to The Way Things Oughta Be. I empathise with her completely. As far as she is concerned, this cute little tip got her mother exactly nothing, less some. But if you stand back a bit this is like that old argument that "one ought not to be a Christian because the worst wars in history have been fought in the name of Christ." To which one replies, "That does not make Jesus Christ a party to them." The precept hasn't failed, those who aren't practising it have.

What, I ask you, is so ridiculous about a wife making a comfortable home for her husband to come home to? Is she a fool for doing what is the right and good thing to do if her husband proves to be worthless? Why wouldn't she feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment by having made her husband's day end well? How many of us don't wish someone would pour themselves into our own comfort? Why do we think we have to pay others to do these things or that it is beneath us to serve one's husband with that total abandon that makes life so much darned fun and so pleasant? Don't you love to be pampered? Don't you love to pamper someone else if it is in your capability to do so? Why stop short of making the whole thing great fun in your abandon?

What's that you say? Your wife works long hard hours too? Well, I'm not seeing the Good Husband's Tips here, but they do exist, and they are written in the Scriptures and you are not off the hook, husband: Does your wife really want to work outside the home? Not all really do. Is it not our culture that has so denigrated the joys and value of housekeeping that makes the wife's homemaking such a "lowly" job, so disrespected by our world that she is forced by some stupid shame out into a world she might not wish to enter? How are you doing at honoring what she does for you? Do you imply that housework is beneath her? (If so, why? Is service to the ones we love somehow...unclean?)

Perhaps you, wife, have great talents that can be put to use in the world. Well, fine. Maybe you can make a comfortably orderly home for the family and still do those things. It's not easy. I wonder, though-- would you still do what you do if you were not paid to do it? Do you need to work for the money? Are you actually covering for the failure of a husband to be your provider, the way Christ has commanded of him? Do you believe the lie that housework is 'beneath' you? (Why, I wonder?) Why is it that talents must come before service at home to family in this day and age? Who has authority to tell me how to spend my time?

Certainly there are exceptions to this rule-- the wife whose husband has sinfully abandoned her; the husband who is disabled, or by some unhappy occurrence, dead. Yet Scripture also makes it clear that the Christian community has real obligations to such people that all too often are not being fulfilled. We have obligations to the Church-- but the Church also has obligations to its members.

No Scripture tells a wife that she MUST ALWAYS stay at home (we have plenty of examples to the godly contrary), although it does teach that family and home matters must be her priority, just as a steward makes the careful overseeing of his boss's resources redound to his boss's prosperity. The Scriptures teach that a woman can find a great deal of dignity in volunteer activities and the service of others who need her help. It's that laying down of the life thing again. Put another person in front of yourself for a change, and keep your eye on the right priorities: Wife, your God comes first, and you serve God on earth by putting your husband's needs first; your childrens' second, your own last. Why last? Because--guess what-- you are at the top of your husband's earthly list, by the very command of God Almighty.

Sweet deal, eh? I think so.

The Very Thought Shocks Us All!

This is a continuation of the article in the Housekeeping Monthly of 1955, entitled The Good Wife's Guide. Over time, I'll post some of the suggestions it gives and tell why I think they are not so hilarious. But I do want to start with this thought: The Scriptures quote Jesus saying, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) This verse often brings to mind the extent to which we are called to demonstrate our love for others. We are to be willing to literally give our very lives for them. But this is a case where all too often we feel that we can breathe a sigh of relief, because it isn't too often that we are required to do this, unless one is a soldier (tip o'the hat to me brudders) or a public safety or health worker of some kind, whom I also salute. I'm sure you can think of other examples, but for the most part, most of us don't step into that dangerous a world every day.

Thing is, though, I also think it means less than that, and I think that the other teachings of Scripture would bear me out. I think we need to know that Christ was also saying to us, Put down your own little interests for awhile and serve someone else's. Lay down your life, and take up someone else's cause. See to someone else's needs for a change. Lay down your life, wife, for your husband; and husband, lay down your life for your wife. The Scripture confirms this:

Ephesians 5:22 "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body.

