Thursday, December 31, 2009

December's Journey

December is usually a fast, full month because it's a Holiday month, but this December set a speed record for our family! Fasten your seatbelts and come with me on a quick pictoral trip through one amazing month.

Justin moved out of the house and into his first condo (complete with roomies), so John and I worked fast and furious to transform a former bachelor pad into a nursery. No small feat! When Kelly arrived she put all the finishing flourishes to her little nest.
We commemorated Beau's life at Harpeth Hills' annual Candlelight Christmas service. Though this shot doesn't show it, there were crowds and crowds of people celebrating Christmas and their loved ones.
Decorate the house, do the baking, pack the bags, check the lists, and off to Kansas we go, where the sky is big and the prairie wide ... and windy ... and cold!
We spend a day in Independence, getting the lay of the land (which isn't hard since it's such a small town) then learn we'll need to go on to Wichita for a couple of days. Baby Omari won't be coming that day after all and we are rather bummed to say the least! So we visit THE Little House on the Prairie located nearby to cheer ourselves up. We learned why the Ingalls family spent only one year there - it's too COLD AND WINDY to live in a log cabin on a high prairie!We also spend a little time getting acquainted with tiny Caney, Kansas where we thaw out in a little Soda Fountain/flea market. Kelly and I had a comforting bowl of vegetable beef soup and find a few treasures as well.Whiling away the weekend in Wichita, we found a beautiful little stone Episcopal Church and attended both their morning Advent service and the evening Celtic service. Such a beautiful way to worship and contemplate the first advent of Christ! On Monday morning, after hearing the news that Baby Omari is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, we pack our bags again and move back to Independence. This time, we take a different 2-hour route across the prairie through the Flint Hills and marvel at the barren winter beauty of the plains.

Kelly and I check back into our friendly little hotel in Independence again, and are greeted by the staff who are by now acquainted with our adoption adventure. Even the cleaning ladies know, and they are very excited for Kelly! On Tuesday morning, Kelly packs herself a bag and packs the baby bag, and off we go to the appropriately named hospital. It's December 15th ... the day Eric and Kelly and many, many others have looked forward to for a long time! It's the birthday of their son!At 12:33, Aric Omari comes lustily into the world, healthy and whole! He weighs in at 7 lbs. 10 oz. and is the most amazingly beautiful baby around! At 1:45 the caseworker ushers us into Omari's room and Kelly meets her son for the first time. God's faithfulness inexpressibly fills our hearts ... how can one pack all the meaning of "thank you" into just those two words? Thank you to our Father, and thank you to a birth mom who makes such a sacrifice for the sake of a child? Kelly and Omari spend the night in the hospital, while I return to the hotel to announce the good news. The next morning we pack up again and by afternoon we are on our way again to Wichita and the comfortable Capitol Inn on McConnell Airforce Base. Kelly and I unpack and settle in again, but this time it will be for a few days as we rest and wait for the interstate compact to come through so we can cross the state line and go home. Though we have no guarantee of being home for Christmas, we are sure hoping that we will be.

"Judgement Day" comes on Friday and it all goes wonderfully well. The judge verifies that Kelly and Omari are indeed who they are, issues the adoption decree, and it even works for Eric to join in from Afghanistan on speaker phone! Friday, however, doesn't bring the interstate compact, so we can't leave on Monday as we hoped. So we spend another Wichita weekend, but this time we are spending our time getting to know Omari and delighting in the newborn-ness of him! We're also watching the weather closely because a winter storm is on the forecast horizon.Monday comes ... and by noon we learn that the compact has gone through! We can leave on Tuesday ahead of the storm and be home by Christmas!! So, we start packing again, and by this time we could do it in our sleep! So long, Capital Inn! So long, Kansas! You've been great, but we're headed back to the gentle land of trees and hills.Two days on the road, and by the afternoon of the 23rd we are HOME!! Praise be to God for His marvelous gifts! Thank you for tracing our December journey, and check back in for more photos of Omari and musings about the mercies of the Father."The Lord is faithful in all his words and kinds in all his works." Psalm 145: 13b

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Autumn Surprise

Every spring the Williamson County Garden Expo is held right around the corner from us and it is so much fun to go. There are so many different types of plants and gardening implements, workshops and exhibits, home and garden decor. My pocketbook could get into so much trouble there!

This year I picked up only a few things: a few different types of Basil and Thyme; some Swamp Grass, which was really cool-looking, like a thick bundle of fiber optics; a Caped Sundew - which is a little carnivorous plant that is fond of fruit flies; and a trio of miniature Foxglove. The herbs did marvelously and the Swamp Grass looked good draping over the edge of a rock wall. The Caped Sundew is in a pot by my kitchen window as is an Aloe and Jade. I think it's fun having two plants from totally different environments (swamp and desert) in the same window. And the Foxgloves.....?

