Thursday, August 30, 2007

Finding Rest: Part Two (Scroll down three posts to read this story from the beginning)

Why share such a personal story? I share it because I have talked to enough women to know that underneath the makeup and the matching outfits and the small talk that make up our exteriors, we are a broken people. To pretend otherwise creates isolation. Thoughtful honesty creates closer relationships and greater understanding. When we share the way God works in the difficult things of life it encourages first oneself and then others.

For some of us, the pieces have been patched and restored and there is wholeness where there was none before. But some of us are walking wounded, barely hanging on and wondering if there is hope. We have a choice. We can either be completely shattered by bitterness, depression and anger or we can lay the fragments before the One who can take the sharp slivers and jagged pieces and create a beautiful, productive life. Here is the conclusion to John's story.

When John was ten, he was sullen and moody and difficult and so was I. But I was no longer proud. I had seen too much of my own wretchedness. I was broken, squashed on the Potter's wheel. My dear friend Amy (see yesterday's comments) saw that I was losing the battle to be good and strong and loving. She called another friend and we met together for prayer. It was then that God began reshaping the clay of my spirit into a whole new vessel.

Stuart and John and I met with a family counselor. We took with us the test results from three years prior. The psychologist read through the reports and listened to our story and said, “You’re dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome. Your parenting is innovative and creative (I did not tell her about the swearing or the clenched teeth) and I don’t know that there is a whole lot I can tell you that you aren’t already doing.” Asperger's Sydrome. With those words, the pieces of the puzzle flew into place after a decade of wondering what we were dealing with. We were not sorrowful but relieved.

I found an online support group and learned that Aspie kids sleep poorly, that they like small spaces (which is why John loved my closet) and hate change. I connected with parents who understood what it is like to listen to daily monologues about Lord of the Rings or Battlezone. I trundled my stack of parenting books off to the Salvation Army. I learned to discipline in tiny increments. “If you talk like that again, you will lose two minutes of computer.” I learned to relax my standards, to offer mercy and extend grace. I learned to hug and joke and and love even if John was unlovable. I learned that if I did these things, he became lovable.

Today, John is happy. This is the one thing that has changed. He is still tenderhearted and funny and creative. He still has strong academic abilities and he still needs close supervision to keep him on task. Last week he went church with his button-down shirt on inside out. We have to check to see if he has shoes on and contacts in before he leaves the house. He stands in the kitchen and talks about Harry Potter while Lauren washes the dishes. He’s supposed to be helping but he forgets. I ask him to bring me Charlie’s shoes and he comes back empty handed and I ask him again and he brings me a comb. We laugh (usually) and he tries again. I don’t think about him learning to drive or going to college or leaving home. It stresses me out.

The entries in the family journal continue. Once he cut the "chickens" off top of his head because they were bothering him. I had to shave his head to repair the damage. He appeared in my bedroom at midnight wrapped in an orange blanket with his shorn head sticking out and explained, "I'm an insom-ni-monk." He put Charlie down for a nap one afternoon, "I put Charlie to sleep with 'The Song of Invigoration!'" And while helping me in the kitchen, "I did the impossible. I put ALL of lettuce into these two bags!" (He had smashed two heads of lettuce into two small ziplock bags and squeezed out all the air. Two heads of romaine reduced to the size of a baseball.)

I found this statement in a commentary that I was reading this morning and I think it applies here. One of the most common errors evident in the professing church today (is) triumphalism. It is our insistence that Jesus be now what the Bible says He will be and do then—in the future. We all wish to identify with the triumphant Jesus, who overthrows the wicked, and brings prosperity, peace, and freedom from pain to His people. But we do not wish to identify with the “suffering Savior.” I don't know how successfully John will venture into adulthood. I don't know if his story will be one of triumph from a worldly perspective. All I know is that before I fought and kicked against John's difficulties and now I don't. This is triumph in God's eyes.

One day, a long time ago, when we were having a rough day and I was disciplining and controlling because no child of mine was going to act that way, God said, "No. John is not yours. He’s mine." And, of course, He was right. God created John and He has a plan for him and He has been faithful to reveal it one grain at a time. So now there is peace. Now I can enjoy the gift and the wonder of raising this boy. John is a blessing. A great, great blessing. God knew what He was doing all along.

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:16

Finding Rest: Part One

This is my one hundredth post. Blog tradition dictates that I tell you that I like soft chocolate graham crackers and hate mushrooms and was once a flute for Halloween. But enough. I will tell you John's story instead. It is a story of human frailty. Mine. For it is against the backdrop of our frailty that the God's glory shines most brightly.

John adds spice, energy, and texture to our family. His innocence, quick wit, and academic mind are exceptional for a boy of twelve. His personality pours from the pages of our family journal. A few quotes from years gone by reveal his essence. "I fixed the hole in your sheet, Mama. I stapled it." (He put the hole in the sheet in the first place.) Once when instructed to finish his dinner, John responded, "But I ate forty-five minutes of it." (That would be 3/4 to the rest of us.) After I asked him to stop talking: "But I have to talk, I'm a Yak-In-The-Box." A boy with a thousand questions, "Where does steel wool come from anyway? Mechanical sheep?" "Do sharks have tongues? It seems like if sharks had tongues, they would bite them."

John is my firstborn. My crucible child. Sent by the Refiner to remove my dross. I was twenty-six when he was born. He dawdled into the world after three days of intermittent labor. He nursed vigorously and continuously and slept little. He was born to a prideful mother and for years, John fed that pride. He spoke words at six months and sentences at a year. He knew all of his letters and was making up original jokes and puns at two. He played chess and read at three. He was a fierce Scrabble competitor at six. A tenderhearted, funny, creative and strikingly beautiful boy.

Underneath this image of perfection lurked puzzling oddities. He slept through the night for the first time on his second birthday. 4 days after Christmas. I still remember waking up in that morning, first panic stricken, and then elated. At four and five, we were still reminding him that snow pants go on before boots, underwear before pants. We cut the tags out of all his clothes, as they were too scratchy. When friends came to visit, the John Show became overwhelming. The child who was content to play and pretend clung to me and needed me to deal with one “emergency” after another. At six, he started looking at things out of the corners of his eyes. Some days he didn’t look straight on at anything. At four, he could read and spell and once he came in from the back yard and announced, “I just figured out that there are numbers smaller than zero.” But at six and seven, he couldn’t put anything down on paper without me sitting next to him and writing for him. If I walked away, his schoolwork and his chores were left untouched because he had no system for breaking down small tasks into sequential steps. If there was more than one thing to do, he couldn't. I was mystified by his incongruent abilities.

