Thursday, December 26, 2013

New Year's Coming, Ready or Not

Bishop Rabb* said that Christmas comes ready or not. The same with the New Year. "Who knows what this coming New Year will bring?" We'll, I'm getting ready to bake bread in the New Year.  

This morning I began to research which kind of machine to buy. I looked at books on the subject of baking bread. I've been reading product reviews by people who are very familiar with bread making and machines that help the process along.

I want to work my way up to hand-kneading bread dough, making gluten-free and regular bread, polishing the dough with butter (I think that's yummy-good), and baking different shapes and loaves. As much as anything before breaking a fresh loaf will be the aromas filling the house!

It's another creative way to start a New Year ready or not.

And He took the bread, and gave thanks, and broke it... (Luke 22:19).

*/St. John's 
/Breadmaking video  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Jesus Christ

He came to proclaim good news to the poor,
to heal the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives and
release from darkness for the prisoners, comfort all who mourn.


"Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing...."

For our Salvation, Christ drank the cup of the sins of the world. 

For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the Cross,
despising its shame. 

Lord Jesus 

The joy of the Lord is our strength!

Do not be afraid!

Scripture references: Isaiah 61:1-3; Hebrews 12:2; Nehemiah 8:10

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Any Time and All the Time

In His hometown, Nazareth, Jesus was in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He opened the scroll to the reading for the day, from Isaiah 60. He began to read:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me 
to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Luke 4: 18, 19

When He had finished reading, He said, "This day this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." 

Jesus said he came to help those who realized their need. These included the poor, the sick, the outcast and a few religious leaders who desired to hear HIm. What a blessed and favored bunch they still are!

Joy to the world, 

 the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King!

Blessed is the one who finds peace 
with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Opinari – think, reason, believe: Have a Christmas Essay: Most Important Elements of...

Opinari – think, reason, believe: Have a Christmas Essay: Most Important Elements of...: Try a Christmas essay about something special you like to do for others at Christmas.  Or, choose your own special topic! Writers  in Eng... 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Essays: Creative Writing about Favorite Things

Try an essay about something special to you.  

Writers develop writing skills by tackling the simple essay, which is a short work of writing about a topic that intrigues or fascinates the essayist. An essay can be and often is a means of influence, encouragement, or inspiration. 
The most important actions for developing an English essay are to decide on a clear and manageable theme and to create a basic outline that fits the needs of the essay's development. Generally, the outline can have only a few parts:  

I. Brief and interesting theme statement, something introductory about a subject
   A. Paragraph with information about the theme and/or reasons for the writer's enthusiasm about the theme 
   B. Paragraph with a fitting example of A; can include also the writer's experience or enthusiasm
II. Closing statement or paragraph to bring the above parts together in a succinct and interesting way

A good beginning and ending are like the appetizer and the dessert that complement an entree that satisfies expectation and taste with nourishment to build up the entire body. Without interesting ideas on the pages we read, we soon miss the spark that fresh information brings or the mental nourishment of a good idea or story.   

Paragraph resource

Saturday, November 30, 2013

To Believe the Story of Jonah

Milky Way Galaxy
Questions about the believability of the Bible sometimes end up  at the story about Jonah. God got Jonah's attention by allowing a large, whale-like sea creature to swallow and hold him for three days.  
Jonah's experience fits faith and reason when looked at through a lens of science about Planet Earth, on which both Jonah and the sea creature dwelt, one on land, one in water. 
Jonah, like us, had an address: Planet Earth within Milky Way Galaxy (see graphic here). Earth's galaxy has been described as a "barred spiral galaxy that measures about 100,000 light-years across, and is thought to contain between 100 and 400 billion stars."
A healthy sense of wonder helps when considering those few facts, since we don't feel Earth turning, orbiting the sun, and we don't get dizzy because of it, although Earth is turning at 1,040 miles per hour. For every second, Earth is moving almost half a kilometer through space, and who feels it?

After Jonah completed his job in Nineveh, I wonder about his reaction if he could have learned what humans have since learned about this planet, her earth and seas. 

About his three days in a large fish, I can imagine Jonah saying something like this: "Man, three days in the belly of a big fish are nothing compared to trying to comprehend that this Earth is an orb and it is continually traveling within something called a galaxy!" 

