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Showing posts from November, 2020

The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens

 We visited the Huntington Library today in the late afternoon. The setting sun on the trees and roses and pools of water was glorious. All the colors and textures seemed intensified. We tried to obey the foot-traffic pattern signs, and Benny wore a mask for about the first fifteen minutes. I thought this was both sad and cute. Towards the end we all tore off our masks and played tag in a stone-fruit grove. Allen Street in San Marino is lined with Ginkgo trees which are at their finest this time of year. I love how the Boston Ivy drips off the building in yellow and orange chains. "This garden has a lot of naked statues," Rose observed. This blooming vine was growing over the trellises that are covered in roses at other times of the year. More Ginkgoes in the Japanese rock garden. Rose brought "Uni" because she said she was celebrating the unicorn's sixth birthday. I asked the children to pose in front of their favorite bonsai. Rose chose this oak forest. She wo

Split Souls

 I love to write. I like to daydream about what I'll write next. When I hear beautiful music, I envision new scenes. Sometimes the only bright spot in my day is the fifteen or so minutes I get to write. I like to outline scenes and plot my characters' development. I like to research new words and animal behavior and landscape formations. I like to re-read chapters until I've corrected all the typos. I even like to write when I don't feel like writing. Sometimes the mere discipline of sitting down and letting my fingers type whatever comes to mind gets the creative juices flowing and before I know it, something worthwhile has developed. I love to write with all my heart and mind and strength. And this is the way I think we are commanded to love God.  Loving God is not merely a choice we make everyday. Loving God is not merely a passion that burns within us. Loving God is not merely the research and study to increase our knowledge about him. Loving God involves all parts

Car Troubles

I’m not particularly knowledgeable about cars. When a warning light goes on, I usually have to look in the manual to discover what it means, and until I do, I worry that that light might mean thousands of dollars of repairs. Sometimes I delay looking up the meaning of a light  or I look it up and am none the wiser. Then I start to wonder if my car is going to spontaneously combust or if the engine will fall out of the engine compartment or if all four of my tires will blow out as I go around a sharp turn on Turnbull Canyon Road.  Sometimes its not a dashboard light that warns me that something's not right but a strange sound—a banging or grinding sound—or an acrid burning smell. In any case, isn't it uncomfortable not knowing what's wrong with your car? I suppose if you're familiar with cars, noises and smells don’t worry you so much because you know what they mean and how to fix them. You’re confident in your knowledge. I think the care of our souls is similar. Everyda

Scary Needy People

Needy people  Needn't frighten me When I'm full And I stop believing I'm the only giver. Powerful people Needn't threaten me When the Omnipotent Lives in me, and I trust  His power even more. Rebellious people Needn't worry me, When I believe His goodness Surpasses my pathways To righteousness. Glamorous people Needn't threaten me When gratitude abounds, And I see any excellence As another testimony. Heartbroken people Needn't depress me When I know His purposes Are only to draw us nigh, And pain is His domain too. Judgmental people Needn't intimidate me When I believe The gavel already dropped Declaring me perfect Because of Christ's blood.

The Giving Tree

I just reread that depressing children's book The Giving Tree  by Shel Silverstein, and I'm trying to understand it. Is the tree supposed to be our parents? They sacrificed everything for us but all they really want is to be with us?  Or is the tree the child who wants to be with the parents, but the parents are too stir-crazy or busy or sad to be with the children, and only when the parents are old do they rest in their children's company? I don't like either interpretation. But I can see Christ as the giving tree. As a child we had child-like faith in God. Then we grew up and wanted thrills. Later we were too busy or too cynical to be with the Lord. Finally when old and gray and too tired to run about, we find rest in him. Christ gave us the fruit of his labor, he cut off branches and grafted us in to his tree, and he allowed his body to be nailed to a tree for our sins. He gave us everything so that we could be in a constant resting relationship with him. But we need

The Gospel for Every Enneagram Number

One: the Reformer "I want to be in total control of myself. And by that I mean that I want to make myself good. I've done pretty well, but I can't shut-up that inner critique who is always guilting me if I mess up and who is always pointing out ways that I could be better. I have exhausted myself in the trying. So now I must admit that no matter how hard I try, I cannot reform myself enough to give me peace and contentment. And that I am in need of another perspective.  "I want to submit myself to a new management, God's management. It is only through my submission to his control within me that I can do the right thing with the right heart. I don't ever need to fear of acting wrong again because God will never judge or condemn me. He has made me good enough already because of a credit to my account, so to speak. Based on no deposits of my own, Jesus credited his own perfect life to my account. According to God, who is the ultimate authority on goodness, I am c

Book Review: The Gifts of the Jews

I found  The Gifts of the Jews  by Thomas Cahill wildly interesting. I would like to read it again someday. But I don't recommend it unless you're naturally critical. Some of what Cahill says is marvelous, some is confusing, and some is doubtful. I'm not sure I understood it all, but here's my best attempt at an assessment. Cahill argues that the Jews altered how everyone thinks and feels. They are the originators of many of the western beliefs that we have, such as: people have an inherit value as individuals and not just pawns to be used; history is going somewhere, it is not an endlessly repeating cycle; people have an inward life and an outward life, and both matter when it comes to acting rightly; there is a definitely way that people are to behave and it has nothing to do with how much money one has or how powerful one is. He is very complimentary about how the Jews were really unlike any other people group. He also does a fantastic job of describing the world pre

