Monday, February 21, 2011

Overheard in a Chinese Restaurant

Scene: Chen's Chinese Restaurant, Somewhere in the Midwest. Inside, nothing has changed since 1969, except that the green enameled partitions, once meant to suggest a Mediterranean grotto, are hung wtih Oriental lanterns, emblazoned with roaring dragons; they appear a little less ferocious under a protective layer of dust.

The table is littered with the remains of multi-dish Cantonese family meal, well enjoyed.

And now, for the long-anticipated piece de resistance: the presentation of the guest check and Fortune Cookies!

John: We have to crack them open all together!

Mom: OK, 1-2-3-***CRACK!!!***

Dad: OK, I'll read mine: "Your present business venture will soon succeed." I'll take that fortune!

Miss Cee: Me next! No, Johnny, I said it's MY turn! Let's see *turns crinkled fortune upside down a few times* Hmmmmm, OK, here it is!! "You have a mag...a mag..something....person...huh?

Alina: Let's see that...ah...aha!!! "You have a magnetic personality." Well, well, well! Who knew?

John: Magnetic to what??? She's kind of bossy to be magnetic...just sayin'...

Miss Cee: Hey!!!

Mom: John, what does yours say?

John: ...hmmmm...let me...see...ah, never mind...

Indignant Chorus: No, no, no, you have to share Johnny!!

John: No, really....

Mom: I bet it says something about meeting an intriguing stranger, right?

John: Um, NO!!!

Dad: Alina, you can take a fortune cookie...just don't eat the cookie part [editor's note: fortune cookies contain gluten protein, the verboten ingredient for those with celiac disease.]

Alina: *crack* Well, OK, what does it say here?--

John: [reaching a bit too eagerly]: It says, "I'LL eat your cookiie!!!"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Freeze Frame

Tonight was Backwards Night at our church's Awana club. This meant that participants wore their clothes backwards...or at least their club shirts--collars and plackets gaping between the shoulder blades. Oh, and extra points were awarded for the few overachievers who actually wriggled into their jeans backwards. I excused myself from that endeavor.

The game segment of the evening was also backwards: circles were run clockwise instead of counter-clockwise; teams with the fewest points won; and the 'hockey' game that usually closes the evening was at the top of the game agenda.

But, as I stood on our team line, looking down the row of heads as the girls waited for their next turn, I was struck anew with the realization that there's no backward rewind down here. I've been through too many iterations of the process. The eager faces that assemble each fall inexorably change by the end of the year; the little girl cheeks become a bit less rounded, the mannerisms and gait more or less awkward, depending on where they have landed on the growth curve.

But the progess is relentlessly forward in time.

So all we have are moments, snatched from the flowing tide of time: moments on Wednesday nights, plucked between dinner and bedtime, to try to impart nuggets of timeless truth. To provide safe, wholesome fun that exercises the "large muscles groups"; to give one-on-one attention to a 10 year-old striving to memorize a Scripture passage that may be brought to mind at some future time when she arrives at a fork in her road.

This flaxen haired girl is new, but has come consistently since she was first invited. She is determined, but open, and paid attention when I shared the Gospel with her a few weeks ago. Next year she will be too old for this club and will move on to something else...may it not erode or obscure the seeds of eternity that we have tried to plant in her heart.

There are nights when slogging through slushy streets back to the familiar parking lot is the absolute last thing I want to do. But, it's always worth it. The time goes so quickly. And I remind myself that any lasting value is attributable to the Holy Spirit working in lives, young and old.

My job has been to show up and give it a go, trusting that the investment of time and energy will yield eternal dividends.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sister Pet

Although this story of victory has not been posted here yet, last night Miss Cee once again prevailed.

Last night was the occasion of the Amazing Awana Turtle Races at church, for all the Awana clubbers. Photos will follow...and the turtles are not living creatures but wooden cutouts which are decorated by clubbers and then wiggled down a racing lane by means of nylon twine, steady nerves, and sweaty little hands.

For the third time in three years, Cecily won the Best Design Award for her turtle in her age category. Heavens, it's almost embarrasssing! To those who wondered whether she had any assistance, I can only cross my heart and affirm that she was Firmly In Charge of all decorating efforts.

