Category Archives: Musings

With Liberty and Justice for All

On Saturday I attended the annual ‘Massing of the Colors’ at a high school downtown. I estimate as many as 150 military units and social organizations were represented; in most cases each had a U.S. Flag and a flag or banner identifying their group. The I Corps Army Band played a medley of patriotic-themed songs, and a Major General gave a short address about two military heroes.

We attended in support of the Refuge, the retreat center founded and operated by my parents – they were competing for a participation award (which they won). Each organization that could rally at least 50 supporters was eligible to win a prize of $500 – we apparently had enough supporters, and my folks received the check on behalf of The Refuge.

David and Cooper are the flag-bearers in the very center of this photo.

David and Cooper are the flag-bearers in the very center of this photo.

I must admit, I wasn’t very eager to go. The program was more than 2 hours in duration, and the school was a good half-hour from my home – surely I had better things to do on a Saturday afternoon? I was teaching Sunday School the next morning – this cut into my preparation time considerably.

But a friend of our family and a long-time Refuge supporter had asked my son David to carry a flag, and it was very possible that I would be needed to make up the required count of 50 supporters, so I decided there was no easy way to get out of it. It is hard to say ‘No’ to a retired Colonel who has invested so much of his own time into the Refuge, and has been so kind to our family over the years.

When we arrived, I was surprised and a little impressed at how many flags were there. It seems nearly every military unit in the 7th Division was represented, and there were dozens of community groups, including Boy Scout and Cub Scout groups, Chambers of Commerce, and Veterans organizations in attendance as well. So I took my seat behind my parents and settled in to endure the ceremony.

While I was sitting there, I began to reflect on patriotism, and my emotional and intellectual response to the flag and the songs being played by the band. Patriotism is a tricky subject is our post-modern society, and it is further complicated by the fact that, as a Christian, my true citizenship is not tied to a particular earthly nation. Is my allegiance to Christ compatible with being a Patriot? If I was a German or Brazilian or Syrian man, would it be appropriate for me to be a Patriot?

About halfway through the ceremony, a young soldier sang a rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance. Since we recite the Pledge as part of our weekly AWANA ceremony, it is something that rolls through my head more often than most adults. I’m not sure if public schools still recite the pledge – perhaps not in this left-leaning State where I live now, because of the ‘Under God’ component that seems so abhorrent to liberals.

One phrase that was particularly stressed in the song was the final refrain of the Pledge: “… with Liberty and Justice for All.” I found myself considering the uniqueness of my nation as originally founded. Say what you like about the Founding Fathers, the majority of them were Christians, and those that weren’t, were well-steeped in Biblical knowledge. Baked into our national DNA is a firm belief that the Government is subject to God and may not trespass within the borders of religious freedom.

Liberty is a strange word. It means release from jail for the prisoner, equality for a racial minority, and freedom of expression for others. It is a basic sense that, within reason, and with consideration of the rights of others, I ought to be left to pursue my own happiness without undue interference.

And yet of the two words, I think ‘Justice’ is the more critical of the two words. Without Justice, Liberty only exists for the powerful and influential — yet Justice limits individual Liberty by its very nature.

But what is Justice? Is there a universal standard that people can agree to? Without some transcendent standard (like the Word of God), Justice descends from its lofty place, to the sordid will of the majority at a given time. If the majority is in favor of slavery for people of a certain race, then that is Justice. If the majority votes to murder the unborn or the elderly or the sick, that becomes Justice.

In recent years, corruption and hypocrisy seem rampant in political and financial circles. As political correctness continues to push God out of the public sphere, is Justice just a matter of taking a vote and letting the majority enact whatever tyranny it desires? What happens to the ‘for all’ part of the Pledge?

As I drove home, I was sobered by the thought that the Liberty and Justice I often take for granted, is under assault from all sides. How long, I wondered, will we continue to enjoy Liberty, when the foundation of Justice is eroded and destroyed by those who say there is no God?


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Project 365 – Less Noteworthy Attempts

I’ve been sorting and organizing my pictures, and I see that sometimes I was a bit, um, haphazard or would you say pathetic, in capturing the picture of the day.

Take, for example, this little collection from December 2nd.

A little bit of Paris in our very own neighborhood.

A little bit of Paris in our very own neighborhood.

Nothing says Christmas like a little bit of Snoopy

A Santa Snoopy makes me smile!

Although it doesn’t redeem the quality (or interest level) of these pictures, I should note that these were taken while Tim and I were out on a neighborhood walk. We have a route marked out that comes to just a little more than a mile. We can easily walk in our quiet cul-d-sac most any time of the day (or late evening, in this case) without encountering more than 4 or 5 people, and often less cars.

