Memories of Hard Times

I was standing in my grandmother’s living room, full of summer afternoon light. I heard Nana in the next room, her bedroom, talking on the phone to a friend. I remember clearly what she said: “Those kids are between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

Glib, dramatic, I thought. I was surprised at her summation of my circumstances. I didn’t feel myself to be in such a predicament. “Between the devil and the deep blue sea” is an archaic expression now. If you are in that place, you are trapped between two very bad things. There’s no good option. 

I was 12. My mother and I had just moved from our big old suburban house to my grandmother’s apartment for what would be about three months. One late spring Sunday morning a couple of weeks earlier, my mother woke me with the news that we were going to stay at Nana’s. That is all she told me. My mother and older sisters spent the morning packing up some of our necessities while I wondered what was happening. I did not ask any questions. While I went out through the front door I remember looking through the dining room at my father, standing in the kitchen with his back to us. I remember thinking: “I’ll be back soon.”

We left my father and my two older brothers back in the only home I had ever known. We were gone for three years.

In my family, we didn’t talk about things. I was the youngest of six children, shy and quiet. That day, nothing was explained to me but I was not totally in the dark. Though I would never have conceived of such an upheaval in our lives, my parents’ separation was not much of a surprise. 

In my earliest memories, my parents barely spoke. There were no smiles, no pleasant relaxed moments. Occasionally there was fighting–verbally. It might be late at night, after I was in bed, on a school night, or just before a swim meet.

I hurry to add that both my parents cared for us and did not direct that negativity toward us. My mother was particularly warm and maternal toward me. But the effects of their own strife upon us was perhaps a blind spot.

I was a child who went with the flow, a good and compliant child. The people around me were the ones with power. This is how I perceived the world. I went along for the ride and kept a tight lid on my reactions.

Looking back as an adult, I can see how terribly anxious I was. I was afraid of everything. I was extremely quiet and easily overwhelmed. I never felt free to express myself. Once, in elementary school, I asked permission to go to the bathroom and was told to wait. I peed on the floor sitting right there at my desk. I was not a toddler; I was in third grade. I didn’t have a clue that I was carrying around a metric ton of stress. My anxiety needed an outlet somewhere.

I could not see myself. I was not self-aware; I couldnt evaluate my situation nor my own reaction to it. I didn’t know I was stressed.

I took whatever came my way. I was adjusting to living in Nana’s apartment, and to the idea of looking for an apartment for my mom and I, and my older sister, who was away at college most of time. Of starting next fall to a new school, still painfully shy, where I knew no one.

I was fine, I thought. What’s Nana talking about?

I Wonder

Here is a lovely rendition of this song by the amazing Voces8. This song asks a question and leaves its hearers to answer.

Collected by John Jacob Niles in Murphy, NC in July 1933 from a young traveling evangelist Annie Morgan. According to Niles, he asked her to sing the song repeatedly until he had memorized it. It was published in his 1934 Songs of the Hill-Folk. Written in a minor key, it’s qualities of pensiveness make it one of today’s most popular carols. — from Wikipedia

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

Jesus’ beginnings seemed humble. He was born in a barn, humble and unknown, but for the rare ones who were attuned to Almighty God’s announcement of His birth.

In the third stanza comes the point: If Jesus had wanted to command all the angels of heaven to sing, he could have done so, and the whole heavens-full must have obeyed.

He was The King.

Then the singer returns to wondering. I love that the singer challenges the hearers to answer the question for themselves!

Why would the King of the Universe have to die? Why did He do that?

How will you answer that question?

A Small Lesson from the History of Plundered Art

In The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and The Second World War, we read of the Nazis’ treatment of their most hated conquered peoples. Poland was not only occupied but deliberately humiliated. Treasured emblems of its Slavic history were gleefully destroyed in attempts to erase its culture and its history.

In contrast, French art, wine and culture was appropriated. Nazi officials upon occupation of Paris quickly morphed into the bon vivants of the café and erudite collectors of the gallery.

Yet the culture purveyors of France themselves fared hardly better than the Poles.

There is an important lesson here: the arts will not protect you.

Paris and Berlin between the wars had become the ultimate home of the the European intelligentsia, the cultural elites, movers and shakers. Wealthy old family cuture-guards lived in the most desired locations in the most fashionable streets, for the purpose of lives centered on the arts. They were art dealers and hunters, art collectors and worshippers.

