Archive for the Thoughts

Monday, November 12th, 2012

When the snow didn’t stop

When Johnny let the dog out last night, he called to me, “It’s snowing.” This morning, the snow picked up again and at breakfast was still in the air and covering more of the leaves we haven’t yet raked.

Last night was November 11.

Two groups of Minnesotans probably shared the same thought as they looked out their windows this morning. The two groups are those who can remember November 11, 1940 and those who know some Minnesota history (I fall into only one of All Hell Broke Loose: Experiences of Young People During the Armistice Day 1940 Blizzardthose groups, and it’s not the first one.) The thought we shared was: November 11 . . . snow . . .the Armistice Day Blizzard.

The day started out with temperatures in the 60s. People in Minneapolis left their overcoats at home and many outstate hunters took advantage of the beautiful day to head out to their duck blinds–in light jackets. By midday, snow was heavy and temperatures continued dropping dramatically to as low as 30 degrees below zero before the blizzard ended.

 

Wings in the Wind:  The Armistice Day Storm of 1940At the end of 3 days, 49 Minnesotans were dead–and a total of 150 over a 5-state area.

Minnesota’s survivors continue to tell stories of those days–both from personal memory (also here) and in historical fiction.

The Armistice Day Storm is one of those events that remains as a historical landmark. It’s planted in Minnesota memory.

 

 

In the Grip of the Whirlwind: The Armistice Day Storm of 1940But now, mid-morning, the snow has stopped. The sun shines, then doesn’t from the sky that’s snowfall gray–an average late fall day in Minnesota. The forecast is for 30% possibility of light snow showers. Weather forecasting was changed as a result of the Armistice Day Storm, so we don’t expect a blizzard this Veteran’s Day holiday.

Of course, God is the one who knows for sure.

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Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

On voting the first time

The first time I voted was by absentee ballot when I was in college.

 

I was thinking about that at 7:15 this morning while I was standing in line at our polling place–thinking about voting the first time. Out of about 30 people waiting, I’d guess at least 20 were Somalis. Or rather, I should say they are Somali-background Americans, exercising their right to vote. Some were young enough to have been born here, but most looked old enough to have come here as refugees, so they’ve been naturalized as American citizens.

Many of the people waiting ahead of us were directed to the table where they could register, which means this was their first time voting in Minnesota.

Just imagine, I thought, how different this is than anything they’ve experienced. First of all, there is an election–there are ballot choices, not a dictator as the only name that everyone must “choose.” Beyond that, there is no fear of being attacked entering or exiting the polling place. There’s an expectation of a fair count, even if it should involve recount and vituperation. And if history is any clue, there’ll be a peaceful transfer of leadership–no fighting in the streets, no civil war, no burning and looting.

Just imagine.

I’m not a political person. And I don’t think America is the savior of the world. But today I was thankful.

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Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

That’s not fair!

Our son, Barnabas, comments in World Magazine  online about winning and losing. He begins:

Recently, as we were flipping through radio stations in the car, my 6-year-old daughter heard the song “We Are the Champions” by Queen. She asked what a champion is, and we started talking about winning and losing. At one point in the conversation she said, “Winning isn’t fair because not everyone can do it.” Her response is, sadly, quite common. (Read the rest of what he has to say about the idea that “everyone is a winner.”)

In contrast, there are cultures where life’s primary impetus or “encouragement”  is shame. In such a culture, this would be true for children in school, for spouses toward each other, for employers toward employees. It would be true in every arena.

But let’s just stay in the child-rearing part of life’s arena, since that’s what Barnabas is focusing on. To give you an idea of what I mean when I name shame as prime motivator, here’s what one Chinese mother says:

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. . . .

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.” By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

So, there are the two precipices to avoid:

1. Everyone is a winner.

2. You are nothing, because someone else is performing better than you.

That mesa is not even the right place to be maneuvering, trying to stay somewhere between the two treacherous precipices.

What do I want to say instead to a child I love or on whose upbringing I have some influence? I think of many things, but here’s one way to say it.

“The LORD is  the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Is. 40:28).

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together  for good,  for  those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Your God, your Creator, your Father loves you and knows you better than anyone else can ever know you. He wants you to be blessed, happy. He also knows what he wants you to achieve, and he offers you magnificent, out-of-this-world rewards. His desires for you?