In October, when John was seven, Stuart came home with the news that he was being transferred. John responded to the news by touching me with his right hand and then his left. He touched the table, the cat, the wall, me again. Right, left. Right, left. Day after day. He left Rhode Island as a sweet boy and arrived in Chattanooga a stranger. The first week in our new neighborhood, he snuck off. I called and called and hunted frantically. The sun sank low in the sky. Neighbors searched and I phoned the police. Stuart found him in the trailer park behind our house. So much for perfect parenting.

John began to throw raging temper tantrums that lasted for hours and left us all limp and exhausted. At the time, Stuart and I didn’t understand the role that anxiety about the move played in John’s behavior for his life was essentially the same. Same family, same routine. He didn't even have to adjust to a new school because we homeschooled him. My nightstand was piled high with The Strong Willed Child, Dare to Discipline, To Train Up a Child, Making Children Mind without Losing Yours…All good books, but books that said essentially, “If your child does this, you do this…” I was left with the impression that I could control my child if I could only find the right combination of ingredients. I did not know mercy; I did not know grace. I knew discipline, rules, time out, and spankings. I used all of these with consistency.

Testing began. A team of specialists administered tests for days. A hundred pages came back with the diagnosis of Pervasive Development Disorder. A disorder on the autistic spectrum. Autism? My son was particularly interactive and engaging. It couldn't be. One of the main things that a child exhibits with PDD is speech delay. That was not my child so I mentally threw out the ambiguous report. We visited more pediatricians and added a dose of stimulant medication that was so high it made doctors do a double take when they read his chart. The medicine worked. But when it wore off, we paid the price. I became a slave to the clock and the medicine cabinet.

John continued to need me at his side every second at ages eight and nine and ten for chores and schoolwork. He was destructive to property and awake all hours of the night. We finally put him in a sleeping bag in our walk-in closet at night so we could be sure he was at least in bed. I responded to John's antics with words spoken through clenched teeth, cold words delivered in a cold tone, words of ridicule and swearing. He would weep with remorse and ask for forgiveness but my heart was so hardened toward his unpredictable behavior that I would “forgive” him while reminding him of his transgression in the process. I was the saint, he the sinner. When my rage passed, it was my turn to feel drained and empty and incompetent. I loved him fiercely and hated him in turns. I was a prisoner to my emotions. I was paralyzed with worry that we were raising a child who would not experience success in the adult world. I took the things that he couldn’t do and added ten years to his age and believed that in a decade he would make no progress. I screamed at God. “This is not right! He should have had a different mother! I am no good for him! I am ruining him!"

Tomorrow: The Conclusion

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The K'Nex Rock Star

This is John. A boy who is lives outside the box. Return on Thursday to read his story.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pancakes for Breakfast

ROAR! In my house, baking is announced with the roar of the grain mill. Pancakes for breakfast. Little feet come running. Quick as a wink, two stools are pushed up to the counter and two eager children scramble up on them. They hold their hands over their ears and then take them off again. On. Off. On. Off. What are they doing? I try it. The grain mill says “waa-waa-waa-waa” when I do. We three look at each other and grin. We look ridiculous clapping our hands on our ears. The sound from the mill goes up an octave. The wheat has become flour. I shut off the machine.

Kid sounds fill the vacuum of silence. “I want to measure!”

“I want to crack an egg. Can I crack an egg, Mama?”

I measure out the baking power. Claire and Charlie take turns adding it to the bowl. Charlie tries to shove Claire off her stool because he wants to pour in the salt.

“No, Charlie. Here. You crack this egg.”

I’m brave with the eggs. My sister taught me how to scoop out shell bits with a shell half. It’s easy and so Charlie can crack eggs. He bangs it on the side of his bowl. He squeezes it hard with two hands. Somehow the egg plops into the bowl without any eggshell. Charlie takes care of that problem. He drops the entire shell into the bowl on top of the egg. I scoop it out and Charlie pours the egg into the batter.

“I want to stir!”

“No! I want to!” Again with the shoving.

“Charlie, you just cracked the egg. Let Claire have a turn first.” Claire stirs gently and then pushes the bowl over to her brother. He stirs recklessly. I wipe up the batter that splashes over the side. Not nearly as much mess as the time Lauren was mixing up banana bread with the hand mixer and she fell off her stool with the mixer still whirring in her hand.

“OK, you two. Your part is all done.” They do not hop down but lean in close as I spoon out the batter onto the griddle. They wait for the bubbles to come to the surface.

“Mama, there’s bubbles. It’s time to flip them.” Claire knows about pancakes.

Lauren pours the juice. Faith puts the butter and syrup on the table in the sunroom. Claire gets the silverware and Charlie puts a napkin on everyone’s chair. After he's been called five times, John appears with sleep in his eyes and chicken hair. Then it’s a scramble to get everybody’s pancakes buttered and cut and spread with syrup.

“My pancakes don’t have any butter.”

“Yes they do Charlie. It’s melted in.”

“They don’t have butter. They don’t.”

Alright! Here’s a little more. Faith that’s WAAAY too much syrup. Pour some of that onto Claire’s plate.”

Finally, the sound of silence as five mouths are full. The pancakes are delicious, light and fluffy and buttery. A great way to start the day.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Light of the World

“Mom, Jesus is like a thread.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, no matter what the Pharisees say, they leave loopholes and Jesus weaves his way through the holes and ties them up in knots.” Lauren made this observation as we inched our way through John 7-9.

John wrote in pictures and the more I understand of the Jewish culture the more I feel like I watch rather than read his chapters.

Come with me to Jerusalem. Leafy shelters line the side of the roads. Search for the stars in the night sky. Search but you will not find them as four brilliant candelabra burn at the temple and shower the city with their light. Give way to the torch carrying men as they dance and sing praise. Sing with them. The words you know well…The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.* Smell the acrid smell of sacrificial blood. Follow the procession to the temple as golden pitchers of water are carried from the Pool of Siloam to be poured over the altar.** Celebrate God's provision for his people in the desert, the tent living, the water from the rock, the fire by night. All these we remember during this seven day Feast of Tabernacles.