Well, the Foxgloves just sat there all summer. They were nice and green and vigorous-looking, but didn't produce any blossoms. So, I surmised that they just needed a year to get established and then they would bloom. But, guess what happened in October? First one bloomed, looked beautiful awhile, and then faded. Then the second one followed suit. And now the third Foxglove is blooming! Did they forget that they are summer bloomers? Nevertheless, I am enjoying their staggered performance immensely!

Here are a couple of photos of Foxglove bloomer #2. I hope you enjoy this beautiful little plant in its backdrop of autumn color.
Here's a close-up of the blooms.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Precious Providential Gift

Who can ever know or anticipate the ways of God? He is a God who works wonders, and His Providence never ceases to surprise and amaze me! Earlier today I wrote about Beau and letting go of pain and grief in order to live life fully and abundantly. Even in just writing about it, my soul began to feel the relief of letting go. And then we got a text from Eric.

His text was very simple: "It's a boy!"

The joy that has welled up in our hearts is beyond telling. Again and again this year we have seen the Lord redeem our loss and pain, and though this little boy is not a replacement for Beau, he is a beautiful example of the Lord's love for Eric and Kelly and for the rest of us, too. His own little story-short as it is thus far-is also a beautiful example of the Lord's redemption and love. This precious one is a great gift from the Lord and I can't wait to welcome him home!

Letting Go

It's hard to let go of those we love, even when they have gone on to live in heavenly places. But for life and redemption to continue, we must let go and go on ourselves. Does this mean I will forget Beau, or deem him less worthy of my thoughts? Not at all. It means I can let go of the grief and the pain while remaining thankful for Beau's life.

So, as part of loving and letting go, I've planned a couple of little things to do to honor Beau on his birthday and home going. They may seem silly to you, but it works for me! :-) All year I've been saving hotel toiletries, and have three full bags to take to the Ronald McDonald House in memory of Beau and in gratitude to the RMH who comfortably housed us and supplied us with all we needed during our stay there. Then on Beau's home going day I'll head out to the cemetery and release a balloon to help me remember that he has indeed returned to the Father and I am free to let him go. A new day dawns and we hold the former days in our hearts with thanksgiving.

Nancy Guthrie, in her book Hope, writes of her own experiences of letting go:
"There is a tyranny in grief. We realize at some point that we have to figure out how to keep on living, how to incorporate the loss into our lives. We want to feel normal again, to feel joy again. But the energy and emotion of grief keeps us feeling close to the one we love or connected to what we've lost. Letting go of our grief feels like letting go of the one we love, leaving him or her behind and moving on. The very idea of it is unbearable.
I suppose we have a choice. We can hold on to the pain, accepting the misery it brings if it means we won't have to move forward with the emptiness. Or we can release it, process it, talk about it, cry over it, let it wash over us, and then let it wash away with our tears. We can make the painful choice to let it go-not all at once, but a little every day. We begin to find that we have the choice of whether or not we will let ourselves sink to that place of unbearable pain when the flashes or memories and reminders of loss pierce our hearts. And we can begin to make that hard choice. We can begin to let go of our grief so we can grab hold of life and those who are living. But I think the only way we can do that is by telling ourselves the truth-that if we choose to let go of the pain, or at least let it become manageable, it does not mean we love the one we've lost any less. And it doesn't mean that person's life was any less significant or meaningful, or that we will forget.
A couple of Sundays ago, a friend who had recently lost her husband stopped me after church to talk. "I cry at the office, cry all the way home, and then cry all evening," she told me ... while crying. And I cried with her.
"Wasn't your husband worthy of a great sorrow?" I asked her. When you love something or someone, the process of letting go is a painful one that takes some time, and it need not be rushed. Nor should it be avoided altogether. We feel the pain, mourn the loss, shed our tears, and with time we can begin to let go of the grief that has had such a hold on us. Perhaps it's not so much that we let go of our grief, but more that we give our grief permission to lessen its grip on us."

"Do you ever get over this?" I had asked Uncle Victor through tears. "No," he replied in a choked voice, "But you learn to live with it." Key word - live. And so we can indeed love, let go, and live.

Happy Birthday, Beau

In just a few days it will be the one year anniversary of Beau's birth and a few days afterwards, that of his death. We lived. We cried. We sorrowed. But we lived. And in that living we drew closer to God in a way we'd not known before, mining deeper the treasures of his love, redeeming the loss and the pain.

