Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wordsmith Wednesdays

Words are living, breathing entities that morph over time and place. OK, they're aren't "alive" in a scientific sort of way, but if you study language and love words, you know what I mean by that, right?

Not only do words have precise meanings, they also carry implications. In technical terms, we call this denotation and connotation.

The denotation of a word is its exact meaning as stated in the dictionary, while the connotation of a word evokes either a positive or negative association. For example: the words "stingy" and "frugal" both imply a hesitation in spending or giving, yet "stingy" carries a decidedly negative connotation of one being ungenerous, while "frugal" carries the positive connotation of being careful or wise.

The dictionary definitions of the following words are nearly the same, yet most of them carry a positive or negative connotation. Interestingly, some can be either, depending on the context in which they are used. It is also true that culture and sub-culture can be a determining factor in the way one perceives the connotation of a word, which means that one person may react to a word differently than another.

Do the following words carry a positive, negative or neutral connotation for YOU?

brave

courageous

audacious

valiant

intrepid

plucky

bold

I've Fallen & I Can't Get Up!

Remember that classic commercial? Although we've all mocked it endlessly, that slogan was a smashing success by marketing standards! More than a decade later, we still quote it.

Most of us probably haven't experienced this literally (at least not YET), but have you ever felt that way, metaphorically speaking? Have you had your foot ensnared in a net, or have you fallen into a pit...of either your own or someone else's making...and felt that you would never escape? Maybe it was a pit of loss, loneliness, sorrow, temptation or sin.

I find that when I'm in one of those traps or pits, there are 2 antithetical ways to cry out, "I've fallen and I can't get up!" The first is a cry of hopelessness in which I wallow in the fate or folly that led to my falling. This buries me in a quagmire of self-pity, grief, bitterness...even despair. Like being trapped in the proverbial quicksand, the harder I fight against it, the deeper I sink. The more fiercely I pull to force my foot out of the trap, the wider and deeper the wound gets. Then I become angry and sullen that I cannot escape or pick myself up. Yet none of this frees me. I remain trapped and hopeless.

The second way is to cry out in faith as the Psalmist does, pleading with God to pluck my foot out of the net, to dig me out of the pit and set my feet on level ground. This kind of crying out acknowledges that "I've fallen and I can't get up...ON MY OWN!!" I plead for mercy, confessing my helplessness and despair, but also confessing my confidence in the Lord. And then...I wait...patiently...for the Lord's deliverance. This forces me to recognize the end of my self-sufficiency and to face my absolute need for Christ and for His people. To say that my help comes from Yahweh is to say that it comes from outside myself. No more pulling myself up by the bootstraps. No more "I can fix this," attitude.

Cry out. Trust. And wait. Deliverance will come. Afterall...He promised.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Guy Clark Concert

On Friday afternoon, we drove a couple hours from home to a charming old lodge in the middle of nowheresville to hear singer/songwriter Guy Clark and his sidekick, Verlon Thompson, perform. Wildwood Springs Lodge is quaint and rustic...shared bathrooms, painted wood floors, concrete showers...but is surrounded by a screened in porch with lovely views, accessible from our room, and a feeling of old-time hospitality pervades the place. Check out their website and their lineup of musicians. It's pretty amazing.

Before the performance, we enjoyed a surprisingly elegant dinner of asparagus, sweet potatoes, brown rice, stuffed tilapia and crown roast pork with raspberry sauce. The highlight of the meal was , of course, the dessert! We had choices, but I made the right one and enjoyed the best bread pudding I've ever had...hands down. Though my intention upon ordering was to merely taste it, not one bite remained. Absolute perfection.

Guy & Verlon performed in the lodge's "lobby" standing in front of the giant fireplace with 80-90 chairs set up around the room. 2 old guys and their acoustic guitars...nothing more. The setting and acoustics were ideal for his rough, gravelly voice and his down-to-earth, storytelling songs. We sat in the third of about 8 rows. It was almost like having him in your home for a personal performance.


INTERMISSION: The Cardinals had a chance to clinch their division that night, so during intermission, those of us who cared, crowded around the single TV at the bar to watch the game. Apparently Shaf felt inclined to take a picture of me...watching the game...from behind. I'll refrain from telling you what the owner nicknamed him, but suffice it to say, they don't draw a lot of folks my age. I brought the average age waaay down...in fact, I may have been one of 5 or 6 who were under 50 (and 2 of them are in this photo with me!).



Mr. Clark is 68 years old, but looks and acts a great deal older. Not only did he forget his lyrics several times that night, he was in a great deal of pain and could barely walk. He's sort of a crotchety old fellow, as you can see from the photo below. My husband didn't tell me he was gonna grab the guy and take our picture together or I would've stopped him! You can see how thrilled he was to oblige. :-) Oh well...I look happy anyway. And I was. His music makes me smile.


The only "disappoinment" - and a very mild one - was that he performed 10 songs from his brand new album (released last week) which left less time for the old favorites. But the new ones were good enough to entice me to purchase the new album that night. I'm also gonna have to find some of Thompson's music. Check him out here.