This year, the foreground is one of celebration but in the background…whispers.

“He’s a good man.”

“No, he's pulling the wool over the eyes of the people.”

“Have you seen him?”

“Do you think he’ll show?”

“The Pharisees are after him, you know. He’s a marked man.”

And suddenly, at the height of the festival, there He is. What guts. He knows the intentions of the religious leaders.

Against the backdrop of the golden pitchers. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me,…streams of living water will flow from within him.”

Against the backdrop of the candelabra and the torches, “I am the light of the world.”

Shh. Sit with me in the temple. Hear these men of authority.

“You are appearing as your own witness; your testimony doesn't count.”

“In your own Law the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”

Do you hear the vehemence in their voices? The pride? “We are not illegitimate children… You demon-possessed Samaritan!” A group of men have gone out for stones. Do you hear the rocks thud down on the pavement in front of the temple. Does your stomach tighten in apprehension?

“We’ll get him. He can’t get away with that. Who does He think he is to make a claim like that? The blasphemer!”

But He does. He slips by the rowdy rock holding hard-faced men and goes on His way. And as He is going, He comes upon a blind man…a messenger…a second witness, though the man does not yet know it.

A little bit of mud on the eyes and the instruction, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.” That is all. And the man can see. Only God can give sight to the blind. Every Jew knows that.

Word gets around; it always does. And the Pharisees get involved; they always do. And the scene repeats itself. The very same scene. Come. Find a hidden spot. The view is good here around this pillar.

“Give glory to God. We know this Jesus character is a sinner.”

And the sighted man, the exclamation point to the testimony of Jesus, wonders, “Do you want to be his disciples too?”

Do you tremble at their intimidating tone? Do you shudder at their narrowed eyes and pinched lips? Do you fear for this man? “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are the disciples of Moses! Out!”

It’s not fair, you say. He gained his sight but lost his community. Where will he go? Why couldn’t Jesus have left him alone. What was the point? Nothing’s changed.

Oh, but my friend, before they spoke a word to the man, the Pharisees argued among themselves. Some of them pontificated, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

And some of them questioned, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?”

The Light of the World could see beyond the name calling and blustering as he stood his ground before the interrogating group. He saw the group as individuals and some of those men were trying to see outside the box. He saw their internal wrestling. The blind man was for them. The Light of the World sent him to drive away their shadows of doubt.

"So yes, Lauren. You are right. Jesus sure can weave his way through loopholes, but he's not out to make fools of his critics. He wants to bring them salvation. He still works that way today. Isn't He awesome?"

*Psalms 113-118 were sung on the final day of the ceremony.

**Isaiah 12:1-3 was recited as the water was poured over the altar. "In that day you will say: I will praise you, O Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation; with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation."

A Family Guide to Biblical Holidays is a good resource for understanding the Jewish Holidays, both how they were celebrated during Biblical times and how the Jews celebrate them today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Breakfast Interrupted

“Hey look. Miss Norma’s outside. Is that her cat or one of the strays?” Miss Norma is certified card-carrying animal lover. Stray cats come from miles around to feast on the delicacies that she leaves out for them in her garage. A smoky gray cat was following behind her little Jack Russell Terrier. We watched them for a minute as they enjoyed the company of one another in the late morning sunshine.

“I’m going to go ask her. Be right back.” Slam. Lauren ducked under the trees and ran over to the fence.

“I want to go say hi to Miss Norma.”

“No, Faith. Eat your toast.”

“I’ll just be a minute.” Slam. Two empty places at the breakfast table. Two children lined the fence. Fragments of cat conversation drifted through the trees and the screens of open windows.

I looked from the window to the table. Claire had sidled out the door. Three children lined the fence. Charlie and I were the only two left at the table. John had yet to make his pajama clad first appearance of the day.

“I’m going to say hi, Mama.”

“Come back and ….” Slam.

Four children lined the fence and discussed the cats and poked their fingers through the links to pet the little dog.

I looked around at the half-eaten toast and the almost empty glasses of juice. I listened to the giggling and watched Miss Norma interact with the children.

Four children and one mama lined the fence as one boy, in his pajamas, found the breakfast table deserted and came out to join us. The children skipped off soon after I came out. Miss Norma and I talked about cats and the weather and church and soon twenty minutes had passed.

“Mama, it’s eleven o'clock!”

“I have to go Norma. We’re meeting Stuart for lunch in an hour.”

I returned to a table covered with toast crumbs. Either the children came back and finished their breakfast or the dog cleaned house. My money is on the dog because those kids were awfully hungry at lunch time.”

(Miss Norma is a treasure. We know. She and Mr. Lee are the best neighbors we've ever had.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cicada Season

"Come look, Mama! We decorated every single fence post with cicadas."
And so they did.


(This is really the cicada casing. When the cicada emerges from the casing it is green and has wings. Here's a great cicada website if you would like to know more. And there's always Wikipedia.)


More Wordless Wednesday Participants

Monday, August 20, 2007

Be Nice!

"Get down, Charlie. That nice lady doesn’t want you to climb on her mobility scooter.”

We were in the freezer section at Wal-Mart. While I was looking for the spinach, Charlie had noticed the gears and levers on a scooter that rolled by. Hmm. A video game here in the freezer aisle? I must check this out. And so he did. He climbed up on the running board and reach over to work a few levers. The “nice" lady looked like she would like to run him down.

“I’m sorry m’am. My little guy thinks you're driving a rolling arcade.” I smiled my most winning smile. Charlie grinned.

"Hmmph!" The scooter occupant glared and sped ahead to the frozen dinners.

Whoops. I guess we need to add that to our list of shopping behavior:

1. Put your hand on the hood of the car while you are waiting for everyone to get out.
2. Don’t climb the toilet paper display
3. Don’t play on occupied mobility scooters.

(Charlie's list of grocery store ettiquette is so different from the rules that that I created for the other four kids.)

We wheeled our carts to the checkout counter and an older cashier greeted us with a friendly smile. “How ya’ll doin’ today?”

