Tag Archives: Thoughts

Tuesday windows

Given the blessing of structuring my own time for the most part, I suppose it satisfies my sense of order and need for self-discipline to maintain a routine, with particular household tasks assigned to particular days of the week. My task assignment logic accommodates my limited energy. So far, I have kept my current routine ever since we completed the remodeling and organization of our current home, six months after moving in five years ago.

Tuesdays I clean the inside glass and tracks and inside frames of all the windows in our house, and wipe down all upholstered chairs and the kitty hammock. The window-mounted hammock was Coolidge’s perch of choice for 13 of his 17 years. It replaced the custom bay window we made for him when we replaced all the windows in the house where we were living when we adopted Coolidge as a kitten. When we moved four years later, I saw the hammock in a catalogue for about $500 less than a custom bay window. Its fleece cradle was also softer.

For the final weeks of his life, Coolidge was too weak to jump into his hammock, and I didn’t lift him into it because I was afraid he would hurt himself trying to jump out. He no longer jumped onto window sills, or anything off the floor at all. He preferred a blanket or towel on the floor. I continued to wipe down the windows every Tuesday, even though there were no longer nose prints to wipe off.

Coolidge lived and died with his sense of autonomy for the most part intact. In his final days, I had to syringe food, and finally only water, into his mouth. I still feel the presence of crushed heart shards that seem beyond repair.

The hammock is now Effie’s. Effie is young and active, outgoing and playful; she has boundless energy and loves the outdoors that Coolidge emphatically shunned. She monitors the grounds from every window sill in the house, as well as her hammock.

A sense of purpose is restored to my Tuesday windows routine. Not only do I share play time with Effie as she pursues her white mouse toy suspended about my wrist as I clean, but once again, nose prints present themselves for wiping from the glass, and tiny toe prints for wiping from the sills, because she muddied her dainty paws a bit when I took her out in the garden. Effie is also an ace fly assassin, adding organic residue to routine nose and paw prints. Fly matter is removed upon first appearance; some things don’t wait for the Tuesday routine.

The seemingly trivial is not always trivial. A sense of purpose elevates the trivial to the purposeful. Since purpose is a human imperative, and life can too easily be trivialized, I find Effie’s nose prints on our windows at least as significant, for instance, as Descartes’ Causal Adequacy Principle.

Young Coolidge

Young Coolidge

Effie

Effie

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Laban and Jacob

Laban probably would not make the 10 Favorite People of the Bible list of very many Bible-reading people. He’s edgy. He pushes the line between honest and poor-faith dealing. . .and he doesn’t do much that demonstrates any intent to glorify God. He’s Jacob’s uncle, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s mother. A guileful streak runs in the family–just like the ringstreaked cattle Jacob breeds, outbreeding his uncle’s herd and increasing his own. But he’s earned it, and he’s Jacob, after all, and we admire him, because God set him apart as a patriarch, a grandson of Abraham, head of the Messianic line. There were certainly some men undeserving of admiration in the line as well; but for the very most part, we admire Jacob.

But we’re not like Jacob–at least I’m not. Two consecutive verses convict me that I am more of a Laban, absent gender considerations. The two verses are the last verse of Genesis 31 and the first verse of Genesis 32.

. . .and Laban departed and returned to his place (Gen. 31:55). And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. (Gen. 32:1).

I have a prosaic life. I’m usually home; if not, at some point I go home. Like Laban. Unlike Jacob, I’ve never met any angels, at least none that I was given to know were angels. Jacob knew:

And Jacob said when he saw them, This is God’s host. . . (Gen. 32:2).

Yet Laban, the father of Leah, mother of Judah, is hardly insignificant in the scheme of redemptive history.

When I consider the possibility of anyone or anything ultimately being insignificant—then, like Job, I have to cover my mouth. (Job 40:4)

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Recent vantages

My recent migraine jag lasted just a week: a brief season, all in all. I chalked it up to cottonwood, a well-favored allergen in Palouse country. Our next-door neighbor has a humongously tall cottonwood tree, of which he is very proud. In February, the pollen attacks my sinuses, in May the fluff evidently triggers migraines; I hadn’t noted the correlation before. I sometimes wish cottonwood trees were illegal in residential areas, but then everyone would have them.

I was reflecting yesterday, which was Mother’s Day, on how fervently fond I am of my mother-in-law. She is like Naomi to me, though I am nothing like Ruth. I think I adore her so much because I know where good husbands come from.