"C.S. Lewis said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." God uses the physical pain that does not subside, the relational pain that puts us on edge, the emotional pain that brings us to tears, to get our attention and to turn our attention toward him. Is that how God has used pain in your life? Do you find yourself praying more often, thinking more deeply, searching more urgently for the truth? When pain invades the busyness of our routine existence, it insists that we reexamine our assumptions and reevaluate our appetites and affections, doesn't it? Pain often affords us-or imposes on us-time for reflection. If we will accept it, pain can give us the gift of reconnection with God, a fresh intimacy with him, a passionate nearness to him. Pain brings us to our knees. We begin with prayers for our pain to be removed. And as he works in us, our prayers change so that we begin to asks that the pain will be redeemed." (Hope by Nancy Guthrie)

Thank you, Father, for the birthday gifts you have given us through the birth and death of dear Beau, and through the pain and redemption of his loss.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Birthdays and Jump-jumps

Last week John and I had the great joy of having ALL of our children and grandchildren under our roof and round our table. It was wonderful! We had lots of fun occasions with one of them being Kristin's birthday. In fact, these are about all the photos I took of our gathering - I was too busy having fun. So girls, send me some of yours, okay?

The cake has arrived! Katie made a white cake with peach filling - delicious!
My fun-loving three!
Sisters. They were being silly sisters to be sure!
Eric and Kelly enjoying the moment.
Waaay back in 1990, we surprised the kids with a trampoline for Christmas. Katie was two years old - about to turn 3, at the time. Flash forward 19 years and here's Katie on the very same trampoline! We can't believe it's still useable. Gilbert calls it the "Jump-jump", and he, too, has loved it since he was 2. (But, of course that's only been one year!)

Here are Katie and Gilbert having a grand old jump-jump time.
No longer air-borne.
The final three shots are of Gilbert doing his thing on the jump-jump. Since he has 100x more energy than all of us put together, we ALL love the jump-jump!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ginger in the Leaves, or Camo Kitty

Early evening yesterday was cloudy and wet, just perfect for causing the fall colors to stand out vividly against the grey. As I roamed about the farm, Ginger the barn cat followed me around for a while and became a camera subject herself. It was fun to see how her tiger-striped tabby coloration made for very good fall-leaf camouflage. (To get a better representation of the colors, click on the image to enlarge it.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thinking on Beau

The power of the imagination is very real. When scripture admonishes us in Romans 12:2 to renew our minds, it's teaching us to discern what is good and acceptable, helping us not to be conformed to this world which is full of sorrow and death.

When we had Beau with us here on earth for those short eight days, I concentrated completely on memorizing every little feature, wrinkle, and movement because I knew it was all I would know of him in this world. I photographed him continually, hoping to capture all those things. Along with his Mommy and Daddy and a few others, I was with him when he died and observed him in his death. And then when he was buried, a great part of my heart and mind were buried, also.

Later in the spring, as I undertook counseling sessions, it became apparent to me that I was still enmeshed in Beau's death and burial, and had not lifted the eyes of my heart to see the truth - that Beau was alive and with the Father! In order to begin the transformation of my mind, my counselor advised me to look for things - a picture perhaps - that would help me to focus on what was real and true, and so I did.

In 1 Samuel 2, Hannah gives her little boy, Samuel, to God; to serve Him in His own house. Verse 21 tells us, "... And the young man Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord." That was it! Now, I don't know if babies actually grow up in heaven, or if they stay babies, or become adults; but this was the comfort I was looking for, and the eye of my mind could imagine this image clearly - Beau was growing up in the presence of the Lord, at the feet of Jesus! And what better place to grow up? No sin, no sorrow; just joy and goodness. Colossians 3: 1-4 tells us to set our minds on things above, not on things of the earth. It is there, not here, that we will find what we are looking for. So now my heart and mind can begin to learn contentment in truth - Beau is not here, he is with the Lord who loves him perfectly.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Few Good Men

Anyone out there looking for a good man? Or is there anyone out there wanting to BE a good man, but doesn't have a role model to learn from? It seems that good men are hard to find these days!

Proverbs 31 gives us a great example of a godly woman, and we find qualifiers for Elders and Deacons in the New Testament which gives us a good idea of what a godly man should look like, but there is a description of the young man David, prior to his kingship, that really jumped out at me as a great example of a godly man.

1 Samuel 16:18 says, "One of the young men answered, "Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him."

Still just a young man, David already has a good reputation among the people. That's something to think about when a young lady is considering a young man. Is he held in high regard, or does he have a reputation that's less than desirable? No one should be making excuses for him.

