Quote of the Day

“You see, beloved, the Christian life is not one lived for self, but is lived in Christ and for others, most especially within the family. For many this seems too ordinary and mundane, not exciting or fun. But in truth it is the good life, the abundant life, the life that is received from Christ and shared in our vocations with those closest to us. And even though it is invisible to the world, even though it seems as though you could be, or should be something more extraordinary, even though it is difficult and time consuming and seemingly makes little difference, such a life is a great life! Amen!” — Rev. Tony Sikora

(My mother, Freda, and Emmy yesterday.)

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God is Near in Song

sing2Music has always been a big part of my life. Thanks to inexpensive LP records at Treasure Island (a discount store in our area back in the 70’s), we had more than just gospel music at home. Mom bought everything from John Phillip Sousa, Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (I wore that one out), Johnny Mann’s choral music, E. Power Biggs organ albums, and many others. I played these on the stereo at home a lot. We took piano lessons at the Wisconsin Conservatory as children, and my sister and I sang with a Christian singing group that traveled around the country each Easter break for years.  In addition, our Lutheran day school taught music reading as part of our curriculum along with sacred music in choir.   We learned American folk songs and lots of wonderful hymns that we sang in chapel and in class devotions.

Also, I heard gospel music long before it was so commercialized with slick pop stars, back when it really was about the great old songs, not so much the performers. As kids, my siblings and I fell asleep late at night  many times on our coats at the Christian radio station where our parents worked in Milwaukee’s central city, the Haven of Rest radio program  on the speakers in the ceiling. This recording here of their theme song with the bells takes me straight back to those times years ago.

As a young adult, I became familiar with a broader range of hymnody on CD, Psalm singing of various kinds (metrical Psalms from Scotland, Anglican chant, etc.), and the grand festival hymns of the English choral tradition. I interviewed John Rutter once about his wonderful compositions and I have the CD’s of his hymns that are unequaled, as far as I am concerned, in excellence.  I also bought St. Olaf’s choir CD’s, the choir of Gustavas Adolphus (I love their Scandinavian hymn CD), and so forth.

For a time, I drifted away from the gospel songs I grew up with, but as I have grown older, I find myself coming back again to the songs I used to hear in congregational singing and from recording artists like George Beverly Shea. In the last few years, these sweet old songs have been a tremendous comfort to me.

Scripture talks about Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs—three separate categories, That’s because each category serves a purpose of its own. It’s not that you can’t sing a hymn of worship on your bed on a sleepless or pain-filled night, but often that is when the gospel songs mean the most.  They speak of God’s immanence, his closeness to us through Christ–our Savior who knows what it is to suffer and to walk on this earth as a human.  Hymns of worship emphasize God’s transcendence, his sovereignty and greatness, his holiness, something we also acknowledge. But when hurting, the closeness of God is what we tend to need most.

I once stood next to my grandma, Mary, in a church service where they were singing the Fanny Crosby song, “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior.” I heard her sweet quavering voice next to me. Do you know, I never forgot it, and every time I hear that song, I remember her and her faith. The words of that song, penned by the blind Crosby,  reflect Luther’s deathbed words, “We are beggars all.”  No matter how strong we think we are, in the end, we are dependent completely on the Savior passing by our place of need. (See the story of Bartemaeus)

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Refrain:
Savior, Savior,
Hear my humble cry,
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Let me at Thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.

Trusting only in Thy merit,
Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
Save me by Thy grace.

Thou the spring of all my comfort,
More than life to me,
Whom have I on earth beside Thee,
Whom in Heav’n but Thee.

~ Fanny J. Crosby

I recently discovered a YouTube channel of congregational singing including many of these old gospel songs. I am a big fan!  When I can’t get to church, I watch these videos and sing aloud. I know many of these hymns by heart and don’t have to reference the words. Here is one such song that I love, and another beneath it. The channel is called “Faith for the Family” from Temple Baptist Church in Powell, Tennessee. If you’re blessed by these dear old songs, check it out and sing along. One of the things I notice are the young faces in the congregation, and many of them are really singing these. How wonderful that another generation will know these treasures.

Here are the words of this song, “He Hideth my Soul.” Another of Fanny Crosby’s compositions, the text is based on Exodus 33:22

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.

Refrain

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away;
He holdeth me up, and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.

Refrain

With numberless blessings each moment He crowns,
And filled with His fullness divine,
I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God
For such a Redeemer as mine!

