Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day

     I carry a planner around with me most everyplace I go.  In it I keep my lists of things to do, properly categorized and dated, of course.  The thing is that I tend to be forgetful.  Oh, I don’t mean to be.  It’s just that sometimes I am carrying so much in my mind that things get away from me.
     But there are some things that I will never forget.
  • Being sent to the principals office when I was seven for singing "I'm a Believer by the Monkees on the school bus.  I was a big fan of Davy Jones.
  • The day my son set the lawn on fire.
  • The moment I knew that I loved Pat.  We were on a train after a pretty disastrous first date.
  • My first glimpse of each of each of our children.
  • How soft my grandmother’s cheek was and how she smelled of tea.
  • Patrick swearing in to the Navy on August 27, 2001 and a few weeks later the planes hitting the Towers.
     Tomorrow is Memorial Day.  A day set aside to remember those who have died so that we could be free.  Because of those who sacrificed, we have the right to assemble in church on a Sunday morning.  We have the right to live at peace in our homes.  We have the right to pursue happiness, to be educated, and to disagree with our government.
     Memorial Day is a day for us to remember the price that was paid for our freedom.
Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard.  ~Revelation 3:3
     God directed the Israelites to celebrate a “Memorial Day” to help them remember major events in their history.  Passover was celebrated each year to commemorate their miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt. When Jesus ate His last Passover meal, He instituted a new memorial to commemorate the deliverance that He would accomplish on the cross for all of us who believe.  He shared the bread and wine with his disciples and instructed them “do this in memory of Me.”   Jesus won the war against death and sin.  He paid the cost for our salvation.
     Once a year we celebrate Memorial Day, but for a Believer, everyday is a day to remember the One who died so that we could be free.
     Can you sing "I'm a Believer?"

Sunday, May 18, 2014


     Last weekend our family went to see Lightscapes at Van Cortland Manor in Croton.  Here we are blinded by the flash.  In the picture you can see our familiar faces, my brother, John and his two girls, and Pat’s mom, Florence.  My sister-in-law, Ellen, took this picture.
     Lightscapes is a magical nighttime light display of a springtime garden.  There are amazing flowers and friendly woodland creatures all constructed of recycled materials and dazzling lights as far as the eye can see. If you are interested in going, there are two more weekends left, but shows do sell out.  Everyone in our group enjoyed it and our ages ranged from 12 to almost 80.
     At Lightscapes, there are about 6,500 fantastic flowers, hundreds of butterflies, giant lady bugs and dragon flies, and a huge green praying mantis.
   Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See the darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the people, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn ~Isaiah 60:1-3
     God promised through the prophet Isaiah that there was going to be a light to repel the darkness.  For five hundred years that promise lived in the hearts and dreams of the people who looked for the light.
     And then the light appeared.  The glory of the Lord shone around a group of shepherds keeping watch at night.  The light brought them good news of great joy.  Angels sang a heavenly chorus of praise for a baby lying in a manger.
     The light appeared as a star guiding the magi from the East so that they could worship and bring gifts to the small child who was to be King.
     The light appeared in the hearts and minds of those who sought out a voice crying in the wilderness.  It appeared to a woman who was not too busy to stop for a drink of life giving water with a tired stranger at a well.  The light appeared to lepers and blind men.  The light appeared to sinners and the lame.  The light appeared to those locked in the darkness of a prison.  It appeared to those looking for answers and to those who had lost their way.  It appeared to those who were at the end of all reason.  It appeared to those who had nothing left to lose, and eternity to gain.  It appeared to a thief on a cross.
     The gospel, the good news, glowed in the darkness for all to see and receive with joy.  The star that guided the magi to Jesus has long ago faded from view, but the light remains.  We no longer have a faint hope of redemption.  We have Jesus.  We do not have to wonder.  We have the light of certainty.
     The gospel of Jesus glows in the dark.  The darkness cannot overcome it.  God kept the promise He delivered through Isaiah.  We will never be left alone and afraid.  After all, we have a strong tower to run into and be safe.    We can trust in Jesus in all of the dark places our life’s journey will take us because when God is your glory you walk in everlasting light.
    The gospel glows in the dark.
     In a world filled with darkness, we are called to glow with His light. The light of Jesus shines through those who love Him for all to see. His light shines through us and reveals His presence.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  ~Matthew 5:14-16 
     How do you glow in the dark?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Muffin Mishap

     She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she can laugh at the days to come.  ~Proverbs 31:25

