Monday, April 29, 2013


Straining tethers taut
The bonds that hold me tight
Keep the harness as it ought
And binds me to the fight.

Though freedom beckons to me
Alluring my weak will
The task at hand is duty--
I'll plow the furrow still.

The time of leisure is not come
And work remains undone.
That may be well enough for some--
I'll stop when I have won.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Not Vacation Yet

Right now I am making a few more typos than usual. That's because my fingernails are a bit longer than usual--AND they are polished. That's because it is just that particular time of year...

The school year is about to end, but hasn't quite. The pressure is lifting just enough that I had time to polish my modestly long fingernails with an almost clear enamel that makes them look natural but shiny.

It is that time of year when gardening hasn't begun yet, because if it had, several nails would have broken and then all of them trimmed.

It is that time of year when there is still just enough pressure to finish up work, that I haven't had time to paint my toenails bright red. Sigh. When that happens, I'm on vacation.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Now That's a Word I Don't Like

I love St. Thomas More, and especially the movie made about him called A Man For All Seasons. One particular line that always brings a laugh is when Will Roper is called a heretic by More, he objects by saying, "Now that's a word I don't like." More responds by saying, "It's not a likeable word. It's not a likeable thing." More does not back down from insisting that Roper repent from his heresy before he can court More's daughter.

Sometimes we have to take the hard stand on things. It can make us uncomfortable and unpopular, but we know we have to be firm. Often we can find ourselves to be in the reverse of Thomas More's situation, where the Will Roper's in our lives tell us unlikeable things, and we need to still stand unmoved.

One phrase I never like to hear is, "So, you call yourself a Christian." There are several reasons why. First it is always judgmental. Whatever you have done to receive this rebuke, that action is being judged against what the speaker considers true Christian behavior. And that is the problem. Do they really know how Christians should behave in every situation?

Another problem with it is that it is intended to shame the person spoken to. Sometimes shaming someone works--more often than not, it only entrenches them more deeply in the objectionable behavior. And yet it still remains to be seen whether that behavior is truly reprehensible, or just in the eyes of the accuser.

I dislike that phrase because most of the time I have heard it applied, it has been done unfairly. The speaker was only looking at a small picture of the problem, and not considering all the repercussions of the consequences of behaving differently. The speaker is usually personally invested in something happening differently than what is unfolding, and not capable of stepping back and seeing more than what they want.

Finally, it implies that if you are a Christian, you are, if not perfect already, well on your way of doing everything graciously, wisely and prudently. In fact, most of us, when we are honest, know how fallible we are--how rash, hasty, ill-prepared, unequipped, unwise, impatient, and a dozen other things that we are, and we are Christians because of it. We need a Savior. We are Christians because we know we are flawed!

There are lots of uncomfortable situations out there brewing these days. The accusations against the faithful will begin pouring in as hot issues boil over. More than ever, we are going to need cool heads like Thomas More's when we hear words we don't like.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Windows into Lives

The view out my window is of my backyard--a short span of patchy green grass with a backdrop of a messy, tangled jungle of wilderness. Between the lawn, if you can call it that, and the woods is a short dropoff, where I literally drop off yard waste to compost. From my window viewpoint, you would have to know what it is to realize it is there. Since this is my property and I have lived here over two decades, I realize it reveals something of how I operate--not a full picture, but certainly part of one.

First the patchy lawn. We built this house in a briers-covered clearing of immature woods. The property is on a ridge made primarily of sand, which is wonderful to dig in but hard to keep plants alive in. We built on a modest budget that did not allow for bringing in loads of top soil for the grass. No sod laid down. The lawn came from seed, was sporadically watered, and has survived mostly on neglect and occasional fertilizer. Mercifully the backyard is mostly shaded, so it has some relief in times of drought. The front yard is not so lucky and it really shows. So what does this reveal about me?

1. I work with what I can afford, and that ain't bad.
2. I'm not too interested in perfect lawns. Golf courses have never drawn my attention.
3. I've been busy doing other things.

The messy wilderness is another matter. There are currently several fallen-over trees in view. Most of what you can see would be difficult to walk through because of all the undergrowth. What does this say?

1. I don't know how to use a chain saw. I recently asked to be shown how. The request was declined.
2. I can't control everything.
3. I let nature take its course in many instances.

The composting dropoff: It's not too unsightly from most viewpoints. It is serving a purpose, disposing of yard waste. It is not too far away and definitely not out of sight. So...

1. I decided to put it there because it was convenient.
2. I really don't care much what other people  may think about it.
3. I must do some yard work, since I create yard waste.

When I look over all these things, I get the definite impression of a laissez-faire attitude, and maybe laziness. But if my life was judged from a one-window viewpoint, people would never really understand who I am. Swivel the viewpoint ninety degrees to the left and you would see a terraced garden that has obviously taken some time, grueling effort, and creative thought--something that the first viewpoint gives no clue of. Back up a few feet from the window and you get a glimpse of the room the window is in. It is full of junk! Currently lying around are horseshoe magnets, a box of flashlights, a yogurt carton full of dirt, an empty aquarium and a box of electrical wire. This is a room that another science teacher would immediately recognize and respect.

Too often we look at others through just one window. Our exposure to their lives may be minimal, sporadic, and accidental, yet we make assumptions based on incomplete evidence. We may never suspect things about them that we cannot see. Some windows are public. Some are private. But they all give views that show us something. To know someone well, we need many windows pointing in many directions, and we need to be allowed to look. Sometimes the curtains are drawn, but when they are open, we can see a life from what is revealed through the window.