Categorization

It seems to me that folks in every field attempt to categorize everything. Perhaps it’s a method of being able to understand how things work by extrapolating from known to the unknown. Perhaps it’s a way of making predictions for the future. Perhaps it’s a way of manipulating facts and controlling behaviors.

Some examples? Astrology, Myers-Briggs personality typing (and all that ilk), IQ tests, Spiritual gift tests, etc. In the material world we categorize vehicles as sedans, SUV’s, trucks, passenger vans, cargo vans, etc.  In the animal world, we categorize by species. When we categorize, we develop a mental picture and expectations for that category. We would not accept a cat that looked like an elephant. In the material world, preparing our expectations through identifying the category of the object we are encountering helps to modify our reactions. Improper categorization can lead to unrealistic expectations and either disappointment or surprise.

When it comes to human beings however, I am beginning to wonder if the need and the effort we put into categorizing each other has some negative consequences. If I judge someone by their behavior, am I writing them off in the future, am I having expectations for them that are unrealistic or not in keeping with truth? It is definitely a challenge to note what God has to say about making judgements.

Here are some verses on judgement:

John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance but judge righteous judgement.

James 2:13 for he shall have judgment without mercy, that has shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

Psalms 37:30 The mouth of the righteous speaketh widom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.

Psalms 119:66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments

Matthew 7:2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall also be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

Romans 2:3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

1Corinthians 6:4 If then ye have judgements of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.

1 Samuel 16:7b For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

In these contexts, I see judgment being exercised individually against individuals and corporately against both individuals and groups. There are lots of verses about judgment in the Old Testament, but much fewer in the New Testament. It seems that once God became incarnate in Jesus, He began to convey to mankind how far we had missed the mark of righteousness.

What I wonder about is why we feel the need to compartmentalize people? Is it self-protection? Is it our own insecurities about our weaknesses and fallibility? The older I get, the more I am aware of my own failures and limitations – and realize that those will only grow as my body and mind begin to grow weaker. I know that when this mortal shall put on immortality, all that I have known on this earth will be dust compared to what I will experience when I am with Jesus. My prayer and hope is that I will become more like Him, walk in the Spirit more with better spiritual discernment, and that I will point others to Him more clearly. The only treasures we can lay up in heaven are those that have eternal value – souls who turn to Jesus and can join us in praise and worship someday.

New Adventures

I am still in my practice working with moms in their own homes. Going to a conference tomorrow.  I keep telling myself, “this is the last one”. And perhaps it will be. I am still capable of learning and absorbing new knowledge and am so hoping that someone will have discovered something new and earth-shaking that will help the most desperate moms I care for. Here’s to continuing to learn!

In a bit more than 2 weeks, I will be heading back to Italy to meet my new grandbaby and see my little grandson who lives there. I am so excited. I love the fact that I will be able to provide the same kind of help for them that my mom did for me for my second, third and fourth babies. This will be new for me. My older son lived close by and really didn’t have space for me to come stay in the first days. Hope to be more help with Mini-Cooper number 2!

Life continues to move forward. I will be back to painting in a few weeks. The grave where Tim’s remains are is sinking – as they are wont to do. The flowers look a little beat up. But real life goes on.

 

Tim – Random thoughts distorted by tears

The following are excerpts from my journals and writings I discovered while going through my notebooks.

March 10, 2017

My son is dead! My heart is broken in two! I cannot breathe.  I cannot think.  Why God? Why now? He escaped death 3 times, but not the fourth.  My worst nightmare has come to life. My rainbow baby is dead!

I found this note I wrote 8 years ago.

For my son.

Oh, Timothy!  When they came and told me it was you in the accident and that you were gone, my heart nearly stopped beating. I thought I could be dispassionate about it – that I could accept the facts when the news would someday come – but I cannot.  I can’t stop weeping.  My son, my son!  If only you had listened to the call of God!  You picked your name at birth, I heard you!  Timothy means honoring God.  I thought you would someday find your way and repent, turning towards God and away from the call of Satan.  But it looks like time has run out.  I so hope that in some last minute way, you encountered and bowed at the cross!  I will spend the rest of my days grieving you on this earth and I will never on this earth be as happy as I have been.  This is too much for a mother to bear!  I keep remembering all the unique moments of your childhood – the sweetness of your breath as I nursed you, your independent spirit, the quickness of your mind.  I regret so much my inability to be the right mother for you as a teen, to prepare you spiritually to step into accountability and to be a good mother for a budding adult son.  I don’t know what I could have done differently, but I wish I had known and could have done it.  I will always love you and hold you in my memory and cherish every moment we had together as mother and son.  You are special to me now, even though you are gone.  I love you so, so much.  I would give anything just to see you once more and to know that you were safe in the arms of Jesus! 