     Pat and I have been blessed to have two sets of kids.  We have three older sons who are grown, and three younger kids, who are growing up quickly.  Pat and I started young and then, when it came to kids, just kept going.  This means that we are oldish for parents, just ask our younger kids who think that we are ancient.  We are not usually the oldest parents at back to school night, but we are up there.  We take ibprofen for muscle aches.  We buy industrial size bottles of Tums.  We are not the “cool” parents.  Music is too loud, and we are often befuddled by the electronics that our children understand.
     From the first queasy bout of morning sickness, through the struggle to birth or adopt our children, to the late nights, driving lessons, and endless efforts with science projects and homework, being a parent is the most wonderfully difficult thing that God will call us to do.   But then we shouldn’t lose heart, it was never meant to be easy.
      We are called to raise Godly warriors.  Pat and I have five sons.  We are familiar with dirt, noise, and wiggly things in pockets.  We have had oatmeal in the vcr, matchbox cars in the toilet, and rocks in the dryer.  We’ve been chased by snakes, lizards, and bicycles.  We’ve learned about Diagon Alley, baseball, and building fortresses with lego blocks.  We know how to read a compass, scramble over rocks, and go geocaching.  We’ve played bingo and searched for buried treasure.  We’ve put out fires, baited hooks, and shot off fire works.  We’ve played slot car racing, bumper cars, and given driving instruction.  We have spent a fair amount of time at doctor’s offices and emergency rooms while our boys have been stitched up from their latest adventure.  We have sent super hero’s to time out.  We love our boys.
     We have been blessed with a beautiful daughter.  Patty introduced us to the world of sweet cupcakes, glitter, and sparkles.  Pat and I have had tea with teddy bears and had our hair braided lopsidedly.  We have learned the power of a pair of shoes and a truly bad hair day.  We’ve shopped for prom dresses and hiking boots.  We’ve survived the drama of hair flips and “I don’t want to talk about it’s.”  We’ve danced in the kitchen, around a campfire, and at lakeside parties.  We’ve watched school concerts, plays, and gone on field trips.  We’ve picked flowers and painted glitter on our nails.  We’ve waited for our girl to return home safely from dates, Pat having forcefully shaken her beau’s hand before they left for the evening.  We love our daughter.
     Parenting is an endeavor of love, faith, and sheer determination.   But we are imperfect people.   I find myself awake at  2 am wondering how I could have forgotten this or that very important thing.  How I could have done such and such better, and counting the many ways in which I have fallen short.  Parenting is too important a task to mess up.  There are days, weeks, and even seasons when we feel inadequate for the task.
     I had one such day recently and the family thought it was humiliating enough to share.
     A few weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, our cat, Luna, woke me up a few minutes after five.  Pat still rested beside me and I could hear that no one else in the house was up.  This was good.  So I crept downstairs instead of rolling over.  I slowly sipped my coffee, enjoyed the birds singing outside the window, and relaxed before the crazy Sunday morning routine began.
      I fed the cat and savored the moments of peace.  I tweaked what I was going to say at church, read a few favorite blogs, and checked facebook.  I drank my coffee.  The cat, full of kibbles, joined me on the chair purring loudly.   Around seven, I heard the thump of feet hitting the floor.  Kids were coming down.
     Hungry, I decided to make maple pecan muffins for the family.  I had the butter and syrup creamed and the dry ingredients mixed before I discovered that I did not have the required sour cream.  I decided to exchange cream cheese for the missing sour cream, because I’m flexible like that.  The butter and syrup looked a little melty from all the whipping, but I shrugged and went with it.  The recipe usually yields 18 generously sized muffins, but for some odd reason, I seemed to have lots of extra batter.  I doled it out between the muffin cups and set the pan to bake for eighteen minutes.
     I went upstairs to get dressed and showered feeling noble and a little like the Proverbs 31 woman who gets up while it is still dark and provides food for her family.
     Pat and I were chatting when the first tendrils of smoke made their way up the stairs and through the closed bedroom door.  We raced down stairs.  Smoke hung a foot deep from the ceiling.  The smoke alarm that usually calls my children to dinner, was oddly silent.
     Burnt maple syrup smoke puffed in my face when I opened the oven door.  When my eyes stopped watering, I peered at my muffins.  The batter had overflowed and spilled out across the muffin pan then dripped down onto the bottom of the oven.  A half inch of black gunk with charred pecans rested in the muffin cups.
     Pat, the love of my life and greatest support in times of difficulty, took one look at the pitiful mess, and yelled, “Get the camera!”  Yes, because this needed to be documented.
     Anthony helpfully opened the sliding door to fan the smoke out.  Patty cried, “What did you do?”  Connor took one look in the oven and cheerfully informed me that I had a muffin mishap, and perhaps he should have cereal.
     Now that my culinary expertise had been properly documented for future generations, I started to scrape the blackened crisp off the bottom of the oven.  Pat stopped me by closing the oven door and switching it from bake to clean.  He wanted to leave the muffin pan in the oven, but I vetoed that.  It would be better soaked, and if that didn’t work, disposed of.  We hastily re-planned our morning.  Pat and the boys would remain at home in case the house went on fire from my muffin mishap and Patty and I would go to church. As a precaution, I lovingly took the fire extinguisher out of the cabinet and placed it next to the oven.  Pat informed me that if I was really concerned about him, I would have put the fire extinguisher on the table so he wouldn’t have to get burned getting to it if the oven did actually go on fire.  He had a point.
