Friday, January 12, 2007

Movie about Vivien Thomas

Thursday night we watched Something the Lord Made, a 2004 HBO movie. For anyone who's asked about what's wrong with Maggie's heart, for anyone who would like to know more about her surgeries, this movie tells a lot.

Maggie's first surgery was a Blalock-Taussig Shunt. When I saw an Alan Rickman movie at the library, I nabbed it just for the opportunity to revel in a couple of hours swooning over Alan Rickman's voice. (Turned out that didn't work so well. Alan Rickman with a Southern accent just isn't the same as regular Alan Rickman!) When I looked at the description of the plot on the DVD cover, it was describing Dr Blalock and Mr Thomas's work on saving blue babies born with Tetralogy of Fallot. Dr Taussig shows up a little later in the movie. Mom and Katie, I think you guys are going to want to see this movie! I don't know if other people will get as much out of it as we did; we've been steeped in that particular medical vocabulary and what it's like to have a little baby who's blue.

But even beyond the medical advancements shown in the movie, there are two other aspects of the show that I loved. One is the depiction of the racism during the 1900s, and how Mr Thomas's work basically spit in the eye of racism. Sadly though, Mr Thomas was not given credit until late in his life. Even more honorable (in my opinion) than Mr Thomas's medical achievements was his selflessness in doing the work without the recognition, honor, and pay that he should've received.

The other thing I loved about the movie was the high esteem shown for thinking outside the box, in spite of the naysaying by the people surrounding Mr Thomas and Dr Blalock. Heart surgeries were begun because of a talented high-school graduate who was self-taught in the medical field, was a good problem-solver, and was also talented with his hands and tools. The men's theology may have been wanting, and Maggie says it should've been rated R for foul language, but none of that could stop tears of thankfulness from flowing as we watched the historical events that led up to that little cyanotic girl who turned pink during the first heart surgery!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Trying to Be Good

Within the "confessional camp" in our synod, there seem to be two viewpoints on what sanctification is and how it's accomplished. This became starkly apparent to me at the symposium at the Ft Wayne seminary in January 2005.

I have been told repeatedly that of course we don't believe that our good works will earn us heaven, but nevertheless we'd better try to do good works. If we don't try, if we don't work at it, some say, we're taking our salvation for granted. (This trying to be good is not presented as if it were "merely" the drowning of the sinful nature -- the struggle against sin -- but rather is presented as attempting to pump up and energize the new man of faith.)

It seems to me, though, that when I try, the "trying" is good for neither me nor my neighbor. For me, the trying sends me into navel-gazing. For me, the trying leads me to focus on my piety, and to find my comfort in my piety. (In other words, to make a god of my piety, my goodness.) This is definitely not good for me.

As for my neighbor, my trying is not good for him either. My bottom-line is NOT how I'm doing on good works. But if someone's bottom-line were the good works emanating from the Christian, then where would those good works come from? I have been amazed to see more good works ooze outta my life if'n I'm not "trying." I have found that repeatedly being convicted of sin, confessing it, being absolved, and pretty much giving up on the trrrying is more "effective" in bringing about a right attitude and good works in my life.

There are loads of Bible passages telling us what we should do. That is good; I love those passages. But I have found that I can look at those passages in only two ways:
1) Jesus did it right, and
2) I don't do it right; Lord, have mercy on me.

Some people want me to add a third:
3) Try to do it and be right. Or at least be better.

But I can't. I just can't. If I add that, I change Hebrews 12:2 to "Come, let me fix my eyes on myself, the perfector of the faith which was authored by Jesus." Now, I'm not saying that this is the way everybody responds; I'm saying this is how I respond. I don't know about other people. But I know it's dangerous for me; I am much more inclined to sin by being a pharisee than I am tempted to sin by being a hedonist.

Some pastors preach the law to smash self-righteousness, and then forgive the wretched sinners who have despaired of their own goodness. Other pastors say that's not enough, that Christians must be encouraged to try to be better people. They say that not teaching people to try is the same thing as saying that it's okay to continue in sin, the same as actually being opposed to sanctification.

But it's not the same thing.

Raspberries and blackberries don't try to grow fruit. Assuming that the gardener is pruning and watering and fertilizing, the plants do indeed bear fruit on auto-pilot.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Adult "Children" Living at Home

In typical middle-class American society, it is not considered okay for young adults to live at home with their parents. I recognize that some kids just don't grow up and will continue to sponge off their parents. But it doesn't have to be that way. Through much of history, young adults would live with their parents until such time as they left to make a new home with husband or wife. And even then, sometimes they didn't leave too far, continuing to live on the farm or nearby for running the family business.

