Thursday, February 24, 2011

Landmark Victory for Women in DRC

A groundbreaking measure of justice was achieved Monday in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the nearly fifty women who testified against their rapists. Although the United Nations recorded 11,000 rapes in the DRC in 2010, the rebel militias and government troops who use sexual violence as a tactic-of-war have generally gone unpunished. Thus, the verdict handed down by judges in the military court in Baraka was a landmark.
The officers and soldiers were being tried for crimes which occurred on New Year's Day in the village of Fizi in the eastern province of Kivu. According to doctors, sixty-two women were treated for rape.

Victims, usually too fearful or ashamed to testify, rallied together and dramatically detailed the rampage. According to the Associated Press, one newly married young woman threw her bloody torn clothes on the courtroom floor as evidence. Others accused nearly all the company of 150 soldiers stationed in the village of participating in the crimes.

The moving survivors' accounts had effect, because--in contrast to other atrocities in which perpetrators have been accorded impunity--this time the officers and soldiers were sentenced. The verdicts fell short of what the prosecutor had sought. Instead of the death penalty, the rapists were sentenced to prison.

Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutware was sentenced to twenty years in prison and two majors and a second lieutenant to twenty years  for "crimes against humanity by way of rape and other inhuman and terrorist acts."
In addition, three corporals were sentenced to fifteen years and two others to ten years on the same charges. (The court found they had an "insignificant" level of education.) The prosecutor asked for twenty years for these five soldiers.

Welcoming this first sentencing of a commanding officer in such an attack, Roger Meece, the head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MUNUSCO) said, "The fight against acts of rape, sexual violence, and all other forms of human rights violations ...requires the strict enforcement of the law and the end of impunity."
World News (
Meece's counterpart, Margot Wallstrom, the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, lauded the sentences as showing that accountability for sexual violence is possible.
Even from half a world away, we celebrate the verdict. Something in all our hearts cries out for justice. We want the right to prevail and the wrong to fail. More than that, we yearn for wrong to be punished.

Where does our sense of morality, of ought-ness, of justice come from?  Without a holy God, wrong would be arbitrary. Thankfully, there is a such a thing as justice, and in the court of heaven absolutely-just verdicts will be pronounced.

Actually, the promise of ultimate justice should make us all nervous. We should fear what we justly deserve. However, the absolutely Holy One took our punishment, so we need not be afraid. Rather, we can be eternally grateful for the Righteous Judge who lovingly became the criminal, so we can stand acquitted.

(For background on the DRC issue, you can read my back post:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Like a Dog with a Bone

Recently, I awoke in the middle of the night, thinking about the Traveler's Insurance advertisement  "Prized Possession." You know. It's the commercial about the dog who worries himself sick protecting his bone.  
Listen to the ad in its entirety ( and smile.

I can't watch it without chuckling.  However, in the wee hours of the morning, I was puzzled as to why I awakened thinking about the dog.  Normally, when I wake up prematurely, I am worrying about one of my adult children. Then came the epiphany.  
My children are my bones.  Just like the dog in the commercial who tried hiding his bone under the carpet, in the laundry basket, out in the yard, and in a bank vault, I am trying to protect my children.  Yet, I cannot do a thing to keep trouble from touching them.  If I could lock them in a bank vault, they wouldn't be protected.
Why? Because we live in a fallen world.  As the lyrics performed by Ray LaMontagne in the You Tube commercial go, " Trouble, trouble, trouble...Trouble has been doggin' my soul since the day I was born."  

Consequently, I think I need a good child-protection-insurance.  I need a red umbrella. photo by: caleum
I don't think insurance carriers make such a product. Anyway, insurance isn't all that secure.  Even a mammoth carrier like AIG is fragile.
 So, am I destined to toss and turn incessantly? 
Trouble is part of life.  You can't escape it, hide from it, or protect your children from it.  But--and here is the anxiety-reducing red umbrella--we have the triune God. 

God is our heavenly Father.  He cares about his children.  Isaiah 49:15 tells us,  "Even if a mother forgets (and that isn't likely, if I am a typical mother), I will not forget you...See I have engraved you on the palm of my hand."

The heavenly Father proved his love when he sent his Son into the world "...not to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:17). 

God the Father illustrated his love repeatedly.  For example, the Father spoke after Christ's baptism."This is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased," But then, immediately, the Father sent his Son into the desert to be tempted by the cosmic evil. 
The Temptation of Christ by Sandro Botticelli
 Why?  To prove that Christ is our brother.  He has felt our troubles.  (Hebrews 2:17 says,  "...he had to be made like his order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest.")

Thankfully, Jesus didn't just feel our pain.  In withstanding temptation, our elder brother succeeded where we fail.  Because he did not sin and does not deserve punishment, he is the only perfect substitute to take ours.  On the cross, Christ's blood paid our debts.  His blood is our red umbrella.   
The Passion of the Christ
What is more, Christ arose victorious over sin and death. His victory assures us and our children ultimate safety.  In the meantime,  the Lord is fighting for us, holding up the banner of his love. 
Piero della Francesca, in The Resurrection, depicts Christ waging war for us against evil.
Forty days after Christ's resurrection, he ascended into heaven, but not without leaving the Holy Spirit--the third member of the Trinity. (Jesus promised in John 14:16-17, "He will give you another Counselor (Comforter) to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth.") The Spirit is our guarantee of eternal life.  (Ephesians 1: 13 says, "Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance...")
You can't beat the security provided by the triune God.  No wonder the Lord commands us, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything...present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:5).