Mom

4/16/2009 3 AM

I can’t find the poem I wrote you at birth. But I did find this, a letter I wrote to you after the demise of your marriage.

Dear Tim:

I’m sorry you are having to go through this.  Cops love (sometimes) to attack people with long hair.  Not that all cops are bad – but it is NOT a high-paying job, so why do people do it?  Sometimes it’s because they want to serve people.  Sometimes because it gives them power.  Power is I think more of a motivator than money for a lot of people.  Or maybe I’m thinking about control.  That’s why we have to have checks and balances in the system – and we need lawyers to help in that.  Any profession that has power is subject to corruption and greed  – so much fraud exists because of that.  Even true Christians must be constantly on the guard of the lure! 

As far as the “shakes” go – you get that probably from me.  When I have high stress, I get them too.  Yesterday for instance, I was audited at work.  The auditors stood over me while I was trying to add up 4 pages of numbers.  I was trembling so bad – and I wasn’t doing anything wrong – I finally asked them to go into another room so I could finish!  And if I’ve had a lot of coffee, you can COUNT on it, I’ll shake.  I did it in labor with all you guys – you can ask your dad if he remembers, I shook like a leaf!

As far as new relationship goes – I pray you are fishing in the right pond.  I met someone who told me that when she met her husband to be – she asked 3 questions – does this person have a good character, does this person have the ability to commit, and does this person have a track record of consistency.  THEN she told him up front what she was looking for.  She married him within 12 weeks of meeting him and has been extremely happy ever since!  I think you are the kind of guy that can answer those questions positively when you meet the right gal.  You need to ask them of yourself and of the person you meet. 

You KNOW I am praying for you to come to a place of submission to God and Christ.  But it’s got to be in the right order, I think.  It’s not just about faith – although faith is important but it has to be more than that.  I think if you are asked to put your head to sleep, you have a small god.  God accepted the challenges of Job and Jonah and Elijah and didn’t flinch.  He showed himself to Elijah and Moses (in a small way) and didn’t kill them for asking!  And actually rewarded them for their questioning!  First you have to get it in your head that God created the world in all its order and beauty.  Then you have to look at the evidence of Jesus – did he rise from the dead or not?  Then you have to look at the Bible and ask what is the evidence that this is a God-inspired document written by a bunch of different guys that somehow got miraculously preserved and put together and is a reliable source of understanding God’s character and intent.  Then you have to deal with the question: is life eternal?  Then you have to deal with how were we intended to be – relational or alone?  How do we find significance and where?

I’m going to share with you – I have struggled my whole life to not be a loner.  My heart wants relationship but I struggle with trust issues and self-control.  I have difficulty with significance too, feeling confidence in what I do or say.  I constantly question myself.  And that too is selfish and self-centered and evidence of pride!  I want my kids to have great lives – but sometimes they have to go through horrible stuff to refine their gold.  Am I thinking that I am smarter than God to know how much suffering is required – or how much gold there is?  Do I think I can do a better job than He of bringing circumstances into their lives that bring them to their ultimate place of joy? 

I pray for you – I love you so much – I want you to be all that God intended for you, to be fulfilled in all the wonderful capacity that you have.  You have a marvelous mind, a strong soul, a rich field for growing relationship, a deep ability to love and be loved.  Some day I will share with you the poem I wrote for you before you were born.  Keep up your faith, look to God and others for help.  Call me sometime. 

Mom   9/30/06

I found this in a composition book I gave you in October. I know you found this note and read it, because there is a notation in your handwriting below it;

Tim,

I don’t know if you’ll ever open this notebook up or use it but if you do — I want you to know how much you mean to me. Someday we will say goodbye on t his earth.  When that happens, my prayer is that the “goodbye” will just be “see you later” and that we will someday sit and tell our stories of God’s redeeming, relentless, reconciling love.

I know the story isn’t over. I know that God is sovereign but He limits Himself to the threshold of your heart. May you find light. May you thirsts for truth. And may you find it when you meet the real Jesus.