     Still hungry and being too considerate to add to the mess, Patty and I went to the diner for breakfast.  Over eggs and pancakes we made plans for some girl shopping in the afternoon.  At church, my friend Kim suggested we go to Job Lot in Hyde Park.  I had never been there.
     What a place it is!  There is a hodgepodge of, well, everything.  Clothing, food, flashlights, paper goods, and area rugs.  It was in the area rugs that I once again got into a little bit of trouble.  I have been searching for a rug for the living room.
     The area rugs were stacked on top of one another in piles.  If you have ever had the experience of shopping for rugs, you know that the one you want to look at is never the top rug.  In the 5 x 7 pile, I discovered a rug that had the perfect colors for our bedroom.  I could just imagine it tucked cozily in front of our chair.  The only problem was that the rug I wanted was about five rugs down.  A young man who was a store employee wandered by a few times but steadfastly refused to make eye contact.  Patty and I were on our own.  I came up with a plan.  If we flipped the rugs back halfway and then sort of rolled the desired rug up toward the middle, and then flipped the rugs back and did the same thing from the opposite direction, we could pull the rug out without disturbing the rest of the pile.  So Patty and I strong armed our way through and the little rug ended up neatly in my carriage.
     Still determined to find something for the living room, I moved on to the pile of 8 x 11 rugs which were up on a much higher platform so that they wouldn’t touch the floor.  I leafed through and quickly discovered a rug way down in the pile that had possibilities.  The same employee had continued to pass by and not make eye contact.  Well, my rug technique had worked before, so I decided to try again.  Patty and I took our positions on opposite ends on the short side of the rugs.  Flipping 8 x 11 rugs over was much more difficult than the smaller rugs.  They were heavy, higher up and sagged in the middle as we folded them.  Still I was determined and Patty was giving it her best shot.  We had managed to get the top rugs flipped and the right rug rolled.  I had positioned myself to pull the rug out from under the others when I was startled by a deep voice rumbling behind me.  There was a shorter than me, older man who offered to get someone to help me.
     “No thanks, I think that I have it.”   Silly me.  The calvary had finally arrived and I turned them down.   I gave an enthusiastic tug and the entire pile of rugs spilled on to the floor.  I was mortified.  The man paged for assistance and a few guys turned up, including the young man who had pretended that I was invisible before.
     Then because God has a sense of humor and to make my embarrassment complete, my friend, Kim came around the corner.  What a scene.  There I was with the pile of rugs dumped on the floor, the guys rushing around, and the man in charge telling me that they did not want my help to put the rug display back together, thank you very much.  Patty wanted to melt.  So much for being clothed in strength and dignity like in Proverbs 31.  At least this time, no one had a camera!  Kim promptly called her mother, Donna, to share the excitement.
     Patty and I went home.  The house was standing.  The fire extinguisher unused.  The oven was clean, but the house still smelled like burnt crispies.  When we rolled the rug out in the living room, we saw that it was missing a few important rows of yarn in the middle.  I would have noticed this in the store if I had ever seen the rug completely instead of rolled up.  Pat went back with me the next day to return it.  Fortunately, no one was there who had witnessed the great rug debacle of the previous day.
     And there it is, in the middle of the muddle, grace generously spilled out like rugs on the floor.   Being a parent is about the laughter of making mistakes and doing our best.  It’s about dying to self and fanning the smoke of our blunders out the window.  It’s about documenting the laughter and dancing in the kitchen.
     When our children see us in the midst of our mess, they’ll know that the God we serve, is not about to squash us for not being perfect people.  They’ll know that He sees us as we are and loves us anyway.  Which is how He calls us to love them.
     I want my children to please be quiet.  Christ wants them to sing loud praises.  I want them to stop rocking the boat.  Christ wants them to get out of the boat and walk to Him over the roar of the waves.  I want them to be over achievers who always do their homework and make the best decisions.  Christ calls them to decide for Him and be His disciples.  I don’t want their heart to be broken. Christ wants to give them a heart of flesh, broken for His people.  I want them to fit in.  He wants to set them apart.  I love my children.  He loves them more.
     And when we fail as a parent, and we will fail, our sons and daughters will see us pick ourselves up and continue the path we have been set on.  Our lives are transparent to our children.  They have seen us with mud on our face, curlers in our hair, not ready for company, certainly not warrior like.  They see us in our un-sparkly selves. They have witnessed our reaction to people who cut us off in traffic and what we do when we knock over the store display.   They have eaten at our table.  They know that real life sometimes requires fire extinguishers and smoke alarms.  They have listened to us talk to our friends, our parents, and our God.  For better or worse, our children have learned about marriage and parenting from us.  They see our laughter and our tears.  They know our sins.
     So we teach them about Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away our sins, especially the sins of children and parents.  When I was young and acting foolish, I remember my parents telling me that they hoped that I had  a child just like me.  I am so grateful that our God is full of grace and mercy, because parenting matters.  God understands. As parents, we are raising greatness.  Godly warriors for the next generation.
     May you have a blessed Mother’s Day.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Koi at the Bronx Zoo