I think Jonah might have felt ready for a long nap to settle his whirling thoughts.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Reagan Quotes: Saving and Guarding a Great Republic

 "The poet called Miss Liberty's torch 'the lamp beside the golden door.' Well, that was the entrance to America, and it still is. And now you really know why we're here tonight. The glistening hope of that lamp is still ours. Every promise, every opportunity, is still golden in this land. And through that golden door our children can walk into tomorrow with the knowledge that no one can be denied the promise that is America. Her heart is full; her torch is still golden, her future bright. She has arms big enough to comfort and strong enough to support, for the strength in her arms is the strength of her people. She will carry on in the '80s unafraid, unashamed, and unsurpassed. In this springtime of hope, some lights seem eternal; America's is."  August 23, 1984 -- in his speech to the Republican National Convention
    "Government growing beyond our consent had become a lumbering giant, slamming shut the gates of opportunity, threatening to crush the very roots of our freedom. What brought America back? The American people brought us back -- with quiet courage and common sense; with undying faith that in this nation under God the future will be ours, for the future belongs to the free."  February 4, 1986 -- from the State of the Union Address

"[G]overnment's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it." August 15, 1986 -- in remarks to the White House Conference on Small Business
     "I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering those nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete."  March 23, 1983 -- addressing the nation about his proposed Strategic Defense Initiative, later to be known as "Star Wars" 
"We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free."  June 6, 1984 -- at the D-Day Commemoration in Normandy, France


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Giving Thanks before Thanksgiving Day

I love to hold good books printed on paper and bound with a hard cover. But recently I've been worried about my eyes because words look fuzzier than usual. I put in a call today for an eye exam.
     I love to smile and to eat, so I make regular teeth cleaning appointments with our dentist whose office has the latest editions, by the way, of National Geographic. I had my teeth cleaned yesterday and Dr. G and I talked a bit afterward...about the human digestive system shown in living color on one of NatGeo's pages. He could name most of what we saw, including fiber, which looked like a long strip of wood. 
     This is the season to start bundling up before going outside, and when I go outside I love the crisp feel of the weather. 
     There's a meeting I need to attend next Monday, and I look forward to being with a lively group discussing lots of related history, archaeology, and theology. 
     All of these matters listed above are only a few parts of the life of this woman in North America, and they embed deep thankfulness for:

  • the opportunity to learn to read and write as a child and to go to school; ,
  • enough food to eat and healthy teeth with which to eat; 
  • a phone, a nearby library, several bookstores to choose from; 
  • prescription glasses that help my weak eyes see 20/20 and am able to have those prescriptions filled every time my eyes change a bit; 
  • a working digestive system and a dentist that finds such matters interesting in magazines; 
  • jackets and coats, boots and gloves to put on when I am cold;
  • Vocal chords that allow speaking and singing;
  • And many more blessings of living.
I get excited when I think about these things. They are good and so important, and I am thankful for so many good gifts, for my husband, our family, for neighbors and friends. I am thankful that God hears my prayers for each person on my list and added names, even if I don't know the people behind them. I don't have their answers, but I can lift their names to God. And I am thankful for a quote I read recently, about hope strengthening the heart.  

     Hope helps me bear grief, for it reminds me of the living hope that God gives the world through His Son and the messages of His life, suffering unto death, and resurrection. Hope reminds me that loved ones who have died have eternal life, because they trusted God, through Jesus. They put their lives and hopes entirely into His hands. I remember their hard times and maybe I think about that too much, for they have moved on. All is well and will forever be well with them; that's where they are now, and we will be together again one day in the liveliest of times.   
     I am eternally thankful for the salvation I now have by faith, due to Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection.  
     I am thankful that God loves when we have little love or faith, kindness or forgiveness. He loves us when we lack for many things, and I have come to realize that many others receive so much through people who love God. They depend on people to show them God's love and later they go out to share it, too. 
     What a thrill to have moments to think about these things. "What is the story you tell yourself about your life, Luv?" asked a fictional female British detective, sitting across from a self-pitying, unforgiving suspect. He was guilty of theft, but of more, too. He was guilty of thanklessness and the inability to let go of wrongs done to him in the past. He was guilty of wallowing in himself so he could avoid living, when his kind of character could live differently.
     In real life, we tend to tell ourselves all kinds of stories about our lives, but we wake up when we realize that the best stories are wrapped in whatever it is we can give thanks for in a world where millions never learn to read or write, to see a doctor when they are very sick, to have their toothaches taken care of, to eat enough every day, even to be sure of water every day. Among them are many thankful hearts, there to bring relief as volunteers or neighbors. I have also heard eye-witness accounts of how so many that are poor give and give and give to others. I am humbled by this. It connects us to others when we look outward and upward. Look up and live, someone said.
     Happy Thanksgiving can happen every day. Happy Thanksgiving holiday this year. 