I sometimes put myself through more discomfiting reflections on my own mother; these are more discomfiting because they invoke more self-scrutiny. I have finally whittled the dynamic down to something comprehensible: My mother’s inheritance from my grandfather was his disapproval, and she spent it lavishly on me.

Reading Ninety-three, Victor Hugo’s epic of the French Revolution, has not been awfully cheering, and it probably should not be. After all, the Whites (Royalists) represent the sacrifice of natural law and the liberty conferred thereby, to the imputed virtues of a few. The Blues (Republicans), on the other hand, represent a Godless reassignment of all to a fictive state of equality, empowered by self-rule, which necessarily means anarchy, and is inevitably destructive to order.

What is specifically less than cheering about this, is to see similar perspectives in current American politics. We still have a largely European heritage—a sort of inheritance—that some, who are in or seeking power, evidently think we are lavishing on ourselves, and not entirely to our good:

(CNSNews.com) – Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton says women won’t have full access to “reproductive health care” until “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases” are changed.

Does Madame La Guillotine now command newly reconditioned versions of liberty, equality, and fraternity, in the name of “Reproductive Health Care?”

22For as the new heavens and the new earth
that I make
shall remain before me, says the Lord,
so shall your offspring and your name remain.

23From new moon to new moon,
and from Sabbath to Sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
declares the Lord.

24“And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

—Isaiah 66:22-24 (ESV)

Mercy.

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on distinguishing repentance and regret

“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Cor 7:10)

New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

I recently puzzled for a few days over this text. Somehow it hasn’t puzzled me so much before, but it could simply be one of those well-placed providential TBEs (“transitory braindeath episodes”—my explanation for nearly everything frustrating).

Part of the trouble for my syntax-sensitive mind is the NASB’s arrangement of the clauses. Reading the NASB order makes it seem to me, that if I repent something without regretting it, it is the right sort of repentance because it leads to salvation. Thus, the sequence would tend to leave me a little stymied. The ESV, like the KJV, orders the text more intelligibly:

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

John Gill helped; he always does. It is, of course, salvation, not repentance, that comes without regret. God gives us to repent. And God provides salvation–a salvation that He will never regret–it is a done deal He brought about before the foundation of the world. Salvation is the perfect gift of a perfect God who will never regret the gift He has given, because His redeemed are His gift to His Son.

What a reviving, TBE-mitigating thought.

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Blossoms, like promises

0323151127 nectarine blossoms
Our nursling nectarine blossoms; whether the tenuous rosy blossoms become fruit is subject to forces we can mitigate somewhat, but would not presume to control. Things, for instance, like the 24 mph gusts that blew here Saturday. A blossom is something like a promise, in the sense that it is organized with the provision to generate, in this case, a nectarine. But neither its promise nor its promised provision is eternal. Original sin put an end to that. The promise will be restored. But not yet.

Morning by morning, Coolidge continues to manifest new mercies. He’s eating the highest protein kibbles we could find, as well as his low-carb canned food. His glucose has been topping 400, but hey–he’s sustaining his weight! Insulin can chase the numbers, but at some point, it can’t catch up and contain them. We’re there, and it could certainly be worse. I’ve had to recognize that his problems bending his legs are not just about arthritis. It’s become evident that he is presenting late-stage diabetic neuropathy. But hey–he can jump up onto chairs and onto the bed. He just has trouble crouching down, so his litter-box aim is thrown off. But hey–some genius entrepreneur came out with potty pads to fill the gap. We live in amazing times!

God’s love is His eternal promise of eternal provision. For now, the primal sting restricts our view to the finite, but not entirely. Through faith, we are given small, but sustaining, apertures through which to see something entirely better.

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Bud swell

0210151320bud

Our lilacs budded yesterday: a happy, unexpectedly early—though our grass was already returning and already green—harbinger of an early Spring. Today, I began noticing all the withered blooms of past seasons, and branches without buds, and determined to undertake pruning them, however many days it would take, until there would be space for the new blooms without their being surrounded by withered undergrowth.

I spent about an hour and a half on two bushes today, and made some visible progress before the wind came up and chilled the back of my neck—not a welcome sensation while I’m still on antibiotics for a sinus infection. The frustrating thing about my project was the difficulty of snipping away only completely dead sprigs; the sprigs with buds on them frequently grew on the same branches, close to the dead foliage. I tried to cut away only the dead foliage, but sometimes failed to notice a thin shared branch, and wound up snipping off a sprig with green buds.