I am to lay down my desires and put Rich first. Admittedly, that is difficult at times. I'm not a stranger to ambition and pride, and I need to recognise that in the Kingdom, first things must come first in obedience to Christ. Rich is my main ministry, and when that clashes with anything else, the anything else must be pushed aside, gently at first, forcefully if necessary. Similarly, Rich is called to make it his main focus to present me holy to God, to foster my devotion to God, to provide for me, to be my protector and the representative of Christ on earth to short, to love me.

So far, he's doing and always has done wonderfully, but not perfectly. I hope he can say the same of me. We forgive each other! But as I go on with this theme I hope you will bear these premises in mind. They are not given to us as heavy, onerous burdens, but as commands which can give life and can be obeyed if we have the Spirit which enables us, and which we will find will make our lives simpler-- not always easier-- but simpler, and therefore less confounding. God does not lay burdens on us. He spends His time trying to teach us how to bear the loads we must in a way that will not crush us. He is our Comforter, our Good Shepherd, not our enemy or oppressor.

The Love I Have for Him.

Yesterday I saw a friend I hadn't seen in some months who is not a believer, but a very ardent feminist. I love this lady; she is absolutely hilarious, but of course we are poles apart on this issue. She doesn't know that, though-- it isn't something I feel led to talk to her about. (Yet.) She handed me a copy of an article dating from 1955 on how a wife should behave towards her husband, having underlined the parts she thought were the funniest. Naturally I read this with some amusement, seeing it first through her eyes and then my own, and marvelling at how different two perspectives can be. Well-- some, I have to admit, were a little over the top:

"Don't complain if he goes out for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day."

Ahem. If Rich stays out all night for anything other than business, I'm going to "complain". So shoot me.

"Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes..."

Where's the rolling on the floor laughing icon? I can just see me kneeling by his chair, untying his shoes and maybe massaging his poor tired toes. It would be difficult, since Rich would be on the floor laughing too. (I'd do it, though, if he was in pain after a tough day in the field....we could have some fun with this...hmmm...)

"Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity. Remember he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him."

This presents a rather starry-eyed view of men. It's actually almost there: a wife should respect her husbannd, and she should assume the best of him, but to say she has no right to question his actions is going a little far. I am his helpmeet, and as such, I can present a different perspective thanks to the intellectual and intuitive gifts God has given me for the purpose of serving him and prospering him. You better believe I'm going to question him if I see him doing something ungodly or unwise. I might even step in and act on his behalf in order to preserve him and his interests-- but that takes a good deal of wisdom. For more guidance on this, turn to the example of Abigail's wisdom, for which she was notorious, in 1 Samuel 25:3ff. However, what I will not do is disrespect his position as master of the house.

Those are my only beefs with this piece. Later, I'll talk about what my friend thought was so funny and explain why it really isn't.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Please Say Yes!

One of the biggest time consumers for the follower of Christ is thinking about what we can ask for that God will say "Yes" to. This is the primary, albeit selfish, reason that I so like collecting the promises of God. They are all the things that we can ask for that we have a guarantee that God will say Yes to. I found one today:

Isaiah 33:"5 The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness.

6 He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.

This verse gives me both the treasure and the key to it: the fear of the Lord is all I need. Zion is all the believing children of Abraham according to Romans 9:8. I can ask God for justice; I can ask Him for righteousness. He will say Yes. Because He is the King Whom I fear and love, I can ask Him for salvation (Yes!) and wisdom (Yes!) and knowledge (Yes!). Is it because I have a perfect fear of God? Is it because I have done more good than bad? No, it is because I have hidden myself in Christ, who did do these things perfectly, Who commands me to hide in Him so that I might be saved:

2 Corinthians 9:20 "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ."

C. S. Lewis says that when we pray, we are "dressing up as Christ". So hide in His Person, and ask, and recieve what you know He will give you.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A First for Everything

A couple of days ago I was having a dream about one of my cats. In the dream he was being very possessive, and doing his thing of perching on the back of my chair here at the computer and leaning against me, purring loudly, wrapping his tail around my head. Yes, I know, that is kind of weird. When cats rub up against you, they wrap their tails around your leg: it's a 'cat hug'. In the dream though, I actually smelled his cat smell. (I know, that is weird, but it isn't your classic 'cat smell', like the litter box. We clean the box twice a day and our cats are not smelly, but they do have an odor to them-- sort of a muskier version of my perfume.)