The girls and I unloaded groceries while the cashier looked on with approval at my helpful girls. Charlie found a toy cell phone and began to push the buttons.

“Charlie, do you want me to get that phone for you?” I am always looking for ways to unplug his video addiction and develop his creativity. A cell phone seemed like the perfect thing.

“Yeah, Mama!” He rushed over to the counter and held it out for the cashier to ring it up for him. He waited patiently but the woman was intent on finding the number for the cantaloupe. Her smile had vanished.

“Wait a minute, Charlie. Wait ‘til she’s done with the cantaloupe.”

He waited. And waited. And waited. For after the cashier scanned the cantaloupe, she continued to scan everything on the counter.

“Put it on the counter. I’ll get to it.”

That wasn’t very nice.

At the car, I lifted Charlie to his seat. He pinched my face. “Does that hurt, Mama?”

“No Charlie, that doesn’t hurt.”

He squeezed harder. “Does that hurt?”

“Yes that hurts. It’s not nice to hurt people.”

“Oh. Does this hurt?”

On the drive home I thought about what it means to be nice, to put people before accomplishments, before chores, before self. I thought about the times when I’m not nice. I’m never nice on the phone when I’m dealing with some push-button customer service representative. I’m not nice after an hour in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. I’m not nice when I have to fill out fifty pages (I'm not exaggerating) of information for my children to have their teeth cleaned. I’m self-righteous and arrogant. “What do you mean you need my kids' social security numbers? They don't want to operate the x-ray machine! They just need their teeth brushed!” GRR!

And when I got home I opened my e-mail and found this

from Christine at Fruit in Season. She thinks I’m nice. Ha! This is because she doesn't work for Verizon. Well, I am nice here. Here behind my keyboard. I use the backspace button quite a bit to delete those sentences that have too much zing. Thank goodness for the backspace key. I wish real life came with backspace. Christine is a great encourager and a fellow sojourner on the quest for humility, the key ingredient for NICE. She inspired me to be nice for the whole rest of the day.

The great thing about being a Nice Matters recipient is that I get to pass it on. I have been meeting all kinds of bloggers these days, women who encourage me with kind words on my blog and encouraging posts on their own.

I choose to pass this award on to:

Melissa at Breath of Life.
Faith at The Great Adventure
Jennifer at Gathering Grace
Lori at I Will Take it Lord, All You Have to Give


You all write in a way that makes me feel like I am sitting with you over a cup of coffee. (Or since it’s still close to 100 here, maybe a tall glass of iced tea.) Thanks for your friendship. It matters.


Oh, I almost forgot. The cello phone (Charlie's word) was the perfect thing. Hours of imaginary conversations filled the airwaves until he flushed it. Now we have plumbing issues.

    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    Now and Then

    How Do You Envision Your Marriage in the Future? This is the question for Marriage Monday. I wanted this to be a long and eloquent post but my answer is so simple that a few sentences will have to do.

    I walked into the office and found Stuart on the computer. “What are you doing?”

    “I’m looking up the inflation rate.”

    “What do you need to do that for? Just walk into any store! The price of everything is going up!” Snap.

    “I just want to know!” Snap.

    “I’m sorry. I didn’t need to jump all over you. That wasn’t very respectful of me.”

    “It’s OK. I forgive you.”

    This is what I want us to be doing tomorrow and thirty years from now, what we are doing today. I want us to be quick to see when we stray from the peaceful path. I want us to be quick to recognize when we use words and tone that do not convey respect. I want us to encourage one another and build each other up. I want us to be serving until we draw our last breath.

    It starts today. If I want to be respectful and kind and to reach out my hands in service, it starts today. I can live this way if I remember that I am servant and not master. I can live this way if I know the Master and spend my days getting to know Him better. This is the relationship that I need to concentrate on. The one with Stuart will follow.

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Culture Shock

    We pulled up to Wal-Mart today and walked across the parking lot in the blistering heat. High above me, I noticed a chair on a stand enclosed by a railing and supported by thirty-foot metal legs propped against the storefront. Some of you already know what this is. Maybe most of you do but I did not. What is that dunking booth doing in the outside display area? Is a carnival coming through town? Or maybe it’s an announcer’s chair or a referee's chair. Football season is starting. Why would Wal-Mart sell announcer's chairs? There's only two schools in the area. Surely they wouldn't stock chairs for just two high schools. OOOHHH! It’s a tree stand. Leave it to The Land Flowing With Milk and Honey to sell tree stands at Wal-Mart.

    We were at a cookout last weekend. Most of the conversation centered around dove season. How hunting season is just around the corner…the best places to hunt doves…how many doves the hunters got last year. I did not join in this conversation. I didn’t have a thing to contribute. I didn’t even know what they meant by doves. Are they pigeons? (Later Internet research indicated that they were talking about mourning doves. Why would anyone want to shoot those? They would hardly make a meal.)

    Stuart is not a hunter. Neither is his dad though he collects guns. Once his father gave his mother a shotgun that he was impressed with as a Christmas present. He gave her a beautiful pair of emerald earrings as well to sweeten the gift. Much to his dad’s disappointment, Stuart doesn’t even like guns. So he cannot help me out with my hunting questions.

    The local classifieds carry advertisements for pickups and gunracks. In the fall, tucked between these ads are tributes to young hunters. Joseph Dudley, age 11, shot his first deer on 11/11. A four point buck. Joseph is smiling proudly beside the deer hanging from a tree by its ankles. Somehow I can’t picture my children on these pages for their deer-hunting prowess. A different milestone, maybe. How’s this one?

    A photo of Charlie in his underwear (his favorite outfit these days) standing by the potty with this caption: Charlie, age three, used the toilet all day today. He did not try to sneak out to pee in the yard even once.

    Or this one:

    Faith, age 7, has changed uniforms. We have not seen the royal blue shirt for days. Now she wears a green Gap shirt with her jean capris, a black baseball cap, a backpack, and flip flops. The backpack does not come off, even at mealtimes. We're so proud!

    On second thought, maybe we fit in here better than we'd like to admit.

    (For those of you who do not know what a tree stand is. It is a raised platform that a hunter stands/or sits on to wait and watch for deer. When a deer goes by, the hunter shoots at it. A tree stand is also known as a deer stand.)