David was skillful in playing the lyre. A man should not despise the arts as being silly or feminine. Chest-beating lifestyles depict a man who is insecure. A godly man recognizes and values the gifts of art that God gives to men and gives time to knowing them better.

David was a man of valor. Remember Chivalry? It seems to have gone completely out of mind in our day and age. A godly man remembers Chivalry - he is a man of virtue, a servant of God and of man.

David was a man of war. This doesn't mean that he went around picking a fight. In the Psalms he continually pleaded with God to deliver him from his enemies that he might have peace. However, David knew how to protect and defend, and he was obedient to God to drive out the enemy and establish the Kingdom in its place. So does any godly man.

David was prudent in speech. A godly man knows when to speak and when to be quiet and listen - he guards his mouth. His speech is not that of a fool, throwing words into the wind or speaking only in order to impress. A godly man's word is well-considered and carries weight.

David was a man of good presence. Like his speech, a godly man carefully considers his ways. He continually asks God, 'Will this glorify you if I do it?"

And most important of all these characteristics, the Lord was with David. In order for a man to be godly, he must - of course! - be with the Lord. Any man who isn't cannot possess the virtues listed above, for it is only by the Spirit of the Lord that any of us can walk in righteousness. This is a point that cannot be denied or ignored. Even when David sinned, he had a heart of repentance unto restoration and this only comes from walking with God.

So, ladies, if you are considering marriageable men you would do well to keep a Biblical example in mind. And remember, the scripture says he was ruddy and handsome and that's a good thing, too! Young men, if you are looking for a good role model for manhood, look first of all to your Lord and Savior, and then consider King David. Be one of those few on the narrow path - seek out Godliness as shown in the Scripture and in your older Christian brothers so that you will be able to disciple others, also. There are good men that can be found after all - now go find them!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Turn and be Healed

Most Christians are familiar with the passage from 2 Chronicles 7:13-14. These verses occur during the telling of King Solomon's dedication and consecration of the Temple. It was a grand and solemn occasion and the entire host of Israel attended. There - amongst the sacrifices, feasts, and song - was Solomon's message about the promises of God to His people; and along with His promises came stipulation and judgement for failure to obey His word. The passage from II Chronicles reads thus:
"When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

Here we see judgement for the disobedience of God's people - not for the unbeliever - and God's instruction on what we should do when judgement falls. (And, by the way, locusts and pestilence aren't always in the form of pests and pandemics.) When Believers realize that it is they who have sinned and brought judgement on themselves and their land, we can read throughout Scripture about how we can humble ourselves and seek God's forgiveness and mercy. Today I came across a passage in 1 Samuel that revealed more on this subject.

"And Samuel said to the people, "Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself ... I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king." ~ 1 Samuel 12:20-25

Again we see promise, stipulation, and judgement set out for us. We American Modern Believers have the opportunity to repent from our sin and see our country healed, but we must forsake our empty ways. We - the Church - have run after things that will not satisfy: wealth and prosperity, eternal youth, success, pleasure, fame; and I don't just mean individually, but as the CHURCH. We have chased after the wind and failed to seek after God. We have become idolators and we are reaping the whirlwind.

But, we can still repent, turn from our wicked ways and seek God's face - He promises He will not forsake us and will heal our land. If we refuse to turn and continue to chase after idols, the result is plain - we will be swept away, we and our king.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


JESU is in my heart, his sacred name
Is deeply carved there: but th' other week
A great affliction broke the little frame,
Ev'n all to pieces, which I went to seek:
And first I found the corner, where was J.
After, where E S, and next where U was graved.
When I had got these parcels, instantly
I sat me down to spell them, and perceived
That to my broken heart he was I ease you,
And to my whole is J E S U.
~ George Herbert

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Notes on Poems of George Herbert

George Herbert is one of my favorite poets, and it has taken some time for me to begin to plumb a little bit of the depth of his poems. Only a little bit, I repeat! Here is a sampling of three poems with my humble notes following each. If you, while reading, see any other points and meanings I have missed, I would love to hear what these poems have to say to you. Enjoy!


A broken A L T E R , Lord, thy servant rears,
Made of a heart, and cemented with tears:
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workman's tool hath touch'd the same.
A H E A R T alone
Is such a stone
As nothing but
Thy pow'r doth cut
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame,
To praise thy name.
That if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O let thy S A C R I F I C E be mine,
And sanctify this A L T A R to be thine.

We can find references in this poem to Psalm 139 where we read that our frame was hidden when we were being formed in secret, but not hidden to the Master Craftsman. Herbert also refers to the Old Testament stone altars that God commanded to be made of unhewn stone.