But, that's just the backstory. Sure, there were some moments of glory as her name was called out and she stood up front; and she was presented with a $10 WalMart gift card. Nice!

Yet, what I'M jealous about is the fact that today she was (with actual very minor effort) able to persuade Ben to take her to WalMart to redeem her prize.

We all must accept the family situations we're placed in, and mine was blessed...but oh, how I would have loved to have had a loving, handsome older brother to chauffeur me around once in a blue moon...or even just once, period!!

BEN: Mom!!!! We're back!!!

MISS CEE: Mommy! Look! I got a sucker!!

BEN: Uh, yeh, we had to go to the bank first and I took her in with me [hmm, better than leaving her in the car in -5 degree weather)--

MISS CEE: --I got to go the bank with Benny!

BEN: Yeh, I'M talking...and the lady said, 'ooh, is this your little sister? She's so cute!! Hi there! *patting her on the head* And THEN they asked her if she wanted hot chocolate and a sucker! Like...I never get asked that!

FAITHFUL CORRESONDENT: [somewhat abashed] Huh, I never get asked that either....

BEN: Yep. Well, I had to make an important business withdrawal..and I took Cecily with me. She was cooperative but she couldn't sit still..she had to get a second and third sucker, and then a glass of water and then go to the, she was mostly well behaved, but also what you would call Active.

MISS CEE: Well, Benny, you're making it sound like they petted me or something! They didn't PET me! Sheesh.

BEN: Well, then we stopped at WalMart, and she had trouble deciding what to use it for, so we walked around for 10 or 20 minutes, so then she decides she's goikng to get a lot of things.Like she had to get exactly enough things to use up the whole $10...which is not so quick as you might think. So she got erasers and candy and things. I was trying to teach her the principles of economics..

F.CORR.: Hmm, I bet THAT was a challenge...but, perhaps, Ben, this experience will stand you in good stead in future years when you might, possibly, find yourself shopping with females more your own age...

BEN: Maybe, I don't know. But, shopping with Cecily is an experience. I won't forget this.


It's 2011, and as Solomon noted in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the son. Oh, technology may be rocketing forward and changing the outer shape of those living in "developed" nations, but the essence of the human heart remains corrupt.

If you need to ask for some evidence, better just ingest some caffeine because you're clearly not quite awake. Click on a news site; read the paper; catch a news broadcast. You won't have to listen very long for a story to affirm my assertion.

A few decades ago, when I was involved in a campus ministry, the pastor would frequently open a Sunday worship time with "A Reading of the Record of Our Sin and Folly." And then he would open a recent newspaper and start reading headlines. It only took a short time before I started making the connection between what was happening in the world: local, national and international, and the fact that so, so much of that news fit the categories of sin and folly: "Murder-Suicide Rocks Town"; Middle East Peace Talks Break Down", and on and on. You get the idea.

Yet despite the rolling caravan of headlines and sound bites that benumb us, I still was not prepared for an opinion piece I stumbled upon this moring. The author of this blog post, Sasha Brown-Worsham, seems to be taking herself quite seriously when she references a "study" and then concludes that "Having a Baby is Harder on Sanity Than Abortion".

I wouldn't blame you if this statement defies your standards of credibility. It did mine. But, here's the link:

And here's the lead: "In news that is unlikely to surprise much of anyone, having a baby is much harder on a woman's mental health than having an abortion. This comes from a Danish study published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Seriously? Setting the question of morality aside for a moment, can anyone really accept this as a scientifically justifed assertion? So the implication here is that willfully truncating the essential process of reproduction--a process upon which the perpetuation of the race depends, and which certainly qualifies as one of the most primal of human functions--is better for female mental health than bringing forth life?

Have you thought this through, Sasha? Because the logical extension of your statement is that maternal mental health and generating new life are incompatible. what does one make of the past several millennia in which generations have been conceived and birthed--right up to TODAY, as a matter of fact--and yet the vast majority of mothers do not occupy mental institutions.

And in case anyone doubts my own credibilty, I have birthed and am raising five children. Is it easy? Well, even noting that definitions of "easy" vary tremendously, I would not characterize motherhood as easy. I've found that very few worthwhile endeavors really qualify as easy.

But violating one of the essential prerogatives of womanhood--childbearing--is easier? What context are you speaking from, Sasha?