We will make every effort to return to this place...with friends next time!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Leisurely Woman's Daybook 12

Outside my window...It's a Chattanooga -like day in St. Louis. Sunny and quite cool with that top-of-the-mountain fall air smell. Nothing better than that...makes me wish I were there.

From the kitchen...we'll be eating leftover pork tenderloin for the rest of the week! Yesterday's company wasn't quite hungry enough.

Around the house...time to switch to the fall/winter bedding. But I ruined my quilt last year by spilling bleach on it, so I need to find something new. It's a surprisingly difficult task for me to find bedding I love. Picky, picky, picky. Classy, yet informal. Colorful, yet understated. Warm enough for the cold husband, lightweight enough for the hot wife. Etc., etc., etc.

A favorite thing...Grapeseed Oil. It can be used anyway that Olive oil is used and I much prefer its more mellow taste!

I am thinking...that I might want to find some volunteer work...maybe at a local hospital or cancer center.

I am wearing...red Under-Armour shirt and gray running pants...it was a tad chilly this AM. My new strategy to make myself keep walking/running is this (and I have to force it because I am bored out of my head with the routine!): when my husband drives the children to carpool, I ride along and have them drop me off somewhere along the way. If I want to get home, I gotta hoof it. Whatever it takes, you know?

I am hearing...John Gorka - Armed with a Broken Heart. I've been a fan of this folk singer/songwriter since I first encountered him on a Windham Hill compilation in the late 80's. My favorite album: Land of the Bottom Line. Here's a review from Amazon: His rich baritone and literate songwriting are John Gorka's links to an urban folk tradition that belies his years, linking him more to early '60s troubadors than to the singer-songwriters of the '70s and '80s. Ranging from snapshots of modern life (as on the title song), to quietly devastating love songs ("Armed with a Broken Heart," "I Saw a Stranger with Your Hair") and funny, wistful meditations ("Italian Girls"), Gorka's songs are studded with dry wordplay, precise imagery, and sudden glimpses of deep feeling. Gorka and producer Bill Kollar resist more conventional commercial polish to keep the arrangements lean and largely acoustic, with Gorka's voice sparingly shadowed by occasional vocal harmonies from Shawn Colvin, among others. --Sam Sutherland

I am reading...My Life in France.

I am thankful...for my faithful, hardworking, exemplary father.

Plans for my week...a minimalist week, really. The usual: reading, writing, doing chores...MAYBE I'll clean out the VBS closet at church. MAYBE I'll paint the risers on the stairway to the second floor. MAYBE I'll shop for new bedding. MAYBE I'll actually look for a volunteer position. MAYBE I'll start writing a book. MAYBE...

A photo/video I am sharing...Last year was my boys' first at Westminster Christian Academy. We experienced our first Spirit Week there, which is quite a production and about which (as usual) I was very skeptical. As it turns out, it was a lot of fun! Here's a video from the previous year - they call this the Blue Man Stomp...each class comes up with a rhythm routine, which they peform with "primitive" resources...paint buckets, garbage cans, plastic pipes, glass jars, etc. These kids can get pretty creative.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Psalm 38

A Psalm of David, for the Memorial Offering

O Yahweh, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation;
There is no health in my bones because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
Like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes - it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.

Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who see my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long.

But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

But for you, O Yahweh, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
For I said, "Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!"

For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me.
I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.
But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good.

Do not forsake me, O Yahweh!

O my God, be not far from me!
Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Helen Keller

Everyone knows Helen Keller. If nothing else, we've heard the jokes, right? But you will know her in a new and refreshing way when you read her own account of her life.

She hesitated to write her autobiography because she found that "fact and fancy look alike across the years that link the past with the present." She describes herself as a child who had "an eager, self-asserting disposition....I was strong, active, indifferent to consequences. I knew my own mind well enough and always had my own way, even if I had to fight tooth and nail for it." Even though that stubbornness and determination made her a difficult child, those characteristics served her well through the years and were enormous factors in her successes.

So was the coming of her beloved Annie Sullivan. Before Annie came, Helen didn't understand what it was to love or to be in relationship to others. "Thus it is when we walk in the valley of twofold solitude, we know little of the tender affections that grow out of endearing words and actions and companionship." But Miss Sullivan's patience and persistence eventually produced fruit: "The beautiful truth burst upon my mind - I felt that there were invisible lines stretched between my spirit and the spirit of others." She finally began to grasp the meaning of love. She says of Annie, "At the beginning I was only a little mass of possibilities. It was my teacher who unfolded and developed them. When she came, everything about me breathed of love and joy and was full of meaning. She has never since let pass an opportunity to point out the beauty that is in everything, nor has she ceased trying in thought and action and example to make my life sweet and useful. There is not a talent, or an aspiration or a joy in me that has not been awakened by her loving touch."

Helen never lost her resolve to experience the world and all of life as fully as any human with all his sensory faculties intact. Indeed, her descriptions of scenery and events reveal an acute sense of observation which far exceeds my own! In spite of her limitations, she learned to know everything around her with great precision. At first, she was wholly dependent on others for this knowledge, but in time she even learned to observe, know, and understand much on her own.