    Stuart and I were walking around the block in the dark the other night. We talked about the events of the day.

    "Hey Hon, did you know there's a blog that is giving away a 37"inch flat-panel screen TV from Best Buy."


    "Yeah, but if I enter to win, I have to write about it on my blog. I don't know if I want to do that. Besides I just won two awesome books on ornithology and the history of the twenty-first century from another blog."

    "That's great, babe."

    Silence. Well, mostly silence, except for a weird raspy squealing sound at our feet in the darkest stretch of the walk. I reached for Stuart's hand but he was startled and jumped away.

    "What was that?!"

    "A cicada maybe. Or a bird. Could it have been a bird?"

    "I don't know. What kind of bird makes that kind of noise?"

    When our hearts stopped racing:

    "I want you to enter that thing."

    "Well, if you really want me to."

    "Yeah, I really want you to."

    Consider it done.

    And this is why Stuart wanted me to enter. Here is a picture of our TV.

    "There are raisins in this picture. Did you mean to take a picture of the TV and raisins."

    "The raisins are for scale." (They're the snack-size box.)


    Evidently Stuart thinks that the kind mom at 5 Minutes for Mom will take pity on him if I post a picture of our pitiful TV and she will choose number 2, 576...or whatever our number is.

    I'll let you know if his plan works.

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Rules, Rules, and more Rules

    Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, not your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 19:8-11

    This is what God has to say about the Sabbath. The Pharisees took these three verses and turned them into thirty-nine rules with a subset of rules beneath each main rule.

    For example:

    No plowing was a chief rule. Dragging a chair on soft earth and thereby leaving furrows in the ground was listed in the subset of rules under no plowing. Dragging a chair on a hard surface however would be allowed. (2 )

    A Jew could only walk a short distance from his house. However if he planned ahead the day before and placed his lunch somewhere along the road, that could be considered his house and the next day he could walk the prescribed distance from his lunch to his destination. (3)

    If the house of a devout Jew were to catch fire, the only things that he could save would be articles of clothing but he could not scoop up an armload of clothes. He would have to put on one piece of clothing, leave the burning building, remove said article, return for the next item, and repeat the process. (2) Rescuing clothing this way was necessary to comply with the 39th rule.

    The 39th rule proclaimed that nothing could be carried. Jesus was all over this one when He
    A. Healed the whiny lame man in John 5 and B. Told the guy to pick up his mat and go home.

    The Jews took the Sabbath seriously. “In 167 B.C. Antiochus’ army put a stop to the Jew’s sacrifices. The people of Jerusalem, under the leadership of Matthias, revolted and then fled to the desert. Their hiding place was soon discovered, and the pursuing soldiers demanded that they repent and surrender.
    The Jews refused to give in, but they also refused to fight because it was the Sabbath. They would not block the entrances to their caves or fight in any way. Approximately 1000 men, women and children died without resistance, because they considered the Sabbath sacred.”(1 )
    No wonder Jesus healed under the noses of the Pharisees, on the Sabbath! The religious elite truly did place an unbearable burden on the people, a burden that neither they nor the people could live up to. No wonder the Pharisees attempted to control and manipulate Jesus. They had been trying for centuries with their system of works to control and manipulate God. Why should they do anything less when God became man and walked upon the earth?

    It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

    Thank You, Jesus!

    There are Orthodox Jews who continue to keep the Sabbath in the same manner as the Pharisees. Here are some links as to how this plays out in the twentieth century:
    The 39 Categories of Sabbath Work

    1. “Man for Sabbath or Sabbath for Man?” William L. Coleman, Eternity, September, 1977, p. 58.
    2. Commentary by Bob Deffinbaugh (
    3. Commentary by David Guzic (

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007


    It’s midnight. I’m nestled among my covers and pillows. The light on my side of the bed is on. My body is comfortable but my mind is uneasy. Pages are spread out over the top of the covers. I’m reading first hand accounts of slavery. Smallville is situated in the middle of cotton fields, fields that were once tended by slaves.

    In the 1930s, historians realized that the number of people who had been held in bondage by the chains of slavery was dwindling. Interviewers circulated among the remaining ex-slaves and recorded their stories. Their voices come to life in my mind. I can picture old Turner crying, heartbroken over the death of a kind white woman. I close my eyes after reading about a slave whose hands and feet were nailed to a board after running away. Closed eyes do not shut out the image. Anna, the daughter of a slave and a slave owner’s son reminisces about the good old days. For Anna, slavery was better than freedom. Frank described how after the war his master was reluctant to let his father go. He saw his daddy whipped and chained to a tree. Frank remained by his father’s side for a week before the master relented and undid the chains.

    The men and women who tell these stories share them matter-of-factly as if the lives they lived were ordinary. Political correctness and self-esteem had not yet been stamped on the hearts of African Americans in the 1930s. They refer to themselves and their fellow blacks as niggers and darkies. I find these words on almost every page. I am surprised to see how they appropriated the derogatory labels for themselves, how the men and women in my midnight reading dressed themselves with these words.

    Labels. How easily we accept the names that others hold out to us. Ugly, stupid, shy, fat, divorcee, old maid, self-righteous, religious zealots… How easily we cling to mistakes and imperfections and call ourselves names that do not help us live a victorious life.

    The children and I just read John 8. The Name Calling Chapter. The Pharisees will be satisfied with nothing less than the murder of Jesus. Jesus knows this, yet, at the height of the Feast of Tabernacles, six months before his crucifixion, he marches into enemy territory (the Temple) and sits down to teach the crowd and to provoke the religious leaders. He’s there to seal His doom. The religious elite call him an illegimate child, demon possessed and the most vile term they can think of…a Samaritan. This chapter does not show Jesus accepting these words and slinking off in defeat. "I tell you the truth," he declares, "before Abraham was born, I am!…My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me….I know where I came from and where I am going."

    Jesus is confident. He does not rise up in anger or flee in tears because He knows who He is. So must we. When words are hurled at us…from family…from coworkers…from the media and even the words that we accuse ourselves with, we must fight back with truth. We must know who we are as Christians. We spend much time looking for the names of God in the Bible. And well we should, but, we should also know the names that God calls us.