Refrain

When clothed in His brightness, transported I rise
To meet Him in clouds of the sky,
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love
I’ll shout with the millions on high.

Isn’t it wonderful to know that despite the world’s foundations being rocked by turmoil and fear these days, our souls, as Christians, are hid with God, in Christ. He hides our souls and covers them with his hand.

This one is the earliest song I remember singing in church, back at First Christian and Missionary Alliance on 60th street in Milwaukee. It’s hard not to join in joyfully with that refrain. “Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice, Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, let the people rejoice. O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son, and give Him the glory, great things he has done!”

The Apostle Paul and Silas, imprisoned at Phillipi for sharing the Gospel, are recorded in Scripture as singing in their chains (just before the earthquake that set them free.  See Acts, Chapter 16) We cannot change circumstances in our lives so often, but we can sing anyway. Our song comes from the knowledge that our God “plants his footsteps in the seas, and rides upon the storm.” He is with us, come what may in this life. And soon, we will see Him in a place where no tear will ever dim our eyesight. What a day that will be.

I hope these are as much of a blessing to you as they are to me!

 

 

No Kids Allowed?

A recent question posed on a parenting website sought public opinion. The question had to do with whether or not readers supported adult-oriented restaurants banning young children. The answers were interesting to read. They ran the gamut from, “Absolutely not. Kids should be welcome anywhere”, and “Society in the West is way too anti-child,” to “Yes, they should. Adults should have a kid-free zone if they want.”

I gave my own answer which I will re-share here. To underscore one of my points, I really believe that much of the hostility towards children in public places like planes and restaurants is the direct consequence of too many children  who are not under control of their parents. If wise pet owners know the importance of obedience training (a dog not trained can be a major problem), how much more important is it to teach and train our children with eternal souls? Without child training our kids become a menace to others.  This is wholly unnecessary.

Young parents will read something like what I wrote (shared below) and sneer, “Oh, wow. Your  kids are so PERFECT! How could we ever measure up to your perfection?” I’ve seen hundreds of comments like this from moms insinuating that teaching obedience, respect for authority and respect for others is some peculiar and unattainable thing, and that any parent (no matter how  experienced) who claims they have trained their children this way is either lying or bragging.

It is sad to see the wrong-headed ideas about parenting absorbed several generations deep now where kids running rampant, screaming, throwing fits (I just saw a cartload of this at the grocery store the other day) is the norm. It is the norm now, but it should not be, in my  own opinion.

Both my husband and I grew up in homes where obeying parents and not being a public nuisance was the norm. My mother only had to look at us to achieve compliance in public places and church. We were not allowed to ask for things at other people’s homes and not allowed to whine for candy in the grocery aisle or anywhere else. No meant no. We loved our mom, which was the foundation for her child-rearing success. But we also knew she meant business. We were not terrorized by her nor repressed by her parenting. She was the final word. It was that simple.

My husband and I have taken the same approach with our children. We have the final word. Children are  in training for adulthood, and they were and are (Emily is our last one) not going to run wild and treat their neighbors (those in public) with contempt and disrespect. Concern for the well-being of others, we emphasize with her,  should be the basis for all courtesy. Life is about more than just you and your desires.

Here is my response on the parenting site. If you disagree, feel free to write so in the comments. I want to add this point. I realize that with the rise of autism, some parents are dealing with special needs which my post, for obvious reasons, does not include. Special needs are special needs. Most children simply are not expected to obey today and behave properly in public, and that is the problem.

I am a mother of six children, ranging in age from 7 to 30, also a grandma to 3 toddlers. I absolutely believe that restaurants have the right to ban service to young children. The fact that there are wonderful exceptions to the rule when it comes to young child behavior is not the point. It’s that we have an epidemic of youngish parents today who have no concept of child training and discipline. The fact that young children are not welcome in certain places should be common sense.

Decades of permissive parenting advice, advice doled out by idiotic parenting magazines and “experts” who are anything but, and the simultaneous loss of generational influence in families have resulted in child-driven couples who are more interested in being buddies with their child than teaching them the needed skills for public behavior. In short, kids run the show with their tantrums and demands for total freedom in all places, and parents often act like hapless fools, watching their children offend and interfere with other adults. I truly believe the hostility frequently shown to children in public places is a direct result of parents not having children under control. Children, when in subjection to authority, are a delight. When they are not, they can be little horrors, disrupting and defrauding others of peace and order.