We have logged many miles, praying for our children and interceding for them. God has been so faithful to meet us on our walks. It is such a blessing to have a praying husband. I am very thankful for Tim’s leadership, love and wisdom.

Maybe tomorrow’s pictures are a little better….

Project 365 – Day 336 (Dec 2)

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September 11th is a day to remember those who died 14 years ago, and those who acted with courage to prevent more from dying. If you are an adult, you probably remember where you were when the towers fell, just as a previous generation remembers where they were when Kennedy was assassinated, or when the hostages were freed from Iran, or any of a number of other momentous events.

For me, September 11th is a day when I remember I am mortal. A little more than two years ago, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and underwent a rather exhaustive (for the surgeon, at least) procedure to remove the tumor. Each year since, I report to my oncologist for scans and lab work, to see if the cancer has returned.

By sheer coincidence, for the last two years, my ultrasound and labs have been scheduled on 9/11, and so I spend the day contemplating the fact that my body is quite mortal, I’ve recently decided to actually get a portable ultrasound machine from Butterfly Network. It was sobering to listen to the ultrasound tech check off each of my organs and to watch her take pictures and estimate the size of each one. It makes one imagine the strangest of conversations:

Ultrasound Tech: “Well, sir, I’m finished.”

Me: “Did you see anything strange?”

Tech: “You know I’m not really allowed to interpret the images, sir. Your doctor will talk about it with you … ”

Me: “Come on, you can give me a hint. Everything OK down there?”

Tech: “Um, no. I wasn’t able to find your liver.”

Me: “No liver?”

Tech: “No sir. Seems to be gone. Have you been drinking a lot?”

Me: “Not unless you count Diet Coke. What should I do?”

Tech: “My advice? Make your will, tie up any loose ends.”

Fortunately, apart from commenting that one of my kidneys looks more like a football than the other, that conversation was all in my head.

It seems strange to wear a hospital bracelet for out-patient treatment ...

It seems strange to wear a hospital bracelet for an out-patient treatment that takes less than an hour …

Each day that you and I live is a gift. I think I am a little more keenly aware of that because of the kidney cancer. But in truth, all of us live under the sentence of impending death, 24/7, just as the people in the Twin Towers and on the various planes were under a sentence of sudden and unexpected death.

It makes me want to use my time wisely. So, Kathy and I took David and Sarah out for a combined Special Day™ to see the War Room movie, which she and I so enjoyed last Sunday.

Of course, we found an excuse to stop off for McDonalds’ soft-serve ice cream on the way home.

David hasn't quite gotten the hang of how to eat an ice cream cone ...

David hasn’t quite gotten the hang of how to eat an ice cream cone …

Project 365, Day 254

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Joys and Sadness and Promises

I started this blog with the intention of writing about how the kids sometimes spend their time during our school reading. I loaded the pictures and started writing. I even came up with a few titles.

Couch Time Arts and Crafts
Read Aloud Entertainment
Random Craft Books We Like

David and Marco - working on the Buck Book

David and Marco – working on the Buck Book

Hmmm. Yeah, had a hard time coming up a very catchy title.

Sarah's art book

Sarah’s art book and her bucket of gel pens – art waiting to happen!

I tried to do a search on the blog for other posts I’ve written on this subject, and then I got lost in all the cuteness of the kids from blogging days gone by. Is it weird that I find my own writing entertaining? Oh dear. Is that a little narcissistic? But really, this blog about Rachel getting glasses. I mean, how could I resist spending time reading about a day from Feb 2007. Especially when Sarah and I went to the eye doctor yesterday.

Strange how life circles around.

And then I started wondering about the passage of time and the hopes, dreams, and changes in life. Does the Lord protect us from seeing too far into the future because He knows we need to live in TODAY and not focus on the joys, sadnesses, losses, heart breaks, and victories coming in the TOMORROWS ahead of us. But that seems odd because, wouldn’t we treasure the moments today if we knew they were fleeting? Or maybe we would dread the pain that was coming too much to walk forward. It would paralyze us. And we would cling too much to the joyful moments that we couldn’t enjoy them, knowing they were going to end.

Sarah's beautiful creations

Sarah’s beautiful creations

I don’t know. This is what happens when I blog late at night after reading old posts of “days gone by”. I start to wax on a bit maudlin in tone. Oh dear, now I’ve used the word maudlin in the day’s blog.