The bottom line is:  I don't have to perseverate over my children's safety. The triune God has them under the red umbrella of his love.

(This post is dedicated to my dear friend whose daughter's baby, just this week, went safely to heaven and is now being held in the Lord's hands waiting for the ultimate reunion.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Turning Gray to Sunny Skies

Why does February seem like the longest month, when it is the shortest?  Could the lingering of gray skies and frigid temperatures contribute to the interminably show passage of time from February 1 to 27 or 28?  No matter what the groundhog predicts, winter usually lingers for six long weeks after his sneak peak outside his burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

I don't know about you, but a trip south--far south--seems like a good idea at this time of year.  Alas, no reservations have been made, so I will have to make my own sunshine.

Here are five simple suggestions for chasing away winter's chill:  
1.  Write and send lots of Valentine greetings.  Making other people happy is a sure cure for depression. When I was in grade school, my mother helped me make the same valentines each year for everyone in my class. Supplies included:  lace doilies, ribbon, and sticks of cinnamon-flavored gum. (These are easy enough for preschool children to make.)

2.  Begin each day with a thanksgiving breakfast. Make a habit of praising the Lord with your first sip of coffee.

3.  Wrap up, go outside, and take a walk. Even if the sky is cloud-covered, the daylight will lift your spirits.

4.  Think happy thoughts.  No, this isn't just for Pollyanna.  It is biblical.  See the verse inscribed on the poster?
The Catholic Faith Education Society makes wonderful posters illustrating Scripture.
5.  End your day by praying for others, thanking the Lord for his faithful goodness, and turning your anxieties over to him who is loving, powerful, and in control of all things.

The Prayer--artist unknown
These suggestions for chasing away the cold, because they are biblical, are sure-fire! 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Life and Bookcases, Balancing Acts

Accessorizing bookcases can be as tricky as balancing life. Contents must relate to the room as a whole--its color and mood. Second, shelves need a unifying theme, and third, elements must be balanced.


Bookcases flank either side of a fireplace in my daughter's and son-in-law's master bedroom.  The walls are painted a soft and soothing silver-blue. That color, together with the above-mantel wall dimensions, made a seascape, painted by my son-in-law's grandmother, a natural fit. Now what would appropriately flank the painting?  The icy hue of glass candlesticks compliment the mood of the painting as well as the paint color.  

But, my daughter was in a quandary about what should fill the shelfs. Books would be the obvious choice; however, the home has three other walls of shelving. Consequently, there weren't enough books to fill this space. So, nodding to the candlesticks, crystal became the entire wall's theme.  (Fortunately, displaying the crystal in the bookcases also solves a storage problem. The dining room holds china and silver, but doesn't have space for the crystal. The bookcases provide a showcase for each piece, allowing them to be enjoyed in plain view every day.)

 Clear picture frames follow as the perfect accompaniment to the cut crystal.

Taking advantage of a Crate and Barrel sale, Rachel recently purchased enough thick acrylic frames to standardize the bookcases.

I think the design succeeds.  The icy crystal and clear picture frames compliment the room's color and mood.  Furthermore, the cut crystal pieces are balanced on the interior shelves, while the acrylic pictures balance each other on the outer shelves. Altogether, this makes a unified and pleasing composition.

Good design balances elements. Think of it as placing children of equal weight on a seesaw. In this room, the seesaw's fulcrum is the fireplace, and the similarly-sized and weighted elements balance the two ends.  

Life shares so many design principles. For me, the Lord Jesus Christ is the fulcrum. In Scripture, Christ is called the cornerstone holding up the building of life. I want his love and grace to set the tone for my days. Enjoying him and being about his business should be my life's unifying theme. The activities filling my time should compliment his presence and be in balance.  Rest should balance work; giving should balance consumption. Remembering the rules-of-thumb from design helps me as I try to balance life.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Room Lightens Up

Before Christmas my sister-in-law enlisted my help in updating her den.  She wanted a fresh look for a room that had seen many family gatherings.  This is the finished product.

 However, to appreciate the transformation, you must see the room in its previous life.

Where did we start?  We began by looking at the room's perimeters. I noticed the room needed more visual height. To accomplish this, we needed to eliminate the two-toned walls which vertically cut the room in half.

By choosing the same light paint for the walls and paneling (Benjamin Moore--White Sand),  they became a a whole.  Your eye now travels from floor to ceiling without a break.

Furthermore, the dark wood beams in the ceiling shortened the room.

To visually add six inches to the ceiling height, we had the beams painted white. (They now match the woodwork in the rest of the house.)

Our next challenge was to unify the color scheme.  The red carpet was to be foundational, and most of the furniture was to stay, but could be reupholstered. At The Second Yard, we found a white linen with red, embroidered contemporary motif for the skirted table. And, at Calico Corners, we scored the perfect compliments: some French upholstery-weight white linen and companion stripe.

The assorted lamps were replaced with clear glass lamps which fade unobtrusively into the background.

When it came to accessorizing, we also minimized the theme.

The international paintings were moved to the game room downstairs, and two calligraphy pictures from elsewhere in the home were married in this room, one above the mantel and the other above the jelly cupboard.

In addition, ironstone became a unifying accessory. Now your eye travels from mantel...

to above the sofa,

and over to the antique jelly cupboard, where the aged white china looks perfect.

Using some contemporary elements, like the glass lamps and table skirt fabric, keep the room from looking dated.

What a fun project! I hope my brother-in-law and sister-in-law enjoy the metamorphosis as much as I enjoyed designing it.