  •  Blessed are  the poor in spirit, for  theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  •  Blessed are  those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  •  Blessed are the  meek, for they  shall inherit the earth.
  •  Blessed are those who hunger and  thirst  for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  •  Blessed are  the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
  •  Blessed are  the pure in heart, for  they shall see God.
  •  Blessed are  the peacemakers, for  they shall be called  sons  of God.
  •  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for  theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  •  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely  on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven . . . . (Matt. 5:3-12)
I hope you’ll notice that his primary desires for your happiness don’t mention anything scholarly or professional, though fulfilling his desires will affect these and all aspects of your life.
Does his list seem overwhelming? Just remember this: He knows your weaknesses, and you can achieve what he wants you to achieve, through him who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13).
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Friday, April 6th, 2012

Good Friday thoughts

For about as many years as we’ve been at Bethlehem, on Good Friday we’ve attended the noontime service of the Good Neighbor Fellowship, a collection of some of the churches within easy walking distance of ours.

Today the service was at Hope Community Church, one of our daughter churches, now grown up and thriving just 3 blocks from us, the old mother church.

A few random thoughts during the service . . .

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When Pastor Steve Treichler took the pulpit to welcome us, he drew attention to a couple of lines we’d just sung:

When, through grace, in Christ our trust is,
Justice smiles and asks no more:

As he drew us into the wonder of if, he became more and more animated till he reined himself in, remembering he was supposed just to be doing the welcome. “Sorry, I’m preaching, but that [gesturing toward the words on the screen]–that‘s worth the price of admission,” meaning today’s worship service. But my thoughts went wider–to eternal worship.

When, through grace, in Christ our trust is – That’s not just worth the price of admission. It is the price of admission.

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With Easter coming, it’s the season for Facebook and Twitter posts saying things like, “Hey, look! I must be a great treasure, because Jesus found me worth dying for.” But this song gets it right.

How Deep the Father’s Love  . . .

That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

If I’m a treasure, it’s only because God sent his son when I was a wretch–nobody’s treasure.
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Pastor Arthur Agnew of Bethesda Baptist said, “They won’t call the roll in the new kingdom until everyone’s there, because Jesus made the way.”
When I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it, here’s what it became: The roll won’t be called up yonder until all the called are up yonder.
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It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

 

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Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Music when Christmas is hard

There have been times in my life when I felt as if I were living and moving in a thick, muffled fog–when my heart couldn’t see or hear anything clearly, if at all. I can look back on a few of those times and know the exact moment when a glimmer of light broke through. It happened with music. I don’t know how music which enters through the ears can shine a beam of light into the heart. It doesn’t work metaphorically or physically, but that’s what happened.

Today, I’ve been collecting things I’ve read from people writing about their Christmas celebrations when it’s hard to celebrate. I was struck by the role music plays or has played for some of them.

Need some Theology with that Hymn, M’am?, by Carrie Zeman

Drive-by Caroling, by Julie Martindale

Christmas Joy, by Joni Eareckson Tada

Request for you: Please share with us music that speaks especially to your heart at Christmas.

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Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Plurals and paradoxes

Here’s a funny reminder that what seems perfectly natural to me, as a native English speaker, is really quite odd and random. From a friend whose English was learned by study, later than her at-home language that came naturally. 

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes;
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese;
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen ?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet ?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth ?

Then one may be that, & three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose;
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother & also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his & him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis & shim !

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
Neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England
.

We take English for granted,
but if we explore its paradoxes,
We find that quicksand can work slowly,
boxing rings are square;
A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
Why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing,
Grocers don’t groce & hammers don’t ham? 

Doesn’t it seem crazy that …
you can make amends but not one amend ?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends …
and get rid of all but one of them,
What do you call it ?
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught ?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables,
what does a humanitarian eat ?

Sometimes I think all people who speak English
Should be in an asylum for the verbally insane.
In what other language do people recite at a play,
and play at a recital ?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship …
We have noses that run & feet that smell;
We park in a driveway & drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance & a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man & a wise guy are opposites ?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
in which your house can burn up as it burns down;
In which you fill in a form by filling it out,
& in which an alarm goes off by going on.

And in closing,
If Father is Pop,
How come Mother’s not Mop?

(I haven’t discovered who created this, but various versions have been around since the 1800s.)

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