Mom, Sept 2016

And here is the poem I wrote for your funeral:

To Tim

 It was inevitable  you’d be a dancer.
I danced through the night as I worked,
Trying to stay awake, fueled by coffee
And in the down times, loud music.
 You came so quickly,
Holding back, then rushing out to meet the world.
I stared at you and wondered,
What’s your name?
 And Timothy it was.
Curious and independent,
Grasping the ungraspable,
You challenged me and the world.
 You approached the world on your own terms
As I look through your memories, I see.
You were never quite satisfied
With a riff, with a thought.
Jazz suited you.
You loved a challenge
You never stopped challenging me.
In the end, I pray,
You met the One who answers all.
And have found – peace.
Jane March 18, 2017

May 22, 2017

I’ve received your things from your dad.  Going through them, I’m tasting a little of your college and high school life when you were still growing up but away from me. I see your angst showing through even then. And your creativity and expressiveness. You always wanted to do things your own way, it seems. You challenged your teachers and helpers, even trying to fool them about your real intelligence and abilities. What was that about?

My questions have changed from “why did you die” to “why did you live”. I am searching for answers. I see you cherished a few things I gave you – a book, the wedding Bible, a notebook with my letter of hope to you. There’s even a picture of me holding you as a baby.

May 26, 2017

Last night I got a report as to the cause of your death. You didn’t take your own life. You didn’t want to die. You were surprised.  A genetic tendency combined with other circumstances formed a Bermuda triangle that you could not escape. And God called you home. I am looking at your life through tears.

Looking at life through tears changes your view. Tears can distort, and yet magnify with great clarity, the little things. Refraction can give a rainbow effect to certain aspects – but magnification only occurs on a small scale. I will forever look at you through tears. I will remember everything I can about your life – helped by some photographs, some videos, some messages from your Facebook messenger.  Last night I memorialized your Facebook page. Soon I will finish your scrapbook – just can’t bring myself to do it yet. Monday I will visit your graveside and fix up your flowers. When I can bring myself together enough to go back to painting, I will paint a memorial painting for you, just like I did for my dad.

As time goes by, who will remember you? Who will celebrate your life? Will you have made any lasting impact on anyone? I will spend the rest of mine using whatever lessons I can glean from our relationship to help someone else – whether it be someone suffering from loss, someone who struggles with faith versus reasoning, someone who struggles with purpose or relationships. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only cure for the malady that besets us all is seeking, finding and submitting to our Heavenly Father and allowing Jesus’ work of redemption to be accomplished in us, and receiving the Holy Spirit to live and work through us. You tried to make it through your own efforts, your own reasoning. You had to lay it all down at last, when you met Jesus in person. I pray that your legacy will be lived out through me, your brothers and sisters and their efforts to carry the Gospel to others so they may have a legacy. It is my only hope that makes sense out of the tragedy of your death.

Goodbye my sweet, loving, gifted, beautiful, talented, amazing son. You loved with a fierce, loyal love. I know you are amazed with the magnificence of God and the unfathomable love of Jesus. I will see you soon (in God’s timing).

Mom

 

Thoughts on Religion VS Relationship

Ezekiel 36:25-27 says this: “Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”

There are many scriptures in the New Testament that speak of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who teaches us and guides us into truth. Our bodies have become the temple of the Holy Spirit.

I just a couple of weeks visiting my kids in Italy and visiting cities where Christianity has been established, grew and has now waned for the past over 2000 years. What I observed there has further confirmed my assessment and observation of many lives. I see (and saw) evidences everywhere of the attempts by man to create a posture of religious compliance: Churches designed to raise thoughts to the majesty and holiness of God, rituals designed to conform to an appearance of holiness, rules to enforce behavior and appearance to that which seems to be godly, a culture of lip-service honor to the past and surface graciousness.

But history reveals what happens to external controls designed to impose a standard on the created world – it all falls down under either active or passive entropy. Rebellions cause resentment and traditions are torn down by the new authority. Laziness fails to maintain and keep up the requirements for matters that fall in the presence of relentless time and gravity. Like the lobsters I saw in the restaurant windows with their thick exoskeletons, once pierced, the innards fell quickly to the devouring conquerors. To me, so many structures developed in our society are like that lobster – they only work when they are in the right environment and protected by a majority.

But a relationship with Christ is different. We exchange our works for His, our sin for His righteousness. Our flesh is vulnerable and subject to failure, but His righteousness forms a firm interior that cannot be easily injured. We nourish that spirit within by listening, by action inspired by His voice, by communicating and feeding on His Word.

Some day, I will escape “these mortal chains” and be with my Savior. I have a lot of questions now. When I see Him, will my questions even matter? In the meantime, I must press forward, and remind myself Whose child I am.