Not only did she conquer the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to basic knowledge, such as reading, writing and speech, she even successfully tackled Latin, German, and French, making herself college-ready! After entering college, she discovered that many of the texts were not yet available in Braille, so the classes required intense labor and excessive hours which sometimes frustrated her. "There are days when the close attention I must give to details chafes my spirit, and the thought that I must spend hours reading a few chapters, while in the world without other girls are laughing and singing and dancing, makes me rebellious; but I soon recover my buoyancy and laugh the discontent out of my heart. For afterall, everyone who wishes to gain true knowledge must climb the Hill Difficulty alone, and since there is no royal road to the summit, I must zigzag it in my own way. I slip back many times, I fall, I stand still, I run against the edge of hidden obstacles, I lose my temper and find it again and keep it better, I trudge on, I gain a little, I feel encouraged, I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle is a victory. One more effort and I reach the luminous cloud, the blue depths of the sky, the uplands of my desire."

Helen's successes were not all academic. Many found her company delightful and she was afforded unique opportunities to meet and know many reknowned men and women, and she developed significant friendships along the way. "Those are red-letter days in our lives when we meet people who thrill us like a fine poem, people whose handshake is brimful of unspoken sympathy, and whose sweet, rich natures impart to our eager, impatient spirits a wonderful restfulness which, in its essence, is divine. While such friends are near us we feel that all is well...the influence of their calm natures is a libation poured upon our discontent, and we feel its healing touch."

Miss Keller's life and attitude challenge me to view m own life through new lenses. If I can adopt the frame of mind which she expresses below, I might more easily rise above present circumstances in order to bless others.

"Is it not true, then, that my life with all its limitations touches at many points the life of the World Beautiful? Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.

Sometimes, it is true, a sense of isolation enfolds me like a cold mist as I sit alone and wait at life's shut gate. Beyond there is light, and music and sweet companionship; but I may not enter. Fate, silent, pitiless, bars the way. Fain would I question his imperious decree; for my heart is still undisciplined and passionate; but my tongue will not utter the bitter, futile words that rise to my lips, and they fall back into my heart like unshed tears. Silence sits immense upon my soul. Then comes hope with a smile and whispers, 'There is joy in self-forgetfulness.' So I try to make the light in others' eyes my sun, the music in others' ears my symphony, the smile on others' lips my happiness."

Thank you, Helen Keller, for a life well-lived.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Symphonic Theology

In this brief treatise, Vern Poythress offers a defense of reading the Bible from multiple perspectives. He effectively argues that we not only CAN, but SHOULD do so! The Word of God is rich and multi-faceted and we more fully appreciate its depth and wealth as we refuse to view it only from a single perspective with which we are most comfortable and familiar.

Poythress is careful to distinguish between gaining understanding through multiple perspectives and relativizing truth. Boundaries for interpretation DO exist but are often not as narrow as we would like to make them (tightly defined words/terms or a particular systematic theology). Reading Genesis from the perspective of the biblical theme of justice will naturally cause us to notice different truths than when we read it with a focus on imagery, or particular words, or a view to seeing Christ. The nearly infinite variety of perspectives from which we can legitimately approach the Scriptures (words, themes, motifs, organizing principles, morals, etc.), especially when those perspectives are then layered on top of and interwoven with each other, enriches our understanding and allows us to experience the depths of God's Truth in ways we otherwise might not!

A quick and fairly easy read.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Trinity & Reality

The subtitle of this book by Ralph Smith is: An Introduction to the Christian Faith. I would hardly recommend it as an early read for a young Christian, which is what that subtitle implies to me. Smith's topic - the Trinity - is undoubtedly foundational to the Christian faith but is presented in a way that requires prior knowledge of Scripture and doctrine. Familiarity with philosophy and competing worldviews doesn't hurt either.

Smith illuminates the ways in which our concept of Trinity forms our understanding of the Person of God, his relationship to mankind, the whole of Creation, history, The Kingdom of God, ourselves, The Church and the future of all things! You know, basic doctrine. ;-)

The book defies summarizing other than what I've just said, but is full of ideas, suggestions and truths that will be swimming around in my head for some time to come. Reading it has made me more concious of the all-pervasive significance of God's Trinitarian nature when seeking to understand and apply his presence and his Truth to all of life.

I'll offer one quote from the chapter titled, Trinity, Self & Church:

"It is important to understand that God created man not only as an individual, but as a collective, a society. For God Himself is a triune God subsisting in three Persons united in a covenant of love. We are accustomed to the idea that man as an individual is godlike in his body and mind, godlike in his abilities, godlike in his rule over the creation, for this truth has been emphasized often, especially in the West. We may be less familiar with the fact that, from a biblical perspective, man's social nature and responsibilities are essential to what it means to be made in God's image, so that apart from righteous participation in the societies in which God has placed us, we cannot be truly Christian.

To understand man fully, therefore, we must understand him as he relates to others. The self is not a ghost hidden down deep somewhere in a fleshly machine. Our self - who we are - is determined by our relationships, just as the Three Persons of the Trinity are who they are in their mutual relationships. There is no Father unless He is the Father of the Son. The Spirit is who He is because He is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. In God, relationships among the members of the Trinity are essential to the definition, or the name, of each of the three Persons. Since we are created in God's image, we, too, are defined, or named, in terms of our relationships."