As I understand what you offer as scientific evidence, the measure of sanity is based on the number of mental health treatment appointments sought by mothers as opposed to those of post-abortive women.

Here's the quote, as excerpted from The Huffington Post:

Researchers compared the rate of mental health treatment among women before and after a first abortion. Within the first year after an abortion, 15 per 1,000 women needed psychiatric counseling – similar to the rate seeking help nine months before an abortion...while first-time mothers had a lower rate of mental problems overall, the proportion of those seeking help after giving birth was dramatically higher. About 7 per 1,000 women got mental health help within a year of giving birth compared with 4 per 1,000 women pre-delivery.

There are too many questions to ask here, but a few are: (a) does the number of women SEEKING mental health treatment really equal the number of women NEEDING it? (b) does this "data" make any allowance for the pervasiveness of human denial? shame? immaturity? fear? (c)is it sound science to base so sweeping a conclusion on a study based on a brief snapshot of time in the life of young women who have years of life ahead in which to carry the knowledge that they ended the life of their own baby?

Permit me to doubt.

The majority of women I personally know who have had abortions have sought post-abortive counseling to come to terms with this chapter of their lives. Achieving resolution and, more importantly, coming to realize they can be forgiven and must forgive themselves is not instantaneous...but it is possible and well worth it, as several have testified to me.

Those who choose to "go it alone" in bearing the burden of abortion... the ending of a life they did not conceive on their own, afterall... often reap consequences, whether suppressed or acknowledged. They rob themselves, not only of the joy of bringing forth new life, but of the healing that can come when the truth is acknowledged and processed with a counselor who likely cares more the young woman than she does for herself.

Some time ago, I heard a couple of statements, both made by persons whose credentials and expertise affirmed their fitness to address the subject:

(1)Irrefutable evidence from anthropology demonstrates that no society has endured that did not place value on women and children. This is axiomatic.

(2)In the context of the reported rate of abortions per women in the former Soviet Union--average was 8 abortions each--came this conclusion: a culture that evidences the degree of hopelessness and insufficient desire or energy to replace the current generation is a culture with little future.

Which brings me back to King Solomon's musing that "there is nothing new under the sun."

And perhaps the definitive example of that is the human heart...the heart that not only takes an unborn life, most often for the sake of convenience and selfishness, but then tries to convince itself that this is an action that preserves "sanity."

"The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?"
Jeremiah 17:9

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Confession Prompt in Your Pocket

It would be easy for a Protestant believer to take cheap pot shots at the just-released --and undeniably innovative--digital tool,"Confession: A Roman Catholic App".

But, that would be unhelpful, and possibly even mean-spirited. And no one profits [pun not really intended] from that.

As explained in a article today, [],this new application is designed to work with an iPhone, iPad, or iTouch, at the low-low price of $1.99. No profit motive there!

The rationale behind the new app seems sound enough to me: "'Our desire is to invite Catholics to engage in their faith through digital technology,'said Patrick Leinen, co-founder of Little iApps, developer of the Confession app."

Nor is it intended to replace the Catholic confessional, which I understand to be the traditional context of the Sacarament of Reconciliation. I have no quibble with using cyber-tools in the authentic practice of one's faith...just as I don't object to PowerPoint screens during worship services, or speakers that amplify music (below ear-shattering decibel levels). As long as media remain the 'medium', the channel for communication of content, and do not become a distraction that obscures the Content: the relationship between God and His people.

And, hey, since no one has yet figured out a way to make an actual confessional booth literally portable, this seems like a pocket accessory of real potential value.

Whether behind a confessional screen, or by means of an iPod screen, confession is about agreeing with God regarding the things in our lives that can keep us out of right relationship with Him.

I was struck with a quote from a reviewer on Catholic Mom:

"Along with using this app to better prepare myself to go to Confession, I plan to use this app each night as I go through my daily examination of conscience during my nighttime prayers. I'm not certain that I will actually carry it into the confessional with me, but I will immediately be using it to help myself be more receptive of the graces offered with this sacrament."

So, like most (if not all) technological advances designed for personal use, the iConfession app seems to be a coin with two sides: it can facilitate the integration of spiritual discipline with over-busy lives or, on the other hand, it can be used as a shortcut to 'check off' an essential component of the God-person relationship without really connecting to Him. As always, the determining factor is the attitude of one's heart.