Anyway-- I don't remember ever before having any kind of smell to a dream. And that is weird. Because, you see, we hallucinate just about everything else: sights, sounds, textures, tastes even (I have dreamed of chocolate cake many times. That isn't wierd; I'll bet you've done that too, so there)-- but I have never smelled anything in a dream before.

Yes, I flossed and brushed before bed, and no, our cats do not sleep with us. They stay in the basement at night. They drape themselves all over us for the rest of the day, though. And hopefully I will never have a dream about a fire, smelling smoke.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Death Can Be a Confusing Thing.

A friend died today.

Her name was Peggy, and she was about 47 years old.

She had been suffering with multiple sclerosis for the past 20-odd years. The disease had begun to really accelerate in the past two years. Infections easily take hold of the MS suffer. They have to be on immunosuppressants, because the disease is an autoimmune one, attacking the myelin sheath around the nerves, which causes the messages from the central nervous system to be lost en route. Peggy didn't die of MS. She died of pneumonia. I last saw her Monday night. She seemed worse than usual-- it was hard to understand her speech, but I just chalked that up to an unusually dry mouth from all the meds she had to take. She seemed weaker than usual, but insisted that she wasn't doing poorly. Wednesday morning her caregiver discovered her nearly comatose and called an ambulance.

I heard about it Thursday and got to the hospital as fast as I could. Finding her room, I saw that she was awake and alert, on oxygen and an antibiotic drip. Her mother and brother were there and I laughed and joked with them, relieved to find Peggy so much better, and left, after praying with them, with a lighter heart.

This morning I got the email that she had died that night.

Whenever I came home from visiting Peggy, I marvelled at her. Peggy had a tough life. She had been married, and had a son, but her husband left her when the going began to get tough. So she was on her own, but her blood family was always there for moral support, and she had alot of friends. A few years ago her dad died, which hit her hard. He mother is older and ailing herself, having just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her son is 14 now, and lives with his dad. I never got the feeling that her son was particularly enthusiatic about visiting his mother. But she fought hard for every minute she could get with him...he was one of the brightest stars in her sky.

Peggy wasn't shy about voicing her fears and doubts. She was one of the grittiest ladies I ever knew-- and one of the most honest about suffering. Not that she complained, but she admitted that it was hard and talked about the difficulties. I learned from her what it was like to deal with thoughtless, able-bodied folk. At the end, she was confined to a motorised wheelchair, and the wheelchair was in the process of breaking down so that if she wanted to get anywhere she had to be pushed-- and she lived alone (though with the help of both paid and unpaid caregivers). In the past six months she fought corneal infections, infections in her toe, a bowel she was losing control over, a shrivelling hand, and several medication problems. She was paralysed from the waist down, and the paralysis was progressing from the waist up.

The brightest star in her sky-- the Sun, really-- was Jesus Christ. We had lots of talks about trusting Him. Just last Monday we talked about that. I was telling her how I found out about the word "provision". This descriptive word for God comes from two words: pro- before, and vide- to see. She was concerned about the future. I said it was easy for me to talk about it, but that the truth was that God is the believer's provider: He sees ahead , all the things we can't, and provides for us all that is best for our sanctification, and that we need to trust in all that He gives, and in all that He allows. That seemed to strike Peggy well. She put her head back on the pillow and just rested in that thought for a bit.

I went home and thought about what Heaven would be like for Peggy. She will rejoice to see her Savior's very real face at last, and on Resurrection Day, she will be given a new body-- incorruptible, agile and beyond beautiful. She will dance, she will build, she will run like the wind and leap like the hart, she will know the faithful love of her eternal Husband, Who never did and will never leave her. Thanks be to God! This is most certainly true!

Just one more thing: Do you know what the Scripture says concerning this? Do you know that everyone will be resurrected? Do you know that your body will be raised immortal? Do you know that if you do not put your trust for your salvation entirely in Jesus Christ-- not in the "good stuff" that you hope will tip the scales in your favor, your immortal body will be subject to eternal torment? Have you thought about what that entails? Do you act like someone who really believes these things?

