Thursday, December 31, 2009

Equity and Equality

"Say among the nations, 'The Lord reigns,'
the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity."
Psalm 96:10

In the dreary nether-time between Christmas and New Year's, during the dim dusk of the end of the year when normalcy halts and schedules are confused to the point of nausea... God's Word still stands firm. Hallelujah for that!

So I was trying to get my bearings after eating a little too much baklava, and I started perusing the Psalms, where I came across the term "equity", which is the way the Bible says the Lord will judge.

And I wondered, "What exactly is the difference between equity and equality?"

So I checked out

Equity: the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness; impartiality
Equality: the state or quality of being equal; correspondence in quantity, degree, value, rank, or ability

They are related, however, and the Latin root "equi-", which is the beginning of "equity", actually means equal.

I think equity has to do with understanding and discerning that flat out equality is not always fair. For instance, if there is a six month old baby and a 16 year old boy, and one hamburger and one bottle of milk, the best way to divide up the food is not to give each one a half of a hamburger and a half a bottle of milk. That would be equal, but to be equitable, you would give the bottle of milk to the baby and the hamburger to the teenage boy.

It would be a very good thing if the American governing forces (which I fear have more to do with the mafia machine that runs Chicago than with voter preference) could learn to discern the differences between dividing up the resources of our country equally and dividing them equitably. (Disclaimer--this is not to say that I think they even have equal distribution figured out, let alone equitable.)

We may well not get it right at any time in this life, which is why we should be so thankful for the life to come in eternity, where God's justice, truth and equity will reign supreme.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Middle age

When you are little, each birthday is a grand celebration. "What will it feel like to be eight?" you wonder on the eve of your eighth birthday. You are thrilled to hit the double digits at age ten, and full of wondrous anticipation when you turn sixteen: "Will I fall in love this year?"

When you are old, each birthday is a grateful celebration for continued life. If you aren't dead, you are thankful and filled with joy at the opportunity to live each ensuing day. Anyway, some old people say they feel this way, and they are the ones I want to be like.

However, between youth and old age, there is a time when we do not embrace our birthdays. We are not near enough to death's natural portal that we think to be thankful for the gift of life, but we have a dark and heavy feeling that our best years are over.

That is middle age.

And the best years aren't over. I'm going to list 20 good things about middle age.

1. You have learned how to roast a turkey.
2. You are an experienced driver.
3. You are not a slave to peer pressure.
4. You are past the pregnancy days.
5. You are past the getting-up-many-times-in-the-middle-of-the-night days.
6. You have some life experience under your belt.
7. You can afford to do some of the things you've always hoped to do.
8. You don't have to go to school.
9. You know what you are good at.
10. Your kids can tie their own shoes.
11. Your kids don't need any help with bodily functions.
12. Your kids sleep longer than you do.
13. Your kids can drive and sometimes even pick things up for you at the store.(!!!)
14. You can have intelligent conversations with your kids.
15. People sometimes say, "Ma'am" to you and mean it.
16. You understand Dickens.
17. You can go out with your spouse and not hire a babysitter.
18. Your tastes are defined.
19. People judge you on things other than your appearance.
20. Rather than thinking you are wiser than you really are, you are probably wiser than you realize.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Christmas memory

Even when I was little, I had ridiculous, soaring expectations... soaring like a toy rocket that is destined to crash in the neighbor's gutter.

I remember one year in particular, the year I figured out that there really was no Santa and no enchanted workshop at the North Pole where elves built toys.

I had asked for a dollhouse. In my mind, I pictured a handmade, wooden Victorian dollhouse with real miniature cedar shingles, tiny brass door hinges and diminutive silk draperies hanging majestically over real, working windows that I could open and shut. I thought it would be about four feet high and have at least three stories, with a grand staircase. It would be painted Victorian red, with gingerbread trim, and it would blend perfectly with all of our red and green Christmas decorations. Perhaps I had seen something like this at the state fair. I don't know.

On Christmas morning, I awoke and ran to the living room to see the beautiful dollhouse that Santa had brought me.