For the rest of Smith's insight, you're on your own! Though the book is not as complex as, say, Deep Comedy, be prepared to read slowly and think things through.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Leisurely Woman's Daybook 11

Outside my window...the temperature is fall-like but the air is muggy, heavy and the fog is reminiscent of San Francisco.

From the kitchen...I made eggs the Julia Childs' way this morning. "Chef Bugnard cracked two eggs and added a dash of salt and pepper, 'Like this,' he said, gently blending the yolks and whites together with a fork. Not too much. He smeared the bottom and sides of a frying pan with butter, then gently poured the eggs in. Keeping the heat low, he stared intently at the pan. Nothing happened. After a long three minutes, the eggs began to thicken into a custard. Stirring rapidly with the fork, sliding the pan off and on the burner, Bugnard gently pulled the egg curds together - 'Keep them a little bit loose, this is very important,' he instructed. 'Now the cream or butter,' he said [I used 1 T. of each!] looking at me with raised eyebrows. 'This will stop the cooking, you see?' His eggs were always perfect." Let me tell you...they were decadent! So much so that I could only eat 1/2!!

Around the house...cleaning and organizing the boys' rooms, closets, drawers, washing quilts, curtains, etc.

A favorite thing...my i-Pod. 5000 songs at my fingertips everywhere I go. You just can't beat that.

I am wearing...my "new" denim skirt - $3 at Goodwill. I love that place...more to come on that in the near future.

I am reading...My Life in France by Julia Childs. Delightful.

I am thankful that...God gave me sons instead of the daughters I thought I wanted. He knew what I needed. Imagine that.

Plans for my week...deep clean in preparation for weekend company...Parent/Teacher conferences on Thursday...Guy Clark concert on Friday night...Oktoberfest at Growlers on Saturday...celebrate Daddy's 67th birthday at my house on Sunday.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Debi's Not-So-Snooty Buffalo Chicken Dip

This appetizer is quick and easy and never fails to please the guests...especially those of the male variety.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

(2) 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
3/4 c. hot sauce
2 c. cooked chicken breast

Using a food processor, grind the chicken until quite fine. Add cream cheese and hot sauce to processor and blend for several minutes until mixture is smooth and fluffy. You CANNOT over-blend it!

Spread in a 9x13 baking dish and heat at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Serve with Fritos and celery sticks.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Florence Nightingale

As a young girl, I acquired a fascination with Florence Nightingale and her nursing career, but had mostly ignored her in my adult life, assuming that I knew all I needed to know of her. Last week, as I perused the bargain table at Barnes & Noble, I couldn't resist picking up her Notes on Nursing. I have read biographies and historical fiction, but never her own words.

It is astonishing that as recently as the 19th century, her advice to the medical world - which has become part of the canon of common sense among all civilized peoples - was revolutionary. Her actute sense of responsibility and observation, coupled with her willingness to speak against commonly accepted practices, even in the face of ridicule, radically altered the art of nursing.

I've summarized her "revolutionary" recommendations below:

1) Ventilation & Warming - Without the benefits of technology (air conditioning, construction techniques, etc.), the best Florence could recommend was to abandon the harmful practice of shutting up the sick in their rooms, which caused them to "repeatedly breathe their own hot, humid, putrescing atmosphere...a certain way to delay recovery and destroy life." Her solution was to light a fire to maintain warmth, then open all the windows and doors for air circulation. Sounds pretty basic, doesn't it? But the fear of spreading disease was so great, that the sick were quarantined in conditions that left them in extreme temperatures and without ventilation of any sort!

2) Noise - Do not unsettle a patient with sudden or unnecessary noises, including excessive talking or hustle and bustle. The nurses' necessary movements ought to be decisive, quick and subtle, creating the least inclination to tension and the greatest inducement to sleep.

3) Variety - The sick should not be left to flounder within the same four walls without variation of view or surroundings. "The effect in sickness of beautiful objects, of variety of objects, and especially of brilliancy of color, is hardly at all apprehended." If a patient is unable to leave the sick room, vary the surroundings by rearranging, changing artwork or plant life.

4) Diet - Miss Nightingale expounds on the importance of both the circumstances under which food is offered, as well as the substance of the diet. It is essential to determine when the patient has the greatest appetite and inclination to eat...which may not have anything to do with normal eating hours and may not be convenient. As for content...she suggests heavy use of butter, cream and cheese (how can that be bad??!) because small amounts can pack a hearty punch of nutritive value. Above all, she demands that all food for the sick should be well-cooked so that their over-taxed systems have less work to do to process the food.

5) Bed & Bedding - Her descriptions of bodily emanations permeating linens and mattresses are more than a little repulsive, but of course, in her day, they lacked the technologies of breathable fabrics, spring mattresses, and washing machines! Airing beds and bedding was a laborious task which was easily and often neglected. She insisted it be done quite regularly, even if it meant putting two beds in the sick room and switching the patient every day so that the previous day's bedding could be aired out of doors.