Their families enjoyed all the perks and comforts to be had by the top teirs of society anywhere. Their lives were cushioned from harsh reality. These families marinated in the arts; their parlors were showplaces for cutting edge newcomers and favored collections. The finest artists of the day painted their portraits.

But for these elite Europeans who happened to be Jews, reality would harshly intrude. German soldiers would march into their parlors, steal their art, and take them away. Some were killed, some escaped capture and left their countries for good; none were restored to their homes or their fortunes.

Hitler’s personal favored project focused upon restoring all Germanic art to the Fatherland. Whole bureaus and dedicated units were tasked with systematically locating and repossessing each and every work which Hitler judged to be in less than worthy hands.

Art did not protect the European Jews who had reached the pinnacle of all that high culture meant. On the contrary, art made them showy and vulnerable targets.

The Way of Absolutes

Absolutes are not popular. We condemn extremism from all directions. Balance and compromise are more soothing.

But there is a context where absolutes are perfect.

I am comforted by absolutes. Where the language is all and every, no  and none, there is no doubt. It is the language of completeness.

There is no human being who cannot let you down, eventually. Even my most beloved have little power to make everything perfect for me. We do try, but we cannot be absolutely faithful to anyone.

Absolutes are the language of assurance. God’s love is absolute. Jesus was the perfect demonstration of God’s complete love in every second of his life, his death, and his resurrection.

This is one of my favorite passages.:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Here are a few more absolutes:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

See? No doubt, no shadow, no maybe. No quibbling or parsing. No worry.

What is your favorite “absolute” passage?

What If We All Have the Same Purpose?

We encourage one another to make a difference. It is a worthy goal–to make the world better, to leave something positive behind. We esteem the people who make their mark. Not to think ourselves shallow, we also value the quiet achievers–those behind the scenes who make a difference but don’t ask for glory. We call them more noble.

We value the loud and the silent achievers for what they’ve done. Showy or shy, our worth is based on our accomplishments.

Our elderly parents tell us that they would be ashamed to be on the receiving end of care:”I don’t want to be a burden.”

Have you seen “The Drop Box?” This is a documentary about South Korean Pastor Lee Jong-rak, who takes in abandoned babies. He has constructed a box, a pass-through, on the side of his ministry home in which people may leave infants which they cannot care for, no questions asked and anonymously. Without the box, many of these babies would be abandoned in the dark on the streets of Seoul, and many of those would be found dead by next morning. This happens.

The opening of the outside of the box trips an alarm, and Pastor Lee rises in the night to run to receive the babies. Most he has passed on to social services, but 18 have become part of his family. Almost all of those are disabled. His own biological son is a severely disabled young adult.

This is what Pastor Lee has to say about his disabled children:

“There are children who rely on the help of others to survive their entire lives. Many people think it is better for them to go to heaven as quickly as possible, because life on earth is too difficult for them. But God sent them to the Earth with disabilities. They’re not the unnecessary ones in the world. God sent them to Earth with a purpose.

Disabled children teach many people, change many people,and help people reflect upon themselves, which is why they are the educators of society. Even these deficient, feeble children, these really weak children, live with smiles on their faces.”

The Drop Box: Rescuing Hundreds of Babies in South Korea

But here is an equation which we find difficult to resolve.

In our achievement-oriented society, aren’t we all valued by our ability, our accomplishment, our visibility? If accomplishment equals value, then the handicapped, who cannot accomplish, are of little value.

That sounds bad. We don’t approve of our own equation. It does not reflect well on us. So we add to that evaluation this item: the disabled are relieved of accountability to achieve. They can’t accomplish so we won’t expect them to.

Does our equation make sense yet? What can we add to make it work?

Since achievement equals value, maybe the disabled have some sort of consolation purpose. We think things like: perhaps they’re here to make us appreciate that we don’t have to endure lives like theirs. They inspire us to be grateful for our well-being. Maybe their purpose is to smile in spite of their horrible and pointless existences. That must take some special grace that I don’t have (and don’t want.) They have value without achievement.

Maybe this kind of thinking soothes our secret horror at the thought of living like they do but it may also be a way of soothing our consciences while we find some way to value the value-less.

But that doesn’t work either. Our generosity is toward ourselves; it does nothing for the recipients of our pity. I am afraid that our concern is with easing our own feelings rather than with helping the person who needs our help.