My pruners are sharp; they don’t leave room for second chances, but respond, as cold steel will, to erring and cautious hands with equal precision. This thought caused me to spend most of my pruning time contemplating the Reformed doctrine of election. Two twigs on one branch: one destined to bloom, the other to perish. Two sinners, perhaps born to the same parents, one elected to salvation, one to condemnation. The theme recurs over and over in the inerrant Word of our inerrant God.

How grateful I am, that God does not err as I do! I miss a bud on a branch I meant to preserve but carelessly cut. God does not accidentally consign to condemnation a soul He has predestinated to salvation. Ever.

And I look to our lilacs, and I think, “Hang in there—bloom day’s coming. . . .”

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An extraordinary January

First off, this January has been exceptionally warm in our neck of the cold semi-arid steppe sector. The indoor insect guest count has been atypically high: two flies, one spider, and a lady bug.

Our new concrete carport pad was pronounced completely cured on New Year’s Day. The three weeks of curing would have been the same three weeks had it been July—but in July we’d have needed to keep the curing concrete watered.

Life goes on otherwise with little out of the ordinary. Health prevails as it has prevailed; tissue issues put in appearances and make their departures with grace—God’s grace.

Coolidge, ever an extraordinary Cat for all seasons, will mark his 17th year of life this Spring (and his ninth year as a diabetic), God willing. My husband and I will celebrate our 19th anniversary, given the same gracious provision.

I’m not one for New Years’ resolutions; however, I aspire to read the 119th Psalm every day, for whatever season I keep it up, in addition to whatever else I may be reading. The Psalm strikes me as the best instruction in that to which we should specifically aspire: a knowledge and love of God, through knowledge and love of the Word of God, which is the matrix of the Law of God, which we are to know and love as the Psalmist does: imperfectly because of what we are; and aspirationally, because of what we are promised we will be.

Inspiration and aspiration cycle so beautifully well. . . .

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Of pheasants and men

Something about lenses must be encoded in the DNA of all birds. Any time that I pick up and aim my phone, binoculars, or camera to take a picture of a bird or see him better, he flies off, even though he had been gleaning our garden or perching on a post for the several minutes preceding. They must see every lens as a potential scope rifle.

I think I understand how they feel, but it saddens me to generate such fear of destruction.

My husband has been assigned to represent the defendant in the murder case from hell. It’s Clarkston’s first murder trial of the century; according to the local paper, the last one took place in the late 1990s. Appended to all news accounts, of course, are reader comments—and I use the term “reader” provisionally. One such reader took the opportunity to suggest hanging the accused to save the expense of a trial. She was evidently unaware that Washington no longer executes by hanging, but has gone to the more torturous and less reliable method of lethal injection. Nor is our concerned citizen up to speed on our Governor’s moratorium on executions.

I mention this to explain why I wish I could talk to pheasants.

Yesterday, two pheasants were chortling away as they ate amaranth seeds in our now-dormant garden. I wanted to photograph them through the window, but as soon as I picked up my phone, they raised the frequency of their throaty voices, and their blurred wings beat back the air behind them.

We have pheasants in our yard all the time; I had no need to take their picture. What I really wanted, was to understand their vigorous discussion as they chortled in chorus while eating at the same time.

Perhaps the pheasants suggest a human counterpart, after all.

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some circulating thoughts on our fourth Fourth in the Agreeable Valley

Our nature is imprinted with an innate motivation to measure things. We number seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and all sorts of sub-units of time. We have a multitude of distance scales, with astronomy claiming the longest distance unit I can think of, the parsec, equal to about 3.26 light years, a longish drive.

I weigh things kind of obsessively: the small things I need to carry add up to joint and muscle pain if I attempt to haul even a humiliatingly small weight on my shoulder or in my hand at my side. I’ve given up purses–the drag weight on my neck, shoulders, and elbows just causes too much gratuitous pain. I can fit the stuff I need in a waist pack. One of the challenges a woman’s husband and girlfriends face is assuring their aging arthritic, fibromyalgic wife or friend that a waist pack is so very clever and looks positively jaunty.

