Review of The Organized Heart: a woman’s guide to conquering chaos

God has appointed all my tasks – my work is planned by Him from the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 2: 9-10) Do all that I do with enthusiasm and purpose because I’m doing it for God. (Colossians 3:23) These are things that I remind myself of often, and that Staci Eastin also thinks of when she goes about daily life. In The Organized Heart she uses her 103 pages well, to with humility and grace, skip the fluff and hone in on why we do what we do. Motives are examined (I can hear you now – I just want to have order so I can think!) and dealt with so we can live our lives with peace in our hearts and heads. (You will be able to think.) From putting things off, to doing something else we’d rather do, to working our fingers to the bone to maintain a ‘perfect’ home, this book has something to say.

Most books on home and life organization are all about the tools we need to get the job done. Staci starts with the heart of the matter, which is our motives. In four chapters, she deals with Perfectionism, Busyness, Possessions and Leisure. Each chapter ends with “Explore” questions to help us see where our hold ups are and what to do about them. After dealing with heart issues she discusses the tools we need – calendars, lists and such. I think the difference is when we deal with our motives first, we use the tools rather than being slaves to them.

If you need a little extra kindness Staci Eastin has that, too. She addresses single moms and those who have health issues. She writes with wisdom about the different seasons in our lives and the fact that our personalities are not all the same. I appreciated her tenderness for those who are discouraged and feel hopeless. This is a book that I will refer back to many times. It is written by a wise woman who knows how to shine light where it needs to be shone in order to help us face ourselves, but who also applies God’s abundant grace to help us heal. I’d rather read this book than any of the other home organization books I’ve read over the years.

Looking for a Way to Clean House That Takes No Time At All

I’ve done FlyLady’s routines – adapted to my own life, which is how we are supposed to use her system, since…oh, wow…since July 4, 2001. I didn’t realize it had been that long! Wow. So, I guess we could say it works for me, huh? Either that, or I like to torture myself.  Nope. It works. I have the Control Journal all fixed up and everything, as well as a notebook for Christmas and another that I put together for all other holidays. Yep, I’m in it.

There is one main thing I have to remember and that is that nothing is in place exactly the same way all the time. There are times that situations change and things have to be tweaked to fit, like this past year. We changed the purposes of two rooms (actually, one of them year before last), my husband had surgery on his wrist and elbow, and I found out the reason my digestive system felt like it had been to a rock concert and my energy level was pretty dismal was diet-related. Add to that the fact that since my husband went back to work (after six weeks off for surgery) he has an ever-changing schedule with sometimes no two days in a week with the same hours – he might go in as early as 7 am or as late as 1:30 pm…it’s just been tough. I still have my Control Journal, but it’s time for a major tweaking.

I’m moving some things to the Afternoon FlyList that were on the Morning one and vice-versa. Also, since I want to spend more time doing things related to art, writing, sewing, garden and yard, this house stuff is going to have to get done really quickly. Just in case you want to know, I won’t be dust mopping floors in the morning; I’m moving that to the Afternoon FlyList. I’d rather get up in the morning with clean floors and be able to get started on those other things that much quicker. Birds are being fed in the afternoon now since I read that suggestion (somewhere) so that they will have food ready for them in the morning after a cold night. This is much better for them since when hubby has worked late, they are out there looking for groceries before I’m even awake. I’m doing the 15 minutes of FACE (Financial Awareness Continually Empowers) in the mornings rather than afternoon, so I can get it behind me. It’s a paperwork/money thing and ignoring this stuff could create problems, but I don’t like messing with it, so if I do it early it’s out of the way for the day.

Since things were being moved all over the house while turning a bedroom into a study and a den into a studio, I figured it was as good a time as any to do a really deep cleaning and reorganizing of the entire house since it was pretty much all involved anyway. This was wall washing and everything! It has taken me a long time (I’ve painted my shed and enlarged our garden and worked on other yard projects, too) but I’m now down to just my closet and bedroom. Then I’ll redecorate the house with pictures and such and be finished. Ha. We know there is never a “Finish” when it comes to house stuff, don’t we?