Italian Adventure Summary

I never travel anywhere without learning something new. In our travels, I saw reinforced, God’s hand in our lives and choices. So many incidents could have been disasters, so many opportunities could have been missed. We met a wonderful couple. We saw disappointments turn into joy. We saw we could do more than we thought we could at our age. We are so glad that wherever we go, God is with us. Not something we have to remember to bring along, but living in us through the Holy Spirit.  We are SO thankful for our children who are walking in the Lord. We pray for them daily.

Flying over the Alps on our way home.

I will be back to visit the kids in August when our newest grandbaby is born. Family time is awesome.

Our next Old People’s Adventure will be Western USA. Stay tuned!

Vicenza to Venice 5/16-17/2017 – Last Tour

We rested on Monday and packed for our return to USA. Our last tour planned was to Venice. Venice is not a super kid-friendly place, so Judah went to school for the day.

We walked to the train on Tuesday and took the local to Venice. When we got off the train, this is what we saw.

Venice has a lot of water. Lots of surrounding islands too.  We took a water bus to the Island of Murano, where glass is made and blown into all sorts of items, beads, sculptures, decorative glass ware etc.

Getting around in Venice.

Water bus

Packed in like sardines is the way of life.

Traveled to Murano.

Our beautiful, patient daughter-in-love Paige (with Baby Cooper in tow).

Wearing my souvenir from Venice.

We made it to St. Mark’s Square.

Romantic views – but it’s time to go home.

And then once again back to Vicenza.

 

 

5/12-5/14 – Germany – Garmisch and Mad King Ludwig

Jesse and Paige had a nice plan to accompany us to a place they had not been either. The weather threatened to be cold and rainy as we set out Friday morning for Garmisch with the plan to see Neuschwanstein castle in Fussen.  The drive through the Alps was astounding! Such beauty and majesty with castles sprinkled all along the way.

We took a tour which included stops at a wood-carvers shop.

We stopped at a country Church where a famous statue of Jesus is located.

Here is the church.They say the Jesus statue cries tears.

At last we arrived at the castle. Only four rooms are finished inside. No pictures allowed.

Beautiful view from the long climb up to the castle.

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Judah enjoyed freedom of wandering in the square in Garmisch

Flowers to smell and running water to play in.

More Alps outside our windows.

We ate some German food.

Judah found some play activities.

Castles all along the way.

Our adventure was over Sunday and with the start of rain in the Alps, we headed back to Vicenza. It was a lovely time with our son and family. They are such amazing people!

 

Rome – Day Three – To the Vatican and Beyond

We had a perfect plan for our last day in Rome. We’d get up kind of early, take our backpacks to the train station and stow them for the day, take a subway to the Vatican, do our tour, eat lunch, grab the subway back and hop on the train for Vicenza. Perfecto.  Not.

Our tour was scheduled at 9:30. That went well. First we toured the Vatican Museums. Not the whole museum, just a few rooms. It would take days, maybe even weeks to view the museum in its entirety.

Part of a painting by Rafael.

Door near the Sistine ChapelCeiling of the Sistine Chapel – illegal photo

The Pieta by Michelangelo – Mary’s face appears as a young girl, about the age she was when she gave birth to Jesus. The body sizes are out of proportion too. This is symbolic (according to our guide Stephanie) as it depicts Mary holding baby Jesus but envisioning him as the suffering Savior. Paintings and sculptures had multiple meanings. Often characters in the art were given faces of actual people the artist knew. Rafael often did this and even painted himself into some of the large frescoes.

Pope John Paul is entombed here. And all the other popes beneath in the crypts below St. Peter’s.

St Peter’s Basilica is a HUGE place. People wait 5 years to be married here!

Not a very good picture but the body of Saint Peter is supposedly in here.

Saint Peter’s Square. This is where the Pope addresses the people sometimes.

The Swiss guard.

After nearly 4 hours, we said goodbye to the Vatican, made our way to a McDonald’s (I know!) to have a hamburger, and then back to the subway. UNFORTUNATELY, the subway workers had gone on strike that afternoon and the subway was closed! EEEK! Only 40 minutes until our train would leave without  us! We ran back to the Vatican cab stand. A kind Italian woman who spoke English helped us hail a cab and explain we were in a hurry to get to the train. He got us there and with a lot of running, we claimed our backpacks and made it to the train JUST as it was starting to pull out of the station. WHEW! Too much fun for old folks! Back to Vincenza and the end of our independent adventures!