With children (two from orphanages) of many personality types raised in our home, I continue to believe that parents can and should teach respect for authority and respect for others – the two are inseparable – or we are failing. Restaurants field complaints and risk loss of business from loyal customers when they allow out of control children to destroy the atmosphere the customers value. Parents are free to go elsewhere to a family-friendly setting, but when when customers pay for a quiet evening out and then descend into a chaotic atmosphere with out of control kids, it cheats customers out of what they paid for.

So that’s my position. A voice of sanity is badly needed in the wacky world of modern parenting advice. This is just one issue I feel strongly about regarding child-rearing. In the future, I’ll write on the subject of schedules and the importance of order in a child’s development.  But that’s for another day.

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Rainy Day

It is dark and the air heavy with impending rain this school morning. Even the bright kitchen lights don’t seem to cut the gloom. I help my daughter with her hair and get her breakfast. While she works on her oatmeal and toast, I make her sandwich and pack the rest of her lunch.

The clouds look like they could break open any moment as I drive slowly through the streets of our village, two minutes to Emmy’s school.  Drops spatter on my windshield on the drive home, more fall as I turn into our driveway. I make it into the garage before the deluge.

Inside again I set my keys up on the shelf and kick off my shoes. There is no sound inside the house but the gentle ticking of the cuckoo clock in the dining room. Everything is neat and tidy. Rain falls outside, but I can’t hear it. Emmy says you can hear the rain on the roof of our ranch when it  is coming down hard, but my hearing doesn’t extend to those sounds. Just the steady ticking of the clock. That I can hear.

I make my coffee and sit in the living room by the window, watching the leaden skies divest themselves of all the moisture they have stored.  Rain drips from our Magnolia steadily.

Tick, tick, tick.

It is so dark in the room, I feel the sudden need for lamp light. My eyes roam the shelves where my many books sit patiently, waiting for me. Old friends, all of them. The piano where Emmy practices her first songs sits in the corner. But the old, black Steinway is silent this morning, awaiting small fingers at the end of the school day.

Tick, tick, tick.

No voices call out to me, no demands, no requests. Far away, Will is at college. Downtown, Tom is at work. Down the street, Emmy is busy at school. And I am alone in my house in the quiet and peace. Sitting by the window. Watching the rain come down, the soft tick of my clock keeping time.

rainyday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grow Your OWN Garden!

Ideally, Tom and I needed a small yard without the need for much maintenance when we moved this last time. Instead, due to our desire to be near our daughter’s school,  we ended up buying a house last year with a large yard. Additionally, the home had been owned by a woman with a love for gardening. The fenced-in area had layers of flowers and plants that, when they were tended and cared for, must have been very beautiful.

Needless to say, we have not had the time or ability to maintain that. When we first moved here, I did not anticipate some health issues that prevented me this spring from getting out there and at the very least, pulling weeds. With a chronic pain condition, some days you feel capable, and other days, you simply can’t do what you would like.

So I grieved over the raggedy state of the back garden area, not to mention the front mound and highly visible side of the house that needed tending.  Tom had a busy schedule earlier this year and could not get to it as he would have liked.

But through this summer, gradually and belatedly, things began to come together, thanks to Tom’s patience and labor. He planted six trees (I originally wrote four, but remembered two lovely little pine trees he put in earlier on the side of the house), went on weed wars during the long summer evenings, pulled out some things that needed removing, and now, he planted the last tree and put field stones around it for a border. He is doing the same with our trimmed up Magnolia  – truly a beautiful and healthy tree that provides shade to the front of our home and the little porch where I like to sit with him evenings.

I had felt sad to the point of shedding a tear earlier this summer that the pretty back yard with all the lovely flowers had not been kept up like the previous owner. I don’t know why I thought we ever could. But today it struck me. The lady who lived here, Dolores was her name,  left her beautiful fingerprints behind in her yard. Tom will leave his. They definitely won’t look the same, and that’s OK. He takes care of things in his way, and he has his own thoughts. Already, when I drive into the subdivision, the yard and mound out front has a whole different character to it.

There’s despair when we compare ourselves to other people. We can admire the way they are and the work that they do, but we have our own ideas, our own gifts and style. We bring different things to the lives of others, and we “grow our own gardens” so to speak. What matters is that we are authentically us, and that the gifts God gives us are used to bless others, never to harm.

The tendency to compare ourselves with others is human nature. It’s taken me until this age (50 as of last Saturday) to really believe I had anything authentically mine to contribute—that I have my own voice and that God can use that, free and clear of anyone or anything else. That’s not egotism, it’s an awakening to the fact that God gives each of us gifts and value, no matter what others say to diminish or question that.

