Spring is Really Here!

It must have been my lilac post a few weeks back. Burning with spring fever, I posted the photos a few days before snow hit. Then, like magic, summer arrived. Not spring, summer! We had days and days of sunny 70’s and 80’s as much of the rest of the country also saw record breaking temps.

There’s something a little creepy about 80’s in March in Wisconsin, but who was complaining? Well, that is until the viruses went the rounds. Extreme temperature changes always seem to bring them on. Things are a little more seasonal this week in temps, although today we brushed the 60’s again. The flowering crab trees have bloomed, tulips and daffs are up, the green buds are out and will soon be leaves. Hopefully, we won’t have a repeat of the April snowstorm that broke records here in the area one year. Then there was the snow incident in May one time when trees came down from the weight of the snow on the leaves! But we won’t talk about that.

We’re enjoying spring break here. It’s nice to have a respite from the school run, and Will is taking full advantage of sleeping late. He wore himself out the last few weeks of school and then exams. With organ and piano study, forensics and lots of homework, he works hard, so I’m letting him rest up. It’s nice to hear strains of Bach and Brahms from the piano during the day with him home.

Summer will be here before we know it. Emily’s pleas to go outside are already a familiar sound. She wears her hats every day and her new sunglasses, so she’s ready for the rays. The days are getting longer. What a lovely time of year!

Self-Deception – Creating a Virtual Reality

“It’s all gone,” said my toddler daughter as she held up her bowl at dinner.

Surprised that she was finished already, I looked in the bowl. She most certainly was not done. She had barely started. Her self-delusion was rooted in her desire for the cookie that might come at the end of her meal. In her mind, if she stated that all the food was gone, it must be so. She didn’t like the fact that she had food to finish, so she invented her own virtual reality where she was all done.

Self-delusion is a pervasive human trait, and all of us, at one time or another, have engaged in it. What delineates a normal person from a toxic person, however, is the ability to identify this in ourselves and root it out. When people lose all contact with truth and conscience, terminal self-delusion results.

Many of us know someone who suffers from such self-delusion. They wreak havoc in relationships, because they are not willing to hear from anyone around them regarding the reality of their shattered relationships. These people insist on wearing their warped glasses–glasses that create a reality that comports with their own prideful perceptions, but has nothing to do with what really is going on.

One of the hallmarks of such a person is isolation. While they may have many people in their lives, they are close to none. Anyone within close proximity is required to take on their own distorted version of reality or risk being rejected. Many simply steer clear of these people for anything other than utilitarian purposes.

So what are some clues that indicate someone is self-deceived?

In a multitude of counselors, Scripture says, there is safety. If you are ignoring what most of your caring family is telling you when they say there is a problem, you may be living in self-delusion. If you are alienated from most of those around you, insisting the whole time that everyone else is the problem, it’s time for some honest self-analysis.

There’s an apt (if well-worn) illustration of the farmer who complained to his wife repeatedly that the house smelled like the barnyard. He went from room to room looking for the source of the stench, railing at his wife about her shoddy housecleaning. His wife gently pointed out to him that perhaps it was the manure on his mustache that was causing the problem. A self-deluded man is one who would argue with the wife and continue to complain about the stench problem, even when the real source was pointed out, clearly and unmistakably. You can erect an alternate reality, but the stench in your life won’t be eradicated until you identify the source of the problem.

The life of self-delusion is a sad one. Telling yourself something over and over does not make it so. It is the mental equivalent of getting in your car and driving into a brick wall. Repeatedly. If in pride we resist the truth tellers God has put around us, eventually we are given over to a mind that can no longer even take in the truth. That is a frightening place none of us should ever want to be.

Healing and reconciliation can only take place in relationships when real humility causes the scales to drop from pride-filled eyes and the love of God warms hearts long-hardened into stone. It’s important to remember that we cannot change someone else’s self-delusion. But when we encounter someone like this, we can pray for something to break through their self-imposed blindness, and take careful note about the destructive consequences of pride.

Reflections in an Old Church

It was once the biggest church in the city in its time. Built in the 1880’s, the stone structure still features the stained glass, beautiful wooden beams in the soaring ceiling, cushioned pews and an open, airy-feeling sanctuary that must have seemed ahead of its time. It could hold around 1300 people.

The sanctuary felt about 35 (F) degrees today as the heat is kept off unless needed. Sitting in the chill gloom of that room, many thoughts went through my mind.

Of all of the people who passed through those church doors through the past century, did they find help spiritually? Was the Word of God preached there and did the Gospel ring out to the souls sitting in all of those pews? Or was it a high society church where you went largely to see and be seen? Was it a church where well-heeled professionals and businessmen and their well-dressed wives attended each Sunday as a sort of badge, a credential necessary at the time for social respectability?

