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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Morning Comes Every Day

     I decided to write myself a morning prayer. On the one hand, I think I ought to wake up so filled with the joy of my salvation that I burst into song and fervent prayers of thanks. On the other hand, there's reality. I wake up thinking "unnnhhhhh," and I'm not altogether sure I can find the floor with both feet. Maybe the monks with their lauds and matins and things have the right idea. A muzzy head that can't form a coherent thought on its own may benefit from latching on to a framework. 
     Way back in Baptist Sunday school, we learned to sneer at things like prayer books and the rosary and "endless repetition," but since then, through youngest son's choir term, I've experienced some Episcopalian services with the Book of Common Prayer and found that the written prayers can help the mind focus and be just as real as any spur-of-the-moment expression.(Don't worry, Pine Ridgers, I'm still Presbyterian through and through.)
     Having watched a film called "Vision," about Hildegard of Bingen, I wanted my prayer to be something that would endure through the ages and inspire many generations-- which is exactly the wrong way to think. No, it has to be what I need to say, and it has to be what I need the answer to. That would, of course, be everything, only I can't cover that before breakfast. Here's what I came up with: "Lord, You give this day to me, and You give me to this day. Please let that be a good thing for both." 
      I can't say that anything spectacular has happened in answer, but I do find myself looking back at day's end at what came to me and what I gave. A gorgeous blue and gold dragonfly with teal-colored eyes lighted on a blueberry bush next to me. I watered the blueberries. My little grandson hugged my leg. I took care of him while his parents worked. I got to read through the elements of this Sunday's worship service and see how good it's going to be. I proofread the PowerPoint slides for the service. There turns out to be a lot to appreciate. So that's my  morning prayer. I could conceivably add to it later, but, for now, that may be all I can handle.   

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

International Me

I pester my friends to read my blog. No doubt some roll their eyes, some don't have time, some are not interested, but some do read it and tell me what they think about it. That may be the best gift you can give a writer. (See earlier post, "Who Needs an Audience?") Meanwhile, blogpost keeps track of where my readers come from. Overwhelmingly, they are in the US, but a few have turned up in Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and even one in Saudi Arabia. Blogpost doesn't tell me who they are, though, and that's what I would really like to know. Hello, out there. How did you find your way to my little blog? Did you search on a topic? Link from another site? Are you friends of friends of friends? Are you expatriates? Are you citizens of other countries who want to practice reading English? Are there seven in Germany, or one person who has arrived seven times? I sure would like to know. If you've read this far, thank you! If you leave a comment, I will be even happier.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Did you hear the one about the end of the world?

      The jokes flew on the 21st, because the leader of a fringe Christian group with a radio show declared he had found in the Bible the heretofore secret information that the so-called “rapture” would happen at 6 p.m. local time, starting in New Zealand and rolling around the world. The web blossomed with joke rapture photos. My favorite was a slobbish guy sitting on the sofa with his remote, eyes fixed on the TV, while all around him lay the empty clothes of his family, including a romper in a baby seat.
     We made our own jokes too. On Facebook, I wrote “This rapture stuff is just the silliest thing I ev” and clicked the “share” button on the stroke of six. My son posted “Hey, where are my parents?” My husband wrote that his wife and son had disappeared, and he was left behind. We laughed, and our friends laughed. Then today, in our adult Sunday school class, someone said, “You know, it was the end of the world for some people.”
     Now, I don’t believe in the rapture as a plucking away of all the Christian believers, taking them to Heaven and leaving everybody else to an age of misery. Yes, Jesus did say “One will be taken and the other left,” but when people asked Him where they would go, He said, “Where the bodies are, there the vultures will gather.” Hmm. Does that sound like someplace you want to go?
     No, we’ll be separated into two groups, all right, but it happens once on the last day. Jesus says “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:39) Martha said to Jesus about her brother Lazarus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (John 11:24) I’m pretty sure “last” means “last,” not phases. But the point is that every one of us will face judgment. Those who left this world on Saturday know which group they are in.
     The idea of judgment day used to be pretty common in ordinary speech, along with things like “until kingdom come.” Almost everyone knew there would be a day when Jesus, the son of God, would come back to the earth to make everything right. To judge. To do justice. A dear woman I know posted jokingly that she was a little disappointed at being left behind. A friend of hers told her, “If anyone got to go, it would be you.” But we aren’t saved from hell and brought into the kingdom of God because we’re so sweet. In fact, God’s sorting system has nothing to do with our personalities or achievements. The only thing that counts is whether you belong to Christ or not. (What a relief!) In spite of all our bad behavior, all the things we hope our friends never find out about, if we trust that Jesus took the punishment for them and that He has lent us His clean robe, we are part of His nation, His kingdom, His family. I’m in.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What Good Is A Woman? Lesson 6

Read Esther Chapter 6.