6) Light - "The cheerfulness of a room, the usefulness of light in treating disease is all-important." Especially direct sunlight, to which the sick should be exposed from sunrise to sunset, if at all possible. Bag the heavy curtains, open the windows and situate the bed so that the sunlight is visible to the patient.

7) Cleanliness - Furnishings, walls and floors were too often "cleaned" by featherdusting, which she argued only stirred up and shifted the dirt from one place to another. Instead, she suggested using a damp towel to remove the dust and dirt from all surfaces. "Very few people, be they of waht class they may, have any idea of the exquisite cleanliness required in the sick room." She also brought a new standard to patient-cleanliness as well. "Just as it is necessary to renew the air round a sick person frequently, to carry off morbid effluvia from the lungs and skin, by maintaining free ventilation, so is it necessary to keep the pores of the skin free from all obstructing excretions. The object, both of ventilation and of skin-cleanliness, is pretty much the same, - to wit, removing noxious matter from the system as rapidly as possible."

8) Chattering Hopes & Advice - Florence believed that visitors could do either a great deal of good or harm for a patient, depending on their approach. "In general, patients who are really ill, do not want to talk about themselves." And the last thing they need is for YOU to tell them they're going to be fine or to offer your own "medical" opinion. "The long chronic case, who knows too well himself, and who has been told by his physician that he will never enter active life again, who feels that every month he has to give up something he could do the month before - oh! spare such sufferers your chattering hopes. You do not know how you worry and weary them. Such real sufferers cannot bear to talk of themselves, still less to hope for what they cannot at all expect. No mockery in the world is so hollow as the advice showered upon the sick."

Instead, she advises, "a sick person does so enjoy hearing good news...show them what the rest of the world is doing! Instead of advising him with advice he has heard at least fifty times before, tell him of one benevolent act which has really succeeded practically, - it is like a day's health to him...remember how their life is to them disappointed and incomplete. You see them lying there with miserable disappointments, from which they can have no escape but death, and you can't remember to tell them of what would give them so much pleasure, or at least an hour's variety?! ...they like you to be fresh and active and interested." Bring in little children and babies, she says! "It freshens up a sick person's whole mental atmosphere to see 'the baby.'"

Finally, Miss Nightingale's description of what a nurse ought to be is noteworthy:

"...she must be no gossip, no vain talker; she must be strictly sober and honest; but more than this, she must be a religious and devoted woman; she must have a respect for her own calling, because God's precious gift of life is often literally placed in her hands; she must be a sound, and close, and quick observer; and she must be a woman of delicate and decent feeling."

If you are unfamiliar with Florence's life and work, I suggest you get to know her! Unfortunately, I cannot recommend a particular biography, because I don't remember which ones I read as a child, but the Landmark historical fiction series is always good and I know they tell her story (they're out-of-print, but readily available online). If any of you has a recommendation, please make it!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wordsmith Wednesdays

This week's words come from Florence Nightingale's Notes on Nursing. You're gonna love these...unless your stomach is of a weak constitution.

suppuration - (n) [from the Latin sub = under + puris = pus] a condition in which pus forms under the skin

erysipelas - (n) [from the Greek erythros = red + Latin pellis = skin] an acute infectious disease of the skin caused by streptococcus virus

aperient - (n) [from the Latin aperire = to open] laxative

lachrymose - (adj) [from the Latin lacrima = tear] tearful; inclined to cry

effluvia - (n) [from the Latin ex = out of + fluere = to flow] odors, vapors or other invisible particles which emmanate from the patient's body

Now, with that in mind, go eat yourself a hearty breakfast!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Silver Lining? Whatever.

I am what you might call a hardcore pessimist. To the best of my recollection, no one has ever had to warn me not to view the world through rose-colored glasses, nor have I ever been scolded for having a "Pollyanna" perspective on life. In fact, it takes no effort at all for me to recognize the objections, potential pitfalls, or negative outcomes of a given situation. My glass is perpetually half-empty (well, OK...two-thirds empty, but whoever coined the phrase didn't know me!).

Rabbit trail: this is probably the reason I have never acted on my entreprenurial impulses (you know...those dreams I've been sharing...and believe me, I'm not quite finished!). I have vision. I have ideas. I have organizational skills and a hearty work ethic. But I also have, in greater measure, the ability to expound all the reasons that those ideas, if implemented, are likely to fail. So...if any of those dreams will ever come to pass, Providence will have to appoint for me an eternally optimistic (not to mention, wealthy) business partner!

Back to the hardcore pessimist: as I trudged my daily route on Saturday, I was struck by the early evening cloud formations. A particularly large silver-lined mass compelled me to contemplate the meaning of the idiom "every cloud has a silver lining." That phrase embodies the sort of optimistic poppycock which automatically elicits a cynical response from me...but, of course, I've never really thought about it before. Until NOW.

Upon closer scrutiny, I have to acknowledge a distinctly Christian outlook behind this saying! It's not about whitewashing reality, or putting a happy face on tragedy, or pretending that life is peachy in the midst of great suffering.

But it is about hope.

It is about faith.

It is about understanding that the sliver of light outlining the cloud, comes from an unseen source.

