Monday, February 28, 2011

Prayers of Many Answered!

This afternoon I opened up my new World Magazine and read this great news! The title is:

"Said Musa, the 46-year-old Afghan Christian jailed since May 31, 2010, quietly was released by Afghan government authorities in Kabul on February 21 and allowed to leave the country."

Credit was given to western Christians, U.S. and European diplomats, the International Committee for the Red Cross (for whom he had worked for 15 years) and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Ultimately, we give credit to God for saving this man's life.

Please continue to pray for the others, especially Shoib Assadullah, a young Afghan man who was arrested for giving someone a Bible.

Sewing Frenzy

I have heard no more about Said Musa. All we can do is continue to pray--for him and all those imprisoned unjustly.

Saturday morning we woke to see a flurry of activity under our lilac tree. Spring is coming! Woodpeckers galore! A flock of them! We identified three different kinds, all taking their turns at the suet feeder. Sorting through the old seed at the other feeder were mourning doves, crows, cardinals, starlings, nuthatches, juncos, and even a lone chickadee. All these birds after not seeing any for so long! We were delighted.

4-H has started up again and the girls are each making dresses. But because their patterns are difficult and they always have sizing issues, they are first making a "practice" dress. I am a volunteer at the 4-H center and have been assigned a girl who is making another difficult dress. I am learning as much as she is as we take it step-by-step. The women who lead there are incredibly talented.

If that weren't enough sewing, we have even bigger projects. Stacia has invited the girls to be junior bridesmaids in her wedding and after checking prices for dresses, we decided it would be best to make them. One of the teachers at 4-H was very helpful in choosing the patterns that would work best. Again, I need to make practice dresses before we invest in good fabric. So that's four dresses for me to make. So between the girls and me, we have eight dresses to sew by June! I also have a quilt I've been trying to finish for years and the end is in sight. But it might have to be held off a little longer.

Dominic gave us an idea for a money-making venture. He will design us a website if we want to go into the sewing business. That is an idea for the future after we get these dresses made. This could even branch out to lessons in our house for girls who want to start sewing. Some people do not live near the 4-H center or do not want to commit to the many hours required every weekend to sew with that group. If I could generate a little income for the household, it would help tremendously and take some of the burden from my hard-working husband.

As I was contemplating this idea this morning, I read this verse. Actually I don't even remember noticing it before. Jesus was telling a parable and he said, "Engage in business until I come." Part of the interpretation is that we are not to sit and look at the sky, doing nothing while we wait for Christ's return. Or sit in fear of world events, as some do. But in light of this parable, we are to do something useful with the resources, talents, and opportunities that God gives us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pray for our Brother in Christ

Have you heard this story? Probably not. The media is mostly silent. I read about Said Musa in World Magazine, twice. I cut out his picture and put it on my refrigerator so I would remember to pray for him. He is imprisoned in an Afghan prison simply for being a Christian. His execution is imminent.

Here is an article by Paul Marshall from the National Review On-Line:

A terrible drama is unfolding in Afghanistan: There are reports that Said Musa, will soon be executed for the ‘crime’ of choosing to become a Christian. Musa was one of about 25 Christians arrested on May 31, 2010, after a May 27 Noorin TV program showed video of a worship service held by indigenous Afghan Christians; he was arrested as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy. He converted to Christianity eight years ago, is the father of six young children, had a leg amputated after he stepped on a landmine while serving in the Afghan Army, and now has a prosthetic leg. His oldest child is eight and one is disabled (she cannot speak). He worked for the Red Cross/Red Crescent as an adviser to other amputees.

Said was forced to appear before a judge without any legal counsel and without knowledge of the charges against him. “Nobody [wanted to be my] defender before the court. When I said ‘I am a Christian man,’ he [a potential lawyer] immediately spat on me and abused me and mocked me. . . . I am alone between 400 [people with] terrible values in the jail, like a sheep.” He has been beaten, mocked, and subjected to sleep deprivation and sexual abuse while in prison. No Afghan lawyer will defend him and authorities denied him access to a foreign lawyer.

Any and every human being who is imprisoned, abused, or tortured for the free and peaceful expression of their faith deserves our support, but Musa is also a remarkable person and Christian. In a letter smuggled to the West, he says, “The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad behaviour with me about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, they did sexual things with me, beat me by wood, by hands, by legs, put some things on my head.”
He added a thing much more important to him, that they “mocked me ‘he’s Jesus Christ,’ spat on me, nobody let me for sleep night and day. . . . Please, please, for the sake of Lord Jesus Christ help me.”

He has not, in fact, even appealed to be released, only to be transferred to another prison. He has also stated that he is willing to give his life for his faith. “Please, please you should transfer me from this jail to a jail that supervises the believers. . . . I also agree . . . to sacrifice my life in public [where] I will tell [about my] faith in Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, [so] other believers will take courage and be strong in their faith.”

Newspapers in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe have reported the story, but with, the exception of the Wall Street Journal and NRO, American outlets have not found it worthy of attention. “Afghan officials have been unapologetic: ‘The sentence for a convert is death and there is no exception,’ said Jamal Khan, chief of staff at the Ministry of Justice. ‘They must be sentenced to death to serve as a lesson for others.’"

The U.S. government — reportedly including Secretary of State Clinton — and other governments have pushed for his release, but to no avail. But the president has been silent, even as we fight a war that has among its goals the creation of a government that conforms to international human-rights standards. An American president certainly needs to guard and shepherd his political capital, and should not speak out about every prisoner. But Musa himself has appealed to “President Brother Obama” to rescue him from his current jail. And when an obscure and aberrant Florida pastor, Terry Jones, threatened to burn a Koran, not only President Obama but much of his cabinet, as well as General Petraeus, weighed in on the matter.
If the actions of a Florida pastor who threatened to destroy a book holy to Muslims deserved public and presidential attention, then the actions of the Afghan government, ostensibly a ‘democratic’ ally, to destroy something holy to Christians, a human being made in the image of God, also deserve public and presidential attention.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Music Appreciation

I came across notes Dominic took while he was using Liana as a test subject for his music appreciation class. In his observation study, he let Liana listen to two songs and then recorded her reactions.

Song 1: "The Gummy Bear Song"
Song 2: "The Piano Man" by Billy Joel

Subject Profile: Liana, 11, female, 5th grade student, little sister

What specific emotions did the lyrics convey to you (if any)?
Gummy Bear Song: "Really crazy, and energetic. It was a lot of fun."

Sensory, kinesthetic response:
Gummy Bear Song: Smiling, jumping, dancing, laughing, finger-pointed dance moves, hip swinging, head bopping on the bopping sound of the song, twirling on tippy-toes.
Piano Man: None noticed other than intent listening.

What specific images did the lyrics create in your mind (if any)?
Gummy Bear: "Multi-colored cartoon Gummy bears dancing around and having a party in a party room with a disco ball."
Piano Man: "Some old person in a rocking chair playing the harmonica."

Kinesthetic or sensory directly related to the lyrics (if any)?
Gummy bear Song: On the chorus, extra smiles and dancing. She made popping sounds with her mouth on the popping sounds in the song.

Liana enjoyed the Gummy Bear Song over the rock classic, Piano Man (hard to believe). She said she liked the tune of the Piano Man, but didn’t understand what he was singing about.

Have you ever heard the Gummy Bear Song? See if it doesn't make you smile. You'll soon be out of your chair dancing too! There has to be a reason for those 108 million views.

I should add, Liana's goal for violin is to someday play Vivaldi's "Spring."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Music Fills our House

Prior to all of us getting sick, Dominic and Stacia came for a visit, so most of the family gathered to spend time with them. Dominic is taking a music appreciation class and he invited Liana's help with his homework assignment--evaluating pieces of music. Liana was not impressed with some of his choices. But both of them thoroughly enjoyed the "Gummy Bear" song that led to some wild dancing around the dining room!

Stacia provided a different sort of musical treat. She is an accomplished pianist, and Liana and Lana both were interested in hearing her play. I found out my little granddaughter Lana now has a keyboard and has discovered classical music. Given the opportunity, that child will go far. I so wish Arielle would play again. Somehow she lost interest, but her teacher at the time thought she had great skill.
We also had a lot of fun around the table when the big girls made "cootie catchers." It doesn't take much to entertain this family. Liana gave Dominic a birthday card she created herself. She wrote and illustrated a fairy tale about a wizard and a princess and an evil dragon named Damien. Using old stickers and old photos, she put together hilarious images of her brothers. I don't believe I've ever heard Damien laugh so much.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pink Snow

On Valentine's Day I was treated to pink snow. The rising sun cast a rosy glow over the bleak winter landscape of my yard. What a gift this morning!

We have rejoined the land of the living. Last week a virus knocked us down hard. The girls and I lived in a groggy daze, rising from a pile of blankets to get a drink or take some Advil. This virus took all our energy and most of our interest in anything except warmth and sleep. It was nothing serious, I guess. But for a person who likes to get things done, it is hard to do nothing. What a waste, I kept thinking. Just sitting or lying and not DOING.

A little jingle kept going through my head: "Man proposes, God disposes." We plan (and oh, we had lots of plans last week) and whoosh, nothing works out. All our daily routines, meaningless. All we wanted was rest and sleep. A lot of orange juice and V-8 Fusion. Thank goodness I had homemade chicken soup in the freezer. Nothing else sounded good.

When we started feeling a little better, we pulled out some old home videos taken when the girls were little. We never have time to watch these. In fact, I'm sure some of the videos had never been viewed since recording them. Oh, my adorable babies! Why was I so blessed to be given these precious children? My little girls were so joyful, so full of song and dance. And you friends and family, I saw you on those videos too. I saw friends who now struggle with cancer. You didn't know back then what was coming. Fred's sister, gone from this world. She didn't know she had such a short time left. Another friend, on the video with his small children, now paralyzed by disease. How sobering to see the ignorance of our future.

But we are not all doomed by time. I saw younger versions of my boys. Some were going through great difficulties then, but now they are thriving. My girls no longer sing and dance around the house all day, but they are growing into responsible young women with many new interests.

"Come now, you who say, today or tomorrow we will go and do such and such...yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then it vanishes. Instead you ought to say, if the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:13-15.)

So if the Lord wills, we plan to return to comfortable routines today, doing our school work, enjoying family, and living in the moment.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

My Baby is Eleven!

Liana, my youngest child, is growing up. It's hard to believe she is eleven. This picture is perfect to reveal the complexities of the age. Her passion is Build-A-Bears, yet she loves the old ipod her sister gave her and was delighted with her new shoes with wedge heels.

The girls don't go to school on their birthdays. It's the least I can do since I drive them so hard with school work when other kids have holidays and snow days and in-service days, etc., etc. On Arielle's birthday we spent the day at the mall, but on Liana's birthday we had icy roads and there was no going anywhere that morning. She wasn't terribly disappointed because she is a stay-at-home kind of person like me.

First of all, the girls decided to watch I Love Lucy on TV. I think it is funny they enjoy that show so much. I watched it on hot summer days in Arizona while my mother ironed. The voices and music of the program bring back special memories for me. After I Love Lucy my mom and I would watch Queen for a Day! I loved that one too.

Liana requested French toast for breakfast and then she opened a couple of gifts. Another birthday tradition is measuring! Arielle brought the yardstick and we saw how much they each had grown. (Too much!) Friends called to wish Liana a Happy Birthday, and since these children had no school due to the weather, we had an impromptu birthday gathering. Sometimes those spur-of-the-moment events are the most fun. So these two girls, plus their mother who is my good friend, came for the afternoon.

In the evening I made Liana's Chinese birthday soup and cake. Fred had a patient coming to the house, who is also Liana's violin teacher, and he happened to bring his son. So they ended up being our birthday guests. Liana had an interesting day after all.

Snow Videos

We have had a very unpredictable winter this year. Usually we count on a few good snowstorms, but this season we've had snow or ice every few days. Right now we're in a lull. I think everyone is tired of winter--except kids!

After the last big one, Liana built her own sledding hill from the snow piled up from shoveling. Then over the weekend Fred used the snow blower to carve out an icy slope in the back yard.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Glory of Creation

On the day of one of the biggest blizzards our country has seen for awhile (satellite photo above), I thought I would post a video that a friend sent me. The photography is beautiful.

Once again I am hearing the same message twice. After receiving that video our pastor began a series on "God's Great Story: How the Gospel Changes Everything." He began with creation, a good place to start. Instead of me explaining it, here is a summary:

"From beginning to end the Bible tells one story, God’s great story. It is the story of God’s glorious work of redeeming a people through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This story includes creation, human sin, the fall of all creation, God’s covenant with his people, the redemptive work of Jesus, and the coming new creation. It is the story that shapes all of history and defines our lives."

We sang a new song that morning, and I found it on youtube so I could listen to it again. It goes along with what my friend sent. I hope you enjoy it.

If you are traveling through icy roads this morning, you probably aren't much impressed with the glories of creation right now. Those glistening icicles might not be dazzling your senses. I was grumbling a bit when I fell on the ice yesterday and sprained my wrist. But my complaining always turns to praise when I look out my window and see God's handiwork, right here in suburbia on my little plot of the earth. From sunrises to falling snow to soaring hawks and howling wind, all display the wonder, majesty and splendor of our God. It puts things in perspective.
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork...Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!...O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you mde them all; the earth is full of your creatures..." (from the Psalms.)