What does the existence of the king's book mean to Mordecai in vss. 1-3?
Who is "saved by the book" in Daniel 12:1, Malachi 3:16-18 and Revelation 21:10 and 27? Contrast this with what a book says about Amalek in Exodus 17:14-16.

How do James 4:10 and 1 Peter 5:6 apply to Mordecai's situation?

How does Psalm 10:2 apply to Haman? (What do you imagine Haman would have done if a relative of his had been made queen?)

Some may see Mordecai as a type of Christ because of the threat of the gallows and the procession depicted in vss. 6-11. Compare this procession to those in Luke 19:28-38 and Revelation 19:11-16. What are some similarities and differences? For example, what is unique about the steeds? Who does the praising? Where does the "glory" come from?

Apply Proverbs 16:9 to Haman's hopes. In vs. 12, might he be starting to get a hint about Proverbs 16:18?

Vs. 13 shows a turn-about in Haman's family and friends from 5:14. See Deuteronomy 2:25, Psalm 44:1-3 and Zephaniah 2:10,11.

Does the Lord enjoy irony, or what?

       Mordecai seems to have maintained a remarkable degree of humility to this point. Though his young ward is now in a position of power and wealth, he has not finagled a higher position in the court. He remains at the gate. What happens next is a humorous example of the oxymoronic James 4:10, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up," combined with "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).
       The king's record book is the key to the action. Being "saved by the book" is a recurring theme in scripture. Daniel 12:1 predicts that "there shall be a time of trouble,... and at that time, your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book." In Malachi 3:16,17, "a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD... 'They shall be Mine,' says the LORD of Hosts." The ultimate importance of the book appears in Revelation 21:27. The only people allowed into the new Jerusalem are "those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life."
       Some are condemned in writing too, and it isn't good news for Haman. In Exodus 17:14, "the LORD said to Moses, 'Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.'" Haman's line is doomed, and it has been written out ahead of time. All of this reminds the people of God that He is in charge, and that He has demonstrated His complete control of history both through the agency and for the benefit of His Son.
       Haman's pride leads to mortification in the procession that honors Mordecai. Like the threat of the gallows, this procession might link Mordecai with Christ in His entry into Jerusalem and His final triumphal return. Again, there are significant differences. Mordecai wears a robe that the king has worn and rides a horse that the king has ridden (6:8). When Jesus enters Jerusalem, He rides a colt that has never been ridden before (Luke 19:30), demonstrating, incidentally, His authority over the creation. When He rides out of heaven on a white horse (Revelation 19:11-16), He wears "a robe dipped in blood," that is, the blood of His own sacrifice. Mordecai's honor is all derivative, a reflection of the king's glory. It is a reward for his loyalty, but it is not something he claimed or executed for himself. Jesus is in control. His glory is all His own, because He is "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."
       Only Haman's voice is heard to praise Mordecai. A multitude hails Jesus as King on the way to Jerusalem, and the rocks stand ready to testify if the people fail (Luke 19:37-40). Mordecai's honor is rather an afterthought, and the form it takes is an accident. Though the first is peaceful and sacrificial while the second is martial and terrifying, both appearances of Christ show Him to be the one, rightful, supreme king who must be honored because of Who He is.
       "A man's heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9), even when those plans are directed against God's people. Haman may be starting to realize this as he hurries home mourning (6:12). His wife and friends have changed their tune from the jolly advice to build a gallows in 5:14. God had already promised to "put the dread and fear of [Israel] upon the nations" (Deuteronomy 2:25). The reason for the fear appears in Psalm 44:1-3 when the psalmist sings to God that Israel triumphed because of "Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance."  Zephaniah 2:10,11 tells that the proud enemies of God's people will be struck with awe, and all will eventually worship the LORD. In other words, God will eventually make Christ's enemies His footstool (Matthew 22:41-44), and "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow" (Philippians 2:9-11). Haman is just one in a long line of enemies who try to destroy those whom God has called. They cannot win.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gardener 4, Squirrels 0