What kind of pastors entered the pulpit, once called a “sacred desk”? Were they men of God with blameless lives and kindly hearts as Christ’s under-shepherds caring for souls? Or were they erudite, prideful men, overcome with their own eloquence in presenting a respectable social gospel missing the power of God unto salvation?

It’s too late now in any event. The thousands who must have come and gone, sung and listened, worked and taught Sunday school have joined the dust motes that slowly fell from the ceiling in the fading afternoon light.

It is no longer a church. It ceased to be that when the aging congregation disbanded years ago. The sanctuary is now only used for cultural events, and the heat stays off when possible in the big room where so many once worshiped.

I was killing time several years ago while waiting for a son to finish a music lesson there. I found several old hymnals still on a shelf in a basement alcove. I opened one of the musty books to look at the hymns. I looked at the words to one of my favorites.

In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime…

Yes, after all of our vaunted buildings and gilded shrines have crumbled to dust, the cross of Christ will still stand.

The church didn’t move in this case, it died. All over America there are churches like this. Some have been torn down, others have changed with the times and morphed into big box circus churches in the burbs where an entirely different (false) gospel of the triumph of man is preached. Others have become gift shops, museums, concert halls, wedding chapels or even retail establishments.

Will sat at the old organ today in that sanctuary, in the cold, with his coat on, playing  the 1910 Kimball organ that once rang out with hymns.  I wanted to hear the  old Kimball organ play a hymn in the empty sanctuary one more time where so many once sang. At my request, Will played Amazing Grace. As the slightly out of tune notes on the tired organ sounded the familiar hymn, I sang along–a congregation of exactly one.

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
was blind but now I see…

When we left the room, I stopped in front of the old pulpit that sat in a corner by the platform used by dancers. “How many times do you think the Gospel was preached over this pulpit, Will?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he answered.

And we left.

Country Roads

Our friend Francis in Nova Scotia keeps us supplied with photos of his favorite places on Cape Breton Island. That’s where the photos in this post were taken. I’m a city girl, born and bred, and I grew up to the usual urban din having lived and attended school in the heart of a large metro area.

But my parents both grew up in rural areas, and as a result, we saw plenty of country growing up each summer both in Southwest Missouri and also up in northern Minnesota. I think somewhere inside, I have a bit of country girl waiting to get out.

Our family once took a bouncing, jolting car journey across a field where a road used to be. We were driving to see the old abandoned house where my great-grandmother used to live when my mom and her siblings were growing up. They spent some war years there while their parents worked in a plant making airplanes to fight Hitler.

The house was in an advanced state of decay. In a shed, we found an old textbook from my uncle with his nickname written in the cover. We walked a bit in the fields near the house that late afternoon. Mom shed a few tears over the many memories there in those Missouri hills. She was raised a country girl, and she still is one.

The country road in the photo on this post draws me in. The thought of walking down that road brings peace just thinking about it. Add Tom and a picnic basket, and that would be about as good as it gets.

I was driving on a very isolated country road in Wisconsin once when we passed a horse and her young offspring quietly standing by a wire fence. I pulled over to let the children watch them for a while. (They had never seen a horse close up except for a depressed looking pony giving rides at a fair.) There is nothing so restful in this world as to watch animals like that in their own element. The horses stared at us with their big dark eyes, chewing solemnly and thinking their horse thoughts. I wanted to touch their soft noses, but decided as a city slicker that watching was probably a better idea.

I’ll never forget that day gazing at those beautiful creatures and experiencing the quiet of the country. No sirens, no obnoxious motorcycles filling the air with their nerve-shattering noise, no interstate with the eternal roar in the distance. Just the fields shimmering in the summer sunlight and the occasional song of a bird.

In our suburban world nature is paved over, restrained, poisoned with toxic chemicals to keep unsightly weeds at bay, and allowed only in small little orderly patches. It has to be that way, I guess. But country roads beckon me where you can hear the crunch of a dirt road under your feet, where animals and insects go about their business unhindered, and you get to see the whole panorama of God’s creative genius.

The whole earth is full of God’s glory. Humans build towering complexes and buildings that seem to defy gravity, and the architects should have their due, but nothing can come close to the world of nature created by the word of our Creator’s mouth. All it takes to see it is a walk down a country road.

O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.

~Psalm 104:24

A Note About This Blog

This blog has gotten boring for a lot of people I am sure.  I realize that writing about Emmy cutting teeth and how I bought a Tinkerbell bathing suit for her doesn’t make for earth- shattering prose. Sometimes I feel sheepish writing about such things when at one time I wrote op/ed pieces for newspapers like Falwell’s Liberty Journal and assorted other outlets like the Christian Worldview Network.