Our hearts are like those unhewn stones that only God can shape and form so that we may be made according to His purposes and glory. God takes us, these stones of His, and builds "a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer acceptable sacrifices" as 1 Peter 2:5 tells us. As stones "fitly framed together" it is our honor to offer "sacrifices of praise," and if we aren't willing to do so, God can raise up other stones to cry out praises to Him. Additionally, Herbert has constructed this poem, as a craftsman himself, to show the reader his theme of altar and sacrifice.


Philosophers have measur'd mountains,
Fathom'd the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk'd with a staff to heav'n, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.

Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skin, his garments bloody be.
Sin is that press and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through ev'ry vein.

Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach, then let him say
If ever he did taste the like;
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
WHich my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.

Though philosophers (and we) may study and acquire knowledge of the heavens, of men and states, and of the deep, there are two things even more immense, but nearby, in our hearts, that should be studied as well: Sin and Love. Unfortunately, we don't probe these depths. Perhaps because it is too painful.

It is sin that forces pain, death, and despair through every seen and unseen aspect of our beings. It was sin that wrung our Savior, so that His beauty and perfection were exchanged for our grotesqueness and failure. But, through that blood wrung from Him for our sakes, we have come to a cup of wine such as have never tasted - a cup given to us by Love.


Bright spark, shot from a brighter place,
Where beams surround my Saviour's face,
Canst thou be any where
So well as there?

Yet, if t hou wilt from thence depart,
Take a bad lodging in my heart;
For thou canst make a debtor,
And make it better.

First with thy fire-work burn to dust
Folly, and worse than folly, lust:
Then with thy light refine,
And make it shine:

So disengag'd from sin and sickness,
Touch it with thy celestial quickness,
That it may hang and move
After thy love.

Then with our trinity of light,
Motion, and heat, let's take our flight
Unto the place where thou
Before didst bow.

Get me a standing there, and place
Among the beams which crown the face
Of him, who dy'd to part
Sin and my heart:

That so among the rest I may
Glitter, and curl, and wind as they:
That winding is their fashion
Of adoration.

Sure thou wilt joy, by gaining me
To fly home like a laden bee
Unto that hive of beams
And garland-streams.

The revelation of Christ, the Word, shines down upon the darkness of our hearts to transform the Debtor, the sinner, into something better, something that better reflects the bright and shining image of God. That light which illuminates from Christ burns away our dross and refines us, causing us to shine as the light, the star, shines; and as the weight of dross burns away, the light enables us to follow it better than ever before, even eventually to the point that the Trinity of Light causes us to upward fly as sparks back to the very source of Light and Glory - the very face of Jesus, who is the Light of the World which shines in the darkness. (John 1: 4-5)

As we take our place before the Light among other debtors transformed, we will with joy adore Him; and He with joy receives us into His Glory.

"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." (2 Cor.3:18) Like the fireworks that we read about and literally see in the shape of this poem, we show forth the theme of ascending from glory to glory even unto the Father, Son, and Spirit - the Trinity of Light.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

All Dogs Go to Heaven

"Scripture says a great deal about animals, portraying them as Earth's second most important inhabitants. God entrusted animals to us, and our relationships with animals are a significant part of our lives." - Randy Alcorn, Heaven.

