Friday, April 20, 2007


Today is my 40th birthday. I find this hard to believe. As of today, all five of my siblings and I are in our 40s. I have lived in parts of five decades and witnessed some monumental moments in our country's history:

1969 the landing on the moon (I actually have very dim memories of this)
A big blur of early 70s.....
1976 bicentennial celebration, Carter elected
1979-81 fall of the Shah of Iran, ensuing hostage crisis, etc.
1980s-early 90s Reagan, Bush I, fall of the Soviet Union, Desert Storm
1990s-Clinton yada, yada, yada
April 19, 1993 Burning of the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX
April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing
April 20, 1999 Columbine shootings
2001-9/11--I'll never forget that day
2007-Alan Knox turning 40 before me! :)

As you may have noticed, my birthday seems to be a magnet for horrible occurrences (it's also Hitler's birthday) and is apparently a holy day for potheads everywhere
Every year I find myself holding my breath on my birthday, waiting to see what might happen. Now, this year we've already had our sometime-around-the 20th tragedy, I hope. I pray no other insane, evil people will do anything today. It's kind of hard to celebrate a birthday when everyone is glued to their TVs watching the latest disaster coverage. (What this all says about my birth, I don't know. Feel free to comment...)

Now, this post is not only a cheap ploy to get people to wish me a happy birthday--and to remind my sister Ruth that next year she'll be the first of the Putney kids to hit 50--but also a way of reflecting on my age and my life. I feel pretty good for forty, and I thank God for my husband, children, and friends. But as I reflect on middle age today, mostly I am ashamed that I have not done more for God's kingdom. I pray today for boldness in witnessing, for humility in serving, for strength in enduring life's struggles. I pray that I can spend the next forty years living all-out for the Lord, and not have any regrets, as I do now about my first forty years.

May God bless you on my birthday and every day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sudoku Re-visited

As I suspected when I ranted about Sudoku, many people have strong opinions about that pasttime. Eric's Uncle Mel, a retired math professor, wrote me such a good letter that I thought I'd post it as kind-of a guest blog:

"Do you like to climb mountains? Why do people climb mountains? I have heard that it’s just because they (the mountains) are there. Is there any physical satisfaction in climbing a mountain? I am sure there is. Is there mental satisfaction in doing so? I am sure that some would say yes. If you ever spent several days climbing a mountain would there be any satisfaction at all.

Some people enjoy life by doing complicated tasks. Others do simple tasks and there are many examples of both simple and complicated tasks, too many to even go in to.

Now some say that doing Sudoku is too simple to waste one's time on. One person told me it’s too much like Math 101. Others take great pride in being able to solve even the simple or easy ones. It so happens that my brothers, my sister and I like to do Sudoku. Learning the techniques that one must use to solve each one is very fascinating.

Some say it’s too mathematical but let me assure that there is very little mathematics involved. Change the 1’s to A, the 2’s to B, the 3’s to C and so forth and where is the Mathematics? The only mathematics is really the “Pigeon Hole Principle” The Pigeon Hole Principle is easy to understand. If you have N items to put in N Pigeon Holes then it is possible to put exactly one item in every Pigeon Hole and it will exactly fill up every hole with exactly one item. Pretty Basic, right?

So here we have nine items, the numerals one through nine. You could say they are numbers but they are really the numerals representing the numbers 1-9.

Now we must put each of the numbers in the Pigeon Holes so that :

a. Each numeral appears in each row exactly once

b. Each numeral appears in each column exactly once

c. Each numeral appears in each 3 by 3 square exactly once.

Supposedly, the composers of the puzzle include enough numerals to start so that the solution can be made in only one way.

These puzzles can be done while watching a sporting event on TV. One can watch the TV, do the puzzle and not miss one play. A person who is unable to read on a plane or in a moving car because of the motion can do Soduku. Of course, one will miss the beauty of God’s earth, while traveling, but that does not matter if driving across parts of Texas. I suppose some might even attempt to do one while listening to a sermon in Church but I would not even suggest that.