So grow your own garden, let your own light shine, whatever metaphor works for you. Nobody else can bring to life the distillation of experiences, compassion and love that you have. Never believe otherwise.  You can leave beautiful fingerprints on the lives of others. Uniquely YOUR fingerprints.

Here’s the neat backyard Tom has worked on. The front is close to being finished, just in time for autumn!

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Stop Enabling Bad Churches

Over the years, I’ve noted that not enough has been written on the topic of Bad Church Enablers. Much is available on enablers of dysfunctional and abusive people in family relationships, but not so much has been written about those who enable and support churches that have an established pattern of injuring church members–not the shiny people, but the little people who always end up getting hurt. There is a time to pray and stay. There’s also a time to head for the parking lot one last time and hit the gas without looking back.

If your church’s inner workings have more in common with an organized crime family, with circles of secrecy, political maneuvering as a matter of practice, free speech crackdowns driven by paranoia and so on, it just may be time to find the exit sign. If the ongoing climate at your church is a foretaste of hell with defrauding, injustice,  lying,  backstabbing, betrayal and eternal conflict, what in the world is the point? Do you seriously think God is going to allow any of that into heaven? Seek peace, and if you can’t find that in a Christian church, of all places, than head for the door.

Those who stay and keep these temples of doom afloat are part of the problem. You pave the way for others to be injured by staying and supporting a  church that refuses to address sin in a biblical manner. They never get away with it, and the conflict always follows the corruption. Always. Sin’s cancer grows and metastasizes in these places. It gets in the spiritual lymph system and ultimately kills whatever good there is.

Corrupt churches are the hallmark of our bleak times, and leadership policy and practice not based in the Scriptures quickly creates a spiritual destruction machine that takes in Christ’s sheep at one end and spits out their bleeding remains from the other. That is not too extreme a picture. Bullies, frauds, the entitled, the power hungry and their self-serving followers would soon find themselves with a much reduced ability to harm others if the good people, God’s true people, removed themselves from the seats and drove away once and for all.

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A Little Note for Readers

In July, I passed the nine year mark for my small Hope Blog. Before that, I had a Blogger.com site called Front Porch Chats (long deleted.) After moving from South Carolina back to Wisconsin 10 years ago, I changed the name and started over. Somehow having chats on a front porch in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin seemed unlikely!

As noted before, I never started this blog to be a success by blogging standards. It was a simple antidote to writing about the toxic state of the evangelical church and American culture that I nearly killed myself doing on the once busy news and comment site  I published as an adjunct to the talk radio show I co-hosted and produced. My heart has always been first at home anyway, and so I have enjoyed writing about my family and the good things there are in this world—good things that are often obscured by the ugly.

I haven’t written on here for a while. After getting really sick in June of this year, I ended up in the hospital where they diagnosed diabetes. The summer has been spent adjusting to an entirely new eating plan and medications. Because I did not fit the typical Type II profile of being overweight, it was somehow missed. It would be an entirely separate post to write about how crucial it is to protect your health as much as possible and be vigilant about it. No emotional stress, no other  person or their agenda can be allowed to dominate you and take your health away. We are not here to be the emotional punching bags for others.  Walk away and stay away.  Lesson learned. Stress, over time, kills. It’s that simple.

emilysecondgradeOur little girl, our surprise baby (was it just yesterday she was born?), just started second grade today. I debated once again about killing the Hope Blog once and for all. I have other outlets on social media that are more gratifying for sharing ideas and thoughts and allow me to have a little tighter control over who can contact me. There are some sad people in this world who enjoy drive-by insults and inflicting pain for the joy of…inflicting pain. But there are a whole lot of others through the years who have contacted me with appreciation for covering some subjects that have helped them. Spiritual abuse, family emotional abuse and the destructive effects of narcissism are just a couple of those topics. It is a sadly high number I have heard from who are living in near despair in family systems or churches where  these emotional and spiritual vampires are destroying them, and they are at a loss as to understand how to deal with the situation.

My own and my family’s horrific experiences in the last few years in particular have given me a lot of painful insight, and all I can do is share what I have learned in hopes that somebody else may benefit. It is tempting to see God as having abandoned you in these situations. That is the worst effect toxic people can have on others – the sense of God also having turned his back. But in spite of damage done, we need to trust that His hand is there, guiding us in the dark, leading us and sending encouragement through others to help us through.  And then, we can be a light to others.