Last week, we laid to rest our four-legged family member and friend. Chloe was a 5-year old, 145 lb. American Mastiff, who in life was literally a huge presence, and now in death leaves a huge hole; both in our home and in our hearts.
John and I first met her as a 2-week-old, and I had the opportunity to bottle-feed her. She was small enough then to lay easily on my lap with her head and bottle in my one hand. Once she was grown, my hand could only compare to the size of her paw. She had a massive head and jaws, but would take a treat from me in the most ginger of ways. I always thought she had the head of a bear and the body of a lion - she was beautiful, and it was a joy to watch her long, easy stride as she walked. It was also terribly impressive to feel the house shake when she leapt into the air to catch a toy. One of her favorite games was to chase the flashlight beam, and every evening she would stand patiently in front of John asking him to get the flashlight. If he didn't get the flashlight when she wanted, she woofed at him - and her woofs were hard to ignore.
Chloe woofed a lot. Her woofs were very distinct, as anyone with a dog knows. She had an "I -am-sitting-down-now" woof, a "let me out" woof as well as a "let me in" woof. (Pet owners are, after all, simply doormen.) Her "someone is here" woof was extremely intimidating to whomever was outside the door, and she also had lots of complaining, whining noises, too. We thought she sounded a great deal like Star War's Chewbacca when she was complaining about something. We miss the sounds she made - her woofs, her whines, and her human-sounding walking in the house. We miss her.As we drove home from the vet the day she was put to sleep, I found myself wondering - as if I were 5-years old - where was Chloe now? Was she romping the hills of heaven? Or was she simply gone? Who can say for sure? We do know that God considers animals to be very important, not made in God's image as man is, but a part of His creation upon which he pronounced good. Eden wouldn't have been Eden without the animals, created as helpers and companions for men. They were given a special relationship to man, and he was to care for and nurture them. In fact, of all God's creation, He gave to man the right and responsibility to name the animals. Considering this unique kind of relationship man has with the animals - perfect in Eden - it seems likely that when God brings us finally to the New Heavens and the New Earth, He will restore the animals right along with the rest of the earth and creation. Does this mean I get to see my Chloe again? I don't know, but I'd like to think so. Is it wrong to grieve the death of our pets with whom we have such a unique relationship? No. God gave them to us to love and it is a true loss when they're gone. God gave Chloe as a blessing to us, and I'm thankful for all that that means."In her excellent book about Heaven, Joni Eareckson Tada says, 'If God brings our pets back to life, it wouldn't surprise me. It would be just like Him. It would be totally in keeping with His generous character ... Exorbitant. Excessive. Extravagant in grace after grace. Of all the dazzling discoveries and ecstatic pleasures heaven will hold for us, the potential of seeing Scrappy would be pure whimsy - utterly, joyfully surprisingly superfluous ... Heaven is going to be a place that will refract and reflect in as many ways as possible the goodness and joy of our great God, who delights in lavishing love on His children.'"

"In a poem about the world to come, theologian John Piper writes,

'And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life, I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog, old Blackie, fast
As she could come. She leaped the stream-
Almost-and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye. I knelt to drink,
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy. And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there." (Randy Alcorn, Heaven)

Maybe I'll see my Chloe in heaven after all.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Land and Sea

School has begun and students are filling classrooms and kitchen tables all over the country. Some are excited about returning and some not so much. This particular year, for me, has afforded additional cause for excitement because New College Franklin has been officially launched and credited, and I get to be her first auditor! The wonderful thing about auditing is that you get all the benefits of the reading and discussion, but don't have to write the papers or take the exams! I heartily recommend it.

The class I am auditing is the Biblical Symbology class. Before I go any further, it is not about how to interpret Revelations or the Prophets. That's a whole other discussion. This class is basically designed to help the student - or anyone - begin to be able to see the Scriptures and Creation through the lens of a Biblical worldview, thus enabling one to more wisely understand and interpret culture and environment, and affect Biblical transformation in the earth. We Modern/Post-modern Christians have been seeped in Platonic Christianity and therefore our thinking is more Greek than Hebrew, more secular than Biblical. Since that is the case, we read the Bible and interpret creation and culture in a non-biblical, scientific way; and that's not how the Bible was written or how it was intended to be read. Therefore, we must - as the Scriptures tell us - study that we may have transformed minds.
Currently in class, we are reading James B. Jordan's "Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World" and it has been a fascinating study. As Jordan says in his introduction, "The Biblical worldview is not given to us in the discursive and analytical language of philosophy and science, but in the rich and compact language of symbolism and art. It is pictured in ritual and architecture, in numerical structures and geographical directions, in symbols and types, in trees and stars. In short, it is given to us in a pre-modern package that seems at places very strange." As I read further and further in the book, things in the Bible have begun to make sense in a whole new way (though not departing from sound doctrine), and this has been very exciting! One example of this is found in the symbols of land and waters.

One principle to remember is that all of creation was created to reflect heaven, and we can see this pattern in various ways. One example is what Jordan calls a "Three Decker Universe". This is reflected in different ways in scripture with one of them being "Heaven-Firmament, Earth, Sea" and another being "Garden, Eden, World." Another way of seeing this would be "Triune God, His People, Gentiles." With this in mind, the pattern indicates that "Land" can be a representation of God's people and "Seas" can represent "Gentiles or Heathens." This is not all that land and sea indicates, but it is a pattern type found in scripture. (There is rarely ever a cut and dried "This = That.") That being said, bear with me as I share with you a connection I made, seeing some old familiar stories in a new light.