Do you know that if you have trusted in Him only, not in any "good deeds" that you might hope would tip the scales in your favor, you will recieve an immortal body that will enjoy His real presence forever, enjoying a real New Heaven and New Earth? Not some dreamy place, but a pace so real that it will make you forget this Earth the way you forget a dreary dream! What does it look like to act as though we believe these things?

God Himself has made these promises. Peggy trusted them. And thanks be to the Almighty Who can bring them to pass, I will see her again, with a multitude and more of others, and we will sing.. and run.. and laugh.. and hug one another and give homage and love to our King and Lord forever.

Peggy is dead. Long live Peggy!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Book Review Time!

Time to check in with the latest books read in the house:

Plague Maker, Tim Downs. In my interminable quest for really good medical thrillers, which I adore but which are extremely hard to find, I came across this one.

It is stellar, truly stellar. Not just because the subject-- the threat of bioterrorism is a very real one. Not just because the plot is can't-put-it-down, edge-of-the-seat, don't-bug-me-man,-I'm-reading gripping.

This story involves characters with very human motivations, failings and fears. It's intelligently written, but not self-impressed. With characters that draw the reader in, it treats us to interesting history and dry humor. And best of all it has a most amazing and unexpected ending, a deep, bittersweet, humanly realistic ending.

This book is appropriate for mature teens and any adult. I say mature teens because you have to know something about terrorism and the agencies that handle it. There is one rather gory scene that comprises all of one sentence, but it is not sexual in nature and is absolutely necessary to the story. This is the novel you want to finish off your summer with.

Time After Time, Jack Finney. Some of you may be familiar with Jack Finney's first book Time and Again, in which a man named Simon Morley has an experimental opportunity to go back to the NYC of 1887. Succeeding, he meets Julia, a beautiful young woman, and the story centers around his decision whether to stay or not. Finney's latest book is the sequel to that story and has quite an interesting plot centering around whether WWI could have been prevented. As usual, Finney illustraes his story with real photographs of that time taken in NYC, which never fail to work the magic of making you feel as though you could have been there yourself, feeling what the people of that time felt, seeing what they saw-- and mourning the loss of almost all of that nearly 100 years later. Finney isn't great literature, but way better than alot of other dreck people waste time over.

The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, Roy Porter. For some weird reason I seem to get something out of reading medical history. I got started on this thanks to my erstwhile professor and continuing friend, D.W. We have a common interest in Vienna-- he spent some time at the Josephinum, and of course we had sabbatical there. DW passed on to me a book on the history of the medical school in Vienna, beginning at the end of the 18th c. We lived only a little ways away from the University, and I'd tried to get to the museum there but it was being renovated during our time there and I never got to. Anyway, that book was pretty dense. It was interesting, but really a scholarly book (I asked DW if he had read it all the way through; the answer was no), and I found myself lacking alot of background knowledge I needed to make real sense out of it. So I walked into the local library and found Porter's book sitting coyly on a shelf at eye level, and I considered it a 'sign' (heh). Well, it's been very good. Much more readable, but not dumbed-down either, and with just the sort of information I was looking for, all arranged into eras and specialty. One of my ongoing queries has been the whole human dissection thing-- whether there was a reluctance to conduct human anatomical dissection, and if so, why, and when all that thinking disappeared. I had some theories going into it, which were disproved. For one thing, I thought that dissection had been disapproved by the Catholic Church, but it hadn't. It's been interesting to see the interplay between health issues and faith issues. The two should go hand in hand, and usually they do (there were no hospitals until those established by Christians, and no one tended the poor except Christians). But bad theology led to bad practise. Oh well, the same is true today-- or perhaps I should say that no theology leads to bad practise today. In any case, I'm not done yet with this one, and then I need to tackle the one on the Vienna medical school again.