It was plastic.

Actually, it wasn't even really plastic. I think it was some sort of heavy cardboard covered with vinyl. There was not a speck of wood or fabric on it, certainly no brass. The windows were printed on the vinyl walls. It was predominantly blue. It smelled like polyurethane.

There were no doors. The front of the house snapped up like a suitcase, or you could unsnap it and lay it flat to play with the open house.

I sadly snapped it and unsnapped it. Clearly this had not been made by an elf. Clearly Santa was a myth. Clearly I should never hope for a dream to be fulfilled again.

Even in my childhood, I was a pessimist.

I didn't say anything though. I didn't want to hurt my parents' feelings. It wasn't their fault there was no Santa Claus.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who Is Jesus?

There is a child in our Sunday school class who does not believe that Jesus is God.

He is a bright child, and very active and verbal. He has also been afflicted with a serious case of brash, youthful arrogance. I am not sure how to handle him. I do not want to humiliate him. However, I do not believe that it is right to allow him to declare, in front of the other children, "Jesus wasn't really the same as God. My dad says there's no way Jesus could actually be God."

Because God is wonderful, He has been leading me to verses that clearly proclaim the divinity of Christ.

Romans 9:5
Theirs [the Israelites'] are the patriarchs, and from them are traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

For years I have been teaching that the Old Testament is about the nation of Israel, because they are the ancestors of Jesus. And only today I noticed that what I have been teaching is clearly and simply explained in this one specific verse. Glory to God! The nation of Israel is specially blessed because they are the ancestors of God. Jesus is God!

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.

The child, the baby, the son of Mary is our Mighty God. The Bible says so. Jesus is God!

Titus 2:13
... while we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is our Savior. Jesus is our God. It doesn't get much clearer than this.

Acts 20:28
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers
[Paul said to the Ephesian elders]. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.

Whose blood paid for the church? God's own blood. That's what it says. I am not making this up. Jesus was the one who shed His blood, and this is the blood that bought the church, God's blood. Jesus is God.

John 1:1-3, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, without Him nothing was made that has been made... The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word was God, it says, and then the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That's Jesus. Jesus is the one who became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus, who is God, became flesh and lived with humans on earth. I didn't even highlight the fact that this passage also states that the Word is the one who created the heavens and the earth, and Genesis 1:1 specifically states that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Jesus is God.

Please read this slowly and worshipfully...
Colossians 1:15-20
[Jesus, the Son whom God loves, who redeemed us; see verses 13-14]
is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

Jesus is God.

There are other supporting scriptures that you can read on your own:
John 10:30
John 14:9
Philippians 2:5-11
Colossians 2:9
Hebrews 1 (the whole chapter, but particularly verses 8-9)

Jesus is God. If you don't believe the Bible, or if you do not believe in God, this means nothing. But if you accept the Bible as God's Word, you cannot deny that Jesus is God in flesh, "God incarnate" as the old theology states.

1 John 4 speaks of testing the spirits. Whether a spirit is true and good or false and wicked hinges on one thing: what does it do with Jesus? The Spirit of God in someone "acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh... but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God." Acknowledging Jesus means understanding who He is, that He is God, not just agreeing that he was a guy like any of the rest of us who just happened to be born in the year that changed BC to AD.

I think I am going to need to have a serious talk with this child. If you read this, please pray for me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jonathan's genius

David has been very sick.

Since the boys share a small room together, during this bout of illness we moved Jonathan to the basement. This was to accomplish a number of goals:

1. That David would not be woken up in the morning when Jon gets up to go to school.
2. That Jon would not be kept awake all night while David coughs.
3. That Jon would be removed from exposure to David's germs, as much as possible.

We pulled out the futon for Jon, so he gets to sleep on a queen sized surface. It is dark and quiet in the basement, and it is near the laundry room, and since Jon rarely takes his clean clothes upstairs to his dresser, it is working out quite niftily.

I have been undergoing a medical procedure for the past two days, or I would have tidied this up before taking a picture. But hey, there's nothing like realism.