Since the seas can represent the Gentiles, and the land can represent God's people, it stands to reason that the parting of the Red Sea was not just a means of escape from the Egyptians, but a picture of God separating his people (dry land) from the heathen (sea) as He led them out of Egypt and bondage. But, when the Egyptians attempted the same crossing, the dry land on which the Hebrews had just crossed became boggy and thus the Egyptians were mired and drowned when the sea crashed in on them, for they were not God's chosen people - they were not "the land", but "the sea". (Ex.14) This symbolic image of separating helps me to better understand what St. Paul meant when he wrote about the Red Sea being a baptism - itself a picture of being separated from the world and being joined in covenant to God. (I Cor.10:2)

Likewise, the crossing of the Jordan River by the Hebrews into the Promised Land - when the waters stopped and stood up in a heap so they could cross on dry land - was not simply a safe, convenient means of crossing a flooding river, or a supernatural show of force, or even simply an honoring of the Ark of the Covenant; but it was again a sign and symbol that God was about to separate the heathen (waters) from His chosen people (land). Even further, He was about to separate the heathen from the land they had been occupying, for it was "the land" that God had given to His people to occupy and bring God's grace and glory to. (Josh.3:14-17).
To sum up, "Through New Eyes" is indeed helping me to see the Scriptures and creation in a whole new light, or should I say, increased light. Nevertheless, it is a delight to the soul and mind to be able to feed on the richness of God's word and world in a deeper fashion than I had previously. As Reepicheep says in C. S. Lewis's "The Last Battle", "Further up and further in!"

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fishy Business

I have 27 cousins, and it's great - I love it. A great many of these cousins, instead of being Kissin' Cousins, are Fishin' Cousins. We love to fish!

One of the cousins, John, had a couple of great photos that I wanted to share. Below you'll see the results of one fishing trip: Both fisherman caught the same fish! (Now there's a moralism for you.) I wish I'd been there to see the realization dawn on them as they were both reeling in.
The fisherman on the left is my cousin, Aaron, and the one on the right is a friend. You may remember my postings of Aaron's photos of pre- and post Hurricane Ike when he was embedded with Texas Law enforcement and wildlife teams.
Another beautiful photo taken by John was on a recent fishing trip to Port Isabel. This is a Ray of some type, and it almost looks translucently other-worldly as it lies on the deck.
Thanks, John, for letting me share a couple of your photos!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Psalm 126

When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongues with joyful shouting,
then they said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb!
Those who show in tears shall real with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

1 Day, 2 Events, 1 Reality

One Day: One August afternoon and we are all busy going about our daily lives, thinking our daily thoughts, doing our daily things. But, not all of us. Some of us are caught up in the joy of prayers answered, and some of us are caught still in our tracks by unexpected tragedy. All in one day.

Two Events: For several years there has been a little knot of folks dreaming and praying and working and praying some more to establish a college. A college based on the 7 Liberal Arts as modeled by the Medieval colleges which brought forth the blossoming of arts, culture, innovation and more. A college based on the 7 Liberal Arts seen through the lens of a Biblical worldview. New College Franklin finally came into reality and the first convocation ceremony took place yesterday with the inaugural class of students. There was great joy all around!

But, also yesterday, a young man went home to be in the presence of the Lord following a tragic car accident. He turned 19 years old on the day he went home, and he is undoubtedly celebrating his birthday with great joy in Heaven. However, his parents, family, and friends - indeed the whole community - are experiencing great and profound grief.
One Reality: The Christian life is a life full of paradox and antithesis. The antithesis concerns our life are we walk in the world, but not of it. The paradox of life - it seems - can be much harder to bear, but in the bearing of it is much richness and life. Within the paradox are the old familiar themes: Bought with a price to serve a Master, yet set free; we lose our life in order to find it; we are called to discern, but not to judge our brother; we die to ourselves so we can live for Christ; we give that we may be full; and most of all - like Christ - we die to be born again. He taught us saying, "...unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone: but if it dies, it bears much fruit." John 12:24. These little grains of wheat that we are and the little grains of what we do must necessarily fall into the ground and die in ways both small and great in order bear the beautiful fruit God has granted for us and for His glory. It is a hard thing for our minds to comprehend. We must walk circumspectly, throwing ourselves and our pain and doubt on the one sure thing, and that is Christ. Both the joys and the hurts of life find completion in Him who loves us enough to have sent His only son to die in our place for the penalty of our sins. To God be the glory.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009


This month marks 39 years since Hurricane Celia hit the South Texas coast between Corpus Christi and Aransas Pass. I was among those who evacuated the morning before the storm hit. Though hurricanes don't change, the way we deal with them has changed - some for the better and some for the worse.
This photo is of damage to property in Aransas Pass.

I am a Corpus Christi native, but was living with my family in Houston at the time Celia hit. As was often the case, my cousin, Teresa, and I were staying with my Grandmother in her mobile home in the little fishing village of Fulton, just one block from Aransas Bay. One of the many shrimping boats tossed around and damaged by Celia.