So, in my small way here, I am back, Lord willing. I have always loved to write, and I hope that if God allows me strength, that I can share here in some way that encourages others. All topics are not good, but what is good in them is when we can point to hope in God, our refuge and strength in this life. No matter how much hatred is leveled at us, sometimes inexplicably.

Fall is around the corner. Like it is for many, it’s my favorite time of year. I’m looking forward to leaves falling and making pumpkin pie. I can’t enjoy it anymore thanks to my new low carb diet, but Emmy and Tom still can!

I hope anyone reading this has a beautiful day. God made it, so it’s good!

 

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On this Wednesday Morning

Back in 2012, I wrote a post about the written prayers of Pastor Johann
Habermann from 500 years ago. The little black book that was given to me
is full of the riches of prayers that contain and reflect Holy Scripture
in each sentence. You can read more about them in my former post. (All
of the prayers and hymns from Habermann’s original book are here in a
simple text file if you are interested. Bound copies are also available
online if you do a search.)

Here is the prayer for this morning. These prayers are instructive due to
their being rooted in the Word of God. The further we stray from Scripture,
the more our prayers can err, even if we don’t mean to pray amiss. These prayers
are reverent and humble, the only kind of prayer our Lord will hear. He rejects
the prayers of the self-righteous and haughty, but he hears the pleas of his children
who love him.

Almighty, All-gracious God!

All Thy creatures should praise and glorify
Thee. The birds under the heavens magnify Thee with lovely songs early
in the morning as their Lord and Maker. So will I too heartily thank
Thee, that Thou hast preserved me under Thy shelter and protection
during the night now past, and all my life even to the present hour,
and awakening me from the sleep of the darkness of this night, hast
suffered me to arise again in health and joy. I pray Thee for the sake
of the saving resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that Thou
wouldst ever keep me together with all my loved ones from all danger
and evil.

O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance: feed
them also, and lift them up for ever. Fill me also at this early hour
with Thy grace, that I may pass this day rejoicing in Thy commandments,
and free from mortal sin. Let me experience Thy grace as a dew from the
womb of the morning, and as the refreshing moisture that diffuses at
the break of day, making the land fruitful. Thou wouldest spread Thy
goodness over me, that I may gladly and zealously do Thy will. Govern
me with Thy Holy Spirit that I may serve Thee in righteousness and
holiness of truth, well pleasing in Thy sight. Guard me that I sin not
against Thee, nor defile my conscience with carnal lusts that militate
against the soul. Keep my tongue from evil, and my lips from speaking
guile. Foolish talking or jesting, unbecoming of Christians, be ever
far removed from me.

Grant, that I offend none with my lips, nor backbite,
judge nor condemn, defame nor vilify. O that I might put a
lock to my lips and seal them with a strong seal, that they bring me
not to naught, nor my tongue destroy me. Give me grace that I may know
my shortcomings and correct them, and not fall into Thy righteous
judgment and condemnation. Grant my prayer, O Eternal God, for the sake
of Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

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Elie Wiesel – Remembering Him in a Quote

Christians think there is virtue in silence when someone is being abused by a spiritual leader. When they know wrong is being done and they stay silent, they become complicit. A favorite quote of Wiesel’s. “Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented..”      Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel

A Response to the Movie “Me Before You”

Our culture lives by emotions, not facts or an objective sense of truth. If a movie makes us “feel” and “moves us to tears”, well, then by all means, it must have a good message for us, right? Wrong.

A friend sent this article to me. The movie “Me before You” is yet another death propaganda piece that manages to make suicide look heroic and selfless for a disabled man. He did it for someone else, after all.  I am glad to see this article by a young person responding to the false message the movie promotes. The author begins:

I love romances as much as the next person (perhaps even a little more … I’m a total sap), but I’m decidedly unenthused about the most popular romance in theaters right now. As a disabled person, I really can’t stand “Me Before You.” In my opinion, and in the opinion of much of the disabled community, the film spreads some really harmful misconceptions about life with a disability. In an effort to undo some of the damage caused by this film, I’m here to bust some common myths about disability. (Spoiler warning for “Me Before You,” by the way!)

Read it here.

Remember when movies were filled with things like the triumph of the human spirit against difficult odds, when courage was an admired trait, when steadfastness and strength of character were celebrated? Yes. It seems like a long time ago now.

 

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