Though we may cower in fear under the threats of that cloud and its attendant dangers - the darkness, the torrents, the blinding flashes - yet the silver lining provides evidence that behind that ominous mass lies a promise of light, warmth and comfort. The sun, though temporarily hidden, is still there!

As Christians, we know that this phenomenon is not simply a wonderment of nature, because we remember that "the heavens declare the glory of God." We know that the invisible attributes of our Creator are manifest through the things He has made! We recieve His instruction when we observe and meditate on His handiwork.

The Sun of Righteousness dwells behind the dark clouds of trial and suffering which leave us fearful and desperate and which sometimes threaten to overwhelm us. That glimmer of light reminds us of God's presence and faithfulness. Whether the darkness and danger are brief or prolonged, we know that we will not be utterly forsaken and that we will eventually experience the smiling Providence that lurks behind those tribulations. Our path will once again be illumined by His light. We will know the warmth of His lovingkindness. And we will experience the comfort of His presence.

In the meantime, while we remain under the clouds of trial, sin or discipline, we must by faith trust His presence and His promises and wait for Him to make Himself known. We may cry out, "How long, Yahweh, will you hide your face from me?" But we must also conclude with the Psalmist, "Yahweh hears the cry of the needy; God is to us a God of deliverance."

And when that cloud dissipates, we can be assured that the Light of His Countenance, which is better than life, will shine upon us and will fill us with peace.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Leisurely Woman's Daybook 10

Outside my window...My previously beautiful "Jane" magnolia appears to be very ill. The leaves are turning black and it's full of bees...I need to have her diagnosed and treated before I lose her altogether!

From the kitchen...tried a new brew this weekend and loved it: Unibroue's Chambly Noire. Give it a try, if you're so inclined.

Around the house...the windows are open and the whole house fan is freshening the place.

A favorite thing...my sewing machine. I miss using it and am determined to find a way to incorporate sewing back into my life!

I am thinking...that when Solomon advised us to "guard your heart with all diligence for from it flow the issues of life" he knew what he was talking about.

I am wearing...a Cardinals hat. Yes...they just got swept by the Braves. But when's the last time they got swept? Better yet, when is the last time they even lost a series? Hmmm? That would be late July. And they have swept 5 series since then. So, hey. We're good! Go CARDS!

I am hearing...Norah Jones' Cold, Cold Heart

I am reading...Helen Keller's The Story of My Life.

I am creating...a new fall/winter wardrobe. None of last year's clothes fit (yay!), so I have to start completely over...or should I say I GET to?!

I am thankful...for my sister-in-law, Trina!

Plans for my week...wallow in self-pity...wrestle with myself loathing...stare into the abyss as I slip slowly into madness...

A photo/video I am sharing...from the wedding archives: my siblings with me from our wedding 17 years ago. I was struck by how dark-haired all of us were. Not anymore! Grey and artificial color prevail now! The six of us sang "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us" during the ceremony.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Well Donne

I have, in recent weeks, neglected to meet my New Year's resolution of memorizing something new each month. However, since I had doubled up in previous months, I'm still on track for having 12 new "passages" by year's end. As I went back and reviewed them today, I realized that 7 out of 8 have been poetry...so why mess with a good thing? I have chosen another from one of my favorite poets, John Donne.

Holy Sonnet XIV
by: John Donne
Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wordsmith Wednesdays

Root:

spiro - Latin verb - to breathe

Using your knowledge of prefixes and suffixes, think about the way each group of words is related to "breath" and "breathing."

Derivatives:

aspire, aspirate, aspiration, aspirant

conspire, conspiratory, conspiracy, conspirator

respirate, respiration, respiratory, respirator

inspire, inspiration, inspirational

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Pilgrim's Progress

For many years, I have inwardly berated myself for not having read Bunyan's Great Christian Classic, The Pilgrim's Progress. It was Grant's required summer reading, which he - in typical Grant-fashion - devoured in the 36 hours preceding the first day of school. If he can do it...so can I, I determined! One of the reasons I had procrastinated, was that I assumed it would be a cumbersome read because of it's length, age and heady language.

I could not have been more wrong!

I started it yesterday morning and had to force myself to put it down and go to bed at 2 AM this morning! The timing of reading this could not have been better for me...in fact, if I believed in all that "sovereignty stuff," I might even say it was Providential! Over the next few days I'll share some particulary poignant passages, starting with this one:

While at the Interpreter's house, Christian is shown a fireplace in which the fire burns high and hot, in spite of one who stands by throwing water on it to quench it. When he asks the meaning, Interpreter explains: This fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts water upon it, to extinguish and put it out is the devil: but in that thou seest the fire, notwithstanding, burn higher and hotter, thou shalt also see the reason of that. So he had him to the back side of the wall, where he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, of the which he did also continually cast (but secretly) into the fire.

Then Christian said, What means this?

The Interpreter answered, This is Christ, who continually, with the oil of his grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart, by the means of which, notwithstanding what the devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still. And in that thou sawest, that the man stood behind the wall to maintain the fire; this is to teach thee, that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul.

Even, maybe especially, when we are unaware of his presence, Christ will, as He has promised, continue the work which he has begun in us...even in the midst of attempts to extinguish the fires of faith.

Soon afterward, Christian is engaged in fierce battle with Apollyon and is sorely wounded in the fight. Apollyon attempts to persuade Christian that his allegiance belongs with him and that he will provide wages equal to that of the King. Christian replies: To speak truth, I like his service, his wages, his servants, his company, his government, his company and country better than thine; and therefore leave off to persuade me further: I am his servant, and I will follow him. Apollyon continues to accuse him of treason and his faithless following of the King, reminding him of his wanderings and sins along the path...he even sends blows which leave Christian without his sword to defend and despairing of his life. Just before he receives the final blow, Christian retrieves his sword, crying out, Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy! When I fall, I shall arise! and with that, he gave him a deadly thrust which made him give back as one that had received a mortal wound. He then sings over his defeated enemy:

Great Beelzebub, the captain of this fiend,

Design'd my ruin; therefore to this end

He sent him harness'd out; and he, with rage

That hellish was, did fiercely me engage:

But blessed Michael helped me, and I,

By dint of sword, did quickly make him fly;

Therefore to Him let me give lasting praise,

And thank and bless His holy name always.

We are not alone in the battle in which we are engaged and the Sword, the Word of God, will prove a trusty weapon able to put back even the fiercest of enemies who would draw our souls away from allegiance to Christ! Take heart and rejoice...!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Leisurely Woman's Daybook 9

Outside my window...He appointed the moon for seasons; the sun knows its going down. You make darkness and it is night, in which all the beasts of the forest creep about.

From the kitchen...He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine that makes glad the heart of man.

Around the house...Unless Yahweh builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.

A favorite thing...The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

I am thinking...With Yahweh there is mercy and with Him is abundant redemption.

I am wearing...The king's daughter is all-glorious within, she shall be brought to the king in raiment of needlework.

I am hearing...God has spoken once, twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God. Also to You, Lord, belongs mercy.

I am reading...Your servant meditates on Your statutes, your testimonies are also my delight and my counselors.

I am thankful that...God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me.

Plans for my week...Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

A photo/video I am sharing...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Derivative Thoughts on the Nature and Purpose of Work

The last thing I expected when I followed Reverend Galt's link to Matthew Crawford's NYTimes article, "The Case for Working with Your Hands," was to hear echoes of the great Christian thinker, Dorothy Sayers. But the connections were inescapable.


Mr. Crawford found himself as a highly-educated "knowledge worker," trapped in less-than-desirable conditions in which he was expected to "project an image of rationality, but not engage in too much actual reasoning," while he also underwent "a bit of moral re-education" which demanded that he supress his innate sense of responsibility and integrity for the sake of meeting quotas and bolstering the company's bottom line.


Miss Sayers' discontent stemmed largely from what she calls, "...the appalling squirrel cage of economic confusion...in which we landed ourselves by acquiescing in a social system based on Envy and Avarice," and in which "consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going."


On the surface, Crawford's arguments appear to be economic and practical, while Sayers' are overtly theological, yet their premises and conclusions run parallel on a number of levels and both authors support the overarching belief that: Work has intrinsic value which is not attached to, derived from, or measured by its monetary profitability.


Sayers: The habit of thinking about work as something one does to make money is so ingrained in us that we can scarcely imagine what a revolutionary change it would be to think about it instead in terms of the work done.


The foundational value of work is not bound up in profit, but rather in man's creation in the Image of God. Again from Sayers: [Work] should be looked upon - not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself...it should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God's image, should make things as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing.


Both Crawford and Sayers assert that the primary motivation for work should be that it provides satisfaction and delight. One way to make that true, is by directing people toward careers that fit their interests, talents and abilities.


Crawford: ...maybe it isn't true that all 18-year-olds need to be imparted with a sense of panic about getting into college (though they certainly need to learn). Some are hustled off to college, then to the cubicle, against their own inclinations and natural bents, when they would rather be learning to build or fix things. When we praise people who do work that is straightforwardly useful, the praise often betrays an assumption that they had no other option. But what if such work answers as well to a basic human need of the one who does it? A gifted young person who chooses to become a mechanic rather than to accumulate academic credentials is viewed as eccentric, if not self-destructive. Because the work is dirty, many people assume it is also stupid.


Sayers: At present we have no clear grasp of the principle that every man should do the work for which he is fitted by nature. The employer is obsessed by the notion that he must find cheap labor and the worker by the notion that the best paid job is for him. Only feebly, inadequately, and spasmodically do we ever attempt to answer the question from the other end and inquire: What type of worker is suited to this type of work? ...the right men and women are persistently thrust into the wrong jobs.


Another consideration for ensuring that work is satisfying and delightful is to make the work itself worthwhile.


Crawford: When hired to write abstracts for magazines and professional/academic journals, Crawford's experience was that the work and the product were valueless. He was taught that there's a method that merely needs to be applied and that this can be done without understanding the text [which I was summarizing]. I felt trapped in a contradiction: the [quotas] and fast pace demanded complete focus on the task yet that pace also made real concentration impossible. I had to actively suppress my own ability to think, because the more you think, the more the inadequacies in your understanding of the author's argument came into focus. To not do justice to an author who had poured himself into the subject at hand felt like violence against what was best in myself. I had to suppress my sense of responsibility to the article itself and to others - to the author as well as the hapless [readers] who might suppose that my abstract reflected the author's work. He recounts incidents where co-workers intentionally sabotaged their abstracts in order to compensate for their boredom and feelings of being confined and stultified. Everyone is highly concerned about economic growth on the one hand and unemployment on the other, but the character of the work doesn't figure much in political debate. On the nature of the job itself, the dominant political and economic paradigms are mute. Yet work forms us, and deforms us, with broad public consequences.


Sayers: Work should be the full expression of the worker's faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction and the medium in which he offers himself to God.


No one is required by economic or any other considerations to devote himself to work that is contemptible, soul-destroying or harmful.


We should ask of an enterprise, not "will it pay?" but "is it good?", of goods, not "can we induce people to buy them?" but "are they useful things well made?", of employment, not "how much a week?" but "will it exercise my faculties to the utmost?"


But not only should the work itself not be demeaning or valueless, but the thing produced should be worthy as well.


Crawford decided to leave the cubicle life and open his own motorcycle repair shop, where he found great intellectual satisfaction in the necessary problem-solving, as well as delight and meaning in the product he produced.


Crawford: Seeing a motorcycle about to leave my shop under its own power, several days after arriving in the back of a pickup truck, I don't feel tired even though I've been standing on a concrete floor all day. Peering into the portal of his helmet, I think I can make out the edges of a grin on the face of a guy who hasn't ridden his bike in a while. I give him a wave. With one of his hands on the throttle and the other on the clutch, I know he can't wave back. But I can hear his salute in the exuberant "bwaaAAAP!" of a crisp throttle, gratuitously revved. That sound pleases me, as I know it does him. It's a ventriloquist conversation in one mechanical voice, and the gist of it is "Yeah!"



Sayers: We should fight tooth and nail...for the quality of the work that we had to do. We should clamor to be engaged in work that was worth doing, and in which we could take pride. The worker would demand that the stuff he helped to turn out would be good stuff. There would be protests and strikes not only about pay and conditions, but about the quality of the work demanded and the honesty, beauty and usefulness of the goods produced. The greatest insult which a commercial age has offered to the worker has been to rob him of all interest in the end product of his work and to force him to dedicate his life to making badly things which were not worth making.


The only Christian work is good work well done. For the Christian worker, his satisfaction comes, in godlike manner, from looking upon what he has made and finding it very good. The Church's approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables! As we are, so we make.


Finally, work is made satisfying and delightful in its social implications - that is, the way it builds community, bonding us to those from whom we learn and those whom we serve.


Crawford's foray into motorcycle repair taught him that, it would probably be impossible to do such work in isolation, without access to a collective historical memory; you have to be embedded in a community of mechanic antiquarians. These relationships are maintained by telephone, in a network of reciprocal favors that spans the country. My business is based entirely on word of mouth. I sometimes barter services with machinists and metal fabricators. This has a very different feel than transactions with money; it situates me in a community. The result is that I really don't want to mess up anybody's motorcycle or charge more than a fair price.


Sayers' talks at length about serving the work itself, not the community. Though it sounds odd at first, her point is that once you begin to do your work for the sake of pleasing others, the quality of the work suffers from a false focus, you begin to feel that others "owe" you something for your pains, or you end up merely filling a public demand without regard for the quality of the thing produced. The only true way of serving the community is to be truly in sympathy with the community, to be oneself a part of the community, and then to serve the work, without giving the community another thought. Then the work will endure, because it will be true to itself. It is the work that serves the community; the business of the worker is to serve the work.


The conclusion: Work has intrinsic value and can be made satisfying and delightful for the worker by fitting the work to the worker, making both the work itself and the goods it produces worthwhile, and by attaching ourselves to a community via our work.


I have only extracted small nuggets of truth from Mr. Crawford and Miss Sayers, and I highly encourage you to read both intelligent, thorough, and thought-provoking essays in their entirety! Sayers' essay "Why Work?" can be found in a compilation of her essays titled, Letters to a Diminished Church, or in the link provided.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Curiosities

Curious sights/observations from the previous 24 hours:

1 - In the parking lot at Schnucks, the local grocery, I saw an elderly lady - no less than 70 years of age - wearing a pair of capri sweats with the word "LIFEGUARD" across the derriere. Seriously. I remember how disturbed I was when the young gals started wearing those things. You want the full effect of my reaction? Imagine your grandmother wearing those pants. Disturbing. In a comical sort of way...

2 - One or two nights per week, I head on over to the local pub to write and watch Cardinals games (while indulging a couple of my vices...true). I have noticed that an inordinate number of very short men frequent the place. At least 80 percent of the males who darken the door are shorter than average. Really. I wonder what that means...

3 - I am increasingly bored with my walking route, so today I decided to get my miles in at Laumeier Sculpture Park - a home for monstrous compilations of steel and concrete otherwise known as "visual art" to the open-minded among us - and noticed, for the first time, the explanations of the "artwork" in Braille. Think about it.