Which inevitably brings us to the reason that this is a Roman Catholic tool, rather than a Protestant one: divergent views of how confession and forgiveness take place. To the Catholic, confession is a sacrament which --as I understand it--must occur through the agency of a Catholic priest. To the Protestant, no human priest is required to mediate between God and man:

"But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many;" [Hebrews 9:26-27]

Thus, personal confession is the means by which we manage our need for the cleansing of our daily sin before God. But this transaction takes place directly between the believer and God. The chasm caused by sin has been bridged once and for all by Chist. And since that bridge can be traversed at will, so can the act of confession to Him and the receiving of forgiveness from Him.

And, I've learned, it's best to keep short accounts with everyone, especially God. So maybe I don't really need a Confession app, afterall.

Monday, February 7, 2011

...As In Snowglobe?

I realize it's been a while since we've had any direct dispatches from CecilyLand, but today's classroom experience yielded one little nugget of note...

As reported by Mrs. G., accomplished professional teacher and persevering instructor of Miss Cee for almost Two Whole Years...

Mrs. G.[after introducing the new class reader, Meet George Washington]: So, George's older brother was sent away to England to go to a boarding school there. Boarding school is a place where you not only go to classes, but also-

Miss Cee:--Like, you live in a dome, right?

Mrs. G: What, Cecily?

Miss Cee: I've heard of this before! You live in a dome while you're there...everyone has their own dome to live in...

Mrs. G: No, I don't think so, Cecily...

Miss Cee: Yes, it's your own DOME!!!

Mrs. G: Wait a minute...maybe you're thinking of 'dorm' a dormitory where you live and sleep there and go to school during the day.

Miss Cee[somewhat abashed]: Well, that MIGHT be it...

Hmmmmm...can't be TOO sure about these teachers, though...sometimes THEY get mixed up!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Who Are We Thinking Like?

How wise it is be always prepared.

Nowhere has this been more apparent recently than in the unfortunate, if notable, interview of mega-minister Joel Osteen by newly transplanted CNN host, Piers Morgan. One can only hope that Mr. Osteen and his lovely wife knew what they were walking into when they accepted this national interview…and with whom they were dealing.

If they weren’t, they have underestimated the value of being prepared and of making every effort to redeem a media opportunity to proclaim truth.

As Albert Mohler so cogently explained in his recent Crosswalk column, [], Mr. Morgan’s direct question as to whether his guest considers homosexuality a sin, constituted the “Osteen Moment”. That is, when boxed into a corner on a provocative issue by a persistent interviewer, Osteen had no viable choice but to give a straightforward answer. And on that answer hung his reputation as a biblical believer or a mere happy-talker.

Fortunately, Osteen did not fail this test, and asserted that,” Yes, I've always believed, Piers, the Scripture shows that homosexuality it's a sin.” To no one’s astonishment, this statement elicited much media-hyped controversy. And why controversial? Because, up to now, Osteen has carefully navigated around positions that can be construed as “negative”. He prefers to emphasize “the positives in life.”
That’s what people want to hear, afterall; who wants to be faced with that pesky issue of personal sin?

How much better for a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which Osteen claims to be, to simply align himself with God’s perspective? Isn’t that what the believer’s life is about, in essence? God is. We agree with what God says about our sin, our broken relationship with Him, and our need to do something about it. And, best of all, the good news of the Gospel: a word which derives from the Old English gōd-spell meaning "good news" or "glad tidings".

This is a matter which we all make a choice about, even if by default in not answering…and there are consequences any way you slice it. There’s also the inevitability of our coming appointments with God at the threshold of eternity…appointments that no one can opt out of, afterall.

This recasts the question to what it is ultimately about: what does God think? Oh, Him…well, He’s not really part of this interview…the CNN producers didn’t set things up with His people.

But, like it or not, the question of homosexuality is a moral one. We, in fact, live in a world of axiomatic moral order. If this were not the case, there would be no basis for judging—yes, Piers, we all make judgments—right from wrong. And any honest person must acknowledge that there is a difference. What are lawsuits about, if no one believes he has been wronged? And from where does that moral sense derive? From God Himself.