The Coming of the Kingdom, Herman Ridderbos. Recently I began to puzzle over the concept of the Kingdom of God, as it is presented in Scripture. One of my great confusions was that Jesus announced the Kingdom of God when He came, but what had it consisted of before He came? And hasn't the Earth always been a part of His Kingdom? Hasn't He always been sovereign over everything? How do you understand this Kingdom? I asked a dear OPC pastor friend for a book suggestion and this was his recommendation, so I ordered it. Herman Ridderbos was, as his name suggests, a Dutch Calvinist who was (in the very best Dutch Calvinist tradition) a very thorough, exacting, patient, and serious theologian. My friend warned me that this was going to be heavy going, and he was right. I'm not reading this thing chapter by chapter. I read it section by section, and I write notes in the margins to keep ideas straight (this practise makes Rich crazy but he will never read this book so I don't care, nyah). But now I am about 100+ pages into it, and am starting to appreciate Ridderbos' exactitude. It pays to slow down and think and make sure you understand before going on. As I have done so, I have understood more of what God is accomplishing in the world even as we live day to day. The notion that Christ was only the beginning of the Return of the King is a broight and hopeful one. Slowly, painfully, this world is giving way more and more to the Kingdom of God. What a long ways there is to go-- and what a long ways we have come! This is one of those happy istances in which reading more than one book at once makes the sum more than the total of the parts: reading medical history at the same time as a Calvinist theologian makes things much clearer.

In between these I have read and/or skimmed one or two other books, none worth mentioning, just more frogs to kiss.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Late Night Discussion

Scene: The Grant bedroom. 11:40 PM.

Rich (lying on back): SSSSKKKxxxxxxx!

Eleanor: (turns over energetically, hoping to wake comatose husband)

Rich: SSSSKKKxxxxxxx!

Eleanor: Rich...Rich. (rubs shoulder)

Rich: What?

Eleanor: You're snoring...time to turn over.

Rich: I am NOT snoring!

Eleanor: I just love to wake you for no reason at all.

Rich: (Rises up, fixes Eleanor with Scottish Eyeball, (see July 3 blog below) and collapses on his side, put out.

(Scene fades)

He did not remember a thing the next morning.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Leading From Behind

This morning's devotion took me to Genesis 16:1-3. This is the section in which Sarah persuades Abraham to make her maidservant Hagar pregnant in order to produce an heir. (This was accepted practise back in that culture. Do not try this at home.)The Puritan Matthew Henry observes that this is an instance (along with the example of Adam and Eve) where Satan cleverly uses the persuasions of our nearest and dearest to make us sin.

Boy, was that convicting. Not because I think I have recently done this but because it suddenly opened my eyes to all the opportunities I do have to do this-- to subtly take leadership from Rich in the guise of being 'proactive' for his sake. One of the great blessings of being a wife is that we are supposed to anticipate the needs of our husbands as they direct the family. It's a great thing to be able to know one's husband that well.

But oh what a fine line between that and the subtle "guiding" of your husband to do something that is not in his plans or on the Lord's books....for a "good" reason! In Sarah's case it was the desire to have an heir. She wanted to do this in a way that was perfectly socially acceptable in her day. She decided how to solve the problem. Poor thing, no doubt she felt the shame of childlessness, and knew all about the Lord's promise of an heir to Abraham. What she did not realise is that God was sovereign over even her body, and that He would produce an heir at just the right time, age or not. She took the leadership and destiny of her family into her own hands. A blogger named Carmon calls it "leading from behind". (Sorry, don't have the link but can dig it up somehow if you want it...she's a pretty wise lady.)

Just think of the consequences of that "proactivity" for just a moment. Ishmael was born.

Here's another one: Eve, with her bright suggestions and persuasions to Adam. (Adam, where was your head that day?)

I really think I need to examine myself on this one. What problems is my family facing that I am tempted to solve "proactively"? Am I able to discern when I am 'taking over' for Rich when I do this? What could be the consequences of deterring Rich from what he knows is God's provision for him and for us?

Am I so keen to get a job so that my daughter can go to college that I will grab at anything at any time? Do I check with Rich, giving him the final word as he should have? Do I ever emotionally blackmail him to act against his better judgement? "I'll never be happy unless yadda yadda yadda.....". Pokepokepoke, prodprodprodprod,weepweepweep,sighsighsigh.

God forbid!