     Excuse me, I mustache you a question.
          According to Chinese legend, a carp which courageously climbed up waterfalls was turned into a dragon.  This is why carp, or koi, are a Chinese symbol for success and bravery.  These beautiful fish sure do look like small dragons.
     The koi in these photos were in a pond in the Butterfly Exhibit at the Bronx Zoo.  They were so graceful and beautiful.
     They danced as they moved through the water.
     I love the mustaches!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Shame Free

     A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a faculty meeting and admittedly, not paying attention.  Now lots of people don’t pay attention in meetings, but this meeting was about getting our students to pay attention.  A colleague was sharing an example of a technique called a “Whip Around” to get students engaged in her lesson.
    Then she said, “Quick, name a country in Europe.  Joan?”
     “Spain,” Joan stated.
     “Donna.”  I quickly replayed what I had almost heard.  “London.”  I responded with false confidence.  Polite laughter filled the room.  Still oblivious, I reviewed my response and decided that I had correctly answered the question.
     The teacher did not correct me, there may or may not have been eye rolling.  She moved on to her next victim, “Ellen?”
     Ellen had been paying attention, but was confused by my brilliance.  After a moment, she called out “Sweden.”  That was when I realized that I had named a city in Europe and not a country.
     Yup.  During a lesson on paying attention,  my mind was out to lunch.  My cheeks burned flaming red.  I wanted to hide under the table.
     Can you recall a time when you opened your mouth and inserted your foot?  It’s not fun to feel inadequate, embarrassed, and ashamed.
     The world tells us to be perfect.  The perfect teacher, the perfect student, the perfect spouse, the perfect child, the perfect parent, the perfect employee, the perfect employer, the perfect Christian. Evidence is gathered in a neat little binder.  There is no room for error.  We must measure up and if we don’t, there are consequences.  Often, we feel guilty or ashamed.
     There is a difference between guilt and shame.  Guilt is the result of our doing something that we should not have done.  Shame results when we are not the person we think that we should be. Guilt says, “What I did was not good.”  Shame says, “I am no good.”  Guilt says, “I did something wrong.”  Shame says, “There is something wrong with me.” Guilt says, “I’ve made a mistake.”  Shame says, “I am a mistake.”
     God does not create mistakes.  We are people in need of forgiveness and grace.
     Guilt moves us to ask for forgiveness.  Shame immobilizes us and weighs us down.  Shame convinces us that our sin is worse than the sin of others.  We have trouble believing that God can use us.  How can I serve?  I can’t do that.  I can’t do anything significant.  I’m not enough.
     People burdened by shame are who Jesus had in mind when he invited the “weary and heavy laden” to take His yoke and find rest.
     Jesus sought me with love and mercy.  He sees who I am and what I have done, and He loves me anyway.  Jesus takes away my shame.
     I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.  ~Psalm 34:4-5
     God made a way for our wounded hearts to be restored.  He freely gives us peace, love, forgiveness, hope, and grace.  He heals our shame.
     The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”   ~Romans 10:8-11
     Jesus meets us where we are, just as we are.  He knows what lurks in the corners of our hearts and mind.  He loves us individually and personally.  Leave your shame with Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith.

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