Thanksgiving Quotes

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Finding Enjoyable Books-That's what I do!

"I'm not bragging. I'm applying for a job."
Those words became familiar on TV in our area, spoken by a young real estate entrepreneur with good sales stats. He replayed TV video ads that included those words every time. 

I admire his assertiveness in a tough business. In every business, in fact, establishing the name is a challenge. People recognize "Pat Hiban's Sensible Listing plan," and remember his name.  

Book-buyers and readers usually do not pay attention to publishing names, HarperCollins and others, like Opine Publishing, unless they're "in the business." They  pay attention to authors' names. Our authors' names have more recognition than before since they were published by Opine Publishing: Deirdre Reilly, Beryl Adamsbaum, Jane Bullard (pen name), and Mogama. C. H. Spurgeon's name was already known in the U.S. and especially in the UK.  

The local real estate entrepreneur began his ads ten years ago, and today he advertises less; it seems he is doing well selling property and houses. Pat Hiban's trucks are ubiquitous around town. He did a ten-year reminiscence ad recently, and it began with those words: "I'm not bragging. I'm applying for a job."

We're not bragging at Opine Publishing. We're applying for the job of helping you find new, different books you'll enjoy reading and recommending to others, as well as buying as gifts. If you cannot find copies of any Opine books by our authors, whether Deirdre Reilly, Beryl Adamsbaum, Jane Bullard (pen name), Mogama, and C. H. Spurgeon's rare book, The Mourner's Comforter, just e-mail. 

It's my job to get copies for you. I work to help readers like you find enjoyable books. At Opine Book Store are terrific books I think you might be interested to read, recommend, or give.   


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Trust in the Face of Deception

"One of you will betray Me." 

Jesus knew in advance that one close to him would hand him over. With Judas, the betrayal was no less ugly because it was foreknown to Jesus, who was not deceived. He knew what was Judas's intent, and scholars agree that Judas must have thought himself clever and even may have thought himself to be "helping" Jesus unveil a great earthly kingdom. 
     Judas betrayed Jesus with a sign, a kiss of greeting in the garden of Gethsemane. That kiss identified Jesus beyond mistake to the guards assigned to arrest Jesus of Nazareth, the troublemaker of Israel's religious status quo. Judas soon realized that he had not understood what he was doing in betraying Jesus, and the realization of what he had done horrified him. In handing Jesus over in betrayal, Judas put the Lord into death-dealing hands. Judas soon destroyed his own life in a suicidal despair.  
     Betrayal and Deceit are twins in the arsenals of ambition or fear. Yet, they are not too hard for God to deal with. They are exactly the kinds of thing in human beings that Jesus came to root out, by His own sacrifice, for those willing for God to transform them.   
     Yes, thanks be to God, Jesus never denies His own. He keeps His words of promise and mercy. His love would never hand us over to what is bad for us, although evil tries to do this all the time. When evil forces its way into our lives due to human frailties, Christ stands with us as we put our trust in Him. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, He is there with us. 
     "O, grave, where is thy victory? Death, where is thy sting?" Jesus, the One betrayed, rose again, victorious and clothed in an imperishable body raised from death by God's power. 
     When deceit emerges into the light, its dangers to others suddenly becomes more clear. Yet, there is another assurance beyond circumstances: "I have overcome the world," says the Risen Christ. "Do not be afraid." 
     When we see the weakness of those who do not honor their words or promises, we are enabled with God's help to "bear with" the results that eventually weigh heavily on our lives. We learn more clearly whom to trust. We remember that no human is entirely trustworthy. At any point of deception, we can lean on God and trust Him to help us.  
     God always keeps His word during our troubles. God keep His promises. Here is one of my favorites among the many promises of God: It has and always will prove to be true:    
     "Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be confused, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up with my righteous right arm" (Isaiah 41:10).   

O Death, where is your victory? 
"...But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 15: 54-57). 