Work the Word In

If our religion is only realized In the quietness of the morning, The wind through the trees on a blustery day, Among pleasant friends with common interests,  Or through the right songs on a Sunday;  Then we straight-jacket our faith, Rendering it useless In our segregated hearts. Trusting such a faith is like   Chewing your food but never swallowing Or taxing a plane but never taking off Or sitting in a wheelchair when you've got new legs Or fumigating without a tent  Or building a house on a dry riverbed. Eternal life is not had "By simply feeling  The presence of God In flowers and music" (Lewis, 155); But in working the words in Like yeast kneaded into dough Like good posture in your every move, Like correct grammar into your sentences. And yet not like that kind of work at all; Because, unlike forced labor Or the strong-arming of our passions, This work bears up   Until it sees  Another bearing it for us.  So work the Word in ’Til he holds sway over every thought you

When We Grow Up

Do you remember when you were a kid what you wanted to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a missionary pilot. . . and a stunt woman and military captain, a horse tamer and rock climber and famous author. I was going to be gutsy and strong and independent: like Mulan, like Arwen, like Black Widow, like J.K Rowling. I dreamt of being heroic, taking a stand against the forces of evil, slaying dragons, and doing glorious work . . . There’s this place in the backyard where I sit and watch the children, and from there I’ve been noticing the paint bubbling on a rafter beam for quite some time. And the other day I climbed up there and poked at it with a screw driver, and the beam just disintegrated amidst termite droppings. I was supposed to fertilize the lawn a few months ago, but I forgot. The rocking chair cushions on my front porch are still covered in ash from the recent fires. And the other day someone waved me down on the road to tell me my tail lights were out. My daily to-do's ar

"Leave Me to Myself!"

 Has anyone ever given you such a costly gift that you suddenly felt terribly underserving? Like, why should I get so much? I don't deserve this. I wonder if that's what Peter felt when he and his fishing buddies caught so many fish that their nets started to break.  In that scene Peter falls at Jesus' feet and says something like, "Master, leave! I'm not worthy of all this." The Message says, "Leave me to myself!"  And Jesus doesn't say, "Will do," or "Actually, you are  pretty unworthy." Instead he says, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." (Luke 5:10c ESV) Jesus likens this catch to the future human catches Peter will haul into the Kingdom of Heaven. But this is far in the future.   Before that, Jesus will die to pay the price for Peter's unworthiness. After Jesus' death, he will rise from the dead and ascend into Heaven, so the Holy Spirit can fill Peter at Pentecost where Peter will

Parenting Without the Pressure

I think some of the stress of being a mom comes from believing we have to supply everything to our children, not just food, clothes, and shelter but emotional needs too. I think we commonly mistaken God's command to love to mean that we need to give to our kids what only God can give.  All people have certain psychological needs: the need for love, acceptance, and to be understood; the need for security, safety and to understand the meaning of life; and the need for power and control in both ourselves and the world around us. We can boil these down to three basic categories: love, safety, and power. Parents give their children a general sense of these three. They try to love them. They try to protect them. And they try to give their children age-appropriate choices. Sure, some parents seem to do this better than others. But even the very best of parents practice selfish love, are unable to protect their children from life's pains (or if they do, their children end up being unab

When We Think We're Indispensable

When we think we're indispensable, we don't allow another to do our job. We guard it, criticize others' attempts at it, and believe it our identity and purpose in life. When we think we're indispensable, we fear what's being done when we're away. We return to find a million mistakes, slander to our craft, damages we shall have to repair. When we think we're indispensable, we believe we alone define excellence. We believe our knowledge is essential. Anyone else will botch the whole thing! When we mothers think we're indispensable, we forget we're not God to our children. We refuse offers for help, nitpick grandma's attempts, and view parenting as all-encompassing. When we mothers think we're indispensable, we cringe to overhear our husband's tone. We find t's uncrossed, i's un-dotted, and tears to wipe which never would've happened on our watch. When we mothers think we're indispensable, we believe our love is unselfish. We

Pride in Three Disguises

Disguise One: " I reform myself better than others. The way I organize, schedule, correct, clean, discipline, or make choices has made me superior to those who are unorganized, fly by the seat of their pants, use poor grammar, make horrible life choices, and are undisciplined in body, mind, and emotions." This kind of pride is not the same as being proud of a job well done. Rather this kind of pride sees our good works as a reason why we have better value than others. It believes: "I deserve more than others. I'm a morally better person than others. I need Christ less than others." This kind of pride is commonly associated with Enneagram ones. The cure is to believe God is the standard for goodness not us, and to believe that we acquire this goodness by inviting Christ into our hearts to do good in us which we are unable to do for ourselves.  Disguise Two: " I need less help than others. I'm always in the position of giver, caretaker, counselor, nurse,