Friday, August 28, 2009

Who is like the LORD my God,
Compassionate and full of mercy?
Who compares to your great love?
There's none in all the earth.

I will sing of your love and grace
That covers all my guilt and shame
In all the earth
Who is like the LORD?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Teresa!

Thirteen years ago today (at 4:03 AM!) my daughter Teresa Joy entered this world. We'd been waiting for her for a long time, especially since she was two weeks overdue. Given that she was born in Phoenix, Arizona in mid-August, my wife was particularly relieved to see her born. By the time she's 50 Teresa may have covered the debt she owes to her mother for carrying her those 9+ months!
Teresa was the first born grandchild on both sides of the family. Much to her chagrin she was not joined by any female cousins for many years; the closest one being eight years younger than her. She has at times expressed a desire to have a sister, while at other times she's made it clear that she wishes she didn't have any siblings. Teresa has a strong need for time alone and finds her extroverted brother to be a nuisance much of the time. Thankfully they do have moments when they enjoy being together.

Teresa loves horses and dreams of owning her own someday. Her walls are decorated with horse pictures and she collects horse figurines and horse books. All this despite the fact that she's lived her entire life in cities! You will rarely find her happier than when she has the opportunity to be riding on a horse. If she's not doing that, you will most likely find her reading a book. Besides horse stories, she enjoys reading fantasy books. Among her favorites are the Eragon series and the books by Jeffrey Overstreet: Auralia's Colors and Cyndere's Midnight.

After Teresa was born I began to understand better the Father heart of God. I am frustrated at times by my daughter, but I love her with all my heart and want to see her grow into a mature woman who is devoted to God and full of grace and compassion. I enjoy spending time with her and look forward to what God will teach her and me in the years ahead.

Monday, August 3, 2009

What to wear

When we lived in Russia I observed that Russians normally have "indoor" and "outdoor" clothing. What I mean by this is something quite different than what we might associate with those terms in North America. For us, outdoor tends to refer to hats, coats, boots and such "extras" that are removed when one enters the house. For Russians, indoor clothing is that which one wears around one's own home. It is usually quite simple, often rather worn from years of use. For women it often includes some type of "housecoat" that goes over the top of whatever else one has on to protect it while doing household chores.

Outdoor clothing, by contrast, is the clothing one wears when in public. These clothes are always maintained in the nicest condition one can afford. It is very important to look nice when one is in public, regardless of one's status. The level of quality will of course vary depending on one's means and position. But nevertheless, one would never dream of going out in public wearing one's ordinary house clothes. Because most Russians cannot afford a large wardrobe, it is most important that these outdoor clothes be maintained as best as possible. For this reason they are taken off as soon as one returns home for an extended period (though not necessarily if one just drops in between errands, for example.)

I have adopted this mentality in many ways. I am often appalled by the clothing that Americans will wear in public. Going to Walmart can almost make my stomach churn. Have we lost all sense of public decency? Do people ever look in the mirror before going out of the house? I fully appreciate the comfort and convenience of dressing casually, but casual doesn't have to mean sloppy, exposing one's less-than-finest points for public viewing. Last week I had to drop the children off for a morning program. I was in a bit of a hurry, so I left on my morning workout clothes, which is basically a pair of casually fleece shorts and a t-shirt. On the way home I stopped at the gas station to fill the car. While pumping my gas, I stopped and looked at myself and realized that I was embarrassed by what I was wearing. I felt like I was much too casually dressed, even though I was only at the gas station. Probably no one else thought anything about my attire. But I sure did.

I am not calling for a return to a stuffy formalism in society. But I do wonder if society wouldn't benefit from restoring to some degree the boundary between the public and the private spheres. The clothing we wear represents a small but significant aspect of that. We don't need to institute "fashion police." But restoring some sense of "decorum" to society wouldn't hurt us. It might even help us move towards restoring the civility to society, the civility whose decline is often lamented these days.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Absorbed by Facebook

During the Lenten season this year one of my friends chose to "fast" from Facebook, Twitter and other such forms of communication. Since that time he has resumed using them, but I've noticed that he is very moderate, even infrequent, in posting updates. When I heard that he had done this I was both surprised and pleased. I was surprised because it had never occurred to me to pursue such a fast. I was pleased because I could see quite well the benefit of it.

I joined Facebook about a year ago. I signed up initially because I wanted to keep in touch with a friend of mine who works in Africa. Over time my list of friends grew. I reconnected with many old friends, including several that I had not seen or heard from in twenty years. I was also bombarded with friendship requests from people I barely remembered. More than once I had to pull out my high school yearbook to prompt my memory. On the whole I have come to value this aspect of Facebook and other social networking tools. It can be a good way to keep in touch with friends, especially those who do not live close by. It provides a forum for sharing a small portion of my life. At the same time, it is not a tool for maintaining in-depth relationships. I don't share my deepest thoughts and feelings on Facebook because they are not something I want all of my contacts to know. (Yes, there is the option of writing things to individuals, but that option existed earlier--it's called e-mail.) In fact, I'm appaled at times by the things people feel the need to share about themselves. One of the downsides of sites like Facebook is that they seem to contribute to the blurring of the personal and the non-personal spheres of life.

I don't have a problem with controlling my urge to reveal personal secrets or details about my life that really don't belong in the public domain. (Do you all really want to know when I'm running to the store?) I have, however, found that Facebook will absorb as much of my time as I choose to give it. There are fun games and activities. There are new pictures to see and links to explore. It can become an obsession. I don't think I have reached that point, yet. But I realized recently that I need to control my time, especially time spent playing games. I am not condemning them or those who play them. They can be a fun pastime. But they can also divert my attention from things that are far more meaningful and beneficial, like spending time in the Word or interacting with my family or friends in real time. I think of Paul's words to the Corinthians: "'Everything is permissible for me'--but not everything is beneficial."

So while I appreciate the benefits of Facebook and will continue to use it, I want to be more disciplined in the manner in which I do so. I will even continue to play games until we move and my internet connection makes that unfeasible. But I want to do so more moderately. I want Facebook to foster relationship, not be an escape from it. I may even fast from it altogether next spring.