There was no Doppler Radar or Weather Channel at that time. The best way for folks to track hurricanes was by plotting longitude, latitude, barometric pressure, and wind speeds on a hurricane map, which everyone had. Because of that, everyone became their own weather predictor to some extent. Hurricane watches and warnings were issued as they are today, but it was considered more a recommendation than a mandate.

On Sunday evening, a watch had been called for our area, so everyone was on alert making preliminary plans and preparations and keeping a close ear to the radio and television news. On Monday morning, Teresa and I awoke in the dark wee hours to the voices of uncles, Grandmother and the radio. The watch had been upgraded to a warning and now plans had to turn into action. My Grandad, who was away at the time, owned a small shrimp boat, the Pee Wee, and my uncles were discussing how to get her out of the harbor and into a safe place before taking their own families away. Celia's wind speeds were only 90 m.p.h. at this point, so there was not a huge amount of concern, just caution. As 12 year olds, Teresa and I though this was terribly exciting!The National Guard keeps watch for looting in Corpus.

Teresa and I packed our bags and helped Grandmother with some preparations. Since there was time to kill before heading out, we walked down to Fulton harbor to see what we could see. At the docks and boat ramps, shrimpers were scurrying to secure or tow out their boats, but the most incredible site we saw (and I've never seen it since) was the bay itself. The water had fled its normal place due to the tidal action of the storm and was hundreds of feet out from the shoreline, leaving the sandy bottom fully exposed. At that point we realized that this was serious business and our excitement changed to sobriety.

At last it was time to go, and Teresa and I anxiously parted ways - she with her family, and I with Grandmother to my home in Houston. By this time the sky had grown very ominous. I'll never forget the look and color of the clouds. The doors of the Corpus Christi Coliseum are opened for folks to receive aid from the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

The few days we were away were anxious ones. The news reports weren't encouraging. Celia's 90 m.p.h. winds had leaped just prior to landfall to 130 m.p.h. and millions of dollars of damage had been done. My parents owned a small motel in Fulton - the Glen Mar - which my Grandmother managed, and we were all just a tad nervous. Even more importantly, we were anxious for family and friends. There were no cell phones, of course, and with lines down, communication was challenging.

When we returned to Fulton, we were so relieved to discover that - except for downed limbs and one broken window - the Glen Mar and Grandmother's home were fine. For the most part, Fulton had escaped devastation. There was certainly a lot of damage, but there could have been so much more for a village built right on the bay. One of the strangest sights I remember was Trep's Grocery right on Fulton Beach Road. Half of it was gone, just like a giant had stamped his mighty foot down and squashed it. The remaining half was absolutely fine, down to the goods still sitting on their shelves! We speculated that perhaps a tornado had hit it.People line up for ice from one of the many trucks that shipped in ice.

As family regrouped back in Fulton and Rockport, the adults were off to do clean-up duty while we children stayed at Grandmother's. She spread sheets in the tree limbs to create a large pavilion of shade and that's where we brought all the chairs and cots from the house. We kept one or two coolers for perishables with the ice we were able to get from the ice trucks and spent a lot of time swimming in the big, round cattle trough that Grandmother kept as a swimming pool for the grandchildren. We actually had a great time! Businesses and restaurants reopened quickly thanks to the hard work of the power company. Even those places that had a lot of damage held their business in their parking lots. Unfortunately, there were many homes and businesses that were mostly or completely destroyed, and aid poured in from everywhere to help with the rebuilding.

One of the many communication centers.

A few days later when folks were allowed to reenter Corpus, we took the 30 minute drive to Corpus, passing through Aransas Pass and Portland. Our mouths hung open at the devastation we saw there. We didn't spend to much time gawking because of on-going recovery efforts, but we had answers to our concerns about the city. Amazingly, we were able to get some grocery-shopping done there, shopped at Woolco Department Store, and ate at a restaurant near the bay.

Obviously we didn't have as bad a time with Celia as many, many others did. But, now as I watch the proceedings before and following hurricanes, I find so many interesting differences between now and then. Storm-tracking and predictions have, of course, improved 100%. It's truly amazing what information we can now have to evaluate storms and know what action to take. Evacuation efforts have also improved 100%. Even as recent as Hurricane Rita three years ago, we've learned more and more about moving people out of harm's way. Recovery organization and efforts have also improved, in most part thanks to technology and communication improvements. The willingness of people to help has never changed. What has not improved, however, is the dependency upon Government rather than private sector and volunteer organizations, churches, and neighbors. The slow, bureaucratic maze of governmental proceedings seems to less-helpful than the previous groups listed.

Regardless of my musings and memories, as hurricane season is currently in effect, I can't help but pay close attention - it's just in my blood. I could tell you other hurricane stories, but I'll save them for another time!