Since I want to effortlessly maintain what I’ve done, last night and this morning I read an entire book. I gobbled it up! The name of it is “The House That Cleans Itself,” by Mindy Starns Clark. I wish I could borrow a few children so I could do the “Room Ownership” system that she describes. There is more than one way to maintain a clean house and she explains three of them. I don’t have children here, so I’ll have to go with one I can do myself, and it looks like I pretty much have it in place with FlyLady. I just want to get some deep cleaning worked in on a regular basis without it taking much time. In order to do that, I’m going to make Zone Missions (FlyLady thing) part of my deep cleaning routine; maybe I’ll just spend 10 minutes a day tending to shelves or drawers. Since I seem to be a pretty visual person and I forget what I own if I don’t see it, (Mindy Starns Clark is visual, too, so her book was easy for me to relate to) this will be a good way for me to keep up with what I have, and donate what I don’t need on a regular basis.

For anyone who is cleaning challenged, as Mindy and Marla, aka FlyLady, both describe themselves, these two systems are really good. If you aren’t cleaning challenged, but don’t want to spend your entire life cleaning a house, these two systems are really good and I think they integrate pretty well. I’d recommend reading both ladies’ books (Marla Cilley wrote “Sink Reflections”) and websites; they are similar, but each has some different little details that different folks will find helpful. While you are reading, my advice would be to get started on the FlyLady site with her step-by-step missions. You will begin to see progress in small increments and this will motivate you to keep going. Both ladies are great cheer leaders. So…here’s to more time to CREATE (or whatever it is that you want to do) and less time spent cleaning. Sounds good to me!

Review of “My God Is True!: Lessons Learned Along Cancer’s Dark Road”

I kept seeing this book, “My God Is True!” by Paul D. Wolfe, on the book table at church and I was curious about it. I finally decided to read it, and I’m glad I did. This is a good book for anyone to read who has cancer, or who knows someone who has cancer. In fact, I think it’s good for any of life’s Dark Roads which we all travel.

The author, John Wolfe, is an Associate Pastor at New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia. He was a newly married student in seminary when non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was discovered near his spine. It was actually affecting his ability to walk by the time he was diagnosed.

He wrote his book in three parts. In the first, he discussed some things that he acknowledges are controversial. It has to do with the interaction of human agency, divine control and God’s purposes. Hang with him, even if you don’t agree. At the very least, you will gain a good understanding of how some Christians view these things, and understanding fellow brothers and sisters is always a good thing. You may see why some folks (myself included) see this as a Biblical view, and how it is also a comforting view. He goes on to discuss our expectations of outcomes and the differences between false hopes and hope based on truth. He uses punctuation marks – exclamation points and question marks – to illustrate how we confuse things. Sometimes we put exclamation points after the things we think are certain in life, such as our plans for marriage, jobs, retirement, and such. Then, we put question marks after things like God’s love for us, His presence with us always, and His promises that we will spend eternity with Him in a real place. As you can see, we get it backwards. Paul Wolfe helps us determine which things are certain and how we know these things to be so. Keeping this straight has a lot to do with experiencing healthy spiritual hope.

In the second part, he talks about his experience, the progression of pain in his back before he was diagnosed and the series of treatments he received. He talked about how to handle it when friends want to help. People will want to and he says to let them. This is how they are being obedient to God’s Word, and to try to be self-sufficient is to deny them that opportunity.

The third part really gets down to some nitty-gritty, and the author is really good at handling this stuff. This is where the reality of death is confronted. The sting has been removed for the Christian because sins have been forgiven, but Paul Wolfe says we should not pretend that death is pleasant, because it is not. We weep and pray just as Jesus did. We have doubt and discouragement mixed with hope. These are hard things we all wrestle with in any difficult circumstance, which is why I think this is a good book to read, even if one isn’t dealing with cancer. After admitting how we really feel, then we can grow. Paul Wolfe explains how to turn our head around so we can see God for who He really is and relate to Him, not based on our misconceptions (he also explains how we get those), but we can relate to Him in truth, based on who He really is (sovereign, wise and good). We are given reasons to hope, no matter what the outcome, in any situation.