Word Study Source:
late 13c., bitrayen "mislead, deceive, betray," from be- + obsolete Middle English tray, from Old French traine "betrayal, deception, deceit," from trair (Modern French trahir) "betray, deceive," from Latin tradere "hand over," from trans- "across" (see trans-) + dare"to give" (see date (n.1)). Related: Betrayed; betraying.
Biblical source: I Corinthians 15:54ff:


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Don't Tear up that T-Shirt!

We stood in four consecutive and long lines at an airport when leaving an island not far from Colombia, South America. The week had been almost unreal, a place of 80-degrees-plus weather. Sun, no rain, no dark clouds, only soft breezes to help clear the head.

A few days before, we had gone to sea on a sunset-view boat powered by engine and two huge sails. We met another couple and had a few laughs over the silliest of things. I don't know why when the server with a cheese tray left me I called out, "Can I be hungry again soon?" He understood what I meant: ''After you serve those other people over there could you pass this way again?"

At the end of the week, along with who knows how many others returning to the U. S., we were late getting on the plane that did, to its credit, wait up to 45 minutes for those of us  who went through the slowest passport checking process ever, courtesy of U. S. Customs. Of 12 American agent booths, only four were open. No officials seemed to mind that families with small children had already been in line for three hours. I'm not kidding.  I think our fellow countrymen/women need to get outside on the island more. They could use some good island refreshment to return their smiles or "Enjoy your stay?" greetings for those coming and going. 

One frustrated mom said, "If I had my island T-shirt, I'd tear it up!" Then she said, "Oh, it's not the island's fault. They are not responsible for this!" I felt relieved. I would have hated to see that red heart logo ripped to shreds.

There are far, far worse things than standing in line for hours to catch a flight home from a lovely island with people who are among the friendliest ever in a place of new things to taste and see. I would like to return to visit a few of the large and small churches with freshly painted steeples and doors open to the breezes.  

"How are you today?" you ask someone and they reply, "It's a beautiful day. Every day is a beautiful day." 

Come on, does such a climate with water, sun, swaying palm trees and...well, you can picture it...make life more beautiful? In some ways, it can. In other ways, though, I think they have their share of clouds with sun. Yet, there is that...attitude helped by the climate.     

We returned home to learn that a loved one we'd spent several hours with en route home via Florida had been taken to the hospital. Within an hour of our takeoff, he'd gone into a health alert. He seems OK, now, but what a scare!

We don't know what the next hour, day, or days will bring our way, do we? An attitude of gratitude helps. While my husband was talking by phone to his brother who was finally stable in hospital, he mentioned, "Our luggage still has not caught up to us." And those of us in the room whispered loudly, "No problems! Good news!" He got it, and switched gears.

Ahh. That's better. And that's our expectation today, three days since we last saw our luggage. If it never comes? It's a beautiful day. We have life! That brings us to this day and place where temperatures are dropping and leaves take on their changing colors: "We're getting ready for a glorious time just up ahead. It won't be long." 

Yes, I read Pollyanna as a child. What a spunky, toothy kid with an island attitude. "Oh, I'm so thankful!"


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Opinion-War on Syria

Jean Purcell

I never expected to write anything about the pros and cons of war. I hold neither pacifist nor hawk convictions. Rather, I agree with view that each situation needs to be evaluated in light of history and present to future reasons/justifications and expected consequences. 

The deeply jarring and shocking reports of victims of recent chemical weapon attacks, including babies and children, causes a reaction to lash out, to mete out punishment against the perpetrators and justice for the victims. The same when we see innocents hacked and killed as has happened in other places, where we have heard of the thousands slaughtered. 