Our vet has me weighing our cat weekly. At this point in his 16-pound career, his doctor isn’t actually as concerned about him gaining too much weight—he’s been diabetic eight years—as she is about him losing weight, a marker that his hyperthyroid condition could be worsening. I record his glucose level twice a day, and send his glucose mean and range every month to his vet. I hope she finds these data useful. I enjoyed biostatics in grad school, but I’ve never seen data make anyone any healthier. We’re all outliers in one way or another.

My best friend and I have three things in common that seal our bond with a common understanding: our Reformed faith, chronic pain issues, and great men for husbands. I came up with a definition of “great” as in “great man”: What defines a great man is the (1) benign (2) application of (3) comprehensive (4) intelligence. Four elements.

Benignity is choosing good because it is the good, and, contrary to Ayn Rand’s assertion that self-interest represents the good, good can be discerned only from the Word of God. God has vetted these things for us because we are too sin-blind to discern good from evil ourselves.

A great man (I am not being gender-specific here) applies his knowledge of the good as a matter of principle to all that he does, thinks, believes, feels, and says. He doesn’t just sit in the corner thinking about abstractions for an hour a day.

A great man strives to be comprehensive— to perceive and to understand in as complete a way as humanly possible, fortified with godly guidance, all of the multiple elements, dimensions, and aspects of all that he encounters.

A great man necessarily is an intelligent man. He is able to discern nuances and principles and knowledgeably process them in order to identify truth, mastermind solutions, and work for the good.

In other words, a great man is a wise man. Wisdom necessarily is directed to the good, applied to a good purpose, with attention both to immediate and remote consequences, with due consideration of all possibilities presented, as well as possibilities that may not be imminently revealed.

My husband and I were discussing some of his felony cases last night: cases from a minor facing up to 40 years in prison for assault, to an inebriated kitten kicker (the kitten died as a result of the kick). A couple of others had acquired their fourth DWIs–the magic felony number. And a 15-year-old is charged with raping a same-sex 11-year-old. Every situation had its own wrenching circumstances, with terrible, repeated failures to qualify for great and wise neighborship in the human village. It was all so heartbreaking.

When I think I’m seeing a preview of Hell, I will eventually remember I am seeing a vignette of that from which God has saved me. If I have a shred of wisdom, it is my certain knowledge that, there but for grace, I could be a stabber, an addict, a kitten killer. So even could my husband, or my best friend, or her husband.

Our sunflowers are growing tall and budding; so is the amaranth.

“So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.” –Psalm 90:12

Amen.

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Lala on course

From sparse, coded emails, I can infer that Lala the 23 mm (.9 inch) Flamenco dancer presumably danced past the San Francisco ICE and ISC (possibly the USPS’s International Service Center) units yesterday, and was formally transferred to United States Postal Service jurisdiction. I imagine that she traveled within the wrappings of an International Letter, in a mail pouch with hundreds of other small items in transit from the United Kingdom to the United States. It could be said that she traveled under pouch diplomacy.

She was processed, whatever the process of processing entails, no fewer than three times once landing in San Francisco yesterday. At 3:59 AM, she was processed through an ISC Sort Facility. Next, she was processed through a USPS Sort Facility at 1:07 PM. At an unspecified time, she departed the San Francisco Sort Facility. I don’t know whether this means she hopped a flight to Seattle, but information updates are promised on the USPS Track and Confirm site. I enjoy this sort of thing; heaven knows why, but I find the progress of a properly processed and sorted object inordinately compelling.

I’m trying to decide which of my other charms will join Lala on my bracelet when she arrives. I usually prefer to wear just one or two at a time, but a Flamenco dancer probably calls for more jingle, especially after spending a few days in an envelope in a mail pouch. I want to get her a beautiful rose at some point. In the meantime, I hope she will appreciate my tulip, the emblem of the doctrines of grace that summarize Reformed theology. I think she will find sustaining companionship with a heart, a hummingbird, an owl, and a bell, along with two scrimshaw miniatures.

Everything made by man is made from something and comes from somewhere. Something from somewhere has a context, a purpose, and a story. I just happen to enjoy tracking very small metal objects out for an intercontinental spin to my house; in this case, the new “someplace” of a 23 mm sterling silver Flamenco dancer I’ve named Lala, Romani for tulip.

How did I come up with the name? All I knew was that Romani is a Gypsy language. How amazing is it that some thoughtful person would post 30 popular feminine Romani names–and that it would come up frequently enough in searches that I would find it when I was looking? The Internet is truly a cosmos of context.

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