Please notice the blue string that is coiled on top of the dirty orange tee-shirt that is slung on the floor at the foot of the futon. If you can't see it, click on the picture to enlarge for a better view.

Now, we have already established that Jonathan has a bent for, shall we say inventing things.

That string by the futon is connected to this:

There are actually two ends, one he can pull from his bed to turn the lights on, and one he can pull to turn them off.

As you can see, he is making himself quite at home.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rabbit trails

I have always wanted white dishes. (If you are wondering what this has to do with the photo above, you'll have to keep reading for awhile, I'm afraid... note the title of this post: "Rabbit trails.")

I have always wanted white dishes, and before Shawn and I got married, I picked out some beautiful white bone china dishes with a scalloped edge. When Shawn saw them, he said, "What? I want flowers on my dishes." First of all, he wasn't supposed to notice or care. Second of all, why did he want flowers, of all things?

So we got the dishes you can see in the twelfth picture in this post. Secretly, although I didn't get my first choice of dishes, I was flattered that he cared.

But I've always wanted white dishes.

Recently, I have been growing tired of my tan and blue Pfaltzgraff every-day dishes. I've had them for nearly twenty-three years now. I don't really mind them, but, I don't know. I guess I am falling into that trap of being American and getting tired of something and thinking I have the right to replace it, even when it is perfectly good and useful. A few of my Pfaltzgraff dishes had broken, but then I attended a benefit for a local Christian school a couple of years ago, and found two huge boxes of this same pattern (used) for sale for something like $15. I was so sad when I bought them and brought them home. I had accumulated enough Pfaltzgraff to last centuries, enough Pfaltzgraff to pull the cabinets right off the walls with its weight (I am not even kidding). I figured that was it; I'd never get a change.

But I'd always wanted white dishes.

So I started poking around, checking the internet, checking WalMart. I found some awesome dishes on the internet: Mikasa Antique White. They are bone china with a scalloped edge. You can get them in sets for much less than buying individual place settings, but to get service for twelve, it would have run us about $300. WalMart had a set of bare-bones basic white stoneware dishes, service for four for $15. So I could get service for twelve for $45 by buying three boxes. I debated and debated. The problem was, I really didn't like them all that much.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, I was walking through WalMart (because I am such a high class person, you know), and I went back to check on my bare bones basic white stoneware. It was GONE. Sold completely out. The next time I went to WalMart (you are, I suspect, discerning a theme here), I checked again. Again they were sold out. I tried not to feel bad; after all, I had not really liked them very much.

As I walked through the store, I rounded a bend and came across a seasonal display of holiday tableware. And there, in the center of the display, were boxes of white porcelain dishes, the kind with a fluted rim.

Service for six cost, get this, $18. Can you believe that? It came with six each of plates, bowls, dessert plates, cups and saucers, plus a large serving bowl and an oval platter (the platter is ridiculously small, but you could put crackers and cheese on it, or crudites). For $18.

I am not an impulse buyer, so I circled the store a few more times before I put two sets into my cart. Then, for $36, I bought pretty white dish service for twelve.

I brought them home, and the agony began. I was torn about packing away my Pfaltzgraff. It has served me well for twenty-three years. It has been part of our lives three times a day, nearly every day.

It took me nearly a week to take the plunge, but yesterday was the day. Yesterday I unpacked the white dishes and packed up the Pfaltzgraff. (To be totally honest, I must admit that I unpacked one box of white dishes a little earlier and set them on the dining room table and started using them here and there to adjust myself before taking the big plunge.)

I had to keep reminding myself, "I am not giving it away, or selling it or throwing it away." Also, I told myself, "These white dishes are very cheap. They probably won't last. And then we will get the Pfaltzgraff back out again. This is a very temporary thing." I have to talk myself through these kinds of things.