My husband and I used to think that it was a pretty good idea for adult children to live at home for a number of reasons. It's certainly not necessary for every kid to stay at home until the wedding day, but it is a concept worthy of serious consideration. It allows kids to save up a nest-egg for a downpayment on a home or college debt or other large expenses. Because of the expense of housing, few young adults live on their own; they must have a roommate. As long as the parents and adult-child can work through issues of freedom and responsibility, it seems far better for the child to be living with "roommates" (i.e., their parents and possibly siblings) who share their beliefs and values and general lifestyle. It's got all the benefits of a commune with none of the drawbacks.

But in the last year, we've discovered an even better reason for kids to continue living at home. My eldest daughter was recently engaged to a very nice young man. Nearly every week for the last year, the two of them have spent at least an evening each week at our house. We've gotten to know Matt. He's gotten to know us. He's grown to be part of the family. Rachel is not marrying somebody who's a stranger to her family. Those Friday evenings have not been the kind of exciting dates most people consider to be part of courtship, but they're a much more realistic type of togetherness. Our son-in-law was a dear family friend before he ever fell in love with my middle daughter, so we knew him and loved him prior to the kids' "interest" in each other. But Matt didn't start out as part of that close family circle. If Rachel had not been living at home, he would not now already be part of that close family circle; we'd be trying to get to know this fellow who was going to be spending his life as part of our family. And, to me, that in itself is of such great value that it is definitely worth any of the struggles that come with the change in relationships when parents are living with their adult children.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Men Are from Mars??

For a good laugh, check out Pastor Petersens' blog that includes an old Dave Barry column.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Oh boy oh boy oh boy! Today's mail brought the Winter 2006 issue of Higher Things magazine, and I have an article in it. I've had lots of letters published in newspapers and magazines, and a few brief articles in magazines, and a picture of my photogenic son Paul in Home Education Magazine, and oodles of newsletter articles, but never a whole real article in a snazzy slick magazine. This is so exciting!


Okay, you guys. We watched Spanglish as suggested. I'm not sure what I think.

Warning: spoilers ahead! If you don't want to know how the movie turns out, stop reading now. (Personally, I like spoilers. They save me time because I don't have to go back and watch an intriguing movie the second time.)

On the one hand, as Hollywood goes, I figure they think the husband/father and the maid (or nanny or whatever she was) did the right thing, in that "nothing happened." It was refreshing to see a husband being patient with a nutty wife, and being good to his children without undermining his nutso wife.

And yet, it seems to me that the movie glorifies adultery. Not in the way that so many Hollywood movies do. But still, I can't get over the fact that the husband and the nanny ended up on a romantic date, dinner by candlelight with soft music in the background, cuddling the evening away, and even kissing a few times. In my mind, that's cheating on his wife -- Bill Clinton's opinion notwithstanding. It's adultery. Man oh man, if MY husband were "just cuddling" or "just kissing" another woman, I would not be a happy camper! Even though the relationship went no further than that, and even though they put an end to seeing each other [the nanny quit her job], what happened between them was still wrong. Seriously wrong. And yet, we're left with the impression that we're supposed to say "good for them!" that they denied their desires and didn't indulge fully in the adultery that lured them.

The biggest "hooray!" in the movie went to the mom/nanny when she pulled her daughter away from the upper-class white world. The mom had to quit the job to avoid temptation. But the daughter didn't want to leave the Anglo world. She liked her private school and the nice clothes and the friends and the fancy-schmancy house and the pool and all the other trappings. But the mom/nanny knew it was bad for her daughter's values. While the daughter was yelling "I hate you!" and "I'll never forgive you for this!" the mom remained calm and collected, never budging from doing what she knew was right (though highly uncomfortable) for her daughter. That was the shining moment of the film for me!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Klutz Castles

One of Christmas gifts was a new toy from the Klutz folks: a card set for building castles. My youngest simply doesn't have the manual dexterity or the patience to build card-houses. But this set from Klutz is a heavier cardboard than playing cards are, and the cards are slotted, so they fit together without slipping and sliding. Even better, they're decorated as though they were brick or wood, and some cards even have doors or battlements.

It was just in the past year that my 12-yr-old began to understand how to build a simple Lego house, or an interlocking wall of Legos. So this Klutz card set was not easy for her to do, but it was do-able. Some of the older kids (the ones who are very good with spatial skills) have made some pretty cool castles.

For the price, this is one nifty building set!!