    Beloved of God, A Royal Priesthood, Disciple, Saint, Christian, My Chosen, Co-Heirs with Christ, Sons, Daughters, My People…

    Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    In Sickness and In Health

    “I, Kathleen, take you, Stuart, …for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…” And with those words, I married a songbird.

    Stuart whistles. He is cheerful and contented and he whistles. I hear his car hum into the driveway in the evening after work and he whistles his way up the walk and into the house. The house is happier when he’s home.

    But one week he didn’t. One week there was no whistling. Stuart was scheduled for simple outpatient surgery. We formulated Plan A. The kids and I would drop him off at six in the morning and pick him up when the nurse called to say that he was ready to come home. There was no Plan B.

    The phone rang around eleven. “Your husband is out of surgery. He’ll be ready to come home in about an hour.”

    I packed the kids in the car for the second time that morning and made the return trip to the hospital. We tiptoed in to pick up our charge. The nurse tried to help Stuart to his feet. He almost passed out and had return to the bed.

    “It will just be a few more minutes. You can wait in the waiting area if you like.”

    John and Lauren and I sat together in a big chair. Waves of nausea washed over me. I was newly pregnant with our third child. I felt sick when I ate and sick when I didn’t. A sweet nurse pulled blankets from the warmer and held them up to the children’s faces so they could snuggle in their warmth.

    Stuart’s nurse came out. “I don’t know why you brought those children with you! He’s going to be here a while. Every time we try to get him up his blood pressure drops.”

    We waited.

    The cranky nurse fought with the doctor who said, “I’ve never admitted a patient overnight for hernia surgery and I’m not going to start with this one.”

    “Well, sir, you’re going to have to let this man stay. He’s in no shape to go home.”

    The nurse won. I was grateful for her tenacity.

    The kids and I returned home. I wandered around in a fog and put lunch on the table. Stuart’s sister called. “How’s he doing?”

    “Not very well. His blood pressure kept dropping. He’ll be at the hospital over night.”

    She shared Stuart's medical history with me." It's the anesthesia. He always responds like that to anesthesia. When he had his wisdom teeth out, he slept for two whole days.”

    (Stuart has a terrible memory. Leave it to him to forget something like this!)

    “Are you doing OK? Do you mind if I pray with you?” His sister started to pray. There was such comfort as those words came over the phone that I cried for the first time that day.

    The next morning a friend called to check on us. I told her our story and she offered to take the kids while I made another trip to the hospital.

    “Is there anything you feel like eating?” she asked before we hung up.

    My pregnant body had definite likes and dislikes. I took mental stock of her pantry. “A peanut butter and fluff sandwich would be wonderful.”

    I dropped off the kids and picked up a lunch that her husband had put together. Two peanut butter and fluff sandwiches. Heaven. I drove and ate and basked in their kindness.

    This time Stuart was ready to come home. We made our way slowly to the car. I helped him into the passenger side and drove slowly over the speed bumps. As I steered around potholes and slowed down for bumps, Stuart told me about his night.

    “As soon as they laid me flat, I felt so much better…My roommate was a young guy in for hip replacement surgery. He had a rough night. Turns out he’s an alcoholic and was having DTs. They had to strap him down and hold him still so that he wouldn’t destroy the repair they had just made. He screamed all night. I couldn’t sleep. I just laid there and prayed. I was glad that I was the one that they put him with.”

    I helped Stuart into the house and into bed. The kids came home but the house was so quiet. The kids sat on the sofa and read. I pushed them on the swing in the backyard. We went in and made dinner together and ate at a quiet table. Stuart was home but something was missing. The whistling. I couldn’t believe how much I missed his whistling.

    For three days, the house was filled with an unnatural silence. There was kid noise...and yelling. Mine. Pull yourself together, Kate. It’s your turn to be the caregiver here. You promised. Calm returned and so did the silence.

    On the fourth day, Stuart puttered around the house. He made his way out to the living room. He lay on the sofa and read to the kids. He wandered out in the kitchen to visit with me and he whistled. The cheery sound filled every room. It felt like the sun had risen in my heart once again.

    Visit Fruit in Season for more discussion on the basics of marriage.

    Friday, August 10, 2007

    Look Up

    “I see one!”

    “Look! There’s another one!”


    We had just moved from the suburbs out into the country, away from the streetlights. The sky lost its orange nighttime glow. Out here in the chilly air, the sky was black and the stars sparkled like white diamonds. Beautiful.

    It was December 14th. The earth was passing through the tail of Asteroid 3200 Phaethon. Meteor Shower Geminids sprinkled the sky with 50 shooting stars per hour. We had been waiting for this day for months. We had studied meteor showers in Exploring Creation with Astronomy. I should have written it on the calendar but I forgot. We were busy with packing and moving and unpacking and by the time December 14th rolled around Geminids was not even a thought. Not a thought until I was outside in the dark with the children because they wanted to study the constellations in the black, black sky. Suddenly a white ball of light shot across the heavens. The largest shooting star I had ever seen. And then another.

    “Hey, Guys! I think this is the night of the meteor shower!”

    We checked the Internet. I was right. We pulled chairs out to the back lawn. Everybody piled into jackets. I grabbed an armload of blankets. The children ran to the neighbors and came back with Miss Virginia and Miss Norma. We sat in the chairs and wrapped up in the blankets and watched.

    “I see another one!”

    “I haven’t seen any yet!” This accompanied by crying. We prayed that a shooting star would pass where Lauren was looking. A little while later, “I saw one, Mama! I saw one!” She jumped up and down to provide an exclamation mark to her words.

    We sat outside for about forty-five minutes. We saw little lights and big lights sail across the sky. We didn’t want to go in but the cold settled into our bones and sleepiness made our eyelids heavy.

    “Good night, Miss Norma!”

    “Good night, Miss Virginia!”

    “Good night!”

    We stepped into the warmth and light of our house, shivered into pajamas and crawled into the coziness of our covers, our minds full of blackness and lights.

    On Sunday, August 12th, the sky will put on another magnificent show. The earth will pass through the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Meteor Shower Perseids will sprinkle the sky with 50 shooting stars per hour. We have it on the calendar this time. We’ll set up the chairs, spray on some bug spray, invite the neighbors over and pass out the lemonade. Then we’ll sit and watch and delight in the heavens that declare the glory of God.