This book is full of scripture which shows us that God is so much bigger and so much more loving and wise than we sometimes make Him out to be when we are on our Dark Roads. Paul Wolfe also reminds us that these are Roads that we travel, and travelers aren’t permanent residents, lest we get our perspective skewed and lose sight of our destination. If you want to read this book, one place that sells it is Monergism Books. I’ve ordered from them before and recommend them as a good source for good books.

People Say, “They Call God ‘Allah’!”

Since I was told the other day that someone wants to discuss the beliefs of Muslims with me and it’s been awhile since I’ve read up on it, I decided it’s time to read a book that I picked up, probably at church, on Islam. The name of the book is “Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross” and it’s written by Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb. This book is not a defense of Islam; it’s a critique of the beliefs of Muslims, and offers a defense of the beliefs of Christians. If you want to discuss these things intelligently, it’d be best to educate yourself. I want to, so that is what I’m doing.

I am barely into it and already I’ve run into something that will answer the objection, “They call God ‘Allah’!” that some folks bring up. Ever wondered why they do that? It’s simple, really. It’s Arabic and it means “the Divinity.” They don’t speak English in Arabic countries. Even Christians who speak Arabic call God ‘Allah’.

The use of the word goes back to pre-Islamic times. It’s not something that Mohammed came up with. It’s not derogatory at all. And when an Islamic person speaks of God they are speaking of the same God the Christian is speaking of – the God of Moses and Jesus. We – Muslims and Christians – have a different concept of who God is, but we are speaking of the Creator of all things who is One God, not many gods.

Well, I think this is going to be a very interesting book. Norman Geisler is a Christian who has written many books on apologetics and Abdul Saleeb is a former Muslim who has studied the differences in Islam and Christianity. I’ll be reading this book with a highlighter and an ink pen in hand.

Thoughts on “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”

I recently read “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe. This book is about a group of people back in the 60’s who used LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and wanted to share the experience with the whole world. A friend who knew about my daydream of living in a school bus as I travel the country recommended I read it. She said she wasn’t suggesting it for the drug part but the living in the bus part. Well, what I am about to write is not a commentary on drug laws or the wisdom, or lack thereof, of using substances that alter one’s state of consciousness for whatever reasons. When I started the book I was reading for the adventure of the bus, but after just a few pages I wanted to get inside the heads of these heads so I could try to understand the whole scene. Translated – I wanted to understand what the folks who used LSD were thinking. How did this particular group of people start using LSD? Why did they continue? Why did they want other people to use it? What was the philosophy behind their beliefs? As I found answers to some of these questions I noticed a few other things. Group dynamics, their attitudes toward cops, race relations, idiomatic phrases, influence on fashion, music, and art; all these things are in this book. Some have said it is a very accurate picture of what the hippie life was like at this time. If you are looking for a source of info on the drug culture’s views and influence on any of these subjects, this is probably a good one.

So, back to the first question. How did this particular group get into LSD? It started with Ken Kesey, the author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” In 1959-60 he was a paid volunteer (only the government, right? -“paid volunteer”) for some experiments at the Veteran’s Hospital in Menlo Park,  California. He was paid $75 a day to take whatever pill the guys in the white coats gave him to swallow. As it turns out the whole thing was put on by the CIA. They were doing research into drugs they thought might be used for mind control purposes as well as truth serum during interrogations. So, this is why John Lennon said we could thank the CIA for LSD. Anyway, Kesey figured out which was which among the substances he was ingesting and he managed to take some home and share with the neighbors. Eventually, in the name of ‘progress’ the neighborhood was bulldozed so new houses could be built and Kesey moved to a few acres in a redwood forest. Some of the friends from the old neighborhood came around but there were other folks who were just sort of showing up from here and there as well. One group who didn’t just show up, but came by invitation, was the Hell’s Angels. Eventually, the inside group – you know how that goes – every group has a real inner circle – became known as the Merry Pranksters.