When I search the scriptures and think about the hope that the Lord offers and the peace that He promises, I think it is okay to savor the joys and mourn the losses. I can’t turn back time and relive the years when my father was alive or the busy days of homeschooling all five kids. I can’t live them any more fully than I did.

Regrets do nothing but amplify pain and sadness.

I can, however, be PRESENT in today.

Love that grin!

Love that grin!

I can listen when David tells me his dreams from last night’s sleep.
I can pay attention when Sarah shares thoughts about friendship and cliques and “being cool.”
I can look at Frisbee clips on the computer and laugh at random videos with Daniel.

Working on Ultimate stats

Working on Ultimate stats

I can capture the day’s moments on film and journal on the blog.
I can hug more, fuss less.
I can praise more and criticize less.
I can be thankful EVERY DAY for the abundant blessings in my life.
I can teach and study and share my love of learning.
I can love and forgive and encourage the kids to do the same.
I can be transparent when I’m moved by God’s grace and power (even if that means tears).
I can mourn losses and give us all freedom to grieve when we need to.

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 21:3-4

I can live with joy today because I know that I have a future ahead of me that is greater than anything I can imagine. I can walk in peace today because I have a God who promises never to leave or forsake me. I can laugh and cry over memories of yesterday without letting it consume my tomorrow.

And so the post I started writing (arts and crafts and read-alouds) took a bit of a rambling turn and ended in a sweet message from the Lord to me. How fitting that the song that He gave me to end my time was Matt Maher’s Lord, I Need You.

Every hour I need you. Amen.

Project 365 – Day 77

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No Moh Skin Cancer

As a student at The College of William and Mary, I took Geology 101. The course met at the dreary hour of 8 a.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I was a freshman, and I didn’t know any better during course selection — somehow I thought eight a.m. was a reasonable time for a college class. My friend Eric and I joined about a hundred others in the class, but on cold, rainy Mondays, the number of students would sometimes drop below 50.

The nice thing about Geology was that I could really identify with a rock at that time of the morning. But I must admit, apart from a ‘C’ as a semester grade, I only brought one thing away from the class: Mohs’ scale of hardness.

Moe, from the Three Stooges, not particularly known for scientific advancement, whether geologic or otherwise.

As it turns out, some rocks are harder than others, and a guy named Friedrich Mohs (not to be confused with Moe, of Three Stooges fame) invented a scale to reflect this fact. For example, Talc (a chalklike mineral) is considered to be a 1 on the scale, while Diamond is a 10. The human fingernail is a lowly 2.5, while glass is somewhere between 6 and 7.

Geologist Friedrich Mohs, 1773-1839

I share this important geological ‘nugget’ of information (sorry, just some geologist humor, there) because I was recently diagnosed with skin cancer. After the biopsy results came back, they called me up to schedule me for Mohs surgery. You can, perhaps, imagine my alarm — I had just healed from the biopsy — I didn’t want any mo’ surgery! After the nurse spelled it for me, I began to wish I had worked for a better grade in Geology.

Fortunately, the interweb (or possibly the webernet) is a veritable wealth of information on squamous-cell carcinoma, and the iterative surgical procedure they call Mohs (after Frederick Mohs, no apparent relation to the 18th century geologist) is apparently the favored way of dealing with this particular type of skin cancer, with a 97% success rate.

Frederick Mohs, 1910-2002, surgeon and developer of Mohs micrographic surgery.

Squamous-cell skin cancer is fairly common, with about 700,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States. It has a mortality rate of about a third of a percent, or a little more than three in a thousand.

(Parenthetically, one needs to be careful about research on the interweb. Until today, I was under the impression (based on another website) that the mortality rate was a little over 3%. While still a fairly small chance of death, this is ten times more likely than the other number I read, and it caused me no small amount of consternation, to think that I might actually die from this cancer.)

Anyway, today’s surgery was successful, and the doctor seems to think they got all the cancer, and that there is little chance of recurrence, given the size and depth of the malignancy. But I ended up with a pretty dramatic bandage and wound, which I plan to milk for all the sympathy I can.

You should see the other guy!

It is interesting to reflect on how the prospect of physical death has had a sobering effect on how I view my life. I kept wondering, “What if I’m one of those who die of this cancer? Am I ready to be done with this life? Have I been faithful to God, with the time that has been given me?”

As I mentioned recently in One Month to Live, I am inspired by the story of Hezekiah. Now that it seems to me that I will not be dying immediately from skin cancer, what am I going to do with whatever time I have remaining?

I’m definitely not going to invite the Babylonians over to look at all my treasures.


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