    Join us, under your patch of sky.

    Tuesday, August 7, 2007

    (Mostly) Wordless Wednesday

    Claire and a hen named Bob

    To those of you who know how much I wanted chickens when we moved out to the country:
    No. Bob is not ours. We're sad. No chickens allowed in our neighborhood.

    Sunday, August 5, 2007

    The Child's Story Bible

    I have recommended the following book so frequently that I think a post is in order so that I may recommend it to the world.

    In the early nineteen hundreds, when my grandparents were growing from children to adults, when they were meeting and marrying and making ends meet during the Depression, Catherine F. Vos was at work. She had been out shopping, looking for the perfect children’s story bible. The Christian bookstores of the day must have had the same unsatisfactory fare for young children that they carry today. Her standards were high as she was the wife of a professor of theology and she could not find what she was looking for. So she started to write. The results of her writing, The Child’s Story Bible was first published in stages between the years of 1934-1936. It’s been republished in every decade since that time.

    My grandparents had my parents and they met and married and had me and somewhere along the way I acquired a Bible. I read from the book of Proverbs from time to time but mostly the Bible just sat on my shelf until 1995. In 1995, I took that Bible off the shelf, dusted it off and began to read. I learned a bit but I had a hard time making sense of when things happened. I skipped over the genealogies. I read through the prophets with eyes glazed over. And why was the Old Testament important anyway?

    A few years later I was in the home of a woman who taught first grade at a Christian school. The Child’s Story Bible was laying on the coffee table in her living room. I picked it up because I had been searching for a good kid’s Bible. All the Bibles that I had been able to find in the Christian bookstores were filled with the simple Sunday school stories. I wanted to challenge my kids with something more than cartoon Noah and his smiling wife on a wee little boat with six smiling animals poking their heads through the windows. When I opened this Bible I became engrossed. This was what I was looking for!

    I ordered a copy for our family immediately. I was so excited when it came in the mail. I gathered my two children together and we sat and read. I read a story to the kids and then they hopped down and played and I picked up my own Bible and reread the story with a new understanding. This pattern was repeated day after day, chapter after chapter. My Bible started coming to life. This story bible is arranged chronologically so I began to understand the order of events in the Bible.

    The Child’s Story Bible is a hefty book as far as children’s bibles go. There are 110 chapters in the Old Testament section and 92 in the New. It doesn’t shy away from the hard stories like the sacrifice of Isaac or Ahithophel’s suicide. The words are simple enough for a four year old but it has a depth that makes it valuable for children of all ages. When scripture is quoted the King James is used. The single greatest thing about this book is the way that Catherine Vos tied the Old Testament to the New. An example of this tying of Old and New Testament is found in the chapter entitled The Brass Snake, a retelling of Numbers 21:

    But the brass snake was a test. It was a test of whether the people really trusted in God, and whether they were willing to obey His commands. Those who believed what God had promised, that they would be cured by looking at the brass snake, were healed. Those who did not believe, and refused to obey, died.

    And the brass snake was a picture-and a promise- of how God was going to save His people. The brass snake pointed to Someone else, who, long, long after this happened, was also going to be lifted up. It pointed to Jesus, our Saviour, who died on a cross so that you and I could be forgiven for our sins.

    I still read this story Bible from time to time with my younger children. There are very few pictures and these are of the old-fashioned 1930s variety. Sometimes we supplement by looking online for artist’s renderings of the story we are reading. Sometimes one of the kids dashes off and pulls out the cartoon Noah book and finds the corresponding pictures. Most often, I let their imaginations provide the pictures.

    If you have children around age four or older this story Bible is an excellent way to dig into God’s word. Even if you don't have kids age four or older, you still might like this book as a good beginning reference.

    I like to think about Mrs. Vos because her life could not have been much different than mine. She washed dishes and raised children. She folded laundry and planned meals and shopped for groceries. And in the midst of this business of being a wife and a mother, she slipped away to an upstairs porch with her Bible, a pencil and a notebook. She wrote story after story, from one end of the Bible to the other. She wrote when her children were young and she was still writing when they went off to college. I am sure when she started writing this book she was just being faithful to pass on her faith to the next Vos generation. I doubt that she realized how many children she would reach. I wonder who among our generations will leave a legacy like hers.

    Saturday, August 4, 2007

    One Sentence Challenge

    Kathy has posed a question at her blog. Why do you follow Jesus? The catch is you have to answer in one sentence. Of course I didn't follow directions. I wrote one question and one statement. Go visit her and leave an answer.

    Friday, August 3, 2007

    Balloon Relay

    "Okay, everybody. This is what you're gonna do. See those chairs down at the other end of the field? You're gonna run down there, put your balloon on a chair, sit on the balloon and pop it."

    "Okay. In a minute, we'll hand you a balloon. No, not yet. You don't get a balloon yet. You'll get one when it's your turn to run to the chairs. One little boy reaches into the bucket and pulls out a balloon. "Well, okay, you can hold your balloon. Just don't pop it. All the three-year-olds crowd around the bucket of balloons and help themselves. "Well, alright, you can all hold your balloons." The children look down at the balloon in their hands and do not look up again.

    "Now, I need to divide you into two teams. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Oh, that's not an even number."

    "I'll play."

    "Okay, Miss Helen, you can be number eight. Miss Helen is about seventy-five.

    "Now we're gonna divide into two teams. Make two equal lines. Can you separate yourselves? Adults move in among the children to help sort them into two teams. Okay, you stand stand here...No. Come back over to this side. Can you make a line? You know. A line? You stand here...Two lines never materialize. The children are mesmerized by the squishy balloons.

    "Now, when I say go, two of you are going to run down to the chairs, pop your balloons and run back." The children look for the chairs. An adult walks down to the chairs and waves her arms so they know where to run. The children smile. They know where the chairs are.

    Now remember. Two children at a time. On your mark! Get set! Go! All the children run down to the chairs in a herd. They sit on their squishy balloons. They throw them. They stomp on them. One child cries. He doesn't like water...or grass...or dirt. A second child cries. His balloon won't pop. He cries harder when his mama helps him. Miss Helen gets him another balloon for a do-over.