Rome – Day Two – the Coliseum

We got up early morning to meet our guides for the Coliseum. We had Francesco, who was a wonderful guide, giving lots of history of Rome and the buildings. We took the VIP tour which included the underground of the Coliseum as well as the upper sections, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. We heard about Nero and Domitian and Constantine and Augustus. We saw a reconstruction of the cages used to raise the wild animals used in the games played in the Coliseum.

Slaves used a crank and ropes and pulleys to lift the animals up to the floor of the Coliseum which was covered with sand over wooden boards. The sand was to absorb all the blood and body fluids from the animals “hunted” for show. Gladiators fought here too, of course. The people decided the fate of the gladiators and the emperor could overrule.

Steps leading up to the galleries where the plebians sat. Admission to the Coliseum was free, but you had to have a ticket to get in. It could hold 70,000 people!

Here we are up on the third level.

We made friends with a couple doing an “empty nester” vacation tour. They are also Christians. We decided to continue or adventures for the rest of the day.  But first, more pictures of the Coliseum.

Here you can see the outlines of the cages and rooms under the floor of the arena.

After the Coliseum, we walked to the Palatine Hill and looking down could see the Roman Forum, the remnants of the temples of the Vestal Virgins..Now those Vestal Virgins were something else. If they broke their vow of chastity, they were buried alive because it was illegal to kill them!

After our tour of the Coliseum, we and our new friends, Mike and Julie, grabbed some lunch and then headed out to explore Rome on foot.  Our first stop was at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.

A beautiful church, of course. We took a private tour of the living quarters above. Saw vestments of the Pope’s, copies of 1st Peter hand written in Greek, etc. Truly amazing and a lovely guide.

From the Basilica, we made our way to the Trevi fountain, a must-see while in Rome. It was hot, crowded and a long way to walk, but the old folks kept trudging and we made it! The boys wanted nothing to do with throwing a coin in, but the girls did, absolutely!

Yeah, it was tricky getting those shots in! I think my coin made it in too! Again, more beautiful churches on every corner.

After a short break and a change out of hot, sweaty clothes, we headed for dinner with our friends.

So we headed out to the Ristorante Tema for dinner. I gave it good reviews.  We got to the restaurant at a little after 8:00 pm.  We left at 11:30.  This is why Italians don’t eat much breakfast people. The house wine was delicious and here’s what Ron and I ate.

Note: Not pizza. Not lasagna. The tiramisu was to die for. We bid our friends adieu. Hope we meet again someday. But at least there’s Facebook!

Rome – 5/7-5/9/17 – Jane and Ronnie go it alone – Day One

Thank goodness for modern smart phones, SIM cards and google maps and translators! Jesse dropped us two old folks off at the TrenItalia station in Vicenza on Tuesday morning with our backpacks and tickets in hand.  Our solo adventure was about to happen! It was a 3-hour ride on a bullet train going 155 mph and faster! The countryside flew by, no good pictures, alas. We were dumped out in downtown Rome with a street address for our Airbnb.  The train was a little late (hey this is Italy, not Germany lol!) and we were starving.

Rome train station

Fortunately, the Coliseum tour we had planned for the afternoon had a glitch and we were able to change to Wednesday morning. Amazing how God knew that all along, didn’t let me change my train ticket, etc. There was a divine appointment coming!

Our first adventure was eating close to the train station. We were starving. We forgot Jesse’s warning: “Never eat close to the station”. We did. We were sorry. Don’t eat kebabs in Rome.

Our next adventure was finding our AirBNB.  We found it, I’m not sure what primo piano means but I know now it does not mean a first floor flat. Three at least flights of steps up.  Here’s the views on the way.

Our door

And out of our window. Notice the end of the street.

These were the ruins at the end of our street!

Since there were no breakfast items in our AirBNB, first order of business was exploring and finding a market to buy breakfast items. We explored our street, checked out the location of the Coliseum (our tour for the next morning) and bought some groceries. Italians only have cappuccino and brioche or cornetti for breakfast. We found out why later on in our stay in Rome.

These are some views of the Coliseum on our walk. Some might be paintable.  We shall see.

 

Yep, that’s us.  And we’re really here!

So he gets a rash from this plant!

We found our way to a restaurant – Diadema Cafe

We played it safe that night. Pizza and lasagna. I had lasagna 4 different restaurants. Different every time. The best was what Paige made at home, though. She’s a great cook!  We got back to our flat, trudged up those stairs and fell into bed.  What we didn’t know is that there was a bar underneath. Italians party till 1 or 2. We did not party. Our morning wake up was 6:30 because we had an appointment at the Coliseum at 9:00 the next morning.