Now some of these puzzles are harder than others but I have not been stumped one a 9 by 9 one yet. They are supposed to be able to be solved with logic and not trial and error. There are two that I have had to use trial and error and this bothers me. I must be missing one of the clues but I will keep looking. I also have a friend who will use a pencil only to put the final numeral in the box. He will use no possible list of numbers in each box as my sister and I do. You should not do these if they frustrate you because I will just go on entertaining myself."

Of course--he's a math genius, so the annoying little puzzles are easy for him! But he's also a sweet, loving man, so I know he's sincere, and if I get stuck on one I could always call on him for help. Also, I've actually done quite a few more Sudoku since Bobby has been in the hospital so much, and I've come to enjoy them. But only if they are labeled "Very Easy" or "Easy."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mourning Modesty

One interesting aspect of American culture is the idea most Americans have about how much skin it is acceptable for women to show in public, compared to other countries. In India, women are expected to cover their legs and wear a scarf that will cover up their bosom. Although some belly is allowed when women wear a sari, the voluminous skirt and wrapped upper scarf create a general effect of modesty and femininity.

Since our return to this country I have noticed that American women are now not only showing a lot of leg and belly, but also displaying large amounts of cleavage. What used to be acceptable clothing only in strip bars, fashion shows, and nightclubs is now every-day-wear across the country in malls, dentist offices, and even churches. Shorts are shorter than ever and shirts are tighter, with deep v-necks being the order of the day. As many of us know, most American women are overweight (I include myself in this--I need to drop about 25 pounds.) Yet even extremely overweight individuals are wearing tight, revealing clothing. Have all of the floor-length mirrors in the nation suddenly shattered? What ever happened to looking in a mirror before leaving home, and if anything was hanging out, exposed, too tight, or too see-through, CHANGING?! I really don't want to see that much of other people's bodies, and I don't think it's good for the men of the world to have all of that cleavage around, either. As for swimsuits...don't get me started!

I really am disturbed by the trend over the last five years or so of women showing more and more of their bodies. It used to be that undergarments were hidden--it was a big deal if a girl's bra strap was showing, for example. Now, bras and underpants both can hang out of clothing and nobody is supposed to even notice. This trend has spread into churches, where women show up in short, short skirts and deep-cut blouses and then wonder why some guys stare at them.

In 1 Tim. 2:9-10 Paul wrote, "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God."

1 Peter 3:3 says "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes."

Apparently in those days women were drawing attention to themselves through their adornments rather than by exposing themselves, nevertheless immodesty was a problem even that long ago. It is a huge problem today. I have taught my daughters that modesty is not just about clothing but about our general attitude and behavior. It is possible to be dressed modestly and yet behave immodestly. So we must ask ourselves the question: Do we behave modestly or are we constantly drawing attention to ourselves? Does the way we dress make us a spectacle, or just reflect a humble, modest attitude?

When I went shopping a few days ago it was hard to find anything that was modest and yet remotely "stylish." For me this isn't that big of a problem since I don't really care that much about fashion; I prefer to wear things that are comfortable but look decent (or at least "semi-decent" as Eric will attest to.) But for my 13-year-old this is a MAJOR problem. I don't want her to have a "hoochie-mama" look, but I also don't want to make her dress as though she's forty. Thank God, she already prefers longer skirts to jeans or shorts, and she tries to dress modestly. Tomorrow we are going shopping for clothing for her, and I am sincerely praying that we can find some clothing that will not look old and fuddy-duddy, yet will still be modest.

I mourn the general loss of modesty in our nation. I pray that Christian ladies everywhere will promote modesty of dress, attitude, and behavior, following God's Word in Titus 2:

3Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,

4so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,

5to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

Piper books in progress...

One reason I haven't blogged in a while is that I am currently reading "Desiring God" by John Piper, and it takes up a lot of my free time. When I'm done with that one, I'll be reading a book that he edited along with Justin Taylor about the sovereignty of God and suffering. That one includes essays from many different authors. When I'm done reading those I will post about them.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

How Am I Really Doing?

I've had several people ask me lately, "How are you doing?" When I say, "OK" or "Pretty well considering the circumstances" I often get a knowing look, and then the person says, "No, how are you REALLY doing?"

All right, people, stop it already! I am not the kind of person who lies and says I am fine if I'm really not. The truth is I really am doing okay, better than I thought I would be during all of this. This can only be attributed to the Lord. He has given me peace and strength and endurance beyond anything I've ever imagined.