    The balloon relay is over. On to the next station for a new water game and another set of directions.

    Thursday, August 2, 2007

    Director's Notes

    A rooftop scene. Use the wide angle to catch the stars. Zoom in on Jesus, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

    Film Nicodemus' troubled face. "How can this be?

    Capture the patience on Jesus' face. Record the lengthy explanation that He gives and at the same time make the near silence of Nicodemus seem deafening. Zoom in again to catch the puzzled expression that Nicodemus wears.

    Insert a brief scene. Wide angle this time. Show a conversation between John and his disciples but leave the audience feeling unsettled about the last scene. Will there be resolution? Will Nicodemus see the light?

    Follow Jesus and his disciples down a dusty road, heat radiating and distorting their image. Film their backs and mute the conversation.

    Zoom in again on Jesus. Hot. Tired. Alone at Jacob's well. Pan out a bit to catch the approach of a woman. Pan out farther to show that she is a solitary figure. Zoom in to expose the wariness in her eyes, the unease. Keep a tight angle on the camera. Train the lens on her face as Jesus asks for a drink of water. Catch her eyes as they widen in surprise. Pan out a little. Switch camera angles. Back and forth. Back and forth to show that this conversation is equally divided.

    "I know Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

    "I who speak to you Am."

    Focus on the woman as understanding begins to hope peels away the hardness and light comes into the dull, lifeless eyes.

    Zoom out. Film the disciples returning from the town with a wide angled lens. Catch all of their expressions simultaneously. Shock on every face. Show the woman hurrying away. Switch camera angles. Zoom in closer. Closer. Fill the entire screen with one object. The woman's water jug lying forgotten on the ground.

    Pan out for a moment of comic relief. Focus on the group of disciples scattered around Jesus. Record the unintelligable murmurs and the passing out of food. Film Jesus refusing his portion. Keep the murmuring background and zoom in on a few of the men. Allow the conversation to become sharper. "Hey did somebody slip Jesus a few loaves and fish while we were gone? How come He's not hungry. I'm famished!"

    Record Jesus' voice for the soundtrack. "I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." Record His voice but point the camera out over on the fields. Capture the Samaritans in distance. Keep the camera trained on them until their features can be distinguished. Focus on their interest...their excitement. Capture the joy on their faces. See their joy mirrored in the face of Jesus.

    This joy. This light. The contrast is sharp when viewed against the frame of the dark night and the difficult conversation with Nicodemus. Both scenes forshadowing reactions to come.


    To everyone who commented on A Thoughtful Response and Artistic Expression and Faith,

    You took my simple observation and with your comments added many dimensions to it that I had not considered. The point that I was trying to get across seems so much more dynamic and powerful due mainly to your contributions.

    For this, I thank you.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2007

    Wordless Wednesday

    A Thoughtful Response

    Alana at A Kiss, A Hug and A Squeeze is married to Rich, a Christian artist and a Professor of Art. She sent him a copy of my post and he wrote such an excellent response to yesterday's post Artistic Expression and Faith that I couldn't bear to keep it hidden in the comment section. Please visit Rich's blog, The Shaper Fables. I think he intends to carry on this conversation there.

    Here are Rich's words:

    Aforementioned Husband here,

    Kate, a very intriguing post. I too wryly smiled at the glowing Jesus remark. I teach at a Christian College in Missouri and I often have these discussions with my students. Unfortunately I believe that the depth of commercial Christian Visual Art is reflective of the spiritual depth of the average Christian. It is so sanitary and safe, an oversentimentalized unattainable ideal, irrelevant to unchurched individuals. We live in an A-Christian society. I was raised in a church. I get the visual flannel-board vocabulary and understand its nuances, but what about a person unfamiliar with its symbols or stories? How are the images and safe topics that wouldn't be frowned upon in a church building going to connect with an individual without a similar frame of reference? Good art and that includes good Christian art speaks to all humanity and not just a narrow slice of an evangelical population.

    This last Easter, Christianity Today asked me to submit a piece of work for an Evangelical approach to the Stations of the Cross. Mine was for the thirteenth station, Jesus is Laid in the Tomb Viewers could leave comments, and [I will have to admit] that pieces that were not realistic were often viewed with disdain or downright accused of being anti-Christian. The opinions were extremely polar, either very positive or extremely negative. Few fell in the middle, but I was struck at the sheer ignorance and vehemence of a few of the negative comments, questioning one's faith because one was working in an abstract fashion.

    [I am going to post sections of this on my blog with a picture as this is seemingly a blog post anyway]

    The point is that Christians, like most individuals, just do not have a great education in Visual Art. That is not their fault, but nor should it be a hindrance in trying to understand and appreciate sophisticated and deep expressions of visual Christianity. After all, isn't that our witness and our evangelical gift? A gift given to we practitioners by the original and greatest Creator? In addition, I don't believe Christians should necessarily get outraged over secular art that is overtly anti-Christian. Chances are that the individuals creating the artwork have had a bad experience or two at the hands or lips of Christians.

    Christianity would be great if it weren't for the Christians.

    Can you, the reader, recall a time or two when you did not Do as Jesus Would Do?

    We are all broken. I think too often we Christians tout our difference and separation from "those sinners." But we are sinners too. The only difference is that we are covered by a Divine Grace that many of "those sinners" don't even know about. To connect with them, they have to know that we are the same, but different. They have to know that we are broken too. The current mainstream Christian Visual Art is doing a WAY inadequate job of giving broken people anything to relate to.

    Thank you Kate for posting this. Luckily there are MANY excellent Christian artists out there. CIVA [Christians in the Visual Arts] is a great organization that has many, but not all, great visual artists who are also Christian, and from many Christian traditions. [] I am also the Gallery Director at my college and I have begun to exhibit Christian artists, not because they are Christians, but because they are great artists, revealing truths relevant to all humanity. The next show we have in September will feature Sandra Bowden. Google her and you will find an exceptionally talented artist. There is hope. People of my generation are tired of phoneys and as our purchasing power increases, so will the offerings of the mainstream Christian Commercial outlets.

    Thank you for indulging me, and I hope that you all keep an open mind to non-representational expressions of faith as well as realism, but that is a whole 'nuther comment.—RWC