While I was working on the project, there was a lot of cardboard packing material. (We are almost to the place where I tie in the photo at the beginning. Are you excited?) As I unpacked, I tore down the boxes and flattened them, so as to keep from frustrating Shawn with a big recycling project. At one point, I took a pile of cardboard out to the recycling bin in the garage. I put it into the bin and jumped in to stomp it down flat with my weight. Somehow, as I was stomping, I fell forward and bumped my cheek, hard, on a plastic oar that was sticking off the end of a shelf.

Which hurt. But it also jogged a most wonderful memory.

We bought this pair of plastic oars to go with an inflatable boat one summer when we were on vacation at Sunset Beach in North Carolina.

Sunset Beach is a south facing island just west of Ocean Isle Beach, another south facing island off the southern coast of the southern tip of North Carolina.

If you walk down to the easternmost end of Sunset Beach island, you can see across a channel to the westernmost end of Ocean Isle. It isn't very far, and one day on vacation, the kids and I decided that we would try to ford the channel in our inflatable boat.

I hope this was not a terribly dangerous thing to do. I prayed the whole time after we got started and my second thoughts kicked in.

Of course, we could not all fit in the boat at the same time, so we had to take turns. I went first; I suppose I was making sure it was safe or some such thing. I'm not sure who went with me, but I think it was DJ and Laura.

Now, you have to understand that the westernmost end of Ocean Isle is a very prestigious, gated community. You can't even access it from Ocean Isle when you are on Ocean Isle. So what we were doing was crazy, gutsy, dorky and possibly even illegal. Also, we were doing it at low tide, and we had to hurry to get everyone's turn in before the tide came in and made it too treacherous.

There was quite a bit of current (undertow?), so it was fairly hard work getting across, but we made it, and pulled up our boat, oars and tired bodies to rest a spell before heading back. There we were, wet (the boat rode low and took on water), tired and sunburned, when an affluent couple walked by and asked where we had come from. Fortunately, they were amused and not angry that we had crashed their private beach.

We headed back to our own island and gave David, Jon and Shannon a chance to try the trip. I do not know what I was thinking, so please don't ask me, "What were you thinking?" I knew how hard the trip was, and now the tide was actually coming in. But my kids are very determined, and I do have a lot of faith in their ability to put their minds to something and accomplish it. They really, really wanted their turn.

So off they went. The problem was, the boys couldn't cooperate on the rowing rhythm. Each was convinced that he was right, and that the other should adjust to his rhythm. This resulted in them going nowhere fast. A bemused man pulled up next to me and watched. I felt a little safer having him there; I figured I could send him for help in case of an emergency. Finally Shannon, who is competent, intelligent and athletic, jumped out of the boat and started to swim behind it, pushing it ahead of her. The boys continued to "row" and the boat started to move towards Ocean Isle. The man next to me chuckled and said, "Those boys have no idea that she is doing everything and they are doing nothing." I said, "Nope, they really don't."

In the end, they made it across and back, and we returned safely to our beach house to regale Shawn with stories of our escapade. What a happy memory of a hot sunny day at the beach.

I wonder how long it would have been before I thought about that if I had not bought new dishes... ?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thanksgiving pictures

Here are the cranberries. We use the jellied canned kind, because we like them. No apologies for that. I have had the homemade kind, and they are good too, but this is our traditional cranberry option. The kids liked them when they were little, and we still eat them this way now, years later. They are tasty, and they are easy.

This is the turkey. Shawn has traditionally called it, "Yon Fowl." I don't think he used that precise terminology this year; he wasn't feeling well, and wasn't quite as jolly as he sometimes has been.

My mashed potatoes are fantastic. Just saying. Smooth, creamy, velvety goodness, just waiting for...

some delicious gravy. It was really good gravy this year. The turkey was sublime as well. I think they must have injected it with a ton of MSG (you know how it says "injected with solution"?). But man, it tasted great.

Our stuffing was also very tasty. There was approximately one fourth of a cup of this substance left at the end of the initial meal. Technically, it is dressing, not stuffing, as I do it in the crockpot. But we call it stuffing and we love it. I think maybe we can consider it a vegetable, since it is loaded with celery and onions.

