Tuesday, January 17, 2017

In Memoriam: Eucled D. Moore (1935-2017)

Photo credit: Cindy M. Davis
Celebrating Eucled's last birthday

Amore's dad, Eucled Moore, passed away early Friday morning after a long battle with Parkinson's. He pastored churches in Arkansas and West Virginia before serving as an IMB missionary in East Africa. After the family's return to Texas in 1981, he served as the founding pastor of a still-thriving New Braunfels church.

I never got to hear him preach but enjoyed the privilege of sitting under his teaching in many Sunday school classes. He had a beautiful singing voice and was a skilled carpenter. Our home is full of his woodwork, Bible study resources, and carpentry tools. He worked hard in everything he undertook, and God gave him much success.

One of my sisters-in-law recently honored Dad Moore's pilgrimage better than I can in "The Magic of Music" on her own blog, strokemanswoman. 

He was a kind and loving father-in-law to me and always encouraged my attempts at writing and photography. He is greatly missed, but we are very thankful his decades of suffering are over and we will see him again in the Lord's presence.

He leaves behind his wife of nearly 63 years, five sisters and their families, five children and their spouses, twelve grandchildren (some of them also with spouses), and four great-grandchildren. The memorial service is scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Please keep the family in your prayers as we prepare, travel, and celebrate his life together.

"For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words."
1 Thessalonians 4:16‭-‬18 ESV

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016: The Fellowship of His Sufferings

Last year held much change and many widespread health trials for our family. Existing conditions advanced, and new diagnoses came seemingly out of nowhere. At least 2 of those situations have the doctors baffled. Sisters moved locally or internationally. Two extended family members came to require residential nursing care. Employment situations changed, for better or for worse (although, for the Christian, even for worse is ultimately for better).

It was the year of the brace for me. With an even dozen joints giving me difficulty, my orthotic braces reached a high of 9 last summer. Today's count is 7. This has taken away my piano and yarncraft and limited my reading (page-turning), walking, photography, typing, and writing by hand. When our youngest nephew asked for crocheted shark slippers for his birthday, I had to put the yarn and pattern away and order the finished project from Etsy because my wrist and elbow couldn't handle crochet. (That cost some tears.) The first new medicine didn't help, so we're trying a second one, but these are the kinds of medicines that require 6 months of steady use to know for certain whether they will work. Cold laser treatments have seemed to help some. Formal physical therapy created new problems, and at this point, the exercises any particular joint requires make one or more other joints angry. The medical appointments totaled 56. The doctors still think this is a temporary state of affairs, but they can't know for certain. The situation is so complex we're still praying earnestly and taking one step at a time as the Lord shows us what next.

The dermatologist gave me a new scar for Christmas, too. Actually, right now it's still a wound, not a scar, but that will come. A new mole appeared underneath one of my braces, on skin that hasn't seen the sun since my last skin cancer screening. It only turned out to be dysplastic, not cancerous, but its sudden appearance raised suspicions and called for removal just in case.

From those bare facts, you might think it was a horrible year, but you'd be wrong. That is not to say it was my all-time favorite, but the blessings were abundant, especially the family times. We celebrated 10 family birthdays in person on the actual day. Amore and I had a special symphony date in January and one night away for our anniversary. Seven of us met my uncle and aunt for a summer day at the science and nature museum. The boys created outlandish birds and fought robot wars with Grandpa and Uncle. Another family outing took us to the aquarium. A cousin Mom hadn't seen in years but was very close to in childhood came for a family dinner and lots of stories while he was in town on business.

We are stockpiling memories like people between famines. We have known the separations of distance, illness, and circumstance that hinder those kinds of together times. We have said good-bye to my grandmother and the end of new memories with her. These seasons of memory-making are temporary, fragile, and precious, so we cherish them and try to do so with hands open to the Lord, who gives and takes in wisdom for our good.

The Lord gave enough strength at the right time for us to spend a week with Amore's parents in central Texas and for me to help my parents care for my nephews for a week. Even 2 days before both those events, my participation was in doubt, so we knew with confidence that the strength was God's power made perfect in my weakness. The Lord also provided sufficient grace to continue in ladies' Bible study at my church and even to serve as a table leader for a six-week study in late spring. Amore had 5 journeys planned without me. Three of them came to pass.

Cedar waxwing, its wing injured by the first hailstorm

Two severe hailstorms struck our area, rendering 2 cars, our roof and shed roof, and various other items a total loss. We are thankful no one in the family was caught out in the storms or hurt. We received excellent help from our insurance company, and the storms replaced one car with a better one. My sister's insurer helped me through a two-month claim on her car, which was hail-damaged in our driveway while she was out of the country and couldn't manage that herself. (Wits' End lived up to its name.)

Having so many joint problems at the same time means I take ordinary blessings less for granted than formerly. Driving myself to appointments, cooking for our family, doing the laundry or dusting, walking to the park, writing a birthday card... all of these are blessings of God's grace, which sometimes were disguised by their ordinariness. When I couldn't drive myself to appointments, my parents or husband blessed me with extra time together. When I grumbled to myself about imposing on them, the Lord convicted me of ingratitude and reminded me that our time together was a blessing, whatever the reason.