Sure, I have my down moments. I feel tired and stressed. I often wonder about our future, about Bobby's future. I get teary-eyed over simple things. All of this is normal. But the fact is that most of the time I am feeling the presence of the Lord very closely--and how else could I be going through this? I am doing okay as long as I daily, and often many times a day, consciously lay my burdens at the Lord's feet and let Him carry them for me. It's on days when I try to shoulder the burden on my own that I start to falter. The Lord is really teaching me my need to trust Him and give Him utter control of my life. And I praise Him for it!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

No Compromise: Salt and Light

This morning I watched an interview on NBC's "Today" show; Robin Roberts was interviewing Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins about their most recent book, the last in the "Left Behind" series. Now, this post is not about those books--there has been a lot written about them already on the internet, and I haven't read this latest one, so I'm leaving that subject alone for now. Later, when I have read the book, I may (or may not) blog about that. What I would like to discuss is the way these Christian men answered a couple of questions in this interview.

So many times when I see Christian people interviewed on television, I cringe as they back-pedal and then sugar-coat their answers when asked direct questions about the exclusivity of Christ. I was favorably impressed and greatly encouraged to see LaHaye and Jenkins give direct, Biblical answers, refusing to compromise the message of the gospel.

Robin Roberts asked them (and I'm paraphrasing here)"What about people who are offended by the message of these books, after all, for Jews and Muslims it sounds like you are saying that if people don't believe in Jesus they will be left behind, they will not go to heaven."

LaHaye and Jenkins answered that they believe the Bible to be God's Word, and Jesus to be God, and they pointed out that no other person who has ever lived on earth has had a greater impact on history and humanity than Christ. They also pointed out that Jesus Himself said that He is the only way to heaven.

Roberts followed up with some statement to the effect that this seems like an intolerant position and offensive.

LaHaye and Jenkins said that they agree the gospel is offensive to people, but they said, (and this is a direct quote) "You don't see evangelicals crashing planes into buidlings because they disagree with their beliefs." They also said that if people don't believe the gospel, they still love those people, work with them, admire and respect them, but believe them to be wrong in this area. They stated that they are blessed to be living in a country where they are free to believe whatever they want to and not be persecuted for it.

I was thrilled to see these men deliver such straightforward answers in a calm, loving, Godly manner. After seeing so many other Christians, among them Joel Osteen and Rick Warren, give vague answers or simply sidestep the questions, it was refreshing to see someone tell it straight.

What interested me even more was the comment that Robin Roberts made at the end of the interview. As she was thanking them for being there, she said, "You two always light things up when you come in here." WOW!!! Did she even realize she said that? She said on national TV that these two Christians bring LIGHT with them when they come--they are putting Matthew 5:14-16 into practice with their behavior in the NBC studios. PRAISE THE LORD!!! May more and more "famous" Christians give such straight answers, and bring light to national television.

On a personal note, this makes me more determined to be salt and light every day in whatever situation I may find myself. Do I "light things up" for other people, shining God's light through my words and actions? Do I bring out the best in others, love and encourage them, and generally brighten their existence? My very attitude can be a powerful witness in our current circumstances, and I pray that the Lord will give me the strength to be "salt and light" to those around me.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Locks of Love

Last Saturday my 13-year-old daughter Caroline had ten inches cut off her hair in order to send it to Locks of Love. I'm proud of her for being willing to do this after having grown her hair out for two years. A wonderful woman from Woodlawn Baptist Church, Karen Partain, offered to give our family free haircuts. She has been a hairdresser for twenty years, and she's extremely skilled. Caroline and I were blessed to have her do our hair. This may seem like a shallow, mundane thing, but it is kind-of a ministry for Karen to do hair for free for people who can't afford it or are in tough situations, and the Lord used her to bless us. It's another example of the body of Christ at work: Karen is very open at her job about being a Christian, and for her co-workers to see her ministering to people in this way is a powerful witness. I'm sure she lost money during the time she spent cutting our hair, but she didn't seem to mind at all. She even told me she wishes that she didn't have to work for money so that she could give free haircuts all the time!

I'm posting the before-during-and-after pics of Caroline's haircut: