Saturday, March 20, 2010

Snap Circuits

My grandson got this wonderful little toy for his sixth birthday. He and his little sister (the one with purple toenails) had a great time playing with it at my house. Of course I had to get out the old camera. I think I'm becoming an advertiser for not anything like my daughter, who keeps a wish list there for everyone in the household.

Snap Circuits

Here, for instance, is a picture of my grandson's toy shelf--all plush microbes and cell models.


This week our prompt is the opening of Isabel Allende’s 1999 novel Daughter of Fortune

Everyone is born with some special talent

...and while I agree in principle, I see a problem with the places people take this. Here are two fallacies I hear expressed as a "logical next leap" of philosophizing.

1. "I haven't discovered anything yet that I'm the best at."

God didn't promise us that we would each be "the best" at something. There are a lot less "somethings" to be the best at than there are people in this world at one time. We should sift through the talents we possess and settle on the ones we can use to bring the most happiness to the most people and the most glory to God, understanding that these may not be the same. Usually, these are things we enjoy doing. Sometimes they won't be, but we shouldn't summarily discard a talent based on our dislike of it. Understand this: There will always be other people better than we are at "our gifts", but God doesn't ask us to be better. He asks us to do what we can with what we've got. Success, in God's eyes, is measured by percentage--not gross ability.

2. "When it comes to gifts, all men are equal."

False. God gives us all gifts but they aren't distributed equally. I see this with students every day. You would think that a child who played basketball well would invariably fail math class and that a star saxophone player would spend all his time on the bench. It doesn't always work that way. On the contrary, some children seem to inherit everything: looks, talent, brains, and charm, while others blend into the mousy-gray background of mediocrity--twitching a sad tail occasionally, in wimpering objection to their lot in life. Once again, there will always be people better than we are. What makes us equal is not the talent scale; what makes us equal is the fact that we all have a perfectly priceless soul and a Heavenly Father who loves us with an immeasurable love. In His sight we are all "the best" and "the most desirable" and worthy of supreme sacrifice. The road to His home, though it has been painted as overly difficult, is never an obstacle course of leaps and sprints, or an achievement test with minimum entrance scores. It's a road that challenges our gifts in just the proper places. Thus one may leap through the gate...or crawl.

The best gift is one that has been offered to everyone, one we have yet to achieve--eternal life. That's equal. Nobody's will be longer or better than anyone else's. I think we will wonder why we so fiercely tried to be "the best" back on this cursed planet where mediocrity was more common than genius, and less dangerous. It will embarrass us to admit that fame and recognition were more important to us than pleasing the Master.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Break

All grandmothers should stop everything else and have a little fun playing with grandchildren over spring break. It keeps you young and creative. Here's a brief catalog of lots of wonderful moments we've shared over the last couple of days. If I call it taming wild horses, I guess it can be another labor of Hercules...but that's not really fair. They aren't particularly wild, certainly not man-eaters (although Zaya was howling loudly, pretending to be a wolf this morning...hmm. Yes, I'll go for the Horses of Diomedes labor.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Lernean Hydra


You cut off one head and two grow back.

When I finally finished doing the taxes for Turtle and me, for Claye, and for Elijah, there was a ream of paper work! OK so I exaggerate! But the IRS is rather more complicated than conservative. There were papers that came spewing from my printer with nothing but print and lines with zeros and "NA". Several pages were dignified by the brave presence of one little, measly number.

I believe Hercules defeated the monster by soliciting the help of a friend with a torch to staunch the flow of blood and keep the heads from growing back. I did something different: I only printed essentials and e-filed the entire mess of papers back to the feds. There!
They can deal with their own dragon.

Labors of Hercules

Spring break...

I've got lots of work planned and if the weather will cooperate I'll be outside in the sunshine. I discovered long ago, when I was a little girl doing dishes in an angry ocean of suds and lurking submarines, that it helps if I over-dramatize each task , so today I cleaned the Stables of Augeas. Well, not single-handedly though. I called re-inforcements: Turtle, Claye, and Sara Lee. We raked the detritus from last falls' leaves and gathered ice storm sticklets. It took hours, and we only got the back yard and the side yard finished, but it looks so nice the girls have decided to "camp out" in the yard tonight...make s'mores, fry bacon, and just pretend they are out in the wild.

It really looked more like a natural forest with all the leaves on the ground, but hey, this is America--we sweep our yards. I'm not at all tempted to camp out in the tame...or the wild for that matter. I hope they don't encounter a Caledonian Boar or a Nemean Lion out there.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Are They My Poor? My Weak?

When I think of books making an impact on my life, words fail me. I've known so many books--some inspiring, some frivolous, some comforting, and some that left me stunned. I particularly remember reading one of the latter when I was a junior in high school, because it brought me to a crossroads of faith. After reading that book, I had to question everything I had been taught about the meaning of life.

It was a novel, compelling and persuasive, a passionate argument that everything we do is in the end, self-serving, and that's fine, because selfishness itself is a virtue.
The name of the Book? Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.

She had been raised a Communist, in a world where the government was God, and self-improvement, i.e. Capitalism, was forbidden. Her cries are genuine and understandable. Why should the motivated, the intelligent, and the sane continue to bear the burden of the weak, the mentally inferior, and the lazy? We should let them die, she argues, for the good of the human race, so that we may soar unhindered to something better and braver, unencumbered by the weight of the unfortunate.
Selfishness is a virtue.

This was all a new concept to me; my ancestors were Mennonite immigrants: ministers, teachers, farmers--they all believed that life on earth was simply a fraction of a greater existence, and our service here would be rewarded elsewhere. My grandparents and my parents had opened their homes to many. We gave--even as children we gave--to the poor. Some of the poor were my best friends in high school. They kept me from being accepted by the popular crowd. They kept me from "being all that I could be". Was it time to change all that? I had to make a choice.

Looking back, now, I'm surprised that I wrestled with this as long as I did--over an hour, as I remember--but I was young, proud, ambitious and ripe for philosophies such as this; Rand had made it seem such a noble thing.

What made the difference was God.
She didn't have one; I did.
It was that simple.

If there is no God, one should grab everything he can. Life will soon go it did one day for Ayn Rand. But if there is a God, we will someday answer to Him.
Did we see Him poor, hungry, thirsty, and naked?
Did we hurry by, in a glorious ambition for excellence and self-fulfillment?
Jesus told his disciples one day that the kings of the earth measure greatness by counting how many servants they have; He said that's not how it should be. One should count greatness by how many he is able to serve.

My parents would never be great, by Ayn Rand's standards,
but in God's sight, and in mine, they would shine like stars forever.

I have to say that the book--compelling as it was--didn't really stand a chance, for what I saw modeled daily was love.
Love trumps selfishness.