Audiobooks to read to me and Amazon's Whispersync for Kindle to turn pages screens for me allowed me to stay engaged with my beloved books when my shoulders wouldn't let me turn pages beyond my day's Bible reading. My youngest nephews, Terza, and I immersed ourselves in the world of Hogwarts, the Burrow, and No. 4 Privet Drive for months on end and talked of dementors, charms, and what our patronus would be. It was not uncommon to enter their house to the greeting, "Expelliarmus!"

On seeing this at the science museum, Thunder said, "Look! It's Hedwig!"

My mother's lifelong dream to see the Emerald Isle was fulfilled. She traveled there in late spring with Dad and Mezzo to visit the land from which some of her forebears immigrated, and it lived up to  their expectations.

While they were gone, Amore and I watched Lightning hit a home run and slide under a too-late tag by the catcher. We sent the video to Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Mezzo across the ocean, and they watched it on a long train ride, cheering and clapping, much to the confusion of the people around them.

The birds and butterflies came in abundance, bringing cheer and distraction on many a discouraged day. We enjoyed a visit from a blue parakeet and raised monarchs from caterpillar to adulthood and release.

An adult niece and nephew on Amore's side began new lives and households with their respective spouses. We hope and pray the very best for them and are thrilled with the new additions to the family.

We laughed heartily as well as wept. It was a hard year, but certainly not a forgettable one.

In the midst of the persistent and even increasing trials, I have sensed the Lord's invitation to press on through perseverance toward counting the losses and pains as nothing compared to the worthiness of Christ, toward treasuring Him more than what has been taken, toward believing in and cherishing the fellowship of His sufferings even when I can't sense it.

Elisabeth Elliot said, "The deepest things that I have learned in my life have come from the deepest suffering, and out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things that I know about God." Perseverance with joy (Col. 1:11) comes, through God's supply of strength, when that deep knowledge of God grows more precious than the things taken by the deep waters and hot fires of suffering. I want to grow in treasuring Him that way, though my soul shrinks back from the process.

Trials are worth it because He is worthy. His plans are good because He Himself is good. May the year 2017 draw us deeper in treasuring Him. May none of our sufferings be wasted, but all serve to increase our growth in knowing Christ in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil. 3:10).

Monday, January 2, 2017

Good {One Word 2017}

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy (Exodus 33:18-19 ESV)

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 118:1 and 29 ESV)

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8 ESV)

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11 ESV)

It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes (Psalm 119:71 ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30 ESV)

OneWordCoffee Linkup

Sunday, December 25, 2016

"The Gift of Gifts" {A Christmas Prayer}

O Source of all good,
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
   thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
   my redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
   his self-emptying incomprehensible,
   his infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.
Herein is wonder of wonders:
   he came below to raise me above,
   was born like me that I might become like him.
Herein is love;
   when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace,
             to raise me to himself.
Herein is power;
   when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
   he united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreate and the created.
Herein is wisdom;
   when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
                                     and no intellect to devise recovery,
   he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
               as man to die my death,
                           to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
                           to work out a perfect righteousness for me.
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds, and enlarge my mind;
   let me hear good tidings of great joy,
        and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
        my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
        my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
   place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
        to look with them upon my redeemer's face,
        and in him account myself delivered from sin;
   let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart,
        embrace him with undying faith,
        exulting that he is mine and I am his.
In him thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

       ~The Valley of Vision, p. 16

Blessed Christmas, dear Crumbles, to you and yours, from us here at Wits' End!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Celebrating the Redeemer

And coming up at that very hour she [Anna] began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38).
And his [John's] father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days" (Luke 1:67-75 ESV).

Once upon a time in a public-school high school French class we sang "O Holy Night" with its original French text. Several years ago I remembered this as Amore and I rehearsed the English translation for a church Christmas concert.

The thing is, I couldn't remember a word of the French lyrics.  So the chase began. Two years ago, I shared my best attempt at translating those words into English and why they are more precious to me than the English interpretation we sing. 

Here is my literal translation, without attention to rhyme or singability, again:

Midnight! Christians, it is the solemn hour
When the man God descended unto us,
To erase original sin
And to stop His Father’s anger:
The whole world trembles with hope
At this night which gives us a Savior.
People, to your knees! Await* your deliverance,
Christmas! Christmas! Here is the Redeemer!
Christmas! Christmas! Here is the Redeemer!

Let the burning light of our faith
Guide us all to the cradle of the Child,
As formerly, when a bright star
Led the chiefs of the East there.
The King of kings is born in a humble manger,
Powerful men of the day, proud of your grandeur—
It is from there [the manger] that a God preaches to your pride,
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

The Redeemer has broken all shackles,
The earth is free and heaven is opened.
He [the Redeemer] sees a brother where was only a slave;
Love unites those whom iron had chained,
Who will tell him our gratitude?
It is for us all that He suffered and died:
People, stand! Sing your deliverance,
Christmas! Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!
Christmas! Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!

(French text, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure; trans., C. Moore)

*alternately "Expect" or "Be ready for"

For this Christmas, coming as it is at the end of a tumultuous and burdened year, let's shift our focus to the concept of Redeemer, which appears in the chorus of each of the 3 verses of the French lyric.

In Greek, as is often preached, the word "redeem" originates in the marketplace and the idea of buying something or someone back. It gives us imagery of paying a price and setting free.

In the ancient Hebrew culture, a redeemer functioned in 4 desperate situations:
  • Loss of land (Lev. 25:23-34): If an Israelite became so poor that he lost his God-given, inherited portion in the land of promise, a relative with means to buy it back could do so and restore it to the original owner. The redeemer provided the remedy to bankruptcy.
  • Loss of life (Num. 35:9-29): If a murder occurred, the redeemer (or kinsman-redeemer) was the Mosaic Law's appointed instrument of capital punishment. The redeemer provided justice for violence against his close relative. (The law also provided a means of protection for the killer in cases of accidental or ambiguous death until a fair trial could be held.)
  • Loss of liberty (Lev. 25:47-55): If an Israelite became so poor that he had no alternative but to sell himself into slavery, the near relative could buy him back, The redeemer freed his enslaved kinsman.
  • Loss of legacy (Deut. 25:5-10 and entirety of Ruth): If an Israelite man died with a wife but no child, the widow was in dire straits. In the ancient near east, a godly son fulfilled the role of a modern 401K, Social Security, and Medicare package. He was his parents' sustenance and protection in their old age. As strange as it seems to 21st-century readers, the husband's brother would temporarily act as a husband to the widow in order to beget a child to care for her when she was advanced in years. The resulting child would be considered the dead husband's, not the brother-in-law's. The redeemer would prevent the dying out of a family line and raise up an heir for the dead father and son to sustain the widow.
The common threads? Hopelessness and close relationship. Someone who can help himself or herself has no need of a redeemer. The redemption principle only comes into play when there is no other option. A stranger with no personal, familial relationship has no qualification to be redeemer.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of our ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer. We have no hope in ourselves to regain the inheritance of Eden, to judge wrongdoing righteously and effectively, to free ourselves from slavery to sin and death, or to make ourselves fruitful, let alone fruitful with abundant, lasting, good fruit. We are desperate and hopeless, in need of rescue. The rescuer has to be qualified, though; we need a rescuer who is a near kinsman.

Our Rescuer had to be fully human in order to redeem the children of men; He had to be God to be strong, rich, free, and life-giving, able to help the impoverished, enslaved, dead sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. Only Jesus fully qualifies. As the hymn says, "the man God descended unto us,/To erase original sin/And to stop His Father’s anger."

Are you in a desperate, hopeless situation today? Are you carrying more lament than joy in your heart as you walk into Christmas? Beloved, if you are a Christian, your desperation puts you in the perfect place to appreciate the arrival of your Redeemer. May your need and pain turn your heart toward Him in worship and praise today. 

 Christians, "Who will tell him our gratitude?
It is for us all that He suffered and died:
People, stand! Sing your deliverance,
Christmas! Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!
Christmas! Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!"

P.S.  For the inquisitive, here are the best websites I found:
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/94/story_9463.html story behind the song – English
www.carols.org.uk/ba32-o-holy-night.htm English lyrics as we sing them

Monday, December 19, 2016

Metamorphosis {A Poem}

To watch the process described below, please visit the previous post, Monarch Metamorphosis.

Burgeoning butterfly bursts the bonds of its caterpillar skin,
Writhing and wriggling out of its old creepy-crawly self,
Exposing soft shimmer of green-gold iridescence beneath.

Blind, paralyzed, vulnerable,
Burgeoning butterfly contracts and hardens
In filigreed jade casket.

Days creep. Casket hangs still,
No visible change, no growing girth,
No crutch of evidence upon which faith can lean,
But burgeoning butterfly forms within.

Jade fades to grey, then black as death.
Then shadowed, black-veined rust
Shines through death’s veil
Like first orange gleam of sun in eastern sky.
Hours pass; then
Burgeoning butterfly breaches,
Blooms out backward,
Wings limp and ruffled as hibiscus petals,
Body swollen, a polka-dot capsule.

Carefully it crawls up translucent shards
Of chrysalis casket.
Clinging there, it sways side to side,
Burgeoning butterfly body pumping life
Into wings spreading and filling like a kite
Catching a breeze.

Proboscis furls and unfurls
Like the tongue of a cat as she grooms.
Burgeoning butterfly drips golden tears,
Rocking, rocking its newborn self.

Burgeoning butterfly comes to rest,
Labor-wearied from burst bonds.
Hours harden wings.

Burgeoning butterfly finds a blossom;
Sips nourishing nectar;
Leaves behind shed skin,
Empty tomb;
Presses forward to what lies ahead.

Burgeoning butterfly takes flight.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Monarch Metamorphosis

Click here to view Monarch Metamorphosis in your Web browser.

(The emergence happens slowly enough that you may wish to adjust your YouTube settings to faster playback for the following 2 videos.)