But back to the equation.

If the disabled are of value even though they cannot accomplish, how can I be of value because I achieve? If my abled-value standard is true, how can disabled people be of value?

If the able aren’t valued by the disabled’s virtues, and if the disabled cannot be valued by our achievements…

We are using two scales. Two equations are necessary: one for the able, another for the disabled. If so, don’t we assume that there are two scales for two different classes of human beings?

That’s rarely a good idea. Eugenicists usually start here.

In God’s economy, there must be only one set of balances. There must be an objective value measure to which all human persons have access. What if we are all valued in the same way? Must we not all ultimately be weighed on the same scale?

The crippled child cannot be weighed on the same scale as the highly accomplished and physically unchallenged adult, and come out equal.

It may be better to weigh the able on the same scale as the disabled. What if— in God’s measure, which is after all the true reality—we are valued the way they are? What if the able are judged by the disabled standard?

What do we have in common?

If we have the same purpose they do, then no one’s true value is accounted because of his accomplishments. Then value must be intrinsic and unearned. It must mean that all our purposes must be attainable without the aid of our accomplishments. That we all have value, regardless of our abilities.

What if we are valuable even though we have nothing to give? What if our value has nothing whatever to do with what we can do?

What if we are greatest when we have nothing to give?

We are all put on Earth needy, dependent, and disabled. Do babies have lesser value? Some people remain dependent. What can our common purpose be?

What if everyone‘s purpose is to be the object of the care of other people? What if we are at our greatest when we are receiving? What if you– no matter how capable you are— are here so that others may care for you?

Let’s be honest. In practice, most of us would find that humiliating. But what if your whole purpose is to become humble?

People were bringing the little children to him to place His hands on them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant and told them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”…

We struggle against being dependent; dependence makes us insignificant. Accepting help is humbling. We want to be the giver, the person who makes a difference.

Almighty God is glorified when one person cares selflessly for another person, and when we spend ourselves on another who is needy.

Turn that picture around. We overlook this perspective: God is glorified and honored when we accept care with humility and gratefulness, and receive love which we cannot pay back in any tangible manner

Pride is the root of all sin and God values humility. Can it be that what God desires most for us is to be in relationship, and to engender love from others? Are we here to inspire grace in others?

Let us remember the most fundamental equation in God’s Word. The most significant thing we can ever do is to accept God’s salvation when we have nothing to give in return, no way to earn it and no way to ever pay it back. The greatest thing we can ever do is to submit to rescue while acknowledging our utter helplessness, and to thank, love and acknowledge our Rescuer. This is our eternal condition.

Psalm 34:

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him…
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

A universe where Pastor Lee’s adult son– unable to see, talk, or walk, nor even to comprehend– and I, physically and mentally able to accomplish much–are on truly equal ground, of fully equal yet inestimable value, makes sense. The equation works.

Not Welcome at the Cool Kids’ Table

People unfollowed me.

Friends dont talk to me.

Relatives ignore me.

Snide comments. “Make sure they do the count right.”

A Christian brother tells me I am being oppressive, a broken record, demands that I change the subject, make FB a positive place. It’s hate. He begged to be blocked. Blocked.

Our decades-old friend became personal and accusatory. Unfriended.

Progressives, it seems, all feminists and of the resistance…cannot tolerate a female expressing her views because those thoughts are out of step. “Get over it!” Go along. Let’s put away division and unify. Don’t kill our buzz.

The proud resistance cannot tolerate a woman expressing opinions out of step with the majority. Cannot abide non conformity. They shun someone speaking unpopular thoughts. Ironic, no?

True “Resistors?” They would approve of someone voicing unpopular opinions. They would support the out of step one. They would cheer real resistance.

Celebrity Preacher Expresses Contempt for Trump Voters and Justifies Voting Pro-Death as Morally Superior to Voting for an Icky Man

If we cannot even resolve to protect the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable of human beings who bear God’s image, all our do-gooding is farce.

We do the latter and leave the former undone. This position is morally bankrupt. The protection of innocent life is fundamental to a moral ethic. To be dismissive of the priority of protecting life is to make your whole ethic nonsensical.

To be concerned that some children suffer poverty or disenfranchisement while being less concerned that millions of children are killed is moral derangement. No rights or privileges can be granted if the children are dead.