Ah yes, a real vegetable. Kind of. This is praline squash, which can also be made with sweet potatoes. It is absolutely sublime, covered with a thick layer of walnuts in brown sugar and butter, which crusts up delightfully. Even Shawn has been known to take seconds, and he hates squash.

Asparagus from a can. Hey, I did all the cooking myself, so I had to use some easy tricks. Besides, we love the buttery tenderness of canned asparagus. Yes, we eat both cranberries and asparagus out of cans, and we like them. Perhaps the natural homemade varieties are better, but not if you're so tired out from cooking that you can't even taste anymore by the time you get them done. I rest my case.

Ohhhh... yummmm!!! This is Waldorf salad: apples, celery, grapes and walnuts in a slightly sweet, tangy lemon dressing. My favorite!

Final preparations before we sit down to eat. Notice that Jonathan has eagerly taken his seat. I was getting punch for everyone... orange-tangerine Juicy Juice, cranberry juice cocktail and club soda mixed in equal parts makes an excellent accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner.

Shawn read Psalm 34 to us before we ate.

The boys listen with rapt attention. Amazing that they can concentrate with all those tantalizing aromas rising around them. Good for them!

Empty plate, empty belly.

Full plate, empty belly. But not for long...

Full belly, almost empty plate. We took a few hours off before...

Dessert. This is dutch apple pie with a brown sugar crumb topping. It was pretty good.

Do you know that there is apparently a national pumpkin shortage this year? I should have been cooking my fall decorations instead of letting the squirrel get at them.


Doesn't that whipped cream look good? I may use canned cranberries and asparagus, but it is only real whipped cream for me, baby!

Looking at these pictures just makes me feel thankful all over again!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I was going to post photos of our Thanksgiving feast. Maybe I still will, but it just takes so long.

Shawn is finally getting better after being very, very sick. Oddly, he had no fever, so I guess it wasn't the flu. I'm pretty sure it was at least bronchitis. He won't go to the doctor because he doesn't like what antibiotics do to his stomach, but the second I let up on pushing teas and other fluids and rubbing him down with therapeutic essential oils, he gets bad again (as in, this morning). I told him that if he needs to go to the doctor he'd better get there before the end of the month, because since Laura's concussion maxed us out, we've had full coverage this year. As of January 1, 2010, such coverage will be over forever. As in, the new plan never maxes out. Well, I guess it does after you've spent $7,200 out of pocket. In one year. Which could conceivably happen, but I pray it never does.

So that's Shawn.

DJ is also sick. I took him to the doctor yesterday for a strep culture, which sadly was negative, meaning that he has the flu (he has had a fever). So he is missing school, always a stressful thing. Too bad we couldn't put him on an antibiotic and zap it.

The toughest part of having sick people in the house is how sore my hands get from the constant washing. It goes something like this:

Get up. Make tea and egg drop soup. Let the dogs out.

Wash your hands because you touched the dogs.

Take tea and soup to the sickie. Take his temperature while you are in the room.

Clean thermometer and wash hands.

Gather used dishes from sick room and take to kitchen to be washed.

Wash hands.

Take dirty laundry to laundry room and sort it. Start a load.

Wash hands (you have been touching dirty socks and underwear, for goodness sake!).

Rub essential oils into the feet of the sick one. Now, do you wash your hands or not? The essential oils are fragrant, expensive and antiseptic. But, you were touching someone's feet. You should have done this before sorting the laundry... the essential oils would have been good for the laundry, and the feet wouldn't have hurt it any... that laundry has touched worse feet than the ones in the bed upstairs.

In the end, the hands get washed, because your next job is to make a snack...

Start to prepare a glass of ice water and a plate of fruit for the sickie. You are interrupted by a dog, who wants to go outdoors again. You have to touch him to accomplish this, but you are in the middle of food preparation.

There's no way to get out of washing your hands again.

And so it goes.

I need to go put some coconut oil on my hands. Too bad I'll probably have a reason to have to wash it off again in 3 minutes.