Here are my top concerns that I hope others might consider regarding the present discussions here and abroad about attacking Syria: 
  • War is ugly, and we need that common sense saying kept in mind. If we could see live film/video of real people in the infernos of war, including innocents blown away while in their homes or shops...would we ever forget; would we not be forever so sickened that only a clear "must respond with more killing" (including likely civilian victims) would suffice? 
  • Have you known well any veteran who saw the front lines of war? I have, and he would never offer any comment about what he saw as a decorated war fighter pilot...I never heard him speak of war in specifics beyond a couple of close calls, where he survived. He knew war involves killing others. If we agree that war is horrific upon even the victors, then surely we know it is a heavy burden to carry.  
  • The U. S. (and international community, either) has not intervened in many places in the world where years of war have brutally hunted, hacked, and killed thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians. Rwanda, for example, comes to mind. More questions...
  1. What are the U. S. doctrine and laws about war?
  2. Why is the U. S. Congress not debating Syria with President Obama now? 
  3. Why is President Obama not responding to letters requesting meetings on attacks on Syria? 
  4. Is the U. S. Congress, in full membership or through foreign relations/affairs committees, so weak it cannot call for hearings on these matters? 
  5. Do we believe, with confidence, that strikes would prevent chemical weapons being used in the future, or even as a pause; can we be sure they would not be used even more viciously again and in the near future? Do we know where are other chemical weapons stockpiles that could be shipped into Syria? 
  6. In the present situation, are we aware of the refugee problems already ensuing and the suffering of many of weak resources in neighboring countries already over-burdened? (Could you or I, for example, absorb overnight 3,000 people on our property or in the neighborhood, each one needing to stay indefinitely, needing water, bathrooms, and food?) What about the increasing numbers likely to try to leave a Syria under attack? Are we planning to help them as they flee to Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, and elsewhere?
The British Parliament debates the Syria-attack option. It makes this American somewhat angry and saddened to see that body in full debate when nothing close to face-to-face debate or information is happening here, at home. Finally, if the U. S. decides to go and calls it an "intervention" or "humanitarian response" as euphemisms often serve so well today to cover reality...then we need to learn more, become better educated about what we are being told...or fed. 

These are a few thoughts and questions on my mind and, possibly, on your mind as well.  


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria: U.S. Executive and Legislative powers avoiding "advise and consent" on War powers?

Jean Purcell

I've been tweeting/twittering like crazy this a.m. over an (apparently) upcoming U.S. strike against selected targets in Syria, due to WMD/chemicals.

Americans need to think about our role in this. What is our role? Isn't it to expect the president to consult with congress?  That's my expectation, because I fear that strikes as a show of force will spark regional conflagration. We will, if not carefully considering what to do, provide ammunition, literally, for Syria's Assad and others to do more than many U.S. leaders are now imagining.  

Where, then, is/are the congress? On holiday? Unable to find a flight back to the capital city to get together with the president's men and women? Already back, but relatively quiet on this issue? Unaware of precedence for calling the president's men and/or women to the Hill to explain themselves and the president? 

What about the congressional foreign relations committees and their roles, to consult with the president, to use their powers to call hearings when military action clouds have formed already? (See a recent Washington Post report.) 

There is no cloud more deadly than a War Cloud full of weapons of destruction and ready to strike with or without a full deliberation.  

What about the region where Syria sits? What about the possibility of a spreading war? What about precipitating a reaction of horrors? There could be deadly retaliation in ways not yet believed likely or possible by western nations. 

The fear that chemical weapons use will spread is a legitimate fear. It is pushing a strong retaliation against Assad's regime, believed to be the source of the gassing of innocents recently in Syria. However...many parties need to be involved in the U.S. before we would impose outside, warring actions. But aggression is being planned, as announced or leaked. An American or coalition military display of anger and/or compassion can worsen the situation and never make it better. Aggressive action would be advertised in Syria, the region, and around the world as western aggression by unaffected interlopers gone wild. It would likely encourage more unwanted Arab action, i.e., terrorist groups outside Syria looking to infiltrate even further.     

Given the growing refugee populations in parts of Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq, one hopes the region and agencies are gearing up remarkably and that borders remain open. 

In my humble opinion, congress should be taking real action to find details of the president's plans and to make it clear that they are advising, as one, either by committees or full chambers. They need to formally communicate with American citizens. They should do more than talking and advising via news programs. At a minimum, congress and the president should be meeting face to face, which used to be the norm. They should be doing this now.

U.S. senate foreign relations committee-looking a bit hawkish on Syria  

U.S. house foreign affairs committee link here-speaking but not asking for meetings or hearings

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

September: A Changing Person with the Seasons

Jean Purcell
My pen-named book

It's almost September, and fall is another season of clear, fresh anticipation. I look forward to it the most of all. Schedules and plans change, whether a little or a lot. I am ready for all of the above, taking advantage of every day left in August, not soggy but pleasant this year. Now's the time to keep dates of start-ups next month of  (1) second year in Education for Ministry and (2) return to women's Bible study group after two years out. 