I do intend to expand my subject matter here for those who are yawning their way through my present writing material. There are numerous issues important to Christian women and women in general that I would like to address here. These last eight months have been a time of huge adjustment for me and for our family. Even now, Tom and I sometimes look at each other over Emmy’s dear head and just smile at each other in a bewildered fashion. Are we really doing this? Are we really starting over? Did Emmy really happen to us?

She did, bless the Lord, and I have to tell you that while at first I thought there had been a Divine mix-up (I need more stress, Lord?), I am beginning to realize more fully just how much of a Divinely appointed change this was. I was tired to the bone of writing about controversial subjects, tired of trying to convince complacent evangelicals that jettisoning cardinal Christian doctrine was wrong, tired of being mocked, ridiculed and spat on online by hate sites in the most personal way imaginable. I was used to battling in the area of moral values and culture war issues, but five years ago when I began addressing the Purpose Driven movement and the emerging church confusion, things changed very quickly. Taking flak from somebody at Act Up or Planned Parenthood was one thing – something I had been used to for years, but having an emerging church “Christian” post photoshopped ridicule pictures of me as an expectant mother is another. That was only the beginning, but I won’t get into it. It was time to stop, and God knew that.

In the five years since I began blogging with Slice, God raised up numerous men and women to do the job far better than I could. While my site was more of a link blog to other sites, others have been able to address in greater depth some of the truly scary things coming into the church these days.

So what subject matter is important to you? I intend to write about several things in the near future. One subject I will be revisiting is Christians and domestic abuse, both physical and emotional. That is a subject very close to my heart. I recently heard from someone in the UK who remembered an earlier set of posts I had put up. She was going through hard times herself and was looking to share what I had written with someone else. Lord willing, I will be doing that post soon and addressing the complicit role of many “Bible-believing” churches in helping abusers.

I also am already mentally planning a piece on the tendency of Christians to follow specific spiritual/home and family teachers, sometimes with disastrous consequences. If you’ve ever heard a Christian woman recommend so and so’s DVD’s, tapes, books, etc. when it comes to courtship, childrearing, marriage, etc.,  I have some words of caution for you. Following any one person on this earth is risky business. In some cases, Christian families are following their leaders right off cliffs. More to come.

So for those who are wearying of EmmyCam, I pledge to expand my material. But I don’t apologize for sharing the sheer joy that I find in loving my family and the challenges of taking care of home and hearth. That is my first calling, period, and quite frankly, that is where my heart has always been. I like to encourage younger women that the making of a home is the most important job you can have. To put it in my William’s words back when he was in third grade, “You’re the most important person in the universe, Mama, you make people.” Exactly, Will.

Random Notes and Observations

*The leaves are now beginning to turn here in Southeastern Wisconsin. The red maples are starting, and within about 10 days or so they will be breathtaking. The leaves crunch under my feet on my walks. On Saturday, the sky was that deep, deep blue, and the air was absolutely still. A perfect autumn day.

*We have new neighbors. Both houses across the street were empty, one for a year and a half before it sold. We have two nice families, both with little ones, that have moved in. I’m going to take over some cookies and a note to say welcome like some neighbors did for us when we were new. In South Carolina, the neighbor boy came over when we had just moved in. The little guy stood there on our porch with his blond shock of hair standing on end and shouted, “Hi, Ma’am! Ya’ll must be the new neighbors. I’m Johnny!” It was a rousing welcome. I was new to the Southern habit of a lot of children calling adults “ma’am” and “sir.” A wonderful habit, I think.

*The last vestiges of childhood are bittersweet. Will and I were leaving Target today, after buying him some jeans that are long enough, when I felt his hand slip into mine for a moment. He looked up at me and grinned sheepishly. I squeezed that hand and let it go again, knowing that boys his age don’t like lingering for long, but it was a sweet/sad reminder that those days of childhood are really ending quickly. I’m so glad he doesn’t mind doing little things like that once in a while. It does a mother’s heart good.

*I found the Mrs. Tim books at the library today. Our library hasn’t yet discarded the lovely old books like so many have. The Mrs. Tim books are by D.E. Stevenson and are the fictional journals of a military wife in the era of WW2 and afterward. They detail all the happenings of a family with a husband stationed overseas while they stay behind in England. I read them years ago and am happy to find them again. They make for cozy fall reading. I really can’t stand most of the modern novels with which libraries are stocked today. There are exceptions, but so many are laced with sex and foul language that they aren’t fit for decent households. Why is it so many authors could be artists, like Elizabeth Goudge for example, without that? I find it terribly sad that so many wonderful books are being taken out of the library now as they go out of print. I get used copies of my favorites on eBay before they disappear into the mist forever.

*I’m starting to smell woodsmoke from fireplaces at night now as it dips into the high 40’s. Colder days are coming.

*O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good…His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to all generations!