From their perspective they were becoming one in some cosmic sense as they used LSD. Where Timothy Leary went into his own religious vein with it, these guys – these Merry Pranksters  – didn’t want to do it that way. They thought the whole world could do this with them and we could all be these creative peaceful people all happily coexisting with one another. Basically, Ego and Non-Ego would merge and all would become part of the Cosmic Mind. If two people happened to have the same thought at the same time they said they were “in synch” and the merge was happening. This anticipated merge of all things into one was also their explanation for such things as the ability to smell colors when they were high. The way to spread this experience was with big parties they called “acid tests.” LSD was not illegal at this time, by the way; that didn’t happen in California till October 6, 1966. So, they could have these acid tests, with music (usually supplied by the Grateful Dead) and strobe lights and LSD in the Kool-Aid, and not be breaking any laws.

Some folks didn’t understand why this generation was unhappy with the world as it was. After all, they had not suffered through the economic hardship of the Depression and had not lived through WWII. The Cold War sounded like just a lot of talk to some of them. The parents of these youngsters thought they had been given everything and they were going to waste their golden opportunity to have a suit-and-tie good life. The parents who held this view appeared to their deep-thinking children to be living a one-dimensional life. They wanted more than a job, house, car and 2.5 children. They had a spiritual yearning, a desire for meaning, that wasn’t satisfied. And a lot of them couldn’t get answers to their questions about life from their parents. Seems some parents couldn’t even explain why they held their own moral and/or religious beliefs. Since the parents had lived through the difficult times, it seemed a reasonable goal to them to just have a peaceful and quiet life along with nice material possessions. They thought a sense of security was a wonderful thing and their offspring thought it was boring and totally lacking in purpose. This group of Pranksters did not want to be a nameless, faceless cog in the machine. They sought an alternate way of living, but not by spiritual means. I really wanted to put a label on this and call it Existentialism, but I’m not so sure that fits. They were creating their own reality and meaning inside their own heads but they also wanted to merge with something outside themselves. Nietzsche, the Bible, the I Ching…all are mentioned in the book but like Tom Wolfe says, everything centers on the experience of using LSD. In that sense, maybe LSD was the religion; during the early 60’s drugs were used in an attempt to find meaning. (Francis Schaeffer wrote about this in “How Should We Then Live.” It’s been about 30 years since I’ve read this book and I probably need to read it again.) In the end though Kesey said they were only going through the same door over and over and he wanted to find the thing beyond this acid thing.

Gotta’ tell you about this bus. It was a 1939 International Harvester school bus that Ken Kesey bought under the name “Intrepid Trips, Inc.” The Pranksters painted it in bright, beautiful, wild psychedelic colors and named it “Furthur.” There was an opening in the top where the Pranksters could climb out and ride on top and play the flute in such a way that the music matched the expressions on the faces of the folks on the street who tried to take in this site. Reactions were mixed.  The US wasn’t real big on bright colors back then. Houses were mostly white or pastel colors with lots of brown and gray roofs, and cars were the same type of tame colors, so this bus was a shocker. So were the passengers with their faces painted with Day-Glo paint and wearing clothing that could really only be called costumes. They drove across the south and then up to New York in a failed attempt to visit with Timothy Leary, then back to California by a northern route. All along the way they gave out LSD to people who had never heard of it before.

I am amazed they made the trip from California to New York and back all in one piece. Oh, this bus adventure happened in the summer of 1964. If I had been on the freeway at the right time I would have seen them pass through where I lived. Back to the “all in one piece” comment. These folks’ heads were so messed up. They had to leave a young lady passenger in Houston who ended up in a psych ward. The driver was coming unglued but they were so freaked out on LSD and other things besides, that just like with the lady, they didn’t realize what was happening to the poor guy at first. When they figured it out they just tried to show him some love and make him all better.  That didn’t work. So, they were really only “in one piece” physically. Mentally, it was a bit different for a couple of them. If you look up race relations in 1964 you will understand the danger they were in when they decided to jump in and swim at a segregated beach at Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. The cops rescued them from that predicament. And of course, anyone who is driving while totally freaked out and doesn’t kill anyone who’s on the road with them is a bit more than “intrepid” – that person is traveling under Divine Protection.