Every day begins with God, the Creator, reminded of Him by the changing light of an early morning or the feel of the breezes before rain. There is a different feeling in the air as a new season approaches. All beauty within Creation speaks of God. Like the industrious birds we hear every day outside the house as we go and return, we need to be fed. God watches over us as He does all of His works. Our strength is renewed like the eagle's in changing seasons with their joy, sorrow, health, sickness, life, death, hunger, and being filled. 
"I am a changing person." My husband wrote that to me many years ago. He was far away, in Rome, yet even at home we had felt far from one another. What he wrote moved me. I wanted to be able to say that for myself in the positive way that he meant.  

Since 1979-'80, I have been asking God to change me. I have learned that some changes come quickly, some come much later. No prayer, however, goes unanswered when it reflects God's loving, albeit often puzzling, guidance.  

From last September to this one, I have been changed for good in ways I thoughts, perceptions, assumptions, and understanding. But not enough! 

Lord, show me and change me more.  

Copyright © 2013 Opinari Writers.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Psalm 23:1

How many times a day did I walk by her room and look in to see if she was awake or asleep, sitting up, lying down, or listening to one of her book tapes. The room was like a photograph or painting that I looked at often and knew so well. It was a changing photo, but not much. It was after all a room of a sickness unto death, her last few months of life.

I remember how she appeared whenever I saw her walk the hall late at night, before that last year. If I were up late in a nearby room, I would see her tall, erect, slim figure move down the hall into the kitchen. She knew every part of our kitchen, where to get a midnight glass of milk, a banana, or some crackers. Her long diaphanous gowns added to the ghost-like impression she made, for she glided more than stepped. I don't know how she achieved that walk.   

That day, walking by her room, I don't know why I stopped in at that moment determined to have special time with her, just to talk. By then, she could not leave the bed without help.

"Are you awake?" I asked. She could lie so still, by habit, eyes closed, that you could not tell so easily if she were asleep or awake. She was blind.

Hearing my questions, she sat up, bending her knees and hugging them lightly with her arms. "Yes," she said with that soft note of anticipation matched by her coming-alive expression that I knew so well. She wanted company. She was ready to talk. 

"I was wondering," I said, "if you'd like for us to read a psalm together."

"Yes," she said, almost on top of my last word. 

"What psalm, then, any particular one?"

"Psalm 23."

We both knew that psalm by heart, as so many do, but I went into the next room to get a Bible. I returned to her room, said I was ready, and began to read, stopping at the end of the first verse. She had spoken the verse along with my reading it: "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want." 

And then before I could go on to the second verse, she began to talk about the first one. She put a delicate hand to her chest as she said, "He's my shepherd. It's personal." And she said more than that, far more.

I stood there just inside her room, Bible in hand. She continued talking about Psalm 23, the first verse. She was almost preaching about it in that clear, yet soft, tender way she had. I could not take my eyes off her. Her feeling and her vivid intellect came through. She could see into things. I stood there amazed, being fed by her words. I could not believe what I was hearing, for she was extracting so much from those few words...only nine of them. 

President Lincoln, I have been told, gave what became known as "the lost speech." It was lost because, although reporters had pens and notebooks ready, they had become so amazed by what he said that they were mesmerized and put their writing instruments down. For that reason, there is one speech that Lincoln gave for which there is no record. 

No doubt, such things happen, I know, for such a thing happened to me one day in my own home, listening to my dear mother-in-law, Helen, expound on one verse, the first verse, of one of the most well-known of all the psalms.

I hope it might bring some comfort to you to take in those words that so inspired her that she spoke what I could not write down, being amazed by what she said about what those few words really meant. 

Could you feed on those few words for many moments? "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want." It's personal. My shepherd. In that truth, no one can want, or want for, anything. He takes care, our LORD does, of His own, beyond measure, beyond adequate words. The closer one is to Him, the easier the words come and the clearer their meaning. It's for a lifetime.    

Friday, August 02, 2013

Religion: Fox's Lauren Green, Reza Aslan, and Media Matters Controversy

Jean Purcell
Thinking over labeling

Media Matters(MM) recently reported ("Reza Aslan and How Fox News Islamophobia Comes from the Top") that Lauren Green insulted Reza Aslan on "Spirited Debate," a program on Fox News. Dr. Aslan was a guest, on to discuss a latest book, his historical  perspective about Jesus. The author is a professor of and writer about world religions. Ms Green reports on religion for Fox News

To find out more about MM's fury over Ms Green's interview, I turned to YouTube after the video was pulled from MM. I've been reading MM blog posts with interest, noting their unabashed anti-Fox position. 