The other disappointing aspect of this interview is that the persistent Morgan, who is unabashedly interested in his ratings first and foremost, had such an easy time of it. It may be nearly impossible to gain the upper hand with an interviewer who ostensibly has not the slightest interest in spiritual reality. But let’s at least draw the real lines of the argument. A wise and shrewd believer--one who is prepared--can certainly put up a better fight. He can drill down to the actual issue and frame it accurately: this is matter of human opinion v. God’s revealed truth. Any interviewer’s attempt to negate this fact does not change the Truth, and if they insist on their position, we must respectfully disagree.

If I had the temerity to advise Mr. Osteen, I might suggest the following:
“Thank you for asking, Piers. In answering your question, I have to make it clear that I align my position with God’s . I agree with Him. I honestly can’t answer your question in any other context. Who better, Piers, to agree with than God Himself? As for Elton John, whom you asked me about, and any others living as homosexuals, their argument isn’t with me. It’s ultimately with the God who loves them more than they can understand.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

News of My World...


Well, "the weather outside is frightful", indeed, and threatening to become more so...and there is, at present, no "fire so delightful" -- just a cold, dark grate in our family room. But, we make it our aim to not allow things to remain too dull here at the old Circle H Ranch, so a few tidbits [and what's the etymology of THAT word, anyway?]

Dust off that old Teaching Hat: Despite the fact that I once labored to instruct college freshmen in the fine arts of Composition and Rhetoric, not to mention Composition and Literature, I felt a bit daunted Monday, as I took my place at the front of a classroom. I worked all day sub-teaching in the grades 7/8 class at our little alternative school...and that teacher has big shoes to fill! Not literally, but she is one high-standards, expect-much: get-much teacher and a veteran of 30+ years in the trenches, also having homeschooled her own four. Not an inch of wiggle room or wasted moments in THAT lesson plan...take my word for it.

It was a long day, and I did my best. [Mercifully, I did NOT have to attempt algebra or fetal pig dissection for biology; the grandfather of one of John's friends is an M.D. who graciously superintends this---for four weeks!]

On the way home, one friend texted me that her daughter (in that class) "had a WONDERFUL substitute today!" How nice. She must have been in another dimension than was MY son, who smiled at me mischievously from the front row of class all day. On the way home, I felt emboldened to inquire: "So, John, how'd I do?"

"Well, it was just know, Mom, I wouldn't want to lie."


Sometimes a kindly intended white lie might be pardonable.

Lab News: In addition, we finally got some lab reports back from the RMH lab, [Ben's fainting episode and the notorious ambulance ride to the hospital next door] and apparently Dr. H. is "90% sure" that Ben is not DM1, but DM2---huh???? Can you actually be DX DM1 and then magically "morph" into DM2? Are alien beings involved?

[pardon the jargon..."DX" = diagnosis; "DM1" is "diabetes mellitus type 1/insulin-dependent," and "DM2" is "diabetes mellitus type 2/insulin-resistant"--where the pancreas is still kicking out a little natural insulin.]

In any event, AFTER the $340 pharmacy bill for both kinds of insulin 2 weeks ago (AFTER insurance, remember!), now he is off one kind of insulin; I don't think we used up even one pen's worth of medicine. However, I plan to hold on to it, since this seems to be an unsually tricky disease, leading you to one conclusion when in future it changes its mind.

So, now they are telling him to stay on the sliding scale day-time Humalog...short-acting insulin...and also put him on an oral med 2X /day...a combo of Metformin and Glyburide in one tablet. MUCH cheaper, however, and swallowing a pill beats poking oneself anyday.

Break out the snowshoes: Well, I must prepare to brave the elements now as I drag Johnny off to the Rockford Public Library downtown...for further dreaded work on his General MacArthur report. Of course, this is a bit of a lop-sided enterprise: he doesn't understand what all the fuss is about...going to a library for a research paper?....what the heck? Can't he just get everything he needs off of his sister's new Nook [Barnes and Noble version of a Kindle]? Who cares if he can't get sufficient information there for attributions and bibliography references? Isn't that where the "creative writing" part comes in?

"Gee, Mom, I kind of think you're making this too HARD...but, if that's what YOU really want to do..."

I keep having to remind myself that I did pass 7th grade myself a few decades back.