It is to support a two-tier ethic in which it is immoral to deny a first world living standard to some children but mildly unfortunate to deny life to other children.

These thoughts do not derive from Scripture. An ethic which suggests there are some valuable and others not does not come from God’s Word. One that tells us “Do not speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” has nothing to say.


I have devoted a lion’s share of this blog to the issue of life. To express the truth on the negative side of that coin, this blog has been about death. I have written about abortion.

Here is a representative list of my thoughts so far.

Mary Had a Baby:

One Hundred Years of Death:

Life Debate ABC’s:

Do We Still Recognize Exploitation?:


Why Defend Planned Parenthood?:

What If:

Being Bullies:

I Am Officially Against Genocide:

In the Mirror:

We Kill the Weak:

The Wrong Side of History and Cultural Change:

The Worst Thing Women Believe:

Why Do You Champion Genocide?:

What’s Wrong with Genocide?:

At Least I Have a Napkin to Go With Those Plastic Spoons:

War on Children:

Irony Gold:

Three Kinds of Tragedy:

Pro-Choice is not the Virtuous Choice:

Help for Africa:

…”but some everyones are more equal than others.”:

Can We Stop an International Roe v. Wade?:

We Are a Plague; Or At Least You Are:

Quit Insulting Women:

Revelations 11:10

I am reminded of this future event, the present “mood.”

It’s not the demise of God’s prophets, not even close. But it is the merrymaking over the destruction of someone, so they think, and of all who they attach to him.

Of course–it’s all about peace, love and understanding. Free at last. The Wicked Witch is dead, ding dong.

It’s the merrymaking of hate. And I can feel it directed toward me.

What We Are Left With

When we jettison those old timey manners and morals because all the cool people don’t like them anymore, we have only a passing whiff of ginned-up good feelings to guide our moral behavior. As you see:

I found this fuzzy pink thing in my Instagram feed. Its author was serious.

 Literally any random ancient moral code is better than this. This is shallow, reductive, and simplistic. How does one go through even a day living by this code without meeting an insurmountable challenge?

After just seconds one has to ask: What is the good? How do I choose which response is good?

Why should I be good? Why should I do good?

Why should I be good when it doesn’t benefit me? When it hurts me?

What will tell me which action is good? Can I trust my own gut? 

What is good, anyway? How do we define “good?”

We are surrounded by voices, pressing in to our thoughts, demanding our allegiance to their rightness. There is no lack of advice. But does any of it have authority? Plenty of the available advice is bad.

Thank God, there is an objective moral guide. How do I know? Our inner conscience testifies to it. Your conscience tells you to choose actions that you don’t like. Your inner voice would have you do the uncomfortable thing, the scary thing, the selfless thing. That selfless thing is according to a code of ethics which is outside of you or me, and in particular outside of our feelings.

There is a Moral Law, and there is a Moral Lawgiver.

Moral decisions are  much too complex for such a code as DO GOOD — BE GOOD. Because of that innate regard we have for the objective law, we often know what is good. But more often, there are competing interests to consider.  Most moral choices are not presented in a vacuum. How do we choose one over another? We have to compare our options to something objective before we can know what is the good.

This moral code, DO GOOD—BE GOOD, reductive and outrageously simple minded, leads to injustice and inhumanity. Why? Because in dismissal of that objective, transcendent moral law, we throw out anything which tells us what is right and wrong. We have ejected our reason. We are left with our feelings

Our feelings are undependable. They lead us wrong. And the bedrock, the absolute bottom layer of the foundation of our psyches, is how we feel about ourselves.

We love ourselves, we like ourselves, we feel good about ourselves. We can’t stand feeling bad about ourselves. We believe we do good and right things, always. Because we are us and we’re good. We’re not like those other people who are bad. We haz the vituez.

In any given moral situation, I am going to choose the option that puts me in the best light in my own mind. If we can be persuaded to believe that one side of a political issue is angelic, and the other is straight from The Devil Himself, we are sold out. Rioters want me to confirm their moral superiority to police? If I’m not objective, my need to be a morally superior person tells me what to do. No contest.

We are more committed to feeling right than to doing right.

Millions of women believe they are righteous defenders of civil human rights because they march, vote, condemn and hate in the service of the legal right to kill unborn human children. Done. And I am evil if I disagree.

Be good—do good.