Here are some of my observations and impressions about the Green-Aslan conversation: 

About Ms Green as interviewer: Her comments, questions, and delivery style lacked the crispness she usually brings to her reporting. At one point, she misspoke in a big way and was corrected by Dr Aslan, who referred to facts given at the beginning of his book. As to style, Ms Green kept looking down at notes and seemed at times flustered. I can imagine that this type of venue is new to her. Therefore, there needs to be a honing of skills needed for this type of program, in my view.  

About Dr Aslan as interviewee: Dr Aslan's immediate reference to his (weighty) credentials struck me as defensive over-kill. He impresses as an intelligent expert, and his opinions could be clear without curriculum vitae citations. I watched a video of him at another venue where he was less defensive. In both instances he seemed easily annoyed by others' comments; the word 'haughty' came to mind.  

About the "Spirited Debate" program: Ms Green's program has potential if developed to fit the category of, for example, BBC's Hardtalk. For that to happen, an audience would need  convincing that interviewer and guest are prepared, interested, and able to deliver professional, informative, and lively discussion. 

A conclusion based on viewing the Green-Aslan conversation: My impression was that host and guest approached each other over-loaded for bear,  phobia labels aside. They then helped each other derail what might have been an interesting program with keen interest, discussion, and debate. Due to the flaws I've described, that did not happen. It was only, at best, awkward, and on many levels. Media Matters, which I owe being aware of this controversy, jumped past analyzing the interview in order to apply a label: Islamophobic. MM's label for Fox opened them up to being labeled Fox-phobic. It's obvious again how quickly labels show their uselessness in such matters.   

Copyright (c) 2013 Opinari Writers-Jean Purcell

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Life, Education, Motivation, and the smallest of good things...

Jean Purcell
Thinking about motivation

What drives us deserves careful attention, examining why we make certain things or people top priority, what gives satisfying purpose, reason, and connection to others. It's a cliche to say what is true, but how else to say it: Money and/or power cannot solve life's major problems; money, for example, is needed only to a certain level. Also, education does not make us smarter or wiser than others who are less educated; yet it does help us to learn how to think...or at least it used to do that. 

I recently learned that the schools in my small hometown in North Carolina were among the best anywhere. We went into old, unimpressive, and shiny-floored buildings to learn from old, worn textbooks. We had many teachers that were professionally dedicated, prepared, and morally nice, aware, and sharp...making a huge difference in our learning. Our families wanted us to be confident, not too flashy, and to finish what we started. With all of that good stuff, we learned to read, write, and do math better, faster, and earlier than the majority of U. S. public school students today.
The more I read facts, not fiction, about what is happening all around me, I am amazed at the brave and the horrible things that are going on at the same time in areas small and large, rich and poor. Less and less do I care to impress anyone, and more and more I care about being able to live with myself and be peaceable with others. 
These days I'm most attached to what someone wrote in a letter long ago. He said that people, together, should love those they know and not to forget to be kind to those they don't know. He expected it to happen as a central part of Christian community, which is believers together, not each one going forth unconnected and completely alone.      
May you notice the smallest of good things along your way today and tomorrow with others, wherever you may be.  

Copyright (c) 2013 Opinari Writers.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Helping Children in Dire Need

Jean Purcell
Remembering the Good Samaritan..."In reply, Jesus said, 'A man was going...'" 


I saw on today's news a powerful report about Syrian children displaced by war. They fled to Lebanon, where they exist in bare shelters as unwanted visitors—refugees. The news reporter said, “There is no light in their eyes, no smile on their faces.” 

How many years have we been hearing about Syria being torn apart by war? How many children have been awakened in the early night for a flight to safer Lebanon soil, hoping one day to return home? 

Neighboring Lebanon now speaks at times of a dislike for Syrians—adults and children—fleeing for their lives for shelter in Lebanon. Small, struggling Lebanon feels overwhelmed by the numbers needing refuge from a huge Syria. It seems that little more than geography connects the two mid-east countries. On a map, Syria takes up a lot of land and Lebanon, southwest, also borders Jordan, another refuge for war escapees.  

War thrusts survivors into life on an edge sharper than poverty and more deceptive than wealth. One Syrian girl of about 11, when asked by a reporter “What is life like here (the Lebanon camp where she lived)?,” answered, “Life?” Life seems to have disappeared into something else...exile and being unwanted. That is very different from life once safe at home, in her neighborhood, among friends.  