     I buried my fourth squirrel today. I'm a nice old lady who loves babies and little furry creatures... except squirrels. "But they're so cute!" Uh huh. They pose adorably as they nib-nib-nibble on the sunflower seeds they have stolen from the bird feeder. I'm sure they were ever so perky when they dug up all my seed peanuts. And ate the pineapple top I planted. And the chayote squash I was trying to sprout. And the buds of my day lilies. So, so cute was the sweet potato they dug up and took a single bite out of. And, oh, the peak of charm are the toothmarks on the passion fruit, which isn't even ripe, but has been knocked off the vine by the sweet little balls of furry EVIL. Did I mention the dozen or so unripe figs they purloined from my struggling fig tree?           
     Yessiree, I kill squirrels. Cayenne pepper and oil of peppermint have protected some of my crops from their depredations, but I have to go back around every couple of days poofing the cayenne out of the gigantic warehouse club container and sprinkling the absurdly expensive peppermint oil from the health food store. Hub and I have both taken shots at the little blighters with a pellet rifle, but Davy Crockett we ain't. Slingshot was hopeless. Spring rat traps they easily unbaited and snapped without injury. I could almost hear them chuckling.      
      Enter the Victor brand electronic rat trap, a black plastic quonset hut about eight inches long. It takes four C batteries, and you bait it with peanut butter. The first night, I set it on an arbor bench. Next morning, big kahuna squirrel had met his end. In fact, the end is what protrudes from the tube: rear legs and tail. I dug a hole and tipped the body in. Subsequent squirrels seemed a trifle shy, so I placed the trap at the base of their favorite tree and sprinkled a little birdseed at the entrance and inside the trap. That did the trick. Another hole, and another, and another. About one a day. Today's squirrel fell bum first into the hole and kind of stuck upright, seeming to look up at me with reproach. At least, that's the poetic, sensitive interpretation. "It won't work," said I, pushed the nasty little thing down into the hole and covered it up. I shall reset the trap forthwith.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Green Thumb, Purple Heart?

     Assembling the raised garden bed kit was pretty easy. Filling it was something else. With three compost bins in service for more than a year, you’d think I might have plenty of lovely compost to use in my raised garden beds. I lifted the little door at the bottom of bin one and slid the shovel in. Out came some defiantly uncomposted leaves.
     When I pushed deeper into the bin, the shiniest, sleekest, healthiest looking roaches I ever saw rocketed out in all directions. Having such an idyllic home probably keeps them from bothering with the house, but still… roaches. I smacked as many as I could with my shovel. Do roaches send out commandos? A smaller black bug ran up my leg. Flailing at it, I overshot the target and smacked my knobbly, arthritic left middle finger on the compost bin. Ow.
     The finger swelled up and stuck out straight for the rest of the exercise. Bin two had a little more crumbly stuff worthy of the name “compost,” but it came out in tiny amounts. It must have taken a hundred shovelings to spread a modest layer over the bottom of the bed. Finally, time for the bags of soil Big, heavy bags of soil. Picked one up. Put it down pretty quickly. Solution: hoist two bags at a time into a wheelbarrow and wrestle it over to the bed, dump one in each half. Cut off the end and pour out the soil, which doesn’t necessarily want to leave the bag. Six bags.
     Then I realize the bed isn’t going to get as much sun as I thought because of an oak. Phooey. It’ll just have to do. The new tenants will be asparagus beans and scarlet runner beans. They’re supposed to thrive in heat. That we got. I planted the seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in egg cartons, and the sprouts fairly blasted up through the potting soil, ready for a new, productive life in the wide world. At least, I hope so. There’s another bed to assemble. And my finger is still throbbing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Book Review

     The title of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society made me fear that the novel would be too cutesy, but authors Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows (aunt and niece) present a believable ensemble of characters and an engrossing story, all told in letters. Their main character, a writer called Juliet Ashton, begins to discover in 1946 how the Nazi occupation of the British island of Guernsey affected its residents. As they become her friends, they and their stories have a life-changing effect on her.
      A Guernsey man has found Juliet’s name in a secondhand book of essays by Charles Lamb. He writes to her to ask how to get more books by Lamb. Wares of the one bookstore on the island have all been bought by the Society or burned. Juliet decides to help, and as letters fly back and forth, she learns that the Society sprang from a spontaneous lie when some islanders were caught violating curfew. When the German commander praised the idea and asked to attend, the friends decided they had better really start reading books and discussing them.
      Soldiers came only a few times, but the meetings became the center of life for the islanders, partly because of the effect of literature on people who had read little more than pig-breeding magazines, and because of their friendships and loyalties. All had to deal with dwindling supplies of flour and cooking oil and soap, with the sight of starving slave laborers, and with those who would betray neighbors to gain favor with the Germans. One of the members is caught feeding a teenage slave who collapsed in a garden, too weak even to dig up a potato. She is arrested and never seen again, leaving behind a baby girl whose father is a German officer. How the Society cares for the child is a major part of the story.
     The grimness is there, but so are courage, loyalty, self-sacrifice and love. Grace notes of humor and a charming romance temper the dark history and leave the reader with hope. The romantic, the book lover and the history buff will all appreciate this book.