This was one of the most interesting books I’ve read. I learned that you can’t lump the drug users of the early 60’s in with the ones of the late 60’s. In the early 60’s, drug use was tied in with ideology but, by the end of the decade hope was lost as it seemed that society was unraveling at the seams and drug use became a means of escape from life. I’ve run across some of the people who are part of this story in a book, “The Sixties Chronicles.” I remember quite a lot considering how young I was at the time, but reading “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” has made me want to read more about this incredible and tumultuous decade.

When Grace Comes Home

Every time I finished a chapter in this book, When Grace Comes Home, by Terry L. Johnson, I thought it was the best chapter in the whole book. Pastor Johnson used to be Arminian and he became Reformed; his book describes how a person’s perspective is changed by this. Almost seven years ago I made the same change and it really spun my head around on some things. It’s amazing how much bigger God became! But he tells it much better than I can.

If you know someone who is a Calvinist and you want to understand their views, if you know someone who was Arminian but is now Calvinist and seems to be way excited about it and you don’t get why, if you think Calvinists are The Chosen Frozen, you might want to check out this book. And of course, if you are already Reformed this will just be a very enjoyable and encouraging book for you.

Here are the chapters so you can see what he’s talking about:
Worship, Humility, Adversity, Outlook, Witness, Sanctification, Assurance, Law and Liberty, Prayer, Guidance, A Faith for Living.

The ISBN# is 1-85792-539-4
I’ve seen it online at www.monergism.com. I think I picked up my copy at church; I’m sure you won’t find it at WalMart. Whatever you have to do to get it, it’s worth it.

New Americans

I’m calling this “New Americans” because I’m not talking about illegal immigration here. That is a whole ‘nother deal. But for the record, I’m not in favor of it.

Here’s what’s on my mind. I’ve heard people say – and I’ve said this myself – if I moved to a foreign country, I would not expect to be catered to with government forms and pre-recorded phone messages and even signs for the aisles in hardware stores in my native language. I would expect to adopt the language, customs, food and dress of my new country as my own. Really? Would I? Totally??

In some countries it’s a requirement of the government that if you want to live there you must learn the language, such as Austria, where you’ve got six months to get on it and start learning German if you don’t already speak it. I don’t think we make folks do that in the US. Typically, the first generation of an immigrant family will learn at least enough of the new language to get around. The second generation will be bi-lingual and the third will only speak English unless they have made a special effort to learn their ancestors’ language.

I’ve also heard – although this doesn’t bother me at all – that some folks are upset by people who come here from other countries who bring their cultural celebrations with them. I wonder what America would be without our melding of customs for holidays like Christmas and Easter? And everyone celebrates St. Patrick’s Day whether they are Irish or only wish they were for a day.

Speaking of Irish, a few weeks ago my brother handed me a book that he was really excited about. He urged me to read it and I am. The name of the book is “‘Tis” and it is the memoirs of Frank McCourt. He came to New York City from Ireland in 1949 when he was about 18 years old. Eventually, he became a teacher but could not get a job at anything other than a technical high school because of his Irish brogue. He wasn’t welcome to teach the children of middle class New Yorkers. I read in this book that some businesses had signs in the windows that said “No Irish Need Apply.” Can you imagine? And other Irish immigrants told him to stay with his own kind. Don’t mix with the Italians or the Greeks. Or, even with the Protestants or Jews. Frank McCourt complained about all the hyphenated Americans just as we do today. He wondered why we couldn’t just all be plain American?

What I read in this book reminded me of what I read in “Don’t Know Much About History” by Kenneth C. Davis. In the late 1800s when unions were first trying to organize they ran into some problems. The workers “did not all speak the same language and were suspicious of one another. The Irish hated the Italians. The Germans hated the Irish. They all hated the Chinese. And, of course, blacks were beyond the pale to most white workers.” This is unthinkable to most of us now. Except concerning new immigrants.