We hear such stories, and we want to do something. People that help children’s charities are able to carry hope and good news across their region and the world. Among groups rated by Charity Navigators*, you might consider these, to begin or to add to what you are already doing, from your heart:

*Charity Navigator has financial and management ratings and other information about hundreds of helping organizations

Copyright (c) 2013 Opinari Writers.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My Intolerance

Jean Purcell

I admit that I have a streak of intolerance. I grew up in a household where cursing and hateful speech toward other people never happened. That rubbed off on me, and I am, whether silently or not, intolerant about profane and hateful speech, right and left. My parents, grandmother, and older brothers never commented on their ways of minding their own business. However, I suspect that their lack of anger or hatred came from quiet spiritual influences. Their kind of intolerance of wrongs affected how they lived.     

My parents lived for several years within a tough business environment where dishonesty sometimes reared its head, including through otherwise-trusted people. Mom and Dad, and my brothers, were intolerant of prejudice. They did not like words or actions against innocent people considered to be 'different.' 

For example, my dad employed people of different cultural, religious, and racial backgrounds, in the 1940s and '50s, in a small southern town. One summer, I heard at the dinner table that Dad had hired a young man with severe epilepsy. That was before improved medical treatments we know about today; epileptics had a lot of trouble getting or keeping jobs. 

The new employee had given assurances that his condition was under better control, and Dad hired him to be an announcer as a summer replacement at the radio station (which later, for a while, was an ABC affiliate). (WWGP has been sold and re-sold since Dad's time.) In those days, Dad's decision meant that an epileptic man would be "live, on air." Members of the staff learned what emergency action to take if a health emergency arose. Thankfully, no emergency ever happened.  

As I grew up, I took my parents' actions for granted; I thought everyone thought as they did. Eventually, I framed my intolerance in similar ways, after trying to think through what I observed as I moved out into the world more.  

That early influence in family surely affected how I see events and feel about them. I reserve others' and my own right to express opinions, beliefs, or views different from the PC or generally popular, without worry of being personally attacked. To debate points of view, however, is another thing, completely acceptable as part of communicating ideas. But over-hearing personal vitriol against peaceful individuals or groups stirs up my instincts to speak my mind. I believe that silence is not always golden; it can be dangerous. 

"A soft answer turns away wrath." That helps me. It says that a person may answer the anger of others; however, if they answer, they are wise to answer calmly. Think about it. That's the message that helps the most. Another saying: "Be sure your mind is loaded before you shoot off your mouth" is good advice!    
On a lighter-serious side, I have a highly personal intolerance for: sulfa drugs, full-strength aspirin, and rabid mosquitoes!
Just in: Try not to charge a mobile phone's battery for more than four hours. Charging for more hours, including overnight charges, can reduce battery-life. 

Finished reading: The Racketeer by John Grisham, now in Jean's Hand-picked Books. Copyright (c) 2013 Opinari Writers-Jean Purcell

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Claiming Tolerance

What does it mean to claim to be a tolerant person? What do tolerating or being intolerant require? 

Webster says that tolerance includes (1) the "capacity to endure pain or hardship" (synonymous with endurance, fortitude, stamina); (2) "sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own"; (3) "the act of allowing something" (toleration); (4) "the allowable deviation from a standard" (as in machinery tolerance). 

A familiar form of intolerance occurs when adults impatiently tell very young children:  "Your behavior is totally unacceptable!" For example, I saw a woman and young boy, a normal, not-yet-civilized, toddler. She expected him to grasp a complicated concept by telling him, "Your behavior is totally unacceptable." What would that phrase mean to a very young, toddling child other than gibberish that does not inform him as much as a gentle, firm "No" could do, I wonder.  

The kind of tolerance or intolerance most often seen happens during discussions of societal norms or changes, along with a form of self-congratulatory Intolerance, which can be slammed against one disagreeing with a prevailing or emerging view. 

Public, family, or social occasions increasingly give rise to ironic dramas of us against them in these matters. Many tolerant people, on the one hand, honestly do not realize how personally intolerant they sound unless they hear themselves, and a light dawns or a burst of realization occurs. 

All of us need a little help "to see ourselves as others see us," as Bobby Burns put it, and with a large sprinkling of tolerance...if so lucky.
Playing for Pizza by John Grisham (2012; fiction category) is new in Jean's Hand-Picked Books at No.1.
Copyright (c) 2013 Jean Purcell