Where I live there is an Irish Club and a Scottish Club. There is also a monument to the Italians who settled in this town. And a nearby town is known to be settled by Dutch folks and has attractions that tell their history. We have the India Cultural Center and LULAC, which is for Latin/Spanish folks. Who knows what else is here? I know we have Black folks, Greeks, Jews, Cajuns, Vietnamese and lots of other fairly new Americans from the Far East and the Middle East. And if there are any Lutheran Churches where you live, you have probably seen Oktober Fest celebrations.

I’d like to ask folks who get upset by people that they think aren’t assimilating where their ancestors came from? Do you know? How many generations of your family have been here? My great-grandpa came here from Germany. And in his German accent that he surely had, he told the census taker he was born in Texas. I have a copy of his work card that proves otherwise. It was 1910 when he spoke with the census taker and not a good time to be German in America.

I think we need to chill and don’t worry about our new citizens not becoming “American.” We ought to welcome them, learn what we can from each other and enjoy the variety. As we all adopt each others’ customs it makes our own lives more interesting. And by the way, I told a friend once, who happens to be fully Italian but totally American, that I am Heinz 57 because I am such a mixture, and he said in the kindest sense of the word, I’m a “mutt.”

The following is an email that I wrote to a friend 6 months after writing the above. I told my friend that what happened in my neighborhood reminded me of “New Americans” :

I wrote this back in November for my MySpace blog. I thought of it because of what I just watched this evening among neighbors. I was sitting at the computer and I heard BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM over and over. All metal and no brakes. I knew that couldn’t be good! It was coming from around the corner from where I live. I couldn’t figure out if a bunch of vehicles all collided – big ones, going fast – or if someone knocked a building down or maybe hit a building with a vehicle and took it down. My son thought it sounded like they may have rolled several times. After a few minutes I heard a bunch of sirens so I put my shoes on and went to see what on earth had happened.

A pickup truck had hit a vehicle, took down a stop sign that is in the street between the ‘go straight’ lane and the ‘turn right only’ lane, kept going, veered off to the right and went through a fence, ran through and over rose bushes, flowers and fruit trees, through the fence on the side of that yard, across a small front yard, hit the corner of a house and was spun around facing the opposite direction, leaving the house with the entire front wall of a bedroom knocked down and front porch supports scattered in the yard.

Someone told me the driver said she didn’t want to go to the hospital. I am amazed the driver could say anything! The fire department said she had a sugar episode and blacked out.

The reason this reminded me of the blog is that it was an interesting group of folks gathered to see what happened. Some white, some black, some hispanic. I really found the whole thing – not the wreck, but the onlookers – to be entertaining in a way. I watched black people who didn’t know each other talk like they had known each other for years when they were telling each other what happened with such gusto and expression. White folks don’t do that. We are usually pretty reserved with strangers unless drunk or high.

My dad wanted to talk with the lady whose fence and fauna were destroyed. I went with him into her yard. Well, that was another deal. She is hispanic and she was on the phone speaking in Spanish to someone telling them about the truck that ran through her yard and hit the house. I speak just enough Spanish to have the man at the bakery misunderstand me when I mispronounced a word and he thought I wanted him to be my Sweet Daddy but what I wanted was a Sweet Potato Empanada. Boy, did I embarrass us both! But I know enough to know what the lady was talking about. When she got off the phone my dad spoke to her but she didn’t seem to be able to answer him. I think she understood but couldn’t speak much English. Kinda like me with Spanish. I knew enough to be able to tell her I was sorry about her trees and flowers but it was fractured. About like her yard. But no weird misunderstandings.

After I got home I thought about how she probably wouldn’t have spoken to my dad much anyway, even if she did speak enough English to carry on a conversation. There’s a cultural thing there where men and women don’t really chat a lot if they don’t know each other. I’ve been very careful with my neighbor, especially the first couple years he was here, because for me to talk freely to him could mislead him. Kinda’ like the poor man at the bakery.

Well, as is typical of second generation immigrants, the lady’s son is bilingual and he spoke to her in Spanish and spoke with my dad and me in perfect English.